Sunday, July 28, 2013

Beauty in Motherhood

It's amazing to me that each day can bring out so many different feelings and emotions. These days that are filled with love and laughter, exhaustion and exasperation. I sometimes find myself wondering how I got to this wonderful place in life, but I'm quickly reminded that it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with God's grace.
I love my boys very much, but there are times (sometimes minutes, sometimes hours, sometimes entire days) where I wonder how I'm going to get through. Times when I know I should be laying on the floor playing with them, but the selfish side of me takes over and all I want to do is putter around on the internet and read about how to be a great mom (or wife or whatever). But reading about these things doesn't make me a good mom. Slowing down and spending time with my boys - reading to them, building "big, tall towers" over and over again, wrestling with them, changing their diapers, feeding them - this is what makes me a good mom. But I struggle. Daily I struggle to be the mother they need me to be.
I feel like I've been struck over and over again this week with how much my boys need me to be present to them and how much I need them to help me to heaven. All the seemingly small things I do for them help me die to myself and serve Him more perfectly.
I've read several posts this week that have really made me think about my life, and about my role as a wife and mother in particular. Jenny at Mama Needs Coffee articulates so well this season of life. I could really relate to everything she said. And Msgr. Charles Pope sure gave me a lot to think about with this recent post. And, finally, Dwija over at House Unseen introduced me to this beautiful depiction of Jesus with his mother. I can't get over the beauty of that picture. It's such a beautiful reminder of how important this work of motherhood really is.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Joseph's 2nd Birthday

Joseph was a lucky boy this year - he got three (!!!) birthday celebrations! His first party was with my family while we were on vacation in Ohio. We were so blessed to be able to spend time with them during the week of July 4th. We live far away from everyone in my family, so we don't get to see them very often. It's such a treat when we're all together.
Joseph really enjoyed opening presents with his cousins.
Let me show you how this is done, Joseph.
I got this, Adam. See?
Joseph's second celebration was with our little family on his actual birthday. We had dinner and a special dessert for Joseph (blondies - yum!) along with a few presents from us and Will's side of the family. I really liked having a small, family celebration. I think it might soon become a tradition for how we celebrate most birthdays around here.

Thanks, Grandpa!
Getting birthday wishes from Grandpa Rayel.

Joseph's final birthday celebration was with friends. We had a (very) small "friend" birthday. Last year we invited a ton of people, I made the cake and everything for the party along with all sorts of other insanity and was stressed to the max. This year - I went verrrrry simple. I had a friend make the cake (it was adorable and delicious!), I bought a few simple decorations, did simple goody bags and a simple meal of pizza, fruit and veggies. My stress level was in check this year. And you know what? Joseph enjoyed this party as much as he enjoyed last year's. Mommy lesson learned.

I forgot to take pictures again this year. Luckily, my friend, Liz took over and at least got some pictures for me. Thanks, Liz!

Happy 2nd birthday, Joseph! Now on we go to the terrible terrific twos!

Friday, July 26, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 52)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 226)

1) This past Wednesday I went to the Like Mother, Like Daughter Crazy DC Meet-Up. It was so great to be able to spend the evening with Leila, Sukie, Deirdre and all the other women who came. I was so excited from the moment I saw the post that they were planning the meet-up. I really enjoyed hearing "Auntie" Leila's thoughts on building community, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that much of what she talked about I either already knew or is already being done in our community. We have been so blessed with a loving, supportive community. And I'm glad I was able to hear a few new ideas for what I can do to build up the community around me.

2) I recently joined Blinkbuggy and love it. I really like that I can record quotes and little snippets from our day so easily. I haven't done too much with pictures yet, but just having a journal of memories that easily accessible. I'm still figuring out how everything works, but hopefully I'll be able to share what I post on there with friends and family soon.

3) Have you ever thought about compiling a cookbook with all your favorite recipes? I dream of having time (and motivation) for such things. I would love to have all my favorite recipes organized into one book that I keep in my kitchen. Then I could just store all my cookbooks (or give them away!) and have that much less clutter.

4) I've been enjoying the challenge of posting every day this week. I've been able to get a few posts finished that have been languishing either in my draft folder or in my brain. So far I've posted a bunch of pictures of my two sweet boys - in story format :), talked about my thoughts on baby contraptions, listed my five favorite meals for new moms and gave a little update on what Joseph has been into lately. I'm hoping to do a post about our vacation in Ohio next. Here's a little glimpse of our week:

5) Diet Coke without Caffeine (aka: Caffeine Free Diet Coke) is like chocolate chip cookies without chocolate chips. It's just an abomination. I (not-so-recently) took some diet coke that I had acquired after a potluck to a friend's house. We were having a little play date and I was feeling tired so I took some diet coke to wake myself up. When I got there and we were having lunch I got out my diet coke only to realize that it was caffeine free. I didn't even know what to do with myself. I was so upset. Who buys caffeine free diet coke? Why? WHY!?!?

6) I have a question for cloth diaperers: Does anyone have experience with Hemparoo inserts? Particularly with Fuzzi Bunz? I'm about to buy some off Craigslist, but want to make sure they work well before making the drive and spending the money. I have a couple Hemp Babies liners that I really like. I'd love to get more Hemp Babies, but these Hemparoo liners are being sold for $1 each. Are the Hemparoo liners worth my time and money?

7) This guy:
Thanks for hosting, Jen!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Joseph, Joseph, Joseph

Whew - today has been crazy busy. Here are a few Joseph-isms as of late.

- Joseph's current favorite song to sing is "Are You Sleeping?" I think because of the "brother John, brother John" part, but I could be wrong about that.

- Joseph is really into dipping his food lately. Give him ketchup, hummus, syrup, "pink a budder" (peanut butter) - anything! - and he'll dip, dip, dip away.

- Joseph is slightly obsessed with holding John. He asks at least once daily to "hold Don?" So, I oblige.

It's especially cute when he tries to pick John up off the ground and informs be that John's "too hebby" (too heavy).

- Joseph got a pebble in his sandals once. I stuck my finger in to get it out. Now Joseph randomly stops, sits down, sticks his finger in his shoe then after about 30 seconds says to me "dat bedder?" (Is that better?) before getting up and continuing on his way.

- Joseph LOVES talking on the phone.
Talking to Granpa Rayel on his birthday.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Five Favorites - Vol. 1

This is my first time joining in with Five Favorites, and I'm so excited to join in on the fun! Usually it's hosted by Hallie at Moxie Wife, but this week Grace of Camp Patton is guest hosting - head on over to the Camp for more favorites.

Since having my first baby just over two years ago I've started to develop some favorite recipes for new moms. I love recipes that are simple to put together , taste great and freeze really well.
Here are my 5 favorite recipes for new moms (to take or have brought to me) .

1 - Shrimp Pasta
I randomly found this recipe in the October 2011 issue of Parenting magazine. I often find recipes in magazines and think to myself "oh - that looks yummy!" but almost never actually make the recipe. For some reason I decided to give this one a try, and I am so glad I did!
The recipe I linked forgot to list bread crumbs in the ingredient list - don't forget those! They're very important. I alter the recipe slightly by using medium, frozen shrimp (which I thaw before cooking), doubling the tomatoes, using a very generous amount of bread crumbs (probably more like 1/3 cup) and just throwing a bunch of spinach in (sometimes a whole bag). I also use vegetable broth if I'm making it on a Friday.
My only caveat for this recipe is that it has lots of steps. The whole process makes a big mess in the kitchen (read: lots of dishes), but it's totally worth it! And once you've made the recipe once or twice you get the timing down and can have it ready in about 30 minutes (45 or so with littles running around).

2 - Ravioli Lasagna
Ravioli Lasagna Recipe
I just recently discovered the concept of ravioli lasagna through a friend and found this recipe (that I love!) online. I love it because it's so simple to put together, freezes really well and can be doubled easily - and it tastes just like lasagna!

3 - Salmon
My husband and I both love seafood - especially salmon. I discovered a version of this recipe while we were dating, but I lost the recipe at some point and just went with what I remembered while switching from pan searing the salmon to baking it. This recipe is super easy and delicious. I often make it for special occasions or to treat a brand new mama (especially if I'm bringing the meal on a Friday!). I particularly like salmon with some couscous and fresh green beans.

4 - Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken Pot Pie IX Recipe
Who doesn't love a good chicken pot pie? I love this recipe. It isn't the easiest recipe in the world, but it's not particularly difficult either and it tastes great. I haven't tried freezing this particular recipe, but hope to soon (I'm a sucker for a good meal that I can double and freeze).

5 - Chicken and Wild Rice
I discovered this Chicken and Wild Rice recipe shortly after John was born. My dad came up for a visit and asked if he could cook for us. I had several freezer meals pinned that I wanted to try so I had him whip this together for us. I've since made it on my own. It's delicious and seriously easy to make - and it's a freezer meal, too. Win, win, win!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Baby Contraptions

This post is somewhat of a continuation to my Baby Stuffs post. A couple of my friends are pregnant for the first time and have asked for my advice/thoughts on various baby topics. I decided to write up a few posts explaining all my thoughts and opinions for them.
So - without further ado - all you ever wanted to know about tripping hazards baby contraptions.

There are so many baby contraptions available nowadays that it can be overwhelming trying to figure out what you need when you're having a new baby. I have a couple friends currently sorting through what they want/need for their soon-to-arrive babies. I love me a good baby contraption and I love to talk about the pros and cons of each. I'll try not to bore you too much, but here are some of my thoughts on what to consider when purchasing some baby contraptions of your very own.

I think when you are trying to decide what (large) baby items to buy you first need to consider how much space you have. It is so easy to let your house be overridden by baby stuff (just ask my husband). But if you think ahead and plan you can keep the clutter at bay.

Baby contraptions seem to fall in a few different categories - there are lots of different ways these could be broken up but this is how it makes sense in my head.

Are you lookin' at me?
First, there are the bouncy seats, rockers and bassinets. All of these serve a similar purpose - they are a safe place to lay and entertain baby. Some of them will have mobiles or toys attached. I would recommend getting at least one item from this category as it's super helpful to have somewhere to lay baby when they're sleeping or when they're just happy to watch you as you go about your chores. Keep your eye out for these on craigslist or at baby sales because you can find them at a fraction of their retail price and it's super easy to clean their covers.
I have this bouncy seat and this rock 'n play. I bought both used and have been happy with both. If you buy a used bouncy seat just make sure that it still sits up at a good angle. The seat will begin to sag as it gets used more and more (and as baby gets bigger and bigger).
I have friends who LOVE their rock n' plays, but I'm a little partial to the bouncy seat because it has the vibrator and toy attachment. I just recently bought the rock n' play when I found it for a good price. I wanted something to keep upstairs so I wouldn't have to lug the bouncy seat up and down the stairs all the time. Some of my friends even use the rock n' play as their bassinet for the first couple months before they move baby to the crib. So, if you're looking for an item that can serve double duty you should definitely take a look at the rock n' play.

Once baby wants to sit/stand more you move into the realm of jumpers and exersaucers. These allow baby to do a little more standing and a little less laying, and they have lots of toys attached to entertain baby. Baby needs to have very good upper body control - especially head control - to use these. Most of my friends would say getting something from this category is a must as it allows you to get things done around the house while baby is awake. However, space can be a big concern with these, so if you're tight on space I'd go with an exersaucer or a jumper that hangs in the doorway. If you have a little more room you can go for one of the larger jumpers.

Fun for all ages!
Another great baby contraption is the swing. I've heard some people say their babies didn't like the swing, but both my boys have loved theirs (and John still does!). Joseph slept in the swing pretty well but generally wasn't interested in it otherwise (except for about a 1 month span when the mobile kept his attention). John loves the swing, but isn't quite as interested in it lately. He used to *literally* sit in the swing for 4-5 hours a day and he would cry if you took him out - he LOVED it - he would sleep for a couple hours, wake up, watch the mobile or enjoy his reflection in the mirror, go back to sleep, wake up, repeat. This is the swing we have, and I love it. I splurged and bought it new, but I was looking for a swing that I could plug into the wall so I didn't have to constantly replace batteries. I also like that you can change the direction the seat is facing and that the seat has two different reclining positions. I also happen to be pleased with the songs the swing plays. If you have the space I'd definitely recommend this swing, but I wouldn't recommend our swing if you're tight on space. There are plenty of other space-conscious swings out there that you could look into.

There are other miscellaneous play items like a play mat or a Bumbo. I really like our play mat and would recommend it to others, but definitely don't feel like it's a necessity.
I also like the Bumbo, but if I'm to be completely honest it doesn't get used all that much. I'm really glad I only paid $18 for it at a baby sale. The Bumbo is certainly something you can do without - especially if you have large babies. For smaller babies it can be great, but the overall consensus among my friends is that they're a waste of money (unless you plan on using it to feed baby, then it *might* be worth paying full price).

This high chair has 3 (three!) different trays layered one on top of the other.
It was great for those days where I just didn't seem to get the
tray cleaned before the next feeding time.
Speaking of feeding there are so many options for high chairs, booster seats, Bumbo seats and so on. You should really look at how much space you have in your kitchen. If you don't have extra space for a high chair you should consider getting a booster/high chair that attaches to one of your kitchen chairs. Also keep in mind how easily the chair/tray can be cleaned - because you will be cleaning it. A lot. I got this high chair after one of my friends (Hi, Julie!) recommended it. She did a lot of research and by the time I was ready to buy a high chair I just didn't have the energy to analyze all the different options. We had extra space in our kitchen for a full high chair, so this worked for us. I love that it has so many different options for seating your child. We actually keep the booster portion of the high chair at my parents house for when we visit (although I may take it back if we ever have a need for 2 boosters + a high chair).
The only thing I don't like about this high chair is the fact that the sides of the seat cushion can be a baby. Once Joseph figured out how to undo the seat cushion he did it at every. single. meal. Since then, he's been banished to this booster seat. I originally bought it for extra seating when my sister was coming to visit with her toddler because it was so cheap, but I LOVE it. It definitely isn't for babies who are learning to sit because it doesn't have the shoulder straps, but it's really great for toddlers and super easy to travel (in a car) with. We even take it with us to pot-lucks at church - because an un-contained Joseph at meal time is not a pretty sight.

Cute baby. Awesome stroller.
Magic Kingdom here we come!
We're all about containing small children in our household - so let's talk about strollers. Oh strollers. There are so, so many options here. Do you want a snap-n-go? An umbrella stroller? A jogging stroller? The list goes on. Unfortunately, your budget probably doesn't, so you really need to evaluate your needs here.
A snap-n-go stroller is really nice for small babies who sleep a lot. The ability to transfer them in and out of the car without having to wake them is a huge benefit. Snap-n-go's are also generally inexpensive (although when I just looked them up they were much more expensive than what I remember), very light weight and fold up compactly - but this kind of stroller will only last you as long as baby is still in their infant car seat.
If you plan on running with baby, then it's probably wise to look into jogging strollers. Just be aware that these strollers tend to be very heavy and bulky.
Umbrella strollers are nice because they're generally inexpensive, lightweight and fold up very compactly. The one major drawback to these is that they generally don't have much room for storing baby paraphernalia.
My parents graciously bought us our City Mini with the car seat attachment. I loved the snap-n-go capability with Joseph. I took him on walks and out shopping a lot, so I really liked that I could just transfer him from the car to the stroller or vice versa (I didn't use the car seat attachment with John at all - I just reclined the seat all the way back). I also love that the stroller is lightweight and folds up compactly (and can be folded with just one hand!!!). The stroller also steers really well. I loved my City Mini so much I ended up getting the Double City Mini when John came along. I could be a sales rep for Baby Jogger and sell City Minis - that's how much I love this stroller. I feel it's the best of all the stroller worlds - lightweight, has snap-n-go capability if you buy the attachment (for about the same price as a snap-n-go stroller), folds up compactly, and has plenty of storage.
I do have lots of friends with various other strollers, and they're all happy with their choices so don't let my blathering on fool you. There are other strollers in this universe.

Finally, we've got pack n' plays. I don't have too many thoughts on pack n' plays other than they're great for travel or having an extra place for a baby to sleep when a friend with a baby comes to visit. I've never used ours for playing, but I suppose you could do that - it is called a pack n' play after all. Bottom line - get a basic model for travel. You don't need all the extra stuff that will only drive up the price. Something simple, like this, will do just fine.

Monday, July 22, 2013

My Brother and Me

2/7/13 - Who is this person?

2/10/13 - This is my brother, John.

2/11/13 - See? I can even hold him!

2/12/13 - And I can sit next to him.

3/23/13 - I can even buckle his car seat.

4/3/13 - Sometimes we like to make silly faces together...

4/20/13 - ...but other times we just hang out.

4/20/13 - I like to give my brother, John, hugs.

6/10/13 - I really like to hold my brother in my lap (mommy trusts me to do this now!).

6/11/13 - Being a big brother is the best!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

7 Posts in 7 Days

My blog has been...languishing lately. I'm so glad Jennifer Fulwiler over at Conversion Diary is having the 7 posts in 7 days challenge. I'm excited to finally finish up some posts I've been either working on or thinking about and do a little free writing in the process. I hope you'll join me for various thoughts and updates.
This week will include lots of updates on the boys and out family, some thoughts on baby contraptions, favorite recipes for new moms and various other things I haven't yet figured out :) Stay tuned for more.