Easy Pumpkin Drop Cookies

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I have seen different forms of this recipe online and combined a few different recipes before I landed on this super easy recipe.

Ingredients
15 ounce can pumpkin
1 box gluten free yellow cake mix
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp cinnamon

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. In a bowl, combine all ingredients.
3. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
4. Drop spoonfuls of batter onto lined baking sheet.
5. Bake for 12 minutes. (We like soft cookies. If you like crunchy cookies, you will need to bake them longer.)

Makes about 20 cookies

What my c section taught me about rest (and asking for help)

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The first month or two of Clarissa’s life, I was pretty miserable. She would pretty much only sleep if someone was holding her, which was fun during the day but frustrating at night. Most nights about 3 AM I would question why I became a mom. I remember several mornings, Tim would wake up for work about 6 AM and walk by me in the nursing chair and I would say, “I have not slept yet!”

Then, magically at two months old, Clarissa learned the difference between night and day. By that I mean that she started sleeping consistently from 2 – 7 AM. Once I started sleeping, I was so glad to be a mom.

Some days in the first few weeks, I was really tired and sore so I spent most of the day on the couch watching Netflix with Clarissa and Josie. Other days I felt pretty good so I would vacuum and clean the house. I always overdid it so the following day was usually a couch day to recover.

Going into the end of Tiffany’s pregnancy, I planned to relax more. Tim was planning to be home for two weeks and then Mom was planning to stay with us for a week as well. I wanted to relax and heal the first two weeks and then hopefully do some fun things with Mom before I was home alone with two kids and getting used to our new normal.

I was really tired and sore towards the end of my pregnancy with Tiffany. My belly was huge so if I did a lot of walking, I really felt it and I also had some carpal tunnel. I was still cooking and doing laundry. But Clarissa and I were definitely watching a lot of movies and I was trying to give myself grace for not keeping the house super clean.

After about 44 hours of labor, Tiffany was born by cesarean section. That was not really on our radar. The original plan was for Tim to be in the hospital with me for our entire stay. That didn’t end up being what was best for Clarissa so they left shortly after Tiffany was born. They did not even get to hold her the night she was born.

Since I was on my own that first night, I really had to rely on the nurses to help me. I could get Tiffany out of the basinet when she cried but I couldn’t get her back in to the basinet. But the nurses were great so I would call them and they would swaddle her and put her back in the basinet for me.

The next morning, they did the usual blood work and decided that I needed a transfusion. Apparently I lost a lot of blood during the surgery and my iron count was at transfusion level. There was talk of a second transfusion, but we ultimately decided on iron pills instead.

The first two weeks that Tiffany was home, Tim was off of work. He entertained Clarissa and did the cooking, dishes, and laundry. I basically camped out in our bedroom with the baby and watched TV all day. It wasn’t how I originally envisioned my recovery, but a c section and stairs don’t mix. I went downstairs a couple of times per day to eat, but Tim carried Tiffany up and down the stairs for me.

My mom came for two weeks when Tim went back to work. She took care of the cooking and cleaning so I could continue to recover. She was available to drive to Tiffany’s appointments and to Co op so the girls and I were able to get out of the house some. But I didn’t last very long on my feet anyway.

Four weeks was the first time I was home alone with both Tiffany and Clarissa during the day. I was still really sore and was taking the stairs more so we ended up having a lot of movie afternoons and book snuggles on my bed. Tim took the laundry up and down the stairs for me after work. I started making dinner again. But that was about it for the next two weeks. My pain level actually got worse because I was doing more.

I didn’t start driving again until after Tiffany was 6 weeks old. I did reach a point a few days after the six week mark that I started to feel much better. I went from taking ibuprofen every 4 hours to once or twice per day.

Clarissa and I didn’t start school again until the six week mark either. It took a few days to find a groove with Tiffany. Eventually I learned to wear her while Clarissa and I did school.

Tiffany is two months old now and we are still trying to find our new normal. Thankfully she is a great sleeper. But I do spend several hours per day nursing. So between nursing, trying to give Clarissa attention, and school, I am back to mostly doing cooking, dishes, and laundry like I was before she was born. Thankfully I can drive now, but we wait for the weekend to run most of the errands with Tim.

If I had delivered Tiffany vaginally, I think I would have felt the need to keep up with the housework. I would have asked Tim to help, but not to the extent that I did. The pain level from a c section in addition to my anemia from the blood loss, left me unable to do many things so I had to ask for help. And I learned that people usually want to help you, they just don’t know how so you need to ask.

I am also learning to have grace for myself (and my family) for needing to rest. Sleep and down time are important. I am still only about 10 weeks out from major abdominal surgery so my body is still healing. It will take a while to be completely pain free and have the stamina to be active all day like I could before.

Salmon Bowl

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I have been making salmon for dinner since this summer. Recently Tim had the idea to make it seem more like how we ate in Asian restaurants by serving it in a bowl over rice. It tasted great.

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Ingredients
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp gluten-free bread crumbs
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp oregano
Pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup rice
Broccoli
4 salmon filets
Water

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 450.
2. Put 1/2 cup of rice and 1 cup of water in a sauce pan on high. Once water boils, turn to low until all water is gone.
3. Start steaming broccoli.
4. In a small bowl combine yeast, bread crumbs, garlic powder, oregano, and pepper.
5. In another small bowl combine olive oil and lemon juice.
6. Place salmon filets on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
7. Cover salmon filets with olive oil/lemon juice mixture.
8. Coat salmon filets with spice mixture.
9. Bake salmon for 10 minutes.
10. Fill bowl with broccoli and rice. Place salmon on top.

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Veteran’s Day Fun

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I appreciate that there is a federal holiday to celebrate my husband. Tim served in the Air Force for four years as active duty and has worked for the Department of Defense as either a contractor or federal employee almost every job since.

His first choice for his free lunch today was Texas Roadhouse. But when we got there, there weren’t any parking spots and the line to get in was outside. We headed to Buffalo Wild Wings instead for his free wings and fries. We were all pretty happy with our meal.

Our next stop was Fair Oaks Mall. We had never been before but I saw on Facebook that veterans and their entire family could have free entry to the Children’s Science Center. I am so glad we decided to check it out.

There were several different exhibits and stations. In one room, Tim and Clarissa were able to create a hovercraft, make slime music, and play with Legos. There was a room for children 5 and under that had a large fish tank, life size light bright, fort building, and books. A different room had a place to learn about wind turbines and forces. We really enjoyed all three of those rooms.

Then there was an announcement that the kids could learn about animals and watch the staff clean an animal tank. Clarissa and some other children could get really close to an axolotl. The staff were really great and talked about fresh water vs salt water tanks. They explained adaptations and talked to the kids for about 20 minutes.

The last part of the museum was science experiments. There were three to choose from and you are allowed to do all 3 if you want to. Clarissa chose to do two of them. She learned about acids and bases with putty and also studied some rocks.

In the science experiment room, there are a few more fish tanks. Clarissa enjoyed the seahorses, lobster, and hermit crab. Before we left, a staff member asked Clarissa if she wanted to see some land animals. She invited her to get closer and she was able to see snakes, a lizard, cock roaches, and a scorpion. The staff member was very knowledgeable and answered all of Clarissa’s questions.

After we finished at the science center, we decided to check out the mall. Santa is already there, and while we don’t usually do Santa, they had a really cool display. Clarissa was able to make a badge that allowed her in to elf training. The staff members walked her through and she got to see how tall she is, and dance in a virtual elf costume. She got to press buttons and choose Santa’s route and load the sleigh. There was even snow! Then, her badge let her have a visit with Santa. It’s genius really because the badge puts her name on the screen so that Santa knows her name. Clarissa really enjoyed it.

At the end of our mall visit, we decided on Coldstone for some ice cream before we headed home.

Name Meaning Gifts Review

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Amazing Names by CrossTimber

We think a lot about names and meanings in our house. Both of our girls have specific names for a reason. Clarissa knows the story of her name, but I thought it would be cool to have a gift specifically about her name. I had never heard of CrossTimber- Name Meaning Gifts before this review. When I showed Clarissa the promotional video for Your Amazing Name- Personalized Adventures for Every Name! she was very excited.

In order to personalize a video, CrossTimber emailed me a form to fill out. I was able to send back a letter to Clarissa about why we chose her name, a photograph of Clarissa, and a picture that she drew. After about two weeks, I received an email with a link to Clarissa’s personalized video as well as a pdf of ten pages of activities and name writing practice.

The video is 28 minutes long. I had originally planned to watch the video with Clarissa but ended up needing to feed the baby so she watched it and I listened to it. I really enjoyed the message that God had a plan for Clarissa and really knew her. Benjamin the Pencil says and spells Clarissa’s name several times. I also really enjoyed that there was so much scripture used throughout the video.

The first time that Clarissa saw the video she wasn’t thrilled. She thought the video seemed babyish. I think the main problem was that she was upset about her picture. She didn’t like that the pencil drew on her picture and folded it into a rocket ship. A different day, I was able to sit down and watch the entire video with her. She liked it much better the second time and said it was funny. She really enjoyed Mr. Owl and all of his puns.

I thought the animation was well done for a kid’s video. Clarissa’s first name and last name were both spoken and written on the video several times. Her name was written both in print and cursive, which she isn’t super familiar with. Some of the scripture is written as well. A younger child will not be able to read the scripture independantly. But most of the scripture is also spoken, so they will still benefit from hearing the words.

Clarissa really enjoys receiving mail in real life. She thought it was cool to receive mail in her video. There was a letter to her written by Mommy and Daddy. Mr Owl brought it to Benjamin the Pencil for Clarissa. The envelope had the sender in the upper left corner and also had her full name and address in the middle right, just like a real letter envelope would. I like that it was helping to teach her the way a letter would be addressed. The letter was read with expression and she enjoyed it. I think she would have preferred hearing the letter read in either my or Tim’s voice though.

This would be a great gift for kids eight and under. I don’t think older kids would appreciate the animation. CrossTimber offers several personalized name gifts in addition to the video. You can read about what other families thought of their name gifts here. CrossTimber is also holding a giveaway for a free Amazing Name Video or DVD.

Your Amazing Name - Personalized Adventures for EVERY name! {CrossTimber - Name Meaning Gifts Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Kregel Book Review

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Clarissa and I read books together everyday. Usually I read them aloud to her and later she will go back and “read” them to herself. She has a great memory and she is learning to decode words so she does a decent job with the books we have already read together. I follow several different book lists and am always looking for something new. I especially like a book that is fun to read but also educational so I signed up to review The Goldtown Beginnings Series by Kregel Publications.

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I like that both books are easy to read. They are marketed for ages 6-8, and I feel like emerging readers could actually read these books independantly. The chapters are short. The font is easy to read. There are some black and white pictures on a couple of pages of each chapter. I also like that there are some nonfiction text features in this book, even though it is historical fiction. The beginning of the book has a table of contents as well as a page of new words that kids might not know (glossary). I really liked that the vocabulary words were in the beginning in of the book to be introduced before the story instead of at the end. At the end of the book, there is a short section about the history.

The first book in the series is Jem Strikes Gold. Jem (Jeremiah) is almost 8 and his little sister Ellie (Ellianna) is almost 6. They live with Mama and Pa in a tent by the river where they have a gold claim. Pa works with an old neighbor named Strike to pan for gold. But Mama makes more money selling pies and doing laundry for people in town. The rich boy in town named Will causes trouble for Jem a few times in the story.

Clarissa wasn’t really excited about the story until the dog showed up and then she didn’t want me to stop reading. In the book, Mama was adamantly opposed to keeping the dog that Strike found until the dog helps Jem with his problems with the rich kid, Will. I liked that Jem and Ellie came from a good, Christian family. The siblings got along well and worked together to help their family. The book also brought up some great discussions about The Gold Rush, why someone would live in a tent, poverty, a one room schoolhouse, and what a dog needs to eat.

The second book is called Jem’s Frog Fiasco. Nugget, the dog, has been with Jem and Ellie for a few weeks now. The family is still poor so it is a struggle to feed the dog. Jem decides that he needs a job so that he will have enough money to buy meat from the butcher to feed Nugget. The cafe owner in town tells him that he wants to add frog legs to his menu, so he will pay Jem five cents per frog he catches.

Jem and Ellie have a fight while catching bullfrogs at the pond because Jem thinks Ellie is too loud and scaring the frogs away. Jem tells Ellie to go home and she leaves. Jem has a very successful afternoon catching frogs. When he gets home, he finds out that Ellie never made it home. Everyone goes to look for her. Eventually, Jem finds her in a coyote hole with help from Nugget, the dog. This story would be a great conversation starter about money, responsibilities in a family, and sibling relationships.

When we finished the second book, Clarissa asked if there were more. The next two books in the series are scheduled to release in March. The publisher website also provides enrichment materials in the form of activity guides, lapbooks, and coloring pages to go along with these stories. You can read about what other families thought of the books here.

Jem Strikes Gold & Jem's Frog Fiasco  {Kregel Publications Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Clarissa’s last adventure as an only child

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The Wednesday before Tiffany’s due date, Clarissa and I went on one last adventure. We were up early to drive Daddy to work so I decided that we should go somewhere before my ob appointment. We decided on Hidden Pond Nature Center in Springfield. It was Clarissa’s favorite so far as she has asked to go back at least 5 times in the past month.

We arrived about the time the visitor center opened at 10. Clarissa was not interested in the animals just yet when she saw the huge playground near the parking lot. She was the oldest kid there since it was a school day but she didn’t mind. She played there for an hour before we headed to the visitor center.

The visitor center was small but nice. There was a restroom, small play area for babies and toddlers, as well as several small reptiles to look at. Clarissa really enjoyed looking at the turtles, snakes, and frogs. Her favorite part was probably touching the snakeskin.

We then headed outside for a nature walk. There were plenty of insects and birds among the plants. The pond was great too with several turtles. Clarissa enjoyed looking out on the pond from the dock. She made up some rather loud songs and even made a new friend.

After the pond, we spent some time on a nature trail with our new friends before heading back to the playground. We finished our adventure at McDonald’s for a happy meal before my last ob appointment.