Whole Wheat Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins

This, my friends, is what happens when you take your peanut butter and jelly sandwich out for dessert.

PBJ Muffin

That’s right – you get a peanut butter and jelly muffin that’s bursting with yummy goodness.

Oh, and did I mention it has no refined sugar?  I didn’t?  Well, it doesn’t.  I’m guessing you’re loving it just a little bit more right now, aren’t you ;-)

Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffin

I decided to do some experimenting and try to make a muffin that would (a) let me use my homemade peanut butter, (b) not have any refined sugar, and (c) use whole wheat flour.  I based my version largely on this one et voíla!  Whole Wheat PB & J muffins that are just a bit healthier and taste delicious :-)

I don’t have a link to my peanut butter recipe because, honestly, it’s so simple.  Put 1 lb of roasted, unsalted peanuts in a food processor or heavy-duty blender (my Ninja Blender is perfect for this recipe – makes those peanuts into peanut butter super-fast).  Add 2 T of peanut oil + some salt to taste, then blend till smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender as needed.  Store in the fridge.  Easy-peasy and perfect for this recipe!

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter and Jam Muffins

1 2/3 C whole wheat flour

1 T baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 C milk

2 ripe, medium bananas, well-mashed (I puree mine in the blender)

1/2 C creamy natural peanut butter

1/2 C canola oil

1 large egg

1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence

1/2 C no-refined sugar jam (or whatever type of jam you have in the fridge)

Peheat oven to 350° F.

Combine all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  In a smaller bowl, combine all of the wet ingredients except for the jam!  Whisk the wet ingredients together, then pour into the dry ingredients.  Stir till just combined.

Line a standard muffin tin with cupcake liners (or spray with non-stick cooking spray).  Put scant 2 T of batter into each muffin cup.  Place 1 heaping tsp of jam in the center of each cup, then cover with another 2 T of batter.  Bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes.  Allow to cool for 15 minutes before removing from pan, and enjoy!

Note: These muffins freeze well – just put them in a large Ziploc bag or freezer-safe container.  Allow to thaw in fridge or heat one up in the microwave for a snack :-)

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffin

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Kids in Williamsburg: Jerusalem Marketplace

Thanks to the local MOPS Facebook page, I recently learned about “Jerusalem Marketplace”, which took place this past Saturday at Wellspring United Methodist Church.  A fun, family-oriented (and free event), it seemed just up our alley!

I’d never heard of Jerusalem Marketplace before, so I clicked on over to the webpage to find out more about it.  The site said that it was from 4 – 7pm and that there would be costumes, a petting zoo, puppet shows, crafts, a bakery (to try some unleavened bread, naturally), and even some ancient “coins” to spend throughout the city.

Jerusalem Marketplace

Entry to the city, guarded by “Victor”

Jerusalem Marketplace Victor

Joe wasn’t quite sure what to make of Victor…

We headed through the city gates, picked up 2 bags for the boys with their “coins” and information about the marketplace, and made a quick stop at the tailor to get Joe kitted out in authentic garb.

JM Tailor

As authentic as you can be with polyester Biblical robes…

JM Tailor

JM Headband

Father Son Jerusalem Marketplace

Joe was so pleased with his costume :-)  The headband was definitely his favorite part – he kept it on all night, even leaving it in place once we arrived back home.

There were so many things to see, but the first stop for us was the petting zoo.  Both boys love animals.

JM Petting Zoo

Jerusalem Marketplace - Petting Zoo

Jerusalem Marketplace Petting Zoo

Look at that tiny piglet!

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Jack was so thrilled with all of the animals.  I took him out of the stroller and he was able to pet the bunnies, the piglet, a miniature horse, and a goat.  He laughed each time he touched one of them – melted my heart.

We walked around a bit more but headed inside once it was time for the puppet show.  The story?  “David and Goliath”!  We’ve read that one to Joe a few times in his “The Jesus Storybook Bible” (we love this Bible – such a great one for children!) so he was familiar with the plot line and followed along with rapt attention.

Jerusalem Marketplace Puppet Show

Jerusalem Marketplace - Puppet Show

Jerusalem Marketplace - Goliath

Mean ol’ hairy Goliath

Jerusalem Marketplace - David

Small but brave David!

Someone (ahem, Jack) was not so enthralled with the show and began to kick up a fuss.  Naturally, the only option I had was to put him in jail.

Jerusalem Marketplace - Jail

He doesn’t look too upset, does he?  I tried to convince him that he was in big trouble, but it didn’t seem to get through past the snacks and giggles :-)

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This kid, I tell ya!

Chris and Joe came back outside once the show was complete.  We heard it was nearly (but not quite) an Oscar-worthy performance.  Or so Joe seemed to think :-)

It was nearly time for us to head home but we made time for a few more crafts.  First, we visited the instrument shop where Joe made a jingle-bell rattle.

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After this, we visited the carpenter’s shop.  Chris and Joe worked together to make a nail, rubberband, and wood star craft for us to bring home.

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We had a lot of fun and will definitely visit the marketplace again next year.  If you missed this year’s event, be sure to check the website for information on when the next one will be :-)

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Get 20% off Oranges This Week!

SavingStar is offering another great healthy deal – save 20% on your oranges this week!

Save 20% on any single purchase of loose Oranges at participating retailers. See offer info for complete details.

I love how SavingStar has such great deals on things that normally don’t have coupons, things like oranges, bananas, fresh corn, onions, etc.  You get your savings into your online account at SavingStar, and once you have a $5 minimum you can choose to have it sent to you through your bank account or PayPal.  I typically get a little over $5 cash back each month and that’s by doing mostly only the healthy offer of the week (like the oranges linked above) or doing the “Friday Freebie”.  That averages up to a grocery savings of around $60/year.  Every little bit helps!

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And the budget went “BOOM”

What do you do when your budget goes “boom”?  That moment when you suddenly and unexpectedly have a big cost added to your monthly expenses?

A big cost like, say, a dishwasher going bust.

Leaking Dishwasher

No, that’s not a picture of leftover mop water.  That’s from our dishwasher :-/

Our current dishwasher came with the house.  It’s already had 1 major repair + several DIY fixes (thank you, YouTube).  It’s had drainage issues, it only cleans dishes on the bottom rack, and so much steam escapes mid-cycle that you get a facial each time you wander near it.  I’ve slipped in the puddles but thankfully haven’t fallen.  Just the other day, however, Joe ran into the kitchen, slid through the water, and landed on top of Jack.  Lots of tears and a few bruises.

Falling in leaking water isn’t its only safety risk.  Chris and I have scratched ourselves on the rusted racks several times.  I’m glad we’re up to date on tetanus shots.  I considered replacing the racks but knew this was like pouring money down the drain.  Like putting a band-aid on a severed limb.  Like adding air to a punctured tire.  Do you get the idea?

Kenmore Dishwasher

It’s not dirty – that’s how it looks after cleaning it with disinfectant

Dishwasher Soap Build-Up

The soap dispenser build-up that keeps coming back

Rusted Dishwasher Racks

Rusting Dishwasher Racks

Rusty Dishwasher Racks

Just a few rusted out spots

Old Dishwasher

A corner bends away from the whole unit whenever I open the door

Clearly, this machine has seen better days.  While we weren’t happy about having to deal with this unexpected expense, we knew that there were ways to minimize the cost.

For starters, we’ve learned to ask questions.  Questions like:

- Is this a repair or a replace job?

- If it’s a replace job, does it need to happen now, or is there time to save up for it?

- If we’re replacing it, do we want a “final” or a “fill-in” replacement?

Our home came with a 1 year home warranty that expires in September.  We’ve used it once and weren’t impressed.  We knew that, whatever was wrong, the warranty company would want to spend the least amount to get it running.  If the repairman did say it was a replace job, then the company got to make the decision on the new machine… which could mean the cheapest model, not energy efficient, etc.  We thought about it, looked at new dishwashers, and decided against repairing it.

Here’s why:

- It’s already been professionally repaired once and it was recommend that we replace it if it broke down again.

- It’s old and needs to be replaced soon regardless of any repairs.  Do we want to sink any more money into it?

- Any repairs done via home warranty would incur a flat $100 fee.  That’s at least 15% of the cost of a new dishwasher, depending on how much we spent.

Everyone needs to answer these questions based on the information they have at the time.  Our finances are different than our neighbors, our neighbors finances are different than they’re neighbors, and so on and so forth. Depending on where you’re at with your budget, you might answer the above questions differently to how we did.  You might say, “We know it needs to be replaced, but we only have enough for a repair.  Lets fix it, but keep saving for a new or used one.”  ***Craigslist, ReStore, and various scratch ‘n dent shops are great for used or floor model appliances.***

Or perhaps you might answer those questions with, “Yes, it needs to be replaced.  Yes, it needs to be repaired, but we don’t have money for either of those things.”  Then what?

At that point you ask yourself, “Can we make do without?”.  A dishwasher isn’t a necessity in our house.  We considered doing dishes the old-fashioned way.  It wasn’t my favorite choice, but when it came down to it we were already spending a lot of time at the sink because the dishwasher did such a terrible job.  Giving up the dishwasher for awhile wouldn’t mean that much extra counter-time.  Or, if you don’t have the money for a repair or replace and are handy (or know someone who is) you might post a request on Freecycle for a working dishwasher.  It’s a risk as to how well it will work (it is free, after all) but it’s another option.

In the end, we decided against leaving it as it was (no repair, no replacement) and opted to buy a new one.  We decided against a “fill in” phase replacement and went for a “final phase” machine.  Why?  We had the savings for it (albeit I was hoping those savings would go toward other things, but we can adjust and make do).  We also didn’t want to buy one that would work but would likely need yearly or bi-yearly maintenance, not to mention another replacement down the road (which would mean another installation fee).

After all of our research, talking, and Facebook polling, we settled on the Bosch 500 series model.

Oooh, spacey!  It looks so shiny and new!

Why Bosch?  Because every. single. person. who recommended a brand on my Facebook poll recommended Bosch.  Everyone.  It was also the highest ranked brand and the brand with the least call-outs according to Consumer Reports.

Okay.  We’d decided on a replacement.  We’d picked out a model.  Now, for the fun – trying to eke out the most savings possible :-)  Yes, there can be some fun involved in budgeting.  It brings out my competitive, type-A nature!

We went to 4 stores and spoke with sales associates at each store.  In the end, we bought from Sears.  We asked questions like, “Do you offer free installation?  What’s the cost of hauling away the old machine?  What discount would we get if we signed up for a store credit card?  Store X is offering this deal – can you match or beat that?”  It’s worth talking to people, and in some instances it can be worth a lot.  Did you know, for example, that some stores charge up to $75 for installation?  And that doesn’t include the $20 kit you need to purchase to hook up the machine?  Did you know that your local township may have a better haul-away rate than the store?  Some counties offer a free once-a-year bulk trash pick-up.  It may be worth finding out when that is and stowing the old dishwasher in the garage till then.

By asking questions, doing research, and informing ourselves, we were able to knock $292 off the price (already on sale for $90 thanks to Memorial Day).  We shopped through Ebates ($30 savings).  We have a free ShopYourWay account, and they’re linked with Sears (earned us $8.10 in rewards).  Our county offers a $50 mail-in rebate if you replace your old dishwasher with a new, energy star model (check with your county to see if they offer the same sort of thing).  The Sears associate gave us a $50 price adjustment because, essentially, we asked if they’d give us a better deal than the other 3 stores we visited.  Last but not least, Bosch was offering a prepaid Visa gift card for up to $150 to cover installation and haul-away.

Budget busters can’t be predicted, but hopefully they can be minimized.  And while you may not be able to foretell the exact day that your A/C will break or dryer will fall apart, you can start to save for it (and other big home repairs).  I like the book, “America’s Cheapest Family”.  They have practical guidelines on smart ways to start saving for unexpected expenses.  You should read it.

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Have you had any budget-busters lately?  What are some ways you’ve been able to successfully navigate those unexpected expenses?

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Walking in Williamsburg: Freedom Park

Continuing with my desire to up my physical activity, we headed out to Freedom Park this past weekend to do some walking.  I’d read about the newly re-done trail linking the park to Jolly Pond road, and wanted to test it out for myself.  I had 3 guys who were happy to join me!

Freedom Park Sign

Not pictured: Jack – he was hanging out in the stroller behind me

Freedom Park has 600 acres and includes hiking trails, biking trails (we saw a lot of mountain bikers), the Williamsburg Botanical Garden, an 18th century cemetery, and reconstructed cabins marking one of the first free black settlements in the USA.  The park is also the site of the Battle of Spencer’s Ordinary that took place on June 26th, 1781.

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Map of the action – Yellow = American, Blue = British

There’s a lot to see and do in the park.  We briefly checked out the Interpretative Center and some of the displays, but couldn’t stay long as we had 2 little boys who were raring to go!

Freedom Park Interpretive Center

We headed down multi-use trail #3 (marked in brown in the map below)….

Freedom Park Trail Map

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Multi-Use Trail 3A

Freedom Park Trail Entry

The trail was stroller-friendly and meets ADA standards.  I had no problem pushing our Phil & Ted’s Navigator on the paved walkway.

Walking in Freedom Park

Freedom Park Trail 3

We meandered past the cemetery (the gravestones are no longer standing, but a memorial stone marks the site) and to the bridge spanning Colby Swamp.

Freedom Park Cemetary

Freedom Park Cemetery

Colby Swamp Bridge

Bridge over Colby Swamp

Colby Swamp Freedom Park

Colby Swamp

Freedom Park Colby Swamp

After stopping a moment to enjoy the view of the swamp (something that I didn’t expect, that I’d enjoy viewing a swamp, but it truly is beautiful) we kept on down the trail.

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My fearless partner-in-crime and I made it to the end of the trail (a 1 mile walk) and went a bit further down Jolly Pond Road to stop at Hornsby Middle School’s sports fields.  We ate a snack on the bleachers and took advantage of the drinking fountain to refill water bottles.  After that, we headed back the way we came, jogging for part of the journey.

Upon our return, we made use of the picnic tables at the interpretive center as well as the bathroom facilities.  I was surprised that there were no changing tables (I even checked with a staff member – nope, no change tables).  Perhaps this is something they could add in future.  As it was, everything else was great.  I’m sure we’ll be back a few more times this summer to walk the other trails, see more of the interpretive center’s displays, view the cabins, and walk through the botanical garden!

For hours and directions to Freedom Park, click here :-)

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Kids in the Kitchen

I love the idea of a play-room.  Some spot in the house where all of the toys can remain and the kiddos can go off and play, leaving the rest of the house looking clean, picked-up, and not like a wild bunch of hooligans live there.  In fact, having a play room was a big feature of our house-hunting when we moved here.  I felt that it was important to have that separation.  It was as if, in my mind, having some small space of the house off limits to children was a way of keeping some small part of my identity intact.  A way of preventing “motherhood” from fully swallowing up whole the person I was before children.  I am more than my children’s mother, right?  I’m a nurse.  A woman.  A wife.  A thinker and a creator.  For me, there was a fear that having a house overrun by toys and toddlers was the same as losing a big part of myself.  I don’t even know if that makes sense, but it certainly did to me at the time.

I mentioned the play-room feature to my mom, and she had an interesting comment.  She said, “You know, it doesn’t matter if you have a play room or not.  The kids are going to want to be wherever you are.”  Boy, is this true.  If I’m in the bathroom, they want to be in the bathroom.  If I’m in the kitchen, they want to be in the kitchen.  If I’m hanging laundry on the porch, there they are banging on the screen door demanding to join me.  If I leave to go volunteer, there’s wailing and weeping that I can hear even as I shut the back door.

In the end, we found a house with a semi-designated play room.  Our house is fairly open-concept for a 1970s single-level home (I can sit in the dining room and view the master bedroom, the kitchen, the den/fireplace room, and the laundry room all without leaving my chair) and the play-room (what used to be the den) is fairly open.  I’ve blocked it off with baby gates and set up a desk in there as well, so it doubles as our office area.  You can’t walk in there and not know it’s a playroom thanks to the thick foam interlocking mats that create a child-safe rug over the wooden floor.  It’s a fun place to be – lots of light, books, toys, a fully-stocked play kitchen and table… you’d think they’d never want to leave.

Except, the boys don’t seem to understand that it’s their play room.  I say, “Go, play!  Look at all of these toys!  Do you really need to sit underneath my feet while I’m getting dinner ready?  You have your own kitchen!”

Kids in the kitchen

And in their minds, the answer is, “Well, yes.  Of course we need to sit here, as close to you as possible, even if it means risking being stepped on.  Being near Mom is the place to be!”  They’re like little ducklings, trailing along after me.  Sometimes it’s aggravating and sometimes I think it’s good to set a boundary (“No, you may not always join me in the bathroom.  Sometimes you have to sit outside the locked door, whether your like it or not.”).  Many times, I enjoy it.  But if I’m being completely, totally honest – it can be frustrating.  I feel guilty even saying that because what mother doesn’t want her children to gather around her?  What mom doesn’t want her children to love being near her?

I do love those things.  I want those things.  I just don’t always want them all of the time.  Like when I’m midway through making lasagna and I turn from the stove, nearly kneeing one kid in the face because he silently scooted up behind me.  I end up having to hop-scotch across the rug (trying and failing to avoid the measuring spoons and cups that my children want to play with) and find myself biting my tongue to keep from saying sharp words.  Sometimes, I have to bite down pretty hard to keep from yelling, “O-kay – everyone out of the kitchen.”

Motherhood can feel the same way – I’m trying to do what needs to be done, only now there are 2 small people that have silently worked their way into every part of who I am.  I love it, but it can mean that I have to do some pretty fancy steppin’ to keep from hurting them or myself.

This is why boundaries – baby gates – are so important.  I don’t think it makes you a bad mother at all if you say, “I need some time to recharge.”  I need to set up a baby gate here at this part of my life and, eventually, I can take it down and put away as I do with all baby things.  But for now, I need to step on the other side, read a book, take a deep breath… and allow myself to be filled up.  Filled up with the words of good friends, filled up with the peace and assurance that comes from God.  It may mean taking an evening off – hiring a sitter or asking your husband to let you skip dinner (I think that a good book can be as filling as a good meal some times!).  It may mean taking a brief moment for yourself in the middle of the day (it’s amazing how the simple act of deep breathing – in through your nose, out through your mouth – can recharge you).

For now, right now, I’m at peace.  I can’t say that I’ll feel the same once dinner time rolls around and I’m hop-scotching across the rug, trying to avoid the toys while carrying a bowl of salad greens.  But for now, I’m glad that I can take a moment to breathe, relax, and let myself be filled.

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What are some things that help you recharge?  Do you feel stressed, overwhelmed, and overrun?  Where are some areas in your life that you might need to set up a “baby gate”?

“Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance.  The Lord be with you all!” – 2 Thessalonians 3:16

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Pinecone Research: Every Little Bit Helps the Budget

One of the ways that I bring in a little extra income is by completing online surveys.  I’ve tried a few different survey websites and the only one I do anymore is Pinecone Research.

Pinecone Research

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This is for 2 reasons: (1) they consistently pay the same amount per survey and (2) the links to surveys always work – no clicking on a link, answering 4 or 5 questions, and then being told you don’t meet the criteria.

The surveys are interesting and don’t take too long to complete.  Each survey pays 300 points which can be cashed in for $3.00.  There’s no minimum amount that you need to earn before cashing in (i.e., once you’ve got 300 points, you can cash it in for $3.00).  Payments are either done by paper check or PayPal.  I earn anywhere from $9 – $12/month… sometimes more, sometimes less!

You need to be the judge as to whether it’s worth your time or not.  For me, earning an extra $12/month (in other words, an average extra $144/year) is worth it.  I can do surveys when the boys are sleeping.  There generally aren’t too many surveys being sent to me, which means I don’t feel a lot of pressure to sit at the computer for hours filling them out.  I do one and that’s it for a few days or even a few weeks.  Another bonus: a manufacturer may send you a product to trial for them (you complete a follow-up survey later on and you get to keep the product).

There’s no kickback to me by sending people to Pinecone Research.  It’s something that I like to do, though, so I wanted to share it with you, my lovely readers :-)  Let me know if you’re interested (mrs(dot)practicallyperfect(at)gmail(dot)com) and I can send you the link.

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Saturay at Williamsburg Farmer’s Market

I woke up this past Saturday, took a look outside at the beautiful sunny weather, and said, “Hey – let’s go to the farmer’s market.”

Williamsburg - Farmers Market

We arrived just after 9:30am – prime time at the Williamsburg Farmer’s Market!

I don’t think there has ever been a time that we’ve come away from the market empty-handed.  Vegetables, fruits, bread, pies, candy, nuts, flowers, milk, yogurt… this is just a small list of the many things that you can buy at the market.  And all of it is done on the picturesque Duke of Gloucester street, with lovely shops and restaurants lining both sides.  People walk up and down DoG Street, and many customers are on a first-name basis with the vendors.

Farmers Market Williamsburg

Amy from Amy’s Garden

We purchased 3 crookneck squash, 1 bunch of multicolored swiss chard, and a bag of salad greens from Amy’s Garden.  Amy even let me sample some of the strawberries (delicious!).

Farmers Mrkt Williamsburg

Chris and I enjoy the market for different reasons.  I love to check out the vegetables, fruits, honey, plants, and the music.  Chris loves to stop by any vendor that has out samples and is more interested in the meats, coffee, and baked goods.  We’ve learned that we cover more ground if we split up, so each takes a child and goes their own way.  There are so many people there that you could never feel lonely.

Glasgow Kiss

Glasgow Kiss

Beautiful music and beautiful flowers.

Williamsburg Farmers Mkt

I walked a bit further down DoG Street and crossed South Henry to get to the rest of the market.

Williamsburg Farmers Market

The farmer’s market naturally leads into Colonial Williamsburg, so we decided to walk on down to the Timber House and get my free annual CW collegiate pass (one of the perks of being married to a professor at W&M).  I always enjoy walking through CW and seeing the beautiful gardens, no matter the time of year.  Even in winter when the ground is barren, I still think it’s pretty.  But it’s hard to top summer’s blooms.

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We headed on home where I washed up our produce and admired it.  Almost too pretty to eat.  Almost!

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The Williamsburg Farmer’s Market is located on Duke of Gloucester Street in Williamsburg, Virginia.  There is free parking at the Francis Street Lot from 8am – noon (or until the lot is full).  Once the lot is full, you can find pay parking for $1/hour in the Prince George Street car park.  There’s also free wi-fi in downtown Williamsburg (click here for more information) so you can post all of your lovely farmer’s market pictures on Facebook or Instagram and make your friends jealous :-)

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Free Jell-O this Weekend!

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Okay, who out there is a fan of Jell-O?  Now through Sunday (May 25th), you can get a box of Jell-O for FREE thanks to SavingStar.  Just click on the text below.

Save 100% when you buy any ONE (1) 3oz. box of JELL-O® Gelatin Dessert. Check back every Friday for a new Freebie!

You could use it to make this yummy strawberry pretzel salad, or hidden pear salad, or these patriotic jello parfaits in honor of Memorial Day :-)

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Walking in Williamsburg: Longhill Loop

My miles walked per week has taken a nosedive since moving back to the States.  Our neighborhood here in Williamsburg is a nice, quiet one and safe for walking with a stroller… but once you’ve walked it a few times, you begin to feel like you’ve seen all there is to see.  I kept resisting the idea of driving to go for a walk (why not just walk?!) but eventually gave up, gave in, and got the kids in the car.

My first walking choice was the Longhill Loop.  I found these walks in the “Great City Walks” brochure over at the City of Williamsburg Parks & Rec Department.

Longhill Loop - Williamsburg, VA

image via Google Maps

The route was paved, no stairs, and easily walkable (I did it in sandals, though tennis shoes are a better choice).  Big bonus: it ends in a playground.  Imagine me telling an antsy toddler, “You can either keep whining and we’ll go home, or you can use a big boy voice and we’ll play at the playground when I’m done with the walk.  Which would you prefer?”

The playground won out, no surprise :-)

Despite the little bit of whining, I have to say that both boys did great.  The walk is short (only 2.25 miles) but I still came prepared.

Walking in Williamsburg - Phil & Teds Double Stroller

I love our Phil & Teds stroller – it’s easy to push, not too wide, and not too long. Jack loves the rumble seat. He’s got plenty of leg room for those extra-long legs, and the seat slides off quickly for when I want to convert it to a single.

I brought snacks for the boys (crackers, Cheerios, and bananas) + water for them and me.  I’ve learned that being in a stroller = HUGE increase in appetite for Joe and Jack.  And the longer the walk, the bigger the appetite!

While they were busy eating, I was busy looking.  It reminded me that there’s stuff you see when walking that you easily miss in a car.  I’d been down this route many times in our van, but there was stuff that I didn’t ever seem to notice till today.

Longhill and Ironbound Road - Williamsburg, VA

Virginia Gazette - Williamsburg, VA

The Virginia Gazette Office

Kiwanis Park Sign - Williamsburg, VA

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Albert-Daly Field Plumeri Park Scoreboard

Dillard Complex - Williamsburg, VA

The Dillard Complex

There’s a section of the path that takes you through the woods for those walkers who prefer to be more “in nature” than “in city”.

Longhill Loop Path - Williamsburg, VA

Longhill Loop Footpath - Williamsburg, VA

I wheeled back into the playground and Joe was jumping in his seat with excitement.

Kiwanis Park, Williamsburg, VA

Important fact: there are toilets at the park but, unless you’re there during a softball game, you’ll need to use the port-a-potty.

The boys had a great time on the playground.  Joe was all over the place but I managed to snag him for a few photos to document our very fun morning :-)

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My goal is to complete all the walks listed in the “Great City Walks” brochure before September 1st.  That’s 23.3 miles of trails and paths (27.2 if you decide to walk the “Landing to Landing” walk both ways), so perhaps I’d better invest in a new pair of sneakers!

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Give Thanks in All Circumstances

Today started with one of those kinds of mornings.  The kind that begin with early-early bed linen changes, giving a toddler an unexpected bath, and taking care of a fussy 1 year old who has a snotty nose.  I started off on the wrong foot for sure, and we were all kind of grumpy.

While cleaning up and hanging laundry outside, I was struck full-force about how often I take blessings for granted or, worse, think of them as nothing more than a burden.  It’s true that sometimes work really is just work, but more often than not I forget to be thankful in all of my circumstances, be they fun or mundane.  I decided to take a few moments to re-set the morning by thinking of how many of my “chores” are in fact blessings in disguise.

For instance: laundry.  Laundry is something that can easily be overlooked as a blessing, especially for me.  Nonetheless, there are many reasons to be thankful for it! I’m thankful that (1) it’s warm enough for me to hang clothes outside, (2) I have a place to hang things up, (3) when I put clothes up on our back porch, I look out and see trees rather than traffic – the sight calms my soul and makes me reflect on the beauty of God’s creation, and (4) that we have clothes to begin with!

2014-05-20 08.07.562014-05-11 10.55.502014-05-11 10.54.36Looking at that view naturally made my mind jump to our house.  It’s easy for me to get mired down in my to-do list of painting walls, changing outlets, updating cabinets, and on and on.  That kind of thinking turns our house from a blessing to a burden.  I remember when we were house-hunting.  Such a hurried week of viewings! I hoped but didn’t think we’d end up in this neighborhood.  We have friendly neighbors who immediately welcomed us.  The area is quiet and safe.  Our house is just the right size – not too big, not too small.  Chris can bicycle to work.  All of that, and still within our budget despite the fact that every other house in the neighborhood was a good $100,000 – $200,000 above what we could have paid.  I know full well that the price wasn’t a fluke – God had a hand in it.

Maybe you’re having one of “those” kinds of days, too.  Perhaps you feel overwhelmed in the midst of all the work you need to do.  It’s easy to feel discouraged but, if you can, take a moment to re-set and try to view your chores as blessings in disguise.  Take comfort in the fact that God has a good and perfect will for your life, even though it may not always feel like it :-)

1 Thessalonians 5:16 – 18 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

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Bye Bye, Pacifier

Our latest parenting conundrum has been how to help Joseph give up his pacifier.  This is no small feat.

Joe will turn 3 next month.  He has a pacifier at his nap and overnight.  He’s very attached to it.  We tried giving it up cold-turkey when he turned 2 – misery!  After 5 nights of suffering – each night ending with us giving in and letting him use a paci – we decided to put the kibosh on weaning and try later.

“Later” has arrived.  I read various online articles about paci weaning starting last month and, in the end, we’ve opted for a mix of a few different techniques.  We started it at the beginning of this month, May, and it’s going well thus far.  Here’s what we’ve been doing…

1. We talk to him about it a lot. Joe has always been pretty verbal.  He loves to chat and to have us chat right back. We’ve been working to remember to talk about giving up the paci all throughout the day and not just at nap/bedtime.  This has put a bit more of a burden on us to remember, but the more we talk about it, the more he seems to understand.

2. We read to him about it.  This goes along with talking.  Joe loves books, so it plays to one of his strengths and favorite pastimes.  Here are the books we’ve been reading…

2014-05-11 12.22.25-1Pictured are…

Another book with good reviews is “Pacifiers Are Not Forever”, by E. Verdick.

Joe loves hearing the stories, helping me turn pages, looking at the pictures, and sitting next to me.  It’s a fun, no-stress thing and yet another way to get the message through: it’s time to give up your pacifier.  Within a few days of reading to him, I noticed a change in his behavior.  He began to correct me whenever I praised him by saying that he was “such a big boy”.  He’d say, “I’m not a big boy yet.”  He was beginning to understand that “being a big boy” and “giving up your pacifier” went hand in hand.

3. Say it with a song.  Joe loves to sing.  I found an Elmo song about giving up your pacifier and we’ve begun to sing it.  This is another way that helps him understand while using a method he enjoys.

4. We give choices.  Granted, the choices are limited, but Joe still has a say.  When we first began, I asked if he wanted to go without a paci for a little bit today or wait till tomorrow.  He chose tomorrow.  I asked if he wanted his paci kept in the cupboard or on the closet shelf with the closet light turned on.  He chose the closet shelf.  If he starts to fuss and ask for his paci, I remind him that he wanted it on the closet shelf and that if he looks, he can see it there.

5. There are mild consequences.  We started by having Joe go without a paci for 5 minutes at naps, but this was dependent on him (a) staying in bed under the covers and (b) being quiet.  I don’t expect him to be motionless or silent – he loves to sing in bed and he’s a wiggle worm – but if he starts to fuss and tell me that he needs his paci, I remind him of what he’s expected.  I also remind him that if he chooses not to do those things, then I’ll add time onto the timer.  I gradually stretched out those 5 minutes to 7 minutes, then 10 minutes, then 15 minutes at the start of naps.

6. I’ve been more patient.  It’s easy to forget how hard it is to be a toddler.  Joe loves his paci and doesn’t understand why he can’t keep using it, other than “he’s a big boy”.  It’s confusing to have an adult, even one who loves him, say he can’t use it anymore.  Breaking a well-ingrained habit is hard, but breaking it without understanding the benefit behind it is even harder.  So, I’m gentler.  I read extra books at nap time.  I give lots of cuddles when he’s having a hard time about it.  I say how proud I am and focus on praise rather than punishment.

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There’s our method.  Will it work?  Only time will tell, but I have high hopes.  Monday was his first paci-free nap.  It wasn’t the best nap, but he did (mostly) stay in bed, and there were no tears :-)

Some other suggested weaning methods that I read about include (1) creating a star chart, where each time your child goes without their paci at nap/bed time, they get a star; 5 stars in a row = a prize. (2) Snip a small piece of the paci off each night, so that eventually the paci is gone. (3) Set a “Give Up Your Pacifier” day and have your child mark it on the calendar.  Make a countdown and build excitement behind it each time you cross off a day. (4) Do a “pacifier trade”, where they trade their pacifier for a special prize.  I think that all of these can work really well – it just depends on what fits best with your parenting style and your child!

If you have some experience to share, I’d  love to hear it!  Since this is still an “in process” thing, I’m open to suggestions for what else might work well :-)

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Strawberries in Surry

It’s strawberry season here in Virginia, and we decided to take advantage of it this past weekend by heading over the river to Surry for some pick-your-own fun.

Since it’s Mother’s Day weekend, we anticipated a higher-than-normal turnout at the farm.  We opted to catch an earlier ferry so that we would arrive at the farm by 9am.

2014-05-10 07.38.29There she is, the Williamsburg Ferry!  We arrived in time to catch the 8:35am crossing with just a few moments of waiting (which gave me the opportunity to snap a few photos).

2014-05-10 07.38.46The James River

It was a cloudy day but no rain.  Just riding the ferry was a fun experience for the boys.  We got out of our car and went up into the passenger cabin to explore.

2014-05-10 07.48.29-12014-05-10 07.49.28There are bathrooms in the cabin and windows overlooking the river.  You might see another ferry passing by as it heads in the opposite direction.

2014-05-10 07.55.51The Surry

There’s no charge to ride, and the ferries operate 24/7.  For more ferry info, click here.

We made the short drive to the farm and grabbed some baskets (they provide them for you).  I ran into one of the moms that I know from MOPS, which was a nice surprise, and then Chris, the boys, and I headed into the rows.

2014-05-10 08.37.36I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of stroller-friendliness.  I knew that if it were wet, pushing a stroller would be a chore.  Thankfully there was plenty of space between the rows and our Baby Jogger City Mini fit fine.

We filled our baskets in almost no time at all.  I was transported back in time to picking strawberries in my mom’s garden.  I found myself falling into the old habit of crouching down and sweeping under the leaves, pushing them aside to find the hidden berries that are so easily missed by a casual picker.  I’d barely advanced at all before my gallon basket was topped off.

I headed down the row to find Chris and Joe.  They were having fun, and Chris was letting Joe assist as much as possible.

2014-05-10 08.36.34-2 2014-05-10 08.36.39 2014-05-10 08.36.57-1Joe had so much fun.  So did I!  Jack wasn’t thrilled at beingin the stroller.  I think that he would have rather been scooting in the dirt, but he bore his disappointment well :-)

We headed up to the farm-stand to pay for our berries and bought a kid-size cup of homemade strawberry ice cream for Joe and Jack to split.

We drove back to the ferry and realized that coming early was a smart move.  As we pulled away from the farm, other cars were beginning to pour in.  The fields were definitely more populated than when we got there.  There was also a longer wait for the return ferry, but thankfully we made it on-board and didn’t have to wait for the next one.

I washed the strawberries and cleaned them shortly after getting home.  My mom gave me a berry scoop spoon that makes removing the stem and hull quite easy.  I was finally able to put it to good use, making it earn it’s keep :-)

2014-05-10 10.41.58The end tally was nearly 12 pounds of strawberries.  I did a search for strawberry jam and found a simple recipe that used nothing but strawberries, shredded apple, lemon juice, and honey.

2014-05-10 11.24.31The jam was great.  I modified the recipe a bit and, rather than using 3 3/4 C honey (that’s a LOT of honey) I used 1 1/2 C honey and 2 1/4 C maple syrup.  I think honey can overpower other flavors at times, and I wanted this to taste like strawberry jam, not strawberry honey jam.  It turned out well.  The jam isn’t as “jelled” as the store-bought variety (the recipe doesn’t use pectin) but it’s fresh and yummy.  Joe, Jack, and Chris gobbled it up on bread, and I had some over yogurt for my evening snack.  Delicious :-)

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May 2014: Financial Goals

We have some fun goals for our house over the next year.  One of those goals is to replace our tired, energy inefficient front door

2014-05-01 12.38.31 2014-05-01 12.38.43 2014-05-01 12.38.08This door is most likely the original one that came with the house back in 1970.  It’s warped and poorly sealed, allowing air in from the outside.  It’s time for it to go.  After researching doors, their materials, and considering installation costs, safety features, storm/screen doors, sidelights, and curb appeal, we settled on $1,000 for replacing this door.  We’d like to meet this goal by September 2014, giving us 4 months.  Another way of looking at this is that we need to save at least $250/month from now till September.

Here are our plans to meet this $1,000 goal…

(1) Give ourselves a weekly food budget rather than monthly.

Aside from the mortgage, groceries are one of our biggest budget items. I’ve found that once-a-month grocery shopping doesn’t work for us and, when I have one lump sum per month, it’s easy to reach that last week and feel tempted to overspend.  Switching to a weekly budget will evenly split up that lump sum and avoid the end-of-the-month temptation to go overboard.

We also decided that we wanted to cut our grocery bill by by 20%, or $100/month.  That’s a reasonable, attainable reduction that we’re handling fine so far (at the end of the 1st week of May). It will save us $400 by September… nearly half of our $1,000 goal.  And over time, it’ll save us $1,200 per year.  Maybe it’s time to think about replacing that sliding patio door… ;-)

(2) Lower our cell phone and internet bills.

We’re one of the small remaining percentage of cell phone users who rely on “dumb phones”, or phones with minimal internet capabilities.  We were in the process of considering a switch to a different company when our current provider did a quick retention spiel and offered to lower our monthly bill by $45.  Considering that the other company didn’t have as good of coverage in our neighborhood, we opted to take the lower bill and stick with our current provider… for now.  Saving $45/month will bring our total savings up from $580.

Now for our internet bill.  We pay $60/month to Cox Communications, which is the only provider in our neck of the woods.  We talked about lowering our data allowance and, while it would mean a big drop from what we’re used to, it would also save us $25/month.  I called Cox to see what they could do and, with one phone call, got them to cut our bill by 20% while keeping our data at the same level.  In other words, we now pay $48/month to have the same amount of data as when we were paying $60/month.  One 15 minute phone call has brought our savings up to $628.

(3) Shop around on car insurance.

We’ve always carried a high level of coverage on car insurance.  We don’t want to save on monthly premiums only to be crushed by high deductibles in the case of a major accident.  Thankfully we’ve never had anything other than small fender-benders due to icy roads, but you never know what the future holds.  As a result, our insurance is a bit higher than if we carried a bare-bones policy.

I’ve been comparing insurance companies, checking rankings to see which ones are high performers in terms of customer satisfaction, claim processing, etc., and found that we can switch to an equally respected company while saving $10/month.  If we switch our home owner’s insurance over, we’ll save more and, if we do a 6 month lump sum payment, we save more on top of that.  I know that $10 may not seem like much or might sound like too much hassle for what it’s worth, but it means we up our savings to $688 in 4 months, leaving only $312 remaining until we reach our $1,000 goal.

UPDATE: After calling our current insurance company and asking if there were any discounts for which we might qualify, I learned that we could lower our mileage.  I knew what our car’s mileage was when we bought it a year ago, and it was clear that we’d overestimated how much we drive.  Lowering our mileage by 2,000 miles saved us ~ $10 per month.  I also learned that while they don’t offer a lump-sum payment discount, we do avoid monthly service fees if we pay all at once.  The service fees aren’t a lot – about 2% savings annually – but it’s still something to keep in mind!

(4) Keep up our other money-saving behaviors.

Adding up all of the savings from the changes above, we still need to save an additional $78 per month over 4 months to get a new door.  I believe that this is achievable thanks in part to other money-saving behaviors that we’ve adopted (I’ll share about those in another post).  Still, I want to make a point of drawing my attention to it, and so I’ve designated another line item in the budget of $78.  At the start of each month, $78 automatically gets put into that line item.  In my world, once something has been “spent” in the budget, then it’s g-o-n-e.

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I should mention that there’s one line-item in our budget that’s non-negotiable.  Every month, we tithe 10% of what we earn to our church. I’ll admit that there have been months when I’ve hesitated before sending the check, thinking “I could use that money for…”  It’s tempting to put my trust in a job, my earning potential, our bank account, or our ability to stick with a budget rather than trusting God.  But I know that all things, even our front door, are in His hands.  Life can change quickly.  Finances can come crashing down, jobs can be lost, health can be ruined.  God remains the same.  I have to remember that when I start to fuss and worry.  God remains the same, and He is always good.

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We’re trying to be good stewards with what we’ve been given – our health, our income, our family – and hopefully we’ll meet our goal by September.  If that’s the case, I plan to get estimates from the 4 door sales/installation companies in town and see if we can find a deal.  Hopefully, we’ll get a front door that allows a lot of natural light and is under-budget, something similar to the door below, but we’ll see!  Regardless of what it looks like, I’m fairly certain that any decently made door that we get will end up saving us money in the long run in terms of heating/AC bills!

What about you?  Are you struggling with worry and stress over your budget?  Is there a goal that you have in mind, something that you’d like to save for?  What are some changes that you might be able to make to meet that goal?

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Month of May: Time for a Change!

When you’re depressed, your focus becomes very, very narrow.  My own focus became so narrow that anything beyond making it through the day was too much to think about.  Exercise, eating healthy, getting enough sleep… all of those were things that I knew would help me feel better, but I had neither the energy nor the inclination to keep them up.

It’s time to change that.  I’ve been feeling better, my emotions are no longer down in the dumps, and I’ve started a regular work-out class.  I’m once more able to think about having a fit lifestyle and I’m excited to get back into the routine of making wise choices about my diet and my fitness.

Before I list my goals, I want to share a bit of my motivation.  My family is a huge reason for me to get back into a healthy lifestyle.  I want to set a great example for my little boys as well as be an encouragement to my husband as they make healthy choices.  As the mom, I have a lot of influence in terms of what we eat, how food is prepared, the amount of exercise we get, and our sleep patterns.  It’s very important to me that I promote good choices in all of those areas, and the best way to do that, for me, is to do it myself and lead by example.

Goals for May

  1. Cut out all processed/refined sugar.  I’ve done this once before, about 4 months after Joe was born.  I won’t lie, it was tough.  I felt so much better afterward, though, and learned a lot about healthy alternatives.  Lately, I’ve felt as though I can’t stop craving sugar – it’s crazy.  The plan is to follow the same changes as last time – allow myself small amounts of raw honey or maple syrup when I want to sweeten something, but no foods with any sugar or other added sweetener of any sort.
  2. Continue exercising.  I’ve been going to “Body and Soul” class here in Williamsburg for the last 3 weeks.  It’s 3 mornings/week, 75 minutes/class, and has childcare.  It’s a great class and pushes me.  It’s made me aware of how much I’ve slacked off.  Doing planks – something that used to be easy-peasy for me – are now hard.  I can feel the extra weight on my body and it frustrates me, but I’m glad that I’m doing something about it instead of continuing down an unhealthy path.  What’s more, even though class is hard, I enjoy it.  I usually end up laughing (briefly!) a couple of times during the workout because of the antics of other attendees or the leader.  Endorphins = natural antidepressants!
  3. Cut down on caffeine.  When we moved to Williamsburg and I was struggling emotionally, I found that I either couldn’t fall asleep because of anxiety, or I couldn’t face getting out of bed in the morning because of stress.  One of the ways that I coped was to up my caffeine intake.  I went from drinking 1 cup of black tea to 3 or sometimes 4 cups of black tea.  I even started drinking caffeinated soda again, something that I hadn’t done in years.  I’m now back to zero soda and 2 cups of tea in the morning, but I want to get it down to only 1 cup of tea.  So as of May, only 1 cup of black tea per day.  I have green tea here at home, so if I’m really craving a warm cuppa, I can make some of that instead.

Whew – big changes!  I’m looking forward to them, though, and I’m looking forward to revisiting old “no refined sugar” recipes, trying out some new ones, and sharing them with you, my lovely readers.  I’ve also got some fun financial goals (yes, fun financial goals) for May, too, that I plan to share in my next post.  Stay tuned!

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Do you have any goals that you’d like to work on?  What are your motivations for making healthy choices?

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12 Months Old – Happy Birthday, Jack!

My, oh my.  An entire year has come and gone since you joined our midst, Jack!  What a fun, happy little boy you are.  I’m so glad that I have the opportunity to be your mother, and that I have had the pleasure of watching you grow and change over these last 12 months.  We are so proud of you and love you to distraction.

Jack 4-24-14The above photo was taken at New Quarter Park here in Williamsburg, just 2 days shy of your 1st birthday.  Joe is in the background, peeking over the stairs to the slide.  You absolutely love slides and whenever you have a chance to go down them, you enjoy it to the fullest.  That was a fun day of walking the trails and letting you and and your brother play on the playground.

Joe and Jack 4-24-14Joe was a bit concerned that you would hurt yourself going down the slide, but you had no such fears – you were ready to zoom on down, trusting that I would be there to catch you :-)  And I was, of course.  Hopefully I or your father will be there to catch you many times over the years and help you learn from any mistakes that you make or trouble that comes your way.  I pray that you have a relatively trouble-free life, but I know from experience that hardship is one of the best ways to grow faith and strengthen your character.  For as long as we are able, we’ll be there by your side to pray for you and support you, whatever comes your way.

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Here are a few updates since my last post about you.  You change so much each day!

General Health

You haven’t had any major health issues.  A bit of teething, a bit of a runny nose, but no major illnesses.  You’ve had some issues with dry skin these last few months and we’ve been using Aveeno baby lotion and shampoos to help with that.  It seemed to really flare up over the winter months but, with daily application of the lotion and limiting your exposure to regular soaps, it seems to be improving.  Your big brother and daddy have the same issues, so it’s not worrisome to me.

Sleep

You’ve dropped down to 1 nap a day, which typically takes place around 12:30/1pm and then goes till around 3pm… or sometimes even 4pm depending on how tired you are.  It’s not easy being a baby, and sometimes your big brother and the day’s activities wear you out.  You go to bed around 7:30pm and then wake up anywhere between 6 – 7am.  It’s rare for you to wake up in the night but, if you do, weren’t too bothered by it.  We still do the 5-minute test, where we turn the baby monitor off for a few minutes and then turn it back on to see if you’ve stopped crying.  I’d guess that, 90% of the time, you’ve gone back to sleep.

You love to sleep with a pacifier but try not to give one to you at any other time.  You wear a zip-up sleeping gown (it’s the same summer sleeping gown that your big brother used to wear).  It’s sleeveless and made of thin cotton, but it provides a little extra warmth.  That comes in handy since you love to move around in your crib and often kick off your blankets.  You also love to sleep with your “silkie” or “lovey”, which is a silky little blanket that your grandmother gave you.  If we have to take a road trip and your nap or bedtime falls during when we’ll be in the car, I’ve learned that having your lovey helps a lot in encouraging you to sleep.  It’s like once you have it in your hands, you realize, “OK – this is time for me to go to bed”.  Not always, but enough to make it worth bringing your blanket along!

Eating

You love to eat!

2014-04-27 15.30.27

You like nothing better than to grab the spoon and try to feed yourself.  This means messes and for some reason, I’m not as keen on the mess-making as you are :-)  You still nurse 3 times a day: after breakfast, after lunch, and after dinner.  You don’t need to be nursed to sleep, though, and that’s a blessing.  Honestly, you don’t really need to be nursed at all in the evening.  We’ve learned that, in a pinch, you can get by just fine with a sippy cup of warm whole milk (figured this out after I was at a meeting that ran late, and your daddy had to improvise).  Still, I can’t deny that I enjoy the cuddle time and it makes me happy that I get to hold you, rock you, and talk to you.

General Activity

You love to scoot, so much so that you’ve gotten the nickname “Scoot”.  You will scoot right out the door if we let you!  I’ve had to put up more and more babyproofing devices: power strip covers, toilet seat locks, cabinet locks, and more baby gates.  The baby gates are a true sanity saver for me.  Here’s a video of you scooting around the house.  It is so fun to watch you move!

You babble and coo and love to growl at us :-)  You’ve said “hi” and “bye” and you’ll say “Mama” and “Dah-Dah”, but I can tell that you’re more reserved than Joe, and that is completely, absolutely fine.  You’re a smiley baby and whenever I bring you to the nursery, the women that are in there get a big grin and say, “It’s Jack!”  They tell me that you are such a happy, easy-going baby and I agree with them.  It’s pretty easy to figure out what causes you to fuss and you usually love to play and be snuggled.

Joe and Jack

Your big brother is truly watching out for you on a regular basis.  Yes, there’s some sibling friction, but that’s to be expected.  He will often come running to me to let me know that you’re doing something you ought not do (ahem, such as attempting to pull the cords out of the safety cover of the outlet strip).  He plays with you and you can really hold your own most of the time.

There was one incident that I want to share.  You and Joe were laughing so hard.  I was in the kitchen and didn’t know what was going on.  I peeked my head around the cabinets and saw you two facing each other, just laughing.  Then, I saw you reach out and slap Joe in the face.  You would laugh and laugh, and Joe would, too, but I was shocked!  I came over and said, “Joe, is Jack hitting you in the face?”  You slapped him again and you both laughed.  Joe said, “Yes”, and I asked if it was hurting him.  “Yes”, he said, but Jack thinks it’s funny.

I didn’t know what to think – here was my first child being hit in the face by my second child, and they were both laughing about it!  Even though it hurt him, Joe was so happy that you were happy that he didn’t want to stop you.  I intervened, though.  I took Joe’s chin, turned his face to me, and saw a red spot where your tiny hand had been hitting his cheek.  I told him that it was OK for him to move away when you were hitting him, or to come tell me, and that even if you thought it was funny, I didn’t want him to be hurt.  There were a few more times where you tried to hit him and would laugh, but Joe learned to move away.  Still, it was a strangely sweet thing to witness, even if doesn’t make much sense to anyone else.

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How Mom is Doing

I’m doing better.  I’ve started taking an exercise class 3 times a week.  I’ve enrolled your big brother in preschool – it starts this Fall, is 2 mornings a week, and I’ll be volunteering there in some capacity.  I still go to MOPS and have volunteered to be the registrar for next year.  I’ve completed volunteer training at the local hospice and have started to volunteer there 2 evenings a month.  In other words, I’m becoming more involved in the community and spending less time at home being a hermit.  There’s nothing wrong with being a homebody, but I’ve found that it leads to depression in my case, and an unhappy mother = an unhappy family!  Now, I’m happier, and so is everyone else :-)

Other Odds and Ends

I just know that you’re going to need a haircut soon.  I”m not sure I”ll be able to bring myself to do it.  You have such soft, white-blonde hair and so much of it!  I suppose it will have to be done – it’s reached the point where I can easily pull it into a ponytail atop your head – but I don’t look forward to it.  Just one more move away from babyhood.  Next thing I know, you’ll be heading out the door for your driver’s test!

We love you and are proud of you.  Again, I’m so glad that I, out of everyone else in the world, get to be your mother.  I love you, Jack.

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A {Belated} Happy Easter

Happy Easter!

Joe and Jack - Easter 2014Joseph and Jack – Easter 2014

The above photo was the best that I could get of the two little boys.  Chris was away at a conference in Boston over Easter Weekend, so it was just the three of us.  We are glad that Chris is home once more, safe and sound.

I was very excited about being able to decorate some eggs with the boys.  Jack, obviously, is too young for that, but I figured that Joe was the perfect age for some egg dyeing.  He was so excited, as was I, but you know what?  It soon became clear that I’m a novice at this whole egg-dyeing thing.  It wasn’t till after I’d hard-boiled them that I realized, “Hmm… these are brown eggs.  I wonder if the dye will even show up on the shells…”

As it turns out, the dye did not show up well on the shells at all.  However, I figured that we would still be able to eat some hard-boiled eggs and Joe would have fun dipping them in the brightly colored water.  Except then I forgot to put them in the fridge once all was said and done.  It wasn’t till the next morning that I realized they were still sitting in the basket on the counter.  Sigh, oh well.  Joe still had a good time!

2014-04-17 09.43.13-1 2014-04-17 09.43.54-1 2014-04-17 09.44.09 2014-04-17 09.44.21-1I love Jack’s face in that last photo.  He really wanted to be a part of the process and was getting annoyed that he couldn’t join in.  Sorry, Jack – I’d rather not have the rugs dyed bright pastel colors if I can help it :-)

I hope that you all had a lovely Easter, too!

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