Monday, November 21, 2016

Hello from El Paso!

I don't have an appropriate photo for this post because my phone has no storage currently, so here's a sneak peek of Liesl from her Christmas photo shoot. : )

We arrived to our new home city of El Paso on Saturday night!  Liesl slept the whole four hours from Midland, so we drove straight through.  That was a huge blessing, as we had a rough drive the day before.  There weren't many stops for comforting a crying baby between Lawton and Midland, which made for a sad Liesl and a sad mama.

Tonight is our last night in the hotel - we're signing the lease for our new house in the morning!  AND we found out the moving truck will arrive on Wednesday.  No waiting weeks for our washer and dryer and bed this time!  I'm so thankful this has all gone so smoothly (knock on wood).

El Paso and Fort Bliss are both big places!  I'm definitely feeling a tad overwhelmed at the moment by all of it, but I'm sure this will feel like home in no time at all.  We can see the Mexican border from our hotel!  It'll be interesting to learn how living so close to another country will affect our lives.

I'll be sure to share some photos of our new home as soon as I can.  As always, I'm ridiculously excited about deciding where to place furniture and decorating.

Thanks for keeping up with us!  I hope your Thanksgiving week is off to a great start.  I'm both thrilled and a little surprised that it's the holiday season already.  This has been a FAST year.  I'm pretty sure all parents say that. : )

Saturday, November 19, 2016

We're on the Move Again!

We said goodbye to our Lawton, OK, rental house yesterday and set out for our new home in El Paso, TX. About 8 pm last night, we made it to our first destination of Midland, TX, and we're leaving soon to finish the last leg to our new home.  It's a much shorter trip this time than it was from NC to OK!  We already have a house this time, which will also make the whole process much easier.  We'll be staying in a hotel in El Paso until our new place becomes available on Tuesday. 

While we were sad to leave behind new friends and the house where Liesl has grown from an itty baby to a little person, we're super excited to begin this next chapter of our lives and to see old friends who are already stationed at Fort Bliss.

I offer my deepest apologies for not doing a better job keeping this space updated; if you know our Liesl, you know that she's a busy girl... Spare time is a rarity for me these days, and I usually use it for sleep.  : ) She's the best, though.  I hope I can share more about her growth and little (well, big!) personality here soon.

I'll let you know when we've made it to El Paso!

The three of us at the Mister's Captains' Career Course graduation last week

Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Few Thoughts on Modern Patriotism

I'm in the midst of writing/planning some other posts right now, but this one has been heavy on my heart since Independence Day and then was brought back to the forefront of my mind during the Olympics these last couple weeks, so I wanted to take the time to write it when I finally had a moment to blog.

Does it seem like patriotism has gradually been becoming hollow?  Sure, folks are happy to don red, white, and blue tank tops, set off some illegal fireworks, enjoy a Budweiser out of a can covered in stars and stripes, and pose (disrespectfully) for photos with the American flag draped over their shoulders.  Even so, I don't think that we have the same deep pride for and loyalty to our nation that was once such an integral aspect of our country's culture.

Please don't think I'm writing this from a "holier than thou" perspective; I've owned my fair share of over-the-top flag themed outfits and been to more than a couple parties that used the excuse of celebrating the good old U.S. of A. to allow for debauchery and good times, and I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing.  But what I DO think is shameful is that some of the same people who start the "U-S-A" chant (in their American flag Chubbies shorts and "Suns out, guns out" cut-off shirts), are the ones who the next morning will talk about how divided, imperialistic, racist, privileged... the list goes on, just fill in the blank, America is.

I've actually seen people wear shirts that read, "Back to Back World War Champs," and I will admit to having chuckled at the sentiment in the past, but as I have gotten older, become a parent, and altogether grown more aware and observant of the world around me, I can't help but notice the concept of patriotism and America's role and responsibility in the world morph into a punchline.

Earlier this summer, the Mister and I watched (me for the 1st time, him for the 1,000,000th time) "Band of Brothers," a mini-series based on Stephen E. Ambrose's book of the same name that tells the true story of one unit of soldiers' experience in Europe during WWII.  These young men, most of them around 18 to 25 years old, saw their friends killed and maimed, lost limbs, lived in constant fear of being shelled or shot, even stumbled upon concentration camps they didn't know existed.  They saw and experienced things that couldn't be unseen or forgotten.  America didn't sit by and idly let Hitler take over Europe; these soldiers, some by choice and some because they were drafted, protected the futures of not only their children or Americans but the futures of people all over the world.  Then each of them who survived, after sacrificing his well being and state of mind, was expected to return to normal life and continue to work hard and be the backbone of his family without missing a beat.  And they were just a small sampling of veterans of one war.  Every past and present soldier, marine, and sailor is proof that America IS great because of the burden our service members are willing to bear every single day for people, both in the U.S. and elsewhere, that they have never met.

Soldiers today continue to be willing to protect and serve a whole nation even though they make up less than one percent of our population, all while being told what they are doing is wrong, corrupt, unneeded.  No matter what politicians' motives are, I can guarantee individual soldiers aren't fighting for control of oil or money or land.  They're leaving their families behind for the freedom and rights of people in our nation and all over the world and for the men and women who serve next to them.  On the civilian side of service, major international charities like The Task Force for Global Health and Direct Relief International operate out of the United States, along with U.S. arms of other groups like Doctors Without Borders and UNICEF.  Not to mention there is an unending list of charities and nonprofits that serve those within our nation.  All of this service to others, both military and civilian, is a defining piece of America's identity.

So, no matter how each of us feels about capitalism or race relations or the current shitty politicians from which we unfortunately have to choose, we should make an effort not to be disrespectful toward the men who died or lived through Hell so others could have the write to vote and live the way they please and say what they believe.  And we must always remember the men and women who still do sacrifice every day for this country and its people.  When we trivialize patriotism we trivialize them.

When I was growing up (I say this like it's been decades since I was in grade school, but it wasn't very long ago at all), Civics and Social Studies curricula focused on America's strengths.  We had a class every semester or school year that was partially dedicated to learning about our government's brilliant system of checks and balances, the slightly complicated method our nation employs for turning bills into laws, and the benefits of a representative electoral system that allows people with strikingly varying opinions and cultures to live as one people and have a part in their nation's affairs.  We were taught that it was important and truly incredible that 50 individual states could operate with some degree of sovereignty and have their own governments but still stand together as one country that represents Hawaii's people in the same way as Missouri's.  We were encouraged to appreciate our "melting pot" culture and to celebrate the fact that we are a nation of immigrants.

Sure, some of the education of my youth had a hint of American propaganda to it, but, as long as the information is true, I believe there is nothing wrong with instilling pride for one's nation into the hearts of children.  Men and women have had a distinct honor and possessiveness associated with their land of birth for thousands of years.  It's human nature to think the place you call home is better than any other in the world.  Of course, there is no need to have a ranking of "the best countries on earth."  I think it's suffice to say that America is great and one-of-a-kind without yelling, "America is superior to all other nations," from the rooftops. And, don't get me wrong, we learned about our society's flaws in school too, both those in our history and those we're still trying to overcome today.  My college U.S. history and government classes delved even deeper into these flaws.  I think it would be safe to say those classes even focused on them.  And it's important to be aware of our nation's shortcomings, past and present, and to contribute to dealing with and rectifying them.  But I'm concerned that the education of our youth today focuses more on the dark spots than all the positives.  Not to mention the negative information that floods our newsfeeds and TV screens concerning politics and foreign affairs.  It seems that if true patriotism isn't taught in the home it may not be learned anywhere these days.  Even worse, our youth may grow up with disdain or embarrassment associated with their home nation.

Recently, I had a conversation with my husband and in-laws concerning whether we thought we would have been Loyalists or Patriots during the Revolutionary War.  I came to the conclusion, based on how much of a rule follower and Constitutionalist that I am, that I probably would have been a Loyalist.  I would have felt an attachment to Great Britain and a desire to do what I was "supposed" to do.  This realization made me appreciate the bravery of the Patriots even more.  They believed so much in the rights of each person living in the colonies that they were willing to die to have their own government.  If our forefathers were here today, they would probably interpret some of our words and actions as saying to them, "Your sacrifices actually made us overly privileged in comparison to the rest of the world, so we don't really have much appreciation for what you did for us anymore."  Or, "Yes, we have a right to free speech, and that's great, but sometimes we offend others with our words and opinions, so free speech actually may be a detriment to our society."  America is not evil because we have "more" than some other nations; it just means we must give more. To whom much is given much is expected.

To those who truly do think America is evil, power-hungry, self-obsessed: please live elsewhere.  I don't mean that in a mean, grumpy, sarcastic way.  I mean it seriously.  Why continue to give your tax dollars to a nation that at its core disgusts and angers you?  This is the 21st century; you can move to Europe or Australia or South America.  Or just scoot across a border to Mexico or Canada.  You can find a way to afford a one-way plane ticket, bus ride, or cab fare.  But you probably won't leave.  And that in a way proves there is really nowhere better to live, other than your idealistic idea of Utopian society that I think every preteen science fiction novel has proven probably wouldn't be all that great anyway.

On the other hand, if you're like me, you may believe that God chose this piece of land and each person who has ever lived here and ever will for a high purpose and responsibility.  And you may not believe that, and that's okay... because this is America.

But please don't let politicians, people with hate in their hearts, or terrible news stories define a whole country.  And next time you're yelling "'Merica!" mean it.  Or, better yet, ask a veteran to tell you stories about his deployments, or take the time to teach a child the Pledge of Allegiance. When you're at a sporting event that begins with the national anthem, pause a moment to appreciate it and ponder the significance of the ritual.  I know I'm a little weird for always getting teary eyed during the fireworks on Fourth of July, but if you really stop to think just how lucky we are to live here and what our nation represents, you may find a tear in your eye as well.  And like I said, I'm not saying any of this from a soapbox.  Nor am I going to throw out my "I heart America" t-shirt.  Because I do heart America, and I mean that with every fiber of my being.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Friday PIE Day: South of the Border

It's been a long time since I've done a Friday Pie Day post, but this recipe I made last night was too good not to share!

When the Mister's grandparents downsized to an apartment last year, they were kind enough to let us come by their house and grab some goodies before they sold/gave away what they weren't taking with them.  One of the items I claimed was a cookbook published by the Greenville, South Carolina, Junior League in 1988 that looked promising.  I adapted this pie from a recipe I found in that book.

- 1 pound ground beef (I usually cook with ground chicken or turkey, but I went with 93% lean beef this time, and it was yummy!)
- 4 7-inch flour tortillas
- Olive oil
- 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- 1 6-ounce can green chilies, chopped
- 6 ounces prepared guacamole
- Monterrey Jack cheese, sour cream, and guacamole for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Brown meat in skillet and drain.  Place the meat to the side, rinse the skillet, then soften the tortillas by frying them for 5 seconds on each side in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Place the tortillas to the side, rinse the skillet again, then combine tomato sauce, onion, garlic, cumin, and chili powder in the skillet.  Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce heat and allow it to simmer for 10 minutes, uncovered.  Remove 1/4 cup of sauce from the skillet and place to the side as well.  Add half of the chilies and all of the ground beef into the larger portion of sauce and stir.  Grease a 9-inch pie pan, then begin building your pie in this order -

- one tortilla on bottom
- 1/2 of meat mixture
- another tortilla
- guacamole and remaining green chilies
- another tortilla
- remaining meat mixture
- last tortilla
- 1/4 cup of reserved sauce

Bake uncovered for 45 minutes, slice like a pie, and serve immediately with desired toppings.  Enjoy!  I served ours with refried black beans and Mexican fiesta corn.

The original recipe calls for cheese to be baked into the pie in the guacamole layer and added to the top during the last five minutes of baking, kind of like a Southwestern lasagna, but I'm avoiding dairy right now as we think Liesl may have a slight intolerance.  The Mister didn't mind just having cheese as a topping, though!

Recipe adapted from Uptown Down South by Greenville Junior League Publications

Monday, June 13, 2016

Watch Liesl Grow! - FOUR MONTHS

(I have been told it looks like she has a bug on her head in this photo.  Don't be alarmed - it's a bow, not a large insect.)

New milestones:

  • Holding her head up constantly and steadily
  • Laughing a little! - it's more like a deep chuckle, and it's still pretty rare.
  • Doing mini push-ups during tummy time
  • Bearing her weight on her legs when we help her balance (standing up in our laps is her preferred way of being held currently.)
  • Grasping all of her toys and bringing them to her mouth
  • Reaching out for her toys and things we are holding
  • ALWAYS playing with her feet
  • Rolling in all directions and traveling this way to toys she wants on the floor
  • Recognizing her name some of the time
  • Trying to reach out for objects in front of her while on her tummy, but this mostly just frustrates her
  • Reaching occasionally for the dogs but not reaching for us quite yet

Liesl loves:

  • Chit-chatting and making noises back and forth with us
  • Her swing, her vibrating bouncy chair, and her play mat
  • Her bouncer/baby gym for short periods of time (she's not sure about the doorway bouncer just yet.)
  • Looking out the window
  • Looking at herself in the mirror or on the phone camera
  • Her early stage Sophie the Giraffe, and her duckie and piggie "lovies"
  • Being held
  • Being sung to
  • Rocking!
  • Water bottles and cups and watching us drink out of them
  • Bath time (I'm hoping to take her to the pool soon!)

Liesl does not like:

  • Being put down after being held
  • Loud, startling noises
  • Reading books when she's sleepy
  • Feeling like she's alone (e.g. when we walk into another room when she's in her bouncy chair)
  • Napping anywhere other than her swing or in a moving car

How is Liesl already four and a half months old??  This past month is when I've really started to see her grow and change.  She has so much personality!  She makes it clear when she's happy or sleepy or content or frustrated or hungry.  Her sleeping has changed quite a bit - she's back to waking up once during the night, usually around 4-5 am.  We've moved her bedtime up to between 9-10 pm, as we feel like she's much more tired than she used to be.  My plan is to continue to make it earlier and earlier until I feel like she seems well-rested. She naps for about 45 minutes every two to three hours, but she has to be moving (rocking, in her swing, or in the car) to stay asleep during the day.  The only time she sleeps while not in motion is at night.  All those naps are necessary right now because we can tell her brain and body are growing like crazy!  Every day I notice a new skill or see that she understands something that she used to not.  She doesn't seem like an infant anymore but like a little person who is coming to terms with the world around her and who loves us and wants to be with us all the time.  I'm so enjoying watching her.  I know we're in a sweet spot right now where she's learning so much but can't get herself into too much trouble.  : ) The worst thing she can do is spill my drink on my lap.  Once she starts crawling, exploring, and pulling on dogs' ears, our world is going to become much more interesting!

Her hair and eyes are definitely strawberry blonde and blue at the moment.  I've read that red hair and blue eyes are the rarest combination.  Who knows if they'll stay that way, though!  I see lots of sunscreen in our future!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Making a (Temporary) Rental House a Home: PART ONE

Sorry for the brief hiatus!  We've been busy, busy bees cleaning, organizing, decorating, and taking care of little Liesl.  My parents drove out from NC to bring us the doggies and my car the weekend before last, so the whole gang's here now.  Hank and Luellen's presence definitely makes this house feel more like home!  During the weekend my parents were here, we were able to get a ton done as far as hanging things on the walls (including some pretty open shelves and a super cool cedar wood photo display the Mister made!) and pulling this place together.  And since then, Chris has been on quite the DIY kick - building Lulu a custom dog bed, re-purposing a few pieces of our old furniture, and covering some stencil art I hated in the kitchen.  Last Thursday, we drove to Oklahoma City and purchased a beautiful leather sectional with which we are both very much in love.  It's our first piece of "grown-up" furniture that wasn't purchased second-hand or at Target/Ikea.  Our rental house is really starting to come together and we don't have anything to complain about here other than some large spiders (an exterminator is coming Monday!) and that the backyard gets REALLY muddy when it rains (and, consequently, so do the dogs).

My plan was to take these photos in some lovely natural light, but an Oklahoma thunderstorm rolled in as soon as I got Liesl down for a nap.  So they're a little dark!

I could have moved Liesl's toys and things for these photos, but that seemed inauthentic. As you can probably tell, we've invested most of our time and effort so far in the living room.  The only item left is a rocking chair that's on its way from Ikea.  The rocker we're using right now is an older one from my great grandfather's house that we're worried we're putting too much wear and tear on - Liesl prefers to be rocked with a lot of force! : ) We'll be moving that one into the guest room for lighter use.

I had hoped to include some photos of the unfinished rooms as well (the guest room and our bedroom), but Liesl woke up before I could finish because the storm turned off her swing, so I'll have to show those to you some other time!  Chris put together the crib this evening and started our new platform bed, and those rooms should be finished soon.  I'm super excited about our new master bedroom (that I'm working a nursery area into as well)!

Thanks for checking in!  Hope you're having a great weekend!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Watch Liesl Grow! - THREE MONTHS

When Liesl (Liesl Bird, Birdie, or Liesl Ann as she's known around here) had her one month "birthday," I knew I wanted to start taking monthly photos of her.  I perused the Apple app store to try to find an editing tool for labeling monthly baby pictures, and I bought one I ended up loving called "Baby Pics." I was happy to discover there were fun little doodles, other milestone "stickers" (first smiles, rolling over, teething, etc.), and weekly labels you could add to the photos as well (plus the ability to add text and type whatever you want).  So I started taking weekly photos of Liesl at five weeks in addition to the monthly ones since the app made it easy to do so.  Because I've been kind of backed up here on the blog with the move and putting our house on the market and taking care of an infant and all, I thought it would be fun just to share all the photos with you at once now that I have a little time.  That way you can see her change as you scroll through them!  She looks very much the same as she did when she was first born, but she's changed a bunch, too!  It's amazing how much less of a "baby" she seems after growing out of the newborn phase (tear), such a big girl! - I know she'll still be a baby for quite a while longer, though, and I'm so excited to keep watching her change and learn about the world around her.

Milestones so far:
  • Holding her head up
  • Smiling (she's not quite laughing yet but is SO close - we can't wait for that one!)
  • Following objects with her eyes
  • Staring at faces and responding to voices
  • Gurgling, cooing, "oohing and ahhing," squealing
  • Bearing a little weight on her legs when held
  • Rolling over
  • Bringing her hands together and to her mouth, and grabbing at our hands and at soft toys/blankets/burp cloths
  • Sleeping through the night
Liesl loves:
  • Being held and moving around (bouncing, rocking, walking)
  • Gnawing on stuffed animals, blankets, burp cloths, her fingers, and anyone else's fingers who will let her
  • Holding on to her feet
  • Rolling over
  • Talking (we talk, she makes lots of happy noises in response)
  • Listening to Mama and Daddy sing
  • Anything black and white
  • Her swing and her vibrating bouncy seat
  • Grabbing Mama's hair
  • Looking at books
  • Watching ceiling fans
  • Bath time
Liesl doesn't like:
  • Being buckled into her car seat
  • Napping for longer than 30-45 minutes during the day
  • Sitting still
  • Being on her back
  • Getting out of the bath
She's been going back and forth lately on how she feels about bottles and pacifiers.

Altogether, she is a generally happy and very easy baby - we're lucky duckies!