Thursday, December 13, 2012

RACK:: Day 9

For our ninth act of kindness, we armed ourselves with candy canes and went to the grocery store ready to hand them out. The girls had a lot of fun as they simply handed them out, smiled and said, "Merry Christmas!" to passing strangers. It brought smiles to their faces as well! Our cashier seemed a grumpy old man at first, but smiled as the girls handed him his treat.

Today brought another visit to the doctor's office. This time, for Lucas. I've managed to bring all three of my kids to the doctor this week (Hannah had the eye problem earlier in the week, both Hannah and Leah had flu shots and today I brought Lucas) which I think is some sort of record for us. At least I should get some sort of award, right? Anyway, he woke up with a fever and nasty sounding cough. And guess what? Pneumonia is in da house! It's a mild case, thankfully, so he is on antibiotics yet again and we're hoping to see a lot of improvement very soon.

This weekend I plan on taking the girls to do a "kindness blitz" where we will do a variety of activities to make up for our crazy week this week. Get ready!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

RACK:: Day 8

When we originally made our list of ideas for our random acts of Christmas kindness, we knew that there would need to be some flexibility.  We knew we would experience busy days or days with sick kids and that our kindness act just may not be accomplished.  I knew that this past weekend would be one of those crazy weekends, so we got behind a bit. I am a big believer in grace and so we just shrugged it off and are back on track now.  I can tell you that my friend, Maria, is also participating with me on my Christmas Kindness list, adjusting the list as she sees fit. And we have been adjusting too! You don't have to spend money to show kindness to others! Some of our favorite things so far have been leaving encouraging notes in random places. It really is fun and my kids have looked forward to each and every activity.  Our eighth act of kindness was yesterday. It was one of those free and simple things to do. It was trash day, so the kids and I rolled our neighbor's trash can up from the curb before they got home from work. It took about 30 seconds, but it was a small way to show someone you care. And it showed my kids that being kind doesn't have to cost money or take up tons of time. I hope they learned that you can show kindness anywhere, at any time. My goal is that they live lives looking for those opportunities.

Yesterday also turned out to be a day of unexpected waiting. Hannah woke up complaining about her eye hurting. After a quick examination, it appeared to be nothing, so I sent her to school. Around noon, the school called saying she was in the office again complaining about her eye. To be sure it wasn't pink eye, I took her to our pediatrician. She examined her eye and determined Hannah needed to be seen by a pediatric opthamologist. Something was bothering her eye, but our doctor couldn't see it without the high powered equipment a specialist would use. So off we went again. Another waiting room, more kid wrangling, and eventually we saw the eye doctor. He examined her eye, dropped in more eye drops, looked and looked and eventually flipped her eyelid inside out to determine that she #1 had a scratch on her cornea and #2 had some very small debris up under her eyelid.  Ouch!  He fished out the debris and irrigated her eye and sent us home with ointment to apply for the next five days. Hannah took it all like a champ. Her poor eye was puffy and red and sore, but today when she woke up, she said it felt a bit better. We have no idea how she did that, but we're glad that experience is behind us now!

I hope you all are having a great day! Would love to hear about your own acts of kindness if you have been inspired!

Friday, December 7, 2012

RACK:: Days 6 and 7

Yesterday completely got away from me.  The day was simply "cray cray" (I heard a guy on "Say Yes to the Dress: Bridesmaids Addition" use this phrase the other day and immediately knew I had to incorporate it into my blog somehow).  From the moment my feet hit the floor in the morning til my head hit the pillow at night, I was physically moving. It started with the regular routine of getting kids fed, dressed and out the door on time-- a feat that is not for the faint of heart. Even Lucas had school, so it was getting ready times three. Once they were all at school, I ran to two different stores to buy some groceries for the weekend as well as party favors for the girls' upcoming birthday party (tomorrow!). Then I headed home and quickly gave my house a once over clean up job. I made my bed, picked up stray toys, unloaded the dishwasher, wiped down counter tops and even managed to vacuum the living room floor. Next up, I was hosting lunch for three of my friends, so sandwiches were made and soon my doorbell was ringing. After lunch, it was time to do another quick clean up and head to pick up not just Lucas, but the baby boy I babysit for as well. The boys are at two different schools, thankfully close to each other, and soon I was home with them both. Before I knew it the girls arrived home and it was time for after school snacks, a backpack check (no homework! phew!), and then I moved into the next phase called "getting ready to have company."

Mike's sister, Rachel. her husband, Juan and their daughter Velda were driving up from Dallas to spend the night. I quickly threw dinner in the slow cooker, then headed off to put clean sheets on the girls' beds.  Eventually I dropped my sweet babysitting boy off with his mom and came back home literally as my sister-in-law and her crew were walking up to the door. Rachel and Juan are running in the Dallas Marathon this coming Sunday, so they flew to Dallas from their home in Long Island, rented a car and drove the 3.5 hours up to OKC to drop their daughter off with us for the weekend. We'll be driving down to Dallas on Sunday to deliver her safe and sound to her parents again. It was great to see them, and my kids love their cousin so much and were thrilled to have a playmate. The crazy running and screaming of childhood play instantly began. Once Mike arrived home, we had to get ready to head to Lucas' school for his Christmas program. His class was singing two songs. We put our little man in a button up shirt, khaki pants and a tie. He looked so dapper, and he did a wonderful job performing. My dad and Sally even made it to the show! Afterwards, we came home and got the kids ready for bed and then crashed on the couch. We tried to have a conversation with Rachel and Juan, but poor Mike kept falling asleep and I'm afraid I sounded mentally unstable because I was so tired. We gave up and all went to bed at 11:00. It was a full and busy day fo sho!  In all that craziness, we just didn't get to our act of kindness for the day. It was ok though, because we just did two things today!

First we wrote a note and took it to the park down the street from us. We taped it in a secret location and left it for someone to find. It is addressed like this: "To: You. Yes, you at the park today." Inside we wrote out Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not harm you, to give you hope and a future." Hopefully those words will minister to the person who finds it. Later in the afternoon, we baked some chocolate-chip pumpkin muffins as well some Rice Krispie treats to take to our local firestation. The firemen were just sitting down to eat dinner when we knocked on their door.  This was slightly out of my comfort zone, so I was already sweating profusely under my wool coat. But I had told the kids we would do this and so we did. I told the men thank you for their service to our community and that they were the unit who responded when my mother passed away eighteen months ago. They were very appreciative and two of the men offered to take my kids (and my awesome niece) back to see the firetruck.  The kids got to even climb into the truck and turn the lights on. Before we left, we took a picture with the firemen (I will hopefully post it someday). When we got back in the car, the kids all declared it was "the coolest day ever!"

Tomorrow I have a quick, but fun act of kindness planned. It involves a candy cane and an ATM machine. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

RACK:: Day 5

Tonight's act of kindess took us to the public library. We had a two-fold mission:  pay for a random person's library fine and leave an encouraging note hidden in a book for someone to find. The girls each took some change out of their money jars and I counted what coins I had in my purse and together we had $3.50. When we got to the library, we first had to pay our own fine. A-hem. But then we offered to put our money toward someone else's fine. The young lady at the desk seemed honestly touched that the girls wanted to do such a thing. Afterwards, we found a book and hid a message inbetween it's pages for someone to find one day. Our note read, "You are loved! You are special!" My prayer is that whomever stumbles upon it will need to hear just those words.

Of course we couldn't leave without checking out a stack of our own books to take home for the next few weeks. Lucas found his favorite book, "Toot! Toot! Beep! Beep!" by Emma Garcia. He always wants to check that one out. That and any book by Eric Carle. The girls have moved into reading chapter books, so they perused the Junie B. Jones and Katy Kazoo books. They are growing up so fast.

And I think they are starting to realize just how fun it is to give.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

RACK:: Day 4

Day four of our random acts of Christmas kindness found us holding a bouquet of flowers and two chocolate bars to take to school this morning. When the girls and I made our "kindness list", I encouraged them to think about people who work at jobs that are service oriented or people who work "in the background." We listed out teachers, school secretaries, nurses, firefighters, custodians, etc. We tried to think of ways to honor and thank these types of people who normally don't receive a lot of recognition. Our two lovely school secretaries not only do the typical secretary work like answering phones and checking students in and out throughout the day, but they also play many other roles-- especially nurse (since we don't have a school nurse). They are the ones to put band-aides on scrapes, comfort feverish kids until a parent arrives, and hand out saltine crackers for upset tummies. They are the first faces anyone sees when they enter our building, and they deal with all kinds of parents (happy, upset, difficult, frantic, etc.).  The girls had a lot of fun walking into the office this morning and handing their gifts to Mrs. Moore and Mrs. Brandon. I think our secretaries really felt loved and appreciated which was our goal, so mission accomplished! Stay tuned for Day 5!

On a side note....I am still working out the picture situation. I will hopefully be able to post some soon!

Monday, December 3, 2012

RACK: Day 3

Today's RACK activity was not so "random." Instead, we kept it simple and decided to make get well cards for my step-mom, Sally. She had hip replacement surgery last week and is home recovering. Oh yeah, I have a step-mom now, did you know that? My dad got married on the 17th of last month. There is so much I could say about that day and the days leading up to it, but I'll save it all for another post. For now, the best word I can use to describe that day is bittersweet. It was sweet to see my dad so happy. I like Sally a lot and I know they will have many happy years together. I look forward to forming a good friendship with her and my kids will have a "grannda-figure" in their lives again. For these things, I am truly grateful. On the other hand, it was also a "bitter" day. In my mind, I saw it as the official end to my family-- the family that I know and love.  I cried and I laughed that day and honestly I am really glad it is over. Now we can simply look forward.

So, Sally, we wish you a speedy recovery and hope to see you back even better than before! PaPa should be bringing the cards home tonight after Bridge Club!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

RACK:: Day 2

I am using the acronym RACK to refer to our 25 "Random Acts of Christmas Kindness" project from here on. It's just easier to type! Now on to Day 2!

Tonight we knew we were taking the kids downtown to experience OKC's "Downtown in December" free activities. Besides the obvious free things like looking at all the amazing lights or playing at the cool kids' park, many activities are available at no charge during the month of December. Today the Art Museum was free along with the Crystal Bridge Botanical Garden and the Water Taxi Rides through the Bricktown Canal.  It was a beautiful 70 degree night here, and we didn't even need our jackets. Many people were out and about, and it felt nice to stroll along looking everything. After we played outside at the park we watched the ice skaters swish and slide around the outdoor ice rink, then headed over to the Devon Energy Building to look at all the twinkling Christmas decorations they had displayed. Once the sun was town, we took a stroll through the Botanical Garden which was completely decked out in Christmas lights. For dinner, we tried a new place called Fuzzy's Tacos, and it ended up being quite delicious. Finally, it was time to put our second RACK activity in motion. Our plan was to buy a $5 Sonic gift card, and when our water taxi ride was over, the kids were going to hand it to our boat tour guide as a way to say thank you. We grabbed the gift card then headed to the boat dock only to realize every single person in Oklahoma City had the same idea as us. The line for the free boat rides was long. I mean wrap-around-buildings long. It might have had something to do with the nice weather or the first weekend the rides were free, but whatever the case, it was already 8:00 on a school night and we had to tell the kids it wasn't going to happen.

Plan B.

We still had our gift card in hand, so we decided to pray with the kids to ask God to show us someone around us in need. The girls eagerly began searching as we started the long walk back to where we had parked our van. As we passed by the Cox Convention Center, we all spotted our "victim". An elderly man was emptying the large trash cans in front of the building. He had on a polo shirt with the Cox logo which made it clear that he worked there. Without hesitation, the kids and I walked up to him and handed him the card. We told him we wanted him to have it and hoped he had a wonderful night. We thanked him for his hard work and said, "God bless you!" It was apparent he didn't speak much English, but he smiled a big smile and said, "Thank you."

As we walked off, we explained to the kids that although they were disappointed they didn't get to ride the boat, God had other plans. We told them that the boat drivers get tips for each tour they gave, where that man probably does a thankless job with no extra money. Sometimes God interrupts our plans with his, and his plans are always best.  Leah said, "It was like we were supposed to give it to him." And Hannah told me her heart felt happy.

Oh my Loves, my heart is happy too.

* Pics to come soon. I have apparently surpassed the amount of photos allowed on blogger. I will need to purchase more space sometime soon. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

25 Days of Christmas Kindness

Today as I was reading through my facebook newsfeed, I saw a friend of mine post that she was beginning her "25 Days of Random Acts of Christmas Kindness." To kick things off, she and her family went to go to a restaurant where they offered to (anonymously) pay for a family's meal.  She had so many comments on her status that she ended up posting a link to the blog where she got the whole "acts of kindness" idea. I was already trying to come up with ways to make this holiday season more meaningful to our kids, leaning less toward the hectic, busy, commercial Christmas to the more thoughtful and giving side of the season. Focusing less on "me" and more on others is where I wanted to start. So the girls and I sat down and made a big list of random acts of kindness we could show others from now until Christmas Day. And hopefully they will experience the overflowing joy that comes from giving instead of receiving. I plan on posting here what we do each day and maybe some of you will be inspired to do the same!

Our first Christmas Act of Kindness was to simply bake cookies and deliver them to some of our neighbors.  The girls and Lucas and I whipped up our very favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and divided the cookies into three bags. We printed out a card with a simple Christmas wish and soon after the sun went down, we headed out. First we went to our neighbors immediately south of us. They are good friends of ours-- a young thirty-something couple with a beautiful two year old little girl. The week of Thanksgiving, my sweet friend lost the baby boy she was carrying. She was 20 weeks along. It was a devastating event for my friend and her husband, and tonight as my kids and I gave them a simple bag of cookies, we hugged her and talked with her and hopefully made her family feel loved. Next we headed to my neighbor directly across the street.  She and I were also neighbors in our old neighborhood, but built and moved into our current homes at the same time. She has known my girls since they were born and has watched them grow up. She was home alone for the weekend as her husband was on a trip to visit his father in another part of the state, and she seemed truly grateful for a little company. Finally we headed to the house across and one south from us. We are just getting to know the newlywed couple who recently moved into that home. They were very sweet and let my kids pet their two very cute dogs.

When we came home, Hannah and Leah were literally jumping around the house saying, "That was fun! I want to do that again!" Leah even asked if we could do more than one act of kindness a day. It was evident that they really enjoyed it and it was already impacting them in a positive way!

Here's a link to the blog which has a bunch of resources for doing your own "25 Days of Random Acts of Christmas Kindness!" If you join in (and it doesn't have to be daily), feel free to let me know and leave a link to your own blog in the comments!

Let the giving begin!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Grandma's 90th Birthday

Last month, Mike and I had the priviledge of traveling up to New Jersey to celebrate his grandma's 90th birthday. Many other friends and family flew in from all over the country to be a part of this special day making it truly a birthday to remember. When Mike was five years old, his paternal grandparents moved in with the family, and so Mike grew up in the same house as not only his parents and siblings, but his Gramps and Grandma as well! Because of this, there has always been a special, "second mother" type of bond between Mike and his grandma. She truly helped raise him!

We decided since this trip was going to be a short stay, to leave our kids at home in the hands of my dad and soon to be step-mom. We hadn't traveled so far away from them in a very long time, so I was a bit apprehensive about it. But I prayed and checked in often and all went well. In fact, once I got there I was able to truly enjoy my time with just Mike and the ease of traveling without three extra little ones to take care of. I read a book, we talked, went out on a date night. It actually felt like a little vacation!

We arrived in Newark late Friday night on October 4th and woke up the next morning ready to party. Mike's sister Rachel was the main party planner, while my mother-in-law and my other sister-in-law, Tracy assisted in making the everything just right. There were lots of feminine pink touches (Grandma's favorite color) as well as plenty of food, desserts, twinkle lights and flowers. They truly made the house look special. They also put together a slide show, music performance, and a funny "How Well Do You Know Grandma?" trivia game.  We literally spent the entire day celebrating with Grandma, and I could tell she was having a wonderful time.

 Happy 90th Birthday Banner on the house

 Pretty pink desserts....
 And pretty pink mums!
 Mike and Me
 Rachel (party planner extrodinaire), her husband, Juan, and their daughter Velda (named after the birthday girl herself!)
Grandma Velda's high school graduation picture. She was (and still is) a true beauty.

(I don't know why my pictures are so small! I can't get them to go any bigger! Grrrrr....)

Now...what should we do on her 100th? :)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Special Bond

Sibling relationships are somewhat of a mysery to me.  I am an only child.  And believe me, I have heard all of the typical thoughts on only children-- spoiled, bratty, unable to share, etc.  I'd like to think I escaped those titles.  Spoiled? My parents always lived below their means, and didn't give me whatever I wanted.  I had to save up my allowance to buy many a toy over the years.  Bratty? Sure I had moments of brattiness (especially between the ages of 13 and 15), but overall I wouldn't label myself in that way.  Unable to share? My sharing lessons came in the form of playing with friends or any of my 16 first cousins.  I'd like to think I am at an advantage here because as an only child, I was able to learn to share with others as well as play comfortably by myself at home.  

But one thing I have never experienced as an only child is the special bond between siblings. I never had anyone to pick on me or to pick on.  I never had anyone to giggle with late into the night (other than the occasional friend sleepover). I never experienced the amazing friendship that adult siblings sometimes have.  I know not all siblings get along swimmingly, but for the ones that do, I have to say that I am jealous.  Especially now that my mom is gone, I so desperately wish I had someone to share family memories with.  To laugh about inside family jokes. I see this friendship with Mike and his siblings and am at least thankful that I get to experience wonderful relationships with all my sibling in-laws. 

Watching my children develop their own special bonds is something quite amazing.  Especially between my daughters, Hannah and Leah.  Not only are they siblings, but they are twins and have shared everything throughout their lives-- from space in my womb to the same birthday to a bedroom to all of their toys.  They have never known a day apart. These two amazing young ladies are such a sweet example of sisterhood.  Yes, they fight. What sisters don't? But deep down they posses a deep and abiding love for each other.  They are fiercely protective of each other, and they are known to go off into serious gut-busting giggle fests that last for an hour or more.  They play well together, and even finish each others' sentences.  My prayer for them is to have an amzing friendship throughout their entire lives.  I am glad I get to foster this relationship and watch it continue to grow over the years. 

 I love Leah's glasses in this picture
At the State Fair

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"New" Crayons

This past Saturday was cloudy and cool.  Rain drizzled down in a fine mist all day long.  It was the perfect day to stay in our pajamas and do some crafting.  I have never considered myself to be a crafty person. I can't sew.  I don't knit or paint or make floral arrangements.  I come from a long line of crafters, so I have always found my crafting deficiency to be quite sad, really.  I suppose that the crafting gene just skipped over me somehow.

However, in recent months, I have decided that the term "crafter" doesn't apply to me as much as the term "creator".  I've always considered myself to be a creative person.  I love to read and write and my imagination has always been larger than life.  So this past Saturday, I was itching to create something. I looked around at our limited supplies and suddenly remembered an idea that had come to me via an email chain a long time ago-- we can make "new" crayons! I enlisted the help of my three eager little people, and we got to work.

First, we got out our out-of-control tub of crayons and sorted through them all, setting aside the broken ones to use for our project (*bonus! you get to clean out your out-of-control crayon tub!).  Then I had the kids take off all the paper wrappers and place the waxy, colorful bits into a bowl.  This ended up taking quite a bit of time, so I pitched in and we eventually got it done.

Peeling off the paper proved to be quite satisfying

Ready to bake
Next we found an old cupcake tin (mine was gross and ready to be thrown out soon, so it worked great).  If you don't want to potentially ruin your cupcake tin, you can use foil cupcake liners in the cups.  We then placed a rainbow assortment of crayon bits into each cup.  If you have enough crayons, feel free to make singular colors like red, orange, yellow, etc. My kids were more excited to see the colors swirl together.  It's whatever floats your boat. Place the crayons in a pre-heated 250 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

Fresh from the oven

When you take them out of the oven, you will have hot, swirly cups of liquid wax much like a tie-dyed t-shirt.  Let them completely cool, them pop them out!

 Our stack of "new" crayons

They are kind of mesmerizing, right?

My kids loved their new creations, and I even considered the whole experience a bit of a science lesson. Now I will say, these crayons are not good for detailed coloring.  They have no pointed tip and the rainbow colors came out muddled together in a nice shade of brown.  But the point of the project was to have fun creating something together. With that criteria in mind-- mission accomplished. I have to say I patted myself on the back for actually doing something crafty. I just might go join pinterest after all. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Coming Out Of The Pit

Hello?  Is this thing still on?  It's been a few weeks since I have felt like sitting down to write something here.  Let me just jump right on in and say that I have been in a deep emotional pit these last few months.  How did I end up there?  I'm not sure exactly, but here's what I know: 1. For six months I saw my mom deteriorate and suffer in a hospital room.  I saw things that I have not wanted to go back and revisit in my brain, so I have "stuffed" those memories to a dark mental corner where I didn't have to think about them. 2. My mom died sixteen months ago.  Coupled with the images of her slow decline, I chose to again just not think about this as much as possible.  3. For the last year I have been trying not to process my loss too much.  Mostly I just shove my feelings aside and press on as best as I can. 4. Some events that happened this summer caused me to have to deal with some issues and feelings that I have been avoiding. 5. I emotionally bottomed out.

Now, before you think I am completely crazy, please know that I am doing SO much better right now.  And I know that writing about my grief here on my blog has been extremely helpful (so helpful it has given me a new idea for something in the future, but more on that later....).  But because the events that have transpired over the last few months involve other members of my family who read this blog, I haven't been able to write openly about my feelings lately.  Feelings of anger, sadness, disappointment, pain, loss, unmet expectations, and fear.

The fact is, I needed more than the short break I gave myself back in July.  I have needed to take a much longer blog break so that I could deal with some things.  Two weeks ago, I had a breakthrough.  I had just finished spending an hour reading my Bible and praying when I walked to my mailbox and discovered a letter.  Before I get into that, let me say that I have been studying the book of Genesis this fall.  The word "genesis" is Hebrew for "beginnings." I have been praying and asking God to help me accept this new beginning in my life.  In January, my dad is getting married.  This marks a very new beginning for my family.  So back to the letter....When I opened the envelope I discovered a letter from my soon-to-be step-mother.  It was very sweet and very honest.  She expressed her desire to want to have a good relationship with me and my family, not as a mom-replacement, but as a friend.

In the weeks since I received that letter, I have felt a big weight come off of my shoulders.  It has literally opened a door for communication between us, and it has alieveated my fear of losing my dad in all this new change.  In addition, I have started seeing a counselor on a regular basis to talk through things.  It has also been a big help.

I am starting to feel like I am back on steady ground.  I know there will be some challenges ahead as the wedding date draws closer, but I feel so much better about where things are right now.

So that's me right now.  Alive. Breathing.  Thankful.

Monday, September 3, 2012

New Books at East Side

 Two of my Mom's favorite things have always been books and kids. When she graduated from college with a degree in Special Education, she included reading to her special needs children as a part of her work.  After a few years of teaching a special education class however, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma and had to take a few years off from teaching to go through her many surgeries as well as chemo and radiation treatments. When she finally was in remission, her body was so weak from battling cancer that she couldn't return back to the special ed classroom which required a lot of physical energy.  Instead, my mom got a part time job at the local public library and there truly found her calling.  Being immersed in children's literature and reading to the children during story hour both created a new passion.  Soon after she started working at the library, she found out I was on the way.  Once again, her career got put on hold as she stayed home with me for many years. Finally, when I was in fifth grade, she was able to go back to college and get her Master's Degree so she could fulfill that calling she had many years ago-- to be an elementary school librarian.

In 1990 she landed her first job at Eastside Elementary, a school in the middle of an economically depressed area on the city's southeast side.  When she arrived, the library had long been neglected and was seriously underfunded.  My mom saw this as her personal challenge.  She wrote grants, ordered new books, started after school reading programs, and brought in guest authors and illustrators to inspire her students.  She had story time, craft time, and helped older students with research papers.  She really rolled up her sleeves to make the East Side Elementary library a sparkling jewel in the middle of a run down area.  She loved it and worked hard at it until her heart condition forced her into an early retirement 12 years later.

So this year, on the one year anniversary of my Mom's death, my friend Beth spearheaded a project to collect new books and donate them in my Mom's name to the Eastside library.  Beth contacted the current librarian, who was thrilled to be a part of the project, and she called all of our friends to encourage them to donate a book or two.  And on that one year date, Beth presented me with the bags and bags of books all ready to donate in my Mom's memory.  It meant so very much to me.  Over the summer my dad and I added some books to the collection and this past Friday, my dad and Lucas and I drove 40 minutes across town to deliver them to the library-- my mom's library.  It was really special.
Just a small sampling of some of the new books
Beth had made sure that each book contained this sticker.

Eastside Elementary
The school is across the street from an air force base so rumbling sounds of jets taking off and landing are as common as a clock ticking to these students.

 My dad and Lucas checking out the fish tank in the library
So many memories here.  
I'd like to think my mom is smiling each time a child picks up a book.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Great Wolf

Lucas at Great Wolf Lodge
This was one of the few moments I could get him to be still for a picture.  
Otherwise he was all go, go go!
Last weekend we packed up and headed south to Dallas for a trip down to Great Wolf Lodge.  It was our third trip there, but the first time to go in the summertime which meant we could use both the indoor and outdoor pool areas.  And we purposefully timed the vacation to coincide with the first day of Dallas schools so that it wouldn't be crowded.  Score!  We basically had the whole place to ourselves.  When we finished going down a water slide, we would just get up, grab our tube, head back up the stairs and go again-- no lines!  Mike and I realized on this trip that we are getting into a new phase of vacationing with our family, a season of increased independence and adventure.  We are no longer toting an infant who requires nursing or who is on a strict schedule.  Our girls are almost 8 and are capable of entertaining themselves in the car, going to the bathroom on their own (by that I mean they can go to a public restroom without me now), and on this trip they were tall enough to ride all the slides! Even the really tall and scary ones! They could even ride them by themselves! They also know how to swim and don't need life jackets anymore.  Mike and I had so much fun just being silly and letting loose in the wave pool and the lazy river and the Howlin' Tornado (check it out below. yep we all did that!).  Lucas, only recently age 3, still needed quite a bit of care.  Not infant level care, but we couldn't just let him go yet.  He needed his floaties in most areas and he couldn't do many slides, just a few in the kiddie area.  But he still had a blast and enjoyed getting to play with us.  I think it is so important for our kids to see us having fun with them.  No cell phones, no computers, no "to do lists".  We just woke up, put on our suits and asked, "What should we do first?"  I love getting away with my family and look forward to all the phases of growth that are still to come.

Here's the inside of the Howlin' Tornado.  Instead of these lovely people in the photo above, imagine Mike, Hannah, Leah and Yours Truly sliding up and down the huge half-pipe full of spraying water. We loved it!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

This and That

Lucas had a great first day at school today!  He was clingy when I first dropped him off, but then he started playing and waved good bye.  When I picked him up, he was having a snack and his teachers said he had a great day.  That boy is so sweet.  Do you know what he did?  When we got home from school he leaned over and kissed me on my chest and said, "I kissed your heart, Mommy!"  Oh man, he is a charmer.

The girls are about to finish up their first full week in 2nd grade.  Tomorrow is their first spelling test of the year and they are fully prepared to ace it.  This weekend we are heading down to Dallas to take a little family vacation to Great Wolf Lodge.  Seriously, if there is one in your area and you have kids, go check it out.  It is such a fun family getaway.  My kids are really stoked!

There is big news in my family right now- my dad is getting married in January.  I will write more about this later, but one of the main things leading up to this event is that he is selling his house and building a new home with his future wife.  This fall I will have the monumental task of going through the rest of my mom's things.  Let me rephrase that-- going through ALL of my mom's things.  This will be a large and painful task, but I know I can't keep it all.  This past weekend, I decided to move my old desk, from my old room over to my current house.  I've been needing a desk all of my own, and I am super pleased with my new space.  Now Mike and I can work together in the office-- him at his desk, and me at mine.  The desk itself is an antique roll top with all kinds of interesting word work.  I love it.
My "new" desk.  I love all the nooks and crannies for storing pencils and paper.  
Also, the photos on top were just the same ones my mom had up at her house.  I will eventually change them.  Not sure it's my style to have a big photo of me on my desk. Ha!
My mom and I scoured lots of antique stores to find just the right desk, so it has some special memories attached to it. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Big Day For My Little Boy

Lucas starts his first day of Mother's Day Out tomorrow.  He will start going two days a week in a new class at a new location.  Last year, he went just once a week at a different school, so there will be lots of changes for him!  We went to the church where his new class will be last Monday night to meet his teachers, check out his classroom and play on the playground.  Thankfully, he loved it and acted really excited about going.  He was most excited about the class pet-- a turtle who will be named by the kids this week.  Lucas is going to submit the name "Swimmy" as his choice.

I have so many hopes and dreams for my little boy this year.  I hope he loves learning, and that he is able to take his natural curiosity about life and use it as fuel to take his learning even deeper.  I hope he makes some new friends and feels loved by his teachers.  I hope he continues to develop into a confident, self-assured boy who is tough and active while also sweet and tender.  And for the love of Pete, I hope he gets potty trained this year!!

As Mike sits on Lukey's bed reading him a story, his clothes are laid out (he picked his favorite blue t-shirt with a chameleon on it whom he has named "Oscar"), his Spiderman backpack and Star Wars lunch box are both laid out and ready to go.  He is bathed and teeth are brushed so he will be "squeaky clean" for tomorrow.  Lucas, I pray you have a wonderful first day.  I can't wait to pick you up and hear all about it!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Where I've Been

Well, I came back and then I vanished again! What a crazy two weeks it has been, let me tell you.  Are you ready for a good story?  A long one with lots of drama?  Sit back and relax while I spin you a yarn (Did I really just say that?).

It all began on the night of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies.  I had been feeling kind of bad during the day, but that evening, while watching all the countries parade into Olympic Stadium, it hit me hard-- fever, chills, body aches, and a deep chest cough.  All weekend long I was bound to my bed, taking Advil for fever, sleeping, and doing little else.  It knocked me flat on my face.  Determined to avoid an after hours clinic, I went to the doctor on Monday morning.  She diagnosed me with acute bronchitis, but after listening to my crackly lungs she said it was borderline pneumonia.  I'll through that in so that you can feel extra sorry for me. :)  I got some antibiotics and returned home to sleep it off.  Modern medicine is a glorious thing, and by Tuesday morning I was feeling a lot better.  A few days after that, and I was back 100%.

Now, as any woman knows, when you are down for the count for a few days, the house can go from "nice and tidy" to "train wreck" in a matter of hours.  Let's just say that after four days of me mostly laying in bed, the train had not only wrecked, but had caught on fire and exploded.  But, I had little time to clean up because the following weekend, we were headed off to Lake Tenkiller for our annual summer visit.  My aunt and uncle spend most weekends out there and are gracious enough to take us out on the boat, make our meals and make us feel like we are at a nice hotel for a weekend.  They are awesome!  Our lake trip was wonderful.  We went tubing and swimming and played outside and slept in and ate delicious food.  Coming home Sunday night, we were ready to head into the last full week before school started.
 Our lake crew: Me, Leah, Hannah, Nikki, Parker, Eli
Our husbands stayed home with our youngest so that we could take the "big kids" on a special trip.
 Nikki and I are out on the tube.  I hadn't done that in a long time and I screamed like a little girl. 
I also used muscles that I haven't used in a long time too!
Lake kids

I am a list maker (I think I've mentioned this before).  I can hardly function without a list.  So of course, for this last week at home, I made a long list of "things to do before school starts."  Among the usual things like laundry and home organization projects, I had listed "get girls haircuts", "buy school supplies", "update cafeteria lunch account", etc.  But after one day home from the lake, a sudden (and freaky) storm blew through our area of Northwest Oklahoma City/West Edmond.  It was sunny and hot one minute, then dark clouds blew in, the wind picked up and rain started to pour down in sheets.  Before I knew it, the howling winds lifted our trampoline up over our fence and blew it two blocks down the road where it landed with a large, metal-twisting thud.  A dozen power poles fell or snapped in half in front of the girls' school and in the neighborhood directly behind it.  One even crashed into a house (thankfully no one was injured).  Our power promptly went out after that and stayed out for the next 48 hours.   The temperatures shot back up to just over 100 degrees and our house got hot, stale and stinky fast.  We packed up our clothes and the contents of our refrigerator and headed to stay with my dad for the next two days.  It was like a forced vacation of sorts.  We watched the Olympics, hung out with my dad and enjoyed a little unexpected time away from home.  However, my list of "things to do before school started" got tossed out the window!

Our poor, injured trampoline.  
We had to drag it off the road and then take it apart to get it home.
Yep.  Slightly embarrassing moment.

Finally, the power came back on and we moved back into our house.  Mike's Dad, Richard, had scheduled a trip to Oklahoma to visit us and play with the kids and he arrived while the whole power outage fiasco was going down.  The day after we were back home, he ended up having a mild stroke.  He was in bed reading a book when his right leg went completely "dead".  He could feel it, but it wouldn't move at all.  Mike took him to the emergency room where they did a CT scan and saw where his brain had hemorrhaged a small amount of blood.  He ended up staying in the hospital overnight and undergoing two MRI's.  We immediately dropped all our plans to be with him.  Thankfully Mike's mom got a flight to come down the next day and Richard was released soon afterward.  He has no permanent brain damage, but he still can't use his leg.  They decided to stay in Oklahoma City a while longer to do some physical therapy before heading back home to New Jersey.  He is doing much better, but we are praying he is able to get full use of his leg again soon.

So with all of that going on, plus getting the girls ready to start school today, I have had to prioritize my time to get things done.  Today dawned cool and fresh and the girls had a wonderful first day of second grade.  Second grade! Where has the time gone?!  I'll blog more about school tomorrow since I've written you a short novel to read.  Hope you enjoyed my story!  I'm hoping life goes a little more drama-free over the next few weeks!
 My beautiful second graders!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I'm Back!

Hello, Friends! Oh how I missed hearing from you all, but the blog break was just what I needed.  Let me start off by saying I am at a much better place right now.  I had to wrestle through some things during this last month.  Hard things.  Things I'll share with you at another time, but for now, all I can say is the Lord has been faithful to meet me right where I am-- in the middle of my sadness, my anxiety, my fear and my doubts. He truly "led me beside still waters and restored my soul."  Did my problems disappear?  No, but I'm not ready to face them square on.  And in reality, the things that loomed so large on my radar screen are at least smaller blips now.  

So what did we do during the break?  During the month of July we celebrated our nation's birthday, went swimming, ate cold watermelon, jumped on our trampoline, drove to new places, went to zoo camp, watched Lucas turn three, had a birthday party for our boy, and had lots of good time together as a family.  It was so nice.

Today, however is the first day of August.  It's my mother-in-law's birthday (Happy Birthday, Dixie!) and it has been the hottest day of the year. 113 degrees.  Yeah.  That's no typo.  That is just wrong.  So in defiance, we headed outside (for a little while) and braved the scalding temperatures to go to Pops for lunch and tour The Round Barn afterwards.  Here's some pics from our day.
Hannah holding up the big soda bottle.
My favorite trio.  For the record,  Lucas is not mad.  He is doing a superhero pose.

The Famous Round Barn built in 1898
Inside the upstairs portion of the barn.  While the downstairs is a gift shop/antique store, the upstairs is a beautiful open space full of amazing woodwork and architecture.  It is still available for rent, and would make a great place for a small wedding reception.  Just not when it's 113 degrees outside.
To me, the ceiling has a beautiful simplicity that matches the same kind of quiet awe as a stained glass cathedral.  Hannah looked up and declared, "Mom, it looks like we are inside a basket!"

So what have you been up to this past month?  :)

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Blog Break

Our Family 
Easter 2012

Well, here's the long awaited Easter photo from this year.  I thought it would be an appropriate photo to leave you with for awhile.  Wait.  What was that?  After thinking about this for a few weeks, I have decided to take a month off from blogging.  I plan to use the month of July to sort of refocus and regroup before coming back at it in August.  I guess I have been feeling a bit of writer's block or blog burnout lately, and I certainly don't want my writing to feel forced or like a chore. Also, 14 months after mom's death, I am still wrestling with grief, and I need to spend my free time dealing with that, spending more time in God's word, and with my family.  It's nothing to worry about, I assure you.  I look forward to coming back here in a little under thirty days more excited than ever to be writing, because truly I love it.

In the mean time, I will still be on the old interweb, so please know that I am checking your blogs daily, and will be leaving comments as usual.  I am also on facebook, so send me a friend request if you haven't already.  Likely, I will also come on here once or twice in July just to post a picture or two.  Probably the 4th of July and Lucas' birthday later in the month.  I know my family likes to see pictures of the kids, so I'll oblige occasionally.  

So, I look forward to seeing you back here officially on August 1st! 
Until then, go enjoy your summer!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Storage Wars

Mike and I have recently been hooked on watching the A&E show called Storage Wars.  Have you ever heard of this show?  The premise of the show is that when someone can't pay for their storage unit anymore, the unit (with all the stuff inside) goes up for auction.  The show follows five or six professional buyers as they go from storage auction to storage auction hoping to find hidden treasures within.  The catch is that before they bid on it, the lock is cut and the unit is opened, but no one can walk inside or open any boxes.  So it is a bit of a gamble to bid on what you just see up front.  Sometimes they can tell the unit holds nothing but junk, while other times they count on money coming from antique furniture or tools or appliances that they spot inside.  The fun comes when they buy a unit and start digging through it for treasures.  We've seen them find things like guitars, coin collections, glass eyeballs and Russian flight suits from the Cold War Era. At the end of the show, they take their finds to have them appraised, and it is fun to see if their items are really worth anything at all.  It is pretty interesting to watch and quite addicting!  Mike and I will sometimes play along and decide which units we would bid on if we were on the show (and had a couple thousand dollars to spend!).

Even thought we don't go to storage unit auctions, we do enjoy browsing through thrift stores and antique shops hoping to find something cool.  Usually we end up just looking, but every now and then we do find something neat. Garage sales are another fun way to go "digging for treasure", but I have the worst luck at garage sales.  I never find anything but junk.  Plus, I don't have the patience to go looking for too long.

Do you like to go thrifting or antiquing?  Do you usually find hidden treasures or junk?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Flower Girl

Mom, Dad and me
My girls have been asking me lately when they will ever get to be flower girls in a wedding.  It has somehow become their lifelong goal to walk down an aisle leaving flower petals in their wake.  Really, I think it has something to do with getting to wear a fancy dress.  I understand their dream to be flower girls, though, because once I was a little girl longing to be a flower girl too.  Eventually I got my chance at my Uncle John and Aunt Mary's wedding in 1985.  I was eight.  The wedding was in December and the colors matched the festive Christmas decorations in the church.  My grandmother made my dress which was made out of red taffeta, complete with puffy sleeves.  Much to my excitement, my mom took to me a salon to have my hair professionally styled, and I was allowed to wear a string of real pearls.  My cousin, David was the ring bearer, so we walked down the aisle together.  David is only a year and half younger than me, and dressed in his spiffy tuxedo, we got lots of smiles and "awwww's" from the guests in the church.  I remember the night before the wedding David asked his mom when his "bear costume" was going to arrive.  He was under the impression that he was to be a "ring bear."  That story has been told over and over in all the years since.  
The wedding was held in a beautiful Lutheran church here in Oklahoma City.  I remember there being lots of greenery, red bows and warm candlelight.  I remember my aunt and uncle being pronounced "man and wife" and giggling at their first kiss.  And I remember twirling in my red dress at the reception, happy to finally tell my friends that I had finally been a flower girl.

Maybe one day my girls will get their chance. 
What about you?  Ever been a flower girl?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Interview with Lucas

Tonight I decided sit down for a few minutes with my almost three year old little boy to interview him and hear his thoughts on life at the moment. 

What is your name?  I am Lukey Galloway.

How old are you?  Good!

No, how old are you?  Oh! Two!

Who is in your family? Hmmm.....Mom, Dad, Hannah and Leah.

Lucas came up with this creative idea for a holster yesterday.
Is it a diaper?  Is it a place to store your gun?  
The answer is yes.

What is your favorite color?  Purple

What is your favorite book to read? Hmmm....(taps his finger on his lips)....Toot! Toot! Beep! Beep! (by Emma Garcia)

What is your favorite movie?  I like The Iron Giant!

What is your favorite song to dance to?  New York to LA!! (go here to hear the song and see the video)

What do you like do to outside?  I like to play outside with my toys.

What is your favorite thing to play inside?  Dinos!!

What do you think Daddy does at work all day?  He does work.

What do you want to do for your birthday in July? I like cupcakes!  I want kids, and I like candy!

Anything else you would like to say?  Ummm.....I like my Spiderman jammies!  Where's Hannah and Leah?

Asleep in my bed with his Spiderman jammies on. 
He asks to wear his "blue Spiderman jammies" every single night.  

Lucas, you are the sweetest two year old boy I know.  You are tender and kind.  You ask me everyday how I am feeling and give hugs and kisses freely.  You love your sisters.  The first words out of your mouth most mornings are, "Where's Hannah and Leah?"  You follow them around and get really sad when they don't want you to play in their room with them.  You love for me to read with you, and I cherish those quiet times when it's just you and me and a stack of books.  At bedtime, you always give me a kiss and say, "I love you soooooo much!"  And you like for me to snuggle with you a bit before you drift off to sleep.  Yet while you are gentle and sweet, on the other hand you are busy and active and feisty!  You love to run and jump and dance and play.  Your favorite toys are dinosaurs and trains and cars.  You still could kick a ball for hours, and you always say, "Watch this, Mom!" Usually you want me to see how fast you can run or you want me to watch you fall over in a silly way.  I love watching you grow up, my little Lucas Gabriel.  I'm so glad I get to be your Mommy.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rainy Day Watercolors

Last Thursday we woke up to a very wet, rainy day.  The steady plunk of raindrops hitting our windows and roof were the metronome keeping the beat for the rhythm of our day.  The kids and I made a list of rainy day activities and tried to check off as many as we possibly could.  Playing in the rain topped the list, so we headed out in our pajamas and played until we were soaking wet (and by "we" I mean the kids, not me).  They ran and splashed and jumped and laughed and cartwheeled until a loud clap of thunder brought them running inside.  After drying off, we read some books, then moved on to a third activity:  painting.  Inspired by the book Swimmy by Leo Lionni, we brought out the watercolors.  The girls chose an ocean theme while Lucas went for a more abstract look. They had so much fun just letting their imaginations run wild.

Our painting inspiration
Getting Started

Hannah and Lucas painting away

Later we made cookies and watched a movie and ate popcorn.  Check, check, check.  We had a lot of fun checking off our rainy day activities!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Reading to Dogs

I have decided with the new library open so close to my house, I am going to take advantage of all the wonderful, FREE programs offered there that I can.  I love story time, preschool aerobics, music & movement, and the great reading programs offered.  We've always loved and used the public library, but now that one is right around the corner, we are there just about every other day it seems.  Tonight we decided to take advantage of a new program. When I read about it I just knew we had to do it.  It's called "Children Reading to Dogs."  Licensed therapy dogs are brought in for children to sit and read to.  It's geared toward hesitant readers, but really who doesn't want to read to a dog?  And any reading is good reading in my book.  So the kids and I headed out right before dinner to get in line and read to a dog.  They were so excited.

 Hannah reading to Abby, the therapy dog.  Lucas got to sit and listen in too. 
When they were done, they got to feed Abby a treat.
Leah reading to Abby.  That dog was so sweet and so well behaved.  
The kids loved reading to her, and especially loved getting to pet her when they were done.

Just thought I'd share about such a neat idea!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Our Epic Day

Our Saturday started with our family's favorite breakfast of homemade waffles.  Not only do they taste good, but they make the whole house smell like a bakery.  While I cleaned up the kitchen, Mike went about the task of setting up the big blue inflatable water slide for its inaugural summer run.  This will be the third (and probably final) summer for the slide.  We have definitely gotten our money's worth with that thing.  As the slide was being cleaned off and set up, the kids were running around cheering and "yahoo-ing" in a frenzied state of euphoria.  Once it was ready and their bathing suits were on, they headed out into the already blazing hot day to play in the water.  The rest of the morning was spent alternating between the slide and trampoline until they all came in tired and hungry for lunch.  

After lunch, we decided to head back to the OKC Zoo for an afternoon of family fun (we have a family pass, so we're taking advantage of it!).  Mike wasn't able to go to the zoo last time, and the kids are always game for an trip, so off we went.  The zoo is really so big that unless you spent an entire day from open to close, you couldn't really see everything.  This time we hit the places we didn't get to see last time.  Places like the aquarium, the herpatorium, the new elephant habitat, the Children's Zoo (where they once again played in the water), and the Carousel.  Even though the temps reached 97 degrees, the zoo was shaded and the slight breeze cooled us off enough.  And surprisingly, it wasn't crowded today.  The kids behaved themselves and we had a great time.

Later, as we were eating dinner, Leah asked me, "Mom, what does 'epic' mean?"  I said, "It means something really, really good."  She replied, "Well, today has been an epic day!"  

I'm so glad that we are creating "epic" memories together as a family.

 Leah by the water mister at the zoo.
 Hannah by the mister.  I could not get them to pose together to save my life!
Me unsuccessfully trying to get the elephants in the background. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012


I am shamelessly asking for you all out in the blogging world to vote for our family's submission to the OKC Metro Family Magazine's "Exploring Oklahoma Photo Contest".  I entered a picture of Hannah and Leah at Robbers Cave State Park during the Summer of 2010.  That vacation was the last vacation we took with my mom and dad before my mom passed away in May of 2011.  We had such a wonderful time there together staying in a cozy cabin.  We disconnected from the world (no cell phones, internet, etc) and reconnect together by going hiking, exploring, horseback riding, swimming, canoeing, and paddle boating.  We cooked our meals together and played games in the evening.  It was a simple and sweet time for us and the memories we made there are especially precious to me.  Anyway, if you get a chance, vote for us. You can vote once daily until July Sixth.  Thanks, friends!

Go here to vote (you'll have to create an account with a user name and password):
"Exploring Oklahoma Photo Contest"

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Cold

It started with Lucas, moved on to Hannah, and now has settled in on me. What is it? A lovely summer cold. My head feels like a bowling ball-- congestion, headache, low fever. So I spent most of today taking it easy. When my kids napped, I napped. I drank hot tea and let my kids watch more tv than usual. And I think it has paid off because I am feeling better, thank goodness. There is just something so wrong about being sick in the summertime.

Here's to a better tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Recipe: Pasta Primavera

I made this recipe the other night and was reminded once again of how much I love it. My mom used to make it when I was growing up, and it was always a family favorite.  It is a simple, vegetarian dish that is a nice change from meat and potatoes.  And I think it could be easily "veganized" by using vegan cream, vegan Parmesan and Earth Balance in place of butter.
The creamy, delicious onion/garlic/mushroom/tomato sauce
First start by melting 2 Tbsp.of butter in a large pan over medium high heat.  Add a medium sized onion (chopped), 2 garlic cloves (minced), and 8 ounces of sliced button mushrooms.  Next add a half teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and let these ingredients cook down a bit. The onion will become translucent and tender, while the mushrooms will turn a nice golden brown (about 8 minutes).  To this mixture add one can of diced tomatoes, juice and all.  Then pour in a cup of heavy whipping cream.  Stir to combine, bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and set it aside.  We'll come back to this delicious pink, creamy mixture soon.
Pasta and green veggies all cooked together
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 12 ounces of fettuccine pasta..  Add 2 Tbsp. salt and 2 Tbsp. pepper (I know that sounds like a lot, but it is really necessary to season the pasta).  Let the noodles cook for about six minutes, then add a pound of chopped fresh asparagus.  Yes, add the asparagus to the boiling pot of pasta.  You can cook the veggies and the pasta all at once!  Genius!  Let the asparagus cook one minute, then add 1 cup chopped zucchini. Let it cook about 2 minutes, then add a cup of frozen peas.  Allow another minute or two of cooking time to pass, then drain the pasta and veggies.  Return them to the pot and then take your mushroom and onion mixture that you set aside earlier and add it to the pasta and veggies.  Pour in 2 Tbsp. of fresh squeezed lemon juice, a 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, and a Tbsp. of chopped fresh basil.  Give everything a good stir to combine, and serve with a big slice of crusty bread and some more Parmesan cheese on top.  It is so, so good!  I think a light meal like this is perfect for a summer night.  

The two dishes before being combined.  I forgot to take a photo of the final product because we ate it up too fast.  You'll just have to make it to see for yourself! 

PS--I picked out the asparagus because I don't like it.  Mike loves it though, so I am a good wife and include it.  I have substituted fresh green beans, though, and it is good either way!