Zucchini Oat Muffins (No Oil, No Refined Sugar)

One of my sweet kiddos experiences tummy troubles (constipation) which has caused me to become more creative in my meal prep. For those out there who may be looking for healthy muffins (that can also help little kids with constipation), this is for you! As a disclaimer, I like baking but I am not a “baker.” 🙂

Ingredients

  • 1 and 2/3 C flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 C honey
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 1/2 C applesauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 grated zucchini
  • 1/2 C oats
  • Optional: 3 tbsp of flax seeds (Note: Flax seeds help with constipation but change the flavor of the muffins significantly)

Steps

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
  • Add all remaining ingredients to the mixing bowl and stir until just combined (it will be lumpy).
  • Bake for 15-17 minutes.
  • This recipe yields 12 muffins.

David at Two-and-a-Half

David is officially two-and-a-half years old. In the last six months, his language skills have exploded. He is good at using words to ask for what he wants. One cute thing he does when looking for a specific toy is call out its name over and over as he walks around the house. It’s almost like he’s expecting the toy to respond and say, “I’m right here, David.”

On Friday as we were driving in the car, I played the Newsies soundtrack. For the first time ever, David started singing along. I was amazed at how well he could sing the right pitches and match the vowel sounds of a lot of the words. For Christmas, John purchased tickets for him and I to go see the musical Newsies. Ever since then, the kids and I have been listening to the soundtrack a lot in the car. David says “Newsies” when he gets in the car and wants to listen to the music.

He loves his sunglasses.

David loves to sing the primary song I Am a Child of God, Jingle Bells, and a Halloween song that my Grandma Daly made up (I don’t know if the song has a name). He also loves Baby Shark and The Wheels on the Bus. I love how he sings, “The babies on the bus go ‘wah, wah’ wah…'” The way he imitates how babies cry is so cute and hilarious.

When we lived in West Virginia, we’d go to library story time in Purcellville. Afterwards, they’d have playtime, and David loved these cars that hook together.

He watches one episode of TV each weekday generally before lunch time. The two shows he watches are Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and Sesame Street, which he calls “Sunny Days” because the Sesame Street theme song begins with the phrase “Sunny days…”

When we were packing up to move, I labeled each tub with green painters tape and wrote on the tape the name of the room where the tub should go in the new house. David loved to pull the tape off. He called the tape “stickers.” I loved that he labeled himself with the “David’s Room” “sticker.”

He’s become a skilled negotiator with his sister. If she is playing with a toy he wants, he’s learned to bring a toy to her that he can trade her. Even if the toy he brings is not nearly as cool or exciting, she always takes the bait haha.

This was the first year that Easter eggs were exciting to David.

One of David’s favorite phrases to say is “Hi David.” Ever since David was little, in the mornings as I walked down the hall to his bedroom, I’d say “Hi David.” I think hearing this phrase repeatedly each day caused David’s mind to view this phrase as a generic greeting like “Good morning.” Consequently, over the last couple months, when David would hear either John or I in the morning, he’d yell “Hi David” from his bedroom. He would never say “Hi Mommy” or “Hi Daddy.” It was always “Hi David.” (Last week was the first time I’ve heard him say “Hi Mommy” in the morning instead of “Hi David.”)

He knows that when we drive in the Shenandoah mountains that we like to take pictures. Once he realizes we’re driving in the mountains, he says “pi-churs, pi-churs.”

His favorite food is apple sauce, which he just calls “sauce.” He’s become more picky about what veggies he eats, but I still serve veggies with every meal 🙂 He also loves all carbs – rolls, muffins, etc. I’ve learned how to make “healthier” rolls and muffins so I can feel better about what I’m serving him.

David is a light in our home. His happy demeanor that he had as a baby has continued with him. He’s a great listener and generally very obedient (sometimes he likes to march to the beat of his own drum ha). He’s a loving brother and son. Although, he thinks it’s funny to withhold hugs and kisses some nights at bedtime. We sure love him and his sense of humor.

Our special time of day together is right before afternoon nap time. I put Brooke down first, and then David and I have time together to read books. This is a “selfie” we took last week after finishing our daily story time.

Easter 2020

Sunday was Easter, and it was such a wonderful day. I woke up early enough that I was able to get fully ready and read in the scriptures before my kids woke up. I feel like when I’m able to do that, I have a better day. After the kids woke up, it was fun to watch them discover their Easter baskets. John made me a delicious egg sandwich for breakfast. While the kids played, we listened to two really great talks (devotionals); “Sunday Will Come” by Elder Wirthlin and “Mrs. Patton – The Story Continues” by President Monson. We took David to the backyard to hunt for Easter eggs. Then we had lunch and put the kids down for naps. I was able to take a nap for 30 minutes. Then I got up, did some Easter dinner food prep, polished my Grandma Daly’s silver (which we used for the dinner), and set the table. I took a break from the prep to sit down with John and discuss our insights about Easter and Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection. This conversation was a highlight of my day. We then had a fun evening full of chatting, laughter, delicious food, and games. When I went to bed, my heart was full and I was a little sad the day was over.

COVID-19

I want to take just a few minutes to write down some thoughts about this unprecedented time. My prayers and thoughts are with all those affected physically, emotionally, and/or economically right now because of COVID-19.

As a stay-at-home mom of a 2-year-old and a 1-year-old, my life has not been impacted significantly. Aside from missing outings like library story time and lunches at Chick-Fil-A, life for me on the surface is very similar to what it’s been. I enjoy being home with David and Brooke and watching them play together. David is really starting to use his imagination. It is also very nice to have John home more often while he works from home. The kids LOVE when he comes upstairs from the basement to grab a bite to eat.

It is weird to go to the grocery store and see lots of items missing from shelves. Thankfully, John suggested very early on that we stock up on some things. So, I did a lot of my shopping for staples (like toilet paper) before the masses. We also live in a more rural area, and from what I hear, our grocery stores are a little better stocked than those closer to Washington D.C. where my brother and sister live.

I’m so thankful we moved before all the “shelter-in-place” business began. I love our new home, and I especially love the views. When I look outside and see God’s beautiful creations, I feel peace. I go on a walk each day, and I cherish those times. Sometimes I listen to podcasts and other times I whisper a silent prayer in my heart as I walk.

Our house in West Virginia officially sold this past Friday, and for that I am extremely grateful! I can only imagine the anxiety I’d be wrestling with if it were still on the market during this time.

Our family started a tradition of taking a drive through Shenandoah National Park each Sunday while we don’t have church. It’s fun to drive up to the lookouts and then look for our house.

I’m not sure how long it will be until life feels “normal” again for our communities. I’m grateful for those who are working to combat the virus and for those serving individuals who are suffering.

Baby Brooke Turns One Year Old!

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Our spirited little girl turned one in February! We had fun celebrating with family. On the Sunday before her birthday, we had a joint birthday party for Brooke and my sister Melissa. Their birthdays are three days apart (and a *few* years haha). My mom and aunt Diana were in town. The Wagners (my aunt, uncle, and cousins) and Keri also joined in for the celebration.

On Brooke’s actual birthday, our little family headed WalMart to pick out some toys for Miss Brooke and then to Cracker Barrel for a celebratory dinner. They have great food options for toddlers and pre-toddlers. However, our food took forever to be brought out to our table and both our kids got tired of waiting (plus it was close to bedtime). So, truth be told, it was not the most fun experience. We didn’t even end up eating as a family. Brooke was screaming. So, John and I took turns eating while the other took Brooke outside.

Fun facts about Brooke at one-year-old:

  • She mimics lots of words we say and sounds we make.
  • She loves to say “hi, hi, hi” and “uh-oh” and “no, no, no.”
  • She very much enjoys bath time.
  • She’s quite social. She’ll wave and smile at anyone.
  • Her hair is beginning to get a little curl in the back.
  • She is a super speedy crawler.
  • When we start to sing “If You’re Happy and You Know It” she claps her hands.
  • She still wakes up once a night. (We’re working hard to stop this!)
  • She loves to eat rolls and chew on sliced red apples.
  • She immediately pulls out any bow or headband I put on her head (almost always).
  • She refuses to hold her bottle so we switched her to a straw sippy cup with handles. I saw these sippy cups at Target and figured we’d give them a try. 

Faith Friday: Prepared Spiritually

In late 2018, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that Sunday church services would shift from three hours each Sunday to just two. As a member of the church, I was surprised and very grateful (three-hour church with small kids can definitely be a trying experience). The impetus behind this change was to give us more time to study the gospel as families at home. Over and over, we heard our church leaders say that effective gospel learning and conversion to Christ is home-centered, church-supported (not the other way around).

As church members, we were given a curriculum to guide our study at home called “Come, Follow Me” (referring to Christ’s admonition in the New Testament to follow Him). We spent all of 2019 studying the New Testament as individuals and families using “Come, Follow Me” as a guide. This year, we’re studying the Book of Mormon.

I believe God is all-knowing, and I believe Russell M. Nelson is God’s prophet on the earth today, just like there were prophets in ancient times. (Sidenote: You can watch a beautiful message of hope he shares during COVID-19 through this link.) When I recently heard that church would be canceled for the foreseeable future because of COVID-19, I was again surprised. My surprise shifted to gratitude as I realized that God had prepared us for this change. I believe the “Come, Follow Me” program is inspired. God knew there would be a time when we would not be able to attend church. He prepared us as individuals and families to study the gospel at home. He prepared our spirits, hearts, and faith to be able to weather this time when we wouldn’t be able to meet together to worship Him. Just as He provided manna for the children of Israel when they weren’t able to access food, He’s provided us with metaphorical spiritual manna while we’re not able to access that through our worship services. God is good.

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Recently while on a walk outside my home, I was listening to the song “Peace in Christ” by McKenna Hixson. Each year, our church makes an album of encouraging songs to go along with the theme for the church’s youth program. This song, “Peace in Christ,” was the theme song for 2018. As I was listening, these words struck me, “When there’s no peace on earth, there is peace in Christ.” I thought, “Wow, again God was preparing our hearts for this crazy COVID-19 experience.” Through music, He was teaching us that all peace can be found in Christ, regardless of what is happening around us. All the words from this song bring so much comfort and peace to my heart as I listen.

My prayers are with those deeply affected by COVID-19. Our family is currently healthy, and thankfully we have plenty of food, diapers, etc. I believe God is the Father of us all. Even if you don’t believe in Him, I believe He is aware of you. He is near you. He will see you (and all of us) through this challenge. I’m grateful to know that death is not the end and that we can live as families forever.

Baby Brooke: Eleven Months

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Last month, Brooke hit her year mark! I never wrote a post about her at 11 months, so I’m playing catch-up. I’m hoping to have her one-year-old blog post up soon! Side note: Life has been a whirlwind for me the last few months between keeping our house in Charles Town in pristine condition while it was on the market (while living there with two kids under two), packing up our house, moving, unpacking at our new house, hosting company, two sick babies, a one-year-old who doesn’t sleep through the night, negotiating home sale contracts (the first one fell through…womp), and having it be my “busy season” for the part-time work I do at home. I’m hoping to do lots of blog catch-up here shortly.

Fun facts about Brooke at 11 months:

  • She crawls SO fast.
  • She has the cutest laugh.
  • She loves to play peek-a-boo. She especially loves to play it when we take her out of the bath and are putting on her pajamas. She loves to cover her eyes with the towel and pull it away quickly.
  • Her smile is adorable.
  • She loves to stand in the bath (which we discourage, but she doesn’t seem to care haha).
  • She knows how to hold her bottle, but refuses to do so.
  • She loves to wave and say “hi.” She often mimics the words we say.
  • She knows how to clap.
  • She still wakes up once a night for a few ounces.
  • She is still a picky eater and always takes her bib off when we feed her.
  • She loves to pull bows out of her hair.

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Love those long eyelashes and this cute mid-blink picture 🙂

October 2019 Trip to Iowa

I never posted about our last two trips to Iowa. We first went back in October and attended the Iowa vs. Penn State football game. Then we traveled to Iowa again for Christmas.

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We drove both times and our kids did great! In October, we strategically picked some parks off the interstate where we could stop to let the kids have some car-free time. And in December, we left a little later in the day, and they slept during a lot of the drive. We honestly could not have asked for better drives. The one challenge of our December trip was I got really sick a couple days before we were supposed to leave. I was the sickest I ever remember being. John commented that he’d never seen me knocked down so hard by sickness. Consequently, we delayed our trip a couple of days.

Highlights of the October trip, aside from attending an Iowa football game, included visiting a pumpkin patch and visiting the John Deere Museum. John and I also went to the Nauvoo Temple and a special dinner to celebrate our anniversary.

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We also tried to take some family pictures in my in-laws backyard (they back up to a golf course and it’s beautiful!), but David just wanted to run ha. Here are some of my favorite pictures. John/his dad took these pictures.

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I’ll update soon with a post about our Christmas trip!

Faith Friday: Chick-fil-A and The Gentle Healer

The kids and I went to Chick-fil-A yesterday for lunch. While we were there, David discovered the pure joy of Chick-fil-A sauce. If you haven’t tried it, you must! I am a ketchup fanatic, but the only condiment I dip my chicken nuggets into is Chick-fil-A sauce. At first, David just started licking the sauce off his nuggets. Thankfully, he eventually ate the nuggets too. But when his nuggets were done, he picked up a spoon so he could keep eating the sauce haha. Anyway, I digress…

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One of my favorite pictures of David at Chick-fil-A from when my mom was here about a year ago.

Yesterday was the first day David played in the play place at Chick-fil-A. Previously, he never expressed interest, but yesterday, he kept pointing at the cool car they have in there. He was very excited when I asked him if he wanted to go play. He got right up and walked over. I stayed with Brooke at the table and watched him through the big glass windows. Boy, was he happy! He had such a smile on his face. I watched him try and talk to other kids. They were a little older and David is still working on his words, so I doubt they understood what he was saying.

About ten minutes in, I saw some kids talking and laughing with David. Then they started to jokingly push him and hit him. I imagine these kids have siblings they wrestle with at home. I don’t think they were intentionally trying to be mean (although I’m not sure), but I also don’t think it was appropriate behavior (neither did one of their parents who got up and scolded them). I picked up David and brought him back to our booth. I gave him a hug, told him I loved him, and explained that those kids made a poor choice (a “no-no” in David language) and that we don’t hit or push. I explained that sometimes people around us make choices that can hurt us and that I was happy he didn’t push or hit the kids.

I think David was in shock when it happened. He doesn’t have any older siblings or cousins that he plays with, and the nursery at our church we go to each Sunday only has two sweet little girls around David’s age. He’s not used to being around older kids, and by older kids, I mean like 4/5-year-olds. David also is very kind and aware of others’ feelings. I’ve observed this in the way he interacts with other little kids at library story time. He’s very gentle in all his interactions with others.

After a few minutes of David sitting on my lap, I asked him if he wanted to go back and play. He very gently said “no.” It kind of broke my heart a little. He had been so excited to go play. I texted John and he too expressed disappointment this happened to David. But we both agreed that this is a lesson life will teach us over and over again. We can’t control other people’s choices and sometimes people make poor choices. All we can control is how we respond.

The sadness I felt in my heart after this incident made me think about the love our Heavenly Father has for each of us. He knows that people around us are going to make poor choices (and sometimes we’re going to be those people). How amazing is it that he provided His Son to not only suffer for our sins but to suffer all the pains and afflictions will we ever face in this life so that He can comfort us and heal our broken hearts. My favorite picture of Jesus Christ is entitled “The Gentle Healer.”

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“The Gentle Healer” by Greg Olsen

While I felt bad for David, I felt grateful to be reminded of a loving Heavenly Father who is aware of all our struggles, who aches with us when we aches, and who watches us with love. Since we are currently separated from God’s immediate presence, He’s not able to pick us up, put us on His lap, and tell us He loves us. While sometimes I think it would be really great if He could, I realize we are here on earth for a reason. And the greatest gift of love He could ever give us, He did. And that gift is Jesus Christ, His only begotten and beloved Son, the gentle Healer.

Faith Fridays and Buying/Selling a House

A few years ago, my friend Sara asked me to contribute bi-weekly to a faith blog she had started. The blog doesn’t exist anymore, but I appreciated the opportunity because it gave me a reason to stop and put into words an aspect of my faith every other week. It also caused me to stop and reflect upon where I had seen the hand of God teaching me during the previous two weeks.

I recently had the thought to start “Faith Fridays” here on this blog. This will once again provide me that opportunity to stop and reflect, although I’m certain I’ll miss many Fridays (ha!).

Today I want to share thoughts that have been in my mind and heart about our upcoming move. I talked about little about this back here. We weren’t planning on moving for another four or five years, but we found a house that our family can grow into with a bigger lot and beautiful views of the Shenandoah mountains.

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I truly felt the hand of the Lord guiding us to this house. The beginning of the story to our new house actually commences on our search for our current house. You can read here about that experience. When we found our current neighborhood, it just felt “right.” It felt like we had found the place we needed to be. Less than a year after moving here, John was asked to serve in a role at our church that had him travel to other congregations. One of those congregations is located about 10 minutes from where we’ll be moving.

Shortly after John was asked to serve in this new role at church, we went on a fall drive. We intended to go to Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. When we arrived at the park, we decided instead of paying the $20 to enter, we’d explore some local roads. John had recently been to a church congregation near the entrance to Shenandoah National Park, and he knew another scenic road we could drive. Little did we know our future neighborhood would be off that road.

Now fast forward to this past fall. The Saturday before Halloween, we were supposed to attend our church congregation’s “Trunk or Treat” activity. However, our kids had colds, so we decided it was best to skip the activity. Instead we went on a fall drive. We headed back to the Shenandoah mountains to repeat the drive we did two years ago. While on the drive, we noticed a “for sale” sign off the road. After passing the sign, we decided to make a U-turn to check out the neighborhood. Like I said, we weren’t looking for a new home, but we like driving through potential neighborhoods and dreaming about our next home.

We pulled into the neighborhood and saw there was one house already built, two homes under construction, and a handful of lots for sale. The two homes under construction were being built by the builder who built our current home, Van Metre. The list price for the houses were lower than what we expected. We decided to reach out to Van Metre to see if they’d be building more homes in this neighborhood.

Van Metre let us know that they had no intention of building more homes. They only built the two. One was under contract and the other was still for sale. They invited us to tour the other home. They had halted construction on it because they wanted the buyer to be able to pick the finishes.

One thing that weighed heavy on my mind was whether or not we were leaving our current home and church congregation too soon. We felt very guided to this (our current) home three years ago. John and I have had many opportunities to serve here. We always want to do the Lord’s will and we didn’t want to leave “early.” If there was more He wanted us to do, we would stay. (We do recognize that we are “replaceable” people. I don’t want these thoughts to sound conceited. We just really want to live our lives according to God’s will and serve wherever He wants us to).

On a drive out to the new house a few days after our initial tour and before we had signed a contract, I said a silent prayer to God that I wanted to do His will. I remember thinking that I wanted a small sign or something that let me know that this move was in accordance with His will. At that very moment, a thought popped into my mind; “Listen to the coaching call.” I was in a program with a life coach who does live coaching calls with people and helps them learn to manage their brains to find greater happiness and contentment. My thought to listen to the call came at 4:02 p.m. and there was a call that had started at 4 p.m. On that very call, someone in a very, very similar situation to mine asked a question and received coaching on the topic. The prompting I had to listen to the coaching call was so clear and distinct that I knew it wasn’t my own thought. The fact that someone receiving coaching was in a situation so similar to mine and received guidance that helped me was to me a sign that we could move forward with peace.

Along with that experience, there were other small “signs” that helped me feel great peace about this move and know that God was orchestrating it and had been ever since we moved to our current home.

Throughout this process of preparing to move, one area in which I’ve had to exercise greater faith is that our current home will sell. I wanted to write this blog post while I’m still in the process of needing to exercise that faith. I wanted to write this post in the “middle” of the process because to me that is when faith is the most sincere. In the beginning, exercising faith can be exciting. But in the middle of experiences such as this is where I find I have to dig deep and remind myself that God knows the end from the beginning, and He didn’t bring us this far, just to bring us this far. He is the only one who could have orchestrated our being able to find our new home in a rural Virginia town and provide the temporal means for us to afford it.

Last night, as I laid in bed, I thought about the children of Israel carrying the ark of the covenant across the river Jordan. The Lord promised that He would part the river. However, they were required to put their feet in the water before it parted. Sometimes I’ve wondered how long they had to stand in the water. Did God instantaneously part the water or did He require them to wait with their feet in the water to show their faith that He would keep His promise? John and I have metaphorically put our feet in the water. We’ve moved forward with purchasing our new home that we felt guided to by God. Now we will wait with faith that our “Jordan River” will part.