Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Mothers Faith ~ Mary's First Christmas

As all of you know, this last year has been one of EXTREME changes for the Brouse family. I can say, most of the changes have been expected: lack of sleep, lack of money, increased volume in the house, and lots and lots of love, joy and fair amount of drool. But one thing I did not expect was how much motherhood has really changed my perspective. And while part of me did think that would happen, I guess I didn’t quite “GET IT”.

But there were a lot of things I didn’t quite get. I’d heard about the depth of a mother’s love, but I didn’t get it. There’s fierceness about it that I never understood. There’s also an underlying terror to being a mom. There are so many “What Ifs” that one could drive a Mom crazy. What I trip and drop him? What if he cries and I can’t figure out why? What if I don’t get a cabinet latched properly and he ingests something harmful? And don’t get me started on the perils of learning to walk!! The first time he tumbled and hit his head on the end table, it was literally painful to me to see the bruise…I would have gladly taken on 5 bruises if I could just take away the owie from his one bruise.

As he’s reached milestones in the last year….rolling over, sitting up, standing, trying real food, first tooth, first steps....I can’t help but fast forward and now worry about his future, which compounds both the depth, fierceness and the terror of a mother’s love. What if he has a hard time making friends in grade school? What if he’s bullied? What if someone breaks his heart? And it’s during thoughts like that that I really understand a Mother Bear. Meaning, I will take someone OUT if they hurt him. ;) I’ve jokingly been known to say that this City girl knows a guy named Luigi back east who can make “problems” disappear. ** chuckle** And while I’m kidding…sort of…the fierce emotion behind that need to protect is very very real to a mother.

Which brings me to this Christmas….and yet another change of perspective.
Like you, I know the story of the Angel, Mary, Joseph and the birth of Jesus, but motherhood has given me whole new connection to it.

Over the past few weeks, my thoughts have been firmly set on Mary. And in a way, we were on the same path to motherhood. DON’T GET ME WRONG! While Will indeed “a” son of God, he’s not “the” son of God. No, what I mean is that this time last year, I too was about 15 months pregnant (at least it felt that way) And I know that there were never be a Christmas that happens that doesn’t remind me of the expectancy I felt a month before he was born.

But Mary, had to make long hard journey when she felt 15 months pregnant. (Kevin had a hard time getting me out of the house, I cannot imagine Joseph having to talk Mary in to taking that trip!) And I’m pretty sure she would NOT have been a happy camper during that journey. The physical discomfort, the worry about her unborn child, and the stress of the unknown would have driven and already hormonal, pregnant lady to the brink I’d think. Then to find out there was nowhere for them to stay…can you imagine poor Joseph having to deliver that little nugget of information to Mary? I can only imagine the “conversation” Mr Mouse and I would have had in the same circumstance.

Then think of that night….the night she labored. (And there’s a REASON it’s called LABORING!....IT”S WORK!) My heart just breaks to think of her alone, but for Joseph, without the comfort and aid of her mother or other women to help. Truly take a moment to think of it…a young woman laboring in a cattle shed, with only a young man who likely knew very little about childbirth to help. Can you imagine HER fear? HER worry? How about Joseph? I clearly remember the look of disguised of fear tempered with joyful expectation on Mr Mouse’s face when he walked into my delivery room in the hospital. And I try to think of how he would have been in Joseph’s place. He would have tried to wear the most patient and competent face he could have just to keep ME calm.

And then after all that labor and worry…..Jesus comes. There is NOTHING more vulnerable than a newborn. I can imagine Mary’s shaking hands cuddling her infant to her. I can imagine Joseph's face transformed with Joy. I can imagine the quiet aftermath as Jesus finds his first human comfort suckling at Mary’s breast.
Maybe it’s because I’ve now experienced a year of those tender moments with my son, that I can now so clearly see that real scene in my mind. And I know in my heart that young Mary felt the same sort of fierce, tender, and terrifying mother’s love for Jesus.


A young mother who probably had the same hopes for her son that I do for mine. But unlike me, she in some way knew that his path was already set by his heavenly Father. It’s unclear how much she knew or understood about what Jesus’ path would ultimately lead to, but I think she probably did consider that his physical end would not been good. And frankly, I’m in awe of her.

I don’t know how she did it. I mean I know my fears about my son and I know how all I want to do is to protect him from every type of harm that could befall him. Mary had to feel the same way about her beloved son. I asked myself how?

Clearly, the one answer is FAITH. Now, I’ve run many years with my faith bank on empty. By the time I was 9 years old my mother and my grandmother died. And over the next 15 years I lost my other 3 grandparents, 2 friends and 1 fiancĂ©. The final blow was when I lost my Father in 2002. I’ve felt for many years that I ought not attach myself too closely to people because they wouldn’t be here for long. I’ve spent many years angry with God.

But this year, as I felt a sisterhood based in mothering with Mary, I realized that her Faith allowed her to love and care for her son…knowing all along that he would never be hers…he would belong to everyone. She cuddled that baby to her breast, comforted him when he was teething, kissed away tears caused by skinned knees and mean people, encouraged him as he learned carpentry from Joseph and followed him as he stepped along the path that led him to Calvary.
What amazing faith she had!

This year, has made Mary very very real to me. I’ll never look at the Nativity Scene and see her as an ethereal untouchable Saint. I’ll see her as a woman, as a mother…a mother with a heart full of love for her son. With faith in God, strong enough to believe that no matter what happened to Jesus all would be well. And maybe I’ll be able to slowly keep rebuilding my faith bank keeping her as my example.

Christmas blessings to you!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See - A Review

Dreams of JoyDreams of Joy by Lisa See

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dreams of Joy is the conclusion of the story started with sisters May and Pearl in Shanghai Girls. I do suggest you start with Shanghai Girls. I will say though, Dreams of Joy was the better of the two. So even if you feel Shanghai Girls was only a moderate book, do persevere because by the end of Dreams of Joy, you will be VERY glad that you did.

We join American born and raised Joy, who in a fit of despair after the suicide the man she thought to be her father and the discovery that who she thought was her mother, was really her aunt, seeks what she believe to be her utopia behind the Bamboo Curtain in Chairman Mao Zedong's Communist China. Her Aunt/Mother Pearl (who raised Joy as her own after she and her sister narrowly escaped from China to the U.S.) follows Joy back to China in a desperate attempt to get her safely home.

Dreams of Joy has many delicate layers which intertwine in ways you don't notice until you finish and have time to reflect. Lisa See does a wonderful job of showing life behind the Bamboo curtain in the time of Mao in contrast to how life was just 20 years earlier before May and Pearl escaped. Nothing is as it seems and all is covered by a false pretense of what it should be rather than what it is. Such is the relationship between sisters Pearl and May. On the surface, the closest of sisters who've never been apart, yet a turbulent relationship tainted by jealousies and lies but cemented by love. And of course Joy finds her "utopia" of rural China during Mao's Great Leap Forward to be anything but utopia. Instead she learns about loss, famine, death and horror.

The story moves well. I was compelled to do more research on China and Mao's reign after the taste that Lisa See used as her backdrop. In a true testament to how much I loved this book, when I finished it, I could not go right to another book. I wasn't ready to let go of the characters quite yet and needed a few days to let them go.

One final suggestion, if you've not read anything by Lisa See. Start with Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Why? Because it is set in China about 75 years prior to the start of Shanghai Girls. And by starting there, you can really understand 1) foot binding and 2) the true extent of changes and turmoil experienced in China during a relatively short period of time.

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

I Never Really Got it Before

I'm exhausted. No...really....really exhausted. This weekend has been a crazy fueled mishmash of food prep (for Mouse), shopping (for us all), laundry (piles and piles and piles), cleaning (he got sweet potatoes caked where??), and desperately trying to get caught up on some office work. Hello!! It's budget season you know and as the Controller, it's the 2nd busiest time of year for me. And to top it all off, Mr. Mouse had a train show today so he wasn't home at all today.

Somewhere around 5pm today, Mouse hit his "end." You mommies know what I mean. Nine months old, doesn't want to play, doesn't want to eat, doesn't want to be held, doesn't want to be put down, tired tired tired, doesn't want to sleep. You know...the END. So, I pulled out my last tried a true trick. My hair.

See, I have reasonably long curly hair which I most often wear up. But Mouse loves it. He loves it when I put it down and he can pull on it and touch it. One of our all time favorite games is that we sit forehead to forehead and I flip my hair up over both our heads and tickle his face and neck with my hair. Yes, I know, it's weird. Couldn't even tell you when I first did it, but it's been one of the few things that can stop his "end" from becoming a full blown meltdown.

So around 5pm today, we're sitting on the living room floor. Only 1/2 of the laundry was done, haven't touched dinner, only got about 2 hours of office work in when I really needed 6. But here I am, forehead to forehead with my 9 month old with the world darkened because we're both now hidden by my dark hair. He's giggling as I'm tickling him and he's getting spit all over my hair because he has 2 teeth coming in and is a drool machine. He lets me cuddle on him now, he's tired and though he's never been a cuddling type of baby (who would have figured) he is now because he's happy and tired.

At that moment I really understood what I've heard others say about the love you feel for your child is like no other. I get it now. I get that every fiber of my being wants and WILL protect his body and spirit. I get a love so fierce that it's frightening.

I married late. I was 40 when Mr. Mouse & I tied the knot...first and only marriage for us both. Thus when we were blessed with Mouse, it was humbling and awe inspiring to us both. Before that, when I was in my 20's and 30's and all my friends were having their children I thought I knew about this kind of love. But I didn't. I had the first spark of it when Mouse was born and since that moment it's been slowly enveloping me. But not until today, did I really REALLY get it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Almost Wordless Wednesday - Playing in the leaves!

Fall in West Michigan means crispy air, lots of leaves and enjoying the last few days of comfortable outside weather before winter hits and the accompanying many feet of snow. Mouse got to play in the leaves for the first time!

Okay, fun to look at and touch, but how do they taste?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Herb Crusted Pork Tenderloin - Recipe

It's no secret that I want to be Paula Deen when I grow up. I had the extreme honor of meeting this wonderfully sweet, talented and just plain funny lady in 2008. So today I'd like to share with you one of her delicious and EASY recipes.

Prep Time: 15 Min. (I LOVE THIS!)
Cooking Time: 1 Hr. 45 Min. (approx. based on size of your roast)
Sit Time: 20 Min.

1 (4-pound) boneless pork loin, with fat left on
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon dried basil or 2 teaspoons fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon dried rosemary or 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.

Place the pork loin on a rack in a roasting pan. (I spray the rack with Pam first to help with clean up.) Combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl. With your fingers, massage the mixture onto the pork loin, covering all of the meat and fat. Make sure you get the sides as well.

Here's mine ready to go in the oven.

Roast the pork for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 425 degrees F and roast for an additional hour. Test for doneness using an instant-read thermometer. When the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees F, remove the roast from the oven. Allow it to sit for about 20 minutes before carving. It will continue to cook while it rests.

Here's my roast fresh from the oven.

A couple more comments. Yes the temp seems high, but trust the recipe. This allows you to roast without pre-searing the meat. Do not overcook! This will cause pork roast to be far too dry. Equip your kitchen with a meat thermometer and pull the roast at an internal 155 as directed. Finally, be sure to let the meat sit the 20 minutes as stated. This allows it to continue cooking slightly but also seals in the juices. Too often folks take roasts from the oven and cut right away. This is a huge roast no no!

And voila! Cut and ready to enjoy. You'll find this roast to me extremely flavorful, moist and easy to compliment with a variety of sides.

The evening I cooked this for dinner, I had a neighbor stop by the door to drop something off. He paid me a lovely compliment asking what was cooking because it smelled delicious!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Almost Wordless Wednesday - First Fair!

The Brouse House folks got to enjoy Mouse's first County Fair. He was so curious to look at all the animals (we walked through many of the barns). So much so that we had to switch carriers from our rear facing Ergo to our front facing MacClaren. Mouse just HAS to see everything and is happiest facing the world! I wish I hadn't messed up with the camera in the newborn animal barn because seeing him checking out the baby piglets (one of the 4H kids held one of the piglets in Mouse's lap letting him pet and touch the piglet) was just too adorable. Here's Mouse checking out the bunnies. Was just a special day all around!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

This was the first time Mouse pulled himself up onto his feet all by himself!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

VTech Peek At Me Bunny Giveaway at Being Alison

One thing I love about the world of blogs is all the GREAT giveaways. Not only is it helping my family save money by winning toys and gifts instead of buying, it also a way for me to be introduced to all sorts of new products and toys.

The first time I saw the VTech Peek At Me Bunny, I fell in love with it!

Right now, one of my favorite blogs, Being Alison, is hosting a giveaway for this great toy. Check it out! Being Alison VTech Bunny Giveaway

While you're at it, check out some of the other great infant and toddler toys offered by VTech. VTech Infant Toys

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Hunger Games - Review

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The premise is simple. At some point in the future, after almost obliterating ourselves the USA emerges as Panem. Panem is comprised of the ruling Capitol and 12 districts. Each year the Hunger Games are held for as a reminder to the districts and as entertainment for the Capitol. The players are chosen from the children from the districts, two from each, boy & girl, and the games are to the death. Only one victor shall prevail.

From the beginning I just couldn't shake the feeling that I've read bits of this story before. Take Shirley Jackson's Lottery, add to it Stephen King's The Long Walk, sprinkle with a dab of The Running Man (King again) and voila! The real problem I intellectually had was that the three stories I just mentioned were just hands down better than The Hunger Games. Now don't get me wrong. This is indeed a serviceable and enjoyable read, sure to be a revelation to young adults who've not read the stories I mentioned previously. There are certainly elements of the Game which are unique, frightening and compelling to Collins.

The story is told well, the characters are rather hollow though and sadly, the stay rather hollow through the rest of the trilogy. While I could review all 3 of the books separately, I won't. Hunger Games actually would have been better as a stand alone book. I have a perverse love of stories that don't wrap neatly up in a little bow as it allows my imagination to take over and spend time on what ifs. The other 2 in the trilogy are again serviceable but I can't say I was surprised by much in the plot "twists." Nor are could they be considered stand alone reads. I was further disappointed in Collins' choice to kill off the ones who had obvious targets on their back from the get go.

In the end,I'll have to settle on a 3 star rating (yes, I know that will make me unpopular). For the record, during the time it's taken me to type this, I've vacillated between 3 and 4 stars, but in the end will have to go with 3. I'll end with advice to read the other stories I mentioned in this review; particularly Jackson's Lottery and King's The Long Walk.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Little People Zoo Sounds Giveaway

One of my favorite bloggers, Felicia at Go Graham Go is hosting a wonderful giveaway sponsored by Fisher Price for Little People Zoo Sounds. Be sure to check out the review and enter the giveaway . Giveaway ends 9/27.

Monday, September 12, 2011

My Review of TUGBOAT TOY

Originally submitted at UncommonGoods

Get ready for some splashing good fun in the bath or the pool with this trusty tugboat. She floats just fine, but she's always ready to take on water with the help of the handy scoop-and-pour spout on her bow. Made from 100% recycled plastic milk jugs. No BPA, PVC, phthalates or external coati...

Tugboat = Tub Fun!

By Brouse House Mouse from Three Rivers, MI on 9/12/2011


5out of 5

Pros: Durable, Well Constructed, Easy to Control

Best Uses: Young Children

Describe Yourself: First Time Parent

Was this a gift?: No

Our son (8 mos) just transitioned from his wash pod to the big tub and this is one of his first tub toys! It's perfect for rinsing his head/hair and he has already started pushing it around the water himself. We're firm believers that well made, simple toys are the best! This is both and sure to be a tub favorite for a long time.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Peachy Monday - Recipes included!

Saturday, we stopped at our little farm market to see what my favorite Amish sellers had. We are so lucky to be surrounded by farms (Amish & Non-Amish) thus this time of year is filled with wonderful local produce. Since Mouse (7.5 months old now) has started on "solid" food, I've been making everything he eats. Two reasons for that: 1) It's simply cheaper. Getting produce directly from farmers is cheap and we are friends with several farmers who simply just give us produce out of friendship. 2) I know exactly what goes into the food. It's the fruit, the vegetable and, if needed, water.

I was thrilled to see one of my favorite vendors at the farm market had fresh peaches. Don't let anyone tell you differently, fruit and vegetable DO taste better the fresher they are from the vine/tree/plant. And the peaches I bought were picked that morning. We also got some snap beans (aka green beans), peppers and eggs.

But today was all about peaches! I made Mouse some peach puree and Mr. Mouse & I a peach crisp.

Peach Puree Baby Food
* Wash Peaches
* Cut peaches in 1/2 and pop out pits
* Place cut side down in glass baking pan (I used 2 8X13 pans. I suppose you could use metal, but I've always used glass) & add water to cover peaches by about 1/2 inch or just over. (Err on the side of extra water rather than too little)
* Place pans in 400 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes. More important than time though, is that the skin should start to wrinkle slightly. When that happens, pull them from the oven. Don't cook too long though because you'll evaporate your water and burn them.
* Pull peaches from pan (reserve excess water in measuring cup) and place on chopping board.
* Cut peach halves in half again. Peel skin from peach quarters. Use a small sharp knife if needed, but skin should really just peel off.
* Put skinless peach quarters into blender and puree. If needed thin with reserved excess water. Although I've never had to do that.
* Pour peach puree into clean ice cube trays. Cover trays with plastic wrap, gently pressing plastic down so it touches the puree. (This helps retard formation of ice crystals on the top of the peach puree cubes when they freeze.)
* Freeze over night. Then pop from the ice trays (can run warm water over bottom of trays if you need help releasing the cubes) and store in labeled freezer bags.
* Pop out cubes as needed; thaw & watch your baby's face light up when they taste peaches for the first time!

Now for the grown ups...try this recipe.

Peach Crisp

2 - 2.5 lbs of the freshest peaches you can find!
1/2 cup sugar
3 TBLS Flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg (optional)

Preparing peaches:
* Wash the peaches
* Bring a saucepan of water to boil on the stove
* Fill a clean sink or large bowl with very cold water
* Place peaches one or two at a time in the boiling water and boil for 30-45 SECONDS
* With slotted spoon, transfer peaches from boiling water to cold water-let them sit in the cold water for a couple minutes then transfer them to your work surface-repeat until all peaches are processed
* Cut peaches in 1/2 and remove pits.
* Peal skin from peaches using a small sharp knife if needed.
* Slice peaches and put into a bowl
* Add 1/2 cup sugar & 3 TBLS flour to peach slices and toss or stir till coated.
* Place peaches into an 8 X 8 baking pan (butter the pan if using a metal pan)

Prepare topping:
* Slice up softened butter
* Combine flour, sugar salt & cinnamon in separate bowl
* Cut flour mixture into the butter using pastry cutter or fork until mixture resembles course meal. (OK...I admit that I put the butter into my Kitchen Aid Stand mixer, put everything else in on top and let the mixer do the work.)
* Cover peaches with topping and toss a dash of nutmeg on top.
* Bake at 375 degrees for about 45-50 minutes.

If you want truly country style (per Mr. Mouse), serve warm with covered with a generous helping of cold cream.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Run by Blake Crouch – Bruckheimer of a story!

RunRun by Blake Crouch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**Takes a HUGE drink of water; wipes sweat from brow**

Whew! THAT was an adventure! Those match my feelings exactly after blowing through the swift read, Run by Blake Crouch. As noted in my last book review on The Land of Painted Caves by Jean Auel, I spent much of the summer slogging through the entire Earth’s Children’s series. Run, was the PERFECT antidote to that exercise in perseverance.

The premise is simple, what would happen if for some inexplicable reason a large segment of the US population went completely bonkers and tried to kill everyone else. What would you and your family do? RUN of course! If this book were made into a movie, it would be a Bruckheimer summer blockbuster resplendent with killer (literally) chase scenes heavy on CGI, a fair smattering (pun intended) of gore, likeable and slightly too competent heroes, and dotted with plot points just a little too convenient.

Did I like it? Absolutely! I liked it for what it was. Keep in mind we didn’t walk into any installment of the Transformers movies expecting the type of storytelling and character depth found in movies like The Kings Speech or The Black Swan. No, we came to be entertained by a wild ride quickly allowing ourselves a period of belief suspension just so we could have a little fun. Open Run with that mindset and you’ll be just fine.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wordless Wednesday...our TWINS!!!

Gotcha! ;) These twins, with their mommy, usually make a morning & evening round from the front to the back of our property. They love the wild crab apple trees that run along the north border of the tree line. Until this weekend, we had always spooked them when we tried to get a picture of them. Mr. Mouse finally snapped this last Saturday.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

FAR too much time on your hands – Giveaway Bullies

I’ve really loved discovering the world of Mommy Blog giveaways. As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, I’ve had to spend SOOOO much time these last seven months hooked up to a breast pump that entering giveaways and discovering blogs has really helped me focus away from how down I felt about my son never being able to latch properly. That said, I’ve recently happened upon a very weird phenomena…. Giveaway OCD stalker/bullies.

This may be rant-like but so feel free to hit the back button now. No really, it’s ok! Back button…

People who know me IRL, know that I am an extremely trustworthy person. My word means something. Mix that with my job which involves hands one oversight of hundreds of thousands of dollars, I think it’s safe to say I’m an honest person. But do I make mistakes? ABSOLUTELY! But to call one a “cheater” or “dishonest” about a SINGLE mistake? C’mon here…what’s really going on?

I’m aware of 4 mistakes I’ve made in giveaway entries. Allow me to explain, I keep a spreadsheet of open giveaways I’m entering on to help me keep track. I have a marking/coloring system which tells me what the daily/weekly/hourly entries are allowed on that specific event. It’s not as elaborate as it sounds, but helpful in keeping track of entries, wins, etc. For three of my known mistakes, I had miscolored something in the spreadsheet causing me to do daily entries for something, One mistake was that I got a time wrong on an entry and did a second entry too soon.

Now the interesting, and moderately scary part of this matter, is that for one of the mistakes, I caught but was unable to delete the entries because only the Blog Owner could delete the entries. So I emailed the blogger, apologized for my mistake and told them to delete the entries. While waiting for an email back from the blogger I received a RANTING email from someone who had also entered calling me a cheater demanding I delete ALL entries (not just the few that were in error) accusing me of being a scammer. Well I heard back from the blog owner the next day who said it was not problem and that she would just redraw if one of my incorrect entries was pulled. I deleted the email from the other person, blocked them and just moved on. No need to flame the fire of a lunatic.

For the other two errors my spreadsheet caused, I caught one and was able to delete the incorrect entries. But I did send an email apology to the Blog Owner who was very cool about the whole thing. For the third error, I found out about it because another crazy giveaway enterer sent me a series of really mean and successively demanding tweets over the course of four hours. The final tweets even included vulgarity because I didn’t respond to their earlier tweets quick enough for them. (Hello….wasn’t even NEAR a computer!)

Then just a day or 2 after that I get a cryptic tweet from someone who again is calling me a cheat because I made an error on the time of ONE tweet. ONE. Out of many many tweets. I responded to this creature because if I didn’t who knows if they would have gone deep end like the other twitter meanie! Really to no avail because I guess no one makes mistakes but me. I emailed the Blog Owner with an apology and asked him to please remove the ONE post in which I made a timing mistake. Regardless, not wanted to add flame to the fire of yet another troll, I just walked away from entering that giveaway because real life is stressful enough, I don’t need a Giveaway Nazi making it more so.

Recently, I happened upon one of three who had approached me with such vitriol in a post. And the creature is STILL alluding to a post as being a cheater; even though I haven't posted a single entry on the giveaway in question since. I’ve also noticed them trolling after me in other giveaways I’ve entered. Given this I really think there is a Giveaway MO which has a really mean Bully aspect to it. Meaning if someone is mean enough a stranger on the net, maybe they can just scare them away from giveaways to increase the odds for themselves. I don’t know. But it feels creepy and icky when I see someone still obsessing over MY post(s).

Here’s ultimately what I don’t understand. What in the world ever happened to common courtesy? Email addresses are readily available on giveaways and many of my entry posts even tie back to this blog. So how about a nice email introducing yourself and saying “Hey, just an FYI I think you may have made a mistake…..” It’s really truly a sad state of affairs when people are so quick to think the worst of you without even communicating with you personally, rationally and reasonably. And it even saddens me more to know that these people are raising children and grandchildren. I only hope they teach manners better than they practice them.

Bottom line is this, if you are concerned about fair entries; only enter contests on site with Blog Owner Moderation. That way, you know that the entries being posted are 100% validated by the person in charge. And guess what! That person in charge isn’t you. ;)

And the final irony in this that I've notice at least 2 entry errors made by one of these creatures. Do I care?'s just makes me chuckle.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Bane of a Completion-ist: Jean M Auel's The Land of the Painted Caves

The Land of Painted Caves (Earth's Children, #6)The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Being a completion-ist can sometimes be painful. Take the final chapter (thankfully) in this long running Auel series for example. I clearly recall when the first installment, Clan of the Cave Bear, found it's way into my adolescent hands. I was simply in awe. Titillating and unique, I devoured the book. So as the years slowly ticked by, in respect to Auel's original impact on me, I kept plugging through her increasingly bad installments. For a final hurrah, I spent the last few months rereading all the preceding books in this series in preparation to read The Land of Painted Caves. Folks who know me well, know that it's not the least uncommon for me to reread books several times through the years; sort of like revisiting old friends. I have to say though, the last (and final) turn through Auel's series took an interesting turn. I kept plugging away for the sheer comedic value. But dear Lori, this was not as comedy! Au contraire I say! I finally realized that there could be some amazingly good drinking games derived from the reading of these books. There are so many phrases, ideas and descriptions that were flat out copy/pastes of previous ones that it was hilarious. Had I taken a gulp of wine every time she recycled these phrases, I'd be a raging alcoholic!

As always, Auel, to her credit, was masterful at describing/creating details of every day life which I continued to find fascinating. Her characters were painfully laughable though; as was story arc. But I've been known to love bad movies for their badness and I guess in many ways, I feel the same way about this series. Had it been condensed down into 3 books (which it reasonably could have been), my feelings may be different. But that was not to be the case.

So dear friends, if you've wondered where I've been for the last 2 you know. Thank heavens I'm a relatively fast reader else I could still be slogging through cave after cave with the wunderkind Ayla (she did after all invent everything from flint fire starting to monogamy). However I'm back in this millennium now and will forgive Auel her story telling short comings because in the end, we all know I'm a sucker for a series and every time I open a book for the first time, I'm always hoping for the best.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Great Deal today at Zulily!

We are big fans of Halo sleep sacks!  So I was tickled chartreuse to see this great 1/2 off (actually a bit more than 1/2 off!) sale hit Zulily today.

Check it out because I'm sure they'll go fast fast fast!!!  I see some are already sold out.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Mouse was baptized last Sunday!  Although typically he "talks back" to our minister through many services, he was very quiet during the whole ceremony.  We are so blessed to have such a wonderful church family. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Parked Pony

My favorite memories of my Dad involve road trips.  He really was the master of finding the road less traveled and thankfully, I was often along for the ride.  My Mom died when I was nine and Dad and I really developed a very close bond over the years.  I was his side kick, his partner in antique hunting, train spotting, museum touring and seeing the sites of America one road mile at a time.  I learned to read a map at a very early age and he encouraged me to always find the routes that would take us off the interstate.  So it's really no surprise that when he earned his angel wings and went back to his Lord's side that the way I chose to use a chunk of the money from his estate to buy a car.  Not just any car mind you; the car I'd dreamed about since I was 8 years old.  A convertible Mustang.  

To say I love that car, is a bit of an understatement.  I really really love that car.  I love the heat of the sun on my head as I cruise back country roads.  I love the feel of the pipes rattling as I push her standard five speed transmission to the red line when I drag race a cocky boy off the line of a red light.  No, I really, really love that car.  

Thankfully, I married a man who loves the road as much as I do.  Given the choice to drive or fly somewhere, guess which we'll choose? We've put a lot of miles on my beloved Pony, but perhaps my favorite are the ones we've put on Friday nights. 

I'm always the last one home, and I used to peal into the driveway and just LAY on the horn to get him out of the house and into the car so we could go go go!  We've driven many many of the back roads of western Michigan on hot Friday summer nights.  With never a real destination in mind, some we'd try to find the smell of fresh cut hay, or a working windmill, or we'd just periodically shout out a direction and turn that way to see what we could see.   Nothing could help us shake off the stress of a long work week like a long top down drive.

It's summer of course, but things are quite different now.  This afternoon when I raced home from the office (I admit that I still have a bit of a lead to hear those horses runnin' under the hood!) it wasn't to get back on the road ASAP.  Nope.  Tonight I was just needing spitty kisses from my beloved Mouse.  He and Daddy were out for a walk when I got home, but seeing his blessed face light up when I caught up to them made my heart soar!

It may look a bit silly but there is a car seat base in the back of my Pony now.  And the top is up more often that it ever was in summers past because there's WAY to much wind back there for Mouse to enjoy a top down ride.  And though part of me is kind of mourning my Friday night escape rides with Mr. Mouse, another part of me knows that someday, when he's old enough, I'll hand Mouse the map and tell him to find me a back road to explore.  And when that happens, his Grandpa will be smiling down from heaven, whispering in my memory his "Rules of a Roadtrip."  And  that's how my Mouse, will get to know his Grandpa.  

Till then, my Pony is parked in the garage beside my winter beater; just biding her time. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Time for breakfast yet?  Still trying to figure out this new "cereal" thingy!

I like it!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Don’t Cry Over Spilled Breast Milk: What I’ve Learned about Pumping

When pregnant, I was so excited to attend a variety of birth and parenting classes.  The most important class for me was without doubt my class on Breast Feeding.  I took copious notes, followed up on suggested readings and had a solid plan for when my boy was born.    As with all plans, it deviated within several hours of our hospital arrival when it was decided that for the health of Mouse, I needed to have an immediate C-section.  So I had to let go of my hopes for our first feeding experience to happen during kangaroo care time, which would now become Mr. Mouse’s duty as they were busy sewing me back up.

Needless to say, plans went completely to the wayside when after 4 days of attempts for Mouse to latch our pediatrician announced that Mouse had lost way too much weight (much more than the Dr. was comfortable with) and that she wanted to put him solely on formula because he needed sustenance now!  We had consulted with 2 nurses and 2 lactation consultants to no avail.  She gave us one last lifeline, a visit to a 3rd lactation consultant and a different hospital.  She ended up being our angel!  Not because she had a miraculous way to get Mouse to latch properly.  No we came up with a plan I could accept emotionally and get my baby proper nutrition.  I’ve been pumping religiously every day now, 5-8 times per day, since late January.

I’d love to discuss the huge gambit of emotions this journey has encompassed, but that too is a topic for another post.  Today I want to share some pumping tips that I’ve discovered in my experience.  Let me first emphatically state, that what follows is just my OPINION!  I’m not a specialist, doctor or expert.  Anything I talk about below should be discussed with your doctor and/or lactation consultant before implementing.  
    • Buy the very best pump you can afford.  Trust me here…no, really, TRUST ME!  Be sure you put this item on your baby registry ASAP and hopefully a small group of your friends will chip in to purchase one for you.  I chose the Medela Freestyle Breast Pump, double electric.   Double means you can pump both breasts at the same time.  In addition to being able to run this via a regular wall plug, it also runs very well on a battery pack allowing you to be mobile. This is a WONDERFUL feature.  Yes, it was expensive.  I wasn’t lucky enough to get this as a shower gift, but I did watch sales like a hawk and used coupons with a sale to get the price down and it was still around $250.  Consider this though, pumping 5-7X per day for an average of 20-25 min per pump, for the last 5 months means this pump has now run about 23,250 minutes or 387 hours.  You want reliability.  You want quality.  Thankfully, I knew ahead of time that I would be returning to work and thought I’d just be pumping part time.  But even so, I chose this model because of the speed of dual pumping and the battery pack.  Thank heavens!  Because this machine is helping me get the very best food available for my son thus it’s worth every penny.

    • Don’t assume the horns (horns are the funnel shaped parts that cover your nipples and attach to the bottles) that come with your pump are the correct fit for you. I have very large breasts so imagine my surprise when I found the horns I was using were too large.   Horn size is  more related to nipple size and stretch than breast size.  I strongly suggest you speak with a lactation consultant to help you determine proper sizing if at all possible because they often have a variety of horn sizes you can usually try right there. The Medela web site also has instructions for measuring for proper fit as well.

    • Don’t waste your money on a fancy pumping bra!  Instead, put on one of your old bras that you don’t mind destroying.  Invert the small end of a pump horn so that it’s center on your nipple and draw circle with a pen.   Do this on both cups.  Remove the bra and cut out the circles. I actually suggest you do this with 2 bras because you’ll want to wash this bra daily; it WILL get milk stained. All you need to do to pump is to put on the bra, then, reaching into the cup place the large end of the horn centered over your nipple with the small end now extended out from the hole you cut. Attach to the pump and voila! Now you’re hands free pumping. If these instructions are confusing, please make a comment below that you’d like me to post a picture or two on how to do this. I’ll be glad to.

      • As my dear friend said, LUBE THEM UP!  You will want to stock up on Lanolin.  TRUST ME!  No, really TRUST ME!  I have 5 tubes around at all times, one in my breast pump pack, one in my bathroom, one on my dressing table, one in my purse and one in my night stand.  I didn’t like Medela’s lanolin.  While it was easier to spread, it stained horribly and ruined several articles of clothing.  Instead I’ve found that the brand Lansinoh is perfect!  EVERY time before you hook up to pump, spread lanolin on your nipples.  When you’re done pumping, re-apply.  When you get out of the shower, re-apply.  When you're getting ready for bed re-apply.  Get my meaning here?  While lubing your nipples prior to pumping is probably the most important time, your nipples will THANK YOU for being very liberal with lanolin. You nipples will be taking the beating with pumping and even with lanolin, it will likely get painful so do anything you can to help.   And speaking of nipple pain, just know you will have to cope with it.  One little thing I do after pumping, when I can, is after putting on my real bra and shirt, I’ll grab a can of pop from the fridge and gentle roll it over my nipples.  Do NOT do this directly to your skin!  I have several layers of fabric between me and the can.  But the cool can feels DIVINE!

        • Care & Feeding!  Be sure to follow the instructions for cleaning your pump and accessories that come with the pump.  If you lose them, look them up online.  Remember, this is your child’s food source!  You wouldn’t prepare dinner on a dirty counter or serve if on an unwashed plate.  Same holds true for your pump accessories.  One thing I’ve had problems getting cleaned well is the tubing.  Condensation occurs causing some discoloration. (To help dry up the condensation, be sure you run the pump several minutes AFTER you’ve pumped allowing the pumped air to help dry the tubing.) I’ve tried boiling and micro-steaming but after a while, just can’t get them clean to my satisfaction.  Thus I’ve replaced the tubing twice over the last 5 months.  It’s not too terribly expensive and gives me peace of mind.
        One of the biggest problems I’ve had with this arrangement has been the emotional stress of not feeding directly from my breast.  It’s hard, especially since so many tout the bonding benefits.  Know this.  Mouse knows I’m Mommy.  Mouse reaches for me, cries for me and sometimes just wants Mommy.   And your baby will too even if you’re like me and must pump to feed.  I also proudly state that I am indeed breastfeeding my boy.  It’s the milk God has created in my body to nourish him and help him grow.  Whether it be from a bottle or breast, I still call it breastfeeding.

        Wednesday, July 6, 2011

        Wordless Wednesday

         Having a nice chat with Mommy during his bath, until......

        ..he noticed the camera!  I call this shot, "Sheesh Dad! Naked here!!"

        Friday, July 1, 2011

        Prayers for Baby Katie!

        Ever just have a news story touch you deeply?  This happened to me yesterday.  I was in the kitchen, holding my 5 month old son and playing kissy face trying to distract him while his bottle was warming.  I heard on the news about an Amber Alert for a 4 month old missing girl in Ludington.  Holding my boy and knowing they were so close in age, my heart began to physically ache.

        After I fed him, and put him down for a snooze, I looked up more of the story online and was horrified to learn that it is feared Baby Katie was left somewhere outside unattended by her possible "father" after a fight with her mother.  Now, I all can imagine is that poor lovely girl abandoned and alone in the woods.  I cannot imagine the fear, nor can I imagine she'll survive much longer.

        Here's a link to several news articles on the matter.

        Maybe it's because Mouse is so close in age that I'm so affected by this.  I don't honestly know, but I'm truly heartsick for this lovely innocent baby.   My one request this afternoon if you happen upon my little blog, is that you pray that Katie is found SOON!  The imagined sound of an abandoned infant screaming alone in the woods haunts me, as it should all of us.

        Friday, June 24, 2011

        Can I get a Mulligan for yesterday?

        I realize I've not done any back story of myself, but I'll do a brief "here I am" summary.    My husband and I married later in life (met in late 30's married in early 40's) and our dear son, we'll just call him our Mouse for now, was born in January of this year.  He was a surprise and a blessing indeed!  While we had officially tried to get pregnant several years ago, it wasn't till we quit officially trying that God choose to bless us.  Until this time I was a very hardcore career girl in the corporate world.  My official title is Corporate Controller for a regional real estate development company and I spent many many hours on the job often feeling defined by my position in many ways.  Then, welcome to mommyhood.  Talk about jarring!!!

        I'm also very lucky because the owner of the company is a family man.  He understands the importance and since I've been a long term, very loyal and trustworthy employee, granted me the opportunity to telecommute with flex hours 2 days a week giving me extra time to spend with my son.  I'm essentially back to my full workload at the office now.   Dropping Mouse off at daycare that first time (he spends his other 3 days a week with Miss Joy) was close to the hardest thing I've done emotionally in a very long time.  Remember, I'm the Controller, and that actually translates over into my off work hours as well.  I simply do not handle situations I cannot control well.  Period.  And I HATE surprises.   Perhaps someday I'll share why, but for now, I'll try to stay on topic.

        Yesterday started off as usual at 4:30am.  Our morning routine is that Mr. Mouse feeds Baby Mouse while I get the house ready for the day, bags packed, lunches made, dishwasher unloaded, etc. then I sit down to my breast pump.  (DETOUR:  I've had to exclusively pump to get milk because Mouse could never latch properly to me...again, a story for another time).  The monitor sits on the counter opposite of me so I often see & hear the goings on in the nursery as Mouse eats and is put back to bed for a few hours so we can shower and start our day.  Much to my annoyance, Mr. Mouse often takes these times to watch shows on his IPad and generally pay attention to anything other than Mouse (my perception...not necessarily reality).    I look at the monitor from time to time to see Mouse blissfully sleeping and wonder what the heck Mr. Mouse is doing now instead of caring for Mouse.

        Now, keep in mind I'm highly jealous of Mr. Mouse.  Don't get me wrong!! I know I'm lucky to have a Mr. who is so very invested in helping raise Mouse.  But that Mom in me is just miserable that I have to sit hooked up to a breast pump while Mr. gets to feed, cuddle and love on the Mouse.  And it truly drives me batty that he seems to choose that **expletive!** IPad over our son.  I mean how can you look over that sweet little head to watch a year old repeat of Top Gear while that baby is staring at you lovingly while having his bottle??  Making it worse, is that I know in 2 hours I'm going to have to leave that child and a piece of my heart in Daycare.   And Mr. Mouse hasn't even STARTED feeding that child.  Looking at the clock again, I just know he's going to really hurry to feed him and get him reswaddled and back to sleep.  Really hurry... and SNAP!  The fury just blows!

        What you also don't know, is that recently it was diagnosed that I'm suffering from Post Partum Depression (PPD).    If you've never dealt with depression, likely you don't know that anger can be tied intimately with depression.  In my case, it most definitely is.   It's all wrapped up with feelings of inadequacy in being a good mom, good worker, good housekeeper, etc.  I feel like I'm only doing things half-assed nowadays.  It feels like I'm not doing one thing at 110%, as how I used to operate.  And all those feelings, sadness, failure, inadequacy, jealousy fed my anger yesterday morning till there was cartoon steam coming out of my ears!

        I burst into the nursery and at my most evil "yelling" whisper promptly proceeded to fillet Mr. Mouse.  Oh no, I didn't simply rage about that  I really said a few choice and awful things about his perceived inadequacy of being a father.  He simply stood up, looked down at me and said in his most seething whisper, "I already fed him and changed him and since I had extra time thought I'd watch something on my IPad" and pushed past me out of the room.

        Crushed.  Just crushed.  How could I have made a mistake like that.  And HOW could I have said those things to him??  I tried to apologize but he would have none of it and I don't blame him. Oh how I wanted that time back.  How I wanted a Mulligan so I could have possibly taken a needed step back and not let my emotions and my incorrect assumption lead me to say something to really hurt Mr. Mouse.

        Fast forward to that evening.  I apologized....oh how I apologized!  I think the worst was having my dear Mr. Mouse tell me exactly how deeply my thoughtless words hurt him.  So, very very painful it was to know how I hurt him.  Yet, he forgave me.  He also listened very carefully to why I felt the way I did;  that while my actions and words were completely inappropriate, the basis did have validity.  We'll be okay.   We recommitted again to holding each other accountable while not hurting one another.  Sometimes to just give each other a Mulligan because we love one another, imperfections, downfalls and all.

        One nice thing about being older newlyweds is that we know that married life isn't about one little moment.  It's a tapestry of moments, good and bad, that are uniquely woven together.   I couldn't imagine the tapestry of my life without the threads of Mr. Mouse and Mouse intertwined.  Keep in mind that intertwined threads, while adding beauty, also add support to one another.  A tapestry with thread just running one way will simply fall apart.

        I got my mulligan on yesterday; it's called today.  I assure you, I will not take it for granted!  Finally, that "Till Death Do Us Part" thing?  Well, we meant it.

        Tuesday, June 21, 2011

        And so I take the plunge....

        So after many months of blog following, giveaway entries, and general blog addiction I've decided to take the plunge myself into blogging.  Okay, so granted this is really best described as sticking my big toe in to test the waters rather than a full on plunge but one must start somewhere, yes?

        At worst, this will give me a place where I can talk about my life, express my fears and downfalls, and generally just be.  I'll warn you now, I've always been a painfully forthright communicator.  This is not always a good thing!  Because all that really means is that often the edit button between my brain and mouth (or my fingers in this case) disappears. 

        But here I plan to embrace my opinions and thoughts as my own.  They may not be "right," but they will always be my own and truths to me at that moment.