Boys’ Shared Bedroom Reveal

This post is a long time coming… You may remember my inspiration post from when I was pregnant, but it wasn’t until we had a photographer coming to take Henry’s newborn photos at our house that we actually finished this project (I was literally spray painting the dresser at 8:00 pm the night before pictures). Any other procrastinators out there who have to be pushed into finishing projects?

Despite the fact that I was spray painting furniture in the dark the night before pictures, the boys’ bedroom ended up looking great!

Jeff and I really wanted to focus on using what we already had with this room instead of buying new furniture. We had the iron bed frame that we used for Jack’s bed in our basement already and just cleaned it up and spray painted it a matte black. Since the dresser was painted white, it didn’t really fit with the rest of the room, so we painted it black as well. We decided to leave the crib it’s original wood color – I like the mix of the rich wood tones and black against the bright green wall (Sherwin Williams Talipot Palm) – and also left the chest of drawers and rocking chair just stained wood.

Most of our money in this room was spent on items we used to tie all the mismatched furniture together, like the rug, throw pillows, and bedding. I wanted pretty neutral bedding since we went with such a bright color on the walls, and the rug was a must so the boys would have a soft place to play on the floor. We switched the light to a ceiling fan that my parents had leftover from their house remodel a few years ago. It’s a lot more functional for the space and ties in the black and wood tones from the rest of the room.

We decided to use the dresser as a changing table again because that worked really well when Jack was a baby. I got the changing pad cover and the matching crib sheet from Spearmint Love.

I found the Smokey Bear poster on Etsy and used a frame we already had. I bought the letters from Hobby Lobby and my mom used her Cricut machine to make the “is for Jack” and “is for Henry” sayings, then we simply stuck those into the existing signs to personalize them. The trash can by the changing table is one of my favorite pieces in the room – it has a map of the United States on it and it belonged to my great aunt, who was a school teacher. She had it in her classroom, I think, and I always loved looking at it when I would go to get house when I was little.

My parents got us a huge map of the United States that shows all the National Parks from a sweet woman who was working at the Ranger Station on the Natchez Trace when they were on a trip, and I still have to get it framed. I’m planning to hang it over Henry’s crib.

We also invested in these blinds from Lowe’s – I love that they don’t have a cord on them. It makes them a lot safer for our boys and it just has a cleaner look.

I hung the boys’ hospital door hangers on their closet doors. Our next project will be organizing the closet to make it function for both boys. Right now, we use the dresser/changing table for Henry’s things and the chest of drawers for Jack’s. It’s working pretty well, but I do need to get the closet set up so their hanging clothes are more organized and I need a better way to store shoes, extra diapers, and toys.

I still have a few little projects that I’ll add (like the National Parks banner that I talked about in this post), but for right now this space is finally functional for us and it’s done for the moment. Now we just need to get Jack to sleep in his bed instead of ours (which has been way harder than any DIY project we’ve done so far). Wish us luck.

Strong in 2020

Instead of creating the same old list of resolutions (lose weight, get organized, save money, etc.), this year I decided to choose a word to guide my year and apply that word to multiple areas of my life. That way, instead of a list of things to do or not do in the new year, I’m focused more on a specific idea of the kind of person I want to be when the year ends and can work toward that goal throughout the year.

The word I chose for this year is STRONG.

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

Ephesians 6:10

There are four main areas of my life where I want to focus on being strong: spiritually, physically, financially, and socially.

In the last few months, I have really felt convicted about the lack of spiritual discipline in my life. We attend church, but there’s so much more to having a relationship with God than going to church a few times a week. In the busyness of life, I have sacrificed time spent with God for other things, and it’s left me completely spiritually drained.

I think a good way to do a self-check to see if you’re spending enough time in God’s presence and His Word is to look at your life and try to find evidence of the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Do I react to others in love, or do I let anger consume me? Am I patient with others or am I easily frustrated? Do I look for joy in the little things, or do I constantly complain? Am I kind to others? My answers to those questions tell me that I’m not spending time with God like I should. Just like with any relationship, I have to put the work in if I want my relationship with God to thrive and grow. I know that I need to make time with God and time studying His Word a priority, and that’s my first goal for the year.

I have never, ever been a morning person, but with little kids and a job that leaves me totally drained at the end of the day, I know that I need to set aside time early in my day for my quiet time or it most likely won’t happen. I don’t want to have to get up any earlier, but I know that’s what I need to do in order to make this happen. Nobody said making changes was easy, right? I’m really not looking forward to losing 30 minutes of sleep, but I’m going into this believing that it’s important and that God is going to bless that time. After all, no matter how much sleep we get, we’re not truly rested unless we are resting in God and spending time with Him (Matthew 11:28-29).

Another area of my life that needs LOTS of improvement is my health. After having two kids in two and a half years, my body needs to recover and I want to come back stronger than before. It is more important now than ever for me to get active so I can keep up with my boys and so I can be a healthy, happy mom for them.

Focusing on taking care of myself physically has always been a challenge for me because I feel like the time and money it takes to invest in my health could be better spent somewhere else, but I am finally beginning to realize that I can’t take care of others if I don’t take care of myself first. I’ve always kind of thought of self-care as being selfish, but I am learning that I can’t pour from an empty cup. Taking care of myself isn’t selfish – it’s necessary if I’m going to be a good wife, mom, and friend.

Just like I need time with God each day to strengthen my spirit, I need to spend time every day taking care of my body. I’m not going into this year with an extreme goal to lose a ton of weight to hit a specific number on the scale. Instead, I’m starting the year with a commitment to complete 100 workouts in the next six months (that’s 4 to 5 workouts per week). As a person who has failed at every fitness commitment I’ve ever made, I know this is going to be tough, but I’ve finally decided that I am worth it. This is going to be the year that I stick with it. I will be checking in on here and on my social media when I hit 20, 40, 60, 80, and 100 workouts to help me stay accountable. I know this journey is going to challenge me physically and mentally and I’m excited to see how much stronger I feel after completing this challenge.

When Jeff and I got married, I had a couple store credit cards and one regular credit card that was maxed out (thankfully, it maxed out at a pretty low amount, but still, I was paying LOTS of interest on that debt). We made it our first priority as a married couple to cut up those cards and pay those off. We are both bad at budgeting and we both like to spend money, so we have avoided getting any other credit cards because we know that we’d end up racking up debt and we don’t want to do that. Since we paid those credit cards off and closed those accounts, our next priority has been working towards paying off our student loans. According to Proverbs 22:7, “the borrower is the slave to the lender.” When it comes to student loans, we definitely feel the truth of this verse. It’s so draining to make that payment every single month and never really see a dent in the amount of debt you’re paying.

One of our goals this year is to pay off as much of that debt as possible so that we can finally be debt-free.

We also want to focus on being intentional with our spending. It’s so easy to just toss stuff in the cart at Target or run through the drive-thru for lunch and not think about those little expenses, but they do add up. We’re going to do our best to cut down on unnecessary spending and save as much as possible.

Another area of my life where I want to be stronger in 2020 is in my relationships. Obviously, I want to continue to pour into my marriage and my relationships with family, but my main priority for this year is to strengthen my friendships. I’ve always had lots of acquaintances, but I’ve never really had many super close friendships. This year, I want to work on strengthening the friendships I already have by being a better friend. I tend to be a homebody and keep to myself, and I need to step out of my comfort zone and really be there for my friends.

I also want this to be the year that Jeff and I really get involved in our church through Sunday School and small groups. I think it’s super important to surround yourself with people who are supportive. This year, I want to strengthen our friendships with the people at or church and really get to know them. This is something I’ve felt God leading me to do for a while now, and I’m excited to follow His calling and see what kinds of great friendships He has in store for us.

Reflecting on 2019

I feel like every year since I met Jeff, I’ve been saying “this was the best year ever.” We’ve packed a ton into the few years we’ve known each other – marriage, buying our first house, having two beautiful baby boys – and it seems like things just keep getting better and better as we get older and our family grows. 2019 had its struggles, but for the most part, it has been a good year for us and we are extremely blessed.

This year, we found out we were pregnant after months of trying, became members of our church, celebrated our third wedding anniversary, took two great family vacations (one to Fairhope and one to Arkansas), celebrated Jack’s second birthday, and welcomed Henry to our family. We also started taking our health and nutrition more seriously, and despite me being pregnant for most of this calendar year, Jeff and I are both ending the year lighter and feeling better than we have in quite a while.

Here are some highlights from 2019:

Looking back at the picture from January 2018 makes me realize just how much Jack has grown this year. This toddler stage is so fun – we love how much his little personality has developed over the past year. This little guy is so smart and funny. He constantly makes us laugh and keeps us on our toes because he’s constantly getting into something.
Jeff and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary this year.
This is one of many pictures of Jeff and Jack having fun together this year. I’ve loved seeing them get closer this past year. Jack has definitely become Daddy’s boy and can’t wait for Jeff to get home at the end of the day.
We went to A Day Out with Thomas at the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum in April. Jack absolutely loved riding the train.
Jack got tubes in April. This was us waiting for them to take him back into surgery. It was stressful for Jeff and me, but having the tubes put in has made such a huge difference in how often Jack has gotten sick this year.
Jack absolutely loved hunting for Easter eggs this year. I think we hid eggs in our living room and yard at least 20 times for him because he was constantly asking to go look for them.
Jack with my grandparents, shopping for a lawnmower. He loves Mamaw and Papaw and I’m so glad that he’s getting to spend time with them.
One of Jack’s favorite things at this age is playing with cars and trains. He loves the train set at my parents’ house and can’t wait to get it out as soon as he gets there.
We celebrated the beginning of summer with a weekend trip to Fairhope in May.
Jack and I made a Summer Bucket List so we could make the most of our time at home this summer while school was out. We also refinished our deck and did a quick makeover on it to make it a more enjoyable space to use for the summer.
We went to Lake Fort Smith in Arkansas with my parents in June and stopped in Hot Springs on our way there. Jeff and I loved exploring the city and want to go back when we can actually have time to go to one of the bath houses.
While we were in Arkansas, we took a day trip to Pawhuska, Oklahoma (the home of Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman). We visited her store and restaurant and took a lodge tour of the space where she films her cooking show. It was really cool to see it in person after watching her show for so many years.
In July, we found out that baby #2 was a boy!
We celebrated Jack’s second birthday with a dinosaur themed party.
When we had Jack’s 2 year photo shoot, we finally shared our little secret with friends and family. Everyone was excited to help us welcome Henry to our family in a few months.
Jack’s first day of the Terrific Twos class at daycare. He is starting to get harder and harder to photograph because he won’t be still!
Jack’s daycare teacher sent me this picture a few weeks after school started. We were all struggling (especially in the mornings because I had morning sickness for the whole 9 months that I was pregnant) and Jack was having a little separation anxiety when I would leave him at school. This is how he woke up from his nap that day (check out that hair) and his expression just summed up our whole month of trying to adjust back to work and school after having the summer off.
Jack wants to be just like Jeff – and that includes doing push-ups every night. 😍 I love watching them play together and it just melts my heart to see what a great daddy Jeff is.
We took Jack to the Tuscaloosa Barnyard and Pumpkin Patch in October. He loved feeding all the different animals.
Jack is finally old enough to go to All Fired Up and loves painting there. We made this pumpkin for Halloween this year and he had a blast painting it.
My mom and Jack carved a pumpkin together for Halloween.
Jack and I made this turkey to record some of the things he was thankful for during the month of November. When we were finished, his list included Mickey Mouse, Mamaw Tina, Pop Pop, Joe Joe (my brother), and baby dragon (his imaginary pet dragon that lives on our back deck).
Jack loves helping me decorate for Christmas this year – he especially loved helping me make our Christmas Bucket List banner of fun Christmas activities to complete as a way to count down to Christmas.
Henry was born on Sunday, November 24 at 2:16 p.m. He weighed 8 pounds and was 19.5 inches long.
Jack wasn’t to sure about Henry at first. We got him a book about being a big brother to try to ease the transition from being the only child to sharing our attention. He’s adjusted pretty well
My brother, Uncle “Joe Joe,” met Henry for the first time on Thanksgiving. We had a small celebration at home with my parents and brother since Henry was just a week old and we didn’t want to get him out or be around lots of people.
This view is my favorite. We enjoyed soaking up all the baby snuggles and I loved getting to get home with Jack and Henry for the entire Christmas season.
Jack got his very own train table for Christmas (along with about 100 other presents from family and friends). He loved Christmas this year and it was so fun.
My boys – I can’t wait to see what 2020 has in store for us!

Have you ever lost Jesus?

Last year, Jack was about a year and a half old at Christmas and the one thing he wanted most was to play with my Nativity set. I didn’t want any pieces of my set to get broken (it’s a Precious Moments set that my mom got for me on eBay because it’s just like the one she has that I always loved when I was little, and it would probably be hard to find replacement pieces), so I bought this plastic Peanuts Nativity that Jack could play with. We actually made it through the whole season last year without losing any pieces, and I packed it away with the rest of the decorations.

This year, I set it up again and after just a few days of it being out, we lost Baby Jesus. I know – of all the things to lose, right? Baby Jesus is a pretty important part of the set, you know? I’ve kept the rest of the set out, hoping that one day when I’m cleaning up toys I’ll come across Baby Jesus in a random toy box, but so far he’s nowhere to be found.

Unlike the Baby Jesus in our Nativity set, the real Jesus isn’t hard to find. He’s always there, easily accessible whenever we call on Him. But it seems that many times, we’ve filled our holidays with so much stuff that we’ve “lost” Jesus. Somehow, the One who is the reason we celebrate gets pushed aside for parties and presents and to-do lists.

There are so many fun traditions that go along with Christmas, and I enjoy lots of them. I want my kids to remember looking at Christmas lights and making cookies for Santa and watching fun Christmas movies about Rudolph and Frosty; but in the midst of all those fun traditions, I don’t want them to miss out on the most important story of the season – the story of the birth of Jesus.

Losing Baby Jesus from the Nativity set definitely felt like a mom fail moment for me, but it’s just a piece of plastic. The real failure will be if I allow the busyness of this season to cause me to lose sight of the reason we celebrate in the first place. The ultimate failure would be raising children who don’t know about Jesus.

So, despite our incomplete Nativity set, I’m taking some time today to pull out our Bibles and read the Christmas story with my boys and teach them about Jesus.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Meet Henry

I am so excited to finally introduce the newest member of our family!

We welcomed Henry to our family on Sunday, November 24 at 2:16 p.m. He weighed 8 pounds and was 19.5 inches long.

His birth was totally different than what we experienced with Jack. Henry was due on November 16, so he was over a week late and my doctor decided to induce. Once I was induced, labor went a lot faster this time around. Henry gave us quite a scare during delivery because the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and he cane out a very scary shade of purple, but the doctor and nurses were awesome and sprung into action and a few minutes later, they laid a crying little red-headed baby on my chest.

My mom was at our house with Jack, and later that night she brought him to meet his little brother for the first time. He wasn’t too sure about him at first, and wouldn’t try to hold him or let us take a picture of them together. He was a little more excited when he came back to visit on Monday and has thankfully warmed up to Henry in the last few weeks. Now he proudly tells people, “that’s my brother.”

We came home on Tuesday, November 26.

The last few weeks have been filled with sweet baby snuggles from both my boys. I’m definitely one blessed Mama!

Letters to Jack – Becoming a Big Brother

Dear Jack,

Henry will be joining our family soon, and I have been so anxious for this whole pregnancy about how having another baby is going to impact you. Lots of things are about to change for our family, and at your age, it can be hard to understand that. I’m so glad that I’ve had these last few days to spend with you before Henry’s born and soak up our time with you as my only little boy. You have the best sense of humor and the sweetest little grin, and your daddy and I live for those moments when you say, “I love you, Daddy” or “I love you, Mama.”

As we get close to Henry’s birth, I’ve been thinking back to when you were born. Your daddy and I were so nervous and clueless, but also so excited to meet you. The minute you were born, our hearts grew in ways we never could have imagined. You completely changed the way we looked at the world and what our priorities were. You took the love we already had for each other and multiplied it times infinity.

I didn’t get a little brother until I was eleven, but I can tell you that little brothers are the best and I know that you and Henry are going to be the best of friends. I hope you two are close and can’t wait to see you grow up together. You’re going to have a lot of responsibility with a little brother looking up to you all the time. I’m sure you’ll fuss and fight and sometimes you’ll wish he wasn’t constantly following you around and annoying you, but at the same time, he will be your closest ally and friend when you get backed into a corner and he’ll be a person you can always know has your back.

I know the next few months, when Henry is going to need so much of our time and attention, are going to be tough for you. It’s hard to go from being the center of attention to sharing it with someone else 24/7. It was hard for me at eleven, and you’re only two, so I know it will be tough sometimes. I hope you always know that even though you may not be the baby anymore, you’ll always be my baby. I promise that I’m still going to be there for you when you need a kiss to make things feel better, when you want to play, and when you need extra snuggles in the middle of the night.

You’re going to be the best big brother. I love you, Jackie.

Love,

Mama

Sweet Potato Chili

This slightly sweet and savory chili is the perfect meal to enjoy during this cooler weather that has finally made its way to Alabama. The sweet potatoes give this chili a unique, slightly sweet flavor while the sausage and spices give it a nice kick. It balances out perfectly. It’s also quick and easy to make and cooks in one pot, which makes cleaning up after dinner easy (always a win in my book).

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground sausage
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced into small cubes
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can (4.5 ounce) diced green chilies
  • 1 can pinto beans with liquid
  • 1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic poeder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 bay leaves

Instructions:

  • Add a little avocado or olive oil to a large stock pot and heat over medium heat.
  • Dice onion and sauté in oil until transparent.
  • Add ground sausage and cook until browned.
  • Add diced sweet potato and chicken broth.
  • Turn to high and bring mixture to a roiling boil. Boil for about 3 minutes, then reduce back down to medium heat.
  • Add beans, chilies, and spices. Stir well.
  • Reduce to simmer and cover.
  • Cook for 30 minutes.
  • Remove bay leaves before serving.

I like to serve this with my classic southern cornbread (click here for recipe).

Preparing for Baby – Freezer Cooking Marathon

Last weekend, my mom came over and we had a freezer cooking marathon to stock our freezer with meals for when Baby Henry gets here. In about 4 hours, we ended up with 14 casseroles stacked in our freezer that are ready to just be popped in the oven for an easy dinner during those early postpartum days when me cooking a meal is pretty much out of the question.

You can see that we divided these recipes into smaller pans that are the perfect portion size for Jeff, Jack, and me. My mom got these pans and lids on Amazon, I think.
It feels so nice to have our freezer stocked so I know Jeff can easily pop one of these meals in the oven on nights when I just don’t feel like cooking in those early postpartum weeks.

Here are the recipes we made (sorry there aren’t any photos of the actual food – we were in the zone while we were cooking and my kitchen was a total mess, so I didn’t photograph as we went):

Mamaw Hopper’s Squash Dressing

This is one of my Mamaw Hopper’s recipes. Using squash in the dressing makes it super moist and gives it a great, fresh flavor. You can use fresh or frozen squash – just make sure to drain it well and mash it up before adding it to the dressing mixture. We like to eat this as a side dish with grilled or baked chicken, but it is hearty enough to make it an entree on its own.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups yellow squash (boiled until very tender, drained, and mashed)
  • 2 cups cornbread crumbs (cornbread recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup grated onion
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning to taste
  • 3/4 stick of butter, melted
  • water

Instructions:

  • Crumble cornbread into a large mixing bowl and moisten slightly with water.
  • Add mashed squash, grated onion, eggs, cream of chicken soup, and butter. Mix well.
  • Add spices to taste (I typically add about 2 teaspoons of salt, a teaspoon of black pepper, and a teaspoon of poultry seasoning). Mix well.
  • If mixture is too thick to pour, add a little more water until mixture pours easily into greased 9×13 casserole dish.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until top is golden brown.

Mama’s Chicken Dressing

My mama’s chicken dressing is kind of famous in our family. It’s always her contribution to our family’s Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, but we don’t just save this dish for holidays. Pretty much any time we have leftover cornbread, we’ll make a batch of dressing because our whole family loves it. I’ve shared this recipe before as part of my Open-Faced Turkey Sandwiches recipe. It’s simple, classic, and always comes out perfect.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large pone of cornbread, crumbled (cornbread recipe below)
  • 1 sleeve saltine crackers, crumbled
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 8 chicken thighs, boiled and shredded (I like white meat, so I will sometimes use half chicken thighs and half breasts) – make sure to season with salt while boiling the chicken!
  • About 4 cups of chicken broth (reserved from cooking chicken)
  • Salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning to taste

Instructions:

  • In a large mixing bowl, crumble a large pone of cornbread (about 4 cups total) and the saltine crackers.
  • Add the onions and stir until mixed well.
  • Lightly beat the eggs and add them to the bread mixture. Mix well.
  • Add in the shredded chicken, then slowly add in the hot chicken broth, stirring well after each addition of broth (if you dump it all in at once, you will end up with little pieces of scrambled eggs in your dressing, so make sure to temper the bread mixture as you’re adding the hot broth).
  • Continue adding broth until the mixture is pretty wet, like cornbread batter (You’ll probably need about 4 to 5 cups of broth).
  • Add salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning to taste. We usually start with about a tablespoon of each and then just taste and adjust as needed (the hot chicken broth cooks the eggs, so there’s no reason you can’t taste a little of the mixture before it’s baked).
  • Pour the batter into a buttered 9×13 deep baking dish (if your dish is shallow, you may need two baking dishes to hold the mixture).
  • Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the top is just lightly browned. (We like our dressing really moist, so we don’t brown it much.)

Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

I first found this recipe in Trisha Yearwood’s Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen cookbook (one of my favorites if you’re looking for a great Southern cookbook). I adapted the recipe a little since I don’t eat cheese – but if you’re a cheese lover like my husband, you’ll love her original recipe where the cheese is mixed into the chicken mixture and used as a topping for the casserole.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked white rice (make sure to add salt as it is cooking!)
  • 1 pound boiled and drained broccoli florets, roughly chopped (make sure to add salt as it is cooking!)
  • 2 cups shredded chicken breast
  • 1 can cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup (or the combined cream of chicken and mushroom, if you can find it)
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup shredded Colby Jack or cheddar cheese
  • 1 sleeve butter crackers
  • 1/4 stick butter, melted

Instructions:

  • Spread cooked white rice into the bottom of a 9×13 inch greased baking dish.
  • Roughly chop cooked broccoli florets and spread over rice (according to Jeff, the secret to making this casserole good is to make sure your broccoli is super tender, so I always make sure to boil it until it’s basically falling apart since that’s how he likes it. I don’t mind the broccoli having a bit of a bite to it, so I have used a bag of broccoli that can be steamed in the microwave for this step and it tasted just as good to me…go with your preferences here).
  • In a large mixing bowl, mix together the shredded chicken, soup, sour cream, mayo, lemon juice, salt, and pepper until well combined.
  • Spread chicken mixture over broccoli.
  • Since I don’t like cheese but Jeff loves it, I top half of the casserole with shredded cheese and half with crumbled butter crackers tossed with melted butter. If you and your family love cheese, feel free to skip the crackers and top the whole thing with shredded cheese.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, until cheese is melted and edges are bubbly.

Poppyseed Chicken Casserole

I just kind of made up this recipe a few years ago after one of Jeff’s friends mentioned that his wife made a poppyseed chicken casserole for dinner and Jeff wanted me to make one. It’s a really simple and quick casserole to put together, and it’s always delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked white rice
  • 2 cups shredded chicken breast
  • 1 can cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup (either one works great, OR if you can find the cream of chicken and mushroom kind, that’s even better)
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon mayonaise
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 sleeves butter crackers
  • 1/2 stick of butter, melted

Instructions:

  • In a large mixing bowl, mix together the rice, shredded chicken, soup, sour cream, mayo, spices, and lemon juice.
  • Spread into a greased 9×13 casserole dish.
  • Crumble crackers into a mixing bowl and toss to coat with melted butter. Spread cracker crumbs over chicken mixture.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, until crackers are golden brown and edges are bubbly.

Michelle’s Chicken Spaghetti

I got this recipe from my cousin, Michelle. She brought it to a church potluck and Jack absolutely loved it, so my mom and I asked her for the recipe and she was kind enough to share. This is always a crowd pleaser.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of shredded chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced bell pepper
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes
  • 32 ounces chicken broth
  • 8 ounces of spaghetti

Instructions:

  • Cook spaghetti, peppers, and onion in chicken broth until spaghetti is tender. Do NOT drain.
  • Mix shredded chicken, soups, and tomatoes in a casserole dish, then add broth and noodles. Mix well.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and cover with shredded cheddar cheese.
  • Place back in the oven until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Traditional Southern Cornbread

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups self-rising cornmeal (I prefer yellow, but white works just as well)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 stick of butter

Instructions:

  • Spray a cast iron skillet with non-stick cooking spray and place butter in skillet. Put in oven as the oven preheats to 400 degrees.
  • While the pan and oven are heating, mix together the cornmeal, egg, and buttermilk in a large mixing bowl.
  • Once the pan is hot and butter is melted, pour the batter into the skillet.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, until top of bread is golden brown.

This recipe makes a large pone of cornbread. We used one pone to make the chicken dressing and most of a second pone to make the squash dressing.

Preparing for Baby – Daddy’s Hospital Survival Kit

When Jack was born, I shared a post about how I made a Daddy’s Hospital Survival Kit for Jeff. I originally found the idea on Pinterest and loved that it was a way to celebrate Jeff becoming a dad. So many things only focus on baby and mama during that time, but becoming a father is a huge deal and should be celebrated, too.

This is my favorite picture from our Fresh 48 session with Jack at the hospital. Seeing him become a dad was such a special experience.

This time around, as I’m getting all our bags packed for the hospital (little man will be here in two weeks or less!), I made sure to pull out the tool box I used to make Jeff’s Survival Kit last time and fill it with goodies. He’ll be at the hospital just as long as I will (trying to sleep in a recliner because the pull out bed in the room is too short for him), and he deserves some treats and some comforts of home, too.

You can see what I packed for him last time here. It was a really neat thing to have last time because he had travel toiletries and snacks and we both used things out of his box multiple times during our hospital stay. Even our nurses and my doctor mentioned how neat it was when they saw it sitting on the counter in our room.

This time, Jeff’s kit contains the following items:

  • His favorite Starbucks Cold Brew with Cocoa and Honey
  • Gatorade Zero drinks
  • Trail mix
  • Larabars
  • Beef jerky sticks
  • Fruit snacks
  • Pistachios
  • Mints
  • Individual flavored drink mix packets for his water
  • Travel sized deodorant
  • Travel sized shampoo
  • Travel toothbrush
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Fingernail clippers
  • #1 Dad socks (I found this two pack on Amazon)
  • Chapstick
  • Travel sized toothpaste
  • Travel sized mouthwash
  • Travel sized body wash
  • Cotton swabs
  • Melatonin gummies
  • Advil

I’ve just got to get a card – or maybe make one – to stick in the bottom of the box and I’ll be done.

Last time, I kept this box of goodies a surprise, but this time Jeff knows I’ve been putting it together (he’s even snuck some of his goodies out early and I’ve had to go back to get more). Even though he knows about it this time, I think it does mean a lot to him to have something that’s his and for me to put in the effort to show him how much I appreciate his love and support. I really don’t know how I would have made it through labor without him last time. He was so encouraging and sweet and kept telling me how awesome I was doing even when I was just beyond exhausted and wanted to give up.

If you’re making a box like this, you might also want to include a roll of quarters for the vending machine or some cash for the hospital cafeteria (I don’t need to add this since Jeff works at the hospital and can use his ID to buy things at the vending machines and cafeteria, but it would be super helpful for someone who doesn’t have that option). I don’t know about your hospital, but ours only offers one meal to mom and dad, and the rest are for mom only (since she’s the actual patient), so having some money to get a meal, snacks, and drinks is always a good thing and lots of people forget to bring cash for the vending machines.

If you’re having a baby, this is a great way to make your husband feel special during the whole birth experience (because they really do get left out and don’t get much attention). Or, if you know someone who is having a baby soon and want to give them a really neat and meaningful gift, making a kit like this is a thoughtful way to show a new dad in your life that you care. You could even make a similar one for mom and dad to share so they have some little goodies to make their hospital stay more comfortable.

Now that this kit is all put together and my hospital bag is packed (I’ll share about what I packed in a separate post later this week), we’re just waiting for Henry to decide he’s ready to meet us face to face. I’m going to miss feeling his constant kicks and wiggles, but I also can’t wait to actually see his little face and hold him in my arms.

November Memory Verses Printable

As we enter this season of Thanksgiving, I’m trying to make sure that we slow down and focus on the meaning of this season. Jack is still young to understand the concept of thankfulness, but we are working on learning about being thankful and also on learning that all of our blessings are gifts from God.

One thing we’re doing this month to work on celebrating thankfulness is this cute Thankfulness Turkey idea that I got from Susie at busytoddler.com. I love following her Instagram page for fun ideas to entertain Jack. When I saw this turkey idea, I thought it would be a really cute way to start talking to him about what it means to be thankful. He was super pumped about making his turkey and wanted to color all the feathers himself and add them all last night (I think you’re technically supposed to add one feather each day, but we just went ahead and added them all since he was so excited and we’ll fill them in with things we are thankful for as we go through the rest of the month).

You can check out this post for more of her fun Thanksgiving activities for kids.

I’m also trying to make spending time in God’s Word more of a priority, and that includes teaching it to Jack (I know he’s only two, but he is better at memorizing things than you’d think and I don’t think you can start them too young when it comes to memorizing God’s Word). We’re going to be focusing on verses about thankfulness this month. If you’d like to join in and learn with us, just print out my November Memory Verses Printable and work on committing one verse to memory each week. You can cut the cards apart and place them around your home (I’m planning to post one on the fridge and one on our bathroom mirror) to help you see the scripture over and over so you can commit it to memory.

If you do use the printable, make sure to tag me on Instagram and let me know! It will be fun for us to encourage each other as we learn what God’s Word teaches about thankfulness.

I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving season!