Monday, November 30, 2009

Whole New Meaning...

I always dread the first day back to work after a major holiday. I know, getting back to the daily grind is hard for everyone, but when you work with kids in foster care, the first business day after a holiday takes on a whole new meaning. Why? Because holidays are prime times for excess--people drink to excess, they relapse on drugs because those drugs are available. And then because they've done that, they make other poor choices, like driving drunk with the kids in the car or beating up their spouse. Which usually means the authorities became involved, which usually means the kids end up being placed in foster care. When it comes to teens, the holidays are always a prime time for placement into residential treatment facilities due to severe depression and/or suicide attempts.

One year, I had a sibling group come into care just after Thanksgiving. We later found out that the kids were alone on Thanksgiving--their parents had just left a few days before the holiday and hadn't come back, and hadn't left food in the house. On Monday, the older siblings packed up the younger siblings and took them to school with them because they didn't know what else to do. There wasn't a foster home available to take a group of siblings that size, so the kids were split up. A few days later, I received a fax from one of the kids' new teachers--the class had written letters to Santa, and that elementary school aged child had written that for Christmas, he wanted his parents to stop drinking so that he could see his family on Christmas.

For the most part, I handle the hard reality of my job pretty well. I read about horrific abuse and neglect every day, and of course, that is always hard. But in doing the job long enough, you have to learn how to compartmentalize so that when you come home, you can turn "off" that portion of your brain. It's hard, and sometimes people think I'm callous and jaded when I tell them that for the most part, when I get home, I don't think about cases. But the one time that I have a hard time "turning off" is always around the holidays, because working where I do puts the holidays in a whole new perspective. Sometimes, thinking about what Thanksgiving or Christmas was like for those kids just makes me so angry at the parents. Sometimes, I just want to shake them and ask "Was that hit really worth having your child placed in foster care on Christmas? Don't you realize that for them Christmas isn't magic anymore--it will always be the day they were taken away?!" I just don't understand it sometimes.

Anyway. I'm okay. I just had to ramble a little bit, so that now I CAN move on to the rest of my night. Sorry for rambling and being a Debbie Downer...but thanks for listening/reading!

Monday Snippets

  • I am eating Grandma's Peach-Almond Pie for breakfast. It is delicious. And PS- it's what I've listed over at NewlyWoodwards for the Dare to DIY challenge of the week, which was cookies/bars/cakes. I'm a rebel and threw in a pie.

    Dare to DIY

  • I also plan to try Starbucks' Cream Brulee Latte today. It had better be worth the hype and the giving up of my much-loved Peppermint Mocha.
  • The nursery is so close to being done that I can almost taste it! I just have to get Justin to re-arrange some of the furniture. He arranged it in what would admittedly be the most functional way, but it just looks funny that way. I may hold off on the big reveal until after my shower on the 19th, because I'm sure there will be more to add then.
  • The movie 2012 was better than I expected. It was actually quite good--just loooooong.
  • For the past couple of weeks, my cat has been shunning me. Seriously, she wouldn't come near me. Over the weekend however, she's been attached to my side and wants to be held 24/7. This freaked me out, because I've now heard from several people that their cats did this right before they went into labor, and I am not ready to go into labor yet!
  • I was up from 12:30am-1:30am last night. Why? Inexplicably, doing a kick count. Don't ask.
  • But since you're wondering, I have been having incredible anxiety again lately. It's totally irrational anxiety, usually revolving around our house not being clean. So then I don't sleep, which means that when it comes time to actually clean our house, I'm delirious and exhausted, which means nothing really gets done. Vicious cycle. I want to pick up Max Lucado's new book Fearless. I have a feeling it might help calm me down and conk me out in the middle of the night.
  • Leg cramp on the couch = Kicking laptop off the couch = Cracked laptop screen. You might recall that it was already cracked. Now it's really cracked. Suck. But my fantastic dad is looking to see if he can find a replacement screen on eBay. Here's hoping.
  • Our Christmas shopping and December birthday shopping is just about done!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Weekend Photos

First, here's a few more shots from the day before Thanksgiving...

Interestingly enough, I didn't photoshop this one except for turning it black and white....but the eyes look like it, don't they?

Now, some photos from Thanksgiving....Justin played photographer that particular day, and I have to say, I was impressed. He is really getting the hang of the DSLR!

This is my younger brother Kevin, aka "Bug". Bug is taking something like 5 shop classes this year. He's started a little local side business of making pens and wine stoppers on his lathe. He had an order to send back up to Portland with my aunt, so he was working on them most of the day...

I feel like my belly has recently gotten absolutely HUGE. Everyone has been making comments about it lately! My mom even commented that it looks like I've kind of dropped already! I'm not sure that I'm ready to have dropped yet, but it IS interesting. Also interesting? The little one was hanging out on my left side all day, and my baby bump was hilariously mis-shapen. Unfortunately, the only in-focus picture that I have where you can really see the mis-shapen-ness is um....of me flipping off the camera. Lol. So, you'll have to settle with this one...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Photo of the Day

Look what I got to do today:


I had a real-life, paying photo shoot for someone that I didn't know before today! I had a lot of fun shooting this beautiful almost 6-month-old girl! Even though she was teething and having a hard morning, I know I got at least a couple of shots that will probably make her momma very happy!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pregnancy Post: Week 33 ish

Seriously you guys, the hair picture totally cracks me up. Just in case you can't read the type, those arrows are pointing to a little mini mohawk of hair! I hope this little one comes out with poofy hair just like that! Anyway, since my appointment was today and I'm sure y'all are as curious to hear the story about the doctor's appointment as I am to tell it, I thought I'd go ahead and do the pregnancy post a little early, and maybe I'll post a bump shot later on.

So, we went in for the ultrasound first. The tech, Tracy, said that everything looks good--I am still measuring at about 34-35 weeks (but not far enough to change the due date), the baby is head down, looks to be about 4.38 pounds (they estimate a 7 pound baby if I go to 40 weeks) and the amniotic fluid level is at a 16 (they want between 8 and 20), and the heart rate was 138. I asked about the heart rate because it's usually in the 150's, but Tracy explained that the heart rate will vary with activity level throughout the day, and that it could be due to the fact that I usually come in at 4pm, and today I was there at might be the time she sleeps, or whatever. Tracy said that the baby's legs were folded and crossed, so she couldn't get a good look in between the legs to confirm the gender either way.

We then went into the room to wait for the doctor. We were talking about movement, and I made some comment about how "she likes to wiggle her toes in my ribs."
The doctor then responded, "Oh....Tracy told you it's still a girl?"
I said, "Well, no...she said that she couldn't get a good shot either way."
The doctor responded, "Hmmm...there was this one shot...well, but I'm looking at still shots and Tracy is looking at the live version. Sometimes I get shadows or odd angles that look different on my end. Tracy is the best, and she would have said something if she thought that indicated we'll probably keep things like they are and go with girl."

Now weigh in if you disagree, but to me that convo definitely indicates some uncertainty about the gender! Which honestly didn't surprise me because as most of you know, I've thought it was a boy the whole time. I still have a hard time calling him or her Elizabeth, and usually default to Lizard. Really, it's sort of funny that as much as I absolutely, 100% wanted to know what we were having, now it's sort of unknown, despite my best attempts otherwise. We won't likely have another ultrasound unless we paid for an elective one, and I'm not sure it's worth it to us to do, we're already past the optimum window for the elective u/s anyway.

I talked to my mom afterwards, and we laughed about it. My mom said she wonders if this is why she's been having such a hard time getting going working on the quilt (which is turquoise and pink). She's just felt weird about cutting into the fabric for some reason. We agreed that it might be best for her to hold off on finishing the quilt until the baby is actually born--we have plenty of other blankets that will work in the meantime! And really, most of our nursery is fairly gender netural. If the baby DOES end up being a boy, we'd basically just need to dye the slipcover for the chair, make a new bedskirt, switch out some wall art, and return the clothes. If we have another shower, hopefully everyone will be kind and bring gift receipts, lol!

Well THAT's interesting!

So, um...the baby's gender is now a little up in the air! LOL! More to come later....

All I know for sure is that the Old Wives Tale about heartburn meaning lots of hair definitely rings true--this kid has a serious headful!

Thankful Tuesday

Today I am thankful:

-That our family lives close enough that we're able to see both sides of them on Thanksgiving.
-For sweet Justin, who took out the trash this morning without my asking.
-For the encouragement of our Young Marrieds Bible Study.
-That I'll be able to see Lizzy at my ultrasound this afternoon--I haven't seen her in about 10 weeks, and I'm sure the amount she's grown will be amazing!
-That Justin is able to come to my doctor's appointments with me.
-For the chocolate-lemon cookies my parents brought back from Trader Joe's.
-That today is my last day of work this week!

What about you guys? What little things are you thankful for today?

PS- New poll to the left :)

Monday, November 23, 2009

A few things...

I really want some of this, which the Haagen Dazs website says is available from September through December. However, I have not been able to find it ANYWHERE, and boy have I looked! Peppermint, chocolate, and ice cream together are my serious weakness. My only other option to satisfy this craving would be Dairy Queen's Chocolate Peppermint blizzard, but I can guarantee that won't be available until next month. C'mon a pregnant lady out!

I read Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas last night. I believe it was one of the books that you faithful blog readers suggested that I check out. It's not a book that I would have normally picked for myself, but it was available on Paperback Swap, and so I got it. It wasn't bad. A fast read nonetheless. There's something awfully rewarding about completing an entire book in an evening! Overall though, I did find the book pretty darn predictable. And again, I felt like it just kind of ended. Even after reading the diary, I wasn't buying that Katie would completely forgive Matt THAT quickly.

In other news, I've been having a hard week. Last Thursday, I started having contractions. Not Braxton Hicks contractions, but the real deal. It turns out that I was a) dehydrated, b) hadn't been getting enough sleep, and c) doing too much. Thankfully, they've stopped, but there were a few days there of being uncomfortable and in pain all.the.time. The not-getting-enough-sleep part was not surprising, as for the past week and a half or so, I've probably been averaging 3 and a half hours of sleep a night. And that just isn't cutting it when I'm still working. Last night, I broke down and took some Benadryl. I'm still exhausted. I just keep reminding myself that I only have 1.5 days of work this week (though I do need to work a longer-than-usual day today), and I can do that. Then I have 5 days off, which is a MUCH needed break! I'm hoping that will help improve my mood a bit.

We went to see New Moon over the weekend. I liked it much better than the first movie, probably because I'd much rather stare at Jacob for 2 hours than Edward. Definitely Team Jacob here. However, actually going to the movie was a PITA. We had tickets, and admittedly arrived later than we should. We both kept trying to sit in the available seats, and people would say, "Sorry, this seat's taken." Which happened with every empty seat in the theater. Okay, we have tickets for the showing, I know not EVERY seat is taken, you just want a seat for your damn coats. We ended up having to switch to another showing because everyone SWORE the empty seats were actually taken. So, we made it to the next showing, and ended up with a one year old next to us. The parents refused to take him out of the theater when he cried, and even changed his diaper in the theater. No joke. Look, I don't mind if parents take babies to the movies, but for god sake, if they're screaming bloody murder, take them out of the theater!

Hope y'all had a good weekend!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

DIY Nursery Wall Art

So, as many of you are well aware, the main colors of the nursery are turquoise and white, with pink accents throughout. I've been trying to think of a way to pull more pink into the room, and ALSO, I've been trying to think of something to put on the wall across from the tree mural, which was completely blank.

I would not call myself a crafty person by any means, but I had an idea for some DIY wall art that I thought would be simple enough even for me. I actually like how they turned out, but you'll have to use your imagination a bit, because I can't seem to get a good picture depicting the color--the background color is a bright fuchsia pink. The white actually has a bit of a shimmer to it.


I know it's not earth shattering, and it's not perfect, but I hope that it will reference all the colors in the room nicely, and it really was super easy--I bought 5 pieces of scrapbook paper, and two 12x 12 white frames. In total, I think it cost $16. Then, I found a silhouette of a bird online, printed it off, and traced it onto the scrapbook paper. I used a glue stick to glue it all together. The end!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Burning Question of the Day: Children's Books

I think I've mentioned before that I really haven't done much shopping for Lizard thus far. I've purchased her one outfit, and some yarn to make a blanket and hat...and that's pretty much it. I don't feel super compelled to buy lots of clothes, but what I DO have the itch to buy is lots of children's books!

So today's BQOTD is: What were some of your favorite books as a kid?

I remember liking quite a few books, but my mom and dad could probably give me even more--I've loved books for as long as I can remember. Some of my favorite kids books that we already own due to having nieces and nephews around are:

All images from

Now, I just need to find a way to get the record of "Teddy Bear Picnic" songs onto my iPod. I LOVE the version that Bing Crosby sung. I remember many nights of rocking Shelbers to sleep while playing that song. She loved when Justin would sing it to her!

I don't think Renee and I will ever understand the humor, but I know that one of Justin's family's favorites growing up was:

A few that I don't have yet but want to get are:

Friday Photos and Funny

Folks, this is my younger sis Courtney. I know, we don't look anything alike, but we ARE full sisters, not step sisters or sisters by adoption (you would be surprised how often I'm asked). You also can't tell by these pictures, but she's about 5'2" while I'm about 5'10", so the height thing typically throws people even more than the different hair color.

Anyway, it was her birthday on Wednesday--she is finally 21! We went out to Applebees, which is her favorite for some reason that I will never understand. I seriously struggle to find anything to eat every time we go there, especially now, since I can't order steak the way I like it (which is seriously rare).
It had been a looooooonnnnnng day, and I was pretty jealous of the role reversal that let her have a drink while I was stuck with a measly cherry coke. But, as always with my family, there were lots of laughs, and a perverse joke or two.
My bro Kevin started us off with the laughs by trying to order his chicken fried steak "medium rare." Apparently, he thought salmonella would be a fun challenge to overcome before his playoff football game today. Look at how monstrous that chicken friend steak is!
Justin bought Court a shot. For some reason, my sis asked for a shot of Jack. Now, I can drink Jack, but it's probably the last liquor I'd ever pick to do a straight shot of unless I was really toasted already.
Court got about half of the shot down,
before saying extremely loudly....wait for it....
"I can't fit it all in my mouth!!!"
To which my brother, across the restaurant, promptly responded, "That's what she said!"

Happy 21st sis!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pregnancy Post: Week 32

How far along? 32 weeks. 5 weeks until I'm full term. Crazy!

Total weight gain: Still at 28 pounds.

Maternity clothes? For pants, yes. I'm still wearing some non-maternity shirts (both the shirt and sweater in this week's pic are not maternity), but I'm finding most are now getting too short.

Sleep: I sleep a lot, but not well. I nap for half an hour on my lunch break. I sleep for an hour when I get home from work. But I don't really ever sleep for any extended period of time.

Best moment this week: A co-worker's suggestion to try a cup of Coca-Cola to alleviate heart-burn. It WORKED! Also, I am sure my work baby shower will be awesome--it's my first shower, and I'm excited!

Movement: Definitely getting the daily kick count numbers, but I can't seem to make her move anymore. Normal suggestions like orange juice, soda, ice, poking at her, etc. don't make a difference. When I asked my OB about this, he responded, "Well, that has been known to be indicative of one thing in a baby--serious attitude." Greaaaaattt, lol.

Gender: We'll find out if she's still a she next Tuesday!

Labor Signs: Just Braxton Hicks contractions so far.

Belly Button in or out? Still in, but barely.

Stretch Marks? Yes. Even in weird places like my knees. And my sides. Exhibit A--a belly-level straight on picture:

I really grappled with whether or not to post a bare-belly picture, because I don't like these damn stretch marks. And it seems like none of the other pregnant bloggers I "know" have them. But then I realized that some of them probably do, but just don't show them, like I wasn't showing them. And it can be hard being pregnant watching these little buggers develop, and feeling like you're the only one dealing with it. So, here's the picture. I'm still not very happy about it. Moving on....

What I miss: Alcoholic beverages. Especially yesterday, which was my sister's 21st birthday. I wish that I would have been able to have a drink with her!

Weekly Wisdom: Eat when you're hungry. If you're not hungry, don't force yourself, even if it's "time" to eat. Doing so will result in the worst acid reflux ever. This is most certainly true.

Milestones: At the end of this week, I will be down to 50 days to go! Also, no more than 33.5 remaining business days at work--and realistically, it's probably more like 27. Though let's be honest--I'm seriously praying for a December baby rather than a January one!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wedded Wednesday: Blessings and Challenges

Wedded Wednesday is a collaboration of married bloggers
sharing their inspirations, anecdotes, struggles and thoughts
regarding the amazing union of two separate people, as one.
Head over to Marital-Bless to see more Wedded Wednesday Bloggers.

A funny thing happened in blog-land this week. One of my blogger friends, Leah, had an “Ask Me Anything” post, encouraging her readers to ask her absolutely anything they wanted. I’m nosy when it comes to other bloggers’ personal lives, and so I really do sometimes take those “Ask Me Anything” opportunities to ask things that I’ve always wondered, but under normal circumstances wouldn’t ever ask. So, I asked Leah, “What have been both the biggest challenges and the biggest blessings both in being married, and becoming a mom.”

Today, for her Wedded Wednesday post, Leah answered my question about the biggest challenges and blessings in terms of being married, and then challenged us to post our own difficulties and blessings. And since it was my question to begin with, I feel pretty obligated to participate ;)

For us, I think the biggest challenge is communication—and specifically, how we communicate when we disagree. Growing up, our families tended to be very different in this way. When Justin’s family has disagreements, they tend to hash things out loudly, right away. I have never seen them be disrespectful towards each other, but they certainly yell and get loud. For Justin, that’s a normal form of conflict resolution.

Growing up, I really don’t think I ever saw a major fight between my parents. I can’t recall ever seeing or hearing them raise their voices at each other. I saw them disagree with each other, but it was resolved privately. It was a blessing not to be aware of my parents fighting, but in some ways it was also a bit of a curse, because I didn’t really see how they resolved those conflicts.

So when we disagree, unless we really check ourselves through the process, it can have a tendency to look like this: Justin will quickly get loud and defensive. I will get upset, start crying, and ask him to stop yelling. He will yell, “I am NOT YELLING”, and then say the meanest thing he can think of. I completely shut down and I will retreat to our room and refuse to talk to him. Then I hold a grudge for days.

[For the record, neither the saying the meanest thing he can think of nor the holding grudges for extended periods of time are things we learned from our parents. They’re just our own bad habits, and we both acknowledge that they exist.]

We’re getting better at it though—and I think even just now being able to identify it as an issue and why it’s an issue is a huge strength. I think for both of us, the most helpful thing has been to intentionally give each other some space right when we start to get upset, WITH THE PROMISE TO TALK ABOUT IT LATER. It’s been suggested that we even set a specific time to talk later, which is something I’d like to implement.

In high school, I had a string of friends who died. It was really hard for me, and I still have a bit of a complex that anyone I end up becoming close with will either die or move away. Consequently, I have a hard time opening up to people sometimes. Justin doesn’t let me get away with that. He calls me out when I start to push him or someone else away, but in a really supportive way. Justin has absolutely shown me how to open up to people, and has affirmed with me that it’s worth it, even if that person does die or move away.

Additionally, it has been such a blessing to know that our marriage is someplace that I will always be able to receive support. I really can’t think of any instance where I’ve wanted to do or try something, and Justin hasn’t supported it. He’s a constant source of encouragement, and a safe place to go if I fail. He is incredibly quick to forgive, and often has already forgiven me before I’ve asked for forgiveness, which is a blessing beyond measure.

But I agree with Leah, in that perhaps the biggest blessing of all has been in knowing that this is a lifelong partnership and covenant. I believe that some of our friends and family members expected our marriage to fail because we were married at such a young age. But it will not fail, because failure isn’t an option for us. And knowing that, I sometimes feel like it makes us both fight harder to work things out and resolve situations. Even though we’re complete opposites in a lot of ways, and I often hear from friends as the reason that the relationships or marriages of my friends dissolve, we choose to look at that as a blessing—that we’re complimentary to each other, and help to balance each other out. And I firmly believe that Justin does balance me out and I balance him out—together, we’re stronger than we are apart, which is an incredible blessing!

Blame it on the Raaaaiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnn

There's something you should know about my sweet husband--he's a total music snob. Sometimes I get so irritated when we're in the car listening to music on the iPod, and he'll just completely skip over certain songs because he says the person sings out of tune, or doesn't have a good vocal range. Or he just doesn't like their voice--I have to give him a seriously threatening look even to keep him from skipping over classics like Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong singing "Baby It's Cold Outside." He refuses to listen to entire genres, like rap. And he absolutely can't stand songs that are repetitive, so most songs on KLOVE are automatically out--you should hear him rant and rave every time he's practicing music for church on Sundays. This music snobbery is probably due to the fact that Justin's a great musician who can play a zillion different instruments, and can actually "see" the notes of a song in his head while he's listening to it--consequently, he can sometimes see a better chord progression or harmony, and it drives him nuts. But for this story, that's not important. All you need to know is that he's a big time music snob. Got it? Moving on...

Monday night, we were watching one of our favorite TV shows, Lie to Me. If you haven't seen the show, they interject real pictures of celebrities as examples when they're explaining which facial expressions are lies. On Monday's episode, they showed a picture of Milli Vanilli as an example of how people react when they realize that a long-term lie about themself has been exposed

Anyway, Justin didn't know who Milli Vanilli was, so I explained it to him, and showed him the music video for "Blame it on the Rain" on You Tube. I figured that he'd laugh, make a comment about how terrible the music was, and we'd move on. Noooooooooooo. Apparently, at work awhile ago, anytime something went wrong, they used to sing, "Blame it on Just-iiiiiinnnnnnn, YEAH YEAH." So now, he is totally fascinated. He spent 15 minutes in the middle of Lie to Me watching Blame it on the Raaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnn over and over.

Then yesterday night, he spent another good 30 minutes watching more of their videos on You Tube. He has become totally obsessed with freaking Milli Vanilli. And I want to gouge out my ear drums.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Madame Zaritska and I are no longer friends.

There's this fun little website where you can answer a bunch of random questions, and it generates what's supposed to be your "birth story." I've been reading about it for months, so I thought I'd give it a try. I am not pleased:

The day you deliver, outside will be fair. Your baby will arrive in the middle of the night. After a labor lasting approximately 20 hours, your child, a boy, will be born. Your baby will weigh about 13 pounds, 15 ounces, and will be 18-1/2 inches long. This child will have light amber eyes and a little patch of blonde hair.

Now, while having a boy despite the doctor believing it was a girl would not surprise or upset me (either a boy or a girl is totally fine by me), the idea of a 13 pound, 15 ounce baby is NOT OKAY!!!

If Madame Zaritska and I were friends on Facebook, I totally would have de-friended and blocked her for this!

Burning Question of the Day: Refusing to Deploy

The Burning Question of the Day is: Under what circumstances, if any, should a member of the US military be allowed to refuse or "opt out" of a deployment?

Alexis Hutchinson, an Army cook out of Georgia is making news this week after refusing to deploy to Afghanistan. Ms. Hutchinson says that none of her family members were available to care for her 10 month old son, and when she approached her superior with this concern, she was told that she'd have to place her child in foster care while she deployed.

An army representative from the base told the press that a single mother would not be required to deploy if she did not have childcare for her son (which has always been my understanding of the military's policy). However, it does appear that she was arrested, and jailed briefly (and her son placed in protective custody briefly) after she refused to deploy.

In the song "Camilo", State Radio depicts a story about Camilo Mejia, a staff sargent in the National Guard who refused to return to Iraq after a 2-week furlough. He turned himself in a year later, alleged that he was being forced to commit war crimes, and filed for conscientious objector status, which was denied. He was court martialed, and was sentenced to a year in military prison. During his incarceration, he was recongized by Amnesty International, Peace Abby, and the city of Detroit.

Anyway, these stories have made me think a lot about deployment, and I'm curious to hear your thoughts. Certainly, when you sign on to a branch of the armed forces, you're consenting to be deployed at some point. But are there any circumstances in which American citizens should be allowed to revoke that consent?

Chipotle Steak Chili and Cheesy Beer Bread

These were the two main things that I made for the Soup Swap on Saturday. The chili was pretty good I think...I can only eat a couple of bites before it gives me heartburn. I believe the chili recipe is from the new Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.

Chipotle Steak Chili
-1.5 pounds beef, cubed as for stew
-2 onions, diced
-1 green pepper, diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
-Two 14.5 ounce cans of diced tomatoes, undrained
-One 14.5 ounce can tomato sauce
-Two 14.5 ounce cans of beans (black, kidney, or pinto), rinsed
-1 to 2 tsp Chipotle Chile in Adobo Sauce (Latin foods aisle in a can, buy chopped if you can)
-2 tbsp chili powder
-1 tsp crushed dried basil
-1/2 cup water

In a Dutch oven, brown the meat half at a time in 1tbsp olive oil. The goal is really to sear the meat, it doesn't need to completely cook through. Remove to a plate. Add the onion, pepper, and garlic to the drippings and cook until tender. If there is quite a bit of grease left in the pot, you'll want to drain it at this point. I bought lean beef, and there really wasn't any left at all after the beef and onion cooked. Add 1 to 2 tsp chipotle chile in Adobo sauce. If you don't buy the chopped chile, you'll want to do that, bur try not to lose too much sauce. Stir well, and return beef to the pot. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans, chili powder, basil, and water to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally for about an hour, or until meat is tender. Serve topped with sour cream and shredded cheese.

I served with Justin's all-time favorite cheesy beer bread recipe from Katie at Good Things Catered. It's seriously SO EASY! Justin didn't know that such a thing as beer bread existed before I made this bread last he asks for it all the time. I really, really encourage you guys to try it.

Now, here are my notes on the chili: Justin said there wasn't enough meat. Really, there was plenty of meat, but the cubed beef for stew that I purchased just came in HUGE chunks, so you only got two or three per bowl. So, if you buy the meat that way, you may want to cut it down into smaller pieces. Here's a Julia Child tip for you: in order for steak to sear well, you're going to want it to come to room temp first. So, pull out the beef while you're chopping the veggies. It also won't sear if it's damp, so it's a good idea to paper towel it off first.

Interestingly enough, this was my first time using a Dutch Oven. They had always totally intimidated me before--I'm not sure why. Anyway, it was this fear of the Dutch Oven that has always prevented me from cooking the one recipe that I've always wanted to cook but have been waaaaayyyyyyy too intimidated to cook, which is Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon. It sounds delicious, but it just seems like it would take so long, and there are so many possibilities for something to go wrong...not to mention so many pots and pans to clean after! Maybe someday I'll gather up the confidence to give it a try...

Monday, November 16, 2009

I took this picture of Justin over the weekend while he and one of our nieces were watching the movie Up just after the soup swap ended. It's not a particularly great picture as far as composition and lighting go, but it's one of my favorite pictures of him to date because of his expression--he was laughing so hard at this silly animated movie. It's just so genuinely Justin. I also love the little baby doll hanging out next to him on the couch!

Justin was just making me swoon in general on Saturday--he was so helpful with cleaning, setting up, and helping out with the swap. And at one point during the swap, I overheard him do such a dad thing that it kinda made my heart melt. At some point, someone made some comment about hating something--probably some vegetable or something to that effect. Our niece Shelby (she's 4) basically responded that hate was a "bad word" and that they shouldn't say it. Justin responded something like, "You're right Shelbers, it's not very nice to say that we hate something. What could we say instead of 'hate' when we really don't like something?" Then he and Shelby talked for awhile about other ways to say that we don't like something besides using the word "hate". It was a small thing, but it was just adorable watching J interact with her. He's going to be a great dad.

Hope you all had a good weekend! I was seriously hoping for a snow day this morning, but no such luck!

Friday, November 13, 2009

THE Chicken Recipe

Seriously folks, this is pretty much the only chicken recipe you need, because it's a basic chicken with pan sauce that you can customize it to make whatever kind of chicken that you want. If you have the New Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, it's page 466. I love this recipe. Seriously. If you commit one recipe to memory, let this be it! It is so dang versatile!

Chicken with Pan Sauce
-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4 inch
-2/3 cup dry white wine
-1/2 chicken stock
-1/4 cup shallot or onion finely chopped
-Salt and Pepper for seasoning (or substitute any seasoning you want)
-2 tablespoons of cream or milk
-One to Five Tablespoons of butter

After pounding, season chicken breasts. Heat one tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Saute the chicken about 6-8 minutes, flipping once, until cooked through. Remove the chicken. Toss the onion or shallot into the pan, until they're brown and tender. I usually throw in garlic, because I love garlic. Once they're tender, add the wine and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, and boil 10-15 minutes until the sauce has reduced to about 1/4 cup. Add the milk/cream, and stir into sauce. Next, add butter one tablespoon at a time until the sauce is nice and golden brown. It will thicken a bit. NOW, you have options.

This is the point, where you can make the chicken any way you want. You could add 2 tsp balsamic vinegar and 2 tsp capers. Or, you could add 2 tsp lemon juice and 2 tsp basil. Or, add 2 tsp lemon juice and a tablespoon of capers (which makes a quick Chicken Picatta!!). Or, you could add 2 tsp italian seasoning, and some diced tomatoes. Another option is to add 2 tsp dijon mustard and 2 tsp parsley. Last night, I added lemon pepper and some lemon juice. And more garlic.

[If you're really thinking ahead, you could season the chicken at the beginning with a coordinating spice. But plain old salt & pepper works too.]

Now, return the chicken to the pan, and turn to coat in sauce. Let it simmer on low for a few minutes to take on some of the sauce flavor. Then, about 2 minutes before you're ready to serve, remove from the heat. This makes the sauce congeal a bit...but in a good way...and thickens it to an almost gravy like consistency that is perfect for spooning over the chicken and some wild rice.

Friday Funny

First, I have a funny little conversation with Justin from yesterday to share, and then a funny email to share.

Justin: You know, "medium rare" really should be called "rare medium".
Me: Really? Why?
Justin: Well, the whole scale doesn't make sense. You have "medium rare" with the quantifier first, but then you also have "medium well" with the quantifier second.
Me: I am so not following you. They both start with medium--isn't medium the quantifier?
Justin: Well, I suppose that at least the first letters of the words go in chronological order with the scale like that..."well medium" doesn't flow as well.
Me: The letters are in chronological order?
Justin: Yeah, you know, like "a" is the 1st letter of the alphabet, and "z" is the 26th?
Me: Yeah, that would be alphabetical order.
Justin: Don't tell anyone about this conversation.
Me: Psh. Forget that--I'm gonna blog about it!
Justin: You suck woodpecker eggs. [Shout out to you dad, for that come-back!]

And for the record, I still have no idea what point Justin was trying to make...


Now, on to the email forward, entitled "The Washcloth":

I was due for an appointment with the gynecologist later in the week. Early one morning , I received a call from the doctor's office to tell me that I had been rescheduled for that morning at 9:30 am. I had only just packed everyone off to work and school, and it was already around 8:45am. The trip to his office took about 35 minutes, so I didn't have any time to spare.

As most women do, I like to take a little extra effort over hygiene when making such visits, butthis time I wasn't going to be able to make the full effort. So, I rushed upstairs, threw off my pajamas, wet the washcloth that was sitting next to the sink, and gave myself a quick wash in that area to make sure I was at least presentable. I threw the washcloth in the clothes basket, donned some clothes, hopped in the car and raced to my appointment.

I was in the waiting room for only a few minutes when I was called in. Knowing the procedure, as I'm sure you do, I hopped up on the table, looked over at the other side of the room and pretended that I was in Paris or some other place a million miles away. I was a little surprised when the doctor said, 'My, we have made an extra effort this morning, haven't we? I didn't respond.

After the appointment, I heaved a sigh of relief and went home. The rest of the day was normal. Some shopping, cleaning, cooking. After school when my 6 year old daughter was playing, she called out from the bathroom, Mommy, where's my washcloth?' I told her to get another one from the cupboard. She replied, 'No, I need the one that was here by the sink, it had all my glitter and sparkles saved inside it.'

Never going back to that doctor. Ever.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I forgot to show y'all what the living room looks like now that it's re-arranged! If you don't remember, here is the before:

And here's what it looks like now:
(PS- The rug doesn't go all the way to the wall with the TV--for some reason it just looks like that in the picture!)

Anyway, everyone who has seen it so far says it looks bigger, and I have to agree. When it comes time for the Christmas tree, we'll probably flip-flop the couches so that the loveseat is in front of the window and the sofa is where the loveseat currently is, just to give more tree room. We shall see!

Pregnancy Post: Week 31

It's the claaaawwwww! Sorry. Couldn't resist.

So, today I have 63 days until I'm 40 weeks, and 42 days until I'm considered full term (37 weeks). She now weighs approximately 3 pounds, and is headed for another growth spurt, which may just solidify my thinking that I'd like to face AWAY from the numbers on the scale from now on. Really, do I need to know how much I weigh? Everyone keeps telling me, "Oh shush, you're still little!" Yeah, well, mama's gained 28 pounds as of the last doctor's visit. I don't feel little, thank you. I'll see where I'm at today, but I'm not too excited about it!

In other news, J and I weren't planning to really write up a birth plan, but we were convinced otherwise at our class last weekend. There were a couple of things we heard recommended consistently from every doula, OB, and pediatrician that came to speak. Really, our requests are pretty simple, and obviously they're all for a birth with no complications:

-I want to try to wait until I'm 4-5cm to get an epidural.
-Before that, I'd like to be able to walk and eat (i.e. no continuous monitoring unless medically necessary).
-Justin wants to help "catch" or deliver the baby if possible, and he'd like to cut the cord after 1-2 minutes.
-We'd like to delay the weighing, measuring, eye ointment, etc for about an hour to do skin-to-skin and attempt breastfeeding.

One really interesting thing we saw in our class was a video that showed if you've had a non-medicated birth, and the baby is placed on your stomach directly after, he or she will actually crawl up your stomach, and latch on to breastfeed! Totally unassisted! All babies can continue to do this for several days after birth. Now, I probably won't attempt to go fully baby-directed in terms of breastfeeding, but I've been nervous about breastfeeding, and this made me feel better--babies really do know what they're supposed to do! Sometimes we just have to get out of their way!

Let's see...what else? Oh! I had a pretty humorous occurrence this week--a Braxton Hicks contraction, a back spasm, and a leg cramp all at the same time. Justin kept looking at me like, "What the HELL is my wife doing?!"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Photos & Things

Today has not shaped up to be the best day. First, I woke up to discover a big crack in my laptop screen. Second, my photo shoot for today (for a darling 5 month old, which was my "exciting plan" that I didn't want to jinx) was canceled because the niña is sick. Sad day.

But, I'm planning to cook some soup, do a little cleaning, and relax, which should make the day better! My mom and I discovered that we were both going to make taco soup for the soup swap this weekend--so I'm trying to think of something else to make that will freeze well. I'm thinking about doing a Steak Chipotle Chili...which I haven't made before, but I keep reminding myself that I have all day, so it should be enjoyable.

I also have to think about what else I'm going to serve at the soup swap...maybe some cheesey beer bread? Not entirely sure.

Anyway...on to a few photos! I snapped these at the hospital over the weekend on the breaks for our birthing class. I wanted to test out the new lens from Sweet J. I'm still getting used to the lens and learning what works best. I can't believe the leaves are already starting to die!
Align Center




Doesn't Justin look serious in this picture? Like he's totally involved in whatever it is that he's doing? Well he is totally involved. In fact, I wasn't allowed to speak while he was working. You'll laugh when you see what he's doing though :)

See, the women in J's family are very big on having painted toenails at all times. It's very important. Only, I can't reach mine anymore, so J decided to do it for me so they wouldn't be "naked" anymore--his term, not mine.

I have to say, he did a good job!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


-Last night, I got to go back to the school that I graduated from, and teach a Sociology class. I actually took that very class as a Sociology Major in college, and it was that class that made me decide to enter the field that I'm currently in. It was a lot of fun, and kind of a confidence booster!

-I had a "Come to Jesus" meeting yesterday when I realized that I will technically be full term on Christmas--and that's not even considering the fact that the early ultrasounds and when I believe I ovulated, indicate that I'm a week ahead of my EDD. So really, I could be full term in just over a month. Holy COW! The good news is that after the birthing class this weekend, Justin suddenly shares my desire to get the nursery done and the house clean ASAP.

-I just realized that my husband is a stinker. He won't ever let me make anything teriyaki at home because he says that he absolutely, positively, hates teriyaki. However, I just realized that he LOVES the restaurant that we went to on Sunday night, and everything they serve is absolutely covered in teriyaki. But they put the teriyaki inside a Jack Daniel's bottle before they pour it on the grill, and I'm not sure he realizes it's teriyaki. I wonder if I tried that trick at home if he'd actually eat it!

-I am so, so happy that tomorrow is a paid holiday at my work! I have very exciting plans, but I'm not saying any more for fear of jinxing myself because everytime I've mentioned it in the past, it's fallen through.

-I also just realized that usually, when J leaves for work in the morning, I'm sleeping. By the time he gets home at night, I'm asleep again. And then I wake up and cook dinner and talk about how tired I am. J is probably giving a big eye roll inside.

-I had to change my date of resignation from Dec 31st to Jan 8th. I was going to resign at the end of Dec and then take vacation through mid-January. But apparently, if I do that, insurance won't cover me at all for the month of January. This, I don't really understand, but whatever. It was pointed out to me that really, I could still call in "sick" the first 8 days of January, and it would be a moot issue.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Good News

Let me introduce you to these two--first up is Kelsey, Justin's youngest sister (who is now almost 20, so not really that young anymore). Second up is Justin, one of my Justin's two best friends. Did y'all follow that? One of my husband Justin's best friends is also named Justin. Those of you who know these two in real life should find this picture pretty darn funny because of the lake that they're standing in front of, as not-my-husband-Justin's nickname is Stump. And apparently, this summer, he and Kelsey went to Stump lake. I have to admit, I laughed out loud when I saw this picture.

ANYWAY. While we were at dinner last night, they told us that they had gotten engaged on Tuesday! We actually knew that Justin was planning on proposing, but he told us it would be on her birthday in December. Either way, we're excited and happy for them! It sure is nice to start off a Monday with a bit of happy news.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

-We had our first day of child-birth class yesterday. I was majorly bummed that they are no longer allowing hospital tours, since the hospital has been majorly remodeled since I was last in--I have no idea what it's like now. I was also sad to hear that you can only designate TWO people (and your spouse is one of them) to be present in the hospital the entire time you're there, from the time you're in labor to the time you're discharged. No additional people are allowed to visit after the baby is born. Which REALLY sucks if you have a c-section. And you can't rotate who your two people are--they have to be the same two people the entire time. This is going to be hard. Justin is obviously person 1, but if we pick any other family member, it's like we're playing favorites. I know that I need to just worry on what Justin and I need and not hurting other family members' feelings, but even I don't know what I will need at this point. So, it may just be the two of us unless I am really asking for someone else at the time. I really wish we could hire the doula that's teaching our class, but I don't think we could afford her.

-Sweet Justin moved the living room around for me this weekend. I like parts of it--it's really hard to find a layout that I really like because I like things to be symmetrical, and that's almost impossible in this room. We'll try it for awhile. The major bummer is that while J was moving the couches, he popped off the transition strip between the living room and dining room, which had just FINALLY been done. Damnit.

-I've been reading the book Lord, Save Us from Your Followers. And actually, Justin has started reading it too. It's really interesting, and I'm liking it a lot so far. I don't know if y'all are familiar with it, but there's actually a movie as well, which was in limited release a few weeks ago. I had the book (which coincidentally comes with a DVD--not sure if it's the same DVD that was in theaters because I haven't seen the movie). Anyway, the big question of the book is: "Why is the gospel of love dividing America?"

In doing research, the author discovers that as he's interviewing people, both religious and not religious alike, they overwhelmingly have positive things to say about Jesus and faith in him, but also overwhelmingly have negative things to say about Christians. One quote from the book that I've liked so far is: "In First John it talks about how Jesus came in "truth and grace". Seems like we might be a little heavy on the "truth" and a little light with the "grace"."

-Very excited for dinner tonight--Justin and I are meeting Ryan, Renee, Karla, James, Kelsey, and Stump after our class. And we're going for a real sit-down dinner--not pizza or fast food. It should be a lot of fun!

Friday, November 6, 2009


I am absolutely irate today. I literally cannot even remember the last time that I was this angry-shaking angry. Oh, I WISH that I could explain in every gritty detail, because you all would be seriously ticked as well. Unfortunately, this anger stems from a portion of my life that I don't really blog about much for my own protection (guesses anyone?) and so I can't really share much for a few more months, except to say that I have tried to handle myself in the most ethical and upstanding manner possible, and feel like I have been seriously taken advantage of because of it.

Insurance is Frustrating.

Seriously, insurance frustrates the hell out of me, and especially right now. Here's what's up:

-I have insurance through my work, which is paid by the company.
-Justin has insurance through his work, which used to be paid entirely by the company for him AND I, but since we started having to pay premiums, we took me off his insurance (which isn't great, but is better than nothing).

Our plan was to put both Lizard and I on a private insurance plan once I stopped working. We talked to the insurance agent through my work back in June, who said that my allergies might be a problem, but we could apply anyway come November (even though I would be pregnant) to make sure that I'm covered. Okay, cool. Only, when I called yesterday, he said that he can't write any individual insurance plan for me while I'm pregnant. We'd have to wait until I delivered, then apply, and then it would take several months before I was covered--if they even accept me. Um, we talked specifically about this like 6 months ago, and it wasn't a problem. But it is now. Whatever.

So, Justin talked to the insurance lady at his work, since I should be eligible to go on his as soon as I stop working since it's a qualifying life event (as is having a baby, coincidentally). However, she says that she doesn't think it actually qualifies, and that I need to wait until open enrollment in March. Ugh.

But wait...there's more. Back to Lizard...when I actually deliver her, I will still be covered by my insurance through work. We still planned to enroll her in a private plan since J's plan isn't good for frequent doctor visits. So, I talked to insurance rep about doing THAT. Of course, we can't apply until she's actually arrived...and then coverage wouldn't be effective for 2-3 months. And that's assuming there are no complications whatsoever, because if there are, the insurance company will elect not to cover her. I asked the representative what we were supposed to do in the meantime with well-baby checks and whatnot, and he said, "Uh, I don't know what to tell you."

I know that typically in Oregon, the baby is covered under the mother's insurance for the first 31 days of it's life. However, I was recently told (and I have no idea whether or not this is true or where to find out), that this only applies if the baby will then be enrolled on the mother's insurance plan after the 31 days. Well, she won't be, because I won't even be enrolled in that insurance plan. So is she covered, or not? None of this makes any sense...

And even more frustrating...there really doesn't seem to be anyone to ask!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pregnancy Post: Week 30

Although I look stoned in this picture, I assure you, I'm not!

Well, 30 weeks already. That's crazy talk. Seriously. Especially when I think about the fact that almost every weekend between now and mid-December is booked up with stuff to do! I know that with Thanksgiving and then Christmas, these last 10 weeks are going to fly by.

The Lizard now weighs approximately 3 pounds, and I have a feeling she's in a somewhat transverse position, because I feel most movement on the sides of my tummy...AND in my ribs. It isn't too bad most of the time, except when she hits the one rib that I fractured rowing. That HURTS. I have also been having almost non-stop back spasms, which has made things a little difficult this week. There is just no comfortable position to be in.

What else...we have our childbirth class/hospital tour all weekend. I'm hoping that it's actually helpful. At least the sheet specifically says to show up in your pajamas or work-out clothes. Heck yes I will!

Speaking of comfy clothes, I picked up a pair of dress pants at Motherhood today that I actually like and are long enough (though, I'm going to see if my mom can let out the hem even further). Motherhood only carries two styles of pants in 34 inch inseam. For any other tall girls, here's a word to the wise for the future--the twill dress pants are CRAP. They fit funny, wrinkle easily, and just aren't very flattering. Today, I picked up the bi-stretch pants and they are much better, and actually feel like pajamas. I am thinking about picking up the gray pair as well. [Still, please bring back your maternity pants in extra-long length Gap! I hate being stuck in flats all the time. Plus, it makes my back spasm more!]

Not much progress in terms of the nursery, except we have a coat of primer on the dresser that used to be Justin's:

I am hoping to get the first coat of paint on tonight. I'm doing the first coat with a brush to see if we can get away with using a brush, or if we need to borrow the paint sprayer. It cracked me up to prime it, because I kept coming across all the things Justin and his sister had written on or carved into the dresser. I remember my brother carving into all the furniture, but I don't remember doing it myself!

In other news, Justin and I have started compiling a list of songs for a CD/playlist for Lizzy. We wanted to make a CD of non-kid songs that we want her to know or be sung. Some of them are just our personal favorites, some have significance in our relationship, etc. Here's some of the list so far:

Somewhere Over The Rainbow- sung by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole
Love Without End, Amen- by George Strait
Que Sera, Sera- sung by Pink Martini
Gracie- by Ben Folds
Three Little Birds- by Bob Marley
Wonderwall- by Oasis
Then- by Brad Paisley
If I Had A Million Dollars- by Barenaked Ladies
Everlong (Acoustic)- by Foo Fighters
Baby Don't You Cry- Quincy Coleman
Kristine's Lullaby- Jodi Shaw

When we were talking kids songs, I was *shocked* that Justin didn't know who Raffi was! I wonder if he didn't recognize the name, but would recognize the songs?

PS- Right now, it's 4:44pm on 11/4 :) Of course, you won't see this post until tomorrow, but I thought it was fun!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


The last few days have been hard for me (see tomorrow's pregnancy post for why), and darn near anything can make me cry lately. But my sweet, sweet, darling husband made my day today. He came home from work, and we both petered around making dinner and what not, when suddenly he popped out a little box wrapped in a brown paper bag with a message that said:

To My Mere-Mere: I hope you like it and aren't mad at me for it, but I wanted you to have it now and not later. I love you, Justin.

Inside the little brown box was:

Yep, that's right...the 50 mm f/1.8 camera lens that has been topping my Christmas list for awhile!!!! *Squeeeeeee* I can't wait to test it out!

For the record, J thought I might be mad because he told me that I should buy it for myself last week, but I told him NO...that we had bills we need to pay and a savings account to replenish after paying off our fridge this month, and that it could definitely wait until a Christmas bonus or tax return. could I possibly be mad at my sweet thoughtful husband for this?!
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