For some reason, I have been thinking about one of my favorite childhood television show lately. I went through a phase where I was obsessed with an obscure program that aired on PBS during the late 1980's. Anyone else out there remember Square One? It was a show about math, of all things, which was strange for me since I wanted nothing to do with math most of the time. The show was made up of various skits and songs all pertaining to different aspects of math-- geometry, algebra, patterns, etc. One of the show's staple skits was MathMan (similar to Pac Man, but he ate numbers). Another skit I loved was Mathnet. Each episode involved detectives solving crimes using math. But probably my favorite thing on the show were the music videos. This is where you get to watch the crazy video I have posted for you. It's a song about angles. Take it all in. In all its strange, 1980's glory.
Now go google Square One and see what I'm talking about!
During the holidays last week, I came down with a serious case of organizational fever. Ever hear of it? It strikes without warning and the only cure is to jump in, purge some belongings and set about organizing the rest. The girls' room was the main source of my concern. The room itself only contained two twin beds and a dresser. That's it. All the girls' toys had to be stored in their closet because I simply didn't have any buckets or shelves or bins to organize elsewhere. And the closet was getting way too full. I was mentioning this dilemma to my dad and he suggested taking an extra bookshelf from his house and using it for my organizing pleasure. Not only did I find the bookshelf to be the perfect size to fit the space, but I also found a stash of baskets at my parents' house (my mom had quite a basket collection). And then I set about the task of going through each and every toy, game, book, puzzle, doll, etc. I got rid of quite a bit and then grouped the rest into different categories. The baskets came in extremely handy for this! When I was done, I looked at the shelf and wished I had one or two special items to display-- something unique and special. Not sure exactly what I wanted, I put that thought on the back burner, and moved on to Christmas decorating.
Once again, I headed to my parents' house because I wanted to incorporate some of mom's ornaments on our tree. While up in their attic, I discovered a box my mom had labeled "Emily Nostalgia". Intrigued, I opened it up to find so many precious things (of course I cried). There was a framed needlepoint piece that my mom had done in 1985. It had my name, some hearts, and a special quote and an "I Love You". I remember that it had hung in my room as a little girl. I found my old point shoes from my senior year in ballet, some trophies, some old stories I had written, and a special doll named Lucy. Lucy was my mom's favorite doll when she was little. When my mom was young, her family didn't have a lot of money, but her parents had worked hard to give her this special doll. Next to Lucy was a suitcase full of doll clothes that my Grandma had made. I remember my mom letting me play with Lucy and dress her up. I thought she was pretty special then, but had forgotten what had happened to her. Well, here she was, staring back up at me with her glassy, blue doll eyes. Then it hit me- -this is exactly the sort of special item I want to display on the girls' new bookshelf! Yes!
I took her home and the girls instantly thought she was very cool. I told them the story about Lucy; how she was Grandma's doll when she was little. I reminded them that she is fragile and that if they want to play with her, they need to ask my permission. They loved going through all the clothes, imagining which dress would look best for different occasions. Their enthusiasm for Lucy reminded me of my own. It was a perfect fit.
Here's the new bookshelf. The framed picture on the top is a pregnancy portrait I had taken when I was six months pregnant with Hannah and Leah.
Lucy in her party dress
The suitcase of doll clothes
The detail in these clothes amazes me. The time my Grandma spent in sewing and crocheting these items just astounds me. It truly speaks of her love for her daughter. I love the little navy felt skirt with red rick-rack and the matching red top. So cute!
Some days end with the perfect combination of fresh air and lots of time to play. Last week we picked up and headed to the park just before the sun began to set. Just long enough to run and chase each other and feel the cool night air fill up our lungs. My kids had smiles on their faces while they played. As I watched on (and sometimes joined in) my heart was nearly overflowing with gratitude for this life that I've been given.
The best entertainment during the holidays is simply driving around looking at Christmas lights. My kids love it and it's free! Well, I guess if you take into account the gas you are using while driving around, and factor in the minimal wear and tear on your car then technically it is not "free", but you get the idea. Free as in "no admission charge"! :) We like to find a neighborhood and then pretend to be judges giving out awards for different things like "most lights" or "most colorful" or "favorite Christmas scene," etc. Lucas is really into the lights this year for the first time. He kept yelling out colors as we drove by and would say, "More Christmas Yights!"
There are a few neighborhoods around the city where the entire street lights up and flashes along with music. Other neighborhoods have enormous houses with elaborately decorated displays. Some businesses even get into the action and decorate their campuses. And there are plenty of parks to drive through with all kinds of scenes to look at from traditional nativity scenes to Santa and his sleigh. The best thing to do is to get the kids all dressed and ready for bed, then head out in our pajamas. Usually they fall asleep and we simply drive home and place them in their cozy, warm beds.
Saturday night we had met up with my dad for dinner, so afterwards we headed over to Chesapeake Energy's campus to see their famous trees in all their colorful glory.
Yesterday we celebrated the tradition of decorating our Christmas tree. Although we broke tradition a little bit because we put up a fake tree (*gasp*)! Mike always insists on a real tree, and I usually agree. I love the smell; it seems extra Christmas-y. But later this month we will be out of town, and we wouldn't be able to water a real tree. So we borrowed my parents' fake one. My dad wasn't going to put it up with just him at home (and he is coming with us out of town later).
We have a very eclectic assortment of ornaments, which I love. I even got to add several of my mom's ornaments as well. The girls had fun helping hang then up, and when it was all done and our stockings were hanging from the mantel, we sat back and admired our work.
Yesterday was my first major holiday to get through without my mom. I thought I would be teary and sad all day, but instead I felt truly grateful for my family and for what we have been blessed with. I know that in a heartbeat, life could be over and none of our "stuff" really matters. I am so thankful that I had thirty-four wonderful years with my mom. And I am so thankful I have my sweet husband, my three healthy children, and my awesome Dad left to share life with.
We spent the day at my dad's sister's house. My Aunt Shirley is a phenomenal cook. She truly outdid herself cooking an incredible feast for 22 people! We had a houseful! I love spending time with my cousins, their spouses and their children. My girls have a blast there. Only one minor incident occurred when Lucas threw a three pound weight down the stairs which eventually crashed into a plate of glass on a cabinet at the bottom. It shattered an nearly scared me to death because I wasn't sure what had fallen. I was praying it wasn't Lucas himself, and was thankful to see the silly barbell on the floor. But then I realized that he had smashed the glass from an antique, and felt horrible. My aunt was incredibly gracious and told me not to worry about it, but we plan on sending them some money to help cover the cost of replacing it. Oops.
Hannah and me post meal. I managed to get her to sit still long enough to snap a picture. While all the adults lazed around the living room after the meal, all the kids ran and played all day long!
Most of the fun was had outside in the leaves. Who doesn't love a good leaf pile!?
I have spent the day spending time with family, consuming way too many calories, and thinking of all the many reasons I have to give thanks. I hope you all had a blessed day as well. I am thankful for you!
As promised, here is the other pumpkin recipe I promised to share. Chocolate chip pumpkin muffins are one of our favorite breakfast treats. Who am I kidding, they are basically a dessert that we get to eat at breakfast....and for snacks....and just about anytime. I made this batch this morning, and it is nearly gone. They go quick! I usually cut the recipe in half and it makes about eighteen muffins which is plenty for us. But these also freeze well, so if you make the whole batch, you will be glad a few months from now when you pull them out to enjoy.
Here's what you need:
2 cups sugar
1 (16 oz) can pureed pumpkin
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 package of chocolate chips
In a large mixing bowl beat eggs, sugar, pumpkin, and oil until smooth. Add in dry ingredients and mix well. Fold in chocolate chips. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake 16-20 minutes at 400 degrees. Yields 24-30 muffins.
You could always not add the chocolate chips and just enjoy the simple taste of a plain pumpkin muffin. Or perhaps throw in some chopped pecans. Hope you enjoy!
Since it is Thanksgiving week, I thought I'd share a few of our favorite pumpkin recipes. Well, two of our favorite pumpkin recipes. Tonight I made ravioli with pumpkin pasta sauce. It is oh-so-easy, a little rich, and super yummy. It comes together quickly and most of the ingredients I usually have on hand.
For the sauce you will need: an onion, garlic, olive oil, pumpkin puree, chicken (or vegetable) broth, milk (or heavy cream), salt, pepper and Italian seasonings.
1. Dice one small onion and 2-3 cloves of garlic. Add 1 Tbsp. of olive oil to a saucepan and cook the onion and garlic until tender.
2. Add 3/4 cup pumpkin, 3/4 cup broth, 1/2 milk (or cream), salt, pepper and Italian Seasonings (to taste). Allow sauce to simmer over med-low heat for 10 minutes.
3. While the sauce is simmering, cook some pasta of your choice (I've been using cheese ravioli) according to the package directions. Serve sauce over pasta and top with Parmesan cheese.
At this point you can really play with the ingredients. Add a protein if you want (Mike thinks grilled chicken would be good). Prefer linguine? Rigatoni? Go for it. My only suggestion is no matter which pasta you use, you must serve it with some warm, crusty bread to soak up all the yummy, saucy goodness.
Tomorrow I'm going to post another favorite recipe-- chocolate chip pumpkin muffins! Mmmm.....
It was dark in our bedroom this morning when Mike gently leaned over and told me he was leaving for work. This is a new routine for us now, him leaving and kissing me good-bye. It's one we have done before, but it has been awhile. I smiled and mumbled, "Have a good day!" Then I rolled over and snuggled up with the cute two year old boy who had found his way to our room in the wee hours of the morning. He had woken up crying, and when I scooped him up from his crib, he was burning up with fever. I knew a doctor's appointment was on our agenda for the day, but while he was snoozing next to me, I closed my eyes and let my brain wake up a bit before pulling my body up from the soft, warm sheets.
Eventually, I got up and went to the front door to peek out at the dreary November sky. Rain had been predicted and the sky looked pregnant with precipitation. I put some water in the tea kettle and cranked on the burner. A cup of hot tea seemed like the perfect way to start this rainy Monday.
We spent the morning in our pajamas (the girls are out of school all week!). We drew pictures, played "grocery store", read books, and watched a movie. Eventually we made it to the doctor where she diagnosed Lucas with an ear infection and the croup. Mike picked up a pizza for dinner so that I didn't have to try to cook; I've had a clingy two year old boy attached to my hip all day. Before bed we sat by the fire and drank some hot chocolate. I really didn't get too much accomplished today according to my own to-do list, but I think we had an enjoyable rainy Monday nonetheless.
Today Lucas insisted on wearing an OU shirt and Hawaiian print bathing suit. He also carried around my Swiffer duster most of the day wielding it like a sword. He is starting to really come into his own little funny personality.
When I was little, my mom read to me everyday. I loved snuggling up in her lap and listening to her animated voice reading the words on the pages. It felt safe and comfortable and innocent. It's one of my favorite memories; one that is wrapped up in both a visual image and a physical feeling.
Now that I am a mom, I love to read with my little ones. I hope that during the times I snuggle up with my kids, they experience the same wonderful feeling I did as a child so many years ago (well...34 years ago...does this count as "many"?).
Some of my very favorite books were the Little Bear books by Maurice Sendak, illustrated by Else Holmelund Minarik. I loved the simple stories and the lovely illustrations. They made me want to jump right into the books and live with Little Bear and his family deep in the heart of the woods. So I'm thrilled that the Little Bear books are favorites among my crew of little people. My girls love "The Goblin Story" and "Mother Bear's Robin". Lucas is just now developing the attention span to move past board books and into some longer stories. He now asks for "Teddy Bear" books (code for "Little Bear books") each time we sit down.
Today after eating lunch and cleaning up the dishes, he and I sat down in the rocking chair in his room. The afternoon was cloudy, so the room was dark except for the warm glow of the small lamp beside the chair. It cast a yellow light down over the pages. Lucas grabbed his beloved green blanket and we opened the familiar pages of Little Bear's Visit. I started right in, trying to read the words with as much animation as my mother's voice. About halfway through, I noticed that Lucas was very still and his head slightly tilted to the side. I peered down and saw his eyes shut and his chest rising with deep, sleepy breaths. I closed the book and set it down, wrapping my arms tightly around his little body. I shut my eyes and breathed in the scent of the top of my boy's head, cherishing the moment for awhile before gently moving him to his crib to finish the rest of his nap.
In the quiet of his bedroom, I tried to imagine a similar scene-- one in which I was was a small two year old girl and my mom was the one with her eyes closed and her arms wrapped tightly around me. Although I would have been too young to really remember such a thing, I like to think that it happened one day while we were reading Little Bear together on a cloudy afternoon some thirty-something years ago.
This has been my mantra lately. In fact, here is an example from today. With some friends coming over tonight, I decided to make a homemade pound cake and serve it with strawberries and whipped cream. I've made pound cake before, and it has always turned out pretty good. So tonight, I followed the recipe and after an hour and twenty minutes I opened the oven door to see that the cake had totally collapsed in the middle. Not only that, but the sides had baked up so puffy that they overflowed causing the cake bits on the oven floor to burn to a putrid crisp. Great, I thought to myself. What am I going to do now? I stared at the cake and remembered my mantra-- just roll with it. So I put a serving spoon next to it, set out the strawberries and cream, and called it a "summer pudding". Voila! Problem solved and it still tasted great. What about you? Are you usually able to roll with life's punches?
Having Mike's Grandma here has been so nice. Even at 89 years old she is healthy and full of energy. She is kind and gentle and helpful. Her eyes light up when she plays with her great-grandchildren. They adore her too. She is such a blessing to our family, and I am so glad she was able to fly down for a visit. Watching her read to all the great-grandkids tonight made me slow down and try to capture moments like these in my memory forever.
My friend Tanda is an amazing photographer. So naturally I hit her up to take some new family photos! Actually, several other friends asked about pictures too. So Sunday before church we all headed outside to see what we could get. Here are two of our crew that turned out great! Thanks, Tanda for doing such a good job!
Back in my junior high years, a Sunday School teacher of mine encouraged me to read a chapter of Proverbs every day of the month. Since Proverbs has 31 chapters, this usually works out perfectly. She also encouraged me to underline each time Proverbs mentions wisdom. It was this simple suggestion that kick started a daily habit of reading my Bible that has grown into a love for God's word. And all these years later, I still read a chapter of Proverbs every day! One of my favorite chapters is the last. It speaks of a godly woman, someone that I strive to emulate. One verse in particular has always stood out to me. It's verse 25, "She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs at the days to come (NIV)." The New American Standard version says "she smiles at the future." I remember back in college, discussing this very verse with my roommate. We were so wide eyed and excited about our futures-- careers, marriage, kids! So much awaited us then! And as I've experienced these wonderful things, I have certainly smiled and thanked God for each of them. But the future also holds loss and sadness and pain. Even still....I want to be a woman who smiles at my future. A woman who laughs knowing that my future is secure in my Father's hands.
Late last night we made a run to the airport to pick up Mike's sister, Rachel, her daughter, Velda, and Mike's 89 year old Grandma from the airport! They are staying with us for the next five days and we plan to soak up all the time with them that we can. Today we jumped into the fun by heading to a fancy tea room where we ate a delicious lunch. We let the little girls wear their fanciest dresses which they loved. Later we took our whole crew to the Oklahoma Science Museum. The kids played and played, getting all their wiggles out. The day ended with pizza, popcorn and a movie. Tomorrow we get to wake up and begin another fun day together! I love special visits like this.
Mike recently read a quote that he liked and it has resonated with both of us lately. "It's impossible to connect the dots looking forward. It only works when you look back." This is so true for us. Eighteen months ago, in August of 2010, Mike was laid off from his job at Ethnographic Media. The company decided to let go of their entire creative team, and just focus on product marketing and distribution. It was a scary, but exciting time for us. After some long talks and a lot of prayer, we felt confident that the next step for Mike was to be a free lance designer and work from home. Looking back it was the perfect decision for us. Work started coming in quickly, and soon Mike was on retainer for a church in Texas. Money was tight, but we were able to cut back in some areas and make ends meet. Soon, we were loving the new flexibility in our schedule. Mike was able to take the girls to school each morning, and he and I would sit down to lunch every day and chat. It was great!
Then came November 2, 2010. This was the day my mom went into the hospital for open heart surgery-- the catalyst of all of her health problems. We had no idea that day that the next six months would be an incredible roller coaster ride of emotion that culminated in a painful loss on May 3, 2011. During those six months, Mike was home with Lucas during the day which allowed me the time to go to the hospital to be with my mom. What an incredible gift that was, and I will cherish the time I did get to spend with her. And Mike was home that Tuesday afternoon I got the worst phone call of my life. The day my dad called to tell me my mom was gone. I fell to the floor crying, and simply handed the phone to Mike. He talked to my dad, let me cry for awhile, then held me and talked to me. He made phone calls to arrange care for Lucas, and then drove me to my parents' house where I was able to collapse into my dad's arms for awhile. In the blur of those next few days, Mike was my rock. When I didn't want to go to the funeral home, he talked sense into me and gently encouraged me. He took care of little things, so I could be with my family. And in the next few weeks and months, he continued to be my biggest support. During this past summer, we had so much fun together. We took the kids to the zoo, we went on a 10 day vacation driving through seven states, we had date nights, and family time at the park. Working from home provided us the flexibility to pick up and go anywhere at anytime. I see this time as a "circling of the wagons" around our family, and we were all able to heal.
But this fall, again after some long conversations and prayer, we decided that it was time for Mike to return to the work force. He started putting together his resume, but then just when we least expected it, a friend from a local ad agency called with a job offer. It was a perfect fit. So with both excitement and a bit of trepidation (from me mostly), we can say that on Monday Mike will begin his new career as a Senior Designer at Ackerman-McQueen Advertising Agency here in Oklahoma City.
Looking back, I can finally connect the dots. These eighteen months taught us so much about each other, about our faith, about our family values, and showed us that we serve a God who sees a big picture and knows exactly what we need.
Nothing says male bonding like a big bowl of popcorn and Star Wars on the TV. That is exactly how Mike and Lucas spent their lunch hour today. You see, for the past 18 months Mike has been working from home. But starting Monday, Mike is returning to the work force (more on this tomorrow), so he is trying to enjoy every last second at home this week. And today that included a special movie date with Lucas.
This afternoon I managed to fold and put away SIX loads of laundry. The kids clothes took up the majority of my folding time, and I don't mind doing it as long as I am not in a hurry. In fact, I sort of enjoy it when, like today, I didn't have any kids around (Lucas was sleeping) and I have a good show to watch (a First 48 marathon today!). Then the monotony of folding is not so bad. And the feeling of accomplishment when it is all put away is simply priceless. I always feel good until the next day when I realize I have yet another load to do. It truly never ends!
Today the girls were out of school due to flash flooding in our area (yesterday we had floods, tornadoes, and an earthquake--craziest weather day ever). So with our unexpected time off, what did my girls ask to do? They said, "Homeschool us, Mom!" We did have some homework to take care of, so we sat down and got started. Two math worksheets soon evolved into a math experiment involving measurement and hypothesis, and lots of water.
After that we moved into a spelling pre-test, then book reading, and ended with writing a story and an art project. Before we knew it, two hours had passed by and the girls and I had not only accomplished our goals (hopefully some learning occurred as well), but we also had a really good time together!
Well the craziness here continues.... Several tornadoes on the ground, lots of rain and yet another earthquake!! Our whole house shook and the girls ran out of their room crying. Tonight's quake came on at a 4.7. I am not sure what is happening, but all those 2012ers might be on to something. :)
Yesterday night I experienced something I have never experienced in my entire life. An EARTHQUAKE! Actually, two of them occurred yesterday, but I only was awake for one of them. The first was at 2:30 in the morning and registered at a 4.7 on the Richter Scale. No one in my family woke up, but many people I know did wake up from the subtle shaking. Although I didn't wake up, I did have a strange dream. In my dream, I was watching my kids play on a large piece of playground equipment only to see that playground equipment slowly collapse and fall completely over. I was panicked because I couldn't find my kids in the rubble. Did the earthquake effect my dream subconsciously? Who knows?
The second quake occurred at 11:00 yesterday night. Mike and I were at our friends' house when a sound like thunder filled the room, and the floor literally began to shake. All four of us stood up and said, "Earthquake!" Then we started running around like crazy people. Do we go outside? Stay inside? Sit under a doorway? What's the protocol for an earthquake? The shaking lasted for a full minute, and when it ended all the light fixtures in our friends' home were still swaying. We turned on the news and soon learned that it was a 5.6! The largest earthquake in Oklahoma history!
As Okies we are totally used to things like tornadoes, extreme heat, drought, and ice storms. Californians are the ones who are prepared for earthquakes, not us! I'm sure the 5.6 we experienced last night was nothing compared to what they deal with on the west coast on a more regular basis. But for us, it was something totally new. So I think we all deserved a freak out moment. My facebook news feed was jam packed with earthquake comments last night and all day today. It definitely got us all talking around here!
What about you? Have you ever been through an earthquake?
Tonight we went to The Girlie Show and had a blast. We ate, we shopped, we chatted and mingled. I could have spent a small fortune, but I restrained myself. Tomorrow I go back to volunteer for the day, so I am going to head off to bed! Hope you all had a fun Friday night!
Everyday Lucas asks if as can go to a "playground-park". He says these two words together every time as if they are supposed to go together. And a lot of the time I indulge my sweet little snaggletooth little boy.
Tonight after the kids took a bath, they came into the living room to find the first fire of the season blazing away in the fireplace. They were so excited that they grabbed some pillows and sat right down. I am looking forward to many, many more nights in front of the fire together.