Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Laundry Quandry.



Laundry day.  *sigh*  Best described as bittersweet.  There is hardly anything better than the faint scent of a fresh pile of warm laundry...

however

It is never ever one pile.  It's a plethora of piles.  Mountains, really.  (I am uniquely blessed with three vivacious princesses who love to play like strapping boys in the dirt.) And just when I think I am through, I discover Abi has emptied a whole tube of lavendar-scented lotion all over my bed.  MY bed.  (Please, tell me I am not the only mother this sort of thing happens to.)  *sigh*  So, if anyone needs me, I'll be in the wash room up to my neck in bedding.


Someday... I will miss this. 

Many moons ago, I wrote this bit of rhyme and stumbled upon it rather recently.  And it still rings true.  More.  Than.  Ever.



The Prodigal Sock

Everyone knows this story I tell,
The one that brings grief and weeping as well.

It starts with the day you find nothing to wear,
And you'll never do this again so you swear.

"Surely there must be a way to get by,
Without doing all of this laundry," you sigh.

You put in your colors and then all your whites,
You add the detergent and squeal with delight.

The thrill of a clean pile of clothes makes you smile,
But something is terribly wrong all the while.

You sit and you wait for your laundry all night,
It's not 'til later that you see your plight.

The washer and dryer have plotted before,
This time's the same as you open the door.

The dryer waits silent as you sort the heap,
And folding your clothes, you sheepishly weep.

You go through two times, just to make sure,
But you should have known that this would occur.

It's missing again and ne'er to be found,
It's not still inside and not on the ground.

They did it again, those horrible gadgets,
Someone must break them of their awful habits.

It's your favorite sock, the cause for dispute,
The one with the stripes, the one that is cute!

I guess they got hungry and swallowed their treat,
Your yellow-orange sock, for your little pink feet.

So when you do laundry, remember this talk,
Life carries on with the Prodigal Sock.




Don't forget the coffee...

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hungry & Imperfect.

My most cherished of books is anything written by Jan Karon... and I proudly own them all.  In the last book of her Mitford series, Light From Heaven, one of her main characters uses this description to describe the members of their beloved country chapel: 

Hungry & Imperfect.

Two small, potent words.  As I encounter this Monday, I wish to be just that.

Hungry & Imperfect.

Hungry.  Hungry for life and all of its offerings.  Hungry for things that are much larger than myself.  Hungry for the thrill of a fresh week, busy as it may be.

And...

Imperfect.  Taking twice as long to bake cookies, because my sweet little Sadie wants to measure and mix to her little heart's content.  Sporting my oh-so-fashionable "makeover" from darling Anna, which will inevitably mean reapplying my makeup before going out later.  Delaying bedtime for dear Abigail ten minutes more so we can sing "Baby Bumblee" one last time.

Perfection.  Is.  Overrated.

As much as I depend on my routine to run things around here, I often crave the lack of it even more.

There may be tears (Apparently, 7-year-olds are not too young for girlfriend drama)...  and there may be questions (Okay, tell me again how your stuffed cat named Margaret is a... boy?)...  and there may be surprises (Exactly how did the heart-shaped cookie cutter end up in Daddy's sock drawer?).

But it will be beautiful and it will be life meant to be lived.  So here's to another week brimming with adventure, smiles, and challenges! 

The coffee is hot and my cup is full.

 

"I'm ready, God, so ready,
ready from head to toe.
Ready to sing,
ready to raise a God-song:
"Wake, soul! Wake, lute!
Wake up, you sleepyhead sun!"


Psalm 108:1-2 (The Message)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Good News.

Several weeks ago, I read an article on CNN telling me I would soon be paying more for my coffee.  Boo. 

Today, I read an article on CNN telling me I will soon be paying less.  I sincerely hope the latter is true. 

Regardless, you simply cannot put a price on good coffee. 


"Coffee smells like freshly ground heaven." ~Jessi Lane Adams


Monday, August 22, 2011

Lunch Much?

First day of school. 

Which also means time for creative lunch ideas.  I imagine that lots of kiddos are like mine with their ever-changing palates and tastes.  On Monday, good ol' PB&J reigns supreme, but by Wednesday it's so last year. 

Sandwiches don't usually cut it around here. 

So what's a mom to do?  Get clever.

Coffee ingested.
Mental faculties primed.
Creativity sequence initiated.
All systems go...

Investing in good divided lunch containers that fit in my girls' lunch boxes has infinitely expanded our lunch options. 

(Note:  Some of these suggestions do include peanut butter and I know, I know... a lot of schools have varying policies on this now.  We love our PB around here, so always check out your school rules first.) 


DIY Lunchables
My girls are always begging me for the pre-packaged Lunchables.  They are usually expensive, not to mention highly processed and full of sodium.  It's super easy (and less expensive) to put together your own version.  I include lean meat (like chicken or turkey), my girls' favorite cheeses and whole grain crackers.  For a fun twist, I sometimes include mozzarella or provolone with low-fat turkey pepperoni.  (If using a single divided lunch container, be sure to place crackers in a zipper baggie to keep them fresh.)

Think Outside of the Bread Box
It is easy to think about a sandwich and conjure up an image of various goodies between two slices of bread.  But stuff the same old boring ingredients into one of these alternatives to reinvent it:

Whole grain tortilla (rolled up like a wrap)
Pita Bread
Croissant
Mini bagel
Whole grain hamburger bun
Flatbread rounds (like Arnold's Sandwich Thins... like a bun... but flatter)

This trick works for almost anything, PB& J, tuna, deli meat, chicken salad, etc. 

We especially like to spruce up the PB&J by substituting honey for jelly and adding banana slices and chocolate chips.  Yum!  (We use natural peanut butter without the extra sugar so I don't feel too guilty about adding in the sweet stuff.)

Fruit & Cheese Platter
Sometimes, my kids are just downright finicky about their meat.  And most days, I'd rather pick my battles and save the scuffle for something that really matters.  So cheese is always a great alternative.  Pair protein with fruit and I've got a pretty good thing going.  Cube or slice the cheese and include various fruits like melon, blueberries, strawberries, or grapes.  Apple slices are great for dipping in peanut butter!  Include whole-grain crackers and the meal is complete.  For another fun twist, cut bamboo skewers to a size that will fit in the lunchbox and make fruit & cheese kabobs!

Pasta, Please
A good cold pasta salad is always a hit for my sweet girls!  I like to use the garden rotini or Wacky Mac for the pasta because the colors and shapes make it interesting for the kids.  Toss with lots of veggies like shredded carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, black olives and grape tomatoes.  Add grated parmesan cheese or shredded cheddar, a lean meat (like grilled chicken) and toss with a light dressing (we like to use Zesty Italian or Tuscan House Italian from Kraft). 

"Lettuce" Eat!
My girls are almost always good for a crisp salad.  Start with dark greens and add shredded cheese, lean meat, chopped hard-boiled egg, shredded carrots, and grape tomatoes.  Pack dressing in a small separate container and add just before eating to keep salad fresh.

Sumptuous Sides
Most of these things are available singly packaged, but I like to save money by packaging them myself in small reusable containers.

Fruit cups (no sugar added)
Applesauce in various flavors (no sugar added)
Nuts or seeds (if allergy appropriate)
Raw veggies (like carrot sticks, sugar snap peas or celery)
Fruit (apple, banana, peach, plum, etc.)
Cheese sticks (available in lots of varieties)
Yogurt

Drink Dilemma
Personally, I think it's pretty hard to beat water.  After all, it makes up more than 70% of our bodies and most of us don't drink nearly enough of it.  I use a reusable water bottle and fill it with filtered water from home.  But on occasion, I include one of these:

Juice box (100%, of course)
Aseptic milk carton like Horizon Organic (like a juice box and shelf stable so it requires no refrigeration until after opening)

Fun Factor
Let's face it.  Kids like to play with their food. (Alright, who am I kidding?  I still like to play with my own food!)  Include dips and dressings for dunking.  Pack things they can stack and mix themselves.  Use cookie cutters to cut fun shapes (cheese, sandwiches, fruit, etc.) 

Taming the Temp
Always, always, always include an ice pack in the lunch box.

There have been recent news reports that 99% (and that's not a typo) of school lunches are not kept appropriately cold enough to be safe to eat by lunchtime. (I will admit that I was somewhat shocked to hear that a startling amount of parents do not include an ice pack and expect an insulated lunch bag to do the job on it's own. Yikes.) 



So there you have it.  Class is dismissed.  Enjoy!



And to appease everyone who is thinking... don't you homeschool???  The short answer is "yes," however my girls "brown bag" it once a week to meet with their supervising teacher, while mommy sips her coffee in the peace and quiet I am afforded once (and if I'm lucky, twice) each week. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fab Finds.

I love the novelty of an unexpected gift that you would never be able to find at the neighborhood Walmart.  Oddities most generally pack a smile or two.

One of my favorite places to find such things is www.uncommongoods.com

In honor of the impending school year, I am posting some of the most amazingly ridiculous (but mostly amazing) back-to-school curiosities I have found.  I only wish we had such things when I was in school...





Seriously.  The name says it all:  scented colored pencils.  Smencils are made from recycled newspaper and are infused with natural scents.  Each set of 10 comes in a fully compostable and biodegradable plastic case made from corn.  I just might have to order these for myself.






As stated from Uncommon Goods, "These staple-less staplers fuse your paper by punching a small, neat hole in your documents and folding the remaining flaps together for a secure binding."  Safe for kids and better for the environment.  Comes as a set of 2! 





This pen encases a mega-ink cartridge that can write for 2 meters every day for 7 years... or over 3 miles!!!  Just two of these pens could take a kid from kindergarten through graduation. 





Perfectly cute!  These are handmade in California and include high-tech headphones ready to plug in anywhere.  (Seriously... I need these for Christmas!)




Give someone special the gift of your undivided attention.  This is a service-blocking hanky made with silver fibers that effectively blocks incoming calls and texts.  Great for meetings... or especially the dinner table!  I won't name any names, but I can think of a few people in my life who could use this...



Get in touch with your inner scientist!  This amazing putty is made with micron-sized iron-based particles which takes on the properties of a magnet when placed in close contact with the included Neodymium Iron Boron magnet. When you place the putty near the magnet, within five seconds, the putty will stretch out on its own to reach the magnet.  It almost like it's alive!  Press the magnet into it and the whole piece of putty becomes magnetic, able to lift tacks and paperclips on its own after charging in a magnetic field.

Check out the video here:

No, really... the video is otherworldly alien.  This putty will probably be making an appearance in my daughter's Christmas stocking this year.

 


It's a post card.  It's a garden.  It's a postcarden!  This is a vegetable ink-based greeting card that keeps on giving.  Open the card, water the base and spread the seed packet.  Within a few days you have a perfectly edible garden of watercress!  I would probably not find success since it involves greenthumbery, but for most of the general population, I can imagine this would be a lovely idea!






This has absolutely zero to do with school, but it's too adorably fun to not include it.  So much for not playing with your food.  Encourage the kids to get creative at mealtime!  This is a food-safe ceramic plate.  I especially love the noodle beard.




All of these items can be found at www.uncommongoods.com or more simply by clicking on the hyperlink below each item. 



Happy Thursday!



Live long and drink coffee.  


 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Balance.



T minus 6 days.  School begins in less than a week, therefore its that most infamous of weeks at our house... practice week.  Practice going to bed early.  Practice rolling out of bed in the morning and not hitting the snooze button more than once.  Practice eating breakfast before 9:00 am.  Practice, practice, practice.  And I'm not even talking about the kids yet!

Seven days from now, my life will become considerably more complicated. 

I have grand ambitions for this year to be... better.  Not that last year was bad, but it definitely could have been... better.  I love this quote from Jill Churchill that says, "The most important thing she'd learned over the years was that there was no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one."  I am really trying to be a good one.

I often hear my would-be-mountain-man husband quote this from his favorite survivalist, Bear Grylls:  "10% more effort equals 100% more comfort."  Although Mr. Grylls is often referring to the likes of crafting a bed of insulating leaves to preserve body heat in a some remote corner of the world, this little slice of brilliance has profoundly impacted the way we run things around here.

It's really in the little things.  Planning out a menu for the week.  (thus avoiding consecutive nights of frozen pizza and deli sandwiches).  Laying out clothes the night before (thus avoiding various discussions on why the Tinkerbell shirt and cannot go with the Ariel leggings).  Packing tomorrow's lunch before bedtime (thus avoiding the realization that we are out of sandwich bread 10 minutes before the girls dash out the door). 

Most days it is all I can do to keep my toddler from eating my deodorant, "washing" her hair with lotion, or decorating her room with the "mommy stickers" she found in the bathroom drawer.  (Believe it or not, all of those things really happened yesterday... before 10:00 am.) 

I am learning to pare down my priorities, weeding out the good from the best.  I am working to bring a sense of balance to my home and to cultivate an environment for my family to do the same.  It certainly won't be perfect, but it can be pretty darn good.

So as we sail into another busy school year, I am determined to laugh more, stress less, and revel in every moment I am given, whether they be sticky or sweet.

And, as always, there will be coffee

Tuesday BONUS:  Pour yourself an extra cup and enjoy my favorite version of one of my favorite songs... 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Snacky.

I love lots of things.  One of those things is food.  Good food.  Not preservative-laden drek with heaven-knows-what fillers. 

My favorite snack (that I don't have to feel guilty about later) is this:

1 Cracked Pepper & Olive Oil Triscuit + 1 small slice of Provolone cheese + 1/2 cherry or grape tomato

Repeat about 4 times or so.  :)

It kind of tastes like this:





Yes.  Like the 4th of July in my mouth. 

I love the Triscuits especially because of their commitment to quality ingredients.  The list is short and I can pronounce all of them.  Generally speaking, that's a good sign.

Mozzarella cheese is also a good choice, but at our house, we are fiercely devoted to Provolone.

Also pairs well with coffee, but then again... what doesn't???

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Musings.

Monday.

Some days unfold exactly like you expect them to.  Others do not.  Today... did not, but delightfully so. 

My morning began with this prompt declaration coming from the vicinity of my sweet Anna's bedroom... "My tooth is still here!"  Oh, snap!  This "tooth fairy" went to bed early last night and unintentionally shirked her duties.  (Hello Monday!  Happy to see you arrived in style.) 

Ultimately, the kid lucked out, because the tooth fairy will be paying double tonight.

I later found my little Abi's clothes in a pile on the stairs. (Oh no.  Somewhere in this house, there is a naked baby.)  I am certain I do not have to elaborate on the mayhem that can arise with a naked baby on the loose.  My Sadie soon discovered our toddler hiding under daddy's desk with a bottle of deep purple nail polish... open, of course... and generously applied to all areas exposed.  (Which was pretty much everything.) 

Ultimately, Abi was bathed in acetone to remove all the evidence and I was just happy knowing she had the forethought to remove her clothing beforehand.

After devouring our evening family feast, we all headed to the backyard to enjoy a cool summer night and watch the kids spin themselves silly on the tire swing.  Then the phone rang.  Our unbelievably awesome friends invited us over to hand-pick corn from their cornfield!  We pile in the van, and... then the phone rang... again.  Lee is called to a quick work meeting... sooo... detour.  We wait 20 minutes while I entertain the kids with my less-than-spectacular basketball skills, then we were off to our originally intended destination.

Ultimately, I learn that my freethrow needs a considerable amount of practice and we relish a lazy summer night "down on the farm" with good friends. 

And now I'm here.  And I'm tired.  And my Monday post will be posted on what is technically Tuesday since midnight has come and gone but...

Ultimately, I am home.  Where I can roll with the unexpected.  And find joy amid the bedlam.  And the coffee is always hot.

Friday, August 5, 2011

It begins.

August. 

For most, this month conjures up the usual ideas:  Heat.  Fair.  Swimming.  School.  Like everyone else we are relishing what's left of the summer as we prepare to dive into another school year, brimming with activity and adventure.

For me, August is synonomous with one more thing... the official start of Christmas shopping season! 

Don't misread me, however.  I have spent more than a year or two (or three!) as an eleventh hour shopper.  Wrestling hoards of cranky consumers for all the leftover loot the day before Christmas breeds more contempt than peace and good will.  And a grumpy girl isn't good for much of anything.  I cannot afford to lose my mind, so it just makes good sense for me to not cram all my shopping into the busiest month of the year.

I don't make it to the "big city" quite as often as I'd like to so I do the bulk of my shopping online.  I have already been perusing some of my best-loved sites and here are some my favorite finds so far...





I LOVE this photo mobile from Kikkerland!  Its totally customizable.  My baby is 2 now, but this would be darling in any one of my girls' rooms.  You can clip photos, cards, or whatever really.  And it's only $12 at www.weegallery.com



Sweet convenience!  This tripod mounts to any standard bottle and has a universal camera mount.  I can't tell you how many times we have meticulously balanced our camera on a lone tree stump or rickety fence in hopes of getting the perfect shot.  Problem solved and the best part... $10 at www.uncommongoods.com.



Now I know we can't be the only house with a mangled mess of mechanical devices to charge every night.  I love how this hides the clutter.  It's like an electrical garden... something I couldn't kill no matter how hard I tried.  It is available in black or white at www.amazon.com.



Anybody who knows me knows that my love for Jelly Bellies is almost as strong as my love for coffee.  And these Belly Flops are just too cute!  This a huge assortment of irregular jelly beans... because every jelly bean deserves to be loved.  :)  Even better, I just heard that my favorite grocery will be selling these starting next week.

And what better display for these beauties than my next find...



How adorable is this?  (The only catch, however, would be keeping my kids out of my stash!)  You can get it at www.uncommongoods.com for $20.


So dear friends and family... some of these items may be coming soon to a Christmas tree near you!  (Or if anything... you've got some ideas for me!)

And so it begins...


Off to my kitchen for java #2... and thinking about good gifts. 


"So, my very dear friends, don't get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures."

James 1.16-18 (The Message)


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Greenthumbery.

Or not.

*sigh*

Oh, how I have tried to master my father's plant prowess.  But alas, I labor in vain.  It's not for lack of trying and it most certainly doesn't seem to be hereditary. 

Up until now, I was a firm believer that I could conquer most anything if I could find a good book about it.  When I first got married, I taught myself to cook.  From a book.  Five years ago, I taught myself to knit. From a book.  I learned how a car engine works.  From a book

And this also I have learned... I canNOT learn the art of foliage from a book

When I made my first go at greenthumbery, I gave each plant a name. I once had an ivy named Harry and a cactus called Bob Saget. (May they rest in peace.) It has never been so much a game of growing things as it has been a pursuit of keeping them alive.  It didn't go too well then, and it continues to not go well now. 

(I think people were concerned when we decided to have children.  I know Lee was... but thank God I turned out to be a significantly better parent than a gardener!)


Exhibit A


Note the crispy leaves.  I am smart enough to know that this is not good.  So in hopes of staving off "crispy leaf sydrome"...


Enter the Aqua Globe.  Note that it is empty.  Because it hasn't been filled in weeks (or dare I say months??).  I think this one has some fight left in her, though... here's hoping!


Exhibit B



This really used to be alive.  The Man threw it out and called it an eyesore.  I'll admit, it was a little crispy, but I still had hopes of salvaging it.  Note the empty Aqua Globe.


Exhibit C


This was the African Violet my Peanut gave me for Mother's Day.  At least I've got the sweet pot she painted me.  I can add it my collection of "flower-pots-turned-into-pencil-holders."  Note the absence of an Aqua Globe.  Doomed from the very beginning.


Annnnndddd I rest my case.  I cannot grow anything.  I once found the perfect garden sign.  It simply said, "I tried, but it died."  How lovely it would have looked in my dried up flower bed.  I will spare myself the humiliation and not share any pictorals of my outside endeavors. 

Last spring, I planted petunias and marigolds all around the outside of the house only to have them devoured by some beloved woodland creature!  I drowned my tomatoes, starved my peppers, and neglected the surviving petunias on the porch.

This spring, The Man forbade me to spend money on anything green and leafy.

I was feeling slightly more ambitious this year and at the urging of my more-than-capable father, I decided I could start everything from seeds.  This greatly appealed to my frugal self and The Man could hardly argue with the price of seeds versus plants.  How hard could it be?  I started tomatoes, strawberries, pumpkins, watermelons, peas, green beans, onions, daisies, snapdragons, marigolds, sunflower, and petunias.  It was going to be utopian.  Really. 

As it turns out, The Man threw out everything (again!) before I could photographically document the horror it became.

I can never figure out the whole watering thing.  How often?  How much?  My efforts always turn out moldy or dry.  Aqua Globe has offered me little solace. 

Perhaps it is just as well.  There is always the farmers' market and I am extraordinarily blessed by friends and family who take pity on my poor gardening abilities.  Just this week, our family was endowed with gifts of tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, blackberries, and fresh Iowa sweet corn! 

As the season of harvest fast approaches, I anticipate the baking, cooking, canning, and freezing of nature's richest bounty (be it mine or someone else's... but, most likely someone else's).






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