Recipe Sharing Is Caring: Moroccan Chicken & Couscous

Until the age of approximately nine years old, I had no idea that mac and cheese came in a box. Now, there’s nothing wrong with boxed mac and cheese – I give my daughter Annie’s organic macaroni on nights I don’t feel inspired or want to have a food war.

What I’m getting at is that I grew up eating really good food because my mom was a chef for George Lucas (and that’s just the tip of the cooking iceberg with her). You’d think that being exposed to elevated cooking from a young age that I’d have this natural cooking ability…..

Yes and no. I’m far more recipe oriented than any legitimate chef who can easily combine flavors and make things on the fly. That’s part of the reason why I love to bake, because it always needs to be precise.

When I’m on top of things during the week with meal planning, I have recipes and ingredients ready for certain nights of the week. I rely a lot on leftovers so I can send my husband to work with good food to fuel him for his workday.

I’ve been asked to share this Moroccan inspired dish by multiple Instagram followers, so here we go!

What will surprise you most (or not!) is that it’s a simple slow cooker meal that’s bursting with flavor. Even better yet, my daughter Gia LOVED it! I know all little kiddos have different taste buds, but it has the potential to be a very kid friendly dish for an adventurous eater.

If you’re tired and uninspired when it comes to dinners, this recipe is a lifesaver. I hope you guys enjoy the ease of this dish as much as I do!

Happy slow cooking!

Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken & Couscous

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup dried prunes, halved
  • 1/2 pitted green olives
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pepper to taste
  • chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
  • lemon wedges, for serving

Instructions:

  1. In slow cooker, combine the chicken, carrots, onion, prunes, olives, garlic, flour, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, chicken broth, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
  2. Cover and cook on low for six hours.
  3. When ready to serve, sprinkle with cilantro or nuts (optional) and serve with lemon wedges.

Notes:

  • I chose to serve the dish over couscous.  Perfect pairing, in my opinion!

Recipe from Skinny Taste

Xo

Chocolate Coffee Almond Scones, A Perfect Morning Treat

Father’s Day this year was a busy one, yet still very low-key.  I knew the moment that I saw these scones posted on Kate Wood’s “Wood and Spoon” blog that I’d be making them as a Father’s Day treat.

Anyone who knows me should know that I love coffee.  My husband, Craig, was not a huge coffee drinker when we first got together seven years ago.  Let’s just say, things have changed and he needs his coffee almost as much as I do!  These scones are the perfect blend of everything that I love, so I had to share Kate’s yummy recipe.


Chocolate Coffee Almond Scones – recipe by Kate Wood:

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Before sharing the recipe goods, I’ll tell you a little bit more about how Father’s Day was spent this year…..

I woke up earlier than usual just to make sure that I could prepare the scone dough, give it time to chill and then bake before Craig became ravenous.  My husband wakes up hungry and is usually wondering what’s for lunch before he can even finish his breakfast.  Must be a man thing??

Our plan for the day was to have Craig’s dad and family over in the morning to share the scones with.  They arrived around 8am and once they all had their fill of my fresh scones, we went to a little coffee shop across the water in the neighboring town of Martinez.  I don’t really remember how I came across States, but it very well could have been my fellow coffee lover, aka, my mom.

We enjoyed our coffee at States, where I love to go because it’s very kid friendly.  There are wooden blocks and old toy trucks that are left on the lower shelves for the children to play with.  Gia always has a good time when we are there and even gets her own little coffee.  (I just fill her little to-go coffee cup with water and she thinks it’s the coolest.)

After taking our last sips from our drinks, we meandered through the Farmers’ Market that’s held on Sunday mornings in Martinez.  Once we all got to take a look at the offereings, we packed it up and parted ways.  Craig’s family went back home, while Craig, Gia and I had some family time.  We went five minutes down the road to a nice little park across from a fire station.  Gia played for about 45 minutes before we decided to head home, feed her lunch and put her down for a nap.

Later, after Gia woke up and played a little, we went over to my parents to see my dad for Father’s Day.  My grandma joined us too – there’s no way she’d go without seeing my dad on Father’s Day.  My mom made us a nice dinner and I’m pretty sure that the dads, as well as their stomaches, were happy.

Overall, we had a really nice day.  Sometimes it’s just doing simple, easy things with family that are the most enjoyable.


Daddy and Gia swinging together at Nancy Boyd Memorial Park in Martinez:

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Hopefully you’ll enjoy these scones as much as we did!  Now, for what you’ve really been waiting for, the recipe……

Chocolate Coffee Almond Scones

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup whipping cream, plus additional for brushing
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder or instant coffee
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and chopped
  • 1 cup chopped unsalted almonds
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. In a small container, stir the whipping cream and teh espresso powder to combine and set aside in the fridge to keep cool.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar.  Use a pastry cutter or the back of two forks to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it becomes a coarse meal consistency with pea-sized clumps thoughout.  Stir in the almonds and chocolate chips.  Add the espresso and cream mixture and sitr into the dry ingredients, just until evenly incorporated.  If a lot of dry ingredients remain in the bottom of the bowl you can add an additional tablespoon or two of cream, just barely enough to make it all come together into a dough. (I found that I definitely needed to add the extra bit of cream.)
  3. Pat the dough to 3/4 inch thick and use a biscuit cutter to cut 2 inch circles of dough for each scone.  Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Put the pan in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Once the dough is chilled, use a pastry brush to brush a thin layer of whipping cream over the top of the sonces.  Bake in the oven until golden brown around the edges of each scone, about 25 minutes.

Notes:

  • Chilling the dough ensures the scones will rise well.  You can skip this step but it isn’t recommended for best outcomes.

Recipe from Kate Wood of “Wood and Spoon”

xo

Mother’s Day vs. Father’s Day: Both Are Important!

Regardless of your views and beliefs about religion, Christmas is easily one of the most recognized holidays across the globe.  So why is it that Easter, another very important religious holiday, can’t compete with the month-long extravaganza that is Christmas?  Easter is clearly the runner-up to Christmas, whether we want to admit it or not.

Likewise, retailers and bloggers have done their best to whip shoppers into a frenzied state prior to this Father’s Day weekend.  Despite these efforts, Father’s Day seems to be treated with far less reverence than Mother’s Day.  It’s no secret that Mother’s Day gets a lot of attention, but I’ll argue that Father’s Day doesn’t typically receive the same level of interest.  Why is that???

When May rolls around each year, florists, chocolatiers and the trendiest brunch joints extol the importance of showing profound gratitude for all mothers.  The way Father’s Day is marketed and treated with far less seriousness.  Even though I shouldn’t be complaining, this kind bugs me.

Yes, Gia’s dad, Craig, is a lovable buffoon at times, but he is by no means a dimwitted figure who couldn’t possibly be expected to be bothered with feeding or bathing our daughter without first being issued step-by-step instructions.  (I am guilty of leaving him detailed lists of what to do with Gia, as well as checking in on them when they’re alone, but part of that is me just being me.)

It’s 2018 people.  Men are more involved than ever in the day-to-day caring of their kids.  There are countless mornings when I’m on my way to the gym, with Gia in tow and I see the neighborhood elementary school yard filled with fathers.  They’re making sure their kids don’t jump into the street, holding backpacks and giving hugs and kisses before seeing their little ones off to school.  My local parks overflow with dads who seem especially doting.

Just yesterday as I walked into my gym, a member who I’m friendly with asked, “Where’s the baby?”  I kindly said that she was with daddy having fun until I got home and it was his turn to head to the gym for his workout.  What I wanted to say was, “She’s home alone watching TV and making sure the house doesn’t burn down.”  Come on – where do you think she is??  Why are fathers seen as the “babysitters” and moms are seen as the “real” parent?

In my humble opinion, it’s insulting to all moms and dads.  Yes, there may or may not be more pressure and unrealistic expectations placed on mothers, but this message we are sending is that fathers are less devoted.  That’s simply not the case.  Dad’s are not an afterthought and it’s time we start acting like Father’s Day is just as important as Mother’s Day – because it is!

I’m sure all of us want the father figures in our lives to feel special on Father’s Day each and every year.  In my family, the fathers are probably okay without a purchased gift, but I enjoy shopping for the occasion anyway.  For some, Father’s Day may be more challenging to shop for than Mother’s Day, but remember, it’s not about the gift.  Just like mom, dad wants to feel appreciated and be told that he’s doing a good job.

I am not the sole nurturer of my child because my husband plays a huge role in that as well.  Craig, if you’re reading this, you are a fantastic father.  Expressing my thanks publicly like this for all of your unconditional love will never be enough.  Your contributions to this family exceed all expectations.  You are our provider, protector and a strong individual that we all should try to emulate.  Thank you for never shying away from wiping a dirty baby bum, or putting our daughter to sleep.  I appreciate the selfless care and protection you provide to us on a daily basis.  We love you beyond measure.

Here’s to all of the fathers out there.  May all your days with your family be filled with love, but especially so this Father’s Day.

xo

The Skin I’m In: Thoughts About Body Image During Pregnancy & Beyond

Some mornings I stand in the buff and look at my pregnant body with so much admiration. I’m creating another life and my body knows exactly how to do it. Organs, little ears and tiny limbs are all being made by me – and I guess my husband helped a little too. 😉

Then there are mornings that turn into entire days where I look at myself in the harshest light. Yes, I know I’m pregnant and yes, I know my body is not mine right now, but I still feel bad about it. I feel horrible even writing that, because it doesn’t reflect how excited I am to have another child. I feel guilt just thinking that!

Obviously pregnancy stimulates a wide range of feelings about the body. Those who have been pregnant and are pregnant know exactly what I mean. Our culture, especially among certain social classes, makes no secret of how very important it is that women “get their bodies back” instantaneously. Too little attention is paid to why our bodies morph the way they do during pregnancy. We hold onto the baby weight for a reason, because it serves both the baby and mother.

Body shame in our world today is prolific and it leaves women (pregnant or not) feeling stymied. Pregnancy can be especially disorienting in so many ways. I for one, have felt an immense amount of anxiety and at times, depression about how I’m coping with my growing pregnant body.

After receiving a heartfelt and thoughtful DM from a childhood friend this morning, I felt inspired to write on this topic. My friend is pregnant with her first child and is feeling a lot of the things I felt while pregnant with Gia and how I feel now.

The other day my friend who DM’d me posted a photo to her Instagram page. The photo was a shot of her and her beautiful growing bump. She told me that when she was posting the picture she was so scared of what people would think about how she looked. She also went on to say how awful she felt for feeling that way because she was doing something amazing, growing her baby.

Like me, my friend has maintained a healthy routine through her pregnancy by working out, eating healthfully, while still allowing herself a splurge sometimes. Balance right?? Regardless of her efforts and mine to treat our bodies with kindness during this time, we have both beat ourselves up over our weight gain.

After messaging her back, we were both in agreement that we are doing the right thing for ourselves and our growing babes, but regardless of all that, our bodies are going to do what they’re going to do. For my friend that means more weight in her lower half than she’s used to or prefers. For me, that means having a cup size to rival any Victoria’s Secret hottie, as well as a growing lower half.


If I’m being honest, this picture makes me look smaller than I think I really look.  Again, I was also hesitant in even sharing this photo.  These pants are doing their damnedest to keep my bulging body parts in, but this is my version of six months pregnant.

We are all different people and all have different pregnancies. Sometimes it’s hard for me to not look at other pregnant women and be envious of their seemingly perfect bumpin’ belly and looking so petite everywhere else. I need to remind myself that those women and myself are totally different. I am a six foot tall athlete. I have been athletic my entire life. I’m going to look very different than a woman who is 5’4 and who has never played collegiate sports.

This weekend I even found myself comparing my six months pregnant body to a petite woman who was 15 months postpartum. How ridiculous is that?! First of all, I’M PREGNANT. Second, I was almost a foot taller than her with a totally different body type.

I really had to reel my thoughts back in this weekend. I also am constantly reminding myself that being pregnant is hard in so many ways. I’ve had an especially challenging time navigating my thoughts on body image through my last pregnancy and this one. I’ve mentioned briefly in a previous post that I did have an eating disorder towards the end of college.  I was in the thick of under eating and over exercising.  Because of all that, my last year I was unable to continue to play softball due to so much weight loss.  Everything important to me, including my identity, was taken away so abruptly. (At some point I’ll share the full story about this, but that’s a post for another day!)

I am fully recovered from that dark time in my life, but it’s a constant battle to silence the negative and disordered thinking that I practiced for so long. I know that it will be something I need to be mindful of for my whole life, and that’s especially true right now, even while pregnant.

I think what I really want to say is we all have a struggle. Many times that struggle is silent and we feel very alone. This post proves that I’m not alone in my complicated feelings about my pregnant body, and neither is the friend who reached out to me. We both worked hard for our healthy pre-pregnancy bodies and we will both work hard to have healthy postpartum bodies.

We all need to give ourselves some grace and remember we have one body. Be kind to it, fuel it properly, appreciate all that it is capable of and be grateful.

After having Gia I’ve realized that life just goes by faster with each passing year. I can’t get hung up on putting pressure on myself to lose baby weight from this second pregnancy by a certain time. I should be more concerned with maintaining my good health to raise equally as healthy daughters, who I hope will one day love their bodies unconditionally. Like I’ve always said, God has given me girls so I never slip back into disordered eating and so I can teach them how their bodies are strong and perfect exactly how they are.

My tips to anyone who is struggling with body image during pregnancy:

Acknowledging You’re Body is Being Borrowed – Your body is in a major transformation process. Perhaps the negative feelings you have about your pregnant body may be about something other than the actual body surface, or in addition to it. Investigate your feelings and acknowledge them. Remember pregnancy is not permanent and is such a small blip of time in your whole life. Try and look at the good during this time.

Notice Self Talk And Feedback From Others – Comparison is the thief of joy and shame based internal chatter is a recipe for unhappiness. There will always be unsolicited comments about your pregnant state. Try just accept the comment and not think too far into it. Opinions from others about your bump are truly irrelevant, unless coming from your doctor. Keep doing YOU and say “screw those people!” (And I say that in the nicest possible way! Lol!)

Acceptance – Acceptance, especially body acceptance, during a time where you’re scared that your body will forever be enlarged is tough. Here’s what I’ve realized through both of my pregnancies….worrying does not modify what may or may not happen to my body through these wondrous months. Preoccupation with my body has never brought anything fruitful and steals joy from the present moment. It’s not fair to me or my family. Keep your eye on the prize – that end result, your baby!

Focus On Being A Role Model – Being gentle on myself as I navigate body image concerns serves as an ideal template for me to parent from. I don’t want Gia and her little sister to ever treat their bodies the way I have treated mine. I’ve been cruel to myself in the past and don’t want to teach that. As I journey through motherhood, modeling what it means to be a strong woman is what’s most important.


This little girl and her growing sister are the ones that I do all of this for.  They make me stronger, happy and oh so proud.  Little eyes are always watching.

And that’s all I’ve got! I think this post serves me more than others. It’s something I should reference back to when I’m feeling not so great about myself. I need to practice what I preach, and by writing it for all of you to read I’m holding myself responsible for following through with my words.

Hopefully someone who reads this can relate in some way. Remember we are all made perfectly the way we are and that’s what’s truly beautiful.

Xo

More Than A Wannabe

Everyone is a blogger these days. Whether you’re a journalism student hunting for a platform (I was one!), a makeup lover with on fleek contouring skills, or just a “normal” person like me who enjoys posting about your real life, anyone can be a blogger.

Ask any truly successful blogger or influencer and I’m sure they’ll tell you the struggle is real. Not everyone has ideas for blog posts just flooding their brains, let alone coming up with enticing blog post titles to catch the attention of a follower. Hell, this rings true for me and I just do this stuff for myself, not a big audience. I guess it’s kind of like my journal and I’m hoping I grow by sharing it with others, whether they care about the content or not.

Even though I’m just a sometimes blogger whose following is mostly family that I’ve bribed into reading along, part of me still would love to somehow make this hobby a job.

Yeah, I’m not organized like these Instagram influencers and fashion bloggers who post daily, but I’m passionate about trying to show others that we are all more alike than we may know. I might not have the photoshop skills for this, let alone a fancy camera…..hello iPhone! But, I’ve got gusto and I think I’m a decent storyteller, writer and I’m a realist. (Did I just compliment myself? Go me!)

At the beginning of this blogging rendezvous there may have been a time or two where I’ve wondered why I’m not famous and getting freebies in the mail. I’m sure I’ve also pissed people off, or at the very least, annoyed people with things I’ve written. I’ve gotta share posts to put myself out there, so my skin has gotten thicker.

I’ve thought about trying to add more glamour to my everyday life, but again, let’s keep it real. Most days are spent bare-faced with day 3 (or was it 4) hair and chasing my firecracker toddler. I’m no Julia Engel, Rachel Parcell, or LaTisha Springer – not even close when it comes to the blogging world. (Ladies, go follow them!)

What I do have that these other bloggers don’t have is an innate drive to share real life moments (good and bad), to try and not be so filtered, and to write thoughtful posts that allow me to remain totally true to myself.

I may never have a following and I definitely don’t have the aesthetically pleasing Instagram feed that these other bloggers do. I may always struggle with the tone of my blog, for fear of others thinking I’m an over-emotional wacko. My main reasons for writing and sharing the things I do is to sort my own thoughts out, to learn from my own mistakes, and to share my limited, yet still valuable life experience as a young mom.

I feel funny saying, “I’m a blogger,” but isn’t that what I am? I have this blogging platform that I contribute to on an almost regular basis, so I’m no wannabe. I’m going to own it from here on out, whether I get sent goodies from companies or not. I’m having a good time doing what I’m doing. That’s what this whole thing should be about anyway!

Putting my thoughts and opinions out there has been hard at times, but it’s teaching me to continue to focus on what’s important in my own life. Plus, challenging myself mentally like this is good for my emotional health!

Go ahead and put yourself out there! Own your truth, whatever it may be. Things might feel uncomfortable, but the growing you’ll do afterwards is so worth it.

Xo

My Week Long Social Media Detox

I’m pretty sure that from the beginning, technology was meant to serve us in a positive way. Social media is supposed to make our lives better by allowing us to have more time and connection to others in our already limited schedules. But are the likes of Instagram and Twitter really adding value to our lives?

I will certainly admit that there are times where I feel like a slave to the social media machine. It’s sometimes hard to totally “log off,” especially when our jobs and lives almost require us to be online. I catch myself scrolling through my Instagram sometimes before even hopping out of bed in the morning, and for what?

Of course social media can be a good thing, but even too much of a good thing can be harmful. For this reason, I decided to take a little break from all things social media for one week. Some of you may scoff and say, “One week is nothing!” While that may be true, at least I’ve remained true to my word for the last week by going completely cold turkey. For me, the main culprit of addiction is Instagram. I use Facebook as well, but Instagram is something that I feel more invested in, for whatever reason.

On day 2 of my detox from the online world, I realized just how much I casually visited Instagram. Day 1 was easy to go without, but the second morning I found my fingers twitching to click that little icon on my phone. Thoughtless Instagram scrolling sometimes serves as a little mommy getaway during nap time or when Gia is happily watching an episode of Sesame Street. But what was it that I was really longing for? Nothing on Instagram that I was “missing” was going to change my life, or make it better for that matter.

On Day 6 of my little detox, I realized I wasn’t even thinking about social media. With this newfound sense of “freedom” I found myself using short bursts of time for more useful things than online scrolling. I’m a pretty productive person, but this past week I’ve been more motivated to just get things done. I’m not sure if it has everything to do with not being so online, but I’ll take it.

During the past week I’ve accomplished a lot – Gia’s big girl bed is in her new room, bedding for it has been ordered, I’ve had family over for dinner, I’ve taken family to appointments and planted in the yard, just to name a few. Along with these to-do’s I’ve also felt more mental clarity. I know that sounds a little wacky, but it’s true. No trying to keep up with the Joneses, less feelings of inadequacy and more pride in the things that I have accomplished. If I can attribute these feelings to less social media usage than I may very well make this a regular thing.

We all know that social media sells a false reality, which can be especially toxic for women. We all usually post our best pictures – many times showing us on our latest adventure, silently proclaiming (with or without intention) how great our life is. Herein lies the comparison problem. It’s extremely difficult to remind ourselves that people post what they want others to see. If you say you don’t, you’re probably lying.

When I first looked at my Instagram feed after not seeing it for a week there was a couple things I noticed. I realized that I didn’t miss much of anything and I immediately had a negative thought creep into my head. After seeing a pregnancy Instagram account post a photo of a woman who was 25 weeks pregnant, I found myself comparing my pregnancy size to her. First off, I’m a couple days shy of 23 weeks, and second – it doesn’t matter! Everything I’ve been trying to stop doing the past week came racing back. I’m just pleased I was able to instantly realize how irrational and ridiculous I was being for thinking I should look like that woman.

The thing about comparing our lives to each other through social media is that it’s completely unfair. Nobody’s profile is perfect – it’s all filtered and sterilized! So why do you and I keep feeling a twinge of despair for not having as many likes and followers as the next person? Here’s where I insert a friendly reminder: Comparison is the thief of joy. A flower doesn’t think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms. Lions don’t concern themselves with the opinions of sheep either. Wish I could say I came up with those quotes, but I didn’t. They are just words I try to remember when I catch myself feeling inadequate after looking at the hottest blogger’s Instagram feed, or my mom friend who seems to always have her stuff together.

One of 30 newly planted friends in my front yard – my beautiful hydrangea:

I understand that we live in a day and age where social media is truly a big part of all of our lives. There’s lots of tangible benefits too – keeping us connected with friends and family from all over, and augmenting our social lives, rather than replacing them.

My biggest takeaway from this personal experiment was that there is so much more to life than meets the eye. My perspectives have been shifted and I’ve been reminded of what’s most important in life – our family, health and happiness.

I read an article prior to going offline for the week about a man who takes a month long break from social media every December. I thought this was a really great idea and would be something that I could benefit from. If I implement this same practice the only thing I will miss are sharing photos of my daughter. (Soon I’ll be saying daughters! Crazy!) Other than that, it sounds like I need to pick my month of the year to go on my vacation from the online world.

Have any of you taken a deliberate break from social media before? I’m curious to hear what it did for you. Leave a comment to let me know your thoughts about what the app addiction is doing to our world.

Xo

Why We Are Having Another Child

As parents, it seems like Craig and I have finally fully adjusted to life with a little one and now we are adding a little sister to the mix.  Yes, we know we will have to referee many backseat battles and likely have to buy two of everything when it comes to toys – imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, of course!  But what we are most excited for is to witness Gialina and her little sister play with one another and embrace each other in warm hugs.

When Gia was born I realized I would do anything to protect her.  I hope and pray that Gia will experience a similar feeling growing up with a younger sibling.  When baby girl number two comes along and starts to become more independent, our children will learn how to split the last chocolate chip cookie that I made, and hopefully learn how to divide TV time when their favorite show is on.  Obviously these little lessons will take time and there will be bumps in the road, but they will come in handy when they are in school.

Craig and I both grew up with siblings and we couldn’t imagine not giving Gia that same gift.  She might not see it that way in the beginning, but as already experienced by Craig and I, having a built in “playmate” and lifelong friend is wonderful.  There won’t be an urgent need to schedule playdates when Gia’s best friend is in the next room.  I know that some of this talk of being best friends can be wishful thinking on my part.  I am fully aware that siblings fight and sometimes they fight a lot.  I’m also keen to the idea that we are going to raise our children with a strong moral compass, so with that, we believe that our children will love and respect one another for a lifetime.  It’s all about setting a good example and instilling proper values.

In Gia’s almost two years of life, we’ve witnessed such empathy, compassion, humor and intelligence on the daily.  Whether it’s mastering a puzzle or learning to hit a plastic golf ball, we know that Gia will teach her younger sister so many things.  In the same regard, as an older sibling she will learn a lot of patience from our new addition.

As I’ve gotten older, I share so many of my thoughts and problems with my younger brother, Zach.  I hope that Gia and her sister will turn to each other for guidance, just as their funky Unkie and I do.


Pictured here is my brother Zach explaining the finer points of surfing to Gia.  I can’t wait for her to know the bond siblings can share.

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As sister’s they will celebrate so much together – from birthdays to a walk down the aisle, I hope they stand by each other’s side through all of life’s monumental moments.  With those good times also comes tough times – bruised knees, a less than perfect grade, a broken heart.  No matter the problem, siblings should be there to dry each other’s tears and act as a shoulder to lean on.

(Thinking about this next part makes me emotional and teary eyed.) Above all else, we are making our family a family of four because we want Gia to have someone to grow old with.  Friends come and go, but family is forever.  Unfortunately our parents aren’t able to physically be around forever, so having another sibling ensures that Gia will have a blood connection long after Craig and I are gone.

I’m aware that not everyone wants another child, let alone one child.  (I’ve addressed that in my blog before.)  I try to be sensitive to the fact that everyone is free to live their life exactly how they wish, with child or without.  I also know that those who want kids may have difficulty conceiving and may never experience what Craig and I have.  I feel great pain for those who want kids but are unable, and I have great respect  for those who choose to live their life without children, as these are very personal things.  All I know for myself is that I would absolutely regret not having a second child.  I feel like I would be robbing Gia of something that I know is so amazing.  This is why we are adding another girl to our gang.


Soon Gia will be picking flowers with her built in bestie.

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Sidenote:  I know my blog invites opinions of others, but I want to remind everyone to be kind.  By no means do you need to agree with any of my opinions, let’s just be respectful of one another.

I’d love to hear from friends and strangers alike – Why have you decided to have a another child?  Feel free to comment here and don’t forget to follow more of my adventures on my Instagram page, @mrsbennigson.

xo

Not So Frequent Flyer

For those of you who follow my Instagram account, @mrsbennigson, you already know that Gia and I took off for a weekend adventure.

For the last few weeks I’ve been wanting to head to Newport Beach to visit my brother. We don’t get to see him all the time and in turn, he doesn’t get to see Gia on the regular. We do what we can with technology and FaceTime, but the real deal is always our first choice.

Initially this trip was just going to be my mom coming down to visit Zach – I always have her for Mother’s Day, so Zach was long over due to have some mom time with her. I thought this would also be a good chance to visit Zach with Gia before baby #2 gets here, because Lord knows that we won’t be hopping on a plane with a toddler and newborn right away.

First of all, my hat is off to parents who regularly travel by air with their little ones. Flying can be stressful with or without kids – delays and being surrounded by loads of people means we aren’t really in full control.

Now, I know a flight from Oakland to Orange County is nothing compared to a transcontinental or international flight, but we had to start somewhere! Thankfully our flight was just over an hour and I armed myself to the teeth to make sure Gia and I would be prepared.

I have to say, we had it pretty easy when it came to luggage and necessities. My mom opted to drive down a day ahead of us because that’s just how it worked out. Luckily enough, I sent the stroller, car seat and our luggage with her. Yes to semi-free hands in the airport! All I needed to concern myself with was the little umbrella stroller and backpack with extra undies, snacks and books for Gia.

I think my biggest worry was the whole potty situation and not being able to get up on the plane during takeoff and landing. Fortunately, Gia was awesome about using the potty exactly when I needed her to.

I tried to think ahead and reserved our seat close to the lavatory. (My pregnant brain/mom brain didn’t fail me with that idea!) Once we boarded the plane Gia just hung on to me so she could snuggle, which is a rarity these days. Right after takeoff she dozed off and later woke before our decent. I offered her some crackers and we took a potty break before getting ready to land. Success!

Once we deplaned we were promptly greeted by my mom, or Gagi (gah-ghee), as Gia likes to call her. Needless to say, I was so proud of Gia while she was at the airport and on the plane. I think she must have been proud of herself too.

Anytime we try something new and unfamiliar it has the potential to be a little nerve wracking. I knew we would ultimately do fine on our first flight (and without daddy), but we all want things to go smoothly, especially with tots in tow.

As I’ve said on my blog many times before, just go for it. Don’t let your nerves or fears stop you from anything! Take the flight, apply for that dream job, go on the date, follow your curiosity wherever it takes you. Once you do it you’ll be glad you did, and you’ll wonder what your hang up was in the first place.

Maybe I’m a little preemptive in this post, as my flight home isn’t until Monday, but in the spirit of positivity, I’m sure we will do just fine on the way home too. I realize not all flying experiences go as planned, so I’m sure I’ll have more travel stories to share in the future – good and bad!

Happy travels and wishing all of the moms out there a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend!

Xo

Raising Strong, Confident Daughters

One thing I’ve already begun to realize over the last year and a half, or so, is that bringing up daughters is complicated: Messages of empowerment and achievement are everywhere, yet depression and anxiety plague so many.

I know these things because I am still a daughter even though I’m now also a mother. I know these things because I never want Gialina and her sister to go through the hard things that I went through. I want to raise my girls to be their best, well-rounded selves despite so many negative outside influences in our world.

During a routine morning not long ago, I was looking in our downstairs mirror. I lifted my shirt to look at my stomach – I’d recently found out I was pregnant with Gia’s sister. I was checking for any signs of a growing baby in my stomach and caught myself feeling a little bit upset. I was upset because I selfishly thought about how hard it will be to watch my body grow through another pregnancy. Although the creation of life is truly an amazing miracle, it can really do a number on a woman’s mindset and body confidence. In my case, I suffered from an eating disorder during my early twenties and although I am healthy today, the negative voices are still there and will always need to be tamped down.

After checking myself out for a quick moment I realized that my daughter Gia had been watching my every move, as she always does. To my surprise and slight horror, she walked over to where I was standing and proceeded to lift her shirt to show her tummy. She clearly was just mimicking mommy, but this instance just goes to show you that your children are always watching, listening and learning from you.

I love having a daughter and I am thrilled to be a girl-mom once again, but nothing annoys me more than when someone says, “Oooh, two girls! You sure are in for it!”

I feel like I was born to parent girls because of the challenges I overcame that tend to overwhelmingly affect women. God gave me not only one, but two girls so that I could teach them to love themselves as much as I should have been loving myself through my eating disorder. I’m excited to be raising two strong little girls, but even this early on it can feel like walking a tightrope.

Part of me is so excited for their future. There are so many female role models out there for them to aspire to be like. Unfortunately, there are also things like stress, anxiety and depression that come with high achievement. When my girls grow up and are doing everything possible to be all that they can, I want them to enjoy it. Like any parent, I want my girls to have boundless opportunity, but more than that, I want them to be happy. The bigger part of that is making sure they are ready for whatever challenges they will someday face.

Know the impact you will have on your child – celebrate their uniqueness, praise their imperfections and instill social confidence.

I know that I will always try to raise strong, confident daughters, but I also realize that they will be who they will be. I can’t make my daughters be something they weren’t meant to be. I just hope and pray that I continue to be the best parent that I can be through their challenging teen years and young adult lives.

Looking at Gia sitting beside me right now also makes me relish the simplicity of toddlerhood. She is completely unfiltered and totally herself in this moment. In a couple of years she will be more aware of the opinions of others, but I hope she holds on to her own opinions while remaining kind, strong-willed and unique.

Xo

Reading – The Discount Ticket To Everywhere

Ever since I was a young girl I’ve always had a love for books and reading.  I’m not too biased when it comes to genres, but I’ve noticed that I tend to stay away from things that lean towards sci-fi and fantasy.  Not to say that there aren’t plenty of good books in those categories, I just don’t gravitate towards them.

Lately I’ve been binge reading when I can – nap time and when Gia is asleep for the night.  I’ve realized that come October, my life will look very different and it probably won’t include reading for leisure for a very long time.  With a toddler and a baby on the way I might not read for fun until they fly the coop!  Well, that’s probably a bit of an exaggeration, but I certainly won’t have much “me” time, which I’m a-okay with.  Until this baby girl arrives, I’ll be reading as much as I can when my time allows it.

I’m always on the lookout for new books and I’m a huge fan of reading actual books – no Kindle or iPad here.  I’ve done the whole “read on your iPad thing,” and it’s not quite the same.  I like the idea of picking up my book, dog-earing the page (if you’re type A like me you use a book mark and avoid the dog-ear at all costs), then storing the book on a shelf where you can build up your library.  I’ve got a few books that I’ve recently finished and really, really enjoyed, so I figured why not share them?

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Disclaimer:  These books are mostly phycological thriller types with some sort of crime fighting.  (I think I’m going through a major phase!)

The first book that I’ll recommend is an unbelievable true story of the man who built a billion-dollar online drug empire from his bedroom – and almost got away with it.  It’s called, “American Kingpin,” by Nick Bolton.

My dad was the one who said I should pick it up.  He hasn’t read it himself, but he saw a few book reviews in the newspaper months back and saved it for me.  My dad does old school things like read the entire paper every single morning, and he saves good articles for me or cuts out funny little comics to make me laugh.  I think it’s really sweet.

Anyway, back to the book.  It’s about this twenty-something guy who is super libertarian and is a programmer.  He is a really brilliant young man who basically launched the ultimate free market:  the Silk Road.  This website was located on the dark web and people who used it could trade anything – drugs, hacking software, forged passports, counterfeit cash, poisons, EVERYTHING.  All of this was being done free of the govenment’s watchful eye.

As the site begins to grow, Ross, the creator, quickly has a huge enterprise on his hands and becomes this big kingpin.  There’s tons of twists and turns, lucky breaks and crazy close calls.  To sum it up, it’s the story of the boy next door’s ambition gone criminal.  If Hollywood doesn’t make a movie out of this I’ll be truly disappointed!

The second book I want to recommend is one that I just finished yesterday.  Kind of like with “American Kingpin,” this book really would make for a great movie – “UNSUB,” by Meg Gardiner.  What I enjoyed a lot about this book was that it was set in the Bay Area, so it was fun to recognize all of the landmarks and places they referenced as the story progressed.

This book seemed like it could have been inspired by the Zodiac Killer.  It’s about this young, female detective who is totally determined to catch a serial murderer who ruined her family life as a kid and terrorized the entire Bay Area for years and years.

The main character, Caitlin, is a new detective whose father is a retired detective.  Her now retired father was hunting for the same serial killer she is now trying to apprehend.  This killer committed weirdly ritualized murders when Caitlin’s father was a detective.  Twenty years after the first killings, the murderer resurfaces and starts tormenting Caitlin and the entire Bay Area yet again.

The book is filled with lots of twisted messages from the serial killer, but Caitlin is relentless in her pursuit and becomes dangerously obsessed, like her father once was.

There’s lots of the unexpected throughout this story and it ends making you think there could be a sequel.  I’m definitely keeping my fingers crossed for a follow-up novel!

I don’t know about all of you, but when I finish a book I already have the next one lined up.  My next read falls into the same crime/thriller category and is part of a series that Craig got me started on – “Violets Are Blue,” by James Patterson.  Maybe I’ll share another little book review in the near future after I’ve read this and a few more books that are on deck.

After I finish this James Patterson book I’m going to change up my routine by reading a self-help style book called, “Judgment Detox,” by Gabrielle Bernstein.  After all, we can all be a little kinder to ourselves, even if it means reading a book like this one.

xo