Thursday, May 31, 2012

Healthy (Blueberry) Oatmeal Bars


I realized I had been posting a lot of cupcake recipes. So I thought I'd take a little break and visit some other yummy sweets! These bars came from my oatmeal cookies and trail mix bars. I thought, perhaps, it was time to make a yummy dessert (or just a snack) that was also healthy!

While these are pictured with blueberries, they can be made with anything else from fruit, nuts, to chocolate chips. Please share a picture if you do make them with something else!

Ingredients:

- 1/4 C Canola oil
- 1/4 C Unsweetened applesauce
- 1/3 C Brown Sugar (optional)
- 1 egg
- 2 tsp Vanilla
- 1 C Whole Wheat Flour
- 1/2 tsp Baking soda
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 1 C Rolled oats
* 1/2 C to 1 C Blueberries
While these are pictured with blueberries, they can be made with anything else from fruit, nuts, to chocolate chips. Please share a picture if you do make them with something else!

Directions:

- Preheat your oven to 400.
- Prepare a 9 x 9 baking pan (spraying, lining with parchment paper, or lining with butter)
- Whisk together the brown sugar, applesauce, and canola oil.
- Add the egg and vanilla.
- Begin whisking in the flour, salt, and baking soda. Once the mixture gets too thick (and it will get too thick), switch to a spatula or spoon.
- Add the oats.
- Last, add your blueberries or addition of your choice. Since the mixture is so thick, odds are some of the blueberries will not fold in nice and pretty like. A couple of mine decided to get squished-- but that's ok!
- Transfer the batter to your prepared 9 x 9 pan. It is a bit of an effort to smooth it and make sure there aren't any holes or things like then when putting it in the pan, but don't be discouraged! They come out beautifully.
- Cook for 11 to 14 minutes. Test with a knife or tooth pick, making sure it comes out clean with no batter sticking, before removing from the oven.
- If you did not line the pan with parchment paper, let the bars cool in the pan for a good 10 minutes. If you lined it with parchment paper, you can remove them and let them cool on the cooling rack for a shorter period of time.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution


A couple of months ago I reviewed the No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley. Within a short amount of time the author herself contacted me and offered me the chance to review another one of her books. How could I refuse? Unfortunately I have taken my sweet time to actually get to it, but here it is nonetheless!

The first few times Clark and I went on dates my heart broke leaving Michael. (I must confess it still does.) One of the reasons, however, was because it seemed Michael just didn't want us to go. While he enjoys time with his babysitter Sandy, when it came time for any sort of sleep or scheduled type thing (such as eating), I would hear tell of his fussing and crying. The last time we went out we came home to hear a baby screaming every five minutes when he would almost fall asleep. It made me not want to go out ever again until he was old enough to understand we'd be coming back.

So when Elizabeth offered me a chance to pick from her list of books, I was ecstatic to see she had one about separation anxiety. Many people will just leave and let the baby scream, knowing that after a while he or she would calm down and accept the fact that mama and dada are gone. As you may know, letting Michael cry is not my style. I was definitely eager to try Elizabeth's suggestions.

The book is dedicated to different stages of a child's life. Since the part about "magic bracelets" does not apply just yet, I read the section about the best ways to leave a baby with a babysitter.

The biggest things I found that I had been doing "wrong" was making a big deal with good-byes and returns. My emotions seemed to get the best of me and all I wanted to do was cover Michael with kisses when I left and cover him with kisses when I returned. Little did I know that this was actually making our good-bye a big deal to him, and therefore worrying his little emotions that mommy wasn't going to return and that it was a big deal that mommy was gone.

So, this time I said a simple "bye-bye" and "we'll be back" and went out the door. When we returned it was a little more difficult, since when we came back he was crying and clearly mad that we had left him. But I took him from the sitter and tried to distract him by singing one of his favorite songs, rather than comforting him and saying, "I'm sorry for leaving you!" like I used to.

While it took a while for Michael to calm down and get over the fact that I had "abandoned" him, I do think I saw a difference with our return. However, from what I heard, he still had a hard time with our leaving.

The other thing I had been doing was just handing him to the babysitter. Wanting my last minute cuddles (even if we were only going to be gone for two or three hours) made me hold him until the last minute and then hand him off to the sitter.

This, according to the book, is a no-no.

"If you are nervous about leaving your baby, she will pick up on your feelings. She'll take cues about how to act directly from you. Show your confidence: your baby will be in good care while you are apart and will likely have fun once she adjusts to your departure. So stay calm, confident, and relaxed so you can pass these emotions on to your child (Pantley 39)."

Doing this made Michael feel as though the sitter was taking him from me, his caretaker, rather than simply switching to a temporary caretaker. So, I put him on the floor and waved good-bye, instead of cuddling and then handing him over to the sitter. While this was easier on him, I think it was a little harder on me.

But you do what you got to do, right? Right.

I love Elizabeth's books because they always offer the idea of "not all ideas work on all babies". Every child is different, and therefore every case of separation anxiety is different. The ideas offered in the book, though, seem universal to me and wonderfully met with the idea that you don't want your child, under any circumstance, to cry it out.

Before our date night out, I made sure to stick to a couple other suggestions in the book. Such as leaving the room while saying "be right back", and then returning with a "peek-a-boo". It always brings a smile to Michael's face when I return, and that to me is such a comfort.

And if he started crying, I returned immediately (no matter what I was doing) to say peek-a-boo and let him know that mommy was right there and hadn't abandoned him.

"Respond to your baby's cry-- even if he's fed, changed, and unhurt-- even when his only need is to be held. Don't worry about spoiling him with your love and attention, since quite the opposite will happen. The more that you meet his attachment needs during early childhood, the more confident and secure he will grow up to be (Pantley 25)."

Like the No-Cry Sleep Solution, the No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution always reminds the parent that the child is the priority. It may seem like a "burden" or get "frustrating" for the parent to not necessarily be able to leave as much as wanted, or as frequently as desired, but the child's sense of security should always come first.

So, while Michael is doing better than he was before, it is still a work in progress. If it comes to a time when he's older that I have to read about the "magic bracelet" or substituting a "lovey" while we're gone, I'm prepared. I would rather take as many steps possible to help Michael be more comfortable with separation rather than let him "cry it out" in order to "get over it". And I'm so thankful Elizabeth Pantley offers all sorts of solutions and helpful tips and tricks for these situations.

"There are no absolute rules about raising children and no guarantees for any parenting techniques. Raise your children as you choose to raise them in ways that are right for you. Within the range of your comfort zone, modify your approach for each of your children based on their needs, personality, and temperament (Pantley 19)."

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Shortcake Cupcakes

To make Memorial Day a little more special I thought I'd make a new sort of "shortcake". These cupcakes turned out to be precisely what we wanted!

Ingredients:
- 1/2 C finely diced strawberries
- Cool Whip (I used fat free)
- 1 C sugar
- 1/2 C Canola Oil
- 2 Eggs
- 2 tsp Vanilla
- 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1 2/3 C Unbleached, All-Purpose flour
- 1/2 C Milk


Directions:

-Preheat the oven to 350.
- Whisk together the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla.
- Combine the baking powder and flour in a smaller bowl, then add to the sugar mixture alternating with the milk.

- Fill the lined or sprayed muffin pan holes with 1/4 batter in each.

- Bake for 23 to 25 minutes. Let cool for at least five to ten minutes.
- Use a cupcake corer or apple corer to take out the center of each cupcake. Fill with the finely chopped strawberries.

- Top each cupcake with cool whip and another whole/half/quarter of a strawberry to "garnish". Serve immediately.
*If you are taking the cupcakes somewhere, say for a party or get together, then take the cool whip along with you and don't "frost" them until right before serving!*


Hope you had a good Memorial Day remembering those who have fallen for our freedom.

Recipe adapted from: 990 Square.

Monday, May 28, 2012

M.I.C.: Separation Anxiety

I was headed to Germany. I was beyond excited to fly across the ocean on my own, see my family and take a train to Paris. I was excited and scared. It was the first time Clark and I would truly be apart. It was for almost three weeks. It was going to be a challenge.

As Clark drove me to the airport, we talked about when we would call. A six-hour time difference wasn’t going to help either of us, but if I got up super early I’d be able to call him right after he got off work and right before he went to bed. We could make it work, as we had everything else. Our new apartment was in a very convenient location for Clark, and if he needed anything he had a calling card. It was going to be fine.

When I was waiting on the plane, I wasn’t sure how it was going to work. The flying, I mean. I kept looking out the window and realizing how far I was going and who I was leaving behind. There were a few moments I considered just getting off, telling my parents I couldn’t come and calling Clark to come back for me. I had tears in my eyes. This was a first. It was a step on my own, which I really hadn’t had since that first month of college. I went straight from my parents’ house to my husband’s. This was the first time, for a brief time, I was alone.

I was in a window seat. If you’ve never flown international, there are two seats next to the windows on each side of the plan, and then something like four to six seats in the middle. I was sitting right next to the window, and the young gentleman next to me was clearly German. He didn’t want to speak to me, and anytime I had to get up to go to the bathroom he looked absolutely appalled that once again he had to get up as well. I eventually stayed in my seat and fell asleep against the window, watching movies over and over again.

Arriving in Germany was a relief. I knew just what to do, how to get my luggage, and so on. I had done it before. Yes, Clark had been with me, but if I had survived the plane ride next to some kid who didn’t want to even say a polite hello, I could survive pushing my way through people to get to my luggage. I had tied ribbon on my suitcases so I would recognize them; this was definitely helpful. I got out of there in good time, and emerged from behind glass doors to find my family waiting for me. I was exhausted, but it was so good to see familiar faces.

Calling Clark while in Germany was a breeze. I got up early, as we planned, and called him. While I had to stay on the phone with him longer than imagined, my parents had free international calling so it was okay. I felt so bad for him. I was with people who were familiar, and therefore I wasn’t as homesick for him. However, he was homesick for me. He probably wouldn’t like me sharing this, but there were several times on the phone that he was desperately emotional. It was even worse when I was in Paris.

Paris was enchanting. It made me miss Clark all the more, but I couldn’t help but enjoy myself. Visiting the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysees, the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay, Notre Dame, Versailles… I was overwhelmed. More than anything I wanted Clark to be there with my family and me, but I grew to accept being there without him and took hundreds of pictures so he could experience my trip when I returned home.
(That's me in the coral.)



(My little sister and me "talking to Clark".)

In Paris we had a bit of a problem. There was miscommunication, and I was told that when I called out with a calling card there would be a onetime fee, which I was happy to pay. However, when my parents received the bill, the fee had been applied every single time I had called Clark. The manager ended up refunding half of what we were told to pay, but my mother was not exactly happy with me.

It was a necessary evil, I thought. If I hadn’t called Clark, I’m not sure what he would have done. It was impossible to do morning calls when I was in Paris, so I would call him in the evening, or whenever my little sister and I were in our room. He was even more miserable when we were in Paris. I think he sensed I was enjoying myself without him, and he was home being responsible. If we had known then what would be happening in a year, I don’t think he would have been quite as miserable.

When I returned home, Clark was waiting at the airport with flowers for me. It was one of the most romantic things he has done to date. We went out to a nice dinner, we returned home, and I crashed. I was, once again, exhausted… but it was so good to really be home.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Funfetti Pink Lemonade Cupcakes (Low Sugar)

Perfect for a summer day when you want more than just a glass of pink lemonade! Designed especially for a friend's birthday, who doesn't love a new cupcake recipe?

Ingredients:

- 1.5 C All purpose, unbleached flour
- 1 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 2 1/2 tsp sugar free pink lemonade mix
- 1/2 C sugar
- 1/4 C Canola oil
- 1/4 C unsweetened applesauce
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 C water
- 1/2 C milk
- 3 tsp "Funfetti" sprinkles (or those of your choosing)
*Optional: add a few drops of pink food dye (not pictured).*

Directions:

- Preheat your oven to 350.
- Mix together your flour, baking powder, and pink lemonade mix. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the sugar and oil, then add the applesauce, eggs, and vanilla.
- Add the flour mix to your sugar mix in thirds, alternating with the water and milk. So, 1/3 of your flour mix, then the water, then 1/3 of your flour mix, then the milk, and so forth until it is all well combined.
- Mix in the sprinkles last. These are completely optional. Of course, it's not "funfetti" if you don't add the sprinkles!


- Bake the cupcakes for 18 to 22 minutes. I cooked mine for 18 minutes and they really stuck to the paper. Not sure if this is because I didn't spray the paper (usually not necessary with cupcakes) or if it's because I didn't quite cook them long enough.

- Let the cupcakes cool and then add the frosting (if desired) of your desire. I used vanilla frosting (not pictured, sorry!) but I think you could even get away with lemon frosting on these! Wouldn't that be delicious?

Inspiration for this recipe came from Allrecipes.com and Skinnytaste.com

Friday, May 25, 2012

Swedish Meatballs

Summer is here and there's never a better time to try new recipes. A lover of meatballs, I had to find a different way to serve them. And here it is!

Ingredients:

- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 small white onion, minced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 stalk of celery, minced
- 1/4 C of fresh parsley, minced
- 1 egg
- 1 lb lean hamburger
- 1/4 C breadcrumbs
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 C beef stalk/ water with beef bouillon
- 1/4 C (2 oz) low fat or fat free cream cheese

Directions:

- In a large sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat before adding the minced onion and garlic (I minced the two together so it was a step shorter/easier).
- After the onion is tender, add the celery and parsley (again, I minced these two together).
- Let the onion mix cool as you combine the meat, egg, breadcrumbs, and salt/pepper. Then add the onion mix to the meat mixture.
- In the same saucepan, add the beef stalk and the rolled up meatballs. I used about 1/8 C of meat to make one meatball. Cover the meatballs and let them cook over medium-high heat for around 20 minutes. Check the center of one to make sure they're not too pink (unless that's how you like them).
- Drain the pan of the beef stalk and mix it with the cream cheese. I just whisked it (because of a crying baby) but you may want to to actually put it in the blender and mix it thoroughly.
- Serve the meatballs over pasta or by themselves.
Before serving, pour some of your yummy cream cheese mix over them. I didn't use too much per serving, but it's up to you! If you want the sauce thicker, make sure to use a little more cream cheese (also prepare for a stronger flavor)! (This is the first picture of the blog.)



This recipe was adapted from: Skinnytaste.com.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Home, Sweet Home!

We are back! Michael and I had safe travels to, around, and from Kansas. It was an amazing visit and I'm so thankful I got to be there for my little sister's high school graduation. It's hard to believe that she went to four different high schools and still achieved a 3.9(something) GPA.

So, now that we're back, I've realized a few things.

1. My husband is one of the messiest persons I know. (Seriously. I do not know HOW ON EARTH our house was dirtier when I came home than it was when I left. I mean, I do, but I don't know how it go AS dirty as it did.) But, to go along with that, I missed him a bunch.

2. I LOVE visiting with family. Clark and I are talking more and more about moving West and I have to admit it makes me happy. There are some times I want to stay in NC, and other times that I'm ready to "get the hell out of dodge", if you pardon the expression.

3. It was so much easier to have a mobile baby at my parent's house than it is in our duplex. This takes into account how dirty it is. I'm ashamed to tell you that Michael was crawling on our hardwood floors in a white onesie and I had to change him because of the accumulated dog hair and dirt. Needless to say I already made time to vacuum and mop, even though I had planned on simply relaxing today.

4. Whoever said animals can't grasp how much time has passed didn't have loving pets. Luna and Coconut have been mauling me ever since I got home. As we speak one is on my lap and the other is at my feet (while Michael is babbling and crawling around his floor playing with all of his toys).

5. I hate unpacking.

I promise recipes, a book review, and some stories in the next few days! I know I'm behind this month and promise to catch up as quickly as I can!

M.I.C.: Our First Move

OK, so we were already in college. June of 2008, however, we were moving back to campus into the married housing. Yes, incredibly convenient. We were so ready to be out of our first apartment it wasn’t even funny, and the campus housing seemed like heaven.

This move we did on our own. Though we were expecting Clark’s family to visit at some point, we wanted to be self-sufficient. We took trip after trip moving our stuff from one place to the next. Living on the third floor in our new apartment didn’t help much, but what did help is that it was furnished. All of the stuff we had crammed into our tiny apartment was now to go into storage, save a few things that we needed to add a sense of home to the new place.

That was where Clark’s family came in. They were going to come and help us transport things to their storage shed.

There was a lot of arguing, to be perfectly honest. Trying to take things up the stairs and see where I was going was not easy, so I tended to grab the lighter things and let Clark carry all the heavy stuff. It was difficult, because while we were moving he was still working full time and was now starting classes at the local community college. He was going back to school, which was an amazing thing, but the timing was so inconvenient.

Yes, those were my thoughts.

Yes, I know they were selfish.

Clark was stressed, and I wasn’t helping much. I was so focused on my upcoming trip in July to Germany and Paris that I didn’t care too much. I was excited about moving, but I was not excited about when we were doing it. I wanted to be with my family. It had been over six months since I had seen them, and I was “homesick.” I use quotations because Clark was my home, but we were still so young we were having a hard time separating from our parents.

Clark was going to hold up our new apartment. He was going to work, go to school, and provide for himself. I was nervous, but it had to be done.

When Clark’s parents finally arrived to take some of our things to Fayetteville, I was at work. I was hired as a temporary greeter at our local “theme park” called Tweetsie. It’s an old railroad that has been turned into an old Western-themed park. It’s pretty interesting. I worked from around seven or eight in the morning to six or seven in the evening ten days straight. It was tough, but it was worth it.

Anyway, Clark’s parents arrived and Clark told me it took all of him to keep his mom from unpacking my kitchen and putting it away, and to keep his dad from slipping him some cash. We were very grateful for all of their help, but this is when we began to attempt to make ourselves a little more independent. Our first year of marriage, or maybe even our first two, was pretty dependent on help from family. Getting married that young with no finances probably wasn’t the best plan, but we made it work.



The move was a success, and Clark continued to reassure me that everything would be fine while I was away. We were feeling more and more like we were finally out on our own. The first apartment had just shocked us into reality, but living on campus provided us with a stable place to live and the reassurance that everything would be provided to make school, and ultimately life, a lot easier.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Iced Coffee


When the weather warms up it's hard to not want nice, cool drinks. The funny thing is you really don't have to head to your nearest coffee shop if you want iced coffee, you can just make it at home!

Ingredients:

- Left over coffee (From your morning; just make a little extra and leave it in the pot for a while until you're wanting another caffeine fix... or make coffee and let it sit and cool.)
- Coffee Creamer (You can do half and half if you just like it plain, or a flavored coffee creamer, or you can add chocolate syrup... whatever you want to do to give it flavor!)
- Coffee Cubes (these are not pictured, but make ice cubes with your leftover coffee as well to make the iced coffee stronger)

Directions:

-Fill your glass with ice to the rim. This is where you would bring in your coffee cubes as well. I would say use half regular and half coffee (again, not pictured, but it's what I've done before).

- Fill your glass about 2/3 to 3/4 full with coffee (I did about half and then added the rest after the creamer because I didn't have coffee cubes and it distributed a little better that way).

- Add as much creamer as you like. If you're adding syrup, I would suggest to make sure to really mix it well.

- Ta-Dah! You have your homemade iced coffee.

*Another way to mix this up is to pour the coffee, creamer, and more ice cubes into a drink mixer and shake it REALLY well to make it even colder. This is what I do at home but since I'm visiting family at the moment (and they don't have a drink mixer) I had to do it differently.

Enjoy your coffee!

Monday, May 14, 2012

M.I.C.: First Family Visit

Now that you know the condition our apartment was in, you can understand the stress that would come with a family visit. (See Our First Apartment.)

In April Clark and I prepared for my mom and little sister to visit from Germany. They were coming for my birthday as well as my older sister’s graduation from Roanoke College in VA. We had a fun-filled planned vacation, but my mom and little sister were not prepared for Homespun Hills.

The other thing that we all weren’t prepared for?

Possessiveness.

When my mom and little sister visited, all of a sudden I was possessive of everything. After all, it was our house. I was angry when they insulted anything, upset when they didn’t consult me about their plans (even if I was in class).

The first visit of my family coming to stay with us did not go as smoothly as planned.

My mom and little sister arrived shortly before my birthday. The plans we had for while they were “in town” was simply to go to the outlet stores up the mountain. Mom said she would take me on a mini-shopping trip for my birthday, and my little sister wanted me to help her pick out some clothes.

Well, the day after they arrived I left my house key with them and went to class. My mom wanted to run a few errands, and she needed the house key, obviously, to get back in.

Well, when I returned from class my mom and little sister were gone.

Clark had one key, and they had the other. Luckily, one of our windows didn’t lock, so I took my time (this wasn’t the first time) maneuvering the window to get it open and get in to the house.

I was furious.

I had told them what time I was done with class, and had thought we were going shopping when I got home. Mom said she just wanted to go here and there and would be back in time. How could they be so inconsiderate?

Between 30 minutes to an hour later they walked in carrying shopping bags.
I started spouting.

I gave them evil looks and wondered what on earth had happened. I thought we were all going shopping together. Did they forget what time my classes were over? I had to break in to my own apartment because they were out doing something we were supposed to be doing together!

After my mom explained and my little sister cried, we all settled down. However, this was only the beginning.

My birthday was on a Friday that year, but we had decided to drive to the outer banks for the weekend. We couldn’t leave until around 4, though, because Clark had to work. Though he assured us we’d get there in good time, mom didn’t know good time still meant 11:30pm.

The whole way there she muttered about his driving under her breath. It took all of Clark to keep his patience, and most of the time all of him lost.

When we first stopped for gas, and Clark asked mom to fill up, there was a conflict. Clark spilled out the how much we really had in our bank account, and then I was furious for letting my mother know how destitute we were.

Oh, how the list goes on.
(Myself, my mom, and my little sister at the Outer Banks.)

While the weekend at the beach went very well, it was later that the true blow up occurred.

When we returned I had exams to take and we were going to have a “real” birthday celebration with a cake and such. While I was studying, my mom decided to invite our neighbor over for the birthday celebration. While I appreciated her thoughtfulness, I was annoyed.

I wanted my birthday to be with my family, only. After all, they were there for it— why did we have to invite our 40 year old neighbor who we saw everyday?

I started yelling.

I was yelling about my birthday, about my exams, about mom and Molly not respecting our house— everything.

I then commenced to tell our neighbor that my mom wasn’t feeling well and would he mind if we just sent over some food. My mom emerged from the apartment and started yelling at me, in front of our neighbor, telling me not to lie.

Our poor neighbor.

Clark pulled us in to the apartment and played peace maker, which was surprising because he and my mom had been complaining about each other to me just earlier that day. We then went back to apologize to our neighbor after Clark had calmed us down.
(My 19th birthday celebration.)

While the visit ended up being wonderful, it was a lesson-learning experience.

*I learned that my mother is always going to be my mother, even in my house.
*I learned that Clark and I still had a lot of growing up to do before we were ready for relatives to stay with us.
*I learned that Clark and I had to establish ourselves as our own entity, our own family.
*I learned that my parents, and Clark’s parents, still had a lot of accepting to do.
*I learned that everything was going to take time.
*I learned that everything would be OK as long as we kept putting God first.

So, this post probably isn’t as entertaining as the last few. I must say that while the visit still sticks out in my mind, I can’t remember a lot of the details. I can’t remember my exact words or my mother’s, I can’t remember Clark’s attitude before or after he played peace maker, and I can’t remember exactly all that my neighbor had to endure.

What I can remember is that we got through it. We survived the first visit of others that were to come, and I finished my first spring semester of college.

We had no idea what was on our schedules for the next year.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mom of the Month: Irene

It seemed only fitting that I asked my own mom to guest post for Mother's Day weekend. Irene is a mother to three girls, two son in-laws, and two grandchildren. She has spent her entire life sacrificing so much for them and supporting them (and her husband) through thick and thin.

So, here is Irene's blog post!

Mom Enough


Let me begin with saying that the picture on the cover of Time Magazine doesn’t capture attachment parenting. It is meant to shock people and give an adverse impression of couples who have embraced this philosophy of parenting. (Time Magazine's "Are You Mom Enough?")

But…

I want to know where it happened on the timeline of history that what was intended became a perversion. When did breastfeeding, God’s perfect design for feeding our children, become a cultural taboo and some kind of erotica? When did it become okay for celebrities to pose nude on the cover of any magazine that is displayed at the checkout lines of retailers but it’s not okay for a mother to breastfeed in public? When did it become okay for women to become sex objects and glorified for their bodies but it’s not okay for them to be honored for being mothers? When did we start exalting the women who made the choice to go to work while criticizing the women who chose to stay at home?

Two of my daughters are mothers. Both have college degrees, one has a postgraduate degree and intends on beginning work on a Ph.D. The other is a writer and an entrepreneur. But they have chosen to stay home with their babies for now. They are SAHMs. The new acronym – SAHM – Stay At Home Mom. They are happy with their rich lives, full of couponing and saving for this or that, loving their husbands and babies. They drive used cars. Yes, they breastfeed, use baby pouchs, co-sleep, and make their own baby food. They are blessed to have husbands who support them. Shocking revelation: they were raised that way.

They have no desire to become rich. Their goals in life aren’t to make more money, accumulate more junk, or live in a bigger house someday. They want to raise children who have a moral center, who love God, who realize that happiness is joy, not the ultimate goal in life, but the produce of a life built on the rock of faith.

American society is about to run off a cliff into an abyss it’s not ready for. It is careening ahead, like some mammoth monster rolling down a mountain toward a bottomless gorge, gaining speed, crushing whatever lies in its path as it does. These SAHMs, these Stay At Home Moms, are made of some kind of heavenly steel, because they scream, “Stop!” at this monster. “Stop! Because it’s feedin’ time!” And this society stops and clicks its tongue and makes what is right wrong and wrong right. The children in the slings who nurse next to their mothers’ hearts and feel the warmth of her skin don’t see the monster, because they nuzzle near to the heart of Him who will help them walk tall and strong. They will need that strength that transfers from loving and just parents to a loving and just God.

You go girls. SAHMs. Proud of you. Happy Mother’s Day!

(L to R: Tim, Katie, Irene, Mike, Molly, Emily, and Clark.)

Irene's blog is currently under construction, but for a taste of her writing visit : Renaissance Woman.)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

There's no place like home!

Hello from Kansas!

Visiting family is always a joy to me. It's a little bittersweet that Clark couldn't travel with us, but everything went smoothly for the most part!

When I step away from one safety-zone into another, it always makes me ponder. I feel just as much at home in my parents' house as I do at my own. This means more when you take into account just how much they've moved since I last lived with them.

My last home under thier roof was in North Carolina. Since then they've lived in Germany, South Carolina, Georgia, and Kansas. My poor little sister has been at a new school every year of high school. It makes me that much prouder to be here for her graduation.

When I was younger I used to imagine the perfect house, especially when Clark and I were first married. I would go over and over the details in my head, just thinking of all the things that would make this house my "dream home". As I've gotten older, however, I've realized something rather profound.

My dream home is where ever my family is.

My mom has shown me that it doesn't matter precisely where you are. You can make any house your home. You can make any town your town. It just takes patience and time. I think growing up in a family that followed God's call in the ministry and the military, we learned that slowly but surely. Now that I'm older, it's even clearer. She has moved so much and always dreamsed of a house, but to me she made every house we lived in a true home.

It's hard sometimes when you live in an apartment or live somewhere that doesn't exactly feel homely to remember how blessed you are. Sometimes God sends some challenges your way that you just don't think are ever going to turn around and be in your favor... but you get there.

The more Clark and I talk about the future, the more I remember to enjoy the present. I may be thinking about having a home someday with a fenced in back yard and a treehouse for Michael (like my parents have at the moment), but then I remember that the duplex we live in now will be full of memories and stories alike to share with fondness. And if for some reason we find our dream home and then have to move... I hope at that moment I can remind myself that it wouldn't be home without my family.

Michael's seperation anxiety has been pretty terrible the past couple of days. From plane rides to car rides to realizing that dada is nowhere to be found, I can imagine why. I know when he's older the grandparents' houses will be an adventure all on its own, and I hope he'll realize at that point as well that home really is where the heart is.

So, although we're missing dada, and although it's a little rough being away from all of our things, we're feeling so blessed to be spending time with family. Home is not a place. A house is a place. Home is family and love.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Eight Months Old!


I'm pretty sure I start all of these posts the exact same way. Well, Michael is eight months old!

The fact that my niece is turning one this month and Michael is next in line is a scary thing.

A few days ago we had to take Michael to the doc (nothing serious, PTL!) and he weighed 17 pounds! No wonder my back/shoulder are starting to feel sore quicker when he's in the sling these days.

Michael is on the move (if you couldn't tell from the picture)! Not only is rolling over a breeze now, but we're doing the low-crawl, or Army-crawl... whatever you want to call it. He hasn't quite pulled himself up to his hands and knees, but I can tell we're close.No more turning my head for a moment or leaving him in one spot and expecting him to hold still. No, sir. He's moving with energy and there's no stopping him!

Michael's favorite toys are his ring toss, Mama or Dada's keys, Mama's small camera, and Dada's phone... as well as just about any piece of paper of something we do not want him to get a hold of. And he LOVES being outside.

Favorite foods are sweet potatoes, carrot mixed with applesauce, and mango. He is also loving the new rice crackers we bought him (Parent's Choice we found at Wal-mart). He's starting to really love anything he can hold on his own. Did I mention we got him his own Camelbak?
He either smacks his lips, clicks his tongue, or says "baba" when he wants BM, his Camelbak, or any sort of food.

His new favorite thing to do when he's mad or upset? He keeps yelling, "DADADADADA" or "NANANANANA" as loud as he can until he gets your attention.

We are also in a "stranger danger" time. He's very curious when it comes to other people and other things. He'll be very intrigued until they get too close, in which case he starts crying or yelling.

Naps are now anywhere from 40 minutes to two hours long. When we come back from my little sister's high school graduation we will start trying to move the naps to the crib. I must confess, though, my hurry to move him to his crib at night has slowed. I've realized I really love our night time cuddles. Plus he eats the most at night; for now it's still much easier for us to continue co-sleeping.

M.I.C.: Our First Easter

As April drew near during our first year of marriage, the question of whether or not to visit Clark's family for Easter was in the air.

While we had survived our first spring break alone and had gone to Clark’s grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary, we weren’t positive we wanted to go again for Easter.

We gave in. Easter was a big deal in my family, as it was in his, and therefore we found it necessary to visit. I had a new dress that was for my sister’s college graduation in May, so I figured I could give it a test run for Easter. Clark had a shirt and khakis to match. (Unfortunately all my pictures from this are on the other computer and not easily accessible at the moment.)

We arrived in Fayetteville with the intention of not staying our entire break. Clark was lucky to get the weekend off from work, and we didn’t want to be pushy.

I had packed us up since we could only leave once he was finished with work that Friday. I even drove the whole way for the first time. It started off good.

The weekend progressed rather typically with his family. We ran errands that were necessary for us, and ran errands with or for his parents. We spent whatever time we could with them, though we had only been there a week or so earlier for the anniversary party of his grandparents.

Sunday morning suddenly arrived. As the daughter-in-law, a guest, I always seemed to have last priority to the bathroom. Luckily we were staying with his NaNa and PaPa, so I got a bathroom to myself and time to spare. Unfortunately, as it came time for Clark to be dressed, we noticed the first mistake of my packing.

Clark had reminded me to grab his khakis, which were still in a dry-cleaners bag. Well, I grabbed a dry-cleaners bag that looked as though it had khakis in it, but to my dismay it was one of my scarves. Clark tossed on his jeans and we headed to his parents’ house to see if he could fit in to his brother’s khakis or if he had a spare in his old closet.

We arrived and Clark immediately took the blame for my mistake. Lovely husband that he was to take that on his shoulders, it was not enough to stop his mother from commenting on the neckline of my dress.

“Oh, that is beautiful. Are you all taped in?”

It seems it’s always the little things that annoy me or hurt my feelings the most.

With a pair of khakis on, we were able to be fashionably late, as his family nearly always is, to church.

We arrived and I kept fiddling with the sweater I had on over my dress, unsure if it was able to hide my bare shoulders and chest. Clark nagged and said to take a look around; I was the only one “scandalously” clad for the holiday.

Although I did not get through the service without having a few older pairs of eyes giving me the disapproving look, I made it through without getting the, “oh, you’re the new daughter-in-law,” comment. The minister gave us welcoming hugs, as was normal, and told me I looked beautiful. I was thrilled.

Then, there was Easter “dunch” or “linner,” whatever you like to call it.

With my family it’s a great affair of ham, potatoe casserole, rolls, green beans—it’s almost like another Christmas dinner, but with a spring twist to it. With Clark’s family, however, it seemed too difficult to combine church and cooking together.
We went to an Italian restaurant instead.

Though the food was delicious and the conversation did revert itself to the subject of me every now and again, it wasn’t what I was used to.

I mean, Italian food for Easter? It just didn’t seem right. My mom called in the midst of us eating and when I told her where we were, she contained her laughter.

When we did our Easter baskets it was like Christmas. Candy, gift certificates, movies—you name it, and it was probably in there. I wasn’t expecting anything, and when I got so much it made me feel guilty.

Our Easter’s were never this big in the gift department. It was usually something small and meaningful; such as, one year, we each (my sister’s and me) received a cross that reflected our personal style.

Once again I was reminded that each family had their own traditions, and now that I was a part of my family, Clark’s parents’ family, and my parents’ family, I was going to have to give in to giving some things up sometimes, and twisting them at others.

When I look back on that first Easter I wonder if it would have gone smoother had I been a little more accepting. Had I laughed at his mom’s comment or not poked fun at the style of his childhood church, or complained about receiving too much in my Easter basket! Perhaps if I had just gone with the flow, it would have worked better.
Or, maybe not.

Regardless, it made me realize, moreso than Christmas time had, that I was going to have to compromise my traditions as he had compromised his. In the confusion of it all, we were forgetting the true reasons for holidays. Instead we were focusing on whose family was right and whose family was wrong.

During our first year of marriage it was so difficult for us to establish ourselves as our own family because his parents, and sometimes my parents, were always bearing down on us.

As time went on, and as time continues to pass, we have learned and are learning to separate ourselves and know that we are accountable to our family first, our parents second.

While we still get in to disagreements as to how our kids should be raised, how we should celebrate certain holidays, what church we should attend, what is appropriate and what is not— we are learning that compromise is key.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Teriyaki Chicken & Pineapple Stir Fry


Any sort of stir fry is pretty much a win in our house. Since it's warming up outside and the taste of pineapple is one of our favorites, I thought I'd try the two together (pineapple and stir fry, that is)!

Ingredients:
- 1 lb chicken breats/tenderloins, cut into cubes
- 2 bell peppers (I used red and yellow), cut up
- 1 C pineapple cubes
- 3 tbsp + 1 tsp low sodium Teriyaki Sauce
- 1 1/5 tbsp corn meal (or 2 tbsp of corn starch)
- 1 1/5 tsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp cooking sherry

Directions:
- Let the chicken soak in the 3 tbsp of Teriyaki sauce for at least one hour in the fridge. Remove from the fridge and add the corn meal.
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet with the ground ginger and garlic powder over medium heat. Add the chicken mixture and sautee until cooked through, about five to ten minutes. Add the extra tsp of Teriyaki Sauce when needed (the chicken will, more than likely, stick to the pan to a certain degree).
- Add the peppers, pineapple, and cooking sherry. Sautee for another five to ten minutes.
- Serve warm over rice! (Brown rice pictured.)

Easy and delicious!



(Inspiration for the recipe came from Skinnytaste.com and my previously posted Chile Chicken.)