Monday, December 14, 2015

Christmas Card Junkie

Christmas is only TWO weeks away...! In some ways, that's still a long time of Christmassing considering there are four weeks of Advent.
(Of course, if you, like me, acknowledge the Epiphany, then Christmas actually extends past the 25th--Yay!) 

Everyone has their traditions and small things that make the season special and magical... The things that make it Christmas. For some people it begins with decorating: you do it a certain day... with certain people, in a certain order...

Or maybe it's the baking and cooking...
We always made fudge and cookies growing up. I remember getting older and life was busy with basketball schedules through the holiday season and sometimes we had to forego the fudge and it felt sinful!
(Reality: Nobody really needs that extra fudge!)

Giving back is a great tradition...
Whether it be specific events you partake in or just shopping that is donated or given away.

Shopping itself can have it's own special tradition.
For some that is Black Friday... Others it can be a weekend outing with friends.

Some traditions include hosting or heading to gatherings. 

I love it all... BUT...
...One of MY Christmas "things" that is part of making the season feel magical is sending Christmas cards.

I remember piles of envelopes and cards sitting on my mom's table as she worked through sending them out and I loved checking the mail to see how many cards we'd received each day. I usually tried to be the one to open them all and then help hang them in doorways as added decor. 

I remember mom once telling me she used to send some obscene number of cards and I thought it was ridiculous... But now I get it. I hate to leave anyone off my list. Simply my family and Mingus's family alone adds up... And that doesn't even begin on the list of close friends I want to be in touch with... 

And by 'close friends' this also includes friends I still hold dear to my heart even if I didn't see them once throughout the year.

And honestly, I don't just jump on the snail-mail band wagon for Christmas. (But I'm 100% OK with anyone who does!) I just sincerely love sending cards and mail. I've finally accepted that Mingus prefers not to sign every birthday and anniversary card I put in the mail, so I've let him off the hook and usually add his name along with the kids, but I do love to send birthday cards throughout the year as well as anniversary cards. I'm not the best at getting them there on time, but I try to remember nonetheless.

My Mom has always been an avid card-sender and it's obvious she learned from my Grandma, because all of her children have always been great with birthday and Christmas cards. Mom sends cards to all people for all reasons, so I grew up thinking it was only natural.

My love of snail mail came early when I was matched with a California Pen Pal through American Girl when I was in 6th grade. We probably corresponded longer than most matches. I think it was high school before our notes began to dwindle but even then we didn't forget. I am sure it had something to do with the fact we both actually enjoyed writing (and still do). I think we eventually swapped email addresses, but, believe it or not, we are still connected thanks to the social media world. We've never met face-to-face, but I think that day is still destined down the road.

Sorry for the side story... The point: I have always loved sending real mail.

Last year for Lent I chose to send daily mail. It was a great thing and I may do it again this year.

I can't remember when I started sending my own Christmas cards. I always did cards even in middle and high school to friends. One year shortly after college my roommates and I even set up a "family photo" and printed it for our friends that mailed out.

In some ways I think it's ridiculous the number of people on my list, but the truth is I love it. I usually don't get every person on that list but I sure try. I know all the rave is to have "photo cards" printed and I do love to receive them... But I'm a little old fashion. Maybe it's the old lady name, "Rita." I buy real cards and (now that I have kids) include a photo. I used to write a note in each card. (I tend to write novels in all cards... I confuse them with actual letters I suppose.) I've compromised and gone the route of the old school "Family Newsletter" insert and squeeze as many words onto a printed sheet of paper as possible in attempts to summarize the year.

So the card process is quite an ordeal:
- Make list of recipients
- Buy Cards
- Buy Stamps
- Take a kid photo
- Order photos prints
- Type year-in-review letter
- Print letter
- Write in each card
- Fold and stuff letter
- Stuff photo
- Address envelopes (after making sure address is up to date)
- Add stamp and return address

And when you have 100+ people on your list... It's quite a spread to work on!

The first batch went in the mail today... But I ran out of stamps! Hope I can get my hands on some more Snoopy ones soon!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Non-Creamy Creamy Pasta Sauce--YUM!

I'm so proud! We ate something DIFFERENT tonight!
And I made it--from scratch! :) :)

Between Mingus's food allergies and being distracted by two wiley children, it's much easier to stick to our go-to menu options rather than experiment with new ideas. Why?
(1) It takes longer
(2) It often requires special shopping--i.e. planning ahead
(3) It requires special research/adjusting to make sure it's Mingus-friendly

A week of supper is pretty predictable, around here: spaghetti, tacos, turkey burgers, stir fry & baked chicken... Plus a wild card or two here and there.

Last night we made stir fry (Jalfrezi sauce--a husband favorite) but our Zaycon chicken breasts tend to be MASSIVE and when it's just two and a half people (Lou=Half) we don't need that much... So I halfed the breast last night and had to figure out what to do with the remainder tonight. 

It would have been kind of small to just bake it and split it among us... I suppose I could have done fajitas, but I had chicken Alfredo on my mind--something we have never enjoyed together due to the creamy essence that makes Alfredo what it is! 

Creamy = Non-Mingus-Friendly

But we have talked about trying an oil-based sauce with pasta (especially since turning husband onto basil and Italian style bread-dipping oils.) I did a little Pinteresting to see what came up and I actually was still looking for an olive oil recipe when I read this one. I noticed the "white beans" in the ingredients which seemed odd, only then to see it called for "non-dairy milk"--wha??? Seeing that I actually HAD all of the listed ingredients (save a fresh lemon), I had to try.

BINGO! It was a winner! 
I actually thin I'd like to puree a large amount of the sauce and try to save it (freeze it?) so it's easy for a quick meal. (Not that making it from scratch is hard or long... just a little more mess to clean up afterwards.)

Here's my version of the recipe:
 • 1 can white beans (Great Northern)
• 1/4 c Unsweetened Almond milk (other non-dairy milks could be used)
• 3 garlic cloves (I like to error on the side of too much garlic)
• 1 T parsley
• 1/2 t onion powder
• 1/8 t nutmeg
• Juice of lemon*
• Salt & Pepper as desired
* I used lemon juice instead and just guessed...about that much.
Combined & Puree (I used my trusty Nutribullet)

I added the sauce to my sliced and cooking chicken. I also threw in some organic Greystone Garden broccoli. Mingus said he's down for a repeat!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Saying Goodbye to 2 Under 2

Even before I took the test, I was scared. In fact, I didn’t want to take a pregnancy test the first week, because I knew it would be positive and I wasn’t ready to accept that yet. Dorothy was just turning 8 months old and I was pregnant again? She’d be 15, going on 16 months and I would be starting over? Would I survive??
As Jacob just turned 8 months, and is speed-crawling, climbing and wanting mom constantly, it’s not hard to see why, in my inexperience, I was terrified of taking on two. But here I am, on the brink of Dorothy’s 2nd birthday (Oct. 16) wondering where time is going. 2-under-2 is coming to a close. 
I knew in the end I wouldn’t be able to imagine it any other way, but it’s not just that I cannot imagine life without Jacob; I cannot imagine having kids further apart in age. I’m probably crazy and I’m not saying it’s easy by any means. I’m lucky to have 20 minutes on a given day where they are both in bed at the same time, but seeing the relationship form between these two already--so strong when Dorothy isn’t even 2--is a gift beyond measure. And as “crazy” as life is, is it actually crazy? Or are these the simplest days of my life aside from my own childhood in Clan Valley? 
Today was a perfect example of the “crazy simplicity” that is my life right now. It was just the three of us all day at Broch Tuarach. Jake woke early, but I lured him back to sleep for some extra slumber myself; however, an hour later, the cries Po-Dot woke not just me, but little brother as well. I’m not a morning person, but we muddle through. Jacob is perky. Dot is grumpy until she gets food. I am grateful husband has the coffee hot and ready for me.
Jacob takes a mid-morning snooze while Dorothy “helps” me fold laundry. When jabber comes over the monitor Lou says, “Jake’s awake!” and heads for the stairs yelling, “We’re coming Ja-ake!” Playtime upstairs while I try to do a few things and then we head back downstairs. 
After the morning nap things are always up in the air. Today’s memorable adventure was using suspenders, blue painters tape, construction paper and cardboard boxes to make a wearable dump truck. We ate a bit of lunch before Dorothy found her “silky” and paci and announced, “Want to take a rest." She acted tired, so I took her upstairs. I was hopeful but no luck. I heard lots of thumping and talking for the next hour. Finally, I checked in to find a smelly room because she’d (in her potty) gone poop. I wouldn’t want to sleep in that stink either! (She’d also pulled down her curtains for the 2nd day in a row.) I cleaned up, opened the window for fresh air and left her to “rest” again. At this point, Jacob was tired. Lucky for me, he went down easy. For about 10 minutes I thought I was clear and both were asleep… But Po’s jabber began again…eventually becoming loud. Not long and Jake was crying. I’d lost the nap battle.
So up again and we headed to the front porch to enjoy the perfect fall weather: swing time for Po and in the walker with Jake. Then we loaded up the Radio Flyer wagon for Jake’s first ride. We didn’t go far… To the Greystone coral barn and back with a few pit stops to play with HokaHey. However, by the time we were back to Lallybroch’s front porch, it was 4pm and the missed naps were rearing their ugly heads. 
I hadn’t let Jacob eat the rocks in the driveway and that’s really what set it off for him. Dorothy just wanted “a snack, a snack” even though she’d been eating the entire walk. She chilled out watching "Daniel Tiger", so I tried to begin supper, accomplishing bits at a time between Jacob outbursts. I had to hold him to get him to eat his supper—even then he decorated my hoodie with beet puree and cried to the point of nearly choking himself. 
With a snotty nose, a dirty dinner face and the outside play, I opted for a bath for Jacob (knowing Dorothy would insist on getting in as well). I thought this might bring some relief. They usually have a blast. But today Dorothy wanted all of the toys. I insisted she share. She cried. After about 90 seconds of crying, Jacob joined in. He didn’t stop. It was a short bath and I won’t attest to them being much cleaner afterward. 
I accepted the fact I had to either hold Jacob or be within his reach the rest of the night and that Dorothy would be fine if I was joining her play. I’d gotten dinner 60% of the way done and that felt like an accomplishment. I waited and  took Jacob to bed promptly when Jon got home, thinking this would keep Lou from screaming while putting him to sleep. It did not. I heard Jon bring her to her room for bed just before I laid sleeping Jake in his crib. She was exhausted. We read her stories. “Time to say prayer,” she said afterwards. We did. Said good night. Both kids out by 7:30.
Sure, sometimes I don’t get any time for myself (don’t ask how I manage to get CD done!) and sometimes two kids seem to constantly need Mama. But I can’t help but my find myself in awe of the fact these kids allow me to live so simply again. I get to pull a wagon around and purposefully seek out the sights, sounds and smells of nature. I get to rediscover the joys of a somersaults and sliding and ponder the mysteries of the moon and stars. Soon enough it will be school, practices and events keeping me from getting supper fixed and an entire day in the Valley will be rare.  
I know there is much to look forward to in their growing up, but I already get sad thinking about today's simple joys that I will one day all too soon miss. They are a treasure beyond words and the fact I am already experiencing it with not just one, but two kids is incredible; two little souls I am seeing form a lifelong bond before my very eyes. That love I witness in them is so pure and the true essence of God’s existence.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Freaky Friday Shopping

Happy Friday!

Since it is Friday the 13th, I figured I'd throw you a curve ball with... 

...Some shopping tips from this tight-wad! 
(And by 'tight-was,' I don't just mean, always find and taking advantage of a good deal... 
I mean has to be forced into spending money on herself.)

I gifted myself a night of meandering through its delightful accessories and whatnot (as opposed to working) and plotting all of the Christmas shopping I will be doing in the coming weeks.

I found it, thanks to my newfound Insta-Mom, MaLyn, and her blog
She keeps the mom thing real... 

On another note, I actually did buy myself something last week and was delighted to see it stuffed in my mailbox today:
New jeans & my new favorite Christmas top.
Thanks to Kohl's Cash & coupons, I basically only paid tax and shipping!

Oh and if you weren't aware, I'm a lifer, in terms of being a Peanuts fan. Not just on the bandwagon now that I'm a mom and the movie just came out. 

Seriously: I was Snoopy for Halloween in 3rd grade. 
(Oh and those are definitely knee-high orange striped Snoopy socks under my skinny jeans.)
I'm not sure any adult giggles at Snoopy the way I do and it's only that whole tight-wad thing that's kept my kids from being smothered in Snoopy-ness. 
Regardless, I'm loving the fact there is a Peanuts Movie to bring out the best of the best Snoopy everything these days.

Sad news is the kids are too young to sit through a movie in the theater, so Peanuts on the big screen is not happening for me. Guess we'll just be enjoying The Great Pumpkin and Charlie Brown Christmas for now.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Moments Not Forgotten

It's the first month of two under two... Every moment is special. I'm so grateful for Jacob's laid back personality. (IE: He is not like Dorothy who cried LOTS and always needed walked around and bounced, didn't want to latch, destroyed my nipples, wouldn't take a pacifier, had a piercing cry...) and I cannot be prouder of my little girl, now a big sister. She is very patient with me and Jacob. Oftentimes when I am feeding him or rocking him, it's like she understands that he needs me. Not always (sometimes she is her standard 16-month old self), but many times this is when she will go off and play on her own, flip through book pages, push her shopping cart around, etc. and completely leave us be. 
  • Be wary of what 'games' I teach Dorothy to play with Jacob at this point. I thought peek-a-boo would be fun when trying to occupy Dorothy while also rocking Jacob on my lap. I proceeded to cover his face with my hand, without touching his face, and then uncovering it saying "peek-a-boo!" Dorothy loved it... So much so, she thought she would do it herself...which resulted in her attempting to slap down on his face repeatedly... Oops....
  • She loves helping change diapers. He hasn't been the biggest fan of diaper changes, and tends to cry... So now, whenever he begins to cry, she scurries to the spot in the living room where I lay him for changing downstairs and begins pulling out all of the changing stuff. (And by "all" I mean, she pulls out every diaper and item in the basket I have sitting there.
  • She's wanted to hold him and there are not words for how adorable that is. Obviously I really hold him but she sits so still (you have no idea how abnormal that is for this child) and just looks down at him. Precious.
  • She tries to offer him food... Anything from her water cup to green beans.
  • She gets excited in the morning to come see him in the space pod (our name for the cradle-n-swing)... Almost as excited as she would get every morning during the Christmas season to run to that same spot and insist I turn the lights on. 
  • She loved helping me bathe him. She gets a kick out of his little tub.... "Splish Splash" time is a favorite of hers anyway...
  • She likes to mimic much of what I do with Jacob with her stuffed animals/dolls. She lays them out on the blanket I use on the floor to change Jacob... She puts them in the swing... She holds them against her chest to love on them when I'm carrying or burping Jacob. She just wants to be the best big sister!
  • She loves Jacob's hats. Okay, so she loves hats and head gear in general--let's be honest. If she recognizes it as something to go on one's head, she wants to wear it. (And sometimes she wants to wear things as hats that are not hats at all...) She brings me Jacob's hats to put on his head...even when he is already wearing one. She also tries to wear them herself. (Her current favorite is actually one that was made for her last Christmas. It was crocheted and stretches so we make it work.) 

  • She also likes to bring me bibs for Jacob or try to put them on him. Bibs are another thing she likes to wear herself--probably because she relates them to getting to eat (which she would do non-stop if we let her!) 
  • Jacob watches her. I swear. I know his eyesight is still developing and not really clear yet, but I swear he knows her and is comforted by her presence. I think he knows her in a similar way that he knows me. He probably heard her crazy talk and noises throughout the time in the womb--she was always right there with me. And now that he is with us, he spends all day every day with both myself and Dorothy. 
  • She gets upset when he gets upset. She doesn't like it when he cries. It's not like the crying noise bothers her specifically, but that she understands he is upset about something and she doesn't like that.
  • Recently, Dorothy was playing near the "space pod" (swing) when Jacob was in it. In one moment all was fine, and the next I looked up and the thing was rocking at full speed side-to-side. Dot had him MOVIN'! Yikes! Although it didn't seem to phase the little guy one bit. 
They have a special connection already and I can just sense it. Maybe this is something every mother/parent feels of their children, but I see the way she has changed in the short weeks he's been here. I see how genuinely interested in him she is. I see his intrigue in her and when she is nearby. After finding out I was pregnant, I often prayed that at night their souls would meet; that in their sleep they would spend time together, coming to know one another, so that when they were here on this earth together, they'd already know each other and have a special bond. I still pray that their souls meet in times of slumber.