Friday, October 29, 2010

Boy or Girl?

My ultrasound is scheduled for Wednesday, November 3, 2010 at 3:00 pm. We're definitely planning on finding out the gender of the baby. (well, I am. Cody is still trying to convince me otherwise, but I think he's realizing it's futile.)

So anyone care to guess? Boy or Girl? You have until next Wednesday to try! :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

First post from out-of-our-house

Saturday we moved! Well, we moved out. We are still waiting the move-in. For the time being, we are living in my parent's basement--and are very grateful for it! We hope it will only be a month or so, but since there still isn't an official move-in date, because there isn't an official place to move into, we can't officially say how long it will be. Phew!

Anyway. We are alive and well. The move-out went very smoothly, and we were so grateful...well, grateful doesn't really describe it well enough... for all the help we received. We had many family members and friends from church come to help. We started right around noon--as soon as the Homecoming Parade got over--and had the last loads unloaded by three-thirty. We took several loads over to the storage unit and a couple more loads up to my parent's house. It took some careful organization, but now the house is empty and we are taking this week to clean.

Cody is still working from the old house, but since he is in training for a job he did 2 years ago, and the training is all done over the phone via conference calls, he wears his headset and listens while he cleans. It's working out very well. I went over today and helped him clean. We've got the kitchen just over halfway done (oven and most of the fridge is done, floor is done *which was NASTY--NEVER EVER carpet a kitchen!*), the bathroom is almost entirely done (just needs the floor swept and mopped, and some mildew around the window cleaned, and trash removed), and the master bedroom is done. I also did all the windows in the living room, which is more than you might think considering the glass cupboards, the screen door, and the window-framed front porch. All done! There's still some vacuuming to do, light fixtures to clean, walls to wipe down, and a few more windows to clean. And, we haven't yet wiped out the cupboards anywhere. But hey, it's Tuesday! We have until Saturday to finish everything. We'll make it.

So that's the update on the move and whatnot. We've been having fun aside from all that. Saturday we enjoyed the Homecoming Parade--one of our favorite events of the year. The kids got tired, but they still scraped together a big bag full of candy and other various goodies. We nearly lost our voices cheering for every entry in the parade. I mean EVERY entry. Even the republicans!

The kids found new and unusual ways of helping pack... well, at least keeping themselves entertained, which is equally helpful!

As I was refilling the freezer after moving it--my last task of the Saturday move--the heavens opened and it started pouring rain. I definitely prayed in thanksgiving that we beat the rain and wind--which eventually turned to snow.

We are glad to be out of the house now and sleeping somewhere new. My stress levels have gone WAAAY down, and surprise surprise, the nausea has diminished greatly as the stress has ebbed. Thursday is my 20 week checkup, and then we'll schedule the ultrasound.

Again, I say "phew!" Last week was a big one. I am glad it is over. Now, onto the next adventure!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Holiday Prep: Countdown--one month until Thanksgiving!

Many more Countdown posts will be popping up much closer to Thanksgiving. But I wanted to give you just a quick list of things that can be done in advance, especially if you have the freezer space. Not HAVE to be done, just can. (for example, the first tip about potatoes...I think my sister Kathy would cry if I had pre-prepared mashed potatoes and she couldn't do them the day of.)If it's done in advance, that's one less thing to do on Thanksgiving.

-Potatoes can be mashed, bagged in gallon-size zip lock bags, and frozen. On T-day, they can be warmed in the microwave.
-Pie crusts can be made in advance and frozen. You can either roll them out on plastic wrap or wax paper, carefully slide them into large plastic bags, and freeze, or leave it un-rolled out in a big ball and thaw thoroughly closer to T-day before rolling and baking. They can even be molded in pie tins and frozen then, ready to fill and bake!
-If Turkeys are already on sale, you can take the chance now to buy the perfect one. Closer to the holiday, selection diminishes. Keep it frozen until the week before Thanksgiving.
-Do several checks for supplies. For a few ideas, see my Shopping List #1. (Set to arrive on November 1...stay tuned)
-Take a day to prep freezer meals besides Thanksgiving. Make a frozen lasagna, a pan of beef and bean enchiladas, or other non-turkey items. These things come in handy the day before Thanksgiving when you really don't feel like cooking, and can't afford delivery pizza.
-If you want to do homemade decorations, get going on it now.
-Make cornbread or buy a loaf of good bread (like ciabatta or sourdough), cut into cubes, and freeze in a large bag. That is, if you want to make your stuffing/dressing from scratch.

What other things can we do in advance? I'm sure you out there have many ideas that haven't even crossed my mind. Please share!

Friday, October 22, 2010

My survival list for moving with children

I'm not an expert yet by any means, but here is my list for surviving a move with small children:

-When you have a box to pack, hold it in your hands as you pack it. Don't put it on the floor. Once it is full, IMMEDIATELY tape and mark it, and then get it out of the house. OUT of the house, I tell you!
-Keep at least one big box just for kids to play in and leave it close to the other boxes so it will blend in. Let the kids climb in and smash up that box.
-Keep out plenty of snacks and candy--both to bribe kids with and to soothe your own nerves.
-Give yourself lots of time to move in. You'll need extra time to make runs to the park and still go to bed early every night.
-Let the kids color on the boxes with the markers. They want to help; let them!
-If all else fails, call a babysitter! :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Move is almost done

The move is coming along so nicely! To help us stay focused and not overwhelmed, I've been celebrating all our success rather than fretting about everything we have left. Both Cody and I work so much better when we're happy and motivated, and we both kind of shut down when we're stressed. So here's the happy things we have done:

Successes today so far:
-Kitchen is almost entirely packed. I'm running the dishwasher and putting clean things away in boxes, not in cupboards. This means everything. I even packed my Pampered Chef Knives--there's no going back now!
-Laundry is being washed and also packed up when clean. All of the clean stuff we need is up at my parent's house, and we have only kept out a few outfits down here for the next few days. Really, there's not much here any more. Big boxes of clothing have already been boxed and taken to the storage unit.
-I found a place I'd completely forgotten about (the little nook by the pantry) and packed everything from it: all the wrapping paper and gift bags.

Big Successes I'm still celebrating from earlier this week:
-Piano is MOVED!
-Our bed and the bunk beds have been taken apart and are ready to move
-cupboards are all empty, food has been packed and taken out of the house
-The garage is clean (except for the leaves that blew in last night)
-I found an awesome deal on frozen lasagna last night. I went to the store because we have packed all the cooking supplies, so I thought I'd just pick up a few heat-and-eat items. I was so excited to find that if I bought a Stouffer's Lasagna, I'd get a 2 liter Pepsi product, a Dole Salad, a loaf of french bread, and a box of cookies all for FREE. (I actually decided against getting the cookies... even if they're free, I just didn't want them around. Probably should have picked them up to give out as moving favors on Saturday... oh well.) Absolutely perfect deal for moving!
-We have a pretty good crew coming on Saturday to move out the rest of the stuff. Tomorrow will hopefully be our last big packing day. After that we will spend the nights at my parent's house and still have a week to come back and clean. And best of all, we're right on schedule!

Alrighty. Back to work. Gotta get another box in before lunch.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Helping Pack

Lee is such a good helper! He got all the high cupboards empty. It was really nice. And yes, I am blogging right now while the rest of my family is packing. *shame on Lisa*

Monday, October 18, 2010

I'm tired.

I think I'm just tired of moving. It seems like every task is such a chore right now, and never-ending. Today I worked on cleaning and packing the kitchen. A lot of things need to be washed before they can be packed in boxes, so I ran the dishwasher all day and when it was done I would unload half (or more) into boxes and the rest would be put away. Right now I have out 1 big spoon, 1 pair of tongs, 2 mixing bowls, 1 cookie sheet, and 1 frying pan. That's the extent of my cooking supplies! I still have out all the plates, bowls, silverware, and cups, though. I need to keep cleaning out the fridge and washing dirty things and then packing them.

We stopped at the grocery store tonight and picked up a few foodstuffs that would require very little preparation--especially breakfasty things. I'm not a cold cereal lover to begin with, and the last month that's mostly what we've been eating. For a person who normally cooks breakfast--like eggs, bacon, toast, pancakes, etc (or gets Cody to make crepes), cold cereal every day has been a big let-down. So I'm glad we have a package of bagels and some frozen turnovers (place on tray and bake. the end.) to ease that burden until Saturday. I think it will give me the edge I need to get to the end of this!

But happiest news of the month: we have piano movers coming on Wednesday for the piano. AAAAAAH... my back is feeling better already! (not that I ever had any intention of moving the piano myself... just thinking about Cody doing it makes me hurt all over.)

Meanwhile, the kids have been SO cute recently! Today while I was packing, Anna found a baby doll and took good care of it. She used a washcloth for a blanket. She gave it a bath (in the sink with water and everything), fed it some of her cereal, sang it songs, rocked it for snuggle time, and changed its diaper. I have a feeling she is going to be a GREAT big sister. Lee is getting nervous about all the scary Halloween decorations popping up around town. When he gets scared, he puts his hand over his mouth and holds very still. But he loves singing Halloween songs with me in the car to and from Preschool.

So that's it for today. It is going to be a very busy week or two. I may not be posting very much. I'll try to take some pictures. I really should get a movie of Anna singing "Up-a-buh-dah-wha-chu-are!" (Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star ala Anna) and Lee singing "What are you going to be on Halloween Night?" It's totally precious. But until then...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Holiday Prep: Halloween Menus

Halloween is coming up very soon. I love using upcoming holidays to inspire my meals. It is fun for me to cook, and fun for the kids. Here's a few things we really like that are Halloween-inspired:

This recipe for "Blood and Guts and Monster Eyeballs."

"Witch's Brew Salad"
-Cut Carrots and Cucumbers (or other vegetables, if you like) into triangles. (peel, slice length-wise into long strips, then cut at angles to make triangles). You can also cut broccoli with long stems to look a little bit like broomsticks.
-Mix together 1 cup creamy peanut butter, 1/4 cup honey, 3 tbsp soy sauce, 1/2 tsp garlic, 1/4 tsp pepper, and 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce. If it is too stiff to mix together, warm in the microwave for 20 seconds and try again.
-Pour Peanut Butter dip in a bowl and arrange cucumbers and carrots around the edge to look like hats coming out of the dip.
Note: if you don't like peanut butter dips, you can just use ranch dressing or any favorite dressing.

Pumpkin Pancakes (a huge favorite of mine!)
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup cooked pumpkin or squash
1 3/4 cups bisquick baking mix
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Beat eggs in a bowl on high for 5 minutes until thick and lemon colored. Stir in remaining ingredients--no need to beat it smooth, just bring it together. Pour batter by tablespoonfuls onto griddle. Cook until puffed and bubbles just begin to set. Flip and bake until golden brown. Makes about 5 dozen 2 inch pancakes. Serve with maple syrup or powdered sugar, if desired.

For fun, you can arrange chocolate chips on the un-baked side in cute faces to make them into jack-o-lantern pancakes.

Leftovers freeze really well and can be toasted in the toaster for a quick and easy breakfast later! (Keep that in mind for hassled days in November...)

"Oscar the Grouch"-shake (aka green Orange Julius)
1/2 can orange juice concentrate
1 tray (14 cubes) ice
2 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar
tiny pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
3-6 drops green food coloring (optional, of course)

Blend everything in a blender for about 1 minute, until smooth and frothy. Makes about 4 cups full. Great for a little breakfast treat instead of orange juice or milk, or a quick snack.

One thing I love about the above recipes is that they are all healthy. On Halloween I try to keep my meals as healthy as I possibly can so that we can enjoy the candy. I also try to have my meals be quick and easy so that we can get out the door early and on to our Halloween night adventures.

Do any of you have fun Halloween-inspired ideas--be it meals, decorations, or activities--that you love? Please share!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Holiday Prep: Special guests

This post is because I am a mom of small kids, am pregnant myself, have family members with special dietary requests, and know that there are all kinds of circumstances in the world. I would love to hear your ideas and suggestions at the end of this one!

As you prepare for the holidays, take a moment to overlook your guest list. There is almost a 100% chance that someone who is attending requires some type of special attention. Whether it be the diabetic in the crowd, the vegetarian, the pregnant woman, the little kids, the grandparents who can't have salt, the cousin with nut allergies, or your sister who can't eat wheat... Someone might need something special. These kind of people often feel estranged from group parties because their needs aren't considered.

I think most of these people are extremely polite and kind about their requests. If you let them know what each dish has in it, they can choose what fits their dietary needs and politely leave behind what doesn't. But that doesn't mean that you should blatantly ignore their needs. Trust me, nothing will make them feel more loved and appreciated than just a little bit of thoughtfulness from the host. Here's my suggestions:

1) Call any guest who has a dietary request and ask them what you can do to make their holidays more enjoyable. If it something that can easily be done, like leaving the breadcrumb topping off the mashed potatoes, or having one type of pie without nuts in it, oblige their request.
2) be thoughtful as you shop and cook. Check labels and ingredient lists for allergens, if applicable. Just try your best.
3) Think like your guests. If you are inviting families with small children, and you don't want to have dinner until four in the afternoon, and you are not planning on lunch, think of those little tummies. Have some bread and peanut butter (just an example) on hand for your guests to make themselves a small lunch. You don't need to go out of your way to make an extravagant menu or wild changes for your guests--just a few small things really do go a long way. If you're not sure what they need, see #1 again.

When your guests know that you'll take care of them, they'll take care of you back. They'll enjoy their time better, and want to come back soon (or better yet, invite you over so they can return the pampering!). All in all, a happy guest is worth the little bit of effort. You might just help them have the best holiday ever.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Update on all things

The house is over half empty now. Wahoo! Anna's room, Lee's room, and the living room are all cleaned out. We took out all the trash, packed what we wanted to keep, and donated a bunch too. So that is very nice. I've been doing laundry every day, and still have a few places that need quite a bit of work (office, kitchen, master bedroom, and garage/outside), but it is doable. Unfortunately, we have no place to move into, so that remains a project to get done.

I'm almost 18 weeks along. Whoosh! All this moving business certainly has kept my mind focused elsewhere. I haven't yet felt the baby move, but know it will happen sometime soon. My doctor is planning an ultrasound around 20 weeks and we'll get to find the gender then. I have been more stressed than normal these past few weeks, which has me nervous. I can tell it's taking its toll, because I'm still pretty sick and have a hard time eating and sleeping. Getting out of this house and this rotten situation will help, I'm sure.

Lee and Anna are the best kids ever! They've been handling the stress around our house very well. Biggest changes: Anna likes to snuggle more often, and Lee...well, Lee seems to be thriving, actually. Preschool really helps him, and he loves telling us all about it every day.

Just started a second job yesterday. I think it will really be good for him. He can still work from home, and shouldn't interfere too badly with his current job.

Well, I'm still posting, aren't I? ;) I wish I could cook more/better, but we packed most of the pantry already. I'm just really looking forward to this move being over and getting back to normal, or maybe finding a new normal. In the meantime, I'm trying to get as much done each day as I can, and then carefully coping with stress by taking warm showers, going for walks, and maintaining the schedule carefully (like going to bed on time, when we eat, when we wake up, taking naps, etc).

We're hanging in here! Thanks again for all your support and love.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Holiday Prep: Homemade Holidays

It's time to ask ourselves a seemingly simple, seemingly trite, but quite essential question:

How homemade are we going to be this holiday season?

What are we going to make from scratch, and what will be store-bought? How important is it to have things homemade? Making everything from scratch can be extremely daunting. Sometimes store-bought just turns out better. But homemade is more special. Story time...

One of my roommates from college came home after Thanksgiving weekend. I asked her how her holiday was, and she confessed it was pretty rotten. When I asked why, she said that (while not the only reason) the whole meal was the cop-out store-bought type: from the canned cranberry sauce, to the bakery pies, to the instant mashed potatoes, to the canned gravy... everything that could be made instantly, was. This little story has stuck with me (obviously, since it was six years ago and I still remember it). I think about it, and how the choice to be quick and easy made the day less personal and special.

But that being said, I don't expect anybody to make everything from scratch. I've tried to provide recipes and ideas for all aspects of the meal, but you should pick what you like. If you just love boxed stuffing mixes, then use that instead of making your own. Also, don't be afraid to try something new--or so set on tradition to ignore the past failures. If your family hates pumpkin pie, well, by all means, don't make pumpkin pie! If you're always throwing away all the cranberry sauce, then don't make that either. If you want to incorporate flavors somewhere else, try that... like my cranberry salad, or a pumpkin soup, or a cheesecake instead of pie... there are many options out there.

So how homemade should our holidays be? Only as much as we can bear. But exactly as much as we can bear too! Only you can decide that for yourself.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Family date night

Yesterday was kind of a rough one. We had troubles with the house we're hoping to move into, and had to make some hard decisions. While we've been getting a lot of stuff out of the house, most everything else has been neglected this week--like the laundry, the dishes, even Cody's work. So last night I felt like we needed to do something different and special.

After hauling our old loveseat over to donate, I stopped at the grocery store and picked up three small cups of Aggie Ice Cream and then we went up to USU campus and parked under Old Main so Anna and Lee could marvel at the blue "A." There were also spotlights running and they'd turned on my favorite green laser too. It was a little cold to be outside eating ice cream, but it was fun! Anna sat on the van room and just stared at the A, which has been her favorite thing to see for the past week (ever since she saw the A turn blue on TV after BYU's loss to USU). Lee got a little bit too cold, but we didn't stay outside for long and soon we had the heater in the van cranked up. The kids were still in bed by 8:45 (yes late, but it's Friday after all), and we were all smiles when we got home. That's worth it in any universe.

The information above is pretty specific about the place we live, and I try to keep that information fairly vague to avoid predatory situations. It's just... c'mon, Aggie Ice Cream? Blue A? How could I not share this awesome and fun little moment of escape for our family? I've been recently monitoring where the views of this blog are coming from, and I haven't seen anything to raise red flags... so I'm willing to take a little risk today. Please don't comment using the name of our city or our last name, though. Thanks. ;)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Holiday Prep: Decorations

I must admit. I have no good tips for holiday decorations. But I believe in them...I believe it helps get in the mood and extend the celebration time from a solitary day to a whole month...

My mom has a box of decorations in her basement for each holiday--most more than one box. She's collected them her whole life, and she only keeps things that are really special or cute. Like the skull candle holder from Mexico that we named "Ed" that freaks everybody out, or the nativity set with the little sheep we always put on the roof of the stable, all the way to the hundreds of special tree ornaments ranging from the olive wood nativity from Jerusalem, to the shrunken apple my brother carved in first grade that gets uglier every year. :) Decorations have these special memories attached, and the only way to do that is to collect them slowly and carefully, and store them carefully too.

Of course, decorations can also be a part of tradition. My husband's family always goes up to the family ranch to pick Christmas trees. Before I went myself, I was slightly disappointed with the wild trees... kind of gangly and lopsided... but once I was actually riding up in the back of dad's truck and marching through the snowy forest looking for the perfect tree, and smelling the air of the ranch and all the love associated with it... That tree became the most beautiful thing: a piece of family right in my living room all December long.

So, I'm sorry I don't have any pictures of cool and easy holiday crafts that will transform your house. If you have any ideas, I would really really love some--especially those kid-friendly ones. Or if you have special decorations--from gingerbread houses to homemade ornaments, let us all know. Time to share!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

3 vanloads in one day

Today we moved in three... count them, THREE... van loads full of boxes and stuff! We also got another giant box full of garbage out (always fulfilling) and another 2 boxes over to donate. AAAAHH. This move is becoming increasingly real. Which is definitely a good thing. I'm less overwhelmed and feeling more confident about it. (And don't worry... there was a little bit of water in the bottom of the smoker, which dripped. Not oil or anything weird like that.)

My cousin Alaina said that Annalisa looked like a painting during her nap on Grandma F's couch last Sunday. Anna was so funny--she refused her nap, then fell asleep right on Grandma's hardwood kitchen floor. We moved her to the couch where she sprawled out and had a good solid sleep.

Now, I want to ask some advice from those of you who move more often than I do... what can I do to keep the stress down and still be a family amid all this move? Cody and I just want to pack boxes and get this all done with. But today as we were loading up our third van load, the kids were playing and running around and talking about tomatoes and pumpkins, and I realized just how precious their childhood is. I want them to have special childhood moments during this move, but how do I balance everything? Do I just push the move as hard as I can, and attempt to make up for lost time later, or do I try to slow it down as much as safely possible so we can still savor each moment? So far we've been trying to maintain the basic schedule as much as possible, and involve the kids with everything move so they can take ownership in it. But is this the right thing to do? Suggestions anyone?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Moving Update, Oct 4

So.... we were given a 30 day move-out notice on October 1. That means that even though we don't have a specific date we can move into anywhere, we are leaving this house before Halloween.

Of course when I got the notice I, once again, went through the depression/stress/anxiety/grief that comes from unkind and thoughtless actions... but after talking it out with Cody and then my mom, I'm now just glad to be getting out--even if it means having to move all our stuff twice.

Today we procured a storage unit and moved over a van full of packed boxes. It's a start, and it felt really good. Almost all the pictures are off the walls. Lots of books have been packed up. We have a ginormous stack of empty boxes under our back porch, and another big box of donations ready to be shipped out in the van. This move is happening! :)

We will be having a massive Move-Out party on Saturday, October 23. If you live close to us (Sorry, I don't put our address or hometown on this blog... you can leave a comment if you need it), we would really love some help. Of course, since it is only a move-out and everything is going into the storage unit, we will also eventually (hopefully very soon) have a Move-In party, which we would also love help with. So if Oct. 23 doesn't work for you, but you want to help, there are options. :D Lastly, we would also love a little help with cleaning anytime in the week between Oct 23 and Oct 31... (all of these are optional, of course!)

We really just appreciate everyone's friendship, and if you can't come help us with this move for whatever reason, we totally understand. Your love and prayers and good wishes have meant more than you know. And as always, we will try to keep you updated as this goes along!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Kiddos for Smiles

With all my recipe posts popping up recently, updates on pregnancy and moving, and whatnot, I realized I haven't put up any pictures of the kids in a long time! So here's a few just on my memory card, just for a smile today.Lee and his Duct-Tape Tie he made.

Pretty sure Lee took this one of Anna with her birthday kazoo...

They were looking for bugs.