Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Love Affair

Seriously. Me and my camera. Or, rather, me and the camera.

My first SERIOUS camera was a gift from Gabe for Christmas 2009. I wore that sucker OUT.

It saw amazing Texas sunsets...

an epic visit from one of the most amazing people in my world...also, my return to Chicago, which saw....

...quite possibly the most difficult birthday ever celebrated....

...and one of the most joyous ones...they happened on the same day....

It also saw some pretty hilarious family pictures.

And then it got STOLEN. In North Carolina, of all places. So, I took pictures with my phone. of Ella and Sparrow (still miss that sweet girl) of me and Gabe... of incredibly meaningful things....

Then, for my 29 birthday, I received a camera. I received THE camera. It's "only" a point and shoot, but it's my "other" baby. It's seen the past 3 years. It's seen....

...cold winters and awesome  animal shots....

...the evolution of my skill as a people photographer as well as my daughter's ever-growing beauty...'s witnessed an incredibly selfless act by an 8 year old...

...a new animal added to our happy household...

I never realized how many pictures I take.


22/52: Two kids just playing innocently in the watermelon bath, right? Um, not so much. Water fight ensued, but hey, they're only that age once :)

22/52, Sunday; That water fight did her in. We're home today, not at church. And Tom seems to be becoming a fixture in the 52 week project, lol.

Friday, May 29, 2015

10 Truths from Today....stolen from my sis

Of course, ya'll know very well that my sis blogs here and that we routinely steal stuff from one another....

So, here goes. Ten Truths from Today.

1) Helping others always helps me.

2) This is not my week. Emotions are everywhere, all over the place.

3) Grief is a horrible thing. No matter how many years out you are, it's horrible and it sucks.

4) I know every word to "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," and I'm proud of that fact.

5) I need to be praying more. About everything.

6) I have a temper. Good Lord, do I have a temper. Not the kind of temper where I absolutely snap and blow up (that's happened maybe three times in my 31 years), but the kind where I hold stuff in and let it stew. I need to be working on this. Bigtime.

7) Sometimes, the stuff we dream about when we are kids is the stuff we're meant to do as adults. More on that later.

8) There are people who believe in me. There are people who are willing to listen to me yell and rant and scream. There are people who believe in me so much they are willing to stand up for me.

9) I miss home. Big time.

10) My 9 year old and I have some odd conversations, and I'm pretty sure we scare some people.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

This is deserving of a title but I cannot think of one

Last night, I listened to a worship song I hadn't heard in a long time.
Today, I listened to it again. And again. And I cried.

I feel like I've lost some huge piece of myself. Not like I've lost Christ, because He never went anywhere. I feel like I've lost my relationship with Him, or at the very least some piece of that relationship. Honestly, that scares me.

I remember when Gabe and I began going to church in Illinois. I remember when I began memorizing Scripture, and how EXCITED I was to have a relationship with my Savior.

I remember doing the Sunday School board for my Sunday School teacher (yes, she will ALWAYS be my mentor and my teacher. ALWAYS) and wanting to learn everything.

I remember how excited I was to get a copy of the Matthew Henry's commentary for Christmas, and how even after reading the Bible cover-to-cover, I wanted more.

What happened to that joy?

I'm not sure.

I feel pretty spiritually dry right now.

One might blame it on the fact that the past two years have been so.incredibly.stressful for my little family, but honestly that's a cop-out.

The blame is on me.

I'm the one settling. I'm the one unwilling to stand up for my Savior. It's my fault.

I need to take a big step back and focus on who's most important: Christ.

I'm done. I'm done being wrapped up in politics and backbiting. If it doesn't bring glory to my Savior, I want no part of it. I don't want a religion, I want a relationship with Christ. I want to help others, not hinder their walk in Christ and  point out their every flaw. I want JOY. I don't want to be a Christian jerk. I pull others into His embrace, not push them away because they don't fit in my little box of what's perfect. I understand not being unequally yoked, but that's not at all what I'm talking about. The Bible commands that we go out and witness, to reach out to everyone at least once. What they do after that is their choice. But I will not drive someone away with judgmental ways. That wasn't me when I got saved. It shouldn't be me now. I have a lot of thinking, and apologizing and praying to do.

Yesterday, while walking through the backyard, I saw a rosebud, and then another, and another.

I looked at them. Like, really LOOKED. When I was a kid, my aunt Gina who lived across the street had tons of roses. They were gorgeous...but truthfully, I liked the buds more than I did the open flowers. So much promise. So beautiful and intricate.

And it hit me, yesterday.

God created those rosebuds. God made them. He made every detail. Look. Look. Look. He loves you enough to put roses you didn't plant RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU. Look.  Be excited. Be joyful. Let Christ be your joy. 

I am crying as I type.

I don't need imperfect human ideas of who God is. I don't need to conform to what someone else thinks is the idea of perfection. I certainly don't need to put others down to feel better.

I need Christ. I need my Savior. If He is good enough to save someone so unworthy as me, then He is more than worthy of my praise and my love and my service. If He loves me enough to save me, and even do little things like show me these lovely rosebuds, then I ought to love Him enough to fix my relationship with Him.

Pray for me, friends. I surely need it.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Happy Homemaker Monday/Meal Plan Monday

Happy Monday! My friend Sandra over at Diary of a Stay at Home Mom moved house this week, so she hasn't posted yet! I hope she is happy and safe at her new home!

Here we go! Happy Homemaker Monday!

The weather in my neck of the woods: Warm, but not too hot. PERFECT.

Things that make me happy:  Weather that isn't overly hot or overly cold. Cool nights. Flowers on my mantel. Meeting awesome new people.

Menu for the week:
Monday:  Leftover lasagna/BBQ at a friend's
Tuesday: Pulled pork tacos
Wednesday: Breakfast for dinner/Leftover Tacos
Thursday: Chicken Stir Fry
Friday: Baked Potato Bar
Saturday: Beef Veggie Soup
Sunday: Turkey Spaghetti

On the TV today: Don't really watch TV, but we are going to watch a movie tonight as a family.

Looking around the house: I need to work on my kitchen. Unpacking is a bear, ya'll.

On my to-do list: Unpack some more.
                              Load the dishwasher
New Recipe I Want to Try Soon: Actually, it's an old recipe that my Mom and Grandma have made in the past. I have a massive craving for Mizeria, a Polish cucumber salad.

In the Craft Basket: Headbands for two special baby girls.

Looking forward to this week: Some semblance of normalcy, as I return to work and this weekend. I may actually get to hang out with friends.

Tips and Tricks: Use a squeegee to clean a mirror. Seriously. Makes a world of difference!

My favorite blog post this week: This right here about getting the most out of a whole chicken. Cheapskates unite!!!! ;)

Blog Hopping: The Family Meal Blog . Yup, it's run by my sister, and yup, we totally do favoritism here. But there are SO many meal ideas!!!

No Words Needed (favorite photo): 

Lesson learned this week: Don't assume the worst about a person. You have no idea what they're struggling with. 

On my mind: A sweet friend who just suffered a death in the family, finances, work. 

Devotionals, Scriptures, Key Verses:
 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
Ephesians 4:1

Sunday, May 24, 2015


21/52: She's very crafty. :)

21/52, Sunday. I love her dress! Tommy Cat decided to join her in her Sunday picture ;)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Dear Fellow Parents: An Open Letter

Dear Fellow Parents,

Let me first say that as a Mom, I am not perfect. Not even close. I've had snap-at-my-kid-days, I've had I-need-to-leave-the-room-to-cool-down-days. I am not the perfect skirt-and-apron wearing Mama (although, I have worn both, most recently as a Halloween costume).

Raising kids is not easy.

 They get messy.

They are loud.

They drive ya crazy. They do. I've had meltdown moments in my bedroom, after Ella's bedtime where I've cried and cried. I've had homeschooling days drag down like a snail through super glue.

So, believe me, I'm not perfect. Neither is my kid.

That said, I've noticed a disturbing trend, especially on Facebook. Kid-shaming. Yes, it's one thing to show a picture of your kid when they pull apart a toilet paper roll/are covered in spaghetti sauce (guilty!!!!) or when they dump a truckload of Legos in your living room.

But when people go on endless rants about their children's "shortcomings" really saddens my heart. Because I know people who 1) are unable to have children and who would do ANYTHING to have a child to hold, despite their "imperfections" 2) have special needs kids who require their 24-7 attention and they would love a break, but rarely get one...and they still continue to FIGHT for their kids, be their advocates and kick butt for them or 3) have suffered a horrible loss and do not have their children there to "drive them crazy." I'm one kid short. I'll ALWAYS be one kid short. I'd love to have a ten year old here to be a know-it-all, to fight with her sister, to give me a run for my money.

Children are a GIFT FROM GOD.  (Psalm 127:3) And honestly, even if your beliefs differ from mine, you WANTED this child. Just because things don't go your way doesn't mean that it's time to make your child feel bad/worthless/unwanted. Children don't always adhere to your expectations. Sometimes, they make a mess. Sometimes, things are out THEIR control too. Sometimes, as parents, WE are the problem and we have to step back and assess the situation.

Parenting is hard. So hard. But it's rewarding too. So very, very rewarding. I remember the first time Ella, as a baby, pointed out the cars on the road and named the colors. I remember I shouted, "YES!" I remember when, in 2012, after the death of a friend, Ella decided to donate her hair. I think back to last week, on the girls' birthday, in church, Ella ran up to me, hugged me tight and said, "I know it's hard, Mom. I'm HERE FOR YOU." It's those moments that make every meltdown, every mess, every hard moment just melt away for me.

So, please, please, please. Before you hurt your child with words, either on the internet or in person, please think twice. Think of those wonderful moments. Think of the person you want your child to be. Think of the person YOU want to be. The person YOUR child is emulating. And parents, please, please. Love your children. Just love them. Love them with God's beautiful, watchful love. Love them. Spaghetti stains and all.

In Christ,
Jo, an imperfect mother raising a beautifully imperfect child.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Desperation In the Kitchen: Braised Short Ribs

I had some short ribs languishing in the back of my freezer. Upon packing up the old house, I saw them and thought "Huh. Short Ribs. I've never cooked these before. I'm going to have to cook them." (Because I have massive kitchen OCD and they would have driven me insane. Just knowing that they were in my freezer. Mocking me.)

I found this awesome recipe and modified it some (I added mushrooms, because: hello, mushrooms, and I had to bake it in a casserole and not a Dutch Oven because I don't have a Dutch Oven...YET) and it.was.incredible.

So, here goes. Braised Short Ribs.

Here's what you need:

*Bacon. The original recipe called for pancetta, but ya'll, I live in the boonies. And apparently we don't have pancetta here
*An Onion
*A shallot
*Short ribs
*Garlic Powder
*Olive Oil (not pictured, sigh)
*Cooking Wine (or just plain ole wine. Red and white both long as they are not too sweet. I used red cooking wine)

Mashed potatoes (with lots of dill) to serve over

Here's what you do:

*Crisp up your bacon. Like really, crisp it up. We're looking for it to render out fat. No, this is not a health conscious meal. It's a fancy meal.

*Prep Your Veggies

*Season your short ribs and dredge them in flour

*Remove the bacon from the pot/pan/whatever (certainly not a dutch oven because I don't have one)

*Drizzle some olive oil in the pot and sear your short ribs

*Remove those to a bowl/plate

*Throw your veggies into your oil/bacon fat, cook a few minutes until tender and add your wine/cooking wine. Let that cook, then boil, then add your beef broth

*Put your short ribs in a casserole dish, then pour the sauce over them. Top with the crisped up bacon.

*Bake at 350 for an hour and a half, then reduce the temperature to 325 for another half an hour.
*Serve over mashed potatoes

The meat should be falling off the bone. Yuuuum.

*Watch it disappear. Seriously, these bones are all that was left within a few minutes.

Delish! And now I know what to do with short ribs! No more Kitchen OCD!

Art in the Kitchen: Crepes