Can you guys believe that tomorrow is the first day of October? It’s still so hot here that I don’t feel like it’s fall yet, but cooler temps are on the horizon and I’m so excited.
One of my favorite things about fall is pumpkin spice creamer. I’ve been perfecting my recipe for awhile now in an attempt to have a great pumpkin spice creamer without all the chemicals that you get from the creamers you get at the grocery store. This recipe is my favorite because it combines some of my favorite things: pumpkin and essential oils!
It’s so easy to make! Play around with it to make it your own.
1-Fill a pint jar 3/4 full with the dairy (or non-dairy) of your choice. You can use coconut milk, almond milk, milk, half-n-half, whipping cream, or a mixture of any of those. I like to fill the jar halfway with half-n-half, then fill it 1/4 of the way with whipping cream. The whipping cream gives it a frothy consistency.
2-Pour your milk into a blender, and add 1/4 cup canned pumpkin. You can add more for a stronger pumpkin flavor.
3-Add 1 drop each of clove, cinnamon bark, and ginger essential oils. Be sure to use only CPTG essential oils, like DoTERRA.
4-Add 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract.
5-Blend the ingredients together, then pour into your pint jar. Store in the fridge up to a week, but you’ll use it all before then! Shake it up before you pour it into your coffee.
What’s so great about this creamer is that you’re getting the immune boosting effects of these essential oils, just from enjoying a cup of coffee!
If you need these oils, you can purchase from me by going to http://mydoterra.com/laresawatkins or you can comment below with your email address and I’ll be in touch to help you!
So, I will admit that I am a pretty judgemental person. I know that’s not good and I am constantly working on this flaw of mine. I ask God almost every day to make me more understanding and to soften my heart towards people, and over time he has. Unfortunately for me, He does that mostly by putting me in exactly the same situation that I once judged someone for!
Here are some things that I once judged people (perhaps even you) for, but no longer do:
Buying Uncrustables. When I first saw a commercial for Uncrustables (you know, the pre-made and frozen pb&j sandwiches), I immediately commented to whoever was with me, “How lazy is that? When I have kids, I will NEVER buy those. I mean, how much trouble is it to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?”
10 years and 2 kids later, you will not find my freezer without a box of Uncrustables. What I have come to realize is that IT IS REALLY HARD TO FEED THESE PEOPLE. Kids are constantly hungry and asking for snacks. Even if you fed them 30 minutes prior they will ask, as you are getting in the car, for something to eat. The answer: Go back to the freezer and get an Uncrustable. We go on lots of field trips to zoos, museums, and aquariums, and it costs roughly $1,200,586 for the three of us to eat lunch at one of these places. The solution: Stick a few Uncrustables in a lunch box. The kids each play year-round sports that have 3 hour practices that go right through dinnertime. Easy fix: Throw an Uncrustable in their bag.
Basically, what I am telling you is that I no longer judge any mother for anything. We’re all doing the best we can to raise healthy, well-adjusted children, and if that means throwing a frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a bag and calling it a meal, so be it. We also eat red hotdogs at the ballpark 4 nights a week, so there’s that.
Do you know what it took to get me to this non-judgemental view? Having 2 kids who are constantly starving and not having enough time to make a sandwich. I get you, fellow Uncrustable-stockholders.
Having a Child with Unbrushed Hair. Just a few Sundays ago, my son stood up in front of the church and sang our Vacation Bible School songs for the congregation. He danced and smiled and did a great job, all the while looking like he had stuck his finger in a light socket during Sunday School.
I used to sit in church and wonder why the mother of the young girl in front of me refused to brush her daughter’s hair, but now I know: She DID brush it!
Somehow, between the bathroom and church or school or Costco (where we buy our UnCrustables), kid’s hair reverts back to the same hairstyle they woke up with. It doesn’t matter how much time, money, and energy I put into my children’s hygiene and appearance, they always look like they have nothing or no one.
So, you can see how God has worked in my life to make me less judgemental. I’m sure more things will come up in my heart that I am guilty of judging others for. And to the mom-to-be who sees my unkempt children with jelly stains on their shirts from the Uncrustables they just ate in the car: Your day will come.
I used to be a big scrapbooker. I spent hours each night printing out pictures, cutting paper, choosing the perfect quotes and stickers and embellishments, and placing everything perfectly on acid-free paper. Charlie and Maddie love looking back at my scrapbooks, and I enjoy flipping through the pages and showing them the things that Jason and I did before we had kids (Charlie and Maddie refer to this time as “the olden days”). I made a couple of scrapbooks after they were born, but that is a hobby that fell to the wayside when the kids learned to crawl (much to Maddie’s chagrin, as she reminds me every so often that her baby book is incomplete).
About the time that I quit scrapbooking, I started blogging. This blog became a way for me to store pictures, thoughts, and write down little moments that I want to remember. The past couple of years I have not had too much time to write, and wrote on my blog only 3 times last year! I really regret that, because there is so much going on that I don’t want to forget.
Charlie asks us all every so often what our favorite year has been. We all have the same answer: 2017. It was a great year. We did so many fun things and traveled to some really cool places, and now that it is 2019 I want to document 2017 before I forget more details from it than I have already.
So, this blog post is completely, selfishly just for me.
We started out 2017 simply relieved that 2016 was over! It was a tough year, and we looked forward to a fresh start. Then, in the second week of January, we got the best snow ever. It was really cold and didn’t get above freezing for several days, so we got to enjoy the snow without worrying about it melting immediately. We ate snow cream, dyed the snow, and even made a volcano in the snow.
Then, in February, we tagged along with mama and Jason on a work trip to Atlanta. We arrived on Super Bowl Sunday, and the Falcons were playing in the Super Bowl! Even though they weren’t playing in Atlanta, it was still really cool to be in their home city to watch them play. We had so much fun that night, and the kids drank no less than 100 Shirley Temples.
Casey and Emma came with us so we would have someone to hang out with while Mama and Jason were in meetings during the day. We went to the aquarium…
…the Coke museum and factory (where we did NOT learn the secret formula, but did get to taste soft drinks from all over the world) …
…and the zoo.
We also went to the CNN headquarters, which was very cool and interesting, and a museum.
We had a great school year in 2017. Charlie’s reading excelled, and Maddie began learning to read and write in kindergarten and first grade. I began finding these little notes all over the place, and it makes me so happy that she still does this today.
We had a lot of fun….and cleaned up a lot of messes.
In the summer of 2017 we did something that none of us will ever forget: we raised a squirrel!
Earl and his 2 siblings fell out of a tree that we were having trimmed. Their mom didn’t come back for them, so we did our best to care for them. Earl’s brother and sister didn’t make it, but we worked hard to make sure that Earl was healthy.
Earl became part of our family, and we released him a few months later. He would come into the garage to visit for awhile after that, and we like to think that he’s now raising a family in the woods around our house.
We became really involved at the ballpark in the spring of 2017. Both kids played ball, and Jason became the chairman of the board of directors for Bonlee Rec in addition to coaching Charlie’s team. This is now a really big part of our life and family.
As soon as ball season was over, my mom took our entire family on a trip to Destin, Florida. We swam with wild dolphins, went to Crab Island, and just enjoyed relaxing. Charlie and Maddie loved being with their cousins all week, and we’re looking forward to going back this summer.
On our way home from Florida, we, along with Randy, Bethony, Sam, Aaron, and Noah, took a detour to South Carolina. We spent the night there, then watched a complete solar eclipse that was happening in that area. It was so awesome to be there to see it turn completely dark and hear the crickets chirp while the birds went silent in the middle of the day. It was an experience I will never forget, and was totally worth the extra driving.
The eclipse-viewing was actually the first day of 1st grade for Maddie and 3rd grade for Charlie. I can’t think of a better kick-off to the school year.
That fall, we took the kids to the NC State fair. We had taken them before, but they were both much smaller and rode in the stroller most of the time. This year, they had a blast! We bought bands ahead of time so they could just ride anything they wanted without tickets, so they ran from ride to ride together while Jason and I watched and tried to keep up.
We walked a million miles at the fair that day, and I took notes in preparation for a big trip we had planned for December. But first, Halloween.
Halloween has always been one of our favorite holidays. We decorate the house and the kids go all-out for their costumes.
Our family costume this year was “Grease.” Charlie killed me with his fake cigarette!
By actual Halloween, Maddie had worn around 5 different costumes! Charlie was consistent with his Harry Potter Quidditch costume, though.
On December 1, we left on the trip we had been anticipating for months: Disney World. I still get butterflies in my stomach just thinking of the fun time we had together there.
I spent hours and hours researching and planning this trip, and I hate to brag, but it was awesome. The kids had their first plane ride, and we stayed at a great resort where the view from our balcony was Cinderella’s castle at the Magic Kingdom. We could watch the fireworks over the castle every night from our balcony. Also, everything was decorated for Christmas, and it was absolutely beautiful.
We spent 7 nights there, and we didn’t waste a minute. We went to every park and we rode everything we could, and it was warm enough that we could swim in the resort pools during our down time.
One day, we rented a car and drove a little way to visit with Aunt Betty. She showed us around her assisted living facility and treated us to lunch there. I’m so thankful for that time we got to spend with her, even though she had forgotten that we were coming :).
That same day was Mickey’s Christmas Party, which was probably the highlight of the trip. We ate so many cookies and drank so much hot chocolate that night. The park was closed for regular ticket-holders, so we rode ride after ride without waiting in any lines at all, and even rode Splash Mountain maybe 4 times in a row without getting off! Maddie and I were in the front row, so we were soaking wet by the time we were through! The Christmas parade was just perfect, too, and we got to see it “snow.” We stayed until the park closed, and were exhausted the next day at Epcot.
The day we flew home from Florida it was snowing in NC, so that was a bit of a shock. Honestly, the Christmas of 2017 wasn’t too exciting for us because we were still coming down from our Disney high.
I’m so thankful to God for all of our blessings, for my family and for the opportunities that we have had, not just in 2017 but every single day. I remind myself constantly that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17 NIV). I find comfort that he was with us in 2016, one of the hardest years, and in 2017, one of the best years. He is with us when we’re traveling around, and in the mundane moments like now when I’m sitting here typing while the kids are working on their math and handwriting and I have a zillion things on my to-do list.
Over a year has passed since 2017, our favorite year (so far;)) The kids are now 8 and 9 years old, and I’m going to be celebrating my 40th birthday in a few weeks. I would like to say that I will be blogging more often, so as not to forget all of the little moments that I know I will want to remember, but I have been writing this post since 2018. So maybe in 2020 I will write about 2018. We’ll see…
In my mom’s group a few weeks ago we were talking about disciplining in anger and how to avoid that. One mom pointed out that she had a difficult time dealing with her children when her blood sugar was low, and all of us agreed that we had a hard time when we were running on little sleep. I’m sure all of us have gotten into a habit, at some point or another, of not taking the best care of ourselves. We do things for other people all day long, and it’s hard to stop and spend time on ourselves. The problem with this is that everyone around us suffers when we don’t take care of ourselves.
While being healthy and feeling good are important to me, the main reason that I need to take care of myself is for my mental well-being (in other words, so I don’t lose it on anyone in my family). When Charlie cries for an hour because he can’t wear shorts in December, I cannot handle myself very well if I only got 5 hours of sleep. When I have 10 emails to return, school to teach, and my phone won’t stop beeping with text messages, I get frazzled and can’t focus if I’ve had too much coffee and no breakfast. In order to handle life’s everyday stressors with grace and compassion, I have to care for myself.
My suggestions aren’t things that take a lot of time. You don’t have to find a babysitter or take your kids to a germy gym childcare to work out. You don’t have to get up at the break of dawn or spend hours cooking an organic farm-fresh meal. These are just a few simple things that you can incorporate into your day that will enable you to have more balance when a chaotic moment is inevitably thrown your way.
1-Get a good night’s sleep
It seems to be the cool thing for women my age to brag about how much coffee they need to drink during the day. Now, I am a coffee lover, so I’m not downing coffee, but on an everyday basis we should not have to drink coffee all day long in order to get everything on our to-do lists completed. It’s not healthy. We need to take care of ourselves by getting more sleep!
I am putting this first because it is so important to me. I need at least 7 hours of sleep at night, and if I don’t get it I am cranky all day long. Even thought I know this about myself, it is still really hard for me to make myself go to sleep at night. After I get the kids in bed I want to spend time reading, watching TV, or playing a game on my phone. After 15+ hours of hearing “Mom! Mom! Mom!” and “Laresa! Laresa! Laresa!”, my time alone at the end of the day is just wonderful and I hate for it to end. I have to really be disciplined and make myself stop whatever I am doing, turn out the lights, and go to sleep.
It really helps me to sleep better if I get up at the same time each morning, so I have also gotten back into the habit of setting my alarm.
That being said, for all of my friends who have new babies: you just go on drinking your coffee all day. 😉
There is nothing worse than the 3:00 slump. That time in the afternoon when we feel like shirking all of our duties and laying down for a nap? Whether you work at home like me or work at a job outside of the home, I know we all experience this during our day. It’s difficult no matter what you do, because we can’t just stop what we’re doing and sit down when we feel a little sluggish.
I have found that if I have a good workout in the morning I don’t experience this tired, cranky feeling in the afternoon. The problem is that I don’t have much time to work out. I used to love going to the gym or walking miles at the park, but that just isn’t feasible for me now.
I have tried lots of different YouTube workouts that I like, but right now I am really enjoying a new app called Aaptiv. You download the app and instantly have access to tons of great workouts. You can choose from strength training, outdoor running, yoga, and so much more. You can also select how long you want to work out, which is a huge plus for me since some mornings I have more time than others. If it’s a morning that I have to take Maddie to gymnastics or we have a MOMS meeting or science co-op and I have to get everyone ready and out the door in a hurry, I choose a short workout so I can get a good workout in without putting a strain on our chaotic mornings.
Aaptiv even has a series of workouts for parents-they’re all around 15 minutes long and give you a great workout in a short span of time. And, for all of my friends who are expecting, they even offer a great prenatal workout program with different workouts that are appropriate for each trimester. I wish it had been around when I was pregnant.
3-Essential Oils-I have become an essential oil freak. I used to burn candles all the time to have my house smelling good, but now I constantly have some sort of oil running in my diffusers to not only make my house smell nice, but to keep us all healthy. When it comes to keeping me balanced, I turn, of course, to DoTerra’s Balance. 🙂
I think I finally convinced my husband of the awesomeness of essential oils last week when he used my Tea Tree Oil on an ulcer in his mouth. It was gone the next morning!
4-Eating Well- I’m not talking hours of meal planning or crazy shakes or anything like that. I once heard the advice that I should eat 5 servings of fruits/veggies every day, and that’s what I do. I also try to drink plenty of water. Doing those simple, non-time-consuming things makes me feel so much better and better-able to handle life’s craziness.
Our bodies are gifts from God, and it’s so important we take care of them. When we do, we feel better, are kinder when faced with tough situations, and can find some balance in this chaos.
We all have lots to do, right? I don’t care if you have children or you don’t, if you work or you stay home with kids, if you are in school or retired, we all have TOO MUCH TO DO.
I am, personally, very careful with my schedule. I’m pretty good at knowing my limits and those of my family, and I’m not afraid to say no when I can. But even though I do guard our time, sometimes the everyday chaos of life overwhelms me.
For example, I lost it on Jason last week. It was Monday, the day that I set aside for the kids and I to stay home and get ahead on our week. We do lots of schoolwork and housework, and I plan and do things like return e-mails and other little tasks that I may have been putting off.
On this particular Monday, my poor husband sent me an e-mail asking me to do something for him, and having that extra thing to do just put me over the edge. I shot back a quick message telling him how overwhelmed I was feeling and informing him that he was just going to have to find someone else to do this work. Then, when he didn’t respond back quickly enough for my liking, I sent him another message demanding he “hear me.” After his response that he did “hear me” but that he was having a really busy day at work, I continued about my frustrating Monday, anxious and worried that I couldn’t get it all done.
Well, you know what? I did get it all done that day. I looked at my to-do list with all of the items crossed off, and I wondered why I had freaked out and added to my husbands worries, when there was really no need to. I had basically ruined everyone’s day, including my own, for no reason.
For a while now, I have felt a nudging to look at myself and my reactions to this chaotic life. You know, it is what it is. God created us to work and help each other and serve him. The key is to do those things with the right heart, which is definitely where I am lacking.
As I have been reflecting on this, doing some reading and trying some different things to help myself find some balance in the chaos, I have come up with some strategies that are working well for me (well…most of the time), and I feel led to share them with you. I’ve narrowed my ideas down and am going to share them in blog posts every two or three nights for the next couple of weeks. I would love to do a post every night, but I learned during Write 31 Days that I have to do my writing early in the morning or after we get the kids in bed at night, and (spoiler) I realize how important my sleep is for me.
Speaking of sleep….I need to go to sleep. But I do hope you’ll check back in a couple of days and see what I’ve come up with, and I pray it will be a help to someone who is searching for a little balance.
Welcome! I'm Laresa, a homeschooling, field-trip-loving, writing, picture-taking wife and mama of 2. I like getting up early to drink lots of hot coffee and staying up late(ish) to watch reality TV with my husband. Here, you will find bits of my life, with Jesus present in the ups and the downs.