Saturday, January 31, 2009

Fourth picture tag

Kim tagged me. I'm supposed to post the fourth picture in my fourth folder. However, my fourth folder, only has this picture:
Lauryn (at this point aged 2) trying on my favorite high heeled, brown, knee-high boots. Isn't she cute?

Friday, January 30, 2009

So, you want to come over to our house for a drink?

Today, as I was headed out to get our produce basket from our co-op, Lauryn (aged 4) and Hailey (aged 6) were in the very back of the suburban.

Hailey: Let's pretend we are princesses! (Hmm, I think, this is nothing new.)

Lauryn: Yeah! And we're at a feast! (Again, nothing new.)

Hailey: Yes, and there's so much food to eat. And we are drinking out of beautiful, crystal goblins.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Conversations with a 4 Year Old: Say Wha?

Last night, Lauryn told me that her throat felt like it was getting sick. I had noticed that her voice sounded like she had drainage or something, and that she was clearing it some.

Me: Does your throat hurt?

Lauryn: Well, no. It feels kinda, well, sorta, ummm...

Me: Does it feel like something is in it?

Lauryn: Yeah, it feels like it has dog bones in it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Organization: Never Put off 'Til Tomorrow What You Can Do Today

Don't you just love all the old adages?

Another way to say this is that organized people are always thinking ahead, and doing ahead as much as possible. Or, another way, don't procrastinate.

It's very easy to think that, "Oh, I'll have time to do that tomorrow." And of course, it is impossible to do everything every day. What I'm talking about are things we know we need to do. Think of it this way: there are usually two kinds of college students. One, when given a paper to write due in two months, will start reading and researching that week, will have the rough draft done in a month, and spend the final month refining. The other will put it off, thinking, "Oh, I've got two whole months. I'll get to it later." Inevitably, those are the people pulling all-nighters for two days before it is due, desperately trying to get something written.

As housewives and mothers, we constantly have work to do. And it is not only hard work, but it is never ending work. So it is "easy" to take the easy way out. It is easier to throw something in a closet than it is to put it up properly. But pretty soon, the closet is a mess, and takes a whole afternoon to clean out and organize.

The longer I've been a mom and the more kids I have, the more ways I try to find to keep things running smoothly by working ahead of the need. In the evenings I have a list (in my head) that I go through to make sure I am ready for the next day: I set out juice to thaw, mix up as much of breakfast as I can, set out Kelly's bread ready to make into sandwiches, fill up water bottles, pick out Lauryn's clothes, etc. On Saturday evenings, I help girls pick clothes, noting if they need to be ironed, tights, shoes, even hair bows. These things make our mornings run so much more smoothly just because I did a little work ahead of time.

I'm sure you can think of others. Before my kids became the main transporter of laundry, I gathered up the day's laundry the night before and put it in the laundry room, sometimes even in the washing machine. I'd put in soap then clothes, so that all I had to do the next morning when I stumbled downstairs was start the machine. If I know we are going somewhere, I try to have as much of the stuff we need gathered and ready ahead of time. If I'm really on the ball, I try to make food ahead of when I'll need it and freeze it.

Anyway, I think you get the point: procrastination and organization usually do not coexist happily. That is, unless you make enough money to pay someone to be organized for you.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Menu Monday

Monday - this was supposed to be White Chicken Chili, but I served that last week, so I'm substituting a meal from the weekend that I didn't make (we had Sonic instead)

Tuesday - Pasta Skillet, salad, focaccia breadsticks

Wednesday - Creamy Chicken and Potato Casserole (I believe I got this one from my friend Aubrey), carrots, rolls

Thursday - Green Enchiladas, Spanish Rice, chips and salsa, green beans

Friday - chicken fajita pizza

Saturday - Jambalaya and rice, salad

Sunday - lunch at church, and then I suppose I'll whip up something fun for Superbowl watching

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Pot, Meet Kettle

Tonight at supper, Aubrey (aged 10) responded to something Hailey (aged 6) said:

"Aren't you being a little overly dramatic?"

If you know Aubrey at all, you'll understand why that was funny.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Because I know you just can't get enough baby pictures

She's really been standing on her own a lot.

She's even learned to let herself down gently...
... so she can crawl over and chew on my camera strap while I take her picture.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


The perfect church service would be the one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God. But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about worship is a different thing from worshipping. . . . Tis mad idolatry that makes the service greater than the god. A still worse thing may happen. Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. . . . There is really some excuse for the man who said, “I wish they’d remember that the charge to Peter was ‘Feed my sheep’; not ‘Try experiments on my rats’, or even ‘Teach my performing dogs new tricks.'

C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Let me tell you a story

Last week was going great! School had gone relatively well, Ashlynn has been sleeping much better. I had been super diligent about my workout schedule. And Aubrey's party was coming up on Saturday. So Friday evening after supper, I went to HEB to get the things I still needed for the party. Butter flavoring for the icing, chips, sodas, hot dogs, as well as milk and eggs for the coming week.

When I got in the store, I reached into my purse and pulled the pen out of my wallet to mark my items off my list. My shopping trip was uneventful, until I was done. After I scratched the last things off my list, I started to put my pen back in my wallet...

only it wasn't there.

My purse is not enormous, so there was no way I was just not seeing it. So I looked in the cart to see if it had fallen out. I retraced my steps a bit to see if it had dropped on the floor. I searched my purse again, panic starting to creep in. I went to the customer service desk to ask if one had been turned out (yes, I know it was a feeble hope, but it seemed like the next logical step). No wallet.

So at 7:10 pm. I called Kelly to let him know that it appeared that my wallet had been stolen. After we got off the phone, I searched my cart one more time, praying that it was just hiding under the hot dog buns. Of course, no wallet. So I left my cart and raced home, thankful that my whole purse wasn't missing. I still had my keys, cell phone, and iPod.

By the time I got home, Kelly had already cancelled our check card and our MasterCard. The Discover was canceled a moment later. But in that time, nearly $1000 in charges had already been racked up. We also had to activate fraud alerts with the three major credit agencies, call for new health insurance cards for the kids and me, and we had to figure out what to do about running the household when I had no way to access our bank - I couldn't even prove to the bank who I was to make a withdrawal. Kelly even had to return to HEB to get the stuff I needed for the party.

Though I thought it was probably useless, many of my friends urged me to file a police report and report it to HEB. When I told the loss prevention guy at our HEB how much had been taken, he was able to find that amount on their computer, find the time, and found the surveillance footage of the lady who was using my card! She was using my check card to buy gift cards at 7:11 pm. Did you notice the time? While I was on the phone with Kelly, telling him about the theft, the lady was just feet away at check-out lane #24 using my card.

I have to say that I have seen God's hand in this in so many ways. I didn't get all they way to the checkout lane, getting all my stuff on the belt first. We were able to get it canceled very fast, so only a minimum amount of damage was done. A sweet friend came over today to watch the kids so I could go get my driver's license. At our Sunday evening ladies' Bible study, a friend of mine prayed for the salvation of the thief who stole my wallet. Talk about convicted! Yikes, praying for her hadn't even crossed my mind, I'm sorry to say. Definitely a good lesson for me.

So that's the wonderful drama on our house lately. Never a dull moment!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Menu Monday

Monday - White Chicken Chili, pepper jack cheese, tortilla chips (This is an alteration; according to my actual menu we should have had steak stroganoff tonight, but Kelly has to take a little trip tomorrow, so I switched so I could make one of his favorites tonight.)

Tuesday - Easy Chile Chicken and Rice, broccoli, cheddar baby biscuits

Wednesday - meatloaf, baked potatoes, cooked carrots with butter

Thursday - chicken spaghetti, salad, rolls

Friday - grilled smoked sausage, rosemary red potatoes, green beans

Saturday - sloppy joes on hamburger buns, oven baked french fries, raw veggies

Sunday - taco salad

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Easiest Cake Decorating Job Ever

Aubrey wanted a horse cake for her horse party. The only problem was, though I searched Micheal's, Hobby Lobby, and online, I could not find a horse shaped cake pan. The closest was a horse shoe. Not good enough.

So I had to be creative.

Now I have decorated cakes before in more traditional ways, using the Wilton's bags and tips. And I enjoyed it and thought they turned out fairly well, However, they take hours. And hours and hours. And I just don't always have that kind of time. So here's what I did.

I started off with (my grandmother's recipe for) devil's food chocolate, 9x13 inch cake, flipped onto a serving platter. Then I whipped up a single recipe of Wilton's decorating icing, coloring a little over half green, and the rest of it blue. Then I spread it on like so:
It is supposed to look like a green meadow with a stream running through it. The nice thing about doing it like this is that I didn't even attempt to smooth out the icing, as it supposed to look like rippling water and rolling meadow. (The girls even commented that because the cake was chocolate, it was like eating the dirt under the grass, too!)
Then I washed the horses from a brand new set of Breyer Mini Whinnies that I bought for the occasion. I placed them on the green icing, like they were running around the meadow or drinking from the water. I had also bought some trees that you would use for a diorama or a toy train set. I did put some wax paper under those to keep the needles off the grass. :-)

Finally I wrapped brown thread around toothpicks to make a fence for the backdrop.
The whole thing took less time than I could drive to HEB and order and buy a cake. And all the girls at the party ooood and awwwwwd at it. Aubrey told me several times how much she loved her horse cake. And that's what matters, right?
My point is, you can create fun cakes without taking cake decorating classes and spending hours doing it.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Most belated Birthday Party Ever

Aubrey turned 10 back in November, but Daddy got sent on a business trip that was supposed to last the whole month of November (if you remember he did get to come back early). Aubrey wouldn't even think about having her party without Daddy (and he wasn't too keen on the idea either), so we postponed it. Since December isn't exactly the easiest time to have a birthday party we set it for January.

I'm sure it will be a shocker that she had a horse themed birthday party.

They started out with some craft time. They painted some wooden bags and some wooden horses, they we then glued to the front. We later filled these with horse stickers and candy.

They also painted horse heads. I bought a special paint that is supposed to mimic stained glass to use on the plastic heads.

We had six friends over, plus the sisters. Even Lauryn got in on the action.
Then it was on to hot dogs, cake and ice cream. I'll post pictures of the cake tomorrow.
Ashlynn, you are too young for Dr. Pepper and Coke!
And of course presents - many horses, of course!
Thanks, ladies, for coming and helping us make a great memory for Aubrey!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Big Doings

Today was an "epoch in her life" for our second born. Aubrey got braces today!



Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I don't know whether to laugh or cry...

What happened to my baby? Oh here she is.
Wasn't it just yesterday when Ashlynn was doing this?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Organization: Don't Re-invent the Wheel

One of the things that I learned after becoming a stay at home mommy/housewife is that the job has a lot of repetitiveness. No matter what delicious meal I made yesterday, these kids (and husband) still want to eat today! Even though I mopped and scrubbed toilets last week, they still need it this week. And of course, since these people insist on eating every day, I am going to the grocery store frequently.

Well, I decided a long time ago that it only made since that if something had to be done regularly, I needed a system to help me regulate it. For instance, every payday I was writing out a menu plan. Then one day I realized I was doing the same thing every month. I even served basically the same meals. So I spent some time coming up with a good month long meal plan and just re-used it every month. I would tweak it ever so often, but I used this same system until just recently.

Last fall I decided I was tired of writing a grocery shopping list every month. So I sat down and wrote out a very thorough shopping list tied to my menu plan for the month. Now I just print it out, scratch off what I already have, and go.* I also took the opportunity to expand it to a two month plan.

My laundry is the same way. Every week we wash the same things every day. It is such a part of the routine we don't even think about it. Monday is towel day, etc. My kids have even been known to figure out which day it is based on what laundry we did that day!

Once I get these routines established, they save us so much time and effort, and helps our household run so much more smoothly. This way I can save my mental energy for the things I can't schedule or fit so neatly in a box. You know, like kids. Or husbands.

*I blatantly stole this idea from my friend Candace.

Monday, January 12, 2009


Since we participate in a produce co-op, I don't always plan which veggie we'll have too far ahead of time, because I don't always know what will be in my fridge very far in advance. So my two week rotation usually just has main dishes on it. I fill in the sides that week once I know what I have available.

Monday: Chicken Mushroom Fettuccine, salad, Cheddar Bay Biscuits

Tuesday: Mexican Lasagna, spanish rice, green beans, chips and salsa

Wednesday: Chicken Enchilada soup, salad, cornbread

Thursday: Sweet & Sour sausage (similar to this one), rice, stir fried veggies

Pizza: homemade, probably one chicken garlic with basil pesto sauce and one pepperoni

Saturday: tacoes, refried beans, chips and salsa

Sunday: lunch at church

Friday, January 9, 2009

Organization: Purge, Baby, Purge!

As a friend of mine pointed out, sometimes putting everything in its place isn't enough. Often, we have too much stuff for our places!

Believe me, I understand. I am married to a pack rat and somehow we managed to breed a bunch of pack rats. I seem to remember being a little bit of a pack rat as a kid. However, we moved once or twice a year the first few years of our marriage and then started having babies both of which has turned me into a minimalist. The pack rats in the family balance me out. :-)

My guess is that the pack rats out number us by far. Here in San Antonio there has been a building boom in the last few years - many, many new storage facilities go up every year around here. And it is rare to see a garage that can hold any cars. (I do have to temper this last statement by saying that relatively new houses around here have small garages. A two car garage is one barely able to fit two small commuter cars.) Our stuff takes over!

I think it is hard when kids are small too. We not only save their art projects, but their clothes (for the next baby), their toys, the baby paraphernalia. Believe me I understand!

However, the more stuff we have, the more effort and energy we have to spend on it: we have to clean it, organize it, store it, move it around, etc. So in order to stay organized I purge several times a year. And I am always amazed at how much stuff I can cull out of a room or closet I just went through 6 months earlier!

So one of my organization "tools" is constant purging of "stuff." This is easier said than done, especially when your kids say, "Nooooooo! Don't get rid of THAT!" There are several ways to handle this. As they have gotten older, I have gotten them involved in the culling out. I tell them that we only have space for a certain amount of ___________ (toy bins, for example). They then decide what they want to keep more in order to bring the amount down to the required level. Great lesson in prioritizing.

When the kids were smaller, I would go through their stuff, throw out the trash, and put anything else in a box and see if they missed it. If they didn't miss it after a while, I got rid of it.

Another trick I've read about is to get rid of anything not used in a year. I think this is a good guideline for some things (kitchen items maybe?) but not for all. For instance, I have some clothes in my closet that I haven't worn in over a year, but that is because I can't quite fit in them yet due to the pregnancy. But I will!

So if I have an area that is getting out of control, usually it has too much stuff in it. So I get brutal. Several times a year I add charity donation receipts to our income tax file because I keep getting rid of more stuff. Over the years I have rethought whether I really need to keep something (like school papers from 3 years ago - or last year for that matter). It's actually very freeing. Cleansing somehow.

So if you don't make it a regular habit of purging your home, try it! Do one room/closet/area a month and see how freeing it is. It's so much easier to organize a smaller amount of stuff.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Conversations with a Four Year Old

This morning I told Lauryn to go upstairs and get her comb. Instead she made a pit stop in the restroom and then started down the stairs without it.

Me: Where's your comb? Did you forget it?

Lauryn: No, I forGOT it.

Me: That's what I said.

Lauryn: No, I forGOT it, not forGET it!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Organization: A Place for everything and everything in its Place

I get many, many questions about how I stay organized. Well, I am not as organized as most people think. At least I don't feel that way. Having six kids will do that to you. It has definitely taught me to go with the flow more. Don't believe me? Just look in my diaper bag. Or don't.

I think one the primary "rules" for organization can be summed up in the old axiom: "A place for everything and everything in its place." If you don't have a place for something to to go, then it will end up just lying around, becoming clutter.

You can spend hundreds of dollars buying containers, baskets, shelves, etc. to organize your stuff. And I use many of these, but not always. Sometimes simpler containers (like shoe boxes you already have lying around) work just as well. The point is when you set out to organize an area of your home, assign everything a place. Label it if that helps you or your family. I have a Brother label maker that my husband bought me, but before that I used masking tape and a sharpie marker.

Then of course, once you get everything assigned a home, you must periodically go through and put stuff back in its home. This is the second part of the axiom. Inevitably, the area will need to be straightened up, but if it was thoroughly organized to begin with, this will take a minimum amount of time.

You can even delegate! Yesterday I assigned the "straightening up" chore of two of the cabinets in our school room to my oldest four daughters. These cabinets store our art supplies and the other, our games.
First they went through everything, throwing out what they did not want anymore. This is the messy part. In the game cabinet, they put any little pieces back in the games they belong to.

This is the final result. I DID NOT TOUCH THESE CABINETS. I only took pictures - I was cleaning elsewhere. This only took them 20-30 minutes to do both cabinets.

My point is that everything in there had a home, from when I had organized the cabinets years ago. But since my kids are bad about just throwing their coloring books and games back in these cabinets, I make them clean it up. And it was a relatively easy task.

So think about your home. What part of it stays constantly disorganized? Do your bills lie around on the kitchen table because they have no home? Winter coats? Shoes? Children's art projects? Tools? It could be because they do not have a well-defined home.

Give 'em a home (and teach your kids where it is).

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Poor Girl

Today Aubrey woke up looking like this:
And went to bed looking like this:
Poor girl had to have two teeth pulled at the dentist today. You can't really tell from the picture but her teeth are so messed up that she can't close her mouth properly. So the orthodontist is trying to straiten things out and make some room while her mouth is still growing. Pictures of our first trip down orthodontia lane to come in a few weeks!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Menu Monday

I've had several people ask me about my newly expanded 2 month meal rotation, and I promised some that I would eventually post it. Not that it is anything really special, and I am tweaking a meal here and there. But I will post it a week at a time, like the folks over at Organizing Junkie.

Those of you in my circle of friends here in San Antonio will be sure to recognize recipes I have gotten from you. I'll try to credit you if I remember who gave it to me!)

Monday - No Peek Stew, rice, whole wheat bread (similar to this one - thanks Blair!)

Tuesday - Savory Chicken squares, cooked carrots, salad

Wednesday - Ham and Potato Casserole, steamed Broccoli, rolls (casserole recipe from Vivian, roll recipe from Candace)

Thursday - Crispy Yogurt Chicken, roasted veggies, rolls (leftover from Wednesday night)

Friday - grilled chicken (probably using this marinade), rice pilaf, sauteed zucchini

Saturday - crockpot chili, Fritoes, cheddar cheese

Sunday - roast, mashed potatoes, carrots roasted in crockpot with meat

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Thousand Things

Now that I am finally feeling better, I have a thousand things I want to run around and do all at once: scrub the refrigerator, clean out my files, put my new calendar in my day runner, make new curtains for my dining room, study for our first ladies Bible study, bake bread, clip the coupons from today's papers (yes I got two!), get all my ducks in a row for school starting back in a week, run on the elliptical machine, make a list of the history and literature books I'll need in the next few weeks, shred old financial documents we don't need anymore, scrub our shower, finish decorating our bedroom...

Of course, I won't get all that done this week. But I can't wait to tackle some of it anyway! Best of all, it was wonderful to be back at church today!

Oh, and if you didn't get a paper today, it was a great coupon edition! So if you clip coupons, it would be well worth going out and snagging a paper or two!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Best Laid Plans

I had all sorts of plans to do some deep cleaning this week and next as well as some school work for the next semester. I also needed to go grocery shopping, go through the kids' stuff for an end of year donation run, and organize the new Christmas loot.

Well I have a few things done, but not nearly what I had planned on. I did indeed get the Christmas cold that Kelly and Brynna shared with me. The congestion then settled into my lungs for an extended stay, especially liking to party at night, and causing my asthma to flare up. Thus my list of things to do has not been shrinking like I would like it to.

But I have one more week before we start back to school and I am praying that I feel well enough to really hit the cleaning next week. Especially now that my doctor has started me on steroids - those usually kick out unwanted guests from my lungs very quickly.

And in case you need yet another list to begin the year with, here's my list from last New Year's of great projects to get yourself organized for the new year. Hopefully you will be more successful than I have been this week!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Consider It All Joy

I distinctly remember thinking, as 2007 ended, "Thank goodness this year is over!" My mother-in-law had spent the first half of the year fighting breast cancer. Kelly's health had started deteriorating over the year with his sleep apnea, sinus issues (which needed surgery), and digestive problems. I spent the last half of the year sick with all-day "morning" sickness. My grandfather passed away at the end of October after a long and draining illness. A couple of families at church were going through severe problems. So I remember being glad to say goodbye to 2007.

As 2008 was coming to a close, I started thinking about how this year in many ways wasn't any better. In spite of sinus surgery in early January, Kelly has continued to struggle just to feel "normal." While a new baby brings much joy, she also brings adjustment as well as some physical problems in recovering. Several members of our immediate family lost jobs this last year. As a contractor, Kelly's job is always something of a question mark every time the contract comes up for renewal, as it will be in a few weeks. It seems as if every family in our church has faced crises in the last 12 months. And we have the typical discipline issues with the kids, occasion financial issues, etc.

A few days ago, I found myself asking God, "Why?" Why can't Kelly sleep and not suffer from constant sinus/allergy infections? Why does all this have to happen to the people we care about, especially in such a short period of time? Why does life have to feel like a Whack-a-Mole game? I was having quite the pity party.

Then last night, during family devotion time, Kelly read a Bible verse that I have read many times before. But last night it hit me in the solar plexus, because I needed to hear it badly.

2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,

3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4 (NASB)

As you can probably figure out, I was definitely not considering any of this with joy. And yet it is exactly these types of things that happen in life that mold us, shape us, "perfect" us as believers. And just to make sure I got the point, Kelly also quoted this one:

Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Don't you gals just hate it when God speaks through your husbands? ;-)

OK, I get it, Lord. I do believe that our very breath is in Your hands. As are each of the things that have so stressed and perplexed me in the last year. And this year, I ask You to help me LIVE that belief and to teach it to my children. Help me to learn the lessons You are teaching me in all of this.

May this joy be found in each of you this year as well. Happy New Year!