How I Became a Runner

Let’s start with a little backstory. I started running on a whim almost 4 years ago. We had just moved to the desert, I had a preschooler and a toddler, and I was desperately trying to find something that could be mine. My husband and I agreed that being a stay at home mom was best for our family for now, but I knew in my heart needed to find something that could be just for me-something to feed my soul, give me a sense of achievement and community. An identity other than ‘wife and mother’, which is how one often feels when they are a stay at home parent. I wanted more. I needed more. I had to find some way to find my worth again in more than just serving meals and wiping faces. So, I searched Facebook for local spouse groups. And in a completely out of character move, I joined a local running club.

Now, I have never been a runner. Ever. In high school I was in every type of band program they offered, but I was also the kid who walked the mile in gym class because I just hated to run. I had a couple times in my adult life where I tried to go for a run, but once it hurt (which was almost immediately) I would quit. Walk back home tell myself that running is insane and people who run are a special kind of insane who think torturing yourself is enjoyable. I, as a self proclaimed sane person, was not going to run.

So, why would someone who was so clearly terrible at running decide to join a running club? I wondered the same thing. But I knew I needed to try something….different. I needed to just see what I could do, so I told myself I would try their Couch to 5K program. I would commit to the 3 day a week runs for those 8 weeks, and for once in my life see what happened when I didn’t quit.

My daughter, handing out high five’s as we volunteer at a local half marathon.

I showed up the first day, and sat in my car as I watched the other ladies show up. It was spandex and jogging strollers as far as the eye could see. It was intimidating to say the least, as I loaded my toddler into my hand-me-down stroller and tugged at my oversized sweatshirt and stretchy pants. I figured I must have looked so out of place and terrified as I was quickly greeted by one of the women who asked if I was new and what my name was. She was so warm and welcoming as she showed me where the other runners who were doing the program were waiting. Before I knew it, announcements and greetings were done and it was time to *gulp* start running.

Day 1 was supposed to be easy. A 5 minute warm up walk, alternating 60 seconds of running with 90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes, and then a 5 minute cooldown walk.


I couldn’t even run for 60 second intervals without feeling like my lungs were on fire and my legs were going to fall right off my body. I told myself that I was not coming back. That this is crazy and just not for me. I would find something else, a wine drinking club perhaps! Those would be my people, not these ladies (as nice as they were). As we rounded the corner towards the parking lot for our cooldown walk, the woman who first came to greet me pulled her stroller up next to mine. She asked me how it was and if I had fun. Uhm, no I did not have fun. We were running. And running is not fun. She laughed and said she hoped she would see me Friday at the next meet up, and I told her she would. Because the truth is, as much as it may have sucked and as much pain as I felt, I also felt….good? Like, really good. And proud! I mean, it wasn’t pretty by any means. I was slow, and winded, and looked more like someone who had just gone 12 rounds in the ring instead of ran for 60 seconds. But none of that mattered when the run was over, because all that mattered was that I did it. And all that mattered now was if I was going to keep doing it.

My family and I after a local color run

And so I did. I kept showing up. The intervals got longer, and so did my endurance. The runs were more challenging, but somehow they also got easier. I learned that even when my legs burned and my chest hurt and it was hard, I could still do it. I could still push, for one more mile or one more lap or just make it to that street lamp ahead and you can stop. Running showed me that hard is not the same as impossible.

I went on to graduate from the 5k training program. And then the 10k program. And I have since done several 5k’s, 10k’s, 2 super sprint triathlons, a half marathon, and a 366 day running streak (more about that in a future post). I even went on to become a leader for that running club, and yes I still think running is hard. But I now know that I can do it, and I know that it has changed my life. I started running as a way to find myself, but it has become so much more than that. It has become part of my identity. I’m not just someone who runs, I’m a runner.

Me, dressed as our club mascot, during a half marathon

Sweet & Sour Chicken with Fried Rice

Our family loves take-out nights. Sure we order pizzas or grab drive thru burgers, but our absolute favorite is Chinese take-out! I honestly think my kids and husband could eat it every single day and never tire of it. Of course, eating out regularly is insanely expensive and you can easily make it yourself for a fraction of the price. I started making this recipe almost a decade ago, and it is requested not only by my kids, but also every time my mother comes to visit. It is a crowd pleaser every time!

First start your prep work on your chicken. You’ll need:
*4-5 chicken breasts (cubed)
*1C corn starch
*2-3 eggs
*1-2 TBSP oil

In a large frying pan, heat some of your oil over med high heat. While that’s heating up, set up your dredging station with your corn starch and eggs.

Working in batches, coat your chicken pieces in the corn starch.

After shaking off the excess, coat the chicken in the egg.

Then brown them on all sides in your pan. The insides will still be raw and that’s ok, these will finish cooking in the oven.

As you finish the chicken, transfer them to an oiled 9×13 baking dish. You can do this step in advance and then pop the container in the fridge until you’re ready to bake them, or you can move on to making your sauce.

For the sauce, you’ll need:
*4 TBSP ketchup
*1Tbsp soy sauce
*1/2 C vinegar
*1 tsp garlic salt (I was out, so I used garlic powder and a pinch of salt)
*3/4 C sugar

Just whisk it all together in a measuring cup.

Pour the mixture over your chicken, and stir to coat each piece. Then place in a preheated 325° oven for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

I know it can seem time consuming to stir every 15 minutes for an hour, but just remind yourself how much money your saving here! And the smell that starts to fill your kitchen will have you eagerly coming back for each stir.

During the last half hour of the chicken baking, I start working the fried rice. For this you’ll need:
*2C cooked rice
*2 eggs
*1 onion, diced
*half bag of frozen peas and carrots
*soy sauce, to taste
*oil, for cooking

Heat some oil in your large skillet, and add your diced onion. Cook them until soft and translucent.

Add your frozen peas and carrots. Stir and continue to cook until the veggies are soft. Don’t forget to stir your chicken!

Next you’ll add the cooked rice and stir to combine. Let this cook for a few minutes to heat the rice through.

Scoot your rice to one side of your pan, and give the other half a good spray with your oil. Crack your eggs directly into the pan, being careful to not get any egg shells in it. Scramble the eggs until cooked through, and then mix them into the rice mixture.

After you have everything mixed thoroughly, add your soy sauce. Now, my family likes a lot of soy sauce on their rice so I add a good 2 Tbsp to the pan. And even then, my husband will add more to his plate. Just remember you can always add more, but you can’t take it off once you’ve put it in.

And there you have it! A home cooked dinner, that was inexpensive and much better for you than any take out you could have ordered. Now enjoy the sweet silence as your family practically inhales this right before your eyes.

When Mom Takes a Sick Day

I don’t get sick that often. I think my body just knows that, as a mom, I have far too many things to get done and it is just not allowed to be sick. Us moms just tough it out. The kids still need to eat and get to school, errands still need ran, baths given and teeth brushed-we just aren’t allowed a sick day. The night before last, I went to bed feeling off. I knew I didn’t feel right. I had a lot to get done the next day and a few hours of sleep should set me straight.

It did not.

I was up and down, hot and cold, sweating and shivering all night long. When my husband got up at 530 for work, I was still curled up on the bathroom floor. About 630 when my alarm went off (not that I was asleep anyway), I hear our son say those 4 words that make all parents cringe….’Mommy, my tummy hurts’. As I crawl out of bed to bring him a bucket and check his temperature, our daughter jumps out of bed perky and ready to start her day. It’s too much energy for one child to have, but it’s spirit week for her at school and she is dying to have crazy hair today, so I get her some breakfast (dry cereal-I forgot to get milk yesterday and of course had it on todays agenda) and we put her clothes on. She is rapidly telling me how she wants her hair done and my brain is trying it’s best to keep up while focusing on not vomiting. We finally get her ready and my husband walks in the door, he came back to take Emma to school for me and he sent me back to bed.

By now it’s after 8. I have texted the bus driver to not come get our oldest and I have called the school to let them know he is out of commission today, and we both decided to curl up on opposite ends of the couch and watch some Netflix and recuperate. He throws up a couple times but seems to be feeling much better by lunch. I, however, can’t seem to get enough sleep, but every time my eyes close I get that feeling in the pit of my stomach like I’ve been in a wave pool at the water park all day. My husband comes home for lunch and after one look at me, tells me he will pick up our daughter from school. I guess I look as bad as I feel at this point.

A few hours later, in bounces our eager 5 year old. She hasn’t lost a bit of her energy today at school, and now that our son is feeling better they both start to wrestle on the couch. Right next to where I’m trying not to die. I try to get up and manage the chaos, but I feel more like I’m herding wet cats than actually accomplishing anything. My head is pounding from dehydration and my whole body is achy. I think to myself ‘this is it…this is how I die…dehydrated and yelling for kids to clean the water off the bathroom floor’. My saint of a husband walks in the door with a gallon of milk, he’s home early from work because he knew I was probably needing some help (boy was he right). He shooed me off to bed and said he could handle dinner from there.

Now, my husband is a Marine. He can handle pretty much anything that is thrown his way. The problem is, he handles it like a Marine would. So when it was time for dinner, he did what any Marine would do-he gave the kids MRE’s. It would not be my first choice of healthy dinners, but the kids thought it was amazing and I was in no position to demand anything else. I popped my head up a few times to check in on them, but every time I was sent back to bed. My husband then tucked the kids in early and our whole family was asleep by 630 pm.

Photo by Izzie R on Unsplash

I woke this morning with my husbands alarm at who knows what time, finally feeling like a human being again for the first time in over 24 hours. As I went through the house getting our day started, I was greeted by crumbs on the floor, a sink full of dishes, something red staining the kitchen counter, and blankets and shoes everywhere. I sighed at the sight of all the things I get to clean up today to make up for my day off yesterday, but I also was so grateful. See, as a military family, we don’t usually have Dad around to help on sick days. We get so used to taking it all on by our selves that we don’t realize just how lucky we are when they are around. Sure, he gave the kids MRE’s, but they were fed. He put them to bed early and didn’t follow our usual routine, but he snuggled with each of them and gave them his undivided attention. He left a mess of a house for me to clean today, but he took so much time to check on me and pick up where I wasn’t able to yesterday. Moms don’t usually take sick days, but it’s nice to know I’m lucky enough to be able to every now and then.

Turkey Meatball Veggie Soup

We are closing in on the end of the month, and that means our pantry and fridge are looking dismal. Couple that with the fact that we are finally seeing some chilly fall weather here in the desert, and it has me craving ALL the soups! I peeked into my fridge and found a bunch of produce that needed to be used before it gets tossed, a pound of ground turkey I had saved from when I made my Sautéed Mushroom Turkey Burgers, plus some on hand pantry staples. You know those dinners where everyone is quiet because they are so busy eating they don’t talk? This got me one of those. It’s that good!

First gather up your ingredients. For the soup, I used:
*6 C Chicken broth
*8 oz mushrooms
*6 baby gold potatoes
*1 carrot (I only had 1 carrot, I recommend using 2-3)
*2 stalks celery
*1/2 C half and half
*1/2 onion
*1.5 tsp (each) garlic powder, onion powder, paprika
*1 tsp celery seed
*Salt and pepper to taste
*parsley garnish

For the turkey meatballs:
*1 lb ground turkey
*1/4 C breadcrumbs
*1 egg
*1Tbsp chopped parsley
*1 tsp (each) garlic powder, onion powder, paprika
*Salt and pepper to taste

Last week I had some pieces of my 6 Ingredient Sandwich Bread that was about to go stale. I cubed it and baked it at 350° until crispy and then placed it in an air tight container. This recipe was a great chance to use it! I just tossed a handful in my Ninja blender and pulsed until crumbly. Perfect homemade breadcrumbs!

Once you have your meat mixture well combined, form your meatballs. I just eyeballed it, but I wanted them to be fairly small. A small cookie scoop would be a great way to make sure they all come out uniform in size, but we aren’t after perfection here at the Murphy house. Place all of your meatballs in a large skilled and let them brown on all sides. They don’t have to be fully cooked on the inside since they will finish cooking in the crock pot, but you will want that nice brown crust on the outside.

While your meatballs are cooking, start prepping your veggies. I chopped everything into a nice dice and then pat myself on the back for not letting so many veggies go to waste (and getting my kids to eat them!)

Then add them all to your crock pot.

Cover with your chicken broth and spices. I only had 5 C of broth in my container (again, cleaning out the fridge) so I just added 1 C of water to the mix. No harm no foul, right?

Add in your cooked meatballs and stir everything together. I was worried that my meatballs may fall apart in the crock pot if I added them in the beginning, but they held up great. Once everything is combined, place your lid on your crock pot and set to high for 4 hours (or low for 6-7 if you’re starting it earlier in the day). I let this sit most of the time, only stirring it twice (mostly because it smelled so great I needed a reason to put my face in it).

At the 3.5 hour mark, I added 1/2 C of half and half and gave it a good stir. Cover once again and let it cook for a half hour longer. This is the time I used to bake up some butter bread slices to dip into our bowls. Because toasted carbs dipped in warm soup broth=the definition of fall comfort food.

And there you have it! All that’s left is to ladle some into a pretty bowl, garnish with some fresh chopped parsley, and take a picture for the ‘gram.

Tips for Successfully Parenting the Emotional Child

The hardest part of parenting for myself isn’t refereeing the fights, doing the homework, or even the constant need for snacks (do children have 3 stomachs like cows do? I mean, where do they put all of this food?!) For me, the hardest part of parenting is helping my children navigate their big emotions and teach them how to respond appropriately to the world around them. All kids have explosive moments or big emotions, but with an emotionally sensitive child this can be a daily road to navigate. Here are some tips that have helped me while parenting my emotionally sensitive child.

Don’t ask ‘why’, ask ‘what’

Some situations are just inevitable. Siblings will fight, unkind words will fly, hands will leave their ‘bubble’. There isn’t a kid I know who has never had a moment of misbehavior. With an emotionally sensitive child, they are quick to get on the defensive. This can make it hard to find out exactly what happened when you are walking into a war zone and both sides are pointing fingers at the other person. Instead of asking why, ask what. What was happening before the fight started? What did you not like about what happened? What do you think we can do to make this situation better for everyone? I find that if I ask why, I’m always met with an ‘I don’t know’, but if I ask what was happening I can get the full story.

Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

How does your body feel right now?

It can be hard for children to recognize what emotion they are feeling in the heat of the moment, and putting it into words can be tricky. Most young kids won’t say ‘I’m feeling anxious’, they might say ‘my tummy feels funny’. Or instead of saying ‘I’m getting frustrated’ you may notice their cheeks are getting red and their hands are clenched. Noticing the physical signs of their emotions, and teaching them what those feel like, might help them be able to communicate better to you what they are feeling. When my son is having a rough moment, I always ask ‘what does your body feel like right now?’ and we take it from there.

”You can tell me anything”

I’m sure you have heard this one before, ‘Hey Mom, can I tell you something?’. I hear this about 394857 times a day, and my answer is always the same-‘you can tell me anything’. At the age my kids are now, that usually means stories about video games or a Lego creation or a picture that was colored at school. What they hear is ‘I’d love to hear about Minecraft for the next 45 minutes!’ but the underlying message is ‘You can come to me about anything, and I’m here for you’. Opening the lines of communication during times they want to talk just make it easier to connect with them during those times they are overwhelmed and need to talk.

Photo by Ankebi Photography on Unsplash

Give them their space, but let them know you are available

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your child when they are in an emotional meltdown is to let them work it out. Sometimes, they won’t want to talk to you about it, and trying to force your kid to open up will just make them more upset. Let them have space and time to work through it on their own, but let them know you are available if and when they are ready to talk to you. Sometimes my kids won’t want to talk, and instead of asking what happened I will simply say ‘can I give you a hug right now?’. You might be surprised that they will take you up on that hug much faster than they will want to chat about their big emotions.

Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič – @specialdaddy on Unsplash

Teach you kids to take their mental health seriously.

With school violence and bullying on the rise, the world is more aware now than ever that mental health in kids is just as important to care for as their physical health. I remember during our last deployment, the kids and I were filing our calendar fast. One day I looked around and noticed just how tired everyone looked. The kids were bickering and struggling in class, I was anxious and not sleeping, and we were trying to live life like we weren’t burning the candle at both ends. We all took a mental health day. I kept the kids home from school and we said no to all of our engagements that day. We played board games, ordered pizza, and finished the day with a family sleepover. I let them know that sometimes, you need to know when to say enough is enough, and that is ok! Letting your children know their feelings are just as valid as yours are will only encourage them to be more mentally healthy adults.

Sautéed Mushroom Turkey Burgers

This week has been another one where every day seems busier than the last, and by the time I get a chance to sit it’s already time for dinner. The last thing I want to do is spend the next hour in the kitchen making dinner and making another mess I have to clean (we all know no one is chomping at the bit to help with dishes around here). So I’m all about the easy and delicious. Something that requires minimal prep, simple ingredients, and will be filling and crowd pleasing. You know what checks all those boxes? Burgers and fries! But before you reach for the pre-made frozen stuff, you can whip up this easy recipe and feel good about what you are feeding your family.

Making burgers and fries is something super simple that you can make seem really spectacular with just a few tweaks. Toasting your buns? Yes, please! Topping your burger with sautéed mushrooms? You’re crazy if you don’t! Is your mouth watering yet?!

For my turkey burgers, I like to keep things simple. Here’s what you will need:
*1 small chopped onion
*2 lbs ground turkey
*2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
* butter (for sautéing)
*1 tsp Cajun seasoning
*1 tsp garlic powder
*salt and pepper
*8 oz sliced mushrooms
*Buns (we used onion buns-so amazing)
*cheese of choice (we used good ole’ cheddar)

Once you get everything prepped, mix it by hand in a large bowl. Be sure you get everything incorporated nicely, we want all the flavors to come to the party. Set the bowl aside and get your mushrooms started, you want them cooked before the burgers are done.

Melt about a Tbsp of butter into your skillet on medium heat. Then add your mushrooms. Stir them occasionally until they get soft and a nice brown color on all sides. Try not to eat them all straight out of the pan….I always make a little extra just for this reason.

I know it looks like I ate a lot of them, but I promise you they just shrink down quite a bit.

Also I ate some. But only, like, 4.

Or 5.

While your mushrooms are sautéing, start rolling your burgers into balls. I usually make 8 1/4lb burgers. I roll 8 balls about the size of my palms and set them on a baking sheet, then as I’m placing the burgers in my pan I flatten them out with my hands and use my thumb to push a small divot in the center of each burger, this just helps them cook evenly all throughout.

This is the part where a professional would tell you how long to cook your burgers before flipping them, but I just wait until I see them starting to cook halfway up the sides. When you flip them they should have a nice brown crust on the bottom.

Just before each burger is completely cooked, pile them up with your sautéed mushrooms. I then covered each one with a slice of cheddar. Now, you don’t have to do it this way. My husband said he thought it was weird that I put the cheese ON TOP of the mushrooms. I was just trying to keep them from falling off, and as the maker of the dinner I control how it gets done, ya know? You do you and live your best mushroom-burger-eating-life.

Feel free to serve these on a plain bun with some tater tots or fries, or you can jazz them up with a toasted bun and some herb potato rings or wedges. It’s all about customizing your meal to fit your preference and your families schedule. Or how many dishes you feel like creating, which is how I make most of my meal making decisions.

Hot Ham & Cheese Sammies

I don’t know about you, but nothing makes my taste buds happier than a sandwich. It’s so simple and can take on so many flavors, and most importantly-minimal prep work and clean up. Let’s be honest, as a mom those last 2 points are reason enough.

When I’m in a dinner rut or we have a busy day, I can always turn to sandwiches to bring dinner together in a pinch. And so I don’t get mom guilt that I didn’t actually ‘cook’ dinner, I use this Hot Ham and Cheese Sammies recipe to remind myself that if you have to turn on the oven-then you have in fact cooked. Add in my homemade Honey Mustard, and you have just whipped up a hot, homemade meal for your family in 20 minutes (including prep time!).

First, you’ll want to gather up your ingredients. You’ll want:
*8 croissants
*Ham (I also added turkey to a few of mine, because I needed to use it up)
*cheese (provolone is my favorite on these, but cheddar is what I had on hand)
For the Honey Mustard:
*1/2 C Mayo
*1 Tbsp Honey
*1 Tbsp Yellow mustard

First, make the honey mustard. Just add your mayo, mustard, and honey to a small bowl and stir until combined. It honestly doesn’t get any easier than that.

This is what you should end up with, a bowl of pale yellow goodness.

A little bit tangy.
A little bit sweet.
100% yum.

Now onto the most heavenly sight in the world…a big pile of golden, butter, croissants. Carefully slice each croissant in half lengthwise.

Start assembling your sammies. I cover the bottom of the croissant with the honey mustard, then layer on your ham and a slice of cheese.

Loosely wrap each sammie in tinfoil. You don’t need it to be perfectly covered, just wrapped enough so that the sammie will heat thru but your croissant won’t get hard while it’s baking.

Once you have all your sammies wrapped, place them on a sheet pan and place in a 350° oven for about 5-10 mins. Just long enough to make sure your meat is warm and your cheese is nice and melted.

Now this is what heaven must be like. Gooey cheese, warm croissants, sweet honey mustard. Add chips or a salad and you have a whole meal prepped and served in less than 20 minutes! You can’t beat that!

10 Tips for Surviving a Deployment With Kids

Being a wife and mother is challenging enough, but throw in having a spouse in the military and you get thrown a curveball every now and again. Just when you think you have a pretty good grip on things, the military will remind you that it is best to stay flexible. Semper Gumby, as they say. And in my decade-plus experience as a military spouse, there is no more humbling experience to go through than a deployment. I’ve been through 3 with my husband. Once with no kids, once with a newborn, and most recently with a 2nd grader and preschooler. Each deployment came with its own set of challenges, but having to navigate those challenges while making sure you are helping guide your children through all the emotions of a deployment is a daunting task to take on. Here I’ll share my 10 tips on surviving (and hopefully thriving!) a deployment with kids.

Plus there’s a bonus! Read below for an awesome discount for one of our families favorite deployment survival tools!

Set up a weekly countdown

Looking at a 7-12 month deployment on the calendar can be overwhelming. Not just for you, but for kids too. Breaking that time down into smaller, more manageable increments is what works best for our family. We made a poster board with 32 squares on it (7 months x’s 4 weeks per month, plus a couple buffer weeks) and numbered them 1-32. Each square represented one week. We made a note on each week that had a holiday during that week, and every week the kids took turns putting a big, fat, X over the squares as we finished another week. They loved being able to see how far we had come and it helped countdown to the holidays and trips we had planned while Daddy was away.

Celebrate the monthly countdown, too!

On top of our weekend countdown, we would also celebrate every month. The kids and I would go to dinner, our for ice cream, have a movie night in Mom’s bed (this one was a favorite-we called them Family Sleepovers and my kids still ask for them!) It doesn’t matter what you do to celebrate, just a little something to help the kids and yourself mark off a big milestone and cheer each other on that you are doing it!

Make care packages a family event

My husband will be the first to tell us that he doesn’t actually need us to mail him anything in a care package. My husband was always lucky enough to be sent to an already established base for most of his deployment times, and anything he needed he could just buy for himself at the base. The truth is, care packages were something the kids and I did mostly for us. Being able to pour love into a box to mail to my husband was my way of showing him how much we care and miss him. And my kids loved being able to make pictures or fill goodie bags to fill those boxes. The pride they took in hearing their Dad thank them for the things they made and sent to him made them feel closer to him, and that is so very important.

“Daddy Books”

This one is for your deployed spouse. My husband was lucky enough to have a small library on his base, and they had a small stock of children’s books! My husband would take a video of himself reading one of the books and then text it to me. The kids and I would watch the videos at night during our story time and it was always such a special treat. Also, the USO offers the Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program, which is a great program that helps deployment service members record themselves reading books to send to their children. My kids each received a video of their Dad reading a book, and a copy of the book for them to be able to keep and read along!

Communicate with the school

Chances are, if your spouse is in the military you live on a base or in a military town. This is good because your child’s teachers probably already have dealt with kids going through deployments before and understand that this is a challenging time for them. Having that line of communication open between you and the school will only help your child have more advocates in their corner to help them through those tough days.

Let them cry (you too!)

Every now and then, you are going to have one of those days where you are struggling to see the light at the end of this deployment tunnel. Emotions are high and so is your stress level. And just when you think you’ve made it to bedtime and you can mark another hard day off the calendar, you have a kid crying because they want Daddy to tuck them in and he is still gone. They cry, those big hard tears, and you feel that lump building in your throat as you try to hold your own tears back. Let.them.out. Cry, and let them know it is ok. It’s ok to be sad and angry and worried, and your kids feel those emotions just as strongly as you do. Show them that it is ok to feel this way, and that tomorrow is a new day. You guys can get through this together.

When I needed a good cry, I could always count on homecoming videos and a glass of wine.

Make them feel special

Do something special for just them, for no reason other than to make them feel special. My kids LOVED ‘spa days’. I would pull out my nice lotion, nail kit, and a bucket of warm water and would pamper them. They would take turns soaking their feet and then I would trim their nails (I mean, I had to do it anyway, this just minimized any argument over it) and then rub their feet and legs with some lotion. They would always say how special it made them feel, and it was a nice treat. Now, I’m not saying to cater to your children every day of deployment-you WILL go insane. But a nice treat every now and then is just as good for their mental health as it is yours. Now go get yourself a nice pedicure as YOUR special treat!

Keep traditions (but give yourself grace)

Not having a key member of your family home for the holidays is hard. Try to keep them as joyous as possible by sticking with your families beloved traditions. I’m not saying you need to go all out and make every holiday a major event, but pick the ones you look forward to the most and stick with them. Now, not every tradition was kept exactly as before, and I had to give myself grace when things didn’t go as I would have normally done them, as you will see below. Our Elf wasn’t as creative, but at least he showed up. I made a full Thanksgiving meal, but the dog pulled the turkey off the counter. I made my kids their homemade birthday cakes, but forgot to buy candles. You know what? They still loved them all!

When Mom remembers your cake but forgets the candles…

Be involved

We have been blessed to make some of our best friends during our time with the military. Living on base or near a base creates a tight knit community that most civilians don’t get to experience. Be involved in the unit, go to base events, join a spouse sports team or club. These are the people who become your family while your spouse is away, and I have leaned on them more times than I can count. So go to the unit events, be involved with the other spouses, introduce your kids to other kids who are going through the same deployment or have been there before. The point is, find your tribe and hold on to them. You are all in this together and I promise you it is worth it to find those people.

And finally, the Daddy Doll!

You can’t go to a park on or near a base and not see at least one kid totting around their Daddy Doll. These things are cherished among military kids everywhere, and they offer so much comfort during those times when Daddy can’t physically be with them. Our Daddy was able to go to dentist appointments, haircuts, grocery trips, vacations, and even a show-and-tell or two. Daddy Dolls Inc is a fantastic company that makes these custom dolls and so much more, and for being a part of this blog they are offering you a 15% off discount! Just see the flyer below for details!

Remember, deployments are hard but they are temporary. Find what works for your family, and you will all make it out the other side of this relatively unscathed. So give yourself grace and a pat on the back, because cereal for dinner is still dinner, and that’s a win.

4 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cups (and a bonus recipe!)

Today has been a doozy! Never ending phone calls and things to do….and it isn’t due to slow down until bedtime. I knew I was going to need a pick-me-up to pull me through the rest of the day, and there’s no cure quite like chocolate and peanut butter.

I found these adorable pumpkin ice cube molds at the Dollar Tree today and my first thought was…peanut butter cups! Luckily I knew I already had most of the ingredients stocked in my pantry. Here’s what I used:
*pumpkin molds
*1/2 C confectioners sugar
*1/2 C creamy peanut butter
*half a bag of chocolate chips
*1 Tbsp coconut oil

In a microwave safe bowl (or measuring cup) add your half a bag of chocolate chips and your coconut oil. Microwave them in 15 second intervals, stirring them every time until melted. I think I did this 4 times before it was smooth, so about a minute.

Make sure your molds are clean and dry, and then you can start pouring in your chocolate. I used a spoon to add a bit to the bottom of the mold and then spread it around with a (brand new) paint brush. Once both molds are covered, put them in the fridge for about 15 minutes to set the chocolate. Set aside the extra chocolate mixture, you will need it later.

While you’re waiting for your chocolate to set, start on your peanut butter filling. You can mix this by hand, but I prefer my stand mixer so I can make sure I get a good, even mix. Start with your 1/2 C peanut butter.

Then add your 1/2 C confectioners sugar. With your paddle attachment, mix your ingredients until smooth.

By now, your chocolate should be nice and solid. Take your peanut butter mixture and add about 1/2 tsp to the middle of each mold. Use the back of your spoon or your finger to gently push the peanut butter mixture down.

Take your remaining melted chocolate and carefully spoon it over the top of your peanut butter mixture. I added enough to make the chocolate even with the top of my mold.

When both molds are full, place them back into the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Try to distract yourself….these next 30 minutes can feel like a lifetime when you know you have peanut-buttery-chocolate-covered-goodness waiting for you!

When your chocolate is nice and set, it’s time to pop them out of the molds! My pumpkin molds, although incredibly adorable, made it difficult to get out some of the molds. Some of my pumpkins got a little cracked on the way out, but they still taste absolutely incredible. Just pop these into a sealed container and store them into the fridge. I honestly can’t tell you how long they will last in the fridge, because mine never last longer than the weekend. So if you have more self control than I do, let me know how long these keep will ya?

BONUS RECIPE TIME! I had about 1/4 C of my peanut butter mixture left over (next time I’ll use bigger molds!) and I knew there was no way I was going to let this go to waste! I peeked in my fridge/pantry to see what I had that I could make with this…honey, greek yogurt, peanut butter mixture….sounds like the perfect ingredients for a fruit dip!

Just whisk together the 1/4C peanut butter mixture, 1C greek yogurt, and 1Tbsp honey until smooth.

Cut up an apple, and enjoy! This became my impromptu lunch while I was waiting for my peanut butter cups to harden, and it was so delish and easy that I had to share it with you all!

Seriously….so good. And you get two recipes in one with minimal effort! Lucky you!

When the Mom Burnout hits you

Photo by Dmitry Schemelev on Unsplash

You wake up to the sound of kids screeching and fighting in the hallway. You look at your phone, you still have 10 minutes before your alarm is set to go off and another 10 before you needed to wake up the kids for school. You can feel it in your bones that it is going to be one of those days as you emerge from your room and are immediately met with breakfast demands and complaints over the clothes you picked out the night before for them to wear. You try to calmly ask the kids to just be patient as you start pouring cereal and start the coffee pot, but you can feel your cheeks getting warm. When the hungry masses are done eating, they run off to their room. You yell down the hallway to go brush their teeth, but in reply all you get is more fighting about who hit who and who is touching the others toys. You take a deep breath and start clearing the breakfast dishes, only to notice someone spilled their wet cereal all over the floor and didn’t bother to clean it up. They know that you will clean it, so why bother? Finally after teeth brushing, hair managing, 3 outfit changes (while you are still in your pajama pants and tank top from yesterday) you are screaming like a lunatic to get everyone to put on their shoes and hurry outside because the bus is here to pick up the oldest kid and you still have to drive the youngest to their school, which opens in 15 minutes (and you have yet to brush your own teeth).

It is barely 8 am and you are already mentally exhausted when your phone beeps. It’s a text from your husband asking you to run an errand for him this morning since he is at work and you are just at home all day. You text him back ‘sure thing’ and add it to your mental list of your other errands to get done-laundry, sweeping and mopping, unloading and reloading the dishwasher, finishing some computer work you didn’t have time to do yesterday, buying milk because you used the last of it in the kids cereal this morning. You sit in your van and feel the tears start to come. You feel sad, overwhelmed, underappreciated, and ridiculous. “Why are you crying? You are so lucky! You have a husband who is able to provide financially for your family so you can stay home and manage the house! THIS is your job! You have enough money to buy milk and put gas in your van. You have 2 beautiful children and a husband who loves you all, that’s more than a lot of people get in their whole lifetime! So why am I crying in the bank parking lot?”

Photo by Claudia on Unsplash

I will tell you why you are crying. Because you are human. As a mother, we spend so much of our day being many things for many people. Mother, wife, nurse, cook, housekeeper, chauffer, referee, lover. The list goes on and on and the benefits are ones that don’t give immediate gratification. You don’t get a paycheck, or vacation days, or sick days. There is no promotion ladder to climb and you never clock out. And the stakes are high, like really high. You are raising a family, molding tiny humans into what you hope will be productive members of society and you only have one shot at doing it right. The weight of this burden is heavy, and even though you may not carry it alone, it is a job that you can’t take lightly. So when you start your day yelling like a lunatic you feel like you are failing, or like this isn’t the deal you were promised when you made the decision to start a family.

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

I see you, Momma. I see you when you are crying in your van. Or when you are standing over a toddler in the middle of a meltdown at the grocery store, gritting your teeth as you try to coax them up. I see you when you are walking out of the school office after another meeting with teachers about your child struggling in class and you’re just hoping you can hold it together until you get to your car. When you are mindlessly scrolling thru Instagram at the park while your kids play because you just need 5 minutes to do anything other than being a mom right now.
I see you.
I am you.

Your feelings are valid and you have worth. Life is hard, parenting is hard, and trying to balance it all with grace and a smile is damn near impossible.

So give yourself some grace and be kind to your feelings. Not every day will be like this and there is light at the end of the tunnel. Why? Because you know eventually it will be bedtime, and if you can just hold on until then, you get a fresh start tomorrow.

And in the meantime, there is wine and chocolate.

Because you are a Mom, and you have earned it.