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Friday, December 9, 2011

I'm Having a Hard Time Getting My Jingle On

Despite being surrounded by Christmas d├ęcor since October and the constant holiday songs playing on the radio for the last week – I’m having a hard time getting my Jingle on this year.

We’ve done all the same things as usual.  The house is decorated, the tree is up and trimmed, the stockings are hung by the chimney with care, and the front yard twinkles each night.  I feel like I’m putting on a good show this season.  I’m doing all the right things, but that festive spirit has not filled me like in years past. 

It’s not our schedule; it’s lighter right now than before Thanksgiving.  It’s not spiritual; we attend church, enjoy Advent preparation, and spend time reflecting on why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.

My husband and I both have birthdays in the days leading up to Christmas, as well.  It’s usually so festive and exciting and filled with much anticipation. This year, I honestly feel like we’ve just clicked and shipped the holidays to our home.

While I’m not sure what’s missing or if I just need an attitude adjustment, I do plan to bask in the wonder my children exude.  As they open each window on their Advent calendar and hang each Nativity ornament, I will pause.  I hope in that moment, the expectation of the season will catch fire for me.

In the meantime, there are only 14 days until the big day.  Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Last of the Leftovers ... finally!

Okay - I admit to making way too much food on Thanksgiving.  Our family enjoys leftover turkey sandwiches with stuffing and gravy.  But, that was two weeks ago - and enough is enough.  Except, I still had a hefty turkey breast mocking me from the fridge.  Today is the day I transform the rest of the Turkey and Stuffing into a meal for the family.

Poppy Seed Casserole (this is a perfect casserole for leftover poultry)

Combine cream of chicken soup with 16 oz sour cream.  Spread half on the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish.  Cube turkey breast (about 3 cups).  Spread remainder of wet mixture over the top of the turkey.  Sprinkle poppy seeds generously over the top.  Crush a sleeve of butter rounds (Ritz Crackers) over the top.  I deviated on this, today, I used leftover corn souffle, and crumbled the dried mixture over the top.
Bake at 350 for 35 minutes.  Serve over rice with a green vegetable.

A shout out to a good friend who turned me onto this basic chicken casserole.  It's so delicious the kids stood over the pan scooping out bites.  Seriously.

Stuffing Casserole

Combine leftover stuffing (about 4 cups) with cream of celery and cream of mushroom soups. Leftover gravy would be a great addition to this.  Spread into the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish.  Mixture will be heavy.  The juices from the chicken will mix in nicely with the stuffing to rejuvenate it.
Coat 8-10 skinless, boneless chicken thighs with Lawry's Seasoning Salt and nestle them into the stuffing mixture.
Bake at 350 for 35 minutes.  Serve with a green vegetable.

I will post pictures of these once they are baked off this week.  

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fun Finds Online

While this is posted for Thanksgiving Leftovers, 
I can see this as a useful way to package up leftovers on a regular basis.  

Just one of twenty-five gifts that cost less than $5 to make.  

I'm big on Advent in our home.  
Love this cute reusable, customizable craft at serenitynow.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas Countdowns

As we pack away the autumnal decorations for another year, I bring out the various Christmas manipulatives we keep in our home to infuse Christ into the Holly Jolliness of the season.

What God Wants for Christmas is a fantastically sturdy nativity set, complete with a great storybook, CD, and message for your children.  We started using this when I still had preschoolers - my kids STILL love this one.
What God Wants For Christmas

We also use the JESSE TREE.  This is great for elementary-age kiddos.  Paper cut-out ornaments adorn a tree.  It can be a real tree, the ornaments in the shape of a tree on the wall - whatever works for your home.  


And we have a great little felted nativity scene that ornaments are hung on.  Each ornament is held in it's own numbered pocket beneath the manger.  

Fabric Nativity Advent Calendar

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Lunchbox Love

HomeWant to send a great note to your kids during the school day?  Say Please has got your covered.  They have a variety of encouraging notes, coupled with a fun factoid, to put in your child's packed lunch.  It's great for lunch time conversation in the cafeteria, too!
Say Please offers "everyday" cards as well as holiday cards, cards for friends, co-workers, and more.  Check them out - start a collection.

    Lunchbox Love for Loved Ones  

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Chicken Potpie Turnovers

5 skinless, boneless chicken thighs cut into bite-size pieces; 3 celery stalks sliced ;
6 oz mushrooms, chopped; frozen peas; 2 carrots, sliced;
cream of celery and cream of potato soups*; 4 packages crescent rolls;
salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme.

Add oil and butter to a hot skillet, add vegetables to saute. Season with salt and pepper.  Add chicken, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper.  Cook for about 10 minutes until chicken is fully cooked through.  Add soups*, a half cup of water, and a 1/2c frozen peas*.  Stir well and cover.

Each turnover is two crescent halves pinched together.  Put a large scoop of the mixture on one triangle, press a second triangle to cover the mixture.  Press the sides together to form a seal.  Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

These are delicious hot or cold.  If served cold, you can pick it up and eat it without any mess.  Served warm, it's a dinner the kids raved over.

*the cream of potato and frozen peas didn't make it into the top photo - sorry!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Loving Your Man with PURPOSE

Purpose is the word of the day.  This ONLINE BOOK STUDY is for all wives who want to strengthen their marriage and build up their man.  Here's a glimpse at today's project.  Head on over to Kathi's Book Club to get the full scoop!

Project #1: 30 Minutes Is All It Takes: Create Some Free Time When He Gets Home 

Your Project: Focus on your husband’s transitional 30 minutes today.  Would he like to be left alone to rest and rejuvenate, or does he want some undivided attention from you?  The point is to let your husband know you value what he does out in the world, and that he has a safe, loving place to come home to and get refreshed at the end of the day.
This is Kathi and I want to personally welcome you to the Projects! Here is the meat of the whole Husband Project – day to day, loving your husband on purpose and with a plan.

You may think, what about MY TRANSITION?  Yeah, what about it?  This isn't about you.  Sometimes we receive the greatest refreshment by providing refreshment for someone else.  Serve him first and you'll be bowled-over at his response for you.  Our men need us to give them a safe haven.


It's time to buckle down and get purposeful about what's going on around here. You know, when you've made one too many trips to the school to deliver overlooked items to your child. When the admin staff knows how you look without makeup.  When your car becomes a storage locker.  It's time.

Each child sat with me yesterday to carve out their own schedule of what they need and what day they need it.  While I'm helping to remind them, it's their job to check their calendar in the morning.  My reminder today was, "Check your calendar."  And Day One was a success.  Water bottles were packed for afterschool sports, musical instruments left with the kids, library books were remembered, field trip forms were packed.  We even had time for a yummy, warm breakfast (waffles with Nutella/Jif and apples/bananas).

I have to wonder, though, if the success for the morning should be attributed to something I did even before the calendar reminder.  I let the dog out, stepped out into the crisp morning with my hot coffee, looked up at the wakening sky and lifted praise to my God.  "Thank you for this day, Lord.  Bless my husband and my children. Bless me and direct my footsteps.  Let my words be yours today.  Filter my thoughts and actions.  And let all I do be in glory to You."  Then the dog yipped at my feet and we went back in.  Purposeful.  Perhaps praying this morning was the most purposeful thing I accomplished.

I encourage you today to be purposeful in your every moment.  Really be where you are, in mind and spirit.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Nudged into Obedience

Have you ever been nudged?

I have. Sometimes it's a gentle nudge with someone trying to get my attention. Sometimes it's more persistent, like that of a toddler wanting more, more, more. Today I find myself submitting to the nudge that's been poking me for more than a year. I confided in a friend yesterday how hard it is to admit when you're excited about something where you could fail so publicly. How hard it is to tell people, "Hey, I'm going to do ...," and stare into their stunned face silently judging me. Ridiculing me. Waiting to hear me fail.

"That's not for you to worry about, Stephanie," she said. "It's for you to be obedient to your calling - whether you fail or not." Wow. She's right.

So here I go! Nudged into action. Intentionally moving forward. I'll let you know how it goes!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I'm Bad at Returning Phone Calls

I really do believe that when someone doesn't return your call, they are not listening to your message and choosing not to pick up the phone.  They are not choosing not to call you back - they simply haven't received your message or had sufficient time to return the call.  I'm okay with that when it happens to me.  I don't mind leaving you a couple messages because I know how bad I am about messages.  But I do disappoint others.

Pitfall One:  No time to retrieve messages.  While I might see the small VM on my phone display, I do not have time to pick up the messages.  A few days could pass before I retrieve the messages (if I'm even in town!).  Then, I must have time to act on it.

Pitfall Two:  I have time to return the call - but it's too late at night or too early in the day.  The opposite can occur, too (time without real opportunity):  it will be the right time, but my schedule doesn't allow me to be on the phone.  Usually this is due to work issues, children's schedules/squabbles, etc.  I could call on my cell from the car - but that's not giving the caller the attention deserved (not to mention, unsafe).

And so, the caller waits.  Sometimes even calling again (and again - especially if I haven't picked up the messages).  While I have told friends and family that I'm really not ignoring them, I'm not sure they believe me.  I've said, "if I haven't returned your call, I haven't gotten your message."  Funny thing about all this, those that call my cell always get a hold of me - even if I couldn't take the call that moment.  

Seems odd?  Not really.  In a day where I can check email, FaceBook, and text message from my phone - that's the best way to reach me ... and consequently, for me to reach you.  I can send or receive a text any time and it's never intrusive.  Same with email, FaceBook posts, or FaceBook messages.

There are a few callers I have forwarded from my home to my cell so I don't miss their calls anymore, and listen to their messages (each one more pathetic than the last), when I can finally devote the time to it emptying my phone queue.

You might wonder how I could be so busy as to not pick up messages - well my time is not my own.  Shuttling kiddos to and fro, having their friends over, dentist appointments, random ear infections, feeding the masses, doing copious amounts of laundry, keeping a humbly clean home, etc., etc., etc..  It really does all add up, overlap, and make you want to relish the moments at home instead of tackling the "to do's."

I encourage you to give others the benefit of the doubt - extend grace ... you never know when you might need some in return.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Man in Uniform

Part One

The Colonel stopped at WalMart for milk on his way home from his night shift.  He was in uniform - his fatigues. He does not like to draw attention to himself and usually changes into his uniform once at his duty station.  He travels to and from in civilian clothes.  However, at 5:30 in the morning after a week of mids, he just wanted to run this quick errand and get home.  He stood in front of the bank of refrigerators looking for the 1% milk and felt someone staring at him.

"I just wanted to say thanks," the man at WalMart said.
The Colonel smiled at him, "Thank you."

It was the first thing he told me about that morning before climbing into bed. When you thank a soldier, it does matter.  They don't do it for appreciation, but your appreciation speaks to their commitment.

Part Two

He arrived home at 6:30 this morning, just in time to grab our middle son and run him out to the swim meet.  The Colonel finished his last night shift and was still in his fatigues.  He arrived at the pool just in time for warm-ups, intending to drop-off our son, come home to shower/change, and head back out.  The moment he stepped onto the pool deck, he could feel the spotlight on him.  When I showed up at the meet later on, everyone who'd seen him earlier said, "I saw your man in uniform this morning."  I smiled proudly.  

He looks so impressive in his uniform.  He has presence, authority - commanding respect and attention.  One of my friends said, "He looks three times bigger in his uniform - it's the hat, the boots ...." she went on.  I nodded.  He does.  He's amazingly large in stature when he's decked out in his battle dress.  I love a man in uniform ... actually, I love my man in uniform :)

I encourage you to thank a soldier this weekend as we celebrate our country! 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Extra Fun Was Extraordinary!

I grew up in the Maryland suburbs - just outside DC.  Despite what you might now about suburbia, I am, by definition, a city girl.  The sturdiest shoes I owned in college were keds.  I had visited friends in Washington State near Mt. Hood who wanted to take me hiking.  I donned my keds and was promptly pushed aside while my closet was ransacked in search of more appropriate footwear.  When none was found, the "tourist" route was implemented.

When I trek more than five miles away from my homebase, I need a GPS and a credit card, which both came in handy when invited for that extra fun I mentioned earlier.  Our family joined three other families at Lake Anna in Central Virginia.  The setting is idyllic.  It's a peaceful gem in our Lover's State.  Lake Anna may be a public access lake, but it's definitely a less discovered destination spot.  I think what I like most about it, is that we were there in 90 minutes.  It wasn't a three or four (plus) hour trip to the beach or the mountains.  It was a lovely, scenic drive through the Virginia countryside.

We jumped off the dock into the lake, which I've never done!  The water temperature was perfect.  There was a floating dock about twelve feet away from the shore the kids would climb onto and make sink.  They would pretend they were on the Titanic, "we're going down - save yourselves!!"  It was hilarious.  I sat in my new favorite beach chair on the dock, enjoying the sun, watching them swim and laugh and dive and push each other in.  The kids ranged in aged from four to fourteen - and they played together beautifully.  They wanted all the grown ups to get on the floating raft to sink it further, somehow thinking we were bigger and heavier than they were. Hmmmmmm :)

Our friends have a power boat for cruising and tubing and a jet ski.  The Colonel and I used to have SeaDoos when we lived in Florida's panhandle, BC (before children).  We raced up and down our cove of the lake, spilling children off tubes, jumping waves with the jet ski, giggling the whole time.  Our wet hair was blown dry while we raced.  We got too much sun on our cheeks and our shoulders.  We ate hamburgers and hotdogs for lunch and dinner.  We played too hard, rested just enough, and took lots of pictures.  The time away was much needed; a rejuvenation for me - a welcome distraction for the kids.

We are eternally grateful for the invitation for some extra fun.  This city girl may be swayed to trade in her keds for something more outdoorsy-friendly.  Time will tell ... and so will another trip to Lake Anna!

Perfect Pool Day

No, ninety days didn't fly by already - I've been out and about enjoying bits of summer with my family this past week, sans laptop.  I guess I could blog from my smart phone, but no one really wants to see those typos!!

Today was one of those perfect pool days.  Stunning.  The breeze was refreshing; not a cloud in the sky; warm, but not too warm; perfect water temperature; and swim team friends just kept arriving at the pool so there were lots of friends to play with.

We began our outing with some extra kids along for the ride, a full cooler and picnic lunch, sprayed down with sunscreen, and pool passes in hand.  I swam some laps while the kids played.  At break, we all gathered up together to eat.  Some friends ordered a pizza; some left to lunch at home and put kiddos down for naps.  As soon as the guards blew the whistle, they were back in the water.  My kids are old enough, and good enough swimmers, that I am not in the water with them anymore.  I found a lounge chair, read a book (which I've not done in eons!), and counted kids after each page.

The whistle blew again for break - out came a $10 bill - and all the kiddos got an ice cream.  I swam some more laps and did not indulge.  Ten minutes swept by as easily as the day's summer breeze, and the kids were back in the water.  "Sharks and Minnows 1-2-3!"  And all the kids on the side dive in.  Cannonball contests.  Mini swim races.  Best of all, our pool has a cool, green tube slide open to anyone who can swim to the side after going down.

More friends arrived.  More sunscreen was sprayed.  More pages were lazily read.  More peanut butter crackers were munched.  Card games were played in towel forts.  It was a perfect pool day.  Perfect.  Now, where'd I put that bikini body I used to own??

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Extra Fun!

Camera charging.
Suits packed.
Goggles and sunscreen in the pool bag.
Towels drying over the deck railing.
Awesome beach chair in the trunk.
Directions in the GPS.

We are looking forward to spending a day at the lake with a couple other families we've gotten to know especially well this past school year.  Our boys played sports together, we live in a triangle to each others' homes - and the other two families share a bridge to their backyards!

In a summer where friends flit off for the weekend or the week, leaving us pool folk on our own, it's nice to have an invitation to go have some "extra fun," too.  We are looking forward to the road trip, the water fun, and some memories to treasure for a lifetime.

I encourage you to find some extra fun this week.  Maybe it's the dollar movies and the local summer cinema.  Or a trip to the Outlets to browse around.  Ask another family to go along - it's always more fun with a friend!

Friday, June 24, 2011

I Love ...

how my dog is so happy when she knows we're going for a walk; when my kids lay on top of me to watch tv - no matter how big and bony or wet their hair is; watching them splash in the pool; catching my husband mid smile; how my daughter adores her daddy; how my oldest is turning into a man-cub; when the Colonel comes home in uniform (va va voom!); friends who seek me out; honest conversation; praying for others; curling up with my man; when my oldest signs I Love You to me; my middle son's impression of an old man.

Even on the days when I am most cranky and uninspired ... like today ... I can find reasons for joy.

I encourage you to share your joy!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Little Bits of Thursday

Tonight - Chef Boyardee.  "Mom, this is so good!"
And I cook ... why?

Started running/walking this week.  Turns out I can run faster than I thought - and for a longer distance than I thought.  A friend pushed me a little outside my comfort zone, encouraging me the whole way.  What a wonderful friend!  Continued today and am now as proud of myself as she is of me.  And I cannot believe I'm not more sore.

The Colonel's on duty for a while - hence the Chef Boyardee for dinner.

The kids wrote lists on the driveway tonight of what they'd like to do over the summer:

  • Have sleepovers
  • Go to bed late
  • Get ice cream
  • Have a neighborhood cookout/movie presentation
  • Plant flowers
  • Start a blog
  • Have a Luau
  • Go fishing
  • Hike on the Walney Pond trail
  • Make Shrinky Dinks
  • Have drum lessons with Dad
  • Go to the batting cage
  • Play mini-golf

As I was tucking the Ginger Ninja into bed tonight, he said, "If we do all those things, it's gonna be a great summer!"  I love seeing summer through my children's eyes.  

I encourage you to start jotting down one thing your children do each day.  Don't complicate it with a system or needing a special book/journal. Just start.  We think we'll remember and we don't.  Do you know how great it will be to see that summer list above years from now?

I want to thank you for leaving me comments - they are a wonderful encouragement to me!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I Have No Plans for Summer

It dawns on me today that I have nothing planned for summer to fill the time.  My kids are all part of our pool's swim team and morning practices began today now that school's out.  We are finished with our daily obligations by 10 a.m. ... and have the rest of the day to fill.

My children are going away to camp - but not until August.  One week, Ginger Ninja is going to a Lacrosse Skills Camp while the Giggle Twins will enjoy VBS.  And that's the extent of our summer plans.  This is a first for me.  I usually have "a plan."  It may be unrealistic.  It may involve educational workbooks that wind up being ignored.  It might even have day trips that don't happen.  But there's usually something I've thought up - at least spent time thinking on.  Not this year. So far, this summer seems to have no plan.  Granted, today is Summer Break Day One - but still.

Then the epiphany comes:  I have no plans for summer.

While my summer is beginning without much forethought, the last year (and more) has been anything but!  Since last year, my children have gone non-stop.  Seriously.  From Summer 2010 they have done: swim team, football (with August practices), which overlapped into basketball, which overlapped into lacrosse, flag football and soccer, which overlapped into this swim season.  They - and we (the parents crazy enough to sign them up for all this stuff) - have gone non-stop.

This is our summer of rest.  We will really rest.  We will move our bodies around in the morning when it's cool enough to do it - then rest, relax, and rejuvenate the remainder of the day - in whatever form that takes.  We will reinvest in family-time, board games, Popsicles, firefly catching, sleepovers, hanging out with friends, impromptu fire-pits and marshmallow roasting/s'more eating.  And we will relish in every moment of it.

I encourage you to find rest today.  Whether it be in the car when you pull in from work and sit for an extra three or four minutes before diving into the house or a stroll to the mailbox all alone; I encourage you to find the moments where God is calling to you and see if you can listen well enough to hear Him beckon: "Come to me ... and ... find rest for your soul."  

*“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11: 28-30 NIV

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Tears welled up in my eyes today.  Not because my children would now be home everyday for the next ten weeks. But because the end of the school year marked another year gone.  I was unprepared for overwhelming emotion. Tears ran down my cheeks and I stood in the kitchen, "My babies are growing up."

"I know," said the Colonel and drew me into his arms.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Back to Work

Yep - tomorrow I go back to work full time.

I'm a stay at home mom - but my kiddos are all school-aged.  So, for six hours (I know you remember those six glorious hours I referenced earlier) they are at our local elementary school learning all sorts of great stuff to turn them into productive members of society.  Or that's the thought, anyway.

Tomorrow is the last day of school.  Tomorrow, the kids go to school long enough to take attendance, eat doughnuts and drink juice with their teacher, watch a Disney flick, sign some yearbooks and have the buses turn around for the return trip home.  My children will leave home at 8:22 and return at 11:22.  Tomorrow, is the day I go back to work full-time and my "vacation" (as my neighbor at Bows & Beaus calls it) is over.

This year I am both excited by the end of the school and understand the full implications of what lies ahead.  When my kids were preschoolers, July was the same as October.  No school all the time.  Activities were based on Mom's interest/energy level.  Those days are no more.  Last year I was faced with the daily, "so what are we going to do today, Mom?"  To which I often responded, "Well, I'm going to clean the bathrooms and do some laundry," as I handed them the Clorox wipes so they could help.

This year, with everyone a year older, wiser, and more mature (me included), I am anticipating things to go a bit differently.  Don't ruin it for me if you know better.  My oldest is really into his new iTouch and I anticipate this summer he will always need "one more app."  My Darling Daughter is the crafty girl.  If I keep her in pom poms, felt, beads, Shrinky Dinks, and the like, I'll be okay.  My middle son, he's the one that will keep me hopping.  He really needs to stay engaged in activity.  And lots of it!  Finding things for him to do that still satisfy the needs of my others, well, therein lies the challenge.

Feeding my growing brood is what really has me daunted this summer.  My boys are beginning to eat me out of house and home and it will only become more extreme.  I'm a little anxious about living in the kitchen this summer.  I may resort to posting meals and hours and actually closing the kitchen.  We'll see if I come to that. I do plan on having my kids make their own lunches this summer - in practice for taking over that duty in the fall.  Devious?  Yes, I know.  And do you know where I got that idea - another brilliant mom!

As I countdown the hours to vacation being over, I realize I no longer have to get in the water at the pool and can lounge and read if I want (or chat with a friend).  I realize I'm no longer carrying a child around when we have outings.  I realize everyone can go to the bathroom before we head out the door by themselves and can buckle-up without assistance.  Life is good - and this summer's going to be a good one.

Vacation over?  I may actually be entering a new stage of motherhood.  Only time will tell.  Stay tuned ...

In the meantime, I encourage you to look at your summer with your kids through new eyes - full of possibility and potential ... before it's ruined with the "I'm bored," whine.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Counting Blessings 06.19.11

Thankful for...

  • Extra time.  Got to spend a little extra time with my man today before he headed off for duty.  He's on duty for a while and will be unavailable - made even more bittersweet with it being Father's Day.
  • Good friends.  Spent the afternoon with another family whose Dad is away for Father's Day.  I told her kids to ask their Dad what he got them for Father's Day - new tradition!  
  • A new book.  I bought each of my kids a new book to kick off summertime reading and they are all upstairs reading quietly before bed.  Bliss.
  • Chocolate.  And not just any chocolate.  But double chocolate fudge brownies - oh my goodness are they delicious.  I'll save some for the Colonel.
  • Fireflies.  Nothing can bring back the simplicity of childhood like catching fireflies at dusk.  We ran through the yard and down the pipe-stem.  Put a few in a jar to watch them light up, up close.  We laid on our back and waited for the first star to come out.  That's the stuff blessings are made of!
It was especially hard to count my blessings today.  I'm feeling a little overlooked.  However, that statement is "me focused;" and counting blessings is anything but self-centered.  Tonight I'm working hard to dwell in the riches of God's blessing in my life.

Looking now for a scripture on chocolate ... I'm sure it's heaven sent!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Stingrays in the Water 06.18.11

This morning was our team's first official swim meet of the season.  The meet was a nail biter!  The teams were within ten points of each other the whole time.  Then the relays came.  They have the most points attached to them.  Winning relays means winning the meet.  And even when our team started well, we would have a lagging leg and start to slip.  Even when we had strong swimmers, the relays were too close to call.  It came down to the timers.  Our opponents easily won a few; and so did we - but it probably wasn't going to be enough to come from behind, especially with some of the relay losses.

My oldest son came up to me, "Hey Mom. You know my relay?"
"Well, the other team DQ'd so we won it, even though we lost in the water."
"Yep," he said ... then asked for a dollar for a doughnut and disappeared.

The swimmers were nearing the end of the IMs when the announcement came.  "It's been a close meet all along. And first of all, I just want to congratulate all the swimmers.  Sequoia Farms 222; Opponent 221."

Cheers erupted throughout the team area and all around the pool, interrupted by the incredulous, "We won?!"  And I was no different.  Those close relays had us doubting whether or not we were contenders.  The one DQ may have made the difference, giving us the point we needed to pull it out.

We always tell the kids to swim their best, no matter where the other swimmers are in their lanes.  You never know if your fourth will turn into a third (or better!) due to someone else's bad form.  Isn't that always true?  You should stay the course, continuing to give your best, because you never know what other factors are pressing.
I encourage you today to press forward toward the finish line, never giving up - no matter who you think is ahead of you. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Laundry Beckons

If you have a family, you have laundry ... and plenty of it.  I have a few tried and true methods for conquering the madness, sans Laundry Fairy.  I use some variation of these ideas pretty much all the time.  Some I rotate, based on what's going on with the family schedule.  For instance, when the boys played football, Under Armor and jocks were washed daily - which meant I was doing a load of laundry every day ... so why not make the most of it.

First off, I highly recommend visiting Antsy Pants for a Laundry Room Make Over!

Laundry basket for each kid.  Train your kiddos to deposit their grungies in their laundry basket - if it's in the basket, it gets washed.  If it's not in the basket, it doesn't.  Stick to it.  You will wind up with less on the floor and less around the house.
  • Wash one (or two) kids baskets per day - depending on the amount of time you have.  Once it come out of the dryer - move the clean clothes to that child's bed for folding.  If you haven't yet taught your kids to fold their laundry, now's the time.  I started training at age six - but it depends on the kid.  If your kiddos aren't that old, then you fold the clothes on their bed and let them put their stuff away.  Kids can do this by age five if (and only IF) there is room in the drawers.  If the drawers are too full, everyone's frustrated. 
  • If you think you'll have less than full loads by doing this, add towels, sheets, bath rugs, etc. to your load.  There's always something!  However, I find this method (without adding extra) has actually helped me get the clothes cleaner.  Yes, cleaner!  I'm someone who crams the washer full and the clothes don't have room to move around.  This method helps me from having too much laundry at one time, too.

Mesh bags.  You can get an 11x17 mesh laundry bag for about a dollar and it's well worth it.  They can be used for many things.
  • Give one to each child for their socks.  Socks are washed all together and dumped back into sock drawer all together.  Let your child match their socks (or you can do it - at any rate, it gives you less quantity at one time to match up).  They don't come out fluffy - but that may not matter to you.
  • Give one to each child for their underwear.  Wash them, dry them, and dump them back into the underwear drawer.  Folding underwear is completely optional.  Same non-fluffy issue.
  • Use one for your bras.  The straps won't twist around other clothes and stretch out.  The hooks won't snag other clothing.  Plus, you shouldn't toss your bra in the dryer - it shortens its elasticity.  
  • Use mesh bags for sports gear.  Have your kids toss their soccer socks, jocks, etc. into a bag.  They are easier to spot in the wash/dryer meaning less time looking for items gone astray.
Sock Basket.  When I'm not using the mesh bag method for socks, I'm using the sock basket.  We keep a basket in the hallway, near the dryer, with all the kids socks.  Socks get matched up in the laundry and live here.  

Basket on the stairs.  I keep a small basket on the stairs for dirty duds.  My family tends to take off socks, shirts, and what not, kind of ... well, everywhere.  I find I yell less if there's a small basket on the stairs to toss stuff in so I can collect it and take it upstairs to the main laundry basket as needed.  I also toss place mats, hand towels, dish rags, and pot holders into the basket when it's time to swap out.

Lonely socks.  I keep a bin for odd socks by the dryer and the kids get some extra dough for sorting through it every so often, matching up pairs that have found their way together again.  I got the name from the Laundry Room Make Over at Antsy Pants.

Stains.  Get a good stain remover that really works and use it well.  Don't skimp.  I prefer one that can dry on the garment, so it can "set" for a while if necessary.

Simplify your Clothing Options.  When all else fails, reduce your clothing options.  Seriously.  Ever wonder why laundry isn't so bad on vacation, even if you have to do it?  There's a finite amount of it.  One summer I packed everything into box except ten outfits for all of us (except my loving hubby, of course!).  I needed no method - there wasn't that much laundry to do, so even doing it all in one night was a BREEZE!  

I encourage you to leave your best tips here.  Maybe soon, the Laundry Fairy will see this and come help us all out.  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Things Others Say - Thursday 6.16.11

Status Update from a friend:

  1. Wake up.
  2. Ask God what He's going to do today.
  3. Join Him.

How perfect is that?  My brother says, "We make plans ... God laughs."  I am reminded of the scripture from Jeremiah, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans for a hope and a future."  And He does - He has a plan for us each day.  Not just the days that go well, but every day.  As my mom says, "It's not like that song from Oklahoma:"

Oh what a beautiful morning.
Oh what a beautiful day.
I've got a beautiful feeling.
Everything's going my way.

It's not just the days where everything's going your way that God is active.  He's in the every; and there's comfort in that.  When your car won't turn over as you're about to head out the door.  When you spill coffee on the keyboard.  When your child misses the bus.  When you're having technical difficulty.  When your husband deploys unexpectedly.  God is in those moments, too.

A trusted mentor taught me to praise God for the heartache, the troubles.  Do you know how hard that is to do?  Thank you, Lord, for my son breaking his arm.  Thank you for the fights my husband and I are having.  Thank you for my child's learning disability.  Those are tough prayers.  But He's in the struggles, too.

God places struggles in our lives intentionally.  Perhaps your child's broken arm uncovers a medical issue otherwise hidden.  Maybe the marital strife helps you come alongside a friend in the same situation with insight and encouragement.  We consistently face challenges for reasons we may never know (although sometimes we get a glimpse).  God's timeline is a grand one, too extensive for us to fathom.

I encourage you today to join God in His plan: His plan for you or for the part you might play in another's plan.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Recalls Simplified

Consumer Product Safety Commission
We have been longtime subscribers to the CPSC recall list. CPSC sends you a consolidated list of all product recalls.  You can choose which kind of recalls you receive notification of; or you can choose all of them.

I encourage you to check it out at: http://www.cpsc.gov/
and sign up for their electronic recall notices at: https://www.cpsc.gov/cpsclist.aspx

Wordless Wednesday

It was a picture perfect day for the second grade picnic.  But that doesn't mean I'm not pooped!  This week is a blur of learning celebrations, group projects and presentations, picnics, read-in's, field day, pizza parties and ice cream socials.  When I was in grade school, the end of the year meant cleaning out the desk/locker and extended recess.  These kids have it made!

2nd Grade Author aka Darling Daughter

Bathing Suit Relay

Hoop Games

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Author's Celebration

Today, my Darling Daughter's class had their Author's Celebration.  They write lots of stories with writing prompts, illustrate the pages, and even have a Publishing Center in their classroom.  For those that like to write, this is a blessing - for those who struggle, it shows - on every page.

My oldest is still challenged with writing.  It's getting better the older he gets, but he needs lots of prompting, guidance, encouragement and attention.  My middle son absolutely loves to write and draw.  At night before bed, he prefers writing to reading.  He writes lengthy stories.  His spelling and penmanship leaves something to be desired, but the passion is there.  My Darling Daughter has it all together.  Great penmanship.  Great narrative. Great illustrations.  And when she reads her stories, she reads with such inflection, her story comes alive as she engages her listener.  As I thought about their different approaches to writing, I couldn't help but draw parallels in how we might write or live our life.  Or better yet, how we live our lives is our story and then how do we write it.  A little deep, I know.

Back to the kids.  The kids could write a story about anything, then there were also "formula" books like "How to Make a Turkey Sandwich" or a Step Book (first, second, third, then, last).  Some of the kids' freestyle writing was superior where others' the formula writing was best.  We live our lives much like this.  Some of us do great with the impromptu lifestyle, take things as they come, some order but mostly fluid - the story could go anywhere.  Some of us like the structured prompts like the Turkey Sandwich.  We know the outcome is a turkey sandwich, but how we get there looks different.  Yours has mustard, mine mayo; yours has cheese, mine is on rye.  Still a turkey sandwich, but we each approach it differently.

Layered over this approach is the outside influence we need to write our story.  Some might be like my oldest, needing lots of attention, prodding, encouragement, guidance ... the list goes on.  I wonder if those authors are ever confident of their story.  Or we might be like my Middle Son with great passion, but the message is hard to read.  Seldom do we have it all together - but when we do, it's breathtaking!

My favorite writing samples was the poetry.  And not just any kind of poetry, but highly structured poetry - which is funny, because I'm not highly structured (I'm probably a turkey sandwich kind of girl).  The kids wrote Haiku and Cinquain poems.  These require that you choose your words carefully - and I like that.  Words, both written and spoken, have a life beyond themselves.  And when you take the time to carefully craft your message, it shows. Each author had to think about what words he knew to describe his subject.  How many syllables, what kinds of words they chose (describing, action, etc.).  Their subject matter told the reader something about the author and how they viewed their subject, in very few words.  

I encourage you today to think about your message. Do you use highfalutin words or plain-Jane words?  What's your subject?   And which words are you choosing to live out?   

Monday, June 13, 2011

Where Does the Time Go?

When my kids were itty-bitties, I was exhausted.  My Ginger Ninja turned three when my Darling Daughter was born – and there was Middle Son at 15 months.  It was exhausting caring for three children three and under.  Then three children under four … then three children under five … need I go on?  But then something magical happened, school started and my oldest began Kindergarten. 

Full Day Kindergarten!  This left me with the Giggle Twins at home (then ages two and three).  They were home alone with me for two years before Middle Son started Kindergarten.  In the meantime, I kept them engaged with activities at home like shaving cream on the deck table to play in, sidewalk chalk, finger paints, glitter, playground time, playdates, and more.  Just like most mommies do.  In the time they weren’t napping, they attended Kids Joy (the children’s program during women’s Bible study), MOPPETS during the MOPS meetings, and preschool so I could get a Mommy Break and still offer them something wonderful.

When my Darling Daughter started Kindergarten, I suddenly had an empty home six hours a day.  SIX GLORIOUS HOURS!  Say it with me, “Six Glorious Hours!”  This time was amazing.  I was already engaged with MOPS Field Leadership, so there was always more than housework and grocery shopping.  As the years have passed those six glorious hours have somehow shortened.  Before I know it, the clock reads 3:10 and my kids will be walking in the door soon.  Some days I’m pulling in the driveway moments before the bus rolls up.  And, did I mention I’m still exhausted? 

Exhausted not in the way a mother of preschool-aged children is exhausted: the constant wiping and holding and changing and up and down and crying and soothing and singing.  No, not like that.  The constancy of mothering infants and toddlers has morphed into the incessant shuffling of children from here to there.  Their needs are now often beyond our front door with practices, games, team functions, rehearsals, parties, after school activities, and the friend who lives outside walking distance.  

And it will transform into something different next year when my Ginger Ninja begins middle school – taking my singular school schedule to two bell schedules … and then to three with kids at each level of education.  And then, the time will shrink even more.  By the time my youngest leaves for school there will only be an hour or two before my oldest returns. 

By then, the constancy of motherhood will change again, transforming my role to meet my children where they are.  I am reminded to cherish each moment as it comes.  To relish in the stages of motherhood and child-rearing.  I encourage you to do the same:  to immerse yourself in family life so when someone says, “Where does the time go,” you’ll have an answer.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Counting Blessings 06.12.11

Thankful for ...
  • shelter from the storm - it rained buckets today!  Fierce lightning, rock the house thunder.  We were driving to church, visibility was low and lightning was severe.  The church was restoring electricity.
  • friends to celebrate with - new friends have a son who's graduating from high school.  He also got a clean bill of health from the ER last night after the Lacrosse State Championship game.
  • our pool - to run out the last bit of energy from the kids.  Great guards who actually build relationships with the kids.
  • my husband - who snuggles with me, makes me coffee every morning, and continues to rock my world.
Take some time today to count your blessings!

Give thanks in all circumstances. 1 Thes. 5:18
Be content for what you have for the Lord has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."
Hebrews 13:5

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sports Saturday

We have finished up our spring sports - lacrosse for the boys, soccer for the girl, and flag football for the Ginger Ninja.  It's been a whirlwind season all around.  Three practices a week for the boys, two for our Darling Daughter, plus an extra one for GN.  And, of course, the Colonel coached two of the teams - as he's done for the last two seasons!  All of this makes for a busy schedule, household, and plenty of laundry to keep those uniforms in ready condition.  We did wind up with Tuesday nights free this season.  And we coveted that night: family dinner and movie, games, relaxation.  It was all about staying home and enjoying rest.

The boys had a successful season!  They both enjoyed learning a new sport and excelled at it quickly.  They ended their season ranked seventh in the Northern VA league.  Each scored quite a bit throughout the season being a threat both offensively and defensively.  Today we celebrated their winning season with a potluck pool party at the coach's home, trophies, medals, and plenty of fun.  Much of the team took in the high school championship game at Westfields HS.  Several friends are on the team and its been fun attending the games and cheering with the students and families alike.

Our Darling Daughter played soccer again - this is her third season.  And she loved it.  There was more drama for me as a parent dealing with other parents, but DD had a fantastic time.  Her first game she garnered six goals! And while she scored a fair amount, she was a strong defender on the field.  And as her Dad always says, "Defense wins game."  Very true.  She would stop the ball and kick it to a teammate who was open so they could take it down field or get the goal.  I'm so proud of her!  She ended the season with a win, a trophy, pictures and goody bags.

GN played his last season of flag football, we hope!  He played with a bunch of his friends, great coaches, and had a winning season.  Flag football is a great low-stress sport.  The kids get to play a lot of different positions and touch the ball a lot (unlike tackle ball).

Now that Lacrosse and Soccer are officially finished, we turn our attention to swim team for the first half of the summer.  It's great to have just one sport going on with all the kids doing the same thing at the same location.  If I could sit poolside with an umbrella drink, I'd be in heaven!

Getting Back At It

It's been a long year and everything else has taken priority over taking time to put words on paper.  This ends today!  My challenge is one post a day for 90 days.  I'm going to try a variety of things to get the habit going.  Pictures, ideas, etc.  This encourager might need some encouragement along the way.