Setting New Year's Goals

It's New Year's Resolution time, folks!  The other day I posted my 2013 resolutions.  Today I want to touch on how to set resolutions.  It can be tricky to come up with some things that aren't the typcial "lose 5 pounds" and "give up caffiene" (although those are good, too!), or things that you'll just break 10 minutes into the new year.

Here are my Top 10 Resolution (Goal)-Setting Strategies!

1.  Don't be turned off by the word "resolution":  I think the word resolution gets a bad wrap because of the many broken and forgotten resolutions over the years.  Think of them not as "resolutions", but as goals.  These are things you want, not just obligatory thoughts spouted at a New Year's Eve party. 

2. Don't set them hastily: Take some time to think over what you really want for the next year.  Your goals can be more than just self-improvement.  They can be financial, for your family, for work or in any other facet of your life.  In 2012 I didn't even set my resolutions till March! Don't feel the pressure to have them all ironed out tonight by 11:59pm!

3. Set some easily attainable goals: There's nothing wrong with setting a goal you know you can achieve.  It will boost your confidence and spur you on to complete some of the harder ones.

4. And set some lofty goals: Set some goals you might not reach.  Don't be afraid to put "get a promotion", "lose 50 pounds" or "save $10,000" on your list.  Even if you don't reach your goal, you will have achieved great things by the end of the year!  There's a cheesy saying that goes something like, "shoot for the moon because even if you miss you'll land among the stars".  As cheesy as it may be, it's true!  Don't think of a "miss" as a complete failure!

5. Make a plan of action: This is SUPER important!  You aren't going to read more because you put it on a list.  You're going to read more because you got a library card, carved out time to go there and carved out the time to read those books.  Every goal needs an action plan or it's just flacid words on a page.  You don't have to make the action plan before you're allowed to put it on your list: maybe your initial action is to figure out how to make one of your goals happen.  But don't wait too long to start in on that plan or December 2013 will be here and you won't have made any progress.

6. Don't get discouraged: You have ALL YEAR to reach a new year's goal.  Don't feel like you have to attack all of them on January 1st.  If you get to July and realize you're still not drinking enough water, don't consider it a failed goal--start right then!  Your goal isn't incomplete till Jan 1, 2014, so keep plugging along!

7. Resolutions aren't all about "quit" and "don't": A lot of us want to cut things out of our lives or quit bad habits.  Don't forget that resolutions can be about adding things to your life, too.  Maybe you want to learn something new, add an activity or even slow the pace of your life down.  Goals to add to your life and reach for more peace are completely valid resolutions, too!

8. Keep your list a manageable length: Consider the types of goals on your list.  If you have lots of time-consuming, difficult goals, keep your list short.  It can be longer with more easily attainable goals, but remember to keep the list manageable either way.  The longer the list, the greater the chance of you forgetting about a resolution or running out to time to reach it.  Also, if you find there's something preventing you from starting a resolution (you wanted to lose weight, but got pregnant; you wanted to learn to play the piano, but broke your hand) or you're like me last year and a resolution just stops being important to you, don't be afraid to remove it or "put a pin in it" and go for it next year.

9. Pray about it and/or enlist help: Pray about what to put on your list, how to achieve the goals and while you're working toward them.  Share your goals with others so they can help keep you accountable for them.  Ask for help if you need it--there is always someone out there who has reached the goal you're working for: find them and tap them as a resource!

10. Make it fun: These goals are probably not life or death--have some fun dreaming them up!  What items are on your "bucket list"?  Remember that even if some of your resolutions turn out to be failures, that doesn't make YOU a failure!  A try and a fail is better than no try at all.

So there's my top 10 list--I'm a regular Letterman, eh?  Do you have any other tips that work for you?


New Year Resolutions--It's that time again!!!

You can see my full New Year Resolution 2012 post here for my incredibly late goals for this year.  I actually thought about my 2013 resolutions a little sooner this year (two points for me)! 

Let's start with a short 2012 recap:
1. Redo the sunroom--Complete!  (unfortunately we don't live there anymore...)
2. Read the Bible more--Better than before, but made the list again this year
3. Sew something--Fail.  Not even going back on the list.
4. Stop picking my fingers--SO.MUCH.BETTER!!!  Not perfect, but I consider this a success!
5. Drink more water--Goes in shifts :S
6. Worry less about working out and eating right and just enjoy--umm...I'm pregnant now, so...success?
7. Accept things from God instead of asking for them--Semi-fail.  Kind of did it, kind of forgot about it.
8. Have some "me" time--took it off the list b/c I didn't really care about it.

Whew!  Looks like a typical New Year Resolution list, eh?  Well, here's the list for 2013:

1.  Read the Bible more & build my faith/relationship with Him--We have a daily reading plan at church and that sounds like a good place to start.  There are a lot of facets to this--I'll try to keep you updated on how it's all going.
2.  Reduce screen time--We started talking last night about how we grew up without cell phones and kids today grew up with them.  I want to strategically reduce my and Nora's screen time--TV and (for me) phone.  I'm looking forward to sitting in the quiet reading my Bible and then a magazine in the evenings instead of keeping a hawk eye on Facebook.
3. Have a healthy pregnancy--Of course there are things outside my control, but I want to be intentional about healthy weight gain, exercise practices and eating habits.
4.  Have a healthy post-pregancy--This entails healthy weight loss, caring for my post-partum mental health and working really hard at breast feeding including seeking out any help I need.
5.  Give more gifts--I want to be more mindful of people and their lives--thank yous, sending cards, get-well gifts, birthdays, anniversaries and more.  Possibly start a gift closet or tote.
6. Save Money
7.  Make Action Plans--It's not enough to set goals or to want something, I plan to make Action Plans this year to make my wants/goals a reality.

So there.  Seven resolutions for 2013. Do you set resolutions?  Have you set yours yet?  I didn't set mine till March 2012, so it's not too late!!!


Amazing Children

So today I had the TV on during the intro to the Jeff Probst Show.  He said something about learning to be a Dad to two "amazing" children.  It made me think of just how often I hear people describe their kids as "amazing".  It's a relatively overused word, but the more I thought about it, the more true I realized it is. 

You've never heard someone describe their kids or neice or nephew as "average", or "less-than-amazing".  That's because no one thinks that!  It doesn't matter if your child is accelerated, normal or behind in growth or development, there is not just SOMETHING, but A TON OF THINGS that are amazing about him or her. 

God made us fearfully and wonderfully.  He designed our bodies and brains in ways that mystify science.  Simply the way a baby grows in the womb, the process of birth and the astounding way that babies start learning and have instincts from day 1 is amazing.  Add to that the individual personalities, gifts and intricacies of every single person and you have a truly amazing miracle from God. 

I am always astounded by the way a human can throw a basketball into a hoop.  Sure, it takes practice and a little instruction, but you don't have to be taught it like you do math.  Your brain perceives where the hoop is, how big it is, the angles involved and sends a signal to your arms and hands to throw the ball in the appropriate arc to get it in the hoop.  Even if you miss but get close, it's still an amazing feat when you think about it!  Then take into account the way you see your baby develop the pincher grip, coordination, how to throw and catch a ball--you are watching a miracle as her brain develops!

That's just a little ramble that went on in my head today.


Project Soy: Day 1

So last night Zach and I were talking to a friend about NR's bowel trouble.  If you're not in the know, she has trouble pooping a lot of the time, but she's not textbook constipated because her stool isn't hard.  Sorry, non-parents.  This is the stuff our conversations are made of these days.  Look forward to it.  Or add one more reason to your list of why you're not having kids, whatever floats your boat. 

Anyway, I mentioned that NR didn't have any trouble until she was almost a year old.  I always connected the start of her troubles with the same time frame that she started eating more "people food" than baby food.  But last night I realized that the start of her trouble also coincides with us starting her on cow's milk.

So project soy was born.  We had to stop at the store anyway, so we went ahead and picked up a half gallon of soy milk (at $2.99/half gallon.  What!?) and see if it affects her.  She already eats a ton of fruit, prunes and prune juice, I add flax to some foods and she doesn't get cheese, bananas or rice/rice products and occasionally gets a non-stimulant stool softener and still the problem persists.  So we're going to try out the soy for a while.  She drank her first cup of it today and liked it, so that's a win.  We've known several people who say switching away from cow's milk helped their kids in that area, so it's worth a try.  I'm hoping for miraculous results.

We bought original Silk.  Does anyone else have suggestions for non-dairy milk?  Any tricks or places to look for it cheaper?  Does Aldi ever carry non-dairy milk?


I'll save my $8, thanks: common sense and education are better than some products

[Photo Source]

Above you see a Parking Pal Magnet.  There's a handprint in the middle of the magnet.  You slap one of these babies on your car in parking lots for your child to put their hand on so they stay safe.  Great idea.  The first time I saw these online I thought, "Man, what a great idea!  I so need one of these!  What can I do in the meantime?  We have some Julius magnets from a happy meal...I can just stick one of those on the van and NR can put her hand on that."

Well, then we went to the store.  When we came out I realized I had forgotten my trusty magnet to stick on the van.  It didn't matter because I had my hands full and couldn't have gotten it out anyway.  So I pointed to spot on the van and told NR to "touch the van".  She did so dutifully!  It worked like a charm: I got groceries loaded without wrestling her into the carseat first and she was safely hanging out against the van (within eyeshot, of course.  At the time she was only about 18 months old, so she needed a couple reminders to keep touching the van).   

On the way home I began reasoning: When I come out of the local grocery store I usually have my hands full of grocery bags and I'm holding NR's hand, so I can't pull out a magnet from wherever I have it stashed.  Often on these local trips I don't carry a purse or a diaper bag, just my wallet, so there would be no where to stash a magnet. I would have to unlock the van before putting it on or try to remember to stick it on there before going into the store.  Let's be realistic here, how many moms do you know that are going to remember that?
If it was a big grocery trip, I have a cart and typically NR is in the cart, voiding the need for a Parking Pal.  At the mall there is usually a stroller involved.  So the only times NR is in the parking lot are on those quick runs into the local grocery, Family Dollar, Ben Franklin or somewhere like a thrift store. 

So we've stuck with "touch the van" around here.  Now she's a little taller and loves to hold the door handle till I'm ready to put her in. 

I'm not trying to defame Parking Pal--for some kids it's probably perfect and maybe it works especially well with more than one kid or older kids.  I don't have experience in those areas.  My little "pleaser" will do just about anything you ask her, so I have it easy.

My real point is there are a blue million products out there to "make it possible" to do things that are just as easily done without them.  Most of these products offer visual interest and a specific function, but are absolutely not necessary.  Most of the time they can be substituted with a little time teaching our kids or some common sense. 

Can you think of something that is supposed to make life easier, but is actually its own burden, or is just not necessary at all?  There are a lot in the baby/kids realm especially.  I can think of two that I have bought that just didn't turn out to be as helpful as I'd hoped.  Check out this podcast from the Playdate Crashers for some of their "Not Must-Haves". 



I was thinking of Thanksgiving memories this evening and just wanted to share a little. 

For as long as I can remember we always went to my Aunt Weese's house for Thanksgiving.  We would always squeeze into her little home and watch football (and once in a great while, the dog show) and eat and visit.  I'd get hollered at for snacking on the pickle and olive tray (heavily) before lunch was ready.

My aunt always wears a lot of jewelry.  My memory tells me that it wasn't odd for her to be wearing 8 or 10 rings on Thanksgiving.  Even if that's exaggerated (as I've learned childhood memories sometimes are), it's not by a lot.  She would sometimes let me try on a diamond ring and see it sparkle on my hand.  We always wore Christmas earrings and had a contest to see who could wear the most audacious earrings to Thanksgiving dinner.  We had everything from light up Christmas bulbs to reindeer that played "Rudolph". 

We always ate ourselves silly surrounded by our family and I would drink green punch until I was sick.  Every year I drank that punch till I was green in the gills--still can't help myself.  I inevitably fell asleep somewhere just out from under foot after lunch (not just as a child--I still did this when I came home from college to Thanksgiving). 

Then we'd head out to my Aunt Blanch and Uncle Bo's for dessert and to piece on leftovers.  As a child I saw some cousins I didn't always get to see.  They were in the military or lived far away and this was a special treat.  After everyone was out of the Marines and moved home, it was just time to play games or do crafts together and as an adult, a time to sit around the dining room table and catch up and laugh.  Oh, the laughing.  That is still my favorite part of my family getting together.

Being together has gotten harder as an adult since we've moved away and my job doesn't always afford me the time off needed to make the trip. 

Last year, though, I had the joy of hosting Thanksgiving for both Zach's and my family and for the first time, a friend.  We all squeezed into our tiny house--10 or 12 of us.  We ate and laughed and enjoyed each other.

This year we don't get to make the trip to see either family, so we're borrowing some (my parents visited last weekend and Zach's will be here Friday).  We're going over to some friends from church's home with some of their family and other friends from church.  I expect we'll enjoy each other and laugh and laugh. 

Before going over, though, we're going to have our first Thanksgiving as just the 3 of us.  We'll have some breakfast and watch the parade and make some pies to take along.  I'm very excited for tomorrow morning.

This year I'm thankful for my little family here, for my family far away and for friends who are like family.  I'm thankful for happy memories, for our new town, our new church.  I'm thankful for all our health and for a roof over our heads.  I could go on and on, but I won't.  I hope you can come up with some things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving and I hope you have the blessing of happy memories of Thanksgivings gone by. 

God Bless!


Memory Triggers

Is there something odd or small that makes you remember something in particular?

Today I was reading this article on Design Mom (my very favorite blog) about newspapers.  I realized that every time I read a newspaper I remember very clearly the dream I had as a child to write for a newspaper.  There's something about the skinny columns and the succinct stories that always appeals to me.  Touching a newspaper also makes me think of Clark Kent and Lois Lane.  Every time.  Not kidding.

If I really was a newspaper writer, I think I would want to write a weekly column, though I'm not sure what I'd write it about.  I'd also like writing those feature articles that always make your heart swell and your throat tighten (you know what I mean...that description sounded more like you need an Epi-pen)

What types of things bring back memories, hopes, or dreams for you?

[Photo Credit]


Pin Win!


I am terrible at Pinterest.  I have 50 boards, 1480 pins.  And I have accomplished about 5 of them.  And failed at about 5 of them.

But this week I had a pin win!  I pinned this recipe for pretzel rolls a few weeks ago and I've looked at it over and over, drooling over how delicious they look.

Pinned Image
Here is my "Food" board on Pinterest

Don't they look great?  Well, this week I finally decided to brave this recipe.  I've never made bread from scratch before, so this was pretty intimidating, but check out how great they turned out!
They're not as round and picture-perfect as the pinterest pic, but I was quite pleased.  They were not the easiest thing I've ever made, but their deliciousness is worth every minute it takes to make them (easily 2 hours)!  I'm letting the dough rise on my 2nd batch this week as I type this!

Truly, and I mean this--if I can do it, you can do it!  Run, don't walk (high-speed, don't dial up?) to une bonne vie for the recipe!


Getting Behind

Let's face it: no matter who you are, sometimes you get behind at work. 

It doesn't matter if it's a day off, sick days, not enough hours in the day or just good (or not-so-good), old-fashioned procrastination, it happens to everyone.

Does this feeling of being behind motivate you to work extra hard to catch up, or does it drive you to dispairland where you sit in sackcloth and ashes and gnash your teeth about never getting caught up again?

To be honest I think it depends on the task even more than it depends on my mood.  My Mom is one who can't leave/stop/go to bed with a task that must be finished undone.  If you give her a deadline of today, it will be done before she sleeps.  I have a little of that in me.  But once it a while it's just impossible to finish (I only get to log so many hours a week) and if it's some tedious, unloved task, it teeters on the precipice of falling into dispairland. 

I have been there a little this week, but I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel!  Hopefully some hard work tomorrow and a restful weekend will put me back on track to motivation station!  (haha, that's terrible, but I need a counterpart for dispairland!)

I wish you the blessing of a productive day and a restful weekend!  <3 p="p">


The Hope that We Have

A couple of weeks ago we had a great Sunday focused around Hope. 

There are tons of things I could say about the day and I'm sure each person walked away with something different set on their heart. 

The day started with a fantastic set of music to get us ready for probably the best sermon our Pastor, Dallas, has delivered since we arrived here.  You can listen to the full message here: "Hope" 10/21/12.

Then, on Sunday evening we had a worship experience complete with music, drama and live art that was touching and uplifting.  I am honored to have been a part of it.  Here are a few shots:

One of the things that has stuck with me deeply from the day was about hope for the future.  It's not about what Christians normally think about when think of hope for the future--that we can make it through this world because Heaven awaits.  This is hope for our future here, on earth, in this life.

Several months ago my Mom shared with me a conversation she had with another family member.  The other person was expressing dispair over the state of this world and how she didn't understand how people justify continuing to bring new children into this broken world that is only getting worse.  Fair argument, I'd say.  Plenty of people have thought on this and provided discourse for and against the subject.  Mom told her she hopes Zach and I have more children to bring happiness and joy to this world. 

To be a light.

The thing that Dallas said that has stuck is along these lines: I hope Jesus tarries a little in coming back because I'd love my children to have the opportunity to lead someone to Him.

To bring Light--the Light of Christ.  Each child in our broken world isn't the threat of another rebellious teenager, abuser, criminal, or sociopath.  They are children that God wants for His own.  They are the potential to be God's hand outstretched to the downtrodden, God's voice to the broken, God's hope to the hopeless.  Each one has the potential for God to use them to change their world, someone else's world, even the entire world. 

I choose to pray for Nora and any future children we'll have to that end.  I pray for them to simply beam with the Light of Christ and I pray that we will listen to God's guidance in raising them so they will.  And I thank God, on this first day of November, for His Hope.

It's Fall, Ya'll!

Guess what I did today?  The temperatures have dipped, the heat has been bumped up a few degrees, the leaves are down and I put the proverbial nail in Summer's coffin.  That's right, I put away our outside toys.  The hammock has been disassembled, the little tykes slide has been brought in along with our canvas camp chairs.  It made me smile.

I was glad to spend time outside--even if for just a few minutes.  I raked for just a couple of minutes and was able to build an enormous leaf pile.  I love that crinkly swish-swish sound of leaves being raked and it took me back to memories of my cousin, Nici and friend, Katie and playing in the leaves.  One year Nici and I even went to our school's Halloween costume party as a two-headed monster dressed in a giant black garbage bag filled with leaves.  We were itchy and happy (and I think we won a prize, too).

Fall is that kind of time for me.  Happy and nostalgic.  I love the sights, sounds, smells and it only gets better from here now that Halloween has passed, we can start to look on toward Thanksgiving--possibly my favorite holiday. 

Speaking of Halloween, I'll leave you with a couple shots of our little octopus:

I couldn't improve on A Young Wife's Tale's tutorial for the costume, so you can find it here.  I changed just two things: I stuffed with plastic grocery bags since I had them on hand and instead of stitching on the eyes, I drew pupils on cotton balls and safety pinned them on.  They looked cute, but you'll notice she's not wearing her hat...she destroyed one of the eyeballs before we even got a picture.  :)

Happy Fall.  What are you thankful for on this first day of November?


Brain Dump

So I haven't posted in a while because I don't really have anything post-worthy. But I do have a handful of things that wouldn't make a whole post but will make one all put together.

1. Sideways keyboard: I just got a new phone for my birthday. I switched from android to iPhone which for the most part has been a good switch. However I just discovered that I don't have the sideways keyboard inside the blogger app! This is the app that the sideways keyboard is most clutch! Come on!

2. Fall fest: We just got home from a week in Evansville. Last week was the annual fall festival which is an enormous street festival in town. By enormous I mean I've heard it's the 2nd largest-beaten out only by Marsi Gras! We ate tons of greasy, overpriced food that made our stomachs hurt...it was spectacular. My favorite food this year was a BBQ pork topped baked potato. My other staple is a tenderloin, which did not disappoint this year. What did disappoint? The fact that I am apparently allergic to Evansville. I have sneezed and snorted all week long! We've been home 3 hours and I already am starting to feel better. Crazy! The other best thing about fall fest is seeing everyone. Evansville isn't a small town, but you always see lots of people you know (and for us, haven't seen in a long time) and it's great to catch up.

3. Marathon: I'm getting really excited for the Chicago Marathon. Unfortunately, I will be at church the entire time it's going on, so I'll miss all the coverage. I'm excited to see what I can on the news later. I don't know why I'm so excited. I don't follow running or run myself, but I am. Being so near the city is really exhilarating and I think I'm just picking it up.

4. House: We found a house we're interested in. More interested than I care to admit. I hope it's not crumbling or moldy or on a fault line or the bottom of a volcano or something. I'll keep you updated as things progress.

5. Winter clothes: So we thought we'd only be in this rental for a few months when we moved here. Well, here we are a few months after those few months and its getting cool...pretty cool...tomorrow when we leave for church weather.com says it'll only be 31 degrees. That's Fahrenheit. On October 7. Guess what we don't have at the rental? Coats. Except Nora--she has an OK one. Layers it is!

That's my brain dump--any thoughts? No? Well, then, have a happy Sunday!


Go Cats!

OK, if you're not family or close friends you probably won't want to read this (and maybe not even then).

We had a great night tonight with our little lady at the local high school football game.  At the first game of the season the team was woeful, but NR was obsessed with the cheerleaders.  She stood at the fence and clapped and yelled, "Go!".  It was adorable.  The cheerleaders were enamored by her.  After hearing about it, Zach's Mom made a little cheerleader uniform for her to wear. 
My miniature cheerleader

Tonight was the first chance we had for her to wear it to a game.  We got her all dressed up and took her to see the cheerleaders.  This game was epic--it seemed like half the town was there!  Nora loved the cheerleaders and they thought she was adorable in her miniature uniform.  The team was better, too--apparently they haven't lost a game since that first one.  We left at halftime and the score was 58-0!  Insane!  What does the coach of the losing team say in that locker room???  I asked if there was a mercy rule in high school football!  (There's not). 

To make the evening even better, the Illini band was there and played at the beginning and at halftime.  The band was HUGE and they looked and sounded great! 

A little blurry, but Nora clapped and patted Daddy's head with the drums!

The Marching Illini

To top it all off, the cheerleaders were sweet enough to take a picture with Nora!
Nora and the WHS cheerleaders! (Sorry they all have eye glare!)

She played with friends and made new friends.  She climbed all over underneath the bleachers and cheered with the cheerleaders and the crowd.  It was a blast!  She was pooped and happy when we got home.
She decided the ground was a good place to chill when she got tired.

So there's our awesome night!



Hey there!  I'm still alive, how about you? 

I wish I could blog at the speed of my thoughts.  I'd post 5 times a day!  But I can't.  Here are some highlights.

1.  I hate election years.  I know, I know, it's SO important to vote.  Whatever.  I'll just be glad when it's all over and TV is normal and facebook shuts up about it.

2.  Zach is currently (like, as I type this) auditioning for our community musical.  I hope he's having a blast!

3.  Parenting just keeps getting more and more interesting.  Every day brings a new thing to think about.  I know every parent feels this way, but she is just so smart!  She's starting to want to use the potty, beginning to learn colors and practicing picture/name association of her extended family members.

Lounging on Deigo while she reads at the library

4.  I taught my first piano lesson tonight (well, the first in several years).  It was fun and he's going to catch on really quickly.  I want to teach much more.

5.  Tomorrow is Friday and that makes me really happy.

6.  My friend Cheryl, Nora and I spent the holiday weekend at my Parents'.  It was relaxing and really fun.  We just hid away with my family (except for a trip to McDonald's and the park) and hung out.  My neices gave me a pedicure (ages 10, 11 and 12). 

7.  Do you ever go back and watch videos or listen to recordings of you doing things in your past and realize that you were not as good as you had thought?  Yeah, that happened this weekend.  Let's just say in college I was NOT all that and a bag of chips.  Haha!

8.  I seriously love being a parent!  Every day is so much fun and a new adventure.

NR's first pony tail!
9.  I seriously love being a wife.  My husband is awesome and he is still easily my best friend.  I just love being around him, being loved by him and loving him.

10.  I love our teenagers at FCC.  I haven't had all that much chance to connect with them, but I already love them dearly and have many things on my heart about them and for them.  God wants big things for FCC's youth and I just pray that I can help encourage them to come into close relationship with Him so they can follow His lead.

Ten is a nice, round number, so I'll leave it here.  What have you been musing about lately?  Have a nice night!


The Importance of Pictures

I've always been a picture taker.

When I was a kid going to camp, there was never an exposure left over on my disposable camera, and boy did I think I was hot stuff when those cameras started coming with a built-in flash and 27 exposures instead of 24!

I got my first "real" camera the summer before 4th or 5th grade when I took a photography project for 4-H.  It was a Kodak 110 camera.  If you don't know what in the world that is, here's a picture:

That's when I learned to load film--how old school is that?!  My had a camera at one point that you had to wind yourself when the film ran out--no auto-rewind in those days!  I got my first digital camera as a high school graduation present.  Now I have my "pocket camera" (a Kodak Easy-Share M1063 that slips easily into any bag or pocket for everyday use--and as a bonus, it's purple) and my "nice camera" (a Cannon Rebel T1i). The camera on my Samsung Captivate phone is pretty good, too, despite not having a flash.

I have boxes of pictures from my childhood and teen years both taken by others of me and that I took.  I have thousands of digital photos from my college years.  Candids of family, friends, acquaintences and the occasional stranger. 

The pictures have tapered off, though, over the years. Now and then I'll get a wild hair (hare?) and take a bunch of pictures, but sometimes even special occasions go photographically undocumented by me. 

Then the other day I was reading a blog called Marriage Confessions where the blogger's dad died suddenly.  I feel very sad for Katie and her family, of course, but the thing that struck me were the pictures in her post.  She had so many candid, every-day shots of her dad with her kids, smiling, golfing.  I realized I don't have enough pictures of our family.  I need more pictures of our parents with Nora.  I need more pictures of my nieces and nephews and our cousins.  We need pictures of our new church family and pictures of Nora with her friends. 

I read a blog called On Just A Couple Acres where one of the blogger's goals is to take a picture every day and she shares them weekly.  I am going to try to take at least one picture every day.  I probably won't share them weekly on here (partially because I am the WORST about uploading pictures and partially because I try to avoid putting other peoples' kids on the internet), but I am going to do my best to take them. 

Both cameras are charging up right now and I've already got my shot for today--rain falling from the gutter (it's been gently storming all morning). 

What pictures are important to you?  Which ones do you need to be more intentional about taking?


Awww, Poop!

This morning we all slept in a little later than usual due to a VBS-induced coma.  I was sitting at my desk getting ready for work.  Nora walks in at 7:57am smiling and carrying a stuffed animal.  I greet her and lean down to give her a hug. 

When I put my cheek against her head, I feel that it is wet.  Wondering why her hair is wet first thing in the morning, I pull back and look.  What do I find there?  Poop!  Poop matted in her hair!  How?  I still don't know!  98% of the poop was in her diaper.  1% on the bed and 1% in her hair!

Mommy shudders.  I immediately took her in and cleaned her up, but instead of putting on a fresh diaper, I stripped her down and started some bath water.  Oh, and washed my face. 

Then I walked into the bedroom (with NR trailing behind--I didn't leave her alone with the bath water) and said to Zach, who was wishing he was still asleep, "I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Nora needs a bath before daycare.  She had poop in her hair."

He got up and gave her a bath and got her ready and I timed in to work 2 minutes late.  So goes life with a toddler, I suppose!


"15 & 16 Month Update" or "Holy Flying Time, Batman! Where Did July Go?"

Ready or not, I'm writing this post before any more time slips away!
We have made it to 16 months!  Wow!

Nora is growing and changing daily in hard-to-describe ways.  Her motor skills and language skills are developing monumentally and she does something to amaze me every day.  She’s kind of a garbage disposal—she’ll eat about anything.  We’re trying some redirection with her recently because she would snack all day if you’d let her and I think sometimes it’s just boredom.  We’re trying to give her interesting things to do instead of snacking (or yelling for a snack).  That’s not a relationship with food I want her to have later in life, so we’re starting early. 
We had some big firsts in the past couple months.  One big one is that we turned her car seat.  No particular reason, just one day it felt right.  I like that I can see her better and now when she drops something, she tends to drop it toward the front of the van instead of the back so I can reach it and give it back to her.  I honestly don't think she'd care if one day I changed my mind and turned her back around, though. 
The other is that she spent her first extended time away from us.  Zach's parents came up for a visit two weekends ago and took her back home with them for a week.  She had a great time and we had a power outage and tree in our yard for several days last week, so it was pretty good timing.  However, six days is most decidedly too long to be away from my baby!  I was so happy to have her home on Saturday!
She blows on her food, uses a fork well (and a spoon not as well), loves to drink out of cups (though she needs some supervision) and anything with a straw.  Her skill in feeding herself grew dramatically in just two months' time!
She is still sleeping well, still usually taking 2 naps a day, loves climbing and carrying "purses". 
She is a swimming machine!  She'll jump off the side of a pool to me and loves to jump in and go under the water.  If I let her dunk under and let go of her she even kicks her legs to get back to me and then grins when she comes back up!  I am amazed at her love of the water!  It's a little scary, though, too.  You have to keep an eagle eye on her anytime there's a body of water around.  She's not afraid to walk right in.  We're working on learning that she is absolutely not allowed around water without Mommy or Daddy.  We even keep the toilet lid down--I'm not paranoid about much, but drowning is one thing I am paranoid about.
She's learning to play with others more each day (though she has a long way to go!).  She has some good friends who are 2 who are teaching her lots about sharing and taking turns.  She can navigate stairs pretty well (if she's not in a hurry).  She talks to Dora the Explorer now--points to things on the screen and answers some of her questions, which just amazes me.
A couple mishaps: she got bitten by a bug and got an infection from it, but it turned out to be much less of a big deal than I feared it might.  She also ate paint (on my watch, Momma fail).  Actually, she didn't swallow enough to hurt her, but it was all over her face and hands--I turned my back on the paint can (that I thought she couldn't reach) for 30 seconds.  This is the theme of our lives right now--she's always into something you didn't think she would/could be.  So goes living with a toddler.
I could say SO MUCH MORE about her.  She's just the best!  I totally underestimated how much fun having a little one would be and had no idea the love I could feel for her--I could burst every day of my life.  My parents come this weekend to visit and I can't wait for them to see her!  Without further ado--pictures!
Eating Watermelon in the back yard

The family on Nora's first boat ride

Trying to feed herself around 15 months

...but it usually deteriorated to this (she's better at it now)

NR and Daddy watching a baseball game at the park

Playing in "her cabinet"

She knows she's cute

In Mommy's hiking boots

Eating a PB sandwich on the couch in the youth room

All the pictures are 15 months and the videos are 16 months.  Can't believe how the time is flying!  Babies don't keep, do they?


The Battle of the Hair.

And then this happened:
Please excuse our delightfully oudated bathroom--it's a rental!

After over a year of pixie and nearly-pixie hair, I put a little twist in the front of my hair.
I had my hair grown out a little longer than it is now until a couple months ago when I went into my hair appointment (the 1st one in our new town) planning to tell her to just stack the back and leave the length everywhere else…and instead told her to “do whatever”.  And she proceeded to give me the exact haircut I had been growing out for 6 months. 
It was OK, I like the haircut, but I was just ready for something new.  So here I am, “growing it out” again (I put that in quotes because I haven’t had my hair longer than my shoulders twice in my life).
I’m ready to have my curly hair back and this was a milestone today!

...But I am already considering going to get the back stacked...I don't think I can survive the mullet stage of growing it out!


Thoughts on Family and Home

The nieces and nephew a couple years ago on family vacation

So there was this one time that I was home alone with NR all week and I was going to do all these things while Zach was at camp.  I was going to do dishes, clean the van, mow the lawn, go to the park, ride bikes, go for a hike, and blog a whole bunch.

Then none of that happened.

NR and I have had a blast just vegging while Daddy has been gone.  We've watched too much TV, ate junk food, stayed up late, fingerpainted, played with friends and just all around spent some good quality time together.  We're both ready for him to come home tomorrow, though.

For the past 12 days my uncle has been in the hospital and then in hospice.  Yesterday evening he passed away after holding on for a long time.  Times like these always make me think about family.  Hearing the pain in my family's voices on the phone and seeing sad posts on facebook make me ache to be there.  I feel separate, less like a member of the family, less vital to the family, like I've forsaken them.  I wish I could drop everything and go there.  To go home.

I always make a concerted effort to call anywhere that Zach and I (and Nora now) are together "home".  Grayson was home when we were in college.  It's where we fell in love, where we got married and where we had our first apartment.  Evansville was home and will hold a place in our hearts as the place we made incredible friends who we became adults with, where we bought our first house and where we brought our first baby home from the hospital.  Wilmington is home now.  It's where we've been called.  It's where we've found ourselves surrounded by the most amazing and supportive people.  People who make it home.  People who are our family when our real families are far.  It's where we're following God.

But the place I grew up will always be home in a different way.  It's the place I come from.  It's where the greatest part of my personality and character were formed.  It's where my family is.  My whole family.  About 90% of my immediate and extended family on both sides lives within a couple of hours of the home I grew up in.  We have a special family.  Big and close.  We celebrated everything.  Birthdays, holidays, special events, sports wins, graduations, summer, Sunday...everything and nothing was a reason to be together.  I've been to Sunday afternoon lunches bigger than our official "family reunion".  It's still that way, only I'm not part of it anymore.  I make it back to my roots about 2 or 3 times a year.

It's times like these that I long to be back there.  I long to see my neices and nephew's band concerts and softball, soccer, football, or basketball games.  I want to visit with aunts and uncles and cousins.  I want to drop in at my sister's house and spend time with my brother, sister and their families.

I went through a time in college and when we first moved to Evansville when I was a bad family member.  I rarely called, I never sent cards.  In the past few years I've been trying to be a better family member.  I try to be in contact more.  Admittedly, I'm still bad at sending cards.  I don't want Nora to grow up and not know her family.  I remember a few cousins that I always had to get used to any time they came to visit when I was little.  I don't want Nora to have to "warm up" to her Grandparents.  And this goes for both sides of the family--Zach's parents and family are several hours away, too.

I don't really know where I'm going with all this, I'm just rambling. 

I think the moral of the story is: be conciously grateful for your family.  It doesn't matter who your family is, they're yours and God gave them to you for a reason.  He picked you all to go together--married in, biological, half, step or otherwise.  If you love someone, say so.  Hug your brother.  Let your sister know how much you think about her.  Call just because.  Let the facebook world wait--tell them your joys and sorrows first.  Let them know they're important and valued to you, no matter the physical distance between you.

I'm feeling a little homesick, I guess. 

God, bless every member of my family.  If they are far from you, draw them to you.  Those who are hurting, comfort them tonight.  Thank you for choosing them for me.  Without them I wouldn't be here with you now and you knew that from the beginning of time.  Help me never forget my roots, either physically or spiritually.


Laundry Week: Wrap-Up, Updates and Last Thoughts

Thanks for joining me for laundry week last week!  Also, thanks for bearing with my sporadic posting schedule.  I have a 15 month old and a full time job.  Enough said, right?
In case you missed anything, here’s a recap of last week’s adventure:

Wet Bucket: don’t miss the update on this one or you might end up with a really stinky wet bucket!

Homemade Laundry Detergent: Just this week it has worked on a blowout onto sheets, river mud and watermelon.  Pretreated with some Fels, it took car grease out of a white hat, too!

Line Drying: A friend (Courtney B) and my Mom both gave me the same helpful hint—throw line-dried clothes into the dryer for a few minutes to eliminate stiffness.

Sorting and Putting Away: If only motivation to do this was so easy to come by…

I just realized I promised a technique for folding T-shirts, but didn’t deliver.   I know you were biting your nails and losing sleep over it.  Well, wish and wonder no more!  I learned this from my dear friend Bethany.
Lay T-shirt face down.  I do this step holding it up, but it’s easier to take pictures of it lying down.  However you do it, you want to fold the t-shirt face out.

Fold in one sleeve and then the other

For a long-sleeved t-shirt, just fold the sleeve back and down so that lays vertical on the shirt.
Fold in half bottom to top

Fold in half again bottom to top

Now put your t-shirts in the drawer with the fold facing up

This process makes up to 3 times more t-shirts fit into one drawer!  You can also see all of your t-shirts and tell which is which without rooting through the drawer and messing up all the shirts left behind.  I will never go back to the old way.  When NR was little and had tons of onesies, I folded them in half and placed them fold-up in her drawer so I could see all of them, too.

Well, that’s a wrap for “Laundry Week”!  Thanks for coming along for the ride!


Laundry Week Day 3: 5 Tips for Folding and Putting Away

Photo Credit
If you're anything like me, you often end up with a ton of clean laundry and feel overwhelmed at the thought of folding/hanging it and putting it away.  I've got some tips for that!

1. Set the Stage: I always make my bed first. This gives me lots of space to organize and make piles.
2. Open the Drawers: If you have a drawer of clothes that don't get folded (read: underwear), go ahead and open the drawer so you can just toss in the clean items.
3. Make Piles: On my bed, I make a pile of clothes that go in the first drawer, a pile for the second, a pile for the shelf in the closet, etc.
4. Hanging Around: If you have the time (and space) and your loads of laundry are this organized, go ahead and put hanging clothes straight on the hanger as soon as you take them out of the dryer.  Then take them immediately to the closet.  If you don't, it might help to save them for last in their own pile till everything else is put away.
5. Baby Steps:  This is the most important one for me!  Instead of dumping everything out in a giant heap, take it one basket at a time.  Fold an entire basket of laundry and then put it away before you even look at the next one.  If I try to fold all the tshirts and then put them all away at once, I end up with three half-full baskets of laundry strewn everywhere from fishing the tshirts out.  Going one basket at a time helps me keep my sanity.

Do-able, right?!  Tomorrow I'll show you an awesome folding system I use for our unruly tshirt drawers!  Until then, have a lovely sleep and a blessed day tomorrow!


Laundry Week Day 2: 6 Tips for Line Drying

How could you not line dry after seeing sheets rippling in the wind like this?

Welcome to Laundry Week Day 2!  Today I'm talking about drying clothes.  I love line drying!  It's not for everyone and I avoid hanging our skivvies out there for the world to see, but maybe it IS for you!  We even use a hybrid drying process at our house.  Here are both sides of the issue:

1. You save energy by not running the dryer
2. Unless you live in Dowisetrepla, clothes smell lovely!
3. Related to point #1, you are helping the planet out
4. If you play it right, you can get twice as much laundry done in a day

1. If you have allergies, this might not be the system for you
2. Slightly more labor-intensive than throwing them in the dryer
3. Takes longer to dry--not recommended if you need those jeans in 30 minutes.
4. In all cases, but especially in combo with homemade laundry detergent, line drying doesn't leave clothes fluffy and "Downy Soft"

Some Tips For Drying Laundry:
1. Choose which clothes go where: Z doesn't like his shirts line dried because he doesn't like the feel of them. Like I said above, I don't typically line dry our skivvies.  Sheets and blankets as well as towels are wonderful on the line.
2. Efficency: Like I said in Pros point #4, if you wash a load of "Line Laundry" between two loads of "Dryer Laundry", you get more loads finished in the same amount of time.  Line drying takes longer, but dryer drying takes longer than a cycle in the wash, so you put a load in the washer and dryer at the same time.  The washer takes less time than the dryer, so that load goes to the line.  You put a 3rd load in the washing machine and by the time it's finished, the dryer is ready for another load. (But you never have 3 loads of laundry to do at the same time, do you?)
3. Hanging Laundry: Hanging shirts from the hem instead of the shoulders or the collar helps with those pesky clothespin marks.
4. Switching Line Loads: The best way I've found is to stack two laundry baskets.  When you get outside, unstack them and put the dry clothes into the empty basket.  I often fold the laundry as I take it off the line (If I have the time).  Then hang the wet clothes and restack the baskets.  This ensures that no item ends up on the ground.  You're also not trying to fling half a load of laundry over your shoulders while endlessly squatting and standing to replace items on the line one by one.
5. Give it a shake: This goes for hanging and removing (you know, when you flick it and it snaps like maids making beds in old movies...).  When hanging, shaking the clothes out helps with the wrinkles.  When removing: some bugs, pollen or grass clippings may have found their way onto your clothes.  That good shake will keep you from carrying anything unwanted into the house and consequently into your dresser.
6. Don't forget it!: If you're prone to leaving your laundry in the dryer for days at a time, you might want to set a reminder or rethink line drying.  Leaving your laundry on the line for long periods of time makes line marks in the laundry, gives pests and pollen the opportunity to congregate (no one likes to find spider webs built between their sheets, the sun can start to fade colors and worst of all...a bird could poo on your fresh laundry!

A clothes line is inexpensive to create and no one can deny the pleasure of saving money on your next energy bill.  I am just addicted to the whole thing: the sight, the smell, just feeling "peasant-y".  What do you love/hate about line drying?  Would you ever consider it?  Any more tips out there?


Laundry Week Day 1: Homemade Laundry Detergent

It’s Laundry Week!

Sorry I didn’t get this started yesterday, but life happens, right?
So today is WASHING DAY (if you missed my post on pretreating/ wet bucket, you can find it here)
The first thing about laundry week that I want to share is about washing machines.  Not all are created equal.  I’m sure most everyone reading this has a washer at their disposal, but maybe you’re thinking of buying a new one.  Please do your research.  Just because a certain washer is the most popular doesn’t make it the best.  Read reviews and definitely talk to knowledgeable sales reps.  I have always had good experiences getting information at Sears about appliances.  Check into the availability and expense of upkeep and repairs—some washers are great until they break and then you have to go on a cross-country goose chase to find replacement parts! 
A few years ago we chose a Whirlpool washer.  My favorite feature is that there is no “load size” indicator.  The machine weighs the load and adds the appropriate amount of water.  No wasted water because you’re not sure if your load qualifies as “Medium” or “Large”.  It’s also energy star rated, which makes this penny pincher happy!
Photo Credit
Photo Credit

Next I want to share my homemade laundry detergent recipe (which I originally found here).  I make a powder detergent with 3 simple ingredients.
1 bar Fels Naptha, finely grated
2c Borax
2c Baking Soda
Combine ingredients, use 1 tbsp per large load
There are lots of recipes out there and a lot of them call for a different ratio than I use.  I have been using this recipe for a few weeks now and am really happy with both the general cleanliness of the clothes and stain removal. 
I use 1 tbsp for a large load and just shake a little out of the spoon for a medium load.  Make sure you adjust the amount used for a smaller load—it does make a difference!  It works fine with cold water, which is all I ever use.  The jury seems to be out on whether this is a safe recipe for HE washers.
You’ll see that the picture shows Washing Soda and I named Baking Soda in my recipe.  Most recipes explicitly say not to use baking soda, that it must be washing soda.  I did some research to find out why.  Both products neutralize odors and both are alkaline—they offset acids.  The difference at which they do these things: Baking Soda’s pH is 8 in comparison to Washing Soda’s pH of 11.  Neutral is 7.  This makes Baking Soda safe for cooking and handling, but Washing Soda is considered caustic and gloves should be worn when handling and it absolutely cannot be eaten.  Don’t let the word caustic scare you.  Washing Soda’s big asset is that it is more powerful against stains.  I have read varying information, but I hear that for cloth diapers baking soda is better.
You may wonder why I didn't start with sorting for laundry week.  Confession time: I BARELY sort laundry.  In general my sorting goes like this: towels/washcloths, heavy clothes, lighter clothes, bed clothes, Nora's clothes.  Sometimes they get all mixed in together.  I don't really see a difference when I take the time to sort and when I don't execpt that the clothes are easier to put away later.  I don't sort by colors for the most part.  Occasionally I'll run a load of whites with some bleach.  If we have something new and bright I'll make sure it's not in a load with white t-shirts.  That's about it.  Consider it your bonus tip of the day!


Little Bit of This, Little Bit of That

Nora went to the zoo today with daycare, complete with a dolphin show!  It’s times like these that I realize I live near a very big city.

I have logged more miles on my bike in the past week than I did all of last year.  I love being in a small town where I can ride pretty much anywhere I go.  Nora loves to ride along, too.
This is the first time Zach and I have both been employed full-time since getting married.  I had my normal Friday-between-pay-days ball of anxiety in my stomach this morning.  I pulled up our bank account, nervous to see if we would have anything left after we pay our rent and our babysitter today and found enough to pay some other bills.  I am so excited to pay off some bills that have been looming over us for a while over the next couple of months!
Next week is laundry week on the blog.  Don’t miss homemade detergent, line-drying and folding/putting away strategies!


Making the Switch: Leaving the Crib Behind

If you’ve been following my posts or Facebook, you’ve probably gleaned that NR is no longer in a crib.  I want to share how we came to the decision to leave the crib behind and hopefully it will help if you’re thinking about making the switch, too.
Nora's Bed Today
A lot of people say that when your kid starts climbing out of their crib you know it’s time to make the switch.  For us there are two major flaws with this logic.  First, NR is a good sleeper and a mild child.  I think if we waited for her to climb out of the crib we’d be waiting till she was four.  Second, I didn’t feel like risking a serious fall was the best idea.  Seriously, waiting for climbing is like saying, “when your kid shimmies up the sides, takes a head dive from the top, gets a foot stuck in the rails, breaks a leg and busts their head open, you’ll know it’s time”.  No thanks.  I’d like to make the switch pre-hospital visit. 
Here are two readiness signs that helped us make the decision:
1.       She slept well in her crib.  She put herself back to sleep easily and rarely needed us in the night.  This implied that she would stay in bed instead of getting up and getting us every time she woke in the night.

2.       She played in her crib.  We would often check the video monitor and find her playing in her bed in the morning before hollering for us to come get her.  This made me see that she was growing out of being a baby and was beginning to act instead of react to her situations and surroundings.
We made the jump when we moved.  I know, experts say to stick to one traumatic event at a time, but it just seemed the perfect opportunity.  She was going to have to adjust to the new place, why not adjust to a new bed at the same time?  It would save her just getting used to our new house and then having to adjust to something else new.  The first day we set up her room complete with her new bed.  Then we let her sleep in her pack n play in the middle of the room that night.  She was very out of sorts all of moving day (she was about 12 1/2 months at the time) so I thought a familiar sleep place might help that first night.  Then, the next day we started naps and sleeping in the bed.  We were very blessed and she did great. 
NR just before waking from her first night in her big girl bed.
Part of the reason she did great was that we did not put her in a toddler bed.  We put her straight into a twin bed.  It is low enough she could climb into it by herself and while she could climb down, too, it was no easy feat.  I think this helped her stay in bed those first days.  Now, at 14 ½ months she can climb up and down easily, but she knows she needs to stay in bed.  We have some troubles keeping her in bed at nap time if she’s not particularly tired and have found her on her bedroom floor a couple times (not from falling, from climbing down to play and then falling asleep), but overall she does well.
We skipped the toddler bed because we found it to be an unnecessary expense that only lasts a short time.  Zach and I didn’t die from going straight to a twin bed, so she probably wouldn’t either.  Toddler beds do provide a level of security that a twin bed doesn’t, though, since it’s short like a crib.  At first we found NR all over the bed, even over on the edge sometimes.  Then, I put a heavy memory foam pillow at her feet and it worked wonders.  Now she doesn’t end up at the bottom or the edges because the pillow gives her the illusion of a boundary. (see the pic at top)  So I’m not anti-toddler bed.  They are a fine idea (especially if you already have one).  But I also don’t think they are a necessity for successful toddler sleep.
Cognitively, I think 12 ½ months was great because NR wasn’t pushing boundaries just yet.  She accepted the bed as a good thing because Mommy and Daddy put her there.
On a personal level, I feel that we as a society make our babies stay babies too long.  We often read and are told all the things a child isn’t ready for or shouldn’t do and just take it as gospel truth.   I believe in looking at NR and seeing her potential, the things she’s on the cusp of doing and what she CAN do if I just let her.  Sure, it means some falls and bumps and bruises.  But it also means greater triumphs.  It also means an independent, resilient kid who’s not afraid of the world.  There’s a delicate balance to find between babying our kids and making them grow up too quickly, but I think it’s worth working to find the balance.  If you feel this way, too, I recommend checking out Free Range Kids.  I agree with a lot of what she says and how our laws and society are actually oppressing our kids (and parents) in the name of safety.  Progress is good.  We know to put our kids in car seats, to sleep on their backs and about diseases that used to get kids written off as “bad”.  Some things make everyone’s Mommy Nerve twitch—a big dog, swimming pools, stairs and glass top coffee tables—but we need to teach our kids how to safely handle these situations, not shield them from them.  I know, my toddler is too young to handle some of those, but she’s old enough to learn to hold Mommy’s hand in the store, not to pull the dog’s tail or the cat’s ears and practice eating with a spoon.  OK, I’ll get off my soapbox.
Thanks for reading and if you have any questions about what we have done or how we’ve dealt with hurdles, hit me up in the comments!  Is anyone considering making the switch?  What big feats are your amazing kids working on?  Anyone else out there trying to raise a Free Range Kid?