Preparing Mr. Right

The other day, I came across a tiny onesie that read, "Future Mr. Right."

It was adorable, especially on the three month old that had it on. But that really made me think: my boys - each of them - will someday be another girl's Prince Charming. Jack will be the man that some little girl dreamed about since she was six. Ben will be the man who another girl prayed for. My babies. My babies who will be grown men someday. Another girl will look at them and see everything I first saw (and continue to see) in their daddy, more than five years ago.

What am I doing now to grow these little boys into men? Men who will be the husbands and fathers to the next generation? Suddenly, worrying about silly things like diaper rashes, if they're eating enough vegetables and if they can use the potty at 22 months old don't seem so important.

My prayer for them? I want them to be men of character. Godly character.

I want them to be strong, independent, patient, gentle, confident, and have self-control. I want them to be kind to the elderly, generous with the poor and passionate about the Lord. I want them to stand up for those who have been made silent, be optimistic in the face of oppression, and champion the Truth. I want, more than anything, for them to know Jesus as their personal Savior.

So until that day, I will continue to encourage them to clean up after themselves, say "please" and "thank you" (though we're still working on that one,) and saying "I'm sorry" when they are wrong. We'll send thank you notes in the mail and stop to acknowledge another's good deed. It's a humbling thought to realize they will get their ideas about morality from me and Andy. I remember learning that their idea of right/wrong (as well as personality) is established by the age of five. If we are thankful, they will learn to be thankful. If we are positive, they will learn to be positive. If we say encouraging things to one another, then they will (hopefully) say encouraging things to one another.

I will continue to pray for the little girls that will someday be the wives of my little boys. God knows, they're going to have a tough time convincing their future mother-in-law they're good enough for her little men.


Minestrone Soup

Yesterday was a cold cold day, a perfect evening for soup. So I made one of my husband's (and boys') favorites, Minestrone.

We're a BIG fan of Carrabba's restaurant. Every time, Andy orders either the Spicy Sausage and Lentil or their Minestrone - they're so flavorful and taste homemade! Every time we go, I'm trying to pick apart ingredients so I could match it at home. And let me tell you, this recipe rivals theirs. My husband said so (and we all know that he's not bias ;) This is a recipe from the Food Network.

Minestrone Soup
3 c. chicken broth
1-28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1-15 oz. can white cannellini or navy beans, drained
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 c. onion, chopped
2 c. cabbage, chopped
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried sage
2 bay leaves
salt and black pepper
2 c. cooked ditalini pasta
2 c. coarasely chopped fresh or frozen spinach defrosted
4 T. grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
basil springs, garnish, optional

In a slow cooker, combine brother, tomatoes, beans, carrots, celery, onion, thyme, sage, bay leaves, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. Thirty minutes before the soup is done cooking, add ditalini, zucchini and spinach. Cover and cook 30 more minutes. Remove bay leaves and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle Parmesan cheese over top. Garnish with basil, if desired.
A few variations: The only change I made to the original recipe was adding cabbage, Carrabba's secret ingredient. What a HUGE difference! Initially, I chopped up a whole cabbage and then put only half into the soup. Then I froze the other half in a Ziploc bag so it was drop-in ready next time I wanted to make soup. Yesterday I used the frozen (already chopped) cabbage and it was absolutely perfect. Also, the recipe calls for ditalini pasta, but I use whatever's in my cupboard; yesterday it was orzo pasta, which looks like rice. My husband loves it. Finally, I begin with one can of chicken broth and then add a few more cans of water with chicken boullion. It stretches the broth and allows me to make a little more than a regular batch.

Soup is comfort food for the soul. Perfect on a chilly day or for a simple lunch. We had it with BLT sandwiches and it was wonderful!


Completely Smitten

Right now, my house is trashed. My bed is in shambles. There are crumbs to be vacuumed, windows to wipe down and tables to clean. But I don't feel like doing any of those things right now. I needed to describe some of the feelings I'm experiencing in this moment.

I don't particually know why, but right now, my heart is ACHING with love for my two little men. Jonathan Andrew and Benjamin David, who are sound asleep in their cribs. Sadly, that's probably when I love them most! ;) Mothers of boys, you understand!

This aching-overwhelming-sense-of-love probably resulted from a picture I took of them this morning:
Ben and Jack - this morning before going down for a nap

A picture is worth a thousand words, right? A few that come to my mind are peace. Wonder. Admiration. Love. Sincerity.

Keep in mind: these are the same boys that trashed my house to begin with. The boys that put pennies down my register and emptied the flatware from my silverware drawer three times this morning. The boys that wouldn't let me start the car today before they each have a fistful of snow in their hands. The boys that have trouble sitting on their backsides for longer than three minutes.

These are the same boys that give me eskimo kisses and tilt their heads to the side when I take their picture. The boys that yell "woah!" when they see a big truck on the road and can hear a fire truck or a dog from a mile away. The boys that fold their hands in prayer and squint their eyes to see if I'm doing the same. The boys who run over to give me a kiss on the cheek with an emphatic, "Mmuah!"

These are the boys that make me feel like I'm going insane. The boys that make my heart swell with pride. The boys that insist on doing it themself. The boys that ask me for help.

These are the boys in which I am smitten. Utterly and completely. Never in my life has one thing ever been able to produce so many emotions in just a few short seconds... insanity to joy. Defeat to accomplishment. I suppose you could say they're both sweet AND Sauer.

Perhaps that's what I love about them most.


Woman on a Mission

I have been a woman on a mission lately. Project Organize My House and Keep Track of Everything Else Going on in My Life.

Know what I mean?

It's a combination of spring cleaning mode, sifting through what we have and taking inventory of what we need, and also preparation for moving. Someday. Hopefully within the year. Really, it's just making my life more comfortable with the boys who keep demanding more of our (already very small) space! But somehow, I've become addicted to progress and really want to finish... NOW.

I've given up on getting anything done when the boys are awake, so when they go down for a nap or to sleep for the night, I move into turbo gear. I try and get everything prepped for dinner, put a few loads of laundry in and straighten up our bedroom before I can do some extra organizing in the house. I'm doing really well, too. My whole apartment has been organized - every cupboard, every closet, every drawer has been emptied, sifted through, organized and put back in place. I've got piles for Good Will, giveway to MOPS and a pile for the twin sale next month. I'm doing GOOD!

Now that my apartment has had a good once over, I'd like to move into the attic. We've got about 30-40 bins with 'stuff' that I'd like to go through. Some of it will stay, some will go. Thankfully, they're all labeled and sort of organized by category, so it shouldn't be too bad once I start. Except I can't start yet. I have some responsibilities with my MOPS group that I needed to do first, including the newsletter.

My husband was taking the computer chair into the living room for me on Saturday night a few minutes after the boys had gone to sleep. We had a wonderful day together as a family and I had been looking forward to getting some work done. I had blocked two hours for the newsletter and really wanted to finish it that night so I could work on another craft I had volunteered to help with and still be in bed at a reasonable time. Andy carried the chair into the room for me and as he set it down in front of the computer, he paused to give me a hug. I reluctantly squeezed him a moment and sighed, "Babe, I've got a lot to do and really don't have the time..." Then I realized what I had said. Did I just push my husband away from a little hug? I couldn't take 40 seconds of my oh-so-valuable time to give my husband a squeeze? As soon as it came out, I wished that I could have taken it back. Except I couldn't.

I apologized and he graciously laughed it off, though I could tell that I had hurt him. How selfish of me to be so focused on what I was doing that I couldn't pause for just one moment to thank the man that was helping to make my life easier?

I learned something valuable about myself that night. I am a worker. I enjoy progress. But I need to be careful not to get so consumed with the project that I neglect the very people I'm doing it for. I'm still working my way through the house and hope to start working up in the attic soon. But I'm trying to take a few steps back. Especially when Andy is home. The work will always be there. And while cleaning and organizing are good things, they're not the only things in life. Honestly, they're not really all that important when you put them next to your family.

I'm still a woman on a mission. Except my mission is now Project Family.


There's A Lot They Can Do

At 22 months old, my boys can set the table and put their dishes in the sink.

I'm totally serious.

It started innocently. Hmm, perhaps selfishly is a more appropriate word. I honestly didn't start off with that as my goal. But what a lovely bonus!

I would be putting the last touches on dinner and both boys would pull on me. I can hold one on my hip, but not two. So I've been trying to keep the other one occupied long enough for me to finish. One way was to give him the plates, cups and forks to put on the table. So I did. And so did he.

You probably wouldn't even believe me if I told you that he set one plate and fork at each setting. So I'm not even going to tell you.

That made me realize: there's a lot they can do. And they LOVE it! Don't worry, I'm not into child labor or anything. These boys are receiving a warm home and plenty of love and affection in exchange for their service.

When Andy comes home, he gives the boys his jacket and sweater to help him bring into our bedroom. They anxiously await this every night. (Ben's walking in front of Jack, carrying Andy's clothes to the room.)
Allowing the boys to 'help' us honestly takes a little more effort. But it is adorable watching them try and help. The beams on their faces are priceless when we praise their effort. You'd think he was the one to carry those chairs himself. Jack was even trying to watch where he was walking. They adore their daddy, so it isn't surprising that they want to do the things that he does!
Ben can't hide his pride as he slowly walks his plate to the sink.
This isn't something I had planned on teaching so young, though I certainly don't mind! I remember hearing that good habits are established by age five. So I guess there's no better time than the present! I'll keep offerring opportunities for the boys to help if they're interested and not push too hard. Because now, it's just fun doing grown-up things.

That makes me wonder. What other things could they do? How ELSE have they been holding out on me? ;)


Remain Calm. Deep Breaths. No Sudden Moves.

Over the past few weeks, my boys have been especially clingy. I can't leave the room without having at least one of them at my heels. I can't stand up without at least one of them clawing onto my arm. I can't walk into the kitchen to get their sippy cups without at least one of them whining to come too!

And it has been draining me.

Separation anxiety? I get it. But c'mon, guys. I barely EVER leave you alone. And when I do, it's usually with your dad, nana or the childcare workers at MOPS!

I was desperate, so I turned to my helpful friend, Google. She hasn't failed me yet.

After doing a quick search on "clingy toddlers," Google dependably generated a huge list of articles, some of which were helpful (See here and here and and here.) Here's what I learned: this is normal. This is healthy. These are normal 'growing pains.' And if our kids want our undivided attention, then give them all they need... as much as you can.

It sounds simple - Just enjoy them, Mindy! - but I've been trying to do just that. Giving up on the dishes. Not being too anxious to leave the room when Andy comes home. Telling them where I'm going and reassuring them that I'll be right back when I have to get a tissue. Welcoming them to come with me and not pushing them away, anxious for a moment's sanity. It's only been a few days, but I have noticed a teeeeeny tiny improvement. They still prefer to be with their mommy, but I don't feel as stressed about scooping them up to get a quick glass of water (even if I will need reconstructive surgery on my back someday from all of this heavy lifting!) I'm much more content to sit and play with blocks than scrambling for a moment's sanity. I'm *trying* my best to take it easy. And to just sit down and enjoy them.

For sure, it's easier said than done. Not getting up from a little play session to take a quick peek at Facebook took a little self-discipline at first (how sad is that?) I've decided to keep the computer off all day and restrict myself to Internet on my phone (for those times I'm feeling disconnected from the outside world) and then my laptop when they're sleeping. But trying to slow down my pace so the boys don't feel like this is their one-and-one opportunity to claw into mommy before she leaves us for however long!

Thank God for Google. And for sanity. It's totally underrated.


Disassembling My Safety Net

Today I disassembled my safety net. Took a huge leap of faith. Today I submitted my official letter of resignation.

When the boys were born, I had hoped that I would be able to stay with them full-time. But with the economy so unstable and jobs being so scarce, one can never be too confident. I took the two years my district offered me and kept praying for God's best for our family. All the while, I've been appreciative for the safety net that laid below me. If we needed the second income, my safety net (aka "job") was there to catch me.

Parenthood is so much more difficult than I had ever anticipated. Nothing else has stretched and challenged me more than being a mom... but nothing has blessed me more either.

A friend had asked me a while back if I was going back to work. "I'm not sure yet," I honestly answered, "We're still weighing our options." "But are you really going to waste all of that education?" he asked. "Just throw it all away?" That really caught me off guard. I wasn't throwing anything away. Everything I have ever done, everything I have accomplished, been awarded or earned - a master's education, tenure, permament certification, six years experience - made me into the person I am today.

I'm not allowing my education to go to waste. I'm investing it.

Here's to the future!


Why I Was Late

I walked into my MOPS meeting 20 minutes late this morning. And I'm supposed to be there at least 15 minutes early. So I guess I was really 35 minutes late.

And it wasn't my fault.

It never is, is it?

Here are the reasons why, and consequently, each of my excuses add up to that lost 35 minutes.

First of all, I had to get the Peach French Toast ready for the meeting. I made it last night, but had to cook it this morning... let it sit out for 30 minutes, bake for 20 minutes with the cover on, 30 more with the cover off. Putting it in and out of the oven and setting the timer cost me about 7 minutes. You can't have toddlers' hands near an open oven, so this takes a little more finesse than you might think. Just to give you a visual: my legs, used as gates, are an integral part of this process.

Then I decided to battle the boys at breakfast this morning. Bad timing? Probably. But I'm not completely sorry. They now understand that if they want to eat, they must sit in their highchairs (NOT mommy's lap.) That's been a project for the past two weeks. But starting this morning, the same rule applied to drinking their juice. I just won't stand for it anymore. They are more than capable of drinking of their sippy cup in their highchairs and not in my lap. Jack fussed for a moment, but decided to give in rather quickly; I'm sure we'll have that battle another day. Ben, on the other hand, decided to test to see just how serious I was. He screamed for 10 minutes. Screamed. Ten minutes doesn't sound like a lot, but I will assure you: when you're listening to a toddler screaming, it's a lot of time. I sat next to him, with a (fake) calm look on my face and a determined attitude. I was going to win this one. And I did. But that ate up 10 minutes of our time. It was worth it, but still, there's 10 minutes.

And then when I changed Ben's diaper this morning, he soaked through his onesie. The onesie I had been planning on him wearing today. I went inside to get a clean one, but realized I had forgotten to take the clothes out of the washer last night... a load that was washing every single other onesie we own. Thankfully, I had a random one that was clean so quickly made the adjustment. But not until we ate up another 5 minutes. Normally this simple task wouldn't require five whole minutes. But since their clothes are in a dresser in my bedroom - the only room of the house they are not allowed - it took me a while to usher them out once they had wiggled their way inside to grab the coveted remotes. These boys don't even watch television, but they understand the Power of the Remote.

Where am I right now? Twenty three minutes? I said we were 35 minutes late, but don't worry, I've got a few other excuses to make up the last twelve.

When we were ready to go, I gathered all materials and set them by the door before running into the bathroom to blowdry my hair. Normally, I would just leave the house with a wet head, but I'm trying to take better care of myself and blowdrying my hair makes me feel a little more put-together. So I do it (but only when I'm planning on leaving the house.) I peeked out of the bathroom every few seconds to be sure the boys weren't on top of eachother or climbed onto the top bookshelf again. I saw Jack running into the living room with my yellow notebook. Wait a minute. That notebook was at the door... in my bag... nope, it is now on the floor as well as all of its contents. Chasing Jack down and convincing him to put the notebook BACK inside my bag... another 2 minutes.

The last 10 minutes were eaten by the two trips I made to the van (up and down two flights of stairs) to load it with all of our goodies before coming back up to usher my lovely boys. A few additional minutes were added on to coax the boys into putting their jackets on, not running away with their brother's hat and willingly walking down the stairs without picking up every single one of the shoes at the landing. And then there's my boys' crazy desire to hold onto a fistful of snow, which had to be granted or else the 25 minute ride would have been nuts. I'll just round all of that down to 10 minutes.

And that, my friends, is why I was late. I'd say it won't happen again, but... well... I know better.