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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Making mountains out of molehills

I like to make a big deal out of small things.

Now, I'm not talking about all the times I've imagined some hidden meaning in people's words and actions.  That's something I'm working on, I promise.

All summer long, I've been watching my friends post pictures of their vacations.  I've listened to their tales of warm sun, sand in between their toes, and relaxation.  I am happy for them.

We've never gone on a vacation like that.  Well, once we went to Washington, D.C. for 4 days.  But otherwise, our family has never gone a vacation where we slept in hotels and just rested.  I'm not entirely sure I know how to rest, now that I think about it.

An old pic of us in front of the Capitol building

Instead, we are champions of the day-trip, and exploring our hometown.  In the past few years, someone coined this the "staycation," which is a stupid word.  I've always just considered it living life.  Why sit at home day in and day out, especially as homeschoolers, when there's a world to explore?

As a result, I tend to celebrate the small things.

We're going to spend the day at the local state park swimming in the lake?  Yay, we're going to the beach and we'll build a giant sandcastle!

We've decided to go hiking in the woods?  Yay, let's be explorers and search for rare wildflowers!

I suppose this might sound silly, but if I can't find the pleasure and joy in the things I do every day, then I'm pretty sure I'm living life wrong.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Chew on this! Homemade Gum

Funny made her own chewing gum today.  Chemistry is fun!

Stirring the gum base and corn syrup.

Kneading the gum.

More kneading.  She's working some powdered sugar into the gum.

Rolling out the gum after adding the food coloring.

The finished product!  A giant gum ball, rolled in sugar.  Tasty.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I'm not crazy!

I recently admitted my history of self-hatred to you.  I was full of terror when I put that out there, and I still want to take down this post because it's just a little too honest.  I'm fairly certain that's the self-hatred creeping back in, telling me that people think I'm crazy or worse--that they feel sorry for me.

I struggle with accepting myself.  I'm emotional.  I actually think of myself as a bit of an emotional freak, as I feel everything intensely.  It can be exhausting.  I have wished my emotions away, often thinking life would be so much easier if I were a robot.  I said that to my husband once, and he told me he admired my ability to express emotions.  I had never once thought of it as something that could be a good trait, until he said that.

In the past year, I've come to realize that emotions, in themselves, are fine.  Healthy, even.  It's letting my emotions run my life that is the problem. I've learned that I can't base my actions on my emotions.  When my emotions are in charge, my head is full of lies, and that is when I am most likely to hate myself.  I am working to learn how to feel things in a healthy way.  I generally stuff every feeling I have until I'm so overwhelmed that I release a flood of crazy.  Kind of like this:

The fact is, I'm sensitive, emotional, introverted, and quirky.  I used to look at those traits and think they made me a freak.  And, well, maybe I am not like everyone else. But I do know I am who God wants me to be today.

In the end, I have to rest in the knowledge that self-acceptance is going to be a journey.  I can't just decide overnight to completely change, and actually change.  Only God can do that for me, and so far, he hasn't.  I'm okay with that, because I know that he knows far better what he's doing than I.  He sees a big picture for my life that I do not see.  I trust it's a good one.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Valentine's Day Challenge

I've been doing the Women Living Well Valentine's Day Challenge.  I was afraid that I'd see how I need to do better in this area, and that has been the case.

If you buy into the love languages, I can tell you that Hub's languages are touch and quality time.  I don't mean the quality time that I like.  Instead, he likes for me to sit on the couch with him while he plays a video game, or go with him to play disc golf.  He just wants me to be near by.  My love language is words of affirmation.  We really couldn't be more opposite.

This challenge is out of my comfort zone.  Hub doesn't especially respond to words (that I have ever seen), but that's not a good reason not to do it.  I want to remember the little things he does for us.   This challenge has become more about what I focus on. It's easy in the busyness of life to forget just how perfect he is for me.

He works hard, even when he doesn't want to, or he's sick.  He plays Monopoly with the kids.  He does the dishes and sweeps the floor when I need a little help.  He reminds me that I am a good teacher when homeschooling is hard.  He is faithful.  He loves the Lord.  He balances me out when I'm about to go off the deep end.  He listens to me think out loud.  He holds me when I cry.

He's pretty awesome.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Multi-Grain Batter Bread

I love bread.  For real.  It's fun to make, and kneading bread sometimes keeps me from killing people!  (Kidding.  Mostly.)  It smells good and there is nothing quite as good to eat as fresh bread with butter.

This is a great bread since there's only an hour between that time you're thinking, I could eat some bread, and that time when you pull the bread out of the oven.

Bread in one hour!

Multi-Grain Batter Bread
adapted from Betty Crocker

cornmeal for dusting
4 1/2 to 5 c. all-purpose or bread flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tbsp yeast
2 c milk
1/2 c water
1/2 c whole wheat graham flour (or regular whole wheat flour)
1/2 c wheat germ
1/2 c regular rolled oats (or quick oats)

Grease and dust 2 cookie sheets w cornmeal.  Preheat oven to 400.

Mix 3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, sugar, salt, soda, and yeast in a bowl.  On the stove, heat the milk and water until it is very warm.  Do not boil!  If it gets too hot, it will kill your yeast.  Add the milk mixture to the dry mixture.  Beat on low until everything is moistened.  Beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl now and again.  Stir in the wheat flour, wheat germ, oats, and remaining all-purpose flour to make a stiff batter.  (You're not making a stiff dough, which would be very dry, but you want it to still be a batter.)  Divide the dough between the two pans.  Grease and flour your hands, and then shape them into a ball.  Sprinkle a little more cornmeal on top.

Cover and let them rise for a half hour.  Bake for 25 minutes.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Lessons from Grandma

When I was very, very pregnant with our oldest son, my grandma came and stayed with us.  Hub and I were both 25.  I can't speak for him, but I had no clue what it was going to be like.  None.  I had read all the books, but you just can't begin to grasp parenthood at all until it happens to you.

Thank God my grandma was there.  She was there when my water broke in the middle of the night.  Hub and I had been up so late, watching one of those crazy double-overtime hockey games.  We were exhausted.  Hub took me to the hospital, and my grandma stayed home and prepared for Scrappy's arrival.  When we got home, she held him, and rocked him, and convinced me I had to sleep.  Just like me, my grandma has never been a great sleeper at night, and she was up anyway, so I thought I might as well let her snuggle a little baby.  So I did, and she was so good to me.  She made me food, and made me drink water, and just loved my new little family.

A year later, I was pregnant with Funny, and my grandma was there, again.  She kept Scrappy and took care of him while Hub ran back and forth to the hospital.  She stayed for a few weeks afterward and helped us all adjust.  I remember sitting with her during one of Scrappy's nap times watching Bridget Jones' Diary, and she just was laughing and laughing.

My grandma has a great sense of humor.  She isn't easy offended, and appreciates an inappropriate joke.  One of the times I remember seeing her laugh the hardest was at an SNL skit starring Justin Timberlake.  (I'm a lady, so I'm not posting it.)  She loves to laugh.

My grandma taught my mom how to cook.  My mom and grandma taught me to cook.  We are connected through food, and I think that's the main reason why I love cooking so much.  I feel connected to my family and to my past.  Grandma taught me to make an awesome southern breakfast.  I can't make a biscuit without thinking about her hands, showing me how to be gentle with the dough so the bread would turn out right.

I remember when my grandfather was sick with cancer, and how my grandma took care of him.  My mom told me that it wasn't the first time my grandma had nursed the dying.  My grandma always took care of everyone.  She has taken in members of my family who needed a place to live.  I've moved around a lot, and wherever she was, was home.  I still look at her house in West Virginia as the place where I'm from and where I can always go.

In her younger days, she worked at the library.  She used to know mobsters when she lived in Chicago.  She grew up in a coal town in West Virginia, and my grandfather used to follow her around trying to get her attention.  They had 6 kids, including a set of twins and a special needs son.

I have never seen my grandma cry. But I have seen her laugh, and put others first.  I've seen her take care of things just because they needed doing, without complaint.  I have seen her love her family.

My grandma has been very sick and in the hospital for a few weeks.  I'm going down to see her next week, and I can't wait to tell her how much I adore her.  Thanks for letting me share it with you, and for letting me "think out loud" about her influence in my life.  I'd love to hear a stories about your grandparents.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Mini-bagel Pizzas

What is it about lunch that drives me batty?  It's hard enough to plan dinners and shop for those, but then these kids want to eat lunch, too!?  The nerve.  After about five years of rotating through pb&j, chicken nuggets, and mac & cheese out of a box, I just couldn't take it anymore.

Here's an easy lunch that doesn't make me sad, unlike having to eat goldfish crackers.  Again.

Yes, I'm a bad photographer.  That's why this isn't a photography blog.

Mini-bagel Pizzas

1 bag of mini-bagels (I used whole-wheat ones from Trader Joes)
1 can of pizza sauce
sliced salami/pepperoni (or veg, whatever you like)
sliced or shredded cheese (I used provolone, because that's what I had)

Slice the mini-bagels and put on a cookie sheet that you've sprayed w non-stick spray.  Top the bagels w a spoonful of sauce, meat, and cheese.  Bake at 400 for about 10 minutes until the cheese starts to brown.

So easy, the kids can make it.

I know; this isn't really much of a recipe.  It's really meant to remind me, and maybe you, that lunch can still be easy, and tasty.  This is also good with English muffins.

What are your go-to kid-friendly lunches?  Share in the comments!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Cinnamon Muffins

Really, a cinnamon muffin and a cup of coffee is one of the small pleasures in life.  I just want you to be happy, so do me a favor and give it a try.

Cinnamon Muffins
adapted from Whole Foods for the Whole Family

3 c. flour
1 c. sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
4 eggs
1/2 c. butter, melted
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 c. milk

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix well the eggs, butter, oil, and milk.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Stir just until combined.  Over-mixing is bad for muffins; it makes them sad.  Fill the wells about 2/3 full in a greased muffin tin (or use paper liners).  Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes. This recipe makes about 2 dozen.  Obviously you could divide it in half, or you could just freeze the extras, which sounds better to me.