29 September, 2015

Another New Leaf

When I retired from youth ministry seventeen months ago, I had no idea what my life would look like. At the suggestion of my spiritual director, I took a full year to just enjoy my retirement and motherhood. It took a full year to really unwind and relax. After nine years of working nights, weekends, and holidays, I was long over due for some R&R.

During this time I discovered the aspect of youth ministry that I really missed was teaching.

This lead me to working for The Natural Baby where I teach monthly cloth diaper classes and workshops. I love my Saturday morning time working with families on something I am so passionate about.

I've also spent a great deal of time growing my photography "business" - taking workshops both in person and online, as well as joining a forum where we share constructive criticism.  I am pleased to say that I am booked through the end of 2015 with Christmas card, maternity, and newborn sessions. In August and September of this year I brought in more income from photography than I did for photography in all of 2014. Exciting times!

Last winter I was approached about teaching for a Catholic online homeschool.  At the time Eric and I were still discerning opening a franchise of The Natural Baby in our part of town. But after much prayer we decided that being a small retailer was a really fun idea, but would mean we'd have to say no to a lot of other opportunities in our lives. Once we made that decision I was able to respond to the offer about online teaching.  I finally finished the application and interview process last month.  Because I had responded so late, all the full-time teaching positions for 2015-2016 had been filled.

The staff really wanted me on board.  Since I did not have online teaching background, or formal classroom experience. We mutually agreed that spending this school year as a long term sub would be beneficial all around. They have several teachers schedule to be out on maternity leave, so they asked me to cover their classes.

Today I start my first 7 weeks of covering a class.  I'll be teaching Earth Science to a class of mostly 7th-8th grade students. The nice part about subbing is that most of the leg work has been done.  This teacher left me all of her power points. I just have to teach it!  She has also opted to keep grading, so I really just have to jump online and teach twice a week.  It's going to be a great way to get my feet wet.

I am excited for this opportunity and to see where the Lord takes me in all of these endeavors.  I've really enjoyed being part of families lives in each of these unique ways.  I have made new friendships and deepened others. It's been a blessing that off of this work I can do from home and/or with the occasional help from my husband and parents to watch the girls. I feel like I can still be the "stay-at-home-mom" I am called to be while contributing to the family financially and also keeping my creative mind active. I thank God for these abundant blessings!


23 September, 2015

Our Last Trip to Beaufort

We have loved going once or twice a year to visit Eric's great aunt Jo in Beaufort, SC.  Since her husband passed she has decided to move back up north to be near her children. We're sad that she's moving but glad she'll be closer to family. 

Grandma and G.Daddy rented a house for the family for the weekend. Seriously, VRBO is my new favorite way to travel with kids. I love that we have a kitchen and can make our own breakfast since we're a bacon and eggs kind of family.

Our first morning started with with quite an adventure. I am used to cooking with cooper core stainless pans and found myself cooking on a paper thin pan that burned everything to a crisp in seconds. Well, I set off the smoke alarm. It was some fancy computerized system and the home owners didn't leave us the password to override the smoke alarm. The first department showed up.  Oooops!

 The weekend was kind of pooky as it rained off and on.
 We still managed to go downtown to play on the playground, walk the water front, eat lunch, and do a little shopping.
 The girls had a horrible first night of sleep so we were all pretty exhausted. Evie, who never takes a nap, fell asleep hard in the carseat in a matter of a half mile drive from aunt Jo's house to downtown.  I wasn't about to let this ruin my last shopping trip in downtown Beaufort. I decided to put her in the Ergo.  She stayed asleep on my back over a solid hour.  (This trip is what spawned the conversation that it's time to upgrade to a toddler sized Tula)
 After we finished All The Things downtown we took to the water to have our last shrimp season meal in the low country.  The kids had fun playing on the board walk and the family enjoyed fresh seafood.
 We had a great last visit to Aunt Jo's. We're certainly going to miss our long weekends visiting with her.

(PS:  I bought this felt board at Michael's at their end of summer clearance. I think it was $1.50? It made for a great travel companion in the car and at restaurants. )

21 September, 2015

Free Zoo Day and Varsity Trip

I can usually only bring myself to go to the zoo once a year, but the girls love it. And even though I don't have an affinity towards animals, I do remember the excitement of seeing the majestic creatures in real life.

We had already taken our trip to Zoo Atlanta at the beginning of the summer, but Leeann invited us to go to the zoo with her and Luke for the Fulton County residents free day.  Sure. Why not?  Eric was excited to go with us.

Because it was a weekend and free we knew we had to be there the moment the gates opened if we wanted to be the heat and the crowds.

First stop, as you know, the FLAMINGOOOOOOOOOS.  Evie is OBSESSED.
 We also had to stop to see my favorites - the giant tortoises. Legend has it that I asked my parents for a turtle when I was 4 or 5 expecting to get one of these and was (rightfully) disappointment when I received a little box turtle.


And then to go see Eric's favorite, the red panda.  It looks like a raccoon. Eric only likes it because it has a tiny hammock. 

Evie was the best tour guide, as usual! She's really getting the hang of map reading.

Off to the pandas! (The only reason to come to the zoo!)


We saw just about everything there is to see at the zoo (we didn't ride the train or visit the petting zoo because, ew). Packed it up and headed to our favorite downtown eatery, The Varsity!
 Maggie celebrated her first trip, a milestone in our family.  We're just sad that G.Daddy was sick and couldn't make it. He was there for the other two grandkids first trips.
We had a fun day with Leeann and Luke before Eliza made her debut. Thanks for inviting us to the zoo!


08 September, 2015

How Sewing Saved my Summer

This summer started with a blur. Another bout of depression and anxiety hit my like a fright train.  The hardest part of the illness is that people who have never experienced it think you can "snap out of it" or "just stop worrying" - but it's more powerful than a bad day or being nervous. It's all consuming and debilitating and there is NOTHING that will make it better.

Now that I have been through this three times, I know that there is a trifecta of things that trigger it for me:

  1. significant hormone change like post partum or post weaning 
  2. significant life changes like in my career or family
  3. Eric being gone and/or emotionally unavailable due to travel or work
This summer I stopped nursing Maggie, Eric was stuck working looooong hours at work, the overwhelmingness of summer was upon me, and I was finally grieving the loss of my job (yes, even though *I* quit it an entire year before).  Eric and I had also made the decision not to open a small business, the planning of which had consumed a lot of my brain space for several months. 

It all hit at once.  Now that I wasn't nursing Maggie, nor planning a store opening, I had a lot of extra time on my hands.  I spiraled into a deep depression only made worse by the lack of distractions.  

I saw the midwife to see what kind of hormonal insight she had, but she said being over a year postpartum I was out of their jurisdiction. She sent me to a therapist.  I saw my spiritual director.  The therapist and spiritual director sent me to a psychiatrist. I was feeling passed around. I was tired of telling my story. I was tired of crying. I was tired of being tired. 

Finally, the psychiatrist agreed to tweaking my current antidepressant prescription.  She told me it was going to be 2-8 weeks before I started feeling better and that I needed to see the therapist regularly in the mean time. 

I began therapy.  Some of it was/is a little silly, but I have learned a lot of good things. One of the coping things she taught me was to find a new hobby or a current hobby where I could marvel in a finished product.  We came up with a few ideas and then made a list of ways to grow my skills in that hobby.

My inclination was towards furthering my photography skills, but then as God would have it, my grandmother called and said she was getting rid of her sewing machine in their move. She asked if I wanted it.

Yes, please.

The sewing machine sat in my foyer for a few weeks as I worked up the courage to even turn it on.  I didn't know where to begin.  Then one day I was at JoAnn's buying something.  The scrap fabric squares were calling my name, "make me into some bunting!" I picked up the squares and came home. 

Thank God for the machine's manual, the Internet and YouTube. I read, clicked, and watched until I could thread the bobbin and could choose the appropriate stitches for my project. 

I made some bunting for my kitchen.

 And half a dozen pillows.
Evie has been a very organized helper.
Maggie has not.
And then on to some pajama pants. (PS if anyone finds this fabric at JoAnns BUY IT ALL and send it to me!)
A first day of school flamingo skirt.

 A dance bag.
 And my first quilt - a table runner.
And I'm on to a couch blanket/quilt.



I am so excited that this hobby has come into my life. It's the perfect distraction. It allows my attention to detail fixate on something productive instead of harping on unnecessary things.  I wouldn't say sewing is cheaper than therapy (because like paper, I have expensive taste in fabric), but at least I have something tangible to show for it and to share with my family.  I love that I have been able to include my family in this hobby too.  Eric has helped me measure, do math, and come up with lay out ideas.  Evie has helped me pick fabrics and choose patterns. Maggie, well, she keeps me on my toes and cleans the floor.  And my mom has been on speed dial for advice and for being my quilting quality control (measure twice, cut once!)

We are finally back into the routine of school and activities. I feel like these projects are a sign that "WE MADE IT - WE SURVIVED SUMMER" and I treasure them even more because of what they symbolize for me.  I made it through another 3 months of depression. I am back on the other side.

All I can say is thank God for Zoloft, coffee and my sewing machine!


03 September, 2015

Lettuce Wrap Salad and Crispy Wontons


Salad:

¾ lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 English cucumber, thinly sliced (regular cucumber is fine)
2 carrots, peeled and grated (finely chopped works too!)
1 can sliced water chestnuts, chopped (optional)
12 cups chopped romaine lettuce 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake chicken 25 to 30 minutes or until done; let cool and shred. Combine chicken, cucumber, carrots, and lettuce in a large bowl; set aside. 

Almond topping:

½ cup sliced raw almonds

While chicken is in oven, spread almonds on a foil lined cookie sheet and place in oven until toasted, about 5 minutes. Stir once.

Dressing:

1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp honey
⅓ cup olive oil

Whisk together garlic, ginger, vinegar, soy sauce, honey and oil; pour dressing over salad, and toss to combine. 

"Fried" Wontons:

1 Tbsp dark sesame oil  (if you don't have it just double up on olive oil)
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp Sriracha hot sauce
20 wonton wrappers 
¾ tsp salt 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk together sesame oil, olive oil and Sriracha; brush mixture evenly over both sides of each wonton wrapper. Place wontons on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet; sprinkle with salt. Bake 8-10 minutes or until browned and crisp. 


Shopping Notes and Cooking Tips:

  1. If you've never bought wonton wrappers before, they're usually in the refrigerated case in the produce section - near things like the tofu, prepackaged salads or fancy juices.
  2. Sesame Oil is expensive so don't buy it just for this recipe. Olive oil will work just fine!
  3. I usually put the chicken and almonds in the oven. When the almonds are done I start rotating in the wontons. You can also wait for the chicken to finish and then cook the wontons while the chicken cools. The chicken may take a little longer to cook with the oven opening often.
  4. Shredding chicken takes 1 minute in a stand mixer. Use the flat beater on a low speed with no more than 3 breasts at a time.

This has been adapted from an emeals.com recipe.