Tuesday, November 30, 2010

LOL/LOL: Recipes

LOL/LOL stands for Lots of Littles/Lots of Laughs. It is a blog series by moms who are overrun by small children have 3 or more little kiddos, talking about parenting, marriage, & life. After you read this post, make sure you check out Jamey's take on this same topic at Zehlahlum Family. And then please play along! Tell us what you think in the comments OR blog about it and post a link in the comments.

Recipes—yay! Now here is a post that I am really going to enjoy. I love to cook. It is so enjoyable for me to put different flavors and textures together and see what comes out in the end. That being said, I'm not the most creative cook. I like to follow a recipe… so someday when Lamb wants me to hand down our family recipes, I'll be handing her my Betty Crocker & Rachael Ray books.

Oh, and because I like to cook and like to follow recipes, I have a humungous cookbook collection. I collect cookbooks the way that some people collect trinkets. I love them! From the 4-simple-ingredients-to-make-a-gourmet-meal type to the it's-not-cooking-unless-it's-from-scratch type, I love to look at the pictures, see the ideas, compare recipes from one book to the next. Love. it.

So this morning I'm here to share a few of my favorite recipes with you. I hope these whet your appetite a bit, and I hope that you will share some of your favorites with me, either in the comments or on your own blog. Remember, I always love a new recipe! J


This is a tough one, because I'm not a big breakfast person, so I don't cook a lot of breakfasts. On Saturdays we have pancakes or waffles, but I typically use the "Supreme" pancake recipe from the back of the Bisquick box and a waffle recipe from the instruction manual that came with my waffle maker. But I will share one recipe that I like to make on Christmas morning.

Brunch Egg Nests
I'll admit, I almost didn't make this the first time I came across it. It sounds like an odd combination of flavors… but it is fantastic, and it is highly requested on Christmas morning.

  • 1/2  tablespoon  butter
  • 1/2  cup  sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2  cup  chopped cooked ham
  • (10-ounce) container refrigerated Alfredo Sauce
  • 1/4  cup  sour cream
  • 1/4  cup  milk
  • (10-ounce) package frozen puff pastry shells, baked
  • 4  hard-cooked eggs, coarsely chopped
  • Pepper, paprika, and parsley (optional)
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; add mushrooms and ham, and sauté 7 minutes or until tender. Reduce heat to low; whisk in Alfredo sauce, sour cream, and milk, stirring until thoroughly heated. (Do not boil.)
Fill each pastry shell with 1/3 cup mixture. Sprinkle evenly with chopped egg. Sprinkle with pepper, paprika, and parsley, if desired.


Ahhhhh, the crock-pot. Isn't it a wonderful invention? I am using mine more and more. It's so nice to just throw things in and know that dinner is already cooking by 9 in the morning. This recipe is one that our entire family—including my kids, who pretty much have no desire to eat meat ever—loves.

Crock-Pot Beef SandwichesThis recipe is actually from a freezer cooking cookbook, and it multiplies (and, obviously, freezes) easily.

  • 2 ½ lbs beef/chuck roast
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 packages dry dressing, Italian or Ranch
  • 1 pack buns
Place the roast in the crock-pot, top with water and dressing packets. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours or overnight. Shred beef. Serve on buns.

(PS – My hubby loves this with horseradish sauce.)


We eat a lot of chicken in our house. It's my meat of choice, and since I do the cooking… that's what we eat! It's also generally the easiest meat to convince my kids to eat, although those beef sandwiches above are actually their favorite.

Basil Cream Chicken
This is actually one of my more creative recipes. I found one online that I liked, then I tweaked it a bit and it turned out FABULOUS. I haven't made it in a while, though, so I hope everything is correct…!

  • 1/4 cup milk or buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 roma tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Noodles (I prefer fettuccini)
Heat oil in skillet. Pound chicken flat with mallet. Dip in milk, then in bread crumbs. Cook in skillet on medium-high heat until cooked through, just a few minutes per side. Remove from pan and keep warm.
Add the broth to the skillet; bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir to loosen browned bits from pan. Stir in the cream; boil and stir for one minute. Reduce heat; add the Parmesan cheese, bacon, tomato, basil, and black pepper. Simmer and stir until heated through. To serve, pour the sauce over the chicken and serve with noodles.


OK, this is one of my absolute favorite cake recipes, mainly because the cake itself is a little different from your typical carrot cake, and the decorating makes it look so cool. BUT it is very work-intensive, so I don't make it often. I was supposed to make this for Thanksgiving, but couldn't because I was so sick. L But I have all of the ingredients on-hand now, so I may be making it soon for some holiday party or another. This is actually a mish-mash of two recipes—the carrot cake itself came from Debbi Fields (as in Mrs. Fields' Cookies), but the candied carrot strips on the outside are a Martha Stewart creation. I love how this looks when it is done!

Carrot Cake

24 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
½ cup pure apple juice
1 ½ cups grated peeled carrots (3 or 4 medium)
1 cup shredded peeled sweet potato (about 1 large)
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled and chopped
½ cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
3 Tablespoons heavy cream

Cream Cheese Frosting:
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 pounds powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 3 layer cake pans.

Make the cake layers:
Put the butter and sugars in a large bowl and cream together until fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes, using electric mixer on medium speed. Scrape down the bowl. Beat in vanilla. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating for 20 seconds after each addition. Scrape the bowl.
In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Add dry ingredients in thirds to the butter mixture, alternating with the apple juice. Beat for 45 seconds after each addition and begin and end with the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl. Stir in the carrots, sweet potato, apple, pineapple and pecans, and blend thoroughly. Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops.
Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until wooden pick inserted in the centers come out clean. Remove the cake pans to wire racks to cool for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto the racks and let cool to room temperature. While the layers are still warm, brush each with 1 Tablespoon heavy cream.

Make the cream cheese frosting:
Put the cream cheese and butter in a bowl and beat until smooth using the electric mixer on medium speed.
Scrape down the bowl. Add the vanilla and lemon juice, and beat until combined. Gradually beat in the sugar on low speed until well blended and smooth.

Assemble the cake
Place a cake layer on a serving plate with wax paper under the edges and spread the top with a thin layer of the frosting. Place a second layer on top and spread it with a thin layer of the frosting. Place the remaining layer on top and frost the sides of the cake. Spread the remaining frosting over the top. Remove the wax paper. Refrigerate 1 hour before serving. (This is essential or the cake will fall apart when you try to cut into it.)

Candied Carrot StripsIngredients
12 large carrots
7 cups sugar

Using a mandoline, slice carrots lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick strips, and set aside.

In a small stockpot, combine 4 cups sugar and 2 cups water. Place over high heat, and bring to a boil, brushing the sides of the saucepan with cold water to prevent the sugar from crystallizing. Add carrots, and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until carrots are translucent, about 25 minutes.

In another small stockpot, combine the remaining 3 cups sugar with 1 cup water. Place over high heat, and bring to a boil, brushing the sides of the saucepan with cold water to prevent the sugar from crystallizing. When the sugar has completely dissolved, remove from heat. Use a slotted spoon to transfer candied carrots from the syrup in which they boiled to this new sugar syrup. Let stand until completely cooled; discard the old syrup. Transfer carrots and new sugar syrup to an airtight container, and store, refrigerated, up to 3 days.

To decorate cake
Set a wire rack over a baking pan. Using your fingers, lift one candied carrot strip from the sugar syrup, holding it over the container. With the thumb and forefinger of your other hand, gently squeeze the carrot strip and slide your fingers along its length, removing as much excess syrup as possible; lay the carrot strip on the wire rack. Repeat with the remaining carrot strips.

Gently place tapered end of a carrot strip in center of cake, and gently press it down the side of the cake; place a second strip next to it. Continue applying strips around entire cake. Form 2 or 3 strips into a decorative bow, and place on top. Cut cake, and serve.

If all goes well, you'll be left with something that resembles this:

OK, I could share tons more, but I think I'll call it quits for this morning. Speaking of cooking, I am actually cooking for my supper-swap group tonight, and having friends for dinner tomorrow, so I need to get my grocery list together… not to mention shower and get dressed before Lamb is up! Have a great day!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Just a glimpse

So obviously I didn't get a chance to post about yesterday.  It is 11:30 PM, and the only reason I'm still awake is that I am coughing too hard to sleep.  BLAH!  I don't think I have it in me to write a whole big post right now... but I had to just give you a glimpse into our day yesterday... just a preview of what is to come...

That's my niece on the left, Lamb on the right.  And why yes, they DO have matching dresses... and their dolls' dresses match too.  Is that not just the cutest thing ever???  And yes that IS a Nutcracker billboard behind them.  Can you guess what we did???

LOL/LOL tomorrow.  Girls' day review on Wednesday.

Thanksgiving Weekend Review

I would love to write several posts about the past week, but… I just don't see that happening. (Patti, how do you blog so often with TEN KIDS???) So I'm going to condense it all into one little roundup.

We had a nice Thanksgiving. Mr. Fantastic was home all day Thursday (I know it seems that should go without saying, but he is self-employed which often means crazy hours), and he made pancakes with the kids in all different shapes—letters, animals, people, whatever they wanted. They had a blast. I was still recovering from Tuesday's bout with the stomach flu, so I just watched, but it is always fun to see them enjoying time with their daddy.

By the time we cleaned up, got everyone bathed and dressed, and got our food together (corn casserole and deviled eggs), it was time to head to Nana & Papa's (my parents') house. It was nice to have the whole family together and let the kids all play and just hang out and relax. Mr. Fantastic and I were the last to leave, so our kids also had dinner there, and we had a chance to play "Jeopardy" on the Wii with my parents. Yes, after telling my children all blessed day that they could not play the Wii because it is Thanksgiving and it is time to just play without the aid of video games… we adults played 3 games of Jeopardy. (I did, by the way, let the kids play the Wii for a little while when we were done. I'm not that mean.)

And then came Black Friday. Black Friday shopping entered my life about 3 years ago, when Kohl's was going to have Candyland and Chutes & Ladders for $2 each. (I actually ended up getting them for free, but that's another story.) My mother-in-law is an early riser anyway, and Kohl's was opening at 5 AM that day, so I asked her if she wanted to join me in hitting Kohl's at opening. We had a blast, and a tradition was born. Every year we review all of the ads (OK, I review all of the ads… online… the second they are leaked… and I start checking in mid-October…), make a list of the items we want to find, pick a place to start right at opening time, and go from there. We shop, we have breakfast/lunch, we talk, we laugh—it's a great time. So this year it seemed that the main stores we wanted to hit were Toys R Us (which opened at 10 PM on Thursday night) and Wal-Mart (midnight). I know that Toys R Us is notoriously a bad place to be right when it opens… but I convinced myself, "How bad could it be? We'll just get there a little early and it'll be fine."

So we pulled into the parking lot at 9:30… and immediately pulled out. There were already hundreds of people lined up—in the cold, freezing rain—waiting to get in the store. HUNDREDS. We later heard that, by the time it opened, the line was over TWO-TENTHS OF A MILE LONG. Seriously, there is not a toy in this world that my children need that badly. In fact, the words "toy" and "need" do not even belong in the same sentence. That being said, I am NOT putting down anyone who was in that line. I know as much as anyone that part of the fun of Black Friday is just the "hunt", and I know for some people it's fun to tell the story of waiting for 2 hours just to get in the door or whatever. But not for me. That was beyond my limits.

Well, we drove around for a while, but finally determined that our options were to either go home and get some sleep and then head out the next morning, or drive to Wal-Mart and wait TWO HOURS for the sales to start. (The store is open 24 hours, so we could go in, but we had to wait until midnight for the Black Friday sales.) For some reason that I still don't quite understand… we chose the latter. We actually had fun checking out all of the pallets, figuring out where we wanted to be when the madness started, talking to other early shoppers, etc. And we did pretty much get the things that we wanted. But seriously, it was rather silly to wait 2 hours for $10 Wii games and $4 Zhu Zhu Pets.

The sale, as I said, started at 12:00 AM. We were done, paid, and out the door by 12:20. Yep, we were FAST. And efficient. And it was so nuts in that store that we didn't feel like leisurely browsing for the "fringe" items on our list. Honestly, this was our 4th year of being at a store right when it opened—and 2 years ago we were actually at that very same Wal-Mart—but this was the first year that it has felt a little too crazy, a little too panicky, a little too edgy. It wasn't as fun. I just wanted out.

So by that time, we had another three hours until anything else opened, and we didn't feel like heading back to Toys R Us yet, and I was starting to feel run-down from my post-flu recovery… so we went home and went to bed.

I was so glad that I went home. I got home and found Lamb in our bed, which is extremely unusual. I put her back in her bed and then fed Roo, who was crying, and got him back to sleep. I finally got to bed around 2:00ish, only to have Roo wake up again shortly after, and Monkey climb in bed with us (also unusual) around 3:30. I put him back to bed a few minutes later… but then at 4:30 Lamb was back in our room, SOBBING. It turns out she had a nasty ear infection. An earache is actually how she ended up in our bed with Mr. Fantastic in the first place, and apparently the Tylenol had worn off. We gave her more and I let her lay down with us, but by 5:00 she was still wimpering—and peppering me with important questions like, "Where do cats go when they die?"—so I took her downstairs, snuggled into the recliner with her, and turned on "Mary Poppins". I so appreciate that Mr. Fantastic was willing to deal with a baby who still wakes up in the night and a little girl with an ear ache and didn't call me to come home, but I was glad to be home for him—I don't know how he would have dealt with that all night. (Plus Monkey woke up in the morning with a very wet bed.)

So I got up in the morning, called the pediatrician's office, and got Lamb an appointment for 9:30.  My hubby offered to take her, and when I told her that Daddy was taking her to the doctor's office while I stayed home with the boys, she got this really serious look on her face and said, "OK, Mom.  I'll make sure he knows the right things to say."  I burst into laughter!  Obviously, Mommy does most of the talking at the doctor's office, even when Daddy is there with us!

Anyway, Mr. Fantastic took her to the appointment, and now Lamb, who just finished a round of amoxicillin (sp?) and still has a nasty cough and managed to get an ear infection, is on an even stronger antibiotic--a mix of amoxicillin and something else--plus cough medicine and Tylenol.  Poor girl.  Let's hope this time the medicine really knocks the whole thing out.

When they left the doctor's office, they went to the grocery store to get her prescription. While they were there, they bought the ingredients to make a three-berry pie, because it turns out he had told her a story on Thursday night (when she was up with her ear ache) about the first girl to ever make a three-berry pie… so when she asked if they could get the stuff to make one, my husband (who has never made a pie before in his life) said, "Of course we can!" I love that man.

And when they got home, what did I do? Why, I headed back out to the stores with my mother-in-law, of course! This time we took Roo with us to make life easier on Mr. Fantastic. (It was after 11 AM, so I figured the super-craziness would have died down a bit.) And we had so. much. fun. We hit several stores, had almost NO lines, and got most of the things we wanted. It was way more enjoyable than Wal-Mart had been at midnight, and I think from now on we may skip the openings and just try to start around 6 AM and see where the day takes us.

We got home around 7:30, and I came home to a freshly-baked three berry pie, and into the top crust they had carved a big heart... and inside the heart it said "We love Mommy."  It was so sweet.  How did I get this lucky???  Oh, and it was actually quite yummy, too. Have I mentioned that I have the best husband ever?

And Saturday… well, Saturday was just a nice stay-at-home kind of Saturday that we don't get often in our zoo. FIRST OF ALL, the big kids got up on Saturday morning, came in to wake up me and Mr. Fantastic, and then ran out of the room, announcing that they were going downstairs. I dragged myself out of bed (Why do my children insist on being morning people?) and threw on some sweats, and was just getting ready to go down and start on breakfast, when Lamb called, "Mommy! Come downstairs and see!"

And this is what I found…

They had the entire table set for the four of us, all of the cereal out, everything we needed.  Isn't that wonderful? They did all of that themselves! They were so proud. And I was proud of them. What amazing little people they are. J

So anyway, the rest of the day, I helped the big kids get their room all clean, I cleaned up Roo's room a bit, I got out Christmas decorations, I scrubbed our kitchen chairs and eating area… I worked hard and enjoyed it. Mr. Fantastic watched the Ohio State/Michigan game (Go Bucks!). My niece came over to spend the night. I had some crabby moments—I'm sure not from lack of sleep or anything—but overall it was a good day. Oh yeah, except for one thing… Roo did not take one. single. nap. the entire day. I don't know what was with that kid, but I was ready to pull my hair out. But then he'd look at me and just break out into a huge smile, and my heart would melt, and I'd just snuggle him up and then get back to work with a smile.

OK, so I'm realizing that this actually IS going to have to be a 2-part post. Yesterday was such a fun day, and I want to tell you all about it and share pictures and everything… but for now, I have to take a break. Lamb will be up at any moment to start getting ready for school, and then the madness of Monday begins. J Keep your eye out for another post later today!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

LOL/LOL: Laundry (and some housekeeping)

Better late than never, right? My LOL/LOL post was supposed to be up yesterday, but I spent all day Monday and Tuesday absolutely kicking butt getting stuff done around the house, with the hope of spending today cooking, baking, and getting out the Christmas decorations. So I thought I would post last night—a little late in the day, but still on the right day… but within a few minutes of getting my kids to bed, I was hit with a nasty stomach bug. Oy vey. So instead of spending today cooking, baking, and decorating, I spent it puking, sleeping, and laying on the couch. Not exactly what I had planned. BUT I am very thankful for my mother-in-law, who took the day off of work and took care of my kiddos all day so that I could just rest and recuperate, and I already feel tons better.

So back to the laundry post. I also wanted to have pictures to show you, but my camera battery is dead… Seriously, this post was just not meant to happen! So you'll have to take my word for it for now, but I really do want to post pictures someday because you just won't believe it until you see it.

Because laundry in this zoo is not your ordinary laundry. Oh no. We have a system. I cannot take credit for this system. If you know me IRL, you know that I often say Mr. Fantastic is borderline OCD and I am a tornado. I am not organized at all. But my laundry is.

Our system is one that Mr. Fantastic invented in his single days, and it has been tweaked over time for changing needs and space. In our current home (which we built, and for which Mr. Fantastic drew all the plans—isn't he wonderful?), our laundry room is on the 2nd floor, where all of the bedrooms are. It is wonderful. I LOVE that I do not have to trudge down to the basement to do the laundry, that I don't have to remember to take the dirty clothes down or deal with carrying the clean clothes up. It is worth every inch of space that it takes up there. Anyway, our laundry room is small, but one wall is full of 4 shelves, each of which holds 3 laundry baskets. For those of you who weren't math majors, that equals TWELVE laundry baskets. TWELVE. Each basket is for a different "category." Yes, TWELVE of them. I'm not going to give you the run-down right now, but you have to know that the laundry room is one of the most organized rooms in my house.

One of the baskets is actually a catch-all for the kids. They don't have a hamper in their room, so they just run their clothes to the laundry room and put everything in one basket, and then I sort it before I do laundry. This will likely change with time—you know, the time when we don't want our children running around the house naked—but for now it works great. It's also nice for times when I hand them some random kitchen towel or pair of socks that I found downstairs or things like that, so I can just tell them to throw it in the laundry and they have a designated spot to put it.

Anyway, in our zoo, Monday is Laundry Day. We do very little else on Mondays—it used to be nothing else, but Mondays have also become therapy day. Fortunately they come to us, and they don't mind finding me in my sweats, because Laundry Day = Pajama Day. I don't worry about any other housework on Mondays except unloading, reloading, and folding. Now, I feel like I should give a little disclaimer here… This is generally the way things are, but since The Great Breakdown of 2010, my mom has been coming over on Mondays to fold my laundry, so I just keep the machines running and she folds it all for me. It's a lovely luxury.

Also, everyone here except Roo is responsible for putting away their own laundry, at least to a degree. Lamb and Monkey both have things that get hung up—a lot of things for Lamb, actually—and I take care of those, but they do the rest. Monkey is still learning how to put things where they go and how to carry one or two things at a time and keep them folded, instead of just grabbing the biggest pile he can carry and stuffing it all in a drawer. But honestly, in a drawer is better than in the laundry basket, so I'm willing to give some wiggle room there. But yes, Mr. Fantastic puts away his own laundry as well. It's not a matter of me refusing to do it or anything, it's just how we've always done things. I don't really know why.

So… ummmmmm… that's about as interesting as I can make laundry for you, friends. Tune in next week when I tell you how I get the grime out of my shower tiles. No, not really.

LOL/LOL stands for Lots of Littles/Lots of Laughs. It is a blog series by moms who are overrun by small children have 3 or more little kiddos, talking about parenting, marriage, & life. After you read this post, make sure you check out Jamey's take on this same topic at Zehlahlum Family. And then please play along! Tell us what you think in the comments OR blog about it and post a link in the comments.Oh, and if you're wondering where the housekeeping comes in, well… that actually has nothing to do with the LOL/LOL post. I was actually talking about blog housekeeping. First, I am looking for a sponsor or two so that I can do some fun giveaways. Do you have an etsy site or other site where you sell your own goods? Would you be willing to pass along a donation or even a discount for Roo's readers?

Second, thank you for reading, and thank you to the lovely person who nominated us for a bloggy award. If you enjoy hearing about life in the zoo, please click here to vote for our blog! I know this is still a very small blog, but I would love to see how many "likes" we can get! J

Third… ummmm… I'm pretty sure there was a third thing, but it's gone now, so I'll just leave you with…

Happy Thanksgiving!Enjoy your day with family, friends, and thankfulness.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Our last few days have been lots of fun, but very busy. So when Mr. Fantastic and I got home from a date last night ("Due Date"… just save yourself the time and money. Really.), I was thrilled to look at my calendar and see a big fat NOTHING for today. Actually, at 5:00 I'm supposed to go to a Christmas craft fair with my mom and mother-in-law, but I had the entire day here at home with my boys. And since next week will be full of cooking, eating, and shopping (We'll talk more about Black Friday in another post.), I need to focus the next few days on just keeping the house in order. So today was set to be a day of straightening, playing, cleaning, reading dinosaur books, etc.

That was the plan. Well, that was my plan. Apparently it's not how God thought it should go.

First, a confession. I didn't wake up with my full dose of compassion and patience this morning, so when Lamb also woke up less-than-happy, I had only frustration and short fuse to share with her. Poor girl. And so, when Monkey came up and said, "Mommy, I'm sick", I responded (as any good, encouraging, upbeat mother would), "No you're not. Go get dressed." Oops.

To be fair, this has become a common statement in my house, ever since Lamb actually was sick a few weeks ago. Now, any time that my kids are tired, crabby, or otherwise unhappy, they hope that "I'm sick" will get them out of whatever it is that they might not want to do. And he really didn't seem all that sick when he said it. He did seem rather sick, though, when he threw up at the breakfast table.

This is not a problem, I told myself. In fact, if it has to happen, today is a perfect day. I can turn on the TV for him, Roo can catch up on some much-needed naps, and I will get TONS done! Woo-hoo!

By 9 AM, Monkey was on his third outfit of the day. He was quite content to watch TV, but he wanted Mommy to watch it with him. I cleaned the kitchen, then sat down to some good old "Go, Diego, Go!" I tried doing some work that I could do while sitting, some craft prep or some online shopping or something like that, but then Roo chimed in. He hasn't thrown up, but he also has not wanted to be put down.

Distractions, distractions, distractions.

I recently finished a study called Becoming a Woman of Simplicity by Cynthia Heald. One of my favorite parts was her story about distractions. I wanted to quote it for you, but (of course) cannot for the life of me find my book right now. But basically she had set aside a day to work (writing), and interruptions kept popping up. She was getting frustrated… until she realized that the distractions were her work. These "interruptions" to her day were the things that God had placed in her day for her to do.

That's what my boys are today. They aren't distractions. They are the most important way I could spend my time. Snuggling, holding, tending to them. Loving them. This is what today is all about.

What "distractions" might just be more important than what's on your agenda today?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thankfulness & Down Syndrome…

…Yes, they really can come in the same sentence. Actually, the original title of this post was going to be "10 Reasons I'm Thankful for Down Syndrome", but I'm not quite there. But since it is a time for giving thanks, and since I had posted a while ago my rant against Down syndrome (among other things), I thought I would also share with you the blessings I have found in the midst of our journey.
  1. I am thankful that Roo is otherwise healthy. I know that Down syndrome makes him susceptible to other health problems, and I am not so naïve as to assume we'll never have to deal with health issues, but right now he is healthy. His heart problems are minor (relatively speaking) and don't require immediate attention, his eyesight is normal, he passed his hearing screening. We can spend our time with him enjoying, not worrying.
  2. I am thankful for every smile and laugh. As annoyed as I get when people say, "Those kids are always so happy," I am thankful that Down syndrome is not generally associated with severe behavioral issues. Roo is so happy and easy going, and such a joy to be around.
  3. I am thankful that my big kids will grow up with an extra dose of compassion. The love they already have for Roo is so tender and touching, and they are still completely unaware of his delays. They are going to be his biggest cheerleaders as he grows, and they are going to learn a lot about people with special needs and just caring for others in general.
  4. I am thankful that this is strengthening our family. The stresses of extra doctor's appointments, worries, bills, etc, could be taking their toll on us, but instead we are clinging together so tightly that we are growing closer.
  5. I am thankful for the support of our family and friends. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I am overwhelmed with love. So many people have supported us with prayer, notes and e-mails, babysitting, meals, fun distractions, and many other ways that I'm sure I am forgetting now. It has astounded me how willing people have been to step up and help in whatever way they can.
  6. I am thankful for the opportunities available to people with Down syndrome today. I recently had the opportunity to hear from a woman who has a 40-year-old daughter with Down syndrome. They adopted her daughter out of an institution at the age of 16 months, which is where parents at that time were encouraged to send babies with Down's (after which they told their friends and family that the baby had been stillborn). A new blogging friend recently shared some stories she had read or heard about an old institution out west. I am so thankful that this is not the life that my sweet Roo faces. He has opportunities and support and encouragement.
  7. I am thankful for quality time with my baby. Life with three little ones is so nutty, sometimes I wonder if I would ever spend play time with Roo if it weren't for the need to do therapy with him. I know he needs a little extra attention, so I make myself stop doing the dishes or laundry or any of the hundred other things moms do throughout the day… and I focus on him. Call it "therapy", call it "work", call it "play", all I know is that it is one-on-one time with my baby boy.
  8. I am thankful for the new friends I have made. Having a baby with Down syndrome is sort of like becoming a parent for the first time all over again, and I know when Lamb was born I needed camaraderie. The same is true now, and I have met some wonderful people in "real life" and through the blogging world. It is great to be able to share trials and triumphs and have this common ground to get to know people I otherwise wouldn't have met.
  9. I am thankful for the chances I have already had to encourage others with our story. Whether it is on this blog, in front of a group, or in casual conversation, God is already using Roo's story to allow me to help others. Sometimes it's people whose lives are also affected by Down syndrome, other times it's something completely unrelated, but God is teaching us through this and helping us to help others.
  10. I am thankful that I am not in control. When I try to look at the big picture, to see where we're going to be in a year, 5 years, 20 years… it's overwhelming. But I don't need to worry about that. God is in control, and He knows the plans He has for Roo, for Lamb & Monkey, for Mr. Fantastic, and even for me. We just have to take it one day at a time, which is much more manageable.
And you know what? There are more. I am thankful this Thanksgiving, trials and all.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds" –James 1:2

How could we NOT be thankful for this? ;-)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

LOL/LOL: Thanksgiving!

LOL/LOL stands for Lots of Littles/Lots of Laughs. It is a blog series by moms who are overrun by small children have 3 or more little kiddos, talking about parenting, marriage, & life. After you read this post, make sure you check out Jamey's take on this same topic at Zehlahlum Family. And then please play along! Tell us what you think in the comments OR blog about it and post a link in the comments.

If you were here last Tuesday… I wasn't. I'm sorry. Jamey and I didn't have a topic until the last minute, then we were both feeling the crunch and I had a cardiologist appointment for Roo and… we just decided to give ourselves a little break.

But now we're back and better than ever! Really! Are you thankful for that? Well, funny you should mention thankfulness, because it just so happens that we are talking about Thanksgiving today!!! You are SO GOOD at helping me with my segues.

I heart the holidays. And by "the holidays" I do not mean I'm-avoiding-saying-Christmas-so-I'm-just-going-to-say-Happy-Holidays so please do not send me any hate mail. By "the holidays" I mean Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, and all the merriment that surrounds the entire season. I absolutely love decorating and getting into the spirit and family time and traditions and parties and… well, food.

Unfortunately, the last year or two I have been very bad at the first part of that—the decorating and getting into the spirit. Just for fall/Thanksgiving—my Christmas decorations always make their appearance on time and I have NO TROUBLE AT ALL getting into the spirit for that one. Last year I don't think I got out any fall decorations at all. This year, there's a hurricane vase full of gourds… and a paper pumpkin centerpiece that Monkey made a church. And that's it. We are working on one more project, though. I combined a couple of craft ideas I found in different magazines to make a different kind of thankfulness tree, which hopefully will be ready today. The kids and I made the Painted Leaves from Family Fun magazine. We are using those as the leaves for a Blessings Tree idea that I found in MomSense magazine. So far I have the leaves and the branch to be the tree… I just need to put the branch in floral foam, put it in an opaque vase/bowl, punch holes in the leaves, and find yarn or string to tie them onto the tree (after, of course, we write our "blessings" on them). So yeah, we're a little behind schedule on that one… but I'm hoping to get it done today (I'll come back and add pics if I do) so that I can at least teach my children to be thankful for a week or so. ;-) And if I really get it together, maybe I'll even take it with me to our Thanksgiving dinner so that I can share it with the whole big family!

Which brings me to our Thanksgiving dinner traditions. When Mr. Fantastic and I were first married, we were smart enough to set some ground rules for the holidays. We live close to both sides of our family, so it seemed prudent to make some decisions in advance, rather than constantly adding stress to the holiday season every year. It was important to him that we are able to spend quality time with people on Thanksgiving, not just feel like we were running from place to place, so we only do one Thanksgiving each year, and we alternate spending it with my family or his. This was hard for me, because I kind of enjoy the running around and going different places, but it really does make everything more relaxed—and now that we have kids, I am especially grateful that we set this precedent long ago so that we don't have to drag kids to 10 different places in one day.

So this year we're spending Thanksgiving with my family at my parents' house. I'm hoping both of my brothers and their families will be there as well. If everyone comes, we will have 11 adults and 9 children (ages 7 months to 11 years). It is crazy and chaotic and lots of fun. I love to cook, so although my mom is doing the bulk of the dinner, I am making baked corn and a very very cool carrot cake—I'll post pictures when I make it. You'll be impressed. More than anything, I'm looking forward to just hanging out with everyone, talking and playing games and watching my kids play with their cousins.

Oh, and this year I'm adding a whole new element to Thanksgiving, though… staying up all night for Black Friday shopping! I got into the Black Friday madness a few years ago, when Kohl's was offering Candyland and Chutes & Ladders for $2 each. I found a handful of other things I thought were good deals, too, so my mother-in-law and I headed over there bright & early… and then while we were out, we decided to check out a few other stores as well. And a tradition was born!!!! We have SO. MUCH. FUN. We make a list, shop, get some breakfast, shop some more, and just generally have fun hanging out and spoiling my children. Then I go home and crash, and she (because she has more energy than should be allowed for any one human) goes home and starts wrapping presents. So yes, Black Friday has become a fabulous tradition for me. But it does seem to get earlier and earlier every year. The first year we went, we got to Kohl's when it opened… and I'm almost certain that was 5 AM. The next year Walmart was our first stop at 4 AM, and last year we wanted to be at Sears when it opened at 3 AM. Last year I swore that I would never be crazy enough to just stay up all night and shop… but this year, friends, Toys R Us opens at 10 PM, and that is where most of the deals are that I want to get. So it looks like I'll be enjoying Thanksgiving with my family, coming home to put my kiddos to bed, then picking up my mother-in-law and heading to the stores! Thankfully I've already put Mr. Fantastic on alert that I need him home both while I am shopping AND when I get home so that I can get some sleep…!

And yes, I am aware that this post took a sudden turn from thankfulness and traditions and family time to complete consumerism. But really, half the fun of Black Friday is going with my mother-in-law and doing something fun together that no one else in our family is crazy enough to do, so it really still is about tradition and family time. And it is more about fun than any particular deal, so we don't go nuts fighting over stuff in the stores or worrying about getting done in one place in time to be at another—we just enjoy.

So that is what we are preparing for here at the zoo. What's on your plate (so to speak) for next week? Please play along and let us know—and make sure you link up in the comments if you blog about it. And don't forget to head over to Zehlahlum Family. Jamey's husband is in the military, and I loved reading about their Thanksgivings (the ones she could remember) over the past few years.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Weekend Zoo: Love is Confusing

So my precious Lamb has had her first major disagreement with a friend. She is so torn up over the whole thing, and parts of it make my heart hurt, too… but I also think it's just a teeeeeny bit funny. Because it's one of those situations where you see the train wreck coming, but you just can't stop it.

Here is what Lamb knows:
  • The Bible tells us to love our enemies.
  • Satan is God's enemy.
Do you see what's coming?

Here is what Lamb shared with her friend: "We are supposed to love Satan."

Now of course, Lamb and I have had a chance to talk this whole thing through… both the actual thought process and the argument that she had with her friend (who adamantly disagreed with Lamb's conclusion)… and she and her buddy will be back to normal in no time… but what I'm really wondering is…

How many people at our local elementary school think that we have taught our 5-year-old to love Satan?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Time for Healing

"To everything—turn, turn, turn—there is a season—turn, turn, turn…" Yes, there is an actual Bible verse that is much deeper than this, but this is what is spinning around and around and around in my head, so I'm sharing it with you.

There is a buzz word in Christian circles right now that has also been on my mind lately: transparency. Transparency is a good thing. I think for a while, we as Christians had a tendency to hide our struggles, meaning both our toils with sin and just the hardships we encountered in life. We may have felt that being honest about those things might be a show of weakness or might make people think that we didn't have true faith. In reality, reluctance to be genuine with others often results in loneliness, hurt, and shallow relationships, just to name a few. So the idea that we need to be transparent in our relationships, that we should bear each others' burdens and be open with each other, is freeing and healthy. Sharing our pain and what we are going through not only helps the "talker," but can let the listener(s) know that other people go through hard things too and that we are not alone.

For me, though, transparency has led to a different kind of struggle. After seeing how isolated I became when I was reluctant to share my struggles with depression, I have become a big advocate of sharing our needs and hurts with others. Now, though, I'm realizing that there is a time to feel your pain, to let it hurt, to cry over it and be sad or angry or however you feel… and there is a time to let it heal.

And guess what? We are healing. It's getting better, easier. The tears come less often, the smiles more. It's not a big giant elephant in the room every time I run into someone who asks me how the baby is doing, and I wonder, "Do they know? I don't remember telling them. Did they hear from someone else? Or are they just asking a polite question about a new baby?" Roo has Down syndrome. It's OK.  And do you know what else?  Sometimes (actually, a lot of the time), we're not even thinking about the fact that Roo has Down syndrome.  We are simply living our lives.

And yet often, when someone actually does specifically ask me about Roo and the Down syndrome and how we're all doing… I feel the need to pick at the newly-forming scab and let it bleed all over again. There's a part of me that feels I'm not being genuine—not being transparent—if I just smile and say we're doing fine. It's like I broke my arm and feel the need to take off the cast and squeeze the broken bones when someone asks how I'm doing, like I'm afraid they won't believe the hurt is real if they don't see it for themselves.

But the hurt is real, and a cast or stitches or a scab are as much evidence of someone's pain as the injury itself. And as far as being transparent goes, people need to see us coping and healing as much as they need to know about our pain. It's important to know that others have struggles, but it's equally important to see them moving through it, not just living in it. Pain often brings growth, but that growth comes as a result of how we deal with the pain, not just because we feel the pain.

So I'm giving myself permission to tell you, the next time that I see you, that we're doing great. I haven't said that in a long, long time. I have been afraid to say anything better than "OK." But a lot of days, we are doing great. Roo has Down syndrome, and it's been hard. But we're healing from the hurt, and life hasn't stopped. He is a cute and sweet and wonderful baby. Monkey is a hilarious and sensitive little boy who makes me laugh every day, sometimes in spite of myself. Lamb is headstrong yet very sensitive when it comes to her friends, just like her momma, and she loves to sing and make crafts and her abilities astound me. And we're having a fun fall and we're getting excited for the holidays and we're… doing great. And that's OK. Because God doesn't want us to hide our pain, but He doesn't want us to hide our happiness either.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


No, really. I know on Wednesday I wanted to yell it into the mic at Bible study, but today I actually mean it. I want to share some good stuff that's happening here at the zoo.

  1. I took Roo to the ophthalmologist (Really? That's how you spell it? Thanks, spell-checker.) on Thursday afternoon. We had some stressful moments—on the way to the appointment, Lamb's school called me and asked if I could come pick her up (I asked Mr. Fantastic to go, and then I was loaded with Mommy Guilt because that meant that I wasn't there and that he had to take off work to do this, but he handled it GREAT); after being in the office for 45 minutes, we hadn't even been called up to give our insurance information… and when I finally asked about it, they realized that they had us on the schedule for next Thursday (they got us in quickly after that, though); and the appointment itself took much longer than I expected because it takes about 30 minutes for the dilation drops to take effect. BUT the exam itself was very quick and painless… aaaaaannnnnnddddd… (drum roll, please)… Roo's eyesight is totally normal!!!!!! This completely exceeded my expectations, and I was higher than a kite! I never knew how good "normal" could feel! J
  2. Yesterday, Mr. Fantastic and I went to a conference put on by DownsEd. If you have or work with a child with Down syndrome, and haven't ever gone to one of their conferences, check out their schedule and find one. It was very worthwhile. I left that place yesterday with more hope for Roo than I have had since the day of his diagnosis. Really. (And it was also nice to see some friendly faces of people I have met through our local Down's support group. J)
  3. Because of the conference, we had childcare all day, so my wonderful hubby and I got to spend the entire day together and even went out to dinner last night. It was so nice and so needed. J
  4. I'm running away! "All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go. I'm standing here outside your door…" OK, so I'm actually sitting on the floor, and I'm not going on a plane of any kind. But some women from our small group at church are going on a little overnighter, and I am so. flipping. excited. It's not like the women's retreats that many of us "church folk" are used to—there are no speakers, no sessions, no hotel food. It's just a group of us, at a lake house, relaxing, recharging. We hang out together, we hang out alone, we take walks, we scrapbook, we read, we sleep. All of the things that we don't typically get to do at home. It's just 24 hours-ish, but it is something I have been looking forward to since… well, since I got home from it last year. J

So no "Weekend Zoo" this morning, because this is the only post I have time to write before I take off for my little getaway. But hopefully I'll have some time to do some writing while I'm gone, and I'll come back a happy woman who is just a liiiiiiittle less sleep-deprived.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Wednesday Prayer

I mentioned to you all recently that every once in a while—OK, way too often—I get a dose of what I call "the crazies." The rest of you may call it depression. Tom-ay-to, Tom-ah-to. Whatever. It's happening now. In the past 24 hours, I have cried about our school levy (which failed), the amount of money it would have cost us if it had passed (we own real estate), the friendship heartaches of Lamb, the hard time a friend of mine is having, the idea of leaving Roo in the nursery at church this morning (even though I've been doing it three times a week for two months now), and cleaning the toy room, just to name a few. If these issues upset me so much, you can just imagine how I'm feeling about the "real" issues in my life right now.

So that was my state of mind as I went to Bible study this morning. I was a mess, but I really wanted to keep my messiness on the inside, thankyouverymuch. And yes, I know that we are called to be transparent with each other, and people can't know to pray for you if they don't know what to pray for and blah, blah, blah, and all of those other good reasons for crying with a group of women. But let me explain… I have only been "singled out" to speak (and by "speak" I mean answer a question to the entire group, not just my small group) twice since September—something I normally quite enjoy. The first time was to talk about my family, and I cried when I started to tell them how special Roo was. The second time was when I was randomly chosen to share something that had made my week crazy, and several things came to mind but none were things I was willing to share, so I broke down and cried and shared that Lamb had been crying when I dropped her off at school that morning—which was true, but so not what was truly on my heart that day.

In addition to those two experiences in front of the whole group, I also cried to my small group during the first week when I shared Roo's diagnosis with them, and then again two weeks ago when I shared a huge opportunity/decision that is before me (one that I'm not sure I'm ready to throw out there for all the world to see just yet).

So this morning, as I was considering how I was going to handle today's schedule and interactions, I remembered a girl who was in an ABF (Adult Bible Fellowship—like a Sunday School class for adults) Mr. Fantastic and I used to attend a few years ago. It was a while before I knew her real name—and I have since forgotten it. I only remember how Mr. Fantastic and I used to refer to her: The Girl Who Cries. Seriously, without exception, happy or sad, the woman cried every. single. week. It drove us nuts.

And that's when it hit me… I'M "THE GIRL WHO CRIES"!!! When the heck did this happen???

So I walked into the building absolutely determined to put my emotions and my crazy behind me and just enjoy. Encourage others. Listen. Learn. Leave. Here's the real kicker: There's no reason not to do those things, because there's nothing that is actually wrong!!! I'm not sad about something today… I'm just sad! What's up with that? It's time to get my act together, get out of my own way, and enjoy my day. Right?

First, I dropped Roo off… and had to fight the urge to run back and get him. Then the first person I talked to asked me about a fabulous opportunity I'd been given to serve the women at our church—one that I had, with a very heavy heart, had to turn down. I teared up and got out of there as quickly as I could.

Deep breaths, I thought. Keep it light. I will NOT be "The Girl Who Cries!" I went back to my table and started chatting with the ladies. Yes, Lamb is finally feeling better, thanks. How was YOUR week? Tell me more. How did you feel about that? Really? An alien flew into your hubby's nose disguised as a booger and took over his brain? Yes, that happens to me all the time.Whew, it seems to be working. Not only am I NOT crying, but my mood is actually IMPROVING. This is good. Wait, what did she just say?

After some initial chat time, we had some announcements, etc, and then some worship time. Our worship leader—and our whole leadership team for our study—is fab.u.lous. I don't think she reads my blog… or knows that it exists… but thank you, Kate, for all you do.

ANYWAY, I was hanging in there just fine, getting going, getting past myself, getting into the groove… maybe not exactly happy, but functional, which was a dramatic improvement over how I had been an hour before.

And then it happened. Kate started playing a song. My song. A song that has brought tears to my eyes every single time I have sung it. A song that has had new meaning upon new meaning piled onto it each time I have heard it.

Have you heard the song "He Knows My Name"? It is more special to me than I can describe. I'm embedding it here—it's not my favorite version of the song, but you definitely get the idea.

Let me just give you a LITTLE background on my history with this song. 8 or 9 years ago, I had tried to make contact with my biological father (Have I mentioned on this blog that I am adopted?). One day (long story short), he sent me an e-mail asking me not to contact him again. He addressed it to "Kathy." I. was. heartbroken. That night I went to worship team practice, and our worship leader said, "I want to introduce a new song tonight." And there it was, all spelled out for me: "I have a Father, He calls me His own… He knows my name." Whoa. And God has used that song just as powerfully for me every time I've heard it.

This morning was no exception. "He formed my heart," they sang, and I thought about Roo's tiny heart with two little holes. "Before even time began, my life was in His hands." And He reminded me that Roo's life was in His hands as well.

That was as much as I could take. Three lines into the first verse, I hightailed it out of that room and had myself a good cry. And can I inject a side note here? Just as my tears from the song and its message gave way to my depression which gave way to loneliness, a beautiful face stepped out of the room. A friend had come out to check on me. I was terribly embarrassed to be crying again, but so so so thankful. Thank you, Emily.

So I got it together and got back in there. And can I tell you, I was so ashamed. There were people in there with real actual heartache. I'm not saying that I don't have anything hard right now, but I was so focused on myself because I was down… and I was down, well, just because I was, not because of anything in particular. And I started to get angry. I was angry because I was depressed and because I'm tired of being depressed and I'm tired of worrying about when I'm going to be depressed and how I'm going to handle it and how it affects how other people see me.

And for a brief moment I thought about grabbing the mic and saying, "Just so you all know, I am NOT The Girl Who Cries! I am a HAPPY. FREAKING. PERSON!"

But somehow that didn't seem like it would prove the point. Not the point that I was trying to prove, anyway.

So I didn't.

Instead I stopped trying to look like I was focused on what was going on around me, and I started to actually focus on what was going on around me. I stopped telling myself to focus on listening to and encouraging others, and started actually listening to and trying to encourage others. And although I had some weird circumstances toward the end of the morning (By the time I left the church, I had lost one of Roo's socks, Roo's blanket, and one of my earrings…), there were no more tears.

So aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll of that to say, I have penned myself a new Wednesday Prayer. It's not exactly "The Serenity Prayer" or anything, but hopefully it'll get me through:
Lord, give me a buttoned lip,
dry eyes,
and the wisdom to quit worrying about them.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

LOL/LOL: You can’t take it with you when you go…

…Well, sometimes you can. It just depends on whether you're, you know, "GOING" or just going.

Welcome to week seven of LOL/LOL, a blog series started by a fabulous mama who blogs at Zehlahlum Family. LOL/LOL stands for Lots of Littles/Lots of Laughs. It is a blog series by moms who are overrun by small children have 3 or more little kiddos, talking about parenting, marriage, & life. After you read this post, make sure you check out Jamey's take on this same topic at Zehlahlum Family. And then please play along! Discuss your take on this topic in the comments OR blog about it and post a link in the comments.

Today we're talkin' turkey about purses. I am not sure how to feel about this topic, because it means that I have to admit something to you all… My name is Katy and I am a purse-aholic. ("Hi, Katy!") It all started shortly after I had my first baby. I had never been "into" purses or shoes or makeup or any of those things… but I think I suddenly felt the need to remind myself that I was a woman too and not just a mommy. So I turned to purses (and shoes, but let's save that vice for another day). It started innocently enough, with just getting a cute free bag with my makeup purchase (not one of my vices, I'm still totally clueless there)… and then it was just a quick impulse buy with my Kohl's Cash… and then one day I met my dear friend Vera Bradley. Ahhhhh, the fun that Vera and I have together. She's not exactly a cheap date, but she is soooo worth it. I only wish I could see more of her in my closet. OK, I'm going to stop now—this is starting to sound dirty.

Here is most of my collection…

Some of those double as diaper bags… some are strictly for kid-free outings… some are knock-offs… some are apparently still out in the van. All but… mmmmm… maybe one or two of them get used. As a matter of fact, after I took this picture I gave one of them to Lamb because I have never used it and it was covered in a layer of dust. Betcha can't guess which one!

Now diaper bags. I have also gathered a collection of those over the past 5 years, but for a different reason—I seem to wear them out! When Lamb was born I had the gigundo Eddie Bauer bag that fit everything I could ever possibly need, just in case I got stranded along the side of the highway with my newborn and she needed an extra outfit or six. OK, I'll admit it—there were times that I even put extra clothes for myself in there. This bag still makes an occasional appearance, but only if all three kids are spending the day with Nana and Papa or something where I feel like Roo might need extra stuff AND the other kids (Monkey) might need something (extra underwear) too. This bag has held up extraordinarily well, considering that my hubby once RAN OVER IT when we were on a little weekend trip with friends. (Remember that, Mine???)

When Monkey came along 20 months after Lamb was born, I had just started using a much smaller bag but went back to the mammoth since that I had to carry stuff for two kiddos. At this point, I bought my first cute diaper bag. Unfortunately, that bag is no longer with us. But the idea of it is—why do I have to carry around a plain old boring diaper bag when I could carry something AND LOOK GOOD DOING IT????

So by the time Monkey was a year old I had switched to using a big purse for a diaper bag. My favorite was my Java Blue purse from Vera, which is one bag that is currently in the van. Obviously, it's still getting some use. J

Now I basically have two smallish diaper bags which I use if I am A) dropping Roo off somewhere and carrying a separate purse for myself, or B) in survival (not cuteness) mode, like, say, on a trip to Giant Eagle. I was going to post a picture of them, but apparently those are also in the van. Both of them. And yes, apparently I really need to clean out my van. Anyway, one of them is a backpack style bag, which is what I got free from the hospital when Roo was born. I actually really like it, and it's the one I use the majority of the time… unless I'm trying to get ready to go somewhere and it's… you know, in the van.

My newest and greatest addition when Roo was born was this little gem…

The diaper pod carries wipes and a changing pad inside, and about 2 diapers on the outside. The small pouch carries a binky. It is won.der.ful. I can just stick that and a bottle in whatever bag I'm carrying, and I'm good to go! If I were a good mom who was still nursing, I wouldn't even have to worry about the bottle! It's such a handy little thing.

Let's see… just in case you're not asleep yet you are dying to know what I carry along on our outings, here's the typical breakdown:
  • My diaper pod
  • 1-2 bottles (Since the Similac recall over a month ago I haven't been able to find powdered Similac anywhere, so we're doing ready-to-feed…)
  • A burp cloth, which I stick under my messy son's chin when he eats
  • A sippy of milk for Monkey (because he goes through 2 gallons a week…!)
  • My wallet
  • My phone
  • My planner, when I remember (That's a new addition. Even when I remember to carry it, I don't always remember to check it. That's kind of an important step in using a planner…)
  • If I'm feeling reeeeaaaalllllllllllllllllly spunky, I'll toss my lipstick in there so that I can re-glam as needed.
And that's really it. I've become much more sparse in my diaper-bag-packing over the years. Sometimes, if I know I'm just running to the grocery store for one or two things, I only take my wallet. Yep, no purse. No bag. No bottles. No extra diapers. I live on the edge, what can I say?

And oh look, my purse wasn't in the van after all--it was downstairs.  So here's a quick shot of what's inside--it was a baby-free trip (Thanks, Nana & Papa!), so it contains only grown-up stuff...

I do highly recommend that book, by the way.  Yes, I sometimes carry two wallets.  One of them is my "real" wallet, and the other carries all of those perks cards, membership cards, Get $1-off-when-you-spend-$500 stamped cards, etc.  I've got a lot of them.  Oh, and the little green thing on top of my planner is a cute little picture holder that I got when I was pregnant with Roo.  I rarely carry that, but I was out with only Lamb and thought I might need to show off the cuteness of all three kids while I was out.  I was wrong.

Since I've started this post, I've been trying to think, "What's the ONE THING that I don't like to leave the house without?"  I don't really have a good answer for that.  I don't have a go-to coffee mug (because I don't drink coffee) or a special toy for my kids or anything like that.  I guess it would be my cell phone, especially now that Lamb is in school and my cell phone is the number that they have (which came in handy yesterday when I took her to school for the first time since last Wednesday and the school nurse called me before I even made it home...!).

So… hmmmmmm… I guess that's it. Now it's your turn to spill it. How many purses do you have? How many do you actually carry? What's in them? And what is YOUR one thing that you don't leave without?  Post your thoughts in the comments, or if you post about it on your blog, make sure you put a link in the comments so that we can find you. And don't forget to read Jamey's thoughts on this topic too! J