Thursday, November 15

I HEART BoxedUp!

I have made a fantastic [online] discovery that I must share with you! It's called BoxedUp -- have you heard of it?!

So most people know you can make "wish lists" on Amazon.com and various other online stores that allow you to pick out your top items for Christmas or an upcoming birthday. Well, I was thinking one day, "Wouldn't it be awesome if there was a website where I could make an online Christmas list, with items from lots of different companies, to share with out-of-town family?!"

I googled "wish list, different companies" and came up with about four different sites that actually provided exactly what I was looking for! I joined two of them and decided on BoxedUp. I LOVE it! I created a separate list for each one of us, and now as I'm browsing online and find an item we want/need, I just click on a little button in my browser, and it adds the item to our lists! Isn't that cool? You can create lists for different rooms in your house, different people in the family, or any way you want to categorize things.

I used to bookmark sites that I liked, and I had them all in a "shopping" folder in my favorites, but this is SO much more efficient. Instead of trying to remember what it was I liked on those sites, I just add items as I find them. No going back, no extra thinking, and no stress trying to think of gift ideas for my family.

So now, when October/November rolls around each year (or a month before any of our birthdays), I won't have to wrack my brain trying to think of gifts when that phone call comes ... "So what do you guys want for _______________?"

Who wouldn't be happy about that?!

Friday, November 9

"Fall" in Love with a Smoothie

As I've mentioned before, I'm a lover of all things Hungry Girl. Nothing new there. But a while back she posted a recipe for a pumpkin smoothie, and I've been tinkering around with it for about two weeks now. I haven't changed much, but I wanted to post it here in case anyone else is interested in a little pumpkin pie in a glass. :-)

About a month ago, I took a tip from my mom and started having a smoothie for lunch. At first I thought she was crazy -- how could a smoothie fill you up for lunch?? I've been making smoothies for breakfast for about three years now, but I didn't think it would make a very good lunch. But I was wrong! The fruit, the pumpkin (counts as a veggie for me), and the protein powder make this smoothie very long lasting...and tasty! Play around with it and adjust to your taste buds. I hope you enjoy it!

Pumpkin Smoothie

1 c. frozen fruit (I usually use just under 1 cup. HG recommended peaches, but I've also used a mixed bag of strawberries, peaches, melon, and pineapple)
1/2 banana
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 scoop vanilla or chocolate protein powder
1/2 c. skim milk
pumpkin pie spice, or cinnamon & nutmeg (to taste)
stevia, or sweetener of choice (to taste)
1/2 c. ice chips

Add everything but the ice into your blender and mix until the ingredients are combined. Add the ice and blend until combined. I like a thick, milkshakey smoothie, so you can adjust the liquid amount until it reaches the desired consistency that you like.

I always eat my smoothie with two rice cakes, and this routine has saved me a lot of standing in front of the frig going, "Hmmmm, now what do I want for lunch?" It may seem boring to have the same thing for lunch everyday, but it works for me. Give 'er a whirl (pun intended)! :-)

Oh, and if you don't have Halloween candy lying about and a husband who brings home Godiva chocolates from work, substituting this smoothie for your usual lunch may even help you control your daily calories and shed a few pounds. Or in my case, help make up for one more delicious bite of Godiva...

Thursday, November 1

Don't Miss This Hug!

I wanted to share a little Kaden blurb from today. Kaden was in "quiet time" (the replacement for nap time) in my room, and I was working on my laptop in the living room. Our rules are that he's supposed to stay in the room and play quietly or rest until Laney finishes her nap. Now of course, he doesn't always follow those rules -- he likes to call for me, ask me questions, request more drinks, make small talk, etc. -- but he's only supposed to call for me for important stuff (like if he jumps from the ceiling fan and breaks his leg). :-)

After several reminders about the rules behind us, he opened the door, poked his head out, gave me an impish grin, and said, "Mommy, I have something to tell you. You don't want to miss this hug I have for you."

Is that precious or what?! Yes, he broke the rules; yes, he tried to manipulate me with cuteness; and yes, he knew it would work.

Get over here, baby, I do need that hug.

P.S. Can I add something here? Don't wait until your child asks you for a hug -- initiate the love!

Wednesday, October 31

Low-Carb Noodle Heaven

Back so soon? Yes, I know. I decided to get in a quick entry on my newest gluten-free noodle find. :-) I first heard about these through Hungry Girl, who sends out daily emails about various food-related products and issues. I enjoy reading her stuff, and she comes up with some great swap recipes for common high-fat, high-carb recipes. She also lists Weight Watcher points, in case you're interested in that kind of thing. She is a HUGE fan of these Tofu Shirataki Noodles, and I looked into getting some from the company I just linked to. However, I wasn't sure I'd like them (tofu and yam flour?!), and to get the best price you have to order 12 or more bags at once.

One day I was shopping at our local Publix, and low and behold -- there they were! Granted, I think they cost me about $2.89 for one bag (almost $1 more than the bulk price), but since I could purchase just one and try them, I allowed them to jump into my cart (this happens a lot to me while grocery shopping -- okay, any shopping!).

After investigating the bag, I confirmed that they are indeed gluten-free. Yay! Here's some other info from the bag:

"What is Shirataki? Shirataki is composed of thin, gelatinous strings made from yam flour from the Konnyaku root and has very low caloric or digestible food values. This traditional Japanese food is enjoyed for its simple taste and unique texture."

Nutritional info: 2 servings per bag. In each serving: 20 Calories, .5g Fat, 15mg Sodium, 3g Carb (no sugar), 1g Protein. Ingredients: Water, Tofu, Yam Flour, Calcium Hydroxide


So here's the scoop on what I thought of them...Yum! Now, I must tell you that I don't have very discriminating taste buds (I think this is hereditary thing -- Sorry, Dad!). I like regular tofu, which I know some people don't. I'm not nearly as "choosy" as Josh is about how things taste (I think he's normal and I'm just abnormally un-picky). Anyway, these noodles have a little bit of a vegetable-ish flavor, more than regular noodles (which of course makes sense since they're made from yam flour). They also have an "al dente" bite to them -- slightly springy instead of your normal al dente. All those considerations aside, they are my new favorite noodle.

If you're at all curious, I encourage you to give these a try. They're not wheat noodles, but considering the carb count and, for me, the fact that they're gluten-free, these tofu noodles are perfect. Put your favorite sauce on top of these babies, and you, too, will be in low-carb noodle heaven!

Monday, October 29

So Where Have I Been?...

My faithful readers (all two of you that are still here!) have inquired as to where in the world I've been lately. "Why haven't you been blogging?" they ask. Well, I don't have any big reasons...I've just been busy, I guess! A few days after my last post, I started a long-ish project, and the following week I was offered a short, 10-day project that I just wrapped up on Friday. So now I have some catching up to do on the first project.

In between freelancing, I've been...

...shoe shopping for the kids (they both outgrew their shoes at the same time, plus it was time to get fall shoes anyway)
...switching out the kids' clothes (packing away summer, bringing out fall!)
...planning my Christmas gift list
...doing a little Christmas shopping
...trying to figure out what to tell the grandparents to buy for the kids for Christmas
...working on a new budget now that Josh has a fixed salary
...helping Josh investigate options for our refinance in January
...deciding what the kids will wear for Trick or Treat
...attending a 4th birthday party for Kaden's friend Hannah
...joining the family at Pumpkinfest, a really fun fall festival in Franklin (Kaden's first pony ride!)
...planning a Halloween potluck at our house for a few friends before Trick or Treat

And, uh, yeah...that sounds like most of it. :-) Throw in lots of laundry, dishes, and regular household and family caretaking stuff, and I just haven't had much time for blogging. I have lots of things I want to write about, but I can't seem to find time at the moment. So I'll try to come back soon, but no promises at the moment. I have a feeling the next two months are going to be busy ones.

I hope you all are enjoying fall, wherever you are! :-) Oh, and if you'd like to receive our family pictures for a monthly pictorial update, leave me a comment with your email address or email me at (the name of my blog)@gmail.com.

Thursday, October 11

Thankful!

I have a few moments to blog, and I wanted to post a thankful list -- I haven't done it in a while! Here are a few notable things making the list this week...

1) I'm so thankful for Josh! I have a husband who loves me enough to listen to my needs and to do his best to love me the best way that he possibly can. It's not always easy to do the give and take that's necessary in a marriage, but it makes me feel very loved when Josh is willing to sacrifice or make little changes just to make me feel more loved. I am very blessed to be married to this man!

2) Opportunities to help my friends -- I love having time off from work so that I can be more involved in people's lives. A listening ear, sorting and loaning clothes the kids have outgrown, or wherever I see a need ... it's a blessing to be able to give to people I love!

3) Fall is in the air, and that makes me very happy. It's my favorite season, after all, and I'm loving the cool mornings, sunny afternoon, and chilly evenings. Time to pull out the fleece jackets, heavier blankets, and long-sleeve PJs. Time to have campfires, watch movies by firelight, and carve pumpkins. There's a crispness to the air this time of year that I just adore.

4) I got the kids' blankets made! They are both snuggled in their beds under their blankets as I write this, and that makes me feel warm all over. :-) As it turns out, making things with your own two hands for the ones you love the most is a very heart-warming endeavor. I'm not sure my sewing skills are quite up to par, but I can cut and tie knots with the best of 'em. (Kaden's blanket is pictured above.)

5) I'm working on a new budget now that we have a more fixed income (because of Josh's job change). I think I'll be consulting my Dave Ramsey book before I get too far into this. We haven't had much of a budget since we lived in Ohio, so I'm going into relatively uncertain territory here. ...But I'm excited!

Well, there are the top five. I hope you're all doing great wherever you are at the moment -- I'm sending love from Tennessee!

P.S. The message I mentioned a few posts back from Ed McGlasson about the blessing of the Father (and how fathers/parents follow that example w/ their children) can be heard here. I failed to link to the message at the time, and I wanted to include it here. I highly recommend checking it out.

Refined?

I received the following story as an email forward several months ago, and it's been sitting in my "For Blog" folder in my inbox. Well, today's the day. As far as email forwards go, I usually get the same ones about 300 times -- however, this was something new, and I hope it encourages you as it did me. I love hearing natural/physical examples that help me understand spiritual concepts, and this is one such story:

Malachi 3:3 says, "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver."

This verse puzzled some women in a Bible study and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible Study.

That week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver. As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities.

The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says: "He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver." She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined.

The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, "How do you know when the silver is fully refined?"

He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that's easy. I look for the reflection -- when I see my image in it."


If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you -- His perfect character more fully developed in your life.

Saturday, October 6

Busy Bees

It's been a while since I last wrote! We have been busy bees here in the Hesse house. My parents came to visit for a long weekend (Thursday afternoon to Monday afternoon), and we had a really nice time together. Here are some highlights...

1.) Yard work! Havings helpers here is so nice so we can tackle projects like cutting the hedges, chopping firewood, and planting fall flowers. Unfortunately, only 5 of my 24 pansy plants survived, but I won't point the finger (although I will tell you that it wasn't MY fault!). It seems that every attempt I make at introducing some color to the front of our house is foiled in some way. Besides the bummer of that, another failed flower attempt only darkens my reputation as having a black thumb. I do have 2 indoor plants growing -- and two herb boxes! I swear! I guess I'll have to settle for a little fall scene of already-grown pumpkins. I can't mess those up, right?!

2.) The Zoo! My mom and I went with the Souders to the Nashville Zoo. We haven't been there for about a year, and Kaden was so much more into it this summer. He's become fond of snakes and crocodiles recently, so he especially enjoyed those displays. It was a gorgeous day here in the Tennessee, and we had fun catching up with Erin and the boys.

3.) Homemade applesauce! You can see some of the finished product in the picture above, along with the beautiful posies my parents brought for me. :-) Dad was the apple peeler, and Mom and I were the stir-ers, spice-ers, and jar-ers. It is seriously tasty stuff, folks. I grew up on homemade applesauce, and I'm really happy to have it in my own home now. Plus, I learned how to can! Canning is very simple, but something about it seems uber-domestic, doesn't it?

4.) Dinner @ Daddy's restaurant! My parents really enjoy Italian food, so we took them to Josh's restaurant on Saturday night. We had a tremendous dinner, and we all enjoyed the charming, intimate atmosphere. We took our new portable DVD player for the kids, and it worked like a CHARM. That thing is worth its weight in gold, I tell ya. Both the kids loved playing with balls of pizza dough, too. It was a very fun evening!

5.) A great church service on Sunday! We had a guest speaker -- Ed McGlasson, who authored the book The Difference a Father Makes. I haven't read the book, but based on the message he taught based on the same subject, I highly recommend checking it out. Whether you are a dad or if you just have a dad, McGlasson's book is for you! My parents and I give him a teary two-thumbs up! :-)

6.) DIY Tailoring! Josh got a few new suits for work, and two of them had unfinished hems. Instead of paying for a tailor, we decided that we had enough other potential uses for a sewing machine that it warranted buying one. Neither one of us are experiences sewers, but lack of experience never slows Josh down. (That's one reason why I love him so!) With my mom's assistance, Josh tackled his pants and won! They came out great! Plus, we've already done a pillow for Kaden's room (we being Josh and Kaden). As you can tell, I have not tried my hand at sewing yet (my last experience was Home Ec in Jr. High), but I bought fabric yesterday to make a pink pillowcase for Laney. I also bought fabric to make no-sew fleece blankets for the kids (more on that when I get them both done).

7.) Family Campfire! We enjoyed our first night by the fire for this fall season. Complete with S'mores and careful restraint of Kaden to keep him a safe distance from the fire, we had a great time. Josh and I both love sitting out by the fire, chatting, and enjoying lots of marshmallow roasting. Bring on fall!

Speaking of which, the kids and I are on our way outside to enjoy some of this great fall weather. I hope you all have a beautiful evening where you are, too!

Wednesday, September 26

Pink Gives to a Good Cause

The ladies over at 5 Minutes for Mom are having a great giveaway -- a PINK Dyson vacuum! Even better, Dyson and Target are donating $40 of each vacuum to breast cancer research.

Now, I just happen to be in grave need of a new vacuum (as in, my vacuum deserves to be buried underground, never to see the light of day again)...and since I have grown into a love of pink, I'm adding my name to the raffle. Part of the entry deal is that you blog about the giveaway (or promise to talk about it with other friends if you don't blog).

If you fall in love with the vacuum and don't win the giveaway, you can always buy one at Target (if you have a spare $399). Yay!

Pass the word!

Tuesday, September 25

To Share or Not to Share

I recently read this post about what and how to teach your kids about sharing, and I found it quite interesting. Prior to this, we've always done the "who had it first?" thing. Now my whole philosophy is changing! All because of one post! Well, okay, actually two.

For the most part, Kaden doesn't usually have a problem with sharing his toys. However, the older Delaney gets (and the more interested she becomes in his things), the more territorial he's getting. Oh, and Laney? Yeah, um...not a sharer. She's a feisty one, I'll tell ya. If she has a toy, she does not care whose toy it is. It is hers. And that's the end of the story. She doesn't have a lot of words, but she has ways of getting her point across. So we have a few things to work on with Laney and sharing.

I'm thinking these new ideas on "some toys are his, some toys are hers" -- and that they get to decide what happens with their own belongings -- might help.

Any comments on this one?

Sunday, September 23

The Saint Who Was Also a Priest

I have another traveling story, for good measure. On our first flight, we didn't get to preboard (as parents traveling with small children usually do), because the plane was very full and, as I mentioned yesterday, we were flying standby. However, they did allow me to board with the kids after all the "A" people boarded. (Yay!) There was one row left in the way back that had three available seats, so we headed for that one, hoping against hope that we would be fortunate enough to secure one of the few extra seats. Laney was technically a "lap child," but since she doesn't understand that concept, it is really helpful if I can score a little maneuvering room for her. That hope for an extra seat was later dashed, but that's another story.

When we arrived in our seats, Kaden quickly spotted a friendly-looking chap in the row behind us, and he struck up a conversation with him. As is his new custom, he started the conversation with this: "Hey, who are you?" This time he added, "You're on my plane!" I could tell this guy was good with kids when he replied, "Yes, well, thank you very much for letting me fly on your plane." Kaden thought that was pretty cool. This guy obviously understood how this was going to work.

The man made small talk with him, asking the usual questions like what is your name (Kaden's answer sounds like "KadaWallceHessee," which usually earns confused looks); how old are you (Kaden holds up three fingers and says, "This many!"); and where do you live (K: "I'm going home to Daddy!" Man: "Where's Daddy?" K: "My home." M: "Oh, where's that?" K: "My home." M: "Ohhh, I see.").

Turns out the friendly guy in the back row was a man named John, who lives in Murfreesboro (near Nashville) with his wife and four kids. John told Kaden all about his three daughters and one son, and he told us how much he missed them and that he couldn't wait to see them. His story of missing family sounded very familiar to us! John instantly recognized the fact that I had my hands full, and he kept Kaden occupied in conversation for quite a long time. He also made silly faces at Laney, which thoroughly entertained her.

The seat belt light stayed on for most of the flight, so we didn't talk to John much through the short flight to Baltimore. However, we reconnected after our landing, and we found out that he was on the same flight home to Nashville. We walked with him for a while to our new gate, and he told me that he was an Orthodox Christian priest and that he grew up in Tennessee, went to seminary in PA a few hours from my parents' house, and then moved back to the Nashville area to serve in a church. He was a very kind, gentle guy, and I could tell that having four kids of his own had made him very comfortable conversing with preschoolers.

Fast forward a few hours. We boarded our second flight, and Kaden insisted on sitting in the last row of the plane, just like his new friend John had done on the first flight. At first I protested, not wanting to walk to the back of the plane with Laney and our 4 carryons in tow, but Kaden had his heart set on it, so off we went. After a while, we saw John coming down the aisle, and he parked himself right in front of us. Thankfully, this flight was very empty, and we got a row to ourselves. John got his own row, too! Anyway, Kaden started talking to John again right away, and they chatted back and forth until the plane took off.

Toward the end of the flight, Kaden decided he wanted to sit in John's row until we landed. John asked Kaden about all of his "favorites": favorite color, food, animal, etc. It was really cute to see Kaden interacting with an adult. He's very talkative at night (maybe he's a night person like Daddy?), and he was really talking up a storm. I was proud of the way he held up his end of the conversation. John told Kaden that he has a son named Jonah, and he asked Kaden if he knew of any other Jonahs. Kaden thought about it for a few seconds, and then replied, "Yeah, I do!" John said, "Is it from a Bible story?" Kaden said, "Yup, he got on a boat and then he got lost!" John chuckled and said, "Yeah, I guess he did. And he had some pretty uncomfortable accommodations for a few days, didn't he?" Kaden shook his head in agreement. I'm not sure he knows what "accommodations" are, but I guess he thought that sounded right.

As I was thinking about our travels yesterday, I realized how thankful I was that John was there on both flights. He didn't do anything amazing, but he was a friendly face, someone who understood the trials of traveling with children, and he found little ways to help me out on both flights. Just talking with Kaden and helping to pass the time was such a blessing. I doubt John will ever read this post, but I just want everyone to know -- I think he's a saint!


P.S. If you see parents (especially one parent!) traveling with kids and you're able to lend a hand or strike up a conversation with a child to entertain them for a few moments, please do it! Father John was a definite God-send to me, and you could be that blessing to someone else!

Saturday, September 22

My Day, MasterCard Style

I realized a few days ago that I haven't updated my blog in quite a long time. Well, the short story is that I've been in PA since last Thursday night. Here's the longer story...Josh's grandparents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary by renewing their vows in a full-out ceremony, and we decided at the last minute that we could get away. We arrived around lunchtime on Friday and left after the ceremony on Saturday night. We drove through the night to my parents' house and arrived around 2am on Sunday morning. Josh took off after breakfast to drive home (because he had to work on Monday), but the kids and I stayed for the rest of the week. I was planning to fly home on Wednesday or Thursday, but I decided to stay until Friday because my brother's birthday was Thursday and also because I wanted my sister-in-law to take some pics of the kiddos, and she was only available on Thursday evening.

So that brings me to Friday. I was flying standby again (thank you, Luci!!!), and I had quite an adventure traveling with two toddlers. I think it was the truest test of patience I know. And yet -- we made it! No major meltdowns, no injuries other than a scratch on Kaden's leg from the people mover, and best of all, I still have my sanity. To summarize, in MasterCard style, here's my day in a nutshell:

Time we left my parents' house: 9:45am EST
Time it's supposed to take to get to the airport: approx. 2 hours
Letter on my mom's gas guage while sitting in gridlock traffic on a bridge: E
Time when I realized I wasn't going to make my 1:40 flight: noon
Number of times Kaden peed into Oma's empty tea bottle while stuck on bridge: 4
Temperature inside the car with A/C off due to lack of gas: 1000 degrees (give or take a few)
Sign on gas station door after finally making it off the bridge: No public restrooms
Route number we went the wrong way on (but eventually made it back to the highway): 60
Number of times Kaden asked, "Are we at the airport yet?": approximately 85
Time it actually took to get to the airport: 4.5 hours
Number of flights I missed while sitting in traffic: 2
Total number of hours I singlehandedly entertained the kids while waiting for flights: 4.5
The name of my new best friend: Mr. Toshiba DVD Player
Number of times the three of us trekked into the potty for Kaden: 3
Number of chicken nuggets to satisfy 2 hungry kiddo bellys: 8
Number of times Kaden approached a stranger and said, "Hey, who are you?": 10
Number of times I gave Kaden the "some strangers aren't nice" speech: 3
Number of times I said, "Kaden, keep up with Mommy!": 25
Number of times I said, "Kaden, don't run too far ahead of Mommy!": 30
Number of times I said, "Kaden, please just keep your hand on the stroller!": 35
Number of times Kaden rode the people movers with his arms draped over the handrail: 14
Number of Starbucks stops for Mommy: only 1, but the caffeine did the trick!
Time we boarded our 2nd flight from BWI: 9:25pm EST
Number of carryons (not including one stroller and one baby carrier): 4
Number of minutes it took Kaden to fall asleep after takeoff: 3
Number of minutes Kaden slept before peeing his pants by accident: 2
Number of Kaden potty stops on 2nd flight: 3, including the intial panicked, wet pants trip
Number of times Laney puked on herself: 2 (her belly was upset, I guess?)
Number of times Delaney pooped up her back on the 2nd flight: 1
Number of wipes I had left at this point in the trip: 0
Flight attendant who gave me wet paper towels to wipe the bum: Christine (Thank you!)
Kaden's question to the pilot on our way off the plane: "Hey, are you the pirate?"
Number of hugs, kisses, and squeals of delight when we saw Daddy (and cries of utter relief from me!): At least 3 from each of us!!!
Time we arrived home safe and sound (Praise the Lord!): 1am

A day with both of my angels, stuck in traffic, stuck in airports, stuck in confined spaces?

Priceless. :-)

Tuesday, September 11

Newsweek on Celiac

For anyone who's interested, Newsweek just ran an article on celiac disease. It's always exciting to receive national press on the condition/diet that I deal with every day. Check it out if you're interested! Oh, and FYI, I heard the print version has more callouts with lists and other sources of info.

Monday, September 10

So You Want to Be an Author?

Have you ever wanted to see your writing in print? I know I have! Well, that dream may be closer than you think. Check out Blurb, a really neat company I found through another blogger that lets you create your own book from your blog. How neato is that?

And it's not just for blogs. They make photo books, cookbooks, portfolios, poetry books, text only books, etc. -- just about anything you could need or want. And the prices are very affordable (especially softcover books). I haven't created a book yet, but it's definitely on my "to do" list. If anyone out there has used this company, I'd like to hear about your experience! Once I get caught up on our family photo books (mainly Delaney's baby book), I'll move on to printing my blog. ;-)

That could take a while...

Saturday, September 8

Super Saturday

In lieu of Thankful Thursday, I'm bringing you a belated grateful list. I didn't forget, and I didn't have a million things to do this week...I just didn't get it done! We have had a really lazy week. Josh took a week off before starting his new job, I don't have a project, and we've just been enjoying some time at home with very little agenda. I told Josh yesterday, "We should have gone on a trip!" He's going to get very little (if any) vacation for the first year, so it was nice to have some quiet days at home before we start this new phase.

So here are some things I'm thankful for this week:

1) I finally hung up our family pictures in the stairway to downstairs (see the pic above)...and we've only lived here for (almost) two years!! These pics have been collecting dust in a box in our room, so it's defnitely much nicer to have them out where we can enjoy the memories that these pictures represent. I'd like to get a few more frames for some other pictures to add to the collage, but the project it mostly done. Check!

2) We finally bought a new 500G hard drive that we can back up both of our laptops to ... on a regular basis! We lost data from two hard drives last year (including all the pictures from Laney's first 5 months of life), so we have learned our lesson that backing up is important. Especially since we do so much of our personal and professional business on computers, it's important for us to back up all that data. And particularly all those precious pics of our children! Five hundred gigs should last us for a while.

3) My son likes broccoli. This is like the news flash of the century!!! For those who have been reading for a while, you know that Kaden is not a veggie lover. However, we persisted -- we continued putting veggies on his plate and requiring him to at least have one bite. And then, out of nowhere, he decided he likes broccoli. He even asked for seconds! (And there was no cheese sauce in sight!) I'm really not sure what happened, but I'm enjoying it for as long as it lasts. Perhaps we can parlay this success into other veggies!

4) Kaden started preschool this week, and we had such a quiet Thursday with just Laney at home! He has a great teacher, and I'm looking forward to everything he's going to learn this year. I'm very grateful b/c the director was flexible with us in letting us send him only one day a week, which is the perfect amount for me. I like the experience and socialization and learning that's happening at school, but one day is enough for us at this point.

5) Our friend Jeremy came over on Thursday night and it was really, really great to reconnect with him. We hadn't seen him since May, and our visit was long overdue. I was really grateful for the chance we had to sit down and get caught up.

6) We found out this week that Josh's restaurant is discontinuing their Sunday brunch, which means that he will continue to be free on Sunday mornings. We thought that he may have to miss church occasionally in order to work the daytime shift, but now that they're cancelling it, work won't interfere with going to church as a family. That was a big praise this week!

Well, everyone -- I hope you have a great weekend. Josh starts work tomorrow night, so we're about to start this new phase of life!

Wednesday, September 5

The Invisible Woman

I received this story as an e-mail forward from my friend Stephanie, and I really loved it. I'm copying a portion of it here, but since it's from a book, I'm going to post the link to the rest of the story, where it was reprinted with permission (I'm not sure what the rules are on this copyrighted stuff!). The article is by Nicole Johnson, a speaker and author who travels with Women of Faith as a dramatic sketch artist. I believe the material is from her book of the same name: The Invisible Woman: When Only God Sees.

This is a story for all of the invisible cathedral-builders, commonly known as mothers...

It started to happen gradually …

One day I was walking my son Jake to school. I was holding his hand and we were about to cross the street when the crossing guard said to him, "Who is that with you, young fella?"

"Nobody," he shrugged.

Nobody? The crossing guard and I laughed. My son is only 5, but as we crossed the street I thought, "Oh my goodness, nobody?"

I would walk into a room and no one would notice. I would say something to my family - like "Turn the TV down, please" - and nothing would happen. Nobody would get up, or even make a move for the remote. I would stand there for a minute, and then I would say again, a little louder, "Would someone turn the TV down?" Nothing.

Just the other night my husband and I were out at a party. We'd been there for about three hours and I was ready to leave. I noticed he was talking to a friend from work. So I walked over, and when there was a break in the conversation, I whispered, "I'm ready to go when you are." He just kept right on talking.

That's when I started to put all the pieces together. I don't think he can see me. I don't think anyone can see me.

I'm invisible. Read More.


A special thanks especially to my mom and to the other special women in my life who became invisible for me, working behind the scenes and sacrificing to meet my needs and help me succeed. And now, I've taken up my own cathedral-building work. Thanks for inspiring me!

Monday, September 3

Funny eBay Post

I saw this on another blog about a week ago, and I just had to share it here. This lady cracked me up! You may have already seen it -- sorry for the repeat if you have!

Funny eBay Post - Mom Selling Pokemon Cards

As a sidenote, this is my 100th post on Blogger. Cool, huh?!

Have a great day, everyone!

EDIT: When the eBay post expires, that link above will no longer work. Here's a link to the author's blog where she has copied the eBay auction text.

Friday, August 31

Congrats Are in Order!


We finally got the good news today on Josh's job! Enough with the hinting!
Josh has officially been promoted to Asst. Manager at Ristorante Volare, the other fine dining restaurant at Opryland. We're very excited about this new chapter, and it's been really neat to see how God has orchestrated all of this. Josh has his sights on moving up through the Food & Beverage department, and we're excited because he's going to get a lot of great business experience, since each restaurant is its own profit center in the hotel. The F&B execs hand-picked Josh to take this job, and it was very gratifying to see that other people are recognizing how talented Josh is. I'm very proud of him! He's built a solid reputation at Opryland for being a great people person, gifted salesman, hard worker, and a man of integrity. I am beaming with pride. :-)

If you live in Nashville, check out Josh's new restaurant for your next date night! It's a beautiful Italian restaurant and very romantic.

Congrats, sweetie! I love you!

Thursday, August 30

Thankful Thursday!

Since I make the rules around here (and since I didn't post for Thankful Thursday last week), I'm doing two posts in one day. Yeah, I know. I'm crazy like that.

In no particular order...

1.) A break in the heat! It has gone back to August weather in the South instead of "we're-sitting-on-the-sun" weather. I'm very grateful. The thin layer of sweat on my brow that has been with me since the end of July is actually gone...at least for now. Our AC has been keeping up, and we bought a window fan to bring in cooler air at night.

2.) I attended a new Bible study last night on the Book of James, and I am really looking forward to it. It's the first thing I've done at our new church, and I enjoyed it immensely. I got a lot out of the study, and we only looked at one verse!

3.) Still no word on Josh's new job, but I'm thankful for the waiting period. It's not what I would choose, but God has been orchestrating this whole thing, so I have to trust His timing in this limbo period, too. One of these days I'll be able to fill you all in on the details.

4.) Kaden was having a rough week last week (due to being off his schedule and not getting enough sleep), but we're back into the groove now. And wouldn't you know it? His attitude and behavior have gotten back to normal, too. He's so good at night (doesn't act tired, is calmer than during the day), and sometimes we let him stay up too late to do something special with Daddy or watch a movie or something. But I always end up regretting it b/c even though he doesn't SEEM tired at night, he really does need the sleep. If he doesn't go to bed by 9pm, I usually have to pay the price the next day! So...I'm thankful that my boy is back.

5.) I think I've said this here before, but I am just so amazed at how different Laney is from Kaden. She's so ... GIRLY! It's great. She has become obsessed with accessorizing. She's totally into dressing up, putting on shoes, sunglasses, hats, watches, bracelets, and carrying purses. She cracks me up with the outfits she puts together. And she's only 17 months old! This girl has personality, I'm tellin' ya. Watch out, world!

Well, I have two files waiting for me to edit them, so I had better get to them. Have a great week!

Oh, Irony, How I Love Thee!

The same afternoon that I blogged about the witty Miss South Carolina, I received a package filled with clothes for the kids from my grandma. And wouldn't you know it?! This shirt was in the mix:

If you can't read it, it says,

Little Miss America


How funny is that?!

Monday, August 27

Beauty vs. Brains

Okay, so I will admit that as a girl growing up, my sister and I used to watch the Miss America pageants each year, pen and paper in hand (so we could rate them ourselves -- we were nerds like that!), eagerly waiting to see who would be crowned the prettiest, bestest, most wonderfulest girl of all. Kind of a Cinderella thing, right? (Minus Prince Charming, but they threw in diamonds, cars, trips, and such, so that kind of evened out.)

Beauty pageant queens have kind of fallen from grace as of late--remember the Donald Trump/Tara Conner debacle? Beauty pageants have long been the bane of feminists everywhere because they elevate the female shape and beauty and pretty much ignore the fact that we women have brains, too!

Unfortunately, in the quest to incorporate more "intellectual" activities into pageants, some girls who are decidedly lacking in that area have been caught tragically in the middle. They have coaches who throw words at them -- apparently "South Africa," "China," and "Iraq" are high on the list -- but what does a girl do when she doesn't know where those countries are or how to speak knowledgably about them? This girl gave it a valliant effort...check it out:

What is she talking about?

Mario Lopez looks so confused. And so am I. This girl is pretty and all, but she's not doing much for the cause of championing beautiful, intelligent women. I feel sorry for her, really!

Tuesday, August 21

Boycott China?

I'm not typically one to champion boycotts ... or jump on the conspiracy theory bandwagon, for that matter. However, the recent recall of 10.5 million Mattel toys has grabbed my attention. Thankfully, we don't own any of the toys that were recalled (because they contained lead-based paint), but it makes me wonder how those toys slipped through the cracks and why our standards aren't more stringent. On a philosophical level, it even made me question how I feel about supporting a country so opposed to democracy, free speech, human rights, and the right to life.

I happened upon a blog called Not China Made, and it's been some interesting reading. (Beware of multiple postings each day if you're going to do an RSS feed.) Amongst all the info and links she has on her blog, she has linked to a site called Toys Made in America that I thought was cool. It's not fancy, but it has a ton of links to small toy companies that produce everything here in America.

I'm not sure that I'm going to be a boycotter, but it is definitely on my radar screen now, and I'm going to look for ways to increase the number of American-made products in our home.

Any other parents out there jumping on the boycott wagon?

Friday, August 17

Call Me Martha Stewart

My sister-in-law started the trend. She made these really cool letters for Korben's nursery that were totally baby-chic. Then when Jess redecorated Lilli's nursery in their new place, she used the same idea and made letters for Lilianna's name. So upon my return, I had to take the idea full circle and make letters for Delaney's nursery.

The process was very simple. I purchased letters and paper from Michael's that would coordinate with Laney's bedding. I used an Xacto knife to trace around the letters. Then I used spray adhesive to adhere the paper to the letters. I think you could use mod podge or something similar to seal the paper or give it a matte/satin finish if so desired. Mom H. helped me with the whole process, and she also helped me hang the letters in Laney's room on Thursday morning.

I'm happy with how it came together. I think Laney likes it, too. :-)

Thursday, August 16

Thankful Thursday!

Well, it's getting late here in central time, but I wanted to take a minute to blog. Here are some things I'm thankful for this week:

1.) I had a GREAT time in CA with Jess, Stefan, Lilli, and Mom. We were in tight quarters (much more roomy than their San Diego apartment), but that didn't matter -- we were happy to be together! The girls had a great time together. They're both very friendly, personable babies, and they became instant friends. In fact, Laney laid a few big kisses on her cuz within a few minutes of our arrival. Lilli decided Laney was a very cool role model, and she liked to sit and watch her -- that walking stuff is pretty amazing! Thanks again to Luci for making my flight possible and to my MIL for watching Kaden for me. It was a memorable weekend!

2.) The perks of Opryland. We've had several free meals at Opryland lately, and I never tire of that place. We were blessed with a going-away dinner for Mom Hesse tonight, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We ate at Water's Edge, which is right next to the huge fountain in the hotel. They do light and water shows every half hour or so, and Kaden was in heaven. There was room to run around (without interrupting other guests), which when you're eating with a toddler is pretty much culinary utopia. It was fun to get the kids dressed up and have the staff fuss over them. :-)

3.) We have had a fantastic time with Grandma! We did a few special things here and there, but mostly we've just enjoyed time at home and lots of playing (indoors). It has been about 5000 degrees here every day. I think Kaden played outside once during the nearly two weeks that Grandma was here visiting (and that's extremely unusual for him). I'm quite certain that I have the best MIL ever, and it's always a blessing to have her with us. We love you, Grandma!

4.) More work coming my way in the next few weeks. I'm excited about a new challenge!

5.) Whole-house air conditioning. I know it's pretty much a given in the south, but I'm still thankful for it! I couldn't imagine how unbearable the last few weeks would have been without AC. We thought our system was broken when the first RRREALLY hot day hit, but then it revived and has been fine ever since. Having a taste of no AC made me extremely thankful and aware of it working properly. When it's 104 outside, AC is a real blessing!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, August 9

Thankful Thursday!

This has been a great week. I have a lot to be thankful for (as always!)...

1.) My mother-in-law is visiting! I am very blessed to have her in my life, and it's fun to have her here all to ourselves. :-) The kids LOVE having so much uninterrupted Grandma time. Thank you for coming, Mom H.!

2.) Tomorrow, in approximately 12 hours, I am taking off with Delaney for California to visit my sister and her family. My mom's also there visiting, and it will be really nice to see her, too! I haven't seen Jess since Christmas, and her baby, Lilianna, was only about 3 months old at the time. Now, the girls will be able to play and interact, and I'm SOOO looking forward to seeing the Veldhuis crew! This weekend excursion (Friday-Monday) would not have been possible without the help of my sponsors :-)...My favorite Southwest employees (a certain L&L Perry) who provided a free non-rev ticket, and my wonderful MIL (see #1) for being willing to stay with Kaden and to give up time with Delaney and me. (I know she sees quality time with Kaden as more of a gift than a favor, but still -- it's hard work to take care of a 3-year-old!)

3.) During my time off in between projects I've had time to catch up on things around the house and keep tackling more organization tasks (which I LOVE!). On Monday, I found a new home for a tall stack of boxes and other assorted items that have been sitting in the "family room" downstairs. These boxes have been there since we moved here, so it was high time to find a new resting place. The sad part is that those unused boxes contain tons of Josh's old music, and some of mine...it was a reminder of the fact that music doesn't play much of a role in our lives at the moment. A little sad considering all the time and money we (especially Josh) put into music education over the years. However, both our careers have taken us away from music, and plus, practicing doesn't really fit into our busy lifestyle. :-) We're looking forward to both of our kids getting involved in music lessons when they're old enough. Back to the point -- it's been fun to keep working around the house and getting things in order the way we want our home to be. Little by little!

4.) Things are progressing with Josh's job opportunities at Opryland. More when we know something final! We're excited about the future prospects.

5.) Kaden is developing some seriously tough negotiating skills. This may seem like an odd thing to be thankful for, but I'm actually grateful to see his little mind at work -- growing, learning, and mastering new terms and ideas every day. He's constantly amazing us and cracking us up with the things he remembers, or the way he'll take something I say and apply it correctly to another situation. He also started praying at meals this week, and he is so incredibly adorable when he prays. It's awesome to know that God hears our prayers -- even those of a three-year-old who stops to say, "Dear God, thank you for this day. Thank you for this food...and you love us. Help Jesus not to be scared. Amen." (Okay, I'm not sure why he throws that last part in there, but it's frequently part of his prayers. He's a mystery sometimes!)

Well, people -- I'm off to bed soon and then off to sunny California! Have a great week!

Friday, August 3

Thankful Friday :-)

We have had a very busy, very fun week! I have been working WAY less since I finished my last project, and I've been trying to fit in a bunch of fun stuff before I start something new. Based on all that fun, I have lots to be thankful for this week!

1.) On Monday, Josh and I had a FREE date night! Gaylord is opening a few new restaurants in the hotel, and they gave free vouchers to the employees for their "soft opening." We got dressed up, went out for dinner, and had a fantastic time. Our neighbor watched the kids last-minute for us, and the whole night was wonderful! After we put the kids to bed, instead of watching TV and sitting in front of our laptops, we sat out on the deck and talked until 2am! We haven't done that in forrrrrever, but I think we need to do it more often. It reminded me of when we were dating! Having that time with my hubby was definitely a blessing.

2.) On Tuesday, I got my hair cut. See my previous post. A few days into my big change, I'm loving it. And of course, I don't mind the compliments either. :-)

3.) On Wednesday, the kids and I met our friends the Yaxes at a local dinner theater for a kids production called "Snowderella." All four of the kids loved it, and it was really fun to do something very different from our normal day-to-day activities. They came over for lunch after the show, and we all had a great time hanging out.

4.) On Thursday, our friends Luke and Luci Perry were in town for work, and we got to spend the afternoon and evening together. We got to see them in February, too, and two times in eight months is definitely a blessing. We have known Luci since Cedarville and always loved her to pieces, and Luke is wonderful, too! I love knowing that my close friends and family are in loving, supportive marriages, and that is definitely true of my dear Luci. Blessings to you both -- we love you!

5.) And finally, today -- we got to go swimming with our friends the Souders. Up until we moved to Fairview, we used to see the Souders once every two weeks or so, but now we live about 45 minutes away from each other. We don't get to see them as much as we'd like to, but when we do, we always have a blast! Kaden and Blaine have been buddies since they were babies, so Kaden always looks forward to seeing his friend. Delaney and Drake are the same age, too, and they're just learning to be buddies. Thanks for a great evening, Erin!

So...can you tell it's been a busy week?! I'm not one to schedule something every single day, but sometimes it's fun to have something special to look forward to. I have to say, though ... I'm ready for a day at home. :-) Grandma Hesse is coming to visit next week, and I have some special travel plans for next weekend, so there's more fun coming up next week! Stay tuned. :-)

Wednesday, August 1

The "Pob"

If "pob," "pop," and "posh" sound like noises that Rice Krispies make, you may need a refresher course in current hair fashions. :-) Just for being a faithful reader, I'm going to enlighten you (I'm newly educated...as of today!). I arrived at my new hair stylist's salon looking for a bit of fun, summery adventure in the form of a little snip snop. The pile of clothes that no longer fit me keeps growing, which means that it's time to reward myself with a little personal pampering!

After describing what I was looking for, my conversation with my stylist, Linda, went something like this:

Linda: "Hmm...I think we need to go posh spice."
Me: "Posh spice? Please translate."
Linda: "You know -- the pob!"
Me: "The pob? Umm...I'm confused."
Linda: pointing to picture of Victoria Beckham "You know, Posh Spice! Her new haircut is the latest craze!"
Me: "Ahh, yes - Victoria Beckham!" (I'm not sure how I know her name, but I have an amazing memory for useless celebrity trivia.)

And then we were on the same page. Turns out that Linda was trying to gather the courage to give herself a pob and was looking for a willing victim to try out the 'do on. I decided I was up for something wild and crazy. And you can't have a wild hairdo without highlights, right? So I went all out and got the highlights, too.

[Granted, this put me behind schedule, which meant I literally had to drive home with foils still in my hair to pick up the kids and take them back to the salon with me so that Josh could get to a meeting. Her parting words to me were, "Don't take longer than 10 minutes or your hair might fall out!" Oh my. I'm not sure how I get myself into these predicaments. But thankfully, I made it without any hair loss. The threat of frying my hair and subsequent hour of trying to keep the kids under control while sitting in a chair getting my hair cut pretty much ruined the sense of relaxation and pampering. But, I digress.]

So I am now the proud owner of a pob-inspired 'do. I'm loving it! See what you think. :-)

Hair Inspiration:




A Self-Portrait: (sans glasses b/c a girl can dream!)

Sunday, July 29

Thankful.

We had a really interesting church service this morning. Someone hit the transformer pole outside the church and completely knocked out all the power. It happened during 1st service, so by the 2nd service, things were getting a little roasty-toasty in the auditorium. Good thing I wore a sleeveless dress! Despite the heat, it was actually a great service. We had an unplugged worship service, and it was really neat to hear everyone's voices worshiping God together, totally unaided by any technology. It was "family day," so Kaden came to big church with us, and I always enjoy seeing him experience a worship service. He loves music and loves to clap and participate. We had our picnic lunch after church like we've been doing since the spring, and it was nice to have a few minutes to catch up with Josh b/c he's been working a lot the past two days. Here are some other things I'm happy for:

1.) Laney's kisses - She has developed a love for kissing. She kisses toys, stuffed animals, the couch, pillows, and of course, Mommy, Daddy, and Brother. She has a radar for people (or things) that need a little love. She gets this cute little smile on her face and does a little smoochy noise. It's very adorable. :-)

2.) My wonderful husband - It's hard to pin down one thing each week, but I've been reminded this week of what a great spiritual leader he is for our family. He is such a blessing to me in so many ways!

3.) I had the chance to get together with a friend on Friday night after the kids went to bed, and we stayed up until 3:30am talking! Whoa. :-) I was still going strong at 3:30, but when 8:30 rolled around and I had to get up with the kids, that was not fun. I love getting to know people in a deeper way -- hearing their story, sharing their heart, and feeling that connection with another human being is a pretty amazing thing. We've known each other casually for several years, but it was a real blessing to have a chance to get to know her better.

4.) Wrapping up a project!! I still have a few loose ends to tie up, but we finished the bulk of the work on Wednesday. It was pretty intense from last weekend through Wednesday, and I'm grateful that it's behind me. I think I may even have time to take a nap today! :-)

5.) Wonderful neighbors! My neighbor watched my kids 4-5 times for me while I was working on this last project, and then I watched her kids on Friday for a marathon date with her hubby. I think she came out on the losing end of that deal, but we trade back and forth a lot, and I think it all averages out. It's such a blessing to have friends next door and someone I can rely on to help out with the kids when Josh and I are both swamped. Plus, Kaden and Delaney love going over there!

Well, I better scoot before all my napping time is gone. Blessings to you!

Wednesday, July 25

Create Your Own Model!

I found this cool thing on someone else's blog, and I decided to try it out. If you go to My Virtual Model, you can create a model that looks like you and then put clothes on it and choose a hairdo, etc. It's a fun little diversion if you need one! I made one with my weight now and one for 15 pounds lighter (my current goal). Okay, back to work. :-)









Thursday, July 19

Thankful Thursday

Can you believe it? I'm actually posting this on the correct day. :-) In no particular order...here are some things that I'm thankful for today:

1.) Bonding time for Daddy & Laney. The past two Thursdays while Kaden's in preschool, Josh has taken Laney with him to the Y, and then they run errands after his workout to give me time to work on my project. I'm always happy when the kids get to spend one-on-one time with Josh because he's such an awesome daddy. :-) Josh said Laney held his hand on the way to the Y. (He has a 2-seater.) Isn't that so sweet?! Ahhhhh.

2.) I always sing to Delaney before her nap and bedtime, and tonight I realized that she has been trying to sing back to me after I finish my song. It's just been in the past few days, and it is so cute. She half talks, half sings, but it actually sounds like "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," which is what I usually sing. It makes me realize how big my baby is getting. She's turning into a toddler!

3.) My hubby got me the most adorable little plant stand for my mint. It looks so nice on our newly painted deck, and I love it!

4.) I'm thankful for my mother-in-law -- who just happens to be celebrating her birthday this week! Happy Birthday to the best mother-in-law in the world -- who just happens to have raised the best son in the world. :-) I'm not biased! Happy birthday, Mom, I love you!


Well, I think that's it for this week. My eyes are super tired from way too much computer time, so I think I better scoot. Hope you're all well!

Tuesday, July 17

Need a Laugh?

Okay, this might not be funny to anyone other than moms who have tried to go shopping with husband and kiddos in tow, but I for one thought this post was hilarious! If you need a laugh, read on.

Besides, what post with this subtitle -- What Will Happen When You, Against Your Own Good Sense, Reason, and Sanity, Take Your Husband and Children to Wal-Mart With You -- wouldn't be funny?!

From the blog Laughter for Days to Come: Oink.


P.S. Break over, back to work. :-)

Monday, July 16

Balanced Praise

I loved this post over at Confessions of a Pastor's Wife. I think I first started thinking about this whole idea of true encouragement (instead of cheap praise) back a few years ago when we read Grace-Based Parenting in our small group. [Love this book, couldn't recommend it more highly!]

As Kaden gets older, I think about it more and more, even in the way I talk to him about his drawings, ideas, attempts at something new, etc. I've read several things about the difference between praise and encouragement. I started reading Gary Chapman's Five Love Languages for Children, and he talks a little about this idea in the verbal affirmation chapter. (I also googled "praise and encouragement" and found this article.) I want my words to tell Kaden that I will always love him and support him, but I also want to instill independence, self-confidence, persistence, and a willingness to try new things -- for the times in life when I'm not there to cheer him on.

When I pray with Kaden at night, I often ask God to help Josh and I to clearly see the talents and gifts that he's given Kaden. I want to help him unpack the nuances of exactly who God crafted him to be and to celebrate with him as he finds the path God has for his life. This idea of balancing praise and encouragement is somewhere in the mix of accomplishing that goal. Read the post and let me know what you think.

Saturday, July 14

Thankul.

I think I might stop committing to Thursdays -- I haven't had much luck with getting my thankful post up on time. :-) Nevertheless, here I am with my thankfulness!

1.) My neighbors are coming back tonight from vacation! It's been kind of lonely around here without them, and I'm glad they're coming back home. Kitty and I help each other out with the kids, like if one of us needs to go somewhere for an errand sans kids, and I have missed knowing my extra safety net is right next door!

2.) I hate to say it, but I'm thankful this week is over. I was juggling two projects at once, and I was a little stressed. I even asked Josh to pitch in to check some Bible verses for me (Thanks, Babe!). One project is due on Monday, and I'm very close to finishing it. Yay!

3.) We got to see some old friends from Valleyview (the church where Josh worked for 3 yrs) on Wednesday for lunch. They were driving through Nashville on their way to Alabama for a mission trip, and we got to spend a few hours together. We hadn't seen them for 2 years, so it was really fun to catch up. They got to meet Delaney and play with Kaden, who was Laney's age when we last saw them. We love you, Mountjoys!

4.) I'm thankful today is payday. Yay!

5.) I'm thankful that each of my children is unique. The older and more expressive Laney gets, the more I see her personality and differences from Kaden. Every day is a new day with her because she's constantly figuring out the world around her and becoming increasingly communicative -- even though we can't quite understand her yet. But let me tell you, I can already tell she has a lot to say. And I can't wait to hear it all!

I hope everyone has a great weekend. :-)

Wednesday, July 11

What Kind of Coffee Are You?

Sometimes I need a ten-minute diversion from work. :-) During one of my recent diversion searches, I found this little quiz through my friend Carmen's blog (via a link to another blog that she reads), and I decided to take it. Here are my results:

You Are a Frappucino

At your best, you are: fun loving, sweet, and modern

At your worst, you are: childish and overindulgent

You drink coffee when: you're craving something sweet

Your caffeine addiction level: low



I think it was mostly right about me (as right as a quiz comparing you to a coffee drink can be)...however, I will plead the 5th on "childish" and "overindulgent." Take the quiz and see what caffeine-laden drink you most resemble!

What Kind of Coffee Are You?

Saturday, July 7

Thankful....Saturday!

Sometimes it seems my days run into each other...and I miss a few here and there. :-) I had to work on Thursday at a client's office, and then yesterday during the day was a last-minute catchup day for laundry and such before I started my next project last night. I'm back to playing the juggling game!

So here are some things that made me smile this week...

1.) A fun Fourth of July with our friends the Yaxes. The kids and I went over in the evening for some dinner and fireworks, and we had a lot of fun! My whole family was together in PA (Jess & Stefan flew in from CA for a Veldhuis family wedding), so I was feeling a little homesick. It was really nice to have a family to adopt for the holiday. Thanks, Jeremy & Stephanie!

2.) Time off from work. I feel like I got a lot done during my break in between projects. We finished all the white banisters and handrails on the deck, and now we just have some touchups to do on the red stain. I also got the whole garage organized, utilizing our new shelves and wall hooks, and now we can actually park in there again! It's so nice to be able to go to my cool car instead of feeling like I'm cooking when I get in to go somewhere. There's one area of shelves that isn't really organized and a few piles of boxes of books that we don't have room for in the house, but that's the only stuff that isn't organized. Yay! Speaking of organizing, I also spent about 6 hours at my neighbor's house this past week helping her organize her kids' rooms. I went through all of the clothes, separated them out by season and size, and put them into tubs or back in the dresser. It sounds a little boring, but I love organizing and I was thankful for the time to do something that didn't involve a computer. :-)

3.) The way God keeps providing for our financial needs! It's pretty amazing to see him orchestrating projects and giving us the right opportunities at the right time. Josh has some new potential opportunities at work, and I'll write more about that in a few weeks when we know more.

4.) The fact that both of our kids are healthy and developing perfectly -- it's not something I take for granted!

5.) Cool summer nights. Kaden and I had a "popsicle date" on the deck last night as the last rays of sunshine were heading over the horizon, and it was nice to just sit out there and chat with my little guy. Laney was already in bed, and we enjoyed a few moments for just the two of us. And at the end, I got a big slobbery popsicle kiss. Who wouldn't be thankful for that?! :-)

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, July 3

Five Things I Dig About Jesus

I have been tagged by Carmen at Little Cooks in the Kitchen to list 5 things that I “dig” about Jesus. So here goes:

1.) ...that he made me unique, with special dreams, skills, and personality traits he intended just for me -- and that he has placed me in the exact right spot to realize those dreams, use those skills, and express my personality in ways that help and encourage those around me.

2.) ...that he gave us his Holy Spirit to guide, comfort, encourage, confirm, challenge, and connect us to God 24/7.

3.) ...that he is my Redeemer!

4.) ...that there's always more to know about him. There's no growing complacent or bored when you serve an infinite God!

5.) ...that despite the complexities of his character and mysteries that we don't yet understand, the gospel is simple enough for a child to understand. God loved the world so much that he sent his Son to rescue us from our sin and create a way for us to live eternally with him!


I'm not going to tag anyone else, but if you feel the urge, the invitation's open! Leave me a comment if you do, so I can check out your blog!

Petite Boutique Wares On Sale!

Calling all my petite friends! My friend Laurie's store, Petite Boutique, is having some great sales on their spring and summer fashions! You can read about it by going to Laurie's blog. If you live in Nashville and haven't checked out the store yet, you should definitely do so. It's located in Cool Springs, and you can find all the location info on her blog.

Happy shopping!

Friday, June 29

Life's a Bowl of...

Cherries! Is there anything better than cherries in the summer? I don't remember having these growing up, but our friend Jeremy loves cherries, and he introduced me to them when we moved to Nashville. Now I'm addicted! Firm, sweet, juicy, beautiful color -- the only bad part is the pit, but the fruit is worth it to work around that one little negative. Since I was born in the summer, I remember looking forward to the corn on the cob and strawberry shortcake that was sure to be part of my birthday celebration. It's no different now, but I've expanded my fruit repertoire to include nectarines, blueberries, pears, oranges, clementines, and more -- all of which are readily available right now! Josh and I love peaches and nectarines, and our Publix carries the best nectarines!! I was telling a friend a few days ago that when I go to the store and see all the yummy fresh fruit, I just can't resist trying some of everything! Then we end up having fruit at every meal just to eat it all before it spoils...which of course isn't a bad thing. I'm so glad fruit is good for you! Everything in moderation, right?

In keeping with my bowl theme, here's a picture of some Healthy Broccoli Soup Josh and I made last night. Josh went out to check the garden yesterday morning, and he came back with about 5 heads of broccoli that were almost past their prime (some of it was already inedible -- ever seen flowers on a brocolli head? nope, me neither until yesterday!). We had to come up with a way to use it all in a hurry, so we decided broccoli soup would be the best option. I checked out some recipes and came up with a mixture of a few that we made our own. I'm including the ingredients without definite amounts on some things b/c I tend to do a pinch of this and a pinch of that until it tastes right. Soup may not sound like a great summer option, but this has a nice light base (1/2 stock, 1/2 skim milk), so it's not thick and creamy like a winter soup.

Ingredients:
olive oil
1/2 to 1 c. each of celery, carrots, and onions - chopped
2 small potatoes or a few handfuls of baby reds - chopped
1 package ground turkey breast
equal parts of chicken stock and skim milk (I think we ended with 4 cups of each)
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. oregano (or a little under 1/4c. fresh if you have it)
1/4 tsp. chicken grill seasoning (could use freshly ground pepper here)
3 pinches of cumin
salt to taste
5 c. (about 2.5 pounds) of fresh broccoli, chopped
1/2 to 1 c. baby portabellas, chopped
1/2 c. fat-free cheddar, shredded ("fresh cheese" in Kaden-speak) [We added some muenster b/c we didn't have enough cheddar on hand. If you're flexible, there are many cheeses that would work.]
3 T. parmesan cheese ("sprinkle cheese" in Kaden-speak)
1/4 c. fresh basil, chopped
fat-free sour cream for garnish

Saute the celery, carrots, onions, and potatoes in the olive oil for about ten minutes. Add the turkey breast to cook it with the veggies. When the turkey is no longer pink, add the chicken stock and milk. Drop in your seasonings -- bay leaf, oregano, grill seasoning, cumin, and salt. Bring it to a boil quicky, and then drop it to a simmer until the veggies are tender. Add the broccoli and simmer until tender. When the broccoli's nearly done, add the cheese, mushrooms, and basil. Remove the bay leaf and serve in bowls. Sprinkle with cheese and dollop a little sour cream on top. Eat and ENJOY!

*This would also be a great vegetarian soup. Just sub veggie stock and omit the turkey.

Thursday, June 28

Thankul Thursday!

It's Thursday, so here I am to be thankful. :-)

1.) Our garden is growing, and it is so fun to eat our own veggies! We've gotten tomatoes, banana & jalepeno peppers, turnips, and one tiny-teeny carrot from the garden so far. I'm interested in "slow food" and locally grown produce, and it doesn't get much more locally grown than your own backyard! This picture of Josh was from the beginning of June, and I think we picked it a little too early. The ones we picked recently are much bigger.

2.) I'm thankful for new life -- I got to meet my good friend Amy's new baby last night! Josiah Silas is one cute little guy, and he was born on Sunday AM at home, which is something I'm considering for the next time around. We'll see how I feel when the time gets closer. ;-) It's always amazing to see how tiny new babies are! Even though I've had two of my own, you forget so fast how small and precious new babies are. God blessed Josiah (or "Sjo-Shiah" as Kaden says) with a wonderful family, and we're so excited for all of them!

3.) I'm grateful that Kaden's "big boo-boo"--a 2nd degree burn on his leg--is healing nicely. He burned it on a task-light globe while Grandma & Papa were here, and Grandma and Daddy nursed it back to health. They were the official bandage changers, designated by Kaden to care for his wound. He's still nervous to get it wet, and he reminds Laney not to touch it, but it's actually healing quite well. It certainly looked ouchy last week! I'm glad it wasn't any worse.

4.) Kaden's back to preschool today. He skipped two Thursdays to spend time with Grandma & Papa, but we're back in the swing of our normal life now. He was pretty excited to go to school today, and I've been enjoying a little quiet time with Delaney.

5.) I got some good feedback on the first book I edited, the project I just finished this week. It always feels good to get a good report from a new client (and old clients, too!).

Well, I have a quick little project to finish up before I start my next big project, which I think will start on Monday. Off to do some reading. Until next time!

Tuesday, June 26

The Bliss of Nothing

I had a wonderful day today. Why, you ask? Because I had nothing I HAD to do. I did work on my project for about an hour, and I FINISHED IT! (Praise the Lord!), but even that couldn't dampen my spirits -- I had the rest of the day to myself! (Around clothing, feeding, and occupying my children, of course.) But days when I can just be a Mom instead of a Working Mom are like a breath of fresh air. Sometimes my work stays at a nice even pace, where I can put in 2 hours a day and stay on top of things, and other times I take on a project that requires me to put in 4-5 hours a day. If that goes on too long, I sort of revert into survival mode -- making sure everyone is fed, clothed (except Kaden who much prefers nakedness), clean, and relatively happy ... but not having any time to doing anything fun, exercise, or keep my house in good working order. Four to five hours doesn't sound like a lot, but somehow, with all the other mothering/basic survival-type stuff, I end up feeling overwhelmed.

I really do enjoy what I do, and I love the extra money, so I'm definitely not complaining. It's just that when I come out of one of these really busy times, I relish a few days of Nothing. No appointments, no to-dos, no deadlines, just Nothing. Now of course, being in a state of Nothing does not include me lying around on the couch eating bon-bons (although I did sit on the couch tonight and organize pictures while catching up on some TiVoed shows -- heavenly!)...but I find that the things that might otherwise be mundane take on a special flare when I'm happy to be doing Nothing. Since I didn't have anything I HAD to do today, I couldn't wait to dig into some laundry, dishes, tidying, and floor cleaning...things that I don't always enjoy, but when I'm in survival mode, I long for days of Nothing to catch up. And today, my Nothing came -- and it was wonderful!

And apparently my happy mood was contagious because Kaden and Laney were quite happy and well behaved all day long. It added to the bliss of Nothing, and I am one happy Mama.


I have a few days of down time, and then I'm starting another project next week. God is so faithful -- my work has been very steady this year, and just about every time I'm finishing up a project (within the last 2 days), someone else calls me up with work. It's been amazing to see God answering prayers for extra funds. I love freelancing because of the give and take -- busy some days and a bit of Nothing here and there in between projects.

Do unscheduled days to catch up recharge your batteries, too...or is it just me? Find some time for Nothing (even a little here and there), and you just might feel recharged, too!

Well, this blissful girl of Nothing is very tired. Time to head to bed.

Saturday, June 23

Camp Grandma & Other Hesse Happenings

Whoa. What a busy two weeks we've had since I last blogged. Josh's family came into town late on Monday the 11th, and we had a wonderful time together. They just left around 9pm tonight, and I'm not quite sure what to do with myself after going from a house full of company down to just me and my two sleeping kiddos. (Josh started back to work last night, so I'm really all alone!)

In addition to all the fun we had with the Hesses, I have been logging around 30 hrs/week on a book I'm editing. I've had some late nights and lots of time during the day to work since I enrolled the kids in Camp Grandma (w/ Camp Counselors Auntie Rachel and Grammy and Outdoor Activity Coordinator Papa). I still have over 100 pages to read in the next few days, but I know I wouldn't have been able to get this far without all my helpers!

Here's a quick overview of what we've been up to...

The girls had an "ionic foot bath" at my nutritionist's office. Google it if you're intrigued...very interesting and very cool! I was skeptical until I saw the color of my water after we were done. Crazy!

We went boating for two days on Percy Priest lake in Nashville. Josh rented a ski boat from a friend at work, Josh's dad brought all of his skiing equipment, and we had a GREAT time out on the water. We went skiing, tubing, swimming, and also had a great picnic. We all had a fantastic time. The weather couldn't have been better, and we made some great memories.

The guys built shelves in the basement for Josh's tools (we have lots of space in the basement, but we had very little organization going on!). Now we just have to finish finding a place everything, and we'll be in great shape!

The girls went to an all-day scrapbooking party, and we had a blast. I never get to scrapbook, between freelancing and the kiddos, so it was a real treat for me. I'm still working on my sister's wedding scrapbook! (She got married in 2005...sheepish grin...but as I tell myself, we moved and had a baby between then and now, so I've been a little busy.)

Josh arranged for all of us to eat at the upscale restaurant he works at, Old Hickory. We had artisanal cheeses, tasty appetizers like smoked salmon and shrimp, delicious salads, entrees like veal and Kobe beef, sides like garlic mashed potatoes and lobster macaroni & cheese, and desserts like popcorn ice cream (yum!) and cheesecake. (And I know I'm forgetting a bunch of stuff.) They comped a lot of our food, but Josh said our meal would have been at least $700 if we had paid full price. We had a delicious meal that would have been even better if we had been smart and gotten a sitter for the kids. :-) They're not quite up to three-hour meals at fancy restaurants. (Oh, and Kaden got carsick on the way there, and we had to make an emergency stop at Wal-Mart to de-puke the van and buy all new clothes, including underwear. That's a story for another time, but just imagine me pushing Kaden through Wal-mart in a cart with nothing on by his pukey undies. Oh my. I got some serious are-you-crazy glances.)

Josh and his dad pressure-washed and stained our deck, with some help from me, and it looks awesome! We didn't quite finish the steps yet, but we're close. We stained the floorboards a reddish stain and did the railings in white. The white really pops -- the deck looks a thousand times better. The previous owners never sealed or stained it, so after 6 years, it was really looking tired. But it looks awesome now -- I am so psyched! Now we just "need" a fire pit and some deck furniture. :-)

Oh, and amidst all those things, we also celebrated Father's Day on Sunday and my birthday on Tuesday. We tried out the new Marblestone Creamery in Bellevue on Tuesday night, and it was taaaasty. I recommend the non-fat frozen yogurt with cherries and hot fudge. Delicious. (And halfway on a diet!)

As you can tell, we barely had anything going on while our company was here. I mean, we were practically just twiddling our thumbs with nothing to do! ;-)

Thanks to the Hesses for a great vacation (at home)!

Friday, June 8

Thankful Thursday (er...Friday!)

I am SOOO crazy busy this week with a project that I haven't had time to blog. It's a blessing, and I'm enjoying it, but I think I bit off more than I could chew! So here's a quick update, by way of things I'm thankful for this week...

1.) We have dental insurance (finally!). Josh and I had our first checkup with our new dentist on Monday, and Kaden had his first-ever dentist visit. We were SO proud of him. He climbed up in that chair, did everything the dentist asked him to do, and the dentist was so impressed! We were too. To contaminate our newly cleaned mouths, we quickly made a trip to Smoothie King. :-) As a sidenote, I have two cavities! I am incredibly bummed about this b/c they're my first ones...ever! But the dentist was nice and tried to make me feel better. He said I have really deep "fissures" in my teeth, and he's surprised I haven't had cavities before this. (It's a genetic thing -- Thanks, Mom!) ;-) Anyway, my perfect record is marred. Oh well. Josh was sure to rub it in since I'm Ms. Oral Health and he's a bit of a slacker. (Well, maybe he's just normal and I'm a little anal about my teeth. You can see why I'm still shocked!)

2.) Our garden is growing! My wonderful hubby spent the better part of two days off outside in the sweltering heat, re-staking tomatoes, re-planting squash, weeding, fertilizing, mulching...lots of work! I've been sequestered inside on my laptop, but I'm very grateful for all the work Josh put into our future bounty of veggies. I have a progress pic but no time to upload it ... maybe next week. :-) Oh, and we got our first baby pepper from the garden yesterday. I don't think it was quite ready, but Kaden decided it was.

Okay, I know that's a lousy list, but I'm telling you, people ... I'm too busy to be blogging at the moment. :-) Until next time!

P.S. Josh's family is coming on Tuesday, so no promises on blogging. We're going waterskiing with Kaden for the first time, so I'm sure I'll have more to report after that! Daddy is determined that he will ski at age 3. They have a special toddler contraption to make it easier (it's how Josh learned), so we'll see...

Friday, June 1

What's for Dinner?: Gluten-Free Veggie Quiche

Well, I've been teasing about this recipe for over a week now, so I suppose I should go ahead and just post it already. :-) I used to love Quiche Lorraine, and my mom made a very tasty one. Since my gluten-free days, I've tried quiche with no crust, quiche with a cheese crust (line pie plate with Muenster cheese -- SO GOOD, but SO FATTY!), and now -- quiche with a lentil crust! I think it could still use some tinkering, but I'll post what I did and see if anyone else has any breakthroughs. I made this two times, and I used a variety of veggies in the quiche. Anything in your frig will work, so it's a good leftover/clean-out-the-veggie-drawer kind of meal. Without further adieu...

Gluten-Free Veggie Quiche

3/4 c. lentils, cooked
1/2 c. mozzarella or cheddar cheese, shredded (I didn't measure this, so more or less or taste)
veggies of your choice (cherry tomatoes, scallions, carrots, spinach, garlic)
6 eggs, beaten (I used 3 whole eggs and 3 egg whites -- you may need more depending on how big your pie plate is.)
salt-free herb seasonings, salt & pepper to taste

Spray Pam on your pie plate. Layer in order: lentils, cheese, veggies, and eggs (add seasonings when you whip up eggs). Bake for approx. 45 min. at 350 degrees until eggs are set and top is browned.


It's no Quiche Lorraine, but it's WAY healthier. Great for my vegetarian friends, too! If you make this and have any suggestions, please comment -- I'd love feedback.

As a little something extra, here's a recipe for a yummy Vanilla Frappuccino from Hungry Girl (sign up for her daily email -- they're great!). Josh and I tried this when we watched a movie a few nights ago (Deja Vu -- we recommend it if you like a classic action/romance flick!)

HG's Vanillalicious Cafe Freeze

5 oz. light vanilla soymilk or skim milk
3 tsp. Fat Free French Vanilla Coffee-mate powder; dissolved in 1 oz. warm water
2 flat tsp. instant coffee (The original called for 1 tsp., but we liked more coffee flavor!)
1 oz. Torani Sugar-Free Vanilla Syrup
3 packets Splenda (We used a little stevia instead.)
1 cup ice; crushed
2 tbsp. Fat Free Reddi-whip

Place everything in the blender (except the Reddi-whip). Blend on high until all the ice chips are incorporated. Pour into a glass and top with whipped topping. So tasty (and only 2 points if you're counting!).


Enjoy!

Thursday, May 31

Thankful Thursday

Thursday already?! Wow...time flies. I hope everyone had a great week! Here are some things that made my heart happy this week...

1.) Our small group reunion! Our old small group is getting back together for a summer study on Galatians, and we had our first meeting last night. It was so good to see everyone and get caught up a bit. Two of our families are expecting babies in the next two months, and I'm very excited for them!

2.) My friend Leslie gave us two big bags of girl clothes for Delaney! And SUCH cute stuff! :-) They're expecting a baby boy and not planning to have any more kids, so she divided up her little girl's stuff and spread the love! Thank you, Leslie! Laney just added about 4 pairs of shoes to her current wardrobe, so we had fun trying those on tonight. Okay, maybe I thought it was more fun than she did... :-)

3.) Josh was having some car troubles (it was shaking constantly like he was driving over rumble strips), but it all went away when he got 4 new tires. That's a blessing because we were praying it wasn't something major. Ya!

4.) Two more projects coming my way! Yaaaa! :-)

5.) I had a day to get caught up on stuff around the house. Today was a day of rest from exercise, so it felt like I had lots of time to get things done like laundry and tidying...all the fun stuff. :-)

Well, that's all from here. Blessings!

Sunday, May 27

The Smell of Parenting

Interesting title, right? I recently signed up to receive free emails from the authors of Premeditated Parenting. I found them through a link on my friend Carmen's blog, and I was impressed with some of the articles I read. Josh and I love the premise behind being intentional in our parenting style.

I got the following article this week, and I'm passing it along here b/c I figure that since these are free articles and posted right on their website, they won't mind if I give a bit of free publicity. :-) If you're a parent, I hope it encourages you today to pour your energy and very life into the things that will help your child become a passionate servant of Jesus!

The Smell of Parenting

Proverbs 14:4 (ESV) - Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.

A novice farmer shows off his clean barn to his neighbor. The ground is spotless, and the manger, or feed trough, looks as clean as new. After shooting the breeze a while the experienced farmer invites his friend to come and see what a barn should look like. The young farmer is a little hurt because he can’t imagine a nicer setup than he has.

They walk over to the neighbor’s farm, all the while discussing the incredible amount of work each of the older farmer’s four oxen can perform. At the barn, hay is strewn everywhere, and the feed trough is covered with dried ox slobber.

“What is that horrible stench?” asks the young man.

“That, my friend, is the smell of money.”

The goal of a farmer is not to have the nicest barn, cleanest trough, or freshest fragrances. His goal is to grow crops and raise animals. To focus on his goal, he lets a few things slide along the way. From sunup to sundown he works hard. He is not lazy or negligent, but he simply has no time to clean troughs and rake out barns. Instead of scooping up every piece of manure, he simply wears rubber boots. (emphasis mine)

A wise parent will take a similar approach. If every meal must be a culinary delight, every toy in its perfect spot, every shelf dusted, and every floor vacuumed, there will be no time left for parenting. With children comes a certain level of messiness. This is to be managed, but also expected. The goal is to raise the children, not eliminate the messiness. As the farmer embraces the mess of the ox the parent should embrace the clutter of childhood. Far more critical things are happening in our homes than keeping our houses spotless. Much good is being produced in a Christian home.

Amen! Now, where did Kaden hide my rubber boots?! :-)