Thursday, December 8, 2011

Because everyone loves a good picture

and because I've been a blog slacker lately...some photos! 

Playing in the cul-de-sac
 this little girl melts. my. heart.  (her hair is pulled back in a ponytail, yes. ponytail at 7 months old!)
 Best Buddies
 This is what happens when Parks snatches my phone
 just a normal day
 Caught red-handed!  This girl is on the move by the way.  It's her own unique blend of an army crawl and up on all fours crawl, video to come. 
 In much bigger news, Parks turned THREE!  Something about your child turning 3 really makes you stop and think as a parent.  Three is like "Goodbye toddler, hello big kid!".  Craziness. 
 Celebrating with his besties at Chick-fil-a, obviously! 
 My Angel




Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas traditions and what we do about Santa

 This year feels different than the rest we've had so far as a married couple.  I think it's because Parks is finally old enough to understand things and this year we will be staying in our own house for Christmas.  So, basically, it's time to start our family traditions and create the Christmas "magic" on our own.  When I started to ponder all this I do what I always do....read.  I read everything.  Books, blogs and more blogs about other families' Christmas traditions.  I knew I wanted to blend Jackson and my's favorites from our families but I wanted to create some new traditions just for our family.  After a few days of researching I became convicted that above all, I wanted to make Christmas about Jesus's birth.  That is easier said than done these days.

Almost everything about Christmas as presented in our culture emphasizes gifts, commercialism, consumerism and Santa.  Almost nothing presents Christmas as the birth of our Savior.  I asked Parks out of the blue a few weeks ago "Why do we celebrate Christmas?"  His answer shocked me and humbled me, "Santa Claus!" he said.  This is coming from a child who has had minimal exposure to Santa.  I couldn't believe the pervasiveness of our culture! Jackson and I realized, if we really wanted to teach our children that Christmas is about Jesus, we would need to be very purposeful and intentional about the decisions we made regarding Christmas.  This includes our home decor, holiday outings, the books we read, the stories we tell etc.  We want it all to point to Jesus' birth.

I personally, think it's rather confusing for a small child to tell them "Christmas is about Jesus" and then from every other angle they are learning that Christmas is about Santa Claus bringing them presents.  So, what's the Andrews Family doing about Santa?  I'll tell you.

We are choosing to tell our children Santa is a fun make-believe character (like Barney or a disney princess) not a real live person who comes down our chimney on Christmas Eve.  We do not tell our children that gifts are from Santa, they know (or will know) that gifts come from us.  We also do not decorate with or have books that emphasize Santa.  It's really not because we hate Santa.  I don't turn the other way if I see a Santa in the mall or gasp in horror if someone gives us a Santa ornament.  I just want my children to have a firm foundation in the real meaning of Christmas, one that isn't cluttered with competing messages from "Santa".  I think it's naive to think we can combat an entire culture of "Santa" with a couple "Christmas is about Jesus" phrases thrown in every now and then.  So, we pretty much go without Santa, elves and things of that nature.

We do have nativity sets, a Christmas tree, stockings, angels, books about the real Christmas story, etc.  Here are a few things we are doing this year that I think will be good reminders of the real meaning of Christmas for all of us:

  • Have a Jesse Tree.  This is an advent celebration that traces the lineage of Jesus and God's redemptive story through the Old Testament.  You get a special tree and hang an ornament every day after your bible reading and devotional.  Click the link for a free download and more info. 
  • Let your child pick an Angel Tree gift.  Talk about giving to other children out of the abundance God has given us.  
  • Give a "gift to Jesus" for his birthday.  This can take on many forms.  It can be a gift caring for the "least of these" in your community or it can be an offering to your church or other Kingdom work. 
  • Read books about Jesus' birth and talk about what Jesus' birth means to us as Christians.  
  • Teach the Christmas songs about Jesus to your child.  Most of them have very powerful lyrics like "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "Oh Holy Night". 
  • Make a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas.  
Another important thought: we don't do any of this to be kill joys.  In fact, it's just the opposite.  We have the REAL joy...Jesus!!! And he is worth celebrating big time!  He is a bigger joy than Santa and that's what we want to leave our kids with.  Not a gloomy, boring, "we don't do santa" Scrooge/holier-than-thou mentality. Hope that helps! 


For more info on creating Godly traditions for your family, I highly recommend the book, "Treasuring God in Our Traditions" by Noel Piper, wife of John Piper.  

Saturday, November 12, 2011

My Country Fantasy

Where to begin...

Basically, my desire to "homestead" and live in the country has gone to new levels over the past few weeks.  I've been reading, researching and slowly making lifestyle changes for probably a good year now.  With my reading and researching dating back before that.  I am just convinced that I want to live more of back to basics life and raise my children in more of an old-fashioned setting.  My dream would be to live on about 10 acres with a mix of cleared and wooded land and have a beautiful, restored farmhouse.  We would have a gorgeous, plentiful vegetable gardens, many fruit trees and bushes, chickens, maybe a couple goats and of course, 4 wheelers and dirt bikes. Preferably, my boys could hunt right on our own property.  I would wear an apron and cook completely from scratch. We would harvest and can our own produce for the winter.  I would homeschool my children and ring a cow bell to summon them in for dinner.  I would line dry our clothes and my children would be alongside me all day, doing the chores of a farm life.  Learning real life skills and a getting a rich hands-on education, not a government mandated agenda.  We wouldn't watch tv or be in front of a screen all day.  No, we would experiencing real life and learning real skills and developing character traits that will serve them well.

There you have it.  My country fantasy.  And we are slowly figuring out how to make it happen.  Jackson, thankfully, has a wonderful job and we can't move too far away and have an unrealistic commute for him.  So, we have a limited area that would be feasible for us to work with.  Also, I'm not introverted so I want to be careful not to be too isolated from other people.  I'd imagine us at our homestead most days and maybe venturing into "town" twice a week.

We've looked at several properties but realistically, we are probably several months away from a move. The country ain't as cheap as you might think!  We have a great set-up right now and I can implement lots of homesteading practices right where we live.

In the meantime I have:


  • Switched to cloth diapers!   
  • Started soaking my grains and flours. 
  • Purchased and am reading Nourishing Traditions (basically the "bible" of traditional, nutritious cooking, highly recommend it to discover what really is good for you, like butter!)
  • Switched our (kids too!) bathing soap to a pure goats milk soap made locally.
  • Signed up to take a Homesteading course at a local farm.
  • Signed up for a 2012 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) with a local farm.
  • Purchased almost all of our meats from a local farm
  • Taken Parks out of pre-school (more on that later, but it just wasn't meshing with him or my general education/parenting philosophy) 
  • Done another toy purge and simplified our playroom.  
  • Taken every chance we can to get outside and enjoy God's beautiful creation! 
We have already:
  • "Greened" our laundry.  I use Country Save or 7th Generation detergent and only wool, dryer balls for softening our clothes.  Dryer sheets can cause cancer
  • Stopped using paper towels and switched to cotton rags and microfiber cloths. 
  • "Greened" my cleaning supply.  I make a great general all-purpose cleaner with castile soap but I have started purchasing a couple 7th gen. products for bathroom cleaning.  I've been dealing with lots of poop lately so let's just say, I'm more comfortable with a product that says "disinfectant" for now.
  • Gotten rid of HFCS and Trans fat from our diet completely and cook from scratch as much as possible. 
  • Purchased mostly organic meats and dirty dozen produce.
  • Replaced canola and vegetable oils (not good for you) with butter and coconut oil (good source of saturated fats).   
I would like to : 

  • Bake our own bread
  • Find a regular source for eggs straight from the farm
  • Hang a line outside to dry my clothes
  • Get a raw milk share (gasp! it's not the dangerous substance you've been lead to believe it is)
  • Learn how to make Kombucha and other fermented drinks

Every effort I have made to slow down and return to a simple, back to basics lifestyle has been so worth it.  I am thrilled with each and step we make towards a simpler, sustainable life.  For us, it's all about priorities.  Yes, our pastured meat straight from the farm is more expensive than ground beef in a grocery store on sale for 1.99/pound.  (That by the way, is really disturbing when you know more about what it costs to properly raise a cow!).  But when you think about the investment we are making in our children's health, it becomes worth it and I figure out a way to save so we can afford it (like not buying paper towels).  I'll do a real food budget post later.  


This has been a journey for us.  One that I am glad we are on and one that you can't rush.  I wasn't ready for these things 4 years ago and I have slowly, but surely added things one at a time.  Take one step at a time! We are still such newbies compared to other people (like the ones who use cloth toilet paper!! ahh).

Friday, October 21, 2011

bless his heart

Parks was enjoying a Trader Joe's yogurt smoothie while I was picking up the living room.  I heard the familiar noise of the dishwasher door shut and Parks announced, "Mommy! I'm all done.  I put it in the dis washa for you!"  Bless his heart.  He did.



Thursday, October 20, 2011

wise words

I got to spend some time last night with my dad which I always treasure these days.  He gave me some very wise advice.  Two things that stuck with me:

"The spirit of the leader is the spirit of the pack."  

As a mother, I am the leader of my pack and my children will follow my attitude and countenance.  So much application here, I might put this quote on my fridge.

"Part of being a good parent is being a good actor."  

This had never crossed my mind before but it's so true.  Sometimes you have to act serious when you want to bust out laughing or sometimes you need to put on a cheerful face even when you want to sulk and act 12 years old.

 




Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Pumpkin Patch

We had a blast at the "pumpkin patch" a couple weeks ago.  We had to forgo a real pumpkin patch this year because Parks had an allergic reaction last year after visiting one.  We think it was the pumpkin leaves but it could have been straw.  Either way, we avoided it this year and went to a pumpkin "yard", if you will. 












My little harvest display makes me so happy every time I walk up to my door!  It's the simple things in life, right?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It's official...I am a freak.

In case you needed any more evidence that I am a freak of nature...here it is.  I have ordered my first homeschool curriculum and I was way. too. excited. when it arrived.  It's a Pre-K curriculum called "Sing, Spell, Read and Write" that my mom did with us when we were kids.  And hey, I learned to read, right?  It's colors, shapes, numbers, alphabet and some beginner phonics.  It says it's recommended for age 4, and yes, I know Parks is 2 almost 3, but he already knows half the stuff in there so I figure why not casually introduce more?  I'm not about pushing academics too young, but when their minds are sponges, why not fill 'em up? 

 Nearly beside myself with excitement...freak.
 This image thrills my Type A heart, you have no idea. 
My darling pupil.  Lord, help us. 

Who knows what the future holds, but these curriculum boxes alone are enough to make me homeschool.  Love em! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My First Vlog: Natural Alternatives to Miralax

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional.  This is my personal experience and opinion of miralax.

Hello bloggies!  This is a kind of an unusual post for me, but it's something I feel strongly about.  If you have kids, you have probably heard of "miralax" which is a commonly prescribed laxative/stool softner.  Unfortunately I have way more experience with this product than I'd like to admit.  Parks has been on it off and on for over 2 years at the advice of more than one pediatrician.  If you have experienced problems with stool witholding or chronic constipation, I know first hand how difficult it can be.  Please watch the videos to hear our story, my thoughts on the "safety" of miralax and plenty of natural alternatives.  Please spread the word about the alternatives if you know someone who is on miralax.



P.S. I'm not going to get into a debate here as to whether or not miralax is safe.  It is my firm belief that the less chemicals we put into our bodies the better, even if the medical community says they are "safe".  What I do want to do is help parents know there ARE other options, ones that your doctor probably won't bring up.  Please comment accordingly.

Friday, October 7, 2011

crafting memories

I was blog hopping yesterday as I love to do and I came across an interesting post.  The woman said she thinks about the memories she wants her children to have and that helps her decide what's important to her.  It's a neat thought!  As mothers we are largely responsible for crafting our children's memories.  She listed some of the memories that she would like her children to have of her and their home.  I thought it would be a great little exercise so I came up with a few of my own.

I'd like my children to remember me...


  • Reading my bible as a regular part of my day
  • Praying often and without hesitation
  • Looking and smelling nice and put together...maybe with one signature scent that they remember
  • Cheerful, patient, kind
  • Full of adventure!
  • Hugging and loving on Jackson and honoring him with my words
  • Diligent in my work at home
I'd like for my children to remember our home as...

  • Cozy and warm with candles
  • Un-cluttered and neat
  • Filled with good music
  • A place of peace and rest
  • A place where all are welcome and hospitality is practiced
Think about it for yourself and if you don't have children, it could be a good exercise to do thinking of your husband! 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Seeds of Faith

We're working on the basics with Parks: God made me, Jesus loves me, God made everything, We go to church to praise Jesus, etc.  A little over a month ago I implemented "Circle Time" during our morning routine right after breakfast and it's been so much fun.  We do prayer time, praise songs with hand motions, a memory verse and a Bible story.  Parks has learned 2 verses so far: Ephesians 6:1 and Psalm 126:3.  It's been so rewarding to see his comprehension grow.  Today he started talking about God out of the blue and I grabbed my flip camera and started recording. Of course, the minute you do that they get all goofy but I did grab a few cute moments.  I love God's promise of Proverbs 22:6: "Train up a child in the way that he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.  I am thankful for the privilege to be a part of God's work in my children's lives. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

If you don't know...now you know!

Give yourself a pat on the back if you got the shout out to the Notorious B.I.G.  I have recently stumbled upon a few very nifty things that I thought you might want to know.  Let the randomness begin!

1.  How to keep a tile shower clean.  I have struggled ever since I got married to keep our tile showers clean.  I really hate using products like Tilex because of the toxic fumes but I'll be honest, my natural cleaners just weren't cutting it to my satisfaction in this area.  However, thanks to my googling skillz, I found a very simple way to keep it looking like new!  Are you ready?  Wipe it dry with an old towel after every use.  It's a little extra work but it's so worth it, you don't have to scrub anymore. The moisture of leftover water is what helps the mold and mildew breed.  Maybe everyone else knows this but it was news to me.  I've been wiping my shower down and it stays looking perfect, no toxic cleaner needed.  Genius! 




2.  Woodglue is your friend.  How did I not know this until now?  I don't know how I lived before discovering woodglue.  I have been on a gluing spree since I discovered my husband's handy Titebond II.  This will be especially helpful to you if you have wooden toys in your house. What started it all was these wooden toy cars Parks has.  They are "stackable" also known as "frustrating" to a 2 year old boy who want to "zoom" not "stack".  I knew if they were not stackable he would enjoy them much more.  So, woodglue to the rescue!  This is about as DIY as I get so I'm actually very proud of my modified wooden cars:   
 much better!

My next project: A cute wooden frame that Parks painted during art class.  The little stand kept popping out and voila, a little woodglue made it nice and sturdy.  

3.  2 Year Olds Can Ride a Dirtbike (with training wheels)

Oh yes, this is happening in our cul-de-sac.  I'm pretty sure our neighbors think we are crazy rednecks.  Oh well! 




Friday, September 30, 2011

a life-changer

My life changed, thanks to the Pioneer Woman.    If you are not familiar with her run, don't walk to her site and check it out.  Chock full of goodness I tell you.  She is downright hysterical and makes me laugh out loud when I read her posts, and that's rare for me.  

Today, her recipe for the perfect iced coffee has taken my life to a "whole nottha level" as our Aussie pastor says.  You see, sometimes I get a hankering for a tasty iced coffee from Starbs.  Those hankerings can cost me anywhere from 2 to 5 dollars depending on the size and if I go regular coffee or latte.  Well, no longer!  I will be making my delicious iced coffee at home.  Check it out...

Behold, my ready-to-pour iced coffee dispenser! 


In case your vision is poor, a close-up:

 This my friends is a very concentrated coffee mixture.  You basically take 2 gallons of water and a pound of coffee and stir them together and let it sit for 8 hours or overnight.  Then you strain the coffee grounds out and you have a very concentrated coffee, perfect for iced coffee.  The Pioneer Woman can give you all the details.  Then comes the good part...
You may be asking yourself, why in the world is Sweetened Condensed Milk out on the counter? 

 Is it clicking yet?  You're probably thinking "Oh no she di'int!"  Oh yes, I did.  And it is amazing. Because as the PW says, "I'm a naughty, naughty, bad girl." 
 Ta-daaaa!!  The most delicious iced coffee you have ever tasted.   I. die. 

And just for kicks, a cute baby:



Now go make yourself some iced coffee on tap! Yum!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Joy and My Delight

There's something so stinkin cute about a naked baby.  Even cuter when you put the naked baby on a Missoni for Target blanket!  I was not swept up in the Missoni craze but a sweet and very hip friend of mine gave me the blanket as a gift.

Our little Reesers has become quite a hoot!  She is a funny little bird and loves to squeal.  Oh my word can she squeal.  It's like a loud shriek of delight.  And she does it regularly, including in the checkout at Trader Joe's.  She's also a wiggly little thing.  She has been practicing her rolling lately and enjoys rolling over to her back in her crib regularly when she should be napping!  The little stinker!  But she's always all smiles whenever you go see her so how can I be pained? Also, she is totally doing this "pre-crawling/scooting" thing.  Parks was not even close to this at her age.  He crawled around the end of his 8th month.  She can hike her legs up under her and work her way forward with her hands.  She's really quite mobile for 4 months.  I'd imagine she'll be a full blown crawler by 6 months.  

Here's her pre-bath wiggle time...

  



 Check out those moves! 



 Practing her scissor kicks, a girl's gotta tone up! 


 and leg lifts... (notice the diaper in the background, I like to keep it real)


 People tell me all the time "Reese looks JUST like Parks."  I think they look different but I can see the sibling resemblance.  


Monday, September 26, 2011

Backpedal, backpedal, backpedal

I hate when I have to backpedal, you know, when you make a decision that then needs to be undone.  Either you say something that didn't come out right or you just plain shouldn't have said or you buy something you know you shouldn't have.  Well today, I had to backpedal.  I had an appointment with my eye doctor because my vision has been bothering me lately.  I figured I might need some occasional eye glasses for night driving and when I watch tv.  Turns out, he wrote me a prescription for some glasses to wear occasionally.  Fine and dandy.

Here's where things got crazy.   I was never handed a prescription or asked if I wanted to purchase glasses there.  They just immediately whisked me over to their "glasses department" where some nice people started helping me select frames.  Price range was never discussed and shame on me I didn't really ask.  I just figured they would be reasonable (bad I know!).   The price tags are so tiny on the glasses and my eyes were dilated for goodness sakes! So, I find a pair I like of course they were "Kate Spade" (what was I thinking?!) and the sales lady just goes to town tallying up my order.  I hear her say something about a discount and I think to myself, "Score!" and then she goes "Ok, that comes to $423. Would you like to pay all at once?".   Ok, stop the train.  WHAT?!!  Four hundred dollars are you kidding me?  For my "occasional-watch-in-front-of-the-tv-glasses"?!!  I was totally shocked and felt like it all happened so fast.  All this was running through my head but what did I say to her, "Umm..yes".  So there I was handing over my credit card to the lady for this outrageous sum.  I guess I felt kind of intimidated and like I had already committed and was too embarrassed to speak up at that point.

I was so uncomfortable and I told Jackson the error of my ways. Thankfully, he laughed.  Have I mentioned I have the best husband ever?  But, I knew what I needed to do.  Backpedal. So, three hours later: ring, ring, "Hi, this is Mallory Andrews I was in earlier today and I need to cancel my order..." I made the call.  I don't like making calls like that but I couldn't stand the thought of spending that much money on GLASSES.  I'm kicking myself over the whole thing.

Lesson learned:  SPEAK UP!  Ask questions, don't let yourself get intimidated by doctors or salespeople. *Always* ask about prices.  Slow the process down and say no the first time if you can't afford something or are just uncomfortable with the price.

Please tell me I am not alone in my idiocy.





Saturday, September 24, 2011

Happy 4th Birthday, Blog!

Can you believe I've been blogging for four years?  When thoseandrews started I was 21 years old, had been married for four months and was starting my senior year at UVA.  Now four years, 2 degrees, 2 jobs, 1 move, 5 houses and 2 kids later...we're settled in VA Beach and excited watch our family grow. 

Sept 07
Sept 08
Sept 09
Sept '10

Sept '11

I already knew this but boy does this photo journey further convince me that long & blonde is my destiny!  Oh my word.  I will never go back.  If I ever start talking about a major haircut or going dark please. please talk some sense into me.

Anyways, I really love blogging here and while I do not pretend this is some super interesting, cool blog I know I've garned a couple readers over the years and I really do appreciate your interest in the blog and joining in through the comments.  Thanks for sticking with me through seasons of blog drought and harvest.  Cheers to blogging! 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Because I know you are dying to see my kids' playroom...

Haha! Just kidding. I realized I never finished our "big reveal" from when we moved into our house. In many ways, we are still in progress but we have definitely made changes since my last house photos and I thought I would post some recent ones.

I'll start with our playroom. Whenever I say playroom I think people think our house is big. It's not. I should say in the same sentence, "We have a playroom because we don't have a dining room." I wouldn't trade it though. I LOVE having one room for toys! It saves my sanity and gives us other "pretty spaces". It is a must have in my opinion, no one wants a train table for a coffee table.

PLAYROOM BEFORE: I realize this is a terrible before photo of the dining room but you can see it was wallpapered and dated.

AFTER:



I have big dreams for this room. Fun paint, fun rug, fun light, fun wall ideas, paint the bookcase rainbow colors. Fun, fun, fun! For now though, it's really functional and is a great space for our toys. Parks loves his artwork displayed on the wall. I am pulling for a new light fixture though :)

LAUNDRY:

As you may remember, we went from this:

to this:



to this:

Huge improvement! My washer/dryer now are properly lined up so I can easily transfer clothing. I have a counterop and a cabinet for extra storage and I still have my utility sink (it's in the corner). Jackson did the countertop and cabinet! Score! P.S. Do you love my foot holding the door open? I've got skillz.

MASTER BATHROOM: I don't know about you but I just LOVE that wallpaper :)

BEFORE:


AFTER:


Floor to ceiling tile is definitely the way to go people. It adds drama to a dull bathroom. I had originially wanted to do the whole wall in the mosaic tile but the price was ridonkulous so I decided to a do a "picture frame" mosaic instead. Jackson is pained that we didn't go with a seamless shower door because it impedes the view of our beautiful mosaic but you live and learn. Next house, seamless door!

HALLWAY:

Before:

This looks boring at best and kind of scary at worst!
After:
Jackson added 4 ft beadboard wainscotting. It gives some character to our otherwise plain 1980s house. I added happy yellow trellis runners. Of course, we painted all trim and doors white. Our walls are Benjamin Moore's gray owl. I hopped on the gray train and traded our beige for gray. Gray is totally the new beige :) Hopefully sometime I will have some fun prints on the walls. Baby steps. Baby steps.


LIVING ROOM/OFFICE:

Before: Please notice the large mirror...

After: Please read my comments before judging this room...


Ok, so...I am a neutral girl at heart. I sometimes have to force myself to add color to a room. I had envisioned this room as being "cool" and "monochromatic". I'm afraid it ended up being kind of monochromatic but not cool. It needs color and some serious help in certain places. I need guidance with what to do over the desk. It's kind of an awkward space because the furniture isn't centered on the wall. What to do? Does anybody have suggestions?

Also, the warm blinds need to go. They clash. I kind of hate the chair in the corner that I BOUGHT. Ugh...I hate it when that happens. I think I desperately need some color here but I'm not sure what color to incorporate. Any ideas? I know yellow could work I just get so scared about making the wrong choice, it's silly.


Still to come...master bedroom!