Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Favorites Return: Make Your Own Ranch

A few weeks ago I got a big craving for oven baked chicken fingers dipped in creamy ranch dressing. Healthy, I know...

Anyway, I bought this expensive bottle of ranch dressing from the refrigerated section that boasted is was made with only a few ingredients. On closer inspection, it still had ingredients I've been avoiding. Still, better than nothing right? So I took it home, made my chicken fingers and was thankful I had the dressing because frankly, they were bland.

Last night, I tried my hand at chicken tenders again. This time I tried to directly emulate my mother-in-law's method. Apparently I need to watch her more closely because again: bland. This time, I had no ranch dressing, and you can bet with gas prices at one arm and two legs I was not going to take a jaunt out to get some.

I'd seen a recipe for buttermilk ranch on one of my favorite blogs, but assumed it was be too difficult to be worth the effort, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

To my (and David's) surprise, not only was the ranch easy to make, it was the best ranch dressing I've ever had. It would actually be perfect as a veggie dip since it's so thick and creamy. Best of all, it far out-shined the expensive bottle of store dressing at a fraction of the cost.

So, without further ado, here's the link to making your own amazing buttermilk ranch dressing. Oh, and if you're like me and never have buttermilk on hand, here are a couple substitutions:

1/2 plain yogurt, 1/2 milk (this is the one I use all the time)

1 tblspn white vinegar or lemon juice and enough milk to equal one cup

I also omitted the fresh parsley, as I had none.

The work station

The finished product

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

On Living with Pain

Next week, assuming nothing changes, I will have been in pain for one consecutive year. I can remember the day it began vividly. David and I were in Baltimore for his work. I was 8 months pregnant. I woke up one morning, the first week of May, looked at him and said, "I think the baby bruised me last night" as I pointed to a spot about an inch below my sternum, slightly to the right. I've been able to point to that exact spot every day since because it still hurts.

The first few weeks I didn't think much of it. Then as my blood pressure began creeping up in the late weeks of pregnancy I began worrying about liver problems. A quick check at the OB confirmed all was well in that regard. It was probably just the baby snuggling under my rib cage.

I didn't realize at the time that most women don't find it hard to stand longer than 30 minutes at a time because of "baby in rib cage" and worried no more. I honestly thought I was just being over sensitive to the pain, tried to ignore at as best I could and spent much time in the recliner, the only place I found relief.

The pain did ease up after delivery. I no longer have problems standing, but it's there. Usually hovering just below the surface, surprising me with knife like intensity when I use to many muscles in gardening or Caleb gives a well placed kick. I've had two ultrasounds, one CT scan and tons of blood work. It all says I'm fine, but the pain persists.

I'm not a stranger to pain. I had an incredibly painful surgery (as in, they give you an epidural for pain relief afterward) my last year of highschool that left me in on/off chronic pain for 4 years. Then, the rod was removed and things got better quickly. This is however, the first time I've not known the cause of my pain.

Four years is a long time to be in pain, but not knowing what the cause is or when/if it will end is harder. There are days the discouragement brings me to tears, but as with all trials, I've found it's gradually refining me, like pressure turns coal into diamond.

I so often find myself returning to 2 Corinthians 12:7-8 for comfort. Are these verses about healing? Nope. They're about how God sends Paul a thorn for his flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment him so that he does not become conceited. Paul prays 3 times for it to be removed. God says no.

God would rather allow Paul to live with this problem than for him to get swallowed up by sin. I know some may find that idea offensive, but I find it so comforting! I would so much rather have trouble and be brought close to God, than to have all happiness and forsake him. Not that the two have to be mutually exclusive, but my sweetest times with the Lord have all come during difficulty.

I am learning to take refuge in the fact that God is both sovereign and good. I can trust that there is nothing I need that he does not supply and that I need nothing which he withholds, even healing.

It's been hard for me to reconcile at times that this isn't a detour of His plan for me. It's happening so it is part of his plan. This is especially hard when I weigh my desire to have a larger family against my desire to not be on what is effectively modified bed rest and incredible pain in the final months of pregnancy.

I don't know where this twist in what I thought was the path will lead us. Will we only have a few children? Will we adopt? These are questions my mind asks when it is anxious, but rather than attempting to predict what will happen I try to simply pray that God will make the way clear to us when the time comes. Often I want him to illuminate the whole path when he wants me to walk in faith to the next lighted step.

I share this for two reasons. One, I hope it will be an encouragement to my friends who also have chronic pain that you have more company (and I admire you so much!) and two, that you who pray would be interceding on my behalf to trust, be patient and if it's God's will, to be healed. Whatever testimony God has for my life, whether it's joy in healing or trust through pain, I am willing.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Caleb: 10 Months

As of 12:17pm today, I became the mom of a 10-month-old. We started the month with one tooth residing just below the gums. We ended the month with 4 teeth! Needless to say, sleep and personality have suffered a bit, oh and Caleb's been grumpy too....Seriously though, the teeth haven't been as bad as I expected. He really isn't much of a biter. Lucky for me : )

I can do this myself mommy

Another major milestone this month included his very first cold, complete with antibiotics for an ear and nose infection. Parenthood is such a humbling experience. The poor little guy was a snotty mess the whole drive from FL to PA. Suddenly I was the mom taking my sick kid out in public, not keeping his nose wiped (because, according to Caleb, nose wiping = baby torture), and generally looking like a neglectful mom. Of course, it was unavoidable, but no one in the southern Virginia McDonalds knows that.

Physically, he's been getting better and better at the skills that appeared last month. He's standing alone for a few seconds at a time, cruising the furniture, and still crawls faster than a speeding bullet. His new passions are drawers and cabinets. Nothing could be better than opening, closing and emptying contents. Unfortunately, he's yet to learn to remove his fingers before closing so mommy must keep a close eye on these activities. When his balance gets better, I will allow him more "learning" opportunities : )

His new favorite toy

Verbally, his babble is taking on more of a jargon sound (for those who aren't parents, this means his "bababa's" and "mamama's" are starting to have the inflection of real conversation). But for the most part, he still just loves to babble, honk, yell and whine : ) More exciting (to me) is his receptive language. For some reason the signing I do seems to resonate more with him than just my words even though he isn't using any signs yet. He responds to eat and more with smiles and cries when I say "all done". This kid will eat until he gets sick so I usually cut him off at 8oz! I swear he is gaining a pound/day right now.

We really aren't doing finger foods right now, partially my fault. Since we've been on the road so much lately it's just been easier to jar feed him. Now that we're home I've been working with him more. He mostly plays with it, but this past week he did put a grain of brown rice in his mouth. He's also willing to chew his food when I give it to him. I really don't stress about things like this. Caleb is the type who waits a while to begin, but then goes full steam ahead when he gets there.

First attempt: Peas- which he loves in jarred form, by-the-way!

I think our favorite new development is that Caleb finally gives hugs and snuggles. Every day when David comes home from work, he bolts across the living room, flaps his arms to be picked up and gives David's neck a great big hug. In the morning, I bring him into our room for family cuddle time and he takes turns grinning at us and then burying his face into our shoulders. It's so precious!

Just after David walked in the door a few weeks ago

Something else that has amazed me is how much Caleb already loves to wrestle with David. Their favorite father-son game begins with David laying down on the floor. Then Caleb crawls over and body slams him again and again, laughing hysterically the whole time, while David mockingly begs for mercy.

A photo from a recent session

Our favorite mommy-son game is "Where's the baby". I move just out of his eye sight and say "Wheeeere's the baaaaby???" and Caleb comes tearing across the room full speed to find me. He can't stand to be left out of any excitement.

I am really enjoying motherhood and being back in our house. Things are really starting to flow more smoothly. Caleb does require my undivided attention these days as he explores his new environment, but I know this time is short and I'm trying to enjoy each moment.

A few more photo highlights from this month:
Getting dressed is a daily adventure

Already a tech-guy like his daddy

I never realized before becoming a parent that church falls directly in the middle of morning nap time

How PA babies keep their ears warm. And no, we haven't needed it. I bought it last fall before I knew we were moving to FL for the winter...oh well!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

First Week Back

We've officially been back in Pennsylvania just over one week. I'm astounded by how much we've accomplished in that short time!

When we arrived back home, I was astounded to see the house in shambles. Was it burglars? No, it was the chaos left in the wake of moving with 3 weeks notice while caring for a colicky newborn. Clutter abounded, burp rags lay strewn in nearly every room, the tub hadn't been scrubbed in...a long time. I was so thankful my mom was staying for a week and David had taken time off.

Many hands really do make light work. We scrubbed, dusted, picked up, sorted, threw out, and consigned. Yet somehow, we all managed to end the week feeling rested. David enjoyed getting to spend extra time with Caleb while mom and I had a few mommy-daughter outings. We spent the afternoon at a friend's house while pest control came, consigned clothes at my favorite shop, and went to the farmers market early Friday morning. The farmer's market was definitely my favorite. I've been wanting to go for quite a while, but wanted someone to come with me. My friend Jen goes every week and met mom and I there in the drizzly 40 degree weather. Fortunately, it's an indoor market!

I found fresh produce for well below supermarket rate, milk from a local dairy, and free-range eggs (also below supermarket price). My most exciting find was amazing looking lunch meat for half the price of what I usually pay for sandwich meat. Score! It was a light turn out day for vendors since most are Amish or Mennonite and it was Good Friday. I'm looking forward to seeing what other stands are open next week...

David wasn't the only one babysitting this week though! Mom watched Caleb 3 different nights so David and I could enjoy some couple time. Our time in Florida was so busy, I hadn't realized how much we were in need of reconnecting until we had the opportunity to do so. Our first date was to a Hibachi restraint. I had wanted to go for my birthday last year, but it just wasn't an option with a colicky one month old who nursed every 1.5 hours. David decided it would be a great time to finally have that date. We had a great time and ate 2 more meals from the left overs!

Thursday, mom watched Caleb so we could attend Maundy Thursday communion service at church. Typically, evening services fall after Caleb's bed time so being able to attend and take communion together was a tremendous blessing. Between these two wonderful dates I was more than content. However, David had something special planned. Our two year anniversary is only a couple weeks away, so he decided we should celebrate early while my mom was still here to watch over Caleb.

Friday evening, after we tucked Caleb into bed, I swapped my jeans for the skirt I was wearing the day I met David and we headed to the Melting Pot. I feel I should mention that as we were dressing Caleb was beside himself. The poor kid has grown 4 teeth in one month. The latest tooth just made it's entrance this morning. Even with pain reliever on board, it took him an hour to fall asleep. We missed most of the tears thanks to Granny Robin shooing us out the door. What a great Grandma!

Finally, we were on the road. We hadn't made reservations since we're never exactly sure when we're going to make it out of the house, but we figured an hour long drive there would be plenty of notice. Who knew Good Friday would be so packed? The first available reservation was 8:45! You know you're officially a grown-up when the idea of starting a meal at a quarter til 9 makes you feel like you're back in college again : )

We killed time wandering around the mall and we're actually seated at 8:30. Even with an early start we enjoyed lingering over our meal and didn't finish until 11pm! I've been to the Melting Pot once before on a big girls night out with my college room mates. We only did the cheese fondue and dessert so the 4 course meal was a new experience for me. David and I thoroughly enjoyed each course, but I think our dark & milk chocolate dessert fondue with Bailey's swirled in was the best. Suffice to say, it was a fantastic time of eating, reminiscing and no interruptions! We arrived home at midnight, just in time for Caleb to wake up and cry for his nightly feeding. I took off my pearls, snuggled my baby boy close and thanked God for this wonderful life I've been blessed with.

The next morning, it was time to drive mom to the airport. Both David and I were sad to see her go. I am so thankful for Dad's willingness to share her with us for so long. I can't believe how rested I feel after a break from dishes and laundry for a week, not to mention all the dusting, cleaning and child care she did during her time here. It really freed David and I up to unpack, reorganize and declutter.

At the end of the week, the room we were all most proud of was the kitchen. Just before we left for Florida, our microwave died in a shower of sparks and arcs (no, I did not put metal in it!). We replaced it, reorganized the counter top appliances and now have a much more functional work space. The best part however, was getting our kitchen island/breakfast bar. I've had my eye on this piece since we moved into our house a year ago. We don't have much counter or cabinet space, so a lot of things were living in a large bin under the kitchen window. David and I consulted the budget and decided the time was right. It's been such a joy to both of us to finally have that bin out of the room!

Our Lived-in Kitchen

Notice the stationary bouncer peaking out from behind the island. It's the only way I can get things done in the kitchen while he's awake!

Of course, there is still much more work to be done, but if feels manageable...unlike how I felt when we first walked in the door! Better still, David and I are feeling so reconnected after a week of tackling projects side-by-side and several wonderful date nights. We are looking forward to continuing our work on the house. Expect some before and after shots. Sadly, I didn't take any of the post-colic disaster we walked into, so apparently that will stay a secret only family (and our house sitters) know : )

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Making the Cut

Confession: Until today, I hadn't had my hair cut since I was 38 weeks pregnant. Caleb is 9.5 months old. Needless to say, it was time. David and I decided that since I wanted to cut my hair short again anyway, it would be great to cut a few extra inches and donate it to Locks of Love.

Yesterday I said good bye to my hair with a few mommy/son photos.
You may recognize this bush from this photo of me one year ago:
And today, I donated 12 inches and am well on my way to becoming my mother : ) Good thing I think she looks great!
If you're planning to make a big cut any time soon, don't forget to donate!

Monday, April 18, 2011

From Florida to Pennslyvania- Take 2

The trip from FL to PA didn't feel very long to a blushing bride who was very ready to live in the same state as her husband. However, two years and an amazing baby boy later I definitely felt all 1200 miles. It took 8 states, 3 days and 4 sore tushies, but eventually we all arrived in Pennsylvania.

Our last week in Florida included two special lunch dates. On Thursday, I met up with Snowy (well, that's her camp name anyway...) who was my middle school camp director and played a large role in my understanding of who Christ really is and my eventual choice to follow Him. She's counseled me during medical, psychological, and relational problems throughout the years so it was a really neat moment to be able to share my joy in life with her. Sometimes it takes talking to those who've known you a long time to realize how far you've come : )

Friday, I got to meet David's coworkers and introduce them to Caleb. David learned a lot during his time in Florida and it was nice to be able to put faces to names. It was also really neat to hear how much each of them valued David's contributions during his time there. His work isn't something I understand a lot about, and since David is his own worst critic, I often hear how things aren't going as he wishes they would. Getting an opportunity to hear about his accomplishments was very cool!

Our final weekend was full of packing, moving and last minute visits with family and friends. Those who've been following my "hot spot" decluttering posts may have noticed I missed the 5th and final spot, which was "choose your own". I wish I had taken before and after pictures of our whole apartment because my before looked like 2 adults and a baby lived there and one week later it was empty! Of course, we couldn't have done it without our awesome move out crew.

David's mom, brothers, sister in law and my BFF Corali all came up to join the fun. We packed, cleaned, talked, laughed, and did our best to show Corali what makes our family fun (and crazy). I feel homesick just thinking about what a great weekend we had in spite of all the work to be done. I'm so blessed with wonderful friends, parents and in laws. I must admit, I never thought I'd enjoy having brothers so much!

Lots of people in our tiny living room

Amy (and Zachary baking)
Worn out from all that packing

Monday David went into work briefly to tie up loose ends. It took us a little longer to finish up the "last few things" at the apartment, as it always seems to, but we we're on the road to my parents house by 4:30pm. We stayed the night, cleared a spot in the car for my mom, and headed towards our friend's home in South Carolina.

Even though it was a brief visit, I enjoyed our overnight stay and Sarah and Eric's so much. The kids are growing up so fast. I love hearing them talk about their interests, show me their school work and other projects, see how their likes and dislikes have's amazing how much changes in a few months! Oh, and of course I also enjoyed getting to visit with Sarah : ) Eric was working that night, but we did at least get to give him a hug when he got home in the morning. I can't wait to have a visit longer than one night where we can all hang out!

The next night we stopped at a hotel in Virginia, just 3 hours away from home. In the BC days (that would be, Before Caleb) I wouldn't have thought twice about pushing forward another 3 hours. However, babies need their sleep, especially when they are sick (did I mention poor Caleb got his first cold just in time for the trip?) and our particular baby does not sleep well at all in the car seat. So stop we did.

The next morning we arrive in PA to find spring in full, beautiful bloom. Every flowering tree loaded down with blossoms, cheery daffodils poking out everywhere, and more buds waiting to open into their full splendor over the next few weeks.

Once we got home, I didn't have much time to soak in my surroundings. The car was unloaded and returned while Caleb napped. As soon as he awoke we drove to the pediatrician's office to find out he was running a low-grade fever and needed antibiotics for an ear/nose infection that was also making his eye run. Poor baby!

Now, a few days later, Caleb is looking and feeling much better, the house is slowly being returned to a presentable state and I still feel like I haven't had 5 minutes to process my thoughts about being home. I miss family, was overjoyed to see friends at church yesterday, miss dear friends from church in Florida, love that it's sweater-weather up here and that 90 degree days are behind me...there really is no other word than bittersweet.

No matter where we go, we leave people we love behind. I know Pennsylvania is where God has planted us for this season in our lives and I'm so thankful for our home, wonderful neighbors, great friends and incredible church family. They are what makes this town our home.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

5 fun things about having a boy

Our family just got the awesome news that there's another Gainey boy on the way. Nope, it's not us. David's next youngest brother, Brian and his wife, Amy are due in August and we couldn't be more excited for them. In honor of their big news, I thought I'd share some things that make having a boy oh-so-fun!

It doesn't matter how long they stay bald. You never have to wrestle a bow onto their head to coax friendly people at the grocery store into saying the right gender.

More color variety. With girls, people tend to end up with lots of pastels, pinks and purples. Boys clothes regularly show up in bold brown, red, green, blue, black, etc.

Boys acquire less clothing. Lets face it, girls clothes are just cuter. Every baby girl I know has twice the number of clothes as the average baby boy. Friends and family just can't help themselves because it's so darn cute. So if you're more of a minimalist, having a boy is awesome.

Based on extensive babysitting experience: When it comes to cleaning up poop, diaper duty is easier with boys, no question about it. However, be prepared to be "showered" often. I thought I'd spare you a photo...

All their accessories are in dad-friendly colors. Even if the polka dots aren't quite their thing...

Of course, the reasons I've listed are all in fun. Our children are blessings to us because God promises they will be. Whether they're boys or girls, children of our wombs or of our hearts, they are the ones created for us and we for them. And that is a comforting thought!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Why I'm thankful I was 8 months pregnant on our 1st anniversary

I think this post needs a disclaimer: This post is a testimony about God's work in our family...not how we think your family should work! So enjoy : )

This is me on our first anniversary.

One question we heard a lot once we announced our good news, 5 months after our wedding was, "Were you guys trying?". It was a question I found hard to answer. Trying implies striving towards a goal, which didn't describe us at all. However, we both felt strongly convicted to be open to life in our marriage and saw no compelling reasons to wait.

As Caleb grew in my womb, his kicks growing stronger each day, a startling realization dawned on me: this little boy is going to live as I live, not as I tell him to live. It's a thought that humbles me each day.

If I am unkind he will learn unkindness

If am lazy he will learn laziness

If I am selfish he will learn selfishness

If I worship my family, computer, etc. more than the Lord he will learn to put God last also

God has used this realization as a means of grace in my life. I've found myself able to change in areas I felt defeated in before Caleb was born. That alone is reason enough I am thankful Caleb came into our lives sooner rather than later. However, there are so many more joys he brings to our home, that I truly can't imagine our family dynamic with out him.

Does that mean I never think, "If we didn't have a baby we could do xyz?" Ha! I probably think that on a weekly basis. However, I am quickly reminded by my own heart how there is no place I'd rather go or thing I'd rather do than be Caleb's mom.

Having a child changes your whole life. There's no doubt about it. There are days I'm completely overwhelmed by the task I've been given. There are days I don't stop smiling and could post a new status about his cuteness every 5 minutes. There is never a day I doubt God's good and loving kindness in opening our hearts to Caleb's life.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Hot Spot #4: Pantry and Fridge

Yet again, this weeks hot spot was the perfect preparation for our upcoming move. We're less than 2 weeks away from packing all our belongings into our two cars and making the 17 hour journey home. Needless to say, with space so precious, I don't plan to take many pantry items. So we're trying to eat what we already have and will send any extras home with extended family members who are coming for a final visit/packing party next weekend.

I've gotten much better at keeping the fridge organized. I realized how much food we were wasting just because it got buried and forgotten about and have since learned a few tricks that help keep moldy surprises to a minimum.

-I stack leftovers together. This way it's more obvious to me that there is a meal waiting to be eaten rather than a few random tupperwares scattered here and there.
-I put half used bags of shred cheese in the door. Other wise the new ones I bring home from the grocery tend to end up on top in the meat/cheese drawer and the old ones languish in the bottom.
-I open the veggie/fruit drawer almost every day and try to plan our dinner based on what needs to be used in there. Meat is usually being defrosted anyway so I try to let our produce guide our menu.

Actually cleaning the fridge, another story. Check out these before and afters and try not to judge!



I've been deliberately keeping our pantry on the low side for the past month knowing we'll be moving again soon. I didn't find much to throw away, but I did use take note of what dry ingredients need to be used up and planned meals for our remaining days here based on what's available. We'll be having tacos, casseroles, chili, spaghetti and soups. I'm also looking forward to "getting rid of" a few of our baking items. I mean, we can't waste those chocolate chips, right?



I did notice several things that won't be gracing my pantry again (I hope...). We've been taking baby steps towards eliminating processed foods from our diet. We still have a long way to go, but I did find a few things in our pantry that I think we're about to get rid of for good.
-Soup in a can. I just don't like the taste any more. I make amazing soups and I have a recipe for making a white sauce (cream soup replacer) for casseroles that looks pretty simple.
-Granola bars. Don't get me wrong, I love granola bars! They are such an easy grab-and-go snack. However, the ones in the store tend to be high in sugar and have a lot of things I don't want to eat in them, particularly soy. I'm hoping to replace this beloved snack with fruits, veggies and occasionally my own homemade bars.
-Salad dressing. I love making my own dressing! It's simpler than I ever thought, tastes better and again, allows me to avoid the soy and other GMO oils in typical salad dressing.

There's another item in my pantry I'm hoping to get rid of soon...but it's a big commitment. I'd like to say goodbye to breakfast cereal or at least become much more distant acquaintances. This means actually waking up to cook my husband breakfast. It's only an extra 30 minutes of sleep to give up, but boy do I love those 30 minutes, especially since Caleb just started waking multiple times/night again. This is a more long term goal, but the idea of starting the day over a warm breakfast with my best friend does sound pretty wonderful.