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Monday, January 31, 2011

Marriage Monday: One Thing

I think a lot about my marriage: what I can do to improve it, what I'd like my husband to do, what its strengths are, its areas of opportunity, and so on.  I think a lot.  I pray some.  I do...well...not a lot.

I read books on marriage.  I listen to Bible teachings about marriage.  I talk with my friends about our concerns and we exchange ideas.  I even - gasp - talk to my husband about our marriage, when he let's me.  (He's not much of a talker.)  I have tons of lists of and ideas for small changes I can make that might make a big difference.

Let me break here to clarify something.  Our marriage is good.  We are happy and - usually - on the same page.  However, I believe if you're not growing, you're dying.  A marriage cannot thrive without constant care.

Dr. Randy Carlson of Intentional Living tells you to find one thing you can do for the next thirty days to be intentional in your marriage.

This is where this post is being redirected by God.  I was about to go into some ramblings about the things I've thought to do.  As it happened, however, I sighed up for the marriage newsletter while I was getting the link for Intentional Living.  (The link is on the right side of their page, a little bit down, if you're interested)  The first email came immediately.  I now feel compelled to share the highlights of this email, The Five Pillars for a Successful Marriage, as the jumping-off point for my marriage.

Pillar #1: Be able to communicate well and often

As I addressed earlier, I'm all for the often, but Mike, not so much.  As for the well, well, it depends on the situation.  We could both definitely spend some more time in this area.

Pillar #2: Be able to confront problems early and resolve them

Eh...I'm not really sure how we'd rate here.  Because of the communication issue, we're not always aware of problems right away.  And, since Mike doesn't like to talk, he doesn't bring up issues much, or he waits until it's stewed for a while.  I tend to be afraid to bring things up because I don't want the poor communication to make everything worse.  I think #1 will take care of #2.

Pillar #3: Be best friends

Got this.

Pillar #4: Be spontaneous

Getting better here.

Pillar #5: Be a "visioncaster" (Set goals and make plans)

Eh...here's another question mark.  We like to talk about the future and set vague, superficial goals.  Then our partnership takes an ugly turn.  I like to plan everything out to the last detail; Mike likes to wait and see.  I'm never satisfied, so Mike doesn't participate.  I can't really blame him.  I'm smelling an opportunity for compromise.

So, what's the one thing I can do intentionally for my marriage for the next thirty days?  I will work on communicating lovingly.  I'm sure I'll fail at times, when the kids have worn me down or the house is a mess or Mike's grouchy.  But, as Meredith, author of the blog The Positive Parenting Challenge, says, "Fulfillment is in the process, not the product."

Friday, January 28, 2011

Caterpillar Cuddly

Okay, so he's not that cuddly, but he is a plush toy, and the name went with "Butterfly Buddy."

I actually thought through my stuffing process before starting this time.  I also had the sense to attach my colored pieces to a single backer instead of trying to assemble them midair.  Both sides are the same, and other than the slightly fish-like head resulting from after-market eyes, he's slightly reminiscent of Eric Carle.  I had to add eyes to the original design because Ellie was disturbed by the lack of eyes on the dinosaurs.  After seeing them on the caterpillar, she asked me to put them on the butterfly.

handmade projects

Butterfly Buddy

Tonight Ellie brought me the dinosaurs I made her yesterday and asked me to make them into something else, Elmo.  (Now, I feel I should clarify that she was not saying she didn't like the dinosaurs but rather she didn't realize I have more materials from which to make other things.)

Well, I don't have any red felt, so I asked her what else she'd like.  She said, "green Elmo."  I asked for another idea, and she said, "red Elmo."  So Daddy interjected with, "What about a butterfly?"  Ellie: "Yeah!"  Then he felt the need to tack on, "and a caterpillar...The Very Hungry Caterpillar."  Thanks, Daddy.

I let Ellie pick the colors, right down to the floss, and she did a pretty good job.  I, on the other hand, should have gotten off my behind and gotten the pins I was too lazy to get.  Eh...Ellie won't care that he's lopsided.

As for the caterpillar?  Not tonight.  Three hours on a butterfly that should've taken about an hour is enough for one night.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


My kids LOVE dinosaurs.  I saw a tutorial on a craft blog about some cute MYO fleece dinosaurs.  Well, I don't have any fleece, and I wasn't about to take two children to the craft store.  What I do have is gobs of felt and floss.  So...

I drew up a form of a dinosaur and went to town.  I decided to make a set of two dinosaurs with contrasting embellishments.  Drawing the form wasn't too difficult for me.  (Sketching patterns freehand is the only type of drawing I do halfway decently.  Do not ask me to try to draw something that won't be cut out and traced.)  Cutting the felt proved a little harder because there were some tight corners in my design.  Assembling the dinosaurs was nothing.

The first dinosaur, a sort of stegosaurus, was just two forms and four triangles cut from the scraps.  I pinned the forms together and inserted the triangles about 3/16" in between the forms, pinning each triangle.  Then I sewed all the way around the form except for the belly, for stuffing.  DO NOT DO THIS.  I don't know what I was thinking.  Leave the back open, please please.  Not only did I have a bear of a time stuffing all the tight areas, I had to stuff the legs AS I WAS SEWING THEM.  Plus, I had to go back and reinforce all the sharp corners because I pulled them open while stuffing.  All the sharp corners are around the legs, of course.

The second dinosaur is a brontosaurus with his head down, or that's what I'm telling myself.  He required a bit more work because his embellishments, spots, had to be sewn onto each side individually.  (Then, when you make two right sides, which you will inevitably do if you try to multitask, you have to rip off the spots and reattach them the other way, and it will look nowhere as good as it did the first time.)  Since I hadn't learned of my stuffing error yet, I sewed all the way around except the belly.  DO NOT DO THIS.  That is worth repeating.  Please, please, leave the back open for stuffing.

I could have thrown these dinosaurs together in a couple of hours if I'd paid attention to what I was doing.  They are a great little set to accompany one of my daughter's favorite books, Oh My Oh My Oh DINOSAURS! by Sandra Boynton.

handmade projects

Monday, January 24, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

Meaty Monday - Eh...dining out
Tasty Tuesday - Chicken with Apples and Onions and cheesy broccoli
Wild Card Wednesday - Slow Cooker French Dip and Crock Pot Applesauce
Spaghetti Night - Simple Slow Cooker Picante Chicken with extra veggies (yeah...I know it's not pasta)
Free-For-All Friday - Leftovers, anyone?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Operation: Freezer Cleanout (A.K.A. Lessons in Menu Planning)

We are going on a trip, and our freezer - and pantry, for that matter - is full of things that won't last until we get back.  I kinda forgot about this until this week, so now I'm desperately trying to creatively construct meals - preferably with nutritious element from our culinary collection.

The first day, I cooked a frozen cheese pizza with fresh pepperoni and a pepperoni broccoli stirfry.  I also threw a box of yellow cake and a box of raspberry Jello together to make one of my favorite desserts ever, it was incredibly tasty and just as moist and wonderful as the blue cake I made for my mother-in-law.

Last night we had frozen chicken strips, frozen chicken nuggets, the sad leftovers of a bag of frozen onion rings, frozen tater tots, a box of frozen veggies and a can of baked beans.  Ellie and I had a nutritious meal.  My husband?  Well, he did eat a single onion ring along with his strips and tots.  Onions are veggies, right?  Oh!  I rounded out my meal with Martinelli's sparkling apple-grape juice.  Yum!  I followed the meal with some of the yummy raspberry cake.

For lunch, my mom requested frozen Hebrew National pigs in a blanket, so I reheated some of the baked beans and cooked frozen peas and carrots with butter, shallot salt and garlic pepper.  It was a rather tasty meal.  Of course, I also had a piece of raspberry cake.

Dinner tonight was frozen P.F. Chang's beef with broccoli and frozen spring rolls.  The P.F. Chang's meal is not the cheapest, about the same price as getting it at the restaurant, but it sure is tasty, and we can round out the meal for much cheaper than dining out.  I also baked some frozen tropical fruit with some honey.  I produced a yummy fruit concoction resembling a crisp without the crisp topping.  I'll have to remember this.

I knew we had a lot of food in the freezer, but I really had no idea.

Blue Rose of Birthday

(Okay...I know.  Bad play on words.)

My mother-in-law has a birthday this month, and we celebrated last weekend.  We don't generally do big birthday celebrations for adults, so I wanted to do something to make it special.  My mother-in-law loves blue food, the brighter the better.  I decided I was going to make her a blue cake with blue icing.

I found a recipe for Jello cake online.  I also found a recipe for Kool-Aid glaze, but I didn't really follow it.  If you need a recipe, follow the one with the Jello cake but substitute milk for water.  My wonderful husband went to five stores to find both blue Jello and blue Kool-Aid.  I can't believe it was that hard to find.  In the end, he still had the wrong Kool-Aid, but at least it did turn the glaze blue.  The cake was blue berry flavored (note: not blueberry), and the glaze was blue raspberry lemonade.  It took a ton of powdered sugar to tone down the lemonade tang.

My husband (did I mention he's wonderful?) suggested using a Bundt pan, and I elected to use the rose-shaped pan that my mother-in-law gave me in honor of my middle name: Rose.  The cake cooked up beautifully, and hubby completely drenched it with the glaze.  When cut, it wasn't as blue as I had hoped (and the camera makes it look really yellow green), but you could tell it was supposed to be blue.  The cake was moist and subtle, and the glaze added a slightly crunchy, tangy-sweet contrast.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tough Love Tuesday: Rejoice in your hope

If you've read my past posts, you know I love it when God exercises tough love on me, so I'm trying out a new post theme name.

This is a journal entry from November 30, 2010, a few days before Mikey's open-heart surgery.  (It's a little choppy because I was very emotional and not edited for grammar in an attempt to keep the original sentiment intact.  It takes a lot of work to reign in my rambling.)

Tonight I started to cry about the surgery.  I said many of the same things I've said over and over, like, "What if Your plan is to take him?"  (Because I always have faith in His plan.)

I've been praying constantly, which is what I feel God is calling me to do.

Then it spilled that I'm scared.  I felt a release as I said those words out loud, hands clasped.  I cried a bit longer, when a verse popped into my head - or part of a verse, since my brain - or God's message - stopped after the key part: "rejoice in your hope" (Romans 12:12). 

[For what it's worth, the last part, "pray constantly" I was already in the thick of, and the middle, "be patient in tribulation," has been my subconscious homework of late.]

That's it! I forgot to hope!  Last time, God did exactly as I asked, to every last detail.  Why wouldn't He answer my prayer this time?  Sure, His plan is best, but His plan could be for me to ask so He can answer.  (Duh.)

~ Rejoice in your hope ~

Incidentally, earlier today, a page on facebook asked its followers what verse they turn to in times of trial (interesting synchronicity, eh?).  I immediately though of two: Ephesians 5:20 and Romans 12:12.  Ephesians 5:20 speaks of giving thanks in everything.  A few weeks ago, Anna Duggar spoke of always thanking God.  After that, I saw mention of this verse time and time again.  I took the hint and made it my homework.  Romans 12:12 has been my favorite verse for a while because it feels like me: optimistic, enduring - at least in child health concerns, and prayerful; I feel the most secure when all three elements are in balance.  I made it a memory verse one night (no doubt a divine suggestion), and opportunity to share it has come up over and over.  God is great...if not a little sneaky.

So this verse from Romans has been playing through my head all day, no doubt in preparation for my need for it tonight.  Sneaky Power of the universe...

Ephesians playing through my head showed its value on Thanksgiving.  I was in a bad mood about "everyone" ditching us.  Mom, out of the blue, asked me to give the blessing.  Since I was such a crab, and we never do this, I know God prompted her.  I was immediately humbled.  As I prayed a clumsy prayer, I hit a rhythm, thanking God for those who were with us and those who weren't.  It felt like the words came out of my mouth beyond my control.  Maybe they did.

Friday, January 7, 2011


Ellie never put anything in her mouth, so I was not prepared for this.

(In fact, we've let Ellie play with 3+ toys since she was less than a year old.)

Mikey isn't even allowed to play with many under-three toys.

So when Ellie either dropped or gave him a penny today, I was clueless...until he puked it back up in the presence of the firemen.  Yes, firemen.

He choked.  He couldn't breath for a few seconds.  He continued to labor for breath for a couple minutes.  By the time the fire truck got here, he was calm and only choked when he breathed deeply or sharply, but I knew it wasn't over.  At this point, I had no idea on what he choked; there was nothing in his vicinity except for some dried-out rogue peas he threw on the floor the other day.  I thought he maybe had aspirated some vomit.  Whether he was choking or drowning, I knew I couldn't risk driving him to the hospital myself.

The firemen arrived and set up shop to assess him.  His numbers checked out, and he looked fine.  He was horribly congested, though, to which one firemen asked, "Does he sound congested to you?"  (Um...yes...duh?).  Then he asked if it was normal for him to be so congested.  (Um...no...I already told you that's why I called 911?)  Stupid questions aside, he was a very nice, competent EMT.  (Well, aside from not having a tongue depressor.  Or a light to check his pupils.  These guys were really ill equipped!  Anyway...)  He got a tongue depressor and attempted to wedge it in Mikey's clamped jaw, an action which upset Mikey so much he proceeded to puke, and...hello, penny!  Mystery solved.

Mikey was immediately better.  No more congestion.  No more labored breathing.  He even started to warm up to the EMTs, smiling and waving.  The fireman who appeared to be in charge called a doctor to see if he'd approve us refusing transport, which he did.  I chose to drive us to the ER, now that I was confident Mikey was well, so that I wouldn't have to deal with both kids at the hospital.  (Mike could meet me sooner if he didn't have to go get my car.)

[While I was answering questions for the report, I heard a couple of the guys talking about something at the side of our house, but I didn't think anything of it.  Apparently, they dumped our bucket of water-soaked, used fireworks, no doubt looking for illegal fireworks.  You'd think they'd say something about the search, even though they had probable cause.  They also nosed through my first floor, probably because I acted like I didn't want them in my messy house.  They were nice, though.  They even offered to change my preschooler's nasty diaper.  I just couldn't let them suffer through that, though.]

As expected, at the hospital, they gave Mikey a chest X-ray and checked his oxygen saturation.  Everything was fine.  The Mikey bank, as the PA called him, was empty.  Mikey was even eating crackers and taking a bottle like nothing ever happened.

So...Did I learn anything?  Hmmm...  I did learn one thing:  Flylady is right when she tells you to always be prepared.  You never know when you'll have six firemen and four paramedics in your dining room!