Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas
and on Oakbriar Farm,
we had just come from Auntie's
and our hearts felt all warm.

Our bellies were full of roast beef and brie,
and our minds full of memories of the guys playing Wii.
Evie and GaGa had fun drawing pictures,
and Raja had fun tickling them with his whiskers.

But now we are home
and wishing for sleep,
and hoping that Evie does not make a peep.

Evie is nestled all snug in her bed,
but a wee tiny fever warms her forehead.
Dr. Hartman told us "'It will be gone in a day,"
but Mommy is worried and so she will pray:
that Evie will wake up so healthy and sound
and then run downstairs where the gifts will be found.

The baby doll bed is under the tree
and Evie will see it tomorrow with glee.
Gooey Butter Cake is out for Saint Nick.
We're sure he will gobble it up very quick.

Mommy and Daddy will be up for awhile
since the gifts for the morning are still in a pile.
Daddy will wrap till his fingers are aching
and Mommy will finish cleaning up from her baking.

Now my dear bloggy friends, I really must go.
Chris is waiting for me with mistletoe.
But I must say one thing before I turn out the light:
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Kringleville Bakery


A few weeks ago, Evie and I attended a cookie decorating event at Kringleville Bakery.

The decorating was fun! The bakery ladies gave us a plain cookie and tons of icing. I love decorating cookies, but hate the icing clean up, so this was perfect! Evie wanted a snowman, so together we piped a cute little blue snowman with a red hat. Because it hadn't snowed here yet, (and there was green icing readily available,) we piped a little grass underneath our snowman.

Then came the sprinkles! Evie smashed so many jimmies and sprinkles onto this cookie that you couldn't even tell there had ever been a snowman! In fact, both GaGa and Chris thought it was a Christmas tree when they saw it later! But Evie had fun and so did I.

Somehow I must have erased the pictures from my camera, but my friend Lisa just emailed me this photo. (That's her beautiful Hailey in the red shirt!) What a sweet memory of a sweet afternoon!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Photo Meme


In the past couple of days, Nell and Renee have both tagged me for photo memes. Since my brain is fried from last-minute shopping, this is the perfect meme for me!

The rules are simple:
-Open the 4th picture folder on your computer.
-Open the 4th picture in that folder and post it on your blog.
-Explain the picture. (Hopefully you can remember!)
-Tag 4 other bloggers to do the same.

Explanation: Several years ago, Chris and I took a dream trip to Italy. This photo was taken in Florence, right outside the Uffizi. We were waiting in line for the museum when I noticed an artist selling her work from a cart nearby. I remember I liked the colors she used - such pretty yellows and oranges. I bought several, intending to have them framed when we returned home. When we cleaned out the closet in the guest bedroom a few months ago, I found them! (I'll get around to the framing some day!)

I'm tagging eight people, since I was tagged twice (4 times 2 = 8!):
Fiona
Rachel
Heather
Sandy (She takes great pictures, so I'm excited to see her post!)
Jen
Prasti
Momma (Where have you been?)
Greg

Friday, December 19, 2008

Twenty-Three Months


Sweet Evie,

Twenty-three months. The time passes so quickly! It's funny - sometimes when the day is gone and it's time for a bath and getting you down for bed, I think "I want more time with her!" But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that on some nights, I'm so grateful for the peace after you've gone to sleep.

As I write this, you are napping. You and I have recently been reading Christmas books before your nap. It started with just one or two books, but now we're up to four. And sometimes we read them more than once. I can't help it, though. It's fun to snuggle next to you while we read about snowmen and penguins and Santa. After we read today, we cuddled under the covers and you said "Happy Mommy!" I wonder if you were telling me you're happy, or if you were just commenting on the smile on my face...

You really love reading. We borrowed a book from the library called Katy Duck, and it's your favorite. Katy Duck is a ballerina who twirls and spins. You'll bring the book to me and say "Katy Duck! Tutu!" So we go in your room and put one of your tutus on. As I read you spin around in giant circles and yell "Quack, quack!"

You love playing dress-up. You like wearing your tutus, but you really come up with some odd attire combinations. I've seen you in a gaudy beaded necklace, sunglasses, a bucket hat, and a cat tail from an old Halloween costume. You've worn pjs, a tutu, and a furry winter vest from last year. Hats and necklaces accessorize anything. And anything can be a purse. If it has handles, you loop it over your arm and say "Bye bye."

You have your favorite "everyday" clothes, too. I bought you a shirt from the Gap a couple months ago that says Candy Girl. You also have a blue shirt with a penguin and peppermint candy that you call your "Blue Candy Girl Shirt." You ask to wear these shirts everyday. If I tell you they are both dirty, you demand "Wash!" GaGa came over this afternoon and we listened to Sugar Sugar by The Archies. You love it, just for the line "You are my candy, girl."

You are speaking so well, and SO MUCH! I really can't believe the progress you're making. Last weekend you said your first sentence, "Daddy loves garlic!" You're at the point where you can communicate just about anything you need. I still marvel over the words you pick up - water tower, appetizer, clementine. When Daddy and I were on our honeymoon at the Vidafel Resort, we bought this little turtle and named him Vidafel. You've recently discovered him and ask for him by name many times each day - "Vidafel! Hold Vidafel!" You only have to hear a word once and it's in your memory. The other day, Daddy was impatient because another car was trying to turn in front of us in traffic. From the back seat, your little voice piped "Go, Buddy!"

You become so excited over little things. It's so fun to see your reaction to the ordinary. You'll clap your hands and say "Yea! Black beans!" or "Yea! Christmas Lights!" or "Yea! Santa!" or "Yea! Snowman!" or even "Yea! Band-Aids!" The other day we were in Target and I decided to pick up milk while we were there. You screamed "Yea! Milk!" and clapped your hands loudly. I swear, people must have thought you haven't had milk in years.

Your favorite drink is strawberry milk. Sometimes, just to tease me, you ask for white milk. As I hand it to you, you'll get a naughty look and say "Pink milk!" You love pomegranate, oranges, pizza, popcorn, and edamame. The other day you asked to eat at McDonald's! You haven't been there more than ten times ever, but you are hooked already. It must be the fries.

You are such a good little girl. You already have a chore - when I empty the dishwasher, you put away the forks and spoons. When you're finished, you always beg for more utensils! And you are very polite. You always say "Please" and "Thank you." I often see people look impressed when you say "Thank you," and it makes me feel like I'm doing something right.

You love praying and we usually have to pray twice before each meal. You insist. You also notice Baby Jesus everywhere, so close to Christmas. He's in a little walnut shell on our Christmas tree, as you're fond of showing me. He's on a magnet on the fridge. He's in the nativity in your room and we saw Him in the Christmas drama at church. As you grow up, I hope you continue to remember He's with us always.

There's a line I heard in Sugar Sugar that resonated with me today, "I just can't believe the loveliness of loving you." It really is lovely to love you.

Love, Mommy

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Our Soundtrack

Finally, Evie's taste in music is improving! For so long, it was Almost Everything is Boinga all the time. Over and over and over. But this week, things have suddenly changed for the better.

I was at the computer the other day and noticed Nell's latest post in my blogroll. It was called Thank You Mr. Postman, and it made me think of the song Please Mr. Postman. Since they're the only ones I know, I kept singing the lyrics that go "Wait a minute, Mr. Postman! Please Mr. Postman, look and see. Is there a letter in your bag for me?" Evie loved it! And then, all on her own, she reached behind herself into a pretend "bag" and pulled out a pretend "letter." As she handed the letter to me, her face was radiant with a big, beautiful smile!

As you can gather from this post, I sing a lot. Mostly just what's stuck in my head, but also anything that's useful for getting Evie's attention. For instance, when I ask her to lay down so I can change her diaper, I sing a few lines from Lay Down Sally by Eric Clapton. The other day, out of the blue, Evie demanded "Lay down Sally!" I sang her the chorus several times, until I was just sick and tired of it! Folks, here's the magic of iTunes - for a mere dollar, Evie can hear it whenever she wants. And she wants to hear it constantly. We only bought it Sunday, and it's been played 65 times. Although her taste is improving, I've quickly learned even good music can get old. But watching her dance to this song is so much fun. She shakes her arms and twirls around, screeching with joy. My mom saw her, and said I used to boogie to this same song when I was a little tot. It must be in Evie's genes.

I must also mention the holiday music that's on the radio constantly this time of year. When we get in the car, Evie asks "Red nose?" She loves to hear Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and Jingle Bells. I don't know what we'll do when the Christmas stations switch back to their regular formats!

I'm enjoying the new variety of music in our home. At least for the time being, we like the same songs. But I know it won't be too long until Chris introduces her to Metallica and I am yelling something like "Turn down that racket!" I'll just enjoy it for now.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Santa Baby




P.S. - I know you're all only looking at my adorable daughter. But I have to tell you the color is messed up in these photos. No, sorry to disappoint, our wall is really not shocking blue...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cookie Craft


Okay, months ago I claimed I had the best sugar cookie recipe ever. And I'm still sticking to my guns. I don't even like sugar cookies, but these are so sweet and flavorful that I make an exception.

The problem is that they spread just a little. Really, it's not bad, but I want those perfectly shaped sugar cookies. So when my mom gave me an early Christmas present, a book called Cookie Craft, I was interested. The authors, Valerie Peterson and Janice Fryer, claim to have designs and techniques for all your creative cookie occasions.

These women do not disappoint.

First, the book is beautiful. It begins with cookie inspirations - perfectly decorated sugar cookies for every season and occasion. They even give you ideas for "dressing up" plain cookie cutters like ovals and circles. I would have never thought to make a purse or candy-corn turkey from an oval cutter, or an Easter bonnet or Santa from a round cutter.

I thought the best part of the book was the recipe and techniques for creating the perfect blank cookie-canvas. I was skeptical, really. After all, I have the best recipe ever. But they sold me with their dough that does not have to be refrigerated for 24 hours before rolling and cutting. They sold me with their "cookie slats." They sold me with the "roll, chill, cut" method.

It was all true. These were the easiest sugar cookies I've ever made. However, taste is really important to me. And these cookies have it! While I don't think they are as good as my recipe, they are a very close second. But their beauty - the uniform cooking, the perfect edges, absolutely no spreading - makes them winners.

I have to admit that I completely wrecked their royal icing recipe for flooding the cookies. I think I over beat the egg whites. Whatever happened, I ended up with something that resembled marshmallow fluff. After berating myself, I used the piping icing and just put little polka dots all over the cookies and sprinkled them with sanding sugar. Cute as a button. (I know, I should have taken pictures. What kind of blogger am I?)

I'm not being paid to write this. (But I really, really wish I was!) The authors have never heard of me. I just think this is a great book, especially this time of year. If you're set on making the perfect Christmas cookies, check it out.

Oh, and thanks, Mom! I love it!

Lisa hosts Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays over at Blessed with Grace. Visit her for yummy Christmas recipes! This week she has a giveaway for a fabulous cookbook holder!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Siesta Ornament Exchange


This year, I participated in the Siesta Ornament Exchange. Was I surprised when Jeno, my Siesta Buddy, sent a giant package!

There was my beautiful ornament of the Holy Family, plus lots of extras - a cross for the wall, books, an Amy Grant CD, and even two gifts for Evie from Jeno's daughters. I have such a sweet, generous Siesta Buddy!

My ornament is so glittery and pretty! It's also sturdy, and I hung it on a low branch so Evie can touch it. It looks so beautiful with the lights on!

Merry Christmas and thanks, Siesta Buddy!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Easy & Classic Christmas Crafts



My mom recently reminded me of a few crafts I did as a young child, and we tried them out with Evie. First, GaGa came over and helped us make the candy cane reindeer (and Evie scarfed down a whole candy cane in about two minutes!) A few dabs of glue and a couple twists of a pipe cleaner, and you have yourself a reindeer ornament! When we were kids, we made these and hung them on our tree. On Christmas morning, we were allowed to take them off and eat the candy canes!

The tree was very simple. I just cut it out from construction paper, and glued on the star and garland. Then I gave Evie the cut out ornaments and glitter glue. She lovingly "hung" the ornaments on the tree!

What crafts do you do with your kids during the holiday season?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ultimate Party Meatballs

This is a busy season of the year. We have pictures to take with Santa, shopping to complete, cards to mail to everyone we've ever known, gifts to wrap, and parties to attend. On top of all this, we often have to bring a dish to those parties.

This Sunday, I tried a new recipe. Actually, it was so easy that Chris made it while I was in the shower. Yes, girls, it really is that easy!

I wasn't sure how it would turn out. But let me give you some insight into the popularity of these tiny gems: Evie and her little friend Andrew (who is about sixteen months old) inhaled the meatballs. Chris and I tried to figure it out yesterday, and we figure they ate about five apiece! That's a lot for their toddler tummies!

The adults liked them, too. The meatballs were more savory than sweet, which surprised me, and they made a great addition to the buffet spread! Chris made them in the crock pot, so they even kept warm on the drive to the party.

Ultimate Party Meatballs
1 16-ounce can Ocean Spray® Jellied Cranberry Sauce
1 12-ounce bottle Heinz® Chili Sauce
1 2-pound bag frozen, pre-cooked, cocktail-size meatballs

Place meatballs in a slow cooker. Combine sauces and pour over meatballs. Cover and cook 4 hours on HIGH.

Alternatively, you can combine sauces in a large saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring until smooth. Add meatballs. Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until meatballs are heated through, stirring occasionally.

Makes 30 appetizer servings. Enjoy! You can find more easy party recipes and planning tips here.

Lisa hosts Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays over at Blessed with Grace. Visit her for more yummy recipes!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Charge It!

A few weeks ago, we were shopping and Chris allowed Evie to "swipe" the credit card. Of course she loved it.

Now, she make-believe swipes credit cards all the time. Really. ALL. THE. TIME.

Anything can be a credit card machine. For instance, she likes to ride around on her little red car. The toy started out as a walker for Evie, but the sides slide together and it becomes a ride-on car. There is a groove where the two sides come together, and the other day I noticed Evie swiping old Valentine's Day cards!

Then yesterday we were at lunch and she started using the wooden menu holder as a credit card machine. I gave her an old Kohl's coupon that's shaped just like a credit card and is on heavy card stock. She was in Swiping Heaven, and stayed occupied for quite awhile.

Don't you wonder what she's purchasing with all these credit cards? I hope she gets a job so she can pay the bills. I don't want her spending all her playtime pretending to avoid calls from debt collectors...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!



I just spent the evening with 600 other women at church, preparing our hearts for the Christmas season. It was a night of phenomenal music, great conversation, Jesus, and cheesecake. Enough said.

I'm most certainly in the Christmas spirit. And so is our home. The lights are on outside, the tree is up, and the banister and mantle are decorated with evergreen and red ribbon.

Each night Evie and I walk down the driveway, hand in hand. Luckily, she hasn't yet caught on that Daddy stays behind in the garage. We get to the end of the driveway and turn to face our house. Evie yells "Christmas!" and out lights come on! Even though I know Chris is making it happen, it's still magic.

Yes, this really is the "most wonderful time of the year."

Saturday, December 6, 2008

She's "Snow" Beautiful!



Last Sunday, we awoke to a winter wonderland.

Really, it was perfect. The ground was just coated enough to look fresh and bright. Evie looked out the doors in the kitchen and said "Snow! Whoa! Snowman!" We promised to take her out right after breakfast.

Having a child makes all these "same old" experiences new again. Her excitement at the snow made me excited, too. So we hurried through breakfast and suited up. Long underwear, socks, pants, t-shirt, sweater, coat, hat, mittens, and finally SNOW BOOTS! Evie has been dying to wear her snow boots since GaGa bought them for her almost two months ago. And the day was finally here!

We didn't stay out long, but it was enough for Evie to work up the courage to walk in the snow and then to ride in a sled pulled by Daddy. She shrieked as she went down the small hill and cried "More! More!" Chris pulled her back and forth several times, until they had worn the snow away!

By the time we made it home from church later that morning, the snow had melted and disappeared. We've had a few more dustings since then. But I'm waiting for a big snow with the excitement of a child. Because I can't wait to see MY CHILD zip up those snow boots again and build her first snowman.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Liar, Liar! Pants on Fire!

I am lying to my daughter. And, no, I'm not talking about Santa.

If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you know Evie is teeny-tiny. You also know I worry and obsess about her weight gain. But I have discovered a great trick!

Evie is in love with The Backyardigans. So lately, we don't have macaroni and cheese - we have "Ho Daddy, Surf's Up Noodles." We don't have sausage and barley soup - we have "Yeti Soup." Instead of ham, we have "Vroom, Vroom Crusin' the Dunes Ham."

Tonight we had pork. Evie wouldn't touch it. What she really begged for was my Spring Mix salad with Red Wine Mist dressing. But when I said "Do you know what that is? It's Polka Palace Party Pork!" she dug right in. Immediately. In fact, she ate every single bite on her plate. She also had a hefty helping of Ho Daddy Noodles.

Why can't this work in reverse? Wouldn't it be great if I just renamed chocolate cake and then didn't want it anymore? "Big Belly Brown Bread? No thanks!" Wishful thinking...

How 'bout you? What little white lies do you tell your children?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Napa Cabbage Salad

This salad is GOOD! I like to make it in the summer for potlucks, but it works equally as well in cold weather when paired with Chinese take-out! Be sure to have extra copies of the recipe on hand when you serve this to company!

Napa Cabbage Salad
1 (3 oz) package chicken flavored Ramen Noodles
1/4 c butter
1/2 c sesame seeds, toasted
1/2 c blanched slivered almonds
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 large head napa cabbage, shredded
6 green onions
1/4 c vegetable oil
1/4 c rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp white sugar

Crush noodles well, place in a medium skillet and brown in butter. Add almonds and sesame seeds, stirring often to prevent burning. Add seasoning mix from noodles, remove from heat, and cool. Toss in a large bowl with cabbage and onions.

Prepare the dressing by whisking together the vegetable oil, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar. Pour over salad, toss and serve.

Enjoy!

Lisa hosts Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays over at Blessed with Grace. Visit her for more yummy recipes!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Mother Letter Project

A few weeks ago I told you about a sweet, sweet man and the gift he's giving his wife for Christmas.

Well, I wrote a letter to share the wisdom I have learned since becoming a mother myself. What I've learned is no newsflash, but something I've realized as I journey down this path.

Dear Mother,

It's hard to write a letter to someone I don't know. I don't know your name or what you look like. I don't know your hobbies or dreams or the things that keep you from falling asleep at night. But I do know one of the very most important things about you - you are a mother.

I am a mother, too. My journey to become a mother was a long one, but my daughter is well worth the wait. She is all the best things about me, jammed into a very tiny package.

My husband and I tried for years to conceive a child. Month after month passed and the pregnancy test was always negative. We underwent many tests, spent thousands of dollars, and tried to mend our broken hearts. And we grew closer to our God, knowing He did not make a mistake in giving us this burden.

With the help of several nurses and three doctors, I was finally pregnant! Oh, it was a glorious time. I didn't hate my pregnant body the way some women do. I truly marveled at this miracle. It's still amazing to me that I grew my daughter right in my own womb.

No matter how our children come to us, it's a miracle to be a mother. It's also a crushing responsibility. I have "Perfect Mother Syndrome," although I believe I am recovering nicely now. There have been so many things in my life that I worked hard at, trying to be the best. I had the perfect career, the perfect marriage, the perfect little house, the perfect circle of friends. This mother thing is a whole new ballgame, though. Before my daughter was born I had already read all the books. I knew What to Expect the First Year and how to have the Happiest Baby on the Block. It makes me cringe a little to remember how naive I was!

You can't raise a child by the book though. My daughter cried for the first eight weeks of her life. I cried a lot, too. What had I gotten myself into? I talked to the doctor and swaddled and shushed. Against our pediatrician's advice, I finally committed the worst mommy sin of all and put her into bed with us. I held her all day long. I followed my instincts. And do you know what happened? She stopped crying.

So this is what I've learned - and have had to re-learn over and over again - I know better than anyone else how to take care of my child. No one knows her better than I. I should always follow my instincts.

Oh, and I've also learned I am a good mother. Maybe not perfect, but certainly good enough. That's what we need to tell one another. You are a good mother.

Congratulations on the wonderful person (or persons) you are raising. You are a good mother.

Love,
Evie's Mommy

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Rejoice! Rejoice!

This morning, I already knew what I was going to blog about. I was going to post pictures of our beautiful Christmas tree and lights. That is, before I went to church, I already knew what I was going to blog about.

It is so easy to get lost in the "Santa" part of the season. I surely love the "Santa" part. I love the festive feeling in the air, the anticipation of good food and family and gifts. So I'll post the pictures of our tree another time.

But I have to be sure to make room for the "God" part of the season. That's the part that truly matters. We sang this song today, and it's beautiful. I'm glad I'm no longer waiting for a Savior. I can rejoice that He's come. God is with us.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Evie's First Haircut




Wednesday, we took Evie for her very first haircut.

Her hair really isn't very long, but it was getting so scraggly-looking. It's fine in pigtails, but she won't always allow "tails." Evie, in all her dramatic glory, will sometimes tug at the rubber bands and say "Tails hurt! Hair hurt!" (She is such a faker!) So I decided it was finally time.

We went to Cookie Cutters, a cute little salon just for kids. Evie immediately played on the slide they have, then chose a car to sit in for her haircut. She did really well during the actual cutting process. Although she was a little unsure, the orange Tic Tacs we bribed her with seemed to make things easier. It was over in just a couple minutes and they gave her a lollipop and a balloon. And I got a small lock of her baby-fine hair in a little bag to take home.

Now her hair looks nice, even when it's not in pigtails. But I wasn't prepared for her transformation. For some reason that little trim made her look much older. I lost more of "Baby Evie" again, without even knowing it was coming. How does this keep happening to me?

Our children really do grow up "in the blink of an eye" don't they?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful

Last year, Evie had a bug and threw up the night before and all day on Thanksgiving. It was awful - no sleep, yucky mess, and such a sad little baby. We had Jack in the Box for dinner. So this was the first Thanksgiving we've celebrated with Evie, and it was wonderful.

We celebrated (and by that I mean, we ate) with my mom, Rachel & Jyoti, and a friend of my mom's. The day was really perfect - one of those times when I feel like I live in a Norman Rockwell picture.

This morning Evie and I were watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and James Taylor performed. Since childhood, he has been one of my all-time favorite singers. During the parade today he sang America The Beautiful. I tried singing along, but I choked up.
O beautiful, for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.
O beautiful, for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
'Til all success be nobleness, and ev'ry gain divine!
O beautiful, for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years,
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God mend thine ev'ry flaw;
Confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law!
I am so blessed to be living this life. I live in a country where anything is possible.

I have a wonderful husband, a beautiful daughter, a loving mother and father and brother and sisters and aunts (and uncle) and great aunts and cousins and in-laws and friends.

I have wonderful, warm memories of people I've lost - a good friend, my Poppa, my mother-in-law, my Grandma. While I miss them all, especially on days like today, I am so blessed to have known their love.

I own a home and two cars and two computers and two iPods and two televisions and closets full of clothes and more diamonds than I can wear at once. My cupboards are never, ever bare.

I have a God who never leaves my side, even when I stray from His. Today is truly one of those days when I feel these words in my soul: God shed His grace on thee!

Happy Thanksgiving. May you feel His grace, too.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sausage Barley Soup

This week, many of us will be busy preparing a feast on Thanksgiving day. (Thanks to my mother, I'm only on the hook for stuffing and the Havarti Cheesebake I posted a few weeks ago.) But we still have to feed our families the rest of the week!

My friend Karen made this recipe for lunch last week, and I loved it. I served it at home just a few days later! It's flavorful and filling, perfect for a cold autumn dinner. And best of all, you cook it up in the Crock Pot so it's mostly hands-off!

Sausage Barley Soup
1 lb Italian sausage
1/2 c diced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 large carrots, sliced
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
48 oz chicken broth
1 can Italian style diced tomatoes
1 (10 oz) package frozen chopped spinach
1 c uncooked pearl barley
1 beef bullion cube

In a skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage, onion and garlic until sausage is evenly brown. Season with Italian seasoning. Remove from heat and drain.

In a slow cooker, combine the sausage mixture, chicken broth, carrot, spinach, barley, diced tomatoes, and bullion cube.

Cover and cook 4 hours on High or 6-8 hours on Low.

Enjoy!

Lisa hosts Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays over at Blessed with Grace. Visit her for more yummy recipes!

Monday, November 24, 2008

This Will Give You a Cavity for Sure

Oh, there is a sweet, sweet man out in Bloggy Land.

Instead of the "typical American Christmas - gizmos, gadgets, whatnots, and an oversized helping of turkey," this man and his wife and extended family will be making gifts for one another this season. Then, they'll donate the money they would have spent on gifts back to a small village they visited last year in a not-as-fortunate part of the world.

So what is this sweet, sweet man making as a gift for his wife? A book of open letters from mothers to mothers. And you can be part of the Mother Letter Project.

This really tugs at my heart, I've got to do it!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Halloween Fallout & Jesus' Birthday

Evie is just beginning to understand the holiday thing, but she hasn't completely figured it out. Take today, for instance. The bee wings from Evie's Halloween costume have been hanging on the dress up hooks in her room for some time, and she just noticed them today. She pointed to them and said "Evie wings." I asked if she wanted to wear the wings and she said "Get candy." Makes sense, right? She wore them a of couple times in October, and people gave her candy. Why wouldn't it work today?

But Evie's catching on to Christmas quickly. She's not even two, so Chris and I thought it would be safe to shop for her gifts while she's with us. Um, maybe that wasn't such a good idea...

After church today, we headed to Toys R Us. Most of the toys we're giving Evie for Christmas are intentionally low-tech, but we also purchased the Leap Frog ClickStart. It's a little advanced for her but she is just obsessed with the computer. (Maybe because I am just obsessed with the computer!) This little gadget will turn our television into Evie's very own "pooty," which is how my sweet girl pronounces "computer." So we chose the purple one (on sale and also with a 20% off coupon, I might add,) and put it into the cart. We didn't call attention to it in the slightest. That's an important detail in this story.

Later this afternoon, I caught my sneaky child on the computer in the kitchen. Evie had turned on the monitor, and was busy typing and moving the mouse around. When I noticed her, I scolded her and said "Mommy did not give you permission to use my computer." She looked right at me and asked "Buy? Evie's pooty! Purple pooty!" How did she know??? I just shook my head and told her I had no idea what she was talking about!

And then I was cooking tonight, and touched raw pork. I've read that you should sing Happy Birthday twice when washing your hands, which is the perfect amount of time to wash away the germs. So I sang "Happy birthday, dear Evie," at which point Evie started yelling "No! No! Jesus!" I asked "You want it to be Jesus' birthday? What happens on Jesus' birthday?" and my angel replied "Presents!"

Uh oh.

PS - Evie's been sitting on my lap, begging to type. Here's her first contribution to the blog:
jjukcvm hj zhj8i56u99 nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nmnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm jutyfsr6ubhh
/n v n,

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Twenty-Two Months

Sweet Evie,

Yesterday was your twenty-two month birthday. You are less than two months away from your second birthday, and I am still amazed by you every single day.

The big highlight over the past month was the two weeks Grandpa spent at our house. I tried to prepare you for his visit by explaining Grandpa would be sleeping at our house. You took it a bit literally, and for the first day or so you kept saying "Grandpa sleepy." I guess I'll have to be a little more clear next time!

We had a great time with Grandpa - visiting the Butterfly House, attending a sing along at PBK, digging for dinosaurs, going out to lunch several times and to dinner at PF Changs (where you learned to use chopsticks,) and just hanging out together. Grandpa bought you new Crocs, and you now refuse to wear any other shoes. He left Sunday afternoon, but you still ask for him and yell his name daily.

You are speaking so well. Today you were playing make believe, cooking in your little kitchen. I heard you say "Soup too hot." Then you blew into the pot to cool it off. You say so many things, I can't even remember them now. You can communicate exactly which Backyardigans episode you want to watch. "Ho Daddy" is reqested most of all, which means you want to watch "Surf's Up," where they say "Ho Daddy! Surf's up!" Oh, and you are such a girl! You can screech - with joy or surprise or just pure energy - like nobody's business.

Speaking of soup, it's become your favorite food. I try not to ask what you want to eat, because the answer is always "Shoup!" You still love sunflower seeds and cashews, but you've added yogurt tubes and string cheese to the list of foods you adore. You love, love, love candy of any kind, especially Nerds and Starburst.

I just bought you a shirt last week that says "Candy Girl." You run around the house screaming "Candy Girl!" You and I had a battle this week because you wanted to wear that shirt with a skirt, not jeans. It didn't match at all, but I finally caved in and allowed you to look ridiculous for our playdate. I should have taken a picture to blackmail you with when you're older.

You are so like Daddy in two new ways. First, you are talking in your sleep a lot more. The other night I was trying to fall asleep. We all have colds, so I heard:

Daddy: Snore
Evie: Snore
Daddy: Snore
Evie: Yellow cup!
Daddy: Snore
Evie: Teeth!
Daddy: Snore
Evie: Snore
Daddy: Snore
Evie: Seeds!

Secondly, you have taught yourself to fake burp. You think this is hilarious and do it over and over and over. At least you've learned a little from me, because you hold your little hand to your neck and say "Excuse me."

You are very empathetic. There is a picture of a crying baby in a book we often read. You screw up your little face and say "Cry. Mommy." In your mind, his mommy will make it better. And you are concerned with my happiness, too. If I seem frazzled or frustrated, you stroke my arm and say "Mommy, happy."

And, Sweetheart, you do make me so happy. Your sweet smile, your sweet voice, your sweet little face... You're everything I prayed for. You're my daughter, my "best thing," my everything. I love you to the moon and back.

Love, Mommy

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Build-A-Bear Winner

Congratulations to Reiza, who won my Build-A-Bear giveaway!

I must admit, I was excited by all the comments I received! Who would have guessed? Plus, I was beyond thrilled when my contest was highlighted at Momdot and 5 Minutes for Mom's weekly column "5 Minutes Around the Blogosphere." (By the way, the two moms who run 5m4m also have two online toy stores you should check out: A Rocking Horse to Love and Pedal Cars and Retro Collectibles.)

I loved reading the comments about favorite gifts. What struck me was I didn't see a single reference to a big expensive gift. No Wii made it on the list. What I read were personal memories of homemade gifts, play kitchens, and baby dolls. It helped put this gift giving season in perspective.

So now I just have to figure out what exactly makes it onto Evie's Christmas list!

Friday, November 14, 2008

My First Conversation with Evie

My baby girl is getting so big!

We've been passing a cold around this week. Evie woke up around 10:00 the other night, just when Chris was trying to get to bed a little early. Instead of taking her into our bed and disturbing Chris' sleep, I brought her onto the couch and we watched a little television together.

She was just beautiful in her little footie pajamas, with her sweet head on her tiny pink pillow. And then we had the best conversation (for a one-year-old!)

Evie: Pillow.
Me: Right, that's your pillow.
Evie: Pink. Uniqua.
Me: Yes, the pillow is pink like Uniqua.
Evie: Auntie
Me: Yes, Aunt Rachel made you that pillow.
Evie: New car.
Me: Right, Aunt Rachel just bought a new car!
Evie: Moos.
Me: Yes, we drove to Maggie Moos in Aunt Rachel's new car.
Evie: Joe.
Me: Yes, Aunt Rachel lives with Uncle Joe.
Evie: Raja house.
Me: Right! Raja lives at their house! You are so smart! Now, go to sleep!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Havarti Cheesebake

My sister-in-law, Joy, served this to us years ago and I've been making it ever since. In fact, we had it as an appetizer last Saturday, to rave reviews!

The rolls are buttery and the cheese is warm and gooey. It's very good and very, very simple. Your guests will think this dish took a lot of effort, so don't let on how easy it really was!

Havarti Cheesebake
Crescent rolls
6 oz Havarti cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread rolls onto baking sheet, making sure all seams are sealed. Put a crease in the middle and wrap rolls around cheese. Seal edges with your fingers.

Bake 20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve immediately with crackers and fresh fruit.

Enjoy!

Lisa hosts Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays over at Blessed with Grace. Visit her for more yummy recipes!

You still have time to enter my contest before Friday, November 14th for a $25 gift certificate to Build-A-Bear.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Gobble, Gobble


I came across this hand and foot turkey craft, and tried it out with Evie today.

We had all the supplies on hand - just construction paper, scissors, and glue. I traced Evie's hands and feet, which she loved. The project was easy and it turned out to be a cute homemade decoration for our front door.

Gobble, gobble!

And don't forget to enter my contest before Friday, November 14th for a $25 gift certificate to Build-A-Bear!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Touchdown!

When I was pregnant, I remember something Chris said right after we found out we were having a girl. We were so excited about the tiny baby growing inside of me, and calling her by name was just wondrous. Chris said "Well, I am going to teach Evie to love football."

Chris has a ritual on game day - he always wears a Michigan State shirt. (He even threatened to wear one under his tux on our wedding day!) Another tradition is in the works, too. Each Saturday, Evie sits next to Daddy and cheers on his beloved Spartans.

He's already teaching her to love this game. As Chris paces the length of the living room, sometimes shouting at the television, Evie bounces up and down. It's so cute to watch, and you can just feel the excitement from the two of them.

Chris: Come on! Oh, they don't deserve to win if they keep playing like this!
Evie: Football! Go green!
Chris: Great pass!
Evie: (Bouncing) Football! Daddy! Go Sparty! Football!
Chris: That's what I'm talking about! Warm up the bus, baby!
Evie: Go, Sparty! Football!
Chris: Yes! Touchdown!

Evie raises her arms over head and screams "Touchdown!"

There's just something about a little girl and her dad. I love these moments, when I imagine my Evie all grown up. Even though she'll be busy with plans of her own, she and Chris will make time in their schedules to watch the game. They will eat chips and yell at the players together. They'll argue with the referees on television. Although Evie will probably won't end up at Michigan State, I know she'll be a die-hard Spartan fan.

Just like she's always going to be Daddy's Girl.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Speaking of Christmas

This month, 5 Minutes for Mom is hosting a Christmas Giveaway. Check it out for gift ideas and chances to win tons of great prizes!

And don't forget to enter my contest before Friday, November 14th for a $25 gift certificate to Build-A-Bear!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Build-A-Bear Giveaway!



Halloween is over, so my thoughts are turning to Thanksgiving and... I can't even believe it... CHRISTMAS!

I know it wasn't too long ago that I was complaining about rushing the season. But the leaves have turned their beautiful fiery colors and most have fallen from the trees. Just yesterday, Evie and the girls next door raked leaves and jumped into the piles. Though it's been warm, there's a change in the air. It's feeling like scarves and hot chocolate and Christmas lists.

Oh, Christmas lists!

This year, I have to be particularly careful with the money we spend. So I must make good choices about toys for Evie. Instead of a toy with only one function, I want to purchase toys that inspire play. I can't tell you how many expensive toys we have around the house that Evie just ignores. Things like art supplies and dried lentils and scraps of ribbon and empty boxes keep her attention - go figure.

Most of all, I lean toward an "experience" rather than a thing. Attending The Backyardigans LIVE show was a better use of our money than if we had bought a toy. I know a membership to The Magic House will certainly be a gift this year.

Recently, Evie and I had the opportunity to attend a Mom's Mixer at Build-A-Bear Workshop. I had a great time talking to other "Mommy Bloggers" while Evie made a bear. Actually, Evie ran around wild while the other moms and very, very sweet Build-A-Bear employees helped me keep an eye on her. By the end of the event, everyone in that store knew her name!

While we were there, I kept thinking about how Build-A-Bear perfectly fits my idea of a great gift. It's an EXPERIENCE and you take something tangible (a new best friend, even) home with you. We also had the opportunity to meet and talk with Maxine Clark, the company's founder and Chief Executive Bear. She is warm and friendly, and has such an evident passion for her work. For her, it's all about the experience of making the bear - choosing the perfect little bear, warming up and kissing its heart, helping stuff, brushing it, and shopping for clothes. They've even expanded their line of $10 bears, so almost everyone can afford this experience.

Bloggy Friends, I am the "bearer" of good news! One lucky reader will win a $25 gift certificate to make your very own stuffed friend at Build-A-Bear. Simply leave a comment on this post before Friday, November 14th, telling me the best gift you received as a child. Don't forget to include your email address so I can notify you if you win. I'll choose a winner at random to receive the gift certificate.

Go "fur" it!

**This contest is closed to new comments. The winner has been contacted, and will be announced within 24 hours. Thanks for participating!**

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Italian Beef Sandwiches

My father-in-law is here for the next few weeks, and I remember how much he liked this meal when I made it last winter. I cooked this for dinner last night, and it was good enough for seconds!

I like to serve this when there's a crowd. Everyone can make their own sandwiches right out of the crock pot. Make sure you have copies of the recipe - trust me, people will ask for it.

Italian Beef Sandwiches
3 c beef broth
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp onion salt
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp garlic powder
2 (0.7 oz) packages dry Italian seasoning salad dressing mix
1 (5 lb) rump roast
16 oz. jar mild pepperoncinis

Combine beef broth, pepper, oregano, basil, onion salt, parsley, garlic powder, and salad dressing mix in a saucepan. Stir well and bring to a boil.

Place roast in crock pot and pour hot salad dressing mixture over the meat.

Cover and cook on low for 10 hours. Remove meat and shred. Return to crock pot, along with 1/2 jar of pepperoncinis. Cook 1/2 hour more.

Serve on buns with provolone cheese.

Enjoy!

Lisa hosts Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays over at Blessed with Grace. Visit her for more yummy recipes!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Proud Father

Chris loves coupons. Really, he loves a deal of any kind. The Coupon King carefully goes through the newspaper each weekend and clips tons of coupons. He's on every email list and knows all the websites to visit for the latest coupons.

We were shopping with Evie the other day. Chris was in front of us, and Evie ran up to him with a piece of paper. She handed it to him and said "Coupon, Daddy!"

Oh, Chris was proud. I told you she takes after him.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Things That Go Buzz in the Night




So we have pounds of candy and memories of a great Halloween with family, neighbors, and friends. The evening was most certainly a treat!

Aunt Rachel made the DARLING tutu bee costume, and the warmer one was worn for a Trunk or Treat last weekend. Evie looked bee-utiful in both outfits!

Happy Halloween!

Oh, An Island Life is hosting a Post-Halloween Costume Contest! Click here to enter your own cutie!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Voice in the Night

For those of you who are unfamiliar with our sleep situation, I can sum it up in three words: It's not good. Although she is almost two years old, Evie has never had a stretch where she has slept through the night. Oh, occasionally she will shock us and sleep until dawn, but I can count those wondrous nights on two hands.

Lately, she's been sleeping in her own bed until one or two in the morning, and then calling to me to come and get her. This is a big improvement, so I'm happy to oblige. I go in and she slides out of bed, dragging her blanket behind her. We get her sippy cup of water from the fridge and snuggle till dawn. Pretty good, huh?

Saturday night I was sleeping blissfully in my bed, when I heard a little voice ask "Water?" I looked over and noticed Evie standing on the floor next to the bed. My foggy brain raced to figure out what was going on. Why was she standing NEXT to the bed? Did she fall out? I looked at the clock - 2:30 AM. And then I understood - Evie had woken up and walked into our bedroom ON HER OWN!

Praise the Lord! This is certainly a development I want to encourage. So at every opportunity, I talk to Evie about it. "When you wake up and it's dark outside and the house is quiet, you don't have to call for Mommy to help you out of your bed. Just get down and come into my room, okay? You're such a big girl!"

It's working. Every single night since then, she's come into our room on her own. I hear a little voice ask for water or say "Mommy?" and I praise her and lift her into bed with Chris and me. I've even wised up, and keep her water on my nightstand instead of the refrigerator.

I am almost afraid I will jinx myself by writing this, but this works. I am finally, finally, finally getting good rest at night. And I want to ruin it with another baby!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Peposo

Several years ago, Chris and I took a dream trip to Italy. We visited the churches and markets and museums of Firenze, roamed the countryside of Toscana, and we loitered in the cafes of Venezia. It was a magnificent vacation, and one we will treasure forever.

I always think a good way to remember a place is by its food. In Tuscany, we stayed in a little bed and breakfast just outside of Castellina in Chianti. The town is surrounded by olive groves and wineries and is just breathtakingly beautiful. One afternoon, we stopped in a little roadside restaurant and had a superb meal. (We ended up having dinner there the next night, too!)

I can't remember all of it, but I know I had a wonderful asparagus gratin and a rich, peppery beef stew called Peposo. The dish was so simple and delicious. When we returned home, I looked up the recipe, but I never took the time to make it. Last week, I finally got around to it, and we were not disappointed. It was just as we remembered, and we sat over our meal sharing memories of our trip.

Peposo
2 lbs beef, cubed for stew
10 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp sea salt
1 scant Tbsp black peppercorns
1 bottle (750 ml) decent red wine

Crack the peppercorns in a mortar. Put the beef, garlic, salt, and cracked pepper in a large pot. Pour the wine over the meat, and bake in a 350 degree oven for about three hours.

I don't have a mortar and pestle, so I just put the peppercorns in a sandwich bag and smashed them a bit with a rolling pin. Oh, and I used Chianti for the wine, since that's more authentic for the region. I also took the lazy route, and cooked this in a crockpot for five hours, then finished it in the oven for about an hour.

I remembered the sauce being thicker, so I added a tablespoon of cornstarch to about 1/4 cup of water and whisked until it was smooth. Then I removed a bit of the sauce from the pot, added the cornstarch, and poured it all back into the pot.

This dish has a strong flavor, so something simple like Little Stars and a vegetable would round out the meal nicely.

Enjoy!

Lisa hosts Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays over at Blessed with Grace. Visit her for more yummy recipes!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Wishing and Hoping and Thinking and Praying

Oh, I love my beautiful miracle Evie. She is everything I hoped for when I prayed to become a mom. I'm greedy, though. I want another baby. But today, my stupid "monthly visitor" showed up.

I just want to cry. And I probably will, later. I'll snuggle under the covers with Chris and tell him how sad I am and the tears will come.

I was hoping I would just "get" pregnant. Chris and I have undergone all the tests, and there's nothing wrong. Nothing except I simply don't conceive. I would complain about how frustrating "undiagnosed infertility" is, but I know there are others out there with diagnosed fertility issues that are more frustrating than my struggle.

With each month that passes, we are getting closer and closer to IVF. I HATE IVF! The tests and needles and pressure. So much money with an unsure outcome. A 50/50 chance of a baby.

I was blessed and lucky last time. Evie was born from our first and only IVF cycle. What if it doesn't work this time, though? This is it - our last shot. So very much is riding on this.

I want to feel the flutter of another baby moving in my womb. I want to rock another baby in the wee hours of the night. I want to see my Baby Evie as a big sister, and hear my children giggling together.

I'm reminding myself to name before God ALL the things I am grateful for - not just the good, but also the difficult. His hand is guiding it all. I know He has not made a mistake in giving me this situation.

But, oh, on cold nights like this, it is a terrible burden to bear.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

You're All Winners in My Book


Last week, Jane gave me the BFF Gold Card Award. I was thrilled, because I love her blog. Jane blogs from Mozambique, where she and her husband work with Maranatha Volunteers International. She is a wonderful mommy to cute little Esme, and together they do tons of fun learning activities and crafts.

The rules for this award are simple: pass it along to people who have been following your blog for a long time, and then to a new follower from another country.

Since my blog is only a few months old, this was difficult! I appreciate every single comment that is left! Comments are a way to interact with those of you who are reading, and I really enjoy getting to know you all better. Plus, they let me know someone has actually read my post! So to everyone who lays their eyeballs on this - thank you for reading, and for leaving a comment when you are so inclined.

I am passing the award on to several people who almost always comment on my posts!

Fiona is a new mommy to beautiful Iain. Her blog makes me remember (just a year or so back in time,) when Evie was an infant. Plus, I love to see her Iain in all his cuteness! I'm always excited to receive a notification that Fiona has left a comment!

Scarlett O'Kara was one of the first people to comment regularly on my blog. I love her recipes, stories about her kids, and the enthusiasm she has for her football teams!

Jackie is a sweet mommy to gorgeous Savannah. Savannah is just a little older than Evie, so it's fun to see what's ahead for me! Plus, Jackie always knows what fun things are happening in the blogosphere, and she's not afraid to join in!

And my sweet family, my sister Rachel and my father-in-law Bruce, leave great comments. Rachel writes funny posts about ordinary life (elastic pants, anyone?) and Dad is chronicling his year of life on the road. I love them both so much!

Finally, Renee leaves me sweet comments, and I'm glad I found her blog. She's lives in Canada, and is a mommy to precious Rebeka. She's expecting another baby soon, so things are about to get even more interesting!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Easy Halloween Decoration



Halloween is a big deal on Oakbriar Farm.

My next door neighbors go all out with their decorating. They have a graveyard, cute signs, orange lights, goblins on the porch, and a blow up haunted house. When we drive up, Evie yells out "Goblin! Goblin!"

Halloween night is full of fun! We get hundreds of Trick-or-Treaters, and hang out on the driveway (or in the garage if it rains,) handing out candy and "aww-ing" over all the children in their costumes.

But I'm not really all that excited about decorating. As Evie gets older, I am sure I'll do more. For the time being, though, I only decorate the door. I have a plastic Trick or Treat banner on the door, and a tiny ghost stuck into the planter. That's it.

So when I saw this idea at The Crafty Crow, I thought it would make a simple and cute addition to my Halloween door. Sewing Stars has a free printable template for this friendly little skeleton. You just print it on cardstock, cut out, connect with brads, and hang.

It was easy, and gave a little extra "oomph" to the door!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Almost Wordless Wednesday


One of my favorite pictures of Evie as a baby. She was probably about two months old when Chris took this shot. Beautiful, huh?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

For Fiona

I'm stealing from Tari again.

Fiona is sick with an ear and sinus infection. I hope this makes her laugh, which as we all know, is the best medicine!

The Germ
A mighty creature is the germ,
Though smaller than the pachyderm.
His customary dwelling place
Is deep within the human race.
His childish pride he often pleases
By giving people strange diseases.
Do you, my poppet, feel infirm?
You probably contain a germ.

--- Ogden Nash

Apple Dumplings

When I was sick a few weeks ago, my mother was my saving grace. She normally watches Evie on Tuesdays so I can attend a Bible Study group at church. When I was sick, though, I skipped the class. My mom took Evie anyway, and I slept all day. Really. My mom brought her back at naptime, and I only woke up long enough to get Evie to sleep.

After that day of rest, I was on the mend. My mom called a few days later and said she and her friend Mary were going to pick Evie up and take her apple picking. I was happy for the chance at more sleep. At first, that is. Then I started thinking about what I would be missing. This was Evie's first trip to pick apples, and I wanted to participate. So, I hauled myself off the couch and into the shower.

We had a great time in the apple orchard. The sun was shining and it was cool. Evie reached up to pick apples from low branches and shined them up on her pants. We all ate A LOT of apples! And we brought a lot of apples home. What to do with them?

The ambitious part of me wanted to make an apple strudel. However, my sister told me about an easy and yummy recipe that I tried instead. I don't know what it's really named, but I called them Apple Dumplings.

Apple Dumplings
16 oz can refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
2 apples
1 1/2 c sugar
1 1/2 T cinnamon (to taste)
1 stick butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut each biscuit into quarters and set aside.

Mix sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl.

Peel apples. Then using the apple peeler, peel the apples into thin strips. (Each strip should be several inches long.)

Dip a piece of biscuit into the butter, then into the cinnamon sugar. Wrap a couple strips of apple around it, and place into the bottom of a 13X9 inch pan. Continue with remaining biscuit pieces. You will only have enough for a single layer in the pan.

Pour any remaining butter and sugar over the dumplings.

Bake for about 15 minutes, until dumplings are golden brown and sauce is bubbling.

Enjoy!

Lisa hosts Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays over at Blessed with Grace. Visit her for more yummy recipes!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Twenty-One Months

Sweet Evie,

I was in the shower this morning, when I suddenly realized yesterday was your twenty-one month birthday! I can't believe I forgot!

Twenty-one months! When people ask your age, it seems strange to say "She's twenty-one months." This may be the time I start replying with "She's almost two." My breath catches just a bit as I write that. Almost two...

Your imagination is blossoming. Your favorite "pretend" activity is cooking. You often stir pots and bowls of who-knows-what. After the food is "done," you offer Daddy and me bite after bite. You also love to have tea parties. Of course, being Miss Independent, you prepare the tea all by yourself and then give it to us.

You also love dressing up. Just a few days ago, you learned the word "princess." Now you are a princess when I put your hair in pigtails or when you wear a tutu. You like to wear hats of all kinds when dressing up. You might pair a fireman's hat or a baseball cap with a dress. Whatever the outfit, you are always the most beautiful girl I know.

You must take after GaGa, because you are quite the artist. We color or paint or draw every single day. GaGa and I thought your first paintings would end up completely brown, but you surprised us. You keep your colors separate and create beautiful works of art. Just tonight, you colored on the carpet for the first time. This was not my favorite of your creations.

I can't believe how quickly you are learning language. You say so many words! My favorite is when I ask you what a pirate says and you reply "Arr Matey!" It cracks me up! You get excited when you see colors, especially orange pumpkins. You don't know the word "pumpkin" yet, but you scream out "Orange!" Pumpkins are everywhere this time of year, so I'm hearing about them a lot!

Of course, you know all the names and colors of The Backyardigans. You watch an episode almost every day, but your entire day revolves around these characters. You carry around your little stuffed Pablo, and ask to listen to their "See Bee," which is Evie-speak for CD.

You've learned how to open the childproof drawers and cabinets. This is no end of frustration for Daddy and me. You get out our good Post-It notes and rip them apart one by one. You help youself to the lip gloss in the drawers. You even figured out where we keep the gum and candy. When we tell you no, you say "Tic Tac, please? Gum, please?" Of course, the contents of this drawer have been relocated elsewhere!

Obviously, candy is still your favorite food. Fortunately, it's followed closely behind by apples, noodles of any kind, and edamame. When I took you to the doctor last week, that scale I hate so much still read only 20 pounds.

And the saga of putting things in your nose continues. Today you were upset, and you kept telling me "Seeds!" You tried to stick my finger in your nose. It was only then that I understood you had stuck a sunflower seed up your nose, and you needed my help getting it out. Ah, a mother's job...

You are the best little girl. You are developing a lot of empathy for others. When you see someone cry, whether in a book or in public or on TV, you mimic their face and say "Cry." Likewise, you love the attention you get when you hug or kiss someone. You and Daddy play a game where you listen to his heart, which is really Daddy's way of getting you to sit still with him and cuddle. It's very cute.

You are my miracle baby. I love you so very much. Each day, you grow bigger and smarter and sweeter. And each day, my miracle gets better and better.

Love, Mommy

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Random "Evie-ness"

When Chris and I bought this house, I was thrilled to see a Twisted Willow tree in the backyard. My love for the tree was short lived since the little leaves clutter our deck almost year-round, and brittle sticks fall down non-stop. It's a huge tree, and Chris was worried that it's so close to the house. Plus, it has a few dead branches.

We had an arborist take a look at the tree several weeks ago, and he recommended having it cut down. It's a small fortune to have a tree removed, but we were more worried about damage to our foundation from the roots, or damage to our house if branches break off in an ice storm.

So, a team of guys showed up Friday to cut it down. They did most of the work while Evie was sleeping, but we peeked out when she woke up. WOW! There is only one other tree in the backyard, so it looks bare right now. Evie was interested in watching the men cut the tree into pieces with chainsaws.

But she keeps asking "New tree?"
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Our dog, Murphy, loves to run around in the backyard. We have beige carpet, so when she comes inside, Chris wipes her paws with damp paper towels. Lately, Evie screams "Help!" and runs over to them. And you might wonder - how exactly does she help? She grabs a few paper towels from the pile and feverishly wipes her own feet.
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Lastly, Murphy has this gross habit of licking Chris' leg. He doesn't even notice when she does it, but I do. I hear the licking and it just disgusts me. Well, Evie isn't bothered at all. She walks over and licks his leg, too.

That's all, folks!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Penny for Your Thoughts

There is a Backyardigans episode where Tyrone loses his lucky penny, and the cast journeys to the center of the Earth to find it. So, naturally, Evie is obsessed with pennies.

Luckily, I don't have a child who puts things in her mouth. Since we watched this episode, I've given Evie a few pennies to play with. They're scattered around the house, and she'll randomly find them. When she does, she shouts "Penny! Tyrone!"

The other day, Chris and I were in the living room just vegging while Evie played. There were no pennies in sight, but her Backyardigans guitar was on the floor. She came over to me and asked for a penny. When I said I didn't have one, she reached over to my hand and plucked an imaginary cent from my palm! She pinched her little fingers together and held them up for me, saying "Penny." Then she took it over to Tyrone's picture on the guitar and pretended to give it to him. She played this game, back and forth between Chris and me for at least fifteen minutes.

Chris had the idea to get out the piggy bank my mom gave Evie when she was born. Brilliant! Evie now spends plenty of time dropping pennies, dimes, and quarters into her bank. Not only is she occupied, but she's working on her fine motor skills at the same time!

In our home, pennies are priceless these days.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008: Poverty

I grew up without much. In fact, I remember fourth grade when I became aware my lunch ticket was a different color than the lunch tickets my friends held. I felt such shame when I realized this was because my lunches were free. I was a "poor kid."

There were many things I did without. This is not to say my childhood was lacking joy. My brother and sisters and I played outside and went swimming and had a kitten. My mom made apple strudel with us, and we had the riches of music in our home. I still don't know how my parents did it, but we had Cabbage Patch Dolls and Barbies and bicycles and Care Bears.

That shame thing is a terrible burden to carry around, though.

I grew into an adult with a successful career. My husband also did well, and soon I found myself buying a house in affluent West St. Louis County. We both drove shiny cars and ate at nice sushi restaurants. We took cruises and traveled to warm beaches and flew to Europe. One day about a year ago, I plunked down $400 for a designer purse. Without even blinking.

That was probably the turning point for me. With that purse on my arm and my expensive salon haircut, I was sure no one could see my past. The funny thing is, I began feeling ashamed of that purse. Oh, most of the time I loved it. But here and there, I had huge flashes of guilt. What could $400 have done for my family when I was a girl?

And, as they say, having a baby changes everything.

Chris and I began discussing going to one income. Though I had taken cuts in pay over the years, even moving into the non-profit sector, I still brought in a significant chunk of our earnings. If I quit my job, what would we have to give up?

The more we talked about it, the more I realized the "stuff" I would be giving up didn't really matter. I even started looking around my house, feeling choked by all of our "stuff." Did we really need all of this?

Of course, the answer is no. I fully realize all of these things I have are gifts from God. Truly. I just don't think He meant me to use His gifts to purchase designer handbags. So I quit my job, and Chris and I have started to unclutter our lives. We're purging some of this "stuff" that surrounds us, and it feels good.

And there are others we can help at the same time. Although I can say with sincerity that I grew up poor, I still had food in my belly and a roof over my head. Poor in America and poor in the rest of the world are two very different things. Read The Poisonwood Bible. True, it's a work of fiction. But it made me thankful for what I have, since so many others have much, much less. So many others have absolutely nothing.

This spring, Chris and I will have another garage sale to get rid of some of the "stuff" that's choking us. And we'll be donating the proceeds to Kiva.

Kiva's mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.

Kiva is the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world.

The people you see on Kiva's site are real individuals in need of funding - not marketing material. When you browse entrepreneurs' profiles on the site, choose someone to lend to, and then make a loan, you are helping a real person make great strides towards economic independence and improve life for themselves, their family, and their community. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates and track repayments. Then, when you get your loan money back, you can relend to someone else in need.

Are you, too, drowning in your "stuff?" If so, please consider joining me in a gift to Kiva. I can assure you, it's as much a gift to yourself as to anyone else.

This post is part of Blog Action Day 08 - Poverty. Oh, and read my sister's post here and Tari's post here. They will certainly make you think, and they may even make you cry. You've been warned.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

We Need a Little Christmas Now?

Okay, the economy is tanking. Partisan politics is out of control. Gas prices are high.

And Evie has a double ear infection. After another terrible night, I took her to the doctor this morning. We left with a prescription that took them 45 minutes to fill at Walgreens. (I heard one of the pharmacy techs ask "What is that child's name? Let's get her filled, since she's crying.)

Then Evie had the tantrum to end all tantrums. I won't go into details, but suffice to say, I put her to bed without lunch. This has not been my best day as a mother.

So I need a little cheering up.

We all probably need a little cheering up. But I think this is a bit much... As I was driving to the pediatrician's office, I turned on a local radio station. 101.1 WMVN is playing 'round the clock Christmas music.

Have they looked at a calendar? It's only October. We haven't even made it through Halloween or Thanksgiving yet. Call me Scrooge, but it's not Christmas cheer I'm looking for.

Bah humbug.

Monday, October 13, 2008

On Staying Home

Today was a rough day. It started early, like midnight. Evie woke up crying and nothing I did could calm her down. She didn't want to sleep in my bed, she wanted to be in her own bed. But being in her bed made her cry. I finally coaxed her into bed with Chris and I, where she tossed and turned all night. It made for very little sleep.

Still, she woke up bright and early just before 7:00 AM. We met friends for a play date and she did pretty well. That is, until we returned home. As soon as we made it through the door, she had a meltdown. A big one. I ended up sitting on the floor with Evie in my lap while she ate a stick of string cheese and cold pepperoni slices.

After her (short) nap, she was so clingy. It was just one of those difficult afternoons and evenings. She was cranky and needed constant attention. She cried a lot. It was all I could do not to lose my cool with her. Now she is finally in bed and I am completely exhausted.

It's hard being a mom. I hear a lot of stay at home moms talk about how hard this "job" is. They are right, of course. However, I have some perspective here.

I used to wake up at 5:00 AM so I could shower and get Evie ready. Chris and I would leave home and he would drive her to daycare. My heart ached every single day when his car turned and mine kept driving... away from her.

I would get to work, late again, where my impossible to-do list waited. I had endless meetings to attend, a line of people outside my door, and a BlackBerry that never stopped. I always left at least half an hour late each day, and screeched into the daycare parking lot to pick Evie up.

Then we would have only a few short hours left in the evening to play, eat, take a bath, and put my precious girl to bed. And then it started all over again. The only breaks we had in this routine were weekends and days when Evie was sick. Sick days were terrible because I felt guilty for calling in to work, and I felt guilty that I was thinking of work when my daughter was sick.

So, yes, being a stay at home mom is a hard job. But for me, being a working mom was even harder. Don't get me wrong, I liked my job. I still wish I could have a fulfilling career and be the mother I want to be. So many other mothers can balance both, but I simply could not.

And so I appreciate my wonderful husband who still gets up before 6:00 AM each morning to head to work. He drives a dreadful commute and works long hours. He has made huge material sacrifices so I can be home each day with Evie. Days like today just underscore the greatness of my husband. Chris is a great husband, partner, friend, provider, father, garbage-taker-outer, Diaper Genie emptier, lawn care crew, dog walker, baby toy, and laundry washer. He is truly a great man, and I am lucky to be his wife. I couldn't do this without him.

Thanks, Honey.