Thursday, October 28, 2010

Setting My Mind On the Happy

This Fall has held a blurry, dizzying pace.  I've enjoyed so much of it.  I wouldn't do it any differently if I had a do-over.  But now that things are in the early stages of slowing down, I'm realizing how truly tired I actually am.  You know how when you are going 100 miles per hour, you can easily keep up as long as you keep moving?  But as soon as you stop and try to stand still, your body hits the exhaustion wall while your mind keeps moving, unsure of how to stop.  That's where I am.  Still immersed in the mind part of the busyness...sorting pictures and videos for a season dvd for our banquet, sorting through pictures for gifts, hoping desperately that the gifts I ordered will arrive in time for the banquet, getting plugged back in fully to my own kids, trying to figure out where to start reclaiming my house.  Everything feels a bit cluttered right now, including my mind.

And the last couple weeks I've been really missing my mom.  Sometimes what I'm missing out on by not having her really hits me.  It's hit me a lot lately.  I want her to sit in the stands and watch her grandkids.  I want her to celebrate their successes.  I want her to encourage them in the beautiful way I know she would have.  I feel the absence of a close family in a huge way when my kids have a big accomplishment and there is a limited amount of people to share it.  And I feel that absence when I'm worn out and would love an encouraging word that I know she would give.  I don't think you ever outgrow needing your mom, and lately I've been really needing her.  I would love to watch her and Brenna have a conversation.  I get overwhelmed just imagining that.

So, I can't change what is just not there.  Sometimes I'm sad at the way things are, and that's just where I am right now.  But I can choose to focus on what I do have and how blessed I am.  I can choose to set my mind on the happy.  So that's what I've been doing this morning.  As I've begun the slow process of trying to get my house back in order, I've been keeping my mind in a place of thankfulness.  I wrote to our sponsor child this morning.  I am washing all the bedding in the house, because clean sheets make me happy.  I scrubbed my kitchen because that feels orderly too.

And in all the picture sorting, I came across a few pictures that hit my happy spot as well.  Here they are:

crummy quality, but I love doing these jib-jab videos, especially the elves, and laughing with my nutty family.

I love this girl's fascination with all living things.  I even let her bring this one in the house, which is evidence of my love!

I love this boy's kind-heartedness, his talent, his humor, and his baking skills!

This picture combines two loves:  this sweet girl and her love for cheer, and the pouring rain!  I love rain, yes I do.

I don't need to say anything about that.

The ever-sweet Emily and her penguin cupcake creations.  These made me so happy!

The blessing of loving, and being loved by, this man makes me so happy.

Beautiful sunsets, beautiful cloud formations, and a powerful ocean remind me of God's faithfulness.  The sun always rises.  The sun always sets.  The tide always comes in.  The tide always goes out.  Something very comforting in the routine of that!

I could go on and on and on.  My mind is so peaceful now, after focusing on all the good. 

"...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things...And the God of peace will be with you."  Philippians 4:8,9

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cheer Competition 2010!

Today my squad spent 4 minutes showing off what they have been preparing for since the first week of August!  It's a quirky thing:  they work so very hard for all those weeks, have great weekends doing sideline cheering, but get just 4 minutes to showcase a routine and be judged on what they've accomplished over the season.  And they get out and do it knowing they are being judged.  And it's a gym FULL of people.  And it's a huge high school gym floor, even though they've been practicing on a smaller elementary school gym floor.  THAT is a whole lot of pressure for these girls.  My group of 19 (4th & 5th graders) were very nervous.  Their warm-up this morning was very mediocre.  The stunt was shaky.  I was worried.

Beth with one of her sweet friends, Grace

And the 4 minutes?

They ROCKED it!!!

I am so proud of this group of girls.  They competed against eight other squads.  And they were indeed nervous.  And now that I've read over the judges comments?  They were highly complimented on their confidence!  Wow.  It's amazing what slapping a happy smile on your face and going out and having some fun can look like!

When all was said and done, they took first place in the high school Spirit Award, decided on by 5 high school cheerleaders' scores, and first place in their age division, decided by the three main judges!

I am so happy for them.  They made me so very proud today...and all that hard work paid off!

And Brenna's squad went out and gave a phenomenal performance!  I am so amazed at what this group of 21 seventh graders did!  They were truly amazing.  One of the stunts was complimented by a judge as "the best stunt of the whole day"!  When all the scores were tallied, they came away with the high school Spirit Award  and second place in their age division.  Their scores were so high, it must have been a very narrow margin between first and second.  But in any case, they could not have done a single thing any better!  So proud of them!!

Wind?  Rain?  Nothing but fun with the fabulous Coach Christina!

Brenna at the tip-top of the pyramid

Happy girls with their silver medals!

Love, love, love these girls!  They make life so cheerful!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Athlete Of the Meet!!

Oh, so much and so little happening...all at the same time! 

The biggest news of the past week is Alex wrapping up his cross country season.  He had an amazing last meet, taking 2 minutes off his best 5K time to finish at 19:16!  He was awarded the Athlete of the Meet award the next day at practice, with his coaching giving him a little write up about his performance being due to his work ethic throughout the season.  Good words to hear spoken over this kid, for sure!  So proud of all his hard work, and grateful for him to see such dramatic results from working so hard!  Now his schedule is going to pull back quite a bit, making for some much-needed home time. 

Crazy kid...he and one of his buddies got up at 4:00 this morning and went for an 8-mile run just for the adventure of it.  The plan was to run to Safeway and eat a donut at about the half-way point.  The little speedsters got there 10 minutes before the store opened so they just ran a 10-minute loop and were "rewarded" with a hot-from-the-oven donut at 5:00 am.  I cannot imagine eating a donut after running and then going to run more.  Youth.  He then came home about 5:30, crawled back into bed and slept until 10:00.  Youth.  I love that he's discovered a love for running!

I have been absorbed in coaching these sweet 19 girls, and I'm so happy to say that last night was our last practice!  The big competition is on Sunday, and they are so ready.  We'll see what happens when we get there, but they are as ready as they are going to get!  I'm looking forward to reclaiming some of my time.  I'm looking forward to not having to be responsible for other peoples' children and focus more on my own.  I'm looking forward to not hearing, "I can't find my poms!"  I'm looking forward to getting back three evenings of my week and having dinner together more as a family.  That being said, I'm going to miss being with all these girls, too.  I only get to take one home with me when it's all said and done, the rest I'll miss. 

Now today is a blissful day off school for all of us!  After Brenna's cheer practice this morning, we have all been home together.  The kids needed this so much.  The girls have been missing their brother like crazy, particularly Beth.  She, in a big way, expressed how much she missed him and needs to see him more.  He's a good brother to respond to that!  Beth is working on school projects, and Alex and Brenna decided to jump in and help.  I think this is a great excuse for Alex to play with his Legos again.  Either way, I'm happy to see this sight:

And speaking of seeing sights, the changing leaves have been so beautiful.  These particular trees I have been watching progressively change each week at our football games...

I love how these just look frosted with red!

Now we are off to the "Pumpkin Patch".  More on that soon!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Wherever You Are, Be There

Here are some thoughts that are have been rolling around in my head recently.

I have been noticing all around me parents who are 'there but not there' at their kids' events, or not even physically there.  As a coach, I see all a parent supporting my kids, I see all kinds.  Parents who drive up, drop off, and come back to pick up when it's all over.  Parents who come, but spend the whole time texting or doing whatever they do that is so important on their phones.  That drives me crazy.  People get so wrapped up in being constantly available, or in their own self-importance, that they can't even leave the phone put away for an hour and a half.  Really?  When my child looks up in the stands or out in the audience, I want them to see that I see them.  I want them to feel like what they are doing matters to me.  (Even when I would rather be someplace else, even when I'm cold, even when whatever, I want them to know that, in that moment, nothing is more important than supporting them.)  I don't want them to look up and see my head down, absorbed in some electronic device.

Be there.  Be present.  If you are at a game or a concert or the pumpkin patch or wherever, be there.  When you are at work, be there.  When you are at home, be there.  Wherever you are, be there.  Your kids notice.   

The season of attending these things that matter to them is so short.  It will be gone soon.  They will remember being supported.  They will also remember the times that we were "too busy" to be there.  We all have times where an event isn't possible, but what are you characterized by?  Are their activities such an inconvenience to our lives?  Say no to other things more.  Set boundaries.  Turn off your phone.  Turn on your attention.  They notice.

I've seen a child's eyes light up when someone is there for them.  I've seen the melancholy in their eyes when no one is watching.

I want my kids to know that they matter to me.  Even today, if I had my way, I'd like to go for a long run, take a long shower, put on some cozy jammies and curl up with a good book or a good movie.  But my kids matter more, and soon enough my calendar won't be full of all their events.  Soon enough I'll have a quiet house and a stack of books to read.  And I'm sure, I'm sure, I will miss this.  I don't ever want to miss it with regrets.  So I'm going to be there.  Wherever there is today.

A moment I'm glad I didn't miss!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Trees Are Flying And The Bugs Are Pinned And Apparently Thinking Is A Problem

There's a piece of me that would like to write nothing other than that title.  It sums up so very much in my little world right now.  Today I was unloading the dishwasher and wondering where my blogging mojo has gone.  I just have been very negligent about getting anything that I want to remember on here.  But I know it's not gone.  It's just on a brief hiatus, as it is every October.  I am up to my eyeballs in everything cheer right now.  Forms, routine choreography, cutting music, diverting thoughts of difficult parents, going to agonizingly boring but necessary meetings, not to mention the actual coaching.  I finally had my 4th practice with all 19 girls.  FOURTH!!!  Now I have two sick, one with a hurt's no wonder I have gray hairs growing faster than I can count.  But the music is catchy, the girls are so cute, the games are fun, and competition will be here next weekend and then be over.  And as crazy as these days are, I will miss being with them when it's over.  I always go through a bit of withdrawal.  Half of them I will never coach again, so don't get me started on that.

Meanwhile, life is marching on in a beautifully ordinary way.  Work is good.  First and second graders are so entertaining!  They are hysterically funny and have no idea.

Yesterday, one sweet little girl was practicing jumping rope while she ran.  She came over to me and asked me to watch how great she could do.  Of course, one jump and then she tripped on it.  She said in a very exasperated voice, "My problem is once I knew you were watching, I started thinking.  And I can do anything I want to do as long as I don't think.  But my problem is whenever I start thinking I just can't do anything!"  Sweetly spoken and duly noted.  I will try to not think so much.

Today we watched a tree fly!  We had a huge tree removed from beside our driveway.  HUGE.  This big fir had 3 arms coming off of it's trunk.  EACH arm weighed 3200 pounds.  It was amazing watching the crane pull out one arm at a time.  I'm so thankful for men who work hard and are well-insured.  The pictures just don't do it justice.  And this crazy picture loader is leaving my pictures turned and it's driving me I'm not going to spend any time trying to put in a picture of the flying tree.  Sorry you missed it.

And, all thanks to the Creator of all living things, including insects though I don't understand that, Beth's insect collection is complete, graded and over.  I told her we would need to throw it out before it started stinking (code for "Mommy's going to scratch my head 'till it bleeds if I have to look at that box of bugs for one more moment!!")  Beth responded that it was totally fine to throw it out, AFTER I took a picture of it.  Can do, Bethie-Boo.  Bye-bye bugs.  Insects.  Whatever.

Now I'm off to cheer practice, hoping for a good one.  Then home to have a date night! 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday Menu ~ Easy Chicken Parmesan

Here is a very, very easy dinner to make, that tastes so great...and makes great left-overs for lunch the next day.  This is ridiculously easy, measurements are approximate so you can't really mess it up, your house smells good enough to call yourself Italian, and I have never served this to someone that didn't really love it.

Alex walked in after a very rigorous cross country work out, looked at what was smelling so good, and said in a very tired voice, "Oh, thanks, mom."  THAT is an endorsement!

Adjust all the amounts for however much you need or want to make.  This is what I did for my big-eating family of five, and I have enough left for 2 lunches.

Easy Chicken Parmesan

4 chicken breasts (place between 2 sheets of waxed paper and pound to about 1-inch thick)
1/2 cup flour
3 eggs plus some salt and pepper, beaten together with a fork
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
olive oil
1 jar Spaghetti sauce
sliced mozzarella or monterey jack
spaghetti noodles

Place flour on a sheet of waxed paper.  Next to that, beat eggs, salt and pepper in a dish big enough to dip your chicken (pie plate or 8x8 dish).  Next to that, place bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese on a sheet of waxed paper and mix together well.  (In the picture, mine is in a dish.  Do it in a dish if you want.  I just wished I had saved washing another dish, but had already dumped it in.  Whatever works.)

if your chicken looks anorexic and all beat up, it's perfect

In a large skillet (is it a skillet?  that word looks funny to me today.  just use a big, flat good-for-frying pan).  Anyway, in that, heat some olive oil...enough to well-coat the bottom plus a little extra for when you flip your chicken.

my little dipping/coating station

Take one of your pounded thin chicken breasts, coat each side in your flour, then dip each side in your egg mixture, then coat each side in the bread crumb/Parmesan mixture.  Repeat with another chicken breasts.  Add to the hot oil, and cook for 3-4 minutes per side.  Repeat with remaining chicken breasts, adding more olive oil between batches as needed.

trust me, it tastes so much better than it looks!

While chicken is cooking, cook noodles as directed on package.

In a large, rimmed baking sheet, pour out spaghetti sauce.  Place cooked chicken breasts on top of sauce in pan.  Add a layer of cheese (I prefer monterey jack, but go all authentic and use mozzarella if that's your thing).

again, better than it looks.

Preheat broiler.  Place pan under broiler and cook for a few minutes until the cheese is bubbling and browning.

To serve (I got all excited to eat and didn't take a picture of the final thing), put a pile of noodles on the plate and top with a chicken breast and some sauce.  Most of us in the family only eat a half chicken breast, so that's where you'll get the left overs.  I mean, really...look how huge those are!

Yum.  Yum.  Yum.  All thumbs up from this family!!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Good Day For Soup

I love a rainy Saturday, especially in the fall!  It's so cozy, refreshing, and fall-ish.  So far today, I've coached 2 games in light rain, then ran for almost 6 miles with Brad in heavy rain, and I have one more game to coach this evening.  I am thinking it might be another soaking game! 

So it feels like a perfect day for soup!!  This is a recipe I posted a long time ago, and it still is a favorite around here.  Perfect for today, comes together really quickly, warms you up inside...what could be better?  Serve this with some hot garlic bread or cornbread and you'll be so glad for this rainy Saturday!!!

Minestrone with Italian Sausage

1 pound bulk Italian sausage

1 large onion, chopped

2 large carrots, chopped

2 celery ribs, chopped

1 medium leek (white portion only), chopped (I left this out...)

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1/4 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used a small bag of frozen, cut green beans)

6 cups low-sodium beef broth

2 cans (14-1/2 oz. each) diced tomatoes with basil, oregano, and garlic

3 cups shredded cabbage

1 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 can (15 oz.) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup uncooked small pasta shells (or any small pasta)

3 TBSP minced fresh parsley

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a soup pot, cook sausage and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in the carrots, celery, leek and garlic; cook for 3 minutes. Add zucchini and green beans; cook 2 minutes longer.

Stir in broth, tomatoes, cabbage, basil, oregano and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 45 minutes.

Return to a boil. Stir in the garbanzo beans, pasta and parsley. Cook for 6-9 minutes or until pasta is tender. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Monday Menu ~ Oooh...This IS A Good Cookie!

I know it's Tuesday, but Monday was filled with so much...including the field trip to learn all about our salmon.  This is not the first time I've gone on this field trip, but I am so excited to announce that it is officially my last!  Most things, when I acknowledge it's my last, choke me up and make me want another baby.  Some things, like these salmon, make me throw my hands up to heaven and thank the Lord that I never have to do this again!

I watched how many eggs come out of one female for the last time:

I watched how little milt from one male it takes to fertilize all those eggs:

I watched children handle fresh salmon eggs for the last time:

Great learning opportunity, for sure.  Very educational, for sure.  Grateful to be able to see all that close up, for sure.  But that's enough.  And, for the record, I did rotate my pictures, but they will not cooperate.  Blogger...thumbs down to the new picture loader!!!

On Sunday, I made dinners for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  It feels so good to have those dinners ready to heat-n-serve, to not think about dinners for a few days.  One was a new recipe, and I had intended to share it here.  But the reviews were mixed.  Brad loved it, one kid loved it, one tolerated it, and one was somewhere in the middle.  And I'm still not sure about it.  So I won't share it.  BUT!!  Have you seen the Bravo show "Top Chef Just Desserts"?  Love it.  The drama is too much.  There's one guy who needs his mother to have a talk with him.  He's too much.  But the food is so fun to watch!  Some wacky ideas, but I mostly salivate through it all.  Recently, they had to prepare a bake sale for a local high school.  A chocolate chip/walnut cookie made the judge ask for the recipe.  You could tell through the t.v. that it was a good cookie.  You could tell from the way the judges moved their mouths while tasting it that it was a good cookie.

So I'm oh-so-thankful that Bravo has shared the recipe!  It is my current favorite chocolate chip cookie.  It takes a lot for me to shift my loyalty.  But the shift is on.  I LOVE THIS COOKIE!!!  Sometimes I like nuts in my cookies, sometimes I don't.  In these, I love them.  Love them.  Love them.  Love them.

Here's the recipe, from

Chunky Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies

Like most of my chocolate chip cookie recipes, I think these cookies bake up more nicely when the dough has been chilled a bit.  A couple hours is fine.  I used a heaping scoop with my 1 1/2-inch cookie scoop, and they needed to bake about 12 minutes at 345.  They should be golden around the edges, and beginning to set in the middle.  Fall chill is in the air...what a great time to bake some yummy cookies!!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Quiet Friday Night Thankfulness

Ah...a calm, quiet Friday night.  Such a hectic week it was, filled with lots of cheering:  cheer practices, dance choreography, mental routine figuring-outing, cross-country cheering, volleyball game cheering, "you can do it!" cheering-on of one of my special little friends at school...and on and on it went.  Lots of good stuff.  Now Alex is home from his team spaghetti feed, Brenna is home from Young Life, all five of us home in one place.  Happily scattered throughout the house, while I ponder this doozy of a week.

It's been a tough week.  Lots of darts thrown my way, even though the target wasn't directly at me.  The person throwing flaming darts had bad aim, and while enraged, propelled them in many undeserved directions.  I took some hits. I cried some tears.  And yet when I reflect on the week, my mind is full of the goodness of the week.

So I thought I would just list them...

1A.  Saturday, while I was away at my 4th football game of the day, Alex baked chocolate chip cookies for me.  He even made one in the shape of a heart for me.  I think I'm his favorite mother.  And I think he wanted some cookies.

My sweet boy and my sweet cookie.

 1.  Sunday, a sweetie of a high school cheerleader helped me finish the last part of my dance I was hung up on.  "I'm Walking On Sunshine" is all sunny!

2.  Sunday I also got to spend time with two sweet friends and decorate the mock-up of our Seuss Christmas Tree.  It's going to be so cute this year, and we realized we are way more prepared than we thought we were.  At least that's how I remember it.  But now I remember I'm suppose to be keeping my eyes out for something...a topper or stars or Thing One or A Wocket or something.

3.  Tuesday I made my new friends into those yummy little cookies and filled my house with the scent of cinnamon.  A sweetness to my day that I needed.

4.  Tuesday our humidity went away too.  No thank you for anymore.

5.  Wednesday, although I missed it because it was an out-of-town meet and I couldn't have made it there in time, I was cheering Alex on in my mind...and he got a personal best 20:03 for a 5K.  Wow.

Amazing coach, neat group of guys.

6.  Wednesday was the last day of Beth's bug collecting.  Thank you Lord for all the beautiful creatures you made.  And thank you that I can stop seeing them scurrying around in a kill jar waiting to be pinned.  And thank you that she got her 20 bugs.  I mean insects.  Amen.

7.  Thursday I got to watch Brenna play her first-ever volleyball game.  Sweetest.  Bunch.  Of.  Girls.  Period.

8.  Thursday Alex had his audition that he showed up for a week early last week.  He feels good about it, and his cold passed quickly so he didn't have to audition sick.

9.  Thursday I had a Pumpkin Spice Latte.

10.  Friday came.

11.  Friday I got my 3rd kiss on the cheek from one of the little people I am one-on-one with at school.  If you knew him, you would give an extra long "awww", and maybe even get a tear in your eye.  I think I love him.  (And yes, I'm picturing Keith Partridge singing when I say that.  One friend was so kind to plant The Partridge Family theme song in my mind early in the week.  I sang it allllll week.  For variety, I now have "I think I love you, so what am I so afraid of..." stuck in my head.  I'll take TV theme songs for $1000, Alex.  Trebek.  Not my Alex.)  But the little kissing bandit?  He sure is lovable.

12.  Oh, and last night at 11:00, I had a creative brain surge and found a way to put together our entire competition routine.  Now we'll see if it's under 4 minutes.  And if our stunt can work.  And, and, and.  But at least I have a plan.  ("Come on, get happy!!!")

"Dear God, please let our coach figure this out soon!"

13.  Friday I ran at 6:30 in the morning.  I do not like that.  But I love the fact that I was in such a daze that I now can barely remember doing it.  I might try that again next week.

Happy October!!