Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lent 2012

Do you give up things for Lent? I remember in elementary school several Catholic kids made a big deal about this. I think they did it for the attention and didn't really get why they were giving anything up, but I gave it a stab a couple times because it seemed like the cool thing to do. It was usually brownies or chocolate or something, and I always caved - quite early. I'd start by making exceptions, and then all out blow it by week two or so.

"Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven." - Matthew 6:1

A few years ago, I tried again, with greater success. I remember an Ash Wednesday sermon that encouraged taking an action as a way to grow closer to God, but to do if privately. Instead of flaunting the fact that I couldn't eat certain things, I only told those who needed to know, the the sense of willpower at the end was very, well, empowering! I consulted God throughout my day to help me abstain from the temptations and cravings. And at the end I felt like, although it was a relatively small triumph in the grand scheme, that I COULD do all things through Christ, even against my fleshly desires.

This year I am not giving up food - I'm pregnant. I'm not committing to anything - I will soon have a newborn. I'm not gettin' my exercise on - again, the pregnancy card is being played....

I'm not doing anything to set myself up for failure. I'm simply giving up stress/worry for Lent.

How can you actually give up stress. Or worry. I decided, while I may not always be successful or even remotely rid of stress and worry, I do tend to let myself focus on those emotions too often rather than learn to let go of the unnecessary and lean on God for the rest. So, I think it's pretty timely with the baby coming and all. I've already let go of a few things: Lost camera at IKEA? Borrow one. Only a handful of diapers at home? Wal-Mart is two miles from home. Seriously, these are the kinds of things I stress and worry about, more than I should. And then of course there are the bigger worries: healthy baby, safe delivery, Brady's response to a sibling, my emotional state, potential accidents or catastrophes, etc, etc.

I know this isn't something I can do on my own. My natural tendency is to be a controlling worry-wart. I will have to lean on Joel, family, friends, and of course God to help me keep stress and worry at bay - especially with wacky hormones.

I don't really have a way to track, succeed, or fail at this, which is also a good thing. It is what it is, and at the end maybe, just maybe, I'll start to naturally worry/stress less and remember to take each day at a time, being thankful for all I have today instead of anticipating the worries of tomorrow.

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." - Matthew 6:3

"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done." - Philippians 4:6

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pregnancy Update: Week 36 + WYRW

Swollen, blobby mess. That about sums up my physical and mental state these days! I think a ban on all photos of me should be enacted now through D-day.

Last Friday, I went to the OB for a check up and to get the OK to travel to Minnesota for a quick weekend getaway. I have suspected I've had low iron at various times throughout this pregnancy, and a hemoglobin test confirmed that - so more steak, broccoli, and spinach for me! Hopefully that will help curb my lightheadedness, extra fatigue, and irritability I've been experiencing. Yes, I blame all irritability on the iron deficiency, and not that fact that I am an emotional roller-coaster anyway and have a tiring toddler to contend with everyday. The attitude of a teenager with a toddler's body and mind. It's just such a treat....

I gained three pounds in two weeks, which was more than past weeks, and I have a feeling between vacation, my couch-potatoness, and swelling, that trend will continue. But we did discover that I have started dilating (tmi? sorry!), which could mean nothing but is encouraging nonetheless! I KNEW all these contractions aren't just practice :)

The doctor also said once I was considered full term, they would probably order an ultrasound to check the baby's size. It took a couple seconds and then I realized what she was saying. "He's big, isn't he?" I'd been saying for the last two weeks that he just all of a sudden felt HUGE. She said yes, he seemed to be a good size little guy. Good news - maybe I will go into labor early and/or be induced (ick) closer to 37 weeks rather than 40 (or 41). Bad news - I am not a large or tall person, and I have a short torso. My ribs, lungs, and back are at their limit NOW!

As soon as we got back from Minnesota, which was an adventure in and of itself that I will write about shortly, serious swelling set in. And I've had about as much of our mattress as I can take - it USED to be comfortable due to our nice feather topper. A couple years ago after a suspected bed-bug incident, we purchased an expensive casing to go over our mattress and feather-topper. Well, since then the feather-topper ripped, and the thousands of feathers that are now loose in the casing have nestled into every crevasse where our bodies DON'T lay. Basically, we need a new mattress - NOW.

Complain much, huh? I do want to acknowledge that I am very grateful for relative health and well-being for both the baby and myself. I know I sound ungrateful - around 8 weeks I was annoyed and irritated with my nausea. I felt terrible and couldn't muster the energy to do anything. Granted, our scare at 10 weeks gave me a little boost of "I will endure anything I have to if the baby can just be ok!" But, the woe-is-me attitude returned once the pregnancy was back on track.

I have close friends and family who have struggled with fertility. In all honesty, it’s nothing I have experience with. I can’t imagine how couples endure who wait months, or years to have a baby. Or how women who have one, two, three, more miscarriages, well into that first trimester. They endure over and over the gross symptoms I complained about so routinely, with no baby to show for it in the end.

It’s true, at least for me, that much of pregnancy just sucks. But I hope I never, ever forget how lucky I am to even be married and able to carry children naturally, without intervention. My prayer today is for those who are unmarried and desire children, those who are married and struggling with conception, and those who have tried everything and still continue to wait. That God would choose to give to them what He so abundantly has given to us!

Even if all I feel like today is a swollen, blobby mess :)

Would You Rather Wednesday: Would you rather take multiple, small trips each year, or one bigger trip every year or two?

I'd say a combo! We haven't been on many big vacations, but like to take smaller ones more regularly, especially a warm-weather escape in the winter. However, even with the new baby and basement expenses, we are going to try to get in a nice, big trip this fall to celebrate our five-year anniversary. How far we've come in five short years!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pregnancy Update: Week 35 + WYRW

Whew, what a long week it's been. The first time the weather decided to dump any kind of measurable snow this entire season was before and during my Pampered Chef brunch on Saturday - lovely, eh? I've battled extreme backaches most days, and even though I've done well so far, I managed to gain more weight than I cared to. I think the swelling has started, and I wake up every morning with ribs that feel like they are broken they are so painful. Well ok, I don't actually know what a broken rib feels like, but the sharp pains and aching is no picnic. Thankfully once I stretch out and stand up, it starts to lessen....

Speaking of sharp pains, I don't recall having this with Brady, but I have heard about it. When the baby sits just right, usually when I'm standing, I get this sharp pain down my right leg. I don't know who this alien baby is, but he won't stop moving!

I don't mean to gripe, and I'm sure I'm just painting a lovely picture of pregnancy :) I just feel like this baby is full size and out of room now....how can we have five (or more) weeks to go?! And yet, I need those weeks....the nursery isn't decorated, birth plan isn't finalized, pre-registration has yet to be sent to the hospital, baby book hasn't been purchased, hospital bags aren't packed, etc. etc. Yikes! I guess I better be off to do something productive.

As for Would You Rather Wednesday: Would you rather be caught in ice, snow, wind, or rain?
I think I'd have to say rain, if it's a warm rain! Ice is dangerous (right, mom?) and cold, snow is cold and can be dirty/slushy/messy, and wind just messes up my hair on the rare occasion I wear it down. If I'm driving, though, I actually like to drive in the snow!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Recipe: Mini Corn Dogs

Ever since I received a mini-muffin pan for Christmas, I have been OBSESSED with making everything, well, MINI. I won't even touch my regular muffin pan. So, to kick off the first of many "mini" recipes, I had this post planned for awhile now. Then a couple days ago, I popped on over to my favorite foodie blog, Iowa Girl Eats, and what did I find? THE SAME RECIPE! AHHH!

I will admit, I've made several of her recipes, and do get inspiration from her blog time-to-time, but this was just UNCANNY. I thought about not posting my recipe because it just seemed too fishy (not actually fishy, but you know....). Upon further investigation, I realized they weren't quite the same, so I don't feel like I'm stealing her idea, even if it appears like I am :) 

Plus, my version is way easier - BONUS!

So I present to you, my not-ripped-off, uber-easy recipe for....

Mini Corn Dogs

The Stuff
1 package Jiffy cornbread mix
1 T. brown sugar
1 egg
3/4 C. milk
1/2 C. cheddar cheese
4-5 hot dogs, cut into bite-sized pieces.

The Sauce
Ketchup. Or Catsup. Or however you want to spell it.

The Stir
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk the egg and milk in a medium-sized bowl, then combine the Jiffy mix, brown sugar, and cheese. Using a spoon, scoop mixture into a well-greased mini-muffin pan, filling each about 1/2 to 2/3 full. Add hot dog pieces until each cup is basically full (how many pieces you add to each cup will depend on how large or small you cut the hot dogs). Pop 'em in the oven for 10-12 minutes, although it could take less time so check periodically for the muffins to start lightly browning. Yield= 24 mini-muffins, or you can use a regular, 12-cup muffin pan at 400 degrees for 14-18 minutes....but why would you want to!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Bullies

I didn't really think about it until recently, but I was bullied quite a bit as a child. I had frizzy hair. I had freckles. I didn't understand sarcasm. I rocked my head all day long. And I was teased for those things....a lot. Only back then, no one talked about bullying. I started using my imagination to escape reality or pretend people liked me. I don't make excuses for my mistakes, but I do remember the desperate feeling of just wishing someone, ANYONE, would like me for who I was, and being willing to change myself to try and gain "friendships." I didn't value myself as I should have or have the confidence to be strong in who I was - I was easily molded by my peers, simply because I was relieved to have friends and would do anything to keep them. I can't say if I would have made any choices differently, and I wasn't really a "bad" kid, but I can see now that the reason for some of my thoughts or actions didn't start in high school or even middle school....it started in kindergarten when a boy mocked me on the swing set. I remember it still, so it obviously bothered me back then.

We have recently made it our national crusade to end bullying. We tell kids to come forward, to speak up, to tell someone about their troubles. But I am so bothered by the simplicity of this message, as if it is just as simple as these kids telling an adult or peer about what is happening. That if we just get the message out there that bullying is not tolerated, it will somehow translate to support that actually makes a difference to that one kid.

But who is going to step in to actually MAKE these bullies stop? Who is going to be there when these kids are further bullied for "tattling"? 

Who is going to realize the awful choice these kids have to make: risk making things exponentially worse and being branded a tattle-tale by telling someone, or wonder if anyone will even believe them, or realize that people just might not care enough to step in because, well, it must not be TOO bad since they aren't dead yet.

It is a thin line kids teeter on between choosing to become the "dork" or liar who tattled, or choosing to end their life.

See, even though we wear bracelets, post images on Facebook, and cry OUTRAGE at the latest teen suicide over bullying, no one is providing these victims any sense of confidence that the bully will actually be punished and stopped. So, they just endure, until they can't anymore.

It's a nice idea, to start organizations, create awareness, post things, and put out all the lip service you want about the issue. But at the end of the day, who is actually going to make things better? 

I'm sure this is what most bullied kids across America are wondering, and why the suicides keep happening.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Basement Project: If You Build It, They Will Come, pt. 2

Joel and I both grew up in great homes with amazing families. We realized, though, that neither one of us spent a particularly great amount of time "entertaining" friends at our houses. We were usually more likely to spend time at another friend's house before inviting them to hang out at ours. With all of the influences kids have these days, it was super important to Joel and I that our kids have a place where they can bring their friends for a fun, safe environment to "hang".

Now, we aren't naive. We know there is a great chance our kids will want nothing to do with our house. Or that we may move before our kids are teenagers. Or a million other variables. I just know that I'd rather provide the space and fun for our kids in our own home and have the friends come to us than wonder where they are and if they are up to no good.

So, we set out to make a practical, yet livable and fun, area in our basement.

Looking into the office.

Standing in the office looking out into the "rec" room.

Standing just outside the office in the "rec" room. SAY CHEESE!

After the drywall guys did their thing, my dad primed and painted all the walls.

Much easier with a sprayer!

Not much to see yet, but at this point in the progress, you could see the drywall is up and painting was going to be commencing soon. Eventually, the main room is all set to contain a ping-pong area with a corner-mounted TV, a flat-screen swivel wall-mounted TV with comfy seating, a fully-equipped wet bar (more like mini-kitchen), and potentially a high-top pub table/chairs. We can't wait to show you some Before's and After's, and where the basement is now! Carpet was just laid today, so we are making good progress!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Pregnancy Update: Week 34 + WYRW Revival

The weeks are starting to drag along now that sleep is elusive, back and contraction pain is frequent, and a million other "woes" have set in. At my latest appointment, everything looked and sounded great. Baby seems to be head down, so that's a plus! I'm still trying to mentally prepare for a 40-41 week pregnancy, but I still feel like this little guy is coming early. Of course, I thought that with Brady, too....and that went well.

Fuzzy camera photo! Getting ready for Joel's fancy company party.

Same ensemble as last post? Yep - company parties two weekends in a row!


On another note, I've decided to revive WOULD YOU RATHER WEDNESDAYS! To start things off, I have a couple "Would you rathers" and can't wait to hear your thoughts on some of these things :)

WYRW #1: Sticking with the pregnancy theme of the post, would you rather have all girls, all boys, or a mix?
I would definitely love to have both genders someday, but I do think it might be easier/saner to raise all boys if I had to choose. And, well, so far so good there :)

WYRW #2:  To acknowledge the political season that is upon us, would you rather vote for a president who has poor leadership qualities but good vision, or a candidate who fires up the call for change but doesn't really have a plan for how to follow through with that vision.
I think far too many of us are voting for the "cool" guy these days. We want someone relatable and likeable, and even charming or witty, but at the end of the day none of that really matters as much as having a plan of action that is executable. I have no idea who can provide that....

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