Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Catching Up

My coffee hasn't kicked in yet, especially since I switched it to half-caf last week. But since everyone's dying to know about potty training...and the minutia of our days...I figured I'd throw up a random post to tide me over until I can write something of substance.
  • Michael put together our new grill this weekend. The old one...well, it bit the dust. And then became a nest for some Carolina wrens. I am ridiculously excited about this grill. I'm conspiring to cook everything we eat on it or in the slow cooker in order to keep the house cool this summer.
  • We've been potty training for a week. I arrogantly thought I'd have Phoebe trained in a day, like the book suggested. We all know that pride cometh before a fall, right? We've had some good days and some bad days, but I think she's starting to get the hang of it. Phoebe's biggest hurdle is remembering to go when she's having fun...who wants to go potty when they're watching Elmo, for instance?
  • Nora is everywhere. She's army crawling like a maniac, and seeks out teeny tiny everythings to eat. As soon as I feel more comfortable about this potty training thing, we're bringing out the blanket for some training...post haste!
  • My friends need to stop having babies. I have got the fever something fierce, especially now that Nora seems more like a big girl and less like a baby. Three babies in three weeks... I told one friend that her little sleepy munchkin was making my uterus hurt.
  • The Shred works. Seriously. I went for my annual a couple of weeks ago, and I'd lost fifteen pounds since November. (About half of that was baby weight... but I'm lighter now than I was when I got pregnant with Phoebe.) I'm certainly not teeny, but I'm wearing clothes that I bought the summer before I got married...and some of them are loose. I'm also more toned than I think I've ever been. It's good to know all that sweat is worth it!

We also have some front row seats to some really exciting "God things" right now. It's too early to blog about any of it (no, I'm not pregnant), but we're seeing the answers come to light to some prayers we've prayed for a very long time. God's timing is incredible!

Friday, June 26, 2009


We've been potty training this week, as if you hadn't noticed. Save for a brief hiatus yesterday afternoon when I thought Phoebe was catching a stomach bug, we've been all potty, all the time, since Tuesday morning. Which means that every twenty minutes or so, we're singing songs in the bathroom while Phoebe hangs out on the potty chair.

About eighty-nine percent of my mental energy is expended on potty thoughts. And it feels like that same percentage of my day is spent doing "potty" things: checking, helping, changing, and washing. Which is what I think you're supposed to do when you're potty training.

When I started planning for this week, I figured I would get nothing done. I made peace with my dust and the smudgy kitchen floor, and I planned to work on only my daily minimum. That meant the house wouldn't spiral into total chaos this week, but I wasn't planning to actually clean. Or cook. Or really do anything but potty train. But now that it's Friday, I can look back on this week and see that, to my surprise, I've gotten a lot done.

I'm starting to take advantage of snippets of time -- five minutes here and there -- that add up to a lot getting done, if they're used wisely. In five minutes, I can wash a few dishes, wipe down the counters, and sweep the kitchen. I've found that it only takes about ten minutes to clean my guest bathroom. All those little, nagging chores can be completed in just a few minutes - here and there - to lead to a lot of productivity.

I'm pretty sure I've linked to these messages before... but these messages on time management have really impacted how I use my time during the day. I'm still working through this, and I've listened to these messages several times now, and I have to pray through my schedule and my list several times a day. But to my friends with small children - and to my friends that are looking to just use their minutes a little better - these are a "must listen".

Time Management
Managing your time with Small Children

Now I'm off to go use this snippet of time before the girls wake up!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bigness is Contagious

Phoebe isn't the only one doing big things around here. Nora seems to be getting bigger by the minute, too! It's as if she has caught the "getting big" bug and just wants to join her sister.

In just the last week, Nora has:
  • started babbling (instead of her typical dinosaur screech)
  • started signing "more" very enthusiastically
  • started clapping
  • started waving
  • flipped onto her knees and started rocking... I'm sure she'll be crawling in just a few days!
Nora also got her first taste of "sauce" this week. (Sauce, by the way, is my family's special recipe spaghetti sauce.) She LOVED it, as if any of us were surprised.

It's so much fun to watch babies grow! Whether we're practicing our crawling or potty training, there are some big girls growing up fast in this house!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Notes on Potty Boot Camp, Day One

Today started off a little rocky. Because it was called, "Toilet Training in Less Than a Day", I assumed we'd be completely trained. By tonight. Let's just say my expectations may have been a little high. I also started out extremely stressed out about the whole thing, in spite of my desires for a "fun" day of potty training. By 9:45, I'd had to wash all three (and only three) pairs of training pants I'd bought. By lunch, Michael was having to talk me off the ledge and convince me that we would be sticking with potty training longer than half a day.

I was thrilled when naptime finally rolled around. I took the time to do, well, just about nothing. I prayed for peace, and tried to get my wits about me so that I wouldn't be a raging maniac come bedtime.

And I think something clicked, for both of us. After she woke up, we gave it a few goes. She stayed dry. We had success on the potty. And she continued to stay dry! We made it from the end of naptime to bedtime with no accidents. Although at lunch Phoebe was content to wet her trainers and continue eating, tonight she managed to do the potty dance and avoided an accident. Hooray!

Clearly, I have no idea what I'm doing. But here are some random notes about our first day of potty boot camp:
  • Juice boxes are your friend. Phoebe never gets undiluted juice, much less juice boxes. These were pretty much the best treat ever.
  • Phoebe will do anything for a "Bob Gummy" (a Veggie Tales fruit snack). Really. We have three packs left in a ten-pack box.
  • Buy more than one pack of training pants, unless you want to do three extra loads of laundry.
  • A change of scenery does everyone good. My friend Alicia suggested we move it outside... it was a great place to potty and push fluids. (Was that too much information?)
Tomorrow will be a more "normal" day since Nora will be with us. I'm hoping to ride the success of tonight into tomorrow morning, and con her into eating some of the other fun treats we have in order to stretch those last three packs of fruit snacks.


Phoebe loves to be big. Sometimes, she'll stand up on a chair in the kitchen, stretch her arms above her head, and say, "BIIIIIIIG" in her "big girl" voice. But then, what two-year-old doesn't love to be a little big?

If you've ever had a conversation with me about potty training, you know I've been in no rush. I'm comfortable with diapers, diapering two isn't really that much more difficult than diapering one, and it's much easier to just change a diaper in the van than it is to use a public restroom. I have plenty of reasons that I really don't want to potty train Phoebe.

But Phoebe is ready to be done with diapers.

At least mentally, Phoebe's ready to be rid of the whole changing process. After our most recent bout with staph, she became terrified of diaper changes. Tears, shaky legs, fear... every diaper change has been a major event. But use the potty? No big deal. That, combined with the information from the pediatrician that Phoebe will probably not have these staph issues after she's potty trained, was enough to make me ready. Y'all, staph is horrible.

So today, we're starting potty boot camp. Nora's with Michael's mom and dad all day today... so it's all potty, all the time. I'm praying most of all that Phoebe and I will have fun today, which seems strange -- because I do want potty training to come out of this -- but I want us to laugh and enjoy the process, too.

We're taking the plunge in just about an hour... I'll update at naptime! It's going to be a BIG day!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Happy (Late) Father's Day

Yesterday was Father's Day and, although I had the best intentions, I wasn't able to get written any public praise for my sweet husband. That's a little bit how holidays go around our house, I'm afraid -- lots of good intentions, with a slightly sketchy follow through. In fact, Michael had a sort of rough morning yesterday; fortunately, I think his day improved (swimming and steak, anyone?) and we ended well. But honestly... I couldn't let the date on the calendar dictate that my opportunity to tell everyone else about the Daddy under my roof had passed.

When Michael and I married, we didn't think he'd be a Daddy yet. We were planning to wait four years, a reasonable amount of time, to work and save and wait. God had other plans, though -- and we're thrilled that He did. I can't imagine a man more perfectly suited to being a Daddy than my sweet husband.

While some men dread the responsibility of shepherding a family, Michael humbly and nobly shoulders his role. I know that he often feels inadequate... but I know that God has gifted him with an abundance of grace. Michael consistently seeks the Lord's guidance to love and to lead, and he is one that will repent first and love big. In all that he does as a Daddy, he seeks to honor and glorify the Lord.

But Michael is not a stoic Daddy... no way! Michael brings joy and fun to our lives together. While I have to "plan" fun, Michael is the one surprising us with after-dinner treats, jammy rides, and playful Saturday mornings. He's even the one who brought Mary Poppins to our family, while I was the one worrying about tv-overload. I trust him implicitly to decide what's best... and I'm always thankful when I do!

Michael makes tremendous sacrifices to love and serve his family. He specifically cuts off work to spend time with us at night - even though he is ridiculously busy right now. He includes the girls in his work, from backyard maintenance to Sunday morning pancake engineering. (And if you haven't noticed, the help of a two-year-old can be... sweet.) Michael doesn't demand "me time" or "guy time" or "getaway time"; he consistently lays down his own life and desires for his family.

His girls adore him. Phoebe asks, as Michael climbs into his truck each morning, "Dada home soon?" She hates to say goodbye to her Daddy each day as he leaves for work, and waits eagerly at the door (or gate) when she knows he's going to be coming home. Nora lights up at the sight of Michael, "stomping" and smiling until she looks like she could pop. It already sounds like she's going to say "Dada" first, and rightfully so! And of course, you all know how much I adore my husband...

By watching Michael parent, I learn so much about the Father's love for all of us. When I read, "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God" (1 John 3:1), I am overwhelmed. Michael - sinful and earthly - lavishes his love on his children... and yet, God's love is even greater than I could even imagine. And it is his great delight to lavish that love, just as Michael delights in lavishing love on his girls.

It is a privilege to Michael grow as a Daddy. Michael, I love you! Happy (late) Father's Day!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Guest Posting

This week, it seems like I've put my writing energies elsewhere. I wrote a couple of guest posts over at The Centsible Shopper... feel free to go check them out!

Shopping With Small Children, Part One
Shopping With Small Children, Part Two
Easy Publix Meal Plan, Week of June 21

I've felt pretty "off" all week... here's hoping for a renewing weekend!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dressing for Breakfast

It’s not unusual for Phoebe to wake up ready for an accessory. She’s usually been awake for a little while before we come to get her, and she can easily see about thirty-seven different baubles and clips from her vantage point. She generally has her mind made up, and we generally indulge her.

This particular morning, Phoebe woke ready for her tutu. And some clippies, since her hair is a terrific frustration for her, as it flits wildly into her eyes. And so she dressed for breakfast.

There’s something about that poof of pink over those happy rainbow jammies that makes even the brightest bowls of fruity cheerios seem dull, don’t you think?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Swinging In

We've had a long weekend...we made a quick trip out of town, and Phoebe's been battling another staph infection. But we're swinging back into action, and I should be back with some (irregularly) scheduled content soon!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Eat Your Veggies

Phoebe has never been what I'd call an "enthusiastic eater". But the other night, as I was getting ready to clear the table, Phoebe asked for more corn. (To clarify, this gourmet corn was leftover frozen mixed veggie blend, purchased for cents.) Never one to deny that little bird "more" of any kind of sustenance (unless that sustenance is chocolate or sugar-laden), I handed her our very fancy plastic serving bowl and the serving spoon.

When I handed her the bowl, there was at least half a cup of veggies in it. When the spoon became too cumbersome, she simply slurped out the remaining nibblets. Unbelievable. I even think she was sad when the veggies were all gone!

It goes to show you... kids love simple foods!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Library Bag Favorites

We've been making twice-monthly trips to the library for, well, a long time. I discovered that our library has an incredible children's area, and I can place requests from any library in our county's system and have them waiting for me within a day or two. We've made some really wonderful discoveries at our local library. Since several of my friends reading this have toddlers and preschoolers, I thought I'd share some of our favorite finds. I'll try to remember to update this as we get ready to return to the library every couple of weeks! All of these books are Phoebe (and often Nora) tested... I cannot vouch for how well these will entertain other children, but we have certainly loved them!

The Franklin Series, by Paulette Bourgeois
There is a television program that is based on these books, and it probably is what sparked Phoebe's interest to begin with. She had seen it a few times, and was delighted to see that there were books about Franklin the turtle. These stories are absolutely charming; as a Mom, I approve heartily. They address sweet, preschooler issues (Franklin's Blanket was my personal favorite), but they're done intelligently. I generally don't mind reading them as many times as they're requested - and they're requested often!

Mole and the Baby Bird, by Marjorie Newman
The illustrations in this book are what sold it for me. This was part of our baby bird library trip, and it's a sweet little story about a mole who rescues a baby bird... but then doesn't want to let him go. The story is good, but the illustrations are really, really wonderful. It's a lovely book for cuddling up at nighttime.

Hattie and the Fox, by Mem Fox
This is a fantastic, repetitive story with all manner of barnyard animals. Mem Fox is one of my favorite authors for young children (we also loved Koala Lou), and I used her often in my classroom. It has a surprising ending that made me giggle out loud; Phoebe loves naming the animals and helping make their noises.

Farmer Duck, by Martin Waddell
A lazy farmer bosses his duck around, who ends up doing all the work. Duck gets mad, his friends get even... Farmer learns a lesson. Phoebe found the duck hilarious... a duck doing farmwork was something unexpected for her, and she was captivated from the beginning. I personally think the illustrations are fantastically done - the detail is great. (Farmer is in bed with bonbons... and a hairy chest.) And Phoebe loved all the other animals, too!

Where is the Green Sheep?, by Mem Fox
I've already said that I love Mem Fox, and this book just confirmed it! This is a very simple book - and repetitive - but Phoebe and I both love it! The illustrations are simple and captivating, and Phoebe can "read" the book with me. It was a fun surprise find at the library; I don't even mind that Phoebe wants to read it a couple of times a day!

Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, by Virginia Lee Burton
I remember loving this book as a little girl, but I wasn't sure if Phoebe would be ready for this longer and more subtle book. It's definitely lengthy, but Phoebe quickly loved it. She also understood more of the storyline than I expected, and immediately wanted to read it again when it was finished. This story is charming and timeless. Virginia Burton also writes some other wonderful books that I'll absolutely bringing home in our next library bag.

Whatever the Weather, an Eyewitness Readers book (Level 1)
I'm trying to introduce nonfiction to Phoebe, and this book is perfect for her age and interest! It combines photographs with drawn illustrations, and although it's a nonfiction, it reads like a story about a boy watching the weather from his window. I've also been thrilled with the other books in this series that I've checked out, although I can't remember their titles now that they're checked back in!

No Roses for Harry, by Gene Zion
We loved Harry the Dirty Dog, but I didn't know that there were other Harry books until our last trip to the library. This story is a riot. In short, Harry is gifted a rose sweater from grandma that he rather dislikes. The story chronicles Harry's attempts to "lose" the sweater. Utterly delightful!

We try to get to the library at least once every two weeks, so I'd love to hear about any books you've loved to add to our library bag!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Nora at 8 Months

Our little Norabelle is eight months old today! Last week at VBS, the nursery workers couldn't get over how ridiculously happy she is -- even when she skipped her morning nap! We're glad to know we're not the only ones who think she's the happiest baby on the block. Really, Nora is generally all smiles unless she's hungry or it's 6:15 and she's just trying to make it to her meal. What a great delight it is to be her mommy! At eight months, Nora is:

  • Sleeping about twelve hours at night and about four hours during the day for naps. Sometimes she ends up taking two naps that are two hours in length each, while some days she takes a shorter (1 1/2 hours) morning nap and a longer afternoon nap. If we're out and about, she has a really hard time napping. This is just another reason we're trying to limit our days out of the house.
  • Eating everything in sight. She takes four to six ounces of formula about every four hours, and she eats solid foods at her first three meals. I cannot think of a single food that Nora will not eat; she seems to love it all right now! We also give her small bites of table food while we are eating, and this is great fun for her. Nora especially loves her Cheerios and small bites of fruit. She wasn't so certain about today's black bean soup...
  • Trying so hard to crawl. She hasn't figured out how to get up on her knees, and this is incredibly frustrating for her. She can scoot around short distances (forward and backward) and does a 360 degree spin move while on her tummy. She seems to prefer sitting up to being on her tummy, since not being able to crawl is so frustrating.
  • Putting everything in her mouth. Everything. Somehow, she picks fuzz off our living room rug and tries to eat it. Gross.
  • Toothless. I can see her little bottom teeth working their way up the gums, but she's still got a ways to go before they poke through. We're not in any rush! (Phoebe's first teeth didn't come in until 10 months)
  • Not very talkative. She loves to do her best dinosaur impression often, and will screech and squeal... but so far, we aren't hearing much babbling.
  • Loving to play little games. Anything repetetive that gets a clap and a "yay" is a winner for Nora! She loves to knock down blocks, give high fives, try to push the button on my watch, peekaboo... little things like that.
  • In love with her big sister. And her mommy. And her daddy. When she sees one of us, her smile gets so huge that we think her face might pop off!
  • Fanatical about tickles. She LOVES to be tickled. And once that giggle gets going, it's hard to stop.
We are so blessed to have our little Belle bringing sunshine into our everyday! She is a great big delight to all of us -- even Jake! Happy Eight Month Day, Nora!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Ruby Slippers

There is no place like home. Really. After four days of being gone for what seemed like all day long, I am thrilled to report that we have nothing of consequence on our schedules for the next several days. Vacation Bible School wore me out and tossed our schedules out the window, so I'm ready for a tiny shred of normal around here.

When Phoebe was small (and there wasn't a Nora around), I tried to get out of the house daily. We both enjoyed our little outings, and it somehow simplified our days. I felt overwhelmed at "entertaining" my busy Phoebegirl, so that was some time that she could ride around in the shopping cart or the stroller and be, well, entertained. Days spent entirely at home seemed interminably long.

But with the arrival of Nora, going out became a chore. But something else happened, too. I started to be content here, at home. I didn't feel a daily need to "escape" our walls and do something; there was plenty to do and explore and learn at home. And I found out that we were all happier when I started staying home more, too.

Phoebe was happier because she knew what to expect. We've generally figured out a routine that works for us, and we generally stick to it. Boundaries are clear for her, and so are the expectations. Meals and naps and independent play and structured play and all that is predictable for her, and I feel like kids really thrive on predictability. Nora's happier because she gets her naps and meals on time when we're at home. When we're away from home? The naps don't so much happen. And Michael's happier for a lot of reasons: I'm not spending money, the house is more "kept", the kids are happier, and most importantly (to him), I'm happier.

And I'm happier because of all of the above... but also because I feel like God has really done a work in my heart here. I'm taking delight - a lot of the time - in the dishes, or in a freshly scrubbed toilet. I'm investing daily in my husband's well-being and my children's lives by doing small things that, prayerfully, add up to big things. God's giving me a new vision for home these days, and it's a work that this former education and career-junkie can only attribute to the Lord.

"...and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled." Titus 2:4-5

There's no place like home. There's no place like home. There's no place like home.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Happy Birthday, Fave!

Happy Birthday, Aunt Fave! We love you and wish we could celebrate with you today!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Gone Camping

I'm spending my week this week as a "camp counselor" for Son Rock Kids Camp at our church this week. Although Michael and I usually work with the kindergarten girls each week, I decided to change things up a bit and work with third grade girls. What a fun switch! My attitude about VBS was less than stellar up until about 9:30 yesterday morning; however, I'm so thankful that I decided to work this year. However, my brain is totally shot.

Also, when the calendar turned to June, the heat wave officially struck. It is hot, y'all. And the thought of cooking (and adding heat into this house) makes me want to go jump in somebody's backyard pool. So in honor of summer and crazy weeks, I'm sharing with you my new favorite slow cooker recipe. It's easy, it's cheap, and it's delicious.

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice, serves 4
(adapted from Cooking Light)
You need:
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 cup dried red beans
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons of cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 package of turkey smoked sausage, thinly sliced (you could use andouille here, I'm sure it would taste better, but this sausage is still great!)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 cups of cooked rice
  • sour cream
  • chopped green onions

Mix first 9 ingredients together in your slow cooker. Cook on high for 4 hours. Before serving, stir in remaining seasonings. (Adjust heat to your taste.) Serve over hot cooked rice (we used brown rice) and top with sour cream and green onions. You could also mix everything together, including the rice...but we figured it would be hard enough to get Phoebe to eat this as it was. But actually, Phoebe (who generally doesn't like beans), ate this obediently and joyfully. Michael and I both thought it was delicious!

Also, since I'm pretty much exhausted in the afternoons, we've scrapped our afternoon walk for running around in the backyard. Popsicles and baby pools, anyone?

Happy summer, y'all!