Pregnancy, Loss, and Faith: The Joke of Family Planning and the Lie I’d Believed

About three years ago, I went to party and was chatting with some new acquaintances. As moms, of course, the topic quickly turned to our kids. When I told one lady that I had two girls who were three years apart, she said, “You planned that so well. Good for you!”

I laughed in her face. I know that was NOT the godly response, but I couldn’t help it.

Planned? Ha. Almost nothing about our first two went according to our plan. Our first was an adoption with a majorly unexpected twist that ended up basically the opposite of our plan. Then when we decided to grow our family, we had a miscarriage. Nope, that wasn’t in the plan, either. Then instead of getting pregnant again quickly, we had a long wait.

I could tell you a lot of things about that time… the dumb things people said to me, the feeling that everyone in the world was pregnant except me, the awesome friends who cried and prayed with me… but there was my heart.

For the first time in my faith journey, I looked at my life, my plans, and then looked at God and said, “This isn’t fair.”

It wasn’t fair because I’d been a good girl. I grew up in church, I followed the rules, I didn’t have sex before marriage, I was in Bible study, I was doing all the things right.

But God wasn’t holding up His end of the deal, right? It wasn’t fair.

Unconsciously, I’d fallen for the lie of the prosperity gospel. The idea that if you’re good enough and pray enough and try really hard, God will shower you with all the good things.

But it’s a lie. Nowhere in the Bible does it paint life like that. John 16 says: In the world you WILL have trouble. James 1 says: WHEN you encounter trials. It’s not a conditional situation dependent on your behavior, it’s reality.

The world, even the “Christian” world spreads these lies, though. Think about the memes you see everywhere. “If you just let go of it, God will make it happen.” “Pray often enough, try hard enough, have more faith, dream big enough… and God will bless you.” And by bless you, of course that means give you whatever you want. That sounds fair to me, I like fair.

But life isn’t fair. Miscarriage isn’t fair. Infertility isn’t fair. Cancer isn’t fair.

But God is good. How? Through the troubles He warned us would come, He provides peace and hope, and He put us in community to remind us we are not alone in hard things.

So what am I trying to say? This: Family planning is a joke.

You might laugh and say, “Yeah, she’s pregnant with her fourth kid. Obviously she thinks family planning is a joke.”

No, this is not about birth control and family size and whatever. What I mean is MY family planning was a joke. I realized I had fallen for the lie that the success or failure of pregnancy reflected the success or failure of my faith. Without knowing it, I’d written up a contract where I did a pretty good job at following His rules, and then He made my plans work out.

But it’s so different. Because of grace.

Him giving me a baby does not depend on what rules I follow or how much I pray or how good I try to be.

And Him giving me salvation does not depend on what rules I follow or how much I pray or how good I try to be. His work on the cross, not my work or good intentions.

And that gave me a peace. It didn’t take away the ache or the grief or the longing. I am still heartbroken over our miscarriage even though it was five years ago. It was hard to wait. It was hard to accept that my plan doesn’t prevail. But I learned life isn’t a tally sheet of my goods and bads. Instead there’s hope. Even in loss, even when my plan fails, there is hope in Christ.

(This was originally shared with my MOPS group to recognize October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month)

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What Spice Mom am I?

 It started as I was reading a Facebook post. Someone described a super spiritual crafty activity she was accomplishing with her small child. The following comments were things like “I’m going to do that, too!” and “That sounds so great, I’m totally interested!”

I really wanted to add, “Yeah, me too!” But I stopped. The chances of that activity ever getting completed in my house are truly very small. I had a little pity party moment of how I’m so busy with three kids now, I just can’t do things like these moms of one or two.

Then I was honest with myself.

Those things aren’t ME. I don’t hate Jesus or hate crafts or hate spending time with my kids, I just don’t get around to it. I didn’t do those things even when I had one kid. If there’s something crafty in our house, it was probably done with one of the grandmas or was from their Kiwi Crates.

So if I’m not Crafty Spice, what am I? Crafty Spice seems to be the ideal these days. That or Healthy Spice. Posting things like “Look at my kindergartner and the Valentines she crocheted out of recycled sweaters!” or “Here we are at the Farmer’s Market again – these kids just can’t get enough organic parsnips!” or maybe “My two-yr-old can spell all the books of the Bible with Cheerios!”

I don’t want to spend my time searching Pinterest for the next activity to turn my kids into geniuses. Some people love that, and that’s awesome. Just like some people love running for extensive lengths of time; I do not. These things are not bad, they are just not what I like to do.

What do I like to do? What do the girls want to do with me?

So I decided. I’m SitOutsideWhileMyKidsPlay Spice.

Two in Texas: Mother-daughter trip to Austin

It’s been almost two years since we moved back “north,” and it was time for a trip back to Austin. Hannah’s memories were definitely getting fuzzy, so it was good timing to go back and catch up with people and places. 

Saturday, we flew in and rented a car. Hannah picked a blue one because it’s her favorite color (yay, Hertz Gold members get to pick whatever car they want!). Then we spent the afternoon and evening with the friends we spent the most time with when we lived in Austin. It was fun to see how much everyone had grown, and it felt like Meghan and I picked up where we left off. Hannah was happy to see her friends but seemed particularly excited about getting to know their backyard chickens. Yummy taco dinner followed by frozen yogurt and park playing. Great evening!


Sunday, we went to our “old” church, and I was hit with an emotional deja vu. Just a weird feeling to be doing those familiar things after two years away. We had lunch at La Madeleine, a favorite spot of Meghan and I, and Hannah liked the door handles. 


Then shopping. These came home with me. They have sunflowers on them which I thought was the perfect tie-in of my Texas and Kansas roots. 


After checking into the hotel and some pool time, we met Hannah’s birthmom at Hula Hut. That’s a fun Austin restaurant where you actually sit on a big deck over the lake. We had a good time catching up, watching fishing, and feeding turtles. 

Thanks to technology, I was able to easily join a virtual meeting that evening for my new adventure as a contributor for the Kansas City Moms Blog. I could hop on a conference call while Hannah watched the Olympics, both of us comfy in our hotel beds. 

Monday was a long day in the car. We’re big fans of the show Fixer Upper, so I couldn’t resist taking a day to drive up to Waco to visit the Magnolia Silos. It’s a store started by Chip and Joanna, the Fixer Upper people, but it’s much more than a store. (More on that in another post)


On our way back into Austin, we stopped by to hang out with our cousins. Technically, the kids are third cousins, but it all counts. 


Monday night we hit up Torchy’s Tacos for the best tacos ever. With a side of chips and green chile queso. 


Each evening ended with more Olympics. I was thankful to have something fun on TV for our extra down time instead of trying to flip channels to find anything decent. 

Tuesday morning we joined Meghan and kiddos at the YMCA for playtime. We sent the kids running laps on the indoor track, then they enjoyed the outdoor playscape shaded by live oak trees. While we chatted about life – new eras for us as we are now elementary moms! 

By the end of the trip, we were so ready to be home! I love my big girl, of course, but it was a long time to be just the two of us. And the feeling was mutual. The final plane ride involved someone yelling, “Get away! You have peanut breath!” So that was delightful. But the whole experience was so great that I definitely want to start the one-on-one trip as a tradition with each girl. 

And in the meantime, a few Austin ex-pat friends and I in the KC area are considering a Torchy’s franchise. 

Sloppy Joes: Four Hacks to Survive (and enjoy!) Dinner

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I avoided making Sloppy Joes for a long time. Because I have kids. I know – they’re supposed to be a kid food, but they’re… well, sloppy. Not a big fan.

But when Amy at New Nostalgia posted her Sloppy Joe recipe, I had to give it a shot. She’s a trustworthy source and uses quality ingredients – no cans of mystery sauce here! And this tasty recipe was a winner with my family. Five out of five eat this up. But here are a couple “hacks” I’ve developed to make this a winner on the logistical side, as well.

1 – Lentils

The recipe calls for 1.5 lbs ground beef, but I have 1 lb. portions from the 1/4 cow we got last year. So to fill in the extra half pound, I use lentils. This is also a budget-helping tip for stretching any ground beef recipe because lentils are far cheaper than meat (also high in protein, fiber, and iron).

I put half a cup green lentils in one cup water and bring to a boil, then cover and simmer around 20 minutes. After cooking my 1 lb. ground beef, I just add the lentils and keep following the recipe. And the kids haven’t even noticed yet!

2 – Hot Dog Buns

This was an accidental discovery. I’d forgotten to buy hamburger buns and only had hot dog buns on hand. Turns out, they’re perfect for little hands! Hot dog buns are easier to hold than round hamburger buns, plus they have one side closed which means fewer directions for the meat to fall out.


3 – No Shirt

This only applies to those at the table under age two. Tomato-based sauces are my laundry enemy. Just forget the bib, they’ll just get ripped off and the sauce gets everywhere anyway. Bare skin is easier to wipe down at the end, and even better if you just meal plan Sloppy Joes for bath night.

4 – Leftovers

I like to remix leftovers – and this recipe makes plenty for leftovers. So I didn’t toss that sloppy goodness back in a bun for Night Two. Meet the Cheesy Joe Tots.

This was as easy as making tater tots, covering them in the Sloppy Joe mix, and then topping with cheese. Yum!

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So don’t be afraid of Sloppy Joes any more. With these four hacks, you’re on your way to a happy and healthy family dinner. Life is a little sloppy, bring it on.

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My Stories of the Week


Rare occurrence! Last weekend, the girls were with the grandmas and grandpas, and Brett and I had a night away. We stayed at Cedar Crest Lodge, south of Kansas City, and had a wonderful time (the food!!!).


On the drive down, we stopped at Dollar General for snacks and a restroom. It was pretty much the only option in the tiny town. Brett scanned the DVD display and snatched up this gem. Ramona and Beezus DVD/Blu-ray/Digital Copy combo for $2.97. We hadn’t seen the movie, but we couldn’t resist that deal. After all, it’s $14.79 on Amazon.

When we were back home, we decided to preview it before letting the girls watch it, and I was prepared to be severely disappointed. Classic children’s books are not always well done in newer movies (Cheaper by the Dozen, anyone?). But I was impressed! It was a sweet movie and stayed true to the characters. Since we have listened to almost all the Ramona audiobooks in the last year, I know the girls will be excited to see the stories they’ve enjoyed so much.


I picked up this book because I liked the title and I’d read another by the author. I have pretty much the same taste in stories as when I was four: no scary, no bad guys, happy ending. But I don’t want just fluff. This story involved a sister relationship as one was going through treatment for breast cancer. If you know some of my extended family, you understand this hit a little close to home.

With the prevalence of cancer, I think anyone would find a connection to the story. There were also recurring themes of cooking and Jane Austen, so obviously I was a fan.

So those are my weekend stories, and I recommend them all!

Freezer Meal Exchange – How it Works, Plus Recipe for Egg Casserole


It’s so nice to have a freezer full of easy meals. They’re great for a busy week and keeps us away from the drive-thru on a regular basis. I’ve done several strategies for freezer stocking: on my own, freezer meal prep nights at a grocery store, and recently freezer meal exchanges with friends.

The principle is that each person makes multiple batches of the same meal. So instead of prepping five different meals, you do five of the same for more efficiency. Then you get together and trade.

Freezer meal exchanges are a great option for people with allergies or certain dietary choices. I have several friends who are paleo, so they organized a group who was willing to follow those restrictions (basically grain-free, dairy-free, and no potatoes or beans). So this is the Paleo Egg Casserole I made to trade.

It is A LOT of prep work. There were five of us in the group, and I decided to make two smaller casseroles for each family instead of 9×13 pans. So 10 casseroles!

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Pretty! Right after this shot, I was rethinking this plan as I was beating four dozen eggs. But it really wasn’t that bad.

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I came home from the exchange with chicken and kale stew, chicken piccata, mini chicken pot pies, and chicken and sweet potato burgers. Yum!

PALEO EGG CASSEROLE WITH SAUSAGE AND VEGGIES

  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 1 lb. sausage, cooked
  • 3 cups cooked veggies (I used sweet potatoes, red peppers, and broccoli)
  • salt and pepper

Spread sausage and veggies evenly in the bottom of a 9×13 pan or two smaller pans. Beat eggs, almond milk, and salt and pepper and pour over the top. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 35-45 minutes for a large pan or 25-30 minutes for two smaller pans.

**If you are not paleo, just make with regular milk, and add cheese if you want. This is what I’ll do in the future since this was a big hit with our whole family! They love “breakfast for dinner,” and this was an easy and tasty way to get some veggies in.

Summer Bucket List – 2/3 Through

How is this possible?!? I was going to do a bucket list check-in halfway through, and obviously I missed that.

Our board now looks like this:


That’s a lot of checks! We’ve been busy having fun, but haven’t done as well keeping up with the academic and spiritual sides. But we’ve got four weeks left!

Here are a few things we’ve tackled so far:

Lots of trips to the neighborhood pool.

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I only put one box for Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead, but we’ve been there several times. A special visit was with out-of-town cousins!

Brett likes to take a day off now and then to join us for big adventures. Like the zoo, with carousel rides, boat rides, and a picnic. And KOALAS!

And he couldn’t resist joining us for lunch at Fritz’s. It’s a super fun restaurant where your food is delivered by train. Yeah, pretty cool, and obviously a favorite for more than just kids. ;)

Yard pool! It’s fun to play on our own or invite neighbors over for a mini pool party. 

I didn’t want all our “goals” to be about personal entertainment. So I included “Gift Day.” We made bags of treats for a few neighbors and delivered them.

So that’s just a peek at our summer so far. Lots of fun times ahead… And almost time to start shopping for school supplies!

 

What I Buy at Aldi (almost) Every Week

I’ve become an Aldi fan. It saved our budget – want proof? I compiled comparable items at HyVee and Walmart, and the results were WOW. But first, the backstory.

Our food budget has gone through some upheaval in the last couple years. First, we moved to Kansas City and were shocked at the food prices. Our eating habits hadn’t changed, but our food costs were consistently running about 20% higher than in Texas. Part of this is the fact that there is no food tax on Texas, the rest is just higher prices in general.

I consider myself a savvy food shopper, so I wasn’t happy about this situation. I don’t clip coupons, but I meal plan, utilize leftovers, shop the sales, and meal plan (big deal!).

So what’s a girl to do? Food budget situation not good.

Then my friends started talking about Aldi. I’d thought Aldi was full of cheap junk food, but turns out there is a lot of healthy, affordable food to be found on those tiny narrow aisles. So here is a look at what I buy on a regular basis. These items are in my cart almost every week.

You can see that most of these are healthy, real food items. Not processed box dinners or junk food. But a couple treats. ;) These are my staples.

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  • Tortillas
  • Applesauce pouches
  • Cherry pie filling – I don’t buy this frequently, but I included it because it is dye-free and does not contain high fructose corn syrup. This is rare to find, and never at this price point.
  • Granola bars
  • Ketchup – organic because it doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup
  • Applesauce jar

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  • Milk
  • Blue corn chips – Brett’s favorite
  • String cheese
  • Eggs
  • Frozen broccoli – a lot of store brand (and name brand) broccoli seems to have a high stem content. My kids don’t eat stems. Lots of florets here.
  • Grapes

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  • Caesar salad kit – My kids eat salad!
  • Cinnamon rolls – I don’t buy these frequently, but I included them because they are seriously better than even Pillsbury. No kidding.
  • White cheddar “Cheezits”
  • Storage/freezer bags
  • Avocados – they’re .39 on sale and only .69 regular price.
  • Black beans
  • Petite diced tomatoes
  • Gum

So just to check if I was actually saving money, not some kind of magic Aldi placebo, I pulled up comparable items at HyVee and Walmart (via the online ordering system), choosing store brand items when available for the lowest possible prices. I used regular prices for the Aldi total but included sale prices for the others (as of 7/10/16). Here are the results for the 20 items shown above:

Aldi: $34.35

HyVee: $52.85

Walmart: $45.50

So it is actually cheaper. By a decent margin!

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300!

This is my 300th post. If you’d told me 5 years ago that I’d be typing my 300th post on an iPhone app while sitting outside watching my three children play at our home in suburban Kansas City (far from Olive Street), I probably would have fallen over.

There have some big gaps between posts, mostly because of these small people who take my sleep and my brain power. But without them, I wouldn’t have much to write about. ;)

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But over the years, I’ve …

Walking around Breckenridge

I’ve documented family moments like…

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Looking on past posts, I see recipes I forgot about and now can’t wait to make again, like…

Chillin' at the hotel

And I’ve tackled some serious topics that really seemed to resonate with readers…

Milestones are fun to recognize the distance, and it’s been motivating for me to move forward. I’ve been reminded of what a fun legacy this is. I love looking back at the posts of adventures when Hannah was little. This is my scrapbook and my journal. And I also get to share deeper thoughts with friends and family and sometimes a few more. ;)

Thanks to y’all for sticking with me!

Taquito Time: The Basics

Want a go-to meal you can throw together in 30 minutes with whatever you have lying around the kitchen? Endless variations and the kids will eat it? I found it.

The Taquito.

If you’re picturing something greasy from the freezer section, think again. This version has way better ingredients and is baked instead of fried.

You’ll find taquitos on our menu plan several times a month for these very reasons. Today, I want to share the basic method, and you’ll be able to take that in any direction based on what you feel like and whatever’s in your fridge. You think you’re not a good cook? You can handle this! And it gets better? Yep, only one bowl and one spoon to wash.

First, the ingredients. This is simple.

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These are versatile ingredients that I always have on hand. I make big batches of shredded chicken in the slow cooker and freeze them in 2 cup portions. So I just thaw a bag-ful, and we’re ready for taquitos!

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Mix the ingredients. You could move on to the next step right here – chicken, cheese, cream cheese – tasty and done! Or you could scan an eyeball around your fridge and find some random things that might need a destination.

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I found a cob of grilled corn, some cilantro, and a green onion. So those guys go in, too. Just say no to food waste!

After mixing, spread in tortillas, wrap up, and put seam-side down on a sprayed baking sheet.

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When they’re all assembled and placed, lightly spray the tops with the cooking spray. I guess this is optional, but it helps them get a little crispy.

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Put them in an oven at 425 for 12-15 minutes. Depends on how brown and crispy you like them. Then top (or dip) and enjoy! These are a family favorite over here, and I’ll be featuring some yummy variations.

Here’s the simple rundown:

Basic Taquitos

  • 8-12 tortillas
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 2 cups cooked chicken

Mix and spread into tortillas. Roll up and place seam-side down on a sprayed baking sheet. Lightly spray tops. Bake at 425 for 12-15 minutes.

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