Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My Valentine Mantel

Happy (early) Valentine's Day!

We don't typically do much for Valentine's Day around here, but I thought it would be fun to decorate this year!

If you've never been to my house in real life, let me assure you the lime green decorations were not an accident ;) Both my living room and kitchen are lime green, and I couldn't abandon it entirely for V-Day. I tried to be careful and make sure I didn't leave too much; I didn't want it to be Christmas-y!

This red frame around my favorite picture of my favorite boys was from Target. They have a Valentine's area, but this one was 1/2 price in the frames section.

This frame (which I love!) I spotted for 75% off at Lifeway because the stand on the back is broken. I just have it leaning against my mirror. Full price it's 7 bucks, which I never would have paid!

The hearts hanging in front of the mirror and the one behind the 'K' are plates from a few Valentines Day's ago. The metal 'KISS' is usually in our bedroom. I love the XOXO blocks that I have stacked - those are from the dollar spot at Target (for $2.50) and say 'kiss,' 'hugs,' and something I can't remember on the other sides. My heart garland is just made of construction paper hearts, strung on fake leather cord I had in my craft stuff :) I hot glued it to my mantel for hanging, and it will peel right off when I take it down. The sticky words on the mirror (hard to read in the picture, but they say 'kiss kiss' and 'love') were a gift from the kids I babysat last year.

I had a blast putting this together, mostly from things I had hanging around the house! Check out all the other Valentine Mantels over at The Stories of A to Z- the Valentine Mantel Party!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

When Mama Ain't Happy...

Why is it that when I've more then usual on the 'To-Do' list, or if I'm running around trying to catch back up with chores, or if I'm having a particularly stressful day, the kids act up more? If I'm angry because of something, they're extra disobedient. I've noticed that the more frazzled I am, the worse the boys act! The more I have on my plate, or if I'm in a bad mood, the more they whine, upset each other, and try to cling to me to the extreme.

This change in the boys' behavior has become apparent to me even more lately. The week or so before Abel's birthday bash was extra busy for me, as I prepared for the party. While it was a joy to cook all that food for all those people we love, I surely didn't have a minute to spare all week between the planning and the shopping and the cooking. It was a little harder to get dinner on the table that week, and a little harder to make sure we had clean clothes, so I'm sure my temper was shorter, too. My busyness was exaggerated because of the way the boys were acting. Granted, Chase and Abel are both usually very well behaved, so even when they're making my day difficult, it's still not that bad. But still, if anything, when I'm that busy I need them to be even better then usual!

Now that the party is over and done with, our days have settled back into a routine. They boys seem extra happy, very playful, and loving towards each other and me. My day has gone back to normal, too, and I have much more time to play instead of cooking or running around. Even though preparing for the party was a good kinda stress, this week was much more laid back. I've been in a great mood!

My first thought, when I reflected on the change in the boys' behavior, was Can they seriously tell when I'm extra busy (or in other cases, upset or angry) and then purposely try to push my buttons? Now, I know I'm a little dense, but it finally dawned on me what was happening:

My attitude and behavior was effecting their attitude and behavior. It isn't a coincidence that they are naughty when I'm acting sinfully (not handling stress well, irritated, or angry) but they act sweet, loving, and obedient when I'm joyfully submitting to God and my husband with a loving heart and right actions.

(Of course, children will sometimes have bad days of their own, which is another issue altogether!)

I didn't have as much time to play or read stories. Behaviors from the boys that usually I would nip in the bud, I didn't have time to correct. So they got worse. But worst of all, I lacked the patience I usually had, causing me to use harsh tones or even to ignore a sweet little one who wanted me to read a story. This happens not only on days that I'm stressed, but also when I'm upset, irritated, or feeling angry.

We all have days like this with our kids, don't we? It's easy when we're in the moment to assume that the kids are just having a bad day too, independent of ours. It takes a little reflection to realize we might be the reason for their bad day. Of course, that's no excuse for their own sinfulness. But I am responsible for the example I am setting, as well as the negative influence I'm having... especially if my attitude is guiding the actions of the ones I love towards committing their own sin! It's so easy to get stuck in a cycle... mom's sin...the kids' sin...another sinful day for mom...more sinful days for the kids.

And I haven't even mentioned how easy it is to do this with your husband, too!

I need to break this cycle!

Lord, forgive me to allowing my sins of anger or frustration or selfishness to negatively effect my little one's day. I am so sorry for the times I lose focus, and allow the busyness of life to become a priority over those You've entrusted to my care. I repent of acting sinfully even when I'm not aware of the effect it has on my family, because not only does it influence them even when I'm not aware, my sin will always effect my relationship with You. Please continue to teach me to show grace to those around me, just as you have shown grace to me.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My Favorite Baby Things (part 2)

Here is the second half of my top ten favorite baby things. (Find the first half here.) I hope it's beneficial!

While I am a very pro-breastfeeding mama, I am a very anti-show-my-skin-in-public mama. Yes, babies have a right to eat when and where they need to, and yes you should be breastfeeding, but this does not take away your responsibility as a woman to be modest. I can't really breastfeed in public anymore because Abel isn't a big fan of being covered, and he is coordinated enough now to throw my covers off. But before that, I loved this product! It is a strapless tank top that hooks onto your nursing bra, keeping your stomach covered when you lift up your shirt and take down your bra. Genius! I actually still love using this product because even if I am comfortable nursing in front of you without a cover (my mom friends)... I still don't want to show you my tummy! :) Because it's long, the tank peeks out of the bottom of the shirt you're wearing on top, which I like. That also means that I will probably continue to wear this after Abel is weaned, just because I like the way it looks!

I will also take this opportunity to share something related that I am pretty proud of. As of Monday, I have been nursing Abel for a year. (I didn't meet Abel until the day after he was born, because he was born at night, and I was under general anesthesia.) While I am super happy about this, I am even prouder that since he as been in my care, he has not had one single bottle. This is not an opinion post (I'm not trying to spark off a debate), but I just wanted to share that I had reached a personal goal that I'd set for myself. Yay!

7. BabySteals *Edited after posting to add-- Sorry to the folks who went to the site the day I posted this. They were selling nursing bras that day, and had the samples on real models. So sorry!!!! The link now goes to their 'About' page, rather then the 'Today's Steal' page. *

I LOVE this site. Every day at 11 AM and 11 PM (eastern time) they have one baby/pregnancy related item for sale (toys, feeding gear, shoes, hats, books, maternity clothing, etc), in limited quantities. It is at least 50% off, and once it's gone and sold out, it's gone. The popular stuff sells out quickly, sometimes within minutes! I have learned about some amazing products through this site, and have gotten some awesome deals. They have sister sites called ScrapbookSteals, and KidSteals. I don't scrapbook, but I do also check Kidsteals. The facebook page for Babysteals is very active, and I've learned about even more products from the discussions there. I've also scored a few used Babysteals at an even further discounted price from the resale board.

8. Glider for the nursery

We were given a previously loved glider for Abel's nursery from the family I've babysat for for over 4.5 years. The moments I spent in it with our newborn were precious, as are the moments I spend with him in it now. This is probably the most used item on this whole top 10 list (with the exception of his diapers) because I rock him/nurse in it every time he goes to sleep, nap and night time, as well as throughout the day. It's also precious to me because every night, Reed will read a story out of Abel's storybook bible while the two of them rock in it. I did not buy anything fancy for his nursery (and actually, I didn't even buy this:) but I would definitely recommend anyone who is having a baby to get a glider. I don't see us getting rid of this anytime soon; not only do I hope to rock lots of little ones, I can see it being a cuddly place for story time for a long time yet.

Like I said in the Part 1, the things in my home have to earn their keep. I don't buy gadgets just to have them. Before Abel was mobile, we were in an apartment, so the gear he had then had to pass an even stricter check list. Many items that most moms love (like the excersaucer) just took up too much space. We loved the Johnny Jump Up instead because not only could Abel stay in an upright position and remain contained, he could use it to strengthen his legs, too. It was also wonderful because it hung in a doorway (didn't take up too much space) and I could very easily pull it down and stick it in a closet when we had company. I didn't buy this item either, it was given to us by another family I babysat for. Before Abel, I used it for the little guy I watched full time, and both boys have loved it. It was the easiest way for me to get dinner and chores done if it wasn't nap time!

10. Husband

I know my husband isn't really a 'baby item' but I don't know how I could have done this first year without him! He is so supportive, loving, and helpful. While caring for Abel is a job I am very happy to have full time, Reed takes over when I need him to, jumps in when the laundry is overflowing, and willingly changes diapers. Because of Reed, a year that could easily be stressful (having a baby is a tough job!) was extra wonderful, and I could enjoy all the little moments. I know that as Abel (and our family) grows, Reed will be even more indispensable, as he is the spiritual and practical leader of our home.
I have a lot of respect for women who raise their families without the help of their husband, either because he has a lot of maturing to do, or because he isn't home. I want to mention my friend Melissa, whose husband is serving overseas. She is the mom of a 6 month old that was born after her husband deployed. While I'm sure he gives moral support, he can't give practical support over the phone. You are doing a great job, Melissa! I don't know how you do it!

I hope my Top Ten list was helpful! Let me know in the comments if you like/dislike any of these products! What are your favorite baby items? What can you not live without?

Mama's Got a One Year Old!

The day before Abel turned one, we had over 50 of our friends join us at our church for a Toy Story themed party in honor of the birthday boy! Abel was obviously pretty oblivious, but it was great to fellowship and celebrate our son with those who love and support him. We know that these people are praying for Abel as he grows, and for Reed and I as we rely on God's grace to raise Abel in the knowledge of the Lord. I wish that everyone we love could have been there, but I'm not sure how much more food I could have cooked ;)

Abel, Daddy, and Morgan from my college dorm

My mom and brother Clee talking with Ryan from church. Mom, her husband Tony, and Clee came for the day from Maryland.

How do you feed a ton of people? With a ton of food! I made several batches each of pulled pork BBQ, old fashioned baked beans, coleslaw, and a pasta/fruit salad. I was cooking all week, but it sure was worth it! Yum!

Cutting the cake

We had Toy Story alien cupcakes, and a cake. You've gotta have a lot of food to feed a lot of people! Next to the cupcakes are boxes of Toy Story mac and cheese... the party favors. The kids were super excited about those! :)

Reed and Joe serving the kids. Abel, Reed, and I all wore Toy Story shirts. That may or may not have been my idea :)

Some of the kids enjoying dessert

This is where we had crafts. Each kid decorated a piggy bank (in honor of Hamm, from Toy Story) with stickers.

Abel eating his alien cupcake

Me filming Abel :)

A few of the grown ups

Even though we said no gifts, we had a few great ones to open once we got back home :)
Thank you, all!

Abel with his gift from Reed and I

Opening his pots and pans to go with the play kitchen from Yia Yia and Pop, and Uncle Clee

He LOVES the water bottle the McKinleys brought from Disney World. And, he loves Uncle Clee :)

What an awesome year we have had. I can't imagine my life without our precious little one-- he has stolen our hearts! I am so thankful that I have the privilege of being the one to care for our son everyday; to be the one that cuddles him when he is sick, comfort him when he is sad, and be the one he looks for when he wakes up. What joy that brings to me!

God's word calls children a blessing, and Reed and I both pray that you see that in our attitude and actions.

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.
Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
who fears the LORD.
(Psalm 128:3-4 ESV)

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one's youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
(Psalm 127:3-5 ESV)

We are excited to begin this new year, on the journey with Abel as he heads to '2.' Please continue to pray for us, as we are shaped into the parents the Lord would have us be.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Menu Plan Monday 1/10

I'm linking up over at Organizing Junkie again this week for Menu Plan Monday.

This is a busy week for us! I am babysitting two children (in addition to having my little man) instead of the typical one for a few weeks while the public schools are on Christmas break. It sure is a lot of fun to share the day with two "extras" and spending time with little ones is my favorite kind of busy. I really do love them!

This week is also special in our family because Thursday is our fourth wedding anniversary, and Sunday is Abel's first birthday! Time just flies :)

Here is our meal plan for the week:

Monday: Reed closes at work, so I won't be cooking a sit down dinner. Sammie for me, leftovers for baby

Tuesday: Turkey meatball subs, oven fries, sauted broccoli

Wednesday: Bean, veggie, and pasta soup (Last time I planned this, we went out to eat as a treat! Maybe I'll get lucky again ;)

Thursday: Our anniversary! Fillet Mignon from Omaha steaks (A Christmas present from my grandparents) with sun dried tomato hollandaise, horseradish mashed potatoes, sauted brussel sprouts

Friday: Greek orzo and garlic green beans (see recipe at the end of the post)

Saturday: Abel's party! We're having a large get together at our church, and I am really excited about cooking for everyone. Pulled pork sammies, baked beans, coleslaw, cold pasta/fruit salad

Sunday: Party leftovers

A few posts ago, I had a request for the manestra (Greek Orzo) which I am happy to share. I typically don't cook with recipes (ok, only when I'm baking), but this is one I make often enough that I'm fairly certain I can give you the steps of what I do.

I began making this in high school, after I couldn't get enough of the manestra at the Greek Orthodox Church's yearly festival in my neighborhood. I've played with it until it tasted right, and it's come a long way. My version is the quick, meatless version (though I do use chicken broth). Traditional manestra is cooked with braised lamb meat, and that recipe can be found here.

Melt about 1 T butter and 1 T olive oil in a medium saucepan.
Add 1 chopped onion and saute.
Add several cloves diced garlic and saute until fragrant
Add 1.5 cups dry Orzo pasta, toast (while stirring) in the hot pan with onions and garlic
Add a few splashes (about 1/4 cup) of white wine (you can use cooking wine or broth, if you prefer)
When that's absorbed, add one 15oz can of tomato sauce, and one 14 oz can chicken broth. Refill the can a little less than halfway with water, and add that too. Stir, and bring to a low simmer.
Cover and let simmer until most of the sauce is absorbed and the pasta is tender. Very rarely, but sometimes, you might need to add more water.
Take the lid off and stir while it's simmering or the pasta will stick to the bottom and burn.

Again, I don't use recipes, but I'm pretty sure it takes about 20 mins to absorb the sauce (not all the sauce, it's suppose to be saucy!)

Season with salt and pepper.
Serve with feta on top

Next week, I'll be sharing my original recipe "Garlic Green Beans." If you think you don't like green beans, you've never had these! :)

Monday, January 3, 2011

11 Things I Want to do in '11

1. Read a book a week (or so). I want to seriously increase my time reading this year. I am a very fast reader and love reading, and I need to make more time for it.

2. Start every day with a load of laundry. Do you know how much easier this would make my life? (I know my family isn't big, but we use cloth diapers, folks!)

3. Eat beans and rice for lunch (most of the time. We're not perfect ;)

4. Lose weight. For real. I want to lower my risk for a repeat c-section as much as possible, and that means losing some weight. VBACs are much more successful if you're at a healthy weight. No amount of sugar or candy or junk (which I love, unfortunately) is worth another surgery. Of course, it's ultimately in God's hands, but I am still responsible for me.

5. Exercise self control. With my eating (see number 4), my thoughts, words I speak, and my actions. By practicing self discipline (studying the scriptures regularly, physical exercise even though I hate it, getting to chores when they need to be done and not being lazy).

6. Stop using that tone of voice when I'm speaking to my husband. You know the tone. I adore and respect my husband, and that needs to be obvious all of the time.

7. Stick to the budget. We're getting better, but isn't there always room for improvement? We like to live below our means, and I want to contribute to our saving as much as is reasonable.

8. Cherish every moment with my baby. This first year has flown, and I know they will just get faster. Hopefully, he won't be an only child for long, which excites me and makes me sad, knowing I won't be able to give Abel as much attention when the next one comes. (Which leads me to......)

9. Adopt. I could write many posts about this, and I probably will. Please be praying for wisdom for us. Be praying for the birth family, and the circumstances around the termination of their parental rights. For the child. For Abel. We hope to begin this long process soon, hopefully this month or so. It would fill my heart with such joy to bring home a child this year.

10. Cherish every moment with my husband. Oh, he is so precious. I want to be the best helpmeet I can, so he can make the most of his time. I want to be intentional about our time together. More reading together, playing Othello, and snuggling... less waiting for him to come home so he can do laundry for me, or empty the dishwasher (etc).

11. Cherish every moment. Life moves so quickly.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Our 2010 Christmas Letter

Because I am too lazy busy to send out Christmas cards (maybe next year!) here is the official Kerr Family Christmas Letter for 2010. Enjoy!

Reed and I began 2010 by celebrating our 3rd anniversary on January 13. (I can't believe that in just 2 weeks it will be time to do that again!) While of course we had both good and bad days, we are thankful to have seen much growth in our marriage. I pray that every year we can look back on the year before, and see our marriage strengthen. I know it's cliché , but I truly am so full of joy to be married to my best friend.

Reed and I on Thanksgiving

Only 3 days later we welcomed out first son, Abel Kenneth, into the world by emergency c-section at 10:28 PM on January 16th, at 5 lbs 5oz. During my last week of pregnancy, I developed a very serious condition called HELLP syndrome with Pre-Eclampsia, in addition to my blood condition that already complicated things. Long story short, Abel's birth and delivery went exactly the opposite of how we wanted it to, and both of our lives were in danger. Praise God, He saw it fit for both of us to make it through! The very first thing out of my mouth when I met our tiny Abel was 'I want another one!' After a long 5 days in the hospital, they released Mama and we brought our precious bundle home. I only remember bits and pieces from my hospital stay because of the medicine I was on, but I do know that Reed didn't leave my side once.

Abel, just days old

Abel and Mama in the hospital

We were slammed with tons of snow in Lynchburg in the month after Abel was born, and it was so cozy to be home with my two boys. We also had some visitors after we came home. Though my mom drove down when the baby was born, she went to MD to bring back my brother for a visit. We also enjoyed going to our church Superbowl Party when Abel was 2 weeks old, and the Valentine banquet when he was 4 weeks. We loved introducing him to our friends and family! Then, when Abel was about 5 weeks, Reed's parents stayed with us for a week.

5 week old Abel and Reed's dad

In the spring, we made a trip up to MD to introduce Abel to all of our friends and family in MD, where we had an after-the-baby shower. Also in early Spring, Reed became the Director of Children and Youth at our church! He does this part time job in addition to his job at Starbucks. It has been such a blessing for him to work on writing lessons, planning activities for our children's program, and recruit teachers. I help him by thinking up and planning the crafts to go along with his lessons. This job keeps him busy, but he loves it! We are so thankful for this opportunity to work in ministry, alongside some wonderful men at our church.

Visiting with Uncle Clee

I enjoyed a wonderful summer home with my baby. After Abel was born, I quit one of my babysitting jobs and changed the other one soon after so I could watch the little girl at my house instead of hers. What a blessing that was; so much easier with a newborn! I watched her part time after Abel was born, because she was in preschool, and then summer camps. I am so thankful for the Brooks' and their little girl, Sophie. I met them when she was 2 1/2, and she just turned 7! The job has changed a lot over the years (her house/my house, long days/short days, part time/full time), and so has Sophie. It's been great to watch her learn and grow, and to become friends with her parents. This summer also saw a baby boom at our church, with 3 babies being born in one week! In all, 9 babies were born to families at our church in 2010 (Abel, Faith, Elyse & Joslyn, Sophia, Miles, Eliana, Nathan, and Andrew! Whew!) We love being part of a church family that loves little ones so much! Each and every one of their lives is unique and purposeful. To God be the glory!

Abel and Sophie Summer '10

We also made a trip to Tennessee in the summer, to attend the wedding of Stephen and Rachel Weems, Reed's cousin. We thought the wedding was beautiful, and the message that another of Reed's cousins (Mark) gave during the ceremony was perfect. Thanks for sharing your day, guys! It's rare that Reed and I are able to travel to events that his family has, because of all the travel involved and our work schedules. I am glad we could introduce Abel to Reed's family and spend time with his sister and brother's families (who also met Abel for the first time while were there).

Visiting Reed's mom and grandmother after the wedding

This fall, a blessing we were already experiencing (Reed's job at the church) provided an amazing opportunity: to move into the parsonage at our church! With the help of many, many people we cleaned, painted, and moved in during the month of September. We love it here! And, the day we moved in, Abel began crawling. I think it was easier for him to drag himself on the hardwood floors at the house than on the carpet at the apartment! After we moved, we took a very quick trip to MD to attend my mom's wedding! It was beautiful, and we loved seeing many family and friends. We pray that mom and Tony (haha, yes that's really his name) reflect the relationship between Christ and His church as they grow together.

I also began a new childcare job this fall, ending 10 months of just working here and there. I now take care of little Chase at my house full time, who is about 10 months older than Abel. We are so thankful to the Lord for providing for our needs during my time of underemployment, and then providing the perfect job for me as soon as we were all moved in to the new house! We also spent lots of family time together this fall; we went camping, apple picking, trick or treating, and pumpkin picking.
Abel playing with Chase

At the orchard

Our fall ended with a crash, when I was driven into at a red light and my car was totaled. We are now a one car family, which has been an easier transition then I thought it would be. And for the week of Thanksgiving we had a rental, so we drove down to TN in style! We had a nice visit with Reed's family and enjoyed seeing Abel play with his cousins, Maddie and AJ. While in TN I was introduced to a new product, Scentsy, and decided to become a consultant! I've already had some fun with it in 2010, and am eager to see where that takes me in 2011. The weekend we came home from TN, we went to MD for 2 days. While there, we spend time with my grandparents and had dinner with my dad.

AJ, Mimi, and Abel reading on Thanksgiving

Visiting with Poppy

We stayed home to celebrate Christmas this year, and I am so glad my mom and brother could join us. Then Clee stayed a few more days after Christmas. I really enjoyed his company! The year ended (as it always will) with the anniversary of Mike's 'homegoing' on the 31st. I can't believe it was 3 years ago we said goodbye. It's strange for me too look around and see others celebrating, not because we shouldn't, but because I feel like they need to know the significance of this day for my family. Images from that day in particular are so burned into my memory. It brings me great comfort to know that he is in the presence of our Savior, with no more pain or suffering. This New Year, Reed and celebrated by watching a movie. We accidently fell asleep at 11, and woke up at 12:15. I was a little disappointed because I wanted to watch the ball drop, but I thought it was pretty funny. :)

Christmas morning

I think this year might have been my favorite year! Having Abel join our family has brought us even more joy then either of us could have imagined. We love watching him grow and change (though I personally would've loved to freeze time with him as a newborn) and we both have great anticipation about adding to our family (in 2011??) I've cherished the time spent this year with loved ones, both from our families and church families. Being home full time this year has been a dream come true, and I hope God continues to provide me with that opportunity. Working with the children and their families at our church has been wonderful, and we look forward to continuing that job as long as the Lord allows.

Happy New Year!