Monday, June 29, 2009

Anyone share these feelings?

I can't believe what a writer's block I am having! This summer is overtaking me. Or should I say, a 3-yr-old and a 4-yr-old are overtaking me?! :)


I KNOW there are things going on in my heart, I'm just not sure how to express them in the 10 minutes of free time I have a day to do so. And come evening, I have only enough energy to crawl into the bed. I sound like such a wienie! How do all these moms of little ones do it?! I read the blogs of these "Super Star" women with 6 children, who wake up, clean the whole house, make homemade cinnamon rolls and paint the entire house....all before breakfast, all the while changing a baby's diaper with one hand...and crocheting a Christmas sweater with the other. Well, that might be a slight exaggeration.... But the thought of being able to do that is (a) exhausting; and (b) exhilerating!


I am such a task-oriented, check-list kind of girl. I have, for that very reason, had much frustration this summer. Mainly, because my to-do project list for my house is growing and my time to do it is shrinking. I'm learning that if I can't do it "right" or "right now", it causes me much anxiety. God is teaching me to SIT in my anxiety. And let me tell you, that is so against the grain of my nature. I spoke in this post about how summer had become a time of freedom and letting go of schedules. I have to admit, there are moments when I am losing my mind. I am so wanting to fully grasp the idea of relaxing... and going with the flow. And I think I've come a long way, baby.

What about you? Do you ever have these feelings as well? Or am I an island in this?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

$200 basket giveaway



Sandy over at 4 Reluctant Entertainers is giving an opportunity to win a coupon for a custom gift basket by The Baby Basket Company or Planet Gift Baskets.

All you have to do is head over to Sandy's blog and leave a comment about whether or not you like to keep gifts on hand in a gift closet...or whether you are a last-minute shopper. It's that easy! Then you'll be entered in the drawing for a custom basket. The winner will be notified on Thursday.

I entered! I love gift baskets...to give...and receive. :)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Kitchen catch-up time

When I think about blogging lately, I think "I don't have anything interesting to say!" I am enjoying reading other people's blogs. They are generally much more interesting!

I'm also spending time figuring out all the home improvement projects I plan to take on now..and which ones I will tackle when the boys go back to school. I've been moving furniture around in the house and deciding what all to take my paint brush to...and what to take a can of spray paint to. One or the other...it's bound to happen! I'm feeling creative.

But so far today has been one of those days where "the sun, the moon and the stars lined up". The boys were happy for an extended amount of time to play nicely together. (Notice the bolded words. THAT's the amazing part.) Anyway, it allowed me to get caught up on making some things I needed to make in the kitchen.

The boys have been requesting pancakes in the mornings, but we've been out of syrup. So I made some homemade maple syrup.

I made some homemade chocolate syrup...to make the boys some chocolate milk ocassionally...and to drizzle on homemade vanilla ice cream next time we make it! Yum....

I made the boy's favorite granola cereal. The boys (their Daddy included) eat it up as soon as it is ready!

I made some more homemade buttermilk.

I mixed up more homemade laundry detergent.

I made some homemade wheat bread. (Actually, today, the bread machine made it for me)

I put together my menu plan for the remainder of this month. I am trying to get better at monthly menu planning. With our casual summer, I haven't been as diligent.

And then I was able to work in the tomato garden .... picking.... weeding... watering... working on stabilizing chicken wire, as the weight of the tomatoes is pulling the wire over. The boys...and their Momma...are enjoying the mounds of cherry tomatoes coming in. Actually they won't eat them....but they like to pick them. I'm selfishly glad they don't like to eat them.

In case you want the three recipes above that haven't been mentioned in a previous post....

Homemade Granola

1 cup butter or margarine

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

7 1/2 - 8 cups oatmeal

In a large saucepan, melt the butter and the brown sugar together. Stir it up and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add the salt and cinnamon, then the oatmeal. Remove pot from heat and stir until all the oatmeal is coated. Spread the granola onto 2 cookie sheets (with sides) and bake at 375 for 10 minutes, until golden brown. Cool granola completely on pan, then break into pieces and transfer to an airtight container. Add raisins, nuts or other dried fruit, if desired.

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

1/2 cup cocoa

1 cup water

2 cups sugar

1/8 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. vanilla

In a 2 quart saucepa, mix the cocoa and water with a wire whisk and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add the sugar and continue to stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture t a full rolling boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and boil for a full 3 minutes. Remove the sytrup from the heat and add the salt and vanilla and stir to blend. Pour the syrup into a clean pint sized canning jar (or old ketchup bottle or chocolate syrup container). Store in the refrigerator. This can be used in place of store-bought chocolate syrup. It's yummy!

100% Whole Wheat Bread (Made in a Bread Machine)

Put ingredients in your machine in the order listed for your particular machine. My order is listed below:

1 1/2 tsp. Active Dry Yeast

3 1/4 cups Whole Wheat Flour

1 1/2 tsp. Salt

2 TBL Non-fat Dry Milk

2 TBL Oil

3 TBL Molasses

1 cup + 3 TBL Water (approx. 80 degrees)

Can add millet or sunflower seeds or the like to make the bread more "grainy" or nutty.

The rest of the day is POOL TIME! Ahhhhh...summer....

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A tribute to the Dads in my life...

This man has been a powerful influence my entire life:

strength
example
courage
persistence
faith
generosity
absolute unconditional love
faithfulness
incredible patience
kind
self-controlled
great character
integrity
...My blessing, my Daddy.


This man is the joy of my life and the king of my heart:

encourager
faithful
persistent
gracious
strong
affectionate
loving
peaceful
kind
good
fun
great sense of humor
wonderful communicator
gentle
great character
integrity
discerning
leader
My best friend
...The proud Daddy of our two boys and my gift from God.


Thank you both for your remarkable presence in my life.
Happy Father's Day to both of you!

Friday, June 19, 2009

This month's financial progress report

I finally got my numbers together to give you this month's progress report. In last month's report , we were 59% to our goal. I told you in this post that I didn't think we had done so well this month, with all the additional "summer expenses" we took on. I'm here to report that God is a good and faithful God! We are now at 64% to our goal!


I also told you in this post that we were planning to participate in the No Spend Month Challenge in the month of July. After evaluating all the traveling we will be doing in that month, we decided that is not feasible for us to do for that month. So, my goal is to dramatically reduce the amount of money I am spending in groceries and personal/household categories in our budget for the remainder of the summer. We'll see what we can do with that...I'll let you know how it goes. Hopefully we can have a No Spend Month another time. I'd aim for August, but with "back to school", there are certain to be expenses along with that.

So, we continue...with hearts and eyes upward...moving forward. Even if we're crawling.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Summer time....

I crack myself up.

Before school was out, I actually made a schedule for our summer. Not only the big events, like swimming lessons, or vacation bible school, or trips to see grandparents....I'm talking about a daily schedule. I assumed that with all the extra hours together (me and the kiddos), that we would surely need "activity" to fill the "dead spaces". The boys needed to still be learning. They needed to continue to be creative. They always need time to be active and burn energy. They needed to stay on a schedule. And of course, I scheduled in some fun. (It sounds so crazy as I write it)

This is what I've learned from our summer so far.

There is no schedule. We don't do anything...at all...the same...from day-to-day (except swimming lessons these past two weeks, because we HAVE to be there). We're not practicing our ABC's and 123's everyday. We may not even touch a book on a particular day. There has not been a consistent bedtime, at all. (side note: unfortunately we all still wake up at the same time each day, though!) We have not done daily crafts. We have not stayed in a routine.

Instead, this is what we have done:
  • We have learned to swim.
  • We have learned to fish.
  • We have enjoyed the sunlight of the day to the fullest.
  • We instilled a chore chart and made it fun....with lots of opportunity for trips to the dollar store!
  • We have discovered the library (with no pressure to meet goals, but only to enjoy the gift of new books to read).
  • We have spent time with family.
  • We have enjoyed our friends.
  • We have started memorizing a Bible verse a week. (There is nothing more precious or heart-tugging than to hear a brand new 3-yr-old say...."children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right...Ephesians 6:1") Can I get an AMEN?!
  • We have started drinking iced coffee, instead of hot coffee (obviously I'm not referring to the little ones in my house)
  • We try to have one bible story a day, in the mornings. I think we've read about David and Goliath for 2 straight weeks, per requests from the audience. That's a fun one for boys!

This is some of what I have learned so far:

  • I have learned to relax in my expectations of "how my house will look" everyday...and enjoy my kids instead.
  • I have learned that my growing list of projects will have to wait until fall, most likely, when the kids go back to school.
  • I have learned to make some new, healthy recipes from scratch.
  • I have re-learned to work out consistently.
  • I have learned to apply sunscreen liberally (I now realize what each compounding summer is doing to my face and skin) and am teaching my kids that this is just what you do before swimming.
  • I have been reminded, through daily time with the Lord, that he is a God...rich in love, grace, forgiveness, promises, hope, faithfulness...and his WORD is TRUTH. I have enjoyed the richness of my mornings with him.
  • My husband and I have reinstated date night and time with each other alone.

This is what I hope to accomplish and/or learn by summer's end:

  • Learn to laugh more with my kids.
  • Learn to greet my husband better when he walks in the door after a long day of work.
  • Learn to put people ahead of schedules/routines.
  • Learn to let myself off the hook for not accomplishing as much as ____________ . We all have one of those ladies we like to compare ourselves to, don't we?
  • Look back at the summer time that is now past with no regrets for the way the time was spent.

How is your summer going?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Couponing....and financial update to come


I've been asked by a couple of people to consider giving a small "course" on couponing and how we save so much money around here with grocery shopping. First of all, let me reiterate....I still have so much to learn myself. There are many who do this so effortlessly and I am in awe of them.
But, if you are interested, and would like to know how to use coupons and how it all works, there is a crash course offered in how to maximize your savings with grocery shopping.

It's a FREE coupon e-course offered by ChoysterCash.com and you'll get ten short lessons delivered to your inbox--one each Monday--which will walk you through simple step-by-step instructions on how to save hundreds of dollars each year by using coupons. Go here to sign up.

Secondly, if you ever wonder where you can get great coupons from...Gina, from Moneywise Moms, re-ran an old post today about all the places to find them. It's a great, thorough resource. Go check it out.

And finally, for my own personal disclosure....I need to give you a financial update for this month. But first... I need to have a budget meeting with my sweet guy to see exactly where we are. It's been a rough month with traveling out of state, a birthday party and miscellaneous summer activity expenses (like swimming lessons). I don't think we've had as productive a month as I had hoped. I'm not feeling great about it, but I'll update you shortly.
We're running off to a toddler pajama/pancake party now! That should get my mind right.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Storm!


Last night we had a huge storm blow in. High winds. Dark clouds. Fierce rain. Lightning. Thunder. City sirens going off. The whole 9 yards!

So I threw (almost literally) my 3 and 4-year-olds into the bathtub around 7:00 pm. They were coated in dirt and needed a quick bath. All of sudden, lights out. Pitch black.

Feeling my way around, we found one working flashlight (after handling 3 or 4 unworking ones....note to self....get some batteries).

We proceeded to get jammies on the little guys, grab the dog, some pillows, a blanket and our one flashlight and climb into the closet in my son's room. As we listened to the city sirens, we sat there singing Jesus Loves Me, the ABC song, and whatever else came to mind. We prayed for Daddy's safety and waited for him to get home. And we had no idea what was really going on outside, since we had no power and couldn't watch the weather. Was there a tornado? Was it just a big storm?

All I know is that my kids had a ball! How fun is hanging out in the closet, in the dark, with the family dog and a flashlight?! Not an everyday activity, I assure you.

As the evening progressed, Daddy made it home safely. We finally got the boys to sleep. We all slept in one big sweaty pile in Mom and Dad's bed. Actually, Dad slept on the couch in his own sweat. The boys tossed and turned all night from the sticky heat on our t-shirt sheets (yuck!) I tried not to worry all night about the food in my frig and two outside freezers.

The power (and thus, the air conditioner, hallelujah!) finally kicked on about 5:15 am. NOW the sound sleep can begin!!! :)

We're now home, sitting in the house, watching the pouring rain happen outside (still), wondering if swim lessons is canceled in an hour and a half. (Mommy hopes so!) But my 4-year-old keeps opening the back sliding door, yelling at the "stinky rain" for messing up his morning plans. Hey, I like a kid who can express himself.

Have a great day! We'll be cozied up at home most of the day.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Summer squash


My sweet friend, Colleen, gave our family some yummy fresh squash out of her garden. The squash was wonderful...and the gesture was beautifully appreciated. Thanks for sharing your garden goodies with us!

I'm more than inspired, Wendy!

OK, normally I would try to think of something brilliant to write about on my own. But today...I am enamoured. I am coveting. I am downright awestruck, really.

I was browsing some of my favorite blogs. Wendy, over at The Shabby Nest, posted these pictures from Country Living today of this incredibly fabulous farmhouse, for her Inspire-Me Tuesday post. I'm sorry...I want this. I almost NEED this. (Ok, that may be a little strong....)

I'm not sure this is your style. But I hope you enjoy looking. Or at least you get a glimpse into the dreams in my head.
This house, is exactly what I dream about.

This kitchen....I love. The beaded board. The glass cabinet doors. The little desk. The chippy paint on the chairs. The farmhouse sink. I could go on.....


I love this piece of furniture! I almost want to marry it.


This sweet bedroom.....the beaded board...the iron bed...the sweet quilt....how dreamy.


This fabulous built-in.
I love this fold-down table and the white on white.
Thank you for indulging my illness. Now pray for my forgiveness.

Monday, June 8, 2009

"Oh God...do I hafta?!"

I don't know about you...but this is how my spiritual life goes....


I go along "just fine" for awhile. No deep valleys. No big mountains. Maybe some tiny little dips or some minor hills to climb along the way. But no real "issues"...and also, generally speaking, no new growth.

Then, WHAM!

I tend to get "hit" by so many stretching and growing lessons in the Lord. It doesn't even have to be a valley or a mountain experience. It's just God's way of simply nudging me to grow up more... stretch...become discontent wth the "just fine" and go deeper with Him. It usually occurs when all of a sudden, the Word of God begans to come alive. More than normal. The Father's Words just click in my heart and mind.

For the record...I LOVE THIS TIME! I love when my heart is stirred, when my stale thoughts are challenged, when I'm reminded of my fullness of life...in HIM alone.

And so I dig in and get moved.

I just completed Numbers. And now I'm reading Joshua. Both are so rich. So full. So encouraging and convicting and beautiful.

Obviously you can tell, I am having one of these moments with the Lord. I wish I could share ALL that God is teaching/reminding me of. But I'll just give you one small glimpse from this morning.

I was reading about Joshua, leading the Israelites into Canaan to take Jericho. When the walls of Jericho came down, the people charged straight in and took the city. The Word says "they devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it -- men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys." (Joshua 6: 21)

Ouch! Seriously?!?! He allowed the little kids to be killed? The innocent sheep, even? That does not sound like MY God. Would he really be so vicious?

Then, as I studied this more, I was reminded of the reasons for this act. God was carrying out severe judgement on a nation that was so completely wicked. And they posed such a threat of contaminating the right kind of living he was requiring of his chosen people. He wanted his people to live purely. Without evil distraction. That is how seriously God treats sin. It's big business.

God wants ME to be pure, too. He wants me to take sin that seriously. In all arrogance, I thought, "I guess I'm glad that I have nothing in my life that is that sinful. There's nothing that I need to clean up or deal with, thank the Lord. I'm obviously not allowing any type of evil distraction to invade my Christian life. Whew...what a relief!"

For the record, don't say that to God...or yourself, for that matter...God hears.

God began to peel back my proud little eyelids to see so many areas of my life that I allow things to infiltrate my mind and heart...that are not of him. I'm so "culturized", I didn't even see them.

One particular area is a weekly tv show I watch. It's really not a big deal...culturally-speaking. But there is nothing about it that is uplifting or honoring to God. Why do I allow that in my life, when I am walking with a holy God?

"But I LOVE this show, God! It's really not a big deal. It's entertainment, that's all. Several of my friends watch it...and THEY are good Christian girls."

Heart stirring.

"God, do I have to?"

"No, you don't have to. But do you want to please me and grow closer to me? Then you make the choice..."

Friday, June 5, 2009

Ouch...

Have you ever dropped one of these (of the 29 oz. variety) on your bare toe?
I have. Not pretty. Not pretty at all.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The FIRST "official" day of summer vacation

Official=no school, no end-of-school parties or presentations...and the pool is open!

Here's how this day went:

7:15 am -- Kid "A" (name withheld to protect the "innocent") spills coffee onto his Bible, my paperwork, down the kitchen cabinets, all over the floor.

7:16 am -- Mom cleans it up.

7:18 am -- Mom feels a trickle of liquid on my foot, wondering what that could be, seeing as said coffee has been cleaned up. Mom discovers that Kid "B" (who is supposedly recently fully potty-trained, and of course, whose name is withheld to protect his "innocence"), has tee-teed on himself, the bar stool his bottom is planted on, Mom's floor and Mom's foot.

7:19 am -- Mom cleans it up.

7:25 am -- Temper tantrum #1 for the day occurs. Nameless child wants Mom's homemade cereal for breakfast, but Mom has just prepared some applesauce bread and cut-up fruit. Said child and Mom disagree on the menu. (Mom wins, by the way...but who is keeping score?!)

9:00 am -- Mom puts a check in an envelope for the yard guys coming to the house today to mow the lawn. While licking the envelope to seal it, Mom's tongue is sliced. Paper cut from hades.

9:20 am--While exiting the car to go to the gym, Mom gently opens the door to let Nameless child out. Nameless child proceeds to push the door open more forcefully, slamming the car door into unknown person's BRAND NEW black, beautiful car parked next to ours. Of course, leaving a nice souvenir.

11:30 am-- Temper tantrum #2 for the day occurs. The same nameless child who threw the first temper tantrum of the day decides to throw another one. I can't even remember what it was about. (And I can't even remember who won this one!)

5:00 pm-- Temper tantrum #3 for the day occurs. The SAME nameless child who threw temper tantrums #1 and #2, throws another one...larger than the first two. Said child does NOT want to leave the pool. (Mommy is beginning to lose...patience....grace....energy.)

5:20 pm -- Temper tantrum #3 finally ceases.

7:00 pm -- Nameless child "B" (mind you, the newly potty-trained one), poops in his 'big-boy' pants. Mom is happy....NOT.

7:10 pm -- Nameless child "B" crushes his cupcake into a million...no...make that a zillion...little, tiny, annoying pieces on the kitchen counter. And then he decides to rub his hands quickly across the counter to see the crumbs fly.

7:10 pm -- Mom leaves the house. (Nameless kids are in Dad's care...Mom didn't abandon them :)

9:15 pm -- Mom returns home. Mom kisses my unbelievably precious, Nameless kids, while they sleep soundly and sweetly in their beds.

We'll do it all again tomorrow...hopefully yielding different results.
Happy Summer-ing to you!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

In the crazy kitchen

I wanted to share with you a great new recipe I tried.

...while cooking with Iron Man and Super Why flying (literally with arms stretched out and mouths making flying sounds) around me and through my kitchen, rescuing animals in distress. (If you are at all familiar with any kid's things, then you can observe that my kids have combined a SuperFriend character, a PBS cartoon character and Diego, all in one pretend world.)

Sorry...I just had to set the scene for you.

Back to the recipe now.

They are homemade pizza pockets. I made these today. I have two words for you...YUM-EE.
These are tasty!

video

Homemade Pizza Pockets

Crust:

3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 tsp. sea salt

1 cup melted butter

1 cup plain non-fat (or low-fat) yogurt

Stir ingredients together until thoroughly mixed.

Pizza Sauce:

1 1/2 cups tomato sauce

1/2 tsp. garlic powder (I was out of this...and used garlic salt)

1 1/2 tsp. oregano

1 1/2 tsp. basil (I was out of this, too...and used parsley)

Stir together and simmer for a few minutes.

Additional pocket fillings you can add:

Grated cheese (I used mozzarella)

Cooked hamburger

Pepperoni

Olives

Peppers

Mushrooms

To form a pizza pocket:

Roll a small ball of dough into a circle. Place one tablespoon of pizza sauce in the center. Put in a small amount of your choice of toppings. Fold the dough in half. Use a fork to pinch the edges together. Lay pizza pockets on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze for about one hour. Pop them off the cookie sheet and put them into a freezer bag and put back into the freezer.

Bake your pizza pockets:

For frozen pizzas, bake in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. If the pocket is thawed first, bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. (Thanks, Laura, for the recipe.)

These will be fabulous to have on hand for quick lunches or snacks. Hope you get the chance to try them!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cupcake bliss

Although our little guy's birthday was on Monday, we won't be partying until Saturday. But he DID request "vanilla and chocolate" cupcakes ON his birthday.
video

Enough said.