Thursday, April 30, 2009

I Changed My Mind...

I've been having one of those weeks of small discoveries. Silly things, but it makes me laugh at myself a bit. As the years pass, I find myself more willing to revisit things I disliked before; either out of necessity, curiosity, or opportunity.

Recently, it's stemmed from a desire to be more budget-conscious and less wasteful. I've never liked leftovers, but I've discovered how much money you can save when you stretch a meal 2 nights or for lunch. The next night is also freed up to play with the kids, pick up before dinner, or make a small dessert instead. I've always thought bananas overwhelmed foods, so I didn't put them in smoothies. Aldi has big bunches of bananas cheap, so I buy them and use them in smoothies - it avoids waste and gets more fruit in Ella. The other night we went to Steak n Shake (a very popular fast food restaurant here). Everyone loves it, but Tim and I have always been disappointed. In fact, we'd just told our friends days before that we didn't really like their fries or burgers, but the shakes were pretty good. The fries smelled so good, so we ordered some...small and crispy (very little potato flavor). I thought, "Wait, these are good." I prefer to shop at a lovely, well-ordered grocery store with a myriad of choices. I detest the Walmart experience. But I live in a small town with few choices and I finally decided to heed Heather's advice. Now I shop at the local Aldi with it's 25 cent (refundable) shopping carts, store brand only, debit card/cash policy, and bring your own shopping bags experience. It's inconvenient, but it saves money and the produce is outstanding. Rather than focusing on the inconvenience, I savor the savings and run to Walmart for the stuff I can't buy at Aldi. Now Aldi is growing on me and I wonder if the other stores truly offer a better experience.

These things are trivial, but funny because I'm such a talker. I love to read and try things and talk to people about it. I'll share my current, passionate reaction, not worrying about how future information might change my opinion. This sometimes puzzles, sometimes annoys, and sometimes gives someone else a good chuckle. I'm not fickle - I'm not constantly changeable. But I used to worry about having to admit that I changed my mind. Now I think it's a good thing to admit. We should be changeable as new experiences come into play. So, I've regularly said that bananas overwhelm food. I make banana bread for my family and still don't like it when I try it. But balanced right in smoothies, they're okay. Maybe I'll find a banana bread recipe that will change my mind...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Family Home Evening

Even though my children are small and our lessons are often simple, I have come to love Family Home Evening (FHE). For those unfamiliar with FHE, this is an evening (usually Monday) set aside to spend time together as a family. As the kids get older, they help with the evening, which usually involves a prayer, song, spiritual lesson, activity, and treat. I always loved being in charge of the song or the treat as a kid - I'm sure we sang "I am a Child of God" every time it was my turn!

With small kids, FHE is generally short and sweet, but it's a great opportunity to spend time together without any distractions. Ella is learning to pray and loves singing time. We do small lessons on simple topics, such as "family" or "Jesus" or tell a story from the scriptures. Lately, we've been talking about how Aunt Kelli is on a mission to the Phillipines. Whenever we sing, "I Hope they Call me on a Mission," Ella says, "Aunt Kelli is on a mission. She is in the Phillipines." Tim taught her that - he's the proudest brother ever.

Last night, we had strawberry shortcake with fresh strawberries and shortcakes I made that evening. Ella and I often make the dessert together, which is (usually) a fun time as well. We sang some songs and then Tim suggested that we watch Elder Holland's talk "None were with Him" from our church's most recent General Conference. A clip of this talk was on Youtube recently and many people shared it on facebook.

I am so grateful Tim thought to have us watch this beautiful, reverent Easter message together. I cried a bit as I listened to Elder Holland recall the final day of the Savior's life. As I considered the emotional and physical pain He must have experienced, I was overwhelmed by gratitude and love. I know that He suffered and died so that I might return to live with my Heavenly Father again. I also know that it is up to me to take advantage of the atonement. I am profoundly grateful for my Savior's example and the knowledge I have that He lives!

As I looked over at my husband at the close of Elder Holland's incredible message, I saw that his eyes were a bit wet too. It is such a gift to have a shared faith with my husband and to share our testimony of Jesus Christ with each other. Over the past 5 years or so, I've truly come to understand that living gospel principles and following the Savior brings such joy, fulfillment, and opportunities for growth.

I look forward to many more Family Home Evenings with my family throughout the years. It has truly helped my family strengthen our bond, share our faith, and enjoy quality time together. It's such an incredible way to start the week!

Ella searches for eggs during our FHE Easter Egg Hunt a couple of weeks ago.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Cozy Coupe of Her Own

I know I've been posting like crazy this week, but I've simply had some fun photo opportunities with the kids. I feel like blogging will be like this for me - nothing to really post for a week, then 3 things to potentially post in a day.

Anyone who's spent time around me lately had heard me talking about the Little Tikes Cozy Coupe. I searched garage sales all last summer and I do not enjoy garage saling. But Ella has loved these little cars ever since she learned to walk and found them in friend's garages. She's drawn to them and doesn't have very many outdoor toys (Tim would disagree), so I've wanted to find one for her.

I finally decided it was simply time to suck it up and purchase one. My sweet friend Heather found one in the Toys R Us ad on sale, so we headed out to Springfield to purchase one Wednesday. Honestly, it was so fun to go out and purchase something just because I wanted to, not because of a holiday. I have truly cut back on my spending habits the last few years, so this felt incredibly freeing! We arrived home from Springfield at naptime, so I had plans to be the coolest mom ever and put it together during naptime. This was not to be. Tons of reviews from parents online said this was a durable toy that their children adored, but assembly is a nightmare. Boy, were they right! Even patient Tim got annoyed with it that night. It might have been worth th $10 to get Toys R Us to put it together!

Ella woke up yesterday morning and found the car in the hallway outside her room. Such a treat! When Ezra took his morning nap, we went out in the front yard and played with it. I see hours of summer fun with the car in our future!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tummy Time Crack Up

Ezra's starting laughing more lately and I love it! He has the cutest little laugh and moves his arms and legs in excitement. This afternoon, I would simply look his way and Ezra would just start cracking up. I wish I had a video camera, but I did get these fun photos of him having a great time on his tummy. When he would get fussy on his tummy, I'd roll him over, we'd play and celebrate, then we'd try his tummy again.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hmmm...What's this?

Ezra had his first taste of rice cereal the other day. With Ella, we waited until 5 months based on doctor's recommendation, but these things are always changing. When I took him in for his 4 month appointment, the doctor said we could go ahead and introduce it to him and see if he's ready. He's doing a great job with nursing and just seemed ready to try out solids. I guess I'm ready too - I like when solids start to cut down on nursing a bit and help babies sleep a bit better, although this will be a bit down the road, I think. Right now, he's just trying the new texture out.

Since I tried solids out in the morning, I couldn't really get a good picture of the spoon in his mouth, but here he is reacting to the new sensation! I turned my back to get the camera and Ella grabbed the spoon to feed him. Unfortunately, she shoved the spoon a bit far into his mouth and made the poor guy gag. She always wants to "help" and meant well, so it was a struggle to be firm in letting her know she can't feed him without mommy, without discouraging her desire to help.

I also took a few photos of Tim with the kids during our Family Home Evening last night. I love it when Ella holds Ezra's hand and talks to him. I didn't get the camera in time, but just before these photos, Ezra was grinning from ear to ear because of her attentions.

The kids simply love it when Dad comes home (me too!). I love to see them together. It's been nice for me to go out for my calling at church and my Scentsy business - it gives me the opportunity to get some of the "Mommy's home!" excitement, so I don't have to be jealous of the "Daddy's home!" enthusiasm that occurs each night at our house.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

4 Months and Topping the Charts!

Ezra went in for his 4-month check-up this morning. Our "little" guy is happy, healthy, and doing well. He tops the charts at 17 lbs 12 oz and 27 1/2 inches tall. The nurse told me this was 95th percentile for weight and 100th for height. He definitely has his Dad's long torso - this height does not come from me! He actually looks less chubby to me than Ella did, but is still round and cuddly. I adore the rolls on his legs and his double chin. He has a tooth coming in right up front on the bottom and it's making him drool like crazy. The next big question: What color will his eyes be?

We also saw a new doctor today and I was so comfortable with her. When Ella was sick in the hospital with pneumonia, the two part-time female doctors from the practice were on call. I loved their bedside manners, the way they interacted with Ella, they way she responded so positively to them, and my increased comfort level around them. The doctor we saw before was nice, but I didn't notice the same positive rapport with him. Since there is only one pediatric practice in our town, I was so glad that the doctors were open to letting us make this switch. I had an initial trepidation about offending the other doctor, but he has a healthy practice and is a well-loved doctor for many. I'm sure it was no big deal to have us switch to the newer physician in the practice with a smaller patient load.

Having a pediatrician that you and your children are comfortable with is so essential. I was so sad to leave our physician behind in Washington when we moved. She always created an atmosphere that felt as if she had all of the time in the world, no question was too small, and she truly cared about my child. When I saw the potential for that again, I decided to ask if it would be okay to switch and it felt so good to speak up and do what was right for my family.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The New Facebook: My Frenemy

I've been using facebook for less than a year and it's already on it's second layout update. This latest update has caused quite a stir; many people instantly hated it. I've been intrigued by the new layout, certain it had to be an improvement somehow, but not sure how to best utilize it. When I discovered quite by accident one day how to connect my blog to upload as a note on facebook each time I create a post, I was thrilled! No more posting on my blog and then potentially posting the same thing on facebook. I still create photo albums on facebook, simply because it's easier to create a slideshow that way.

Yesterday, I decided to figure out the whole newsfeed/homepage thing. Since facebook changed the layout, I've felt like I only see updates from the people who constantly change their status. Since only so many updates fit in the feed, I was seeing updates from people I haven't talked to in person for 10 years and missing updates from my family. I am, of course, interested in the old friends, but this new feed felt very limiting.

Maybe I'm just slow to figure things out, but I decided to explore the left-hand side of the page again. I'd figured out that I can see people's notes and photos seperately there, but how could I control the news feed? Then I realized I could create my own sections on the left and filter the updates. My categories are pretty basic: May family, Farmer family, Work friends, Church freinds, school friends, local friends. The categories are pretty arbitrary, but now I can click on these categories and quickly see updates from a small sub-section of my friends. This is not to imply that I have so many friends, this just makes facebook more manageable and less time consuming.

I am excited to keep playing with the new layout and hope that I'll find more discoveries like these!

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Little Bit of Ezra

I wanted to share a few recent pictures of Ezra, just because he's so darn cute and I've done so many Ella posts lately. Ezra is such a sweetheart. He's been sick for over a week, we dragged him to Chicago, it's still cold outside, and he's doing his best to smile through all of it. I am so grateful for my little guy and I love to watch him grow. He's just now 4 months and weighed in at 17.14 lbs during his last visit for a virus. He'll go in for his 4 month check-up this Wednesday, so I'll know all the details then. He's started playing on the exersaucer, is dying to roll over, and should be sitting on his own any time now. I love the way he watches Ella and smiles when she plays with him. He cracked me up this weekend because he kept staring at his Dad and then giving him this delighted grin every time Tim looked his way. Is my momma's boy turning into a daddy's boy?!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter Package from Grandma Cathy

My mom made our day with a special Easter package! We were truly spoiled today. She is such a loving Grandma.

I told mom a few weeks ago about Ella's new love of ballerinas. She's been going around our house dancing, declaring, "I'm a Ballerina!" Mom instantly decided Ella needed a tutu and set to both buying one and making one. She sent us an Easter package with the tutus and has been eagerly awaiting it's arrival. The package came today and we were delighted with all of the presents inside!

Ella found 2 tutus - one pink and one red, two crowns, and a wand to play dress-up, as well as a ballerina nightgown.
Ella trying out her new dress-up toys.
I love how proud she is to show her Daddy.
"I'm a ballerina!"
What position is this one, exactly?

Mommy "wore" the red tutu so we could dance together.
She'd say to me, "Spin, Mommy!"
We put on her ballerina nightgown, too, and she ran and danced around the house.
My mother is so thoughtful and takes such good care of us. I fell in love with these lovely children's books by a British author named Shirley Hughes recently. I asked my family if they'd keep an eye out for them at used book stores so I could collect them. Sure enough, there was a Shirley Hughes book for me in the package! Along with the dress-up clothes, we received stickers, books, and clothes for the kids. Not to be left out, Ezra received a little bull dog of his own for Easter.

We love receiving packages from Grandma, whether they're boxes like this one, or a card with to say "hello"and stickers. Thanks Mom - We Love You!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Ella's Pacifier Intervention

Ella is one of those kids who simply loves her pacifier, or paci (packy), as she calls it. We've relegated the paci to naptime and bedtime only for quite some time. Ella resisted at first, but she's handed it over and said, "Only for night-night" when we've caught her with it. We've wanted to get rid of it, but to be honest, we were all kind of dependent on it. I mean, when your kid will go to bed with no fuss just to have her paci, it's difficult to give it up. It's been a source of comfort for her for a long time.

We visited our friends, the Kelley's, in Chicago early this week. We realized that the paci was in the car when bedtime rolled around. Ella and Paige were having a sleepover, so Mandy suggested this might be the time to let the paci go. I had a lot of trouble listening to Ella ask for the paci, but Tim was willing to stand firm. He told her there that Chicago was "paci-free." I was so surprised when she slept through the night without it the first night and then again the second night! I'm so thankful our friends were patient with a little whining.

We went to the Pier on Tuesday and visited the Chicago Children's Museum (more pics and blogging to come later). As we walked toward the museum, we saw a Build-a-Bear store. A few people have recommended creating a "paci bear" to say adios to the pacifier. We decided to play at the museum, enjoy lunch, then build-a-bear. Tim and Ella went to get the paci out of the van and Tim explained that we didn't need the paci anymore and we were going to make a special animal. Ella picked out a bunny at the store and had a few last sucks on the paci before our turn came up.
The saleslady showed her where her paci would go. Ella didn't like this idea.

I wish she'd been willing to place the paci in the bunny herself, but she didn't resist much when we finally did. If the store had been less crowded, I might have waited longer for her to do it. Of course, I'm not sure she was ever going to shove that paci in the bunny.

She enjoyed picking out a heart and had the bunny kiss it instead of kissing it herself.

She got over the paci going inside and got into watching the heart go in pretty quickly. By the way, her hair was in pigtails that she pulled out, hence the interesting style.

Once the bunny had stuffing, it was cool to see the saleslady sew him up.

I like how possessive she looks in this picture.

After they finished making him, Daddy helped her give him a bath.

Ella and Paige checked out all of the accessories for the animals. Maybe an outfit next time.

We made a birth certificate and named her new friend "Paccy." She loved carrying the little house around with Paccy inside.

The proud new bunny owner carried her house back to the Museum.

She didn't have a nap that afternoon, so she was tired on the drive home and wanted her paci. We kept encouraging her to snuggle Paccy instead. She'd rather have her paci, but the bunny is nice too.

Ella has since asked for the paci and we just tell her she now has Paccy Bunny to cuddle. You can actually feel the pacifier inside and she's asked us to take it out, but we just tell her she's a big girl and doesn't need it anymore. Now Ella sleeps with 2 bunnie; Paccy and her little pink bunny.

I think Ella new it was time to give the pacifier up. Although she didn't want to let it go, she didn't fuss much and has adjusted well. She slept fine last night and this afternoon in her own bed without the pacifier, and that was the true test. I am so excited to finally be rid of the pacifier!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Things You Never Properly Say "Thank You" For

I put in the video from our wedding day a couple of days ago. We have a slideshow of pictures included with it that we showed at the reception. It includes photos of us as kids and during our engagement. I wanted to see if I could pull a few pics out to compare with the kid's photos. I wasn't able to get the pictures from the video, but I loved watching the slideshow again. Since the video was already in, I decided to watch it as well.

Tim and I have been married 4 1/2 years now and I've watched this video a few times over the years. I was suprised this time, however, by the emotion that swept through me. There's something lovely about seeing yourself on your wedding day, eyes shining, enormous grin, delighted in everything. Every other time I've watched myself, I've seen something to critique or a detail I would change. This time, I thought, "Look at those beautiful hair was pretty...I love the decorations...isn't this wonderful?" I suppose I'm far enough removed now to simply enjoy the day as something wonderful and leave all those critiques behind.

My favorite part of the video is seeing all of our family and friends. My neices and nephews and my brother-in-law Ben are so young. Alessia looks shy, Rilyn looks bored, and Aiden is a little bit crazy. Our mothers look beautiful and Tim's Dad is handsome. This will sound funny because it hasn't been that long and Tim is not "old," but he looks so young to me. I love the shots of Tim and his best man, Ezra, together. My wonderful friends Kelly, Becky, and Rochelle are there. We are surrounded by our aunts, uncles, and cousins who've sacrificied a lovely Saturday afternoon to attend our wedding.

I was especially suprised by my emotional reaction to the video showing my family putting together the finishing touches before the reception. Everything feels like a blur when it's your wedding day, but they clearly put in so much work. And I'm certain that we didn't thank them nearly enough. I especially loved seeing my wonderful brother-in-laws putting lights in the lanterns that I know were a pain to hang. They were such troopers that day - I know decorating for a reception was not their favorite thing.

I know this post is corny and nostalgic, but that's okay. 4 1/2 years later, I feel the urge to say, "Thank You!" again to everyone who made that day so wonderful for Tim and I. We are blessed to come from such wonderful, loving families. Watching this video made me miss our families so much! I love being married and it was so sweet to take a look at where it all began.