Monday, November 29, 2010

Blessed Beyond Measure

People say, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” Unfortunately, that is true far too often. I don’t want to be one of those people. Time goes by too fast. I want to enjoy my kids while they’re still kids. Sometimes it’s easier than others.

Alyssa came to bed with us the past two nights. She had been coughing and couldn't sleep. She is a cuddler. She likes to sleep practically on top of me and rub my back or shoulder. While it’s very sweet, it makes it difficult to get comfortable as I get pushed almost off the bed. These past two nights though, she didn’t do that. One would think I would have been happy about it. Sure, I had more room. Yes, I slept a little better. But I missed her cuddles. I missed her wanting to be close. “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.”

All three of them are my “little shadows.” They follow me all over the house, constantly. At times, I’m tripping over them. But others are very precious to me. Alyssa loves to get her toy blow-dryer, curling iron, and “make-up” and get ready with me. She also likes to get her baby doll, pack a diaper bag, gather her “coupons” and pretend to go to Meijer. She is truly a little mommy.

Jacob, what can I say about Jacob? He is extremely smart. He is also extremely stubborn and energetic. For instance, multiple times he has sat at the table for 3 hours because he would not finish his dinner. Two of those times, he did not eat the entire next day until dinnertime because he still refused to eat it. Once he finally decided to give in, it took him 30 seconds to finish. Since the day he was born, we have been trying to guide his energy and stubbornness zeal in the right direction. 

Jake is also a talker. He is constantly asking questions. He has his father's engineer's mind and wants to know how everything works. He drives me nuts! But on the other hand, I'm thrilled that he loves learning. He was speaking in sentences by the time he was a year old and has not stopped. He also has an amazing memory. (He remembers, in detail, things that that happened 3 years ago when he wasn't even 2.) I'm always impressed by the way his mind works and his ability to reason.

All morning, Jake was antagonizing Alyssa. She in turn would shriek at him.  It was a less-than-enjoyable situation. I was reminded though of the nice comments I received from three people at church last night about our kids. When I get so caught up in the day-to-day of life and raising kids, I can forget just how wonderful they really are. Sometimes you "can't see the forest for the trees." I was convicted about this, and of course God tested me throughout the rest of the day. Jake continued to disobey and try my patience. Two minutes after he was punished and finished crying he said, "You're the best mommy." I honestly replied, "And you're the best Jakey."
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Friday, November 12, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: 1 Jar + 1 Pan = 18 Brownies?

We went the easy route this week. My Special Sister at church gave me a jar of brownie mix and my grandma gave me an Amazing Brownie Pan. We put the two together and got this week's Tasty Tuesday. 

Add eggs, oil, and vanilla.

After I showed him how to get the top off he said, "Oh, that's tricky!"

He LOVES cracking eggs.

Notice that the mould does not fill the pan, therefore does not cut through each one.

It even comes with it's own cooling rack.

Our "perfectly sized" brownies.

"Hmm, I wonder if that whole thing will fit in my mouth?"
The Amazing Brownie Pan is easy to use. You pour the batter into it, place the mould in, and bake. Word to the wise: coat the mould with non-stick cooking spray. Otherwise, it will take you 4 times as long to individually cut each brownie out and wash the mould afterward. Not that I know from experience or anything . . . . and it negates that guarantee on the box that it "makes baking brownies easier than ever!" All in all, it's a cute idea. It also takes away the need for Jake to find the biggest one.
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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: Homemade Noodles

Let me start by saying that I had never made homemade pasta before. In fact, I had no desire to make homemade pasta.  Noodles are cheap. I often get them for free. Leighton loves noodles -- rotini, penne, rigatoni, farfalle. His favorite though is egg noodles. He's mentioned making them from scratch before, even offering to buy me a pasta machine. But like I said, no desire. I was making homemade chicken noodle soup and feeling guilty about not making the noodles too. I love being in the kitchen. I love making my family happy. It was time to give in and make them from scratch.

Egg Noodles
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour    
1 pinch salt                            
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter

1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Add the beaten egg, milk, and butter. Knead dough until smooth, about 5 minutes. Let rest in a covered bowl for 10 minutes.
2. On a floured surface, roll out to 1/8 or 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired lengths and shapes.
3. Allow to air dry before cooking.
4. To cook fresh pasta, in a large pot with boiling salted water cook until al dente.

I have seen this done many times on Iron Chef America. If you would have been looking in my window though, you would not have seen an Iron Chef. Sure, the dough came together easy enough. It even rolled out just fine. It did not, however, want to release itself from my counter. I'm assuming that I did not put enough flour down beforehand. It took a long time for the noodles to dry out this way. Eventually they did though, and all was well.

She said, "I'm making pizza!"

Jake said it looked like an alien head.

Using a pizza cutter to slice the noodles.


We served it with homemade rye bread.

I had determined that once was enough, and that I would just go back to processed noodles. That is until I tasted them. Now, it is inevitable that I make them again. Next time, I think I'll make fettucini alfredo (assuming I can get it off the counter!) If you have any tips on making homemade pasta, please let me know. I and my family will thank you!

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Make It Monday: Laundry Detergent

I must admit, Make It Monday was more for me than the kids this week. I've been needing to make laundry detergent, since I've been using my $0.50 backup store-bought detergent for a while now. (Gotta love a good deal!) I finally remember to add Borax to the grocery list, so we were all set to go. We've been making this for 7 months or so now. It is very cost effective. On average, Tide costs about 58¢ per load.  I've figured out that it costs 3-5¢ per load of homemade detergent, depending on which version you make. Not bad. It is also very simple to make. This time, I tried the powdered version.

Powdered Laundry Detergent
2 cups Fels Naptha Soap, finely grated  (You can use any soap that lists sodium palmate, sodium cocoate, sodium tallowate, etc. We use Lever 2000.)
1 cup Washing Soda
1 cup Borax

1. Mix well and store in an airtight plastic container.
2. Use 2 tablespoons per full load.

We use a spice grinder to shred the soap.

We use an old ice cream bucket to store the detergent. Talk about economical!

We have also made the liquid version. It works just as well, but takes much longer to make.

Liquid Laundry Detergent
1 quart Water (boiling)
2 cups Bar soap (grated)
2 cups Borax
2 cups Washing Soda
2 gallons Water

1. Add finely grated bar soap to the boiling water and stir until soap is melted. Keep on low heat until soap is melted.
2. Pour the soap water into a large, clean pail and add the Borax and Washing Soda. Stir well until all is dissolved.
3. Add 2 gallons of water, stirring until well mixed.
4. Cover pail and use 1/4 cup for each load of laundry. Stir the soap each time you use it because it will gel and be goopy.

Melted soap

Finished detergent

The hardest part of making the detergent is shredding the soap. That's why I make Leighton do it! It's not difficult, just tedious. Other than that, it's very easy and quick. Not to mention fun. And cheap. Go ahead and try it and let us know what you think.
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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Zachary's Birth Story

An era has ended. My baby boy is not a baby anymore. This realization brings tears to my eyes. I know, he's still the same little boy I kissed a million times yesterday. The same one I squeezed over and over. The same one whose love fills my heart. The only thing different is that a full calender year has passed. One year ago, I could not wait for time to pass. Now, I long for it to stand still. 

That Tuesday afternoon, my brother Gary stopped by after work to visit. I had been getting antsy since it was my due date and had no baby yet. When Eileen, my midwife, came for my prenatal appointment, Gary took the kids to McDonald's. The check-up went fine. I was saddened to hear that the baby was still posterior, but was starting to accept it. Still no contractions. Still no labor. Eileen left a jar of cumin on my counter, joking about how it worked to start labor for another lady. 

3:00 p.m. -- As soon as she left, I called Leighton, as I always did, to tell him about the appointment. 

3:16 p.m. -- I began to feel extreme pressure. Crazy pressure. I decided to take a bath. 

3:18 p.m. -- I called Leighton back and told him to come home.

3:21 p.m. -- I called my mom. "No, I don't think I'm in labor. I just need you. Leighton is an hour away." 

3:23 p.m. -- I figured I should probably let Eileen know. "Maybe I'm in labor."

3:35 p.m. -- My mom and Eileen showed up at the same time. Gary came back with the kids.

3:40 p.m. -- My mom wanted to fill up the birthing pool. Nope, no time. 

3:58 p.m. -- Leighton miraculously made it home.  

4:02 p.m. -- Zachary Allan Leaf was born at home in our bathtub. 

So many details fell right into place. God was looking over us that day, just like every day. 

Zachary Allan Leaf
7 lbs. 15 oz. 20 3/4 in.
Nov. 3  4:02 p.m.

2 months

5 months

8 months

10 months

1 year

He came quick and hasn't stopped. He rolled over at 5 weeks, crawled at 5 months, and walked at 9 months. He has to keep up with the other two kids. He loves to laugh and loves to play.  Zac is the sweetest little thing. We are so blessed to have him in our lives. 

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