"You can make anything by writing."

-- C. S. Lewis

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mommyhood Max-Out

I’m feeling out of sorts today. I think everything just kind of came crumbling down around me at once, and I got a little overwhelmed. Thank goodness for Ryan, who helps keep me grounded. :-)

We spent most of yesterday shopping for the perfect “Cinderella” costumes for Ryley’s school play. I am usually pretty driven when I have a goal in mind, but there’s only so much that Ryan and Ryley can take. Neither of them like errands too much, and I have to be careful how far I push my little family.

But after visiting a party store, a bridal shop, and two thrift stores, in addition to running several other errands, we found the perfect dress in the back of a spooky, dimly-lit little costume shop with boxes stacked high, masks and wigs hanging from the ceiling, and mannequin arms and heads scattered all over the floor. I hope I never have to go back there again.

But here’s our take on Cinderella….


Ryley’s favorite part is the hoop skirt!


This afternoon, I had promised Ryley and her friend that we could go around the neighborhood with Girl Scout cookies. We only sold four boxes of cookies in the 25 houses we visited, but it was a really good experience for them. And they were adorable.




The funniest thing: After they had rung the doorbell to a friendly-looking house with an American flag waving, they suddenly freaked out and booked it down the driveway in pure fear.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“There was a sign that said, ‘Trespassers will be shot!’” they said.

Oh my gosh. It was hilarious!

“I think they’re kidding,” I reassured them.

But they could not be convinced to return. :-)


Ryley and three of her friends have decided they want to put together an act for the school talent show. No information or communication has come home about the talent show, however, so I’ve been pretty confused about what exactly we’re shooting for. But being the mom that I am, I told Ryley I would help her organize a time to practice, and since the try-out is Tuesday apparently, we chose this afternoon at our house, since the one friend would already be here. But none of the other parents returned my calls or e-mail, and since I don’t really know any of them, I was pretty frustrated. I burned CDs of the song they wanted and typed out the words to all the verses. We were ready, but nobody came.

This is where Ryan disagreed with me. He felt I was going too far and being “that mom” that takes too much control. My argument was: “With 3rd graders, you have to help them or it doesn’t happen.” Ryan’s rebuttal to that was: “What’s the harm if it doesn’t happen?” ;-)

We have very different philosophies when it comes to extra-curricular activities. My thing is, it was Ryley’s idea to do it. She and her friends came up with the act themselves. I want to encourage that spirit in her. If she comes up with an idea, I want her to know she can do it.

So anyway, here is what the girls, or ahem, the “Fruit Hoops” have come up with:

It’s definitely unique! Haha! I want to reiterate: this was all their idea. :-)

So with Girl Scout cookies, Cinderella, and the talent show try-outs, it was all just a little too much for me today. Maybe I was getting a taste of the medicine I so generously dole out to Ryan and Ryley on a daily basis? Not sure. But around 5:00, I was just done.

We have a busy two weeks ahead of us. We are still waiting to see if our van is totaled. Ryan works almost every night this week, and I have just gotten way too used to him being home. I do better when we’re together.

He gave me the most wonderful compliment the other day. Ryley and I were goofing around with hula hoops in the living room, and Ryan told me later that he noticed that I am always trying to do things to make sure Ryley is enjoying her childhood…just like his mom always did. It was the very sweetest thing to say. :-)


I always feel like I am late to the party on so many things. But I’m becoming more and more confident in sharing my discoveries. Because though some of you may be like, “She’s just now discovering that?”, others of you may not have heard of it, and I want to make sure to share the joy. And when I discover something, I DISCOVER it…meaning, I wikipedia and google the heck out of something until I know everything there is to know.

1. Desperation Band…  God has been doing a lot in my heart regarding worship. I used to play keyboards/piano for worship in my youth group in high school, but it has just been so long since I have felt “good enough” to even think about being on a worship team again. Until recently. There’s something about our new church that has revived my love for worship, and I’ve actually found myself seeking out good worship songs and picking out the chords in my free time. Here are two that have been on my worship playlist for several months and I just recently realized how much I love them… Both are by Desperation Band:

Highest Place    and    Everlasting God

So worshipful. I could listen to them over and over again. The version of “Highest Place” on my phone is acoustic and is slower than this.

2. Completely switching topics, I’ve discovered the wonders of baking bacon. I have always, always fried it, but I hate cleaning the mess afterwards, not to mention that I have a horrible habit of burning it. Also, I hate how frying bacon makes our house smell for days afterwards. I feel like I go to work on Monday mornings with the smell of bacon permeating my clothes. “Ah, you made bacon this weekend?”, I imagine my co-workers think. I got to thinking that restaurants must do it differently to get it to turn out so perfectly every time. Ryan said, “Of course, they bake it.” Aha! And so we’ve been doing that, and suddenly it’s no big deal for us to casually stick some bacon on a baking sheet in the oven whenever we want. I love it!

3. The show “Fort Boyard Ultimate Challenge” for kids. I believe it’s on the Disney Channel. Ryan likened it to Double Dare. Remember those days? Anyway, it’s fun, and I am completely fascinated by the host’s unrealistically deep voice. We discovered it Saturday morning, and we plan to watch it henceforth. :-)

Off to bed now. Morning comes early, and I covet a better disposition tomorrow. :-)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Aunt Aly

Ryley has a very special relationship with my brother’s wife Alyson. It is really very sweet!

At Thanksgiving, after Ryley was reunited with Aly, Justin, and the boys, and they had caught up about school, friends, etc. (meaning Alyson patiently listened while Ryley prattled on and on), Ryley passed me in the kitchen, sighed, and said, “See? Aly just gets me.”

Like we don’t? Haha!

Anyway, so I wanted to link to Alyson’s blog so you can see what very special thing she is doing for Ryley:


Ryley was speechless when she read it a little while ago. Her jaw dropped, and I cried! It’s so very special. There are other wonderful surprises in store for that weekend as well, but you’ll have to wait to find out those. :-)

You have to know that Alyson is amazing. It’s been a rough day for all of us at work and school, and I thought we could use a boost. I texted Aly at 7 p.m. saying that I thought we should let her in on this surprise, but I didn’t necessarily mean tonight, as I knew she wanted to be creative. One hour later she had already put together this very special post! Of course, she is a multi-tasking mother of twins. :-)

Speaking of that, as we tucked Ryley in, it dawned on her that this is probably the first time Aly has traveled away from Will and Jack. She said, “So caring for the boys will be up to Justin that weekend? Wow! That will be a new experience for him!”


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things…

I’m trying to capitalize more on the moments when I’m in a writing mood, even if there’s nothing really to say. :-)

So here are the things I’m into right now…

What I’m Reading: I absolutely love Catherine Newman’s blog. Her and my politics and religious beliefs differ completely, but she is one of the most amazing writers I have ever read. I have been reading her stuff for nine years; I discovered her on the BabyCenter web site before Ryley was born, and I have followed her from site to site ever since. Her blog is seriously my guilty pleasure. Occasionally I will try one of the recipes she posts, and rarely does she disappoint!

I also finished the book State of Wonder right before Christmas, racking up so many fines with the library that they sent me a $4o bill for the book. I had waited six months on the waiting list for it, though, so I wasn’t about to return it without finishing it. It was so good, but you know how it is to find time to read during the holidays. It was worth it though, and when I arrived at the library with the physical book in my hand, they reduced the fine to $8. It was different than anything I had ever read before, and I highly recommend it!


What I’m Watching: We have really gotten into the show “New Girl” on Fox, mostly because Jess (played by Zooey Deschanel) reminds me a little of myself, always clueless and saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, and Nick reminds me of Ryan… “reluctant” and “stubborn” on the exterior, but a teddy bear deep down. :-) Very cute, happy show!

I also like “Up All Night.”  The characters and situations are pretty believable and funny all at the same time. Good writing!

Next up, I really want to try “Downton Abbey,” which I hear you can access through Netflix. I’m just waiting until I have some time to really focus on it!


What I’m Listening To: “The Best Day” by Taylor Swift. I cried the first time I heard it. It reminds me of my relationship with my own mommy and daddy, as well as what I want my relationship with Ryley to be. I love this line in particular, as she sings to her mom: “You were on my side, even when I was wrong.” That’s resonated a lot with me lately, as we’ve had some situations at school where we feel like we need to come to our daughter’s defense…because she’s only eight. But that’s another subject.

Ryan created a “Florence + the Machine” station on Pandora, and I love pretty much any song that pops up on it!

As far as Christian music, I really like JJ Heller’s new album “Deeper.”  I tend to gravitate towards folksy stuff.


What I’m Eating:  I came across a chicken avocado salad recipe on Pinterest, so I made it over the weekend, and it was muy delicioso. It was also cheap, quick, and easy.

Here’s what you do: Buy a rotisserie chicken, two avocados, two green onions, a bunch of cilantro, and some lime juice. Shred the chicken breasts and let it cool in a bowl while you cut up all the veggies/herbs. Mix everything together with a dash of mayo and some salt and pepper. Just add and mix ingredients until it tastes the way you like it.

You could eat it alone, but I just used it as a dip for my tortilla chips, which was wonderful! Now that it’s all gone, I want to make more!!!!


So….what are YOU into? :-) I’d love to try new things! Recommendations…?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Looking for Miracles

When I let Emma in the front door for her piano lesson tonight, there was no snow on the ground. But when I let Emma out 30 minutes later, a half inch of snow had appeared in the meantime. Craziness. I had forgotten it was supposed to snow this evening. I wish I’d thought ahead and bought firewood.

Last week, on Wednesday, we woke up to a couple inches of snow. We ventured out to go to school, and by the time we made it out of our neighborhood and onto the main road, I had made peace with the fact that we were going to be late. The roads were icier than normal (we found out later that the city had neglected to sand them because of budget cuts). Still, I don’t like traffic, and I felt like I could cut through this little neighborhood and save ourselves a few minutes, so I did.

Bad decision.

I slid down a hill and into the landscaping of someone’s front yard. There were tracks from somebody before me, and since I didn’t see any real damage, I backed out of the lawn and continued on my way. I told Ryley we needed to pray for protection, and she did. Twenty seconds later, as I was exiting the neighborhood and approaching the main road, I found myself losing control. I pumped my brakes and called out, “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” as we slid right into the intersection where our van was promptly hit by an oncoming car.

You know that moment when you know you’re going to be hit and you’re just waiting for it?  It was the longest second of my life.

I’m so glad we’re ok… that the man in the other car was ok. It could have been so much worse. I know God protected us. The other driver had minimal damage, but our van wheel was bent at a slight angle, and Ryley and I waited four hours at that intersection in the falling snow for a tow truck and rental car.  We walked over to the corner convenience store for coffee and Fanta. Poor Ryley was such a trooper! She ate her lunch, and after two hours, I cried.

The good people of Hertz finally came to pick us up and took us to their shop, where lo and behold, it was discovered that my driver’s license had expired on my birthday two months ago! I was in disbelief. I am just not that person.

The Hertz worker turned to his manager and asked, “What do I do?”

“You can take her down to the DMV and have her renew her license,” the manager answered snottily, as if I were a piece of trash.

Here I’m standing at the counter with my eight-year-old daughter, whose heavy backpack is strapped to her back, my phone is about to die, our van is being towed, and I still have to get to work so I can run payroll. I’m not going to have some stranger take us down to the DMV and leave us there.

“Absolutely not!” I answered. “Not today.”

With my last few minutes of cell phone juice, I called and gave an update to Ryan, whose restaurant had been busy with a surprise visit from the health inspector. Of all days! He said he would come as soon as he could. In the meantime, my good friend Kathy came by on her lunch hour and drove us to Ryley’s school so we could drop her off five hours late!

So Ryan rented the car, and I took his car and headed to work where I renewed my driver’s license online in about 5 minutes (take that, Hertz lady!), ran payroll, and decided to call it a day.

When we got home that evening, we discovered that our dog Juliet had had diarrhea all over the floor. What a great way to end our drama-filled day!!!! Haha!

The van is very possibly totaled. The rear axel has to be replaced, and there are multiple internal issues as well. I just can’t think about that right now. We will hear our insurance company’s decision tomorrow. Part of us wants a new van because of all the other issues it’s had recently; but we also don’t want another monthly payment. God is in control. He’s already written that part of the story, even though we’re not in on that part of the plot just yet. :-)


Wellness Update… I am continuing on with the dietary adjustments. I don’t eat wheat of any kind (bread, pastas, etc.). Also, no sugar, pop, milk, ice cream, or processed foods. I still take two dietary supplements that reduce inflammation, and I drink as much water each day as I possibly can.

I’ve lost 35 pounds total since September 18; I made up for the ground I lost over the holidays and then lost another 5 lbs on top of that. My goal is to lose 25 more pounds by the end of March, averaging 10 pounds per month. Then I’ll set another goal after that. Baby steps… :-)

The thing with weight loss is that it is a little addictive (not in a bad way). When you get that jump start and then start seeing some progress, (and in my case start feeling better, fitting into restaurant booths, fitting into smaller sizes, etc.) you want to keep it up.

I don’t feel like I’m depriving myself of delicious foods. I’m discovering that I really like good, marinated meat. I like fruit, and I actually like walnuts and almonds. I don’t like salads, so I don’t eat them. The one thing I really miss is pasta, but I’ve started liking pho (which has rice noodles), and Noodles and Co. will substitute rice noodles in any dish. And because I still allow myself corn tortillas, tacos, and tortilla chips, I have the occasional burrito bowl at Chipotle with chips, salsa, and guacamole. If Ryan and Ryley are dead-set on fast-food, I usually can talk them into Wendy’s where I get a bowl of chili. It’s not like I’m starving myself.

It might be surprising to some and even sound a little silly that, after eight years, we haven’t given up on the idea of having more children. Ryley still prays for a sibling every night, just as she has for the last five years. It breaks my heart every time.

I can’t remember if I’ve shared about this or not, but last summer, we attended two informational meetings about adoption – one with our county and one with an agency. We came away so discouraged and overwhelmed by the process, the cost, etc. I guess I feel that by making these dietary changes and becoming healthier, I am giving my body one last shot at getting pregnant. At least then, even if we’re not successful, we’ll know we tried, and we can prayerfully move on to the next option. And I won’t have any regrets.

But in my heart, I still believe it can happen. I still believe in miracles.

Even though we’re half-joking when we dream about our family 10-15 years down the road, Ryan’s taken to calling our future children by name. He is, as the Bible says, “calling things that are not as though they were.”

I know we sound crazy and radical and “out there.” But I’ve been thinking a lot about miracles recently…how our society is so conditioned to think of the supernatural as ridiculous. We are so caught up in the black and white, and we forget that there is a whole other dimension. We forget that David killed Goliath. We forget that God consumed a soaking wet altar with fire from heaven. We forget that He shut the lions’ mouths and turned water into wine. We serve the very same God that did all of those things, and He never changes.

Ryley asked me the other day what it meant that Abraham’s wife Sarah was too old to have children (before she ended up with Isaac), and I found myself explaining menopause (!!!) and then thinking to myself what a tremendous miracle that was that God performed…and it is the very same one that I ask God for all the time. Isn’t it interesting that I had forgotten about Sarah?? How easily we forget!

So, if you didn’t think I was crazy before now, this might clinch it for you: I don’t think it was a “halo” that appeared over the Broncos stadium a week ago, but I do wonder if it may have been the visible glory of God…. Ryan and I watched a documentary where Tim Tebow was mic’d up for a game, and he was literally singing praise and worship songs on the field as he played. It was amazing. The Bible says that “God inhabits the praises of His people.” So if the quarterback is singing God’s praises, and God lives in those praises…well, I told you, I’m becoming a bit radical. :-)

I’m almost embarrassed to admit it. Haha. This is definitely new territory for me.

I love our new church because for so many years I have been complacent about my faith….content to sit and enjoy it and do nothing else with it. I am not a “street-witnesser,” by any means. I’ve been pretty reserved and conservative in my Christianity. But suddenly, my view of the world is broader, and I feel challenged to do more to spread the love of Jesus. We’re forcing ourselves to take part in more church-related outreaches. We’re becoming more open and more outspoken about our faith in our workplaces. This is an area of growth that I really need, and though it’s not fun, and I feel stretched, I am grateful for how God is continually expanding my heart.

Our church, though new and tiny, is globally-minded, and I love being challenged to think about how God makes Himself real within cultures around the world. We tend to bottle Him up into our American version, but there is so much more to Him than that….

He is so much bigger and broader and multi-dimensional and more capable than we give Him credit for.

He is more wonderful than we can ever even imagine.

I’m terrible at writing endings, so I’m just going to leave it at that.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tebow Time!

My voice is hoarse from all the screaming. My ears still feel plugged up and half-deaf from all the noise of the stadium.


Just yesterday, we were considering selling our play-off game tickets for the money, but deep down, we knew it would be fun regardless of the outcome. After all, it was our Christmas present to each other. Looking back, I’m so glad we went!!!!


Maybe I’m over-spiritualizing it a tad, but there’s something to this Tim Tebow/Broncos winning phenomenon. We’ve seen enough of the come-from-behind wins this season to realize there’s something happening behind the scenes. Enough miracles have happened during the games to warrant the phrase “Mile High Magic.” I’m not sure it’s as much about magic as it is about Jesus. Seriously, people.

Maybe He just wants some attention. Maybe He’s using America’s past-time to get it. Maybe He knows He can trust Tim Tebow to help Him.

Tim Tebow is not a “pretty” player by any means. So when our wins defy talent, explanation, and expectations, it seems that “God’s power is being perfected in weakness.”

“For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

A couple of weeks ago, a Miami Dolphins player was actually quoted as saying that Tebow was so “anointed” on the field that his teammates could feel it and recognized God’s hand was at work. Many of the players have started going to church as a result.

So now the Broncos have done it again. God’s done it again.  This game tonight was the most amazing one we have ever been to. We don’t know what’s going to happen next week against the Patriots, but somehow, as our punter said, we know God is in control. It’s all for His glory anyway.

Look at this video….I started recording a couple of minutes after the game was over and we had won in overtime 29-23, and the stadium was still full and rocking. It was absolutely insane. Strangers were hugging and high-fiving.

I just keep thinking….Here are 75,000 people praising the Broncos.

The Bible says that someday every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. How incredible will that be?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Soup for a Snowy Night

I’ve never posted a recipe on my blog before, but I just have to share this absolutely delicious goodness with all my friends.

When I first started working with my nutritionist, she sent me a ton of recipes via e-mail. We printed them and laid them out on our living room floor; then Ryley and I sorted through them and decided which ones we should try. Some recipes were not so good (like the egg quiche and the endive-heavy minestrone soup).

But this recipe is amazing. The first time we made it, Ryan and I stood over the pot with our spoons, several hours after dinner was over, shoveling spoonfuls of leftover deliciousness into our mouths until the entire pot was empty. We just couldn’t stop.

I think we’ve made this soup six times since October, which is saying a lot since it is extremely labor-intensive. In fact, this morning as he was getting ready for work, Ryan said, “I don’t want to put any kind of pressure on you, but you know what would be really good for dinner tonight? The soup.”

We don’t even bother identifying it anymore. It is the soup.

The copy of the recipe that I have is a scanned PDF that looks like it came from a magazine. But the very bottom is cut off, so I have no idea which magazine. I have googled the title and the words, hoping to find it online so I can add my rave review. But I cannot find it.

It is so delicious, and tonight was our best pot yet. Even as I sit here typing, I have my second bowl of the soup on the coffee table next to me. It is so amazing. It is also good for you…full of fresh ingredients that help with sickness and weight loss.


So, I hope someday on a chilly Saturday when you have some extra time to prep and cook, you will try this recipe. It is just too good not to share….




Makes 6 Servings

You could certainly make this recipe with chicken breasts, but thighs have much more flavor (we returned to thighs because breasts seemed to end up too dry). This soup is just middle-of-the-road spicy, so if you like spice you can increase the cayenne and jalapeno. My family doesn’t like too much spice, so I leave out the jalapeno altogether, do just a dash of cayenne, and then add more cayenne to my individual bowl.

You could also double the recipe. We have doubled it on two occasions, and it was nice to have leftovers for a week. But it’s already a lot of work, so be warned!

One more thing: I suggest you do your garlic prep work in advance. Peeling garlic takes time (you have to use fresh whole garlic cloves; don’t take a shortcut), and if you try to multi-task like I did, you will find that your broth is boiling long before the garlic is ready. You can prep the bell peppers while you are boiling the chicken and garlic, but you will need to work quickly.


8 cups chicken broth (canned)

2 cups water

1.5 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken thighs

16 cloves of garlic, peeled (yes, 16!)

2 cans (14.5 oz each) diced tomatoes

3 yellow or red bell peppers, cut into small squares

1.25 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup brown rice (I use 1 bag of frozen brown rice and cook it for 5 minutes in the microwave)

6 tablespoons minced cilantro

3 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon minced pickled jalapeno (I have not done this)


1. In a large saucepan, combine the broth and water. Bring to a boil, add the chicken and garlic, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until chicken is just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside. When cool enough to handle, shred or cut into bite-size pieces.

2. With a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic to a food processor or blender along with 1/3 cup of the broth and puree until smooth.

3. Add the garlic puree to the pan along with the tomatoes, bell peppers, cumin, salt, and cayenne. Bring to a boil, stir in the rice, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until rice is tender, about 15 minutes. (Even though I microwave my rice ahead of time, I still let the broth simmer for 15 minutes so the flavors become infused. The longer you let it cook, the more tender the peppers are too, and everything is just more flavorful.)

4. Return the chicken to the pan along with the cilantro, lime juice and jalapeno, and cook just until heated through, about 1 minute.



Wednesday, January 4, 2012

One Day at a Time

Hooray for a new year! I just finished setting up my daytimer and calendar with our schedule and goals for the year, and I have to admit that it’s all a little overwhelming. :-) One day at a time, right?

Our January is already packed to the brim with Cinderella play rehearsals and Girl Scout cookie sales and freelance writing opportunities and a writer’s guild meeting, not to mention work, school, and piano lessons. Surprisingly, none of our events conflict, which was a pleasant surprise. Somehow I think that this is how it’s going to be for us from now on, though. :-)

We had a wonderful Christmas weekend. We received a bunch of snow the week before Christmas, and uncharacteristic of clear and sunny Colorado, the snow hung around to give us a white Christmas and then some. In fact, Ryley’s snowman is still a tiny mound in the front yard, surrounded by the sticks she used for arms.

We did some more sledding on Christmas Eve, and something about the way Ryley ditched her snow hat, let her hair flow loose, and held her sled over her shoulder, added six or seven years to her in attitude. She reminded me of a snowboarder or something. She was really becoming quite confident!




Christmas Day was lovely, though it seemed that time got away from us, and the day flew by in strange ways.

The big highlight was that Ryley received a guitar from Santa.


She has been a Taylor Swift fan for several months, so now her new dream is to take guitar lessons. She’s already taught herself the first few songs in the lesson book Santa also brought.

“I have a new lifetime goal,” she announced the other day. “Before I turn 18, I want to learn how to play a Taylor Swift song on the guitar.” Such a lofty endeavor.


She also received the first season of I Love Lucy, which was a huge hit. Ryley is a big fan of slapstick, so she just sits and giggles at all of Lucy Ricardo’s antics. Oh my.


Our original plan for Christmas was to fly to Atlanta and be with Ryan’s sisters, brother, dad, and stepmom for the holidays. But unfortunately, with airfare as ridiculously high as it’s been, the $1,100 plane tickets just weren’t possible for us. Also, Ryan wasn’t confident in his ability to be across the country from his restaurant for more than a week.

A couple of weeks ago, however, he realized he could have a few consecutive days off around New Year’s, and looking at our budget, we decided we could afford the gas for a quick trip to Oklahoma to see my parents. We hadn’t been to Tulsa in a couple of years, so it was really nice to get to show Ryley where we went to college, where we lived when we were first married, etc.

Here’s Ryley watching I Love Lucy on my laptop somewhere in western Kansas…


Ryley at the Praying Hands at ORU, where we attended college.


In front of the field where we had our first kiss… :-)


We showed Ryley the gigantic air vents by the classroom building, where Ryan and I used to go on hot days and just let the cold air rush our Oklahoma-scorched bodies. We used to call it “Little Bit O’ Colorado.”



They have done a lot of updating in recent years, so the campus looked amazing. We showed her our dormitory buildings and explained how we used to have to wait in line to use a computer or rush to claim the TV before anybody else. We showed her how I could stand in my dormitory window and see Ryan in his dorm room across the courtyard, and how we would stand in our windows and talk on the phone. Lot of good memories. :-)


Then my mom drove us around to see all three of our apartments we lived in after we were married, as well as the Railroad Bridge, where Ryan proposed….


All of that was very interesting to her! :-)



That evening my parents took us to the Rhema Lights, which though seemingly cheesy, always ends up being so beautiful. Ryley loved it.






Then we went to this place my parents had heard about in Sapulpa, whose lights were even MORE amazing. We got there too late, so we weren’t able to walk through them, but we did drive by…


My brother and his family drove up from Dallas for a couple of days, and it was so fun to be together! The twins are starting to walk and talk, and by the end of the weekend they were even saying “Ryley” in their own special way. Very fun!!

Will and Mammaw…


Ryley and Jack…


Jack denies any more kisses from his daddy…


Pappaw shows Ryley how it’s done! :-)


Ryley shows the boys how the train goes around the Christmas tree, a Steiner family tradition! They LOVE trains!!!





It is REALLY difficult to get good pictures of these little guys. They are constantly on the move!!!!


Yes, he’s napping. But he’s more of a Cowboys fan, I suppose. I’m not sure where his loyalties lie, and it bothers me, Justin. It really, really does.


Lots of games were played…


My mom made Ryley and Ryan “R”-shaped pancakes. Haha!



Uncle Ryan and Will in their Broncos gear on Game Day!



Just when I think I can tell these boys apart in their looks, they completely throw me for a loop. Will’s bump on his head is a real blessing! But they have absolutely different personalities. Oh my goodness, it will be fun to watch them grow up!


Ryley and Will, chillin.’


All plugged in…


My mom and dad with the grandkids…





What a trip! It was quick but full, and I’m so thankful that we were able to work it out. We had really good family time. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for hosting us!!!!! You guys are amazing, and we love you so much!

So hopefully now we can get cheap tickets to see Ryan’s family on Spring Break!!!!


Wellness Update:

I decided sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas that I was just going to enjoy the holiday and not feel guilty for “splurging.” Since I have never really dieted before this fall, I have never ever felt guilty for treating myself to what I want. I never fully understood the guilt people feel when they eat something they shouldn’t, so it was new for me to feel that way. I know that sounds strange!

But that’s when I decided to set a date of January 2 as my return-to-wellness day, and with that in mind, I was able to relax. I still stayed off pop and processed foods like chips, but I allowed myself some wheat and dairy within reason, like pizza, noodles, and ice cream. And it was all very delicious!!! :-)

When I weighed myself when we got back, I had gained 5 lbs since before Christmas. But after two days back on the wagon, I have lost 3 of that already.  I am returning to my original restrictions, except I’m allowing coffee this time around. So my total weight loss is at 28 lbs. and hopefully I will be able to keep going! We’ll see. By God’s grace.

A month ago, I ran my blender into the ground because I make myself a protein shake every morning. One day it just exploded from the bottom, and blueberries, bananas, and almond milk went everywhere. So Ryan and Ryley got me a new blender for Christmas. I used it for the first time this morning, and I am glad to be back in business! Having a protein shake really helps me make sure I eat breakfast (because I look forward to the deliciousness) and helps curb my appetite for the rest of the day.


I’m also going to keep doing freelance writing for this company, Good Catch Publishing. I wrote that one story in November, and it was really well received. They sent me many compliments, and I guess I just figured that they are a very complimentary bunch (because they are). I did have to make quite a few edits for them, and I had to rewrite my ending, so I wasn’t sure how much they really liked it. But before I knew it, I was being invited to join a Writer’s Guild here in Denver, and my story won the January Story of the Month for the whole company! I just found out yesterday. I am just so grateful to God for this opportunity to work with them, become a better writer, and use my words for His glory.

It also gives me hope when I have a bad day at my day job. This job is not forever; God has other things in store for me down the line! Sometimes I wish it were just a tad quicker though. :-)

So those are my big goals for the year: keep achieving wellness, keep writing, and keep reading (because reading makes me a better writer, and I am not good at reading).

I’ve also been thinking of resolving to listen to more country music. Ryley has me pretty convinced with Taylor Swift. :-) We listened to every single album of hers (a gift from Ryley’s aunts) all the way across the plains of Kansas.

I kind of want to learn the guitar along with her, but I don’t know how I would ever find the time and focus for that. One day at a time, I suppose. ;-)