Friday, December 23, 2011

No Wrapping Yet!

This Christmas is very different from any other for me: it is the first year that I don't have finals (yay!) and it is the first with a baby.  Any hopes that I had of this year being stress free and of having my shopping/baking done early and without much effort on my part have been . . . dashed.

Don't get me wrong--this holiday season has been AWESOME and Natalie has been a champ as she's been dragged along on all day shopping trips (yes, trips as in plural trips) with my mom--but I am so worn out now that I'm finding things to do to avoid wrapping presents.  Shopping?  Check.  Baking? Check.  Wrapping?  For some reason the pile of presents that I'm excited to give (don't  get me wrong--keeping them a secret from the recipients has been KILLING ME) is like a black cloud looming over my head.  Sooner rather than later, I've GOT to get around to it, but not right now.

For now, I think I'll brew another pot of coffee and enjoy this delightful face for a while longer.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Another Card to the Deck

Ever heard the phrase "You've just lost your man card" said to a guy who has done something that is considered less than masculine?  Why don't we ever hear about woman cards?  And why are said cards (whether the existing male version or the newly invented female one) always taken away and not given?

Every so often, I do something that makes me think, "NOW I am a real woman."  My latest addition to my rolodex of "woman cards"?  I made a turkey.  My first.  Wow.  The only thing that I could think of when I pulled it of the oven (aside from how beautiful it looked) was how utterly and femininely accomplished I felt.  Not that men can't cook turkeys . . . but you get my point.  As I type, turkey stew is simmering in the  crock pot and my husband is likely enjoying his turkey sandwich for lunch at work.




Monday, November 21, 2011

This Time Last Year


Every so often, especially around Thanksgiving, I like to take inventory of the ways that my life has changed throughout the year.  Here are a few things that have changed or impacted me the most.

1. This time last year, I was pregnant and on bed rest, anxiously awaiting hearing my child's heart beat for the first time.  Now, I have a hearty, healthy, happy (and hefty) little girl.  Praise be to God.  For this, Patrick and I are both filled with thankfulness to our Lord.

2. This time last year, Poppop was still alive.  God gave us the most wonderful Christmas season with him--one that, according to the doctors, we shouldn't have had.  We'll miss him so much during the holidays (more so than usual), but I know that my whole family rejoices in the memories of last year.

3. This time last year, I was STILL in college (and on bed rest).  Thanks be to God for giving me understanding professors who let me miss over a month of classes without giving me a hard time.  Finally, at the end of last December, I GRADUATED!  After years of anticipating this very time, I can enjoy the Christmas season without worrying about finals!  I've waited my whole life for this!!!

4. This time last year, I was overweight and pregnant.  At the present time, I have not only achieved a "healthy" weight, but I am twenty pounds lighter than I was when I got pregnant!  Although I still have a little ways left to go, I am feeling so much better both physically and emotionally!

5. This time last year, Patrick and I were happily married.  Right now, we're still happily married.  I pray that I'll be able to say "we're still happily married" for the rest of our lives.

For what changes/blessings are you most thankful?  In what ways has God worked in your life this past year?  This time last year . . .

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Special Thanks

Special thanks to my wonderful, dear friend Naomi for designing my new blog format!  She is always so creative and good with colors, so I jumped at the opportunity to have her help me out.

Check her blog out here: The Incomplete Works of Anselm for beautiful pictures, mouthwatering (literally) recipes, and solid words of wisdom!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Take Two

Most people who know me probably have realized a few things about me: I love to cook, I love to have people over, and I do not love housework.

True, there are a few things that I enjoy about cleaning.  Bleaching things makes me happy (killing germs: hooray!), I cannot cook in a messy kitchen, therefore tidying it serves a purpose, and loading the dishwasher with dirty things that I can deal with later brings me a small feeling of joy (yes, I did procrastinate throughout college).

Things seem to be my enemy.  Things begin to pile up.  Things not put away immediately turn into a mess.  Once there are a number of things that have been left undone, there are a lot of things that must be done . . . and I find that unpleasant.

In an effort to keep said things from accumulating around the house, I have adopted a new motto: "Take Two!"  Every time I move from one room to the next, I either take two things to be put away or I clean two things.  Through this, cups make it to the dishwasher much sooner, clothes get put away much faster, and the house doesn't deteriorate quite so quickly.  In fact, there is less to be done at once!

While Patrick may not be noticing an immediate difference, I can say that the last two Saturdays have NOT been spent cleaning.  True, a little tidying has been done, but we have actually been able to get more accomplished or (shocker!) actually have some fun!  This last Saturday, we managed to get one home project started and completed--a new ceiling fan in our bedroom . . . with an overhead light!--and we bought the supplies for this week's to-do (sealing our windows).

If you struggle like I do, I challenge you to "take two" and see if things look just a little  bit better around your home!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Encouragement

You never know when a smile, a kind word, or a sweet gesture will turn around someone's day or week.  In the past three weeks, I have been running on low sleep, zero energy, and two-parts frustration.  Natalie has been waking at least once a night (more often two or three times a night), where as she used to give me a solid 12 hours of sleep.  A few things have kept me plugging away with a little bit more joy in my heart: nursery chats, women's Bible study, and loving support from ladies in our church.

I have to confess that there are times when I linger longer than necessary in the nursery during either church or Sunday school for the mere reason that the women down there are encouraging me in exactly the way(s) that I need.  Whether it is sharing their own stories of parenting babies, encouraging me to continue pressing forward, or offers of prayers and support, I have been so blessed by the ladies in the nursery ministry.  Not only does it provide shoulders for me to cry on, but it also affords me the opportunity to meet and cultivate friendships with many of the women in our church.  I look forward to my time spent in the nursery each week, and I thank all of the women who volunteer down there from the bottom of my heart.

The next wonderful thing in my life right now is Thursday morning women's Bible study.  When I was initially asked to join/participate, a part of my mind said, "Erin--it is going to be sooo difficult to get yourself and the baby out of the house on Thursday mornings!"  Thankfully, the other part of my mind said, "I'd love to--sign me up so that I'm forced to come!"  Since I've been attending, I have gotten to know more women in our church.  My sense of community in the church has increased ten fold as I now have women to pray for every day.  Not only this, but it is wonderful to talk with women who have been in my current shoes and the shoes that I hope to fill one day.  The first and third Thursdays of the month are the highlights of my weeks!

This past week, I was sharing some of my concerns (in a sleep deprived state) with another dear woman from church.  She encouraged me to press onward, shared how she dealt with the same problem with her babies (waking through the night once they reached a certain weight), and all in all made me feel like I could face the week again.  On Monday night, she called me up and offered to take my snack duty for me on Sunday since she knew that I was running on empty.  I almost cried.  Patrick was in the car with me when I had this phone conversation, and I told him that this was just one more reason why I knew that we were HOME and why I loved our church.  I was so thankful for this kind gesture, and I am still thanking God for putting us in a church where there are people who care so much about our family.

As you can tell, God is doing great things in my life right now.  He is bringing new people into my life who are encouraging me, commiserating with me, and giving me the courage to face every day anew.  Despite my lack of sleep the past few weeks, God has filled my heart with joy and thankfulness by bringing new friends into my life.  I doubt these ladies know just how grateful I am for all that they are giving me, but I go on with new resolve in my heart to fight the good fight and to take every day with joy as it comes.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sundried Tomato Chicken and Broccoli Soup





NOTE:  I accidentally highlighted the text, and now I can't  figure out how to get rid of the highlights.  If anyone knows, PLEASE tell me!!


Since I have been on this diet (more of a lifestyle change, actually), I have been trying to come up with creative ways to make delicious foods that are actually good for me.  A few months ago, I made a creamy chicken and broccoli soup that Patrick really liked.  Because I LOVE making and eating soup, I decided to make a practically carb-free, fat-free version.

I had a bunch of people over for soup, and I made a savory chicken noodle and this "diet" soup.  The diet soup was even more popular than the chicken noodle!

I thought that I would share the recipe here because who isn't looking for the next deliciously healthy meal?  Everything here is approximated, though, because I always throw in a little of this and a little of that and never bother measuring.

3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1-2 bags of frozen broccoli (depending on how thick you want the soup) slightly thawed
2 large onions
3 tablespoons chopped garlic (I keep a big jar in my refrigerator)
5 tablespoons or more sun-dried tomato paste (I get the kind in oil with garlic and spices)
Adobo without pepper
Rosemary
Italian Seasoning
Oregano
Basil
Dash of crushed red pepper
Salt
Pepper
Grated (NOT shredded) Parmesan or Peccorino Romano cheese

Put the onions through a food processor until they are chopped finely.
Put them in your soup pot(s).
Throw in the chopped/minced garlic.
Add chicken breasts and cover with enough water for your soup broth.
*Note: I use two medium pots and put half of the chicken and onions in each.  It takes less time to cook and it's easier than fishing the chicken out of a huge pot later.
Generously add spices and boil until the chicken is tender.
*Note: It is important to be generous because there is no fat to flavor the broth.  I always put in a lot while the chicken cooks and then add more as the soup simmers throughout the day.
Once the chicken is tender, remove it from the pot and fork it apart.
Put back into pot and turn the heat down to medium low.
Put the frozen broccoli into the food processor and chop until very fine.
Note: When the broccoli is finely chopped and then cooked, it almost gives the consistency and taste of rice in the soup!  All nutrients/veggies and no carbs!
Put the broccoli in the pot.
Add the sun-dried tomato paste and mix.  (BE GENEROUS WITH THIS!!)
Let simmer for a while, then taste.
Add in more spices to taste.  I use a LOT of Adobo, and it gives the soup a very savory taste!
Stir in several tablespoons of grated cheese (the cheese should look like powder).
Let simmer all day.  Taste throughout and see if you need to add in more spice.

Ladle into bowls and top with a sprinkle of grated cheese.

Yum!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thankfulness. Please Share!

Today, I am most thankful for my __________ with ___________ because ______________:

If any readers would, I thought it would be fun to share something for which you are thankful in a relationship with someone.  Whether it's a friendship, marriage, family relationship, etc., we all have little things for which we are grateful.  So, begin by stating your relationship, the name of the person for which you are giving thanks, and then give the reason why you are thankful.  It can be something large or small!

Today, I am most thankful for my marriage with Patrick because his warm feet keep my cold ones from freezing at night.  

*My feet are always super-duper cold.  When I have to get up in the middle of the night to feed the baby, they get even more chilled!  I'm always grateful that I can go and warm up my toes by Patrick's when I get back to bed!  It sounds silly, but that was my #1 thought this morning when I went back to bed at 4 AM!  I thanked God for a loving husband who didn't kick me away when I tried to warm up!


Monday, October 24, 2011

For His Own Sake

Our little family is finally home from 10 days of house/dog sitting.  It was so wonderful to finally be back in my own  bed with my own pillows . . . with as fussy as I am, I can't believe that I FORGOT to bring my own pillows.  As it was, I discovered late Saturday night that somehow my favorite pillow had been switched with Patrick's main pillow (in matching cases).  Poor Patrick kept trying to get me to move onto my own side of the bed because I kept trying to keep my head on MY pillow!  The minute he got up to go to the bathroom the next morning, I grabbed what was mine and did a swap.

As I was flipping through my Bible last night in search of a marked passage, I came across Isaiah 43:25.

I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.

In this verse, God is pleading with Israel, His unfaithful child.  Before this, He reminds them of their many sins, of the ways that they have fallen short of His commands.  Then, God writes this verse before speaking again of the blessings that He will pour out upon those who love Him.

It is so easy to become wrapped up in our own, self-centered lives.  Modern Christianity often seems to promote this with the "all about you" gospel.  You choose God.  You decide to be holy.  You deserve God's love because obviously you don't deserve hell.

What is it that God says here, though?  HE blots out our transgressions.  For our own sake?  So that we can get to heaven?  No.  None of these reasons are listed.  He does it for His own sake.  For His own glory.

How small that makes me feel, yet how thankful I am for His promise.  He will not remember my sins.  He has blotted out my transgressions.  For His own sake.  Though this is humbling, it causes me to realize that His own sake is much bigger than my own sake.  That thought is comforting, as are the promises found just a few verses later in chapter 44 (verses 1-5).

"Yet hear now, O Jacob My servant, and Israel whom I have chosen.  Thus says the Lord who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you:


'Fear not, O Jacob My servant; and you, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.  For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.  They will spring up among the grass like willows by the watercourses.'


One will say, 'I am the Lord's' ; another will call himself by the name of Jacob; another will write with his hand, 'The Lord's,' and name himself by the name of Israel."

Whom the Lord has chosen, He will bless.  Whom the Lord has chosen, He has promised blessings upon their offspring.  Whom the Lord has chosen, he will be called by the name of the Lord.

How much better it is to have been chosen than to have chosen.  Since all things are for the sake of the Chooser, how wonderful will all things be in the end for how glorious is He who has blotted out and forgotten the sins of his chosen.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Win Some, Lose Some

Last week, Natalie started to giggle.  It sounded kind of like a duck coughing, but they were definitely giggles.  Today, despite being very clinging, not napping, and wanting to eat constantly, she laughed for the first time without being tickled.  I was singing to her and she just erupted into giggles.  It was one of the few bright spots in my day (I think she's going through a growth spurt . . . she's not sleeping at night, so neither am I).

Throughout the  day, I kept putting her on her  back.  I have been waiting for this kid to start rolling over, and I tried (yet again) to show her how to do it.  She was stubborn.  No go.

As soon as I began to make dinner, what does the little stinker do?  She rolls over for Daddy!  Not fair!  I've been trying for a month to get her to roll over, but he just lays her down on the bed and she does it.

I suppose that I should not begrudge this "first" to Patrick since I get to stay home with Natalie during the day.  Still, I can't believe that she held out on me! 

Monday, October 3, 2011

No Trifling Matter

Yesterday was a special day: it was Natalie's baptism and Patrick's birthday.  In an effort to get our home "company ready," I spent most of last week cleaning, scrubbing, straitening, and shopping.  By Saturday, my house looked good.  Really good.  Dust bunnies were banished, stains were bleached away, and my parquet floors sparkled.

Most of my Saturday was spent cooking.  I made a huge pot of chicken noodle soup and two smaller pots of sun-dried tomato chicken and broccoli soup (practically fat and carb free!).  Three burners were on at once as I juggled a hungry baby, movers coming in to deliver our new bed and a recliner, chicken that needed to be picked, and my ever-full mug of coffee.  I was covered in spit-up and home made chicken stock.

Once the soups were cooked and stored safely in the refrigerator, I knew that I still had to make Patrick's birthday cake.  His request?  Orange cake with an orange cream cheese icing.  Unfortunately, it was nearing bedtime and my kitchen was a mess.  FACT: I CANNOT COOK OR BAKE IN A MESSY KITCHEN.

It would have been so much easier to whip the cake together and then to clean up everything while it was baking, but no.  I psychologically cannot do that.  Ever.

By the time I was ready to start baking, Patrick was begging me to just forget the cake because we were both exhausted and he knew that I would be really cranky the next morning if I stayed up any later.  Stubbornly, I put my foot down and said that I would make that cake if it killed me.

I did make it, and I cleaned the kitchen, polished my floors, and flipped a load of laundry while it baked. While it cooled, I took a shower (FINALLY!).  When I finally went to take it out of the pans for the night (around 11:30 PM), the bottoms STUCK to the pan.  I know that I sprayed the pans well, but the bottoms held fast and then came away leaving me with destruction where there should have been beauty.    This had never happened to me before, and I was disappointed that we were now cake-less for Patrick's birthday, but I did not let it get me down.  Usually, I tend to get very emotional when I am tired and catastrophe strikes, but surprisingly I was very calm.

Then, it came to me.  TRIFLE!

It seems that whenever a dessert doesn't go quite right, I make a trifle out of it.  Like the time I forgot to add vegetable oil to a cake mix when I was pregnant--I took the dry cake, poured raspberry jello on one side, lemon on the other, let it set, and then made a trifle with whipped cream . . . it was a huge hit!

So, instead of sleeping on Saturday night (either the baby cried or the cat pounced on me whenever I dozed off), my mind was cooking up schemes for a delicious filling.  Since Patrick had purchased an extra box of vanilla pudding, I decided that I would soften and whip the cream cheese, add the vanilla pudding to it, pour in some powdered sugar, squeeze in some fresh orange juice, and grate in some zest.  Once that was done, I added a few drops of food coloring to make it the color of an orange creamsicle.  Oh YUM!

I was reminded of two things:

1. Don't cry over spilt milk.  Sometimes you can make it look like it never spilled at all, so why waste time and energy worrying about it.  Even if you can't fix a situation--who cares?  In my case, I could have run to the store for a pre-made cake and the only person judging me for doing so would have been ME.

2. Just as I can sometimes make something good out of a mistake, God can always take our struggles and failures and turn them into things which will bring Him great glory.

P.S.  I forgot to add . . . despite having had almost no sleep in 48 hours, I was thankful to God that I was NOT cranky on Sunday.  That in and of itself was a huge blessing!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Must Be Love

(Image from Discovery Channel)

It is my humble opinion that having children can be one of the most disgusting jobs around.  Seriously.  I'm considering calling up Mike Rowe and asking him to come and do a Dirty Jobs episode at my home.

Today, Natalie's stomach decided that something was wrong.  She projectile vomited, vomited, and vomited some more all over herself, me, and the futon.  The two of us were dripping, I was soaked through, and the futon had puddles on it.

Natalie sat and giggled after it was over, and I, covered in foul-smelling curdled milk, took a moment to think about how much I love her in between thoughts of "How on EARTH am I going to clean both of us up without tracking this mess everywhere?!?"

Well, I ran to the laundry room and pulled out a blanket.  After putting Natalie on the blanket and ascertaining that she did not have a temperature (thank God!), I pulled her diaper off and ran her to the bathroom for a quick bath.  In the ten seconds that she was out of her diaper, she somehow had to go to the bathroom . . . diaper-less . . . all over my bathroom.

There were no paper towels in the bathroom, and I didn't want to risk running with her to the kitchen lest we have another accident, this time on the wood floors; therefore, I grabbed some tissues, threw them onto the floor to soak in the mess, and quickly bathed my daughter.

Carefully, I pulled her out of the tub and into a towel, making sure the whole time that I did NOT let her touch my body because I was still covered in grossness.  Once her diaper was on, I put her down for a nap so that I could get everything cleaned up.

While not the first time something so disgusting has occurred, the magnitude of this event has definitely stepped things up some.

Now, I get easily grossed out.  If I hear someone else being sick, I instantly begin gagging.  If I see someone else being sick, chances are that I will be sick in a minute too.  If I even hear about a story like this, my stomach begins to churn.

So answer me this: if my stomach is that weak, why is it that I still want to take care of this child who made a mess all over me and my house?  Must be love.

It gives me yet another little glimpse at how much God loves His children.  Our sin to Him is much worse than the contents of my baby's stomach, but He loves us anyway.  While Natalie doesn't often create such a mess, we sin many times each and every day.  As a mother has unconditional love for her child, so much more does God look upon His own with eyes of love because His Son has covered the grossness and vileness of our sins with His grace and righteousness.

All seriousness aside, though, I still think that Mike Rowe could have a pretty nifty episode if he came over for a day.  I mean, come on--how many of you have a job as DIRTY as mine?!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

So Thankful

This post will be short and sweet.  I just want to say how very thankful I am for my husband.  After being a "single mom" for most of last week while he was away on business, I have realized once again how blessed I am to have a life-partner who loves me and is committed to our family.

Honestly, I think that having children makes one understand just how important it is to be together (someone to help with diapers, keep you sane during endless  crying fits, and someone to help you unwind at the end of the day).

Yes, I spent most of the past week at my parent's home, but I was here for most of one night alone.  Never have I been sooooo tempted to go and buy a tub of Ben and Jerry's and just pig out!  I like time to myself, but that night was too much time for me!  I'm so glad that he's home and that he doesn't have to travel often!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Signing Away

Today I am sitting at my parent's house, using my brother's laptop as a gentle breeze threatens to flip the pages of The Baby Signing Book that I have open beside me.  Along with deciding not to give Natalie any solids for at least six months (for various reasons), I have also come to the conclusion that I am going to teach her sign language during this critical time in her development. 

That being said, I now must actually learn to sign so that I can accomplish this endeavor. I always wanted to take a signing course in college, but nothing ever worked with my schedule.  This little experiment of mine will not only benefit Natalie (studies show that babies who can sign may actually begin speaking earlier), but it will also allow me to do something that I have always hoped to do.

As of right now, I pretty much have the alphabet mastered along with various signs: the all-important "Mommy," "milk" for when it's time to nurse, "read a book" for when we read, "thank you" to teach her manners (haha!), and a few others. 

I am having so much fun learning this new language.  While I was in school, I always said that I would absolutely love college if only I didn't have the stress of exams.  Well, here I am studying and enjoying myself! 

All of this makes me even more excited to home school in the future.  For now, though, I am going to bask in the joys of having just ONE child  (we want a lot, but I know that the opportunities that I have for one-on-one time with babies will diminish little by little as more little ones come along!) and watching her grow more and more every day.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Holy Heavy Cream, Batman!


Right now, I am eagerly awaiting Patrick's (hopeful) early return from work.  He doesn't know it yet, but we are going to go to Starbucks when he gets home.  I'm hoping that there will be some sugar-free "fall" syrups available to pump into my decaf Tall coffee.

Daydreaming about my coffee-to-be reminded me that, when we started dating, Patrick's favorite drink to order us was a Grande Americano with sugar in the raw and heavy cream--yes, the heavy cream that they hide behind the counter.  His idea, not mine.  I didn't even know that hidden heavy cream existed.

Unfortunately for me, it is difficult for me to imagine EVER asking for heavy cream in my coffee again.  Yes, it tasted a-ma-zing, but I highly doubt that I will ever be in a place in life where I will be willing to pour all of that extra fat into my body.  *Shudder*

I always knew that the day would come when losing weight would take more than just "cutting back" for a few days (oh for the days when that would yield a five pound loss with little effort!), but I didn't expect it to come so soon.

With the world's focus on body image and being extremely thin, it can be difficult for one, like myself, to stay positive.  Most of us will never be tiny enough to model or to be in a magazine, many of us will struggle with weight for the rest of our lives, but all of us should love the bodies with which God has blessed us.  That's right--blessed us.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't eat healthy foods, watch portion sizes, and be careful about caloric intake, but I am stating that being obsessed with such things is not wise.

It is my belief that sin brought weight struggles into the world, and it is most definitely sin that causes dieting and the desire to "be skinny" to become an idol.

Do all things to the glory of God--including your efforts to stay healthy and in shape.  Do not feel sub-par because you don't fit into a particular size, and do not let anyone tell you that you are anything but beautiful.  Beauty is on the inside, and when you are beautiful to God, that beauty radiates into every part of your life.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Separate Anyone?

Patrick and I recently watched an episode of King of Queens. If you've ever seen the show, you know about the hilarious ups and downs that Carrie and Doug have in their marriage although they always come back stronger in the end.  In this particular episode, they go mattress shopping because their old bed is ripped and falling apart.  Anyway, while they wait for their new set to come in, they sleep in twin beds on opposite sides of the room.  They realize that life is so much easier if they are SEPARATE but TOGETHER!  They begin going to different restaurants, movies, and events.

[Disclaimer: This is not a recommendation for the show . . . sometimes the humor is clean, other times we either flip the channel or turn the show off altogether.  I just thought that parts of this particular episode went well with what I wanted to discuss today.]

I was reminded of this show when Patrick and I decided to try going our separate ways this week--with our own coffee makers!  He hates it when I make flavored coffee in our coffee maker, so I now have my own little five-cup in which I can make a daily decaf flavor of my choice without him giving me any grief.  It's amazing!  I love it!  Why didn't we do this sooner?!

The coffee makers and the fact that we have separate bathrooms (sort of . . . I kind of use both!) are the only ways in which we are truly separate, though.

I often see couples who live their own separate lives, who come together occasionally to do things, but who would rather do their own "fun" things.  Men's outings, ladies nights, fishing trips, shopping excursions.  I'm not saying that doing any of these things occasionally is wrong, but I do think that the majority of time in a marriage should be spent together lest a couple grow apart (and we see a lot of that these days).

Because Patrick and I get to spend so little time together because of his job, when he is off I want to spend time with him and not away.  As an aside, I must confess that it kinda bugs me when he is invited to join various "men only" Bible studies that are on FRIDAY nights.  Excuse me--Friday nights?!  That's the one night of the week when we can really stay out late and do things together, the one night when we don't have to be up early in the morning, the best night of the week for family time.  I'm all for Bible studies, but come on--think about the families here!  I don't want to be left home every Friday night or every other Friday night . . . I don't think that it's healthy for our marriage.  That being said, I am always VERY relieved when my husband declines such invitations. *  Sorry, rant over.

Well, all this to say that while I am loving having my own java brewer, I prefer that the majority of things in our lives stay "ours" and not his/hers.  :-)

*Note: Patrick does participate in a weekly Wednesday night Bible study for men at church.  He does this and I'm able to go and sing in the choir, so we at least get to ride together even if the ride is only three minutes each way!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Trains and Babies

Wow, a lot has happened since my last post!  We lived through an earthquake, survived hurricane Irene, and we went on a scenic train ride through Western Maryland.  Thankfully, we made it through the first two unscathed and had a wonderful time on the third.

Mommom was able to come with us on the trip, and it just felt like old times .  .  . those many occasions when she and Poppop accompanied us on fun-filled field trips.  We reveled in the blessing of her presence and basked in the fun of all of us being together as a family.







Saturday, August 20, 2011

I Do Care a Fig


Growing up, I remember helping Poppop with his fig trees.  Somewhere in the back of my mind, I recall sharing a fig or two with him . . . but that was a long time ago.  For some reason, I went through a phase where I did not like figs at all.  The sticky juice that oozed from each fig and the somewhat stringy, pulpy texture of the interior caused me to turn up my nose at the figs that Poppop worked so hard to grow and harvest.

Each winter he would painstakingly board up his two fig trees to protect them from harsh winter winds and  bitter, icy snow.  Showering those trees with love and devotion, Poppop coaxed fruit from the trees even when he thought that various damage had permanently rendered them barren.

Unbeknownst to me, his fig trees have been cared for, presumably by my uncle, during the past year and a half.  Now is the time of the harvest, and it seems that the figs are plentiful this year.  When my cousin forgot to take home an egg carton filled with ten of the ripened fruit on Friday, Mommom tried in vain to give them away.

Finally, I agreed to take them.  In my mind, the worst that could happen was that I didn't like them.  Bringing them to church would assure that someone would take the figs off my hands, especially since figs are generally so expensive.  Whether I would enjoy them or not, I was going to try them in honor of Poppop.  Since he could not be there to eat them with me, I would try to eat them alone . . . or at least taste one.

On my way home, I tentatively bit into one.  Sweet juice filled my mouth.  Surprised, I looked down at the inside of the tiny fruit and was amazed at its beauty.  A nondescript, lightly fuzzed exterior encased a golden flesh which surrounded the most vibrant hummingbird red center.  Tendrils like stamens of an exotic flower pointed their seeds toward the wine colored nucleus of the fruit.

Savoring the taste, I finished the rest of the fig slowly--making it last for several bites.  How glad was I that, upon taking a chance, I had gained a new love.  Figs are delicious, and they were even more succulent because they came from a tree that was loved by one whom I loved.  Now I have yet another wonderful way to remember the great man who taught me so much.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

100 Posts

As I come to post number 100 of my blog, a post which has been several years in coming, I am reminded that this blog has seen some of the best and worst times of my life.  Mountains and valleys, joy and sorrows, life begun and life dearly departed, free and legalistic, protected and betrayed--all of these things have swirled around me for the last few years.

Dear friends and loved ones have passed away, but new friends and cherished people have entered my life.  

My first post was less than a year after losing Poppop Leo and a beloved Christian lady.  It was during a dark time in my life.

Two months prior to the start of this blog, a relationship ended . . . and one month following this blog's conception I met my husband.

Good friends had left my life, but I was soon to meet a new friend, one whom I now love dearly, Naomi.  As iron sharpens iron, so I can count on her to tell me in an understanding way what I need to hear.

A church had been ripped from me, but a new church was welcoming me with open arms and tender hearts.

I was secretly praying that I would not have to go to college, but now I stand debt-free with a four year degree . . . and I cried when I walked across that stage.

Prayers have been answered both to my joy and to my sorrow.  God extended the life of my precious Poppop Vince and granted me the life of my daughter, Natalie, who I almost to a threatened miscarriage.

Through the highs and the lows, God has been faithful and has brought me through to where I am today.    I find myself thankful and overwhelmed by His goodness, amazed by His blessings, and smiling at His orchestration of my life.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Vacation Over :-(

Well, we returned home today from a week at Deep Creek Lake in Western Maryland.  With my family, we spent a week playing games indoors, building bonfires out doors, and having fun on the boat out on the lake.

While I'm sad that it's over, I am super excited to be back in my own bed tonight.  Sleeping on a futon did a number on my back, and having that futon be on a porch/sun room and trying to rest during nightly thunder storms did little to bring actual sleep.

It's now back to the daily grind, but I'm excited about it because Natalie is finally becoming a more happy baby.  Certainly she still has her difficult times, but she is actually mostly content to lay on a blanket on the floor or to sit in a chair alone as long as someone is talking to her.  I can't wait to see what this week brings.

Speaking of Natalie, my little chunkers weighed in tonight at a whopping almost 11 pounds.  That's almost a 4 pound gain from her birth weight in only 7 weeks.  Little piggy!




Monday, August 1, 2011

Words Redefined by Motherhood (Part 1)

Misery:

The moment in the morning after a wakeful night when you realize that your baby is not going to cry herself back to sleep so that you can catch up on your own rest (the lack of which was caused by said baby).

Redemption:

The moment when said crying infant smiles up at you when you pick her up to feed her.

Bliss:

What you feel for your pillow the few times your head is actually able to hit it at any time during the day or night.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

What a Week!



Well, I attempted to post earlier this week.  In fact, I had an entire post written out.  Unfortunately, between my internet spacing out and the blog website malfunctioning, the post both failed to post and to save.  


My ear infection was really bad, and it took until about Thursday for it to even begin to feel like it was clearing up.  I guess that the moral of the story is to get to the doctor ASAP . . . and to find a PCP (primary care physician) who will actually give you an "emergency" appointment in the morning when you call up writhing in pain instead of making you wait until that night.


Natalie seems to be doing much better--the fussiness is not as constant, and we actually have times when she will sit happily.  She's been fussy today, but that might just be because we had her out all day at Hamilton Street Festival where the 57's played.  Pictures will be below!


Today . . . drum roll please . . . Patrick FIXED MY DISHWASHER!!!  I was literally so excited about this fact that I wanted to dirty up a bunch of dishes just so that I could load them in the dishwasher and not have to wash them by hand.  Keeping a clean home while taking care of an infant is hard enough without one's dishwasher being out of commission!


Our sermon was really convicting today.  I was reminded that, when trying to win souls for Christ, it is important just to listen and to be a friend.  Instead of jumping immediately to point out the sin of others, it is vital to first show them the love of God by merely showing that God's people care about the lives and well-being of those who are not Christians.  Yes, Christianity is "exclusive" in that there is only one way to God--through Jesus Christ--but it is also "inclusive" in that we are to radiate the love which God has showered upon us to others.  John 13:35 teaches, "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  Not only do we need to love our brothers and sisters in the Lord, but we also need to love those around us.


I am making it my goal to get to know at least one person in the next month in the hopes that one soul will see that Christians love.  In my conversations, I hope to listen and care while gently pointing to Christ.  I know that I can be quick to jump to conclusions and that I have a tendency to be judgmental, so I pray that I will go into this with an open mind that I may best shine forth the light that has been given to me.


We'll see how it goes.  Whether it is going to the same cashier at ShopRite (mine is now finally open!!) every week or stopping the neighbor from the building across the street as she gardens, I am determined to step out of my comfort zone and to share the wonderful gift of God's love with others.


Patrick and Greg

Patrick and Greg

Sam, Patrick, and Greg
 


Sam on the Hula Hoop
Natalie and Marissa



Me and Inge Hula Hoop!
Patrick has some moves!

Monday, July 25, 2011

One Kid or Two?

Last night was probably the most difficult and the least restful that I have had since Natalie was born.  Two hours after she went to bed, I woke up writhing with the pain in my ear.  In fact, it was so bad that I almost went to the emergency room.  However, I did a little research and discovered that taking some Sudafed could help those with allergies and ear infections . . . seeing how I haven't taken my prescription allergy medications or any kind of antihistamine since Natalie was born, I figured that perhaps this was partly allergy induced.

After taking two Sudafed and a heavy dose of pain killers, I decided that I could wait it out until morning.  Natalie promptly woke up and wanted to be fed.  Once she was fed, she did not want to go back to sleep.  By this point, it was almost 2 AM!  I put her in her crib and decided that, since the monitor was off in our room so that Patrick could sleep, I would just stay up for a little while until she calmed down.  Unfortunately, Patrick had turned the monitor back on thinking that he might have to give her a bottle if I ended up going to Patient First (which was closed anyway) . . . so my sacrifice was a little pointless.

Half an hour later, Natalie was asleep.  She woke up again at 3, though, and cried for a few minutes before falling asleep again only to repeat this process every ten minutes for an hour.  At this point, I had moved to the sofa so that Patrick could get some sleep.  I was still in a lot of pain.  Finally, I decided at 4 AM to go and pick the baby up to see if she had a dirty diaper--she doesn't usually cry and then fall back to sleep, let alone do it for that long.  Immediately after I put her upright, she stopped crying, smiled, burped, and fell promptly back to sleep.

Once I was back at the sofa, I began to close my eyes only to hear several loud "MEOOOWWS!"  Apparently Pippi, thinking that it wasn't fair for me to be up and tending to the baby and not paying her (Pippi) any attention, decided that it was time to play.  In fact, she walked up dragging her favorite toy in her mouth and then proceeded to drop it by the sofa with a few yowls.  She was mad when I went back to sleep.

Natalie woke up again at 6:30 AM, and then she remained awake and fussy for most of the day.  Needless to say, I am utterly exhausted.  My house is a mess, and I have a doctor's appointment for my ear this evening . . . after 7 PM was the only time they could squeeze me in, despite my level of discomfort.

Anyway, instead of one kid it seems that I have two, and the older one is very much jealous of the attention that Natalie receives.  The minute I put Natalie down is the moment Pippi jumps up on me and refuses to budge.  She thinks that she is more fun than the baby because she can bring me her toys and play with me . . . and she doesn't require the level of care that Natalie does.  Poor Pips is used to not having to share my attention.

Natalie, on the other hand, also gets very upset when she doesn't have my attention (at this point, the doctor says it is still the reflux that makes her need to be held belly to belly all the time).  In fact, Natalie gets soooo upset in her crib that she scoots from the middle of the crib to the head of the crib and moves her body from being parallel with the crib sides to being perpendicular to them.  If she's really mad, she rolls over.  Yes, that's right.  My little not-quite-five-week-old has rolled over twice now.  The first time was last Monday and the second was this afternoon.  She is both strong-limbed and strong-willed.  Hopefully she'll lose the will-part.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

An Ear Infection and Blessings

This post will contain updates, a sermon "nugget," and thankfulness for the church home to which God has brought our family.

The good news:  Mommy has on her favorite pair of pre-pregnancy blue jeans!!!

I am so excited--all of the weight that I gained during pregnancy is GONE!  Unfortunately, the weight that remains is all in different places than it was before, so I have a long way to go before all of my clothes fit again.  Still, it felt absolutely amazing to be comfortably wearing my jeans again (no elastic waist bands!)!

The bad news:  Mommy has a really bad ear infection.

Ouch.

Natalie is on full day two of Zantac, so hopefully we will begin to see some marked signs of improvement with her reflux issues.  Watching her be uncomfortable and in pain has been very difficult.

Today's sermon from Pastor Taylor was on the importance of Christian community.  We were reminded how vital it is to come together as the body of Christ and to shine forth His love as a unit, as well as to pray for those believer's around the world who are a part of the community of Christ even though we do not know them.

It was wonderful to be back at our church again.  Just over a year ago, Patrick and I left New Covenant Presbyterian Church in an attempt to find a place more close to home.  Forty minutes one way, especially when we were trying for a baby, was just too far to be as involved as we wanted and it did not practically let us serve in the church.

After visiting a few places (one where the preaching was good but the people unwelcoming and another where the music was great but the preaching was "iffy" and the people less than friendly), we walked into the doors of our current church.  After being warmly greeted before the service, we were blessed not only by the message but also by those who surrounded us afterward.  We left thinking, "This feels like home!"

When we went the next week, one sweet woman told another, "This is Patrick and Erin--this is their second week in a ROW!"  That pretty much cinched for us.  The doctrine of the church was in line with our own, the messages were both challenging and encouraging, and we once again felt like part of a family.  Being located three minutes from the church (we could literally ride our bikes to church if we so desired . . . which we do not!), we have been able to host people in our home, serve through playing music and singing both for the church services and the youth meetings, participate in the choir, and take part in church dinners.  We love it.

Every week we are surrounded by people "drooling" over Natalie and asking us in what ways they can pray for our family.  Should I need them, I feel like I have an ever-ready support team waiting in the wings.  There are women to whom I can address questions (there are even a few nurses thrown in the mix!), men to whom Patrick can apply for wisdom, and friends whom we both have come to rely and love.

Having a community of loving believers surround us has been so uplifting, humbling, and amazing.  I praise God for our church and pray that He will continue to bless it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Things I Have Learned Since Becoming a Mom

I have learned a lot of things since becoming a mom--some funny, some painful, and some just plain frustrating.  Since I believe that life begins at the moment of conception, I am going to include things that I discovered while I was pregnant as well.

#1.  Pregnant bellies are not always cute and round.

I remember the first time that I thought, "Oh my GOSH!  What will people think?!"  I was walking into Target when I happened to look down at my belly.  Instead of being cute and round, it was . . . lopsided and unsymmetrical.  Nobody ever told me that that would happen.  I was seriously bothered.  :-)

#2.  Going to the bathroom all the time is not just limited to the daytime.

Sure, I knew that pregnant women had to go ALL the time during the day, but I was under the delusion that it would stop at night.  Boy was I wrong.  I haven't had a decent night's sleep since last October!

#4.  Feeling the baby kick inside the womb is not all laughs and giggles.

It hurts.  Plain and simple.

#5.  Heartburn and reflux really are "that bad."

Enough said.

#6.  Mothers know best.

Certainly I had always heard this mantra, but now I  know it to be completely true.  Twice in the last month I have seen that my instincts are spot on: both with my recovery problems and with Natalie's gas and screaming fits.  After calling/seeing doctors, it was deemed that I had a serious issue and that she has reflux.

#7.  Late night feedings are not so bad.

I mean it.  Other than the initial, "Man, I just want to SLEEP!" things really are kind of nice once I settle down to feed my baby.  Looking down at her happy little cute face, so excited to be about to eat, any irritation at my disturbance melts away.

#9.  I will kill for this child.

You hurt my baby, you're in major trouble.  Although I have always been super protective of those whom I love (just ask about the times that my parents or my husband have had to keep me from rushing to call up someone who has hurt one of my siblings or my parents), this feeling has been magnified 100 fold now that I hold this precious child in my arms.  Guess this means that you'd better watch out when dealing with the rest of my family, too . . .

#10.  Pink outfits and purple hair bows do not keep people from asking her sex.

#11.  God must REALLY love us.

For as much as I love this little girl, for as much as she is the apple of my eye, for as much as I would rather take on all pain and suffering for her, God must really love His chosen people because sending His only Son to die in our place shows a love beyond comprehension.  

#12.  I will never tell a pregnant woman that she is huge, say "Are you STILL HERE?!?" or tell her my birth story unless she asks (you would be amazed how many people want to share horror stories with a first-time pregnant woman!).

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Don't Knock It Til You Know Us

Recently, I have had a few comments made to me regarding home schooling and it's lack of socialization and effectiveness.  Each of these statements have been qualified by a "You and your siblings are the exception--home schooling really worked for you, but it usually doesn't" or some such remark.

I'm going to stand on my soap box here for a minute or two and address these observations.

As one who was home schooled for twelve years and one who intends to home school, I know how most of the accusations against home schooling are untrue firsthand.

Growing up, most of my friends were home schooled . . . and most of these friends went to college on full scholarships and have turned out to be very successful (and sociable) people.

When I was younger, people would stop my family and ask us if were were home schooled because we were "so polite and able to carry on sophisticated conversations with adults."

Nine out of ten of my professors in college were thrilled to discover that I was home schooled because they felt that, from past experiences with home schooled students, home schoolers were usually very organized, respectful, hard working students who strove to do well.  They loved having home schooled individuals in their classes.

It is my belief that people are stuck back several decades ago in their beliefs and attitudes about home schooling.  Home schooling has become a well established "institution" in America and throughout the world, and time has proven that it is a viable, successful means of educating one's children.

Granted, I do know families that should not have home schooled (for various reasons), but I can only think of two out of hundreds at the moment.  There are children in public and private schools who struggle to succeed and who are shy/antisocial, but nobody comments on those students.  As with anything, there are always a few "bad apples" in the bunch, but it is unfair to judge the majority based on one or two cases.

Don't knock it until you know us.  I would dare anyone who thinks that home schoolers fail to be socialized and are under-schooled to get to know ten home schooling families.  If your opinion has not changed after that, then fine.  However, please do not lump all of us together because of rumors that you have heard or one bad family that you have seen.

Okay, I'm done ranting now.  I honestly would not be choosing to give up my career to home school my children unless I thought that home schooling was an effective, wonderful way of educating my children.  In no way am I saying that home schooling is the only or most elite way to do things, but I believe that it is the  best choice for my family.  I am proud to be a home school graduate, and I am excited to be a home schooling mom.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Two Years Later . . .

Monday was my two year anniversary.  It seems almost strange to think that two years ago I was preparing for my wedding day when on Monday I was making breakfast, nursing my almost four week old daughter, changing diaper number six of the day, and setting up my new bluetooth so that I can talk on the phone while doing these things.  So much has changed in the last two years, and I am a very blessed woman.

Natalie is four weeks old today, and she has been doing really well.  At night, she sleeps for at least one five and a half hour stretch.  She is a big eater and an ever-growing bundle of love and joy.  Now if only I can remain consistent as I attempt to train her not to scream every time I put her down while she's awake.  She does not need to be in my arms as I furiously bleach the bathroom or work with raw meat.

While some may feel that my college education has been "wasted," I feel that being a wife and mother is God's ultimate calling for me.  I now am beginning to take joy in having a clean house.  Not that I didn't love having it clean before, but now I'm actually motivated and am finding housework just a little bit more enjoyable.  My house is actually looking better now more often than it did before I had Natalie.  Weird, but true!

I love cooking for my husband, and, while I do have the occasional bags under my eyes, I actually don't mind getting up in the middle of the night to change diapers and feed Natalie.  In fact, it brings me satisfaction to know that I am able to let Patrick get good rest for work by getting up quickly when the baby wakes up in the wee hours of the mornings.

Life now is so much better than it was two years ago.  If I thought that I loved Patrick then, I had no idea how much more I would love him now.  After two years, we get along better, we have more in common, and we are continuing to grow as one.

It warms my heart to see him grab Natalie as soon as he gets home.  He hoards time with her before she goes to bed . . . and that includes changing her diapers and holding her as she fusses.  We spend time as a family and then time as a couple.

Recently, I was told that now that the baby is here, "He loves her so much--now you're just along for the ride."  This could not be farther from the truth--both the truth of reality and the truth of what the Bible teaches.  We believe that our marriage needs to be first and foremost--if our marriage tanks, so will our family.  If our marriage suffers, so will our children.  Children are a blessing and are important, but so is our marriage.  Please pray for us as we strive to build our marriage while we raise Natalie and the children that we pray will come after her.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Natalie Rae

Well, my last post seems rather funny to me now since I went into labor that night and early Wednesday morning.  Natalie Rae was born hearty and healthy at 10:22 PM on June 22, 2011.  Unfortunately, I had a a few complications and have had a few glitches in my recovery, so this post will be very short and it may be a while before I am really able to sit at the computer again.

God has been very good to us so far, and we are very thankful.  It is humbling for me to have to ask for and accept help in caring for the baby as I have an extended healing time, but God is teaching me great things during this time.

I am so blessed to have a beautiful baby and a wonderful husband.  Patrick has been so supportive during this time, and he has been caring for and protecting me and the baby in such a tender way.

Just wanted to give an update as to why I haven't posted and why it may be a week or two before I post again.

Love,
Erin




Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Oh Dear

This post will be rather short as it is late and I am tired  . . . and having contractions.  As I was "contracting" earlier, I was given a taste of what labor will be like with my husband in the room.  Unfortunately, it was painful.

"Breathe!!!  Are you breathing?  BREATHE!!!" he coached.  "Hoo, hoo, ha, ha.  Hoo, hoo, ha, ha . . . . . . . "

Although he may not appreciate this very much, it was so funny that it made things worse.   Between cramping, having contractions, hiccups (the baby had them, so there was yet another thing going on in my belly), and laughing (thus using my abdominal muscles) at Patrick's breathing techniques, I was pretty uncomfortable.   If he was that . . . energetic . . . after work, late at night when he was tired, what will it be like if he manages to sneak in the Diet Mt. Dew that he so desperately wants in the delivery room (I have said "NO WAY")?!

He finally went to bed "just in case" real labor starts tonight.  He wants to be well rested.  Lucky him gets to sleep.  :-)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Contractions, Heartburn, and a Cell Phone That Doesn't Work?

As I sit here having contractions (no, don't get excited yet--I've been having them for weeks) and battling heartburn, I look forward to the day when I can reclaim my body as my own.  Various "issues" assail me right now, all related to pregnancy, and I've forgotten what it is like to function without another person lodging in my body.  I really hope that she comes out soon.

One of the hardest things emotionally right now is speaking with my grandmother.  My heart breaks as she tells me that she has no appetite and that she really has no motivation to cook for just one person.  I almost begin to weep as she urges me to love and enjoy the time that I have with my husband--she assures me that  I have an amazing one.  My eyes well with tears as I hear her almost cry on the other end of the line.  I love her so much, and I can not begin to imagine the way that she is feeling right now.  Adjusting to life without Poppop will be extremely difficult for her, and all that I can do is love her, pray for her, and call her as often as possible.

It did make me laugh, though, when she told me how frustrated she had been because it was so difficult to get ahold of me.  Quickly I racked my brain for whether or not my phone had any missed calls, and I didn't remember any--and my ringer had (for once) been on most of the day.  She then explained that she kept trying to call my number and the phone kept asking for a password.  After several tries, she finally gave up and called my sister to find out what was wrong with her cell phone (or mine).

As she was relating this story, I realized that she had been dialing my OLD phone number into her phone--and SHE now possesses my old number.  The password she needed was for voicemail.  Anyway, I did not tell her that I had programmed my new number (which I have had for over two years) into her cell phone several months ago so that my name would pop up when I called . . . I guess she was just looking at her old book of phone numbers--the one with the rotary phone on the front--instead of looking through the contacts in the cell phone which she claims does not work properly.  User errors, all of them.  ;-)

Please pray for this dear, wonderful woman as she deals with the loss of her beloved husband.  Life without him after being married for nearly 61 years will be hard, but her trust is firmly rooted in her Lord and Maker.