Fresh and Delicious Dill Balsamic Vinaigrette

You know those salad dressings that just stick with you?  You crave them…you think about them during a particular season…you make special trips to the store or Farmer’s Market just for those special ingredients?

Well, I have one of those dressings.  I tried it for the first time while I was working with some incredible Italian women and putting myself through college.  These sisters had big hearts and amazing cooking skills.

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One day, they insisted I have some of the salad they had brought in from home.  I did.  Friends, that’s all it took.  I was hooked and had to know how I could make it for myself.

All these years later, I am still making this amazing vinaigrette.  I admit, it’s not the same recipe, because time has tainted my recollection and I probably cut the salt by over half, because salt is a current member on my don’t-even-go-there list, but I think it’s amazing still and my ids seem to agree.  When you’ve got a four and a six year old who actually fought over slices of cucumber for dipping, because they couldn’t get enough, you know you’ve got a winner.

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Friends, here is that winner for your own enjoyment…

Dill Balsamic Vinaigrette

3 full sprigs of fresh dill (more to taste) – remove the fronds from stems and finely chop

1/4 c. balsamic vinegar

1/4 c. olive oil

1/4 c. honey (can also be split as 1/8 c. honey, 1/8 c. sugar)

1 tsp. sea salt & 20+ cracks black pepper (more or less to taste)

1 Roma tomato, chopped

1/4 c. yellow or red onion, chopped

*Even if you don’t care for onions and tomatoes, incorporate them into the dressing, because they are crucial in developing the proper flavor.

Finish with one cucumber, chopped, and 1/2 c. mozzarella cheese (fresh is best, but shredded works well too!)

Pair with a delicious pasta dish or top with grilled chicken for an amazing, stand-alone meal.

That simple.

Enjoy!

Connect with us on Instagram to keep up with all the latest happenings in the Klover House Kitchen!  Also, if Meal Planning is something that interests you, check out my in-depth article explaining my tried and proven process on the incredible site, Money Saving Mom.

Check out more of our Klover House Favorites:

Honey Citrus Grilled Chicken over Black Beans and Rice

Deliciously Sweet and Creamy Pumpkin Pie

Raspberry Almond Sugar Cookie Pie

Salted Caramel Oreo Truffles

Delicious Crockpot Lasagna

 

Seeking the Simple Life

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, friends.  Can you believe the New Year is just days away?

Our schedules are packed, wallets are emptied, bellies are full…  And yet, something is missing for this mama.  It became painfully obvious this morning.  All the kiddos are home from school today, and while they played in their pajamas, this mama stepped outside in her’s.  My pajamas, that is, and a big, fluffy, pink robe.  I had to throw a piece of mail into the mailbox, and I didn’t care who saw me on my quick trip to the street and back again.

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But as I took that first step out of our front door, I was greeted with the chimes of church bells in the distance, and the thoughts rushed in like a gust of wintry truth.  I long for simple.  For simpler times.  For crisp, clear moments, like that one.  In this season in which life-moments are fleeting, like fast-falling snowflakes, I am finding myself wanting to linger.  To catch some on my tongue.  To examine a few on my gloves.  To laugh as they rest peacefully atop my child’s head.  And I’m not talking about literal snowflakes, well, not entirely, anyway.  I mean those life moments.  They are melted and forgotten before I’ve even taken the chance to examine them in their rawness and beauty.

Where are you going, life?  Will I ever catch up to you?  Or should I be slowing down and force you to stop for a breath yourself once in a while?

With each step, a bell chimed.  It was so serene.  I couldn’t tell if it made me feel nostalgic – almost transporting me back in my mind to what I imagine a winter morning at Christmastime felt like before cell phones, and deadlines, and social media…  Before too many appointments and activities…  What would it be like?  To walk outside your door in the morning and just take a little walk, listening to the church bells chime as you delivered cookies to an elderly neighbor?  Wouldn’t that be something?  To “digress”?  To live, and breathe, and just be once in awhile.

Or maybe it made me feel lonely.  Maybe those somber, deliberate steps taken in the stillness on a quiet street reminded me of how full my life is but how empty it feels most days.  Sure, we laugh.  I play with my kids, and we enjoy afternoon movies and snuggles on the couch.  I’m not all there, though.  I’m somewhere else much of the time.  I’m making mental checklists and contemplating craft ideas and designing imaginary dresses and considering business deals and dreaming up ministry opportunities and remembering to-do lists…  I’m not there, breathing in their sweet little smell, taking in their quirky little mispronunciations, or answering their innocent questions with more than two brain cells and in a decent tone.

The comparison of the simplicity of the moment against the cluttered space that was once my life and mind left me feeling lonely.  Even though they’re right in front of me, I miss my family.  Even though it’s all around me, I miss Christmas.  I miss waking up and being present.

It’s hard, isn’t it?  I feel like the modern woman longs for superhuman abilities.  We want to cook well, work well, take care of our family and home well…because we are the ultimate homemakers.  We want solid relationships and calendars full of events and play dates…because we are the ultimate friend.  We want successful businesses and accolades…because we are the ultimate entrepreneur.  We want quiet times and Bible studies…because we are the ultimate, faithful Christian.  We want book clubs and girls’ nights and birthday parties and potlucks…because we are able to just do.it.all.   And so we try.  We try to do it all and we find ourselves lonely.

Longing for less.

Feeling like we’re aiming at all the targets, but missing all the marks.

Is it just me?

I don’t know what this next year holds for me, for our family, our plans and dreams, but I do know that change is coming.  I heard the bells ring this morning, and I can’t “unhear” them.

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, dear friends.  Go, enjoy your loved ones.  Find someone or a whole bunch of someones and love them like crazy this week and every week from here, on…

xo,

Kristi

 

To read the devotional that was born from this post, please start here: Simply Noel: December 1 – Put on Hope

Cream Cheese Pumpkin Bread

Last night, as I burned the late-night oil watching Cake Wars on Food Network, I caught the #BakeItForward challenge presented at the close of the show.  I am a huge fan of the #PayItForward lifestyle, so this seemed like a lot of fun coupled with a wonderful cause – fighting child hunger. Food Network is donating $1 for each original post on social media using the hashtag #BakeItForward.

As I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and sipping my morning cup of coffee, I came across the video below, featuring banana bread with a cream cheese filling.  I was all out of bananas, but I remembered that I had a can of Organic Pumpkin Puree from Trader Joe’s, so I immediately decided that a swap was in order, since I had everything else I needed to make the bread.

 

Cream Cheese-Filled Banana BreadPIN IT FOR LATER: http://bit.ly/bnnabrad

Posted by Tasty on Sunday, November 8, 2015

 

I followed the recipe shown in the video:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • pinch of salt

I used the following additions:

  • 1 tsp. Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie spice
  • 1 tsp. Cinnamon
  • HALF of a 15oz. can of TJ’s Organic Pumpkin Puree

and the following variations:

  • 1/4 c. Coconut oil (in place of butter)
  • 1/2 c. half n half (in place of sour cream)

I followed the Cream Cheese Filling recipe as given:

  • 4 oz. softened cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 3 TBSP flour

Bake at 350 for 50 minutes.

So that was it!  It turned out well (I think, anyway), but I kept having to remind myself with each bite, “This is NOT a Pumpkin Roll…this is NOT a Pumpkin Roll.” LOL  Because it isn’t nearly as sweet, although it resembles one!  It DID however, make me feel a whole lot better about having three slices!  🙂  Enjoy and please jump on the #BakeItForward train!  It is such a great cause!  We are all baking during the holidays at one point or another, and the challenge is running until December 31st, so as you bake and gift your goodies to others, tag your photos with the #BakeItForward #NoKidHungry hashtags and keep the goodness going!  Tag me too, on Twitter and Instagram, if you heard about it here, because I would be so thrilled to see what you are baking and to see that the love is spreading!

Happy Baking and Giving, Friends! xoxo

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I’ll Sing Over You

One of my precious ones is in Kindergarten now.  The oldest of four, she is my darling, my angel, my sensitive child.  She is goofy and kind.  She, like me is always running late, because she’d rather draw a picture or make a snow angel in the carpet than get dressed and brush her hair in the morning.  She loves to read and asks me a million questions a day.  Her memory is absolutely incredible.  She can still recall things that happened to her when she was just two years old.  She understands how things work after you’ve explained it just once, and she can re-explain those same things to her little sister in “little sister terms”.  She’s a natural teacher.  She’s patient and truthful.  She’s a helper.  We joke that she’s a genius, but in all honesty, we mean it.  She is my defender no matter what.  When her dad is tickling me, she’ll come to my rescue every time.  I adore her.

So, it’ll come as no surprise when I tell you that Kindergarten is breaking my heart, although you probably would never guess why.

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This treasure of mine, this little gem of a girl has entered into the world of relationships, and even in Kindergarten little ones can carry sharp tongues and haughty eyes.

This beautiful soul…our wide-eyed darling…with her golden locks and dimpled chin…comes home with a little less sparkle some days.

She told me that my hair was ugly today, Mom.

They said I couldn’t tell the teacher or they wouldn’t be my friend.

He didn’t want to be my partner in gym class.

I’m not naive.  I know that no matter where our babies go to school, they are going to encounter other little souls that have the potential to hurt a heart.  I watch as even my oldest two daughters hurt one another’s hearts here at home too.  It just feels a bit different when the stings aren’t coming from a sibling.  You can’t be there to guard their hearts and minds from unkindness that they’ll face in the classroom, on the playground, at the lunch table.  It’s just not possible.

It’s life.

When they head off to college, they may have that professor that decides to humiliate them for running late.  They may have a boss that makes them feel incompetent.  They may even choose friends throughout their lifetime that disrespect them.  I can’t be there with my sword and shield.

As I’ve been struggling with this commonsense truth over the past two weeks, I’ve let it cause me so much worry for her.  We just want to fix things as parents, right?  We do our best to talk about the Golden Rule and model good character ourselves.  We ask all of the questions that we think will say to their little souls, “Mommy cares about your day.”  We even give them permission to defend themselves and walk them through scenarios…”If so-n-so says something mean, you…{insert your best advice here}.”

We try and fret and prep and pray, but as I sat here tonight coincidentally reading another mom’s post on Kindergarten bullying, I felt my spirit dwelling on Zephaniah 3:17.

It was as if the Lord was saying to my weary and worried mama-heart…“Sing over her.”

The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.

I can’t navigate these tough waters for her.  I can’t shelter her continuously.  I don’t have any way of stopping her from experiencing less-than-ideal relationships in her life, but I can sing over her.

When she is here, I can sing prayers of a mother’s love over her heart.  I can teach her the Truth of the Living Word that says she is worthy of love, she is holy and set apart for God, and He delights in her no matter what.  I can whisper in her ear each morning that the beauty of her heart is more precious than anything else and that she is clothed in righteousness.  I can remind her that she is the child of the King of Kings and that makes her Heaven’s princess. I can assure her that no hairstyle or outfit or talent will ever buy her wisdom and grace, and her character is where true beauty resides.  I can show her that acts of kindness and choosing words carefully matter more than being right or feeling comfortable.  I can be a warm shoulder on the days that a peer has given her a cold one.  I can catch her tears and tell her that I love her.  I can sing over her songs of hope and joy and promises.

I can sing over her.

And when a word comes against her tender heart, I can believe that she won’t hear it, because she’s too busy listening to my song.

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More posts like this:

Sanctuary

The Girl Who Saves Me

For the Overwhelmed Mom of Multiples

Dear Baby

Bedtime Lessons that Change Everything

 

 

Sanctuary

Tonight, as I folded a little laundry and listened to the last of my husband’s stories from the day, the movie The Help played in the background.  I love that movie.  I think it’s on the top of my short list of “movies I could watch any day any time.”  After my husband said his “good night” and headed to bed, I found myself glued to the movie’s end.  I’ve seen it many times, but it still grips me as tightly as the first time.

You is kind.

You is smart.

You is important.

I could never get tired of that scene.  It is so moving.  Tonight, it tugged my heartstrings in a completely new way.  A way that whispered, “Sanctuary.”

Sanctuary…

Yes.

I found myself coming to the realization that if I looked back on my day with my dear daughters, my quote would read something more like…

You is cruel.

You is annoying.

Go away.

Seriously.

I replayed the events of the day.  The majority of moments were good – better than most lately.  But there were a few segments of our day that made the “terrible moments” highlight reel.  The bickering.  The nonstop running in circles.  The cruelty passing from one sister to another.  The ugly monster rising up in me, yelling until my vocal chords hurt, only to cup my face in my hands in regret immediately after.  What am I saying to these children?

I have been crumbling the sanctuary.  Some days, emotionally and spiritually it feels more like a war zone, with my daughters going about their day beneath shame-shrouds that I have put there – lies that I am writing on their foreheads and their hearts with my cruel words back at them.

What is wrong with yoooou?!

I shout in exhausted exasperation when one sister hits another.

Wrong with her?  Nothing is wrong with her.  They are being children.  Learning boundaries.  Pushing boundaries.  Pretending boundaries don’t exist in the name of childish fun and freedom.  That is going to happen in a plethora of ways over the course of their young lives.  It’s about time I start parenting them based upon who they are and not how they are being.

They are kind.  They need guidance.

They are smart.  They need encouragement.

They are important.  They need attention.

They are holy.  They need sanctuary.

They have their whole lives to encounter unkind souls, impatient people…

Not here.

Not with me.

I am their sanctuary.

I see them – walking into their classroom wearing that dark shame-shroud that says,

I’m cruel.  I’m annoying.  I’m tolerated.  I’m unlovable.

I wonder how miserably far that will take them in life, and I am undone, because that’s not how I truly see them at all.

That’s not who they are.  That’s not even how they are “being,” yet I find ways throughout my day to wrap them in those suggestions.

No longer.

No more.

As I dig deeper into Rachel Macy’s Stafford’s new book, Hands Free Life, and her wisdom chisels away at my mind-clutter, I feel like the light bulbs are slowly coming on one by one.  It’s as if Holy Spirit himself is walking slowly through the “house” of my heart and mind and illuminating the dark places.  Sometimes it’s a beaming light that startles me awake.  Sometimes, it’s the peaceful glow of candlelight, a gentle reminder to make a change.  Listening to my grandmother’s good-bye to my grandfather, candlelight.  Realizing what I am doing to the spirits of my daughters, startling beam.

Life has the potential to be harsh enough.  We can be kind here.

Life is rushed the minute we walk out the front door.  We can be peaceful and deliberate here.

Life is brutally honest, even kicking you while you’re down at times.  We can establish the truth in love here.  Grace can abound here.

Tomorrow, when my daughters return from school and we’re back at home, just “being” and going about our day, the word sanctuary will be written on my forehead and heart, and I’ll start erasing the words I’ve written on theirs.  I’ll pull off the heavy shrouds and replace them with the godly covering that speaks worth and value based solely on, not what they do, but, who they are.

Kind.

Smart.

Important.

Holy.

sanctuary

 

(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.  All opinions are mine alone, and any commission gained from products in this post is solely provided by Amazon.  Here at Klover House, I take sincere pride in exposing my readers to products, authors, and companies that I support 100%, and I promote from a place of personal experience only.  Thanks for supporting us through the use of any links found on our blog! xo, Kristi)

 

More posts from Klover House:

Living “Hands Free”

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Dear Baby (published in “New Life Within”)

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Before…You Were His.

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Living “Hands Free” – Happy Launch Day!

June 30th of this year is a night I’ll remember so fondly for the rest of my life.

My husband and I were doing what we usually do after the kids surrender to bedtime – sitting next to one another on the couch, watching TV, checking e-mails, answering texts, etc… basically, finally catching up with the rest of the world after a long day of meeting the needs of others…

That’s when I opened a message that dropped my jaw to the floor.  I couldn’t help but beam like a little girl on Christmas morning as I read it aloud to my hubby.  Rachel Macy Stafford, New York Times Best-selling author of “Hands Free Mama” had written to me.  ME.  I couldn’t believe my eyes or the opportunity she was extending to me with such humble sweetness.

Her latest book, Hands Free Life: 9 Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better, and Loving More was being officially released in September, today in fact, and she was asking if I would be interested in reading it prior to the launch date.

Not only is that an incredible honor in itself, but, friends, I have TWO books on my nightstand.  Just two.  And they have been there for over a year.  They are special to me.  I love them, which is why they aren’t on a shelf in our dining room or still in a box in our basement.  Two.

The Holy Bible and Hands Free Mama.

That’s it.

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I joke that one’s my “life handbook” and the other is my “mama handbook,” but I’m really not joking.  Hands Free Mama changed my life.  The Hands Free Revolution posts on Facebook changed my life, my parenting, my perspectives.  When I read whatever Rachel Macy Stafford writes, it’s as if for those few moments, all of my chaos stands still and I bask in the glow of what could be, of what should be.  I feel the warmth that comes with the realization of how God wants me to mother cover my heart like a reassuring hug that says,

“You can do this.  You can do this well, and you can do this beautifully.”

So, of course I didn’t hesitate for even a moment before replying with a emphatic “Yes!”

And on August 3rd, the most beautiful gifts arrived in the mail – the book, Hands Free Life, a bracelet that I wear proudly every day, and a frame containing a copy of the most beautifully written “House Rules” I have ever read.  The box was so full of heart, so full of life, and so full of hope.

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And that’s what it is giving me every time I pick it up – a big dose of heart, life, and hope.

live hands free

Since reading, I have been trying with intention to disconnect a little more each day from whatever it is that fills my mind, day, and even life with clutter.  We live in a world in which we face a distraction almost non-stop.  This book has given me practical ways to recognize that and to actually do something about it.

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That’s part of the reason why this post is being written at 10 PM on “Launch Day” – I have been living all day.  I have been living all month!  It has been freeing and it has also been quite revealing.  My family needs me.  Your family needs you.  Your people need you.  Spouses, friends, children, co-workers, the bank teller, the cashier at Hobby Lobby, the mom next to you in the aisle at Target…   They need you.  They need you to notice, to be present, to be aware, to engage, to connect.

As Rachel Macy Stafford so perfectly phrased it, I had been suffering for far too long from a “connection-starved soul.”

Are you starving?

You don’t have to be.

Are your people starving?

They don’t have to be either.

Don’t be intimidated.  It’s possible.  It’s not too late.  You can breathe again.  You live again.  You can finally give yourself permission to let go of the anger and pressure that may be overwhelming you, suffocating you from the inside and robbing you of the chance to enjoy life’s “sacred moments,” to put down the To-Do lists long enough to hold your loved one’s hand or call a connection-starved friend.

Will you join me in living this beautiful life “hands free”?  Can you share with me your journey?  How your world is shifting too, thanks to the abundant “Daily Declarations” and “Habit Builders”?

I’ll be posting more about my own journey as I am reading this incredible and wise book, and I’ll let you in on how I am putting what I am learning into practice in my own life.

handsfree4

 

Because I am so passionate about her message and believe in it 100%, I am going to send one of my readers a copy of the book, Hands Free Life: 9 Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better, and Loving More.  

This post isn’t sponsored by anyone, and I haven’t been asked to give anything away; this is just me, Kristi, an overwhelmed mom, a tired spouse, a desperate daughter of God, who, possibly like you, wants to live and love fully, and is just wanting the same chance for you.  Please share this opportunity with others that you may know who would benefit from this great book and enter yourself below.

And, Rachel Macy Stafford, if you read this, let me just say for the umpteenth time…THANK YOU!  Thank you for sharing your heart, your wisdom, and your story with us.  We needed you and your voice.  This book matters.  Your message matters.  You are changing lives, shifting atmospheres, and shepherding the hearts of many women (and men) around the world.  For that, and especially because I am one of them, thank you from the bottom of my heart. 

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. (Proverbs 27:17)

Blessings!

xo,

Kristi

GIVEAWAY LINK:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

UPDATE: HANDS FREE LIFE is #1 in Inspiration, Family, Relationships, and Women’s Studies on Amazon!

(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.  All opinions are mine alone, and any commission gained from products in this post is solely provided by Amazon. The Giveaway above is coming from the wallet of our dear #mrkloverhouse, who loves me so well and appreciates my love language of gift-giving.  Here at Klover House, I take sincere pride in exposing my readers to products, authors, and companies that I support 100%, and I promote from a place of personal experience only.  Thanks for supporting us through the use of any links found on our blog! xo, Kristi)

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More posts from Klover House…

 

 

 

The Last See You Later

Her last words as his wife here on earth.

Her last “See you later.”

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My grandfather passed away a week ago yesterday.  His illness…acute leukemia…was so brief and shattering for our family.  In one month, just one, he went from initial doctors’ appointments, tests, and the unknown to a diagnosis we’d never expected and the doorstep of Heaven.  We were shattered.  Especially heartbroken was my grandmother.

 

The love of his life for 65 years tomorrow, loved and depended upon him desperately.  The days spent at the funeral home must have been grueling for her.  How I wish I could have somehow rewound time for her, taking her back to her kitchen table where we’d play Rummy 500 for hours and my grandfather would sneak a little love tap in as he passed her on the way to the coffee pot.  I can still hear her words…“Stop that!” He’d have a sly grin on his worn face and she’d roll her eyes and laugh.

 

They loved each other.

 

I happened to be standing at the casket the morning of his funeral service when my grandmother spoke her last words to his physical body.  I wasn’t expecting it, because, according to the funeral director, we were expected to leave and offer her a chance to be alone with him one last time.  Although, I doubt she could have stood on her own had we left her.  My father held her.  I watched her knees buckle slightly as she approached my grandfather’s side.  I followed and stood at the foot of “his bed”, as we had called his casket when trying to explain what was happening to our oldest daughters.

 

I’ll never forget my grandmother’s last words to her beloved.

 

I love you.

You took good care of me.

You were my best friend.

You were the best husband, father, brother.

I’m going to miss you.

You’re not suffering anymore.

I love you.

I’ll see you later.

 

And she walked away from him.  I was left motionless – struck by the monumental life moment that I had just taken in.  Things like that hit you so hard in the heart.

Those simple words may seem just that, simple.  But when you hear them trickle in a lonely whisper from the brokenhearted lips of one human who has lost her one and only…they become the deepest words this side of eternity.  Tears welled up in my eyes in agony for her aching soul.

Watching my grandmother go through one of the hardest moments in her life and hearing her last good-bye brought so much clarity.  I thought of my husband.  We are approaching our 8th anniversary.  Eight.  We’re still newbies when our union is stacked up against theirs.  There is still so much we have yet to learn.  As the weight of this new urgency to love him well fell heavy on my heart, I remember saying to him something along the lines of,

We need to enjoy each other while we are still young.  I don’t want to be in her shoes one day and look back on our lives full of regret.

When that day comes when one of us may have to say good-bye to the other…I want those same kind of words to be able to pass between us, completely free of regrets.

You loaded the dishwasher wrong…doesn’t matter.  I love you.

You drove like a maniac…doesn’t matter.  I love you.

You took a nap instead of helping around the house…doesn’t matter.  I love you.

You left your dirty socks on the floor…doesn’t matter.  I love you.

You woke up on the wrong side of the bed…doesn’t matter.  I love you.

You forgot what I needed at the grocery store…doesn’t matter.  I love you.

You burnt dinner…doesn’t matter.  I love you.

You made plans without checking with me first…doesn’t matter.  I love you.

 

You see, when that day comes, none of the trivial things will matter anymore.  All that will remain will be the love shared.  Was I your best friend?  Did I selflessly care for you?  Did I love you well?  

That is what will matter.

If I have to recall her words every day for the next sixty years just to be the wife I need to be…to be the mother I need to be…to be the daughter and sister I need to be…to be the friend I need to be…  I will.  

Will you?

Happy Anniversary, Gram and Pap.  In marriage, companionship, friendship…thank you for always being an example for us to follow.

xo,

Kristi

 

 

Alive Again: An Honest Look at Healthy

Here comes Big Mama!

Big. Mama.

That’s the honest introduction I received from my five-year-old as I entered the pool.  I smiled, trying not to reveal that beneath my skin, my soul was crushed, mortified.  Big. Mama.  Not Pretty Mama, or Sweet Mama, or even just Mama.  Big Mama.

I know, you may be thinking, “What’s the big deal?  She’s five.  She might be talking about your height or that you are just a “big” person in her little eyes that view the world much larger than it is.”  And you may be right, but what you haven’t heard over the past five months are the other comments.  The “when is the next baby coming out of your belly, Mommy?”  “Is there a brother in there?”  “Why is your belly so big, Mom?”  “I think you need to exercise.”

Thank you, Sesame Street and preschool for teaching my daughter all about physical health, because what she is retaining, she is kindly sharing with her big-bellied-mama.

The four-year-old taps on my stomach incessantly like it’s homebase or a bass drum.  I don’t know which, but neither feels pleasant.  Their small hands hurt my tender tissues, and their innocent words hurt my bruised ego.

I know, child.  I know your mama is big.  Your mama doesn’t want to be.  

But you can’t tell your growing daughters that.  I mean you can talk about health and self-control and dedication to a positive lifestyle, but you can’t express what you are really struggling with.

I feel fat, honey.  I don’t know how your dad is attracted to this hot mess.  I feel strangers’ eyes on my stomach.  I can’t button my pants and it ticks me off.  

You can’t really say those things when you’re raising four beautiful, healthy, innocent daughters who haven’t been tainted by a negative self-image.  I will never introduce them to self-loathing.  I will fight that fight to the end.  

I got on the scale the next morning.  We have one of those fancy-schmancy ones… And it gave me an honest look at myself and my health.  I had gained just over six pounds in two weeks and was teetering back into my pregnancy weight high.  Yep, I was weighing as much as I did when I had a human inside of me (and all that comes with it)!

Again, you may be struggling with weight too and look at me thinking, “She has no idea what it really looks or feels like to be heavy. (smh)”  You may be right, but I am heavy for me, and I am trying my very best to raise four daughters in a home that aims for well-being, not a number on a scale, so, while I know that number doesn’t define me, I also know that the way I feel isn’t healthy.  I feel the sluggishness in my muscles…  I feel the heaviness in my legs when I walk…  I feel and see the extra rolls that I am trying to hide under my shirts…  It doesn’t feel good, and I refuse to settle for less than my best.  (And I refuse to buy a new wardrobe!)  If my best was this at just a month or two postpartum, then fine, but Miriam is six months old now, and I know that I can do better.  Truthfully, up until this point, I haven’t been doing anything at all.

I had let diastasis recti get into my head.  It put a fear in me.  “Don’t do that, you may make things worse.”  But after seeing that disheartening number on the scale that morning, I knew I had to do something, because not doing anything is what has made things feel worse.

The other night, I waited until the kids were in bed and sleeping.  I changed my clothes and donned my running shoes, which hadn’t even been worn since I mowed the lawn for my hubby a month ago!  I left our quiet house and started a brisk walk beneath a peaceful, pastel sky.  There wasn’t a whole lot of running, and I honestly felt like I was on the verge of shin-splints about ten steps in, but as I completed my first lap around our neighborhood (three makes a mile), cresting a small hill, I was even with the horizon and I felt it.

Alive.

I felt alive again.

All of this time, I have been staying indoors feeling sluggish and worthless and anxious…  This girl that used to ask for and receive gym memberships for her birthday.  I had tried an intense workout video at home during my second pregnancy and miscarried the following day, and it scarred me.  I never touched another form of exercise since.  I’m recognizing these unhealthy choices now.  I’m recognizing not just the physical issues, but the mental, emotional, and spiritual ones too.  I took that first lap and felt free for the first time in a long time.  The smell of fresh air, the healthy burn in the quads I thought were long gone…  It felt so good to feel again, to catch my breath again, to believe in myself again.

I will succeed, not because I need to, but because I want to.  I want to feel that way every day for the rest of my life.  I will be that little bitty (God-willing) still walking those laps around the flower bed when my hair is white, because it’s worth it.

I felt my spirit having a chance to connect with God.  I was able to pray for my neighbors as I ran past unfamiliar porches.  I added about sixteen projects to my “Honey-Do” list, because some of those folks have killer landscaping!  😉  This is what I was longing for, and I didn’t even realize it.

I left my cell phone on the bed and the music with it.  I kept glancing at my new “live hands free” bracelet from Rachel Macy Stafford, the wise and amazing Hands Free Mama, and I kept thinking, Yes!  This is living.  This is what it’s all about – getting back to life…to my health…the outside world…the sound of trees in the wind and birds and rocks crunching beneath my feet…  This is living…being my best self, so I can be the best wife and mother for them.  This is what I’ve been missing over the past five years…

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I went for my second run/jog/walk yesterday evening.  I have a long way to go in order to jog that mile without walking breaks, but I’m confident that I’ll get there.  I drove my girls around “Mommy’s exercise path” yesterday afternoon, and we talked about being healthy and working our bodies, so they are strong and useful.  My oldest shouted from behind, “Exercise is good, Mama.  I think your belly is getting smaller!”  Her words didn’t sting this time.  Even if my belly hadn’t changed a bit in three days, my heart has, and my mind has.  I am becoming a better version of me for me and for them.  I’m proud to be their “Big Mama”, and I’m proud that they will get to witness my healthy, prayerful, and patient transformation for themselves.

And so why am I sharing this with you?  Because I know I’m not alone.  I’m not alone in desiring change.  I’m not alone in diastasis recti.  I’m not alone in miscarriage.  I’m not alone in marital issues.  I’m not alone in low self-esteem.  I’m not alone in motherhood.  I’m not alone in fear.  I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed.  I know I’m not alone in eating well, yet never seeing the scale move.  I’m not alone in feeling alone!  I’m not alone.  Neither are you.  I’m here.  I’m struggling, but I’ve decided to step into the ring and fight back.  I’m done with the pity parties.  I’m ready to be accountable to my community of sisters here and see where this new path leads.  Let’s take our lives back, friends.  Are you on this life-changing journey with me?

xoxo

Follow my journey on IG @kristi_kloverhouse.  See you there, friend!

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Before…You Were His

Sitting there in the heat, watching our kids participate in the closing show at a local VBS, and she turns around.  There’s a new babe on her lap and a husband standing near us in the background.  He’s still in his dress clothes, likely from his long day in an office somewhere.  He’s doing the same thing that my husband is doing day-in and day-out, earning a living to support a family that he loves.  Maybe she stays at home like I do, or maybe they picked up their kids at daycare or grandma’s house and scurried to make it to a VBS with a 6PM start, because investing in their little one’s faith and friendships is worth the evening hustle.  She gives him a simple glance and a nod.  He seems to know it well, because without hesitation, he quickly grabs what she needs from the stroller and walks it to her.  She turns back around, tending to her infant, and he returns to his spot in the back.  Although she’s in the midst of mothering, I catch a glimpse of her youth and beauty, and it hits me.

Before…she was his.

Before the diapers and the late night feedings…

Before the stretch marks and tired legs…

Before the sippy cup laden cupboards and Cheerio covered floors…

Before the car seats and strollers and bibs and pacifiers…

Before living in sweats and smelling like spit-up…

She was his.

Date nights and perfume…

Long hugs and real kisses…

Dancing and movies…

Fancy resturants and long phone calls…

Weekend getaways and inside jokes…

Before these babes.  Before she was Mommy, she was simply his.

And I glanced at my own mister, standing in the background, relaxing his weight against a swing while our toddler ran amuk nearby, and I couldn’t help but remember being just his too once.  It made me smile one of those joyful smiles that you really have no control over.  The kind that just happen, because you are that happy in the moment.

I spend my days being Mommy.  I live and breathe motherhood.  There’s no escaping it, especially if you long to do it well.  I wouldn’t trade my days, hours, minutes, moments of mothering for anything else in the world.  I embrace being completely wrapped up in it, but I forgot in the process how to be his too.

I forgot what it was like to put him first, to be just me, a girl in love with the best kind of man.  I forgot that he’s the reason that this whole thing evolved into a beautiful family in the first place.  My love for him and his for me…

And all that thinking in those brief moments brought that silly, giddy smile to my face…

And I made up my mind to be his again.  

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Join the Klover House family on Facebook {here} and find us on Instagram @kristi_kloverhouse!

 

Parenting: Meet Your Mother, The Human.

Yesterday, like so many other days lately, was a really hard day as a parent.  Somedays, I feel like such a failure at mothering my children.  The emotional highs and lows are almost too much to bear day-in and day-out, and I’m not the only one that has them – my daughters seem to be mini emotional rollercoasters too.  At this stage in the game, the household is intense, and some days (like yesterday), I just crack under the pressure.  I crack and I shatter, and they get a good hard look at their mother, the human.

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Some days, after hours of the kids melting down, tattling, arguing, hitting, screaming, bickering, and ignoring the very sound of my tired voice, this mama just breaks down.  We can only take so much sometimes, and it’s on those days that I let my girls see my humanity – my brokenness, and here’s why…

 

I hope that they remember more than the uglies.

My girls need to remember me, in all of my complexity.  I know, myself, that I have very few memories of my own mother showing a variety of emotions.  I clearly remember when she’d had enough and lost her cool, and I remember a few specific times in which she was crying for reasons beyond my childish understanding.

I want my daughters to remember my brokenness as much as my laughter, because one day, they too will be wives and mothers dealing with the highs and lows of the mundane.  I want them to know that emotions are real, and okay, and not to be suffocated.  I want them to remember that their mom did more than yell.  She laughed, she cried, she praised and she sighed…she was human.

 

I hope that they observe that their choices affect others.

Even if that “other” is their own mama.  We were reading the story Cinderella: Kindness and Courage (aff. link), and as I was reading the words on the page, they were sounding familiar to both me and my girls…

They made her do all of the chores.

Who does all of the chores?  Mama.  Not because I want to, or because I don’t require help from them, because I do.  Little ones are expected to pull their weight around here in little ways – bring mommy your dirty dishes, throw your own trash away, clean up your toys, put your dirty clothes in the laundry basket, hang your coat and place your shoes in the closet…  Little stuff.  I don’t think I’m being a terribly mean parent by giving them responsibilities.  They choose, however, more often than not, to ignore me.  Yes, there are consequences, and yes, they oblige under pressure, but they don’t willingly offer to lend a hand when the task at hand doesn’t involve “testing” cookie dough or stirring cake batter.

So we had a brief chat after that line.

Cinderella’s family makes her do all of the chores.  They don’t help her out.  Who does all of the chores at your house?  Mommy?  Right.  The book said that that was cruel of them.  Do you think her step-family is being cruel?  Do you think it is cruel to ignore mommy when mommy asks for your help?  Do you think that if they helped Cinderella more and maybe took care of themselves sometimes that Cinderella would be thankful?

It’s important that my girls grow up with the understanding that their mom is not a doormat.  Yes, I serve them and serve them with love, but they need to appreciate being served or else they will grow to expect it.  When a service is no longer perceived as an act of love but rather as an obligation on my part and an entitlement on theirs, we are headed for trouble when they step into the real world.

 

I hope that they learn that others’ feelings matter.

A few weeks ago, I really angered my four year old.  I forget now what I said or did that made her so angry, but I think I put one of her favorite toys on top of the refrigerator for naughty behavior.  She was stomping her way down the stairs towards me, looked me right in the eyes and said,

I don’t like you, Mommy.  You are the worstest mommy ever!

And she meant it with all of her little heart, which broke mine.  It was the first time she had ever said those kind of words to me, and they hit me hard.  Little baby darts that stung her mama’s heart.  As I directed her to “Time Out”, a few tears streamed down my cheeks.  She locked eyes with me as I sunk to her level.

I know that you are angry with me for taking your toy away.  It is your consequence for naughty behavior.  You hurt my heart with your mean words.  I love you very much.  I love you too much to let you make bad choices.  Do you know that I love you?  Good.

And then, I hugged her tightly.  She didn’t escape her “Time Out”, but I didn’t want to let that moment pass unaddressed.  Otherwise, her harsh words could become commonplace, next time directed at her sisters or a friend…  I want her to remember my tears and think twice before uttering cruel words again.

 

I hope they see me modeling unconditional love and forgiveness.

In every situation, they need to see and feel the effects of my love for them.  As their parent, my love is unconditional.  I need to use these times of weakness to emphasize that truth.  Sometimes, it’s not easy.  Sometimes, I flat out want to take a break from being “mommy”.  You know that saying, “I love you, but I really don’t like you right now”? If their constant fighting pushes me to tears, I need to let that be evident (within reason).  Sometimes, moms cry.  Guess what?

Mommy is a person, just like you, with thoughts and feelings, even frustrations.  What do you do when someone hurts your feelings?  How does it make you feel when your sister shouts at you?  Does it upset you when you ask her nicely to help you with something, and she says ‘No!’ and walks away?  It does?  Well, I feel the same way.  And even when I am angry or frustrated with your choices, I still love you.  I forgive you for your naughty behaviors and love you always.  Do you know who else loves you that way?  Jesus.

 

I hope that they see me relying on and learning from Jesus.

In teachable moments, I use my brokenness to share with them the love of the Father, our need for Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds.

After our really hard morning/afternoon yesterday, both of the Bigs were enduring “Quiet Time” in tears.  I won’t go into great detail, but they are required to have a “QT” every day, and all they must do is remain on their bed for one teeny hour either sleeping or reading.  That’s it.  Well, a rowdy, frustrating morning rolled right into an even more frustrating “QT”, and neither child was giving in without a fight.  I let my humanity leak (too much) and yelled at them both, vowing to take away their most precious belongings for the rest of the day.  When they saw that I wasn’t budging and my inner monster had reared its ugly head, they tearfully retreated and laid in their beds just sobbing their little hearts out.  It was just a cumulation of the entire day’s frustrations boiling over within each of us.  I thought, “We can’t keep doing this.  They need to know what my intentions are here.”  So I sat down with the oldest one first.

Ava, all I want to do each day is wake up, make you and your sisters a good breakfast, and enjoy our time together.  I want to read you stories, watch movies with you, play with you in the playroom, run around outside with you, help you make things and watch you paint and draw…  I want to have fun with you and your sisters.

All I need from you is for you to listen to me.  Obey when you are told to clean up your toys.  Then, I will have more time to play with you.  Be kind to your sisters, so that they will want to play with you.  Take your “Quiet Time” without fussing, so that it’s short and you’re up in time to enjoy the rest of your day.  You are still growing, and your body needs good rest.

I don’t want to spend my day yelling at you and putting you in “Time Out” for things.  I want to enjoy you and laugh with you and play with you.  It hurts my heart to yell at you.  I am working on that.  I don’t want to yell so much.  Can we both do better?

And then, I repeated my conversation with Isla, stroking her face and wiping her tears.  She fell asleep in my arms, and while I knew this process was painful for them and ugly for me, I found some reassurance in knowing that all three of us were learning and growing through it.

Today, I’ll try to do things better than I did yesterday.  I may actually do worse, but I’m still trying and learning, and I want them to know that.  I want them to grow up seeing that.  I want them to watch me change before their very eyes into the mother, wife, and woman that God created me to be.

Mommy is human, just like me, and she messes up and makes mistakes.  She gets back up when the day knocks her down, and she asks for forgiveness and gives it too.  She loves me even when I’m making bad choices and her arms are always ready to embrace me, even when I’m disobedient.  She expects good behaviors, because she knows that I am good.  She prays for more patience and kindness, and she leans on Jesus for strength and grace.  I know Mommy has Jesus in her heart, because I can see Him working on her.  He’s changing her and helping her to be the best mommy I know.  I’m glad that she wants to be more like Jesus.  I want to be more like Him too.

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