Ordinary Days

Isaac, this photo is for you!
Isaac has a pair of slippers just like this that he wears everywhere.  He doctored them up last time he was home with duct tape so that he could wear them outside without ruining them.  Andrew did the same thing to his slippers the other day and I had to laugh.  We all miss you!

This photo is from awhile ago, but I wanted a record of our last big snow.  Just in case Mother Nature reads my blog, I wanted to try to influence her with the last part.

Abbey was part of mock beauty pageant at her school.  It is such a fun night and we all laughed so hard.  It's called Mr.(insert Abbey's' all girl's school name here), and about 20 boys from area all-boys schools are chosen to participate.  They go through the "rigors" of a pageant- first interviews to make the show, then fashion, talent, question and answer, and the audience and a panel votes.  Abbey was an "introducer" and all the girls wore these fancy (gaudy?) prom dresses.  Actually, even though the colors were so bright and the styles were a little over the top, the girls all looked so pretty in them.  They all worked so hard to put this on-many many Sundays-all day-working and rehearsing to put the show together.

Did you read The Kitchen House?  It's really really good.  It's about as far as I've gotten in my 2013 reading list!

 Dad's magic arms.

The cutest 'Yooke' Skywalker I've ever seen.


Split So Many Ways

At Christmastime my mom arrived at our house bearing many gifts, but the one I loved the most was a small bag filled with a few letters.  One was from my Grandma B, (my mom is the oldest of nine) addressed to her and written on December 21. My grandmother made raising nine children look easy.  I remember her as a kind, but no-nonsense sort of grandmother-I am sure she was the same as a mother.  I soaked up every word.

The paragraph I love the best is this one:

The only thing I can tell you is that it is very difficult to raise a large family.  It is so demanding, you are split so many ways.  I used to be very cross at Christmas, I still am, some days you just had no more to give. The mother takes the full blow of everything that happens.  I know you must get very weary because there is always so much to do.  Someday you will receive lovely little specials like I do and it will all be worth it.  I am so proud of all of you and the years were not wasted.  If I can leave you nothing, I just want you all to know your Dad and I loved everyone of you from the first to the last.

Now I know I have just six, compared to her nine, but I tears came to my eyes when I read the first two sentences.  It is so true.  It is difficult to raise a large family and it demands so much of my time and energy and I do feel split so many ways.  When I feel this one here needs extra attention, then this one here is not getting it.  It goes back and forth and round and round, and I try hard to be everything to everyone.  There is so much joy of course and I wouldn't want my life to look one bit different, but when it comes down to it, it's a whole bunch of work-mentally, emotionally and physically and it never ever lets up.

I hold my Grandma B in such high esteem.  I know she didn't whine about the work, or complain about her "lack of 'me' time".  She didn't consider a work-out and a manicure essential and I can't really see her and my Grandpa making "date nights" a priority.  (And they had a beautiful marriage-more than 60 years.)  I think she made do with much less and ended up with much more-more in the sense of what really matters.  And boy is that refreshing to know.  It's just nice to let go of so much of the pressure from the barrage of "must-do's" we mothers receive.  My grandma was a good friend, and a good neighbor, and a good wife and involved in her church and community, but she was home mostly.  Home, working hard, raising and loving children, making lots of sandwiches, and doing lots of laundry.

I miss her and will treasure this sweet letter forever. 


My Girls

It's so much fun having daughters.
And I'm so happy these girls have each other, even if they are 16 years apart.
Somehow that makes it even more special.
I know Abbey will take Janey under her wing and be a good influence on her.
Not just morally but also with really important things like shopping for dresses for dances. 
And at the same time, Abbey is learning all about how much work little babies are but how precious and cuddly and sweet also.  And how easy it is to get homework finished with one on your lap, pulling and crinkly the pages.
Abbey will be leaving for college in two years and I it makes me sad to think of how Janey will react. We will have to visit often and keep this little relationship strong. Meanwhile, I'll just cultivate as much bonding time as possible.



How many days till spring?
And on a side note, can you believe Janey is now FIVE months old?
She is as sweet as pie and we all just can't get enough of her big ol' smiles.


Ordinary Days

One of my 'not-favorite' jobs is grocery shopping.  One early Sunday morning (the best time to go to the grocery store in my opinion-no one is there and I can go alone with Jeff at home with the kids) I set the timer on the stove for 60 minutes and told Patrick and Andrew that I bet I could beat it back before it counted down.  I dashed off-I had my list ready and sped up and down the aisles at lightning speed.  They were so excited when they heard the garage door open, knowing it was me, that I heard them cheer from inside the door. 15 minutes to spare!  When I came in I said, "Let's carry these groceries in and put them away and see if we can beat the timer".  We did it!

Do you think perhaps she might be outgrowing the bathroom sink?  

A cookie tower.  (Here is the recipe I use most often.)

Mr. Rogers.  My mom bought me a little book of Mr. Roger's quotes for Christmas and I was singing the theme song to Patrick and he asked what song it was.  I found an episode on You Tube.  There is nothing like Mr. Rogers nowadays, I'll tell you that much.  So calm and relaxing, I love it.

My Dad is third from left in front.  Pretty darn impressive. 

My 2013 motto, right above the kitchen sink.  


Children's Picture Books

A couple of years I go I decided that I was going to start a collection of children's picture books.   I also decided that I was going to be really really picky about what goes into this collection.  Mostly vintage, mostly the ones I remember from my childhood.   I started with the intent of buying one book a month, but sometimes that doesn't happen because I forget, or because I find three I really really want and can't resist and buy them all at once.

I thought maybe I'd share them with you once in awhile.  Those really really good ones-which happen to be the old ones-are hidden in the dark recesses of old libraries, or attics or the old toy cupboard, lost forever, discarded for the shiny new (and often much less stellar in my opinion) picture books.  I usually find these old copies on Amazon, and buy them from a bookstore that sells them used.  I love the "Used" books.  They are sometimes old library versions, worn, with buttery pages or a little scribble here and crayon mark there.  That doesn't bother me at all.

Here's one of my favorite purchases I just made recently.  This is a copy of the book of classic tales that my mom used to read us often, by Watty Piper.

.."they will no way instill fear or vicious thoughts in young minds"...
That means that during the tale of the three little pigs, the pigs don't actually get eaten by the big bad wolf but just chased away. 

Here's a few of the stories:

My personal favorite story-The Little Red Hen.

Aren't the illustrations beautiful? 


Paper Snowflakes

Andrew made these in art class the other day and on a boring day off at home, made some more.  I was so surprised by the end result, after I saw him hard at work.  So simple and pretty.

He agreed to do a little tutorial for me.

You need six square sheets of white paper and a glue stick and scissors, and something to draw a straight line with.  We used some wooden popsicle sticks, but there are these things called rulers that work well also, if you can find one laying around. :)

Corner to corner and then again, fold the square sheet so it looks like this.

Draw lines with a pencil that look like this.  You want to start your line on the open side, not the folded size, and don't draw all the way to the end.

Cut on the lines.

When you unfold the paper it will look like this.

Now pick up the two littlest center triangles and glue their ends together with your glue stick.  (You might have to count to 50 while you pinch the ends and the glue dries.)

Now FLIP the snowflake over.  You are working on the "back" side of the paper now.  Glue the next tips of the next triangle together.  

Keep going, flipping over each time, till all the ends of the triangles are glued.

Repeat with five more pieces of paper till you have six more. Glue them all together by one end like this:

Let it snow!


Morning Sunshine

Who wouldn't want to wake up to this every morning?

Even when I don't get much sleep, or have a harried morning with the older kids, (no peanut butter in the jar, missing homework, "you must wear a coat" arguments) this little smiling face turns my day around.  I can feel my whole heart relax and fill up with love.  Forget the little stuff, love is where it's at. Corny, but true.


A Photo Book

I haven't really ever made a photo book before, but I had this little idea in my head for awhile and finally had some time to do it.

I made Patrick an ABC book...just simple letters with one of my photos that start with that letter.  It's probably a little late for this age-wise, but it helps him with his sounds and he loves it.  And it helped me get the hang of whipping something like this together.  I am hooked!  (Much easier than my cookbook and so much less time-consuming!)

I chose a soft cover, 8x8 size, and made the cover page in Picasa.  (If interested, you can see my scrapbook tutorials on how to do that.)



I have been making batches of these like a crazy woman.  They are easy and so so so good.  And the best thing is that they don't cost $14 a dozen.  I bet they come in under $1.

This recipe is from AllRecipes and I use my Zojirushi Breadmaker...I love that thing.  The recipe makes about 8 bagels.  Last week I doubled it, and the bread maker handled it fine.

1 cup warm water
3 cups of bread flour
2 TBS white sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
3 TBS sugar
1 TSP cornmeal
1 egg white

Toppings if wish:  shredded asiago cheese, poppy seeds, dried onion flakes, rock salt, cinnamon sugar...

1.  I add the first 5 ingredients in the order listed.  Set on Dough Cycle.  When complete, place dough on a lightly floured surface. Shape into 8-10 balls, flatten them, and then poke hole in the middle.  (Make it big, because dough will rise.)

2. Cover bagels with a clean dish towel, and let rise.  Mine take about 30-60 minutes to get rise.  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil.  Dissolve 3 TBS of sugar in boiling water.

3. Sprinkle an ungreased cookie sheet with cornmeal.  Heat oven to 375.  Transfer bagels to boiling water.  (My pot holds about 4 at a time.)  Boil for 1 minute, turning halfway through.  Remove bagels and place on dish towel to drain.

4. Arrange boiled bagels on baking sheet. Glaze top with egg white.

My kids love asiago cheese bagels, so I will grate some of that and sprinkle on top.  They also love "everything" bagels:  I mix up some poppy seeds, dried onion flakes, and a teeny bit of coarse salt. I will dip the top of the bagel in the egg white, and then dip it in the "everything mixture".  We haven't tried cinnamon sugar yet, but I bet that would be good.

5. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

PS.  There is a little Print Friendly button down below.


A No For A Yes

I love this quote paired with the saying I've heard that goes something like, "A no to one thing is a yes to something else."   

I've spent time since I've read this quote, and since the beginning of the new year, pondering what my yes's and no's will be this year.  I DO know this-when I move at a slower pace, when I am not rushing, when I am calm and organized and purposeful, when I don't have too much on my plate, I enjoy life.  

I am a much much better mother to my children when I say no to the crazy pace of the world, no to all the noise that seeps into my brain from the technology that has a way of sucking us all in-and yes to slower days, yes to less outside commitments, yes to less stuff in our home, yes to being present.  Being present means being aware-not someplace else in my brain, not being distracted by a phone or an email, or doing too many things at once, or thinking about what I need to do or say next. 

It all sounds so easy-simplicity, but in reality it's much more difficult.  It means making conscious decisions that require self-discipline, it means letting go of guilt when using the words "No, thanks", and it requires constant reminders and resets in my brain to not respond to the hectic, materialistic, competitive world that can bombard me if I let it.   


Tortilla Chili

4 split boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 8 oz. cans of Mexican style chopped tomatoes, undrained
2 cans of black beans, undrained
1 can tomato sauce
1 jar of medium or hot salsa
1 can chopped green chiles

Add all ingredients to a slow cooker.
Cook for 8 hours on low.
Take chicken breasts out when cooked through, and shred or cut into small pieces and then put back in slow cooker.
(I keep some chicken out for the picky kid who won't eat chili...I wrap it up in tortilla with some cheese.)
Spoon chili in bowl and top with cheese and chips and sour cream.
This recipe makes a lot...great for a party instead of traditional chili, or to freeze for later.



I found this today after I ordered a bed to be made.  I am so glad I noticed this little tenderness-a teddy bear gently covered up, tucked in and peeking out.  Sometimes with all the hustle and bustle of the household I know I overlook these things- things like little acts of kindness I don't see, or hear.  Its easy to let the negative stuff get more attention-the job undone, the snippy remark, the unkind criticism, the toothpaste all over the counter.

But I learn this lesson again and again and again-noticing the good stuff gets me SO much farther.

Instead of scolding, praising.
Instead of harping, smiling.
Instead of being agitated, being grateful.
Instead of an angry tone, a gentle word.


Ordinary Days

It's nice to get back on a routine.  I love January-not the cold weather of course, but the quietness and the coziness in our warm home.  Here are some things that are keeping us busy:

-I love this sweet painting so much that I am matting and framing Mr. Happy Reindeer so I can hang it each Christmas. 

-A new bike + snow= what choice did I have?  He goes around and around the circle.

-Sweet napping.

-Lots of puzzles.

-Good books.

I put my 2013 book list on my sidebar.  Katrina Kenison's new book is first up...I am waiting patiently for it to arrive on my doorstep.
Do you have any good book suggestions for me?  What was your favorite read of 2012?