Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Everyday Treasures

I started taking Natalie to story time at the library a few months ago and her normally wiggly, always-on-the-move self did really well sitting on my lap through a few stories and songs. It had been several weeks since we'd been able to go, so I got us ready to go today only to find out when we got there that last week was the last one before summer activities started. So, we checked out the pet bunny rabbit and played with toys instead!

Sidenote: anyone who has spent time with Natalie in real life knows that she has a bunny lovey that she must have to go to sleep. I affectionately (and I use that term loosely) refer to said lovey as "skanky bunny" because she chews on the ears and they smell disgusting, even after it has been soaked in vinegar and washed. I tell you that to say that she already has a thing for bunnies, but she also is just an animal lover in general. Being raised with Layla, who is the absolute perfect dog a kid could ever want (mommy feels a little differently about her after she has repeatedly done some disgusting, naughty things that I have had to clean up after), has probably nurtured that love and fascination for animals.

So, back to the library story. I was holding Natalie when we walked over to the rabbit's cage and oh.my.goodness. The look of sheer delight and surprise on Natalie's face was PRICELESS. Her jaw hit the floor and then her face lit up with a huge smile and she couldn't wait to get a closer look. I fell in love with her all over again. Nothing can compare to a child's sense of wonder. Not only did seeing that bunny probably make her day, seeing the look on her face made MY day.

Once I'd had enough of the germy toys it was time to go, we washed our hands and headed to the car. Natalie seemed to really be enjoying the warm weather, so I decided to let her explore the children's garden across the parking lot before leaving. I forgot my camera today, but these are pics I took of Natalie at the children's garden when she was 8 months old. I can't believe how much she has grown up in the 8 months since then!

While we were there, Natalie saw a bumblebee among some short little flowers. She sat right down on the sidewalk to watch it for a minute and the moment just struck me. As I had been trying to move her along through the garden, she took time to notice the little details, the new surrounds and new creatures around her. She did not have an agenda. She wasn't concerned about the errand I wanted to run before heading home for lunch. She was living in the moment. She even took a seat in an unlikely spot so that her curiosity in that little bee could be fulfilled. And when she saw the rabbit inside the library, she was filled with such pure joy over a seemingly simple surprise.

How often do I live in the moment? How often do I notice the little things, much less take joy in them? Time passes so incredibly quickly and so much of it is wasted on being in a hurry, being mad, having an agenda, just trying to make it til nap time, cramming as much stuff as I can into a day to accomplish as many things as possible. I strive to be more intentional in my time with Natalie and to soak up who she is while she is little, and then I look at those pictures above and realize that time STILL sneaked up on me and she is most certainly not that little baby anymore. 

Lord, help me to see the treasures You've hidden around me in my everyday life. Help me to not take them for granted. Help me to nurture the appreciation that Natalie has for these treasures so that she will always continue to live in the moment and be intentional with her time and interaction with others. 

Every day is a gift, even when things don't go as we've planned, when nap time is too short, your husband pointed out one of your flaws and hurt your feelings. There is always something new to learn, something that God wants to tell us if we'll listen. His love is never-ending. His mercies are new every morning. He loves me. He loves you.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Recipe: Blueberry Sauce

As I prepared batter for pancakes yesterday morning, I remembered a childhood memory about my grandpa that I had long forgotten about. When we would go visit my grandparents in Pennsylvania growing up, my grandpa Fred would make us silver dollar pancakes. I think I thought it was cool to see how many of the cute, mini pancakes I could shovel in my mouth in one sitting (usually 10 or so, if memory serves me correctly). I look forward to carrying on that tradition with my kids some day, but for now, Natalie couldn't care less about the size and shape of her pancakes as much as how quickly I can feed them to her! I am semi-crazy when it comes to feeding my child healthy food (we do eat processed stuff, but I try to give her fresh, wholesome food as much as possible), so instead of feeding her maple-flavored corn syrup with pancakes, I whip up some of my mom's blueberry sauce. It's just sweet enough and is a big hit with the toddler crowd, I assure you!

Blueberry Sauce

Makes enough for 6-8 pancakes

1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 c water
1 c blueberries (I always use frozen since they're always on hand)

In a small saucepan, mix cornstarch and sugar. Add water and stir. Add blueberries.

Cook mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally until mixture thickens into a sauce. I use a potato masher to mash some of the berries during the cooking process. Enjoy over pancakes, waffles, and biscuits!

We even ate leftover pancakes with a fresh batch of blueberry sauce for breakfast again this morning, but this time I fed Natalie myself instead of letting her smear blueberries all over her body feed herself since I didn't have time to give her another bath. Yesterday, she was literally covered from head to toe because she smeared it all over her high chair tray and then stood up in the chair and put her bare foot on the tray. My child does not have a short supply of personality! Haha! 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sleepover Success!

All day long yesterday and I excitedly told Natalie that she was going to stay overnight at her grandma and grandpa's house. At 16 months old, I didn't expect her to fully understand what I was telling her, but it must have all clicked when my parents showed up at my house because Natalie went from this giddy little wild child:
 I shot these pics yesterday afternoon before my parents came over

to a quiet, somber, cling-to-mama child. I think she got over her apprehension once her grandparents offered her spoonfuls of frozen yogurt and cups of chocolate milk (a drink we have never given her before)! As I suspected she would do, she stayed up well past her normal bedtime and wouldn't fall asleep until my dad laid down with her.

At first, Alex took being away from his baby girl harder than I did, but once we got home from dinner I really started missing her, too. I went to pick her up just before lunch today and she was quite happy to see me. All the eating, snuggling and playing at grandma and grandpa's must have worn her out because she fell asleep less than 5 minutes into the ride home! I'm so thankful for a date night with my hubby and that Natalie's first sleepover was a success!

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Date and a Sleepover

Tonight, Alex and I are going out of town to eat with some friends we have been growing closer to over the past few months and Natalie is going to spend the night with my parents for the first time. I must admit, I have been looking forward to this all.week.long. Seriously, Friday could not come soon enough. Being away last weekend and not having any household responsibilities was amazing, but it totally killed my motivation to come home and return to the never ending pile of dishes and laundry. I pretty much sat around every morning this week and finally mustered up the energy to accomplish something around Natalie's nap time. I felt guilty for being so lazy while Alex worked hard to support our family, so that in itself was a pretty good motivator to get me out of my pjs and start cleaning the house. Anyway...

We haven't been that great about having a regular date night since Natalie has been born. Scratch that. Since we've been married. We'd set aside Friday or Saturday nights for time together for a few weeks and would then get lazy or preoccupied and stop being purposeful about making time for quality interaction with one another. And we'd always make the excuse that there is NOTHING to do in our town. I'm sure that's really just laziness on our part, but it sure can feel really boring living in a small town in rural America. Both our moms have asked us when we were going to go on a date again so they could babysit (I love living close to the grandparents for a number of reasons and I love how much they enjoy spending time with Natalie). My mom and dad are really excited about finally  having Natalie stay with them overnight and I would be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to being able to get out of bed in my own time instead of having to get up when my little 16-month old alarm clock decides it's time to start our day. I'm really curious how Natalie is going to handle being away from home tonight. I hope she doesn't give her grandparents a hard time going to bed since she's been a handful in that department lately! Goodness, gracious!

So here's to a night of great food and fun with friends and spouses and to Natalie being a little angel for her grandparents who are looking forward to spoiling her with frozen yogurt and other "contraband" goodies! What are your favorite date night ideas with your significant other/spouse?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I Survived the Encounter Retreat!

After a few years of flat-out refusing to go on one of my church's Women's Encounter retreats, I finally broke down and agreed to go. I must tell on myself and admit that when I first heard about the retreats, I thought that the leaders were going to ask the Holy Spirit to show them all the sin in my life and then they would call me out on it. Now I'm relieved to admit that no such thing happened to me last weekend when I went on the Encounter and now the leaders and I can laugh at my crazy idea!

In the weeks leading up to the retreat weekend, I felt a lot of anxiety, which is not at all like me. I was afraid of being vulnerable with women that I don't normally spend time with (another trait that is uncharacteristic of myself). I even fought tears several times during a casual time of fellowship with other women who had been on or were getting ready to go on a retreat just because I was so afraid of what might happen to me over that weekend. I was warned on multiple occasions that I would cry the "ugly cry" and that I should pack lots of tissues. Sounds refreshing, right??? Thankfully, as the time approached, my anxiety waned and I looked forward to fellowship with other women and some time away from my normal routine and the demands of a toddler, although I still hoped to avoid bawling my eyes out at any point during the weekend, ha ha.

I thoroughly enjoyed staying in a cabin overlooking beautiful Lake Cumberland, eating delicious "chick food" that I would never get away with fixing for Alex, and being surrounded by a wonderful group of women. We were told that the groups of women are divinely appointed to be on the retreat together and I couldn't agree more. I loved getting to connect with the three other ladies in my small group and ended up letting my guard down to tell them my struggles, even to the point of doing that "ugly cry", but only once! :)

I left feeling so encouraged and energized. I really didn't want the weekend to end. For two years, I have felt frustrated with some things involving leading worship at church. After my miscarriage in January, my frustration just vanished and I have been able to put my feelings aside, but I have still been missing some my passion for worshiping the Lord. On Sunday, when I got back from the retreat and walked into the sanctuary for worship team practice, I practically ran up to the keyboard with a huge smile on my face and an immense anticipation and expectation for God to use me to usher in His presence.

Tonight, the ladies that went on the retreat met for a post-encounter meeting and one thing we were told was that we will have to fight to keep the breakthroughs that happened on the retreat and not let Satan steal them away by telling us we were happier and life was easier when we believed his lies and were bound by his chains. The thought has crossed my mind a few times that I don't want to lose the excitement and enthusiasm that I found from working through some issues that weekend. I don't want to get caught up in the routine of life again and lose my focus. I am standing on the Word, believing for specific breakthroughs that haven't happened yet and I want to keep moving forward, closer to the Lord, closer to my victory! My family's victory! I never want to go back to the way things were before, when I did believe some of the lies of the enemy, when I was frustrated with so many areas in my life, when I lost focus. The lady leading our group tonight shared something that she had read in a devotional earlier this week and I just loved it. "When Satan (or his demons) lies to you, just laugh, because it is rude to not laugh at a joke." Satan has no power over my life or over my family. The things that bound us up in the past are broken and we're set free! My children will not struggle with the same sins that I have struggled with and their ancestors have dealt with because those chains are broken and I claim freedom in the name of Jesus! We're moving forward. The line has been drawn in the sand and there is no turning back. I'm so excited to have my passion reignited. My outlook is so much brighter. I looked at Natalie today and started speaking life over her and it felt amazing. My daughter is a child of the King. She will know that Jesus loves her and that He has amazing plans for her life and she is going to fulfill her destiny. I want to take my job as her mom more seriously and not let opportunities to speak into her life pass me by. I'm a work in progress, but praise the Lord, He won't give up on me and He is faithful to complete the work he started in me!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Life, Recently

I've been AWOL from the blog for too long. I think about posting and then get lazy because I don't want to upload pictures to the computer and every post is just better with pictures! Natalie is now 15 months old! Her vocabulary has expanded overnight, which never ceases to amaze me. She went from saying mama, daddy, Layla, and dog, to saying bubble, banana, yes, ball, bye, hi, cracker and cheese (she had a mini-meltdown in the grocery store the other day when she recognized the cheese sticks and thought she could have one as a snack and I told her "no" and that we had cheese at home.). She said "hungry" once, which was really cute. She'll say a word one time and then never say it again or say it a few weeks later, so I've forgotten a few words, I'm sure. Can I just say that I am so thankful that she hasn't learned the word "no" yet? I made a point of being a little more specific when trying to correct her behavior, so instead of just saying "no" a hundred times a day, we say, "do not touch xyz" or "put that back". It still gets redundant, but at least she's not repeating "no" back to me - yet. I know the day is probably coming...

Around her birthday, she also started using the signs for "eat", "more", "please" and "all done" (she doesn't sign "please" or "all done" the "correct" way, but she uses her versions of those signs consistently so we know what she's trying to communicate. We're working on saying "thank you", but since it's so similar to how she blows kisses, I think she's a little confused. But, the blowing kisses thing is adorable!

Tantrums have started to becoming a little more frequent, especially since I've been babysitting a 2 year old little girl for the past couple of weeks. Natalie has had to share Mommy and that's been an adjustment, but I think it's been good for her social development. Figuring out how to effectively discipline her is a challenge! She understands so much, so I don't want to underestimate her ability to learn from my correction, however I go about doing that. 

Alex's sister moved and gave us her swingset a few months ago and Natalie LOVES it. She quickly learned to climb up the "rock" wall and onto the platform to go down the slide. It's amazing to me how grown up she seems now. My baby became a toddler overnight! The thoughts of her becoming a preschooler are seriously overwhelming. I want to just savor every second of her just the way she is, right now, and never let her grow up any more. As much as I'd love to have another baby, I don't want to wish this alone time with Natalie away. I know that her time as my only child isn't going to last forever, so I want to make every moment count. I have grown to love our time together before bedtime. We pull out her Rhyme Bible Storybook and sing "The B-I-B-L-E" and she pats the Bible and sings "B-I-B-I-B-I". She sings that a lot during the day, too. Melts my heart.

The past month has held a lot of "firsts". I forgot my camera when we went to her first Easter egg hunt, but I think I remembered to capture the other firsts she experienced:
It's crazy to me how quickly Natalie is changing and becoming a little girl. I just remembered another "first" that I forgot to capture: first time getting her fingernails painted! I was shocked that she stayed still long enough for me to paint them, but sure enough, she did! I was painting another little girl's nails and Natalie held her hands out, too. I loved getting a glimpse of the girly-girl side of Natalie that has slowly, but surely, been developing.

Later this week, I'll experience another "first" in motherhood: leaving my baby overnight. I'm going on a women's retreat with a small group from church Friday night through Sunday morning. I'm really nervous about being vulnerable with a group of women that I don't know very well. The retreat is all about encountering God in a deeper way, getting rid of ungodly beliefs and overcoming strongholds, so I'm trying to build my expectations to receive something amazing from the Lord!

Well, that's kind of my life in a nutshell at the moment! Hopefully I'll start writing more often again...