My Noticer

My Noticer
There's always time to stop & smell the roses!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Whats for Dinner?

I remember asking my mom this question ALL the time growing up. I mean, we ate dinner everyday so I probably asked her daily...and there were three of us kids and my dad so she probably got asked this very question 4 separate times on a daily basis. I think that would drive me insane! I don't know how she did it, but every night we had a mostly homemade meal AND usually some sort of dessert. Also, my mom is an amazing cook so the food was always delicious (except there was this cabbage dish I hated)! As an adult I am so thankful and appreciative of the time and effort it must have taken  her to plan the meals in advance and to make dishes that the entire family liked. My mom was also very health conscious and I LOVE her for that! As I said, most of our meals were homemade...I really don't remember a whole lot of Hamburger Helper and either all of the fancy pre-made frozen meals in bags did not exist, OR we couldn't afford things like that. Either way dinner was always an exciting event in our home (at least to me). Dinner time when I was growing up was about so much more than the meal. Everyone had a part, whether it was setting the table, putting ice in glasses, peeling vegetables, or shredding cheese for our salad; everyone had a job. When we sat at the table there was no TV on. We prayed, talked, laughed, and basically just spent family time together. This is an important tradition to me and I want to instill that in my family.

Because of the way I was raised I take pride in the dinner time rituals. I like to meal plan and try new things. I prefer to mostly cook from scratch (thanks mom), and of course I like to keep it healthy... (for the most part). Of course every now and then I love me some comfort food. Kielbasa and potatoes are on the menu this week as exactly that: comfort food!

I do have one huge weakness! When Austin is gone on trips I get down right lazy! I find myself feeding Landon chicken nuggets and PB&J sandwiches. Of course he eats vegetables or fruit as side items so thats how I justify it. I tend to eat leftovers or just other random things. Austin happens to be on a trip today so I had no plans....Okay, I planned on being lazy, maybe frozen pizza lazy if I'm being honest!

THANKFULLY for me and Landy I was inspired by a mom friend. We had a play date at her house and I asked her what they were having for dinner. Whatever she had in her crockpot was making my mouth water! She told me they were doing pulled pork fajitas. I seriously kind of wish she had invited us to dinner. That simply sounds divine. Instead, I decided myself and Landy would have a proper meal. The only problem was I had nothing planned so I would have to work with very few ingredients. So, here you have it, a delicious (mostly homemade) and healthy dinner with less than 10 ingredients.
Finished Product

Ingredients:
Chicken (I had 1 HUGE breast  so that worked for me and Landy)
Fresh Green Beans (2 handfuls was plenty for us)
Box of Quinoa
Olive Oil
1 Lemon
Garlic
Basil
Salt/Pepper

Landon has always loved quinoa! 
I hate how Rachel Ray calls it EVOO!

How are lemons this pretty? And delicious?
I'm lazy, plus fresh garlic goes bad, this is just easier sometimes.
Fresh Basil, I happened to have it on hand...this is rare!


I like to have this on hand in case I don't have fresh


So here is the super complex recipe....

Pre-heat oven to 400

For the marinade:
Mix 2/3 C olive oil with the juice from 1 lemon (you can save a slice or two for garnish), add 1 teaspoon minced garlic, rough chop the basil (I used 4-5 leaves b/c I love basil), and mix everything together. (Set aside enough to sauté the green beans in later. I saved approx. 1/3 C)

Pound out chicken (this is great for getting aggression out PLUS it really does make it more tender)
Salt and pepper both sides
Drop in bowl of marinade

While the chicken is bathing in yumminess line your chicken pan with foil because why scrub dishes if you don't have to... Then put the chicken on the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. Flip halfway through. When you pull the chicken out BEFORE you cut it let it rest for a couple of minutes. It really does help keep the meat tender. Slice right before you serve.

The quinoa takes approx. 20 minutes to make so its a great side dish and the hardest thing you have to do is boil water! Prepare according to package.

The green beans only need to steam for like 5 minutes after the water is boiling so you can do that at the end. I have a steamer that just sets in the pan of water so thats how I do it. While the green beans are steaming I put the marinade I set aside earlier in a sauté pan and get it hot. After the green beans have steamed I just transfer them to the sauté pan and cook them for an additional 3-5 minutes. Don't forget to salt and pepper them.

Thats it, in less than 45 minutes you have a complete delicious and healthy meal. I transferred everything into one dish so that IF there are leftovers (there were b/c there is only two of us) I can just pop the whole dish in the oven to reheat.

Landon ate everything on his plate! The green beans may have been a bit citrusy for him so I chopped them up and mixed them in with the quinoa. Next time I may just set a few aside and skip the sauté part.


How awesome is this guitar plate!?! I want to be a kid!










Friday, January 16, 2015

Soul Food...

 I'm not talking about fried chicken, black eyed peas, sweet potatoes, cornbread, hush puppies, cobblers, etc. Although... all of that sounds absolutely delicious. I'm talking about food for our souls. I am of the opinion that what we feed our souls may be the most important list of ingredients in our lives. This topic has been on my mind for some time now. Really since the birth of my son 3 years ago. I came across this quote recently and it really spoke to me. It reminded me that I needed to revisit this topic.

"What is running your life at any given moment is your soul. Not external circumstances, not your thoughts, not your intentions, not even your feelings, but your soul. The soul is that aspect of your whole being that correlates, integrates, and enlivens everything going on in the various dimensions of the self. The soul is the life center of human beings. You don't direct the soul, you feed it so that the soul can direct you". Dallas Willard 

Becoming a mother has shown me the importance of learning to read my inner barometer and knowing what my soul needs to keep the atmosphere in my mind and home stable. Mommas know how critical this is, it only takes one second for all the little things that go wrong on a daily basis to come together and create the perfect storm. Sometimes the storms get down right nasty.

The term "the calm before the storm" does not apply to motherhood! When was the last time things were going perfectly in your home when you decided to flip out over nothing! In my house it looks something like this..... I have picked the blankets up off the floor that my son has carelessly thrown from the couch onto the floor about 6 times, I trip on a stupid match box car in the kitchen and almost break my neck (secretly I am happy b/c I broke one of the wheels...that will teach him I think), the dog is pooping at the bottom of the basement stairs because he refuses to go out in the cold (we lived in Florida far too long), the husband is at work so I know I have several more hours where it is critical that I keep my stuff together (also it is inappropriate to drink wine at 10am), and here it is the thing that puts me over the edge.....Wait for it....
Landon has thrown my neat piles of folded laundry onto the floor.... I know, its the end of the world. At least for me and now my son it is, and probably the dog too!

It's usually after the storm passes during which we have lost our tempers and over reacted when our spirit feels crushed. We hate ourselves, at least I do. I feel like a failure as a mother. I convince myself that the times I yell and lose it are the memories Landon will cling to. I convince myself that someday when Landy is in therapy it will be my fault.We ask ourselves things like; why can't I be more patient, whats wrong with me,  why did I say that, why did I yell so loud? We start to compare ourselves and our kids to other people we know and its easy to spiral out of control and to let the guilt leak into other areas of our lives. One storm at 10a can ruin the rest of our day if we let it. Instead of letting nasty rain clouds hover we should choose rainbows (sort of perfect b/c at this very second no joke "Over the Rainbow" is playing on my Pandora station, it must literally and figuratively be a sign from God). Sometimes visuals and illustrations help me grasp and remember ideas, so for me a rainbow is like a fresh start. You can't pretend the storm didn't happen, but you can address it and move on. This is something that has helped me so much with Landon. After I flip out, and once I am calm I talk to Landy in a NORMAL tone of voice. I apologize if need be and I say to him "lets move on". Not only does he forgive and forget instantly because thats what kids do (mental note to self be more like Landy in the grace department), but he actually listens. Funny, you would think the yelling and screaming is what would get their attention.... NOT! This is something I am learning as well. The quieter you talk the quieter they have to be to hear you. We humans like secrets, ever notice how if someone starts to talk quietly in a noisy room everyone else lowers their volume so they can hear. Its like we think we are going to miss out on some juicy morsel of gossip. I think teachers of young kids must know this! Anyway I have decided I never want yelling to be the constant in my home. I am proud to say that I am accomplishing this area in my parenting life quite nicely. One of my secret weapons (besides whispering) is....... Feeding my soul!

Its no surprise that when we take care of ourselves we can better care for our loved ones. This is such a simple and basic principal yet we mommas especially seem to struggle with this. Why do we feel so guilty about doing things that make us happy. Its more than happiness really, sometimes the simplest things can really feed and nourish our souls. When our souls are hungry and we ignore the signs we suffer physically. It's just like ignoring physical hunger signs. We might be fine at first, we may even snack on something to hold us over. We know that doesn't actually solve anything, its temporary. Eventually our bodies become tired and weak. We aren't ourselves, we are grouchy, we can't think clearly, we may even feel physically sick. We all know that physically starving can lead to death. We may not physically die from not feeding our souls BUT our spirits can be crushed for sure. You can lose yourself, you can become depressed, there are real consequences.

I know its cliche to say being a mom is the toughest job out there but it really is. I worked in several juvenile correctional facilities and I can say with all certainty that being the ward of a 3 year old is way harder than being verbally and possibly physically assaulted on a daily basis! The difference is you put your heart and soul into mothering. Also, the LIFE and WELL BEING of your child is like the biggest responsibility you could ever have! There's a million reasons why being a mom is hard and million more for why it is the BEST job I have ever had hands down. The spectrum of feelings and emotions is truly astounding!

I think the first step in feeding your soul is to make your ingredients list. It only takes a minute and it could even just be a mental list. Sometimes I think we moms forget who we are aside from the roles that come to define us. So, thats what I did. The list of things that feeds my soul is so simple. Its actually scarily basic. Scary because there is no excuse for me to NOT take care of myself.

  • Coffee....simple, coffee before the day starts. I realize that if I can just have a cup of coffee in the morning before the day's activities take over I am so much better. Landy knows that I don't play until I have my coffee (I have no guilt about this). I get him breakfast and put a cartoon on so that I can have the time I need for myself to help make me the best version. Sometimes its only 5 minutes and sometimes I get really lucky and its like half the morning. 
  • Prayer/Devotion Time in the morning, I know that may not be for everyone but it has seriously been changing my life. Now, if I try to skip it or make something else a priority I miss it. Its just a really good way to start the day. It's like waking up on the right side of the bed. Sometimes I only get a few minutes in for a prayer and sometimes I straight up get a bible study in. I am learning crazy stuff about the bible, the authors, history, etc. And there is no pressure, I just do what I can. Right now perhaps the most critical thing I am learning while I spend time with my creator in His word is about the difference between joy and happiness. Learning this difference may in deed prove to be one of my life's greatest lessons. I have learned that happiness is a fleeting FEELING and depends on circumstances and people. Neither of which can be controlled or relied on. Joy though, joy is amazing. Joy is true contentment that is based on internal factors. Funnily enough I am learning that God expects us to be joyful (not happy) even in turmoil. This is a faith thing. Some people might not get it...sorry. I guess the more I practice it the better I will be and the stronger my faith will be. 
  • Wine....enough said. Just kidding. Unwinding with my husband at the end of a long day is some of my favorite soul food. It's like the big fat piece of chocolate cake you eat instead of dinner! We just spend time together alone. This is US time, no phones or computers. Just good conversation OR trash TV shows we have DVR'd. Its glorious! 
  • Reading has been a constant source of nourishment for most of my life. I don't know what I would do if I couldn't read...Die maybe.... I think this quote sums up my love affair with books:          You discover you have wings when you open a book
  • Writing, which is why I started this blog. I knew it would be a good outlet for me and would feed my soul in so many ways. When you work a job that asks you to list your goals for the next year they always want some tangible way to measure your success. So, they ask what your action steps are. Well, writing this blog is my action step for my goal to write more! Pretty freaking tangible! 
  • Exercising, its a love/hate relationship for sure and thats okay. I know its good for me physically and mentally so thats why I do it. If I could just play organized sports the rest of my life I'd be set. I am athletic in that way. I love to be physical and play sports and I am highly competitive (in fact its my number 3 spiritual gift...thats a thing) so engaging in group activities is ideal. However....gym memberships are expensive so I suck it up and do what I know is good for me at home alone. Sometimes Landy makes it hard but I push through and do it anyway. Sometimes I get him involved for my own personal humor. Ask a 3 year old to do jumping jacks and try not too laugh...I dare you. Also, lets be real, I think we have all farted while doing sit-ups which is hilarious on its own, BUT a 3 year old does it unapologetically and belly laughs afterwards...there is nothing better I promise!
  • Time with girlfriends, this is pretty high ranking for me. I cherish time spent with my girlfriends when we can just be ourselves and talk about nothing and everything. 
  • MMMMM, alone time to do all of the above trumps everything. The only thing better than doing my favorite things is doing them alone uninterrupted. This is having your cake and eating it to, AND there are no consequences b/c this cake miraculously has no calories!      (Lest husband feel rejected bullet point 3 is not included in the items trumped by alone time)

This list might seem silly but these are the things that feed my soul. I believe I am important enough to make those things a priority in my life. Then my number 1 priority (my family) will be so well taken care of. We will all be healthier, happier, and for sure more joyful. So, this post is a lot of words but I can sum things up with one picture. A picture is legit worth a thousand words and more sometimes!

Simple and Basic....I Love It

Think Nike  "Just Do It"

 I just wanted to say that my list is not an exhausted one. Of course my husband and Landy feed my soul in so many important and beautiful ways. The items on my list if checked off just help keep me balanced and thats how life should be. Kind of like a good glass of wine, full bodied and well balanced!

How's this for Soul Food.....

Ha, Landy can't stick his tongue out!!
Just Landy stopping to smell the roses figuratively speaking....theres always time to stop and see the turtles!
Cool Landy is awesome and makes me happy!

And this...That face...Soul Fed...

Friday, January 9, 2015

Zuppa Toscana AKA Most Delicious Soup Ever

Disclaimer: This is a copy cat version of the Zuppa Toscana at Olive Garden. Sadly I can't take credit for this delicious concoction!

I have always loved the art of making good home made soups. Soup is such a comfort food, especially when it is freezing outside. I think in the 3.5 months we have lived in Delaware I have made more home made soups then I have in the rest of my cooking life combined. Soups are really hard to mess us so you get a lot of leverage in the creativity department.

The other night my husband asked me to make him his favorite soup from Olive Garden. My husband rarely has requests so I was ecstatic. I take a lot of pride in my cooking and love the challenge of making something delicious! I was a little intimated because I had never had the Zuppa Toscana he was asking for. I didn't really know what it was supposed to look like let alone taste like. Lucky for me there were about 50 different copy cat recipes. If your man is a meat and potatoes kind of guy I highly recommend this soup!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. Sweet Italian Sausage NOTE: if you can find it ground I recommend this for simplicity, I had the individual style sausages on hand and it is just a little more labor intensive
  • 2 Large Russet Potatoes sliced in half lengthwise then in 1/4" slices NOTE: I like potatoes so I used 3, also I recommend peeling the potatoes, if you don't the skins sort of peel away from the potatoe during the cooking process
  • Lg. Onion Chopped NOTE: I used 1/2, the onion was HUGE and Austin really isn't crazy about onions anyway
  • 2 Cloves Garlic Minced NOTE: I use the garlic you can get in the tubes, so easy!
  • 2 C. Kale Chopped or Swiss Chard (I used kale, it was yummy)
  • 16 oz. Chicken Broth NOTE: I used more since I had more potatoes just eyeball it
  • 4 C. Water
  • 1C Heavy Whipping Cream
Directions:
  • Chop/Slice uncooked sausage into small pieces (this is where having the ground version would be a little easier)
  • Brown the meat in a soup pot
  • Add chicken broth and water STIR
  • Add potatoes, garlic, and onions STIR
  • Cook until the potatoes are tender
  • Add salt and pepper to taste
  • Simmer 10 minutes
  • Turn heat to low and add kale and cream, heat through
I garnished with cheese and served it with a hearty and crusty bread. The soup was so super creamy and delicious. I was even thinking about making it again and trying Kielbasa instead of the italian sausage. I hope you find it as delicious as we did!

I am no food photographer so I found this image someone else took and it is spot on!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

An Adventure of "Epic" Proportions

I love to do ordinary things with Landon, BUT...I like to tell him the ordinary thing we are doing is an adventure. Because if I say thats what it is then to him a trip to the library is a thrilling event, a trip to the grocery store is an expedition, and an afternoon walk through the woods becomes an epic experience. The power of persuasion is really a blessing when you have a toddler!

 If there is one thing I want Landon to be able to do someday when he is grown and silly adventures are behind him, is to look back on his childhood and remember with great fondness all of the everyday magical experiences we shared together.

I was recently reading through the journal I started for Landon when I first found out I was expecting him. I highly recommend this to moms. I am so glad I have it now. Things you just "know" you will never forget become distant memories and you don't even realize it! Our brains can't possibly soak up and retain all of the cuteness that is our children. Kids change so much in the first year if you don't document those moments they can easily be replaced with new moments. Over the course of a lifetime thats a lot of replaced footage. Its not an all together tragic thing but I can tell you reading through the things I thought about at the time made me realize how fast time goes and how easily we forget. I was reading things and thinking to myself; "oh yeah, I forgot all about that". Some day I plan to give the journal to him, there are silly notes and drawings, and heartfelt words that Im so glad I have recorded. I don't write in it as often as I used to. The older he gets the farther spaced the entries seem to get. Ha, I can't imagine what adding another child to the mix will do. Anyway, on one of the pages this was my entry. It seemed so perfect for this entry....

7/20/11 
27 Weeks & 3 Days

Hi baby, 

Daddy's sister Fonda asked me what I was most looking forward to about being a mother. I wanted to share this with you. As of now I am most looking forward to seeing the world through your beautiful and innocent eyes. I already know you will teach me so much about myself and the world.

It amazes me how little this statement has changed over the years. Seeing the world through Landon's eyes still remains my favorite thing about being a mom. It is really what inspired me to write this blog. Landon has taught me what the truly important things in life are. My priorities and goals have changed as well as my outlook on things. Landon always takes the time to stop and smell the roses, its one of my favorite things about him. He is a noticer of people and things. I think it is a gift and I hope he doesn't lose this part of himself as he gets older.

Back to our ordinary walk in the woods EPIC adventure!

We recently checked out the movie "Epic" from our local library. He had never seen it and secretly I wanted to see it as soon as previews for it came out.
Disclaimer: This movie is several years old so I am reporting "old news". 
The movie was everything I imagined.  It was magical, whimsical, full of adventure and comedy. It was really a beautiful story. When I was a kid the movie "FernGully" is what I would liken it to. In any event its really a story about good and evil (aren't all stories). There are these sort of enchanted creatures, there are the "Leafmen"; protectors of the forrest (protagonists) and of course in any good story you must have some sort of opposing adversary (antagonists) to make things interesting. In this case the bad guys are called "Bogans". Before I get off on a full blown movie review let me get to the point.

Landon LOVED the movie and watched it over and over! Landy and I love to go for walks in the woods near our house. Its kind of our thing. When you are a SAHM you find ways to do convenient and free things, sometimes it just takes a little imagination. So, I thought it would be fun to go hunt for evidence of Bogans. Landy was totally down for it. He said we were going to be like the father and daughter duo of the movie and have an adventure. It makes my heart happy that he has an innate appetite for adventure. We made our way to the woods and it was everything I imagined and then some. Of course its cold now so the woods aren't exactly beautiful, there are mostly brown leaves covering the forrest floor and lots of grays and browns, the colors that define winter here. I actually think winter is beautiful in its own way, it's just an acquired taste! In any event we found evidence of battles between the Leafmen and the Bogans.

Suddenly, the broken tops of acorns became the shields used in the conflict for the forrest's destiny, small broken sticks became the arrows used in war, and broken nuts (?? I really don't know what they are) became the helmets of battle. We collected all of these treasures to take home and show Daddy. Landon was so excited and proud. We decided the Leafmen must be hibernating and that winter is really the season for Bogans. Now Landy can't wait for Spring so we can go back! There was even a tiny brook flowing through the woods, leaves became boats that would take Leafmen across the water, the green moss peaking through the dead leaves was evidence that the Bogans hadn't completely taken over, and broken stumps were seen as enchanted castles. We also saw a dead squirrel... It was actually pretty gruesome. I told Landy the evil Bogans did it and come Spring the Leafmen would make things right..... Really, because I am warped I imagined it was the handiwork of a future serial killer. I know, thats crazy. It kind of freaked me out and I was prepared to fight off any poor soul who happened to wander by. Alas we had the woods to ourselves!

Here are some pictures of our magical findings. For your viewing pleasure I left the squirrel out.

So this is a Leafman!
This is a nasty Bogan!
Evidence

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit C
 I didn't set out on my adventure with Landon thinking I would later write about it. However, it left such an impression on me and I just knew I had to share it. Sometimes being a grown up sucks! There is a reason we have coined phrases like; "Oh to be a kid again", or "Oh to be young again", and one of my favorites "If I knew then what I know now". The messages conveyed are the same; We all just need to take time to stop and smell the roses! We should live in the present and really drink it in. Whatever stage of life we are in we should be present and engaged. Looking backward and even looking forward can cause us to miss things around us now. Those phrases are also reminders that time flies by and that we should revel in our childhood and youth. Thank God for the gifts of children. Its almost like as parents we get to go back in time and relive a little bit of our youth. We try and make experiences magical for them and in a small way they become magical for us too. Who doesn't love to see a kid's face light up with joy? In reality parents go to ridiculous ends to make things special for their kids. I mean, have you seen all of this Elf on a Shelf business? All to convince our little ones that the magic of Santa is real! I think the parents enjoy it as much as the kids.

Or what about those insanely creative parents who stage their kids' dinosaurs in real life scenarios just to prove their really is such a thing as magic!
This is amazing!
My favorite!
What...Operation, thats old school!

This. is. glorious.

 Okay, I am getting carried away with sharing these images, they are all so good. Check out this link to see more: http://petapixel.com/2013/11/21/parents-keep-kids-imaginations-alive-creative-dinovember-project/

Sidenote: I am listening to Pandora and naturally I chose "Epic" Sountracks Radio. Can I just say in the last 10 minutes I have been treated to Jurassic Park AND Star Wars!

I guess if I had to have a takeaway it would be for all adults to desperately search for and find your inner child. Try and see the world through their eyes and I promise finding your inner child will be a piece of cake. Life really is so much more fun that way. Thats it in a nutshell!

I'm off to have more Epic Adventures!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Poop & Other Magical Christmas Moments

This Christmas with the boys in my life has been the best to date hands down! This year held the magical Christmas feeling I remember having as a child. I haven't felt that in a LONG time. I was beginning to get very grinchy in my adult years. Landy has saved me in more ways than one. I am convinced children make the world a better place. They have the ability to add a warm and glowy hue to life. Sometimes this uncanny ability is necessary for some of life's ugly realities. This is the first year since having Landy where he REALLY gets what goes on at Christmas. Of course the true meaning is represented in our house through his Little People nativity set. Its a great toy and tool to help tell the story of Jesus. We have also decided to let Landy indulge in Santa and all the magic his story brings as well. Who doesn't love elves, and reindeer?

This Christmas season was a bittersweet one for me in many ways as well. On December 1st I found out the baby we were expecting didn't make it. That was hard to say.... I was expecting to see our 11 week old miracle on the sonogram with his or her little heartbeat flashing. Instead, I saw no promising flash of his or her life and a baby that clearly was NOT 11 weeks old. They estimate I lost our baby around 8.5 weeks. This level of loss was new to me. I never thought something like this would happen to me. And to be honest I didn't think it would affect me the way it did. It was the kind of pain that hits you in the gut and makes it hard to breathe. Hot tears just streamed down my cheeks and I had to look away. I felt sick to my stomach. Landy was in the room with me so I had to keep myself in check. All I wanted to do was crumple up into a ball and cry. The kind of cries that are really bellowing sobs. I needed to be loud, maybe even scream, as if that would somehow allow the pain to physically escape my body. The cherry on top was that I was alone. That morning I dropped Austin off at the airport. He was headed on a work trip to Europe. I knew he was crossing the ocean and would be unreachable for hours. In that moment all I wanted was him. When I found out I needed to have a D&E immediately I felt completely hopeless. How was I supposed to plan the surgery with my husband halfway around the world. I couldn't even stop crying long enough to call immediate family members. I had to text people because I knew if I tried to speak the words that needed to be said would be replaced by crying gibberish. I didn't have the support I needed. I didn't have friends or family I could call to take me to the hospital and care for Landy. Then there was the recovery to worry about. I think this scared me the most. The thought of Landy not being cared for killed me. I just didn't feel like I had anybody I could call this kind of a favor into. Chances were I would be perfectly fine, but I was worried about the smaller chance that I may be extremely sick and tired from the anesthesia. What would I do with Landy? Thank God for texts from my best friend and close family members. They made me feel like I wasn't so alone. Oh...and thank God for well, God. I don't know how people go through life without Him.

Even now I find it amazing that I can start this little story saying its my best Christmas to date in spite of this personal tragedy, in spite of the fact that I felt so very alone during one of the darkest moments in my life, and in spite of the fact that in December of last year our family lost Austin's sister Beth to cancer. Let me tell you, death looks nothing like it is portrayed in Hollywood movies. I guess we should all know that but somehow its so much worse than you could ever imagine. The thing I am reflecting on as we enter the new year is how remarkable Jesus is.  He shows us His love through little miracles in our lives all the time. We either don't see them for what they are or we explain them away as coincidence. I choose to believe that this Christmas was a little miracle Jesus performed for our family. He finds ways to orchestrate beautiful moments amidst personal sadness and tragedy. He helps us to see the silver lining during dark times.

So, despite the list of reasons this Christmas could have sucked here are all the reasons it was my favorite.

  • When I felt alone, scared, and hopeless I was reminded by the most important friend in my life how important I was to her. That friend showed me repeated acts of love I will never forget. 
  • In the midst of all of this a new friendship was being forged. I felt like there was no one I could ask for help and I was so wrong. The friend I asked to help take me to the hospital and care for my son said yes immediately. She saved me! She was so good and kind to me. I can never repay her and I'm glad she's not the kind of girl I have to. 
  • I don't care how old we get sometimes a girl just needs her mom! My mom was able to come and be with me and even arrived at the hospital before I woke up. My saving friend dropped me off at the hospital and took Landy to go pick my mom up at the airport. The time I got to spend with my mom is time I will cherish forever. And I know she helped save me emotionally. 
  •  I am beyond thankful for the sweet nurses and doctors who made one of the worst days of my life less horrible. My nurse's name at the hospital was even Renee (my mom's name).  Seriously, I felt like a shell of a person who would crack if someone looked at me wrong. I prayed steadily during the entire ordeal and I choose to believe my prayers were being answered. I don't think all the stars aligned for me, I believe Jesus was looking out for me the way a parent does. 
  • Our little family got to spend time with Austin's and my family this holiday season. It was simply; The Best! I think losing Beth has shown me not take for granted time together with those we love. Its so cliche but it really is true that none of us knows when our time is up. I also think losing Beth made it a stark reality that people we love die. Even though we know death is inevitable we can tend to go through life with blind spots in this area. Its not fun to think about and I definitely don't advocate dwelling on it but I think it is healthy to accept the reality and live life accordingly. I don't think there are any silver linings to the tragedy of losing a loved one but I am thankful Beth is no longer suffering and that I love and appreciate my family in a whole new way.
  • I am so glad and thankful we don't have to be defined by the negative things in our lives. There was so much more happiness and love during this time and that's really what defined this holiday season for me. 
  • Glad that there are so many more bullet pointed items I could go on and on about, but relieved that sometimes there aren't adequate words to describe all of our feelings, so below are the pictures I can't quite capture correctly with words so luckily they speak for themselves!
Here is my holiday season in pictures in no more particular order and with no rhyme or reason to the layout. That takes entirely too much time! Besides this accurately portrays the way my mind works. These photos much more accurately capture the feelings in my heart and spirit this Christmas!!

Austin up to his neck in balls!

My very own Charlie Brown Christmas tree
My little Christmas Angel!

Kissing Cousins! 



Me and a couple of elves

These are a few of my favorite things (Starbucks included)

This tiny truck is what he chose at the face paint station! All the other kids were lions, tigers, or bears!

A cold Christmasey day in Philly and my attempt at an artsy picture
Ahh, one of my favorites! The Poole boys!
Uncle Josh!



Seriously...this face (Juju)

Polar Express love affair!

This one gets me...Grandpa and grandkids...beautiful.
Ahhh, yes poop! Brown play-doh that can look like poop once pressed through the Play-Doh ice cream maker is Landy's favorite gift. Proud Parenting moment!






My personal favorite! This captures my heart perfectly!