Thursday, September 27, 2012

Little Pumpkin

 It's true! Lord willing, a new little pumpkin will be joining our family next May. We are shocked, surprised, and unbelievably happy! And did I mention we are shocked? But in a good way, because I have always loved little pumpkins. And now I will have FOUR! Thank you, God, for your continuous blessings!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Happy at Home: Little Boy Style

Do you see this boy? I LOVE him. With my whole heart. Possibly more. I love all of my children, naturally, but there is something special about a mother's relationship with her son. All he has to do is look up at me with his big brown eyes and I melt. I melt right there into a puddle on the floor, a sopping mess of deep love.

Last week my boy turned two and a half years old. The night sky was fading, Boss and I were sitting around a toasty fire in the backyard, the children bouncing on the trampoline, their fingers still sticky from the Smores we had made. And then the significance of the day hit me. It was September 15th. Our boy was now officially two and a half years old. We had now loved him for 30 months. So I yelled across the yard to him, Happy (half) Birthday, Jack! He stopped bouncing. Today is my happy birfday? Dramatic pause. Yes, we told him. Hooray! Today is my happy birfday! he shouted as his sisters wildly cheered and clapped for him. It was an ordinary evening at our home, made special by the celebration of two and a half years of life.

At two and a half years old, Jack is a little ball of energy He is full of life, constantly fighting naps. He is afraid that if he sleeps he might possibly miss something! There is nothing he loves more than his parents, siblings, and grandparents. Except for maybe Kaytlin. Kaytlin is his girlfriend. She is also sixteen years old. But Jack doesn't seem to care about the age difference. All he knows is that he loves her. He also loves sports. Basketball, football, soccer, tennis, golf. If it comes with a ball, he loves it. And thank goodness for his love of sports, because that helps to balance out his other loves of Barbies, babies, tea parties, purses, and lip gloss. His love of sports helps his daddy not to feel as worried. His favorite foods are macaroni and cheese and grapes. And if we are going to keep this update honest, I must also say that Jack spends large portions of each day in time out for hitting and biting his sister, Kate. What can I say? Love hurts, baby. But just when I reach my breaking point in this whole 'parenting a rowdy little boy thing', he looks up at me with his big brown eyes and I melt all over again.

We feel so blessed that Jack is our son. Of course we think he is brilliant, and handsome, and funny, and wonderful. He makes life in our home better every single day. I thank God all of the time for the gift of my family and children. How can my home be anything but happy when I open my eyes to the gifts all around me? The answer is that it can't be. So scoot over Disney World. Home just might be becoming the happiest place on Earth.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Apple Picking in Autumn

Fun Orchard We Visited With Friends

It Was Open!

My Cowboy


Cowboy Jack Captured A Pumpkin


Kate Works Hard

Jack Found Some Good Ones!

Claire Is In Charge Of The Bucket

My Beautiful Girl

Sweet Boy

My Other Beautiful Girl

Little Lila

Apple Gazing

More Pictures, Mama?

Big Jack and Little Jack

Three, My Favorite Number

Apple Barn

Country Tractor

Monday, September 17, 2012

Happy at Home: Soup Style

Happy Fall! And happy Monday! I am so excited that it is that time of year again! Fall is one of my most favorite seasons. Crisp weather, orange pumpkins,  hot drinks, changing leaves, campfires, and soups. Lots of yummy soups!
In case you weren't aware, soups are a super yummy and simple dish for the struggling homemaker to prepare. That would be me. Ahem. (My friend once gave me a cute little bag that read I only have a kitchen, because it came with the house! Ha!) But since I have aspired to learn the art of being happy at home, and to me that means having a delicious supper on the table for my family more nights than not, soups are often a wonderfully warm way to go. Because it's now fall! And we can eat soup!

We have a couple of 'family favorites' that I would like to share with you. The recipes, that is. Not the actual soup. But if you would like to come over for a bowl of soup, that would be just super, too!

Our most favorite soup is Chicken Enchilada soup. I was given the recipe by one of my fellow foster moms. This soup only requires five ingredients (though you can add more, if you desire). My fellow foster mom friend knew of my struggles in the kitchen, and she told me that this was my recipe. Created just for me. And because you can create goodness with only five items, I think she just might be right.  So here it is:

Chicken Enchilada Soup
- 1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
- 1 can Fiesta Nacho Cheese soup (spicy) OR 1 can Cheddar Cheese soup (mild)
- 1 can red enchilada sauce
- 2 cups of milk
- diced chicken (may be boiled, Tyson's already cooked/just need to be heated chicken pieces, or even from a can!)
And that's it! You can add a can of drained corn or black beans if you want to get fancy. And sometimes I add a cup of Picante Sauce. But you don't have to. It tastes smashing with the first five ingredients alone.
Simply combine everything into one big pot on the stove and cook it over med/high heat until it is warm and bubbly, or put it in your handy dandy crock pot and cook it only high for a few hours, or low all day long.
Top with crumbled tortilla chips, grated cheese, sour cream, you name it. If you like it, toss it on! And voila! You have a yummy, and more importantly simple, supper!  
(serves my family of five easily, with soup to spare)

My second go to soup is Taco Soup. I am not sure where I found this recipe, but there are a variety of versions of it all over the Internet. I used to make this soup for the teenage girls that we fostered. They loved it, and it was good for serving a crowd. Which we always had. Every single night. And it's true that I kind of miss those days. Full tables are the best. My friend Heather used to say that eating at our table felt like Thanksgiving! And for my struggling homemakers soul, I took that as a compliment!

Taco Soup
- 1 lb. ground beef or turkey, browned
- 1 pkg. taco seasoning
- 1 pkg. Ranch dressing mix
- 2 cups water
- 1 can corn
- 1 can stewed tomatoes
- 1 can ranch style beans
- 1 small can green chile's
- 1 chopped onion (optional)
Can be cooked stove top or in your crock pot! Top with all of your favorite taco toppings. Enjoy!

So there you have it. My super, secret soup recipes. Except they aren't secret, because I just shared them with you. And they aren't even mine, since I stole them from friends. Whatever. I will simply say you're welcome, and leave it at that! Here's to another week of learning to be Happy at Home!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

SOCCER Saturday

Soccer Sisters

Coach Z (aka Boss) and his Children

Kick it Kate!

Stylin' Star

Wait for it.....

Let's go Number 3!!!

We love SOCCER Saturday's!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Remember: Every Life is Beautiful

Boss and I last February. I was newly pregnant with baby number four.
Photo by Heather Matthews Photography

 Yesterday was an emotionally intense day of remembrance for me for a number of reasons.
The first reason is probably pretty obvious. The tragedy of 9/11 touched our entire nation. It touched me. I was just beginning my sophomore year of college that September, sitting in a class on government when I first heard the news. I actually don't remember how I initially felt upon watching the planes fly into the towers . I don't recall my initial reaction. I don't think that I even had one. I am one of those people where it takes quite awhile for emotions to sink in. After a lifetime of feeling things much too intensely, by college I had a nice big wall built up around my heart, and I had to choose carefully what feelings I would allow inside of my wall. Feeling nothing usually won out, and I am ashamed to say that it won out on 9/11, as well. I felt nothing. It was easier that way. And as the days went by, and it was still all that anyone was talking about, I then remember moving from feeling nothing, to feeling angry. Because the longer people talked, the more times they showed the horrific footage on the television, the more likely it was becoming that I couldn't ignore what had taken place.
It finally hit me several days later while I was in the shower. And then all of a sudden, I felt fear. Fear of being alive, fear of not being alive, fear of a religion I did not understand, fear of moving about freely, fear of being away from my family. And I kept thinking about those people on the planes. And I knew that my fear could not even begin to compare to what they had experienced that day. So I cried the ugly kind of cry. I slid down the side of the shower until I was sitting on the cold floor of the tub and I let the warm water wash over my body, praying it would wash away my pain in the process. I have always been a fearful person, and the events of that particular day drew me in to my shell just a little bit more. I began to view the world differently. I had known that the world could be cruel, but that day showed me that it was also unsafe. 9/11 made me question God. Not in a bad way. Just in a way that was new for me. And eleven years later, I still don't have answers to some of my questions.
So yesterday, I remembered. I remembered the people who lost their lives. I thought of and prayed for their families. It was a good reminder that I am not the author of my own days. I am not in control. It was a good reminder that every life matters. Every single life has the ability to impact another. Yesterday I remembered that every life is beautiful, even the lives that end too soon.
But yesterday had me remembering the loss of another life, as well. Last February, I miscarried our fourth child. Sweet baby would have been due this month. The first several weeks after the miscarriage were hard, but after awhile, life got back to normal. I still thought of our sweet baby from time to time, but I could do so with a smile. But then September came, and my heart started hurting again. I should be heavy with child right now. I should be feeling little kicks and washing tiny clothes. Our baby should have had a name. But it never will. Last night Boss and I watched a movie, and in one particular scene, a mama is handed her brand new baby, all wrapped up in the white hospital blanket striped with pink and blue, little cap snug on his head. And before I knew what was happening, I was weeping. Weeping for the little baby that I was never meant to hold. Weeping for life not turning out the way that I would have liked for it to. Weeping for all life that has been ended too soon.
So yesterday, I remembered. I remembered sweet baby number four. It was another good reminder that I am not the author of my own days. I am not in control. It was another good reminder that every life matters. Every single life has the ability to impact another. Sweet baby number four has certainly impacted mine. Yesterday I remembered that every life is beautiful, even the lives that end too soon.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Happy at Home: Family Closet Style

(Hey there, friends! It's Monday, which means it is time for my next installment of Happy at Home. A few weeks ago, I decided that I had had enough of the go, go, go. I mean, I loved the go, go, go, but it was running me ragged. My home was becoming neglected, the meals I served to my family were a wee bit on the sad side, and my children were beginning to think it torture if I dared to suggest a stay at home day. So here we were, paying the mortgage (month after blasted month) for our charming little cottage, and no one (except for Boss) was wanting to spend any time here! So I decided that it was time for a change. I decided that I was going to learn the art of being happy at home. And my hope was that my children would also learn to be happy at home, through watching their mama (that's me) take more pride in caring for their home and in preparing their meals. I desperately wanted to start viewing our home as the blessing that it is, instead of seeing it only as another chore. And then I decided to share my happy at home journey with all of you here. My hope is that if you are also struggling with being a homemaker, like me, that my journey of striving to find happiness at home will inspire you to do the same. So get comfy, friends. This is a long one.)

Image Found Here
Laundry has always been the bane of my existence. Always. Growing up, my superbly awesome at homemaking mother did my laundry for me. For eighteen years she lovingly washed and dried all of my clothes, and the most I was responsible for was putting them away in my room. And that is where my laundry problem began. I seemed to be incapable of moving clothes from basket to drawer or hanger was lazy. So I simply decided that a 'fresh out of the basket' look would be the style that I would rock. And since I still had friends, and even dated a little, I suppose it is safe to say that I rocked that rumpled look, indeed. I couldn't walk through my room without stepping on clothes, and after a few years my parents forgot what color of carpet existed under all of that name brand clutter (they actually gave in to name brands! Can you believe it? The only name brand my children know starts with Gran and ends with imals.), but for the most part they left me alone about the mess.
When I headed off to college, things didn't change much in my laundry world. I was now responsible for all of my washing and drying, but my lack of 'putting things away' routine stayed just about the same. What can I say? Why mess with tradition? It wasn't until I got engaged that my slothful ways started making me a bit nervous. Soon I was going to be a wife! And wives were supposed to do wifely things like wash and put away the laundry! Just the thought of it made me sweat. But one day, after a pre-marital counseling session where we discussed how we would divide household duties, Boss shared with me that he would really rather prefer to do his own laundry, and if I didn't care, he would just do mine, too. And then a hallelujah chorus sang, and I knew that God really did answer prayers! So once again, even in my married life, the washing and drying of clothes was removed from my list of responsibilities. And I had never found Boss sexier.
Fast forward nine years and three children later. Boss still does his own laundry, and for the most part he is still washing and drying the rest of ours. But it was no longer sitting well with me. I felt guilty. I hated that Boss had to go to work, and then come home to work some more. So before we moved to our most recent home, I vowed to take control of our laundry life. And trust me, sometimes it really does feel as though the laundry takes on a life of its own!
I first heard of the family closet concept from reading The Duggars: 20 and Counting (you know I love their family. Don't hate.) And even though I only had three children, compared to their nineteen, I fell in love with the idea immediately! The thought of having only one place to put all of the family clothes, the thought that my children's rooms/closets would now be clothing free (my daughter's inherited my slothful clothing genes), all made my heart go pitter patter. And I knew that I must have a family closet. Pronto.
Our new house just happened to have a little room that connects to both the laundry room and our master bathroom (perfection), and I knew right away that it would be our family closet. I don't care that we are wasting sleeping/playing space. If we ever have more children, we will buy bunk beds. This family closet is here to stay. Boss and I looked on Pinterest, googled family closets (lots of blogger's have posted on theirs!), and listed on paper what we wanted our family closet to look like before we began. We eventually decided on the Laundry Basket Dressers pictured below (building plans found on

Boss followed Ana's instructions and built these puppies with his bare hands. It was quite manly, and I am in LOVE (with a capital L) with them! Boss still keeps his clothing in our bedroom, so he built four dressers, one for me and each of the children. Pajama's, socks, and underwear go in the top basket, play shirts in the middle basket, shorts/jeans in the bottom basket. Easy peasy to keep everything organized!

In the plastic drawers I keep swimming wear in the top drawer, hats and scarves in the middle drawer, and belts in the bottom drawer. A little way of keeping track of all of those 'extra/worn only sometimes' items. The plastic drawers are sitting on top on an old dresser we already owned, which now houses off season clothes. Cool weather is quickly approaching our area, and soon I will switch shorts and summer shirts into this storage dresser, and the pants and long sleeve shirts will make their way to the laundry basket dressers.

Everything that is not play clothes or pajamas, I hang (dresses, skirts, nice tops). We bought one rolling rack for the girls (pictured above), and one rolling rack for me (pictured below). The only thing that I hang of Jack's are his dress shirts, and those go on the end of the girl's rack.

All of the tubs (below) are stacked neatly in the corner next to our shoe organizer (which I forgot to photograph). Four of the tubs hold baby/toddler clothes for sweet little foster babies, and the other four tubs hold off sizes that the kids are waiting to grow in to. They are tacky to have out, I know, but I honestly don't care. Organization is beauty, I have always said. Okay, I haven't always said that, but I have been trying that philosophy out for the past few months and it's growing on me!

We have two dirty clothes hampers. That's it. (Although, Boss does have his own elsewhere.) When they get full, I wash the clothes, dry them, and then I put everything away, and give myself a nice little pat on the back for a job well done. I don't have a particular laundry day. I am afraid that would send my OCD self spiraling out of control. So for now we are just going with what works. When the hamper is full, throw the clothes in the wash.

And just because I know that you care, this is our last little dresser sitting empty, just waiting for little foster baby to arrive, so that we can fill it up with his/her clothes! Can't wait for the day when I can show you that it is FULL!

So there you have it. The laundry system that has saved both my sanity and my life. I still don't love to do the laundry. We will never be best friends. But I no longer dread it. I just get 'er done, and move on with my week. And Boss still helps out, in case you were wondering, because he is great like that. And for another perk, my children's rooms stay much neater! All they have in their rooms are beds and toys, and the toys can now go neatly in the closet, since the closet is not being used for clothes. Genius, I tell you! It really has been one of the best homemaking choices I have ever made, and it truly has brought more order and happiness to our home. So, if you have ever thought of turning part of your home into a family closet, go for it! You don't have to have a particular room. Some people, if their laundry rooms are big enough, just use that space. Others section off a corner of their basement. Some just use the larger master closet. It doesn't matter where you choose to store your families clothes, so get creative! Instead of feeling like you just need a new space, get creative with the space that you already have! Trust me, no matter how many children you have, family closets are the way to go. Try it out. You will be so very glad that you did! And your family closet just might help you to feel a tiny bit more Happy at Home.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

It Is Time

(image found here)

Item number one, on my 30 Before During 30 list (found here ), was to lose the last ten pounds of baby weight that I had been carrying around since, well, since I began having children eight years ago. Sad, I know, but oh so true. Those last ten pounds and I had become friends. Best buds. Partners in crime (we could (still can) demolish a cupcake faster than most people can get theirs out of its liner). Together, my last ten pounds and I, we could do anything. Anything except fit into a smaller dress size. And so the time had come for us to part. You know that quote some friends come into your life for a reason, others only for a season? Well, there was no good reason that I continued to lug around those last ten pounds, friend or no friend, so that must have meant that our season together needed to come to an end. And quickly. So I added losing those last ten pounds to my 30 During 30 list. Right up there at the very top! Because it was important to me. Because it was something that I really, really wanted to do.

(Now here is the part where I update you on my progress. Are you ready for it? If not, quit reading here and head on your merry way.)

The truth is that I have not lost even one of those blasted pounds. Zip. Zilch. Nada. They remain right where you last saw them, smack dab on my hips. A few on my thighs (my extra pounds don't like to play favorites). But I can tell you that our friendship is deteriorating faster than I can eat a cupcake. Which is pretty darn fast. And I think I am finally finding my resolve, deep within, to start back up on my journey of weight loss. I think weight loss is a tough journey for most, and the same is true for me. If not even more so, for me. Because for me, it isn't about depriving myself of my beloved cupcakes. It isn't about having to drive past my favorite restaurants without stopping to head inside. For me, weight loss is hard, because it takes me to a scary place. A place I don't care to revisit. A place that is not a part of my current life, at least not on the outside. Thinking about weight loss, and dieting, takes me back ten years to days where I was out of control. To days where binging, and purging, and restricting were part of my everyday. To the days where my eating disorder consumed my life.

But those days, as hard as they were, as ugly as they were, are part of my story. And I think that it's time that I tell my story. Or at least record it here. Maybe sharing my story will help others. Maybe it will help me. Because while I no longer binge, or purge, or restrict, sometimes (even ten years later) my brain still gets consumed with the thought of it all. Especially, like now, when I try to diet. Because my brain tells me how easy it would be. My body knows how to get rid of those extra pounds quickly. And losing weight the healthy way, the correct way, feels like too much work. So much harder, actually, than my old ways of going about things. But I am not the same person that I was ten years ago. I am stronger. I am more whole. I now see that I am God's creation, put here to point other's to Him. And if I ever forget that (which I sometimes do), my children remind me. Not verbally, of course, but all I have to do is look into their eyes and know that I am NEVER returning to those dark days. No matter how hard it feels, I WILL lose these last ten pounds in a healthy way. And on those days where it is particularly hard? I will come here and write. Little pieces of my story at a time. Visiting the past, remembering, so that I can move forward and be more of the woman that I want to be.

So goodbye, last ten pounds (for always). And goodbye cupcakes (for now). It was fun while it lasted. But now it is time for something new.

Friday, September 7, 2012

On Knocking Parenting Out of The Park

My oldest child, Emma, just started the third grade, and the thought of her aging, of her entering this particular grade, has bothered me for awhile now. But I could never figure out why. When you homeschool, different grades can seem to come and go without much fanfare, but not this year. This year, third grade just wasn't sitting well with me. But today, as I was driving away after dropping my girls off for their first day of HELP classes, it hit me like a ton of bricks and I had to pull over. (Thankfully, this brick hitting happened conveniently near a Wendy's. God must have known that diet Coke consuming would be in order.)

It's never fun when the past sneaks up behind you and taps you on the shoulder, but that is exactly what happened to me today. I was visited by third grade me, right there in the parking lot of Wendy's, and I would be lying if I told you that it wasn't painful. Because for me, third grade was the first year of my life where I remember feeling pain. Third grade was the first year where I experienced being made fun of, where little boys started singling out little girls to 'go out with' (and I was never singled out). Third grade was the first year that I ever hated my teacher and started dreading having to attend school each day. I was absent a lot that year. Third grade was the very first time in my life where I decided that I just might not like being me. That perhaps God really could make mistakes after all.

For me, third grade is the year where my memories begin. I truthfully don't really remember a whole lot about my life before that particular year. I know that my first Christmas tree ever was a felt tree on the wall of a trailer home in Saudi Arabia, but I only know that because my mother told me. And she showed me pictures. But I don't remember that tree. I know that I used to love swimming at the community pool and eating pizza at the snack bar when I was small, but again, I only know this because that is what I have been told. I can't close my eyes and picture what either place looked like, because I don't have any real memories of them. I know that when I was in Kindergarten I had wallpaper with rainbows on it in my bedroom, and I have the pictures to prove it. But I don't actually remember the rainbows, or the first seven years of my life that we spent over seas, or traveling the world before we moved back to the States during first grade. For me, my memory picks up somewhere between the second and third grades. In the exact same place where my oldest daughter now finds herself. And after thinking about it today (while still chugging my diet Coke), I realized that this bothers me for two reasons.

The first reason is because I never, ever, ever want any of my children to feel pain. Silly, I know, because it is going to happen, but it doesn't mean that my heart doesn't begin to break at the mere thought of one of my children hurting. And I also know, right or wrong, that that is one of the many (tiny) reasons that we chose to homeschool. Because kids are cruel, and mean, and they have no idea how the words they spew can impact another human being, sometimes for a lifetime. And so for as long as I can, I want to protect my children from the harshness that is sometimes others. I want to guard their hearts. I want to allow them to be happy and carefree for as long as they possibly can be. It is not a perfect plan, as my Em has already endured cruel remarks and the teasing of others (on the church playground, no less), but it is a plan based around love. And possibly fear, if I am being completely honest. And so it bothers me greatly that we now find ourselves in this place. This place where my third grader' s memory kicks in. This place in her life where everything that she says and does, and everything that is done to her, has the power to shape the person that she is becoming. And that scares me more than a little. Because now, it's like we're playing for real. The make believe house game is over, the children are growing up into people, and the reality is that every moment has the power to make or break. Every single moment matters.

Which bring me to reason number two on why third grade has been bothering my heart so very much. Because if my daughter is now going to remember these days, this year of her life and all of the years after, then I have to step up my game. Big time. Too many mornings I lie in bed while my third grader pours her own cereal. I tell myself that it is teaching her independence, but the truth is I am just being lazy. Too many nights I kiss my children goodnight and then escape to the bathtub with a good book to 'relax', while my husband takes care of the back tickling and bedtime cuddles. I tell myself not to feel bad. The children adore cuddle time with Boss. It is their favorite time of day! But that doesn't change the fact that my children should have (and deserve to have) memories of their mama tucking them in at night. Too many nights I fall asleep feeling like a failure as a mother. And that is so not how I want my oldest daughter, or any of my children for that matter, to remember me when they are grown. I used to think that it wouldn't matter too much. That I could always try again tomorrow, but tomorrow always turned into the tomorrow after that, and now my oldest child is in the third grade, and now she will remember. So now there is no tomorrow. Tomorrow has become today, and today matters. Today it is imperative that I make the most of being my children's mama.

Boss often tells me that I am too hard on myself. My friends tell me that I am a good mother. But I don't just want to be good. I want to knock this parenting thing out of the park! Whereas most days I feel like I strike out, or simply sit on the bench, I now feel the importance of connecting bat with ball each time I step up to the plate. I know there won't always be home runs, but I would like for the hits to outnumber the strikes. Because every play matters, every inning counts. And every single game counts as a win or a loss. And when it comes to raising, loving, and leading these little people that God has blessed me with, I MUST win. Loosing is not even an option.

I finished two large diet Cokes before I was able to drive on, and my heart still feels heavy as I sit here tonight. I just carried my third grader to bed, her growing body heavier each day in my arms, her long legs almost dragging the floor. There is no denying how quickly these days are passing, how much she is changing before my very eyes. I didn't solve any world problems today in the parking lot of Wendy's. Diet Coke did not wash away the pain of my own third grade year, nor does it have the power to magically make me in to the mama that I want to be (though if it did, I would be so  rockin'!). But I did drive away from there today with a new resolve. With a fresh reminder that the time to be the best mama that I can be is NOW. And I left with a knowing in my heart that every single moment matters. And hopefully that knowing will effect my days, the choices I make. Hopefully the next time I am tired, or lazy, instead of sitting the bench, I will bravely approach the plate. And perhaps that will be the one play that I knock out of the park!

So good luck to you friends. This game of parenting is hard. It is often overwhelming, and exhausting, and sometimes it feels as though we can't take another step forward. Please know that I am cheering you on (I will be the one in the stands gulping a large diet Coke and clapping like crazy!). And I hope that you will cheer me on, as well. Because our little people are worth it.

And here on Fieldcrest Lane, we are going to knock third grade out of the park.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

First Day

First Grade Kate

Sweet Sisters!


Kate's New Kicks

Let the New School Year Begin!