Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What I want for my son

Today concluded a short Bible study on conversations you should have with your son.

While I can't actually have a conversation with my son, even though he's starting to mimic sounds :), my husband and I should get our game plan together because those opportunities will come all too quickly.

Teaching my son to be a godly man is a very daunting task. I know that I have great examples to follow and wonderful resources all around me. While making the most of these opportunities, I'm planning to prepare for those times coming around the bend where teaching my son what God wants from him and how he can please God will be possible.

My example won't be a direct showing of how a godly man behaves because ...well... I'm not a man. But I can take it as a teachable time to show my son what a godly woman looks like and how strong she can be. He hopefully will see that relying on God for identity and purpose is what makes true beauty.

I'm a ways from being confident in that truth. I hope that I see the ways that God is giving me the wisdom and the confidence to teach my son by example about all that God has for him, because He is the only one who wants more for my son than my husband or I do.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Supermom VS. The Fear of Mediocrity

As I'm now in the beginning of my journey as a mom, I'm fighting an old fight that has been with me for almost as long as I can remember. This struggle became glaringly apparent in college as I pursued a degree in architecture.

One day at a desk critique, my professor tells me if I don't start trying harder I'm only going to ever be mediocre. He went on to explain my designs were average at best. The whole time I was choking back tears. My professors had over the years made it clear that these critiques were about our work, not about us, so not to take what is said personally.

I know and have told myself he was trying to motivate me with these words, but these words have hurt me and are still affecting me. Even six years later, I'm scared of being mediocre, not adding anything original or worthwhile to the world.

I admit that the base reason I gave up on my pursuit of becoming a licensed architect is because of this fear. This conversation with my professor did not plant this seed of fear in me, it mainly amplified it to the point where I could not ignore it or live in bliss of ignorance I had lived in before.  My idealistic views of my future were shattered that day and were not repaired as my college years in the program went on.

Going to college, I was under the illusion that I would go to school and learn how to take my field by storm. This was partly naiveté, on my part. I did not do enough research ahead of time to make sure I was making an appropriate career path choice.

With this naiveté and fly by the seat of my pants mentality, I was setting myself up for a brick wall collision somewhere along the way. I'm surprised it took until the end of Sophomore year!

I tried harder, but soon realized I was at my peak far behind my classmates. With a shortage of jobs because of a collapse in the housing and building market, I found I could not compete for the few jobs available because of the nagging reminders that I wasn't good enough or trying hard enough.

Soon, I was exhausted. Between the strenuous hours of studio work, my graduation date rushing towards me, and the hunt for a job, I was barely sleeping and stressed to the max. All the while, I was terrified of mediocrity. I was tired of not making a mark on the people around me.

I was struggling to see my purpose.

Realizing I'd have to move in with parents after graduation because of a lack of a job, I knew that was the end to my architectural pursuits. They lived in an area with even fewer architecture job opportunities than where my school was! The job market everywhere was flooded with more experienced candidates and time passing only meant more recent graduates would be coming on the scene as well. I knew I couldn't compete. Maybe it was the voice in my head saying, you're just mediocre, maybe it was reality finally hitting that this was not my skill set.

Either way, I gave up, got three part-time jobs since my school loans were coming due and tried to distract myself from my classmates getting internships and returning to school for their masters degree. I wanted to go back to be with friends but knew the course load would be too much for me.

That time after graduation wasn't all bad. Because of living closer to my family and my boyfriend, I was able to reinvest in those relationships I had neglected. My boyfriend became my husband, and my family became friends on a new level. So many blessing came from being home for those two years after graduation.

Now with life settling after marriage, a move across three states, and a baby, I've been able to process all these changes in a new light and realize the fear of mediocrity has followed me. It's been with me well before my sophomore year of college, and is still hard to shake.

Today, aspirations of being a "Supermom" seem to be my way of battling my fear of mediocrity. I must excel at what I do to battle that broken record in my head telling me I'll never be more than average.

I've found that record plays louder when I'm in a spiritual desert. When I'm not relying on God, I seem to let my thoughts of self doubt play louder.

The more time in this desert, the more ways my thoughts bring out my insecurities.

I find myself in a new spiritual desert now as I'm battling exhaustion, sleep deprivation, separation from family, endless household tasks, all while trying to embrace my changing child and keep my marriage strong.

As much as I hated hearing her say this over and over when I was younger, I find the words of my mother entering my thoughts: Your identity is in Christ as a child of God. Remember whose you are.

I obviously have failed Christ in many ways as anyone has. HE, however, has extended grace so that even if I am average or mediocre at best:
HE still died for me!
HE still provided a way of salvation for me.
HE still loves me and pursues me to be closer to HIM!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Myth of Supermom

There once was a woman who had several children and provided for all of them without her sparkling smile leaving her face. While preparing her daily organic gourmet meals and perfect chocolate chip cookies (just in time for her children coming home from school) her apron cinched her waist while displaying her symmetrical form. Even though her body looks effortlessly flawless, she'll let you know her daily runs are the true reason for her slender form--that and her eight glasses of water a day as well as all the fruits and veggies she snacks on. She never passes on a bake sale but never over indulges on any treat.

You never see her sweat. She could run a marathon or face a firing squad without a hair falling out of place.

Her children are so well behaved, they could teach finishing school and their idea of rebellion is vacuuming the carpet in diagonal strokes.

Her wardrobe reflects current fashion without making her look like she's trying too hard or trying to hide her true age.

Her hair is coiffed in a style that is effortless but stylish and flattering.

Unrealistic as it seems, she never needs help, never takes a break, never waivers in her convictions or loyalties  She's caring, compassionate, vivacious, energetic, Perfect!

She exposes all your insecurities in blinding light. Everything you struggle with she masters with ease and excels through any turbulence.

She turns you into a green-eyed monster.

She's Supermom! (queue the brass band and the fireworks announcing her arrival)
She can't be real...oh, wait, she's not...she's a myth.

Yes, there are real women who seem super human in the mom department, but they are an exception. Even those who exceed common conceptions of motherhood, fail in other areas.

I've aspired to be the mythical supermom, and even my short experience has shown failures to live up to those mythical expectations.

If we as mothers are setting ourselves up for failure by believing this myth of motherhood is ideal, what image of motherhood should we embrace rather than this myth?

I'm going to be working through different areas of the Supermom Myth in coming posts. If you have stories or insights
, please share as this is a complicated issue. There are the pressures from society, from yourself, from family. Some are valid, some are not. I am personally working through my idea of the mom I want to be and this will be one of my outlets to sort this out.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

First Solo Canning Experience: Lemon Honey Marmalade

Today, I'm writing about the success of my FIRST canning endeavor. My mom and sister have set a tradition in my family of canning every harvest, mainly tomatoes or salsa. I decided to bite the bullet and try my hand at it. 

Armed with the book, Food in Jars, I started on the recipe for Lemon Honey Marmalade. Aldi had lemons for 20 cents a piece so I bought $4 worth and a whole jar of clover honey ($3.79). I also had to pick up some cheese cloth since the recipe uses the lemon seeds as the pectin source. 

I had to cut up the lemons by topping and tailing them, removing the seeds and cutting them into 1/4 inch wedges. This took about an hour and I was very thankful I didn't have any cuts on my fingers because all the lemon juice. 

After the lemons were sliced and put in a large pot, I bundled up the seeds in the cheese cloth and stuck it in the pot as well. I brought it to a boil and then lowered the temperature to just a simmer, keeping it on the stove for an hour. *Just a note, I love having a gas stove because it's so easy to adjust the heat*

After the hour, I turned off the burner and let the whole mixture sit out, covered, overnight. 

The next day, with a caldron sized pot of water on the stove next to the pot of lemons (I took out the lemon bundle and discarded it), I started to mix and prepare the lemons, juice, sugar, and honey into a sloppy mess. After I thought the mixture had cooked enough, I decided to put it into the jars and proceed with a water bath. 

I had prepared four pint jars in the hot water, but to my surprise, there was more marmalade left over. I didn't want to waste this mixture I had worked so hard for so I processed those four pints, and brought the lemon mixture back to a simmer so that it wouldn't set up. After the water bath for those four jars was finished, I processed four half-pint jars and filled those (so this recipe produced MUCH more than it said it would).  

When all the jars were processed, I realized they were sloopy and sloshy. So, according to the recipe, I waited an hour and checked back...still sloopy and sloshy. I guess I didn't need to worry about the mixture setting in the pot. I wanted to cry...two days of work and it wasn't setting into a nice chunky marmalade. 

Rather than throwing in the towel, I just waited overnight. Thankfully, the half-pint jars (the marmalade I put in those jars had cooked longer than the first set of jars) had set up. I was hopeful that the first set had cooked through enough to eventually set. 

After about a week, the marmalade didn't slide to one side of the jar if I tilted it so I realized I could do this! I could can like my mom and my sister and preserve yummy food I made!

My husband really enjoys this tart and soothing marmalade mixed with greek yogurt or on toast. I am really excited for when the weather turns cooler so that I can have a hot cup of tea with an english muffin slathered with this wonderful treat!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

When All I Do Is Laundry

Between our new adventure of being parents and still figuring out my talents, my stage of life seems to contain load after load of laundry.

Cloth diapering produces a small load every other day. Then there is normally dirty baby linens and clothing which makes another load every other day. That does not include the three to four loads weekly of sheets, towels, and clothing my husband and I make.

I've gone from a carefree outlook on laundry where I only have one type of detergent and generic dryer sheets to now evaluating each load for it's specific needs. This could include an extra rinse cycle for the cloth diapers. Or what if our little bundle of joy spits up on my favorite shirt? Well, that's when the OxyClean comes into play, both powder and stain removing spray. Then the question of Dreft vs another detergent or maybe bleach?

The dryer had quickly become an elite club where diaper covers, biking jerseys, jeans, and sometimes pre-fold diapers are no longer welcome.  They have collectively joined together to take up prime real estate in my home on a drying rack.

Even though my laundry baskets are rarely empty now, I've come to terms with the fact that more and more of my time is going to be occupied by sorting, washing, drying, folding, and putting away laundry.

Take my word for it, I'm not super happy about being elbows deep in dirty clothing or constantly asking my husband to help me put yet another load of laundry away, but this increase in domestic responsibility can be "blamed" on one little guy, my son.

I'd do laundry 24 hours a day if it meant my son is in my life. I love him more than free time, more than a lower water bill, more than getting enough sleep. It's only 19 days that's he's been here and all I want is more! All I want is to hold him and see him discover, see him grow, see him change. If that means more laundry, BRING IT ON!!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

First Buttercream and non-mix Cake

I never realized that when people said, "oh it's just a cake mix, no biggie," that there was any other option other than a mix.

I love cake, but I'm ashamed to say it took me a quarter of a century to make a cake without using a mix.

With friends and family that seem to bake as if they were born with a whisk in their hand, I knew this would change but was scared to try anything.

I found the following recipe on Pinterest: Sweet Potato Layer Cake with Molasses Buttercream

This was so easy to follow. The instructions were clear and with my limited baking experience, I was still able to have success. I still need to work on my icing techniques but the taste is amazing.

As I've mentioned before, my husband's sweet tooth is not as intense as mine, but he fully enjoyed the molasses paired with the sweet potato cake. I personally had to stop eating the frosting plain, or with strawberries, and with the cake itself because I would have made myself sick it was so delicious!!!

Now with my confidence, and sugar high, fed a bit, I want to try more! Now I just need more occasions or people to bake for!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Spring has Almost Spring Wreath

Here in Minnesota we have been hit with a long winter that simply won't let go. Winter hasn't taken the hint that the snow has melted off the ground three times. The snow keeps coming and the temperature is barely above 40 at its best. 

I've decided I have to have a bit of spring or else I might just go crazy! I want flowers and green trees and flouncy skirts. 

Where am I going to put this bit of spring since the trees aren't budding, I kill indoor plants, and if I wear a flouncy skirt I might freeze? My front door. 

I decided to make a wreath since the ones I found in stores were overpriced and looked really fake. 

I gathered the following materials
-Grape vine wreath ($4)
-Bunch of yellow daisies ($3)
-Ribbon (had it lying around)
-Glue gun and sticks (again lying around)

I picked the blooms and some of the greenery off the bunch of daisies so I could scatter them over the wreath. 

Pairing some of the blossoms with the greenery, I started arranging them all over the wreath concentrating the bulk of them in the lower right corner. Hot glue the picks into the wreath to secure. I made sure to turn the wreath over and secure both the base of the flower to the front and the end of the pick to the back of the wreath.

One way I made sure to space the flowers correctly was that I laid the ribbon where I would tie it so that I left enough spacing at the top of the wreath.

Tying a bow with ribbon and hanging on my door was my final defiance to winter.

Bring on SPRING!!!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mint Puppy Chow

Pregnancy cravings still being active (even though I'm considered full term) I had make puppy chow to satisfy my intense sweet tooth craving.

However, we didn't have chocolate chips or enough peanut butter to make a batch. How was I going to do this? Well, I had some sold dark chocolate left over from Easter and thought maybe it could be enough. I chopped it up and it was hardly enough. I started scrounging around the pantry and found a bag of ANDIES MINT CHIPS!!!!


So I decided to have an adventure... a MINT adventure, one of my favorites.

If you haven't ever made puppy chow, really you just melt some chocolate (1 cup), peanut butter (1/2 cup to a cup), butter (1/4 cup), and add a bit of vanilla (1 tsp); coat the cereal and then put it in a ziplock with powdered sugar and shake to cover all the pieces.

As previously stated, I didn't have the peanut butter so I just added more mint chips :)

This turned out great and I know it's not just my prego cravings because I've caught my husband sneaking a bowl or two and he doesn't really eat sweets.

This might turn into a thing... I could change the flavor to Nutella (thanks Jessie for the suggestion) or use different cereal.

I'll keep you posted if I get to experiment more.


Monday, April 8, 2013

More Meaningful Gifts

We are so blessed in our society to have so many occasions to show those we love the ways we love them through meaningful gifts.

Since my pregnancy is coming to a close, I will be able to celebrate Mother's Day this year! I've dropped hints to my husband that there's also this idea of a "push gift" where he can give me a gift in the hospital. I'm a hint a fault. I've told him too that he can combine those two gifts and get me something REALLY nice.

As I was thinking of other hints to drop as to what I want, maybe a necklace, maybe some crafting items, I get a letter from Operation Mobilization promoting their Freedom Climb. "The Freedom Climb is an opportunity for women in all stages, ages, and places to stand up and be a voice for women and children around the world who are enslaved, oppressed, exploited and trafficked today"

The letter addressed the idea of honoring our mothers by helping those elsewhere who need it. The the letter grabbed my attention by offering a bracelet when you give $50 to support these girls (keeping two girls out of slavery). A lightbulb went off in my head and I handed the letter to my husband. This was my last hint to him: this would be great for Mother's day and the push gift.

I'm ashamed to say that it took this letter for me to remember those less fortunate. I hadn't even thought to look into this type of gift for marking this stage in my life. I am so blessed to not only to be having a child, but also to be where we are financially.

Imagine what we could do with our gifts by rather than going to the mall or the closest Target and grabbing just another item to wrap up! There are so many opportunities to support non-profits in this way.

I'm not saying that I will only ask for these types of gifts from now on. (Who would complain about getting a beautiful heartfelt gift of any kind?) But, why not make Mother's Day, Father's Day, Valentine's Day, Birthdays, or Christmas so much more valuable by allowing your gift give back to those who truly need?
Quote and picture from OM Website

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Cloth Diapering, So Many Decisions for One Little Bum!

Since my children are going to be my job (I'm so excited for my first day coming up!), I need to finish up my education on some things that will be important for the well being of my baby.

We've decided to cloth diaper from the start, except for in the hospital since the hospital will provide the diapers. I started searching the internet for help on navigating the new options of cloth diapering. It was Pandora's box...I never knew how much was out there and how many decisions this would require.

There are pre-folds, covers, inserts, All-In-One, All-In-Two, pocket style, and so many brands you can have a fun time making a parody of We Didn't Start The Fire by stringing them all together (I imagine it would be called You Didn't Change the Diaper? or something like that)

I found a great chance to have all this explained to me at my local parenting class center (Amma Parenting). They were hosting a FREE workshop put on by My Sweet Pickles. My husband and I made a date of it and got breakfast out before we went to the Saturday morning even. So many of our questions were answered and we were advised for the best options for our budget and commitment level. We were even able to start our stash with a Sale and Swap that they had after the seminar. My Sweet Pickles also offers free consultations for anyone.

With all this, there couldn't be any more great things that could come from this right? Wrong. The one thing I had never knew was that if rash cream was required, you can't use the go-to brands that I knew of. Creams like Destin and A&D Original contain fish oil or other ingredients that will coat the cloth diaper and not let it absorb anymore. Then the difficult process of stripping the diaper becomes your reality.

Amma to the rescue again! They sell Motherlove brand diaper rash cream which is safe for cloth diapers!

My husband and I are still treading the waters trying to make sure we don't get sucked into the tide of unnecessary accessories, but loving the flexibility of options for fitting our new family!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Vegetable Soup Memories

It's so interesting the memories that spring to mind when you're making something from your childhood.

I experienced this today when I was making the Veggie Soup my mom and dad would make all the time for my siblings and me. This simple concoction of tomato juice, root vegetables, ground beef, and noodles holds so many images from my childhood. From seeing my brother staring at himself in the shiny stock pot my mom used, to the way my dad would crumble the crackers into the soup and how I would try to imitate him, I love more than just the taste of this soup.

The tomato juice started as the tomatoes from our garden being cooked and put through the Squeezo. Taking turns, my mom, sisters, and I would turn the crank for hours; it seemed to make a years worth of tomato juice in a canning afternoon. With every sip of this soup (even though I make the soup with store bought tomato juice now), I remember my mom in the kitchen with quart jars in stages of tomato juice bustling around in her apron overseeing all of us.

The Autumn days brought the cool weather that made soup perfect for dinner. That's when Mom would brown the ground beef and onion while the tomato juice, carrots, potatoes, celery, and sometimes a turnip would bubble on the back burner. I always got excited when this soup was cooking, I knew I would LOVE dinner. While all the ingredients (all the above plus corn and elbow macaroni) meld together, Mom would make biscuits or rolls and have us set the table with soup bowls and plates with hot pads in place and the saltines by Dad.

This evening when I made the soup for my husband and me, I remembered more. My mom would always put the leftovers in mason jars and use the same funnel to keep the soup from spilling everywhere.  I was so excited the first time I put it away without spilling!

With all these memories flooding back and knowing that more will come every time I make this soup, I think I will have to rename the recipe in my recipe binder to Memory Soup.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Post Holiday Party Beer Bread

If you're like me and my husband, you do not agree with all your friends taste in beer. We don't hold it against them but we tend to drink craft or microbrews rather than a domestic.

After so many holiday parties that our guests have graciously brought their favorite beer, we find our fridge door occupied with beer that doesn't match our taste. Not being allowed to drink beer since I have a little one growing inside me, and my husband still working on a six pack from a month ago, we've realized we won't be getting to the cans our guests left behind any time soon.
I searched to find an easy beer bread recipe to use up what was left and found this recipe. Only change I made was actually referenced on the page, less melted butter. I think a few tablespoons of melted butter over the top would be more than enough, but a treat's a treat and you choose what you eat! 

Quick as anything we are down to only beer we (meaning my husband) will drink and have yummy snack that freezes well or is a great gift to share with others.

PS It also made the house smell great when my husband came home from work!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

T-Shirt Memory Blanket Process

Over the holidays, my mother-in-law asked about the process I use to make my t-shirt memory blankets.

I've seen such a spread in how to assemble and the philosophy of these fun time capsules.

There are people who use a collage motif, others who create windows and frame out each shirt piece. I've seen people value a thrown together, rough assembly while others treat the t-shirts as raw materials in intricate heirloom style quilts.

My philosophy on these quilts/blankets is about creating everyday, every use item. I want to be ok with getting mud on it if we take an early summer picnic. I also want to be proud enough of it to sling it across a living room chair to be ready to cozy up with in the middle of winter.

So here are my steps for a 5' by 6' blanket:

First, assemble the following materials:
15+ clean t-shirts that you want to incorporate. (They don't have to match but you should enjoy them together. I try to group them in time. For example, I have a high school blanket and a college blanket.)
Flannel flat sheet-be sure to pre-wash the sheet (You can also use fleece if you want a heavier blanket or a cotton flat sheet for a lighter blanket. I like using sheets because they already have square corners and are more than enough fabric.)
Yarn to tie the front panel to backing

Second, cut out 13" squares out of the t-shirt fronts and backs centering artwork in the center of the square.

Third, sew squares together in the following manner with 1/2" seam allowance (making a finished 12" squares).
To illustrate the manner of assembly I have the following pictures showing construction paper cut outs:

Sew right sides together of two adjacent squares
Add another square in line

Sew right sides together

Continue adding squares in line until there are 5 sewn together

Make 6 (4 shown) of these rows of 5 
Sew these rows together with right sides together

(Pictures of final assembly in the making)

Fourth, with right sides together, sew front panel (t-shirts) to backing (flannel) with a 1/2" seam allowance allowing a six inch gap.

Fifth, flip blanket right-side out. Press corners flat and fold in raw edges of open gap. Sew top stitch around edge (1/4" to 1/2") around entire blanket and closing up gap.

Sixth, with the blanket entirely flat, take lengths of yarn and at corners of seams and sew one stitch. Tie to secure yarn making the front and back of blanket joined together.

Last, ENJOY!!