Life is So Good

I’ve been absent from blogging (obviously) for a while now.  There is no reason for this other than that living my life has gotten in the way of writing about living my life. 
We are well.
The boys are funny and smart and mischievous and amazing.  They are growing like weeds. 
My better half continues to be a wonderful husband and an amazing father.  Marrying him remains (hands down) the best decision I ever made.
Our little house is warm and cozy in spite of the biting temperatures outside.  We love to snuggle under blankets and watch cartoons.  We play games and read books and play.
Though the wind blows and the snow falls, my mind has already turned to Spring.  Much of my free time lately has been spent with my nose buried between the pages of seed catalogues and homesteading books.  Honestly I have garden & yard plans much loftier than my budget will ever allow but I will do my best to follow through with as many of those plans as possible. 
Maybe I’ll even find time to document some of that journey here.  Who knows?


The Big Boy Bed (alternate title: We are never going to sleep again)

Our little Huck was finally getting to a point where he could climb out of his crib, so we introduced the toddler bed this past weekend.  Frankly he’s not a fan, and we are struggling with keeping him in bed or even in his room for that matter.  The first night was rough.  The second night was better and gave me hope.  Last night he really fought it.  Here is the play by play…
7:15: I tuck him in and we say goodnight
7:25 I hear him moving around and he comes out to say he’s done with his nap and wants to play
7:26 I tuck him in and we say goodnight.  Before I am even out of the room he is up and following me.
7:28 I put up a gate at his bedroom door and tuck him in.  We say goodnight.
7: 55 I hear a crash as he uses brute force to knock down the gate.  He of course, came crashing down with it and is startled/upset.  We rock for a little while in the rocking chair while he calms down.  Meanwhile, Hubby tucks Tom into bed (the boys share a room).
8:10 I tuck him in and we say goodnight  (Tom is now asleep)
8:20 Another crash and “Mommy, I fell out of my room again!!”
8:22 I tuck him in and we say goodnight
8:35 I hear him talking and suspect he’s looking at a book.  Sure enough when I go to his room, he has turned on all his lights and is sitting on the floor between the two beds, “reading” a book about trains.  Tom?  Still sleeping.
8:36 I turn out all the lights.  I tuck him in and say goodnight.
8: 50 He starts yelling for me to come to his room.  I don’t want him to wake his brother so I go.  He has moved all of his blankets, stuffed animals and his pillow to the floor and states that he’s having a sleepover.  He wants me to join him.  I decline.
8:52 I remake his little bed, tuck him in and we say goodnight
9:15 I hear giggling.  A lot of giggling.  I go to see what’s happened.  He is grinning and points to his brother’s bed.  “See Mommy, I covered Tom with animals!  It’s funny!”  Sure enough, my first born is now buried under a pile of plush animals.  He is still sleeping soundly, oblivious to it all.
9:16 Huck helps me remove all the stuffed animals from on top of his brother
9:18 I tuck him in and we say goodnight
9:30 He wanders out (I’ve given up on the gate at this point) and states that he’s ready to watch some Handy Manny and maybe have a snack.  I say no to both.
9:32 I tuck him in and we say goodnight.  After a while, all is quiet and I start to think he’s fallen asleep.  I tiptoe down the hall to check.  I open his door and there he is, standing perfectly still in the middle of his dark room.  “Hi Mommy.”
9:35 I tuck him in and we say goodnight
9: 45 He starts to cry because he can’t find his blanket.  I go back and find it for him.  I tuck him in and we say goodnight.
10:00 Out he comes again.  This time I find him in front of our Christmas tree.  “Isn’t it lovely, Mommy?” 
10: 02 I tuck him in and we say goodnight
10: 30 He’s out of his room again.  The Christmas tree is like a toddler magnet.  The lights are off now and that makes him mad. 
10:32  I give up.  I take him to the couch and we lay down together.  He hates this, but I no longer have faith that he’ll go to sleep solo – maybe ever again.  After maybe ten minutes of whining/crying,  he is out like a light.
In sleep he is all innocence and sweetness, and in the morning he wakes up his usual happy go lucky self.  Tonight was a little better, but not by much.  We are hatching plans to keep him in his room, but aren't super confident in any of them.  We shall see.  What we do know, is that even though we are tired - we wouldn’t give up these fun little adventures for anything.  I am very thankful for boys who don't sleep and for boys who can sleep through anything!  They are both an amazing blessing.


Star Wars Behavior Chart

We needed something to track of Tom's daily behavior - something that would allow both my husband and I to know what the other parent had already done (put him in time out, took away TV etc). 

Tom adores Star Wars.  He comes by it naturally enough.  Both his Dad and his Uncle (my brother) are huge fans.  I looked on Pinterest for behavior charts that would incorporate the Star Wars theme, but didn't find much.  I asked my brother and husband for some ideas and had a few of my own.

I did an internet search for 'Star Wars Cartoon Characters' and used some of the results as inspiration for the guys I drew for the project.  I used colored pencils to finish them off.  I'm fairly happy with the results;

*Awesome (The Force is strong with this one)
*Good (Jedi in Training)  - this is the default position for his marker
*Warning (Much to learn, you still have)
*Time Out (Encased in CARBONITE)
*Lose ALL Screen Time (Welcome to the DARK side!) - no TV, no computer, no Kindle etc

So far Tom thinks its pretty cool.  We'll see how well it works.


A Happy Summer Weekend

Early on Saturday morning the boys and I packed up the car and headed south to my folks' farm for the weekend.  We had been planning our little get away for a couple weeks, and we had high hopes for lots of fun in the country!

From the moment we got in the car, everything went right.  The weather was beautiful.  The air was cool and traffic was light.  We live in a part of the Midwest that is not flat or boring.  Over the course of the two hour drive we saw rolling hills, foggy valleys, flourishing corn fields and cows grazing in their pastures.  We drove by sleepy little towns and cozy farm houses.  Everywhere we looked, the beauty of this area was evident. 

The boys wanted the windows down while we drove, and so we sped down the highway with the wind blowing the wonder of summer through our car.  Tom told stories and Huck sang "Jingle Bells" for most of the trip and I couldn't stop smiling.  It was a perfect drive in pretty much every way.

Part of the weekend plans included some canning that my Dad and I wanted to do - so we quickly did inventory and got started on the first item of the day: Bread and Butter Pickles.  These are one of my absolute favorites and I was excited to make some of my own.  While Dad and I sliced and diced cucumbers and onions - the boys and my Mom were playing outside in a tent that had been set up for the occasion.  When we had finished our first step with the pickles, we set those aside to soak while we started in on the salsa prep.  We were done with the salsa by lunchtime, broke for our midday meal and then finished up the pickles.  The boys (and probably Grandma too) were happy for us to escape the kitchen. 

Me, Dad and Huck & the results of our labor!
The boys wanted to get dirty, so we went to the garden.  Several hills of potatoes were ready to dig.  Dad used his pitch fork to loosen up the hills and the boys scrambled for potatoes before carefully placing them in the same old red wagon I played in thirty five years ago.  Dirty, but happy - we put the boys in a big wash tub to clean off.  Once clean and changed into new clothes, we all went for a walk around the property.  We watched birds and enjoyed the views of hayfields and forest that surround my parents little house.


Dad started a camp fire and we gathered around with hotdogs and fruit, chips and marshmallows.  When it comes to campfire cooking - simple sometimes wins the day.  That was certainly the case for us.  Tom was especially hungry and gobbled up three hotdogs.  Huck kept getting distracted by the tent, but even he was getting plenty to eat.  The fire kept the bugs at bay, and after we ate we went to the best vantage point to watch the sun set.  It was beautiful.

The boys were tuckered out and getting a little grouchy so we called it a day.  Tom wanted to sleep in the tent but I knew that it wouldn't go over well with Huck so instead we slept in Mom and Dad's spare room.  We were all so tired that we slept fitfully and woke feeling very refreshed.

Day two was to be short, so we started early.  The boys filled up on pancakes shaped like Mickey Mouse accompanied by glasses of cold milk.  I loaded up the car while Huck rang the dinner bell and Tom pretended to 'drive' Grandpa's John Deere tractor.  Both boys got a kick out of sitting in the back of the farm truck (also parked) and playing with the water pump.  They chased the farm cat around and ate a snack before it was time for us to say good bye.

Huck and Grandpa checking out the water pump.
Our car full of pickles and salsa and our heads full of wonderful memories - we headed out.  The trip home was just as beautiful as the previous day's had been, but it was much quieter.  Huck was asleep five minutes into the trip and Tom followed him into dreamland not much later.  It was quieter, but it was still nice.  The weather was lovely once again and the beauty still surrounded us as we sped toward our home.

We packed a lot of activity into this weekend, and it was really perfect.  The only thing that might have made it better was if Hubby could have went along.  Maybe next time he'll be able to.  What I know for sure is that there WILL be a next time.  This was too much fun not to repeat. 

My Mom and I had a lot of quality time and good conversation!!


No Fuss Birthday Party

Today we had a party for our boys who both have July birthdays (Tom's 5th and Huck's 2nd).  They are amazing and wonderful boys and we adore them.  We never go overboard with the parties we throw (you'll find no petting zoos or bounce houses in our backyard).  I have been known to stay up till midnight the night prior decorating a cake or scrubbing the floor or whatever.  Historically the birthday party is both super fun and crazy stressful. 
This past year has brought some changes to my professional life that stress me out enough.  I just didn't think I could do the usual routine this year (while also keeping my sanity intact).

So I decided (with much encouragement from my awesome hubby) that we would strive to have a stress free (or close to it) birthday party this year. 

So how did we take the stress out of the big day?  I baked a standard chocolate cake and let my oldest help me decorate it.  Instead of making my own, I used frosting that came out of a plastic can.  The cake was a little lopsided, and some of the sides had no frosting at all. There were no decorative borders and for toppers we used some toys from Wal Mart. 

Tom also helped hang the decorations - almost all recycled from previous years.  Nothing really matched, but it was all festive and colorful.  I did make two posters.  One with Yoda from Star Wars (Tom's favorite) and one with a monster truck (Huck's current obsession).  Those, a few banners and maybe six balloons was pretty much it.

My husband prepared all the snacks and the punch and some salad.  He wrapped the presents.  We got $5 pizzas from our local Little Cesar's to feed our guests lunch. 

The night before, Hubby and I did a little party prep and then we sat down on the sofa and watched an old Magnum PI episode on Netflix and went to bed early.  Did I have a million things that should have been done first?  Of course.  I won't apologize though.  This system worked.  It worked so well, that I guarantee we'll use it as a model for future parties.

When our family began to arrive this morning, I was relaxed and happy Mama instead of flustered and exhausted Mama.  You know what they say?  "When Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy"....  Well, today Mama was HAPPY!  We had a fantastic time with parents and siblings and our kiddos.  It was really a perfect day.

I didn't dust every surface in my house.  I didn't vacuum under the couch.  I didn't wash the windows.  I didn't spend three hours decorating the birthday cake.  You know what?  I also don't feel guilty.  We had the best birthday party ever!  Would Martha Stewart approve?  Probably not. 

Good thing she wasn't invited.  :)


Tornado Season & What Really Matters

I live in the Midwestern United States.  We are known for corn fields, pig farms, a low-ish cost of living, friendly folks and tornadoes.  The tragic and unfortunate events in Oklahoma lately underscore the season. 

I hate tornadoes.  While certain folks might hear the tornado siren and run for the basement, flashlight in hand (me)…  others hear that same siren and jump into a vehicle that they will then use to CHASE said tornado in hopes of… okay, I honestly have no idea why they do it, but they do.  At any rate, I guarantee you that I’ll never be one to willingly put myself in a tornado’s path.
Sidebar: I do really like the movie Twister, but only if I’m watching it at home in maybe December.
Tom (my almost five year old) is learning about weather in a very high-level kind of way at pre-school.  Mostly they talk about the seasons and rainbows and how precipitation impacts plant growth – that sort of thing.  It was almost all he knew about weather until recently.  We are very careful that our boys don’t watch the news.  There is just too much stuff that they are too young to see and/or understand.  This has especially applied when it comes to violent crime and weather disasters.  So even though we had kept the lid on the true horrors of the tornado season, he got the info another way.  One of his little friends ended up telling him about tornadoes at school, and Tom became worried.  Really worried.  After that, every crack of thunder, every rain shower, every bleep of radar coming from the tv or radio – became a panicky moment for Tom. 
I found a bunch of books for children that had been written about tornadoes and we spent an evening reading all the bits that I thought might help him better understand and hopefully put him at ease.  We listened to the weather radio and I explained how important it was to be prepared and to act quickly in the event of a real tornado.  It seemed to help.  He drew a picture to show what he’d learned.  We even created a ‘nest’ of sorts under our basement stairs which all four of us can fit into.  He tried it out and was satisfied that we could shelter there if needed.  We added a gallon of drinking water, some flashlights and a first aid kit for good measure.  This calmed Tom down a lot.
Then, we went on vacation. 
Every year, we drive (about 500 miles southeast) to my Grandma’s house.  She lives on a sweet, simple little farm with my bachelor uncle.  They raise cows and plant row crops.  They have big gardens and put up a large percentage of their own food.  Going there for a few days every year is the perfect get-away for me.  My usual life is busy and crazy and cram-packed with stuff.  Going to Grandma’s is like a breath of fresh air.  Life (for those few days) slows down and brings me a renewal of sorts which helps me focus on the ones I love and the things that matter.
Tom on vacation
This year, after a lovely visit with the family on the farm, we headed back home – stopping for a few days in St Louis on our way back to break up the trip.  We had a lot of fun there – children’s museum, science center, planetarium, shopping, exploring parks etc. 

Huck and I at Grandma's house

On one particular night I was giving a bath to the boys at the hotel.  Hubby was watching the weather on TV as some bad storms were brewing in the area.  He was watching the weather alerts carefully just in case we needed to seek shelter.  As I was washing Tom’s and Huck’s hair and they were splashing each other and playing with plastic dinosaurs, I remarked to Hubby that there must be a party across the hall - as people outside our room were being unusually loud.
It wasn’t much later - we were all snug in our PJs - when the sirens began to wail.  I grabbed Tom’s hand and told him we were going to the hallway.  Tom - clutching his fuzzy bunny “Charlie” tightly, nervously accompanied me to the door.  Hubby had Huck in his arms and they were right behind us.  Our room was on the ground floor and we knew our best bet for safety would be the hallway directly in front of our room.
Evidently, that had also been the first thought of every other hotel occupant that night, as when we tumbled/rushed through our door; we saw that the entire hallway was lined with maybe a hundred folks also seeking shelter – and most of them staring at us.  Clearly they had been there a while and none (or at least very few) of them were wearing their pajamas.  It turned out we were in a different county than we’d thought we were, and we had been under a tornado warning for some time without realizing it.  The ‘party’ I’d heard outside our hotel room had in fact been a bunch of nervous folks hunkering down in hopes that the storm would blow over.
Huck was oblivious to any danger.  He’s not quite two and was excited to be doing something different.  He giggled and played peek-a-boo with his Daddy and sang ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ to anyone who would listen.  Meanwhile, I tried to console Tom.  He was beside himself with worry and was clutching onto both me and Charlie the stuffed rabbit for dear life.  “I don’t like this at all!” he kept telling me over and over.  I didn’t like it either.  We prayed together and that seemed to help him.  After a while, the hotel staff sent someone to tell us the warning had expired and we could go back to our rooms.
We did exactly that, very thankful that ours was only a scare and nothing serious.  After all the excitement, the boys both required more bedtime stories than usual and some extra snuggles – both of which we were happy to provide.  Eventually we all settled down and slept.  We were lucky and blessed.  That same night, a cluster of storms had hit Oklahoma for the second time in less than two weeks – leaving many dead and many others without homes.
Tornadoes are horrible, tragic and fearsome things.  They scare me more than I even want to admit, not because of the damage they can cause to things and places, but because of what they can do to people.  They remind me to hold my loved ones close and not let any little grievance get in the way of how much they mean to me.  They remind me that things are replaceable and unimportant in the long run… it’s what can’t be replaced that really matters. 
They remind me that life is fragile – no matter what part of the world we live in.
“When you are in the final days of your life, what will you want?  Will you hug that college degree in the walnut frame? Will you ask to be carried to the garage so you can sit in your car? Will you find comfort in rereading your financial statement? Of course not. What will matter then will be people. If relationships will matter most then, shouldn’t they matter most now?"

-Max Lucado


Chocolate-Bacon Mini Muffins!!

At the office, I'm a member of the department's Friday Morning Breakfast Club.  How does it work?  I'm glad you asked!

Each of the Breakfast Club members agrees to bring breakfast for the rest of the group twice during a two month cycle.  If you are a member of the group you get to enjoy the offerings every week.

So, today it was up to me, and my co-worker Carlie to supply breakfast to the department.  She brought a yummy cinnamon roll cake, and I brought chocolate-bacon mini muffins.  I found the recipe in the January/February issue of GRIT....

6 slices bacon
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 2 T packed brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup melted butter (or walnut oil)
1 T strong coffee
1 tsp Vanilla
1 large egg
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate mini chips, divided

1.  Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Line muffin pans with paper liners, or spray with cooking spray.

2.  Fry bacon until done but not yet crispy.  Transfer to paper-towel lined plate and cool.  Once cool, chop into 1/4 inch pieces.  Set aside.

I used my trusty flat cast iron griddle.

3.  In large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Whisk together.

4. In separate bowl, combine water, oil, coffee, vanilla and egg.  Stir together.  Stir in 1/2 cup chocolate chips and half the bacon.

5. Add this mixture to flour mixture and stir just until moist.

6. Divide batter evenly among 12 regular muffin cups (or same amount of batter will make around 42 mini muffins).  Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips and remaining bacon evenly over batter.

7. Bake for 15 minutes (around 10 for mini muffins - check your oven), or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for five minutes before serving.  Store leftovers (if you have any!) in refrigerator.

Before taking the muffins to work, I tried them out on my favorite test subject Baby Huck.  He loved his samples... all three of them!!

He was a big fan of the "CHOK-IT MUFFNS"!!
I took 40 mini muffins to work, and brought home two... so I think they were a success!!!


Related Posts with Thumbnails