Tuesday, July 29, 2014

When Mama is Down

I had my wisdom teeth removed earlier this month, and man, I should have done that back in high school! I think the recovery would have gone a little smoother ten years ago.

But I didn't get it done back then, and try as I must, I couldn't avoid the procedure any longer. 

I lived on smoothies for a week afterward. In spite of being super paranoid and avoiding solid food like the plague, I still managed to partially dislodge one of the blood clots.

Talk about painful.

That unfortunate event resulted in four additional trips to the dentist to have a medicated dressing inserted into the socket (ouch!). It wasn't a pleasant process, but the relief that followed was worth the momentary discomfort. 

While I waited for my mouth to recover, I spent more time than usual resting (which is hard for me to do because I always feel like there's something that needs to be done). My wonderful husband stepped in and took care of some things that I normally would so I could nap during the day or sleep in a little longer in the morning. 

I had to reevaluate my priorities during this recovery time, because I just couldn't do everything that I usually do. Here's what I've been reminded of:
  • It's not the end of the world if dishes pile up in the sink every once in a while. Sometimes it's more important to spend that time reading a book with my son.
  • Taking a nap myself during nap time can be a good use of time.
  • Spending time in Scripture is a must. Every day, but particularly when I'm tired and in physical pain (dry socket, anyone?). While I may have had reasons to be short, grumpy, and impatient, I am still without excuse, and filling up on the Word of God is essential to avoid falling into those sins. Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You (Psalm 119:11).
  • ... But in those times that we fail, God's grace is sufficient for the believer. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).
So tell me, do you still have your wisdom teeth? If not, how was your recovery?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

My brother's in-laws are some of the most gracious people I know. Not only do they frequently open up their home to host special occasions, but they have taken my family in for holidays, birthdays, and sometimes the "just because" get-together. We are so thankful for them.

At one of these get-togethers, my brother's mother-in-law made one of the best chicken pot pies I've ever tasted. Being gluten-free I could only eat the filling, but still -- yum! So I asked for the recipe and modified it into a soup that my whole family enjoys (and that doesn't break my diet).

Chicken Pot Pie Soup:
Ingredients (can freely alter to suit your own preferences):
Coconut oil
1 small onion
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
(I do not measure out my seasonings, and in fact, I probably add much more than the original recipe suggests. I recommend seasoning to taste.)
2 cups each peas, carrots, and green beans
2 boxes of Chicken Broth, Organic, 32 Fl Oz (affiliate link)
2 cups of water
Two boneless, skinless chicken breasts -- cooked and shredded

Saute onion in coconut oil until onions are tender. Add vegetables, broth, water, and chicken. Add paprika, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

Disclosure: this post contains an affiliate link. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Getting a Toddler Through the Before-dinner Hour

There seems to be something about mom trying to make dinner that makes my toddler demand my undivided attention. I try to tell him that I need to make food so he can eat, but he doesn't seem to always make the connection. ;-) This phenomenon has left me finding (sometimes creative) ways to appease the little one while I try to get food on the table in the evening.

Work on Food-prep Ahead of Time:
If I'm on top of my game, I'll start my food-prep the night before and finish it in the morning. That way when 5:00pm roles around I'm not frantically cutting veggies while playing hide-and-seek with my son. ;-)

This could mean that I make smoothies for tomorrow's breakfast tonight, or get the baked oatmeal ready to be baked off in the morning. If I'm really good I'll cut up the produce for the day in the morning because my son plays better by himself earlier in the day.

Give a Snack:
My son has to be going through a growth spurt, because I just can't seem to keep him full these days. I'll go get him up from nap and find him in his bed saying "Eat! Eat!" Um, didn't you have a gigantic lunch?

So while I prepare dinner I usually give my son a small snack to help hold him over until dinner. I still haven't perfected the amount though... too much spoils his appetite for dinner!

Simple Meals:
Unless my husband is home, I generally try to avoid complicated recipes that require long stretches of time standing at the stove. This frees me up to give some of my attention to my son in-between different stages of meal preparation.

You can almost always find music playing at our house while I cook dinner. My kitchen is big enough that I can bust a couple of moves while I work, and my son can dance with me. Not only does this help keep him occupied while I cook, but it helps him burn off excess energy before bedtime!

How do you get your little ones through the before-dinner hour?

Monday, July 21, 2014

On Writing [It's a Blog Hop!]

Earlier this month I was contacted by Janis Van Keuren of Heart-Filled Moments inviting me to participate in this neat blog-hop. Participating bloggers are answering a small series of questions about how they write, and then introducing other bloggers at the end of their posts. What a neat way for the blogging community to work together to share each other's work, as well as giving us the opportunity to introduce ourselves a little more. I am honored to have the opportunity to participate!

As a teacher I was taught to cultivate the skill of self-reflection, and that's what attracted me to this blog-hop. The open-endedness of the questions have forced me to really think about why I do what I do... why I write about what I write.

So, without further adieu, here are my answers:

What am I writing or working on right now?
Let me start off with stating the obvious: my blog is small. I have been convicted from the start of this blog that blogging would not detract from my relationship with God or my family (or even my responsibilities as a homemaker). I have not always held this conviction perfectly, but as a general rule blogging is not high on my priority list (I know, I know, I'm breaking a ton of blogging rules by operating in such a way, let alone admitting it). This has probably contributed greatly to the low traffic The Smudge Curve receives. I just don't want to look back on my life and find that I wasted too many precious moments in front of the computer.

But I do enjoy the blogging world and the connections it has allowed me to make. I enjoy the outlet writing has provided.

The "conflict" I have going on now is that my little blog is starting to get noticed. It's not a huge notice, but I'm actually being contacted by people who happen to stop by (I was privileged to host a giveaway back in February, I'm getting to participate in my first blog-hop, and I have another post entered in a "sports and family" campaign). It has been neat to see God bless my writing efforts.

But I can't deny that there is the temptation to obsess -- to try and do whatever it takes to drive traffic to my blog, to spend hours upon hours "perfecting" my blog layout. And I don't want to go there. So I am working on maintaining and improving that uneven balance -- one that tips toward God and my family.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I would say that the key component that makes any writing unique, regardless of topic, is the author. We are all writing from different perspectives, and no two writers share the same exact voice. So, what makes me different from everyone else? I am approaching the topic of motherhood through these experiences (to avoid the soap opera version I'll share briefly using bullet points):
  • My mother was diagnosed with Breast Cancer when I was 17 years old. She died when I was 19.
  • When I was 20 I found out that I'm not biologically related to my mother (ask me about my thoughts on surrogacy sometime).
  • My father died when I was 21.
  • I struggle with being less-than fertile (after trying to conceive for 14 months, I miscarried).
  • I hold a degree in early childhood/elementary education (and I am finding that raising one little guy is more challenging, but also far more rewarding, than teaching a classroom full of kids!).
Why do I write what I write?
I needed an outlet. While I am blessed to have supportive, encouraging, Godly women in my life, tackling motherhood without my own mother has been hard at times. My mom would have naturally been the first person I'd run to with all of those baby questions, and I didn't have her.

So I started this blog as a way for me to get all of my "baby" and "mommy" talk out, hoping that it would encourage others who may be in similar situations. Oddly enough, my crazy past is something I've rarely touched on here. Perhaps I should add that to the list of things I'm working on. ;-)

How does my writing process work?
When I think of "process," I think of what I was taught in high school: start with a brainstorm, then outline your essay, write a rough draft, edit, and write a final. Alas, my writing "process" does not look like that at all.

If you could see my list of posts in draft, you would see a bunch of titles without any writing under them. Because of my convictions and the nature of motherhood, I'm not able to sit down and write when the moment strikes me. So I keep a running list of ideas. Later, when I have the time, I sit down and flesh out my ideas.

There's no real method to my "fleshing out." I write until I don't have anything left to say, which sometimes leaves me with an unfinished post. And that's okay -- I'll take a break and come back later.

Once I get a completed post I usually edit it over a few days. I'll read the post once a day, making corrections as I see them. When the day comes that I don't see anything that needs to be fixed, I publish the post.

How do I come up with my ideas? Very informally -- I try not to go looking for them. I don't want to be a blogger who lives to blog. I want to live, and if something happens that's worth sharing, then that's what I write about.

And now...
I am privileged to be able to introduce to you two* other bloggers I have connected -- even if ever so briefly -- with. Look for their posts next week!

Lisa blogs at Amateur Nester, and I have to say, that with the particular season I am walking through right now (post miscarriage), her blog has touched me the deepest. She is open and real about the struggles of infertility, and she offers encouragement from someone who knows what it's like.

Lisa Newton blogs about her experience with infertility at AmateurNester.com.  She and her husband have been trying to conceive their first child for over two years and have been through multiple rounds of in-vitro fertilization (IVF).  She hopes that by sharing her story (and the stories of other infertility survivors) she can encourage women who are going through similar struggles.  

Caroline blogs at Anchored in His Grace. I have had fun connecting with Caroline over Twitter and Google+, and have even learned a thing or two about grapes

Hey there, I’m Caroline!  I married my husband in 1999, we began having children in 2004, and four years later began our homeschooling journey.  During this time period, I found myself knee-deep in crying babies, and laundry.  As challenges grew, so did God’s grace, and I currently seek to share what God reveals to me through my blog: Anchored in His Grace.  I see myself less of a writer, and more of a sharer.  I simply want to share how God has shown me his abundant grace with you, because really, his grace is for you as well!  Whether it’s through teaching little hands how to write, instructing big kids in Biblical character, or marital strife that needs to be dealt with, the fact is, everyday leads me to say, “Lord, I need you!”  I’d love to meet you; stop by Anchored In His Grace to say hello.

*Out of the seven bloggers I invited to join this blog-hop, only two responded and wanted to participate (hence the missing third blogger to introduce). 

The Darker Side of Miscarriage [A Guest Post]

It's been about a month since my miscarriage, although to me it still feels like just yesterday.

Most days I'm okay; as long as I don't think about it the pain stays away. But then there are things that trigger the downward spiral of emotions.

Talking to friends who've also experienced miscarriage...

Seeing the body pillow that I bought for my expanding belly that I no longer need...

The seemingly endless (and unusual) spotting during my first cycle after the miscarriage...

But the most painful reminder? Being around my pregnant friends.

* * *

You can find the rest of the post over at Amateur Nester. If you're struggling with infertility or issues surrounding the loss of a baby, I encourage you to take a moment to look around Lisa's site. Thank you, Lisa, for letting me share my heart with your readers.

Then later today, check back for my first blog-hop post! I'm pretty excited to share a little more about myself, my writing, and my intent for this blog with you all.

Shared at Modest Monday at The Modest Mom

Friday, July 18, 2014

Degrees of Infertility

Not too long ago I was surfing on a new favorite blog when a comment caught my attention. I can't remember the comment word for word, but the gist of it was something like this:
The pain of struggling to conceive baby number two (or three, or four...) is the same as struggling to conceive baby number one.
The blog owner responded very graciously to this statement, but it continued to tumble around in my head, and I ended up bouncing some thoughts off my husband.

If you've been around here long enough, you know that my husband and I are having a hard time getting pregnant a second time. I'd be lying if I told you it hasn't been a painful experience.

But I will never claim that the struggle to conceive a second child is equal to the struggle of trying to conceive the first. Because even though I have a deep and intense longing for more children, I have already been gifted motherhood.

Before my son was born my OB/GYN told me that I would have a hard time getting pregnant. I remember the sadness and jealousy I dealt with as I heard several pregnancy announcements... and there I was, wondering if I would ever have one child. It's not the same this time around. Going from no children to one child is a much bigger jump than going from one child to two. It's that first child who welcomes you into motherhood.

I know that it's easy to get caught up in our own struggles, but we need to be careful when comparing our problems -- our pains -- to others'. Because while sometimes it's just a difference in perspective, other times someone else really does have it worse than we do.

Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:4).

Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality (Romans 12:10-13).

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Oven Hamburgers

As much as I enjoy a good hamburger, we don't eat many of them around here. Aside from using up a lot of ground beef for just one meal, I don't enjoy taking the time to make and fry the patties.

Well, a few weeks ago I had a strange idea. What about baking hamburgers in the oven, kind of like meatloaf? That way I don't have to spend so much time shaping hamburger patties! Here's what I did:

First, in a large bowl, season your ground beef with your preferred seasonings. Ones that I typically use are:
  • Garlic powder
  • Chili powder
  • Onion power
  • Pepper

Then press the seasoned meat into a casserole dish, like so:

You'll have to adjust your baking time depending on how thick your slab of meat is. I baked mine at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Here's what mine looked like (I apologize for the picture being blurry -- my camera wanted to focus on the objects in the back instead of on the meat):

After the meat is cooked all the way through, remove from the oven and top with cheese. Isn't it disappointing how the meat shrinks? I'm not sure there's a way around that, no matter how you cook it.

Return meat to the oven until cheese is melted (about five minutes, depending on how much cheese you use). 

We don't really care what shape our hamburgers are in, so we cut this slab of meat up into rectangles and triangles. My son and I (who are gluten-free) ate them with some ketchup, and my husband enjoyed them in a hamburger bun. My husband says they taste a little "meatloafy," but are still tasty nonetheless!

And much easier for me. ;-)