Monday, February 27, 2012

Unplugged and why Facebook is so addicting

Each year before Lent our church challenges us to spend time praying about a commitment we can make to Lord during the 40 day period leading up to Easter. Whether it be abstaining from something and/or adding a new activity into our daily life; the point is to re-prioritize, refocus, and remove distractions that can hinder growth in our relationship with Christ. And same as last year, I again felt the Lord telling me to turn off the TV for a while and use that time more productively to study scripture,work to build a deeper friendship in my marriage, and make room for activities and hobbies that I "could never find the time for" after the kids went to bed. I felt pretty good about signing my commitment card and was ready to turn it in when the Lord gave me another little tap on shoulder. And I reluctantly added "Facebook" to my abstaining from list.

Surprisingly, giving up Facebook has been harder for me than not watching TV. I would never have called myself a social network junkie, but I've been amazed by how many times I've had to stop myself from jumping on the website while fixing lunch for the kids or pulling up the mobile app on my phone while waiting in the doctor's office. I think when you are a stay-at-home mom there are moments in the day that can feel very isolating and lonely, even amidst screaming and chaos, and there is something comforting about logging on and seeing the status updates of friends who are sharing similar struggles and victories as you are. And when something funny happens to you, you can instantly share it with hundreds of people and feel validated and affirmed that others are right there with you, appreciating things that would otherwise go unnoticed, and helping you make it through the day. And even just 5 days into my 40 of being "un-networked," I already know that God wants to teach me that my affirmation and sense of importance needs only to come from Him. When I have a moment of self-pity and "does any of this really matter?" in my daily grind of mothering young children, I need to stop and thank God that He has blessed me tremendously with the most noble task of shepherding the future generation of the kingdom. It has not been easy, but nothing worth attaining usually is. God has been whispering to me in those lonely moments that HE sees me, and HE laughs with me, and HE notices my efforts and struggles and cares far more than anyone or anything that I try to replace him with.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Almost 26 weeks...

I am so not a fan of pregnancy belly shots. My personal opinion is that what many people deem as "artistic" can actually be quite weird when it comes to maternity photos. Though I think it is miraculous and beautiful and super cool that God created a woman's body to sustain and grow a human life, you will not find me creating a plaster mold of my belly to display on the mantle as a reminder that it really did get that big.

However, I'm about to enter into the third-trimester of this pregnancy and thought it might be nice to document at least one photo of our third "bun in the oven" before my face starts to swell and I resort to wearing all of John's t-shirts.

Yesterday a woman told me I was definitely carrying all boy. I still don't get why people say that kind of stuff, but I do know that this baby feels enormous. So, boy or girl, you be the judge....

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mini-kitchen addition DIY

We have this little nook in our kitchen that has always perplexed me design-wise. In the 2 years we've lived in our house it has served as a place for the highchair, the dog's feeding area, the trash can, and a place to stick an extra seat when we have a lot of people over. But I've always wanted to make it a more useful area in the kitchen because wasted space really bugs me. A few months back I realized that it would be the perfect spot to build a small desk area to check emails, look up recipes, and catch the mail that usually ends up strewn across the island. After getting my favorite handyman on board to help with the actual building part of my vision, we started working on the logistics. I found a remnant sheet of our existing countertop pattern online and had it shipped (twice) from Washington, the first shipment arriving in a box of shattered fragments. We watched several Youtube videos on how to laminate a counter and it didn't look so bad. John built the base out of two stair-post newels cut down and some plywood and then we spent the majority of our time working on the laminating part and getting the pieces cut perfectly. The hardest part was building the back-splash section from scratch and cutting the tiny strips of laminate without crumbling them. John learned how to use a router, that we borrowed from a friend, and we had a late-night, romantic Valentine's eve of DIY-ing together and getting covered in sawdust. 

I love the way the desk turned out and am proud of John for the new carpentry skills he now has under his belt for the next time. Our nook went from a total waste of space to the perfect spot to sit and drink a cup of coffee while catching up on emails and still being able to see what the kids are doing in the playroom. 

                                                                           Space Before

                                                      John at work with his top-assistant

                                                                    The new desk area

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Why you should consider eating Kefir

I am not by any means, a health-food fanatic. I do strive to feed my family nutritiously and put great effort into purchasing vitamin rich whole foods over highly-processed convenience ones, but I also have a slight addiction to ice-cream. Our grocery budget does not afford me the luxury of shopping at Whole Foods, but I've found that if I am diligent in planning and avoiding impulse buys, I can stretch our budget to include organic produce, milk, and meat, which are the most important items to me. I make a green smoothie for the family 4-5 times a week that is packed with spinach, kale, romaine, or a variety of other greens, fruits, wheat germ, flax, chia seeds, and occasionally yogurt. Knowing that we've all started our day loading up on fruits and veggies makes me not worry when I occasionally make the kids Kraft Mac n' Cheese (because there is no substitute) for lunch or give them a pack of fruit snacks after their nap. I think kids should be allowed to be kids, and kids enjoy pizza, and chicken nuggets, and special treats every now and again. I want to teach my kids to enjoy eating healthy and to be aware of making food choices that fuel their bodies, but I've never wanted to be obsessive about it.

So when I learn about a new "superfood" that has so many great benefits for our bodies, I do my best to start incorporating it into our diets and take another baby step closer to improving the health of my family. A month ago, I started researching the wonders of kefir grains and how power-packed with health these little nuggets are. They are anti-allergenic, naturally antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, cholesterol lowering, digestion aiding, skin clearing, hair thickening, immune-boosting, sleep enhancing, toxin reducing, .....and the list goes on and on.  When placed in milk and left for 24 hours at room temperature, kefir grains start to reproduce and create a creamy, tart, yogurt-like substance that is loaded with probiotic cultures 10X more potent than traditional or even greek yogurts. And the best part is, once you strain the grains from the cream, you can place them right back in new milk and they will continue to produce fresh and creamy milk kefir for you every single day, for as long as you keep them. So once you buy the grains, which are not at all expensive, you are set because they are self-sustaining.

I have been mixing our fresh kefir into smoothies for 3 weeks now and have experimented with substituting it for plain yogurt in salad dressings, pancakes, milkshakes, and sauces. I admit it is a little on the tart side and I don't prefer to eat it plain, but once you mix in with other things, it is delicious. This morning I made the kids a "monkey" smoothie with 2 bananas, ice, almond milk, 2 cups of kefir, raw peanut butter, and a bit of chocolate syrup and they were singing my praises for making them a "milkshake" for breakfast.

And although its only been 3 weeks, we have avoided any kind of illness in our home, despite some nasty bugs going around and plenty of exposure with Eli in school this year. I am attributing this to the boost in our immune systems thanks to the kefir, and am hopeful that we will remain healthy throughout the rest of the winter.

Now I dare you to go and research it for yourself and consider whether this superfood might be a good addition to your families diet!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

To The Birthday Boy...

Today is John's 28th birthday. The day started the same as every birthday has for the 5 years we've been married. I got up and prepared his favorite breakfast of biscuits and gravy and served it to him with a hot cup of coffee in bed. It is a birthday meal tradition long ago started by his mom and the one day a year that I will happily serve him this heart-attack on a plate and not even worry that he's eating an entire roll of sausage.

John never likes to make much fuss about his birthday and doesn't understand my need to hype it up and try to get him really excited in the days leading up to it. He never asks for any special gifts or a favorite dessert and trying to get him to request his favorite foods for dinner is like pulling teeth. And I guess I should be thankful that he's not a birthday Diva (like I totally am), but I just want him to feel extra special on his big day, even if it requires some cheer-leading and motivational speeches from his wife.

So in honor of his 28 years of life, here are 28 things that I love about John, and in no particular order.
1. he loves Jesus
2. he is a hands-on daddy and a true partner in helping to care for our kids
3. he is affectionate even when I forget to be
4. he can get a roomful of people laughing with ease
5. he doesn't complain about changing poop diapers...even cloth ones that require spraying
6. he works hard at his job and takes pride in providing for his family
7. he supports my desire to stay home and sacrifices things he wants so we can live on one income
8. he still drives the car he got when he turned 16, although it has well over 200k miles, the driver's door doesn't open from the outside, the windows remain continuously fogged and it feels as though it will crumble into pieces when you drive it on the highway. The fact is that it starts every morning, it is paid for, and he is content with that.
9. although I know he comes home tired from work, he plays on the floor with the kids, wrestling, tickling, giving horsey rides, and making them erupt in fits of laughter just when I have completely run out of steam.
10. he spends every morning up bright and early with Norah reading her the same books over and over while they drink coffee and milk respectively and snuggle in our bed so I can have my devotional time downstairs.
11. he has such a compassionate heart and loves to give his time and resources to others
12. he remembers to compliment me and makes me feel beautiful and noticed even when I feel much less than
13. he drinks the green smoothies I concoct for him every morning more because he knows how much it means to me and less because he cares that its so good for him
14. he has a bizarre love of shoes and has way too many pairs of Pumas in the closet
15. he finds the same thrill in Saturday morning garage sale hunting as I do
14. he gets along great with my parents
15. he supports me in getting out of the house to do things I enjoy while he stays home with the kids
16. he lets me pick out most of the movies we watch
17. he has beautiful green eyes and the greatest thick hair
18. he knows how to do handy-man things around the house and I am confident that he can fix most anything that breaks
19. he cooks waffles for breakfast for us on the weekends
20. he is financially wise, a good steward of our money, and always planning and saving for the future.
21. he goes on late-night ice-cream runs for me way too often and knows that its a sure bet way to fix a bad mommy day
22. he brings me flowers for no reason and leaves the occasional love note on my mirror before heading off to work
23. he is way better at being silly and carefree with the kids than I am
24. he is super low-maintenance, gets his hair-cut at Great Clips, shops for himself at thrift stores, and rarely asks for anything
25. he gives the best warm bear-hugs when I am falling apart
26. he's not great in the kitchen, but he's more than happy to go and pick up take-out when I need a night off from cooking
27. he gets up with the crying kids at night because I am an extremely deep sleeper and he always hears them before I do. Most mornings I am surprised to hear that someone was awake because he leaves me to sleep while he cuddles and comforts.
28. he still loves me and pursues me. Though I am crazy and high-maintenance and emotional, he keeps coming home to me and taking care of me and showing me a selfless love.

Happy Birthday John. I love you and am so thankful for you. Here's to 28 years!