Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Full Circle...And then Some

We have an old, wooden child-sized table that sits in our living room.  The table was built for my sister and I by our neighbor, Bill, when we were maybe 4 and 6 years old.  It had 4 little stools (I think only 3 are left) and was used for everything--we colored, worked puzzles, played ponies and barbies, used it as a stage...It was universal.  When we grew into our teenage years, the table became less of a work-station and more of a holding station.  It sat in the corner of my bedroom holding various picture frames and special objects.  When Andy and I got our first house, it worked as a tv stand for awhile. 

Now, it's back to it's calling.  The table has gone full circle.  It's not as pretty as it once was, with it's smooth, untouched finish.  But it's sturdy and trusty and does it's job.  The scratches and dings add character and life to the little wood table, telling stories of all the things it's done and seen.   Now, my kids color on it, work puzzles, use it as a frame for blanket forts, play ponies and dolls.  Yesterday, Mikayla was dancing and accidentally hit the table, which had one leg uneven because a book was under it.  The table toppled over and landed completely upside down on the floor.  I waited to see what Mikayla would do or say, thinking she'd be upset.  Instead, she gasped and ran to me, incredibly excited.

"Mommy, yook!  It's a castle and I the princess and you the queen!"

I love her imagination.  I love that she saw a castle with 4 turrets and the perfect spot for her in the middle.  I love that my girls use and love the same table that I did as a child.  I love that our little table has gone full circle...and then some. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Just in Case

The other day, a friend and I were catching up and talking about our families.  I remembered that her SIL was due to have a baby any day, so I asked about them.  My friend told me all about her new niece and then told me something that has stuck with me ever since, like a record with a scratch, skipping over and over and over.  "She says they aren't going to have any more kids, she just can't do it.  But she won't have him have a vasectomy because she doesn't want to ruin his future chances for more children with someone else, just in case."  Silence.  I caught my breath and asked, "In case something happened to her, like she were to die?"  And she replied, "I asked the same thing and she said no, in case they don't stay together."

Wow.  I cannot imagine planning for the future and having that just in case looming in the back of my mind.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not naive.  I know that things happen and sometimes, people just can't stay together.  Something happens that the other person simply cannot forgive.  But I also know that too often, people simply won't forgive or take the time and effort needed to work through things.  Divorce or separation is the easier, sometimes less painful option.  But I couldn't imagine planning for that, or even kinda sorta planning for that, to happen in my own marriage.  I can't imagine being so bleak about my future with my husband and children.  I can't imagine living without him someday.

My marriage is not perfect.  We argue about the laundry and bills and garbage like everyone else.  We have days where the last thing we have time for is eachother.  We sometimes say things that we don't necessarily mean or feel.  But never have I (nor my husband, I asked him) felt like I needed to plan for that just in case.  We have our arguments, and we talk them over or just forget about them, as they aren't important sometimes.  We do our best to have 3 mins before we fall asleep at night to at least say, "How was your day?" and "I love you" on those crazy days.  We do our best to strengthen our relationship each chance we get, sometimes in grand ways and other times in only a split second hug or peck on the cheek.  We are honest and open with one another, sometimes almost painfully so.  But we work toward a common goal--our family, our marriage, our happiness.  And that's a gift that I continue to unwrap every day.

Emily is asking us to unwrap a gift of something special, unexpected or beautiful each Tuesday.  What are you unwrapping today?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Yummies in our Tummies

Remember the other day when I was talking about fall and all the yummy, hearty cooking that comes with the season?  Well, today was a rainy, cool, windy day.  When it's like that, you can't do much outside so what did I do?  I baked...kinda.

It all started yesterday.  We went to the apple orchard and picked about 15 lbs of Honey Crisp apples.  The girls had a blast finding the "perfect one" and going from tree to tree.  They each had a little bag that they carried with them (I had a big bag), and they were even able to sample an apple right from the tree.  Mmmmmm

Today after church, we came home and the girls took naps while I listened to the Packers on the radio.  As I listened, I turned this...

Into this:  Applesauce.  I kept the peelings on the apples, since that's where a good chunk of the vitamins are, so that's what gives the sauce the nice, rosy color.  I also then blended the sauce after cooking to chop the peelings and get the applesauce smooth--I have food textures issues.  I kept a good amount out for snacks for the next few days and froze a bunch as well.  I was told by Andy that I could make it more often and a lot of it, too.  I think that means he liked it.  We still have about 8 lbs of apples that we'll either eat or make into apple crisp in the coming days.  No, not pie.  We all know that Candy doesn't like pie.

Since the apples needed to cook for about 30-40 minutes until they were tender, I got busy making this:

Chocolate Chip Cookie dough.  I did make some cookies, maybe 2 dozen, but my main goal was to freeze all of those little dough balls--plus 20 more--for future use.  They are all nestled in my freezer, waiting for me to put them into baggies.  This way, when we want a treat or someone stops by for a visit, we can have fresh-baked cookies without the mess and time of making them.  Yum.

And in non-food news, we have a new member in our family...we think.  This little guy showed up on our back porch Saturday afternoon and hasn't left since.  He's quite young and thin, and we believe he's used to being around people because he's nervous and shy, but comes up to us on his own terms.  Then when we pick him up, he starts to purr like crazy.  And I shouldn't say He, really;  we haven't even checked to see if he's a He or a She.  But because of his raccoon like tail, the girls have named him Coonie.  I must admit, he is awful cute and quite a change from our 5 pure black cats.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Our Little All-Stars

The Harlem Ambassadors, a professional show basketball team, was in a nearby town this past week.  We had won tickets to attend, and Alayna won a ticket at school, so off we went for a night of basketball and laughs.  Since Alayna won a ticket at school for answering some questions correctly, she was also able to sit on the bench with the players and be in on their huddles.  She thought that was really neat!

Between the first and second quarters, the team pulled the students sitting with them on the bench onto the court for a game of musical chairs.  They needed another child to complete the game, so they walked right over to Lilly, who was minding her business and dancing to the music, and asked her if she'd like to play!  So off she marched with Crystal, one of the players, onto the court for a game of musical chairs.  And guess what?  Lilly won.  She beat out Alayna, who came in fourth...

...and 6 other kids to win an autographed photo of Lade Majic, the team's coach and player.  She was so excited! 

Mikayla, on the other hand, was quite upset that both of her sister's were on the court and she wasn't.  It's so hard being the baby.

If the Harlem Ambassadors are in your area, I'd highly recommend going to watch the show.  They are family friendly, funny and talented with their basketball skills.  The girls had a blast, as did I, and the entire crowd was laughing through the whole game (which was played against local police officers, firefighters, business people, etc)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Smile for my Soul

Shhh, do you hear that?  The quiet whisper of a leaf, as it falls to the earth; the scamper of a squirrel, as it collects acorns; the honk of the geese, as they fly south to avoid the cold...It's Fall, or Autumn, or whatever you want to call the season that comes between Summer and Winter.   It's the season of crisp, cool temps and vibrant colors.  It's the season of work and preparation for the cold.  It's the season of football and long trail-rides with friends.  It's the season to start baking and cooking those yummy, hearty meals.  It's the season of harvest.  It's the season of reflection on the past year, which is about to hibernate.  It's the season that I hold most dear in my heart.

I love everything about Fall. I could have it for 9 months out of the year, with a month reserved for each of the other 3 seasons.  I cannot wait for the colors and the smells of this season each and every year.  I am so thankful that I live on such a wonderfully crafted planet, in an amazing country, in such a beautiful speck of that country.  Each day I step outside and take a deep breath, inhaling the scents and sounds of the falling leaves and scurrying animals.  It makes my soul smile.  What about Fall makes your soul smile?

Emily at Chatting at the Sky is asking us to unwrap something beautiful today.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Miss Independent

This week has been one of those weeks when nothing seems to go right in the sleep department.  Sunday night Alayna woke up because she couldn't sleep and swore she heard something in her room that wasn't her or Marley.  Tuesday night it was Mikayla, coughing like crazy and needing a drink of water to soothe her throat.  Wednesday night it was Lilly, convinced there was something in her bed--the top bunk, mind you--that licked her elbow.  Last night it was Mikayla, again.

Oh Mikayla, you are at such an independent age.  The first time we were up last night, it was shortly after midnight and I woke to scraping on the bathroom floor.  I immediately recognized it as the sound of the stool being pushed, so I went to investigate.  Little Miss was pushing the stool to the lightswitch so she could see as she got herself a drink of water.  I helped her out, shut off the light and tucked her back into bed.

When Andy's alarm went off at 3:50 this morning, e asked me if I'd left the bathroom light on.  Nope, I know I shut it off because Mikayla complained of it being so dark back to her room.  I rolled over and sure enough, a light was shining in the hallway.  So out we climb from the bed, he into Alayna's room and I into Lilly & Mikayla's room.  Everyone was where they were supposed to be.  Then Andy went into the bathroom and saw a puddle of pee on the floor.  Of course, he immediately started blaming Marley until I reminded him that no matter how big she is, she doesn't know how to turn on lights.  And she hasn't had an accident in quite some time.  So that left one person:  Mikayla.

I snuck into the little girls' room again and pulled back the blankets on Mikayla's bed.  Sure enough, she was no longer wearing her jammie pants.  She woke up as I pulled the blankets back up, so I asked her if she had gone potty.  "Uh-huh, and I went to the bafroom but no on the toilet.  But yook, I put on new panties from my doo-er (drawer)!"  She was so proud of herself, with her panties on backwards but done by herself.  Little Miss Independent was so proud that she'd gotten herself re-dressed that she wasn't remembering that she needs help getting on the potty still.  So I gently reminded her that when she wakes up to go potty, she needs to say something so Mommy or Daddy can help.  Then I told her she did a good job with her panties and tucked her back into bed.  She did a good job, and all by herself, at sometime between midnight and 4 am.  She was quite proud of herself, and how could we be angry with her?  We cleaned up the puddle, put the discarded panties and jammy pants in the laundry and I went back to bed.  As I climbed in I heard Mikayla quietly say, "I do'd it myself, Mommy!"  Yep, you sure did.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Family Math

{[(1 man + 1 woman + 1 quiet, sweet girl + 1 funny, crazy girl +
1 imaginative, wild girl + pets + memories) x dreams]
x (laughs - tears)} x lots of love =
1 big happy family 

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My Name is Candy, and I'm a Klutz

Is there a 12-step program for people like me?  You know, people that trip over nothing and can almost cut their finger off with a piece of toilet paper.  I swear, I have a sign on me that only ghosts and ghouls and accident causing things can read and it says, "She's easy--the tiniest thing and she'll get hurt!"  Yep, that's me.

At this moment, I can count 4 injuries/bruises on my body that most people can't claim has ever happened to them.  I have 2 bruises on my arm and a bruise with a scratch on my back from falling out of our camper (and I was sober).  I have 2 scrapes and a bruise on my foot because our 90 lb puppy was standing on it when Andy threw a towel into the dirty clothes pile; Marley got scared and used my foot to pivot and push off of in her retreat from the scary towel.  My foot is still tender and bruised from tripping over, and then kicking, the vacuum cleaner over a week ago.  And last, but certainly not least, I bit my tongue so bad yesterday that it bled for 5 minutes.  What was I doing?  Singing in church.  I wasn't chewing gum, I wasn't eating, I was singing.

This is something that I've grown used to, and everyone around me has as well.  I have scars on my body from falling off my husband's shoulders when he slipped in oil, getting hit in the leg with a running chainsaw, being kicked in the shin by a horse with a rock stuck in it's hoof, tripping on someone else's foot, crashing my bike, falling off swings, tripping down stairs, slicing off the tip of my finger with a meat saw...if there's a way to hurt yourself, I've done or will do it.  That's not a promise, that's a guarantee.  I've often told Andy that he could probably beat me and no one would think otherwise.  "Here comes Candy and she's covered in bruises, what else is new?"

So are there others out there like me, besides people in my family (it seems to be inherited...sorry Alayna, Lilly & Mikayla!) ?  Seriously, I need an intervention or something. But I'd probably walk into the door where the intervention was being held and smash my nose or stub my toe.  At the very least I'd get a paper-cut from the pamphlet that's handed out.

Monday, September 14, 2009

It's our Anniversary!

Today, Andy and I celebrate 7 years of marriage.  The day we got married was just gorgeous.  We had a light rain in the morning, but by afternoon it was a nice, sunny 75.  Seriously, can you ask for a better wedding day?  We had so many family and friends show us their support that day, and that has carried on throughout the years.
Andy and I have been talking about getting tattoos in honor of our girls for quite some time.  We decided on Saturday, when we were in the cities and had some time, to finally get them.  We got the same tat--Andy got his on his right bicep, while I got mine on my right shoulder blade.  Happy Anniversary to us!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Oh Gravy, how I loathe (love) thee

I consider myself a good cook. I always try to feed my family healthy, hearty meals and seldom do I get a complaint. On the contrary, I often get compliments from not only my family, but friends who also come over for meals. One friend even jokes that he's going to marry me for my cooking when I get sick of Andy!

One thing that I can never conquer, though, is gravy. I have looked up recipes on-line and tried several different variations of the same, basic recipe. I've worked from a cookbook. I've asked family and friends. But no matter what people tell me to try, I just cannot make a decent gravy. I usually end up tossing the too thin, or too lumpy, or completely bland crud out for the cats while we eat plain noodles or mashed potatoes. Sometimes, I buy the powdered mixes because I don't want to try and fail. Sometimes I make a gravy from cream of mushroom or chicken soup. But never, have I made a successful gravy from the roast juices. Never. Not once.

So I'm imploring you all to help a girl (and her family) out. Do you have an awesome, easy, fail-proof gravy recipe that doesn't include the powdered mix from the grocery store or a can of soup? Will you share it with me? Please?

*By the way, do you notice the post date and time? I planned that...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Farewell to Summer

We go camping every Memorial, July 4th and Labor Day weekend, as most of you know. This past weekend was the last planned family camp of the season. We have a blast and always look forward to every weekend, so Labor Day is always bittersweet. It signifies the end of summer, the end of camping, the end of these planned get-togethers for quite some time.

Now, I'm not the neatest person ever. My house gets messy, my floors sometimes go a day or two without being swept, and my laundry has been known to sit folded on the living room couch for days. But one thing that drives me nuts is when my kids get super nasty dirty. Well, if you read the paragraph above, it's hard to combine camping with clean kids. But I try. And sometimes, I fail or I just give up and let them be kids.

The other afternoon, we did s'mores with the kids. Mikayla was so excited and chowed into hers like there was no tomorrow. My neat-kid side was screaming, but I let her be and allowed her to just enjoy it. After the first s'more was eaten by a misunderstanding lug of a puppy, who thought Mikayla was offering her the s'more instead of just showing it to her, I even made her another and let her go to town. It almost killed me, but she just loves her s'mores and I just love how happy they make her. And it makes for a cute picture, too...

Today is Tuesday and Emily over at Chatting at the Sky has restarted Tuesdays Unwrapped, which are all about being and seeing the bigger picture of things, or maybe the tiniest moment of peace in a stressful day, or letting something go that's not that important anyway. If you'd like, please visit her blog. She rocks.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

September and School

"It's the most wonderful time of the year..."

Are you singing with me? I love September for many reasons: it's the start of fall, my favorite season; Andy and I celebrate our wedding anniversary; school starts!

Yep, school started today and for the first time ever, I sent two girls on the bus. Alayna returned to school, this year as a third grader, and Lilly started 4K, or a preschool that's ingrained with the school system. They were both so excited and anxious to get on with the day!

Mikayla was convinced that she was going, too, so as you see, she has her backpack and shoes on. I was worried how she'd do when it came time for the girls to leave but she had to stay. Thankfully, she was happy to watch them go. Now, though, I can tell she's a little bored and she's asked about Alayna and Lilly a few times. Oh well, it will be good for her to have some separation.

When the bus drove by (we live on a dead-end, so it drives by and turns around after picking up the neighbor--perfect amount of time to walk to the end of the driveway) Lilly informed me that I could stay on the porch since she had Alayna to help her. *sigh*

The girls' bus-driver is awesome and I could hear her excitedly greet each of the girls, making a special comment on it being Lilly's first day. Even in previous years, she's made an effort to include the girls and sends treats home with Alayna for them, too. Now Lilly will get the treats herself.

Mikayla and I watched the bus leave and now, we wait. We go about our day, getting used to the unfamiliar quiet that comes after summer. Mikayla and I both are feeling a little lost, I think, but we'll manage. I know that both of the girls are probably having a super day and I can't wait until they come home so I can hear all about it. And until they do, we wait...