Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tips and Tricks: PB&J for the week

One of the most creative things that someone did for us during our season of party-of-eightness was to bring a whole tray of FROZEN peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  I mean, how great is that?  Need to pack a lunch?  Just pull out a sandwich.  Not only that, but she taught us how to make them, too, so we've added this to our regular routine to help with mornings on school days.  This was crucial when there were LOTS of lunches to pack, but we still love doing it with only three!  I know you can buy frozen PB&Js, but these are way cheaper PLUS you get to choose the kind (and amount) of bread, peanut butter, and jelly that you use.  Genius, I tell you...GENIUS.

My handsome assistant KJ will demonstrate this tip for the week...
Making (and freezing) PB&J sandwiches for the week (or two).

FIRST-
The bread.  We like to use one whole loaf and lay it all out on the counter in sandwich pairs.
We put the bread on wax paper to help contain the mess. 
(the many uses of wax paper could probably be a whole tips/tricks post in and of itself...hmmmm)


NEXT-
The peanut butter.  We like Jif creamy.  The key here we learned (from our amazing friend) is to put at least a little pb on both pieces of the bread, which keeps the jelly from seeping through.

which leads to STEP 3-
The Jelly.  We like the Smucker's spreadable with less sugar.  Its easy for little ones to help.

THEN-
You stack 'em. 
If you are a perfectionist like KJ (and his Momma) this part can be tricky,
getting the crusts lined up just right.

And now for the fun part...
Cut 'em, Seal 'em, Trim 'em.
We have a Pampered Chef sandwich press and it is awesome.  It cuts the sandwiches into perfectly sized rounds, then seals the edges.  And after you peel off the excess you have a perfectly preschool sized sandwich round, sans crust.

ALMOST DONE.
Get your rounds ready to freeze by wrapping them individually in press'n seal. 

AND LAST-
Put them in a bag.  We've found it easiest to put 4-5 in a quart size freezer bag together. You could also put them in individual ziplocks and then use those bags to pack lunches, too.

Then, let them freeze.  We just pull out what we need in the morning before school, unwrap from the press'n seal, put in a bag or sandwich container and it is thawed by lunchtime.

SO there you have it...frozen PB&Js for a week (or two).  I mean, I know it is not rocket science, and I'm probably the last person on Earth to find out about this amazingness, but had to share just in case someone out there needed a boost on school mornings.  AND its a great idea for a creative way to help a family with young kids, maybe after the arrival of a new baby or when mom is sick.  I know we were blessed by this amazing gesture and we can't wait to share with someone else!

ABL
For other posts in the "Tips and Tricks" series, take a look at our Assembly lines and Circle time.  We'd love to hear more from you, too, about creative ideas from your family.  What helps you live intentionally and efficiently?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Meet the Teacher (aka meet my cherubs)

Thanks for understanding that I needed a little break from blogging quite so frequently over the last couple of weeks.  There has been a lot to process and we've been working hard to resume some normalcy.  I've got lots of pictures to post, though, so I hope to get back in the swing of things!  Here we go...


On Thursday we went to meet the teacher at our sweet little preschool.  This is the only year that all three of my kiddos will get to be there together.  They are THRILLED.  And even more thrilled that some of their favorite mommy's work/turned soccer team/turned preschool friends are going to be there, too.  Aren't they a fun bunch?


I think "Meet the Teacher Night" should actually be called "meet-my-children-and-for-a-few-minutes-think- they-are-perfect-before-you-start-a-whole-school-year-with-them-and-find-out-otherwise night".  At least that is the pressure I put on myself.  For one night, I'd love to dress my cherubs sweetly, have them be on their best behavior, and then have dreams that the teacher went home and told her husband "I'm SO excited to have KJ, Cbug or Lou in my class this year.  They seem just perfect".  Basically I'd love for my children to not act like children at all, and I've convinced myself that the teacher hasn't already seen 10 other equally "pinched and prodded into being perfect" children that night.  Silly Mommy.

That said, it should be no surprise at all that on our way out the door to meet the teacher last Thursday, I was sincerely praying that the sweet ladies who were committed to investing in my children this year would MEET these angels


and maybe not so much MEET these crazies

Because, I mean, who wouldn't want to have "Mr Too-Cool-for-Everything", "Mr Crazy Face" (who sometimes forgets his...um...manners) and "Miss I'm-a-Princess-and-I'll-scowl-if-I-want-to" for A WHOLE YEAR?
Oh dear.  Thankfully, these three really are quite loved at their little school and best of all encouraged to be what they are...CHILDREN!  And on top of that, we were THRILLED about the teachers we got "meet" on Thursday. 



This is going to be a GREAT (but shockingly...not perfect) year!
ABL

*In case you were wondering, we totally blew our cover before we left the preschool that night.  No chance thinking our kids are perfect (don't be fooled into thinking that is a hug the boys were sharing in the middle of KJ's classroom)! 
I wouldn't trade these three not-perfect, but perfectly-mine CHILDREN for the world!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ode to Mr Combi D.S.

alternatively titled- "Goodbye to a dear friend"

Mr Combi Double Stroller has probably appeared on this blog more often than any person outside of our family, and maybe only second in the inanimate object category to the infamous rain boots (another post). While all warranties were probably voided by our "creative" uses for the double (turned triple...and sometimes quadruple) stroller, it never failed us when we pushed it to the limits.


The stroller carried the trio Trick-Or-Treating for canned goods with the youth group

And has been my assistant for many a MMM activity.  Like a 5 senses nature walk
(a feat which was later surpassed, the day it helped with 6 kids at this same location).

Its been to the neighborhood park (other neighborhoods, too, for that matter) thousands of times,
sometimes with 6 kids in-tow, sometimes with friends along for the ride.


It has shared holidays with us.  Like 4th of July fireworks with a best-buddy
(during which it protected the cherubs from one of the scariest snowmen they'd ever seen)


Always a BIG help on outings
(where it even allowed Lou to keep her snacks accessible)

And of course on our grocery-shopping-excursions.

Always our faithful companion while traveling, too.  Like when we chased RRL all over San Antonio when he was running the half-marathon.

In fact, my favorite of Mr Combi's "skills" was the ability to navigate the airport loaded with multiple children, multiple carseats, diaper bags, carry-ons and purses.  You've never seen anything like it. 

And other than the occasional squeek or extra-effort-required-to-get-started, it rarely complained.

But like all good things, it was time to say goodbye.
Since many of the stroller riders at our house are too big for Mr Combi Double Stroller, we knew it was time for our friend to move on.  And said goodbye.

In a very Toy-Story-esque manner we knew the stroller would only be happy doing what it does best.
Toting happy children (and related paraphernalia)!

So...
Here's to you, Mr Combi Double Stroller.
And many happy trails.
ABL

Monday, August 22, 2011

MMM: Marshmallow repeat

On the first Monday after my nephews and niece left, I wanted an easy yet super fun MMM activity to do with my kids.  So we repeated one that they loved last year, Marshmallow Art.

Sometimes, you need to have a "project" for which the only purpose is to enjoy it and the only results are to make a mess, have sticky fingers and get to sample some sweet treats.  As a type A who would rather always have a tangible take-away, this has been a tough lesson to learn.  But on this day of transition for our family, it was just what the doctor ordered.

We painted marshmallows (using milk dyed with food coloring)


Then they strung them together with pipecleaners.

random side-note, I never thought to talk to my kids about "patterns" before this, but apparently they had been learning about them in school.  I was really impressed with both boys and their ability to find the "next" in the pattern.  Since this little activty we have added the "pattern game" to our "games that make road-trips more fun" repotoire.  I say "black-white-white-black-white-white-black...what comes next?" and they fill in the blank.  Yes, I actually am a nerd mom.  thankyouverymuch.

The third and most impotant step
taste the gooey goodness.


And this is what we were left with not much to speak of, except a big mess of fun.
And fun it was indeed.
A perfect MMM activity, even if you couldn't frame it.
ABL

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tips and Tricks: Circle Time

So, I started working on a series of posts about "tips and tricks" that help us around our house.  The first one was about our assembly lines.  While some of our survival tactics are not quite as necessary with "only" three kids under our roof, we are actually seeing the benefit of keeping a few of them around.  One that we are still benefiting from is nightly "circle time".  Granted, the circle is not quite a large now, the necessity of everyone staying "on their spots" is a little less preschool-esque, and the sounds are not nearly as LOUD.  However, the principal of gathering together nightly, intentionally ending our day with our children really is a blessing.  It helps them settle down before bed, helps RRL and I set time aside from cleaning up the kitchen, packing back-packs, etc and is a treasured time together.

Typically we follow a similar routine:
A few "crazy songs" like "Stand up and Shout it"
(which could otherwise be called "jump around and yell a lot if you love Jesus"...which we do!)
A couple of fun stories
A few "calm" songs
A bible story
Some verses
and prayers.

Obviously, some nights we have more time than others.  But I especially love the nights when we get to spend 30+ minutes on this time.

Here are all 5 of the kids saying some of the verses they have learned during circle time.  We learned each of these all together, but this night I just asked them each to say their favorites.  Of course, they especially liked that they got to stand on the fireplace hearth (cough, I mean stage) to be recorded.

KJ and Cbug (chose the same verse to recite)

video

video
Translation:  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes, not on what is seen, but what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  -2 Corinthians 4:17-18

AB
video
Translation:  The prudent see danger and take refuge.  But the simple keep going and suffer for it. -Proverbs 27:12

CB
video
Translation: I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone Oh Lord, make me dwell is safety.  -Psalm 4:8

Lou
video
Translation:  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  All your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  -Psalm 139:14


So, there's another snippet of our everyday life.  CIRCLE TIME!
What are your nightly routines?  Or other "tips and tricks" that help your home run smoothly and intentionally?

ABL

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Colors

 When they first came to live with us,
we just KNEW they were what we had been prepared for.

 But now we realize that they
were another piece of our preparation.

Because what we are being prepared for is still to come. 
We can only see a piece of the picture right now.

But someday we will see how it all works together. 

And it will be more than we could imagine.

Something eternal. Something GLORIOUS!

ABL

**If you have spent much time around our family in the last few months, you know how significant these colors are.  What started out as a color-system-for-survival came to represent so much more.  I love that each child claimed their color as their very favorite (except for when KJ and Cbug traded) and each knew the favorite of the others.  They often chose things for each other based on their "colors".  So, to me, this final work of art by the little clan of 6 means so much.  Seeing their "colors" blended together holds great significance in my heart.  So thankful for this treasure.


ps- i promise that soon my melodramatic-ness about this transition will stop.  really.  but in the meantime blogging through it has been incredibly therapeutic.  so thanks for your patience.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Nehemiah: What now?

As we transition back to life as a Team-of-Five, one of the biggest questions I am wrestling with is "what now?"  Maybe its a bit like re-entry after being out of the country for a long time.  Or maybe its like a spiritual high after a mission-trip.  You wonder how life could ever simply go back to normal.  You are coming home, but home will never look the same.  And really you don't even WANT it to look the same.  To just continue on would be a waste of the experience.  But in the same breath, you do have to re-establish some normalcy.

For months we have spent many of our waking hours (and some not-so-awake) trying to do what is best for 6 kids.  Especially for our nephews and niece, a huge part of our hearts and our energy was devoted to talking about and praying through what was in their best interest.  In a way, that won't change, we will always care about them and their family.  We do hope we get to continue to be involved with this story.  And we will always be interested in their well-being, but because of the change in the physical circumstances that will look drastically different going forward.

I mentioned before that I learned from Sandra Stanley (via Hatch) the Nehemiah application of doing a good work and not being distracted.  It seems that Nehemiah was fully devoted to rebuilding the wall, and reestablishing Jerusalem.  He told those that challenged him that he would not be distracted. But just one chapter earlier, in chapter 5, he DID "come down".  And he came down before the "good work" was done.  There was some family business to take care of, an economic crisis of sorts, and it was tearing the people apart.  It had to be addressed, and Nehemiah did stop what he was doing.  But I don't think he really did.  Yes, he stepped down from the physical labor of the wall.  Yes, he called the leaders together to "meet" about the problem (so also asked them to step down from the wall). But really this WAS about the wall, it was about rebuilding Jerusalem.  While the enemy threatened to distract (in chapt 6), this God given interruption was to build the forces stronger, to remove what threatened to tear apart the community of workers and actually put a stop to the wall building completely.  I'm guessing Nehemiah never took his eyes off of his primary purpose.  The only think that could make him change his course of action was believing in his heart that this brief interruption would actually enhance the success of that "good work".

I wonder if it was hard for Nehemiah to resume work on the wall. I wonder if he wanted to grab onto his role as Governor, economic counselor, and claim that as his only purpose. I wonder if it was hard to simply go back to "normal". Especially since even the normal would come with challenges and distractions. But the gates hadn't been placed, the project was not completed. In order to make the best of what they community of workers had learned through the chapter 5 "interruption", they had to continue on in the way they had originally been called- to rebuild Jerusalem.


To be honest, its hard to just simply go back to work.  But I have to believe that our primary purpose hasn't changed.  And that the only reason that God would have asked us to change our course of action was because He believed this would enhance the success of our "good work"- raising our little family.  We so firmly believe that this was not a distraction, but a God-given-interruption, that we can't WAIT to see what it means in our "wall building".  Our own little Jerusalem is still being developed, and a time that could have been used to stop our work will really only make it stronger. 

So, I'm still not sure what that means is next for us.  Just know that as you start to see this little piece of the web go back to its roots...normal family life...we are back up on the wall.  The same.  But different.

ABL

Sunday, August 14, 2011

That's a lotta love...

The joy, the silly faces, the craziness, the cheesiness...

Now that's A WHOLE.LOTTA.LOVE!

Aunt S,
The short time we've had to grow in love for you does not nearly measure the AMOUNT of love we all have for you.  Oh my, it is a lot!  Thanks so much for the way you take care of one of our very favorite people, Uncle M.  And for the way you love these three (adorable) crazies!  We are so excited for you as you begin your last year of Law School, and so very proud of how hard you have worked a long the way.  And the fact that you are now a resident of one of our favorite states is just icing on the (hopefully strawberry) cake!  Hope that means we get to see a lot more of you!

Love you, sweet sister!!
ABL

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Who is Counting?

 152- The number of days

Our nephews and niece went back to live with their parents today.  They left as unexpectedly as they came.  They lived with us for 152 days.  There are too many emotions involved right now and I'm simply too raw to be able to clearly communicate what this means to our family.  So I have to go back to what I know...as an accountant, I love all things numbers.  But I don't think I'm the only one that counted these days.  We believe that the Lord knew EXACTLY how many days AB, CB and baby B would live with us.  In fact, he has numbers for ALL of our days.  We are just grateful that for 152 of those, we had them as part of our days. 

There are lots of numbers, though, that we don't know.

I'm glad we didn't count...
the number of diapers we changed
the number of trips to the doctor/clinic
the number of potty breaks that interrupted our meals
the number of times we didn't get to sleep through the night
the number of days that didn't go the way we planned
the number of cartons of yogurt consumed
the number of lunches packed
the number of loads of laundry
the number of doses of antibiotics administered
the number of broken toys we repaired (or trashed)
the number of times we said "please don't whine"
the number of times we said "please keep your hands to yourself"
the number of meals we ate cold
the number of times we swept the kitchen floor
the number of responsibilities, outside of our home, that we just plum forgot
But we didn't count any of those things.  While it might have made for a nice record, it really doesn't matter.  Those numbers wouldn't reflect our purpose.



I wish we had counted...
the number of boo-boos we got to kiss
the number of "I love yous" we heard
the number of late nights RRL and I spent talking about God's hand in the day
the number of boxes of diapers that others delivered
the number of meals we didn't have to cook
the number of times someone else went to the grocery store
the number of people that have showed interest in our story
the number or prayers prayed on our behalf
the number of prayers we uttered on their behalf
the number of encouraging texts, emails, cards in the mail
the number of new songs, verses, and bible stories learned
the number of quizzical looks in the grocery store
the number of times our kids proudly introduced their cousins
the number of ways the Lord surprised us
the number of times we saw the kids hold hands
the number of times we got to celebrate a new milestone 
the number of times we found the girls snuggled in bed together
the number of games of hide and seek
the number of stories read during "circle time"
the number of times we circled the table to tell our favorite part of the day
the number of times we got to say "I'm so glad I get to do this with you"
the number of times we were shown AMAZING grace
I wish we had taken time to count some of those things because the numbers would be staggering.  We have truly been overwhelmed by our community and by the way God amazingly sustained us.




While I will never be able to tell you many of the specifics of those statistics, I do know that our Team of Five will never be the same.  Five months ago, three little lives stepped into our home and into our hearts.  We did our best during that time to blend into one family.  And we'll never be the same because of it.  I'm glad we didn't count the hard times, or the times we wished we had acted differently.  We didn't count because it really doesn't matter.  We didn't count because it never was about us or our "stats."  We know that the year 2011 will always be remembered as the year that for a while, we were a party-of-eight.  More importantly, though, this will be a time that we will all look back and remember that we had a front row seat to something we could not have orchestrated.  We got to stand in AWE as the ONE true God worked mightily on our behalf, right before our eyes.  We have learned to believe in miracles, and to watch for them in everyday real-life happenings.  They don't look like you would expect.  That's what makes them miraculous.  And, oh my, the benefits from that blessing of perspective are COUNTLESS!

ABL