Tuesday, November 26, 2013

To Be Grateful (A Reminder)

I published this post earlier this autumn season.  I thought it was only fitting to re-post as we draw closer to Thanksgiving.  I was reminded of how great my life is when I drove past the local homeless shelter this morning and saw kids and parents standing in the cold, waiting for the school bus.  

Imagine driving past a park one chilly November morning as you are headed to drop your kids off at school.  The sun is just bursting out of the clouds, and the cold frost twinkles on the grass.

You pass a park and see a minivan. It's side door is open, and overflowing with open boxes and bags of clothes.  Two small children play on the swings in school uniforms, as a woman picks up the picnic table and walks to the garbage can with the remains of breakfast. A man walks out of the park bathroom with a pile of clothes in his arms.

You think to yourself how odd it is to see a family at a park at this time of morning.... especially on such a cold morning.

Then it hits you. The boxes and bags in the van are the family's entire belongings.  The children are spending time playing in the only backyard they know. The woman served her family breakfast on a cold metal picnic table. The man had washed up and changed for work in a park bathroom.

Over and over, this scene replays each morning, until the first snowfall. Then the park district police stop coming to unlock the bathrooms for the winter.

Fast forward to today.

As I drove the kids to school, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a minivan in the park's lot.  I didn't really pay attention until Keira mentioned the child on the slide had on the same kind of dress as her.  Flashback to last November.

Was it the same family? How could it be? Or was it another family, down on their luck, who just happens to attend the same school as my children?

As I drove to work in my new jacket, sipping my just-bought iced coffee, I was hit with a wave of heartbreak and guilt.  How truly grateful am I? For the house that keeps my kids safe and warm?  For the nice clothes I have for work? Granted, I only spent $15 on this jacket at Walmart of all places, but we had stopped there after dinner and a movie... luxuries that I am sure some families do not know.  What a person might give to have a hot cup of coffee early this morning with a bit of wind in the air, the person who may have slept in his car last night. And here I sit at the drive-up window, a myraid of choices to drink and some cash in my hand.

My life is full of blessings. Absolutely overflowing with them.

Yet last week, I was sulking over something petty.  I even question my writing skills and if there was a point to keep this up.  I took sometime to myself, and thought I was over it. But the feelings still lingered deep inside.  Until this morning. When I realized there are so many bigger things in life to worry over. And many of the big things - I don't have to worry about. I have a house, two cars, a job that includes great insurance, three little monsters, and a great husband. We are for the most part healthy, the kids are well-fed, and we all stay warm at night.

What about you? What are you grateful for?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving Week, Day 1 (Guest Post: Kendra Thornton)

This week I'm writing about all things Thanksgiving!  To start things off right, I would like to welcome Kendra Thornton to Embracing Chaos. Check her out on Twitter when you are done reading about her Thanksgiving traditions!

My favorite time of year is coming up soon: Thanksgiving! With all the leaves falling and crisp air-cooling the neighborhood, the Thornton household is a whole bunch of family visitors this year in Chicago of friends and family! Thanksgiving and its symbolism of gratitude make me thankful about my immediate and extended family and I can hardly wait to have everyone here to celebrate it.
With all of our guests coming to Chicago, I need to come up with simple recipes that the kids and I can cook together without too much of a mess. I'm sticking with fast recipes that incorporate either desserts or appetizers. Because I don't have many recipes to choose from at home, I've been searching through Pinterest for ideas. The pictures help me visualize the dish rather than just read the ingredient list. My kids aren't too young anymore, but they still make a mess in the kitchen if the recipes are too complicated! If I see too many ingredients in a picture, I just skip to the next one.

I love traditional Thanksgiving foods. Mashed potatoes and gravy are my favorite! You can't forget the turkey, stuffing or cranberry sauce either. These staples make me think of family and friends every year. This year, however, I think I want to mix up what I’m serving! I came across an article on Gogobot, “Turkey Trimmed to the Nines,” and it discusses what some of the top luxury hotels are going to be serving their guests this year for the big day!
Although I can't create all of these luxurious dishes for Thanksgiving, I can certainly bring in my cooking expertise and alter the ingredients to fit my family's food cravings. I hope my family enjoys some of the new foods I’m going to try and recreate! Thanksgiving is the best time to gather around and sample new things! If the kids don't like a dish, one of the adults is sure to enjoy it thoroughly! I'm particularly excited about trying a new recipe that the Waldorf Astoria in Orlando is making for their guests. Velvety pumpkin soup accented with lobster sounds incredibly scrumptious as a dinner appetizer! It is sure to warm the heart before trying all of my other creations.

One of the best things about Thanksgiving, aside from the food, is how we give thanks. Starting with the eldest family member, we ask everyone to name what he or she are grateful for. If you think back across the year, there is so much to be thankful for! I am incredibly thankful for the Thornton family and our respect for one another. Have your family talk about their gratitude. It is sure to brighten everyone's holiday. Have a delicious holiday filled with friends and family! You are sure to make so many memories!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Woes of a Working Mom

Being a working mom is hard.  
Getting the kids out the door to school on time, 
while trying to make sure you are not late to work is even harder. 

Almost impossible.  
Actually quite inconceivable these days.  
Let's face it, it's just not happening.

We have a routine in the morning.  In fact, I created a colorful chart with words and pictures for the kids to see.  They do well... sort of.  Despite our routine, there is a lot of arguing and crying and screaming that goes on during the wee hours of the morning at my house. Apparently putting on a uniform that your mother has laid out for you the night before is quite tough.  Today's arguments revolved around Christmas socks and long sleeve black shirts.  Neither are school approved.  But five-year olds don't care.

Finally the crying/screaming/arguing has stopped.  
Everyone is dressed.  
Everyone is happily watching tv 
while setting up every single board games and box we own in our family room 
to create some sort of fort. 
Oh wait, girls can't play in this fort. 
What the what? 
Cue crying.....

Crisis averted... girls do everything boys do in this house
 or mommy throws out all the boys' toys. 

But now it's time to go upstairs and get coats on.  
The children must have misunderstood me 
and thought I asked them to go pour battery acid on themselves
the way they moan and whine and cry
 (seriously, must someone always be crying in my house???)

Finally all coats and hats are on.

We are out the door.

We are on time to school.

I leave school and head to work,
happy to finally be on time to work.

And then this:

Oh wait, then this:

You've got to be kidding me!!!
This too???

Yet again,
I'm not on time for work.

Oh well, 
there is always next week.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Happiness is a missing tooth!

Boy lost his first tooth last night.  
He is the last one in his class to do so,
 and he's been waiting and waiting for this moment!
 He was so excited! 

I kept hearing "This is so cool!" 
from the bathroom where he watched 
his mouth bleed for about 5 minutes. ;)

We had received a special tooth container 
so he carefully put his tooth in it last night 
and placed it under his pillow. 
This morning, he was stoked to find
 a gold dollar coin from the Tooth Fairy!

Happiness is sharing in your oldest son's excitement.