November 15, 2014

Freezer Meals

Posted in Atticus Garrett, family, FAQ, homemaking, life tagged , , at 10:10 pm by alison

I’ve mentioned here and on Facebook that one of my projects to prepare for baby Atticus’s arrival has been to stock my freezer with meals, and I’ve gotten some requests for ideas and recipes for freezer meals, so I’m going to share here what I’ve done thus far :)

I’ve seen a number of websites and blogs talking about preparing a month’s worth of meals in 4 hours or something of that sort, and they just never seem doable to me. Maybe I’m slow working in the kitchen (and, pregnant, I definitely require far more bathroom breaks than the average person takes during that time period!), but I’m certain it would take me far longer than 4 hours to do all of that prep work. What I’ve found easier for my schedule is occasionally to set aside some time solely for preparing meals to freeze but much more often to plan to have a certain meal for dinner and multiply the recipe such that we can eat one as our family’s dinner that evening and freeze the others.

As I’ve worked on preparing these meals, our grocery budget for the past couple months has definitely taken a hit, but we’ll make that up with lower grocery bills (and, even more significant, fewer evenings of ordering take-out!) when we’re actually eating these meals after Atticus is born, so I think overall it will be a net gain. At this point, I have about 30 meals in our freezer, which I think should help out significantly with our adjustment to being a family of 5! I may still try to get a few more done, but I feel pretty good about having this amount prepared.

Here are the meals I’ve frozen thus far, along with links to recipes (except for those from published cookbooks):

Recipes from external websites:

  • Chicken Enchiladas – Note: I used slightly less onion (Matt’s preference) but threw in a red pepper instead. Also, I found that 1 can of enchilada sauce per pan was sufficient for us.
  • Tortellini Soup – Note: I’ve frozen this fully cooked, but then you really need to thaw entirely and be careful not to heat for too long to ensure that your tortellini doesn’t get too mushy. I think it might work better to prepare as directed except for the tortellini and just make that and throw it in when you’re thawing the soup to eat.
  • Sweet and Sour Chicken – Note: We like our sweet and sour chicken with plenty of sauce, so unless you’re using very small chicken breasts, I’d recommend fewer chicken breasts relative to the sauce ingredients in this recipe. I also added some pineapple chunks.
  • Chicken Tacos – Note: Instead of the pico de gallo, we use 1 jar of salsa (24 oz) and 1 can of chopped green chilies (5 oz).

Recipes from friends and family (or created on my own):

Recipes from Fix, Freeze, Feast:

  • Pecan-Crusted Chicken Strips (page 38)
  • Rama Chicken (page 48)
  • Cashew Chicken (page 52)

Recipes from Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook:

  • Cranberry Pork Roast (page 134) – Note: I’m not sure whether this would work well as a meal prepared completely in advance. However, it really takes only a few minutes to throw together the sauce that goes into the crock pot with the pork roast, so what I did was buy a large pork roast, trim the fat and cut it into portions of about 2.5 lbs. each, and freeze the pork roast portions separately. Then I’ve set aside in the pantry the ingredients that we don’t necessarily normally have on hand with a note that they are to be used to make this meal.
  • Lemon Garlic Chicken (page 181)

Some of the meals listed above (chicken tacos, for instance) are not frozen as entire meals so require some planning ahead, but it’s still helpful to have the bulk of the work done ahead of time. I’ve actually found that the same holds true for other ingredients. For instance, I have several chicken breasts already cut up into bite-size pieces and frozen individually that way. I’m also going to chop up some pineapples and bell peppers this weekend to freeze. Later on, I can throw all of those ingredients into a stir fry with very little effort.

All in all, I’m hoping this will be a significant time, money, and sanity saver for us after baby Atticus arrives, and I hope it is helpful for some of you readers, as well!

November 4, 2014

Another Baby Update (the last one???)

Posted in Atticus Garrett, family, life, Madeleine CaiQun, Miranda Grace tagged , , , at 8:14 am by alison

Today we hit the 36 week mark in this pregnancy for baby Atticus, so we’re really coming up to the end, and I have to say, I’m very much looking forward to it! Really, Matt and I have been attempting some pretty significant projects over the last couple weeks, including stripping wallpaper and painting our dining room, painting our living room, and stocking up on freezer meals, so I wouldn’t mind another couple weeks to get those finished.

However, this pregnancy has been rather more uncomfortable than my last one. With Miranda, other than a strong desire to meet this child of mine, I was quite content to stay pregnant for as long as she wanted (or at least as long as my doctor would let me!). This time around, I’m not having any complications that are likely to have serious medical implications for Atticus or for me, but I think I’m experiencing just about every complication that causes discomfort – nausea, heartburn, back pain, hip and leg pain, trouble sleeping, etc. I’m ready to be done with all of that! I bought some satin sheets last week to enable me to roll over in bed more easily, and that really has helped, but I’m still looking forward to getting a non-pregnant body back :) And of course I am excited to meet our little guy!

And who knows, it may be soon, or it may still be a while! Here I am at just over 33 weeks.

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Around 34 weeks I started having intermittent contractions, which have gotten slightly stronger and more frequent over the last couple weeks but have never developed into a pattern or anything that necessitated a call to my doctor, but at least they’re a reminder that my body knows that labor needs to happen at some point soon!

And here I am Sunday evening at 35 weeks and 5 days – continuing to get bigger and bigger!

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I’ve been reviewing some of my childbirth materials for a refresher on labor and birth. I would like to have a natural (med-free) delivery if at all possible, but honestly, the most striking thing about all the info I’m reviewing is how incredibly overly dramatic it all is. Of our two girls, I delivered one naturally,  breastfed her within the first hour of her life, and have parented her primarily using attachment-parenting-style techniques from day one; and the other I did not even meet until she was over 2 years old. Guess which one often seems to be more securely attached?

I am quite confident that my bond with Atticus is not going to be irrevocably shattered if something unexpected happens and I have to get an epidural or end up needing an emergency c-section with general anesthesia and don’t actually meet him for an entire 4 hours (gasp!) after he’s born. I believe in taking parenting decisions seriously and making the best choices we can for ourselves and our babies. However, this is one moment out of an entire lifetime of parenting moments, and I’m not willing to make it into more than it is. We’re reviewing our childbirth info, but I’m certainly not going to obsess over any of it.

And in the meantime, amidst projects and childbirth prep, I’m trying to enjoy these last days or weeks that I have as a mom of two :)

October 19, 2014

Homeschooling 2014-2015

Posted in family, God, homeschooling, life, Madeleine CaiQun, Miranda Grace tagged , , , , at 10:17 pm by alison

Everyone else got their “back to school!” posts done back in August or September…and I’ve been telling myself that it would be great if I could get ours up before we hit November :) We’ve had a lot going on, but still, I’ve wanted to share about the start of our school year. This year is Miranda’s pre-k year and Madeleine CaiQun’s pre-school year.

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We actually started our school year – in a very laid back fashion – at the beginning of July. We decided to start then for a couple reasons. First, I was starting to feel better as we got well into the second trimester of this pregnancy, and I was ready to do something more structured with the girls. Second, we knew that this winter and spring would be somewhat crazy with Atticus’s arrival and all the unknowns that will come with that, and we figured that if we could get ahead on school stuff before then to allow us more flexibility after he arrived, that would be great. We also like to take random days off during the year. For instance, my dad was just here visiting for a long weekend, and we took that whole time off from doing school and just enjoyed the time to hang out with him. Other days we just have a lot of errands or appointments, but it’s still nice to feel like we have the space not to have to feel pressured to get school material in every single day. And the last reason we started school in the middle of the summer is that the girls really love doing school. They were disappointed on the days this spring that I just didn’t have the energy to do full school days with them, and they were thrilled to get back into it as soon as I was ready. We did take a very relaxed approach to starting school, though. There were a number of days we didn’t do school but instead spent time at the park or at a sprayground or doing some other summer fun activity.

The upshot is that we have been doing school since the beginning of July but are just finishing up week 9 of our curriculum. In terms of curriculum, we’re using Sonlight for the core of our curriculum again this year – specifically, the pre-kindergarten package (with a few modifications). We all love the literature-based focus, and I like that it seems academically rigorous and includes everything we need but can also be customized as desired. Miranda is ready for more than what the workbooks in that package offer, but CaiQun is doing those workbooks, and Miranda is instead using the Language Arts kindergarten package, along with the Handwriting Without Tears kindergarten package, and the Singapore Math kindergarten package. In general, I absolutely agree with Sonlight’s philosophy that it’s not necessary to push kids into reading or math or anything else at super early ages – but Miranda is already reading and doing simple math in her head. One of the things I love about home-schooling is that it’s possible to work with each of my kids where they’re at, so we’re supplementing the pre-k materials with some kindergarten stuff, since that’s what she needs to be learning and growing right now.

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CaiQun is also working through the Sonlight workbooks much faster than their schedule specifies, mostly because she does a bit of Miranda’s language arts curriculum with us but mostly likes to keep working on her workbooks for the whole time that Miranda does the rest of her language arts and math work. Once she completes those workbooks, I’ll have her do the same Rod and Staff workbooks that I used with Miranda last year and perhaps add in the Handwriting Without Tears pre-k materials.

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Overall, we are liking the curriculum and the school time this year. Things seem to be going well with our language arts and handwriting and math studies. Math is by far Miranda’s favorite subject right now, so we save it until after handwriting (not her favorite!) is done.

Honestly, I was surprised that there wasn’t more literature reading expected each day from our Sonlight curriculum. The pre-school package we used last year is much less structured, so we’d just choose the books we wanted to read each day and then spend 30 or sometimes 45 minutes reading. This year, if we stick to the assigned reading for each day, we regularly finish in under 20 minutes, and the girls are usually itching to do more. I’ve dealt with that in part by starting to condense some of the schedule – now every 4 days we usually do 5 days’ worth of assignments. I’ve also tried to, at times, let the girls just choose stories from their school books for us to read, regardless of when they’re technically assigned, and I probably need to do more of that.

We sometimes do the fun activities suggested in our curriculum materials but also sometimes skip them entirely or substitute our own.

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And of course we do a lot of other fun, educational stuff that we don’t technically count as part of our school days. Both girls consider the globe that my brother Danny sent for CaiQun’s birthday one of their favorite toys, and we often end up sitting around it on the living room floor and discussing world geography. Matt and the girls have also found all sorts of educational videos to watch online, often about various animals.

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We’re finding that in addition to academics, school time is a prime opportunity to address character issues. By and large, I think the girls and I all really enjoy our school time and learning together, but we do have difficult days. In those moments I try to remind myself that even though it’s hard, I’m ultimately thankful that I get to be the one who is here with the girls, helping them to learn about what it looks like to behave appropriately and how we all fall short of that, but we can look to Christ in those moments and pray for ourselves and for each other.

Overall, I think we’ve gotten off to a good start for this school year, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the year holds!

September 27, 2014

a baby update

Posted in Atticus Garrett, family, life, money tagged , at 9:58 pm by alison

It has been a while since I posted my last baby Atticus update, and I thought you all might like to see how he – or at least my belly – is doing :)

Here’s a photo at almost 24 weeks.

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And here’s a more recent one at just over 29 weeks.

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Obviously we’re both getting larger :) All is as it should be!

He’s an active little guy. It’s hard for me to be sure, since it has been so long, but I’m pretty sure he is more active than Miranda was. One of his favorite times to be most active is when I get back into bed after waking in the middle of the night to use the bathroom – not exactly what I would have chosen, but I’ll take what I can get :)

Now that we know he is a little boy, the girls and I have had fun doing just a little bit of shopping for him.

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It’s nice for even third babies to have a few new items that their mommies have picked out for them :) And honestly, I think there’s something about selecting items for your little one and picturing them wearing or using them…at least for me, it helps me begin the attachment process and look forward more specifically to their arrival. We’ve been blessed by several friends offering us hand-me-downs, which we’re more than happy to accept gratefully, and some of our early baby clothes are neutral colored, so I think he’ll be set when he arrives, but it was still fun for the girls and me to choose a few new items ourselves!

We’re starting to plan more specifically for his arrival, too. We got out the baby furniture and have most of it set up in our bedroom, and while I still need to wipe it down, the infant car seat is at least out of the attic now. I attended an infant CPR class to brush up on those procedures a couple weeks ago, and we have childcare lined up for the girls for when we go into labor (so thankful for good friends who are willing to be on call 24/7 for that!). Matt and I need to do a quick review of some of our labor and childbirth books, and I’d love to take a tour of the hospital, since they’ve rearranged some things since we were there last, so I need to get that on the calendar, but I’m not super concerned about it. Mostly there are some additional household projects we’d like to get out of the way before he arrives, and I’d like to have some more money set aside to fund my “maternity leave” from work, but by and large, I think we’re pretty well set up for him and his arrival, whenever that happens to be – but we are hoping for another couple months here before he makes his entrance :)

September 17, 2014

A Day at the Zoo!

Posted in family, life, Madeleine CaiQun, Miranda Grace tagged , , , at 10:34 pm by alison

One of my goals for this summer and fall has been to enjoy this time as a mom-of-two and to give my girls some good, fun experiences. Hopefully Atticus will be a pretty laid back little guy and willing to come along with us on all sorts of adventures, but some things will get harder once he’s here, so we’re trying to make good use of this time before his arrival. We’ve been working on that, which is the biggest reason this blog has been silent for a few weeks! I’ll have some more posts coming up soon to share about some of our adventures, but I thought I’d start with sharing about our day at the zoo yesterday!

We love our college town, but one of its drawbacks is that it doesn’t have all the perks of bigger cities, like museums and zoos. Fortunately we’re able to catch some traveling concerts and performances, and we’re near enough to some bigger cities to take advantage of their cultural institutions. My sweet friend, Liz, and I had been talking for almost a year about how fun it would be to spend a day at the St. Louis Zoo together with our kiddos, and yesterday we were finally able to make it happen :)

The rhinoceros was one of the first animals we saw, and it was actually pretty active!

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The hippos were less active, but we still enjoyed seeing them, too. They remind us of Uncle Danny, since the hippo is his favorite animal :)

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And seeing the elephants is always a big hit with our crew…

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…as is seeing the tigers!

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Our little friend Hayden is an equally impressive tiger :)

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The picture above and the one below are from our train ride around the zoo, the one activity we really splurged on, and it was definitely a good move. We still had some birthday money from my dad for the girls, so I felt okay about spending a bit extra on this trip for them to have some fun experiences. Everyone was getting tired after lunch, and the train ride offered a nice break for all of us.

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Just look at how happy the girls were! Miranda said she was so happy it was like eating chocolate cake and chocolate ice cream. When we got home that evening, it was the big thing they wanted to tell Matt all about :)

After our train ride we saw a few more animals, including the zebras…

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…and the camels.

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And then we grabbed another snack – a must for this pregnant lady – and headed home. It’s so nice to be able to talk more with the girls about the different animals now, and they are old enough not to need to be in the stroller for most of the day. It was a lot of fun for all of us to share the experience with our friends, too. All in all it was an exhausting but great day!

August 13, 2014

Happy Birthday, Madeleine CaiQun!

Posted in family, life, Madeleine CaiQun at 11:55 pm by alison

Today we celebrated our little Madeleine CaiQun’s 4th birthday!

The girls and I worked together this morning to bake a cake (pink velvet, per her request).

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We actually turned half of the cake batter into these cake-and-frosting sandwich cookies that were pictured on the box that Miranda thought looked amazing.

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And the other half we turned into this cake.

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What can I say? The girl is into pink right now :)

We did just a little bit of school work, and she opened some gifts, almost all of which brought exclamations of delight!

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The girls and I put together the puzzle that Miranda picked out to give to CaiQun as her gift.

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This is the first time Miranda has been able to keep it a secret what she chose as a gift for her sister, and she was so proud of herself and so happy that CaiQun liked it :)

Last, but certainly not least, we sang to her and enjoyed that pink cake together!

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This girl is such a sweetheart. She frequently takes the initiative to share with her sister and is quick to apologize for wrongdoing and quick to forgive. She goes all out in everything she does – she’ll sit determinedly and work on puzzles or artwork, but when it’s time to move, she takes off at full speed. She’s talkative and friendly, often regaling us and our friends with extensive reports of her latest activities or narratives about her babies and stuffed animals. She brings so much joy to our lives, and it’s such a blessing to get to watch her grow and develop. I’m totally in love with our little Madeleine CaiQun, who, 4 years old or not, is still my baby girl :)

August 11, 2014

mourning

Posted in life tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:57 pm by alison

In a world in which hundreds of Palestinian children are being killed, thousands of Yazidi and Christian people in Iraq are being driven out of their homes and into areas in which survival is nearly impossible, and the death toll from the ebola virus is nearing 1,000 with no signs of imminent containment, perhaps it is trivial to mourn the loss of one man.

And yet I keep coming back to the idea Madeleine L’Engle expresses so beautifully in this passage from A Wrinkle in Time, in which the children are being told that they are fighting against evil itself, against the powers of darkness:

“And we’re not alone, you know, children,” came Mrs Whatsit, the comforter. “All through the universe it’s being fought, all through the cosmos, and my, but it’s a grand and exciting battle. I know it’s hard for you to understand about size, how there’s very little difference in the size of the tiniest microbe and the greatest galaxy. You think about that, and maybe it won’t seem strange to you that some of our very best fighters have come right from your own planet, and it’s a little planet, dears, out on the edge of a little galaxy. You can be proud that it’s done so well.”

“Who have our fighters been?” Calvin asked.

“Oh, you must know them dear,” Mrs Whatsit said.

“Mrs Who’s spectacles shone out at them triumphantly, “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

“Jesus!” Charles Wallace said. “Why of course, Jesus!”

“Of course!” Mrs Whatsit said. “Go on, Charles, love. There were others. All your great artists. They’ve been lights for us to see by.”

“Leonardo da Vinci?” Calvin suggested tentatively. “And Michelangelo?”

“And Shakespeare,” Charles Wallace called out, “and Bach! And Pasteur and Madame Curie and Einstein!”

I can’t help but feel that the world has lost a great light today. Robin Williams represented, for us, a doctor who heals with humor, a teacher who inspires his students to seize the daya brilliant therapist, a dad so desperate for time with his kids that he’d pretend to be an old female housekeeper, and so much more. He had an unrivaled ability to bring humor without superficiality, and for those of us in my generation, he has been part of our lives since childhood.

I believe we’ve lost a light, and so I mourn for him and for all the lights in Palestine and Iraq and West Africa, whose lives are being snuffed out before we even have a chance to see them.

And I commit to trying to do what I can to be a light, however small my sphere of influence.

August 7, 2014

Throw-back Thursday: Miranda Grace is 4!

Posted in family, homeschooling, life, Miranda Grace at 11:05 pm by alison

Remember how I had a 2+ month hiatus from writing here earlier this year? It coincided perfectly with the timeframe during which I was experiencing the worst of my first-trimester-of-pregnancy horrible morning sickness symptoms! There are a number of events that actually occurred during that time that I’d love to write about and share with you, but I think the most important is the 4th birthday of our firstborn, little Miranda Grace :)

We try to make birthdays special in our family, but we don’t spend a ton of money, and we don’t go party-crazy. I expect our kids will be more interested in having parties and celebrating with friends as they get older, but for now, they are quite happy to open a few gifts, get to choose a favorite meal to have for dinner, and make cupcakes – and for that, I am extremely grateful, since I could barely muster the energy for even that this year!

My mom was able to visit earlier in the month (and brought some gifts for the girls), and we all appreciated our time with her (and the gifts!). We don’t focus a lot on ownership for a lot of our toys. Special blankets and stuffed animals or sentimental things, yes, but toys like those in the following pictures we view more as communal property. Both girls just see that as normal and don’t object to sharing their toys, even birthday gifts.

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(Note that Miranda is still in her pajamas; we were flexible on the need for getting dressed during my time as an invalid!).

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This set of tape rolls has been one of the best gifts ever. The girls LOVE it.

My dad was able to be in town for Miranda’s actual birthday, which was great. He played with the girls…

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…read to them…

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…introduced them to new games (to those who know my dad, this should come as no surprise!)…

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…and helped us make and enjoy birthday cupcakes :)

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We were also able to spend some time using some of her new gifts – this girl loves her art supplies…and at least that day, apparently, her breakfast :)

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I love that huge smile :) It doesn’t appear incredibly often, but when it does, it is an expression of pure delight :)

Miranda also got a new baby doll, in part so that she and CaiQun would each have a specific baby doll that was their own. This is the first baby doll that she has really named on her own, not based on Matt’s or my suggestions, which I think is notable. Meet Nora :)

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Especially now that the girls have such a great interest in pregnancy and fetal development and in motherhood, it has been good for them to have some sweet baby dolls with which to play.

For her birthday dinner, Miranda chose to eat at House of Chow, always a favorite for everyone :)

My big girl has been 4 for a few months now, and I have to say, it’s a delightful age. We are definitely working on a number of character issues, but we are also having so much fun. Her questions are generally thoughtful, and we’re able to have increasingly intelligent conversations. She and CaiQun often play so beautifully together, and she can be super loving and sweet and sensitive.

At 4, she loves to read. She can read simple words and books on her own and is looking forward to doing more of that as part of our school curriculum this year. Her favorite subject in school right now is probably math – I use it as a reward for getting through hand-writing, which seems to feel more tedious to her – though she also loves our science and social studies materials. She is having a blast at gymnastics and looks forward to it every week. While she enjoys fun, out-of-the-ordinary activities, she also craves the stability of routine and structure. I see her introverted nature manifesting itself pretty clearly – she really does use her afternoon rest times to re-charge, and I often find her curled up on the couch looking at books on her own. Food is one area of life in which she shows very little interest – if it were up to her, she’d probably survive entirely on chocolate milk and yogurt (with occasional crackers thrown in for good measure). But she has so many other passions. She’s creative and frequently makes up story lines for herself and CaiQun as they play together. She can’t wait for Atticus to arrive and is completely in love with our friend, baby Judah. And she loves to talk and learn about pretty much anything :)

I feel blessed to be this little girl’s mommy. These past 4 years have been amazing, and I look forward to what God has in store for all of us in the future :)

July 27, 2014

And Now for Something Completely Different (or Maybe Not)

Posted in Atticus Garrett, family, God, life at 10:19 pm by alison

Last Monday, Matt, Miranda, CaiQun, my good friend Brooke, and I crowded into a small room, eager to see pictures of our baby #3, find out if he or she looked healthy, and find out if this was a he or a she! Lo and behold, we discovered that God seems to be blessing us with a healthy little BOY this time around!

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If you haven’t already, check out Matt’s beautiful post from our ultrasound for our first son :)

We were at first surprised and, honestly, a little intimidated! By no means do we have this parenting thing figured out, but we’ve been parenting girls for over 4 years now, while we have zero experience actually being parents to boys. But then we started to remember the years of fun we had with friends’ children in Chicagoland and how much we loved the time we spent with Noah and Jackson, with Stephen, and with Elijah and, of course, Roman, with whom we spent so much time that his mother and I joked that he was practically my first child. Of course I also had – and continue to have – many fun moments with my own brothers.

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And as I have reflected on parenting moments with our girls, I’ve realized that I really parent them each as individuals. Certainly a big part of who they are is that they are little girls, but each of them is an individual person, wonderful and unique, with their own preferences and personalities, strengths and struggles. Our son will be just the same. We look forward to welcoming Atticus Garrett into the world in just a few short months :)

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Isn’t he precious already? Just look at that adorable little wave!

We’ve had our little guy’s name picked out for years now. When Matt and I re-read To Kill a Mockingbird together, we fell in love with Atticus Finch. It’s impossible not to have a deep love and respect for a man who says things like this:

“Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It’s knowing you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

and:

“The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

We determined soon after that we would name our first son Atticus. We like to cast vision for our babies as we name them, and I can think of no better role model for our son to have than Atticus Finch. Our little one’s middle name, Garrett, is a family name from my mom’s side. My mom has come to help out with the arrivals of each of our two prior babies and is planning to do the same this time and is one of the most helpful, genuinely servant-hearted people you’ll ever meet. When she’s here, she cooks, cleans, rakes leaves, tirelessly plays with kiddos, dishes out ice cream, and on and on. I hope little Atticus will be blessed to carry on the Garrett name, as well.

It has been fun to begin to think of him more and more as a unique little person, now that we know his gender and have a name for him :) I wonder what his personality will be like, how he’ll interact with Miranda and CaiQun, and what will make him laugh and smile. Will he hate pureed green beans with the same passion that Miranda did, or will he eat practically anything, as CaiQun does? Will he retain Matt’s blue eyes beyond infancy, or will his slowly turn brown to match the girls in the family? Will he be a good sleeper (please, God!)?

I’ve been getting more and more excited to get things around the house set up and ready to go for him, too. As I’ve told several first-time expectant moms recently, the only thing that absolutely has to happen before your baby comes is getting that infant car seat in the car. Adding a child to our family for the third time, I’m much more laid back than I was with either of our first two. However, I’d still feel a lot more comfortable if we had his bed and changing table set up and the cloth diapers and some clothes for him washed and ready to go :) Matt and I did some work this afternoon cleaning up and organizing our bedroom in preparation for making room for some baby furniture, and we really enjoyed that time together, getting ready for our little guy.

He continues to kick and move all around with increasing strength. Matt has been able to feel him move for a few weeks now, and within these last few days he has even been moving for long enough at a time and with enough force that I could get the girls’ hands in place to feel him kicking, which they have loved. And I, of course, am continuing to get bigger and bigger! Here I am at just shy of 22 weeks.

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This second trimester of pregnancy – in which I am big enough to be noticeably pregnant but still small enough that my size is not a huge (ha ha) inconvenience, nausea and heartburn are under control, my ankles are still my own, and I get to feel my baby moving around frequently – was my most enjoyable with Miranda and, I suspect, will continue to be my favorite with Atticus. That said, though, this second pregnancy is coming with a lot more aches and pains than my first, which, from what I’ve heard, is entirely typical. I’ve been taking steps to protect my back and deal with pain and have gotten some good recommendations from a physical therapist friend, for which I’m extremely thankful. I don’t think pregnancy is for the faint of heart or for those who prize comfort above all else, and I really do believe the physical strain is worth it for the little life we’ll get the pleasure of welcoming into this world and shepherding through his childhood.

I’m so looking forward to the arrival of our little Atticus Garrett, and Matt and I are excited about this next phase of our adventure together – having a son and being the parents of three amazing kiddos!

July 20, 2014

baby steps of faith

Posted in family, God, life, Miranda Grace at 10:06 pm by alison

I often wonder what paths my children’s faith journeys will take. How will they respond to what we share about what we believe and why?

I’ve been spending a lot of time and energy working with Miranda regarding a couple of character issues that have recently been coming to the surface, as they tend to do in four-year-olds :) That can be draining for both of us, but I also believe that it’s what she needs, and we try to get in a lot of fun and sweet times, as well. Sometimes I wonder if I’m going about this whole mothering thing the right way, and I’m very thankful for a couple of great friends in Chicagoland who are willing to offer solid parenting feedback. Even so, there can be times when I wonder if we’re making any headway.

But every once in a while there seems to be a touchstone moment, and for those I am very grateful. They are such encouragements to me to press on, to be grateful for the hard times – the burners turned down to low while cooking dinner is put on hold or the to-do-list tasks put off. Those moments of character revelation and subsequent discussion really do matter, even if I can’t see the payoff right away.

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Tonight, after some harder moments, we had a long talk about love and how we can continue to love people even when they are being unkind. I talked with her about the Holy Spirit and how He is in our hearts when we are following Jesus, and He can help us to love people even when it’s hard.

After our conversation, Miranda went into the living room to play with CaiQun, and they told me they were going to practice playing together kindly. I reminded them that they could also pray that God would help them do that, and when I walked into the living room a few minutes later, Miranda was sitting off to the side, quietly praying. Moments later, she came over to me and sweetly said, “Mom, I prayed, and I asked God to send the Holy Spirit to my heart, and I prayed such a lovely prayer, and God heard me and said that He would.”

Sweetness :)

I suffer no delusions that my four-year-old daughter has a full understanding of what it means to follow God or that she is capable of making lifelong commitments. However, I also take Jesus at His word when He says, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). I believe He loves little children, and I believe He hears their prayers. It seems to me that right now, in her own way, my little Miranda is taking some baby steps of faith. And who am I to discourage any steps of my little ones toward Him?

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