Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It's the most wonderful time of the year

Wow, where to start? Today was awesome and fun and busy and hectic and tiring and amazing. Perhaps the best Christmas Eve of all time! Today was about as "typical Kelsey" as a day can get. It felt good!

This morning I meant to get up super early and get a lot done. Did that happen? Nope. Slept in until 6:30 at first, when I discovered Kimmy standing at the foot of the bed playing with my blanket. I'm still unclear whether she was awake or sleepwalking. I told her to get back in bed, and then I didn't get up until 8:00! I took a shower and got completely ready and had to go coax her out of sleep because she was so knocked out. Got her dressed, and our day officially started!

First, we hopped in the car and drove through McDonald's for a lazy-mom breakfast. Then we went to my work, so I could do payroll real quick and for Kimmy to meet a few of my coworkers. You never know what a toddler will do, so I certainly didn't expect Kimmy to waltz right in confidently and hold up her foot to show my coworker her Cinderella light-up shoe. LOL! So random. She happily ate her McD's breakfast and acted like she was perfectly at home in the office with Mommy.

Once we finished up there, it was off to Indy for free admission day at the Children's Museum. We had never been because it's not really in our budget, so I thought free day was a good time to go. Parking was also free, which is a major winner in my book.

We got there a little before 11:00am, and holy crap it was packed. Not just buzzing, but PACKED. If I had claustrophobia, I would not have made it out of the parking garage. I vowed not to let myself get too stressed out (it's really hard to take a young child somewhere all by yourself and not be intimidated or nervous), keep a strict eye on the Kim-bird at all times, and have fun.

And have fun, we did! Actually, "fun" is an understatement. There was so much to do! Kimmy loved everything--the dinosaur and train play tables, the musical instruments, water table, sand, drawing with chalk, the holiday displays, the giant polar bear on the 2nd floor (which we had to go back to 4 times because she was so enthralled), dinosaur bones, blown glass with plastic play versions for kids, the big train car you could walk through, the play castle near where Santa was, and, heck, even the hand dryers in the bathrooms and ramps to and from each floor--and I loved watching her have fun. She had a blast! We probably walked 2 miles seeing everything.

After the first hour of exploration, we got in line to meet Santa. We waited less than an hour, I think, but it was exhausting. There were kids running around everywhere, people getting in and out of line for bathroom breaks and phone calls and who knows what else, and Kimmy was starting to feel tired. I basically split the wait time between watching her like a hawk and grabbing her anytime she tried to run off and holding her on my hip, so she could lay her sleepy head on my shoulder and rest. Hard manual labor with a 30-lb. toddler.

We finally made it to the front of the line, and the much-anticipated first-ever Santa meeting took place. Kimmy LOVED Santa. She was mesmerized. She whispered, "Wowwwwwww." as she walked up to him. (She also stuck her foot up and showed him her Cinderella light-up shoes. They are apparently her most beloved possession right now.) She sat still as a statue as I snapped a picture of her with Santa Claus. She was starstruck and completely in awe. So hilarious to watch her reaction! Also, this Santa was the best ever. He was 100% in character and didn't show the slightest annoyance at any of the children or 4 hours of non-stop photo opps. Very impressive.

We hung out at the museum until 1:00, when Kimmy was just too tired to go on. We never made it to the 4th floor to ride the carousel, but luckily the Jay-jee wasn't even aware there was one up there! Before we left, though, we went to the gift shop. I have to say that I am a pro at finding the coolest cheap things to get at museum/aquarium/zoo gift shops, and this was no exception. I'm pretty proud of that skill. But what made my finds even better was the nice mother in the line next to me who used her museum member pass on my purchase to save me 15%. It was such a nice gesture! In my opinion, the best moms are the ones who help each other out and have each other's backs. I hope mystery mom and her kiddos have the best Christmas ever because her small kindness made my day a whole lot brighter, especially after several stressful hours of wading through throngs of people bouncing around like pinballs because of their unpredictable toddlers' footpaths.

As we were walking the skywalk over to the parking garage, I noticed that Kimmy was slowing down, down, down until she was barely even picking up her feet to walk. Hilarious! I carried her the 500 ft. back to the car, and she was asleep in about 5 minutes.

Okay, so all week I had been planning to go to the 4:30pm Christmas Eve service at our church, but as I was driving home today, the GPS was giving me a 2:37pm ETA to our apartment. I decided that I could most likely get us home, changed into church clothes, and to the church just about right on time for the 3:00pm service. Challenge accepted, self.

In typical Kelsey fashion, I caught every red light in town on the way home. We arrived at 2:45, but I somehow got us to church at 3:00pm on the dot. BOOM!

If you know me, you know my Christmas Eve traditions include church hopping to as many candlelight services as possible and singing as much Christmas music as possible. Kim and I used to go to as many as 5 services in one night! So, I've seen it all, or so I thought. This service was way different, though.

Sherwood Oaks put on an AWESOME service! Not your same-old-same music. No candles, but the Wham City Lights phone app. I loved it!!!!! Probably my favorite service ever. The best part was the last song with the app with all the color-changing phone screens. The music was like Christmas carols meets Jersey house music. So much fun! The 8-ish year old boy in front of me was jumping up and down and fist pumping the whole time. It was hilarious! I left with a big smile my face and in my heart. I love a lot of things about Bloomington, Indiana, but the number 1 on my list is my church home.

After church, we ran to Kroger. I know, I on Christmas Eve. But I really couldn't help it. My Thirty-One and PartyLite commissions hit my bank account today, and Kimmy was 100% out of allergy medicine. I grabbed that, and Kimmy and I picked out our cake mix and icing for Jesus's birthday cake that we're making tomorrow. I really wanted to make it symbolic and do red velvet cake with pure white icing to be able to chat about the blood and the blanketing of our sins with forgiveness, yadda, yadda, yadda. I guess I temporarily forgot that I have a very girly 2-year-old who is very into pretty, sparkly things as my best mate. She picked out white cake mix and bright purple icing with big multi-colored sprinkles. Well, first she picked out bright pink icing with pink sugar sprinkles, which I smoothly nixed (by showing her a few better options like purple and blue) because I'm not big on pink. Purple it is.

Here comes the interesting part: I was sitting in the backseat buckling Kimmy into her carseat after our shopping trip, when an impatient person started pulling into the parking spot next to us. Door wide open and me being the [too] nice person I am, I pulled the door closer to me. Well, the wind blew it shut completely. Annnnnd, let's just say the child safety lock feature works perfectly in my car. Yep. Locked in the backseat with my child, despite the unlocked door.

Well, being that Kimmy's carseat is in the middle seat and is rear-facing, that left about a 1 ft. space from the top of her seat to the ceiling...a space that I was forced to dive through face first to transport myself to the front of my unlocked-from-the-outside car.

Yes, this really happened. I could not make it up. This is my life.

I'm sure my child now thinks I am the weirdest human being on the planet based on her facial expression as this was happening. My antics may push her into teenage embarrassment mode well before her time. I could definitely see this happening. Go ahead and laugh!

When we got home (at 5:00pm, which is an awesome time to be in for the night on Christmas Eve, by the way), we had our fancy cheese and crackers platter (Pierce traditional Christmas Eve dinner) and a whole lot of blueberries, followed by couch cuddles and Christmas movies. As I got my lovey ready for bed, I gifted her with a Christmas sticker book, Maisy's Christmas. She absolutely loved it! I see a fun new tradition in our Christmas Eve bedtime wind-down! She thought the stickers she could insert into the story were ultra-cool. Toddler moms: I highly recommend this book!

As I was tucking my sweet child in bed, I asked her what her favorite part of our day was. She said, "I saw Santa!" So, there's that.

After she went to bed, I finally got her gifts wrapped and put under the tree. As I sat back down on the couch to watch a Hallmark movie, I had a stunning realization:

I. Am. So. Sore.

My feet are Disneyworld sore. My back is 9th-month pregnancy sore. My biceps are Arnold Schwarzenegger sore. However, my heart is overflowing. Single mom busy-day, non-workout workout for the win. I wouldn't trade this day for all the money in the world.

Merry Christmas, friends! I hope your day was as amazing as ours.

More later.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

I'll go first

Going first is something I've always had to push myself to do. Why? For the first 15 years, 3 months, and 11 days of my life, I had the luxury of walking in my big sister's shadow. At the time, it was something I took for granted. I always felt stifled, unrecognized, and as if I would never get my time to shine--typical middle-child syndrome. When Kim died, not only did I lose my sounding board for all the thoughts that entered my head, but I also lost my leader. I was suddenly thrust toward the front of the race, and the idea of having to experience all those life milestones first suddenly became my worst nightmare.

It's now been 10 years, 9 months, and 20 days since that terrifying transition, and I'm still standing.

It has not been easy decade. First kid in my household to graduate high school, move out, attend college, earn a degree, have a baby, make financial mistakes, get a job, learn to make important phone calls, buy a car, go to doctor's appointments alone, pay bills, etc. When you spend most of your life assuming there will always be someone to experience those things first (and be an example for you to learn from), being thrust into the forefront really takes a toll on you. I have felt lost, confused, and overwhelmed more times than I can count.

With this recent bout of new life experiences, my anxiety has been higher than ever. My self-talk has been on overdrive...constant, swirling, cyclical questions flurry around my brain every day. The unknowns are innumerable.
"Can I do this?"
"How will I do this?"
"Will I be okay?"
"Will Kimmy be okay?"
"Will I ever feel unburdened financially?"
"Can I really count on someone I don't trust to take care of his child financially?"
"How do I budget without really knowing if that money will come?"
"How will holidays work?"
"Will I always live here?"
"Where will I move to really start my adult life when I feel ready?"
"Can I open up and trust someone again?"
"Who has a big enough heart to accept Kimmy and me?"
"How do I find him?"
"How will I know when I'm ready to find him?"
"Will I ever get to give Kimmy a sibling that she so deserves?"
"Was getting my own place a smart move?"
It's no wonder I never sleep!

Especially since signing a lease for our townhouse, I have felt mega-burdened by responsibility. Depressingly so. I'm so excited to escape (sans the whole packing and actual moving experience). But, the numbers aren't adding up how I want, and all I can see on the horizon is financial strain.

On the flipside, my brain is giving me lots of useful coping mechanisms:
"Trust. Trust Jesus. You are bulletproof with his protection. Psalm 28:7."
"You can do this. You are doing it."
"Kim would have your back with all your decisions. You're not letting her down."
"Kimmy is happy and healthy."
"Life won't always be this hard."
"You deserve happiness, and God will pave your path."
But perhaps the most useful little thought nugget my mind has concocted is this: My struggles are not my own.

Not only do I have the loving, amazing, impervious shoulder of Jesus on which to dump my burdens, but I also have my amazing family and friends.

Beyond that, my struggles and the way I handle them are a source of energy and encouragement for so many other women walking in these same worn and tattered shoes that have endured the walk through incredible deceit, betrayal, mistreatment, acrimony, and disrespect.

Several women have come to me since I revealed my current reality and told me of almost mirrored situations. For perspective: I don't take pride in that, and I am certainly not happy for their struggles. I am happy to say, though, that no matter how chaotic I feel my life outwardly appears, I will gladly go first if it means I can help someone else escape to independence.

It may be uncomfortable and hard and scary, but I will go first. I can only hope that my testimony will be strength and hope, not an endless string of miniature disasters. That's where trust will come into the picture and stay. I will trust the Lord with all my heart and mind and soul and strength. I submit. These struggles are only as long as I am here on this earth, and God will hold my hand during that time. Even if life's burdens never let up, I will be rewarded for my steadfastness in eternity. In that I can trust, when all else collapses around me.

The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord. 1 Chronicles 29:9
Lord, make my life meaningful to those [I may not even know] who need to see this journey that leads straight to the cross of salvation. Help me go first, even if I feel like I'm running this race in very last place.

Lots of love,

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Compassion at Christmastime

Carry each other's burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.
                                          -Galations 6:2

This time of year--especially this year--I'm reminded of just how much so many of us take for granted. Christmas is a joyous holiday, full of love, friends, family, celebration, sharing of blessings, good food, warm jammies and cozy fires, presents, and even time off from work!

Or at least it's supposed to be. Unless, of course, someone or some circumstance has stolen your holiday joy.

I tend to believe that only a select few are genuinely 100% non-stressed this time of year. With financial (and emotional) burdens weighing heavy--money spent on gifts, elaborate meals, warm clothes, decorations, etc.--a lot of people really don't enjoy this time of year very much at all.

Here is a [generalized] list of people who may be putting on a brave face, but internalizing at least a little hopelessness during the holiday season:
  • people who have lost a loved one
  • people suffering with a terminal, chronic, or acute illness or a minor, severe, or disabling injury
  • caregivers
  • the homeless
  • the unemployed
  • children whose parents can't afford gifts or even food
  • parents who can't afford their children's gifts or food
  • children who are hungry or cold
  • college students who are incredibly stressed about finals, money, and academic progress
  • people with eating disorders, mental illness, or some other such thing that affects their confidence
  • parents whose children live far away or aren't speaking to them
  • nursing home patients
  • retirement home residents
  • people who can't afford to travel to see their loved ones
  • people who have to work, like medical staff and other such public servants
  • teachers and people in other professions who will spend most of their holiday downtime preparing for work after the break
  • people who are struggling with debt
  • people who have had a major life change like divorce, bankruptcy, miscarriage, etc.
  • children whose parents don't pay attention to them
  • children who have no parents
  • people who have no friends, or at least feel like they have none
  • people who have been arrested or imprisoned, whether guilty or not
  • and many, many more.
Okay, so you may be thinking, "Um, duh. Common knowledge." But that list just touches the surface. Think about people around the world who may be in even worse predicaments. You can also add in all the advertisements and marketing surrounding Christmas of perfectly cooked holiday meals, trees with gifts literally stuffed underneath because there are so many, people flaunting their big shopping deals on social media, and so many more other scenarios that give people's self-talk no other option than to say, "You're not good enough. You're inadequate. This holiday sucks. Life sucks. This is not fun. You aren't happy. You have no right to be happy. Your life is hopeless."

In my circle of people, I can rattle off about 30 names, without even batting an eye, who might have a hard time this Christmas. I tend to think this is the norm for most people. We all know of friends who are going through a personal challenge right here, right now. Take a quick minute to think about your people and just see who you come up with.

So, let's get to the point. Christmas is about the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, right? Right. How can you be like Jesus this Christmas? I know I want him at the center of my holiday. Over the last few weeks, I have been racking my brain trying to come up with some new holiday traditions to share with my daughter, but I think I've been thinking on the wrong types of things: activities we do together in our home vs. things we can do for others...maybe even others who will never know we helped or could never repay our kindness.

That's what I want my future Christmases to be about: Compassion. Kindness. Loving others. Sharing their burdens. Easing their struggles. Being the light. Holding their hands through the storm. I can confidently say that the people who have been all of those things to me in my life have given me some of the best memories and feelings I have ever had.

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
Colossians 3:12

Unfortunately, I, like so many others, do not really have any disposable income right now. I'm not able to go all out and buy, buy, buy for others, but if you are able to, maybe just consider the impact that might have in someone else's life. Do you know someone who has children? Buy their kids a gift to show them you have their back. Know a single parent? Give them a gift card to Kroger or Walmart for groceries and necessities--I guarantee they need it and will appreciate it more than you could ever know. Is there a place where homeless people hang out in your community? Stop at a donut shop and get them a jug of hot coffee and a couple dozen donuts. 

Use your gift to be a gift. Mine is my ability to put my thoughts into written words, and I plan to share kind words with others this season. Fun fact: We each have a gift. Even if you haven't found it yet. What's yours?

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms.
1 Peter 4:10

Feeling uncreative? Let me help:
  • invite someone who is lonely, lost, hungry, cold, or weary to your home for dinner
  • offer compliments to people you see as you're out doing Christmas shopping
  • gather all the change in your house and pop your kids in the car to let them put the coins in the Salvation Army bucket one by one
  • buy a big load of groceries for an elderly person who can't get out to do it alone
  • cook a meal for a set of busy new parents
  • make Christmas cards for the patients on a hospital floor
  • invite someone to come to church with you
  • call a few friends you haven't seen or talked to in a while, wish them a Merry Christmas, ask them how they are--how they really are--and be a friend
  • bake some festive cookies for a friend or coworker
  • go sing Christmas carols or read poetry at a nursing or retirement home
  • go visit with someone who might not get a single other visitor this Christmas
  • babysit someone's child(ren) for a few hours for free, so they can have a break to decompress and destress
  • at the very least, just pray for someone
If you think you can't be there for someone, you're wrong. It doesn't take much to make someone's holiday a whole lot brighter. One small kindness negates a ka-trillion bad things in your life.

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.
1 Peter 3:8

Think about it.


Sunday, December 7, 2014

And that's all I have to say about that

(Yes, I quoted Forrest Gump in this title. It's perhaps my favorite movie of all time!)

So, let's get right to it.

It's amazing how threatened someone can feel by my stating the things that he actually did/does and said/says. It's amazing how intimidating a woman's independence and resolve can be.

Guess what?

I offer no apologies.

I own my story. I own my thoughts, words, and actions. I'm pushing forward, and if I want to share my story, that's my right. (You) deal with it, [not me].


Sunday, November 30, 2014

What it means to be a single momma

So I've been doing the single mom thing for 3 and a half months now. Because of the way my disastrous relationship with cheaterman wound down, I was pretty much already in the single mom role for quite a while...I just didn't really know it at the time.

When someone checks out in a relationship, the teamwork meter plummets. Zip. Zilch. Nada. No collaborative work in parenting, finances, household management, discipline, anything. Suffice it to say that I'm used to setting the pace for my household.

Since being thrust into this role, I continually have friends and loved ones in my ear saying things like...
"You're so strong!"
 "I could never do all that you do and hold it together."
"Aren't you mad or bitter? You don't act like it. I'd be livid."
"You're doing awesome! Being a single mom must not be as bad as it's made out to be."
Not to discount those incredible compliments, but...

Yeah--let's talk.

I appreciate the admiration, but things are a whole lot different from my perspective. The ire is there. The rage exists. The self-pity comes bubbling up in my darkest moments. I'm human; I promise. It is hard; I assure you. Let me break it down a little bit:

1. I don't ever get a break. Ever. Being forced to continue out this lease with cheaterman (let's shorten it to CM...I'm tired of the time it takes to even type out the word) only exacerbates that issue. Even when I don't have to technically be "on" in my mom role with Kimmy (like when CM is giving Kimmy a bath and doing her bedtime routine), I really do still have to be on. There is no companion to take the load off me long enough for me to go be by myself and decompress. There's no one there to even respect that that is a need I have.

I have a constant internal storm raging in my head, but I have to keep my emotions and reactions in check so that Kimmy doesn't see how on edge I am. Example: CM sings constantly. Loudly. Obnoxiously. Perhaps to purposely annoy me (as if he hasn't already done enough to show his disrespect for me)! The lyrics are frequently sexually explicit, full of swear words. (Kimmy actually sings some of these songs, though she doesn't know the words. But I have to say, "Oh, Mommy doesn't like that song. Let's sing a different one." Thankfully, that usually leads to a spirited rendition of "Jesus Loves Me." But I digress.)

I feel like I need to make it more clear. The singing is CONSTANT. The noise pollution is enough to make me want to punch a hole in every wall in this house. Add on some other things that CM gets huffy and puffy about that I'm apparently doing incorrectly (as if he really deserves to be able to scrutinize me), like the fact that I rarely find time to do the dishes when I'm about to collapse at the end of the day, and I'm a veritable walking thunderstorm.

I want to EXPLODE--release the Kraken, if you will. Can I really do that, though? No, I can't. What do I do instead? Play it cool for my sweet Kimmy. After all, we share a room. I said I don't get a break, right? It's true. Not even when I'm sleeping.

2. Slightly different than never getting a break: I'm always busy. Pushed-to-the-max, on-overdrive busy. When I'm not wiping a snotty nose with a "chih-chyoo" or reading a book or playing chase or making toddler snack foods or changing a diaper or doing a bedtime routine or taking the child to an appointment or letting her do something all by herself that would take a nanosecond for me to do all by myself, I'm...
     at work full time,
     trying to squeeze in an errand of my own,
     working on our financial planning,
     doing a marketing plan for the month for my Thirty-One business,
     reading up on my training materials for my new PartyLite business,
     hosting an online party for one of the said side businesses,
     trying to catch up on my reading for my church small group,
     going to church on Wednesdays and Sundays,
     clipping coupons and planning grocery trips on a budget,
     dreaming about the hot shower that I don't have time to take,
     paying bills,
     meal planning or cooking,
     tossing in a load of laundry when there are zero clean clothes and wildly hoping that I can stay awake long enough to put it in the dryer to be able to have something to wear the next day,
     worrying, praying, stressing, and worrying some more.

My purse is literally full of post-it notes and short lists I've jotted down for myself on scratch paper in the vain hope of being able to remember all there is that I have to do on a daily basis.

My work calendar is color-coded in an attempt to help me keep my head on straight. I have a bagillion reminders set on my phone. I set 4 alarms every morning as a contingency to the repeated snooze-hitting habit that has spurned from sheer exhaustion. Let's not even talk about the Notes app on my phone. I'm surprised my head hasn't twisted clear off my neck.

I feel late, disorganized, underprepared, confused, forgetful, behind, and to be frank, the exact opposite of "strong" or "graceful" or "poised" or "put together" or "admirable" almost all of the time.

3. I'm constantly paranoid that someone will pity me. Let's face it: people look at your left ring finger. You turn a certain age...we'll say 20-something...and, especially when you're a woman, people look at the ring finger. When you have a 2-year-old in tow everywhere you go, people know. They know you're a single mom. They don't know how or why or for how long, but they know. Then there's that look they give you. The annoyed or distracted expression that suddenly softens ever so slightly, enough for you to see that they wouldn't wish what they perceive your situation to be on anyone on this earth.

I'll just come right out with it: Don't pity me. Please, don't pity me. That's the worst thing you can do for a single momma's heart. It leaves her feeling that someone thinks she's lost, hopeless, unstable, or even searching. I am not any of those things. I may be a bit rattled, stressed, or anxious, but I am far from any of those things.

And I am certainly not searching. I have the Cross before me, my family and friends beside me, and the world behind me. The Promise is greater than the problems. You think I'll be living paycheck to paycheck in heaven? Wrong-o. You think I'll have endless tasks on my meaningless to-do list? Nope. I'll be free as a bird, not a care in the world.

Pity him. Cheaterman. He is the hopeless one. He is the one without. He is missing out on his future. Not me.


All that being said, here's my single momma number 4:

I am the most honest, raw, real, shameless, humble, selfless woman you will ever meet.

And here's a secret: all single mommas are. Or at least all the ones who give this unchosen job every ounce of their effort.

Why? We have nothing to hide.

When you're stretched to the breaking point every second of the day, you are stripped of all illusions and pretenses.

When you do everything in your power to be the best version of you for your child 24/7--when you commit to putting yourself on the back burner to care for her and ensure her happiness at all costs--love takes hold and steers your every move. Yes, you will make mistakes. Yes, you will at times be [embarrassingly] impatient. But no one can ever take away your motherhood, your character, your core. No one can ever argue that you don't love your child abundantly and without limits. Top that off with God's limitless love, and there is absolutely no reason under the sun to be ashamed of the label that will now stick with you through your entire life, no matter what future relationship(s) or circumstances may come.

Am I a single mom? Yes--and proud of it! Single mom means my child will never be without or lacking. I will never, ever give up on her...on us.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lost pieces

So, it's been a while. A LONG while. There's so much on my mind that, despite the skilled writer in me, I'm not sure where to start. Let's do a very brief summary to bring you up to speed:
  • In March, I got engaged.
  • In May, that same man who proposed to me began a new relationship, unbeknownst to me.
  • In August, things came to a head. I learned the cause of his bizarre, dismissive, borderline emotionally abusive behavior.
  • After 3 months of bold-faced lies and a whole mess of wasted time and energy and emotion, things were over.
 To put it simply,


But things in my life are rarely that simple, as is also the case here.

My sweet Kimmy Jarae is caught in the middle of this giant mess and her father's poor decision-making, a decision where he chose a "woman" who would blatantly and selfishly choose herself over the happiness and well-being of his own daughter, his flesh and blood. I fear my Jay-jee girl will be heartbroken time and again throughout her life, and there is no way for me to shield her from the repeated blows. (Also, we are trapped in a lease with cheaterman until July 24, 2015. For real. Yuck.)

Here's our Band-Aid fix: I have moved in with Kimmy. That's right--my 2-year-old and I share a room. I'm okay with that because she is awesome, and she's such a happy little bunk mate.

I am not okay with being under someone's thumb, though. I'm much too independent for that, and he deserves never to know where I am or what I am doing. But I'm focusing all my energy on being a damn good mom, excelling in my job, paying off debt and living on a tight budget, drawing nearer to Jesus, and being strong and happy and self-sufficient for my wonderful child.


So that brings me to my next theme: lost pieces.

Do you know how exhausting it is spending 6 and a half years caring about someone who stopped caring long ago? Do you know the feeling of emptiness from all the pieces of yourself you have given away to someone who will toss them in the nearest dumpster at the first opportunity?

(Let me be clear: I am not sad about this grueling relationship being over. I am not grieving the loss of that person. He is not the same person now that I used to love, and I had been spiraling quickly into unhappiness over those last few months at the concept of being "stuck" with the person he is now for life. Finally knowing what caused his personality shift? That's all the closure I needed! Trust when I say, "I am over it." I could not be more over it. You may think I'm in denial. I'm not. Therefore, I have no need to convince you of such. No metaphor or simile or literal statement could describe how self-aware and in tune with my feelings I am, and that's the God-honest truth.)

The emptiness I'm talking about is the absence of me...pieces of me. The realization of the sheer number of jokes, dreams, laughs, memories, musings, feelings, and pieces of my character and my being and my true self that I have given away to that pair of ears. The amount of time I have spent with that other person. The wasted time and wasted energy that I cannot take back. I can't say, "Oh, hey. Give my back those 1290735 hours I spent with you, so I can re-shape some memories that don't include you. Give me my words and actions back. I need a re-do with people who I know have my back and always will."

This seems to be an ongoing theme in my life. This emptiness occurs after a death, too. Or when 2 friends grow too busy for each other and fall out of touch, and neither is blameless. When my sister died, she quite literally took all those pieces of me with her to the grave, and I will take just as many to my grave. There were so many things just the two of us shared that no one else ever knew about or could understand or really even deserves to know about. So many memories we experienced that no one else can touch. The only difference is that it wasn't wasted with Kim. I will treasure the ache of those lost pieces always because I know I can have them back when I see her in heaven. And by some odd phenomenon, I am still complete in my emptiness with her--nothing was wasted...only halted.

With my now-combusted relationship, I will never have, nor want those lost pieces again.

That knowledge still doesn't magically erase my emptiness, but it does give me some wisdom to take with me into my life from here forward: it matters who you choose as the keeper of your pieces of yourself. If you can't trust that someone can cherish your pieces like you deserve, you don't need them in your life. If someone doesn't respect your pieces, they aren't worth the time and energy you would exhaust to grant them those tiny shards of your self, your being, your soul.

It's one of the biggest risks we ever take...opening up to another human being. Granting them access to heart and soul and mind and time. I don't regret anything in my life, for each day is a lesson learned. I only regret not having the hindsight I have now. But, really, what fun would life be if we lived with foresight? This is just another chapter in Kelsey's Grand Adventure.

e.e. cummings said it best in "i carry your heart." I carry my sister's heart and my mother and father and brother's hearts. I carry my daughter's heart and my best friends' hearts. My grandmother. My old friends and a select few new. And I know for a fact that they carry mine, too.
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
-e.e. cummings
It's onward and upward from here, my dears. I will likely never again give away so many pieces of me to one single person, and I will be all the better for it. I'm not hardened; I'm in charge. I'm not damaged; I'm setting my own precedent. I am most certainly not jaded; I've just burned a bridge with one single, solitary person in this big, huge walk of life, which is full to the brim of ten times as many beautiful people.

I'm reclaiming me...un-apologetically so.

Over and out.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Influenster product reviews: Vitality VoxBox

The biggest VoxBox I have gotten yet. It didn't fit in my mailbox, so I had to go pick it up at the leasing office!

First Degree Advanced Burn Cream
I didn't actually find a use for this yet, I must admit. I don't get burned often. But I'll now be ready when I do!

Overall recommendation: undecided.

Playtex Sport Fresh Balance
Oh, my wow. These are awesome! I used to stay away from Playtex because of the static-cling effect of the thin plastic wrappers. I once left a bathroom with a tampon wrapper stuck to my pants. Embarrassing! I've gotta say that I'm SUPER impressed with the new and improved design. Awesome tear-away wrapper with thicker plastic that you can easily slide the applicator back in. The tampons themselves are great. Knotted strings for easy removal. (Sorry for the graphic descriptors, guys.) I will start buying these from now on!

Overall recommendation: would DEFINITELY recommend.

Elizabeth Arden FLAWLESS FUTURE Powered by Ceramide Caplet Serum
Eh, not sure how I feel about this. It feels nice on my skin, but I don't see any major complexion changes for the better. At $60 a bottle, I can't see myself ever buying this. I loved getting to test it for free, but I don't think it's the product for me.

Overall recommendation: would not recommend.

Pure Leaf Iced Tea
LOVE. I'm a huge tea freak. This tea is pretty much the only bottled tea I'll drink because it doesn't taste watered down. I buy this all the time in a pinch without time to make my own and will continue to do so!

Overall recommendation: would 100% recommend.

Softlips Cube
I adore this little lip gloss cube. Normally with a little tub of gloss like this, you have to stick your germy finger in and apply it with your finger. Um, not with this. It's AWESOME. You unscrew the lid, and get this.....the gloss is a little half sphere that's attached to the lid! So, it's in your hand, and you just run it across your lips. The The fresh mint flavor is delish. Feels so cool and soft against my lips. It's got SPF and all kinds of moisturizing benefits. I LOVE this product. I also got 2 coupons in my VoxBox, so I will be buying this in the other flavors for sure!

Overall recommendation: would definitely recommend.

Bikini Ready Energy Gummies
I'm not too hip on the gummy vitamin trend. They're typically overpriced, and they "get you" by making 1 daily serving 2 or more gummies. That way, you're eating more when there are fewer per bottle anyway (compared to capsules or traditional forms of vitamins). Wasteful, in my opinion. I tske my typical multivitamin at night because taking it in the day always makes me super nauseous. The Bikini Ready "Energy Gummies" kind of baffle me. Why do I need a dose of caffeine in a vitamin? Caffeine on my morning stomach along with vitamins sounds like a giant tummyache for me. No, thanks! I'll keep my cup of AM coffee after I eat breakfast and stick to my nighttime vitamin regimen.

Overall recommendation: would not recommend.

I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes. Totally free. Totally mine to keep. So easy! Thanks for my #VitaVoxBox, +Influenster!!!

Do you want to get your hands on a VoxBox in the future? Comment on this post with your email address, and I'll send you a quick invite to sign up!



Monday, August 4, 2014

Influenster product review: Vow VoxBox

Time for another VoxBox product review blog! For being a wedding-planning bride, I was selected to receive the #VoxVoxBox from Influenster. I loved these products! Here are my impressions of each of them.

Olay Regenerist Tone Perfecting Cream
I've gotta admit--I was a tried and true Aveeno girl until I tried this facial moisturizer, but my face has never felt cleaner or fresher than when I use this cream! I've also noticed that my acne-prone, scarred, blemished skin is much smoother and even-toned and -colored after using Olay for several weeks. My only hesitation is that there is no SPF. I'm terrified of skin cancer, thanks to a handful of scary sunburns in my life and a famly history of melanoma. SPF is at the top of my wish list for a facial moisturizer. If there's a version of this with SPF, I'll make the switch to Olay for sure!

Overall recommendation: would recommend.

EcoTools Pure Complexion Facial Sponge
This sponge feels so soft, smushy, and cool against my skin. I've used it a few times. It's definitely gentle enough to remove eye make-up. Dirt seems to rinse out easily, too. I'm just really hesitant to continue using it for the fact that it's a sponge. Don't sponges hold a ton of bacteria? Why would I want to use a bacteria-ridden sponge on my face time and time again? That sounds like a cat call for pink eye! I prefer to wash my face with my clean hands in the shower and dry with a clean towel afterwards. This sponge is neat, but it could never be an everyday thing for a germaphobe like me.

Overall recommendation: would not recommend.

Pure Silk Shave Cream
LOVE this shaving cream. It's priced more affordably than Skintimate, and it sits on top of my skin better, too. I feel like Skintimate washes away really easily in the shower if it even gets a misting of the water. Pure Silk stays on better and leaves my legs silky smooth. I always buy this brand when I shop for shaving cream. I'm a loyalist. Pretty sure I'll use it when shaving up for my I-do day, too!
Overall recommendation: would absolutely recommend.

Eh. Not a huge fan. I like Shout wipes and Clorox 2 better for the same purpose. I got some grape jelly on my sweater recently and tried using my Tide-to-Go on the stain. Not a chance. It didn't do a darn thing! The pen seemed to be firm and nice and moist, but it didn't do anything but moisten the stain. It didn't lift it one tiny bit. I ended up running home and changing clothes on my lunch break. I washed it with Clorox 2 in the washing machine, and the stain came right out! Tide-to-Go is not something I would spend my money on, and I don't think it would end up in my bridal survival kit, either.
Overall recommendation: would not recommend.

Riley & Grey
This is a website that hosts personal wedding website domains. The websites are quite professional and elegant; however, the price tag is a dealbreaker. With a wedding budget of $4000 (yes, for my ENTIRE wedding), a several-hundred-dollar website is not in the plan. I'll stick with my free wedding website on
Overall recommendation: would definitely not recommend.

Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure
Sally Hansen is my favorite nail polish brand! It comes in a ton of colors and is affordable. I love the Complete Salon Manicure line, especially, because the brush is flat with a rounded tip--perfect for getting good aim around your nail beds. This powder-blue color is adorable. I currently have my toes painted with it, and I love it. I just wish it dried as quickly as Sally Hansen InstaDry because I hate waiting on my nail polish to dry. Oh, well. Definitely going to be keeping it in mind for my "something blue" on my wedding day.

Overall recommendation: would recommend.

I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes. Totally free. Totally mine to keep. So easy! Thanks for my #VowVoxBox, +Influenster!!!

Do you want to get your hands on a VoxBox in the future? Comment on this post with your email address, and I'll send you a quick invite to sign up!

More later,


Monday, July 21, 2014

Influenster product reviews: TLC VoxBox

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Influenster?! If not, I LOVE INFLUENSTER!

For creating a profile and taking short online surveys about things that interest me based on my current phase of life, I get chosen to receive FREE, full-size samples of products to review. How cool is that?! It seriously couldn't be easier.

I was recently chosen to receive the #TLCVoxBox, which is a group of products carefully selected for busy moms. This box was so awesome! Here are my impressions.

Avon Anew Reversalist Express Wrinkle Smoother
Okay, I've gotta admit that I'm not all up on the "I'm in my mid-20s, so I must stop all wrinkles in their tracks immediately" bandwagon. I'm of the view that wrinkles are a sign of overcoming life's obstacles successfully: every wrinkle, line, and dimple is the remnant of some emotion or expression that you have had. I enjoy aging and all the wisdom that comes with it. Anyway, I digress. Wrinkles or no wrinkles, between my ongoing allergy issues and chronic lack of sleep, I've got under-eye dark circles that could rival Muhammed Ali's. Fo' realz. This wrinkle-smoothing concealer is awesome! I steer clear of paying shipping when I can, so this is probably not something I'd ever order from Avon if I could help it. However, this compact should last me quite a while, and it's seriously clutch for those early Monday mornings when I look like I got run over by a semi in my sleep.

Overall recommendation: would recommend.

Breyers Gelato
Ummmm, YUM. That's about all I've got to say about that. I adore ice cream, and I was so impressed with the smooth, creamy texture and deliciously sweet flavor of my tub of Raspberry Cheesecake Breyers Gelato. Having a coupon to get it for free? Even better. It's ice cream, so it goes without saying that it's not the healthiest food choice. However, it was so satisfying that the 1/2-cup serving size was actually perfect, and I didn't end up eating it all in one sitting. I also loved the textures: creamy cheesecake gelato, gel-like raspberry swirl, and chewy graham cracker pieces on top. Seriously so delicious. I would buy this again and again.

Overall recommendation: would definitely recommend!

Ivory Soap
This soap's been around forever for a reason. Such a classic clean feeling, and it smells great. I briefly considered popping this bar in the microwave and doing the "Ivory cloud" sensory activity with my daughter, but I decided to be selfish and keep this soap for myself. It's great! Left me feeling nice and clean after my shower, and there was none of that filmy feeling like with some soaps. Also, this soap is budget-friendly! I have frequently darted straight for the Ivory when I'm out of my normal body wash between paychecks. Some bar soaps are $2+ per bar. Um, no! Bring on the Ivory.

Overall recommendation: would absolutely recommend.

Neosporin Neo To Go!
My finger has been a little irritated under my engagement ring lately, so I was willing to try just about anything on it. On one particularly irritating day, I remembered that I had my Neo To Go! in my purse. I decided to spray a little on, and my raw, itchy skin got instant relief. Since it's a spray, it also felt cooling. This is a pretty cool thing to have on hand, especially because my playground-loving daughter is in the toddler years, and I can foresee lots of scraped knees and elbows in her immediate future. I'm not sure this is something I would go out and buy, so it's nice to have gotten a free sample to try.

Overall recommendation: would recommend.

Puffs To Go!
I'm usually a Kleenex girl, so I was surprised to like these Puffs so well. Compared to the travel packs of Kleenex, these are SO much better. The packaging is thicker, so it didn't get punctured riding around in my messy purse. Also, the tissues are much sturdier and didn't crumble to dust after being jostled around. I'm always a fan of the boxes of Kleenex, but the Kleenex tissues in the travel packs are typically much flimsier. Sure, people compare me to a trumpet because I'm so rough blowing my nose, so I may have a biased stance. But, these Puffs passed the test for my nose-blowing. I'd buy these for sure!

Overall recommendation: would highly recommend!

Shell Rewards
I could take or leave this rewards program. 1. There's not a Shell super close to me, so driving out of my way to save 3 cents per gallon wasn't a huge draw for me. 2. I save more by cashing in my Speedy Rewards at Speedway and Fuel Points at Kroger. I'm sure it's a great option for others, but it's just not for me.

Overall recommendation: would not recommend.

And there we have it! Stay tuned for more Influenster product reviews from me in the future! I'm loving the free products I get through this company and will be reviewing my little heart out at every opportunity! Thanks for my #TLCVoxBox, +Influenster!!!

Want to learn more about how you can get started sampling with Influenster? Comment on this post, and I'll send you an invite! It's fun, fast, easy, and free!


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Influenster product review: Rimmel Moisture Renew

This is my second Influenster product review. So excited to be part of this website and all its perks!

This time I received a tube of lipstick to review. Rimmel London Moisture Renew, to be exact. It came in a pretty purple and silver tube. I was so excited to try it on! I don't wear lipstick too terribly often, so you might be wondering why I would be so excited to try it on. Well, lipstick is expensive. It's hard for me to find a color I love, so I usually avoid buying it. This was free for me to try and review in my VoxBox, so that perked me right up!

The color I got was #360, "As You Want Victoria." I opened up and thought to myself, "Hm, this seems a little bright. Well, maybe it'll be somewhat sheer and look okay on me." So, I tried it.

Epic fail. It was SO bright pink and looked a little like clown make-up on me. Okay, a lot like clown make-up. I then thought, "K, let me try a really firm blot to see if any of the color lifts off for a more subtle tone." I put a Kleenex between my lips and pressed them together as hard as I could. When I took the tissue off, not only did almost none of the color come off for a different effect (even though about half the lipstick itself seemed to come off on the tissue), but the lipstick smeared terribly around my lip line. It also continued to feel wet and un-set. Definitely not something I'm looking for in a lipstick.

Things I typically love about lipstick: sheer (yet noticeable) color, non-smearing (because I'm always paranoid of getting it on my teeth or cheeks or clothing), and a non-wet texture. So, kind of the opposite of what I experienced with this product.

Oh, well! You win some; you lose some. I appreciate having the ability to test this bad boy out, but it just wasn't the product for me. (Please see pictures below to laugh with me.)

The lighting's a little weird, but that actually supports my review of this lipstick being so wet. It's so wet it caused a glare! And see that unnatural lip line? That happened when I blotted. Eek!

Overall review: would not recommend. Would not be able to wear confidently, due to smear factor and overly bright color.

*I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

I'm baaaaaaaaaaack!

Hello, lovely people in blog-land. It's been a while, I know. I'm just like that--when things get stressful for me, or when I'm processing new info, I clock out for a while. I shave off all the extraneous activities and calendar items, and I conserve my time and energy to focus on the higher prioity things.

So, here's an update:

  • I became an independent consultant for Thirty-One Gifts, and I absolutely LOVE IT. I'm spending my days talking to old (and new) friends, and I'm spending my evenings partying with them and showing off awesome products to their friends. I feel like I have a social life again! Not to mention the company is incredible. It's based on Christian values, and the support and training is unbelievable. I have made such a perfect decision in signing up with Thirty-One!!!! I have goals to work towards again. I have a purpose! And the best part? I'm exceeding all my goals. I am so excited for the professional fulfillment I'm getting. I guess I was really in need of something that was 100% mine and could give me the confidence boost I so needed in my year-long journey of a terrible job market and financial hardship. If I could make a full-time career of this (and I think that's becoming a goal), I would be forever happy with my line of "work"!
  • My Kimmy Jarae is 18 months old! She has been a fountain of new vocabulary lately--talking all the time. I adore her. She is so bright, and she is growing beautifully. She had her 18-month check-up a few days ago, and she's proportionally the average height (34.5 inches) and weight (28 lbs.) of a 25-month-old!!!!! She is going to be one TALL girl!
  • My Papaw Jim passed away. It was pretty rough on our family, and there are still some things to work out with the estate. I was so glad to get to go home for the funeral. I saw Kevin and my brother and sister Cody and Rachel, whom I hadn't seen in a very long time. Miss Kimmy also got to see her Aunt Kim's grave. It was a very emotionally fulfilling trip, although it was physically exhausting to drive 8 hours with a toddler 2 days in a row. My girl handled it like a champ! She is SUCH a good baby. I always tell her to "be patient, be patient," but, really, she IS patient--MUCH more patient than most 18-month-olds--it's just me who isn't.
All is well. We're getting there financially. It's going to be a process digging ourselves out and getting in the black, but it will happen. I just know it!

Weird-i-versaries are coming up (I say that because it's always been interesting to me that these 2 major life events happened on consecutive days, although different years): the 10-year anniversary of Kim's death is on Monday, March 3, and Jarrell's and my 6-year dating anniversary is coming up on Tuesday, March 4. Hard to believe how fast time flies!

I'm going to try to incorporate blogging back into my life. I do miss writing and having a place to organize my brain. Hold me to it, people!

Fun links:;

More later (I hope!),


Friday, January 17, 2014

Influenster product review: Venus Embrace Sensitive

I hope this is the first of many product reviews for Influenser! If you have no clue what is, here's the rundown. You create an account and do surveys and polls to indicate your interests. Doing this helps you earn badges. Based on your badges, you are selected for free, full-size samples of products to review. You keep everything they send you, absolutely FREE. Interested? Let me know by comment, and I'll send you an invite to join!


On Tuesday, January 14, I got a full-size Venus Embrace Sensitive razor with a shower hook and an extra cartridge. I paid nothing. This product hasn't even hit shelves yet--you literally can't buy it. It feels really cool to be able to use and review a product before it is publicly released. I feel like such an insider!

So, let me give you a little background on my experience with Venus razors. I used to own one, you know, when they first came out in my pre-teenager-dom. The shower hook sucked, and my razor was somehow always getting knocked in the trash can. I ended up buying a few across a year or so because they always needed replacing from being accidentally thrown away, but I eventually got tired of paying for a new razor all the time and decided to start using disposables.

I've been using BIC Soleil disposable razors with either 3 (regular Soleil) or 4 (Soleil Bella) blades for the last 5 years or so. The shave is okay. The heads on these razors are pretty stationary, so they don't move all that well with the contours of your skin. I've found that the blades dull quickly, and I usually get red irritated bumps right after shaving with Soleil. I also have to shave my underarms every other day and my legs every 5 days. But, with the coupons that company runs, I can usually get them for next to nothing, so that's my motivation.

So, I decided I'd test this bad boy out. I took a long, steamy shower on Tuesday. I lathered up with some Skintimate shave gel, shaved my legs and underarms, and let me tell you, it's the closest shave I've had in about 10 years. I'm not kidding. I didn't get any irritation. No burning, nothing. I wanted to wait a few days to review because I wanted to see how my hair started growing back in. It's been COLD in Bloomington, too, so I've had chill bumps a lot. That always seems to make my hair grow faster. Honestly, though, I don't think I will need to shave my underarms until at least Sunday and my legs until like Wednesday.

Let's compare:
BIC Soleil
underarms every 2 days
legs every 5 days

Venus Embrace Sensitive
underarms every 5 days
legs every 8 days

That's a pretty drastic improvement!

Other things I loved: the pivoting head, which really follows your skin. I feel like with other razors' inflexibility, I'm always forced to press too hard to get a good angle, which ends up irritating my skin more. Also, the rubber handle--totally nonslip. I didn't drop that thing a single time, and we all know how slippery shaving cream makes things.

There were definitely a few cons, too, though. I was absolutely terrified of cutting myself with this razor. It has 5 blades. SHARP blades. I don't want to find out what a cut from this thing feels like. There is no plastic cover for the blades when the razor's not in use. I'm kind of scared to hang it in the shower because I don't want it to fall and cut my bathing toddler. On that same note, the shower hook seems to only stay suctioned to the wall when the shower's wet. It has already fallen off twice since Tuesday. I think I'll keep it in my shower caddy instead. I also noticed that, while it was great that the shaved hair sat on top of the razor and didn't get down in it and clog it up, I had to rinse it off more frequently while I was shaving.

One con I can't specify yet, since this product isn't sold, is price. I'm poor. I don't have the money to buy razor refills at $15 a pop (just a guess, based on current Venus pricing) for 4 cartridges. Unless P&G runs some awesome coupons, I don't foresee myself being able to use this razor regularly. I have a decent stockpile of coupon-bought BICs, which I will probably continue to use on a regular basis for the most part. Maybe I'll just use my Venus for strapless and bare-legged occasions, until I find a better means of affordability for the refill cartridges.

Overall review: highly recommend. Look for coupons to improve affordability. Store in a safe location to prevent accidental cuts.

#ItsNotMe -- it's my razor. #VenusEmbraceSensitive #VoxBox #Influenster

*I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Modern amenities and thankfulness

In response to the recent water crisis surrounding many of my family and friends back home in WV, I wanted to write about being thankful for modern amenities.

On a typical day, I use my cell phone, car, heat or A/C, fan, lamps and overhead lights, computer, printer, washer, dryer, shower, sink, toilet, straightener or blow dryer, TV, dishwasher, fridge/freezer, oven, stove, and so much more. I usually don't give a second thought to any of it--I just use all these things blindly.

Oh, and let's not forget about modern medicine! I don't know how I would survive without my Zyrtec and Flonase.

It's hard to imagine a time where none of this stuff worked as quickly and easily, much less a time where none of it even existed. It's harder still to realize that there are lots of countries and cultures around the world who know these things exist, but have no access or means of affordability for using them.

In a world where we so often take for granted even the most basic things like clean, running water and using an actual toilet, instead of a pit in the dirt, it's not a stretch to see how we are also lacking in the category of thankfulness.

I want to make an effort to be more humble and thankful for the simple things in life that make everyday survival easy, and I challenge you to do the same. If you're reading this, you are blessed. Even at rock bottom, you probably have access to more modern amenities than millions of other people on this planet.

Food for thought.

More later.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Kitchen essentials, part 3--fridge and freezer foods

Here's my final list!

Essential Fridge and Freezer Foods:
  • celery
  • carrots
  • lettuce
  • spinach
  • oranges/tangerines
  • apples
  • berries or grapes
  • whatever other fruits or vegetables we've bought for specific dishes
  • milk (skim and 2% or whole)
  • 3-5 types of cheese (cheddar, colby jack, monterey jack, parmesan, etc.)
  • buttermilk
  • butter
  • pre-packaged minced garlic (so easy)
  • typical condiments
  • eggs
  • yogurt
  • bacon or sausage
  • ground beef
  • chicken (whole, parts, breasts, etc.)--we've been really into chicken leg quarters lately because they're cheap
  • water (we love cold water from our Brita pitcher)
  • iced tea and coffee
  • ice
  • frozen vegetables (green beans, peas, corn, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.)
  • white wine
  • beer
  • vanilla ice cream
  • wonton and/or eggroll wrappers
  • cheese ravioli
We tend to keep the above items as staples and shop around that according to what we need for a certain meal we plan to make. I like to keep a decent amount of frozen produce because 1. it's cheap and 2. it doesn't go bad as quickly. I hate wasting food, so if I can save myself from that fate, I go for it! Plus, frozen vegetables are usually really fresh-tasting and have much more intact nutrients than canned.

Enjoy! :)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Kitchen essentials, part 2--pantry foods

I try to keep a well-stocked pantry, but I'm sure I have room for improvement. I'm always up for trying new ingredients and new dishes, so any input is welcome.

Essential Pantry Foods:
  • lots of canned tomato sauce, paste, and diced tomatoes
  • onions
  • potatoes
  • cream of mushroom, celery, and chicken soups
  • spaghetti or linguine
  • penne or ziti
  • shells or macaroni
  • 3-5 varieties of rice--minute rice, brown, white, Arborio (ideal for risotto), basmati (ideal for Asian food), wild, etc.
  • raisins
  • saltine crackers
  • breadcrumbs
  • popcorn
  • tea
  • coffee
  • sugar
  • all-purpose flour
  • self-rising flour
  • cornmeal
  • brown sugar
  • peanut butter
  • vinegar
  • olive oil
  • vegetable or canola oil
  • nonstick cooking spray
  • salt
  • pepper
  • baking soda
  • baking powder
  • cocoa powder
  • confectioner's sugar
  • cake flour
  • Crisco
  • vanilla extract
  • chocolate chips
  • cinnamon
  • ginger
  • nutmeg
  • cloves
  • paprika
  • basil
  • oregano
  • cumin
  • ground mustard
  • coriander
  • bay leaves
  • garlic powder
  • celery seed
  • Old Bay seasoning
  • cayenne
  • chili powder
  • onion powder
  • dill
  • crushed red pepper
  • thyme
  • rosemary
  • allspice
  • chives
  • parsley
  • chives
  • chicken and beef bouillon
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • soy sauce
  • ketchup
  • mayonnaise
  • mustard
  • syrup
  • honey
  • salad dressings
  • hot sauce
  • Tabasco sauce
  • pancake mix or Bisquick
  • pre-packaged sides (cheesy broccoli rice, shells and cheese, couscous, etc.)
  • canned tuna, salmon, or chicken
  • 2-3 varieties of beans--black, navy, kidney, pinto, etc.
  • lentils
  • applesauce
  • oatmeal
  • Cream of Wheat
  • 3-5 varieties of cold cereal
  • granola bars
  • animal crackers
  • fruit snacks
  • yeast
  • taco shells and/or tortillas
  • taco seasoning
  • chili seasoning
  • salsa

Kitchen essentials, part 1--gadgets

A few of my friends have asked me to share the items I keep in my pantry at all times. Great idea, I say! I love reading lists like this because they inspire me to try new things and help broaden my spectrum of potential dishes that can be made on a whim. Since there's a lot of stuff in my kitchen, I'm going to break it up into several posts:

Part 1: gadgets
Part 2: pantry foods
Part 3: fridge and freezer foods

This is by no means exclusive; these are just my most-used items that I wouldn't want to be without. As you'll see, I like things in 2s. It's nice to have a back-up, sure, but I frequently use the items in 2s simultaneously, especially for big holiday meals.


Essential Kitchen Gadgets:
  • 2 large skillets--one nonstick and one regular
  • 2 medium skillets--one nonstick and one regular
  • small nonstick skillet
  • stock pot with lid
  • 2 large pots with lids
  • 2 medium pots with lids
  • medium double boiler with lid
  • 3 baking sheets--small, medium, large
  • 2 cookie baking sheets with center air insulation (Baker's Secret brand is my preference)
  • 2 loaf pans
  • 2 muffin tins (12 + 6 or two 12s)
  • 2 pie pans (glass or metal)
  • a 10-piece set of French White (it's classic!) Corningware casseroles, ramekins, and lids
  • 2 9x13 pans
  • 2 sets of mixing bowls (we have one plastic and one metal)
  • salad bowl
  • large serving platter
  • salad spinner
  • large roasting pan with rack
  • 3 cooling racks
  • 5 or so serving spoons (slotted and regular)
  • enough dinner and dessert plates, bowls, glasses, forks, spoons, and knives to serve 8 people
  • 2 rubber spatulas
  • wide plastic spatula (my fave for pancakes)
  • 3 metal spatulas (1 slotted)
  • pie server
  • 3 whisks
  • hand mixer or stand mixer
  • spaghetti spoon
  • ladle
  • 3 big metal spoons (1 slotted)
  • Crock Pot (I love my 6-qt. auto-timer Crock!)
  • 3 glass measuring cups (1-, 2-, and 4-cup)
  • metal measuring spoons
  • metal dry-ingredient measuring cups
  • lots of food-storage containers
  • garlic press
  • apple slicer
  • boiled egg slicer
  • waffle maker
  • hand or stand mixer
  • toaster
  • coffee maker
  • 2 pitchers (we use one for iced tea and one for iced coffee)
  • ingredient prep bowls (Kitchen-Aid sells a nice set of 4 with lids)
  • sifter
  • strainer
  • basting brush
  • 2 pot holders
  • oven mitt
  • 2 trivets
  • electric can opener
  • 10-piece (minimum) knife set
  • 3 cutting boards (1 large for cutting lots of veggies at once, 1 for meat, 1 for miscellaneous other uses)
  • colander
  • ice-cube bin
  • Crock Pot liners
  • foil
  • various sizes of Ziplocs
  • Saran wrap
  • parchment paper
  • wax paper
If you're into alphabetizing, sorry--I probably just cranked up your anxiety with this random-order list. Anyway, there it is! What other essential gadgets do you have?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

My biggest weakness as a mom

I'm a pretty realistic and self-aware person, so I think it goes without saying that I am under no delusions when it comes to being a mom. I am well aware that I'm not perfect. I have many areas that I am continually working to improve upon, but it seems that my biggest weakness in life--impatience--is always bleeding over into my role as a parent and putting me in my place.

Yesterday afternoon around 3:00pm, Kimmy was down for a nap. Jarrell had just dozed off, so I thought I would also try to take a nap. It had been a long week, and I was exhausted.

No sooner had I drifted off than I was awakened by Kimmy fussing and crying in her room. I assumed the usual--that she was either fussy from having 3 molars coming in at once or that she had thrown all her stuffed animals out of the crib and wanted them back.

I half-thought about letting her be for 10 minutes or so to see if she would settle back down, but then the tiny voice of patience and reason in my head told me to get my sleepy self up and check on her. 2 minutes later, I got up to go see.

When I got to her crib, I saw vomit all over her sheet, her blanket, and her shirt.

Instant guilt.

I totally took for granted that she rarely cries, and when she does, she genuinely needs assistance or attention the majority of the time. In my sleepy haze, I almost ignored her needs. Guilt doesn't get much heavier than that for me, especially since she very rarely pukes and is terrified of the process.

She seems to think she is going to be in trouble for vomiting. As soon as she makes eye contact after throwing up, she starts sobbing and puts her head down in shame. I honestly don't know how she came up with that behavior. I puked so much in my childhood that I have an extreme amount of empathy for the situation and would never dream of shaming her for it.

So, I got her sheets, diaper, and clothes changed. I comforted her. I started on her laundry. She eventually cheered up, even though she remained nauseous and pukey the rest of the evening, poor thing.

The moral of the story: my impatience for Kimmy's crying and waking me up almost cost me a crucial opportunity to fulfill my daughter's need for comfort. If I didn't make a constant effort to be patient with her, it could seriously hurt the trust she has built in me.

She is still very little, and so much is still brand new to her. It's my job as her mommy to hang back and let her experience the world at her pace because that's the only way she can build her own understanding of things. If I never let her fall and rush through life taking the reins for her, she won't have the chance to make the mental connections that are so important in the toddler years.

I wish I knew the source for this, but I want to share a poem that always helps ground me when I'm having a hard time achieving the above:

Give me patience when little hands
Tug at me with ceaseless, small demands.
Give me gentle words and smiling eyes
To keep my lips from hasty, sharp replies.
Let not fatigue, confusion, or noise
Obscure my vision of life's fleeting joys,
So when in years to come, my house is still,
Beautiful memories its rooms may fill.

More later.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Kimmy's communication

Kimmy Jarae is now 17 months old (as of January 7). She completely blows my mind on a daily basis with all the things she knows!

Yesterday she kept following me around the house, wrapping her arms around my legs, and saying, "ohhhhh" while giving me the sweetest hugs. This afternoon when I turned on the TV for us to watch "Bubble Guppies" together, she said, "bow-buhl!" (I didn't even know she knew what that show was called!) Tonight she told me, "nye nye" before going to bed. She is full of these cute surprises lately!

I've tried to do a mental count of all the words she can say, but I can't seem to lock down a number. It's hard to differentiate words she says with words she knows. I truly feel that she understands almost everything I say to her, so how can I discount her a word just because she can't pronounce it yet? And then there are the words she knows, but just has sounds for. Example: she is OBSESSED with Curious George. She can say his name ("Jujjjj"), but she calls other monkeys "ah-ahs" because of the sound they make. She has obviously mastered the word...except for being able to say, "monkey."

Her nonverbal communication and movement are equally entertaining. I love the kisses she blows. (Well, really, she just kisses her hand and leaves it pressed against her lips, but it's a nice attempt.) She loves to wave, shrug, nod, dance, jump, spin, do assisted somersaults on the living-room rug, RUN, climb, clap, and close doors.

But my very favorite thing in her repertoire right now is the squeal of absolute delight that leaks out of her mouth when she hears the bath water running and knows she's going to get to play in the tub! She does a little dance, which is like a little stomping-in-place jig, and squeals and screams and laughs. Ultra cute!

I love my funny monkey! She is such a wonderful companion. She is loving and thoughtful, and she has a wicked sense of humor. I am blessed to be able to watch her learn and grow and take in the world. It's hard to believe she's almost 1 and a half! Love her so.

"Nye nye!"


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Parsley pesto and linguine

I've been trying to get rid of a big bunch of fresh parsley in my fridge for several weeks. We bought it to use in a dish at Christmas and forgot to use it, so it has been looking awfully lonely in the crisper drawer.

I didn't feel like cooking an elaborate meal tonight, so I took the ultra-easy route and went with simple Italian food: pasta and pesto! It's big on flavor, super filling, and spot on for a Wednesday night comfort food fix.

If you've never made pesto, here's the rundown. It's basically a green leafy herb purée with oil, parmesan, garlic, and usually pine nuts, almonds, or walnuts. It's typically made with basil or arugula, but it can really be made with any green leafy veg or herb. Common variations include parsley, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, and cilantro.

I'm not a nut (ha...I punned again!) for the nutty texture in pesto, and I'm indifferent towards pine nuts anyway. Not to mention that's not even an ingredient I keep in the pantry. Anyway, I left that part out. I also added my own touch!

Parsley Pesto
3 c. fresh parsley leaves (some stems are okay--it'll all be puréed anyway)
2/3 c. parmesan cheese (preferably off the block and not of the grated Kraft variety, which contains fillers and not so much cheese)
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil

Add all ingredients, except oil, to a food processor and pulse to a paste-like texture. Scrape sides of processor to incorporate all ingredients. Turn it all the way on and add oil gradually in a steady stream through the opening on the top of the processor. It will bind together, but if it starts to separate before your pasta is done, just give it a quick stir.

Serve tossed with warm pasta, as seasoning in vegetable or potato soup, as a sandwich spread, or freeze in an ice-cube tray and use as a flavor starter for vegetable sautées.

Extremely cheap, easy, and versatile. Super flavorful. You really can't go wrong with pesto. Enjoy!


Recent recipes

Cooking is my therapy. There is nothing like a little [a lot of] alone time in the kitchen! Since we were snowed in this weekend, I cooked to my heart's content.

Barbecue Chicken Pizza
1 package Fleischman's rapid-rise yeast
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 c. warm water
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 c. barbecue sauce
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
1 c. cooked chicken, chopped
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 1/2 c. shredded cheese (any combination of sharp cheddar, colby jack, fontina, mild/medium cheddar, etc.)
1/2 c. fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 425.

Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil to medium heat in a skillet. Add onions and cook 10-15 minutes or until golden and caramelized.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Add warm water and mix with a fork until combined. Briefly knead the dough and form into a ball. Coat with 1 tbsp. olive oil and allow to sit for about 5 minutes.

Press dough onto a pizza pan sprayed with nonstick spray. Poke surface with a fork to prevent air bubbles. Bake for 5-10 minutes or until about 80% done.

Top with barbecue sauce, garlic, onions, chicken, and cheese. Bake an additional 10-ish minutes or until cheese is melted and crust has continued browning.

Top with fresh chopped parsley, slice, and enjoy!

We are big fans of this pizza in this house! I make it every few weeks, and we rarely have leftovers. I'll admit that I undercooked the dough a little this time in my haste to sink into a plate of yummy sweet, tangy, cheesy goodness. It was still delicious, even if it looks underdone in the picture. Major plus: this only takes about a half hour start to finish!

Next! I've had a can of crushed pineapple in my cabinet for months, and I just couldn't seem to find a use for it. A Facebook friend recently shared a great recipe for pineapple cake, and I saw my golden (ha!) opportunity! This cake has no butter or oil, so it's pretty healthy, as cakes go.

Easiest Pineapple Cake*
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
A pinch salt
20 oz. can crushed pineapple (undrained)
(Optional: 1 c. chopped nuts, which I didn't add. I'm not a huge fan of the nuts + cake texture.)

Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Pour into a greased 9x13 pan and bake for 30-ish minutes.

My tip: really watch this cake while it's baking. The original recipe said to cook for 35-40 minutes, but mine was done way early. Maybe glass baking dish vs. dark baking pan matters. I always go with my dark metal pan. So, yeah. Just watch.

Now, here's my favorite thing about pineapple cakes: they get an awesome caramelized edge. The natural sugars in the pineapple turn into golden-brown perfection when heated.

I kicked up the sweetness factor by frosting with a homemade buttercream while the cake was still warm, but the cake itself would be moist and plenty sweet all on its own. The original recipe calls for a cream-cheese icing, which might be nice, too. I didn't have any cream cheese on hand, though, and I'm actually not a huge fan of cream cheese in sweet dishes. (I like it more in savory things like dips and casseroles.)

I'm not sure what's on the menu for tonight, but who knows--maybe I'll be posting that adventure in the near future!

More later.


*recipe credit: