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  1. Thursday, September 25

    Why My Birthday is More Than a Birthday

    Right now Owen’s birthday cake is in the oven. I will be attempting to shape it into Ripslinger from Planes a little later today. (Heaven help me.) Owen is sitting at the counter playing with a few of his Thomas trains while we wait for the cake to bake, chatting merrily away to himself, creating stories of near misses at the countertop’s edge. I am feeling beyond grateful for this moment.

    owen's 3rd birthday and thoughts on motherhood from @janemaynard

    Three years ago Owen was born on my birthday. Without a doubt it was my best birthday ever and Owen was the greatest birthday gift I could ever have dreamed of. Three years ago was also, without a doubt, the most traumatic day of my life. After a calm morning of labor, suddenly things changed. And, before we knew it, Nate was alone in the labor and delivery room and I was in an operating room being put under general anesthesia. Neither of us would witness Owen’s birth. Nate met him 15 minutes later. I met my son 2 hours after his birth.

    thoughts on my son's birth by @janemaynard

    I will never forget every last detail of that day. For nearly a year I would cry just at the slightest thought of those events. Now I just cry once in a while, usually when I least expect it. I always cry on my birthday, though. I can’t help it. I am just so grateful, it’s overwhelming. Grateful to have this greatest-of-all birthday presents in my life, playing with trains and asking me to play the Planes soundtrack yet again.

    thoughts on my son's birth by @janemaynard

    When I was being wheeled from the delivery room to the OR, I was a complete basket case. My anesthesiologist was a saint who talked me through the whole experience, with a calm and loving voice. The thing I was so fixated on was that I would not see Owen born like I had the girls. I couldn’t stop saying that over and over. As I look back it almost makes me laugh. There was so much on the line in those 6 minutes between discovering the problem (prolapse cord) and Owen’s birth. And the only thing I could think about was that I wouldn’t get the happy birth moment I had envisioned and experienced before. I didn’t think once about Owen’s mortality and, honestly, I am so grateful my neurotic brain didn’t go there, that I was protecting myself from those thoughts. I’m even more grateful that everything turned out okay in the end. We were so lucky.

    owen's 3rd birthday and thoughts on motherhood from @janemaynard

    I joke with people that Owen ruined my birthday. Not only did he steal it from me, but he turned it into my #1 PTSD trigger! Seriously, though, I love sharing my birthday with this amazing kid and I know that it is miraculous.

    Life is good. It does not always go as planned. Sometimes it is more than we can bear. But it is always beautiful.

    Happy Birthday, Owen.


  2. Friday, October 25

    Friday Show and Tell: My Little Photobombers + Seeing New York (and People) Differently

    I have two things to share today.

    First, a little peek into what is usually going on around the food I photograph. I like to keep the photography on my site simple. It’s just my style. But there’s another reason for the simplicity, which is pictured here:

    food photo shoot photo bomb | thisweekfordinner.com

    I’m a mom. I work from home and I’m the primary caregiver. And those little people that I care for are always around, even when it’s time for a “photo shoot.” Nearly half of the photos I take have fingers sneaking into the shot, or faces popping up in the background. I just learn to work around it and work quickly. Yesterday, though, it went beyond cute chubby fingers sneaking in to steal a cookie. It went to a whole other heart-melting-I-can-barely-hold-my-camera-steady-garlic-what-garlic-that-boy-is-so-cute-heaven-help-me level.

    Moving on to share item #2: Humans of New York (HONY). I always assume everyone knows about this blog, but, surprisingly, many people I mention it to have never heard of it. I simply will not rest until I get all people as addicted to HONY as I am, so a blog post is in order!

    humans of new york book | thisweekfordinner.com

    HONY was started by Brandon Stanton, bond trader turned photographer, who interviews and photographs (you guessed it) humans in New York. His blog is wildly popular and he published his first book this month, which I pre-ordered ages ago. The book is as wonderful as the blog and made it to the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestseller list for non-fiction. If you aren’t already, you need to start following the blog and/or the Facebook page and/or buy the book.

    Beyond telling you about the website and the book, I also want to tell you an interesting experience I had as a result of reading HONY. I grew up in New Jersey and New York was our city. I went in frequently and know the place well. Last week I went on a quick business trip to New York. It was the first time I visited the city since starting to read HONY and it completely changed my perspective.

    humans of new york book | thisweekfordinner.com

    If you’ve never been to New York, it is just as busy and full of people as you might imagine, maybe even more so. When you’re there, you have to put yourself on fast forward, keep your head down and just go. Of course you notice people around you, how can you not? But usually you notice them in a quick way. However, on this trip, even though I was moving quickly, for the first time I was really noticing people. Not in a who-is-that-creepy-lady-staring-at-me-on-the-subway way, but in a these-are-all-humans-with-stories way. I had so much more compassion for people. I wanted to talk to people, find out what was happening in their lives. I wanted to get my camera out all the time. Instead of seeing a jacket that I previously would have thought was “ugly” I now saw a woman who really loved a fun jacket that made her feel good. I really, truly felt differently about everyone I walked by or sat next to or waited in line with.

    humans of new york book | thisweekfordinner.com

    It might sound cheesy, but HONY truly changed my perspective. I feel like I’m a pretty compassionate person and always have been. But what Brandon does is unique. He stops a stranger and asks them a question – not “What do you do for a living?” but “What would you tell a large group of people?” or something similarly probing. He tries to get something “real” out of the person. As Brandon says on his site, “Adding even the simplest quote to a photo can lend so much humanity to an image.” That is where the power of HONY lies – a beautiful image paired with a bit of humanity, a peak into someone’s soul. And those souls are all so different and oftentimes unexpected.

    humans of new york book | thisweekfordinner.com

    I’m sad that it took a visit to New York to trigger this experience and these thoughts for me, but at least it happened! There’s just something about being among 8 million people that gets you thinking. My goal is to take these feelings I had in New York and keep them with me, to look at all people wherever I am in this same way. My kids and I delivered cookies to all of our neighbors last night, as a way to meet people. We knocked on strangers’ doors, we smiled, we offered a gift, we asked their names, we showed interest in who they were. For some neighbors, they just needed a quick hello and a smile, for others they needed to sit down with us, share photos of their families, just talk. Once again I realized that everyone has a story and everyone wants to be noticed and loved, even in small and simple ways.

    Here are a few of photos from HONY that I love, although I could list photos all day! Each click is a different link. Click! Click! Click! Click! Click! Click! Click! Click! Click! Click! Click! Click!

    It’s show and tell, which means everyone in class gets to share. Show us what you got!


  3. Friday, May 3

    Be Enough

    It’s been a rough week. There is a good reason I’m telling you this. I am not seeking sympathy and I am not trying to draw attention to myself. I just want to keep it real. And here’s why. Well, actually, before I get to the why, I need to give you a quick synopsis of some of the talks from Big Traveling Potluck last weekend. Stay with me through what will seem like a random string of thoughts. It will all come together in the end.

    btp

    Melissa Lanz (who is completely wonderful) spoke about having a personal mission statement. She shared the story of her life journey so far and it was sweet and inspiring. Watching her husband watch her speak might have been one of the more tender things I’ve witnessed in some time. Anyway, during her talk she mentioned a friend who has the personal mission statement “Be Better” and how that friend is constantly striving to, well, be better each and every day.

    Next…

    Matt Armendariz (who is also completely wonderful) spoke about creativity and shared his story of how he got to where he is today and how he keeps the creative juices flowing. I loved getting insight into his thoughts and his day-to-day life. There was one comment he made that made me pause. Someone asked if he ever turns things away and he essentially said, “No, I’m a freelancer, I can’t afford to say no to projects.”

    Next…

    One of my best blogging buddies Helen Jane spoke about overcoming creative blocks. One of her core messages was that you don’t have to do it all. It’s easy to feel like you have to do it all, but you don’t. It’s not realistic. Focus on what you’re good at and find success that way. And, by the way, success isn’t always about the millions of followers, millions of dollars, millions of any of that.

    Next…

    Ree (a person I am so blessed to know) shared the top 10 things she’s learned about food blogging. Buried in all the funny, witty, thoughtful things she shared was a moment of vulnerablity. A moment where she told us that in 2011 it was all too much, that she was a shell of a person, that she was forced to change the way she was doing things and stop doing so much. Ree is the epitome of the mom who “does it all.” Hearing here admit that she actually can’t do it all was the most inspiring thing she could have said and it was one of the more powerful moments of the weekend.

    Next…

    My dear friend Jeannine (she works for ONE and she is the BEST) and I were talking one night about one of the big problems with blogs, and Pinterest for that matter. When you read blogs, you see all the good in the blogger’s life but rarely (if ever) the bad. You don’t see the grumpy days, you don’t see the ‘Happy Birthday’ bunting that did NOT come out perfectly, you don’t see the cake that failed to rise. You see all the beautiful parts of people’s lives. Which isn’t to say that the beauty isn’t real. It is. But the beauty is all the more beautiful because we also have the ugly in our lives. When you look at blogs (or Pinterest or Facebook status updates or whatever!) that only show the happy-go-lucky side of life, there is danger of feeling bad about yourself and thinking you are not enough.

    Next…

    I also had a heart-to-heart with Deb from Smith Bites (another choice human being). We talked about how wonderful the conference had been, how great all the talks were. And then Deb brought up Melissa’s friend’s mission statement. She essentially said, “I’m not feeling it. ‘Be Better’ assumes you are not good enough. But you are. I think the mission statement that resonates more is ‘Be Enough.’ ” We talked about how we completely understand why Matt says yes to all the projects that come his way, but that it really is okay to say NO. And we talked about how you don’t have to to be good at everything. And that is OKAY. And you know that beautiful lifestyle blog that you read every week where the mom is always stylish and the kids look like J. Crew models while they are planting organic basil in the backyard that is later perfectly chopped for the salad that the kids actually eat for dinner? Yeah, even that blogger’s life does not look like that everyday. And that’s OKAY!

    disneyland with girls

    So, you would think after all this inspiration I would have had a great week, right? Monday morning we got some crummy news. We were supposed to move to a house on a horse ranch in June. We were just going to be renting it, but it was close to work, in the same amazing school district we’re already in, there were horses all around, lots of light and lots of space, and 360 views from the top of a mesa. I was going to rename my blog “Pioneer Woman Junior” and it was going to be AWESOME. There was a lot of work to do on the house, but we were excited and ready for the adventure. And then it was unexpectedly pulled out from under us. And that just about did me in. The stress and uncertainty were just too much. By Tuesday I was feeling better, more optimistic. Then I went to Disneyland on Wednesday with my beautiful daughters and forgot all my troubles. Then…Thursday. The reality hit harder than it had all week. Even The Vampire Diaries couldn’t bring me out of my funk. (Yes, I just admitted I watch The Vampire Diaries. We’re keeping it real today, folks.)

    Last night I realized that my public persona this week was all roses and Mickey Mouse ears. The sadness and the frustration and the downright crappy feelings were nowhere to be seen. Not on Facebook, not on Instagram, not on my blog. Which isn’t to say that the happiness wasn’t real. It WAS. And the happiness and moments of fun and gratitude for my amazing life and the people in it kept me going. But, you know, I also had a day this week where I felt like I was in a thick fog and could barely get anything done. I don’t want to be one of the bloggers who only portrays the pretty things. I want to us to connect, to realize we’re all in the same boat, a beautiful boat that sometimes gets rocked.

    This is why I’m telling you it’s been a rough week. Because I want to keep it real. This week my “enough” changed from day to day. One day I was Supermom with more energy than Richard Simmons. The next day I felt nearly useless as a mom, certainly neither fun nor patient. But that day I at least made dinner. And that was enough, enough to get me through.

    Be Enough. It’s okay. Sometimes enough is amazing. Sometimes enough is just enough. But it’s always enough.

    owen sleeping

     


  4. Thursday, May 2

    My Budding Food Bloggers

    Yesterday my girls and I went to Disneyland (thanks to the Babble team for a fabulous day!). The day was perfect. Today I am basking in the glow that is the light of my daughters, so I figured it was a good day to share two quick stories about them.

    anna recipe share web

    A couple of weeks ago I was playing with Owen in his room when Anna came walking in with a recipe card. She had found a Halloween food and craft book somewhere, had spent some time combing through the recipes and settled on one to share with me. She handed me the card and said, “Mom, this recipe is perfect for your blog. It’s easy to make but really cute!” Anna hasn’t even read my blog but she seems to have my messaging down pat! I still can’t get over the fact she was looking for content for my blog. So ridiculously cute. I will in fact give this recipe a try at some point and let you know what we think!

    Last Friday when I went to Big Traveling Potluck, Nate had to make dinner for the kids. Cate suggested they make english muffin pizzas, which was perfect for the occasion. She was excited all week about dinner that night and couldn’t wait to teach everyone how to make the pizzas. She even wrote up directions.

    cate recipe 1 web

     

    cate recipe 2 web2 quick notes. First, I love the after thought “Oh, get plates” at the top of the page. Second, why is she having us split the english muffins with a fork? She’s been hanging out with her dad too much.

    I love these girls.

    Also, it appears that I am raising future food bloggers. Look out, world!