Thursday, May 29, 2014

Close (5 minute prompt)

"Close the door!" I know I am going to be saying it all summer long.  This is the last day of school.  I was greeted with a "woo hoo, it's summer!" from Spencer and a crying Hailey.  Talk about mixed emotions.  I, too, have mixed emotions. I love having my kids home. I love their snuggles and their funny personalities and everything they do that is just too cute.  I don't love the fighting and the crying.  But it is part of the package.  As a mom, you take the good with the bad and the bad with the good.  You take it because you love them.  You love these sweet little blessings sent straight to you from a loving Father who trusted YOU enough to care for them.  Who trusted ME enough to know that I would teach them about God, about love, about kindness and compassion, about hard work and sacrifice.  Me, an imperfect person, an imperfect mother, who is grasping at straws many days, while feeling pretty accomplished on others.  The emotions are mixed.  Yet, he did send them to me because he knew we would be a perfect match for each other or a perfect learning experience.  Because without my kids, I wouldn't have the patience that I need to survive this life.  I wouldn't have empathy that comes from kissing wounds (fake or real), hugging when you are past the point of sanity, and loving when bedtime has come and gone.  And Brooke comes downstairs for one more kiss "on your hand, mom".  So, this summer when I am telling the kids, "close the door", so the flies won't get inside, I will think of how happy I am to tell them to close the door.  Because without them, the door would always be closed, the house would always be clean, my body wouldn't be wrinkly and fluffy and my whole world would be so very empty.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Ode to Iowa

I am going to do my best to paint you a picture.  A picture of words that will capture your heart and mind and create a masterpiece of this home I call Iowa.  A home that I never knew would be called home.  A home of:

Backlight maple trees against a blue sky, a sky so blue, it could be called caerulean.  The branches hang down as an umbrella, covering the emerald grass, the budding flowers and the armies of insects, doing their jobs.  A wisp of gray cloud to the left, possibly threatening rain but only drops a drop or two.  A welcome rain that would lower the levels of humidity.  The humidity smells here.  It smells like summer and vapor and thick, lush trees.  It smells of lemonade and lazy days hiding under the shade of a tree. It smells of freshly cut grass and a people who are so eager to do yard work after being cooped up inside all winter. A smell that will be forever engrained in my heart. 

The sunset that can come from nowhere and surprise you when you go to open the windows or take out the trash.  And you look up, instead of down, and suddenly your breath is taken and you are in a state of wonderment.  Because a sky full of pink and purple and blue should never be taken for granted.  Because a sky painted so obviously, just for you, that you must admire the majesty of the painter.  And you wish you could remember this very sunset because, well, a picture would never do it justice.

The avid runners and bicyclists who are out the second it hits 30 degrees and even 20 degrees.  The appreciation of nature and all that it has to offer.  The men fishing the river or any hole they can find.  The children shouting and playing across the street.  The hikers, canoers and the boaters.  They embrace this placed called Iowa because they understand the importance of taking advantage of every second that it isn't cold because when that cold comes, it's here to stay. 

The tree I noticed the other day, while on a bike ride with Hailey, that was like sitting under a fragrant flower shop.  But these flowers were intertwined within each other and climbing up and down the tree trunk without any direction or pattern.  They were beaded and pink and purple and the vines were green.  They reached upward into a tree blossoming with life, pale pink flowers completely covering a tree that had been covered in snow just a month ago.  Those flowers came through.  The tree produced its fruit in spite of the winter.  In spite of a cold so cold that limbs were snapped from trees.  Yet these trees survive.  These Iowan trees are born and bred and know what to expect, just like the Iowans I have come to know and love.

I asked my friend, Abrah, "Why are people so happy here? We just eneded eight months of winter! I am still wanting to hide in a cave." And she said, "Because the people who can't handle it move away.  Only positive people are left" And that is one of the beautiful things about Iowa.  Grandma Barb has lived here her whole life and she pushes through each winter.  She hates every minute of it and longs for her garden, but she manages to laugh through it all. And the adorable mom down the street with the two boys who walks them to school every day even in negative 30 because she wants them to get some exercise.  And the sweet grocery store clerks who carry the groceries out to the cars in rain, sleet or heat.  And I see that Iowa has its own brand of people. They are survivors. They aren't complainers.  They are push it through, don't give up, work hard and play hard.  They are truly amazing.  And simple.  And welcoming and lovely.  They are very different from my Las Vegas people and I love them both!  I love both worlds. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

All About Mom survey free download

I have been in a church position for a few years now. I help set up bi-weekly activities for girls ages 8-11.  This week, we are doing a survey on mom and planning a little party for the moms.  I made this little survey that I thought others could use for FREE!  Then you won't have to make your own.  It's not super fancy but it does have some cute font and flowers on the bottom.=) Hope it can help you some.

Here is the link.

Cinnamon sugar streusel muffins

This was a cooking blog to begin with but I just couldn't keep up with the daily posts and the answering back of questions and the promotion that cooking blogs require, so I just decided to do what I love best, which is writing!  But I do still love cooking so much.  So Very much that I have to share this wonderful recipe with you. 

I had them at a church get together and needed the recipe ASAP! They are fluffy, like fluffy and moist and lovely.  And the crumb topping is crunchy, sweet, cinnamon goodness.  They would be perfect for after school or breakfast or whenever, because they are just that easy and perfect, so enjoy!

Note: I didn't use the cinnamon chips but I don't feel like they need them.  Then again, they might need them, but I'm not aware because they are awesome without them.  It's your call! Also, I didn't use the glaze either, but can you ever go wrong with a glaze?

Cinnamon Streusel Muffins
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons softened butter

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
3/4 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup cinnamon chips

1 1/2 TBS Cinnamon
Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake papers and spray lightly with cooking spray.

Prepare the topping by mixing the ingredients together until crumbly. Set aside. 

To make the batter: In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, milk, and eggs. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the dry mixture to the liquid, stirring just until combined.

Fill cupcake liners or tins 3/4 full.   Sprinkle with topping, pressing it in lightly.

Bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they're golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and wait 5 minutes before transferring them from the pan to a rack to cool.

Drizzle with a powdered sugar glaze, if desired.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

My Year with Brooke



My Year With Brooke

                Brooke is an August birthday.  This brings up all sorts of school questions.  If I send her as a four year old, she will be the youngest in her class. Forever.  Will she be socially prepared?  If I send her as a 5 year old, she will be the oldest forever.  And the tallest, which can be a complete nightmare as a girl.  Imagine junior high school awkwardness.  If she is younger in her class, she will graduate younger and be out in the real world sooner than I would like.  If she is older, she will be out in the real world at 19.  All these questions, and so many more, were rolling through my brain for the last year or so.  I didn’t want her to feel left out because she wouldn’t be going to school at the same time as her church friends.  I didn’t want her to be emotionally troubled if the first few months of school were difficult because she wasn’t emotionally mature enough yet.  I didn’t want to regret the choice to send her as a 4 year old in a few years if she didn’t understand the math or the reading comprehension.  I was having a conundrum.  I talked to Blake about it and he trusted my opinion, which was frustrating as well, because I wanted him to tell me what to do.           

                I had her signed up for preschool in LeClaire before we knew we were moving two hours away.  I went and stood in line at 6 a.m. and waited until 12 p.m. to get her into a great preschool.  I figured if she wasn’t ready when elementary school rolled around, she could just do preschool again.  But in the back of my mind, I was troubled.  I was pretty sad about the idea of her going off to school when I felt like we needed more time together.  In her four years of life, we had moved twice and had a baby.  Not to mention she is the middle child. I relate to her because I am the middle child.  I felt like our relationship needed some more growth, but I was also looking forward to 2 ½ hours of free time in the day.  Then Blake was offered a different position in a new city.  We moved and looked around for preschools.  We toured three different preschools that had great curriculums, activities and one was even on a farm.  But I didn’t feel like any of them were right for Brooke.  I made a bold leap and decided to keep her home with me for the year.

                I got my degree in English education and have taught two of my kids their numbers and letters.  I tutored children for five years as well, so I felt we could accomplish the preschool homeschool together.  After praying about this and feeling peace, I decided to go forward with it.  We had days for the library, music class, art class and other activities.  We did art projects, memory games, workbooks, and read hundreds of books.  We had playdates, baked treats, learned to clean the right way and snuggled.  It was the perfect preschool for Brooke.  She would proudly tell people “I do homeschool preschool with my mom.”  They would look at me like I was crazy and ask me why.  And I would tell them that I felt like Brooke and I needed to cement our relationship while she was young so we weren’t repairing it when she got older.  That answer always made me feel great.  Like I had made the right choice for Brooke and I really had. 

                Besides the activities that we did, the best thing that happened between Brooke and I was a mutual understanding of each other.  I discovered her learning style: busy projects and active games.  She learned how to be the helper with my projects.  I learned a lifetime’s worth of patience as she hates when any of her clothes get a drop of water on them.  She learned to follow directions and to be a bit calmer at the store and to be the example for William.  It has been a year of growth and a year of frustration and love and laughs.  Many times, I would hear, “Why aren’t you sending her to school at 4? She will be fine!”  or “I get my kids off to school as soon as I can!”  But when I heard these comments, they only cemented my decision and my knowledge that I had done the right thing!  I gave her a year of freedom, a year of learning, and a year of me.  I don’t think that we would have ever gotten to where we are without our year together.  This fall, she will start preschool three days a week.  The next fall, she will start full day kindergarten.  It will be a leap.  But she will be ready when the time comes to leap.  She will have had another year to mature. Another year to discover herself.  And another year to have some freedom before a routine and schedule becomes her life.  And I will be able to say to myself, I am so happy I listened to my own intuition.  That I didn’t doubt myself when other people did.  Because at the end of the day, the most important thing to me is the relationship between me and my daughter.  And making this choice (even though I missed out on my 2 ½ hours of free time during the day) will always be, to me, the turning point in my relationship with Brooke.

Grateful (5 minute prompt)

I know many of you have read my story/ranting/whining about moving from Las Vegas to Iowa while 36 weeks pregnant with my 4th baby.  Anyway, I was frustrated with that time. I was mostly saddened because the family and friends that we loved would not be able to meet William.  That the people who had watched my belly grow (and grow and grow) wouldn't be able to see my baby grow and grow.  It was a sad thought.  However, looking back at that time, I couldn't be more grateful that we had William during a big move.  Because he helped distract us.  He helped us to be so preoccupied with taking care of him that we didn't miss the family and friends as much.  We didn't feel the pain of a long distance move as much.  We didn't feel the sadness of being far away.  Too far to do a weekend visit or a ten minute drive.  When he was born, the song, "I'm Glad you Came" was a new song.  I always sang it to him because it is true.  The kids call it "William's song".  "The Universe will never be the same. I'm glad you came. I'm glad you came." I really am so grateful he came at that time.  I know that God had that planned out for me to take away some of the sadness and loneliness associated with moving.  I held onto William as if he were my life raft.  And he was. He really was.

Monday, May 5, 2014

My schedule, kid's responsibilites and accountability

I have been a mom for 10 years now.  I have recently started to understand a few things.  You would think I would have figured them out a long time ago, but it was difficult to be motivated and consistent when I was continually pregnant and nursing little ones.  I don't begrudge my time with my sweet babies at all.   In fact, I will have another babie(s) in the future.  It is partially selfish because I am trying to get a good system going, so the next time I have a baby, we will all be on the same page.  I just feel like my kids are getting to a point where we can be more of a family team and they understand responsibilities, consequences, etc.  So, here we go....

1)  I had gotten into a slump in eternal winter here in Iowa (Oct through Apr). I am a Vegas girl and used to eternal sunshine, which stinks when it's 100 degrees plus for four or so months, but sun is sun and it brings happiness.  So, I was in the slump and decided to pull myself out.  I started writing a weekly checklist.  I wrote a few goals for the week, dinners and snacks to prepare, our daily activities and things I needed to do with Blake and each child.  Then I wrote a daily list off of the weekly list.  It really has kept me motivated and focused each day.  I don't get to everything every day, but the point is that I am trying.  I also don't print off any cutesy "to do" sheets and put them in a binder. Here's why. I don't have time and I don't want to make the time.  Cutesy sheets don't make work more motivating to me. In fact, keeping the binder together is more trouble than it's worth, in my book. I have a spiral notebook where I jot everything down.  Not pretty but it gets the job done. I don't begrudge cute to do lists, but they just aren't my thing.

2) I have taught the kids different jobs over the last few years, but I was lacking consistency. I had a hard time keeping up with things and making sure they knew what their part was.  I tried a few job charts.  They didn't work out for our family. One day, I saw a fun idea on pinterest where kids roll a dice for their job.  Each job has a number 1-6 and whichever number they roll, that is their job for the week.  We have a list for kitchen jobs and one for house jobs.  For us, it's wash dishes, load dishwasher, clear table, wash counters, sweep and we just added "you pick" for number 6.  The house jobs are up bathroom, down bathroom, family room, vacuum, toy room and you pick.  Sometimes I switch them up.  But the main thing has been the kids "roll" their own jobs, so they really can't complain.  Nobody gets the same job two weeks in a row either.  We have been doing this method for over a month now and it has been successful!  They actually remind me to roll for jobs on Sunday nights.  Now, don't go thinking jobs are always easily and nicely done.  Just tonight, my 9 and 6 year olds had complete meltdowns while my 4 year old excitedly cleaned the bathroom.  But they eventually did their work.  And the meltdowns inspired us to add a new rule to the cleaning responsibilities.  Crying equals another job.  That solved the problem pretty quickly.

3)  My last idea came yesterday. I was frustrated because my kids always wait for me to get out of bed in the morning to make their breakfast.  Half the time I end up making it because they are being slackers or I am too tired to make them do it.  So, I came up with the "Accountability" chart.  Not sure if this is the appropriate name or not, but they are pretty excited about it.  The idea is every time they "self start" on ANYTHING they will get an X on their chart.  When they got 20, 30, 50, 100 X's, they get a reward.  The rewards range from staying up late to ice cream cones to a "YES" day to getting a dollar bill.  Now, when I say "self start", I mean doing anything without me asking them or reminding them.  Brushing teeth, cleaning room, doing homework, making a sandwich.  I don't care what the activity is as long as they are doing it of their own will.  And they are in charge of their X's, as well.  We are on the honor system here.  I am pretty ok with that.  I told them, "You can choose to do it on your own and be rewarded, or I will keep bugging you to do it and not be rewarded.  Either way, you are doing it."  The consequence is no X.  There will be no taking away of X's.  I hand drew them each a sheet of boxes for them to fill in while we were outside on this glorious day.  It isn't pretty, but that's not the point. 

You know, I am no expert on parenting. I am still floundering a lot of days, but these are things that have worked for our family.  The kids are learning responsibility, accountability and I am keeping myself on a schedule.  They are learning that work won't kill them and will actually help them to be stronger and more disciplined and gain confidence!  These are all things that we want to instill in our children and if I have to put a few systems into place to get things going, all the better.  I love this quote from Gordon B. Hinckley, "An understanding of the meaning of hard work.  If there is anything that's needed in this world, it's more work, and you are learning how to work here, to get up every morning, to get out and work in the face of discouragement.  The harder you work, the more you love the work."

Friday, May 2, 2014

Mess (5 minute prompt)

A cloudy day turned into a sunny Spring day, the day after May Day.  A mud pile awaits in the neighbors yard, freshly mushed with rain.  Dump trucks and tractors awaiting a good push and a good play.  A two year old boy, sometimes called "Baby Boy", though he is the size of a three year old, eyes those trucks.  He yells out "truck" in pure anticipation and excitement of what is to come.  He knows he will mush up that mud and squish it with his fingers.  He knows it will be a completely heavenly experience.  He walks over grabs that mud and tosses it into a puddle.  He grabs some more and tosses some more. It is messy.  It is a great and messy time.  His hands are brown and gooey and he looks at them and loves them!  He loves the feel and the fun and the mess.  His favorite fun is a mess.  A little boy mess that covers his hands.  A bath will be needed.  Something to wash away the mess.  But the mess will be back again tomorrow.  The excitement will be back and the newness.  And my two year old with his chubby hands and love of dirt will look at me with the sweetest eyes and say "truck".  The breeze will blow and the sun will shine through the leaves of the trees and I will get another glimpse of little boy heaven.


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