Sunday, May 31, 2009

M is for Mask

Just a little happy for your day...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Down on the Farm

We spent almost a full week up at Mops and Pops' house last week getting ready for the wedding of a good family friend. Mom had a meeting one morning, so I jumped at the opportunity to steal the grandgirls away and visit my friend Allison and her three children out on their family farm. I've known Allison since I was in middle school, and growing up, I always looked up to her. Now that we have children of our own, she is an encouragement to me from afar. Thanks to Facebook, we've had a fun chance to reconnect!

We had a wonderful time catching up, and the kids absolutely loved playing together. Allison's three are simply delightful, and Phoebe fit right in. (Nora attempted to snooze through the bulk of our visit.) Phoebe is such a little country girl at heart! The Lord knows our desires... Although Phoebs was a little disappointed that she wasn't going to be able to ride a dog or a cat (too much Clifford?), she was delighted to spend some time with some real live animals. After Nora settled down for her nap, we walked over to see a few of the animals they had nearby. Phoebe was absolutely thrilled to get to touch a real live donkey! We were also delighted to meet their horses and a few dogs. The cows were content to be cows in their distant pasture, and since Nora was asleep, we decided to stay close by the house rather than venture out to see them.

And can I just say that there is nothing like country fun? In the same area where the horses and donkeys were, there was a small "mountain" of gravel. The kids had a blast climbing up... and sliding down. Phoebe wasted no time in joining in the fun!

Allison had said we should stay for lunch... so we did! What I didn't realize is what a treat we would be having! Allison had prepared some of the Pioneer Woman's shrimp pasta... y'all, your life will change. I came home and told my mom I wanted to eat it for dinner. And for lunch again tomorrow. Maybe even breakfast. If you do not live with someone who is allergic to shellfish, make this pasta. (By the way... shrimp is on sale this week at Publix...)

Phoebe was so disappointed to learn that we would not indeed be heading back to the farm the next morning. In fact, she asks regularly to go to the farm! We're hoping to make a return trip when husbands can meet and hang out...or when those veggies start growing in Allison's back garden, whichever comes first! (Allison, if you notice some corn and watermelon missing...)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Feathers and Lampshades

I generally find myself marveling at what goes on in Phoebe's brain. As a little person, she just doesn't think about things the same way I do; I find her altogether fascinating. Or frustrating, as the case may be.

Lest you think we have this sleeping thing all figured out (we don't, by the way), we've also been having some sleepytime wars with Phoebe. It's as if she simply cannot shut down her brain to settle down to rest. This happens mostly at bedtime, but occasionally this happens at naptime too. She has consistently obeyed us by staying in the bed; however, she has managed to find ways to be disobedient and destructive while still in the bed.

Anything she can reach from the bed is fair game. One morning, we woke up to find that Phoebe had completely emptied a container of wipes (my last in the house) and scattered them all over the floor. (The wipes were on the chest at the foot of the bed.) She's taken pictures off of walls, pulled apart flower petals, and somehow brought toys into the bed. One day a few weeks ago, Michael was home at naptime. After hearing a noise that definitely did not sound like a snoring two-year-old, he went in to discover that she had begun to de-feather her angel wreath. She was busted with feathers in hand and a pile of feathers on the floor.

Last week, Phoebe was settling down for her first naptime at Mops and Pops' house. I was getting ready to have a child-free trip to Target when I heard her playing. I went in to discover that Phoebe had taken two large collage frames off the wall and brought them into the bed with her. But her piece de resistance was the broken lampshade. Somehow, she had managed to remove a lampshade from a nearby lamp and completely shatter it. Shards of plastic from the inside of the shade were everywhere: on the floor, around the table, in the bed. It looked like a boxer had taken a few rounds out on it. We have no idea how my twenty-four pound toddler dismantled it.

Each episode of destructiveness leads to discipline. And y'all, it is so easy to get discouraged by this. (A good friend tells me that she and her husband had to discipline her oldest son at bedtime for an entire year; I'm praying we don't have to deal with this for that long!) I have to believe she doesn't really want to be disobedient and destructive -- it's like she just can't help herself.

Hello, sin nature. Nice to meet you.

I'm reminded that all the discipline in the world can't keep us from our sin nature. We are trusting God and his promises to do a work in our girls' lives, but like Paul (and their parents), they will always struggle with their flesh. We are destructive. We are defiant. And we are desperate.

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Romans 7:14-25

Thanks be to God indeed, for delivering us from our bodies of death!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Random Catching Up

There are about nineteen separate things that I want to not forget to update right now... but since I only write at very specific times during the day... I'm seeing some of these updates happening sometime mid-2010. So instead, I'm going to knock out these updates in one fell swoop so that we can just move on.

In no particular order...
  • Nora seems to be doing better at night. She holds onto gas easily, so we have to make sure that she burps very well before heading to bed. We also think that if she gets overtired, it's all over for her... as in, if we miss getting her down at 7:00 or thereabouts, we can expect her to cry for an hour before she settles down to sleep. Last night was good; we'll see how tonight goes!
  • I got to take a shower in my master bathroom last night! This is indeed worthy of its own post, but I want to wait until I can get accompanying pictures... which won't happen at least until I get in there and work my magic. Michael also has a few little things to finish up. But for the most part, it is a usable bathroom again! (By the way, I love my new bathroom!)
  • Phoebe is currently really into rockets and races. As we drive in to the town where my parents live, we pass a huge rocket or five. Now she's spotting them everywhere. Yesterday after her nap, Phoebe informed me that she wanted Mommy and Daddy to push a rocket. Where do they get these things? Also, we cheered on the runners at our annual Memorial Day race (sponsored by my Dad, I have yet to run it) and Phoebe loved the race atmosphere. She asked several times yesterday to go to the race.
  • I've had a few people ask me to update on the Shred. I haven't done it as consistently as every day, but I've seen great results already. I can tell a huge difference in how I feel (more energy) and how my clothes are fitting. We don't have a scale, but I do weigh myself at my parents' house. I'd lost about five pounds since my last visit, and I can tell that I've become more toned and stronger. I'm about to move up to Level 2, which means I may not be walking next week.
  • Last week was my biggest success in strategic shopping. I spent $57 on $140 worth of groceries. When meal planning earlier this week, I realized that we are fully stocked for meals for at least a month, with the exception of fresh produce. We're also eating better (healthier, more variety, more flavor) than we have in the four years Michael and I have been married. So exciting!
  • Michael and I would like to start a new Bible Study to do together this summer. Any suggestions? We last did Experiencing God together and loved it. It really can be anything.
And now, a picture or two:
Here's hoping for more substance tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

We're Back!

The girls and I just returned from almost a full week up at Mops and Pops' house. Although I hadn't planned to take a break from updating the blog, it was nice to have a little vacation from the Internet. But since I just preached last week about writing things down... I figure I should resume my semi-regular blogging! It's good to be back!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Filled Up

Last week, we went through some terrible bedtime fussing with Nora. We had no idea what had caused it, just that she was screaming. For an hour. At bedtime. And after being used to her falling asleep easily with no crying while we read and prayed with Phoebe, this rocked our little household boat.

After the third night of it, Michael and I decided that she was more than likely not throwing a fit about going to sleep. And then it hit me: food.

It seemed like her tummy was upset, but it took us three days to figure out that maybe we were over-feeding her at supper. The short of it is that we think Nora was eating way too much for her little system to digest way too close to bedtime. After reviewing in Babywise, I realized that maybe her supper should be at her 3:30 feeding and not thirty minutes before bed. This fix seemed to help.

Last night I let her chow down on Cheerios while I ate in peace, and we paid the price in forty-five minutes of crying. Bless her heart!
Of course, all of this could be teeth. But I'd forgotten about feeding solids at the 3:30 meal.

So to my friends with one baby right now? You will forget too. Even if you write it down! Give yourself some grace. This was a good reminder to me that I am
not a professional Mommy!

Friday, May 15, 2009


A rare smile in an otherwise fussy evening... don't you just want to eat those cheeks?

Making a Joyful Noise

Before Phoebe was born, I made a small pair of canvases for her room. It hangs by the light switch, and I see it every day, many times a day. On it, one of the verses reads: " O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise..." (Psalm 8:1-2) It serves as a reminder to me that even our small little girls have the ability to praise the Lord.

I don't consider myself very musical, but I've sung to the girls their whole lives. Phoebe has been subjected to my limited repertoire for twenty-six months now...and now, it seems that she knows all of my songs. I find that we're singing all day long: I am her on demand radio station. We sing the fish song. We sing the round and round song. We sing "Jesus Me". We sing the boat song. We sing Psalty. We sing hymns. We even sing some of the children's catechism. And now, I'm not the only one singing. A joyful noise indeed!

Phoebe particularly likes to sing songs with hand motions. If I don't teach her motions, she'll often make up some of her own. (She has, for instance, added some movements to Holy, Holy, Holy.) Her little hands clumsily attempt boats and fish and slings... and Truth is being imprinted into her mind and body. It is an incredible experience, getting to see your little one sing praise. And oh, how her little voice encourages me to praise the day away!

But now I have a question: What great children's music do you listen to at your house? It doesn't have to be praise music... we love fingerplays and Old McDonald just as much as the next family! I'd love to add to our collection every so often, but I don't want to waste my money.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Not Rocket Science

When Phoebe was ready to start solid foods, I made them myself. I even blogged about it! It was a great experience for me. And like most things I did back then, I made it harder than it needed to be. I particularly like the last sentence I threw in that post... "If you devote an hour a day for a week, you can stock your baby with enough food to last two months!"

An hour a day! There's definitely wisdom in that. But when I have a free hour, let me assure you, I am not spending it making lots and lots of baby food. But I am making Nora's baby food, or at least most of it. (I supplement a lot of fruits right now out of convenience.) And it looks a little bit like this:
  • open bag of frozen veggies
  • cook according to directions
  • work on an art project with Phoebe
  • take veggies off the stove and allow to cool
  • clean up art project
  • drag a chair to the counter and help Phoebe get up
  • spoon veggies into food processor
  • let Phoebe push the button as many times as she wants
  • have Phoebe count the spoonfulls as they go into the ice cube tray, and let her tell me which space is the next to be filled
  • freeze

For the majority of Nora's food, I am using frozen vegetables. They are picked at their peak freshness, and are often more nutritionally rich than the produce that you buy in the fresh produce department. And by shopping strategically, I can get them at rock bottom prices. (This is the main reason I've used commercial baby food for fruit; sales haven't been good enough on fresh fruit, and I haven't had coupons for frozen. It ends up being the best cost option.) I recently bought a 2 pound bag of frozen green beans for $1.59 (not a rock bottom price, by the way) at Publix. This is cheaper than fresh (which, on sale, is about $1.29/pound) and far easier to blend. For $1.59, I can buy only one 7-oz stage 2 Gerber brand food (when it's not on sale); for fairness, I can almost buy two at WalMart. Anyway, I made the equivalent of eight packages of baby food. In about ten minutes of work.

Tomorrow, I'll make peas. Somewhere in between the laundry and the art projects and the ballerina twirls and the diaper changes, we'll make baby food. Phoebe will snack on the peas before they're pureed. We might even eat some peas with lunch. And Nora will enjoy some, too. Later this week, I'll get adventurous and turn the six pounds of bought-on-sale-with-a-coupon apples into applesauce for the whole family to enjoy. And it's really not rocket science.

In fact, it's even easier than I thought it was.

Note: if you have only one little angel at home, I would recommend batch-cooking your baby food. I've been browsing a website called Once a Month Mom, and if I can finagle the time... I just might do this for our baby food next month. Here are some sample menus/recipes that she's used.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Needing a Smile

It was a long, tiresome day. I needed a smile. And a reminder that a whole lot more good happened today than bad.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Peculiar Little Person

My mom remarked to me a few weeks ago that she thinks that Phoebe is peculiar. I found her choice of words interesting; the word "peculiar" doesn't exactly have positive connotations in my mind.

My immediate gut reaction was that I did not, under any circumstances, want Phoebe to be peculiar. Peculiar means that she is different. It means that she might not have many friends, and it means that she might even be ridiculed. Peculiar people find loneliness easily... or at least, this peculiar person did.

But I think that she's right. Phoebe is peculiar. And not just in the way that all children are unique, although my experience with two-year-olds is fairly limited. Her "peculiarness" isn't really something I can easily identify, but I know it's there.

A few days after this conversation, my mind drifted to a scripture about peculiar people:

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light... 1 Peter 2:9

I've been reading through the Old Testament and have been camped out in Leviticus and Numbers these last several weeks. I remember at one time in my life feeling like these particular books of the Bible, with their rules about sacrifice and unclean meats and the like, would have no relevance to me. And yet I'm learning an abundance from these neglected books (or at least, they're neglected in my Bible). All of the instructions given to the Israelites were in order that they might be set apart - different from other nations. And we, like the Israelites, are set apart -- peculiar -- that we might bring glory to God.

Although we live under grace, we are still called to obedience through grace. We live in the world, but we are not to be of it. This is no easy task. I'm so afraid of being different that I feel like I avoid this; yet my sweet little toddler is teaching me that it is okay to be set apart. And it's my prayer that Phoebe will continue to be a peculiar little person, that she might proclaim the greatness of the One who calls her out of darkness into light.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Seven Months

I had forgotten how much fun it is to have a seven-month-old in the house! At this age, so much personality is showing and she is such fun to play with. And on top of that, schedules are, for the most part, predictable. Most days, I feel like I can breathe again; it's a beautiful thing

I can also tell that I'm starting to miss having an itty bitty in the house. I figured the Baby Fever would start right around the time Jim and Carolynn have their new little one; it looks like my predictions were right, since little Evans will be here in just a few short weeks!

But at seven months, Nora is such a sweet little sunshine to have around! At seven months, Nora is...
  • taking two naps a day. Much to my sorrow, we dropped her late afternoon nap a few weeks ago. She'd take it every day if we let her...but then she'd also not be able to go to bed until 9. (This sometimes makes for some fussy suppertimes.) Her morning nap is 1 1/2 - 2 hours long and her afternoon nap is 2 - 2 1/2 hours long.
  • sleeping from 7pm to about 7 or 7:30am.
  • still a great eater. I've been slower to introduce new foods than I was with Phoebs, but she has liked just about everything we've given her. We've also introduced her to the world of Cheerios, which she thinks is about the greatest thing ever.
  • sitting confidently on her own. She still flops over every so often, but she can generally sit and play for extended periods of time.
  • scooting mysteriously around her crib. When she's on the floor, I really don't see her try to move much. But when we get her up from naps or in the morning, it's clear that Nora has taken herself a trip around her little space.
  • possibly teething? I am notoriously bad about "crying wolf" when it comes to teeth... so don't listen to me. I have no idea.
  • in love with anything "Taggie". Nora still has busy hands, and is great at playing with toys now (although she does love to explore with her mouth, too!).
  • loves to be around her sister. Fortunately, the feeling is mutual! Yesterday, the two of them had some sweet playtime with puzzles while I fixed lunch. Phoebe is starting to see Nora as a playmate, which is great fun for all!

At 7 months, Phoebe was already pretty mobile -- almost crawling, actually -- so I'm thankful we're not having to walk that road yet!

We are so in love with our little Norabelle. Our family is better for having her in it, and she is a daily source of joy for all of us! Happy Seven Month Day, Nora!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Shopping Centsibly

A few months ago, I made a trip to Costco to do our monthly bulk shopping. As I walked to my car with a cart holding two precious children and their diapering and formula needs for the month, I was sick at my stomach. I had been previously shopping there every week or so to get formula, so the monthly cost hadn't quite been so obvious to me. The triple digit bill left me feeling hopeless; I didn't see how I could trim any more from our budget. I was only buying necessities and I still felt stretched to keep our budget intact.

So when our church offered a seminar called the "Centsible Shopper", I signed up immediately. I was desperate. Fortunately, God loves it when we get desperate before Him; He can do a mighty work in desperate hearts.

In those two-and-a-half hours, I learned that it was possible to trim my grocery bill. It would take work and planning to be a better steward of the money God has given us.
But it was possible.

Holly taught us that, by using coupons, shopping sales, and strategically stockpiling, we would be able to reduce our grocery bill. So I commited to take a baby step and try it. For the month of March, I clipped coupons, filed them in a pink cancelled check organizer, and scoured the sale fliers for Publix. I started to read a few blogs with helpful tips, and I learned how to shop strategically at night while enjoying episodes of NCIS with Michael. And I prayed. A lot.

I prayed as I clipped the coupons. I prayed as I planned my menus and made my grocery list. I prayed as I would walk up to the checkout line, anxious about the bottom line. The Lord provided the knowledge of how to do this, but ultimately He is the provider of every meal we eat and every dollar we spend. I couldn't let this process be about me.

I expected to save a little - maybe twenty dollars a month. I was already shopping sales, buying store brands, and carefully planning our meals. But God is able to do abundantly more than we can ask or even imagine! I immediately saw a reduction of my weekly grocery bill by twenty dollars. With my target of spending fifty dollars or less each week, I've been able to not only feed our family... I've been able to stockpile items that we use often at rock-bottom prices. (For example, I have four large boxes of Cheerios in my pantry that each cost around a dollar; regular price for each box is $4.99.) And perhaps the most exciting thing is that we've been able to give away some of these groceries.

I've been shopping strategically for two months now. My stockpile is growing, and my grocery bill is shrinking. I am able to buy more items that we use at a higher quality (I'm able to get name-brand items significantly cheaper than store brand) for less money than I was spending two months ago. My grocery bill for the first week of May was $36.00. (The total value of my groceries was $84.00) My goal for the month of May is now to reduce my bill to $45 or less.

I share this because I know that there are others that would benefit from knowing that there is a better way. I've had friends face unemployment, and the economy is directly affecting Michael's business. Some of my friends are saving for a down payment on a house, or just trying to feed another precious little mouth. God is the giver of every penny and every circumstance, but I believe he wants us to consider our ways in all things.

I know that we were called to reevaluate our spending habits; perhaps you feel like you need to do the same. My friend Holly has recently launched a website (Michael designed it!), sharing her wisdom with a wider audience. If you're interested in learning more, check out The Centsible Shopper. It's worth a look... I promise!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Baby Steps

Lately, I've felt very convicted to consider my ways. Wise, godly women have shared their hearts about stewardship and time management, and I've felt specifically called to make some changes in the way I'm doing things. God has been gracious and has granted me the ability to implement some of these changes, and we've seen abundant fruit. But something I've tried to be really careful with is taking baby steps.

I'm notorious for diving headlong into a new way of doing things and ending up overwhelmed; I end up trying to do what I've called myself to do rather than what God has called me to do. (By the way, that never turns out well.) So back to the baby steps. God has really rewarded some of the baby steps I've taken lately. Just the other day, I was telling a friend about baby steps, and how I was trying to focus on just one new thing at a time.

So this week, I decided that it was time to spring clean. And start a new workout program. Those are baby steps, right? Oh yeah, and I'm a mom to two little ones. Somehow, I thought this was a good idea. And it was, at least for the first day.

But neither spring cleaning nor working out is a one-shot deal. And I'm not doing just any workout. After reading review after review on Amazon and on some other blogs, I took the plunge and purchased Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred. Supposedly it's fantastic, and it'll whip you into shape. And it's only twenty minutes! I'd been doing Walk at Home for the past two months for 40 minutes a day, so I figured this would be no big deal. In fact, I thought the shorter workout would be perfect for this spring cleaning venture.

Let me just say: it's called shred for a reason. I can barely walk. I've done it for three days now, and it is doubtless the hardest workout I've ever done... and once upon a time, I worked out with a personal trainer. As Jillian says, the results don't come free. (By the way, I can already see some results.) But add not being able to walk to heavy-duty organizing and elbow greasing, along with an uncharacteristically cranky 7 month old... let's just say something has to go. And it isn't the baby.

So the cleaning is postponed, at least the whole organize-and-clean-everything-in-my-house part. Because remember, I'm all about the baby steps right now.

And frankly, this workout is ensuring that I'm only taking baby steps.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Together Again

Early last week, Phoebe started asking to go to Mops and Pops' house. One morning, Phoebe asked at least thirty times... before lunch. This is not an exaggeration. Michael and I talked about it, and we decided that if she's old enough to ask to go, she's old enough to go. So Saturday morning, we let our sweet Phoebs head up, alone, to spend the weekend with Mops and Pops.

I think this picture just about sums it up, don't you?

We got regular updates and pictures... one night Mom said that Phoebe had a hard time settling down to sleep; she thought it might be the M&Ms? Or the ice cream? Or the candy?

We're thrilled that Phoebe was able to have a special time with her grandparents. It was neat for us to have some sweet time with Nora, too. I forgot how easy a non-mobile baby can be! It was a nice break, and a good time for me to take care of a few projects... but I'm so thankful to have everyone back together again!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ballerina at Work

This really might be my new favorite picture of Phoebe; let me explain.

This is a picture of Phoebe in her new ballerina leotard. She's not taking ballet, but Mops couldn't resist its feminine appeal, what with its sweet rosebud and the little swishing pink skirt. As Phoebe delicately twirled around my house that day last week, she looked like a real live ballerina - pint sized, of course.

But it's also a picture of Phoebe wearing a homemade necklace. We were working on lacing earlier in the week, and it was hard for her. So I tried to up the success factor by giving her something larger to thread onto a ribbon: a recycled paper towel roll that she had decorated with markers. It was much easier for her to do, and Phoebe wore her necklace with pride.

And then, it's a picture of Phoebe sweeping. It's hard to tell, but she actually is holding two brooms: my regular kitchen broom, and her pink "play" broom. She'd just cracked a small pot full of dirt and grass seeds (think chia pet), and the dirt had scattered itself all over the floor. Phoebe promptly got her cleaning gear, and joyfully got started cleaning up her mess. She was eager to do the cleaning herself, saying "scue, Mama" when I'd try to intervene.

I love this picture because I feel like it captures so much of what we're about around here. We stay home. We play, we pretend, we work. Phoebe is, in small ways, learning what it means to be a little woman. She's learning from a Mommy that's learning right alongside her, but it's a privilege to share what little I do know with her.

"[She] works with willing hands..." Proverbs 31:13b