Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thursday Thanks #14

A short post this week, since I'm heading into a busy weekend. Why so busy? Check out my list below to learn more....

I'm thankful that I am able to participate in a summer Bible study (we're studying this). I'm looking forward to getting to know everyone in the group - there are many new faces.

I'm thankful that my kids had a great time at camp this week. They were in a 1/2 day camp at a local church, so I had some free time this week.

I'm thankful for the free time I had this week! I was able to get several things done in preparation for the weekend.

I'm thankful for my daughter, who will be three years old tomorrow! Her birthday party is on Saturday.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Drivin' and ... drivin'

I made a quick trip to a neighboring city today. I was on the road for a little over 30 minutes each way, with only one stop on my to-do list while I was there. On my drive over, I was focused on getting myself where I needed to be. Since it was somewhere I'd never been before, I was very focused on the road as well as listening for the next instruction from my cell phone navigation. On the way home, my focus was very different. I was not paying attention to directions anymore, since I knew the way back. I was not thinking about the next thing on my to-do list since I was ahead of schedule. But I felt like I should have been doing something besides just driving. How odd that, driving down a major highway filled with traffic, I felt almost lazy. What a testament to our society's 'need' for multitasking. Truly, nothing was more important than paying attention to the road and the traffic around me - but my mind was telling me otherwise. It was certainly an eye-opener to me about all of the things that clutter my thoughts daily, and a reminder to me to focus on what's really important.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thursday Thanks #13

This week, I'm thankful for...

My daughter's imagination - whether she's having conversations on her calculator 'phone' or stirring up pancakes in my storage baskets with her magic wand 'spoon,' being able to overhear her imaginative play has been a wonderful treat!

Visiting with Grandpa H, Memaw, and Aunt L last week - I love cooking for a crowd (ok, a small crowd!), and we all enjoyed the opportunity to spend time together!

The sun finally shining again today! We spent about 3 hours at the pool - and it was wonderful!

Hearing my children say their prayers at night - or reminding me if I forget! I made up a short bedtime prayer a few years ago for Mister J. I began saying it with Miss M several months ago, and in just the last few weeks she has started to say it on her own. The first few tries, she began with "God is great..." and would then ask me to help her "say the right words." Now, she can say it on her own. I'm so thankful (and proud!) of both of them!

Dear God,
Thank you for another wonderful day.
Thank you for my family and friends.
Help me have patience and make good choices.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Convenient Scratch Baking

Yes, it sounds like an impossible thing, but it's not! Read on!

I enjoy being in the kitchen - cooking or baking, old recipes or new. More and more often, I find myself baking from scratch - with my daughter's food allergies, it's often difficult to find 'safe' mixes. Plus, I just like knowing exactly what I'm serving to my family and friends. But how do I balance the work of scratch baking with the convenience of a mix? Especially when company's coming, and there's a birthday cake involved? Taking a cue from my friends at Dream Dinners, I created my own mixes!
I gathered the recipes I was planning to use, all of the dry ingredients, and got to work! I amended the recipes a bit to account for any of the mixing work I did ahead of time, printed them out, and put all of the ingredients and the recipe into a larger bag. I made two cake mixes and one cookie mix to use over the weekend. I'm tempted to mix up several batches of our favorites because this was just SO easy!

As much as my kids and I enjoy baking together, it just wasn't practical for our weekend. So, when I don't have time to spare, premeasuring my own mixes work for me!

For other great tips and tricks, visit Works for Me Wednesday over at We Are THAT Family.

Glad We Had Three Boxes

Miss M can pack away the popcorn. I had no idea how much she could eat and still not burst.

One of our local theatres has a schedule of summer kids' movies. For $3, you get a ticket, a drink, and a box of popcorn. The weather wasn't looking great this morning, so - in a last-minute change ofplans - we piled into the mommy-van and headed across town to the theatre. It was the first time either of the kids have seen a movie in a theatre, and they didn't even know what to imagine as I told them we were on the way to the movies.
Miss M picked out her own shoes today -
and she was pleased to go puddle-jumping in them!

I gave Mister J the money to purchase our tickets, and then we headed in to get our popcorn and drinks. I carried our snacks on a tray while Mister J grabbed a booster seat for Miss M. Once we started to get settled, Mister J decided he could use a booster, too. I highly recommend them, as they helped keep the folding seats from folding up on the kids.

We got there pretty early - which was nice since we didn't have to wait in a long line. However, it meant lots of "when's the movie gonna start?" and trying to convince the kids not to start in on the popcorn and drinks right away. I distracted them by taking some pictures - it was their first movie in the theatre, after all. Don't they look excited?

With about 30 minutes left in the movie, and after the kids had finished theirs, I went ahead and opened my box of popcorn. I gave 1/2 of it to Miss M, mostly to keep her from downing her drink and needing a potty break before the movie was over. I can't believe she ate a box and a half of popcorn. However, I heard not a peep from either of my kids - so I think the combination was a roaring success! We will definitely be doing this again - I'm putting the movie schedule in my planner today.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Rockin' Fun Day!

We started out the week with a bang! Big Bang Boom, that is! This children's band (that is, adults that play music for kids) held a free concert in a local park. Some friends joined us and, although this photo doesn't show it, the kids had a great time! I posted this one simply because it is my favorite - for obvious reasons.
J and M spent the entire concert jumping, hopping, spinning around, sitting down, standing up, and screaming - at the request of the band's lead singer, of course! (They must have been covering Jack Johnson when I snapped that particular photo!)

The music was great, the lyrics were imaginative and funny, and we all laughed and had fun. I think we need their CD!

Triple Bento!

Because I know there are some of you out there who just love to see our lunch ideas, and because I want to celebrate the fun of packing three lunches, here are our second and third 'triple bento' days! (I forgot to take pics the first time... But, honestly, after a while do they all start to look the same?)

This photo is from last Wednesday - we met friends at the park for a playdate and afterwards had a picnic lunch. (By the way, afterwards is fun to type - all left handed. Go ahead, try it. afterwards. Fun, isn't it?)
It's hard to see unless you enlarge the photo, but here's the list of what I packed. By the way - I'll go clockwise from top left of each box as it is oriented in the photo.

Black Bento (top left) for Mom:
mixed fruit (oranges, strawberries, grapes, blueberries)
celery and grape tomatoes with hummus
carrots and cucumbers
crackers with cream cheese and jelly (note: I mixed them ahead of time, but the jelly got very runny - ick! It still tasted fine, but I'll do it differently next time, maybe using pinch bowls.)

Purple Bento (top right) for Miss M:
mixed fruit
carrots and grape tomatoes with hummus
cucumbers and one piece of celery (to see if she might try it - she didn't)
cracker sandwiches with soy butter

Blue Bento (bottom) for Mister J:
cucumbers and one piece of celery (to see if he might try it - he did, but didn't like it)
cracker sandwiches with soy butter
fruit salad
carrots with hummus

As you may have noticed, I pack each of the boxes just a bit differently to accommodate my kids' different tastes. You can see it even more in the pictures below when you add in my lunch. I packed these for a picnic lunch today.

Mom's lunch contained:
orange wedges, strawberries, and cherries (the kids ended up eating most of the cherries)
Craisins and chocolate chips (for dessert, enough to share)
pita wedge sandwiches - hummus, spinach, thinly-sliced cucumber
orzo pasta salad with peas, parsely, feta, garlic, balsamic vinegar, olive oil

Mister J's lunch contained:
mixed fruit (oranges, blueberries, strawberries)
Italian dressing and croutons
salad - romaine lettuce, spinach, carrots, cucumbers, cheese, ham

Miss M's lunch contained:
mixed fruit - same as above
1000 island dressing and croutons
salad - same as above, add tomatoes

Once Mister J got past the idea of not having all of the inner containers in his lunch box, he was way excited about having a big salad in his lunch. They both enjoyed their lunches, though Miss M (as usual) left more of the toppings on her salad than the 'leaves.' I'll definitely try salads again, since we get so many wonderful fruits and veggies from our co-op.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Even More Things You Really Want to Know

Another meme! And another meme that made me think! This one took longer than I thought it would, but that's not a bad thing. Feel free to participate - and leave a comment if you do, so I can drop by your blog!

I am... a mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and someone who hates running late.

I have... braces (for the second time).

I want... to give cloth diapering a try (if we have any more children, of course).

I wish... all of our parents lived closer.

I know... that I am loved.

I hate... poor customer service, unloading the dishwasher, and shopping for clothes.

I fear... heights.

I hear... my stomach growling.

I crave... savory foods for breakfast.

I search... for fun activities to do with the kids.

I always... get ranch dip for waffle fries from Chick-Fil-A.

I usually... drink water, but I'll drink sweet tea if I go to Chick-Fil-A.

I am not... a good housekeeper.

I miss... all of our favorite SC restaurants.

I love... my family!

I never... get pedicures any more.

I rarely... stay angry for very long.

I cry... when I am tired or angry.

I lose... my budget willpower when I'm tempted to eat out.

I should... use that gift certificate for a massage that's stuck on the side of my fridge.

I worry... about my daughter's food allergies.

I dream... of a crunchy granola life (borrowed this one from Jenni).

I was... opposed to cell phones until my husband started a long-distance commute to work. Now I don't know how I would live without it! (He doesn't have the long commute any more, thank goodness!)

Thanks to Jenni, who posted this meme recently and invited her readers to participate!

PS - I wonder... if I just broke a blogging rule by posting two memes in a row....

8 Things You Really Want to Know

I've been tagged! Jane Anne from Gravity of Motion tagged me a few days ago for this fun blog meme. We've had company at our house for a few days, so it took me just a little while to sit down and complete the meme. I'm glad to be back to the blog and give things a whirl - here goes!

8 things I look forward to:
  • girls night dinners
  • sit-on-the-porch weather
  • Sunday lunch with friends
  • trying a new recipe
  • grocery store/Costco trips (weird, I know)
  • Fun Day Mondays (summer outings with some other families from our church)
  • co-op Saturdays
  • completing my whole-house reorganization project

8 things I did yesterday:
  • served two sit-down meals
  • baked a birthday cake
  • washed a LOT of dishes
  • bought new sneakers for Miss M
  • gave Miss M Benadryl for an apparent exposure to peanuts of some sort
  • was thankful for the opportunity to visit with my family
  • forgot to start the dishwasher after dinner
  • fell asleep early (10pm)

8 things I wish I could do:
  • have 'unload the dishwasher with a twitch of my nose' as my superpower
  • run a marathon
  • live closer to all of our parents - or have all of them live closer to us
  • remodel my kitchen to have more counter space
  • handle a knife like a real chef
  • catch up on all of my scrapbooking projects (and there are many)
  • be a better housekeeper
  • be more organized

8 shows I watch:
  • Bones
  • Burn Notice
  • Royal Pains (hysterical. really. in an over-the-top, are-people-really-like-this? kind of way)
  • NCIS
  • In Plain Sight
  • Tori and Dean (I know - I don't like reality tv - but it's definitely a guilty pleasure)
  • Grey's Anatomy
  • Private Practice
*those last two I could give or take, but they are still set to record on the DVR. I don't usually watch the reruns....

8 5 busy bloggers I tag:
  • H at Beyond the Belly (she's busy moving right now, but I hope she'll get to it when things settle down!)
  • Patrice at Williams Family Blog (she's busy right now, too....)
  • Georgia at Living on Campus... (she's expecting baby #2, so she's a little busy....)
  • Shannon at Blonde Ambition (she's just started a new job with a longer commute, so she's a little busy, too)
  • Susannah at Get the Big Idea (she's got three kids, and school is out for the summer - what do you bet she's busy, as well?)
Ladies, I'd love to read your 8, but you won't hurt my feelings if this doesn't make it to the top of your to-do list!

Jane Anne also asked what I was doing this time last year. Hmm... Let's take a look back thorough the blog and see.... Aha! Mister J and I were painting this (it's hiding behind behind the paper chain). I was also getting ready for a trip to California and Miss M's 2nd birthday party. I'll follow her lead and ask - what were you doing this time last year?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Dozen Thursday Thanks

It's my 12th Thursday Thanks post, so I'm going to celebrate by listing a dozen things for which I am thankful this week! And since my last thanks post was a day late, I'm starting with Saturday.

1) I am thankful for my mom's help with what turned out to be a great garage sale on Saturday morning. The weather was just perfect, and we had lots of shoppers! After the sale, we packed up what was left and took half of it to Goodwill. There are about 6 boxes left to deal with. I am way more than pleased about that.

2) Big J and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary on Saturday. We went out for dinner (actually, just appetizers and dessert), and then went to a movie. I don't remember the last movie we saw together in a theater!

3) Receiving an unexpected invitation. (Sorry, but that's all I'll say for now.)

4) The opportunity to cook for a houseful of people this week. I love, love, love to cook, and especially try some new recipes. I'm (mostly) mixing some tried-and-loved recipes with new sides.

5) Grocery shopping while Big J watched the kids. If you have ever taken even one child shopping with you, you know what I mean. And, since I love to go grocery shopping, it was an extra-special treat for me.

6) And end to my aversion to restaurant pizza. I know, this one seems kind of silly, but it's a big deal around here. I developed an aversion to pizza during my second pregnancy, and it just never went away. Miss M will be three in a few weeks. It's been a long time since I've really wanted to eat pizza, but over the last few weeks it has become appetizing again.

7) Sunny afternoons. Until school is out on Friday, the pool is only open from 3-8pm. It's pop-up shower season where we live. Last week we were racing the weather most afternoons to get to the pool before the thunder or lightning started. (Next week will be even better since the pool will be open in the mornings!)

8) Encouragement from friends.

9) A quiet work week. Normally, I'd be at a conference the first part of June. I'm missing out on a trip to Boston this week, but if I was there I'd be missing out on the chance to visit with family later in the week.

10) Not hurting myself worse than I did when I stepped on the end of a bedrail today while vacuuming (don't ask.... okay, if you must know, I was rearranging the guest/toy room....)

11) Listening to my daughter's imaginary play this afternoon. So, so sweet!

12) The assurance that God has a plan for me, even when it comes to the small things. I'm especially reminded of that as I write this week's list.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Overheard #18

Mister J: "How many moons does Jupiter have?"

Big J: "Four."

Mister J: "How many moons does Mars have?"

Big J: "Two tiny ones."

Mister J: "Well, the moons of Mars look like potatoes. How many moons does Neptune have?"

I can only say that we really appreciate Google these days!

Happy To Do Chores

I've tried to become a lot more conscious of how I spend money (thanks, Dave!), focusing on needs and really examining the wants. A few weeks back, though, I was browsing through the dollar store - really, how much trouble can you get into at the dollar store?!? I was looking for a basket that would work in my bathroom cabinet, but ended up finding something else that I liked. That I couldn't not buy. Suddenly, my original purpose wasn't important anymore, and I needed the something else that I found.

I'm glad I let my impulse take over - this time.

I found child-sized laundry baskets, and picked out one for each of my kids. When I fold our clean laundry, I put Miss M's items into one basket, Mister J's into the other basket. And then I tell them to come and pick up their baskets and put them away. Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? Before they had baskets, getting them to carry a pile of laundry and put it away was like pulling teeth. Mister J would complain about dropping things, and Miss M would ignore my request completely. The baskets make it easier for them to carry everything, but also fun and special.
Mister J's basket matches his quilt.
She's putting that away all by herself. I had to hurry to get these pictures!
She's proud of that empty basket!

And after they put away their laundry? They bring the baskets back to the laundry room.

So... about that $2 impulse buy? This time, it works for me!

For more great ideas, check out the Works For Me Wednesday links at We are THAT Family!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Got a mention over here...

Hey, check it out - one of my comments from this post got mentioned again on this post. It's really cool for me, probably not as exciting for you, but still - it makes me smile!
Is there something weird about getting excited over this? Because, in my comment, I'm admitting I have a clutter problem. That's the first step, right?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Celebratory Date Night

The extra long dessert fork - it makes sharing dessert easier.
Happy 11th Anniversary, Big J!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Thursday Thanks #11

Yes, I know it's Friday. And I was going to skip this week. I even told one of my bloggy friends that I'd just write a longer list next week. And then I started to empty the dishwasher. No, I didn't come back to my laptop just because it's so much more fun than unloading the dishwasher (which, by the way, is my least favorite chore of all time). I just decided I couldn't skip this week. Late IS better than never. So, a list of the things that I'm thankful for this week:

Getting an appointment with Miss M's allergist. I was calling to get a late summer appointment, but found out that the allergist was booked until September (surely with all of the other kids who, like Miss M, need updated paperwork for school in the fall). There had been a cancellation, though, and we got in the same day that I called.

The Ordinary Extraordinary. We had another one of those moments just yesterday. I'm also thankful that I can post from my cell phone. It was a great way to capture my little girl doing something she loves and post about it while it was on my mind. I'm very good at forgetting blog ideas that come to me when we are on the go....

The delicious pancakes that Big J made for dinner. Miss M's last-minute appointment with the allergist, combined with the showers that 'stranded' us at the grocery store meant dinner was running behind schedule. Even though he was on call, and had to step away before we all sat down for the meal, he made the best pancakes - delicious!

The Potty Fairy came to visit last night! I know what you are thinking.... "The what?" Miss M had her very first accident-free day yesterday, and the Potty Fairy brought her a special reward - a tutu and flower headband set. Apparently, the PF already knew that Miss M had a set of dress-up fairy wings, and the new duds are pink to match. I envision plenty of pretend play, and you know I'll post some pictures. I must admit that she hasn't tried on the tutu yet, but the flower headband looks SO CUTE on her!

Girls Night Out last Sunday evening. Four of the five of us were able to get together for the first time in nearly six weeks. (It's been three months since we've been able to get together on a weekly basis.) I don't have to tell anyone how nice it was.

We moved more stuff into my neighbor's garage for the sale we are having tomorrow morning. It's nice to be able to reclaim the space and get rid of the things we no longer need, but I wouldn't have been able to do it without a lot of help. Here's hoping that, even though it's been rainy for three days now, we will have a nice morning tomorrow and lots of people will stop by!

I'm going to do my best to return to my practice of writing this post throughout the week and scheduling it for publication on Thursdays. That means it might be a bulleted list, and it might have spelling/grammar errors, but it will get posted - on time. I'm thankful Blogger will let me schedule posts and publish them for me!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

No umbrella....

It's that time of year for afternoon pop-up thunder showers. We got into the grocery store just in time. The bottom fell out just as we were picking out our grocery cart. Miss M prefers the kid-sized ones, but they don't have them at this store. Instead, she chose one of those two-level, just-a-small-purchase-today carts. She helped push while I helped avoid a crash. We meandered through the produce department, picked up a little something for dinner, and headed to the front to check out. It was still raining as we left. I sat in one of the adirondack chairs out front while we waited for the rain to let up. She found a puddle. She splashed. She walked in and out of it to make footprints. She got her sandals very wet. She loved every moment of it. Then we decided to brave the showers after all. The rain had slowed a bit, but we still caught our fair share of raindrops on the way out to the mommy-van. We didn't melt. All is well.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Kids in the Kitchen

Mom, I'm Bored! edition

How will we beat summer boredom this season? When the kids are tired of the backyard, tired of coloring, tired of their toys, there's no playdate on the schedule, and for some reason we can't go to the pool (rain...), we'll be trying out new recipes!

I love to cook, and my kids love to help, so it's (messy) fun for all of us. Plus, with our garden and our co-op fruits and veggies, we've got lots to keep us busy!

Here are just a few things we've tried (including easy ice cream). We've also made popsicles from fresh fruit, which are great because I know what's in them and can adjust the amount of sugar needed (if any). The kids especially love to help with quesadillas and pizza.

Aside from enjoying the fruits of our labor, we also get to reinforce counting skills, taking turns, teamwork, and patience. Works for me!

For more great ideas, check out the Works For Me Wednesday links at We are THAT Family!

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Many Days of Summer

This is just a small portion of the paper chain we put together how to help us count the many days of summer - and mainly to countdown to special events - swim lessons, camps, and vacation, to name just a few. It's hanging on the 'art wall' in the breakfast area. Home to our number chart and various other artwork that gets switched in and out as the kids bring home new works from preschool. Now that preschool's over, we will be filling it up with our own art again.

They're here! (Round 2)

Just me, getting way too excited about lunch boxes. Again. This time, I ordered them with the insulated sleeve, which I'm sure you'll see in future photos. For now, I'm excited about the possibility of packing my OWN lunch and mixing-and-matching the inner containers to come up with other fun color combinations.