To my little – It’s your last day of elementary school.

To my little – It’s your last day of elementary school.

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Well my little, it is here.  Five years of elementary school have literally flown by for you.  In true Callen fashion, you came barreling in and have lived every moment to its fullest.  It has been a joy to watch you soak in the last few weeks and all the final events.  Your smile (well what I could see through my tears) was absolutely infectious yesterday as you walked through all the parent’s cheering your class on.

It would be a lie to say that the last few years have been a breeze.  “School” has not come easy and the terrible timing of e-learning in some of those foundational years has left a profound mark.  We have had to learn how to advocate for you and learn how to teach you from a different perspective. This has taken a village, hours of research, trying new things and a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but we are beyond proud of how much you have grown. 

I went into your fourth grade year with some definite hesitations. Would having such a good friend as a teacher work?  Would there be any effect on our friendship?  Do you know what? It may have been your biggest blessing ever in your educational journey.  You had an advocate that truly understood you, fought for you and even better yet got to laugh with you and celebrate every growth moment you had. If I were to look back on anything this year, I can say without a doubt, God’s plan was far greater than my mom fears.  For this I am incredibly grateful.

A few things we want you to know:

I know you don’t think you are ready for middle school, but you are far more ready than you give yourself credit for.

You have two big brothers who have blazed a trail before you, use it, learn from it, but continue to blaze your own.

You may not fit the “school” box perfectly.  That is okay.  The world needs more people like you.  

Not everybody needs to get from point A to point B in a straight line.  Trust me, your mom knows this all too well.  Straight lines are boring.

Your brain is special.  You have a gift of creativity that few have anymore.  

Your fire and passion can be a blessing or a curse.  Learn how to harness it, to know when to fight with fire full on and when to take a step back and wait. It can become one of your greatest strengths.

You have an infectious smile and a special gift of friendship, hold tightly to that gift.  Don’t let anyone steal this.

It is okay to be frustrated, because growth is painful. It isn’t supposed to be easy and you are enough.

“You do not just wake up and become the butterfly. Growth is a process.”

Rupi Kaur

Your dad and I are beyond proud of you and your journey.  While I may have shed some tears at your 4th grade ceremony, I am truly excited for what middle school has in store for you.  Let your creative brain shine.

So today on your last day of school, as our family officially exits the safe elementary bubble, give a few of your notorious Callen “Tank”  hugs to each of those impactful teachers and flash that smile as you bravely walk out the doors one last time.

To my middle – It’s your last day of elementary school

To my middle – It’s your last day of elementary school

It seems like just yesterday that I was writing a letter to your older brother and I am still having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that it is your turn.  Facebook popped up memories of your Kindergarten graduation and I about became a puddle.  I still remember that day vividly.  You, our shy introvert, had a speaking part in the program and we were so excited to see you shine.  Those pictures will forever make me smile when I see them.

“The smiles would grow on our face, when we tackled something new.  You could watch our sparkling eyes light up and our teacher’s eyes glisten too.”

– Parker & Kate – TCE Kindergarten Graduation

When I wrote a letter to your big brother, everything felt more uncertain, more unknown.  It doesn’t feel that way now, we have been down this road already, but it doesn’t make this day any less monumental for you. While the next steps seem less scary, I have to remind myself that your little mind and heart are still processing a lot of change.

Your “clap out” is happening today.  A tradition that I am glad the school hung on to, despite all the weirdness of this year.  I have a strong feeling that there will be some tears brewing behind those eyes, but I doubt you will let them show.  You present as strong and steady, but I have seen some of the impact of the microfractures of this year (or better coined “emotional concussions”).  There were the quiet disappointments of all the activities that never took place. I know you knew you were missing them, because you saw your big brother get to experience them, but despite the fact you still found joy in every day.  Keep finding that joy.  

A baseball batting coach called you “smiles”  instead of Parker and it stuck.  In a year where the world tried to hide kids’ identities… you held firmly to that smile and flashed it whenever and wherever you could.  You have now idea how much such a simple act like that can change someone’s day, but that quality makes us proud.

A few things that we want you to know:

Middle school is not unknown, it is not even scary,  it is actually a lot of fun. 

Leaving the safe nest of your elementary bubble is not unknown either, we have navigated it now and you have a big brother there to help.  

You are ready.

You are actually more than ready.

You will rock middle school.

You have had an amazing group of teachers over the past few years and especially a team that fought hard for you when the world went nuts.  The amount of time and effort poured into you and your class is a priceless experience in all the chaos.  Your dad and I are beyond grateful for that.  

You have a core group of friends that are LIFE GIVING.  Don’t ever take that for granted.  I pray you realize how special they are.  

Your core group of friends are also full of far too creative minds, this will get you into some trouble.  Be a leader, when you make a bad choice, own it.  Learning from your mistakes, can be the best life teacher.

You found strength in responsibility and learned quickly that prioritizing your time and working efficiently were always worth it.

You didn’t complain about the missed events.  You rolled with the punches and I am sure you are more resilient now. I hate that you had to become more resilient, but like we always say, you can’t control what happens around you, but you can be responsible for your response.  Your character is what matters.

Remember that it is okay to show cracks, to be vulnerable.  It’s what you do with the cracks, how you handle your attitude that matters. 

You had a lot of “life” conversations this year.  We talked a lot about leading and not being a follower.  Never be afraid to ask questions even if it goes against the majority, keep asking, keep seeking truth. Remember, it is okay to be uncomfortable.  

The important thing is to never stop questioning.

– Albert Einstein

I pray you learn how to understand yourself better and that you know when you need to unplug and recharge. Being an introvert is not a bad quality, even if it feels like it, since most of your friends are extroverts.  

Parker Tomás,  you are my gritty child.  The one that will alway give 110% and then gives a little more.  This quality will serve you well as you move on to your next adventure. Don’t ever lose that fight. That is a defining quality that makes you you.

Your dad and I couldn’t be more proud of you. Your kind heart is a special gift. Guard it wisely.  

So today on your last day of elementary school, remember your kindergarten lines, fire up that smile and remember it’s okay if those eyes are glistening because your mom’s eyes are glistening too.

To my first born son on your last day of elementary school.

To my first born son on your last day of elementary school.

How are we already here?  It seems just like yesterday, that you were climbing on the bus as a chubby, smiling 5 year old, barely looking back because you were so excited about the opportunity in front of you.  I know, I know every mom ahead of me always says, “don’t blink” or “enjoy the moment, it goes so fast”, but today, this momma feels like she blinked.

Today, in just a few hours,  you will have your “clap out” at school.  I wonder if you will smile and give high fives to all the little ones cheering you on or if behind your brave demeanor there will be tears brewing as you anticipate the changes ahead?  

Are you excited?  Are you scared? Did we help you enough?  Did we help you to much? And more importantly, did we let you fail enough? I saw you describe with big eyes, just how big the 8th graders looked when you visited your new school, but then in the same breath, you told me not to worry because you got this.

All of these questions are swirling through my head, but there are a few things I do know.  

I know you are ready.

I know that you have had a team of some of the most gifted teacher’s I have ever met.  They poured countless hours into both your education and your character. Your teachers over your elementary years were a very special group, the type I wish every kid had a chance to experience.

I know you have an innate ability to lead, but leading isn’t always fun.

I know you have always believed you could do or be anything you want.  

I know you are extremely confident, but sometimes you hide your cracks.  

I know you will love the new freedom and how classes evolve.

I know that you love to be challenged and are excited for what lies ahead (especially in math).

I know that you will love that your world is getting bigger.

I know that the way earlier start time is going to be a jolt to all our realities and I don’t see it starting off well.

But B. Bug, (and yes, I will continue to call you Bug) what this momma wants you to know on your last day of elementary school is that you are insanely loved.  That both your dad and I are extremely proud of you and who you are becoming.

We also want you to know that it is okay to fail.  It is okay to have cracks and that sometimes vulnerability is just as powerful as confidence.

We know that you will have some growing pains and friend transitions and that the world is not always kind, but remember you can not always control your circumstances, but you can control how you respond. Sports have taught you this well, but continue to remember that you are responsible not only for your actions, but for your attitude as well.

We want you to know that it is exactly the same in sports as it is in school or really anywhere in life. We have never cared if you win or lose, but that you gave it your all. As your dad likes to say, “It’s attitude and effort.”

We want you to know that you see injustice and as you grow you will see more battles to fight, but pick the ones that matter the most in the big picture and don’t waste energy on the ones that don’t (your mother is still learning this).

So, to my first born son on your last day of elementary school, we saw some cracks this week. Those little moments when fear or emotions overtook, but please enjoy every moment of this next phase, because as this mom knows it goes to fast.

And today I realized I blinked.

Kitchen Essentials :: Items I Use Everyday

Kitchen Essentials :: Items I Use Everyday

I was asked a few weeks ago about my kitchen. Specifically, what tools could I not live without? And what would my dream kitchen look like?

I actually love my kitchen. It’s an open concept and I don’t feel like I am stuck in a room away from people while I am cooking. When we built our house, we specifically choose this because we knew it would be a gathering place. It never fails when we have friends over, people will just gather around the island talking and snacking on food. I absolutely love that!

But what would I change? Well, I am pretty sure I saw my dream kitchen the other day…but seeing as that isn’t anywhere in the near future, I would actually only make one small change. I would rip out the microwave above our cooktop. I don’t like my microwave and rarely use it, but even more so is that it is obnoxiously huge. I would love a range hood that opens up my cooking area (especially when I am canning and always bumping stuff into the microwave.) I love this hood in the image below!

In my ultimate dream kitchen my cook top would have twice as many burners and even more counter space with a larger island, but I would be more than happy to simply just replace my microwave with a fun range hood.  I am pretty sure this range from BlueStar Cooking is my ultimate dream one.


As for the question, what items do we use every day? My first thought goes immediately to my Vitamix and my Le Creuset cookware. Both of these were purchased in times of our lives when we were tighter on cash and they were big splurges. Our Vitamix is over 5 years old and has lived a really good life…literally it is used multiple times a day in our house. I remember when I was trying to convince my husband of why we “needed” one and his response was “isn’t it just a blender?” I borrowed a neighbor’s and had my husband make hummus and from that point on he was convinced.


As for my cookware, when we started purging all Teflon and aluminum pans, I slowly began collecting pieces of Le Creuset. For Christmas one year, my husband found a collector who was selling her entire lot… they are over 25 years old and are in incredible condition. So I went from a few prized pieces to my entire kitchen be stocked for an incredible deal. I love them and they are also used every single day in my kitchen.


But, what is used the most and could I absolutely not live without? My answer is sort of a random item. Not in the least bit expensive or hard to find, but we use them everyday and for multiple things. I could not live without the simple Mason jar.

We ferment in them. We store all our pantry items in them. They are our drink glasses. We can fresh produce in the summers in them. When I am prepping meals early in the day, my chopped veggies always get stored in them. I literally have mason jars in every area of my kitchen. Such a simple item, but wow, our kitchen would not run smoothly without them.


A Snapshot of Life: Packing Lunches

A Snapshot of Life: Packing Lunches

This year one of my goals is to share more about our daily lives.  From the little things, like where I shop, how I buy in bulk, what school lunches look like, what snack time looks like etc.

So today, I thought I would share a quick picture of my 1st graders school lunch.  I actually hate packing lunches…you know all those cute Pinterest images of cheese and sandwiches cut into cute shapes…yeah, never happens in our house.  To simplify the process of  lunches in our house, I always make a large enough dinner for leftovers.  As I am putting away/cleaning up dinner I fill all the boys lunches boxes, making morning’s so much easier.  The mornings I didn’t pre-pack lunches or didn’t have leftovers to use, just makes me feel like I am scrambling.

We have chosen to use the Goodbyn System for our lunches.  I love them because they seal really well, don’t have multiple components for my boys to keep track of and they are the perfect size for their lunches.

Pictured below:  leftover sauerkraut & meatballs, green beans with coconut oil and sea salt and an orange.


Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs (Our First Attempt)

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs (Our First Attempt)

I picked my boys up from preschool yesterday and decided we needed a fun project for our afternoon, so we swung into EarthFare to grab some eggs, cabbage & onions.  (Really the trip was more pre-meditated than that because I had one of their $14 of $70 coupons and had no eggs, no orange juice, one apple, no bananas and I really wanted a flank steak for dinner).  Though to my little boys, the trip was all about getting supplies to color Easter eggs.  I have seen Pinterest posts and Facebook posts all over the place about naturally dying eggs, so I thought we would give it a try.  I bought, both brown and white eggs to experiment with, but by far the white turned out the best.

It was a super easy process.

First, I hardboiled all my eggs.  My favorite method for hard-boiling is to start with the eggs in cold water, bring to a rolling boil for one minute and then remove from heat, cover and let sit for 10 minutes.  Then I cool them off quickly in cold water.



I decided to try three different dye colors.  Honestly, it was a pretty cheap dye mixture, becuase you only use the onion skins and can keep the onion for cooking, I used half a head of cabbage and my turmeric was an old stale bottle jar that really needed replaced anyway. To prep I filled 3 pots with water and added my dye items. My ratio I worked with, was one cup of chopped onion skin/cabbage to one cup of water.  For the turmeric, I used 1 Tbps of spice to 1 cup of water.



I then brought each pot of water/dye substance to a boil and then covered and reduced the heat and let it simmer for about a half hour.  After it cooled down a bit,  I strained the liquid into mason jars and added 1 Tbsp of white vinegar per cup of dye.



At this point my boys were so impatient for their eggs to turn colors.  This is definitely the step that was the hardest for them because it required waiting and the eggs aren’t just instantly colored.  We tried a mixture of both white and brown eggs in each jar.  After we filled the jars with eggs we put them in the fridge to sit.  We actually were so busy that night, that we didn’t check them until morning.  In the morning, we pulled them out and lightly dried them off with paper towels.



The front ones are the turmeric dyed eggs, then the red cabbage and finally the onion skins.  I think the onion was by far the strongest most concentrated dye and it turned both the white eggs and brown eggs very similar in color.  Though, I do think the blue ones turned out to be a really pretty color also.

I also had one batch that flopped.  I had read somewhere that you definitely wanted to add brown eggs to the red cabbage dye and you will get green.  Now, I am a graphic designer, have taken color theory and that idea didn’t seem like it was going to work, so I tried it anyway because I was curious…Not only are they not green, but they are splotchy messes.  Next year, I will experiment with some green veggies and see what I can come up with.

Look’s like we are going to be eating a bunch of cobb salads or egg salad this week, since I have a bunch of colorful hard boiled eggs in my fridge now! Happy Easter Weekend!