Tag Archives: love the mess

Coffee is Not My Best Friend

I don’t drink coffee.  untitled design (42)

I used to. I used to love it. I use to crave it! But over the years, I learned caffeine and I don’t mix so that bittersweet friendship needed to go…

In middle school, I was tall. In fact, I was almost my exact height now. Five feet six inches at the age of twelve, I was as tall as a few of the boys and towered over most of the other ones including my brother just a year younger than me.

The problem to my “middle school” Jen was that I liked the short boys, but was way too insecure with myself to see that…that was totally okay.. that my height was part of what made me beautiful. I just wasn’t ready to stand tall around anyone…So of course the next best solution at that age was…

“to stunt my growth” so I turned to coffee or so I thought… Untitled design (43).png

(I obviously do not encourage this behavior at all, but can’t help to laugh at myself looking back now. I also wanted bigger breasts and tried some outlandish theories for that too like eating while hanging off my bed ….

I was… untitled design (44)

am upside-down, hot mess and lucky I never choked on anything… but I digress…)

This was where my love of ice coffee and Coffee Coolattas started. I drank them every day throughout high school and college. Then, I shifted to black coffee in my 20s until I discovered a non-fat creamer that I indulged in for way too long. When first pregnant with my son, I tried to give it up but the afternoon migraines were too intense so I would save my cup of Joe for after lunch.

Because of the breastfeeding elimination diet I did for TJ due to his allergies, I could not use my “fat-dairy’ creamer. (apparently no matter how artificial it was, it still contained dairy). 

Then, came my miscarriage a year later which led me to do a three day whole food cleanse where coffee was not allowed…

It was then that I just stopped for what I thought would be a week or two. Soon though, I found myself pregnant with Madison and felt more comfortable sticking to being coffee-free.

Nine months later right on my due date (I have very punctual kids…can’t say that about myself these days… but I digress again ), my daughter arrived. 

During those first hours following her birth, a migraine started and the nurse and doctor both recommended that I drink coffee.   So, I did and sure enough the headache went away but what I didn’t know yet… I was already hooked again.

During those first two months, I found myself waiting for that one cup of coffee as if my day and life depended on it. When I drank it, I could take on anything…. for that hour at least and then

crash!

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Literally, I would crash. It was such a drastic shift in mood and energy level that I decided to challenge myself.   Did I really need this coffee? 

I am always up for a challenge so I took it on. This led to a terrible week of night sweats, exhausted days, and irritability.   It was truly a detox from one cup of coffee…(okay more than 1.5 cups or 2 at this point since my mug kept growing in size. One cup is one cup no matter the size, right?)

Anyways, that is when I finally faced the facts:

If my body had to detox from something like that, it was not meant to be.   

Therefore, I have been coffee free for 2.5 years now and don’t miss it.  I do still love the smell of coffee brewing in the morning though and I still have not given up the wine …. not so sure I will… I mean it’s much more pleasant to embrace the Friday mess of this house…

without feeling the need to clean or do laundry as I sip on a glass of Shiraz…

But once again I digress.

Stay tuned: Read up on some other sources of energy we use coming SOON to a blog near you. 😁)

 

 

Replacements Over Recipes

We spent a lot of that first year or two after TJ’s diagnosis, avoiding, avoiding, and more avoiding. It was easier and safer for us to just do our own thing and not have to worry about food allergies, skin reactions, cross contamination, and other people’s ignorance to it. However, despite what I once believed, avoiding was not the best option for us.

Let me explain…

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To start, we are homebodies who like to get out sometimes. Since TJ still has not eaten food other than what we’ve made or bought, we make sure to be prepared beforehand. This may mean…packing his favorite foods, contacting the parent before a birthday party or a family member before a family gathering or holiday.

For preschool, I ask for a monthly list of special events where treats would be given or food would be present. We also kept a bag of Oreos, a treat he rarely has but loves, for the times that somehow slip through the cracks or an impromptu kind of party.

Whatever it is, it helps us ensure that we have alternatives that are dairy, egg and peanut free and that TJ is included as much as possible.

(Look for an upcoming post on some of our favorite store-bought party options for when baking does not fit into our schedule.)

In all the allergy free recipes we’ve tried, TJ and I have had the most success with replacing ingredients, instead of full recipes. Here is what I mean:

You can make anything just as tasty, if not tastier peanut, egg and dairy free or whatever allergen you have… it just calls for some creativity.

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To start, we like to find actual recipes that contain even his allergies and then we replace with safe products and work our magic.

One of our creations in 2018 was stuffing for Thanksgiving but it would be delicious to add to any dinner throughout the year. Our entire family devoured it too. Of course, letting TJ have his portion first.

Here is the beauty:

Stuffing

(Dairy, Egg & Peanut Free)

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 55 minutes

Oven temperatures: 300 degrees then 350 degrees

Ingredients: 

  • 3/4 of a loaf of organic honey bread
  • 4 Tablespoons – organic Earth’s Balance spread
  • 3/4 cup of diced celery
  • 3/4 cup of diced onion
  • 3 garlic cloves chopped
  • 1 package of turkey sausage (We used Applegate’s chicken and apple version)
  • 1 and 1/4 cup of vegan vegetable stock (We used the Kitchen Basics brand.)
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 1 Tablespoon sage
  • 1 Tablespoon parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Chop bread into cubes and toast the bread cubes in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
  2.  Once out of the oven, turn the oven to 350 degrees.  Melt Earth’s Balance then saute onions, celery and garlic until soft.  (about 10 minutes)
  3. Add veggies to bread cubes in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Don’t wash pan, but remove the veggies, and add sausage and cook.  Then, cut it into bite-size pieces.
  5.  Add chicken or vegetable broth/stock, applesauce, and the spices to bread cube mixture.   Mix until moist.
  6. Transfer into a greased oven pan/tray.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes.

 
Let us know what you think. Let us know if and how you switched it up and made it your own.  We hope you enjoy!

And remember even though our kitchen counter may never be cleared off, we are continuing to smile our way through the mess one recipe at a time…

 

stuffing

The Name Change

The Art of a Messy House

In the midst of the mess, there is unprecedented beauty and nothing less. – Jen
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            When you ask someone to define beauty, most people will ponder for a bit before beginning to describe an emotion, individual, or quality that takes our breath away.  Not many people, would ineptly reply, “beauty is my messy house.”
That is where many of us are mistaken though.   Hear me out …
For myself, there was much of my life that I believed beauty radiated on the outside from what was beneath my layers.  But then again, that was also detrimental for most of my life. Because not only did I struggle with the reflection the mirror shined back at me, but I also agonized over the fact that the qualities that I wanted, I lacked.   Therefore, I labeled myself as beauty’s antagonist for more years than I would like to admit.  My own worst enemy …
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However, as the years continued to tick on and now fly on by, I realized how mistaken I was in every sense of the word.  I spent most of my life writing about these types of questions because my spoken words have had a way of failing me.  In other words, writing has always been much easier source of communicating for me. Although now, I’m getting better at both.
As an individual who battled with anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, anorexia, and depression at different points of my life, writing saved my life.   Let me rephrase that, God saved my life time and time again. In fact by giving me gifts of grace including my ability to write, I have gained a voice.
For like most, I have walked through more valleys in this lifetime so far to know that beauty is often where you least expect it.  For the beauty that lasts…the beauty that defines us … is the beauty that often our eyes fail to see at first. It is the radiance that often blinds us, coaxing or even forcing us to turn our heads before we can truly see beneath and passed it…
It.Is.Beautiful.
It is the vision without the lens.
It is what takes us deeper than aesthetic senses.
It is in the worst of days.
It is in the mistakes that try to devour our inner drive.
It is in the birth stories no one told you, or the ones that they should have never told you. (Until labor, those stories had me believing my son would come flying out…ha)
It is in the newborn book that never met your infant and wasted your tiny amount of mommy brain, taking a year to read.
It is in the maternity leave that left you in tears during it and then again when it ended.
It is in the discovery that your child is anaphylactic to dairy and allergic to everything else.
It is when doctors refer to your child as a sick child.
It is in the pregnancy that you never expected and barely survived.
It is in the kegel you were too depressed to even remember to try or even care about until you were housing dairy-free ice cream in bed. It is in thirty-five years plus of anxiety that no one could even begin to understand.
It is in the realization that your child may have OCD worse than you and it is up to you to break the cycle.
It is in all those moments that you realize that your beautifully cleaned and kept house you spent years building and maintaining really is maintaining you.
For it is not beautiful at all.
Instead, what you tried to avoid your entire life is in fact the truer essence of beauty. Beauty is not running away from or hiding our mess; instead it is embracing it.
For beauty is in the art of a messy house…
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and trust me… I am still working on perfecting ours…
but this is my journey to achieve just that:
The Art of a Messy House 
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The Comeback

The Comeback – January 2019
And we’re back!
Every setback is a setup for a comeback!.png
Stepping back…
When I stopped blogging over three years ago, I ended in a panic.
Here I was writing posts about remaining strong in faith in order to overcome fear; and there I was living what felt like a lie. Don’t get me wrong, I was genuine in my goal to not allow the anxieties of motherhood, food allergies, my miscarriage and life control me. My heart wanted so badly to help others through experiences similar to ours. However, I felt like a hypocrite because I myself was battling a war, invisible to most except those very close to me. I needed to help and heal myself in order to best guide my family. I needed healing in every sense of the word. I needed a break from researching, from reading articles, from adding more worry onto our already allergen and chemical aware plates and homes. I needed to find myself and allow myself the time to heal. I needed to admit that I was not okay, that I deserved more, and that there was more. I needed to do it for my husband, my son, my soon-to-be-daughter, my family and friends and most importantly, myself.
Reflecting back …
Having battled anxiety most of my life, I truly believed it was inevitable. The perfect setup. Since the age of five, anxiety was my middle name. (In fact, since I didn’t have an actual middle name given to me at birth, I used to joke to myself that this was indeed meant for me.) Anxiety was just my way,; it was part of my being and always would be … or so I thought. Luckily, I was very mistaken …
Then add into the mix:
-My 7.5 month old son had an anaphylactic reaction to his first taste of yogurt in the middle of a December snow storm where there were NO Epi-pens in the ambulance…
 
-We learned of his 20 more possible allergies at his follow-up appointment…
 
-His skin reactions, his daily breathing treatments, and his viral-induced asthma every time he got sick from age 1-2.5 after he had pneumonia…
 
-Then my best friend from high school experienced the loss of her son (a heart-breaking stillbirth at 35/36 weeks)…
 
-Then my own miscarriage…
The anxiety just continued to build on and on, like a mountain I had no business climbing, yet there was no other way to get down. I was stuck. I was functioning but depressed. I was functioning but anxious. All. The. Time. Looking back, was I even functioning? Was I even present? Was I even living?
Nothing brought me joy. It was a terrible cycle: I would fake it first, then I would get so frustrated with myself for being disingenuous that I would beat myself up even more. A vicious cycle. The whole time my heart had the right intentions. It knew what it wanted and needed. It wanted to inspire others, but inspiration starts within, and fear had tried to wipe me empty. I was a cry for help through broken smile.
Then, I got pregnant with my daughter. It was a difficult pregnancy in the sense that I was nauseous, exhausted and sleep deprived for most of it, nothing like with my son who had spoiled me. She kicked my butt and belly literally! Many told me that it made sense since “girls steal your beauty.” What I didn’t realize yet, it was quite different: she was starting to inspire me…
…to redefine my beauty.
She arrived on her due date naturally just like my son had. What are the chances?!?! (Wish my lottery skills were just as good.) Her birth was a blessing and still the questions stood, why was I not content? Why was I unhappy? I felt so beyond guilty. How could I be this terrible of a person? Of a mother?
I was not beaming with happiness and joy, but she was beautiful and everything I dreamed of. From the time we found I was pregnant, I knew she would have a fighter’s heart like her Mama much like Kip Moore’s song “ Hey Pretty Lady” reminded me. And she had beautiful hazel eyes that resembled her daddy’s baby blues bringing back to Donna Lewis’ “I Love You Always Forever.” I dreamed this dream years before. I dreamed this dream for years. I needed to remember just that, as she smiled back at me … “a fighter’s heart like her Mama”...
The fight back to reality…
Those months that followed my daughter’s birth I found a breast lump, had other OBGYN scares, became engorged for an entire month when she had already been nursing for eight months, … the list was endless and really all added up to one diagnosis in the end: post traumatic stress from my son’s anaphylactic reaction then mixed with a hormonal imbalance leading to … postpartum anxiety.
I couldn’t see it then. I was too caught up in feeling and even scarier, believing, that I was dying. I really thought I was dying. I did not want pity, sympathy nor attention; I wanted someone to save my life. I was in a crisis. I was terrified that I was going to abandon my children. That I wasn’t going to be who they needed. And I beat myself up for it every day and every night. Panic attacks became a normal nighttime routine. I felt so alone all the time but the most isolated times were when those around me, helpless in their own way, asked me to snap out of it. I knew they meant well. But how? If only a snap of the fingers could do such a thing.
Finally, when my daughter was 9 months old I stopped nursing, still exclusively pumping for another 1.5 months. This allowed her to take the bottle that she had refused for the first 9 months of her life when she much rather take the boob. I am Taurus and while I don’t follow signs very often, I do know and admit to how stubborn I am. I was very headstrong about wanting to make it to a year or more, like I did with my son. However, reality hurts when it hits you especially as you are trying to climb your way out of rock bottom. My kids needed me in a different way, much more than just my milk could provide.
Stubborn ways would not save me, but letting go would. So I did just that …
Getting my groove back …
The power of the mind is incredible. I vowed to change my thinking: I would overcome this. I needed a therapist to connect with, to deepen my faith and learn to rely on that faith. I knew deep down that this would be used for good, I just couldn’t see how yet but I knew …
Walk by faith, not sight. – 2 Corinthians 5:7
After therapy for a few months and then even doing some sessions of EMDR light therapy, I had some eye opening experiences, a lot of healing, and even more forgiveness. As the ELA teacher in me would say, I also had some aha moments and lessons learned:
  1. Postpartum anxiety is real! How can it not be? Have you ever watched the news or googled searched something or even scrolled your Facebook news-feed to find only positive posts. I think not! I’ve learned Google was the devil for a Mama like me who spent much of her time being undated by negative judgments and news. What we all really need is someone to lift us up. So do just that, surround yourself with positive words. Click on a Bible app or put some positive affirmations on a notes page of your phone. Google search uplifting quotes so that when you go to search up something not-so-positive, you see the inspiration instead. Surround yourself with those who lift you up and cheer you on, not those who judge. It may mean eliminating or limiting social media or even some people. It’s difficult, but possible and worth it.
  2. You deserve happiness.. I deserve happiness. Everyone deserves happiness. Don’t let the lies of the world make you believe something else. Learn what makes you happy as an individual. Then, do what makes you happy. For me, it’s prayer, writing, poetry, being creative and running. It’s not selfish to know and make time for what brings you joy. Even if it does not involve your kids directly, it indirectly does in a greater way than you think. It’s easy to lose yourself in motherhood, and in life in general. So, recognize and embrace what makes you, you.
  3. Forgiveness is key. Or else you cannot fully move on from the past. I had some major resentment raging in me still and often pointed my fingers at others to temporarily let go of it. Cycles will be cycles if you do not forgive. Just think about it. It doesn’t always mean we have to tell the person we forgive them. Sometimes, it doesn’t make sense to, while other times it is necessary. Either way it is a conscious decision that heals the heart. It was one of the deepest releases and moments when I did just that. It made room for a whole lot more of love, joy and hope. It made room for peace.
  4. You are not alone. Even in a dark room breastfeeding your baby when everyone else seems to be have cocktails at a party or watching television, and you are worried about your milk production or if your daughter’s rash means food allergies like your son, you are never alone. Isolation can happen after a baby. Do not feel guilty. Reach out and build a support system. Like I suggested above, put positive sources of entertainment on your phone as you nurse like a Bible app, read positive news, journal, or write a poem. Sometimes, I would forget calculating how long she nursed and wouldn’t allow my phone near me. Instead, I would sing songs and just talk to my daughter. There are support systems for everything. Find other food allergy families, if you need support. Postpartum groups for breastfeeding are wonderful for so many reasons beyond nursing. Build that village and remember you are never in it alone. Ask for help… that makes you stronger than you think.
  5. Take care of yourself – even if it means taking the drug the doctors recommend or the yoga class you feel like you do not have time for. For those who know me, they would tell you I really try to take the natural, organic, GMO free route as much as possible. However, in hindsight, I should have taken the medication the doctors had prescribed for the postpartum anxiety. But I didn’t and while it took longer, I healed. Healing is possible for everyone.
Reflection back …
So often we label mental health has a weakness. We label food allergies as a weakness. We label asking for help as a weakness. We label, we label, we label. The problem is we label. I found new depths of strength and courage in those labels though. I found a way to stand confident in the fact that history will not repeat itself. But I had to forgive myself and a bunch of others before I had enough room to let amazing joy fill me up.
The reality is once you can learn acceptance in the now, no longer putting life on hold for the greener grass of tomorrow that may never come, that is when you start to live. That is when joy fills your heart. I never had real joy before now. I faked it and was full of shame because of it. But now I realize, through acceptance of myself, forgiveness of my past and that of others who may have left scars, I’m so much stronger than I’ve ever imagined I’d be.
My son, TJ started off with 21 food allergies and has outgrown all but 3 (dairy, eggs, peanuts) at his age of 4.5 now. My daughter Madison Grace has a kick-ass immune system and can’t have sesame or straight dairy milk. And don’t get me wrong, it sticks when we recently learned of her sesame allergy. It stinks when we attend birthday parties and TJ can’t eat the pizza or the cupcakes. However, we have our yummy alternatives and they are accepting of it. They are happy. Don’t get me wrong fear throws a lot at me still as it does for everyone. We all have our own battles but it’s more important to know the battles have all already been won. (John 16:33)
The difference now is I own my joy and it’s wrapped in my deep faith. Its home is in my heart and if it’s possible for me, it’s possible for anyone. Even in my lowest, I’ve never believed in the word impossible. Nothing is impossible with faith. Stand for something, or fall for everything.
And we smile back…
And now I can truly say I genuinely smile with my son who has been waiting the whole time for me to do just that, to let go, smile on… for we are truly learning to embrace the beauty and art of a messy house!
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