Monday, March 30, 2009

Summer in a Jar

This past Friday, I got a jump on summer.

Not the 120 degree heat-fest summer of Arizona. More like the high country, green trees, cool breeze, lazy days, relaxing summer I pretend to enjoy when I have my AC cranked up in my car waiting for the steering wheel to "cool off" enough to not give me second-degree burns on my palms.

I helped my mom make freezer jam.

Fresh strawberries+ sugar+Sure-Jell=Summer in a Jar.

Standing in my parents' kitchen, chatting with mom, making jam while my little boys ran around and played in the cupboard, was a welcome escape from the housework that had been calling earlier in the week. What a happy way to spend the afternoon.

The smell of fresh strawberries was heavenly.

Now I have several Jars of Summer stashed in my freezer.

A perfect antidote for the winter blues.

If they last that long...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Housework Blues

It's spring. The weather is fabulous. My sad little rose bush is actually blooming! I have irises starting to bud. There's a cool breeze blowing in today. I see pastels and bunnies and chicks and birdies and flowers everywhere. I can wear my breezy skirts and sandals again. Darling Easter crafts await my attention. I am in girly heaven right now. Spring is calling. Hooray!

No. Wait.

Housework is calling.

My bathrooms need a good scrub. So does my refrigerator. Are those footprints on the dining room wall? I think one of my flip flops just stuck on the floor.

So, instead of surfing the 'net some more and drinking up all the springtime goodness around me, I'm off to clean the tub.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Celebrating Independence

I am a fan of the independent spirit. I admire those who take a risk and try something new. I think that creativity is highly under-appreciated. I wish I could think outside the box more.

Andrew must feel the same way.

He triumphantly bounded out of his room yesterday, wearing this creative ensemble, and announced,"Look, I got dressed ALL BY MYSELF!"

How can you critique that kind of enthusiasm?

I would have put him in a short sleeved shirt and jeans. It's a little more appropriate for the slightly breezy, beautiful spring weather we are enjoying.

I would have picked out something that matched, and didn't remind me of a Christmas decoration.

I would have spruced up his hair, had him put on his glasses and made him wear plain white socks.

I would have squashed his creativity that day.

But, I didn't.

Instead, I stifled my laugh and turned it into a genuine smile. I looked into those bright, proud eyes, and I exclaimed, "You got dressed all by yourself! I am so proud of you!" Let's let Daddy take your picture to remember this moment.

As we walked in to my parents' home for dinner that evening, I explained that Andrew dressed himself, and shouldn't we all be so proud of his accomplishment. I know a lot of us wanted to laugh. We wanted to point out how unusual his clothing choices were. Andrew will look at this picture when he's older and roll his eyes at his funny clothing choice.

This day, we chose to admire and celebrate that wonderful independent spirit.

That does not mean I won't give him some pointers in clothing coordination and style in the future. I will still insist on helping him get ready for the day, at least to some degree. But I love the fact that he knows he can do things on his own and feel the satisfaction of making his own choices.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tender Mercies

Most of you out there reading my blog know that Mike is currently out of work and has been for a few months now. We are both able to do some part-time jobs here and there and are doing OK for the time being. I have complete faith that Heavenly Father is in control and knows what we need right now. I have a testimony of the blessings of tithing and following the prophet's counsel. We felt the need to build up our food storage and savings for the past year. That has been a huge blessing for us now. While I do have faith, it would be untruthful to say I don't get worried or upset at times. But, every time I feel like I can't handle life, Heavenly Father sends a tender mercy our way.

Today, as I was cleaning out a filing cabinet, I stumbled upon an old Christmas booklet that Mike's Aunt Sharon and Uncle Bill had sent several years ago. I don't know why I opened it, but I did. To my astonishment, a twenty dollar bill and a little note from his aunt and uncle slipped out. I don't know why we never saw it there before. After a silent prayer of thanks, Elder Bednar's talk from 2005 General Conference, "The Tender Mercies of the Lord" came quickly to my mind. Twenty dollars isn't much money, but it was a gentle reminder to me that Heavenly Father is there and listens to prayers.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Chocolate-Mint Brownie Heaven

In honor of my amazing mother's birthday, here is my absolute favorite mint brownie recipe. They are my mommy's favorite, and remind her of her days at BYU. Plus, they're extra sweet and comforting just like her.

A wonderful lady in my ward, Carrie Westergard, shared this recipe with a few changes of her own. Instead of nesting the peppermint patties into the dough, she bakes them without. Then when cooled, frost them with mint icing (mix 1/2 cup softened butter, 2 cups powdered sugar, 1/4 tsp. mint extract and green food coloring), then melt 1/4 cup butter and 1 cup chocolate chips together and spread them on top.

Just a little warning, they are very rich and very addictive, so plan on lots of sharing. You may not want to at first bite, but trust me. Your waistline will thank me later. Enjoy!!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patty's Day Fun

I admit it. I have always loved the magic of holidays. I was probably the last kid to stop believing in the Easter Bunny and Santa. I refused to let practicality and peer pressure squelch my magical childhood. (To be honest, I still believe in Santa.) So, it is only natural that I seize any opportunity to infuse a little fairy dust into everyday life, especially the holidays (with a little help from my creative hubby).

I am not Irish, but why let that spoil the fun? I say, any excuse to celebrate with your family is a good excuse to me.

Personally, I will be wearing green and listening to U2 today to celebrate.

My kids, on the other hand, deserve a bit more fun.

Luckily, the mischievous leprechaun visited our house last night. He hid the Lucky Charms in the pot cupboard. He put the bowls and spoons in the oven. Luckily, he didn't turn the oven on...

He turned our milk green. He left green sprinkles behind in our cereal bowls just to remind us of his visit.

He gave my boys something fun to talk about for the rest of the day.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all of my friends and family, Irish or not!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Super Kids

So, if my children are superheroes, does that make me a supermom? I can always pretend.

This Sunday morning, I was witness to one of those magical little moments in motherhood. My boys were playing together.

Without any crying, hitting, grunting or arguing.

For more than one minute.

I made the superhero capes for Andrew's Halloween costume and a Christmas gift. He is normally pretty possessive of his stuff and doesn't like to share.

But today, he helped Ben put one of his capes on and they saved the world.


No bad guys today. Just happy little superbrothers. That's my favorite kind of superhero.

If I could be supermom, I think my superpower would be to create more happy moments like this one... and clean the house with a simple wave of my hand (a girl can wish, right?).

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Little R and R

A few weekends ago, we were able to travel down to Tubac (it's a small town south of Tucson) with Mike's boss and some co-workers. We stayed in the home on a large piece of property that his company is helping to develop. It is a beautiful place, and the home was just as beautiful as the scenery. We really needed the escape. We needed to be away from the computer and phones and traffic and smog. The boys needed to play in the dirt and run in the fresh air. Mike needed the distraction from all of the stress of work and the economy. I needed to be reminded of how amazing nature really is.

We had fun visiting with Mike's co-workers, and apparently our children provided ample entertainment to his co-workers (none of which have children). Mike and the others hiked. I read and enjoyed watching the kids play. I took the kids on a short walk, where we got to see some horses, ducks and fish. Andrew and Ben LOVED playing in the dirt and throwing rocks.

We slept in the MOST comfortable beds, so comfy in fact, that we didn't want to get out! The rooms in the house had big glass window-walls with the most magnificent views. It was so wonderful to get away and just remember how to breathe. Thank you Trevor and Smith Brothers for a wonderful, simple weekend.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Arts and Crofts

Above, Arts and Crafts. Below, Arts and Crofts.

This past summer, on our annual summer vacation to California, we were able to visit the Gamble House in Pasadena, California. This home was built in 1908 by the architects Greene and Greene and is arguably the best example of the Arts and Crafts, or the Craftsman style of architecture. I think I am safe in saying that touring this beautiful home (and yes, it's "those" Gambles, as in Proctor and Gamble and Ivory soap) was an item on Mike's "bucket list" (You know, the things you want to do before you "kick the bucket"?). When Mike builds our dream home, you can bet he will use this home as inspiration. It will be beautiful.

I can't even tell you how many pictures he took just of the outside. They wouldn't let him take any interior shots, so we had to buy a book. That was probably a good thing, since we may have run out of room on our camera's memory card, and we had a few days of photo-worthy vacationing left.

Unfortunately, some of the tour's enchantment was quite lost on me. Don't get me wrong, I love good design. I love old houses, with their history and charm. But, one can only appreciate antique treasures (translation: "valuable and very breakable") so much with a fidgety, curious three year old and a grouchy 8 month old. Docents don't appreciate young children on hour-long historical tours. Young children don't appreciate being on hour-long historical tours. We made it out undamaged (us and the house) and I know it was a memorable event for Mike.

Love is experiencing new things together, and appreciating what inspires your better half.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Love is a Low-temp Glue Gun

There are a plethora of reasons why I know my husband loves me, but one is on my mind as I delve into yet another crazy craft project.

He bought me, not one, but two, low-temperature glue guns for Christmas early on in our marriage. Why is this an evidence of his undying love? Because, if you are an impatient crafter like me, you know well the agony of a glue gun blister. OUCH! Now, glue gun blisters aren't the worst things in the world. They heal quickly, I should know. But just the fact that he really thought about something that would make my little fingers safer, (and got two different models just to be thorough), makes me giddy every time I use them. Paying attention to the little things, that's love.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Andrew is FOUR!

It's hard to believe you are four. I am no longer allowed to call you my baby, you are a big boy now. (Or so you remind me whenever I slip and don't use your preferred moniker.) Well, little man, I hate to break it to you, but you'll always be my baby. Even when you're taller than me and have a family of your own, I will still see that sweet, dark-haired babe who had my heart at very first glance. In honor of your fourth birthday, here are just four things that I truly adore about you, my big boy.

  1. Your smile, crooked and sincere. Nothing melts my heart like that sweet, slightly asymmetrical grin. Those smart, slightly askew glasses just make you even more precious.
  2. Your enthusiastic vocabulary. You never have a good day, or an OK day. Your days are "Great!" and "Actually, really great!" You announce yourself at the door with a "Hey guys, I'm here!" You love to converse at the dinner table and ask Daddy, "So, how was your day at work?"
  3. No matter how naughty you can be to your little brother or how many ways you invent to talk back, you are always sorry for doing something wrong. You really want to do what is right, and you can't wait to get out of time out to apologize. I know you really love your family.
  4. You still see an open lap as an opportunity to snuggle and say, "Mommy, you are the best Mommy in the whole world" (who can resist that?) or a chance to hear a favorite story (or two or three...). I have to admit, this is my favorite time of the day with you.
As you age, this list of adorations will continue to grow, but for now, I'm so grateful for this time to enjoy your fun four-year-old self. So, Mr. "I-Am-Four-so-I'm-a-Big-Boy" remember I and your daddy love you, no matter how big you are.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Most Effective Advertising

As Andrew and Ben sat in the back of the car, riding with Aunt Jenny and Grammy to ASU, Andrew saw one of the billboards advertising for Geico car insurance. You know, the one with the googly eyes ("I always feel like, somebody's watching me"... Like we don't need anything else to be paranoid about nowadays.) He exclaimed, "That's the money you could be saving with the Gecko!" How's that for effective advertising? Gotta love those clever Geico ad people.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Happiness is LOTS of Maple Syrup

Today I have the joy of staying home with my boys. I love a lazy overcast morning and I love breakfast, so I decided to break from the usual cold cereal routine. We enjoyed one of our favorite breakfast delights: Dad's Cody Pancakes (famous in our house, given to my Dad on his mission while in Cody, Wyoming, hence the name) with LOTS of maple syrup. Poor Mike is a little burnt out on the whole syrup thing since the long "breakfast for dinner marathon" I was on while pregnant with Andrew, so he opted out. As for me and the boys, we were in breakfast heaven this morning.

Who could not be happy with a plate full of hot, steamy buttered pancakes and a pool of golden, sticky-sweet maple syrup?

The boys each inhaled 3 pancakes, then proceeded to give me big puppy eyes until I shared my own sweet stack. Who could resist those puppy eyes? All that Ben needed to make this a more perfect meal was a bottle full of milk. And the chance to run his sticky little hands through his hair and create a truly fabulous hairstyle.

Happiness truly is LOTS of maple syrup. Go ahead, try it. You'll be glad you did.

Dad's Cody Pancakes

1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Stir ingredients together. Batter will be a little lumpy. Pour onto skillet and cook on medium to medium low heat. Cooking on too high of a temperature will cause the pancakes to taste eggy.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

New Weight Loss Plan

If you want easy weight loss solutions that don't involve paying for a gym membership, I have two suggestions:

One, entertain a toddler in your home.

Two, teach P.E. for an elementary school.

Due to the lovely recession and our drastically reduced income, I have been taking more subbing jobs at the school I used to teach kindergarten at. I typically take k-3 jobs, but was asked to sub for P.E. on Monday.

Sure, no sweat.

Wait. P.E.? No sweat?

Maybe not.

Let me tell you, friends, if you know a P.E. teacher, give that busy man or woman a hug. Thank them for volunteering to wear themselves out for such little pay every school day, and actually looking like they are enjoying it. I am not kidding, that job is a LOT of work. People thought I was crazy for teaching kindergarten and LOVING it! Give me a room full of 5 year olds and a paint project any day...

At least on Monday I didn't feel guilty about skipping out of exercising.