Monday, January 31, 2011

Shhh ... Don't Tell the Kids

Two Sunday's ago we had a doozy of a night.  It was bouncy, boisterous and bonkers!  We had enjoyed a relatively relaxing afternoon which meant the kids were cooped up and just barely containing themselves and their endless energy.  We finished our traditional dinner of shakes and popcorn just in time to catch the last quarter of the Steeler's and Jet's game.  Brett settled into the couch.  Aaron perched on the edge of the couch and the girls orbited the couch.

Within moments, Brett had turned up the volume in order to hear over the squealing giggles of the girls who had decided that the family room floor, three feet from the TV, was the perfect place to wrestle.  Thus began the internal battle for Aaron:  watch the game or tussle with the girls?  Watch?  Or, tussle?  Watch? .... Or, tussle?  Hmmm ... tussle!  He headed into the fray and Brett turned the TV up a notch.

Soon the tussle evolved into "Keep Away".  Aaron had a little rubber football and the girls pried, tickled, pounced, and wrenched.  They strategized how to disarm Aaron (not literally ... but close!) and how to thwart his attempts to wriggle away.  There was a lot of shouting (happy shouting, but shouting, nonetheless), bursts of laughter and plenty of thuds and thumps.  Brett just clicked the volume button.

And where was I, you ask?  Good question - but you have to keep this little secret to yourself.

I was washing dishes.  Happily.  In my (relatively) quiet kitchen.  Alone.  :)

As I stood there sudsing up the cups and bowls, I was so grateful that I had a job that kept me busy somewhere away from all the chaos!  At one point, Brett came upstairs to check on me and I assured him (with a big smile on my face!) I was just fine doing the dishes.  My hands were toasty warm.  And my ears weren't in need of ear-plugs.  He was probably hoping I needed some help so that he could take a break from being the WWF referee ... no dice!

A few minutes later, Brett found me out in the garage sharpening pencils.  Happily.  Quietly.  Singly.

Now he was on to me!  Little jobs that keep me busy, productive, purposeful ... and alone.  The trick to being a sane Mommy?  For 20 minutes of the 960 minutes they are awake each day, I look for jobs that they want no part of or that they can't really participate in ... and enjoy them!

Here are a few other of my favorite, solitary tasks:

Wiping out the refrigerator,
Shoveling snow,
Sweeping the porch,
Vacuuming the house, (the added bonus of not being able to hear them trying to get your attention!)
Raking leaves,
Purging the kids' stuff, (they don't want to be around much when Mommy gets organizing ... they might get put to work!)
Folding laundry,
Tidying the basement, and
Washing windows.

And you Dads have a few of these, too!  Brett's favorites would be mowing the lawn and weed eating (see vacuuming perk above), scooping dog dirt (too smelly), roasting coffee beans (too stinky, smoky and noisy) and working on the swamp cooler (too high).  I know Daddy's desperate for a little alone time when he's up on the roof!

I'm certain that you have your own "Daddy's/Mommy's busy" tasks that actually give you a break from the kids.  Send them along ... and you can be sure that I won't tell the kids.

It will be our little secret! :)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Food For Thought

The other evening at dinner, my kids started talking about breakfast.  You would think that they think about food all the time ... and you'd be right!  I don't know how many times Aaron has inquired about the next meal while he's only half-way through the current one.  It's like he's afraid I might forget that he needs to eat again.  Soon.

As we talked about one of our favorite breakfasts, Blueberry Buckle, the discussion started up about what else you could put in it.  While the ingredient of choice is obviously blueberries, the kids started naming off other fruit that you could substitute:  peaches, blackberries, strawberries and bananas.  Then it got silly.  In large part because the name is fun ... put anything with Buckle and you're guaranteed a giggle.  So here are some of the other options, the best as I can remember them:  Pickle Buckle, Hamburger Buckle, Bacon Buckle, Zucchini Buckle, Tomato Buckle, Potato Buckle and Fungus Buckle.  The topper came from Brett with Chuckle Buckle (the chuckle being an unfortunate part of a pig) which then led me to Yucky Buckle.  It doesn't take much to amuse this crowd!

So ... without further ado, here is the one and only, original ...

Blueberry Buckle
(This recipe was given to me at my bridal shower by Jennifer Schurz.)

Crumb Mixture
Mix together: 1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 cup soft butter
You could toss in 1/4 cup of chopped nuts, too.

Use a fork to gently combine and then set aside.

Cake
Mix together: 3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup milk
2 cups flour
1/2 t. salt

It will be thick.  Add 2 cups blueberries (frozen or fresh) and fold them in as gently as you can.
Prepare a pan with shortening and dust with flour.  (I use a round 9 inch pan and cut it into pie slices.)  Press the cake batter into the pan and sprinkle with the crumb mixture.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes.

It doesn't necessarily come out of the pan ... but it's still delicious!

Delish ... hot out of the oven!

I thought I would include a fresh fruit salad to go along with this rich breakfast cake.  Maybe help you feel like you aren't actually have cake for breakfast! :)

Fruit Salad with Pomegranate
(This is just something I tossed together with what we had around ... and it was tasty!)


3 Honeycrisp apples, cut into bite-sized pieces
4-5 Cutie clementines, peeled and cut into bite-sized segments
1 Cutie for juicing
1 Pomegranate, de-seeded

The biggest challenge of this salad is getting to the little pomegranate seeds.  Tough, but not impossible.  Here's how I do it.  Take a paring knife and make a cut just through the skin.  Do this in both directions so that you have the skin cut into quarters.  Pull back the skin on one section until you can see the seeds inside.  You will notice that the seeds are nestled in little clusters surrounded by a papery membrane.  Pull out these individual clusters and work the seeds free.  I like to dump them all into a colander so that I can give them a rinse before adding them to the salad.  This will take a little work, but those lovely red seeds bursting with flavor are worth it!  The only bummer is that the juice from the seeds will stain your fingernails, so just be warned that you will scrubbing your hands in vain later.  Of course, you could always just go my sister's route and buy the little plastic container from the store with all the seeds already freed ... but where's the fun in that?!? :)

Add the seeds to the cut apples (Honeycrisp are my absolute favorite ... but any will do) and clementines.  Toss this together.  Next, squeeze the juice from one clementine and make sure to coat the fruit completely.  This will help to slow the browning of the apples.  

A fresh fruit salad in the dead of winter ... yum!

I love the color of those pomegranates in this salad
 ... but not on my hands!
Blueberry Buckle
Fruit Salad With Pomegranate
Photobucket
This recipe is also posted here ... another fun site for yummy munchies!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Slow down, Little Missy!

Ashley turns five in a little over a month and a half.  But you would think it was actually her tenth birthday we were preparing for!  In the past several days, we have seen in our little girl an intense urgency to grow up ... and I need her to put on the brakes!

Today as we prepared to go to the grocery story, Ashley packed her purse with her chapstick, a little money ("Just in case.") and her plastic cell phone.  What she thought she could buy with two pennies, I'm not sure, but she was going to be prepared.  She proceeded to make a number of phone calls to her friend, Kylie and even arranged a sleep over.  Then Kylie called back and Ashley complained about how often she calls and texts her (something I don't even know how to do) ... and said she would just let her leave a message.  Eventually we arrived at the store and she insisted on bringing in her purse because she, "might need to make a call."  A little too real for me, thanks!

Is her purse big enough?

Little Le-Le has also taken to making herself a school lunch in the morning.  Just like Aaron and Norah's.  She makes herself a sandwich and pops it in her little, princess, sandwich keeper.  She serves up a little yogurt in a mini-tupperware dish and grabs a plastic spoon.  Then she gets a baggie for her goldfish and another little container for her grapes.  She finishes up by filling her own little water-bottle with some juice and snags a sweet treat for later.  All this gets plopped in her paper sack which she sets in the fridge for later.  When lunch arrives, Lydia and I have to fend for ourselves while Little Missy unpacks her lunch and dives in!  I think her favorite parts of her meal are the juice drink, sweet treat and clearing her containers to the sink ... just like the big kids.

Note the Jolly Rancher ... she wanted to make sure it was in the picture.

Last week, Ashley rediscovered the game "Pretty, Pretty Princess".  Not because it's a fun game to play, mind you, but because of all the bling.  She loves to wear the necklaces, the rings, the bracelets and the earrings.  All four colors sometimes.  In fact, we played the actual game the other morning and it was tough to keep track of how close she was to winning because she had on her regular bling in addition to her extra bling she was earning on her turns.  By the end she was fully decked out ... and really quite sparkly.

The crown might be a bit much. :)

Yes ... my little girly-girl is eager to grow up.  About as eager as I am for her to stay small. :)

Fortunately, I do have the consolation that she still wants to be my little girl ... for a little while longer, at least.  The other day we were chatting at the kitchen table.  She was working on some homework and I asked her if she was excited to get to go to school next year.

Ashley:  "Oh yeah!  I can't wait to go and do work."
Me:  "Good.  But I'll miss you."
Ashley:  "Well ... I'll come home.  Like when the teachers are done, I won't sleep there."
Me:  "That's good news.  I want you to come home."
Ashley:  "Yeah ... I will.  Until I go to college.  Then I won't."

Ouch!  How will my mommy-heart handle that?!?  Let's just say that I'm grateful that she is only turning five and that I have several more years with her until I have to drop her off at her dorm and say goodbye.

So, you better slow down, Little Missy!  I need you to stay my little girl just a little bit longer ... like until you're 30.  Then I'll let you go. :)


My sweet, sweet girl

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Woke Up Singing a Silly Song

There's a lot of music being played in our house.  Sometimes all at the same time!  I just "love" it when I am listening to Paul Simon on the iPod in the kitchen and I hear someone turn on dc Talk in the family room (loudly) and then when I go upstairs, the Muppets are singing (equally loudly) from the girls' bedroom.  And everyone is trying to talk/yell over it.  It's "great".  Did you catch my use of quotation marks?!? :)

But don't be fooled.  The kids might be listening to a wide variety of music, but they have latched on to a few particular songs to play over and over and over.  And over.  We have played, "Tonight's Gonna Be a Good Night" until even Lydia has it memorized.  You know that we love "Dynamite" ... still do.  We  also bop around the house to the High School Musical soundtracks ... "bop bop bop, bop to the top ... slip and slide and ride that rhythm ... zip zap zop, walk like a mop" ... pure poetry! :)

Most recently, we have been listening ad finitum to Nelly's "Just a Dream".  How many of you feel the need to "put your hands up" when he asks you to?  Just me? ... oh ... um, never mind.  Must be my closet-clubbing spirit coming out.  :)  Brett introduced them to this tune, not knowing that they would put it on automatic repeat 18 times in a row.  Oops.  I forgive you, Sweetie. :)

They are fun songs to dance to and the kids get plenty of exercise springing, bouncing, leaping and diving while they are playing.  Unfortunately, while they are catchy tunes ... I have periodic "What did they say?" moments while listening to them. We have had to nix a few songs that the kids heard and liked, but there are enough other songs out there that they are never without music.

There is one song in particular that they have glommed onto that I actually like.  Or at least that is, I like most of it.   Bruno Mars put out a hit single entitled, "Just the Way You Are".  I'm sure you have heard it as it's been on the Top 10 for several weeks.  It's a song about his girl and how beautiful she is to him.

"Oh her eyes, her eyes
Make the stars look like they're not shining
Her hair, her hair
Falls perfectly without her trying

She's so beautiful
And I tell her every day" 

He goes on to sing about her smile and her laugh ... and her insecurities?  Huh?

While to him she is beautiful, she is quick to question her appearance, her "look", how she believes others perceive her.  Shall we have a showing of hands for those of us who feel this way?  Anyone struggle a time or two (or three) with their self-image?  No?  Well ... I know you know who you are. :)

Ever feel this way? ...

"Yeah I know, I know
When I compliment her
She won't believe me
And it's so, it's so
Sad to think she don't see what I see"

That kinda hits home!  Poor Brett probably feels like banging his head against the wall every time he gives me a compliment and I deflect it with a, "Oh ... whatever ... I feel so (fill in the blank) ..."  Even though I am hungry to hear his sweet words of admiration, some part of my heart feels unworthy of that.  Ewwww ... Anybody else following along?  Nodding?  Feeling the same way?

Well ... because of this heart condition, I think that Brett could spend an entire day "singing my praises" and it wouldn't sink in ... unless, I let God love me first.  His sweet love can fill in the cracks in my wounded heart and make it able to soak up Brett's love.  Then ... when I hear the words:

"But every time she asks me do I look okay
I say

When I see your face
There's not a thing that I would change
Cause you're amazing
Just the way you are
And when you smile,
The whole world stops and stares for awhile
Cause girl you're amazing
Just the way you are"

... I can accept them and enjoy them and absorb them into my heart.

Mars goes on to sing about his girl's perfection and how she doesn't need to change anything ... and perhaps that's a little bit off the mark.  We are not perfect.  We all have parts of our lives, parts of our character that need changing.  But I think his intent is that he doesn't expect any more from her than who she is ... and that is sweet.

Now you have a little understanding as to why this is one song that I don't mind my kids listening to.  In just a few verses we see a healthy respect and affection for someone else.  The girl is esteemed for who she is.  She is valued and treasured.  A few aspects of a healthy relationship that I hope my kids will require in future friendships.  I hope that Aaron will be able to appreciate not just the physical aspects of the girls in his life, but also see their hearts.  And I hope that Norah, Ashley and Lydia will be comfortable in their own skins, embracing who they are, and stopping people in their tracks with their confidence and poise.

But there is more ...

What if we pretended for just a moment that the singer of this song was God.  And He was singing to you.  Sometimes we can take songs, books and movies and see God in them ... even though the writer/artist didn't intend it that way.  This is just such an example.  Take a minute and look back over the verses above and try to imagine God singing this to you, His sweet child.

(He does sing over you, you know
 ...  maybe not Bruno Mars tunes!  

In Zephaniah 3:17, we read, 
"The LORD your God is with you, 



   the Mighty Warrior who saves. 
He will take great delight in you
   in His love He will no longer rebuke you, 
   but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Just so you know ...)

You are amazing.  There's not a thing that He would change.  He made you ... Just the way you are.

So ... I guess, waking the past three mornings with this song in my head isn't such a bad thing.  It could actually be a sweet blessing as I start my day.  A reminder from God that He loves me deeply and He wants me to experience love deeply from those around me.  Just the way I am ...

_________________________________

Thank you Directlyrics for the words to today's song:  "Just the Way You Are".



Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Clue ... less

Growing up, we had our favorite games.  At swim meets we played endless games of Spite & Malice.  A game whose title I just recently comprehended and considered changing.  We played Trivial Pursuit ... and I don't remember ever getting a yellow or blue piece because I am a self-acknowledged bone-head when it comes to history and geography.  We played Life and enjoyed stockpiling cash and kids.  (Kinda like this.)  We played half-games of Monopoly because none of us had the endurance to see the game to it's final play ... who of us had a five-hour attention span?  And we played Mexican Train Dominoes.  I love the click of the tiles and the rainbow of colored dots.  It's a really pretty game.

Of course we each had our favorites, but there was one game that my sister loved to play.  If ever we asked for her input (How often did that actually happen, Allison?), she would always choose Clue.  Unfortunately, that is one game that requires a minimum of three players so she would have to convince both Joshua and I to play.  Not an easy task.  And not a very common occurrence.  A painful childhood memory for my Sissy, perhaps. :)  Sorry.

A few months ago, Aaron and Norah discovered that we had a Clue game and wanted to give it a go.  A flood of my own memories came to mind:  sneakily marking our sheets, covertly sliding our cards across the table, making Suggestions and Accusations.  I decided, albeit reluctantly, that we could pull it out of the closet and try it out.  Of course, it was an immediate hit and has become the game of choice among the two older kids.  (And "yes", sometimes just the two of them play it.  You might think that would lead to a rather quick game, but it doesn't.  Even if they say out loud the cards they have, it's still a really long game.  Go figure.)

As you can imagine, this isn't exactly a game for the younger two as you are required to read, write and not eat any of the pieces.  And that brings me to this morning. :)

As a side note, this is the Simpson's version of Clue ... so if I slip and refer to Bart - I actually mean Professor Purple.  And if you hear reference to a Poisoned Donut or the Burns Manor, don't be confused.  Just try to play along...

This weekend we enjoyed a stay-home Saturday which meant that immediately the kids started asking what we were going to do and declaring that they were bored.  At 9 am.  We sent the kids upstairs to make a list of things they would like to do and they could present to us our options to choose from.  Two of the ideas were "Lego-building" and "playing a game".  Brett got Aaron and the Legos.  I got Clue and the girls.  Hmmm .... that sounds kind of suspicious. :)

We plopped down at the table and Norah got busy shuffling cards and pulling the three clues to go in the "Confidential" envelope.  We then dispersed the characters and weapons to the different rooms.  I chose to be Bart/Prof. Purple.  Ashley and Norah argued over Lisa/Ms. Scarlett (sound familiar, Allison?).  Eventually Ashley won the battle and Norah grudgingly chose Krusty/Col. Mustard.  Lydia claimed everyone else.

Next we took our cards and began to mark them off on our little check list.  And hit the first road-bump.  Ashley is a pre-reader, making this portion of the game a challenge ... seeing as she needs to keep them a secret!  No problem.  She headed up to Daddy to go over her cards.  Now we're set.

The game started off pretty well.  Lydia had wandered upstairs to check out the Lego creations and that left us big girls to roll the dice, move around the board, make suggestions and not wrestle with our baby monkey.  Ashley had played on my team previously, so she was familiar with how the game works.  She quickly picked up how to discreetly show us a card and (with a little help) how to find the name on her check list to mark off when shown a card.  Norah was strategizing her plays and slowly whittling down the suspects.  Then it got creative.

Lydia came back downstairs and commandeered all the weapons and the three suspects not being used.  This made the game a little more tricky because you had to announce your suggestion and then announce it again.  And again.  And maybe one more time because there was no visual reminder of what you had said.  The visual reminders were piled up in Lydia's lap.  No problem.  We're smart and we can keep up.

About three-quarters of the way through the game (and 98% of the way through my patience and the girls' interest) the game started getting a little sloppy.  Norah had begun to balance precariously in her seat, perhaps as a result of wearing a leotard.  It's hard to just sit when you're dressed to cartwheel.  Ashley repeatedly laid her cards face-up next to her unfolded check-list.  Lydia ran off with the dice a few times and I did my deep breathing.

My favorite part of this portion of the game was when Ashley was going to make a Suggestion.  She moved Bart to the Simpson's Living Room and gave him the Plutonium Rod.  I asked, "Is this what you want to ask?"  She responded with, "I have all those."  Ah-ha.  What do you do with that little bit of info?  As a mom can you mark all those off?  A bit of an ethical dilemma Norah didn't appear to have as she reached for her check-list and pencil.  I'll confess that I marked down those suspects, too.  We were an hour into a game that needed to come to an end.  Soon. :)

At this point, Norah started the aerobic portion of the Clue game by standing next to her chair with one foot on the seat and then jumping and switching feet.  Try it.  It's hard to do while paying attention to all the details, but somehow she managed.  Ashley was furiously sucking her thumb and trying not to suck her thumb and argued with Lydia about not taking Lisa/Ms. Scarlet and moving her from room to room.  Or hiding her back in the box.  I did some more deep breathing and tried to relax my shoulders and jaw.

Finally, I had narrowed down the suspects, weapons and locations.  On my last turn (1 hour and 16 minutes into the game) I made one more Suggestion just to make sure I had the right room.  Then I made my accusation, confirmed my suspicions (Waylon Smithers/Ms. White in the Burns Manor with the Necklace), caught Lydia just as fell of my lap and stabbed her in the eye with my finger-nail, drawing blood.  What a grand finale!

Norah smiled and said something like, "I knew it ... I just didn't know who did it."  Ashley looked relieved that the game was over and wandered off to find something else to do.  Lydia went to be comforted by her Daddy ... and have her eye checked out.  And I boxed up the game as quickly as possible and put it away.  Whew!  I survived another game of Clue ...

Anybody want to play Rummikub?

Friday, January 21, 2011

KEBL

We also enjoyed a fun KEBL night last night ... as you can tell, it got a little wild:

What in the world!?!?!

Check out the KEBL link on the left side of the page for more info.

Just a warning that this page is a bit wonkified!  I don't know what happened, but when I published it, a few things got deleted :( and everything is underlined.  Grrrr .... technology!  I can't get it to un-underline, so I guess you will just have to read between the lines ... ha, ha, ha!

Food For Thought

Growing up, we kids loved to go to Casa Bonita anytime that we traveled to Denver.  For those of you unfamiliar with this Denver icon, from the outside it was a big, pink castle-like building in a strip-mall ... but from the inside, it was magic!  Cliff divers, a haunted cave complete with "real" pirate booty, an arcade, tables nestled into caves and nooks and crannies ... and the never-ending supply of sopapillas!  Just pop up the little red flag and Poof! another batch of steamy, sugary sopapillas would appear!  I don't even know if the rest of the food was any good ... I think we just went for the cliff divers and the desserts.

Sometimes dinner at home is just like that, too.  You serve an entire meal, but all anyone really wants are the "good parts."  Last week, I shared with you three of our family's favorite "good parts":  salsa, guacamole and creamy black beans.  This week, I want to share with you two actual dinners that are so yummy, they end up being memorable, too.  Especially if you serve them with the "good parts" from last week. :)

First up:

Chili Relleno Casserole
(This recipe is one of my mom's ... and a Kellum Family favorite.  I doubled it for this meal.)

Egg Mixture:
3 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup flour (I use half whole wheat and half white)
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. ground red pepper
1/8 t. salt

2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1 pound whole green chilies*

* You can buy a can of whole green chilies ... or you can buy them freshly roasted.  I keep my eyes open in the fall and often times Wal-Mart has a crew outside roasting the green chilies right there in the parking lot!  You can buy them by the bag (mild, medium, hot, and eye-watering) and clean them up when you get home.  Simple rinse them in a colander and work all the blackened skins off.  Then twist the stems off and rinse out the seeds.  Delish!  You can also pop them straight into your freezer and rinse and use them later when your recipe calls for them.

Fresh from the roaster!

Rinsed and ready to use.

Mix all the ingredients for the egg mixture together.  The flour will make it lumpy and that's okay.

Grease an 8x8 pan with cooking spray.  Layer the half the chilies, all the cheese and the other half of the chilies.

Waiting for the final chilies.

Pour the egg mixture over the chilies and bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

Ready for the oven.

The casserole will puff up a lot and get brown on the top.  Let it sit and cool for about 5 minutes before cutting.

Scrumptious with salsa!

So much easier than stuffing chilies individually and healthier for you than frying ... but just as tasty!

Tortilla Torte
(This is a recipe I got years ago from Taste of Home ... then I modified it beyond recognition.)

Ingredients:
3 flour tortillas
1 can refried beans
1 jar salsa
2 avocados, cut in cubes
1 lb. ground beef/turkey, browned and seasoned with garlic, salt and cumin.
1 cup cheddar, shredded

Grease an 8x8 pan with cooking spray, set aside.  In a large bowl, combine refried beans, 1/2 jar of salsa and avocados.

Yes ... you will bake the avocados.  Trust me ... yum!

Pour half of the remaining salsa in the bottom of the 8x8 pan.  Layer ingredients as follows:  tortilla, bean mixture, meat and a sprinkle of cheese.  Repeat the layers again and then top with a tortilla, remaining 1/4 jar of salsa and cheese.

Layered and ready for the oven.

Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.  Then uncover the casserole and bake for an additional 10minutes to melt the cheese.  We like to serve this with rice and chips ... and dip.

Creamy and hearty ... delicioso.
We're having a similar dinner tonight ... crock pot-style!  Remember this one?  These slow cooker enchiladas will also be lovely with guacamole and salsa.  My mouth is watering ....

I hope I didn't get your hopes up with all that talk of sopapillas ... maybe I'll have to fix up a batch for a future post. :)

Chili Rellenos
Tortilla Torte

Thursday, January 20, 2011

That's News to Me!

The other day I was checking into my email account and caught an interesting head-line.  And seeing as Yahoo! is the premier site for news-breaking updates :) I was certain to read a bit more.

Here's what I read:    "That's quite a feet!  Bam first flip-flop president"  Here are a few excerpts from the article:  "Historians agreed it was the first time they could remember seeing the leader of the free world snapped in a public setting, wearing nothing more than a flimsy strip of rubber on his feet.", "I can't say I've seen a president's toes before." and "Not everyone appreciated Obama's hang-loose approach to footwear".  Really?  This is news-worthy?  He was on a beach.  He was on vacation.  What else do you wear on a beach on vacation?

Of course, there are plenty more of these types of silly articles out there:  Do you think a dog can read?, Top 10 invasive species you can eat, and New Zodiac signs identity crisis.  Yep ... all real news articles.  A little search over at www.cnn.com will confirm.

I don't want to come across critical of the people who write or read these stories ... but I do have to wonder if we aren't needing a little re-evaluation about what is worth our time.  I could very easily spend an entire afternoon, poking around on the internet, clicking link after link and filling my brain with all sorts of meaningless information.  And an awful lot of it is either worthless or has the potential to cause me undue worry. Of course, it is important for me to be clued in to the goings-on in the world and our community, but I don't want to be tied to my computer/iPod/TV ... and stuck in a cyber-web!

If I wasn't paying attention, there's no telling what I might miss:

I might miss out on Lydia's crazy-huge smiles when she sits on the potty and does her business.  She is so amazing and you can tell that she knows it!  If she has a baby-swagger when she walks away from a job well done ... she deserves it.  She rocks that potty!

I might miss out on Ashley's sweet tenderness when we sit down to do school and she makes sure that my seat is in the sunshine because, "I know that you like the brightness, Mommy."  Soaking up some winter sunshine because my baby girl knows me so well.  Aaahhh ...

I might miss out on Norah's goofy grin when she walks out of school, across the campus, and to the cross-walk ... carrying her coat ... in freezing weather ... and short sleeves.  All because she is showing a little independence.  I told her it was up to her to stay warm and she is going to be the boss of that coat.  Even if she has to suffer a couple goosebumps on her goosebumps in the process.

I might miss out on Aaron's new, manly greeting that he and his Cousin Caleb have.  The "Hey, Dude." with a chest bump.  It's the new way to say hi ... even if they are looking sharp in their dress shirts and loafers outside church.  No wimpy hand-shakes for them, thanks.

I might miss out on Brett's invitation to a little Wii Shaun White Snowboarding.  While neither of us has ever been on an actual snowboard, we have been perfecting our gorilla grip, nose crail, stale fish and air slob.  What a crack up to watch Brett scream down the mountain in an attempt to out-score his opponents in rail-time.  Almost as funny as watching me catch air on the half-pipe ... almost.

I want to be careful to have a healthy balance of being in-tune with world events while being in touch with Kellum events!  And there's plenty to be aware of.  Everyday my kids reveal to me another little facet of their personality, their character make-up, and I don't want to be too busy reading the most recent update on the Gold Globe Evening Gowns and miss something significantly more important.

I guess I would much rather be an avid reader of my kids and husband, than an over-zealous reader of ShowBiz.  Especially seeing as my family is such a good read!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

BFF or ... IBFF

My sweet Ashley has a BFF named Kylie.  Kylie is a little older that Ashley.  She is a little braver than Ashley.  She is willing to try new things a bit more readily than Ashley.  She inspires Ashley to take on new challenges ... even tough ones.  She gets to do more things than Ashley because she's older.  She is spoken of with great respect and awe in our house.

And, she's 100% imaginary.

(Get it?  Imaginary Best Friend Forever?)

Ashley is our first kiddo to have an imaginary friend and at first I was a little skeptical.  My first several responses to Ashley's comments about Kylie (and all the amazing things she does) was, "Who?  Who are we talking about?"  I was trying to make Kylie fit the identity of one of Ashley's real friends.  It was obvious that the amazing feats of this sweet little buddy couldn't all be that of another preschooler, but I thought maybe Ashley was compiling a number of aspects from several different friends into one identity.  But then I got to know Kylie a little better and made an interesting discovery.  Kylie is everything Ashley isn't.

Kylie used to suck her thumb, but doesn't anymore.  Kylie gets to stay up during nap time and read chapter books instead of having to sleep.  Kylie got to get her ears pierced ... and she didn't even cry.  Kylie plays with Ashley and doesn't boss her around.  Kylie is cool.

I don't claim to know the psychology behind imaginary friendships, but it is obvious to me that this friendship is meeting a need that Ashley has right now.  A need for a confidant.  A need for a buddy.  A need for someone close to her heart.

The same needs her mommy has.  The same needs you have!

God made each of us with a need for relationships.  We are engineered with a desire to connect with other people.  We are created with a longing to be known intimately.  We are wired with a ache to be someone's friend.

I am so grateful for the people God has put in my life to fill that desire, that longing, that ache.  They make my life fuller, richer and more satisfying (hmm ... satisfyinger isn't a word ... but should be!).

I'm sure that this won't come as much of a surprise, but Sara Groves has a wonderful song about just that.  It's entitled, "Every Minute", and talks about those friendships that nurture us, that validate us, that give us security.  You really need to hear her sing it to truly appreciate it, but the lyrics are beautiful all by themselves:


Every Minute


By Sara Groves


I am long on staying
I am slow to leave
Especially when it comes to you my friend
You have taught me slow down
And to prop up my feet
It's the fine art of being who I am
And I can't figure out
Why you want me around
I'm not the smartest person I have ever met
But somehow that doesn't matter
No it never really mattered to you at all


And at the risk of wearing out my welcome
At the risk of self-discovery
I'll take every moment
And every minute that you'll give me


And I can think of time when families all lived together
Four generations in one house
And the table was full of good food
And friends and neighbors
That's not how we like it now
Cause if you sit at home you're a loser
Couldn't you find anything better to do
Well no I couldn't think of one thing
I would rather waste my time on than sitting here with you


And at the risk of wearing out my welcome
At the risk of self-discovery
I'll take every moment
And every minute that you'll give me


And I wish all the people I love the most
Could gather in one place
And know each other and love each other well
And I wish we could all go camping
And lay beneath the stars
And have nothing to do and stories to tell
We'd sit around the campfire
And we'd make each other laugh remembering when
You're the first one I'm inviting
Always know that you're my friend


And at the risk of wearing out my welcome
At the risk of self-discovery
I'll take every moment
And every minute that you'll give me
Every moment and every minute that you'll give me
Every moment and every minute that you'll give me
Every minute


(From Sara Groves' album, "All Right Here")


I love the imagery she creates with her words:

"The fine art of being who I am" ~ who am I truly?  what do you see when I am the real me?
"At the risk of self-discovery" ~ what if I find out more about the real me than I want to?
"At the risk of wearing out my welcome" ~ what if you don't particularly like the real me?
"And I can't figure out why you want me around" ~ do you really like me?  really?  how?  why?
"Know each other and love each other well"  ~ what else could my heart want?

Another beautiful example of Sara's profound poetry that sings what is in my heart!  It makes me tear up just about every time I hear it because it brings to mind the people in my life with whom I want to "prop up my feet" and "take every minute" they'll give me.  I'm certain you have people that come to your mind, too.  And isn't it wonderful to know that we have that same effect on someone else?!?

Such an extraordinary snapshot of friendship.  A confidant.  A buddy.  Someone close to your heart.

Without really talking about it, Brett and I have both naturally accepted Kylie into our realm of family friendships.  When Ashley mentions something Kylie did today ("Kylie got new fish today ... just like Aaron.") we nod, comment and ask questions ... just as if she were a real person.

I guess, because to Ashley, she is.  IBFF :)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sweetie Petey!

When I was a kid, my mom had a sweet, little, delicate, yellow canary named ... 

Bruiser.  

Yes, such a delightfully tender name for our little singer.  But he was named such after much serious consideration, trust me ... his name fit.

On the day my mom brought him home, she set up his cage and hung him from a stand in our kitchen.  I'm sure that she took great care to give him some fresh seed, clean water and maybe a little treat of broccoli or lettuce.  She probably cooed at him, helping him to settle into his new home.  

Then the excitement started.

After school, a neighbor girl (who had never actually visited our home before) came in the door and spotted the bird.  My mom still shakes her head at what happened in the next few moments.  The young girl walked up to the cage, opened the door, grabbed the little bird and pulled him out ... and then let go.  What?!?!  My mom was stunned for a few minutes while she watched her new tiny pet fly off into the dining room.  After several minutes, she managed to cover the poor, frightened, little fella with a dish towel and return him to safety.  I don't know what happened with the little girl ... perhaps my mom shooed her out the door with the same dish towel. :)

Eventually the little birdie's breathing slowed and his little heart stopped pounding.  My mom also took a deep breath and realized that he was going to be okay, in spite of his unschedule excursion.

The next event of that afternoon is still shrouded in mystery.  None of us kids are claiming any responsibility, but somehow that little guy got out again.  Perhaps I was wanting to be helpful or maybe Allison was getting a closer look or perhaps Joshua thought he could train him ... whatever the case, the little squirt got out ... again.  This time our cat helped out.  

In the flurry of activity, excitement and yelling, our cat managed to catch him in her mouth and duck down behind the chair in the living room.  My mom remembers catching the cat by the scruff of the neck and "helping" her open her mouth ... to find the little bird all in one piece, but looking stunned.  Back to the cage.  Back to safety.  Whew ....

I'm sure that my mom gave us all a stern talking-to about not opening any of the doors on the cage for any reason.  Period.  Got it?  Got it.

But we weren't done yet.  Sorry, little fella.

That evening, my sister and I lamented (for the umpteenth time) the fact that our little town didn't have any sidewalks.  Nowhere to scooter, skateboard or ... roller-skate.  Outside, at least.  I don't recall that we roller-skated in the house very often, but I'm quite certain that we never roller-skated in the house again after this night.  All I really remember is rolling past the kitchen sink, down the one little stair into the dining room and ... CRASH! ... into the bird cage.  The whole thing went over!  Bird seed everywhere.  Water all over the floor.  Me on my back.  And one terrified little canary sitting in the corner of his toppled cage, trembling.  

My mom remembers vividly hanging up the cage, covering it with a tablecloth and telling her new, little bird, that if he was dead in the morning, she would understand.

Amazingly enough, that little guy was just fine the next day.  A resilient little fella.  One tough bird.  A true Bruiser.  I told you he was named appropriately!

I also remember another little canary my mom had when I was in college, Mr. Peabody.  And most recently, Max.  She has always loved having these little singers around ... and apparently it's genetic!

Imagine my excitement when, at Christmas, Brett gifted me all the parts I needed to have my only little singer!  Yeah!  I could barely wait!  Over the past several weeks, I have been clearing out a space in the kitchen for him and putting together his cage.  I found some twisty branches for him to perch on and I picked up a swing and a little treat bar to hang in the corner of his home.  Everything a little canary needs to be happy and sing-y.  (Is sing-y a word?  It should be.)

On Sunday, my dear Norah and I took a little road trip to Montrose to pick up my own little singer.  (That's a post all on it's own...)  We came back with our new little buddy.

Introducing:  Peter, Pete, Petey (or Bird, as Ashley calls him) ... whatever his name, he's a cutie!

My Sweetie Petey!

Petey's Digs ... not too shabby.  Even a little jacuzzi.

This morning as I was coming down the stairs to the kitchen, he was twittering a little song.    Such a delightful way to start my day!  Aaron said that he'd been "yakking it up."  Yeah!  Throughout today he has tweeted, squeaked and sung, often times with great gusto and passion.  I think I might have a few things to learn from this little fellow.  Passion and gusto ... I could use a little more of that attitude in my life. :)

Lydia loves to sit on the kitchen bench and talk to Petey.  She especially enjoys when he whips around on his swing, or his "Wheeee!" as Liddy calls it.  Aptly named. :)  Norah perches on the bannister next to him and squeaks to him in her birdy-voice, "Hi, Pete.  Are you eating your orange?  Are you going to take a bath?  Are you going to eat some seeds?  I like you!"

A precious addition to our family ... or as Aaron declared, "The 14th thing living in our home."

.... and no, he hasn't been set loose, "caught" by another pet or knocked to the floor.  So, that's good. :)  I'm not making any promises, but I'll do my best to keep him safe and secure ... and sing-y.


Monday, January 17, 2011

House Rules

Living with four kids under our roof is a bouncy, boisterous time.  There is a lot of haphazard running, thumping down stairs, happy squeals, unnecessary screams and bodies thudding on the floor.  And with our recent cold streak coinciding with Christmas Break ... I was so grateful for our large-ish house.  I love that I can send my galloping horde to another level of our home and enjoy some "sorta" peace and quiet.  In the midst of this cabin-fever, there has been a lot of wrestling, football re-enactments and gymnastic practice .... thump, thud, wham!

A few weeks ago, the kids were upstairs after dinner and we could hear from the kitchen what appeared to be a herd of water buffalo traversing the bedrooms.  It was accompanied with happy sounds, so we let them keep at it.  A few minutes into the apparent battle, Norah came downstairs for pen and paper.

"We need to post some rules."

"Okey-dokey.  Is everyone having fun?"

"Yep."

Here are the rules that kept everyone having fun ... and kept me laughing for a spell:




As you can tell, the offenses are listed on the left-side of the page, while the consequences are listed on the right-side.  Apparently, if you are caught breaking any of these rules, you have to sit out the designated number of minutes.

My personal favorites would have to be the Door Slam and Wall Slam rules ... I'm not sure if that refers to slamming yourself or someone else into the door or wall, but either way, you miss out on the action for 10-15 minutes.  I also had to laugh at Arm and Legs Backward ... ouch!  I'm glad that carries the stiff penalty of 15 minutes on the bench.  I'm unsure of the weapons they used, but if you use your weapon wrong, you have to sit out for 10 minutes.  Also, don't play with this bunch unless you intend to have fun, or you have to watch them have fun for 10 minutes before getting a second chance!

The biggest consequence I see in these rules is that with as quickly as our kids shift gears, if you are out for 15 minutes for Furniture is Bad Use, by the time you get to come back in, they might have moved onto building Legos ... bummer.

As funny as these rules are, they made me kinda happy.  I loved the initiative of the kids to make sure that the fun they were having upstairs fit within our own family expectations.  Without any help from Mom and Dad, they identified that teasing, bad sportsmanship and bad words would be inappropriate.  They also decided together that spanking and any contact with their faces was too rough.  They hung these pages on the bedroom wall so everyone would be aware and accountable.  Such good kids!

This was a perfect reminder for me of the importance of rules and boundaries in our home.  Even though the kids sometimes strain against the rules we have, I know that in reality they are simply testing the limits ... checking to see if we will uphold the rules ... checking to see if they are safe and secure.  These two pieces of paper were proof to me that my kids appreciate knowing what to expect and appreciate knowing that those around them have to play by the same rules.

I guess they were also giving us permission to keep reinforcing our house rules:

  • Heads on pillows and voices quiet at bedtime,
  • Asking be to be excused from the table,
  • Taking care of belongings,
  • First-time obedience,
  • Loving and respectful words,
  • Answering with a "Yes, Mom" or "Yes, Dad" when spoken to,
  • Using manners,
  • Cleaning up before moving on to the next activity,
  • Helping when asked,
  • Just to name a few ...

While the consequences vary for breaking our house rules, they all have a sting involved:

  • Time in your room to "pull your parts together",
  • A job from the "Great Learning Box",
  • Serving the offended person (in a way they choose),
  • Practicing whatever you did wrong, the right way (as many times as you are old),
  • And if all else fails, a swat.

If you choose to break a rule, you will have to endure the bummer result ... and that might mean missing out on the fun!

And as you can tell, this house is full of fun! :)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Food For Thought

I have been on a little Mexican food kick lately:  enchiladas, rellenos, tacos, burritos ... ¡OlĂ©!  Of course, often times these tasty dishes are just the vehicles for the delicious toppings they come with.  In our house, our children will eat just about anything as long as they can slather it with salsa, guacamole or sour cream.  It's all about the dip!

If you have kids with similar quirks, here are two dips and a side dish that can make your next meal more enjoyable ... and they are delicioso, tambien!

Auntie Allie's Salsa
(This recipe is from my sissy ... and it's a staple in our house.)

Ingredients:
1 28 oz. can of chopped tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bunch of cilantro, rinsed and plucked*
Crushed red peppers
Juice of one lime


*I pull the leaves off the stems, toss them in my salad spinner and give them a whirl.  This is one of Ashley's favorite jobs .... wheeee!!!!


I use my food processor when making this salsa, but you can use a blender, too.  Dump 1/2 of the can of tomatoes (juice and all) in the food processor.  Set the other 1/2 aside.  Add the garlic and the cilantro leaves.  Sprinkle a little of the peppers in, depending on how hot and spicy you like your salsa.  You can always go back and add more.  Pulse the mixture until the cilantro is chopped and mixed throughout.  Pour this into your serving dish and add the remaining 1/2 can of tomatoes and the lime juice.  Give it a stir.  This is a fantastic fresh salsa:  chunky, refreshing and addicting.

Just add chips.

Auntie Allie's Guacamole
(This recipe is also from my sissy ... do you see a theme here?  She also likes dips!  Truly a kid at heart.)

Ingredients:
2-3 ripe* avocados
2-3 tomatoes
Juice of one lime
Fresh chives or green onions
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and Pepper

*A ripe avocado will be firm to the touch ... but not hard like a rock.  Avoid anything soft, because that usually indicates that it is bruised.  I like to buy my avocados a few days before I need them and let them ripen a bit on the counter.  Of course, you can never be sure until you cut into it ... I guess it's a bit of a gamble.  A potentially delicious gamble. :)

To prepare the avocado, cut it in half by running your knife around the outside from the top to the bottom and back up.  Twist the two halves in opposite directions and you will end up with one side with the pit and the other without.  Lay the side with the pit on the cutting board and carefully tap the knife blade into the pit.  Turn the knife 90 degrees and the pit will come out.  Next, cut through the avocado as shown:


Then hold the avocado over the serving bowl and press your thumbs against the skin.  The green, yummy goodness will peel away from the skin and you can scrap it into the bowl.  Repeat with each avocado.


Add the chopped tomatoes, chopped chives or green onions, garlic and lime juice.  Mix well.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

You will need more chips.
This next recipe isn't a dip, so much as a side dish.  But, coincidentally, it was delicious on a tortilla chip.  Go figure!

Creamy Black Beans
(This recipe is from Food Network Magazine, September 2010 ... with a few adjustments.)

Ingredients:
1 pound dried black beans
3 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, halved, seeded and finely chopped
2 t. ground cumin
Salt
Fresh cilantro

FYI - this is one of those recipes that you have to plan ahead for.  But trust me, it's worth the wait.

First you will need to prep the beans.  Dump the bag into a colander and rinse thoroughly.  You will want to comb through and look for little rocks or ugly beans, too.  Pour the beans in a big bowl and fill with water.  Let this sit overnight.

Little black beauties.

Begin the rest of these directions about 5 hours before you want to eat.

Dump out the water and set the beans aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, jalapeno and cumin.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the beans and just enough water to cover everything - about 9 cups.  Turn up the heat to medium high and bring it to a boil.  Turn the heat back down to medium low, partially cover the pot and cook for about 3 hours.  Stir this mixture occasionally.  When the beans are tender, add 2 t. salt and let it simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes.  This will allow the remaining liquid to be absorbed. 

Let sit for about 15 minutes before serving.  We topped our little bowls of creamy, beany goodness with a little shredded cheddar cheese and chopped cilantro.  It will be hard to go back to canned black beans after enjoying this dish.

Don't forget the chips!
I am making the salsa and guacamole today for a friend's birthday ... and this yummy salsa, too (made with mangos this time).  Can't wait to dip in!