Weird Things My Toddler Does: Part Four.

This may not look like a weird thing, but it’s the strangest to me.

Since Mila was first born, she’s HATED sitting in the car seat and she still does. She would scream until we got to our destination; nothing would calm her down. It made driving not so fun and I’ve been waiting for her to ‘grow out of it.’

Turns out, all I needed to do was bring it inside. I was looking for her for ten minutes and didn’t even think to check the car seat, but there she sat.

Maybe next time she faces her comfy chair in the car, she’ll remember it’s not so bad.

Toddlers are weird.

Adapting to Different.

This summer has been different from all others.

I mean, we all know this. We’re living in a COVID world where we wear masks, constantly are sanitizing, and are stuck home. It’s a huge difference to spend summer this way for me. I’m used to concerts, beaches, and adventures.

When I realized summer wasn’t going to be the same as I had in my head, I worried about Mila. She wasn’t going to experience summer in the way she had the previous two years. Last year we had a bucket list and constantly were on the go. We went to the beach, quite a few times and I wondered if she’d be sad. Like most things, she’s helped show me the bright side of things.

Summers different in many ways, but not all just bad.

We still get to jump in the pool and she’s learning how to swim. I’ve found a new appreciation for dirt; probably because Mila looks so cute with it smeared across her face and it’s constantly stuck under her fingernails. Vacations have been (safety) visiting friends and the lake has became the beach. Home cooked meals are much better than going out to eat, although we still love to go get ice cream or slushees.

It seems to be a lot different, but summer has still felt the same. If she’s taught me anything during this time, it’s to adapt.

One more month of summer until my last year of classes begin. I’m not sure what the worlds going to be like in the near future, but we’ll adapt and take it as it comes.

For now, we’ll be soaking up these last few weeks of dirt and pool filled days.

Meatless Monday: Spicy Grilled Cheese

Another week brings you another recipe and yes, it’s Mexican inspired again. I can’t help it!

Lately, I’ve been wanting super spicy foods, but hold off with Mila. She tends to like what I’m eating more than what’s on her plate. I wish I could understand her toddler brain. Anyways, during her nap one day this week, I thought I’d experiment. I’ve had a spicy grilled cheese in mind, but haven’t had a chance to make one.

At first I was skeptical and didn’t know if I was going to share, but after tasting it and knowing how simple it was to make, I knew you guys needed it in your lives.

Spicy Grilled Cheese:

  • Pepper Jack Cheese
  • Green Peppers
  • Taco Seasoning
  • Bread
  • Butter

Yes! That’s all the ingredients I used. If I had red onion, I probably would have thrown some in too.

Directions:

First, cut and sauté your green peppers. I like mine to have a little crunch, so use your judgement here. While they’re cooking. Shred your cheese and butter your bread. I always use extra cheese, so again, do what you like best. After you’ve buttered your bread, sprinkle taco seasoning on the buttered sides. I’m probably the worst recipe maker, but I just eyed up how much I put on. Next, lay your bread butter/seasoning side down on the pan. Layer the cheese and peppers, then put the other slice on top. Cook like normal grilled cheese after!

I ended up putting sour cream on top of the sandwich and a little avocado ranch.

You guys, this was SO good. It would’ve been a little too spicy doe Mila at the moment, but maybe when she’s a little older. Normal grilled cheese is one of our go to’s though, so I could easily sneak making both and she’d never know!

I’m going to try really hard this week to make something more complicated or a dinner meatless. I usually just roast veggies, make rice, and add chickpeas for meatless dinners. We’ll see what I can come up with this week.

Meatless Monday: Fiesta Bowl

Let’s discuss my weird obsession with Mexican food. I feel like I’m always craving it and it’s easily adjustable for meatless Monday’s. Maybe it’s my love for rice and avocados, but any time I look for a new recipe, it’s usually what I find.

After a busy day yesterday and a swollen ankle (I hurt it a few weeks ago and it hasn’t gotten any better, actually it’s been worse this last week), I knew I wanted to try something quick and easy. Usually I go to recipes I’ve made before, but last night I was feeling inspired.

A quick look on Pinterest led me to a crunchwrap recipe. Mila and I both LOVE crunchwraps when we go to Taco Bell. I figured I’d give it a go… how hard could it be?

I got all my ingredients ready and even spiced up the rice. Everything was tasting and looking amazing. Let’s just say, I was feeling proud of myself. Until, I got to the wrap and folding part of the meal. Then it all went bad.

Okay. I’m just going to be very blunt, I failed miserable. For about ten minutes, I tried different ways to wrap it. Each time, everything in the middle would fall out making more and more disappointed. After twenty different tries to keep it all together, I gave up. I tasted everything and realized it was all good. Maybe I didn’t need a wrap… so I created what is now known in our family… The Fiesta Bowl.

Since COVID has been here, I’ve realized I’m just amazing at gathering ingredients, seasoning them, and throwing them in a bowl.

The Fiesta Bowl:

Ingredients:

  • One can of black beans
  • One tomato (I used Roma because it’s what I had in hand
  • 1 medium green peppee
  • 1 medium avocado
  • Mexican shredded cheese
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • Avocado ranch (optional)
  • Seasoned brown rice (spices used: salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, oregano)

It’s a pretty simple recipe and standard ingredients I use all the time. As you can tell if you’ve looked at some of the things I’ve posted. The spices in the rice were amazing. They completely changed the taste of the almost crunchwrap. Unfortunately I didn’t have cumin, but I’m actually glad I didn’t because it tasted so good. The fresh vegetables were refreshing and we have leftovers for lunch!

The longest part was cooking the rice (and figuring out I couldn’t fold tortillas), but it was easy for me with Mila and Max running around. After it was all thrown together in the bowl, I realized I needed to name it something fun after the craziness. Plus, it did really taste like a fiesta in my mouth too.

Another positive with this recipe and really these ingredients in general is Mila loves it and I know a lot of other toddlers who approve too.

Meatless Monday: Spanish Rice

This is a tiny bit of false advertisement. I’m going to give you two recipes because when I made my Spanish Rice, I also added some chicken thighs with it too. It tasted amazing! Mila loved it as well.

So Mila and I LOVE different types of food. Last week, with Cinco de Mayo, we made different Mexican food and this Spanish Rice dish. I will admit, we did order out for Cinco de Mayo, which was…. interesting to say the least. Turns out, you should call waaaaay beforehand when ordering Mexican on Cinco de Mayo, during a worldwide pandemic. Who would’ve known?

Anyways, so this recipe was given to me a couple weeks ago and I figured I’d try it. I love recipes that are easy to make and that are tasty. It’s something I could throw together and walk away from while attending Mila’s daily dinner crisis. This recipe would have worked great without the chicken thighs I added, they needed cooked, so don’t blame me. I also added black beans, which could have just been the protein for the meal. Without going on forever, here’s the recipes.

Without me chatting too much, here’s the good stuff…

Spanish Rice Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes and chilies
  • 2 tapblespoons of taco seasoning mix
  • Shredded cheese (optional)
  • 1 avocados (optional)
  • 1 can of black beans (optional

Combine rice, water, tomatoes, and taco seasoning in a large saucepan or pot (like I did). Bring it to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low and cover, simmering for 45 minutes. Remove from heat and let it stand for 5 minutes. If you’re adding beans to your rice, I’d do it before the 5 minute warning so they can get nice and heated up. Fluff the rice up with a fork and add in your extras if you choose so. If not, enjoy as is!

Taco Chicken Thighs:

  • 3 chicken thighs, skinless and boneless (use as many as you need and adjust accordingly, this is what I had left)
  • Olive oil (I didn’t measure. I’ve never claimed to be a top chef, guys!)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Taco Seasoning Packet (what you didn’t use with the Spanish Rice)

Preheat your oven to 400. While it’s preheating, rinse your chicken thighs and pat them dry. Once they’re dried throw them in a bowl with the olive oil, salt and pepper, and the taco seasoning. Make sure there’s seasoning covering the thighs and place them on a baking sheet. Once the oven is preheated, cook them for about 20-25 minutes. Once they’re done, you could shred them or cut them in strips. I did the latter, which was amazing for us.

This really is a quick and simple recipe you can make if you’re busy. Just set timers for everything and it’ll cook itself, really. Mila really enjoyed the chicken thighs (it’s not fun to convince her to eat chicken breasts) and rice is one of her favorite meals. Yes, rice is considered a meal for Mila. Some days are just a win when she’ll eat anything. It’s a toddler world and I’m just living in it.

So, although I didn’t completely go meatless for this meatless Monday recipe, there’s a lot of options to take the core of this meal and make it a meatless one.

Quick and Easy Mother’s Day DIYs.

Scrambling to quickly get a gift together for Mother’s Day? You’ve came to the right post.

For the last week, I’ve been looking around the house to see what Mila and I can up-cycle and make for Mother’s Day gifts. All of these items can be found at home or a quick trip to any store really. Mila helped me with all of these projects and some of them (you’ll be able to see) I worked on a little extra too. If you have older kids, they’ll definitely be able to help out more!

Seed Bombs

When I think of Mother’s Day, I think about flowers. I know a lot of people love planting this time of year and I wanted to combine that with something Mila loves, getting dirty. This recipe was in this month’s Mommy and Me Art Box.

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1/3 cup of water
  • 2 cups of soil
  • 2 packets of flower

Mix the dirt, flower, and water up until you get a sticky concoction. Once it starts sticking to the spoon and forming together, add the two packets of seeds too. Mix them evenly in the mixture. Then either use cookie cutter to form shapes or make little balls. Let them dry out. She recommended two days, but I think mine were pretty good after a day!

Mila LOVED sticking her hand to help me mix it. She also enjoyed forming the shapes we did. It’s toddler friendly, but she needed a little more guidance than an older child. As with anything, right?

I packaged mine in tissue paper to give to my family. They’ll just need to put them in their flower garden or pots and water like normal.

Another suggestion if your child is going to see their grandma or other mother figure is to bring these ingredients and make them with each other.

Coffee and Coconut Body Scrub

What’s more pampering than body scrub? And you probably have everything needed to make it in your house, right now.

What you need…

  • 1 cup of coffee grounds
  • 1/2 cup of coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (optional, but smells amazing)

Mix the ingredients all together and once its blended evenly (sort of liked crushed Oreos) put them in a jar! Yes, it’s that easy.

To use this scrub, I’ve used it in the shower. Just get enough to scrub on whatever body part and rinse off with warm water. Your skin will feel so much softer. I’ve read online (but I’m not a scientist or anything), that coffee helps tighten the skin. If anything, it makes your skin feel softer and it smells amazing.

I loved making this with Mila because if it got outside the bowl, it wasn’t a big deal. Plus, I feel like kids connect so much when they can cook with you. She loves putting the ingredients in the bowl and stirring. It was also funny to watch her smell it and have to persuade her not to eat anything!

Tin Can Vases

This is probably the easiest one on the list and it came out SO cute.

All I used was a can I washed out and scrap material. My material was the cover/bag that a sheet set came in. You could use an old shirt or any fabric that you’re wanting to throw away to give it a second life. Just measure how long the fabric needs to be to tie it around and then knot or bow it.

The opportunities on how you do this is endless. I love the way these two came out and am so glad I made them. Once I get another big can, I’ll definitely be making one for myself!

For this project, Mila didn’t technically help with the finished project. Since I was using scissors, I had her practice cutting with her kid’s scissors. She cut a few things then wanted to run around, which gave me time to finish them. This would be a nice project for older kids.

This little vase could be used to store lots of things or fill it up with handpicked flowers or handmade ones…

Bouquet of ‘Flowers’

If you’re scrambling or can’t find any flowers at the store or wherever, handmade flowers are so fun to make with your kids. Mila loves to paint and draw, so it’s a good fit for our little family. You can use different techniques or even have your older child cut flowers out, but I specifically did things age appropriate for Mila.

Fork Flowers– For these little flowers, I had four different paints in little bowls. Mila used a fork (one for each color) as a paint brush. It was different for Mila to use the fork, but she seemed to think it was interesting. She played around with it for about fifteen minutes. I haven’t done this yet, but I’m going to cut little parts of the painting and glue it to pipe cleaners.

Plastic Bottle Flowers– First, I preheated the oven to 250 before I even showed Mila how to color these. There’s so many times I forget to preheat and it takes me so much longer. Then, I used some plastic bottles that were waiting to be recycled and cut the bottoms off. I had Mila use permanent markers to color them. When she was finished, I cut ‘petals’ (slits) and put them on a baking sheet. After, I threw them in the oven to bake for a little while. Honestly, I forgot they were in there and put Mila down for a nap… oops. They didn’t melt and I think they turned out really cute. I’ll either glue these on craft sticks or pipe cleaners to put in the bouquet too.

Mila also wanted to paint her hand, so we’ll use one of these as flowers as well. To fill up the bouquet, you could help draw flowers with your child or even make some out of pipe cleaners. Either way, this will be the cutest bouquet your loved one will get.

Watercolor Cards

This one was a lot of fun to do. I love making handmade cards for people. It just shows so much personality and just that extra little touch.

Mila painted these cards a few days ago. It was a salt technique too, which made the prints seem to have glitter on them. While she napped, I got creative and made more flowers. On the back, I’ll write a little message and have Mila ‘sign’ it too. The opportunities are endless with these and they can be as elaborate as you’d like them to be!

I hope you like these little DIYs. They’re not exclusively for Mother’s Day either! If you decide to do any of them, I’d love see your pictures!

Unexpected Gains: An Adventure in Toddlerhood and Grief.

Okay, so, I’ve already failed writing every day in May.

Instead of writing, like I wanted to, I’ve either been outside, redoing things in my house or making DIY Mother’s Day crafts. With all the stuff happening in the world, it’s still nice to just connect with Mila and me to do heartwork and do the things that make us happy.

This week, we went on a hike. It’s the first one of the year and the first time Mila has been out of town for two months (or however long we’ve been locked down). We both love to be outside and the fresh air was so relieving. There are local trails around us and we drove about twenty minutes to this one, the Norma Johnson Center. We’ve had pictures done there before and it’s such a beautiful location. There were a decent amount of people on the trails, but everyone gave each other space and were friendly too.

While we were walking we had a little project, I saw (online) a color recognition scavenger hunt for toddlers and knew we had to try it. Since Mila is liking more colors than just green, I thought it’d be fun to use this while we walked too. She loved walking to the top of the hill and playing in the little kid area. I loved watching her search for the colors. We found the easy ones first but got stuck on blue. She kept saying blue, blue, blue, over and over again, while she was looking. It was so cute and I could tell she was a little disappointed we didn’t find a blue item.

The colors we did find were perfect. She was so proud of all of them and when we were done with our walk, she wanted to touch them all again and show them off. Watching her learn and just become this little, smart person is one of the best feelings ever.

We probably spent an hour in total out there. It wasn’t terribly long, but it was just what we needed.

When I started writing today, I thought I should look back on the May We All Heal prompt for the day… it’s Unexpected Gains. The days Mila and I have are typically always good. She’s a toddler so she definitely has her moments. Every day with her is a gift. Losing Jensen was the hardest thing I will ever have to go through. Even with all the bad in his death, he and Mila helped me find these unexpected gains. Through grief, I’ve found days where I’m lost in the moment. I still have Jensen in my heart and mentally place him where he should be, that’ll always be the case. But completely unexpectedly, I can value joy and peace again. I never thought I’d get that back. Somehow, they both have gifted me this monumental gain and, really, another chance at living fully.

I would one-hundred percent recommend getting outside and even out of your backyard to give your head some space during this time. We’ve felt rejuvenated since our little hike and it’s given us a little push to get a lot of things done this week. As I said, we’ve worked on some DIY Mother’s Day gifts that I want to post on here, so be on the look out!

Meatless Monday: Tomato and Mozzarella Grilled Cheese

Another week in isolation means another recipe I’m going to share.

I’ve been low-key obsessed with grilled cheese lately. It’s to the point where different cheeses aren’t even cutting it. In my head, I’ve been coming up with different ingredients to add in my routine quarantine grilled cheese. Sure, there’s probably a recipe like this on Pinterest, but this time… it’s all me (totally hyping myself up at this moment).

Without making my head too big, enjoy this quick, easy, and delicious recipe that I know you’ll love too.

Tomato and Mozzarella Grilled Cheese

Ingredients for two sandwiches:

  • Roma Tomato (2)
  • Fresh Mozzarella
  • Bread (4 slices)
  • Butter
  • Italian Seasoning (to taste)
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)
  • Balsamic Vinegar (Optional, but highly recommended)

First things first heat up the pan you’re using while cutting up your mozzarella and tomatoes. I made two sandwiches and used two tomatoes and one ball of fresh mozzarella. Salt and pepper the tomato and cheese for extra taste. Butter one side of each piece of bread (normal with any grilled cheese, obviously right?). To elevate this sandwich, put Italian seasoning on the butter side. That way the flavor sticks to the bread and butter. It just seeps into the bread and might be one of the best parts. Place your bread, butter side down on your pan, and layer your cheese and tomatoes too. I did like three little layers: mozzarella, tomato, mozzarella. It stacked up a little high, but after the first flip, I smashed it down a little bit to make it more manageable. At this point, I did think there might be a melting issue, so I turned my oven on 350 F and took out a baking sheet. After the other piece of bread was grilled, I personally didn’t think my cheese was melted enough, so I popped it into the oven for about five minutes until I thought it was melted to my liking. This is a total preference though, but I felt like it made my sandwich way better. After, I diagonally cut my sandwich and drizzled balsamic vinegar over it.

Mila and I ate these way too fast. She’s not a huge bread person, but she made sure to eat her fair share of tomatoes, cheese, and all the balsamic drizzle. We will definitely make this again in the future and I’m planning on trying it with shredded mozzarella cheese. BUT, I’m going to play around with another grilled cheese recipe in the next few days. Think a little spicier, but (hopefully) just as yummy!

I hope you’re able to try this recipe! I’m so proud of how it turned out and was excited to share it with you guys. Before my next grilled cheese recipe comes out, I have another recipe that I didn’t make meatless, but is adaptable to be meatless. So I’ll be sharing that this coming week. Anyways, let me know if you tried to make this and how you liked it!

A Letter To Bereaved Mother’s Day Past.

Dear Danielle,

It’s been almost exactly four years since your first Bereaved Mother’s Day. I know… it hurts. You’re not sure what happens next or how you’re even supposed to go on after everything has happened. If I could somehow go back in time and just sit with you, I would. I’d listen and let you talk about Jensen, letting you cry or smile or however you felt in those moments. It’s what you needed then and you still need it now.

I’m sorry we had to find out what loss and grief was all about; especially losing him. There’s been so many times in the last year where I’ve thought how I wish I could go back and take those moments for you.

If there’s one thing I’ll always be thankful you did, it’s starting this.

Our memory is awful now; four years of grief will do that to a person. Its been awhile since I went back and read anything from that first year. The way we write… I can read through it now. We’re harder now. When we talk about Jensen or how bad death hurts, it’s a lot more blunt. There’s a blog post we listen to now and they say, “fuck politeness,” pretty often. We’ll get there, I promise. Anyways, I read this post: “Honor Your Motherhood.” Twenty-five whole days of being a mom… you’re doing your best and that’s all that matters.

I remember this was the first time in our life that it was hard to order my thoughts. They rushed around and I couldn’t ever catch them, that doesn’t go away, fyi. So finding a prompt really helped order everything. I’m going to answer them again. Mainly to show future Danielle who’s going through whatever how much we’ve grown and how much she’s grown too.

What does it mean to you to “honor your motherhood?” 

Motherhood has changed since that first year… We have Jensen, and we always will. We’ve experiences loss again. We have Mila now too. Since it’s grown and changed, we honor it differently too.

I’m not sure how it is for people with more than one living child, but for us it’s like having a bigger heart. We have Jensen times and we have Mila times. Mila takes up a lot of our time. When she’s awake we’re focused on her and cleaning and taking care of ourselves and keeping up with family and friends and whatever else there is to do. In some ways, the craziness is a way I honor my motherhood with Mila and Jensen. I know this is how he would want us to keep going. It’s funny because even in the craziness of our life, we can always picture where Jensen would fit in.

Honoring our motherhood with Jensen is still one of the most special things. On that first Bereaved Mother’s Day, you did the things to remind you of him. I love that. You helped put Jensen in every room of our home and on our body too. See, that’s a lot in four years. We were a lot more literal in those early days. It was our way to scream to the world that we had him and he means so much. He still does. We honor our motherhood with him by still saying his name, sharing him with Mila (the way she says his name, the cutest thing), and including him in ways that are special to use, but in quieter ways.

Mixing both parts of our motherhood and just by simply moving onward is honoring our motherhood. There’s been so many setbacks in this time period, but you keep going. If that isn’t a strong mother, I don’t know what is.


What would help you feel like your motherhood is being honored?

I remember being so afraid everyone would forget about Jensen. When we first saw this prompt, we wanted everyone to know about Jensen, not necessarily that we were a mom. I think all moms put their child ahead of their wants and needs, but when there isn’t a child physically there, it’s hard to do that. It’s hard for other’s to see and understand that you’re still constantly thinking about your child and wanting the best for them. Honoring our motherhood then felt like making sure our motherhood was concrete. It was, even without him there in your arms. You’re still a mom. That space you hold in your heart and mind for him make you one.

I’m so sorry he wasn’t there to hold and love on. Just like I’m sorry he’s not playing around the house right now.

Honoring motherhood now… gosh, it’s changed so much, but the core of it remains the same. I think we honor it every day. We show up and do our best, mostly with a smile on our face. Mila’s happy, Jensen will never be forgotten, and we have grown. In the calm moments, we take a step back and realize what we have, what we’ve lost, and where we want to go. Wanting to go forward and keep doing better is the best way we honor our motherhood now.


What can you do today, on Bereaved Mother’s Day, to honor your motherhood?

Since Mila’s been born, it feels like Bereaved Mother’s Day is a day to honor our grief in motherhood. I think the best way to honor and connect with that part of motherhood, I’m setting time aside to sit outside and take in the moment. We’ll say his name and look through his pictures with Mila. Maybe I’ll read more of your posts to honor us and this crazy journey we’ve been on.

If I could end with anything or scream through time, I’d let you know that the version of us that you’re living right now is the strongest one. I think future Danielle would agree too. You, we, I, or whatever is easier to conceptualize, will always be Jensen’s mom. Your motherhood will always be valid and honored. I’m sorry that this had to happen to us, but I’m so thankful he’s ours.

You’re doing amazing.

Love,

Danielle