Monday, May 30, 2016

Still writing - find some of my most recent work at Des Moines Moms Blog!

Redshirting our Kindergartner

Gardening with your Kids

Kara's Birthday Wish List

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Working outside the home is not a sin.

One of the best parts of my flexible working part-time from home schedule is my Tuesday morning Bible study. A large portion of my friendship circle includes women who are either stay-at-home moms or work-from-home moms or moms with flexible schedules. When I had Gracie I attended this same Tuesday morning Bible study while I was home on maternity leave. It was great - I got to talk about Jesus, see my friends, get some nibbles and have some quality Bible study time.

It’s been an absolute delight to know that Tuesday mornings I have Bible study. Love it. This past couple of months we’ve been studying the Proverbs 31 woman. Basically if you know the Proverbs 31 woman, you’ll know that she is all things wise and wonderful, hardworking and honest and a credit to her husband and family. She’s great. A little more than unattainable, but still, great.

You can’t discuss the Proverbs 31 woman without discussing women and work and working outside the home. There was actually a question in the study guide that I left blank because I have so many feelings about women in the workplace. So.many.feelings. And by feelings I mean righteous anger.
Did I miss the part where it become biblical for women to give up their jobs in the workplace once they had children?

Colossians 3:23-24 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
Whatever assignment you are tasked with doing, it’s about the heart in which you do it. Wiping butts (just did it) or working to traffic a project through client approval, it’s all about knowing that you are exactly where you God wants you to be in that very moment. Because at the end of the day, God created you. He is the one that gave you your particular gifts and talents. In the lovely words of Jen Hatmaker “God created an entire package. It all counts. There are no throwaway qualities. [...] Maybe your best thing won’t draw a paycheck, but it is how you shine and glow and come to life and bless the world. [...] Just because you don’t get a pay stub doesn’t mean you shrink back or play small or give it all up. Do your thing. [...] You are making the world kinder, more beautiful, wiser, funnier, richer, better.”
YES! YES! YES! God created you smart and talented so you can share those things with the world. Are you throwing away those qualities because someone told you that now you’re a mom you have to put those gifts away? THAT’S CRAP.
Yep, I said it. Just because you are staying home with your kids and not working 8-5 does not make you a better mom than I am. Nope, not even a single bit. Because I can half heartedly play with my kids all day long and read the same five page book over and over again and there is not one bit of me that thinks I’m killing it at being a better mom than you just because I’m home with my kids during the day.
I’m going to end all of this ranting (because let’s call a spade, a spade folks and I’m definitely ranting) with a plea for everyone to be a bit nicer. Women, quit being all judgy if you think you are a better mom because you don’t send your kids to daycare. Why are you judging in the first place? What part of her life are you jealous of? Because that’s probably the heart of the problem - comparison. Your life is not her life. Her life is not yours. Her choices are not your choices. Her finances are not yours. Your heart issues are not yours. Because believe me, that mom who is working at a job that she may or may not love, might not be what she envisioned for her life either. But you don't know because you aren't her.
This post will probably get me exiled.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Lucan update

Let me remind you (and myself for that matter) that this is not the Gracelyn show. Contrary to what this blog looks like, Lucan is still around. :)

Like most people and jobs, we have our good and bad days around here. There are some days where he is just the sweetest thing to his parents and his sister. Then there are the other days where he is an ornery mess. Lu is stubborn and has very specific ideas of how things should go. Most of the time he is very sweet and helpful with Gracelyn. He understands what it means to be "big brother" and to look out for his little sis. Needless to say, Gracie loves to tag along with big brother. But sometimes he forgets that he's three years older than she is and plays a little rough. Gracie always recovers quickly but we often remind him to be gentle. In fact, I hate to think how often the words "gentle!" or "careful!" come out of my mouth. Lu will jump in to give Gracie a drink of milk or give her a bite when I need him to help. They both love to snuggle on soft blankets and bury their faces in the warmth. It's pretty precious.

Somewhere around Christmas Lu must have experienced a growth spurt because he had no pants that were long enough. All of those 4T pants were suddenly ankle length. He's fairly passionate about NOT wearing "swishy pants" (probably because I can hear him coming and he can't be sneaky) and adamantly wanting to wear fuzzy fleece pants all the time. I suppose for this reason jammies continue to be a fan favorite.

Preschool has been good. He has crappy penmanship but an imagination a mile wide. Lu is articulate and quite verbal. Of course if you've ever spent 10 minutes with Lucan you already know this. His mouth just keeps on going and going! Needless to say, we've had some problems at preschool with interrupting. We're working on it. His blessed teacher, Miss Paula, says that Lu likes everyone and talks to everyone. Very true. Lucan is the epitome of "there are no strangers, just friends I haven't met yet." For example, as told by Miss Paula, "Lucan talks to everyone. He even asks the gym teacher what the rest of his students are doing that day." "Lucan has no one particular friend. He talks and plays with everyone!"

And my example of no stranger danger:
Me: "Lucan, what do you do if a stranger offers you candy to get in their car?"
Lucan, pauses and thinks for a moment: "Say - yes, please!"
Me: shakes my head in disbelief.

Example #2 of no stranger danger, at Target, waiting to get my flu shot:
Lucan: "Hello stranger! How are you?"
He did this to several different people, with both Lance and myself. And on another entirely different shopping trip, as we were waiting to check out, Lucan proceeded to comment on every single item the woman in front of us was buying. Poor lady had to justify why she needed three packs of hangers.

Lu has known all of his letters for quite a while and has a good attention span when it comes to stories. Storytime at the library is one of our weekly favorites. #readersareleaders

Lucan continues to be the world's best four year old eater. I have somehow convinced him that brussel sprouts and roasted broccoli are his favorite foods. If it has sour cream, he'll eat it.

Routine is a good thing in Lu's life. He thrives on knowing what to expect, what his responsibilities are and what's coming up next. He knows in the morning he needs to use the restroom, get himself dressed, find some breakfast and then make sure his backpack has shoes, hat and gloves. 2 PM is nap time. Dad comes home at 5:45 and we eat supper. Wednesday is library and AWANAs day. Saturday he gets to watch morning cartoons. Sunday is church.

Bless my son's heart, but he is impulsive. Lu has a smiley face chart at school so he gets a happy face when he's well behaved in each segment of his morning. If he does well overall, he gets a star on his good behavior chart at home. I told him once he fills up the entire chart, we'll get him a new toy. He thinks he's getting a motorcycle. I was thinking more along the lines of legos or an add-on set of magna-tiles. Life is hard.

The following series of photos features classic Lucan. Him, wearing his milk cup on his face and thinking he's the best thing since sliced bread (and of course me documenting it. I know that I'm only encouraging his antics).

I think the thing that I would sum up by saying is that Lu has a heart for people and their potential to be friends. And that he has no filter :) 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

2015 Christmas Recap

Christmas was a little different for us this year. We split up our family celebrations to the weekend before Christmas with my side and the weekend after Christmas with Lance's side. 

You can read a bit more about our decision to do this on my "When Christmas Makes you Cranky: 5 Survival Tips" post on DMMB. All in all, it was a good decision. But not without a few hiccups: namely my poor planning on trying to find a restaurant to eat at on Christmas Eve. We all had our hearts set on eating at our favorite local Chinese place only to discover they were closed. Fortunately we discovered this earlier in the day, so all was not lost. I called Granite City as we were leaving Christmas Eve service to ask them if there was a wait. Lo and behold - there was not a wait because the kitchen was closing in 10 minutes. If only the host had mentioned that important detail ... Needless to say, while mentally bah hubug-ing, I made supper at home instead of dining out. Trader Joe's Mandarin Orange Chicken and frozen potstickers to the rescue. 

But the holidays are fun and it's a wonderful and blessed thing to see Christmas through a child's eyes. I won't lie though, with Gracie's first birthday party combined with holiday shopping and baking, it's a relief to have the holidays behind us.  

This is Lucan's "Merry Christmas. I'm so happy face." Every.single.picture. I think Lu thinks it's funny to ruin all of my pictures with the same ridiculous face. I'm not impressed.

Lucan's preschool class put on the most precious Christmas program. Filled with songs, dances and a poem. It was so fun to observe all the kids and the clear differences between boys and girls and the kids with fall birthdays (reading between the lines: Lucan only did part of the dance actions. As did most of the boys. There was a part where I watched two of the boys in the back row start fighting while all of the girls were enthusiastically doing the dance moves on point)

His teacher, Miss Paula, must be a saint. Preschoolers are adorable but they're like puppies. They have no manners, will chew on whatever looks shiny and lose interest in things after 3 minutes. Moral of the story: I could never be a preschool teacher.

At one point during the program Lucan stopped in the middle and asked me if he could go sit in the back row with Lance because he was "tired of singing." 

Jingle in the (Valley) Junction. I love the way Des Moines has all sorts of fun things going on to celebrate Christmas. There were sleigh rides and Santa visits but we opted out. However a wandering snowman did catch our eye! (Do you know how hard it is to capture a 6.5 foot snowman and a 3 foot child in the same frame?)

I had one shop merchant ask if the "snow kitty" belonged to me. Cute!

Olaf. Or "Ollie" as Lucan calls him.

Little Miss Serious, opening her Christmas presents at my folks' house.

Cutest present under the tree.

Lucan would enthusiastically open my presents, your presents and your future children's presents if you'd let him. 

Again, cheesy smile. "I always wanted this!" Then he would turn to me and ask what it was. 

Great grandma Ruth and her littles.

On the day of Christmas Eve I came to the realization that we had zero pictures with Gracie and Santa. After reading one of my DMMB friend's post how she had no pictures of her second-born's first Christmas, I was feeling pretty guilty. We made the executive decision that we would brave the mall crowds and trek out to see Santa. It was a zoo. Santa's hours started at 10 and we were there around 10:15 AM. Lance and I took turns standing in line, but we probably waited an easy 35 minutes. Fortunately no one freaked out and Lance took both kids on a walk around the mall.  

So for all that standing in line, this was the best Santa picture we got. Not terrible, but not exactly magical either. I guess I should be happy that Gracelyn isn't crying! 

There might have been bribery involved in getting Lucan to behave.

Creepy *cough* "magical" reindeer.

Christmas morning. You hear about all those kids who wake up their parents in the wee morning hours? Yep, so when we were at my parents' house the weekend before we didn't let Lucan open presents until after dinner on Saturday night which was very challenging for Lucan. He kept moving his gifts around, shaking them and doing all sorts of normal little kid present snooping. Well when Christmas morning rolled around, Lucan didn't ask to open presents right away. He actually proposed we wait until after supper (like at my parents') and then quickly moved up his timeline until after lunch. Imagine his delight when we told him he could open his gifts after breakfast!

We don't make a huge deal out of Santa at our house. We didn't set out cookies for him, we don't do Elf on a Shelf and we didn't have specific "Santa" presents. When Lu asked us who gave him everything, we simply told him that we did. Basically my theory is "neither confirm or deny" anything. 

Christmas jammie picture in front of the tree. Of course Gracie isn't looking at the camera and is more interested in the Christmas ornament she swiped from the tree. I'm happy to announce that she only broke one ornament. Lucan, however, broke three? #boysversusgirls

The nativity set is a fan favorite year after year. Lucan started asking for his angel toy with the people that sing back in November and it's safe to say that Gracie liked it too.

Our Cyclone Christmas tree with red and gold lights. 

I bought some Christmas fabric on Black Friday and sewed Gracie a headband and a matching Christmas onesie. She wore the onesie once and I'm not sure where it went after one washing.

Meringue cookies cause me much angst. I think I'll do a recipe post on these in the coming days, so look for that. 

We celebrated Christmas the weekend after with Lance's side. Our Saturday morning drive was filled with fog, icy trees and coldness. Fortunately the road conditions weren't too bad and I was thankful that we were traveling during daylight and not at night like many times.

I snapped this photo in the car and wanted to stop and do a quick shoot with some of the frozen fog but because of our delayed start, Lance vetoed my creative requests. 

My brother-in-law, Vernon, had complained to me earlier in the day that Gracelyn has never warmed up to him. Well, she happily sat on his lap the entire evening while we opened presents at my in-laws.

Two out of four looking at the camera isn't bad (for me). 

Again, Lucan would happily open everyone's presents if you'd let him. He's looking on as my father-in-law is opening up his new toolbox. I'm not sure why Lu looks so concerned.

Lance's family's church was beautifully decorated. Again, Lucan's "Merry Christmas" grimace face.

I knew it was my last chance at getting a family photo with everyone it. It wasn't ideal as Lance had forgotten his church clothes back in DSM, but we made it work. 

Looking back, our Christmas was a blessing. It was quiet and more low-key. Maybe part of that was due to the fact that I'm not working full-time so weekend travel isn't as big of a setback but it was nice to actually feel like we could do a couple of traditions as a family. Next year I vow to bake less and have more of the presents wrapped ahead of time! And miracles beyond all miracles, I didn't go massively over-budget this year. Yes, you can all be amazed with me. 

Merry Christmas friends! Thanks for sticking with me to the end!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Gracie's Golden Birthday

There's nothing that I love more than a good celebration. Living life on a budget means that we don't do tons of extras throughout the year for our kids. Aside from special occasions, birthdays and Christmas, my kids don't get a lot of extra toys during the year. (However if you saw my house, you'd think that we give our children toys for every day of the week that ends in the letter "y") I try and make birthdays special because they are just that: special. They're the one day of the year where we focus on that person and how happy we are to have them in our lives. 

First birthdays are no exception. I know that there are a lot of naysayers who pooh-pooh large first birthday celebrations because the celebrant won't even remember the party. In my mind, a first birthday party is as much of a celebration of the parents as the child. You are celebrating all of the milestones that all of you have achieved together that first year. 

As the momma who gave birth and breastfed the birthday girl for 365 days, it's a celebration of me too! Because if you've breastfed for any duration of time, you know it takes commitment, perseverance and the will not to quit just because it's inconvenient. Maybe it's a bit selfish, but when that birthday candle is blown out, I'm raising a glass to myself too.

I don't think I throw "huge" parties. Yes, all of my kids' birthday parties are themed (Lucan's: crabby first birthday, The Hungry Caterpillar, Milk and Cookies) but they aren't extravagant and they are all DIY. Gracelyn turned one on December 1, so it was easy enough to decide on a "golden birthday" theme with pink accents. 

I designed the invitations in canva, which I've become pretty familiar with after using it for work. $2 investment and I was done. Like I've done in the past, I had everything printed at PC Print Center in Urbandale because it's super easy, convenient and they've NEVER screwed up anything of mine before. 

One easy way to add color to any party is to purchase colored disposable tablecloths. It's cheap, adds a lot of color and you can throw it away when it's all said and done. Another easy way to add impact is to make your own confetti out of scrapbook paper and a large circle punch. The confetti circles served double duty as I also stuck two together and sandwiched a toothpick in between to serve as my cupcake toppers. I had originally bought cupcake toppers from Hobby Lobby but returned them as I wanted to save a couple of bucks and knew that it would be a cinch to make them myself (or con my mom into helping me make them hours before the party. Because if it's a party I'm throwing, there's going to be last minute stuff to do!) 

Glitter is like a bug infestation. It gets everywhere and anytime you think you've cleaned it all up, you find more. I glitterized a paper machie "G" which was kind of a process. First I had to spray paint the entire letter gold with two thin, even coats (and by me, I mean Lance. He thought I would end up accidentally spray painting the car. I started waving the can around wildly, which in turn made him very nervous so he took the can from me. It was my plan all along.) Then after the spray paint dried, I layered a coat of decoupage glue and then dropped glitter in small batches all over. THEN after all the glitterizing (yes, there's more) I shellacked the thing with extra shiny top coat. 

When I glitterized (yes, I know it's not a real word) the small jars it was about the same process except I started off by taping off the areas that I didn't want glittered with masking tape. I did a layer of decoupage and then glitter and then shiny top coat.  

The "one" banner was leftover from Lucan's birthday party. #recycleforthewin

I had a friend make the gold glitter "Happy Birthday" and "Gracelyn" banners using her cricut machine. I'll use them again for future parties. I also think that the use of balloons is another "big impact" item for any party.  


Slightly smashed party hats from Target. Kids love them.

Drink bottles borrowed from Molly.

Gold paper straws from Amazon.
The cost of pink carnations was more than I expected or felt was fair. Carnations are supposed to be "cheap" flowers! 

Cupcakes from Target (Lucan just leaned over and said "those cupcakes were DELICIOUS." And he was right. The key is buttercream. Who am I kidding? Buttercream is always the answer.) I borrowed cake plates from my friend Nicole (who has a surprising number of cake plates) to add height to the food table overall. Varying the height of foods on any table adds interest. 

My MIL helped out and brought tortilla rollups! My mom and I made the chocolate covered strawberries. Those were the most expensive strawberries in the world. We won't talk about it. My tips chocolate covered strawberries: 1) make sure the strawberries are super dry. Like I dried them with my blow dryer. 2) don't get water in your chocolate when you are melting it. There's no recovering from chocolate water.

Years ago, pre-budget, I had randomly bought some peony decorative paper items from Target and I finally got to use them for her party!

Lance also spray painted some larger jars to be used for cutlery. 

I've been really good about taking Gracie's monthly birthday picture (not so great at making sure I get her monthly post done at the same time, but that's neither here nor there). I purchased gold polka dot card stock and mounted each picture and then strung them all together with gold ribbon for a banner. I always have bright visions of actually having the baby books complete and photo books printed off. Bright visions. Not reality. 

Momma and the birthday girl.

Fun fact: Gracie was not a fan of the party hats. Not at all. This was her face when Lance strapped one on her. It's a good thing I talked myself out of buying her a $20 birthday crown. 

Total dismay.

Once again, we have a child who wasn't particularly interested in smashing their smash cake. Lance put a dollop of icing on her nose, but that was about the extent of her interaction.

Let's talk about the birthday girl's outfit. I think every birthday girl needs a tutu. Because if anyone deserves to wear a tutu, it's a birthday girl. I surprisingly found this particular tutu at Hobby Lobby. I bought the  pink onesie there too with the intention that I would customize it. Well, like all good intentions, it didn't happen. 10 days before the party I just decided to buy an iron-on off of etsy. Easy peasy. Except it didn't come. And didn't come. And didn't come. The Saturday of the party I had already emailed the seller multiple times and really wasn't getting very far. She had sent me the tracking info but the post office never updated it so all it showed me that it was in Florida until that Saturday morning. I ended up calling our local post office and with ZERO customer service skills they found the package was out for delivery. At 3 pm, our mail was finally delivered and by 3:45 pm our party girl was dressed and ready for her 4 pm party. I know this is a #firstworldproblem but I wasn't keen on getting stuck with a gold glittery heart one and no birthday party to wear it to. 

Still not a fan of party hats. Especially over a headband. Thanks Lucan for styling Gracie.

I like to think of myself of getting wiser with age and experience. I'm not sure if it's true, but I like to pretend. Knowing that we would be providing supper to all of our guests, we bought pizzas from Papa Murphys ahead of time. Monday - Wednesday you can get their $5 faves (large pepperoni, sausage or cheese) and on Tuesday you can $10 larges on any pizza. My parents spearheaded the pizza baking leaving us to chat and mingle with everyone. We served a simple salad along with carrots. I bought cupcakes from Target. I did make white chocolate pretzel rods and my mom helped me with the chocolate covered strawberries. Originally I wanted to do some sort of signature drink but Lance quickly insisted that you serve pop with pizza. Lance's aunt and cousin also took pictures for me once the party began so I didn't have to worry about being behind the camera. 

I hope you enjoyed your tour of Gracie's Golden Birthday party!