2013 is coming to a close and so I'd thought I'd take a minute to reflect on my past year. To sum it up: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Okay, maybe that is a little dramatic but it does get the general point across.

Overall, I think this year had me striving for balance. And in some areas, I think I managed it. Balancing the needs of two kids, my needs as a person versus my responsibilities as a wife and mother and my ideals versus the reality of the situation are some of the biggest struggles of this year but looking back I'd say that overall, I did pretty well. In fact, I think this year was the first that I felt really "in my skin" as a mom. I was able to stop doing things because I had researched all about it and made a deliberate decision and started just being me. Not that my previous approach was necessarily wrong or that I was not being genuine in it or that I don't have more learning to do, but more so that I've kinda hit my stride - at least in this stage of parenting. I don't think I'm explaining it well but I know what I mean.

I think a big part of that has to do with some of the goals I was able to meet - mostly being back in a regular routine of bible memory and study. It's (not really at all) crazy how much of a difference that makes in my mothering. Actually, it makes a big difference in all my relationships but parenting is probably the most demanding and the one that is most prone to exposing my sins so the difference shows itself the most there. Being able to control myself really helps when I'm trying to teach a certain three year old how to control herself.

I also feel like this year was a big one in terms of our really becoming a part of the community and our church. This is now the place I've lived the longest at one time (good ol' College Station being the second and still the winner if you count up the different segments). I did find myself feeling a bit weird this summer, antsy perhaps, but traveling and planning on future travels helped that which is good because I really do like it here and want to stick around for a while. I don't regret being a brat but I also want my kids to have some of the roots I didn't.

There have also been a few missteps and mountains to climb this year. I made a few bad decisions in terms of outside commitments and the rest of my family had to pay for that in my stressful responses. Here's hoping I learn from that mistake and don't repeat it in the future - again, striving for that balance of being a part of a community and giving to it without sacrificing more than I should. This year I had to pay for my mistakes by sacrificing time for other friendships and that hurt. Luckily my friends are pretty great so I don't think they took it personally but were praying for me to get through that season so I could hang out with them again!

 We've also had some big struggles with Jonah's weight gain, my having some health issues myself and now Lucy having some trouble. None of it is too terrible but added up, it is draining and feels like it keeps coming and as soon as I get one problem even temporarily held back, another crack in our health starts up. I'm Lucy shoving chocolates in my hat and shirt but someone just turned up the conveyor belt. And whereas six months ago I probably would have said that I was doing good balancing healthful eating/nutrition with not making food more important that relationships or allowing it to be a stress inducing idol, some of these health issues now have me rethinking that. As much as I agree with the 80/20 rule of eating well, our reality may be different. I think we're about to make some dietary changes that I don't think I necessarily have the energy to make - but I might not have that energy until I make them. It's a conundrum to say the least.

But looking back on the year as a whole, the bad points were superficial and the good ones were the ones that matter - I've got good friends, a wonderful family and a God that is good enough to led me where he wants to go and give me rest in Him when I need it. So life is good.

For more reflections or to link up your own, head over to Fisher Academy International.


And these are my children

I'm pretty sure nobody other than the kid's relatives care to see a bunch of pictures of them opening up presents so I've saved those facebook but these made me laugh so I thought I'd share. They are a series I took later on that morning and they could not be better representations of the differences between the two of them. Keep in mind that these were taken over an hour long period of time.

Jonah - Playing with a new Christmas toy

Lucy - Playing with a new Christmas toy

Jonah - Playing with a trash can he dragged out of the kitchen

Jonah - Playing with deodorant  (don't worry, it was a brand new "stocking stuffer")

Lucy - Still playing with her new Christmas toy
Jonah - Playing with another Christmas toy

Jonah - Playing with a twistie tie from the box of a new Christmas toy

Jonah - Taking daddy's notetaking pen and paper while he's trying to make a phone call.

Lucy - Still playing :-)

Jonah - Using Lucy's stick unicorn to drag a chair around the house

Lucy - Still playing - but now she's added her horse stables to make a bigger set.

Jonah eating kissing his horsie. 

Stick unicorn attacks the vet clinic. Play times over.


Merry Christmas K-Style

We made it home from Christmas #1 at my dad's with his fiancee, my brothers and my sister-in-law. We also managed to get together with my old college friend Amanda and meet her little cutie of a 2 year old. Good times were had but our camera broke two days before our trip so you get nothing. Sorry.

Our second "Christmas" is Friday which is the next morning Craig has off. Luckily, neither Jonah nor Lucy is very good at reading a calendar. Our new camera arrived today so I should even be able to document the cuteness that is Lucy helping everyone open their presents and Jonah playing with all the paper over the toys. Since it's almost Christmas is Korea already, here's a little music video to help you get ready for the big day tomorrow (or Friday, which ever works for you)


The Things She Says

Lucy: What is this? Have we ever eaten this? Do I like this?
Me: Spaghetti? Yes, you've had spaghetti before. Almost every week. And you like it.
Lucy: Oh, it is quite delicious.

Lucy: What is this? Pizza? I don't think I like Pizza.
Me: Kids love pizza. Some kids even ask for pizza for their birthday meal.
Lucy: I ask for cake.
Me: Cake is a birthday dessert but pizza is often a birthday dinner.
Lucy: Yum. Pizza!

Lucy: May I try that? (pointing to cranberry bars)
Me: You may, but I'm not sure you'll like it. It's kind of a grown-up dessert.
Lucy: Oh, surely, surely I will. (And she did).

Lucy: I'm not going to marry a prince when I grow up. Just a regular boy.
Craig: Oh, what is he going to look like?
Lucy: You!(Daddy's heart breaks from the sweetness) But we'd better get a bigger table. And when I have babies they will sleep with me in your bed with you and mommy but when they get bigger they can move to my room.

The questions continue but are getting harder to answer:
-Do the other bees sling the queen bees babies for her?
-How will I get to heaven if I don't have wings?
-Do cats go to heaven?
-Can Jonah lie?

Lucy: When kids disobey, they have consequences so I'm going to obey - except when you can't see me, they I can disobey and you won't know.
Me: Well, mommy's are really good about finding out about disobeying even if they aren't right there.
Lucy: Eyes widen - REALLY?! Okay, I'll obey then.

She's really going strong with reading and gets so excited about every word during our lessons. Her enthusiasm is wonderful but tiring:

T-h-e. The! The what? Let's find out!
The f-o-x. The fox? What about the fox? I'll keep going!
The fox s-a-t. The fox sat! Where did the fox sit? Let's see where!
The fox sat o-n. What did it sit on? I want to know!
The fox sat on the b-o-x. The fox sat on the box? Why would it do that! That's so silly!

Lucy: I'm so excited! My heart is so happy right now. I'm just going to keep all the happy in my heart so I can smile whenever I want! (FYI - She was happy about naptime. I don't know why. She normally doesn't really like naptime.)

And a couple seasonal ones:

Me reading: And he stuffed the whole thing up the chimbley.
Lucy: Why do you keep saying chimbley? It's chimNEY!
Me: insert Dr. Seuss likes silly words explanation here
Lucy: Well, please don't say that anymore. Just say chimney. I think Chimbley is a RUDE WORD!

Lucy's favorite Christmas song is "I want a hippopotamus for Christmas." I did not introduce it to her, she heard it on the radio and now she loves it and sings it all the time. Sometimes she says she really does want one, other times she says she doesn't want a hippopotamos because she wants an ox instead. So when we opened up our ornament tote and found two hippopotamus ornaments that my brother and sister-in-law had given us last year, she got really excited. Then she took a good look at them and told me "I was really expecting something bigger." Sorry kid, that's as big as you get.

We set up our Christmas tree last night. Right now Lucy is sitting on the couch looking at it and saying "This is our Christmas tree. It has a big brown star. And white lights. And Red bulbs. And pretty nutcrackers. I wasn't sure it was going to fit because it is so big but daddy got it in. People sometimes say "Oh, I love this Christmas tree" I think she likes it.


Cape Cod Cranberry Bars with a side of tears

It's kinda funny what things make you emotional when you're grieving. It's not the things you would expect. Handwriting is an odd one to me. It catches me off guard to find something with my mom's handwriting and have a reaction especially because it is not normally something sweet and sentimental. I have a lot of her hand me down books so I often find a random half quote on a 3x5 card, a to-do list or even a grocery list. The first card I found after her funeral was actually had a px list for pens and cat litter but it still made me cry.

But as much as I miss seeing her handwriting, I really didn't want to keep that for my scrapbook so it's very special to me to find something handwritten that has something more substantial behind it.  This recipe is one of those few things.

It's also special because I thought I lost this recipe. She made these every year. She served them to Craig the night he drove me home to Kansas (the night he first met my parents) and I remember sitting there eating them thinking that I was home, finals were over and this, these cranberry bars, being home again, with my family, this was the beginning of Christmas.

I wanted to make it last year and couldn't find it, even when I went to my dad's and searched through all my mom's recipe cards and cookbooks. And google didn't help either. So when I found this card a few months ago, I was so relieved. And then I laughed because she even wrote down the almond extract and then scratched it out because she doesn't like almond extract - and neither do I. But they are quite tasty without it or if you are a weirdo who likes almond extract you could probably add it. Either way, try them for yourselves.

1.5 cups sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cups unsalted butter, melted then cooled
1 teaspoon almond extract
1.5 cups flour (I'm sure the original recipe meant all purpose but I've used soft white wheat too)
2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional - but Craig doesn't like nuts and he will still eat these with them)

I'd show you a picture but I've already made two batches of these in the past month and can't seem to get a picture before the pan is attacked. Sorry :-)


Tis better to give than to receive

I like for Lucy to be involved in our gift giving. She has been making and drawing cards for a while but at three she can actually be involved in picking out or making things as well. It can be tricky to find things kids can do where the end result is something a non-grandparent/parent/aunt would like to receive though. Here are a few of our favorites -


A great birthday gift, just use your favorite homemade recipe. You could even have your child pick out a few  printable playdough mats to laminate and include with it.

Play silks:

 I always buy a couple extra silks when I place an order (I use these - the 30x30 or 35x35 silk scarves). Then when we need a gift, Lucy can pick out what color(s) of dye (kool-aid) she thinks that child will want and help me dye them. We started by using this tutorial but I've found the crock-pot makes it even easier. Start it all with tap water so its safe for little stirrers, heat it up in the crock pot until silk is dyed and water is clear and then turn it off and let it cool. Once its safe to handle, let them take over again and help you rinse it.

Wooden Toys:

Lucy painted a couple of these stackers for Jonah's birthday present. They take watercolor quite well (either premade liquid watercolor or some regular watercolors diluted in a couple tablespoons of water). I did the prep work ahead of time, just a bit of sanding to smooth out the rough edges, then set out one color and one piece at a time so she really couldn't mess it up. When she is older, I might give her more freedom but I didn't want to end up with a rainbow of browns.  After they dried she helped me wax them with a beeswax rub we had but you could probably just use a bit of olive oil. So lovely and not too expensive. The shipping does add to the cost but if you purchase several items at a time it is quite reasonable. That same etsy shop also has pep people, bowls and acorns and I think it would be fun to put together a color matching set of either bowls and acorns or pegs and pots. Or if your kids are older and more artistic, how cute is this Noah's Ark set?!

Baked Goods:

Our librarians, mail-woman and trash pick-up guys will all be receiving a plate and a card from Lucy next month. We've also made treats for friends that have gotten hurt or just because. Do make sure they don't have allergies or health issues. When I was about five or six years old, we would make cookies for the little old lady who lived across the street quite regularly. It wasn't until later we learned that she was diabetic and couldn't eat them but was afraid to tell us because she thought we would stop visiting! We didn't stop visiting, we just stopped giving her cookies she had to throw out. But it also illustrates an important point - I remember her! I don't remember her name but I remember her and visiting with her and the blue teddy bear she made me. This isn't busy work or going through the motions, it really makes an impact!


I'm not sure if we will ever get sick of rolling beeswax candles. Lucy loves to make these and so do I. It's cathartic. And I don't like most scented candles but natural beeswax candles smell so nice (and subtle!) and burning them at dinner seems to calm everyone down. A good gift for adults who like your children but need something more than fridge art. There are kits on etsy and different stores but I bought supplies here, both individual color sheets and the medium brood foundation for natural color so we could make a variety of different sizes. I cut the sheets then Lucy cuts the wick to the right length. I start the candle so the wick is wrapped tight enough but she rolls the rest and presses the seam. Every once in a while it starts to get crooked and I help her out but she really can do most of it herself and they still look very pretty. We are using candles she rolled for our advent wreath this year and I think they are so much better looking that your standard taper candle.

That's all I've got. What kind of presents do your kids like to give to others?


Worlds of Learning - November

We started and ended November with colds and germs abounding but still managed to fit in some fun.

The first book of the month was Ox Cart Man which Lucy had read before but absolutely loves. We made candles just they did in the book.

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I loved watching Lucy make these, she was concentrating so hard her little tongue was sticking out the whole time. Adorable!

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A half sheet candle was just right for putting in our leaf lanterns. Dinner time candles are going to be a regular feature here. The evenings we used them just seemed a bit calmer. I still have to get up half a dozen times to refill glass or get the ketchup or clean up something that got spilled but every little bit helps.

We also made "wintergreen peppermint candies." I first made these in high school but it had been a while and this time I realized that these are basically really thick chunks of frosting that you let dry. But I love that they aren't baked so I don't have to worry about the sizes being similar. Lucy started out cutting big ones and they got smaller and smaller as she kept cutting.

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She loves getting to use a real (butter) knife so perhaps she didn't want it to end. She also decided they didn't look pretty enough so she started rolling them afterwards. I think this was the first time she was able to successfully roll a ball so our playdough options are about to burst open!

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Craig took over for part of the month (I was taking Jonah to a doctor's appointment) and he and Lucy made cranberry bread to go along with Cranberry Thanksgiving. We used the one in the book and to be honest, it wasn't a very good recipe - too crumble and dry. Then we made dye out of cranberries and dyed some linen to be a table runner. Lucy thought the dye was magic because it was dark pink as a liquid and we thought it would dye the fabric pinkish but as it dried it went from pink to purple to blue and eventually ended up a weird blueish gray. Even I was surprised with the final color but she loved it.

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We also did some cranberry painting to decorate the front of note cards which we were going to send to relatives but instead they sat in the armoire while I stayed in bed trying not to die while the kids ransacked the house and/or watched too much Daniel Tiger. This was probably one of the worst colds I've ever had so I'm just happy we made it through.

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So we didn't write notes to our relatives but we did read The Relatives Came and made a family tree on the wall.
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 The family tree was then converted to a Thanksgiving tree. Here are her first three "leaves" which read God, home and princesses.

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 I was expecting her to draw the things she was thankful for but she insisted on writing them so I used her magnet letters to spell them and she copied them down. I think this is the first thing she wrote that is actually legible! (Well, Craig and I can read her name but I don't think the average person on the street could).

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I'm not really sure what to do with her and writing. She loves to write but I worry about it being such a fine motor skill and her learning bad habits. We try doing salt writing, or making letters from play dough or air writing and she'll do that and seems to enjoy it but she really wants to write with a pen. About half the time she wants to do art she ends up just filling a page with "writing." It used to be just lines and scribbles and has gradually become actually letters but she writes a lot of letters bottom to top or willy nilly. I don't care if she can't write well but I don't want her to have to unlearn things either. And that's my overly worrisome parent dilemma of the month.  And now Jonah is obsessed with pens too - and he knows when you try to cheat and hand him a closed pen. No fooling this guy.

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Anyway, back to thankfulness. She was also thankful for bunnies, cheese, pots and pans and light switches. My leaves were a little more traditional with things like family members, friends, daddy's job, etc.

We didn't get to Little Babaji and not just because of the sick week. Our library says they don't have it anymore. I know they used to because we've checked it out before. It might just be the website. I don't think I'm an idiot but I really have trouble with it sometimes. I normally search for each book by title as well as author because sometimes it will only work on one of the two but both times came up with nothing. I have a hard time believing they got rid of it in the last two months though  so I might go in person and hunt. I can't do that with Jonah though, his new favorite game is take every book of the shelf as fast as I can and if you try and stop me I'll screech and scream. I'm loving the hold shelf right now!

And that's about it for November. First semester down!


Snow Day

No internet until 4pm. A backyard full of snow. Gloves, mittens (socks for the baby), boots (shoes with plastic bags for the now completely redneck baby). One plastic sled.

A tiring but fun day.


Thanksgiving Recap

I made it through Thanksgiving. Actually, I more than made it through, we had a great weekend. Craig's brother and sister came to visit and the kids just love having more people around to shower them with attention. At one point Lucy told me "I'm so distracted. There are just so many people around to give me attention I don't know what to do!" But honestly, that girl is high needs so lots of attention is just what she prefers. Today she is coming down from the being the center of the world which is a bit rough but I think she'll make it :-)

I promised myself that I would take more pictures this weekend than I did last year but again, I failed. I guess we were having to much fun cooking, eating, playing games, riding ponies, racing and being chased. Here are the few I did get.

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You never get a better smile than when you put Lucy on a pony. I always said I didn't want a horse loving girl or a dinosaur loving boy. I'm about to eat my words :-)

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Okay, part of my issues isn't not taking pictures it's not getting any good ones. I took several pictures of the kids helping Uncle Chad assemble green bean casserole and this is the best I got. Lucy ducked at the last second and Jonah looks like he's having a seizure. Seriously, I try people!

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This isn't pretty good though. 


December table time goodies

I knew we would be busy doing advent themed stuff in December so I didn't plan any Worlds of Learning activities but what I didn't realize was how much we love table time. All three of us. If I get busy, Lucy will quickly remind me that we forgot "stories and songs" and Jonah breaks out in a big smile whenever I start the hymn or poem. It's one of the ways I am able to maintain a clean kitchen because I can keep him in his seat an extra 5 minutes or so while I finish loading the dishwasher. That boy loves to help unload the dishwasher, even if the dishes inside it are not clean!

I keep it pretty simple. We start at lunchtime with the song, normally when I am done and starting to clean up but the kids are still eating. Then we do the poem and the story. By then Lucy is normally done eating and ready for bible memory verses and her catechism questions. Lastly, I try to either review something everyday (previous months hymn or poem, or our list of rules we did before catachism started) or if she asks, look at the pictures.

If things are starting to fall apart at some point, we just stop and pick up at snack time after nap.  We eat a lot around here so we have lots of chances to fit it in. It's quickly become my favorite "schoolish" type thing and maybe even one of my favorite parts of the day, besides naptime and bedtime, of course. I didn't want to miss out on a month so I found some Christmas table time songs (a planned for a song per week instead of just one for the month but we'll be practicing them during our regular evening advent time as well), a poem and a few pictures to look at so I thought I might as well share them. And we'll spend the month listening to The Nutcracker along with all my favorite christmas carols.

If you have never done Table/Circle Time before but have thought about it, give it a try. If you print these ahead of time and display them near your eating spot, it almost does itself!