Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I love Christmas ... and I'm glad it's over. My little peanut didn't exactly care for Christmas ... her colic reared its ugly head on Christmas day after weeks of lying dormant, and when baby ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

Thankfully Addie was fairly content for the morning and early part of the afternoon, and we had an awesome time watching her play with the tissue paper, ribbons and wrapping paper. She was even pretty excited for some of her toys, reaching for them and, of course, putting them in her mouth. She really enjoyed giving her dad a bag full of gifts, including a Starbucks card for when she keeps him up late, Thunder sweatpants for cuddling on the couch while watching the games and a six pack of his favorite beer for when she drives him to drink.

I was so happy to have my mom's family in town for Christmas this year, especially since when they were supposed to be here for Christmas two years ago that whole blizzard thing happened and kept everyone from coming. There is nothing better than watching the people I love delight in my baby girl. I especially loved watching her go from lap to lap during Christmas Eve service. Last Christmas Eve I was very newly pregnant and wondering what it would be like to have a baby this Christmas. It made me teary-eyed to look at her and then think of sweet baby Jesus, a baby as new and innocent and precious as mine, coming into the world to save us all. Having a baby of my own has made me appreciate the real reason for Christmas more than I ever have before.

Speaking of babies, Rebecca and Jeff's girls, Julia (5) and Lila (2), were so fun to spend Christmas Eve and day with. All three sweet babies were snuggling in my bed on Christmas morning. We spent the afternoon at Jordan's sister, Laura's, house, which, unfortunately was when Addie decided she'd had about enough of Christmas. We made quick work of opening stocking and gifts and came home earlier than we had planned. Thankfully a little nap, a bath and some naked kicking time helped baby girl get back to normal.

The day after Christmas has been a quiet one, spent putting gifts away (where in the world will we put all this stuff????), doing laundry and hanging out with a baby who clearly prefers her own house and the two people she likes best. I seriously got weepy when I folded up Addie's Christmas clothes. Sad that she'll never wear them again (and please don't ask if there will be another baby someday who will - I am NOT ready to talk about that). But at the same time, I'm excited about next Christmas with a girl who will be 16 months old - hard to believe - and probably climbing the Christmas tree. As Addie grows up, I hope Jordan and I can do a good job of teaching her why we celebrate Christmas and how to share that love with the people around us. I hope I remember the simplicity of holding my tiny baby in a dim church service, watching the candles flicker and thinking of that newborn baby lying in a manger.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Love for my Mawmaw

So apparently I am completely out of my mind. I thought it would be a brilliant idea to put together baskets of homemade goodies for Jordan's major customers this year for Christmas. Remember how I have a 4 month old? And a new job? Yeah, I guess I didn't remember those things myself. So I've been baking like a fiend in my "spare time" for the past week and in all honestly have really been enjoying it.

I realized that most of the recipes I have been using are from my Mawmaw, and I like to credit her with my love of baking. I have lots of fond memories of being in the kitchen with Mawmaw helping her bake her famous chocolate chip cookies or chocolate pie. She is 92 years old, still lives independently and every time we visit she has baked my favorite cookies and favorite bread. She is amazing. In addition to being the best baker I know, she is just the best person I know. Her life has been dedicated to her family, and she always puts others before herself. She is incredibly faithful and prays for each of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren every day. Over the course of my life, especially when I'm going through a rough time, I have always found that extremely comforting. She delights in and finds joy in the small things in life. When you are with her, she makes you feel like you're the most important person in the world. I aspire to be as dedicated a wife and mother as she has been. And as good a baker!

Mawmaw is actually in the hospital right now dealing with a reccuring health issue. Prayers for her speedy recovery and return home would be much appreciated!

Here are some of her recipes I've been making lately (and I should note that even when I follow her recipes to the letter, they never taste as good as when she's made them and I'm enjoying them in her company):
Cocoa drops - my favorite cookie
1/2 c butter
3/4 c sugar
1 egg
1/2 c milk
1 3/4 c flour
1/2 t soda
1 t vanilla
4 T cocoa powder
Mix butter and sugar. Add egg and beat. Combine milk and vanilla. Combine flour, soda and cocoa - add alternately to butter mixture with vanilla and milk. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheet. Bake at 400 for 8-10 minutes. Let cool and add icing - mix powdered sugar and milk to desired consistency and spread on cooled cookies.

Chocolate chip banana bread - growing up, this is what I asked my mom for for my birthday breakfast every  year
3 c bisquick
3/4 c sugar
1 egg
3/4 c water
6 oz chocolate chips
1 c mashed ripe bananas (3)
Preheat oven to 350. Combine bisquick and sugar. In small bowl, combine water and egg and beat well. Stir into flour mixture until moistened. Stir in chocolate chips and bananas. Spread into well-greased loaf pan (makes two regular sized loaves or four mini loaves). Bake 60-65 minutes.

Pumpkin bread
3 c sugar
1 c vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
Combine above ingredients. Add 1 can pumpkin.
3 1/2 c flour
1 t baking powder
2 t soda
1/2 t ground cloves
1 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1 t allspice
Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture. Add 2/3 water. Mix well and pour into lighty greased and floured loaf pans (two regular sized, plus one mini, or 5 mini). Bake one hour at 350.

Strawberry bread
3 c flour
1 t soda
1 T cinnamon
2 c sugar
3 eggs, well beaten
1 1/4 c vegetable oil
2 (10 oz) packages frozen strawberries (I use fresh if in season)
Combine flour, soda, cinnamon and sugar. Mix and make well in center of dry ingredients. Add eggs and oil, stirring only until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in strawberries. Pour into lightly greased loaf pans (makes two large loaves or four mini). Bake at 350 for one hour.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Addison Mae - 4 months

Are you kidding me? My baby girl is four months old? I feel like I was just carting her around in my belly, during the hottest summer in the history of the world, mind you. Addie has become a real little person in the past month. She is starting to explore the world around her, noticing people and sounds. She especially likes to notice her hands. She noticed them one day and hasn't been able to keep them out of her mouth since. We just started trying cereal this weekend, which she seems to be a fan of. She can't exactly figure out how to swallow much, but she opens her mouth very willingly for it. Though we've been cleared for veggies and fruits, I'm just not ready for that yet. I feel like at any moment I'm going to turn around and she'll be driving.

Weight: 12 lbs, 10 oz
Length: 23 3/4 in

New things this month:
  • Still not quite laughing ... but making lots of new laughing-like sounds. Loud squealing and shrieking are her personal favorites.
  • Hands in the mouth. All. The. Time. And using those amazing contraptions to get other things in her mouth - our hands, my hair, toys, blankets ... whatever she can find.
  • Pretty easily grabbing whatever she sees that she wants - again, with the intent to get it in her mouth.
  • Lots and lots of drooling. Might have something to do with all those things she's putting in her mouth.
  • Holding her head up. When sitting in our laps, she prefers to hold her head up rather than rest it against our legs. Impressive.
  • Staring at her feet. She hasn't made the move to grab them quite yet, but she is definitely aware of them. She's hanging out and then all of a sudden gets in a staring match with them - like, wait a second, are those connected to me?
  • Rolling onto her side and from her tummy to her back. She still acts surprised when she finds herself on her back.
  • Pooping. The kid who previously only pooped a couple times a month (for real) has decided that perhaps it's better for everyone if she does it every few days. Praise the Lord.
  • Still sleeping through the night, usually 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. And I say that meaning she doesn't need a feeding during that time. She still likes to wake up at least once or twice and call for someone to come hang out with her for a bit.
  • Anything with a new/fun texture. She loves soft blankets and loves her taggies. Still a fan of the nightly naked kicking routine.
  • Did I mention she likes her hands???
  • Her dog, as in the real 65-pound one. She's really started noticing Izzy and has even reached out to grab her face several times. Sweet puppy just lets Addie do whatever she wants to her and doesn't even protest.
  • Bathtime. So fun. She also had her first poop in the bath this month. Two of her favorite things at once.
  • Her mother's lovely singing voice. And any crazy noises I might make. Not surprisingly, my singing and crazy noises are quite similar. She likes to make sweet little singing voices while I sing or try to imitate the noises I'm making. She especially loves it when I imitate the noises she makes. She is her mother's daughter. :)
  • Books. Loves to be read to. And now loves to put the books in her mouth. Noticing a trend???
  • Football. She LOVES the TV, and her personal favorite is any type of sporting event. Her dad couldn't be prouder. She also loves her Baby Einstein videos. She is completely mesmerized by them, but they make her dad want to jump off the house. So football it is.
  • The Christmas tree. Loves the sparkly ornaments, the lights, the packages. She can be in the middle of a crying fit, we take her over to the tree and she immediately calms down. It's like a drug.
  • Taking a bottle. We really struggled with this when I went back to work, even though we practiced and practiced beforehand. She pretty much told my mom, "yeah, I'm not having that." It's gotten a little better, thankfully.
  • Napping. She still insists napping is for wimps.
  • Tummy time is also for wimps. Although if she can watch TV while on her tummy it's totally fine with her.
  • Putting on a coat. Because that means she has to get in the carseat.
  • Socks. I don't actually think she dislikes socks, but she's a professional at kicking them off within 1.3 seconds of them being put on.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Corn chowder and portobello sandwiches

Vegan attempt No. 3. Rebecca sent me this recipe for corn chowder:1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 cloves garlic, chopped
6 small red potatoes, cubed
2 cups corn
4 cups vegetable broth (it's worth noting that I was in a huge hurry when shopping for this recipe, couldn't find vegetable broth and said to heck with it, I'll use chicken. Kind of defeats the purpose and made me laugh :))
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cups almond milk
1 TB flour
3 TB water

In a large saucepan, saute the onion, celery and garlic. Add potatoes, corn, broth, thyme and almond milk. Simmer 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender (mine took more like 30). In a small bowl, whisk the flour and water together. Add to the soup and simmer 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with dill.

This soup reminds me of my favorite baked potato soup. It also made me remember that I had to make that soup about four times before I got the consistency and spices just right. The chowder wasn't as thick as I would have liked (I ended up whisking several tablespoons cornstarch with water to thicken it up a bit) and didn't have as much seasoning as I would have liked. I'd use about a cup or half cup less broth and double or triple the flour next time, and I would definitely add more spices. The soup is very filling - love the corn - and it was perfect for a cold evening. Like most soups, the flavors had married and gotten better on the second day.

Now for the sandwiches ... we bought a loaf of tomato basil bread at Panera and toasted. I spread my mom's homemade pesto on the bread and added a giant portobello mushroom that had been sauted in a little olive oil for about 3-5 minutes on each side - until tender. I sliced some red onion and topped with fresh spinach. These sandwiches were to die for.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Faith like Mary and Joseph

I love advent season. When I think of the word advent, I always think of the same thing. The advent wreaths I would make in Sunday School out of styrofoam plates, a little greenery and birthday cake candles. I have fond memories of carting that treasure home and performing a little advent service with my parents every Sunday in December. I may be older, but the magic and awe of advent is still just as powerful.

This season, our church is exploring the roles of key people in the Christmas story. Last week was Mary, this week was Joseph. I think we hear this story over and over again and forget to stop and think about how truly remarkable it is that the story ever happened in the first place. The most amazing thing - and what unites these two key characters - is their faith.

An angel shows up to this girl who's probably between the ages of 12 and 15 (just think of any 13-year-old girl you know and ask yourself if she would have reacted the same way) and tells her, hey, so you're a virgin but you're going to magically get pregnant and give birth to the Savior of the World. If that's not pressure, I don't know what is. Not to mention that she's engaged to what seems like a really nice guy. Don't you know she's wondering how in the heck he's going to react to this news?? And thinking that if he gets really mad and tells everyone that's she's pregnant, but not with his baby, that her fate is to be stoned to death? So all of this has to be going through her mind, but she basically says to the angel, "let it happen as you have said." Seriously??? I would have told that angel he was out of his mind.

And then you have sweet Joseph, whose role, I think, is often underappreciated. He finds out that Mary is pregnant and makes the decision to quietly "divorce" her, since being engaged is basically like being married. He doesn't want to embarrass her and certainly doesn't want her to be stoned to death. Even though he was probably feeling very betrayed and embarrassed himself, he didn't want Mary to suffer. But an angel comes to him to explain the situation and asks him to raise this child, this Savior of the World, as his own. And he does.

I question God a lot. I like to ask if He's really sure He knows what He's doing. If He really needs me to do whatever it is He's asking. If He wouldn't prefer if I took over in the decision-making in my life. How, then, these two people made the choice to ignore what their heads were likely saying and be led by their hearts, by a God they trusted more than anything in the world, is truly amazing to me. It reminds me that He does know best. That He has my best interest at heart, always. That my faith in Him should be unconditional, unwavering. So this advent season, and beyond, when I find myself questioning God and unsure of the way, I'm going to think of Mary and Joseph. I'll gain inspiration from these two characters whose choice to follow God changed my life forever.

Friday, December 2, 2011

You say it's my birthday

It's my birthday. Yep, the last one before the big one. Strangely, I'm not stressed or sad or panicked about it like I thought I'd be. On my 26th birthday, I had a major meltdown. Lots of crying, didn't want to celebrate, the works. For some reason that number made me feel old and on the downhill slide to 30. Wish I could have told my 26-year-old self that the best was yet to come. This past year has been the most rewarding and most challenging of my life. I am so thankful for my many blessings and that so many long-prayed prayers seem to have come to fruition over this year. Here are some things I'd like to tell my 30-year-old self:
  1. Please don't be stressed about being 30. It's just a number. You have an amazing life and family. Think about that instead.
  2. You know how you've had that goal to run a half-marathon for a while now? Have you done that yet? I say that knowing that your 29-year-old self is struggling to run more than 2 miles at a time right now ... hope you've gotten over that. But really, I just hope you're running or zumba-ing or lifting or going to the gym or something. No, I'm not saying you're fat. It's good "you" time. And you feel better about yourself when you do.
  3. Do you love working part time? I hope you remember all the thoughts/emotions that went into that decision and I hope it's still the right one.
  4. How's that sweet baby girl? I can't believe she's over a year old! I wonder if she's walking, how much she's talking ... so hard to imagine. Remember how tiny she was a year ago, and cherish every moment with her.
  5. Are you taking time out for your husband? Are you telling him that you love him every day? Are you having date nights, sans baby? Have you gone on a vacation, just the two of you, like you planned? Do that.
  6. Don't sweat the small stuff. You're better about this at 29 than you were at 28, so I'm hoping 30 is even better. You don't have to have a perfectly clean house, folded laundry, just the right groceries in the fridge for a perfect meal ... at least not all the time. Play with Addie before you think about the house. Talk to your husband before you worry about laundry.
  7. I'm confident you're still going to church every Sunday. I hope Addie like the nursery. She talks a lot though the sermon and prayers right now. I hope you've been able to get back involved with Sunday School. Those people are so good for you.
So, here's to the last year of my 20s. Hey Erin - the best is yet to come.

    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    Hard to say goodbye

    Today was my last day at the job I've held for the past five years. It was more than a job - it was a family. The kind that drives you crazy, keeps you up with worry at night, laughs with you till you almost wet your pants, dries your tears, brings you dinners after you've had a baby and in general makes you a better person.

    I felt like I really grew up and came into my own at this job. Sometimes I can't believe Shannon, my boss, asked me to come on board to create a new position, an entire department, and help open a new multi-million dollar museum. I was barely 24 years old. I managed media, egos, budgets, teenagers, ad campaigns, hundreds of kids running through the building, a logo redesign, movie shoots, exhibit designs ... I gained confidence, connections, creative skills and my accreditation in PR. I had the crazy idea to help build a Teen Board, one of my proudest life accomplishments, and now have more than 90 "kids" I couldn't be prouder of. I watched under-priviledged kids come to a place where people cared about them and wanted to teach them cool things about being from Oklahoma. They didn't know being from Oklahoma was cool. They didn't know they were cool. I saw kids get to go to college with money my organization provided - kids who otherwise wouldn't have had the means to go. I saw lives changed forever. My life was changed forever.

    I'm proud of the professional accomplishments I had while there, but I'm most proud of the friendships I developed. And those are bigger than a building or a job. Those I get to take with me.