Sunday, December 20, 2009

Potty Training for DumMommies

Fast Track: Results in 3 - 7 days
Not-so-fast Track: Results in 365 days

I have mastered both tracks, having one twin who trained in a week and another who trained over the course of year.

This Christmas break one year ago is when I attempted the whole potty training gig with the girls for the first time. It was a little early (they were 2yrs 2mos.), but with three kids in diapers, I was highly motivated.

I thought it would be Lobaby who would catch on quickly. The truth was they both did. Our first "outing" in big girl panties was all dressed up to the Christmas Eve service at Northview. I was a nervous wreck.

"Please don't potty on your pretty dresses!"

"Do you need to go potty?!"

"Be sure and tell mommy if you feel the potties coming out!"

I whispered in their little ears. And we were successful! I was a potty training rock star! Or so I thought.

About one month in, Lo started to revert. I was so resistant to it. In denial about it. But, I was finally at my wit's and patience' end, and back to diapers she went.

Over the next few months we tried again. I tried my old methods. I tried new methods. But the truth of the matter was, she could care less about big girl panties.

For the months after that, I was mad about it. "She knows what to do! Why won't she do it??" I thought.

It was a battle. And she was beating me. And I hate to lose.

I finally accepted that it had to be her decision. She was going to have to want to do it. To care that her friends weren't in diapers. To care about being a "big girl."

Meanwhile, Jilligirl trained like a champion. Seriously, almost too good to be true. I told her that this is what big girls do and she bought it. I offered her stickers and marshmallows and she ate it up. At 2yrs and 2 mos, she had less than a handful of accidents and has been in her sweet little pink roos ever since.

So, this is yet another example of how my precious twin girls could not be any more opposite.

Around their 3rd birthday, I thought we'd give it another go. No success. But, I did realize something really important. A positive to all my potty-training failures.

At every attempt, I learned something new about my precious Lo. Every time we would try and fail, I would get insight into her personality.

Jilli is just like me. I get her. She is competitive and easily motivated. She embraces change and jumps into new things without fear.

Lo is very different than me. She isn't competitive. She's hard to motivate. She likes to do her own thing and she doesn't usually care what the other kids are doing. She's so quirky and funny. And it makes me nuts and I love it!

The upside to potty training over 12 months, is that I see her differently now and have a better appreciation for her quirks.

I realize this is just the beginning of my tough lessons in mothering, I just hope that they don't all take 365 days to learn.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Baked Manicotti with Meat Sauce

So I'm home full-time now and I find myself with a new energy and excitement in the kitchen. I love to cook and try new recipes, but haven't had the patience (or kids with patience) to bust out a meal like this in some time.

I made my grocery list this week and on it were the ingredients for 3 new recipes from my favorite cooking resource, Cook's Country. I've never made a recipe out of these magazines that wasn't divine.

First on the list was manicotti, made with a few ingredients that made my taste buds happy before I even opened my mouth. With the big girls as helpers and Little Toothache in her high chair with a snack, we tackled this recipe with delicious results.

I hope you enjoy and devour this recipe as happily as my family did.

Baked Manicotti with Meat Sauce

Meat Sauce
1 onion, chopped
6 oz sliced deli pepperoni
1 lb 85% lean ground beef
1 Tbs tomato paste
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 (28oz) cans crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper

3 c ricotta cheese
2 1/2 c shredded mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 c shredded provolone cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 c chopped fresh basil
16 no-boil lasagna noodles (see note)

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. pulse onion and pepperoni in food processor until coarsely ground. Add beef and pulse until thoroughly combined.

Transfer beef mixture to large saucepan and cook over medium heat, until no longer pink (about 5 min). Using slotted spoon, transfer 1 cup beef mixture to paper towel-lined plate and reserve. Add tomato paste garlic and pepper flakes to pot w/ remaining meat mixture and cook until fragrant (about 1 min). Stir in tomatoes and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened (about 20 min). Season with salt and pepper.

Combine ricotta, 2 c mozzarella, 1 c provolone, egg, salt, pepper, basil and reserved meat mixture in large bowl. Pour 2 quarts boiling water into 13 x 9-in baking dish. Soak noodles until pliable (about 5 min). Drain noodles on kitchen towel, pour of water and dry baking dish.

Spread half of meat sauce over bottom of baking dish. Top each soaked noodle with 1/4 cup cheese filling, roll and arrange, seam-side down, over sauce in baking dish. Spread remaining sauce over manicotti. Cover with foil and bake until bubbling around edges, about 40 min. Remove foil and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and provolone. Bake until cheese is melted, about 5 min. Let cool 15 minutes. Serve.

Note: You need 16 no-boil lasagna noodles. Get the Barilla brand (comes 16 to a box, other brands only have 12). I found these in the dry pasta aisle, even though I started looking for them with the refrigerated and frozen noodles.

My notes: 1) I skipped the red pepper flakes, even though it was just a smidge. I didn't want to risk the heat turning off the little palettes in the house 2) I only have a small food processor, so I only did the onion and pepperoni in the food processor and then mashed it in with the beef by hand.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

In Transition: Synopsis

My life is in transition.

There are two experiences I'm having in the transition and some stuff I want to share about both. So before I begin, let me give you the synopsis.

For months, I'd been praying and contemplating the idea of resigning my position at Northview to focus solely on my duties as a wife and mommy.

Some of you may not know that I work at Northview, but I do. I love it and I'm completely passionate about working in the local church. My favorite part of my job as Communications Director has been to help create experiences for our people to engage in relationships with each other and to experience God in new ways. I get an inside look at our leadership and get to contribute to their passion, by offering insight on how to share the heart of their ministries with our attendees.

I've been able to sit in on lead staff meetings and represent my voice as a woman, mother and creative thinker. It's been humbling and so cool.

I'm a such a passionate girl. And during my training for my half marathon (which I'll blog about later), I had a lot of time alone with my thoughts. One thought that I kept having was wondering what God could do if I were able to focus all my passion on my family. And I got really excited.

For the past two years, Northview has been gracious to let me do the job that I love on a very flexible, limited schedule. But, because I love it so much, I always felt frustrated by my limitations. There wasn't enough margin in my life to dream big for Northview in the way that I knew I could.

In the same way, I haven't had the margin to dream big for my family in the way I've wanted to, either.

Now that Andy is settled into his new venture as a self-employed web experience designer and developer (And doing AMAZING, I might add), our family has settled into a new normal, as well. One with many new exciting opportunities and challenges.

Andy has never been more fulfilled professionally. I remember thinking when we dated (and when my dad would bug me about considering my financial future), that this guy is so talented and I won't ever have to worry that he will provide for me and our future family together. I was right. It's almost too good to be true to watch how this whole thing has unfolded.

So, he's super happy. And super fulfilled. But, now running his own company and having the weight of all family provisions based entirely on his ability to seek out and secure projects, he's also super stressed. And in the 10 years that I've known him, I've never seen him stressed.

I've always been the one to have my hands in hundreds of pots. He's always been my easy-going, super-mellow, go-pursue-your-dreams-and-I'll-do-whatever-you-need-me-to-do-to-support-you kinda guy. And he still is, but his new reality has challenged his margin in new ways, too. His "supportive margin".

So, it's my turn to be the cheerleader. It's a new role for me. But, one I'm pretty excited (and also scared) about. I'm afraid and thrilled that God has a lot to teach me. I'm afraid and thrilled to have my margin back. I'm afraid and thrilled to stay home and use my passion to open the door to God to reshape and grow my family.

I think afraid and thrilled pretty much sums it up.

Come Here Goat!

We weren't sure if we were going to make it to the pumpkin patch this year! But, we did with only 3 days before the end of the season.

The girls wanted to feed the goat a leaf.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Big girls turn 3!

This year we had a big Dora backyard camping theme to celebrate the twins 3rd birthday. It was so much fun. I tend to go a little overboard with these things, but I believe in celebrating birthdays BIG!

We set up tents and picnic tables in the backyard, the big kids roasted hot dogs in the fire pit and the adults ate chili. The kids had a ball playing in the tents, we had a make-your-own trail mix activity for the kids and a bug/candy hunt.

The girls (and mommy) were overwhelmed when it was time to open gifts. That's what you get for having two birthdays in one AND both sets of grandparents living in town. We're blessed (and spoiled). Lobaby said her favorite new toy is her vacuum cleaner (if only it really cleaned!) and Jilligirl's fave is a Strawberry Shortcake doll that you can style her hair.

The Dora cake was a late night labor of love, but I'm really happy with how it turned out. It was my first ever star-tip cake, with 10 colors of icing! A little over the top, but I always wish I had more time to decorate cakes. It's so fun for me.

Many thanks to our AMAZING family and friends who came to celebrate our girls! You mean the world to us. Nothing makes me happier than my house full of the people that I love. We are so blessed!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Indiana State Fair 09

We took a trip to the fair with my parents last week and had a really fun time. I don't have any pictures of the baby, but she was the MVP and endured about 6hrs of fair fun and was such a trooper.

This year, the girls really surprised me (especially my timid Lobaby) and wanted to ride the real ponies AND the kid rides, including the little kid roller coaster. They had a blast and it was really fun to watch their faces.

We walked around and ate a little. And then walked around and ate a little more. We tried the deep fried Snickers (delicious) and the deep fried Twinkies (not a fan). We gnawed on a couple turkey legs and drank some yummy Sweet Tea and Lemonade Shake-ups.

Until a couple years ago, I had never been to the fair. Each year gets more and more fun. Maybe I'm a country girl at heart. After all, I did wear my hair in pig tails for the occassion. Or maybe I just like fried food. Come to think of it, we didn't even make it into the livestock pavilions. Maybe next year.

I love Jilligirls face in this one.

She's a Keller. Can't wait to see her next time we visit North Dakota with Uncle Doug on the BIG tractors.

This is a cute little video of the girls on the motorcycles.

Ah - Wedding Bliss

While we were in Missouri, my cousin Travis got married. It was such a fun celebration. Travis is an amazing guy, with a great heart. It was the first time I met Britney (his bride), but she was gorgeous and they seem like such an adorable, like-minded couple. I was SO happy for them.

They both like to dance and their reception had a live band. I don't know what got into Andy, but he was in the mood to get down. So we watched all Travis and Britney's friends and their fancy swing dance moves and did our best to copy them.

Their first dance was completely choreographed and really elegant.
This boy can sing. He surprised Britney and serenaded her with "Fools Rush In" - too cute!

I was sitting alone during a slow song and one of the band members came out and asked me to dance. It was nice of him. A tad awkward. But nice nonetheless.

The wedding was really close to the Plaza in KC. So they did a really smart thing and invited their guests to get dinner on their own between the wedding and reception. We went to Cheesecake Factory.
This is my Grandma Joyce. I love her and I'm really proud of her. My Grandpa is really ill and together they are showing tremendous faith and strength. It's neat to see them live what they say they believe, even when they're being tested so intensely.

Daddy and Little Toothache. She's getting too big, too fast.

This is my Aunt Cheryl (my dad's sister) and Uncle Gary. Parents of the Groom.

Grandpa Sonny and Grandma Joyce with their great grandkids, minus LT (she was taking a nap).

Travis and Grandma on the dance floor.

Adorable couple.

Baby's First Corn

Needless to say, she LOVED it :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Trip to Joetown!

My whole family went back west for my cousin Travis' wedding, but it also was my best buddy's 30th birthday, so I went a few days early to celebrate with her!

All our family lives in the Kansas City area, so I don't always get to spend much time in St. Joe (my hometown, 50 miles north of KC). So, feeling sentimental, I had Cassie take me to some of my favorite spots.

This isn't a favorite spot, but since I'm ca-razy about Farmer's Markets, I had to get a shot of the Pony Express Farmer's Market (plus Cassie with all her loot).

This was my dad's restaurant, The Salad Shoppe, in the 80s. When he felt called to ministry, he also felt called to sell all his businesses. We talked to the current store owner (now a bakery) and she said she found all the old accounting records in the attic, she asked me "Why did he ever close this place? They were making money every month!" Obedience, baby, obedience.

I didn't really say that. And unfortunately the guy that bought the restaurant from my dad killed it in the first year.

It was bizarre to be inside. I probably haven't been inside since I was about 3 or 4 and I have some really vivid memories from the restaurant.

Of course, we had to taste the cupcakes from the cute bakery that's housed there now. It's called Delish.

For Cassie's birthday, we went to the Plaza in KC. Had dinner at a yummy Italian place and dessert at The Melting Pot. We went with great friends from high school (from left) Beth, Sarah and Cass and me.


Just about every HS memory I have includes Sarah. We were in every activity together from 7th grade until we graduated, including 1st and 2nd chair flute in the band. Awe-yeah! You're jealous. And guess who was 1st chair? Hint: It wasn't Sarah. That's right. Yours truly.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

First (of many) trips to Conner Prairie

We got a membership to Conner Prairie for Little Toothache's birthday and visited over the weekend for the first time. Grammy and Pawpaw (Keller) came with us this time. We had a blast and plan to go back again and again.

I LOVE this picture of Lobaby. When she wears piggy tails she can have just about anything she wants. But, don't tell her that!

Cookin up some lunch!

Jilligirl watering her garden.

Petting the baby chicks.

Building a cool house with daddy out of Lincoln Logs!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The party!

The party to celebrate our LT was so fun. And perfect weather, to boot!

The birthday girl in her party dress.

A rare family photo!

An even more rare picture of just me and baby LT

We sang the birthday song!

The big girls licked the icing off the cake and then dipped the candle back in the icing and licked again, and again, and again (sorry for those of you who ate that cake and were unaware of the toddler saliva on the top)

She ate her cake and buttercream, too.

She opened a few gifts. I opened most of them. She got lots of new books, some really cute clothes, shoes, toys and even a family membership to Conner Prairie.

We set up the baby pools and sprinklers. The kids had a blast.

This was a photo shoot I attempted with her little party dress on.

Running with crayons...
Eating the crayons (where's that child's mother?)...

Mommy takes the crayons away (and captures a perfect shot of LT's flair for drama).

These were the party favors. They were rolls of art paper, wrapped in tissue to look like candy. Each had some crayons attached and a little note from LT herself.

Here's the cake. Party confetti cake with buttercream icing.

The cupcakes and the stickers I found that inspired the whole theme.