The (al)most wonderful time of the year

**I wrote this Thursday night with a broken heart. Filled with guilt and loathing for myself and the place my heart has stood this entire season. I didn't edit a single thing, so if it's a ramble, it's going to be a ramble. But like most things I write, it's honest and raw. Thanks for reading.**

I laid under my beloved Christmas tree tonight and cried for a half hour. I cried because my beautiful babies have put gifts under the tree for me. Because I haven't had the chance to wrap a single gift. They must think I have forgotten about them. I cried because I wrote a post earlier, that I didn't publish about how truly unhappy I am. How I wish there were sixty more days until Christmas instead of six. How I feel like a spoiled child and a deprived one at the same time. I laid under my beautiful and bright Christmas tree and cried, wept, balled for all the reasons I am sad, and all the reasons I'm a horrible person for being sad. All the reasons I'm blessed and should just be happy for those reasons. And all the reasons I just can't even breathe anymore.

I miss my old life. The crazy one. The one I felt was such a sacrifice at the time. I was so stupid and naive. I was so totally spoiled, ruined by my own privilege. I miss the school parties, I miss the scout meetings, I miss the diaper changes, the midnight feedings, I miss the little people holding out their hands for my hand. The only one they would have. I miss the days filled with ease and procrastination. The days that stretched into others, mulling into one big day, good or bad, happy or sad. My days now are a blur, of this, that, and the other. Days that have passed me so quickly I can't remember what I did last week, let alone last month.

This is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, and I have cried for most of it. But what am I really crying about? I have my children, in the crook of my arm. They are here, happy, healthy, spoiled. They are loving and happy to see me and clingy. Oh, so clingy. They have lists for Santa, presents for me, they have cookies to bake and eat, and stocking hung that will get filled. I have my husband who loves me anyway which is saying a lot these days. Actually is saying a lot for this year. And yet, here I am, under my tree, laptop in lap, crying and writing, and having every emotion this side of a holiday breakdown.

I've tried to explain to most people that I'm not unhappy with my life, I'm unhappy with the circumstance. You do anything for so long and it will eventually burn you out, it will eventually choke you. I feel like I'm on a hamster wheel. Running, running, running, to nowhere and everywhere. When I look in the mirror, when I look at my life right here, right now, I'm struggling with the circumstance alone. I'm simply struggling with the situation. The situation being that I cannot do all the things I would like. I can't even make a list to perhaps do some of them. I'm so overwhelmed by life and by responsibility that I literally can't even. And not in a funny "instagram" way, but in a very real, this is my life and what do I do next kind of way.

Last night we made gingerbread cookies for Caitlin's class party. And the girls started talking about how many days until Christmas, when I realized that in one week it would be Christmas Eve. When I told them that in one week we would be at Gigi's opening gifts, by voice broke. My eyes filled with tears, because as hard as I tried, I still feel I've missed almost the entire holiday season. Even though I've had Christmas coming out of my ears since October at work, I've missed the most important part, Christmas with my family.

The spoiled brat in me didn't want to create new traditions this year. I wanted everything to be the same, but I didn't even get the chance to start new traditions. Basically I just left the old ones. In the closet. On the shelf. In a forgotten box somewhere. We didn't craft much. We baked a couple of times. I made only three dozen tamales, on the fly, not nearly enough for my entire family, who asked for them. I tried to hold on to the old traditions, but sadly had to admit it just wasn't going to happen. I had to let them go, kiss them good-bye.

Many would say, just let this shit go. Just lump it along with all the other things that don't matter. But they do matter, to me. The crafting, the baking, the tamales, the photo books, the Elf on the Shelf, all of those things matter to me. All of those things have collectively broken my heart because I couldn't find a way to do them all. I could barely find the time to be mom, wife, assistant manager, et al.

It's six days until Christmas and I'm a hot mess. My heart is full of chaos and emotion, and still, I don't wish for Christmas to be over. I don't want it to come quickly. But it will. It is. It's on the fast approach to landing in my lap before I'm ready. Will all the Christmases be like this eventually? Because the girls are getting older, and I'm getting older? Was this what it was like for my mother? One year I was five, then ten, then fifteen, then thirty-six? I should ask her, but I'm afraid of the truth.

I feel so ruined and ungrateful. I feel like I have so many things to be thankful and grateful for. I feel like there are already so many Christmas blessing to be celebrated, even if a single gift doesn't get wrapped. Before I laid under the tree, I was laying with Mac in her bed. While she told me silly, made up stories about her day. While she whispered I love yous, I thought about all the things I was thankful for, all the things that are truly blessings.

Things like:
Little hands to hold, when they are sticky and sweaty.
Cold noses at school drop off.
Silly jokes told again and again.
Washing Caitlin's hair and then braiding it before bed. 
Making cookies, even the big ones, made with warm dough, too many sprinkles, and
have the burned edges no one will eat. 
Sitting on the couch watching whatever Christmas special is on. 
When they whisper I love you.
The "gifts" under the tree.
The stories they tell each other. 
The way my husband covers me with the blanket when he comes to bed.
The texts from him that make me laugh.
The light of the Christmas tree I just had to have, that allows me to type this now.

The quiet in this moment as I reflect on this almost wonderful time of the year.

In six days, it will all be over. And I'll be looking onward to the new year ahead. And I hope by then the silver lining will have revealed itself. That the grace will have washed over me, as undeserving as I am to receive it. It is my hope, my prayer, that I will one day look back and in my reflection see that it was indeed the most wonderful part of twenty fourteen.

Gluten Free Gingerbread is not scary

My oldest went gluten free about two months ago and it's been a mostly positive experience. It sucks that she can't eat her regular corn dogs and chicken strips at her favorite restaurants, but she has been requesting to take salads in her lunch. I'll call it like I see it and say that's a win. I've been gluten free since 2002, grain free/paleo since 2011, so this wasn't the hardest transition in the book. We had to buy things like GF oreos and cornflakes (Kellogg's is not GF), and we had to learn to like things like corn tortillas and settle for Fritos at snack shack. All in all it's been a great experience.

Until her second grade class decided to make gingerbread houses for the Christmas party. Making a need for things like gingerbread cookies (scary) and GF graham crackers (remotely scary).

I knew there were GF graham crackers available, I found mine at Whole Foods. They are about four dollars a box, but that is totally worth it so I don't have to make them from scratch. I found mine at Whole Foods, you can also get them on Amazon, here. They are good and Caitlin loved them. So the GF graham crackers were bought, but then what about actual ginger bread cookies?

Pinterest to the rescue. I have a GF board, and I pin all kinds of goodies and real food to it when I'm in the neighborhood. I just did a search for GF gingerbread and found this easy recipe from Nicole Ritchie. Yes, Nicole Ritchie. Is it bad that I thought, "Well hell, if Nicole can make them so can I"?. The recipe is super simple, even the boiling of the molasses and the butter on the stove. I promise, if I can do it, so can you. And the boiling part took less time than the cooling to room temp part.

Once the dough was chilled and ready to roll it was sturdy, much sturdier than any gluten free sugar cookie I've made. The dough held well and was easy to cut out, and they are a quick bake. Eight minutes tops. I chilled my dough overnight because I mixed it so late on Tuesday, that a two hour chill was putting us close to bath time. If you decide to chill overnight, please, let your dough sit on the counter for a good twenty minutes before you try to roll it out. You will break a nail, if not your hand. It hardens up real good. Almost too good.

Nicole Richie’s Gluten-Free Gingerbread Cookies
2½ cups gluten-free baking flour ( I used Pamela's)
1½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup molasses (it's by the pancake syrup)
½ cup solid shortening (I used butter because I didn't have shortening, it was fine.)

1. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon. Set aside.
2. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine molasses and shortening and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
3. Stir the dry ingredients into the cooled molasses/shortening mixture until a thick dough forms. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 2 hours. **I chilled overnight.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Turn out dough onto a well-floured surface, roll to about ¼-inch thick and cut out shapes using cookie cutters. Place on cookie sheet and bake for about 8 minutes, or slightly less if you like your gingerbread soft.

**Notes from me: if you have dairy issues, try Earth Balance shortening. It works really well in GF baking. 

See, gluten free gingerbread is not scary. I totally thought it was scary before I tried to do it. It just seems like one of those kinds of things that require days and hours in the kitchen. Nope, just some molasses, butter, and a rolling pin. I promise, If I can do this, SO CAN YOU. It's not scary, it's delicious.

Enjoy, and happy GF eating.

In a year...

In a year...

This was once my mantra. Those first few years of motherhood. When I was knee deep in it, sleep deprived and stuck, I would tell myself that in a year things would be better. Caitlin would be older. She would sleep better, eat better, I'd manage things better. In a year I'd be a better mother. And then the next year would come, and with it more obstacles, complications, and bumps in the road.

Still, I told myself that in a year it would be better. Others told me too. The knowing "grandmas" at the grocery stores, "Don't blink or you'll miss it". The other mothers with children older than mine, "They will grow out of that". The mothers with children the same age as mine, "It's a phase, I'm sure of it". All the while giving me that false sense of security that in time all that crap that weighed me down would reconcile itself.

This time last year I was knee deep in it again. With my first born, who I've with struggled since day one. This time last year we were in a place where anxiety and fear took over every bit of our days. Her anxiety and fear, my misunderstanding and sometimes disapproval. This time last year she cried every morning on the way to school, as if a switch had been flipped sometime around Thanksgiving. She refused to go to music class, refused to participate in the Holiday program, and out right refused to attend school the day of the program in fear that someone would make her participate anyway. And when I say refuse, I mean hysterical crying with whole body shakes. It was a sight. And it was something I didn't know how to handle.

This time last year, her and I fought constantly. To the point where one of us, or both of us, were reduced to tears, then screaming, then resigned to guttural animal noises. I'm not proud to say that, or even admit it, but it's true. It was supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but I'll be honest with you, it was also the most confusing when it came to Caitlin. How did we go from loving school and music class, to hot mess express in just a few weeks time? To this day we still do not know what caused that anxiety and fear.

It's been a year. In fact last Thursday was the annual Holiday Program at school. In the weeks leading up to the program, I listened to my daughter practice "Blue Christmas" in her bedroom. I took her shopping for a new dress. Grandma took her shopping for new shoes. We found the perfect headband. And all the while I was saying silent prayers that nothing would tip the scales the other way. I prayed that anxiety and her bitch friend fear would keep their filthy mouths shut. Because my girl was excited and ready, and couldn't stop talking about how much fun it was going to be.

We made it to Thursday. At breakfast she mentioned a poem that she was reading with two of her friends. It was the first I had heard of it. I asked her what it was about and she said Hanukkah. She was excited and talkative and really wanted me to post her dress on Instagram. I let out a sigh of relief. And thought... What a difference a year makes.

Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the program to find my daughter in the front row off to the right. In front of a microphone, with two of her friends. She looked a little nervous, and I worried for her, and then worried more for me. But when she saw us (Me, Daddy, Grandma Linda, and Grandma Kathy) she had smiles for all of us. The program began with "Blue Christmas" and I teared up. It took everything I had not to cry big fat happy and sad tears. Because so much changes in a year.

I had to hold my breath for most of the performance because if I had allowed myself to breathe I would have cried like a baby. I was so proud and so happy for her. Happy that anxiety and fear had not gotten the best of her this year. Happy and proud that she led the entire second grade in a Hanukkah poem, with two of her friends, at the microphone, in front of a packed cafeteria. Happy and proud that she was so happy, comfortable, and proud of herself. That she basked in the light of being on stage and did a fantastic job. I was so happy and proud that she knows what that feels like.

But some of those tears were for sadness too. Because so much changes in a year. She went up a size in clothes this year, up a reading level in school. She makes her own lunch and picks out her own clothes, and sometimes would rather hang with dad than mom. Because for so long I just wanted to get to the other side of that year. The one that was hard, the one I felt like I couldn't get through, and then when I did get through I was left wondering if I savored every bit. If I enjoyed every moment, learned from every misstep, valued every lesson. I've learned so much from having Caitlin as my daughter because she taught me that no matter the challenge there is joy in every step. Joy in every misstep. Joy in every part of the journey. Even if I'm blind to it at the time, it's there for me when I'm ready.

Sunday night Caitlin brought me a book she wrote for me using computer paper, tape, and markers. The book is dedicated to Me, Daddy, and Kenzie, it opens the wrong way, and it's only four pages long. It's the best gift I've gotten this year because of these three lines,

"Wuns upon a time there was two people who had a baby.
She was perfect.
Everything was perfect."

And again, I cried. Because it is the absolute truth. Even though I didn't know it at the time. She is perfect. Everything is perfect. In its own way. The day she was born, perfect was redefined. I was struck that my daughter who challenges me, fights me, and loves me,  obviously "gets" me. She has always known that everything is perfect, no matter the year.

Wore {November 2014}

Because November ended almost two weeks ago... Because this was my last chance to show off some outfits I slapped together. Because I just love the Outfit of the Day Selfie.

Let's talk about finding an old maternity sweater you bought when you weren't even pregnant, in the back of your closet on the first weekend of November. I wore this sweater almost three years ago for family pictures. And unless I tell people, they have no idea that it's maternity.

Something about this scarf said Fall is upon us. And it was the first truly cold day in Fresno, so I wore the outfit on the left to work, came home and put on jeans for my Walmart trip, as evidenced on the right. Incidently I wore the same outfit three weeks later for Thanksgiving. If I had thought it through, I would have worn that scarf, every day of November.

I really, really wanted to wear this plaid shirt to work. Alone, without the cardi, it looked too casual. So, I added the cardi, but the sleeves of the shirt bunched. So... I cut the sleeves off of the shirt so I could layer it. I've done this with like ninety percent of my collared or flannel shirts. I leave the seam of the sleeve so it doesn't fray, and I wear them more often because I can layer them. The Hubbs thinks it ridiculous, but he just doesn't understand that bunchy sleeves are not my jam.

Fall in Fresno is hit or miss, so this was an actual dipction of my day. Scarf, sweater, jeggings, and boots in the morning. Toms, button down, and jeans in the afternoon. I haven't cut the sleeves off this pink button down yet... But I'm pretty sure it's going to happen.

This is a gratitutios selfie because I was super proud of my new camo shirt, that I cut the sleeves off. I know, I have a problem, someone should take my scissors away. But this shirt was so fun to wear, and adding the hoops and the necklace dressed it up in an unexpected way. The shirt was on clearance at Target, for like eleven bucks.

I do this thing on Instagram where I will say "Pinned it. Wore it". It's kind of bragging, but it's also very honest as I will go thorough my Pinterest boards for outfit inspiration the night before I work. I wore a brown cardi because I couldn't find my ivory one. I think I would have liked this outfit better with the Ivory.

I pulled all the stops for Black Friday. My printed Christmas scarf, with another maternity sweater, and jeggings. For the record, this maternity scarf was actually purchased for maternity purposes. I added the long sleeved shirt, because it was actually chilly the day after Thanksgiving. Also to continue to be transparent on this blog, I bought Christmas Tree earrings at work to complete the outfit. Yeah, I was totally that person on Black Friday.

Another Pinned it, Wore it attempt. On this night I was super sick, super tired, and super over the fact that I had to work until ten at night. Thanks Pinterest for making it easy.

To end November, the family and I got all fancy and went to the Nutcracker. I wasn't super excited about my booties, but I didn't have any other shoes that I could wear for longer than ten minutes. The dress is super old, and is not only my "asshole in a dress" dress, but a dress I blogged about before. Short story: It's from Ann Taylor Loft, originally eighty eight dollars, I paid nineteen ninety nine. I wear it every possible chance I get. Even if that ends with me being an asshole in a dress.

Once upon a time there was a girl named Megan, who had a subscription to InStyle, who idolized Carrie Bradshaw, who once bought a pair of suede, stacked heeled pumps and then had to create an outfit around them. Megan always wore make-up, always remembered to curl her eyelashes, and always wore lipstick. Then she had kids, forgot about things like mascara, traded InStyle for Parents Magazine, and packed all the pretty shoes away. Today you will find her mostly in jeans older than her youngest daughter, or on the days she works, posting Outfits of The Day on Instagram.

Days filled with... {Life Lately}

I've found that I have to fill my days with moments for me. I never realized how valuable time really is. It's the hottest commodity around. Sometimes I think that I wasted days, let them pass, empty, never bothering to fill them with what matters. I've tried to change that in the last year. Tried to fill the time that I do have with memories and moments, and to be present for those around me. November was like that. Trying to fill every day with a little something, a memory, a moment, a treat.

When I was a little girl, my mom's best friend, Sandi, invited me to come over to her house and make cookies. This was a treat and a delight. My mom, did some baking, but she was a lot like me, if she could do it faster herself, that was the way to go. Baking with kids isn't efficient, it's usually messy and slow, and not for the faint of heart. At five, I knew nothing of those things. Sandi, was and is, in my mind, a master of the sugar cookie. She taught me the best ways to roll out dough, and use extra flour for cut outs. Sandi always had the best cookie cutters, vintage from the forties, passed down from her mother. I looked forward to making cookies with her every year, for every holiday, but as time went on and I grew up, we did our cookie baking less and less. Then when I was in high school she moved away, and cookie baking lost it's magic. Then I had kids of my own and that first year I baked with Caitlin the magic returned, yet the whole time all I could think of was, "Sandi should be here too".

This year, Sandi came to visit, and baking cookies was on her list of things to do. She couldn't wait to bake cookies with my girls. I'm not sure who was more excited. It was a wonderful and beautiful afternoon, filled with love and nostalgia, and stories I had never heard before. The girls loved baking with Sandi, and were very impressed that she jumped right in with flour up to her elbows. And by the time we were done with the cookies, we were so tired and our bodies stiff, but we were also so full. Full of joy and blessings and friendships that not only stood the test of time, but continue to stand the tests of generations.

It was a day filled with sugar, sprinkles, and smiles.

Some days are just made for ice cream dinners. For example, Fridays are my six a.m. days at work, and by the time I pick up Caitlin from school, I'm so tired I could go to bed right then and there. For whatever reason, I decided that it was a grand time to make tamales. So off to the Mexican grocer for supplies. It was packed and the kids started getting hangry, and so I walked up to the ice cream counter (because they have one) and ordered dinner. Sometimes you just have to go with it. Some days just beg to be filled with chocolate ice cream.

I got sick the Friday before Thanksgiving. With zero time off, I was able to finagle a few hours of rest before work. So from the couch, I watched Twilight with my seven year old, and wouldn't you know, the Cullens made me feel loads better. A cuddly blanket, hot water with honey and lemon, and a few hours of rest made me feel good enough to slap on some make-up for work. This day was filled with gratitude for a boss that knew that rest was what I needed, and gratitude for a daughter who knew that the Cullens help every ailment.

Most school days are filled with homework and errands and dance classes. Recently, most school days have been a blur. But on this school day, we stopped and took note that our girl is doing great at school. She is growing up to be quite the young lady, and she was quite proud of this achievement, and so was I. This day was filled with pride that even when you think you are failing at all the things, you realize that you must be doing something right.

We filled some of our days with gluten free treats. We have recently switched Caitlin to a gluten free diet with great results (more on that to come). On this day we took the Betty Crocker gluten free yellow cake for a spin. I think she like it.

Mackenzie fills most days with debauchery. She is curious (read: nosy), she is funny (read: sarcastic), and she is always on a mission (read: bossy). Most days you will find her making elaborate meals in her play kitchen or dressing Monster High dolls for a fashion show. Mackenzie fills her days with what makes her happy, much to the dismay of those around her, because Mackenzie's happy isn't always a general happy. Whatever, she's the baby, we let her, and when she asks if she can play in her sister's make up, I say, sure why not... Not bad for a first time right?

November brought us days filled with snot and coughs and fevers. It sucked, but we survived, mostly. I'm still nursing a sinus infection, the girls still have coughs. But on this rare day off for all three of us, we made going to the doctor a real event. Filled with Starbucks, McNuggets, and even a trip to Target.

Because when your days are filled with work and chores and things you have to do, sometimes you just have to stop and fill them with things that make you happy. Which in my book always includes Starbucks, Instagram, and the people I love.