October 20, 2016

Four Reasons Moms Are Nuts

One of my favorite things about blogging is that it sometimes hands me a "me, too" moment.

As in, "Wow, I'm not the only person who can't stand it when the kitchen towel hems don't line up?!" (Yes, my friend Lisa the Syncopated Mama and I know this is a little Sleeping With the Enemy-ish, but it's how we are.)

Or, "Thank goodness there's someone else out there who hates working out and mopping but loves brownies."

The latter "me, too" moment happened when I met Christine the "Real Mom," and now you can have one of those moments, too, because Christine has graciously put together this guest post. Check out her wit and wisdom, and then make up a big ol' pan of her Peanut Buster Parfait Dessert. 

What's that? You want a piece RIGHT NOW? Me, too.

Ok, moms. Let’s admit it. We are all nuts. Seriously: certifiably off-our-rockers crazy. Let me tell you why…

1. We sign up for pregnancy. Did we not think this all the way through? Morning sickness, swollen feet, swollen legs (oh, who am I kidding—swollen EVERYTHING!), giant belly, food aversions, stretch marks, varicose veins. And how the baby comes out?? Oh dear. We really didn’t think this thing through. And yet, we willingly do what it takes for this to happen to us. Nuts.

2. We work for free. Who else would willingly do what we do?  Motherhood is a full-time job and yet we don’t get paid a dime to do it. Not. One. Dime.  Not even a penny. And yet, day-in and day-out, we cook, we clean, we do laundry, we pay bills, we sweep, we claim to mop (but who really does that anymore?), we change diapers, we get spit up on, and we view showering and going to the bathroom by ourselves as terrific feats for the day. And some of us do all of this on top of another job. Totally nuts.

3. We give and we give and we give and we expect little in return. Do you know anyone more selfless than a mom? So much of our time and energy goes into being a mom that we barely have time for ourselves. We give so much of our time caring for the basic needs of our children (which we don’t get paid for), but we also give our love and compassion and life lessons and kindness and honesty and integrity and security and value and empathy and sympathy and patience. We give our whole hearts to our kids. And we do it willingly and without pay and sometimes without any appreciation…and often with a smile on our faces. Completely nuts.

4. We would do it all over again. Ok, so I’m not this money-hungry-motherhood-is-horrible-why-do-we-give-give-give mom at all. I went through five years of infertility before I became a mom, so motherhood is a very special gift to me. But it’s pretty funny that we willingly put our bodies through the ringer. We give so much of who we are into raising a new generation of human beings. We don’t get paid even a dull penny for anything we do, and yet, we would do it all over again. None of these things seem to stop us. I know…I’ve done it three times myself. And I seem to get crazier and more nuts with each kid, too. No pregnancy woes, no birth process, no lack of pay, and no give-until-you’re-exhausted factor seems to stop us. Hmmmmmmm. The only explanation? We are all absolutely nuts.

That’s right. We are all nuts, moms.

Nuts about our kids.
Crazy in love with being their mom.
Certifiably off-our-rockers on fire for being the best moms God created us to be.
Let’s never apologize for how nuts we are. We’re all in this together!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to celebrate my craziness with the best Peanut Buster Parfait Dessert in the world and eat it alone…in my closet…hiding from my kids…whom I love dearly…with extra chocolate sauce and, of course, nuts on top.

Peanut Buster Parfait Dessert {print}

1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
2/3 cups or more chocolate chips (But who really needs to measure? Who’s ever heard of too much chocolate? Just pour them in!)
1/2 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 package sandwich cookies (Oreos)
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream
1 1/2 cups (or more) Spanish peanuts

1. Crush cookies (I use a potato masher) in a 9 x 13 pan. Add 1/2 cup melted butter. Stir well with a fork and press into the pan. Put in freezer while you make the chocolate sauce.
2. In a sauce pan, combine evaporated milk, 1/2 cup butter, chocolate chips and powdered sugar. Bring to a boil. **Get ice cream out now and let it thaw a bit** Cook chocolate sauce for 8 minutes, stirring constantly. Then add vanilla. Remove from heat and let stand.
3. Remove cookie crust from freezer. Add a layer of Spanish peanuts and drizzle generously with some chocolate sauce. Spread on softened ice cream.
4. Add another layer of Spanish peanuts and more chocolate sauce. You will have plenty so use as much as desired (or save some to serve warm over the dessert). Freeze for several hours before serving. ENJOY!

Guilty Chocoholic Mama note: I make this version of chocolate sauce, which is similar but lets me save a little butter for my next batch of brownies:

Chocolate Sauce 2
2 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons butter
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk 
1 1/3 cups chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine all ingredients except vanilla in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high power for 3 minutes. Whisk, then microwave on medium-high for 3 minutes. Stir again, and continue cooking on medium-high until the mixture boils enthusiastically and thickens, stirring every couple minutes or so. Now is NOT the time to walk away from your microwave and get sucked into some BuzzFeed quiz about what kind of Pop-Tart you are. Remove from microwave and stir in the vanilla. Cool just enough so you can do quality-assurance testing without burning your tongue. Use as specified in building your dessert; save remaining sauce to warm and spoon over individual pieces of the dessert when you serve it. It's that whole hot/cold, creamy/crunchy, frozen/melty thing that you'll really go nuts for.

CHRISTINE LEEB is known as the “Real Mom." She is a speaker, writer, Christian Life Coach, and the founder of 4Real Moms—an organization encouraging moms to be real while helping them be the best moms God created them to be. She has three beautiful (and exhausting) children and has been married to her husband, Brad, for almost 16 wonderful (and challenging) years.She enjoys garage sale-ing, brownie eating, friendship keeping, book reading, family tickling, and husband dating. She is the author of the devotional In His Light: Facing Fear with Faith, and her newest ebook is Meal-Planning for the Mom Who Hates Meal-Planning. For more encouragement and resources, visit her website at www.4realmoms.com

October 6, 2016

Dear Children: 25 Things I Think You Need to Know

My Dearest Daughters,

Yesterday, you were babies, but today you are young women. When or how that happened, I have no idea, but it did, which means there is a very real possibility you will be out on your own in fewer years than you've been living in this house. 

I am far from being the wisest mom you could have ended up with, but I have tried to impart some sage advice to you while I've had the chance. And by "impart some sage advice," I mean, "I've told you such-and-such a bunch of times in the hopes you were paying attention at least one of those times so that you might remember such-and-such when I'm not on hand to say it again."

Here, in no particular order, are some of the things I've told you...for easy future reference should you need a refresher course. (If not for yourselves, then for my grandchildren. Many, many years from now. Many.)

1. Just because something is good to do doesn't mean it's good to do right now. A season for everything, my sweets...a season for everything.

2. On a math test, make sure you've answered the question that's actually being asked, in the right format. If there are five steps to solving a problem, don't finish four of them and get all excited and move on to the next question. And if your answer is supposed to be in feet or in a fraction, don't scrawl 5cm or 0.25 and call it good.

3. Stain removal 101: cold water for blood and chocolate. Also, Dawn dish soap is great for getting out grease.

4. When baking, check for doneness early. You can always add time, but you can't take it away. And you just simply have to pull brownies out while your brain is screaming, "These cannot possibly be done!" They're not. Which is how they should be.

5. God isn't going to hold you responsible for the actions or decisions of other people. You just worry about what He wants you to do in a given situation, and that will keep you plenty busy. For, oh, EVER.

6. Grammar round-up: 1)Affect=verb, effect=noun. Such as, "That movie affected me deeply, and the effect was that I cried for an hour." 2)Apostrophes show contraction or possession. If you want the grammar police's approval and you're not showing contraction or possession, don't use an apostrophe. 3) You lay something else down, but you lie down yourself...as in, "I'm going to lay this boring book on the table and then I'm going to lie down and take a nap." 

7. When buying lemons or limes or oranges or grapefruit, pick heavy over light. More weight means more juice. Which you want.

8. If God wants you to do it, He will help you to do it. But/and, if God isn't in it, you need to get out of it.

9. When buying chocolate, the following words are good: cocoa butter and cocoa liquor (which has nothing to do with alcohol). The following words are bad: hydrogenated oil. Bad chocolate is sad, whereas good chocolate will change your life for the better.

10. When you are tired, make yourself breath deeply, drink more water, and get natural light into your eyes.

11. The best gifts show the person you're giving them to that you've paid attention when that person has mentioned what they like and don't like. Bonus points if those gifts don't require maintenance, storage, or dusting.

12. "Right is right though all condemn, and wrong is wrong though all approve" (Charles Spurgeon). Or, put another way, right is right even if no one else is doing it, and wrong is wrong even if everyone else is doing it. 

13. Hand sanitizer will get ink and Christmas tree sap off your hands (along with, purportedly, 99.9% of germs...yes, Anna, our little germophobe, I know you dispute this).

14. When you're cooking pasta, don't forget to save some of the cooking liquid to use later if you need to unstick your noodles or thin a sauce or do any number of other pasta-y things.

15. Always buy unsalted butter. That way, you have a say in how much salt ends up in whatever you're making.

16. Practice rarely makes perfect, but it often makes possible. And preparation can be stronger than nerves. 

17. Don't be afraid of being a little nervous before you perform or do something else you don't do every day. Your nerves are just telling you that you're getting ready to do something amazing and out-of-the ordinary--which is why you don't get nervous before you brush your teeth. Remember: "anxiety is just a glimpse of your own daring" (Maria Shriver). Dare to be daring, my darlings.

18. As often as possible, try to "disrupt the world with grace" (Shane Claiborne).

19. If you're thinking something nice about someone, tell them! Don't let the thought stay stuck in your head. The world needs more encouragers.

20. I've borrowed a bunch of my mom advice from Ma Ingalls. The darkest hour is just before dawn? There's no great loss without some small gain? See "Ma(Ma) Always Said."

21. If you're making a recipe that tells you to beat egg whites to stiff peaks, make sure there isn't a single drop of egg yolk or any oil in the bowl or on the beaters. Egg whites and fat do not play nicely together. When in doubt, wipe down the bowl and beaters with a paper towel dowsed with white vinegar.

22. There is no substitute for homemade frosting

23. Don't settle for God as a spoke on your life's wheel. Make Him the hub.

24. Life is not about perfection. It's about process and progress.

25. I like you. I love you. And being your mom has been one of the greatest joys and privileges of my entire life.


What's one thing you want your children to know, mama? 
Share it in a comment or over on Facebook.

**This post may have been shared at some of these blog bashes.**

September 21, 2016

8 Ways to Fight Mom Exhaustion (Other Than Actually Getting More Sleep)

The birth of my nephew--the second child of my brother and sister-in-law--took some time to happen, when it came down to it. 

I talked to my brother shortly after the eventual arrival of his son, and new-dad-second-time-around commented that he and my SIL had racked up some sleep debt waiting for the grand event. 

"He's just been born," my brother said, "and we're already in the hole."

"You are a parent," I told him. "You will NEVER get out of the hole."

I just love (insert dripping sarcasm) articles that advise moms to combat exhaustion by getting more sleep. People, please. We know we need sleep. We know this has to be a priority for our own good and the good of our families. We know there is no substitute for adequate rest. 

But if the care and keeping of the human race depended on moms being well-rested, we'd all have become extinct generations ago. Instead, moms rely on a few time-tested tips and tricks for powering through days in a daze of exhaustion.

Here are eight standbys that have kept me going for almost two decades. 

1. Daylight. Get yourself outside, mama, and look toward the horizon. Don't look directly at the sun, of course, but look to the light and open your eyes wide to let it in. While I do this, I like to say, in my most convincing voice, "I am well-rested and got a great night's sleep!"--in hopes of tricking my brain into coming on board with this line of thinking. 

My Dr. Mom take on this is that natural (outdoor) light travels in through your eyes and gets to work on your brain and your body's circadian rhythms...your personal internal clock. Natural light (as opposed to artificial indoor light) tells your brain and body, "It's time to be awake! Being awake is what is supposed to happen right now! Awake is how you want to be!"

2. Exercise. If you've read the little bio blurb near the top of this page, you know I am the former president of SAG (Students Against Gym) and the LAST person in the world who's going to tell you that a nice 7-mile run is better than any amount of sleep. And I know that using energy to get energy might seem like crazy-talk. But getting yourself moving really does help fight mom exhaustion better than almost anything else, and you don't have to like doing it for it to work. 

I'm not talking about training for a marathon here. I will, in fact, never be talking about training for a marathon here. (If that's your thing, God bless you. It's just not my thing. It couldn't actually be more an unthing to me.) Just move somehow. Do jumping jacks in the living room. Dance with your baby. Go outside and put one foot in front of the other and try to work up to a pace where conversation would be challenging. (Given the sleep debt that got you out there in the first place, conversation might already have been challenging, but you know what I mean.) Tell yourself you'll give it 10 minutes and then you can quit if you want to. 

If you've never gotten in the habit of regular exercise, it will probably take some fits and starts to make it something you don't have to decide about every day. Just keep on keeping on. The habit will come, and it will be worth it. Not only will you feel more alert, but expert-type people are always saying exercise is the surest cure-all for, oh, everything that ails the human race. And remember what I said: you don't have to like doing it for it to work. 

3. Hydration. Here's how I look at it: if you body is not adequately hydrated, it has to work harder to do all the stuff it needs to do. Working harder makes you feel more tired. WHICH is already a problem to begin with. If you're going to have to ask your brain and body to function on less-than-ideal quality and quantity of sleep for, um, EVER, at least water it well. If you want to flavor-up your water without drinking bits and pieces of fruit, try an infuser option like this one. Drink up, mamas. (Okay, you know what I mean.)

4. Coffee (or green tea). I took up coffee when I had my second child and gave up sleeping. In the interest of full disclosure, I do not so much drink coffee as I drink coffee-flavored creamer. For me, coffee is a caffeine delivery system. I know my sugar-free French vanilla creamer is evil, but there are worse kinds of evil, like me without my daily cup of caffeinated comfort. I do have to jump in here with this bit of scientific justification from Chris Kilham, founder of Medicine Hunter, Inc. (www.medicinehunter.com), who says about coffee that "aside from water, it's the healthiest beverage you can drink" (Real Simple magazine, June 2015). Coffee's caffeine plus its antioxidants and magnesium ups heart health, reduces the risk of various cancers and neurodegenerative disorders, and cuts your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. That's all I'm saying. If coffee doesn't work for you, green tea also offers an energy boost with benefits.

5. Peppermint oil. Prized for its powers of invigoration. I'm sure essential oil fans will chime in with options for accessing these powers, but in the meantime, here are a couple things you can pick up next time you run out to the drug store. 

6. Laughter. Being tired is stressful. Laughter reduces and releases stress. It'll come as no surprise to anyone who's read my blog before (thanks, mom!) that I recommend starting with Anita Renfroe and Tim Hawkins.

7. Deep breathing. When your breathing becomes shallow, you end up with "bad air" floating around your system. And when you are chronically exhausted (see "motherhood"), the last thing you need is more bad anything. Force yourself to fully exhale through your mouth, then breathe in slowly through your nose. Hold that breath for a few seconds, then exhale fully again. Bad air out, good air in. I'm not saying this is any kind of substitute for 8 hours of uninterrupted, REM-cycle sleep, but as with hydration, you've got to help your body out as much as you can while you're asking it to work overtime for 18 years straight.

8. Chocolate. If there's a way for me to include chocolate in a list here on Guilty Chocoholic Mama, I'm going to do it. But this is legit: caffeine plus flavonoids plus antioxidants plus mood-enhancing powers. It's your call, of course, but if I'm going to have to give up sleep, I'm going to fill in at least a few of the gaps with extra helpings of my favorite food group.

I'll leave you with this recipe for my favorite "Mama Mocha." It hits chocolate and caffeine and hydration. If I breathe deeply in between sips and drink it while I stand outside looking wide-eyed at the horizon, I just might be able to make it to my next nap.

Mama Mocha:
1 cup milk (from whatever source you prefer: cow, nut, Nigerian dwarf goat...)
sweetener to taste (I use a packet of Stevia)
about a tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
a couple teaspoons (or more) instant coffee granules (sorry, all you French-pressing coffee purists out there)
decorations (whipped cream, chocolate syrup, cinnamon, chocolate chips...if you're that sort of mom, which I am)

Get your milk piping hot. In a mug, mix the rest of the ingredients. Gradually stir in the hot milk, then whip it around with a fork to froth it a little. Decorate if/as desired. 

What are your best energizing tips, mama? 
Share them here in a comment or over on Facebook
And someday soon, may a full night's sleep be yours.  

**This post may have been shared at some of these blog bashes.**