Monday, December 31, 2007

Almost Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year! Well, almost... I can't wait. As good as 2007 has been, I feel optimistic for 2008. I know it won't be as exciting as 2007, or at least I sure hope it won't be, but I know I'll see God's goodness in different ways. This morning was one of those mornings when I got excited about my mothering all over again. The sun was shining into the spare bedroom, and I waved clean, fresh sheets around Seth's head as he played on the floor. Nickel Creek played on the cd player, and Seth clapped his hands and smiled. After I remade the guest bed, I picked him up, and we waltzed to "Flow Gently, Sweet Afton." Ok, I waltzed. He grinned, and laughed and bounced on my shoulder. One day, the days of baby waltzing will be over. I hope to remember them well.

But I know you're dying to hear about this weekend. Since you're all enthralled by my life, yes, I know you are. You're still reading this. What does that say about you? Hmmm. =) I shall give some background. David has been out of college for 8 years, and I've been out for 6. During college, he became part of a special group of friends known affectionately as the Gang.

The curtain opens on his senior year... David, Chris, and Jason lived in what was known as the Little Brown House. It was not aesthetically pleasing. Except for Chris' puzzle of Dogs Playing Poker that he had framed in the living room, I think there were no other wall adornments. The kitchen, I remember, had an old, plastic topped table from the '50s, and a dusty kitchen curtain with geese on it. I shudder to think how many tenants that curtain had seen. For for all its lack of charm, it was very charming to those that were privileged to be a part of it's perpetual open house. You see, for those of us living in the dorms, this house provided one of the few ways to hang in out in large groups with members of the opposite sex. Gotta love Baptist colleges with their extremely limited open house rules...

People flowed in and out of the house that year. Us girls would go there occasionally to cook, since we couldn't in the dorm, knowing full well that we would have to share what we cooked with whoever happened to be there at the time. They had an extra fridge in their old garage, and it was usually filled with cheap Walmart soda. Chris had every kitchen gadget known to man. David remembers deep frying chuck wagon hamburgers and then eating them with a side of fries. I don't know why either of them haven't yet succumbed to heart disease.

I became a tentative member of the Gang after meeting David. Before we were more than friends, I would go over like everyone else, to play spades, eat brownies, and watch the X Files. I was truly cemented into the Gang after David and I married. Now, I consider myself a proud member. Wendy and Jon, both charter members, married each other last year.

And in this fraternity, we all still take some measure of comfort from the camaraderie of friendship of long association. I know this because most of us have made the effort to try and get together for New Years for the past several years. David flew up especially for New Years more than once, taking time off from his job in Birmingham. This weekend, a little early, but close enough to New Years, we had Jason and Amanda from Texas, and Perry and Amanda coming from Pennsylvania. Those of us who have been far away still try to come, and we often succeed. That says something.

I am thankful for a group of friends that conjures up happy college memories. I realize that in this day and age, lots of us look back on our college friendships and activities with some level of shame. We were a bunch of geeks, but we never did anything together that our mamas couldn't have participated in. And we had a blast.

We did what we've always done this weekend. We played spades and other games, ate too much food, though it was slightly lower fat than it has been, and we talked and talked. Jason and Amanda and Amanda and Perry stayed here. And we tripped over each other in this tiny house, and we utilized the porch since the weather was springlike. Thank the Lord for that porch. And I learned again that it only matters that you open your home and give what you have, not that it be something big and fancy that can actually hold 11 adults comfortably. I don't think these guys would be comfortable if I owned a McMansion anyway. =) God bless 'em.

But now on to more important things... baby updates. Seth has achieved a level of limited mobility, and no, he doesn't need something from the Scooter Store. He is rolling and squirming now. No crawling, but he can get where he wants to go, though it may take him awhile. He is also very excited about clapping, has just started bouncing and clapping when we sing to him or play him music, and he's discovered the buttons on the computer. He can imitate us and say things that sound a lot like "Daddy," "Hey," and "Mommy." Two weeks ago, he was saying "baby" all the time, and it was clear as a bell. I don't think he knew what he was referring to, but I'm not going to quibble over that. He likes to sit on the dryer and feel it vibrate when I push the big button. Can you tell? =) And he also likes the sound of the multivitamins rattling that David has been saying that he'll take for over a year now but hasn't yet. Ahem.

I hope you have a wonderful New Year! We'll be ringing it in on our own with sparkling cider in our goblets and a baby in bed. =) What more can you ask for? Enjoy!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Ellen's Black Bean and Cheese Quesadillas...

How do you feed 10 adults lunch on the cheap? Black bean and cheese quesadillas, of course. I made this up today, and it turned out really good, shockingly enough, so I thought I'd share...

2 cans black beans, drained, rinsed, and then mashed up in the food processor
1 can Rotel or generic diced tomatos and green chiles
a dash of some kind of southwest seasoning (optional)
shredded cheese
flour tortillas

Heat a skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Mix beans, Rotel, and seasoning in a bowl. For each quesadilla, spread some of the bean mixture on one side of a flour tortilla, sprinkle with cheese, and then heat in skillet until melted. Voila! Everybody wanted more. Too bad I ran out of cheese, but everybody got at least one... Enjoy! Now back to my regularly scheduled spades game and conversation about nothing in particular...

Friday, December 28, 2007

She rambles...

Seth is down for his nap, and I should be folding the moutain of laundry covering the living room floor, but I'm not. I'm wasting time looking at the blogs I've missed over Christmas. My hands are all dry from the cleanser I just used to clean the bathroom. I know every woman in America knows that feeling. They smell, too, but at least they smell like lavendar. I love Method cleaners. =)

Tonight, we have lots of company coming in. We'll have two couples staying with us. I'm washing sheets at the moment. =). I'll post all about it later. Just now, I'm musing on nothing, I guess. I'm looking forward to being able to make a delicious, cheesy breakfast casserole since I have an excuse with company coming. Have I mentioned that my husband is extremely selective about his cheese comsumption? It's usually mozzarella or nothing for him...

Oh yeah, I made a taco rice mix yesterday, and it was really good! I had started buying those seasoned rice mixes that Lipton makes, since I have a new love affair with Mexican food, but they seemed a little salty and pricey, so I had the Hillbilly Housewife help me out. I made two baggies, so I have another sitting around in the pantry for later. I didn't use the tomato sauce, since I didn't have any, so I cut up a tomato instead. I also upped the spices a bit, and I lowered the salt a little. Go here for the directions.

She's here!

I finally get to post about this, now that they FINALLY have something up! I'm not complaining or anything, but I would've thought they would've found time in there, what with the newborn and the 2 year old and the company they're having and the birth thing, to put up some pics. Humph. =)

But my neice is here! She was born while we were flying home from Birmingham, and my little bro called the cell to tell us about all of it while we were picking up our baggage. He sounded so happy. I think somebody is gonna be daddy's girl.

So go here for all the news!!!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas in the 'Ham...

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!!! This year, for the first time in many years, we spent it with David's family in Birmingham. Now, let me explain. I wasn't being blatantly partial; David's brother had a ministry job that meant that he only got Thanksgiving off, so we spent Thanksgivings with them 'cause of that. But this year, David's mom wanted us, even if the BFamilyClan couldn't be there, too, so Seth spent his first Christmas in B'ham. And what a whirlwind Christmas it was! David didn't have a ton of time off, seeing that he drew the short straw for being on-duty at his office since he is, literally, the lowest attorney on the totem pole. So we flew down on Saturday and got home the day after Christmas. But we made the most of our time there...

It was a packed house. This is my favorite pic from the visit, and it was taken on Bill and Diana's air bed. Everybody got a bedroom of sorts, but not everyone got one with a door that closed. =)And some of us did, but we also got to sleep with a restless, teething baby and would've preferred to put him in someone else's bedroom. Have I mentioned he finally has two tiny teeth poking through his bottom gums! That's enough of a gift for me to crank up the Hallelujah Chorus any day, not just Christmas!

Aunt Patty, Uncle Max, and their three boys, Andy, Chris, and Fred, spent the weekend with us. For any who know them, that means we played bridge. A lot of bridge. Because that's what ya do when the Kattners come to call. I am so bad at bridge that I attempt to stay out of the line of fire with this crowd, unless they're in desperate need of a 4th. And then, I'm quaking in my boots. Any of them can take you down in bridge. The boys learned to play in their cribs with cardboard playing cards and "The Sesame Street Bridge Primer for Preschoolers" as their guide. I'll leave it up to you to decide if I'm kidding or not. Beware...

David's Aunt Judy comes to every holiday gathering. After all, she's pretty much immediate family, since she lived with David's folks during a short span of his teenage years. I guess that initiation is all that you need. She is a very expressive storyteller. I call this Seth's "See, Aunt Judy is crazy" face. It was preceeded by this look.

"Ok, I'm looking at her, and I'm pretty sure she's nutso. I mean, Daddy doesn't even do the voices like this. Now I shall smirk." See above. We all adore Aunt Judy. She lives in Richmond, and we don't see her enough.

These are the fruits of the Annual Christmas Cookie Decorating Contest for People with No True Artistic Talent. Occasionally, an accident will occur, and a cookie will look like something you could sell in a bakery. And no one is more shocked than the person that painted that cookie. Of course, having painted that cookie doesn't guarantee you votes for Best Cookie, Cookie with Most Icing, or Cookie that Looks Least Like What the Cutter Was. David's stated goal in this contest is to cover his cookies with the most icing possible, since taste matters far more to him than looks. He also usually wins the contest. It's never because he's trying. Isn't that infuriating?

Seth has picked a "lovey." We've waited and observed, and we're calling it. We affectionately call him "Monkey." As in "See Monkey? Please stop crying and hug Monkey, Seth." He grins and reaches for him with a squeal. And this is the only animal or toy or whatever that he grabs for and holds while sucking his thumb. I think we have a winner. Now I just need to buy 3 more of Monkey in case Monkey 1 meets with any unforeseen accidents.

Ahh, yes, the aforementioned bridge players. That's Fred in the black Red Hot Chili Peppers shirt, and Andy is holding the baby on his lap. The baby is holding the black plastic tray that our airline sandwiches came on because we firmly believe that anything light, blunt, and unbreakable can be a toy. Considering that these guys don't see many babies, they were very good and very affectionate with him. What sweet boy cousins we have... And they managed to take David down in Risk during that late night game, and anyone that can do that will get a pat on the back from me and my undying respect. There are many, many things that this family did or said at Christmas, so many that all of them cannot be recorded on this blog, so if I've left something out, which I have, and you were there, and you're wanting to know where your part was, this is the best I can do before my morning shower. =) Merry Christmas to all...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Leaving for Christmas...

Hi, everyone! This may be my last post before Christmas. Sniff. =) This Thursday, we drove up to D.C. for an annual Christmas party at David's last place of employment. Seth was an angel! I was really worried because he hadn't enjoyed the 4 1/2 hour car ride much when we did it to look for housing in July. God answered my prayers, and I think he enjoyed the trip just as much as we did! =) He loved rolling around the floor and talking to all the people at the party. There were so many neat things for him to look at that he was happy most of the time.

After the party, (which we got a sweet parking space for, even in downtown D.C.!), we went back to Arlington to meet friends at one of my favorite restaurants in D.C., Noodles and Company. This place was right across the street for our building, it was cheap, and it was fast. I loved it. I'm a carb girl. So we went back for a nostalgia trip for me. I had the braised beef stroganoff. Sooo good.

We ate dinner with the friends that would be hosting us for the night, Seth and Catherine. They have a great townhouse in Arlington. And if you're wondering, Seth's name is where we got the inspiration for our son's name, though he really isn't named after him or anyone else but his daddy. We had just enough time to set up the baby tent and for me to nurse baby Seth, and then we were off to Washington again for our.... personal White House tour!

We have a good friend who is working there now, and he was able to give us a tour of the OMB and the West Wing. I'll post more about all the neat and fascinating things he told us. Hopefully, I won't forget anything major by waiting. It was a wonderful experience, and we're so thankful for the chance to do something like that.

We drove back on Friday, after making a quick stop at Ikea for the world's best breakfast on the cheap anywhere, and so I could pick up some of their amazingly good frozen Swedish meatballs. Ikea also deserves it's own post. I love that store! It's a unique shopping experience, especially when they're playing Swedish Christmas carols.

Seth was a darling about the car ride back again. He even napped for 2 hours! Shocker! He never does that in his car seat. I think he likes to travel. At least I'm crossing my fingers that he does, 'cause we're getting on a plane for Birmingham at 12:25 p.m. today. It's a short nonstop flight. Please pray for traveling mercies and a good visit with David's family. Merry Christmas to all! May you reflect on Jesus and His incredible love for you this season!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

On friends...

Just thought I'd give all of y'all an update on my friends status. Since I did a good bit of whining and some pitiful posts on feeling rejected, it only seems fair to mention that things have improved significantly in the friends department. =)

I have met a girl who lives about 10 minutes from us that has become a good friend. She has twins who are about Seth's age, and it's been great to get to know her better. She's laid back, enjoys a good bargain as much as I do, likes talking about politics, and best of all, she loves to talk about the Lord. It's a great thing when you meet someone who loves to give God all the glory for whatever to whoever she meets. If you ask her, "How'd you get so and so, meet your husband, find such a wonderful church, etc.?," the answer will usually be, "Well, the Lord brought it to me!" I want to be more like that, so I really enjoy hanging out with someone who's farther along in that than I am. I was feeling discouraged about meeting and connecting with people, and on one of those days, she called to ask if I'd take a walk with her. We've been "playdating" ever since. =) What a blessing!

I just got back this morning from a play date with a new friend who has an infant son. She leads a small group at her church, and we had a great morning of hanging out at her house. She lives a little farther away, about 20 minutes, but it's really nothing compared to what I'd have to go through to get to any sort of playdate when we lived in Arlington. I'm hoping we can hang out more.

Both of these women I've met through MOPs. I highly recommend it to anyone who has young children and is searching for mommy friendships. MOPs is different wherever you live, but all the groups have the same goal of fellowship for moms of young children. Being a stay at home mom can be lonely, and we need all the girlfriends that we can get!

My days are becoming more full with people and not just to do lists, and that's how I like to live. I'm not a phone person; just ask my mom. =) It's hard for me to pick up the phone and just call someone, especially when I'm hoarding my nap time for doing devotions, having some stillness, or reading. Nap time goes by, and I haven't picked up the phone. But I love seeing people in person. Getting together for even an hour is a refreshment to me.

I know that moving has given me a great opportunity to reinvent myself each time I've moved. The people that know me now didn't know the selfish, arrogant little brat that I was growing up. They don't know the me of all my many faults of yesteryear. They know the me of today's faults, and I've learned to hide them a little better. =) Well, ok, hopefully I've learned to be more giving and loving and kind and open. At least I seem to have more friends than I did then, and hopefully that's because I'm not such a pill anymore. =)

But my point is that I want to be a woman of God to all the people I meet these days. I want my love of Christ to come across naturally in what I say and do. I don't want to be afraid to refer to Him in casual conversation like I used to be. I want to find the right balance of sensitivity and boldness so that I proclaim him without pushiness and with total ease. After all, He gives me life, and if I hide that, I hide who I really am. I'm trying to be less afraid to ask someone if I can pray with them if they share a concern. I'm trying to be more willing to share an answered prayer or how Christ has showed himself to me, even if I'm not exactly sure whether the person I'm talking to is a Christian or not. I meet so many people these days; I want those people to know that my identity is in Christ, and not assume that it's in my middle class, white, Anglo Saxon, stay at home mom ness. Sure, my conversation is full of talk about diaper brands and sleep routines and baby gear, but it shouldn't be only about that. He is real, He changes lives, and I do Him a disservice if the main thing someone got from a morning with me is that I like to cook, keep my house too clean, and I have a cute baby.

So what about you? How would you like your friendships to be different if you could reinvent yourself as a friend and start from scratch again? What would you like your old friends to see in you if you could take your amazing mind eraser taser thingy and erase some of their memories of you (like when you were 13 and wearing neon pink leg warmers)?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Blah, blah, blah...

This is one of those mornings when I just feel off. The baby whimpered once right on time, and I was hoping he'd sleep longer, 'cause I was really tired for some unexplained reason. So I lay there, hoping that he might consent to go back to sleep. I didn't hear another peep for a few minutes, but I felt guilty for my wish. Bad, bad mama.

So I got him up, and even though he was being all smiley and happy, I was looking around, wishing for my 24 hour babysitters that just left and their Dog, also known as Great Baby Entertainment. Slap my hand once again. I feel lazy and mushy and grumpy. I don't want to do anything I should do, like clean my filthy bathtub and dust.

We're leaving on Thursday, and we won't be back until the Wednesday after Christmas, and then we have a whole houseful of people descending on us that Friday. Gahhh! So I've gotta get it in gear, and I'm still slightly off kilter when I walk around, nothing really bad, just slightly annoying when I think about it, and I've prayed, but God isn't taking this thing away quickly. And I don't think that going to the doctor is going to do much (she mentioned an expensive CAT scan or a visit to the ENT as options, which seem like overkill) so I'm willing to wait longer, but I'm not too thrilled about it.

I wonder how many moms out there sometimes feel like they are just totally subpar. And I wonder how often they feel it. Most of the time I feel like I do a pretty good job, and most of the time I have a sneaking suspicion that that has more to do with the laid back temperament God gave my son than it has to do with me. But even with my successes, I feel less than sometimes. I don't enjoy playing with him enough. I get too impatient when he's cranky. I don't want him to wake me from a sound sleep before I'm good and ready. I want more time to myself, and I panic thinking about how much less of that I'll get when he's down to one nap a day.

And did I mention that my husband is one of the hardest workers on the planet? I'm a total sloth compared to him. He works hard all day, bringing home the bacon. I get more down time than he does right now 'cause I have nap time. Guilt, guilt, guilt. I should never ask him to do the dishes again... What should I be doing with that free time? I don't know. How long will it last? I don't know that either. I know that being a mother will get more demanding the older Seth gets. This is just a temporary phase. But I don't want to be squandering it. Maybe I'm restless to be used more for God in ways that I can quantify and calculate and don't just have to do with shopping and taking care of baby and getting dinner on the table.

I've always had a strong desire to work with crisis pregnancy centers. Back in our 1st year of marriage, I went through training, and I became a counselor at the Charlottesville Pregnancy Center. It was really difficult work, trying to walk the line between complete truthfulness and complete compassion. Trying to help hurting newly pregnant women make life giving choices for themselves and their children is a emotional minefield. But I felt like I was making a difference, even if only one baby was born and one woman was saved years of heartache and guilt, for all the dozens that I saw that turned the other way. I'd like to be involved with a CPC again. There is one about 10 minutes from my house. I've scoped it out online. Now I just have to take the hard step of walking in the door, baby on one hip, and asking them if there is anything I can do for them. Is there anything I could do here, during naptime? Would they want me bringing Seth there to sort donated items? I guess I'll never know 'til I ask. I'll put it on my to-do list for after Christmas, I guess.

Hopefully this day will get more inspiring, and the Lord will lift me out of my doldrums. Maybe He'll be in the Soft Scrub today. See ya.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Yard men...

It's a cold Saturday for us, high of 49, and slightly drizzily. But I have yard men raking my leaves, up on my roof cleaning out my gutters, and blowing leaves out of my shrubbery. One of them is wearing head to toe camoflauge coveralls, bright orange ear protectors, and has brought with him yard gloves, a leaf blower, and a tarp. There may be some other goodies in his car; I'm not sure. The other one has a willing heart, lost his yard gloves in a bag of leaves the last time we raked, and probably needs to be wearing a warmer coat. =) Any guesses which one is my husband and which one is my dad?

My parents are here for their last visit before we leave for Christmas. I'm learning that if more than a couple of weeks go by without us seeing them in some form or fashion, their tone of voice becomes increasingly dreary on the phone. "So, how are things?" "Well, we're still here... Nothing new going on... We're dying of boredom, yes sirree, but we're just fine... Don't worry about us, sweetie." "Un huh. Sure, we won't worry about you. Why don't you come for a visit? We need our yard done." I suppose some would call it a mutually beneficial relationship. Some might call it mooching.

Hey, at least I made Dad and David a big breakfast of waffles, eggs, and sausage before they went out to slave for me. And I'm very proud of the fact that I saved the leftover sausage patties from the last time they were here in the freezer. I remembered them last night and put them in the fridge to thaw. Dad was sooo pleased to have them this morning, nicely warmed up in the microwave. He's not allowed to clog his arteries at his own house. I'm glad I didn't just throw them out. Another victory for the Freezer Queen of Our Neighborhood! =)

And we learn all the time what great neighbors we have. I'm going to miss them when we leave this house. My dad decided he needed an extension ladder to get on the roof, and he needed it 5 minutes ago. Our next door neighbor didn't have one, but Dad spotted a work van in the driveway of another neighbor that we haven't met, and it had a bee-you-ti-ful ladder on top. Completely unfazed by the facts that we a) don't know this person at all, and b) it's 9:30 a.m. on a Saturday, he knocks on the door and asks to borrow it. Our neighbor put on his coat, got in his van, drove the ladder down here, took it off his truck, and put it right where Dad pointed (with great authority). And he was so cheerful about it. D, our new buddy with tools, is getting a plate of cookies very soon.

Our next door neighbor, Frank, sees a white van with a ladder pull up and a man on our roof with a leaf blower, and comes over, distressed that we've hired a professional to do our roof, all 'cause he didn't have an extension ladder for us to borrow. Nope, that's not a professional. That's just Dad, who could open his own yard service business in 5 minutes, if he felt like it. He already has most of the tools.

Tonight we're grilling steaks for my men, (courtesy of Dad, who told me to "put it on his tab" when he requested them via email without telling Mom), and David and I might even go out for donuts, courtesy of a gift card I won in a swap at MOPs. Yippee! I like when my parents come to my house and do work and babysit. Oh yeah, I like their company, too. =) Love you, Mom and Dad.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Incredible Do-It-Yourself Cart Cushion Thingy

Behold, a cheap woman's inventive solution to the baby-falling-over-in-the-huge-grocery-cart problem! =) I polled a bunch of mommies on my local mommy forum website, and many suggestions included some kind of stuffing around the little man, be it paper towel rolls or travel pillows, etc. So I pulled out my trusty bungee cords and an old pillow and pillowcase and gave it a go. David and I had this pack of a few different sizes of bungee cords that we got from Target a while ago. The middle size worked like a charm. I just put my pillow down, hook a cord on each side, and arrange the pillow so it's between the cords. Voila! Then I cover it with my favorite Pottery Barn kids blanket, so it doesn't look completely tacky.

He loves it, can ya tell? He really does... He was just mad that I wouldn't let him hold the grocery list, and I wasn't going to stand in the Walmart parking lot all day with my camera, waiting for him to get happy with the sun in his eyes, so you'll just have to take my word for it. =) So if you're having the same problem with floppy baby syndrome, your only solution doesn't have to be carrying the baby or putting him in a Baby Bjorn the whole shopping trip. Take heart, my fellow mommies of the aching back!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Quick fix dinner ideas...

Shannon over at Rocks in My Dryer does these cool "Works for Me Wednesday" posts. Well, recently she had one with this question:

"We've all had days like this (if you haven't, then really, I don't want to hear about it): The day has been crazy, kids have too much homework, you have a sinus headache, laundry is piled high, you've been too busy to get to the store, 5:15 rolls around, and your in-home cook hasn't shown up yet. That's when you remember that you don't have an in-home cook, and feeding that rag-tag bunch is somehow your responsibility.

I know, the obvious answer is "carryout", but lets imagine that you can't. Let's imagine that an asteroid struck your house yesterday and melted your car. And while we're at it, let's imagine that giant bread-loving aliens invaded earth and stole all our bread, so sandwiches are out. You have to fix a meal. What are the catch-all, quick-and-easy-dinners-that-still-manage-to-taste-decent that you keep on hand?"

Go here to find the answers. I went through a bunch of the responses and copied and pasted the ideas into a Word document called "Quick Suppers." A lot of them are pretty cheap, and some are pretty healthy as well. Happy hunting!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Saving on groceries...

You asked for it, and now you're gonna get it... I don't think any of these ideas are revolutionary, and I'm sure many of you have already implemented some of them or all of them. They have helped me, though I often forget about them and have to go back from time to time as a refresher.

1. Set a weekly amount and stick to it. Figure out what you can really afford to spend that'll still feed your family, and don't deviate from it more than $5. If you think you have more food in your cart than that amount, stop, think, and put something back. Avoid the urge to spend more than your amount one week, thinking you'll spend less the next. It usually doesn't happen that way, at least to me it doesn't. Cut yourself some slack if you're feeding a lot of extra people or hosting a party, but for normal weekly meals, even with one company meal in there, try to stick tight to your set limit.

2. Buy generic, and don't buy many convenience foods. There aren't many brands that I buy. Most things in my grocery cart are going to be the generic brand. I admit that there are some things I can taste a difference in. I buy Kraft mac n' cheese for our Sunday night supper, (since that's one convenience food that's ridiculously cheap), but I won't buy the store brand because I've tried it, and it's awful. But most items are cheaper in the store brand, and most are just as good as the name brand. I don't buy name brand diapers, and they're just as good as Pampers, though they don't smell as good. =) When I say don't buy convenience food, I mean don't buy prepackaged meals or mixes very often. If you're going to eat out if you don't have one in the freezer, then buy them, but if you can make your own freezer convenience food instead, that'll save you money.

3. Don't let anything in your fridge go to waste that you can use for another meal. For instance, when I buy a loaf of bread lately, I immediately freeze it. That way we won't waste it if we don't use it right away. The same goes for leftover hot dog/hamburger buns. I freeze them, and then we can have hamburgers for dinner one night later on. The same goes for tortillas. They freeze well. Shredded cheese freezes well, too. I buy shredded mozzarella in big bags and freeze it in 2 c. servings for pizza.

If I make something, and it makes enough for another meal, I freeze the leftovers, and I put them in the meal rotation for a couple weeks down the road. That way they don't go bad. Some people send leftovers to their spouse for lunch. If you can avoid doing this, I'd advise it, unless you plan to serve yourself lunch for dinner one night later on. David and I eat sandwiches, a piece of fruit, carrots (cut in sticks and put in water in the fridge), and some cheese crackers or pretzels every day for lunch, or crackers and peanut butter or cheese, etc. This is the cheapest thing you can do for lunches.

Oh, yeah, don't just freeze odds and ends of things and forget they're in there. Go into your freezer and look around before you make your meal plan for the week. Use what you have, whether it's there or in your pantry.

4. Embrace Mexican food. Why, you may ask? Because our Latin friends to the south have perfected the art of stretching meat and using beans. Mexican food is cheap. You can stretch it by adding rice and beans. Tonight we're having black bean and cheese enchiladas for dinner. Dirt cheap. I have frozen beef and bean enchilada filling by the truckload. 'Nuf said.

5. Eat less meat, and buy some of it in bulk. I'm not too proud to buy my meat at Super Walmart, and if I freeze it as soon as I get it home, I think it's just fine. I buy gigantic packages of lean hamburger and split them into 1/2 lb. bags for freezing. I do the same with stew meat. I use less meat in my recipes, and I waste less by doing this. If we want to have hamburgers, I can thaw one 1/2 pound package, and that'll make 2 hamburgers for two people. If I thawed a pound, some would go to waste. We also don't have a wide variety of meats because kinds other than stew meat, hamburger, and chicken are more expensive. I try to plan a large meat purchase into my budget so that I don't have to go over that week.

6. Buy frozen vegetables instead of fresh. Frozen vegetables have all the nutrients of fresh, but they don't go bad as quickly, and they're cheaper. Canned tomatoes have the nutrients of fresh, sometimes even more, and they're cheap and healthy.

7. Love some soup this winter. I have several soup recipes I love. As long as you don't make them with potatoes, you can freeze them for later. I freeze my soup in one bowl portions so we have choices. David and I don't even have to have the same soup for dinner if we don't want to! Soup is cheap, healthy, and easy!

8. Eat less cereal. Cereal prices are rising all the time. It's really quite expensive when you think about what goes into it. David likes to eat two bowls of cereal for breakfast. We're working on breaking this habit, and him eating one small bowl of cereal and some toast with jelly. For the first couple of years of our marriage, David ate toast for breakfast exclusively. No cereal in our house.

9. Oh yeah, plan your menu for the week before you go shopping. If you go more than once, you're more likely to pick up "extra" items you don't need. I write out my menu for the week on Monday mornings. I try to put several freezer meals and at least one vegetarian meal on there. I also plan for one meal I wouldn't mind serving to company, so we can be hospitable in a pinch. We have something cheap and trashy on Sunday nights like mac n' cheese with cut up hot dog in it. =) I look at the menu and try to make sure I'm not buying more than one kind of meat in a week. That'll blow my budget right there. Spacing things out is important so you don't get discouraged and give up.

So there ya have it, my tips for saving money on groceries. I'm sure there are plenty of others out there that I haven't thought of, and there are plenty that I'm not willing to do just yet, like using powdered milk instead of real milk. Blech. Try for more ideas. She goes places that many women have not boldly gone before her. She's got some great stuff, though.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Can you help a poor inept decorator?

I'm looking for some help. I have this large wall and nothing to fill it. I like the pictures that are up, but as you can see, they are just too tiny for this long wall. Any good, cheap ideas? I have a couple of old patchwork quilts, but I wasn't sure how to arrange them so they'd look tasteful. I thought of maybe framing one in a large antique gold frame that I inherited that David hates the picture in. Any thoughts on that one? =) I know there are some creative people out there who can help me brainstorm.

The bottom picture is of this year's Christmas mantel display. I got some cheap 9 ft. garland from Michael's and a small sprig of fake cranberries. I cut the sprig up and stuck berries in random spots in the garland, and I put pine cones around the garland as well. Then I put a napkin on top of the box that held the nativity scene and tried to arrange it so the tiny Nativity wasn't dwarfed by the garland. A bigger Nativity scene is on the agenda for next year. =)

Getting somewhere...

This morning, David fired up Excel and Quicken and took a look at how we've done with cutting costs since we started in earnest a month ago. The figures for the month of November were very encouraging! Even with having to pay our car registration for the year, we still came out much better than in October!

I was afraid when he started up the program that we'd find out that we hadn't saved anything. You know how it is. You try so hard to make some change, losing weight, giving up your massive Dr. Pepper consumption, etc., and it seems like progress is incredibly slow or doesn't come at all. It would've been hard on me if this had been like that. It's nice to see improvement.

I was also encouraged by my response to the monthly report. Instead of thinking, "We're doing well. We can loosen up some," I thought, "Oooh, where I can I make more cuts?" Success led to renewed vigor for the task in this case. It isn't always like that with me, I'm afraid. I'm attributing God's grace in my life for all the contentment I feel in this area at the moment. I may fade in the stretch at any time, but right now, I'm enjoying any victories that come my way.

This week, a lot of thoughts have been rolling around in my head about the nature of contentment and enjoyment of little things and general thankfulness. It's easy to worry about our stability and security in this economy, even though we're probably more secure with David's job now than we have ever been. It's easy to be afraid that the massive upheaval in the housing market will hurt us somehow, despite everything that we do to try and be responsible.

I've also been thinking about how I come across in the area of finances and frugality. I really enjoy the hunt for a good deal, and I like talking about the ways I've saved money on particular items. It's on my mind, and I generally talk about whatever's on my mind at the moment, in case you hadn't noticed. =) But I don't want others to think that I'm obsessed with saving money. Coming across as a tightwad pennypincher is not what I'm going for.

This phrase has stuck in my head for years, and I don't remember where I heard it. "When you're being frugal with yourself, that's admirable. When you're being frugal with others, that's being cheap." My goal is to be frugal with myself so that I can be generous with others. If I save money by denying myself stuff that I don't really care about all that much in the long run, then I have more to give to others.

I also don't want money to ever come in the way of creating and nurturing relationships. David and I are far more likely to go out to dinner or lunch with other people than we are to go out on our own. For many people, hosting dinner or lunch in their homes isn't something they're comfortable doing. So we go to out dinner as a means of getting to know others better, and we don't think about it too much. It's a part of the our culture, and it's ok to do this some.

There's a fine line between enjoying a good bargain and complaining constantly about how much things cost. I don't want to be a person who seems to be always complaining about money. I have to check my tongue if I'm in a complaining mood, and I know I don't check it often enough. I worry more than I should that we won't be able to afford to buy a home in the part of town where we now live, but I need to bite my tongue and rest in God's provision for us. He'll provide something perfect in His time, and I know that. But anyway, I have friends and family members who often complain about their expenses, even to the point of complaining that they had to eat out with a friend at a place where they wouldn't have normally chosen to dine since it cost a bit more than they wanted to spend. I don't want to go there. Life is too short. It's too easy to complain, but it's not prudent. I don't want to be known as someone who speaks or thinks too much about pinching pennies. If you're noticing this about me, please tell me to stop. It's a bad habit of mine, I think.

I know this has been a ramble. David and Seth are napping, and we're in the midst of raking the fall leaves, and Wendy and Jon are coming to dinner. I'm still dizzy, but it's getting some better. I'm going to wait another week before I attempt to do anything else about it. Have a great Saturday!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Little blessings...

I've been hoarding Chick Fil A coupons. I got the free chicken sandwich and Coke coupons in the mail, so I've been sitting on those for a couple of months. Then my mom gave me a coupon she got for a free chicken sandwich. I figured tonight would be the Friday night that David and I and Munchkin would go for broke. Yes, we'd blow it all on one night of pleasure... =) We've really tightened up on eating out lately as part of the big Family Save More Spend Less Initiative of 2007-2008. I think this is the first time we've eaten out together (without being caught on the road with no food) in a couple of months. Oh yeah, except for that lunch date we had at Thanksgiving when my parents watched Seth. But the point is, we don't just go out, even for fast food, much anymore. It's a big deal not to eat at home.

Well, tonight, we walked into our local Chick Fil A, and there was a party going on! Yep, they heard we were coming to spend $1.75 on fries, so they blew up a bunch of balloons and put on their party hats... Actually, it was this location's 1st anniversary of being in business. They had free ice cream sundaes with all the fixin's, a birthday cake, and a wheel you could spin for prizes. Guess what the prizes were? More free food! Tonight, this little family cleaned up. I spun the wheel and won another chicken sandwich. David won a chicken wrap. Seth even got to spin, and though I was hoping he'd win Mommy some more chicken, he won himself a tiny stuffed cow. Already he's foiling my plans for free stuff for me based on his cuteness.

Seth was super fussy this afternoon and tonight for some reason, so it was a great night not to be at home. He's so much happier when he's out looking at things. He played with a drink lid, one of his favorite toys, and he sucked on a lovely plastic spoon (probably made for his pleasure in China, the Land of Lead). We stayed in Chick Fil A as long as we could. We milked those free refills to death, and we lingered over our free sundaes. It was a really nice Friday night event.

And I felt blessed. I feel like I've really been trying to cut our grocery budget and curb our eating out. I'm sure I have a long way to go in joyful frugal living, but it was nice to feel like God was giving me a pat on the back for my puny efforts. Tonight we ate practically for free, and we won two more meals for later! I am a happy girl. He is good, even in the little things. Like free chicken. =)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Mrs. Grinch...

I went out and did some shopping for Christmas decorations today. Some who know me will be screaming out with shocks of joy, delight, or horror, depending on your persuasion. I grew up not celebrating Christmas because of its somewhat pagan roots (please don't make me debate this with you, just check out the History Channel on it and that should suffice), but I married into a family that does celebrate it. The past 6 years of my marriage have been filled with wrangling and debating and soul wrenching guilt and trying to find a middle ground where no one's conscience is seared and no one has to miss out on any beloved family tradition. Completely and utterly impossible, you say? You'd be right. =) There are moments when I hate, hate, hate this time of year because I know that I'm going to come across as Mrs. Grinch Who Stole Christmas. And I don't like coming across this way.

At this point, I celebrate Christmas, though I do it completely in my own way. I enjoy wishing others "Merry Christmas." I have always loved to sing songs about Jesus, so Christian Christmas carols have always been fun for me. I like going to Christmas services and reading the Christmas story and doing an Advent wreath and participating in a living nativity. I got to be the angel on the top of the stable once, and it was great! They put a black light on me to light me all up, and even though I froze my little tushy off, I would do it again. I felt like I got a glimpse of that first Christmas in a new way that night.

I am slowly but surely accumulating some things that make my husband feel like it's Christmas in our house, instead of say, still Thanksgiving. I got a wreath for the door a few years ago, and I bought a red bow for it today. I made a mantel display today with some garland and our nativity scene. I even got little candles for our windows. Hopefully, this will make David feel like the season has come to town.

And how do I feel about this decorating? Torn. And I probably will continue to feel torn for the rest of my life. This is just one area where I must learn to compromise in order to love my spouse. I know, I know, most of you think that my tornness is nuts. What's not to like about decorating, you say? Nothing really. I like decorating and silver bells and red bows and candles as much as the next person. And I want to enjoy them more and fit in better. But I really don't, because I have trouble connecting ribbons and wreaths with Jesus Christ and his birth.

I've heard all the arguments... "We give gifts at Christmas because the Wise Men brought gifts to the Christ Child." "The evergreen of the tree symbolizes eternal life." These arguments just aren't convincing to me. When it's someone's birthday, we don't give presents to everyone we know. We give presents to them. And Americans didn't tend to give presents at Christmas before the mid-1800's anyway... And the whole evergreen thing has multiple historical meanings, including many that have nothing to do with Christmas, so why do I have to sign on to that one? It's up for debate.

All I'm asking, I guess, is that it be ok for me not to want to have a Christmas tree or to give presents at Christmas time. I don't want to be villified as a horrible Grinch because I can't see how those two aspects of Christmas, which everyone, Christian or not, celebrate, have to be a part of my Christmas celebration. They distract me from Christ, so why isn't it ok for me to bow out of that part of Christmas?

It seems like most of the time, when I tell people about my background and the reasons for why I don't give gifts at Christmas, I get offended, defensive comments seeking to justify how they celebrate Christmas. Now, I never said that they shouldn't give gifts or have a tree. I'm tired of the assumption that I'm thinking negative thoughts about others because they participate and I don't. I'm really not. I grew up my entire life being different in this area than most of the other Christians around me. I learned how to live and let live then, and I really don't think much about how other people celebrate Christmas. Being around their trees and their gift giving doesn't offend me. I would give a lot some days not to care at all so I could celebrate just like everyone else and provoke no controversy with my presence. But I simply can't make that choice without feeling like I'm doing something that's taking me, personally, farther away from the only reason for Christmas, so that's my problem to deal with.

So please, please just let me be this Christmas. Don't tease me about spitting on Christmas trees, etc. I don't think it's funny. Can't we all just get along? =)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Celebrating Advent on a tilt a whirl...

Hey. I won't be writing much today because being dizzy makes me not want to read or write much, but I thought I'd put up my link to last year's Advent post. I put the wreath up on the table a few minutes ago. Granted, the candles are half used from last year until I find some more purple and pink ones, but it's there, and I have my scripture reading's list sitting neatly in the kitchen for later. We're going to read a scripture each night at dinner before lighting the candle.

It's been crazy times since we got back from Fake Thanksgiving. We drove back on Sunday morning and got home just in time for me to vacuum and straighten before company came in the door. David picked up Samie from the airport, and I took her back to the airport this morning. Samie is a friend from law school. Her husband, Nat, and David roomed together in law school before either of them got married. She was doing some residency interviewing in the area, and she stayed with us. We had a great time with her, but man, am I pooped! I'm working on Laundry Mountain, and Seth is napping, and I want a nap myself.

Please pray for me if you think of it. The medicince I was given to help with dizziness while this supposed virus goes away isn't doing anything at all. I think it's called Antivert, and it's been around forever. If anything, I'm more dizzy than I was yesterday. It's easy to me to worry that it's not a virus. It's tempting to worry that this is something worse that they won't be able to find the cause for, and that I'll be walking around like a drunken sailor for the rest of my life. Can you tell that I have a really hard time being sick? =) I hate feeling this way. It's already been a week. Come on, already! Why can't we just get colds like normal people? Instead, David and I seem to be plagued with obscure physical infirmities than aren't easy to diagnose and that don't have easy cures. Grrrr. Ok, the words are swimming. I'm going to lie down. Again...

Monday, December 03, 2007

Fake Thanksgiving 2007

We're back from Fake Thanksgiving 2007! A blast was had by all, and as you can see from this picture, the boys are learning to play in the water together! Seth got a lot of hugs from Isaac, and Isaac was pretty thrilled to see him whenever he got up from his naps. Seth had a great time talking to everyone and kicking his legs and taking long walks over the family farm with Nana and Papa. He's currently crashing from all the over exertion. He's been a remarkably smiley, happy baby this morning. I think maybe all the excitement made him long for a quiet time with just Mommy. I am happy that he's happy with just me. Maybe I'll get a little more appreciation around here...

As you can tell, Terri is very great with child. Little Ethel Marie will be coming out of the oven in about 4 weeks. =) (Yes, Terri, until you tell me what her real name is, I will be putting the most hideous names I can think of up on the world wide web. ) I remember this stage of pregnancy distinctly. It's the time when rolling over at night makes you feel like a beached whale struggling desperately to get back in the water. Little Dorcas gave me some great kicks. She was much more forthcoming than Isaac was at that age. =)

Me and the baby bro. Isn't he adorable? I still love giving him noogies, and I still get the occasional comment that he looks like Brad Pitt. Anybody else see it? =) And don't our noses look ridiculously huge in this picture? Gotta love the family nose issue. Hey, at least Vance's looks bigger than mine for once. My poor brother was sick the whole time, and so was Terri. They both had some form of cold/sore throat. I felt so bad for them. One of the hardest things about being far apart is that the time you do get is so compressed that there's more pressure to be feeling great and at your best. To top it off, I was mildly dizzy the whole time. Looks like I have an inner ear infection, per the PA diagnosis I got this afternoon, but it has been no fun to be trying to focus hard on the spot in front of me while walking straight. Grrr. So we had three adult sickies this weekend. I'm praying that David, Seth, and I don't get their plague.

The whole clan, V, T, I, and Gertrude (in utero). =) Everybody left early on Sunday morning to go to their respective homes. Ok, highlights of the weekend, since you're all dying to know. Hmm, Terri and I got to go to McDonald's all by ourselves for two whole hours! David the Wonder Husband watched Zack and Seth, with a little help from Mom. We got to sit and sip beverages and talk and talk and talk about all the minute details of SAHM life. It would've been an intensely boring conversation to those of you without kids, but to us, it's a chat session about the career that we've both chosen, and we're excited and intimidated by it all at the same time. Hmm, another highlight was seeing Zack so intensely excited by all three tractors in his farm life. He played with Vance's toy tractor, got to ride on Vance's John Deere pedal tractor, and got a bunch of rides on the real green Oliver tractor. Dad even took him on a nighttime ride because he kept begging. Terri was a little worried about going back to MN where there are no tractors, except a pedal one the somebody left around that has no seat. I'm imagining a meltdown where Zack sees that one.
I called Mom and Dad this morning, and I realized afresh how much I'm going to miss these days when they're gone. They kept saying how quiet it was when we left. They kept thinking they heard babies waking up long after we'd left. Dad got on the phone for a minute and said, "We miss you. Come back." He never says stuff like that. When you love your children intensely, it must be so sad when they grow up and move out, even if you know they're happy and are doing what they are supposed to be doing. I have much more sympathy for their plight now than I did before I have Seth. I hope he comes to visit me often when he's all grown up. Love you, Mom and Dad. So y'all, hug your parents, and take the kids to see them more often. After all, that's what you want your munchkins to do for you one day.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Having Fake Thanksgiving...

I'm at my parent's this week for Fake Thanksgiving, so I will be scarce until next week. Seth and I have been visiting since Tuesday night, and David is coming tonight (YEAH!!), and we'll go back after Vance and Terri and Zack Zack leave on Sunday morning.

Some random observations... Some almost two year olds talk A LOT! Zack is Mr. Chattypants from the time he gets up until he goes to bed at night. It sounds a little like this: "Truck! Truck! Car! Nice dog! Nice dog! Hot! Fire! Nana! Papa! Dog! Big Tractor! Big Tractor! Outside!"... repeat, etc. Seth is overwhelmed by all the verbiage coming forth from his big cousin. But he likes the hugs, and Zack is learning that he can't take Seth's toys away from him unless he wants him to cry. Aunt Terri has promised Seth that she will be taking the quick and dirty way to favorite aunt status- sugar coma. I have to watch her like a hawk to make sure that she isn't giving him spoonfuls of corn syrup. =)

Thanks for all the support on the church thang. It's nice to know we're not alone. We visited a place that we are interested in visiting a couple more times this past Sunday. Another random observation... has anyone else noticed that Calvinist men have a more serious demeanor than Arminian (sp?) guys? I can't make this a generalization across the board, since my brother is a very cheerful Calvinist, but I am wondering if Calvinism tends to attract serious young men who take things with a tad more earnestness than the goofy Baptists I have tended to be used to in the past. You'd never see a Sunday School class named the "Happy Adults" at a Calvinist church. And yes, that is a real Sunday school name from a Baptist church we once attended. I'm thinking Calvinists would be more likely to have a Sunday School class named this: "Sanctification and Justification: Discuss Their Deep and Profound Meanings to the State of Your Eternal Soul." Here's a big hug to all my Christian brothers and sisters, Arminian and Calvinist alike. We've got to be able to poke fun at ourselves; it's so much more fun than letting other people do it for us. =)

Told you this would be random... Catch y'all later!

Monday, November 26, 2007

The church hunt...continued...

Just thought I'd update you all on the church hunt. At this point, the number of churches we've visited is definitely in the double digits. Most churches we've visited only once; just about all of them have been recommended by Christian friends who live in this area. A lot of them have been quite large. Large churches are what most people have heard of, I guess, and large churches are the most likely to have contemporary worship.

Last weekend, we definitely reached a low point in our church search. The Sunday school class where we were sent had just fired their teacher, and we got to be there for his hurt response to the news. Just peachy. Of course, we had no idea what was going on, but it appeared that the class had requested a different teacher after a few months of him teaching, and he was sitting there apologizing for whatever it was that he'd done wrong. Some of the members of the class were crying. I have never understood the tendency in some churches to send a person from outside a class to be teacher of the class without asking the class what they think first. What we witnessed was one result of that decision. Bad for the class, bad for the teacher. After sitting through that awkward class session, we found out that the contemporary service at that church occurs during the hour that most Sunday School classes are taking place. Bad again. We came home, discouraged, to a cold, smoky house (see earlier fireplace disaster post).

Months have passed, and sometimes I feel like we're no closer to finding a church home and church family than we were when we moved here in July. It's discouraging. Sometimes I feel like I don't even know exactly what I'm looking for anymore. I want God to hit me over the head with a 2 x 4 and say "This is it." Maybe I'm being too picky. Maybe one of these that we've visited is it, and I'm nitpicking over something small. Maybe what I'm looking for doesn't exist in Raleigh. Maybe there's no way to find what I'm hoping for on a search engine. =)

Sometimes I feel like what it boils down to is that I'm looking for a church that has found that delicate balance between Sunday morning faith and legalism. I'm looking for a place where it is apparent that the church members are enthusiastic and excited about serving God every day of the week, not just on Sunday. I want to be in a place where the other Christians are eagerly looking for God's answers for how to draw their families and their own hearts close to His. I want to be in place where believers are questioning the effects of our culture on their faith. I'd like to go to church with people who have made the decision to homeschool their kids, because that's what I'd like to do with Seth one day, and it would be nice not to be alone in that.

One problem... what I've just described is great, but enthusiastic Christians who meet these criteria often run into the problem of heading toward legalism without even realizing it. Eagerness to figure out how to live a life that is pleasing to God can often lead to artificial rules and standards that the group feels most in it should follow in order to look most Christlike. Questioning the culture can lead to looking down on others who aren't pulling back from it as much as you think they should. Homeschooling can lead to questions about whether Christians you know who aren't homeschooling are sinning because they aren't doing what you're doing. Disputable matters can become far too important in the quest to become more like Christ. In the quest to become more Christlike, people can create points of doctrine to argue over where there should be none.

On the other hand, a church where Christians are not as eager to find God's leading in their daily lives can have a host of other problems just as bad. Christians live in premarital sexual relationships, and no one tries to gently lead them to truth. No one thinks about the content of the media that they put into their minds and hearts. They just watch what everyone else is watching. The Christians in the church look no different than the non-believers around them. There is no struggle against sin; there is easy acquiescence.

What I'm crying out for is a middle ground! I want to find a place where people care greatly about finding God's will for their lives. I want to find a place where others are crying out for God's leadership in their day to day worlds. But I want it to also be a place where that leadership doesn't have to look the same for everyone. Even though I want to homeschool, I want to go to a church where everyone doesn't, and that's ok. Even though I want to cut most TV out of my life, I want to go to a church where everyone doesn't feel pressured to follow me in that. I want to go to a place where people laugh and joke and smile and don't take themselves too seriously in their quest to serve God. I want to be in a place where I sense that disputable matters stay just that, disputable, and where the pastors have not attempted to figure out the one best procedure for most things. I want to be in a place where the feeble attempts of weak Christians to serve their brothers and sisters are applauded and encouraged, even to the point of leadership changing plans to accommodate this important spiritual growth.

I want to find a place where I can relax, be my best, most godly self, and where I don't have to live in dread that either a) blatant sin by either me or anyone else will be smilingly ignored or b) that minute issues will be inflated out of proportion in the never ending quest for the most doctrinally sound, Biblically based solution for something or other. Sigh. Sometimes I feel like I might as well ask for the moon....

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Help! Crying baby flops over in shopping cart...

I'm hoping somebody out there can help me out with a solution to a baby problem... I used to take Seth grocery shopping every week in his infant carrier. I would take it out, prop it up on the front of the cart, and then shop while he sucked his thumb in comfort. Now that he's outgrown his carrier in length but not weight, I have to put him in the seat in the front of the cart. He is usually ok there for a few minutes, gripping the handlebar on the front for dear life, but after awhile, he gets tired and lets go, and then he slumps sideways and cries. It's pitiful. I tried out a Floppy cart cover today, and it doesn't help matters much. He's still too long and skinny to be comfortable in the cart. I tighten up the cart strap as tight as I can, and he's still leaning sideways. Anybody have any ideas to help me with this problem? Some sort of rigged pillow idea, maybe? I'm getting desperate. I don't want shopping to be miserable until he gets a whole lot bigger. Sigh... OOOOHH! Eureka moment! I could take some bungee cords and put them on both sides of him and put a super flat pillow around him and the cords in a U shape. I'm going to try that. Any better ideas? If it works, I'll post a picture. =)

Friday, November 23, 2007

My Hero...

My dad is my Hero of the Day! Because of him, I've been sitting by a toasty fire while Seth naps. He managed to diagnose our incompetence and fix the fireplace problem. I was afraid to let him at first, but his confidence was contagious. We didn't open the damper long enough last time before we lit the fire, so the cold air pushed the smoke out into the room. He opened it for a few minutes this time, and voila, beautiful fire, no sooty smell.

Mom and Dad watched Seth so David and I could have a lunch date today! I went and met him at work, and we ate at this great Mexican restaurant downtown. It's called El Rodeo, and it has the best chimichungas I've ever eaten. Mmmm. It was cheap, too! I've decided that after you have kids, anything that you do together alone without them can be considered a "date." Driving to the office to pick up some paperwork at night? A date, if no children come along. A 15 minute walk around the block? Date. Getting the oil changed, picking nits out of each other's hair... date, date, date... you get the picture. =)

I came back to a lovely scene. I smelled the fire as I walked up the walk, but when I opened the door, I saw the fire, but smelled nothing. I guess that's the way it's supposed to be, huh. Such a novel idea, smoke going outside... Seth was playing with a toy on the floor with Mom, and Dad was reading by the fire. Mmmm. What a peaceful family scene.

Now Seth is waking up, and it's time to feed him... I hope you're enjoying your Thanksgiving weekend as much as we are. I wouldn't be caught dead shopping on Black Friday, but if you've scored an incredible deal or two, more power to you. I don't have that much strength of purpose. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! This year, we're having two Thanksgivings... What's this, you say? Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday, but it wasn't my idea to give it a second go round. Nope, it was Vance and Terri's idea. =) Ya see, when Terri bought plane tickets to come home for Thanksgiving, she got the date wrong. So she actually bought tickets for the week after Thanksgiving, next week. No wonder the price was so great! =) Anyway, she figured this out a few weeks ago. The price of changing their tickets was astronomical, so we'll be having two Thanksgivings this year. David and I affectionately call them Real Thanksgiving and Fake Thanksgiving. As in, "What kind of pie do you want me to make for Thanksgiving?" Which one, real one or fake one?" "Real one..." You get the picture. We will not be letting them live this one down for awhile... But that meant that we had Thanksgiving at our little house today. Mom and Dad came, and Mom brought a chicken casserole, and we did up the pies and sides, and I even made homemade rolls. Seth and Dad went out and gathered some beautiful fall leaves for the table. We even had a co-worker of David's who was going to be alone on the holiday. A good time was had by all.
And Seth was a little angel today. He smiled and talked and cooed and played. He sat in his high chair and happily slammed Cheerios into his mouth while wearing his "My 1st Thanksgiving" bib (we're be getting some mileage out of that this year). And I couldn't help but think about how different this Thanksgiving was from the one was had two years ago.
Two years ago, I lost our first child to miscarriage while we were in Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving. All the way to the airport, and all the way home on the plane, I saw his tiny hand in my mind. I saw it slipping away from me, gently waving goodbye as he left me, all alone as I traveled back to Birmingham. I thought that day that Thanksgiving was ruined for me forever.
Last Thanksgiving, I was pregnant with Seth. I was pretty far along, and I could feel him moving around all the time, but that day was nervewracking for me. I couldn't shake the fear that something would happen to him. I wished desperately that he was already out and in my arms where I could see him and cuddle him, where he seemed more safe from harm.
This year, my sweet, almost 10-month-old got to sample the Thanksgiving mashed potatos for the first time. And I am so thankful I got to feed them to him, watch his grandparents spoil him, and read him his books. After I put him to bed tonight, I wished for awhile that I could get him up again to cuddle him. I missed him after he was asleep. This is the best Thanksgiving I've ever spent. Thanksgiving is good again. And I'm so thankful for my little boy. I'm thankful in a way that is made even more meaningful by the Thanksgivings that have gone before.
If you're struggling with infertility and miscarriage this year, I wish I could pick you up and put you in my shoes now and show you how different the view is than it used to be. I wish I could show you that there is hope for a beautiful tomorrow, but I know that you can't see that hope right now. I couldn't when I was where you are. So I'll just pray for you and for a beautiful future that you can't yet imagine. Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wanting more...

Ah, the day before Thanksgiving. My parents are coming down to us soon to spend a few days. The house is reasonably clean. =) They'll help me fold my laundry mountain, and Mom is bringing the main dish. All is good.

Except that I'm having a hard time with my reading material lately. I got a couple of books from the library the last time I went, and I have read parts of two of them. They were recently written by authors that are still alive. I've said for a long time that basically the only fiction author I like is a dead one. I adore classics. I mourn that I've read so many of them already. So I thought that I'd give these recommended reads a chance.

One of them that I'm a third of the way through is the immensely popular T**me Tr*v*el*r's Wife. (Don't really want anybody googling it to come here.) It's billed on the front as "a soaring celebration of the victory of love over time." Hmmm. Lots of people love this book. I can understand why. It's well written, something I can't say about most Christian fiction, but that's a rant for another time. The plot is inventive and intriguing. I really want to like this book.

Why don't I like it? I don't like it because when I am reading fiction, I'm looking for an escape, something that will teach me or inspire me without making me slog through murky waters to reach my goal. I enjoy books where the characters have to overcome some hardship or crisis, and where they grow as a result. Most of us can identify with that. But I guess I'm learning that what I'm looking for in a book is not just this. I'm looking for evidence of a quest toward ultimate redemption.

Yup, I'm looking for redemption in the end. Though the characters struggle, I want to see them overcoming lust, stealing, swearing, materialism, emptiness, etc.... After all, I pray to overcome all of these myself. It's hard for me to take if the characters take their vices for granted as things that will never change. It's hard for me to feel that they don't see many sins as sins, though, since they never claim to be Christians, this is completely realistic. I don't want to hear early on in the book that at the end of their lives, the main characters will have decided that a God who cares for them does not exist. To me, that's the biggest downer of all. I guess I can't stand a book written from the perspective of a person who believes that God is dead or that, at best, He just doesn't care. To me, the emptiness of that book is harsh and sad and lacks ultimate redemption. And I want more for the characters. I want more for the author. I want to see, if not them all finding Christ at the end of the last page, (since our search for Christ is not often that neat and easy), at least a yearning or striving toward God, toward Him.

There are definitely some books that lack my kind of ultimate redemption that are worth reading. There are movies that lack that that are worth seeing. We need the lesson that the rest of the world does not think or act like those of us who sometimes live in a Christian bubble (or a stay at home mom bubble of diapers and Walmart.) But how much of that should I be ingesting? I guess I never want to get to the point where I don't want more for the characters. I don't ever want to get to the point where I don't notice anymore that they are sad and in need of a Savior. So I guess that means that I'm glad I am dissatisfied with my books lately. Hmmm.

If anybody knows what I'm talking about and has book suggestions for me that would provide a redemptive escape, please let me know. Maybe I'm looking for more dead authors... =)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Definitely a new take on the Hallelujah Chorus...

Ok, this is hilarious. I don't know how they did it, but it's cool.


Last night, David and I decided to have our romantic fire in the fireplace. I've been excited about this wood burning fireplace since we moved in. Growing up, my dad would build fires in our fireplace just about every weekend in the winter. It's a family tradition for me. So, Dad had brought me some firewood chopped at home on the farm, and I'd been hoarding it. David built the fire and opened the flue, and I was practically gleeful. He lit it, and for a few minutes, we sat in the dark on the couch and enjoyed the crackling flames.

Then, the smoke detector went off. It didn't wake the baby, thank God, but in the process of cutting it off and turning on the lights, we noticed that the room was starting to get hazy. Bad. Very bad. David pulled the logs apart to kill the fire, and we opened up some windows and doors for a while. Way to kill a romantic evening. Needless to say, I was very disappointed. We thought this episode was over, and maybe we could figure out if there was something we'd done wrong and try again.

This morning, I woke up, and I could barely breathe because the smell of smoke was so strong. We opened every window and door in the house. We left them open all day long, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. David killed the one poor bug that made it in. And the living room still smells like smoke. It's better, much better, but it's hard for to believe that a few minutes of smoke in the house could make it smell so strong. I will never try this again. It's just not worth it. My fireplace will now be a place for pillar candles... What if the weather had been really cold, and it'd been miserable when we opened everything up?

So... anybody have any good ideas for getting the smoky smell out that don't involve me leaving open all the windows and doors again?

Oh, yeah, and for the person who asked what camera I use, it's a Nikon D50 digital SLR. I LOVE it. Maybe one of these days, I'll learn how to take pictures on it on something other than Auto. =)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ellen's Beef and Bean Enchiladas to feed a small army...

Ok, I made this last night, and David really liked it. I thought it was good, but I modified it a bit here, and I think it'll be even better. It's cheap, and it makes a ton. I ended up freezing 18 1/3 c. servings of it last night after we ate. We eat about 3 per person, so I froze them in 6 serving quantities, flat, in plastic bags.

Beef and Bean Enchiladas

2 green peppers, chopped/diced, depending on how you like it
2 onions, ditto
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 T. olive oil
2 (15 oz) cans pinto or black beans, drained and rinsed (I used pinto)
2 (15 oz) cans diced tomatos and green chilies
1 lb. lean ground beef, browned, drained, and rinsed to get off excess fat
1/2 c. enchilada sauce
2 T. chili powder
2 t. cumin
1/4 t. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2-1 c. cooked rice (this is filler more than anything. Not sure if I liked it.)
6 in. corn tortillas (these are just corn and water and salt, and they're better for you than flour tortillas. no lard)
enchilada sauce for on top
shredded cheese

In large stockpot, saute green pepper, onion, and garlic in oil. (In skillet, brown the ground beef.) Add beans, tomatos, sauce, spices, and beef to the pot; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until heated through and mixture thickens some. Add rice, and cook 5 minutes longer.

Heat corn tortillas in a wet paper towel in the microwave to soften. Spoon 1/3- 1/2 c. of mixture down the center and roll up. Put in casserole dish coated with nonstick spray. Spray enchiladas lightly with cooking spray if desired. Spoon enchilada sauce over the top. Cover and bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with cheese and cilantro. Bake a few minutes longer to melt cheese. Enjoy!

Oh yeah, I give credit to Kelli for making me think about trying to make my own enchiladas. She served us some good ones while we were in Texas. If you want her recipe, I'm sure she'd be happy to pass it along. =)

Saturday morning sauciness...

Good morning! Seth is down for a nap, and we just spent an hour driving around and looking at the last yard sales of the season. It's cold this morning! I got to impress David with my new found knowledge of our little part of the world. We had a good time, but now a young girl's thoughts turn to sauces... =)

I really like making my own homemade sauces and spice mixtures. Most of the time, they turn out to be more flavorful than something I buy in a can, and they usually have less sugar, salt, or preservatives. I made those enchiladas last night, and I think they turned out well, but I'd make a few modifications. I already modified the stuff out of the recipe I got off, so I would truly call this particular recipe my own at this point. =) But this recipe for Red Enchilada Sauce is completely All Recipes, and you can find it there if you type in that name. But here's a shortcut in case you don't want to go there. It's a good sauce, and it's easy.

1 T. olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced onion (I dumped in some onion powder here)
1/2 t. oregano
2 1/2 t. chili powder
1/2 t. basil
1/8 t. black pepper
dash salt
1/2 t. cumin
1 t. parsley flakes
1/4 c. salsa (I used canned diced tomatos)
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 1/2 c. water

Saute the garlic and onion in oil for 1-2 minutes. Add everything else and bring to boil, lower and simmer 15-20 minutes...

Oh yeah, and Kelli asked for my pizza sauce recipe. I put it up earlier here.

Friday, November 16, 2007

One of those days...

Since I'm trying to do the "honest" thing on this blog, lemme just tell ya that it's been one of those days...

Seth's been cranky. I know he's teething. He was teething yesterday, though, and he was still cheerful for all the different people who kept him. I think he's bored with me, so it's easy to give full vent to his frustrations. Of course, it's personal... =) Hopefully he'll nap better for his afternoon nap than he did for his morning nap. Ugh.

In my attempt to keep costs down, I thought I'd try getting a movie tonight at our local library. Since one of the largest libraries in this state is just down the road from us, I thought cheerfully of how great this would be. I walked in and asked where the videos were. "Wake County doesn't carry videos." You've got to be kidding me. That dream of cost savings just went up in smoke. Looks like I'll be buying every educational video that I might want to show Seth. So I guess he won't be seeing many. Apparently this decision has been made by a single man who is adament that libraries can't do both books and videos well. Hogwash. Hoover Public Library in AL proves that that's an absolutely ridiculous assertion. Don't even get me started about the Homewood and Mountain Brook libraries. It's a good thing I don't have this guy's name and address. I'd take a possee of stay at home mom's over there to picket on his lawn...

I lost the address I was going to use to mail a book somewhere in the library parking lot. I got to search for it fruitlessly while Seth wailed in his car seat. Guess that errand won't be getting done for awhile...

I cut my finger on my kitchen shears while attempting to make homemade enchilada sauce. But hey, at least the sauce smells delicious. I'm attempting to make freezer beef and bean enchiladas in record quantities tonight.... If it turns out well, I'll give you the recipe.

Let's just say, I'm glad it's the weekend. It's getting down to freezing tonight, so maybe my man and I will try lighting a fire in our fireplace and playing a game in front of it after the munchkin goes down. That and some hot cocoa might help...

A bad typo and an off the cuff comment...

I visited a blog today briefly, and I got my dander up about the blogger's list of things that older mothers dislike about the way younger mothers do things. I made a comment, and due to a typo, I came across as horribly arrogant, even though the point I was trying to make was that I was trying very hard not to be arrogant in any parenting success that I may or may not have had thus far, since I thought the author of the post came across that way in her treatment of younger mothers. After I read my comment, I was horrified to discover that it looked like I was calling myself an "amazing mother" because Seth and I have had some minor successes at some high chair discipline issues! Nothing could be farther from the truth! I would never call myself an "amazing mother" with any seriousness. I'm barely holding it together too many days in a row to dare to give myself anything like that title.

I am continually humbled by how much I don't know and how far I have to go on this motherhood journey. The only point I was trying to make was that just because an older mother has had some success in training her children, that doesn't mean that it's a good idea to assume that she has had everything to do with their good behavior. The grace of God in giving her children with compliant temperments may be an important factor. I've seen moms who try everything they know how to do, follow all the books, and still have children that continually puzzle them with their bad behavior. I've seen moms who put in the same amount of effort and use the same techniques, and their children are generally well behaved. I would be very afraid to say that the first moms are doing something wrong just because their kids aren't as well behaved as the second group of moms.

The grace of God to moms in parenting should humble us on days when our children are acting like little angels. Some days they do; some days they don't. Good discipline is a great thing, but it's not the only thing. And if Seth happens to be having a great day, I need to be careful before I take all the credit for it. I hope that my friends and family will be gracious enough to me not to give me all the credit for it if he's having an awful day. =) I'm just a sinful, totally novice mommy doing the best I can at the moment.

But I did learn a lesson tonight. I should be very careful before I write a comment on a post that frustrates me. I can "speak" too hastily, write something that doesn't accurately represent what I was trying to say at all, and in the process, make a big mess that I can't fix because Blogger's comments are completely screwed up at the moment. Grrrr. =) I can unintentionally offend just as much as the original author because I'm not being careful and letting my frustration get the better of me. This is wrong, and it's something I need to work on. I think I'm going to refrain from commenting on other blogs for a while until I get my "tongue" in check. =)

What do you do when you run across a blog that frustrates you? Anybody else out there ever made an off the cuff comment that came back to haunt them? Anybody troll the Christian mommy blogger sites too much, too? I think I'm laying off them for awhile and sticking to my own safe little blog world. =)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Fall in our yard...

"...One thing about having a baby is that each step of the way you simply cannot imagine loving him any more than you already do, because you are bursting with love, loving as much as you are humanly capable of- and then you do, you love him even more."- Operating Instructions, Anne Lamott
Seth, you're getting so big. I look at you, and my heart aches sometimes with how much I love my little man. I am so blessed to be your mom. I will never take that incredible blessing for granted. Out of nothingness, out of despair, out of tremendous heartache... you appeared. And your smile makes it all worth it.

Last week, you said "Da- da" for the first time. We were standing at the door, watching Daddy come up the walk, and I said, "There's Daddy," like I always do. You pointed, and you said, "Da-da." You didn't say anything before that, and you didn't say anything after that. Daddy came in just as you said it. We both looked at each other, hardly daring to believe it. Before I had you, I would never have believed that such a small thing, just one syllable from baby lips, could mean so much.

That was also the day that you gave us kisses for the first time. You've been kissing yourself in the mirror in your "Do you know new?" book for a few weeks now. But that was the first day that you gave Daddy a kiss when he asked. Your kisses are wet, smiling, open mouthed things right now. You don't kiss the book anymore. I missed getting a picture of it. And that's the way it will continue to be. I will blink, and a small phase will have passed. I don't want to forget a single one of them.

I love you, baby boy. Enjoy your first fall.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Trip to the Lone Star state...

Ahh, back at home at last. Seth is down for an early nap, and I'm doing mountains of trip laundry. You know the kind; it fills your hamper to overflowing after you've unpacked your suitcase. But I digress. This Friday through Monday, we made the trip to Texas to see David's baby bro and his family. We had a great time, and we got to see the newest member of the family, baby Judson, for the first time. He's like a little sack of sugar at this point, since he's only three months old, and somehow, I didn't get a picture of him. Arrghh! You'll have to go to Kelli's blog to see him.

One of the best things about the trip was that we did nothing but hang out and talk and experience daily life together. Sometimes those are the best trips, y'all. We played with the big girls, and David became a contender for Uncle of the Year by patiently reading them tons of books. Seth slept great, since the girls had vacated their room and huge closet for us, located on the opposite side of the house from everyone else. It's hard to imagine another scenario that would work as well for housing 4 adults and 5 children under the age of 6. =)

Dan is a youth pastor at a local church in their small Texas town. We got to see him in action, and he does a great job! He's got the perfect combination of fun and serious. He plays hard with them, but he also expects them to cultivate spiritual maturity and to serve others. They have planned service projects, and on Sunday nights, they have discipleship group. They read a chapter on one of the spiritual disciplines each week for that. This week it was on fasting! Imagine... teens planning to fast as a spiritual discipline. We were impressed...

A note of warning to all travelers out there. If you're using paper tickets, HANG ON TO THEM, even if the person at the ticket counter or gate tells you that you don't need them anymore. Expedia sent us paper tickets for our flights, and they came in one big packet. On the morning of our flight to Texas, we gave the packet to the U.S. Air rep, and she gave us our boarding passes. She did not gives us anything back that was in the ticket packet. On the way to our gate, we realized all we had were boarding passes for the flight there, so David went to the gate agent and asked where our boarding passes were for the flight home. He explained we'd had paper tickets. She said they were probably made electronic and not to worry about it. We got on the plane...

We got to the airport at Fort Worth an hour and a half before our flight was scheduled to leave. We had plenty of time, right? Nope. Because when we got to the ATA counter, they wanted to know where our paper tickets were. We didn't have them. Why? Because U.S. Air had taken them. So David gets on the cell to Expedia. While he's on hold with them, I go over to U.S. Air. The rep there gets on the phone with the main office. It's looking like we'll either have to buy all new tickets or miss our flight. We were not happy. Expedia can't do anything. The ATA reps are nasty and mean.

Finally, David asks for a manager, and the ATA manager has us filling out forms for lost tickets. That's going to be $60 a ticket, but at least, we might make the flight.. Just as David is filling out the forms, the U.S. Air rep comes running over. They've found our tickets somewhere. We rush to make the plane through the slowest security line I have ever experienced. We have to wait for the ATA rep to get to the gate with this pathetic looking handwritten note so we can get the connection in Chicago. We are the last ones on the plane. Once in Chicago, everything is fine. Apparently, the sad looking form he gave us had the Magic Formula on there for us to get boarding passes back home. We were super relieved, and we are thrilled to be home after a harrowing day... Yeah! But be warned, people, paper tickets are something you have to be very careful with, and don't let anyone dismiss you if you ask questions about them until they show you exactly how you're getting home, even if they are short and rude with ya...

But I digress... you want to see pictures of cute children now...

David has been tossing Seth in the air since he was so small that I probably shouldn't even mention how small or some of you would be horrified. It's a family trait, as you can see from this picture of Dan balancing Elise in the air. She got higher than that, folks. Please don't report us all to DSS. =)

On Saturday, we had a visit from the Eidson Crew. I found Shannon's blog from Kelli's blog links, and we've been keeping up with each other through that. Seth and Ian were born one day apart, and they have been tracking each other's development pretty closely, even down to height and weight. I think they look kinda similar, too. It was great to meet someone that I've only known before through a blog. Sort of like internet dating for friends, I guess. =) Aren't they cute buds?

Ahh, all the chilluns except Judson ready for church on Sunday. I figured I'd better work fast before someone spit up or started crying. =) Seth LOVED playing with his big cousins. They were so sweet to him, and he found them endlessly entertaining. He did wonderfully on this trip, even with missing naps and being in cars, on planes, and in airports for two full days. I figured it was a miracle of miracles when he went all day from 4:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. cheerfully, while only having about 1 hour of nap in there. I guess everything was entertaining enough to keep him happy...