This House of Love


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A Simplistic Holiday Survival Guide

I have one rule, and one rule only: know your financial, scheduling, emotional and mental limits, and try your very best not to push past them. That’s it. 

May you have the happiest (and most rejuvenating) of holidays, Blog Family! 🤷🏻‍♀️🥂💓


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Fresh is Best

I recently found myself amidst a very stale routine. After spending the day doing various errands or going to classes with my son, I would pick up my daughter from school and allow her to plop onto the couch the second we got home. She would remain there for quite some time while I tended to her brother, cooked dinner, and waited for Daddy to get home. Of course, she’d take bathroom breaks and occasional toy breaks, but television had become her main source of entertainment.

Then, at the beginning of May, I ran through my daughter’s school papers and noticed that the monthly lessons would be devoted to learning about and growing plants. After her first day of garden-centric lessons, I watched her large eyes glow while she regaled me with what she had learned at school that day. She was physically within the confines of her car seat, but in her mind she was tending to a beautiful garden with her newly green thumb.

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So, instead of heading home to our big, old couch, we went straight to a local hardware store to buy some seeds and plants.  Charlotte picked out pots and apparatus galore – she was thinking big. I soon realized I’d have to hit up the internet for more kid-friendly gardening solutions than our tiny, local hardware store. On to Amazon and E-bay! Before I knew it, my pre-school aged daughter was planning dinners she’d make with the foods she wanted to grow. We went a little crazy, and decided we’d have to upgrade some of our plans. I ended up buying her (and I) early birthday presents: matching kitchen knives (okay, so NOT matching, but in her almost four year old mind, she’s got legit knives now: Mommy’s Knives // Kids’ Knives ). For anyone who has a little one that’s interested in cooking, these ^ kids’ knives are a MUST. #mommyisinheaven

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Since then, our new daily post-school routine has been to go outside and water. Then we harvest the freshest ingredients right off of the vine, and bring them inside to include them in our dinner. For now, we’re only working with homegrown herbs. But, soon enough, Charlotte will see the fruits of her labor (or mostly veggies, rather), and have tons of healthy, fresh foods to choose from every afternoon. Quite obviously, a much healthier habit than gluing her tush to the couch and her eyes to the TV.

With that said, the first recipe we’re sharing from our garden is a delicious, light take on Eggplant Parmesan. The tomatoes and basil were harvested from our backyard, but the organic eggplant and mozzarella were both sourced locally.

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Ingredients (serves 2)

1 eggplant (sliced into steaks around 1/4″ thick)

1 1/2 cups of grape tomatoes, sliced in quarters

1/2 white onion, thinly sliced

1 ball of high moisture mozzarella, thinly sliced

1/4 cup white wine

4 cloves of garlic, minced

White wine vinegar

Olive oil

1 sprig of lemon basil

Italian seasonings (either prepared mix, or dry oregano/thyme/basil/sage mixture)

Salt & Pepper

Directions

Mince garlic. Slice eggplant into steaks, toss in olive oil & white wine vinegar to coat. Add as much salt and pepper as you prefer, as well as half the garlic. Chop tomatoes and onions, toss in a bag with olive oil, white wine, dry oregano, second half of garlic, and salt/pepper. Allow both mixtures to marinade in the refrigerator (quickest meal prep ever)!

When you’re ready to bake, lay eggplant steaks in single layer on a roasting pan. Bake them in the oven at 450 for 25 minutes, then take them out and top them with the tomato/onion mixture and (one to) two slices of mozzarella cheese. Lower the oven temperature to 425 and make for twenty more minutes, or until the cheese is brown and bubbly. To serve, place one steak on top of the other, top with basil leaves, and enjoy!

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Why I Blog

When I first entered the blogging world, my goal was to simply create an online diary. I had felt so isolated during those first few months of motherhood; the majority of my days were spent with no social interaction beyond my infant daughter and a few groups on Facebook. But I had so much to share, so many feelings and thoughts about this new, amazing, terrifying adventure. So I started a blog. I had no plan for it. I just wanted a place to vent.

As time went on and I wrote more, my emotional load became much lighter. I realized that when I share my feelings, the thoughts that normally just circulate endlessly through my head are given a different place to be: online. Which is scary. Scary as shit, if you ask me. Putting your unabashed thoughts and feelings into the hands, hearts, and minds of others is terrifying. But, the beauty (and danger) of making your feelings public is the ability to receive feedback. And I will admit not everyone always understands what I do.

But then there are those people who reach out to me to say that knowing my struggle is helping them with their own. That knowing that they’re not alone changes everything. And that’s why I blog. To share my stories (whether serious or light-hearted, silly or sad) and hope they help someone. To read other people’s stories and know that I have a community. To learn and share, to love and understand.  To be inspired…

So, with that said I’m taking my thirst for inspiration to the road (well, just a couple freeways actually) and am joining a slew of other wonderful BlogHers at #BlogHer16 ! I’ll be sharing the process on my Instagram (@house_of_love24), Twitter (@chesler_amy), and Snapchat (@thishouseoflove – wtf?! sooo many apps to keep up with!). In fact, you can even find me on the BlogHer16 app. I want to be inspired by all of you and look forward to the fun and knowledge I will leave with! Join me, won’t you?


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A Salute to Parenthood

 

Your wake-up call is before the crack of dawn,

Because your life is controlled by your cranky spawn.

You feed them, you dress them,

You just can’t impress them.

They aren’t very thankful, yet you love them the same,

Even if they always ask “Why?” and often complain.

 

You’re housekeeper and driver, tutor and cook,

You keep them in line with one smoldering look.

Tailor, Accountant, Doctor and Baker,

Even do-it-yourself Christmas wreath-maker.

  

Parenthood is a difficult, never-ending career,

Filling you halfway with love and another part fear.

But despite these complaints and your lack of rest,

Parenthood really is the best of the best.

 

No feeling can top watching your little tike grow,

Standing by his side while he learns to throw,

Or helping her up when she’s had a big fall,

Teaching them to be kind, proud, and stand tall.

 

Although Parenthood is a hearty sacrifice,

The payback truly is more than twice as nice.

Seeing the world from a child’s view is priceless,

Even if you’re constantly in diaper crisis.

 

So when Parenthood has you feeling overdrawn,

Wear a happy face and “keep on keepin’ on,”

Because today’s hurdle may be tomorrow’s success,

And the more love you have, the more you are blessed

Where Does Hatred Come From?

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Where does hatred come from? 
I originally answered this question on my blog almost two years ago, but in honor of the seventeen lives Nikolas Cruz stole yesterday, I thought I would repost it. This conversation MUST happen.
*A quick disclaimer: I am in no way an expert on this subject. I have no impressive degree from an Ivy League school. However, I grew up in a household in which one of three of its members was filled with a hatred so compelling it sparked violence. Thus, Id like you to consider my theory on the subject as a result of a twenty-two year case study. So, why did my brother come out the way he did?
I am a firm believer that no one is born with the desire to hurt others. We, as humans, naturally need each other to survive. Some of us may be more genetically inclined to be aggressive, but our relationship with others is purely social. So, why is it that some can ruthlessly murder others while others dedicate their lives to improving society? I believe the difference is simple: attachment.
I have been told Jesse seemed “different” as early as the age of three. This was the age my father left our family. This was the same year I was born. The same year my mother was forced to become a single mother. All of these factors would change someone. I have a child who is now just over three. I feel the incredibly strong attachment we have to each other – if I left her now, I am sure it would effect her infinitely. It would cause a little piece of her to disappear – her confidence, stability, and feeling of security in the world would lessen.
But would it cause her to hate others indefinitely? To lash out and desire to hurt people? I don’t believe so. But, imagine the pain she would feel if she was faced with several other experiences similar to this. Times when other people abandoned her or let her down. The more isolation she feels, the less empathy she would possess. This was my brother’s case.
He was short, he was teased, he was never really accepted by his classmates. He was ostracized for characteristics that were out of his control. He had been diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome as a young child, his tics making him seem even less “normal” than he already was. His behavior became more deviant as time went on, as his laundry list of diagnoses increased. He began to get into fights at school. He was angry and volatile. His school did nothing; this was not in the sensitive days of late. Back then it was “kids will be kids,” and “Do you think he’s cut out for school? Maybe he should get his CHSPE.”
So, in short, as he entered young adulthood and attempted to find connections, everyone but my mother told him he wasn’t worth the trouble. Mom believed in him infinitely. She knew he was capable of so much more than what people had begun to expect of him. The pressure to meet my mother’s standards despite everyone else’s grew too much for him, and he attempted suicide. Twice. As a middle schooler, I watched the trials that both my mom and brother were going through. I watched society tell her what she was doing wrong. I watched society tell him how much less value he held because he was different, and how he ought to behave to fit in. It was nearly unbearable for me to witness; I cannot even begin to conceive how hard it was for both of them.
And after twenty-five years of being told he was different, feeling little connection to those around him, and being attached to nothing but his desire to make people feel as little as he had all his life, Jesse killed my mom. But, quite often people like Jesse hurt strangers. They pack their cars with guns and their minds with plans, and execute others while they’re at school, sitting in movie theaters, or celebrating their freedom. Because people like Jesse, who have never really attached to anyone soundly, often feel the need to show others just how awful this isolation can feel. That’s where the hatred comes from.
So, what can we do to change this? The solution does not lie in any one person’s control. It is not solely our government’s job to restrict guns more. It is not only about how a parent has failed their deviant child. It’s less about guns and parenting (although stricter laws on both cannot hurt our children more than the guns literally have). 
This is about love. No matter if you’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Islamic, Atheist, Greek Orthodox, Agnostic, Democratic, or Republican. No matter your gender, sexual orientation or socioeconomic level, our duty as humans is to help others. To open our hearts to others and aide those in pain and in need. Allowing people to feel part of the human race or tribe, rather than an anomaly or a member of a smaller, less important faction, that is what will end the hatred.
As the Red Hot Chili Peppers sing, “Red black or white, This is my fight, Come on courage, Let’s be heard, Turn feelings, Into words.” Let’s start a dialogue that allows the pained to be heard and the isolated to feel accepted. Then, and only then, will we see the hatred begin to melt away. And until we can open our hearts, stay safe, everyone.


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This House of Love

Let me [re]introduce myself. I’m Amy Beth Chesler, or A.B. Chesler as the literary world may (or may not) know me. I am a lover of food, laughter, and adventure, although I hate to get dirty. I chose to title my blog “This House of Love” because Amy Beth can be translated, loosely and in a couple different languages, into that phrase. My mom assembled this name for me, with the help of my then three year old brother, because she wished for me a future occupied by a warm and loving family life.

I am a victim of domestic violence. I am also a survivor of it. My mother, however, is not. She was an incredibly strong, determined, warm, caring woman. I will love and miss her with every fiber of my being every day until I die. Thankfully, things are infinitely better now as I fulfill my own role as a wife and mother. I’ve found my niche in life; I was born to be Mommy. I knew this from the beginning.

What I didn’t know is how much poop and snot I’d have to deal with on a regular basis. Similarly, no one told me that some days I would laugh so hard I would cry, and others I would feel swallowed whole by my loneliness. Everyone neglected to tell me how terrifying, thrilling, isolating, eye-opening, and powerful parenthood is. They also didn’t mention just how awesome (in the truest sense of the word) it is to have your heart, a true piece of you, walking around outside of your body, living their very own life. How dare they.

I am also a writer, although it’s scary to say so. It’s a profession that requires you to make something from nothing, a grand story or thought-provoking poem, from just the depths of your mind. If your tales aren’t well received, your writing is not the only entity receiving rejection. But, just like my sentiments about motherhood, I knew I was meant for the writing world. As a child, reading was my escape from the harsh realities that were my life.  I wrote my own stories to enter an alternate universe, one filled with much less pain and isolation. As an adult, writing is allowing me to process my past and consequently and eventually arrive at my life’s destination: a house filled with an infinite amount of love.

Feel free to join me on this crazy journey by following my blog via the link to the left. And remember, “Let love win.”


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Seven Sure Fire Signs You Live with a Toddler

Life with a toddler is… special. So special that at times it’s absolutely necessary to stop what you’re doing  and confirm that this is, in fact, your reality. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Here are seven ways that your life mirrors every other poor sap who has a roommate under the age of four.

1) You’ve had the most asinine, outlandish arguments that you just can’t win, even though you are 1000% correct. For instance, you’ve had to explain to your two and a half year old at least a dozen times that no, she can’t drive to the grocery store or Grammy’s house. Appealing to logic (i.e. “It’s illegal,” “Your feet won’t reach the pedals,” “It’s MY car,” “You’re FUCKING TWO”) just won’t work. Ever.

2) You’ve made a public appearance with your very own caped crusader: Super Girl, Spider-Man, or a makeshift superhero who designed their costume out of a blanket and a robe sash. And said super hero has caused more mischief than solved any social issues. But damn, are they cute.

3) You’ve dealt with about eleven different illnesses in the matter of half that amount of weeks. A day or two after you’ve kicked your cold, croup is knocking on the door. Then a week and a half passes and you’ve been gifted with the flu. Merry bloody Christmas.

4) You have perfectly honed your role playing skills because your little one has requested you bring any and all inanimate objects in your house to life. Your rocker? The seat cushions have told the wildest bedtime stories. Your favorite blanket is actually named Bernie and has thirteen children he’s simultaneously putting through college. The spatula you cooked breakfast with danced the Macarena right after “she” flipped your eggs.

5) You’ve caught yourself saying things that you could never have imagined in a million years if it wasn’t for your toddler’s antics: “No, your poop does NOT belong in the toaster!” “Please eat your food with your fork, not your shoe!” “The cat does NOT want your Legos in her butt!” “Mickey Mouse is NOT allowed to go swimming in your pee-pee!” Or my personal favorite, “Please don’t put your finger in my nose!” Yep. This is very much your life.

6) You’ve been forced to watch the same movie, play the same game, listen to the same song, and read the same story everyday for the last month. It’s safe to say you know every line or strategy by heart. By now, you’re both thoroughly looking forward to and scared shitless of finding out what your child’s next obsessions will become.

7) Even though your days can be difficult and unnerving, your toddler manages to make everything simultaneously much more difficult and simple at the same time. And you wouldn’t have it any other way, because being around someone who is just mastering the English language is the “funnest” ever. Seriously. Who else can you spend an hour discussing poop and farts with?


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This is my Life.

It’s nap time and I’m using it to write a blog entry. Nap time is coveted; I wait for it every day. Even though I love to play with my daughter, hear her silly, little laughter, and revel in her joy…. I love it when she’s asleep. I can get my chores done, work out, feed myself leisurely, even ::gasp:: take a shower. The opportunities are endless……. Today, I chose to write a blog.

I have nothing to share except the monotony of my life. I wake up, feed my kid, play with my kid, put her down for a nap, clean, work out, play with my kid some more, feed her again, play even more, feed her again, bathe her, and then put her down to sleep. And then sometimes I cook some more, other times I watch “Jeopardy.” I do this over and over.

It sounds boring, and at times it is, but I really do enjoy it. I was born to be a mom. Motherhood has its challenges, as does everything worthwhile, but it’s not all bad. Sure, it doesn’t offer pay raises (or even pay at all), a fancy office, a bathroom that gets cleaned by a staff (sigh), but the incentive is there. I mean, come on, where else would you get to clean up your boss’s shit… Several times a day?

All joking aside, I am blessed to have a child who challenges me, makes me laugh, loves me unconditionally, and reminds me every day of the innumerable joys the world has to offer. I am lucky enough to have a husband who takes care of us and loves his girls, too. I am rich with love.

I may not have my own company, or a fancy brand that turns my name into a world-wide phenomenon. I don’t have a fast-paced career or expansive set of degrees. What I do have is a little chaos and a lot of love, which is the perfect balance. This is my life, and I am content.


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8 Signs You’ve Entered into Parenthood

I’ve caught myself having an “Oh shit, I totally made you,” moment while staring at my little one quite often in the last eight months. But, as if the tiny person that clings to us and requires help 24-7 wasn’t enough, here are eight more signs that we’ve entered the unending, life-changing condition that we call “Parenthood.”

1. We’re somewhat alarmingly infatuated with another person’s bodily functions. Never in our lives has someone else’s constipation or consequent bowel movements had the ability to excite, shock, and worry us all at the same time.

2. We create a theme song for everything. For example, our household’s personal favorite – “The Poop Song,” which goes something like this (ahem): “P-O-O-P, Gotta push it out of the tushie!” Or even “The Food Song:” “Open up your mouth real wide, and let me put the food inside.” It’s ridiculous and almost scary how quickly we can come up with a verse about the most trivial of topics.

3. We catch ourselves checking out other people’s strollers more than their cars.

4. Our clothing is a magnet for stains. Said stains either result from our baby’s bodily functions, or our own inability to get food into our mouths. Either way, we never seem to notice until someone else points it out. Lovely.

5. One of the very best side effects of being a parent is that it becomes incredibly easy to laugh. For example, when my child giggles uncontrollably at the ball she just threw, I can’t help but join in. I used to pride myself on having a rather intellectually advanced sense of humor. Well, not anymore. Nothing is funnier than anything our baby finds funny.

6. Movies take hours to watch. And I’m not talking about the regular 1.5 – 2 hours. I’m talking 5+ hours. There is absolutely no way to control the amount of times the pause button is hit.

7. We have somehow developed what I call “parent-like reflexes.” Once our little one reaches the phase where everything in his or her grasp is fair game, our reaction time whittles itself down to virtually nothing. Out of the corner of our eye we may spot our child tipping a water glass over several feet from us, but somehow we make it there in time to keep the cup full and our baby dry. I still can’t figure out how this happened, but I am uber thankful that it has.

8. Finally, we often consider taking Dramamine on a regular basis because the world NEVER. STOPS. SWAYING. Oh wait… that’s us. Yes, even when our precious baby is not cradled in our arms, our body is still rocking. I’ve even caught myself standing around, moving from side to side when our daughter is home with a babysitter. Hello, motion sickness.