Wednesday, November 9, 2011

best chili ever

or at least I think so.

It might not win any awards at a chili cook-off but it's oh so yummy and can be prepared ahead of time in the crock-pot or whipped up quickly at the end of the day.

1 small bag frozen corn (or 1 large can)
1 can of black beans
1 can of BUSH'S brand mild chili beans (optional)
1 large can of diced tomatoes or two cans regular size
2 cans of HORMEL brand chili with beans (the only brand I buy)

I mention the brands only because those are the brands I prefer. I've tried other brands but always come back to these ones.

Simmer these in a big pot or crock pot and serve whenever you want it! It's so good.

easy potato soup

I love making soups this time of year...  but I'm not a huge fan of all of the prep work that sometimes goes into them. I have a big bag of potatoes sitting in my pantry that I bought when they went on sale at the turn of the season but I haven't touched them.

Tonight I promised the hubs I'd make potato soup but between the homework and the baby and the fighting siblings I ran out of time to prepare enough potatoes for soup so...

a bag of diced potatoes for hash browns went into the pot instead along with
a box of chicken broth (I never buy it canned anymore)
a cup of milk with about a 1/4 cup of flour whisked together

once the broth and potatoes started to bubble I added the milk and then a little more as it thickened needed.

then I added about 8 ounces of white Velveeta cheese. (They just started selling it again where I live!)

Start to finish was less than 20 minutes, I served it with chicken fingers for a really satisfying dinner.

This soup definitely errs on the side of bland. It's wonderfully creamy and comforting but if you want to add some kick you could try adding some sharp white cheddar cheese, white queso dip or jalapeno velveeta. You could also try adding some minced onions  or sausage to the potatoes at the beginning. For a meatless meal smash a can of white kidney beans and add it to the soup.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I must be a glutton for punishment

Emma - folding laundry
Emma - 2004

I love the phrase "glutton for punishment" 90% of the time that I want to use it I can't remember it...

... anyway, the kids are home from school today and I must be a glutton for punishment because I asked the kids to help me fold all the laundry - since there were home. I've been asking them to help me fold laundry for years. Wow, I feel kinda' old writing that. Anyway - I learned something important today. That every chore goes so much better if I participate with them. Yes, every once in a while they are able to complete a chore without me but usually not without a lot of discipline and fighting. 

I was trying to get the kitchen cleaned while they were folding it, but I was seriously loosing it, y'all. The drying my hands every two minutes to come settle the latest fight or complaint, the reminding to not be so easily offended. I was pretty much right on the edge of setting a not-so-great example for my kids on how to be patient. I really hate feeling that way.

So I put on some calm music and sat down with them. I folded, the youngest kids helped put the folded laundry into their appropriate piles. And they didn't fight again. I've noticed that the same works for cleaning up rooms. 
Emma today

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Baby Eli at dusk

Last night the hubs went out to the store to buy a board game to play with the kids this weekend... leaving me with my beautiful baby and the gorgeous fading light...

Friday, October 7, 2011

When mama ain't happy...

really and truly it's hard for everyone else to function when I'm in a super-funk.

I was thinking today about how there are a few things that help make a bad day better...


Sometimes it's Colbie Callait, Jason Mraz or Sara Barallies, sometime it's my worship CDs.  In the car or in the morning when I'm desperate for some improved attitudes and cooperation Raffi does the trick every time. Sometimes I love him - sometimes I want to throw our CD out the car window. But then Josiah says "what instrument is that?" and I melt. Or the girls in the back seat all sing along and stop fighting. 


It's simple - but effective. When the kids are being grumpy - or I am feeling down - simply smiling can change the mood in the whole room. laughter is even better. When I stop and laugh with my kids we all feel better.


I think this is one of the reasons why I love having a baby as much as I do - the snuggle and cuddle all day long. The older my kids get the more I have to be intentional about touching them. Hugging, cuddling, tickling, wrestling, holding hands in the car. They need their mama's touch and I find that I have a more positive attitude towards parenting when I've cuddled with my kiddos. 

these photos are from October 2010

Thursday, October 6, 2011

When the kids won't sleep...

Katie-Abigail June 06
a photo from back in 2006

I've been wanting to write here more... I have so much to say about being a mom but am so insanely busy with my other blogs and projects that it's hard to take time to stoop and just write it out... you know all those thoughts scurrying around my mind, snippets and snapshots and pieces of perspective that I want to share here. But I want it to be brilliant, pround and longer than just one or two sentences. But this is where I am in my life right now and so I'm going to embrace simplicity and micro-blog in this space.

 I'm writing this on my iPad, sitting on the floor next to my son's bed. He is fighting sleep tonight, more than the usual fight. His sister on the bunk above him finally gave up and is being quiet - at 9:30. Needless to say getting ready for school tomorrow may be extra-challenging.

Sometimes in situations like this, when my kids won't sleep, when I have a lot of work to do once they finally go to sleep, when I know that every minute they spend fighting sleep is another bit of grumpiness for the morning - I start to spin out of control. I start to raise my voice, I sense those frantic feelings start to well up inside of me.

I have to self-soothe before I can even start to help them calm down. I notice the calmer I am the calmer they are- especially at bed time. So the quickest way to get them to stop fighting me is to stop fighting this moment and just sit and be still with them.

I sing my latest favorite song, or a classic sleepy-time song. My latest thing is that I've started counting to 100. It calms me down, it calms my little man down and he sleeps.

What do you do when your kids won't go to sleep?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The secret of happiness

If you follow my other blog you may have read some of my thoughts about the book I've been reading called "one thousand gifts" by Ann Voskamp it's a very good read hands down the best I've read this year. In that book she writes about gratitude and I can honestly say that it has changed my life... or at least it's begining to.

So here you go - the secret of happiness is contentment.

I know, I know, that's like saying "the secret to being skinny is loosing weight" both are difficult to attain. Contentment is difficult even to thoroughly wrap your mind around, but don't worry that's not all.

The secret of contentmentnis gratitude.

Ahhh, there. That is better. Gratitude I understand. Gratitude I can wrap my mind around.

Gratitude. Hmmmm well, okay I can be grateful but how do I exercise gratefulness so that it produces happiness?

Constant thankfulness.

It goes like this:
I am thankful that I have this house to live in. 
I remember the people all around the world who don't have a place to live 
I remember that those people are often as nearby as downtown.
I am thankful for this moment of peace, to just sit and read and write and think.
I am thankful for this job, and I remember all of the people in the unemployment line who have been laid off and can't find work.

And it moves on to...
I am thankful for these dishes to wash and for the food that I was able to feed my family today.
I am thankful for this diaper that I have to change and that I am healthy enough to care for my baby.
I am thankful for this moment of helping my child learn good behavior. 
I am thankful that of all of the women in the world who are desperate to have a child I have this one 
and of all the children desperately needing a mother this child has me.
I am thankful for this argument with my husband - that we care enough about each other to talk to each other instead of giving up and giving in to silence...

but it is also...

I am thankful for:
baby smiles
blue skies and sunshine
sleeping in
a message from a friend
weeding plant beds...

That is my secret of happiness.

I have learned what it means to be content. 

I have learned that I can be happy even when life is just...


and not the best day ever.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

Last week was a menu disaster! The kitchen was a mess, the pantry was bare and we ate out and ordered pizza a record number of times. Over the weekend the Hubs and I decided we would take the fam out to a nicer sit-down restaurant and we had a great time getting out together but there is nothing like paying $4 for a plate of mac and cheese to give you incentive to do a good job with the next week's menu and grocery shopping! So this morning after I dropped my girls off at school my little man and I sat down with a Food Network Kitchens cookbook to look for inspiration. I'm not going to actually follow any of the recipes in it - since they usually call for expensive ingredients - but I got lots of inspiration for simplified versions!

This week at my grocery store they were having several cart-buster sales which I finally took advantage of so now my cupboards are full or rice a roni (which will help out meals all month) especially since my favorite weeknight meal to cook right now is rice a roni with chicken. I discovered it quite on accident, actually. I was baking chicken to put in a pasta salad but then the day turned out to be too cold for pasta salad so I threw the chicken together with a box of rice a roni and voila! There was an inexpensive quick and easy meal that my family loved. And there are lots of possibilities and flavor combinations - so one night I seasoned some chicken breasts with chili powder and threw then in the oven to bake while I helped the kiddos with their homework (I think that baking some bone-in chicken is easier than pan-frying boneless skinless chicken - and it generally turns out better) then I mix up a couple boxes of mexican rice a roni and serve it with tortilla chips and shredded cheddar cheese and we've got a fun mexican night dish. But if I rub the chicken with simply salt and pepper and then use a couple boxes of long grain rice a roni and serve it with a tossed salad or steamed vegetables and I've got a completely different meal. Love it. And I really love the rice a roni brand (I used to buy the store brand but I haven't been able to find a good one lately) so to have them be on sale was an added bonus. I also found a loaf of bread in the bakery that was labeled as a cupcake so I got a whole loaf of bread for just ten cents - which I'll slice up and toast tonight to go with our salads.

Okay - enough about that here's the part you really want to know - my menu for the week:

Monday - Cobb Salad (chicken, bacon, hard boiled eggs, corn, tomatoes, etc.) & toast
Tuesday - Rice a roni with chicken & steamed vegetables
Wednesday - Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with fresh vegetables - sliced tomatoes, cucumber & carrots
Thursday - Pasta Salad with chicken, tomatoes, spinach and red pepper
Friday - Chili fries & hot dogs
Saturday - French Toast stuffed with nutella & cream cheese
Sunday - Mac a& Cheese and baked beans

Sunday, March 13, 2011

My week in cell phone pics

We had SUCH a good weekend!! We took the kids to the Greenway this weekend - the hubs took this pic of us. SO glad I have this photo of our happy moment :)

Grocery Shopping

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bugles - BEST snacks I've bought all year!

He is such a good napper!

Often I have to get Josiah up from his nap to pick up his sisters and he'll fall asleep in the car

Taking advantage of some quiet time in the van

You don't have to have a great camera to take a really nice picture!!

Time for homework and a cup of decaf coffee

Time to take the puppy to the groomer!

Muffin Bread & Cranberry Jam

Could this guy be any cuter?

Waiting in carpool

Katie-Abigail and our freshly groomed dog :)

Finding spring weeds in the yard!


Gotta love construction - we get to watch this every day! I can't wait until it's done.

On the way to school!

Running on empty!

It's a boy!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

It's a BOY!!!

We had our ultrasound this morning - it was a long wait but then a wonderful appointment! We got to see our little guy squirming, wiggling, kicking and generally hamming it up for the ultrasound technician. He is the cutest little baby I've ever seen on an ultrasound! I am on cloud nine. Everything that I was worried about last week pales in comparison to how excited I am about this new little guy coming into our lives!

His sweet little face! LOVE that sweet little chin.
He gave us a big thumbs up!
These square little feet remind me of Josiah's

Josiah was with Daniel and me for the ultrasound and he really enjoyed seeing his baby brother and seemed to understand much more than I thought he would. 

Here is a video of Josiah after seeing the ultrasound and here is a transcription/translation of the first part, since it's a little difficult to understand what he's saying.
Me: Josiah what did you think about seeing the movie of your brother?
Jojo: Um, when it comes out, when it's (after) Emma's birthday... so it can kiss me. 
Sorry for the shakiness at the end, Josiah was kicking my seat and bumping my arm. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Random thoughts about the ultrasound tomorrow, baby names and a video!

So I've had this post mulling around in my head for awhile... wondering if it's something to be blogged - or not. But I think what I'm experiencing now is a pretty normal part of a pregnancy - especially an unexpected one.

I am totally and fully in the "holy crap" stage of pregnancy. The stage where I am thinking - am I going to be able to do this? am I going to survive the transition to a bigger family? what have I done?!!!

I wanted this pregnancy and this baby very much. I'd get indigestion and feel those gassy rumbles that reminded me of pregnancy and it would make me almost cry to think I may never get to experience that again. Or I'd go through baby clothes to lend to people and I'd look at that sweet little dress that my mother gave me when my oldest was a baby and I would sigh to think it may have to sit in my closet for nearly twenty years waiting to be worn again. I  miss nursing, I miss the snuggle of a baby, I miss being needed that intensely.

But I also am enjoying my freedom. It's nice to let the kids play in our fenced-in patch of grass by themselves while I'm in the kitchen just listening to them. It's nice to just sit at McDonalds and watch the kids play. It's nice to get work done with both of my hands for a change. I know I'll be giving up a lot of that for awhile - and I wonder... how will that affect the things that are important to me right now? How will that affect the things I've worked really hard on during this last year? Like my photograph blog and classes. I know I'll continue to blog and I'll continue to teach I just wonder how that will look, and how I will manage.

I've been putting off this ultrasound for awhile now. I don't know exactly why I've been avoiding it. It's like  I really don't want to move onto the next stage in my pregnancy. The stage where I clear out room next to my bed for a bassinet and clear out a couple drawers for the new baby and gather all of those new-baby things. I'd like to hang onto this pregnancy - stretch it out and make it last. As tiring and uncomfortable as it is at times -  I want to savor it.


So on that note I thought I'd mention a few more names that I think are totally cute - since the hubs and I will begin the baby name debate in earnest after tomorrow.

Layla Fayth (someone mentioned to me the name Faith with the y instead of the i and I think it's adorable for a middle name. I won't use it, but I still think it's adorable.
Ava (though it's become over-used, in my opinion)
Alayna (a favorite name since I was pregnant with Beth)
Abigail (always a favorite name! I've already used it, I just had to mention it again, since it is also rising in popularity)
Adeline (or some other variation of it)
Eve (SUCH a pretty name!!)
Mia (almost named Katie-Abigail this!!)
Charlotte (old fashioned, I know - but SO cute!!_
and of course Jane (or Jayne)

Eli (still a favorite)
Jacob (though I don't think any baby named this within the next five years will be able to be separated  from the Twilight associations!)

I asked my kids about the new baby here is what they had to say:

(they were super-excited at the moment. I promise they are not like this all of the time!!!)

Friday, March 4, 2011

21 Weeks

I finally made it in to see my midwife - I've been procrastinating... now I remember why -  so glad that's over with now! (My weight was 140 - not a pretty number to see)  Everything is on track and looking good at 21 weeks now :) I heard a nice strong healthy baby heartbeat!! I had the hubs on speaker when my midwife found the heartbeat - that was a special moment and nice to hear. I feel the new baby moving around a lot now - but hearing the heartbeat is always special too, especially for Daniel.  I'm really wishing that I took a video of it to post here I know my mom and sisters would love to hear that. I'll try to remember to do that at my next appointment. (By the way - my midwife thought my Samsung Vibrant Galaxy S phone was very cool. I happen to agree. love it!)

We are going next week for the ultrasound - and hopefully will find out if we are having a boy or girl. Wow - this pregnancy is going by too fast.  It feel surreal to think that by this time next week I might now if we are having a little boy or a little girl - though with the track record of my other pregnancies there is really just a 50% chance that we'll actually be able to find out. Kiddos #1 & #3 were very stubborn about not letting us find out - so we'll see!

Food love this week: ice cream. Yesterday I managed to eat it three times. A little after lunch, a little after dinner and a little after the kids went to bed. I think that the baby likes it every bit as much as  I do - since (s)he does a little happy dance inside me whenever I eat it. Also Chick-fil-a breakfast biscuits. I had one twice this week but good grief, I could have eaten one every morning this week!! I just try to remind myself how much fat are in each one and try to think of something else for breakfast.

This weekend I felt a lot less movement than usual and was almost getting worried about the baby - but this week we are back to normal and I'm feeling a lot of strong movement again. But just to be on the safe side I am trying to really watch what I eat (and never skip a meal) and get a little nap in the afternoon when I feel that I need it (which has been just about every day this week!) it's amazing what laying down for just twenty minutes or so can do!

I mentioned a few months ago that my oldest, Beth, was having trouble adjusting to the idea of a new baby in our family but as my belly is getting bigger I think and we've started to gather a few baby things here and there she is starting to come around. One afternoon I was helping her with her homework and we were going over her social studies quiz worksheet - I felt the baby kicking pretty much the entire time so I told her that I thought the baby liked the sound of her voice since (s)he was kicking so much. She really liked that and it helped her improve her attitude. Now she thinks she is the baby's favorite sister - and I'm going to let it stand.

Emma is rooting for a baby sister all the way! Silly little girl. I can't imagine why she would want another sister - but she does. Katie-Abigail is still totally oblivious to the whole new-baby thing. She told her teachers at school but she almost never talks about it - I think it is too far in the future for her to really comprehend right now. Josiah talks about the new baby almost every day. He is adorable and I'm sure will make a great big brother. He says "My new baby is in mommy's tummy. Tommy (his best friend) doesn't have a new baby. He already has a little brother." He always talks about the new baby as his new baby and I think that it is the cutest thing ever. I'll try to get a video of him to post on the blog soon :)