Different, but the same

My brother and his family currently live in Germany. They are stationed there for the next while with the Air Force and while it’s a neat experience for them, it means I don’t get to see them until they are stateside. When they moved, my niece was almost 3 and my sister-in-law was newly pregnant. I was feeling a little more confident with my quilting, so I started looking at patterns right away, hoping to send a little bit of family over when the baby arrived.

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But when the announcement came that it was not one, but TWO babies our family would be welcoming in June, I put all my plans on hold. Twins, to me, are an amazing gift and while I love the matching everything, I wanted to make the quilts different…. but the same.

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In the end, I settled on fabric from the S’more Love line and used the same white fabric for the backgrounds. I also chose to make a scrappy binding for each of the quilts with material from the fabric line. Each quilt has a flannel back that coordinates with the colors on the tops.

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Connor’s quilt was made using the greens, browns and oranges from the line. I embroidered his name on a block that looked like a tree. I know, cheesy… but cute! I added strips of fabric to the back of his quilt as well. His piecing was so simple, I felt like it needed a little jazz. I did straight line quilting on the background fabrics and really love the minimal feel.

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Victoria’s quilt took a lot of time. As in, days to piece and layout the blocks. I used only the mustard and aqua prints so that her quilt has a bright, girly feel to it. It was quilted on an angle through all the wonky triangle.

The quilts were flown over to Germany this week with my father and step-mother. They will be spending time with their new grandchildren and exploring Europe for a few weeks… and considering my last experience with shipping something to my brother’s family, I’ll take the free space in my dad’s suitcase over a crate with my niece’s birthday gift sitting in port for 7 weeks thankyouverymuch! I’m anxious to hear what they think of the quilts, but I guess more importantly, I’m hoping that when I do get to finally meet these adorable little ones the quilts will be very well loved!

Clearing the cobwebs

I felt stunned when I looked at the calendar this morning. How is it Thursday already?! Oh I know. I let myself get submerged in anxiety at the beginning of the week and just haven’t quite bounced back from it. The first time I had a panic attack that left me wiped for two days, I was 12. Since then, it’s just something I have to work really hard to protect myself (and by default my family) from. And by the nature of how things have been lately, I just let myself  get swept away. I hate it when I feel like this: disconnected, exhausted and short. I’m thankful that my life and my mental health has changed enough that this is becoming a more and more rare experience. Growth. And Grace.

It’s been unseasonably “cold” these last few days as well, so it’s been a perfect time to test out some art projects, snuggle under the quilts (I’m still shocked that’s even a thought in JULY) and slow down. I’m preparing the next issue of our church’s devotional magazine and discovered a new tool last night while playing around with InDesign. I apologize in advance to those readers who notice a change in this issue with the styling. I’m an all or nothing sort of person.

On Tuesday, my friend Jen suggested taking Liam to the eye doctor for a checkup. He’s constantly falling over items, steps and the ground in general. And recently, his distance recognition of letters and numbers has been way off. Yesterday morning, I made a quick call to the eye doctor and got two, back-to-back appointments for the afternoon. Looking back on it now, I can see how God orchestrated all these little happenings to make this work: my friend was in the backyard and witnessed Liam tripping which led me to voice my frustration for him. I placed my call while Sylvi was eating breakfast and Liam was still in bed – the office had just opened and I got to pick from the whole day (I later overheard that they have NO appointments until the middle of August.) And the doctor was amazing with both kiddos. Such a pleasant appointment and they were equipped to handle even the eye glasses fitting for Liam before we left. And the best part is that he’ll have glasses and be adjusted to them before school begins!

This afternoon, I pulled out my precious dust buster and started cleaning out all the dead June Bugs in my window sills. So good for my soul. After 3 days of feeling like I have been cluttered and dusty in my mind, I told myself enough is enough and it was time to start the mental cleaning. It takes time, you know. And it takes a lot of effort to put the icky thoughts out. And to constantly remind yourself that our God is bigger than the worries and the anxieties that constantly attack our minds. But in the end, the work – the trust and faith – so worth it.

Shooting for the moon baby quilt

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Sadly, this is the only photo that got taken of this quilt. I worked like a crazy person in the week prior to this one’s completion because I had three baby showers in the space of 10 days! It was a day or two before I realized that I hadn’t even photographed this one so I’m very grateful that my friend Terri snapped this quickly!

Again, another prechosen fabric bundle from Fabricworm, and that adorable astronaut fabric is amazingly soft flannel. I bound with the same navy blue dotty fabric from the churn dash quilt. And once again, this is another pattern from Camille!

Summer grillin’

I don’t eat much in the summer. I’m hot and grumpy (because I’m hot) and I don’t really feel like it. Which becomes a problem when by 330 I still haven’t eaten yet, and I’m miserable. But, as the vicious cycle of low blood sugar in my own body goes, once it drops and I’ve gone too long my appetite leaves. And because I still don’t eat, it gets worse until I finally eat something… and it usually is something fast and not really effective. With that in mind, I am really trying to stay on top of the cycle so I can skip right to the end… the part with a full (and happy) belly.

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And although I really enjoy a chopped salad or maybe a rule-breaking meal, chicken is my favorite protein to serve on my salad. I love grilled chicken, but don’t want to heat up the grill on a daily basis, so on the weekends, I have Matt grill up a LOT. It stays in the fridge until I’m inspired… or hungry. Lucky for us, I was hungry and inspired when I tossed together this salad that packs perfectly for an office or picnic lunch.

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You can grill the corn along with the chicken or use canned corn. Any type of tomato would be tasty, but right now, I am loving the grape tomato. I’m also really into black beans and cotija cheese. It crumbles up nicely and if your your chicken is fresh from the grill, it melts fantastically on top!

Summer Grilled Salad

  • 3 chicken breasts – grilled
  • 1 cup corn – grilled
  • 1 cup black beans
  • 1 cup tomatoes – chopped
  • 1/2 cup cotija cheese – crumbled
  • lettuce
  • tortilla chips (This is a special request from Matt… I’ve never felt the need to add them.)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. sour cream
  • 2 Tbsp. salsa
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 Tbsp. chives – minced

Go to town chopping the chicken, lettuce and tomatoes. Toss together with the beans and corn. (At this point, you can stop prep and put your salad in containers for work or a picnic, or you can fill your plate!) Put the olive oil, vinegar, sour cream, salsa, onion powder and chives in a container and shake vigorously. Once you’ve plated the salad, pour the dressing and top with cheese. If you’re like Matt, you can also add tortillas. 

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The chicken and veg mix will stay fresh in your fridge for up to 4 days. I like to keep it in pint-sized ball jars with a lid and pull a serving out as needed.

First in our books

Welcome to the July 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Vacation

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared their family-travel tips, challenges, and delights. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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As I sit here typing, I’m recovering from our first ever vacation. We traveled to Canada to visit with my family… We hadn’t been there since the summer of 2007. Seven years people. As a result the trips was less of a wandering and more of a cram-in-as-much-time-with-family-as-possible sort of trip. I was so excited about the trip that I almost lost sight of the fact that I wasn’t the only person on the trip. The day before we left, a friend briefly mentioned that I needed to keep any expectation for rest/relaxation at a bare minimum. Thankfully, that was what I needed to hear to keep myself in line!

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I thought about this post all week and wondered what I would write about. I’m not a big traveler, so vacations are not high on my dream list. And although I feel like I could certainly teach courses in how to plan  and pack for a trip, I don’t feel inspired to do so. I don’t really have dreams of future travels to share with you either. Our week couldn’t have been better… there were snags here and there, of course, but all the planning in the world wouldn’t have changed them.

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Because I am myself, I had lists and plans and neatly organized bags. So as I was loading the car the night before the trip, I patted myself on the back for my ingenuity. As I stood in the garage admiring my work, I suddenly remembered all the trips I took with my family growing up. We had always traveled by car and packed the majority of the food. I realized that all those years of driving around the United States prepared me for my very own trip.

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I knew how to write those lists because I’d sit with my mother and write out what we needed to take for each day. I knew how to estimate our snacks because of so many hours spent trying to make it to the next stop without… stopping. And I knew how to load the back of the car because I was the kid who was always in such a hurry to get going that I’d rush the bags out to my dad. I never realized that all that time I’d spent watching my dad play luggage tetris, I was learning how to do it for myself.

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On our last full day on the beach, I noticed a family paddling by in kayaks. Matt was taking photos, Liam and Sylvi were at my feet digging in the sand and I was (ironically?) reading The Wilder Life. I looked up from these pages that were spelling out my own childhood daydreams to see Kayak Family. I took a photo because seeing the two boys and their parents laughing and working together made me hope for my own future vacations.

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We are home now. I’ve sorted through all the photos, ordered prints, done laundry and settled into our household again. I haven’t had the time yet to sit down and process all that we experienced. Spending late nights with my grandmother, visiting with ALL my Canadian cousins and seeing the glorious sights – all these things were what I had hoped for and more. I wonder if my own parents wished these moments for their children. I wondered if they realized those experiences were shaping my children’s future trips?

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For a crazy moment I started to plan our next trip. It was a moment when I thought to myself “Wow. I am a rockstar at this traveling gig!” I’ve since slept a night and regained my sanity. I don’t want to travel again for a while. Instead, I’m content to soak in the pleasant memories of our trip and know that we can do it. We can travel as a family and live to write it in our books as a wonderful story to tell in the years to come.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Favorite Family Vacation Recipe: Staying at Home — The best family vacation Laurie Hollman at Parental Intelligence could ever recommend requires minimal packing, no hotels, unrushed travel, easy meals to everyone’s taste without a bill, no schedules, everyone’s favorite interests, and three generations playing together.
  • Scared of toilets and other travel stories — Tat at Mum in search is an expert at flying with kids. She shares some of her tips and travel stories.
  • Staycation Retreat for Busy MamasLydia’s Handmade Life gives Budget-friendly, eco-friendly staycation ideas for busy work-at-home moms.
  • How We Leave It All Behind — At Life Breath Present, they don’t take traditional vacations — they go on forest adventures. Here are some tips in planning for an adventure, if you don’t just go spontaneously, as they have before. Plus, many pictures of their latest adventure!
  • Traveling while pregnant: When to go & how to manage — Lauren at Hobo Mama discusses the pros and cons of traveling during the different trimesters of pregnancy, and how to make it as comfortable as possible.
  • Our Week in Rome: Inspiration and Craft Ideas for Parents, Teachers, and Caregivers — If anyone in your family is interested in learning about Ancient Rome, if you enjoy crafts, of if you’re a parent looking for a fun staycation idea, check out Erin Yuki’s post for a Roman-themed week of crafts, food, and fun at And Now, for Something Completely Different.
  • The Real Deal: A behind the scenes look at our “Western Adventure” — Often Facebook and blog posts make vacations look “picture perfect” to outsiders. If you only looked at the pictures, Susan’s recent family vacation was no exception. In this post at Together Walking, she takes readers “behind the scenes” so they can see the normal challenges they faced and how they managed to enjoy their vacation in spite of them.
  • Welcome to the Beach House! — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is in love with her family’s new “beach house”!
  • Road Trip to Niagara Falls — Erica at ChildOrganics writes about her first trip out of the country with just her and the kids.
  • 5 Essential Things to Take on Vacation — Five things Nurtured Mamas should be packing in their suitcase for their next trip, in a guest post at Natural Parents Network.
  • The Many Benefits of Camping with Friends — Do you want to go camping, but the very thought of it seems daunting? Make your life easier – and your kids happier – and go camping with friends! Dionna at Code Name: Mama discusses how much better camping can be when you join forces with others.
  • My Natural First Aid Kit for Camping, Travel, and Everyday Use — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama gives us an insiders looks at her natural first aid kit for camping, travel, and everyday use. These natural remedies have saved her hide and those of others many times! You might be surprised what made her list of must-haves!
  • Traveling Solo and Outnumbered — Alisha at Cinnamon and Sassafras shares lessons learned from a recent trip with two toddlers and no co-parent.
  • Compromise and conviction on the road — Jessica of Crunchy-Chewy Mama shares the reality vs. the dream of travel and dishes on the compromises she makes or won’t make while traveling.
  • Camping Trauma — Jorje of Momma Jorje offers why she loves camping and why she and her family are a little gun shy about it, too.
  • First in our Books — Writing fresh from her first family vacation, Laura from Pug in the Kitchen has realized that helping pack her parents’ station wagon made for a smooth and pleasant trip that was more than she hoped for!

Mighty Mommy Monday – Back on Track

It’s Mighty Mommy Monday! Abbie of Farmer’s Daughter and I have decided to challenge you on a weekly basis.  Claim the Mighty Mommy title for yourself — every day, not just Mondays. Every week, we’ll host a link up for you to tell us what you’re doing to take care of your health: workouts, menu plans, how to keep your family active, etc. I’ve set a few goals for 2014, but my biggest is to swim a total of 30 freestyle miles this year AND run a half marathon in October! Join us!

 

I’m almost dreading the arrival of Monday morning. For the last two weeks, I’ve been teetering on the edge of the bandwagon. Granted it’s been because of travel, but it’s been a bit of a lazy few weeks. I’ve really been good about sticking to clean eating, only a sip of my cousin’s home brewed beer and Starbucks on our drives. I planned like a crazy person so I brought gluten free options and meat. Oh. And it turns out that Canada has a wealth of gluten free baked goods. After an amazing (and when I say amazing, I mean I actually sat and sniffed/inhaled/scarfed down a gf hamburger bun before the burgers were even off the grill!) taste of what is available up there… moving became a desire. Yes. Bread of that caliber would make me want to move… in a stupor of drool.

But I digress. This week, it’s back to focusing on making sure I get enough water, eating regular meals and getting plenty of rest through the night. And I’m shooting for 3 2-mile runs this week. It’s a busy week ahead, so I’m easing back into things with shorter-than-I-had-hoped-to-be runs even this late in the prep game. I’m 15 weeks out from the race and now it’s time to get cracking!

With that in mind, I start tomorrow with this exciting looking upper-body workout and some serious stretching. It’s crazy how stiff you get sitting in a car!

 

Churn dash for baby boy

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I’ve been dying to try out this churn dash pattern from Camille for quite a while. It’s a smaller quilt, so it would also make a neat wall hanging! I used a fabric bundle from Fabricworm (btw, I love how they set up the bundles with the neatest prints and solids… love it!) and bought a dotted grey and white cotton from Michael Miller (I think?) for the backing.

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One of the blocks in this quilt is made from fabric from a bundle I bought for another quilt, but it matched up so nicely I liked it better than what I had orgininally chosen for that block.

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I straight-line quilted and was very bothered by it. I didn’t go along with the block lines because I needed to start in the middle. I think the overall look was very nice, but I’m fussy :) And every time I looked at it, I saw mistakes where my hands wobbled and the lines weren’t perfect. But babies don’t care!

I bound it up with another dotty fabric and although I was worried that it would be too busy, I really liked how it turned out!

Jungle fever chevron quilt

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This is the first of a month of posts to catch up on my recent quilting. In the matter of a few weeks, I got my act together and took the giant stack of fabrics I had purchased as soon as I knew my friends and family were pregnant. This seems to be the year of boys so far as all of the people who have had babies, except one! It’s been fun for me to sit and pick out the fabrics and patterns with a more masculine theme. I’ve been sewing so much for Sylvi in the last few years that all these little prints that have robots and spaceships are ones that I haven’t gotten to see!

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This quilt was made for a friend of mine from church. She works for the children’s ministry and because of my personal involvement with MOPS, I’ve wound up spending a lot of time with her and it was just so exciting to find out she was expecting. Little Landon made his appearance last week and he’s just precious.

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I had pinned this pattern a while ago and planned to use it for someone else, but when I got the fabric for Landon’s quilt, I knew my plans needed to change. Also, I changed some of the measurements of the original pattern. It called for 7 1/2 inch squares, but once they were sewn together, you were to trim them down to 6 1/2 inches… nope. I’m confident in my half square triangles so I didn’t leave room for trimming and they turned out perfectly.

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I loved the prints and was so excited when one pair matched up enough to extend the picture!

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I backed with Michael Miller flannel and traced out the chevron with straight line quilting, which I honestly believe will always be my favorite kind of quilting. I love how this turned out and hope it gets loved to shreds in the coming years!

I’m linked up here for Finish it Friday with Crazy Mom Quits.

Thunderstorms, snuggles and long nights

After a long day at the Lake (my excuse for not posting for Mighty Mommy Monday), I bathed the kids and sent them to bed. I wanted to rest and collect my scattered brains. But by 10 pm, it was evident that Liam wasn’t going to bed. The lightening was shocking and the sound of the rain and thunder was LOUD.

So as we crawled into my bed, I was reminded of the day we bought our mattress. The sweet Amish man who made the mattresses called it a “thunderstorm bed”… that sold us! I laugh about those thunderstorms even though they make for hard nights for me, thunderstorms mean cosleeping. And that means I get my wish!

When Liam was little, I wanted so desperately to cosleep. And no matter how I arranged things, he just wouldn’t  settle down. Once in his own bed, he’d sleep. Sigh. When Sylvi was born, we popped her in bed with us as well, but it didn’t last as long as I’d hoped. She also loved her space, but would snuggle up on rough nights and early mornings. She still does, actually. She comes in every morning to snuggle and sometimes will fall back asleep curled up against me.

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So last night, Liam and I went to bed and he tossed and turned for a while, but eventually settled down. An hour after, Sylvi woke up scared of the storm and another little person joined our bed. Thanks to our weather system, I spent most of the night with little people clinging to me and waking every so often to check and make sure we were are all ok.

Little by little as we all got out of bed this morning and I stretched the kinks out of my back, I was reminded of how quickly they are growing. Liam will be 5 in a little bit and I noticed the other day that he’s pronouncing his “L” sound correctly these days. As hard as our stormy nights are, the day is coming when he won’t need me to soothe his fears. There are moments, like before the coffee is done, when I look forward to a decent night of sleep. But then, someone goes and pronounces a word correctly after months of a cute little lisp and the reality of how short this time sinks in.

Want some ice cream with that humble pie?

Last month, as a result of my poor planning and a sour attitude, I had to eat a heaping helping of humble pie. I even called and apologized to someone not involved in the situation because I felt so convicted about the state of my heart on the matter. Without being too revealing, I over-booked myself and was asked to serve someone who was in need. Even with being over-booked, I don’t normally have an issue with this. But the person in question had offended my sense of justice at our last encounter.

After the incident, I sat back to question how often I gripe when asked to serve. Do I sign up and hope to never be called upon… only wanting my name to sit on the list of volunteers and look pretty? When asked, do I only serve if I like the people around me? And do I make note of how awesome MY actions were when later asked how things went?

Now look, there isn’t anything wrong with needing a thank you from time to time, but to do something and then run around lauding your work isn’t cool. I love this quote from Jodi Detrick in her book:

“Unlike Jesus, who was willing to wait for His good deeds to be exposed at the right time, I want others to know what I did now – I’m so quick to trade the approval of God for the praise of people.”

I read this right after my own incident and I felt really, really convicted. I’ve been trying to get away from this mindset that I need to be praised and cheered for each little thing I do in volunteer organizations. Because, um… if you’re volunteering, it should be with a pure heart. And foolishly, up until a few weeks ago, I thought I was doing pretty well! While complaining about all the work I put into a newsletter I write, only to have “no one” read it, a friend pointed out to me that I took the position to be a member of the ministry team. Not to get published. Ouch. She was totally right. And I was embarrassed that that was how she thought I was viewing it.

I sat back and thought over my commitments and really took stock in my motivation for doing things. And I’m glad. Every now and then you do need to reassess and I realized that I had let myself take a little too much of my self worth from all the things I was involved in. That’s not where it comes from. I feel like every time I reassess, I find something about myself that is in need of work. But then, that’s the whole point of taking the time to do this. Now, when I catch myself getting disgruntled about volunteer work or service, I know it’s time to check myself. Which, because I’m getting smarter about it, the internal ick isn’t where it used to be. Hey! Progress! And progress is the ice cream that goes along with my humble pie. I like ice cream.

“… but with humility comes wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2b