on your second Christmas 

It’s been a confusing few weeks, hasn’t it?  Seriously, Mom and Dad have been acting so weird.

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Thanks to our lovely friend : JW Photography

It all started when Dad brought a large tree into the house.  Mom put a bunch of shiny toys and sparkling lights on it, and told you not to touch it.  The tree was practically crafted to be impossible to for toddler hands to resist, and yet, we insisted that you not mess with it.  That seems really unreasonable.


To add to the craziness, Mom brought you to a crowded mall full of strangers, and into a very unnaturally staged area full of large presents and candy canes.  Mom encouraged you to sit on the lap of an old man that you’d never seen before in your life.  This seems so random and completely unsafe!


As the weeks progressed, Mom made a bunch of really yummy treats and put them just out of your reach in shiny green containers.  Mom told you they are called, “Cook-ies!” which you immediately mastered.  Mom left the green containers in your line of sight and tried to give you celery of dinner.  Everything about that defies logic.

While we are on this topic, lately, there has been some inconsistencies with expectations when it comes to destroying things.  You are supposed to leave the tree alone, and yet, the boxes underneath the tree  are meant to be “unwrapped.”  But only when Mom and Dad say.   Not any sooner.  Mom probably should have been more understanding when she left you alone with these boxes and returned to find you unwrapping.  You were just following directions.

And yet, little one, all this newness, chaos, and confusion of the holidays will likely never go away.  The hustle and bustle will likely always be there.  And with this, as your Mom, I hope to help you to understand why we are acting so joyful.  The greatest gift I can give you as a mother is to teach you about the perfect love that was gifted to us thousands of years ago.

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In an attempt to capture the joy that was born so humbly, we do everything out of the ordinary.  We don’t need to change things up, but we do.  And yet, probably the best thing we can do is just sit still.  Do the ordinary things better, and then worry about the extras.  Mom needs to work on that.


I pray that the story of the first Christmas remains one of the first books you reach for, year round.  I’ll leave it in your bookcase, just to be helpful.  And to help me, please always keep being you, in the purest form.  Keep loving ferociously, living adventurously, and reminding Mom and Dad what’s important.

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We love you Gracie girl.  You are forever our gift.  Merry Christmas.

cut-outs from a beginner

Growing up, we always made cut-out cookies for Christmas.  Frosting and decorating them was a tradition. However, ever since venturing out on my own, I have bought many cute cookie cutters than have remained unused.  With so many pictures posted of perfectly portioned cut-out cookies with flooded icing…I have to admit, I felt intimidated and inadequate.  Thus is the curse of a Pinterest addict.

This year, I decided NO MORE!  This would be the year when I dusted off my lonely cookie cutters and got to work.

I must say, I am pretty proud of how my moose and star cut-outs came out!

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Granted, my moose cookies may resemble triceratops, depending who you asking.

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But hey, any fan of Friends will agree that they are kind of like the Holiday Armadillo!

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If you are looking for a last-minute recipe, maybe a batch to decorate on Christmas Eve, I highly recommend the recipe below.  I cannot take credit for it, it’s a Taste of Home creation, but I can fully endorse it!

Christmas Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • White candy coating
  • Green paste food coloring

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Beat in the sour cream, honey and vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Cover and chill for 2 hours or until easy to handle.
  2. 2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8-in. thickness. Cut with a floured 3-in. cookie cutters. Place 1 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets.
  3. 3. Bake at 325° for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.
  4. 4. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt white coating; stir until smooth. Stir in food coloring; drizzle over cookies.

The recipe says it yields 8 dozen, I got about 4 dozen…my cutters are big.

Now comes the great cookie debate: to flood or to frost?!  Any suggestions?  I’d love flooding advice, as that’s how I am leaning.

4 days to go!  Merry Christmas!

three years ago today

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”‭‭Psalm‬ ‭139:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬


Three years ago today was both the best day and the worst day.  We said “hello” and “goodbye” to a beautiful little girl that wasn’t meant to stay here, on Earth, with us.    

Some people only get minutes together, some get years, but we got hours.  Yet, I am so thankful for those hours. I’ve never felt so helplessly in love, elated and devasted all at once.  

We spent our precious hours as a family of 3 holding and loving our sweet Darla Jane. I told her I love her constantly, because even though she couldn’t understand the words, I knew she’d feel them.  Even though we lost her, those precious hours live on in my heart.  A mama’s heart doesn’t forget.

People can be so amazing.  One friend told us that you don’t have to live very long to have an impact on the world. That quote never left me.  Other friends gifted us this beautiful oak tree, in her memory. It lives on the banks of the river in the arboretum in Ann Arbor, MI, where Jon and I met and went to school.  



And so, even though Darla doesn’t live here on Earth, this beautiful tree lives and thrives because of her. Her daddy and I live and love and parent better because of her. And even though Darla doesn’t live here on Earth, she live enjoys perfect, whole, and peaceful eternal life in Heaven.  
I couldn’t have her here, and to this day, that still stings. But as a parent, you always want what’s best for your kids. It’s hard when it’s not with you, but in the end, she got the best. She got what we all strive for. In the end, what else could any mama hope for?

I love you, DJ.  I always have, and I always will.

beautiful little smudges

I like a clean-ish house.  Maybe that’s why my toddler loves her broom set, even if she doesn’t really use it correctly.


I was rushing around my kitchen this past week, trying to get a good cleaning in between work emails.  I had about 30 minutes before I needed to leave and get Gracie from daycare.  Counters: check, dishes: check, floor: check…and then I stopped.


I saw the smudges on the patio door, and I just couldn’t bring myself to wipe them.  Sure, they are messy…but in them, I saw tiny hands.  Tiny hands with little fingerprints unique to a toddler that was so excited to go outside, or straining to show me the birds just past the glass, she just couldn’t help but leave marks.  These little marks were left as an innocent byproduct of pure joy.

I started to take stock of the other marks in my life that didn’t use to be there.

  • The living room rug smells like clementines because unless you squeeze each piece and step on it, how will you know what happens?
  • The upstairs bathtub needs to be wiped more often, thanks to rowdy nightly splash sessions.
  • The Jeep kind of still smells like vinegar from the last bought with car sickness.
  • I learned very quickly that washable crayons actually work…even when you chew them up and spit them all over the rug.
  • I learned very quickly that washable crayons actually work…even when you color all over your comfiest chair.
  • I discovered that I CAN make finger paint from flour, water, and food coloring.  However, I CAN’T wash out said food coloring.
  • I almost always have another human’s snot on my sleeve.
  • My hairbrushes turn-up missing because they are actually meant to be shoved into the top of the hamper.  Duh.
  • We run out of apples really, really quickly.

Every extra mess that I have to clean, or thing of mine that is lost or changed, exists because the little person that lives with me is learning about the world through trial and error.  Perhaps each mess or mishap isn’t completely random, but instead, is carefully crafted by a brain that is hungry and excited to learn.


It’s hard for me to fully change who I am and how I like things.  I consider myself reasonably neat, and let’s face it, some messes are gross and can’t be ignored.  And yet, things like smudges on our patio doors can probably wait to be wiped…at least for a while.

Maybe next time I see her pressing her little nose and fingers against the glass, I should pause my super important adult stuff and go sit next to her.  Maybe I should let her show me what all the excitement is about.  I’m not sure who said it, but this quote is in the notes section of phone, meant as a warning.  I read it often.  It makes me feel appreciative and terrified all at once.


“Think of the mess as fairy dust.  One day it will go away, and take all the magic with it.”

the day I wanted to blog, but then I didn’t do it

I have had this window open on my phone since SATURDAY.  I haven’t blogged in far too long, and I really wanted to sit down to write.  It’s something I love to do.  So why did an entire Saturday go by without me taking 20 minutes to sit down and write?  I decided to take an inventory of my day.

6:45: Earlier than normal, Gracie wakes in a ferocious fit of tears; she is seriously regretting chucking her paci out of her crib.

6:46: Mommy rescues the paci.  Mommy tries to put Gracie back to bed.  Mommy is so silly to think that would work!

6:47 Mommy realizes that today is a Saturday free of plans.  Mommy realizes how long it has been since she’s blogged.  Mommy vows to make time to blog.

7:05 Persuaded by the all-too-familiar sounds of Disney Jr, ,Mommy decides that today will NOT be wasted in front of the TV.  It’s a gorgeous day, it is necessary to get outside.

8:30 Mommy texts friend to arrange a mommy-baby park date.

9:46 As usual, Mommy is late.

10:30-12:30 Mommy and Gracie meet our friends for some park playtime.  During this time, Mommy decided that TODAY is the perfect day to make Chex mix.  Mommy texts Daddy to ask him to pick up the ingredients.

12:30 Mommy and Gracie head home; Mommy is hoping for an excellent nap from Gracie, so that she can blog, edit photos, make Chex mix, and maybe even nap a little.  Mommy has jinxed the day with these naïve hopes.

1:30 Mommy puts Gracie down for a nap.  Mommy thinks about blogging, but decided to fit in an impromptu yoga session.  Why not?  Gracie will likely nap for hours and hours and hours!  Sweet freedom!

1:50 A huge, earth-shattering poo wakes Gracie far too early.  Mommy rescues Gracie from the poo monster.  Gracie is so happy to see Mommy, she won’t even consider letting Mommy put her down.  Mommy realizes she is pretty wonderful , but this turn of events does thwart her plans.

2:00-3:15 Mommy rocks Gracie, tries several times to put her down unsuccessfully, and Mommy ends up falling asleep in the rocking chair while Gracie watches her sleep.  Sweet irony.  At least one of us napped.

3:17  Mommy throws up the white flag and surrenders to nap-resistant toddler.  Time to make Chex mix.

3:30-7:00  Mommy spends the afternoon making Chex mix, cleaning, vacuuming, and getting ready for out night out with Daddy.  In the meantime, Daddy and Mommy try to occupy the increasingly cranky toddler.  Maybe she should have napped.

7:30 The babysitter arrives, and the most over-tired and goofy toddler on planet earth is persuaded to sleep.  Finally.

8:00-11:30 Mommy and Daddy leave for a much-needed night out in Boston.

12:00 Bedtime arrives, and suddenly, Mommy realizes she did not blog.  Shame on Mommy.

Chronologically outlining my Saturday isn’t depressing so much as it is eye opening.  I’m a list nerd; I find myself looking at how I spent my time and being proud of some moments, while questioning others.  The hour and a half I spent snuggling my cranky toddler was priceless.  The Chex mix could have waited.

I love to write, even if no one reads it.  Each day has a finite amount of hours.  If I spend just 15 minutes a day doing something totally out of the ordinary, totally independent of the daily demands of life, I’m pretty sure I’ll feel pretty awesome.

And if you must know…the Chex mix turned out awesome.

eat this, not that: preggo edition

During the first trimester of both of my pregnancies, I never actually “got sick.”  However, I experienced the morning queasiness like you wouldn’t believe…and it lasted all day.

Now in my second trimester, and about to enter my third, I feel like eating healthy again.  In fact, this baby seem to WANT me to eat well.  Thank you, little lady!

Because I was feeling so gross at first, and eating unhealthy makes me feel gross now, I have come up with a few easy preggo swaps.  These “eat this, not that” swaps are small choices to help maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy.  These tricks still allow me to splurge a little without going overboard.  These tricks seem to be working, and so I wanted to share!

1. Keep things sparkly

Whether at home or out to dinner, one of my favorite substitutes for diet soda is sparkling water with a splash of cranberry juice.  While there are no calories in diet soda, it’s really not a very natural choice.  Also, if you consume a few diet sodas while out to dinner, you’ll be way over on your caffeine for the day.

A Sparkling Cran is a fresh, tart, and delicious way to get little extra water and some vitamins.  Little belly babies LOVE juice!  I buy “Just Cranberry” juice to avoid all the fillers of a juice cocktail.  Today, I got creative and added some frozen raspberries to keep my drink cold!

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2. Lay it on thick

An extra-thick protein smoothie is an easy way to trick your body into thinking you are consuming ice cream or a milk shake…for breakfast!  Fun.  In the morning, I usually combine 1 1/2 cups of frozen fruit, 1 scoop of protein powder (whey powder, completely natural!), and just enough almond milk to allow the fruit to blend (probably 3/4 cup).

Adding an avocado to this mix will make your belly baby leap for joy!  Hurray for good fats!

3 . Make a hard choice

I know it’s not natural, and I know it’s empty calories…but sometimes, I just want candy.  Bad candy.  Candy produced in colors and flavors that do NOT actually occur in nature is my weakness, and I am not proud of that.  No where on earth are raspberries actually blue!

During one of my sugar cravings, or if I feel lightheaded during the day, I’ll pop a hard candy into my mouth (I love Jolly Ranchers!).  This helps quench my thirst for sugar, but instead of consuming 300+ empty calories, I consume 30.

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4. Dip it good!

I mentioned this in an earlier post, but one of my favorite ways to consume some extra raw veggies (especially during my first trimester), is a simple greek yogurt based dip.  The recipe I use can be found here.  I made a batch today with added chives for some zest!  This dip keeps me from snacking on junk, and greek yogurt is an AMAZING source of protein…just what a growing belly baby needs.

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5. Be a little sneaky

While I know it’s not the same as an actual serving of raw vegetables, if I am making a pasta dish for dinner, I will swap out whole wheat pasta for pasta with a serving of vegetables in it.  One of my first trimester cravings was plain pasta with salt; sneaking in a serving of vegetables this way was better than nothing.  I still can’t look at black beans…or spinach.  I may never be the same.

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I really like “eat this, not that” swaps because they don’t always entail giving up what you love.  Rather, they are just smart choices that promote healthy living, and feel effortless.  When eating for two, it’s important to be aware of your choices…but you still need to eat!

Does anyone have any other easy tips to share?  I’d love to hear!

This Monday, I’m linking-up with SarahJennRachel, and Tauna for the Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-up.

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five on friday: episode 2

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I can’t believe it’s already Friday again!  This week has been awesome: lots of relaxing, lots of laying low.  This Friday, I am linking up with DarciAprilChristina, and Natasha to share my favorite things about this week.

[ONE]

Serial Podcast 

Graphic via http://serialpodcast.org/
Graphic via http://serialpodcast.org/

I started listening to this series a few weeks ago, and I must say, I am hooked! I like to listen to podcasts if I am running or doing something repetitive at work. I love a good story, and the story of this case has me completely enthralled.

I don’t want to give anything away, but per the website: “Serial is a podcast from the creators of This American Life, and is hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial tells one story – a true story – over the course of an entire season. Each season, we’ll follow a plot and characters wherever they take us. And we won’t know what happens at the end until we get there, not long before you get there with us.”

If you love podcasts, you have probably already heard of Serial. If not, or if you are looking for something new, I definitely recommend checking Serial out. Be sure to start at the beginning!

[TWO]
Healthy Dark Chocolate No-Bake Bars
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At 26 weeks pregnant (today!), my appetite continues to ramp up.  However, I feel like I am carrying a baby that doesn’t want to eat junk.  Sometimes mommy still eats junk…almost immediately after, mommy feels like junk.

I think baby doesn’t really like junk.

To be fair, I have been doing my absolute best to stay healthy this pregnancy, and I feel great as a result.  I found this recipe in hopes of satisfying my sweet tooth, while still getting in some good stuff.  Please, please, please check out Healthy Dark Chocolate No-Bake Bars from Confessions of a Bright Eyed Baker.

The recipe is perfect!  I like to just add a little extra sea salt, for my own taste.  I haven’t been able to stay away from these bars, and baby doesn’t mind at all!

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[THREE]
Movie Night: Boyhood
Graphic via Fandango.com
Graphic via Fandango.com
 For a movie date night on Saturday, Jon and I went to see Boyhood.  Going into the theatre, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Originally release in July of 2014, I knew 2 things about the movie: one, it had done well at the Golden Globes; two, it had been filmed over the course of 12 years.  As it ended up, I really liked it!  It’s a coming of age piece that kind of felt like a documentary/reality show to me…probably because I felt like I got so close to the characters.

The plot was subtle, and I love the intimate feeling that I got from following the characters as they naturally progressed for 12 years.  The transitions between years were seamless.  Beyond seeing the characters change physically, I noticed things in their home that make me feel like family.  For example, childhood photos that Jon and I noticed before Mason’s High School graduation made us both feel nostalgic…and yet, we don’t actually know him.

Although the movie primarily follows the story of the main character, Mason, I felt myself getting attached to the whole family.  The movie is a bit long, so eat your popcorn slowly.  However, I really feel like there isn’t one thing that could have been cut out.  I didn’t want to leave the family when it was over.  It’s a movie I recommend seeing, you’ll leave full of stuff to think about (and maybe a few false memories).

[FOUR]
My newest craft project
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With our little baby girl on the way, I really want to get sewing again.  I learned a little bit when I was small, and growing up, my mom always sewed for my sisters and I.  I remember always having beautiful, original Halloween costumes and matching Easter outfits.  I love these memories, and I’d like to be able to give this to my daughter; sewing really is a dying art.

I asked for a sewing machine for Christmas for Jon, and a got a Brothers, which is awesome! Although we’ve been too busy for me to take it out just yet (the story of every craft project, it seems)…I picked up some light-weight flannel for my first project. I love, love, LOVE the prints!

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I picked-up an easy Simplicity pattern, and I plan to start out with some bibs and pants.  I am excited to get started; I know that my progress will be slow at first, and riddled with opportunities to “learn” (i. e. mistakes).  I will be sure to post updates as they become available!

 

[FIVE]
An outdoor winter run
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As winter has moved in, I have been sticking pretty closely to my old buddy, the treadmill.  My last outdoor run was at the end of December.  However, on Monday, the temps in New England peaked around 48 degrees and I knew there was no ice.  I truly admire pregnant runners that run regularly in the frigid cold.  It’s typically something I feel too clumsy to do, and it’s not easy.

 On Monday, the conditions felt good, so I decided to run the roads.  I’m glad that I did, but at 25 weeks, I noticed some major changes in my body since my last outdoor run: my left leg/ankle felt very tingly and strange, I felt a lot more impact on my joints from the extra weight, and the hills that I once loved…I now cursed.  I also forgot to bring my gloves…rookie mistake.  48 degrees running against the wind feels much different than 48 degrees running with the wind.  Despite the slightly increased discomfort in my legs and my freezing hands, I was thankful for the refreshing, cool air in my lungs and the ability to enjoy and outdoor run.

Overall, it was great week!  Super relaxing, and I spent lots of time thinking about all the newness we have coming.  I am enjoying the quiet while I can…only a few more months until our world is changed, yet again.