Saturday, December 20, 2014

Three Reasons Pregnant Women Should Really Be Able To Drink More Alchohol

Let me set the stage for you.

It's the week before Christmas. My 20 month old, Joe, has been sick all week with fever, cough, congestion, and all that jazz. 'Tis the season. It's alright. I know the drill. I give the sick baby all my attention for a couple of days while two tornadoes named Kai and Caleb tear through the house. The baby gets better, the tornado wreckage eventually gets cleaned up, and life goes back to normal.

On Friday Joe was starting to feel better and I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Caleb was a little off. He woke up early with a clump of tape stuck to his hair. How?? I have no idea. At 7 am he showed up in my room in hysterics with tape in his hair and screaming something about a booger stuck in his nose.

Nonetheless, the day went on pretty well with Joe feeling better. At 4:30 we started cleaning up toys so that the house would look somewhat orderly when Daddy got home. Caleb was tired and had a couple of fits during our cleanup time. About halfway through cleaning he announced, "I have to go poopy!!" and shot out of the room. A minute later he waddled out of the bathroom with a dirty bottom, his pants at his ankles, crying and mumbling about something. As I bent down to figure out what the problem was, Joe totted stealthily past me to the bathroom that Caleb just exited. I figured out that Caleb could not get his shoe off and that is, apparently, a prerequisite to wiping your bottom. Before I could help with the shoe I heard that too-familiar splash and realized Joe was playing in the dirty potty water. I rushed in, picked up the wet toddler, set him in the bathtub, and turned around to see Caleb just about to sit his dirty bottom down on the carpet.

It was like a slow-motion movie moment. Can you hear me shouting "NooOOooooo!" in that deep, drawn-out voice?! I forgot I was 6 months pregnant and dived towards Caleb. I scooped him up just before that bottom hit the carpet.

I felt a too-warm little gush. I'm 6 months pregnant with my fourth child. I just lifted my three year   old and his weight caused me to wet my pants.

I almost kicked in the bathroom cabinet in frustration and checked myself just in time.

You know that moment where you realize everything is ok even though you just wet your pants, you're holding a preschooler with a poopy bottom, and you have a toddler in the tub covered in dirty toilet water? What?! You don't know that moment?? You haven't really lived yet, my friend.

My phone vibrates. Brandon just texted me and do I mind if he stops at the store on the way home to buy a bottle of wine?

Yes, Dear. I can think of three great reasons why a bottle of wine sounds perfect tonight.

I can also think of one more important reason why it's not worth it.

Yes, Baby. Please pick up a bottle of wine for you and a big box of chocolate for me. We have a lot to laugh about tonight.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Simple Southern Collard Greens

Sometimes the simplest things are the most difficult to get right--like making collard greens or like taking a decent photo of collard greens. Seriously, I just took 15 photos of my dinner, dragged my table leaf around the house trying to find better lighting, and this was the best I could come up with. iphone photography class here I come. There's another simple problem: Do you capitalize the i in iphone when it's the first word in a sentence?!

I can't tell you how many simple things I looked up when I first started cooking. How do you boil eggs? How do you eat a mango? How do you season collard greens? Almost every traditional recipe I found for collard greens used bacon as the main source of flavor. I love bacon as much as the next girl, but I also love feeling healthy and energetic and that requires not flavoring all my vegetables with bacon. When Google failed me (and since Pinterest was not around yet...can you imagine?!), I went two doors down and asked my neighbor, who was often cooking up some good ol' Southern food. She called her mama and her mama said to put a smoked turkey leg in it. I followed her directions and then started experimenting with some spices and it turned out great! I highly recommend the smoked turkey leg. It adds great flavor. Smoked turkey legs, unfortunately, are not something I always have around so for everyday use I have settled on this simple go-to recipe that has great flavor and uses ingredients that I always have in my pantry. I always keep an eye out at my local Kroger as the bags of washed, chopped greens are on manager's special all the time. Mustard greens are our favorite, but this recipe will work for collard greens or spinach as well. I make it often and every single time the husband goes, "Wow! These greens are really good." Now if only I could get my 18 month old to react the same way to vegetables! ;)

 Southern Collard Greens 

3 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
3 Tbs vinegar (I prefer red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar)
3/4 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp onion powder
3/4 tsp pepper
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
16 oz fresh washed and chopped greens (Collard, Spinach, or Mustard)
1 tsp sugar (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Easy, right? I've found that sometimes I'll get a batch of greens that tastes unusually bitter. When that happens, I'll toss that extra teaspoon of sugar in to cut the bitter edge off. A little dash of honey or barbecue sauce will work too!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

My Baby Had Major Surgery Twice. Here's What I Wish I Had Known The First Time.

The second surgery was exactly 2 years ago today.

It was the most exhausting day of my life so far. I suppose that's why it has taken me two years to finally write about it.

I was almost five months pregnant with our third baby, Joe. Our second son, Caleb, was 19 months old. My husband had been out of town on a business trip the night that Caleb got sick. Caleb acted completely normal during the day so when he started throwing up overnight I assumed that the dreaded stomach bug had hit our house. We didn't sleep at all that night so I was quite relieved when Brandon, my husband, arrived home the next morning. We all cuddled with Caleb and tried to keep him hydrated.  Poor baby was miserable.

He was still rough the next day--Saturday--so we called the nurse hotline. They assured us that a terrible stomach bug was going around and he would probably be feeling better soon. They said to focus on keeping him hydrated  and to bring him to the ER if he went eight hours without a wet diaper. He cried for water and threw it up every time we gave it to him. He had a wet diaper every 6 hours so we decided to give it another day. By the next night he had gone 8 hours without a wet diaper and was looking dehydrated so we headed for the ER. I took him because I thought he would feel the most comfortable being with his mommy. Brandon stayed home with our oldest son. I expected that Caleb would be given a bag of fluids for dehydration and that we would be on our way back home in a couple of hours.

In hindsight, I would have let Brandon take Caleb in. We would have taken him in a day earlier instead of trying to wait it out. We would have gone straight to the Children's Hospital. At the time, I thought that taking him to the ER at the local hospital, where his pediatrician has privileges, would be the best plan.

The ER was packed when we arrived. I was optimistic about it because I thought, "I have a screaming baby who is going to puke all over the place. Surely, they will not keep us waiting too long. " Yet, wait we did. When they checked us in the nurses gave Caleb medicine to quell his vomiting, but it didn't work. He threw up all over himself and all over me. He threw up all over the changes of clothes I had packed for both of us. The receptionist apologetically kept bringing me more hospital gowns to bundle Caleb up with. Everyone in the waiting room stayed as far away from us as possible. It was 1 or 2 am when we finally got a room. His little veins were so tiny and dehydrated that we were passed from nurse to nurse until the head nurse in the pediatric unit finally succeeded in getting an IV in him. He started fluids, but by morning he was still not looking any better. Our pediatrician arrived early Monday morning and broke the news to me...

"Due to his history, I think the best course of action will be to transfer you to the Children's Hospital. I'm afraid he will need surgery again."

I tried to be brave for Caleb, but I'm sure I bawled. Surgery. AGAIN. Caleb was born with an undetected herniated diaghragm. When he nine months old he became very sick and the hernia was discovered. As soon as it was detected we were transported by ambulance to the Children's Hospital where Caleb had an emergency surgery that successfully corrected the problem.

Once again, the familiar transportation ambulance arrived. I had to sit in the front while Caleb rode-- crying for me--in the rear of the vehicle with the medical team. At the Children's Hospital they quickly took xrays and confirmed that Caleb needed surgery. Scar tissue from his first surgery had completely blocked off a section of his intestines. They would perform surgery in just a couple of hours to remove the intestinal blockage.

At this point Brandon had dropped Kai off at his parents house and met me at the Children's Hospital. I let him take over Caleb's care. My mom picked me up  and took me to her house to sleep during the surgery. It seemed terrible to sleep while my baby was in surgery, but at that point I could hardly walk straight from exhaustion and I knew that Caleb would need me most when he woke up from the surgery. I slept. I woke up a little before I received the phone call that surgery was successful. My mom brought me back to the hospital to meet Caleb when they wheeled him out of the operating room. We stayed at the hospital for two weeks in recovery. In some ways, having an emergency surgery AGAIN was difficult because we knew the pain that lie ahead of us. In other ways, it was much easier the second time around because we knew what to expect. There were a couple things that made the second recovery much easier on all of us that I would like to share for any other parent that is forced to experience this.

1) Prioritize Your Own Rest

When Caleb had surgery the first time, Brandon and I were so anxious to be there for him that we neglected our own care. We didn't want to leave his side. We were both there during the surgery. We were both there overnight on the little pull out hospital bed. We both got very tired very quickly. The second time around we knew that the best way to take care of Caleb was to take care of ourselves. I knew that Caleb didn't need me in the waiting room while he was in surgery so I used that time to nap. Brandon and I took turns staying in the hospital room with Caleb overnight the second time. One would stay and the other would go home and get a good night's sleep. This way Caleb constantly had a well rested parent to care for him. Our oldest son stayed with his grandparents while we focused on Caleb and ourselves. Sleeping in a hospital room with a sick infant is nearly impossible. Allow yourself to step away from the bedside long enough to rest. Recovery can take weeks and you will need your strength.

2) Recognize that Doctors Will Give You Optimistic Timelines

When a doctor gives you an estimated date to return home, think of it like a pregnancy due date. A due date is a reasonable guess, but there is a good chance that your baby will arrive past the due date. If the doctor says you might be going home in three days, please know that there is also a good chance that it will be six days. They want to keep your spirits high so they give you optimistic timelines. "We might be able to start solid food again tomorrow." "This tube might come out tomorrow." "He might be ready to wean off this medication tomorrow." Emphasize the might. It might happen tomorrow or it might take a couple more days. Don't get your hopes up too high. Be prepared to wait. It can feel like forever, but remember that you are in the best possible place you could be with a sick child. 

3) Consider Weaning

There was one major difference between Caleb's first surgery and his second surgery. He was breastfed at the time of his first surgery and weaned by the second surgery. After each surgery there was a period of time where he was not allowed to eat or breastfeed. Due to a complication, that period of time after his first surgery was about 10 days. The first couple of days were miserable for us all. Caleb expected me to breastfeed him and could not understand why I wouldn't. Sometimes he would get so upset about it that I had to leave the room and let Brandon care for him. It was also more difficult for me to rest when I had to worry about pumping. It was much easier for me to care for Caleb after his second surgery when he did not connect me to the dinner bell. Both of Caleb's surgeries were unexpected so I did not have time to prepare myself or Caleb, but if your baby's surgery is planned then consider how breastfeeding may effect your child's recovery. Of course, breastmilk is one of the most nutritious things you can feed your baby and may help their recovery. Talk to your doctor about how your child's operation may effect your feeding plans and decide on a plan that will work best for you. If the child undergoing the operation is older and you are breastfeeding a younger sibling, I suggest having the baby prepared to take a bottle so that you can leave her overnight with someone else while you rest and care for your sick child.

 (first post-op snack)

4) Look for Love instead of Answers

It's incredibly difficult to see your baby in pain. The first time Caleb had surgery I got caught up in the "Why's". "God, why did he have to go through that? Why didn't you just heal him? Why pain?" I wrestled with those question for a while and I finally came back around to the conclusion that God loves me incredibly and I must trust Him with childlike faith. My children don't always understand my reasoning, but they trust my love. When I let the surgeon wheel Caleb out of my arms and into the operating room, he didn't know why I let them wheel him away. He couldn't understand what was going on from his baby perspective. You can't talk intestines and stitches to a toddler. Likewise, I probably will never know in this life why Caleb had to suffer that pain. My perspective here is too limited to understand. Yet, I know God's love and I will have to trust in that. He has a reason and I don't have to understand it. While I didn't find answers, I found God's love all around us in the difficult time.

I saw God's love in the way we received exceptional care from an entire team of medical experts. It is a rare privilege to have access to that kind of medical care and I realize that without it I would be grieving a child today instead of celebrating.

I saw God's love in the way our family and friends rallied around us. Our family was there for us every step of the way. Our friends visited often to treat us with balloons, toys, Starbucks, and meals. We even had a complete stranger from our church bring us dinner one night. When Brandon and I started to come down with the flu in the recovery period, a friend stopped by--not once, but twice--to bring us her homemade flu remedy and pray over us. We were supported every step of the way.

I saw God's love in the sweet relief of laughter. Even in the hospital room there were pockets of laughter and joy--like the day Brandon sent out this update: "So for Caleb to get released from the hospital his intestines have to wake back up, meaning they must start performing all of their glorious functions. It's been taking a while so we've been asking everyone to pray. Well today Jessica called me from the hospital to tell me it's starting. I was excited and shared the news with my coworkers in the next room. I then experienced for the first time in my life the joy of a room full of people cheering because someone farted."

(first post-op smile)

I saw God's love in the cross. If everything else had failed us, the cross would be there. If family and friends weren't there, if the doctors hadn't been there, if the worst case scenario had happened, we had the cross to cling to and a resurrection to hope for. We were the lucky ones in that hospital. In just two weeks we left with a healthy baby. Not everyone with us that month went home with their child. When this life gives you a cross to carry, there is a resurrection and a reunion at the end of the road. 

Today we played and celebrated Caleb. We celebrated two years of being all better and said a prayer for those parents who are still waiting to celebrate all better with their child--in this life or the next. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Festive Pomegranate Salad with Sweet and Tangy Balsamic Vinaigrette

How was your Thanksgiving?? We had two grand celebrations. Brandon's sister and her family hosted Thanksgiving for the first time. She knocked it out of the park with the biggest turkey I've ever seen--perfectly browned, stuffed with beautiful pockets of Rosemary, and overflowing with moist stuffing. I'm afraid we could barely make a dent in the bird after we all filled up on the bbq ribs they grilled up as an appetizer. Joe can put away some ribs! He kept running back and forth from the football game to the kitchen to beg for more ribs. That boy is all man. Your average Joe--give him some meat, potatoes, and football and he's set!  

Friday we picked out a Christmas tree, lit the first fire of the season, and roasted s'mores. Yum yum! Caleb said it was the best day ever. He and Kai say that about a lot of days and they are right every time! 

On Saturday we geared up for Thanksgiving Round 2 with my family. My mom baked up a storm of dishes including her famous Cajun stuffing. Dad carved up the turkey in his infamous hand sewn camo chef hat....

Welcome to the South, my friends.

 My favorite part was that both of my dad's brothers were able to come this year and brought our cousins with them. I love hearing my dad and uncles reminisce about their childhood together-- especially since I have three boys of my own growing up together!

I hope you had a beautiful Thanksgiving enjoying old traditions or starting new ones. Now....onto that salad! Somehow I managed to escape any real cooking this Thanksgiving. I bought premade pies from the grocery store and whipped up this salad.  It looks cheery with the bright pomegranate seeds, tastes delicious, and is really easy to toss together! Hope you enjoy it too! I brought it as a side dish this time, but it's also great as a lunch if you beef it up with some nuts, granola, chicken, or even crumbled bacon!  (Go for the bacon. OMG. So good!)

For the Salad:
20 oz of Salad (give or take)
2 Pears
1 Pomegranate
2 oz Goat Cheese

For the Dressing:
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp mustard
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt 
1 1/2 tsp honey or brown sugar

Prepare the salad by dicing the 2 pears over the salad. Sprinkle with goat cheese and pomegranate seeds. I've found that the easiest way to remove the seeds from the pomegranate is by submerging the fruit underwater in my salad spinner. Cut the fruit in half and then use your hands to peel the seeds away from the flesh. The water keeps red juice from splattering all over your kitchen and also helps you separate the white flesh from the seeds. The seeds sink to the bottom and the white flesh floats on top of the water. Just skim the white bits off the top of the water and then drain the water. I received a couple questions about whether or not the seeds are edible. Yes! They are not only edible, but they are packed with antioxidants. They're great for you and they taste amazing--juicy and crunchy all in one bite!

After preparing the salad, mix all the dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid. Give it a good shake and you're ready to get your healthy (or not so healthy) party on!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Blue or Pink?!?

Today was the big day!!!

It was cold and rainy, but I was walking on sunshine. 

Nana and my niece, Lily, came over to watch the boys while Brandon and I went in for the ultrasound. We were advised to see a perinatologist because we have a history of congenital defects. I had to keep reminding myself not to worry because we have a history of miracles too!

First we got the best news of all--our baby looks 100% healthy!!!!

Then our jaws dropped as we realized we were looking at our very first DAUGHTER!!!

Crazy, right!?!? I am beyond excited!!! There are not enough exclamation points in the world for me today!!!!!!!!!!

I thought we would pick up some pink balloons and wrap them in a box for the kids to open at home. I imagined this adorable photo of pink balloons flying up in the air and all the kids jumping for joy--just like pinterest, right?!

I failed to realize just how strongly Kai had his little heart set on having another baby brother. All of the pink balloon pictures include Kai having a fit on the floor! lol! I'm so happy Lily was there to be excited with me!! Have you ever had a scene worked out just-so in your mind only to have it turn out completely different?? 

Don't worry, Baby Girl, he'll be in love with you soon enough! I can't wait to have you in my arms and all settled into your pink nursery!!! 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Bruh, Do You Even Lift?

Or nah?

Cuz, Bae--just being real wit you-- my game has not been on fleek these days.

Ok, I'll stop, but have you read this? Too funny.

Anyways, I've been feeling burnt out this week. Now that I'm feeling better I've been slowly trying to catch up on house cleaning and my social life. I even started cooking last week!

It was fun, but then I burnt out. It's all more than I can keep up with. I had a revelation about it this morning. Actually, I inspired myself when I revisited this old post of mine. I hope you guys didn't think I blog for you. I blog because I'm forgetful and I have to remind myself!!

I burnt out because I started backwards.


When I felt better I started picking everything back up but my time with God. I told you in my last post that I had been depressed and had trouble picking up my Bible. Well, today I picked it back up.

I let the laundry sit unfolded on the couch. I let emails and texts wait a minute. I let the children run around wild (as usual). I sat down and spent half an hour praying through my Bible.

I took a minute to lift my soul to God before I lifted my hands to work.

You see, that hunger for God that comes naturally in difficult times must be maintained by discipline in the good times. Trials reveal how weak we really are and how desperately we need Jesus. Once the good times return, I'm quick to bury my need underneath a cover of productivity and business. I don't want to stay exposed and vulnerable, but I must if I want to be changed. I must if I want to see God and become more like Him.

Today, I started over. I don't need a clean house or a full plate, but I need God.

I wasn't sure where to start, but I ended up in Psalm 119 and, of course, it spoke right to my soul. It was all about having a hunger for God's word. It was about seeking God's face in the night and the day. It was about God using a time of affliction to teach a man to seek Him.

If you've been neglecting your soul too, will you start over with me today?

or nah? ;)

"How can a young person stay on the path of purity? 
By living according to Your word. I seek You with all my heart (9-10a). 

Turn my heart toward Your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things (36 and 37a).  

The earth is filled with Your love, Lord (64a). 

You are good and what You do is good (68a).

 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn Your decrees (71). I know, Lord, that Your laws are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. May Your unfailing love be my comfort, according to Your promise to Your servant. (75-76)

 The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple (130). I rise before dawn and cry for help...My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on Your promises 147-148) 

I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek Your servant, for I have not forgotten Your commands (175). " Psalm 119 NIV

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Surviving Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy (And Ginger is NOT on theList!)

You guys, I am feeling better!! I know it sounds completely normal for me to say that in the second trimester, but it is NOT normal for me. It is a miracle for me. I was ill for all 9 months of my three previous pregnancies. Many people prayed for me and God answered our prayers. I am not back to normal yet, but if I take my Unisom and B6 consistently, rest enough, and eat a little every hour then I can keep all my meals down most days. I am so thankful to be out of bed and taking care of my family again.

While the season of sickness is still fresh on my mind, I want to write down what I would share with someone else going through it. I say Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy instead of morning sickness because it was relentless morning, noon, and night. My first pregnancy I had hyperemesis gravidarum, but thankfully these last three have been something more in between that and "normal" NVP. I managed to stay out of the hospital, but keeping any food down and getting out of bed was a challenge. My advice is for coping with nausea and vomiting, not curing it, because nothing except patience and prayer cured me.  I feel like an expert on this whole puking business by now so here you go from a four time NVP survivor:

1. Learn to Smile and Nod
You will soon realize that everyone around you is full of tips and strange things you should try that will "cure" you. Don't sweat it. Just think of it as practice. Now that you are a parent, complete strangers in the grocery store will feel free to give you their advice and opinions all the time. You may as well get used to it now and learn to smile, nod, and move on. Ginger, peppermint, small meals, crackers, sea bands, preggie pops, more protein, more magnesium, vitamin B6, Zofran, Phenergan, Diclegis--I've tried it all!! The majority of people offer advice because they really want to help you. Remember the good intentions. Smile and nod and don't be afraid to try some of those crazy suggestions because you never know when they might work. I gave Unisom a shot this time and--what do you know--it really helped. The friend who told me that nonalcoholic beer with a squeeze of lime is way better than ginger ale--she was right on.


Check with your doctor to make sure it's safe and then give it a whirl. When you do find those rare gems who offer help as readily as they offer advice, hold on to them and never let them go!

*Note: If you are suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum, you are exempt from this tip and I give you permission--right after you go puke again--to word slap anyone who mentions the word ginger to you.

2. Throw Out That Guilt
You cannot expect yourself to do what you used to do. You are sick and you need to extend yourself some grace. I will just be honest with you about where I was and hope that will free you up to be honest with yourself.

My bathroom looked like horror movie meets country gas station toilet--gross, gross, gross. I was not able to clean it, only stick my face in it over and over again. Did I mention I have three little boys?! That is an instant recipe for a nasty bathroom. When my mother in law saw it she--like the angel she is-- threw on some gloves and cleaned it for me while I lay in bed. I know it's hard, but let people help you!! I could have cried happy tears the next time I put my face in that toilet and it was clean again!

I didn't cook.  I didn't step foot in a grocery store. I couldn't go to church and turned down any social events outside of family gatherings.

I stopped homeschooling and put my son in a private Kindergarten program. On more difficult mornings I sent him into school with bed hair and shorts that were way too short because I hadn't run his laundry. This is not the time to be Pinterest Super Mom!!

Let's not even talk about keeping down prenatal vitamins.

The most difficult times were those when I felt like I was letting down my husband or my children. It's awful to feel like you are disappointing people that you love dearly. Whether or not their disappointment is directed at you, it is not your fault. It is the fault of illness. Just as you will all share in the joy of a new baby, you must all share in the difficulty of the pregnancy. Just as you must learn to cope with your new normal, the rest of the family must learn to cope with your new normal. It's a journey and you have to forgive each other and yourself!!

3. Find Your Way to Gratitude
You are expecting a beautiful little bundle of squishy baby joy in a few months. That alone is reason to be grateful, but--hey--I get it. That is months away and TODAY you feel miserable. You need something to look forward to today. Find the little things that are beautiful today and hold on to them tightly. You may have to find something new to love while the old things (i.e. eating, cooking, and anything involving physical activity) you enjoyed are not enjoyable at the moment.

I have a tradition of having an Anne marathon in the first trimester. In the past I watched Anne of Green Gables and the sequels, but this time I listened to all the books on audiotape. It's a time splurge for me and helps me get my mind from "I feel awful," to "I love this part!!" .  If you have small children like I do then you can listen to an audiobook while you keep an eye on them. Most classics are free online in audiobook format.

I also watched too many stupid, funny videos floating around the internet. Sometimes you just need to laugh!

4. Stay Lit

The physical difficulty of the last couple months combined with all those crazy pregnancy hormones brought me into an emotionally dark place.  Some days I felt like hopelessness was trying to wrap around me like a blanket and smother me right out. God has never been so quiet in trials as He was this time.  When I was quiet the negative feelings were so loud that it was difficult to hear Him. I could hardly pray or open my Bible, but I think that I was seeking God in the most real way. I was in the place where religion falls aside and you find out who you really are and who God really is to you.

There were two words that my spirit kept hearing in whispers. The first was, "The joy of the Lord is your strength." It kept striking me that God is joyful. If I could see past the clouds of depression then God's face would be there and it would be a happy, laughing face. I knew if I could just see that face, then I would be joyful too. I was desperate to see it.  Tears were streaming down my face one night as I told Brandon how much it hurt to need to see God's face and not see it. The night may be long, my friends, but joy comes in the morning and he who seeks will find.

The other word that I heard was this: The only thing that a candle needs to do when it is surrounded by the darkest night is stay lit.
Let your heart stay in the fire of God's love. He loves you when you're sick. He loves you when you don't meet other people's expectations. He loves you when you don't meet your own expectations. He loves you when you are depressed.  The depth of your weakness is no match for the depth of His strength.  When the night is too long and you don't see the morning coming, just stay right where you are and persevere. Stay in the love of God. Stay in the place of sacrifice--loving and serving your family. Keep doing the right thing even if it makes your life feel all wrong and dark for a time. Stay lit until the sun rises.

The sun rises and the day is beautiful


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

New Baby, New Van, New School

We're having a baby!!!!!

Everyone's reaction to this has been a mischevious smile and, "You're having a girl this time!"

I don't know, friends. I've got a pretty good track record with boys, you know. ;)

I'm 10 weeks along. I was very fearful of the morning sickness that might come with this pregnancy. I had HG with my first pregnancy, but Zofran helped me a lot. With my second and third pregnancies I would have had constant nausea and daily vomiting for the entire 9 months, but again, Zofran helped me. Since Joseph's birth, a controversial study has surfaced linking high doses of Zofran to birth defects. Joseph was born with a heart defect and Caleb was born with a herniated diaphragm so this new study left Brandon and I wary of using Zofran during pregnancy. 

We and all our prayer crew prayed for no morning sickness this time. Nonetheless, the constant nausea and vomiting started at 6 weeks. The morning sickness began the same week we started our first week of homeschooling. 

The schoolwork was a welcome distraction, but it was hitting Kai hard that our lives had to slow down drastically for me. He loves to be with people and loves to be challenged. I am normally like that also, but the morning sickness made me want to hide in bed all day. Kai began acting out and it was making life difficult for all of us. After 2 weeks of that, I could not handle it anymore. Public school was not an option for us because when we prayed about it Brandon had a dream that it was not good for our boys right now. I wanted to put him in a private school, but I did not have a vehicle to drive him to school in. Our old van had finally bit the dust earlier that year and we were sharing Brandon's corolla. Whenever we had prayed about our finances, God told us to give instead of save for a car, so we did.

I prayed, "God, I need help. I think Kai needs to go to school, but I need a car to get him there. Will you please give me a car by the end of the night?" You have not because you ask not, right?

Nothing happened that night, but the next day some dear family members, who had no idea I wanted a second vehicle to drive Kai to school, called and told us they wanted to give us their van. It's practically brand new and the nicest vehicle I've ever owned. I'm still in shock that it was just given to us like that.

I called the little church school that I wanted to enroll Kai in. They had one kindergarten spot left. Their open house was that night and school started the following week. Perfect. 

Kai has been loving it and so have I!

Meanwhile, my morning sickness has improved slightly. This is a miracle for me! In my other pregnancies it was constant for all 9 months. I still have a long ways to go, but I am hopeful and we are surviving. 

Brandon has been superman. When he gets home from work, I hand over the kids and go to bed. He makes dinner, puts the kids to bed, and cleans up. On the weekends, he takes over completely while I try to rest, keep some food down, and emotionally prepare to take on another week with the kids. Say a prayer for him. He's carrying everything right now. The way he loves me at my worst has been a constant reminder to me of the way God loves me and the way I can depend on Him. 

Dependence has been my word this season. As we've asked God what to do with our life--like our fertility, finances, and children's education-- He led us in way over our head. Sometimes it's been incredibly difficult. Sometimes it's been really confusing. I don't know why some prayers, like the prayer for the van, are answered so easily, while others, like healing for morning sickness, are such a battle for breakthrough. God never fits in the little theology box I want Him in. He is always full of surprises. Along the way, I think we are beginning to know more and more that we can trust God's love. Dependence is a journey into deep love and gratitude when you lean on someone Faithful. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Jammie Jog: How Exercising with My Children Made Our Whole Summer Better

I have to balance out my previous post about brownies with some inspiration to get you and your kiddos on the move!

Our family has been around the block trying to fit exercise into our lives. I used to think that discipline was about finding a routine that works for you and sticking with it no matter what. Now I know that it's more about being willing to change your routine over and over again to keep your priorities in front of you no matter what your season of life looks like. 

Physical fitness is not our top priority, but we realize that we need our bodies to be strong and healthy if we want to accomplish the things that are most important to us. For this season, our goal is not a six pack or winning races, but to maintain a healthy weight and have energy for work, parenting, and fun. 

When Kai was a baby, Brandon was in law school and he biked a couple miles to classes and back daily and would supplement with some weight lifting when he was able. I threw in a few workouts at home when Kai was napping or in bed in the evening. 

When Caleb joined the crew, we joined the YMCA and tried for 6 months to put our children in their wonderful childcare room while we worked out together. Every. single. time. for 6 months, Caleb would cry past the 10 minute mark and they would call us. At least we got in a 10 minute jog each time!! We finally gave up that plan. If my children would stay in the childcare, I would go that route again in a heartbeat. Our Y even had a quiet little prayer room so I could have worked out and had quiet time to pray while my children played happily with new friends. Except, they didn't. Oh well.

After Joe was born, I spent a season running and exercising at night after the boys went to bed. I enjoyed that, but it wasn't the safest option. When Joe went through a short phase of waking up at 6:00 every morning, an hour earlier than his brothers, I put him in the stroller and ran with him in the morning.

Brandon started biking to work once a week. It's a good 30 miles. He also run-mows the grass Saturday morning and does a body weight workout after. Sometimes he plays soccer with friends Sunday afternoon before church. He had his routine down, but I was starting to need something different.

Joe was a poor sleeper so over the winter I started to run out of steam and I was too tired to stay up late or get up early to work out. I needed all the sleep I could get. 

That's when our newest plan came into being....

The Jammie Jog!!!!!

I was waking up tired and foggy and my children were waking up exploding with energy. I needed help waking up and they needed help getting all that energy out ASAP.

I asked around and got a double stroller from a friend (Thanks, Joanne!!). Three mornings a week, we wake up, eat a small breakfast, change dirty diapers, and run out the door. We don't brush our teeth. We stay in our jammies. We just get out that door as fast as we can before someone has a fit, another dirty diaper, or a potty training accident.

Kai rides his bike or scooter. Caleb rides in the stroller for the first 1/2 mile loop and for the second loop he rides his Mini Micro. It's a three wheeled scooter, but I love it because it goes so much faster than a traditional scooter and doesn't tip like most three wheeled scooters.

The first time we did it, the boys complained that they were tired after a quarter mile. I told them, "When you're tired and you keep going, that's how you get faster and stronger!" Now, at the end of summer, they are way ahead of me calling back, "Mom! Go faster or we are going to beat you!!"

At the entrance to our neighborhood, there is a little patch with blackberries and honeysuckle. When they were in season we always ended our jog there for a snack.

It's not perfect, we have to stop a lot for little distractions, but we are all getting faster and stronger together. When we get back, we are all awake, happy and ready to proceed with the rest of our day. I've noticed we are all in a better mood and the whole day is smoother on our Jammie Jog days. 

This is working really well for us in this season. What about you? How do you fit exercise into your life these days? 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Fudgy, Chewy, Intensely Chocolate Homemade Brownies

My friends, this is THE brownie recipe. I have spent the last 6 years of my married life trying different brownie recipes on the hunt for that mouthful of chocolate perfection. Let me tell you, it has been a long, difficult journey eating one pan of brownies after another. I took all the calories just for you so that today I could bring you this:

These dance perfectly between the line of chewy and fudgy. They have that delectable crackly, crunchy top. They pack some heavyweight amounts chocolate. Seriously, do not even attempt making them without a big glass of milk or scoop of ice cream around. You have been warned. They have all that homemade taste and goodness and none of the "What is that ingredient???" chemicals you find in the boxed mixes. Last, but not least, they can be made with ingredients that you have on hand. No chocolate chips or special ingredients needed. These brownies are there for you when you need them.

Are you ready for the recipe??

Fudgy, Chewy, Intensely Chocolate Homemade Brownies
(Adapted from this recipe from Smitten Kitchen and these brownie tips from The Kitchn)

1 stick of butter, melted
1 1/4 cups of sugar
1 cup of cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease an 8x8 pan or cast iron skillet. Combine the first 5 ingredients. Pull out your mixer and mix these for a good 5-10 minutes. This part is important if you want that crackly top! The crunchy top is actually meringue that forms from beating the sugar and eggs together. Five minutes should do it, but I usually do a couple more minutes for good measure.

This is me hiding in my bathroom mixing brownie batter so that the noise from the mixer doesn't wake Joe up from his nap. Desperate times call for desperate measures--and brownies. When he did wake up, he was well rewarded.

After you have mixed the first 5 ingredents, add the flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir just to combine. Pour the batter into your pan. It will be a bit thick. Bake for 20-30 minutes--less time for a fudgier brownies, more time for a more chewy bite.