Monday, June 30, 2014

Mama Monday: Pregnancy chalkboard

Happy Mama Monday, everyone. We are throwing it back pregnancy-style today. I documented my whole pregnancy on my old blog (here, if you're interested in a history lesson), but I thought it might be fun to take all the weekly photos and put them together.

The chalkboard seemed like a good idea, originally.

There are so many cute chalkboard photos on Pinterest and I thought that seemed like a fun way to track my baby bump. Bah. By about halfway through I dreaded having to do this every week, haha. But I started, so I had to finish! Hopefully this will give you some inspiration if you're going to take on weekly chalkboards, too.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Freebie Friday: Happy Independence Day

The Fourth of July. Mmmm... swimming, hamburgers, fireworks, parades. It's a good, solid holiday. It's no Christmas or Thanksgiving, but nothing says summer like an Independence Day celebration. It's my godbrother Aaron's favorite holiday (he's a weird one, but I love him anyway), so this Freebie Friday is dedicated to him.

Only two this week, but I'm especially partial to the black and white one :) Enjoy, and have a Happy Fourth next week.



Thursday, June 26, 2014

Love List: A random assortment

1. Evangeline Cafe
People have been telling us about this place for ages, but we've never gone. I don't even know why - we love Cajun food and it's right near our house. I think we tend to be creatures of habit. When we want to eat out, we go to the same 2-3 places. But since Hans' parents were in town this week, we thought we'd try something new. And I'm so glad we did. I loved it. It's kinda a hole-in-the-wall place but that just lends to the authentic feel. The live music was a bit loud, but was in keeping with the ambiance. We went on a Monday night, a little on the early side, and it was still packed. I take that as a good sign. I had the shrimp étouffée and it was delicious. I ate every last drop and my lips were burning. Yum. Hans had chicken and sausage gumbo and while he liked it, it wasn't his favorite. I think he's just accustomed to my recipe and this one was quite a bit different. We will definitely go back and try other dishes - let us know if you want to join!

2. Heads Up
I'd seen this game on the Ellen show, but had never thought to try it until our niece Katlyn begged us to try it. It was a lot of fun, and hilarious to watch us stumble through. Some of the categories were hard, for the adults much less for Katie, but the kids and music categories were our favorites. It even records the people acting out so you can watch the video after (Hans doesn't appreciate that I saved this :))
3. Cheek squishing
I don't know why she keeps doing this, but she thinks it's the funniest thing ever. Hey, whatever makes her happy.

4. Play kitchens
Last week when I was super sick, my wonderful cousin took care of Emma so I could get some rest. She sent her hubby up into their attic to retrieve her kids' old play kitchen. Em had such a great time with it that my cousin said we could borrow it for a while. She really loved it, especially the velcro fruit. I think we will have to look into getting her one of her own for Christmas or something!
5. Uncle moving here
It's finally happening! My middle brother, Josh, (the artist-with-the-long-hair-that-lifts) is going to come live with us for a while! We couldn't be more excited. He keeps talking about how he's going to use Emma to pick up chicks around Town Lake and at the pool, but he worries people will think she's his daughter. So to celebrate him coming, I picked up a couple onesies to help out his efforts. He should be here in about two weeks. Can't wait!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

TFOT: The Moral Force of Women


That's how I felt about this week's TFOT lesson in relief society. I groaned when I got the assignment. Really? This talk, THIS week?

You can't sign into social media lately without seeing post after post about Kate Kelly and the Ordain Women movement. Aside from occasionally "liking" something on Facebook, I avoid posting or commenting on this at all for several reasons, the most important of which being that there doesn't seem to be a point. People have their opinions and I don't believe getting on my soapbox on Facebook is going to change anyone's opinion. Just cause contention.

It's a very incendiary topic. And I knew in particular several women in our ward with very passionate feelings on this topic and I saw this lesson spiraling out of control.

Thankfully, it went way better than I expected. I have to commend the women of our ward for keeping this lesson point and being carefully respectful of the different opinions in the room. Many thanks, ladies.

My advice to other TFOT teachers tackling this lesson - focus on the personal development as a woman, not about our "place in the world." It's more about our relationship with ourselves. How to recognize our worth, how to improve ourselves, how to find balance.

One of the most important things we discussed was that we need to stop comparing ourselves to others and feeling that we fall short. Our bishop's wife shared a story from when she had given birth to their third child at the same time as a friend who was also having a third. She commented to the woman "Do you ever feel like you're jus failing as a mom?" The other woman responded "No! I'm AWESOME and my kids are lucky to have me." At first, she was taken aback by this response, before she realized that she, too, is an awesome mom and her kids are lucky to have her. And three more kids and several years later, this sweet sister is still rocking that positive attitude (and let me tell you, it's true).

As women, we are blessed with nurturing qualities that help us shape our children, nieces and nephews, siblings - everyone around us. We must hold ourselves to a higher moral standard so that we can help raise others there. The best way we can do that is through being a good example and living a life of faith, love, and service.

My outline is below - hopefully it can help others navigating this topic. Good luck!

The Moral Force of Women


Philosophies of good women - how can women be a morally influential?
  • Ex: Anna Daines lived in New Jersey in the 1930s. There was extreme prejudice in the community against Mormons. That didn’t stop Anna from volunteering with school and civic groups to help improve the community and the lives of its children. She became so vital at the local YMCA that she was appointed president of its board - this an organization that only a few years prior wouldn’t even let the LDS saints use their building for meetings. How does this example show us the moral influence of women? Service, example, love. She didn’t force them to change. She radiated goodness and it made them want to change on their own.
  • Ex: Grandmother Adena Warnick Swenson encouraged him to memorize the sacrament prayers, telling him that this would help him to say them with greater understanding and feeling. He also watched how she sustained his grandfather as a stake patriarch and says that she taught him reverence for sacred things. Quote: “Grandma Swenson never learned how to drive a car, but she knew how to help boys become priesthood men.”
  • Ex: Then Elder Christofferson focuses on the moral force of mothers. He says “A woman’s moral influence is nowhere more powerfully felt or more beneficially employed than in the home.” Quote #1: “In all events, a mother can exert an influence unequaled by any other person in any other relationship. By the power of her example and teaching, her sons learn to respect womanhood and to incorporate discipline and high moral standards in their own lives. Her daughters learn to cultivate their own virtue and to stand up for what is right, again and again, however unpopular. A mother’s love and high expectations lead her children to act responsibly without excuses, to be serious about education and personal development, and to make ongoing contributions to the well-being of all around them.”
  • Important note: He does not expect women to be without reproach. We are often too hard on ourselves because this standard seems to demand perfection. Here’s what he says: Quote #2: “Sisters, I don’t want to overpraise you as we sometimes do in Mother’s Day talks that make you cringe. You don’t have to be perfect; I don’t claim that you are... What I mean to say is that whether you are single or married, whether you have borne children or not, whether you are old, young, or in between, your moral authority is vital, and perhaps we have begun to take it and you for granted.”

Trends that threaten -
He says “ Certainly there are trends and forces at work that would weaken and even eliminate your influence, to the great detriment of individuals, families, and society at large. Let me mention three as a caution and a warning.”

1. The devaluation of marriage and motherhood and emphasis on career
Quote #3: “Some view homemaking with outright contempt, arguing it demeans women and that the relentless demands of raising children are a form of exploitation. They ridicule what they call “the mommy track” as a career. This is not fair or right. We do not diminish the value of what women or men achieve in any worthy endeavor or career—we all benefit from those achievements—but we still recognize there is not a higher good than motherhood and fatherhood in marriage. There is no superior career, and no amount of money, authority, or public acclaim can exceed the ultimate rewards of family.”

Has anyone experienced this, and would be willing to share your experience?

I feel like this is a good example of how the adversary can take a good thing and twist it just a little bit so that it becomes a bad thing. I think a woman’s career is important. It’s part of her personal development, something she can take pride in, it keeps her challenged and advancing. We value education, and it allows us to use that education. I remember saying to my mother once (Out of spite, I might add), “Why do I need to go to college if I’m only ever going to be a mom?” So I think it’s important for us to recognize that education and careers are a good thing. But any good thing that keeps us from fulfilling a more important role is a bad thing. When we use our career (or whatever endeavor, really!) as an excuse for not fulfilling our divine role as mothers, that’s when it’s a bad thing. This is exactly why this is so dangerous. By being less involved in our children’s lives, in allowing someone else to teach and nurture them more than we do, we are losing some of our moral influence. We then less responsible for instilling the values and principles we want in our children and helping to guide their behavior. Sure, there are still opportunities, but the force is diminished.

2. Attitudes toward sexuality
Quote #4: “Attitudes toward human sexuality threaten the moral authority of women on several fronts. Abortion for personal or social convenience strikes at the heart of a woman’s most sacred powers and destroys her moral authority. The same is true of sexual immorality and of revealing dress that not only debases women but reinforces the lie that a woman’s sexuality is what defines her worth.”

He goes on to say that there’s a bit of a double standard - women are expected to be more virtuous while men’s immorality has been excused. Instead of correcting this by raising the male standard, he sees that women are falling to the male level.

Do you feel like this is a threat? How or why?

Elder Christofferson concludes: “Where once women’s higher standards demanded commitment and responsibility from men, we now have sexual relations without conscience, fatherless families, and growing poverty. Equal-opportunity promiscuity simply robs women of their moral influence and degrades all of society. In this hollow bargain, it is men who are “liberated” and women and children who suffer most.”

3. Push for masculine traits
Quote #5: “A third area of concern comes from those who, in the name of equality, want to erase all differences between the masculine and the feminine. Often this takes the form of pushing women to adopt more masculine traits—be more aggressive, tough, and confrontational.”

This one’s interesting to me. Is it bad to be aggressive, tough, confrontational? Are we encouraging women to be passive, weak, easily controlled? What does this mean to you?

Elder Christofferson quoted former Young Women general president Margaret D. Nadauld: “The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity.” In blurring feminine and masculine differences, we lose the distinct, complementary gifts of women and men that together produce a greater whole.

Concluding thoughts
Elder Christofferson had two pieces of advice he encourages women to follow:

  1. Put your faith first. He says: “Sisters, of all your associations, it is your relationship with God, your Heavenly Father, who is the source of your moral power, that you must always put first in your life. Remember that Jesus’s power came through His single-minded devotion to the will of the Father. He never varied from that which pleased His Father.  Strive to be that kind of disciple of the Father and the Son, and your influence will never fade.”
  2. Exercise your influence. “Do not be afraid to apply that influence without fear or apology. “Be ready always to give an answer to every [man, woman, and child] that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.” “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” “Bring up your children in light and truth.” “Teach [them] to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord.”

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Living in swimsuits

June has meant two things in our household: family visits and swim suits.

While my dad was here last week, we lived at Butler Park and Deep Eddy. We were so sad to see him go home on Friday. He really is Emma's best friend.
Took Dad to Sway for a little late Father's Day dinner
Since the Austin Postcard mural is right around the corner from Sway, we just had to stop for a couple pics.
Lots of coloring...
And reading books...
And playing with toys! (Her first Lego experience)
Grandpa taught her to smell flowers
This is why you don't let a child self-feed a pouch while you're driving. (kinda looks like puke. Yuck)
Saturday we had a lovely family day - a nice breakfast at Sweetish Hill Bakery (get the thing with the funny German name that looks like a cinnamon bun with raisins. Heaven). Then we headed to North Lamar between 9th and 10th to continue our mural tour with these Frederico murals. And then more swimming, of course. We tried West Enfield Pool. It's a bit small and parking is a little weird, but it was shady and clean and very nice. I'd go back!
Yogurt face!
And then it was more family! Hans' parents and niece arrived Sunday to play for a few days. We've already spent most of our time outdoors at Symphony in the Park and the new Bartholomew Pool (have you been? It's awesome - we love it!)
I don't know what this face was for, but I love it! It cracks me up. 
She is seriously in love with her cousin. She wants to be glued to her nonstop.
This pool has water slides! Katie loved them.
I seriously can't get enough of this summer. We are having too much fun!!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mama Monday: Amazon Prime/Mom

Hi, my name is Erika and I'm an Amazon addict.

Another thing several people have asked me about lately is how we like Amazon.

Short answer? We love it.

Long answer? It involves so much shipping that we have a relationship with our UPS guy.

We have had Amazon Prime for a long time - since Hans was at UT and got a student account. We used it pretty regularly for books and gifts and random things. But in the past few years, we seriously use it 3-4 times a week. Almost any thing I want to buy, I get it from Amazon. Here's why:

  • I don't have to leave my house. I don't have to pack Punkito in the car and visit multiple places to find what I'm looking for. I don't even have to put on pants (and that's a major tally in the win column).
  • It's usually cheaper. Not always, but most of the time I can find what I want and save a little. Case in point: Last week I needed to get some new Sunday shoes for Em. I knew the ones I wanted. I checked the websites for Stride Rite, Dillards, and Nordstrom and they were all the same price ($30), but then I'd have to pay for shipping. I don't mind going to the store to pick them up, but dreaded dragging Punkito to three stores looking for them. I didn't expect to find Stride Rite shoes on Amazon, but low and behold, there they were. For $23. And free shipping. Done and Done.
  • I can find obscure things! If you've ever felt like your local store has a limited selection, you don't need to worry about that on Amazon. You'll find what you're looking for offered in fifteen colors. Yeessssss.
  • Two-day free shipping. I hate paying any kind of online shipping now. So spoiled.

So on to Amazon Mom. To be honest, I don't really know what the difference is between Amazon Mom and Amazon Prime. So maybe you don't need Mom, you just need Prime? Sorry, I just don't get it. In any event, back when Punkito was just a little bean in my belly, we started shopping around for the best prices on diapers. We price-compared Costco, HEB, Target, Babies R Us, and Amazon. Now I know it probably depends on what kind of diapers you prefer, but we liked the Huggies Little Snugglers and the price comparison on those had Amazon way cheaper per diaper. I wish I could remember the exact numbers, but hey - it's been two years since I compared. I think Costco was close, but it was the only one remotely close and they don't actually have Snugglers - they have the snug and dry which I didn't like as well. And did I mention that they come right to your house? Excellent. Never have to worry about running out for diapers.

We set our subscription to ship a giant box every month. You can always one-off an additional box if you're running low between regularly-scheduled shipments and it'll be at your door in two days. You can also cancel a regular shipment if you don't need it. And returns are very easy. When we moved from size 2 diapers to size 3, I wasn't able to update our subscription before our monthly box of 2s was sent out. All I had to do was sign into my Amazon account, print off a return label, tape it on the box, and drop the box off at the closest UPS store. That was it. Don't have to pay to return it and the amount was credited right back to our account.

Another great thing about the subscriptions (Subscribe-and-Save) is that the more subscriptions you have in your monthly shipment, the bigger discount you get. We have a few staple items on there that we go through every month, so we save a little more. We do diapers, wipes, diaper genie refills, fabric softener, cliff bars, lysol wipes and a few other things. You can add things like shampoo, toilet paper, paper towels, toothpaste - pretty much anything you can imagine. I may never have to leave the house (or put on pants!) ever again! I think with the amount of items we get per month, we get 15% off the whole order.

Our primary purpose for having Amazon Prime is for the free two-day shipping and the subscribe-and-save options, but I find that we use it for all kinds of things now, because we have it. They have instant video streaming that is very similar to Netflix, but offers a few things Netflix doesn't. And since it's free with Prime, why not? If you didn't want to have Netflix, you could do with just Amazon Prime Videos.

On top of that, I still do something called Swagbucks, a search and win site that rewards you for using it. You do things like answer surveys, search the web, watch videos, answer polls, complete special offers and you get rewarded with points that you can redeem for prizes. I always redeem mine for Amazon gift cards and then use those gift cards on my Prime orders. I think I actually have $30-$40 in gift cards sitting in my Amazon account for my next purchase. I just looked it up and in the past few years, I have earned $710 in gift cards just through Swagbucks. If you're interested in getting started with swagbucks, please use my referral link ( because then I'll get a nice bonus for you joining :)

Come Christmas time, Amazon Prime is my life-saver. I do half or more of our Christmas shopping online. I don't have to hunt for it, I get the best prices, it's shipped for free in three days, and I use my gift cards to cover a good portion of it.

Have I convinced you yet? We love Amazon Prime. If you still have questions about getting started or using it, please feel free to contact me directly and I would love to indoctrinate you.

As a parting shot, here's a look at the last few months of our orders on Amazon, just to give you a real idea of the extent of our addiction:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Father's Day Weekend

What a weekend! Punkito's front right molar is coming in so things got a little ugly at times this weekend. But we salvaged as best we could and had a great time.

Saturday started with a nearly five-mile run. There are no pictures of this because we don't need to immortalize my shame. Slower than elephants in mud. But we did it.

Then we tried to go to some "Bubblepalooza" event at the Long Center. It was... lame. We saw shockingly few bubbles. They did have one of those giant parachutes so that was kind of fun and Em liked drawing with chalk, but that was about all there was to it.
We redeemed our afternoon with Torchy's. Man, I could eat that every day. Em was totally loving these limes, until she bit into the peel. Hilarious faces.
Post nap we went to Deep Eddy Pool, since it was on our mural bucket list and we love Deep Eddy anyway.
It's perfect for Punkito because it has one of those beach entries and she can run in and out to her heart's content instead of climbing in and out of stairs. The water is spring-fed so it's incredibly cold, but once you get used to it, it feels awesome. Em is totally fearless - she will just run in like she doesn't notice the water, even when it's up to her chin. As the sun went down, she was shivering but we still couldn't get her out. I think we will be living there this summer.
Father's Day was a bit rough, but we still managed to celebrate our favorite guy with some of his favorite things - chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, cookie cake, and new polos.
We are pretty lucky to have such a great husband and father and we love spending every second with him on weekends. And we love summer in Austin!