Sunday, July 31, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Oklahoma Sunset
7.31.11
We are back after a ten day/seven state whirlwind tour of the western United States!  We had a blast, saw amazing beauty, visited sweet friends, and took a million photos.  Look for a vacation recap starting tomorrow!  Until then, I am going to crawl into my bed and get a good night's sleep.  I am looking forward to sharing our photos and stories!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Vacation and Blogging Break

Tomorrow we are leaving for our much anticipated family vacation.  We are spending a few days in Colorado and then heading on to South Dakota.  I cannot wait to experience this part of the country with my family and good friends.  With the focus being on quality time with the fam, I am going to take a blogging break while we are away.  I might try to upload a few photos here and there, but I'm not going to put any pressure on myself. I'm just going to enjoy the week.  So it will be silent here, but know that all is well and I shall return soon.

Have a great week!

ps-- Feel free to find me on facebook if you want to.  I'll probably post daily photos there.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Last July

Later this week, we are going to embark on a family vacation.  Traveling together in the summer months has been a tradition.  And up until this year, we've planned a big trip with my parents.  Each trip has been fun, memorable, and relaxing.  This year, there will be an obvious void because my mom won't be with us.  My dad is coming, though, and I am so glad for it too.  We have all kinds of adventures planned in Colorado and South Dakota, and I am itching to get on the road, get away, and have some quality family time.

But before we leave, I thought I'd look back at some photos from last July, during our final vacation with all of us.  We kept it simple, staying right in our own backyard at Robbers Cave State Park in eastern Oklahoma.  It was simple and filled with all the idyllic things I could have hoped for-- a cozy cabin, beautiful surroundings, swimming, horseback riding, canoeing, paddle boating, exploring, playing cards, laughing, and just being together.  Let's take a look back shall we?
Our small, but perfectly cozy little cabin.
Me, twenty-five pounds heavier, and Lucas, one year younger!
My happy baby.
Grandma's Boy
Hannah and Leah on a paddle boat with Grandma and PaPa.
Sometimes I want to rewind, to go back and have things the way they were-- the way they were supposed to be.  I know it doesn't work that way, which is why I am so glad I can at least look back at photos and fondly remember our time together.  And I can look forward to making new memories soon.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I See His Glory

In the day to day mundane tasks of making breakfast, folding laundry, and picking up toys, I sometimes lose sight of who You are.

In the weariness of disciplining children, running errands, and bedtime routines, I sometimes don't feel Your presence.

In the sadness of missing my mom, remembering her touch, and crying till I feel utterly empty, I sometimes forget how much You love me.

But then, at the end of the day, I catch a glimpse of the colors in the sky as the sun begins to set.  In the distance I see a rain shower moving across the plains, and the vibrant indigo sky framing it all.  And when I see all of this, I breathe it in.

I remember that You are the CREATOR, my PROVIDER, my PEACE.  I am reminded that you are with me ALWAYS, even to the end of the age.  And I know, deep in my core, that you LOVE me with an everlasting love.

In these times I can see Your GLORY.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Marvin's Birthday

About a month ago, we had the pleasure of meeting a new friend.  His name is Marvin and today he turned 95 years old!  The story goes like this:  Our good friend, Savanah, is a speech pathologist at a nearby retirement community.  She mainly works with patients recovering from a stroke.  This is what happened with Marvin's wife about three years ago.  After suffering a serious stroke, she needed speech therapy and that is where Savanah stepped in.  Sadly, not long after Savanah began working with Marvin's wife, she passed away, leaving Marvin all alone.  Even though Savanah's services were no longer needed, she continued to stop by and visit Marvin, and she soon adopted him as her surrogate great-grandfather.  And for the last three years, she and her mother have been visiting Marvin once a week without fail.  He does not have family nearby, so he so enjoys having company.  Recently, Savanah and her husband David brought Marvin on an outing to our home where we had the pleasure to sit and visit with him.  What incredible wisdom he has!  Although he is very hard of hearing, he always has a smile on his face and something nice to say.  We've been meeting with him once a week ever since, and so it was our great pleasure to take part in his 95th birthday celebration yesterday evening. Savanah arranged for us to surprise Marvin at The Delta Cafe, his favorite restaurant because of their "delicious fried chicken."  He truly was surprised to see us all there to celebrate with him.  He said he felt "overwhelmed" and that "this was the best birthday he's ever had."  I am looking forward to getting to know him even more, and hopefully celebrating his 96th with him next year!
Marvin, the birthday boy, and Savanah
Lucas munching on a roll and looking cute.
Mike and Me
Savanah, her mother, Vickie, Marvin, and David

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Girls' Night Out

It is a rare thing that my friends Kim, LeAnn, and Becky are all in town at the same time.  You see, Kim and LeAnn are both army wives and have both lived in multiple states (currently New York and Kansas).  And Becky (Kim's sister) lives in a smaller town in southern Oklahoma. So when the stars are aligned and they are all here we make certain that we all get together for a girls' night out.  I have known these all of these ladies for so many years and in so many ways-- high school, college roommates, European travels, church youth group, and many other crazy adventures.  I cannot tell you how special they each are.

For this weekend's girls' night out, we planned to meet at a local Greek restaurant called Zorba's.  The food there is excellent and to top it off, they have a belly dancing show on Saturday nights!  You know we all got up and tried it at the end (as you will see in the photos).  Although none of us is considering a belly dancing career, it was fun.  And we got a little bit of exercise to boot!
Kim, Michelle, LeAnn
Me, Becky
The whole crew
One of the belly dancers.  I will say it got a little uncomfortable when all the men in the restaurant started slipping dollar bills into the belly dancer's skirts.  
Attempting some belly dancing arm movements.  I'm sure the professional next to us is thinking, "These girls have absolutely no skills whatsoever, but I'll smile and pretend they do."
Me, Kim, Michelle and two belly dancers.  Yes, Michelle is 8 months pregnant and still attempted to belly dance.  We all admired her!
LeAnn and Becky living it up.

I am so grateful for friendships that have stood the test of time!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lucas Dancing

video
I love it when the girls put on music and just dance away in their room.  Today their brother joined them in their fun.  Here he is getting some moves on to a Kidz Bop version of "Paparazzi" by Lady Gaga.  I particularly love the way he throws his pacifier down and moves his arms around toward the end of the video.  I could eat this kid up, he is too darn cute!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Parenting Is Hard Work, But Worth It!

This has been a difficult parenting week for me.  Especially with Hannah and Leah.  Perhaps the girls have been having a little too much "togetherness" this summer, and the bickering/tattling/arguing has been off the charts lately.  And with the hot temperatures preventing a lot of outside play, my fuse has been a little shorter than usual.  I've snapped at them.  They've cried.  There's been a lot of time out, early bed time, and long talks.  And thankfully a lot of "I'm sorry, Mom" followed by "I forgive you."  On top of everything, I've had a teary week in regards to missing my mom.  It was just one of those weeks.  Parenting is hard work!

I feel like I'm learning how to be more flexible in my parenting style.  Time-out worked for a season, but when it stopped being effective, we switched to earlier bedtimes which seemed to make more of an impact on their behavior.  We talk a lot about treating our family with utmost respect, and we try to spent quality one on one time with each child.  It's a balancing act to stay on top of the discipline as well as maintain our home and any other activities I'm involved in.  Some nights I crash into bed completely exhausted.

Even though parenting is hard work, it is so incredibly rewarding and fulfilling and wonderful.  This morning after breakfast, I was in the kitchen cleaning up the dishes when I heard two little voices sweetly talking down the hall.  I stopped what I was doing and tiptoed to the doorway of Hannah and Leah's room. I couldn't make out all the words, but I heard giggling, so I peeked around the corner and this is what I saw....
Hannah and Lucas were snuggled up on the bed just talking and giggling away.
Just looking at their sweet faces brings me such joy.  I'll gladly take on the challenges of being a parent because THEY are worth it!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

From My Kitchen

Recently, with my dad's permission, I brought my mom's Kitchen Aide stand mixer home to live at my house. I've always wanted one, but always thought they were too expensive.  I wasn't sure if I would actually use it, or if it would become just another kitchen gadget that sits on the counter, dusty and ignored.  But thankfully, the opposite is true- I've been using that mixer at least twice a week if not more.  I found a killer pizza dough recipe which we've incorporated into our homemade pizza night, and I've made a few cakes as well.  But hands down the thing I've made the most of in my "new" mixer so far are chocolate chip cookies.  I have an awesome recipe which I've been using for a year now, but for some reason they just never turned out as good as they have been since I've started using my mixer.  Maybe it's because all the ingredients are more thoroughly mixed?  I'm not sure, but they are delicious. There is nothing more simple, yet scrumptious and comforting as a good chocolate chip cookie and a cold glass of milk.  Perfection.  So go ahead, break out your mixer, and give these a try.

Nikki's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Mix the following ingredients thoroughly:
1 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

Next add:
2 1/4 cups flour (use whole wheat flour for a different texture/flavor; it's really good! but regular all-purpose flour is delish too.)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Bake at 375 for 11-15 minutes

I always bake them for eleven minutes because I prefer a soft, chewy cookie. But my husband likes crispy cookies, so sometimes I humor him and bake them for the full fifteen.  Either way, these have been my favorite recipe yet.  So put on your apron and get to baking!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Summer in Our Backyard

In the middle of a heat wave, in the middle of summer,with temperatures near 110 degrees, we spend our time either inside or near the water. Here's how we cool off in our own backyard.
Water slide!
Sweet Lucas cooling off.
"Here I am, Mama!"
Wheeeeeee!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

VBS

Hannah and Leah at VBS

This week, my girls have been attending Vacation Bible School at my mom's church each evening. Up until this year, my mom has worked at VBS in some capacity-- teaching, crafting, greeting, etc. She was so excited that this summer the girls would finally be old enough to attend (completing kindergarten is required for the youngest attendees). The girls have really been enjoying themselves this week. I love that when I drop them off I see so many familiar faces since this is also the church where I grew up, was involved, and got married. I've had many hugs and words of encouragement about my mom as I drop Hannah and Leah off and pick them up each evening. In fact, yesterday there was a packet with my name on it waiting for me at the sign-in table. I opened it and discovered that my mom's 3rd and 4th grade Sunday School class had made a lovely tribute to her. Each student selected a favorite verse, wrote a note, drew a picture and attached a photo. On the last page was written, "Thank you for teaching us!" And to top it off, my mom's good friend pulled me aside and told me that the church is starting a reading program in my mom's honor using all the money that was donated in her name to the church's children's ministry. She would be thrilled beyond words. All this love has brought more than a few tears to my eyes.

So Mom, know that there are many lives that have been touched and will be touched by your loving influence. Many children have started their spiritual journey because of your obedience to teach them each week for nearly thirty years! I specifically know two little six year old girls whose lives were heavily influenced by your faith and the way you gently loved them. I'm so glad you were still with us to celebrate the day in March when Hannah and Leah asked Jesus to come live in their hearts and be their King. I know that decision was in part, by spending time with you. Thank you so much, Mom. You will see your precious girls again one day!

Monday, July 11, 2011

RVing

Over this past weekend, I spent a total of six hours driving on the interstate. Amid the many semi-trucks also cruising their way cross-country, I spotted a ton of RV's. Maybe I've just never noticed so many of them before, or maybe they were all headed to the same secret RV convention, but whatever the reason, we passed quite a few!

I happened to also notice that many RV's are christened with interesting/funny names. Here are a few that I noticed this weekend: "Maverick", "Golden Falcon", "Wyoming Trail", and my personal favorite "Righteous Expedition." It got me thinking about what I would name my own RV if I should ever own one (unlikely). I'm just throwing out a few ideas, so bear with me: "Okie Traveler", "Road Warrior Princess", or perhaps "Rolling Thunder." What do you think? Any further suggestions?

And while you're at it, what would you name your RV?


Sunday, July 10, 2011

On the Water

I've decided I'm a lake person. I really could live on the water, I think. Not so much in a house boat situation, but in a cozy lake house by the waterfront with a quick walk to the boat dock so I could be on the water in no time. There is something sort of therapeutic about the rhythmic way a boat glides over the water. And to be surrounded by the beautiful rolling green hills and rocky cliffs on every side is just amazing. It was 110 degrees at Lake Tenkiller this weekend, but the water was cool and very refreshing.

We took my dad and our friend Jacquelyn (who's really more like family) to my family's lake house to get away and enjoy time together. My Uncle John and Aunt Mary are amazing hosts who let us rest, relax and enjoy the water. Oh and they cooked amazing food for us too. Nothing like being pampered a bit to rejuvenate!
Me and sweet Lucas. Although his face looks a bit serious in this photo, he really loved his first trip out on the water!
Leah and Abraham watching the geese. My girls adore this dog!
We did a lot of tubing while on the water. Even Abraham got in on the action! I will say, though, that I am SO sore already. Apparently tubing requires using muscles I never use otherwise!
Look at 'em go!
Leah and Hannah are already asking when they can go back!

Thank you John and Mary for a great weekend! :)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Plaza Night

It's the second Friday of the month-- do you know what that means? It's time for Live! On the Plaza! The Plaza is full of funky antique stores, cafes, art galleries, tattoo parlors, musicians, street performers, and boutiques selling local, Made-In-Oklahoma products. It was hot out tonight, but we decided to take on the heat for a lovely outdoor evening.
Hannah, Leah and Lucas upon our arrival in The Plaza.
My "major hunk" felt right at home, so he plopped right down on the sidewalk.
We stopped to watch this guy and his fire sticks for awhile. Before he began, the guy told the small crowd gathered on the sidewalk, "I'm going to do some flaming swords of fury. I've actually never done this move before though." Great. Thankfully, he didn't set anyone or anything on fire!
Hannah watching the flaming swords of fury.

All in all, we had a great night out. What did you do today?

PS-- Please excuse my absence tomorrow. We're going to the lake for a little family fun! I'll be back on Sunday!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mom's Graduation Smile

I love, love, love this photo of my mom. There is something so very "Mary Tyler Moore" about it. She looks happy, carefree, and a bit mischievous, which is a side of my mom you very rarely got to see. I am pretty sure this was taken at my mom's high school graduation. She graduated from Kubasaki High School in Okinawa. Afterwards, she was to head back to the states to attend college in Massachusetts. What a brave leap of courage she took, leaving her family and friends to start a totally new chapter in her life. What she didn't know at the time this picture was taken was that she would spend only one year in Massachusetts, then transfer to the University of Oklahoma where she would then meet my dad. And as they say......the rest is history. What I love about this photo is that she didn't know her future. She couldn't see my dad, me, a career, grandchildren, and a life full of love. She couldn't see cancer and heart disease and physical suffering. She just smiled at the future. Because she knew it was in God's hands.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Of Lions and Loins

Inspired by our trip to the zoo this past Saturday, the girls decided to create a zoo in our house this morning. They used their stuffed animals and created different environments for each animal group. They even made their own signs directing the public where to go. But when I saw this sign, I just started cracking up.
I promise our loins are not on display! Ha!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Independence Day Review

We had a great time celebrating Independence Day yesterday evening. There was a lot of....
Running
Kissing
Mischievous Smiling
Enjoying Friendships
Picture Posing
Hugging
Wagon Riding
Tree Swinging
Mama Holding
Waiting for dark so we could go Fireworking!

I'm pretty sure I just made up that last word, but it's true. The "fireworking" last night was amazing. I love watching my kids watch the fireworks. The awe and wonder in their eyes is precious. By the time we were home and all in bed last night, it was late, but we went to bed happy and grateful.

What did you do yesterday?