Monday, December 31, 2012


Each year on the 23rd, my sister and I go crazy and wrap gifts.  We’re not sure why it’s the 23rd exactly, but for as long as we can remember we’ve wrapped gifts on that date.  We pull out the wrapping, the ribbon, and the creativity. 
While watching Elf and sipping hot cocoa, here is the before.
Gifts to my husband are always a strange size, bulky, huge, or just plain awkward. Notice the gigantic floor jack in the middle of the photo.  How does one actually wrap something like that?  Lillie had the challenge of wrapping him some equally awkward dust masks this year.  It only took about 5 seconds of rolling on the floor laughter to find a way to display this gift.

I hope your Christmas was full of favorite traditions, lots of love, and the blessing of time with family. 
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Coming up, stay tuned as I kick off the new year with the 2013 Use-It-Up challenge.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Heart of Giving

A couple of weeks ago I got to experience bell ringing for the Salvation Army for the first time.  It was so much fun to see people make a point to stop and put a little something in.  Most of them did it with joy,   but one guy did not.  He reached into his wallet, folded up a couple of bills and put them in the bucket.  I wished him a Merry Christmas, and he looked me in the eyes and glared.  I happened to be standing next to the store manager at the time, and I turned to him and laughed.  He said, “That is the grumpiest man I have ever met.  He comes into the store twice a week, I swear, just to yell at a checker in the aisle.  I can’t believe he just put money in!”  We laughed and commented on the Christmas spirit getting the best of everyone. 
It got me thinking, why would the most grumpy man IN THE WORLD make it a point to stop, reach in his wallet, and put money into the Salvation Army bucket?  I’ve witnessed a lot of giving over the years and charitable deductions, fiscal cliff, armagedon, guilt, whatever…people give because they want to give, because they have compassion or feel inspired, and most importantly they want someone to experience a gesture of love from their hearts. (Even if they glare while doing it.)  This experience got me thinking about when giving from the heart started for me.
Each week on Wednesday morning, the teacher would collect our chapel offerings for the week.   A quarter, a couple of dimes, maybe a dollar or two for something really special.  We were being taught to give, taught the concept of tithing, and taught to do so from the heart by connecting our donations to giving that really meant something to us as kids. When I think back to all the weeks from Kindergarten through Eighth Grade, two special campaigns come to mind, Heifer International and Secret Angel Tree.  As a kid, both seemed like the coolest opportunities ever to get to be a part of.  Give money and get to pick out an animal from a catalog to give to a family in a country super far away to either raise or eat. Wow, now that’s fun stuff! I can still see the chalk board with tallies under goat, flock of chickens, rabbits, and sheep for the class to vote on our animal of choice. 
The teacher told us why Secret Angel Tree was important, because not all children in our community would get presents on Christmas morning.  Some people didn’t have basic things like warm winter clothes, good food to eat, or even a home to go to.  As a kid, it was unimaginable and pretty darn sad to think that someone like you might wake up on Christmas morning and not have a present to open, and so around this time of the year it’s fair to say that our chapel offerings increased.  Extra presents to give to the angel tree families poured in, and if you were a REALLY lucky kid (who happened to be the kid of a teacher) you might actually get to go to Wal-Mart and help pick out the gifts.  My mom always let my sister and I pick a couple of additional angels off the tree in the fellowship hall from our family too.  We always had a great time on this shopping trip, thinking about what was on the family’s list to Santa, thinking about what we had circled in the toy catalog that they might like too, thinking about the color of stocking cap that might make a little girl proud to wear.  I imagined the joy I experienced on Christmas morning and wanted to give that to a kid like me. 
Later when I was fortunate enough to marry a teacher, this tradition continued with my husband now charged with shopping for the Secret Angel family, and getting to tag along and help pick out gifts.  As a couple we picked out a family to buy for personally too.  Over the last couple of years, our giving has changed a little bit, but the idea behind the Secret Angel Tree has continued, with a special gift given through Care Corps, Salvation Army, or Toys for Tots.  Even though he’s too little to understand now, I hope that in a few short years, Jett will also learn about the joys of giving from the heart, and how special the matchbox cars or pillow pet may be to someone just like him on Christmas morning.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Let your LIGHT so SHINE!

After a long, frankly pretty stressful couple of days, all I wanted to do was go home, put on pajamas, cuddle with my kiddo, and eat the leftover birthday cake hidden in the back of the freezer.  So I sent my mom a text message that said, “What r ur thoughts on church?” Hoping she’d say, “up to u” or “Jett is a little cranky.”  Instead the message said, “Meet you there at 4:30.” 
And praise God it did.  I didn’t need the pajamas or the cake (although I ate it later anyways.)  I needed to hear and see the joy of the season.  I needed to experience His light, through His children.  And boy does light radiate out of kindergartners, first and second-graders.  Loud, proud, joyful praise in song and message about letting the Light of Christ shine in the darkness.  Letting the world know who the Light is.  It was a beautiful first advent service of the season and I am so thankful that I went. 
As I sat with my baby on my lap, I couldn’t help but think that he’s not too many years away from standing on those risers, and yet how strange it is to remember so vividly what it felt like to be up there.  The new black tights, the stiff shiny shoes, the beautiful (but itchy) Christmas dress.  Excitement and a little nervousness, but pure joy at the chance to get to sing praises and celebrate the birth of the Savior. 
I’ve thought a lot this season about traditions.  I’ve wrestled with the Elf on a Shelf (not literally, I think that’d be against the main point of the book, not to mention strange) and all the new cool Pinterest-y stuff.  What are the traditions we want to start in our house?  What are the traditions that we’ve always had in my family?  What traditions did Kevin have in his?  What are the things I love to do year after year, but never realized that they were actually traditions. 
We’ve decorated the tree for the first time since Jett was born, and put out the nativity early this year.  I have a new wreath on the front door, and I’ve been listening to Christmas music since Thanksgiving.  I ordered Christmas cards on time and the first batch were sent this morning.  I feel very joyful about the season, and I'm incredibly excited to share the meaning and the traditions with my little guy.
A couple of weeks ago God laid on my heart to sing in church during the Christmas season.  It’s been since before Jett was born that I’ve sang beyond just the pew (while searching for binky and scooping Cheerios off the floor.)  It’s time to restart one of my most cherished Christmas traditions, singing in church.  It’s time to be like those little children and let my light shine so that others can see and know the Good News!
Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some more of my favorite traditions!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Black Friday Guilt-less

A writing from Black Friday 2011, just so that we ALL remember what happened last year...

Recovering from any holiday weekend, it’s easy to have a little extra guilt on Monday over too much turkey, stuffing, rolls, and pie.  Even running the Turkey Trot this year at the YMCA didn’t save me from that regret.  However, I got lucky and have no guilt from a Black Friday shopping spree.

This year my sister and I lost our minds and decided to try Black Friday shopping.  While the media had pumped up this 2011 event as one of the biggest with retail stores opening on Thanksgiving Day, and people all over the world condemning American commerce, Lillie and I got the itch.  I think it was the thrill of the idea of being in the mall in the middle of the night that got to us.  So at 7 p.m. after learning of a super great, can’t miss deal on car seats at Toys R Us, we devised what I thought was a brilliant plan.  Pick Lillie up at 8:15, Toys R Us by 9:00, in and out by 9:30 with the car seat, The Muppet Movie at 9:45, back to Younkers by Midnight.  Brilliant!  Ha!

We arrived to Toys R Us to find crazy women who had been lined up since 5pm, and a growing queue of additional crazies lining up past the entrance of Khols.  We stood in line patiently for about five minutes, before my shopping ADD kicked into full swing and I started devising a plan to cut, line jump, and/or bulldoze my way to the front.  (I didn’t want to miss the singing puppets after all, as we had pre-purchased to avoid lines.)  Well that was another stupid idea, as crazy, deal-driven shoppers know their surroundings like gazelle at the watering hole. So, we abandoned ship and went to the Muppets. 

There is something wrong with a country whose people are lined up for hours to save 20% off and stand in line for another hour checking out, but where the Muppets is empty for the late show.  It was a terrific movie that I could see again and again.  I’m glad we didn’t miss it.  We did however miss the car seat deal.  We tried Younkers and the mall, but the mystique couldn’t beat the wall to wall people carrying as many pillows as they could hold.  We left with $8 earrings and an oath to shop online next year. 

So today, I may have stuffing guilt and a little pie guilt, but I have no Black Friday guilt.  So I tried to cut…some crazy woman pepper sprayed the people behind her at a Wal-Mart.  I probably would have been the victim if we hadn’t had the sense to go see the Muppets.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hi, my name is Jessica, and I am not a perfect mom.

Hi, my name is Jessica, and I am not a perfect mom.  Whew.  Well now, that feels much better.

Sometimes in our household we have chocolate chips in our pancakes. For breakfast. With syrup on the side.

I've been known to buy diapers and other baby supplies at the drugstore or grocery store, without a coupon, and without price checking, because I'm tired and I don't have time.

I don't buy organic everything.

We co-slept with our son for way too many months. and there are still more than just a few days where I not only cuddle my baby to sleep, but fall asleep next to him because I'm exhausted.

I don't know how many fruits or veggies my kiddo has eaten today.

I don't know what my kiddo has eaten today.

Some nights he asks for milk before bed, and I give it to him.

My son knows what the five second rule is.

I didn't breastfeed very long. 

He still has a pacifier, and I have no idea how to help him break the habit.

After a rare, but occasional 14 hour day, I might eat buggles and a cupcake for supper, in front of my child.

He gets juice.

He has tried pop.

He knows what a Snickers bar is.

One day I bribed him with a spoonful of pudding to eat his green beans.  I'm sorry, but it worked.

He knows that Arby's equals french fries...and a shake.

Sometimes I forget to count every object we see.

We use disposable diapers.  I have no guilt about that landfill.

He won't know a foreign language before preschool.  After four years in high school and one semester in college, I only speak Spanglish related to food items.

We watch TV.  He's seen every episode of Doc McStuffins 100 times.

Sometimes when we watch Doc McStuffins, I read Vogue.

We do not use the correct words for private body parts. 

At Wal-Mart, I let him play with the toys in the toy aisle. 

We dress for swimming at home, not at the YMCA...against their policies.

My husband and I have argued in front of our child.

We don't always pick up all our toys.  No one in this house does.

He will be two and doesn't have a sibling.  I'm sure he's already "spoiled" according to some. 

I hate the word "spoiled."

He wears shoes at the playground...WAIT! That's a good one.

Not only will he get to choose a piece of candy to eat on Halloween, I actually bribed him with M&Ms to try on his costume.  He wouldn't take them.  He hates his costume.

He knows Grandma Judy brings cake. 

One of his first words was cake.

I'm not perfect, and I don't pretend to be.  But what I do is the most important thing.  I love my child unconditionally, forever, and always.  I try my best, and my best means sometimes he sees me, his mama, in a very real light.

I pray, I teach, I praise, I build confidence, I hope, I love.

I dropped off the face of the planet. But I'm back with a list of "Stuff I Love."

It's hard to believe that October is nearly over.  It's been a great month filled with celebrations, stomach flu, and the best of graduate school. 

So, to commemorate the end of my favorite month, I'm sharing a "Stuff I Love" edition of the blog. 

1. Who doesn't love Trader Joes?  And if you don't, I'm not sure we can be friends.  Kidding...but not really.  Specifically, I love Trader Joes soup in a box.  Healthful, delicious and not too crazy on the calorie side of things. I love every flavor!  I give this little box of soup credit for my super-duper work in grad school, because without it I'm not sure I could study over my noon-hour almost every day.

2. If I was a song writer, I think the first song I'd write would be about my new Keurig (sorry Kevin and Jett, you get the next songs,) but I love it that much! My grandma surprised me on my birthday with a darling bright red ingenious coffee maker, and it's been love since first sip.  I've found myself wanting one for the office building, and one for my personal office, and one for the car...

3. Why do I love this fabulous brewer so much?  Because I very recently learned how to replicate the Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks... This bright blogger A Farm Girl Dabbles has a fabulous recipe that makes enough pumpkin stuff to last for latte drinking all week.  Add this perfect pumpkin goop to a cup of strong Keurig coffee, and you'll be happily buzzing for far less than $5/cup.

4. And what would be a great cup of coffee without something to put it in? I won't give away my secret as to how or where I got this... only this hint: in order to be bestowed the honor of a microwave safe, dishwasher safe, awesomely branded mug with a silicone top, you must impart "knowledge" upon a group of sleepy college freshman.  Well worth the feat! 

5. If you haven't caught on yet, I was obviously cold in October, because the first things I love all have to do with warming up.  Fall is my absolute favorite time of the year, and I love, love, love it when the days are chilly and gray.  In my mind, that means it's fleece wearing season, and this year for my b-day my wonderful husband surprised me with an update on an old favorite, a new North Face Denali coat.  I bought my first one back when I was walking backwards giving tours to hopeful incoming freshman a the U. 

6. The title of this blog is, Bananas On My Skirt for a reason.  Today, as I pulled into the parking lot before a big meeting, I happened to look down at the lapel of my suit jacket (which I never wear) and notice something dried and peanut buttery.  I'd like to tell you that it was from that morning, but I highly doubt it because I had granola...eww!  So, in a panic I reached into my purse to pull out a recent impulse buy from the laundry aisle, a Tide To Go Stain Eraser.  This product is sold in packs of about a million...or 24, and if I have your name for Christmas, this is going in your stocking.  Saved. The. Day.  I smooshed that stain right out, blasted hot air from the heat vent on it to only one round of Gangnam Style and I was good to go!

7. After a long day of stain fighting and coffee making, it's good to know that there really is a Helpful Smile in Every Aisle at my local Hy-Vee store.  I can't express how much I love this store, and it's a good thing because I'm there at least three times a week.  So much so that it's my place where "everybody knows your name."

8. I have been so blessed to get to re-know someone fabulous from way, way back when.  Becky Novacek is the mom of one of my grade school classmates, and way back in fourth grade she was the mom everybody wanted to sit by when she came to visit at lunch.  I remember thinking she had great hair and was really cool.  I still think she has great hair and is really cool, but now I also think she's a fabulous photographer. This past month she took pictures of Jett, who will be two next week. You can see some peeks on Becky's blog. She has taken pics of our family since J was 10 days old.  Literally if I could order a 8x10 of every single shot I would. Forget "only child syndrome" the only thing holding me back is the wall space!

9. We all had the flu.  And by all, I mean ALL. I'm still not entirely convinced that we didn't pass the flu via text message to a friend who's daughter puked while I was telling her about our week.  Clorox Wipes to the rescue!

10. "The Doc is in and she'll fix you up, if you're a toy, then you're in luck! It's okay, don't be afraid, the Doc really knows her stuff! Doo, doo, doo..." This song runs through my head at all hours of the day, and boy am I thankful!  Doc McStuffins is a delightful little girl who has captured the heart and imagination of my little boy.  She's smart, witty, and fixes broken toys.  The storyline is interesting enough, thank goodness, that the whole family doesn't mind watching it...a hundred times a day. 

11.  And finally...what would be a "Things I love" list without Banana Republic or JCrew.  I hesitated, I waited, I pondered, I read reviews, and finally when BR ran their latest 40% off one item Wednesday promotion I went for it...the Gemma Wrap Dress.  It is fabulous, fits great, and goes with everything. 

I hope you get as much enjoyment out of some of this stuff I love as I do!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Elephant is Sorry. The First of Many Stories

We were so blessed to get to go to the zoo again today!  For those of you who have been following the blog, you might be thinking, wow-these people go to the zoo a lot!  But we're fortunate that this year has been unusual, and that we've gotten to enjoy the beautiful zoo more than normal...maybe this is our new normal, I could live with that. :)

It's great because every time we visit Jett warms up a little more.  The zoo can be an overwhelming place for a little guy, with lots of people, new noises, and let's face it, it's really, really big!  So the first couple of times, while he's been very observant and seemed to enjoy it, he's been pretty clingy.  He was at first today too, and then he started to warm up.  First after the Butterfly Pavilion, and then after our very first carousel ride.  One of my favorite moments of the day, possibly the week, and even the month was what followed after.  He was walking down the hill with my dad to "go see the elephants" and all of a sudden we start hearing quite the story.

"He says that the elephant bites, but he's sorry," said my dad.  What?  Jett, does the elephant bite?

"Elephant BITES.  He's sorry!"

Jett, where did the elephant bite? (Points to his hand.)

"HURTS!  He's sorry!  Elephant bites."

"It's okay Jett, the elephant doesn't have any teeth," said Grandma Holly.

"He DOES! It's okay, he's sorry.  Elephant bites.  He's sorry!"
(Nice try Grandma, but we know about elephants.)

Jett, where is the elephant? (Points over Grandma's shoulder up the hill.)

"He BITES. It's okay, he's sorry!"

Should we go see the Elephant and tell him bye, bye?


(To Mr. Zookeeper wannabee with the broom.) Where are the elephants?

"We don't have elephants any more.  The rhinoceros are where they were," said Mr. Zookeeper.

"Elephant BITES!  Bye, bye elephant!"

Well I guess the elephants got what they deserved, even if they were sorry...

The first of many stories to come...I can't wait!

*You've just received the abbreviated version. The real thing was repeated over and over again, and lasted a good 40 minutes.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Not so secret subliminal message, "Football hurts!"

Since before he was born Jett was talked to, prayed for, and read to.  Immediately he was cared for, loved, read to more, talked to more, and sung to in Spanish (even if it was just food related words I could remember from high school.)  I've tried to provide him good nutrition (aside from the Handy Snack incident), his grandma practices good manners with him, we count constantly, talk about colors, letters, and describe nearly every experience possible. 

Along with all of these positive lessons and messages, I've also said something else over and over.  No, he will not play football.  I was reminded of this again last night as I ran past the junior (very junior) football kids practicing in full pads.  Nope, not my baby.

So, I've started to send my own not so secret subliminal message whenever we see a football game on TV or kids in the field.  "Ooh, OUCH!  Football HURTS!" This summer when we saw the cross country teams running, I'd say, "Oh, look at all those fast kids.  Jett, you will be fast like that and run someday."  Now that boys tennis has begun, we purposefully take a different route to the park on Saturday mornings in hopes that we'll see all the "cool, smart boys" playing tennis at the courts.  I've even started planting these seeds with my husband, trying to convince him that cross country or tennis would be much better fall sport choices in preparation for basketball season.

So, this weekend when you are watching the local high school teams or cheering on the Huskers, please say a prayer for me, because I'm sure I've committed a cardinal Cornhusker sin, and another prayer for my baby, because I know it's going to take a decade of prayers and divine intervention for my little quarterback to actually believe that "Football HURTS!"

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Fire Alarm, Sticky Floor, Pinterest Kind of Night

"The most expensive ingredient in your house is the one you are throwing away." - Melissa d'Arabian

Pinterest is for those random few minutes in between, and last week I had more of those than usual.  I went a little crazy, pinning everything in sight. It can be a little more than just a little addicting you know.  I took advantage of the in between time and pinned several new recipes that I actually wanted to try.  A different approach than pinning recipes that just look good.

Today with a full week ahead of us I thought it would be a good time to try out a new crock pot recipe, and boy was it a good one.  For those of you who have been following along since Use-it-Up February, this recipe is the perfect solution for using up some odd-ball ingredients. 

This is my version of Spicy Crockpot Chicken.
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salsa - whatever amount you have available, up to about a jar
1/2 bag of frozen corn
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. dried onion
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
3 mini bell peppers or one big bell pepper roughly chopped
1/2 cup water

This is the perfect recipe for me because there is no way to mess it up.  I always have half eaten containers of salsa in my fridge and this is a great way to use-it-up.  Put the chicken in the crock pot and the other ingredients right over top in the order listed.  Set crock pot for 6 hours on high.  Shred chicken about 30 minutes before serving and let it soak in all the juices.  Serve on multi grain tortillas.

(On a side note, if you haven't tried Mission's new artisan brand, you are missing out.  I love the flax and blue corn.)

Inspired by the success of the chicken, I decided to try another pinned recipe that "looked good," roasted chick peas.  They were as bad as they sound and for some reason the fire alarm thought I had started the house on fire.  I didn't notice any smoke, but that's what you get for putting in new batteries and roasting tiny beans in the oven on high heat.

After all of that, I was craving something sweet and thought it would be fun to make vanilla shakes.  Sure, that sounds like a nice idea, except that I "forgot" that my blender doesn't work.  Just because you haven't used your blender since 2008 doesn't mean it's still not working...maybe if you just gave it another try.  It's only ice cream and milk, how bad could it go? 

Darn subconscious.  If a blender is broken in 2008 and no one fixes it, it still will not work.  It made an awful sound, sputtered and splurted, and I ended up mushing together something that resembled a shake with my spoon.  Somewhere between waving a dish towel around the hallway and talking myself into the blender situation, I momentarily lost my mind and handed the baby a cup full of shake and a spoon.  He's pretty good at both, but the consistency was really bad.  Pretty soon the shake was all over his face, hands, arm and legs.  And all over the floor.  Kevin laughed at me and suggested that maybe making a shake wasn't such a good idea.

Having it all doesn't mean having it all together.  If the rest of the week goes this well, I think we'll be doing pretty good! :)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Greek Parties, All Nighters, and Co-Ed Roommates

Reflecting on my undergraduate experience, I feel as though I didn't fully take advantage of being a college student.  I never attended a greek party, had very few all nighters, and lived roommate free the last two years.  But that all changes on Monday. 

I plan to start my graduate program off right with lots of greek (yogurt) parties with Jett, frequent all nighters (he still wakes up at 1:30 a.m., so I might as well too), and this time around I get to be one of those slightly edgy, modern students who have co-ed roommates, not just one but two!

Friday morning I reported to orientation for graduate school.  In true University System fashion, I was greeted on campus by a full 25 minute tour of parking lots on "official move-in day."  Successfully finding one near the building I checked my email from the program coordinator no less than four times to make sure that she had verified that no parking passes were needed.  (A veteran around University parking, and a holder of let's just say more than one parking ticket in my day, I was a little sceptic that it could be that easy.)

Walking on to campus the sounds of the drum line and cool fresh morning air made me feel just a little nostalgic for my previous beginning days at UNL.  Entering into the bookstore I felt old, like super old, like almost 30 old.  They were out of all used copies of my texts and one of my research methods books was not in stock yet, so my first round of bills (not counting the one I purchased from Amazon) totalled $121.96.  I had forgotten about that fun part of the collegiate experience.

The orientation was beyond interesting, as we learned about the prestige of the program (top rated program in the University System and top 10 MPA program in the country), and met the other fascinating students in the online program, hailing across the U.S. from Alaska to South Carolina. 

The department chair and our professors gave a brief presentation about the course work and emphasized and re-emphasized how difficult the program would be.  Fortunately I know and really like one of the professors having worked with her on a project for the Foundation.  The other professor, well, he teaches research methods and statistics and obviously loves his line of work, which already makes us incompatible.  Picture your stereotypical professor and then subtract 15 years, then add a deep love of statistics and a slightly devious will to be the hardest professor in the program.  As we walked through the lunch line as a group (signal flashbacks from Red Letter Days) I commented to him that I thought his class looked interesting.  He gave a half smile and said, "Well, I guess that's one way to put it."  He then proceeded to ask me where I was from and why I was in the online program if I was just from Fremont.  I shared that I worked full time, had a toddler and a very busy husband, and that the online program provided the flexibility I needed.  Not kidding you, he looked at me, rolled his eyes and said, "Uh huh, I guess we'll see..."

Bring it on, Mr. Statistics.  Bring it on. 

(Just for spite this morning I listened to his introductory notes while cleaning the kitchen and doing free weights.  I'm confident he wouldn't have approved.)

Here we go roommate is already up and partying this morning.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Pea in the Pod - The Store! (This is not a social media announcement!)

Wanting to buy a new wardrobe full of stretchy, Lycra based, expandable clothing is not a good reason to have another baby.

And yet I found my thoughts wandering in that direction as I shopped with a good friend of mine at A Pea in the Pod recently.  Some women get "the itch" while they are packing away all those super cute newborn footie pajamas, but I packed away the dreadful breast pump at the same time.  But shopping for cute, fashionable clothing, well that's another story...

You see, I wasn't so hip on maternity clothes early in my pregnancy with Jett, with one very important, completely fabulous first ever pair of truly designer jeans.  I ordered my first pair of Citizens of Humanity jeans when I was expecting Jett, rationalizing that if I was going to get chubby and feel exhausted and cranky, I might as well look good doing it.  It was my investment piece, and after that I limited myself to slightly larger clothes that I could wear post-pregnancy, some hand-me-down pieces from my aunts, the clearance rack at Gordmans, and a couple of cute work pieces from Target and the Gap.  Other than my on-time excursion on A Pea in the Pod online, I didn't fully take advantage of the situation. 

Looking at all of the fabulous clothes in the store, I even wondered if one particular black lace dress could pass for pea-free wearing mamas (different than pee-free for those of you who have boys.)  The twenty year old sales associate admitted to buying a few pieces herself and I could see why.  Really good maternity designers are brilliant people.  They have to take the season's fashion trends and transform them into smart pieces that can be worn for nine months+ of a transitioning woman's body and still look as good at the end, as the beginning.  They have to be cautious of pattern placement, sleeve length, and fit.  Not to mention the genius that must go in to designing maternity jeans; making sure that pocket placement and overall fit will not be compromised due to the large tummy panel in place of a traditional waist band.  But, when done correctly these jeans will cause one to wonder why all pants don't have an expandable, smoothing, panel of wonder (very helpful at Thanksgiving!)

So as I looked on with envy as my adorable friend tried on countless fierce fashion items, I sent my husband a text that said, "Such cute clothes, I'm getting the itch!"  He didn't reply, but later handed me the credit card and said he thought it was time for me to go shopping at JCrew.  That's one way to cure that problem!  That, and when I returned home that day I promptly went down in the basement, pulled out my favorite jeans ever, and plopped the Medela box on top.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sneaky Saturday Smoothie

How do you get an independent toddler to eat his veggies?  I believe this is a question that every mother across the planet has asked at some point.  Our sweet babies who were once interested in any food because it was new and exciting soon gain their own opinion.  This extends beyond veggies to nearly everything under the sun.  Should we play outside?  No.  Do you want to color?  No.  It's time for a bath.  No.  You need to eat your green beans. No, no, no.

In addition to "turning two" a good three months early, Jett has also been on a very picky food jag.  It's nearly impossible to guess what he will eat, and he's just on the tipping point of being able to communicate what he wants.  I felt myself starting to get upset over lunch yesterday when he refused to eat anything accept sweet potato chips, but instead of allowing myself to get frustrated, I got creative. 

One thing Jett has always been very interested in are smoothies.  When he sees the blender or food processor come out he gets very excited.  Straws are also a really big novelty right now.  So with that in mind I broke out the food processor and made a very sneaky smoothie that included a huge helping of fresh spinach, frozen raspberries and a banana.  Here is the recipe (kind of, I didn't measure so within reason just eyeball it.)

1/2 cup ice
1 cup orange juice
1 1/2 cup fresh spinach
1 banana
3 oz low-fat vanilla yogurt
3/4 cup raspberries (frozen or fresh)

Blend ice and orange juice until frothy.  Add spinach and puree.  Add banana and yogurt for a smooth texture and additional nutrition. (Jett wouldn't eat the banana I cut up for him so I just threw it in.)  Finally blend in 3/4 cup raspberries.  The more raspberries you add the better the color will be.

This sneaky smoothie was a huge hit, not only with kiddo but with mommy as well.  I gave Jett a huge bowl full with a spoon at lunch, and he finished off the rest in a cup with a straw at snack.  Spinach is incredibly nutritious, and I really like it, but many people don't because of its dark earthy, slightly bitter flavor.  However, when added with citrus it brightens and in this smoothie was impossible to distinguish from the other great flavors. 

I can't say that I blame Jett for not being in the mood for veggies.  Sometimes I'm not really in the mood for veggies, but I think I'm on to something here...

Do you have a smoothie recipe that you love?  Please post back and share!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

It's Dinner Time...Come to the Table

First of all I'm sharing a huge "Praise God" moment as I sit down at my computer to write with the window wide open.  The cool fresh air is such a treat, and I am incredibly thankful that maybe, just maybe, someday soon it will be fall.

I recently read an article in Parenting magazine that started by saying, "What if we told you there was a magic bullet for all of these childhood issues?" and then went on to list a host of really important things like eating more fruits and vegetables, loving to read, preventing eating disorders, lowering the risk of depression, etc.  The answer was so incredibly simple, it caused me to wonder what kind of society we are in that we need to remind ourselves about meals together.  That was it. 

The article, written by Dr. Alan Greene recommended seven family meals together a week.  Any meal, not in front of the screen, and start as soon as possible.  "Even without extra effort or conscious thought, family meals are associated with better nutrition, better weight, better health, better behavior, better school performance, and happier children," said Greene. 

Family meals is something that has been important to me in raising a family, to me it's second nature, and I never before stopped to reflect on how fortunate I was to grow up in a household where this was a closely held value.  Setting the table and helping mom in the kitchen.  Eating together as a family.  Saying a simple prayer.  Listening to one another's days.  Without question family meals are one of my favorite daily memories of growing up, and I think instilled a lot of roots within me that I didn't realize at the time. 

At the white Formica table with the mint green chairs I learned responsibility and how to pitch in by setting the table.  I learned to count peas and bargain with years of life, days of the week and months in the year so that I only had to eat the required amount of the smooshy green things.  I learned that mom meant business when she dumped my sister's plate and sent her to her room for being rude about the meal. (It only happened once. The message was pretty clear.)  I learned the importance of prayer as a family.  I learned how to listen and gained a love for conversation.  Reflecting back on those hundreds of meals, I also realize that is exactly where my love for business and being a professional comes from.  I loved listening about my dad's work experiences and daydreaming about someday being like him.  In the mornings I practiced memory work and learned how to manage time, microwave oatmeal just right (cookie dough consistency), and that it's not good manners to brush your teeth while walking all over the house, a problem I still have today.  We celebrated birthday breakfasts around that table, good grades, anniversaries, and the most amazing snow days on the planet.

Family meals with a hectic life, full schedules, and a toddler can be a challenge, but for me it's a priority.  At our cream colored Formica counter top we eat together at least once a day.  Jett has been a part of this routine since day one.  He and I also get the benefit of nearly every morning breakfast together with my mom around the table.  How do I know he's learning valuable lessons, even when he's still throwing Cherrios?  It's when he simply folds his little hands and reminds us to pray before every single meal. 

Yes, I would agree with Dr. Greene, family meals are very important.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Graduation Staycation Road Trip - We Survived! He Did It! And The Stuff That I Love!

"There was this really smart mom that kept pulling out new toys and snacks for her toddler during the ceremony.  He was good the whole time.  So smart!" - Random Amazing Graduate Student

Yup, that was me, the really smart mom.  At least I think that was me.  It might have been the other dozen or so brilliant mamas around the room that in addition to praying wildly before the ceremony for patience, good naturedness, silence, and an aisle seat, also were smart enough to pack "the goods" before the hour and half ceremony.  Regardless, it was a very nice comment from someone that told this to my husband as he walked up to receive his diploma and get hooded. (Hooded?  Receive his hood?  That's why I'm going back to school.)

The trip up was a breeze.  Jett was a fabulous, happy, rested boy when we left and jabbered happily until Lincoln, at which point we dropped daddy off at his coaches' meeting and ran off energy at the Lincoln Children's Museum for an hour.  He then promptly fell asleep and remained that way until we hit Kearney.  Ah-may-zing!  We arrived and I asked Kevin if he would be up for extending our trip to the Black Hills for the rest of the weekend, thinking this whole traveling with a kid thing was a cinch.  Luckily, he had the good sense to say no.

The ceremony came and I was that "smart mom" who stashed away all kinds of "never in a million years would I feed my child Handy Snacks if I didn't want him to be quiet during a very important event," kind of things.  Thanks to the aaforementioned congealed cheese, gummy snacks, and a host of new cool toys I broke out for the occasion, we made it.  Barely, but we did.  It also helped that Jett's four-year-old cousin Katie sat next to him, was SUPER good, and let him touch her blond curls and say "pretty" for about 20 minutes.

My child was good as gold through lunch, and then vacationitis hit.  You know, that rotten hang over feeling you get before vacation is actually over.  You want to crawl out of your skin, run around like a banshee, burst into tears, and detox after eating congealed cheese for days...Well, news flash, this hits toddlers after a mere 24 hours on a trip.

Luckily or unluckily depending on where you were sitting in the car, Jett slept to Grand Island (44 minute nap, but who is counting) where we met our wonderful friends and their three kiddos for a play date.  I love Chris and Amy and their boys.  A truly amazing family that I wish we saw more often.  The kids played for nearly two hours, and Jett loved their child-sized trampoline and giant St. Barnard puppy.  I thought for sure he would sleep until Seward, but no luck.  He was however, "stuck!" and I had a chance to try out the car toys and apps everyone had sent me. 

So here is the stuff that saved me.  The stuff I love.
  1. My favorite app was "Bizzy Bear Builds a House," very sweet, interactive and narrated with a British accent.  I'm not sure why that matters, but it was somewhat soothing.  Coming in a close second was the Disney Junior app that lets you watch select shows like Doc McStuffins. 
  2. Cow puppet.  I asked my mom what she recommended I bring and this was her fabulous idea. 

    3.   Playdoh - in a bag.  This is SO smart!  Whoever put Playdoh in a zip top bag knew what they were doing.  Now the people who give this to toddlers who think it's a gummy snack do not know what they are doing, but that's a different story.  Jett loved to smoosh it, after he took a bite.

   4.   Flash cards. Who knew? I picked these up after perusing the school supply section at Walmart.  Jett loved looking at these and repeating the colors as a gave them to him.  We also received some Thomas the Train cards somewhere along the way and he loved these as well.

5. 27 Quart Storage Box.  You will thank me later.  Now I don't fancy myself organized, but when I put all the car toys and handy wipes in this nifty neat little container, and managed to keep the car somewhat together without my usual bundle of tote bags, I thought I had arrived. 

6. I found Jack at the Lincoln Children's Museum and had a hunch we'd become buds.  This is magnetic paper dolls for boys and I love it.  Jett loved it too, score! (The only bad thing is Jack's container, he now lives in a Ziplock.  But I won't hold that against the guy.)

7.  I also loved the Crayola Color Wonder Stow and Go Studio.  It was a little above Jett who isn't quite loving markers...yet, but he did love putting the caps on and off, and the neat little package kept everything together in the diaper bag.  This was a big hit with his cousin Katie during the ceremony.

8.  Darn Handy Snacks!*
*For those of you who are offended by congealed cheese and judging me, I don't blame you.  For the record, Jett's mother also packed fresh cherries, (pits removed of course), homemade whole wheat and flax zucchini muffins, and veggie and fruit squeezy packs.  Oh, and some gummy bears...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Graduation Staycation Road Trip: Prepping for the Car Ride

Kevin has finished his masters degree.  Woohoo, yippee, hallelujah, can I get an Amen!  I'm incredibly proud of the hard work that he has put in over the last three and half years to not only graduate, but graduate with a 4.0 GPA.

When we learned that he would finish the program this summer, naturally his "lets do something - lets celebrate - lets get out of the house" wife encouraged him to "walk" put on a cap and gown and commemorate the occasion.  Which has led us to this weekend's Graduation Staycation Road Trip to Kearney for the ceremony.  Roughly 178 miles, 2 hours and 52 minutes in the car...with a toddler.  With an active toddler, who has recently become very aware that he is "stuck!" in his car seat. 

I am in total awe of parents who travel with their kiddos cross country to visit family, or fly with their babies on vacation, so I'll try and keep my whining to a minimum.  But I'm a little nervous about it all. It will be our longest road trip to date, and while my rendition of "Wheels On The Bus" is pretty darn good, but it's definitely not three hours good. 

So, I'm looking for suggestions, help, creative ideas, anything!  What do you do to keep your kiddos entertained in the car?  We will have the iPad along, but I haven't explored many of the kid-friendly apps yet.  Which are your favorites?

More updates from the road coming soon...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Naked Truth: When Fundraising Goes Wrong

Sometimes I wonder what must go on in the mind of post office personnel as they process and deliver the mail.  They have a very personal glimpse into our lives; the magazines we subscribe to, the coupons we receive, the stacks of bills, cards and letters, and envelope after envelope of credit card companies trying to lure us into yet another low interest rate.  This weekend, I can’t even begin to imagine what our friendly postal worker thought as in between a card from a friend, an appeal from Concordia University, and the lease statement for our car, was ESPN Magazine - The Body Issue.
I won’t even tell you my immediate thoughts (because my grandmother and pastor's wife read this blog) as I unfolded the magazine in the front yard walking back to the house and to my shock saw a completely nude female athlete on the cover.  Now let’s be honest, I’ve seen “artistic” modeling before and partial nudity is nothing new to the readers of Vogue or Instyle, but this issue made the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue look like the church newsletter.  Not just the cover, but page after page after page displaying athletes wearing only the uniform of their birthday suits.  I double and triple checked that indeed this was sent to the correct address.  And in my husband’s name.
I decided to wait until he arrived back from Chicago to ask if one of his buddies had thought this would be a good joke.  But I quickly learned that was not the case.  I wish I could go back in time and have a video capturing his face and the next comments that came out of his mouth as he surveyed the photojournalism.  I soon found out that this was a fundraiser gone very, very wrong and that he along with several other teachers and parents had subscribed to ESPN Magazine as part of a fundraiser for a school sports program.  Immediately Kevin called another teacher friend to learn that his wife had a similar reaction. He jokingly asked if I wanted to trade him issues, because theirs had a male athlete on the front.  I declined.
Being in fundraising and development myself, I find the whole thing absolutely hilarious, and when I think about it can’t help but laugh out loud.  I’ve heard fundraising horror stories that run everywhere from letters with the wrong donor name, to unsuspecting volunteers who were forced to make and then sell homemade pickles, to frozen goods that never came in, to events that have been rained out.  But this one takes the cake.  There was no possible way that the fundraising committee could have known the content of the magazine or that this would be the first issue out to donors.  I will be sharing this story at future AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) events for years to come.  And I can’t help but wonder...will they raise more money now than they did when they were just selling subscriptions?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Here's to Friends, Wogging, and the Most Interesting Laundry I've Ever Done

I feel like this summer is very different than summers past.  I can't quite describe how exactly we have changed, except to say that I think for the first time we are really trying to take advantage of every opportunity to enjoy time with family and friends. It's hard to know where to start to describe what a fun weekend it has been.  It kicked off early, with an opportunity to spend a little extra time with my girls Brandi and Anne who were in town on Thursday.  Something about meeting up at Brandi's parents' house felt like old times.  (Even though we have grown up and there weren't any dorky dance sessions.)

On Friday one of my board members asked if I had been taking Jett to the pool, and my answer of "no" inspired me to enjoy the sunshine, get brave and take Jett to the water park by myself.  We had gone earlier in the season and he was absolutely petrified and screamed every time we got near the water.  This time was different, as my little fishy wanted to lay his head back in the water and kick, and couldn't get enough of the baby water slide. 

Saturday brought about the most interesting laundry I have ever done.  The Color Run was a hot, perky, mess of a 5k.  It was fun to say that we were part of the 13,000 people who were quirky enough to think that running in the middle of July and getting blasted with color at every kilometer sounded like an opportunity not to be missed.  I'm not ashamed to say that we wogged it (walk/jogged) because it was HOT, and it gave us a great chance to catch up again before Anne leaves for Tempe in a couple of days.  (The color did come out of my clothes, but my armpit is still bright blue, go figure.)

Today was another good day from start to finish.  A very nice church service, successful trip to Walmart, without crying, fit throwing, or begging.  And Jett did very well too.  Lunch with my parents and another trip to the pool.  I should have known that my energetic baby would still be going strong when we got home.  I think he's trying to train me for the WNBA, because we played numerous games of basketball, and ran sprints around the yard.

We interrupt this blog post for a "Random Mama Tip of the Day": Jett helped me "cook" supper, and we made mini pizzas.  He has been on a veggie jag lately and so I mixed shredded zucchini in with the pizza sauce and then put on the toppings and cheese.  He ate it up and I couldn't tell the difference either!  A great way to sneak in some veggies for opposing kids (or husbands!)

The best part of the day may have been when Kevin returned from his road trip with the guys.  Seeing Jett's face light up when he came home was the best!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

What I learned in 1 hour, 6 minutes, and 38 seconds

I ran a 10K and I'm a mommy!  Today's run was a great personal accomplishment and I really enjoyed the experience.  I signed up on a whim, thinking it would be a good way to kick off the holiday, and only trained for about 3 weeks.  When I arrived at the race site this morning and saw all the "real runners" stretching and warming up and I started to get nervous, realizing that I didn't really know what warming up for a 10K would be.  I could tell this was a serious group because this was the first run I've been in where none of the participants wore their complementary shirts.  Wardrobe says a lot in these situations.

The "Real" Runners

I at least felt like I was wearing the right thing, having just purchased my first pair of Nike Tempo shorts.  I lined up near the back of the race, hoping I would find friends there. 
I ran 95% of the race, but had to stop briefly to get a couple of good pictures, and spit in the creek (unladylike I know!)  The track was half uphill and gravel, a very different environment than running on flat pavement.  One of the songs on my playlist was Sugarland's "Down in Mississippi" and the phrase "all you're going to see is a$$es and elbows," started making a lot more sense at about 4 kilometers in.

Corn on my right, beans on the left.
It was really a beautiful morning, clear and cool with a slight breeze.  The view was pretty incredible as well.  The time gave me a lot to reflect on, and I can say that in addition to finishing (and not finishing last,) I learned a lot about myself and the sport of running today.

1. Nike Tempo shorts are the greatest invention. Ever.  (I guess that's not about running or myself per say, but I learned that I need to buy more.)

2. I'm not very competitive, but I am the Miss Congeniality of the race.  When we reached the half way point and turned around I was the only one who was cheering on the people in the last half.  I started wondering if this is unspoken etiquette that you aren't supposed to talk to your fellow racers...

3. I don't know the rules or etiquette of running.  Which side are you supposed to pass on?  Is it appropriate to give someone the thumbs up when they pass you?  Is it okay to stop and take pictures?

4. I can't drink and run.  I must stop, sip, and then continue.

5. Litter bothers me more than I thought.  Come on people, this isn't the Summer Games, slow down enough to get your paper cup in the trash can.  Thank you.

6. Short strides uphill, long strides downhill.

7. My iPhone playlist is a little questionable.  Flo Rida, Nicky Minaj, Ke$ha, Kanye, Black Eyed Peas, and until I heard all the songs back to back, I hadn't realized I downloaded all my hip hop tunes with the explicit language, oops. 

8. A funnel cake may not be the best breakfast after running a 10K.

9. You MUST, repeat, MUST stop and stretch well after running. Not just touch your toes and push the stroller, but seriously stretch.  Otherwise you will wish you were dead rest of the day.

10. I really love running.  Who would have guessed?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Our Summer Home

I love vacations.  I mean really LOVE vacations, to the point of obsessing about what I’m going to pack months in advance.  I love to plan and daydream about what we will see, do, and eat.  I think this all stems from wonderful family vacations growing up and my parents making the experience really delightful, whether we were visiting Fort Robinson or Walt Disney World. 
I always had this secret dream that someday mom and dad would spring for a “summer home” or a timeshare somewhere fabulous.  Something that would guarantee we’d continue these trips for a long time.  I dreamed this would be a condo in Estes Park, a beachfront shack in San Diego, or a magical Disney timeshare.  Even though my parents never went for it (at least not yet) I still had high hopes that when I grew up and had my own family, this might become a reality.  Not in my wildest dreams did I believe this would happen in Virginia, NE.  Virginia Beach, yes!  But Virginia, NE, where in the world is that?

A couple of years ago Kevin and I had the opportunity to buy land that came with an acreage, and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a step closer towards his dream.  With this acreage was a cute little place we refer to as our “summer home,” although right now we are blessed that his cousins are living there all year long.  To say I was reluctant at first would be a gross understatement, but after this weekend’s trip, it’s starting to grow on me.


My baby looked at the corn in awe, smiled widely while he “drove” the tractor, and chased his cousins around the yard all afternoon.  It’s certainly not Disney World, but I have a feeling my little guy will grow up believing this is the greatest place in the world. 

And while it may never become a reality, you better believe I’m still dreaming about that beach front property…

Thursday, June 28, 2012

What We Are Reading

"What kind of books does a brilliant family read to their toddler?"  This is a question that I have been dying to ask of a colleague of mine.  He and is family are all brilliant, no exageration!  Totally, completely off the charts smart.  They homeschool their children who read things like Ronald Reagan's speech writer's autobiography, and do in depth studies of people like Nelson Mandela.  Did I mention that their kids are under the age of 10!

They have a toddler who is just a little younger than Jett.  So I'm dying to ask, what does a crazy smart family read to their baby?  Is "Ten Little Puppies" acceptable literature, or did they dive right in to the Wallstreet Journal? 

I'm reading a book by literary expert Mem Fox who recommends that parents read at least three books a day to their children.  She suggests one favorite, one familiar, and one new, but says even reading the same favorite over, and over, and over again is just as valuable for development.  If all parents followed this philosophy, each child would be read a minimum of 1,095 books a year.  It looks like a huge number, but I think in our house we have probably doubled that just sitting on the potty chair alone.

We've all come to cherish book time.  Jett begs for "book, book" in the morning, on the potty, after I get off work, and again before bed.  It's been fun for me to read some new favorites and old classics again too, as reading time with my mom was among my favorite moments growing up too.

So here's the list of what a totally average, not-so-brilliant family is reading these days:
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle
  • Heads, by Matthew Van Fleet - An adorable pop up book that we have ripped nearly all the "heads" off of.
  • My Alphabet Toolbox, by Tim Bugbird
  • Cooper's Big Bear Hug, by Melissa Woo - If you haven't become addicted to Hallmark's Interactive Story Buddies you are missing out. 
  • My Truck is Stuck, by Kevin Lewis and Daniel Kirk - Two of our favorite words all in one book: truck and stuck.
  • Little Blue Truck, by Alice Schertle - Three of our favorite words: blue, truck and stuck.
  • Ten Little Puppies, by Marian Harris - Any book that contains the phrase "No more sausage dogs jumping on the bed," has me hooked!
  • I Love You Through and Through, by Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak
  • The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear, by Don and Audrey Wood
  • I Am A Bunny, by Ole Risom, illustrated by Richard Scarry
  • Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratney - I always tear up at this one a bit.  It gets me every time.

And, if I get brave enough to ask, I'll let you know what section of the NY Times is a toddler's favorite.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Stuck...I'm Stuck..Stuck!

"Stuck...I'm Stuck...I'M STUCK...stuck, Stuck, STUCK! Eh, eh, eh, Stuck!" - Baby Jett, all day long.

Fitting for a Monday.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Most Politically Incorrect Game

In my prayers each day I hope that my baby boy will be strong, healthy, smart, and well rounded.  We read at least a half-dozen books each night, he plays basketball with daddy, cooks with mama, and makes polite babbley conversation with friends over dinner.  He plays with stuffed bears, dogs, and even a Cabbage Patch doll.  He has a construction set, a kitchen set, pretend cell phones and occasionally naked art time (more on that another day.)  I hope he grows to believe he can be nearly anything he wants to be.

I say nearly because this idea of well-rounded play has been challenged lately.  First by daddy, and then I confess, by mama. 
This is a Nerf Gun.  A six-barreled Nerf gun.  It makes a terrible loud sound when the suction cups stick to the filing cabinet in our basement.  They are fast, they are foam, and they are a heck of a lot of fun!  This is not a toddler's typical game.  Unless they live in our house. 

I was horrified at first. Immediately going to thoughts of a child psychologist or future Kindergarten teacher, I was terrified of what we someday might have to explain.  That we, his loving, doting, do-everything-we-can-right parents condoned this sort of activity.  And then I tried it.  There is just something about shooting a Nerf Gun at the end of a working mama's day that lets go of a lot of stress.  And my sweet baby laughs hysterically, runs after the darts, and gives me a smile that says, "lets do it again!" 

I can feel the judgement radiating across the web from mothers who make their own organic baby food, read books in French, and use cloth diapers.  I know, I would judge me too.  It's a terribly politically incorrect game that pretty much sums up my parenting style.  Hyper-conservative, ultra careful best intentions, but bottom line, if it works, we roll with it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

16 Hours to Superhero Status!

"It's no big deal, really.  The set comes in three boxes, and most people can put them in the back of their van.  It might take you a good afternoon to get it set up."  Says the woman at Sam's Club that was obviously not a part of the backroom construction of their floor model, that no doubt caused cursing and likely tapping into the stash of wholesale liquor.

It was over the course of the next five days and 16 hours that I witnessed my husband's true dedication to daddy-hood as he, two of his high school students and a friend (who is also fortunately a shop teacher,) labored over Jett's new swing set.  Working in the hot sun, I wasn't sure if Poweraides, pizza and chocolate chip cookies would be enough to get them through, but they prevailed.

Daddy, I'm not sure this is right...
One of my favorite moments was when I thanked one of the students for his help and said, "Thank you so much, Jett is really going to enjoy this for a long time!"  He replied excitedly, "No problem!  I had a play set like this growing up and I played on it until, like third grade.  And mine wasn't nearly as cool as this!"

This smile made it all worth it!  Through all the hard work, Kevin didn't complain once.  Watching him tackle the project with patience and pride, will be one of the moments that I look back on in our life and say of my husband, "I love him more every day!"

Teal Colored Dreams, A Reality

IT'S HERE!  I can barely contain myself!!!  It's my long awaited, very own, Kitchenaid mixer.  In TEAL!  A really beautiful, light robins egg blueish teal, that matches my kitchen perfectly! (It's a good thing too because I agonized over the color in Nebraska Furniture Mart so long that I almost left with a mixer, but less one husband.)

Now I'm getting the all important question, what will you make first?  Do I go for Grandma's famous chocolate cream filled cupcakes?  An artisan bread?  Chocolate chip cookies?  A new recipe?  If you have ideas, please weigh in!

I made cupcakes for Kevin's birthday, but this beauty didn't arrive in time.  They were just from a box, nothing impressive, but my sister asked me what I did because they were so good.  Roll credit...

It's amazing what even baking will do.  It was truly a life changing trip to Nebraska Furniture Mart.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Please Wear Pants...

In a mama blog such as this you may be thinking that this post has everything to do with the fact that my little one prefers to be nude as much as possible...and while that's completely true, that's not what this is about today. 

Today my question for the world is this: What on God's green earth does "your favorite business casual attire" mean for an event?  I'm all for nonprofits and organizers getting creative when it comes to addressing the "dress", but come on!  I like to think I'm a pretty decent dresser most days, but it doesn't just fall out of the closet for me.  I generally have to put a little bit of effort into what is on my person, and I literally have nightmares about showing up somewhere in cocktail attire when everyone else is in a golf polo, or not having hat adorned when clearly everyone else got the memo (sadly, this did happen.)  The worst part is I love a good hat!  And I feel way more confident in forced cocktail chat when I look like I belong.  Not to mention the inevitable question from my husband, "What I'm I wearing for this thing?"

Help me break it down.  Favorite Business Attire.  This implies cute business suit or business appropriate LBD (think sleeves).  Favorite Casual Attire.  Frankly for me this is JCrew skinny jeans and ballet flats.  Business Casual.  This has changed dramatically over the years.  For most industries think Target: khaki Dockers and a solid colored polo.  But if you are in a creative profession, or somewhere other than a bank this can also include dressy shorts, knit dresses, a high end graphic tee or jeans with a jacket.  Let's not even talk about a profession in "the arts"... Throw on something in rainbow or macrame and you are in.

One party site I found listed the following:
White tie/ultra-formal — Men: tailcoat and white vest, shirt and bow tie. Women: long gown.

Black tie/formal — Men: tuxedos. Women: dress (knee-length, long).

Semi-formal/informal — Men: dark suit, tie. Women: knee-length dress.

Cocktail — Men: dark suit. Women: knee-length dress or skirt.

Dressy casual — Men: jacket or collared shirt, pants. Women: skirt or dressy pants.

Business casual — Men: collared shirt, khakis. Women: dressy pants or skirt.

Casual — anything goes.

Thanks world wide web, that wasn't helpful... 

This time it's easy for my husband.  Dockers and a polo. Check. 

But here's a glimpse into my mind...

I don't own khaki's anymore...jeans are too risky if everyone else is in pants/skirts...I should have shopped at JCrew when my sister was working last week, darn it! pink dress is out, could be way too dressy...striped dress, no sweater?...flubby arms...striped dress and sweater...too dressy again!...heals or flats, heals or flats...skirt and chambray shirt, who am I trying to kid, I'm not cool enough to pull that off...


Monday, June 11, 2012

Mr. Mom

I couldn't be more thankful for my wonderful husband that took on the unexpected roll of "Mr. Mom" this weekend.  Canceling plans to go to the farm, study for his graduate final, and golf for the first time this year, he opted to stay home to take care of his very green, disgusting wife, and give Jett a very happy play filled weekend in spite of the looming flu.

Not only did Super Dad wrangle kiddo and chiweenie, but he did all the laundry and dishes, and checked on me regularly to make sure that I was drinking enough fluids.

Thank you Mr. Mom, you are my hero!
-Love your fluish wife.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Eating Granola and Thought of You!

My friend Jen sent me a text this week that said, "Eating granola...and thought of you!"  What a high compliment in my book!  You see lately I've been on this wild granola kick.  One Saturday I was super hungry for granola and was out, so I decided to make my own.  It was a moderately successful first run, with a minor honey-heating incident with the microwave (Do not, I repeat, do NOT heat honey in the bear in the microwave! Just remember that angry bears will explode, and that's all you need to know.)  I also kept the oats in the oven too long, but masked the flavor by adding extra dark chocolate chips. 

Then there was that fateful trip to Costco where they sell "The World's Best Granola" complete with flax, amaranth, quinoa and other good nutritious stuff.  I've been loading up ever since.  The only problem is that there are 250 calories per 3/4 cup.  (Is it really fair to gain five pounds because of granola?  I think not!) 

While not a complete solution to the calorie challenge, I like the idea of making my own granola so that I can control the sugar content (and add extra good stuff like dried fruit, coconut or chocolate chips.) So I guess I'm making more dessert granola myself, but in place of a bag of chips in the afternoon it's still a good alternative.  Here is a recipe to the batch I whipped up yesterday.

3 1/2 cups rolled oats (I always make a super big batch.)
1/4 cup flax
1 Tab. milled flax
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 heaping tsp. cinnamon
3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
4 Tab. honey
1 Tab. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine first six ingredients in a large bowl.

Next, heat oil, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla over low heat.  When the honey and sugar are incorporated, you are good to go.

Pour syrup over the oat mixture and combine using a spoon or your hands (if you want to get messy.)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and press granola in a thin layer.  Bake in a 325 degree oven for approximately 25 minutes.  You will need to take the granola out every 8-10 minutes to stir, flip, and toss so that all sides bake evenly and don't burn.  When the granola is finished and cooled I like to put mine into zip-top bags in the freezer for future eating. 

One of my favorite things about making my own granola is that it's the perfect "Use-it-Up" recipe.  You can add whatever you have available as long as you stick with the basic oats+nuts/dried fruit/other goodies+syrup equation.  Enjoy!