Friday, December 3, 2010

Thankful November- day 27-30

Our internet has been acting up over the last couple weeks, and I just haven't had the patience to blog knowing that I may get kicked off and have to start over, BUT I really wanted to finish these Thankful November posts, so here I am...on December 3rd. =)

Day 27: Today I'm thankful for yummy-smelling candles. Growing up, my mom always had a candle burning in the kitchen and as a "sensory" person, and one with a very sensitive nose, smell has always been part of what sets the mood in my home. The first thing I do most mornings, after turning on the coffeepot of course, is lighting whatever candle I have showcased in my kitchen. Right now it's a pine-scented one, since we have a fake tree I'm trying to convince myself it's real with the candle. =) I love making our home more inviting by making sure it smells nice with a candle.

Day 28: Today I'm thankful for my mom. She is one of my favorite people. She has taught me many things over the years and I've always looked up to her. She's fun to be around, driven, caring, among many others. She worked full-time when my brother and I were growing up and I still don't know how she managed a demanding career, kids, and home all at the same time...though I know my dad helped a lot. She's always looking for a fun way to make memories and I look forward to watching her relationship with Brynn develop over the years.

Day 29: Today I'm thankful for nice windows. In our condo, we had old aluminum windows that looked fine, but if we sat next to them, we would freeze! Especially in our bedroom where the only place to put the bed was under the window- there was always a draft all night long. When we bought this house, I was so relieved that new windows had recently been put in since they are expensive and we had so many other projects to spend money on. I seriously think about these windows every day. We have a great view from our house, but we also live REALLY close to the freeway- when we're inside and the windows are closed, you'd never know that. They keep the noise out and help keep our home toasty warm when it's supposed to be that way.

Day 30: Today I'm thankful for our church. We're not as involved as we could be, but the things that we are involved in are food for the soul and we love the people we have befriended through those experiences. Whether it's our small group, my mom's group, helping in the nursery, singing with the worship team, or going to service, I feel surrounded by loving people who share my desire to know the Lord more and serve others.

Now that this month of thankfulness has come to an end, I'm looking forward to spending the month of December focused on Advent, reaching out to those around me, baking A LOT and sharing those treats with my family and friends, and searching for ways to make this season be (as my dear friend Bree says) "more about presence and less about presents". I'm thankful we have Brynn to share Christmas with this year- next weekend we're planning a family date to go visit Santa- we'll see how that goes! =)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thankful November- day 26

Today I'm thankful for my old bible study group. My friend Christy started this group a last January, and there were 6 of us that meet twice a month to study together and share life together. The group started at a time in all our lives where we needed fellowship, encouragement, accountability...and that's exactly what we experienced, week after week. In the last year and a half, babies have been born, marriages strengthened, bonds forged, and for those things I'm so grateful.

Life has changed a bit and we're currently not meeting, but I think of these friends often and am thankful for things like Facebook and blogging to keep us connected with what's going on in our daily lives. I miss this group so much, but I know in many ways, good ways, we're not the group we were last January. I know that the Lord puts people and experiences in our lives at certain points for a reason, and the evenings I spent with these ladies is a testament to that fact. We may have all found different venues to fill the needs for fellowship that we had when the group began, or maybe we're all just too busy to add one more thing to the calendar, but I know we'll never be too busy to maintain our friendships in some way or another, we may not get the awesome weekly girl-time anymore, but I'll take the occasional play date or phone call anytime!

Each of these women have inspired me in different ways. Tiffany juggles an amazing amount of "life" each day and she truly, TRULY, enjoys and lives each moment to the fullest. I love hearing about all her adventures- she makes me want to go out there and do something, anything! Anne is never afraid to ask the hard questions and is one of the most humble people I know. Stephanie is never afraid to be honest, even when her opinion or experience is totally different from others. Nicole is full of joy, and I relate to her in many ways as a mother. Christy is always making something and one of these days I will get my sewing machine out and follow! =) She's also a great facilitator and led our group well.

I'm so thankful for this time in my life- these women have blessed me greatly and I can't imagine my walk without their input along the way!

Thankful November- day 25

Today I'm thankful for family. It's Thanksgiving and you know what that means- food and family. I'm so grateful that for many of our 7 years of marriage, Mark's parents have joined us at my parents' house, along with my mom's extended family, so that we haven't had to rotate holidays or rush around to eat 2 Thanksgivings. Everyone is together and it's crazy, but fun. Our families have been wonderful since Brynn has been with us, always wanting to help out, babysit, etc. Mark and I both grew up in the same town, which we live fairly close to now, so our parents and my brother are easily accessible. =) I feel like I have all the support I could ever want or need within our families, and they love us a lot. I'm so looking forward to Brynn growing up and getting to know her grandparents, her aunt and her uncle, and watching those relationships develop. There are different things that each family member will enjoy with her and teach her, and for that, I'm grateful. I've always been a person that likes some amount of space, and our families are good about respecting that =), but I sure can't imagine living far away from them, especially now that Brynn is here. It's wonderful that they see her on a weekly basis and are learning things about her, and us as parents, that they wouldn't if they were a state away. I'm so thankful for the support and encouragement our families provide and their presence in our lives.

Thankful November- day 24

Me (5 months preggo) and Mallorie, heading out to our high school reunion

Today I'm thankful for old friends. I love my new friends and my in-between friends, too...a lot, but this day I'm super thankful for the old ones. =) There are a few friends that I have had in my life for a loooooooong time. I'll call out one in particular-

Mallorie, or BooBoo, as she's affectionately called by her family and a few others. Mallorie and I met when we were about 4 years old. Her mom ran a fabulous daycare out of her home and it was basically my home-away-from-home, as it was for many of the other kiddos there, I'm sure. Growing up we had many adventures- rescuing worms from gutters and missing the bus, dressing up in poodle skirts and dancing to the "Footlose" soundtrack, letting her older sisters do makeovers on us and then taking pictures of the gorgeous (read: hidious) results, lots and LOTS of stretchpants...I don't think either of us wore a pair of jeans until junior high...playing make-believe time travel games by jumping into a hole in their backyard, the list goes on and we got older and I no longer went to daycare anymore, we still spent a lot of time together at school and beyond. Mallorie has always been a rock in my life. She's one of those friends that I can just "pick up" with right where we left off, since we don't see each other in person often. She's a brilliant physician and has always been one step ahead of me (and most people) in the brains department, she's gorgeous and has the most unbelievable eyelashes I've ever seen, she's super compassionate, a wonderful listener, puts others first, and totally committed and involved with her 9 brothers and sisters and their families (which is a feat in itself keeping up with all those happenings!).

She is, in many ways, my "constant". She knows me well, she knows who I have always been, what I have changed to become who I am today, and most parts in-between. I have watched her excel at many things and be challenged by others. To me, she is one of the people in my life that embodies the word "integrity" the most. She has never done anything to taint her character, she has always been sure of who she is and has never wavered from the path she is on, morally speaking, anyway. What you see is what you get with Mallorie, and I have always appreciated that so much. Even in the midst of high school peer pressure and stupidness, she managed to be herself and people loved her for that...well, the eyelashes didn't hurt, either. =) She has a beautiful singing voice and has always impressed me with how she keeps up her piano that still true, BooBoo? =)

I think of Mallorie often, as she's in another state and we have a hard time catching each other on the phone with our crazy schedules. There are times, though, when I think of her and I really, I mean REALLY miss her. I long to have a a sleepover, stay up really late and talk like we used to, and eat a lot of Twizzlers.

When Mark and I returned home from our honeymoon, we walked into our bedroom to find that someone (Mallorie) had decorated our bedroom with fun pictures of us (me and Mark, not me and Mallorie- though, that would have been fun, too), flowers, and candles. It was such a thoughtful thing to do and a fun surprise to welcome the newlyweds home! That summer, Mallorie was home from school and I have the greatest memories of that time. We both had pretty flexible schedules for several weeks and we spent several days one week at her sister's house, hanging out on the couch watching the REAL Pride and Prejudice...the hours-long BBC version. One of the best memories I have of spending time with my fabulous friend.

I could go on and on about Mallorie, but this post has to end at some point.

BooBoo- I hope we always stay the best of friends, no matter the distance or experiences that separate us- I admire you so much for who you are and who you've always been. Thank you for being the sister I always wanted, but could never convince my brother he was. =) You are the absolute BEST and I love you!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thankful November- catching up

Whew! What a week it has been! Can't believe I haven't blogged at all- we've been busy and Mark has come down with a bad cold, so I've been spending lots of time taking care of my little family. Each day, though, I've been noticing so many more things I'm thankful for, and I credit this project for that.

This past week, I'm thankful for:

Swimming lessons- I've been taking Brynn to swim lessons for the past couple months and it's one of my favorite times with her. Fun, fun time to be with my baby girl and being SO proud of how well she's doing! I am using the same company that both of the families I nannied for used, so I am pretty familiar with the progression of the lessons and how to hold Brynn while doing all the things we do in the water. I think one of the reasons she's doing so well is that I'm confident with what I'm doing. It's kinda intimidating to think about dunking your baby under water, letting go of her for a second, letting her sit on the edge of the pool while walking away (attended by the teacher, of course)...anyway, it has helped me knowing all the procedures beforehand. Brynn is AMAZING in the water! So much so that last week, even after missing the 3 previous weeks due to illness/being out of town, her teacher said she's doing so well that she can move to the higher level in the next session! It's so fun to be with her in the pool, bonding with such a fun activity!

My (our) health- All 3 of us have had bad colds over the last month, and boy, being sick and taking care of a sick baby is hard! The span of time where both Brynn and I were sick made me so thankful for my otherwise healthy body and made me think about how much of a blessing it is to be in good health. It's easy for me to take care of people- I love to do it, it's in my nature. It's so hard to do that when I'm also feeling yucky and I realize that now Brynn is here, it's even more essential to do what I can to stay healthy for her, and to keep my family as healthy as possible. That means continuing to feed them nutritious food, lots of water and supplements and making sure we all get the sleep we need.

Mark's job- With the crazy snow this week, I'm SO grateful that Mark has a job where he can work from home when needed and that he doesn't feel pressured to try and brave the roads when it's not safe. We can see the freeway from our house and many times over the last few days I've gazed at the drivers out there, praying they get to where they're going without incident. I'm also so grateful for Mark having a job that he really enjoys. Sure, there are ups and downs, but since he's been at his job almost 7 years, the group of people he works with have become good friends and he has many great opportunities for his future there- I'm so excited to see what comes down the pipe this next year!

Our Small Group- Last fall, some friends at church asked us to join a small group they were starting. Now, after more than a year, Thursdays have become one of our most anticipated days of the week because we get to laugh and "get real" with these guys. We're in a very fun time right now- with one couple having a 3 year old, us having Brynn, and the other 3 couples pregnant with their first babies. How awesome to be raising our first babies together and all at the same time!

Our generator- When we bought this house, a generator came with it. I've never thought about how great owning one of these things can be, but we've used it over the last few years and it's especially great now with a baby to think of, knowing she can stay warm at night if the power goes out. Also, since we don't have a fireplace or a gas cooktop, we'd really be freezing if not for the generator!

My brother- I've beat him up over the years, and then he beat me up when he grew a little bigger, we've said terrible things each to other, forgiven each other, made each other laugh A LOT. I love having a sibling to lean on, talk to, de-brief life with. He has grown pretty wise over the years, and can handle my crazy-woman talk when needed. He's a great uncle, fun to be around, smart, talented...the list goes on. =)

Facebook- Yep, I said it. Most of the time, I have mostly distain for Facebook, but one of the things it is good for is encouragement. I've been struggling with what to do with Brynn's nighttime sleeping habits lately, and it has been great to get some insight from friends that I see and don't see often, hear about what they're doing, and report back what I've tried and how it's going. I really appreciate it- I'd love to have long phone conversations or coffee dates with those friends instead of writing messages over FB, but sometimes that's just not possible, so in those moments I'm grateful that I can write a quick little message, run off and tend to what I need to around the house, and come back to see what my friends have to say.

I'm loving this little exercise in thankfulness- I may be behind in blogging each day, but I'm definitely basking in every little moment of my day that I might otherwise have taken for granted, and I'm hoping I can keep my mind focused in this way throughout the year, even if I'm not writing it down every day!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thankful November- day 16

Today I'm thankful for the here and now.

Contentment is something I've struggled with, on and off, for years. I doubt I'm the only one. =) We live in such a fast-paced, get to the next step, life will be better when culture and it sometimes gets the best of me. Mark has always been the one to ground me, especially early in our marriage when I really struggled with being okay with where life had me at that time, what "stuff" I did or didn't have, what I looked like, etc. Through the years, I've come a long way. That's not to say that I don't still struggle with contentment, it's just that now the spotlight illuminates other things that weren't there before.

Pregnancy and parenting have been great phases for me to learn contentment. When I was pregnant, my inbox was full of all those "what to expect next" emails, my nightstand stacked high with the same sort of books. Of course I devoured it all, since it was my first pregnancy, but I also tried to appreciate the experience every single step of the way. Even the 24 hour nausea I had in the beginning. Life's best reason for feeling sick. =) I reminded myself, and still do now, that I may not have the gift of being pregnant again (I hope that's not true!) and to not wish it all away just so I could be more comfortable/meet my baby/ look like myself again...well, that part still really hasn't happened yet. =)

Parenting, so far, is the same. People all around bombard you with "just wait til the next phase" mantras that are meant well, of course, and I'm sure I say those same things to my friends who have babes younger than mine. Think of all I'd miss if I was constantly waiting for the next phase to begin...her tiny fingers feeling the pasta pieces I put out for her, taking foooooorrrrreeeeevvvveeerrrrr to eat meals because she can now feed herself and she has to feel each thing on her tray, really explore it, before she even thinks about putting it in her mouth. Sure, I could feed her myself or I could wish that she was older and could eat even better on her own and not make such a mess, but think of all the little moments I'd miss...instead of wishing those moments away, we take pictures of them to try and capture the "right now" of Brynn.

In other areas of my life, I'm feeling more whole than I ever have. I'm understanding more every day about this new "full-time homemaker/mama" role of mine, and how to really embrace it. I'm okay with the sacrifices we choose to make in order to keep me in that role and be good stewards of what we have. My friendships are deep and meaningful. My marriage is not perfect, but it's strong, full of lots of fun and love. My body is...well...a bit different than it used to be, but every time I see the few faded stretch marks on my belly...

I feel joy.

Yesterday Mark said that as he was leaving work, he thought how nice it is to anticipate going home to a warm house, a wife that loves him and is happy he's home, and a little girl who crawls to the door and squeals with delight when he walks in...that everyone should have that. My heart is full knowing he feels that way.

It's easy to talk about contentment when I feel as though I'm in a season of "plenty" and not "want", but I truly hope I can get to a place of contentment even when life is hard. For now, I'm so grateful for where God has me in life- I could live in these moments forever. =)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thankful November- day 15

On the heels of yesterday's post, today I'm thankful for menu planning. It's something I've started doing in the last year or so and, if I'm on top of it every week, it's makes life so much less stressful. My mom is an excellent cook, and growing up what I observed about her cooking is that she really didn't plan too much in advance for the weekly stuff (sorry mom if you're reading this and you actually did, but I'm about to give you a compliment so just hang on...) but instead she would buy a bunch of good-looking food at the store and create meals all week with what we had in the house. This always really amazed me and I'm proud to say that both my brother and I have a knack for this type of cooking after watching mom come up with some pretty amazing meals with sometimes meager or strange food in the fridge. =) She definitely plans for special occasions and also planned out wonderful meals on the weekends, but because she taught full-time while we were growing up, I know she was tired during the week and maybe the extra chore of planning each day's meal was too much. Hmm...I don't know, actually, I should ask her about that.

And I digress...I started menu planning because I realized that at the end of each week, I always had unused produce in my fridge that wasn't getting used, or I would buy something that looked good but wasn't able to figure out how to cook a meal around that particular ingredient, usually some weird seasonal vegetable. =) Anyway, I found that if I used the Internet to help create meals, I could do it pretty quickly a la the explained technique in yesterday's post. Now I'm able to prep dinner while Brynn is napping, or, when I finally get around to making it, usually after she's gone to bed, I'm not sitting in front of the fridge wondering what the heck I'm going to make when it's already 7:00pm.

I typically plan one meal that will have leftovers for a day and one day that is a "free day" where I don't have to cook and we get takeout or eat with friends. Here is this week's menu, along with links for the new recipes I'm trying this time around:

- it's a "bean-heavy" week. We've been trying to eat less meat and beans are an easy way to pack on the protein.

Monday- Bean and Zucchini Enchiladas

Tuesday- BBQ Chili (may I just say this is THE BEST chili ever. Seriously- I've been making it for years and it's always a favorite!)

Ingredients For 12 Servings:

  • 1 T. oil
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 c. chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ¼ c. chili powder
  • 1 T. ground cumin
  • 1 can (16 ounces) stewed tomatoes
  • 1 c. ketchup
  • 1/3 c. packed brown sugar
  • ¼ c. molasses
  • ¼ c. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 T. dry mustard
  • 2 cans (15 ¼ ounces) dark-red kidney beans, drained
  • 2 cans (15 ½ ounces each) pinto beans, drained
  • 1 can (15 ounces) cannelloni beans, drained
  • cilantro


  • Heat oil in a large Dutch oven. (I just use my pasta pot!)
  • Add meat, onion, garlic, chili powder and cumin; cook over medium high heat, stirring to break up meat, until meat is no longer pink and onion is tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in tomato, ketchup, brown sugar, molasses, Worcestershire and mustard; cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes.
  • Stir in kidney, pinto, and cannelloni beans; cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes to blend flavors.
  • Serve with cilantro, sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese for garnishes and corn bread on the side.

Wednesday- Chili Leftovers (no complaints!)

Thursday- Black Eyed Pea Cakes

Friday- Spinach, Mushroom and Onion Calzones

Saturday- dinner at friend's house

Sunday- free day