31 August 2012

Of Our Little Genius

Our budding almost-four-year-old never ceases to astound us.  I'll be honest, she's our first so every time she hits a new milestone I'm shocked.  Not being one to keep up with where she would be when, it's always a pleasant surprise when she discovers something new.  Thus, this may not be too jaw-dropping to the casual outsider, but for an easy-to-impress Momma like me, well, she's just plain genius.

 And pretty cute, to boot.

What has she done lately?

Well, it all started yesterday when she drew a submarine.

A submarine.

What three-year-old girl draws Mommy in a submarine?  And, surprisingly, it was fairly accurate once I knew what it was.  And it was no accident, because after erasing her magnetic drawing, she re-created the picture, but with Emmett in the submarine this time, and in water (my submarine was apparently floating in the sky).

Then, today, she filled in numbers on her coloring book page accurately to the instructions, with neither Mommy nor Daddy paying attention - meaning no one told her the little boxes were for writing numbers or which order in which the numbers were to be written.  We're sure it's just coincidence, but we're still impressed (like I said, we're pretty easy).

Finally, she read two words today.  Sure, there were about eight she did not read accurately, but while playing a game of Boggle Junior, she completely sounded out (without assistance) both "FOX" and "BELL" and was so (rightfully) proud of herself each time.  I loved seeing the look of thrilled surprise each time she was shown the coordinating picture that matched the word she had read.  I think we were both shocked at her accuracy.

Like I said, this girl surprises me every day.  And I may be naive, but she's my baby girl, and I'm kind of proud of her.

1,000 Gifts:
811. A tired baby head resting on my shoulder.
812. Healthy babies
813. Little man's dimples
814. Her beautiful round cheeks, framed by falling curls
815. A potty-trained girl
816. Anticipation 
817. The muggy coolness of late-summer afternoon
818. Waking up refreshed.

Whole 30
Day 22 -
Breakfast - Scrambled Eggs, Banana
Lunch - Leftover Mexican Chicken Soup
Dinner - Bacon-Wrapped Chicken, Garlic Brussels Sprouts

Day 23 - 
Breakfast - Scrambled Eggs, Banana
Lunch - Leftover Bacon-Wrapped Chicken, Plumcot, Salad
Dinner - Mexi Salad (even better than I remembered!)

Day 24 - 
Breakfast - Scrambled Eggs, Plumcot
Lunch - Leftover Mexi Salad
Dinner - Paleo Butternut Squash Lasagna 

Worst Parts of These Days: I've still been awfully hungry in the afternoons, especially when dinner comes a little late, but I'm doing alright.

Best Parts of These Days: Watching our children beg for seconds on Brussels Sprouts and eat Butternut Squash Lasagna without complaint.  I truly believe their taste buds are changing along with ours and this makes every second, every day without dessert (other than the "itty-bitty grapes" we give the kids), entirely worth it.

28 August 2012

Of Being a Chosen People

Has a piece of Scripture ever been so beautiful you could not help but physically hold it close, clinging to these words of hope?

I feel as though this may have happened for me in the past, when I was in the valley and it felt the whole world was sliding against me and I needed something, anything, from His Word to pull me through.

But today was different.

I've been in the middle of what I would call a "dry spell" - a season in which, while I don't necessarily feel far from God, I don't feel particularly close, either.  I read His Word and I glean spiritual truth, but nothing really stirs.  My study and devotional time lack emotional depth.

I have followed Jesus long enough to know these periods happen - as they do in any relationship.  I long for this to not be true in my relationship with my Heavenly Father, for whom my every breath exists - I wish I could say He was forefront in my mind all the time and that I whisper Scripture while I clean my home, but you already know I don't really clean my home, so it would be piling the lies on, really.  But the truth of the matter is, sometimes I let my everyday living take place apart from the glory of grace.  And I get distracted and pulled away.

That's why I so surprised this morning, while catching up on my Bible Study of James (via Beth Moore's "Mercy Triumphs"), as I was engrossed in the findings of the Jerusalem Council, declaring Gentiles free from Jewish Law, yet receiving the same Holy Spirit as the Jews, I literally began stroking my fingers across the most beautiful words of 1 Peter 2:9-10

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."

Oh.  It fills me to my toes.  And completely caught me off guard.

Who knew that was what I needed to hear?  I certainly did not.  But God did.

This remarkable opening of the gates to the Gentiles has long been to me a precious aspect of the story of God's New Testament grace - from the very speaking of Simeon, declaring Jesus a "light for revelation to the Gentiles" (Luke 2:32).

Because I am a Gentile - a group once considered to be the outsiders.  The mere on-lookers and, in the worst cases, enemies, of God's people Israel.  While a few strands were worked into the beautiful tapestry of God's Old Testament stories, for the most part, the Gentiles did not receive a kind word or an offering for redemption.

And, yet, I am a part of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation and a people for His own possession.

We are not just the late-comers.  The red-headed step-children He decided might as well come along, too.  No.  We are chosen.  We have received mercy and we have been called into marvelous light.

I cannot help but breathe deeply with the truth of these words.

Revel in His grace and mercy.  You belong to Him!

1,000 Gifts:
805. Truth
806. Scripture in my language
807. His Marvelous Light
808. Putting things back together
809. Memories
810. The old becoming new

Photo of the Day:
This is Emmett "hiding" after his bath.  He makes me smile.

Whole 30 - Day 21:
Breakfast - Scrambled Eggs, Fresh-Squeezed Orange Juice
Lunch - Leftover Fondue Meat, Salad, Grapes, Crunchy Broccoli Slaw, Cherries
Snack - Plantain Chips
Dinner - Mexican Chicken Soup (a South Beach Diet recipe)

Worst Part of Today: Running out of Plantain Chips.

Best Part of Today: Realizing how much I've enjoyed eating lunch lately.  It's so nice to not just be going to the old sandwich fallback every day and, yet, doing more than just salads.  Also, we haven't been eating lunch in front of the TV, so it feels less rushed.

27 August 2012

Of Parenting our Mover

Y'all we have a mover on our hands.  After two kids who never seemed to be in a hurry to get anywhere, both waiting to crawl until nine months and walking at 15/16 months, I don't know what to do with myself!

No, Joey does not get up on hands and knees to crawl quite yet (though he does pull himself up for rocking now and then), but that boy can army crawl like nothin' else.  When I put him on the floor, I can no longer do a quick check of the small radius within arm's reach to be sure he's safe from choking hazards.  No, Ma'am (or Sir), Operation Constantly Clean Floors has commenced - and when that fails, he gets stuck in his exersaucer, because sometimes Mommy gets distracted and just can't be sure he's not squirming into another room to wreak havoc.

And it's so funny how quickly we forget how to transition into each new stage.  Yes, I've had two crawlers before, but for some reason I was drawing a complete blank on what this phase means for me.  I found myself asking, "How is he finding another piece of paper to put in his mouth amidst all these toys I gave him to play with and why don't I remember scrambling this much with the other two?"

And then it dawned on me.

With our previous little ones we were very deliberate about house-proofing our baby rather than baby-proofing our house.  True, I maintained clean floors and still tried to keep choking hazards out of baby reach, but for the most part we focused intently on teaching our children the word, "No!" and then employing that word whenever they were about to touch something undesirable.  It didn't take long for them, even at such a young age, to figure out what was okay and what would garner a slap on the wrist.


Parenting.  That's what I did with the other two.  So why don't we try this again, rather than let the little monster run rampant?  Sounds like a plan.

1,000 Gifts:
799. Blue Whisper
800. Pre-shopping garage sales
801. Quality time sorting tacky clothes
802. Getting paid to clear out the clutter
803. Plans coming to fruition
804. Replacing Game Night snacks with good-for-us options

Photo from Saturday: We made a trip to Lowe's and Daddy made sure Joseph had on his "Daddy's Helper" onesie, complete with tool belt illustration.  Love them both!

Day 18 - 
Breakfast - Cowboy Breakfast Skillet (I was kind of afraid of this one, but it was actually pretty good)
Lunch - Leftover breakfast 
Dinner - Mexican Crockpot Stew (using previously cooked/shredded Chicken Carnitas)
Snack - Cherries

Day 19 - 
Breakfast - Scrambled Eggs, Banana
Lunch - Leftover Mexican Crockpot Stew
Snack - Plantain Chips
Dinner - Bacon, Roasted Red Pepper, Onion Frittata (Everyone LOVED this)
Movie Snack - Mixed Nuts, Dried Cranberries, Raisins (not quite popcorn, but still yum)

Day 20 - 
Breakfast - Scrambled Eggs, Fresh-Squeezed Orange Juice
Lunch - Mini Pizza Meatloaves, Salad
Snack - 1/2 Banana Bread Larabar
Dinner - Chicken Parmesan (minus the Parmesan and the Mozzarella), Green Beans, Salad

Worst Part of these Days: Salad Dressing.  I miss real salad dressing.

Best Part of these Days: Now two-thirds of the way done and only a week and a half from the finish line, we're planning our post-Whole-30 phasing back into real-life eating and I'm surprisingly ok with not jumping back into chocolate chip cookies and even holding off on the grains for a couple more days while we re-introduce dairy first.  My food has changed me!

24 August 2012

Of Amazing Generosity

A few days ago our washer up and quit on me.  It returned an error and failed to complete washing the diapers I had started the night before (yes, unwashed diapers sitting in their own, undrained water - it was quite lovely).  Faced with the indecision of attempting to fix it ourselves (with an expensive part) or calling in a professional and crossing our fingers for a cheap fix (though the professional would be no cheaper than the part, I'm sure), I posted our sad predicament on Facebook.

Immediately I was inundated with offers to use the washing machines of others, friends begging me to leave my unwashed items on my porch so they could come do them for me and even a free washer.  Have I mentioned we have the best friends in the world?

So, right now I'm listening to the rattle of a much-too-loud machine that doesn't have the fancy cycles to which I am accustomed.  But what's important?  I'm listening to a machine that works.  That we spent not a penny on.

God is good.

Also, I'm thinking my oven might be broken next week, any offers?  Hehe, I kid, I kid.

1,000 Gifts:
793. The generosity of friends
794. Ch-ch-ch-changes.
795. Morning dew between my toes.
796. The final pink wisps of sunrise.
797. Cooling air that marks the end of summer.
798. A new orange friend.

Photo from Yesterday: 
Game Night!  Micaiah is actually a Super-Star at Monopoly Junior.

Whole 30:
Day 16 - 
Breakfast - Scrambled Eggs, Banana
Lunch - Salad with Chicken Carnitas and Guacamole
Snack - 1/2 Banana Bread Larabar (my second favorite so far, Apple Pie being first favorite)
Dinner - Shashlik, Crunchy Broccoli Slaw (SO good!  Philip wasn't a fan because it was too sweet for him with the White Balsamic Vinegar - but Emmett and I loved it.)

Day 17 - 
Breakfast - Scrambled Eggs, Banana
Lunch - Leftover Shaslik, Crunchy Broccoli Slaw, Grapes
Snack - Mixed Nuts
Dinner - Beef and Chicken Fondue with Mojo Cooking Style, Broccoli, Green Peppers

Worst Part of these Days - Feeling like we're still not past the craving stage.  More than halfway through and I'd like to stop waiting for this thing to be over and really appreciate eating good food - which I do sometimes, but it feels like we vacillate - it's definitely been a roller coaster that doesn't feel like it's evening out.

Best Part of these Days - Looking at my kids' colorful lunch plates, with carrots, grapes, cherries, cheese (yes, they still get cheese) and other good-for-them foods and knowing our eating habits are affecting them in a positive way.

22 August 2012

Of the Words I Would Say

I dreamed last night, without going into weird detail (it was a dream, after all), that I was being condemned to death for no other reason than being viewed as an excess individual.  In one horrible moment, I was being escorted out of a room, away from my husband (who was being allowed to live) and without a chance to see my children or even tell them good-bye.

Yes, it was tremendously sad, though I was filled with a strange sense of peace.

What I was most grateful for in the dream was a set of circumstances which allowed me to write a letter to my husband and children filled with all the final words I wanted them to have from me before I was gone from this earth.

Of course, when I awoke I was extremely relieved to find it was nothing more than a dream, but it left me with the sense that, though the circumstances of this particular vision are beyond-extremely unlikely, the certainty of my next breath is non-existent.  And, in the real world, I may not get that chance to leave my final words.

So, I decided to write a little something here, hoping I'll get to read them to my kids myself when I'm at a ripe old age, but also recognizing none of us knows when our last day has come.

These are the words I would say,

"To my Beautiful Family -

I love you all more than words could express.  You each have taught me so much about myself and have made my life worth getting up for every morning (even when it felt too early).

Dearest Philip,
You are everything I ever needed but many things I never knew I wanted.  God is so good to know me better than I know myself.  You are a capable man who is able to do so much more than you give yourself credit for.  You are compassionate and playful - qualities that make you an excellent father to our children (and have allowed you to put up with me longer than should have been possible).  I know God is at work in your heart and is continually shaping you into a man after His will.  Continue in His way and He will always bring you through.

Beautiful Micaiah,
My first born - you were the first little being I felt squirming inside me.  You are precious in every way.  Please forgive me for the times I have been too hard on you.  The truth is, I see in you almost every part of me - the good and the bad.  And, sometimes, as though I were disciplining myself, I push too much and expect more than is fair.  I am sorry.  But I love who you are.  I love the way you love your brothers, encouraging them, helping them and enjoying them.  You have a beautiful heart.  You, my little spit-fire, are so independent.  Don't lose that.  But also remember it's ok to share the load.  And, in trusting others to help you along the way, remember that just because someone does something differently than you would prefer does not mean it is wrong.  Our differences are what make us stronger as a people.  I also want you to know, there is only one Man who will ever complete you and His name is Jesus.  Another may come along and try to steal your heart, but tell him He has to go through the Father first - you are worth the effort.

Precious Emmett,
You have one of the most sensitive hearts I have ever met.  I love the way you look after the needs of others and are willing to accept what is given to you with a joyful heart, even while others are demanding more.  Your life verse (Proverbs 3:3-4) talks of wearing kindness and truth all the days of your life and I wish that for you.  These two qualities will take you far (to the point of finding success in the eyes of God); never let them be far from you.  Your inner strength and your desire to stand up for what is right are the qualities I most admire in you.  I know you are capable of great things, but remember that nothing of lasting value can happen apart from God.  Hide His Word in your heart and follow after Him.

My Joseph,
Mister, Mister, I sure do love your smile.  So young and I can already tell you have a determined spirit.  You let nothing stand in the way when you have your mind set on a task.  Let that fierceness drive you to stand up for what is right and be a trailblazer in the name of the Lord.  You have what it takes to cause others to follow after you; make sure you know where you're headed first.  God will never let you down and if you trust in His name you will not be mis-led.  Take care of your brother and sister the way they so lovingly look after you.  Be compassionate always and lift up the hurting.  Allow God to do His amazing work in you.

To all of you, remember this world is only temporary, let us trust in that which will never fade and never falter.  I love you all."

1,000 Gifts:
785. Breath in my lungs
786. Her swallowed up by a t-shirt too big
787. Carrying a little girl in my arms that will soon be too big for such things
788. Drying her tears
789. Righting my wrong
790. A day without fits
791. His little squeal
792. My littlest man, army crawling already

Whole 30
Day 14 - 
Breakfast - Eggs, Banana
Lunch - Chicken Carnitas, Lettuce, Salsa
Snack - 1/2 Carrot Cake Larabar
Dinner - Sexy Shrimp Scampi (lol, gotta love a name like that - and, oh my, sexy I'm not sure, but delicious, yes sir!), Broccoli

Day 15 - 
Breakfast - Eggs, Banana
Snack - Strawberries, Blueberries, Oranges, Grapes
Lunch - Turkey Burger with Guacamole, Sliced Tomato, Plantain Chips
Dinner - Chili

Worst Part of these Days: Twice a week I cook dinner for another family as well, usually doubling whatever I make for ourselves.  Twice this week I have made for them pasta when pasta is not our menu (because I thought they might actually appreciate the spaghetti in their spaghetti and meatballs).  It wasn't until after I sent their meal off last night and I was cleaning up the stray strands of linguini for their scampi that I realized two nights in a row I had eaten a piece of pasta, per my method for testing done-ness.  Darn it.  I messed up and it was entirely unintentional (believe me, if I had meant to slip, it would have been with a little bit of Micaiah's pizza this evening, not two innocent pieces of plain pasta). Please forgive me.  Also a bad moment - chili without cheese or fritos or crackers - who does that?!

Best Part of these Days: That Shrimp Scampi.  Ooooh, yum!  Also, we've made it past the hump!  Onto the second half of our journey!

21 August 2012

Of Keeping Back

Yesterday I was continuing an off-and-on journey through the book of Acts when I came, once again, upon the story of Ananias and Sapphira.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar, this husband and wife pair were members of the early Church - a couple of the first converts to Christianity.  They lived during a time when the Church was moving in a mighty way.  Everyone was selling their possessions and giving to the needy among them so that no believer was forgotten.  This giving away was not a requirement to participate in the Church, nor were the members expected to live as paupers.  They were merely following the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Ananias and Sapphira, however, seeing how a fellow believer, Barnabas, had sold his entire property and laid the money at the apostles' feet, decided they were going to do the same.  But, for whatever reason, they held back a portion of their proceeds.  Now, this wasn't their sin.  Where they went wrong was in their plot to feign self-less-ness and deceive the apostles into believing they, too, had given God everything - rather than just a part.

In the end, they were both struck dead by the Holy Spirit for their dishonest behavior.

As I read my study notes on this passage, this definition stuck out to me:

"'Kept back' (Gr. nosphizo) means 'to put aside for oneself, to keep back' in a secret and dishonest way."

Now I haven't sold my house to give the money to the poor and I haven't pretended to give all my clothing to the needy.  But I do keep back.

I keep back my possessions - the ones that could be of legitimate use to someone in need, but I hold onto it, because I might need it someday. 

I keep back my time - saying I don't have enough, yet squandering it as I surf the internet, gazing at items I don't need and can't afford or considering projects I'll never complete.

I keep back my energy - because I just don't feel like it and someone else will take care of it.

I keep back my money - we're trying to get out of debt, after all.

I may not be intentional about my deceit, but I do lie about my keeping back.  I say I don't have enough.  What I mean is, I don't have enough for you.  I have plenty for myself and I'd like to keep it that way, thank you.

What an ugly picture of the Church.

Lord, forgive me for putting aside for myself the blessings you have laid before me.  May I always be prepared to give the gift away.

1,000 Gifts:
779. Baby's pudgy legs curled up as he eats
780. The weight of a baby boy, growing slightly heavier daily, in my arms
781. Sidewalk chalk on a little-boy face
782. Two children putting laundry in and out of the dryer
783. A grocery basket full of reds, greens and yellows - healthy dinners planned
784. Her Connecting-the-Dots for the first time.  

Photos of Recently:
This past weekend was spent in Tulsa - so we spent a little time checking out the scenery, like the Tulsa Rose Garden.

And, of course, we played games at The Covenant Store.  Micaiah liked Caracassone, briefly.

Emmett struggled a little more, but he was trying.

 And when all else fails, we pull out the ipad - here's Micaiah's drawing of me, which I actually found quite impressive.

Emmett got to feed Joey for the first time.  Such a good big brother.

Whole 30 (I bet you thought we quit, huh?):

Day 10 -
Breakfast - Eggs, Strawberries, BananasLunch - Turkey Burger (no bacon), Tomatoes, GrapesDinner - Crockpot Chicken Carnitas, Romaine, Fried Plantains

Day 11-Breakfast - Eggs, Strawberries, BananaSnack - CashewsLunch - Chicken Carnita SaladSnacks - Raisins, Mini-Muffin (don't judge, I didn't have many options and these are made of nuts and I needed protein)Dinner - Rotisserie chicken, Plantain Chips

Day 12 -Breakfast - Eggs, Strawberries, BananasSnack - 1/2 Apple Pie LarabarLunch - Leftover Chicken, Veggie ChipsSnack - 1/2 Key Lime LarabarCashewsDinner - Grilled chicken salad, picante sauce (from QT - I picked off the cheese)

Day 13 - 
Breafast - Eggs, Banana
Lunch - Chicken, Grapes, Cherries
Snack - 1/2 Carrot Cake Larabar
Dinner - Spaghetti & Meatballs (minus the Spaghetti and without the Cheese and mushroom bits rather than bread crumbs)

Worst Part of the Weekend - Being away from home!  Being surrounded by all the things we never keep on hand (my favorite cereal, Hershey's Kisses, etc.) and having to resist.  Besides the fact that Vacation Mentality kicked in - you know the thought that you're on vacation so you can eat whatever and it doesn't count.  Only, everything counts in the Whole 30.  I had planned ahead and figured out meals to take with us, but then I got lazy and decided we could eat the same thing the whole weekend (Chicken Carnitas on salad) - which was a big mistake because we got bored of that after, oh, the second meal in a row.  So, I was torturing myself with the knowledge of all the great restaurants we don't have at home that I still couldn't eat at and not wanting to cook something healthy. It was bad.  Real bad.

Best Part of the Weekend - Heading to Whole Foods and stocking up on Plantain Chips and Larabars - maybe replacing unhealthy habits with "healthy" ones, but better than sucking down pizza, ice cream, chips and granola bars with reckless abandon (as I really wanted to do).  We were definitely in survival mode.

17 August 2012

Of Rationalizing and Realizing

I have had three bananas patiently ripening on my counter for the past week, darkening themselves to be ready to be blended into Grain Free Banana Muffins - Whole 30 approved, kind of.

See, I found the recipe long before we decided we wanted to participate in this craziness, so when we decided to jump into the deep end, I remembered, "Yay!  We can even still have muffins, like the kids love to do for breakfast!" So I dictated firm instructions, leave those three bananas alone - they have a purpose!

And then I read the actual program guidelines and I grew sad:

"In addition, no Paleo-ifying dessert or junk food choices. Trying to shove your old, unhealthy diet into a shiny new Whole30 mold will ruin your program faster than you can say, “Paleo pizza.”  This means no desserts or junk food made with “approved” ingredients—no coconut-flour pancakes, almond-flour muffins, flourless brownies, or coconut milk ice cream. Don’t try to replicate junk food during your 30 days! That misses the point of the Whole30 entirely." (double emphasis added)

But not so sad that I used the bananas.  They continued to sit, growing spottier and spottier, as I debated what to do.  On the one hand, the ingredients were definitely Whole 30 approved.  On the other hand, muffins were directly addressed as evil.

Today, though, I had enough debating, I was tired of brown bananas on my counter and I rationalized, I'm not making these muffins because I crave muffins or to fill some deep longing or comfort, I just have bad bananas that need to be used (I hate wasting food).  What's their deal, anyway?  Why so uptight?  It's not like I'm dousing my stomach in sugar or unapproved grains.  Almonds, Cashews, oil, bananas - good, right?!

So I made them, trying to decide if, as a law-abiding girl to the end, I should feel guilty or not.  After all, no Whole 30 police were going to jump out and throw a ticket at me for violating the guidelines.  No one could force me to "re-start".  So why was I trying to hard to rationalize it?  If I thought it was ok, then, by golly, I'm an adult - it should be ok!

Then, as the muffins came out of the oven and I popped the first mini-bite of moist bread-like texture in my mouth, I got giddy and I began to get excited about the idea of a warm muffin with melted ghee (butter's a no-no, remember) and, ooh, would that taste just as I dreamed?  Oh.  Uh-oh.

And I was doing it - fantacizing about food in an unhealthy way.


So that's why I'm not supposed to just re-work my old favorites.

Got it.

So, I'm saving the muffins for the kids.  Because Micaiah thinks they're absolutely delicious (but that could be her grain-free cravings kicking in.  Oh well.)

1,000 Gifts:
775. The ability to decide what I'm going to eat
776. Tickles from a little girl
777. Big boy, letting loose the weary tears and giving in to rest
778. Little boy, grinning that he's happy to see me

Whole 30 - Day 9 (which was yesterday):
Breakfast - Sausage & Egg Casserole, Banana
Lunch - Rotisserie Chicken on Romaine with Tomatoes and Homemade Italian Dressing
Snack - Raisins
Dinner - Baked Bacon Turkey Burgers (the recipe calls for Bison, but that is much more expensive and readily available than turkey - plus we like turkey), Zucchini Chips, Green Beans

Worst Part of the Day: We spent the evening at a Home-Schooling Panel where there were lovely trays of home-baked brownies, chocolate chip muffins, M&M cookies, cheese, crackers and salami (as well as multiple pitchers of lemonade).  Essentially, all the good public-gathering-type goodies.  I had a glass of water while I convinced myself the lemonade was probably watered down anyway.

Best Part of the Day: Forgetting I was even on the diet (you know, until the Homeschooling Panel) - which I take to be a good sign, because I'm no longer desperate for what I can't have (unless it's right in front of me) or feeling a giant rumbling in the tummy.  Just living my life, fueled by healthy choices.

15 August 2012

Of the Whole 30 (Part 2)

It's been over a week now since we started our Whole 30 Journey and it has already been an interesting ride.  While I, of course, have been giving daily updates, I feel the need to clarify our purpose in pursuing this 30-day endeavor because I have not done much to address this aspect.

First and foremost, I feel it's important to emphasize, the goal of the Whole 30 is not, nor has ever been, about weight loss.  This program is a "diet" inasmuch as it dictates our eating habits, but not with the goal of seeing the numbers on the scale decrease.  In fact, the Program itself demands we not weigh ourselves for the entire month because we are not to fixate on the wrong goal.

The reason we are going through the Whole 30 is so we might learn to approach food in a healthy manner.  This means we are learning not to let food control us (via cravings), comfort us or motivate us.  Food is fuel.  It's good to indulge and appreciate food, but good food.

A secondary benefit is to learn how our bodies respond to different foods.  It's difficult to test the idea that certain things we consider normal and necessary to our diets are actually sapping our energy or messing with our systems unless we eradicate these foods, allow our bodies to re-set and then re-introduce certain things gradually (or leave them out altogether when we discover how much we don't really miss them).

So, that's where we are - re-setting our systems and learning to appreciate good food, cooked in healthy ways.

And, yes, we can tell we're losing weight, but we're more excited about the fact that we no longer feel extremely hungry between meals or long for milkshakes (ok, one of those would still be nice, but I'm not longing for the thirty days to end so I can have one - that would defeat the point, of course).

1,000 Gifts:
772. Sending our littlest to bed full
773. An evening together
774. Catching up on the house

Whole 30 - Day 8
Breakfast - Sausage & Egg Casserole, Banana
Lunch - Salad with Rotisserie Chicken and Homemade Mayonnaise
Dinner - Pizza Meatloaves, Salad with Homemade Italian Dressing (per the recipe on Pampered Chef's Measure, Mix & Pour - if you're interested, let me know - just sayin')

Worst Part of Today: Taking a ten-minute on-line survey about chocolate cake. At least I got fifty cents out of it.

Best Part of Today: While Pigs-in-a-Blanket and Fruit Pizzas (on sugar cookies!) were offered at Bible Study this morning and I figured they probably tasted really good, it wasn't that difficult to turn them down.  I wasn't hungry and didn't even crave them.  You all, these are some of my absolute favorite foods we're talking about, and I barely batted an eye.  Something is changing - and it's crazy.

14 August 2012

Of Her Birthday Obsession

"I'm so sick of her birthday already and it's still a month away!" - Philip

It's true, our daughter can be a bit obsessive.  It's not her fault.  She's in the late stages of being three and, as is par for her condition, she has few things that actually take up that gray matter in her skull, so she tends to fixate on what is there.  And what is there right now is her birthday.

To be fair, she has it kind of rough, because when you celebrate your brother's, mom's and dad's birthdays within a span of two weeks, it's only natural to think you're next.  And she's right, she's next, but she just doesn't realize how long 2.5 months is.

And, of course, just as she had let it go a little, I decided to bring it back up again because ice cream was on sale and I needed to test the waters to see just how crucial this particular treat was for her birthday celebration.  Turns out, no ice cream necessary.

What is necessary?

Apparently a strawberry-flavored princess cake, shaped like Belle, with lots of presents and cards (alternating in the opening - one card, one present, one card, and so on).  The meal (lasagna) will be eaten outside with present-opening occurring in the black tent (which will, apparently, be set up in the backyard).  Last but not least, she requires colored tissue paper poufs ("bouncy balls"), the same used by Mommy at her birthday (which was actually already planned, but I decided to let her think it was her idea).

Not that she's put any thought into it.

And this is what we have heard about all day since I mentioned the festivities last night.

I also mentioned, as her birthday is on a Monday and Daddy works, we might not celebrate on the actual day.  Would that be ok?

"Yeah, let's celebrate today!"

Oh, my girl.

1,000 Gifts:
767. Grocery shopping with a very loud little boy
768. Free cookies at the store (for him, not me)
769. Strawberries, bright red and oh so sweet
770. A forgiving husband
771. Seeing that man play with his baby boy

Whole 30 - Day 7
Breakfast - Scrambled eggs, Banana
Lunch - Rotisserie Chicken on Salad with Homemade Mayonnaise
Snack - The last of the Chunky Apple Chicken Salad 
Dinner - Spaghetti Squash Carbonara
Snack - Sliced Strawberries and Bananas

Worst Part of the Day: The epic fail that was dinner.  I want to blame the recipe but, as it turns out, we apparently had a bad squash.  Having never experienced Spaghetti Squash before, we didn't know the bitter taste wasn't normal.  The sprouts inside should have been some sort of indicator, though. The kids had hot dogs; Philip and I dug around for bacon.

Best Part of the Day: Strawberries and Bananas.  That's all I need to say.

13 August 2012

Of the Story of Ruth

Yesterday, after arriving home from church, I sat on the couch nursing Joseph and my daughter snuggled next to me.  I asked her a simple enough question, "What did you learn about in church today?  Adam and Eve?"  I had assumed this based on the trading card she had handed me while leaving her class.

"No.  I learned about Ruf."

"Ruth?  What did you learn about her?"

"Um, that she was married and her dad died and she had two sons and they both died."

"Was it Naomi that had two sons?  Did they both die."

"Yeah, and then their was another man and he fell in love with her."

"With Ruth?"

"Yeah.  But there was a bad guy who had lots of hair on his chin and on his face and he was a bad guy."

Now I got a little lost.  All I could guess was maybe she meant the other relative who was to be Ruth's kinsman redeemer who gave up the role to Boaz, but I couldn't be sure.  Either way, I was thoroughly impressed.  The most we've gotten in the past from the aforementioned question were things like, "God." or "Adam and Eve."  And, yet, there was my near-four-year-old daughter reciting to me the pre-schooler version of Ruth and Boaz.

Impressed, indeed.

1,000 Gifts:
763. That little girl, twirling in the grocery store
764. She smiles and shrugs her shoulders
765. Telling her, "Did you know you're my favorite little girl in the whole world?" Big smile.
766. Being taken care of

Photo of the Day:
Spending a little quality time with this guy was a highlight of my, generally, rough day.

It may be blurry, but this smile will always win me over.

Whole 30 - Day 6:
Breakfast - Banana
Lunch - Blended Strawberries, Blueberries, Bananas; Two forkfuls of Chunky Apple Chicken Salad
Snack - Sausage and Egg Casserole
Dinner - Cajun Rub Rotisserie Chicken (label carefully read), Green Beans

Worst Part of the Day: Waking up absolutely sick, wanting nothing more than a Gatorade and saltines and hoping it doesn't last so I don't have to give in.  Then, when the sickness subsides, feeling too weak to prepare acceptable food and wanting to just sit on the couch and indulge in comfort foods - crackers, cereal, chocolate milk, the list goes on. 

Best Part of the Day: Realizing there are options for meals that don't require an hour in the kitchen (like store-bought chicken) and, overall, just surviving the day without giving up.

12 August 2012

Of Celebrating Six Months

Happy Birthday to our little boy who turned 1/2 a year old today!  Pull out the party hats!

It's been a wild six months, but I definitely enjoy having this little guy around.

Six months ago he was snuggled in my arms as I knelt on my bedroom floor.  I held his warm little body close, climbed into bed and never wanted to let go.  Today, it's all I can do to keep him in my lap while he eats, as he arches his back to see everything around him.  If he's not eating, sitting still to snuggle is hardly his favorite activity.  

At six months our little man is sitting up and wriggling around the floor.  He likes to spin in circles when he's laying on his belly, grasping at anything within arm's reach to put straight in his tiny mouth.  He will chew on anything and everything he can get to and the radius of what he can get to increases daily.

The other day, at the drive-in, he lay on his belly in the back of the SUV, he pushed his feet against the wall of the car to pull his knees up under him and shoved his elbows forward to gain a few inches.  It was impressive and a big step toward mobility.  Sure, when he's not pushing himself against something he's not so good at putting weight on those chubby knees, but still, Momma's proud.

So grateful for what time has brought us.

1,000 Gifts:
759. Pulling shoes on little feet.
760. Creating a to-do list
761. An adventurous and understanding husband
762. Abundant food

Photo of the Day:

Whole 30 - Day 5:
Breakfast: Eggs scrambled with Salsa, Banana
Lunch: Celery with Almond Butter, small serving of Chunky Apple Chicken Salad, Cherries
Dinner: Sausage and Egg Breakfast Casserole, Clementine
Evening Snack: Small serving of the above casserole

Worst Part of Today: The severe temptation to just grab a bowl of cereal when my belly was rumbling later in the evening.
Best Part of Today: Realizing I really don't miss some of the things I used to think necessary, like cheese or a breading in egg casserole (or even just cheese on my salad).

11 August 2012

Of the Drive-In

Yesterday afternoon, Micaiah sat in her small camp chair, in her pajamas (yes, in the afternoon, don't judge), combing her My Little Pony and asked, "Mommy, do you remember when we went to the movie theater and saw the Panda movie?"

I stared at her blankly, thinking, surely, she cannot be talking about when we went to the drive-in for Emmett's first birthday, when she was a mere 2.75 years old - an event to which she has not referred since the night it happened.  Surely not.

"And we ate popcorn and sat in Dia's big car.  Do you remember, Mommy?" she continued.

This girl's memory never ceases to amaze me.

"Yes, baby, I remember." But how do you?!

"Because I want to do that again."

Well, okay, then.

And as I marveled to her Daddy over instant message about how this conversation was born from nowhere and thinking, yes, I have been wanting to go all summer, it just hasn't worked out, and, maybe, we could go sometime soon, before it closes for the season.

And then I realized.  It's Friday.  We have no plans for tonight.  Philip has been telling me all day how beautiful the weather is.  So, why not?

Thus, it was.  We ate our Whole 30 approved dinner, packed up the car with chairs, blankets, pillows and snacks (popcorn for the littles, per Micaiah's specific request, and nuts and grapes for Mom and Dad - you should be proud - you have NO idea how hard that was for me!) and headed to the Drive-In where we snuggled with our bigger kids in the cool breeze of the less-than-100-degree evening while watching Ice Age 4 (which may have made a hair more sense had we seen any others in the series besides the original, but I kind of doubt it), with Joey sleeping on his blanket spread in the trunk of our SUV (I may have been excited about taking this car to the drive-in, for that very purpose, since the day we bought it).

Thanks, Micaiah, for motivating us to get out of the house and enjoy the waning days of summer.

1,000 Gifts:
745. A cool breeze on  summer evening.
746. Three kids snuggled in.
747. A small head resting on my shoulder.
748. Kids playing in the dirt.
749. The sweet taste of grapes.
750. Bacon - especially when wrapped around other foods
751. Whispers from a little boy
752. Airplanes in the night sky
753. A shooting star - God's entertainment is always better
754. Little Guy squirming in my lap
755. Avocados
756. Breezy Saturday afternoons
757. Fresh produce
758. Just what I need at just the right price

Photos of the Day:

Whole 30 - Day 3:
Breakfast - Eggs scrambled in walnut oil with Salsa and a mix of chopped red and yellow peppers, Banana
Lunch - Chunky Apple Chicken Salad (with Homemade Mayo), Grapes
Afternoon Snack - Zucchini Chips (these were supposed to be part of lunch but took much longer to bake than the recipe stated - but they were AMAZING)
Dinner - Sweet & Spicy Bacon Chicken (minus the sweet), Green Beans
Movie Snack - Mixed Nuts, Grapes

Worst Part of Today: Movies without popcorn?!  What kind of madness is this?!
Best Part of Today: Being full after dinner, but not feeling gross or heavy, as I would after being too full from carbs or sugar.  I don't think I ever knew you could feel a little too full but not feel yucky.

Day 4:
Breakfast - Eggs, Clementine
Lunch - Chunky Apple Chicken Salad (with Homemade Mayo), Grapes
Dinner - BLAT Salad
Dessert - Cinnamon & Nutmeg Banana Ice Cream

Worst Part of Today: Remembering not to lick the spoon while dishing up pudding for the kids.
Best Part of Today: Philip telling me, "I'm not very happy with you.  I'm not supposed to like this because it has avocados and mayonnaise.  I don't like what you're doing to me." Love it when he's surprised to discover the things he thought were bad really aren't so bad.

09 August 2012

Of Letting the Rhythm Move Her

I'm not sure if it was my first exposure to the sport, but one of the few things that stuck in my memory from watching the 1996 Summer Olympics (other than Kerri Strug's heroic vault, of course) was staying up until 2am (because I was twelve and it was summer, so why not, right?) and discovering Rhythmic Gymnasts (who were only aired during those wee hours of the morning, in the days long before DVR) twirl a ribbon through the air and do amazing contortions of their body through a hula hoop.  I thought it was magical.

Since those middle school days of having no other life than lounging in front of the television until my eyelids were going to fall off, I have not had the ability to indulge in the once-every-four-years airing of this particular event (as, apparently, America has no investment in this sort of artistry at all) - until now.

Now that it's aired during the normal morning hours, reserved only for housewives and jobless college graduates who live with their mothers, I finally have the privilege of watching in awe, once again, as one slender dancer after another, adorned in glitter and spandex, makes a bouncing ball a fluid member of her own body.

And the best part this time around is having my four-year-old daughter sitting nearby, also marveling at this amazing feat.  And when it's over?  Seeing her pick up her own glitter-filled ball and attempt to hold it by sheer will on the inside of her knee, just like "the girls" did.

Everyday memories, sponsored by the Olympics (and NBC, of course).

(And just in case you need a reference point for any of the above to make sense)

1,000 Gifts:
738. Opening my fridge to see sprigs of parsley, fresh ground nut butters and salad fixings
739. A full fridge
740. Kissing boo-boos
741. A tiny, fleshy tongue sucking on my arm
742. "Secret Missions"
743. The Library
744. Renewing memories

Whole 30 - Day Two:
Breakfast: Egg Scrambled in Walnut Oil, Banana
Morning Snack: Apple with Almond Butter 
Lunch: Leftovers from last night
Afternoon Snack: Frozen Blueberries, Strawberries and Bananas blended together (amazing!)
Dinner: Shaslik (Russian Kebabs - with chicken rather than lamb because lamb was too expensive and broiled, rather than grilled, because our grill is broken), Green Bean Bacon Bundles (minus the sugar and with Ghee rather than butter), Sliced Tomatoes

Today got rough when I gave the kids popcorn for snack (their diet isn't as hard-core as ours, though they have the same breakfast and dinner) and wanted just one kernel, but I held strong.  Also, the Whole 30 plan discourages against snacks, but I'm a nursing momma who is donating a good portion of her calories to a certain little boy, leaving me hungry and shaking even after I finished breakfast, so I had to put those back in - I don't plan to rely on them, but I won't deny myself nourishment when my stomach is super angry.  Finally, that dinner was about the most amazing thing I've ever made/eaten - LOVED it!!!  We'll be pulling that out again, and long after this Whole 30 is over, for sure.

08 August 2012

Of My Undeserved Love

Yesterday morning, after staying up too late, yet again - an ongoing theme during these days of Olympic prime-time airing until 11pm and my inability to get ready before they're over - I was caught in a dream as my husband, who had been up for an hour or so already, preparing for work, woke me by whispering our youngest was ready to eat.  So, he brought me the baby and while I was done feeding him, my husband came back in, took the little guy back, changed his diaper and laid him back down.

Then, he came in our room to fix the toilet, yet again, because it was running, yet again.  And while I stood next to him, feeling guilty for still being so groggy after clearly having slept longer than he and still knowing I would be able to sleep even after he was gone, he was putting his hand to my back, guiding me back to the bed, tucking me in and kissing me good-bye before he left to work hard on my behalf.

I am so blessed.

Daily I get more sleep than this man.  And he never holds it over my head.  Not even on the occasional Saturday morning when I gripe that he's sleeping until 11 and I just want one morning of not having to prepare breakfast for our little ones the minute I get up.  Not even on the rare day when I debate napping - on those days he tells me, always, that I should.

Would I do the same?

Doubtful.  In me dwells bitterness.  I have my days when I recognize how much better my job is than his.  But I also have the days when I gripe and whine and detail for him every minute of my crazy child-filled day, begging for pity, begging for a break.

So when it comes to sleep, I know if I were him I'd be rolling my eyes every time that wife of mine, the one who woke up at nine that morning, the one who kept us both up until midnight, mentioned being tired.

Grateful every day for a man I don't deserve.  The one who loves me better than I know to love him and cares for me with the greatest tenderness and lack of selfish motivation.

He is truly my greatest blessing.

1,000 Gifts:
734. Female camaraderie
735. Road trips
736. A knowing smile
737. Sharing stories of God's goodness

Photo of the Day: 
As we were preparing for lunch this afternoon, the two big kids in their chairs and Little Man playing on the floor we suddenly heard the tinkling of piano keys.  And there he was, sitting at the piano, loving it as he plunked his hands on the keys.  He sure does like his music.

For those of you interested in how we're doing during our Whole 30, I'll be including a daily update.  For those of you not interested, you have my permission to check out now.

Whole 30 - Day One: 
Breakfast - Eggs, scrambled with Coconut Oil, and a Nectarine
Lunch - Romaine and Spinach topped with Cherry Tomatoes and Shredded Chicken (sprinkled with Chipotle Rub before cooking) and drizzled with Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar
Dinner - Mexi Salad (substituted Chicken for Beef because it's what we had)
Evening Snack - Mixed Nuts

Worst Moment of the Day: Longing for chocolate.  Any chocolate.
Best Moment of the Day: Licking my guacamole fork knowing I just made something amazing and it's good for us!  Healthy eating does not equal bland eating.

Of Our Hipster Evening

As our gas-guzzling SUV pulled into the Whole Foods parking lot, smack in the center of the swanky district of OKC, I immediately felt out of place.

"Are we chic enough to shop here?" I asked.

"I don't think so." was the reply from the front seat.

Though, the minute Philip, Dayla, our herd of children, and I paraded through the front doors, I didn't care if I was a hillbilly in high-class heaven, I was ready to move in.  If it meant endless access to the bulk nuts, fresh nut butter, beautiful fruits and jars of organic coconut oil, I would sleep in one of those yellow metal chairs chilling in the front of the store for the rest of my life.

But only if I could bring a Pack n' Play for Joey (and cots for the older ones, of course).

As it was, I was like a kid in a candy store as I stocked up for our road trip down hippie lane that starts bright and early tomorrow morning.  I'm pretty sure I spent fifteen minutes in the bulk section alone, calculating prices and pouring almonds, cashews, walnuts and pecans into their little plastic baggies.

I loved just about every second of it - and that's not just because I had two helpers wrangling the children so I could focus on locating the cans of coconut milk.

To top off the evening, we made a quick stop for my first ever Cuppie at Cuppies & Joe.  Vanilla, chocolate and salted caramel dwelling in peace together?  Yes, this was the most perfect ending to my sugar-filled eating habits (at least for the next thirty days).  And when the delicious combination is accompanied by a frozen hot chocolate served in a jar on a shabby-chic wooden table in a creaking old house surrounded by college students sipping their lattes and working on their theses, well could one get any more hipster?

If only I had some Toms . . .

1,000 Gifts:
727. Rain glittering on the windshield
728. Folding clothes
729. Tiny fingernails gripping my skin
730. Sticky fingers from an over-eager rice cereal eater
731. Buckets of fresh flowers
732. Aisles of brightly colored produce
733. Planning to treat our bodies well

Photos of the Day:  As we headed into the City, we were blessed with rain, and the beautiful sunset which ensued (photo by Dayla).

Whole Foods - I'm now a believer.  (Photo by Dayla.)

My first Cuppies & Joe fodder - amazing!  

06 August 2012

Of the Whole Thirty

Four days ago, I sent my husband a link (yes, I may have been sitting on the couch with my laptop while he was working at his desk a mere three feet behind me) and asked, "How much would you hate me if I said I wanted to try this?"  Used to this kind of craziness from me, he didn't look too thrilled, but he also refrained from offering too much negativity.  Still, I wasn't quite sure I was dedicated enough for the task.

Yesterday, after a weekend of the entire family feeling kind of crummy, he finally admitted, "Maybe we do need to try that Whole 30 thing.  My body would probably appreciate that."

And, thus, it began.

So, after a day and a half of research, I now have a meal plan in place for 22 of the next 30 days (figuring to fill in those final eight as we discover what works and what doesn't).  And we're doing this thing.

Thirty days of eating nothing but the basics.  Meat.  Vegetables.  Fruit.  Healthy fats.  Nuts.  The end.

No grain.

No dairy.

No sugar.

At all.

So, of course, we've spent the evening digging into the Blue Bell "Christmas Cookies in July" I bought on Friday, before I realized what we would be doing to ourselves only five days later.  My rationale, as I dipped into the half gallon for my afternoon snack was, "In a month, I won't even want ice cream and I'd hate to pass up the opportunity to at least try this." See?  I'm totally thinking clearly right now.

We'll see what a month of "whole" eating does to that clarity of thought.

1,000 Gifts:
721. The comfort to splurge
722. Taking my health seriously
723. Planning a trip to the museum
724. Dreaming of the future
725. Wildfires drowned out
726. The promise of rain in the dry heat

Photo from the Weekend: Driving to Tulsa on Friday, the smoke from nearby wildfires attempted to blot out the sun.  Eerie, but beautiful.

01 August 2012

Of Loving His Cousin

Our eldest son is not yet at the age when we hear him talking about his favorite play-mates (other than his sister).  While Micaiah comes home from church telling me about the escapades of her and her friends (all male, by the way - don't know yet if this should concern us), labeling just about everyone she meets as a friend and asking about someone she just met ten minutes ago like they've known each other forever, her brother is still at the point where he pretty much keeps to himself.  Other than at home, where he and Sissy will chase each other around in fits of giggles, he's pretty much a "parallel play" kinda guy when it comes to children his age.

Thus, you can imagine my surprise when, at dinner the very evening we pulled back into town from visiting Virginia with my parents, as my brother and his family sat at the other end of the table, Emmett declared, "I want to see Nella."  This, coming from my introvert son who not only doesn't remember who he played with last week, but was also VERY cranky from two days in the car and a very poor nap in his carseat.  He didn't want dinner.  He didn't want milk.  He didn't want to sit in his chair.

But he wanted Nella.

Nella, who is only seven months old.  Nella, who does little more than suck her thumb or chew the nearest toy (not unlike his little brother, Joseph).  She doesn't offer hugs or squeals of recognition, no flickers of excitement to see her cousin who she just met last week.

But this is who he wanted.  This was who made him happy on this evening when nothing else could.

So enamored he was, the entire ride home, after shunning his pasta, he asked where "UncleAndyAndrea" were and which house, of the many passing outside his window, belonged to them.  Upon arriving at Grandma and Grandpa's, he dashed in, looked around and inquired, "Where Nella?"

It was absolutely precious.

I love seeing my children enjoy their family.  I pray we will have many more opportunities to traverse the distance and reinforce the bonds which are only just beginning to form.

716. Two of my boys snuggling on the couch
717. Joey's smile at his big sister
718. Watching my tiniest man entertain himself, sitting up on the floor
719. Story-time with my littles, laying on the bedroom floor
720. A flowing skirt on a summer evening

Also, guess who's eating from a spoon these days . . .
At five and a half months old, he started these shenanigans on Sunday.  What a big boy!