The “Happy” of Mother’s Day

The past few Mother’s Days have brought a myriad of emotions my way.

In 2012 the day was full of anticipation.  I was expecting our first baby and was thrilled at the thought of the following year, when I would spend Mother’s Day with that baby in my arms.

But when the next Mother’s Day came, Faith had been gone for almost a year.  As the day approached I felt anxious over the thought of another milestone that would remind me of the daughter we didn’t bring home.

At the same time, another little child was growing inside, a secret that only our families knew, but one that brought hope and comfort to the day for me.

Then, last year, I celebrated Mother’s Day with a baby in my arms for the first time.  And it was absolutely wonderful.

Still… there was a part of me missing Faith.  There was also a part of me wrestling with how to be completely happy about Natalie without feeling guilty, as if I wasn’t thinking enough about Faith.  It’s a hard thing to explain, but I remember struggling with those thoughts last spring.

This year… this year I am truly and fully happy.  Yes, I miss Faith, but there is a peace and settled feeling now.  I don’t have that sense of guilt lingering (I wrote about that in more depth here last June).

Faith is the daughter that made me a mother, and she changed my life in a way that no other person in this world has.  I love her and I’m thankful for her and I can’t wait to see her again.

And Natalie has filled my life – our lives – with so much joy.  I cannot express in words what an honor and privilege it is to be her mom.  Every day is a new adventure as she grows and changes and I am so thankful for the chance to raise her.

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This morning, as we headed downstairs to go to church, she cuddled against me and rubbed my back with her soft little hand and my heart melted.  Those are the moments I’ll cherish forever.  The “happy” of Mother’s Day… and every other day that I get to be her mom.

Little Girl in a Big World

The weather is finally nice and I feel like we’re coming out of hibernation!  It is wonderful to be able to go outside every afternoon.  Natalie and I have been enjoying stroller rides, blowing bubbles, swinging, and exploring the great outdoors.

I love her curiosity and enthusiasm.  Pine cones are a favorite item to collect, but she’ll pick up and inspect pretty much anything.  She also ate dirt the other day when I turned my head for a moment to check on Jackson.  Way to go mom, haha!

Sometimes she likes to have me right next to her, but other times she ventures out on her own, checking back once and a while to make sure I’m still close by.  There are days when I feel like she’s growing so fast, but seeing her out there in the yard I was reminded how little she really is.

A little girl in a big world.

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It’s funny… that’s how I feel too.  This world is a big place and I’m just a tiny part of it.

On those days when life feels really “normal” and the routine gets mundane I wonder what kind of impact my little life is making.  Am I doing something significant?

On the days when life feels challenging and the future is full of questions I wonder where my little life is headed.  Am I on the right track?

I think (or at least I hope!) those thoughts and questions are normal.  I think we all want to feel like we have a purpose and a plan, but we don’t always know what it is or where we fit in the grand scheme of things.

It would be pretty intimidating and even discouraging to me… if it weren’t for the promises and presence of God.

I know that He made me for a purpose and that He knows me better than anyone else.  I know that He can use me to accomplish great things for Him, and I want to be ready and willing to follow His lead.

These lyrics, from the song Little Is Much by Downhere, express so well the question and the answer…

What is the measure of a life well lived
If all I can offer seems too small to give

Little is much when God’s in it
And no one can fathom the plans He holds
Little is much when God’s in it
He changes the world with the seeds we sow
Little is much, little is much

Even more importantly, this passage from 1 Corinthians speaks a beautiful truth…

“For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.'” 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

It doesn’t matter how small I feel because God is working through me.  On the mundane days, on the crazy days, and on every day in between, He is present and He has a purpose.  What a wonderful peace that brings!

Just as Natalie has the courage to wander off into the yard , I pray I will confidently go forward following God’s will for me.  And just as Natalie stopped to smile back at me, making sure I was still watching, I pray I will never lose my focus on the God who is in control.

So thankful that He is with His little girl in this big world.

 

Honestly

Honestly… I’m not sure what to do with this blog lately.

I have ideas, but I rarely sit down to write anymore.  And the posts I have started just end up saved as drafts.  Something always stops me from finishing and hitting that publish button.

Sometimes it’s just the busyness of life.  It usually takes me a while to write and there have been plenty of partial posts that were interrupted when nap time ended or when things came up that were necessary to accomplish.

But other times… well, lately there’s something else that holds me back.

This may sound strange, given that I shared so much so openly after Faith was born, but I feel less inclined to put myself out there these days.

There are things I’ve read and things I’ve seen in the day to day that make me value my privacy, and that of our family, more and more.  Nothing dramatic has happened, it’s simply me grappling with the way that social media and this world of the internet impacts society and individual lives.

I’m also not sure where my niche is anymore.

Before Faith was born I blogged just for the fun of it.  An assortment of random stuff, from recipes to vacations to funny stories that happened at home.  Some things were deeper and more significant, but for the most part it was whatever I felt like sharing.

After Faith was born this blog became much more serious.  Looking back I am so thankful for this space where I could sort through the process of grief and hopefully provide comfort and hope to others that might walk a similar road.  I like the meaning that those posts held.  I like the spiritual depth that was often a primary focus.

But now… I feel torn between writing about the day to day happenings or trying to really hone in on things that have deeper significance.

I tend to over analyze many things in general, and I guess I’m doing that with this blog.  Even now, as I type these words, I wonder if I’m making any sense and if it’s worth putting these thoughts out there.

I’m going to though, because I feel bad about leaving things quiet for so long.

I hate to feel like I’m letting people down and sometimes I wonder if I am when I don’t write here.  Silly, I know, but it crosses my mind.

Honestly, at the end of all this rambling, what I want you to know is this… whatever I end up doing next with this blog and however long it takes to sort things out, I am thankful to you for coming along on this journey with me.

My Daughters

Last Christmas Steve gave me a necklace that has initials and birthstones for me, Faith, and Natalie.  The other night, as I was taking it off, I held it in my hand a moment and thought, “my daughters”.

My daughters.

It made me happy for a moment.  I have two daughters!

But then I felt a wave of sadness.

I rarely talk about them that way.  To be honest I can’t remember a time that I have used the phrase, “my daughters” when talking with another person.  Even in my own mind I’m not sure I often think of them that way.

It’s hard to explain.

I think about Faith as my daughter, waiting for me in Heaven.  I think about Natalie as my daughter, with me here.  But somehow the fact that they are in different places keeps me from easily linking them together.

I love them both, but that love is lived out differently.  I know I have had two babies, but the world sees only one.

Maybe that’s part of the struggle.  So many people in my day to day life don’t know about Faith and I am okay with that.  But now I’ve become so accustomed to answering the “how’s your daughter?” question about Natalie alone, that it feels foreign to think of daughter in the plural instead.

Stranger still… if Faith was here, I’m not sure that Natalie would be.

I can’t find the right words to express something that my own mind can’t fully grasp.  This separation between my two girls.  Two sisters.  Two daughters.

And yet, are they really separate?

In body, yes.  But they are together in my heart.  They are wrapped up together in the love we share as a family.

And as Natalie grows and, I pray, comes to a relationship with Jesus for herself, we have the promise of togetherness in Heaven as well.

Oh my sweet daughters, I am so thankful to be your mom.

 

 

 

 

Playing House and Keeping House

Lately I find that our house has been taken over by toys.

There are toys in the family room and the living room.  There is an entire playroom upstairs dedicated to toys.  There are toys in our bedroom that I brought in for the purpose of keeping Natalie busy while I got ready for church.  There are toys in the basement being stored for when she’s big enough to play with them.

And guess what?

I love it.

To me those toys (and books, and blankets, and clothes…) are a happy reminder that a child lives here.  A little girl that I have the privilege of raising and loving and playing with and cleaning up after.

When I pick up her stuff in the family room, one of my favorite things is rearranging the doll house.

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The house was passed down to us and has just a couple people with it right now, but I’ve filled it with animal friends as well.  I like moving the furniture around and setting all of them up in different spots.

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I’ve always enjoyed “playing house”, but I’m not necessarily the best at “keeping house”.  That is to say, if you dropped in on a surprise visit there would probably be some part of my house that I would wave my hand and apologize for saying, “Sorry the house is such a mess right now.”

See how I throw that “right now” in at the end?  I thought I only did it out of habit, but now I’ve realized there’s probably more to it.  Maybe I hope those extra words will make it seem like the house is usually spotless, and you just caught me on an off day, or something like that.  I never planned it out that way, it just dawned on me recently as a logical explanation for my habitual comment.

(Please note: I don’t mean to imply that my house is grossly dirty.  The mess I refer to is more of the cluttered variety.  Just felt I had to clarify that, haha!)

Anyway, I don’t really have an excuse to explain away my sub-par housekeeping skills.  I mean, I have reasons that I know contribute, but that’s not the point.

I’ve read blogs/articles with strategies and tips for keeping a spotless house.  I’ve read other blogs/articles saying that moms should just focus on the time with kids and let the cleaning wait for later.

I don’t think either one is right or wrong.  Maybe a little of both is best?

Or, better yet, contentment.  Content but not complacent.

That is the point for me.

I’m not great at keeping up with housework.  It’s not a natural strong point for me, but I know I can develop some better habits and maintain things more than I do now.  I would like to do that.  I am working on that.

But…

I’m not going to beat myself up for the evenings when I want to just play with Natalie and leave the dishes piled in the sink.  Yesterday afternoon I spent her nap time cleaning, today I wrote this blog.  And I’m okay with both those scenarios.

Keeping house, for me, means doing my best for my family and my home.

It means being thankful for what I’ve been given.  It means swallowing my pride and not comparing myself to others.  It means being content where I’m at while still striving to improve on things that need improvement.  Most of all it means doing all things to the glory of God.

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men

Colossians 3:23

I’m going to try to stop using that “right now” apology, so if you come to visit and the house is messy, just push aside the toys and settle in.  Maybe you can even help me with the next arrangement for Natalie’s dollhouse!

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4 Week Dinner Plan – Recipes

To follow up on the 4 week dinner plan, here are the recipes and/or links to where you can find them.  The self explanatory ones, such as BLTs, tacos, and spaghetti, are not included.  I kept them by week so hopefully that makes it easier to scroll through since this is very lengthy… my apologies!  I posted the grocery lists yesterday – you can click this link for easy access.

Happy dining!

Week 1:

Meatloaf (BBQ style)

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oatmeal
  • 2 Tbsp dried onion
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 tsp sage
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • BBQ sauce to top

Mix together and form into several individual loaves.  Top with BBQ sauce and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Tamale Pie – see this post

Honey Sesame Chicken – see this link

Salmon – see the end of this post

Chicken and Rice Bake

  • 2 cups cooked chicken
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 3/4 cup mayo
  • 1 can sliced mushrooms
  • 1 can water chestnuts
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Combine all in a baking dish and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.

Week 2:

Lentil Soup

  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • Ham, diced
  • Lentils
  • Salt and pepper to taste, other spices (ie cumin) to taste as well

Soften celery and onion in olive oil.  Add ham, lentils and water (follow the amounts given on the package of lentils depending on how much you want to make).  Simmer until lentils are soft and season to taste.

Chop Suey

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/2 – 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1.5 lbs ground chicken or pork
  • 1 can bean sprouts
  • 8 Tbsp corn startch
  • 8 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Rice
  • Crunchy Chinese noodles

Soften celery and onion for several minutes.  Add meat and brown.  Add bean sprouts.  For sauce: in separate bowl mix 1 1/3 cups cold water with corn starch, soy sauce, and sugar.  Add to meat mixture and stir over low heat until thickened.  Add Worcestershire sauce.  Serve over rice and top with crunchy noodles.

Pasta bake

  • Ground beef
  • Onion, diced
  • Garlic, minced
  • Rotini pasta
  • Pasta sauce
  • Mozzarella cheese

Brown beef.  Add onions and garlic and cook until onions are softened.  Cook pasta according to directions on box.  Stir pasta, beef, and sauce together in a large baking dish.  Top with mozzarella cheese and cook at 350 for about 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and dish is heated through.

Chicken and Biscuits – see this post

Week 3:

Chicken Quesadillas

  • Chicken breast
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 or more peppers (any color), sliced
  • Fajitas
  • Shredded cheddar

I like these best if the chicken is grilled first then sliced up, but if the weather isn’t right for grilling, then slice the chicken and saute it in veggie oil until cooked through and set aside.  Saute onion and peppers in veggie oil until soft.  Put together each quesadilla using 1 fajita filled with your chosen quantity of chicken, peppers and onions, and cheese.  I make these using a panini maker to get them nice and toasted brown.

Shepherds Pie – see this link

Cream of Broccoli Soup

  • Broccoli, chopped
  • 2 cans condensed cream of broccoli soup
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • Milk
  • Shredded cheddar

Saute onion and celery in butter or veggie oil.  When soft, add broccoli, corn, cream of broccoli soup, and milk (according to amount specified on cans).  Cook on low heat until broccoli is tender.  Use an immersion blender (or a similar method) to puree most of the broccoli.  I like to leave some pieces whole still.  Serve topped with shredded cheddar.

Stromboli

  • 1 package pizza crust dough
  • 1/2 lb mild Italian sausage
  • 1 package (8 oz) pepperoni
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella

Brown sausage over medium heat.  Mix in bell pepper, onions, sauce, and mushrooms.  Lay dough flat on a cookie sheet.  Sprinkle cheese over dough, then layer with pepperoni.  Spread sauce mixture on one half of the dough, then fold dough over and pinch ends and sides together.  Poke holes on top and brush with melted butter.  Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.

Chicken Cordon Blue Paninis

  • Bakery bread (we like sourdough), sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
  • Sliced deli ham
  • 3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/2 cup ranch dressing
  • Butter

Mix dressing and cheese in a small bowl.  Lightly butter one side of each slice of bread.  Fill each sandwich with chicken, ham, and dressing mix.  Cook in a panini press until bread is toasted and cheese is melty.

Week 4:

Chicken Stir Fry

  • Chicken breast, chopped
  • Frozen stir fry veggies
  • Stir fry sauce
  • Rice
  • Crunchy Chinese noodles

Saute chicken in veggie oil over high heat to brown, then cook through over medium heat.  Add stir fry veggies and cook until heated through.  Add stir fry sauce (amount to your taste) and serve over rice, topped with crunchy noodles.

Chili – see this link.  I usually half the recipe for us.

Cranberry Chicken

  • 1/2 can cranberry sauce
  • 1/2 bottle (4 oz) Catalina dressing
  • 1/2 envelope onion soup mix
  • 3 Chicken breast

Combine all ingredients except chicken in a sauce pan and cook over low heat, stirring until combined.  Place chicken in a baking dish and top with sauce. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.  Serve over rice.  (Easy to double this one for a larger group)

Crockpot Lasagna – see this post

Loaded Baked Potatoes – we like to top them with chili and cheese.  You could use leftover chili from the recipe above!

Shrimp Linguine – see this link.  This is what we ate the night before Natalie was born!

Phew!  Congrats if you made it this far!  And with that I don’t think I’ll be posting about food for a quite a while, haha!

 

 

4 Week Dinner Plan – Grocery Lists

A couple days ago I posted about the 4 week dinner plan we’re going to try.  I wanted to follow up with the grocery lists and recipes (or links to them).

I was thinking about trying to cram all 4 weeks of information into one post, but I realized that might be a little too long of a post!  So I’m going to share the grocery lists today and then I’ll follow up with the recipes tomorrow.

A few things to note before I get to the lists though…

As I was making my lists I realized that some ingredients kept coming back over and over.  For example: ground beef, chicken breast, onions, and shredded cheddar appear every week.  Other ingredients pop up more than once as well.  It probably makes sense to buy some things in bulk/larger quantities if it means saving some money, but I kept them listed every week just so it was clear what was needed when.

I didn’t include some staple items on the lists since they are things we generally have at home and I would imagine many other people do as well.  Examples include spices, condiments, eggs, bread, and milk.  There are other things, however, that are also pretty basic ingredients that many people probably already have, but I figured wouldn’t hurt to list just in case.  I also didn’t include things for side dishes.  These lists are what you need for the recipes but if you want extra veggies or sides to go along with it that’s obviously an individual choice.

Last thing – I wasn’t super careful with listing exact amounts of what you need.  For example, I just say chicken breast as opposed to 3 chicken breasts.  I know how much I need for our family, but it might need some adjusting based on the size of the family so I figured I’d stick with the simple approach and just avoid trying to give too much detail.

Okay… here come the lists!

week 1
week 2
week 3
Week 4