Dear stressed out mama: Just hang in there

It's been a trying week.

Heck, maybe it's been a trying two minutes. I'm not judging.

You want to throw in the towel. You are wondering what on Earth you got yourself into when you procreated this tiny little human being and doubts are swirling in your head — how did you ever think you'd be good at this whole motherhood thing?

Maybe your baby is two days old, maybe your baby is 14 years old. Regardless of how much time has or hasn't passed, one thing is certain: you are on the verge of breaking down and you're no longer questioning whether or not you're a terrible mother, you KNOW you are.

And it's not enough that you've just succumbed to some of the most berating, intimate and heart-wrenching feelings a mother can have. Now, you're going to slip into the next stage of self-loathing — the one where you think about how much better everyone ELSE is doing as a mother and how you're never, ever going to be able to compare to them. And how unfair that is, because you love your kiddo so much and they deserve so, so, so much more than you, the world's WORST mother, can provide.

But this is where I'm going to stop you. I want you to stop all those thoughts you're having and I want you to focus on that last sentiment. Your mind is in one of the most fragile states it could possibly be in — you feel like you might never stop crying, like you might snap, like you might really be done for good — but you're not actually worried about any of those things, are you? You're not worried about how all those other perfect mothers are going to whisper about you behind your back. You're not worried about having to tell your spouse that you might really be done for good.

No. Instead, you're worried about all of the damaging, scarring things happening to your beautiful, perfect baby because they are stuck with you as a MOM. You're worried about whether they'll be a loving and gentle parent one day to their baby, because maybe you raised your voice too much, let them cry it out too long. You're worried they'll be unable to face the challenges that come their way because you weren't able to be strong and sturdy for them.

You get that? You are worried about THEM, even when your mind is barely grasping at sanity, your mama-bear nature is still buried in there somewhere and is rearing her big ole' stubborn head.

And thank the Lord for that.

I promise you, you're not done. I promise you are not the worst mama in the whole wide world. I promise your child is still going to think YOU make the moon sparkle and the sun shine. I promise this will get easier. I promise this will not be your last battle, there will be many, many more. And I promise you will make it through those, too. Even when you really, really think this might be it, the crying might break you, the tantrums just might win, I promise they won't. I promise you'll remain strong. I promise you'll get through this. Really, you will. I know I'm some stranger on the internet, so you're probably thinking "she doesn't get it, she doesn't know how bad of a mother I really am, she doesn't know, it will not be OK."

It's going to be OK, mama.

The first two weeks of Braeburn's life, I stayed up all hours of the night, sobbing in the dark while I nursed my son. He was SO good at breastfeeding, it was a dream compared to the ordeals we faced with Pearyn. He was such a good baby. He had big, sweet cheeks and all he wanted to do was nuzzle my neck and eat and eat and eat until he passed out. And he wanted to do this every hour. Sometimes, just as I put one breast away, he was ready for another. And while my baby longed for my scent, my touch, I longed to just put him down. Just for an hour or two. I longed for it to be easier. I willed him to sleep more and nurse less.

And when none of those things happened, I sobbed.

I sobbed because I wasn't a good mother; good mothers were excited to be breastfeeding their big, healthy baby boys. I sobbed because my nipples were raw and bleeding, which was further evidence that I wasn't a good mother; good mothers knew how to unlatch their babies from their breasts so they wouldn't be sore. And I sobbed because my perfect little boy had the most imperfect mother.

As mothers, we have this bad habit of idly suffering as we struggle to live up to the standards we think every other mother is soaring past. When in reality, all of us are treading water at some point. In reality, all of us are barely getting by, at some point. In reality, stressed out mama, we've all been exactly where you are right now, at some point. And at some point, you'll be consoling another mother for this very same thing.

Last week was a struggle. Between working, coaching and trying to be everything to everyone, all while smiling, mind you, I found myself down and out. I just needed a minute to myself. Just a break. A quiet, simple minute where I didn't have to think and I could enjoy my coffee in peace. So I hid in my closet. That's right. I'm a 29-year-old mother and I hid in my closet from my two-year-old son. He was riving and screaming and five-minutes deep into a tantrum to end all tantrums and I hid in a closet from him for two minutes so I could take one sip of my coffee without tasting my own salty tears. And then I took a deep breath, put my best mommy face on and picked my child up off the hallway floor just five feet from my closet. We were both worse for the wear, but that wasn't because of my two minute coffee break, it was because we'd been feeling this way for a while and we just had to get it out.

It doesn't ever get easier. You don't just unlock the magic key to solving all of your baby's problems. And even when you're doing an absolutely phenomenal job as a mother, you still think you're failing. No matter how much you're rocking it as a mom, you won't ever realize how amazing you really are.

I promise you, stressed out mama, you ARE amazing. Even if you feel like the world just ate you up, regurgitated you and then chewed you up some more, you ARE amazing.

And this moment you're in right now, where you don't think you're good enough or you're not sure if you'll make it out alive, it's just a moment and it will pass. And even though another one will inevitably come, it will pass too.

And somehow, you'll be on the other end of this letter.

And you'll be telling another stressed out mama that she's going to be OK. That she really is the absolute best mama in the whole wide world for her baby.

Just hang in there.

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Vegan broccoli beer cheese soup ... it's legit folks

The last week has ushered in some serious fall weather. Between the crisp, wispy breeze flowing in through our still-open windows, the leaves which are anything but crunchy (thanks to all the rain we've been having) and the bright yellows, oranges and red dotting the landscape, autumn has taken October by storm.

So in my natural must-eat-according-to-season fashion, I've already started concocting delicious soups and stews to welcome the cool weather with a big, giant, chubby-vegan hug.

Last week, after three straight days of rain and a pleasantly chilly trip to the pumpkin patch once it finally cleared out, I decided the perfect meal to thaw our stomachs with would have to be broccoli and cheese soup.

Here's the thing about broccoli and cheese soup though. It's been done. About a quadrillion times. And only about two different ways. I mean, let's be for reals here. It's a good soup, it's warm and cozy and the kind of comfortable you feel sleeping in your childhood bedroom when visiting home ... but it's not something you want to do all the time. Am I right?

I mean let's be honest, the best part about growing up and having your own home and bedroom is that you don't have to make the bed every single day if you don't want to. In all actuality, I think we make our bed two days a week.

So when coming up with an updated recipe for broccoli and cheese soup, I decided to spice it up a bit. I grabbed a deliciously light IPA (that's a beer in case you're not privy, which I only am because my husband and his friend have eccentric tastes in beverages), and decided to toss it in, I mean why not?

And let me tell you, the results were superb. This soup is creamy (thanks to some yellow potatoes), somehow still lightish feeling, uses one of my favorite veggies ever, the vegan "cheesy" flavor hugs your body in the most perfect way and the added IPA gives you a nice little zip to let you know it's not your run-of-the-mill soup.

Vegan broccoli beer cheese soup
(serves 6-8)
2 cups plain almond milk
2 cups vegetable broth
6 ounces of your favorite ale
5 cups broccoli florets
2 cups yellow potatoes, diced
1 TBS olive oil (for sautéing)
1 medium sweet onion, diced
2 TBS minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 cups Daiya cheddar cheese
Vegan bacon bits to garnish (optional)

In a large stockpot, bring plain almond milk, vegetable stock, six ounces of beer and broccoli florets to a boil. (Once things are boiling bring it down to medium-high heat to keep things cooking). In a smaller pot, bring two cups of diced potatoes to a boil. Once these are cooked (about 10-12 minutes later), puree this in a food processor. While these are heating up, take a skillet and saute the diced up onion and garlic with some olive oil on medium heat until light brown (this took about 10 minutes for us). Add this to the stock pot. Stir in salt and pepper. Mix in potato puree. Stir in Daiya really well until melted. Cook soup for another 10-15 minutes, until broccoli reaches desired consistency (we like ours smooshy). Serve with a monster salad or some little crunchy breads. 

Eat and enjoy tomorrow, too.

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Warm bread salad (it's real and it's delish)

Something momentous happened last night.

I ate a salad. And I was satisfied. And warm. And content.

I never feel that way after eating salads.

Even when I eat big salads with chick peas and loads of veggies, I still find myself famished a few hours later. I don't know if it's just my mind playing tricks on me or if my stomach wants to keep its few extra pounds, but I always want more more more after I eat some cold greens.

In an attempt to declutter my house, I got rid of all these Food Network magazines I'd been holding onto. I love using their weeknight meals for ideas to veganize, so I tore out a bunch of them and recycled the 10 months of recipes I'd been clinging too.

I came across a recipe for "warm bread salad" and almost tossed it into the recycling bin as well. But I decided hey, let's keep it, maybe it'll make a good fast and easy meal.

I have to be honest here, I didn't actually look at the recipe at all. It called for stale bread and frying peppers and cheese, things which I don't even know if we have in our area stores, so I just made up our own warm bread salad.

And it was warm. And delicious. And I didn't want to eat 14 cupcakes after it.


I encourage you to add this to the mix - you won't be disappointed! These were the add-ins we used, but the beauty of this is how simple it is to customize to whatever you're in the mood for or have on hand!

Warm bread salad
(serves four)
One head romaine lettuce
One head Boston lettuce
2 carrots
1/2 a medium onion
5 small sweet peppers
1 ready-to-bake baguette of whole grain bread (we had the skinny long kind)
1 jar large black olives (use as many per salad as you'd like)
1/2 block Daiya jalapeño garlic wedge of cheese
Balsamic vinegar (enough to drizzle)
Dressing to top (we used a balsamic one as well)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Tear bread into small pieces and place on a greased baking sheet. Cut sweet peppers into pieces (ours were about the size of a quarter) and place on baking sheet. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until it begins to crisp up and brown. Dice up all the lettuce and onion. Shred two carrots and mix all these together in a large bowl. Chop up 1/2 block of Daiya and set aside. Once salad bread and peppers are ready, serve salad and place bread, peppers and Daiya on top. Enjoy. And be satisfied. FROM A SALAD!

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Being thankful

Close to a year ago, when we first moved into our current home, we finally had enough space to have a real, grown up, dedicated dining room. (Who am I kidding, regardless that I'm just a few months shy of turning 30, very few things in my life are truly "grown up.")

We barely had the dishes unpacked before we started sitting down to dinner as a family. And because we closed on our first home EVER the day before Thanksgiving, we spent our actual holiday eating cold stuffing and some variety of Tofurky while sitting on the dirty kitchen floor of the house we were leaving behind.

We had so so so much to be thankful for, but we couldn't find the time to really BE thankful. We were busy sticking all those things we were thankful for into boxes, taping them up and then moving them around. And so even though it's not Thanksgiving, we have a habit of ending our day by talking about everything we're thankful for.

Before I settled into bed tonight, my daughter cozied into my arm and told me how thankful she was to get to snuggle with me at bedtime. And suddenly, those few nights a week I moan and groan because she should be spending far more nights in her OWN bed and not in the "big bed" (aka, my husband and I's king-size bed that is usually inhabited by one of our offspring or a furball more than it's not), they didn't seem to matter. Because it's not going to be like this forever. She's not going to want to snuggle with me forever.

As we huddled under the covers, she asked me what I was thankful for. I paused for a moment as I recalled the events over the past week; it was certainly a trying one. It wasn't hard to nail down the culprit, but it was the compilation of lots of little things that made everything seem bigger than it had to be. So I told her I was thankful for our family. For her daddy, her bubby, our fur babies and of course, her.

And she sat up, grabbed my face and told me she was thankful for her family too. But that wasn't all. She was thankful for everyone in her whole WORLD.

I asked her what she meant by her whole world and she looked at me quizzically. How could I NOT know who her whole world was. So she told me. It meant all her memaws and papaws, her aunts, uncles and cousins, Kara (our phenomenal high school babysitter), Kenzie and Gavin (oh and of course their mommy and daddy too) and all the people at her school, all the people who help her at gymnastics and mommy's best friend Chelle who came to visit (because she makes mommy smile a lot).

Isn't it amazing how something so simple and easy to a preschooler can be so much deeper to you? I started to realize how thankful I should be for the people in MY world, rather than bogged down with the anxiety some things might bring. Being a mother and wife is difficult, but they're also the two roles that keep my world spinning. And they've made me so much closer to the other people in my world. I have such a large, wonderful world of people. From my own family to my work "family," I need these people in my day-to-day life. Not just to get tasks done or for babysitting, but because they fill a little piece of my world. And my girlfriends, they're so, so, so much a part of my world that without them I'm not sure it would remain spinning. And surprisingly, the group of girls I'm blessed to coach. Sure, I want to pull my hair out from time to time because they can't seem to see the amazing talent they have, but you know what? They keep me young. And they make me laugh. And they keep me on my toes. In the best possible way.

Our worlds are made up of so much more than just jobs, houses, bills or things that we have to do. The more diverse and big and welcome we make our world, the more amazing things we'll have to be thankful for.

Or at least, that's what my daughter seems to think. And I can't help but wonder if she's the teacher and I'm the one who should be learning.

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Vegan butterscotch coconut thumbprint cookies

Happy FIRST day of FALL!

Little factoid about me? Fall is hands down my absolute favoritst time of year. SO much my favorite that I actually make up words to describe how utterly fantabulous it is. (It's OK if I make up words, I was an English major, so when we graduate we receive a card that allows us to do this).

No but for reals, we're all giddy with excitement for the changing colors, the fall smells, the bonfires, football games with friends, haunted hayrides and pumpkin-infused everything!

But before we bust out all things pumpkin, which, well, we've done a lot around here, I've got one fabulous cookie up my sleeve that says farewell to summer and all of its awesomeness, while welcoming fall with a warm bear hug.

Now there's one trick about this recipe. In order to give it the shazam it needs, you're going to have to hop on the internet and buy something you may not have bought in a very, very long time. Vegan butterscotch chips. Yes, they exist, yes they're worth the $5 price tag for a 10-ounce jar. Don't overthink it. I usually order these with a bit batch of stuff from VeganEssentials when getting all my Christmas Cookie needs (yes, I do that in like, September. I'm prepared!)

The butterscotch is essential in this recipe as it plays off the subtle coconut notes and then gives in to a chocolate drizzle in the most perfect way EVER. Seriously, you're so welcome for this awesome little cookie.

Vegan butterscotch coconut thumbprint cookies 
(Makes 24 smallish, but oh-so-good cookies)
1/2 cup vegan butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup applesauce
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
10-ounce jar vegan butterscotch chips
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, cream together softened vegan butter, sugar and applesauce. Add salt, baking powder and coconut flakes. Stir in flour. Roll cookie dough into one-inch balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. Squish them down a little bit and make an indent in the middle with your thumb (they should still be about 1/2 inch thick or a little less when you are done with them, don't squish them flat!) Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the edges turn golden. 

Allow to cool on a rack. Once cookies are cool, melt the vegan butterscotch chips in a microwave-safe bowl. Cook on small increments, taking out and stirring frequently (you don't want to overcook them!) Using a small spoon (or a baby one if you have it handy!), smooth melted butterscoth chips into the cookies' indentations. Allow to cool. 

To give these cookies some serious pizzazz, melt vegan chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl (the same way you did the butterscotch chips). Spoon melted chocolate into a ziplock bag and cut a small tip off one corner. Squeeze chocolate over cookie in a zigzag pattern. 

Enjoy. Share. Impress. Hug fall. These cookies do it all. (I also use my English degree to rhyme). 

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