Friday, September 20, 2013

Wisdom from a Homeless Man...


Today I was super busy.  I had children to school, errands to run and a house to clean, all before Emerie's nap time.  I was in auto-pilot mode so we could stay on task, which meant during errands I was buzzing my kids around the store in the cart, paying no mind to others around me.

This selfish mentality followed me into the parking lot where I hurriedly ushered my kids into the car and put the shopping bags in the back.  As I began to get into the driver's seat, I looked up and noticed a disheveled man approaching me.  While I did not know him personally, I knew who he was.  He was a homeless man.  A homeless man I didn't have time to entertain.  A man who was going to interrupt my schedule.  A man who would ask me for something.  As he approached he began speaking in a very humble manner, "Excuse me miss.  I don't want to bother you, I know you are busy and I'm sorry to interfere, but I haven't had anything to eat in two days."  I gave him my false look of empathy and said, "I'm sorry but I don't have any cash."  I wish that were true.  I had a ten dollar bill sitting idly at the bottom of my purse.  I lied.  I didn't want to give it to him in case I needed it later.  He said, "Oh, okay.  Thank you anyway!"  and began walking away.

I was struck immediately by a sense of guilt.  Not only for lying, but suddenly I realized that the man never asked for money.  What he said was, "I haven't had anything to eat in two days."  I looked over at the grocery bag in the passenger seat.  A bag that contained two unopened bags of pretzels.  One for us, and one for him.  Before I could speak, Ethan piped up from the backseat, "Mama!  Let's give him one of our bags of pretzels."  I hurriedly started my car to catch up with him as he was nowhere in sight.  I drove up and down the parking lot aisles as the two big kids and I kept our eyes peeled for him.  Ethan exclaimed, "There he is mom! Hurry!"

I drove up to him and he looked at me.  He had a half-eaten hostess chocolate cupcake in his hand and was polishing off the last bit as I rolled down my window.  I held out the bag of pretzels to him and said, "I have a bag of pretzels...they're yours if you want them."  He smiled at me and shook his head, "That's ok.  That guy over there gave me one of his cupcakes."  I looked where he was pointing and sure enough there was a man sitting in his truck holding the other cupcake.  The gift giver smiled at me, held up his cupcake and nodded.  I looked back at the homeless man and insisted, "Yes, but you don't know when your next meal is, you can have these and save them for later."  He smiled again and said, "That's okay, I don't need them.  Someone will take care of me."  Then he nodded at the cars piling up behind me in the parking lot and said, "You're holding up traffic."  I pulled the pretzels back into the car, smiled and drove away.  My first thought was, "Geez you're dumb.  I'm giving you a bag of pretzels for FREE and you're turning me down."  Then it became clear to me.  And I began to cry.  The irony was not lost on me.

This homeless man was no dummy.  He was wise.  He trusted that he would be provided for.  He trusted that his hunger would be met with food, though he didn't know when.  He didn't need to store up anything for later.  There would be a gift giver who would make a sacrifice and would care for him.  It was as if the Holy Spirit removed my blinders of selfishness and scripture began running through my mind:

Matthew 6:25-34
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Then I immediately thought of the children of Israel as they wandered through the wilderness for 40 years.  When the Lord provided manna from Heaven he gave them the warning to only gather what they needed for each day.  If they attempted to store any food for the next day, in the morning they woke to rotten, stinky, bug-infested food.  The Lord, in His wisdom and mercy was teaching them dependence on Himself.  How would the nations around them see God as a perfect, holy provider and come to Him, if the children of Israel only depended on themselves?  He wouldn't get the glory.

The lesson for me was two-fold:  be a giver, and be dependent.  Give as the Lord has so graciously blessed me, and be dependent knowing that the great gift-giver who sacrificially gave His life will meet my needs (ie. give up the stinking $10 if the Lord is asking for's not mine anyway!).  In being a gift giver, and being dependent, God gets the glory.  I am so struck by this situation that I can't stop thinking about it.  Lesson learned, Lord.  

This homeless man got it.  Or was he even a homeless man?  Did I fail at entertaining an angel? (Hebrews 13:2 "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so, some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.")

Monday, May 13, 2013

Family Photo Outtakes...

Yesterday I rounded up the littles and begged my hubby to put down the garden trowel so we could capture a family photo.  We smoothed our hair, plastered on smiles and came up with one lovely gem.  But, what good are family photos without showing you the outtakes.  I'm all about keeping it real around here...

Ethan:  "Mom look, I'm flying with my elbows!" Me: "Dude, put your elbows down! Everybody smile big!  Seriously, Ethan put your elbows d..."

"Oh, hey.  This one isn't too bad...wait, the baby's eyes are closed.  Okay guys one more time!"

Ethan:  "Ummm guys...Emerie's pulling my hair.  Oh wow, this really hurts!"

"Wait...everyone come back we're not done yet!  Eva, stop jumping!  Guys just one more pic..."

"Okay guys...suckers for everyone if we can make this our last one!!!"

Aaaaaaaaaaaaand that's a wrap...
A friend of mine saw this photo on Facebook and commented that it was a "sweet family photo." I had to laugh, knowing all it took to capture one good shot.  Can you imagine the film we save by using digital cameras these days?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Waking Up A Mom...

"(24/7) Once you sign on to be a mother, that's the only shift they offer."
Jodi Picoult, My Sister's Keeper

For me, the best part of waking up has zero to do with Folgers in my cup...

I will never forget the very first morning I woke up as a mom.  It was super-early while still in the hospital and I could hear the sound of the nurse pushing the little rolling crib holding our newborn son down the hall.  The door opened and the light from the hallway flooded into the dark room.  This scenario happened with our daughters as well, and it will always be something that I remember and cherish as a new mom...those tiny swaddled bundles being brought to me to care for in the wee hours of the morning.  The chaos of the delivery the day before had worn off, and I officially felt like a mom to the little baby in my arms.  I love those precious times with those sleepy little faces.

Our little Jackson's are still early risers.  Every morning they pile into our bed, well before 7 am.  There is lots of blanket tugging, squirming, tossing and turning and knees and elbows to the back...but, there are also sweet whispers of, "I love you," kisses to the forehead and soft talk of what's in store for the day.  As tired as I am and as much as I am looking forward to a bit of caffeine, I will always love starting my day this way.  

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Knocking Down Cobwebs....'s been five months since my last post...five months!  I admit, this unintended hiatus has gotten a little out of hand.  Somewhere between giving birth and sleepless nights, posting on the blog got neglected.  Not only do I have to knock down a few cobwebs and do a bit of dusting and decluttering of the ol' blog, but I practically have to reintroduce myself.  So, I'm taking a cue from this girl and this girl  and telling you more than you ever wanted to know about me.  A post like this sort of writes itself, which is awesome since my creativity is a bit zapped right now.  I guess we can just call this a TMI here ya go!

*I love food and am a self-professed food snob.  I am pretty adventurous and really love ethnic food.  I am not  a fan of chain restaurants and usually seek out local places in any city.  Brent and I have been known to plan entire vacations around the restaurants we want to visit. 

*I loved being pregnant all three times.  Seriously, love. the. belly.  If I could go back and get a different degree, I would be a labor and delivery nurse or an ultrasound technician.  I love listening to other people's birth stories and just love the whole pregnancy process so much.

(preggo pics from left to right:  Ethan, Eva, Emerie)

*I have always been an early riser but would not consider myself a morning person at all.  I usually don't sleep past 7:00--not taking into account the early wake-up call from the kiddos.

*I hate going to bed with a messy kitchen...and whenever I do, it makes me grumpy to see a mess that I have to clean first thing in the morning.

*I consider myself a good cook, but I make crappy pancakes.  I cannot for the life of me get it right.  Brent however makes amazing pancakes and is the Saturday morning pancake maker.

*My mama intuition stinks.  We never found out the gender of our kiddos, but I guessed wrong all three times. Even when the old wives tales proved to be a good fit, I still stuck to my (incredibly wrong) guns.

*I (we) named my kids all 'E' names but it wasn't on purpose.  The names just stuck.  Eva was supposed to be Avery, but the name just didn't sit well.  Emerie would have broken the mold and been 'Miles' had she been a boy.  We affectionately refer to our brood as the 'Trifecta' or 'E to the third power'.

*I can't handle the smell, taste or texture of eggs.  They make me gag.  Eggs and I will never  be friends.

*I always wear either leggings or sweat pants to bed year round because I don't like the feeling of my legs rubbing together in my sleep.

*I don't like chick flicks...I'm more of an action/adventure/comedy gal.  

*I love reading, but I totally cheated and did the cliff's notes version of most of the required reading in all of my literature classes during college.

*I've never had a cavity.

*As a kid, I was an extra on a dumb Steven King movie called, "Sometimes They Come Back."  Seriously, a horrible movie.  More cheesy than scary.  My sisters and I were in a scene set up as a hometown parade/festival.

*I had to wear glasses beginning in second grade until three years ago when my optometrist said I shouldn't be wearing glasses at all.

*I have been asked by strangers (more times than I can count) if we've met before or am told by others that I look familiar or look like someone they know.  Maybe this happens to lots of people, but it seems to happen to me all the time.

*I always wash my hands and make my kids wash theirs when we get home from church or public places...I am a moderate germaphobe.

*I do not like alcohol of any just tastes gross to me.  If I have to acquire a taste for it, then it isn't worth the calories.

*My favorite drink is a non-fat chai with vanilla.  Brent makes an excellent true Indian chai that I can never say no to.

*I'm afraid of heights.  Like absurdly afraid.  I have tried several times to overcome my fear, but once I'm at the top, I freeze and it takes me forever to get back down.

*I have this weird fear of knocking out my two front teeth.  I once hit them on a slide as a kid and since then, if I trip or slip and fall, I will sacrifice any body part to save my teeth.

*I love to travel, but really hate to fly (that's probably a 'duh' since I'm afraid of heights).  I can't relax on a plane and don't feel completely at ease until I've landed.

*I am really outgoing and make friends in the weirdest on vacation.  It always shocks me a little by the depth of what acquaintances are willing to tell me (though, I really enjoy listening to others).  I guess I have a trust-me-with-your-life-story kind of face.

*Brent and I have known each other since the fourth grade.  We had huge crushes on each other in middle school but never dated.  That means we've known each other for 24 years, been together for 14 and married for nearly 12.  I've always thought he was super-attractive, but I think he gets hotter with age.

*I don't like regular jelly beans, but my favorite candy is Jelly Bellies.  I even have a Jelly Belly dispenser on my desk at work.

*For the better part of the week I am a vegetarian, but when the weekend comes I give myself the freedom to eat meat.  I do not champion a vegetarian lifestyle because of morals and, my reasons are pretty shallow.  I do it because it's cost effective.

*When I was pregnant with Emerie all I wanted was meat...which is why 'Meatless Monday' posts were shelved for nine months.  I felt like a hypocrite posting meatless recipes while regularly devouring a juicy burger in secret.

*I don't like messes or clutter.  I have a hard time functioning when there is chaos...but with three kids, that means I'm having to learn to both relax a little AND task the kids to pick up their own stuff. It's GLORIOUS (the kids picking up, not living with clutter).

*I hate doing laundry, it will always be last on my long list of things to do.  Seems a bit out of place considering the above confession.

All it's your turn!  Tell me all about you!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


We would like to introduce you to the newest Jackson 5 member, Emerie Anne Jackson.  Our sweet second little miss entered this world weighing 6lb. 10oz. and 17 1/4 in long.  Hearing her loud screams echo off the walls of the stark O.R. walls (she was breech and a scheduled c-section...very interesting experience) was music to our ears.

Emerie is such a miracle and her safe arrival is an answer to many fervent prayers.  At 12 weeks of pregnancy, we thought we may lose her due to a hemorrhage that developed.  We were even told by one doctor during my pregnancy that we should feel fortunate to have the two children we already had, and that we could always, "try again" if we lost this baby.  There was nothing I nor the doctors could do in order to create favorable circumstances for Emerie's survival.  There were no procedures they could perform or medications to change things.  Emerie is here, like any of us, purely by the hand of a gracious, loving  and sovereign Heavenly Father.  

Those cheeks get my kisses all day long...

We are so grateful to have Emerie in our family.  Ethan and Eva simply love her to pieces, and our family feels so complete with her here.

By the way...The pictures were taken by my good friend Nicole Young and her business partner/mom Deb Blackman from Urbanwings Artography.  If you are in the Des Moines area, get in touch with them.  We use them for all of our family photos, and they are simply amazing at what they do!  Check out their website  or like them on facebook!

Friday, October 5, 2012

What To Do When Your Baby Is Breech and Other Crazy Pregnant Ramblings...

Week 33 and desperate to try anything that will turn a breech babe.

What does a bag of peas, stack of pillows, heating pad, flash light, classical music and the webster method all have in common?  They are all supposed ways of turning a breech baby.  Yep.  Baby J prefers to march to the beat of a different drum and has decided to settle into breech position.  Desperate times call for desperate measures and I've got six weeks to try to convince baby J that head down is best for all involved.

My midwives gave me a detailed sheet of exercises and tricks to try at home, some of which include the above items I mentioned.  I sort of laughed off all the techniques until I got visions of c-section recovery in my head and decided the sheet was worth a shot.

First I tried stacking pillows under my bum until my hips were so high in the air above my head that my face began turning red.  I managed to stay in that position eight of the recommended ten minutes until the pounding in my head and the kicking baby convinced me to give it up.  I rolled myself from my perch and decided I'd try again the following day.

The next day, I reread the sheet of to-do's and decided maybe I should couple high-hips with some of the other techniques for a sort of trifecta the baby couldn't win against.  Once again, I propped my hips up on pillows, face turning beet red, with a bag of frozen peas at the top of my abdomen and a flashlight pointed just above my hips directly on my belly. According to the sheet, the baby should try to escape from the cold and head into the light. While in this compromising position, my husband walked in the room and gave me the, lady-are-you-crazy-look.  Not really wanting to explain my loss of dignity, I handed him the sheet and said, "Here, it's on this sheet of paper.  Just read it."  He read it, shook his head and said, "Let me know how that works out for ya." Then left the room.  This position lasted 10 minutes with no turned baby .  I came to the conclusion that someone came up with these loony positions just to see if some crazy, desperate pregnant lady would give it a try.  Not wanting to disappoint, I became the crazy, desperate pregnant lady.

The following day, I decided to try the last position on the sheet.  It was a variation of the pillows under the hips position, except the desperate pregnant lady is to lean an ironing board against a couch creating an angled plane.  Next, said lady is to lie down on the board with head pointed toward the floor, holding the position for 15 minutes.  This time, I decided I would try it when I was alone.  My pride simply couldn't handle the questions from the kiddos and head shakes from my hubby.  I leaned the ironing board on the couch, then I sort of half-shimmied up the board until my body was at a complete angle with the top of my head resting on the floor, a bag of frozen peas on the top of my abdomen above the baby's head, and a heating pad at the bottom of my abdomen.  Supposedly, the baby is to make like a bird and head south away from the cold and toward warmer weather.  Under my breath I said, "Lord please let this work." Then I talked to the baby, pleading with him/her to get in correct position.  This position lasted all of five of the recommended 15 minutes, at which point I began getting indigestion coupled with my beet-red face and the sensation that passing out was imminent.  So, I rolled my pregnant self off the board and threw away the sheet of paper that stripped me of my dignity.  Stupid paper.

Lastly, I decided I would probably be better off going to the chiropractor to see what she could accomplish. I had heard of the Webster Technique and figured it couldn't hurt to give it a shot.  So after two days and two adjustments, I'm still not sure if the baby is turned, but I feel incredible (there may have been a change of position as of last night.  I think it's possible that I'm feeling the baby's bottom up top now) .  She has loosened up some ligaments that I had no idea were tight.  I only wish I had gone to her sooner.  If this doesn't work there's always moxibustion.  I can just have Brent burn incense next to my pinkie toe, while I'm upside down with peas, heating pad and flash light balanced on my protruding abdomen, all while listening to Beethoven.  What's there to lose?

Monday, July 30, 2012

It's Monday and I Made Food...

It's Monday, I made food...that just happened to be meatless.  I'm pretty sure that with this pregnancy Brent was certain my cooking days went out the window along with the mopping and vacuuming.  But, the boy was wrong (mostly).

Lately, I have wanted comfort food. But, when I think of comfort food, it usually means I'm heating up my house by turning on the oven.  Uh, no thank you.  This summer heat is oven enough for me thankyouverymuch.

Anyway, the other day in my attempt to satisfy my comfort food longings, I decided I'd give homemade mac n' cheese a try.  There is a restaurant in Iowa (Atlas in Iowa City) that has the best grown-up mac'n cheese e.v.e.r.  But, It's like over an hour away, so I decided to try to replicate it.  My favorite part about their mac is the roasted tomato compote they pile in the middle of the creamy pasta dish.  Oh my goodness, it's amazing and compliments the rich cheesy sauce perfectly!

While I'd go back to Atlas in a heartbeat, I think our attempt turned out pretty awesome!  It was so creamy and totally hit the spot!  I do have a few particulars when it comes to the cheese:

1.  It has to be freshly grated.  I don't like pre-packaged shredded cheese because of that powdery stuff they put in there to keep the cheese from sticking grosses me out.

2.  No stringy, oily mess.

3. Use at least two complimenting kinds of cheese for a richer flavor.

Other than that, I'm easy to please!  I should note, that though this dish is meatless, it is definitely NOT low-cal.  It's for sure a splurge.

Gourmet Mac 'n Cheese with Roasted Tomato Compote

Pasta and Sauce Ingredients:
12 oz. whole wheat elbow pasta (I used whole wheat penne because that's what I had)
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 C. flour
1/4 minced onion
1 1/2 C. milk (I used skim )
1 C. chicken broth (vegetable broth works great!)
8 oz. shredded cheese (I used mild cheddar and Monterrey jack.  Gruyere or Fontina would be awesome!)

Toasted Breadcrumb Topping:
1/4 breadcrumbs (I used whole wheat bread I had on hand that I buzzed in the food processor)
2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. (or less) melted butter
dash of garlic powder

Roasted Tomato Compote:
1 can fire roasted tomatoes (I used Hunts brand)

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water until slightly tender.  Don't overcook or it will be soggy in the cheese sauce.  

While the pasta is cooking, pour the can of roasted tomatoes into a small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, slightly mashing the tomatoes as it cooks and the liquid reduces (about 10-15 minutes).  You want the tomatoes to be cooked down and slightly thickened.

In a small skillet,  melt the butter for the breadcrumb topping.  Add the breadcrumbs and cook on low until slightly toasted.  Remove breadcrumbs to a dish to cool slightly before tossing with Parmesan and garlic powder.  Set aside.

In a large heavy skillet, melt the butters.  Saute the onion in the butter until softened.  Add flour and cook for about a minute until the flour is combined and golden.  Slowly add one cup of milk stirring until the sauce starts to thicken.  Next add the chicken broth, again, stirring and cooking until it becomes slightly thickened.  If the sauce mixture is getting too thick you can add the remaining 1/2 C. of milk, although I have not needed it in the past. You want the sauce to be creamy, but not too thick or too runny.  

Once the sauce has thickened, remove from heat and stir in the cheeses until completely melted.  Adjust with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in the macaroni, and pour it into a baking dish.  Top macaroni and cheese with breadcrumbs (at this point, you can broil it in the oven to make it even more browned if you wish).  

Top individual servings with roasted tomato compote.