Thursday, March 26, 2009

Growing kids

We've been blessed to get to hang out with Marc's parents for a few hours the past couple of weekends. Here they are, loving on their babies:

Trying out her first version of a sippy cup after eating her cereal. I love this look on her face!

I hate how blurry these next few pictures are. My stupid camera kept focusing on the fan behind her...sorry about that. (Maybe I need to add "clean fan" to my list of things to do this week!) But I couldn't ignore how cute she & Z are in these pics, so here they are:

Z making her laugh, as usual

This is one of her newest expressions--it's so fun to see her finally happy & laughing now that she's feeling better.

Ride 'em, cowboy!

I am addicted to this look on her face.

Z picked up a little something at the grocery store for me the other day....

Z is not normally one to nap outside of his bed environment, but this day, he was so exhausted. I had put a video on for him so I could get Kenna down for her nap, and usually he stays awake, but when I came downstairs, this is how I found him!

Z enjoying the new Wee Play exhibit at the Zoo. We are definitely going to make use of this exhibit this summer--this big room is a lot like Sprout (just on a smaller scale), but it's also air-conditioned for those horrible July days. I know it's a shock to all of you that this picture was taken in the kitchen part!

Kenna enjoying the zoo from the comfort of her stroller.

Don't let these zoo pictures fool you--these 3 pictures were about the only calm times we had at the zoo that day. We had a late start getting there. Then, what should have been a 10 minute drive to the zoo turned into 45 minutes, thanks to some police cars who decided to drive right in front of all lanes of cars and drive 3-4 miles per hour for several miles. For no reason, I might add. Of course, our car was the 3rd car behind these police cars, and of course, the police decided they'd had enough just before the exit I needed. :) A lesson in patience! So when we got there, the kids were hungry, Kenna pooped all the way through her outfit, Z was cranky-tired, etc. Shortly after this carousel ride, we headed home. Z was crying & I said, "we can come back to the zoo. We're not having any fun anyway." Then the whole way out of the zoo, he was crying at the top of his lungs, "but mommy, I want to have fun...please can I have fun?" Just wailing. I'm sure everyone thought I was being a horrible mother, denying my son his "fun." :)

Kenna Boo enjoying her first experience sitting in the grass.

Hope you enjoyed the pics!

Scripture memory for toddlers & preschoolers

Awhile back, I posted about how Z had been learning some verses & it was blessing my heart. I've been intentional these last few weeks about teaching him to memorize more Scripture. I figure, if he can remember those Barney & Backyardigans' songs from the DVDs he watches, surely he can memorize Scripture verses.

And you know what? I was right. We started out with just a few verses that I got from the back of the random papers from his Sunday School classes...basically just scaled-down verses of basic truths to help him understand how God's Word is here to help us with our daily lives and teach us how to be holy.

Then, a few weeks ago, I was browsing in the Christian book store during some rare time alone and came across a book called something like "20 Bible verses every preschooler should know." It came with a CD and all kinds of activities to help your child learn a verse each week while enjoying songs and stories to help bring across the point of the Scriptures.

Of course, there was no money in our budget that week to buy a book like this, and I was first disappointed. Then I realized "You can just write down the Scriptures to work on with him at home." :) So I pulled a ridiculously stained, crumpled, old receipt from the depths of my purse and started jotting down references.

I went through those references, shortened/paraphrased the verses to what I thought was an appropriate level for Z, and made up some "flashcards" out of half sheets of basic white computer paper and his box of fun markers. I thought I'd share some of them here with anyone who is interested in trying this with their kids.

Zach knows 7 verses with references now, and we have Bible time most every day where I read from a great book called "The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes" by Kenneth N. Taylor. I got this a few weeks ago for pennies at our local library's annual book sale. It's pretty old and the pictures are kind of corny, but it's geared just for his level--3 to 6 yr olds. It's a short Bible story, with a reference (which we read from my "real" Bible later), and then questions for comprehension/discussion at the end of the story.

Honestly, the whole Bible time takes about 15 minutes, but I'm amazed at the questions he can answer. I definitely wouldn't have thought he would have that kind of reading comprehension. Plus, we are discussing truths that help me in teaching & training. This time has become a special time just for the 2 of us while Kenna is napping.

The verses he has learned so far are:
  • I trust in God's Word. - Psalm 119:42
  • We must obey God. - Acts 5:29
  • God loves me so much He sent His Son, Jesus. - John 3:16
  • When I am afraid, I will trust in God. - Psalm 56:3
  • In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. - Genesis 1:1
  • We love because God loves us. - 1 John 4:19
  • Jesus said, I am the way and the truth and the life. - John 14:6

These are the verses in my "arsenal:"

  • The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want. - Psalm 23:1
  • Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. - Hebrews 13:8
  • Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength. - Deuteronomy 6:5
  • Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. - Psalm 107:1
  • Trust in the Lord with all your heart. - Proverbs 3:5
  • Call upon God, and He will listen to you. - Jeremiah 29:12
  • Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only. - Luke 4:8
  • I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. - Philippians 4:13
  • Honor your father and your mother. - Exodus 20:12
  • I hide your Word in my heart so I will not sin against You. - Psalm 119:11
  • Love your neighbor as yourself. - Matthew 22:39
  • Preach the good news to everyone. - Mark 16:15
  • I follow the example of Christ. - I Corinthians 11:1
  • Be kind to one another. - Ephesians 4:32
  • Call to me and I will answer you. - Jeremiah 33:3
  • The Lord bless you and keep you. - Numbers 6:24
  • Blessed are those who hear and obey God's Word. - Luke 11:28
  • We have confidence to talk to God. - 1 John 5:14
  • The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. - James 5:16b
  • Give thanks in everything, for this is the will of God. - 1 Thessalonians 5:18a
  • If we confess our sins, he will forgive us. - 1 John 1:9
  • Forgive our sins as we forgive others. - Matthew 6:12
  • How beautiful are the feet that bring good news! - Romans 10:1
  • Come to Jesus and rest. - Matthew 11:28
  • Jesus Christ is Lord. - Philippians 2:11

When I start a new verse, I read it to Z a few times. We talk about what the verse means for a few minutes. If I can, I try to make a rhythym out of it and/or use hand motions. The picture at the top shows a few of the flashcards I made. This was by far the most effective tool for Zachary--he asks me a few times a day to do his Bible verses with him. I need to laminate them, because they're already getting creased and wrinkled!

I hope this is helpful to someone else! If not, I had a great time typing this out & meditating on the verses. Does anyone else have any tips on Scripture memory for kids?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Updates! And...I have my life back.

So. It's good to be back! I've had so much buzzing through my head, I'm not even sure where to start. :)

I would like to say that my family is completely well. But we're almost there! Down to one now...Kenna got diagnosed with RSV on Saturday. She was having some trouble breathing, coughing really bad, sleeping all the time (which was definitely not like her!), and not eating much, so we took her to the dr. to be safe. The dr said at that point she would either start to get a lot worse or a lot better--thankfully, she started to get better!! We had been praying for her as a family, and we were so happy to see her get better. None of us wanted her to have to be hospitalized, as is frequently the case with babies who get RSV.

Though we're happy she's on the mend, we still have to stick around the house this week so we don't spread these nasty germs to any other babies. I was moping about that at first, but it's turning out to be a blessing. I'm getting tons of stuff done and getting to spend lots of quality time with both kids.

On the sleeping front, it seems that Kenna has finally turned a corner in that department, too. It's been a long, hard road. And I honestly wish I could say that I had a hand in helping her learn how to sleep. But I can't. I did nothing different. One night, she just slept all night long. And the next day, she took three 2-hr naps....and slept through the night again. I held my breath...and she did it again. And again. For the last week now, I've gotten at least 6 hours of sleep each night. Most of those 6 hours have been uninterrupted. That hasn't happened since around January 1st, 2008--449 very long nights ago. :)

It's been hard for me. I can honestly say I have tried everything to get her to sleep. Every suggestion from every well-meaning friend & family member, every book (yes, Babywise!), every technique, every trick. Everything. And still, she woke up. And then, suddenly, one day, she just slept. All I am is thankful. Boy, am I thankful!

I feel like a new person. I'm enjoying all this time I finally get to spend with Zachary while Kenna is sleeping, and enjoying how happy my baby is. She's mostly over her RSV, almost done cutting her first tooth, and life is good. It's about the first time since she was born that I've truly been able to enjoy both my kids at the same time.

I'm hoping to get back on the blogging wagon, post more videos & pictures, and maybe even do a blog series on how I save $$ on groceries & some of my meal plans & recipes. I know that a lot of other blogs do this, but I've had a lot of my friends ask me how I do it (not how anyone else does it), so I'm thinking about this. If Kenna keeps up her sleeping habits....well, the sky's the limit!


Check out these videos I've finally found the time to upload! These are all within the last month.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Deep and true

This past week marked the 5 year anniversary of our first loss through miscarriage, and the start of a journey I personally never thought I'd be on. I've been quiet the past few weeks, pondering some things in my heart, letting the Lord speak to me what He would, trying to find a way to put my feelings into words. And, as it turns out, I didn't have to. These three, beautiful, godly women did it for me.

What Does Grief Look Like at 17 Months ~~~~~ John Piper's daughter talking about dealing with grief over her daughter's stillbirth. I can relate to this in so many ways, though my losses were much earlier. This passage has moved me beyond words:
"I feel like I’ve fought it tooth and nail. But now I’m coming to more of a peace with it. I’m accepting it more. One of my dear friends through this process (who is older and wiser than me, thank God) shared with me recently about a grief she’d been facing in her life. Something she said really stood out to me. She told me, 'I’m gonna drink this painful cup all the way down, just drain it. And I’m gonna ask the Lord to make it something beautiful.' "
A Peace She Paid a Price For ~~~~~~~ So much in this post resonates with me. Though my battle has been different from Holley's, the peace she talks about is mine, just the same.

...It’s not the pansy, pie-in-the-sky, life-is-perfect peace. No, this is the kind of peace that comes after war. It’s the hard-won, show-you-my-scars, didn’t-think-I’d-live-to-tell-about-it, peace. It’s not gentle—it’s wild, fierce, and I’m not giving it up, not ever, because I paid too high a price to get it....

...There’s something beautiful about naming and knowing the place where you are in life. I could feel myself sigh inside and say, “Yes, that’s it.” This peace is mine and I can stay there as long as I’d like. I can eat the food, put my feet on the furniture, and invite my friends over.

It was once the land I fought for and pursued. Now it's the place where my heart lives.

It's good to be home.

There Really Ought to Be a Sign on my Heart ~~~~~~~ Now This. This is where I am today. Stephanie, you hit the bullseye for me.

I was struggling.

There are pieces of me that I bare so unabashedly. But those are just pieces. It's not all of me.

I couldn't find my happy place.

I could fall on my knees to pray but down there I was met with crumbs on the carpet and reminded again that I need to vacuum. Then I would just become sleepy.

Some days all I want is to be in a moment- any moment- that is uninterrupted.

There's only so much of me to go around. And I feel like I've been offering up first dibs to all the wrong people and things.

I remember thin and fake wood paneled walls in the upstairs of our old church. The plastic seats and prize bucket if you remembered your verse and brought a friend and your bible.

And this song written big and neat on poster board with colored smelly markers:

He's still working on me to make me what I ought to be.

It took Him just a week to make the moon and stars,

The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars.

How loving and patient He must be,

He's still working on me.

"How loving and patient He must be!" I see so much more, am able to feel more compassion, because of my losses and disappointments. I'm starting to see the Big Picture now. It doesn't discount my feelings of grief, but rather, gives them a Purpose.

"In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory." Ephesians 1:11-12

Friday, March 13, 2009

Practice makes perfect!

I have a lot mulling around inside me these doesn't appear to want to make its way on this blog yet. The main reason is most likely the fact that I am completely incoherent and sleep-deprived. Oh, and drowning in laundry. Is that an illness? I think I might need an antibiotic for that one. One called..."maidpleasecometomyhouse-oxicillin." Or anything of that sort.

Last night was the first night in probably 3 weeks that I have gotten more than 45 minutes of sleep all together without being interrupted by either of my 2 adorable, lovable, beautiful children. We've been battling ear infections, sinus infections, upper respiratory name it, it's hit us. The Walmart pharmacy technicians know me by name--especially after visiting them so much getting my injectable drugs while I was pregnant, now I've been back so much in the last 2 weeks for the rest of my family. She just directs me on over to the register (thankfully, from the middle of that crazy long line of people to pick up their meds)...."Mrs. Stone, right over here." I'm thankful both that she knows my name and she understands the craziness of dealing with kids while you're waiting in the pharmacy. Either that, or she's just really tired of seeing me.

I do think, however, that Walmart has got it spot-on when it comes to the wait-times at the pharmacy. I think the waiting time is in direct correlation to purchases made/needed. Not enough revenue this week? "Ok, pharmacy, the wait time is now 45 minutes to 1 hour." That's how they get you. They know that we won't just sit there & wait for our medicine. We're going to wander aimlessly around the store and say "oh, I need that!" and "wait, this is really cool!" $30 later (not counting the prescription), you head home, and the Walmart manager can add a few more dollars to his sales that week.


In other thoughts, I've started entertaining more. Not like "dinner party" entertaining, but more like "hospitality" entertaining. In the last few months, I've seen the following passages of Scripture as I've been reading my Bible:

Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Romans 12:13

Offer hospitality without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9

I've always had a problem with offering hospitality, and I'm not sure why. By hospitality, I mean opening up my home to others, sharing a meal, or just some good conversation. I know when I think it through logically, I have no problem sharing what I have. I think what it all boils down to for me is that I was afraid of a few things...afraid of being rejected when I offered, afraid that my rental home (which I can't decorate the way I'd like) is not "good enough" compared to others' homes, afraid that the quality of the meal or food I'd serve is not up to restaurant standards that most people are used to.

When I think about these reasons, I have to laugh at myself, because they do seem rather ridiculous. And the more I open up my home, the more I realize that many of us feel this way, and it keeps us all from "practicing hospitality." The more I offer, the more people accept, the more comfortable I feel.

I wonder what happened to the "good old days" before we had a restaurant on every corner. When we said, "Come on over after church for some soup & sandwiches," instead of "why don't you meet us at Subway?" Don't get me wrong, I enjoy eating out, but being forced to eat at home this last year has taught me a lot about what's really important. Plus, I just like my own food better now!

I wonder if we asked more, offered more...if others would accept more, feel more comfortable. If we aren't comfortable in/with our own houses, others won't be either. I'm learning to be proud of what is mine, make it mine as much as possible, and make it beautiful with what I have. Being frugal and living simply does not mean forsaking beauty. If Meredith at Like Merchant Ships has taught me anything over the last few months, it is that beauty can be found in anything and made out of almost nothing.

The next time you're tempted to ask someone else out to a restaurant, think about whether you could invite them over instead. Most of my very memorable experiences with friends or family growing up were not held at a restaurant, but in someone's home....sharing with them, laughing, arguing over who gets to do the dishes.

Wanna come over? I'll even do the dishes. Just this once.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A little less talk and a lot!

Z loves to eat olives...I caught him after dinner one night eating right out of the can!

I promised you this picture a few weeks ago...this was my $100 grocery trip, using no coupons. Want to stick to a grocery budget? Easiest solution is to BRING ONLY CASH. If you don't have the $$, you can't buy it! Imagine that...

My 3 favorite people in the whole world. Looking good.... Little lady is starting to look like her daddy, I think!

I love this smile. Kenna is so strong! She will be 6 months next week; I can't believe it!! Last week, she started rolling over all the time. She had rolled over once on Christmas Eve, then nothing a week ago at the dr's office--she rolled over 3 times on the examining table! I'm gonna have to watch her all the time now...

Fuzzy head.

I love these cheeks. They're so kissable!! She loves to be kissed there, too--it just gets her laughing so hard!

Watching big brother do crazy stuff...

I went to Chicago & didn't take one picture of anything (I am so ashamed...). We had a fabulous time, just me & Kenna--we stayed with Celina & her fam. Celina's daughter Brenna is 2 months younger than Kenna, but they were about the same size! Kenna's just a little peanut...when I swipe some pics from C's camera, I'll post them here. We got some cute ones.
Z survived me being away for 4 days...he actually did worse once I got home. He wouldn't let me out of his sight EVER. Bedtime was a challenge, among other things. It was like the transition when I went from working full time to staying home full time. Just a little difficult!! But after a week, it's been much better. And I was still thankful to have had the time away!
Our life is so full and rich with love and laughter. We might not have a lot; we might have to cut a lot of corners in the budget; we might not have a lot of time to spend together. But I feel like the wealthiest woman in the world!!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Some kitchen tips

Here are some things that make my life in the kitchen more enjoyable. (These aren't things that I've only read about, but I've actually tried all of them.) Hope they help you, too!

  • Bananas last longer when you take them apart from the bunch as soon as you get them home. This has saved me from having to think up reasons to make yet another loaf of banana bread. I usually get my bananas to last twice as long--always important when you shop only twice a month.
  • Celery will last at least a month (mine usually lasts about 6 weeks) if you take it out of the plastic bag, completely cover it with foil, and put it back in the plastic bag.
  • I cook & shred a lot of chicken to freeze for future meals. Usually 3 lbs at a time. One of the worst things in the world to me is having to shred meat with 2 forks--it takes forever! I just read a tip a few days ago, thankfully on the exact day I was cooking up some chicken to shred, and it's my new favorite! After cooking your chicken or any other boneless meat (and while still warm), put in a large bowl and use your hand mixer with regular beaters to shred it. I was skeptical of this when I read it, but I figured I didn't have much to lose...Best Tip Ever!! It took me about 2 minutes to shred 4 lbs of chicken, vs 30 minutes of tedious shredding with forks.
  • If you're cooking or baking your family's favorite meals or desserts.....Double the recipe and freeze the other half. This saves me so much prep time.
  • If your family likes meatloaf: I usually buy my ground beef in 5 lb rolls, because it's the cheapest. I go ahead & mix up a huge batch of meatloaf using all 5 lbs, then separate the raw mixture into 5 quart-sized freezer bags. Then I have meatloaf all mixed & ready to go. On the day I have planned to make meatloaf, all I have to do is take the bag out of the freezer, let it defrost, press it into the loaf pan (or muffin pan if I'm short on time), and bake.
  • If you make a lot of soup: My least favorite part of making soup is chopping the veggies. I prep & chop the following veggies & freeze in quart-sized freezer bags: carrots, celery, onions, zucchini, peppers. This makes soup prep so much easier! Plus, the veggies soften faster this way. One freezer bag per type of vegetable makes it easier to use in individual recipes, as well. I have not had good results freezing raw potatoes.

Well, that's all this tired brain could think up this morning! Hope you have a blessed day.