Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Time to Mourn & a Time to Dance

Sometimes we need moments to mourn the brokenness of this fallen world. To grieve the fact that there is so much loss in our own lives and in the lives of those we love; loss of life, relationships, and hope for the future. Today was one of those days for me.

After dropping Jack off at preschool and putting Maggie down for her morning nap, I checked my email. I had a notice from Caring Bridge that one of my best friends had posted a new journal entry. I clicked the link and read her post about the reconstructive surgery she is facing today as a result of her battle with breast cancer. I then looked at the past journal entries to see if there were any I had missed. I found one from May where my dear friend wrote that she and her husband are unable to have any more children due to the increased risk of her cancer coming back. She had her first baby about a year before she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She cherishes that sweet baby girl but still mourns the fact that she will never hold a newborn again or spend the wee hours of the morning breastfeeding her baby.

I then remembered other dear friends who have tried for years to have a baby, only to see “Not Pregnant” on the test every time. I thought of friends and family members who have lost babies, some so early in pregnancy that almost no one knew they were expecting, others so far along that they had a nursery ready in their home and delivered a lifeless baby.

Others were brought to mind too—friends facing marital and family issues including abuse, divorce, and addiction. I thought of my own family—as we have lost ones we love, and have encountered cancer, financial uncertainty, and other dark times.

I sat in my quiet living room and cried. Brokenness is inevitable in this world tainted by sin. Sometimes we need to take time in our lives to let that soak in. To stop avoiding the fact that we are messed up, that people have hurt us, and that there will not be an end to sadness and loss this side of heaven.

As I was crying, my nine-month old daughter Maggie woke up from her nap. I went in her room, picked her up, held her tight, and cried. I told her I loved her. I thanked God that he has been gracious to give me two children I do not deserve. And then I changed my baby’s diaper, because although there is a time to mourn, we must also continue living our lives. We must work, take care of our families, clean our homes, take showers, and do all the other seemingly mundane things that are part of living in this world. Because even though this world can seem so dark, it is not completely black. There is some light—there is hope. And changing Maggie’s diaper and watching her play with her toys reminds me of that.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” –Ephesians 3:1 and 4

Friday, August 1, 2014

Grilled Sausage & Asparagus Fettuccine Alfredo

Since Maggie was born I have not been doing as much cooking as I used to. It can be difficult to cook with a baby around and now she has started crawling, so it's even more difficult! Recently I came up with a new recipe inspired by different ingredients I picked up in Target one day. This turned out to be so easy and delicious! Josh and I both loved it, and Jack liked it too! I have made it multiple times now. It's such an easy meal for a busy weeknight or for entertaining.

1 package Italian chicken sausage (I used the Simply Balanced brand from Target)
1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed
1/2 - 16 oz. package fettuccine noodles
1 jar alfredo sauce
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Heat grill to medium heat.

Cook fettuccine noodles according to package directions. While they cook, pour alfredo sauce into large pan and warm on medium low heat. You just need to warm the sauce, so if it starts to bubble, turn heat to low.

Drizzle olive oil over asparagus and toss so that they are well coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place sausage and asparagus on grill. Cook sausage according to package directions. Usually about 4 minutes per side. Grill asparagus about 3-4 minutes per side, until crisp but not blackened. Remove sausage and asparagus from grill. Slice sausage and cut asparagus into thirds. Add to alfredo sauce in pan. Drain noodles and add to sauce. Toss all ingredients together and serve. Add salt and pepper to taste.

If you don't want to grill, the sausage has instructions for other ways to cook it. And you can saute or roast the asparagus instead of grilling. I've also tried this with fresh spinach instead of asparagus. I chopped it and sauteed it in a pan then added the sauce, sausage, and noodles. There are plenty of variations you could make!

Thursday, January 23, 2014


Well, I have been absent from the blogging world for quite awhile now. Towards the end of my pregnancy I was getting pretty lazy. So now I will do my best to get caught up and write a little more regularly, but we will see how that goes...

I figured I'd begin by writing about the birth of our sweet baby girl. I wrote about Jack's birth and am so glad I did. There are so many things you forget. The details become foggy all too soon!

Maggie was due on December 14, but she decided to arrive fashionably late, making her debut December 19. I was ready for her to come about a week before her due date, so the fact that she was five days past the due date was very frustrating (at the time)! My mom came a week before Maggie was  due to help me around the house and be here to watch Jack once I went into labor. Her plan had been to stay two weeks so that she could help once we brought Maggie home as well. As each day passed over the 40 week mark, we began to wonder if my mom would still be here once our little one arrived. So we were extremely grateful she didn't wait too much longer! 

On December 18, which happens to be Josh's birthday, my next door neighbor, who is a massage therapist, offered to give me a massage. She worked on key pressure points and used tuning forks to help induce labor. I had no idea if it would be successful, but I was more than happy to give it a try (I had tried everything at that point), plus I figured it would feel really good! It was so sweet of her, and did help me relax a bit. 

After the massage I went to a doctor's appointment. She and the nurse were surprised to see me again. It's pretty bad when the entire staff of your doctor's office is saying "Still here?" when you come in. I was not very dilated at that point and was not having any contractions, so she stripped my membranes to see if that would help speed things along. Nothing happened immediately, so I continued to be frustrated with the fact that I was still pregnant. 

After the appointment I decided to go to Anthropologie to pick up a hot buttered rum candle by Illume, which they only sell during the holidays. This is the most incredible smelling candle. My mom and I are obsessed with them. Anyway, I figured walking around ABQ Uptown might do the trick. I did not start going into labor in Anthropologie or at the shopping center, but we never know, the lovely scent of Anthropologie may have helped Maggie begin to make her way into the world later that night. I also stopped by Satellite Coffee to drown my late pregnancy sorrows in my favorite drink, the Carmel Java

I don't remember what all I did the rest of the day, (probably just complain to my mom about still being pregnant) but around 8:00 I began to have mild contractions. I was pretty sure (and hopeful) it was the beginning of labor, but it was difficult to know for certain. And I kept thinking it was inevitable that I would be pregnant the rest of my life, so I didn't want to get my hopes up too much. Josh had stayed up at work late that night. He was trying to finish up as much work as he could in case I went into labor. He said having a baby due "sometime around the 14th but never really knowing when she would arrive" made scheduling very difficult. Typical girl, she was already causing her daddy trouble. So I called Josh to tell him that I was pretty sure contractions were starting so he should wrap up what he's doing and head home. I also asked him to pick me up a burrito and some chips and salsa at Twister's on his way home. I needed a good meal if I was going to be up all night, right?

My contractions continued, and I did my best to get them to speed up. I walked around my house, up and down the stairs, and even went for a short walk outside. Josh joined me outside, even though it was freezing and he was much warmer inside by the fire. The contractions didn't seem to be getting much stronger, so around 10 or 11 we decided to try to get some sleep. Josh fell asleep, but I kept feeling contractions, so I paced our room timing them and once again trying to speed up labor. Around 1:00 am they were finally five minutes apart for about an hour, so I called the doctor, and they told us to go ahead and come in. By this point, the pain was much more intense. I have a tendency to get upset with Josh for driving too fast at times, but that night I was very grateful he was paying little attention to things like speed limits. We live about 20 minutes from the hospital, but I think that night we made it in less than 15 minutes. 

When we parked, I felt like Josh was taking way too long to get our stuff out of the car (I'm sure he was not, but the pain was getting really bad). We went up to the labor and delivery floor, the nurse checked to see how dilated I was, and I was already 5 cm. So they admitted us and sent us straight to a labor and delivery room. By the time they began giving me my epidural, it was about 4:00 and the pain was getting so bad, I cried during the last contraction. I was very happy to receive an epidural! 

Then the nurse told us we could wait and take a little nap before the doctor came in to check on me if we would like, and we told her that would be great (my doctor was not on call that night, but the doctor that was ended up being good, which we were very thankful for). Well, she didn't get a chance to tell him, so around 5:00 he came in to see how we were doing. This turned out to be a good thing, because when he checked to see how dilated I was, he said, "Well, you're at 10 cm and your water just broke! I think it's time for you to have a baby!" Josh and I were both shocked this was happening so fast because it was so different from our experience with Jack. So the nurses came in and got everything ready and I began to push. 

Margaret Anne arrived at 5:29 am weighing 8 lbs., 1 oz. (small compared to Jack who was 9 lbs., 4 oz.) and 20 inches long. She had a full head of dark brown hair, also very surprising as Jack had just a little blonde hair when he was born. Although it seemed labor would never begin, once it finally did, she came pretty fast, which we were very grateful for!

We spent one night in the hospital, and were itching to get home and introduce Jack to his new little sister. Plus, we were just ready to be out of the hospital and comfy at home. We don't remember feeling that way as much with Jack, but maybe that's because he was our first and we liked having the help from all the nurses!  I also think the fact that Christmas was so close made us more ready to be home as a family enjoying the holiday. Other contributing factors may have been the noisy construction outside our window at the hospital and the completely non-soundproof walls there, which enabled us to hear every crying baby and loud conversation in the rooms next to and above us.

My mom was here for a few days after Maggie came home and my dad came up and joined her. My sister and her husband also came that weekend, so it was fun to have all of them meet her. Josh's parents came the following week and spent Christmas with us. We were so thankful to have the help of our family as we transitioned into being a family of four. It was also fun to have a relaxing Christmas with my in-laws. My mother-in-law cooked Christmas dinner so I was able to sit back and rest. They also took Jack out to play, to the movies, and other fun activities so that he could have fun and we could rest. They even watched both kids for awhile so Josh and I could get out of the house for a break. It was wonderful!

Jack is loving being a big brother. He is so sweet to Maggie. It is so much fun to see them together, and I look forward to watching them grow up with one another!

It's been so different this time around having already experienced the new baby phase with Jack and having him to look after as well. We can't focus every ounce of energy on Maggie the way we did with Jack, he still needs us and wants our attention as well. I still worry about her from time to time, but it's much less than I did when Jack was a newborn. I also can't spend my day lazing around just holding my baby, feeding her and sleeping when she does the way I did with Jack. But in many ways that has been good. It's helped me get back to normal life sooner and I think it's helping me get back into shape a little faster (although I still have a long way to go).

Overall, we have been thrilled with the new addition to our family and look forward to the days and years to come!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Pumpkin Pancakes

I've been making these pumpkin pancakes almost every morning this month. I found the recipe online one day while searching all things pumpkin. They are very easy to make and so delicious! Jack and I have been enjoying them on a regular basis. I've made them for different guests we've had in town, and they have all loved them and asked for the recipe. 

You must give these a try- you will not regret it! 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Outdoor Family Fun in New Mexico

One of my favorite things about living in New Mexico is the abundance of wonderful spots to enjoy the outdoors. There are so many beautiful places to hike, camp, bike, climb, and paddle without passing the state line. This summer flew by and we did not get out as much as we would have liked, but we did try making up for it a little in August. 

One weekend we went camping at Morphey Lake State Park just north of Las Vegas, NM, about 2.5 hours from Albuquerque. We went with some friends who have two kids and we all loved it! The park is in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and has a beautiful lake with campsites surrounding it.

We got in early on a Friday evening, set up camp, and let Jack play by the lake. He was so excited to throw rocks in the lake. He kept saying, "throw rocks in lake," the entire ride up there. Once it got dark we built a fire and made s'mores. This was Jack's first time to have a s'more, and he loved them!

The next morning we woke up, made breakfast, then went back down to the lake. Jack stayed down there all morning, throwing rocks in the lake, then walking in the lake and playing with the mud with his friends. He would have stayed there all day if we would have let him! All of the adults enjoyed sitting by the beautiful water and watching the kids have fun.

This is the perfect campground for a relaxing camping trip with beautiful scenery. You can enjoy time just sitting by the lake, paddling a canoe, or fishing. It was great with young kids, they all loved it.

Last weekend we drove up near Taos, about 2 hours from Albuquerque to spend the morning playing by the Rio Grande. We found a great spot at the County Line Access area run by the BLM just off highway 68 southwest of Taos. It's at mile marker 24.

We brought chairs, shovels and buckets, and spent our time watching Jack have fun in the water. This is also a popular spot for rafting groups to end their trips since there is a nice ramp, toilets, and picnic tables. We enjoyed watching these groups paddle down the river.

Afterward we drove into Taos, which was about 20-30 minutes from there. We planned on eating lunch there, but did not anticipate how crowded the town would be for Labor Day weekend. So we just spent a little time at Twirl Play Space which is one of our favorite spots in Taos. Jack loves playing there, and we love that it's free and has plenty of comfortable spots for parents to hang out and watch the kids! After that we headed back home, we were exhausted from a busy and fun day!

I loved both of these outings and look forward to many more adventures in the Land of Enchantment!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sour Cream Noodle Bake

I made the Pioneer Woman's Sour Cream Noodle Bake a little while back after seeing it on her blog.  It reminds me of a dish my mom use to make when we were growing up. It's very easy to prepare, inexpensive, and can feed a crowd (or at least give you plenty of leftovers). It is also an easy dish to make in advance and either store in the fridge for a day or in the freezer until you want to bake it. Josh and I both enjoyed this and Jack did too! It's definitely one we will keep in the rotation! And I may try it using different seasonings, adding vegetables, or whatever else comes to mind! 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Easy & Delicious Meatball Sliders

I recently saw an episode of The Pioneer Woman on Food Network where she made Mini Meatball Sandwiches. I decided to give the recipe a try, and I am so glad I did! I've never made meatballs before, but now I am thinking it will become a regular meal at our house. They were so easy to make and so delicious! Our whole family loved them.

The recipe says to use shredded mozzarella, which I did, but on her blog and the show, she used sliced provolone, which I might give a try next time. I bought mini hamburger buns from Trader Joe's, which worked great for the sandwiches.

The recipe made enough for the three of us to have for dinner (one for Jack and three each for Josh and me), then the following day we put the leftover meatballs and sauce over angel hair pasta, which was wonderful as well.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Best Blueberry-Banana Bread!

I recently watched an episode of one of my favorite cooking shows, Giada at Home, and she made Blueberry-Banana Bread. It looked so good and the recipe seemed very simple, so I decided to give it a try. You can find the recipe here.

I brought one loaf to a Bible study I'm in and everyone else loved it too and wanted the recipe. 

I have since made this three more times...and it's only been a week! I'm thinking one weekend this summer while blueberries are still in season and inexpensive I might make about 10 loaves to put in the freezer.

I live at about 6,000 feet in elevation, so baking can be difficult! Thanks to some great tips from a friend on high altitude baking, I knew of some adjustments to make the recipe work. I added a tablespoon of flour for each loaf, used extra large eggs, lessened the baking soda and baking powder just a touch (by about 1/4), and decreased the baking time by 5 minutes.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Easy Summer Blackberry Cobbler

A few years ago, I found this recipe for Easy Blackberry Cobbler in Southern Living. Since then, it's one I make regularly during the summer when blackberries are in season. It's one of the easiest and most delicious desserts I have ever made. And it tastes great with some vanilla ice cream!

This is a great dessert for when you are having friends over for dinner. Just prepare it all ahead of time, then place it in the oven to bake while you eat dinner.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

So I have been a big slacker when it comes to this blog lately. I am 19 weeks pregnant, and for the first trimester I was usually too tired to cook, or nothing sounded good to my uneasy belly. So we ate a lot of take out and frozen pizzas...not the healthiest time for my family. However, I am feeling much better now and have been spending much more time in the kitchen. I am determined to get back to cooking blogging more!

I recently found this recipe for Barbecue Shredded Chicken from the Oven or Slow Cooker and was inspired to adapt the recipe to make it my own. To make my version of Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Sandwiches, you'll need:

  • About 1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (this ended up being 6 thighs for me)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Cayenne
  • Paprika
  • 1 cup of your favorite barbeque sauce
  • Hamburger buns
Place chicken in your slow cooker. Sprinkle chicken with a little salt and pepper, cayenne, and paprika. Pour one cup of barbeque sauce over chicken. Cook on low for 5 hours or until chicken is cooked through.

Once chicken is finished cooking, shred meat using two forks. Place meat on a toasted hamburger bun and drizzle with more barbeque sauce. This will make about 4-6 sandwiches, depending on how much meat you like on your sandwich.

This was one of the easiest and most delicious slow cooker chicken recipes I have ever made. One piece of advice: use good barbeque sauce! I grew up in Texas, so I am very picky when it comes to barbeque sauce. My favorite brand that is available at most grocery stores is Stubb's Original Sauce.