Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best of '09!

Yesterday I came down with the stomach bug and spent the day in bed (or in the bathroom, tossing my cookies), except for that one time in the morning before I realized how sick I was, when I hurled in my father-in-law's new truck.

Weee!

:(

The bug wore off as the evening wore on and I spent New Year's alone in bed, while Cubbie and my husband rang in the New Year with my in-laws' (who are very forgiving of those who vomit in their vehicles). I didn't feel sorry for myself--actually, it felt really good to just be in bed, resting, while my body recovered.

This past year was the most tumultuous year thus far. But, amazingly, we can stand at the end of it and look at the miraculous and wonderful things God has done for us. These are the two "Best of '09" that top my list:

1) Dad being miraculously healed of cancer and getting better every day

2) Finding out on Cubbie's first birthday that we were pregnant with Baby #2

How about you?

Have a lovely day!

Home Again.

Yesterday I woke up in a terrible mood.

I mean, a terrible mood.

I was snappy with my husband. I was impatient with my son. I was angry about every little thing that happened. I tried making breakfast for Cub, but we had been out of town for the past week, so everything I needed was either expired or non-existent. I moaned to my husband and he very nicely went out and brought breakfast back.

Friends, I was a bear. It was awful.

We ran some errands and I thought that would cheer me up, but it didn't. Finally, when Cub went down for his nap. I sat on my bed and tried to figure out why in the world I was so upset. It finally dawned on me that it was being home that was making me upset.

I know, that's a horrible thought, right??

Well, it was true.

For the past week, we had enjoyed an overload of family-time, food, and making amazing memories at my parents' house. And now I was back home with empty cupboards and a post-Christmas mess that was making me want to cringe. I realized that things were feeling kind of out of control, and ugh, that's an awful feeling. And really, I felt like we were kind of alone. I sighed and prayed and tried getting a better attitude. I hated being grumpy and I definitely did not want to be that way with my husband and my son.

I went to the kitchen to make some lunch and when I opened the cupboard that holds our measuring cups and baking items, I noticed that my vanilla had spilled all over the bottom shelf. It was a sticky, stinky mess! So much for trying to be positive!! I removed the shelf liner and cleaned everything up and then noticed that my baking cabinet seemed a bit disorganized. So, I emptied it completely and put everything away neatly.

And then I felt kind of better.

So, I got lunch started and got creative with our limited food supply. A few minutes later I had some grilled cheese sandwiches toasting on the stove. And I felt even better. Then, I sat down to make our grocery list and came up with some fun dinners for the remainder of our short week. By the time Cub had woken up, my mood had completely changed. Once I was able to take some baby steps in creating some order in my home, I felt better. I fed Cub lunch and we headed to the grocery store ... and I realized I had left my list at home. I hate shopping without a list. I inevitably buy food I don't need and forget the food I do need. But. I had a renewed outlook and I was NOT going to get grumpy again! So, I hoisted Cub on my hip and we shopped anyway, creating meals as we went. Cub did great and only got fussy towards the end of the trip ... right as the boy bagging our items asked me if I would like to take advantage of their drive-thru pick-up. Yes, I would! Thank you! Another positive thing, especially considering the rain that had started to sprinkle outside.

I came home and unloaded the groceries and began making dinner. I was missing my Mom, so I made her delicious meatballs for spaghetti and meatballs (I'm sure she would LOVE to think that making her meatballs helps me when I miss her--ha!). I called my father-in-law to see if he would like to join us (my mother-in-law is out of town) and my good mood just kept growing. My husband walked in the kitchen later to tell me he had invited his brother, too, and instead of worrying about having enough food, I scoured my cupboards and came up with a little extra pasta and tossed a can of diced tomatoes into the sauce to make it a bit more substantial. In an hour I had three hungry men eating my home-cooked meal, and one hungry adorable little man smiling at me from his little chair.

My empty house was now full. There were full bellies lounging in the living room and leftovers in the fridge. And one happy lady observing it all.

And all it took was a prayer and a change of attitude.

It sure feels good to be home.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wordless Wednesday.

My parents have the cutest grandboys in the world.
(In my opinion.)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

On Grandparents (Part II).

When Cub was a wee one, I wrote a post about grandparents and Cub's grandparents' particular role in his life. He was just a little guy when I wrote it and I emphasized how I felt that, if possible, it was greatly important for little ones to spend a good amount of time with their grandparents (notice I said "if possible"--I realize it isn't possible for everyone!).

Cubbie began staying overnight once-a-week with his grandparents when he was seven weeks old. I was breastfeeding and Cub still had one middle of the night feeding, but my husband's parents were all too happy to have him for that long. For my husband and I, those once-a-week overnights for Cub meant date nights for us. A good friend of mine once asked me why I felt that a date night was so important, if we had time alone after Cub went to bed every night anyway. It is important to us for a few different reasons. For me, as a stay-at-home Mom, it means a chance to dress up for my husband and to step out of our home and into the role of not just a wife, but into the role of my husband's date! Also, typically, when Cub goes down, my husband and I settle into our evening routine. I check e-mail, he checks stuff on his laptop, and then we watch a movie. While we're alone during that time, it doesn't necessarily mean we're going to have great conversation! Sometimes we do, but there are a lot of times where we're pretty tired and content with just some small talk to hear about each other's days. Going out of the house means time alone in the car (which always prompts good conversations for us), plus, being at a restaurant enjoying yummy food always brings about good talks, too. I think that being in a different environment brings about different conversations, which is good. Does that make sense?

But, beyond that, we realized early on that we had the ability for Cub to spend time with his grandparents--and that we had a responsibility to our parents to allow them to bond with Cub. We love our parents and have great relationships with them and now that we had given them a grandchild, they wanted to spend time with him! And we realized it was selfish of us to not give them that time. These were the reasons that prompted us to let him stay with his grandparents when he was so young.

Now, over a year after Cub first began spending so much time with his grandparents, I can say that YES, it was a good decision! Cub has gotten to know my husband's parents so well (mine live farther away, so he doesn't see them as often--even though he definitely loves them!). It's the neatest thing to see, as a parent. While Cub loves his Mama, he is IN LOVE with his Grandma. It's the sweetest thing to see! But, most importantly, through recent events in both of our families, my husband and I realized that we won't always have our parents around. And it would break our hearts for Cub to not know them, simply because we didn't make time for him to know them. And then it dawned on us that something could potentially happen to us, and how awful it would be for Cub to feel alone because he didn't know his grandparents like he could, as they would be the ones who would care for him in our absence. The decision for us was an easy one many months ago, but the brevity of that decision has weighed upon our hearts lately and we're so glad we made it and continue to make it as Cub grows older.

So, if possible, I would encourage all new moms out there to give their babies quality time with their grandparents (depending on the situation, of course). And by quality time, I mean time away from you! Especially if you had a good relationship with your grandparents. Imagine if you hadn't gotten to know them as well as you did, simply because your parents were afraid of letting you go. It wouldn't be fair, right? I didn't have a close relationship with my own grandparents because distance separated us, and I am so thankful Cub will know both sets of his grandparents. It is a huge blessing.

And girls, use that time as a date night if you can! It doesn't have to be anywhere fancy, but put on clothes that make you feel great and step out on the town on your husband's arm. Our favorite place to eat is The Cheesecake Factory, but it's a tad pricey for a couple on a budget! So, we hit it up every once and a while, but try to stay cheap the rest of the time. We've found this great little place in town that serves delicious gyros and we love it. It's not what you spend, but the time that you spend together. And, getting creative with your budget and your time always creates good bonding. :)

Have a lovely day, friends.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Gracious Regards.

I promise, pictures and details of our Christmas are coming! We will venture home in a few days and I can finally get everything uploaded and organized. Until then ... some other topics of interest!

One thing I love about blogging is the connections I make with other moms. That's actually most of the reason as to why I do it in the first place, really. Every week or so I receive an e-mail from a friend, an old friend, or a stranger, asking for parenting advice. I love it because the questions I receive are the same questions I remember asking at various stages throughout Cubbie's early months and in his first year. What to do if your baby hates the car seat, how much of a routine is too strict, what if their naps suddenly go awry, when is a fever too high, how long should you let them cry it out if you decide to do so, etc.

Last night my husband and I went and visited some good friends of ours from college who are expecting their first baby (a boy!). We spent the majority of the evening discussing parenting. We laughed at how, when we first met, dating was all that mattered. Then marriage and finding a job. And now, here we were, years later, talking about baby bottles and bedding. How things have changed! One thing our friends mentioned that they appreciated was how my husband and I were extremely passionate about parenting, but that we hadn't "lost" our identity through all of it, becoming unrelatable or only interested in our own baby. We told them that we think you decide what kind of parent you want to be before your baby is born. And it is good to set these kinds of goals, because once the baby is born, things DO change! But my husband and I have always been resolute about the fact that Cubbie joined our lives, not vice versa, and that there is always a balance between our role as parents and the other roles in our lives, primarily our role as friends. And part of that role as friends is to be available for advice and help when it is needed.

When Cubbie was first born, I thought I was supposed to already know everything. Ha! I put a lot of pressure on myself to handle everything on my own and if I was confused or had a question, I just had to deal with it because I was Caleb's Mom! I should know it already! And, while a lot of parenting is definitely common sense, I realized pretty early on that, as with every new life change, it is overwhelmingly important to talk to other people who have experienced what you are going through. I began to take the bits and pieces of advice I received and put them together to form a framework for what worked for us. We didn't use all of the advice and we inserted our own opinions here and there until we figured different things out as we went along, but the advice we used was definitely priceless!

And even now, we continue to ask for help when questions arise as Cubbie continues to grow and develop. So, new moms and readers and friends, keep the e-mails coming and continue to ask your friends for support. We've been there and you can do it!

Have a lovely day, friends.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sniffles and Ahhh Moments.

As is par when a large group of people gather together, some of whom are children, the sneezes and stomach bug are making their rounds in my parents' house. My brother was the first casualty, hit on Christmas Eve, but was able to scrounge up some health to feel better by Christmas morning. My Dad was the next casualty, asleep almost all day yesterday, and today my Mom is the latest victim, staying quarantined within the walls of the master bedroom.

Fa la la la la, la la la la! :)

Thankfully, I've managed to veer away from anything involving queasiness (I think I've paid my dues in that department), but a runny nose has haunted me for a few days now. At first I thought it was allergies until my Dad asked me this morning how I was sure it was allergies and not a cold. Hmm. Well, my eyes are itchy and my nose is runny and good grief, I don't know. Wishful thinking, maybe? So my days are spent with a hankie in one hand and a water bottle in the other. I think I'm almost over it, though. Today I woke up looking like Bozo the clown with enormous red chapped lips thanks to the dryness that accompanies much sneezing and blowing of nose, but I've felt better today than I have the past few days. I wish I could hear or taste, but, meh, that will come later.

So, while the sickies make their way around the house, a warm fire still crackles in the fireplace and the beautiful views over my parents' snow-dusted land remain breathtaking. The quiet is still very welcome and peaceful, very different from the home my husband and I share. My husband and I by no means live in a booming metropolis, but we do live in a neighborhood as opposed to being out in "the country" (yeehaw!) and Target is only a mile or so from our home (which is lovely, really), so silence ... you know, the kind of silence you can almost touch, it's so thick ... is absent from our lives, for the most part. I think this is why I love staying out here. Don't get me wrong--I love my home. But this used to be my home and I love it, too. There's something about opening the front door and being greeted with only the sounds of birds singing and wind in the trees ... it calms the soul. Ahhh.

Of course, given the frigid temperature outside, those ahhhh moments are quite brief, if existent at all, but you get the point. :)

Time to make some hot cocoa.

Have a lovely day.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Crunchy Kids?

I have a wonderful post all prepared for the fun festivities that took place over our Christmas holiday.

Unfortunately, I do not have the right cord to connect my camera to our computer to upload the pictures. Also, I do not have the right computer. Mine is at home. I am not at home.

Meh.

So, here is a mediocre attempt at a clever post. All night long I've had the song "Silver Bells" in my head. Every time I woke up last night, the song would resume. The song in and of itself is not bad, but the problem lies in the fact that I keep mixing up two of the lyrics:

"See the snow bunch! Hear the kids crunch!"

And I'm pretty sure that's wrong.

I can't get the right lyrics in my head and I can't get the wrong lyrics out of my head.

And, that's all I've got.

Have a lovely day. :)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Tidings of Comfort and Joy.

Merry Christmas, friends!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.

On my husband's side of the family alone, we celebrate up to five Christmases between his family and friends of the family he grew up with. I know that kind of stuff can wear people out, but as somone who didn't grow up with a ton of family around, I LOVE it. I love the bustle of aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and kids and the food and the games and the warmth and the laughter .... it's just all really great. And now we're at my parents' house for the last celebration, where we will actually celebrate on Christmas Day. Cub is sitting on the countertop "helping" my Mom with dinner and the intercoms are playing old Christmas songs from the radio. The Christmas train is set up, the Christmas scavenger hunt, and the Christmas story are all set up for tomorrow night. And I'm sure there will be Christmas pictionary. There's always Christmas pictionary.

(And I really need to go rescue my Mom before Cub throws a licked mushroom into the salad.)

To me, these moments are the epitome of the song "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". That song definitely ranks up there as my favorite Christmas song (not Christmas carol, but Christmas song).

So, if there are any of you out there reading this, what is your favorite Christmas song? And ... why?

Have a lovely day.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Wish List.

When I was a kid, it used to frustrate me to no end that my Dad never wanted anything for Christmas. We would ask, pens and paper pads ready to mark down notes, and he would shrug and say he had everything he wanted.

What?? Surely there was something he wanted. We couldn't get him nothing for Christmas--how sad would that be? So, we'd make him a card or plead to Mom for help so he would at least have something waiting for him under the tree on Christmas morning. I never understood how he couldn't want anything. I always knew what I wanted--why was it so hard for Dad?

But. Now I've grown up.

We're at my in-laws' house today, to celebrate Christmas Eve tonight and Christmas Day tomorrow with them, and as Cub and I sat by their beautiful Christmas tree this morning, I asked him what he wanted for Christmas. Of course, he just smiled and pointed at the tree, and I thought again about what I wanted for Christmas.

And, sure enough, as cheesy and cliche as it sounds, I have everything I want this year. A beautiful son. A husband whom I love more and more every day, who works so hard to provide for us. Amazing parents. My husband's parents, whom I view more as actual parents than simply parents "in-law". A supportive, amazing group of friends who share life with us. Cub even has a little group of friends.

When you face illness, you realize the miracle of health. When you lose a loved one, who realize the gift of life. When you struggle with miscarriage or losing a child (or really, even if you don't suffer those things), you recognize the indescribable joy of having children. As you grow older, you realize that the things that are valuable don't come with a price tag. It's the cliche that is spoken every year, wedged between commercials for new cars and deals at Target, but it speaks volumes.

And as Cub and I sat by the tree, I thought of my Dad. I thought of his life--how he lost his Dad when he was my age.

And how, through treatment and the hands of the Great Physician, I don't have to say the same thing.

And now I understand what he meant all those years ago. He has everything he wants.

And I do, too.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Cheesy Poem Because I Love You Guys. :)

Christmas season has officially begun,

Which means our little family will be on the run!

The posts will be less,

And random, at best,

While we're (hopefully) having fun!



So lots of blessings to you, my friends,

In this time, as the year ends,

God's love to you,

His peace and joy, too,

And what else rhymes with friends? Sends??


But really, truly, precious ones,

Each with stories all her own,

God bless you dearly,

And may you draw ever nearly,

As you celebrate His newborn Son.



So travel safely, friends, near and far!

As you hop on a plane, or in a car,

Bundle up all nice and cozy,

... seriously nothing rhymes with cozy...

And Merry Christmas, wherever you are!!


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Random Cub Update. :)

**A picture, for Pam! :)


Cubbie is sleeping soundly in his nap, so I figured I'd take this time to give some updates on his life. Little fella. He's so stinkin' cute.

He's already 14 months old!

He is everywhere, all the time, walking at quite a clip these days. He's become quite a pro at putting his toys away (once he learned to "throw" a ball, we harnessed his newfound skill and handed him toys and pointed to his toy baskets and Voila! They get put away!) and his newest words are "ball", "book", and what I think might be "bible". He has a small children's bible that he likes for us to read to him, so I think that's where he's getting it. He still has a voracious appetite and prefers fruit and veggies over anything else. He used to love bread and chicken, but now he'll choose oranges, tomatoes, pineapple, grapes, apricots, apples, peas, and green beans instead. I always order a fruit cup for him at Chick-fil-A with his nuggets, and I usually have to end up feeding the nuggets to him at the end of the meal after he devours the fruit cup on his own!

To keep him loving healthy food, I try to buy fresh fruit and frozen veggies every week. Our grocery store's produce section has a great selection of small packages full of chopped fresh fruit, so I usually grab some containers of pineapple and melon (it's cheaper than buying a huge fruit tray, plus I don't have to hack into a pineapple every week!). Since he doesn't love chomping through fruit yet, I find that dried fruit is a great substitute. I'm a tad leery of canned peaches and such, since some of them are in a sugary syrup, and since he loves fresh or dried stuff just as much, I tend to go that route instead. Frozen broccoli and green beans are great because they are easy to prepare and he loves them. My next venture is frozen berries. He loves all kinds of berries, so frozen should be fun for him to eat, too.

I like that he has a huge appetite, but I want to keep him on the path of loving healthy food so he'll learn to fill his tummy with the right kind of food.

He drinks out of a straw like a pro, but hates the straw cups, so we're a sippy cup-only family. He loves the hard top sippies which is great, since they are the most leak-proof. And as of yesterday I implemented a "sippy cup in the kitchen only" rule, as his sippy cups seem to grow legs these days and disappear in his nursery. Yeah. Finding a sippy cup a few days later, wedged under the glider? GROSS. GAH.

Since he is learning to talk, I use complete sentences and lots of "please"s and "thank you"s when I speak to him. We don't use nicknames for things (for example, his sippy cup is his "sippy" or "cup", not his "sippy wippy cuppy wuppy!") just to keep it simple (I'm sure he'll come up with his own nicknames someday, anyway). Don't get me wrong--I still have majorly bad baby voice when I pinch those delicious thighs or kiss his chubby cheeks, but for basic commands and communication, I speak to him the way I would like him to learn to speak to me. He can make the "p" sound for "please" and can say "thank you" (it sounds like "cane koo"). Ah, baby jibberish. So hilarious. I've taught him to rub his chest for "please" since he can't say the word yet. We're getting into the "I grunt and whine when I want it" stage and I'm doing my best to nip it in the bud as quickly as possible!!

I thought that the walking stage that blends very soon with the toddler stage would be intimidating, but oh my goodness, I love it!! It's so fun to see Cub's little blonde head toddling throughout the house. He loves hide-n-seek and this whole new world of games is so fun. I was worried that once he learned to walk, it would mean he would take off away from me, but a good friend of mine advised me that as soon as Cub learned to crawl, I should practice calling his name (and motioning for him) and having him come to me. He mastered it very well on all-fours, which has paid off, now that he's walking!!

He tests limits every once and a while, but for the most part, he's still very compliant and obedient. A firstborn boy. He's still content to play with one toy for a long time and he rarely begs for my attention (unless he's teething or not feeling well). Of course, I still love to GIVE him lots of attention. :) He's yummy and wonderful. His facial expressions are becoming more and more varied and he's definitely becoming a people-pleaser.

He's sleeping 11-12 hours a night with usually one 2-3 hour nap during the day. He goes down for sleepy time extremely well (those painful early weeks of crying it out paid off) and even if he doesn't immediately fall asleep when he goes down, he'll lay in his crib and babble and coo instead of cry. Which is, of course, all kinds of adorable and it takes EVERYTHING IN ME to not run in there and start playing with him!

There. I think that just about covers everything!

A random Cub update. :)

Have a lovely day!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Praiseworthy.

Back in the day, on the old bliggity-blog, I partook in something known as "Grace In The Small Things", where we were challenged to write five good things at the end of every day, no matter what kind of day we had. Good or bad. You had to write something good.

I stopped doing it once I switched blogs, but now I kind of regret it. Especially after this week, I need to focus on the good stuff. I worked at our church again today and I went to lunch with some of the staff. I told our pastor how burdened and saddened I felt and he challenged me to focus on things that were praiseworthy. As our conversation took its natural turns throughout the meal, he would periodically bring the subject back to "So. What's something that's praiseworthy?" and we had to think of something else and bring our thoughts back to being positive.

It's amazing how quickly the really wonderful small things in our lives can be overshadowed by the tougher things that seem so huge. So, tonight I'm going to write some good things. And maybe I'll continue it. As kind of an unofficial "Grace In The Small Things" a la Katie.

Have a lovely weekend, friends.

1) Helping a nice older lady by giving her groceries from our church's food pantry.
2) Delicious carnitas at lunch.
3) Flannel pajamas.
4) Hugs from my beautiful son.
5) Dark chocolate.

Christmas Night Fever.

I'll never forget that Christmas morning.

It was chilly and blustery and we were inside, cozy by the fireplace and the tree. My brother and I were excitedly pawing through the presents, honed in on exactly what we were looking for: Two packages from my Memere in New England.

For months we had been begging for sweatshirts from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

My brother was born at the hospital there (my parents were living in Vermont at the time and he was six weeks early, so they rushed Mom there) and we had visited the campus a few times in our lifetime and now, as high schoolers, we were stoked to get Dartmouth College sweatshirts.

Don't ask me why. It just seemed cool.

So, we found the boxes and excitedly tore them open. My brother reached his prize first, spying the forest green fabric nestled at the bottom of the box. He reached in and grabbed it and with great gusto he pulled out his gift ... only to discover that it was, in fact, a green velour jogging suit. Complete with a gold zipper. Horrified, I ripped open my box and pulled out a red sweatshirt dress. That's right. It was a red sweatshirt that hung to the floor and mine not only had a gold zipper, but it had a striped collar to boot.

Somewhere, I think the lines of communication got crossed. My brother's item WAS the dark green of Dartmouth and my sweatshirt dress WAS technically a sweatshirt ... but oh my gosh. Naturally, we immediately put on our newfound treasures and I think the picture of my brother in his (too small) velour jogging suit striking the "Saturday Night Fever" pose is still floating somewhere around my parents' house.

I think we can safely chalk those gifts up to the "worst" presents we ever received, even though they made us laugh and rank up there with one of our favorite Christmas memories.

How about you? What is the "worst" present you ever received? I use "worst" in quotations because really, gifts shouldn't be bad or good since it IS the thought that counts.

But, knowing that, I think it's okay to chuckle at some of the gifts that were, say, slightly unexpected!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Darkness Diminished.

Do you ever have one of those days where it seems like all you hear is bad news? That was my day today. It seemed like it was one thing after another: Marriage trouble, job trouble, health trouble, family trouble ... over and over again I heard one sad thing after another. By the end of the day, I felt like someone was sitting on my chest. All that bad news gets heavy, you know?

Cub is staying with his grandparents while I volunteer at our church these past couple days, so Josh and I have had a little alone time (not much, but a little). I told him that I didn't think I could stand any more bad news. At least not for today.

And then I just got angry. You know? When people around you that you know and love, or people that perhaps you don't know but love their story ... why do these things happen? Stupid recession, stupid mistakes by some, stupid stupid stupid ... stupid sin, really. I think that was the weight I felt--just that oppressive, hopeless feeling of so much darkness.

I know that sounds ominous, but really, when these things start happening so close to home, it takes on a whole new dimension. And it hits hard.

I consider myself a pretty optimistic person, but today I was honestly grappling to find the good in today. I actually made myself sit down and think of the "good" things today: Cub's smile, time with family, conversations with my husband ... the things that have no monetary value and are thus the most valuable.

Ironically, this Sunday our church will be lighting the Joy candle in the Advent Wreath. I had to go back and find the reading for Sunday to try to dig up some joyful feelings amidst the sadness.

As with Peace, Joy can be difficult to find amidst the distractions and struggles we face this time of year. But, the charge from Paul to us to "rejoice in the Lord always!" remains true. Because, despite those things that stand in our way or the things that we allow to block the light of God's glory in our lives, God has given us more than enough for which to be joyful ... let our focus remain on what we know to be true: That God sent His only Son for us. That He broke through heaven to experience a human birth and a human life. He did not come in a blazing light of glory, nor were there trumpets heralding His way. He chose instead a manger as His place to begin an earthly life and He chose shepherds to celebrate His arrival. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords chose poverty. Christmas morning is a miracle. And friends, THAT is our reason for joy.

Rejoicing in the Lord, always, always, can be quite a charge. I remember how joyful I was when I wrote the reading--and now, only a few days later, I feel everything but joy. But maybe God placed those thoughts on my heart because He knew today would happen and that I would need to read them today--to remember what He has done for us. Especially this time of year. He chose poverty. He chose subtlety over audacity. And nothing--not pain, not bad health, not poverty--can diminish that truth.

I never know what to say to those around me who are hurting. But my prayer for them will be that truth. God sent His Son for us. And while this is something we celebrate all year long, this time of year is an especially poignant time to do so. He knows what they are going through and He already knows the outcome. He knows.

He knows.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Perfect Gift.

When I was in elementary school, every girl had their eye on the same toy for Christmas. It was a package of tiny plastic horses, as in, Polly Pocket small, and despite my extensive googling, I cannot, for the life of me, find them anymore. Anyway.

Small plastic horses.

Their feet were molded together to create some sort of lock that could turn on the lights and play music in their huge fantasy castle. All kinds of cool, right? So, those little ponies were what I really wanted for Christmas. I'm not sure why I wanted them so badly, but I did. On Christmas morning, I remember opening a couple gifts before tearing open the package that beheld four of those tiny hard pink plastic horses with their "real" pink flowing manes and tails. My eyes watered, I was so excited. I couldn't believe it.

And then my Dad reached behind the tree and pushed out another gift. A big one.

It was the fantasy castle.

I almost died.

My parents were by no means stingy with Christmas, but they weren't excessive, either. So getting the horses I wanted AND the castle was like having someone offer you a second helping of delicious Go Diva cheesecake. You don't refuse it, but shoot, you were perfectly fine without it, too! I've received some wonderfully thoughtful Christmas presents, but for some reason I've never forgotten how I felt on that day when I first saw the horses and then the castle. It just blew me away.

So! Here is my question to you: What is the BEST Christmas present you remember receiving? Now, I'm going to be kind of a pain and put a limit on this. I want to know what your favorite present was as a kid. Not that adult presents aren't fun, too, but I really don't want this to become some sort of collecting grounds for those potentially braggadocious comments filled with new expensive cars or jewelry or $50,000 savings bonds or whatever. I am not impressed in the least by these.

What I AM impressed with is creative (or very savvy) parents or friends or grandparents who managed to pick out that PERFECT gift when you were a youngster. It's the Christmases as kids that filled us with the most joy, and I want to know what yours was!

Okay ... go!

Happy 101



I was recently awarded the very fun Happy 101 Blogger Award from my friend over at Sassy Times. I am usually very awful at receiving awards and passing them on, but Look! I'm doing it! And I'm very thankful to my blogger friend for giving me this award. Her blog makes me very happy, so I'm flattered that she chose to pass the award along to me! Who doesn't love the happy dance?

I must name ten things that make me do the happy dance. Love it.

So, let's get dancing!

1) An unexpected card in the mail from a friend. I have one friend in particular who is very good at this and I always do the happy dance when I see that I've received a card from her!

2) Greeting Cub in his crib, whether it's after a nap or in the morning. He bounces around and claps and laughs ... how could I NOT do the happy dance when I see that??

3) Dark chocolate. This happy dance is much slower, savoring every bite. I'm a sucker for a good chunk of dark chocolate.

4) Hearing my husband and Cub laugh as they run around the house playing hide-n-seek. It's the best sound in the world.

5) Editing pictures I've taken of wonderful people and finding one that's just "it". The "it" picture always warrants a happy dance, right there at the computer!

6) Opening gifts from my mother-in-law. She knows my weakness for purses and more than once I've let out lots of giggles and squeals when opening a present from her! Verbal happy dances, I think.

7) Vacation. I love to be on the go.

8) Hearing good news from a friend. Good news is like honey to the soul, especially when it comes from someone you love!

9) Walking through the door at my parents' house and seeing my Mom walking towards me down the hall. No matter how old I get, that always stirs up a bit of a weepy happy hug dance. :)

10) Feeling the sunshine warm on my face for the first time after winter. Mmmm. Nothing like it.

Now it's time to pass it along! Here it goes!

1) Bethany. My sweet dear amazing sister friend since we were twelve, with whom I STILL do the happy dance when I see her. She has the happy dance perfected. You should see it.

2) Aunt Pam. She told me she was making her bruschetta chicken for our Christmas dinner with their family, and let me tell you, that bruschetta chicken deserves a happy JIG. Delicious!

3) Alyson. Amazing Mom who makes me laugh pretty much every time I spend time with her. Her posts are always insightful and wise ... with a nice dose of down to earth common sense!

4) Leslie. My witty online friend whom I've never met but I'm still holding out hope that we WILL meet. Someday. When our kids are grown, probably. Ha ha.

5) Christine. SHE CRACKS ME UP. She is the epitome of the happy dance. She was my RA in college and she absolutely beams with joy. Love her!

I hope you find a reason to dance today!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Very Precious Penny.

Yesterday I awoke in the middle of the night, sweating. My throat was on fire, my neck was stiff, and my head was pounding. Bleh. I knew some kind of sickness was coming on, so I took my temp. I didn't have a fever, which was weird, since I had chills, but I knew there was still something wrong. I woke my husband up and asked if he could stay home a bit in the morning so I could go to our town's urgent care clinic and get checked out (being pregnant, I didn't want to risk anything if it was the flu). He said sure.

When morning finally rolled around, my head still throbbed and my husband remembered he had a meeting at work with some clients that he couldn't miss (that had understandably escaped his mind at 2:00am). I totally understood, but didn't know what to do about going to the doctor. I really didn't want to take Cub to the urgent care clinic with me and put his health at risk (more than it already was with me), but I also knew I needed to get it taken care of.

So, that's when I placed the call.

To Penny.

Let me back up a bit. Penny is someone who came into my life a few years ago. We met through worship team (we both play the piano) and through the years we've come to serve on various ministries together and have developed a very tight friendship (I also refer to her as my mentor, as she is quite wise, as well). Her kids are almost all grown and she and her husband are the epitome of what it means to serve. Penny makes herself available by helping out other moms by watching their kids, or running errands for someone, or taking someone to an appointment, or just going to lunch with you to make sure you're doing okay. I'm telling you, this woman is amazing. When I miscarried two years ago, she immediately came in to cover my position at church (when I was working there) and then afterwards she came to my house to check on me. Her family has watched Cub on numerous occasions (her kids are homeschooled and the two that are still at home are so great with him--which speaks volumes for teenagers!) and he loves going to Miss Penny's house.

So. Back to yesterday.

I placed the call, feeling all kinds of guilty for calling so early, but sure enough, Penny was more than willing to oblige. I dropped Cub off and went to urgent care and while I sat in the waiting room, Penny texted me and told me to just go home afterwards and they would watch Cub the rest of the day. Again, I felt so guilty, but I also knew she wouldn't offer if she didn't want to do it! It turns out I had an upper respiratory infection (bleh) so I got my meds and went home. I checked throughout the day to make sure everything was going well and Penny said they were having a blast. When I went over to pick Cub up later that afternoon, he was wearing a new outfit they had bought him. I thanked them over and over again for watching him on such late notice and, as is usually the case, Penny waved it off and said they were happy to do it.

She even sent me home with some homemade soup.

As I get older and have my own family and see more and more of life as an adult, I realize what a blessing it is to have people like Penny (and her family) in my life. She not only helps me out, but she also inspires me to do the same for other people. I hope I can be as helpful to young Moms as Penny was (and is) to me.

I know this post seems kind of random, but I think it's important to acknowledge people who deserve an honorable mention but rarely get it.

So, props to you, Miss Penny. 

And a huge, huge THANK YOU!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Par-Tay.

On Saturday night, I hosted our annual Toewkernskins Christmas Party. Obviously, the name makes absolutely no sense, except to us, as it is the mashing together of our three last names, we three couples who are very close and dear friends. One day a few years ago we came up with that name as a joke, and, as with most things that begin as a joke, it stuck.

This was our third-ish annual Toewkernskins Christmas Party (I say "ish" because we took a baby break last year) and every time we get together we are sure to involve cheesy games, fun crafts, and even cheesier pictures. And, best of all, some really awesome memories.

I was going to originally make this post about putting on a memorable Christmas party, but the night wasn't exactly a picturesque evening of proper hosting etiquette. Observe:

Firstly, my husband thought it would be hilarious if he hand-wrote a sign that said "Please Enter Through Back Door" and stuck in on our front door, unbeknownst to me. So, as I heard voices by the door, I happily trotted to the entry way in my heeled boots and swung open the door ... to find an empty stoop and a piece of printer paper taped below my wreath. Very funny, hun. Sure enough, our friends were peeking in our back door, wondering why in the world they were told to go that way, and, most of all, wondering why they fell for it! 

(I removed the sign for our next guests.)

Then, my jalepeno poppers (that I found on Leslie's site! that our usually delicious!) that include jalapenos, cream cheese, and bacon, were just a tad HOT. HOTTER THAN USUAL. I removed the seeds, the meat, and then rinsed them under ice-cold water in a colander as I usually do, and they still had zing. I've made them before and they were crisp and mellow, but for some reason this batch had an extra snap. Which isn't exactly awesome when three of the six party goers (including myself) are with child and rather prone to heartburn. Thankfully, I had some extra cream cheese in the fridge, so I smeared some on a plate, blobbed on some raspberry preserves, and tossed some club crackers next them and Voila! A sweeter appetizer. 

Oh sigh.

THEN, yes there is another THEN, my delicious-looking stuffed pork tenderloin and flank florentine did not get done in time. As in, they were supposed to take thirty minutes and they ended up taking TWO HOURS. I purchased them at our local grocery store that I love, but I think the butcher who advised me as to the cooking procedure must really prefer his meat RARE. So, we sawed off the cooked chunks and tossed them back in the oven throughout the meal, making it more of a progressive dinner. Thankfully, there were sides to eat, plus delicious desserts that the girls brought. Oh my. 

Really, the best parties are the ones where your attendees don't judge your pork tenderloin.

So. You get the idea. The hosting wasn't exactly Martha Stewart caliber (Although, oh my gosh, would she be a good host? Really? Is she actually nice and personable in real life? I'm not sure. I think it would be better to be personable than to make a good pork tenderloin.) BUT, the party itself was a blast. This year was particularly special because we decided it would be the last party without kids. Two of the three couples have one baby (which we got sitters for), and all three families have one on the way. It was incredibly special and we all got excited when we pictured next year's chaos with FIVE little ones under the age of three.

And you know you've reached a new stage in life when that actually sounds exciting, rather than really, really scary.

And having the kind of friends who picture it as exciting, too, is priceless. 

And I can't wait.

So, of course, here are some pictures to document the event. Enjoy!

My table. A bad picture, really. I pictured a winteresque theme in my mind, complete with white plates and gold napkins and such, until I realized I didn't own white plates. Or a set of six napkins that matched. So, the table ended up as colorful. And I ended up loving it.

The cream cheese/raspberry preserves appetizer that saved the day!


The three preggos with their bellies. Ta-da!


My husband was in charge of the Christmas pictionary this year. He did great.


A good friend hard at work!

Decorating commemorative ornaments. We plan on doing this every year and involving the kiddos, too.

Nicely done.

We hung them on the baker's rack to dry and my eyes got teary when I saw them. Such sweet memories, really.

The whole group. Life has taken each of us through our own highs and lows, and we're so grateful to still have each other on the other side of it. And for the next stage of our journey that lies ahead.

A good party, indeed.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Peace.

Here is the reading I did for the Peace candle in Advent this week. If you are about to correct me and tell me it's the Joy week, you may refer to my Hope passage from last week to find out why we're doing Peace this week! :) Part of the prayer at the end is from the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. Don't worry. He was a good guy. :)

Have a lovely day, friends. 

Today we are celebrating the second week in Advent. The word "Advent" means "arrival" or "coming". We use the wreath to prepare and ready ourselves for Christmas morning.  The evergreen represents the life that can be given through Christ alone and the roundness of the wreath signifies that that life is everlasting. The lit candles remind us that Christ is the light of the world. While the tradition of the Advent wreath dates back to the 1600's, its significance still stands even today, in traditional and non-traditional services alike, as Christians come together to recognize the importance of bringing our focus back to the miracle of Christmas morning. 

Today we will light the candle of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6--"For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace."

For some of us, Christmas is a time to gather with family and loved ones. But, also for some of us, Christmas is a difficult time, through family crises or differences that have grown between us and loved ones throughout the years. And, sometimes the memories surrounding this season are just difficult. This week is a significant week in Advent because it focuses on the truth that Christ is the Prince of Peace. We are encouraged to put aside differences and focus on peace--to focus on reconciliation--and to truly allow the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts. Christ's birth happened in the middle of great civil unrest, when the prayer for peace cried out throughout the country from God's people. And today we continue to pray for that peace--within our homes and around the world. 

Let us pray.

Lord, make us your instruments of peace. Where there is hatred let us sow love, where there is injury, pardon, Where there is despair, hope, where there is darkness, light, and where there is sadness, joy. Oh, Divine Spirit, grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. Let us focus on your peace and remember Your words that say 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.' In Christ's name, Amen. 

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Baby Soft.

While the weather outside is blustery and chilly and wonderfully winteresque, the scenic snow and freezing temps can also mean DRY SKIN. My husband and I both deal with it (ugh) and on more than one occasion, I've developed excema.

Fun!

Well, our little Tator Tot was not, unfortunately, spared from the perils of itchy winter skin. And finding a regiment that kept red blotches at bay has been quite a task. We tried everything from sticky Vaseline to the old Aveeno standby to greasy Eucerin. And while these products are generally good, they never seemed to work super-great on our little Cub. Plus, some of them were kind of a mess. But, after some diligent trial and error, we've finally figured something out that works for us.

So! I thought I'd share our tips, in case you have a little one with dry skin and you are at your wit's end trying to figure out how to remedy it. Of course, every bebe is different, but, you never know--this might work for you, too!

It all starts in the tub, friends.

We realized early on that Cub's bath time would be more on the side of short and sweet rather than long and lingering, since more time simmering in the tub meant we were upping the likelihood for drier skin. So, Cub's baths are only a few minutes long--long enough for him to splash around and have fun, but short enough that his chubby little fingers never make it to pruny. We keep the water temperature at a comfortable lukewarm. He could tolerate hotter, but, again, hot water means dry, itchy skin!

I use Burt's Bees Baby Bee shampoo and wash and I love it. However, we haven't really noticed a difference in his skin with using other brands, since all baby shampoo is pretty gentle anyway. But, so far this has been our favorite!


After Cub gets a good scrub and shampoo, that's when the regiment really begins. We empty the tub and while he's still sitting there, damp and delicious, we cover him in this stuff:


Johnson's baby oil GEL, with Aloe and Vitamin E. My mother-in-law first introduced me to this stuff (and the idea of putting it on Cub while he was still damp--that method works for adults, so DUH, it works for babies, too!). I love it. It really locks in moisture and nourishes Cub's skin.

We then lift the somewhat slippery Cub from the tub and set him on a towel. We gently pat him dry (the oil soaks in his skin and doesn't come off on the towel) and then apply the next round of moisturizer:


Cetaphil moisturizing lotion! LOVE IT. It's what I use for myself and it is gentle enough for Cub, too. We liberally apply this all over his chubby yummy legs and arms and tummy and back, where we earlier applied the baby oil gel. And we put a tiny dab on his face, even though I've heard that's a faux pas. Oh well. :)

After he is thoroughly moisturized, we go straight to getting him dressed. In the summertime we let him run around naked for a while, because that's just all kinds of cute, but in the winter, we take the better-safe-than-sorry method and try to get him in clothes ASAP to help keep in the moisture. After some thigh-pinching and nose-kissing we toss on the clothes and Voila! He's done. Not sticky or ooey-gooey ... just baby soft.

See, I told you it was kind of a regiment.

But, it works. And trust me, if you've had a baby (or kid or teenager or spouse or YOURSELF) who has suffered the frustration that is red, itchy, dry skin, you'll understand why this is so great. No prescription ointment needed and really, it's a quick routine once you get it down. It's just a part of bath time now so Cub expects it, which helps it go by quickly, too!

So. I highly recommend giving this stuff a try if you're in need any kind of skin care SOS with your little one. Who knows--it just might work!

Have a lovely (and dry-skin free) day!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Festival of Trees!

My Mom came to visit us on Wednesday and we headed out in the freeeezing air to enjoy the delicacies of The Cheesecake Factory before perusing our way through a local museum to view their Festival of Trees. It was a delightful time! And here are pictures. Because I take lots of pictures.

Here I am eating Godiva Cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory. Our waiter, Mark, informed us that some ladies had ordered the same cheesecake earlier, only they had pronounced it "Go Diva" rather than Godiva. So, naturally, we referred to our cheesecake as "Go Diva" cheesecake from that point on, adding a bit of an Arkansan twang just to make it stick. :)

The trees! Tall, short, green, white, bedecked in lights, bedecked in paper ... all very lovely. This is one row of many. It was so fun!

Cub also loved the trees. His facial expressions were priceless!

We ventured upstairs to view their large gingerbread collection. This was too fun. There were so many creative displays! This was my personal favorite.

Okay, so maybe THIS was my favorite. :) Cub was such a champ and didn't touch anything. I was very proud of him, really. This is something I'm experiencing now in his stage of life. As he learns rules and boundaries, he abides by them very well for the most part. But, then there are days where he is just exceptionally good. Those days are amazing. This was one of those days and I felt a new kind of pride as a parent. Apparently, there are several types of parental pride. :)

Then we headed to the actual museum and Cub enjoyed some lovely pieces of art. Here his Memere is showing him a scene from New England. He seems very interested!

And here we are at the end of our adventure. A fun time was had by all and I'm so glad we remembered the camera so we could document it!

Thank you for coming along with us. :)

Have a lovely day!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wordless Wednesday!



My friend Megan and I at our church's ladies' Christmas party last night. She found her thrifty sweater at Goodwill for $2.75 and I made mine using a Wal-Mart hoodie and puff paint. 'Tis the season!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Accidental Soup and Twelve Weeks.

A while ago, I stared at our bare cupboards, stared at the freezing, cloudy day outside, and decided I needed to roll up my sleeves and create something for dinner, as our menu had run out but we needed to eat! It was our normal shopping day, but the cold weather had me pretty much convinced to stay inside.

So, I perused my cabinets and with a little creativity, I made a soup for dinner. When my husband came home and tried it, he raved about it. He loved it. And thus began my homemade Accidental Soup. We've had it quite a bit since then and again partook of it last night.

So, I thought I would share it with you! I love soups on these chilly winter days. The ingredients will probably seem a tad random, because they are--that's what happens when you use what you've got! But, it's surprisingly good (well, according to my husband and I!)! So, here it is!



Katie's Accidental Soup

1 package Owens beef sausage (not ground, but the kind you can slice, as pictured above), sliced
5 chicken tenderloins, cubed
1 regular can diced tomatoes
1 regular can Navy beans
1 regular can chicken broth
1/4-1/2 cup sour cream
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp rosemary
1 tbsp oregano
ground black pepper

Dump the can of chicken broth into crock-pot, set at low (you can add water as the day goes on if you worry that the soup will get dry). Add navy beans and diced tomatoes. On the stovetop, sauté sliced sausage until slices are brown. Add sausage to crock-pot mix. Go back to the stovetop and sauté the cubed chicken in olive oil, adding black pepper as seasoning (I like a lot of black pepper!). Once chicken is sauteed thoroughly and cooked through, add to crock-pot mixture. Sprinkle rosemary and oregano in crock-pot and add sour cream. Stir and let simmer all day and voila! Dinner is served.

(OR you can be like me and rush around throwing it together one hour before your husband gets home and just set the crock-pot to high. Everything is already cooked so that works, too! :))

Now. I serve mine in a sourdough bread bowl that I created out of a sourdough loaf. I didn't have any bread bowls on hand the first time I made the soup, so I carved out hunks of sourdough bread and placed the makeshift "bread bowls" into our normal wooden chili bowls and poured the soup in the bread and let it spill into the bowl. In the above picture, the bread is on the side, simply because my husband and I had already eaten when the picture was taken and the bread bowls were gone! I just spooned some of the soup into the bowl for the picture. I've used real bread bowls, but my husband prefers the makeshift sourdough bowls, so that's what I use! 

Also, let me say that I'm not a huge sausage fan at all, really. I'm the kind of girl who chooses bacon when given the option. But, I'm really starting to love the kind of sausage I used in this soup. I don't even know the technical name for it, but I like it! I don't love ground sausage or sausage patties, but this type of sausage (I buy the beef sausage) is bursting with flavor and it tastes SO GOOD in this soup. 

Enjoy!

(Oh, and here is my twelve week picture! This was so funny. I handed my husband the camera, stepped back ... and then totally forgot how to pose. Put my hand on my belly? Under my belly? What?? And this is the result! It's not even from the side, so I'm sorry. But, it works for now! Hopefully by the end of this pregnancy I'll remember how to actually pose for the token "belly" shots!!)



Have a lovely day.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pregnancy Updates! Because These Are Fun!

And because Katie's brain is turned to mush and is currently out of ideas that possess any sort of creativity!

!!!!

So. Heregoes. 

--I must start each morning with a fried egg on toast. Before 8am. This has become my greatest defense against mid-morning sickness. The protein, maybe? If I eat anything too sweet, I'm in big trouble. So fried egg and toast it is. But oh my goodness, I'm terrified that I won't like eggs after this pregnancy. Which would be awful, since breakfast food is kind of my favorite. 

--I vacillate between days where I feel good and days where I feel like a large cow. I'm getting better, but some days (reference Kohl's post) are a bit tough.

--With my pregnancy with Cub, I loved being able to wear sundresses. However, I'm finding that I like a winter pregnancy, too, for the layers. Layers are a pregnant girl's best friend.

--My hair is turning into pregnancy hair--thick and shiny--and I love it. One of the perks!

--I had a very distinct "feeling" with Cub that he would be a boy. This time around, I'm 100% not sure. If I had to make a guess, I'd say a girl, but I have no reason to think that. So, we'll see.

--I've been very pleased at my lack of mood swings, for the most part.

--No cravings specifically (unless the fried egg on toast counts), but when I do want something, I think I need to eat it IMMEDIATELY. The other day I went through the drive-thru at Arby's because I could not possibly fathom the idea of eating anything else for lunch. I mean, Arby's is fine and all, but the way I was salivating for it that day was absolutely ridiculous. But, what can I say. The chicken sandwich hit the spot.

--The most frustrating aspect of pregnancy thus far are the days where I just feel funky. Not necessarily throwing up or overly tired, just ... funky. Sick, kind of, I guess. Funky days are awful because I don't feel like doing anything. It's like I just feel badly enough to not want to do anything, but I can't pinpoint why. Weird.

–-I'm just really excited that skinny jeans are in right now. My legs will eventually be the only skinny thing on me, and even those will go in the end. But, I shall embrace it while I can!

--I didn't think I was too tired during the past few weeks, but these past few days I've had a crazy burst of energy. Maybe I WAS tired and now I'm coming out of it!

--I find myself re-evaluating all of our baby things. I'm finding that if I would have known then (when we registered for Cub's stuff) what I know now, I wouldn't have bought half of the stuff--maybe no travel system, no swing, no papasan chair ... I know, sounds crazy. The travel system is great and we used it, but we use our smaller stroller way more, plus, it only fits one baby, and now we need a double-stroller (although we did like the travel system for long walks)! And Cub hated his swing and I didn't want him falling asleep in it anyway, so that was kind of tough ... and the papasan chair just looked nice and went with my furniture, but we rarely used it. :) The bad thing with baby stuff is that you just don't know what you're going to need until you actually have the baby. And, who knows, maybe our next baby will totally dig the papasan chair! :)

--Even though I'm only 12 weeks along, I feel like this baby is very much already a part of our family. I mean, I know he/she is, but not a day goes by where I don't smile when I think, "You're already just jumping right in and going along with us!" on our daily excursions. It's a very wonderful thing.

--Today I held my friend's four month old and he fell asleep on my shoulder. And I got teary-eyed thinking about going through that again with our own baby. Cub doesn't really fall asleep on us anymore!! :)

--I think Cub will make a great big brother. I know he will!

--I'm very giddy and excited. :)

Okay. That's all for now. Have a lovely day!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Hope.

A few months go, I asked our pastor if we would be doing an Advent wreath this year. We've done it in the past, so I was hoping it was on schedule this year, too. He told me he wasn't planning on it, but that we could totally do it if I wanted to. I answered emphatically that YES! I DO! and he then told me I was more than welcome to completely be in charge of it.

He's so sweet, really. :)

But, really, I was elated and he readily jumped on board. We are by no means a liturgical or "high" church, so I knew I had some wiggle room when it came to writing the readings for each week and also when it came to assembling the wreath. And, he ended up creating his sermon series on the weeks of Advent, which was great. Today we did our first reading (which he made ME do on stage, which I don't exactly love, even though I'm on the worship team rotation and I'm on stage frequently ... but I usually have a music stand and a keyboard to hide behind!). So, I got up there, read the reading, said a prayer, and that was that. And it actually went well. Our pastor lit the candle.

In the past, I've shared Advent readings on my blogs every Sunday, so I think I will do that again this year. I hope you don't mind.

But, before I share, I want to mention that I do know that this week is technically the second week in Advent, not the first. We're starting a week late, which, in church tradition, could sound kind of absurd. But, as I mentioned, we are not a liturgical church that follows a specific church calendar and starting this week worked better for us, so that's what we did. But, I have wonderfully close friends who do attend high churches and take liturgy very seriously, so I want to make sure and emphasize that I am not trying to offend anyone or act nonchalant about doing Advent one week behind. I realize that could come across as irreverent to some, and while I don't believe the purpose of Advent is to be legalistic, I do want to acknowledge that I realize that we are starting a week later than the traditional church calendar. We will be lighting the fourth candle and the Christmas candle at the Christmas Eve service, together, to make up for the lost week. Before my reading this morning, I was sure to say, "Today we are celebrating the first Sunday in Advent" rather than "Today IS the first Sunday in Advent", since I knew that was not true. Anyway.

Just a small disclaimer. :) Also, I wrote the reading for this week, but the prayer was taken from a book of prayer. It said what I wanted to say, but better than I could say it, so I used it. I loved it.

Here you go.

The purpose of Advent is to draw our hearts towards the celebration and significance of the miracle of the birth of Christ. We pause to prepare our minds, attitudes, and our hearts in anticipation of Christmas morning—and in anticipation that Christ will come again. In the midst of the chaos surrounding this holiday, we stop, still our bodies, and listen, until all is silent … and in the silence we strain to hear it—the cry of a newborn in the darkness. And in the quiet we absorb the miracle and remember that God pierced the stillness and shook the earth through that tiny cry. As the cry pierced the stillness, God’s light pierced the darkness, and we see that light as we light each candle.


Today we will be lighting the candle of Hope.


Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.”


As the patriarchs of old hoped for the coming of a Savior, we now hope for Christ’s second coming. We believe in the prophecy fulfilled and believe that Christ will come again. We all hope. We all need hope. In a time of war, economic uncertainty, and a future unknown, we rest in the hope that God will again keep His promise in the coming of a Savior, as He did thousands of years ago.


Let us pray.


Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when He shall come again in His glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through Him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. In Christ's name, Amen.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Night Owl Meets the Early Bird.

(To set the scene: Pitch black bedroom, time for bed, wife is exhausted, husband is wide awake. This may or may not have taken place in my own bedroom.)

Wife: Good night.

Husband: Good night?? What??

Wife: I'm so tired. It's late. I threw up three times today. Good night.

Husband: Fine. I see how it is. But will you turn on the fan first? You're closer to the switch.

Wife: Ugggghhhhhhh

Husband: Please?

Wife: FINE. 

(Wife stumbles through the darkness, fumbles for the switch, trips back into bed where her head hits the mattress.)

Wife: Where are my pillows?

Husband: What pillows?

Wife: I'M TIRED GIVE ME MY PILLOWS THIS IS NOT FUNNY.

Husband: But what are you talking about? I didn't take your pillows.

Wife: GIVE ME MY PILLOWS.

Husband: You're crazy. I didn't take your pillows.

Wife: If you don't give me my pillows, I'm going to take my toenail and scrape--

Husband: Okay here are your pillows.

Wife: Thank you. Good night.

Husband: You're really tired? Are you sure? Why are you so tired? I'm not tired at all. I don't understand why you're so tired! It just doesn't make sense that you are so tired when I'm not tired and I don't get it!

Wife (pleadingly, pathetically, desperately): Puh-leeeeeeaaaaassseeee be quiet!! I'm SO TIRED!!

Husband: Fine. Good night. Are you sure? Really? Okay. Good night.

Wife: Good night.

(Ten minutes elapse. Wife, now angrily wide awake, waits until she hears her husband breathing steadily. Meaning: HE'S ASLEEP.)

(She creeps over to his side with a pillow in each hand.)

(She then commences to pound his face with said pillows.)

Wife: HEY HONEY WAKE UP DON'T YOU WANT TO TALK WHY ARE YOU SLEEPING I DON'T UNDERSTAND IT'S SO EARLY WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO SLEEP WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP!!!!!

Husband (groggily): Oh. My. Gosh.

Wife: Exactly. Good night!

Husband: Oh. My. Gosh.

(Wife settles on her side of the bed and peacefully falls asleep. It takes the husband a little longer.)

And who says marriage is boring. Really. :)

I Think It's Safe To Chalk This One Up To Hormones.

So, yesterday I stood in the Kohl's dressing room and cried.

Very classy, I know.

But, nonetheless, I stood there, draped in a maternity sweater I was trying on, feeling very much like Santa Claus. The jolly old elf. Who easily weighs 200 pounds. The sweater's belt tied above my waist that has expanded just a tad and, well, everything is, um, rounder these days. Bigger. So there I stood, big and round at only 12 weeks, feeling extremely self-conscious and very, very sad. 

Dreadfully pathetic, I know. 

And, of course, since I am a girl, my mind immediately drifted to only a few months ago, frolicking on the shores of Aruba, feeling pretty good about life in general and not worrying about how I looked in my shorts or how my sundress fit, a thought process that immediately propelled me into some sort of hormonal hopelessness as I now stood feeling fat in the dressing room of a department store back here in the Midwest, and the tears, oh the tears, they started. I wiped them away, feeling stupid, until I put my hoodie back on. My HOODIE. I stared at the reflection staring back at me: Disheveled hair, pooch, hoodie, smeared mascara ... and oh, the tears flowed. And then I felt even more stupid, because good grief! I'm pregnant! It's okay to get a little bigger, nay, it's expected for me to get a little bigger. Pull it together, woman! (But for the love, maybe find something a tad more flattering than a HOODIE to wear. Every day.)

I straightened my shoulders and headed out of the dressing room and left the store empty-handed.

(The extremely unflattering sweater was, well, extremely unflattering, and also came with an unsightly $82 price tag. Really, Kohl's, really? Maternity? $82? At KOHL'S?? Even my 15% off coupon couldn't justify that. So now I kind of hate Kohl's. I never really liked Kohl's. But now I kind of hate them.)

(But I had a COUPON!)

(I'll get over it tomorrow.)

So, I headed home to shop in my closet and figure out which outfits still work. See, here's the deal. My jeans still zip up. I just have a slight muffin top now. That's right. Not a cute pooch belly, but a muffin top. I've worn my Bella Band a few times, but it doesn't stay up. And maternity jeans aren't even an option yet, as I had earlier hoped (they, too, fall off). So now I'm left feeling fat. That weird, "No I'm not fat, I'm pregnant" feeling. Blah. After trying on several sweaters and tops in my closet, I felt my eyes well up again. That's when I quietly closed my closet door and then scrubbed our master bathroom so clean you could see your reflection in the countertops. My hands hurt. My head hurt. My nose sniffled from the ridiculous crying. But goodness, I needed SOMETHING to feel good about by the end of the day and since my body wasn't going to be it, a clean bathroom would suffice. It's hard to argue with a sparkly toilet.

After the aggressive scrubbing, I went back into my closet and found a top I kind of liked. I put it on and later in the evening I asked my husband if I looked as fat as I felt in my clothes. 

And he answered, "I think you look good in everything." 

And then he gave me the cheesiest, most proud-of-himself grin I have ever seen, and in that moment my heart burst because I knew I had married the best most wonderful lying husband who ever walked the face of the earth.

And I went to bed happy. Maybe it wasn't such a bad day, after all?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Lasagna and Linus.

Tonight I made this lasagna for dinner. It was amazing. I was going to give picture-friendly step-by-step instructions, like I typically do, but the cook herself gives great illustrative instructions on her website. Check it out! I've never attempted homemade lasagna before, so this was kind of a big deal. And it tasted AMAZING! I invited my husband's parents over to partake with us, and we only barely ate half the pan between the four of us (and we were hungry--it's very filling!). So, my husband has a bunch of leftovers for work. Perfect!

Yesterday was that picturesque day where Cub and I stayed in our jammies and played all day. It was dark and cold outside and we were able to stay in where it was warm and cozy. I loved it. AND, I had Charlie Brown Christmas playing continually all day. That is, by far, my favorite Christmas movie (I love it way more than Cub--he could care less what's on that screen!). My favorite part is when Linus comes onstage and tells Charlie Brown "what Christmas is all about".


So, that's what this POST is all about--what is YOUR favorite Christmas movie? And why?

Have a lovely day!

Deck The Halls!

Alright, friends! This is the yearly post where I swing open my doors and give you a peek inside our house, all bedecked for Christmas. My decorations are by no means magazine worthy, but my goal is that it at least feels home-y and comfortable. So, come on in and stay a while ... :)

Firstly, our Advent Wreath. Oh, our dear, precious wreath that has been through the ringer through lots of packing and unpacking each year. I still love it. I lit all of the candles for the picture. :)

When I put up the decorations this year, I tried to think of things that Cub would like. And the word that came to my mind was DANGLY. So, I hung some ornaments from the lights above our kitchen table. And when Cub sat in his little chair and noticed them for the first time, his face was priceless. He started laughing and reaching for them. One point for Mom! Oh, and please note the smoke--that is from the Advent Wreath, located directly below the light. I had just blown the candles out. :)

The Nativity in our kitchen on our baker's rack. Notice, more dangly ornaments. Stars, this time.

Ever since Josh and I were married, I've searched high and low for an Advent calendar. I could NOT find one. So this year at the beginning of November when I spied this one at Target, I snatched it up. I was so excited--I finally found one! I'm not sure what I'm going to put behind each door yet, but for now, Cub likes to pull them open. We're learning the meaning of "one at a time" :).

My dear sweet chalk board in our kitchen that desperately needs a good scrubbing. Oh well. This is my favorite phrase in all of Christmas. Probably because it is true.

My tree! Yes, those are glass ornaments (some plastic, too) and no, it hasn't been an issue yet. Cub has learned what a "gentle touch" means, plus the glass ornaments are thick and kind of hard to break. But, I'm not stupid. I know we'll have some casualties this year! Thankfully, the big glass ornaments are too difficult for him to grasp, so he ignores them! And, of course, the glass ornaments are more up high and the plastic are more towards the bottom (notice the gathering of white mini Christmas trees towards the bottom? PLASTIC.).

An example of what is nestled between the branches. I have a snowflake theme with lots of snowflakes and icicles.

These are three canvases that hang above our couch. I repaint them often. Right now they are a wreath, a Christmas tree, and two ornaments, respectively. They'll change again in January. :)



And ... check it out! Stockings! Don't they match beautifully?? HA HA. Cub and I went to Hobby Lobby to peruse their options and I decided we would get the stockings he chose (I can't resist 50% off). Which means, whatever he reached for, that's what we got. He did a pretty good job, I think! The snowflake stocking will be mine, and Josh gets the red houndstooth. As for Cub, he gets the cowboy boot. This cracks me up, since we have nothing even remotely western in our house and I'm deathly allergic to horses. But really, it's kind of perfect for a little boy. Good job, Cub. I didn't want to get any that matched too much, simply because of Baby Bean on the way and the chance that we wouldn't find something to match later on. Now we can pick a random stocking next year and it will "match" what we already have!


And, oh wait! How did this get here? Hmm ...

Okay, I couldn't resist. He's our official welcoming committee! :)

I hope you enjoyed your tour!

Have a lovely day, friends.