Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mile Marker: 22 Weeks & Counting!

Today marks Week 22 for me! With only 18 weeks remaining until my expected due date (roughly 4 1/2 months), I'm more than halfway through pregnancy. Praise God for this marvelous event taking place before my eyes! My belly is growing fast, which is a tangible representation of the baby forming even quicker inside of me. Our baby girl is now roughly the size of a spaghetti squash, weighs about one pound and is 8 inches long, according to my go-to baby book, What to Expect When You're Expecting. 

Here, Ken holds a spaghetti squash we got from the grocer recently. We both agree that baby girl is most likely not this big...

She is developing her sense of touch in utero, along with her ability to distinguish between light and dark. Baby girl can also hear my voice now, along with my heartbeat, my constant stomach growls, and the sound of blood swooshing through my body. Crazy, right? I'm amazed and astounded at the incredible beauty of new life as it grows and develops in my belly. She is a live being - a picture of a Creative Force at work in me and the world around me. 

Honestly, I'm blown away by this whole process.

My body is going through many changes right now. Besides the typical increase in swelling and inflammation in my body from pregnancy, my feet seem to be 1/4 inch bigger! All my cute heels, pumps and wedges that were a 'perfect fit' a few months ago, now feel a bit snug. While I ditched my favorite form-fitting, bodycon work dresses weeks back - which seemed normal - I can't get over the need to start wearing bigger shoes. But, for baby girl, I'll do it! I'm becoming more relaxed with myself when it comes to changing shapes and sizes, and I want to continue to embrace this new season in all of its intricacies.

I've also received quite a few remarks about the new ring I'm sporting on my wedding finger! Coworkers, along with random people I meet while out running errands, stop to ask me about my cushion-cut aquamarine 'bling'. Thankfully, I have this white gold stand-in that Ken gave me for our anniversary to take the place of my preferred yellow gold diamond wedding band, while my fingers are larger than ever from swelling. Although I like this new ring a lot, I feel so weird without the ring I've worn for these past four and a half years. I look forward to switching back to my primary ring after baby arrives.

These days, my focus is shifting from "What can I wear?" to "What will baby girl wear?" As a special present to myself, I decided that once we found out the baby's gender, I'd buy a few little outfits for her/him. Which, I should add, was ridiculously fun. My mother-in-law and a couple coworkers blessed me with a few baby outfits, and then I picked out a couple sale items at my favorite stores in town. I'd love to share those with you! I'm finding that I really like soft fabrics, sweet details (like ruffles), and standout prints - case in point: the baby pink whales, flowers, foxes, and popsicles you'll see below.

What do you think?

God continues to reveal His grace for me, as I learn and grow in this season. I'm so excited for the unique blessing of becoming a mom, and pray that these next 4 1/2 months will continue to go smoothly, as I practice love for myself and care for this baby developing in my body.

Thanks for sharing in this journey with me, and Ken, and baby girl.

~ m

Saturday, November 15, 2014

My Baby Girl

I am my worst critic.

As I ponder those words, I can't help but notice my shoddy nails - overgrown cuticles, picked-at fingers, short nails exposing an underlying anxiety. The "click-click-click" of my typing momentarily moves my focus from my fingers to the dry skin patches on my hands, and then onto the tiny, interspersed nicks I've gained from paper cuts and playing rough with our dog and her giant chew toys.

My eyes glance at the growing protrusion that is now my belly.

I've never been this big in my life, I think to myself, as I consider whether to reach for a cookie or the giant plastic water mug in front of me. In addition to being larger than I can often emotionally grasp, I now have an increased appetite and bouts of weepiness. Out of a desire to placate my low emotional reserves, and keep from crying, I decide yes to eat that cookie.

As a child, my favorite character on the PBS series "Sesame Street" was the Cookie Monster. His blue, longhaired fur made him seem like a gigantic stuffed animal. I wanted to hug him, repeatedly. And climb on him. And eat his cookies. Or rather, eat cookies side-by-side with him. I also wanted to teach him how to eat a cookie properly - specifically, in a way where the cookie pieces actually broke apart in his mouth, rather than flying all over the room in mashed-up chunks. (Eventually, I realized that the Cookie Monster was in fact a puppet and therefore, unable to actually eat the cookies. That's why they flew everywhere.) I could relate to the Cookie Monster - a bigger, furrier creature who loved food.

Growing up in a more challenging family situation, food was a comfort and security blanket for me. Likewise, biting my nails gave me a way to tangibly portray my stress triggers. When my parents struggled with finances, and fought, I carried the burden by overeating and biting my nails. It was how I processed through my fears, or managed to live with them, I suppose. Years later, around the time I graduated from college, I started learning how to make healthier eating decisions and to stop using food as a coping mechanism for pain. That was the beginning of a long journey for me - one which included Weight Watchers, counseling sessions, dedicated exercising, and prayer. Around age 22, I lost nearly 12lbs and that was a huge victory for me. It look patience, resolve, daily exercise, and eating lots of vegetables and fruits in place of bread. I kept the weight off for almost six years. Then, in the summer of 2013, Ken and I spent a month traveling throughout Europe - wining and dining on local fare, daily gelato (and desserts!), and gourmet, five-course dinners. It was food heaven. I gained five pounds that summer and when we moved to Alaska following that trip, I couldn't seem to lose the weight.

It continued to get harder, as my increasing weight paralleled my increasing depression over moving to such a cold climate. My first year in Alaska was extremely difficult, and not at all like I had imagined it. Marked by the loss of Ken's grandma Alice, then the months it took for Ken to secure a job, along with missing my dear friends and community in Seattle - Alaska felt like anything but "home." A couple months after we got here, we almost resolved to leave.

In faith, though, we chose to stay and while I can't say that decision made it any easier to live here - that commitment, has over time, started to root in me. My weight began to steadily decrease in the months that followed, around the spring of last year. I also got back into running and met some amazing goals I had set for myself. An 11-mile run now seems like a manageable hurdle with discipline and faith.

Suddenly, I feel the smallest semblance of the baby kick within me. I'm instantly tuned in to the incredible event unfolding before me and I realize, once again, that I'm pregnant. In my excitement, I pick at my nails and half-giggle at the thought of being caretaker to a growing human. My body, in all its imperfections, is once again made 'perfect' and 'beautiful' and 'lovely.' It houses a baby. How incredible is that? I smile and think to myself.

In reflecting upon my struggles with my body and the vast changes it's been through all these years, I'm awestruck by this new season I am embarking upon: parenting. I wonder what my baby girl will be like and how I can embody to her what true beauty looks like. With so many failings of my own, how can I be an example of a godly woman - whose heart is set apart and not fixed on trivial things?

The culture and society I find myself enmeshed in values physical beauty, luxe fashion, charm and extroversion, power, and financial gain - many times at the expense of quiet mindfulness, contentment, generosity, inner beauty, and stewardship of resources. Honestly, as I find myself skimming Facebook status updates, Instagram feeds, and news headlines, I notice a marked difference in my level of satisfaction. I become envious of others. Jealous, resentful, discontent. The longer I browse these social media platforms, I lose sight of my worth. Somehow, multiple page and photo "Likes" equals popularity, and a false sense of superiority. At what point is it unhealthy and how can I continue to move in a direction of true relationship, where I place a higher value on meeting people at a heart level, rather than a page "Like"? These are the questions I ask regularly, in seeking to live intentionally. Rather than allowing a shadow of reality consume me.

And herein lies a unique opportunity for me to live differently. Set apart. For my daughter, and for myself. I want to introduce my baby girl to all the things that I hold dear to my heart, like my love for writing handwritten notes and cards. Postage stamps and penmanship and walking to an actual mailbox rather than just writing text messages.

I want my baby girl to understand how meaningful it is to give generously - not just when it's easy or convenient, but when it's hard, too. Likewise, I want to teach her discernment and setting healthy boundaries, so that she can bless others out of a place of strength, as opposed to being motivated by guilt or a sense of obligation.

My desires for my daughter include encouraging her to build her strengths as well as weaknesses, and giving her freedom to fail or struggle, knowing that her true sense of worth will never be wrapped up in her career choices. She is not just a pretty face. She is intelligent, capable, competent, and strong. True feminism is modeled by respect and love for others. I want her to know that.

I also hope to impart upon my baby girl the unique gift of listening to others, and carrying on a conversation. Without a cell phone blinking in the background (or foreground) and constant interruptions from text messages. I think about the friends and family I know who still value quality time, and honor the sacredness of uninterrupted fellowship. They inspire me. My Mom would never rush to take a phone call when we were spending time together (granted, cell phones have become a much bigger deal in the last decade.)

On that same note, Ken makes it a point to engage in quality conversation or quiet time together, during meals and dates. He helps keep me focused on the importance of living in each moment, rather than constant photo uploads to Facebook, alerting everyone to what we are up to. We don't really "check-in" at places online, we check-in with each other and how our days have been and where we are at emotionally. What a gift.

As I write this, I'm reminded of a conversation Ken and I had a couple years ago. In talking about having children someday, I asked him, How can we teach our children to live differently? How can we help them to be healthy - emotionally and physically? Ken's response surprised me, as it was marked by a sense of personal responsibility that I had never considered.

"I think that whatever we want our kids to learn, we need to model ourselves, in the way we live," he shared.

That makes a lot of sense.

I want to model to our baby girl all these things I've shared, and continue to seek God's grace when I can't do it on my own. In reality, I'm so flawed and imperfect and yet in Christ, I am made complete. Praise God. 

In faith, I will be a great mom to my daughter. 

I look forward to meeting you, baby girl. 
I already love you more than I could ever imagine. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies

With the gift-giving season upon us (along with Christmas parties, cookie exchanges, and looser clothing choices), I wanted to take a moment and share my all-time favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe with you. Occasionally, I make giant batches of these cookies to share with neighbors, coworkers, and church groups. As a child, I loved baking this recipe and bringing in about 30 twist-tied packages with red ribbon finishes to my friends at school. I carried on this tradition throughout my teenage years and now make small little tags and stickers attached to the cookie bags, when I think of it. I hope you enjoy this recipe!

Note: Please keep in mind that if your kitchen gets warm quickly - as mine does - make it a point to refrigerate the dough between batches. That way, the cookies keep their shape better. Also, feel free to double or triple this batch if you have friends who like cookies. 

Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Adapted from Nestle Toll House Cookie recipe

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels 
1 cup Milk Chocolate Morsels 

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Here are some photos of the process:

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Oh Baby! Gender Reveal Time!

It's official, folks...

Ken and I are celebrating this special news and rejoicing over our healthy 20-week-old daughter. Baby Crewdson is now just over 11 ounces and the length of a medium banana. Her fingers and toes are formed and so cute! We got to watch her dancing in utero a couple days ago. I love her so much.

At Ken's 30th birthday party on Friday night, we revealed the baby's gender to family and friends with a 'gender reveal cake.' Being of the mindset that I wanted to bake an extra-special homemade chocolate cake for Ken, I spent nearly four hours in the kitchen baking two separate cakes - first a pink strawberry cake that I used as my base for cutting out little pink hearts, which I then placed into a double-chocolate cake batter prior to baking. I topped the six-inch tall layer cake with a chocolate-ganache-meets-buttercream frosting crafted from scratch and "Ta-da!" it was ready to be devoured. My only hope in making this rather difficult cake was that I wouldn't need to upload a photo online with the hashtag, #PinterestFail. Needless to say, it tasted incredible and there were some traces of pink hearts in the final product. In the future, I think I'll approach all swoon-worthy Pinterest photos that consider themselves 'super easy to recreate' with much more suspicion.

Here are some photos of our Gender Reveal Cake surprise. Enjoy!


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Surprise Visit from Brothers!

Last weekend, we hosted some unexpected guests (well, unexpected for Ken that is)! His brothers Aaron and Chris flew out to Anchorage from across the country and surprised my husband for his 30th birthday. Ken had no idea his older brothers would be stopping by and the look on his face when Aaron walked up to him late Friday night was priceless. I had taken Ken to the airport for a late-night frozen yogurt run on Halloween and thankfully, our favorite yogurt joint is only located there at the airport (so it made sense). After eating our ice-cream-like treats, Aaron and I stalled while we waited for Chris to arrive. Unfortunately, his flight was delayed by an hour. Just as Ken was starting to wonder why were still at the airport (when we could instead finish our conversation in the car on the way home), Chris walked up. Perfect timing. Together, we spent the weekend connecting with family over shared meals, cooking together, playing board games, watching movies, and hanging out by the fireplace, with several cups of coffee, cookies, and pieces of chocolate consumed over their four-night stay.

The adventures that stand out most to me during their stay were:
1. Going to Chuck E. Cheese's and playing skee-ball for at least an hour on Saturday night, along with other video and tactile games. (Those 10- to 15-year-olds who took up the bulk of the play center couldn't compete with our A-game.)
2. Sliding along and playing near the edge of the the mostly-frozen lake near our house, watching the guys throw boulders and trees at the ice, trying to break through it. (Yes, we were cautious and didn't do anything dangerous.)
3. Dinner with Ken's parents, G'ma, and extended family at a delicious Thai restaurant (thanks again to Aaron for sharing his panang curry - yours was the best dish out of everyone's.)
4. Home-cooked Indian Dinner made by the guys on Monday night. I love garlic naan!
5. The blessing of having close family in-town. It was great hanging out and playing with the laser-point thermometer Chris bought for Ken, watching the guys roast coffee together, and beating them all at the board game Blokus! (Ok, I actually tied with Chris for the win, so we both won...)

On Saturday afternoon, Ken's parents and brothers blessed us by going grocery shopping and stocking our nearly empty fridge with fruits, vegetables, meats, snacks, and the best cheddar cheese. Thank you so much for your generosity! I felt extremely encouraged by this loving gesture, and continue to enjoy the things you picked out for us. I don't think we've ever had such a full fridge before. What a blessing.

Here are a few photos of our time with Ken's brothers, mostly taken at the frozen lake near our house. We already look forward to the next family reunion!

P.S. We were approached by multiple dogs at the park. They seemed to gravitate toward us anytime we were taking photos. Haha.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

K + M + Baby

We're having a baby!!!

Wow. What an adventure these past few months have been. To update readers, Ken and I announced a few weeks ago that we're having a baby! Baby Crewdson is growing quickly and my current due date is right around Easter 2015. 

Today, I officially hit 18 weeks in my second trimester of pregnancy. That means I'm completely over the hump of morning-noon-night sickness (cue applause) and enjoying an increase in energy, which means less midday naps and more motivation to hit the gym. Ken and I, along with Penny (our border collie mix), are excited to welcome the baby home in just a few short months. At my doctor's visit yesterday, the nurse practitioner said that the baby's heartbeat is 150 beats per minute and going strong. 

Our baby is about the size of a bell pepper and 5 1/2 inches long. Ken and I are tracking its growth on our DIY chalkboard, which Ken made for me using a thrift store picture frame, which cost roughly $3-4 and chalkboard spray paint we found at JoAnn's Fabric Store for $4. Originally, I planned to purchase a chalkboard this size from Amazon or Etsy but all the ones I liked were around $50. "Necessity is the mother of invention," as the adage goes, and I'm thankful for my husband's skill at building and creating things I sure enjoy. 

Along with the excitement of our baby news, Ken and I get to celebrate Penny's 1st birthday in a couple weeks, which falls right before Ken's 30th birthday. Nov. 3rd marks 6 months of owning our loving pup, who came to live with us in May. She's quite the rascal and honestly loves food more than affection, I'm pretty sure. One of my favorite things I've noticed about Penny is how much she loves swimming! And fetching large sticks, which are in actuality trees. For Penny, the bigger the "toy" - stick, stuffed animal, or bouncy ball, the better. This summer was the perfect example of how energetic and lively she can be, particularly when friends came to visit us. In owning Penny, we've tried all different forms of obedience training and are still teaching her that jumping up at people or running after small children is not allowed. Her adolescent stage, while completely normal given her background (she's a rescue dog), is a good opportunity for us to practice setting healthy boundaries and in turn, either rewarding or correcting her behavior. It's our goal to get Penny ready for the addition of baby come Spring.

She is a good dog, and a great companion in-training.

As I reflect on the last few months, I'm blown away by how God has met me (and Ken) in our decision to step out in faith and move to Alaska. I have a feeling that no matter where we live in the coming years (Alaska, California or Hawaii), God will meet us as we live faithfully and pursue His Kingdom above all else. And while we are here, I'm blessed by God's constant hand upon us. I want to continue to set down roots here, building community and living purposefully. We are so blessed to now be starting a family after four years of marriage.

I turned 29 years old a couple weeks ago. I still remember how I met Ken on the small island of Maui at the age of 22, just a few days before my 23rd birthday. That seems like forever ago now. And yet I'm thankful that we waited to have kids and got to know each other, ourselves, and experience a fuller picture of God's plan for our marriage. Call me selfish, but I don't think I knew myself well enough a few years ago to have brought a child into this world. Praise God for the unique journey He's had me on and how in coming to this place, wrought with many challenges and triumphs, I feel better prepared to be a mom. I want to be a great mom, and that's my prayer. 

Thank you for joining me in this new journey of parenthood. 

Now, off to get a snack. I seem to be much hungrier these days... ;)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Flying High on the 4th of July! {Photos of Denali National Park}

12,000 feet above sea level. 

That's how high up Ken and I, along with our friends the Halsne family, got on my first-ever flight seeing tour above Denali National Park yesterday. We celebrated the 4th of July with some of the most epic views of my life. Denali, also referred to as Mt. McKinley, has a peak measuring roughly 20, 237 ft tall. It boasts the highest mountain peak in North America and is the third tallest in the world. In the native tongue, Denali means "The High One." 

Our Seattle friends blessed us immensely with this opportunity to do something Ken and I have thought about for a while. (Thank you so much, Dan and Yoonjung!) 

Despite my sweaty palms and shaky nerves, I climbed onto the 7-seater bush plane and waved goodbye
to the tiny town of Talkeenta, as we took off on the runway around 4 p.m. The 90-minute flight was one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences for me, and I'm so thankful that Ken and I got to share it with close friends.

Here are some of my favorite snapshots of the Alaska Range, which includes glacial rivers, icefalls, glaciers, Mt. McKinley, Moose's Tooth, Bear's Tooth, and many other peaks. God's handiwork is amazing. 

*Click on each photo to enlarge.

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, 
their words to the ends of the world." 
Psalm 19:1-4

Denali National Park, Alaska