Moment

We’re driving and I’m looking at my husband for what seems like the first time in a few weeks. His face wears the same exhaustion and worry as mine. We’re completely caught up in the day to day grind of life. We’re truly just going through the motions of life.

We get up, we drag our family out the door, we go to work and then go home after long days and attempt to have some meaningful time together as a family before bedtime. Sleep really isn’t a thing right now, and that’s okay. I’m sure McDonald’s appreciates my double coffee purchase every morning as much as I do, too.

An old, familiar song comes on the radio and it takes me back to a slower season of life. Back before we had dark circles under our eyes, and we drove around for the fun of it, not to calm unhappy babies.

No one fell asleep while we were driving tonight. Instead we heard little voices unhappy because our busy night meant we were headed home to bed, and there would be no time to play.

We wouldn’t trade this life for anything, but most evenings we lie down at night, asking each other how we are doing this, and fall asleep wondering how we can do better tomorrow. Most nights really end with us laughing because the chaos is a blessing, but some nights end in silence because it can be down right overwhelming.

We’re sitting in bed now, and I’m watching my husband again. He’s trying so hard to balance this life too and he shoots me a long glance. Our eyes are heavy, but they speak a thousand words. Silent words of understanding and exhaustion, love and chaos.

Paper Jams

Need a good laugh today? See below…

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I was just minding my own business trying to print labels for holiday party invitations today, and my printer had a different idea. At first it was just two labels missing off of one sheet (after spending 5 minutes trying to figure out how to put the paper in to print on the right side in the first place). I thought I cleared the jam, and that the labels were just missing from that page before it went through the printer. So, I started over and quickly realized I was wrong. That’s how you get the mess that’s pictured above. After a few choice words and threatening the printer within an inch of it’s life, I cleared out the paper jam (plus stickers) again.  It should have been smooth sailing from there, but the printer was still really hungry and it tried to eat like six sheets of labels at once. I finally learned my lesson, only after clearing the paper jam for a third time, and fed the labels through the bypass tray one at a time. Success at last!

Besides giving us all a good laugh, there’s something to be had from this frustrating experience this morning.

Life is the printer. God is the Operator. We’re the piece of label paper.

Our life prints out on the paper smoothly, until it doesn’t. Sometimes the labels peel away from the paper and become an obstruction just like illnesses, sin, divorce, and debt can be obstructions in our lives.  It can be so difficult to look to God when we are facing obstructions. Sometimes we feel that the obstructions are so great, that there is no hope or maybe we feel that our sins have made us unworthy of forgiveness.  Like the paper being unjammed from the printer by the operator, we come through parts of life torn apart and crinkled up. The pieces of our lives may seem so messy, that we think we can never be whole or serve a greater purpose. These labels below seem pretty worthless, don’t they?

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But we can be whole and we can have a greater purpose. The Great Operator can take the torn, crinkly pieces of our lives and  transform them into a beautiful picture (if we let Him).

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Today

Today, I’m facing a challenge. It’s not a bad challenge but it might be life-altering. It’s terrifying and exciting and overwhelming, and wrapped up neatly into one messy ball.

I’m a perfectionist.

I’m a control freak.

And I’m not perfect and definitely not in control this week. And what’s even more of a challenge for this closet D (personality), other people are going to realize that I’m not perfect or in control. I hate it when people figure that out.

Okay, really they already know that but I have to acknowledge that they know it.

I don’t like that.

But, you know what?

The experiences we can’t control and that aren’t perfect tend to be the ones that grow us. While my experience today has pushed me to the brink of insanity, I’m still alive and I’m growing. And that my friends is pretty great.

Say Cheese

Time sure is flying by. I knew that blogging would be harder once I returned to work, but I didn’t think it would be this difficult to squeeze it in. Life has been moving so quickly. We were able to fit in some time to get updated family pictures as a new family of six (just in time for Christmas gifts). I wanted to share a few of the best and my personal favorites, the out-takes, because who can’t relate.

How cute are these kiddos? Our photographer has the patience of a saint.  Really.

I loved the dresses that I found for the girls at Target, and the little guy had the perfect matching shirt from abercrombie kids. Thanks to bestie one for helping me coordinate these outfits and convincing me that they could wear them to a wedding and for family pictures.

Over the course of the two and a half-hour session, our photographer really got some great candid shots of what life and pictures are really like with four kids – it’s chaos. She had photography assistants, a toddler who wanted to play with rocks, a break for a dance party, and a whole lot of not having it from the littles.

I’ll have a blog post in the next day or two on my lessons learned from Halloween this year. Plus, some make-up blog posts on a comforting dessert (blueberry slump), one of my kiddos favorite fruit dips (so easy), and more!

I vowed to be authentic when starting my blog, so authentic is what you get and really I hope it helps other mommas feel like they aren’t alone.

I have NO clue what I’m doing.

Today, I had a large hot coffee, large iced coffee and a Pepsi in way less time than anyone should, used what seemed like a whole can of dry shampoo (Dove brand, I could never bring myself to spend more than $5 on dry shampoo), and stared at my computer screen for lots of hours wishing my big project at work could prep itself while simultaneously biting the bullet and working to get it done.

Much of my evening was spent with a cluster feeding baby and trying to wrangle our cute little messes. They were a real treat tonight. Please see ornery toddler who decided to take a bath in her shirt and diaper and came prepared with swimming goggles below.

You can’t be mad at that face! She was so proud. I wanted to blog about our delicious dinner and dessert tonight, but that’s far from on my mind right now – maybe tomorrow, because it was too good not to share.

Also real life – I misplaced the keys to my office a week or two ago, just kidding a couple of months ago. You’ll never guess where I found them tonight? In my purse that’s been hanging on the back of the dining room chair for months. I don’t carry it anymore because I’ve always got sidekicks who need diapers and wipes and back-up outfits and a purse would be just one more thing to carry. And in full transparency – I very, very rarely even remember the diaper bag. It’s usually a mad dash out the door with a couple of diapers and wipes in hand, if we are lucky.

To end our night, the 3.5 month old has decided that rolling to her belly to sleep is a great idea, momma does not agree. I know, I know she rolled over under her own power and I should leave her alone, but my anxiety ain’t having that.

I’ll be awake watching her if anyone needs anything at all, embracing this Monday. It’s been messy, but blessed.

What do you do over your lunch hour?

I don’t take a break for lunch every day, but on the days I do, I try to make it productive. I’d much rather wander around aimlessly at the store but the hours are short and the to-do list is long. Today, I came home to put dinner and dessert in the slow cookers (Pork Adobo and Blueberry Slump recipes coming later tonight), fold a load of laundry, and to actually eat. Eating lunch at lunch is unheard of, right? What’s even better about eating my lunch today? I had Kraft Mac and Cheese and apple juice. Super grown-up, I know.

9 to 5 or 5 to 9

I’m sure most moms can relate whether they work in or out of the home. I don’t have to be on my game from just 9 to 5, it’s more like 5 to 9. Sometimes I feel like I’m winning the game and sometimes I strike out before it starts.

Today started at 4:30 with a hungry baby, followed by 45 minutes of tossing and turning, and then several turns of sleepily hitting the snooze button. Of course, I find that I’m normally almost back to sleep right before the alarm goes off. When I finally rolled out of bed at 5:30 6, my cheeks were burning and my right eye was swollen shut. No clue what I’m allergic to, but after calling my momma for reassurance that I wasn’t dying and whining to my hubby, I got ready for the day.

I finally made it to work around 7:30, and the day was peaceful and productive (love those days). The baby had physical therapy at 2, and while I had a ton to get done at work, I was pretty excited to pick my big guy up from school. Between 3 and 5, we made it to Wal-mart for a hair cut and groceries, picked up the big girls, defrosted hamburger, dropped the big guy off at piano, made dinner, and picked the big guy back up. Things have been a bit quieter (hahaha) since then and even though the house is a disaster, we’re watching Harry Potter and enjoying the evening.

I’m also attempting to correct the color job on my hair, because I thought I’d pretend to be a pro and lighten it myself over the weekend. That was not a good idea! Lesson learned.

It’s been a day where I feel like I’ve accomplished so much, but nothing all at the same time. And now that it’s 9:01, I’m calling it a night. 😉

Yesterday, I promised a review of these fall Pumpkin Cupcakes with Browned Butter Cream Cheese Frosting and Sugared Pecans.

Make them and eat all of them NOW! You may have a tummy ache but you definitely won’t regret it. I promise.

I only changed this recipe up a bit, substituting unsweetened apple sauce for the vegetable oil in the cake. The recipe also doubled easily and was a sell out at the school fall festival tonight.

I again used PaperChef Culinary Parchment Lotus, 12-Cups“>Paper Chef Parchment baking cups, just the Lotus version this time. They make baking so easy and really classed up the cupcakes.

The cake is incredibly moist and the browned butter cream cheese frosting is rich. And if I’m being completely honest, I’ve eaten a few spoonfuls of it by itself.

These cupcakes are the perfect fall sweet treat. I’d love to know what your favorite fall dessert is. Share in the comments or on Facebook.

Wanted to share one of my favorite recipes tonight, and it comes from the Crockin’ Girls.

In true Becker family fashion, we didn’t know this morning what we would have for dinner tonight – InstantPot to the rescue. We love this Most Amazing Pork Chops Ever recipe. The gravy is delicious and really warms your soul. Our only recommendation is if using a pressure cooker to reduce the amount of chicken broth significantly to make it more of a gravy. We also substituted pork steaks for pork chops tonight in an attempt to empty out our deep freeze before our hog comes at the end of the month.

Sweet baby,

Tomorrow, our life changes. Tomorrow, momma is headed back to work and your care will be entrusted to someone else for eight hours each day. I’m ready to go back, but I’m not ready to leave you.

We have been through so much together during my time off and that’s time that I will forever be thankful for. I know you don’t really understand yet, but when I drop you off for the first time tomorrow and again in the days ahead, I hope you know how much I love you. We’ve been inseparable for the past year, and carrying you and caring for you is what I’ve lived for.

Today, I hoped that time would slow to a crawl. I spent every available second staring at your face, talking to you and watching my tears fall on to your sweet, chubby cheeks.

Now here we are, at the close of our full-time togetherness and I’m watching you through the bassinet praying that tomorrow goes well for both of us and thanking God for letting me be your mommy. These are days and moments I could live over and over again. I love you!

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Fall is in the Air

We’ve had such an awesome weekend at our town’s festival, Chillifest. Did you know that Taylorville is the chili capital of Illinois? Well, we are and aside from official Chillifest chili, you can taste chili from the sanctioned cook-off, stroll through the vendors, take in some local entertainment and entertain the kiddos with carnival rides, pumpkin painting and more. I’m so proud to be from this little town and to serve on the board for the Chamber of Commerce.

We were all pretty tuckered out from our day of fun, so when 6pm rolled around and we hadn’t made anything for dinner, take out sounded pretty good. However, we are trying to be budget conscious, and needed to free up some room in the deep freeze and the pantry and finish off the produce from our garden. So we tossed what we had into our Instant Pot. It was so hearty and delicious!

We thought we should share the recipe, so here you go!

– 1 bag of baby carrots

– 4 medium sweet potatoes (cut into 1.5 inch wide sections)

– 1 medium yellow onion chopped

– 15 to 20 cherry tomatoes

– 2lbs beef stew meat

– 1 family size can of French Onion Soup

– 1/2 clove garlic (minced)

– salt and pepper to taste

The Instant Pot is great because all you need to do is just put it all in, program it and go. And that’s exactly what we did with the ingredients above. We served it over brown rice and it was such a big hit with everyone.

And for the sake of being authentic, I decided not to stage pictures or use our real dishes. Our lives are chaotic, so we use a lot of paper plates and bowls. It’s not the most environmentally friendly, but it’s real life and we don’t like doing dishes.

Open Hearts

This morning, while we laid in bed, and started the day with our six year old, we saw the news. So did he. His face looked puzzled and he turned to us and asked us why someone would hurt so many people. Did they hurt him? Was he sad? Was he sick?

We didn’t have the answers for him, and it would have been much easier to redirect him. Most of the time we try to shelter our children from the atrocities occuring around the world, but not today. This was the perfect opportunity to talk about loving others, praying for those affected and the person who did the hurting.

Over and over the Bible tells us to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, to provide for them if they are in need. This is such a difficult concept. Even as an adult, I don’t typically think about praying for the people who hurt me, who hurt us, who hurt others. How do we teach this concept to our children, when it’s a concept that we fail at daily?

My words to our son were that God loves us all, no matter how great our sins. That we aren’t meant to always understand why things happen. That the most important thing that we can do, especially when we don’t understand, is to pray and to pray hard. I encouraged him to leave his heart and prayers open for God to guide (big concept for a little guy, but I think he got it).

What’s equally important though, is for my husband and I to lead by example, to pray out loud for those who hurt us. Our children are always watching us and leaving our hearts and prayers open for God to guide, especially in moments where we don’t understand, will show them how to do the same.

So, tonight and in the coming days, we will pray with our children for those around the world who are affected by their enemies and we will pray for their enemies as God guides us too.

I’m human.

I was working on a blog about time management, and how I really stink at it, but that’s not really what is on my heart.

I’m sharing today because I think as a mom and as a person, it’s important to know you aren’t alone and that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it.

About forty-five minutes ago, after some strong encouragement from family and one hard swallow of my pride and a pill, I took the anti-anxiety medicine prescribed to me a few weeks ago. Right now, I’m hovering between feeling like Super Man encountering Kryptonite because taking this pill means I dont have it all together (I HATE admitting this) and Super Woman because I’m acknowledging and taking control of my emotions. There is no middle ground right now and well, that has to be okay.

We’ve had a lot of stress in our lives over the past twelve weeks, and it is nothing compared to what many other people are going through. I’m really thankful for the stress. It’s such a blessing to have a beautiful baby to worry about and I’m not happy that our Suburban caught on fire but everyone is okay and it can be replaced. However, I’ve reached my limit and ability to cope without some help.

I’m a self-proclaimed perfectionist, and over doer and that makes acknowledging the above (that I need help) so hard. To top off all of the stress, post-partum anxiety is serious. I have battled post-partum anxiety after every pregnancy and with the exception of the complete breakdown I had back in 2012, I’ve never asked for help, and even then I didn’t ask.

I’m not one to talk, or make recommendations because I obviously don’t listen very well, but it’s okay to need help and it’s okay to not be able to handle it all. (Keep reminding me of this, if you see me.)

I’m not Super Woman.

Life is real.

My emotions are raw.

I’m vulnerable.

I’m overwhelmed.

I’m some kind of messy.

I’m human.

And I’m not in control, but…

God is in control.

I can pray.

I can accept His grace and mercy.

I can ask for help.

I can take medicine.

I can be human.

It will all be okay.

Know the signs of anxiety. It’s okay to ask for help, for yourself or someone else you love, from a medical professional, and you should. Because you aren’t alone, and the battle isn’t just yours. You are human and you are loved.

Mini-muffin Madness

I don’t know about anyone else but when we buy mini-muffins at the store, they are gone in just a day or two. My kids are like vultures around them and the oldest loves mini-muffins for breakfast.

Anyhow, I’m part of a Dave Ramsey meal budgeting group on Facebook and I saw lots of other moms talking about how much they saved making their own mini-muffins. Now, I’ve looked a few places tonight* and re-compared the per muffin price, which ranged from ten cents (Sam’s Club) to fifteen cents (local Kroger). Reviewing my costs for the baking cups, muffin mix, milk and sandwich bags, I came in right at nine cents per muffin. Not a huge money saver, but a penny saved is a penny earned they say. *Full disclosure here, I can’t do math and thought that the store bought muffins were almost fourty cents per muffin. Oh well…

I needed to bake today to release some stress so I decided that homemade mini-muffins would be easy and save us a little money – $3.40 not $102 like I thought before I realized I can’t do math. So, I made a lot of mini-muffins, 340 to be exact. Ever want to know what 340 mini-muffins looks like? Well, here you go.

I used Martha White muffin mix, because our local grocery store carries it in many varieties and it only requires adding milk. We now have the following muffin choices available in packs of four: chocolate chocolate chip, apple cider, blueberry, wild berry, strawberry, lemon poppy seed and banana nut. I’ll be putting all of these packs in freezer bags tomorrow and take a few out of the deep freeze each week as needed for part of breakfast or as snacks when we are on the run.

And some parting wisdom before you go, check your math more than once to make sure what you are doing is really worth the time it will take. 🙂

Our People

I’ve always heard other people talk about “their people”, and wondered what it was like to have people. And by people I don’t mean family, I mean a core group of friends who are there no matter what you are going through in life. I’ve always had a few great friends, but have come to realize lately that we’ve developed a group of people who are a HUGE part of our lives, whether near or far.

These are the people who send support through 800+ text message conversations, who bring coffee to the hospital and dinner to the house. They let you stop by when it’s bedtime to reassure you that your baby is okay, and jump out of bed late at night to come over when your car catches on fire.

These people…they are wonderful and amazing.

Our people help guide us spiritually and encourage us as we grow. They understand our flaws and make us feel accepted. They love and care for us deeply which is expressed verbally but even more so by their actions.

Our people make life a little less stressful and a lot more enjoyable.

Find your people! They are out there and they need you to be their people too.

And if you are wondering, our car did in fact catch on fire and the baby did need x-rays (results coming tomorrow) in the last twenty-four hours. And our people, they are really, really awesome.

Failing

I don’t fail, except I do, all of the time. My heart races and tears fall when I fail, and I shame myself for letting someone down. More often than not, I’m the only someone let down. I can’t recall a time in my life where I haven’t needed to be perfect or where failing was acceptable (except for that time I quit softball, I was totally okay failing at that).

Tonight I realized that I left the baby’s medicine out of the refrigerator. Now it has to be thrown away, a $40 mistake. The feeling of failure isn’t because of the money, but because I was irresponsible and left it out.

It’s not the first time I’ve failed today or this week or this year and it won’t be the last. I’m in constant need of God’s forgiveness and love.

Psalm 37:24, NLT

“Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.”

I may continue to fail, but I will never fall with the Lord by my side.

 

 

Berry Chocolate Cupcakes

I’ve literally been waiting all weekend to share my berry chocolate cupcakes with everyone. I was so excited to find these beautiful raspberries yesterday on one of our adventures.

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Then when we visited our local outlet store and found a cupcake carrier like this one, I knew it was a sign that we needed to make some amazingly yummy berry chocolate cupcakes. After a quick trip to the grocery store for some of the ingredients we needed and my favorite Paper Chef Cupcake Liners, my baking assistant and I got started.

I love to bake from scratch, but that’s not realistic for me most of the time. So, when it comes to making chocolate cake, I love this recipe for the Best Doctored Up Cake Mix Cake and Best Ever Chocolate Frosting Recipe from Something Swanky. The cake and the icing are the perfect balance of sweet and bitter, and I think the yogurt gives both an even better flavor. The recipes call for plain Greek yogurt, but sometimes for extra flavor I buy vanilla or chocolate – yum!

I found the bake time to be similar to what’s recommended in the recipe even when baking as cupcakes and if you use the Paper Chef Cupcake Liners, they are so easy to remove. We let the cupcakes sit over night to cool and so my baking assistant could get some much needed sleep (see Facebook post about the threenager).

Unfortunately though, sometimes life gives you bad raspberries (filled with little larvae) and you have to scurry to find a substitute. As much as we were looking forward to raspberry filled cupcakes, the grocery store had a great deal on strawberries (did I mention we are followers of Dave Ramsey?), that I couldn’t pass up. I also needed a fine strainer to make my berry filling and was so excited to find that Kroger had a buy one, get one free sale on their Good Cook kitchen gadgets. So, we are now proud owners of a strainer AND a 3-in-1 avocado tool!

My berry filling recipe could use any berry, but today I sliced 1 quart of strawberries and combined them with 3/4 granulated sugar, 3/4 cup water, and a splash of lemon juice. I brought the mixture to a boil, reduced the heat, and covered it and simmered it on medium heat for ten to fifteen minutes. I then ran the mixture through the strainer, placing the liquid back into the pot. In a separate bowl I combined 1/4 cup water and 2 tbsp corn starch until well dissolved. Once dissolved I added the corn starch mixture to the liquid in the pan and boiled again until the liquid was thick. The liquid was placed inPicture16 the refrigerator and allowed to set before being placed in a piping bag.

While the filling was cooling, I cored the center of the cupcakes and placed the chocolate icing in a piping bag. Then the fun began. I piped the strawberry filling into the center of the cupcakes, and topped them with the chocolate icing and a quarter of a fresh strawberry. It was all I could do to keep my husband and kiddos out of them before we took them to our church fish fry.

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Side note: I need to lay off of the cupcakes, people are starting to think I’m pregnant again. 🙂

Happy Sunday!

Beginning this by saying that this is an incredibly rare occurrence. My hubby is the best. Really, he is. I’m just worn-out today and thought it was a pretty good text and wow, I totally did lose my cool tonight in front of lots of family, but you know what? It happens.

Dear Hubby,

This is a quick note to tell you about things you should try not do at 8:45pm.

1. Tell wife you’ll be back in just a minute and set off on an adventure to track a deer.

2. Not come back in just a minute.

3. Leave overly exhausted wife with four kids who didn’t nap and are crashing from a sugar high, 1.5 hours after bedtime.

Said kids, especially the threenager, will not listen and will make mom lose her cool in front of everyone and leave mom frustrated and angry.

4. Make mom frustrated and angry. It’s not good for anyone.

Love,
Trying to Not Be Frustrated and Angry Mom, Who’s Trying to Carry All Four Kids in from the Car to Bed

Apple Pie & Ice Cream

If you’re a fan of apple pie and ice cream, you’ll love these cupcakes! Grab a box of white cake mix, and substitute 1/4 cup of Greek yogurt for each egg , applesauce for oil (1:1) and apple cider for water (1:1). Mix-in a 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1/4 tsp. cloves, and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon. Stir until thoroughly combined and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until done. While your cupcakes are baking, you’ll want to get started on your apple pie filling. Core and finely chop four fresh apples (I used honeycrisp). Then melt 2 tbsp. butter with 1.5 tsp. cinnamon and 1/4 tsp. nutmeg. After the butter is melted add in your apples, along with 1/3 cup sugar and 1.5 tbsp. water. Cover and cook the apple mixture over medium heat until the apples are tender and the mixture is bubbling. You’ll want to let the filling cool a bit. The frosting is a simple whipped cream. Just combine 2 cups of heavy whipping cream with 1 cup granulated sugar and beat with mixer until fluffy. Once your cupcakes are done and cooled, you will want to core them. I don’t have a cupcake core remover so I improvise and cut out a 3/4″ hole in the center of the cupcake with whatever I can I find. Fill the center of your cupcakes with apple pie filling, and top with whipped cream and a bit more of the apple pie filling.

These cupcakes have a nice spice to them and are best when still a bit warm. Enjoy!