Friday, December 26, 2014

Things That Make Me Smile 12/26/14

Jake (9), Alyssa (6½), Zac (5), Tyler (2½)

Merry Christmas! What a crazy, fun-filled week it's been. We received many blessings and spent much time with family. I love this time of year! But between weeks of bed rest and a new baby and then all the Christmas festivities, I'm ready to get back to a regular schedule again. A little less chaos and a little more normal. Though with 5 young kids, I suppose chaos is normal, haha. I hope you had a wonderful holiday as well and had many reasons to Smile.  

1. Zac, looking at fog: "Why is it blurry outside?" 

2. Jake: "You know how you can tell Santa's fake? You go visit him and he asks, 'What's your name?' He's supposed to know everybody's name."

3. Jake: "The day after the day after tomorrow is Christmas Eve!" 

4. Alyssa, sucking on a piece of paper, in a funny voice: "I think I like regular paper better."
Me: "Compared to what?"
Alyssa: "Inked."


6. Jake and Alyssa read portions of the Christmas story before we opened presents on Christmas day. After Alyssa read her verses, Jake leaned over and whispered, "Good job reading. Don't worry, you'll get better at the harder words." 

7. Tyler: "Mommy, may I kiss you, please?"

8. Zac: "Isn't this so cool having a new baby? I love him so much."

9. Jake, bouncing a ping pong ball on a paddle: "I'm trying to beat my record."
Alyssa: "What is your record?"
Jake: "I don't know."

10. Zac, handing me a diaper for Nicholas, laughing: "They're so little!"

11. Tyler asks to pray every day at dinner and always says the same thing: "Jesus for our food and amen."


13. The kids were playing with Nicholas when I came to take him to change his diaper. As I picked him up, Tyler said, "Hey, you no steal that baby!"

14. Tyler recognizing the number 29.

15. Jake: "I had to pick a different Nancy Drew book to read to Nicholas. The other one had ghosts in it, and I didn't want to scare him."

16. Alyssa: "I have a mute button."
Jake: "You have a mute button?!? Do you know how many times I could have used that?"

What made you Smile this week?

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Things That Make Me Smile 12/19/14

Jake (9), Alyssa (6½), Zac (5), Tyler (2½), Nicholas (newborn)

Happy Weekend! We received a big Smile this week--our precious baby boy was born! All that bed rest paid off as we made it long enough to birth at home. Things didn't go quite as planned, but everything worked out, and baby Nicholas and Mommy are both doing well. The other kids absolutely adore him, as you will read. We have many, many reasons to Smile.

1. Zac: "What if we just keep having boys? More boys and more boy and more boys. What if we have a gazillion boys?"

2. Alyssa: "He's sleeping and eating! Babies are so talented."

3. Jake: "Look how tiny his ears are! They look like mini cookies, you know like the little Oreos in the snack cups."

4. Jake, about Nicholas: "He's so soft and fuzzy, like a peach." 

5. Zac, about Nicholas: "He's just so cute, I can't stop looking at him!"


7. Me: "What are you doing? You're supposed to be in bed."
Tyler: "Yeah, I supposed to be kiss this baby."

8. Jake, about Nicholas: "He's squeaking! Like a trumpet."

9. Tyler: "I like this baby, Mommy! I like him. I like baby. He's cute, too."

10. My mom was holding Nicholas and patting his butt, trying to get him to stop fussing. Zac moved her hand, starting patting his butt, and said, "I think I have the right move" as Nicholas stopped crying.

11. Tyler, about Nicholas: "Oh, no, he's crying again! Let me kiss him again!"

12. I was taking pictures before the children's Christmas program at church. Nicholas was crying, Tyler was covering his ears saying, "Don't like that baby cryin'!", and the other 3 were laughing at them both.

13. Tyler: {Constant talking. Nonstop. Talking. Talking. Loudly talking.}
Me, frustrated: "Tyler, do you ever stop?"
Tyler, sweetly: "Hi, Mommy. I love you."

14. Tyler, when Alyssa walked out ready for the Christmas program: "Oh, Lyssa, you so pretty!"

15. Tyler, about Nicholas: "Let me see his other ear."
Me: "Not right now; he's eating."
Tyler: "Oh, he's eating your . . . button?" 

16. Listening to the other kids admire Nicholas: "Aw, he smiled! He stuck out his tongue! He made a funny face! . . . He blinked!"

17. Listening to Jake read Nicholas his book. 

18. Zac, about his Christmas ornaments: "Mine are very fragile . . . 'Cause they're hot-glued."

19. Me: "Nicholas is going to be a week old tomorrow."
Jake: "Already? It seems like just a few days ago he was a few days old."

20. Zac, watching me nurse the baby: "So he's eating? Chocolate milk or white milk?" 

What made you Smile this week?

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Things That Make Me Smile 12/12/14

Jake (9), Alyssa (6½), Zac (5), Tyler (2½)

Happy Friday! We are one week closer to meeting our baby! Things are going well. I am almost 36 weeks along and bed rest will be over soon. Yay! We've started organizing and washing, so we don't have a repeat of the unpreparedness of Tyler's birth. I hope you've had a great week filled with many Smiles. 

1. Jake: "If you tan yourself, do you turn back to normal?"

2. The kids go to bed at 9:00 p.m.. They each have a light and can read for a little while, if they want.
Jake, coming in my room at 11:00 p.m.: "May I get some more water?"
Me: "Sure."
Jake: "I just finished Treasure Island."
Me: "You did? The whole book? But you just started it!"
Jake: "Yeah, it took me about 2 hours."

3. Tyler calling granola "gorilla."

4. This note that Alyssa gave me when she got home from church:

5. Alyssa: "Tyler said the cutest thing! 'Sixteen browns, eleventeen browns, seventeen browns.' It was adorable!"

6. Zac: "I'm like the hungriest man in the earth!"

7. Zac, holding a popsicle: "That's so cold, my hand would burn to freeze."

8. Tyler was playing with this clothespin when he held it up and said, "Mommy, A! I find A!" A minute later, he clipped it on the laptop. "Look! H! I made H!"

9. Jake: "Tyler is the cutest ever! His cuteness matches his troubleness."

10. Me, after reading Isaiah 7:14, while discussing names of Jesus: "Do you know what Emmanuel means?"
Jake: "A guide, you know, like 'a manual.'"

What made you Smile this week?

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Lessons from Geocaching

Here's another catch-up post that I started all the way back in April! It was a fun day, but, more importantly, one in which Daddy and Mommy learned a few lessons from the kids.


The weather warming up means one thing to our family: geocaching season begins! 

Sure, we could go out any time of the year because the caches are in place year-round, but we're not quite ready to trek through the snow and cold with our little ones just yet.

That Saturday was a beautiful day, so we decided to pack a lunch and head out to a park to find some caches. Since Tyler is a big fan of "gucks", I wanted to make sure we went somewhere we could feed them. Everyone was very excited about the plans we made.

And then the plans changed.

And changed again.

And again.

Leighton had to work a couple hours in the morning. And, as it usually happens, a couple hours turned into a few hours. I was left with antsy kids at home who were itching to head to the park.

When's Daddy coming home?

Soon. He should be leaving in a couple minutes . . . Oh, he just sent me a message. Nope, it'll be another hour or so.

I wanted everything ready to go, so when he got home, we could walk out the door.

Sandwiches--Ugh. we're out of lunch meat (even though I had gone grocery shopping the day before and should have bought some then.)

I sent Leighton a text and asked him to pick up some on his way home.  Oh, and bread, too, since I had forgotten to buy a loaf for the ducks. Oops.

He got home. I made the remaining sandwiches. We gathered everything and headed out. Finally.

We unloaded at the park and decided to have our lunch right away because it was already 2:00 pm. The picnic was nice and uneventful, except for the runaway sandwich bags. The wind had picked up quite a bit and was blowing things around, much to the delight of our little ones. They laughed as they chased the bags.

As soon as we packed everything up, Alyssa informed me that she had to go to the bathroom. We headed over to the building.


It was still early in the season and the park wasn't "officially" open yet. Now what? Do we make her hold it? Do we leave? Do we find a secluded spot and have her go in the woods like we're camping?

Leighton and I asked her to try to hold it for a little while, at least long enough to find a cache or two and feed the ducks.

She agreed and we started walking down the path. The boys were trying to run ahead, Alyssa was whimpering and hobbling along, and the ducks were no where to be found.

On top of that, the GPS wouldn't pick up any coordinates, so we couldn't find any caches either.

Nothing was going as planned. We drove all the way to this specific park, only to cross off eating lunch from our list of things to do.  

I was cranky.

Having kids has taught me to be more flexible. Things don't always go as planned. This perfectionist has grown a lot these past 9 years, especially once we started homeschooling.

But this day? I was having a hard time keeping my attitude in check.

I did not want to load up all the kids again already, especially since we hadn't done anything. I was crabby that we were leaving. I was frustrated that the GPS wasn't working. I was annoyed that Alyssa kept reminding me how badly she had to use the restroom. I was upset that the bathrooms were locked. 

I was cranky.

I told Leighton that we needed to go somewhere with a bathroom. The problem is that there was no where near the park we could go, except the library. I said we needed to go there, but he was against it since we weren't actually going to the library for the books. It seemed wrong to him to go just for the bathroom. He just wanted to head home.

I snapped. No, we were not going home. We were not going to forget all this planning just to go sit at the house and do nothing. We were going to have fun! Whether we liked it or not.

The kids sat in the back of the van happily chit-chatting, while Daddy and Mommy were upset in the front. We weren't fighting, by any means, but we certainly weren't seeing eye-to-eye.

He decided to stop at the library, after all. Poor Alyssa wasn't going to make it much longer. I took her in while the boys waited in the van.

As soon as we got back, Zac decided he had to go. (Why didn't he realize this 5 minutes sooner?) Now it was my turn to wait while Leighton took him in. It was starting to feel as if we were never going to actually begin geocaching. 

It was at this point I realized how foolish I was being. All these circumstances were beyond my control. The kids weren't bothered by them; they were still enjoying the outing. Why was I so cranky?

I apologized to Leighton when they got back. It wasn't his fault, and he certainly didn't need or deserve my attitude. Thankfully, he's an understanding guy. It's one of the many reasons I adore him.

He found another spot with multiple caches that wasn't too far away. We headed there, this time with better attitudes.

And then, in typical fashion for the day, the area was closed off by a police car. There was an event taking place later that day and everything was blocked except for the main road. We got stuck following the path into the event area until we could turn around the head back.

Geocaching spot #2--denied. Again. But this time it was more of a frustratingly funny situation. Your attitude determines how you will respond, not the circumstances.

Leighton suggested trying 1 more spot before heading home and giving up. This is a strip with tons of caches covering miles of trails. This area has never let us down. We found a spot we'd never searched, park the van, and began our excursion.



It ended up being a great day. We found multiple caches, the kids had fun playing and climbing in the woods, and we enjoyed spending the day together as a family.

It was humbling to me to see how my little ones reacted to the mishaps of the day. They remained positive and delightful. And me? I acted like a little child who didn't get her way. As parents and adults, we're supposed to be teaching the kids; we're supposed to set the good example. And yet, it was my children who were acting more mature than I. I'm generally a positive person, but I let undesirable incidents cloud my judgment and affect my actions.

Once I got my attitude back in the right place, it didn't matter when something went "wrong" or not according to my plan. I determined to keep my mindset positive.

And once I relearned that lesson from my kids, I had a lot more fun the rest of the day.

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Wordless Wednesday 12/10/14

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: Boston Cream Poke Cake

Not being able to be in the kitchen is one of my biggest complaints of being on bed rest. I understand that it's extremely important to take care of this little one growing inside me, instead of caring for my culinary desires, but that doesn't remove the urge to bake. For now, I have to depend on my kids to create the yummy treats. 

I said the other day that they made a batch of brownies from scratch. The only problem was that it was a small recipe that filled only an 8x8 inch pan. With 6 of us in the house, those didn't last long. (They may or may not have been completely inhaled that very day. Shh, don't tell.)  I was ready for the kiddies to bake again.

I know that their kitchen skills are fairly advanced, but I wanted to make it as easy as possible for them to bake something. Instead of pulling out 20 ingredients and covering the counters with a bunch of measuring cups and spoons, I had Leighton grab a boxed cake mix and instant pudding mixes when he went grocery shopping.

Don't worry--their mess was still nearly the same had they made each component of the cake from scratch. Ah, kids, such talent. 

They took turns adding the ingredients and mixing the cake. 

Since Jake was head chef for the brownies and Alyssa was the sous chef, they swapped roles today. Poor Zac is always "cheffy," a job that allows him to come and go from the kitchen as he pleases. And it always pleases him to at least be present at the end when the residual batter is being licked clean from the utensils.   

After the cake baked, they added the holes. 

My other wooden spoons have funny-shaped ends, so they used my huge soup spoon. It works perfectly for stirring in my largest stock pot.

It works perfectly for poking holes in cakes, too.

Here is where they ran into problems.

Alyssa poured the pudding on the cake. And on the table.

I thought I gave them my 9x13 pan, but apparently gave them a smaller one. The cake itself nearly filled the pan and left little room for the pudding and chocolate layers.

She spread the pudding as best as she could, but left plenty of it still in the bowl. She and her brothers didn't mind having to finish off all the "extra" pudding though. Or scoping up and eating the spilled pudding off the table either. 

Since we had to wait for the pudding to cool and set, we figured we might as well do school. You know, because there was nothing else to do anyway. Afterwards, Jake made the frosting. We could have used a tub of store-bought, but there's just no comparison. If you're going to use a boxed cake mix, fine, but please make your frosting. Or not. It's up to you, but the 5 minutes it takes to make it yourself is well-worth the difference in taste. As Jake says, "Store-bought frosting makes me squeamish."  

Just like with regular Boston cream pie, this cake really needs to be left alone for several hours in order for the flavors to blend into something glorious. Sure, it's yummy if eaten right away, but wait those hours and something magical happens. Trust me, it's legit.

While this version using boxed mixes doesn't compare to our favorite recipe made completely from scratch, it does fulfill a craving much quicker. 

And sometimes, quicker and easier is the best of all.

And licking pudding off the table. That's good too.

Boston Cream Poke Cake
1 box yellow cake mix (plus ingredients required on box, i.e. eggs, water, oil)
2 (3.4 oz) boxes instant vanilla pudding mix 
4 cups milk
chocolate frosting (recipe at bottom or use store-bought)

1. Make cake according to directions on box and bake in an 9x13 inch cake pan.
2. Let cake cool for 10 minutes. Using a wooden spoon handle (or other similar-sized object), poke holes across the cake at 1-inch intervals, making sure to poke to the bottom of the pan.
3. Combine the pudding mix with the milk and pour on top of the warm cake, spreading to the edges. Place in fridge to cool completely.
4. Make the chocolate frosting according to the directions below and place in the microwave for 20-30 seconds (may be less for a store-bought tub), or until frosting is pourable, but not hot. Pour on top of pudding and spread evenly to cover cake. Place in the fridge for several hours to overnight to allow the flavors to meld and the pudding to soak into the cake. Store in the refrigerator.
Recipe adapted from The Country Cook.

Chocolate Frosting
6 tablespoons butter 
2 3/4 cups powdered sugar
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
5 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. In a large bowl, cream the butter until smooth.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together powdered sugar and cocoa powder.
3. On low speed, gradually beat the sugar mixture into the butter, alternating with the milk. 
4. Add in vanilla and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Alyssa Turns 6-and-a-half!

We've been celebrating half birthdays for 4 years now. The kids get just as excited about adding that half as they do when they turn another year older. We make it special by allowing the half-birthday-er to make meal and activity choices throughout the day. And, of course, we always make some sort of cake, usually cupcakes. Then we end the day with a small gift.

So, even though Alyssa is now technically 6-and-three-quarters, haha, here is how we celebrated her half birthday 3 months ago.

The celebrated child almost always picks pancakes for breakfast.

I know I'm a little partial, but isn't she a pretty little girl?

This time, it was chocolate chip pancakes with homemade maple syrup and candy-coated chocolate chip sprinkles.

And some butter, for good measure.

Alyssa had gotten a princess cupcake kit. Her half birthday was the perfect time to put her baking skills to the test.

I stood back and took pictures while she did all the work.

Of course, decorating the cupcakes was the best part! She and her brothers were very meticulous as they added the icing and "pearl" sprinkles.

They even made specific cupcakes for each member of the family.

I made sure that Tyler's were topped with less icing than the others. Because everyone knows, that boy does not need extra sugar!


Alyssa also got to go to the store with her daddy to pick out a gift. Normally, I purchase something for them to unwrap that day, but sometimes it just doesn't happen. When that's the case, they always pick the same thing: Lego. She chose 2 Lego Mixels and was very excited to show them to her brothers. It was a great end to a great day.

Happy Half Birthday, my sweet girl! We're so proud of the little lady you're growing up to be.

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Friday, December 5, 2014

Things That Make Me Smile 12/5/14

Jake (9), Alyssa (6½), Zac (5), Tyler (2½)

Happy Friday! Not much has changed since last week; I'm still staying on the couch or in bed trying to keep baby in. As long as I'm doing what I'm supposed to (and not trying to straighten up the house and whatnot, ha) contractions are not giving me a problem. I've been trying to bide my time by Christmas shopping online, completing some projects for the kiddos, and working on various other things while resting. This week has gone by surprisingly fast. We've even been able to keep up with school because we can do it all from the couch. Yay for the flexibility of homeschooling! Lots of reasons to Smile.

1. Alyssa, after eating a fortune cookie: "Who wants to trade fortunes? I don't want mine."

2. Jake, concerned, while playing Lego Batman 2 on the Wii: "Mom, they're doing a lot of dangerous stuff."

3. Zac: "What do turkeys say?"
Me: "Gobble, gobble."
Zac, incredulously: "Gobble, gobble? I don't think that's true."

4. Jake turned 9 years old! He's been wanting the Lego DeLorean Time Machine for a really long time. He was a little excited when he open it, haha.

5. Alyssa: "When you had Tyler, I thought that was the end of all of us. I didn't think you were going to have another baby."
Me, humored: "Is that ok with you?"
Alyssa: "Mmhhmm! I loved helping you with Tyler. I can't wait to help with the new baby!"

6. Zac: "I don't think we should watch scary movies. Just regular, ordinary ones."

7. Alyssa: "My teeth itch."
Me: "How do your teeth itch?"
Alyssa, matter-of-factly: "It happens a lot."

8. Alyssa: "Does this thing record?"
Me: "No, it's an accordion, not a recordion."

9.  Since I haven't been able to do any cooking or baking the last 2 weeks, I asked the kids to make some brownies. I love that I can just hand them a recipe, leave them in the kitchen, and allow them to make a yummy treat all by themselves. There are so many benefits to teaching the kids cooking skills!

10. Alyssa: "I'll eat anything! . . . as long as it's yummy."

11. Zac: "Knock, knock."
Tyler: "Who's there?"
Zac: "Robot."
Tyler: "I love robots!"
Zac: "No, Ty, you say, 'Robot who?'"
Tyler: "Robot who?"
Zac: "Robot I love you!"
Tyler: "Oh, thank you!"

What made you Smile this week?

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