Thursday, June 30, 2011

With a joyful heart

This is my sweet slice of heaven, right here on earth.

Ok, I don't have any concept of how amazing heaven will really be — it will probably blow this scene right out of the water. But this picture depicts so much of what is good and beautiful in my life. As I sit on my deck on this gorgeous, calm (except for the barking dog next door) morning, I am overlooking the following wonderful objects:

  • Owen's swimming suit, drying on the chair across from me. He and I have had a lot of fun between our neighborhood pool and the tiny, plastic baby pool in our own backyard this summer. I wish I would have taken a picture of the scene as we left it yesterday afternoon — purple plastic baby pool, overflowing with water; garden hose laying in the grass nearby; plastic slide with its end in the water; red wagon, dripping from the hose-down it received by its young owner; lawn chair with various gardening materials (i.e., potting soil, gloves, plants, etc.) — indicating a perfect afternoon. That is, Owen happily splashing, sliding, and wielding the hose, and me potting a few plants and getting a little afternoon sun.
  • The baby monitor, silent — indicating a sleeping babe and a moment of peace and quiet for this momma.
  • One of several freshly potted plants — a result of yesterday's aforementioned perfect afternoon. This one, although not a flower like the others, is such a fun variety of plant. It's called "corkscrew rush" and I love its crazy grass spirals. (You can also see one pictured here in my "good-bye" gift to a friend.)
  • A cup of coffee, which is one indulgent pleasure that I am fortunate to enjoy at least once a day. And on especially relaxing days, I will have a second cup, often mid-afternoon, which always feels particularly gratifying and sweet!
  • My laptop, with my new favorite shot of the boy as the screen background. (Isn't he adorable???) And, although you can't probably read it, the post-it below the keyboard says, "...The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. — Galatians 5:6" This is my new favorite scripture verse, of which I could write an entire post on its own, but I won't. Just ponder that one for now. It's fantastic!
  • Finally, my Bible, which doesn't always get the first-thing-in-the-morning billing that it received today, but does get read just about every day now, which is something relatively new and wonderful in my life, per the past year. 

Currently, that Bible is open to a devotional that actually inspired me to write this post. The title is "Lighten Up," and it's about being spontaneous and flexible, and putting some fun into our days, and those of our children. One line, in particular, caught my attention. It says, "These days are filled with opportunities to make memories."

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the memories that Owen will have of his mommy and his childhood. You might argue that at (almost!) two years old, he's still too young to form any lasting, lifelong memories. Regardless, I want to make sure that he has mostly good ones to pull from as he makes his way through life. It's something I try to remind myself of when I start feeling extra cranky and less-than excited about his messes and wild screaming. Those messes and jubilant (usually!) screams are measures of his joy! I need to let him have his fun! This is his childhood — the only one he will ever have — and he deserves a remarkable one! One that involves me, not as a nagging, grouchy, yelling caretaker, but as a loving, merry, lighthearted playmate!

Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do.
- Ecclesiastes 9:7

Well, that baby monitor is silent no more, so I'm off to get that amazing child out of bed and then we're headed to the pool again. Cheers, to summer! And cheers to JOY!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Playing the 'tar

Last night after dinner, Owen requested the "'tar," which we know means "guitar." Since Ryan has a few, he asked him if he wanted the big guitar or the little guitar (which is actually a ukulele) and he answered, "big!"

I really believe that our child is naturally musically gifted. Check out how excited he was when I found this little keyboard at a garage sale last week (for $3!!!) He played us all the way home.

Anyway, here's a fun little video I managed to shoot last night, complete with Owen's own rendition of "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star." Enjoy!

Monday, June 13, 2011

By popular request...

Sooooo, our basement remodeling project has technically been complete for a little over a week now, but I haven't mentioned that fact here intentionally, as I was really hoping to wait until the entire space was furnished and decorated to absolute completion before announcing the big reveal.

Unfortunately, however, several factors are preventing that picture of "completion" that I have in my mind from actually happening anytime soon. One is, of course, money. We may have inadvertently spent all our available funds on getting the construction complete and now don't have much left over for furnishings. Oops!

Also, our energy and enthusiasm for the whole project kind of petered out over the past couple weeks. We ended up spending every spare minute down there for a few solid weeks trying to get our part of things (i.e., painting, tiling, and more painting) squared away in time for the professionals to do their thing and, in the process, we kind of got sick of being down there amidst the chaos. And even now that things are mostly complete and much, MUCH cleaner than they've been in months (seriously, drywall dust is crazy pestiferous [look that one up!]), we still haven't been able to muster up much motivation for spending even more energy on things like touch-up painting. We'll get it back soon. That drive to just finish the darn thing already will hit any day now...I'm sure of it!

Anyway, I have received multiple requests for photos of the progress, so I figured I'd show you what we've got in the meantime. These photos were taken as soon as the carpet layers left, so it doesn't show the progress that has been made since then (like the TV and other A/V stuff is all installed and some furniture has been moved back in), but since I don't have a camera at the moment (see my previous post), this will have to suffice for now.

Looking down the newly carpeted stairs. Aahhh! We've 
since removed the netting from the banister and no 
longer put up the baby gate. BIG steps for this very-
fearful-of-stairs mom. So far, so good!

View as you first pass through the door at the bottom of the stairs. 
Straight ahead is the bedroom, the french doors to the right are the 
playroom, and to the left is the TV/family room (and lots of dust 
in the air...I told you it was pesky!)

French doors to the playroom, closed...

...and open.

Bedroom, view from the doorway.

Bedroom, opposite view.

Inside the bedroom closet is a pass-through to the A/V
shelving that is accessible from the family room (seen

Office, view from the doorway.

Office, opposite view.

Family room/den. Since this photo was taken, we now have a
MASSIVE screen hanging between those two built-ins, lots of
speakers and a sub-woofer (whatever that is), and a projection TV.
I was not fully aware of just how souped up this basement's A/V
system was going to be at the onset of this project, but it sure will be
a cool place to watch a movie...some day!

Opposite view of the family room. There is now a couch against that
half-wall and some chairs and tables, too. Not our dream furniture, but
what we currently own.

Another view of the family room, this one showing that little A/V
shelving cut-out I referred to above (accessible from the bedroom
closet). I thought Ryan would appreciate this shot since he's pretty
proud of this little design element (all his own!)

View of the kitchenette (and a bunch of random junk). This was the 
floor that we tiled on our own.

Another view of the built-ins in the kitchenette. We have already filled
the space on the lower right with a microwave and eventually plan to
put a fridge on the left.

Opposite view of the kitchenette, looking at the half-wall bar area. We
need to get some stools for this eventually.

Here's that bar again. We added the custom-built wood
topper at the very end to give it a more finished look.
And that pillar was not in the original plans, but was
necessary to support the weight of the countertop. It
turned out pretty nicely in the end!

Hallway off the kitchenette, leading to the unfinished
storage area at the end, and a small bathroom to the

Bathroom. Sorry for the terrible photo. I don't know
much about adjusting the camera lighting. It doesn't
actually look this golden in real life.

Custom-tiled shower. We owned these glass tiles
(which are green, brown, and tan) and were
originally going to use them as our kitchen
backsplash (you can see the alternate direction we
took here), but still wanted to make use of them
somehow. I think they look pretty nice paired with
the biscuit-colored subway tile.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

What once was lost, but now is found

Guess what I just found? (Well, technically, what Ryan just found.) My glasses, which have been missing since March!  (MARCH!!!)

The last time I remember having them was when I went to Chicago for my cousin's bachelorette party (as discussed here). I was pretty certain that I had left them in the hotel, but since I never received a response to my message for the hotel's lost & found person, I assumed I was mistaken. Figuring they would turn up eventually, I resigned myself to wearing my contacts every day in the meantime.

Finally, after a couple of months, I just couldn't stand it anymore — my eyes get so easily fatigued wearing contacts every day, I like to give them a rest every few days — that I decided to bite the bullet and go get a new pair of specs. Honestly, I had wanted to do that this year anyway since the ones I lost were a few years old. But finding time to go shop for new frames proved to be more difficult than I had anticipated. It is definitely NOT a shopping trip that I wanted to take Owen along on, as I had visions of him running around pulling all the glasses off the shelves and inevitably breaking something. Plus, there aren't very many shopping options where I live, so it required a trip to "town" (about 45 minutes away) AND a babysitter.

Anyway, to make a story that is getting way longer than it needs to be, much shorter, I finally found some frames, ordered them last week, and picked them up yesterday. Yes, YESTERDAY. And TONIGHT, Ryan found my old ones. I feel like there's a saying here, like Murphy's Law (which doesn't quite fit), that would exemplify the "as soon as you replace something lost, you find what was lost" feeling I have. But my preliminary Google search for such an adage is coming up empty. Let me know if you know of the phrase I'm talking about. I feel like it exists, but maybe I am just going crazy.

Ryan found the old glasses in the suitcase he is currently packing for his next business trip. I swear I looked in that suitcase multiple times! Crazy!!!

Hmmmmph. Well, hopefully the camera we lost yesterday (we think at the zoo) will turn up, too. Hopefully sooner than three months from now. And hopefully before we invest in a new one!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Happy to me!

Here's a little riddle for this Friday afternoon. What do the following things have in common?

Give up? It's probably not too hard to guess, actually. They are some of the beautiful gifts I received from my dearest loved ones yesterday for my birthday! I am so blessed! Let me break it down...

Oreo-filled chocolate chip cookies baked by my amazing sister, Jackie.
Yes, I said "Oreo-filled chocolate chip cookies," which means that they are
chocolate chip cookies with an entire Oreo inside. I die!

My super sweet hubby made me this personalized crossword puzzle,
complete with clues about memorable things from our life together.
He actually made this all himself—he did not use a program to create it
(as I had assumed). It is quite possibly my most favorite gift...ever
A few of the more fun(ny) ones were: "What you say when a house 
doesn't pass inpsection" (RATS), "Latest project, or Davenport's cheapest
rent" (BASEMENT), and "A bad shade of blue for a house"
(RECYCLING CAN). So, maybe those aren't funny to anyone but me, 
or maybe you don't get them at all, but I do and that's why I L-O-V-E it!

A souvenir brought back from Ryan's latest business trip to Salt Lake City.
I love me some taffy! Yum!

A rather expensive-looking (but really not at all) watch from my Mama!

Fresh flowers —two separate bouquets (one from my Mom, one from Ryan)
combined into one. They look beautiful on my kitchen table today! 

Photo album of some of the awesome shots Jackie took of our family a few
weeks ago. She also gave me the disk with all of the originals, but it was
fun to flip through her creative edits on some of the better ones in this 
adorable album.

A new set of white wine glasses. This one was a special
request as I have managed to break all but one of my
previous set over the past several years. Clumsy!!!

Continuing with her all-homemade gift theme, Jackie also painted this
chevron pattern onto a doormat for my front door. Swoon!

My birthday was really special. I spent then entire day with some of my very closest loved ones, including Mom (we saw Bridesmaids and it was!!!), Dad (who helped me keep tabs on the wee one at the children's museum and took about a million pictures and videos in the meantime), Jackie (who, with her precious babe Brody, enjoyed dinner and cake with us), Ryan (we shared some good couch conversation over a cocktail before bed), and of course...Owen (who gave me the most precious gift of all...this birthday song):

Happy to ME!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Persnickety persimmon, perchance?

Has anyone outside of my immediate family ever heard of the fruit called, persimmon? Ever tasted one?


I remember as a child watching my mom and her father (my Papa) enjoy these squishy, drippy, gooey fruits every summer and they always urged me to have a taste. As a kid, I found their slimy texture rather disgusting and didn't understand the appeal. And then, I never seemed to hear about them or see them again.

Until about two or three years ago, I discovered them at my local grocery store. We were living in the Seattle area at the time, so I thought that maybe it was such an extravagant (and unusual) fruit that you could only find it in larger market areas. I purchased one right away and was excited to call home to tell my mom about my find! She warned me that you have to wait a while for it to fully ripen before you eat it, so I dutifully let it sit on my kitchen windowsill for weeks...waiting. I waited, and waited, and waited, but it never seemed to get much riper than the day I brought it home. Eventually, I grew tired of waiting and figured it had been long enough so it was probably plenty ripe for the eating. I am here to tell you, it was NOT! I cut into the small, tomato-like fruit, took a bite expecting the sweet, somewhat spicy flavor I remembered as a child, and was immediately disappointed by the horrid taste in my mouth! YUCK! I can't even tell you how gross it was. Not like, "oh, it's not ripe enough and a little firm, but still decent." It was disgusting! The flavor was not at all how I remembered it.

So, I spent a little time Googling persimmons and discovered that they contain high levels of soluble tannins and are "unpalatable" if eaten before softening (source). Another site put it this way: "Unripe persimmons taste very bitter and will suck all the moisture from your mouth—not very pleasant." Um, no, not pleasant at all. But apparently that bitterness goes away as they ripen.

Fast forward to about two weeks ago. I was at our local grocery store and saw a small display in the produce section that featured exotic fruits and, low and behold...they had several persimmons! Determined to recreate that cinnamon/sweet taste from my childhood (which I didn't much care for at the time, mind you), I snatched up two of them. One went to my mom and—until today—the other sat on my kitchen windowsill (you can see it in this photo). Noticing that it was very squishy indeed, I decided today was the day to cut into the darn thing and give it another try.

P.S. I'm not much of a photographer and my camera has been dropped one too many times to be worth much, so please pardon the terrible photos below.

Washed and ready to be eaten...

Giving it a quick poke to check the ripeness.

Uh, yeah, I'd say that sucker is pretty ripe. Check out the finger indentation!

And this is what happened as soon as knife hit flesh...

Ummmm, not exactly what I remember as a child. It kind of just squished out all over the plate in an oozy, gooey mess. I definitely remember them being messy to eat, but not like this. This was just persimmon soup. Upon further Google research (which is the best kind of research, I say!), I read the following: "Be sure to eat the fruit as soon as possible because overripe persimmons quickly turn into a mushy texture." (Source) Man, this is one high maintenance fruit!

Anyway, strike 2. There were a few small chunks that I managed to salvage and they tasted pretty sweet. But overall, this second attempt with persimmons was another failure. Remind me next year not to bother!

Your body is a temple

It has become my habit for the past year or so to read a short devotional message (and corresponding verses) every day out of the "Mom's Devotional Bible" given to me by a previous MOPS group. I love these devotionals because they very frequently manage to speak to me on a topic that I just need to hear that day (whether I know it or not). And when I read a corresponding Bible verse that puts God's message into terms I can really relate to, I like to write it down. Sometimes I write it on pretty scrapbooking cardstock. Sometimes it just gets scribbled onto a Post-It. But if you walk around my house, you will find these little "Godly reminders," as I like to think of them, all over the place.

This got me thinking that I ought to share some of those verses here on my blog. Also, in an effort to bring some the focus of this blog back to its title, that is, letting our light shine (which was pulled from Matthew 5:16, which says, "In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."), it is my desire to shine my light on you, dear readers and loved ones, today...and hopefully in the days to come.

This morning, I read 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, which says, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body."

The message in the devotional was about how important it is to keep our bodies healthy. It said this, which really hit home for me today: "Whether or not the lack of love for our bodies shows on the outside, the inside suffers. And eventually, the damage will be demonstrated in the form of impatience, irritability and general grouchiness." While I'm not sure that my present state of grouchiness is fully due to a lack of exercise, it certainly isn't being helped by it.

The Lord knows that I am not a big fan of exercise. I've never been an athletic person and exercise has always been a means to an end in my life, namely, to lose weight. I've been learning recently, however, that regular physical activity does not need to be so intense as to result in major weight loss to be effective. Even a short walk around the block can do wonders for my body, my mind, and my spirit. And God commands it! My body is a temple...HIS temple! And I better start taking better care of it.

I need to let go of the idea that exercise has to be grueling and painful. So today, I will go outside (despite the oppressive humidity) and simply walk around the neighborhood, and even take a dip with Owen in the community pool. That is my only goal for the day today and I hope to get it accomplished ASAP. So, I'm off to do one small thing for my body, which hopefully will result in another small benefit to my mood. I sure need it today!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Saying goodbye

It's never fun, but it's a part of life, I guess. Saying goodbye is hard. It's hard to express your sorrow in words, particularly when it's directed to the person who is leaving. But it's even harder to live with the knowledge that things just won't be the same once they're gone, no matter how much you promise to "keep in touch." Life moves on (as it should!) and our worlds get busy. And keeping in touch requires a lot more effort than you think it's going to. I've done this too many times to believe otherwise. Things will just not be the same. Period.

I am very happy for (and a little jealous of!) my dear friend, Mary S. who is packing up and moving her beautiful family about an hour west of here in just two short days. To think that I only just met her less than a year ago, it amazes me how much I've come to think of her as one of my closest current friends. Besides our names, we share a lot of coincidental similarities, including sons named Owen, degrees from Iowa State, and sisters living in Ankeny and working for the same company (until very recently). It sort of felt like we were destined to know one another!

But probably our finest similarity is our faith in and love for the Lord. I know I've grown in my spiritual journey by having her in my life these past several months and I hope she can say the same thing of me. She's helped me to open up about my beliefs and speak more freely about Christ's love to others. She's encouraged me along my journey and trials through motherhood. She's been a great sounding board for thoughts and ideas and has been a tremendous leader in our MOPS outreach program.

She will be amazing in her new community and will continue to have an impact on those she meets there. I know this to be true. But Muscatine will absolutely feel the loss of Mary. And so will I. I wish her well. No — I wish her ALL the VERY best in life! And I hope to still be a part of it in some small way, here and there. I will be forever changed by her friendship and for that, I am grateful!

I will miss you, friend!

P.S. This free "grass is greener" printable can be found here.