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