Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What I Learned :: April Edition

Joining with some others today for a little re-cap of lessons learned in April.  It was fun to think back on this month about the varying lessons I've learned.  Some are serious, some might seem insignificant, both are channels of change.     

1. My husband can throw a baby shower.  He planned and organized a baby shower for one of his Navy buddies.  It was a corn hole tournament.  Everyone could buy in to the tournament for $20; half of the proceeds went to the parents-to-be, and half was divided between the members of the winning team.  We had a blast, and I would highly recommend it!

2. Eating by a strictly Paleo diet is not fun, but it did teach me to have better self-control.  I needed to completely eliminate sweet foods and carbohydrates from my diet for a time, so that I could go back to a more moderate form of eating.  It was amazing, too, how much I learned about self-control in other areas of my life.  {This has made me want to do a thorough study on fasting in Scripture}.

3. It is possible to keep the top of my dresser clutter-free.  We've had our house on the market for about 52 days now, and it's been spotless {my dresser, not the house}.  My husband used to say he was going to buy me a dresser with a slanted top so that everything would just fall off, forcing me to keep it tidy.  Change is possible.

4. I love banana pudding.  I served it twice to company in April, using this Southern Style Banana Pudding recipe.  Delicious.

5. There are some wonderful connections to be made via Instagram.  Pictures from all over the world are coming into my feeds every day.  It's inspiring, encouraging, reminding me to pray, and sharing life in a small way with people around the globe.

6. If you drop a jug of milk on the floor, it will quite possibly crack in half, burst open, covering your floor with its frothy sticky substance.

7. 1 Peter is quickly becoming my favorite book of the Bible.  We're studying this in our Women's Bible study at church right now and I am loving it!

8. I learned about   Some of you may be familiar with this site already, but it was new for me.  When I was in Bible college we had to flip through concordances, commentaries, Bible dictionaries, etc., for help in studying; that's the only way I've known how to do it all these years.  Now, I can just type in a word or phrase and this website will pull up all kinds of information for me.  {See #7 as to why this is so exciting}.

9. My children are learning spiritual truths.  We talk to our kids about the Lord, read God's Word to them, and strive to live out our faith in front of them.  We don't always know, though, what's really sinking in.  The other day, my oldest daughter, who is 5, brought me a piece of paper and a marker and said:

"Mommy, can you please write: Pray When I Am Scared on this piece of paper?  I'm going to put it on my nightstand, and when I look at it I will remember to pray.  Sometimes when I'm scared I forget to pray, but this will help me remember." 

Thank you, Lord, for working in her little heart.

What do you learn in April? 

 Linking up with Chatting at the Sky today.  Come on over!

Monday, April 28, 2014

From the Kitchen :: Southern Style Banana Pudding

Now that we've lived in Georgia for over three years, I'm finding myself more and more drawn to southern things.  Large front porches with hanging ferns, grits, pimento cheese, monograms, and even hairbows.  I can't wait to try making a Hummingbird Cake {I recently tasted one for the first time and it was delicious} and I'm going to keep cooking Shrimp and Grits until I have it memorized and perfected.

One of the classic desserts of the South is banana pudding.

I remember seeing dishes of this at potlucks when I was a kid, but I always made a beeline for chocolate chip cookies and ice cream sundaes.  The value of banana pudding was lost on my childish palette.

Now, it's one of my absolute favorite desserts.  In fact, I've made it for company twice in the past month.

Here's my disclaimer:  I use instant vanilla pudding mixes.  Feel free to stop reading right here if you're offended by this, and my blog is titled "Only From Scratch".  Pudding made from scratch is wonderful, but it shouldn't be used for this recipe.  The instant kind just works better.  And, I'm usually a stickler for brand name Nilla wafers, but I found Publix makes a fantastic copy, and costs almost half as much.

Southern Style Banana Pudding

3 small boxes instant vanilla pudding
5 cups milk {whole or 2%}
8 oz sour cream
1  8 oz container Cool Whip
1 box Vanilla wafers
4 ripe, but not spotted, bananas

In a large mixing bowl whisk pudding mix and milk until thickened.  Fold in sour cream and Cool Whip until combined.

Place a small scoop of pudding mixture in the bottom of a trifle bowl.  Cover with a layer of Vanilla wafers.  Slice 2 of the bananas and distribute evenly on top of the wafers.  Cover with a layer of pudding.  Repeat layers ending with the wafers.

Cover and chill until ready to serve.

recipe adapted slightly from our church cookbook

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Better List

Two years ago I was sitting in a hospital exam room with my husband and our two week old son, waiting for the Doctor to come in and let us know whether or not our baby boy had Down Syndrome. It had been a long and difficult two weeks as we waited the outcome of the blood tests they had done. Somehow those minutes of waiting seemed almost longer.  We knew that we might possibly be facing the beginning of unknown waters, and my legs were feeling just a bit shaky.

Now, here we are two years later.  Two years of living life with a child who has Down Syndrome.  We've survived.  There were many days in the beginning that I wondered whether or not I would even be able to push through one more moment. On April 13th, we celebrated Mason's second birthday.

Glory be to God!

Why have I waited two weeks to write about his birthday?  Quite honestly, I was struggling with various disappointments leading up to his birthday and the week after.  I was wrestling with the Lord, and in the midst of wrestling I couldn't write.

We had prayed for several months that Mason would be able to walk before his second birthday.  Our daughters, ages 5 and 4, had been praying every day for their little brother, and I was so hoping that God would answer their request in the way they were asking.

He didn't.

And I was disappointed.

I thought that by enabling Mason to walk, answering the prayers of our family, the girls would get to see God at work, their faith in Him being realized in a tangible way.  And I was fearful that if things didn't go as they were asking they would forever turn away from the Lord.

Turns out they don't trust God any less.  We talked with them about how sometimes God doesn't answer our prayers in the way we wanted.  Regardless of the outcome, though, we still need to trust Him.

 I had to preach this to myself.  I guess I thought that somehow if I really believed that God would answer my prayer, He definitely would.  Isn't that what prayer is all about?

What I discovered was that the very act of praying in faith for something big needed to be good enough.  Communion with God, nearness to Him, the pouring out of my heart, expressing my desires and dreams, sensing His awakening in my Spirit as I am reminded throughout the day to pray---these are the glorious benefits of a praying life.  

As God began to show me that my faith had been in the outcome of my prayers, not in Him, I started to refocus my thoughts.

Initially, the disappointment over Mason's inability to walk on his own had caused me to compare Mason's development with other children his age, and I had started a list in my head of all the things that he couldn't do.

Now, with a refocus I can give you a better list.  It is most certainly not a list of them all, but I give you a list of the amazing things that my son can do.

Mason at Two Years of Age:

Likes to play corn hole.

Loves to eat solid foods with his own two hands.

Sings at the top of his lungs, waves his arms in the air, and sways back and forth to music, especially Chris Tomlin, who is apparently his favorite musician.

Opens up all the cupboards in our kitchen and frequently throws frying pans and pots into my bare ankles.

Tackles anyone who is sitting on the floor by crawling and ramming his head into their stomach.

Says five words.  Do you even realize how incredible this is??

Sings "My God is So Big" by watching and imitating my motions.  One day I will get it on video because it is quite possibly the cutest thing I have ever seen.

Throws a ball {and any other object he gets his hands on} across the room at high speed.  He might be a Special Olympics gold medalist one day.  Watch out.

Crawls all the way up to the top of the steps.

Throws kisses when asked.

Pushes his little cart around the house and yard, turning and maneuvering when needed.

Helps with his baby sister by bringing me the wipes and/or diaper when I ask.

Turns on my phone, swipes the screen, and plays around pushing various things.

Plays with toys appropriately, e.g. pushes toy cars on the floor.

Pulls up onto any surface and now transfers from one thing to another.

Drinks from a straw and sippy cup.

Babbles while looking at books as if he knows how to read.

Lights up my life.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Giving the Paleo Diet a try

Dieting is not a favorable task in our home.

We love food.

When my husband told me the other day that he wanted to do a Paleo diet for a month, I responded in a not so submissive wifely manner.  Meaning, I said don't you realize there are five other people in this house that require food every day, how could you possibly think that adding this to my plate right now is a good idea and there is no way I am going to do it?!

Not my finest moment as a wife.

The Lord convicted me of my wrong attitude, and I started looking through the Practical Paleo cookbook that has been sitting in our kitchen for over a year now.  To my surprise, I found that in many ways we were eating like that already.  Processed foods aren't generally in my weekly meal plans, and I do cook mostly from scratch, so it didn't seem as challenging as I thought.

The nice thing about this book is that included with the recipes are 30 day meal plans based upon what kind of issue you are addressing. I'm adapting the fat loss plan a little bit, to fit more our daily schedule, but following the guidelines as much as possible.

In preparation for this diet, we did what any food lover would do and we went out for dinner Saturday night.  I had to capture this food with my camera phone:

Steak au poivre with pomme frittes

Chocolate chip Cheesecake

Yesterday was Day 1.

At 3:15 yesterday afternoon I said to Bradley, "This diet is dumb."

And as we grumbled a little bit about it we realized that we have a problem.  We couldn't even go a few hours without feeling the need for something sweet, dairy or carbohydrates.

For me it boils down to this:  a lack of self-control.

So, we're sticking this diet thing out for at least a week, since I planned meals for one week's time. And during this time, I'm really asking the Lord to teach me about self-control.   Not just in my eating, although that is foremost on my mind, but in other areas like attitude, speech, reactions to unpleasant circumstances, etc.

As I watch what I put into my mouth a little more closely, I'm hoping that what is displayed in my life will reflect more powerfully the Spirit at work to change me and make me more like Christ.

Lunch: Avocado with balsamic vinaigrette 

Dinner Day 1: hamburger with caramelized onions, Dijon, and tomato; grilled veggies; roasted sweet potatoes

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Majestic Sacrifice

The cross stood tall on the hill, 
the body of a servant King 
hung by piercing nails and an obedient will.

His life spilled out that day on the tree.
His blood poured once for the sin of the redeemed.

In love and obedience He died.
"Father, forgive them," His final cry.

I look and see my Savior and King.
The Majestic Sacrifice, and I can't help but sing:

Of the cross, of the blood, of the death of Jesus.
His life given up, His death that frees us.

On this, Good Friday, may you be mindful of the tremendous sacrifice of Jesus that He made on the cross.  The Son of God, who loved us while we were still sinners, gave up His life for our ransom, made the final sacrifice for our sin.  

It is a good day because He is good and He has given us what is good through His death. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

We all start out with shaky legs

I've been watching little legs in motion a lot lately.

Up and down, side to side, front to back.

I have sat through countless physical therapy sessions holding back tears as I watch my son struggle to do what comes so easily and naturally to most children.  His little legs wobble, his knees sometimes buckle, and I have to sit by and watch him learn and grow and get better at this thing called walking.

And yet isn't that how we all start out?  We all wobble a little under the newness of something.

A new job, being a parent for the first time, living on our own, moving to a new place, learning a new way of life.

We all start out with shaky legs.

My legs were pretty shaky when I started out on this journey of Down Syndrome.  Most days found me in tears, afraid of the future and paralyzed by my feelings of inadequacy.  While I still cry sometimes and feel inadequate most days, I'm learning how to walk through this and my legs are getting stronger.

"The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the faint and to him who has no might he increases strength.  Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."  Isaiah 40:28-31

God is giving me strength for the task of mothering my son.  HE doesn't have shaky legs.  HE is the all-powerful God on whom I wait, confident that He will renew and strengthen me.

Mason's legs are getting stronger.  He can push his little cart around the house now like it's nobody's business.  The other night we took him to the park and he walked for about 1/4 mile pushing that little thing, plopping down to wave at passersby, then pulling himself right back up.  He was definitely exhausted by the end of our walk and pretty ravenous at dinner, but he did it.  He's making progress.  He's pushing forward though he grows weary and he's going to walk on his own one day.

When I feel weak and unsteady, I want to push forward with the same determination of my son, trusting in the strength of God, confident in His ability to enable and strengthen me.

Are you struggling with shaky legs? Wait on the Lord.  He will renew your strength.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Our Weekend

Our weekend started with some fun playing in the sprinkler on Friday night.  We introduced our girls to Frozen two weeks ago, and since then, Isabella has taken to acting out being Elsa, freezing things {which she is apparently doing in the above picture} and singing "Let it Go" at the top of her lungs while we grocery shop.  Apparently, this is normal for girl children these days.  I love her lack of inhibition and theatrical spirit.  We've always known she enjoyed acting, but this has gone to a whole new level.  A game of charades right before bed only added to the drama.

Saturday was a gorgeous day!  The weather was lovely, so a backyard party was the perfect way to end it.  Bradley finished making some corn hole boards that morning and a friendly game ensued.  The kids enjoyed dressing Jennavieve up, swinging, playing in the sandbox and staying up later than the sun.

On Sunday we had an open house, so we took a little afternoon field trip to the mall.  Highlights of the mall for our girls are throwing coins in the fountain, riding the little simulated roller coaster ride, and going up and down the escalator a million times.  I love that they are easy to please and we can go to the mall for $1 {plus a vanilla latte from Starbucks}.  Sunday night found us once again outside, once the rain stopped, for another round of swinging, sandbox playing, and corn hole.

Due to Bradley's schedule, Mondays are also weekend days around here, so we had another fun day of being together.  I didn't manage to get a picture of the sword fight shenanigans because I was busy eating cookie dough, I mean making chocolate chip cookies for my family, but they had quite a battle going on in the family room.  It's all fun and games until someone gets whacked in head with the wooden handle.  This time Mason was the culprit; he has quite the arm.  I did manage to capture Mason pushing Jennavieve around in the baby doll stroller.  She only weighs one pound less than he does, so the fact that he was even able to do this is pretty remarkable.  We're praying he will start walking on his own soon!

This week is a little slower for us than last, so I'm looking forward to getting a little bit ahead in my planning, researching housing/schooling/churches/etc., for our upcoming move.  We move in just 7 weeks and we have a lot of decisions to make.  I'm thankful for my husband and his ability to remain calm during times of transition.  I'm so thankful to have him for a husband!

Hope you all have a wonderful week!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Seven Tips for Maintaing a Clean House while it's On the Market

Maintaining a clean home with four small children is never an easy task.  Add to that having your house ready for showings while it's on the market, and you could easily get pretty stressed out.  To tell you the truth, actually selling our home doesn't have me worried.  Someone will either like our house or they won't; I can't make someone place an offer.  The part that makes me nervous is the daily maintenance to make it presentable for potential buyers.  In order to eliminate this stress, I've put seven practical things into place.

1. Store toys strategically for quick and easy clean up.  Our two oldest girls share a room that is full of dress up clothes, Barbies, stuffed animals, and random assortments of other teeny tiny pieces.  We use plastic bins with lids and keep toys organized by type.  Hanging up the dress up clothes was always a chore and time sucker for all of us {usually we would end up just wadding them up on the floor}.  A quick trip to TJMaxx and $30 provided us with a stylish basket for keeping all of the dress up clothes.

Bins that hold smaller pieces {jewelry, random toys, etc.} have been placed on the top shelf in their closet and can only be accessed with permission from Mommy and Daddy right now.

In the nursery, fabric covered boxes store Legos, trains, and baby toys.

Our general rule is to only allow one or two types of toys out at a time, and this has helped with clean up, as well as with maintaining focus for the girls during their play time.  We also boxed up some extra toys and stored them in the attic for now.  They have not been missed. :)

We timed clean up the other day and it only took us 5 minutes to put everything away.

2. Straighten up daily.  This might sound like a no-brainer, and probably many of you do this anyway.  I'll just be honest with you, though, that by the end of the day I'd much rather be in my pj's relaxing than cleaning up the kitchen and putting everyone's clothes away.  However, just taking 10 extra minutes after dinner or after the kids go to bed has helped to keep some of the busiest spaces in our home free of clutter.  I wipe the kitchen counters, sweep the floor, put the dishes away, pick up toys, and make sure dirty clothes are in the hamper.  I can go to bed with peace of mind knowing that it won't take as long to pick up should someone want to see the house the next morning.

3. Keep certain rooms/spaces off limits.  This  might not be necessary for everyone, but we have a guest room, dining room and piano room that aren't necessary for our everyday use.  So, once these rooms were cleaned and organized we asked the kids not to bring toys in there.  My only tasks for showings in these rooms are to vacuum and dust.

4. Make a house showing bucket and checklist.  Deep cleaning your home is just not practical for every house showing.  It would take hours and really, no one is going to eat something off of your floors, so it's not necessary to have everything absolutely spotless.  I've kept to my normal cleaning schedule {this is a weekly thing for me--bathrooms, mop floors, dust}, and in my little $4 bucket from Wal-Mart, I have some supplies that allow me to do a quick wipe down of some of these places.

-Windex wipes for bathroom mirrors and glass doors
-Clorox wipes for sinks and countertops
-Dusting gloves and brush for a quick swipe and feathering of furniture.
-Trash bags to empty all the trash cans around the house
-Air freshener to spray as you exit
Whatever else you think will help for your quick clean up

Type up and print out a checklist for yourself so that in the midst of frantically cleaning your house, you don't forget any of the essential steps.  Like that dirty diaper pail that needs emptying.

5. Have one or two empty bins under the bed for extra stuff.  I know myself well enough that there are surfaces in my home that will collect junk no matter how hard I try to keep it clean.  My dresser, the desk in the kitchen, one of my kitchen counters...Because I know this, I have two bins under my bed that I can use for these things should I need somewhere to put them in a pinch.

{After inspection of my two bins when I snapped the above photo, I suppose I should have three or four.  My two are already full!}

6. Utilize the tub, dishwasher, and microwave.  I didn't want to do this, but at the beginning of my shopping trip the other day I got a request for a house showing two hours later. I knew there were clothes that hadn't been folded, and a pile of hand me downs on the floor of my bedroom.  It only took a few seconds to put them in a laundry basket and hide them in the tub behind the shower curtain.  I had started to make bread that same morning, so I stuck the dough in the microwave {it rises faster in there anyway}, and loaded up the dishwasher.  If people choose to look in these spaces, I think they will be understanding, at least I hope they will.

7. Involve everyone in the family.  Our oldest children {ages 5 and 4} have heard us talking about moving, selling the house, and keeping the house ready for showings.  They don't fully understand it all, but they do understand that we need to be able to clean up quickly.  This communication with them has helped their attitudes when I need to scurry around.  They enjoy wearing my dusting gloves, so sometimes they even do this task for me.

Yesterday morning my four year old came downstairs and said, "Mommy, I cleaned up the sink in my bathroom.  I knew you had to feed both of the babies and clean up all of the other rooms, so I figured I could do that to help you."

She blew me away with her servant's heart, initiative, and ability to articulate why she thought I needed help.

Helping our older children to be aware of what's going on has given them a desire to be involved.

Keeping a home clean and organized while on the market can be a daunting task.  With just a few key steps, though, you can maintain your sanity and stay relaxed through the process.

Does anyone else have some tips for keeping your house ready for showings?  Please, share in the comments below!

Linking to:  Home Stories A to Z, Tutorials and Tips