The Perfect Baby

It’s time for another in our Best of 2016 blog series. 

Things are about to get real serious here on my usually lighthearted blog.

I’m a member of a group on Facebook and last week someone asked for prayers for her friend who was pregnant.  The woman had long wanted a baby.  But when she had the genetic screening tests done, she learned that her child tested at an increased risk for Down’s Syndrome.  And now, she has decided to abort the baby because of these results.

My heart is broken into a million pieces.


Genetic Screening Tests Are Often Wrong.

Having lived through a positive result to a Down’s Syndrome screening test myself, I sympathize with the fear and worry this mother is facing.  And although I never thought of killing the baby (let’s call a spade a spade, I’m not a fan of terms like “terminating the pregnancy”), I cried for days worrying about my unborn son and what this would mean for him and for our family.  It is scary.  It’s not part of your plan.  There are unknowns.  You are hormonal and emotional and fat and it just seems like too much to handle.

For us, in the end, the test was wrong.  Our nearly 4 month old son was born without Down’s.  Had we taken this woman’s approach and killed our baby, we’d have missed out on the joy of his little face every single day.

But I will tell you what that incorrect positive test did for us.  It allowed us to grow in our faith, because we realized that God was in control and the baby he had created for us was going to be just that…the baby for us, regardless of the number of chromosomes he had. And, should our next baby be born with an extra chromosome, well I think we’ll just be even more ready to love him or her after all of this. It allowed us to grow in our love for one another.  Hearing my husband resolve that if the test was right, that baby would have a good life with us is easily one of the moments I have loved him most.  And, I believe, it has given us an understanding and a perspective from which to encourage others facing a similar situation.  Not only to tell that the tests are frequently wrong, but also to encourage if the test is accurate.  As difficult of a test as this was to walk through, if God can use it and use us for good, I am more than happy to have born that cross.

Babies With Downs Tremendous Blessing.

Knowing several people who have children with Down’s Syndrome, I know what a huge blessing those kiddos are to a family. I am sure there are huge challenges raising a baby with Down’s.  But…hello…there are huge challenges raising a baby period.  But there are amazing blessings as well.

My friend in Chicago has a precious daughter with Down’s, and I absolutely adore her stories of Jen’s humor, love, and mischief (like swiping cash from anyone’s wallet she can get her hands on).  If you don’t follow #Benstagram on Instagram, get over there this minute and you will see the cutest little Asian boy with Down’s.  I have a co-worker whose teenage son with Down’s is my favorite thing to see on Facebook….had you seen this kid in his Where’s Waldo Halloween costume, you’d agree for sure.  My friend from law school has a precious little girl who is frequently recorded playing rock song drum solos with her dad.

I thank God for all the Down’s Syndrome babies I know, and for all of their parents who are fulfilling their challenging, yet beautiful vocation, of loving these precious souls.

You’re Not Going To Get a “Perfect” Baby.

I despise the idea that if a baby is not “perfect” he or she is not worthy of living. You know who thought this way?  Hitler.  Let that sink in a minute.  Newsflash: There is no perfect baby.

That cute red head of ours?

He has severe acid reflux.  And a heart murmur.  And he’s started this yelling thing that can drive you just about batty.  Does that mean somehow we should not have wanted him?  That we should not have loved him?

And where is that line?  Why is Down’s something that justifies killing the baby but acid reflux is not?  What about allergies?  Bad knees?  ADHD?

You are not going to get a perfect baby, but you will get the baby that is perfect for you.  I have no desire to question God’s plan by thinking I know better.  Been there, done that, learned my lesson, have the t-shirt.  I never know better.

Please pray.
All of this said, please pray for the particular woman mentioned in our Facebook group, and for all women who face a positive genetic screening test.  That their hearts will be open.  That they will find support from those around them.  That they will find the strength to fulfill the important vocation to which they have been called.  And that their baby will be loved.
Lord, hear our prayers.

10 Newborn Must Haves (Updated)

Well, now that I am two kids in, I figured an updated “Must Have” list was necessary.  If you have friends having little ones, feel free to share.  The registry process is super overwhelming, so maybe this will help a bit.

These are items I cannot live without.  My two kids could not be more different (one boy, one girl; one hot natured, one freezing; one with reflux, the other with no issues), but these have worked well with both!

Diapers. Duh, you are saying. First decision is cloth or disposable. I think poop is disgusting so disposable was a given. My kids have been fine in either Pampers or Huggies, but when I tried to switch BB to the Target brand, he broke out in a bad rash.  My advice is to build up a good stash of diapers before the baby comes.  Go easy on the Newborn size because they do not stay in those too long and you can get a bunch of free ones at the hospital!  If you keep an eye out (follow me on Instagram @littlehousebiglife and I share them!) you can find great sales, coupons, and rebates on diapers.  I try and never pay over $.20 per diaper, and often I can get them down lower than $.15 per.

Diaper pail. If you don’t want your room to smell like poo, get a diaper pail. There are all different kinds. We have an Arm & Hammer one I like quite well. It’s bigger than the diaper genie so you don’t have to dump it as often. Also register for bag refills for whichever pail you choose. That’s the only downside to our Arm & Hammer bag, sometimes it is hard to find refills in the store.

Pacifiers.  I thought everyone used a pacifier. I now know it’s controversial. Whatever…my kids both use one! We like the Mam brand that are flat on the  front so if they are sleeping on you or something the binky doesn’t Jan them in the face.  Get plenty. These things will grow legs and walk off I swear, so you want to have lots of then around!  Also, once they get older, Mam has a larger size.

Burp Cloths.  However many you think you need, get double. Then probably double it again. If your kid spits up as much as BB did with his reflux, you need lots to avoid doing laundry three times a day! Our favorite are the ones that are actually cloth diapers. We have done of those that people sewed cute material down the middle and some that are just plain cloth diapers. They seem to be the most absorbent.

Plenty of bottles. If you are feeding with a bottle, get plenty.  I would have at least 6 or more.  When you are exhausted and finally get that baby to sleep, you do not want to have to wash bottles all the time in order to feed him or her again in 3 hours.  As for type, both my kids have done well with the Medela bottles.

Sleepers or gowns that are easy to get in and out of in the dark.  Confession: My kids do not look like they are from Baby Gap. But sleepers keep them warm and cozy and are easy to get off and on. Unless they have buttons, which are the devil. Sleepers with zippers is the way to go.  With LL, we got some cute sleeping gowns that work great, until the baby gets too tall and their poor feet stick out and get cold.  But for a couple months, I loved these!

Husband’s cousin got us this adorable gown from Etsy

Something your kid will sit in. Swing, bouncer, mamaroo, nap nanny, we have tried it all. Probably the best liked and most convenient for us is the boppy newborn napper or the chair that disconnects from our swing.  Whatever works, just get something where your kid will sit so you can have two hands for  things like cooking or going to the bathroom.

Swaddle blankets. My sweet friend, Britt, told me to get Aiden and Anias bamboo swaddle blankets and not bother with anything else.  As usual, she was right. We love them. They are great for swaddling but also just as blankets especially in the summer or if your kid is hot natured.
Car seat cover.  If you have a winter baby, get one of these for sure.  I did not have one with BB, but got one with LL and it’s the absolute best.  Mine cost less than $20 from Amazon.  It fits on the car seat so you do not have to take it on and off, plus you can put th cover down over baby’s face when you are out in the cold or in public with germy people.

Gas drops. Baby gas is no freaking joke. Whoever invented these deserves the Nobel Prize. They are a must have in your cabinet for the first couple months of life.

Recipe Card: Roasted Red Pepper Pasta & Parmesan Crusted Chicken

I thought it would be fun to share my favorite new recipe each month.  Technically, I am sharing two this month, but since I served them together, we will let it slide.

For January, the winner is the Pioneer Woman’s Roasted Red Pepper Pasta served with Parmesan Crusted Chicken.

This recipe is not only tasty, but it’s also quick, making it perfect for a weeknight! Also a plus, Husband and BB both approved…both had seconds last night.

Because we are meat eaters, it’s not a meal around here without chicken, beef, or pork.  I particularly like this recipe with this Parmesan crusted chicken.  I also think meatballs would be a good option.

The only downside is that it’s a bit messy to clean up because that red sauce gets on everything and the dredge for the chicken is messy.  But, it’s tasty enough it makes up for it.

Raising Livestock

Today is another in our series of the best posts of 2016.  And, since just last weekend we welcomed our first red calf into the family, I figured that it was the perfect time to post this.

The newest addition to the Little House

Raising livestock is in my blood. Husband’s too. For generations, our families have raised cattle, sheep, and horses. So when BB came along, there was really no doubt that he would be raised along with the livestock.
Already, we talk a walk every night so that BB can talk to his cows. He now says “cow” despite still refusing to utter the word “Mama.”

As he grows up, he will learn to bottle feed lambs. He’ll be in charge of watering the cows. We’ll teach him about sire selection and how to know when a lamb needs pulled and what medications to use when one of them is acting sick. He’ll know the different breeds of cattle and how to tell the grade of a staple of wool and how to tell a snaffle bit from a hackamore. My guess is that he’s always going to be as excited as we were as kids about branding and jumping in the wool sacks during sheering and his life will eventually revolve around stock shows. He’ll probably ride past the house standing up in the saddle and has already developed a sincere love for green tractors (yet another word he’s mastered before Mama…)

I don’t know what BB will be when he grows up. If I had to guess, based on the way he always wants to touch everyone’s teeth, maybe a dentist. Or maybe he will be a train conductor as he runs to see them every time he hears the horn. Or maybe he will work in the oil and gas industry like his Dad and Granddad or be a lawyer like his mom.

But even if he doesn’t go into agriculture, he will take the lessons he learns here with him. He’ll leave here with a strong work ethic. He’ll understand responsibility and sacrifice and how to balance a checkbook. He’ll understand the circle of life. He’ll have memories of good times with his grandparents and parents and sister, many of which will happen in a barn. He’ll learn to be a fierce competitor, a gracious loser, and a humble winner. He’ll be able to identify different types of grasses, understand why the percent protein matters in a ration, and I’m sure he’ll be able to tell a good steak based on the amount of marbling it has. He’ll understand that life isn’t always fair. He’ll know where his food comes from and why America needs her farmers and ranchers so desperately.

And my bet is that these things will make him a better dentist or train conductor or [whatever he chooses to be] A better husband. A better father. A better man.

That’s the point of these cows and the sheep. Sure, we are raising meat to help feed the world. We are hoping to make a slim profit at some point. But more important than that, we are giving our kids a legacy and a way of life.

Real Life

Everyone knows that what we see on social media is not “real life.”  Instead, it’s a highlight reel.  Our best outfits.  Fanciest recipes.  Cleanest house.  And that’s all fine, except that when we are looking at other people, it’s so easy to forget that.  While I am sitting here in my sweats with three daybold hair eating grated cheese out of the bag because I am starving but too tired to cook, it’s hard not to look on Facebook or Instagram at women in ball gowns or on fancy vacations or with houses that look like a pottery barn and not be super envious of their lives.  

So…I decided I would share some real life with you today. 

What you see:  That is the healthy, well balanced, homemade dinner I cooked last Monday, after working all day.  Baked chicken, wild rice, spinach salad, fresh fruit. 

What you don’t:  I was so tired after making that dinner that I did not clean up a single thing in my kitchen that night and I was too busy trying to get us all out the door do so anything with it the next morning.  24-hour-old dirty pans were everywhere.  And the next day after working so hard on this healthy dinner, I had frozen mac and cheese for lunch. 

What you see: This clean, organized, decorated nursery. 

What you don’t see: BB drug the basket of stuffed animals out and threw literally Every. Single. One. On the floor.  He followed that up with taking all of his sisters clothes out of the drawer and shoving two pacifiers behind his headboard. 

What you see: A photo of me in my favorite outfit and shoes. 

What you don’t see: More often, I am dressed more like this…

Real life is not so glamorous around here.

Recipe Card: Kylee’s Chicken Pot Pie

What says comfort food better than chicken pot pie?  Husband’s cousin, Kylee, shared her recipe and I absolutely love it.  You can choose your veggies, I use as many fresh as I can, and play with the various seasonings to make it fit your tastes!

Kylee’s Chicken Pot Pie

Olive oil

1 pound chicken

3 stalks celery

4 carrots

Minced onion (she uses real onion)

Minced garlic

1C frozen peas

1C frozen green beans

Seasoning (She uses thyme, salt, pepper. I used celery salt, parsley, bay leaves, Rosemary, oregano, salt, pepper, garlic powder.)

1 can cream of chicken soup (she uses cream of mushroom)

Frozen crust (She uses a Pillsbury one that is square. I could not find that so I just used a generic brand deep dish crust. You want the one with two crusts so you have one for the top.)

Cook chicken in olive oil until browned. Put aside in large bowl.
Sauté chopped carrots, celery, onion, and garlic covered in olive oil until soft. Add frozen veggies and sauté until thawed. Add seasoning. Put all veggies into bowl with chicken.
Add soup to bowl and mix well.

Place filling into pie crust. Cover with other pie crust. Bake as instructed.

{To make this freezer friendly, all I did was prep the filling as listed above and then put it into a freezer bag instead of into the crust. When I was ready to use it, I just thawed, poured the filling into a pie crust, and baked.  It was great!}

Couponing Apps: Checkout 51

I’m back with another coupon app to share with y’all today!  If you missed my prior post about Ibotta, click here.

As I said about Ibotta, Checkout 51 is essentially like clipping coupons from the newspaper, except you do it on your phone or computer.  As compared to Ibotta, Checkout 51 does not have nearly as many deals, but you don’t have to scan your purchases.  So, there are pros and cons to both.  It seems like Checkout 51 has a lot of groceries and personal care products like shampoo.

So let’s walk through this.  You just download their app (or create an account on the computer) and before you go shopping (or as you shop), you can scroll through the different coupons.  If you see one you like, you can click the star on the right and it will be saved for you.

If you buy one of the items for which they have a coupon, you just snap a photo of your receipt and upload it in the app there on the bottom where it says “Upload Receipt.”  Super easy.

Quick Summary

How it works:  You unlock coupons (i.e. $1 off Pampers diapers) and after you purchase the product, you take a photo of your receipt in the app and it uploads.

When updated coupons are posted:  Every Thursday morning, the new list of offers come out.

Bonus:  Once you sign up and redeem your first coupon, you get a $5 credit from Checkout 51.

Referral payment:  They currently do not have a referral bonus for people (which stinks because I’d be rick from everyone I’ve told!)

How you get paid:  Once you have $20 in your account, you can request a check be mailed to you.

Local Stock Show

It didn’t take me long to be ready to write off the entire nation on Friday morning.  Everyone on the news, on social media, heck even in the gas station was upset.  Some cursed Trump.  Others cursed Obama.  Everyone cursed.  I was quite discouraged about my fellow Americans and the future of our country. 

And then, I headed to the very best place I could have possibly gone in my weary state.  There was nothing better for my soul than to walk into our local stock show.

While I was there, I saw the traits I feel like America so badly needs to find. 

I saw community.  Kids fiercely competing in the ring, and hugging each other as they walked out.  Kids who probably don’t fit in all the time laughing and joking with the other students.  Neighbors helping each other get animals ready for the ring.  Ag teachers and 4-H agents making a difference in these kids’ lives.

I saw family.  Parents and kids working together on their projects.  Grandparents  in the stands rooting for their favorite exhibitors.  Siblings high fiving after winning a class.

 I saw patriotism.  An American flag hanging in the show barn.  The colors presented as the National Anthem was sung.

I saw faith.  A prayer before the festivities began.  Bowed heads in the middle of the chaos.

I saw people come together to help in a crisis.   When a precious special needs child was missing, the barn cleared out and everyone there was helping to look, whether they knew him or not. 

You want to have faith in the future of America? You go to a show.  Look around and see what you see.

When these kids are ready to run things, the world will be in good hands.  We have taught them well.  One show animal at a time.

Go Home and Love Your Family

Here is the next post in our Best of 2016 series. This post was first published on Election Day on Figuring Out the Plot. Re-publishing it on Inauguration Day seems fitting. 

“If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” -St. Teresa of Calcutta
By the end of today, about half of my friends will be happy, while the other half will be in despair. Most of us will just be glad the 2016 election is over. 

So what are we to do now?
Go home and love our families.  

What we do in our own house will affect the world more than what gets done in the White House.  

Raise your children with the values you were looking for in a President. Love your spouse in a way that honors the institution of marriage. Help your neighbor. Smile at a stranger. Support those causes you have spent months arguing about on Facebook. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Donate to an crisis pregnancy group. Be an usher at your church. Raise kids–whether yours or someone else’s–who know that both lying and name calling are wrong, even if you are running for President. 

This country is made up not of political parties and platforms and debate answers. It is made up of people and families and communities. If each of us made an effort to make a difference in our little part of the world, the entire world would change, one difference at a time. 
So whether you celebrate or lament tonight, what happens tomorrow is up to you. Go be the difference this country needs. 

Discovering Podcasts 

Well, as usual, I am late to the party.  Last week I learned about podcasts.  And how to listen to them on my phone.  Y’all.  My life is changed. I can listen while driving or running or feeding babies…just by clicking an icon!

In case you are slow like me, here is a step by step on how you can find and listen to podcasts on your phone. 

See that little purple icon in the top right corner of my screen?  That’s for podcasts, as the label might suggest.

So you click that icon and you go into your subscriptions.  When you start, it will be blank.  So you can go to the search option in the bottom right corner and find podcasts you want to listen to. 

Search by name or speaker or topic–whatever.  I, personally, have only added a few so far:

  • Hobo for Christ:  This is my real life friend Meg.  She’s awesome.  Hasn’t had a new one in a while (she’s been in Italy) but you can listen to her vintage stuff!  She is Catholic and her podcast is pretty much all reglgious focused. 
  • The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey.  Someone recommended this and I love it.  I have listened to like 6 episodes already! She is awesome, honest, down to earth, and has great guests.  I want to be her real life friend.  Who knows her and can introduce me??  I’d say Christian women are her main audience aim.  Listen to her one with Rachel Cruz.  I loved it!
  • Ted Talks.  I love listening to Ted Talks and this is an easy way to hear them!
  • Good Life Project.  Haven’t listened yet. 
  • Dave Ramsey. I enjoy his radio show, so this should get me my fill.

What are your favorite podcasts?