What Disney’s Mickey Means To Me

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It is no surprise that we as a family are head over heels for Disney’s Mickey Mouse. Pretty much anything Disney related gets us excited. I frequented Disneyland Resort as a little girl and knew once I became a mom myself that we’d adventure through Disneyland together. It all started with Mickey Mouse, literally everything and we’re so happy to have partnered with Hanna Andersson to celebrate his 90th Anniversary!

My son and I used to go to Disneyland Resort once a week. Most days we’d drive over in the afternoon, ride our favorites, snack on a churro and head home. There were a few days during the month that we’d stay till the evening to watch the nighttime parade. Romping around the Disneyland theme parks soon became our thing. I knew Disneyland through out even before my son was born. BUT getting the chance to take him and re-see the parks through his eyes, was magical. There really is nothing more incredible than watching your children experience things, happy and exciting things. You know when their face lights up and they let our a deep giggle. Or when they stop in their tracks in complete aw. I also loved the feeling of his little hands wrapped around my leg when waiting in line for our favorite rides. Disneyland was our place. 

My son, his name was Ryan, on his last day here on Earth we went to Disneyland. We woke up early and entered Disney California Adventure park being the first to enter that day! We ran straight for his favorite ride in Cars Land and rode it with giant smiles on our faces. You know, I had no idea I’d be forced to say to good bye to my Ryan that night. Though I have to believe that us being able to enjoy Disneyland together just one more time was meant to be. If you are familiar with our story then you know, that night we lost Ryan quick and out of the blue. It tore my inside out and our whole world crashed down. I share it all on my blog, but I’ll be the first one to tell you that how we lost him doesn’t matter. What matters is that we continue to live in his honor. What matters is that we still do the things Ryan loved to do. What matters is that we share how we kept living despite the hurt and pain thrown our way. 

My first time back to Disneyland after my son passed was something I was dreading. I felt scared because I didn’t want a place that was so grand to suddenly became a dark place for me. I knew I had to go to just see, to just experience it now with Ryan up in Heaven. I had to go for him. So I went. That day was immensely sad with hints of happiness around every corner. Visiting Disneyland that day was when I really began to understand that I could feel sad and happy at the same time. Come to find out, I feel happy and sad nearly everyday now that is OK. It is OK to feel two feelings at the same time. I realized that Disneyland was still our place. It still held our memories and laughs. I decided to keep going just as we did before and even today it feels like Ryan meets us there. 

My daughter Mila was born after we lost our son Ryan. In our family we speak of him daily and remember him out loud. Mila knows who her big brother is and she tells me that he lives in the sky. There sibling bond is like no other and I am so honored to call Ryan and Mila my children. Soon after Mila came into our lives we took her Disneyland. Mila now is two and adores anything Disney just like her mom and big brother. We frequent Disneyland Resort once a week and work in a few nights a month where we stay late for the nighttime parade. Mila enjoys different things within the park than her brother did, which I love to see. I love to see how they differ. What I find the most magical is that I can now walk around a place with both my kids at the same time, and that really doesn’t happen for me anywhere else. Disneyland is still our place.

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You know, this motherhood of mine isn’t pretty and tied up with a bow. What happened to me is every parents nightmare. Though it happened to me and I am proud to think that God thought me strong enough to endure it. I believe in so many things but one thought I live by is, life isn’t about what happens to you, it is about how you react to what happens to you. Today my family of four visit Disneyland Resort any chance we get. For us it means we can all be together. When you see us together you will only see three, but our son beams from our smiles and the fun we have together as a family. 

Disney’s Mickey Mouse will forever mean the most to us. We are so grateful for what Disney’s Mickey Mouse and Disneyland in general. When Hanna Andersson asked us to share why Disney’s Mickey Mouse was important to us, I couldn’t pass. I know he means different things to different families across the world. I’m just honored I could share about ours. We love the new Disney’s Mickey Mouse pajamas in celebration of his 90th Anniversary! I love that they are red, which was Ryan’s favorite color. The gold shines bright along all the memories our family has within Disneyland. 

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That Time I Accidentally Locked Both My Kids In The Car

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When my son Ryan was nearly two I accidentally locked him in the car outside our apartment. Panicked, I used my neighbors phone to call first my husband then AAA. It all was a blur and Ryan didn’t really mind much. I remember making funny faces at him and playing peek-a-boo while tears burned behind my eyes. The whole thing took about 15-20 minutes, which seems like hours. When we were finally inside our home Ryan happily played with his toys and the day just sort of kept going. I remember feeling awful and then taking a better note of holding on to my keys when getting myself and my child in and out of our car.

They tell you “Don’t worry! These things happen.”

Yesterday after packing up my trunk with stuff I bought at Target, I put Mila in her car seat and then threw my keys and wallet in the front seat. Once Mila was buckled in, I closed the door and walked around to the drivers side to find out that my car had locked itself. It had locked itself with my child and keys (and phone) within it. In a matter of one second I fell into a deep panic and started to scream. Which I know now, wasn’t the best. I immediately found someone to help me. She was a mom herself and was carrying her own two year old on her hip. She let me borrow her phone to call the one number I know by heart, (my husband’s) for help. She stayed with me and Mila until my husband came with my extra set of car keys. She and her child made funny faces and played peek-a-book with Mila. She was calm, cool, collected and so very kind. Let's hear it for moms helping moms out!

She kept telling me “Don’t worry! These things happen.”

Once my husband came to the rescue, I swung open the car door and squeezed Mila so tight. She was fine, though she cried nearly the whole time she was locked in the car. I kept telling her how sorry I was and that I loved her. To which she replied “Me too!” She has started to say “Me too!” now whenever we tell her that we love her.

It is one hundred percent true that these small mistakes happen and can either make us laugh or cry or both. They teach us things, mostly they teach us to slow down. Though this all happened yesterday I am still shook about it and can’t help but feel like a lousy mother. Which I know isn’t true. I just can’t help but feel dumpy about doing this now to both my kids, ironically when they were both the same age. Also, whenever something happens to Mila, even when she has a small fever, something inside me kicks into anxious panic riddled with fear. I’m reminded of how life is so very fragile and if anything happens to Mila so help me God … I, well I just wouldn’t be able to handle it. My brain starts thinking the worst and to be honest I spiral down, down, down.

Is it because I am pained by the loss of my son? Is it because I lost my son and I know all too well that we can lose someone we care about in a matter of minutes? All I know is that I love my kids with every cell in my body. When I think about how much I love them both my skin ignites with warm pin pricks all over. And when I accidentally lock them in my car I can’t help but beat myself up about it. Thats it. Thats all I am feeling at the moment and it is taking me a few days to shake it off I guess.

I will tell you “Don’t worry! These things happen.” but I’ll also put my hand on your back and let you know that I feel your anguish and fear. I know how much you love your children and though this shit does happen, it is OK to feel crappy about it for a bit.

And with that, I feel grateful for my grief because it makes me more aware of how precious this life is.

Photo by Lily Ro Photography

Mila's Dress Up Clothes by Lovelane Designs

Our Top 2 Favorite Places In Los Angeles

I don't think it is much of a surprise when I say I love LA! If you know me or see me around town I'm usually dressed as a slob with an LA ball cap glued to my head, to hide my dirty hair but mostly because I truly love it here (and those Dodgers). It definitely takes a type of person/parent to raise little ones in the city. We do live a fast paced life and each day my children are faced with diversity, interesting sites, funky places, damn good eats. Oh and traffic...we deal with a lot of traffic. But truly it is beautiful here. City life is somewhat of the best life and we adore it. Mostly because everyday is different and we can just about do anything, see anything. Really though, I see try and see the beauty everywhere. I visit Kentucky often and life out on the farm would be just divine too! ;)

To all my city mamas out there, I feel it is important to give our little ones the space to run around and be free outside. Living in an apartment sans backyard we have to work a little extra at finding exciting places for our children to roam free, safely. And not just another park, you know. When my son was just a baby I used to take him up to the Griffith Park Observatory. It has such a great view, really the air seems clearer up there. On really clear days the Los Angeles skyline is truly breathtaking. When Ryan was just a baby (not walking or running) we would stroll up there, I loved walking through the observatory. I'd also nurse him on a bench or on the grass out front. Once he became mobile I let him get all his wiggles out on the large grassy area. It honestly was his favorite, and mine too. If you look back, way deep into my IG account you can see many photos of Ryan running hard against the vibrant green grass. His smile glistening with snot running from his nose. One of my favorite things is remembering how he would use the back of his wrist to wipe his nose. Such a boy. Such a joy.

The Griffith Park Observatory is such a sacred place for me and my little one. The first time I went back after losing Ryan was for this photo shoot with my signature Solly Baby Wrap design. I cried so much, standing in the same places as I once did. Standing in the same place, it all looked the same. I looked the same, yet a thousand times different. A thousand times stronger. A mother of two. Proof of hope for the future to become bright again. For those of you going through hell right now ... It will get better. I promise you that.

I look forward to letting Mila run around on that bright green grass one day. Running in her big brother's foot prints. Running together on some beautiful, heavenly level. Thank you God for my two children. They certainly are the absolute best.

You know, although Ryan and I have this scared place introducing Mila to it is important to me. Just as I've introduced her to our Disney days. There are things I have done with Ryan and now do with Mila. However, I want Mila to know she is deeply special and deserves new places. Places untouched by her big brother. Places she can call her very own. I think when you have multiple children letting them have things together and separate is important. So, recently we took a trip on the Metro to downtown Los Angeles and ate our way through the Grand Central Market. Something I hadn't done since I was a little girl. The look of wonder and excitement on Mila's face as the Metro rushed passed gave me butterflies. Really! I've said a million times, experiencing things through my children's eyes is pure magic for me. We now take the Metro to downtown often and have dinner at Grand Central Market. The tacos there are insane and we also end our trips with ice cream. Mila now has her own special spot in Los Angeles. She really loves being on the go, I think the Metro is her favorite (and the ice cream I sneak her way ;)

Any ways, these two spots in Los Angeles are two of my most loved to visit with my little ones. We are always on the hunt for new places in LA. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed with excited that tears brim my eyes. I am so excited, thrilled to show Mila new places. It honestly is the best!

Below are a few photos from Griffith Park taken by Max Wanger & a video by Tory Lathrop Photography of our most recent trip to Grand Central Market!

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Happy 4th Birthday Ryan

It definitely wasn't something I was totally looking forward to.

Sometimes it takes every fiber in my body to just get out of bed and look semi-presentable. How would I have the energy or courage for that matter to celebrate my son's birthday?

My son who is no longer physically with us.

How do you muster up all the qualities necessary to 'celebrate' when all you are currently equipped with are qualities of grief and sadness? It is hard I tell you. The hardest thing I've ever had to do. So hard, but yet, with the grace of God and Ryan by his side we were able to do it. Like really do it. Dan and I blew celebrating our son's birthday our of the damn water! (enter fist bump emoticon here)

Happy Birthday to our dear Ryan Cruz.

Our baby sure did love Disneyland. I love Disneyland and it was a pure joy of mine to share that love with my son. We took it to the next level by going at least once a week...but seriously the smiles and laughs (and copious amounts of churros) we shared within those Disney walls are priceless. They bring tears to my eyes now, but I hold onto those memories so tight and think of them often.

It was a no brainer that we would celebrate Ryan's birthday at Disneyland. We planned a few things, but really we just all donned our Ryan shirts and let the day fall into place. It was truly magical. My son had saturated Disneyland...I mean he seriously was everywhere. I saw him in everything and most importantly we all saw him shinning through our smiles and laughter. We did everything Ryan would have wanted us to do and then some. We bought bubble guns and ate lots of churros. We rode Ryan's favorite rides and never waited in a line longer than two minutes. We ate his favorite candy, Ring Pops. We ran through the park flashing 'Happy Birthday Ryan Cruz' signs. We hugged one another tight and looked up into the bright blue sky, constantly wishing our little man a Happy Birthday.

In the afternoon we sang Happy Birthday to Ryan and released red balloons. We all cried. We cried and held on to each until we couldn't see his red balloons in the sky anymore. There were a lot of tears swept up with waves of calm and happiness. It was as if Ryan had his little hand on each of us. He kept saying " Guys, it is ok to cry, but I want you to have fun too. I want to have fun."

Overall, it was Ryan's biggest birthday yet. I'm so proud of my Ryan, he is finally four. He has been wanting to be four since he turned three. "When I turn four..." he would always lead with that and then ask for something outrageous. I'd always say "We will have to wait and see once you turn four dude." Oh wow, what little did I know then. Never did I imagine this...

Up in Heaven Ryan is telling everyone "When I turned four my parents celebrated me at my favorite place, with my favorite people doing all my favorite things."

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We all had 'Ryan' leather bracelets made. That poor lady deserves a medal for dealing with all of us! She had twenty of us all asking for different things and they were all perfect. A few of us also got Olaf keychains because Olaf is Ryan's favorite. Ryan sings 'Suuuuummmmmeeerrrrr' and just adored that dorky little snowman. And now we love Olaf too.

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Ryan's favorite candy are Ring Pops. We had them at his service and we had them on his birthday too. My sister brought a giant bag and we took a group photo with all of us eating them like he used to. Of course I can't find the photo...I'll have to share it when pops up.

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Happy 4th Birthday Ryan Cruz.

Mommy and Daddy love you and will continue to celebrate you with every step forward we take.


Ryan & Mila's Spring Garden

After becoming a parent, one of my favorite things to do was begin family traditions. We all have a few that we continue from we were children. However, after starting your own family begin unique traditions that are all your own are special and exciting to plan. The Spring before we lost Ryan we had started a 'Spring Garden' tradition. We planted a bed of bell peppers and green beans. He was thrilled to go out each morning to see if anything had sprouted yet. I am not quite sure he grasped the idea of getting to eat what we grew, he just loved the act of gardening. Getting dirty, getting wet, being outside...what most little boy dreams are made of. We did see some growth which was pretty incredible to see through Ryan's eyes. A child's excitement is unmatchable and to experience your own child's pure excitement can shake you to your very core it is that intense. I adore Ryan's excited face and sounds. Ryan passed before we could reap the benefits of our harvest. My father in law actually took a few of our plants and they now grow in his garden.

This Spring I decided that our family would pick back up our 'Spring Garden' tradition. I know Ryan would have wanted to plant again. I was feeling this determined, yet happy feeling of accomplishing something with my two children for the first time. I thought, "this is what it will be from now on. doing things with both my children. one here, one there and yet still all together" it actually was pretty neat. We went to the store and picked up everything we needed. I bought a sign to put my children's name on because I wanted to feel and see Ryan as much as I could. The day we planted was a beautiful one. Warm, but not too warm. Spring was definitely wafting warm though us within the slight breeze. Or maybe it was Ryan running around us. I had Mila in my lap to start. Her little legs kept kicking over the mini pots once they were full of soil. A hint of frustration crept up on me, and I laughed because had Ryan been physically here the soil would be a giant mess and in the end we'd all be covered in it. So this is what its like doing things with both my children. I love it. I am learning to love it.

We potted a few herbs and veggies we like. We live in an apartment so our garden lives in white pots on our third floor balcony. Which is actually kind of perfect since the sun hits just right there. Just after two short weeks we saw some growth happening! Dan spotted it first and we all gathered outside to see! Come time to eat our harvest we will do it together.

Happy Spring!

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Zuzii Footwear Collaboration For Charity

A while back when Zuzii Footwear reached out to me about possibly doing a collaboration with them I couldn't answer 'YES PLEASE' fast enough! If you aren't familiar with Zuzii Footwear then I am excited to introduce you to them! Zuzii was born from the love two sisters shared over handmade shoes and the endless creative options that could ensue there after. The pair hand craft each and every pair you see with only the help of their mother! The sister duo are the epitome of what a real dynamic duo looks like. With that said, the shoes themselves are comfortable and are come in all kinds of colors and patterns ranging from bright colors to muted chic tones. It is safe to say . . . I Love Zuzii!

After confirming that my collaboration was really going to happen and it wasn't just a dream, I met with the Zuzii sisters (Ryan and Alex) and set to work on the design process. First off, being asked to design a shoe may seem like an easy feat but it was a little difficult because the options were limitless. I felt overwhelmed and wanted to create 10 pairs just so I could incorporate all the details I enjoyed the most. Then I decided to hone in on two pairs, one for each of my children. We started on Ryan's shoe first and I immediately knew it had to feature his signature 'red' color. I imagined him running and playing hard as he always did and we came up with a subtle lightening bolt print. The lightening bolt print to me captures Ryan perfectly. I know he would enjoy wearing these and running fast as lightening. For my daughter's shoe I knew I wanted to keep it girly with a touch of sparkle. Dan and I always talk about what this little lady will end up loving once she is here, as most parents do while pregnant. We dream. I dream of her as a dancer, Dan dreams of her as a soccer player. We always settle on her doing both of course. In true child like fashion she will probably end up doing the complete opposite of what we had dreamt for her. Anyways, a gold toe seemed fitting for our little girl and I loved the idea of pairing it with something simple and chic such as the black leather.

Between a few trial runs, various leather options, shoelace choices and even discussing what the sole would look like the shoes started to take shape. In a matter of weeks the 'Ryan Oxford' and the 'Gold Saddle' shoes were born and to me look perfect!

The best part of this entire collaboration with Zuzii is that our labor of love was for a great cause. As you know, one thing I'm passionate about is having the chance to give back in any way I can. A portion of my Zuzii collaboration proceeds will be donated to No Kid Hungry and help foster their journey to end child hunger in America.

From end to end this has been one great partnership! I hope you'll take the time to check out my shoes and love them as much as I do.

Click here to view my Zuzii Collaboration!

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Happy 5th Birthday Ryan Cruz

I can't believe Ryan is five! When you have your first baby, at least for me, it was always hard for me to imagine my baby growing older. It was hard to imagine, but fun at the same time. I thought, Ryan is so wild I wonder how nuts he will be once he is five or older! One of the things I was looking forward to most was him starting elementary school and organized sports. He would have been incredible. It breaks my heart when I think about those thoughts I used to have. It makes me realize that when we lost our son, we lost all our hopes and dreams for him too. That is hard to get used to.

We lost Ryan when he was three and half years old and very set in ways. He knew what he liked, what he loved and what he didn't. Moving forward we will forever remember Ryan as he was and what he loved when we lost him. Frozen in time. I wish I knew what he would have liked right now or in a few years. I wish I could still see him grow. We've now celebrated two birthdays with out Ryan and it doesn't seem to be getting any easier. Though celebrating Ryan is something that is extremely important to me and my husband no matter how hard it may be. So from here on out we'll celebrate our boy each year as we remember him with lots of Disney and sugar.

Turning 5 is a big deal and I was so happy to have had our family and friends together at Ryan's favorite place. I brought along party favors and we let Ryan's spirit lead us the entire day. When we sang Happy Birthday to Ryan there were a lot of tears, but I know he was there with us and had a really fun time. You can see him in our smiles.

Below are just a few photos from our day. You can also see more on the #happybirthdayryancruz hashtag on Instagram. Seeing everyone and how they celebrated Ryan on his special day was is incredible. We are so grateful for each and everyone's birthday wishes!

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Not Just Pancakes

My mother loves to tell this story. When it happened she called me right away and was convinced her little grandson was in fact a comedian ...

Dan and I were enjoying a weekend away as parents do. My mom was watching Ryan as grandparents love to do. Saturday morning she took Ryan along for breakfast with her girlfriends. While the waitress was taking orders my mom told Ryan to tell the nice lady what you would like for breakfast. My mom, always an advocate for "Do it yourself". So Ryan perks up and says "PANCAKES." My mom tells him to say please so Ryan orders again this time with "Pancakes Pwese". The waitress then gets down on his level sweetly and asks "Would you like bacon or sausage with that sweetie?" At this point I'm sure the waitress thinks this kid is cute ... She also probably can't decide if this kid is a boy or girl as my son's long red hair fooled many. Then as my mom loves to tell it ...

Ryan gives the waitress an awkward confused look (aka a dirty look) and says "I want dem wif syrup!" (insert my mom's laughter here...okay I'm laughing now too)

Duh lady! Give the kid (boy or girl) pancakes with SYRUP!

If you knew Ryan personally you would know in detail of his strong sweet tooth. Actually, if you can find a three year old who doesn't have a severe soft spot for sugar congrats! My son is just like me, coat it in sugar and we will eat it. Aside from sweets, Ryan had a continuous love affair with Macaroni and Cheese (shocker). His favorite though was pancakes. Pancakes were his jam and they were mine too when I was little. They are my jam now! The second Ryan was old enough for solids I was so thrilled to mix up pancake batter just like how my grandma does and serve him right! That is right buddy! Breakfast gets way better than mushy baby cereal and bananas! His first pancake day was fun. I had music playing, Ry was squeaking and bubble babbling in his Bumbo chair. Probably thinking "my mom is a fool!" I had read somewhere that you should talk out every little thing you do in front of your baby in hopes of the baby learning words and in turn learning how to talk. So I did and my whole family thought I was nuts. I narrated everything from cleaning, diaper changing to cooking. It was annoying I'm sure. It makes me laugh though thinking of myself saying "I'm cracking the eggs. I'm mixing! This is called mixing Ryan ..." Terrible, but Ryan did start talking early so there you have it. Coincidence? I think so yea.

From the first pancake morning to the last it was an adventure. Never the same, but always fun. Now, I've just begun making pancakes again. With Ryan looking down at me. I imagine him squeezing in-between my legs. I think back at the times when we would drag his stool into the kitchen and request "I help now ... I can do it mom!" I can see his chubby hands strangle an egg until it cracks and oozes through his fingers. He always looked up at me with a smile and giggle. I'm making pancakes again and it sucks with out him. But making pancakes again, that is progress. It shows I'm growing with Ryan within me. Pancakes for me are not just pancakes. When I make, order, eat pancakes its me thinking of Ryan and all our pancake quests.

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It never is "just pancakes" or "just breakfast" ... It is an adventure.

Jacqui & Ryan's Go-To Pancakes

What You Need

- 1 1/2 cup flour

- 1 cup of almond milk

- 1 large egg

- 1 tablespoon melted butter for batter

- more butter for the pan in between pancakes and more butter ...

- 1 tablespoon of sugar

- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

- a few table spoons of water to smooth the batter

What You Do

- mix dry and wet ingredients

- melt the tablespoon of butter in the pan. When it is melted add to the batter.

- add water and whisk your batter till it is smooth (no lumps)

- add a pad of butter into your medium hot pan.

- once the butter melts add about a 1/3 cup of batter.

- let it bubble. Once the bubbles are evenly popping up all over its time to flip!

- once it flips add a little butter to the top

- after a few seconds and the butter on top has melted the pancake is done.

- serve warm with your favorite toppings. aka syrup!

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Pancake Tips

-Make sure the batter is smooth with no lumps. The lumps are flour pockets that won't cook. Use a whisk and your muscles. Also you can add a little water at a time to get to that smooth texture.

-Always add a teaspoon of vanilla. For all you box pancake makers even adding a dash of vanilla will change the taste for the better.

-Remember! The first one is always a throw away. I don't care if you are a professional chef the first pancake is always burnt, not cooked through, whatever just throw it away and start the second. I feel like that applies in life the first attempt at anything is always a throw away. Dust yourself off and start again.

-Butter Butter, give me the butter baby. If you are afraid of butter you can use coconut oil with ease. You have to butter your pan in between each pancake. Once your pancake is finished spread a little butter on top to melt away as you pour the batter for the next one. Honestly butter is where its at.

-Let the littles do it! (with caution) Let them crack the eggs, mix or pour. Trust me you both will love it and you'll all get used to crunchy pancakes. Egg shells add texture and confidence.

The goal here is not to steer you from creating pancakes from a box or however you do it. The goal is to just create a fun loving breakfast with your little one. A breakfast that has cake in the name and can be sweet, smothered in more sweet. The goal here is to create memories and get messy while doing so. Enjoy!