Friday, January 29, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 1/22/16

Jake (10), Alyssa (7½), Zac (6), Tyler (3½), Nicholas (1)

Happy Friday! We had major plumbing problems and spent this week with my parents. I'm writing a post about all the reasons to be thankful about the whole situation. Until then, we can Smile about some funny things that happened during this time.

1. Zac: "I want to tear a dollar in half to see if quarters fall out."

2. My Mom: "How come you're so cute?"
Tyler: "Because I'm smart."

3. Tyler, annoyed while driving: "Mama, come on, a car just passed us."

4. Nicholas eating chocolate chip muffins.

5. Alyssa: "Jake, you know that LEGO set you want? There's a 55% chance I'm going to get it and a 45% chance that I'm not."

6. Jake: "How many years are you in 7th grade?"

7. Jake: "Jokes don't make sense until you get them."

8. Tyler: "Mama, look! I made 27!"
Me: "Good job! You made nice 7s. Twenty-seven is actually 2 7 though."
Tyler: "That's what I did--two 7s!"

9. Tyler: "Mama, I know a good thing you do."
Me: "What's that?"
Tyler: "You're shorter and Daddy's bigger."

10. Tyler, while waiting in the van while Leighton went into a store: "Mommy, can you buckle out me so I can give you a kiss?"

11. Jake: "What do you call a pedestrian who went through a red light? . . . A Pe-dead-strian."

What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Maple Sugaring at Home

I have been wanting to experience maple sugaring for a while, but just haven't set up an appointment with a local park to take the kids. I was thrilled when Tap My Trees sent us a Starter Kit with Aluminum Buckets to review. Now we can do it ourselves! We are big do-it-yourself-ers and make the majority of our food from scratch, so making our own maple syrup is a perfect project for us. Plus, it's just plain fun!

The kit comes with all the following supplies:
  • 3 Alluminum Buckets: Each 2-gallon bucket is used to collect the sap as it drips. The sturdy aluminum and reinforced holes of the buckets give them stability as they hang from the trees.
  • 3 Metal Lids: The lids prevent rain, snow, and other material from entering the bucket. They attach with a metal rod that easily slides through a hole in the spile.
  • 3 Spiles: These stainless steel spiles (also called taps or spouts) are inserted into trees to transfer the sap into the buckets.
  • 3 Hooks: The hook is attached to a spile and used to hang the bucket.
  • Maple Sugaring at Home Book: This 44-page guide provides step-by-step instructions to tap trees. It includes information and pictures to identify maple trees, how to tap trees, the collection and storage of the sap, uses for maple sap, directions for making maple syrup, and frequently asked questions. There is even a spot in the back for taking notes.
  • 1 Drill Bit: A 7/16 drill bit with 3/8 shank is used to drill the tap hole that holds the spile in the tree.
  • Cheesecloth: This is used to filter any solids, tree bark, or any other unwanted materials when transferring the sap from the bucket into a storage container.     

Once you have all your equipment ready, it's time to find a tree to tap. Due to the sugar content, the best trees for tapping are in order as follows: sugar maple, black maple, red maple, silver maple. The booklet gives very detailed descriptions of each of the trees, including which region of the country they're located and how to identify them by the leaf, bark, twig/bud, and fruit. 

The best time to identify trees is in the summer or fall when the leaves are still on the trees. Since we didn't get our kit until wintertime, that makes it a bit more difficult to know. We do have a maple tree in our yard, and based on the information in the booklet and looking in various other places, I believe it may be a silver maple. The problem is that the tree is injured. It has become home to a family of squirrels for the past many years as the inside has hollowed, creating a safe home within. Even if we could tap some sap from it, I wouldn't feel comfortable with it. 

If you don't have access to any maple trees, you can also get sap from walnut and birch trees. Thankfully, my brother and his wife have 2 beautiful black walnut trees in their yard and have agreed to allow us to tap them. Yay! The diameter of the tree determines how many taps it can support. Based on the information in the book, we'll be able to use all 3 sets for tapping, since the trees are large and healthy. 

Maple sap generally begins to flow between February and March, when daytime temperatures rise above freezing and nighttime temps drop below (with low 40s and mid 20s being the ideal numbers). The rising temperature creates pressure in the tree and causes the sap to flow. We haven't hit that point yet here in Michigan, so no tapping has taken place, but we are very excited to try it soon.

I have never seen tapping done and have never participated myself, but I am confident that we'll have no issues with the process. Oh, no, I'm not saying that it's because we're just talented people. I can say that because Tap My Trees has given us everything we need to get it done. The materials are strong and well-made. The Maple Sugaring at Home book literally contains all the information for every step of each part of the process. I have learned so much from reading it. For example, I had no idea it takes about 10 gallons of sap to make 1 quart of maple syrup. Or that you need to boil the sap for a very long time, preferable outdoors because of the amount of steam it produces. I also learned that there are other uses for the sap like replacing water with it in cooking and drinking, using extra or spoiled sap in the garden to replenish nutrients, or freezing it to save for the birds in the spring.

I am thoroughly impressed with this starter tapping kit and would recommend it to anyone looking to try maple sugaring at home. I can't wait for the next part of the process in the coming weeks! 

You can connect with Tap My Trees on the following social media sites:

If you'd like to see how other homeschool families used this kit, please read the reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.
Crew Disclaimer
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Friday, January 15, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 1/15/16

Jake (10), Alyssa (7½), Zac (6), Tyler (3½), Nicholas (1)

Happy Friday! This week we went to a LEGO Master Builder competition, played in the snow, and started some new things for school.

1. Tyler, taking a bath: "I want more bubbles!"
Me: "Oh, I'm sorry, that was the last of it. We didn't have much in there."
Zac: "It looks like we're just going to have to do this the old-fashioned way. Ty, just swirl your hands in the water really fast and soon we'll have lots of bubbles!"

2. Tyler: "I saw that sound!"

3. Me, talking about strangers: "But that's probably not going to happen."
Alyssa: "Aw, I wanted to hit someone in the head with my purse."
Jake: That's what you have brothers for!"

4. Nicholas loves the vacuum. He chases it and tries kissing it the entire time it's running.

5. Jake: "What did the usher say to the guy who asked if he was the usher, 'Uh, sure.'"

6. Alyssa, eating cheese: "Colby jack is one of my personal favorites."

7. I was listening to Zac read his book, but looked away to answer a question for Tyler. I heard him read, "The cat crapped . . . " I thought, "What? We don't talk like that. Why is that in a children's book?" I looked over at the page. "Oh, that's an E, not an A. Crept. 'The cat crept.'" Gotta love early readers.

8. The kids wanted to take care of the snow before their daddy got home, so he wouldn't have to do it after working hard all day. They shoveled, cleared off the van, and put down salt.

9. Alyssa: "I like money, but it's not all I care about."

10. Tyler started this a couple weeks ago and does it multiple times every day over and over again.
Tyler: "I."
Me: "Love."
Tyler: "You."
Me: "I."
Tyler: "Love."
Me: "You."

11. Jake: "When you have tuberculosis, do you cough up blood?"
Me: "Yes, you can."
Jake: "That's what I thought. Ok, I made up a joke: A guy walks up to another guy and punches him and breaks his nose. His nose starts pouring blood. The other guy says, 'Hey, you have tu-broke-your-nosis.'"

What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Biscuits & Gravy

Biscuits & gravy is a family favorite. All 5 kids get excited as soon as they smell the sausage cooking. I'm reminded of a couple years ago when I said that I was making it for breakfast. Jake responded, "Oh, I love biscuits and gravy!!! Heaven just came down to earth.'" 

I always serve sausage gravy over my buttermilk biscuits. Thick, fluffy biscuits and rich, creamy gravy--it's a perfect union. Not only do they taste great together, they cook at the same rate too. I can have the meal on the table in about 20 minutes. I start by preparing my buttermilk (1 tablespoon white vinegar and enough milk to fill 1 cup) for the biscuits and then start browning the sausage for the gravy. Just as the biscuit edges' are turning brown, the gravy is nice and thick. It's like they were made for each other.

We love it for a big family breakfast on Saturday or for dinner on a weeknight. Even reheated leftovers are good! Biscuits & gravy is the perfect dish for any time.

Sausage Gravy
1 lb. sausage
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups milk
salt & pepper to taste

Brown sausage over medium-high heat until cooked through. Mix in flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly pour in milk, stirring to scrape bits of browned sausage off the bottom of the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook until mixtures comes to a full boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until gravy thickens to desired consistency. Serve over biscuits

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016


It was not my proudest moment.

The kids were helping me decorate cupcakes for a party. I had planned ahead and baked the cakes early in the day so they had time to cool and get frosted in plenty of time so we weren't rushed when it was time to leave the house.

You know what they say about the best laid plans.

I was running late. Of course. I had started my buttercream frosting mixing for the required 15 minutes and pulled out my decorator. Ugh, I forgot the lever is broken. I grabbed a tip and began filling a disposable pastry bag with the creamy frosting. The flimsy plastic bags aren't nearly as easy to fill as the metal tube, especially in a rush. I scooped out a glob of frosting and plopped it in. The sides of the bag stuck together. I pulled them apart and the process repeated. Ok, new tactic. I folded the top of the bag down and used my hand to scrape off the frosting through the plastic. Scoop, scrape, scoop, scrape. The bag was eventually full enough to begin. I squeezed swirls around the cupcake until the top was covered in orange. Or until I thought the top was covered anyway. My rushed technique would have made any professional cringe. Chocolate brown peeked through gaps. Cupcake #2 looked no better. I didn't even like the design. I unscrewed the end, removed the tip, and replaced it with a star tip. Better.

At this point, I was cranky. I was quickly losing time, the cupcakes looked sloppy, I hadn't even started getting myself ready . . . and there was constant talking from my little ones. Which one are you going to use? Can I decorate one? I'll put on the sprinkles! But Mom said I could do the sprinkles! Can I eat one now? I want to try! Hey, you're standing in my way! Look at me! Can I try now? It's my turn for the sprinkles. Mom, do you think we can eat one before we go? Mom. Mom? Mom? 

My tension was rising. I was frustrated with my less-than-perfect cakes and, in turn, became bothered by the dialogue between my kids. I know they like to help. I know they're always with me. But I just need 2 minutes of quiet! Please?

All the while, I was swirling sweet buttercream on each cake, becoming crankier with every finished treat. And all the while, my kids kept up their upbeat chatter while complimenting everything I did.  These are perfect! and You should go on Cupcake Wars! and You make the best cupcakes! They didn't see my imperfections. They were looking at my work through eyes of love. Even more amazing was the fact that they didn't see my bad attitude either. I felt guilty at hearing their praise, but was too rushed and too upset with myself to change my mood.

And then it happened.

I had given them the container I was taking the cupcakes in. As they were placing them inside, one cupcake fell upside down and landed on another, smearing the frosting on both into a messy glob.

She pushed me! No, he bumped into me! It was her fault! It was his fault! 

I yelled.

I was already out of time. I was already upset with the decorating. I was already cranky. And now I had to redo cupcakes? I snapped at them and sent them away.

My little ones walked out of the kitchen dejected. 

Did I really just lose my temper over a cupcake?


I finished placing the trivial desserts in the box with tears in my eyes. Oh, Lord, forgive me. Here I was more concerned with insignificant things than I was the hearts of my children. I crushed their spirits with my harsh words. That's something no mother wants to do, let alone admit it.

I walked into my daughter's room. She looked up at me wounded, like she was afraid I was going to yell again. I could see the pain in her eyes. I apologized. I explained that she did nothing wrong. I asked for her forgiveness. I gave her a hug.

I walked into my son's room and the situation repeated itself.

Both children were quick to forgive and the relationships were restored. They immediately began talking to me like it never happened. Their positive attitudes returned; their excitement was seen on their faces.

I try daily to do the best for my kids, to be the mother they need, to be the example they deserve. But I fail. Here are 3 ways in which I could have been prepared to handle this day better:

Proper Planning
I should have planned my day differently and ensured that the cupcakes were completed long before it was time to leave. I wouldn't have felt the pressure of the time restraint. I would have been less stressed and wouldn't have gotten upset about silly things.

Proper Priorities
Raising the children God has given me is my top priority. Yes, I made a commitment to bring a dessert to their party, but it was not a priority that they visually meet my expectations, at least not at the expense of my kids. Besides, the kids always tell me, "It doesn't matter how it looks. It only matters what it tastes like." Wise little ones, they are. 

Proper Perspective
I am a big advocate for allowing children to help in the kitchen. I believe there are many benefits of teaching them culinary skills. I have my littles helping me from the beginning--starting with a baby in the bouncer watching and listening to my explanations, to a toddler sitting on the counter dumping ingredients, to an older child preparing meals on his own. And I know what it's like to have multiple children helping, too. The noise, the chaos, the lack of space. Accidents happen. I use those moments for teaching experiences, but I forgot that that day. Truthfully, had I not been stressed, I probably would have thanked them for giving me the chance to redo the frosting to make it prettier. Perspective is so important.

No one is perfect. And even the most-prepared person is going to make mistakes. That's where forgiveness comes in. I want my children to understand the importance of it--both the asking and showing of it. I want them to admit their mistakes, to accept that they made poor choices, and act accordingly. Pity the person who never believes he needs to ask forgiveness of others. On the flip side, I also want them to be willing to show forgiveness to those who have wronged them, hurt them, and mistreated them. Refusing to forgive breeds bitterness within. May they always be willing to forgive and move on. 

I'm not sure if they remember this incidence, but even though it happened months ago, I recall it with clarity. I can hear the conversations. I can see the pain in their eyes. I remember my frustrations. I cringe at my attitude. But I also learned from my mistakes. I try to keep my planning, priorities, and perspective in place. And when I fail, I want my little ones to know that their mother is willing to admit she was wrong. This lesson on asking and showing forgiveness is worth learning, for all of us.

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Monday, January 11, 2016

Kids Say the Funnies Things: Part 14

Here we are again with the next part of Kids Say the Funniest Things! These memories are from the middle months of 2014. These were the kids ages at the time recorded: Jake 8, Alyssa 6, Zac 4, Tyler 2.

Jake, excitedly: "Hey, I have an idea! We can go wild cow hunting!"

Zac: "Mom, e-s-t-u: yogurt."
Me: "That's a funny way of spelling yogurt." 
Zac: "I spelled it in karate."

Alyssa: "I neeed candy!!!"
Jake: "Actually, people don't need candy to live."
Alyssa, sincerely: "They don't?"

Jake: "Who invented gum?"
Me: "Hmm, I don't know."
Jake: "I bet Papa knows. He knows almost everything."

Alyssa: "I wish I had eyes in my mouth. Then I could see what I was biting."

Alyssa, reading: ". . . The turtle and the lizards and the snake and the dragonflies and the field mouse all sat on the river bank and waited . . . Why does the river have its own bank? Do people throw money in there?"

Zac: "Knock, knock."
Me: "Who's there?"
Zac: "Green bean."
Me: "Green bean who?"
Zac: "Green bean I'm gonna kiss you!"

Zac: "I'm your second marry-er. Daddy's your first marry-er."

Zac: "I'm king of the elbows!"

Tyler got into Alyssa's nail stuff and gave himself a princess pedicure.
Jake, to Zac: "You can't change the rules just so Mom wins."
Me: "You can't be disgusting just because you're a boy."
Jake: "Mom, boys are made of disgust."

Alyssa tattling: "Jake bit me!"
Jake: "She was biting me!"
Alyssa: "No, I wasn't! I was getting ready to!"

Alyssa: "Jake doesn't like me. He treats me like I'm a waffle."  

Zac: "I love my coat with the Ziploc pockets." (zippered pockets)

While doing school, we were talking about words with irregular plurals. After I gave a few examples, I asked the kids for some. Jake immediately said, "Paczki!"

Tyler watching the cotton from our cottonwood tree blowing all around and excitedly shouting, "Bubbles!"

Me: "I think Blue Baby (stuffed animal) needs a bath."
Zac: "Why? She's not dirty."
Me: "Oh, yes, she is."
Zac, inspecting the bear all over: "What, this? That's just old California."

Zac, after Leighton walked me to the car with an umbrella in the rain: "That was nice."
Me: "Yes, it was. Are you going to do that for your wife one day?"
Zac: "Yeah! I hope you're the wife."

Alyssa, during a thunder storm, "I'm scared out of my guts already!" 

The kids were outside playing and taking random pictures (my camera was full of hilarious kid-selfies). They explained how they staged these, and then I watched a few in process. Jake would tell the others how to stand and they'd pose for him. They had so much fun!

Zac: "Mom, I think you should dye your hair light purple and black."
Me: "And why's that?"
Zac: "'Cause then people would think you look fabulous!"
Alyssa, laughing: "Don't worry, mom's hair is dying itself."
Jake: "Yeah, white."

Alyssa: "Sometimes I wish my tongue could disappear so I didn't have to taste the things I don't like." 

Zac, dreamily: "I'm gonna fall in love with you, Mom . . . Actually, I already am 'cause I kiss you all the time."

Jake: "Do they have the Little Rascals in color?"
My Mom: "No, they didn't have color back then."
Alyssa: "Did they live in black and white?" 

Alyssa, eating a piece of bread with sesame seeds on it: "If you plant bread, will it grow?" 

Alyssa: "When Daddy was leaving, I put my hand to my heart and did this {waves hand toward the window} because it was like I was giving my heart to him."
Zac, with a handful of Lego mini-figs: " It's a good thing I have my trusty sidekicks with me."

Zac, seeing the reflection of the computer in my glasses: "How did you get your eyes computered?"

Jake, eating a nectarine: "We should call these nectar-dreams, because they're so good, it's like  dream."  

Jake: "Mom, do you think cooked goblin guts would taste good?"  

Alyssa, after seeing a picture of how peanuts grow: "That's weird man, that's weird."

I found Tyler in the kitchen eating suckers and working on opening 5 more.

Zac: "Who's Jake playing checkers with now?"
Me: "The computer."
Zac: "How's the computer playing? It doesn't even have any hands."

Zac, showing me his red arm: "This was an accident."
Me: "What happened?"
Zac: "Ty bit me."
Me: "How was that an accident?"
Zac: "When I started crying, he stopped."

Alyssa: "Mom, have you ever robbed a bank? I'm guessing no."

Zac, fake burping in the morning: "That was all from dinner tomorrow."  

Jake: "Pterodactyls are extinct, so how did your guy get one?"
Zac: "Because he washed it."
Jake: "Haha, not ex-stinked! Extinct means they're all dead." 

Zac: "When I'm a dad, will I work at Daddy's work?"
Me: "Well, that will be up to you."
Zac, concerned: "I want to, but I don't know how to get there!"

Alyssa, about sunglasses: "Try these on and see if they're too small or too big."
Zac, putting them on: "They're too medium."  

Jake, because Tyler was setting up our chess board: "Why is he playing chess? He doesn't even know that the white team goes first."

Leighton: "No, that's European." 
Alyssa: "My what?!?"

Zac: "The future's not even real. It's just a part of a movie. Some people think it's real, but it's not."  

Zac: "Mom! Tyler's playing with the toilet paper!" 

Alyssa, playing a board game: "I hope Zac wins one time."
Zac: "Me too, otherwise I'm totally going to be singing the blues."

Jake: "I'm almost as tall as you. I just need another head."

Zac: "I can make my tongue into a roll-up sleeping bag." 

Zac: "How do mouses play a big, giant piano?"
Me: "With big, giant hands."
Zac: "No."
Me: "Very carefully?"
Zac: "No. They put on a jet pack and fly up! Get it? Isn't that hilarious?"

After Leighton had been gone all day on Saturday (a day he's normally home) Alyssa proclaimed that she was "daddy-sick," like homesick, but missing her daddy.  

Alyssa: "My arm is tired from stirring."
Zac: "Mine's not tired. You can use my arm."

I hope these made you Smile. The last part of 2014 will be posted soon and it's full of more Smile-worthy quotes! Until then, check out some of the earlier installments of Funniest Things.

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Friday, January 8, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 1/8/16

Jake (10), Alyssa (7½), Zac (6), Tyler (3½), Nicholas (1)

Happy Friday! What a busy week it's been. I have posted every day so far this year and am slowly whittling away my open drafts. I have only 60+ more to go, ha. If only my kids would stop having birthdays, stop saying funny stuff, and just plain stop doing things, then maybe I could catch up! Ha. I've often said, by the time I have enough time to blog, I won't have anything to blog about anymore.  In the mean time, I'll just do the best I can to record these things for my little ones. And we'll always make time to Smile.

1. Jake: "You're the best mom ever. I don't like anyone other girl better than you . . . And Alyssa. And Gramma. And Great Grandma."
2. Tyler: "I can't do what I can do."
3. Jake, smelling loose red raspberry tea leaves: "This tea smells awkward--awkwardly delicious."

5. Alyssa: "Nicky ate some of that?"
Me: "Yeah, he spit out the first bite all over himself."
Alyssa: "Babies are babies, and you can't change that. Unless they grow up."

6. Jake: "Note to self: Play dough does not bounce."

7. Zac: "When I grow up, I want to be rich!"
Me: "Why's that?"
Zac: "Because Gramma and Papa are rich!"

8. Jake: "I feel like I'm not doing enough for school."
Me: "Do you want more work?"
Jake: "Yes." 
9. The kids gave me a box of "Godiva" chocolates.

10. I had finished feeding Nicholas in the middle of the night. He sat up and noticed that Tyler was in our bed too. He got a big smile, climbed on top of his brother, and leaned over and gave him the biggest kiss.

11. Tyler, eating a Jolly Rancher: "It tastes like sticky apple."

12. Jake, while listening to a book: "Why would they eat tulip bulbs?"
Me: "Because they were starving. If you get hungry enough, you'll eat just about anything."
Jake: "I would even eat oatmeal."

What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Car Garbage Bag Holder

Many years ago, when I shared my car with no one, it was kept clean. Spotless. Garbage-free. Anything that didn't belong in it was taken out when I got out.

And then I got married.

I love that man dearly. I do. But he doesn't share my fervency for a clean vehicle. It doesn't help that he's worked in the demolition field since before we got married and it's nearly impossible to keep his truck free from dirt, but that's another story.

Over the years, he's given me children--5 of them--and those children all seem to have missed out on that keep-your-car-clean gene. They're much more like their father in that aspect, but worse. I mean, they are kids, after all. Almost every time they take something in the van with them it remains there until Leighton or I demand that they bring it in the house.

Candy and gum? Pop it in your mouth and toss the wrapper in the cup holder.
Toys? Drop them in your seat once we reach our destination.
Papers from church? Let them slip out of your hands and fall carelessly to the floor to be trampled on.
Hair ties and clips? Ask mom to put them in your hair just so you can remove them before we even get to where we're going and leave them in the van. Bonus points for each additional item.
Crayons, pencils, pens? Set them down and let them roll until they get lost deep between the seats.
Lego pieces? Actually, I'm not so sure what they do with those as I find them in every possible crevice of both the van and the house. What exactly do they do? Throw them in the air to make it rain? Play hide and seek with each other? See who can lose their pieces the fastest? Strategically place them all over to drive mom crazy?? I'm just not sure.

Am I exaggerating? Yes. Maybe. But you get the point. Kids plus car equals mess. (Actually, kids plus anything equals mess, but you already knew that.) Whether you're running errands around town or driving on vacation across country, you need a way to contain the mess.

All you need to do is fill an empty paper towel tube with plastic grocery bags.

I know, super simple. We always have bags in the van for garbage or for carting objects back into the house. We've been using this method since our oldest was just a little guy, because it works so well. I do prefer to rely on reusable bags for grocery shopping and carrying our things, so I use the plastic bags mostly for garbage, but there are times when I forget to put the reusables back in the van and just hand the kids a plastic bag to gather their things. When you use up all the bags, you just need to refill it. The tube lasts quite a while before needing to be replaced. It fits easily next to your seat, under it, in the glove box or anywhere that you can access it. I keep mine in a slot in  the passenger door. That way, while Leighton is driving, I can gather the random mess of papers, wrappers, receipts, and whatnot that has been overlooked and get the van back to clean again. 

In a perfect world, the kiddos would clean up after themselves every time without being reminded to. Yeah. Until then, we'll just keep filling our tube with bags.

Now, if only I could figure out what they do with those Lego pieces.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 1/1/16

Jake (10), Alyssa (7½), Zac (6), Tyler (3½), Nicholas (1)

Happy New Year! May we draw closer to God and closer to our families this year. And find more reasons to Smile.

1. Jake: "I was trying to get water to come out my nose, so I told Alyssa to say something funny after I took a drink of water. She said, 'Darth Vader has chest hair.' See, it's funny!"

2. Tyler: "I have no idea how Daddy got my baby."

3. Zac: "Tyler, you broke it!"
Tyler: "That wasn't me! That was my finger!"

4. Me: "Naked boy, where are your clothes?"
Tyler, wearing absolutely nothing: "I have no idea."


6. Tyler: "I want two! Two Ty-Tys!"

7. Tyler: "That is fick"
Me: "Yes, it is tttthhhhhick"
Tyler: "Yeah, dat's what I said, 'fick.'"

8. Alyssa: "No matter what, you always get the cup wet when you get water."

9. Zac: "Let's wrap Tyler and say, 'To Auntie Dawn, From Kids.' That way Auntie Dawn and Uncle Gary have to take care of Tyler. Haha, he's so much trouble."   

10. Alyssa: "I want to get a second watch to wear on my other wrist. I have a tight schedule."

What made you Smile this week?

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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Taco Seasoning Mix

I boiled a couple organic chickens that my brother raised and picked the meat off the bones to use for various meals over the next couple weeks. Like always, I tossed the carcasses, some veggies, and spices into a large pot of water to make rich stock. By the time I needed to prepare dinner, I had both the chicken and the broth I needed to make chicken lemon rice soup.

That was yesterday.   

Today, I decided to use some of the chicken to make white chicken enchiladas for dinner. Simple. All I would need to do was throw together the white cheese sauce to pour on top. When I started gathering my ingredients though, I remembered that I had used up our taco seasoning the last time we had a Mexican-inspired dinner. Thankfully, it takes maybe 2 minutes to whip up another batch. And that was with a baby hanging on my legs.

I can't even remember how many years we've been making this seasoning mix. Not only does it not have any weird ingredients, it tastes so much richer than the store-bought packets. I always double or triple the recipe, because we use it so much. We use this to season all our Mexican dishes and the whole family loves it. In fact, my oldest was walking into the kitchen one day as I was making this and asked what it was. When I told him taco seasoning, he replied, "No, it's Heaven dust." Yeah, it's good stuff. This is an easy recipe for the kiddos to prepare, since it's just a matter of measuring and mixing. And the seasoning mix itself is pretty forgiving, so if they spill in some extra chili powder or paprika, no big deal.  

Today's dinner may have required an extra step to prepare, but it couldn't have been any simpler to remedy. In fact, it would have taken longer for Leighton to run to the store to grab some packets than it took for me to make my own. Ease, taste, quality. That's a winner in my book. 

Taco Seasoning Mix
4 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons cumin
4 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Mix all ingredients and and store in an air-tight container.  Use 2-3 tablespoons per pound of meat.

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Monday, January 4, 2016

Zac's 5th Birthday

I've posted so many Smiles the last few days that I figured it was time to break things up a bit. Don't get me wrong, you can never laugh too much, but today we can Smile at cute pictures of a little boy, instead of the cute things the little boy says. And since I've been in the catching-up-on-posts mood, I figured I would finish up a post I started a while ago: Zac's 5th birthday. Yes, he turned 6 a few months ago. This is an oldie, but a goodie.

Happy 5th Birthday, Zac!

The birthday child always gets to pick breakfast. Zac chose buttermilk pancakes with strawberry syrup, topped off with fresh whipped cream and sprinkles. Certainly not healthy, but how often do you get a birthday anyway?

We dropped off the other kids with my parents and spent the rest of the day together celebrating him. The kids and I look forward to their Special Day every year. I love having one-on-one time with each of them and they love choosing the agenda. 

Birthday boy's choice for lunch? McDonalds. 

After lunch, we made a stop at the dollar store where Zac picked out a new school workbook, markers, and a toy.

What would a Special Day be without a Toys 'R Us birthday crown and balloon? We threw in a red Hulk, just for fun.

At home, we assembled the new LEGO set he picked out at the store and then watched the LEGO Movie together.

On the way to pick up the other kiddos, we grabbed Slurpees for everyone.  I always like to bring back a treat for the others so no one feels left out.

Zac picked homemade personal pizzas for dinner and chocolate cake with blue buttercream frosting for dessert.

And, of course, no Leaf birthday is complete without a LEGO birthday present!

Happy 5th Birthday to my sweet, tenderhearted, selfless, loving boy.

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Sunday, January 3, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 12/25/15

Jake (10), Alyssa (7½), Zac (6), Tyler (3½), Nicholas (1)

Merry Christmas! We've had such a wonderful week. Family, presents, food, laughs, love, and lots of LEGO. Many, many reasons to Smile. 

1. Jake, in the other room: "How did you get out of my trap, Baby?"
Me, calling: "Don't wrap that around his leg. Leave your baby brother alone."
Jake, surprised: "Hey, how did you know what I was doing?"
Me: "I'm a mom."
Jake: "Ok, where did I just slap myself?"
Me: "On your cheek."
Jake: "What! How did you--Ok, now where?"
Me: "On your butt."
Jake: "Ahh! What? How do you do that?!?"

2. Tyler: "Is it yesterday yet?"


4. Tyler: "Is that a wheels waffle?"
Leighton: "That's just a standard waffle."
Tyler: "How can it stand?"

5. Me: "Why is there a potato on the floor?"
Jake, tossing it on the couch: "Look, now it's a couch potato! Haha, that joke gets me every time."

6. Zac: "You always give me a present, every day."
Me: "I do? What's that?"
Zac: "It's love."

7. Tyler, hearing the other kids ask for something: "Can I have one? Oh, I don't like it. What is it?"


9. Tyler: "My hair is getting hot."

10. Every year before we open presents on Christmas morning, we read the story of Jesus' birth in Luke 2. As the kids get older, they take turns reading portions. Zac was excited to help read it for the first time this year.

11. Tyler: "Mommy, I want to spend the night at Gramma's."
Me: "Aww, not tonight."
Tyler: "How about today?"
Me: "Not today either."
Tyler: "How about tomorrow?"

What made you Smile this week?

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Saturday, January 2, 2016

Kids Say the Funniest Things: Part 13

Happy New Year! I love taking the time at the beginning of a new year to reflect on the past. We recall the precious memories, relive the fun times, and acknowledged the strength we gained through the hard ones. One of my favorite ways to reminisce is by reading the lists of Things That Make Me Smile. This weekly collection is filled with funny, cute, or memorable quotes and experiences of our kids. It's from these lists that I gather a few of my favorites from the year to create Kids Say the Funniest Things. 

Even though I had planned to get caught up, I'm a year behind still (you can read why here). That means that these memories are from 2 years ago, yet some seem like they happened just recently. Oh, how I love these little ones of mine. Here is installment 13 from the beginning of 2014. I hope you enjoy Smiling with me.

These were the kids ages at the time recorded: Jake 8, Alyssa 5½, Zac 4, Tyler 1½.

Zac, when I turned the light on in the morning: "The too bright was trying to burn my eyes." 

Alyssa: "One day, I had a most unusual dream. It was about Alton Brown's cooking show."

Jake, while turning on Disney's Robin Hood: "Remember, it starts not very exciting. Then it gets so exciting that your head pops off."

Jake: "Tyler's so crazy it's like there's a chipmunk running around in his head."

Jake: "Mom, have you unlocked your true potential yet?"  

Jake: "Haven't you heard that old saying, 'If you touch fire, you'll regret it. If you don't regret it, you're toast.'"
Me "And who said that?"
Jake: "Me. I just made it up."

Jake: "You're as old as pineapple, Alyssa."

Alyssa: "I'm never trying milk mixed with water. It probably tastes like compost."
Zac, looking at our Roman numeral clock: "Look, it's V o'clock."

This mud post

Alyssa, because Tyler scribbled on her paper: "Try to show a little more respect."

Alyssa: "I'm very, very, very hot. But I'm also very cold." 

Jake: "I watched an Angry Birds Toons once that was a Halloween one. There was a bird that was dressed up with an axe sticking out of his head."
Me: "Eww, that's morbid."
Jake: "Morbid? Who's he?"

Alyssa: "Mom, I think we have more marbles than you now, because you've been losing yours!"

Jake: "Zachary! Just because you can throw things, doesn't mean you have the freedom to throw them at my Legos."

Zac, sad: "Each of my gloves has only 5 fingers." 

Alyssa: "Jesus can do anything. He could even turn into a fly. But if someone had a fly swatter? . . . He would not want to be a fly."
Alyssa, yelling: "Mom! Can you tell Zac to be quiet?"
Zac, yelling: "I can't hear you! I'm too loud!"

Alyssa: "In Jesus Love the Little Children, when it says 'red and yellow, black and white' who's the 'yellow'?"
Me: "Like Chinese and Japanese people."
Alyssa: "Well, I know who the red are . . . People with sunburns."

Jake, astounded: "Do you know what I heard at church? There used to be this thing called sending letters to people.

Jake: "Zac, stop chewing with your mouth."

Me, giving a clue while playing a guessing game: "It's something I really like."
Alyssa: "Daddy!"

Jake: "Tyler is known for his trouble. Not that many people know him though, so it's ok."  

Zac, after getting out of the bathtub: "My hands are crinkly."

Leighton: "Say I."
Tyler: "I."
Leighton: "Love."
Tyler: "Mommy!"

Zac: "Jake's birthday is first, but I didn't hear it coming." 

Zac: "Mom, were we parents when you were little?"

Zac: "How do you spell peanut butter?"
Me: "P-e-a-n-u-t b-u-t-t-e-r."
Zac, pointing to the jar: "They spelled it wrong. J-I-F."

Alyssa, confidently: "I know what 10 plus 100 is: ten hundred."  

Zac, to Alyssa: "I wish God didn't give you feet to kick me in the head."

Zac: "I think hiccups are scared of water."
Zac: {Achoo} Mom, I almost got you!
Me, teasing: "Oh, no, don't sneeze on me."
Zac: "Yeah, 'cause you're pretty. Why would I sneeze on you when you're pretty?"

Zac, while I was making dinner: "Thank you for making the so best smell in here!" 

Zac, holding the phone to my ear: "Now you have love in your ear!"
Me: "I do? Why?"
Zac: "'Cause I kissed the phone!"

Jake: "I want to play professional Uno."

Jake, proudly: "Mom, I can fit a whole golf ball in my mouth! Wanna see?"

Zac: "May I have a napkin, please?"
Jake: "You have pants for a reason."

Zac: "The sky is black when it's night. That means the sun is turned off at night, right?"

Zac: "I can say one thing in Spanish: ooplo.
Me, humored: "Ooplo? And what does that mean?"
Zac: "I don't know; it's Spanish!"

Jake, showing me the "shorts" he was wearing: "Uh, Mom, I think you put Tyler's pants in my drawer. Haha, these aren't my shorts."
Me, laughing: "No, but they fit pretty good."

Zac: "I want to be a grave digger when I grow up. Then I can get all the worms I want!"  

Alyssa, tattling: "Jake said he hated me!"
Jake, smiling: "Words may be deceiving."

While listing make-believe characters . . .
Jake: "Griffin."
Zac: "Dragon!"
Alyssa: "Unicorn."
Zac: "Two-headed dragon!"
Alyssa: "Pegasus."
Zac: "Three-headed dragon!"
Jake: "Centaur."
Zac: "Four-headed dragon!

Jake, holding a wiggling worm: "Aw, he's so cute!"
and then . . .
"Should I tear him in half so he can be friends with himself?"

Thanks for Smiling with me! Part 14 from the middle of 2014 is coming soon. If you are needing some more laughs before then, check out some of the earlier installments of Kids Say the Funniest Things.

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Friday, January 1, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 12/18/15

Jake (10), Alyssa (7½), Zac (6), Tyler (3½), Nicholas (1)

Nicholas turned 1 year old this week! Time is going by so fast. The kids performed their Christmas program at church, I created a nativity felt set for them, and we continued with our multiple advent calendars to count down the days until Christmas.  

1. Jake: "Who's the smartest person in the world?"
Me: "I'm not sure anyone knows that."
Jake: "Well, I bet it's Papa. He's got to be in the top 10, for sure."
2. Zac: "Mom, no matter what, every day you're pretty."

3. Jake turned Zac into a present.

4. Zac: "I know why it's called a piñata. Because pin is the first part and you can pop it with a pin."
Me: "But, remember, it's a Spanish word."
Zac: "What?"
Me: "Piñata."
Zac: "But how do you say what in Spanish?"
Me: "Qué."
Zac: "What?"
Me: "Yes."
Zac: "No, how do you say what?"
Me: "Qué."
Zac: "K, but how do you say it in Spanish?"
Me: "Qué."
Zac: "What?"
Me: "Yes."
Zac: "Huh?"

5. Jake: "Cleaning up a baby is easier said than done." 

6. Tyler, while talking about swimming: "Why are they babing suits? They're not just for babies." 

7. Nicholas found a bag of flour while Leighton and I were making breakfast.

8. Zac, about the smoothies I made: "What does it taste like?"
Tyler: "It tastes like yummy."

9. Tyler: "Mommy, my brain is talking."
Me: "What's it saying?"
Tyler, smiling: "I have no idea!"

What made you Smile this week?
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