Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Zoe Valentine: 7 Months and Shining

Dear Zoe
Every day you grow. Some days I look at you in the morning and think to myself, you look different than you did last night. Your eyes are bright, full of life. Your smile shines and sparkles as if you have a surprise to share with everyone around you. You laugh and giggle and you make life here more full than I could ever imagine.
My little one, you are getting so big that the days of me being able to hold you all the time are going to come to an end. But that is okay, because you are wanting to spend less time there anyways. You are crawling. You really want to stand and walk. You pull yourself up on anything. You still spend hours wrapped up tight in the baby carrier against me or snug in my arms. You still sleep next to me where I can hear your breathing and know that you are safe. I cherish this time like nothing else.
Zoe, I want to tell you something really important. I am your mom, not your boss. Right now you seem to know that I am not really the one in charge. While I make most decisions for you, you are already making a lot of decisions on your own. Like when you decide to smile so bright it lights up the whole room and draws people to you wherever you go. Or when you decide to try again after you have plopped down on your bottom again and again. I can never give you the determination and drive and passion that will fuel you through life and make it full from beginning to end. I can model it, I can encourage it, but in the end, you will have to look inside yourself and make those decisions on your own. You already do. You have a wonderful attitude about life.
Yes, I make a lot of decisions, like if and when to get shots and when we leave the house and occasionally I have a say about bed time.  But you are already and forever will be the boss of you. You decide when to smile and laugh and when to cry. As you grow you will have more and more ability to let yourself shine, and I hope to never stifle that. I hope you know that you are a daughter of God. That you are loved by God, by mom and by dad and by so many many others. I hope you know that to the deepest depths of your soul. And then I hope that when you turn and look at others, you will see that same beauty and divinity within them.
Zoe, I love you. I love you I love you I love you. I can't say it enough.

Thank you for being you today and forever.

Love mom.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Drop in the Pond

Hello there friends! A couple days ago someone told me they read my blog and they really enjoyed it. I may have turned ten shades or red as I processed the compliment. Woah, people read these words I put down on paper! They like it? Wait! what did I write? How embarrassing was it? Did I talk about my pants ripping a hole in the butt? Hold on a second! They said they liked it. Breathe. They probably didn't see that post. Stop panicking. Relax. Smile.

This is a happy thing for me. Thank you friends for being here!

One of my goals this year has been to give back to the community more. Now this isn't one of those SMART goals that I can measure and check of my list and have the way to go you accomplished something feeling by the end of the year. I am hoping I will be able to feel the difference and see the difference in deeper friendships and just by seeing more good around me. And you know what, maybe I won't be able to tell the difference at all. But I will know that I gave my time and love to those around me and those in need and that will be enough.

One way I want to be more involved is by supporting a non profit every month. Most of you know that I joined doTerra at the end of last year and started teaching about essential oils and how they can help life be better. They have been life changing for me and so I'm sharing what I've learned. Well, as I've been doing this, I've had the desire to give some of the money I'm making back to support  of the causes that I feel are much to important to be ignored. So every month this year I will be donating at least 10% of anything I make to charity. Each month I will support a different organization filled with passionate people making the world better.

This month I will be supporting Operation Underground Railroad, or OUR Rescue. Short and simple they rescue kidnapped children from slavery. You can read more about their successes on their blog. Some of their operations save just child; some save over 100 children. Each mission costs about 20 grand, so it takes a lot of money and can be pretty dangerous for all involved. The people that go in to rescue the children are all former Navy Seals, CIA Agents, Special Agents etc. So they have the right skill set to rescue these kids. And on top of having the right skills, they pray for the children they rescue - they seek God's help as they are seeking to do his work. I love that.

I know that my donation won't even pay the price for the tiniest bit of one mission, and because it seems small and insignificant compared to what is needed I almost didn't choose this group even though I love what they do.

But then I thought of my sister in law and I knew what she would say if I were to speak my doubts out loud. I know because  I've heard her say it before. She would remind me that there is no small way to serve, that one small donation can combine with many other small donations to literally save a child's life.

She would remind me that a difference to one child is the difference to a child of God who is of infinite value and worth every ounce of effort and love that many people will give to make his or her rescue possible.

And she would remind me that children are the most vulnerable, the most deserving of our limited ability to give.

So I chose this group because they are serving in an important way.

Since this is my first month doing this, I will also be giving $1 for everyone who signs up for my email list. So even if you can't give, I will give a little for you. So jump on over here and sing up. In that newsletter you will get updates on our family, healthy living insights and more. I hope you'll join. Thanks!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Spicy (or not so spicy) Sausage Potatoes

You guys, I feel so grateful right now. A couple weeks ago I shared one of my favorite recipes, banana bread in a blender, and I was just looking on pinterest, and it has been pinned 200 times. What? Thank you! I put a lot of work into tweaking recipes to make them fit my picture of both healthy and delicious and it means so much to me that you shared this with your friends. I really hope you are enjoying it as much as we do here.

Today I wanted to share another recipe that we really love. Imagine me making a picture of a heart with my hands while I say that because I just did that. This one started as a pasta, but the one day I started making it and realized I was out of pasta, but had potatoes laying around. So went a little crazy and did a little switcharoo and now its made with potatoes. Man life is crazy around here. Luckily it turned out good enough we all wanted more.

Spicy Sausage Potatoes 

1 T olive oil
1 lb smoked turkey sausage  (I like kielbasa too!)
2 onions
2 cans diced tomatoes with green chiles if you like spicy or Italian seasoning if you don't
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup cheese 
6 or 7 golden potatoes 
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp garlic

Okay so this is pretty easy.

1. I start by chopping up those onions and sausage.  Then I throw them in the pot with the olive oil to get nice and warm and tender. Oooh the goodness.
2. While that goodness is going on, cut potatoes to about one inch cubes. Throw them and the chicken broth and tomatoes into the pot. (good luck mastering the art of throwing liquids, it's a gift.) Let cook for about 15 minutes until they are soft.
3. Add milk, cheese and garlic right before you take it off the burner. At this point I move it into a cute casserole dish and throw it in the oven to broil for a minute to make it look even yummier. When I'm not taking pictures,  I just skip that step and eat it. Fewer dishes to wash sister!
4. Tadah! you have made yourself a very yummy and pretty dang healthy dinner. Sit down and enjoy.
Oh and it only took one pot. One pot wonder!
Alternatively, if you want to be a little bit crazy, you could just throw it in the cute casserole dish from the beginning and make at 350 for half and hour. And then it would be in the cute dish and still be a one pot wonder. Life life on the crazy side!

Oh and if you have been wondering how life has been with less technology, it has been less stressful and by moving that stress out of the way, we made room for more laughter and playfulness, which is making me even more crazy about these people that I live with. Technology = a wonderful gift. Limiting Technology = an even better gift.

Hi from us!

Monday, January 5, 2015

One good thing

Zac and I spent the first few days of the New Year in the absolute best way possible. We got out of town and explored a new city. To be fair, it was only sorta new, Zac goes to Seattle every month, but since it's work he doesn't get to do the touristy stuff, so it was only sorta new.

Even though it was a few weeks late, we were there to celebrate our anniversary. When you are celebrating something exciting, everything takes on this magical sparkly aura. Did you see that tall building? It's so fancy. Did you see that building over there and that one here? I love them ALL.

Things like taking the elevator up to see a new perspective of an already new place seems life changing.

But the thing is, it isn't. Because after a few days of a great vacation, you get back in your car and you drive home. Nothing has really changed. You still have every bad habit, every ounce of stress, every distraction waiting for you when you get back home. So while a few empty crevices might have been temporarily filled up and be full of love and happiness, nothing has stopped them from draining.

But luckily God was looking out for us, because not only was this a magical few days of exploring and playing like we were newlyweds, but it was life changing in a more permanent way too.
God has a funny way of looking out for us sometimes. For example, when we were moving to Portland it was late and we had a long long day of driving and we were all tired. I was behind the wheel begging Zac to talk to me so I wouldn't fall asleep, but he has this quiet voice and Zoe was sleeping and he didn't want to yell to me and wake her up so he was quiet. So I turned my begging to God, 'help me stay awake help me stay awake help me stay awake it's only 5 more freaking minutes. We have to get there' and then out of the blue there's flashing lights and a cop behind us. And BAM nobodies got time to sleep when your talking your way out of a ticket or saying Thank you for doing your job today officer!
Well, God has a way of answering prayers. This time I had been praying for help staying awake too. Not in the sense of not sleeping, but help me stay awake and be present and be here with my family instead of there but not really there. Because when I start getting bored or over stimulated or just even a tiny bit whelmed - it doesn't even have to be overwhelmed, there is this wonderful retreat called checking my phone. The phone where checking a text turns into checking facebook and pinterest and reading 2 blog posts about being present but that are actually causing me to do the exact opposite oh and how are all the girls in my mommy groups and wait I was supposed to text someone?
So God answered my prayer with the help of a drooly baby who happens to think that phones make her gums feel like happy, so naturally you should put them in your mouth. And even though this phone has been used as a chew toy every day since little fingers could curl themselves around said phone, this time, this time when I'd been feeling disconnected and lost and knowing that I was missing wonderful moments that could happen but weren't because I just wasn't really there, this time, when I'd been praying for help, that drool found it's way into the phone and BAM. It was broken.
And this is the greatest gift  I could be given before setting off for a few days with my little family. Because all of a sudden, there was nothing and no one but Zac and Zoe  and the sunset and the food and the walking and the talking, especially the talking. The whole thing was just magical. It filled all those spaces of disconnectedness in my soul. I had no idea how much I needed some time to just be right there in the moment, living my life instead of waiting as it to passes by.
Well, while I was off living my life, loving my people, my phone was becoming best buddies with a bag of rice. The rice went to work pulling all that drool out of the phone and a couple days later I had something that, really I do need. I mean how am I supposed to get anywhere without a gps. Some of our map reading skills are questionable around here.
But on the way home, we had the most wonderful conversation .It went like this.
Me: I like this, this being together and being together thing. Let's turn our technology off in the evenings.
Zac: OK

and just like that a little bit more of our life was given back to us. 

And now we can celebrate all those moments that wouldn't have happened, like the before bed family snuggle, the kiss at the front door the giggles, especially the giggles.

Happy new years everyone!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Zoe Valentine: 6 Months

Dear Zoe,

It's momma again. You are 6 months old now, and my have you changed since the last time I wrote. Right now you are so curious. It's as if the world has become a magical place full of things to explore. Instead of laughing and giggling when we show you something new, you furrow your brows and concentrate fiercely as if there is nothing else more important than understanding everything about that object. You must hold it in your hands, taste it and discover all the details of whatever object it is. You have been working hard on coordination and you are getting so good at making those fingers bend around the object you are after. Your diligence in learning this skill is definitely paying off.

You sit like a champion. It happened almost over night. One day you were wobbly and I barely looked away because I didn't want you to hit your head when you topppled, the next day you were just fine. It may have something to do with that cupcake toy grandma got you. Oh you love that little cupcake oven.
Your laugh is contagious. You laugh a lot, but especially before bed. You love getting into pajamas, mostly the being naked part. Something about having your clothes off makes you giggle and giggle and giggle. Silly baby.
Your hair is still pretty short, which is too bad because daddy got you these cute little barrettes. I don't think he noticed the they said they were for age 3+ probably because you actually need hair to use them, unlike most babies. But it was a sweet thought. It's even sweeter how he picks you up and tries to do your hair so they will stay in. You still need a little time though, but you are enjoying having a dad who dotes over his little girl. You are clearly his pride and joy.

This month you had more visitors, Grandma L and Grandpa P came to visit. You had so much fun with them. It's really special to see how they adore you You have such a way or warming people's hearts
One more thing  before this letter is over. I want you to know that you have all of our love, from both me and daddy. You are perfect. You can do nothing in life to make us love you more or less. We don't expect you to be the smartest in your classes someday or the most brilliant athlete. What we hope is that you shine radiantly as you, that we are able to support you in pursuing your dreams no matter what they are.
Love you Zoe,

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

When Family Comes to Town We Celebrate Early

mmmm. Can you feel Christmas in the air yet? Can you smell the cinnamon and hot chocolate as the crisp air nips at your nose?

 oooOOOo I do love everything about Christmas.

Even when it is 45 degrees out, meaning there is no air nipping at noses and I haven't even had a cup of hot chocolate this season. None of the lack of typical Christmas ques prevented us from celebrating a couple weeks early. In fact, I really love Christmas when it is 45 degrees at and celebrated a couple weeks early, because that means something special is going on.

My mom came to town this week. And there is NOTHING better than family during the Holidays to make it feel special. Even Santa got on board with the whole celebrating early thing. 

6 Awesome things that happened this weekend.

1. Seeing my mom. Every year that goes by, I am more and more in awe that I lucked out to have her as my mom. I think as a teenager, I didn't really appreciate the example of faith and hard work and dedication that is my mom. I very much admire her more and more all the time.

2. Zoe seeing Santa Clause. They got a long like old pals. She especially loved his beard. What is that on your face Santy Clause?

3. Babies opening presents are the best. Whoa what is that noise the paper is making? What is this bright new thing in my hands? I can grab these toys? Zoe's eyes just sparkled during the whole present opening time and as she discovered her new toys.

4. My step Dad is a pretty great guy too. I really appreciate his example of honoring his priesthood and his family.

5. I cooked my first pot roast. Granted, I thought I was cooking chuck roast and really had bought pork roast. There is a difference! Who knew more than one kind of roast meat exists? Probably almost everyone but me. But we all learn somehow right? This will be a fun moment to look back on and laugh when I someday make a real roast. 

6. Did I mention a tree fell on our house this weekend? Whew was Heavenly Father looking out for us. No damage to any people or the house. Thanks goodness it did not fall the other way and take out both our cars. Well, since we had this giant tree outside anyways, we cut a small peice off, brought it inside and made the most unique Charlie Brown Tree Christmas has ever known. I don't know if I will ever love a Christmas tree the was I do this one. 

Well, there is more Christmas to be had around here, but the first part of our celebration was unforgettable. Merry Christmas friends and family. I really hope that this time of year is full and merry and bright!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Banana Bread in a Blender

Today I wanted to share one of my favorite recipes. Blender Banana Bread. I shared this a few years ago, but it's really good and I still like when I have a few minutes to whip some up. And I really mean a few minutes because IT'S MADE IN THE BLENDER! This means it is incredibly fast and easy. People let me say that again this is INCREDIBLY fast and easy.

I also need to share this now before I talk myself out of sharing it - or before I go to town on this recipe and flip it upsidedown and backwards and change it into a whole new glorious monster. I've been learning a lot lately about the importance of soaking grains on having a healthy gut. And everyone knows that a healthy gut is the new skinny. And let me tell you, these grains are not soaked. They are right out of the bag, thought I needed a treat 20 seconds ago type grains. Not I planned ahead and decided to make this today yesterday.

So here we go - the easy blender banana bread with unsoaked grains that will probably soon be back here with a soaked grain alternative recipe. Maybe. Who knows really when I will have the time to learn this new skill of soaking everything.

PS. If you would like to save the recipe card you can click on the picture and just save the image or pin it and share the goodness with the world!

Hope you are having a fabulous day. What are some of your favorite quick and healthy recipes?