Monday, December 28, 2015

10 Goals For This Week and Why Our Christmas Decorations Are Staying Up

I'm really looking forward to continuing our Christmas celebrations this week with family.

Happy Monday and Merry Christmas!  Before you find yourself in a hurry to pack up each and every Christmas decoration this week take a moment to reflect on the fact that it is only the 4th Day of Christmas.  That's right.  Traditionally Christmas marks the beginning of the Christmas season and not the end.  December 25 marks the beginning of the 12 days of Christmas which run through January 6.  January 6 is also Epiphany or the day that Christians celebrate the coming of the Magi.  In our home I have passed down the tradition from my parents of leaving all of the decorations up until we celebrate the coming of the Wise Men on January 6.

While you might feel a rush to pack everything away once-don't!  Even if you notice your neighbor's decorations are all neatly packed away in the garage.  Instead choose to incorporate just a little more memory making this week with your family.  Were you secretly hoping to bake "Christmas Cookies" with your children before Christmas?  Pencil that right into your week because Christmas isn't over!  This week I"m planning to spend lots of time enjoying Christmas music, books, traditions, and even a project or two that didn't happen before December 25.  I will even be fine tuning an arrangement of We Three Kings to play on Sunday so there is sure to be a lot of Christmas music in the Emerson home.

This Week's Goals:

Marriage, Mothering, & Family
1.  Plan a fun at home date for New Year's Eve.  With young children in our home we honestly enjoy spending the evening at home much better than a late night out.  I'd love your suggestions for our celebration at home.
2.  Whisk the family off on a Day Trip to Columbus, OH.  We are looking forward to visiting COSI while we are there and possibly the Topiary Park depending on the weather.
3.  Continue to enjoy Christmas with my family this week.  I'm hoping to finish reading The Nutcracker, and make candy or cookies with the children.

4.  Finish reading Professionalizing Motherhood.
5.  Workout three times.  I would also like to take advantage of the kids being on break (from both schoolwork and therapy) to head to our gym at least once.  We bought Evangeline a new bathing suit for Christmas and she keeps begging to go to the pool.

6.  Sew a birthday gift for my sister-in-law Amber.
7.  Get rid of 50 items in 50 minutes!  Want to join me this week in this area?  The plan is to set the timer for 50 minutes and quickly find 50 items that no longer need to live at my home.  These items will be passed onto family, friends, or dropped off at the care mission.
8.  Write a letter in order to straighten out an insurance mistake.

Ministry & Friendships
9.  Visit my dear friend Sarah who has been one of my best friends since I was a little girl.  She is on bed rest right now and I'm hoping to bring her some cheer.  Last week I was blessed to spend time with two other dear friends from my teenage years.  I'm so thankful that we are such good friends after all these years.  We enjoyed the museum with one friend and the Festival of Lights at the zoo with the other.

10.  Work on advertisement for my tutoring and piano business.  I'm so excited to begin teaching piano lessons and offering tutoring again.  Due to Evangeline's health concerns I took last semester completely off.  Please help spread the word!

What goals do you have for this week?  Does your family continue to celebrate Christmas after the 25th?  How do you celebrate the New Year?

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Our Simple Christmas

This year for Christmas we opted to take a nice relaxed approach.  We cut out a few things in order to simplify Christmas and I am so thankful.  Together we decided to enjoy decorating our home, hosting a Christmas dessert fellowship, building a gingerbread house, enjoying a few outings, reading through Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, and enjoying a thick stack of Christmas books.

On Christmas morning we just took it nice and easy.  Brandon and I woke long before the children.  Eventually Brandon couldn't contain his excitement any longer and we woke them up!  What a sweet memory to hold in our hearts.

Together we enjoyed such a lovely morning of just being with one another.  We opened a few gifts, played with new toys, and enjoyed a leisurely brunch.  I baked a German Puff Pancake for the first time that was a smashing success (and so very simple).

 After plenty of time spent at home to relax we headed to the Farm (my parents home) to enjoy Christmas with extended family.  It was such a delight to enjoy our sweet family which continues to grow.  Elijah and Evangeline especially enjoyed playing with cousin Paisley pictured above.  They just laughed and giggled for hours.  What a great reminder of exactly how Christmas should be.

While at the Farm we enjoyed a lovely dinner together and opened more gifts with family.  (Evangeline is pictured above with her great grandmother.)  For our family the holidays always come with divided hearts since it is incredibly rare that we see both sides of our family on the same day.  (I think the last time it happened was two years ago for Thanksgiving right after Eva was born.)  We are never rushing from one Christmas party to the next since our families live so far away from one another.  I'm thankful that we were able to travel to Arkansas for Thanksgiving with Brandon's side of the family and enjoy Christmas with my side this year.  We also celebrated Christmas with Brandon's parents when they came to visit for Eli's birthday earlier this month.

My youngest niece Paisley.
Overall Christmas was such a blessing and very relaxed this year.  I'm hoping we can continue this tradition for years to come!  I treasured this Christmas and Advent season where we have been able to really focus our hearts on Christ. 

How did you and your family celebrate Christmas this year?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

November Sewing Projects, A Sweet Memory, and Simplicity 5936 Again

I had so much fun sewing with Meme in November.

Yes we are more than halfway through the month of December but I thought I would share what I was busy sewing in November.  Everything I made in November except for the following jumper is actually a Christmas present so this will be a short post.  Rather than spoil a nice surprise I will only be sharing the jumper that I made for Eva.  Stay tuned after Christmas to see all the gifts that I made.
Brandon's grandmother Meme amazed me with her sewing skills!
 Over Thanksgiving the family and I loaded up and headed to Arkansas to spend close to a week with family.  One of my favorite parts of the week included the afternoon where Meme (Brandon's grandmother) and I had a sewing party!  We had the absolute best time sewing right alongside one another.  Meme is pictured in the photograph above and if you look closely you can see that we each had a sewing machine.  (I'm actually blessed to keep a sewing machine and a small drawer of sewing supplies in Arkansas so I often sew while visiting.)  We sewed all afternoon while the children played and had the best time.  Seriously I am ready to hop on a plane to Dallas with my sewing machine just so we can do it all again!  Meme at the sweet age of 92 sewed five stockings!  I was amazed at her stamina.  I know that I will always treasure the memory of my sewing party with Meme.  

During our "sewing party" I actually sewed Simplicity 5936 (pictured above) for Eva.  This was my second time making the pattern and it has to be one of my favorites.  I"m still kicking myself for not taking the time to trace the pattern last year since it is out of print!  Evangeline is almost the exact size that she was at age one I was able to use this pattern again and sewed a size 1/2.  I think it is so strange that patterns include a size 1/2 because that is never a size that you see in ready to wear clothing.  

The jumper was easy to sew and actually turned out a little bigger this time since I made the seam allowances a little bit smaller.  I sewed view C again and added 6" total to the length.  Eva was so tickled with her jumper even if you can't tell from her face in the picture.  She kept saying "I wear my turkey dress.  I wear my turkey dress."  

What about you?  What have you been sewing or crafting this month?  Are you working on any large projects or sticking to more manageable smaller projects?  

You might enjoy reading:

Simplicity 5936 Toddler Jumper Review (last year)

Monday, December 14, 2015

This Week's Goals

The weeks leading up to Christmas are always busy.  In fact, they can be downright chaotic.  This year I'm hoping to be more intentional with how I spend the days leading up to Christmas.  It's always hard because I think each one of us has a tendency to get stressed out with Christmas just around the corner.  I find it helpful to ask myself, "In thirty years what is going to matter most to me?  Will I be sad that I didn't mark every minuscule deep cleaning item off of my list or will I be thankful that I took the time to make the memories that are important: teaching my children the true meaning of Christmas?"  Here are a few of the items I hope to accomplish this week in between all of the memory making!  

1.  Continue reading Unwrapping the Greatest Gift in preparation for Christmas with the family.  (We are actually a few days behind so hopefully I can squeeze in a few extra readings this week.)  I"m also anticipating lots of time snuggling up on the couch reading a huge stack of Christmas books.
2.  Attend 3 therapy sessions with Evangeline.  I'm super excited because after this week we are taking off for two whole weeks!  Not a single therapy session or doctor's appointment surrounding Christmas.
3.  Spend the afternoon at the museum with friends.

4.  Wash outside windows and possibly hang wreaths.
5.  Sew two Christmas gifts this week.  Sometimes I think the hardest part of making a gift is actually deciding what to make!  This week I need to make a gift for my six year old cousin and it is so hard to narrow down exactly what to make.  I'm also hoping to finalize a "realistic" sewing list for the next ten days.
6.  Purchase final gifts by Friday so that I do not need to do any shopping next week.  
7.  Address and mail 50 Christmas cards.  

8.  Begin reading one of the three books that I have resting on my night stand.  

Ministry & Friendships:
9.  Host a Christmas Party at our home.

10.  Spend time helping my grandmother one afternoon.

What goals do you have for this week? 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

November Reads

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: A Short Guide to Making Over Your Mornings--and Life  by Laura Vanderkahm: I really enjoyed reading this book filled with tips and ideas for maximizing one's time.  Although I'm not clocking in at a paying job every morning I do take my job as a stay at home homeschooling mom very serious.  There is so much that I hope to accomplish each day and I must say that this book was so helpful.  The book itself is concise and could easily be finished in one sitting.  At one point last month I even caught the happy hubby reading this book which actually fueled some great discussions.  I am so thankful that he took the time to also read this book!  We talked of course about productivity but also had a great conversation about how we were spending our family time.  One part of the book includes a discussion on what successful people do on the weekends.  It was incredibly helpful for me to read through this section and really determine some goals for each weekend.  I am more encouraged to make our weekends fun family times rather than times to catch up on housework.  (Weekends matter so much more to me since our life has taken on a more hectic schedule with all of Eva's many appointments each week.)  I must say that I have been so satisfied with the way that the last few weekends have played out in our family thanks in part to the encouragement to be intentional with my weekend time.

The Boy in the Alamo by Margaret Cousins: After hearing an excellent discussion of this book at our local co-op I ordered a copy to read with Eli.  The story chronicles the tale of twelve year old Billy Campbell who makes his way to the Alamo.  Characters in the book include Davey Crockett, Jim Bowie, and Santa Anna.  I read this book aloud in November to Eli and he absolutely loved it.  Historical fiction does an excellent job of helping to solidify history in one's mind.  This is such a great read filled with excitement that I would highly recommend to elementary or middle school age children.

Surprised by Suffering: The Role of Pain and Death in The Christian Life by R.C. Sproul: This book has been on my bookshelf for the past few years.  I can't remember exactly why I purchased the book but I do know that it is a book I have been putting off.  I knew when I saw it last month on my shelf that I needed to read it.  I am so thankful that I did.  The past few months in my own life have been difficult.  My family and I have been walking a difficult road as we wrestle with Eva's chiari as well as other things which are beyond the scope of this blog.  I have also had a heart that has just ached as I have walked alongside a number of families in our church who are experiencing grief and heartache.  This book has been a healing balm for my soul the past few weeks.  I needed to be reminded that as Christians we should NOT be surprised when suffering comes our way.  I was reminded in this book that "because of Christ our suffering is not useless."  We really should expect sorrow and pain in this life.  As believers we do not despair when the hard things in life come our way because we have redemption before us.

My Pantry: Homemade Ingredients That Make Simple Meals Your Own by Alice Waters: Throughout this book the author shares her philosophy of cooking at home and includes a plethora of interesting recipes and tips.  I am looking forward to trying a few of the recipes but there are many recipes that call for such expensive ingredients that I doubt I will ever make them.  I had high hopes for this book since the back cover mentions preserving.  You all know how much I enjoy an afternoon of good, old-fashioned canning!  That section of the book proved to be a huge disappointment.  There were few canning recipes and none that I plan on trying.  I also think the title of the book is very misleading.  I would really have appreciated actual detailed lists of exactly what the author's home pantry includes.  That said the book itself is beautiful both inside and out.  It would make a beautiful book to use in decorating one's kitchen.  I also really enjoyed the illustrations which were drawn by Walter's daughter Fanny Singer.  I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

What books did you read in November?  What are you reading in December to help prepare your heart for Christmas?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

This Week's Goals

A beautiful sunset at my parent's farm.

Phew!  It feels good to be home after a week filled with traveling out of state to visit family.  We had a lovely trip but were gone almost the entire week.  This week I will be trying to balance the many responsibilities and appointments that we have with allowing my children to rest.  It always takes at least three days for my children to recover from a long car ride.

This week I am turning my attention towards Advent.  It is my prayer that our entire family can be intentional this coming week to begin preparing our hearts for Christmas.

Here are my goals for the week:

  1. Take the children on a nature walk one afternoon. 
  2. Attend 3 appointments with Evangeline this week.
  3. Begin reading Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas with the family.  We used this book last year and I was so excited to begin that we actually started a day early.  
  4. Complete a list of activities for Advent.  The happy hubby and I had a great time dreaming up activities with our children on Sunday.  We will be incorporating many of their ideas and throwing in a few surprises!    
  1. Sew or make two Christmas gifts this week.  
  2. Drop off consignment items.  
  3. Address twenty Christmas cards.
  1. Finish reading What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. 
  2. Begin reading The Greatest Gift.  
  3. Workout three times.  
Ministry & Friendships:
  1. Attend a funeral for a friend's grandfather.  
  2. Spend time preparing a Christmas offertory this week.  Honestly it's really hard to decide what to play in December because there are so many choices!  
  1. Spend time helping my grandmother one afternoon.
  2. Turn in a big project I have been working on for months! 
What goals do you have for this week?  How have your goals changed this week in light of the fact that it is now December?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

McCall's 4236 Sew A Baby Sleep Sack

This was the third time I have sewn a baby sleep sack using McCall's 4236.  I thought it was high time that I write a review about it.  I'm always on the lookout for good patterns or sewing projects.  I appreciate it so much when others share about their sewing projects.

As a mom of two myself I absolutely love gifting others with a baby sleep sack knowing that it will help keep their baby both warm and safe.  There is no fear of a baby smothering with a blanket in the night and no chance of the baby kicking off their covers.  This is one of my go to gifts for babies born in the fall or winter.  For this project I again chose McCall's 4236 view C in a size small.  In my experience this will fit a baby for more than just a few pounds as the pattern indicates.

This pattern is straightforward and easy to sew.  My only caution would be to make sure that you don't stretch the fabric in any way when you are sewing around the arm holes.  I've had a little trouble with things looking wonky if I stretched the fabric in any manner.  The only other change that I made was finishing the edges with a serger.

Back view of McCall's 4236 Baby Sleep Sack

I made one of these sleep sacks for my daughter Eva and it worked like a dream. She slept in it almost every night for months.

My daughter Eva in her sleep sack. 

Thanks for stopping by to check out this review of McCall's 4236 Baby Sleep Sack!  

If you enjoyed this post you might also enjoy:
Sew a New Native Sling: McCall's 5678

What is your favorite gift to give as a baby shower gift?

Monday, November 16, 2015

This Week's Goals

Happy Monday!  How was your weekend?  We had a nice time despite Eva being under the weather one day.  Yesterday afternoon we enjoyed a lovely walk as a family.  

1) This week I will be focusing a lot of attention on Eva's therapy and care.  We will be attending three therapy sessions this week and at least one appointment with one of her physicians.  Next week we are taking the entire week off from therapy in honor of Thanksgiving!
2)  Have an at-home date with the happy hubby.
3)  Enjoy an outing as a family.  I'd love to go hiking again but we will probably head indoors since the weather is turning cold.

4)  Sew two Christmas gifts this week.  I have lots of ideas up my sleeve.  Now if I could only find more time in my day!
5)  Spend an hour clearing out clutter and organizing our third bedroom.

6)  Have labs drawn early one morning.
7)  Attend my yearly checkup with my doctor.  (Did you know that almost every health insurance company pays the entire cost of a well checkup with your doctor?  There are also a number of routine labs which are covered completely free!  If you do schedule a "well checkup" with your doctor be sure to ask that it is coded correctly.)

Ministry & Friendships:
8) Write four thank you notes this week to friends who have really blessed my heart in the past two weeks.
9)  Prepare a nice collection of songs for worship on Sunday.  I will be playing a lively arrangement of Come Ye Thankful People come as the offertory.

10) Spend an afternoon helping my grandmother.

What are your goals for this week?  

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

October Reads & Money Making Mom

The Ministry of Motherhood: Following Christ's Example in Reaching the Hearts of Our Children by Sally Clarkson: This book was such a blessing to my heart as a mom and I simply can't believe this was my first book by Clarkson.  As I was reading the book I found myself highlighting like crazy and making dozens of notes.  I was so encouraged in my pursuit of motherhood that it felt like I had invited Mrs. Clarkson over for afternoon tea. So much of motherhood is about training & discipling your children in the ways of the Lord.  How I pray and yearn,
 "that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children."  Psalm 78:6

This book was the sweet shot in the arm that I needed this month to encourage me in purposeful mothering.  Please note that I did receive a review copy of this book from Above The Line.  All opinions are my own.  

Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie:  I picked up this book for the sole reason that I simply adore Sarah Mackenzie's podcast The Read Aloud Revival.  It is one of my all-time favorite podcasts to listen to and I find myself so encouraged to build a culture of reading within our home.  Although her book didn't focus on reading, I gleaned so much from Mackenzie's insightful book.  I appreciated many of the things that she said and plan on incorporating many of the ideas from the book into our daily routine.  The best idea I gleaned from the book was the idea of having a focused, intentional period of the day set aside for important things that I want to cover with my children but so often get squeezed out.  We have set aside about twenty minutes each morning for our own "Morning Time" and it has been lovely almost every morning.  I am sure that what we actually do during our morning time will change with the seasons.  For now we use this time to talk about our plans for the day, enjoy a few books, sing a few songs, and have a short devotion.  I also applaud Mackenzie for not constantly plugging her personal blog Amongst Lovely Things.  This book was so inspiring that it inspires me to seek out her blog as time permits.

Homeschooling 101: A Guide to Getting Started. by Erica Arndt: As a fan of Erica Arndt's blog Confessions of a Homeschooler I really wanted to love this book.  Sadly I didn't.  (I really dislike leaving negative feedback about books because I can't imagine just what goes into writing a book.  I also really do enjoy her blog and her youtube videos.)  This book was so incredibly basic that it is one of those books that I am relieved that I didn't purchase.  I had great expectations for this book and expected it to be filled with great ideas about learning at home.  I don't want this to sound overly harsh but the entire book just felt like it was filled with plugs for the author's blog and contained minimal helpful information.  If you feel like you are completely clueless and don't have an earthly idea about homeschooling then this might be helpful.

Money-Making Mom: How Every Woman Can Earn More and Make a Difference by Crystal Paine: One of the great trends that I have noticed over the past decade is the increased number of women who are creatively making part-time jobs work for their families.  I know so many friends who work opposite shifts from their husbands or squeeze a work at home job into their day while their young children are sleeping.  Since becoming a mother almost six years ago I have earned a small income from a variety of different jobs.  Paine shares openly and honestly about her past business failures and successes.  This book is jam packed with money making ideas for moms to find creative ideas to make an income without always committing to a full time job working 9-5.  I loved this book and plan on revisiting many of the ideas in this book in the future when Evangeline's therapy decreases. This book really helped me to see that I am right where I need to be during this season of life.  Yes more money would always be great but during this time I really need to focus on all of the hats that I am currently wearing.  Please note that I did receive a free copy of this book from the Money Making Mom launch team.        

The Time Chamber: A Magical Story and Coloring Book (Time Series) by Daria Song:  I have secretly been intrigued with the idea of an adult coloring book ever since I heard about them this summer.  Doesn't it sound so relaxing to sit leisurely coloring away?  I really enjoyed coloring as a young child but I don't remember spending long periods of time coloring once I learned to read on my own.  My son is reluctant to color (as most active five year old boys are) so I picked this up in hopes of encouraging him in artistic pursuits.  Eli is rather intrigued by the idea and loved looking through the pictures with me.  I also thought it would be such a fun activity to do with my children.  Just think, a mom with her own coloring book!  Ha, ha.  This book looks so inviting and would appeal to a wide variety of adults.  Please note that I did receive a review copy of this book from Blogging For Books.  All opinions are my own.

What about you?  What books did you read in October?

Monday, November 2, 2015

This Week's Goals

How was your weekend?  Ours was a little productive, fairly relaxing, and filled with fun!  We all enjoyed our church's annual Trunk-or-Treat and bonfire.  Eva dressed as a ladybug and Eli dressed himself as Captain NBC from American Ninja Warrior. 

Setting goals helps me to live my life with purpose and intention.  I hope that you are encouraged to this end as you set your goals for this week.  

Here are my goals from last week:

Marriage, Mothering, & Family:
1)  Enjoy an out of town date with the happy hubby!  We had a blast getting away and out of town for just over 24 hours.  It is so refreshing!  
2)  Attend two therapy appointments with Evangeline and one meeting with a coordinator.   So thankful for the progress Eva is making!  
3)  Take both children on a fun outing one afternoon.  We had originally planned on a zoo trip but it was raining.  We spent a lovely afternoon at the local library picking out a basket full of books and movies.  The children and I also enjoyed playing two games at the library which you can check out while you are there.  

4)  Finish reading The Ministry of Homemaking, Teaching From Rest, and Money Saving Mom.  These two books were really good.  I had the opportunity to read a pre-release copy of Crystal Paine's new book Money Saving Mom which is available for purchase as of today!   
5)  Schedule yearly checkup.  

6)  Schedule family pictures.-Still not sure where we are going to squeeze these into the next few weeks.  
7)  Swap out both children's summer clothes for their winter clothes.  This took forever but I am finished!  
8)  Sew one Christmas present. -I have about 30 minutes left to finish. 

Ministry & Friendships:
9)  Learn a new song on the piano.  I played Cindy Berry's arrangement of Rejoice The Lord Is King yesterday for the first time.  
10) Attend Women on Mission and Trunk or Treat.  Women on Mission was canceled this week but we did have a blast at Trunk or Treat.  The happy hubby and I dressed up as Publisher's Clearing House.  Brandon dressed up in a suit as Ed McMahon complete with balloons and a giant check.  I dressed up in my bathrobe and curlers as the lady at the door who screams, "Oh my!  I'm going to quit my job.  I can't believe it!"  It was lots of fun but we forgot to snap a picture!  Eva dressed up as a lady bug and Eli was a American Ninja Warrior.  

11) Spend a few hours helping my grandparents.
12) Write two blog posts including one post about Eva's feeding therapy.  

This Week's Goals:

Marriage, Mothering, & Family:
1)  Attend two therapy appointments with Evangeline.
2)  Enjoy a date with the happy hubby.
3)  Weather permitting I hope to take the children to the zoo this week.

4)  Visit the dentist for a dental cleaning.
5)  Finish reading Teaching From Rest and complete chapter 5 of The Wisdom of God: Seeing Jesus in the Psalms & Wisdom Books.  

6)  Finish sewing at least one Christmas present.
7)  Pack up my summer clothes and de-clutter my closet.  I'm hoping I can also get the happy hubby on board with this project but we will see.

Ministry & Friendships:
8) Write a note of encouragement to a friend going through a difficult time.  I am also going to spend some additional time this week praying for this friend.
9)  Catch up with a friend this week via telephone.
10) Write and mail 6 thank you notes by Thursday.

11)  Work four hours this week from home.
12)  Write three blog posts.  I am hoping to blog more frequently from now until Christmas.

How did you do on your goals last week?  What goals do you have for this week?  Have you started working on any plans for Christmas?  

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Eva's Feeding Therapy Update Part I

The day Evangeline ate a banana.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, a Facebook friend, or a real life friend you have probably been following the story of Eva's recent health concerns.  Our world was completely turned upside down when in July we found out that my daughter has a chiari one brain malformation.  We met with a neurosurgeon last month and were relieved to find that they were not anxious to perform decompression surgery this fall.  We are scheduled for a follow up mri and neurosurgery appointment in March but for now the majority of Eva's medical care involves feeding therapy 2-4 times per week.

If you happen to be wondering, "What in the world is feeding therapy?" you are not alone.  I didn't even know that such a thing existed four months ago.  Feeding therapy involves working directly with food through a progression of steps to help a child hopefully one day eat food on their own.  I found it interesting to learn that both occupational therapists and speech pathologists are involved in feeding therapy.  I don't think all children involved in feeding therapy see both speech and occupational therapy but in Eva's case she does.  Each specialty focuses on a different area and we have been thrilled with Eva's progress in both areas.  In my non-professional opinion her speech therapists work more closely on how Evangeline is actually chewing the food, what her tongue is doing at the time, and how her chewing muscles are developing while the occupational therapists focus more on the sensory aspect of eating.  They both actually sit down with Eva and  have her eat during each therapy session.

Eva is delayed in her eating skills and does not eat what is typical of a 24 month old.  Right now our main priority is that Evangeline would eat real food and continue to grow.  For months we have begged the Lord to give Eva an appetite and a desire for food.  Prior to August she never appeared hungry and wouldn't ask for food or show signs of hunger.  I still remember the day about two months ago when she looked up at me and said "I eat."  Never before have I broke down in tears when my child asked for food.  You see aside from nursing, she had never asked me for food.

Eva drinking juice from a nosey cup for the first time.
Today Eva continues to have difficulty with food but she has made so much progress.  It really does feel like a miracle that she has made as much progress in therapy.  Let me just take a moment to say thank you to each of you who have prayed for Evangeline.  Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.  It means so much.  Thank you also for the many friends and family who have personally called, sent cards, mailed care packages, or squeezed money into my hand with a wink in your eye saying, "Please take it, it's for Eva."  Words can't express just how much our family has been blessed by your encouragement.  You have truly helped to bear our burden the past few months.

To date Evangeline will tolerate most food being placed on her tray and will even lick most of the foods with encouragement.  Last week she actually took four bites of a banana!  The next progression in feeding therapy is to have Eva take bites of food and then eventually one day to swallow them.  She continues to receive the vast majority of her calories from Pediasure and I look forward to the day when we can reduce how much Pediasure she is drinking.  Her oral skills are developing and we continue to work on building up the muscles in her mouth so that she will not grow too tired from chewing that she stops eating.  

Part of Eva's difficulties with food also involve sensory issues.  She works closely with two occupational therapists during her actual meal times.  They enjoy sensory play together and then sit down to work on actually touching, licking, and attempting to eat food.  We also work weekly on oral, stimulating exercises with a Nuk brush or vibrating toothbrush.  At first many of the sensory exercises seemed incredibly silly but I have seen so much improvement in Eva's tolerance of sensory stimuli.  Eva will even tolerate one of the vibrating toothbrushes without crying!

I've thought a lot about whether Eva really has feeding difficulties and sensory issues or whether she is just plain difficult or lazy when it comes to food.  In my professional mom opinion she really does have feeding issues.  She's not just trying to get attention or be difficult the vast majority of the time.  (I have been concerned about her lack of eating for over a year.)  Yes I would say that about 10% of her food resistance is attitude but the majority of it is a true problem.  We are incredibly thankful for the grace that God has shown us in giving us wonderful therapists to walk alongside us during this journey.

You might also enjoy reading the following posts where I have shared more about Eva's health concerns:
My Daughter Has Chiari
What The Neurosurgeons Had To Say 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Sensory Play: Apple Stamping


This week part of Evangeline's occupational therapy involved stamping with apples!  Eva has been working with apples in feeding therapy for the past month so this was the perfect sensory activity.  It was such a fun activity for both kids that I really enjoyed participating in. 

Our occupational therapist Mrs. T showed me how to cut the apple so that it was easy to hold.  What a great idea!  It definitely made it a lot easier for both children to stamp with the apples.  You could also try stabbing the apple with a fork if you didn't want to cut the handle. 

We simply used washable paint on a paper plate and then stamped on plain white paper.  You could also use acrylic paint but it is a little harder to remove from little hands.  I would also recommend an old sheet or tablecloth to protect your table.  We have an old fitted sheet that fits nicely on the table to protect it whenever we decide to enjoy a messy art project. 

Eva was a little hesitant at first but I was so excited to see that she was fairly willing to participate.  (Earlier this summer she couldn't tolerate the messiness of paint on her hands.)  Eli had a great time and was eager to participate in a messy art project. 

This was such a fun activity for both children this week.  I am sure that we will repeat this activity many times (especially this winter).  You could also cut the apple in the opposite direction and to make a star design in the middle which I hope to do next time.

What about you?  Have you ever stamped apples with your children? 

Monday, October 26, 2015

This Week's Goals

We were so blessed last week to attend the local aquarium.  
Happy Monday friends!  It's time to set some goals for a fun, productive week.  This is sure to be a week filled with activity at our home.  

Last Week's Goals

Marriage, Mothering, & Family:
1)  Attend two therapy appointments with Evangeline.  They went well and we even did a fun, sensory craft that I hope to share later this week.  
2)  Take the children to the museum this week.  (Our pass expires at the end of December so I really want to squeeze in a few more trips.)  One of the biggest adjustments we have had in the past few months was the utter lack of free time to go on outings and meet up with friends for playdates.  This week we definitely made up for our lack of playdates and we were able to hang out with three different friends on separate occasions. Hooray!  Let me also encourage you to make friendships a priority in your life even if you are a busy working mom.  I got together with three of my friends this past week and all three of them are busy working women.  Play dates don't have to happen just in the morning.  We enjoyed a playdate one evening and enjoyed a trip to the museum on a Saturday.   Getting together with friends will bless your heart at anytime of the day.  
3)  Have an at-home date night.  - The happy hubby and I spent some good time together but I didn't put as much time into it as I usually do so I guess I don't get to cross this one off.  

4)  Exercise three times this week.-  Yes!  
5)  Finish reading The Ministry of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson.  -I'm 80% of the way through the book  and I hope to finish the rest tomorrow.  

6)  Finish sewing a baby gift.  Pictures coming just as soon as it is delivered.  
7)  Pack up children's summer clothes and get out ahead boxes.  Write a detailed list of what I need to purchase for each child.  -I started this process and did get out all of Eli's size 6 clothes.  We went through them but I still need to pack up all of his summer clothes.  I also need to start weeding out his size 5's.   

Ministry & Friendships:
8)  Meet up with a friend for a play date this week.    We blew this goal out of the park!  
9)  Accompany my husband on a visit this week.  This was super important and I am so glad that I made this a priority.  

10)  Work from home four hours this week.  -I only worked two hours.  
11)  Write about Eva's incredible progress in Feeding Therapy over the past few months.  -I wrote out some thoughts but didn't write anything up yet on the blog.  

This Week's Goals:

Marriage, Mothering, & Family:
1)  Enjoy an out of town date with the happy hubby!  
2)  Attend two therapy appointments with Evangeline and one meeting with a coordinator. 
3)  Take both children on a fun outing one afternoon.  

4)  Finish reading The Ministry of Homemaking, Teaching From Rest, and Money Saving Mom.
5)  Schedule yearly checkup.

6)  Schedule family pictures.
7)  Swap out both children's summer clothes for their winter clothes.  
8)  Sew one Christmas present. 

Ministry & Friendships:
9)  Learn a new song on the piano.
10) Attend Women on Mission and Trunk or Treat.  

11) Spend a few hours helping my grandparents.
12) Write two blog posts including one post about Eva's feeding therapy.  

Yesterday the happy hubby shared the following quote by John Newton in his sermon which I simply adore.  I hope you find it helpful as you think about your goals in light of what Christ has done for you.  John Newton (author of the famous hymn Amazing Grace) said, 

“I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”  

May we all set our hearts on the Gospel as we think of ways to work diligently throughout this week.   

What goals do you have for this week?  Do your goals include any fun October traditions?  

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Our Visit To Monticello

Last month my family and I traveled to Washington D.C.  One of the main reason that we decided to drive included the opportunity to visit Thomas Jefferson's Monticello in Virginia.  

The drive through Virginia was absolutely beautiful.  My favorite part was driving through the Shenandoah Valley.  The happy hubby indulged my whims to stop at many of the gorgeous overlooks pictured above.    

Although the house is fascinating, the grounds at Monticello deserve just as much time as the house.  Eli was absolutely fascinated with the gardens and even spent time speaking with one of the gardeners.  When he found out that the gardener doesn't have trouble with rabbits eating their radishes he decided he wanted to move to Virginia!  Ha, ha!  (I never knew he was that concerned with rabbits eating our vegetables.)

The gardens at Monticello are striking and include a wide variety of crops.  The varieties grown are the same varieties that were grown during the time of Thomas Jefferson.  We also enjoyed learning more about Jefferson's gardening techniques and use of trellises.

Monticello actually overlooks the city of Charlottesville, VA.  The dome of the University of Virginia (which was founded by Thomas Jefferson) can also be seen from Monticello.  

Little Miss enjoyed the tour of the house but was a bit squirmy by the end of the tour.  She kept wanting to climb up into the beds!  They were intriguing since the beds were actually built into small alcoves between the rooms in order to save space.  I absolutely love visiting old homes and houses so I enjoyed every minute of our tour.   

We also enjoyed the small museum and had lunch at the visitor's center.

While at the graveside we were also greeted by a fawn.  

 Strolling around Monticello for a few hours was the perfect stop on our way to DC.  I found the entire visit fascinating and I am so glad we had the opportunity to make a great family memory together.

The last time we visited the home of a former President we visited Andrew Jackson's Hermitage located in Nashville, TN.  You can read more about that trip here.   

Have you ever visited Monticello?  Have you ever visited the home of a former President?