Surprising My Husband: Mama Does Miley!

It is hard to feel sexy when you are somebody's mother.   Just this weekend as a rare opportunity for adult activity came up, my husband and I rolled over to see our girl's stuffed toys Violet and Scout nestled in our bed. Little bit of a mood killer. I think we washed dishes or did laundry instead.  Kids take the fun out of some things pretty fast, amiright?


Some kids put the fun back into being an adult too, right, Miley Cyrus? I didn't watch the VMAs but I sure heard about them.  There are more worthwhile things to blog about, but as a mom to small children, I don't get out much.

The first post I found on Facebook was MamaPop's This is Not My MTV .  In a word: awesome.   

I loved reading  HuffPost's Dear Miley Letter and also BuzzFeed's What Miley Cyrus was Trying to Do Vs. What She Did

These writers were thoughtful and for the most part encouraging.  A friend brought up the point that our reaction to Miley Cyrus at the VMAs may reflect our parent's reaction to Madonna in her first heyday.  I remember rocking her tousled hair bandanna headband and black jelly bracelets for a solid year.  Or more.  

So now I am a mama, and I have different standards, this Miley business...ugh.

As I read and watched a variety  of accounts of her desperate  performance at the VMAs, I suddenly realized what I needed to do to live the wild life myself. I need to once again embrace what is apparently trendy and GO FOR IT!

Won't my husband be surprised when he gets home?

What are YOUR Ten Days?

I read my bloggy friend Cathy's post today about the "Ten Best Days of Your Life"  You should head over there right now to read it!  She got me thinking, what are the ten best days of my life? These aren't all specific days exactly...and I do enjoy most of my normal days too!

1)  My first apartment on Pleasant street as a Senior in high school.  Independence was mine.  Also my first day in Chicago, walking the windy, dirty streets of the Gold Coast looking for my first Chicago apartment, drinking my very first cup of Starbucks coffee (a mocha!).  

Best days of your life2)  When I REALLY quit smoking.  I smoked for years, and quit so many times my friends would laugh when I said I was quitting again.  I used Quitnet and FINALLY quit.  I may have attempted to smoke here and there since...but it is NASTY.  I thank God every time I see a smoker, that I do not smoke anymore....and I pray for them that they realize how awesome they are that they do not need to smoke either.

3)  Running the Sunburst  5K with my Dad.  I basked in his pride.  I was finally running and seeking out healthy things for myself.  It was the first of many, many runs together, with other friends and family, in Indiana and Chicago before and after grandchildren and husbands.  I complain during every one, but secretly love it.  

4)  John's Proposal on December 3, 2006. A romantic Starbuck's coffee delivery when he picked me up, geocaching where we walked on an early date looking for a cache (this time with a sparkly princess cut engagement ring!) & Chicago Lyric Opera trip to see Romeo & Juliet!

5)  Our Wedding Day:  Just ridiculously perfect in the glass ceilinged atrium of The Marriott in  South Bend Indiana.  An accidental royalty theme added to our intentional Shakespeare one, making my own brown & blue invitations, programs etc.  The candy decor as both fun to look at and a guest mixer and a party favor...marvelous hit.  Enjoying a post nuptial kiss at the South Bend Chocolate Company where we had our first date, and FINALLY ending three years of abstinence: PRICELESS!

6)  Feeling Portia move in my belly any morning while I sat on the couch reading my bible and doing devotions!   The roll of my skin and shifting movements of my baby girl growing inside my body was incredible.  Except at night, when I was trying to sleep.  Just as awesome with Libby too.

7)  When my Girls learned to walk.  Or maybe that was the worst day?  I just loved seeing the surprise and pride on their tiny faces.  And also when they learned to use the potty.  FABULOUS Day, Folks!
One of my favorite things about raising children is watching them discover for the first time  something I take for granted and do myself a jillion times a day.  PRESHUPS!

8)  Any day at our Dreamland Cabin in Estes Park, Colorado. Especially when I got to bring my family there. It is hidden away behind a bluff and so simple.  I have gone there many times with and without my family but every day there is a delight and so restful.  I loved going there alone as a young woman, and I love taking my husband and girls there too.


9)  Recording my first radio piece with Lee Burdorf at WVPE for NPR.  He is always so warm and funny and encouraging. I was THRILLED to have one submission accepted, imagine my humbled delight when I was invited to join the regulars for a almost monthly airing for Michiana Chronicles!  I am proud and exhilarated to be able to do these radio bits.

10)  Any day I speak to a group!  I LOVE engaging and inspiring other people with my humor and frankness.  God blessed me to entertain and challenge others through my speaking, and when someone invites me to speak  and I get to meet a new group of people to rally I am in my best sweet spot!

What are YOUR Ten Best Days?  This was an interesting exercise for me, and I would love to hear about your Ten Best Days!


Tiny Red Kitchen: Healthier Rachel Ray French Onion Dip Pizza Made Vegan!

Many of you know not to get in between me and a piece of bacon, but recently John and I have been trying to eat a lot less meat and dairy.  All the more reason not to bicker with me over bacon...tho I have both made and purchased faux bacon it is not the same.  A fair replacement for a healthier life, yes, the same? GET OUTTA MY WAY, there is SOME BACON over there!*


One of our carnivorous delights (even for me, the non onion eating Femme Fatale) was Rachel Ray's French Onion Dip Pizza.  I made it for John out of love and the adoration that comes of newly wedded bliss (sans Petites). I made it just for him, but then there might have been some wrestling over it once I had "my bite".  You can find the original recipe here on Rachel Ray's site.  French Onion Dip Pizza.  OMLAWDY!

In order to attempt making this Vegan French Onion Dip Pizza...this cheese and dairy rich little darling, I searched for a few recipes.  It is fairly simple to replace sour cream or ricotta in a recipe using tofu.  Since the pizza requires creme fraiche I used homemade vegan sour cream.  Since I like cooking from scratch and avoiding all the chemicals used to make vegan substitutes, I made my own ricotta sour creamy mix loosely based on Veganomicon's Ricotta recipe.  (Thanks for loaning that cookbook to me Whitney!)  I'm pretty sure it was tofu since I was out of cashews, they had two different recipes.  I added in some pureed walnuts & sunflower seeds, lemon juice, nooch aka nutritional yeast, a bit of olive oil and maybe that was it?

We bought vegan mozzarella shreds for the top.  we usually just skip cheese on pizza now. I know.  

I know.

I know.  And six months ago I would have agreed with you....but try it.  Even order delivery pizza without cheese.  It is still AWESOME.  Or light cheese if you must.  You will be surprised at how unnecessary cheese is when you realize it can feed cancer in your body...and if like me everyone around you drops like flies from cancer at some point. 

I was THRILLED beyond belief to find a vegan Gruyere Cheese recipe   One of the things that makes Rachel Ray's French Onion Dip Pizza so delicious is the sharp, pungent snap of Gruyere.   GOT IT.

My Culinary Confessions blogger, I bow so low at your feet for this recipe it may appear as if I am kissing your feet.  Actually, just licking vegan Gruyere Sauce from your kitchen floor.  OMLAWDY.  This Vegan Gryueyre Cheese Sauce SMELLS AND TASTES just like Gruyere   Of course it is a sauce, and doesn't have the chew or stretch of cheese butwhoneedsit?

Then I tried a new pizza dough recipe.  I make my dough all the time, often trying new recipes but rarely getting perfection.  I googled New York Style Pizza Dough, and HEAVEN came down to this family.  Well, to me at least.  This came out wonderfully chewy but the littles had trouble with it.  Forget them.  They can have applesauce!

You can find the New York Style Pizza Dough on allrecipes here.  I lost my bread machine paddle somewhere in my Tiny Red Kitchen, so I used the Kitchen Aid stand mixer instead.  I'm also terribly impatient so I didn't let the dough rest overnight, it may have gotten an hour and a half or so total rise time.  It was AWESOME.  

The verdict was Veganized Rachel Ray French Onion Dip Pizza:  MARVELOUS.  John said "This is really good, Honey!" and "I want to eat it all!"  The girls both ate it but Portia left the crusts which she does on most pizza anyway.

If you are trying to eat healthier and would like me to recreate your recipe but vegan, I would LOVE to take the challenge.  And yes, Smarty Pants, I can recreate fried chicken.  So There.

*But let it be said, after eating plant based more often, meat and dairy is not as saliva worthy as it once was. My palate has changed!  I do turn up my nose now at flaccid greasy bacon commonly offered at buffets.  Now that I see bacon as a treat instead of daily fare, I hold out for only the most bacony baconess there is.  

What I Have Learned Since Becoming a Mom: Guest Post by Erica Barker "We Three Crabs"

I had my son “little Crab” when I was thirty-three years old. I had struggled with infertility and subsequently a divorce. I prayed for five consecutive years for a child and was blessed on August 9, 2010 with a healthy boy. I’ve since learned so much.

I have learned to slow down and not schedule so much in my day.

I’m a doer.

I used to make long lists of lofty goals for myself and not sleep until my list was all marked off. With a baby you just can’t do that. I quickly learned that doing anything at all outside of nursing and changing diapers would be a major feat those first several weeks. As he grew, I learned that getting out of the house would take twice as long, and just when I thought we were good to go, he would poop.

Eventually we made it out of the house. I learned to always carry the diaper bag, even if you are going to the store down the street for one thing. I always wondered how my own mom managed to have everything we could possible need with her at all times. I learned how to pack the bag and how to keep one in the car just in case.

Now that my son is a toddler, every day is like learning something new, for both of us. I used to think it was awful if the kitchen floor was not mopped multiple times a week. I learned that spot cleaning with Lysol in a squirt bottle works just as good.

I’ve recently learned that my son doesn’t care is the gold fish on the floor of the car have been there more than three seconds; he wants to eat them anyway. I struggle with things like that. I’m learning to let that go.

A lesson that I learned recently is that I need to follow through with discipline. My son is testing his boundaries. A lot. I need to follow through with the consequence that I say is going to happen or I will lose my authority. Every time I do follow through, he learns a multitude of lessons about behavior and our relationship. After the punishment is given, we always discuss why and how do to better next time. He is learning to apologize for his wrongs. I apologize as well, mostly for not keeping my cool in the thick of it.

Transitions are still tough for him. Setting a timer five minutes before bedtime to give him a warning has seemed to help the transition to bedtime go smoother.

I'm learning that potty training could be the death of me. After my son looked at me the other day, hand on hip, and said "I don't poop in the potty. I poop in my dump truck." He proceeded to take off his pants and diaper and well, do just that. Oy! Today he actually pooped in the potty, so maybe we are making headway. Let's hope!

I’m learning all the names to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and about Batman as well.

I’m learning that teaching someone how to treat others is one of the most important things you can do. We talk a lot about how not to talk to others and how not to treat other people poorly. He is learning what being kind means and I am learning that it’s hard to teach your child manners when so many people in today’s world do not use theirs.

I know this is only the beginning. I’m glad they start out as babies and we get to learn right along with them! I am excited about learning to the best mom I can be.

"I asked him for this child, and he gave me what I asked for." 1Samuel 1:27 GNB

Erica is a mother, wife, Part-time blogger, Part-time Administrative Assistant, and AdvoCare Distributor. Her “Little Crab” is three years old. Her family is relocating to Juneau, Alaska in a few months to join her husband who is an Alaskan Fisherman. Her blog, "We Three Crabs" is where she shares the stories of their adventures.

Preschool Pick Up and Drop Off Hell: Are you a Shiny Mom?

Do I care what that other mom thinks?  You know, the one whose freakishly adorable daughter trollops on into the preschool classroom with a  cute (new one owner only, low miles)outfit with matching hair bow or 'do dads' in a (not only brushed but styled too!) hair do?  

What does that painfully pretty, well made up, nicely attired and smiling mama think of me and my girls as we stumble into the building barely on time. (But dressed, which may be lucky, yes?)  Did she hear the f bomb I dropped as I also dropped my keys?  Again?  Did she recognize that whatever my girls are wearing was worn by someone else? (A few times!)  Does she feel obligated to take up a collection to buy me a hairbrush, since I have yet to manage my older daughter's wonderfully energetic hair?    (The other day at the breakfast table she had a ponytail in and I started to compliment my husband for 'doing' her hair...he clarified she slept in that was left over from the day before.  Oh.  Well...)

When our preschool bucket has stickers hot glued to it because the awesome glitter spray paint I started with kept them from adhering....but other moms have painted themes, beribboned bucket handles, wonderful creativity...

And don't even get me started about the time I was late to pick Portia up.

I'm a wildcard.  I like myself.  I do not let my kids disrespect me, they are usually well behaved and dressed nicely half the time.  I get my shower and coffee and me time.  I like how I mother and think I am doing just fine.

But I wonder what the other moms think.  I do. 

I care.  Even as confident as I am in who I have become in my life...I worry about what other people think of me, my life and my two girls.  I wonder if I come across as arrogant or a VOA (Voice. Of. Authority.) when it comes to parenting.  I always offer unrequested is just the way I am and I only mean to help.  I worry it makes people not want to be around me.

I worry that at school Portia may be infamous for her unbrushed hair.  I know I have judged other children with crummy hair.  Now look at that karma...and it comes with cowlicks!  

I like looking at the 'shiny moms' as a gal pal of mine calls them.  I would rather look at them than at me, and sometimes I am pretty darling myself...but often.....oh...

Even as I work out my own motherhood and feel confident in my choices....I still wonder what the other mom thinks.  I worry that in reality I do not stack up and I should be trying to hide that fact better.  But I don't.  I let my good and bad hang out.  I am honest about my days and real with other people about my challenges.  I would like to be prettier and calmer and a perfect mama, wife and woman.  I worry about what that other mom thinks and I decide to be ok with that.

What about you?  Confident?  Cowering?  Both?  I'd like to hear your tales of preschool pick up and drop off....but lemme put on some lipstick first ok?  Can I borrow yours?

(This post originally ran in 2012 on Mumbling Mommy Blog)

Guest Post at We Three Crabs "Aim Low When Praying for Toddlers"

I aim low when I pray for my two little girls.  Praying for toddlers is easy, but how do you do it?  I do not ask for perfect health, riches and happiness.  If you wanna know my simple prayer c'mon over to We Three Crabs and visit me as I guest post there.

Erica has been a friend for so long.  We were next door neighbors on Altgeld Street and she got me going to church in the first place.  I found Granger Community Church because of her.  It is an AWESOME place for someone who wants nothing to do with church.  They make everybody feel comfortable and I loved belonging there for several years before we moved.  I still watch online and stay in touch with friends.  

I have watched Erica develop from being unhappy and snarky (And hilarious about it) to deeply fulfilled, peaceful and HAPPY in her marriage and motherhood and faith.  I continue to be proud of her, surprised by her, and a little envious of how she has bloomed these past years.  I am honored to guest on her blog "We Three Crabs" and share how I pray for my toddlers.  

Here's to Motherhood, Erica!!!!

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Immediate Help for a Crummy Day!

Before Having Children, I was so lighthearted and fancy free.  Now I can be pretty surly and grouchy at times, and I do not like it.  I have a lot of responsibility and people saying "MOM!  Mom?  Mom..... Uh MOOOOOMMMM!!!!!"  It can wear on a person who hasn't gotten any coffee yet.

You may notice a theme here, but I am supposed to be having a wee little bit of devotional time.  It's already become "one of those mornings", and I figured if I didn't have a quick chat with The Almighty the morning could head south quickly.  And by that I mean yelling, time outs, crying and maybe eating too much food.  So.  Devotions.  

I read a passage from 40 Days With Jesus by Sarah Young (She wrote the Jesus Calling Kids devotionals...AMAZINGLY real and direct and SHORT daily devos for kids.) And in it Jesus said "This is how I choose to live in the world and accomplish My purposes."


I called my husband who was driving to work immediately, the first smile of the morning on my face.  I apologized for my crabbiness, for sending him to work with that worried expression he gets.  Like when he feels like he is skipping away from the disaster of a day at home with small children.

"This is how I choose to live in the world and accomplish My purposes."  I CHOOSE.  

Yes, there is chaos, and water stained tables and dog hair and children asking for breakfast and dishes to put away and family coming to visit and ohmyLawdIdongotabraonyit! 


I will take care of it all, one of two ways.  I can be stressed and grouchy and hurried and surly.  I can frown and bang things and move too fast and shout at people who hinder "My Way."

OR.  Oh friends, it is SUCH a big "OR":

I can spend some time with the One who made me.  I can be gently and lovingly reminded that I choose how to live within my days.  I may not choose the days, but I sure can choose how I LIVE THEM.  I want to LIVE WELL.  

So I smiled.  I called that husband of mine and thanked him for doing the dishes I now only have to put away.  I smiled.  I'll put on some red lipstick.  I'll turn on some happy music and burn some inspiring essential oils.  And I will share it all with you.  

How do YOU choose to live in the world today? 

Need 3 Quick Ideas?  Read "Need Happy? Make Your Own!"

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5 Day Challenge RESULTS! (PLUS 3 Snack Tricks You Need)

Six pounds down. 

 SIX. POUNDS.  In 5 days. 

 And I lost 4 inches overall too.  Oh Yeah. Thanks to Dan Vukmirovich, Shakeology, and the 5 Day Clean Eating Challenge! Big thanks also to my husband John in the trenches with me and the other folks who participated egging me on.  I might have been a little hungry here and there, but planning my meals and snacks IN ADVANCE was really helpful.  The menus were 'Clean Eating", so no processed food or sweets and only whole grain bread etc.  I had HORRIBLE headaches & nausea the second & third day, but after that I felt GREAT and had good energy.  I skipped my nap and cleaned the house like a banshee.  
This stuff is NOT on The List

It was at times tricky for John and I both to get a workout in since we run or walk outside and do classes or machines at the YMCA.  We were a healthy kind of sore and proud of ourselves.  We started some good habits.  We are both very focused on our next steps and what we need to do on our own to continue this downward spiral of the scale.  I am already up a few pounds after "Weekend Eating" so this will continue to be WORK.

I'm feeling anxious about our menu...having it planned for me was great since someone else had to do all the math.  The menu we followed was too low in calories for regular use and was only meant as a jump start...not sure how well I will do planning our food.  I tried to use Sparkpeople's menu & shopping list, but they have some funky stuff show up as meals and I did not have the time or energy to change each meal for myself.  

I was really surprised and proud to see I could really follow a restricted menu...I believe I can finally break my nasty habit of tracking my food and simply laughing when I go over...way instructed calories.  I learned to REALLY inspect my food calorie values and made choices accordingly.  Do you people know one large fried shrimp is 150 calories?????  UGH.

Along the way I learned a few helpful things you might like to know:

SNACK TRICK #1 Don't eat waffle cones!  
Have your (rare and calorie counted) ice cream on a CAKE cone...most ice cream scoops of 1/2 cup are about 200 calories.  A cake cone is about 20 calories, vs. a waffle cone weighing in at 200 extra calories!

SNACK TRICK #2 Starbucks SKINNY SUGAR FREE Frappachino (however it is spelled) 
A tall is only 100 calories and is closer to a milkshake than should be allowed.  I was DELIGHTFULLY surprised.  Of course, artificial sweetener isn't a clean food.  FYI.

SNACK TRICK #3 It is hard to eat vegan and loose weight. 
It just is. My Dad slimmed down so nicely on the Paleo Diet while I preached to him about "plant strong" and "Engine 2 Diet" I'm just eating meat more often and trying trying trying to avoid carby foods other than beans and grains like quinoa.  I'll keep looking at what can satisfy in the vegan department...but meat took the pounds off.  Maybe I will die sooner, but I will be thinner. That sounds terrible, huh?  Eating clean no matter what is a very healthy option.  

Do you have any Snack Tricks you could share with me? Ima gonna need 'em!

P.S. CONGRATS to Angela!
I'm thrilled to hear Angela's "5 Day Choose Your Challenge" was to track her food and fitness with My Exercise Pal.

As of today, 57 folks read the Challenge post but only Angela commented & took a personal 5 Day Challenge!  

What is everybody else doing?  Already  Perfect & no need for further improvement?

Probably eating Cheetos and drinking Coke Zero while they read my blog.  HARRUMPH. 

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Bodacious Blog of the Week: Moms Gone Zen + Craftastic DIY Body Wrap

I love to DIY when I can, and DIY spa stuff, as you guys know, has been a beautiful disaster in the Novak Household.  But still, you know, spa like!  I was looking for a DIY slimming body wrap instead of forking over jajillions for something that really hasn't worked although They say IT WORKS.
Picture from Moms Gone Zen Blog

So I found a few ideas, and then I found "Moms Gone Zen" a blog for all kinds of spa DIY and geared towards us mamas who maybe have, ummmm two minutes behind a bathroom door to do anything  indulgent.  Like Poop.

In their 'about us' page the two Michelles who run the site state "We are dedicated to relieving stress by finding the best solutions to moms most common problems".  SIGN. ME. UP.

So. The body wrap site that suggested I leave the wrap on for 6 hours....riiiiiight.    The Mom's Gone Zen site that suggests an hour...YES!  NAPTIME!

I found their Summer Wrap to Detoxify and Tighten to be a great spa DIY for me to try.  You can find the video and ingredients (which you may already have on hand!  SCORE!) by heading over there now.

I did the wrap and looked slimmer, but by the time I unwrapped myself I had so much else going on I didn't measure and all of that.  I think if you are young and  single this is a great pastime.  If you have an important even or someone will be seeing you naked, a wrap is great.  For this mama?  Fergit it.  Too much trouble.  I'll go with candlelight, thank you very much.

I'd love to hear your feedback: love it, hate it?  Too busy to bother?

CRAFTASTIC: Don't trust me with Dynamite, OK? DIY Bath Bombs and Cindy Lou Creations

I really bombed this one.  But then...maybe it all worked out for good and not for evil.  I made DIY Bath Bombs from a Pop Sugar recipe I had written on a sticky note and stuck in my Bible of all places. I'm guest posting over at Cindy Lou Creations today and you can visit me over there to hear about the bumbled bombs and see for yourself what happens when you "just add water!"