The little motivator

Posted November 13, 2012
Posted by Michele

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sam and I have been speculating lately about what Luke will do when he grows up.  He'll have to have a job where he works with people, of course.  A little creativity and variation would be good for him too.  And lately I've been wondering if he'll study music.  He loves to sing, and even more, to make up his own songs about things going on in his life. (Remember his original potty song that we caught on video last June?)  Well this morning he debuted a new song in an attempt motivational singing.

Was his lack of success an indicator that Luke should pursue other careers? I guess only time will tell.

Sunday: Church!

Posted November 09, 2012
Posted by Michele

Sunday, November 4, 2012

I've never been a creature of habit, and having kids has not changed that.  Routines do not excite me. Thankfully Luke is very easy going and doesn't care if we do something different every day, or change our plans on a whim.  So unlike many stay-at-home-moms, I don't have a daily schedule. At least not yet! 

But when I started teaching Luke the days of the week, I discovered that our weekly routine is actually very consistent. Monday is gym day, Wednesday is play group, Thursday we go to Grandpa's, etc.  This morning when Luke woke up and asked, "What we doing today, Mommy?" and I replied, "It's Sunday. What do we do on Sundays?", Luke got a big grin on his face and stated confidently, "Sunday: Church!"

Here are my two cutie patooties dressed up and ready to go to church. Judah is sporting a new beautiful hand-knit sweater made by my talented friend Paula! Come on, aren't they adorable? :)

Homemade bread made (really) easy

Posted November 04, 2012
Posted by Michele

November 4, 2012

Like every other gluten eater I know, I totally adore yummy bread.  When Sam and I realized that we judge all breakfast restaurants by the quality of their toast, we decided to make a rule in our house: buy only good bread.  Thing is, the kind of bread we like is fairly expensive per loaf.  I started making my own loaves occasionally with fabulous results. Making bread is fairly easy, but its time consuming, and once Judah came along it was too much for me.  I found it too difficult to coordinate starting a loaf at the right time so that it would be ready for dinner.

That's when someone introduced me to "dutch oven" bread, also known as "the easiest bread you will ever make" (all thanks to you, Amy!).  This recipe has been a lifesaver, and its so easy, I have literally stopped buying bread at the store.  I have tried and tested several variations and am ready to present to you my version, which is our new staple. I make this bread three times a week. Hands-on time (including clean-up) is about 10 minutes. Total. Oh my!  

The three characteristics of dutch oven bread are:
1. you don't kneed it
2. you let it sit out overnight
3. you cook it in a hot pot

Other great things about dutch oven bread:
1. it has only 4 ingredients
2. it uses no oil
3. it has a fabulous crispy crust and a soft, chewy inside
4. did I mention it's super easy??

Here are the step-by-step instructions. If you work at home like me, or just want fresh bread on a weekend, you have GOT to try it!

1. Fill a measuring cup with 1.5 cups warm (not hot) water. Stir in 1 teaspoon of yeast. Let sit for 5 minutes.
Note: If you use packets of yeast, you can just throw in the entire packet.

2. Mix in a bowl: 3.5 cups flour and 2 teaspoons salt.
Note: I use 2 cups all-purpose flour and 1.5 cups whole wheat flour.  Whole wheat bread always calls for as much or more white flour as wheat flour. I've tried bread flour, too, but it doesn't make much of a difference in this recipe.

3. Pour yeast water over dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise 12-24 hours.
Note: I have not had success with waiting less than 12 hours. This is due to the small amount of yeast in this recipe and the fact that you don't kneed the bread. You will know when the dough is ready because it will have doubled in size and there will be bubbles covering the surface.

4. Use a spatula to plop the dough onto a sheet of parchment paper.  Lightly lay plastic wrap on top. Let rise 1-2 hours.
Note: You can also plop it onto a floured cutting board, and then drop it directly into the pot. I like to use parchment paper because it is less clean up!  If you are in a hurry, you can let the bread rise in a warm place, such as the stove top of a heating oven, and it may be ready within 45 minutes. You will know when its ready because it will have doubled in size again.

I like to use a fairly small pot, so I cut the parchment paper to help it fit. This is not necessary if you use a big pot. 
Note: I took off the plastic wrap before I took this picture. Don't forget to cover the dough to protect it while it rises.

5. Place an oven-safe pot in the oven and pre-heat oven with the pot inside to 425 degrees. I find that my 2.5 quart pot makes a nice, round loaf.  When the oven is ready, carefully drop the dough, paper and all, into the hot pot and return to the oven.  The hardest part about this step is remembering not to touch the hot handle of the pot out of instinct!

6. Bake with cover on for 28 minutes. Remove cover and bake for another 10 minutes.  You are supposed to let the bread sit for a while before slicing it, but I usually can't wait more than a few minutes!  Enjoy your yummy bread!

Once cooled, I place the loaf in a ziplock bag and leave it on the counter. It lasts about 3 days. If there is any left after that, we either make french toast, or I slice it into cubes and throw it in the freezer to make croutons later. I am also on the hunt for a good bread pudding recipe if anyone has one to share!

I love this bread so much, I don't know if I'll ever go back.  Let me know what you think.  Any other dutch oven bread converts out there?  Anyone want to give this a try?

Makin Applesauce

Posted November 03, 2012
Posted by Michele

November 3, 2012

'Tis the season again... applesauce season!  Our first valiant attempt to make a "yearly" supply of homemade applesauce last fall lasted only about 2 months. I guess I underestimated how much applesauce a toddler eats.  So this year, despite the high price of Michigan apples, we went ahead and splurged on enough apples to (hopefully) make enough applesauce to last us till fall comes again.

Click here to see an adorable flashback of Luke saying "applesauce" for the first time one year ago!

Williamson Safari

Posted November 03, 2012
Posted by Michele

October 31, 2012

Halloween is finally here!  Despite the rain and the cold, Luke was determined to enjoy his favorite part of the holiday - handing out candy to strangers.  Any time there was a lapse in trick-or-treaters (which happened often, because like I said, it was RAINING), he would start to worry and call to me, "Mommy! Why aren't they coming?"

Judah and I were happy to leave the hard work to Luke and look on from inside the warm house.

Unintentionally we had a jungle animal theme in our house. I'd say these two make a pretty darn cute safari!

3 Moms vs 6 Kids in Costumes

Posted November 03, 2012
Posted by Michele

Saturday, October 27, 2012

My friends Allison and Krista and I are all without our hubbies this weekend, so we decided to join forces and do some Halloween festivities together.  Calvin College apartments hosted their annual Light in the Night trick or treating this evening, which I had heard such wonderful things about. So we decided to check it out.

It was my brilliant idea to meet at Panera for dinner, since a long weekend with the boys had left me with very little energy for cooking. Thus the three of us willingly entered into a face-off: 3 moms vs. 6 little kids.  I have to admit, the kids seemed to be winning for most of the dinner. Who decided to let all the toddlers sit next to each other, anyway?  Needless to say, we got a LOT of stares.  Most of them were kindly stares, which must be due to the fact that our kids look so cute even when they're misbehaving.  And in the end, someone brought a bag of cookies to our table with the words, "you look like you could use some bribery." Hey, free cookies is a victory in my books!

Trick or treating was also a difficult endeavor.  The stroller couldn't make it through the apartments, so the little guys had to sit it out.  But they didn't seem to mind.

It was really too cold outside to sit around and enjoy a hot chocolate. And inside, well, our kids had a little trouble understanding how to wait in line. So in the end, we all decided to leave the party early and head home to bed.  Oh well. I think we'll try again next year. But only if Sam can join me. Being a single mom is exhausting!

Evie, Judah (in there somewhere), Grayson, Luke, Ian, and Eli

Boo at the Zoo

Posted November 02, 2012
Posted by Michele

Friday, October 26, 2012

Each year as Luke gets a little bit older, we seem to get a little more into Halloween.  Personally it's not my favorite holiday and I don't get very into it.  I'm not sure why.  Spider webs and skeletons never seem like pleasant-enough decor that I would want them in my home.  Haunted houses are off my list too, as I don't care for activities in which I pay money for other people to jump out at me. So far I have also managed to avoid the nasty mess of carving a pumpkin.  Yes, there you have it, I'm a Halloween scrooge. 

But don't think too poorly of me! I am not so bad as to deprive my children of Halloween festivities.  I think that my little guys look adorable in costumes, even if I don't want to dress up myself.  And I faithfully hand out candy to the 100+ people (kids, families, and sometimes just adults) that come to our door every year. 

To prove my dedication to making this an enjoyable holiday for my kids, we started early this year and went around town to the various Halloween festivities Grand Rapids has to offer.  This morning it was to "Boo at the Zoo".  Our local zoo is decorated for Halloween, and the Zoo School students hand out candy to visitors as they walk by.  Okay come on now, who's the cutest Lion and Giraffe you ever saw?


We toured the zoo with Luke's pal Logan, the two of them collecting candy at the various booths. Of course we had to visit the lions' den in honor of Luke, and the Komodo Dragon's cage in honor of Logan.  When we entered the reptile exhibit, however, Luke suddenly screamed in terror and ran into my arms.  Luke rarely gets startled by things, so I searched in surprise for the source of his fear.  It turned out to be a large turtle. I guess its mouth was exactly at eye level with Luke and it was moving all around, so that must have frightened him. So there you go, Luke was frightened by a turtle. Talk about Boo at the Zoo!

Hailey Michele

Posted November 02, 2012
Posted by Michele

October 24, 2012

There is a new little love in my life and her name is Hailey!  My dear mentee and friend Jemimah gave birth a month ago now, but due to a breathing problem (and my inability to remember my camera), today was my first day taking pictures of her. Judah also got to meet her for the first time. You can tell it was very special for both of them.

I can't believe how big he looks next to her!

Here's me with little H. Michele as I like to call her! :)

We've spent hours chatting at this coffee shop, so we thought it only appropriate that we get the two babes acclimated to the place from an early age.  It was so fun to spend some time with them today! Jemimah is turning out to be a fabulous mommy, as I knew she would be. So proud of them both!

Judah's Baptism

Posted November 01, 2012
Posted by Michele

Sunday, October 21, 2012

We had a wonderful day with family and friends as we celebrated Judah's baptism today!  The star of the show played his part perfectly by doing nothing except looking very cute.  I love watching babies being baptized.  They remind me that we are all as dependent on God's love and grace as we were the day we were born.

This is now the second boy I have had to dress for baptism, and I am starting to feel slightly underprivileged in my choice of church clothes.  There are rows and rows of fluffy white dresses at the stores, but where are the cute baptism outfits for boys??  I brought this dilemma to my friend Becky, who graciously offered to make something for Judah's special day.  With her help, we made an outfit for Luke too. They turned out so cute! We knew we'd be taking some family photos later in the day, so Sam and I wore similar colors too, not realizing we'd look quite so coordinated. Yeah, we're THAT family...

But hey, we got some great family photos!

After a baptism lunch at my dad's house, the family time continued for us as we spent the afternoon with Sam's extended family.  It was fun to see everyone and compare how the two littlest boys have grown. Here's GG with her two youngest grandsons. What a proud great grandma!

Thanks everyone for spending the day with us!

Sleep Strike

Posted October 27, 2012
Posted by Michele

Friday, October 19, 2012

Someone has called a sleep strike in the Williamson household and I am not happy about it!

Judah has decided that smiling at people is much more fun than napping.  When he does doze, he refuses to stay asleep for long.   We are also getting up about 7 times a night to give him a pacifier.  Granted I don't really remember what a "good night's sleep" is, but I'm pretty sure it's not that....

So last night Sam and I agreed that it was time to start sleep training.  I pulled out my trusted sleep book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, which helped so much with Luke, and set a plan for last night.  I encouraged Sam to sleep downstairs (no point in Judah keeping us both awake).  He agreed to this surprisingly quickly for someone who claimed he had not thought of it himself.

I put Judah down at 7:00pm.  He went to sleep without a problem.  When I went to bed a few hours later, however, he woke up and began his crying.  At this point, I was too tired to get out of bed, so I just laid there with headphones in my ears, willing him to go back to sleep.  As the crying went on and on, I prayed, "Oh God, if he cries for an hour, I'll get up and feed him." After crying for exactly 59 minutes, he fell asleep.  If God has a sense of humor about this, I guess I can too.  It was not a bad first night in my opinion!

Not to be outdone by his brother, Luke is on strike too. He has not napped in over a week.  The strange thing is, although we moved him to a toddler bed, he has yet to get out on his own.  I don't think he has realized that he can and we're honestly not too keen on showing him. So instead he lays in bed quietly for a while, and then begins to call to me, "Mommeeee! I want to snuggle with you, Mommeee! I want to snuggle on the couch with you, Mommy!"  

Sigh. What's a girl to do? As I turn off his monitor in effort to resist him, I can feel my heart turning to stone....

Here are two handsome guys snuggling after yet another failed nap this afternoon.  Luke insists on snuggling with his blankie AND his latest favorite toy, in this case, one of his "pumpkins". 

Dear sleep, please return to our house soon!

*UPDATE: 10/27* Sleep strike is over! Judah is doing great. We are down to one night time feeding and no extraneous crying! Luke has also started napping again. And this morning he got out of bed on his own for the first time. I guess it was inevitable that he would learn eventually.  Overall we have one happy and rested family!