Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Midnight at 7pm - Happy New Year!

New Year's Eve 2014
New Year's Eve 2014
New Year's Eve 2014

We rang in the New Year with our little people tonight.  The children and I turned out all of the lights in the house and asked them to sit in the dark at the dining room table and wait for me.

I came in with lantern and they ooed and aaaahed at the light.  We poured sparkling grape juice and used the fancy glasses.  I talked about the New Year marking the end of one trip around the sun and and beginning of another trip around the sun.  The sun that God made.  And how it gives us light.  And how Jesus brings light into our world.  How He is the light of the world.  And then we made toasts to things we were thankful for; our fancy glasses ringing like bells as we "clinked". 

We toasted to marshmallows and race cars and joy to the whole entire world.  Judah said, "Yum, this is delicious toast!" and I didn't correct him.  It was too sweet.  We talked about how we could show light to others this new year.

And in the dark, with only the lantern to light our way, I took them upstairs to bed.  I spun the hands of my watch forward to midnight and in the bottom bunk of the children's bed, all huddled together, we counted down to midnight.  We said "Happy New Year!" in joyful whispers and I tucked them all in their beds and kissed their sweet cheeks.  At 7pm.  The small squabble over who got to blow out the lantern passed quickly and we said goodnight.

Happy New Year!  Here's to seeing the lovely in each moment of the coming year.

Friday, November 07, 2014

First Days - thoughts on her starting school

School started a few months ago.  I was silent on the subject.  She has a great time and loves it but I am a mess.  I miss her.  Often I get the dregs of her day, the crabby leftover attitude after a day of rule following.  She adores her teacher.  Adores the structure.  Adores having feedback on her behavior and knowing how she is doing at all times. (Am I in the green zone? Purple? Pink? Orange?)  She can work her way up the "behavior yardstick".  For her, it is heaven.  As long as she can stop talking to her neighbor.

Which for her might be pretty tough, seeing as the decibel level around here dropped significantly the moment I dropped her off.  In fact, it fell almost silent for a little while, except for the middle guy and his car noises.  No perpetual questions and conversation.  Nothing.  It was a little unnerving at first.

So pros and cons

- Getting up at 5:30 am is kinda my jam.  Everybody dressed, fed, ready, and OUT OF THE DOOR by 7:30?!  We get it done. Errands AND working out is done by 10am so the day is free to play, to read to my boys.  It is truly awesome. (The grumbly bear, aka Matt might disagree)
- The house is clean.  WHAT?!  Yes.  Well...mostly.  When my girl is home, it is like a bomb goes off.  She takes something from everywhere to make something amazing and it is truly a mess.  Also, it is too early for the boys to make a mess.   They start out more chill than she does and Judah can focus for hours on one box of legos.
- Music class.
- Art class.
- Meeting amazing new people who are passionate about teaching.
- Cora learning to read after so long being ready.
- She LOVES. IT.  Really.  I thought it would be a big shift for her, but she is crazy about school.
- She is gone almost all of her awake hours and someone else is her primary influence.   While this is OK (sorta) now since her teacher is great, what if she were not?
- Bedtime is strictly enforced.  For me too.  In bed by 7pm (them) or 10pm (me) or there is hell to pay.
- Saturdays now begin at 5:45 when the youngest gets up and is quickly followed by the rest of the gang who have been dragged from their beds before the dawn so often that they have forgotten how to sleep past 6:30 am.  This completely sucks.
- I get half of the story.  I am used to knowing about her life and now I get a half remembered thing that happened and often it is through her end of day filter and seems much worse than it is.
- Maybe it's a kindergarten thing, but they spend a lot of time learning how to be quiet.  I have spent a lot of time trying to help her find her voice, to know who she is and state her needs.  And now, it seems, that her needs must hush and wait while the grownups talk.  I know some of that is necessary, but I want to hear her thoughts and ideas too.
- Oh my word, the fundraisers.  And the deluge of papers and more papers.
- Her having to be in a classroom situation for the majority of the 7 hrs she is gone.  Not a lot of playtime there.

The jury is still out for me.  She is staying in public school (for now.  I always add, "for now"), but I am not sold on the idea.  I'm still not ready.  So for now, I can't WAIT for the next school break.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Dear Cora,

Before too many more days pass.  Before I forget who you are right now, in this moment.  Before you grow one more millimeter taller, let me just say that you are pretty fabulous.

Six years is a short/long time and we have been up hill and down hill.  You have struggled to find your voice and struggled to feel good in your own skin with what seemed like an unending battle with eczema.  Now that seems to be winding down.  You started school.  You thrived on it.  You learned to read! (Your first book was "I am a Princess."  How fitting.

I met you at your school for lunch and marveled at how kids from all the classes called your name as you walked by. "Cora!  Hi, Cora!"  I looked at your Papa and said, "I think our girl is...popular."  So strange to think about considering how hard I had to work to pry you off of my leg for the first two years of your life.

You love to make art.  You came home from school on picture day as blue as a smurf, but oh how we love you anyway.  (and luckily the pictures were BEFORE art class)  You love to write notes and mail them to friends.  You find new things adventurous now!  You were recorded as a "voice actor" this week and you loved it.  Your brother was worried for you, but you were amazing and worked hard at it.

I will admit that I am still sad that you are gone so much of the day and I miss all the ways that you shine and sparkle when you learn new things.  I know how much you love to be there.  I love the way you care for others, especially Peter who looks up at you with his little brother eyes and loves, loves, loves you.  You have such a sweet way with him.

I love how you and Judah are pals.  Friends in adventures together.  I love how you encourage him and how together you are stronger.

I love your fashion sense.  I love how you love to be a little bit fancy, but still sensible of how hard you will play later.  You grow lovelier every day, in heart and mind and spirit. And for that I am so grateful.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Surprised by Little Rock

All has been quiet here on the blog.  The children and I just finished an epic journey to Texas to see friends and every. single. person. I am related to.  It was a long journey, both good and hard.  I will post about that later, but I want to tell you how much we enjoyed a stopover in Little Rock, AK.  Now, I have lived in Nashville for 14 years and I have made the journey back home to Texas at least once per year and not once have I ever stopped it Little Rock.  Google Maps (and before that, MapQuest, and before that, an ATLAS) took me around the edge of the city to avoid traffic downtown, so I don't think I ever even saw downtown Little Rock in all of those trips.  Perhaps I did, but I was in a hurry to get home or to get to family.

Traveling with kids kinda slows a body down though.  By the time we hit Little Rock, we had been driving for seven hours, with multiple (MULTIPLE!!!  Coordinate your bladders, people!) stops.  Alone, it would have only been five, and we were all a little frazzled.  As we crossed the Arkansas River downtown, the kids spied a spray ground.  If you don't have kids, you might not know what a spray ground is, but it is a huge fountain that is for people to actually get in and run around in.  Usually children.  They pointed it out and I made the split decision to pull off at the next exit to find it.  Clothes and all, they jumped in and ran (or crawled) around. (I had towels and a change of clothes pulled out for each child, coincidentally, having packed that way just in case we needed to stop overnight somewhere or someone peed their pants.)

Refreshed in spirit and body, we hit the road and plugged away toward my hometown in Texas.  It was another 6 hours, but we made it!

So on the way back, I made the decision to stop, spend the night and explore Little Rock a little further.  I ended up getting an amazing deal on the nicest hotel in downtown (thank you!) and the kids and I walked (everybody this time since the baby became a walked in the space of this trip), played in the huge park, and playground, momentarily lost the 3 yr old (and my ability to breathe) and when we were all found, we got pizza as "room service" and all bedded down for a great night of sleep.

It was surprisingly lovely!  I shouldn't be surprised, but I will admit, I have gotten a bit snobby about travel within the continental United States.  It has to be historic, big(ish), family friendly, and have culture etc.  Little Rock has all that, just not any I could observe from the 440 loop that runs around town.  Lesson learned.  I've even made a plea to the hubs to take us back there for a long weekend or something fun!  We shall see.   With our oldest starting school this August, our travel plans will have to coincide with Metro Nashville Public Schools.

Here are some of my favorite photos from the (too short) visit.

Stop off in Little Rock
Listening to the Sax player across the street 

Stop off in Little Rock
After all of the horses we saw in Texas, you would think we would be over them, but no. A HORSE! They hollered. 

Stop off in Little Rock
The youngest is a new walker, in the middle of the spray! 

Stop off in Little Rock
Hard to catch my fast girl (in the pink flowered suit) 

Stop off in Little Rock
This guy. This smile. It gets me. 

Stop off in Little Rock
Arkansas River overlook (with a submarine in the background!) 

Stop off in Little Rock
Oh, these monkeys! 

Stop off in Little Rock
"Mama, let's go pose on those rocks and you take our picture", she says. Oh, this girl. 

Stop off in Little Rock
This one didn't want to be left out of the fun, but I only have so many hands! 

Stop off in Little Rock
Goodnight Little Rock! 

Stop off in Little Rock
Stop off in Little Rock
Bellies full of dinner, kids off to dreamland.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Breakfast Adventures: Scrambled Eggs with New Potatoes

OK.  First things first, this title is not descriptive enough.  These were not simply New Potatoes and Scrambled Eggs, more like Ham, Onions, Red Peppers and New Potatoes with Scrambled Eggs and Cheese.  But that doesn't just roll off the tongue, does it?  No.  This recipe needs a new name.  HOCRPP and Eggs might work, but it looks kinda like Holy Crap, but these were simply not that awesome.  Egg and Veggie Scramble?  Everything but the Kitchen Sink Eggs?  I'm open to suggestions.

This recipe was a little more time consuming since a lot of things had to be chopped.  And when things take time, my Judah boy hears the call of the playroom and MUST answer it.  There are boats to be sailed and cars to crash, for the Love!  So that left me and my gal.  My right hand gal.  My best helper.  She's awesome.  In truth, it is for her that I keep making these recipes.  She is the one who enjoys this the most.  I think it is her love language.  Quality time and shared experience.  She's all about it!

Scrambled Eggs with New Potatoes
Look what a good chopper she is!

Scrambled Eggs with New Potatoes
I can often call the boy back in for some egg cracking.  He still likes doing that more than playing cars.  Sorta.  Maybe.  Cars are still his favorite.

Scrambled Eggs with New Potatoes
Look at all this stuff we had to chop!!

Scrambled Eggs with New Potatoes
The final scramble of Onions, Peppers, Potatoes, Ham, Eggs and Cheese.

And now for the best part.  How the kids felt about it.  I will let the photos speak for themselves.

Scrambled Eggs with New Potatoes

Scrambled Eggs with New Potatoes

Scrambled Eggs with New Potatoes

I left out the peppers for Matt's and he ate it.  Begrudgingly.  With ketchup.  When I asked him if he gave it a star, he said NO.  When I asked him what he didn't like about it, he said, "It's New.  I like what we always have."

And then I giggled because it reminded me of Grug from the Croods, who said, "Don't eat it!  It's NEW!"

And then I thought how Matt and I are so different because NEW is my favorite.

And then I remembered my irrefutable rule about cooking for small children and toddlers.  They may like EVERY SINGLE INGREDIENT in the dish (and they do) you are cooking, separately, but when you cook them together, YUCK.  The pictures don't lie. This dish was a "Yuck" for everyone except me.  The lover of NEW.

Final Rating: 1 Star

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Breakfast Adventures: Baked Eggs

A small part of the fun of this breakfast adventuring has been making something in a new way, and sometimes that requires accessories.  Breakfast accessories.  Fun!

This recipe called for 10 oz casserole dishes.  I have NEVER heard of, nor seen such a thing.  I perused the shelves of baking goods and nothing was even close.  There were huge ones, 8x8, 20oz and 6oz, but no 10oz.

But ages ago, I had bought, for Cora's little kitchen, a small casserole dish.  And then I promptly removed it from her care because she liked to throw it, but nonetheless, we had one thing that MIGHT fit the bill.  So it was off to Old Time Pottery to look for more of these things!  

Baked Eggs
Each kid (the verbal ones, anyway) got to pick their own style and color and since they were a buck and some change each, I got one for everybody.

Baked Eggs
These little things are just so stinkin' cute!  So are these kiddos.

Baked Eggs
So is this guy.  Mr. He Who Must Be Entertained During Cooking!

Baked Eggs
Little hands grease little dishes.

Baked Eggs
Little hands crack eggs.

Baked Eggs
Or in Judah's case, crush eggs.  He gets them started and then crushes them.  And then we pick out bits of shell.

Baked Eggs
After cracking, they get a little water bath in a larger dish.

Baked Eggs
 and some fresh chives, salt, and pepper.

Baked Eggs
Bake for 20 minutes, add cheese (optional) and then back in the oven for 5 minutes to finish baking.

Baked Eggs
Lovely!  These were nearly the easiest eggs so far and quite possibly my personal favorite to date.

Even though these were warm and lovely and cheesey with the yolks just set enough, they were not a big hit.  Even Matt gave them a star kind of begrudgingly.  

Final rating: 2.5 stars.  The kids are KILLING my star rating, but only the adults truly liked them and ate them, Judah only ate a bite, Peter and Cora ate some, but said "Meh", (In spirit.  Peter isn't talking yet and Cora doesn't know that word yet.) so each contributed 1/4 of a star.  (I decided to add in that for the sake of these, since I like them! :)

In the end, even breakfast accessories, could not redeem the baked eggs.  Alas.  Such is life.  Good in theory, not in practice.   Perhaps I will request them for the next Mother's Day.  :)

Monday, June 09, 2014

Super Kids

Rainy Day. 
Messy Playroom.
Super kids.

Super Kids
Super Kids
Super Kids
Super Kids
Super Kids
Super Kids
Super Kids
Super Kids
Super Kids
Even Super Kids get grumpy sometimes.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Breakfast Adventures: Fried Eggs, Fried Eggs, Cheese and Bologna

OK.  No cheese or bologna, but Fried Eggs.  Plain ol fried eggs.

Fried Eggs
The usual gang of helpers. They REALLY just like to hold eggs. Really. Strangely so. Is this a thing?

Fried Eggs
Cora is big enough to crack a few into the pan.  Fatal flaw of too many eggs in the pan pictured here.

You would think that this one would be easy.  I have MADE fried eggs before.  And they turned out fine.  Good, even!  But I have never made this many fried eggs in one pan.  Fatal flaw.  Next mistake: the butter browned too fast and they were hard to get apart from each other.  In addition to those rookie mistakes, I have never made sunny side up eggs, as were requested.  I wasn't sure how to make the top cook and not be snotty.  (You know...when the whites don't cook all the way and they have the consistency of snot?  Don't tell me you never thought it!)  My gang is typically an "over medium" kind of gang.

I was tempted to call this a "Do-Over" and take better pictures, but this is reality, folks.  Often I set out with a plan and somewhere about 2/3rds in, something goes awry.  Like too much heat on the pan and eggs cooking too fast, and not sure what to do about egg snot, and trying to figure out why some of my eggs had frozen.  Yes, FROZEN EGGS.  Too weird.  The carton was in contact with the back of the fridge and a row of eggs froze.

Aside: Isn't this just like me?  Just like life?  Just like parenting?  Starting out with a plan, things going awry.  Too much heat (my temper, frustrations, arguing kids), too many eggs in the pan (too many things to do, not taking time for the moment and filling the day with activities), distracted by frozen eggs (social media, phone calls, whatever drama is in my own head), perplexed by egg snot (coming up against things I've never faced that I don't know how to overcome - like pestering and hitting.  It's a new thing that is happening here between siblings and it burns me up!)

Fried Eggs
 Over cooked butter makes for a nasty looking display, but not too bad of a flavor, in everyone's opinion. (Except Matt.  Brown butter is burnt butter to that man and he may be right.)

Final verdict, Judah liked the "crispy edges" but the yolk cooked too hard for him.  Cora liked them OK, but wanted something to eat them with and we had no toast.  Peter ate a few and didn't spit them.  Matt was late for work and left without breakfast, but fried eggs are on his list of ones he likes a lot. 

For this attempt, I would rate us 3 1/2 stars but I know that's not a true reflection of how my gang feels about fried eggs.  However, I am letting the rating stand.  It's good to know one's limitations.

Aside:  And just like me, just like life, just like parenting, I let go of the final result and just admit that I fail at a lot of things, but I keep at it, until the eggs cook right, or not.  But we eat them anyways.

Have a great weekend.  I will see you on Monday!

p.s.  Edited to add: I went back and re-read the instructions.  COVER the eggs.  Oh.  Now it makes sense.  Good grief.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Breakfast Adventures: Huevos Rancheros with Friends!

My sweet friend plus her family, former Nashvillians who have moved north, were visiting in Nashville and I jumped at the chance to get some time with them where I didn't have to share with the hoards of other people who love them.  Since she is food blogger and I know she and her husband (to say nothing of their sweet babes) love some good food, I invited them to both eat and cook with us.

Today's recipe was Huevos Rancheros.  I know there are some variations on this, but we are sticking with the recipe in the cookbook, so instead of fried and served on a tortilla with a tomato concoction on top, these were actually poached IN the tomato concoction and served with the tomato concoction on top.  And cheese.  Because when is there ever not cheese.  I'm getting to be pretty handy with the egg poaching, by the way.  It was pretty intimidating the first time I tried it, but now...I got this!

With help, of course.

Huevos Rancheros with friends
Cora rinsed the chilis.

Huevos Rancheros with friends
Judah attempted to open the can of diced tomatoes. 

Yes.  A can.  I'm just following directions here, people.  Pretend I canned these last fall, if you want.  That's more "East Nashville" than a good ol' store brand can of tomatoes.  The cool/hipster/urban farmer kind of East Nashville anyways.  Pretty sure the lovely folks who are being gentrified out of their post WWII shoe box size homes would use a can of tomatoes.  This is a hot topic around here as the developers move in and demolish homes in my neighborhood to slap up giant houses.  I digress...Besides, I got 8 people to feed!  (today, anyway) Priorities, people.  Priorities. 

Huevos Rancheros with friends
Even Matt jumped in when the butter (for the onions) threatened to burn, nd he wasn't even going to eat these!  (He doesn't like cooked tomatoes) That's my man, y'all!

Huevos Rancheros with friends
Cora helped keep Peter distracted as he emptied out the pantry and she put it back again.... we got the tomato concoction to this stage and awaited our guests.

Huevos Rancheros with friends
Then it was hurry up and make the grub!  Served on crispy corn tortillas with the tomato mixture on top, plus some Montery Jack cheese on top, with avocados on the side.

Huevos Rancheros with friends
Sweet children, eating up their breakfasts.

So my friend's hubs doesn't do eggs, Matt doesn't do cooked tomatoes, but the rest of us, even one of the babies (the other one was napping) ate the heck out of these.  If we are going by stars to # of eaters, I would say this is a 6 Star recipe, but for my family, it's just a 4 Star.

No final plate picture.  We were having too much fun over breakfast.

Huevos Rancheros with friends
These two are old pals and fell right back into their way of being together.  Cora the boss leader and L goodnaturedly going along with whatever plan she came up with, because he is so very sweet. (by the by, I love how she is so effortlessly lovely.  How does she do that? Where does she get that from?)

Huevos Rancheros with friends
A final farewell to sweet friends, the McDonnell family, as they head off to a final Nashville adventure before heading north.  We miss you guys!
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