Thursday, January 29, 2015

Turtles in a Half Shell... Turtle Power!

We love having people over to our home. I feel like everything we have is not ours but has been lent to us from God, we are only stewards of these possessions and God expects us to share what we have with others. I always like to qualify my posts that I am no expert in (fill in the blank) hospitality, and in no way am bragging about serving, but this is purely to encourage us all to be generous with what we have! :0) Just didn't want to come across the wrong way hah! I looked up a few verses about hospitality and being a good steward of what we have. 

"Do not neglect to do good and share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing unto God." - Hebrews 13:16

"Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with [his] hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that need." - Ephesians 4:28

"Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace." - 1 Pet. 4:9-10

Ironically enough, our Mommy Bible study group met this past Monday and also talked about hospitality. A couple of points I really liked from that study was that when we talk about being hospitable, we aren't just talking about having people over, but also having open hearts to others. That means looking for opportunities to help people, being approachable and honest with others, being genuinely ready to help in whatever way you can at any time. Our teacher referenced Matthew 25:34-39 and the following verses, just to emphasize that there is always something we can do for others, and when we are doing for others, we are doing for Jesus and God.

Some other points to think about from our class...

  • Being hospitable means creating an environment around you or in your home where people can thrive and feel "at home."
  • Be ready and willing to accept or consider something.
  • Be gracious and sociable, with an open heart. - This can make you vulnerable to people sometimes, but that is a chance we must take!
  • Don't worry about your house being "perfectly in order" and clean, or whether you have the right food or the right things. That is not what is important - we shouldn't judge each other's lives by these things but rather just enjoy the time being shared together.
  • We can't compare what we have with what others have, but just be thankful for what we have and open to share it with others.

We have such a huge group of young couples and singles at church here and it really is hard to get everyone together and form those personal relationships with people, but we are trying haha! It was said to me back in September from one of my good friends that she had... never ever seen an episode or movie of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles... and I almost passed out. How could you be a child of the 80s and missed out on this awesome so ridiculously cool superhero phenomena??? I mean, it is just me and my sister and yeah we liked my little ponies like the rest of the girls our age but for real, I had more TMNT action figures than my boy cousins, had TMNT birthday parties and definitely watched it like everyday when I got off the bus from school while I at my snack at our little red table. How could this not be a part of your childhood! ahhh! So we planned to have a TMNT viewing party, so we could educate her and others on these super cool guys! I just thought I would share some pics and also some of the things we did! 

Keep it simple is my motto, especially when you are having a lot of people over and have a teething toddler and are five months prego! eek! I read on someone's blog (sorry I can't remember who otherwise I would link it!) that when you are having a lot people over, just make a couple of dishes and then buy the rest, pre made or whatever. So that's what I did here! Of course, we ordered PIZZA in honor of the Ninja Turtles and I also made some Spinach Dip as an appetizer and Honey Bun Cake for dessert. Both are super easy and super yummy. And yes, I will warn you, the honey bun cake is definitely something that could put you in a sugar coma.

So because I like to be silly most of the time or as non serious and sarcastic whenever possible (this drives my mom crazy I think...) we of course had some Ninja Turtle Trivia and a quiz to see which Nine Turtle you are most like - Which Ninja Turtle Are You? All of the quizzes I found online were electronic ones, like you answer right then and it tells you the right answers or which turtle you are. So I just copied, pasted and retyped some questions that I could print out for everyone. It worked out fairly well, so I thought I would share them with y'all. The answers are below. P.S. - I definitely bought a couple of trivia prizes for the winners and didn't have enough because we had a FOUR way tie between some of the guys! So be prepared haha or just add on to the one I made! (And then send it back to me of course!)

Trivia Questions Answered: (I thought number 8 was a little tricky...)
1 b
2 b
3 d
4 c
5 a
6 false
7 c
8 false - he had two swords
9 a
10 false

Which Ninja Turtle Are you? 
Just add up how many of each answer you had for each character. I put all of the answer choices in this order...
So if you picked mainly answer A for all of your questions, you would be most like Leonardo. Have fun!

Some pics of our friends and my son's girl crushes. Little does he know, they are already taken. ;0)

Of course Jackson had a TMNT tshirt and also pjs to change into later. And socks. Can't forget the socks. ;0)

Happy Party Planning Y'all!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Baby Stuff I Like... and a Little Unsolicited Advice

It just so happens that two of my sister in laws and myself are all prego and due this year with baby boys. Madeline is due in June, I am due in May and Jenny is due in February. And yes, I know they both appreciate me posting this pic since I pretty much had to beg them to take it haha... ;0) I'm so excited they are having boys too though, it will be fun for them to all grow up together so close in age!

All the Campbell Grandkids... we are adding #9, #10 and #11 this year!
One sister in law has no need for this post because she is having her 5th child but my other sister in law is having her first! She messaged me a couple of days ago saying that they were going to be registering soon and asked if I had any advice on what they should register for... this made me smile because I totally remember that overwhelming feeling of walking into Buy Buy Baby and them handing me that scanner gun... and then just standing there staring at things with Jacob thinking, "Will we really need this?? Or this?? What about this brand?? or that Brand??" I mean really, it can be truly overwhelming in a store like that, not to mention that your brain is flooded with hormones and really is in no condition to make decisions. I told her I would get back to her because seriously, that is not a question you can answer in a text message! 

So I sat down, during nap time of course hehe, and started making a list of all the baby stuff I like. And that's just what this is. Baby stuff that we like. Every baby and family is different, so part of the game is finding things that work for you, figuring out what your baby likes and what fits your lifestyle. I organized it by categories... nursing/feeding, strollers, carseats, swings, bath stuff... it goes on and on and on... and on some more. I added some links to show pictures of things I wasn't sure made sense, or if I found them on Amazon  instead of in store, I linked them as well. I also explained why we liked those things and how useful they ended up being. I've wanted to do this for a while because she's not the first person to ask me that question. So while I was working on this my sweet hubbie said, "Hey! You should put this on your blog!" And now it is. So if you are interested in a huge pdf full of baby things and some of my "non-expert" advice (because I am definitely no expert, just a momma trying to make it!), click away on the link below! 

Hopefully there is something here that can help you make some decisions, or answer some questions you have and maybe even help you think ahead for occasions or stages you haven't gotten to yet. If anyone has anything to add, I would love to hear about it in your comments! I can always revise the word doc and repost it later. 

My last piece of advice would just be to try not to stress and have fun with it. You can always return things, or if you realize you need something just run to the store/order it from Amazon and have them bring it to your doorstep. ;0)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Look No Further... The BEST Blueberry Muffins!

So if it isn't already obvious... I am somewhat OBSESSED with muffins, scones, cinnamon rolls... the list goes on and on... I have been trying to find some good muffin recipes though that I can make at home that involve real ingredients and I think I am done looking as far as blueberry muffins are concerned! Of course, it was a Pinterest find, but if you are looking for a good recipe, this one should do it! We also are big fans of streusel toppings, so that was also a nice addition to these guys. Top one of these puppies with a slice of Kerry Gold Butter and you are good to go!

I used frozen blueberries just because blueberries right now are so expensive in stores! But I am looking forward to trying this again later this spring or summer once they come into season more. Frozen ones worked out fine though, and are super convenient if you just keep them on hand to grab and throw in. The batter in this recipe is also pretty dense, so frozen berries don't get smushed as you fold them into the batter.

More please! :0)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Finding Joy in the Journey

A few weeks ago a good friend of my mine sent me a card that was really sweet and thoughtful, but one of the things she said was that "I seem really happy now" and she was glad things seemed to be going better for me. That phrase really got me thinking... about how I am perceived by others... because up until now I guess I just assumed that people didn't see the stress I carried around or the frustrations I might have been harboring about my child not sleeping at night in my face. I started considering how I come across to people and maybe just how I was reacting to frustrating things in my life. Along with that, I read a few Bible plans off and on with my Bible app and began one called "Living on Purpose" with the start of the new year. One of the first devotionals it had in it was a story about a basketball coach at UCLA, John Wooden, and how he said that he enjoyed practicing for basketball games more than the games themselves. Moral of the story is that he "found joy in the journey." The devotional explained how we tend to find joy from huge accomplishments or the greatest experiences in our lives, but we ignore those day to day activities that build up to those big things. We miss out on finding satisfaction in the small mundane things of life and don't see purpose in them, especially if they don't go our way or if they are hard. 

I will tell you right now, the last 18 months with my son have been hard. Part of that is just becoming a new parent, part of it is because he was not a good sleeper (just started sleeping consistently through the night at 18 months! eek!) and I NEED, like really NEED my sleep to be a happy person. Day after day, week after week of waking up every 1, 2 and 3 hours starts to wear on a person! Maybe that is why I seem happier lately haha... but what makes me sad about the last 18 months with him is that I did miss out on enjoying some things because I was focused on what wasn't going the way I wanted it to go. Yes, I have found a lot of happiness in him and with him, don't get me wrong, but my point is that I wasn't always finding joy in the journey. And I think I did this while teaching too. I would get really worked up about bad days, or I would get very discouraged when things weren't progressing like I thought they should. That's the problem in those statements though... the way "I thought" they should go. 

So one of my goals for this year, call it a resolution if you must, is to find joy in my journey. God has graciously blessed me with another son, and I am hoping that we will have a better start this time around and that he will sleep better and eat better and that I won't be sick, but if not, I want to find joy in my journey with him and Jackson in all things as much as possible. We aren't promised time from God, we aren't promised that we will have tomorrow. God doesn't promise us that things will always go the way we think they should go, and even though that can be disheartening, hard and discouraging at times, I have to look for the joy in them and what He is trying to show me in those experiences. That has been the hardest thing for me this last year, truly relinquishing control to God. I still have a long way to go, but hard things absolutely force you to give up control to Him and trust Him, and for that I am thankful those experiences, because I needed to trust Him more. 

I also just want to try and dwell on the day at hand. Yes, we must make preparations, I must buy groceries for the whole week etc, but I want to try my best to make good use of my time and focus on the good I can do that day. I think if I truly start focusing on those little things that make up my days and finding joy in them, I will have more satisfaction in my life and not feel so overwhelmed at times. We'll see how it goes. :0) I have a lot to learn, and this year will provide many more of those "learning experiences" going from one to two kiddos! I keep telling people that if I disappear for a few months not to worry about me, I'll just be sitting on the couch with my twos boys trying to keep them both happy, fed and rested hehe! And yes, your prayers would be appreciated because I am nervous about the change! I need to put a BIG star on this post so I can come back and look at it every day of those first few months when I'm wondering how I will make it haha! How do you find joy in your days? How do you find joy in your journey?

A few verses to consider, the first being from the devotional I referenced earlier...

"I perceived that there is nothing better for them that to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil - this is God's gift to man." - Ecc. 3:12-13

"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit' - yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." - James 4 13-15

"A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." - Prov. 17:22

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

My Absolute FAVORITE Photo Books!

Jackson and I usually take a daily walk out to the mailbox, he gets so excited when I ask him if he wants to go get the mail. I have to be ready to go right then and there because he immediately runs to the garage door and starts pounding on it saying, "Side! side!" which translated from toddler lingo means outside. ;0) Sometimes we walk to the mailbox, sometimes we take Jacey and the wagon and sometimes he wants to ride in his truck that he got for Christmas. 

 Today was a special day at the mailbox for mommy because she got a package with this logo on the front. 

So I thought I would make a post today about my absolute favorite photo books. I used to scrapbook all the time before I had Jackson, but now I'm like who has time for that?! It takes me a month to do just one page! Yeah, slight exaggeration, but really, putting my photos in a nice reasonably priced photo book is much more practical for me... and they look really cool in my awesome coffee table drawer. :0) 

Just a few things about BLURB! I used to make photo books with Shutterfly, and while they are cute and decent quality, I really hated doing everything online. It seemed like it always took forever for me to upload my photos to their site, and then I wasn't always happy with the quality of printing the photos. I will say though that they aren't a bad option, and you can usually find a coupon code to get some discounts when you order. When I ordered my photo book I made for our trip to Australia, there was a page that had bled/smeared all the way across the picture, and they sent me a new one no questions asked. I was talking to my sister though about other options, and she directed me to Blurb to try out and guess what... I'm HOOKED! 

One of the differences I like about Blurb is that you download a program to your computer to create your photo books. I downloaded BookSmart and it has worked well for me. So then you just open the program to work on your book and BookSmart will access your photos on your computer, whether you have them on iPhoto for us mac lovers or just in a folder on your desktop etc. Once you complete your book, you export it to their website and order. Just takes a few minutes. Then you wait to get that package in the mail with that little blue label. :0)

The book that came in the mail today I spent a really long time making... more time than I've spent on any photo book I've made. It is probably one of the most precious ones I have made as well, as it covers the first year of my son's life, from pregnancy to maternity shots to showers to birth to month after month of pictures of Action Jackson. Another thing I like about Blurb is that they are reasonably priced for their quality of books. And they always have coupon codes available to get a discount on your order. So here are a few shots of my little book. 

Front Cover 

Love all of the different picture layouts that BookSmart has to offer.

My sister took the professional pictures you are seeing in his book. I absolutely love Jackson's one year photos that we did in Galveston. Definitely memories I will always carry in my heart. :0) She also has a blog/website that you can access to the left of this post.

Back Cover - Love the image wrap option as well.
I also created a 12x12 book for our trip to New York. I love love love this book. It is huge and the perfect size to show off all the cityscapes and fun pictures from our trip! One thing I did differently with Jackson's book is that I did pay a little extra for premium pages so they are a little thicker. This book is great but some pages are a little see through because of the white background. So I would recommend the extra few bucks for the upgrade.

Title Page option
Love the Panoramic of Grand Central Station. This photo was taken on my iPhone and transferred to the book beautifully.

So when my sister turned me on to Blurb, she directed me to another photographer's website who used Blurb and had her books neatly laid out in a drawer in her coffee table. So I hate to call myself a copy cat but yeah... I LOVED this table and thought it would be a great addition to our new living room. Holds my photo books for people to look at when they visit, and also has space below to hide baskets of toys for my little man. Cute and practical. It's what I go for these days. 

P.S. - If you are like me, you like to send notes to people. I think cards are such an easy way to brighten someone's day or just remind them that you are thinking of them during a hard time. If you've never purused through Target's dollar section, give it a spin next time you stop by there. They usually will have little packs of 8 cards for a dollar, which you can't beat! I love these that I found this week with the gold embellishing!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Baby J2 is a ... BOY!

For my first son we didn't do a gender reveal party, I think mainly because I was too excited and couldn't wait to tell everyone but also because my hubbie was working tons of hours with Ernst and Young on nights and weekends, and honestly we couldn't fit one in! But this time around, I just thought it would be fun to share the news to all of our family at once, and doing it in person! Besides that, there aren't many occasions when both of our families get together, maybe just for a birthday party for my little or randomly here and there. I didn't spend a ton of time on this, there is SO SO SO much you can do and with an 18 month old running around crazy/wanting to sit in my lap as much as possible, I was doing good to get the house cleaned and some food ready hehe! We had so much family drive to come to this though, even though half of us live in Houston it still takes us an hour to get to each other's houses, and we appreciated the effort! It meant so much to us to have you there with us celebrating our good news! Hope you enjoy seeing some of the pictures of the fam and our silly lips and mustaches. I think (and hope and pray hehe!) Jackson will enjoy having a little brother/sidekick come May.

In case you are interested in the cake pop recipe I used, I got this recipe from Pinterest. Super super easy, just make sure you make them the night before so they can set overnight!
All of our ultra sound picture so far.)
My Mom and Abigail
Little buddies just enjoying some pizza together!
Nana and Olivia (cousin)
Bridget (Someday Dreams Blog) and my Sis!
Amber and Abigail (cousin)!
Getting Ready! What will it be?!
Team GIRL!
Team BOY!
It's a BOY!
Whoo hoo!!!
Face timing with my cousin, Adam and his wife, Ashley.
(Sorry Madeline, we tried to Skype you but you were offline!)
I think Jackson is a little more excited about the cake ball at this point... I mean, come on, sweet yummy cake dessert on a stick?? How much more could a toddler want?!

Brothers playing with the little big brother. :0)
Big Sister Jacey is soooo excited about another little one in the house hahaha.... 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

"Hey Dad, Take Some Cod Liver Oil!"

So, a couple of months ago I was group texting with my mom and dad, (we do group family texts all the time talking about silly stuff!) and my dad was talking about how congested he was and feeling all sick on his break from work. So of course, being the helpful person I try to be haha... I say, "DAD! You should be taking cod liver oil! It's great for immunity! And maybe try some hot water with honey and apple cider vinegar!" And his response was, "You sound like my grandma! She made us drink weird concoctions that tasted like motor oil (or something) when we were sick!" So then I started thinking, I know this stuff is good for you, and I've read a little before but I wanted to know more to support my points haha and NOT look and sound like his crazy grandma!

Most of my points are from random websites I came across online, and I didn't cite every website just because I wasn't sure what all I would include, so hopefully the plagiarism police won't come and get me! (I know, horrible former teacher example! eek!) These days as a stay at home momma, pretty much any and all information comes from online! I saw a meme on Instagram a couple of days ago that read, "A worried mom does better research than the F.B.I." haha and it is so so so true...

A couple of things to know about Cod Liver Oil:

  • Cod Liver Oil is rich in EPA and DHA which are elongated omega 3 fatty acids that our body needs! EPA is essential for hormone synthesis and DHA is helpful in supporting brain activity and the nervous system. (It really is impressive how much of our bodily processes are supported by hormones, especially during pregnancy, so take care of those little guys! Give them what they need!)
  • It is also rich in vitamin A and D, which are both difficult to acquire in our normal daily diets. Cod liver oil has the most vitamin A and D when compared to any other common food.

So what is this stuff actually good for?

From my research, I read that cod-liver oil is used to help people with high cholesterol, high triglycerides, kidney disease in people with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoarthritis, depression, an autoimmune disease called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), glaucoma, and middle ear infections (otitis media). It also can be helpful with allergies, asthma, learning and behavioral disorders

In addition, it can help with muscle pain and bone density. Those awesome omega 3s are key to rebuilding bone density and retaining the bone density that you have. The vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and magnesium, which are both key in retaining that bone density.

Cod liver oil is thought to help relieve joint stiffness associated with arthritis, have a positive effect on cardiovascular health, and help repair wounded teeth, nails, hair, and skin. It can even improve heart function, even when damage has been done from a heart attack etc. Cod liver oil changes the lining of the arteries to improve healing. These points make sense because of how it helps with inflammation.

One of my favorite finds was that it helps lowers blood pressure by reducing stress inducing cortisol! Wish I would have started taking this stuff a long time ago! Get ride of that cortisol! I also read that nutrients in cod liver oil can help prevent cancer and may help repair wounds and aids cognitive performance. (Are you persuaded yet???)

This won't apply to everyone, but this stuff is great to take prior to conception and pregnancy! Cod Liver Oil is helpful for both the hubbie and wife to take, with different benefits for both! Like I mentioned earlier, it regulates hormones which is essential for having a regular cycle, and also prepares the uterus to receive the fertilized egg. 

During pregnancy, having though omega 3s in your diet provides enough for your growing baby. If you don't have enough, the baby will take from your body and leave you with a depletion. According to one of the websites listed below, "essential fatty acids are important to your baby’s brain, eye, and heart development. DHA is necessary in high concentrations for proper brain function, including proper development and cognitive function. Low levels of DHA are linked to premature birth, low birth weight and hyperactivity in children. DHA is an important component for a healthy central nervous system. EPA is necessary to grow a healthy circulatory system." The benefits continue as your baby grows, obtaining necessary Omega 3s through your breastmilk. 

So, the more I read about this stuff, the more impressed I am. And it's so easy to get this supplement in your every day diet! I order my soft gel caps from Amazon and do a subscribe and save, which saves me a few bucks! They don't make me sick or taste bad at all! 

Before I got pregnant, this was the brand that my cousin's wife turned me on to. It took me a little while to get used to it, but then I actually started to like it! Of course, once I got pregnant again, this option went out the window because it was not going down or staying down hah! But just in case you are invested, it's good stuff! I would definitely recommend the one with lemon flavor! 

Couple of websites I got most of my info from...

And in honor of my Daddio... Happy Birthday!! He is a New Year's Baby and turned 56 this year!!

I may or may not have provided this super cool mug for his birthday present :0)
Hope you enjoy, and that it is all accurate hah! I'm sure my nutritionist cousin, Ashley, would let me know if not! ;0) And if anyone has more to add, feel free to comment!