Monday, December 29, 2014

Recapping


We're in the final days of 2014, and I'm ready. Not because 2014 hasn't been good (it has), or because there aren't any unknowns in 2015 (aren't there always?), but because it feels right. It feels like it's time to wrap up the year, put the lessons and struggles and precious, precious memories into a box, absorb them into my heart, and start a new, blank page. Time for new.

There were some real rough patches this year, and some tremendously sweet times, and the crazy thing is, sometimes I can't remember which is which. There were some moments where I totally dropped the ball, times when I wanted to crawl into a corner and never, ever come out again, and afterwards there were times when people's grace found me and loved me and made it okay again. There was a unusually intense (although, thankfully, also unusually short) struggle with depression. There was a lot of happiness. There were a lot of people who stood around tossing criticism like it was a darts contest, and there were a few incredible people who stood on the sidelines of my life and cheered loud and long. There was a long of learning new things, and there was the comfort of returning to things I've done a hundred times and could probably do in my sleep. There was a lot of sleep lost, and a lot of sleep caught up on (thank God for the latter!).

It's crazy how my soul instinctively starts "taking stock" this time of year, thinking and recapping and planning. There's a sort of soothing rhythm to wrapping up the year this way, a sort of "going boldly forth" confidence that springs from it. I found myself deep-cleaning my cabinets at midnight this past week and had to laugh - it's what I always end up doing, cleaning and organizing and decluttering my physical space as a sort of counterpoint to the same mental clearing that happens at the same time.

I'm excited about the directions God has given me, and excited about the new year, but mostly I'm just blessed. So tremendously blessed. It would be almost impossible to list all the blessings that have come this year, and the year before, and even this week I was thinking about how God was pulling up things from my past that I'd never attached much significance to, that have become incredibly important in the here and now. That whole, "Taste and see that the Lord is good" thing has never been so true.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

On Christmas Cookies

I've been wanting to do a post about my Christmas baking just so I'd have all my information in one post for future reference, so if this is boring, feel free to skip.

Here are the basics:

- My cookie baking list usually has about eighteen people on it (most of which are my coaches from swim). One double batch each of four kinds of cookies makes enough for everyone, with a few leftovers for my dad and I to enjoy. :)

- Here are my standard recipes, all from the same issue of Everyday With Rachael Ray (all my fav recipes come from there!): Peppermint Patty Cookies, Apricot Cheesecake Cookies, and Hot Cocoa Cookies. As time/money permits, I've also made the Coconut Snowflakes and the Ginger Peanut Butter Cup Cookies, but they're fussy (all of them are, really) and generally my patience doesn't hold up that much. :)

- You can make all of these in advance and freeze them EXCEPT the Peppermint Patty cookies. They will explode. Don't do it.

- It costs almost exactly $50 to buy the ingredients to do my holiday baking. I always think I'm going to remember this, and I never do, so this year I saved the receipt! :)

- It's worth doing. I always question this when I'm in the middle of baking gazillions of cookies, but people genuinely appreciate homemade goodies, and it's a great way of saying "Merry Christmas!"

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thankful

A few days ago, I ran across this post that I wrote last year on Thanksgiving. I'd been thinking about what to write for this year, and when I reread that post (and remembered where I was - mostly unemployed, mostly broke, but having so completely given it over to God that I was truly resting in Him), I decided that little poem-not-poem is still exactly what I want to say.

(For the record, I have a few things I could add to the list since last year - a new job that is just perfect and well worth the wait; a promotion at job #2, a year's worth of happy memories, and a whole new year to look forward to. God is good.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy-Hearted

Y'all,  I am happy. Like, glowing with happiness and thankfulness and isn't it wonderful to be alive? I'm a little wary, actually, of how happy I feel, because up until last week I'd been depressed since Fall began, and I sort of expect it to all fall apart any second, but until it does, I'm going to enjoy being happy. :)

Yesterday was our last swim class of the session, and - wait for it - the schedule for next session is already written and approved and sent out! And - aaand - I even printed out the new schedule, new timesheet, got the master list updated, etc, so I have no more swim responsibilities until I show up on Monday. I am on my A-game, people! (Which is good. Because I was definitely not on my A-game yesterday when I was trying to write to my boss, and I couldn't type, and I was getting really frustrated with myself and could only imagine that he felt the same way, too. So it was a nice reassurance when I apologized that evening for being so scatterbrained, and he said he hadn't noticed. He might have just been saying that, but still.) I am totally ready for next session. I think we're in a good place now, with the perfect amount of coaches hired, and everybody having gotten some in-water training, and I just feel really reenergized about the whole thing. We're going to rock this!

Today was incredibly awesome. Abby had off from school, so we spent the first part of the morning snuggled up together under a blanket watching the Curious George special "A Very Monkey Christmas." She used to watch CG all the time until she started school and declared herself too old for it anymore. This morning she completely changed her mind and said she loved Curious George and wanted to watch it every single day. ;)

Then we bundled up and went for donuts (something we used to do as a special treat before she started school) before heading over to my family's house, where we helped Maggie make pies, played with cousins, watched "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," and then went over to my house to pull out all my Christmas decorations, put up my tree (first time I've had my own tree!), and decorate. I made Abby hot chocolate and fixed Winter Spice tea for Maggie. :)

I'm really looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with family tomorrow. I want to drink coffee and play board/card games and just sort of soak up all the holiday goodness. I know the next few weeks are going to be busy, but I know now that I'll survive them (lol) and I'm looking forward to enjoying the season!

Monday, November 24, 2014

My Favorite Things Monday

This purse from Cato. I've been looking for a new purse for several months and have been eyeing this one, but I was never willing to fork over the full price. Plus, as soon as I walked away, I would begin to talk myself out of it. "It's quilted, you hate the quilted look. It has tassels, you hate tassels. It's tan, you hate tan." All of which was true... but somehow the combination in this purse just rocks and I love it. On a whim I told Maggie today that I was going to run in, and if the price was at all reduced, I was going to buy it; instead, she bought it for me as a Christmas present! Now the hard part will be to wait until Christmas day LOL! (If the black color also goes on sale, I might snag that one, too. I love them both and most of my purses are old and getting tattered from pulling double duty as diaper bags.)

The new scent from Bath and Body Works, A Thousand Wishes. I've been using (and loving!) Beautiful Day ever since I bought it the week of my BFF's wedding (almost two years ago!) but it's a very summery scent and I've been wanting something a little different lately. This is perfect. :) (I also snagged some Endless Weekend, mostly because of the name LOL!)

Cold weather that makes it fun to snuggle into chunky knits! I'm especially loving the new hat, scarf, and gloves I just bought. They're military-inspired, so soft and comfy, and the gloves are touch screen compatible! (Couldn't find a link to the hat I bought - it's super stretchy so it actually fits my wide noggin! - but they do have a cute headband in the same design, if you're so inclined. ;))

This Christmas CD. And this one. And this one. (I pulled out the Christmas music this weekend and I'm not sorry, not one little bit.)

Have you seen OPI's new nail polish shade, My Favorite Ornament, on Pinterest? I did, too. And then I surprised myself by buying it when I saw it! O.O I'm totally not the person who ever spends more than $3 on nail polish, and I'm not admitting how much this little vial cost (but it was RIDICULOUS!) and I'm totally, totally in love. It looks very gold and very sparkly in the picture, but the truth is that it's more shimmery-glimmery than sparkly and not very gold at all... sort of white-gold, and it sort of picks up color from whatever it's near. This will by my "celebration" nail color for the next year. :)

Retailmenot.com - because there was a gift that I wanted to get my BFF and her hubby that was just not happening on my budget, and then I hit a sale and combined two different coupons from RetailMeNot and I saved 80% (80%!!!) and that gift is on it's way to Alabama. :) Love. It.

A sister who sometimes just drops everything to go Christmas shopping with me, and then digs to the bottom of a giant retail crate to dig out the very last perfect present that's been on my list for days. :)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Again

And I'm back! It's a funny thing about blogging (and writing, in general)... once you miss a couple of posts, it's so, so hard to get back into it. :( I've sat down several times with all the pictures I've taken in the last three months, and tried to put together posts recapping everything that's been going on, but each time I got discouraged (and I never had time to finish them, either). So here goes at just picking up from the here and now and trying to be more consistent going forward.

Life has been so crazy, and lately I've been struggling with so many different elements. Mostly busyness, but also lately with the fact that I'm severely "overpeopled" right now. I'm working three jobs (before-school care for Abby, nannying for the triplets, and running the swim program) and all are "people" job - meaning that I spend almost all of my time interacting with people. And not just people, but kids, who need a little extra emotional investment. I've always thought of myself as an extrovert (although earlier this year I admitted that I am an extrovert with a high need for "alone time") but in the last couple of weeks I've realized that I've developed a sort of resentment towards everyone who wants to interact with me. Mostly because it feels very much like everyone who wants to talk with me, wants something from me. Wants me to coordinate a schedule, reassure them about their parenting (this one is particularly draining), hash out plans, make stuff (that isn't always my stuff) happen.

Even as I write this, I'm fighting the urge to press "delete" and start again and write about how happy I am that the holidays are coming, things are winding down (hopefully), etc, but honestly, up til this week I sort of hated everybody and I just wanted to be left alone. Thankfully, I was able to find some space this week in which I was able to be alone, and quiet (no music, television, media, etc) and I got schedules for next month which looks like it actually will be a calmer, less hectic time. So I may get to enjoy the holidays after all. :)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Holiday Bucket List 2014

1. Drink hot chocolate with whipped cream or marshmallows
2. Celebrate when 97.1 switches to 24/7 Christmas music
3. Go to AnnMarie Gardens in Lights
4. Go on a special shopping trip just to buy cards
5. Eat pumpkin pie
6. Shop late at night
7. Bake Christmas cookies
8. Take a holiday picture
9. Read the Christmas story
10. Read A Christmas Carol
11. Mail gifts to Alabama
12. Watch holiday movies
13. Do a random act of kindness
14. Take a nap and stay up late wrapping presents
15. Burn holiday candles
16. Give thanks
17. Hang Christmas lights
18. Buy a new Christmas CD
19. Buy new PJ's
20. Eat leftover turkey sandwhiches
21. Watch How The Grinch Stole Christmas with the triplets
22. Go to bed early
23. Take Abigail Christmas shopping
24. Spend an afternoon binge-watching Gracepoint
25. Go caroling

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Randomizer

1. Where did September go?! It feels like just yesterday I was w-a-i-t-i-n-g for August to end and fall to begin, and now we're almost halfway through the season! I love it though; mornings are crisp, days are warm enough to still spend hours outdoors with the kids, orange is everywhere, and basically, life is perfect. :)

 2. My crockpot has been in almost constant use lately; in fact, one day I contemplated asking my mom if I could borrow hers so I could run two of them at once! Last week I made the most amazing bean soup: I started with a bag of sixteen bean soup mix, the kind with just beans and no seasonings or anything, soaked it overnight, and then threw it in the crockpot the next morning with water, about eight slices of Whole30 compliant bacon (meaning no added sugar, nitrates, etc) and cooked it on low all day. I added salt, pepper, and some hot sauce to taste and it was amazing - I ate it every day for the next couple of days until it was gone. I'm going to make another batch soon so I can freeze some for easy dinners after teaching.
I did manage to freeze several meals worth of the chili I cooked in the crockpot last weekend;  I used the same recipe I always do, but it ended up being very dense and thick and not as "wet" as I like it. I'm not sure what I did differently... I've had several bowls full this week and look forward to eating it Cincinnati-style.
I also made a big batch of apple butter - so big, in fact, what half of it went to the triplets for their morning toast. :) It was pretty amazing stuff, and, again, is one of my favorite things to make in the crockpot - I just peel and slice the apples, and chuck them in with a good sprinkle each of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. I cook mine for 24 hours on low, and by the time I'm done, it's dark and thick and sweet and almost spicy, and the sugars in the apples have broken down and carmelized and oh my gosh I want some just talking about it.
The last thing I made in my crockpot was a batch of clotted cream. I had two days this week with no triplets and no evening teaching, so I decided to knock off a few of the "creative" projects I've been wanting to try, and this was one of them. I used the method from this blog post but instead of putting it in the oven all day (I shudder to think of using so much propane!) I instead poured the cream into a shallow dish, placed the dish in my crockpot on low, and added water around the dish. It worked perfectly and I was sold on clotted cream at first taste. :) I whipped up a batch of the cream scones mentioned in the post, and they were also to die for - totally different than an American scone which I've never liked. I ate them with clotted cream and the apple butter and can't wait to eat the rest for breakfasts this week!

3. I'm sort of frightening myself with how absent-minded I am these days. I jokingly say it's because my brain has limited RAM and has to dump all the unimportant stuff in order to keep holding on to the important stuff, but really... it's getting ridiculous. I think part of it is self-fulfilling, in that when I forget or misplace something, I panic, wondering what the next thing I forget is going to be, and then in my panic I forget something else. Not cool. Today Maggie, Ruth, and I went to Red Robin for dinner, and when the waitress returned the check for me to sign, I completely forgot to grab my debit card out of the holder. I didn't realize it until I was in the checkout line at Wal-Mart. And I refilled my propane tank today and realized that I haven't given it a thought in weeks; it's only because it's warm out and I haven't been cooking on my stovetop that I didn't run out and have no replacement. This cannot continue into colder weather. I need more brainpower.

4. In two weeks I get to take my first ever business trip! I'm so excited. :) I'm heading up to New Jersey for more training for my new position as Facilities Manager at swim, which entails a (albeit short) road trip, a hotel stay (yay for hot tubs!) and tons of awesome training, which honestly, I cannot wait to get into. I got my official notice today of my acceptance into the American Swimming Coaches Association! :) I'm trying to convince my dad to go with me to NJ as I hate to travel alone and all my usual companions are booked that weekend.

5. The ninth season of Bones premiered last week, and I spent the rainy days since then curled up on my couch, watching. Since I don't have TV or high speed Internet, I only watch a few shows and generally buy them when they come out on DVD in the fall. I've tried following shows week by week using Panera Bread's wifi, the DVR at work, etc, but inevitably in the middle of the year something happens and I miss an episode or whatnot and quit. In the past, the three shows I've faithfully followed have been NCIS, Bones, and Castle, but this year Castle and Big Bang Theory came out at the same time... and I realized I don't really care about Castle anymore. :( So BBT came home with me instead.

6. The lone exception to my "wait til it comes out on DVD" rule? Gracepoint. I was riveted by the original UK show, Broadchurch, and, uh, hello, David Tennant?!? I have already begged pleaded with asked my mom if I can "borrow" her TV for an hour on Thursday nights so I can stay up to date. (But please, don't let it be Emmet Carver!)

Monday, September 29, 2014

# 17: Go To The Farm


Addie-cadabra, checking out the bunnies. She was absolutely delighted at all the animals!

Miles-beguiles, typical boy, spent the morning running from one obstacle to the next.

My Lucy-loo, fascinated by the loose corn in the corn shed. :)
The girls enjoyed checking out the swing with Liz. They love to swing with me at home!

I have no idea what prompted this funny face, but I had my camera out at the right moment. ;)

She informed me she was a "sky dancer" (apparently this is from My Little Pony?) and raced around the top of the straw bin, leaping across the cracks in the bales.
She's told me several times lately that horses are her new favorite thing.
After we'd run off everyone's energy exploring and had a snack, I tried to grab a few quick, more formal pictures before the babies got too tired... with mixed results, lol. I prefer candid shots with babies, but these are pretty cute, even if nobody is smiling. ;)


Lucy

Miles

Addie
 Then it was Abby's turn!

 













This kid makes my heart smile. See? <3 :="" br="">
My little pumpkin. :)

It makes picture taking so much easier now that she understand how to smile!
 I even made Ruth and Liz get fall shots!

Ruthie was totally dressed for the occasion - I love her boots!

Liz always looks cute. :) Also, more boot envy.
 I even got one myself. :)

I'm covered in kid-chasing grime, and my scarf has fallen limp and looks like it's going to strangle me, but there ya go! :)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Five For Friday

- It's fair weekend, and I spent yesterday evening and this morning enjoying one of my favorite events. :) Last night it was all about the cotton candy (which was totally amazing after thirty days with no sugar), miniature horse pulls (hysterical!), and bunny rabbits. This morning we met up with Abby and Natalie and saw the rest of the livestock and rode rides. I still haven't made it to the photography exhibit or the kids section, so I'll be returning at least one more time this weekend. :) (Some other posts about the fair, from 2009 and 2010.)

- My Whole30 ended on Wednesday, and although I had the best of intentions concerning reintroduction and not going nuts and all that, I basically threw it all to the wind and indulged in some of the things I've been missing the most. Surprisingly (or not surprisingly? I'm not really sure anymore) I've ended up staying mostly Whole30 compliant since then. I have enjoyed very small amounts of cheese, reintroduced legumes and soy, and had some condiments, etc with added sugar (though I've become a habitual label reader and have swapped out several of my favorite foods for versions with little or no added sugar). I'm excited about my new tastes and healthy eating habits! :) Hoping to do a full Whole30 wrap-up post soon, but for now, that's my two cents.

- Speaking of Whole30... One of the things I was really craving was a good creamy salad dressing, and I bought some Caesar dressing on my first "free" shopping trip, but they all had added sugar and dairy and preservatives and after having some on my salad I decided it was delicious but too guilty to be enjoyed. So today I made my very own homemade Caesar using this recipe from SimplyScratch (love that site), except I added extra garlic and black pepper and left out the parm (because, again, trying to limit dairy) and it was fantastic. No additives, no sugar, no dairy. I am happy.

- I can't believe it's more than halfway through September. In fact, there's only one week of swim left in this session before the break. And it's almost time to put together a new sensory bin for the triplets and start a new monthly theme. We've been doing tons of crafts lately and the kitchen has started to look like a children's art museum LOL!

- I had today off, and since it's been FOREVER since I've had a Friday off, I kept thinking it was Saturday, and tomorrow I'd need to dive back in to the business of church and rehearsal and getting ready for the week ahead, etc, etc, etc. But it isn't. It's Friday, and I have tomorrow to do all the necessary stuff. So today, I took a nap, watched TBBT, cooked bean soup, and generally relaxed. So needed, and so amazing.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Wrapping Up

- It was a really, really crazy and stressful week. Last Wednesday was the first "official" day of my new promotion to manager of the swim program, and this past week has been crazy as I frantically shored up various issues. I will totally admit it, there was a moment where I stared blankly at my roster and thought, "There might not actually be a solution to these problems..." and it was a really, really discouraging thought. I care so much about the program and I want everyone to be happy and succeed! But by the middle of the week there was a glimmer of hope, and as of right now, I have 75% of the issues sorted and we have a plan in place for the other 25%. It will get better.

- I also had four days with the triplets this week, and while I love them and am thrilled to be working, it made for a long week. One day I got up to be at Abby's by 7, took her to school, went to the triplets, worked until 4, ran to swim class, ran class, then ran to drama rehearsal (praying the whole way I wouldn't be late - ended up being only 5 minutes past). By the time I got home, I was completely ready to just crawl into bed and collapse.

- But - tomorrow I have a whole day off. This is so exciting I could cry. I'm going to bake chicken with lemon, give the house a good cleaning (Lord knows it needs it badly!) and decorate the front steps. :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

#7: Take Back To School Photos

My great big grown-up first grader. *sniffles* How did she grow up so fast?!
She told us she was "scared" of first grade the week before school started, then she went to open house, met her teacher, and declared "I'm not scared anymore."
She worked so hard this summer, "keeping my mind sharp."
She told me for six months that she wanted a leopard backpack - never asked for one, just made sure I knew lol - so Maggie and I got her one for her birthday. :)
Also, who wouldn't want that adorable unicorn lunchbox? ;)
Who's number one? :)
"Sweet face!"
"Now funny face!"
Off she goes!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Fall Bucket List 2014

Oh, Fall. It's here now (I don't care if the thermometer reads 90+ degrees - September is the start of fall!) and I'm glad. It was a good, hard, long, amazing, stressful summer and now it's over. I'm more than ready to settle into a routine and enjoy the (hopefully!) quieter pace of Autumn.

There's been lots going on lately (hopefully lots of posts coming in the near future!), some good, some not so much, but for now, here's my latest bucket list:

1. Winterize trailer (put up insulation, install heat tape, unpack space heaters, etc)
2. Take coffee to Professor Maloney
3. Get a fall drink at Starbucks
4. Start Christmas shopping
5. Take a road trip
6. Go to the fair
7. Take back to school photos
8. Crochet something
9. Clean out closet and donate unused clothes
10. Buy pumpkins
11. Visit the corn maze
12. Make hot apple cider
13. Sit around a fire
14. Buy a new sweater
15.Unpack winter bedding
16. Make apple butter
17. Go to the farm
18. Burn a new CD
19. Wear boots
20. Binge-watch Bones, Castle, and NCIS
21. Eat honeycrisp apples
22. Make chili
23. Go to Artsfest
24. Buy an autumn candle
25. Buy a succulent for indoors
26. Decorate for fall
27. Make birdfeeders with triplets
28. Host a party
29. Buy a new pair of socks
30. Go to First Friday
31. Go dancing
32. Stop for donuts before school with Abby :)

Monday, August 4, 2014

It's Geek Week, Y'all!

I just got back from taking my BFF to the airport where she boarded a plane back to Alabama and "real life." My own house is blessedly empty except for me and the girls, and I get to sleep in my own bed tonight (yay!). I'm kind of a little sad that this weekend is now officially over, and back to real life I go... but mostly, I just feel peaceful and happy and so, so glad for the incredible memories I made this weekend.

This weekend was Shore Leave. I realized last week that in the four years I have attended Shore Leave, I have never ever done a post about it (how does that even happen?!) so this week I'm mostly going to be posting about our experience at the con. We had some really fun things happen this year, like scoring hotel rooms in the actual con venue (finally!), singing karaoke late at night with Robert Picardo, and bumping into Teryl Rothery in the hall, and I remembered to take really good notes so I'd remember it all. :)

Until then... I hope everyone is having a great August so far. For me, August is one of those "in between" months, not quite summer and not quite fall, that I use to tie up loose ends and get ready to transition into the next season (which just happens to be my favorite!), so I'm hoping for a restful, low-key month. :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Things To Do - Our Favorite Activities (18 Months - 2 Years)

Did anyone else have the "Things To Do" books when they were growing up? If I remember right, they were a series, like "Things To Do... With Science," "Things To Do... With Art," etc. I loved those books. (I'm pretty sure my mom got rid of them, which kills me, because I can't find them on Amazon and I want a copy for myself!)

One of the things I've been kind of stumped on since starting with the triplets is what to do during our time together. I mean, we do all the regular peek-a-boo, gonna-getcha, naming-objects kind of play... plus the routine snacks, naps, diaper changes (which takes up a surprising amount of time when everything is x3, lol!). But with them getting a little older and their coordination and attention span increasing, they're also a little more easily bored and really appreciate a new game or activity.

Unfortunately, it feels like this is also the hardest age to find appropriate and interesting activities for. :( They're still putting things in their mouth when tired or distracted (or just ornery, lol), their coordination is improving but not very steady yet, and we're not good at sharing at all. (Like, at all at all.)

I would totally appreciate more good ideas from others caring for children of similar ages... but in the meantime, here are our favorite ways to play so far:


1. Water table and sand box - I begged Amy and Ryan to get a water table, figuring that it would be a mess-free, easy way to entertain the babies for endless hours. I was right - it does keep them occupied for seeming hours upon end - but I was wrong in that it still requires a change of clothes, as their favorite ways to play involve lots of dumping on heads, splashing, and making puddles to sit in. :) In view of the hours of happy play, however, I consider it well worth the mess. Here's an amazing tutorial on how to make an easy, elegant water/sand table that I think is just brilliant. :) Or, if you don't happen to have $50 and a couple of hours lying around, follow this link and create a makeshift table from storage bins.


2. Bubbles - I tried this for the first time yesterday and the kids loved, loved, loved it! I simply pumped out a good amount of Johnson's Baby Shampoo into the water table and added a little bit of water (just enough to make lots of suds!) using the hose on high pressure. The babies started giggling as soon as the suds appeared and couldn't wait to dig in! When the bubbles (or water) get low, refresh with another pump and a whisk. :) I also did the same thing in a couple of aluminum roasting pans we have for water play, but I added a drop of two of food coloring to the suds and swished it around for bright colorful bubbles. Lucy especially thought this was amazing; her play was short-lived because Miles immediately dumped all the colored bubbles out so he could walk around banging the pans together (lol!). We'll be doing this again soon.

3. Ice cubes - Such a simple thing, but it's absolutely fascinating when you're so little! :) Addie loved grabbing the ice cubes and pushing them through the water, feeling them melt when she held them, putting them all in a bucket and then dumping them out again, etc. So far we've only played with regular ice cubes, but I made some colored ice cubes yesterday and stuck them in the freezer for next time. :)


4. Sand Table (or sandbox) - I'm going to be real here: I dread the sandbox. We have a sandbox, and the amount of sand that gets in hair, legs, diapers, etc, is horrifying. But the kids love it, and if they're in the right mood (not obstinate enough to want to throw it everywhere just because I said not to, and not fussy enough that they'll fall to pieces if a sibling accidently throws a little sand in their face) it's a sure-fire way to keep them happy for awhile. I can't wait to try playing with some Moon sand (we'll probably do this in the water table) - I remember Abigail absolutely loving this when she was just a tiny bit older, and I love the fact that it's 100% edible (just cornstarch, salt, and oil) but also discourages eating (because, hello, it's almost 100% salt).


5. Edible finger paint - (1 part flour to 1.5 parts water, and enough food coloring or Jello powder to create the desired hue) We tried this for the first time just yesterday, and while the kids definitely played with it differently than I expected (they wanted to dump it all out and then sort of smear it around, squish it between their fingers, etc), it did seem pretty fascinating and kept them busy for awhile. Next time I will add some baking powder to the mix and give them paper to smear and paint on; when they're done, just pop the paper into the microwave for a few seconds, the "paint" puffs and dries instantly, and voila! Artwork is preserved. :)

6. Dress-up - We only have a few hats and vests, but the babies love putting them on, taking them off, trading them, etc. One of these days when I have a little spare time (HA!) I would like to make a bunch of felt vests (like these) in different colors and styles so they have more to choose from. If I can find some cheap hats, too, all the better. (The other benefit of this sort of play is that they get great practice putting clothes on and off, and handling snaps, buttons, Velcro, etc.)


7. "Rock Band" - My music teacher grandmother would call this "ear training," but I jokingly referred to it as "Rock band practice" and Amy thought it was pretty funny, so the name stuck. :) This is a great activity for when it's too hot (and I imagine this winter, when it's too cold) to be outside, or when everyone is bathed for the evening but still has energy to work out, in that it involves nothing messy. I generally pull out several bowls of different materials (plastic, metal, wood, etc), and several "drumsticks" (wooden spoons, metal spoons, plastic spatulas, etc) and let them go to town exploring the different sounds. Often this is total free play while I fix a meal, clean up after a meal, or do something else that needs my attention, but just as often I sit on the floor and bang with them. :) They love to hear and try to copy different rhythms! And just a warning: once you hand a kid a drumstick, almost everything - cabinets, walls, plastic trays, baby gate, the floor, etc - becomes a drum. There's nothing they can hurt in the kitchen, but if you don't want to turn your house into a giant drumset, teach "only on the drums" early and consistently. :)

Some other things we haven't tried yet, but hope to soon:

Sensory bottles - All the babies like things they can hold and manipulate (shakers, toys with bubbles inside that move, mirrors, etc) so I imagine they'd love a set of sensory bottles with lots of stuff inside to find and experiment with! I've already started a collection of bottles, and I just need to make a shopping trip for stuff to put inside. :)

Fine motor skill activities - Specifically, I'm thinking of this and this. We only have one "shape sorter" and it is high on the list of favorite toys; in fact, whoever finds it usually drags it over to me to play with so that I will fend off greedy siblings from taking it (although we've also used it a few times to practice sharing LOL).

Circle time - Lucy especially really loves sitting next to each other and singing with hand motions. I think Circle Time is a really great activity in general, since it teaches kids to sit and pay attention, listen for instructions, copy, etc in a low stress way, so sometime in the very near future I'm going to burn a CD of easy songs and finger plays (Eensy Weensy Spider, I'm A Little Teapot, If You're Happy And You Know It, Where Is Thumbkin, etc), and start introducing this as an activity. :)

More water fun - Since the water table is such a sure-fire hit, I'm starting a list, including this cool idea (gotta pick up some pool noodles at the dollar store and hack them into giant "beads"), water balloons (I think they kids would love this, even though it falls into the "closely supervised play" category), making our own sprinkler (or finding a cheap one on clearance somewhere), and maybe even making a "water blob." Until it gets too cold to spend afternoons soaking wet, I'm gonna rock it for all it's worth!


If you're looking for more details on these or other fun activities for kids, you can check out my Pinterest board where I collect fun ideas. :)




OurJoyHisGlory

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Independence Day!

... not to be all "Where did the time go?!" again, but, really - it's July already? It feels like summer just started and now it's almost halfway done. 8(


The summer has already been pretty full though; here's a little mid-season recap:


Maggie and I had an awesome time with Abigail and her parents at the beach. I have seriously never been so pampered in my life, and I just can't thank them enough. :)


Every morning I would sleep in, then wander out to our balcony to eat my breakfast of muffin and orange juice (in a goblet - because I could) while listening to the ocean waves crash.


Our hotel had a Starbucks in the lobby - hallelujah!


I'm not normally much of a sun worshipper, but the temperature was just perfect all week, so one day I chilled out under the umbrella and worked on finishing a book I'd been working on all spring, while Abby played in the sand a few feet away.


Abby loved the water. :)




One night we went to the boardwalk and let Abby do rides, then ate dinner there before playing miniature golf (Maggie beat me, but only by one point!).



The swim-up bar at the hotel made the most amazing virgin mojitos. I got one at lunch one day and Maggie and I snuck in one last one before we had to check out.


I turned twenty-seven and had a little bit of an identity crisis which was, thankfully, short lived. My mentor Susan gave me the most wonderful birthday card that really spoke to my heart just when I needed it.


Abigail started piano lessons!



She's doing so well and practices so nicely. :)


Summer means random "Where are you? Wanna meet up for Sweet Frog?" calls to cousins. ;)


We do lots of arts and crafts together.





She's also taking swim lessons.


She really enjoyed our VBS this year.


The drama program was easily the most challenging one we've pulled off, but we pushed through and the cast did great! I'm looking forward to putting in on for the church in a couple of weeks.

Inspector Noclue and Flo

Inspector Noclue

The Chancellor and Hans


Our three secret agents, Casey, Jess, and Dresden. Ignore Jess's stocking feet; her boots hurt and we were just rehearsing ;)
 My poor damaged, dry hair was driving me nuts...


... so I cut it off! Love, love, love. So much easier to care for, so much cooler, aaand...



... I can wear it curly now. How awesome it that?!



The triplets have grown. (Solution: rolled up paper towels placed just above the doorhandle. They stiffen it just enough that little hands can't open the door.)


We spend lots of time outdoors, which I love!


Finally managed to get a picture of all four of us together...


... after multiple tries.




I had a really bad day, and one of my cast members made it better by showing me this:


A Sonic opened by our house and I am over-the-moon happy! I also discovered how to ask for a "mojito" slushie! Amen!


First pedicure in over a year. My feet thanked me! (This color is called "Eternal Optimist" and makes my heart happy. :) )


The green bean plant I started for the triplets has little tiny green beans growing! So cute! Can't wait to harvest them and feed them to my babies!


So, that's been my summer so far. I hope yours is going great too! :) I'll have dinner with my family, including shrimp and the pound of Conecuh sausage I brought back from Alabama. Then we're planning on watching the fireworks tonight from my uncle's boat (wish we could take ours, but we're not quite there yet) with some friends, so I chocolate-dipped some strawberries for the occasion. :) Looking forward to spending some time with friends and family!