Monday, November 29, 2010

Snapshots

Hope you all had a nice holiday weekend. Here are some pictures from ours:

Nathan and Natalie have been pretending that the laundry basket is a boat, and they enjoy filling it with toys so that there's barely room for them to sit in it. It's fun to see them playing together!
Nathan has been loving preschool. Here's a picture of him with the pilgrim hat and turkey he made.
On Saturday, we took the kids to an indoor water park. They had a great time, and of course the hot tub was a nice treat after the chilly pool.
My grandma surprised us by sending a "JOY" box (what a lovely theme idea!) filled with these fun goodies. How sweet is that?!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving thanks

It's been exactly 2 years since my dad was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer. I recently went back and read the (50!) comments you left when I announced the news on my blog, and I want to thank all of you--both those we know personally and those we've never even met!--for the ways you've prayed for and cared for our family on this journey. My dad is continuing to respond well to treatment, and we are grateful that he is active and feeling pretty good. We are looking forward to being together for Christmas!


I wanted to share a powerful quote I discovered here, which is of course appropriate for any day, not just Thanksgiving:


"The heart that gives thanks is a happy one, for we cannot feel thankful and unhappy at the same time. The more we say thanks, the more we find to be thankful for. And the more we find to be thankful for, the happier we become.

We don't give thanks because we're happy, We are happy because we give thanks."

from The Secret of Saying Thanks by Douglas Wood


Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Toasty: part 2

Note: If you missed part 1, please read that first.

The challenges Eric and I have come up with are quite varied, which has kept things interesting!

Here are some of the challenges Eric has given me:
*Mowing the lawn for the first time (Remember?!)
*Giving me a list of 10 new activities to do with the kids at a time when my inspiration was lacking. Examples included going to a new park and playing in the snow with the kids. (I don't like being cold, so playing in the snow is not at the top of my list!)
*Reading an autobiography. Eric's goal was that I immerse myself in learning about someone else's life. I perused the entire selection at our small town library, and ended up choosing this, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
*Purchasing 5 new products at the grocery store. Because I tend to be thrifty and practical, Eric wanted me to have a little fun choosing some new foods to try. I can't recall all 5, but I do remember purchasing these (spicy!), this (delicious!), and this decadent brownie. Perhaps he should have suggested I buy 5 new fruits or veggies! =)

Here are some of the challenges I've given Eric:
*Inviting a friend to go out for lunch. Like many guys, Eric doesn't often pick up the phone to chat or to schedule time to hang out, so I wanted to encourage him to be intentional in this area.
*Keeping the bedroom floor clear for a week. This was a little tricky, because we said that the challenges could not be "nagging" in nature, so I guess I kind of crossed the line on this one. Eric is not a slob by any means, but he tolerates piles of clothes, etc., much better than I do! He passed this challenge with flying colors--for the week, that is. Ha! =)
*Exercising 5 days in a row. I suggested this because Eric, who is usually very physically fit and active, had mentioned earlier this fall that he felt as out of shape as he ever had. He filled his quota with biking, basketball, and racquetball.
*Being done on the computer by 9:00 for two nights in a week. Eric belongs to a couple fantasy sports leagues, and checking stats often keeps him up late, so I hoped he might read a book during this time or even go to bed early.

Interestingly, one of the weeks we both came up with the same idea: memorizing a passage of Scripture! Eric memorized 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, and I memorized 2 Peter 1: 3-9.

When we started, we were completing these and swapping new ones within a week or two. We're still doing the challenges, but have relaxed the timeline for them. I think they've been a fun addition to our relationship. I'm glad Eric had the idea, and that we've continued to follow through with it.

I'm curious to hear your thoughts on these challenges. Have you or would you do something similar with your spouse or a friend?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Toasty: part 1

Last winter, my friend Mer and her husband, John, wrote a series of posts about marriage, and one of them really stood out to me. They talked about times in marriage when we feel like pieces of dry toast--stale and blah.

I e-mailed Mer later that day about the subject, and she responded by saying "You know, Carrie, I deleted an entire paragraph in my post about feeling like dry toast during the years we parented babies/toddlers. Sadly, it's just the reality. And you're in THE most exhausting stage of parenting right now. I promise you won't always feel so tired and like you have nothing to give. But for now, that may just be the case. And it's okay. I think the problem is when you're both in a place that you don't care to add any jam."

I appreciated her response (which she gave me permission to share here) and fired back the following (long) reply: "Thank you, Mer, for your response and for mentioning that about the toddler stage--I needed to hear that assurance! I also appreciate your prayers and want to share this with you:

The "toast" subject was at the forefront of my mind last night, and I was debating whether or not to bring it up after the kids were in bed. We were sitting in the same room reading and half-watching Olympics, and I kept thinking about what to say. I prayed God would help me through it whether it was formulated or not. And . . . our conversation was wonderful, refreshing and connecting!

Eric had a suggestion that every couple of weeks or so, we each come up with a challenge for the other--physical, social, spiritual, whatever. Not something really involved, but just to keep growing and make things a little more interesting."

I first wanted to share the background information behind the challenges since I've mentioned them before; I'll write about the specifics of the challenges in part 2.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Back-en-packs

One of the items on Nathan's preschool supply list was a backpack. I got excited thinking about some of the cute toddler-sized ones I've seen, but the list specifically requested full-size children's backpacks, so I had to comply. Being the practical girl I am, I opted for a plaid style that will grow with him, but I think these designs are super cute!

Speaking of super cute, Nathan intitially called his backpack a back-en-pack. Love that!

Still speaking of super cute, and while we're talking backpacks, I thought you might enjoy a couple vintage photos of two sisters on the first day of school:

circa 1985 (Monica-4th grade, Carrie-1st grade)

circa 1987 (Monica-6th grade, Carrie-3rd grade)
I think it's funny to note how styles have changed--apparently totes used to be more in favor than backpacks. I don't even remember that. Do you?!
Note: I wasn't able to make the photos any larger that this, but you can try clicking on them if you want to see more details of our trend-setting fashions!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Use-it-up recipes

This is a much-delayed follow-up to my June request for recipes to use up some random items in my kitchen. Thanks to all who sent ideas!


To refresh your memory, here is the list of ingredients I want(ed) to use up: pine nuts, lemon curd, oat flour, soy flour, corn meal, sesame tahini, rice vinegar, sesame oil and cider vinegar.

I tried many recipes using these ingredients and appreciate those who gave suggestions. I've learned that the reason we still have the last 3 ingredients is that we don't seem to like them in anything! The first 3 ingredients are now gone, and I'm plugging away on the others. Here are a few recipes we tried that I can recommend:

Creamy Citrus Tartlets (These were light, easy and delicious. Thanks, Elaine!)

Oatmeal Cookie Waffles (Won't replace our standby recipe, but was a yummy way to use up the random oat flour we were given. Note that there are 6 yummy waffle recipes in this link!)

5-Minute Hummus (I've tried numerous hummus recipes over the years, and finally found one I like, though I added several extra cloves of garlic. It's extra yummy paired with these simple homemade pita chips.)

When I was making a new bread recipe over the weekend, Eric asked me why I don't just stick with ones we already know we like, instead of trying new ones. It's a good question. I find I'm somewhat of a recipe collector: I frequently tear pages from magazines or print recipes from the Internet, even though I have a binder full of winners already. Anyone else do the same?

*In the same June post, I also requested your recommendations for a book to give Eric for Father's Day. He browsed the list of books you suggested and chose Sacred Parenting. Thanks, Amy, for sharing your review! Eric really liked the book and now it's been sitting for months in my massive reading pile. =)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sister's Shoebox Swap: JOY!

Update: This swap is now closed.
Monica and I decided that the Christmas swaps have been our favorites, so we just had to come up with one for this year. We are pleased to announce that our next Sister's Shoebox Swap has a theme of Joy!

For those are who are unfamiliar with our swaps, my sister and I started these several years ago as a unique way to encourage others. Based on the information you send us, we match you with someone we think you will pair well with, and then we ask each of you to fill a shoebox with goodies tailored to the theme and your swap partner. It's a lot of fun!

Please read the following details carefully if you are interested in swapping:

1. In order to participate, you must either have swapped successfully with us before, or you must be a regular commenter on one of our blogs (The Homespun Heart/with all that I’ve been given). You don't need to comment daily, or even weekly, but we need to recognize your name when you sign up.

Before you send us an e-mail, please consider if you have the time and resources to fulfill your swap. We don't want anyone to be disappointed!

2. You need to fill out your questionnaire as part of the sign-up. In order to sign up for this swap, please e-mail sisterswaps@hotmail.com with the following info:

name
complete mailing address
e-mail address
blog site, if you have one

If you would be willing to ship internationally, please indicate that specifically. If you don't mention it, we'll assume it's your preference to ship within the U.S.

Also, please answer the following questions in your sign-up e-mail. The more thorough your answers, the better we can match you with someone complementary.

* How do you define "joy"?
*When you think of Christmas, what colors or images come to mind?
* What are your do's and don'ts of holiday decorating? (for example: Do you collect snowmen? How do you feel about Santa or religious decorations in your home?)
*When it comes to gifts, are you more likely to buy them or make them?
*What is your favorite seasonal drink and special treat?

Sign-up entries must be complete to be included. Even if you’ve swapped with us before, please send all of the information requested above. Please keep the theme in mind when selecting items for your partner, and as usual, please limit your gifts to what can fit in a shoebox.

Important dates to consider:
Sign-ups due by 8 a.m. (CST) Wednesday, November 10, or when 40 people have signed up.
Partner info will be e-mailed to you by Saturday, November 13.
Please send your shoebox by Monday, December 6.

If you have not received an e-mail with partner info from us by November 16, please check your “junk” folder first, and then contact us if needed.

Thanks, and happy swapping!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Some things I've been thinking about

Thanks for your comments on the spirited child post. It is an encouragement to hear from you and your own experiences!

Today I want to share a variety of things I've been thinking about lately . . . I'm warning you--I definitely bop around from topic to topic!

*At MOPS last week, our speaker talked about boundaries. I liked her reflection questions and wanted to share them here: In terms of self-care, what is one bad habit you would like to break? What is one good habit you'd like to keep or incorporate into your life? How does the lack of boundaries affect your ability to mother well? That last question resonated with me because a couple of weeks ago, when all of my responsibilities were converging and bearing down on me, I was much less patient with my family. =( As far as the bad habit goes, I often have a hard time saying no, usually because I don't want to disappoint others. A good habit I've tried to incorporate is my monthly retreats.

*Eric and I watched a unique movie over the weekend. It's quite long (nearly 3 hours), and though not all may appreciate its unusual style, the story and main message are quite compelling. I would recommend this film if 1) you like artsy foreign movies, 2) you're a teacher, and/or 3) you have a heart for kids with learning challenges, specifically dyslexia.

*The other night when Eric prayed that God would reveal himself to Nathan, I suddenly realized that Nathan is almost as old as I was when I asked Jesus to come into my heart (4 1/2). What an amazing thought!

*I had to pull a post I wrote 3 years ago where I shared a couple of teething tips that had worked for our family. At that time, I recommended a Hyland's teething product, but I just learned this week that the FDA has issued a recall on them because one of the herbal ingredients can be toxic. Yikes! If you've purchased these in the past, you can find more information here.

*At a recent Bible study, the teacher read an unfamiliar translation of Psalm 63:1: "O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water." What most struck me is the word "early"--do we turn to God only when we've exhausted other avenues like our own self-sufficiency or seeking others' advice? This hit home for me because I'd been making little progress in a big project I've been working on for the college. I was feeling quite anxious about all of it, and it dawned on me that I had not once prayed about the project. I prayed out loud, asking God to help me be faithful in my part, but asking Him to show me some results so that I could be encouraged. I made a phone call a few minutes later, and results are exactly what I got. I'm not saying or expecting that God will respond this way every time, but it was an important reminder to me to turn to Him--early--about even the smaller things in my life!

What are you pondering today?