Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Thank you, Jesus!

The Lord blew me away in a BIG way this morning...

Kerry and I watch a little girl a few mornings a week named Emily (not her real name). Emily is eight years old. She is dropped off at our apartment around seven and one of us takes her to school around eight. She usually arrives around the time we are sitting down to eat breakfast, so she reads quietly or plays with some of the toys we have. She is intrigued by Julian and loves to pick out his diaper cover when I go to change him. She does not come from a Christian home and does not regularly attend church. She talks and sings songs about things I never even knew about until after I was married. If Julian were any older, I would be worried about the influence she had on him.

One day while we were driving to school last week, she was telling me about what she was learning in school. She mentioned some foreign countries she was learning about and asked if I had ever been outside the US. I told her that I had and shared with her the various places I had been on missions trips. She was quite impressed with this and exclaimed "I didn't know you were a missionary!". I explained to her that I am not a missionary in the sense that she was thinking, but that I am a Christian. She told me about a VBS she had been to once before and the missionaries she met there. We got to her school and that conversation was done.

When she got here this morning, we were sitting down to breakfast. We prayed and she was just walking around the living room, talking to us while we ate. She sat down on the bench by our front door and, out of the blue, said, " I can't wait to be a Christian someday." I asked her what she meant by that and she said that she couldn't wait until she had prayed enough to make her a Christian. I was close to crying, at this point, so moved by what the Lord was allowing me to participate in. I told her that the only thing she must do to be a Christian is to accept the free gift of salvation from Jesus. So, she sat on my couch and prayed to accept Jesus as her Savior.

I am so humbled and grateful that the Lord used me to help this little girl realize her need for Him in her life. This serves as a reminder to me that God can and will use ANYONE to accomplish His purposes, even a stay-at-home mommy just trying to make a little extra money for her family by watching a little girl a few times a week. Thank you, Jesus!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Menu Plan Tuesday 2/27-3/4

Yesterday was extremely busy and I did not get to posting our menu for the week.

In other news, I did not get to bake bread last week because I killed our sourdough starter :( I started another one and it will be ready to go on Friday. My plan is to try some bread on Saturday!

Here is our menu!

  • Soaked oatmeal and fruit x 5
  • Eggs and toast 
  • Sourdough pancakes, bacon and fruit
  • Standard lunch x 3 (for Kerry)
  • Leftovers and smoothies x 3 (for me)
  • Hot dogs, salad and fruit
  • Soup buffet, biscuits and fruit x 2
  • Church lunch
  • Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings and fruit
  • Hamburger Vegetable Soup, smoothies and biscuits (recipe below)
  • Baked Yams and Black Bean Stew, biscuits and fruit
  • Standard lunch x 3 (for Kerry)
  • Leftovers and smoothies x 3 (for me)
  • Popcorn and smoothies
Hamburger Vegetable Soup
1 lb. ground beef
1 c. onion, chopped
1 c. potatoes, diced 
1 c. carrots, chopped
1 c. celery, chopped
2 cans diced tomatoes
1/2 c. brown rice, soaked and uncooked
4 - 8 c. water
1 tbs. salt
1/4 tsp. basil
1/4 tsp. thyme
1 bay leaf

Brown ground beef and onion together until meat is lightly browned. Drain off grease. Add all remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 2 - 4 hours. Remove bay leaf and serve.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Julian: Big Boy

I saw Julian pull himself up to his feet for the first time today! I am so proud of my big boy and yet a little sad at the same time to see him growing so quickly. Thank you, Jesus, for the blessing of this beautiful baby boy!

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Now that Julian is almost ten months old, I am finally starting to feel like I have a handle on this mom thing. Just kidding...I still have no idea what I am doing! But, I do know that God has given me all that I need for life and godliness and that there is nothing new under the sun, so I press on and continue to rely on Him and His strength to do the job He has called me to right now. That being said, I do have one insight to share that has made the transition into motherhood much smoother for me.

 While there are many things that are absolutely necessary to purchase (or receive as gifts!) before having a baby, there are several that you may think are necessary that, in reality, are just nice to have or even completely unnecessary. I am not going to in depth on baby gear here, but, if you would like to know what I think is necessary, nice and a complete waste of money (and space!), feel free to ask and I would love to talk abou it! There is, however, one item (or three!) that I use every day, multiple times a day, and will talk about with anyone willing to listen:

My baby carriers.

When I first found out I was pregnant, I started doing all sorts of research. I knew some things that I wanted to do right off the bat (cloth diapers, natural birth and breastfeeding), but others I learned about as I began my research. Babywearing was one of those things that I knew nothing about prior to pregnancy, but I became increasingly intrigued by it as I read more. Kerry and I took a class at Once Upon A Sling in Bloomington and I was hooked!

I started out with a hybrid wrap that I used with Julian beginning the day he was born. I used this exclusively until Julian was about five months old. I loved this wrap, especially in the summer, as it was lightweight and easy to use. I wore Julian everywhere in my wrap. He went to weddings (and slept through them!), on hikes, to church, grocery shopping, baseball games and even to the state fair. I was able in the first few weeks of having him to still clean the house, make dinner and do laundry all without having to put him down. The benefit of this baby carrier is the ability to tie it on before leaving the house and pop baby in and out without unwrapping for diaper changes and feedings. It is versatile and very pretty, although not exceptionally user-friendly right away. I watched several videos, looked at the instruction booklet and called Anna at OUAS several times before I felt confident enough to wear Julian in the wrap outside of the house. Although I have not tried this, you can also wear baby on your hip and on on your back with this carrier. Side note: Some moms are able to breastfeed in their carriers, but I never felt comfortable (comfort wise, not exposure wise) doing this. It sure would be nice, though!

I was given a mei tai for my birthday, so I started using that carrier in addition to my wrap in September. You must put the baby in this carrier as you tie it on, so it does not lend itself to the ease of use as much as the wrap does. However, this carrier is made of heavier material than the wrap, so I found myself gravitating towards this carrier as the weather turned cold. This carrier also folds up nicely and, for me, fits well in the diaper bag. I wear Julian everywhere in this carrier as well, most notably all day long while we explored Chicago with friends in October. If I could do things over, I would chose a mei tai with a hood because of the ability to protect nap times with the sleeping hood, especially when doing a back carry. I believe I can purchase a separate hood for the mei tai that I have, but it would be infinitely better to purchase one with a hood already attached. I have used this carrier for both front and back carries and love it for either one.

My mom won my third carrier in a facebook giveaway (thanks, mom!) and it is a soft structured carrier. You need ample space to get baby in the carrier and I find it to be bulky, so I have not used it outside of the house by myself yet. I think the space issue will change as Julian gets older. It is my favorite carrier for back carries as it has a baby insert where you snap the baby in before putting the carrier on your back. This alleviates my worry about Julian squirming out of my grasp while I get him on my back. I use this carrier almost exclusively now when I need to get housework done and Julian wants to be held. He loves to ride on my back while I vacuum or do the dishes.

I LOVE babywearing for several reasons, but the biggest benefit to me is how free it makes me feel! I can do anything I need to around the house or out of the house and have my baby close to me. Housework does not suffer and neither does baby! 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Menu Plan Monday 2/20-2/26

At the beginning of January, I found out some sad news. My favorite bakery in the Peoria area, Peoria Bread Company, was closing. They made my wedding cake and we had bought our bread from them since we got married. They announced their closing suddenly, so I still am unsure as of why they closed down, but the fact is they are no longer in business and I no longer have a yummy (and healthy!) bread supplier! I bought seven loaves of bread the day their closing was announced and promptly put them all in my freezer. We have been slowly working our way through the loaves, all the while knowing that those seven loaves would eventually be gone and we would have to find another bread source.

That day has come.

I pulled the last loaf out of the freezer this morning.

My husband has been encouraging me to try my hand at making bread from scratch. He sees everything else I make from scratch on a regular basis and has asked on several occasions why I don't make our bread. He is right, of course...Ahem. However, there is something that he doesn't know...I have always been scared of baking bread. Sure, I have made quick breads, pizza crusts, biscuits and muffins, but never have I made a loaf of sandwich bread. So, stay the next week or so, I will be attempting to make my very first loaf of homemade sourdough sandwich bread!

In other news, here is what I will be feeding my family this week...

  • Soaked oatmeal and fruit x 6
  • Sourdough pancakes, bacon and fruit
  • Standard lunch x 5 (for hubby)
  • Leftovers and smoothies x 5 (for me)
  • Hot dogs, salad and fruit
  • Church lunch
  • Salmon patties, sweet potato wedges and fruit
  • Sweet potato and sausage soup, whole wheat biscuits and fruit
  • Standard lunch x 2 (for hubby)
  • Leftovers x 2 (for me)
  • Scrambled hamburger, mashed potatoes, whole wheat biscuits and fruit
  • Calzones with homemade dipping sauce, salad and fruit
  • COCUSA chili supper

Homemade Dipping Sauce

4 cans tomato paste
1 can tomato sauce
1 c. water
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 tbs. italian seasoning
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. honey

Combine all ingredients in the crockpot. Cover and cook on low for four hours. Try to stir every hour or so, to prevent the sauce from sticking to the pot. Serve immediately. If not, cool to room temperature and freeze or refrigerate and use within 1-2 days.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Of Valentines Day and A Crying Baby

For those that know me well, you are aware that today is my FAVORITE holiday. I absolutely love Valentine's Day! It takes me a while to decorate for Christmas, and even then, I usually just get our little tree up and take it down as soon as Christmas Day is over. And I replace it with Valentine's Day decorations, of course! We have decorative towels for the kitchen and bathroom, door hangers and window clings. I even have a Valentine's giraffe, complete with little red hearts for his spots. It is a big deal around here. Thankfully, I married a wonderful man who indulges my love for this day.

This is the fourth Valentine's Day we have spent together and he has worked to make each one special.

We were living in Chicago, going to school at Moody and had been officially dating for a little over two weeks. Since the 14th fell on a Saturday, Kerry planned a whole day long date for us in the city, beginning with a visit to the Shedd Aquarium. We had lunch at Corner Bakery on Michigan Avenue, took a walk through Millennium Park, went to see a movie at the huge theater in downtown and finished up the day with dinner at the Turkish restaurant where we had our first date a few weeks before.

I was finishing up my last semester at Moody and Kerry was living in Peoria, working for the post office. The 14th was a Sunday, so I came home from school for the weekend. Kerry took me ice skating and out for coffee on Saturday afternoon and we made homemade pizza together at my parents house that evening.

Our first married Valentine's Day! We were living in Peoria Heights and I was 6 months pregnant with Julian. My parents had given us a gift certificate for a bed and breakfast outside of Springfield for Christmas. We decided to use it the weekend before Valentine's Day, since the 14th was a Monday and we would be working and going to school. We left early Saturday morning and drove down to Springfield. We ate a picnic lunch at Subway (it was warm out!), visited the Lincoln Museum and went out to dinner in the tiny town where the B&B was. I brought homemade sugar cookies along and we decorated them with the owners of the B&B and just relaxed and enjoyed time away together.

Our first Valentine's Day with a baby! We are still living in Peoria Heights and Julian is 9 months old. I made what were supposed to be heart-shaped cinnamon rolls for breakfast, but they did not keep their shape when they baked...they still tasted great, though! We exchanged cards at breakfast. Kerry planned a surprise for lunch, so we took Julian over to my parent's house for a few hours. We went to Thirty-Thirty for coffee, then headed to Chili's for lunch. Unfortunately, Julian was not having a good day, so we cut our lunch short, took our food to go and picked up Julian. Parenting is all about being adaptable! Julian fell asleep on the way home, so Kerry and I had a Valentine's Day picnic on our living room floor while Julian slept in his car seat. I would not trade the joy of being Julian's mommy for an uninterrupted Valentine's date any day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Menu Plan Monday 2/13-2/19

I must confess something. I don't always follow my own advice! I wrote this post which outlines a schedule of sorts to follow when planning meals for the week. While I think that is a great idea and I tried it for a few weeks, I quickly realized that it just doesn't work for us. I was disappointed, at first, because I wanted to do what I thought was the MOST ORGANIZED WAY EVER to plan meals. I was forcing myself to find soup for Tuesday and sandwiches for Thursday and whining my way through making homemade pizza on Saturday nights until I realized...hey, I don't HAVE to follow that schedule. I am imposing that on myself...nobody is standing in my kitchen, judging me on the fact that I am serving my family soup on Thursday instead of Tuesday. Whew...what a relief that was!

I do still plan a crockpot meal for Monday nights because I am gone all day doing laundry, but I do not stress if I am not serving the meal that corresponds with the day in my thematic menu planning. And, you know what, I am pretty sure I am more fun to be around because of it. Silly me, stressing over getting dinner on the table.

Here is our plan for this week...

  • Soaked oatmeal and fruit x 5
  • Whole wheat heart shaped cinnamon rolls and fruit
  • Soaked whole wheat pancakes, bacon and fruit
  • Leftovers and smoothies x 4 (for me)
  • Standard lunch x 4 (for hubby)
  • Valentine's lunch (Kerry is planning this!)
  • Hot dogs, chips and fruit
  • Church lunch
  • Unstuffed cabbage rolls, whole wheat biscuits and fruit (recipe below!)
  • Leftovers x 2
  • Stir fry, mashed potatoes and fruit
  • Spud special soup, whole wheat biscuits and fruit
  • Meat and potato meal, whole wheat biscuits and fruit
  • Popcorn and smoothies
Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls
Kerry LOVES cabbage rolls, but they are SO time consuming. I made them the traditional way a few times before Julian came along, but now that I have a baby to keep an eye on, I don't really have the time to devote to traditional cabbage rolls. Enter the unstuffed cabbage rolls!
1 lb. ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
4-5 c. cabbage, shredded
1 can tomato sauce
1/4 c. sucanat (you can use brown sugar)
3 tbs. apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. onion powder 
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 c. cooked brown rice

In a crockpot set to low, layer the ingredients in order given. Put the lid on and cook for 4 hours. Add cooked rice and stir. Put the lid back on and cook for another 4 hours on low. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Julian: 9 months

Julian turned nine months old on Sunday!

Weight: 17 lbs. 4 oz.
Length: 28 in.
Head circumference: 45.5 cm.

Since last month, Julian has popped his two bottom teeth all the way through, learned how to crawl and has continued to widen his food horizons! He loves yogurt, cucumber sticks, apple slices, soup and eggs. He still has a banana aversion, but hopefully he grows out of that. He is still nursing wonderfully, five or six times a day. He sleeps (most nights) about eight hours, waking up around 4:30 to eat, then goes back to sleep for another two hours or so. We are loving this new crawling stage! Yes, he is into EVERYTHING, but it is fun to watch him explore.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Menu Plan Monday 2/6-2/12

You may have noticed that the menu plan for last week was missing. I can assure you we ate, but don't ask me to remember what! We are slowly climbing out of the pit known as sickness and I was doing my best last week to keep clean (read: not puked on) clothes on myself and Julian. I think we are past the worst of it now, so I am praying that we can get back on schedule this week!

Here is our menu plan!

  • Soaked oatmeal and fruit (with honey and maple syrup) x 6
  • Soaked whole wheat pancakes, bacon and fruit
  • Out with a friend x 2
  • Leftovers and smoothies (for me) x 3
  • Standard lunch (for hubby) x 5
  • Hot dogs, chips and fruit
  • Church lunch
  • Spaghetti (trying our spelt noodles for the first time!), garlicky biscuits and fruit
  • Beef and cabbage soup (recipe below!), whole wheat biscuits and fruit
  • Hamburgers, potato wedges and fruit
  • Leftovers (for me) x 2
  • Standard lunch (for hubby) x 2
  • Calzones, homemade dipping sauce and fruit
  • Popcorn and smoothies
Beef and Cabbage Soup
1 lb. ground beef, browned
1 onion, coarsely chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1/2 head of cabbage, coarsely chopped
64 oz. tomato sauce*
4 c. soaked, rinsed and cooked kidney beans (1 1/3 c. dry beans)
1 c. brown rice, uncooked
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tbs. chili powder

Stir all the ingredients together in a slow cooker and cook on low for 8-10 hours. 
*tip: If I am running low on my supply of canned tomato products, I will substitute a can of crushed tomatoes for the tomato sauce in this recipe. The crushed tomatoes I buy come in a 64 oz. can, while the tomato sauce comes 15 oz. to a can. Simply open the can of crushed tomatoes and give it a whirl in the blender!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

2012: January Goal Update

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that when I wrote this post at the end of December, I may have been aiming a little too high. Certainly, the goals that I set were honorable and worthy of attempting to achieve, however, they were a bit too lofty for the season of life that I am currently in. When I first began to realize this, I felt like a failure. I felt as though I was not living up to my full potential, not doing the very best that I could do. It was at that point that my husband gently reminded me to take a look at the priorities that I set for myself. He reminded me that, although I may not have met each one of my specific goals during the month of January, I still stuck to the priorities that I set for myself. He also reminded me to extend some grace to myself.

So, in an effort to be open and honest, I am going to evaluate the goals that I set and share what worked in January, what did not work and how I restructured to (hopefully!) better fit this season of life.

  • Exercise at least three times a week { While this is still my goal, I probably averaged two times a week throughout the month of January. } 
  • Read through the Bible in a year chronologically { I did not maintain this. See the new plan here. }
  • Read twelve enriching books { I read Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. }
  • Drink 1 gallon of water daily { While this is still my goal, I probably managed to do this 2-3 times a week, while getting 64-96 ounces a day the rest of the month. }
  • Memorize 12 new Bible verses { Instead of memorizing individual verses, I have decided to memorize the whole book of Ephesians. This may sound more lofty than 12 verses, but I assure you, memorizing a book at a time is MUCH easier. I committed the entire book of Romans to memory for a class in college and found that much easier to complete than the individual verses for other classes that same semester. Plus, I think there is more spiritual benefit to memorizing chapters and books at a time rather than verses here and there. }
  • Attempt four new cooking projects { I attempted homemade greek yogurt. We did not like it, so, I continue to buy our yogurt. }
  • Serve fish for dinner once a week { While this is still my goal, I only served fish three times during the month of January. }
  • Continue to "green up" our cleaning and personal care products { I made our own laundry detergent for the first time. It works great and you can find the recipe here }
  • Do a seasonal Craigslist/Goodwill sweep { I decided that we are going to have a garage sale in the spring/summer before we move, so we currently have a growing pile in our bedroom of garage sale items. } 
  • Create and maintain a cleaning schedule { I have done pretty well with this, except for this week due to illness. I will be posting it soon. }
  • Once a month out of the house dates with my husband { While this is still our goal, it did not happen in January. My husband takes full responsibility, since January was his month to plan! }
  • Once a week in house dates with my husband { We achieved this! We played a game together, watched a movie, made dessert together and had a "grown-up" dinner after Julian was asleep. }
  • Read 5 books together { While this is still our goal, we did not start any of the books in January }
  • Encourage each other daily { This is ongoing, of course, and has been fun for us to find creative ways to achieve. }
  • Have a weekly family night { While this is still our goal, we are finding that night is not the best time! We are taking advantage of my husband's variable schedule and finding family time during the day. We took Julian to the zoo and went grocery shopping as a family. }
  • Read from the Jesus Storybook Bible together daily { We have achieved this! Due to my husband's work schedule, it does not always happen to be all three of us together, but Julian has heard from it daily. }
  • Write in Julian's journal once a month { I wrote in his journal twice during January. }
Ministry/Friendships/Extended Family
  • Have at least one family or friend over for a meal once a month { While this is still our goal, this did not happen in January due to extensive traveling on my husband's part. }
  • Send a handwritten note/card to a friend or family member every other week { A more realistic goal is once a month. }
  • Start and maintain monthly get-togethers with extended family { We achieved this! } 
  • Continue to teach SS at our church { Still going strong with our 6 third grade boys! }
  • Continue to tithe 10% of our income { Done. }
  • Continue to support a missionary family { Done. }
  • Have once a month budget meetings { Done and enjoyable! }
There you have it, my first goal update for 2012!