Apple picking with my boys

Ever since we moved to New England this past April, I have been looking forward to doing all the fall things. It’s been so long since I’ve experienced a New England fall and have been so excited to introduce my boys to new traditions, ones that we didn’t have in Florida. In the entire 17 years of living in Florida, I think fall was what I missed most. And one of the traditions I’ve been most looking forward to establishing with my boys is apple picking! So, after a long week of being sick and quarantining, despite the iffy weather, my mom and I loaded them up and spent a lovely wet Sunday afternoon apple picking at Carlson Orchards.

carlson orchards

Oh, so many apples

The last time we visited Carlson Orchards was to go berry and peach picking and I quickly learned how huge this place was. So, this time, I was smart and remembered to bring the stroller as I anticipated doing a lot of walking to pick the various amounts of apples they had. Some of the apples were well known names I had heard of like the famous Honey Crisp along with well-known apple’s Macintosh, Golden Delicious, Cortland, Empire and Gala. But there were also a couple I had never heard of like Ida, and Northern Spy apples, wasn’t a huge fan of those. My boys had a great time tasting all the different varieties. My almost 2-year-old kept picking the fallen apples off the ground and putting them in our bag, lol. I did my best to keep an open mind about the different kinds of apples available, but I have to say, in my opinion none compare quite as much to the honey crisp. There’s a reason why they are so much more per pound in the store and the reason why they have the word “crisp” in its name. They were so good. They were the very last rows in the orchard, and they actually had a wagon being pulled by a tractor out to the sections that were a longer walk. We had to walk all the way to the end as they were pretty picked over, but if you’re patient and willing to walk a bit and look hard there are still plenty of honey crisp apples out there. They also had a ton of rows roped off that weren’t for picking yet, so I’m sure they’ll have plenty of apples for weeks to come.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away and brings the tooth fairy to visit!

We love apples in our house! My little guy goes around all day saying, “apple, apple”. He sounds so much like a broken record these days…toddler life. It’s the cutest little “apple” though and there could be worse foods that he could be asking for. I love that my boys love fruit. We had an unexpected tooth falling out while apple picking! My son lost his first front tooth a few weeks ago, and the second one has been loose since. It had been hanging on by a thread and he has been super picky about what he’s been eating for fear of it falling out. Don’t get me wrong, he has been excited about another visit from the tooth fairy (really amazes me how much she’s giving these days ;-), but he is not a fan of any blood, and he gets super anxious about it falling out. I was actually surprised he was eating so many apples while picking for that reason, as he hadn’t wanted to touch an apple in weeks. I think the excitement of apple picking made him forget all about his tooth hanging by a thread until…I heard a shriek in the orchard followed by, “Mom!!” I turned around and there he was freaking out because his tooth was literally dangling, not sure how the apple didn’t pull it all the way out. I gave it the smallest little tug and we went home with not only a big bag of apples, but also a tooth for the fairy.

We have a huge bag of apples that I’m looking forward to making an apple crisp with. My oldest has been taking an apple with him daily for his school snack, so at $30 a bag (yikes…) we are getting our money’s worth. I will say that with the number of apples we ate while picking we definitely got our $30 worth. I’m hoping to try one more orchard out for comparison before the season is over! Next time we’ll try to go on a beautiful fall day instead of a rainy one.

Figuring out a career after being a stay-at-home mom for many years

As many of you know, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for almost 8 years and have found myself in a position now at 39 needing to start completely over and build a new life for me and my two boys. The thought of going back to work after all this time, on top of everything else I have been dealing with, has been completely overwhelming. If I’m being completely honest, it’s terrifying and something I really don’t want to be forced to do. Not because I don’t want to work, I want more than anything to bring a steady income in and provide for my boys. For years I’ve been dependent on someone else financially that has treated me like a child. I can’t wait to be financially free from his grasp. But I LOVE being home with my babies. Raising my sons is extremely challenging, but I love being their person all day long. I love seeing them grow and help mold them into tiny, amazing humans. I fear all those moments I will be missing. I know so many moms are working moms, and I know that day will soon be mine, but change is scary. New beginnings, especially when it’s not what you had ever envisioned are not without a lot of doubt, fear, and anxiety. 

Give yourself grace

I turned down an opportunity this week for a short-term job, and I was really beating myself up about my decision. When this opportunity was presented to me and after not only interviewing for the first time in 10 years but also being offered the job, it seemed like a no brainer to say yes. I need the income desperately. The anxiety I have on a daily basis of starting over with no funds causes me great stress. So of course, I had to say yes to the first job opportunity I was offered. It’s called being a responsible parent, right? The day I accepted the job we all came down with covid and it hit us hard. First my 7-year-old was the sickest I’ve ever seen him and then on top of feeling like crap myself, my 22-month-old became very ill, so ill that I began to think something was seriously wrong with him. He became violent and distraught in pain and the thought of leaving him in a few days became extremely worrisome. I began having second doubts. 

It wasn’t until a highschool friend I’ve reconnected with had a heart to heart with me that I realized that I had to turn it down. She told me, “Now is your time to be selfish. You spent way too long making others happy. You are in charge of your life and all the paths have different pros and cons. It’s your time to thrive and show your boys what life is all about.” You see, I’ve spent the majority of my adult life chasing someone else’s dreams. I’ve spent the last 5 years making someone else, on top of the selflessness that comes with being a mom, my priority. When I graduated college, I was madly in love. I followed who I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with across the country, because it was his dream, and I was wrapped up in the idea of finally finding what I thought was my forever person. The next 16 years became about him, his career, his timeline for our life, and eventually all the dreams I once had aside from being a mom slowly vanished. Which was ok, because being a Mom was my biggest dream of all, and bringing my two babies into the world was a very scary and difficult experience. Being with them made everything else feel right. With them was where I needed to be. But when he began to manipulate me and abuse me, I began to be left with the scary thought of what the hell will I do if I have to leave him. I suddenly began to question all the possible dreams I would have followed had I not met him so many years ago. 

I’m a firm believer that you can’t go back and question all the “what ifs” in life. Am I where I want to be in life right now? No, not one bit even close. Am I angry at all the time I wasted trying to help him get help? Yes. But do I entirely regret the last 18 years of my life? No. I got the two most amazing little boys out of that life. My boys are my whole heart and I’ve quickly realized that life gave me two little boys to challenge me with raising them into kindhearted men, men that know how to treat women right. I’ve grown so much over the past 18 years, the challenges I’ve overcome have made me into an incredibly strong mom. If I had chosen differently all those years ago, I wouldn’t be a mom to the most amazing boys I could have ever dreamed of. 

But after listening to my friend, I have been quickly reminded that now is my time to figure out what I want to do with my life. I don’t need to feel pressured by life into choosing a job that I know won’t bring me joy.  I’m smart, driven, determined, passionate, and I will have other opportunities. Opportunities that will bring me inspiration, opportunities that will make me want to work and will show my boys that mommy doesn’t settle. I’m allowed to give myself more time to figure it out, and I will figure it out in time. So, for now, I’m holding my youngest extra tight these days, and reminding myself that right now, cuddling him close, this is where I’m meant to be. 

hold your babies tight

Protein balls and healthy veggie dip

No Bake Protein Balls

These are an absolute favorite in my house. They are so delicious that I really have a hard time believing they are healthy because they taste so much like a treat. These are so easy to make, don’t involve using the oven and are full or nutrient dense ingredients. You can change these up a lot by adding in different things, like nuts, coconut, chocolate chips etc. I will say that if you are trying to lose weight or working on a big fitness goal, I would not recommend having these as an everyday snack. Although they are filled with feel good ingredients, due to the peanut butter, honey and chocolate chips these do tend to be a little higher in fat and sugar then some other healthy snacks. When I’m looking at adding “sweetness” into a recipe, I always try and use pure honey, maple syrup or agave. I always try to avoid white sugar. Natural sugars are always better for you, and a tiny drop of pure maple syrup goes a long way! My biggest struggle when making these, is limiting myself to only one. 😉 Enjoy!

healthy protein balls

Ingredients

  • 1 cup old fashion oats
  • 2/3 cup toasted shredded coconut (unsweetened)
  • 1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter (be careful with your peanut butter selection. Look for one with no sugar and no salt. You also want a creamy one, if not these won’t stick together very well.)
  • 1/2 ground flaxseed (flaxseed is a great source of protein)
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (omit if you are limiting sugar intake)
  • 1/3 cup honey or agave
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Stir all ingredients into a large mixing bowl until thoroughly combined. If it doesn’t look like its sticking together well, you can add in more peanut butter.
  2. Cover the bowl and chill in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours or until chilled. This helps it stick together.
  3. Roll into small 1 inch or smaller balls.
  4. Enjoy immediately! These can be stored in a sealed container for up to one week in the fridge or in the freezer up to 3 months.

Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip

Who doesn’t love a good ranch dip! But most ranch dips are made with sour cream and loaded with unhealthy fats. I love Greek yogurt! I use it for a healthy replacement in lots of recipes and it’s a perfect substitute for sour cream in dips. The mom I started meal prepping for this week was very interested in having a healthy dip and chopped veggies on hand for quick healthy snacking. I found this recipe from Well Plated. I was very excited to try this recipe out and very pleased with how it turned out! I will be experimenting with this one a bit and adding it to my weekly list. It was so easy, and I almost always have these items on hand. My oldest is not a dip person at all and I’m hoping that will change. His favorite veggie of choice is raw spinach with nothing on it. I find it a little boring, but I can’t complain that he wants to eat raw spinach! 😉

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Fresh chopped chives for garnish
  • sliced up veggies of choice for dipping

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, stir together all the ingredients.
  2. Garnish with fresh chives and serve.
  3. Can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Meal prep for the busy mom: Stay-at-Home Mom side hustle

Whoa, life has been BUSY these past couple weeks. With the start of school for my oldest, family visiting, birthday parties and more, it’s been a minute since I’ve found the time to sit down and write about all that’s going on in life. I’m feeling pretty stressed these days, trying to find some balance in my life with all that’s going on. I’m trying to make a new life for my little family, trying to find a job after 8 years at home, and it’s not easy. But, in the midst of all the chaos, I also have a new opportunity that I began this week that I’m pretty excited about! I’m looking forward to sharing this new journey with you as it grows, evolves and becomes whatever it may be ;-). I don’t have a name yet for this new side gig, but I’m thinking something on the line of, “Meal Prepping Momma for all you Busy Mommas.” I’m not so great with names, so by all means, if you have one, help this momma out ;-).

new beginnings

A couple weeks ago a friend I grew up with connected me with one of her mom friends who was looking for some childcare help. If you’ve been following my journey, you probably know that my ex has left me any boys with no financial means to stand on. I’m actively looking for employment opportunities, but with no money at all for childcare, and no car, well it’s been challenging. I’ve been extremely frustrated these past few weeks with the legal process. It’s been almost 6 months and I still have not been granted rights to the proceeds from our home, assets, accounts etc. The legal system is so maddening at times, but I’ll save more on that part of my life for another post.

Embracing new opportunities

Today I want to talk about something exciting, as I haven’t had a lot of that in recent months! As I was chatting with this mom, we began talking about health and wellness and how I love helping other moms get fit and healthy. She told me that having healthy family meals and prioritizing nutrition more for her family is a priority, but she finds herself having little time and motivation to cook. When she asked me if I would be interested in being paid to meal prep for her family one day a week I jumped at the opportunity. Not only do I love helping other families eat clean, but it also has forced me to explore and try out some new recipes for my family as well. It’s a work in progress and we’re still trying to figure out what will work best for both of us, but yesterday was my first day and I feel like it was a success. She sent me an email end of last week with her wish list for this week. I took what she was looking for, researched recipes, came up with a food list and sent it to her. She stopped and got any items that she didn’t have on my list before I got there yesterday.

Clean eating for the whole family

This week she was looking for a healthy breakfast to have on hand for the week, protein balls for the kids, a healthy veggie dip, chili, and a stuffed cabbage recipe. We discussed things like reducing sugar intake and staying away from processed foods. Over the past few years, I’ve worked with a lot of moms and families who find it challenging to find easy healthy meals that everyone in the house will eat. I love a challenge. I love trying to find recipes that will not only be good for you, but also be loved by both grownups and kids. Eating healthy, nutrient dense food doesn’t have to be extremely difficult. It doesn’t take hours in the kitchen each day, but if you put a little work in one day a week it can make a huge difference. Mornings with kids for me are difficult so I personally like to have a couple healthy breakfast items prepped for the week. I also find when my kids eat a nutritious breakfast it really sets their mood and energy for the day, so making sure they start their day off right is a priority for me. After my oldest got on the bus yesterday I headed over to her house and got to work. She has a beautiful kitchen which was fun to play around in. It took me a little while to figure out where everything was etc., so I think next week will go much more smoothly.

I’ll be sharing my recipes that I prep for this family each week under my fitness tab! If you’re looking for some yummy, healthy family recipes be sure to check in there weekly to see my latest finds. I’ll give you my honest feedback, which recipes were a keeper, and also ones that I would adjust and how!

Gaslighting from afar

Have you ever been hurt by someone physically or emotionally and then awake the next day to them pretending or denying it ever happened? Have you found yourself questioning your own reality? It makes you feel crazy when someone can blatantly deny they’ve hurt you. Welcome to the horrible world of gaslighting. And if any of this sounds familiar, I’m so sorry you are dealing with this too. 

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation in which someone makes you question your own reality. It happens when an abuser tries to control a victim by twisting their sense of reality, aka, doing something horrible to you and then telling you that was not the way it happened.

Gaslighting red flags

Being a victim of gaslighting has been my entire world the past 5 years. And if I was to look back at the entire course of my 17-year relationship, I could probably find signs of it along, which was then exacerbated by substance abuse and mental illness. I constantly felt like I was walking on eggshells. And when we had a fight, which became more often than not, he would completely disregard my feelings, and find a way to make me feel guilty, as though I was somehow to blame. He was always playing the victim in all aspects of his life. 

When I finally worked up the courage to leave 5 months ago with my boys for good, I thought I was finally breaking free from the hurt, from the constant manipulation. I thought I was finally breaking the cycle. Unfortunately, I was wrong, and he is still finding ways indirectly to hurt us.

Even without contact, he is still finding ways to try and manipulate me. From harassing those that have helped me and my boys in our times of need, to slandering my name to family and friends, the distance between us somehow hasn’t ended the hurt. It amazes me, that even though his family has seen firsthand his violence, his sickness, that they are still not only enabling him but believing his lies. Lies that are not only hurting me, but substantially affecting the financial future of their grandchildren. 

It has been a hard month and so many of the bad choices he’s made are directly impacting the life of me and my boys. It’s disturbing how even though you are the victim you still can be left feeling like you are the one being punished. It wasn’t until I was chatting with a dear friend of mine who has also been a victim of abuse that I realized that his family is gaslighting me too. My friend made a significant point, that he was probably brought up with parents that used this manipulation and that is probably where he learned it. 

That right there was another reminder of how important it is that I got my boys away from him, the reason why I’m fighting with all my power to not let him near us until he gets the help he needs. Another friend keeps reminding me, I’m in the HARD part right now. Leaving is only the first step. Now is when the real healing begins. I’m trying to allow myself to be angry, but I’m also trying really hard to let go of those things I can’t control. One of my best friends gave me a necessary kick in the butt and said to me,

“Just keep looking forward Ashleigh. There are a lot of what if’s, just focus your energy on moving forward. He has not ruined you.” 

And that is exactly what I’m going to continue to try and do. They can continue to try and beat me down, I will overcome. I know the truth.