Feeling Human Once More

Surprise!

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For those of you who aren’t cheap-o pregnancy test savvy, this is a positive test result. Our little Pipsqueak is due August 1!

Despite my experience with morning sickness with Babykins and Sweet Pea, I still had high hopes of avoiding the first trimester misery of exhaustion and puking. I upped my supplement intake based on friends’ recommendations and wondered what it would be like to not have horrible morning sickness. Alas, this was not the pregnancy I would find out. Most of December and January are now a blur of not eating much and shuffling around the house trying to keep up with the girls. Thankfully my husband has a flexible schedule and worked from home many afternoons.

At any rate, I’m now 15 weeks and seem to be mostly over morning sickness. It’s a glorious feeling to eat real meals!

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2019 MMD Reading Challenge

Last year, I participated in the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge for the first time. I enjoyed the challenge so much that I’ve decided to participate in this year’s challenge!

Even though the challenge only requires me to read 12 books (which is apparently more books than the average reader reads in a year), having categories to fill in encourages me to a) Pick from my massive pile of To Be Read (TBR) books and b) Read beyond my comfort zone.

So, without further ado, here are the categories and my picks for the 2019 MMD Reading Challenge:

  1. A book you’ve been meaning to read: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow–this book was originally on my reading challenge list for last year, but I opted to change in because I found reading 2 500+ page books for the challenge too much. I’m determined to complete it this year!
  2. A book about a topic that fascinates you: There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather by Linda Akison McGurk
  3. A book in the backlist of a favorite author: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrick Backman
  4. A book recommended by someone with great taste: TBD
  5. Three books by the same author: by Madeleine L’Engle
    1. A Wrinkle in Time
    2. A Wind in the Door
    3. A Circle of Quiet 
  6. A book you chose for the cover: TBD
  7. A book by an author who is new to you: Whose Body? by Dorthy L. Sayers
  8. A book in translation: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
  9. A book outside your (genre) comfort zone: Secrets of the Amish Diary by Rachael Phillips–a church member loaned me several Amish mystery books and this seemed like a good opportunity to read at least one of them
  10. A book published before you were born: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

In January, I managed to knock out two of my shorter titles (A Wrinkle in Time and Secrets of the Amish Diary). I also read a couple of chapters of Alexander Hamilton before getting distracted by a library book. Additionally, I bought The Count of Monte Cristo on Audio book and have already listened to several hours of the book (which seems impressive until I realized that the book length is something like 45 hours!).

Do you have any reading goals for this year?


Molasses-on-Snow Candy Fail

Today was cold–too cold for little girls to play outside–so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try the Molasses-on-Snow Candy from The Little House Cookbook. Since Babykins and Sweet Pea currently loves the Little House picture books, I pulled out our copy of Christmas in the Big Woods so we could read about Laura and Mary making Molasses-on-Snow candy for Christmas. We then set to work to make our own candy.

I had already dashed outside to get some clean snow. I left the pans of snow outside to stay frozen while we prepared the syrup.

The next step was to mix the molasses and brown sugar and cook it until it was 245 degree F. The girls both got to stir the mixture before the pan got hot, but I took over the actual stove top work. But soon enough the syrup was bubbling away.

Once the syrup was at the correct temperature, I poured it into a little glass measuring cup. The girls each had a turn pour the syrup on the pan of snow. They were so pleased to be like Laura and Mary. I then gave them a wooden spoon to lick a little syrup from the pan (don’t worry, I made sure it was cool enough) while I finished pouring the syrup into the other pans of snow. It wasn’t exactly pretty, but it did harden the syrup.

Once the candy seemed hard enough, I broke it into pieces like the directions said and put it into a storage container (letting the girls try a piece, of course!). I’ll have to admit that I was a little proud of our candy-making.

But you know what they say about pride coming before the fall. When I looked at the candy again an hour later, this is what I found:

 A liquid mess!

I’m not sure what went wrong. Perhaps the syrup wasn’t hot enough. Perhaps I didn’t let it harden long enough. Perhaps I shouldn’t have stored it in a plastic container since Ma Ingalls certainly didn’t have any in her kitchen. Alas, my first attempt at pioneer cooking was a failure!


An Observation From a Red-Headed Mother

When I was a child, I was the only one in my family with red hair. Not only did my parents and siblings have various shades of brown hair, but none of my grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins had red hair (now my sister has some unusual hair coloring that looks a little red in some lighting but is actually brown). I had plenty of comments about my hair as a child. Many people asked my parents where it came from. However, it’s been a new experience for me to deal with comments about Sweet Pea’s red hair as a red-headed mother.

Sweet Pea has always been opinionated, a stark contrast from much more easy-going Babykins. I often tell people she feels things strongly because she’s such a joy when she’s in a good mood. However, she’s not afraid to let us know when things aren’t going her way. Since she’s all toddler these days, sometimes the temper tantrums come out in public. This leads to an inadvertently awkward social interaction.

Whenever a red-headed toddler is seen pitching a fit, someone will inevitably feel the need to associate her behavior with her hair. “Oh, those red-heads have such a temper, don’t they?” they’ll state. And I’ll smile, nod, and think to myself:

red head mother

 

It’s a little insulting. Of course, if I find this upsetting, does that mean that I do have a temper?


2018 Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

Happy New Year! It was a bit touch and go towards the end, but I successfully completed the 2018 Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge.

In October, I finished Killers of the Flower Moon (A book nominated for an award in 2018) and The Pale Horse (A book recommended by a librarian or indie bookseller). Killers . . . wasn’t quiet as good as I was hoping. The storytelling wasn’t as engaging as I was hoping but I was still learned about a period in history I knew nothing about. I technically picked up The Pale Horse as a “Blind date with a book” at the library, but I still enjoyed the Agatha Christie mystery. I’ve surprisingly few books by Christie and I hope to remedy this in the future!

In November, I finally finish slogging through Crime and Punishment. This was the book that I needed to find several different media options for reading. I wound up purchasing a hard copy, 2 different audiobook versions (lesson learned: Not all audiobooks are created equal), and the Kindle version. I’ve concluded that a lot of Russian literature, especially the philosophical parts, goes over my head.

On December 31, I finished The Mother of the Reformation (A memoir, biography, or book of creative nonfiction). Don’t worry, I still had 11 hours to spare! This was an older biography that was originally published in 1906. I’m glad I completed it and it was pack with information, but some of it was dry reading.

In addition to the reading challenge, I also opted to track my reading this year. This was an inspiring practice for me. I’ve always considered myself a reader, but motherhood has made me feel like my reading years are currently on hold. I don’t often curl up on the couch and read for pleasure–there often seems to be something more pressing to do during nap time (spoiler: sometimes “more pressing” means “scroll through Facebook”) and I’m too exhausted most nights to read. However, I forgot to account for my Kindle reading. I don’t know why I felt like it didn’t count, because I’ve spent hours and hours reading while nursing Sweet Pea.

For 2018, I read 71 books! Not all were great literature and there were a few children’s novels thrown in there (but I really did enjoy reading The Penderwicks for the first time), but it was reading! 11 of those books were hard copies, 2 were audiobooks, and 58 were on my Kindle (yes, my toddler nurses that much. She also hates sleeping).

I plan on doing the 2019 MMD Reading Challenge. I hope to update you with my picks soon!

 


Holiday Tradition: Mac and Cheese

A couple of Easters ago, I looked at my exhausted husband, looked at the ham we had planned to eat for our Easter feast, and said, “I really don’t feel like cooking today. Can we have our big meal tomorrow when we all have more energy?” Instead of ham for dinner that night, we had boxed mac and cheese. Our toddler was thrilled and we had a lovely Easter dinner on Easter Monday.

Behold, a tradition was born.

Now on Christmas and Easter, I plan to have mac and cheese for dinner on the actual holiday and have our big feast on the day after. It has worked wonderfully for our family. Instead of trying to force ourselves to prepare an elaborate meal while running on fumes, we truly rest on Christmas and Easter afternoons. The girls love mac and cheese and don’t care that we aren’t having a fancy dinner. Frankly, they’re usually so full of sweets that they don’t eat much anyway.

Perhaps someday Babykins and Sweet Pea will be horrified that we never had a proper Easter or Christmas dinner. But I like to think that they’ll grow up to appreciate our quirky little tradition.

Mac and Cheese: A feast fit for a tired pastor’s family.


Jigsaw Puzzles with Littles (and Cats)

I love a good jigsaw puzzle, but I haven’t been able to do many over the past four years. Jigsaw puzzles take time and space. And with the number of destructive creatures we have running around our house, time and space is very much a precious commodity that couldn’t be spared for a puzzle.

This was an attempt to do a puzzle while I was pregnant with Babykins. The cat ruined my piles as soon as I left the table.

However, I missed the peacefulness of piecing together a puzzle. For my birthday, I decided to ask for items that would help me enjoy a jigsaw puzzle without leaving it within reach of my little “helpers.”

First on the list was getting a puzzle mat that I could roll up when not working on a puzzle. I received one similar to the link I shared, except my mat is black (which is also great for showing how much cat fur is all over the house. Yay). The mat works surprisingly well. A few pieces may get jarred when rolled up and loose pieces move around, but for the most part the puzzle stays as it should.

Then I looked for something that could help me sort pieces without having them scattered all over the house. Initially I looked at actual puzzle piece sorter containers, but I ultimately decided to go with 2 mini drawer organizers. Overall, these drawers work well for sorting puzzle pieces. They are easy to move in and out of the closet where I stash the puzzle things. The only downside is that I can’t (easily) remove the drawers, so it makes it a bit more difficult to dig around for specific pieces.

As I mentioned, I store the puzzle things in the living room closet. I initially tried keeping it in the guest room closet, but I made the mistake of not putting the puzzle mat out of a child’s reach. Babykins found it during her quiet time and tried to “help” inflate the tube and spilled the pieces off the mat. I currently work on puzzles on the living room floor while I listen to an audiobook or a podcast during quiet time or after the girls are in bed. Getting the puzzle things out does take additional time, so it’s not something I can do for 5-10 minutes at a time. But the positive of not keeping the puzzle out all the time is that I can’t get sucked into working on it while the girls are awake.

So there you have it: How to put together a jigsaw puzzle when you have some many “helpers” hanging around!

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Evening Services

With Advent rapidly approaching, it’s time for me to consider our evening service attendance. Babykins, Sweet Pea, and I might be at a stage that all three of us can handle going to evening services. This has not been the case the past few years–I think the last time I attended an evening service was Ash Wednesday 2016.

The girls are very much early to bed, early to rise kids. Likewise, Babykins completely gave up napping at the tender age of 24 months, making a 6 p.m. bedtime a priority. I distinctly remember an evening that I put her to bed when we had a houseful of guest (including 8 extra children) because she begged to go to sleep. It was about 7 p.m. Pushing bedtime back just didn’t work for her.

Last year, I did occasionally send Babykins to an evening service to sit with other members while I stayed home with Sweet Pea. She did well with this set up–she knows how to behave in church and enjoys sitting with people besides me. I couldn’t manage the evening services with Sweet Pea though. She’s a fickle sleeper and the strain of trying to keep her awake and happy when we were already dealing with our own little Sleep Hell was something that I just couldn’t bear.

But maybe, just maybe, we can swing the evening services. I know it will still be rough, but it doesn’t seem impossible like it has the past 2 years. However, Babykins can now stay up well past her bedtime occasionally without becoming a weepy mess. Sweet Pea’s sleep has improved (at least she doesn’t try to be up for a couple of hours on a given night). Likewise, she can stay up later as well, just so long as she takes a nap. Of course, she may drop her nap in a month if she’s anything like her sister. . .

Oh, the anticipation.


Unexpected Answers

You can never tell what 4-year-olds might do, but the reasoning for their actions are often more unexpected than the initial action.

For example, last week Babykins and Sweet Pea were peacefully playing in the sandbox while I puttered around the yard. Suddenly, I hear Babykins wailing. I quickly strode over to the sandbox to asses the situation. Babykins was sitting next to Sweet Pea with a guilty look on her face. Sweet Pea was crying and had sand all over her hat, inside her coat’s hood, and down her back. It didn’t take a trained investigator to realize that Babykins had dumped sand on Sweet Pea’s head.

“Why on earth would you dump sand on your sister’s head?!” I asked Babykins. She promptly replied:

I’ll have to admit I wasn’t expecting that answer!


A Long Overdue Reading Challenge Update

This year I set a goal of completing the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge. The gist of the challenge is this: Read 12 different books to complete 12 categories in order to get more out of your reading life. Despite the fact I haven’t updated since February, I have been making headway with my challenge.

In March I completed Pillars of the Earth (A book that’s more than 500 pages) and Joy Luck Club (A book by an author of a different race, ethnicity, or religion than your own). Despite it’s heft, I thoroughly enjoyed Pillars of the Earth. I was apathetic about Joy Luck Club.

I completed Fahrenheit 451 (a banned book) in April. It was okay, the ending was a little too philosophical for me. In May I completed All American Boys (a book recommended by someone with great taste). Again, I saw this book as simply okay. While it dealt with the hot button issues of race and police brutality, it didn’t do much to create empathy for both sides of the issues.

I completed 2 books in June: Great Expectations (a classic you’ve been meaning to read) and Anansi Boys (A book by a favorite author). I listened to most of Great Expectations via audiobook. It was an enjoyable listening experience and I certainly didn’t see the plot twists coming! Anansi Boys wasn’t my favorite Neil Gaiman novel, but it was enjoyable nevertheless.

The rest of the summer flew by without me completing any challenge books (but still reading!).  I have completed 8/12 books and I’ve been working on tackling two more: Crime and Punishment on audiobook and The Mother of the Reformation by Ernst Kroker (A memior, biography, or book of creative nonfiction, replacing my original pick of Hamilton–I couldn’t tackle another 500+ page book for the challenge).

How has your reading life been lately?