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?! :-)

Friday, May 25

Thankful Thursday

Even though it's technically Friday morning here in Tennessee, I haven't gone to bed yet, so it's still Thursday to me. That makes this post right on time! Here are some things I'm thankful for this week...

1.) A great anniversary with my sweetie. We were low-key homebodies (mostly because we were sitter-less), but we still had an awesome day ... because we were together! (Sappy, I know.) I love you, baby!

2.) My very own personal trainer! Granted, I'm only going to meet with her once a month or so, but I, Jennifer Hesse, have a personal trainer. This is huge for me. I was once the girl who hated to sweat, but exercise is slowly winning me over. Slowly but surely. And since I want to make sure that sweat is counting for something and working the areas I want to work, I met with one of the Y's trainers to develop a little plan of action. I like action plans. :-)

3.) A day at the lake with our dear friends Jeremy & Kenya. We headed out this afternoon for a picnic and fishing expedition on Jeremy's little fishing boat, which incidentally, Jeremy & Josh bought while we were at Cedarville (Jeremy was the financier, Josh was along for the ride). We had a GREAT time, and the kids loved playing in the water. The fish weren't biting near the shore, so the boys went out trolling right before sunset in search of one trophy fish. This was Kaden's first time fishing, and Josh wanted it to be memorable! On their way back to shore, just as they had given up, they got two bites...and Kaden got to reel in two fish with his daddy and Uncle Jeremy. A pretty memorable night for all three. :-) And just seeing the smiles on their faces made me very, very happy. My little boy is officially a fisherman!

4.) I fit in some pre-pregnancy jeans tonight. Yes, Laney is 13 months old ... Shush. :-) I'm doing the happy dance!

5.) Laney surprises me every day with her spunk and adventurous spirit. She makes me smile! Despite the fact that she's just getting steady on her walking legs, she loves to climb. I thought that Kaden was a climber b/c he was a boy, but it turns out that Josh and I are raising two fearless monkeys. :-) I'm telling you, they did NOT get this from me!

I hope that your weeks have been full of many blessings, too. Until next time!

Wednesday, May 23

What's for Dinner?: Pizza

I love reading foodie blogs (like Gluten-Free Girl and so many others...), and while my food photography pretty much stinks (I blame my camera!), it's still fun to share some of the things that are gracing our table here in the Hesse house.

We made this a few weeks ago, and I'm just getting around to posting it. My disclaimer is that this is not necessarily a recipe -- the amounts are approximate, and in certain spots, it's up for improvements! Let's call this...

Gluten-Free BBQ Goat Cheese Pizza

1 pizza crust ( I used the Gluten-Free Pantry's bread/pizza mix.)
2 chicken breasts
1/4 c. BBQ sauce of your choice (just enough to coat the chicken)
small container ricotta cheese
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
balsamic vinegar
small container goat cheese (2-3 oz.?)

1.) Prepare your crust and spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese. One thing we would improve next time is to add more BBQ flavor. You could do this by adding some BBQ sauce to the crust or swapping out the ricotta cheese and using only BBQ sauce.
2.) Cut onion slices in half and saute over low heat until soft and tasty. Add balsamic vinegar as they cook. This takes a LONG time to cook them without browning them.
3.) Coat the chicken in BBQ sauce and grill (it's okay to be a smidge undercooked since it will finish cooking in the oven).
4.) Add the chicken and cooked onions to your pizza. Then top everything with small dots of goat cheese.

Bake in the oven at 375 degrees or so until the crust is baked and the toppings are heated through. Enjoy!

Let me know if you try it! I'm working to perfect a Veggie Quiche recipe I made up this week. My second try tonight went much better than the first! I'll post that next week.

Wishing you tasty, nutritious meals!

P.S. I have to add that I am mostly just the secretary for this recipe -- Josh was the inspiration behind these flavors. I'm married to a culinary genius! :-)

Thursday, May 17

Thankful Thursday

It's Thursday again. Time to share a few things from this past week that made my heart happy!

1.) Laney is getting to be quite a talker. She has recently added "ba-bye" (with corresponding wave) and "love oo" to her short list of phrases. It's so adorable to hear her talking in her high-pitched little voice. She loves to snuggle when she gets up from her nap. She leans in for kisses on her forehead, and if I'm really lucky, she gives me a hug, pats my back, and softly says, "Love oo" after I say it to her. It's enough to melt my heart! My baby is growing up, that much I know for sure!

2.) Kaden's "rest with me" scared phase. Okay, I know that sounds weird, but Kaden has been going through this thing where he gets really scared at night. He thinks there are monsters everywhere, and his imagination is going into overdrive. Although I don't like having to go back to his room to re-tuck him in several times, he's been asking me lately to rest with him for a few minutes so he can go to sleep. Even though there's a part of me that wants to rush him to sleep so I can get back to my "me time," I have this awareness that these days won't last forever. Lying in bed whispering about the day and praying to God "for Kaden not to be scared" is a pretty special way to spend my me time. I'm grateful for quiet moments with my normally very busy boy.

3.) I'm reading a fiction book for a freelancing project, and it's a nice diversion from the non-fiction stuff I've been reading. I'm thankful for all the work God's been sending my way -- especially since the beginning of the year.

4.) The Y! I know, it's a standard for me, but really -- it's a blessing. Great childcare, great facility, great classes...YA! Josh and I are in a health-nut phase lately, and we're loving the Y!

5.) Our Anniversary! On Saturday I get to celebrate my sixth year of marriage to my wonderful husband. In September, I will have known Josh for ten years. Gosh, that makes me feel old. :-) But more than that, it makes me feel grateful that God has been so gracious to me. So good to me by giving me this wonderful man to share my life with. I can't wait to celebrate the last six years with my sweet hubby. I love you, baby!

I hope you all have a LOVE-ly weekend. :-)

Tuesday, May 15

Fighting Free Radicals & the Energy Blahs

My friend Carmen recently shared on her blog about this awesome nutritional drink called FRS (which I think stands for Free Radical Scavengers). The company is offering a free sample (you have to pay for shipping), and Carmen gave FRS glowing reviews. Josh and I are into protein drinks, smoothies, blended salads, etc. -- pretty much, if it's healthy and you can make it into a drink, I'm all about it. Naturally, this free drink offer made me pretty excited. :-)

My FREE sample came in the mail while were in Florida, and I just opened it last night. I had one with ice last night, and it was very tasty. I got the low-cal orange concentrate version, and it sort of reminds me of an orange julius (yum)...only healthier. This morning, I mixed in 2 oz. with our blended salad smoothies before we went to the Y. It made the smoothie super tasty (Josh said it was his favorite smoothie ever!), and I didn't feel jittery or or anything like some energy drinks make you feel.

Best of all, this stuff has some great health benefits -- check them out on the site. Lance Armstrong is the official endorser, and FRS is the "exclusive beverage he represents worldwide." Pretty impressive. Since he's one of the best athletes of our time, perhaps ALL time, and a cancer survivor, I know he pays attention to what he puts into his body. Good enough for me! I won't be winning the Tour 'de France any time soon, but FRS just might help me during my workouts. A few more minutes on the elliptical machine!! ...Or maybe as an afternoon pick-me-up, as my friend Carmen suggested. As a fellow mom to a three-year-old, I trust her advice. :-)

Let me know what you think if you try it! Enjoy!

Friday, May 11

Thankful: The Florida Edition

I'm sitting here in the Florida room of my parents' timeshare, at least an hour earlier than I anticipated due to Laney's early wake-up call, but surprisingly, I am actually grateful for the time to chill and reflect on the past few days. I can hear some birds chirping, a little creek peacefully bubbling by outside the screened-in porch...oh yeah, and Laney happily crunching a plastic container. Music to my ears! :-) Mom & Dad are at an owner's meeting with the timeshare people and the boys are sleeping, so it's just Laney and me enjoying a little breakfast and some quiet time.

I thought Laney would really sleep in today b/c we were at Disney World ALL day yesterday -- we left here at 9am for breakfast and didn't return until after 11pm (WHOA!), but alas, she did not get the sleep-in memo. She's not a fan of the timeshare crib. My mom and dad have been taking care of her in the middle of the night since she's in their room, but they came and got me at 7am this morning since they had to go to their meeting. Normally she sleeps through the night at home, but like I said, she's not impressed with this crib. Oh well--back home tonight (maybe tomorrow if we stop in Atlanta).

Before anyone else wakes up, I better get to the thankful part. :-) In no particular order...

1.) Time off from the ordinary! It has been really nice to take a little breather from normal everyday life. Before we left, Josh worked 5 days of 15-hour shifts (including his commute), which didn't leave much time for anything else. It was nice to have his undivided attention during our little vacation. We have had a lot of fun in a few short days!

2.) Our kids have been so great...and so much fun! They did great on the drive down, and we have loved watching them enjoy the pool, the beach, the park, and everything in between. We pushed them to the limit yesterday, and they really did great, considering how exhausted they were by the end of the day. I think the fireworks were worth it. :-) (Actually, let me reevaluate that when Kaden gets up and we see how grumpy he is!)

3.) Great weather this week. We had forest fires to the north, a tropical storm to the east, and high winds from the storm that blew the smoke down the Gulf coast. But fortunately for us, Orlando is just far enough inland that we missed all of that stuff! Pretty amazing. We've had a few showers, but the overcast skies have actually been a blessing by keeping the hot temperatures and scorching sun at bay. We had such great weather yesterday at the park, and the day before that we had sunny skies at the beach, too.

4.) A new swimsuit! Josh and I went shopping at Target for a new swimsuit for me. I literally haven't bought one in about 4 years, and I was overdue. I don't swim a lot, so it hasn't made it to the top of the priority list until this week when I realized all of my suits were in serious disrepair or just downright ugly. I found a really cute tankini, and I think it will last me for a few years.

5.) Fun times with my parents. When my parents separated last summer, I wondered if we would ever go on a family vacation again with them. That made me very sad because it's something we've looked forward to doing -- getting all the siblings and grandkids together every other summer for a big family vacation. This week was really an answer to prayer because after having faced the threat of losing time together with both of my parents together, it made these days even sweeter. Thanks to their hard work and God's grace in beginning to heal and change their relationship, we had a great family vacation (but we really missed the other siblings and grandkids)! More than the weather, the down time, or the smiles of my kids, that has made me the most grateful this week. Thank you, God!

More adventures await, so I need to sign off. Sending love from sunny Florida!

Sunday, May 6

Label Your Life

I love organization! So when I found out about this creative company on another blog (No, I'm not vegan. Yes, the blog is cool!), I knew I had to share the labeling love on my blog.

Check out Mabel's Labels -- I'm in organization heaven! They have everything from iron-on clothing labels to address labels and from shoe labels to allergy warnings for drinks and snacks. Awesome!

If you have toddlers or school-age kids, you know how handy it would be to have your kids' names in their belongings for school or daycare. Kaden goes to preschool one day a week, and we're supposed to put his name on all his clothes, jackets, cups...everything! How much cooler would it be to have a handy-dandy label instead of trying to fit his name on those tiny clothing tags with a Sharpie marker?! I'm sold.

I'd encourage you to pass along the site to anyone who has kids with allergies. Kaden went through a phase of being sensitive to milk, and it would have been really great to have those labels on hand to put on his sippy cups. Food allergies and sensitivies can be so difficult, and it seems like this would make life easier -- peace of mind for the parents and confidence for any caretakers outside the family.

There are a hundred and one uses for these neat-o labels, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!


As I mentioned on Thursday, we're off this week for a little R&R. I am taking my laptop, but I'm not making any promises about blogging on vacation. Until next time, God Bless!

Thursday, May 3

Thankful Thursday Returns!

So, I missed three Thursdays in a row. Betcha thought I forgot, right? Well, Thankful Thursday is back. I'm not working on a project this week, so I've had time to catch up on things like housework and blogging. I don't have to tell you which one I prefer. :-) Although, I will say that my hardwood floors are gleaming, and that makes this girl's heart mighty proud.

And here are some other things that have reminded me of how blessed I am...

1.) Healthy kiddos. Both of the kids had their annual checkups this week, and they are both doing great! Kaden has grown like crazy in the last year -- from 30 to 40 lbs. in just 12 months! Oh, and he also grew about 3.5 inches. No wonder he's wearing 4T clothes! Delaney's doing great, too. She's starting to communicate more, still working on her walking skills, and getting two new teeth. Their checkups reminded me of how blessed we are to have two perfectly happy, healthy children. Praise God!

2.) An upcoming trip to Florida. We weren't planning to go, but my parents have a timeshare in Orlando and are heading down for their annual trip. We decided at the last minute to tag along, and we're looking forward to some fun in the sun!

3.) Kaden's constant chatter. I know I've said it before, but the boy can talk! And by talk, I mean this little guy is 3 going on 30. He questions, considers, celebrates, and commentates just about every waking moment. There are times when there's a little voice in my head saying, "Shush!" but I've restrained myself. :-) After all, didn't I spend the first 2.5 years of his life waiting to converse with my little dude? (Not that he wasn't talking before, but just not like THIS.) The fun part is that just about every day, something hilarious comes out of his mouth. On Sunday I painted my toenails, which is very unusual for my post-baby self. Kaden was very interested in my new toes, and after a day of checking them out, he said, "Look Mom! Your big toe is growing up to be red!!" (He and I were talking about how he's growing up to be such a big boy, so that's where he got that.) Anyway, he's a blast, and 99.9% of the time, I love hearing his little voice throughout the [whole] day!

4.) Antibiotics and steroids. This is going back to my recent bout of strep throat, but I just have to say what a blessing modern medicine is. I can't imagine what people went through before antibiotics were invented. And the steroids? those were some good drugs. :-) My throat is happy again!

5.) Our little plants are poking through the dirt! Our lettuce, peas, and corn are all growing from seeds, and the tomato, brussel sprouts, peppers, and broccoli plants are growing, too! We haven't seen any carrots, squash, or turnips yet, but we have visions of veggies dancing in our heads! :-) Stay tuned.

Well, it's time to wrap this up. I'm not sure that I'll be blogging from Florida, so I may be absent again next week.

God Bless!

Tuesday, May 1

The Hesse Agricultural Center

If you've known me for long, you know that I'm not one for getting my hands dirty. My mom used to have to practically force me to go outside and play -- I much preferred reading or inside games like doctor or house or school over anything that involved getting sweaty or dirty. Fast forward about 20 years, and not much has changed. I'm getting over the objection to sweat -- I actually enjoy working out now. But I'm still not a big fan of dirt on my hands or feet. Especially if said dirt is under my fingernails -- eek!! If I do get my hands dirty, I usually plan a quick getaway to the sink to wash up. I don't even like my hands to be messy while I'm cooking!

So what would inspire me to suggest to Josh that we plant a garden? Perhaps temporary insanity, but...mostly, it seemed like a fun family project. One that has great rewards (if done correctly)! The garden is also part of my plan to be a sneaky mom to Mr. Kaden. Boycotting vegetables is part of his three-year-old indepedence plan. But I'm not giving up without a fight -- or more accurately, some team spirit psychology. I'm hoping that somewhere in the process of planting, watering, weeding, and picking our own veggies, Kaden might decide to re-enter the world of healthy eaters. Oh, and if team spirit doesn't work, I'll chuck those veggies in the food processor and resort to some sneaky tricks involving hidden purees. :-)

Despite my anti-outdoorsyness as a child, my grandfather was quite the opposite. He spent many of his growing up years on his parents' farm, and when my parents bought the five acres of land their house sits on, Pap started dreaming about getting back to his roots (literally). As far back as I can remember, he planted and cared for a very large garden up on the hill by our house. He often tried to recruit us to help him weed the garden, but truth be told, I think he and my grandmother took on most of the hard work. So I grew up around gardening, but I hate to say that I wasn't really paying much attention. But now that I'm becoming Ms. Outdoorswoman, I sure wish I had been taking notes during the planting, caretaking, harvesting, and canning/freezing stages!

When we bought our house in 2005 and moved (to the country, some would say), Josh and I both had our eyes on the backyard for some "country" activities. Things like bonfires (Shhh! Don't tell the fire marshall!), tree climbing (not me on that one), room to run and play, and maybe even a little agricultural development.

Last spring, we were a little busy with a 2-year-old and a new infant, so a garden wasn't even on the radar screen. But this year is much different. Life is leveling out and getting into a groove, and we decided it was time to try our hands at gardening. Thankfully, my parents had already planned to be here during the prime planting week. They were eager participants in our garden-planting plans. Phew! It was wonderful to have people here who actually remember some of Pap's gardening tricks of the trade. I wish that my favorite retired gardener could have been here himself, but he sent along some advice and tools with my parents. I like the fact that in some small way, I'm paying homage to something that has always been so important to my grandfather. I only hope our garden is as fruitful as his always were!

Well, you can see from the picture of those cute little pepper plants that we were successful in our quest -- at least the planting part. Now comes the watering and weeding.

Speaking of weeding, can three-year-olds be trained to weed gardens...without destroying the plants, too?!

P.S. We also planted sweet corn, green & yellow squash, peas, onions, green onions, turnips, carrots, lettuce, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and tomatoes. We're looking forward to a bountiful harvest!