Friday, June 29, 2012

Variety is the spice of life.

When I was a teenager, I had my tail in the road all the time.  Dad told me I was trying to drive the wheels off my car.  When I got a little older, a little more settled into being an adult I still wanted to be a goer and a doer.
Once we had kids I was all the sudden pretty content to stay home. A LOT.

Christian came home with us in January and I distinctly remember having a breakdown on Cinco de Mayo of that same year.  For at least seven or eight years prior to that, we had done some serious partying on that particular holiday.  I didn't want to stop that tradition just because I was a parent.  So, we packed it up and met the family at our Mexican restaurant of choice at the time.  Christian had just turned two, and as you can imagine he was not happy to be stuck in a high chair unless there was actually food in front of him.  It was crazy busy.  There was a long wait even after we got a table.  I'm glad I don't know what my blood pressure was at the time...  I remember that when we left there we had to stop at the store on the way home.  I stayed in the truck with Christian while Chris ran in for whatever it was that we needed.  By the time he came back out to take us home I was bawling.  I just couldn't imagine what I was going to do with myself- not to mention that I was pregnant which meant there was going to be another one!  I had wanted so badly to be a parent and now it was becoming crystal clear to me that I had no idea how to do it "right!" The thought of trying to take those two small children anywhere was so incredibly overwhelming!
I'm not the kind of person who is okay with children running amuck in a public place.  I had no intention then (nor do I now) of letting kids run around, crawl in the floor, or just eat the entire time we are in a restaurant.  We were not allowed to do that kind of stuff when Andrea and I were kids and I really do not enjoy being around when other families appear to be having a three-ring circus while I'm trying to have a drink or eat my dinner.  I also don't intend to take a giant bag of things to try to fill the time for them while we wait.  That's entirely too stressful.  It's just not me.
I want them to be well-balanced little people.  Little people that others enjoy being around.

Holy wow...what a tangent.

I started all that to say that I do enjoy being on the go, being with other people.  I also really enjoy being at home (in my pajamas if I feel so inclined) and having no place that I absolutely have to go.
I need some of both.
Variety is good.  Balance is better.

Having both kids at home with me all the time this summer has made for an interesting shift in my planning.
I want to be with them.  I want to do fun things!  I want to discover joy and share it with them in going and doing, but also in just being home.  We have been to the zoo, several parks, Woody's, and the pool.  We've washed the van, played in the hose, and been berry picking.
But we've also stayed home.  By that I mean that I've said to them, "go play; you your room?  where your toys are?"
They aren't loners by nature.  They aren't the kind of kids who just play quietly in their rooms for hours at a time.  Honestly, I don't want them to be.  I want them to enjoy spending time with me, with family, with friends.  All that said, I don't want them to think that someone has to entertain them every waking moment of the day.  Although, they'd love that.  

There's no one answer for parenting.  We are trying different roads all the time.  The lovely thing is that if the road we're on isn't taking us where we want to go, we can turn around and go back or just find a brand new road altogether.  I'm pretty thankful for that.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

travel planning

Self-awareness is key. 
Know your strength and weaknesses.
I am great with organization and planning.  
I am a terrible long distance car traveler.  Terrible.  Particularly when there are children added to the mix.
Thankfully Chris is not a part of the let's-make-good-time club.  He is way more into having a happy wife when we get where we're going.  It has made for great travels together!  I'm really only like to stay in the car for about two hours at a time.  It's not awesome.  I'm pretty sure I'm fun to vacation with, but not so much en route to where we're going.  
I digress.
Since I am looking forward to our actual beach vacation but dreading the car ride, I decided to put together some activities, games, and the like for us as we are on the road.  

Chris and I did some hunting for fun car things that will work for our little family.  So far we raided the Wal-Mart $5 movie bin and got a few new ones to add to our collection.  I bought a couple of cookie sheets (which I also picked up at Wal-Mart for a whopping 92¢ each) to use with our magnetic letters.  Andrea suggested getting puzzles and making them magnets, which i thought was awesome!  I picked up a roll of magnetic tape at Hobby Lobby and only have the one puzzle so far but am planning to pick up a couple more.  This website is where we got the other two ideas.  The ideas are essentially the same for the pipe cleaners and the aluminum foil.  Give them to the kids (separately of course, since we want to make this seem like two totally different activities) so they can make things with them: pipe cleaner creatures and aluminum foil art.
Oh, and I saw this idea for a roadtrip scavenger hunt  that I'm planning to tweak to work for us too!  I especially like the part where you get to stop somewhere and get out of the car when you reach your point goal!
I dig on all of these ideas since they will not make a giant mess in the van.  I'm not planning to tell the kids that I'm bringing anything other than our regular bag of toys that stays in the van.  Otherwise they will plague me with questions about when they get to do the activities!
Here's hoping that my strength in organization and planning will help with my weakness of attitude on a road trip! 
Got any other fun travel games you'd like to share?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

bubbles and some other stuff

I love it when the kids hold my hand.  I know that there's this small window of time before that becomes totally uncool.  When they won't need or want that help or comfort.  I'm drinking in the fact that none of them know that quite yet...

I thought Fletcher and Audrey might just swing the whole time we were at the park!  
Chris took a break from pushing them for a while and I took over.  
Apparently I'm just not as good...Fletch let it be known pretty quickly that he wanted Chris to push. :)

There is such a fascination with bubbles at our house.  We have bubble containers of all shapes and sizes and refill bubbles to boot.  I'm contemplating getting some colored bubbles.  Oh the fun we'll have with those!

I just want to squish those cheeks sometimes. 

He's been a tough one this week.  It hasn't been all rainbows and sunshine for this week's worth of summer break.  
I'm thankful he ours and that we're the ones given the opportunity to teach him how to make good choices, but holy wow has that been a tall order the last few days.

Oh, this girl and her injuries.  
And not fake ones, mind you.  
To say that she's clumsy doesn't quite paint the picture as clearly as you might think.
Thankfully she's pretty tough!

Looking forward to good things this week!

Friday, June 22, 2012

summer nights

Last night was the kind of night that summers should be made of.  Ones where family or friends get together and baths and bedtime are pushed a little later than usual.  Ones where you get to feel just a little mushy because you know enough to be thankful for the bits and pieces of amazing that make up your life.
Yesterday was Dad's birthday, so Andrea, Dusty, and the kids came over for dessert, followed by some outside time for all of  us.  I love it when we're able to spend time together like that.
No big plans.  No rushing around.
Just really enjoying those moments.
And I know at least one person who'll be relieved to know that I relaxed enough that I even went to bed with a sink full of dishes.
Once everyone had gone home, Christian came giggling into the house to tell me that he and Daddy had caught some fireflies (which I will always call lightening bugs).  He was so excited, and I couldn't help but smile as I remembered doing the same thing when I was a kid. 
We stood around and watched the mason jar of summer lights for a few minutes.  Christian decided that maybe he wanted to do this every night.  Once the boys walked away to get cleaned up and ready for bed, Audrey told me that she liked those bugs and wanted them out of that jar.
It was a sweet night all around.   
In those moments between collapsing in bed and dozing off for the night,  I couldn't help but be in awe of what I've been given.

I know...not very domestic with my store-bought cake.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Father's Day

 Inspired by Kelle over at Enjoying The Small Things, I took the kids to a dollar store so they could shop for Chris for Father's Day.  I absolutely loved this idea!  They got to roam the aisles and pick something all by themselves!  I only encouraged them to "pick something you think Daddy will like."  
They were a hoot!
We left there with a card, a duster for your car dash, a bungee cord, and a pair of shoes.  They were so proud of themselves!  As soon as we cleared the door, Christian wanted to know if they could wrap the gifts too.  Why not?!  Letting them take ownership of this whole process made for such a fun experience!  Not only were they totally psyched that they got to shop, wrap, and write on the card, but those little people couldn't wait to give Chris those gifts!  

It was worth so much more than the ten bucks we spent to see their little faces light up at each stage of the fun!  

When it was time to write in the card, I asked them individually what Daddy did that made them happy.  

Holidays are what we make them.  
We had a great day!  Church yesterday morning, lunch and naps.  
This week I skipped a Sunday afternoon nap and made two batches of Kelli's Jellies instead! :)  Then last night my sister and her family came over and we spent the evening with Dad.  Great fellowship with family, and a great celebration of dads.  
Not only do I love this holiday because my dad has set such an amazing example of what being a great dad means, but also because I am thankful for the dad that Chris is to our kids.  He is teaching them, showing them what it looks like to love Jesus, to be kind, to have a great work many things that I can already see showing in their little personalities.  
I married him because he loves the Lord and he loves me.  
The fact that he is amazing at loving our babies is an incredible little bonus.

I am one thankful gal.

Friday, June 15, 2012

ok, now what?

So we have all these home grown vegetables.  Now what do we do with them? 

Unless you like to have a side of steamed squash with every meal, if you grow food you probably want to find a variety of delicious things to do with those beautiful vegetables.

This fritter recipe came from my sister, but I'm not sure where she got it.  It's a good one (if you're into an easy ingredient list and fried food)!

Vegetable Fritters
1 large carrot
1 medium zucchini
1 medium squash
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black paper
1/2 cup vegetable oil

I've done this with carrot, squash, and zucchini or just with three squash.  Whatever you have, really.
Oh, and last time we used cheddar because we didn't have any Parmesan on hand and we liked it even better...but we are some cheddar-eating fools around here.

Shred the veggies and pat them dry with a paper towel.  In a medium bowl, mix the shredded veggies with flour, parm, salt, pepper, and egg.
In a 10-inch skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Gently drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the heated oil.  As they cook, flatten slightly with a spatula.  Cook about 5 minutes (turning once) until golden brown.  Transfer to lined platter to drain.


Since this is a Paula Deen recipe, you know good and well it's gonna be totally awesome.
I like squash and zucchini just fine, but I really love cheese.  This has both!
Squash Casserole

  • 6 cups large diced yellow squash and zucchini
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon House seasoning, recipe follows
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup crushed butter crackers (recommended: Ritz)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Saute the squash in a little vegetable oil over medium-low heat until it has completely broken down, about 15 to 20 minutes. Line a colander with a clean tea towel. Place the cooked squash in the lined colander. Squeeze excess moisture from the squash. Set aside.
In a medium size skillet, saute the onion in butter for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and mix all ingredients together except cracker crumbs. Pour mixture into a buttered casserole dish and top with cracker crumbs. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

House Seasoning:

  • 1 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup black pepper
  • 1/4 cup garlic powder
Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
Dill Pickles
I've talked before about my grandma making pickles.  I tried, and they were terrible.  My memory is that her pickles were so good that it was worth the old "try, try again" bit.  And so we have.  By we I mean that I roped Chris into pickle-making too!  As a matter of fact, he's started making some hot/spicy pickles too by using a variation on the old recipe.
One huge plus to making these is that there is no actual canner involved. :)  You cook the brine, but then once the jars cool off they just go into the fridge.  Score.
So, this is her recipe with the changes we felt made them awesome.
1 quart vinegar
2 quarts water
1 cup salt
cucumbers (Just however many you want to do.  My recommendation is to start small.  See if you like them.     That way you don't have a zillion pickled cucumbers if you end up wanting to make changes.)
Fresh dill
Jars, lids, & bands (We prefer the wide mouth jars as it's easier to get the pickles out.  We have used quart and pint jars.)

Wash the cucumbers and cut of both ends of each one.  Soak them in a bowl of ice water for an hour before you can them.  This helps keep the pickles crunchier.  During that hour you can prepare the jars and brine.  Once my jars and brine are going, I usually go ahead and cut the cucumbers into whatever shape/size I want them and toss them back in the ice water.  This makes the process of packing them into the jars much faster when the time comes.  I always do some coins and some spears.  I'll caution you to do the coins at least an inch thick so they won't get too soft during the actual pickling process.  
Put one clove of peeled garlic, 2-3 pieces of dill stalk, and 1 flower of dill seed (the leafy-looking part) in each pint jar.  Of course if you are using larger jars, just double these amounts.
For the brine, mix one quart of vinegar, two quarts of water, and one cup of salt.  Bring to a boil.  (We've used sea salt, pickling salt, and regular old table salt and can find no difference in the results.)
Once the cukes have been soaking for an hour and your brine is boiling, you're ready to can.  Pack the cucumbers into the jars.  You want to get as many as you can in each jar, but without crushing them.
Fill the packed jars with brine, leaving a 1/4 inch head space.  Put on the lids and bands.  Let the jars cool a bit before moving them to the fridge.
Sometimes Chris can only wait 3 or 4 weeks before he gets into them, but I recommend waiting at least 6 weeks.  

Let me know if you try any of these!
I'll try to let you know what else we're doing with our home grown goodness.  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


And again I'll say, there is something so stinkin' cool about growing food!

These first couple of pictures were taken right at the end of April.  They were planting flowers along the outside of the garden.  Chris had just finished planting all the food and then let the kids help with the last bit.


Then these were taken yesterday.  
It is completely amazing to me that food grows this quickly and that there's so much of it!  
When I was a kid, my godparents had a garden in their backyard and I remember thinking how weird that was.  
Little did I know...

Sharing a fresh-picked cucumber.
 Bell Peppers that I can't wait to skewer and toss on the grill.

 World's tiniest watermelon.  

Blueberries.  These have been so much fun!  The kids ask to pick and eat them almost every day. :)

Chris ate his first tomato from the garden yesterday with lunch, and he just raved about it!  I don't eat tomatoes, but I do eat a great many things made from them. :)  I'm looking forward to all the tomatoes we'll put up for winter.  We had some killer tomato sauce a couple of years ago when we tried gardening the first time.

Cool stuff.

Monday, June 11, 2012

You Choose

No, Karen Carpenter, rainy days and Mondays do not always get me down.  
In fact, this rainy Monday has been just lovely.
Because of the nature of our business, rain usually means having my husband home with me.  I like that.  He's a pretty cool guy, and we like to hang out.

Overall it's been a pretty lazy day.  We took a drive this morning to look at a house.  Yes, I know.  We are some of the movin'est people around.  We're not moving just yet, but we're looking. :)

We took care of some mundane, pen-to-paper, checkbook and bill kinda stuff.  We rearranged the pantry- big stuff, I know.
Leftovers for lunch and then off to my massage.  
Massage= time for me.

A little time for me is a necessity.  
Happy is awesome, but it doesn't always happen by itself.  
Sometimes you have to work at it.  
Sometimes you have to make it happen.  
Sometimes you have to choose it.

Part of me being happy and high on life is dependent on making some time just for me.  I am blessed beyond measure to have a husband who gets that.  
It's easy for me to get caught up in the monotony of regular stuff; to just go through the motions.  When I find myself doing that is when I also seem to be too tired and too snippy to be and do something I'm proud of. 

I choose to be a person, a wife, a mama who is present.  I don't just want to be present with my family in body.  I actually want to do things with them.  I want our time together to matter.  I want my kids to remember that I stayed home with them while they were little.  And that we didn't just take up the same space together, but actually lived life together!

That doesn't mean it's always easy or instinctive for me.  I have things I'm expected to do, like cleaning and laundry.  I have things I want to do, like peruse Pinterest, read some totally fantastic blogs, and catch up on General Hospital. 

I guess the most important thing for me is to find the balance.
Make time.  
Make time for me.  
Make time with Chris.  Sometimes that just means sending the kids to play in their rooms so we can talk about our day.  Sometimes it means a date!
Make time with the kids, and make it count.  This does not mean that I spend every waking moment with them sitting in the floor singing Kumbaya, but it does mean making that choice to pay attention to them.  Look at them, listen to them, watch Dora or The Avengers, play Don't Break the Ice, draw, play good cars/ bad cars (Christian's latest favorite).  Sometimes they are fantastic, and other times they are total turds stinkers and we cut it short.  

Whether these turn out to be memory-making experiences or total bombs is not really even the point.  

She wants to move up from her tricycle to a bike with training wheels...but she's not quite ready.  She said maybe tomorrow.  Maybe so.

So, maybe it's weird that we have a giant rug in our garage.  That's ok with me.  It sure makes for a nice shady, covered space to hang out outside.

Somebody has a loose tooth.  

I'm trying to teach baby girl how to use the mouse.  It's slow going.  That's ok too.

I am thankful that God put me right here, right now.
I choose happiness.