Thursday, June 30, 2011

Consider Yourself Warned

Hang on.  Hang.  On.  Figuratively, if you are just reading this.  And literally to myself.  Double check my seatbelt.  Take a deep breath.  Exhale.  And hang on.


The little man got his permit.  He has officially, through some pathetically easy test and a vision test that he passed but gave us concern, been declared permitted to drive in the state of Washington.  Oh, my.  I don't want to hear about how easy this is going to make my life.  I don't want to hear about how this may benefit me.  I just want to sit in the "oh, my" phase for a bit. 

I need to interrupt this to say that the vision test??  When they ask if the dot is inside or outside the box???  Pause.  Long pause.  "Okay, hold on.  Ummm...."  The lady repeats the question.  "Well, I'm waiting for the dot to stop moving.  There!  Well, it's mostly outside but it's bouncing back and forth."  The lady asks him to pull his head back, blink several times and try again.  He tries again.  "Okay, now I have to wait a minute.  Yep, it's still outside mostly.  Or, wait.  Yeah.  Outside, I think."

The thing is, the dot doesn't move.  And it was on the inside.  She suggested I take him to see an eye doctor because his eyes aren't working together.  And they passed him to DRIVE!  (The explanation being that he still had greater than 20/40 vision, so he's clearly seeing fine.  Well then why do they bother with the other test???)

Anyway, back to the "oh, my" for the mom.  I know he's 6'1", and he's old enough and he's a good kid and he'll do great, but geeze Louise.  I'm just at a loss for words.

He's doing great.  He really is.  But just in case you are driving around the state, please watch out for a white Corolla and a tan Sienna.  Please allow greater than the required personal space.  Please drive safely around him.  And consider yourself warned.  There's a new driver out there.  And he's very precious to me...

Monday, June 27, 2011

Coffee and Brownies, The Summer Way

Happy 1st Day of No School to me!  Oh, I am already loving this.  It feels so good to let the brain and body slow down a bit.  I love being home and hearing the conversation my kids are having.  All those little things are feeling pretty good today.  I have a list a mile long that I need to begin tackling, and I have done none of it.  Really, all I've done today so far is drink coffee, watch Wimbledon, do my Bible study, chat with a feels like summer!

Last night, I took brownies to a whole new, ridiculous level.  I was carrying around this curiosity in my mind, and decided to act on it.  Awhile ago, I posted this recipe for S'More Brownies.  They are so good.  So good.  And then another time, I posted these variations of S'Mores from the Food Network magazine.  My favorite, by far, of that grouping is the S'Mores made with York Peppermint Patties.  So I combined those two loves and made York S'More Brownies.  YUUUUUUUUMMMMMMMYYYYY!!!!!!   I love, love, love these.  They provide a great opportunity to practice self-control.

Peppermint Patty S'More Brownies

1 package brownie mix (I use Ghiradelli), prepare as directed on box
chocolate graham crackers
York Peppermint Patties

Pour half the prepared brownie batter into a greased 9x9 baking dish.  Top batter with chocolate graham crackers.  Top crackers with York Patties.  Top with marshmallows.  Pour remaining batter over marshmallows.  Bake brownies as directed.  Let cool.  (I like these best when they are warm and the Patties are gooey.)

Next time I make these, and there will be a next time, I'm going to try them with the new marshmallow Stackers.  Have you seen these?  GENIUS!  I'm not sure how these marshmallows work roasting over a fire, but for those of us who like to zap a S'More in the microwave, they work beautifully.

And, in related taste-bud happiness, The Pioneer Woman did a very enticing post on iced coffee.  The way she layed it all out, it made me think I needed to make some her way.  I was totally set to try her method when a divine conversation led to me getting my hands on a cold water coffee extractor.  This beauty is from the 1970s.

The instructions come complete with hand drawn people showing you how to use it.  I made my first batch of coffee extract yesterday, and today enjoyed a most delicious cup of iced coffee.  I'm in love.  Again.  I highly, highly recommend you make yourself some cold water coffee extract, either with a gizmo or with The Pioneer Woman's easy method.  Your taste buds will thank you.  (I used a small bit of coffee extract, milk, and 2 TBSP of Hershey Special Dark chocolate syrup.  Shook it all up with some crushed ice, poured over ice in my venti Starbucks cup, and I had a beautiful drink!) 

Now, I need to go watch Nadal finish off his match.  And I need to run so I can have another brownie tonight!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Five Question Friday

Oh, I love a good question and answer time!  I decided to jump aboard the Five Question Friday ~ just for kicks!

1.  What is your current favorite tv show?

If I'm in the mood to laugh, it would be The Middle and Modern Family.  Gloria could read a menu and crack me up.  I always love The Amazing Race.  It fascinates me, and as rock-solid as our marriage is, it just may be the end of us if we ever went on that show.

2.  What's the worst haircut you ever got?

Although I didn't realize it at the time, it would probably have to be the Dorothy Hammil cut I had in the third grade.  If I had some guts I would post a picture.  Apart from that, Marlece is more qualified to answer that than I am.  Sometimes we don't recognize the horror atop our own head until someone takes that head into their own hands.

3.  What was something you did as a child that you thought you were so cool for doing?

This was a tough one for me.  I don't really recall ever thinking I was "cool".  But I do remember getting my first 10-speed bike.  It was black with colored stripes scattered about.  I loved riding my bike down "the big hill" at our neighborhood park, which I now realize was just a slight incline. 

4.  Do you have any GREAT frugal family fun tips?

One is to always stay at a hotel that has a buffet breakfast included with your stay.  Another is to scout out the restaurants that offer Kids Eat Free (or for 99 cents) on a night of the week.  One of our favorite Mexican places does that, and combine that with a coupon for the adults and we have a cheap meal out!  And the one I think everyone does:  buy a jumbo tub of popcorn, bring your own baggies and fill up everyone on popcorn from your own tub.  Then get your free refill all for yourself.  Hmm.  None of these are GREAT, and all of them involve food!

5.  Would you drive across the country if you had the money to fly?

Well, this completely depends on who's travelling with me.  If it's the whole family, no thank you in the biggest way to a cross-country drive in the family van.  Just me and Brad?  Maybe.  I could envision a lot of fun eating our way across the country, discovering places to stop (food related, of course) that we otherwise would never see.  And as long as I had a big pile of books, some good music, and great uninterrupted conversation with my man, I'd be willing. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Laying Down the Summer Laws

One more day.  One more morning waking to an alarm clock for awhile.  One more evening of the oldest getting ready for finals.  This time tomorrow, it will officially be summer vacation in this house.  Yahoooooo!

With the changing of the routine, there is always an adjustment period.  Adjusting to being together more.  Adjusting to new (and improved!) sleep routines.  Adjusting to the filling of more free time.  Those are all great adjustments to make.  But even adjustments to great things must come with boundaries.  For our own protection.

With that being said, momma is layin' down the law.  Before we even enter the new day, I'm breaking out our Summer Laws.

This is a gift to you, my children.  Remember, your lives are filled with peace when you live by the law.  These are listed in no particular order.

1.  Boredom is forbidden.  You have each other, you have friends, you have all sorts of gadgets and toys and brilliant minds that should keep you engaged for all of July and August.  If the word "bored" comes out of your mouths, you know I'll put you to work.

2.  I will continue to buy the same amount of food I buy throughout the school year.  If you choose to graze on food simply because you are home more, you are going to be very disappointed in the limited offerings you'll have the next day.

3.  Friends over?  YES PLEASE!  Every day and night?  No thank you.  Momma needs her vacation too.  And, refer to rule #2.  I will happily feed your friends, of course.  Every day and night?  No thank you.  (You know your friends are ALWAYS welcome, just not every night.)

4.  If you take the family phone into your bedroom to giggle with your friends during a prolonged phone conversation, please return the phone to homebase when the call ends.

5.  You will have fun this summer.  I promise.  And I promise you I will have fun this summer too.  My fun may look different than your fun, and you may not hassle me about that.  For example, I will go out to coffee with friends.  Without you.  And I promise you it won't ruin your life.

6.  Please remember the mother of all "living together in peace rules":  If you open it, close it; if you fill it, flush it; if you spill it, clean it up; if you drop it, pick it up; if you empty it, throw it out!

7.  Your dad and I love having you home more.  We do.  But we also love our quiet time together occasionally.  Let us have it, and we will be happier parents.

8.  If you change your clothes 30 times in one day, you are responsible for your own laundry.

9.  You will be kind to each other.  Remember, your siblings have been given to you for a reason.  You will be friends with each other.  If you start having trouble with that, I will ensure that you get A LOT more together time so you can practice how to be friends.

"How good and pleasant it is when brothers (and sisters) live together in unity."  Proverbs 133:1

Amen and Happy Summer to my children!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

We Made It!

Happy first day of SUMMER!!!  It's not summer vacation in my home yet, but we are so very close!  And this sunshine that showed up today???  Glorious.

I think we will have something summery for dinner: like hot dogs, watermelon, strawberries...

This year, with our wacky weather, it feels like a victory that we made it to summer!  So here's my bloggy version of a high 5 to all of you!  We made it!!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Multitudes on Monday ~ There's Something About the Ocean

Happy last Monday of the school year (for us)!  I am so very glad to say that.  And I'm so very glad that the sun showed up in all its glory today.  The sun is giving me that giddy feeling inside...summer is almost here!!

We spent a very peaceful day at the ocean celebrating Father's Day.  That all deserves its own post, but most of my list will come from that day.  It was heavily clouded, but not a drop of rain.  Enough wind up high to fly kites, but no wind to blow sand or make you fight your hair.  Very few other people there, so we felt like we had our space to enjoy ourselves.  I even sat in the warm van for an hour and read.  Peace.

411.  Sand between my toes.
412.  How the loud roar of the ocean makes everything feel so quiet.
413.  The perfect blend of heavy clouds that makes the sky and ocean meet.

414.  Standing beside the ocean and feeling so very small, in a good way.
415.  Happy discoveries that thrill my kids.
416.  Being able to shout at the top of your lungs and still have your voice be lost.
417.  A break for part of the projects, no studying, no homework questions.
418.  A man that knows he is deeply loved by his kids.

419.  Having the courage to let my son drive.  On the beach.  Even if we may have been temporarily stuck in the sand.
420.  A beautiful song that takes root in my head everytime I go to the ocean.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Loved Beyond Measure...

This was the very moment that you became a father:

And from that moment to now, you have spent every day giving your best, loving your best, and leading your best.  You are present in your kids' lives in every way.  You are plugged in, you are attentive, you are patient, you LOVE them in the truest way.

Our son has a man in his life to aspire to be like.

Our daughters have a man in their lives to be THE standard.

I'm so glad we made a family together, Brad.  Our kids are blessed more than they know to be engulfed in love by a man who takes his job of being their father very seriously, and who has a lot of fun doing it.  And they are blessed to be led by a man who is led by Christ.  You lead with such a gentle strength, and you are unwavering in your priorities.

Thanks for giving your best every day.  You are loved beyond measure!!!

Happy Father's Day!!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It's Amazing How I Can Overestimate My Ability To Focus And My Ability To Sleep On A Floor

My brain is going in so many different directions, I'm having trouble getting it to focus on just one story.  And I really want to tell this one story.  Maybe it's from hanging around the little ones at school so much, they are rubbing off on me.  Focus.  Focus.

No.  Focusing is highly overrated.  I'll just let the randomness out and then I can tell my story.

I fell back in love with peanut butter cookies recently.  I made them like thumbprint cookies and filled them with a dark chocolate ganache.  Sweet, sweet love.

I am so sick of discussions of finals and schedules and projects  This has been an exceptionally heavy couple months, and we are just all ready to be done.  Most people are, so I'm not alone.  Getting home another project assignment (due on the last full day of school) just about did me in.

I only have to pack lunches for 6 more days.  I know that in a few weeks I'll be cleaning my kitchen more and feeding more children than I do when I pack lunches and realizing all anew how very simple it is to pack lunches.  But for now I'm tired of this routine and ready for a new one.

I lost a bet with Brad this morning.  The stakes?  Winner got to pick the next movie we see.  High stakes, considering we see about 2 movies a year.  I could swear that our recycling and yard waste was just picked up last week.  No, he was certain that it was the week for all 3 cans.  So we shook hands on it.  And this morning, when the recycle truck pulled away, I texted him and told him he was right.  Oh, well.  Give me a date with my man, a bucket of popcorn, and some peanut m&ms and I'll be alright.  Even if it is a movie I'd never pay to see.

I had the misfortune of being on a very squeaky elliptical thingy yesterday evening.  Beth is in her swimming lesson, I'm cramming in a workout, hopped on the only available machine.  The guy on a bike next to me was very disturbed with the squeak that came out of every right pedal.  I don't think I've ever been glared at so much in 40 minutes.  It wasn't me squeaking, it was the machine!!!  A different one opened up with only 7 minutes left in my workout.  I could have moved, but by then I had a bit of an attitude about his attitude.  Plus who wants to stop with just 7 minutes left and restart?  Not me.

I feel a bit better now.  I think I'm ready to recap the story I meant to start off with...

This weekend Beth and I went away with her Girl Scout troop for our end of year/end of TROOP celebration.  This is our fifth year with this sweet group, and the troop is not going to continue.  And can I say how I feel about being done?  YAHOOOOOOOO!!!!!  No more selling cookies!!!!  No more sewing patches!!!!!  I will miss the fun with these moms, and miss watching the girls be together.  Sometimes you don't even realize the things you will miss until you are at the end.

We made a bee-line for the beach right after school.  Phyllis was so sweet to open up her new "cabin" for us to have a beach sleep-over with 16 girls and 9 moms.  The girls played endlessly while the moms covered every topic from our men, birthing stories, religion, some gentle politics, teachers, food, and just about everything else. 

notice what came washing up at Beth's feet...

I wish I would have taken a picture of all the sleeping bags/air mattresses crammed together.  It was quite a sight.  There was no room for my mega-sized queen air bed, so I happily just slept on the floor with my sleeping bag.  Well, let me tell you...I woefully overestimated my ability to sleep on the floor.  I've officially crossed over that line.  Oh, my aching hips!  Everything hurt when I "woke up".  I say "woke up" because I'm not sure any of us really slept.

We spent the next afternoon at the Y, and I headed straight for the hot tub.  Oh, how it revived me.  The girls (and some moms!) had a great time on the water slide and spinning around in the lazy river.  (I only lasted about 10 minutes in the lazy river before the dizzy set in.  I'm such a wimp.)

It was a great weekend with some great girls, great moms, and most of all my favorite youngest daughter. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I Always Suspected This Was True

This little smarty-pants pulled off quite an accomplishment:

She took the World Test as a fourth grader, which is a culminating test for a year-long geography program.  This test covered somewhere around 170 countries, identifying them on a blank map.

And the result?  100%!!!  One of nine in her school to accomplish this!

And on the official certificate she is declared a "Global Geography Genius"!  Yeah, just as I always suspected.  It's official:  she's a genius!

In the interest of full disclosure, she is truly a smart girl.  And she studied a lot.  There's a lot to be said for working hard, and she did it!  (And why is that picture in water?  Because is there any better way to celebrate a job well done that by a dip in the hot tub???)

Way to go, Bethie!!

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Blessing of Being Inadequate

Many, many things are difficult about being a parent.  Being woefully inadequate pretty much sums up the difficulty.  Inadequate to meet all their needs.  Inadequate to heal their hurts.  Inadequate to prevent them from making any poor choices and the consequences they cause.  Inadequate to spare them the pain of rejection, disappointment, and hurt feelings.  (I'll never forget the first time a child was mean to my child.  I felt an immediate mama bear instinct that quite frankly frightened me.  Me, a "grown up" 30-year old woman, and I could have made that 4 year-old child look like the mature one.)

Today was a tough day to be a parent.  Today I had to explain suicide.  Today I had to explain mental illness.  Today one child came home with a great disappointment, one child came home with a great sadness, and one child came home with a great accomplishment worthy of great celebration.  Three big needs, all worthy of all of me, and yet even all of me was inadequate.

And we worked through each one.  And then I ran, and as I ran I prayed.  And as I prayed, I heard.  Inadequacy is a blessing.  As a parent, my inadequacy is vital in the growth of my children.  If I was sufficient to fulfill every need, heal every hurt, shield them from every pain, then they would have no need for their God. 

2 Corin. 12:9: "...'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."

I want Christ's power on me, and I desperately want it on my children's lives.  And if I held the power to heal their hurts, if I had the power to prevent all hurts, I would be standing smack in the middle of them reaching out to their God.

Instead I want to model for them how to go before the One who can heal all hurts, who can give all comfort, who can direct their paths when they are disappointed.  I want to just be the Mom, I want to give a comforting word, I want to tell them I'm sorry they are disappointed, I want to hug them and tell them I'm so proud of them.  I want them to come to me for comfort and affirmation, and I want them to go to God for direction and answers.

And I love the way my disappointed child responded to disappointment.  Gracious.  Wise.  Resilient.

And I love the way my sad child responded to sadness.  Loving.  Compassionate.

And I love the way my excited child responded to accomplishment.  Appropriately proud.  Genuinely happy.  Yet zero boastfulness.

Proverbs 3:5:  "Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your path straight."

I want my kids to trust Him, even when they don't understand.  I want them to accept a "no" as an answer from Him, trusting that He is keeping them on a path that is the best for them; or keeping them from a path that is not for the best.  Easier said than done, but I must let my kids experience that in order for them to deepen their trust in the Lord's best for them.

I am woefully inadequate to be responsible for their straight path.

But they know the One who is responsible for that.

What a blessing.

Multitudes on Monday ~ Unrushed

I think without realizing it, I listed some great things yesterday.  I just may borrow a few for today.  This weekend was beautifully lazy in all the right ways.  Lots of time to get little things done.  Slower paced.  Not shuttling at a dizzying pace.  Even a little longed-for solitude.  Just a little, but I'll take it.

392.  Delicious brownies that make you so thankful for functioning tastebuds.
393.  An unhurried morning.
394.  Cleaning little things.
395.  Quiet companionship.
396.  Playing in the sprinkler.
397.  Hot sun on my face.
398.  Iced Tea/Lemonade after a hard workout.
399.  A near empty cardio room.
400.  Glimpses of adult maturity.
401.  Clean windows.
402.  Watching a little boy push a heavy Costco cart, with great delight saying, "Don't worry dad, I got it!". 
403.  The toe in the water of catching up with a friend after tooooooo long.  It just made me want more.
404.  Watching my girls have an entire weekend together, watching their friendship.
405.  Birthdays.
406.  Birthday cake.
407.  Cleaned out emails, uncluttered.
408.  A patient, tolerant old dog.
409.  Eating dinner outside.
410.  Decisions to make...options are a blessing.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

It Feels So Good To Accomplish So Little

It's always the little things.  The little things that become the last straw.  The little things that become the favorite things.  The little things that remain the undone things.

Well, today was a day full of little things for me.  The undone kind.  The kind of things that doing them feels so good because only when you've done them do you realize how much they've been hanging over your head taunting you.  THAT was not a little sentence.  Ah, well.  That's okay.  Balance is good.  Little things, long sentences.  Balance.

My little things today?

*cleaning out my inbox

*cleaning out my sent items
*cleaning out my junk folder (and realizing a lot of stuff has gone to junk that should never have gone to junk, and then feeling bad that I ignored things that should not have been ignored, and then letting it go because it obviously did not cause the world to end.)
*hitting the "empty deleted folder" and watching everything poof away!

*cleaning out all my work emails, starting to wind down the year in a tangible way!

*washing windows

*cleaning the track and frame of the sliding glass door.  eeeewwww!  but aaahhhh!!!

*cleaning out the little drawer dividers in my bathroom drawers, wiping everything clean and fresh!

*sorting through all the stacks of papers that have accumulated and taking a big load to the recycling, filing away a stack, preparing a place for the new stack to begin.

*cleaning off schedules stuck to the side of the fridge that have been there since September ~ and now we are done!  again, winding up the year in a tangible way!

*writing the week's schedule on the white board and realizing it will be busy but do-able.

*doing the fourth load of laundry, noticing the soap is on the low side, then discovering today is the last day for that coupon at Costco...and getting there in time to restock!  (As close as I get to Extreme Couponing.)

*stopping in between these things to do my planks and dips.

*deciding which meat from the freezer is on the menu for the week.

*reading the Sunday paper...on SUNDAY!

*and taking the time to tell this boy that he's a good boy, and that his willingness to be accessorized by little girls does not go unappreciated.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I Blinked

Sixteen years ago today, I met this little man for the first time:

A baby was born that day.  A baby started a new life.

And a mommy was born that day, too.  A mommy started a new life.

Sixteen years since that moment???  It's so true:  "The days can last a lifetime, but the years go by in the blink of an eye."  Apparently I blinked.

Alex Bradley,

Happy Birthday to a little man who has turned into a young man right before my eyes.  What a joy it has been to watch your life unfold right before me.  To watch you sort things out, to watch you grow into yourself.  To watch you chase after your passion, to watch you find new passions.  To applaud you, to watch you applaud others.  You always believe the best about others, you always see the good in people.  You are driven, you are disciplined, you are creative and enthusiastic and so loving.  Over the last year in particular, you have so grown into your sense of humor.  You make me laugh every day.  (Well, most days.)  You are a patient, loving brother to your two sisters.  They look up to you so much, and they have been two of your biggest fans.  You know how to work hard, and you know how to play hard.  You know how to be serious, and you know how to laugh.  You know how to lead, you know how to follow.  You know how to learn and you know how to teach.  You know how to seek the Lord, read His word, hear His wisdom.  Keep your ears open to that wisdom as you start this new year, Alex.  Keep seeking, keep reading.  Keep growing.  I love you so much, and the greatest joy of my life is to be called a mom.  Thank you for being patient with me as I've learned to be a mom, and thank you for all the laughs along the way.  You make me so proud, and you make this life such an adventure!

I love you forever,

"Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  Joshua 1:9