Monday, October 28, 2013

Stenberg Family Update

Its been nearly seven months since my last blog entry. 
Such is life . . . 

Here's the skinny on our family:

  • Mark graduates in FOUR months (March 1, 2014) with his Masters of Professional Accountancy from Louisiana Tech University. He has been such an impressive student. He has accepted a job with McGladrey, an accounting firm in Des Moines, IA. (Yes, Iowa.)
  • Callen turned five this summer. He is learning to spell and read. He is really a sponge. It comes in spurts, but when he's on, we encourage the learning! He's attending preschool four days a week here in Ruston. We made the decision to hold off on Kindergarten for him since his birthday is so late in the summer. It will really pay off in a few years, but for now, it will be a bonus because our move in March will not interrupt his schedule too much. He loves friends, playing Wii and games on an iphone and the computer, and Legos. He's adventurous (sometimes too much), ambitious, and funny. He goes by "Max" at church on Wednesday nights, just because he decided that's what he wanted to be called.  
  • Jack turned three in August. He's got a great sense of humor. He loves to play super hero dress up, build with Legos, ride his tricycle outside, and most of time do whatever Callen is doing. He overcame a fear of Champ (the Tech mascot) this fall, even initiating a hug and high five on his own. He plays really well on his own too. But when things get quiet with him for a while, I know I need to make a check! He can be a bit mischievous. 
  • Bennett is NINE months today. He's a joy. He laughs and smiles ALL THE TIME. He loves his brothers and makes a point to be wherever they are. He army crawls all over the place and gets around quick. He also pulls up on EVERYTHING. He still doesn't have any teeth. I think he may walk before he even gets teeth! His hair is slow to come in, but it is definitely red. His eyes are still changing. But they are certainly NOT going to be blue. 
  • I am busy keeping up with these four boys! My world really doesn't expand much beyond home these days. I have enjoyed a marriage class with Mark this quarter, a Bible study with some college girls, and attending MOPS. I also (just last night) started a Couch to 5K training. I nearly died. But it is a goal of mine to run an entire 5K. And I need to get in better shape to keep up with my kids. 
It has been so much fun living in Ruston this past year and few months. I've loved reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. It is good for my soul to know how loved we are here. And it is really fun to hear my kids picking up a bit of a southern drawl. They have transitioned well. And I hope that is a good picture of how they will do in March when we move . . . again. We are excited about Mark's job. We are so happy to have an answer to the question "What will you do after graduation?" Our Iowa friends and family have been so encouraging about our return. We have folks on the lookout for places to live and "interim" jobs for us. (Mark's position at McGladrey doesn't begin until Oct 2014.) 

We have been stretched in our marriage, in our personal relationships with Christ, in our parenting, and in just about every other area. God is faithful and has given us such blessing. 

We hope to make the most of our last four months in Louisiana. And we are looking forward to the next phase of life in Iowa too. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Blogging Drought

Hey friends! Its been quite a while (almost six months!) since I blogged.

Mark is in his third quarter at Louisiana Tech and he's doing great. He is a 4.0 student so far!

Callen and Jack are adjusting to life with a new baby brother. I'll try to post pics of Bennett Shepherd soon.

But the whole reason I'm even on the blog again . . .to post some recipes.  This week I finally had the opportunity to try making some freezer meals. And I made SIX meals in one hour. It really was easy. We've tried two of them so far and they are very yummy.

So, here you go friends . . . happy cooking!
These are the ones I did this week.

Cilantro Lime Chicken:
6-8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 4 tbsp olive oil, 2 limes juiced, 2 cups fresh or 4 tsps dry cilantro, 4 cloves minced garlic, onion powder, 2 cans black beans drained and rinsed, 2 tsp cumin, salt and pepper
Put 3-4 chicken breasts into labeled ziplocs, add remaining ingredients, mix by shaking, label and freeze flat.
Cook in a crock pot on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.
Serve on tortillas. Garnish with your favorite sides - sour cream, lettuce, salsa, cheese.

Hawaiian Chicken:
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup vinegar, 3 garlic cloves minced, 2 tbs soy sauce, 1/2 cup of pineapple juice (from can), 1/2 can large pineapple chunks
Label your freezer bag, including cooking instructions.
Add all ingredients to a freezer bag.
Lay flat and freeze.
To cook: dump all ingredients in crock pot and cook 4-5 hours on high or 6-7 hours on low.
Serve over rice and enjoy.

Garlic Honey Chicken:
1 1/2 to 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 3 garlic cloves, minced, 1/3 cup soy sauce, 2/3 cup ketchup, 1/4 cup honey
Label the freezer bag, including cooking instructions.
Add all ingredients to a freezer bag.
Lay flat and freeze.
To cook: pour ingredients into crock pot and cook 3-4 hours on high or 5-6 hours on low.

Teriyaki Pork Chops:
4 pork chops, salt and pepper to taste, 2 cloves garlic (minced), 2 Tbs brown sugar, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/3 cup chicken broth
Label freezer bag.
Add ingredients to bag.
To cook: dump all ingredients into crock pot and cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 6-7 hours.

Chicken Fajitas:
2 peppers, 1 onion, 1 1/2 pound chicken breast, 1/2 cup chicken broth, taco seasoning packet, 1 tsp. chili powder, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1 tsp salt
Label freezer bag. Put in all ingredients.
Dump all in crock pot and cook on high for 3-4 hours, low for 5-6 hours.
After cooking, shred the meat and add it back to the pepper mixture and serve on warm tortillas with your favorite toppings.

Haven't tried these, but plan to do them next . . .

Sloppy Joes:
3-4 pounds ground meat, 2 tbsp Montreal steak seasoning, 2 tbsp chili powder, 6 tbsp dark brown sugar, 6 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 can tomato paste, 2 (14.5 oz) cans tomato sauce.
Brown meat, drain, let cool a little.
Divide all ingredients into 2 ziplocs, shake to combine ingredients.
Seal, label and freeze flat.
To cook: allow to thaw almost completely. Cook on med-high heat in saucepan or skillet until it starts to boil and allow to simmer for 10 mins.

Beef Burritos:
1 London Broil or top round roast, about 2 lbs
1 diced onion, 4 garlic cloves (minced), 2 tbs whole peppercorns, 2 tbs apple cider vinegar, 2 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce, 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (found in a can, use just ONE pepper), 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
Label freezer bag.
Add all ingredients to bag.
To cook: Pour ingredients into crock pot and cook on high 4-5 hours, low 6-7 hours. When the meat is cooked, strain and save juice. Add juice back to slow cooker. Shred meat and add it back to crock pot. Cook for another 30 minutes.

I have one more for Creamy Beef Enchiladas . . . but the baby just woke up. That's all you get for now.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

One month and six years

We've been in Ruston for a month now. It has been so fun! I've enjoyed catching up with friends and making new ones, eating at favorite places and finding new favorites. Our apartment is becoming home. The boys are settling in to life in Louisiana.

Callen has had his first soccer practice and he loves his coach . . . well, its me! Long story, there weren't enough coaches for the U5 league so parks and rec put the call out to parents. I said, "I can tell you all I know about soccer in ONE sentence, but I'd be willing to help organize, call, etc." Then I got a call from another mom who said "yes" and was told by RPAR that I would help her. She too is new to soccer. First practice I show up with a google doc that I had found just 30 minutes before practice and that I read ON THE WAY to practice entitled "how to coach 3/4 year olds soccer." The other mom and I agreed to just wing it from this print out. I walked over to the parents after practice fully ready for the first words out of my mouth to be "So sorry you got stuck with us" when they all gushed "THANK YOU SO MUCH. THIS WAS THE MOST ORGANIZED PRACTICE WE'VE EVER SEEN. YOU ARE SO GOOD WITH THE KIDS. Y'ALL DID SO GOOD." After I stopped laughing hysterically, I did tell them that I know NOTHING about soccer, but do have experience with children. I told them we'd learn together! So funny.

Callen started school after Labor Day. Here's his first day of school picture.

Jack wanted to go to school too. And he was VERY sad when we had to leave "brubber" at school.

Then it was Mark's turn for this "first day of school" pic.
People keep asking how Mark is adjusting to life in Louisiana. In his own words: "I really like my job and the people I work with. I'm enjoying my classes. I like Ruston and being immersed in a different culture. There's been nothing in this move that has made me second guess the decision. I feel happy and content." It has been fun to watch Mark in this new "world." He's keeping a list on his iphone of Southern words and phrases that are new to him. I giggle sometimes!

This weekend Mark and I celebrated six years of marriage. Saturday was our actual anniversary, but since the Bulldogs were throwing a big party for us in the form of their first home game (HOW 'BOUT THEM DAWGS!), we had date night Friday night. Big thanks to Faith and Jenny Kate Moss for wrangling the fellas. Mark and I went to Cotton, a restaurant in Monroe by chopped champion Cody Bahr. The food was AMAZING. We had a great evening and had sweet conversation recounting our blessings from this past year.
We've been attending The Bridge Community Church in Ruston. It reminds us so much of Cornerstone. That's been a big blessing for us. The boys are enjoying their classes and Mark and I are in search of a small group to join. God has blessed us in this move and just keeps on blessing us.

On Wednesday we have the ultrasound that will reveal our new family title . . . "My Three Sons" or "Three Men and a Little Lady."

Stay tuned . . . we'll let you know. Any guesses?

We're also now taking reservations for guests! COME ON DOWN!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Life in Ruston

The Stenbergs are finding life in Ruston to fit us just dandy so far. Our apartment is shaping up - all the unpacked boxes are now confined to just one room. My mom kept the boys for a few days last week while Mark and I painted and cleaned and unpacked. I really wanted their room to be ready for them when they walked in and it was just perfect. Callen came in and saw all his old toys and such and was just simply stunned. He just kept saying, "How did you do this?"

 My dad came over one day and helped us do some work outside - trimming a bush and killing red ants for us. I think I'm gonna love having him close by!

We've had some fun adventures so far. Mark had his first day of work on Monday. He's loving the housing office atmosphere and the short walk across the parking lot to work. This week he was able to work Monday - Thursday and have Friday off. The plan tomorrow and the rest of the weekend is to get things really settled and just enjoy some family time. This pic is his first day of work. I think Bulldog Blue agrees with him!
We have Callen enrolled in a two day "preschool" program at First Baptist Church. It will be great for him to learn and grow socially, emotionally, intellectually, and spirtually. I'm ready for him to make some new friends too! This week the boys and I have ventured out a few times to local parks. We've hung out with our friend Catie Blunt, went swimming at the Smiths, one afternoon, and got our family pass to the new Lambright Sports Complex on campus today. I'm looking forward to more fun ahead.
We of course miss our friends and family in Iowa. I got a letter today from my good friend Jen that just melted my heart. God sure did some great things in my life while I was in Iowa. I cannot thank Him enough for giving me such incredible blessings there. I still need to write about our time at Clear Lake with friends, more on that to come. But for now, here's a pic of me and my gals on our lake cruise one evening. Sweet, precious friends. I love you gals and know that you are praying for us as we settle in.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Family Update:
Mark is unemployed (at least for a few weeks!)

We have begun our two weeks of family fun, rest, and relaxation.

Mark said yesterday with a smile on his face "I don't have to go to work tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the next day."

Our boys are hanging in there. They enjoy being at the lake and it isn't altogether unfamiliar. We'll just be here much longer than we ever have before. But it will be good. Today we plan to make a chain to count down the days till we leave for "Weeziana" (as Callen calls it!).

And I think we are also going to make a "fun bowl" with ideas of things we can do to pass our days - park, pool, skating (here we come Seydels!), games, walks, campfires, etc. We'll pull out one or two and have some family fun.

Baby Stenberg is growing and still making me nauseous if I don't eat quick enough. Guesses on gender???

Just a quick one today. I've made a few promises to update the blog more and take more Instagrams (follow me there, "missmandybee") as we move away. Working hard to keep that promise!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Coming and Going

I've been meaning to sit down and write this post for quite a while. But as you will read . . . there just hasn't been a quiet moment.

{Fair warning . . . this post is serving as my journal of the past few months. It is LONG. Read only if you are my family or if you want to see some really cool God stuff or if you are simply looking for an easy summer novel! HA HA HA}

So, we are moving to Louisiana. I know. CRAZY.

Here's how we got to that decision and all that God did to show us His goodness in the process . . .
Early October 2011
Mark called me from work one day and said "I am going to look into going to grad school." Now, it wasn't a complete surprise, but just a little sudden. I said, "OK." We had already planned a trip to Louisiana for the fall to visit friends and go to homecoming festivities at Louisiana Tech. So one evening after Mark had begun the process of thinking through what he might study and where he might study I {almost} laughingly said "You know . . .  Louisiana Tech has a good business school ..."

We continued to talk cautiously (for my own heart) about that possibility as we were living the dream in our still newly built dream home. Mark began researching their accounting program along with Iowa State in Ames. He also went ahead and made an appointment with a professor at Tech since we were already going to be in town. I begged him {seriously begged him} to NOT go to the meeting if it wasn't a real possibility that we would go there.

You see, I've been in Iowa NINE years now. I moved here as a single gal and had absolutely no idea what God had in store for me - an "Iweegun" (that's what my dad calls Mark) husband and two little red-headed Iowa boys. I had put any dreams of moving back to the sweet south to rest a while ago. I just didn't think it would ever happen.

But as we continued to pray and Mark met with the professor at Tech, Mark continued to feel more confident about pursuing a Master's in Accounting at Tech and moving our family to Louisiana. He said all along, "I think it would be very honoring to your parents to move the boys closer to them."

Janauary 2012
We finally felt a peace about putting our house on the market (which would have been necessary even if Mark stayed in Ames for school) and really started to investigate a move to Ruston. Mark began an accounting class at DesMoines Area Community College to put the feelers out about school in general. (He set the curve for the class and the other students called him "professor Mark.")

February 9, 2012
I sent a message to Ruston friends (folks affiliated with the university, friends, etc) and it included this little excerpt:
"There are a couple things that need to line up to make this happen.
1) First and foremost, for God to settle in us the decision!
2) Possible waiver of out of state tuition (I'm thinking it is possible as a spouse of an alumni - but not sure)
3) A place to live that is reasonable for us on a limited budget as Mark will attend full time grad school
4) A part time FLEXIBLE job for me so I can still be a mommy first!"

And the responses came pouring in! Almost the same day our house went on the market (and THE NEXT DAY after we had prayed for some very specific things) I got a response from Elaine Caston regarding the out of state tuition waiver. After talking to a sweet lady in an office at Tech and faxing (because email attachments just didn't seem to work for her!) a letter asking for Mark to be considered a Louisiana resident based on "number 5 - married to a resident of Louisiana" - Mark was declared a "resident" of Louisiana within hours! CRAZY. No out of state tuition - check.

April 19, 2012
A conversation began between us and the director of housing at Louisiana Tech about a graduate assistant position for Mark. Melanie and I worked in housing together back in the early 1990s. CRAZY. She basically offered a job to me for Mark over the phone before he was even officially accepted as a student. The job just "happened" to include a 3 bedroom, 2 bath (nearly 2000 sq. feet) apartment RENT AND UTILITY FREE as a part of the stipend. CRAZY. Affordable housing - check. Oh, and go ahead and cross off "part time job" for Mandy too - because with FREE housing, I am clear to do my mommy job ONLY.

We were simply stunned by God's goodness and faithfulness to us while we walked this path.

All the while, our house was being shown, but no offers were coming in for purchase. We kept trusting and believing that God would sell our house in His time. We knew He would not bring us this far just to let that be what stopped us.

And indeed, true to His goodness, He sold our home. We closed June 15.

Here's a couple fun little extras:
1) I called to see about getting Callen in to our pediatrician for his 4 year check up. You know, sometimes if you wait too long, they are booking WAY out. I had an appointment already for Jack for August 13 at 9a. Would you believe that there was an opening for a check up with our doc at 8:45a that same morning? Seriously. CRAZY.
2)  I haven't mentioned yet that the last few days in our home were ... yep, CRAZY.  The week before we were to move out, I experienced pain like I've never known in the form of cluster headaches. Saturday-Thursday mornings when I needed to be packing, I was completely debilitated by a headache that started somewhere around 8:45a and ended around noon. And I was an emotional wreck about leaving this house where my boys had spent all their early days. I would NOT have finished packing were it not for the selfless service of friends (Courtney, Sarah, Mindy, Hanna). On Friday, before moving Saturday, the headaches just stopped. We loaded our trailers (one driven by my sweet cousing Bret and his wife Alidya all the way from Arkansas to move me "home!") on Saturday with the help of more incredible friends (Tom, Jordan, Jack, Carl, Bret, Alidya, Timothy, Justin, and the one and only Vicki Squib!) and I left that afternoon to spend a few days with my sister and bro in law and new nephew Cade Marek. Yep, in the midst of all that, I went to Texas. CRAZY. but worth it.
3) We had our carpets cleaned on closing day. The guy doing the work (husband of a friend from church) was there when the new family came to do their walk through. He called me when he was done with the carpet and said, "Mandy, I just want you to know, this family is so excited about their new home. They love it. They walked in with their two girls and the girls were dancing and running and giggling all over the place. They are thrilled and full of joy. It is such a good thing." And yep, I was crying my eyes out on the other end.

So, its June. And most folks are VERY confused about where we are and what we are doing. That's why I called this "coming and going." Cause I feel like I am meeting myself on the road these days.

Here's our past week:
June 16
We headed to Huxley for Callen to play his final BamBam Baseball game. But before we got out of town, Mark saw smoke from the trailer. (Let me interject here that I was already a nervous wreck about driving this trailer all the way to Louisiana.) So we turned around and headed to Entire in Ames, where we discovered the new tires that had been put on at another store were the wrong size. And so began an hour 1/2 wait to get new tires so all of our stuff wouldn't go up in flames.
We got the tires (missed the BamBam game) and got on the road, finally arriving at my mom's house in central Arkansas on Sunday for a few days of R and R. My boys were so happy to see their MiMi and Poppa. My mom is a wonderful hostess.
June 20
We turned south and went to Ruston. Pretty easy drive from my mom's house really. We saw our new home . . . and it is a blessing! Both Mark and I set our expectations low - just knowing the dorm is OLD and there was a chance the apartment was well old too. But we were VERY pleased. Callen said in the car before we arrived, "Mom, when we get to our new place, I"m going to say, "home sweet home." and Then I'm going to say, "Thanks God for our new home." What a sweet reminder!
June 21
We moved half our earthly junk into our apartment in Harper Dorm smack in the middle of  Louisiana Tech campus. Thanks to friends who gave up an evening we got it done in an hour.

{Another quick side note: when Mark pulled out one of our mattresses, we realized just how much God had our trip in His hands . . .
a burn hole where the mattress was resting against the wheel well. Oh MY. PRAISE God for new tires!)

We stayed with Kelly and Billy Smith in Ruston and were given the royal treatment by that queen of hospitality. My boys think she hung the moon.

June 22 and 23
Mark met with his professor and laid out his grad school plan. He could be done after Fall Quarter 2013! Friday night we took Callen to the Peach Fest rodeo. SUCH fun! Saturday we enjoyed the Peach Fest parade. IT WAS HOT. But the boys loved it. Then we met cousin Bret and family at the apartment to unload the second half of all our earthly possessions. And we unloaded his horse trailer in a record 30 minutes! After naps, we got to spend the afternoon/evening with my old gal pals and all our kids. Just a taste of God's goodness - these ladies still love me!
June 24
We hook back up to our now empty trailer for the long journey back to Iowa.

Yes, this is where confusion usually sets in . . .
Mark didn't want to leave his family business high and dry for the summer. And he can't start his job till August 20 anyway. So we needed him to work through July. We are now at our home sweet {temporary} home with his mom and dad in Ames. We'll stay here through the last Friday of July. Then we plan to head up to Clear Lake for some SERIOUS down time for our little family before school and work starts for Mark. Our plan is to be in Ruston no later than August 15.

Tuesday, June 26
And finally . . . .
Today we are able to say with confidence after hearing a strong heartbeat . . .
We'll be taking along a little hitchhiker on the move.
Yep, baby number 3 due early February.

Monday, June 04, 2012

On the move . . .

I'll post our moving story soon (how we got to this decision, all the things that led up to it, etc) . . . but I wanted anyone who might care to know that I WILL be updating this blog more frequently. But for now, know that this family will miss Iowa and all that goes with it - friends, family, food, fun. More to come soon.