Tuesday, June 30, 2009

ten smile tuesday...

here i am...making an attempt to get my smiles up...in the midst of a crazy whirlwind of the past few days. seriously, yesterday i was either in the car en route to a doctor's appointment, at the appointment, dropping off a prescription to be filled or picking it up, driving to pick libs up, heading to another appointment (since the poor girl was up shrieking about ear pain in the middle of the night!--and lo and behold, she does have an outer ear infection...probably from sprinkler or pool water getting in her ear--which i find ironic, since of my two daughters, she is definitely the one who is least fond of putting her face or ears in the water...but i digress) for the entire morning and part of the afternoon...and then this morning started with another appointment and a trip to target for dog food (can't let mugho starve!) and in just a few hours we have kate's first step evaluation, which will take the remainder of the afternoon...i'm exhausted! :) but seriously, i am also thankful for insurance and doctors...and vans to take us to and fro...and my sweet friend chrisy who watched libs so i could take kate to her hearing screen without a talkative, active big sister tagging along! :)

1. step one of kate's speech and hearing eval was the hearing screen monday morning, and she passed with flying colors! :) and honestly, i am so thrilled that in the past week she has really ramped up her efforts in the trying to communicate and use words category. we'll see what the first steps evaluators have to say today, but i am already encouraged at the progress she is making without "intervention".

2. upcomings...okay...so blogger tells me that isn't a word, but it should be. i must start this post with the fact that i am REALLY looking forward to heading to the lake for a long weekend...in less than 48 hours we'll be on our way! but, to tide me over until then, i am also looking forward to having some date time with my hubby this evening! have i mentioned lately how much i LOVE the date night swap we are a part of...seriously amazing...two date nights a month without having to pay for a baby-sitter and all we have to do is watch the whole gang of kiddos once a month. GOOD STUFF!

3. 31 weeks! oh my goodness...i can hardly believe it...just a couple more months and we'll be meeting the newest little "yak". i had an OB appointment this morning, and oh how i love, love, love hearing the heartbeat...and, even better, seeing the wonder in the girls' eyes as they listen to that amazing sound! i must say, i am also thoroughly enjoying all the thrashing about baby is doing these days...there is just nothing quite like glancing down at my belly and seeing a little foot poke out and dance around. and let me tell you, this baby is a mover and a shaker...mike and i were cracking up the other evening...it felt like the little guy (or gal!) was taking both feet and kicking at my belly button with ALL his might...as if somehow that might provide an escape route from the womb! :) while i am so excited to meet this baby on the "outside", i will admit that i am totally going to miss that unique sensation of movement while in the womb....(but i'll admit it, i won't miss the heartburn and insomnia...nope, not one bit!!)

4. a bit of backyard fun! it has been SO hot (like so hot i don't even want to go get the mail hot--and humid)...so i am really thankful for the cool down the past few days, though we haven't had the chance to really get outside and enjoy it. but last week i did finally brave the heat to let the girls run through the sprinkler (and, of course, race down the slide with their wet bottoms!) while i just maybe got nearly as wet as they did to keep cool! :)

5. some productivity! miranda (well...actually leslie and michael...miranda's mommy and daddy) was kind enough to invite both girls over for a saturday morning play-date...meaning mike and i had 3 entire hours to work on making some progress around the house...mostly in the nursery. we were able to get the crib up, sort through a mess that was accumulating in the room, and even tackle a few other projects. the nursery is really coming together...the next task is to strip the boston rocker and dresser that have been "handed down" to us and repaint them...we bought the paint, and now i just need to get going! i've also finished all the squares for the baby's afghan and am now working on whip-stitching it together...hopefully, i will have a picture to share next week! :) here are some shots of the fun the girls had at miranda's house....compliments of her daddy!

gotta love that kate's inner-tube is almost as big as the entire pool!

best friends!

wagon ride, anyone!? :)

6. our little houdini...this pic is terrible, as it was taken on my cell phone...but this is the face i found when i went in to get kate this morning....shirtless and trying her darnedest to get the pants and stinky diaper off as well (praise the Lord she didn't succeed in that!). this girl cracks me up, constantly managing to get articles of her pajamas off in the middle of the night!

7. the fabulous laptop my hubby surprised me (well...the whole family...) with one evening last week. he's apparently been researching and finally settled on one, and its great!

8. the 4 lbs of strawberries sitting on my counter downstairs...waiting to become strawberry shortcake and strawberry fruit salsa for our time at the lake. YUM!...and the fact that a target coupon made them cheap, cheap, cheap...but not quite as cheap at the $.25 a container edy's slow-churned ice cream i also picked up at target this morning...seriously folks, a quarter for a whole big ol' thing of ice cream (target coupon combined with manufacturer coupon for those who are wondering)...now if only i could enjoy it without heartburn...but alas, at least mike and the girls can enjoy a summer's worth of ice cream bliss! :)

9. getting to see aunt kim (mike's sister) and grandma and grandpa (mike's parents) on saturday evening. the girls and i (and grandma and aunt kim!) enjoyed some time at a baby shower for one of mike's cousins, and then we joined daddy and grandpa and all enjoyed some good ol' corned beef and mustard sandwiches and chatting time at shapiros. aunt kim was beyond sweet and came bearing many gifts...it was like Christmas in July...almost! :) i promise to share some pictures of the girls wearing the cutie outfits she picked out for them (in fact, they are wearing them as i type...well, as they nap!). and i'm definitely loving the tote she picked up for me at the vera bradley sale...a belated birthday present!

10. my now established morning routine. though my summer Bible study is already over, i am loving continuing in the same "method"...going on into the book of Colossians. my heart has been so blessed by hearing what He has for me in the Word each morning...journaling about it...praying the Scripture passage...meditating on it throughout the day. and friends, let me tell you, i have struggled with the whole getting up early thing in the past...i mean, really struggled, but i am so thrilled that for the past 5 or 6 weeks God has been faithfully getting me up early...without an alarm...every morning. how great is that! :)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

pinch me...

i spent much of my afternoon with these two lovely ladies...and six little girls....and carrie's very patient and kind husband seth, the only male among the group...well, except for my dog! :) some of you blogosphere friends might recognize these gorgeous faces...carrie and amy. i actually know amy in real life, as we met and became friends just after college graduation, but these days we don't get to see each other in person all that often, so this was a delightful treat...and oh my, so wonderful to actually meet miss anna banana (and see lilla's sweetness in person). and as for carrie, well, she is one of the first blogging friends i really met...though i can't honestly remember how we stumbled across one another...i just know we did...and that blog friendship extended beyond blogging to some e-mails and Christmas cards...and a desire to hopefully one day meet in person...especially since we live just a few hours apart.

carrie e-mailed last week, mentioning that she, seth, and cupcake would be driving through my town on their way to visit family and asked if it would work to meet up. of course, i jumped at that possibility...we filled amy in, who lives just an hour away from me...and voila...it was set...a meet-up at my house.

i know some of you who aren't really a part of this "bloggity" world don't totally get the whole feeling so incredibly connected to people you really haven't meant in flesh and blood. but truly, that has been my experience with blogging...i have "met" so many incredible women through blogging...women who love Jesus, some are moms, some are not...most are married...some of us share the same hobbies, some don't...but the bottom line is that through this world of the internet, our lives have intersected. we have walked with one another through losses and joys, through trials and victories. through one another's written word, we have entered into a sort of fellowship that can't quite be described unless you experience it. funny that both amy and carrie were laughing about feeling like they had already been in my house though they had never actually set foot there....you see, they have visited through numerous pictures. in the same way, i felt comfortable talking to carrie about things i might not even bring up with many friends i know in my daily life, and i must say, i did comment on the fact that both her hair and seth's are much redder in real life! :)

when carrie called this morning to tell me they'd hit the road, it was the first time we'd really heard one anothers voices...and when she arrived in my driveway and we hugged one another, it just might have been our first meeting, but it felt more like the reunion of old friends. she is sweet and genuine and funny...and, oh my, little cupcake is beyond precious. and amy, dearest amy, how wonderful to get to see her again...and to meet miss anna banana...who is beyond adorable in pictures but even better in person...so squishable, wanna eat those chunky-thighs-ish! and lilla, oh sweet lilla, who gave us the most precious rendition of "trading my sorrows"...complete with dancing and hand motions...in the sweetest little voice.

our time was priceless...too short...but priceless nonetheless...and most definitely only the impetus for many more meet-ups to come! we enjoyed cookies and conversation...watched the six girls (amy's two, cupcake, my two, and miranda who i was watching for the day) play together as if they'd known one another for years as opposed to minutes...laughed...snapped photos (and yes, i am posting the photo, even though i'm not sure i like the red-faced, hot, swollen pregnant me being put out there for the whole world to see--but i suppose i will get over it!)...and simply revelled in the chance to actually meet in flesh and blood. and quite frankly, i kind of feel like i should pinch myself...after all, in less than a months time i've gotten to have two real life meet-ups with dear bloggity friends...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

ten smile tuesday

since i missed "smiling" last week...i figured i better make up for it this week...so i'm getting my ten smiles post up before i take my nap--because, really, that is the only way its going to happen! :) so, in no particular order, here are some smiles from the last couple of weeks....

1. dinner and lots of time for chatting and catching up with some friends friday night. we planned to play games, but apparently we were too chatty and ended up skipping that....in fact, mike and i were up later than we've been up in a LONG time...after a storm rolled through, delaying our friends departure, we got caught up in conversation and didn't realize what time it was until after midnight....definitely a late night since we tend to be early birds...but well worth it.

2. celebrating birthdays...we have two wonderful friends who actually share a birthday...mr. brennan (my dear, sweet friend jill's little guy) and miranda (elizabeth bestest friend...my "cousin" of sorts, daughter)...one saturday we celebrated brennan's first birthday with a fun-filled cookout...lots of laughs while watching the birthday boy down his frosting cake, good times with great friends, splashing in a backyard pool for the girls, and more...and then the next saturday we celebrated miranda's fourth birthday with another cook-out...more good food, fun catching up with family that we don't see often enough, splashing in the pool fun for the kiddos, and watching kate cover herself in chocolate icing (smart girl!).

gotta love the matching backsides...and the chocolately kater gator

3. celebrating daddy...we have a fabulous one! we didn't do any big, but we did enjoy a lunch out at our favorite mexican restaurant...long afternoon naps...and then some time hanging by the inflatable pool followed by a bike ride to visit the ducks...low key...but special to all be together, nonetheless!

4. beating the heat with our inflatable pool. saturday and sunday the temps reached almost 90 with crazy humidity...and i must admit, the only way prego me was going to survive any outside time was with my feetsies dipped in the cool water. kate was a fish...trying to float on her back...drenching her hair....jumping in...and elizabeth...well, she equally had a blast...though a bit more tenatively...and her obsession with the floatie swim ring cracked me up...as if the pool was 6 feet deep instead of 6 inches! :)

funny faced libbers

kate, trying out a back float
creating a whirlpool

cheese! mama, i could stay in here ALL day!

and, of course, a hooded toweled graham cracker muncher...

5. some quality time with my sweet friend, lora, after Bible study last week...lunch at el rodeo, good conversation, catching up...good times.

6. dreaming about baby....as posted here and here...i'm at 30 weeks now! WOW!

7. the reality that teething is almost behind us with kate...sweet girl is cutting her molars right now...hence the fact that she has spent much of the week with her hand shoved ALL the way into her mouth. teething has been rough on this sweet girl...with each tooth...and the molars are proving no different...but, hooray...there is a light at the end of the tunnel (and with the fussing comes an increased desire to simply slow down and snuggle mama!)

8. this crazy little dancing monkey...for real, elizabeth has been SO into "shakin' it" lately. and, you've gotta love her insistence on wearing these HOT, fleecy, footie PJs around all morning during 90 degree weather. what a riot!

9. coffee wipes...my dear friend jill (or as elizabeth would say, miss jill!) gave me some of these back a couple of years ago...and they saved the day yesterday when kate decided crayon would love fabulous on our microfiber ottoman (and i mean HUGE streaks of dark blue crayon)...i was at a loss for what to use that wouldn't ruin the microfiber fabric, and voila...these did the trick instantly! :) THANKS JILL! :)

10. precious moments...like two little girls having an "ice cream party". i put kate down for a nap and then came downstairs to find that libs and miranda had comandeered the empty costco boxes to use as "chairs" for their party. elizabeth was reading "giggle, giggle, quack!" to miranda while they intermittently licked their imaginary ice cream cones...love it!

11. lunch at our favorite china buffet with some good friends...two mommies, six kiddos...a much needed chance to get out of the house and have some adult conversation on a rainy day...not to mention, the kiddos had LOTS of fun as well...and ice cream.

12. bargains...bargains...bargains....5 packs of pull-ups for just $1.50 a pack after double coupons and a rebate deal at k-mart (and kate's piqued interest in potty training....now mommy just needs to get equally motivated!)...cheap bottle nipples thanks to k-marts double coupons....and a huge haul at CVS...all for FREE thanks to gifts cards from transferring prego prescriptions and ECBs....20 soyjoy bars for mike, 2 packages of fig newtons for me (gotta love the iron), one pack of bottle nipples, almay foundation and eye-shadow...ALL FREE! woo-hoo! :)

13. some great garage sale finds...remember this post when i mentioned elizabeth briefly swayed and decided she wants a sister instead of a brother (by the way...she has since come back to her original stance that the baby should definitely be a boy). well, below are the shoes that incited the switcheroo to wanting a baby girl...elizabeth felt the pink sneaker-ish ones were "awfully cute"...so our baby needed to be a girl to wear them. i scored these for $1 a pair...hence the fact that i bought them even though we don't know gender for sure...i figure they will either make great shoes for our baby OR a great gift for someone else! and really, who can resist robeez, see kai run, and pedipeds for just $1...especially when most of them look to have been worn maybe once or twice! the same sale had the JACK-POT for kate...who wears a wide...meaning we have to shop at stride rite in the priciest section...both of these were like new (kate has worn out the sandal-y ones on the left more in the past week than they were when we bought them for a dollar!)...i question whether the sneakers were even worn, as they are spotless...not a common condition for shoes worn by a two year old! and the sneakers should fit her all winter...meaning we can hopefully avoid shelling out the cash for new tennis shoes!

and then, here's brand new-still in bag with price-tag--pottery barn kids shower curtain we scored for the girl's bathroom (which has been crying out for decorating for three years!)...i snagged it for just $5!

and then, the girls most recent pre-occupation...though it just might be beyond both of their age levels...the fisher-price laugh and learn house....for $5...original retail $79.99! my intention was that the baby would like this eventually, but honestly...the girls have already gotten $5 of fun out of it...which is priceless in this HOT weather than is keeping us inside (compliments of my rapidly swelling ankles).

14. the iron supplements and change in diet seem to be increasing my energy level a little bit...which is a welcome change! but no worries, i'm still taking advantage of naps and resting...

15. we took kate to the pediatrician about her speech and language development, and the doctor did refer us to first steps for further evaluation. thanks for all of your sweet comments and encouragement....the pediatrician was in agreement that kate is a little behind, but she wasn't overly concerned since she is the second child (and has a sister who NEVER stops talking!). i am relieved to be getting her evaluated...and thankful that in the past few days she seems to be trying to do more communicating (go figure!). but, what a blessing to have first steps available for free should she end up needing it...and the fact that they come to our house is like icing on the cake!

16. and alas...now i am smiling because i'm finished posting...and off to take a nap!

Friday, June 19, 2009

carried away...

....with all these delightful little etsy creations! :) ...and dreaming of sweet baby...as mentioned in this post....and now, i must drag myself away from etsy...we have friends coming for dinner in less than two hours... :)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

just a little note...

...to the wee babe tucked safely inside my womb....

dearest "flipper"...

it is hard to believe that in just over two months you will join our family on the "outside"...very, very hard to believe. that said, you are already so ingrained in our hearts and so much a part of the family. i know you can hear the way that your biggest sister sings her little heart out to you at bedtime each evening...the joy with which she proclaims in song that "He's got our itty bitty baby, in His hands" (and, oh how true we know that is!)...the way she on occasion loves to squish against my belly and give you all the snuggles she possibly can. and, oh my, how could you miss the voice of your other big sister (the not quite AS big one) as she shrieks "BABY!" and pokes at you with her little finger. oh how i wish you could actually feel the slobber as she slathers my belly with her slobbery kisses. she is a silly little girl...always trying to get a peek under my shirt, as if she might magically be able to see you. :) and, of course, you have felt her jostling you around...trying to find a bit of extra room on my lap...a lap that seems to be dwindling in size as each day goes by. yes, little one...you are already so much a part of the family...so deeply embedded in our hearts.

you move A LOT...but you aren't so much a kicker at this point...more of a "flipper"...hence your nickname. seriously...sometimes i wonder just what you are trying to do in there. perhaps you are just practicing for a future acrobatics career....or an aspiring olympic gymnast, perhaps (although, for that to happen you would most definitely have to inherit the ability from somewhere other than mommy's side of the family!). it delights my heart to feel your little movements...and thrills me even more when i can watch my belly and see a foot pop across my belly...or perhaps it is a hand. i'll be honest, even after three pregnancies, i really have no clue what i'm feeling when i probe around! :) it does worry me a wee bit that your favorite time of the day to move around like crazy is late at night...do know that this will most definitely need to be adjusted once you break free to the outside world...because mommy thinks she is going to need her sleep to keep up with you AND your sisters! :) actually, it is almost as if you know i am writing to YOU right at this moment; you are flipping all over the place...making your presence known.

sweet baby...i cannot wait to meet you. i wonder often about your gender...are you another sweet and precious baby girl...sugar and spice and everything nice? or, could you possibly be our very first little boy...all snakes and snails and puppy dog tails? either way, we will be delighted to meet you. although, i must say, your biggest sister is the most opinionated on this issue. for months and months and months she insisted (quite adamantly) that you are a boy....her brother...that, in fact, we "already have enough girls in our family". but then, dear one, just the other day she changed her tune...and for the past 5 days she has been just as adamant that you should be a baby girl...another little sister. what prompted this change? well, dear baby, we picked up some shoes at a garage sale...cute little girl shoes....very pink...very feminine--just in case...because, you see, mommy has a weakness for shoes, especially cute, name brand, barely worn shoes for just a dollar a pair--and well, you very well might be a little girl...so we bought them. upon arriving home your biggest sister asked, "mommy, are those for our baby?" i answered, "well, elizabeth, they are if its a girl." "but mommy, can the baby wear them if its a boy?" "well, i don't think daddy would let a boy wear bright pink shoes. if our baby is a boy we'll give them to a friend as a present." "oh...." and then your sister paused to think for a minute...even tapping her finger against her chin (she likes to do that, you know), and replied, "mommy...i think our baby should be a girl...because those shoes are awfully cute." and that, dear baby, is her final verdict on the matter...you should be a girl, because otherwise, what would we do with the shoes!

as for mommy and daddy...well, while those shoes are awfully cute...and will look splendid on your feet if in fact you are a girl....well, we will be thrilled to meet you whether you are a boy or a girl. sometimes it makes mommy feel a little crazy when people ask if we'll be "okay" with another girl. of course we would. we will be equally delighted by your arrival whether boy or girl. sweet baby, you are God's gift to us...our family is not complete without you...and God knows PERFECTLY what and who our family needs...whether girl or boy...whether spunky and noisy or quiet and reflective. God knows you...and that is enough for us. oh how i am praying for you...for the plans God already has for you...the days He has already numbered. it is amazing that He already knows your name...and amazingly enough, right now, He is the ONLY one who knows it...granted...mommy and daddy have it narrowed down to two options...but only God knows whether you fit the bill for the boy option or the girl one. He already knows exactly what moment and day you will be born...and until then HIS hands are knitting you together. how amazing is that?!

in the meantime, while we await your arrival, mommy is hard at work knitting a blanket for you. and i'm busy dreaming...dreaming of the little "stuffs" i would love to purchase on etsy...or make myself...but, sweet one, most of those will have to wait until we meet you...until we know boy or girl. and that, sweet baby, is driving me a wee bit crazy at times! but i'll keep knitting away...and dreaming that perhaps i might have just a wee bit of time to sew after you arrive. each time i walk through a fabric store my eyes are drawn to anything elephant related...as that is our "theme" for you. your biggest sister was monkeys...your other sister alligators...and you, sweet one, will love elephants. i know you will...because you will be inundated with them! in fact, your sisters have already purchased your first little stuffed elephant...and he is waiting for you in your "yet-to-be-cleaned-out-and-finished" nursery. but oh how i love these if you are a boy (or perhaps they could even be made in girlie colors if you do in fact happen to be a girl)...and this if you are a girl. and i've perused oh so many other cute little somethings...like these and these and this and this (which just might be my fav, even though it isn't particularly boy-ish or girl-ish) or this or this...and i'm finding these irresistible...and these (and oh my, it comes it boy OR girl colors!) or this or this or these or this....and oh my...how i digress...i could get carried away with dreaming of all of these little extras...but, sweet one, as you can see...mommy has visions of elephants in your future! :)

but truly...i am praying for you. praying as God forms you...praying for your health and strength....praying you would have a heart that thirsts and longs for God....that you would be drawn to Him when you are young...that you would follow Him all of the days of your life. and i am praying for your daddy and myself...and for your sisters...that we would love you and cherish you....that daddy and i would be responsible stewards of God's gift...shepherding and discipling you...modeling a love for God and hearts of worship....that we would make Jesus so attractive that you would not resist His call on your life. oh how i pray God will help me to love you with grace and gentleness, to teach you with patience, to nurture you and raise you up in the truth.

sweet baby..."flipper", if you like....we love you so incredibly much...it makes my heart burst. we cannot wait to meet you....we simply cannot wait!


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

on my mind...

it is ten smile tuesday...and yet, at the moment i'm just not in "smile" mode. don't get me wrong...not that there weren't things to smile about. i could share the fun we had celebrating our sweet buddy brennan's first birthday...or the free pizza we had for dinner tonight...or perhaps the other little moments throughout the week. but to be honest, i am having trouble finding focus to even recall last week, much less blog about it (and it doesn't help that i didn't take any pictures...that typically jogs my memory a bit). and yet...there are other things on my mind...a random mish-mash of thoughts and hopes and concerns...and on and on...

i am hopeful that after this morning's OB appointment i will be regaining some of the energy, focus, and concentration i have completely lost in the past weeks. i remember being tired during my pregnancies with the girls...but not this dog-tired...can't focus for more than 30 seconds....absolutely wiped out, exhausted. i thought it was probably a side effect of my border-line high blood pressure, but it seems in the past few weeks my blood pressure has been completely normal....so that wasn't to blame. i chalked the fatigue up to the fact that this was in fact, pregnancy 3...and i am keeping up with two girls now...but this morning's appointment revealed another possible culprit...anemia. apparently my hemoglobin count has dropped quite low...hence the exhaustion and lack of mental ability. so i am hoping the iron supplements and some dietary changes (bring on the red meat and fig newtons!) will help restore a bit of energy. don't get me wrong, i'm not expecting to have boundless amounts of energy...but it would be nice to have the motivation and energy to at least take the girls outside to play for a bit....and perhaps tackle a small corner of the disaster thats been building in the house.

and then friends, oh how i have been wrestling...struggling...questioning...about kate's language development. she has words...some words...here and there...but, as a mommy, i have been concerned for awhile with her verbal abilities. i've tried to avoid comparisons...tried not to think about what elizabeth was saying at this age or what the other kiddos in the church nursery or play-dates are saying...tried to keep in mind that all kiddos develop at different rates, and on and on. but, honestly, something in me has just been unsettled...especially as we struggle big time with tantrums and some other behavior stuff...wondering if perhaps some of that isn't related to her lack of verbal skills. the concern has been building...and after a lot of prayer, a conversation with a speech-pathologist friend and a pediatric nurse friend, and some researching general charts for language development, mike and i have decided to have her at least evaluated to see if there is some delay, and if so, to get her some help....hopefully before the baby comes and rocks our world! :) and honestly, while the decision to seek some evaluation brings me peace, i am struggling to rest in God's peace, as i just feel quite emotional about the whole thing...though i'm not exactly sure why. oh how i long for her to be able to communicate all that is in that little mind...we so clearly see her "getting it"...pointing out objects in books and around her, following directions, gesturing, etc...so i am not concerned about that aspect of development....just longing for her to be able to open her mouth and talk...

...what else...what else. mike has been projecting like crazy...tearing out a wall to extend our coat closet, meaning we actually have somewhere to go in the event of crazy tornado warnings. paneling the garage. installing a water softener. and much, much more. and that, my friends, means the girls and i have had extra time together without daddy...and with my energy level being so stinkin' low, i've just been dragging from the "extra". and yet, still, i've spent some of the past few days planning and preparing for a freezer cooking day tomorrow...because, after all, i still need to keep the fam nourished.

and then there is the incredible Bible study i've been doing for the past few weeks. we are studying through Philippians...just Scripture...and journaling and praying...and oh how my heart has been refreshed and encouraged. God has been faithfully awakening me in the mornings...early...and i am truly cherishing that hour or so before the girls get up...time in the Word and in prayer...time to eat breakfast and get myself ready for the day. it has truly been a rich time for me...and quite frankly, it makes me so frustrated that i so often fall into the trap and buy into the lie that my sleep is more important than starting my day with Jesus. oh what a blessing to have His Word be the very FIRST focus of my day...adjusting my mind and heart...preparing me for things like the training and discipling of the girls throughout the day...or those moments when i'm so tired i think i can't keep going...or wondering what to do about kate's speech...and on and on. the study has also been a HUGE blessing in reorienting me to the right priorities...1-Jesus...2-michael....3-the girls...including the baby...and thus forcing me to schedule resting and downtime into the day as a priority!...4-others/ministries....5-chores/to-do's.....6-everything else! what a blessing it is to each day ask my husband how i can help him....and then follow through....what a novel idea--actually fulfilling my role as his HELPER as a priority! :)

....and so, my friends....that is what is on my mind...

Monday, June 15, 2009

feasting from our freezer...

okay...many of you asked about this post long, long, long ago. and each time my facebook posting includes mention of freezer cooking many of you leave comments requesting more info. as i was removing the skin and tossing 12 split chicken breasts into the crock pot with salsa and taco seasoning this morning (prep for a big ol' batch of chicken chimis we'll be whipping up on wednesday), i realized it was high time i live up to my promise to post a blog about freezer cooking. note: after composing this blog-post and going downstairs to check on aforementioned chicken i have a new recommendation. do not, i repeat NOT, try to fit 12 split chicken breasts, salsa, and taco seasoning into your crock-pot...that is, unless you like a counter covered with salsa-y, taco-y, icky, sticky goo....apparently 10 might have been the limit!

disclaimer #1...by NO means am i am expert! my first freezer cooking experience was with a large group at my church. while i enjoyed the big group things...i quickly realized i could recipes that were already family favorites...with the ingredients we most prefer...AND, as a bonus, spend quality time with friends who also needed to feed their family...by doing this at home in a smaller setting. since then i have grown to rely quite heavily on freezing cooking to feed our family.

disclaimer #2...i don't even know where to begin giving credit for many of my recipes...friends, family, cookbooks throughout the ages. also, don't feel like you necessarily need "my recipes" or anyone else's for that matter...i am finding that just about ANY recipe your family enjoys can easily be worked into a freezer meal.

perhaps the easiest way to do this would be in a Q&A format. please leave me more questions in the comments, and i will add answers as i get questions.

1. do i need to have a huge/separate freezer for freezer cooking?
this completely depends on how much you plan on cooking. i do have a standing freezer in the garage...and i LOVE it. i would say it is well worth your money if you plan to do a lot of freezer cooking. it allows me to stock up on meat when it is on sale (and ice cream too for that matter), have plenty of room for other "freezer stuffs" (like our annual home-made applesauce from applesauce making day, frozen bagged veggies and fruit, frozen waffles (or pancakes or whatever else is left when we do breakfast for dinner nights), etc.), AND still have room for LOTS of freezer meals.
however, i recently cooked with a friend who does not have a separate freezer. she tweaked some amounts to make fewer servings of some meals, packaged "creatively" (ziplocs take up less room than pans), and had plenty of room for quite a few meals. i also have talked to several others who just use their normal freezer, and they suggest just making sure the freezer is fairly empty before your cooking day.

2. how many people should i cook with?
again, this is preference. i would suggest starting with no more than 2 other people...and especially for the first time or two make sure you have childcare for kiddos if at all possible. (although, that said, i've only once had childcare for my girls during a cooking day....so you can definitely make it work with kids around!).

3. how do you plan/shop, etc.?
perhaps because i was the "initiator" in my group of freezer cooking friends, i tend to be the one who compiles recipes, grocery lists, etc. i would definitely recommend having ONE person who does the actual planning, figuring out ingredient amounts, making a list, getting together a "cooking day plan", etc.
as for shopping, we have always taken the "buy our own meat" and "packaging" approach. each person purchases and prepares their own meat for recipes before the cooking day. each individual is also in charge of their own freezer bags and pans. beyond that, there are a couple approaches for shopping. my preferred method is to pick one designated shopper...this allows for buying more items in bulk and really taking advantage of warehouse stores and aldi's. i list out ingredients for EACH recipe and breakdown how much TOTAL we will need. then i inventory what we have on stock (spices or other "common" items). i e-mail out a list of everything...just to make sure people aren't wanting to leave something out, etc....and THEN i go shopping. after all the shopping is done, i total up expenses, divide it out, and on the day of cooking everyone writes me a check for groceries. when we are finished cooking, we divide up leftover ingredients (or keep them for the next cooking day).
the other approach we did one time was putting each person in charge of particular meals. this worked...BUT here is what i didn't like as much. several recipes used cheese, but instead of buying in bulk we each bought for our own recipes and ended up paying more. plus, at the end of the day we still had to total up expenses and write checks to one another...only it seemed to be more entailed than when i just did the shopping.

4. what does a "cooking day plan" involve?
first, it is easiest if everyone does as much work as possible BEFORE coming. all meat should be cooked, diced, shredded, divided for recipes, etc. BEFORE the day of cooking (which is why i prefer cooking on a monday--weekends are easier for me to get that prep work done). for pasta dishes, pasta should be cooked and ready to go. getting as many veggies chopped beforehand is even helpful. EVERYTHING should be labeled ahead of time. LOTS of stuff is flying around the kitchen on the day of cooking...so label, label, label, label!
second...i find creating a plan for each recipe "station" makes things go more smoothly. we have found that putting one person charge of each station goes more quickly. (ie. i would make EVERYONE's chimichangas while my friend jill makes EVERYONE's potpie). this "cooking day plan" includes details like what size measuring cups and spoons you need at that station, what size bowls, a copy of the actual recipe, directions for assembly, any preferences someone might have (ie. NO olives in christy's chimichangas). this helps everyone know exactly what they are doing...even if it is their first time!).
i'm also a firm believer that an essential sanity portion of the "plan" should be washing dishes AS YOU GO! i've been amazed at how little clean-up we have when finished. and, of course, you should probably include some snacks for along the way!

5. how long does it take?
this completely depends on how many meals, whether kiddos are around or not, is it your first time or fiftieth time...and on and on. i would plan at least 5 hours for the first time you cook...and that would be for a net of 20-25 meals (4-5 servings each of 4-5 different recipes). however, the more you cook, the more efficient you get. last time i cooked there were three of us, we had childcare for almost all of the kiddos, and i came home with over 25 meals for a grand total of 3 hours of cooking. always plan for it to take longer than you think, though! and know that more "chefs" don't necessarily make things go more quickly...actually i think 3 is a great number for efficiency unless you have a really big kitchen! :)

6.what should i cook?
whatever you like to eat! seriously...we have done soups, marinade packs for grilling, baked chicken meals, casseroles, chimichangas, potpies, and on and on. just about anything freezes! i created a new blog "freezer feastings" where i will be highlighting some of my favorites. for summertime our family enjoys grilling...so i have stocked my freezer with several baggies of marinaded chicken, pork, etc. they are portioned out, so all i need to do is grab a baggie, let it thaw, and pop it on the grill. sometimes i chop these up for grilled chicken salad, etc. one of our favorites is chicken chimichangas (on the blog already). we've done parsley pamesan chicken, breaded ranch chicken (both healthier versions of fried chicken), chicken enchilada casserole (where i learned that flour tortillas freeze MUCH better than corn tortillas!), beef stew, creamy chicken casserole, baked spaghetti, baked ziti, cavatini, lasagna, chicken tortilla soup, taco soup, chicken potpie (the filling...you still need to make the crust the day of), meatloaf, sausage calzones, stromboli, and on and on and on! check out freezer feastings for recipes...and i will do my best in my spare (ha ha!) time to add more!

7. how do i package meals for the freezer?
my all time favorite pans for freezer cooking are GLAD OvenWare. i found mine at target, but you might have to look around, as they can be hard to find. aluminum pans are fine as well...but i would suggest using 8x8s and then placing them inside a ziploc freezer bag to prevent leakage. ziploc freezer bags work fabulously for marinades, potpie filling, etc...basically anything that doesn't have to be layered. they also save room for those without a ton of space. i prefer making 8x8 sized meals, as this feeds my family with another round (or sometimes two) of leftovers. this stretches my grocery budget for sure! :)

8. how do i get started?
to borrow from nike, just do it. seriously, it can seem overwhelming and intimidating, but just get started. pick 4 recipes and find one or two friends. (or even just start doubling every recipe you cook for dinner!) stick with simple recipes...or, even better, look through the grocery flyers, see what meat is on sale and let that be your starting point for recipes...although, i would still suggest staying simple! (but then again, i don't do much of anything that is complicated!) plan a day...and go for it. i would LOVE to answer questions, help you plan, etc. as you get started. just leave me a comment with your e-mail address, and i promise to get back to you!

...okay, so that is my start on my freezer cooking "thoughts"....please, please, please...ask me questions, etc. this has been such a huge help to me in caring for my family...it seems dinnertime was the most stressful time of the day for the longest time, but these days, i can relax and know that dinners already done! all i have to do is pop it in the oven...leaving those harried dinner-prep hours for fun with the girls! not only that, but you all know me, loving a bargain, and this most definitely is saving us money each and every month!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

ten smile tuesday...

...with way too many pictures for one post...but what can i say, we had lots of fun at the lake...and captured it all in photos!

1. celebrating five years of marriage to my dearest husband....we were able to enjoy a fabulous evening out thanks to my parents, who lovingly took care of the girls. mike and i had dinner at a lakeside restaurant...and were even able to enjoy a gorgeous evening, sitting on the patio of the restaurant...and then wandered through the little village, finding a bench next to a fountain and chatting for a long time...and then, a bit more wandering and some tasty ice cream. it was a lovely evening...how wonderful to reflect on God's faithfulness over the course of the past five years...and to dream about all that is in store for the next many years! and we were delighted to discover this relaxing little destination for future dates when we're visiting my parents...as it was just a half an hour away! :)

2. swinging...

is it my turn now?!

fearless kate takes a turn on the big girl swing!

(and big wheeling!)

3. fishing...it was actually the weekend of the "fishing derby" at the lake...so elizabeth and kate got to sign up and catch as many fishies as they could (with poppy and daddy's help, of course!)...they didn't win, but they definitely had fun in the process...and elizabeth won a barbie fishing pole set as a door prize...and, quite frankly, that made her weekend (and made her MUCH more interested in fishing....for the rest of the weekend she had a blast practicing casting). kate was quite into touching the fish...something elizabeth never would have tried at that age...or now, for that matter! :)

libs tries her hand with the big pole!

doesn't she look like an official "fisherlady"--maybe she could catch something if she had the attention span to watch the bobber for more than 5 seconds at a time. :)

and here she is with her barbie pole...and i bet you didn't know that you simply cannot fish without your "fishing hat" on...

4. swimming....

i should qualify this pic with the fact that the floating only lasted a few minutes before elizabeth got a bit freaked out by the chilliness of the water...i'll admit, it was a bit cool, but it felt quite refreshing to me since i'm always a bit overheated these days!

kate, on the other hand, could have stayed in the water all day long...regardless of how cold it might have been!

kate is still our fearless water-bug...plunging out to mommy off the edge of the boat!

5. building sand castles with daddy...and then the priceless moments of watching elizabeth proceed to teach kate just how to build the perfect castle! love it!

6. goggles...i mean, really, who can live without a good pair of googles...but really, i just can't get enough of the goggle model...dontcha think i should send her picture to speedo for promo!

7. the simple joys in life...like a bucket and shovel...

i couldn't decide which pic i liked better, so you get them both! :)

8. ...or the delight of a girl and her dog...or should i say of girls and their dog...elizabeth and kate spent at least an hour entertaining themselves by taking mugho for walks between the living room and the kitchen on monday morning...and bless mugho's heart...he is so patient and good with the girls!

again...can't decide on my fav...just love them both!

9. visiting with great grandmas...we were able to see GG (my mom's mom) all day saturday...and then my dad picked up great grandma (my dad's mom) and brought her up to the lake sunday afternoon. i love that the girls can spend time with their great grandmas....even if it doesn't happen nearly as often as i wish it could. i still have vivid memories of time with my great grandmother (who we called GG), and those are such treasured memories!

10. i could mention the carrot cake we made to celebrate poppy's birthday...or the big batch of carmel corn...or BBQ chicken and burgers on the grill...and on and on...yum!

11. and i simply would be remiss if i didn't mention another incredible, fabulous highlight of the "weekend"...we stuck around the lake an extra day so that on monday i could go into fort wayne and meet up with two beautiful, amazing, delightful friends from blog-land...wendi and jackie...we met at panera and enjoyed a tasty lunch and even better conversation. it was beyond amazing to actually meet, and truly, while i felt a bond just from knowing one another through blogs...it is even stronger after sitting with them face to face...hearing their voices...sharing...laughing... simply being together in real life! i was incredible to sit down with two women who i feel i "know" so well...and who "know" me...amazing!

12. and then, just a last picture...cause these are the people who make me smile the most...and we so rarely are all four in a pic together...if you click on the picture to enlarge it you just might be able to see my baby belly...which is ever growing more and more quickly! :)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

to my husband (but you get a sneak peek too!)....

it is hard to believe that tomorrow marks five years since we said, "I do."
five years since we promised to love and cherish one other in sickness and in health...
five years since i pledged my submission to his authority
five years since he pledged to be my leader and protector.

five years...

i love you more today than yesterday...
much, much more than i could have even fathomed five years ago...
it has been an incredible journey,
seeing how God uses even that which is painful or frustrating
to grow us closer to one another,
to open my eyes to what a gift you truly are,
God's gift to me...
your strength so beautifully matches my weakness...
your logic and wisdom balances my emotion...
your steadiness and reliance on God tempers my tendency to fear and anxiety.
you draw me to God...
you lead me gently and compassionately...
you sacrifice on my behalf....
you love our daughters so tenderly--it brings tears to my eyes to think of it.

if someone had told me the true extent of sacrifice marriage would take
how hard it really can be at times,
i might have been afraid.
and yet,
after five years i can see so clearly looking back...
it is worth it...
sacrifice brings reward...
love is so much more than a feeling...
there is incredible, beautiful safety and peace in submission...
there is great joy in being your helper...

i would do it all over again....in a heartbeat....

i. love. you.