Houston, We Have Lift-off!

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The last week or so around these parts has been pretty busy. I mentioned previously that my husband and I were trying to start a cupcake business. Well, I had promised back in October/November to my friends, family and some other cupcake-crazed people that we were going to be ready to take orders in January. Well unless you’ve been hibernating, you know that January is quickly coming to a close, so we knew that if we were going to keep our promise we needed to get a few things done.

First, we needed to talk to the health department. In Indiana, they have a “Home Based Vendor” law which allows home bakers to sell their products, however you can only sell them at two locations – a farmer’s market or a ‘roadside stand’. You can take online orders for pickup at either of those locations, but you cannot have a customer come inside your home to make a purchase and also cannot deliver to the customer. Well, I had seen mentioned that a few people were using their porch as a ‘roadside stand’, but I wasn’t sure if that was legit and since we wanted to do everything legally, I needed answers from our local health department on their interpretation of the term ‘roadside stand’. I finally got in touch with them and – hooray! – our front porch does fall under our county’s interpretation (our state leaves it up to the individual county’s to determine specifics like that, so it can vary from town to town). Our house is on the corner of a busy 4-way stop, and our large porch faces the road so there is fairly easy access also.

Next, we needed to finalize all of the little details of starting a cupcake business…things like a menu, pricing and a website. Check, check and check! Then it was just a matter of putting the word out that we were open for business, which we did this Monday. Since then, we have gotten 2 orders (for a total of 5 dozen cupcakes) and an inquiry for a birthday party in February! My husband and I spent last night whipping up fillings and buttercreams, and I couldn’t help but feel pride and love standing in that kitchen with him. The baking business was mostly my dream…but he has always wanted us to start our own business, so both of our dreams are kind of coming true at the same time, together…and that fills me with all kinds of emotions I can’t even put into words.

I know this business can either fail or succeed…but whatever happens with it, we tried. We took the leap, took a chance and in doing so are showing our children that you really can follow your dreams – you can at least try and be anything you want to be. And although I hope that it is successful – I hope that one day we can take the dream a step further and open our own little shop – if we do fail I hope that we can do so with grace and joy knowing we were able to live our dream for even a short period of time – so that we can also show our children that even if you end up not succeeding that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth it, and even if you fail at something it doesn’t make you a failure. Right now, though, I am giving it to God. He has blessed us with the opportunity and I will do my best to follow his lead and take it where he wants us to go with it.

Blessings,

Mariah

Confessions of a Bad Parent

Some days, as a parent, I find myself wondering if anything I do is right. Today is one of those days. Because yesterday was one of those days. Unfortunately, it happened at the end of one of those weeks where it seems like all you get is eye rolling, attitudes needing adjustment and disrespectful back-talk. It had been a long week…but I had been looking so forward to yesterday.                                                 

My husband and I had gone to the city for a show with my parents (Jersey Boys – which was excellent!), and left our teenage daughter in charge. We got home around dinner time to find that the younger three had neglected the entire day to do the things they typically must do on any Sunday (shower, brush teeth and – we found out later – feed the pets). We told them they’d go to bed early for not showering and brushing teeth, and gave them tacos that we’d brought home for dinner. I went into my bedroom to change…and saw red. 

Literally. Red lipstick. All. Over. My. Bed. 

My new, white, high thread-count, beautiful duvet cover – the one I had splurged on because I felt my husband and I deserved it after years of sleeping with a ratty comforter. Did I mention it was white? Our bedroom was covered in the carnage of several tubes of lipstick and lip gloss (and also, chewed up orange rinds). Our dog, probably starving and obviously lacking supervision, had gotten into our room and decided my makeup looked like a suitable snack. We started lecturing the kids on animal responsibility, which is when we found out they hadn’t fed the animals all day. Now, this is not a one-time thing…they are always forgetting to feed the animals. It is a constant struggle with them…so when I heard that, and realized that clearly they had completely ignored the dog (that they had begged us for) all day…well there was no countdown-to-launch. I was one mad mama. 

I took their plates and what was left of their tacos (about ½ of what we had given them originally), threw them in the trash can and told them they could go to bed and see what it felt like to have the person they relied on for their food not care whether they ate or not (I’m kind of dramatic when I’m mad). I ranted a bit about responsibility and respect. And then immediately I felt bad. Not because I said anything mean or untrue, or because I think it’s horrible to send your kid to bed without dinner – but because I knew that before we adopted them, my youngest 3 had gone without many meals, and I just couldn’t do that to them. So I did something I’m not even sure made me feel any better…I grabbed the paper plates off of the top of the trash can and took the wrapped tacos that were left and told them if they wanted more to eat, they would have to eat those. And they did. I know. They were still wrapped, and had not touched any other trash besides the paper plates they were on. But still. Not my proudest mommy moment. It’s taking everything I have to not erase this entire thing, because the last thing anyone wants someone else to see is their faults. But because I want this to be a place I can be real, and because I hope some other parent out there who might think they’re alone in making mistakes in raising their kids might see this and know that they are not alone. We all do things we are not proud of, things we regret, things that make us feel like a bad parent. 

That story brings me to the point I’m trying to get at I guess. Every parent struggles. Even the ones who pretend on the outside they’ve got it all together…I call bull crap. I don’t know one person in my real life that hasn’t had a mom melt-down. I’m pretty honest with myself. I know I’m not the best parent…I know that I struggle to do the right thing when it comes to setting rules, restrictions and discipline, and I especially struggle with losing my temper. I am a loud person when I’m mad…I’m a yeller, I come from a long line of yellers…and I make snap-decisions regarding discipline, and they are usually really over-the-top. It is something I am continually trying to work on. I also know I’m not the worst parent – I know this intimately, because my younger kids did have it worse. But last night after we went to bed, I could not stop crying. I’m so tired of fighting the same battle. I’m tired of feeling like a bad parent, tired of feeling guilty for wanting to take a little time for myself because I know something won’t get done if I do. Sometimes it feels like I’m treading water…small issues that really shouldn’t be a big deal, but turn into a big deal. Something has to change…I have been working on myself, and even though sometimes I doubt myself, I know I have been learning and growing. Learning how to parent damaged kids is difficult. But I have changed for the better, and they have too. And I know I can continue to do so…I definitely know I still have work to do. But in the meantime, we also need to find ways to help our kids work on the things they still struggle with, like normal people stuff. Sometimes I forget that they didn’t learn that stuff like they should have. They are still learning.    

So, to help save our sanity (hopefully) and their lives (ok that part was a joke), my husband decided we needed to come up with a plan which will stop the need for us to remind them constantly about their chores (and as a result stop the fighting/yelling when they don’t get done or have to be reminded 20 times. And hopefully will prevent any repeats of last night.) I truly feel that if we could get over that bump in the road, the disrespect and attitude issues would be easier to tackle. So we are devising a plan…some kind of family center where we can have a chore board, calendar with everyone’s activities (and what disciplinary actions are currently in place…because that is an area we struggle with also – remembering what we’ve grounded who from and for how long…so then they in turn don’t feel we’re serious about discipline and continue their bad behaviors), and possibly a daily checklist of things they should know to do like brush their teeth. That way there will be no excuse for them ‘forgetting’, because all they had to do was check the board. I hope this works…because I’m just about one breath away from the funny farm.

I have also decided my husband and I both need to have some “me” time every day…30 minutes of solitude in which we can go on the porch or into our bedroom, close the door, and just meditate, pray, read…whatever. We really don’t ever take that kind of time for ourselves, and I know it’s not healthy. When the weather gets warmer, I also want to start walking since exercise is a stress reducer. 

Anyway…that is the plan. I will post updates, and pictures once we get our family center worked out. In the meantime – anything (helpful) you’d like to share would be appreciated! 

Blessings,
Mariah

Disney Dreaming

Color me thrilled! This month, I scored a few Disney-themed items on Christmas clearance (mostly at Wal-mart and Walgreens), which I stashed away for our trip in December. Look what I found:
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I got the cookies, stickers and stockings all for about 50¢ each, the beanie Mickeys and Minnies for $1.50 each, and the little green and red balls are tree-shaped packages of gum I picked up for 25¢ each (not Disney themed, but they’ll love them!).

My plan, in trying to make this last Disney World trip extra memorable and special, is to have one small little item for each kid every day. Nothing big, nothing expensive – just a little treat to make them smile. I am not sure how I’m going to accomplish it, but I’d love to be able to have them waiting for them when they come home from the parks each day. Maybe I’ll just have to be the last one out the door every morning and try to secretly toss them on the counter…I really haven’t figured that part out yet! I thought about packaging them in little gift bags ahead of time and leaving them in our room with a note for “Mousekeeping” (I love that word!) to set them out? I am not sure if that would work. Anyway, I’ll figure it out!

Speaking of Mousekeeping…I am also thinking of leaving something special for them each day (in addition to tipping, not instead of!). Not something Disney themed necessarily because, well, they work there and that might be overkill. But maybe something along these lines (click pictures to go to the original site):

Cute little bags of M&Ms from Cricut Chick!

Hot Cocoa sets found on Kirtsy (made by Megan from Not Martha)

Apple Caramel gift set from Jo and Sue

Toasted Marshmallow Jelly Belly Tin from Sassy & Sweet Notes

Christmas Soaps with Printable Tags from Plum Adorable

My husband thinks I’m nuts but…it’s close to Christmas after all, and most of those things can be done up pretty inexpensively – and I just think if it was me working there and cleaning up after someone, I’d be completely excited about something like that – what do you think?

Blessings,
Mariah

Weekend, Interrupted

This weekend certainly did not go as planned. I had it all mapped out…Saturday was supposed to be unseasonably warm (60 degrees in January in Indiana? Yes, please!), so we were going to take down all of the outdoor Christmas lights and decorations and get them boxed up – and box up the remainder of the indoor decorations as well, and finally get the 40 or so storage tubs back up to the attic for another 10-month-hibernation. I exaggerate. It’s not really 40… it’s only about 25 or so. Definitely no more than 30. Anyway – then we were going to do a thorough cleaning indoors to get the house back into shape so we could let go of the holiday chaos and get back to our normal chaos. Then, Sunday we’d go to church, take the 3 youngest to get hair cuts and then head home and maybe, just maybe I would do some baking. After all, I have recipes to test and a menu to figure out.

But fortunately, it was not to be. Why fortunately? Because what happened was so much better…unplanned, spontaneous and perfectly fun. Friday afternoon I received an innocuous (Ok, I could have used the word ‘ordinary’ or something like that, but innocuous is such a fun word. I like words…) e-mail at work from our HR department, with a free pass to Sam’s Club for Saturday. We had been thinking about renewing our membership anyway, and this included a free gift-card with new or renewed membership. Free money? I’m in! Granted, our Sam’s Club is about an hour’s drive for us – but heck, a couple hours out of our day wouldn’t set things back that much, right? Plus, I needed laundry detergent and softener – win/win! Normally a trip to Sam’s Club (or any store really) with our children is not something we necessarily look forward to. It’s not typically one of those fun family outings for us – usually it’s more of a “Please stop touching things.”, “Didn’t I tell you to stop touching?!”, “Put your hands in your pockets and if I see them again I will CHOP THEM OFF!!!” kind of a thing. Not that I would ever actually chop their hands off…that’s gross. But I definitely would threaten it. And of course it wouldn’t work.

At any rate – this was not one of those trips. This was one of those rare times where the kids were getting along, they weren’t touching every stinking item in the store, everyone was in a pretty good mood – I don’t know if it was the weather or the phase of the moon or what – but we were having fun. At Sam’s Club. So because we were having fun, we weren’t rushing through the store…and it took longer than we planned. Then we decided while heading home, since we were driving right by the kids’ hair salon and everyone was in good spirits, we might as well go ahead and get that done. Then we stopped at the video store…and…well the rest of the weekend is history. Movies were watched, wrestling matches were won and laughter was…laughed? And the Christmas decorations? Well, I guess we’ll be taking those down in the cold snow that is on the forecast now. But that’s ok…because some things are more important than work, chores or plans…and hopefully that thought will keep me warm while we’re untangling lights from the thorny bushes. I’ll leave you with a poem that my mom had on a heart-shaped plaque when I was young, which hung in our baby’s room as well. Even if you don’t have babies anymore, it definitely still applies.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait ‘til tomorrow,
For children grow up, I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby, and babies don’t keep.

-Ruth Hulbert Hamilton

Blessings,
Mariah

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

3д illustration: Travel rest from work.Do you take family vacations? I know it’s not an option for every family. It wasn’t for my family growing up. My first real ‘vacation’ (i.e. not traveling to visit family) was at age 18, to Slovakia. It was a trip to visit an exchange student I had become close friends with during my freshman year – a graduation gift from my parents – and I was hooked from that moment on. The sights, sounds, tastes and smells of a place so different than I was used to…it’s a feeling I can’t even describe. My husband got to go on a few family vacations as a teen with extended family, and loved it also. So vacations are important to us – something we decided early on was a priority for our family. I know not everyone feels the same…but to each their own, right? To us, our vacations are a time we feel we can spend an entire week of quality time with our children and each other, while also giving them an experience and memories that will last a lifetime.    

How do we pay for our vacations? We certainly aren’t rolling in the dough, that’s for sure! We use our tax refund. As a family of 6 – with home improvements, car repairs, and kids who have hollow pits for stomachs, and are always wearing out shoes or the knees in their jeans – saving for a vacation out of our normal budget is not just difficult, it would be almost impossible. So earmarking our tax refund is a fairly painless way for us to fund our yearly trip.  Of course, every family is different with different priorities, and I know it is not feasible for everyone – and I certainly don’t want to discuss my finances too in-depth here, or debate the political side of taxes – but each year we get a tax refund, padded a bit due to tax credits for our 4 children. 

Disney

With this year’s refund, we are taking our kids to Disney World for the first week of December (Christmas at Disney – but without the high prices or crowds of later December)! We have taken them to Disney before, in 2010 during the same time of year with my husband’s sister, her husband and their 4 children. They were on the brink of separation, however, so while it was still a fun vacation and they certainly put on a happy face for their kids – the tension was palpable. We also stayed off-property for that trip, which allowed us as a group of 12 to stay together and save money. Oh, and the weather? Record lows, of course! They even had a freeze warning in effect while we were there. Thanks, Mother Nature! Whatever the circumstances though, Disney magic still worked its wonders. Our kids loved it – as did my husband and I – and decided then and there that we wanted to go back again (just our family this time).

We know realistically this is the last chance for us to go back to Disney World as a family (when we go the kids will be 10, 12, 13 and 16), so we are making it happen and want to make it the best trip yet. Mixed with that, however, is also having to still be budget-minded…because even if we are going at a discounted time of year – Disney is expensive. We want to stay on-property this year, which is even more expensive. Oh, and I think I mentioned before that we also have some major birthday celebrations to plan this year – so, my plan is to utilize every tool I can to save money while planning this vacation (and those birthdays)! Stick with me – I’ll be sharing the ups and downs of our planning here!

If you have any tips or tricks you’ve used to save while at Disney, or to save money to help pay for your vacation – let me know! I’d love to hear your advice!

Blessings,
Mariah

The Business of a Business

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So I mentioned in my first post that my husband and I were thinking about starting a business. This business idea has actually been in bloom for a while now…over 5 years actually, but it has morphed and changed over time. It started simply as my love of baking. I decided I wanted to attempt to learn to decorate cakes – because as much as I loved to bake, cake decorating had always kind of scared me. But I thought if I could master some simple things, I could start making our family’s special occasion cakes instead of buying them from someone else. I had discovered a site called Cake Central and it opened my eyes to the wonder of possibilities in gourmet cake flavors, fillings and beautiful decorating. There are some seriously talented people out there, and I set out to learn some things from them. Several years and a lot of frustration and crying that I will never touch a cake again…I have made some good, some bad – and some downright ugly. I don’t have pictures of the ugly – but here are a few of the good and not-so-good:

IMG_5394Definitely not so pretty…but it did taste good. I hadn’t mastered the technique of straightening the sides…IMG_5641Getting better…I love the rose technique from I Am BakerIMG_5453My first “3-D” cake, and first time using fondant, for my son’s birthday party. If you don’t know, it’s a minion from the movie “Despicable Me”. It turned out cute, I was proud of it – but it definitely was not professional, smooth or perfect by any means, and I felt my blood boiling a few times during the creating of this one.June2012 056This one I am probably the most proud of – also the most recent. Made for my best friend’s daughter’s graduation. It was HUGE…much larger than necessary – but I think it turned out extremely well, and really I did not have much of a problem with this one (I also made the graduation hat cookies you see to the side).

Now, I definitely still have a love of baking and decorating cakes – but I need a LOT more practice at it (and a few classes would be nice) before I would ever dream of creating something for a special occasion of someone I didn’t know. So the plans were put on the backburner until I could refine my skills. Then one day I happened across a little Food Network show called Cupcake Wars, and a light bulb went off for me. So, I started thinking a little smaller. Cute little yummy cupcakes…cupcakes I could do. I could still use all my ideas for gourmet flavors and fillings and icing, and even decorate them – but without taking on a huge task like a multi-layer cake. And cupcakes are fun – who doesn’t love them? So my husband and I started really discussing it…we kicked around recipe ideas and started baking. We made them for a party we were having, and then as a birthday gift for a friend, and then for a treat for the parent group I’m involved in…and then we started getting feedback – and requests. In addition to the one at the top of this post (Aloha Cupcakes), here are a few photos of some of the yummy little cupcakes we’ve made:

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Margarita Cupcakes

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Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes

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Hot Cocoa Cupcakes

We have had nothing but good feedback, and many people telling us they are interested in ordering. We figured we really had something. My husband even came up with a name for our little business-that-wasn’t-quite-a-business…The Cupcake Couple. We registered a domain and created an e-mail address and a Facebook page…and then Christmas came and I could not handle Christmas and Cupcakes together, so we took a break and told everyone we were taking some time to figure out things, and would be back at it in January.

So here we are in January. We decided we’re going to try it…and so we are. We still need to figure out all the legalities, make a business plan and figure out how/where/when we are going to sell our cupcakes. We have too much debt right now to buy a storefront, and even if we could we aren’t sure our town could handle that. Neither of us can give up our income to do it full-time either, so it’s definitely a part-time, on-the-side venture. So we’ll start out selling with no storefront. We’ll have a website, and Facebook, and word-of-mouth. In Indiana, where we live, you can legally bake cupcakes in an unlicensed home (our home can’t be licensed as our kitchen can not be closed off from the rest of the house) – but can ONLY sell them at a farmer’s market or roadside stand. So we need to contact our county and find out exactly what constitutes a roadside stand in our county (they all have different interpretations of the law). For instance, can we sell them from our front porch, which faces a major road which goes through our town? We are on a corner with a stoplight, so it’s easily accessible…but I don’t know if that would fly. What I do know is we can’t deliver, and a customer cannot come into our home to pick up an order, unless we bake out of a commercial kitchen. So we need to see what our options are. I would love to find a commercial kitchen to use so that we can deliver or have home pickups, consultations, etc. But that is where we are right now, we have set our pricing and our base menu…we just need to figure out the legalities and get all of the ‘business’ stuff set so that we feel more comfortable going forward with this venture. But we are making a go of it! We’ll just have to wait and see how it works out. I’m sure I’ll be making a few mentions on the struggles and triumphs over the next year…so stay tuned!

Blessings,

Mariah

Who I Am

How do you start a blog, and introduce yourself to anyone who might stop by, without seeming awkward? I’ve come to the conclusion that you don’t. So here goes:

Hi there! My name is Mariah. I’ve been married to my fully wonderful husband for 15 mostly wonderful years (you know, there are always difficult years…I fully believe getting through those is what makes the rest so wonderful!), and we have 4 beautiful, amazing, and smart but also sometimes bratty and selfish children, 3 of whom are adopted. We’re really a pretty typical family…we love, we laugh, we fight, we yell. The good with the bad and all that. But mostly, we just live. We try to enjoy this beautiful life God has given to us, and each other, as much as possible.

About me? Well, I’m a mom. And a wife. And also, I’m me. I have interests and concerns and needs apart from the mom and wife roles, and I have come to a point in my life I refuse to let those get pushed to the back. Life is a balance and I’m trying really hard to juggle it all – just like every other mom out there! My interests are vast. I feel like I’m one of those people who love to do everything but aren’t extremely good at any one thing. I love to be creative, although I don’t feel all that good at it most of the time. I like decorating, repurposing, cooking, baking, party planning, crafting…you see what I mean? I’m also a little OCD and a perfectionist with a knack for getting stressed out – so you can imagine how some of those things I love work out for me! I’m sure I’ll share a few stories about some of those things gone wrong.

2013 will be a busy year for us. Our oldest daughter is 15 and learning to drive. Our sons, 12 & 11, are always involved in some sport. And our “baby” girl is 9 going on 20, struggling to decide whether she’s a tomboy who love sports and bugs, or a girly girl who loves sparkles and fashion (I am hoping to make her realize she can be both). Besides all of the ‘normal life stuff’, we will be planning a 13th birthday, a “Sweet Sixteen” birthday (remember, I love party planning? So birthdays have always been a big thing for us, but milestone birthdays even more so), and a Disney World vacation. Oh, and my husband and I are trying to start a business this year! You will be hearing much more about those things later, though.

All in all, what this blog is about for me is just a place to come to share my little corner of life…my passions, my creations and also my frustrations and probably sometimes (hopefully not a lot) some sadness. For anyone who happens to stumble upon the ride: fasten your seatbelts, hands inside the cart at all times – and, please, try not to throw up on me!