Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Introducing...

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 www.urbanwingsart.com  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 together...it 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)

Directions:
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.

Enjoy!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

bump.

I guess now that I'm 22 weeks, I should post the bump in all its glory.


Ta. Da.
As Emeril would say, "BAM!"


The little miss rubs my belly all the time, then wrinkles up her nose, pokes my belly button and asks, "Why you belly so BIG?"  It's not the entire sleeve of peanut butter sandwich girl scout cookies I polished off over the last few days.  Well, that's probably not helping matters!  My husband just informed me that they contain 40% of my daily fat.  Awesome.  


Hey, I'm just thankful they sound good and taste good.  Just a few weeks ago the smell of them would have sent me running to the bathroom.  Now I seem to be closer to my normal self...save for the protruding abdomen.


Oh, and today, a little boy at the park asked me why my belly was so big.  I told him it was because there was a baby in there. He so graciously replied, "Nah-uh!  You just have a fat belly!"  Thank you random park kid.  You're so sweet.

While I'm no longer sick (praise JESUS!) And my belly is bigger (as already mentioned) I certainly have a few needs this go around.  Okay, they're really wants, but when you're preggo it feels like a need.  I decided to make a list of all the things that seem to make me happy these days (because pregnancy makes me neurotic and list making...well, it's not something I normally do, so it's neurotic for me.  It's not like I'm ever going to look at this list again).

1.  I have to have a non-fat vanilla chai every morning (tazo mix at home...I'm too cheap to schlep down the street to Caribou and fork over four bucks).  This morning I ran out, so I wore my sad face around the house.  I may have whined a little too.  Then  B took me to breakfast at La Mie and I smiled again.

2.  Meat.  There I said it.  No meatless Mondays for the past few weeks, because sista hasn't been going meatless much these days.  I did, however, have a mexican black bean salad for lunch yesterday and it hit the spot...so, I might make a return to the land of no meat soon.

3.  Two words...SWEET. TEA.  

4.  One word...PIZZA...the homemade variety where my husband slaves over a hot grill in 100 degree heat. It's divine.  And so is he.

5.  TUMS.  It's like a bedtime snack these days.  Probably because of the meat and pizza.


6.  Water.  Lots and lots of super-cold water.  I just fill up my Camelback all day long.  I'm not typically a fan of drinking water, but lately I can't get enough.

I also have a list of non-food needs...I'm shaping up to be one needy pregnant lady!

1.  Bella band.  This stretchy guy has gotten me through two pregnancies now.  I don't know what I'd do without it!  I love that it allows me to wear my pre-pregnancy clothes a little bit longer.  I'm not really a fan of maternity clothes in general, so I try to get as much use out of my pre-pregnancy clothes by layering and using my Bella band.  I think there are cheaper versions out there now, but I haven't tried them.

2.  Dry shampoo.  I sort of hate washing my hair every. single. day. and then styling it.  But, without a little help, my pregnancy hair is just gross.  Dry shampoo has been my best friend.

3. Shorts.  A friend of mine claimed that she preferred being pregnant in summer to being pregnant in the winter.  Having never been noticeably pregnant in summer myself, I didn't believe her...I mean, the heat!!!  But, the girl has a point.  It's way easier to pull on a pair of shorts over a big belly than a pair of maternity pants!  She's made me a believer.


4.  Erbaviva belly oil.  Oh man.  I started using it when I was pregnant with the little Mr. and have used it with each pregnancy since.  This stuff is awesome, and no itchy belly!  I actually buy mine locally at a shop called Eden, but you can get it online at a variety of sources.


5.  Lemon verbena soy candles from Target.  I'm really sensitive to smells, and to finally find a scent that doesn't make me sick is awesome.  These candles have such a fresh, clean scent, so I burn them all the time...like every time I swear something smells weird in the house (I'm usually the only one who smells these phantom odors).



So that's the list of my crazy preggo idiosyncrasies!  If I ever go back and read this list I will definitely come to the conclusion that I lost my marbles during pregnancy.


What about you?  Do you have anything you couldn't (seemingly) live without during pregnancy?





Thursday, June 7, 2012

Standing Guard...

"The mind is a dangerous tool if not guarded diligently.  If left on its own, even the greatest of celebrations can turn to fear, discouragement and a loss of hope."
                                                                                         --Holly McRae


When I read the above quote today, I wished deep inside, I had read it five weeks ago.  For the last five weeks, I have waded between hope and encouragement as I receive reports that our baby is growing and healthy, and deep discouragement over the fact that ultrasounds show the hemorrhage is still present (we've had three so far since the diagnosis, with another in two weeks).

I can truly celebrate that we have reached 17 weeks, and I am feeling stronger baby movements every day.  But, if I don't guard my mind, my celebrations turn to despair as I allow my mind to focus on the presence of the hemorrhage and fear begins to rob me of the joy that comes with carrying this little one.

Could God choose to not allow this little one to join our family here on earth?  Absolutely.  We never know how long we have with any of our loved ones.  Of course my prayer is that the hemorrhage will go away, the pregnancy continues to full-term, and we are allowed to raise this sweet baby.

In my previous pregnancies, my milestone markers were each trimester.  I would give God thanks when I crossed that imaginary dividing line that got me one step closer to delivery and holding our precious babies.  This time, I thank God at the end of each day for one more day to carry this baby.  One more day to feel sweet little kicks.  One more day of no bleeding.  More so than ever, I have so much respect and reverence for God's role as the Creator of the universe and the Sustainer of life.

Psalm 139:13-16 Is such a favorite verse when it comes to fully capturing God's role as the Creator of life:

For you created my inmost being; 
you knit me together in my mother's womb.


I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.


My frame was not hidden from you 
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,


Your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.


It is comforting knowing that our baby is well-known by our Heavenly Father.  To Him, our baby is not simply a fetus.  He sees our precious one, and oversees each little detail as it is formed.  Our baby is not hidden from Him and He has already ordained our baby's days.

I know He is going before our baby and weaving together his/her story.  That is something to rejoice over!  I am really striving to not let any fear or discouragement rob me of celebrating what God is accomplishing.  I am choosing to rejoice and celebrate each milestone day-by-day, and minute-by-minute.

What about you?  Is God teaching you about an area in your life that you need to view from a perspective of joy rather than fear or discouragement?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

His and Hers Adventures...

Part of the India team...my handsome fella is on the far right...

Last Wednesday the kiddos and I drove Brent to the Des Moines airport where we said good-bye as he boarded a plane for a trip...a trip to INDIA...for 16 days.  He is part of a 12 member team who are spending their days hiking the Himalayan mountains and praying along the way.  They are stopping in various mountain villages to serve the people and live among them for a bit before moving up the mountain to the next village.  This trip will be a challenge both physically and spiritually.  

In the minds of many people, praying through villages doesn't seem like much of a mission trip. True, they are not building houses or community centers.  They are not delivering humanitarian aid.  The concern of the team and the many teams who have done this trek before them is the spiritual darkness in these villages, where currently it is not safe to share the gospel.  They are building relationships with the Indian people and praying without ceasing that the doors will be swung wide open in India so the truth will penetrate the darkness and despair.  Sure, the team could build houses (and don't get me wrong, I certainly see a place for a ministry such as this), but they are far more concerned for the lost souls in India.  They long to see the people of India under the shelter of the wings of the Almighty.

families saying good-bye to the team...

This is an adventure for both of us as Brent's never been out of the country, and we've never been apart for more than a few days at a time.  For me it's an adventure in parenting skills, patience, and a challenge to keep the home front running smoothly.  The kiddos are doing really well in Brent's absence.  Eva still believes her dad is gallivanting around on an airplane, and Ethan said his dad moved to India.  Thankfully neither circumstance is true.  They miss him the most at night during our bedtime routine, as Bible story time has always been his gig, but they don't seem to mind my stories of Elisha too much even if I'm, "doing it wrong," most of the time.  I've had to break-up a couple of fights, but overall they are doing great and we're having a lot of fun together.

As for me, I'm a relatively self-sufficient person who likes to keep my daily routine, so I'm not afraid to do things on my own for a while.  The other night, we had one of our lamps quit working (truth be told the kids knocked it over during a heated brawl and I couldn't get it to work again).  My first thought was to just buy another lamp, but then my cheap side kicked in and I figured there must be a way to repair the inner workings.  Home Depot came to the rescue, and after a few minutes in the lighting department, I came out with the parts I needed and fixed the lamp.  Brent is totally our household jack-of-all-trades, but he may be out of a job as far as electrical work goes.  Just kidding.  I have a 'honey-do' list a mile long waiting for him when he gets back *evil laugh*.
.
Even though I know this time apart has been good for both of us in various ways, I am SO READY for him to come home (we still have eight days left).  I just miss our daily interactions, our little inside jokes, and our evening dates on the couch hanging out after the kiddos are in bed.  And, quite frankly, he's handsome as all get out, so I miss his face!  *Sigh*  I love him.

I know he is going to come back a completely changed person, so my prayer is that God will "catch me up" spiritually so that we can be united in the new passions and desires God stirs in Brent's heart.
Overall this is simply an exciting time and I can't wait to hear the stories, see what God is doing and how He is moving in India and the hearts of the team.

Please pray for Brent and the 11 other members of the team.  Pray for their health and safety during the trek and for God's light to shine in a darkened world!



**P.S.  A few friends have asked how my pregnancy is going so far.  The update is that the hemorrhage is still present, but that the baby continues to grow and remains healthy.  I am nearly 17 weeks now, and am feeling a bit stronger movements, so that is very encouraging.  I will try to write an update very soon.  Thank you for praying for us and baby Jackson!!!  It means more than you know!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Meatless Monday...It's Baaaaaaaaack...

I can't believe I am rejoining the world of normal eating again.  I didn't think the sickies would ever go away, and except for the rare sneak attack that sends me running for the bathroom unexpectedly, I'm back to what is somewhat normal.

For the last eight weeks, mealtime has been on Brent's shoulders with me asking, "Is it over yet?" As I huddled on the couch away from the cooking smells.  Imagine his surprise when he walked in the kitchen this weekend to find me at work getting our dinner ready...a REAL dinner!

I decided to try my hand at a semi-homemade ravioli recipe I found on A Small Snippet.  It's a little more work than simply opening up a box of pasta and boiling it, yet still relatively easy with the help of pre-packaged wonton wrappers found in the refrigerated section of the produce department.

I typically can't leave a recipe well-enough alone, so I did add a couple of things to suit our family's tastes.  To the ricotta filling, I added about a cup of chopped fresh spinach to sneak in some veggies, and the kiddos didn't even mind!  Anytime I have a ricotta based dish I usually add just a dash of nutmeg to the ricotta mixture.  It sounds crazy, but it really brings out the flavor of the ricotta, which usually is a bit bland tasting.  Other than those two additions, I pretty much stuck to the recipe.  She did not list measurements for the seasonings in the filling, so I just kind of guessed and 2 tablespoons of each seemed to be about the right amount for our family, but really you can't go wrong with a little more or a little less.

Instead of topping with a heavy sauce, the recipe called for a simple drizzle of olive oil, a few toasted walnuts, some grated Parmesan and a bit of fresh basil.  I totally recommend this!  It was so delicious.  I hope you give it a chance!  I do think the ravioli would also be great with a homemade tomato sauce or even an alfredo, but definitely try it her way first.

This meal was definitely a hit with our family.  Our kids ate it up and then asked for seconds!  The ravioli was even delicious warmed up the next day for lunch.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Semi-Homemade Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli with Toasted Walnuts

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Ingredients:
15 oz. Ricotta
1 C. mozzarella
handful of chopped spinach
2 Tbsp. oregano
2 Tbsp. basil
2 Tbsp. parsley
2 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
dash of nutmeg
kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 package of wonton wrappers

Finish With:
chopped toasted walnuts
grated parmesan
fresh basil
drizzle of olive oil

Directions:
Bring a pot of salted water to boil.
Combine ricotta, mozzarella, spinach, seasonings and olive oil in a bowl.  If mixture seems a bit dry, add a little more olive oil to keep things moist.  Taste and adjust seasonings according to your liking.

Sorry.  I used a good bit of the cheese mixture before remembering to take a pic!


Place a small amount of the cheese mixture in the center of each wonton wrapper.  A teaspoon or slightly more seems to be about the right proportion to keep the filling from oozing out when boiling.
Dip your finger in a bit of water and wet all of the edges, then fold into a triangle and press the edges together to seal.




Drop the ravioli into the boiling water about four or five at a time. I watched until the ravioli rose to the surface and then boiled for about another minute or so until tender. 


Remove the ravioli from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and repeat with remaining ravioli.  I tossed my cooked ravioli with just a bit of olive oil to keep them from sticking together before serving.


To serve, top the ravioli with your favorite sauce, or with walnuts, basil, parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

Enjoy!

Friday, May 4, 2012

The One About Giving Up Control...


I'm just going to get right down to it.  No fancy intro.  No inspirational word picture to set the stage.  This week  we received some news that is not the greatest regarding our pregnancy.  Early Monday morning, I woke up to a large amount of blood.  Brent took me to the ER, where after some testing and an ultrasound, they determined I have a subchorionic hemorrhage.  The good news is the location.  It  lies just above the cervix and thus is away from the placenta, where it could force the placenta away from the uterine wall, putting me at a greater risk of miscarriage.  The not so good news, is the size.  It is roughly 5cm (2 inches) putting it at about the same size as my pregnancy.  The whole time in the ER, we were praying for two miracles.  First, that the bleeding would stop or slow down, and second that our baby would still be alive.  God graciously answered both of those prayers so we give Him the praise.

I am still spotting and occasionally have larger amounts of blood, which could be good as the hemorrhage releases the blood instead of building up, but frankly, bleeding in pregnancy is never a 'good' thing.  Luckily, because of the position of the hemorrhage, it is not blocking nourishment to our baby, and so we have a very healthy baby right now, who is growing, moving and has a strong heartbeat!  We had an ultrasound yesterday, and it was such a gift to see our little one, fully developed and doing acrobats. I praise God for the opportunity to see those beautiful tiny hands and feet!  I am not on bed rest, I am just to take things easy, so no heavy lifting or marathon training ha!

When we first found out, I was desperately seeking wise counsel and encouragement from the doctors and specialist.  I wanted someone to guarantee me of our baby's ability to survive.  And you know what I received?  Two doctors gave me a positive outcome, and two told me to be prepared for the worst.  I was left feeling discouraged and desperate.  I came home and sobbed, then I remembered a scrap piece of paper in my purse where I had written some verses down to share with a friend.  I spent my afternoon in silence, reading God's word, praying and releasing my fears to Him.

If you don't mind I would like to share a couple of them with you:

John 14:27
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

I realized that I was looking in the wrong place for my peace.  I was desperate for the doctors to give me hope...but there is only ONE who is the giver of hope.  Our Heavenly Father.  He is the Father of all peace and comfort, so why was I looking to the world to provide that for me?  I was also reminded of something else.  Fear is not from God.  He is not the Father of fear...He is the Father of peace and comfort and hope.

Romans 15:13
"May the god of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

I just cannot tell you how encouraged I feel.  I was thinking back to something Job said in the Bible (but, believe me, I in know way am identifying myself with Job's trials) he basically said, God's mind and purpose has never changed and whatever He wants to do, He does.  He controls our destiny.  

While I don't completely understand the purpose in all of this today, I can say that it has caused me to do one thing that God longs for each of us to do...release my control to Him.  There is nothing I can do of myself to change outcomes in my favor, but I can thank Him for every single day I get to have with this baby, and I can rest in the fact that whether the outcome is in my favor or not, He controls my destiny.  His ways are higher than mine, and His plan is to prosper me and not harm me.  To give me hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).  

I hesitated writing this post, because I don't want to convey the wrong thing.  I am not looking for sympathy or attention.  I am praising God for the hope He is giving me each day!  I have shed many tears, but feel at such peace about this whole thing right now.  I have searched God's word and am learning to give up control.  Right now we have a growing, healthy-baby, and that gives me so much hope!  We all have pain and trials, it just looks different for each of us.  I pray that you are encouraged by God's words of hope as I have been!

2 Corinthians 1:3-5
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.




Friday, April 27, 2012

It's Been A While...



My name is Nikki and it's been nearly a month since my last confession.

Friends this was a much needed break as things have been rough in the Jackson house.  We're talking dirty laundry piling up, dishes that need washed, kids who need to be schooled, a house that has needed some serious attention, and a sweet hubby who has been trying to be Mr. Mom in the middle of the mayhem.  Now, one may think I'm not pulling my weight around here.  And you'd be right.  I've been hanging out on the couch...sick.  Yuck.  But it's for a good reason...

Coming mid-November...

My first thought when I saw those double lines on the stick? (okay, in full disclosure...5 sticks later)  We will now be outnumbered.  I'm sure the joke's on us, but right now we're pretty stinking excited!  In November I may be more dazed and confused.

So, while I've been...ummm...'working'...the blog has totally taken the back seat.  Meatless Monday?  So not happening for a while.  The thought of listing ingredients for Meatless Monday about sends me over the edge.  It will definitely be back...maybe in a few weeks.  Ha!  Oh, and Thrifted Thursday?  Yeah...right now I'm lucky to get out of leggings and t-shirts.  I love you all too much to subject you to that hot mess.

Posts may be a bit sporadic for a bit, but when this fog called morning sickness lifts, then I'll get back to the grind.

The kiddos are way excited and have already put in their gender requests and name choices.  Ethan wants a boy and would like to name him, "Gadget".  Eva would like a girl and is requesting the name, "Latte".  I have vetoed both names.  Although, I do see the humor in yelling across the parking lot, "Latte!  Get over here right now!  We don't run around the parking lot!"  There's something just a little awesome about that.  But, no.  I definitely won't go there.  Maybe we'll just call the baby "latte" until he/she arrives.  That might be okay.

I usually get asked a couple of questions and I'll totally answer them here because I'm pretty much an open book...

1)  Will you find out the baby's gender?
No.  We're crazy like that.  We didn't find out with either the little Mr. or Miss and we totally LOVE surprises!

2)  Will this baby's name start with the letter 'E'?
Depends.  We never intended to go with all 'E' names.  Eva was originally going to be Avery but after she was born she looked nothing like an Avery, so we were back at square one in the name department before settling on Eva (oh, and in case you're wondering, we do not pronounce her name 'Ava' or 'Eh-va'.  We pronounce the long 'E'.).  If baby numero tres is a boy, his name will start with the letter 'M'.  If a girl...well, we do have two 'E' names we like, but we haven't nailed it down yet and it certainly doesn't have to start with the letter 'E' to make the cut.  Very long answer sheesh!

3)  We know your house only has two bedrooms.  Does that mean you will be moving before the baby comes?  
Again, we're crazy, but no.  We are not moving.  We LOVE our house, neighborhood and location so much that we are not moving.  Plus, our neighborhood is a melting pot and the best place for us to do ministry right now.  Ethan and Eva share a room and will soon be getting bunkbeds.  Baby number 3 will sleep in our room until he/she sleeps through the night and then all three will share a room.  Sort of like the Darling family in Peter Pan! Ha!  I'm actually sort of excited to have all of them share.  Sure, we'll have to move eventually, but for now we're staying put.  Hopefully one day I'll do a house post and give you all a little tour of our sweet bungalow we call home!

Disney Debuts Peter Pan Storybook App
photo courtesy Disney


So, that's it in a nutshell.  I'll be around kind of here and there, but hope to get back to writing soon!
In the meantime, enjoy this video of Brent and I letting the cat out of the bag with the kiddos.  To set the stage for a positive reaction, we took them out for ice cream...it worked.  Oh, and pay no attention to the fact that the little Mr. is eating his styrofoam cup...I promise we feed our children something other than styrofoam.






Monday, March 19, 2012

Meatless Monday...Fail

Today I've been sort of wracking my brain on what to share for Meatless Monday since last night's dinner was a huge fail (Cheesy Quinoa Cakes= Greasy Crumbled Mess).  I sort of had high hopes that the Quinoa patties would knock my socks off, but after trying many different varieties (black beans, lentils and now quinoa) I'm beginning to think unless it's beef, it doesn't belong in a patty.  I know.  Sort of goes against my meatless standards.  I will give it one last try soon and will reveal my final conclusion.


So, with no wow-factor leftovers, I was forced to make a sandwich for lunch today.  I had some homemade guacamole on hand, some veggies, flat bread and monterrey jack cheese.  I figured surely this would make some kind of a good combo.  It was good.  Actually, it was awesome!  The kids looked longingly at my sandwich and asked for one bite.  Knowing that their bite equals three-fourths of my sandwich, I thought about saying, "No, my loves.  This is mommy's delicious sandwich, finish your peanut butter."  But, I remembered the whole sharing thing...so I shared.  And they loved it too.  They also finished it :(


Grilled Guacamole Melt

1 whole wheat flat bread circle, cut in half (could also use pita pockets or tortillas)
Smidge of butter
Thinly sliced monterrey jack cheese
2 Tbsp guacamole (recipe below)
4 thin slices of tomato
Thinly sliced red onion
2 Tbsp. shredded carrot


1)  Lightly butter one side of each flat bread half.

2) On one half of the flat bread layer the cheese.  Spread with guacamole and top with veggies.  Top with other half of bread and grill buttered side down over medium heat until golden brown.  Flip and grill the other side until brown and cheese is melted.

3) Eat in hiding, so you don't have to share.

Guacamole
2 Ripe avocados
1 roma tomato, diced very fine
1/4 C. red onion, diced very fine
1/4 C. cilantro, chopped
1/4 tsp. garlic powder (more or less to taste)
1/4 tsp. kosher salt (more or less to taste)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 seeded jalapeno, chopped fine (optional)

Combine all ingredients and mash until smooth (or slightly chunky).  Chill, wrapped tightly in plastic before serving.  To store any remaining guacamole (but seriously, who has leftovers?) place in a small ziplock bag, being careful to remove all air from the bag creating a tight seal against the guacamole to prevent browning.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thrifted Thursday Just A Smidge Hippie...

I would consider myself one of those people who goes through style phases.  There was the turtleneck phase in middle school, where all I would wear were turtlenecks in every possible color.  The t-shirt phase.  The flannel/grunge + Doc Martens phase (I was fairly tame with this one...).  The preppy phase. The cardigan phase.   And then the cardigan phase reborn 10 years later.  


Then there was the vest phase... my freshman year of high school, I had these retro vests I would layer over my outfits.   They were actually pretty cool because they were vintage and were handed down to me from my grandpa.  But, sadly, somewhere along the way, I lost interest in the vests and gave them away.  Hands down my biggest fashion mistake was giving away those vests.  Not only because of their sentimental value, but they fit perfectly (my grandpa is a slight man) and were the perfect combo of menswear mixed with my girly style.  I've learned my lesson.   If something goes out of style, but I still really love it, I'll hold on to a couple of my favorite items for when fashion comes full circle again.


Several weeks ago, a good friend handed down to me a denim vest.  It was way cute (AND still had the tags on!) but I wasn't sure I could pull it off nearly 20 years later.  I sort of just stashed it away in my closet until yesterday.  I looked it over and decided maybe I could pull off a modified "hippie" look with it...
vest:  GAP hand-me-down
blouse:  super old
jeans: The Limited thrifted

necklace:  gift from a friend

shoes:  Lucky Brand thrifted

It was actually fun to put together an outfit from my past with a few modern twists...and of course thrifted and free is always a winner in my book!

What about you?  Did you go through any fashion 'phases'?  Have you revisited a style from your past?


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Dude, Get On That Already...

So I've been feeling challenged to wrap up a few projects around the home front and blog front.  Do you guys read Young House Love?  I love reading their blog!  They are funny and punny and seriously get stuff done!  They've given themselves a "Dude, Get On That Already!" challenge to finish up some projects that have been set aside for too long. After reading their commitment to get stuff done, I've started to feel the fire being lit under me.


We have a lot of projects we'd like to accomplish around our house before May, so B and I are feeling the pressure to get er' done.  But, one project I've put off forever is simply organizing my blog.  Every week I do a Meatless Monday and Thrifted Thursday post.  The problem?  Well, those posts were just floating around on my blog.  If I, or anyone else, wanted to look up a specific recipe it was a huge pain to find the old posts.  Not fun.  So, I finally bit the bullet and added some nice little tabs up top to get things nice and organized and clean-up my blog!  Now, you can click on 'Meatless Mondays' and find all the recipes in one convenient spot!  Yay!  I have yet to organize the Thrifted Thursday posts, but that's next friends!  I'm sure I will continue tweaking things, and things may get worse before getting better...but hang in there with me okay?


Poor B.  I have a list of 24 'to-do's' (and counting) to get done around our place. But, I've committed to helping him knock it out.  Our house was built in 1916, so with age comes lots of up keep just to keep things looking fresh (and fixed).  I just know once we get started it will be refreshing to simply cross it off our list and put it behind us.  So, here's our Dude (and Dudette) Get On That!  List:


1)    build/Install Kitchen closet door
2)    re-attach Gutter (it fell off last week during a big gust of wind)
3)    build Kid's bunk-bed
4)    buy bunkbed from IKEA because we didn't build them
5)    re-finish dresser
6)    run new electrical in kitchen
7)    finish lower cabinets
8)    install backsplash
9)    new countertops
10)  install microwave above stove
11)  under cabinet lighting
11)  paint living room
12)  paint master bedroom
13)  install bathroom closet door
14)  paint garage
15)  clean up landscaping
16)  plant garden
17)  clean/organize basement
18)  paint basement walls
19)  install exhaust fan in bathroom
20)  new bathroom sinks
21)  resign to the fact that new bathroom sinks aren't happening
22)  new kitchen sink
23)  caulk bathroom doors
24)  install new kitchen window
25)  paint trim in bedrooms


Now that you've seen our huge list, I'm feeling accountable to getting it done!  Do any of you have a to-do list that just needs to get knocked out?  Does Spring have you saying 'Dude Get On That Already?!'

Monday, March 12, 2012

Meatless Monday...Thai Peanut Noodles

Wow...it's going to be a gorgeous week in Iowa, 60's today and 70's the rest of the week!  I think Spring is officially here! We had a great weekend with my parents who came up to celebrate my birthday, so this gal got away without cooking all weekend!  Last night around 10pm I realized I was back on kitchen duty today, which meant I should ease myself into things with a super-easy recipe. This Thai Peanut Noodle recipe is not only easy, but super-yummy!

This is actually one of those recipes my kiddos gobble up and then ask for seconds (probably because of the peanut butter).  When I originally made this, I sliced the carrots, but soon realized the texture was much better if they were shredded on a box grater.  I also used frozen broccoli florets that I steamed for 3 minutes in the microwave before sauteing all vegetables together.  Sliced red bell pepper was also a later addition which really made this recipe so much better!  Hope you all enjoy it!

Thai Peanut Noodles


1 pkg whole wheat linguine noodles
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 C. chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
5 tbsp. creamy peanut butter
3 tbsp. soy sauce
3 tbsp. honey (or brown sugar)
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated (powdered ginger is fine too)
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
2 tbsp. sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 C. broccoli florets
1 C. shredded carrots
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 C. sugar snap peas
1/4 C. chopped cilantro

Directions:
1) Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and boil pasta until al dente.
2) Meanwhile, in a saucepan over low heat, whisk cornstarch into the chicken broth until dissolved.  Whisk in peanut butter, soy sauce, honey, 1 tsp. sesame oil, ginger and crushed red pepper until combined and slightly thickened (about 5 minutes).
3) Heat 2 tbsp. sesame oil in a skillet and saute garlic just until fragrant. Add all vegetables except cilantro and saute until tender.  
4)  Drain the pasta (do not rinse) and toss with vegetables and peanut sauce.  Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Meatless...Thursday?...

Is it allowed to do a Meatless Monday post on Thursday?  Let's just call it playing catch up mkay? I sort of hit the wall recently between homeschooling, a Monday evening study B and I are going through, Awanas, youth group, work, small group and life in general.  All that said, I have had trouble eeking out posts for the last few weeks.

But, I will say one of my bright spots of late was a trip to San Diego with a few ladies from church to attend the CPC conference for those working in children's ministry.  It was awesome.  I learned so much and came away with tools to not only help me as I work with children and youth, but tools to help B and I raise our little ones up to love their Lord with all their heart!  Good stuff!

Here are a few pics from our time there:






It was so much fun...but my favorite part?  Not having to prepare any meals!  I'm not going to lie, having my food prepared for me every evening was pretty amazing.

What about B and the kiddos you ask?  Well, B held down the home front for a few days, and may I add he did an amazing job?  Seriously, he's such an awesome dad, and the three of them had such a great time together!  The two littles are a couple of lucky kiddos to have a dad like him!

Now that we're back to our routine again, and I'm back to cooking *sigh* I thought I'd share a recipe we were totally loving last night...caramelized mushroom, pepper and onion pizza with herbed goat cheese.  Oh. My. Word.  This was so good. The pizza was perfectly crispy, the veggies were nice and caramelized and the goat cheese...oh, the goat cheese.  This pizza was so good we fought over who would have the leftovers for lunch...



Caramelized Mushroom, Pepper and Onion Pizza with Herbed 
Goat Cheese

Crust:
4 1/2 C white whole wheat flour (all purpose is okay)
1 3/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. yeast
1/4 C. olive oil
1 3/4 C. cold water

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat with a mixer fitted with a dough hook until ball forms.  Cover bowl with a towel and let rise 1 hour.

Sauce:
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. kosher salt

Place olive oil, salt and garlic in a small pot and cook just until garlic becomes fragrant.  Add tomatoes and cook 10-15 minutes breaking up the tomatoes until sauce begins to thicken.

Toppings:
8 oz. package mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
1/2 red pepper thinly sliced
1/2 green pepper thinly sliced
1/2 red onion thinly sliced
about 6 baby bella mushrooms washed and sliced
4 oz. package tomato/herb goat cheese

In a small skillet with a bit of olive oil, saute peppers, onion and mushroom just until caramelized.  Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.

To make the pizza:
Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
Take a large ball of the dough (you should have enough dough for four pizzas) and spread it on a lightly greased baking pan.  Top the dough with sauce, then a layer of mozzarella.  Spread the vegetables over the mozzarella and break off little bits of the goat cheese and sprinkle it over all.  Bake for about 10 minutes until crust starts to brown, then using a spatula, slide the pizza from the pan directly onto the oven rack and bake another 5-8 minutes or just until the pizza is bubbly and the bottom is nice and brown.  

psst...
recently I had the opportunity to talk about meatless meals on our local news.  If you want to check out the video, you can go here...http://whotv.com/2012/03/05/meatless-meals-families-save-cash-on-meals/


Monday, February 20, 2012

Meatless Monday...PW's Cajun Pasta

Last night B cooked.  I know right?  He was all, "Babe, I thought you'd like a break so why don't I cook?"  To me, that was the most romantic thing he could have said, and way better than roses and chocolate.  Oh, and being the amazing man that he is, he even made it meatless...swoon.

He decided to make PW's Cajun Chicken Pasta sans the chicken.  Oh, my was it yummy!  We've made it a few times before with the chicken, but honestly with all the yummy peppers we didn't even miss the meat...

For those who may not like spicy food, I should note that this wasn't spicy at all.  You can really give it a kick by adding cayenne if you'd like, but it's equally good without it (this coming from a girl who LOVES spicy food!)


The recipe calls for 'Cajun spice mix' so we used Tony Cachere's which you can find pretty much anywhere.  I grew up on this stuff as when I lived at home my mama made homemade gumbo quite a bit.  The directions on the back say to "Use it like salt.  When it is salty enough, it's seasoned to perfection."  This is pretty accurate...I used a bit too much once, and my food was way too salty!

Hope you enjoy this!  Better yet, I hope your spouse makes it for you!

PW's Cajun Pasta (meatless)

1 lb. fettuccine
1 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. olive oil
3 tsp Cajun spice mix
1 whole green pepper, seeded and sliced
1 whole red pepper, seeded and sliced
1/2 red onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 C. vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 C. white wine
1 C. heavy cream
cayenne pepper to taste

*Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente.  Do not over cook.  Drain and set aside.
*Heat olive oil and butter in pan.  Toss peppers and onions with Cajun spice mix and saute in pan until seared and tender.  Add tomatoes and cook an additional 30 seconds.  Remove from pan and set aside.
*With the pan over high heat add wine and chicken broth.  Cook for 3-5 minutes scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze.  Reduce heat to medium/low and add cream, whisking constantly until mixture begins to thicken.
*Add vegetables to sauce and stir to cook 1-2 minutes.  Add drained fettuccine and toss to coat.  The sauce will be fairly thin, but will thicken as it sits a bit.

We serve ours with a little extra Cajun spice mix and shredded Parmesan cheese.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Side-By-Side...

Way back before there were two miniature Jacksons, there was just Brent and Nikki.  A couple of college students doing the long distance dating thing.  There were lots of sweet notes and e-mails sent back and forth.  At first we signed Love, Brent and Love, Nikki, but after a while, we developed a sort of shorthand and began signing Love, B. and Love, N.  I know...it's like rocket science or something.  It's never left us and we still just sign our initials when we write to each other.

But you know something?  There is something in all of those years of simply typing our initials that I never noticed, but B did and used it to make the best Valentine's Card ever.  We've always been side-by-side...


I will share just a brief bit of what he wrote on the inside:
I guess it's poetic that as one intends to type 'B' or 'N' they accidentally 
type the other, but it's no accident since we are a unified pair.

It is amazing how God intricately weaves us together with the mates HE created for us.  Many of my friends have shared time and again that their husband is their perfect match.  Strong where we are weak.  An encouragement as we walk through life side-by-side.  Unified as one.

I'm grateful that in God's perfect creation of marriage, he intended for an unbroken unity.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Meatless Monday: Gluten-Free Black Bean Brownies...


**I originally posted this recipe in September of 09'!  A friend reminded me of it today, so I decided to re-run it!  I suppose my adventures in healthier eating began earlier than I had thought!** 


So, this is my newest recipe adventure: Black Bean Brownies. Doesn't it sound like some dirty trick you played on your best friend in high school? "Here, try these brownies...he he he. You're going to love them...he he he." Not that I would know...I never, ever pulled pranks like that...


**Anyway, we tried these, which is a stretch for us. They taste really good, but I think I just can't get my mind to forget about the beans. They have a texture very much like 'flourless chocolate cake'. Very moist, fudgy, not chewy like a traditional brownie. I encourage you to give the recipe a shot and tell me what you think. B and the little Mr. enjoyed them. They like them with vanilla-bean ice cream...kind of a theme here I guess.  Oh, and a plus...they're gluten-free!!!

BLACK BEAN BROWNIES:


1 can black beans (*I used salt free drained/rinsed)
3 eggs
1/3 C. melted butter
1/4 C. cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt (omit the salt if your beans are not salt-free)
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 C. + 2 Tbs sugar (I used organic cane juice sugar but regular white sugar is fine)
1/2 C. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 C. chopped walnuts


Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 350 and lightly butter an 8x8 glass baking dish.
In blender or food processor, puree beans, eggs, butter, cocoa, salt, vanilla and sugar until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts. Pour batter into prepared baking dish. Bake 30-35 minutes or until center is set. I pulled mine after 25 minutes...my oven runs a bit hot.


Enjoy!



**update...we've made these many times since, and really enjoy them.