Saturday, October 29, 2011

When a decision looms large

Faced any big decisions lately?

I have one that I've been putting off for a long time.  I will be interviewing next week, which will bring the decision to the forefront of my mind (as if it hasn't been there constantly for several years already!).

I have written before about how I have struggled to make professional decisions now that I am a mother.  I want to live a life that pleases God, serves my family and makes the world a better place for others.  Most days I find myself wondering which path would allow me to fulfill these goals the most.  Is one path better or more fulfilling than another?

I don't know the answer to my question.  But I think I found a clue in the book of Colossians this week:

"We pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way:
bearing fruit in every good work,
growing in the knowledge of God,
being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might 
so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father,
who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light."
~Colossians 1:10-12

There are times in life when we have to make a choice between right and wrong.  There are many other times when the important decision is not what path we choose, but the kind of person we will be on our chosen path.  Perhaps that is why God's answer to my prayers over this decision seem so elusive:  perhaps while I pray so hard over the road ahead, he is more concerned with the driver.

So, Queen B, as you face a decision that feels so daunting, don't forget the important stuff:
Bear fruit in every good work,
grow in the knowledge of God,
be strengthened with His power so you have endurance and patience,
and do it all with thanksgiving for the eternity ahead.

P.S.  Check out this request from NY Times OP-Ed columnist, David Brooks.  If you know any particularly wise septuagenarians, their reflections on life, what they did well, not so well, and what they learned along the way, could be really instructive for younger generations as we struggle to navigate adulthood, careers, family, life.  

Friday, October 28, 2011

Welcome, Baby Seven Billion! It's time to re-think overpopulation.

We're taking a moment today for a public service announcement.

As Baby Bear and I sit here, playing on the floor with his ducky chew toy, the seven billionth person is projected to be born today.  How phenomenal! Across the world, seven billion of us lay, sit, crawl, or stand as precious individuals, each exquisitely different with a unique contribution to make to the world.

Overpopulation has long been a concern of many countries and erudite thinkers.  With all due respect, I have long found their assumptions to be fundamentally flawed.  Thomas Mathus predicted in 1798 that by 1890 the world would run out of food and the end of the human race would soon follow.  Over 200 years later, there are still those who share his fears.

I thought this article from The Public Discourse was a great, thought-provoking piece for the birthday of our seven billionth member.  The executive director of the United Nation Population Fund, an organization that has traditionally promoted family planning as the solution to population control, recently indicated a shift in the UNFPA thinking when he acknowledged publicly that, "problems stemming from population growth are actually issues of consumption, distribution and equity, not necessarily intrinsic to the number of people alone."

Amen!  Right on.

So let's celebrate the birth of each of our children, our future, by taking less for ourselves, living justly toward others and striving to meet our neighbors' need.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thank you, 3M

G-Bear discovered post-its today.

I would like to thank T, who had the insight last night at a dinner lecture 
and grabbed four leftover post-it souvenirs for our kids.

When G-Bear discovered them on the table today, she was instantly fascinated. 

Tonight, we were all the fortunate recipients of lovely birthday crown creations, courtesy of G-Bear.  

Baby Bear, your stacking cups are otherwise occupied.  Enjoy your crown!

And our living room is covered in post-its!

Thanks to 3M for the fabulously removable, re-useable playtime product.
Thanks, G-Bear, for giving us all the royal treatment :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

October Days

These precious fall moments are passing by so quickly.  As T said this weekend, "if only we could bottle and sell these days."  We are thankful for the weather, our health, and the chance to get out into the world with our friends and family.  G-Bear's autumn color page that adorns our front door says, "Autumn is a time to play; let's thank God for everyday!"  Amen.  We are making the most of the harvest in our life!

This past weekend we had the chance to try out our Halloween costumes with our cousins for a neighborhood costume parade and harvest party.

Our crew looked pretty awesome.

Our group took to the sack race like naturals.

We are still treasuring our plastic spider ring prizes.

Many thanks to Woody, Jessie, Barbie, Jasmine and Abu the monkey for making an appearance last weekend.  You stole the show and warmed our hearts.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Grocery Bag

I am determined to enjoy the most of these last few October days.  Meal planning helps us spend less time panicking over meals and more time outside enjoying our fall activities.  Here is our plan for dinner this week!

Day One
with spinach salad
Ree Drummond's simple pasta sauces frequent our table year-round.  
This is a quick, delicious dish for the fun, busy nights of autumn.

Photo and recipe from The Pioneer Woman 

Day Two
Thai peanut noodles with peppers and snow peas
This recipe combines some of my favorite flavors.  I switch up the veggies depending on the season.

Thai peanut noodles with peppers and snow peas
from the kitchen of Happily Ever Johnson

8 oz spaghetti noodles
1 tsp sesame oil
2 cups chopped bell pepper
2 cups chopped snow peas
1 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs peanut butter
1 Tbs brown sugar
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Juice of one lime
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
Zest of one lime
peanuts, lime zest and  red pepper flakes for garnish

1.  Boil the noodles according to package directions.  Drain pasta and drizzle with sesame oil.
2.  Make sauce by combining soy sauce through lime zest in a small bowl.  Adjust seasoning to taste.
3.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat.  Add vegetables and stir fry 2-3 minutes until crisp tender.  Add the noodles to the vegetables and stir fry 1-2 minutes.  Add sauce, mixing to coat, until pasta is heated through.


Day Three
Moroccan Chickpea Chili from Cooking Light Magazine
with homemade bread

Photo and recipe from

Day Four
Pesto tortellini 
with roasted squash
One of our favorite simple pastas with one of our favorite fall veggies :)

Day Five
Chili with steamed honeyed carrots and apple slices.  
I'll  make a double batch and save half in the freezer to have on hand.

Photo and recipe from

Enjoy these precious fall days!  Blessings on your kitchen.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Jack o' lanterns for Jesus

I love carving pumpkins for Halloween.

Since I was a little girl, my dad has always had the biggest pumpkin on the block.  
When I say big, I mean huge.  

In years of pumpkin draught, maintaining the tradition required drives of over a 100 miles to get a worthy pumpkin.  My parents have done an impressive job keeping the legacy alive.  The ceremonial bringing-home-of-the-pumpkin each fall was almost as anticipated as bring home a Christmas tree.  Carving our pumpkin was as much of a family gathering as trimming the tree for Christmas.  In my childhood neighborhood, Halloween was a welcoming, family and community affair.  As a result, there is something about a grinning jack o' lantern glowing near a front door that makes me feel warm and cozy.

I have never been one who enjoys the scary side of Halloween.  We tend to downplay that as a family.  I am especially excited to impart a more positive message to my kids as we anticipate Halloween this year.  After all, the transformation of a pumpkin into a jack o' lantern is a great analogy for how we change when we trust Jesus.  

Our children's chapel leader recently pointed this out to me:

Look at this pumpkin, all it's knots, brown spots, dirt marks, scratches.
It's even yuckier when you look inside.  It's full of yucky muck and gooey seeds!
But what happens when we decide to make it into a jack o' lantern?
We scoop out the gunk.
We give the pumpkin a new face.
We place a light inside,
so it shines in the darkness for all to see.

We too are full of scratches, spots, bruises and marks from life.
Inside, our hearts are even more marred by the yucky effects of sin.
But when we trust in Jesus, giving ourselves over to God,
all the goop of our lives is washed away.
We have a new life, a new outlook, a new "face."
And Christ's light shines through us
 into the darkness of the world.

This season, we'll all trying to be like jack o'lanterns!  But we'll be trying to let our light shine everyday, not just on Halloween.  

Our little pumpkins last year.

Happy pumpkin carving, from the Happily Ever Johnsons!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Six Months, Baby Bear!

There have been quite a few changes around here over the past few days.

There is pureed squash in my refrigerator and rice cereal in my pantry.

In the kids' room, books and shelves have been rearranged to make space for a crib.

Someone has grown too big for the bassinet,

and that someone is scooting around the floor on his tummy,

searching for something to munch with his twooooo little teeth.

Do you know what this means?

Thaaaaat's right, 

Baby Bear is SIX months old!

Tonight, we celebrate.  We'll have ice cream for us and applesauce for the half-birthday boy! :)

Many happy returns of the day, my dear Baby Bear!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Grocery Bag

A grocery bag is always better late than never in my world!  Here are my dinner ideas for our week.  

Day One
Veggie burgers with cheese and onions
with broccoli-craisin slaw
We have perfect grilling weather this week!

Day Two
Curried lentils in tomato sauce from Everyday Food Magazine
with basmati rice and spinach salad
This is one of my favorite lentil dishes
Photo and recipe from

Day Three
Chicken and spinach casserole from Everyday Food Magazine
with honey roasted carrots and apple slices

Photo and recipe from

Day Four
Spaghetti squash and chicken meatballs from Chasing Some Blue Sky
with homemade bread and mixed green salad
The kids can't wait to try our spaghetti squash. 
I'll cook some regular spaghetti to toss with the squash just in case.

Photo and recipe from Chasing Some Blue Sky

Day Five
Bacon, apple and cheddar sandwiches 
with carrot, snow pea and bell pepper stir fry
A fun sandwich for our game night this week.

Blessings on your kitchen!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Why a Guys' Weekend is worth the investment

We are refreshed and back from Richmond today.  We are happy to report that the trees are changing color and the friendships are strong.

T's view from the Guys' Weekend

Every year, T gathers with some of his best guy friends from college for a weekend of reconnection, rejuvenation, reflection and fun.  This year, the reunion was held this past weekend outside of Richmond, VA.   The guys always have a great time together, but it is worth noting that each man's family makes a sacrificial investment of money and time by letting their husband/father travel to or host the weekend.  Many of the guy's wives are home alone with infants and children, and many budget their money and vacation time carefully to attend.  However, I know that I am not the only wife who thinks that the investment is worth it.  This year is the sixth year of the gathering, and no matter what sacrifices we make so that T can attend (the inception gathering was held the weekend after we returned from our honeymoon!), he always returns a better husband, father and friend.  This group of guys is special, special to each other, and committed to encouraging, supporting and holding one another accountable in the Lord.  Friendships like the ones T maintains on his "Guys' Weekend" are worth the investment.

This year was an extra special Guys' Weekend for us because while the men were being hosted elsewhere by Mr. G, his wife, Mrs. G, hosted the Bears and me at G-Ville along with another one of the wives and her daughters.  Between three moms we had nine kids under the age of six, and we had an amazing weekend together!  The kids and I loved the constant hum of activity and friendship.

Queen B's view from the Moms' Weekend!
Here are six of the nine munchkins who gathered for the weekend.

G-Bear, E-Bear and Baby Bear made seven great new friends.  I was inspired by Mrs. G and Mrs. A's parenting all weekend.  I was encouraged and inspired by our late night conversations after the kids were tucked in bed.  Mrs. G's hosting was impressive, complete with panini sandwich lunches, homemade pizza dinners and soccer ball doughnuts after church.  But the best part was sharing in motherhood and friendship while the guys gathered together.  The men returned to find three refreshed moms and nine happy kids -- quite the feat if you ask me!

When the men returned, E-Bear and G-Bear were able to spend some time with their Godfather E, who they met for the first time.  They were so excited.

E-Bear, G-Bear and their Godfather

For me, this year's Guy's Weekend was extra special because it not only brought the men closer together, but it brought their families closer together as well.  Like I said, the weekend is worth the investment.   Thanks to our great friends, Mr. and Mrs. G, for making this great weekend possible.

Baby Bear with Mr. G

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Baby Bear's First Bites

Dearest Baby Bear,

Up until yesterday, every bit of nourishment that you have received in your life has come from me.
It has been my joy and blessing to feed every cell of your body through every moment of your life.

But yesterday, we moved to a new stage.

Baby Bear, meet rice cereal.   

Dearest Mom,
No matter how many crazy faces you make,

 to get me to open my mouth and eat this weird cereal stuff,

(and I must say that some of your faces are REALLY, really silly)

I am going to keep my mouth shut, resist the spoon,

and make a funny face back at you,

just so you feel appreciated for all the great meals you've given me so far.

 Someday soon I'll wolf this stuff down.
But not today.

(But I'll admit, it did taste pretty good :)

We love you, Baby Bear!  These milestones are so precious.  You're doing a great job already.

The squash awaits.....

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Daybook for October 2011

Today I took a few moments to pause for an October Daybook.  Usually, I am composing my Daybook thoughts before bed, when it is quiet and peaceful.  I realized that is not the most accurate representation of our lives right now.  Today, I pieced together my thoughts throughout the day in the midst of the action.   What a difference!  It is a nice snapshot of a very normal Tuesday, precious in it's simplicity and normalcy.  As always, thanks to the Simple Woman's Daybook for hosting the inspiration.

Outside my is raining, a dark morning, and it is supposed to rain all day.  But that's ok.  Today is Tuesday, the refreshing catch-up day of our week.  We don't have to run out the door this morning, because there is no preschool or Bible study today.  We have nowhere we need to be, nowhere we need to go.  What's on our list for today?  Laundry, vacuuming, meal prep and Sesame Street, and that's all we have to accomplish.   Cue a deep breath and contented sigh.  I love Tuesdays.

I am hearing...the sweet sounds of a lazy early morning.  The kids are playing as I stand in the hallway sorting laundry.  Baby Bear is napping in the room behind me.   G-Bear is singing a song as she colors at the art table.  I hear  E-Bear in the playroom playing with his trucks: "look out for the tractor, roooooowr!  Beep, beep!  Outta my waayyyyy!"  I am closing my eyes, trying to save this happy soundtrack to my brain's hard drive.  

I am thinking...about what it would be like to homeschool my kids.  The thought is both tempting and terrifying this morning. 

I am thankful...for my new bag of Coach's Oatmeal (thanks, Mom!), the perfect breakfast for a rainy morning like today.  They taste like steel cut oatmeal but cook in 5 minutes on the stove, which is perfect for my kids, who take after their momma and get cranky when their breakfast-ready tummies are rumbling.  We all love oatmeal, and I am so thankful for the cool, rainy breeze at our window that makes it sound appealing this morning.  I'll have craisins, milk and brown sugar on mine, milk and brown sugar only for G-Bear, and E-Bear will have just the sugar, please.  Yum.

From the learning rooms...Time to hit the bathroom before Sesame Street starts!  While I have had very little success motivating E-Bear to try the potty, both his preschool and Bible study teachers have him in the "potty chair" group at school.  What gives?!   Am I really that bad at motivating my kids out of diapers?  I don't know whether to jump for joy or throw my hands up in bewilderment.  I think I'll jump for joy for now, even though I'm still the one changing the diapers ;)

Around the house...we are decked out for fall.  E-Bear's finger paint pumpkin and apple tree painting adorn our window.  G-Bear did a great job on her autumn color page, which now adorns our front door.  Leaf and apple cut-outs hang from our sliding porch door.  Who needs decorations with these resident artists!  On the porch, our fairytale pumpkin sits contentedly on the table, and our mum plants perch on the railing.  We have quite the harvest around here.  

In the kitchen...our butternut squashes are roasting.  They smell amazing.  While the kids enjoy their lunch, I am peeling, chopping, roasting, and pureeing squash for our dinner tonight, dinner tomorrow , and for Baby Bear who will soon be ready to enter into the world of baby food.  The kids watched me prep the squashes as they ate lunch.  They giggled at the squash's name, waited wide-eyed for me to cut it open as they guessed what color it would be inside, ahhhhed at the seeds as I cut them out, and marveled at my knife-welding skills as I chopped it into chunks.  We all have such a good time when we cook together.  

Check out Toddler Approved for this great game idea
I am creating...a rainy day game for us to play after lunch.  It is called Lily Pad Hop from a great toddler idea blog, Toddler Approved.  We made ten paper lily pads, each labeled with a number 1-10 on it.  Then we played spread the lily pads out on the living room floor number side down.   We had a great time hopping around as the kids pretended to be frogs searching for the numbers I called out.  We made it through at least 6 rounds before we all collapsed in exhaustion, just in time for Quiet Time!  This was a hit, and we'll definitely do it again.

I am such huge piles of toys can be amassed so quickly after Quiet Time when it took us sooooo long to put them away only an hour before :)

am email in a quiet moment as T walks in.  It is such a treat it is to have him home some afternoons this year.  Even if he has work to finish, it is nice just to be close, working together.  

I am hoping...that dinner tastes as good as it smells.  Our soup is simmering on the stove.  Together, the cinnamon, butternut squash, apples, thyme and onion make the perfect scent of autumn.  

I am looking forward to...feeding Baby Bear his FIRST rice cereal tonight at dinner!  

I am pondering...the messiness that I am bringing upon myself as Baby Bear takes his first cereal bites.  Did I mention that our carpet is off-white?  Hmmmm.

One of my favorite things...
is playing "Superman" with the kids: 

"Mommy, let's play Superman.  I'll be Superman...."
"And I'll be Wonder Woman!"
"....and Baby Bear can be the rocketship...."
"Or Baby Superman."
".....and Daddy can be the airplane, and you be the girl who likes Superman."

I am's time for our one outing of the day.  Everyone ate great dinners tonight, (thanks to our butternut squash and Texas Mommy's recipe!) and it is Family Night at Chick-fil-a, which means we're headed out for IceDream cones.  The Chick-fil-a restaurant by our house makes colored IceDream cones for it's family night.  Last week the cones were light blue, this week they are light green.  The staff have the kids vote each Tuesday night on the color they want for the next week.  They have us hooked.  Tonight they let G-Bear make her own cone.  When E-Bear saw his cone he let out a delighted laugh so loud the whole restaurant looked over.  God bless Chick-fil-a.  

A few plans for the rest of the week:  We'll reunion with some close friends from Princeton later this week, something we have looked forward to for awhile now.  We'll have ten kids between four families!   Bring it on, I can't wait.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Grocery Bag

Thanks for checking in with us today as I make my meal plan for the week.  
Yet a few more fall favorites are on my list.  

Day One
Butternut squash mac & cheese from Tasty Kitchen 
with honey roasted carrots and pears

Photo and recipe at Tasty Kitchen

Day Two
with homemade bread
Our favorite while chicken chili, from our friend Jennifer

Day Three
Sausage and ricotta calzones from Southern Living Magazine
with apple romaine salad
We love calzones, especially with our homemade dough.  
I can't wait to try this version.

Day Four
Butternut squash soup from Building Cathedrals
with cheddar herb biscuits from Food Network
This delish soup is by my friend, Texas Mommy.  It's one of my fall favorites.
Photo and recipe for Butternut squash soup from Building Cathedrals
Photo by Happily Ever Johnson, recipe from Food Network

Day Five
Spaghetti carbonara from Sunset Magazine
with spinach salad
 A great carbonara recipe to finish off the week!

Photo and recipe from

Blessings on your kitchen!