In constant pursuit of coffee and Christ

Thursday, June 11, 2015

So, You Want To Meet Our Daughter

I write this in hopes of encouraging other mommies and daddies facing similar circumstances, as well as for helping all those in our lives understand why we are making certain choices.

Ben and I have been blessed with large families, many wonderful friends, and a loving and supportive church family. While we are so, incredibly, grateful for this fact, challenges tend to arise.

In all reality, if you do not share my address, I should not have to care how my decisions affect your life. Yes, this means that I have taken our dogs feelings into consideration over yours. It's the truth. Deal with it.

There comes a point in time when you realize just how technically challenging it will be to have your second child. Depending on your personal circumstances, simply becoming pregnant with your second may be included in that challenge. While my Ben and I had no issues this time around, and other mommies would probably want to shoot me if I told them how easy and beautiful of a pregnancy this has been, the most important, most difficult, part of this process is still on it's way - DELIVERY.

Looking back, the dynamics of having our son were easy. The only "person" we had to worry about was our sweet boxer girl (the cats don't really count in this situation). We could spend a day, a week, a month, in the hospital and as long as we had someone to take care of our girl, we would manage.

*For the record, we only spent three days in the hospital with our son.

Some things that would be helpful to know:

1. Our son was born via unplanned/non-emergency c-section at 10lbs 1oz and 22" - we do not know how he fit in my tummy
2. Our daughter has potential to be larger than our son
3. She is currently breech

Being able to plan our baby girls birth was not something we had wanted originally. My hospital will allow a v-bac (vaginal birth after c-section) as long as I go into labor on my own. Because birthing our children naturally has always been so important to me (we tried with our Bear) this was the planned route up until about two months ago.

Other helpful things to know:

1. Our son will only fall asleep in his bed or in the car seat, with the car moving. We are OK with this, as he has always been a fabulous sleeper and goes to bed, typically, drama free
2. Our son is very routine. Every morning he asks for a banana and sits either on the couch or at his little table in the kitchen to eat said banana while I make my morning coffee. After his banana he wants to snuggle on the couch and help you eat your: eggs/bagel/yogurt/muffin, etc. etc. and drink his milk sippy.
3. Our son naps from 12pm -2pm He might be ready at 11:30am if he was up early, but 99% of the time, this is a sure thing.

We are unwilling to mess this up. We have a smart, happy, loving, all good things, little boy. We love him more than anything.We love our daughter more than anything. Their meeting should be as stress and drama free as we can make it.

Once we started to think of how our suddenly and surely stressed leaving would affect our Bear, pushing for a natural delivery started to feel selfish (to us, you do what feels right for you and your family!). After spending many evenings discussing the process we decided that opting for a scheduled c-section was the healthiest choice. Of course, she could still decide to come at any time. Should I go into labor we will still do a c-section (potentially large, breech, baby - she is not to be messed with!) and just leave a little more hurriedly than we would have on her scheduled date.

We also started to think of the dynamic of how to introduce Bear to his sister for the first time, how we want visitors to greet him, when we want visitors, etc.

This is what we decided would be best for our family:

There will be a sign on the door asking that all visitors please greet Barrett first and hand him a toy from the bin that we will have by the door (it's currently full of little toy "cas" aka cars). This way he doesn't feel overshadowed or unloved and he knows everyone is there to love and support him just as much as Paxton (his sister). He will be very aware of who is coming in and out and how they acknowledge him. Paxton will not.

We do not want people to just come in and out at their leisure. We will be focusing on getting to know our daughter, learning how to function as a family of four, and recovering. Also, we do not know what size room we will be given and don't want too many people at one time (nobody really gets to visit in this case anyways). To avoid this, we ask that a text, phone call, Facebook message, etc. be sent asking when a good time to pop in would be. This is for our sake, as well as your own. And please, don't be offended if we tell you it's not a good time.

We only want visitors during certain hours. Ben will be staying at the house with Bear and coming to see Paxton and me once their morning banana and snuggle time has been complete. Once they arrive we want time for me to spend with Bear and Ben to take Paxton. Quite frankly, we want some alone time. Ben will take Bear home to nap then come back after he wakes, stay until close to bed time then go home again.

We are doing everything we can to focus on our little, growing, family during this time. We want this experience to be as stress free and positive as possible, especially as we are currently planning on this being our last pregnancy.

There seems to be confusion during the most important times of our lives, as to where priorities lie. I hope this has helped to shed light on why we've made the decisions we've made and that if you are currently/planning to be expecting that I have encouraged you to do what is best for your (share the same address) family.

We are so insanely excited for this next chapter in our lives and are blessed to have so many who want to share in all of our special moments. Just please remember, they are our special moments to share.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Bacon Cheddar Broccoli Soup

I love winter. Beautiful ice and snow covered trees, everything looking clean and sparkling, snuggling under layers and layers of blankets, fuzzy socks, seeing your breath while walking through the pure white snow as it crunches under your feet... and soup.

The thing about soup, especially home made, is that you have to be in the right mood for it, or at least I do. The day was clear and crisp, just the right amount of chilly, so we loaded up and headed out to grab the few things missing from my refrigerator and pantry. 

Our local "weather guessers", as my husband so accurately refers to meteorologist, had been pushing the "major winter storm" that was supposed to hit us later that evening. The result? My favorite grocery store was a complete mad house. The only thing that sweetened the trip was the attention my Bear got while wearing his shades, even after we had entered the store I had people coming up to me asking "is this the little boy who was wearing sunglasses? He is so cute!" What should have been an 15 minute shopping trip took us almost 45 minutes, what resulted, however, was well worth the hassle.

Out with my little stud muffin
I hope you and your family enjoy this classic as much as my boys and I did. From the heart of my kitchen to yours.

Bacon Cheddar Broccoli Soup
Makes 8-10 servings

1 Stick unsalted butter
1 Yellow onion, diced/sliced 
(I diced mine so my toddler could better handle the pieces)
4 cloves of garlic, Mashed, not diced
(the cloves should be very loose so that they fall apart during the saute process)
4 Cups half and half
6 Cups chicken stock
1/2 Cup corn starch
1/2 Teaspoon nutmeg
4 Bay leaves
3 Large carrots, diced/sliced
(again, I diced for my toddler)
2 Heads broccoli (about 8 cups), chopped 
16 Ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1/2 Pound bacon
Salt and pepper to taste

In large soup pot, place butter, onion, and garlic, on low-medium heat. Stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent. 
Place bacon on cooking sheet, sprinkle with pepper (if desired), and place in cool oven.
Set oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and cook until bacon is firm and crispy.
Once desired crispness is achieved, remove from tray onto paper towel to cool. 
Once onion is translucent, slowly stir in chicken stock and half and half, making sure not to allow a boil as this will cause your broth to break. 
Combine corn starch with just enough cool water until mixture is smooth. Add to broth. 
Add bay leaves and nutmeg
Allow broth to simmer gently for 10-15 minutes
Add broccoli and carrots, simmer until vegetables are tender
Break/crush bacon to desired size, add bacon and cheddar to soup, mix well.  
Remove bay leaves
Season to taste

I served this soup in an home made crispy bread bowl.

Cool man in his shades 


Crispy Bread Bowls

I have a confession, I have never been a huge fan of bread bowls. Do I love bread? Yes. Do I enjoy soggy bread? No.

My husband, however, would eat pretty much anything from the center of a loaf of bread. So, as a special treat for him, I decided to serve our bacon cheddar broccoli soup from, you guessed it, a bread bowl.

This recipe is insanely easy, and just as tasty.

Crispy Bread Bowls

1 1/2 C warm water 
2 Tbs vegetable oil
3 C all purpose flour
1 C bread flour
1 1/2 Tsp salt
2 1/2 Tsp active dry yeast

Place all ingredients in bread machine in the order listed, unless otherwise directed by the manufacturer of your machine. 
Select dough only setting
Let your machine work it's magic

*If you do not have a bread machine
Combine all ingredients in large bowl, mixing until well blended. 
Let rest for 15 minutes, covered, in warm dry place. 
Kneed for 10-15 minutes on lightly floured surface, cover and let rest for 30 minutes in warm dry place. Punch dough down and kneed again until dough is smooth and elastic. 
Cover and let rest again for 30 minutes. 
Follow remaining instructions.

Once machine has completed its cycle, punch dough down and remove to lightly floured surface. 
Cut dough in half, working one half into a single loaf and the other half into two round loaves (or four round loaves, however many bowls you need. I only needed two).
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  
Place loaves on pizza stone or on lightly greased baking sheet, cover and let rise until loaves are double in size, about 30 minutes.
Bake until loaves are golden and sound hollow when gently tapped (30-45 minutes)
Remove and let cool on wire rack.
Once completely cool, gently cut, using serrated knife angled towards center of loaf, around the top of your bowl. 
Remove top and hollow out loaf by gently pulling bread from the center. 
Once bowl has been created, place bowls back into oven for 5-10 minutes to crisp the inside.
Remove to plate, fill with soup, replace top (if desired).

*You can also season your bread by adding some Italian seasoning and/or Parmesan cheese (or any other dry ingredient) to dough before working into loaves. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Pumpkin Raisin Muffins

There comes a point, for me anyways, after the holiday season where my love of pumpkin dwindles... yes, even to the extent that the amazingness of a PSL cannot bring it back to life. So, when I was hit by the baking bug a couple of days ago, and pumpkin actually sounded appealing again, I went straight for an all around crowd-pleaser, the muffin. Not only did this new concoction not disappoint, I have been asked for the recipe by several people (one of the best things about a muffin is how easily they are shared). Even at three days old, the last muffin was as good as the first, not always an accomplished feat for something containing pumpkin and whole wheat.

 From my kitchen to yours, the recipe:

Pumpkin Raisin Muffins

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pumpkin
1/4 cup skim milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. 
In large mixing bowl, combine first eleven ingredients and set aside.
Combine egg, vanilla, pumpkin, milk, and oil, add to dry ingredients until just moist.
*Never over mix a muffin!
Fold in oats and raisins
Spoon into greased/lined muffin tins until 3/4 full
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Cool in tin, on wire rack, for 5 minutes then continue cooling, removed from pan, upside down on wire rack.

These muffins really do taste as good as they smell! 

Of course, if you really want to duplicate my recipe, you'll be blasting Frank Sinatra and dancing around the kitchen with your son.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cucumber Sammies

I first learned this recipe while working at  The White Oak Inn. These lovely little sandwiches, aka "sammies", would be served for teas and special events, along with an assortment of other wonderful goodies, and I was always excited to help dispose of leftovers.

While I cannot claim that the following recipe is an exact copy of what I used to help make years ago, the most important aspects remain: simple, fresh, quick, and healthy, not to mention super yummy. Oh, and my kiddo loves them too!

Cucumber Sammies 

1 Medium cucumber
1/3 Block cream cheese (about 2.5 ounces)
2 Tbs Dill paste 
(Fresh is preferred if you can find it. Add to taste. Flavor will increase once combination has been chilled)
Sea Salt, to taste
Whole wheat bread

Whip cream cheese and salt together until light and fluffy
Wash, peel if desired, and finely dice cucumber
 Fold cucumber and dill into cream cheese until blended
Cover, directly on top of mixture to prevent drying, and chill for 30+ minutes
Spread onto whole wheat bread

Yes, it really is that simple! 

*Replace cream cheese with low fat cream cheese for an even healthier version

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

I Am Not Just

Among all the wonderful gifts I received over the Christmas season was a delightful bag of Losantiville Blend coffee and a handsome new mug. I must say this blend has quickly become one of my favorites.

Note the cat scratches on my beautiful table. No more cats. 
If you had told me ten years ago that I would be sitting here as a stay at home mom I would have told you that you were out of your mind. The plan was never to stay home, the plan was to be practicing dietetics and nutrition in a well known hospital, as an clinical dietitian, while a loving daycare provider looks after my children. I love to work. I love being busy. I love knowing that I know what I'm doing and that I am doing it well, maybe even better than my colleagues - because I'm one of those extreme competitive types who loves winning and tries her best to lose with dignity and grace... something I am not always successful with, you know, when I lose (please note sarcasm).

Never in a million years would I change my mind about staying home to raise my children. By no means am I coming down or judging working parents either. We parents need to stick together! God opened doors for me to be able to stay home and I walked through them terrified and rejoicing. I have the utmost respect for working parents. Once my family is ready, I will return to what most refer to as the "working world" and join them.

Recently I have noticed a trend in how I am refereed to by those in my life, who do not understand the complexities of full time mommahood, as "just staying home" or "just a stay at home mom" or "not working".


Fueled by my frustration of this misconception, I took to the mommy support groups I take part in via social media, asking for feedback from other stay at home mommas, and boy did I get it! Turns out I am not the only stay at home parent who feels the attitude towards us change. So, for the sake of all stay at home parents, allow me to set the record straight on what we "just" do all day.

A stay at home parent is never off the clock, there are no 8-15 hour days, only 24 hour days. There are no lunch breaks, no potty breaks, no vacation days, sick days, or paid holidays, and no alone time in the car as we travel back and forth. Meals are rarely consumed at anything other than room temperature, showers are strategically planned, and we are almost always wearing something our child was eating. There are no promotions, no raises, little to no adult interaction ... no, we aren't complaining, we love what we do and whom we do it all for, just stating the facts.

Are there days when we just stay in our pajamas? You bet there are. Why? Because we don't just throw a load of laundry in from time to time. We sort, wash, dry, fold, hang, iron, and put away the clothes on our families backs. Maybe we decided against getting dressed today because we've been up all night with a sick/teething/growing/who knows/who cares it's 2am kiddo, who needs to be snuggled on the couch while watching the same Veggie Tales movie over and over. Maybe we're not as done up as you feel is appropriate because sleep was replaced by the following days 'To Do' list running over and over again in our heads: "drop off dry cleaning, don't forget to pick up more toilet paper, start dinner by 2:00 so it's ready by 6:00 and you can leave at 6:30... bread, we have no bread. Shoot. Do I really want to make bread? Yes, yes, I do. Do I have time to make bread? No. Pick up bread and toilet paper... Kiddo needs a bath, do I bathe him in the morning or before bed? In the morning, we will be out too late for a nighty night bath..."

Do you have electric, water, gas, TV and internet, a working phone, food in the house, etc.? You're welcome. Due to the fact we are just home all day, we'll make sure the bills get paid, the shopping is done, the errands ran, the kids dropped off/picked up... we handle all of these tasks, not because we seek acknowledgement but, because we value the time we get to spend together as a family, time that we prefer not be hindered by daily chores.

When you come into our home and are greeted with a clean and orderly place to gather, that's because we also keep up with the housework. We were even nice enough to take out the trash containing dirty diapers. You know, just because we had the time.

Our family is clean and fed. Our pets aren't starving or smelly. Our grass is cut, the garden weeded, snow is shoveled... we just had an extra few minutes, no big deal.

We are their teacher, tutor, counselor, lunch lady (or gent), janitor, maintenance, coach, doctor, nurse, chauffeur. We don't just help with homework and sign papers, we transport to and from football practice, dance recital, youth group, the mall so that they can "hang". We attend their games, their performances, their debates, and somehow muster up enough energy and enthusiasm to cheer them on, every step of the way. We don't just kiss the "boo-boos" and wipe away tears, we are up every two hours checking temperatures and administering medicine when our children are sick. We evaluate what and how much has exited their tummies so as to better understand what they're fighting. We are keeping track of what food may have caused that rash or how many fruits starting with the letter 'P' are required before we see the desired potty results. We keep our family organized and running like a well oiled machine, making, traveling to, and attending all Dr. appointments, specialist appointments, and events, just because we're so darn good at what we do.

We deal with an immense amount of stress and pressure. You think your boss acts like a child from time to time... our boss IS a child. No, we do not let our children run our lives, but when kiddo decides not to nap there is very little you can do about that. So whatever you were planning on accomplishing during those few precious minutes, will just have to wait. Or when you find out that practice was moved from Monday night at 7:00 to Wednesday night at 6:30, that family dinner you had planned for Wednesday will just have to be rescheduled.

Several stay at home parents also run a business out of their home. I started selling my baked goods when Bear was young but as he became more and more mobile my ability to spend hours in the kitchen disappeared, as did my little baking business. I am now a Scentsy consultant, throwing and hosting parties, taking and placing orders, keeping everything organized and on track, answering questions, etc. all while my little man keeps me company. Because, apparently, I just wasn't busy enough.

There also seems to be some misconception as to why we are home. Yes, of course it is because we love and value our children and desire a relationship with them. That being said, we may also be home because of health related issues, because we will actually save money by not spending money on childcare, etc. The list goes on and on.

So the next time you find yourself wondering what we stay at home parents do all day, answer yourself with just a little bit of everything.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Social Media Part 2 - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

In my first post regarding social media, I tell you about the weekend we un-installed ourselves from all social media. For the full story check out Social Media Part 1 - Our Weekend Without.

The Good

Social media, Facebook specifically, is an amazing tool for staying connected with friends and family. Ben and I don't have huge families, but we are spread all over the world. We have close friends and family in Oregon, Tennessee, Georgia, California, New York, Arizona, England, Latvia... the list goes on. Without Facebook we would not be able to stay nearly as connected to these loved ones as we do. Testament to the power social media holds is when Bens cousin, whom I had not met yet, stopped by our house on her way to NY from OR. "I feel like I know you so well already because of Facebook" she said.

Memory sharing has been made incredibly simple. Have a picture with several friends? No problem, tag them and they automatically have access to the photo as well. Celebrate a significant event with family and friends? Tag them in your status and you can all share together.

Because of networks such as Facebook, Instaram, and Twitter small, perhaps unknown, businesses have the means necessary to promote and spread awareness of their existence, for little to no charge. What an amazing tool! These businesses can then connect and learn from others in their arena and continue to grow and become known. The degree of separation has dropped and continues to drop, significantly!

Through the powers of social media there is not one single person who should ever feel alone. Despite your interests, genetics, etc. you have the ability to connect with others similar to you. Seriously. Several years ago my husband decided to create the group 'Ben Potters of the World Unite' and if there is a Ben Potter on Facebook, and they know the group exists, they're in it. Why? Because they are the Ben Potters of the world, and they've united. I don't know, I am not a Ben Potter. There are several of the other BP's that he has made more personal connections with over the years, whether through common interests or the simple fact that most of us are now at an age where we are becoming parents and are blowing up news feeds with pictures, video, and statuses all about our little monsters.

Pinterest is a fabulous way to sort, organize, and share all your creative thoughts, recipes, DIY projects, etc., without having to mess with paper clippings and filling your house with peg boards. My goodness, can you imagine if you had to pin everything in real life that you have virtually? Not only would it take significantly more time but what a mess!

What we have available to us is an amazingly diverse way in which to stay connected and be a positive influence in the lives of others.

The Bad

Obviously, social media takes time out of our day, significantly more time than we should be dedicating to something that, in all reality, we have, can, and at times should, live without. We spend so much time catching up on what is happening in other peoples lives that we miss what is happening in our own. Take time to unplug. Get home from work and put your phone away, you'll hear it should you actually get a phone call. Shock everyone when you're fully present at family events in place of playing on your phone.

Like most everyone else I know, I have the Bible app on my phone, and it truly is fantastic. How is this bad? I can remember seeing my parents reading their Bibles as a child, there was no question in what they were doing. Seeing them reading made me want to read mine too, so I would. What example am I setting to my children if they never see me reading the actual Book? There is no way for them to know if I'm reading the Bible, playing Words With Friends, or going pin crazy on Pinterest, and that's not OK with me. I want them to grow up seeing me with my nose buried deep in scripture, hopefully inspiring them to do the same.

The Ugly

Social media tends to get a bad rap, especially from those who, perhaps, don't truly understand its purpose. Of course, just like everything else, this reputation stems from those who misuse/abuse the system. You know the type of person I'm talking about. There is a time and place for social media; places such as work, church, driving, family meals, dates, weddings, funerals, etc. are not it.

Along with there being a time and place, there are also appropriate topics of discussion and inappropriate topics. Freedom of speech is an amazingly important and beautiful thing, there are those that take this freedom way too far though. Angry with your husband? Take it up with him and leave us out of it. Having family drama? The world doesn't need to know, focus on how to resolve the issues and love on your family. 

One of the worst things I have seen social media provide is the ability for people to put their noses where they have no business being. You are entitled to your opinion, however, when you start stating your personal opinions as if they are factual... then we have problems, potentially, big problems. 

Whatever happened to "if you can't say something nice, say nothing at all"? Speaking the truth in love doesn't mean you can say whatever you want with a smile on your face or by the addition of a heart emoji. We are instructed to restore that person gently not advertise what we feel they have done wrong to all our social media buddies. How much less drama there would be if people would realize that not everything needs to be said! Not everyone needs to stay in your life either, we are given clear direction as to how to handle those who have sinned/sinned against us, and it does not involve lengthy status updates. 

Let's all make the decision to be more present in our own lives, in our own present. We only get one here and now, let's not spend all of it browsing social media.