Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Happy to Be Here

We're here -- one eye on the weather radar, one eye on our hand of cards, and one hand around the handle of our beach bag.  {The mug of coffee not too far off.}  We were shut out yesterday but with the looks of the weather report of Sunday and today and the fact we enjoyed hours of sand time, we're going to be just fine.   

The trip down was uneventful for the most part.  This poster made me stop and wonder where I was for a moment.  We had just crossed the border and you know what I think about Florida-- north and south and this fit right into my north Florida stereotype.  Thanks, Wausau for not letting me down.   Just so sad I don't get to see the Possum King and Queen crowned. 

Although this brought gas station chuckles nothing was as funny as the melted dark chocolate cranberries that had fallen, no, smeared all over the back of Jeff's khaki shorts.  He's such a good sport when I nearly hyperventilate at his expense.  {Emily, it was definitely worth your trip to Trader Joe's!}

Always an exciting part of the drive-- this bridge.  Just imagine Surfin' USA blaring and our windows down.

The weather, as I said, has been unpredictable but the clouds and the sky have been something.  This is my favorite view out of the kitchen window.  I want to stay in that house with the tin roof one day.

I love that we have this foliage at the beach too.  It's just a lovely place in every direction.

First walk down is always one of the best.  We've missed it all year and now we actually get to step into it and pick up things familiar yet new.

I love how her freckles shine in the summer.

Early morning beach time is one of my favorites.  To have my first cup of coffee of the day with my toes in the sand watching these kids play--- doesn't happen near enough.

And Blake-- always ready for some foolishness with the kids-- the feeling is mutual regardless of how terrified they may look here!

And rainy days at the beach?  They cause people like me to download apps like Instagram.  What fun.  Seriously. {kristaleigh1} Here is B's breakfast of champions. {Who even has CHIPS as an offering at breakfast?!  I mean, I LOVE Mexican food for breakfast but I don't think my Hispanic friends do chips before 10 am}  You can pat me on the back next time you see me---for that breakfast my boy is eating.

Well, it's 6:45 and the pre-dinner festivities have begun.  The kitchen is smelling good.  Clean,  showered and sandless people are making their way to the main floor to taste all of this deliciousness they smell.  Let me just say cream cheese, jalepenos, and crab meat are involved.

RJ, we miss you.  But you know that, right?!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Magic {Baking, Silliness and Yum}

I am practically giddy about heading for the beach on Friday. I don’t even care that the forecast shows steady rain all week.  We are packing up the car with all things fun and driving towards some of the most special people we know!  I don’t think I have ever baked things to take with us, most likely using the excuse that we drive so far, but this year I decided to let the kids make a couple of things and take the ingredients to make something else later in the week when we are running low on treats...... like that has ever happened.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to organize my recipes on Pinterest instead of just continuing to lump them all into “Recipes”.  I thought I might actually use them if they were easier to find.  So, I started with desserts and not realizing there was an easier way to move them instead of just repinning them,  I had texts, Facebook messages from friends concerned about my future health- possibly a diabetic coma-- because of all the sugary pins.  It was an obnoxious string of chocolatey things.....

I picked a couple of easy ones for the kids-- one I used to make years ago and one that had oatmeal in it so that made me like nutritious or something.

As I watched Julia make these, I thought, these are SO easy.  Why has it been so long since I have made these?  Give me a minute and I will tell you.  Here are the layers of goodness:

Magic Turtle Bars

photo by chocolatechocolateandmore.com
2 cups crushed vanilla cookies {the finer, the better}
1/2 cup butter melted {1 stick}
2 bags semi sweet chocolate chips
1 bag Kraft Caramel Bits
2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly spray or grease a 9 x 13 pan.
Combine crushed cookies and butter till combined and cookie crumbs are moist. Spread evenly in bottom of pan, pressing down to form a crust.
Now start layering the rest of the ingredients. 1 bag chocolate chips, caramel bits, pecans {save out about 1/4 cup for the top}, second bag of chocolate chips, remaining pecans.
Drizzle sweetened condensed milk over the entire pan, making sure to cover all the nooks and crannies.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, just until milk begins to turn golden. 
Let cool completely before cutting.
Store in airtight container. If you choose to refrigerate these bars, bring them back to room temperature before eating.

They had not had time to cool completely before we left the house for several hours and I had promised they could have one before we froze the rest.  So I cut them a piece while it was still warm and oh my........  they really are delicious.  Rich but oh, so yum.

Later, after they cooled, when I went to cut them so I could store them, it all came back to me.  You need a pickaxe to cut them-- especially to get it out from around the edges.  I finally just gave up and did what I remembered doing-- cutting just inside the edges and losing about 1/4 of an inch all the way around.  Next time, I will try parchment paper.  But don’t let this deter you from experiencing these bars.  They are perfect for kids to make.

The second one we tried were these:

Deep Dish Oatmeal Chocolate Cookie Bars

photo by meganandclaudy.blogspot.com
2 sticks butter
2 eggs
2 cups brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup milk
2 1/2 cups flour {I use self rising flour and skip the soda and salt.}
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 cups oatmeal

Mix the butter, eggs and brown sugar.  Add vanilla and milk.  Slowly incorporate the rest of the dry ingredients.  Mix well.  A standing mixer makes this much easier.  

In a saucepan, over medium heat, melt together:

1 can  sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla
12 oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips 

Then, spread 3/4 of the cookie mixture on the bottom of a greased 13x9 pan, pour chocolate mixture, then spread rest of cookie mixture on tops in spoonfuls - this won’t cover top completely. The top can tend to get done before it's completely cooked, so you can put aluminum foil over it for the last ten or so minutes if it looks like it's browning too much. Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool, otherwise it won't set up and will just run when you cut into it. 

I love these.... and they don’t wear out your arm trying to get them out of the pan!!

I love baking especially because it's something we can all do together.  Sugar and chocolate rewards are not gender specific and it also stirs up love, silliness and affection.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

School: Belated Report Card

Even though I have not turned my attentions to the new school year, I went to our school’s uniform swap yesterday morning after dropping Brighton at Music Camp.  I was hoping to swap out Julia’s old jumper with the next size up.  Just like the familiar smells of a library bringing thoughts of new books, new experiences, and quiet reading, when I walked into the school, my thoughts turned to assignments, “do we have everything?”, projects, snack hungry children, "let's go knock out first draft math homework!".......

I walked into the room of the swap and Brighton’s third grade teacher was there.  She seemed genuinely happy to see me.  I was relieved by her kind smile and her questions about B and our summer.  You just never know.  He had a fine year in her classroom but I know there were times she had to reign him in.  At the end of the year, she gave each child a certificate for a character quality.  I laughed out loud when I saw B’s.

Yes, he is.  I recall many of mine and Mrs. Johanson’s conversation but the one that flashed when I read this little certificate was the one she was telling me how Brighton liked to “help her out” in running the class room... especially if someone was misbehaving and more than once, she had to tell him “Thank you, Brighton, but I can take care of [this/myself/this classroom/these students].”  He also was very opinionated on where he sat in the room.  I think “boldness” got a few votes here.

Honestly, I am shocked by his boldness at times.  He’s more like his Daddy in that area.  He’ll be the husband that doesn’t mind returning things at Wal Mart with no tags, no receipt and three strikes on your driver’s license.  You know, important things like that.  No matter what he’s after, it is fun to watch him in action.... unless he’s after me.  I’ll never forget the spring in Branson when he went BACK to the ice cream stand and asked for more.  He came back with a whole new bowl.  Truly, I’m so grateful for it because I know with his boldness under the control of the Holy Spirit, the boy won’t be stopped.  I’ve seen it do many good things.  However, many times his boldness has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit so it must come to a screeching halt.  As we parent him, we trust he will use it for God’s glory as he matures.

In character
First day-- this is DEFINITELY B's "I am extremely nervous" look.
One of B's book projects-- can you see the BICYCLES in the background?!  Yes, at my front door.  But that has nothing to do with school-- just my life right now.

I enjoyed seeing Julia grow as a student, rising to the challenge of someone else’s expectations.  I watched her struggle through some friendship dynamics which I believe we are laying a foundation for dealing with those hurts-- some intentional but most unintentional.  I discovered strong opinions in her choices of school uniforms which ended up her wearing the SAME thing almost every week for the second part of the year.  She read some great books and enjoyed the class discussions surrounding them.  Where the Red Fern Grows plunged down to where the tears are kept, let them loose, and they flooded.  Books had evoked emotion before but not like this.  She won’t forget that one.  The second half of the year, I saw her trying to be more responsible, her work looking nicer, making sure she had everything each day but still struggling with this.

At the end of the year, each student was given a little booklet with blank pages.  They were to take it home and write kind words about each person in their class.  Of course, I loved this idea -- getting written words from all my friends!  It was an easy project but it definitely took some time for a class size of 18.  When they were all turned in, her teacher, Mrs. Hartwell, took the booklets apart and stapled each student’s pages together so Julia got a booklet with a sweet note from every one of her classmates.  Reading through Julia’s, I was surprised by how many commented on her sense of humor and her “ability to crack a joke”. {I didn't include those here.}  Here are some of my favorites.

And this one...

Evidently, fine posture is important to a fifth grader.  And good posture makes people happy.

We loved our school year at Christian Life Preparatory School {CLPS}.  It was more of a transition than I thought it would be.  Yesterday, I was talking to a lady at the pool whose kids will start their first year in August and when I identified our biggest problems, it really seemed a bit ridiculous.  I don’t know this mom very well so when I told her our main issues were turning in assignments on time and writing names on papers, she most likely walked away thinking I was school mom of the year, like, with her act VERY together.  But YES!  Those were our looming challenges that cost us, I mean, them a letter grade from time to time!  Bottom line-- my kids need more supervision than I was giving and it took me awhile to come to terms with that.  I also had to learn that I could NOT care more about their grades than they did.  It wasn’t my report card that was coming {which truthfully, when I was young, those were my favorite days of school -- AFFIRMATION in black in white.  Loved it.}  My kids?  Not so much.  As I type, they have NOT EVEN ASKED what their grades were last semester!  Only I know.  They really just don’t care right now.  Maybe that’s a con of homeschooling all these years.  And I can swallow that.  There were SO many pros.

What I loved about CLPS:  the teachers, the assignments coming from somewhere else {this was the double edged sword-- I LOVED them but then I didn’t like them because they HAD to do them}, projects I would have never pushed through, encouragement and constructive criticism from the teachers, my Tuesdays and Thursdays, RenWeb, no homework weekends, the books they read, the International World’s Fair, the uniforms, opportunities to be on stage, giving speeches in class and the friendships forged.

What I missed about homeschooling full time:  Flexibility will always be at the top of my list-- a strict schedule hindered travel plans and said “no” to a few days I felt my kids just needed a rest.  I missed our museum week, Science Etc./Mrs. Winsor, free-er Fridays, pajama days, conversations I missed out on, field trips, reading to them during lunch... oh my goodness.  It was a good 5 years.

And last year was a really good year too.  We are looking forward to August... kind of.  Thanks, Mrs. Hartwell and Mrs. Johanson!!


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Summer Thanks.... and a Little Denial

I am in denial that tomorrow is the traditional mid-point of summer.  I feel like we are just getting into the post school groove!  Maybe today will be extra long, putting off tomorrow for as long as we can.  I'm enjoying these weeks way too much!  Here are my thanks:

These numbers on my Weather Bug app have motivated me to get out of bed these lazy mornings just so I can experience 66 degrees...... in summer...... in July......in Texas.  Divine.  

A new hobby for B!!!!!  Woohooo!!  Baseball cards!!!  He still loves Legos but having two hobbies is GREAT.  He would list "Wii" too but I am in denial about that too. ; )  I live in the fantasy land that he would list "reading".

He brought home a slew of Jeff's cards from his room in Atlanta.
Pool friends!!  What would the pool be without friends?  I am SO thankful for the families at this pool and ALL THIER GREAT KIDS!!

I totally copied Jen Hatmaker's brag board.  The kids write on it too but today, it just happens to me and Emily bragging on the kids.  Thankful for many things here:  that I remembered to point out good things, that I see progress in the little things, that Em wanted to encourage the kids and went to the effort of doing it, and that Jeff and I had a date and that he took me to see the sneak preview of The Lone Ranger.  (I know I'm a bit off of their target market..... but it was SO entertaining!)

I can't say that I am thankful for swim meets that have warm ups at 7 am on a Saturday morning 45 minutes away!  This is how I got them out of bed:

I promised them doughnuts!  I am grateful for Coach Kathy and her enthusiasm for the swimmers and that Brighton enjoys it so much!  {and for blueberry doughnuts}

TCU babysitting class that prepared Julia so well and the friends who are allowing her to get experience in their home.  She had her first "job" yesterday babysitting Lily.  

These things were in her bag.  She really had a fun time.  Thanks, C and J!

Celebrating Emily and her 30th birthday!!!!  She turned 30 in Tanzania so we had a belated celebration at Mijos Fusion.  We LOVE this girl.

If this picture doesn't scream "summer" and "rental house" all in the same breath, I don't know what does. Grateful for our close quarters (seriously) and that they can have tents up and I don't care.

So thankful that Lance and Casey stayed in Waco because I get to see them and it brings my beloved Mrs. Summey and Melissa back here every now and then.  (We had permission to touch little Wade Briggs.)

Taking kids to the movies at 3:45 in the afternoon with friends
That B is content to read for Wii minutes
For meetings with extraordinary people
emails that encourage me to keep sowing seeds
the preschool classes at Watermark
Really amazing, precious babysitters
Author Elizabeth Musser-- great books, great writing
Beach anticipation!!!  Can't wait to be under the same roof with 17 of my favorite people.  I am in denial that RJ won't be there this year.  Sniff, sniff.