My Mommy Meltdown

I had the joy of watching “Moms’ Night Out” with two mama-girlfriends last weekend. We managed to catch one of the final showings in a local theater. From the very first minutes of the movie to the rolling credits at the end, I was in tears – either from laughing or crying. Somehow the writers had managed to cram so many real, honest-to-goodness “mommy issues” into 1.5 hours. We’re talking about the issues of mommy guilt (“I’m a horrible mom!”), mommy comparisons (“I never look as put together as she does”), mommy judgment (“I’m a better mom than she is”), and mommy moments (ie. hiding in a closet with a laptop and a bag of chocolates). They even had one scene with the mom telling the hubby, “I don’t want to celebrate Mother’s Day.” My eyes watered during that one because I had a similar “meltdown” just a few weeks ago.

We were sitting down for lunch at the restaurant of my choice and while I was looking over the menu, hubby asked me, “Are you okay?” He was likely wondering why I was wiping tears away from the corner of my eyes, though still trying to put on a happy face – it was Mother’s Day after all! In that moment I really didn’t want to celebrate “my” day. Why? Because honestly I was tired and frustrated and disappointed. Frustrated that the kids had been extra whiny on the way to church. Disappointed when the nice man who had greeted us at church asked if I had been served breakfast in bed and I laughed (somewhat bitterly). Frustrated that the kids had also been extra complain-y (yes, that’s a word I made up) on the way to the restaurant. Frustrated that Mother’s Day wasn’t turning out the way I wanted it to be: translation = perfect! So I decided at lunch that it was better to not celebrate Mother’s Day at all. Because truth be told, it is just like any other day for moms. Unless you are able to hide out in a cave on every second Sunday of May, you don’t get a day off.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten all that off my chest, let me say that this is just one side of motherhood, namely, the hard side. The other side, the bright side, is good and worth remembering. It’s what keeps me sane and positive and thankful, even when I want to hide out in a closet with some comfort food.

It was the sweet smile on E’s face when he presented me with the gift he had made for me in class.

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Disclaimer: I do not run funny! LOL

It was the excitement in C’s eyes when she handed me her gift, which she had made at preschool and couldn’t wait for me to open.

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C painted it pink – my favorite color!

When I see these tokens of their love for me, I remember that I am appreciated. I also realize that Mother’s Day is not meant to be perfect. I will likely not have a day free from whining, complaining or work (at least not for the next 10 years). But what I can celebrate on Mother’s Day, and every day, is the journey of how far I have come as a mom and to know that all my effort is worth it.

It can be summed up in this conversation from the “Moms’ Night Out” movie (my favorite lines from the film):

Husband (to the wife): “Your job is -”

Wife: “I know, it’s hard.”

Husband: “No, I was going to say important. Your job is important.”

Here’s a song from the movie’s soundtrack, Natalie Grant’s “Hurricane” that reminds us of our hope in the midst of the storms (aka. mommy meltdowns).

How do you celebrate your journey as a mom? 

4 Truths I Learned About Higher Education

Well, it’s that time of the year again when commencement speeches are made, caps are thrown in to the air, and eager (but scared) young’uns get ready to enter the “real world”. Yup, it’s time for graduation. My own baby sister is graduating from grad school tomorrow and I could not be prouder. She worked hard to earn a degree, while holding down a full-time job, and still emerged in better condition than this guy!

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This is the photo my sis posted on her Facebook when she finished her thesis! LOL

It’s been a while since my college and grad school days (17 and 9 years ago to be exact), but I still hold many memories of my time behind bars the desk. Though things have definitely changed technology-wise since I was a student (for example, I used to type all my papers on one of these things!),

Image courtesy of wikipedia

Image courtesy of wikipedia

the purpose of college has stayed the same. You go to college to learn – and learn, you do (yes, that was my Yoda moment of the week).

I gained a wealth of information during my years in school, which I would like to share with you now. Here are 4 truths I learned about higher education:

Truth #1: You will see new things. Specifically bigger things. Such as huge lecture halls that can fill thousands of people, large cafeterias with more semi-tasty food than you would ever care to eat, and BIG, hairy feet peeking out from under the shower stalls of the coed bathroom where your girlfriend lives (such a sighting reaffirms your decision to live in an all-female dorm and to steer clear of the bathroom when you visit said friend).

Truth #2: You will learn how resilient you are. That you and your roommates can stay healthy even when the refrigerator in your apartment becomes an incubator for green, slimy stuff. That you can manage to survive taking 3 (3 hour long) finals within the span of 12 hours on 2 hours of sleep and still have enough energy to celebrate with your friends afterwards.

Truth #3: You will meet lots of people. Some of them will become your closest friends. Some of them will break your heart and leave you wondering if you will ever “love” anyone else again (but trust me, you will!). Some of them will try to lead you astray (intentionally or not). Some of them will challenge you to deepen your thinking about life, faith, and God.

Truth #4: You will remember little, but be changed much. And hopefully for the better. Because one day when you pull out that framed diploma which you had packed away in a box years ago, and as you consider the time, energy and money you invested for the sake of higher education, you likely won’t remember any lessons you learned in the classroom. But you will recall the moments when textbooks intersected with reality, when recklessness crossed roads with responsibility, and when naivety converged with knowledge. And you will be thankful for the ways higher education gave you a nudge down this road of life.

Take a listen to 10,000 Maniac’s, “These are Days,” (from just before the turn of the century!). The lyrics are a good reflection of those fun-loving college days.

What truths did you learn from your years of higher education?

Monday Mentionables: Almond Butter Cookies, DIY Beanbag & Microscopic Tears

Hello cyber-friends! Is it only Monday? 😉 It has definitely been a more “manic” Monday here cause I feel like I’ve been moving non-stop since I woke up. But I suppose all this movin’ is getting me closer to Friday, right?

Here are today’s mentionables:

1. Almond Butter Cookies. I love the taste of almonds and even enjoy their scent; give me a bottle of almond extract to sniff and I’m a happy camper. 😉 Not only are these nuts yummy, they are also good for your health (ie. lowering cholesterol, reducing your risk of heart disease and protecting against diabetes). These health benefits are reason enough to grab a handful of almonds to snack on. But for those of you who don’t like chewing on raw nuts, there’s another way you can eat almonds: almond butter! I bought a jar of almond butter from Costco and like everything else I buy from that store, I end up with way more product than I know what to do with. Which is why I googled “almond butter cookie recipe” the other day and discovered a new favorite way to eat almonds (besides almond tofu). This cookie is sooo good – it almost tastes like a healthy brownie! The kids loved it, too, even my picky eater, E. 🙂 Check out the recipe here.

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Here’s my little assistant putting the chocolate covered sunflower seeds (which the recipe calls for and we just happened to have!) on the dough.

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The finished product! FYI, I substituted honey for the sugar which made them a little more gooey, but who doesn’t like gooey, chocolatey cookies? 🙂

2. DIY Beanbag. So I decided to get crafty this weekend and make my own beanbag. I (again) googled “DIY beanbag” and found this easy set of directions (with a video of a room makeover, too!). I got an old sofa cover, cut it up and sewed the pieces together. I was hoping to have it finished by today so I could show you all a picture of it, but I didn’t realize how much stuffing it would take to fill it, so it’s not quite presentable yet. Stay tuned though… 😉

3. Microscopic Tears. Did you ever wonder what human tears looked like under a microscope? Neither did I… until I saw this article online. Check it out to find out more about tears (there are actually 3 types of them) and to see them in a whole new way.

Alrighty, have a wonderful week! 🙂

How to Write a Novel in Just 21 Steps

I was inspired by this blog post, “How to take a baby to the pool in just 21 steps” to write my own 21 step outline. Since I don’t have a baby to take to a pool, I thought I’d do one on “How to write a novel in just 21 steps”.  🙂 Here we go…

Image courtesy of adamr/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of adamr/freedigitalphotos.net

1. Get inspired. This usually means being struck by a lightbulb (ding!) idea while you are in the shower. The best ideas often originate in the shower, don’t you agree?

2. Start creating. Make up the who, what, where, when and why of your story. Get a good sense of who your characters are, what they look like and how they talk and act. Base them off of real people in your life (but change a few details so the real people don’t get a complex should they read your story one day). 🙂

3. Start writing. This is probably the hardest part because you actually have to take action.

4. Keep writing. I’ve heard that it’s best to just get the first draft down on paper and not worry about the grammar, etc. This usually doesn’t work for perfectionists though who get bogged down by the nitty gritty stuff, but try getting the words down and don’t look back (for now!).

5. Keep creating. Continue making up the story while you drive the kids to school, stand in line at the store or cook dinner.

6. Get inspired again. Sometimes writer’s block happens and your characters are stuck in limbo with no place to go. Read books, watch a movie or TV show to gain some new ideas.

7. Sigh.

8. Moan.

9. And groan…because your writer’s block has turned into a huge boulder.

10. Pray!

11. Get back to writing.

12. Repeat steps 4 through 11. Several times.

13. Get feedback. This is another scary, but essential, step. Join a critique group if you haven’t yet and share your story with them. Ask for honest and constructive feedback and be ready to make changes.

14. Make changes.

15. Have a mid-book crisis. This often occurs when you decide to share your story with your husband who tells you it’s a good story, but he’d add more drama to it and make the characters completely different. Upon hearing his ideas, you decide he might have a point and you may need to rewrite half the book.

16. Wallow in self-pity. This usually involves lying on the bed and contemplating ditching your entire story and never writing another novel again.

17. Come to your senses. Realize this is your story and not anyone else’s (namely your hubby’s). 😉 Decide to write what you are happy with.

18. Finish the story.

19. Read your story from start to finish.

20. Start editing. And editing. Repeat this step a million, zillion times.

21. Get more feedback. Find beta readers who are willing to read the whole book and give you feedback. After receiving their feedback, repeat steps 19 and 20.

Whew! I’m ready to take a nap now. 🙂 Well, the good news is that I have made it to step 21. I’ve also gotten the cover art done for the book and am putting the finishing touches on the story now. I can’t wait to share it all with you guys. Soon, I promise!

Now take a listen to Sara Bareilles’ song, “I Wanna Be Like Me“, which is a good reminder to believe in yourself and your own creativity (I’m referring to steps 15-17). 😉

Now that I’ve shared my 21 steps, it’s time for you to share yours. Pick something you are currently working on and write down your 21-step process. Share it on your blog or send me an email at mamaho@2square2behip.com and I’ll post it here!

Monday Mentionables: Chia Seeds, Selfie Apps & DIY Popsicles

Hi everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Mother’s Day! I don’t know about you, but it always seems like celebrations call for food, so that meant I was eating practically non-stop yesterday. Good thing Father’s Day is still a month away. 😉

Here are today’s mentionables…

1. Chia Seeds. I feel like I may have blogged about chia seeds before, but a quick perusal through my “food” tagged posts didn’t bring them up, so here we go (hopefully not again, haha). Yes, these are the same seeds that grow into chia pets – but did you know that you can eat them, too (don’t worry, you won’t turn into anything leafy and green). Chia seeds are one of the new “superfoods” and are noted for their great health benefits, which include being a good source of fiber, omega 3’s and antioxidants, as well as helpful for blood sugar regulation. And the neat thing about chia seeds is that they “plump up” when they are soaked in liquid and turn into tiny, chewy gel-like balls. They are pretty popular in packaged drinks (ever heard of Mamma Chia?), which are convenient to buy and give to the kids as snacks, but also quite pricey. So I picked up a bag of them at Costco recently and am making my own chia seed drinks/smoothies. Here’s a video for DIY chia seed drinks if you want to give these seeds a try. 🙂

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Here are some chia seeds I’m currently soaking in water. Don’t be scared by their appearance. 😉

2. Selfie Apps. I actually very rarely post selfies anywhere on the web, but I think they are a great way to preserve memories (for your own personal enjoyment) when you have no photographer on hand. I have many selfies of me with the kids, as well as the four of us because sometimes that’s the only way we can get a family picture taken. 😉 But for anyone who’s ever tried to take a selfie, you know there’s a lot of physical maneuvering involved to hold the phone as far away from you as possible and still be able to hit the button – it’s almost like playing Twister! So I was pretty excited when I heard about a new app that allows you to take hands-free selfies. It’s called FaceSnap and is currently $0.99. Check it out at this link. Also, here’s a review of 10 other camera apps to help you take the perfect selfie.

3. DIY Popsicles. If your weather is anything like mine this week (highs in the 90’s again!), then you’ll want to consider making some popsicles. 🙂 Here’s a link with 21 homemade popsicle recipes that will get your mouth watering and your legs running for the kitchen! Number 17 even uses chia seeds! 😉

Okie, have a good week everyone!

5 Things I Never Knew About Mamahood

I gotta admit that between finishing up my novel and taking care of the kids on my own (while hubby’s been on 2 business trips in the last 2 weeks), my brain is fried. So I’m keeping this post short and sweet. 🙂

This image encapsulates so much about mamahood. :) Joy, sacrifice, gratitude...

This image encapsulates so much about mamahood. 🙂 Joy, sacrifice, gratitude…

In light of Mother’s Day this Sunday, here are 5 things I never knew about mamahood before I had kids:

1. That the 10 seconds after I get the kids into the car and shut the door and before I reach the driver’s seat could be the 10 most glorious seconds of my day. I know exactly where the kids are, they can’t go anywhere because they are strapped into their carseats, and I can’t hear them arguing. Ahh… 🙂

2. That there would be moments when I’m talking to the kids and hubby says to me with raised eyebrows, “You sound like your mom” and I say, “No, I don’t!”… just before it dawns on me that Argh, I do!

3. That for some reason I have an easier time imaging myself laying my life down to save my kids (from oncoming traffic, a burning house, etc.) than actually getting up in the middle of the night – without grumbling – to change their soiled clothes.

4. That my kids would teach me more about life and love than I could ever teach them.

5. That I would reach a point (like this year) when I would start wishing my munchkins wouldn’t grow up so quickly.

So with that, here’s wishing you a very happy Mother’s Day. Hope you have a great weekend celebrating the moms in your lives!

And here’s a great video of a Parent Rap Song by a very hip couple. Check it out!

Monday Mentionables: Quinoa, Eyelid Artwork & Love Songs

Hola! Happy cinco de mayo and happy monday to you all. I hope you had a good weekend. I’m happy to announce that we finally took down our Christmas tree yesterday – it was a few months overdue, but better late than never, right? 😉

Here are today’s mentionables:

1. Quinoa. Okay, so the first thing you need to know about this word is that it’s pronounced “keen-wa”. And it’s a type of grain with edible seeds that is closely related to spinach and tumbleweeds. Doesn’t sound too appetizing? Think again. 🙂 It’s actually pretty tasty and also easy to cook. I just stick it in the rice cooker and add water (or you can try chicken broth); the ratio of quinoa to water is 1:2. Then you can either eat it straight like that in place of rice or pasta or you can mix it into a salad.

The other week we were at Sweet Tomatoes (E’s most favorite restaurant on earth) and they had a new quinoa salad. Hubby and I both liked it, so I took a picture of it and gave it a try at home. It turned out pretty well and has made it onto our regular “menu”. If you’ve never had quinoa before, I’d encourage you to give it a try. It’s super nutritious and high in antioxidant phytonutrients (try saying that fast!), which help with inflammation. You can find out more info about quinoa here.

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Courtesy of Sweet Tomatoes

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By moi 😉

2. Eyelid Artwork. I saw this article online about a makeup artist who uses eyeliner and eye shadow to create beautiful masterpieces on eyelids. Sounds strange, but take a look and see how cool it is. Let me know if you try it out yourself. 🙂

3. Love Songs. In light of today’s “holiday” – hubby and my 13th anniversary, I’m including a few of my favorite love songs. Take a listen to these if you’re in the mood for some romance. 😉

I Will Be Here by Steven Curtis Chapman

Right Here Waiting by Richard Marx

Not a Bad Thing by Justin Timberlake

Okie, that’s all for today. Have a wonderful day! 🙂

My Real Life Love Story

As some of you may know, I’ve been working on an adult fiction book for about a year now. I spend much of my day (and some wee hours of the night) thinking, imagining, and trying to breathe life into a love story on “paper”. If you were to look at my computer screen, you would see multiple windows open across the top: Google docs (where I store the literary products of my blood, sweat and tears; AutoCrit.com (a cool online editing tool); Thesaurus.com (for looking up synonyms of words I tend to overuse); YouTube (for playing cheesy love songs in the background); and Facebook (for moments of writer’s block). Add my creative juices to the mix and I’ve got the perfect ingredients for writing romance, right?

Um, maybe.

One thing I’ve learned through my writing endeavors is that you can only write what you know. Sure, fiction allows for a lot of room to invent new characters and places, but the heart of a love story is still about the romance. Which makes me wonder if I should be writing romance at all because truth be told, I’m not a very romantic person. I’m a little too structured to do anything spontaneous. I’m much too cheap to spend money on extravagant things. I’m way too square to behave passionately. 😉

This poses a problem since romance is all about throwing caution to the wind, laying everything on the line, and – this is for all you closet Beliebers out there – believing you can survive starvation, homelessness and bankruptcy because you have love (sigh! haha). Even if it is a bit exaggerated, this idea of romance is what you hope love stories are made of.

So how in the world does an unromantic gal like me find inspiration for a romantic novel?

Simply put, from my own love story. 🙂 Let me share it with you now.

Hubby and I met at church when he and I were 25 and 23 respectively, but our paths had actually crossed about a decade earlier on the final day of a joint church retreat. Although I don’t have the best memory, I distinctly remember noticing the slim, self-assured guy preparing to take our group picture and how he ran over to stand about five feet from me before the camera clicked. Years later after we were married, a friend of ours showed us the photo from that summer day and pointed out that, sure enough, hubby was the photographer who had caught my eye as a teenager.

When we officially met as adults, I remember exchanging names, shaking hands, and wondering if he was younger than me (we both looked like babies back then!). Over the course of a few months, we exchanged numbers from our very first cell phones (which were the size of today’s landlines), emailed each other every day (this was pre-Facebook), and eventually had “The Talk”. Fast forward a year and a half later, he took my parents out for dinner (without my knowledge) and asked for their blessing to marry me. During the week he proposed, he woke up early every day to surprise me with roses and cards on my car windshield and ended the week with a beautiful bouquet delivered to my workplace. That Saturday he took me out to dinner at the restaurant where we had our first date, then to a hilltop overlooking the city skyline. There he turned on the tape deck of his blue Mitsubishi Eclipse, sang his proposal to the tune of a song I liked, and presented me with a ring. I said “Yes!” and the rest, like they say, is history. 🙂

This was hubby's surprise for me for our 10th anniversary. Yes, I think he's the romantic one between the two of us!

Hubby reenacted “proposal week” for our 10th anniversary – the trail led down the stairs to a vase of roses. Yes, I think he’s the romantic one between the two of us!

I share these memories with you because it helps me remember the wonder and thrill of young love. Not only does reliving the past provide great inspiration for my book, but it also injects a new zest for romance in real life, too – specifically in my marriage. I’m reminded to treasure the man whose bright smile I fell in love with. To stand by the vows I spoke to him thirteen years ago (come next Monday). To see the best in him even when we drive each other crazy. And to choose to fall in love with him over and over again.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll grow a romantic bone or two in the process. 🙂

Take a listen to Sara Bareilles’ new love song, “I Choose You“. May the lyrics prompt you to remember your own love story.

How did you and your spouse meet and fall in love? How do you continue to keep the romance alive in your relationship? Please share – I would love to hear your stories. 🙂