Sunday, May 31, 2009

Stallions & A Stud

What a fun and beautiful weekend we had! Something in it for everyone...a lot of time with friends in beautiful sunshine enjoying out-of-the-normal-routine experiences. Here's the weekend recap:
The two at the top had a great Friday night sleep-over at the church, with a late, late night at the Valley all to themselves. Lots of swimming, basketball, and other energy-burning activities. Alex went straight from there to Wild Waves with a group of about 20 others. They heard some great bands, became walking water-logged teenagers, and came home glowing from the experience. Or was that glow the sunburn?? Sadly, no pictures of this whole event. The family photographer was not present, and asking him to take pictures would have been fruitless.
Meanwhile, the one at the bottom had some much needed one-on-one time with us on Friday night. We watched a barely tolerable, I mean hysterically funny, movie to draw out some giggles after a sad goodbye to her sweet Minnie.
Then on Saturday, Beth and I were off to Everett to see the Lipizzaner Stallions with her Brownie troop. These horses are amazing! We were able to go to a "Tack and Groom Clinic" before the performance to learn a little about the horses. During question and answer time, my daughter really made this momma proud. She had her hand frantically waving in the air for some time, then was finally called on. "How do you tell the difference between a mare and a stallion?" Ahem. I told the MC that I would handle that answer at home, thank you. Next??? And if I may, let me add that the horse they were demonstrating with was providing a very teachable moment right when she asked that question. Next!!

The Stallions:

Me & my sweet girl:

After a busy and late night of crafts and a movie, we went to bed on the floor of a ballroom with about 200 others. So cozy. So no sleep. I was so glad when it was time to get up and go home. I then had a lovely 2 hour nap!

Meanwhile, as we were headed south towards home, Brad was already far south of home getting ready for his first open water race! He had such a blast. The electronic clock wasn't working, so he doesn't have his precise times. His eyes were still blurry from the goggles when they handed him his placement stick coming out of the water, so he's not sure how he placed. Definitely in the top half, which was his goal. He swam in the 800 meter and 2000 meter race. He's now ready to find more of these races to enter.

The Stud:

Now, for those of you who are paying close attention, you are right. The family photographer was unable to make this event, as she was previously engaged. Brad was kind enough to take some pictures so we can pretend. Use your imagination. He looks much like these other wet-suit clad men. Just better. I'm looking forward to being there for the next event! Yeah for Brad!


The official times are in! Brad swam the 800 in 12:02, 6th place in his age division, 28th overall ~ out of 96! And in the 2000 his time was 31:47, for 91st overall, out of 200+. He wants it known that he had some wardrobe malfunction that caused him to stop 3 times for adjustments. Otherwise he "totally could have come in under 30." Next time! A GREAT first showing!!

Friday, May 29, 2009

In Loving Memory...

A sad discovery in our home today. We are not sure what happened, but Minnie the frog died today. Beth found her when she went in to clean the frog tank. Lots of tears.

She was such a good frog. She was very curious and liked to climb. She especially enjoyed climbing on various toys in the bathtub. She will be missed very, very, very much.

Minnie has always had a special place in Beth's heart. She was Beth's frog for over 4 years.

A private family burial was already held. She was buried in the woods behind our house, under one of Beth's favorite trees.

Minnie leaves behind a very loving family and her two frog friends, Sally and Sweet Pea.

Thanks for all the fun memories, Minnie! We will miss you.

Flashback Friday - Baseball Then & Now

Last night as I watched Alex play in a double-header - 4 1/2 hours of GREAT baseball, I might add - I was thinking back to where it all began for him. So here he is in April of 2000. He was 4 years old, creeping up on 5. I love this picture of him facing that tee. In true Alex form, he is sizing it up, thinking through what to do. Analyzing it. Being his methodical self. Staring it down. Summoning the courage. Trying to remember which way is first base. Trying to simply SEE from under that helmet. Thinking, thinking, thinking. This was a special kind of fun...

And here he is last's hard to see, but this is moments before a great base hit. You can see the blur of the ball coming in. He still thinks about it, but now he mostly just does it. You kind of have to with a ball firing in at you instead of sitting there on a tee waiting for you to think it through! And his helmet fits much better, too...

Flashing back only to last night...such fun baseball to watch. I always enjoy watching, but it's especially fun when the boys have such great games. They played back-to-back games against a team that creamed them the first game of the season. It was an ugly slaughter. That team has gone on to be undefeated this season. Until last night. Our team came back in the last inning of the first game to bring in 9 runs to win the game! Including a grand slam! Wow! The second game they just totally dominated, winning 16-2. Everyone contributed. Amazing pitching, great fielding, great hitting, great base was all working for them last night! I know it's not about winning. I know. But it sure is fun ~ a different kind of fun!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Go Jump in the Lake and Chocolate Reality

Our three-day weekend was such a welcome treat! Brad gets very few holidays off, so we were excited to have him off work when the kids were out of school! Made it truly feel like a long a good way! The weekend did not go as planned, for a variety of reasons, but we had some good times.

Brad is getting back into competitive swimming through the Masters Swimming program. He has his first open water race this coming weekend, so he's been jumping in the lake as often as possible the last couple weeks. Since Monday was so beautiful, the whole family came along this time for a little lake fun. The kids had fun chasing him in a paddle boat and a kayak. I stuck to the dock and played the role of paparazzi. I took several great shots at one point, then put my glasses on and realized the person I was photographing was an elderly gentleman doing the backstroke. At least I got some that are really Brad...

There he goes...

Here he comes...and there are the girls in the paddle boat trying to chase him...

Blurry picture because he came at me a bit faster than I was prepared for...

Brenna, Samantha, and a backwards Beth...

Tyler and Alex thinking they could catch him (they did in the kayak, but too far away for a picture!)...

On another "note" (so corny...), Alex played in a "Jazz Night" concert last night. Just a couple more concerts this year...hard to believe!

While Alex was there early warming up, I ran to the store for a couple items. While waiting in line in the "express lane", which never is, I noticed a lady in the lane next to me. She was next in line, but had obviously been there for some time. She had a stack of 10 large Ghiradelli dark chocolate bars, her entire purchase. I instantly liked her for that. She was taking several deep breaths, in through her nose, out through her tightly pursed lips. I offered to let her go ahead of me in my line, since she was clearly in a hurry. She thanked me profusely and stepped in front of me. I told her I really admired her grocery buying strategy, and asked if there was a story behind all that chocolate. And she told me.

Apparently she plays gongs. She arranges these various sized metal disks and plays for groups of people. The intention is to take them to another dimension. Now, I had noticed that she was dressed a bit eccentric for my taste, but that's nothing unusual around here. She had a large, colorful tattoo covering her bony yet amply displayed chest. It was some sort of large bird, but I didn't want to stare to get the details. Anyway, my eyes were easily distracted by the lion's mane of free-style hair surrounding her head. Get the picture? So, how does the chocolate play into this? She said, "the chocolate is how we bring them back." I, in my naive way said, "Oh, so they come back for another performance to get the chocolate snack?"

"Oh, no, dear. They come back from the other dimension to have the chocolate. If they didn't have chocolate at the end we would leave them floating around in the cosmos somewhere."

I kid you not. I had so many questions for her. Instead, I told her, "Wow. And all this time I've been eating chocolate to escape reality for a bit!"

I came off as extremely friendly to her, because I couldn't stop the big goofy smile on my face. I was one breath short of laughing straight out. And I didn't dare make eye-contact with Brenna, because I'm sure her face would have done me in. I totally would have taken her picture if I had my camera. The whole time, I was thinking that this was either a really great Seinfeld episode or a really great blog post.

When we finally walked away, Brenna said, "Well that was sure a nice lady." And she's right. Very nice lady. Just a bit misguided in regards to reality. So she took her $29 and some odd cents of chocolate and went scurrying off to her event. I took my Pepcid, vitamin E, and M&M cookie for Alex and just went to a simple jazz concert. I think I had the better deal.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Monday Menu - Snickerdoodle Cupcakes!

"Holy smokes! I think this is the best cupcake I have ever eaten!" ~ Alex

If that review doesn't snag your attention, I don't know what will! And, really now. Snickerdoodle Cupcakes?? Considering the name of my blog, how could I not share this new found recipe? And the first time I saw that name, it truly gave me a little thrill. I assume the same for all of you. Thus, I give you the Snickerdoodle Cupcake recipe:

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

Dry ingredients:

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Wet ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 tsp. almond extract

3/4 cup whole milk, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin pans with cupcake liners.

Combine all dry ingredients together in small bowl.

In a large bowl, melt butter in microwave. Add sugar. Mix with hand mixer on medium speed until well combined. Add eggs, mixing well on medium speed. Add the vanilla and almond extract and mix well.

Add about 1/3 of the dry ingredients and combine on low speed. Add 1/2 the milk, again mixing on low speed. Repeat with the next third of the dry, the rest of the milk, and the last third of the dry.

Fill each muffin cup 3/4 full. Sprinkle each cupcake with a small amount of sugar, then a dusting of cinnamon.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, testing with a toothpick. Do not over bake. Who likes a dry cupcake?!

Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove to cooling rack to cool completely. (This recipe, for me, made 12 large cupcakes and 10 mini cupcakes.)

Meanwhile, make frosting:

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

2 oz. white chocolate, melted and slightly cooled

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 tsp. vanilla

3/4 tsp. cinnamon extract

1/4 tsp. cinnamon (more to taste)

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

In a small bowl, microwave the white chocolate for 30 seconds or until partially melted. Stir to melt together. Set aside to cool slightly.

Mix together the cream cheese and butter until well creamed. Mix in the white chocolate and vanilla. Add the cinnamon extract, cinnamon. Mix in the powdered sugar, about 1/2 cup at a time. Chill the frosting until is sets up better for easier piping or spreading. (This makes a lot of frosting. You can get by with 1/2 the amount for the amount of cupcakes. Or make the whole thing and be very generous with the frosting. Or save it in the fridge to put on graham crackers. YUM!)

These are great! The cupcake top gets a bit of a crust from the sugar and cinnamon on top, giving it the same feel as biting into a snickerdoodle cookie. And the house smells so great when they are baking. The cake is very dense and moist. That melted butter really gives it a fabulous consistency. Butter. Mmm. I did not do a good job of photographing those cupcakes. I think my hand was shaking a bit from the sugar rush of taste-testing the frosting. So don't judge them by their picture!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Flashback Friday

Here we go back to early May of 2001 for some sweet memories:

Why did I have such a huge bag of M&M's?? I dunno.

Why was it totally empty?? I dunno. Don't judge me.

How did Beth get her hands on this bag? Well, she is child number 3, which means that she pretty much got whatever she squealed for. If it kept her happy and entertained, it was as much a treasure to me as her. I do know that we kept that empty M&M bag for a couple weeks, simply because it was such great entertainment for Beth. She loved the shiny paper, she loved the noises the shiny paper made when she crinkled it, and she loved trying to pick at those colorful M&M pictures. I don't know if the drool shows up in picture #1, but I do think that is not only from teething, but also because she was born with great taste!

I'd love to have another snuggle with that girl as a baby, and maybe snack on a few M&M's while I rock her...
But now we get to share M&M's together, which is equally as sweet. And she does still love to snuggle. Especially if I'm holding M&M's. Yep, I'm raisin' her right!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Baseball, Bugz, & Bassoon!

Here are a bunch of pictures that pretty much sums up what we've been up to this Spring...

Baseball, of course: Games have been too few this year courtesy of all the rain and concert conflicts, but Alex is having a great season overall. (With the exception of falling for some strategic trickery last night, resulting in a tag out at 2nd to end a bases-loaded inning...bummer.) Please notice that these boys are playing in WHITE baseball pants!! The moms in the stands have shared many stain removal tips over the last 3 years. My favorite? Shout Advanced Ultra Concentrated Gel. It has a plastic scrubber brush attached that the gel squirts out of, so you can aggressively rub the gel into the 100% polyester (or whatever), and you can apply it right away and then launder it up to a week later. I swear these boys revel in the glory of getting their pants as dirty as possible. And I swear the moms revel in the glory of bringing those boys to the next game with bright white pants! I should have kept count of the number of bottles of Shout I go through in a season...

And, while Alex plays baseball, the girls just play...finding lots of ways to pass an evening in a park...
And occasionally daddy gets in on the playtime...

And here is Beth at her 2nd grade program, a musical play called "Bugz", with her very favorite friend, Natalie. (Yep, they are the same age...quite a pair, huh?!)
And lots of is Alex playing his bassoon in an ensemble. We are now in the market to purchase him his own bassoon...cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching!

And here is the music teacher extraordinaire, Mr. Allison...this is Alex's last year with him, and Brenna's first. He is one of those teachers that invests so much into his students, we are so thankful for him!
These happy smiles are because Sunday was the last SOGO concert of the year! Great year, but great to have our Sunday afternoons back!

And this is just a sweet picture...of three of my very favorite people...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Monday Menu

Here is a new dinner we had last week, and it was enjoyed by all of us. When I made it, I fully expected Brad and I to like it and the kids to tolerate it at best. But, much to my delight, everyone loved it! It is from The Pioneer Woman, and if you care to have a more in-depth recipe with pictures of each step, go check it out there. But here is my version:

Baked Lemon Pasta

1 pound thin spaghetti

4 TBSP butter

2 TBSP olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

juice of 1 lemon

zest of 1 lemon

2 cups sour cream (I used Daisy Light)

1/2 tsp. salt

lots of grated Parmesan cheese (I used about 1 to 1 1/2 cups)

parsley, chopped (I left this out)

Preheat oven to 375. Cook spaghetti to al dente according to package directions.

In a skillet, melt butter with olive oil over low heat. When butter is melted, add minced garlic. Squeeze lemon juice into pan. TURN OFF HEAT.

Add sour cream and stir mixture together. Add lemon zest and salt. Taste and add additional salt if needed (I didn't because the Parmesan cheese is going to add some salty kick.) Pour mixture over drained spaghetti and stir together. Pour spaghetti into oven safe dish.

Bake, tightly covered, for 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake for additional 7-10 minutes. Don't bake too long or the pasta will dry out. An additional note: at this point, stay near the kitchen to hear the timer. Do not leave to pick up your daughter from a Girl Scout meeting and ask your teenage son to listen for the timer and remove the dinner. Most likely, that son will get distracted by the beautiful sunshine outside and disappear. You just may come home to find the dinner still in the oven and the timer still beeping. The pasta may be on the dry side if you do this. Just sharing some hard-learned wisdom.

Anywho...when you take the pasta from the oven, squeeze a bit more lemon juice over the top. Cover with Parmesan cheese and then chopped parsley. Give a final squeeze of lemon at the end.

I served this with my favorite Strawberry Spinach Salad. If you missed that recipe, go here to see it. It is so worth making! So yummy. Love that strawberry & lemon together.

Here's Brenna's review of the pasta: "This is so good! Mommy, it tastes like you put lemonade in my noodles!" Mmm-hmm.

Friday, May 15, 2009

National Chocolate Chip Day & Flashback Friday!

Happy National Chocolate Chip Day!!

No, I'm not kidding. Apparently May 15th is National Chocolate Chip Day. I was running on the treadmill this morning, watching The Today Show, and this was the most important thing I learned. I was very close to hopping off the treadmill and eating some chocolate chips to celebrate, but I convinced myself that there were many hours left in the day. First things first, right?! And considering how much of my beloved blog is devoted to chocolate chips in some way or another, I thought it would be absolutely shameful to not acknowledge the day here. So, I have no choice but to make some of my favorite chocolate chip cookies today. I'm hoping you will join me in celebrating this day...even if it's only by eating a few chips. Or a handful. Or whatever.

I searched my distracted mind for some flashback that would be suitable for National Chocolate Chip Day. (I just love saying that!! You have no idea how happy that makes me!) Anyway, what came to the front of my mind was the memory of making chocolate chip cookies with my Grandpa. I would go stay with my grandparents on their farm in Eastern Washington for a couple weeks every summer. Grandpa would get into his old Ford pickup and drive to the grocery store just about every afternoon. It was more for the social networking than the food, but he did love his sweets. We'd bounce down the road in his truck, windows need for the radio, Grandpa whistled all his own music. "Blue Heaven", over and over. He'd slow down and wave to every single person we passed. He'd drive on the wrong side of the road, "to miss all those potholes", he'd tell me. But sure enough, on the way home he also drove on the wrong side of the we hit all those potholes coming home. At the store, he and I would pick out some kind of packaged cookie together. Usually it ended up being the generic vanilla and chocolate sandwich cookies or Chip Ahoy. Usually at least once while I was there we would also buy a roll of Nestle Tollhouse Cookie Dough so we could go home and "make our own." I don't remember Grandpa's cookie jar ever being empty. Every day he ate cookies. We have a bond, for sure.

Grandpa's been gone now for 11 years, but I'm sure he'd be very proud to know that the love of cookies continues on in his family. So...Happy Chocolate Chip Day to Grandpa Bryan!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

In Pursuit of Warmth and Relaxation

I have a really good reason for missing the Monday Menu yesterday...I have been mostly computer-less since Friday thanks to a blown monitor. Or something like that. I don't know the technical term, and I don't want to know. That's for someone else to know. And that someone else knows who he is.
Now I'm back on a temporary monitor, and so happy to be catching up!
We took off on Saturday for a day trip to Cannon Beach. We all needed to get away, and a day trip is the best we can swing right now. I had grand expectations of lounging in the sand in the balmy 65 degrees and catching up with Brad while the kids, getting along like best friends, entertained themselves by digging and building in the sand. Silly me.
In truth, the kids were tired and snippy with each other the first half of the trip down. By the time we got there, all was well. We had a big breakfast for lunch, then headed down to the beach. And the wind came with us. Oh, my. It was as if someone had a hair dryer turned on full blast, with cold air, blowing straight into your ear. We had to shout to one another just to be heard. So much for lounging and catching up.
We went further down into Cannon Beach and found great beauty, but still that pesky wind wouldn't relent. The kids made a great time of it, but I gave up. I went back to the van for a blissful time all to myself, reading a magazine in the deep warmth of the van.
Finally, we went to our very favorite beach at Hug Point, and ditched the wind. It was exactly what I was hoping we'd have all day. Warm in the sun, no wind, and very few people. Never did get to lounge and chat with Brad, but we did have fun. And the kids had a great time together.

Here's a smorgasbord of pictures of our day...

Here's Beth, happy as a ... you know. I guess I better start watching for symptoms of swine flu?!

This is how Brad relaxed his mind...making drip castles.

And, then, the kids had to get in on the castle building.

Look how big they are getting...

...and yet how little they still are!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Flashback Friday

Every flashback is special to me, but this one has a little something extra to it. Because without this one, there would be none of the others. It's back to where it all began...

22 years ago today...22 YEARS!!...Brad and I went on our first date! Happy Anniversary to my sweetheart!

I wish I had a picture of our first date. Or just of our dating days! I was not much of a photog back then. I became a paparazzi girl when our first child was born, so our photo albums look like we met at our wedding and immediately started having babies. There are about 8 years of our life with just scattered pictures here and there, nothing worthy of displaying. It's so special that this day falls when it's the story:

We both went to the same high school and same church, but had not met until we were counselors at Cispus, the 5th grade outdoor education program. The counselor I shared a cabin with was friends with Brad, and at some point she mentioned that Brad had a girlfriend. I remember feeling very disappointed to hear that, and surprised that I cared. So at some point in the week, I had been assigned to supervise a log cutting station. It was one of those looooong articulating saws that someone stands on each end of the saw and they pull back and forth until they cut off a slice of a huge log. I'm sure I was the least qualified person at that camp to supervise such an event, and couldn't imagine that even one kid would be interested in coming to cut a log. It was pouring sheets of rain when it was time to cut logs. Massively down pouring. I went out to the log cutting station and there is a crazy amount of kids lining up to cut that dumb log. All eagerly standing there in their rain jackets,dripping wet and hyper with excitement to cut a log! I stood there for a minute trying to figure out how to even begin, and thinking it wasn't even safe for me to be in charge of such a thing, when Brad came bounding out in his camouflage print raincoat and said, "Can you use some help out here?" So he stepped up and took charge and had those kids dropping rounds of a log like they'd been lumberjacks for their entire 10 years! Brad was my hero from the first words he spoke to me!

And the cool thing about it falling on this day? Our daughter is at Cispus right now as a 5th grader. Her teacher was my supervising teacher when I was a counselor. We've come full circle in this beautiful life we have. They don't do the log cutting anymore, so she won't have that experience. But she knows the story. She also knows we were high school counselors, not 5th graders. I told her not to stand in the rain and look for her hero. Not yet.

Back home from Cispus, we continued to find ourselves at the same event. Coincidence? I think not. After about 3 weeks of crossing paths and getting to know each other a bit in the safety of a group, we finally went on our first date: May 8, 1987. At the end of the date, Brad very nervously said, "I'd really like to see you again." When I said I'd like that too, he said, "Tomorrow?" And the rest, as they say, is history!

Look what we've become, Brad! We've come a long way in 22 years. I'm so glad I've been with you more years than I've been without you. Certainly 22 years ago today, we had no idea that we'd be where we are now. Just two high school kids who had a crush on each other and became best friends. Over the next 3 years, we fell in love slowly, and fell in love deeply. I still have a crush on you. You are still my best friend. I am still deeply in love with you.

So thanks to Brad for summoning up the courage to ask me out 22 years ago. And ask me out the 2nd time.

And for as long as we both shall live...and then forever. I love you.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Day for the Record Books!

Today is a day for the record books in our family. Or maybe a day of acceptance...

Alex went to the dentist today for his cleaning. They always weigh and measure height at these appointments. I had to ask. I had to look at his report when he came out. It's official. He is 5 ft. 8 1/2 inches. He is 2 1/2 inches taller than me. I've pretty much known this for awhile since I, you know, live with him and all. And I see that he has outgrown his dress pants with only TWO concerts left in the year. But when it's in person, I can assume that I'm slouching or he's standing on his tip-toes or I'm seeing blurry-eyed from all the kitchen cleaning and cereal fixing. Now, however, there it is in ink! No denying it now. My firstborn has outgrown his mama. Just in time for Mother's Day!

You know what that means. I have to learn how to walk in 3-inch heels.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Losers and Pies

I'm happy to report that I've recovered quite nicely from my "I don't want to get my kitchen messy" rut. I rallied last night and made the "Ecstatic Teriyaki Chicken" dinner that is such a hit. My children survived it again.

Many of you know we've had a very tiring couple weeks. Lots of stuff being dealt with and although it's all for our good, it is also quite tiring. Yesterday Brad came across an old email that I had sent him. One of his co-workers had requested my recipe for chocolate/pecan pie back around Thanksgiving time. Well, one could have easily thought Thanksgiving was approaching yesterday if you looked out to our windy and rainy weather. So, it was either the fatigue or the weather, but Brad thought that recipe looked so good. I can take a hint. When I got the email, I got to work making him a pie. It was so good. I just had to wonder, why do we only have those pies at Thanksgiving?? It was perfectly good on May 5th. We played a few rounds of Mexican Train (it was Cinco de Mayo, you know) and ate pie. Since our blustery weather continues, and since my Monday Menu post was so lame, I thought I'd add in a bonus recipe:

Chocolate Pecan Pie
1 9-inch deep dish pie shell (from the frozen section at the grocery store)
3 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup Karo syrup (I use a combination of light and dark)
1/2 cup sugar
2 TBSP melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups pecans (I chop about 1/2 of them)

Spread chocolate chips and pecans evenly in bottom of crust. Mix together eggs, Karo, sugar, butter, and vanilla. Pour evenly over chocolate and pecans. Place on foil-covered cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes, or until knife inserted halfway between the edge and the center comes out clean. The center will still jiggle, though a firm jiggle. The pie will continue to firm up as it cools. Cool on a wire rack.

Later in the evening I watched The Biggest Loser. Oh, my. Did anyone else see those 4 people do a marathon??! Even poor Ron limped his way through walking for 26.2 miles. Took him over 13 hours. Needed medical treatment a couple times. And had to finish the thing in the sand! I was so inspired. Not inspired to run a marathon, but to run my 3 miles today without complaining. And it was so good to see my "workout buddies" looking so good. Bill, Bernie, Michelle, Ali...did you see Ali holding Ron's hand as they walked together??! And his son waiting for him at the finish line?? And of course the swelling emotional music did me in.

I probably would have burst into applause if it hadn't been for the plate of pie I was holding as I watched.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Monday Menu

Welcome to a very special edition of Monday Menu! I'm in one of "those moods" today. Actually for the last week. It's not that I'm tired of cooking, although sometimes I am. It's not that I'm tired of coming up with what to cook, although sometimes I am. Right now I'm just tired of cleaning my kitchen. It's just so cyclical. I get it all spiffy and clean, and then it's time to cook again and get it all messy. "I'm over it", as my friend Shelley would so eloquently rant. So in having a conversation today with a dear friend who can totally relate, she encouraged me to post about the following family pleasing meal. And I kid you not, my kids really do love to have the following meal. For dinner.

Yep. It's a real crowd pleaser. And the best part for me, is 5 bowls and 5 spoons straight into the dishwasher and the kitchen is clean! If I'm feeling especially generous, I may pull a knife out and slice up some bananas or strawberries into the cereal. Better yet, pour frozen berries straight onto the cereal. They love that, and if you pour carefully and don't spill, there's zero clean-up! Sometimes I will allow toast with peanut butter, just to throw in some protein. But, again, that requires using a knife, so generosity is required. I have been known, however, to get very annoyed if anyone thinks they need a plate for their toast. That's what paper napkins are for, for crying out loud! So, on nights when I've given the busboy a night off, this is what you may find on our table for dinner.

And, since the Mother Guilt is usually not far behind a meal like this, I would advise being slow to put those bowls in the dishwasher. Rinse them out, dry them with a new paper napkin (as opposed to the toast-crumb covered napkins), and use them for the dessert below:

And I must children were harmed in the preparation or consumption of this meal. They are thriving quite nicely.

I learned this lesson on thriving when Beth was about 2 weeks old. It had been one of those days with a newborn. I know I hadn't even brushed my teeth. I may not have even gone to the bathroom. Alex and Brenna had their basic needs met, but nothing more. I was so worn out, and dinner could not be put off any longer. The other 2, annoyingly enough, needed to eat and were not old enough to take care of it themselves. And there, sitting on the counter, was a most glorious 2-layer chocolate cake. Someone had brought it to us, and in my hormonal, sleep-deprived fog, it looked like the perfect dinner for my 2 hungry children. I cut them each a very large wedge of cake, added ice cream to make sure they met their daily calcium quota, and called them to the table. Their little faces were priceless. "Dat is ow dinna???" They were so very grateful to me, the most wonderful mother they had ever had. They thanked me over and over. And for literally years, they would say, "Remember that time Mommy fed us cake and ice cream for dinner??" It was such a good lesson for me. On the inside, I felt like I was "failing" to provide for them that day, and in their minds I could not have blessed them more. We've done that on purpose a couple times since then. And they've had cereal for dinner on more than one occasion. And yet they are all happy, healthy, intelligent, well-adjusted, non-picky eaters.

So, there is my Menu recommendation for the next time you have one of "those days" for whatever reason! Show me a little camaraderie here, and let me know the next time you have cereal (or whatever!) for dinner!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Flashback Friday

Let's head on back to June of 2004. Alex had just turned 9, Brenna was 6, and Beth was 3. We had made the annual birthday trip to Red Robin, which at the time was the height of fine dining for these three. In case you haven't experienced this pleasure, on a birthday they bring out these crazy glasses and sing you a happy birthday song. Alex sweetly swindled the waiter for a couple extra pairs of glasses so his sisters could share the glory of this look. Over the next couple weeks, these glasses were worn at just about every meal. On this night, they put on quite a show with the glasses. They even got Brad and I in on it, and enjoyed it immensely! We have had one of those tough parenting weeks. Not as much laughing as we prefer, and we could use the good medicine of laughter right now. These pictures brought the start of some of that good medicine...

Alex in his muscle man pose. Quick...get that kid another hamburger!

Beth trying to do her muscle woman pose.

This really makes me feel better about myself.

Aren't they a cute pair??!