Archive for April, 2010

I forgot to record my thoughts about life with Cole at 14 months! (Welcome to motherhood, right?!)

What this means is that big changes have been happening in the Hall house since I last wrote to you, Cole.  Here’s the Top 10 List of you as a 15-month-old:

1. The gate at the top of the stairs is officially stored away and you are now a pro at both crawling up and down the stairs as well as playing Rock Band once you get to the basement.

2. Your attempts at running are getting better and better and you can go up and down our steep driveway and Daddy’s ramps without doing a face plant.  But that doesn’t mean your forehead is safe from sporting a different bruise each week.  You are a typical toddler on the go.

3. You are obsessed with technology.  You call and text people regularly on my iPhone.  Your favorite toy while I drag you around shopping is an electric toothbrush.  You like to go to bed with a remote in your hand instead of a stuffed animal and you think calculators are super cool.

4. You just want to be outside all day long and are learning how to throw a fit of varying degrees when you have to come in.  Along with pushing your popper, pushing your stroller and pushing your cow bike, we finally got you a Little Tykes Cozy Coupe car of your own so we didn’t always have to just borrow from the neighbors.  You push that, too and can even drive it backwards with your feet.  You’re destined for NASCAR for sure.

5. Climbing.  The more independent you get, the more you can help Dad and this includes climbing onto things to get into his lap.  But of course, you help him in ways that he doesn’t appreciate, too – like when you “helped” him run his wheelchair into his desk and broke it.  That’s not the kind of help we’re looking for, little one.

6. You sit on Daddy’s armrest while you drive around with him instead of on his lap.  Your balance is great for such a little guy – we think it’s because you’ve had to learn how to hold your own when it comes to hanging out with your Dad.

7. Your reach is getting higher and you make a beeline to Daddy’s office for his wireless computer keyboard whenever he leaves his door open.  Unfortunately, having everything baby-proof means it’s also quadriplegic Daddy-proof, which is a problem that we are constantly trying to solve.

8. You got your first haircut!  We were sad to cut off those curls but the Donald Trump style had to go.  Cookie Cutters did a fabulous job and you were so lucky because you got to drive a car, hold a comb and get a balloon.  All key activities for a one-year-old.

9. You are an observer.  You like to watch what is happening around you and it’s like we can see the wheels turning in your head as you check things out or discover how things work.

10. Everyone is your friend.  Not only are you so dang cute (those cheeks!) but you are happy and it doesn’t take much for someone to win you over.  You let people hold you and play with you and everyone loves that.  I suppose that isn’t always the best thing about a child (your willingness to go to anyone) but I would rather have you be overly-friendly than moody.  Definitely.

Cole, I’m getting better at juggling motherhood and work and church responsibilities.  I love playing with you and hanging out with you, even though you are so heavy that it’s a workout to throw you up in the air these days.  I have to put my whole body into it or I might hurt myself!  But to be honest, I would put everything I have into it just for the chance to be your Mom.



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A warm spring day.  Bubbles full of light.  Chubby hands chasing something new.  Enjoy the sweet, simple things of today.

Have a wonderful week.

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It’s interesting, being a parent.  I can see now how it starts to consume you, this child that relies solely on you for every necessity.  It’s difficult to separate “life” and “life as a parent.”  Conversation with friends, neighbors and even strangers changes the moment you have a child.  During the first six months the questions and dialogue revolve around sleeping habits.  Then they move to the issues that come with crawling.  And now, as we have passed the year-mark, the discussions go something like this:

“How old is he?”

“Almost 15 months.”

“Is he walking?”


“Oh, you’re in trouble now!” (said with a grin)


“Those cheeks!”

“I know, they’re great, aren’t they!”

“Oh, but he’ll lose them as he gets more mobile!” (also said with a grin and possibly with a pat on the back or a request for a high-five from Cole)

These days, conversation is all about the walking and the climbing and the running around.  While many parents don’t want this increased activity, we are relishing Cole’s mobility .  Each step he takes toward becoming more independent means that he can do more with Jason without my help.

Up till now, if Jason wanted to hold Cole then I had to lift him onto his lap or over his shoulder.  If he wanted to get down, then I helped him down.  Jason is a great babysitter when Cole is in his crib except for one small detail – he can’t lift him.  Because of his break in his neck, he literally doesn’t have use of the muscles required to do so.  He will play with him till the cows come home but Cole knows that it requires Mom to get him where he wants to go – OUT.

So call us crazy, but we have taught Cole how to climb onto things.  For us, it means independence.  Jason, always thinking creatively when it comes to Cole, figured out how to roll him off of his lap and into one of the armchairs in our family room.  We then taught the little munchkin how to get off the chair and onto the floor (click here to see it in action).  This was a big step for Cole and meant a little freedom for me since I didn’t have to be on hand to get him off of Jason’s lap.

The next step, of course, was to teach Cole how to get back up onto Jason’s lap, simply by reversing the process.  This one took a little more doing, a little more practice, a little more helping along.  We got him a stool to climb onto so that he can then put his head down and wrestle himself up onto the chair.  Next, he climbs onto the chair’s armrest, hangs onto Jason’s collar and pulls himself up and over the wheelchair armrest.  Finally, he secures his spot standing on his Jason’s lap.  Victory!  Triumph!  The crowd goes wild as Cole applauds himself for his efforts to climb Mount Daddy!

It’s a piece of cake for him now and just part of our routine at home.  Not only does Cole use that chair to hang out with his dad, but he likes to sit there and drink his sippy cup or watch Mickey.  That chair is his domain and he knows it.  He owns that thing.

On.  Off.  Up.  Down.  Again.  Again.  Again.  All while I am in the shower or weeding the flower beds or cleaning out the dishwasher.  Independence.  It has a whole new meaning for me now.  Cole’s independence means a little bit of independence for his mama and daddy.  And in the Hall house, every little bit counts.

But you’re still out of luck on one thing, Cole – we’re not teaching you how to get out of your crib.  You have to wait for that one.

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Are things looking up?  With the recession and all that comes with it, it is challenging to keep your head afloat, much less maintain a positive attitude.  I had yet another friend let me know that she is looking for work to combat these tough economic times.  I find it discouraging in my business to continually have to work harder for less.  Everyone is pinching pennies, tightening their belts, and making ends meet.

I’m taking a photography workshop at Big Picture Scrapbooking called “Picture Spring” by Tracey Clark of shuttersisters.com.  More than technique, it is simply a workshop of great inspiration as we attempt to capture spring in a new, beautiful way.  As I was prompted by Tracey to “Look Up” and photograph the sky, I was able to capture this physical reminder from nature itself that there is always blue sky, even among the clouds.

How are things looking up for you?  Maybe your circumstances have remained unchanged.  Maybe your financial situation is not as rosy as you would like.  Maybe you are dealing with family issues, health concerns, or just juggling daily life.  Many times these adversities cause us to shrink into ourselves, keeping our eyes down with exhaustion, concern and even fear.

But hope is the warrior against fear.  The strong, immovable sense of being that overcomes adversity and helps us see the blue sky peeking out from around the clouds and feel a little warmth of sunshine on our faces.  Look up, my friends!  Look up!  What do you see?

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I promised in my last post to give you our cute tag and recipe for Taco Soup in our next Download Day so here they are.  I simply used the same frame as our “Birthday Girl” tags and changed the artwork inside to apply to our pantry meal kits that we compiled at our activity (click here for more info).

You can see how easily this idea can be adapted to any recipe and for any purpose.  All you need is a paper bag, a hole punch, some ribbon and the recipe.  Oh, and the ingredients to make a delicious, easy meal, of course.  And just because this particular recipe is all typed out and cute, that doesn’t have to be the case.  Just write it on a card and include it with your ingredients.  Simple.  I think you’ll agree that it is easy to have some grocery sacks and ribbon on hand to be able to compile an instant meal for a friend in need – the possibilities are lovely and tasty and endless.

Happy sharing!

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This month’s activity for our Every Needful Thing program helped to answer the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?”

It centered around pantry meals but was simply and meaningfully so much more than that.  As the women kept coming, the question immediately crossed my mind, “Why?”  Why did they want to come?  This is the never-ending issue when any of us plan an event.  A party.  A fundraiser.  A bake sale.  A service project.  Will people come?  It begins to governs how we plan, don’t you think?  When we use the Planning With a Purpose model and ask “What do we want to have happen?” we can usually count on “we want people to come” as being one of our goals for the event.

I have a theory.  I think that this activity appealed to two characteristics of most women out there.  Most women need to cook dinner.  Whether it’s for one or eight, we all need to eat.  Women also have that nurturing instinct that is a simply a part of who they are.  This activity hit on both qualities of women and therefore, drew people in.  Let’s find out how.

What Did We Want to Have Happen?

In this case, we wanted to create an event that did the following:

  • teach women ideas of how to use pantry meals as an effective way for meal planning
  • teach how to plan a grocery list so that shopping becomes more efficient and happens less often
  • give the women a chance to serve in a way that used pantry meals
  • an opportunity to socialize

How Did We Make That Happen?

Make a Plan: There are many ways to go about an activity like this.  Yes, we did the predictable thing and had a short lesson (thank you, Liz!) about how to plan meals in advance so that you don’t have to make decisions each day about what’s for dinner.  We even had a list of 10 “pantry meal” recipes ready to hand out to each person.  These recipes are all made from things that can be stored in your pantry or freezer or things most people have on hand in their fridge.  Love it!  Click on the image below for a pdf of our recipe handout.

Then Liz facilitated a good discussion about how we make this happen in our own homes. The following websites came up as good resources for easy pantry recipes, coupon information, nutrition info, etc.

Grocery Lists: Next we talked about how to organize your grocery list to make shopping more efficient.  Not only do you save money when you plan your meals and then shop for them, but you save time as well.  No more going to the store five times a week because you’re missing just one ingredient.  You have a plan!  Plus, to take it a step further, Dani talked about a very simple but incredibly logical way to map out your grocery list.  Here’s what you do:

  1. take a sheet of paper and fold it into sections
  2. label each section with a different area of the grocery store (produce, meats, dairy, etc)
  3. when you make your grocery list, place the items you need in the correct section
  4. head to the store with everything organized so that you don’t have to backtrack

I have already tried this and I am here to say that it works!  Because I do the cooking and the cleaning up and the putting away of groceries, Jason does the shopping around here (click here for more info on this subject).  Not only is this list-making tip great for me to stay organized but my resident shopper loves it as well.  We believe!

Here is our example of a grocery list mapped out this way (click on the above picture).  You’ll be glad to know that this list is all of the things you need to shop for the 10 recipes handout.  We’ve done the work for you.  Just take that list and you’ll be able to make all 10 recipes.  Perfect!

Using Pantry Meals to Serve Our Neighbors: This is where we took it a step further.  Armed and ready with lots of tips and ideas and recipes for quick and easy “pantry meals,” we then took it to the next level.

We served.

We asked the women to bring different items to make the Taco Soup recipe on our list.  We chose this one because everything can be stored in a pantry and for this part of the activity, we needed to be able to store it.  The table was piled high with chile and kidney beans, diced tomatoes and taco seasoning.  We then filled regular grocery sacks with the ingredients to make one batch of Taco Soup.

Then each finished bag went to the “Let’s Make it Cute” table where it was tied with a bow.  They also added a copy of the recipe and a tag that said “Just Because” to finish it off.

Almost 30 kits later, we sent a one home with each person.  Why did we do this?  This kit is not for themselves.  It is a way to serve each other.  When someone is having a tough day or a child is sick or things are overwhelming and busy, we can deliver a “pantry meal kit” to a neighbor’s door…just because.  The recipient can cook it whenever they want and it helps them to not have to decide what’s for dinner – who wouldn’t love that?  Plus, it taught us how we can do this same thing with lots of other recipes, add some fresh ingredients if we want, tie it with a bow and voila!  An instant hug wrapped up in a paper bag.

As one woman said, “It’s not so much the meal as it is the thought involved.”  How true that is.

At the End of It All

Last but certainly not least, we had to eat, right?  Bonnie made the Taco Soup to sample along with the Italian Crockpot Chicken so that everyone could try two of the recipes on our list.  Every aspect of this activity was applicable and connected and tied together to mean something more than just talking about pantry meals.

  • I’m grateful that so many women opened their hearts and brought items for our kits.
  • I’m grateful for the ideas and tips and info that was shared by everyone.
  • I’m grateful for the energy and excitement that we all felt as we served together.
  • I’m grateful for the chance to chat and visit and get to know one another.
  • I’m grateful for time and energy that each member of our committee put forth to make this activity happen.
  • I’m grateful for Kathleen and her willingness to open her home, dust her basement, and let us converge upon her space.

Another activity in the books.  Thanks for sharing it with us.  I’ll have the “Just Because” tag and the recipe card available for our next Download Day so watch for that.  In the meantime, try some of the easy pantry meal recipes that Angie and Liz compiled for us.  Pretty simple and darn tasty!

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Oh So Sweet

I made a new friend last weekend.  As we laughed and joked, chatted and shared, I had a sense of coming home.  Our personalities meld together yet she has so many of the qualities that I wish I had.  She is truly one of the cleverest people I know.  Her wit and humor and realistic view on life create a magical, draw-you-in energy.

Plus, she bakes.

I have people like this scattered around the country.  Friends who are those kindred spirits where you feel like you have always known one another but have just been separated for a time.  I wish I could gather them all within arm’s reach.  I wish I could walk to each of their homes whenever I felt like it.  I wish I could sit at their kitchen counters and catch up on the day instead of reviewing the year.

Would you like to meet my new friend?  I invite you to take a moment to get to know Brooke McLay – mother, housewife and baker extraordinaire.  But that’s not all.  She is a writer as well.  She can spin a story and capture a moment with her lyrical turn-of -phrase.  She told me that she wakes up in the morning and decides what she is going to bake and then creates it.  She doesn’t use a recipe – she makes them up.  To me, that is the ultimate in creativity.  Yes, her blog is about baking from scratch yet it is so much more than that.  Give yourself a sweet treat and spend a few moments with Brooke, my new friend and author of the Cheeky Kitchen.

Enjoy yourself and save a bite for me.

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One of the most growth-enhancing periods of my life was just a few years ago.  Many things happened during that time period – many changes and miracles and blessings.  My life hardly even looks the same as it did before then.  But amid all of the changes to our circumstances, I attribute the majority of my personal growth to the fact that I kept a journal during that time.

The older I get, the more I can’t remember even the most simple things.  Before Jason’s car accident I could remember everything.  I didn’t need a planner because I could always keep track of what I needed to do, where I needed to go and details rarely escaped me.  After his car accident, I shut down.  I was in survival mode.  I only stored the information that was absolutely necessary and relied on lists and post-it notes to remember the rest.

I assumed that once Jason was in a better place physically that I would regain my ability to remember things but it seems like it has become a lost art to me.  I have never been as good at remembering as I was before his accident.  I still find myself standing in the middle of the next room wondering why I had gone in there in the first place.  Age does this, I know, but I think that it was also a survival mechanism in dealing with Jason’s accident that will forever be a part of me.

I’m convinced that this is why that journal became so significant.  As we were working toward many goals and our lives were in a constant state of change, I wrote about my feelings and experiences and the things that I was learning.  I know that it helped me to better process the things that were happening.  Writing gave me direction and purpose.  Recording my experiences amplified them so that I was able to more maximize the learning and growth that happened because of my circumstances.

You have probably noticed that I am not “a venter.”  I admit that I have an aversion to the very word.  To me, venting is synonymous with complaining so I try to avoid both altogether.  Therefore, the journal that I created was not a venting journal – although it was entirely honest.  It contains true feelings – hopes and fears, heartaches and joys.  There’s a difference between being honest and simply complaining.  My children could read my journal and hopefully find strength from knowing that their mother had hard days and feelings of discouragement but she was able to learn from them and they did not consume who she was becoming.

I am different because of my experiences.  We all are.  But I believe that the fact that I kept a journal magnified who I became during that particular time.  And I am convinced that it all came down to allowing myself to remember.

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The Help

I am currently reading and thoroughly enjoying The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  It is nothing like I thought it was and so even though I had heard good things about it, I have been resisting picking it up from my pile of books at my bedside.  I assumed it was going to be heavy and dark, oppressive both in style and subject matter.  I didn’t realize that it was, in fact, funny and triumphant, light but also meaningful and poignant.  That is a hard feat to master as a storyteller.

My own preconceived ideas were nothing like the reality.

Why do we do that?  Sometimes we make up our minds about things that we don’t really know anything about, closing the option of discovering something worth spending time on.  I like to think that I am fairly open-minded but then things like this happen and I realize that I have a ways to go.

Some people are more adventurous than others.  It’s simply in their nature to be so.  Some of us are adventurous in certain areas of our lives while we tend to be more cautious in others.  Although I like to think I’m open-minded, I don’t consider myself a risk-taker.  I enjoy traveling only when I have someone with me that knows where they are going.  I have to work hard at meeting new people because I get nervous and can’t think of what to say.  I definitely wouldn’t say that I love diving into things without careful analysis beforehand.  Yet, I married a quadriplegic, have started my own business and I got my masters degree in the middle of caring for my husband during his rehabilitation.  Those are all “risky” things to many people.

So although it is not my nature to take jump in and do those things, I have done them because of one simple fact.  I believe that it is in our power to tweak, adjust, improve and yes, even change our natures.  We can become something better than what might naturally be our first instinct to be.  Our own preconceived ideas of who we are can sometimes limit our possibilities in life but it’s our choice to change that.

  • “I’m just not that way.”
  • “My personality makes me do that.”
  • “That’s just how I am.”

Each of these statements, although true, are not necessarily the end of the story.  By adding the simple word, “…but…” we can become something even better than we start with.

  • “I’m just not that way but I’m working on improving that skill.”
  • “My personality makes me do that but I want to change that about myself.”
  • “That’s just how I am but I’m trying to become better at not letting it overpower me.”

Do we have our own traits and personalities that are just a part of us by nature?  Absolutely.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t magnify the best parts and work on changing the not so good stuff.  We have the power to become who we want to be, in spite of who we are, or possibly because of who we are.  Our own nature does not have to dictate our reality but we can choose to let it enhance it instead of diminish it.

Let’s go back to my current book-of-choice.  As I read The Help, not only am I enjoying every page, but I find myself continually reminded of the joy and treasure that can be discovered when we give something a chance – including the chance to become our best selves.

What are you willing to take a chance on?

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Kissing Cousins

I don’t think I need to even comment on this photo since it speaks louder than words about Cole’s willingness to give free kisses and his cousin, Mackenzie who pretends to not like it when she asks for one.  And don’t forget Grandma Coleman’s lipstick mark on Cole’s cheek that stayed with him all afternoon.

Love from every angle this week.

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