Thursday, April 17, 2014

Walk It Out

This week's list...
398. A new book and time to sit in the car while Brooklyn napped and read it
399. Ebooks and audiobooks to check out through the Fayetteville Public Library's website since I don't have a library card here yet
400! Adam having sick days and it being a slow day at work so that he could come home and rest (The Bug lingers on...)
401. Fresh strawberries
402. Playing drums on the bookshelf - one drumstick for Brooklyn, and one for me :)
403. Watching Brooklyn slowly and carefully sit back down after pulling herself up on something
404. French toast and bacon for breakfast - it's been awhile!
405. A whole weekend with Adam off - that also hasn't happened in awhile
406. Naps for all (if not all at the same time)
407. Finally finding a good local coffee shop

I love the concept of running a marathon (or a half) in order to raise funds and awareness about a worthy cause. A couple of years ago, I set out to train for one (anyone who knows me well knows what a task that would be) and found out that no amount of heart-felt support of the cause will overcome an inability to work through the way my chest tightens and my lungs begin to burn once I set a pace above a light jog. The need for air supersedes the need to raise awareness fairly quickly, and I wheeze to a inexorable halt.

But during announcements a few Sunday mornings ago, they mentioned putting together a church team for "Walk for the Waiting." My ears perked at the word walk, and I headed over to the information table after the service. I discovered that funds raised go to three Arkansas orphan care organizations (The Call, Immerse Arkansas, and Project Zero), toward providing "a family and a future for every child," and that it really is a walk (not one of those cleverly disguised "fun run" things, like making it rhyme and calling it fun makes it more possible and less painful, somehow).

Still (if you know me) then you know that I only advocate for things that I really believe in --- and I really believe in this. Why do I want to walk? For gratitude. Too often, I take the fact that I am part of a family (multiple families, actually: a born-to family, a married-into family, and a church family) utterly and completely for granted.
So I'm grateful that there are organizations and individuals who are not only willing but passionate about demonstrating our Father's love by loving the least of these.
I'm grateful that God has provided me with a loving and supportive husband who takes care of both me and Brooklyn.
I'm grateful that we have Brooklyn, and that God sustains us as we try to raise her to His glory.
I'm grateful for my own adoption - the one that every Christian receives, as we're unworthily called the sons and daughters of our heavenly Father.
And I'm grateful for an opportunity to be the sent feet of Christ in a literal sense, going an extra mile on a Saturday morning so that His little ones can experience Him through His followers.

So on Saturday the 26th, we're walking as a family. We've set a collective goal of $500 (Adam's page, and mine) and if this is a cause that tugs at your heart, we (and our team!) would appreciate your support -through prayer, through sharing about the Walk and raising awareness about the need for foster families in Arkansas, or through donating (any amount helps!)

409. Brooklyn standing up in her crib and giving me a kiss when I went to get her from her nap
410. The calming reassurance of God's presence in the patter of life-giving raindrops
411. Our perfectly, slouchily comfortable couch, bought from a friend and thoroughly enjoyed
412. A chilly day on which to try out a made-over jacket, and the assurance that I'll be back to short sleeves and skirts in a few days
413. Meeting Adam for lunch - a pleasant midweek treat! and Brooklyn enjoyed getting to hold his hat for him
414. Brooklyn's experiments in the appropriate timing of raspberry blowing and sticking out her tongue, in order to achieve the greatest effect, also perfecting the adorable face to go with it
415. A homemade meal, comprised of multiple components, eaten all together and at the proper temperature while Adam played with Brooklyn (usually, I eat progressively, at 20-60 minutes intervals... the eggs first, the bacon reheated and reheated and reheated and finally eaten, the biscuits unenjoyably cold and washed down with a tepid drink)
416. Warm sunshine dappled through the spinning leaves of a birch tree
417. Successfully getting myself and Brooklyn packed for a four-day weekend
418. The unexpected delight of a simple how-to craft video (that used only supplies that I happened to already have!)

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him."
[Lamentations 3:22-24]

Won't you join us in counting (and recounting!) His mercies anew? Just grab a journal or notebook (it doesn't have to be fancy) and a pen and write them down, then join us in a weekly link-up to encourage each other by sharing all of the blessings we've spotted. Catch up on everyone's posts and add your own below (please stay relevant to the topic when linking up!) and if you don't have a blog, feel free to participate by commenting, instead!

Check out these #NewEveryMorning hosts, as well, and don't forget to use the hashtag on Twitter so that we can find each other:
   Kayla [at] Renown and Crowned
   Kelsey [at] Faith Fun and the Fergusons

What gifts have surprised you this past week?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hello, Spring

Brooklyn's been experimenting with social interactions this week - saying "hi!" to herself in the mirror, giving kisses (complete with "mwah!"), waving a palm branch in (sort of) time with the music during worship on Sunday (to the utter delight of a family sitting behind us), perfecting the crinkled nose to accompany the stuck-out tongue in order to achieve optimal cuteness...

She's also been airing her opinions more - more frequently, and more loudly. "What's in this drawer? I'm going to pull everything out and look at it. Mummy, will you put these shoes on me? What do you mean, They're too small?"

"Daddy, you may touch the shapes, but you cannot stack the shapes or knock them together. If you stack them, I will come from across the room as fast as I can to topple them, and if you knock them together, I'll just have to take them away from you."

She also confirmed that she knows what no means, by dissolving into dramatic tears and sobs when told not to put something in her mouth. Or not to touch the fan. Or to leave the laundry in the laundry basket. And it's not intervention (taking the thing, moving her away from the fan, moving the laundry basket) that causes the melt-down --- it's the word itself. She stops, like she knows she needs to but desperately doesn't want to, and then cries. I can certainly empathize with that!

On the nice days this past week (as opposed to the cold, rainy ones), we walked. She gets excited when I get the stroller out of the car, and she was very pleased to be allowed to carry a pinecone on our last adventure. And she voluntarily did with it as you should do with Nature: observed it carefully for a little while, then returned it to its natural habitat. That was a lesson I never got as a kid - I'd return from walks and hikes having filled everyone's pockets with found treasures.

We're planning a four-day weekend in Fayetteville, and I'm looking forward to reintroducing her to the Farmer's Market (since the last time we went she was a wee little thing and wasn't paying a whole lot of attention), and the chance for the three of us (because Adam managed to get off!) to see family - and to get to knit during the trip instead of having to drive. I'm in the depths of a tiny tunic for Brooklyn that I'm anxious to finish...

In eight more weeks, she'll be a whole year old! It's so amazing how much she's changed and developed in the past ten months, and even in just the past week.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Surprised, Preapproved, and Getting Rid of Fluff

Mommy fashion! Let's talk about baby-commemorating jewelry. There are lots and lots of options - and many of them are expensive and/or impractical (I cannot believe that I am the only person whose child is bent on snapping the chain or putting tooth marks in the pendant of any necklace I try to wear). And if you do something that has a little charm or tag for each child, then what happens if you have another kid later and the matching addition is no longer available? (That's the sort of thing that would bug me.) So, my advice is: don't feel pressured. If it's not something that matters to you, then don't do it. Actually, let's just go ahead and apply that to all baby-related advice. For example, we don't have a "baby book" (I don't have time for that - my concession is a line-a-day journal, because there are admittedly moments that I will later appreciate having preserved) --- but because I love bracelets, I did choose to order one with Brooklyn's initial and birthstone from an Arkansas-local (actually, Little Rock-local) artist (Bella Vita, if you're interested - she's great to work with, and her pieces are lovely).

There's too much fluff in our lives. Between well-intentioned-but-impractical advice and unreasonable expectations, the already somewhat overwhelming quest to raise a Tiny Human in reasonable health and safety while also being concerned for their soul becomes depressingly impossible, and what's really important gets buried under a pile of Other Stuff. I crawled out of a tired haze to read Lisa-Jo Baker's new book Surprised By Motherhood last week, and it was a breath of fresh air. Not a how-to book (there are entirely too many of those, and none of the people writing them have my exact child so they end up being how-not-to books), but a me-too book. It was a refreshing, encouraging, and somewhat validating read - I think I've found my new go-to shower gift (along with a wee knitted hat, because every new babe needs a handknitted something).

The bit of knitting I began with the book ended yesterday in a jacket remake (just in time - two days ago, it was sunny and 75, but today it was 45 and raining sideways). I needed an End It Project-approved spring jacket for the cool rainy days (that was not my beloved white pleather moto jacket because Brooklyn tries to chew on it and her little teeth are sharp) so she and I went on a quest to Plato's Closet (see rule #5). I replaced the plastic "tortoise shell" buttons with stashed coconut shell ones (someone's flea marketed button jar would also hold lots of remake possibility), and the belt with simple netted-looking lace. It would have been nice to use actual vintage lace - however, the quickest way for me to achieve the same effect was to knit it myself. The finished piece is much more feminine and flattering than the original - overall, I'm pleased.

In the crafting category, as well, I also turned a printable into a sturdy bookmark. I roughly cut it out (because I have strong feelings about efficiency and it is not efficient to neatly cut something out twice - besides, doing it this way "seals" the edges better) and overlayed both sides, first with Washi tape, then with packaging tape, then cut it out along the actual edges.

Remember how I said that I was giving up staying up late for Lent? This is part of that (I've been sticking with that, by the way - going to bed when Adam goes to bed, and when he's not here going to bed before 11pm without having spent every minute prior frantically Doing Things), reading/journaling through Love Idol. Because we all have a God-sized hole in our hearts, but we industriously try to fill it with fluff - some other something that will give us the approval we crave, but is never quite enough... so as I read through the book, I'm working through my own "love idol" (that is, the specific area or areas in which I strive the most), giving it a name so that I can begin to conquer it. At this point, it's beginning to look like "being a Godly wife and mum" is my Scylla, and then "finding success in something-other-than-that" is my Charybdis, and I sink between the two. There are so many people and books and blogs who jump at the chance to explain (in long, detailed lists) what being a Wife and Mum should look like - except that (like those how-to books I mentioned earlier) none of them actually practically apply to my life but I end up feeling like I must be doing something wrong, then, if it doesn't apply (because if I don't take my list and coupons to the nearest budget grocery store on a scheduled day every week or two to gather supplies to stock our freezer with homemade casseroles, then I am failing at domesticity, stewardship, and, therefore, Christianity - oh, Scylla, your teeth are sharp!) I read through it once quickly, and now I'm going back through again, slowly - I'm just on chapter two this time, but I'll let you know if I make it through the strait once I get to the end.

Where is the fluff in your life, that buries you under unnecessary weight and hides what's really important? How do you battle it?

Thursday, April 10, 2014


It's Five Minute Friday! Bloggers internet-wide writing for five minutes (no stopping, no editing!) on a prompt provided by the lovely Lisa-Jo, and then sharing some community comment love. For more details, to read more posts and to join in yourself, head here.

Knitting needles are my brush - yarn acts as both paint and canvas - and I look up. For the past three-ish months, I've been knitting the sky. It would be much quicker to paint it with watercolor, acrylic, or oils, but skill with those media eludes me, so I daily rely on the skill of some other handpainter as I hold one or two hues together to best imitate the color I see above me.

It's more than just an exercise in patience (and it is definitely that - taking a year to make a scarf when I could finish it so much faster if I just did it all at once), it's also an exercise in gratitude. On the sunny days, I get to work with lovely woolen handpainted Koigu; on the cloudy ones, an array of raw silk and alpaca blended beauty from Blue Sky Alpacas called "Metalico" - and I spend about 5 minutes every evening pondering it, trying to find the silver lining in not just the sky but also my day.

Because my day is also a canvas, and a brush is always moving across it, splashing color over nothingness - but unless I seize it, it's not my hand that controls its path. My circumstances, environment, and culture all seek to drive the mood of the finished picture. If I don't constantly redirect it - and my thoughts and actions - then I won't like what I see at the end of the day.

So I seek the beauty, practice gratitude, and preach to myself (oh, so much! but still not enough) every hour of every day, until the day is done - and I hope that my own heart will daily reflect the extraordinary wonder of the sunset that is God's nightly reminder to rest in Him.

How do you practice gratitude and seek the silver linings?

Joy Warrior

The weekly reckoning...
378. Rice Chex
379. That stomach bugs usually only last for one day
380. That Adam made a big, delicious, reheatable pan of his amazing spaghetti before either of us got sick
381. Feeling like going on a dire-needs grocery run
382. Healing sunshine streaming in the window
383. The way Brooklyn thinks that dogs are hilarious - big and small, alike
384. People-watching at the mall
385. A spontaneous movie night with Adam
386. Getting Brooklyn and I up, ready, and headed to church in twenty minutes' time (a baby miracle!)
387. An afternoon of rest
388. Ten adorably grumpy cedar waxwings in the tree by our window
389. Discussing the End It Project with Adam
390. Grocery shopping with Brooklyn - she so delights in sitting in the cart and looking after everything I put in
391. Peculiar and inexplicable knitting progress

Persistently writing down gifts... sometimes three a day, sometimes missing a day because my vision is clouded by selfishness and then repentantly going back later and catching up, sometimes seven a day when I suspect ahead of time that it may be a difficult week to keep my focus in the proper place. The proper place... what is the proper place?

" have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you."
[John 16:22]

During His Last Supper with His disciples, just before His crucifixion, Christ reminds His disciples of the eternal perspective - where He's going, and where they will follow Him to. And He is where my joy must be found. If I hang my happiness on temporal things, they will crumble (or be kicked to bits by a malicious Enemy). So I must be a "joy warrior" - for our strength is found wherever our joy is - and it is definitely a daily battle to cling tight to joy. I must hold out hope even as I hold out my hands, open in surrender, and sing a song of grateful praise that never stops, at all. I must persistently and consistently keep wrenching my focus and my trust away from crumbling sand castles and instead center my joy, and find my strength, in the Rock. "No one will take your joy from you" because I've already given it away - to Him, and no one can ever take anything from Him, for He is Sovereign King above all.

393. Storm-circling clouds with a sunny spot in the center - beautiful!
394. Two hours' talking and tea with Kristin and Heath
395. Three sets of sheets for Brooklyn's bed, and a washer and dryer for when that's not enough to get us through a week
396. Adam asking me "in" for a date night, then choosing a movie he knew I'd like and making dinner
397. Brooklyn's sheer delight at holding a pine cone on our walk

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him."
[Lamentations 3:22-24]

Won't you join us in counting (and recounting!) His mercies anew? Just grab a journal or notebook (it doesn't have to be fancy) and a pen and write them down, then join us in a weekly link-up to encourage each other by sharing all of the blessings we've spotted. Catch up on everyone's posts and add your own below (please stay relevant to the topic when linking up!) and if you don't have a blog, feel free to participate by commenting, instead!

Check out these #NewEveryMorning hosts, as well, and don't forget to use the hashtag on Twitter so that we can find each other:
   Kayla [at] Renown and Crowned
   Dolly [at] A Woman at Home
   Kelsey [at] Faith Fun and the Fergusons

Where are you tempted to entrust your joy to a source that's less than Jesus?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Busy Bee

Brooklyn's been staying occupied this week (no idea where she might have gotten that from ;) and she gets a little closer to not just pulling up, but stepping away from whatever she's standing against every day. (Sometimes she does try - and then she sits down firmly and unexpectedly, and is usually highly offended).

She came and tried to comfort me last week while I was sick - it really confused her that I was curled up on the couch, and why wouldn't I play with her? and ok then, she'll just come snuggle. It was really sweet (even in the stomach bugged moment).

And she bravely played by herself, occasionally looking over her shoulder at me, a little confused and a little reproachful. Look, Mummy, I have the shapes and I'm playing drums with them on the back of this book! Don't you want to join me?

Speaking of brave, she's begun to be exploratory, and since she can't see as much as she'd like to, the obvious solution is to climb something. She hasn't actually succeeded in climbing anything yet, but she'll get one foot up on it and then stand there uncertainly. OK... now what?

Anything that she can reach, she gets into with great enthusiasm. I heard the distinctive clink of my keys while cooking the other day, and turned to find her industriously rummaging through my purse. After she'd looked at everything, she moved on, curiosity satisfied. She also adores emptying the dishwasher, and throwing all of the silverware on the floor before I can get to it, or her.

Anything that she can't reach, she asks for. Imploringly and pathetically. Sadly, such tactics don't work on me - I give her a kiss and then take a picture of her, and explain why she can't have whatever-it-is (this week, it's been pizza, a knife, my cell phone, and a mug full of hot tea).

Adam, on the other hand, is probably a perfect target for such tactics (although I don't think she's tried them on him yet - it doesn't usually come to that). She just has to hold her hand and say, "Ah Da!" imperiously and he comes and lets her hold his fingers so that she can walk, or rescues her toy from under the crib, or reads the book she wants, or whatever.

She's developed a definite preference for books with stories - not the silly ones that are pictures labelled "cat" or "blue." She'll help me gather them all into a stack, and then scoot herself into my lap and we'll read them all. If we get to one that she doesn't want to read right then, she'll pull it out of my hands and lay it on the "read" stack, otherwise, she sits back and listens (except that there's one page of Snuggle Puppy where she always has to touch the dog's nose - and it bugs her that the font cover illustration of Baby Owls doesn't ever actually appear in the book. Every time we get to a similar picture, she looks at the cover to compare it).

She's going and growing like mad, and getting cuter every day. It's supposed to be warmer today than it has been, so I'm thinking about taking a blanket to the park and letting her explore grass and sticks and pine cones... we've playing with the same toys all Winter, but Nature is always changing and never gets boring.

What are you most looking forward to with the advent of warmer weather?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Apron Strings

First things first, mommy fashion! This week: headbands. And hats. Wonderful things that don't require a whole lotta hair fixin' (and cover the fact that your Tiny Person may have prevented you washing your hair for longer than you would like). I like them, too, because my slick-straight hair is difficult to style, so my options are to-ponytail-or-not-to-ponytail, the end. But headbands (and hats!) add a little variety to the line up. This particular one is my current favorite - it's from Joyn (a Good company), and if you're a Fayetteville resident, Mama Carmen's has a good selection.

It's been a kitchen-y-er week than usual (what of it I felt like standing up, at least). It's a little hard to do anything in kitchen because of Brooklyn (paradoxical child - she keeps me so busy that I can't take care of her), since she either wanders off to get into something the moment my hands are full, or hugs my ankles and sobs because she's on the floor and I'm standing there doing... something. Whatever it is, it must be fabulous, and she's totally missing out. I wish I could trust her not to fall off the counter - I think she'd like watching, and being up high.

Howe're it be, I did manage two successful experiments, both gluten-free and dairy-free... breakfast first: Peanut Butter Cup Muffins. (I did actually have step-by-step photos of this one, but I used Adam's camera and he needed to video something for work over the weekend and cleared the memory card, so...)

Mix up a box of your favorite muffin mix (I used King Arthur Flour's GF Muffin mix, replacing the butter with Earth Balance vegan butter and the milk with So Delicious coconut milk). Spoon a layer of the batter into the bottom of each muffin cup, then add a couple of teaspoons of chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life! mega chunks) and a spoonful of peanut butter (I used Earth Balance coconut peanut butter - the coconut oil helps it stay softer). Fill the cups with the rest of your batter, and bake according to mix directions. They're amazing straight out of the oven, and 15 seconds in the microwave will make the middles ooey-gooey again later.

And, a summer staple for me: Egg Sandwiches. My parents have chickens, and Adam's parents know farmers, so farm-fresh eggs are something that we always have plenty of.

Preheat a small skillet, then butter it (I used Earth Balance vegan butter). Lay a slice of deli meat (I like Applegate Farms') down first, then pour a beaten egg over that. You want it to fill the bottom of the skillet. Season to taste (we're suckers for Simply Organic's garlic salt and lemon pepper). Cook over medium heat until the top is no longer glossy, then flip and finish cooking (if you're not dairy-free, now would be a good time to add some cheese). Remove it to a plate, then rebutter your pan and lightly toast both sides of one or two slices of bread (I used bread from local Dempsey Bakery, but we also eat a lot of Udi's). Assemble - usually, the egg circle will fit almost perfectly if folded into quarters. I eat mine with a mug of Blue Diamond almond milk and a handful of Beanfield's chips - the nacho ones are still dairy-free, and they taste like Doritos (but are slightly more filling, so it's harder to eat the whole bag).

I'm still hoping to work in salads over the summer, and mentioned to Adam that I'd like a pot on the balcony to try growing lettuce in. He brought me a packet of seeds yesterday, and a promise to build me a planter box --- we'll see if I can overcome my distaste for dirt with the bribe of a freshly grown salad! I loved the variety in this packet (zinnias, cosmos, marigolds, lettuce, spinach, radishes, carrots, tomatoes, sweet peppers, cucumbers, squash, and onions) because we'll eat most of them (anyone want some tomato seeds?) and if all else fails, I've successfully grown cosmos and zinnias before so at least we can have a pretty planter.

Spring makes me want tea - it's the best way to overcome that awkward season where it's cold inside but you can't turn on the heater or it will be 80 by nightfall - so I cleaned out and reorganized my tea stash. Lately, my favorite Earl Grey has been supplanted by a coconut chai from Zhena's Gypsy Tea (fair trade and organic - and delicious!), but I'm also plotting some iced jasmine green once the weather gets consistently warmer...

If you're a tea drinker, what's your favorite? Also, easy meals that can be made in 20 minutes or less (because that's the longest Brooklyn will give me) - go!