Sunday, December 16, 2012

it's been [busy] too long

It has been sleepless around here for sure. I think i dropped off writing when Mia started eating solid foods and teething, which is just about when she quit sleeping through the night: so there is so much to catch up on! My little girl will be six months this week! Where has the time gone? I have been a mom (on the outside, anyway) for half a year now and it has all gone by so quickly. She's rolling and laughing and eating with the best of babies.

Where have I been? Since my last post I have been busy, busy, and more busy. it is safe to say that my plate is  more than full, in fact it's the back-away-from-the-buffet-line and #noroomforseconds kind of full. I started selling Mary Kay (who would have thought?) and I took a train trip with Mia to Ohio to visit my sister's family for a few days. We also had Mia's dedication service and a lunch to follow for our family, friends, and sitters.

I'm not one to say no, or to take no for an answer. My husband is always telling me to slow down! I have a hard time turning people down, and usually that's because I sincerely want to do whatever they are asking if only I had the time and energy! This is the way I have always been, but this is the peakest of the peak for me! What I'm learning is that I'm no longer a single twenty-something who can pack life into every single hour of the day. Quality living for me is now getting a full night of sleep because now I have a responsibility to my family: my husband and my baby. They need me as much as I need to be busy! If I keep trying to do it all, someone somewhere suffers and I'm no longer at my best. If I socialize too much, my house suffers. If I clean too much, my attitude suffers. Balance is everything.

I thought my life was like cheesecake. I know, weird, but I love dessert so this analogy works best. It was rich, creamy, and it could have a variety of toppings like caramel, strawberries, or peanut butter, or chocolate ganache, or lemon whipped topping. I could go on! Cheesecake is good, but if you add too many toppings, you aren't going to get one clear idea of flavors and texture. Instead, you'll get a bellyache for sure.So it's time for me to pack up some slices and freeze them for later.

What I really want to do (really, really!) is take some college courses again. Just one or two online for awhile until I learn how to juggle again and until Mia is more independent. This means I have to seriously cut back and prayerfully 'freeze' a few other flavors for awhile. So I'm moving zumba over (but I love it so much!) and downsizing date night (just to a cheaper, more laidback version) and stepping back from sound board at church. I'm wincing every time I think about cutting back because I enjoy all of those things. Someday God will give those slices back to me, and it will be as sweet and creamy as peaches and cream cheesecake all over again: one flavor at a time
There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.
What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. Ecclesiates 3:1-13

Friday, November 23, 2012

It's been awhile.

I have struggled with blogging this month, but I won't apologize because it is for the best. I can't deliver my thoughts on a schedule. When God puts something on my heart then I know it is time to share.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

women of wisdom

"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God." Titus 2:3-5 NIV

A few months after moving to Amsterdam I was faced with a problem that was completely foreign to me: I was lonely. If you know me, I am very outgoing and really enthusiastic about meeting new people, so you might be shaking your head in confusion. I have a huge network of friends and family, and a few very close friends. There are about four girls that I hold closest in my heart that I can share things with that are very personal. These are girls that I can have a crazy late night with, laugh at ridiculous inside jokes and still be able to call up in a crisis at two am. My best friends can speak into my life spiritually and I would respect their insights. But I had moved away from home, and so we were 1-4 hours apart.

At first I looked for someone just like me. Boy, I had a pretty specific list too. You would think I had a profile on I wanted someone spontaneous, someone who liked to go out or stay home, who liked to make messes and talk about our love lives, someone to shop with, someone to bake with and someone who wasn't afraid to tell me the truth. Mostly the girls my age that were around me were too young or too old and if they were my age they wouldn't be able to relate to someone who was already married and didn't party (I guess I'm pretty boring like that ;).

What God had in mind for me was so much better. He brought me women of wisdom. Ladies who had families, who had seen hard times, who had married young and survived, who relied on God because he had proven faithful to them. I started attending the events that my church held for the women's ministries and let me tell you I was the youngest there. Immediately I felt loved by these ladies who had so much to offer. They took me in and showered me (literally, with a baby shower!) with affection and attention and understanding. I also have some friends that I consider family here in Amsterdam. These people have blessed us during some of our hardships. I can rely on them to offer a washing machine when ours breaks, or transportation when it's a necessity. They are good for babysitting too!

There are about six women I like to visit and eight that I listen carefully to for advice. Throughout the week I try to visit at least two of them. Seeing them in their home environment teaches me so much. They share with me advice on parenting, discipline, baby care, marriage, love life, recipes, financial ideas, political concerns, and practical housekeeping tips. These ladies make me a better as a person, wife, mother, friend, and Christian.

Here are just a few things I have learned from them.
  • Keeping your house clean and organized daily means that your family will be prepared to help others in need without being held back by the chaos at home. Wow. When I heard this I suddenly found the motivation to clean regularly. I want to be able to help others or to have people over and so many times I am held back because of the state of my house. I need to keep a higher standard.
  • Never feel awkward about nursing your child anywhere. It is a natural thing to feed a baby and it used to be understood that way. I have a nursing cover and I always use it in public and I have no regrets. 
  • Help your baby learn good sleeping habits. You can never spoil a newborn, but when they become infants it is time to show a firmer pinky (the hand might be to heavy here ;) In order to learn how to put herself to sleep I put Mia down and let her cry for just a few minutes and she usually tires herself out and falls asleep. This is excruciatingly hard but extremely effective. Now she will sleep for anyone anywhere, and a baby who naps is a happy baby.
  • Everyone should know how to make chicken soup. It's so easy, throw everything you want in it in a pot, add some bouilion cubes and fill it with water and boil away!! I don't know why I spent so much time researching this recipe because when I heard this I was relieved. It came out really good too.
  • Make your home a sanctuary for your family. The home should be the one place where it is easy for your kids to make good decisions. It should be a place where you family can meet and communicate freely and openly. I want my house to be a place where worshiping God is natural. This means that I want to keep my home pure from all the evil that the rest of the world has to offer by making sure that the media is clean, that profanity isn't used, that whole and healthy food is offered, that responsibilities are shared, and where illegal activity, smoking, and drugs are frowned on. Im not 'sheltering' my family. 'Evil' is unavoidable, but it doesn't have to be in my home.
  • Choose your battles. If you eat all of your husband's favorite snacks don't expect your stash of cookies to be safe.  
Whew, now this sleepless mama is going to bed. (I haven't posted in awhile because life really has been sleepless)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

keep it spicy

I really like to cook. No, that's not right: I LOVE to cook. I just never have the time anymore! So when this meal comes into rotation, I get so excited! It's hard to find recipes that are meant for two. These don't skip on flavor, and the ingredients are usually already in your kitchen, just add jalapenos to your usual shopping trip.

I love jalapeno poppers and all things spicy. Tonight I'm making Jalapeno Popper Chicken & Garlic and Cayenne Green Beans. This is one of our favorite dinners around here. It's great because you can really do it with three chicken breasts so if there is just the two of you for dinner, one of you gets it for lunch the next day! The green beans have become my favorite because the cayenne adds just enough bite and the pecans give it real texture. Crunch & Spicy = yummmy. Someday when I'm actually feeding small children I will really miss this dinner.

I found the recipe for the chicken on pinterest and subsequently on  this blog. The green beans recipe came out of a foodnetwork cookbook and you can find it on their website here.
Jalapeno Popper Chicken (Serves 2 or 3)
1/2 cup panko
2 tsp. canola oil
1.5 – 2 tsp. taco seasoning
1 egg
2 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (we used 2%)
1-2 jalapeƱo peppers, seeds and ribs removed, minced
2 chicken breasts (or three)

Preheat the oven to 375 and place an ovenproof rack onto a rimmed baking dish. Spray with cooking oil.

In a small skillet over medium heat, combine the panko with the canola oil. Cook, stirring often, until the panko is golden and crispy. Place in a shallow bowl or dish. To the panko, add the taco seasoning* and stir to combine.

In another shallow bowl or dish, lightly beat an egg. In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and jalapeƱos.

Using a small utility knife, cut a pocket into the side of each chicken breast, or horizontally slice the chicken through the center, until it is almost butterflied. Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper, and then divide the cream cheese mixture evenly between each chicken breast’s pocket. Use toothpicks to secure, if necessary.

Dip the chicken pieces one at a time first into the egg, and then into the panko mixture, making sure to coat the chicken completely. Place the chicken on the prepared baking rack and cook for about 25-30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

Garlic Green Beans
Toast 4 sliced garlic cloves and a pinch of cayenne pepper in a skillet with butter. Add 1 1/4 pounds green beans, season with salt and a pinch of sugar and cook 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water, cover and cook 6 minutes, then uncover and boil until the water evaporates. Season with salt and pepper and toss with chopped pecans.  

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

three things i'm learning about keeping a marriage and a family

Even though I'm a new mom, I sometimes forget that I'm a newlywed too! Well by my standards anyway. We have been married for a month over a year now so I think it still counts! I understand why people wait to have children for a few years after they marry: it's tough! We weren't planning on having a darling baby this early in our marriage, in fact we were planning to wait for a few more years. God had a better plan though, and we cannot imagine a morning without our Mia.

The first years of marriage come with their own tough lessons without adding baby drama to the mix. It is hard 'becoming one' with someone, even if you have dated them for years (we were married after five years of dating). True love is really put to the test throughout the pregnancy, in the labor & delivery room, and at 2, 4, & 6 am feedings. We conceived a whole month after our wedding, so I started off my pregnancy and marriage very emotionally (honestly I was an Emotional Emily all three trimesters). My husband was very generous with me, he learned early on that the only way to keep me happy was to send me for a nap or to tuck me in for good.

Disclaimer: I do not have a perfect marriage and I don't claim to be any sort of expert on relationships or parenting. There are things that I have learned that are important for me to share (this is more for me than for any reader). These are things that people told me were important to learn, but I didn't realize how important until I had to live through it.

First, Sharing responsibilities is extremely important. Maybe I am the only wife/mom (unlikely) but I can feel stress rolling right off of me when I see my husband taking the trash out, vacuuming, or changing a diaper. There are days when I am so exhausted and overwhelmed and Adam knows that I am on autopilot, but watching him help out relaxes me instantly. Early on in our marriage it was hard for me to learn to share chores: not because I want to do more but because I want them done my way! Once I learned (still learning) to give up control I realized that when a chore is done it's done! That's it! Hallelujah!

We also share responsibilities in parenting. We both feel that a dad and a mom are equally important to raising a child and that nothing should be exclusive to the mother (except breastfeeding, obviously). My husband is confused when other dads shy away from doing diapers or get nervous about being alone with a baby. He enjoys taking care of Mia, I can trust him to take care of her exclusively at any point in time. He has found his own soothing ways with her. He could swaddle, bathe, feed, and play just as well as I can. Of course I love love love spending time with my little girl but it's so nice to know he can take her off my hands when I need a break! When we first found out we were parents, a couple that we're close to gave us this advice, and I am so glad!

Second, Quality Time, Quality Time, Quality Time. I said 'Time' 3x because it's important. Any new mom or dad can tell you that there is no such thing as personal time anymore. Now that is rough on a new marriage. After I have poured myself out to my child, to work, and to spending time with God, how do I find the time to spend with my husband? It's impossible! Last night we randomly woke up in the middle of the night and talked for an hour or so just to catch up with each other before falling back asleep. Before the baby we always practiced 'Monday Date Night'. Now it's a distant memory. I am learning that is so important to make time for each other (it's not like we'll regret it!) and to let my spouse know that I want to be more available. This is one place where having a shared interest comes in handy. I am trying to understand a few of my husbands hobbies (I am a fumbler with video games or sports), but I think he appreciates my efforts and we have fun if nothing else. When all else fails, there's netflix.

Third, Acknowledging your spouse's roles outside of parenting. Before I was a mom, I was (and am) many things. I enjoy being involved in my church, I like to cook, I like messing around with pictures and graphics. I love zumba, academics, and I can enjoy an opera or a good basketball game. I love meeting new people and I love roadtrips. I feel loved when my husband compliments me (what wife doesn't?) about my being a mother. Its great! But I have noticed that it is important to me that he recognizes that I wear other hats as well. I think he feels the same way. He likes his talents to be appreciated and his ideas to be valued and his roles outside of 'fatherhood' to be recognized too.

Ah, now I feel better. I am not any sort of blogger, and I have no idea what I'm doing. But sometimes on a late night like this it's nice to organize my thoughts and reflect. Someday I'll look back and read these posts and wonder what on earth I was thinking, but I am a documenter, and I have to account for the things I'm learning. Thank you for being patient with me.

Monday, September 17, 2012

three months & counting

a few days old
Mia is three months old today. Where has the time gone?

three months old
When I first held her I remember thinking, how will I ever leave you? how did you come from me? will I ever be good enough for you? i remember feeling overwhelmed. but as i held her i knew it was responsibility to know and love my Mia. to understand her quirks, her favorites, her humor, and her smile. the journey of a lifetime began on June 19. I have never know what a mother's love is and how strongly it beats until I had my baby girl.

In these three months I have learned that God is the giver of all good things. While learning about my bundle of joy I have learned more about myself than I ever knew. Caring for a baby gives you lots of time for introspection. Where my strength ends, His begins. He has carried me through the sleepless nights and unpaid bills and has taught me that Sara cannot accomplish anything on her own, at least anything eternally worthwhile. If I have been entrusted with this precious child then it is up to me to raise her to serve the God of the universe, the God who holds the stars in his hands. He has given me life, and life more abundantly. He wants everything from me: my family, my dreams, my future, my relationships, and all of my passion. When I surrender everything to Him, he takes it all for His glory and I am showered with blessings.

Mia has never wanted for anything, except more milk! She has an insatiable appetite! I am even grateful for that. She is healthy, and strong. The instinct instilled in a mother is so complex and natural, I pour out love for her out of places in my heart I have never been to. The Creator knew what he was doing when He made mothers. My God has supplied all of our needs according to His riches in Glory! O Praise Him! He is Good! I have never had to buy a single diaper, wipe, onesie, or piece of baby equipment for my darling girl. With three baby showers, a large extended family, loving church ladies, and a huge network of a support system that our family is blessed to have in several states, we have been provided for abundantly! Our angel can't even get through all of the clothes that were saved, made, or bought for her. Thousands of diapers are piled up in her closet. Her nursery is packed with our yellow and grey baby things. Our living room is overwhelmed with a swing bouncer, car seat, and play gym underfoot. Everything she has was given from good friends by a good God.

I have watched my newborn unravel into an infant. She has stretched and yawned and cooed her way out to 23+ inches. She has a contagious smile, a head full of hair that won't stop growing, and fists that she sucks every chance she gets. I remember her first week of smiles, we were head over heels in love when she smiled back. Now she is enthralled with her hands and taking to the bird on her mobile. She grasps things with purpose, she fascinates herself with her own hands. She loves baths and bedtime, especially when we get to the part where we rub her feet. I expect to be sharing many pedicures with my firstborn.

Mia loves to be held so she is standing up, and if you give in to this demand you will be rewarded with squeals of delight. Her favorite toy is the little pink elephant, she chews at her ears and strokes her trunk and tail. When I bring Mia to church she likes to be held so that she can see everything during the worship service. After the meet and greet she is worn out with socializing and falls right to sleep in my arms during the service. Whenever I am getting ready to go out, I prop her up on top of the dryer so she can watch me get ready. She watches me intently while I do my make up and dry my hair. She loves when I turn the dryer on her! Her own hair is so curly when it's wet. I can even see some curls poking out around her ears now. Maybe my husband rubs miracle grown on her scalp while I'm gone.

This little lady is a daddy's girl all the way. She loves her mama for sure, always calming down in my arms to the cadence I sway her in. However, there is a no mistaking her interest in her daddy. And the feeling is mutual. They are fast friends and she knows daddy is good for playtime and silly songs and games. Adam hardly flinches at an explosive diaper or a fussy afternoon. He handles her patiently and with a positive attitude. On a saturday last week he took care of Mia from 8 am till her bedtime at 11. Most dads would call incessantly and panic. Not my husband. I expected to come home to chaos but I found my precious girl sleeping soundly in her crib, already fed, changed, bathed, swaddled, sung to, and tucked in. I am blessed with a conscientious husband who cares for his little bundle of joy so gently.

If this is just the beginning, I cannot wait to see how many more blessings my little family has in store. Bring it on!!