Nathan @ 2 Months

It’s hard to believe it’s the middle of June already. Nathan continues to grow like a weed! He’s 11 weeks old but I haven’t had a chance to post his two month update. I’m doing it now – for you and for me! Here we go.

The month started off when Andy took his eighth grade class to Washington DC for 4 days. It was a challenge to solo parent, but the days went more smoothly – and quicker – than expected. Nathan did try to sneak into Andy’s suitcase but there wasn’t room for him! This was the month where I felt we started to settle into a routine.

Nathan Packing for Daddy

Nathan was almost 6 weeks before I took him to visit my students at Ascension. We had some nasty cases of strep making the rounds that I wanted us both to avoid. Of course, the children were all thrilled to meet him at last! The next week, I took Nathan to visit Andy’s school and classroom. Nathan was a hit at both schools!

Nathan at Ascension

Of course, we celebrated Mother’s Day. There were many years when I didn’t think this day would ever come. What a joyous day it was to celebrate with our baby who made my dreams come true!

Mother's Day 2014

Nathan grew so much during his second month. He settled into a good routine of being awake for 1.5 hours and asleep for the same. He started sleeping longer stretches at night, too, almost 6 hours at 6 weeks and a momentous 8 hours at 8 weeks! That was truly wonderful that Nathan did it without much help from us. I will say that swaddling at night has been very helpful – for him and for us!

As for other firsts, Nathan discovered his hands and will now occasionally suck on his hand – or thumb. He still likes his pacifier. Nathan continues to roll himself over regularly from his tummy to his back. I’d say that over half the time I put him on his tummy, he flips himself to his back. Nathan continues to lift his head quite high, as he wants to see what is going on. He is a curious and alert little guy.

Nathan discovered his hand

Nathan also got to meet his Grandpa Barz who arrived at the end of the month from Texas. My Dad arrived with my Mom (who was amazed at how Nathan has already grown since she left last month) to stay for a week. Nathan enjoyed some time with his grandparents, who graciously watched him as I returned to school for my final four days of teaching, after my maternity leave. It was so much easier to leave knowing that my parents were watching him. Plus, I didn’t have to take him anywhere which made the mornings much easier!

Nathan and His Grandpa Barz

Nathan still loves to eat, and regularly eats every 3ish hours. He decided that he liked baths his month so bathtime finds him kicking away in the water. The biggest event of the month? Nathan learned to smile. Really smile. It happened first when Andy was away at DC. Now, it happens all the time! Nathan loves to smile.

Smiles from Nathan

At his two month appointment, Nathan weighed 10 pounds, 12 ounces, which put him in the 25%. His length had increased to 22 inches, which put him in the 50% percentile. He’s a content and happy baby, whom we love watching grow and change – almost daily.

Snack Girl to the Rescue Review

Snack Girl to the Rescue

 

I love to snack. Really, who doesn’t? Since I like to snack, I’m always looking for ways to snack more healthily.For that reason, I was intrigued by the new cookbook, Snack Girl to the Rescue! This book is written by Lisa Cain, founder of the Snack-Girl website.

The tagline of this book is a real-life guide to losing weight and getting healthy with 100 recipes under 400 calories. Does Lisa follow through? She is very real and shares practical types that anyone could use. I wasn’t expecting the first half of the book to be informational. It’s a cookbook that is more than a cookbook with recipes only in the second half. I actually enjoyed the informational part more than I anticipated.

Now, I don’t know that I would agree with this because many of the recipes are variations on another. For example, Lisa details how to roast several different types of vegetables. I am curious to try roasting broccoli, I don’t know that all the vegetables needed to be listed separately. That said, did you know you can carmalize onions in a slow cooker? I’m buying a full bag of onions and giving this a try. I’d love to have carmalized onions in the freezer for different recipes!

I enjoyed reading Snack Girl to the Rescue! Was it my favorite cookbook? No. Lisa is an evolutionary biologist by training, and some of that came through in her writing. It is not a perspective that I share so that tainted the book for me. Still, is there is enough good in this book to make it worth a read? Yes. I’d borrow it from the library before you purchase a copy to make sure it’s one you want to keep on your bookshelves.

If you are interested, you can read more information on the Random House website.

Please note that I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Our Summer Plans 2014

I finished my tenth year of teaching last Friday. I had mixed emotions because as glad as I always am to wrap up another incredible year, this year will be my last of full-time teaching (for now). I have been blessed to teach at two amazing Lutheran schools over my teaching ministry and it truly has been a blessing. There are so many memories of so many students. Still, like any student you ask, teachers are just as excited (if not more!) for summer to arrive. We have a busy summer ahead of us and it has already started!

My parents arrived from San Antonio, Texas, last Monday evening. Thankfully, they watched Nathan while I returned to school for my four days post maternity leave. Dad left on Sunday to go serve as Chaplain for a Doxology Retreat. Mom is still here for a couple more days until she picks Dad up on Wednesday. Dad went to a TinCaps game with Andy and his students. Nathan and I drove Dad and Mom over to Bowling Green to see Grandpa and Grandma Lehenbauer again. We went for walks and had lots of good conversations. Of course, most importantly, Nathan showed off his smiles and new babbling to his Texas grandparents who love to hold him. It’s been lovely to have them here!

Thursday morning, Andy and I are taking Nathan on his first long road trip. We are driving out to Lincoln, Nebraska, for my second-cousin’s wedding. It’s unique because both of my sisters and my parents will be there as well. We plan to stop in Omaha to see Andy’s brother Chris on the way. It will be a quick trip – driving out on Thursday, wedding on Friday and driving back on Saturday. It’s just what we do – so Nathan will get used to it. Thankfully, he likes car rides! I hope that remains true for this trip.

We’ll have a day to regroup and clean sheets before my sister arrives with her family on Monday. Liesl and Jose are back from Okinawa and heading to their new military assignment in North Carolina. We are so excited to see them – along with our two nieces and nephew. Nathan gets to meet his cousins for the first time! We’ll stay around Fort Wayne for a couple days with plans for visits to the park and new splash pad in the neighboring small town.

On Friday, we’ll all load up and drive to Camp Lakeview in Seymour, Indiana, for the Lehenbauer family reunion. It’s held every three years for my Grandpa’s siblings, children and grandchildren. It’s a good time to catch up with cousins and second cousins at a nice Lutheran camp.

After the reunion, it’s back home to Grabill. By then, our house will be quiet again and we’ll wrap up things in our classrooms. I have to pack mine up and Andy has the typical end of the year responsibilities. I have early childhood meetings to attend for the Indiana district and Andy has basketball camps to coach. Other than that, we’re staying around Fort Wayne. The Schiffli family has their annual reunion at the end of June in Fort Wayne.

At the end of July, we’ll travel to Cleveland for a couple days to get together with college friends. There will be a 1 year old and 3 little babies among the 5 couples this year. It will be a different sort of reunion now that the guys all travel with pack ‘n plays for their babies!

Finally, although school will have resumed by then, at the end of August, we will travel to Omaha, Nebraska for my brother-in-law’s wedding. We’re very excited to welcome Jessica into the Whirrett family! The rest of Andy’s siblings and his parents are driving out with us in the Tahoe so that will be quite the road trip!

Even though it doesn’t seem like a lot of long trips, since we’re coming home to Grabill in between each one, I went ahead and looked at a map. We’re still going to be driving 3400 miles this summer for these various trips. Did you know you can embed maps now? So, take a look.

Those are our summer plans. If I’m absent some days online, now you’ll know why! What are your plans for the summer? And do you drive everywhere like we do in our family?

Mac & Cheese Links To Try

Links I Love Button

Lately, I’ve found myself craving macaroni and cheese. Like so many others, I grew up with the blue box Kraft mac and cheese. It’s still nice on occasion, but I now feel like there must be a good homemade alternative. Do you know how many different variations there are for mac and cheese? I don’t know how to decide which one is best other than to try them all! Here are some of the recipes on my list.

Of course, I should start with the Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Macaroni and Cheese. Ree has yet to steer me wrong on recipes so this seems like a good place to start. Plus, it seems pretty basic.

The Lovely Little Kitchen shared her version of Mac and Cheese that is created with a combination of colby and sharp cheddar cheese. I made this one already when my friend, Allison, came over for a visit. I didn’t top it with bread crumbs but it was still good.

Mandi’s recipe at Life…Your Way is unique because it calls for the addition of cream cheese. I want to try her Creamy Homemade Macaroni and Cheese because cream cheese in anything is delicious!

Shugary Sweets shared a Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese recipe that sounds delicious. It has cream and white cheddar, which sets it apart from the other recipes. I actually have never tried the Mac and Cheese at Panera but this recipe intrigues me.

I have tried Beecher’s famous Mac and Cheese in Seattle and Martha Steward shares the actual recipe with the World’s Best Mac and Cheese. This recipe does require a separate step of making a cheese sauce, but if it tastes as good as the mac and cheese we ate in Seattle, it will be worth it!

Savory Reviews shared a recipe that is supposed to be similar to the Noodles and Company Wisconsin Mac and Cheese. Again, I’ve never tried it but I like the idea of a cheese sauce with noodles and more cheese piled on it.

Have you tried any of these mac and cheese recipes? Or do you have another one I should try? Any secrets for making a good homemade mac and cheese?  I’m determined to do it! I’ve printed off all the recipes so now I just need to start trying them. I’ll let you know which recipe wins, once I’ve tried them all, that is!

Reasons My Kid Is Crying Review

Reasons My Kid is Crying

Please note that I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

With my recent time offline, I spent some time reading. Since there are still quite a few hours of my day spent nursing Nathan, I’m trying to be productive. During one feeding,  I was able to quickly read this new book Reasons My Kid is Crying  by Greg Pembroke.

Reasons My Kid is Crying is based on a blog that Greg had started when he began staying home with his two young boys. Having 2 boys under the age of 2 gave him plenty of experience with crying. He started taking pictures of these moments and captioning them with the reason for the fit. Greg’s blog has become widely successful and led to the publication of this very book. This book is a quick one to read because it is composed of pictures with captions. All of the captions include an actual crying picture of Greg’s own kids as well as other pictures submitted by various readers. There are so many crying reasons from ” The neighbor’s dog isn’t outside” to “We told him he looked very handsome.” I recommend this book for one simple reason. This book will make you smile!

You can read more information about this book from any of these links.

Before I finish this review, I would be remiss if I didn’t give you my own attempt of a crying picture. I’m sure we will have many more to come! If you like this one, then you’ll love this book!

Reasons My Baby is Crying - Summer Hat

An Unexpected Online Break

Ugh. Do you ever have those days – and weeks – when things don’t go according to plan? Well, last Thursday, I was checking my email when I noticed that my reply wouldn’t send. I looked further and it said the internet was down. I did all the tricks that I knew. I waited a bit. I refreshed the page. I turned off the modem and restarted it. Still, no internet. I waited until the next morning, just to make sure, but I still wasn’t able to get online. Andy called them and I called them three times before the tech guy determined it was our modem and sent us a replacement one. He said it would be there in 1 to 2 days. It wasn’t. It was Tuesday before it arrived. When I plugged in the new modem, our internet still didn’t work. I called our service provider again who quickly diagnosed it as a line problem. Why didn’t they say this before? Sigh. He said someone would come out as quickly as they could – in the next two days! Even bigger sigh. So, I continued to wait. It took until today when someone finally came out and got us back online! Unfortunately, my laptop still isn’t picking up the wireless signal but Andy’s laptop works.

It was a long time to do without internet – especially since I didn’t have any other place to get online. I don’t have a Smartphone and I still not back at school to use my school laptop either. I had big plans to work on some upcoming posts this week but it didn’t happen. I couldn’t email. I couldn’t check recipes. I couldn’t work on my photo books. I couldn’t update this website. It’s amazing how much we now depend on the internet!

Still, despite moments of frustration, I determined to make the best of it. Nathan and I took his first trip to the zoo with my preschoolers. We hosted a baby shower for the other preschool teacher. I read several books. Nathan practiced his smiles. We took naps and walks. I baked desserts for the upcoming Volunteer Dinner. I took more pictures of Nathan. Still, as productive as the time offline was, I decided it’s better when I chose to go offline. When it’s taken away without warning, I can’t plan for the break. That was the lesson I learned from my unexpected online break. I wanted to explain that I didn’t forget you all! I enjoyed my last week of maternity leave with Nathan – how can he be seven weeks old already? – and now I’m back online.

Nathan - 7 weeks

Simple Ideas to Help Preschoolers Learn their ABCs

Simple Ideas to Help Preschoolers Learn Letters - A free printable with lots of ideas for teachers and parents!

I’ve been teaching for 10 years now. A decade of teaching, and of that, 7 of those years have been spent in early childhood education. I love teaching young children! One of the questions I am regularly asked as a preschool teacher is how parents can help their child learn the ABCs. I love being asked this question because it means parents are invested in their child’s learning.

When speaking with parents, I try to remember two things. First, parents want practical ideas that will help their child. Second, parents want simple ideas that can be easily implemented – without extra cost.

I believe learning the ABCs can be an enjoyable experience, but it does need to be reinforced at home as well as at school. For that reason, I have developed an ABC handout with a wide variety of activities that can be used in any home to help teach the letters. Every activity I share is a simple and enjoyable one that young children view as a game. Please keep in mind that some children may learn quicker with certain games than others. It is up to the parent (and teacher) to figure out the right approach for their child.

Most of these ideas involve simple things found in the home. I did include one or two ideas with technology aspects because technology (when used correctly) can be a good reinforcement tool. Technology should always supplement actual teaching by the teacher and parents.

Since I know this is a universal question for parents, I have created this free handout with simple activities for helping young children learn their ABCs. Please free to download it and try some of these letter activities. As for teachers, you are welcome to share this handout with your parents, too. I know how nice it is not to have to reinvent the wheel when it’s unnecessary. I hope this handout is helpful to you as well!

Now, go and have fun learning the alphabet with your children! I’d love to hear which of these activities is your child’s favorite!

The Homesick Texan’s Family Table Cookbook Review

This was a new one! As most of you know, I review books. The bookworm in me loves this because I have the opportunity to read the latest books – for free! Blogging for Books is one of the places for whom I review books. They recently expanded the review program which broadened their book selection considerably. There were so many books that I wanted to read but when I saw this title, I knew it was the book for me.

The Homesick Texan’s Family Table: Lone Star Cooking from My Kitchen to Yours by Lisa Fain was a delight. For those of you who don’t know, I grew up in Texas, San Antonio to be precise. My parents still live there. No, I don’t speak with an accent but Texas – the people and their food – will always hold a special place in my heart. This was why I wanted to review this cookbook, because I am indeed a Homesick Texan at times.

The first thing I noticed when I opened up The Homesick Texan’s Family Table was the beautiful pictures. Not only did many of the recipes have gorgeous pictures to tempt you, but the scenery of blue bonnets and barns with Texas flags painted on them reminded me of Texas life. Lisa began the cookbook explaining that for Texans, the time spent together at the family table is to be cherished. A seventh generation Texan now living in New York, Ms. Fain knows about being homesick for Texas.

The cookbook covers Breakfast and Breads, Starters and Snacks, Salads and Sides, Chilis, Soup and Stews, the Main Event, Sweets and Accompaniments. While many of the recipes do call for jalapenos, all of the recipes are straightforward. These recipes call for everyday ingredients from the pantry. I always appreciate cookbooks like these.

To give this cookbook an honest review, I decided I needed to cook some of the recipes. I decided to make the Buttermilk Flour Tortillas and Pecan Pie. The tortillas were for me and the pie for my husband. I didn’t have any buttermilk on hand so soured the milk (with vinegar) so I could try this recipe. The tortillas were delicious! They are really very simple to make – and I will make them again. I ate the tortillas straight from the pan as a delicious snack. It’s one of the things I miss most about Texas – fresh tortillas. Now, I don’t have to miss that! The pecan pie was good, too, but not as sticky sweet as some. My husband still prefers his mother’s recipe but I’m glad I tried it. Next on my list? I want to try her recipe for Breakfast Enchiladas (with bacon?!?) and Spanish Rice.

If you are a Texan (or former one), The Homesick Texan’s Family Table is for you! If you have ever been to Texas or have even a passing interest in the great state of Texas, you’ll enjoy this cookbook too.

Please note that I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

On This Mother’s Day

Today, we give thanks for our Moms. We gave thanks for our Moms who loved us and raised us, hugged us and disciplined us, taught us and shared their Christian faith with us. As we give thanks for our own Mothers, let’s remember to pray for all the other Moms who are known and unknown to us.

Today, we pray for unwed Moms and teenage Moms, expectant Moms and new Moms, empty nest Moms and single Moms, overwhelmed Moms and tired Moms, adoptive Moms and birth Moms, and especially those who long to be Moms but are not (yet).

Today, we rejoice in God’s gift of Moms. May your Mother’s Day be a truly thankful one!

The picture is of four generations of Lehenbauers – 3 generations of Moms. 

Peanut Butter Links I Love

Links I Love Button

Ah, peanut butter. Is there anything more ideal than the combination of chocolate and peanut butter? I’ve always liked peanut butter – but when paired with chocolate, I really like peanut butter! Buckeyes are proof that peanut butter and chocolate are meant to be together. Recently, I’ve discovered quite a few more peanut butter (and chocolate) recipes that I want to try. I don’t know if they’ll be as good as buckeyes (or buckeye cake) but I’d like to give them a try.

This was the recipe that started my thinking of these delicious pairings. Cathy of Lemon Tree Dwelling shared her recipe for Cookie Dough-Stuffed Peanut Butter Fudge. Yum! I love cookie dough and I love peanut butter fudge. What an novel pairing for this decadent dessert!

Lindsay of Life, Love and Sugar shared her recipe for Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Brownie Layer Cake. I’m not really a cake fan, but since the cake is more like a brownie, I could – and would – make an exception.

The Food Fanatic shared a simpler recipe for Peanut Butter Frosted Brownies. It’s simpler than the recipe above, but still looks quite tasty. I like the idea of a frosting on my brownie, too.

The Sweet and Crunchy Blog shared a recipe for Layered Peanut Butter Brittle Ice Cream Pops. No special molds required as they are made in simple paper cups. These look delicious for summer!

Crunchy Creamy Sweet shared a recipe for Skinny Peanut Butter Cup Dip. It’s only 4 ingredients – and uses Greek yogurt to lighten it up. Hmm. Next time I buy Greek yogurt, I’m going to give this dip a try.

Finally, Sally of Sally’s Baking Addiction shared her recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Lover’s Granola. There are only 7 ingredients needed for this recipe, too. If you haven’t visited Sally’s blog before, do! It’s the most delicious baking blog ever.

If you don’t like peanut butter, my apologies! For those of you who share my love of peanut butter, which recipe would you like to try first?

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