Wednesday, November 9, 2016

As a Mom, I Refuse to Have a Five Year Plan

It's very hard for me not to plan. I am a planner by nature with my overly A-type personality. I like lists, upon lists, upon lists, and I enjoy completing each task only to cross it off the list. But if I have learned one thing from being a mother, it is the appreciation for time. In college I was always looking towards my five year plan, until my five year plan changed and I created a new five year plan. Every interview after college posed this question to me, but there were many times when it seemed unrealistic. Even my "go-getter" personality questioned our need to continually plan, instead of living in the moment. But I assumed, my apprehension was just a fear of not completing my proposed five year plan.

Now that I have a family with a wonderful husband and four little blessings, there is no need for a five year plan. Yes, we plan for a loving home for the children, and to provide good schooling, but overall, we have no idea where we will be in five years. Each and every day is a gift. Where I am today, is not where I was last year or anywhere I expected to be. Last year at this time, I had a newborn baby and was suffering with postpartum depression. By the grace of God, a supportive husband, the love of my children, and an amazing friend, I got through it and learned many lessons in the process. I had never expected that within a year we would sell our home and be in the process of building a new home to fit our growing family. Life definitely throws us curve balls, but this is what I have learned to accept and also love. I have found comfort in knowing that I don't have control of each and every aspect of my life - interestingly enough, this gives me consolation. Each day brings new joys and new challenges, but I am blessed to have another day with my family and friends and to accept each season of my life.

Linked Up with Mom Life Friday

So for all of you who already decorated for Christmas and are focusing on the month of December. Yes, there are lights already lights up in our neighborhood. I refuse to fall in with the norms of society, I will be the contrarian. November is the month where I can enjoy these last remnants of fall weather, a time when my children can still play outside without having to bundle up in multiple layers, a time when I can enjoy my pumpkin spice latte (don't ruin this for me, people), a time for me to prepare for the season of Advent that is about to come before Christmas, and a time for me to enjoy each day as a wife, a mother, a friend, and a fighter, because I refuse to look too far into the future. As we all know, none of us can predict the outcome. So let's be like out dear, sweet children and enjoy the moments, because they are much shorter than we realize, especially if we are always preparing for the next best thing. What will be left if the next best thing never comes?

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Active Virtue of Patience in Busy World

Most of us would think that the idea of crossing a road should be pretty self-explanatory, if not, then you should have learned that as a pedestrian, crossing the road when the cars have a green light is mostly likely not a good idea. It's actually probably a horrible idea!

Yes, of course I have a story to back up this post about crossing the road. Several days ago, while waiting for a light to turn green I noticed a woman standing at the corner ready to cross the street. Well, did she decide to cross when the pedestrian light gave her the recommendation? Nope! She decided that it would be smarter to begin crossing a busy street after my light turned green. Because of course pedestrians have the right of way, no matter what.... Nope! Wrong again! There's a reason the pedestrian light comes on at a certain time, well because that's the safest time to cross a busy intersection. Not only did this woman cross the road when the cars had the right of way, but she also chose to do so at a very, very, no I mean a very slow pace (age was definitely not a factor to the slowness, let's just say it was a smartphone). I was not the only unhappy driver to say the least, but I kept my cool and sat and waited for her. Because patience is an active virtue, right?

What's the moral to this story? Well there is actually more than one!

The obvious one is that the woman's inconsiderate approach and choice to ignore the rest of society functioning around her was ridiculous selfish. Who needs to watch for cars when they will watch for me, right? Wrong again!

Another lesson was the response many of the drivers wanted to relay or did display towards the woman. Yes, she was inconsiderate, but screaming at her was not moving her along any faster. Even though I was irritated, and it gave me a great topic for a blog post, it also helped me work on something that I struggle with each and every day....PATIENCE!

Patience is actually one of the most beautiful virtues, after humility! It may be an active virtue that takes some of us many years to obtain, but in this world of chaos, it is one of the most obvious. A patient person can easily be picked out of a crowd. Those are the people who find happiness in even the smallest disturbance. How beautiful! It might be a difficult virtue to teach through words, but it can be learned very easily by example. I may personally be working on this virtue of patience everyday with my four children, but I hope someday that my hard work will have taught them how to be patient and loving themselves.

Have a Safe and Happy Weekend!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Closing Out The Month of October with Big Changes

I don't know about you, but October has been quite a month. Typically, I love this month as I watch the change of the seasons - the chill fall air as it becomes sweater season and while I attempt those fun fall festivals with the kids. This October was different, and I am quite happy the month has finally come to a close. With the end of the month, we also finalized the sale of our home and completed a temporary move while we build our new house. These many life changing events are exhausting and I look forward to quieter days over the next several months before we have to move again. In the midst of all this chaos, I realized how little time I have to care for myself. Most moms are guilty of this and it's time that we change it.

I have come to a point in my life, with four kids, where I don't miss the weekly ladies' nights or the weekend getaways. Don't get me wrong, I would definitely love to do those again in the future, but right now, I'm happy at home getting the rambunctious kids to bed and then relaxing on the couch watching a show with my husband or pouring over a good book.

When it comes to New Year Resolutions, I have always believed they are a bunch of promises waiting to be broken. I believe in daily commitments to our family and friends, while also renewing our personal and spiritual goals. This is where I have been lacking, and where so many other moms are also feeling lost. We go through each day attending to the needs of our family, and by the time bedtime comes, we have little energy left to renew our depleted selves. This needs to change!

As women, and especially as mothers, we need to focus on ourselves, because when we eat healthy and exercise, our children desire to do the same. When we spend moments reading a new book, our children will seek to imitate our search for learning. When we spend moments in quiet reflection, our children will also desire this peace of mind and soul. Each of us is so occupied with our family, that we forget how important the mother's role is beyond just her service. Mothers show the love and they provide the protection. Mothers are the mediator and also the observer. How can anyone provide all these roles without caring for oneself also?

Enjoying a few last views at our old home.

With the end of a month, and the beginning of a new month, it is time to focus on ourselves while also caring for our families.

  • Enjoy these last few weeks of fall weather and spend the afternoon outside enjoying the gift of nature. Teach those little ones how blessed we are for green grass and the beautiful sun.
  • There is a time for work and a time for play. Sometimes the laundry can wait, but other times it cannot. Find the right balance.
  • Remember that you are raising the next generation. What an amazing, yet daunting task! Take time to read. As mothers, we should also desire to learn new things. If we are learning and growing, our children will desire to do this also.
  • Organization and Balance. Find what works best for you. Some moms have a weekly meal plan, while others like to cook on the spur of the moment. Some moms have a weekly cleaning schedule, while others clean as needed. None of us are the same, so find what works best with your family, but make a firm commitment to maintain a healthy and happy home.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

When It's Time To Accept The Change Of The Seasons

This past weekend was more difficult than I expected. It has been almost 10 years since I founded my floral design company. This business was truly a work of the heart as I built it from the ground up, mostly by word-of-mouth. Those personal referrals were the best. I had never been formally trained in flowers, but I realized quickly that I loved working with them. What better job than designing a masterpiece out of God's beautiful creations? But as my husband and I welcomed more children into the family, my time became limited, and instead of enjoying my life as a mom, I was becoming frustrated with the little ones and frustrated with my lack of time to design flowers. I shouldn't be surprised anymore by God's sense of humor, because just when my business was exploding, I decided through many hard lessons, that it was time to close the doors. I needed to focus on the little ones and their needs above the needs of my brides. These days and years are just so short, I don't want to miss these crazy moments!

I truly admire the women who can do it all - the family, the career, the social life, and personal time, but I am just not one of those women. I can definitely stretch myself thin and still survive, but I don't want that type of life. So I have learned that through every phase in life, it is time to accept some things and give up others and right now I choose to give up my entrepreneurial aspirations for my family - except my writing, I need my writing! It was difficult to let go, especially since I can be a controlling person, but I can always start up the company again in the future. Nothing needs to be final, after all, there are so many phases in life. Just like the season for apple picking (which we did over the weekend). All fruits and vegetables have their own special seasons, so do the seasons of our lives. Change is good - it's just difficult to accept sometimes!

It was difficult for me to give up a company I had worked so hard to grow, but it was time. I can still get my flower design fix by creating arrangements for our church, but I do have a sense of relief that there will be no more weddings in my near future. Instead, I will have much more time with the family, sewing my quilts (a hobby I haven't tapped into for many years), time for school functions, church events, and of course, my writing. Ultimately, if I am not working towards the good of my entire family, then I am working towards nothing, because my greatest gifts are my husband and my children and if I don't treasure them first, then nothing else matters.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

When It's Time for Chocolate - Katherine Hepburn Brownies

There are just some days when my sweet tooth takes over and I.MUST.HAVE.CHOCOLATE! I found the most delicious brownie recipe, and then tweaked it to fit my own style. You will definitely want to try these Katherine Hepburn Brownies for your next dinner party, work treat, or even afternoon snack. My kids couldn't get enough of these, I will need to make these again soon!

I love gooey brownies, so I removed the walnuts from the original recipe.
These brownies were baked in muffin tins.

There's something special about powdered sugar sprinkled over a delicious brownie - so I added my own special touch

"Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get - only with what you are expecting to give - which is everything" ~ Katherine Hepburn

Monday, September 26, 2016

Monday is Momday - Thanks to Cat & Nat!

Thanks to the fabulous moms who invented the hilarious #MOMTRUTH Fridays (or is it Friyays, am I too old to say that?), Cat & Nat, I decided to share a bit of their humor from this morning's live video. Did you know that Mondays are now Momdays? Thank you, Ladies, for my new favorite day of the week!

Photo Credit: Facebook Profile

  • Momdays are now the days that I can drink as many cups of coffee, without guilt, just to survive the heaping loads of laundry that have piled from who knows where over the weekend.

  • Momdays are now the days that I will never get a nap in, because my two year old still has energy leftover from the weekend.

  • Momdays are now the days that I just want to sit and eat cookies, but my 11 month old needs to nurse and snuggle... I can't resist that. Afterthought, I should eat cookies and nurse!

  • Momdays are now the days I wake up earlier to pack the kids' lunches, because for some reason, I just can't get my act together on a Sunday night. Drink wine with my husband and watch Netflix or pack lunches, what would you choose?

  • Momdays are now the days that I need at eat at least 6 meals, because all weekend was spent on my feet with the four little ones and I forgot that food gets me through those days.

  • Momdays are now the days that the refrigerator needs to be restocked, because grocery shopping on the weekend is for the birds!

  • Momdays are the days that I must suffer through a whining 2 year old, who found his pacifier over the weekend and kept it in his pocket. Now it's time to take it away, again, for the third week in a row...

  • Momdays are the the days that I have all the best intentions to keep my meal plan schedule. Don't ask about it by Wednesday night. Anyone want Mac & Cheese?

  • Momdays are the days that I pray for little homework, because it's the only night without activities or family commitments. Family dinners are always chaotic, but one of my favorite times of the day! Yes, please!

  • Momdays are sometimes the saddest days, because I only have two out of the four children at home with me.

  • Momdays are now my favorite day, because at the start of every new week I get to wake up my sleeping children to give them kisses and I am so grateful for this awesome vocation called, MOTHERHOOD!

And that's my Momday Monday! Enjoy your week!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Please Excuse My Social Absence

            It’s not you, it’s me. No, really, it’s me. My famous last words, or more like my personal motto for the past several years – one that I was not always proud of, but one that I have learned to accept. As a mother of four children, my schedule has changed quite drastically since the birth of baby #1. With the first two children, life was relatively carefree. "Carefree" in a loose definition of the word. Yes, there were struggles; I learned how to breastfeed my babies, while also adjusting to the lack of sleep, but for the most part, life was simple. There was still plenty of time to meet friends for morning coffee, lunch, and even pedicures. It was relatively easy to find a babysitter for two kids, or even bring them along. But as each beautiful new baby joined our family, adjustments were made and it became difficult for me with four little ones to accept social invitations.

            Everyday tasks that had once been easy, now needed much more planning and occupied double the time with four children at my heels. I wanted desperately to visit with friends and have non-interrupted moments while discussing a book in a mom’s group, but this was not my world any longer and I needed to accept it. I dreamed of a night out with my friends, sans kids. It wasn’t easy to put myself first anymore, actually there was no time for myself, especially with an on-demand nursing baby. I always had good intentions, but when the clock started ticking and it was only an hour or two before meeting friends, I was just too exhausted. It sounded more enticing to get these little ones to bed and enjoy a quiet evening home with my husband. It’s not you, it’s me.

There reaches a point in every mom’s life when it is no longer easy to leave the house with those little bundles of joy. For some moms, the magic number might be one, for others it might be three, but for me it was four. I am still in awe of those supermoms who take all five children out for dinner. I salute, YOU! I just wasn’t one of those supermoms and the thought of bringing my four children, three of them rambunctious boys, out to a girls' lunch felt like a daunting task. So I decided it was best not to risk the potential failure.

It wasn’t easy for me to pass on these social invitations. Those “good times” with my friends had at one time been memorable, now I just couldn’t get myself out the front door. Caring for my wonderful children all day long was exhausting and there was very little energy to muster up for myself. I was upset at myself that I couldn’t juggle it all. Why didn’t my little ones want to spend a quiet morning at the coffee shop nibbling on a pastry? Then I had an awakening – I wanted to stay home with my little family. I preferred to stay home and make breakfast with those little happy faces rather than getting everyone packed up and to the coffee shop by 8:00 a.m.

            So for all of those frustrated women that rarely see their “mom friends". It really, truly isn’t you, it’s just the way of motherhood. Don’t stop the invitations, because one day, that mom will be able to find the energy after a long day and sleepless night to spend much needed time with her close friends. She will finally find a night to have a little bit of “me time.”

Friendship may be a two-way street, but my children bring an entirely different perspective. There will be one day when I can fulfill each one of those social obligations that I once loved, but for now I am quite content spending these fleeting moments with my children while they are still young. I don't want to miss these carefree days of childhood.


Friday, September 9, 2016

The Building Blocks of Childhood

I am a strong believer in children learning to play on their own. Developed imaginations are so incredibly important, from this children will learn how to be creative as adults. So, I strongly encourage this in my little ones.

Now that the two older children are at school for full days (which I still can't believe), there's much more time for me to spend one on one with the younger boys. I forgot how much I can do with only two children at my feet. Our new found time has been spent on long walks, scavenger hunts, bike rides, and creative play. We pulled out these fun cardboard blocks that Santa delivered last Christmas and built several forts, castles, a bridge, dinner, and even a birthday cake!

I love to watch the boys use their imagination to create new worlds with these ALEX Blocks. We finished our day of play with ice cream cones for everyone!

Imaginative plays allows the child to use all five senses, that teaches children how to become miniature inventors. Maybe your child will be an architect, fashion designer, engineer, or musician. Help your child view the world in a positive way by the process of imaginative and creative play.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

From The Kitchen: Weekends are for Family, Friends, and Food

"A picture is worth a thousand words, but friends are priceless..."

We are back to warm weather in Wisconsin, but I'm not going to complain. These days won't last long and then comes the cold Midwest winter. Labor Day Weekend was jam packed for the family - we had two house showings, an open house, and of course, family parties! I wouldn't trade all these crazy moments for anything. So among all the craziness, I tried a new recipe that I absolutely love and the boys couldn't stop eating it. That's an obvious sign it must be quite tasty!

I added 3 eggs to the original recipe for an increase in protein. 
I have three growing boys!

Fresh basil is the best!

I can't get enough of fresh mozzarella.


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Sending Them Off To School With A Mother's Love

Just when I thought life might get a little easier with the two oldest in school for the full day, it actually got harder. I assumed having two out of the four kids at school for an entire day would make my life easier. I was wrong. It might be a little less noisy in the house, but my two older children, who have extremely creative imaginations are no longer here to keep the two year old and 10 month old occupied with games of house, kitchen, or castle building. Now my two year old needs even more attention than before, how is that possible? Because he wasn't needy enough before? It's nice to spend more quality time with the two younger boys, but I also have laundry to finish, floors to wash, and furniture to dust. And honestly, no, it can't wait until tomorrow, because we also have our house on the market. So who knows when the next showing will be requested.

I'm blessed to  have my children at an amazing school where I know they are taken care of, because it definitely isn't easy handing them over everyday. I truly thought giving up the reins would be easier as they grew older and became more independent, but it's not. It's sad realizing that I'm not needed as much as I used to be by those two silly ones. Then I get brought back to reality when the 10 month old starts crying because he's tired and hungry. Luckily, all my children are still very young and I have a lot of time left with those smiling faces. As much as I love the daily structure of school, I am already missing those carefree summer days. And it hasn't even been a week!

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Monday, August 22, 2016

The Innocence of Motherhood

I watch my seven year old daughter everyday as she tries to do everything "mother-like", as she talks about becoming a mom one day. This firecracker child of mine describes into great detail how she will organize her children's playroom, or what food she will cook for them and I can't help but smile. I love the innocence. Looking back, I had this same innocence at her age. I loved the thought of staying home and caring for my family. Of course, I had no idea what was truly involved with this scenario, but I was just like her - dreaming of motherhood. I would play house everyday, even several times a day, with my younger brothers. I was always the mother, just like my little girl.

Megan Ramminger Photography

Now, as I watch her play and talk about being a mom, I realized that I have tainted my own idea of motherhood and I need to return to those innocent days. Not that it will ever be the same as "playing house", but why can't I have fun daydreaming about my children's future playroom in the house we are going to build, or why can't I love to cook dinner, just like I did when I was 14 years old? Life doesn't have to be full of meaningless and dreadful tasks. Instead of shuddering at the thought of doing a load of laundry or making beds, I need to go back to those days of innocence.

The horrors of the world and adulthood may have tainted my view of motherhood for a bit, but it won't take precedence anymore. I am determined to go back to those beautiful days of motherhood. This approach won't make my work load any lighter, but it will make it more enjoyable for myself and my family. So instead of allowing myself to get caught up in this fast-paced world, I am choosing to spend my moments with my family. This beautiful innocence of motherhood will now be part of my life once again.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Letting Go of My Organized Life

There are so many phases of life and each one brings many changes and unforeseen circumstances. Growing up, small children dream of adulthood, and they envision the thought of getting older to be fun and adventurous, and even though there is some truth to this, there is definitely not that level of carefree blindness that many anticipate.

My whole life has been planned, pretty much by myself, it's just my personality. This is a strong characteristic of my choleric temperament. I love to plan my days, my weekends, and even envision the next five years. Yes, I am one of those nerds who enjoys buying a pocket calendar and happily keeps a record of each upcoming month. Prior to four children this portable calendar probably wasn't necessary, but now it is a crucial part of my day, no longer just a cute accessory. Honestly, how could anyone keep an entire family's schedule only in their head?

My overly scheduled A-type personality, brought quite an adjustment into adulthood, in more particular, motherhood. I am not referring to the transition from college into a career, because those were the glory years. That was a time when I could try new things, enjoy my life with my husband. Those "honeymoon" years brought beautiful children, the opportunity to stay home with the kiddos, and many other exciting adventures. The difficulty came when I realized that it was impossible to plan out my life. Extremely structured schedules were just not possible with many small children. Schedules were needed with the children, but flexibility was paramount. My once perfectly planned schedule was now a thing of the past. I was only trying to stay above the rising tide and sometimes completely forgot about that little pocket calendar, until I missed an important appointment or meeting. A bit of humility never hurt anyone...

It was at this same time that I realized I needed to let go. Life was hard, really hard with small children, but neither would I trade any of it for the whole world, not even for my perfectly organized pocket calendar. I didn't need to be organized or right on schedule, even though it still drives me bananas when we are running late. What I needed was to start enjoying the life. A life full of chaos, happiness, frustrations, and pure exhaustion. This was the good life and it was only until I let go of that little pocket calendar (an overly structured schedule) that life began to have more meaning. I was able to focus more on my husband and my family, instead of the plans for the weekend. My daughter has this "planner" type of personality, which is a great trait, but I have also reminded her (and myself) that it's important to be flexible and let go!

Monday, July 11, 2016

I Am Living the American Dream

No matter what any celebrity, politician, or media source may want me to believe, I truly am living the American Dream. This might not be the same dream my grandparents sought after or even the dream from the Baby Boomers Generation, but this is my dream. Not everyone's dream is the same, and this is what makes America great. Unfortunately, many Americans are searching for a superficial dream. At one time, parents worked to create a better life for their children. A life where their children would develop an understanding of moral and natural law. A life where their children would glow with pride at the sight of the American Flag - true model citizens.  Those dreams didn't involve new sports cars, designer clothing, and countless extracurricular sports activities. Parents were not so much worried about raising sensitive toddlers, rather their goal was to raise independent, strong, and responsible adults for the good of society.

Now that the "American Dream" has changed to unrealistic proportions, people automatically assume that it is dead, but this is far from the truth. The concepts of beauty and truth have become clouded to most of society. Instead of searching for everlasting forms of happiness, many people search for fleeting moments of happiness, whether that's a new car, the latest IPhone, a designer pair of shoes, giving into the Starbucks addiction, overnight celebrity status, laying around on a couch taking selfies,or fulling a personal void of loneliness with extravagant vacations. There is nothing wrong with these luxuries, as long as they are accepted in moderation. Our lives are not meant to be one long vacation. To earn these vacations and overpriced coffees, we must be willing to work for them.  If you believe these items fulfill your American Dream, then you are a bit misguided. It will be very difficult to find true happiness and inner peace with these destructible goods - you will never have enough.

If we begin to live like generations past, we will find the American Dream. My husband and I are living our American Dream. Is life perfect? Absolutely not, but who's life is? Instead of living for ourselves, we are living for our children. Family is what matters. We can't take any of these items with us when we die, but we can leave bits of ourselves with our children. Small precious memories that they can pass on to their children. Memories of having a water balloon fight in summer, growing a garden together, baking cookies, and writing thank you letters for birthday presents - these are small pieces of a bigger puzzle. Children will lose count of how many presents they open or how many shopping trips they make take, but they will never forget memories. This to me is the American Dream.

I am blessed with a beautiful life. After graduating from college and then working as a Paralegal, I stayed home after my husband and I had baby #1. What an amazing opportunity I was given. During that same time I also owned and operated three small businesses, wrote and had my first book published with my best friend, all while raising my children at home. Even through all those great experiences, I realized that I only wanted to be home with the little ones. I wanted my children to become model citizens, who work to better this beautiful country not only for themselves, but for everyone and for future generations. I am living my American Dream.

Not all of us have the same dream. Some Americans work extremely hard each day to further a corporate career, or run a small business, while others are striving to make ends meet at a minimum wage job. No matter or position in life, we can all strive for the American Dream. Very few women around the world are given any of those opportunities, they are trying to survive each day by getting food on the table for their family. We have been blessed with so much in America, but if our dream has become superficial and based upon personal achievements and money, then we are destined for failure, because true and everlasting happiness can never be bought. The beauty of the American Dream lies in our hearts. We choose what paths to follow, and we must live with those consequences. Don't waste a precious moment. Life is too short. Start creating your American Dream!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

For the Love of Cooking

Cooking did not always come natural for me. I learned to cook from my Grandmother, Mother, and Great-Grandmother, but that didn't mean I loved doing it. Cooking dinner every night came out of necessity to feed our growing family. Simple, right? Well, it isn't so simple for an A-type personality who strives to achieve perfection. I begrudging made dinner every night and it was pretty much the same dinners in a constant rotation. For some reason, I thought that a love for cooking should come as natural as my unconditional love for my children. Well, let's just say that I came to instantly love my little babies, but cooking was an on-going love/hate struggle for many years, until I decided to make a change...

My true love is baking. My sweet tooth always gets the better of me. There's something magical and comforting about delicately drizzled chocolate over a piece of homemade cheesecake, or a moist cupcake with buttercream frosting so smooth that it melts in your mouth. For some reason it was hard for me to appreciate the art of cooking as much as I loved baking.

Something changed after baby #2, after so many years of assuming that cooking was just not my forte. I realized that it was my own fault that I was not enjoying this art. I had never learned to love the act of cooking. Instead of understanding why I was cooking, I was making it a sterile habit. My change of heart happened one night after I tried a few new recipes from a magazine I had saved months before, but didn't want to try and fail (a bad trait of my choleric temperament). The entire process of making the dinner was actually relaxing, something I would've never imagine. My husband truly enjoyed the meal and continued to compliment me throughout the night and my low self-esteem in regards to cooking was began to disappear.

I enjoy being a stay at home my with my little ones. I even enjoy doing the daily chores around the house - it's an act of devotion that helps our family unit remain organized, so there was no reason for me not to enjoy making breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Just as I nursed all my babies, and did it as an act of love for them, so I should view cooking. It was my own fault if I lived the rest of my life being only a mediocre cook.

By no means have I become an award winning chef, but I love the challenge of trying new recipes, even if they don't always turn out perfect, at least my husband is a good sport. And I do have plenty of days when I am just not in the mood to cook, so I choose something easier and remind myself that I am doing this for the love of my family and that I am very blessed to have such a beautiful family.

"Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it." ~ Julia Child

My favorite 30 minute roll recipe

Here is the original recipe, I just tweaked it a bit. 

1 egg
1/3 cup of olive oil
1 c 4 tbsp of warm water

2 tbsp of active dry yeast
3 1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar

Heat oven 400 degrees and move rack to the middle of oven

Combine water, oil, and yeast in mixer bowl. Let sit until the yeast bubbles (about 15 minutes).

Use a bread hook for the mixer and slowly add the egg, flour, sugar, and salt. Mix for about 2 minutes until smooth. 

Roll into balls and place in pan, but leave several inches between each roll so they can rise before being placed into the oven. Let them rest for 12 minutes. Depending on the size of the balls, bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy! 

30 Minute Rolls

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Slow Down for Summer Memories

There's something special about the month of July. I have an obnoxious love for the hot summer months, maybe it's my Portuguese blood or my dread of coats. I'm not quite sure, but whatever the reason I wish this month would last forever.

Every summer seems to fly by, but this summer has been different. My children and I are calling this our Summer of Adventures. It all started when I decided it was time to slow down and enjoy these special months with the kids. The past few years, my two older children had spent part of the time in summer school, which was a double-edged sword. It gave them a chance to learn German, French, and Kindergarten basics, but it also broke up our day. Between summer school and naps for the little ones, there wasn't much time left for any adventures. The word "adventures" causes a bit of anxiety with my choleric temperament, but I learned a long time ago from my best friend, that "adventures" make this life special and they are even more important for kids. Adventures create memories.

After spending many months cooped up with a crying baby number four during the cold winter months, I decided this summer would be one big adventure with the kids. Not every day includes an out of this world memorable moment, because honestly, most of the days are only full of simple activities, but the best part is doing them together as a family and with friends. Where will your next adventure take you this summer?
Photo Credit: Megan S

1. Just Drive & Discover - Take a drive and visit a new place. Drive until you want to stop. This was our goal last week. I need to get my wedding band resized and instead of coming back home right away, we ended up an hour north of the city and discovered small Wisconsin towns. It was actually more relaxing than I thought. The kids did fight a little in the car, but stopping in a small town to play at the park was unforgettable. My kids had the entire park to themselves, except a grandfather pitching to his granddaughter. I felt like I was living the dream.

2. Catch Up - Many of us Wisconsinites hide in our homes during the long long months of winter, but summer is the time to catch up with friends. Every week we are planning on visiting new and old friends for a few hours of carefree playtime.

3. Soak Up the Summer Sun - I can never have enough sun and this summer we are spending as much time outside as possible. We have done everything from painting rocks, swimming, chalk coloring, gardening, house repairs, catching fireflies, and water fights. The more I step out of my comfort zone, the more the children also want to try new things. My oldest son decided the best way to spend an afternoon was to examine a dead ant for over an hour. (Whatever makes you happy, buddy!)

Photo Credit: Megan S.

The options are limitless for these amazing summer months and I don't even want to think about them ending. For now, I am going to appreciate these amazing moments with my sweet kiddos. One of my favorite holidays is this weekend and we plan on living it up with Farmers Markets, Parades, Fun Fest, Fireworks, Family Parties, and much more! Yes, I love the Fourth of July. God Bless America!

Written By: Danielle Silva Heckenkamp

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Beauty in Friendship

What is a world without friendship? It's a world of sadness, disbelief, and loneliness. As social beings we clamor for friends. Not the type of friends who bring us down or create drama, but the friends we can laugh with (laugh so hard we are crying), the friends who can enjoy sitting together in silence, and the friends who will never divulge our deepest secrets. As a teenager, I was quite naive. Friends were everywhere. High school and college was one big party. Those were the good old days when life was much simpler and the responsibilities of adulthood were unknown. Now my definition of friendship has changed quite drastically. 

Many of us reach a point in our lives when we really truly deeply need a close friend. The type of friend that can be trusted with our secrets, but who also won't judge us for those failings. If only it was easy to find that person. A good everlasting friendship will bring out the very best in ourselves.

This friendship can be found in a close friend, a sibling, a parent, a spouse, a neighbor, but whoever it is, everlasting friendship will never be fake, exhausting, or one-sided. True friendship involves a give and take from both people. This is the beauty of friendship - it is a perfect scenario for peace and personal growth. You may have many friends or only a few close friends, but when the times get tough your real friends will surface. During those moments of self-destruction or daily tribulations, only the people who truly desire you the best will remain. 

We live in a world full of selfishness, materialism, with a lack of generosity and charity. A good friend will never be found among those vices. If we want to find that beautiful friend, we must work to become beautiful people first. I'm not saying we have to become Mr. Wonderful in a week, but our goal should always be towards self-improvement. 

Adulthood brings unexpected paths, winding roads that don't make any sense and cause us to question the reasoning. Knowing that there is a reason for everything in life and having a best friend to hold your hand during it all is one of the most comforting things in this world of uncertainty.

It is almost impossible to find a good friend, but I have been blessed with one who has my best interests at heart and I want nothing short of the best for her. It doesn't matter what or who may separate us, because no matter where life takes us, we will always have this everlasting bond.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Where Do You Find Happiness?

Written By: Danielle Silva Heckenkamp
Now that it’s almost summer it’s time for a vacation! My best friend, Kate, and I took a much needed break. In the spirit of being overly ambitious, we drove down to Dallas/Fort Worth from Wisconsin in a fifteen passenger van with all the kids (Kate's three, and my four). Yes, as I said, overly ambitious. We were prepared for the worst, after all having seven kids under the age of nine…something has to go wrong, right? In the end, it was one of the most relaxing vacations!

While enjoying the time away from the daily demands of life, I learned some amazing things. I might just be late to the party, but I came to few eye-opening realizations. Life is tough, but I think we forget to remember that it is difficult for everyone, not just a few of us. We all have different demands or expectations, and yet, we each handle these situations differently. No one's life is perfect, and I can't tell you how tired I am of reading about this subject. Yes, we know your life isn't perfect, but why is it necessary to describe all those flaws to the world? Let’s be happy and support each other. Dwelling on the hard times won’t make them any easier.

Without the daily demands at home (laundry, dusting, cleaning, organizing, etc.) I was able to focus more on the children, and it was so refreshing! Instead of pulling myself away to finish a load of laundry, I was able to sit on a swing with them and watch the sunset, or even just watchthem play in the fields. It built my spirit to “just be”. I was able to “be myself” and enjoy the beauties of life without distractions. It forced my choleric temperament to enjoy those small moments, because I typically have a never ending "to-do" list. The simple happiness of the children, brought me joy as I had the opportunity to watch them loving life.

If you have ever been to Texas, especially coming from Wisconsin, you will be amazed at the generosity, kindness, and overall joy found in these warm weather friends. I wasn't sure if it was the warm weather that brought out their constant happiness (as we Wisconsinites are a bit grumpy during the six months of winter) or maybe this is in their nature. Whatever the case, it was so wonderful to be around happy people, it made us happier! It made me begin to think that as a society we rely too much on finding inner happiness, instead of offering happiness to others which then comes back to us full circle. We hear the phrase "do something for yourself", whether it's a spa day, girls weekend, working out, shopping, coffee, but after getting the opportunity, did it make us truly any happier? It might have relaxed us for a brief moment, but when we return to our daily jobs, has it truly impacted us in the way we thought? Or has it just impacted our wallets?

One of the best memories from the trip was during our visit to The Silos in Waco, Texas. If you haven't watched Fixer Upper, I highly recommend it! But the most amazing part of The Silos, was the "green area". An area of grass was put right in the middle of the buildings for the children and families to play. It was amazing to watch the children twistwith the hula hoops and pick up a friendly game of soccerwhile making new friends. The families, especially the children, were the center of it all. The store, the offices, and the future bakery were all perfectly situated on the edge of the “green”, but the children were in the middle. It was beautiful to see what matters most! This, of course,made me want to support them even more. I purchased a few too many items. Shh, don’t tell my husband.

It's time to ask ourselves, where do we find true happiness? We are all different, and we will all find our happiness in different ways, but after this amazing vacation I have learned that instead of focusing on findingonly inner happiness, we need to create an outerhappiness, with our families, friends, children, and even the strangers on the street. Ultimately, it doesn't matter how we feel inside if we are not happy on the outside and vice versa. It makes sense that these two are linked eternally together! 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A New Start

Hi Fabulous Readers,

Thank you for your many years of support on Provocative Manners. Katrina and I have updated our blog and re-branded our image. Please visit us at Kate and Danielle Blog!


Danielle Marie and Katrina

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Contentment is Not a Bad Word

Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and exhale. What are you missing in your life? I'm not asking what specific items you are missing, because we all have those moments of losing the keys, misplacing the cell phone, or forgetting to put socks on the two year old. No, I'm asking what you are missing from deep within the marrow of your being. Those deep caves that rarely see the light, because it's too hard to share those blemishes, those self-loathings, and those eternal moments of regret. It doesn't matter what specific circumstances created your interior struggles, it matters how you are going to get out of them. Some will always linger, and some are victory battle scars that we save to share with the world, but others need to be given up. Those internal struggles that eat at us day in and day out only to cut deeper into our self-esteem. It feels like there is no way out. But what if there was a way out? What if there is an underlying theme among many of us as we daily struggle through the complexities of life? An unspoken struggle of CONTENTMENT!

The word, contentment, has become a "bad word". It forces us to second-guess ourselves, our ambitions, and our achievements. In a face-paced world, where technology goes out of use before it was even introduced to the masses. Our lives are consumed with having the next best thing. What we have is never good enough. It's sad to acknowledge this is true. We have become a superficial society.

Contentment does not mean we are satisfied with having nothing. It does not mean that we don't have any dreams or long-term goals. Contentment gives us the ability to embrace our current phase in life. It won't be the same forever, but we need to joyfully accept the present. There was a time in history when both men and women happily accepted their lives, no matter their social class, the amount of labor, the hours of child-rearing, or their material achievements. There was a time when my widowed great-grandmother accepted her fate and worked tirelessly to support eight children as a seamstress. The loss of her husband's share of the family hardware store was heart-breaking and the family's lack of support for her working outside the home was discouraging. This woman didn't go beyond her scope in life, she didn't search to find a wealthy man and she didn't take easy street and move in with relatives. This strong, independent woman strove to create a better life and support her children, but she lovingly found contentment in it. She was happy and always believed she was blessed, because her life was beautiful in every respect. Life was not easy without a husband, especially in the early 20th century, but that didn't matter, because life was meant to be loved and lived. She found contentment in her family.

We must all search for our own contentment in life. It won't find us unless we choose to accept it. If we can find contentment, our lives will be much simpler, and yet much happier. That amazing great-grandmother of mine was right, life is meant to be loved and lived. We are social beings who desire to give and receive love. It's time that each of us takes this moment to examine our lives. Are we truly happy and if not, what would make us truly happy? If your answer revolves around material items that will only devalue with age, then it's time to do major sole have not found contentment yet. It won't be an easy task to suddenly appreciate every frustration and struggle in the name of contentment, but if you are seeking this beautiful state of life, you will find it. Contentment will never just appear. You will have to make many small steps, fill several large holes, but eventually with dedication, it can be found. The best time to start is now, so close your eyes, take that deep breathe and exhale.  Contentment is not a bad word, it's a beautiful and peaceful state of life.

Written By: Danielle Silva Heckenkamp

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Give A Little Love

Author: Danielle Silva Heckenkamp

Take a moment to smile and change the world - any small act of love. Last week I took all four children to the grocery store (I know that's pretty crazy, right?) and typically my older two like to color pictures and give them as "gifts" to the unsuspecting check-out person. Well, at first I was irritated with myself because I chose the aisle with the crabby lady who wouldn't crack a smile. My first thought: oh great, she's going to ignore the pictures and the children will be upset. Note to self - address the situation later in the car. Luckily, my children didn't notice her mood right away and enthusiastically handed her the colored pictures. The woman apprehensively grabbed the folded papers and assumed they were garbage. She was about to throw them away, but I explained the children made presents for her...and then I waited for her will never believe it, but her entire mood changed. The lady loved the pictures and was extremely chatty and kind to the children after receiving the gifts. These little ones who were so excited to color a picture for the check-out person (even though they didn't know her) completely turned this lady's day around. I’m sure every nearby shopper heard my huge sigh of relief.

This experience reaffirmed my belief that adults are jaded (yes, none of us are exempt). We rely too much on our emotions and creating lasting impressions. Adults are self-centered. We truly need to become more like little children and give ourselves completely to the happiness of others. I have heard many people question the deterioration of their own sanity by giving all of themselves to others. Let's be honest, society constantly asks the same selfish questions day in and day out. "What have you done for yourself today?" "How will you reward yourself?" It starts again with the uncontrollable reward system. Let's look at this from a different point of view. It's about time that we love for the sake of loving and helping for the sake of offering unconditional love. Working together, we can create a unified community. The more love and attention I give to my children and husband, the less I focus on myself and interestingly enough, I am transported into a sublime state of happiness. My love has grown leaps and bounds for my family over the years. The more children we have, and the more I dedicate my entire being to the welfare of my family, the more I love them all. There’s an amazing never-ending supply of love. Don't reserve that love for only close family and friends (even though they greatly deserve it), but spread it to all.

We will never regret loving another person, even if they aren't receptive, but there will definitely be regrets if we never try. So, instead of "paying it forward" only around Christmas time or a few moments a year when social media reminds us; it's time to give ourselves (all of ourselves) everyday. Every person deserves to be loved – family, friends, and strangers. We are social beings who desire love, so let's unconditionally give that love, while also raising our children to do the same, because ultimately, what is life without love?

Bucket List of Unconditional Love
ü  Invite a friend/family member over for dinner who is lonely.
ü  Bake your favorite cookies and drop them off at a neighbor’s house.
ü  Pick a handful of flowers and visit an elderly relative.
ü  Smile at a stranger everyday (you will never be happy in your own little bubble)/
ü  Enjoy every  moment with your family and friends. You will never get a repeat. Those closest to us are sometimes the most difficult to love, but all the more reason to show them respect.