Thursday, January 29, 2015

On Being Beautiful

Today in the car on the way to meet Daddy for lunch I hear my three year old say,

"Mama.  You are beautiful."

Just about everything causes tears these days (I blame it on being almost 38 weeks pregnant) and this was no exception.

"Daddy says you are beautiful Mama.  You are beautiful."

I got it together and told him thank you.  And that Mama loves to hear that.  And then he proceeded to do this hideous noise and say "MAMA" as loud as he could at the top of his lungs.  I hate that noise.  The moment was over.  But his words are etched into my heart.

* * *

I've been thinking a lot about words lately.  Words and how they represent who I am.  Blogging has been a place for me to record my thoughts and feelings.  My words  To record the boys' milestones.  To share my favorite pictures and recipes.  And occasionally to connect with others who seem to "get" me.

When I started blogging it was purely to be a "Mommy blog" and to share pictures and moments with family scattered across the country.  And then somewhere along the way page views and connecting it to other forms of social media and shares and likes and followers started crowding in.  Instead of writing what was on my heart or in my head I started wondering what people would want to read about.  I started wanting people to want to read.  And when they didn't I got upset.

What am I doing wrong?  Why don't I have more followers?  Why am I not meeting up with my Insta-friends in real life?

I feel like I should add a disclaimer here because I don't think any of these things are wrong.  I love that blogging is an outlet for people.  I love that it is a place for people to connect over issues and get support.  I love that men and women are able to provide for their family by writing and sharing!  These are just things that I had to deal with personally because I was looking at blogging the wrong way for me!

And then one day it was literally like God spoke to me and said,

"Is what I've given you not enough?"

And I realized that I was looking to a computer screen to validate myself.  Likes and shares and followers were more important to me than actually liking and sharing moments.  Moments with family.  Moments with friends.  Moments where I was learning something or experiencing something new.

So I took a month off.  And it changed everything!  I stopped looking at pageviews.  I starting living my life and recording it for me and for my family again.  The words that I write are MY story.  Our story.  It's about the moments when my three year old brings happy tears and when we get to announce another baby.  It's about the things that are hard (cancer, deployments, crohns...just to name a few from the last 3 years).  It's about the lessons I'm learning and hopefully the ones I'm teaching.  It's about having a space to be me.

And if no one connects?   That's ok!  It doesn't mean I'm less of a Mom.  Or not a good friend.  It certainly doesn't change the way I look in the eyes of the boys and this precious baby girl we can't wait to meet.  It doesn't determine my worth.  I believe I'm called to live life in the moment.  Can I share that?  Sure!  But should I derive my worth from who reads it?  Never.

And THAT is beautiful to me!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Book Review--Duel With the Devil



One of my favorite things to do is read a really good history book.  Paul Collins definitely delivers that in his account of America's "First Sensational Murder Mystery", Duel with the Devil.

For the last few months, I, along with half of America, have been obsessed with the case presented on the podcast, Serial.  It's a sensational case.  Everyone wants to know who did it.  But who knows if we will really ever know?

Collins takes a previously unsolved case from 18th Century Manhattan.  He uses the court transcripts to solve the case and masterfully tells the story of intrigue, murder and politics gone awry.  It's a glimpse into the lives of the common person as well as political heros like Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton.

If the law, politics or American History are of any interested to you at all you'll love Duel with the Devil!

Road Trip Travel Tips

In my humble opinion there are two types of travel.  Roadtrips and "get there as fast as you can" trips. I am definitely not an expert on the second type because let's be honest here....I go nowhere fast.  Nowhere.  I could probably crawl a mile faster than I walk.  And I am just never quite prepared enough to just get up and go.

But roadtrips.  We've done our fair share of these.  And quite well I think.  We've mastered what works for us and figured out how to make roadtrips (especially really long ones) enjoyable!  We've done roadtrips as a couple, with a 12 month old and with 3 kids 4 and under.

I've been saying I was going to do this for months and I finally decided I would sit down today and write out a few of my favorite tips!


Plan ahead.  No seriously, plan ahead.  That sounds like crazy talk.  Because who WOULDN'T plan ahead?  Me.  That's who.  We did a two week roadtrip this summer, covering thousands of miles, nine states, and I didn't even have a reservation.  Now to be fair I did have a Word document where I had figured out a "kind of" plan based on how many miles I thought we could cover comfortably each day.  And here is where the difference between the two trips comes in.  You can do a 10 or 12 or even 15 hour trip in one day if you really want to.  However doing 3 or 4 or 5 of these days in a row?  Crazy talk!  Unless you absolutely HAVE to I wouldn't suggest it.

So, here I am with this list of where we might make it the first few days.  We pull into the first town the first night and we don't have a place to stay.  That's where my first tip comes in.

Trip Advisor.  Here we have reviews on restaurants, lodging, things to do and sometimes even deals.  Get the app.  Use it!  Personally I read all the reviews of hotels we are considering to see if people say it is gross.  As long as there aren't any horrible reviews we stay anywhere that has a breakfast and gives a military discount.



Be prepared.  Ok so this sort of goes along with the plan ahead thing.  But it really does pay to prepare for some mild emergencies.  Pack a first aid kit.  Pack a couple blankets.  Pack a roll of toilet paper and paper towels and plenty of disposable garbage bags to take care of unexpected mess.  Or side of the road potty stops.  In the rain.  See above.  To clarify that picture it was taken after the potty stop.  Just in case you were wondering. Other items we brought on this trip.

-a small cooler
-a sharp knife (for cutting apples, cheese etc)
-small plastic plates and cutlery (we used ours from Ikea but if I could do it over I might use paper)
-an umbrella
-first aid kit
-foldup highchair (if traveling with a baby)
-a box fan to block hotel noise

I'm sure I'll think of more of these later and add to the list!




Kiddos like Surprises.  This is Stafford's face after we told him that we had "Jingle Bell Rock" on CD.  He knows all the words.  It's hysterical.  This was about 1/2 through our two week trip and at this point he needed something new and exciting.  Here are some things I do to help the kiddos

Goodie Bags
This is a family tradition in my family and I looked forward to these each time we traveled growing up.  I filled these with cheap, age appropriate toys, games, food and treats.  Some of the things in the boys' bags were--binoculars/telescope, Melissa & Doug Colorblast books (the marker only works ON the pages of these books), Melissa & Doug Water Wow (fill the pen with water and it colors the pages.  You can do them over and over.), a couple new videos, fish crackers, jelly beans, fruit snacks, a new matchbox car or two, anything else you might find that your kid will enjoy!

I don't give them the bag all at once.  Sometimes I let them chose something and sometimes I chose for them.  It's good to spread this out during the trip!

I also let them pack a small bag (very small) of toys from home.  They could take whatever they wanted as long as it fit into the bag.

Other items
Each boy was allowed to take a stuffed animal and a blanket from home.  We also packed books.  I love the Search and Find books because those will keep them busy for a long time.  If you kids are older you could also look into games from Melissa & Doug.  Their travel games are great!
Music & Videos
Have lots of music options.  Our kiddos like to listen to the same songs over and over and over.  So we make sure we have lots of choices.  We listen to their music sometimes and our music sometimes.
Mama needs snacks too.  Especially while driving to keep awake!
Other things you might want to consider for your kids include snacks, playground visits and seating arrangements.

Snacks.  
Pack whatever your kids like!  We try to eat one meal a day on the road (either at a rest stop, local playground or other attraction).  We grocery shopped every 3 or 4 days at a local store and made sure to bring our cooler in every night with the food that needed to be refrigerated.  You might want to post a giant sign on your dashboard that says "don't forget the cooler".  I also packed other snacks I know my kids enjoy so we weren't stopping to purchase them along the way.

Playgrounds
These were key for us.  Being in the car for 2 weeks straight is a long time for two little boys.  We made sure we stopped as frequently as possible at a restaurant that had a play area or an outdoor playground.  Because I was nursing we had to stop a lot.  So we'd grab a drink and maybe some apple slices or yogurt at McDonalds and then let the boys play.  If we had been traveling for a while or the boys were restless we would find a local playground at the next town and stop for 20 minutes or so just so they could get some wiggles out!  We did this at night too after settling into our hotel.  I think it definitely made the trip more fun for the boys!

Seating Arrangements
When we started the trip I wanted all three kids in the middle seat.  That way we could use the back for packing and it would be easy to hand the kids food or help them with something.  This quickly backfired.  The boys wanted to touch Kelsey all the live long day.  Poor kiddo.  Every time she would fall asleep they would touch her or yell something and she would wake up.  And then the kicking.  So much kicking.  I couldn't handle it.  Maybe your kids sit quietly in their seats for 6 hours at a time but mind do not.  So we made the switch a couple days into our trip.

Having one kid in the back definitely made the trip a little more challenging because I couldn't reach Stafford anymore.  If I wanted to get a snack to him I had to throw it.  Also if he needed to get out to potty and the others kid's were still in their seats it was hard for him to get out (since the middle seat was installed in the van).  We also have a hard time hearing him when he is in the back seat so that can be frustrating to both him and us.

We saw a lot of beautiful things on our trip.  One thing I wish I had done was given then kids one of our old digital cameras.  I would have loved to have "seen" the trip through their eyes.  Definitely on my list of things to do next time.


Packing

Packing is my worst nightmare.  Well, other than unpacking.  We happened to be going at a time of year when we would potentially be needing summer and fall clothes.  Check the weather ahead of time at various places along your route.  For little kids I always think it is better to overpack.  There were a couple of times we stopped at a playground and they got dirty enough to warrant a change of shirt or pants.  And you might want to do laundry while you are traveling but my guess if you won't.  

I suggest packing what I call "suitcase central" for everyone.  Pack enough clothes for 3-4 days for each family member in one suitcase.  Otherwise you are hauling in tons of bags each night.  Then you only have to do this every fourth night or so.  Depending on the length of your trip you could just pack 2-3 suitcases and then rotate through.  This really helps in terms of loading and unloading.  Our van was so packed that it took forever to re-organize each day!




This was our "don't judge a book by it's cover motel.  It had great reviews on Trip Advisor and was significantly cheaper.  The room was huge, the breakfast was sufficient and we didn't pay through the nose to stay there!


My best advice for LONG roadtrips is to be flexible.  There might be some days that you are so tired you just have to stop early.  We always add 1 extra travel day that we don't plan to use, but keep it just in case we need to.  On this particular trip I had to visit Urgent Care and so we lost some time getting prescriptions and waiting in the Drs office!  We also like to have some swing time just in case we see something really cool along the way and want to stop!


Take your camera and enjoy your trip!


What are some of your tips for long trips with little ones?

Verde Fish



I named this recipe Verde Fish because there is so much green yumminess!!  I found the original recipe on the Food Network and for the most part kept the ingredients the same.  I didn't like some of the proportions and added some avocado because, well, avocado.

Ingredients
2 limes
2 cloves garlic, quartered
bunch of cilantro
bunch of scallions (3-5 coarsely chopped and 3-5 finely chopped)
1 tsp cumin
salt
1/4 cup light olive oil
1 pound of fish of your choice (we used cod, original called for halibut)
4 cups savoy cabbage

Since I'm currently following the Whole30 plan I ate this more as a salad.  But Peter made a burrito/taco like dinner and said it was great!

For the salad...

In a food processor zest and juice one lime.  Quarter two garlic cloves and add about 2 cups of packed cilantro. You can use the stems since you'll be making a sauce.  Roughly chop 3-5 scallions and add those and the cumin to the food processor.  The original recipe calls for 1 tsp of salt.  I think this is a LOT of salt for this sauce so I would start slow...maybe with a 1/4 tsp and then taste after you've pulsed the mixture.

Now, pulse the mixture while adding 2 T of olive oil and 1 T of water.  Continue to pulse until the mixture because sauce-like.  

Divide the sauce, reserving about 1/3 for your cabbage.  Marinate the fish in the remaining sauce for about 15 minutes.

While waiting for your sauce, chop your cabbage.  I actually shredded mine in the food processor but you could definitely do a fine chop and it would save you from having to clean the food processor twice!

To make the slaw toss the shredded cabbage with the cilantro sauce and 3-5 finely chopped scallions.  Add the juice of the second lime, 1 T of olive oil and a little bit of salt.  Stir together!

To cook the fish head a skillet to medium-high heat.  Add olive oil.  Cook fish over medium-high heat for about 4-6 minutes.  I chose to just leave mine in filets for time sake but if you want to cut into chunks for tacos you can do that as well!  

I served my slaw topped with fish, lots of avocado and fresh cilantro.  We will definitely be making this again!!

The original recipe can be found on the Food Network website by searching Halibut Fish Tacos with Cilantro Savoy Slaw.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

One



As long as you haven't been living under a rock for the last few years you know that instead of making resolutions, people are choosing a "one little word" that they hope will define their year.  This is the third year I've chosen a word and embarrassingly I had to look back to see what my words were.  Complete (2013) and Purpose (2014).  I've read stories about people really focusing on these words and asking the Lord to make their year truly about that word.  But honestly that didn't happen for me.  I'm not good at finishing.  Anything.  Except dinner.  And that's a whole other blog post.

I have to admit that when I started thinking about and asking God what my word should be this year I couldn't come up with anything.  Nothing was sticking out.  Until I remembered something he spoke to me late last Fall.

ONE.

I've been struggling immensely with being a people pleaser.  For some reason since moving my propensity to want everyone I know to be happy or satisfied with me and my choices has grown.  I dealt with a massive amount of anxiety and something akin to depression from around mid-October until right after Christmas.  It was debilitating.  At one point I found myself in a store.  I had a $10 credit that was going to expire.  It took me over an hour to decide on what to buy.  I got in line multiple times with multiple items and each time I worked myself up so much because I thought maybe I was spending our money incorrectly.  Shouldn't I buy something around $10 so that I'm making the best use of the coupon?  Or should I pick something more expensive that I usually wouldn't purchase since I have the credit? Kelsey Jane already has a lot of clothes.  Was it frivolous to get something else for her?  Should I try to but a gift for someone to use in the future?  Is there something the boys needed?  I should get something practical.  What size will they be in next winter?  Winter things are on sale.  What if I get something and then next year it's the wrong size?  Then I will have wasted this coupon?

And on and on and on.  It was maddening to me.  I could hear myself second guessing myself but I could NOT make a decision.  And I don't even know who I was trying to please but man I was working hard to do it!

And so the Lord whispered again to me.  

ONE.  You live to please ONE.

Simple, but oh so hard to live out!

So this year I am focusing on the ONE who saved me.  The ONE who gives me grace.  The ONE who loves me.  The ONE I want to be more like.  The ONE I want to teach my children about.  The ONE I want others to see in me.

I want to make choices because it's what the ONE would want me to do. Not because it's popular.  Not because others would approve.  

Galatians 1:10
Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?  Or am I trying to please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ

I'm praying that at the end of this year I will be able to look back at my year and see where the ONE has been faithful to teach me about living this way.  I don't want to be purposeful or resolute in saying these things because ultimately it's not about me.  It's not about how hard I try or how much I want something.  It's about what He wants to do in me.  It's about what the ONE wants for me.

I can't wait to live it out!

Kiddo Curry



We're doing another round of the Whole 30 at our house.  I don't force my kids or Peter to be compliant except at dinner.  I don't mind fixing two lunches or breakfasts since those are easy meals.  But I'm not going to make two dinners.  My kiddos loved this!

I had this curry for the first time a couple of years ago at our then pastor's house.  I thought it was AMAZING and I immediately went home to try to recreate it.  I wanted to make it Paleo and Whole 30 friendly and I was thrilled when they recently added white potato to the ok to eat list!!


Kiddo Curry

3 small white potatoes diced (I leave the skin on but you can do it either way)
1/2 a bag of mini-carrots diced (I like mine larger so I usually make them the size of a marshmellow)
1 onion, chopped
coconut flour (approx 1/3 cup)
4 T coconut oil 
3 chicken breasts, diced
2-4 cups chicken broth
1 5.5 oz can coconut milk (or half a large can)
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 banana
1 apple
1 cup coconut
1/2 cup raisins

Put 2 T of coconut oil in a large pot.  Dice onion and saute.  Chop potatoes, carrots and chicken. Put chicken and 2 T of coconut oil in a pan and saute.  Reserve to add to the recipe later.  Add the potatoes, carrots and chicken broth to the large pot.  The amount of chicken broth you use will determine how much curry you make.  If you like it to be more like a soup you could add all four cups. If you like it to be more like sauce I would stick to 2 and 1/2 or 3.  Put a lid on your pot and bring to a boil.  Boil until veggies are tender (usually 20 minutes or so depending on the size of your carrots.  If you've diced them smaller then your cook time will be less.)

Mix your coconut flour with an equal amount of water.  I would start with 1/3 cup of each.  This will help thicken your curry.  Again, depending on how thick you want the sauce and how much sauce you want, you'll need to adjust the measurements.  If it still isn't thick enough you can add more.  Just remember to mix your coconut flour with water first.  This keeps it from clumping up in your curry.  If you want to make this and aren't following a strict paleo or Whole 30 diet then you can definitely substitute corn starch here!

Next add your spices.  I find this to be a very arbitrary part of cooking.  I rarely measure my spices unless I am baking. I just tend to add a little more of this and that until I like the taste.  The measurements above are a great jumping off point but feel free to add more or less of anything!  This is just an approximate combination that has worked for me!

After you have a taste you love, stir in your chicken.  See, I told you it was easy!!

I serve in a bowl with diced apple, banana, raisins and coconut. Again, if you are following Whole 30 or paleo you'll want to look for unsweetened coconut (usually in the bulk section of your grocery store).  

This is so healthy and delicious!!  I hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Kelsey Jane's 8 Month Update (Dec)



Dear Kelsey Jane,

Sweet girl you just get cuter and cuter every month!!  What a joy you are to us.  We are so thankful for you and I look forward to seeing what each and every month will bring.  Times seems to by flying by though and I often find myself puzzling over how you are already doing the things you are doing!!  Slow down little girl!!


This month you started pulling up on furniture.  You weren't very steady but you were very persistent.  We often find you standing up!


You can kind of see those two little teeth poking through here!  After these first two you haven't gotten any more!


You love food.  This is a picture of your first meal eating out.  You had a sweet potato and just ate it up!  You'll eat pretty much anything we give you and are doing well grasping food and putting it in your mouth.  You eat 3 meals a day and nurse very erratically!  Lately at night you haven't been very interested.  The morning is the only time I can count on you being very hungry!


You are still in size 1 diapers and in 3-6 month clothing.  You are just a tiny little thing!


We had a great time in Kentucky celebrating Thanksgiving.  You loved getting to visit with your great-aunt and uncle and great-grandma!


Found you like this one morning with all your pacis on the floor!


I often find you here when the boys are downstairs playing.  Practicing standing up and trying to see what is going on down there.  Pretty soon you'll be big enough to play with them!


I would say this has been the month of standing up and eating :)  You love to do both.  As always it is so fun to watch you.  You are getting to be a speedy crawler and I think you'll start cruising along the furniture soon!  So far you just like to stand up in one spot.  You particularly like to stand up in my lap when I'm sitting down and just hug on me.  It's pretty sweet!


We sure love you little girl!!  You light up our lives!!

Love,
Mama & Daddy


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