Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Yummy Low-Sodium Chili!

I have recently discovered a new favorite to add to my recipe box. It hits a five-star on my "good weeknight meal plan" rating. It does involve a package of seasoning, so if you are anti-seasoning than this recipe isn't for you. If, however, you want something easy, inexpensive, healthy, and delicious...this is a must try!

The Recipe:
1 Package McCormick 30% Less Sodium Chili
1.5 lbs. Ground Beef
2 Cans Pinto Beans (drained & rinsed)
1 Can No-Sodium-Added Diced Tomatoes
(Optional shredded cheese, sour cream, & onions for the topping)

Step 1: Brown beef, drain excess grease
Step 2: Transfer beef to a pot, add the McCormick seasoning, stir thoroughly
Step 3: Add beans, tomatoes, & a can of water
Step 4: Bring to a boil, then put a lid on and let simmer at least 20 minutes, up to two hours (stirring occasionally)
Step 5: Serve it up and add cheese and sour cream or (my personal favorite) put some over a baked potato. Have with a salad. Dinner is served!

(This recipe feeds about four people. I double the batch so we can have leftovers!)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Just Do the Thing

We all have that thing. That thing we talk about, dream about, think wistfully about, complain to our spouses that we wish we could do and if only (fill in the blank) would happen it would be so great because...and on and on it goes. Here's the catch. That thing? We don't actually do it. Our excuses and lists that have to be accomplished crowd our minds and can the dream before it ever actually has a chance to take root in our lives. But, like a weed, it keeps popping back up. Enticing us. Alluring us. Giving us butterflies when we actually take a moment to think about what life could look like if we actually did the thing.

Do you want to hear my solution? It's rather profound...you might want to grab a pen to jot this one down. Are you ready? Just do the thing! (Side-note: I am not talking about immoral or selfish acts here...I am talking about passions and dreams that God has placed inside of you, and is waiting for you to run with. You know what I'm talking about, and you know what doesn't meet the standard.) Okay, so back to my theory. What if (crazy idea) we actually went after that dream that is cocooned inside of our souls? What if we let it emerge and take flight, not knowing exactly how it might play out in this season of our lives but knowing that, though it may not look like what we think it should look like, it will be beautiful if we stop making excuses. 

I know a man with a passion for cooking. Though he doesn't currently know how to make but a handful of meals, he gets excited about the idea of combining various spices and creating bursts of flavor that excite the taste-buds. What if he pursued his passion? Maybe not in big ways like enrolling in culinary school. But maybe in small ways, by taking a cooking class here and trying a new recipe there. Slowly, his skill would build. Think of the ways that could impact not only himself, but others as well? He could bless his family with delicious meals, meals he enjoyed creating because he has an excitement for the process. He might enter cooking contests and get to know people in his community. He might help prepare meals for a food bank. There are so many ways this thing, if pursued, could enrich his life and the lives of those around him!

I think, oftentimes, we wait until "the right time" to endeavor into our passion. "I can't do that right now because I don't have any money...or time...or resources." "I can't do that right now because I don't have the schooling...or connections...or support." Why don't we get honest with ourselves and admit that the majority of the time we don't do it because we just don't have the nerve. We are afraid that if we try and fail, our dream will be dashed on the rocks. It's safer when it is just a dream. But oh how that limits God! What if he wants to take that thing and do something with it...even if that something might not be what we thought it would be. Are we willing to step out and try?

I know what "my thing" is. And I'm guessing that you probably have an inkling of yours. Maybe you have more than one thing that puts a light in your eye and pep in your step. What if we take a step...and often there are many to choose from...toward our goal. What if we do just one thing to bring us closer to our passion. And what if, little by little, we build into the thing that is cocooned inside of us, giving it life and breath. Imagine the possibilities that could await us if we would just do the thing.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Out of Routine...the benefits of looking outside our norm

Well it has been almost a month since I've posted anything at all. It was an unintended blogging break, but life can definitely bring seasons of busyness and get us out of our routine. Let me state that I like my routine. Some may call it boring...in fact, several years ago I probably would have called it boring. But it suits me for this season of life. I know (basically) what to expect each day and I like that.

I wouldn't classify myself as a "routine" kind of person, but with a move, a baby, a job change, and a husband who is "on-call" 24-hours a day I have grown to savor that which I know to be stable. And while I may, at times, think wistfully of the days of yore when I could pack up at a moment's notice and head to the woods for a day hike or jump on public transportation and be downtown to sit and people watch...wondering who I might start up a conversation with today...most of the time I give a sigh of contentment when I have a happy baby and a somewhat organized home.

So this past month, with my routine out-of-whack for a variety of seen and unforeseen reasons, you might not find it hard to believe that this over-analytical mind of mine has been hard at work trying to figure out what I can learn from this. As I sit snuggled up back on "my" corner of the couch with coffee cup filled and laptop open on my lap, I am glad to be, for the moment, back in routine. However, I have been learning that sometimes we need to be taken outside of our "norm" to shake things up. I can tend to get too comfortable in my own little corner of the world. I live my life day in and day out and it is easy to keep my eyes turned towards my routine and miss opportunities that God may place before me outside of my paradigm.

I want to be open to the little adventures that God has for me in each day, but I have to be looking for them. So today, that is what I am going to do. I'll let you know how it turns out...and if you join me, I'd love to know what adventures may lay before you that are out of your routine as well.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Trio of Pumpkin Delights...Yum!

In honor of the crispness in the air outside today and the fact that I am wearing a long-sleeve shirt for the first time this year, I am sharing a few pumpkin recipes I intend to try this fall. If you want to get to the recipe, click on the recipe name in the paragraph. Easy Peasy!

First up...Inspired Taste brings us Pumpkin Scones inspired by Starbucks. While visiting my family last week my dad spoiled me by taking me to get Starbucks Pumpkin Lattes EVERY DAY! He certainly knows the way to my heart. Now that I'm back home and back to drip coffee (with coconut  creamer...yum!), this is a way I can still keep up with the pumpkin love!

Next, I think my heart did a little flip when I saw these eye-catching Pumpkin Pop Tarts with Maple Glaze from Joy the Baker. Oh my goodness, is your mouth watering? I think I'm drooling on the computer keys!

Lastly, a healthy(ish) pumpkin treat. At this very moment I have these delicious-looking Pumpkin Muffins from Health Magazine baking in my oven. I am making them for the ladies in my Bible Study tomorrow (AKA my muffin-testing guinea pigs). If these muffins taste as good as they smell and look, we hit a home run! 

Stay tuned to hear how they turn out, and please share your favorite fall recipes in the comments below!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Cheerful Heart is Good Medicine

I have missed you, friends! Baby Girl and I are currently visiting Grandma and Grandpa as well as Auntie in California, so we have been much too busy playing and laughing and visiting to think hard enough to get a good blog post out. We are not apologizing though, because we have been having a fabulous time and enjoying every minute!

I do have a minute now, however, because Grandma, Grandpa, AND Baby Girl are all plain worn out and snoozing soundly. Since nap-time equals writing time, here I am! (Don't you worry, I got a couple of good naps in this week too, thanks to the Grandparents, and they were absolutely wonderful!)

One thing that has been bouncing around in my head today is the verse, "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." (This great piece of wisdom can be found in Proverbs 17:21-23). It makes me think, Do I have a cheerful heart, or a dull spirit? Sometimes I know I have a cheerful heart. I can feel the pep in my step and the easy smile that comes with contentment. Other times, however, I can be mopey and discontent...letting circumstances or mindsets suck the life out of me and leave my bones dry.

I notice that when I choose to have a cheerful heart--to be thankful instead of envious, to be joyful instead of complaining, to be agreeable instead of divisive--I create an atmosphere of peace and harmony in my home or workplace or wherever I may be. Surprisingly, I have a lot of control over the environment I am in. I can't control others, but through my cheerful heart I am an influence for the kind of environment I want to create.

How about you. How do you make the choice to be "good medicine" for your family?

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Letter to My Daughter

Dear Daughter~

As I watch you sleep all curled up in your tiny footie pajamas, part of me can't fathom that someday you will be young woman. I will probably still sneak into your room when you are a teenager, just to catch a glimpse of my "baby" snuggled up and peaceful. On that day I will possibly find you stretched out with your feet and arms dangling off of the bed, headphones in your ears, a physics book with homework unfinished lying next to you. I can picture you reading this fifteen years from now, rolling your eyes at your sappy mom. But you will always be my baby, and I will always be your sappy mom.

I catch glimpses of the woman you will one day become, and I have such joy as I think of it. I see a fire within you already--a fire I know has been placed there by your Creator--and I wonder, will you make the choice to use it for His glory? You will have a choice of where to direct that passion deep within you. While you're young, I will do my best to help you channel it in ways that will help you grow in character and learn self-control. There will come a day, however, when I will no longer hold the reigns of your life, you will. I hope that at that time you will have learned how to bridle your fire so that it burns beautiful instead of destructive.

You are strong and you persevere through difficulties as you learn all the things a young one must learn. I already admire you. You have experienced bumps and bruises as you keep trying to grasp a skill or try something new. Sometimes there are tears, and yet you keep going. I know that as you grow there will be many more bumps and bruises. Sometimes I will be there to kiss them and make it all better. We both know, however, that the majority of the time I won't be able to make it all better with a simple kiss. You will have to feel the pain and work through the emotions that go with it. I have to be honest, I don't want you to experience any of it. I want to rescue you. Yet I know that just as gold is purified and refined through experiencing heat and pressure, so am I. And so are you.  It is all a part of living this beautiful thing called life.

Someday you will have to navigate all the complexities of growing up. Boys, jobs, heartache, betrayal, your first love, moving away from home, becoming your own person, and so much more. I hope that you always keep God first in your heart. It is so easy to let things get out of perspective, and often that is when we make our biggest mistakes. I know, of course, that there will be times you will make choices that are dangerous or painful--we all do. There will be times when you fall flat on your face and end up covered in mud. Know that you can always come home, always. Even more importantly, know that you can always come back to Jesus. He will not hold your mistakes over your head or stand in shock at your poor choice. He will be waiting with arms open wide for you to come back. Every time. Even when I fail you as a mom--when I say or do the thing that hurts more than helps, when I am not there for you even though you need me--God will be. Without fail.

I want to promise that I will be a perfect mom, but if you've been my daughter for more than five minutes I'm sure you already know that is not the case. I can say, however, that I will try to be a good mom. I will make it my priority to love you well, to love your dad in a way that shows you how to someday love your own husband, and to love God well enough that you can see what an authentic relationship with Him looks like, and how much joy it can bring. 

I'm sure I could go on and on...I never am good at wrapping up my thoughts succinctly. I guess I will end with this. You are so loved. Even when you don't feel worthy of it. Even when you can't tangibly see that love displayed. When you doubt the reality that anybody understands you, really knows you, or cares deeply for you. It is still true. There is One who loves you greater than I. You are never alone. I hope that gives you the strength to stand strong in trials, and the courage to strengthen others who need that love as well. I am so glad you are my baby girl.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ten of My Favorite Things

 In no particular order, for no particular reason...here are ten of my favorite things!

"The Proposal"...This movie is definitely one of my top ten. Conveniently it is also in the Hubs top ten list so it gets watched several times a year. It is funny and romantic all in one and leaves you with that happy feeling at the end!

"Love Does" by Bob Goff...This book is a bit like caffeine for the soul. It leaves you feeling more energetic and filled with life. The chapters are nice and short, but filled with great truths and hilarious stories. (The hubs and I read it together, reading a chapter a night right before bed...it was a great way to connect and give us something to talk about).

Bare Feet...One of my absolute favorite things about summer is naked feet! I love the freedom that comes when I can pack my socks and boots away and let my toes wiggle like they were intended to do!

Pedicures...This obviously goes along with bare feet, but I just couldn't leave it
out! My FAVORITE way to unwind and relax. Nothing beats the massage chair and foot massage that comes with a professional pedicure.

Pumpkin Lattes....Specifically, Starbucks Pumpkin Lattes. I am not sure what the difference is but there is something that says "FALL IS HERE!!!" when I take that first sip. Yum...I can't wait!

Madlibs...When the Hubs and I were dating we would spend hours at the bookstore filling out madlibs and reading them off to each other. Maybe it's nerdy but they crack me up and remind me of those bookstore days. Pure, simple, nostalgia.

Trace Bundy...He is a phenomenal guitarist who is not only interesting to watch but there is something about his music that makes me feel peaceful and lively all at the same time. My favorite album? Definitely Adapt. It has it's very own section on my Ipod!

Walking Through a Park & Feeding the Ducks...The simplicity of taking a walk and listening to the sounds of nature around me gets me every time. Watching those ducks scramble around for breadcrumbs brings a smile to my face every time.

Flowers...I rarely spend the money to buy fresh cut flowers. To be honest it seems like there are so
many other things I could do with that twenty bucks. But when I do splurge on a bouquet, it makes me giddy like Christmastime! I get butterflies when I walk in and see that shining bouquet on my table...silly, but true. 

Love...The sappy romantic in me loves to see love in action. Whether it is budding love in a young couple, enduring love of an aging pair, love shown to a homeless man on the street through a kind act, or the love of a mother to her child they all get me. Images of love remind me that God is near.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Learning A Forever Kind of Love

I remember the first post-marriage fight Hubs and I had. "What happened to smiles and butterflies?" I wondered, "Who the heck is this man I married? Is there an "out" clause?". (Okay, maybe I didn't really wonder if there was an "out" clause, but I was highly concerned with what I had gotten myself into.) Welcome to real life sister!

Let me start by saying that the hubs and I have what I would call a pretty strong marriage. We are both faithful and committed, and even when we don't want to (read: even when I don't want to) we hash things out and get down-and-dirty working through whatever needs to be worked through. For the most part, we make each other better versions of ourselves. That does not mean, however, that life is always rainbows and sunshine. In fact, as I am typing this, I am pondering the truth that you can't get rainbows unless you have a little rain in the mix if you know what I'm saying!

To be honest, I can't really recall what that first post-marriage fight was all about. All I know is that after what seemed like days of us not seeing eye-to-eye on something, I felt like I was at my wits end. I was hurt, mad, and did not want to be married to this guy anymore! But alas, we are the for-better-or-worse kind of team and I realized we were either going to work through this or die trying! (At that moment my stubborn, hurting heart did not want to try and I thought I might just wait him out in anger for fifty years...but that didn't seem like it would work out too well for me long-term.) So there I sat, in my car in the Safeway parking lot, crying in anger and self-pity. Anybody been there?

Even though I knew that whatever it was we were fighting about was absolutely 100% his fault and I was completely faultless in every way I decided maybe it would be a good idea to pray. "Lord," I said, "I don't want to do this! Show him he's wrong and he's mean! I don't like him right now and I don't know how you can expect me to do this!" At that moment a song came on the radio. Apparently God thought it might be a good time to remind me of my vows because it was the song. It was our wedding song...the one that was played during our wedding as we washed one another's feet as a symbol of our desire to submit to one another and to Christ.

In that moment I was reminded of the big picture. Forgiveness and acceptance. Hope and healing. Trust and a letting go of my need to be "right". If marriage is a picture of Christ's love for us (and it is) than in that moment I saw the depth and richness of the forever kind of love that worked through the nitty-gritty and kept going. The kind of love Christ has for His bride (us) and the kind of love I wanted to work towards in my marriage.

Since that moment there have been seasons of sunshine and seasons of rain. There have been moments when I have had to hit my knees to the floor and ask God to take over, because I wasn't sure how to work through this one. But we have a God who is there in the sunshine and the rain. We have a God whose love is never-failing even when ours is a faltering, wavering mess. He is a God of redemption and as our True Husband (since we are his bride) he gives us a picture of the kind of love we can have, through him, in our marriage. Now that is something worth celebrating!

Today I am linking up with Simple Moments Stick!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Be Still

Happy Thursday! I was loving on my sick girl yesterday so I didn't get a post out...instead I snuggled and watched movies! (I know, I know, television is not recommended for little ones but some days you've gotta put on cartoons and curl up on the couch! So that is just what we did...and I have to say, it was a sweet time. The laundry did not get done, the dishes were left unwashed, and Baby Girl got all my time.

Today I do not have a lot of brainpower because my little sickie needed lots of attention last night. I began to feel myself getting grumpy and negative this afternoon and though I still had dishes to do and laundry to fold I decided that I needed nothing more than to sit and spend time with God. I had just watched a great video by Lisa Chan that reminded me of how much I needed that one-on-one time with Him to get my heart right. (You can check out an excerpt from her video "Be Still" by clicking here!) So instead of doing the chores that were mounting and cried for my attention, I sat with God.
This doesn't have to be some mystic experience, in fact, it is rather ordinary. I grabbed a cup of coffee (a desperately needed cup of coffee) and sat in my favorite seat. I pulled out my Bible and a book I am currently reading (Resolution for Woman, by Pricilla Shirer) and rested. I have to tell you, it refreshed me. It put my mind back in a thankful state. Taking that time to be reminded of good things about God made me more thankful. I know it sounds cliche, and I try to steer clear of cliches that sound sappy and overused, but I can't lie. I don't know if I would have been able to finish my day with a joyful heart if I hadn't taken the time to be still.

It was a good reminder to me that life will always have things to throw at me. There will always be something to check off of my to-do list and there will always be one more project I could be working on. Am I carving out time to refresh and recharge with the Creator? When I do, the pieces seem to fall into place. I am no less tired than I was before, and my house did not miraculously clean itself. But I feel capable, now, of pursuing my work with a peaceful heart. And that, to me, is more of a success than crossing everything off of my list today.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Are You Depositing "Money in the Bank" with Your Child?

We all have countless opportunities each day to make deposits or withdrawals in our children. We are the primary cardholders when it comes to making sure they are getting the love and encouragement that they need on a regular basis. We can either build them up and add to their "emotional bank accounts" or we can tear them down until they are depleted and overdrawn.

I was recently introduced to this principle (through Stephen Covey's book "7 Habits of Highly Effective Families") and I began to ask myself, how are you adding to the accounts of those around you? It is changing the way I relate to those around me--specifically in my immediate family.

Though my daughter is itty-bitty, I have countless opportunities to "add to her account" each day through smiling at her often and noticing her accomplishments. I also have opportunities to subtract from her account through disinterest, frustration, and criticism. As she grows, each interaction will be one in which I add to her "account" or I take away from it. Of course there will be times when we, as parents, will make withdrawals from our children's accounts. They will get in trouble, and we may lose our cool on occasion. The key is, are we building up enough equity in them with our kindness and support, that when we do subtract from their account it doesn't become a crisis situation?

If we want to grow healthy, confident, loving children, we have to make sure we are adding to their emotional accounts every day. So here are a few questions we can ask ourselves to make sure we are filling them up:

 Do I greet my child with joy and undivided attention when they get home from school (or I get home from work), or am I distracted, tired, and inattentive? 

Am I quick to say kind words to my child, to tell them what they are doing well, and to express my love in verbal and tangible ways?

Do I make a conscious effort to spend time with my children on their level? Do I play games with them (even if I would rather watch television), share dessert with them (even though I would rather eat it all myself after they go to bed), and engage them in things they find interesting (even though I think I might die if I have to hear that knock-knock joke one more time)?

Do I speak positively about my children to others? Do I spend more time sharing my thankfulness and appreciation of them or do I spend more time complaining about how difficult they are? 

Do I have a thankful heart in regards to my children? Do I (in my own heart) feel blessed and joyful to have these kids with their own uniqueness and quirks--even when their decisions aren't the best and it seems like they will never learn?

I'm sure there are many more questions we could ask ourselves, but these are some of the "self-checks" we can do to help us be good stewards of our children. The same, of course, can be said in our relationships with our spouses (or any other relationship we want to be pouring into on a regular basis). Our words and actions can be an investment into our children or they can suck the value (and connection with us) out of them. When we make the choice to be investors, the return investment is priceless.

The idea of the "Emotional Bank Account" is borrowed from 
"The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families" by Stephen R. Covey. 
Also, today I am linking up with A Better Mom for Better Mom Mondays!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What Kind of Sticky are You?

There is a group of women in my community that I absolutely love to be around. They are funny and full of life. They love to laugh and their love of God comes out in everything that they do.  Even when life throws everything it can at them, these woman choose to remain thankful and loving. They rub off on me in a good way. They are sticky, and in their living life they catch others (like me) up in the adventure. When I am with them I am reminded that there is much to be joyful for, and it cultivates a more thankful spirit in me.

I saw these woman this morning and as nerdy as it may sound, it felt like Christmas. I hadn't seen them all summer and I didn't realize how much I missed their easygoing manner, their kindness, and their genuine excitement to see me. It refreshed me, and it also made me wonder, "Am I that kind of woman? Do I have that kind of stickiness?" Do I make others feel welcomed and invited into conversation when I see them? Do I show a heart of gratitude and thankfulness that overflows onto the hearts of others? I hope so.

We impact those around us whether we mean to or not. So we can either impact them with negativity and dissatisfaction, or we can impact them with hope and a joyful spirit. And we don't have to be "fakers" to do it. Life isn't always a bowl of cherries and it's important to be honest about our struggles and real-life-messiness. But we can do it with a heart full of trust in Christ and hope for the good He has planned.

If I am going to be sticky, I don't want to be the sand-in-your-shorts kind. I don't want people to walk with a bit of a limp because of their interaction with me, not sure why exactly they feel unhappy or unsettled. If I am going to be sticky, I want to be the melting-popsicle-in-a-toddler's-hand kind of sticky. There is joy and deliciousness in the stickiness. It leaves good memories and a good taste in your mouth.

I have a choice of what kind of sticky I am going to be. In each interaction I have--whether with a grocery clerk or a barista, whether with a friend or my spouse--I get to choose what kind of sticky I am going to rub off on those around me. Am I leaving the cashier with a sincere "Thank you" and a smile? Am I making the extra effort to ask the woman at church whose name I can't quite recall how she is doing today? When I speak to my husband, do I sound like sand-in-his-shorts or a melting-popsicle? In all I do, I want to make the choice to be the good sticky. What kind of sticky do you want to be?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Peanut Chicken & Rice Deliciousness

Sorry for the semi-absence of posts...I have been busy with projects around the house! Lest you get to distraught over your lack of reading material, I am giving you a yummy dinner recipe to try out. This is one of my absolute favorite meals. I make it on a regular basis, it gets rave reviews in my fam, and it even makes great leftovers! So, unless you have a peanut allergy in your family, it is certainly worth a try!

Peanut Chicken & Rice
(approximately 4 servings)
1 Cup Brown Rice (cooked according to package directions)
1/2 White or Vidalia Onion, chopped
5-7 Mushrooms, chopped
1/2 Red Bell Pepper, chopped
1-2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 Tablespoon garlic powder, or a minced garlic clove
1-2 Chicken Breasts (We usually use one BIG chicken breast) chopped into small pieces
1/3 Cup Peanut Butter (I use Adams chunky, but you can use whatever you have)
1/2 Cup Chicken Broth (I use sodium-free)
2-3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce (Sauce to taste)

In a large pan, saute onion, pepper, garlic, and mushroom in the butter until onion is translucent (approximately 10 minutes on medium-low). Add chicken pieces and cook thoroughly. Once chicken is cooked, add chicken broth, water, and peanut butter. Keep stove on medium-low and stir ingredients until peanut butter is melted and ingredients are mixed. Add in soy sauce to taste. If mixture is too thin, let simmer for five more minutes or so. Then add in cooked rice and mix thoroughly. If you are feeling adventurous, feel free to add chopped peanuts, cilantro, or green onions to the top...we usually don't have any of these ingredients and it is great anyway. Now it is time to chow down!

The directions probably seem a bit loosey-goosey...I usually don't measure anything so I had to approximate the measurements. But the nice thing about this recipe is, it is hard to mess it up. I have made a variety of peanut chicken sauces and this is the healthiest version with the best taste that I have been able to come up with thus far. So try it out and let me know what you think!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Connecting with Your Spouse: 20 Questions to Get the Ball Rolling

The hubs and I are headed to "the city" (and by the city I mean a city of 210,000...which is significantly larger than our town of 14,000 but teeny-tiny by city standards) later this afternoon. It is about an hour drive from here and most of the time we listen to music, zone out, I read a magazine...you know, really use the time to connect as a couple. Ha. But I got to thinking, what if I came up with a list of questions that I could pepper the hubs with on the way to the city!? (If he were reading this right now he would most definitely be cringing in mock agony.)

These are the questions that will get the ball rolling...at least that is the plan. *Smiles.* I thought I would share in case anybody else wanted to jump on the connecting-through-questions bandwagon with me. The great thing about asking questions is that you don't need anything other than your mouth and ears. Also, if you really listen to your spouse as they share, you might actually learn something! It is amazing how many times I think I know something about my husband, only to find out that, in fact, I did not. In the ebb and flow of life, we don't often take time to "study" our mates. This is an opportunity to do just that...whether it is in the car, on the couch, or over a cup of coffee. So without further ado...here are some questions to connect! 

1. If you were any superhero, which superhero would you choose and why? 
2. What is one of your favorite memories of us...the one that first pops into your mind?
3. If you could change jobs and had no fear of failure, what would you want to do?
4. What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced this year?
5. If I could do one thing to make your day easier on a regular basis, what would it be?
6. If we could up and go anywhere right now, where would you want to go?
7. What is one thing you really like about your life right now?
8.  If our life was a book, what would you title it?
9. What is something you are currently learning from or about God?
10. What is your favorite Disney movie?
11. What character do you most relate to in that movie?
12. If you had a free day and $100, what would you want to do?
13. What is one thing on your Bucket List that you'd love to do someday?
14. If you had to pick one, would you rather have six cats or six dogs?
15. What is your absolute favorite kind of cake (or favorite dessert)?
16. How do you feel most loved?
17. What other couple do you look up to and want our marriage to emulate in some fashion?
18. What would you say our biggest strengths are as a couple?
19. If you had a different first and middle name, what would you want
them to be?
20. What are you most thankful for?
Today  I am linking up with The Better Mom and Happy Wives Club!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Delighting In Your Todays

Heart heavy, eyes bleary, I stumbled out of bed this morning not at all ready to take on the day. Baby Girl struggled to sleep all night. Her new teeth slowly making their grand entrance made it difficult for her to get comfortable, in turn making her need much mama comfort throughout the night. It is easy, in these moments, to wish for the next stage. It is easy to fool ourselves into thinking we will be any more ready for that stage when it comes.

Never before have I been so constantly tested and bombarded with things to learn, ways to adapt,
decisions to make...it is the hardest job I have ever had, being a mama. And yet, in the same breath, I can say that it is the most awe-inspiring job I have ever had. To watch this knitted-together-by-the-Creator-of-the-Universe baby grow and learn is almost incomprehensible. One minute she is learning how to nurse for the first time, and the next, it seems, she is learning how to crawl. In my weariness it can be easy to miss all of the in-between.

I want to soak in each moment. The moments where she smiles over a new delightful discovery...and the moments when she is crying so hard she gives herself the hiccups and by the end of the ordeal we are both hiccuping and crying profusely. These moments are what make up her childhood. They are the things that, Lord-willing, we will someday sit and laugh over while we share a dessert together. They are the memories that I hope to remind her of when she is a mother of her own.

As I often say, and even more often need to remind myself, I don't want to miss this. Not a moment. It is real life, in the beauty and the shadows. When Baby Girl is throwing her first temper-tantrum (and I am melting into a puddle of mortification, as it is most assuredly going to be in the most crowded, least opportune situation it can possibly be) I want to be there. (Side note: If you tell me in the moment that I said this, I might say something inappropriate to you, so it's probably best if you wait until said temper-tantrum is done and over. Maybe then I will be able to laugh.) The first time she has a crush on a boy, with all my mama anxiety and "what if's", I want to be there. Her first big failure--the one that leaves me wondering what I have done wrong as a parent and what I could have done to prevent it--I want to be there. When she gives her heart to Jesus, of her own volition, and falls head-over-heels in love with Him, I want to be there. 

So maybe I will move a little slower today, and maybe my emotions will be on high alert due to little sleep and a fussy baby. But there is still nowhere else I would rather be. You could offer me a beachfront condo with my own personal masseuse and while I might flinch as I turn you down, I would still choose being a mama. And not a mama who wishes away each moment of her child's life...though I am as guilty as anybody of doing this on occasion. A mama who delights in this moment of this day. A mama who finds joy even when happiness is elusive. A mama who is content in the blessings that God has given for right now, and finds thankfulness for what is right in front of her face.

Today I am linking up with Whimsical Wednesdays and Wedded Wednesdays.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Apples, Pencils, & Kleenex

The start of a new school year...so many possibilities! I am a little bit embarrassed to say that once upon a time I was the nerdy kid who got butterflies in her stomach as I got amped for school. I couldn't help it! Looking at my freshly organized binder with brand new college-ruled paper and spotless dividers got me downright giddy. I can still smell that new-backpack smell and hear the squeak of my new shoes hitting the hallway floors.

The thing I love about "the first day of school" is the same thing I love about the new year. Anything is possible. The slate is wiped clean and there is a chance to change things that didn't bring you success the year before. Though I do not have school-age children yet, I am married to a teacher. And I have to tell you, the back-to-school rituals are not so different as you might think. Just like children headed back to school, there is a sense of loss and a sense of anticipation. New supplies are bought, classrooms are reorganized and set-up, plans are worked on, and summer memories are wrapped up to prepare for a new season.

One way I have seen my husband and his students plan for success is by creating mission statements for themselves. My husband has two mottos for his classroom: The first is, "Do the right thing because it's the right thing to do." The second is, "Slow down, pay attention, focus on detail." His goal for the year is not only to teach his students the necessary curriculum, but also, perhaps more importantly, to teach his students to do the right thing and to do their best. These goals come out in every aspect of his teaching.

All this got me thinking...if I had a school-age child, what might his or her mission-statement be? Last year my husband had his students write down an "I will" statement of goals they had for their classroom experience. They wrote them on sticky notes and put them on their desks as a reminder of what their goals were. Each student had different goals, based on what their strengths and weaknesses were and what they wanted to work on. The neat thing is, by the end of the year I saw growth in each student towards their goals. They may not have made the mark completely, as we are all a work in progress. But they had taken steps toward growth and maturity in the areas they had set their minds to.

So maybe as you sit down to lunch with your youngsters in between all your back-to-school clothes and supply shopping, you could ask them: "What is a goal you have for this year?" (If they are older, you could even help them come up with a mission statement or a word to define their hopes for the year).  Their goal might be learning to count to 100, it could be making new friends, or it could be improving their GPA. Whatever they choose, write it down and post it on the refrigerator. Encourage them in their goal throughout the year. Maybe it will get tweaked along the way to fit more in line with them and their abilities. In the end they will have taken steps forward, and hopefully felt you cheer-leading them along the way.

Today I am linking up with The Better Mom for "Better Mom Mondays".

Friday, August 9, 2013

July Goals Completed...mostly

Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls, ID.
Well it is time to give an update on my summer goals! So far I feel like I have (more or less) achieved them. That is to say, I have done more than I would have if I didn't have any goals at all...though my interpretation of what qualifies as follow-through might be a little bit hazy. But that's life, isn't it? We do the best we can with what we have, and try to find the humor when it doesn't turn out in real life quite like we had it pictured in our minds.

I am happy to report that my number-one July
Doesn't he look so happy to be here!?
goal of going on a date with my husband did indeed happen! It was so nice to connect with one another over a yummy meal and some seriously-sweet peanut-butter-cup cheesecake. All this followed, of course, by coffee (like we could leave that out...in this family no date is complete without coffee) at a cute little cafe. We laughed and dreamed and talked about our life. Mental note: don't wait so long to do that again! It is easy to let life get in the way and make excuses for why we can't get away for a couple of hours, just the two of us. But the truth is, we can and we should. It may not work to schedule dates every week in this season of our life, but we can certainly have them every month! (Though, perhaps in the future, they should be less calorie-laden...because eating like that on a regular basis could be a recipe for an increase in pant sizes and who wants that as a side-effect from a date?)

Baby Girl and the Hubs bonding over a waterfall viewing.
As far as camping goes...we didn't even try. Life got busy, finances were tight, sleeping bags were MIA and our cozy bed beckoned nightly. Oh well...this is where improvisation comes in! When it became apparent that camping was not in our summer 2013 future, I decided that we at least had to check out a local tourist attraction I'd been wanting to see. So we hit the road and spent a day checking out the beautiful Shoshone Falls and swimming in a nearby lake. It was a great family adventure that cost little and didn't take much planning. We will definitely be planning another day-trip soon!

Goals help keep me on track to get stuff done. It may not be exactly what I had planned, but it is assuredly a lot closer than if I didn't plan anything at all. Next up, August! I've already started working on those goals so I'd say I'm on a role! And (bonus!) the hubs and I have another date planned for this month. I think my I'm starting to like this planning thing...

Baby Girl's 1st lake experience.