Wednesday, November 30, 2011

beating the odds.

Maybe it's just because I'm hyper-aware of it, but I feel like I keep coming across stories of sweet little babies with huge physical challenges.  One of my doctors told me that 1 in 150 babies have heart defects and it was something like 1 in 10 babies have a birth defect in general (I asked, he didn't offer this information to worry me.)

With Jack, I was super stressed from the beginning about defects, about the chances of problems arising (given my medical history) and always about things like autism and... well anything you can think of really. With this baby, I've been a lot more distracted which means I've also worried a lot less. But I feel as though it's made me a little more careless with my pregnancy.  I'm not as careful about my nutrition and I'm less stringent about taking my prenatal vitamins. 

With each ultrasound (especially the 18 week one) I would hold my breath, waiting to see if something was wrong.  I have been so thankful every time I see those four healthy heart chambers working hard, just like they should.  And every time I hear the words "The baby looks fine." More and more it feels like the odds are against us. So I'm that much more thankful when I hear good news. As with Jack, I'm at the point now where I just want this baby "out" so I can see him and count his toes and fingers and no longer wonder if everything's truly ok.

Which is why I'm so grateful for prayer, and for the comfort and solace it brings to my soul in those moments when I remember that God is in total control of what's happening with our baby. That no matter what happens, its His plan and there are no accidents or mistakes along the way - at least not on His end of things. That's what I've learned from the parents of Bowen and Issac.  Their unwavering faith in the face of what would have given any person reason to doubt is humbling.  Please take a moment to read a little of their stories, and to keep these precious babies in your prayers.

(side note: I don't personally know either of these families; I just happened across their blogs through other people)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Loving the work of Madeline Bea
This is what I strive for.

God has been blessing our family through the generosity of others in so many ways these past few months. His provision never seems to stop flowing down and I am never without reason to be thankful at the end of each day. Here are some of the amazing people he has used to show His goodness through:

{my parents}
who live with open palms, always ready to be generous to others. they have been so helpful in taking care of different aspects of putting together the boys' new room (among hundreds of other things over the course of my life. they're incredible people, truly). my mom is also my most faithful and reliable babysitter. and today she treated me to lunch, just to brighten my day.

{my brother-in-law & sister}
who have always been two people I can count on to "be there." that means a lot. they also are the reason we live in such a beautiful, affordable home. without their generosity, our living situation would probably be much different.

{our pastor & friend (and my boss) dwight}
who, along with another beloved co-worker, have made sure we are taken care of in the way of health insurance until I finish up work at the end of this year. they lifted a huge weight from our shoulders by making sure our coverage didn't end while i'm pregnant.

{two shall-remain-nameless people}
who sent us checks in the mail. we've never asked for money. and yet, these two kind souls took it upon themselves to make sure we wouldn't go without. 

{marge brady}
what a gift it is when someone takes the time to help you when no one else will. on a day when my insurance company was of no help and it was looking like I'd have to pay hundreds of $$ out of pocket for diabetes testing supplies (cue lots of stress and tears) this lady made sure to return my call and reassure me that i'd have my supplies (free of charge) in a matter of days. I think I thanked her about five times. she also called a few days later to see how I was doing. 

who reads my blog and offered to donate her children's old wooden kitchen set + a wooden play washing machine to us after she saw my post about Jack's Christmas present. free of charge. and we have yet to meet in person. i was so blessed by this gesture!

I don't want to end this post without thanking everyone for their prayers throughout this sometimes difficult season in our life. Those prayers have helped to keep me feeling surrounded by love and support - they are of so much value to us. It's a comfort to know that we have such incredible friends and family looking out for us. 

There is so much to be Thankful for this year. 
And to be able to say that is a blessing in and of itself.

Monday, November 21, 2011

stir-fried chicken salad

I finally got around to making this tonight. Near the end of the process I was sure there wouldn't be enough marinade left over to dress the salad and I was already counting it a fail. But it turned out to be really tasty and best of all, really light and healthy. Definitely recommend.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


We heard an ad on the radio the other day that started with the line "You know what's better than getting exactly what you wished for this season? Getting more than you wished for." Gosh I hope that's never my attitude. Christmas can bring out the greediness in all of us, if we're not careful. Especially children. I don't want my sons to grow up expecting to receive a long list of stuff they'll have gotten bored with or forgotten about by the following year.  I also don't want the true meaning of Christmas - celebrating the birth of Christ - to get lost in the fog of what's under the tree.

BUT -  I still love the excitement and joy of giving and receiving thoughtful gifts. I'm always more excited about the stockings than I am the bigger presents - perhaps because they hold so much mystery - and I still fall asleep with giddy anticipation on Christmas Eve night. That's why I'm particularly excited for this year, because it truly marks the beginning of making the holiday special for a little someone named Jack. This includes picking out a couple fun gifts. The problem is, I'm still stumped on what to get him. So far, I found one of my favorite Christmas books on sale and that's as far as I've gotten. I'd also like to get him something to play with. My two main concerns are (i) the price (ii) the probability that he'll actually play with it more than twice. Of course, the little brother I'm about to give birth to pretty much equals COVERS.ALL.BASES... but since he won't be arriving till after Christmas, here are some of my other ideas:

Melissa & Doug Wooden Blocks
I've had my eye on these for months and they received great reviews on Amazon 
but they're also $45.04 which is double what I'm wanting to spend.

Educo Kitchen Playset
I know there's tons of ways to build your own DIY kids kitchens but I'm just not that handy. This is another gift I can't afford even though its on sale for $83.03. But I love it, especially since it's so compact and because it's made out of wood, not plastic. I'm hoping that maybe, just maybe, it'll go down in price on Black Friday.
Melissa & Doug Cutting Food Box
This is the most affordable idea so far at $15.91. There's a ton of different varieties of play food sets to choose from, but I especially like the ones where you can "slice" the food. I like the Melissa and Doug brand (again, because most of their toys are made from wood) and this was one of the highest rated sets. The only thing I don't like is that it comes in a crate rather than a basket, since that'll be harder for him to carry around. 

Jack will be 18 months in December, an age that is still sort of "in between" when it comes to enjoying toys but not quite being able to pretend play or spend more than 10-15 mins at a time focusing on an activity. So, it's really inconsequential what I choose. Whatever it is, I hope my boys grow up with the same excitement each year for the Christmas season, whether we're "well fed or poor," and that they learn the importance of treasuring all that we have to give thanks for.

Especially the birth of Jesus.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

let's try this again.

At the beginning of this year, I was inspired by my cousin Tara to create a list of ten things I wanted to achieve in 2011. I was able to think of four and only managed to achieve .... one. I read 3-5 books (double that, if you count the fact that I read The Little House series for the zillionth time as well as a few Nancy Drew books):

I know it's not quite the end of the year and I still technically have time to achieve the other three goals, but the chances of me "writing a song on the guitar" or "starting and finishing a knitting project" are slim to none - mostly none. The Etsy shop thing is also too far beyond my current priorities to bother with at the moment. {Guess which one (the only one) of Tim's goals he clearly achieved for the year}.

Although 2011's list might have been a complete fail, I'm undeterred and already thinking about a list for 2012. I'd like to try and put down ten this time, though number one might just have to be "Getting through 2012" since I'll be conquering the world of 2 kids under 2 (please say a pray for me that Tim does NOT set the same goal #3 as he did last year).  So far, this is what I've got:

{1} Learn to use my Canon camera on manual and take the next step up with my photography.
{2} Get back in shape after having baby (i.e. dust off the elliptical).
{3} Start or join a home group.
{4} Learn how to make two household products (i.e. laundry detergent).

This time I'm not stopping at four - I will get five* more things down on that list before January 2012. And hopefully in a year's time I'll be able to claim victory over more than just one of them.

* wow can you tell I'm bad at math? It took me about three proof reads before I noticed that 4 + 5 does not = 10. Thankfully I already thought of a fifth anyways:

{5} Finish reading all three of Francis Chan's books (Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, and Erasing Hell: What God Said About Eternity, and The Things We Made Up)

Friday, November 18, 2011


We received that $6 art in the mail today. I created it for the blank wall in the front room, but realized after purchasing it that it would be a difficult size to frame. I'd have to buy matting on top of the cost of the frame to make it work and there's not extra money like that just lying around. Not to mention, I'm not in love with the final product.

No matter - I think I found my *free* solution! While browsing Pinterest, I came across this ingenious idea. It's actually meant to be a creative "guest book" for weddings, but I think I could easily recreate it (minus writing "Timothy & Lauren" at the bottom. No thanks). I've got a huge blank canvas that Tim bought me years ago, a box of paints that have been sorely neglected and most importantly, a pair of thumbs (necessary for the making of the leaves). The trick will be finding the time and space to work on it - hopefully during those precious Jack-naps. Watch this space!

to do list: the green table

I wanted to complete a small task tonight so I decided to tackle another piece of furniture in the dining room: the green table. Our apartment seriously lacks functional storage space which is why we have so much furniture with drawers and built-in cupboards. This has resulted in us living like squirrels, tucking things here and there, behind things and under things not always out of sight but sometimes out of mind. This probably accounts for why we have double of a lot of things; stuff gets so jumbled together it's easy to miss or completely forget that you already own three bottles of super glue. The drawers below are perfect examples of this. They serve as a catch-all for random stuff we don't know what else to do with: extra headphones, a marker to cover up scratches on a car, a cigar (Tim's), and an empty bag that says "keep this away from babies and children" (did I mention this drawer is at Jack's height?).

I'm amazed at how many loose screws and various wall hanging devices and tools we have. I ended up condensing them into one of Jack's old shoe boxes (it's tiny) since I had absolutely no idea what else to do with them. Of course, now I have to find somewhere to put that box, which brings me back to my point about lacking functional storage space. One of the frustrating parts about this project was just how much stuff I had nowhere to relocate! Some of it I'm ashamed to even say we had within Jack's reach (including a rusty nail and all those bottles of super glue) and though he's learned to leave these drawers alone, I'd rather not risk finding him gluing his head to the floor. So while I'm happy with the way the drawers look now, I still have a box of leftovers that I don't have a place for.

I still feel like the drawers are full of random stuff but at this point I'm satisfied. I also found a spot for Tim's blood pressure monitor (in the CVS bag) which was previously stored under the coffee table in full view. And yes, I do know that batteries are NOT kid friendly, but at this point I'm just happy there's nothing in there Jack can impale himself with. Unless you count that rather sharp edged ruler. Or the screw drivers. *sigh* I'm going to count it as a win for now. When one of the kitchen drawers is free, I'll find them a new home.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

the challenge to consider it pure joy.

I hesitated about writing this post. At first I wanted to use this space as a watershed - to get everything out - then thought better of it. "I'll wait until I'm thinking really positively before I convey my feelings," seemed liked the best option. However, there's something to be said for honesty in blogging - about not just sharing the good parts of ourselves, but those raw, human parts as well - the parts that don't always respond to life and more importantly, to God, in the most honorable way. So here's where I'm at:

About five months ago we learned that my job was going to be made part-time. At that point I was the main "bread-winner" while Tim was in school and working a couple of shifts as a server to supplement our income. My job also provided insurance benefits which were essential since I was pregnant, but going part time meant I'd lose those. When we heard the news, it wasn't totally unwelcome as I'd been toying with the idea of being a stay at home mom ever since I'd found out about baby #2. I have until the end of the year to finish up my role which seemed liked ample time for Tim to find a full time job. Little did we know just how hard it would be to get offered a salaried position with benefits in a job market that was failing everyone, including college graduates and highly skilled workers (which Tim is not). At some point in the job search my dad came along side Tim and encouraged him to not sell himself short - to focus on applying for higher paying, managerial jobs in a broader category of industries instead of limiting himself to the food industry or to offers that tend to pigeon hole you into one area of expertise. He even sat down and completely revised his resume with him, polishing and refining it to really make Tim's qualifications shine. My dad is a successful businessman who's held high-level executive roles at two large, international companies; he's also looked at hundreds upon hundreds of resumes and hired many people over the course of his career. Now I know Tim is a smart, hard-working, capable employee but when someone like my dad starts placing a lot of confidence in his skills and his potential to really "move up" in the world, it's hard to not be certain that a great job offer is only an interview or two away. Something with good pay, great benefits and most importantly, a career Tim could see himself growing and advancing in.

Fast forward four months. Four months of wondering, waiting, praying, begging and hoping. Hoping, hoping, hoping and believing that my prayers would be met with something really amazing, we just had to be patient. After sending out at least two hundred resumes, there have been three interviews. The first amounted to nothing when the company underwent a hiring restructure. The second was to be a driver for a chauffeur company with crazy hours, no benefits and uncertain income - an offer we couldn't accept. The third was yesterday's and it resulted in an offer. It's a stable job with awesome benefits. An answer to prayer, since one of our biggest fears was having this baby with no insurance and going tens of thousands of dollars into debt. The pay, on the other hand, would put us below the poverty line for a family of four. *Gulp* I wasn't expecting that. I also wasn't expecting the training required that would take Tim away for two weeks next month. Or that it would be a job with little to no room for advancement and minimal pay raise.

This coming Sunday is our Thanksgiving service at church, when people have the opportunity to share with the congregation how God has provided for them this year. Last Sunday I thought, "I'm going to have the faith that I'll be able to stand up at that service and say that God provided Tim the job we've been waiting for." But this job wasn't what I had pictured. I'm ashamed to say that I'm having a hard time responding to God with a "Thank you" and instead want to cry out, "This is it? This is what we've been waiting for?!" I'd set my hopes, or expectations rather, so very high that this came almost as a punch to the gut. Was I really going to have to lower my standard of living to the poverty level? I know, I know.... it's terrible a attitude to have, especially considering the thousands of other families out there who have less... sometimes nothing. Who don't even have the gift of saying they're employed, much less insured.

Somewhere between my bitter tears and bad attitude, I was reminded of a quote that goes something like, "If dependence is the goal than weakness is the advantage." I long for deeper relationship with God, but am guaranteed never to find it if I'm not willing to be led into places of pain, discomfort and perhaps even poverty. I don't remember any of the disciples living a life of comfort and luxury. If you look at heroes of the faith throughout the centuries their stories are often ones of everlasting joy in the midst of trials and tragedy. Jesus and his disciples did not live in the light of a "prosperity Gospel" so why on earth do we think we deserve to? Those brought to their knees by desperate circumstances have their lips pressed closest to God's ear and hands grasped tightest to the hem of his garment. And isn't that exactly where He wants us? Does Scripture not teach us that our purpose here on earth is not to store up earthly treasures, but to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, bearing our crosses for the glory of Him who promises a true reward at the end of this hard and troubled road called life? We are to consider it "pure joy" when we face trials of many kinds (James 1:2)  - that it is to our advantage - because it is completing the good work that he began in us. When did I start buying into the lie that knowing God means avoiding difficult circumstances? If I say I believe God and His Word, then I must trust that these trials are good, even if they are hard. And so it is with a humble heart and a contrite spirit that I lay down my wants for what is better - the will of God who knows exactly what I need right now. Even though my flesh demands to plead the case of "what isn't" in my possession, there is so much more fruit in being thankful for what is - and isn't it good:
  • We have the promise of health insurance for when the baby comes. This has been our most pressing need and concern.
  • We have access to enough money to tide us over for the next several months. 
  • We are sheltered and well fed - basic needs that God has always provided us with.
  • The company will provide Tim with a car which will save us on gas.
  • Even though he'll be working long hours, he will be home three full days a week rather than two.
  • He will get four days off to be with me in the hospital when I have the baby - a huge blessing.
  • This job buys us more time to continue to look for a better opportunity.
  • We are healthy and we have each other. We have family. We are loved.
  • We have the hand of God to steady and guide us and lift us up when we are weak. I can't imagine what it's like to face trials without the knowledge of God or His strength to comfort you. He has neither forsaken nor forgotten us and we are blessed to be called His.
Tim is employed. We are insured. Two things that millions of others around the globe cannot claim. How on earth could I have the audacity to be ungrateful for what has been offered to us?

God you are loving and good. 
Your ways are not my ways.
That in itself is worthy of praise.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Chicken & Mushrooms in White Wine Sauce

I can cook, but not half as well as Tim can.  Unlike myself, he rarely follows recipes using them more as a suggestive guide than a set of rules. On occasion his culinary dares don't pay off, but for the most part they exceed expectation and tonight's dinner was no exception (he even did a little dance in the kitchen after the final taste test). Here's the recipe for those of you looking for something simple and savory to cook this week. I should mention that Tim doesn't use measurements, he just pours and sprinkles at will. The portions are a guess at best (enough for two servings) so you may want to adjust where you see fit:

Tim's Chicken & Mushrooms in White Wine Sauce

2 chicken breasts
1 1/2 c. white wine
8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
7 garlic cloves, whole
6 sundried tomatoes, chopped
1/4 c. butter
1 1/2 cup c. chicken stock
Basil, oregano and thyme to taste
Freshly grated parmesan cheese
Penne pasta

Preheat oven to 325. In a small saucepan, melt butter and then add garlic cloves, sundried tomatoes and seasonings. Simmer for two minutes. Add white wine and chicken broth. Cook at a low boil for five minutes. Place chicken in a small baking dish and pour most of the sauce on top, keeping some aside.  Cover with aluminum foil and put in oven for 50 minutes.

When there's 20 minutes left on the chicken, saute the mushrooms in a skillet with remaining sauce. Cook pasta according to package. When the chicken is done, scoop out garlic cloves and sundried tomatoes from sauce and mix into the pasta. Cut  the chicken into strips and place on top along with mushrooms and excess sauce from skillet (don't add sauce from chicken pan - it'll be too much). Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

waiting for the perfect something.

Last year I posted a list of ways that I'm lazy. I'd be lying if I said things have improved. I think it comes with being a bit of a procrastinator. On the other hand, I can also be extremely impatient. If I get an idea in my head to do or obtain something, it has to happen as soon as possible in a very Veruca Salt "don't care how, I want it now" sort of way (without all the kicking and screaming).

So I was always puzzled and slightly perplexed by my grandmother's habit of taking for. ever. to buy something. Nine times out of ten she'd come back from the store dissatisfied with the selection or the quality or the color choice... it was always something. I remember her coming home once with the "perfect" navy blue belt that had taken her ... wait for it... three years to find. Three years. If it had been me, I would have gone out once or twice and finally just settled on the next best thing to perfect. I wouldn't have had the patience to wait three years to buy something I wanted yesterday.

Well, I think I'm finally beginning to see the wisdom in taking this marathon approach to purchasing. Here's the thing: if I'm going to spend the money (of which there is precious little) than it should be exactly what I'm looking for.  Why settle on something I only half-heartedly like? Or worse yet - what if I buy the second stringer, only to find the perfect something later on and at a better price? 

This conscious way of consuming is just as applicable to things I'm not looking for but which catch my eye nonetheless.  Now when I'm tempted to buy something I ask myself, "Do I really love this?" If the answer is no, I put it back. If the answer is yes, than I weigh whether it's worth the asking price. Using the "do I need it?" measuring stick is pointless - the answer is almost always no. Not that I don't take it into consideration. Just today I talked myself out of buying a more-perfect Christmas table runner  because I already had a nice one at home.

Here is my short list of things, my very own "navy blue belts" if you will,  that I have my eye out for but am willing to wait to find (though maybe not three years. I'm not that patient):

1. A Duvet Cover

We recently repainted our bedroom and I've been on a bedding hunt ever since. I've already bought and returned four different covers because they just weren't quite right.  Then I came across the "Ditsy Pennats" bedding from Urban Outfitters and was certain I'd found "the one." Naturally, it's no longer available. Now it serves as my bench mark for the final purchase.

2. A White Ceramic Owl

Why? I love owl decor and there's an empty shelf on the media cabinet. Owls are in right now so you'd think I'd have my pick of the litter. Not so. Unless I want to pay at least $35 on etsy which seems overpriced since west elm was selling something similar for $8. But like the duvet cover, it's no longer available.

3. Framed Art

Removing the bookcase from the front room left us with a huge blank wall to fill. Large framed art is always expensive, so finding a cheap solution isn't going to be easy. I recently found a deal through one of those coupon websites that allowed me to create the artwork above for $6. It's an odd size though (13x20) which means it might be pricier to frame, not to mention it comes on "adhesive fabric" so it could be a total bust, but for $6 I'm willing to take my chances.

So Nannie C,  thank you for teaching me the value in waiting patiently for the perfect something.  
It's a lesson worth learning.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

to do list: the bench.

Though we thought we were coming to the end of whatever sickness the boys are fighting (two days ago everyone seemed better), yesterday was definitely round two. If the virus had a voice, I bet it would have whispered, "Oh, I'm just getting started" in our ears. Thankfully - all glory to God - I have been spared of anything other than occasionally feeling a little off (my main concern being the baby). While I should have spent the day resting whenever possible or disinfecting the house - I got as far as the door knobs - I was determined to cross at least one thing off my "other" to do list. Well, I'm proud to report that I crossed off two.

We recently moved a book case out of the front room to make space for the new media cabinet, so there were lots of books piled on top of the dining room table and I was starting to feel like a hoarder. It was great motivation to finally sort through them, as well as all our other books, putting aside those that we don't plan on reading again (or ever). I ended up with two bags and a box-full ready to be sold to Half Price Books. In an age of e-readers (of which I'm not a fan) I tend to treat books like liquid gold, so letting go of them was made easier by the promise of cold hard cash in my hot little hand. I went into the store with approximately fifty books to sell and walked back out with $33. Tim had predicted $10, so getting triple that was "better than a kick in the pants" as my dad likes to say.

The project I was really itching to get to though was the dining room bench. That's it above, if you hadn't guessed, complete with that infamous $20 pillow I splurged on. Formerly, the seat cushion was collecting dust at my mom's waiting to be re-covered and the bench top was always littered with papers and random things we didn't have a place for. However, the top was nothing compared to the mess that lurked below in the cabinet:

It's like one of those cliche joke cupboards where if you open the door or take one thing out, everything comes toppling down. I wanted the space to primarily serve as a place to store games so I started by sorting and condensing those. I took out the tea lights but kept the bigger candles, which we rotate on the mantlepiece, and made room for some dvds we needed a place for. I also found a spot for the placemats, which almost never get used except when my mom's here (she's the only one that bothers to get them out). I don't even want to know what she thought every time she'd go to get them out since they were always just shoved in a corner. Hopefully she'll be pleasantly surprised by their handy location and tidy appearance the next time she's in the mood for a placemat.

Not too shabby, considering it took me all of twenty minutes to organize. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

food wars.

Two things I will never understand about babies: 
1. Why they fight sleep when they're clearly tired. 
I would love for someone to encourage me to take a nice long nap during the day. 
2. Why they refuse to eat delicious food.

Let the battle begin!

Jack and I have been at odds with each other over the issue of eating meals. One day he'll love a certain food and the next he won't even look at it. Some days he eats like a champ, others he barely touches what's in front of him. Snacks are the exception, of course - give him a bowl of crackers or grapes and he'll happily sit on the couch and eat until they're all gone. Tonight was one of those nights when he refused to eat and I left the table feeling defeated and frustrated at him. He doesn't understand, "If you don't eat what's in front of you, there won't be anything else until breakfast" and it's hard to send him off to bed on an empty stomach (which I do anyways, because I'm determined to not get into the habit of only giving him the foods he loves).

I know, from seeking advice in the past, that I'm far from the first mom to feel at wits end over uneaten vegetables. But I knew I needed a better battle plan. So I turned to Dr. Sears (because his was the first link on Google) whose sage advice calmed my insecurities and helped me gain a more well rounded perspective. In his article "Feeding the Picky Eater: 17 Tips" I learned, among other things, that:
  • Since a toddler's weight gain is slower after the first year, they need less food. 
  • Snacking their way through the day is more compatible with their on-the-go lifestyle. I'm so glad he validated this for me! I grew up being told not to "spoil my dinner" by snacking too much between meals, so naturally I felt allowing lots of snacks was bad parenting.
  • Toddlers like to binge on one food at a time. One day they'll eat only fruit and the next only vegetables. Expect your child to eat well one day and practically nothing the next. Yes!! Thank you for reminding me that this is normal and will not lead to malnourishment.
  • Aim for a nutritionally balanced week, not a balanced day. Amen to that brother! I think I might have to post that around the house as a constant reminder to relax on the issue.
I haven't gone through his full list of 17 Tips on creative ways to cope with a picky eater, but from what I skimmed it all sounds logical and fairly easy to achieve. No. 16 struck a chord with me because it's been my experience to a tee:
16. Count on inconsistency. For young children, what and how much they are willing to eat may vary daily. This capriciousness is due in large part to their ambivalence about independence, and eating is an area where they can act out this confusion. So don't be surprised if your child eats a heaping plateful of food one day and practically nothing the next, adores broccoli on Tuesday and refuses it on Thursday, wants to feed herself at one meal and be totally catered to at another. As a parent in our practice said, "The only thing consistent about toddler feeding is inconsistency." Try to simply roll with these mood swings, and don't take them personally.
So here's to learning new strategies as well as letting go of my need to "win" every food war. Life will be a lot more relaxing once I embrace the snack while staying focused on achieving a nutritionally balanced week.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

whole wheat pancakes.

Since the boys are sick, pancakes for dinner sounded good. I've only made pancakes one other time so I was a bit nervous they wouldn't turn out right. Thankfully, they were delicious and hearty enough that with a bit of syrup on top they almost tasted like french toast. The best part is, they're fairly healthy.  You can find the very simple recipe at The only adjustment I made was to use melted butter instead of vegetable oil (since I didn't have any) and I also doubled the recipe. Next time I might try adding a bit of cinnamon and vanilla extract for added flavor.

poop and the E.R.

"It appears Jack and I have the stomach flu. There is poop everywhere" is how Tim described last night's situation. Around midnight, Jack woke up crying. Crying because he'd packed his overnight diaper (the kind that is leak proof under normal circumstances) full of ... well, not pee. It was the scenario that you think about before becoming a parent and wonder, "Will I barf all over my child as I strip him of his feces-soiled clothes?" The answer is no - at least not this time. While one of you may be dry heaving (Tim) outside the bedroom door, the other parent's adrenaline gland is working hard to override the desire to inhale the smell of other-worldly horribleness, all the while speaking softly and kindly to a distressed baby who hasn't quite woken up and doesn't understand why he's being stripped naked and being held under a shower with his shirt still on. Poor guy. There really was poop everywhere. Tim was in the shower with him, so he quickly calmed down and relaxed, even though the steam was only helping to absorb and then accentuate the smell of diarrhea.

After putting a clean Jack back to bed, we stayed up a little longer as Tim had been making frequent trips to the bathroom himself for most of the evening. He won't mind me saying this because he proclaimed it to the world via Facebook. Around 2 a.m. he said he was feeling "weird" and wanted to take his blood pressure (we have a home kit from previous incidents) which was registering at 180 over 120. According to a website he found, a reading like that required "immediate medical attention" since he was experiencing"hypertensive crisis." Tim's had countless tests done on his heart over the past couple of years and never found anything suspect (praise the Lord) but when these things come up, it's hard to not treat them as emergencies. So he drove himself to the ER while I prayed he wouldn't have a heart attack on the way there. Two hours later and $150 poorer he was on his way home. Most people are in the ER for "gun shot wounds" or "trauma to the head" or "appendicitis." Tim was sent home with a paper that read "You have been diagnosed with diarrhea and abdominal (belly) pain." We laughed pretty hard about that.

Day 2 and the poop continues, at least for Jack. Ce la vie. This is parenting, folks. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

decking the halls.

Like it or not, the Christmas holiday shows its glowing face earlier and earlier every year.  Even I was shocked that businesses were slinging up decorations as they were pulling down the ones from Halloween.  This year I'm choosing to embrace it as a good thing. It shows how much people hunger for the joy, excitement and "good will towards men" that the Christmas spirit encourages.  If people want to start thinking that way sooner - wonderful. Sure, it also marks the beginning of an insane shopping frenzy but I'm choosing to ignore that part of it, avoid the mall, and stay positive.

One of my favorite aspects of the season is coming home to a Christmas tree and a house strewn with twinkling lights, pine cones, and hues of red and green. It's amazing the feelings of comfort, anticipation and happiness those things can stir up inside me, not to mention the warm memories they evoke. Of course, nothing's more dismal than seeing the sad carcass of a dried out evergreen laying roadside the day after New Year's. Like the shopping, I'm choosing to ignore this unhappy thought and focus my attention on how I'll make the most of this holiday season, starting with those lovely decorations.

Last year I invested in a few things like garland and a pretty table runner and this year I have some new ideas but would like to take a more DIY approach.  I'd like to say it's to save money, but as I've learned, DIY can quickly turn into "just as expensive as buying it pre-made, except that you can say you made it yourself." So I'm doing it more out of the desire to try something unique. Here are a few inspired ideas that I've collected from the old blogosphere:

click image to enlarge

1. Decorating with food {popcorn garland, a box of clementines & two bags of coffee}
2. Orange Slice Garland {still researching the best method for drying out the oranges}
3. Advent Wreath {using a Bundt cake pan, which I don't have...}
4. Mason Jar Candles {with epson salt "snow"}
5. Felt Wreath {this seems a bit ambitious for me. that's a lot of felt}

As you can see, I'm mostly inspired by the idea of using food in creative ways to create a classic yet cozy Christmas at home. All I need now is a Bundt cake pan, hundreds of felt squares, mason jars, lots of oranges and a couple of other things....


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Project List

I don't know if it's because I'm pregnant or I'm simply growing into my role as full-time homemaker, but lately I've wanted the house to be clean, not just tidy. Sure I can throw a pile of clothes into the closet without folding them but I know that behind closed doors there's mess. Same goes for crumbs on the floor or dust on the shelves or dirt ground into the area rug. Even if everything is "put away" in its place, the house can still feel cluttered or just plain dirty.

The same goes for streamlining and organizing. I'm ready to get rid of all the stuff we don't use or particularly enjoy in the house. For instance, I've been itching to go through our DVD collection, pairing it down to the movies we actually watch more than once or twice a year. Some DVDs we never watch, which makes me question why we still hang on to them. I think it must be that mentality of "I might want to watch it someday." There's always that fear that the moment you no longer possess something, you'll have a need for it. But of course, that's exactly why shows like "Hoarding: Buried Alive" exist: because millions of other people feel the exact same way about their piles of stuff.

About a month ago I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish around the house that kept with the streamlining mentality. It also included home improvement ideas or things I'd like to purchase to help with creating a more pleasant/functional space. I started off on a roll, but after being taken out by a cold/sinus infection for two weeks, I lost my momentum. To get things back on track, I've created a projects tab to keep me accountable to my commitment. I included the projects I've already completed (and crossed them out) so I can track my true progress. I'll do my best to provide before and after pictures since I find those to be the most satisfying part of the process.

Monday, November 7, 2011

chairs in the bedroom.

I'm all about aesthetics. I like everything to look pretty and desirable and when it doesn't, I want to do something about it. However, I've become increasingly aware that less is more when it comes to home decor and that functionality is key. If I can buy one thing that serves three purposes, rather than purchasing three things to serve three purposes (or sometimes no purpose at all but to sit and look pretty) I go with the all-in-one item.

Perhaps it's a product of needing to be frugal these days, but when perusing images of perfectly put together homes, I find myself looking at their set up with new eyes. Take this bedroom, for example:

At first glance I can't help falling in love with the soothing color palette and the classic yet comfortable furniture. But then I'm immediately annoyed.
By the chairs.
And the footstool.
Now I know the designer's husband requested a place to sit, but I've never known anyone to actually make use of chairs in their bedroom* (and I mean enough use that it's worth the purchase) unless it's to watch television. They seem much more like props than objects of purpose. I think that's why I get annoyed - because many of the "design on a dime" blogs I follow (like the one this image came from) are misleading like this. People who are truly on a tight budget can't afford to furnish their bedrooms with two chairs and a footstool on top of the essentials (like a bed). Nor can they afford a $400 area rug, like the one pictured.

Don't get me wrong - the space is beautiful and I'm not trying to be critical (maybe the designers's husband uses those chairs all the time). To each, his own. But for me, it's a lesson in what's essential. One of the hardest things to do in decorating a space is to kill the "keeping up with the Joneses'" mentality, even if the Joneses took the cheaper, DIY route. I'm in the process of learning where to draw the line between what's attractive and functional versus what's attractive and completely frivolous. Of course, there's plenty of perfectly wonderful things that could fall into the latter category. Fresh flowers in a vase or pictures on the wall serve no other purpose than to look nice, but can make all the difference in brightening up a room. Which is why modeling my home around the words of William Morris is so helpful:

"Have nothing in your house you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful"

It makes room for fresh flowers without going overboard. Now, I can't claim to be guilt free of buying plenty of non-essentials for our home (case in point - the $20 pillow I bought that is not meant for head-resting, but to compliment the bench it sits on.) But that's exactly what those chairs represent for me: a reminder that I don't need to buy things that lack true function, simply to create a perfect space (the pillow was a weak moment). As the saying goes... "You can't take it with you." So I'm trying my best to keep things simple, beautiful and above all, useful.

* if you have a chair in your bedroom, feel free to prove me wrong on this point.

Cookies and Crock Pots

So the verdict is in on those "Outrageous" Chocolate Chip Cookies I made, though the jury (of one: me) is still a bit hung. A backwards analogy at best, as I think if a jury is hung then the verdict isn't in. But anyways, here's the deal: the cookies were good, but not that good (and certainly not outrageous). I wasn't blown away by the first bite which left them unworthy to be included in the recipes list. If our friend Cameron were here, he'd say "they're nothing to write home about." However, with each passing day they seemed to taste better and better, as if they knew their reputation was on the line. By Day 3 (today) there is only one cookie left*, which leads me to believe I liked them more than I'm willing to let on. We'll see how that last cookie tastes later today (or tomorrow, if I can show some self restraint).

My next culinary pursuit is to find a winning crock pot recipe. I find that slow cookers tend to lend themselves mostly to carnivores and rarely to the vegetarian (which I was for five years, before getting pregnant). While I love a good meat-laden dish just as much as the next person, just like the Hungry Caterpillar, every now and then I just want to eat a nice green leaf. The true motivation behind my search is all in the method: it's much easier, says the lazy housewife, to throw everything into a big pot and let it cook itself for 6 hours than it is to "slave" over a hot stove. But we'll commence the expedition in the name of innovative cookery, to save face.

* let's not be led astray here with assuming I ate a whole batch of cookies in less than 48 hours. To begin with, the recipe only made about 20 cookies and about 3/4 of them were consumed when I brought them to dinner at my sister's house (who has four cookie-loving children). So really, I've eaten about 4, maybe 5, cookies since. All in all, not completely shameful.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

a perfect Saturday.

Tim rarely has a whole Saturday off, so I didn't want to waste the day* (see footnote) by not having a few special things planned. And nothing starts a day off better than some bacon and eggs. Am I right or am I right? Not only did we have a great breakfast, but Jack somehow managed to happily amuse himself in his crib until 9:30 which I don't think has ever happened (he normally cries for us at 8). I'll take any sleep-in opportunities I can, especially since there'll be nary a restful night once his brother arrives.

Since the weather was clear and sunny, I felt a visit to the Rainforest was in order. The logic here is off, since it's an indoor exhibit but it had the "outdoorsy" spirit to it. The admission rates were discounted, so I felt alright spending the money, and Jack's at that age now where, even though he has no idea what exactly he's looking at, if it's moving and alive he thinks it's interesting. The only unfortunate part was that right before we left (1) the baby decided to change positions and hit a nerve or (2) some bone shifting was going on, as does happen when your body is preparing to shoot out a human. Either way, it was painful to walk and the pregnant waddle was unavoidable.

The rest of the day calls for naps and relaxation and a batch of Outrageous Chocolate Chip Cookies (I haven't tried this recipe yet). There'll be some football-watching in there too I suppose (side note: if it were up to me, the NFL lock-out would have never lifted. Ever. Though Tim just informed me that it's college football day, so I guess it would have been unavoidable.)

This all makes for a perfect Saturday. Except for the football part (unless you're Tim.)

* In most cases, a day can easily be wasted by too many episodes of Hoarders or too many consecutive games of football. Or too many hour(s) long naps and never leaving the house (or couch).

Friday, November 4, 2011

...and here we go again.

If you've been following my tumblr page (which I intend to maintain) then you'll know the itch has returned. Not to mention I have more time and head space for these sorts of things now that I'm only working a few days a week.

The status of things (since August 22, my last post) is as follows:

  • I'm 7 months pregnant, and approximately 2 months + 1 week away from delivering our second son __________ (he has a name, but I'm not ready to share it yet).
  • We are about a month or so away from potentially being without medical insurance. This sentence does not fit nicely with the one above.
  • That said, we are so grateful for the support we've received from family, friends and my employer. God has revealed His faithfulness through others in so many unexpected and incredible ways. It's humbling to be at the receiving end of such generosity. We're keeping the faith that our situation will improve in the coming weeks, Lord willing.
  • I'm totally in nesting mode, even if my lack of a completed children's room and general failure to follow through on inspired household projects says otherwise.
  • Both Tim and I are at constant war with our hair. This usually plays out on Tim's headas a shave/no shave scenario (freshly shaved, currently) and mine as a bang/growing-bangs-out fight to the death. Presently, the bangs exist but are not cooperative.
  • Jack is a toddler who is discovering the power of the tantrum as well as the kiss (we covet his little shows of affection). He is loving and sensitive and determined and smart. The personality gene pool was a perfect swirl of mother and father the day he was created, it seems. Looks wise however, he's all Tim. Except for the ears, which are tiny and perfectly shaped like mine.

Here is Jack eating a black bean taco. This is monumental not only because he is trying a new food (he likes to reject most things "unknown") but also because he is using utensils as well as eating it as intended (assume taco hold). Of course, this all happened at his Nan's house, a place which generally inspires his ability to tackle new life skills.

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