Saturday, August 9, 2014

7 Things

Dear Blog,

It makes me sad how much you have been neglected lately. I could make a lot of excuses to try to make you feel better, but it all boils down to only being able to do so much. Some days my focus is just making it to bedtime without any major meltdowns!

Here's some of what's been on my mind lately, from the trivial to the life-changing.

1. Do you ever see an image in a magazine or on Pinterest and it just makes your heart stop?!

This dining room did it to me yesterday. I saw it first on Pinterest and could only track it as far as this web site (where it's been pinned almost 1000 times). Anyone know where the original image comes from? To me it's the perfect blend of rustic farmhouse modern industrial timeless kid-friendly neutral yet so stylish.

I thought, after staring at the picture, that I just had to share the inspiration. It's certainly what I'd like to have in my own house. A rustic table, a bench, metal chairs and lights, built-in shelving for fancy dishes and cookbooks and pretties.

In fact, I wrote a whole post about it, complete with many more pictures and sources and links...

And 90% of it got eaten by cyberspace. Poof! There went my evening of blogging...

I just didn't have the energy to recreate that post, so I didn't. My blog isn't really a decor blog anyway. I'm trying to remember that and be ok with it, and use it more as a family scrapbook, but sometimes it's easier to just browse Pinterest.

2. Which brings me to point number two, in which I promise to only be vague and confusing, at best, as I muddle through what I've been feeling lately. There's so much background to where these thoughts are coming from, but basically I don't like who I am when I spend too much time on Pinterest. I get jealous. I whine in my head, It's not fair! Why does she get a beautiful fill-in-the-blank?

It steals my joy.

You've heard that saying, right? It's so true. There's more to the story, like I said earlier, but one thing I'm doing about it isn't spending less time on Pinterest, but purposefully editing what I see on Pinterest to be more uplifting. Not just feel-good stuff, but more I-could-do-that DIY stuff, life hacks, homeschool inspiration, modest dress, healthy food, Christian morals, living with less, you know.

Because anyone could compare their life with masses of others and come out feeling empty-handed. You know what? It works the other way around too. As in, think of all of my amazing blessings instead of focusing on what I don't have. I mean, duh, I know this, but the action from my latest bout of self-induced malcontent is to actively change what I see on Pinterest.

I'm editing my boards. Following different pinners. Doing new searches. It's going to take some time to kill the jealousy-inducing monster, but I know I'm using the right sword.

3. Grandpa has cancer. Their Grandpa, my husband's Dad, my Father-In-Law. He's losing his hair, no thanks to chemo. Gary and our boys shaved their heads, even though Grandpa lives in a different state. In solidarity.

Aren't they beautiful? And what a precious thing to do for their Grandpa. Please keep Grandpa in your prayers.

4. Only in part due to Grandpa's diagnosis, Gary and I have made the very difficult decision to withdraw from our mission to the British Isles. I know it's been awhile since you've heard an update. I've really been sporadic about posting or even knowing what to post. I keep hoping I'll find my blogging groove eventually, but for whatever it's worth and for the family record, we have officially stopped fundraising and have quit working with the wonderful organization that was sending us.

I could ramble a good bit about different things that made up our minds, but the most convincing argument is this. Our mission was donor based. We were not getting donors. We're still not sure why, but after a year of active fundraising in which most candidates get 70-100% of the needed funds, we were at 11%. I'm sure there are lots of factors, but our emotional energy was spent and we feel the door was firmly shut.

That decision has been brewing for a couple months and Grandpa's diagnosis just emphasized to us that we need to be closer and more available to family, even if we're still quite far geographically. We'd love to travel, love to share Jesus with people who don't know, but we also need to be more available in times of need.

What I expected when we officially withdrew was relief. This year of trying to get other people interested in our mission has been very taxing on us, always feeling we should be trying harder, we should be reaching out more, we should be should be should be... We were trying to figure out why we weren't getting support, and we still are, but officially quitting should have been a relief!

I didn't expect the mourning.

I didn't expect to feel like a failure.

Between Grandpa's diagnosis and our mission ending before it even began, July was a pretty dark month. You know? No energy. Crying. Struggling with meaning and happiness and what it means to be happy and what to do to get that. Thinking we had been divinely lead one way, only to have the door firmly shut and locked, then sickness to become such a real part of life...

5. We're not depressed and we haven't given up on life. We know there's more to it than that. We were never promised unicorns and rainbows, just joy after sorrow. Beauty for our ashes.

I don't want to turn this into a list of all I have to be thankful for (so much), nor do I just want to throw a Plan B out there and we all do the golf clap and fake smile and pats on the backs and everything will be ok. It's not ok. But it's what we have, and God never fails.

Gary is enrolled in classes starting this month at the college we happen to live a block away from. He's finishing a degree he started years ago, in Theology. We'll see where this road takes us!

6. Meanwhile down the road in a very adequate though not ideal rental home in a neighborhood we don't want to stay in any longer than we have to, I'll be homeschooling our little trio. I'm sure I'll be posting more about them this fall as we kick it into high gear. I firmly believe children are constantly learning, whether or not they are actively given opportunities. But I'm also an educator by training and background, so the fall is when I naturally just want to kick it up a notch!

We'll be learning with My Father's World, supplemented by whatever floats our boat, whatever projects I see on Pinterest, whatever almost-free supplies I see at the dollar spot at Target. (Seriously, they have so much good stuff there right now!!!) I'm excited about the possibilities, excited to figure out what works for us and what motivates each of my learners.

7. One thing we've chosen is to babysit less. It just didn't work with homeschooling last year. Maybe the right combinations of kids, maybe a more predictable schedule, maybe a less transient stage of life. But for now we've chosen to cut back. It'll mean fewer stops at Target for those dollar supplies that really add up, fewer evenings at a restaurant to give a stressed-out mommy a break but spending half of the grocery budget on one meal.

But to be able to focus my attention and my energy on my own kids! To be able to shape our days based on what we need to do, not on who's going to be at our house, to have more control over what influence is in our home--HUGE deal!

I need to link my future self to this post. I know I will need to re-read this when I'm tired of feeling trapped by the budget again. I'll need a reminder of why we chose this. I know it'll be another hard year ahead.

It's empowering to think of it as a choice though, isn't it?

Well, I'm tapped. I was going to make this a 10-things post, but I'm done.

Blessings, my friend.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Landscape Garden

We don't have a designated "garden" this year. We're renting and didn't want to tear up the lawn, plus we knew we didn't have time and energy for a real garden. We did, however have empty landscape beds around the house, so we spent a few dollars at Lowe's on Mother's Day and put in a couple of our favorite things.

Since we didn't plant from seed, some things like basil have been producing for us all summer, but other things are just starting to come to fruition! Today was what seemed like the first harvest--finding four cucumbers big enough to pick!

So for our records I busted out the ever-ready cell phone and snapped some pictures of our little landscape garden, as of the third week in July.

We planted these cherry tomatoes for the kids. They've been asked to wait until they turn red, but after than they can pick and eat when they want.

Here's another angle of the cherry tomatoes, which have been the right size for a couple weeks. When will they ever ripen?

I adore eggplant. I know some people don't like the texture, but I've never had issues with that. For some reason they've never done well in the garden for me, so I'm excited about this little guy that's about the size of an apple.

Something is obviously enjoying the leaves of this sweet bell pepper plant, but since the tiny peppers are still doing fine, we're leaving it.

The largest peppers about the size of the cherry tomatoes, but growing fast!

Beefsteak tomatoes are the epitome of summer to me. I can't wait to have a big slice on a piece of gluten-free bread with lots of mayo! And maybe some of the basil you'll see in a big. Mmmm!

I think these tomatoes (above) are supposed to turn yellow. I like those. Somehow they're more mellow than red tomatoes. Yum.

Then of course there are roma tomatoes! Romas mean bruschetta to me. Another summer staple.

This cucumber looks a little funky, but oh well! I'm so tired of spending money on cucumbers and I'm thrilled we got to pick four today! I love cucumber sandwiches and lots of cucumbers in Greek salads too. Hopefully we won't have to buy any more this summer.

Sadly our parsley disappeared (rabbits? squirrels? the wood chip mulch?) and our cilantro bolted so fast I couldn't make it stop, but our basil is big and healthy!

These (below) are jalepeno peppers, our oldest son's request. He and his daddy have shared about three, but they've decided to wait a couple weeks to see if they get spicier. Looks like we have most of the ingredients for salsa!

The one thing missing from our garden is zucchini. We planted several hills but they got rained out and I haven't replaced them yet. I still can, right?

Do you have a garden? Do you throw a few things into your landscaping? I think it's the best way to garden and I'd like to do it on a bigger scale when we have our own property again.

Ok, I'm off to figure out some way to enjoy cucumbers and basil with our supper. We were going to have tacos... Hmm.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Thai Peanut Kale Salad

So. We all know that kale is amazing for us, right? I've had my fair share of it and just kinda felt ... like I was eating it for my health, which is awesome, but I didn't love it.

And then I tried this salad.

We've been eating a lot of salads-as-a-meal lately. Greek salad, fruit salad with yogurt dressing, tossed salad, taco salad. It's basically a requirement for summer.

A few weeks ago, a friend brought this salad to a potluck picnic. I brought my favorite Greek salad and took a serving of the Thai Peanut Kale Salad to be polite. I had to go back for seconds, it's so good! I asked Jennifer for the recipe (as did all of the other ladies at the potluck!) so she took a picture of it and uploaded it to Facebook where she tagged us all. I've made it probably four times now and thought I'd save it for personal reference as it's getting harder to dig back in the Facebook archives to find the original!

I'm not sure where Jennifer got the recipe so I can't give credit where credit is due. I've looked online for a similar salad and this one is always better, though Lindsey at Pinch of Yum has a Chopped Thai Salad with a similar sauce. Her recipe is amazing but calls for cabbage as the base. Which is awesome and I've made it several times too, but sometimes you just want kale!

Thai Peanut Kale Salad (serves 4)

1 bunch kale, chopped (I use half of the giant tub of baby kale and arugula from Sam's)
1 cup carrots, shredded
1 cup shelled edamame or peas or garbanzos 
1 sweet bell pepper, chopped
Any other veggies: cucumber slices, shredded cabbage, scallions, etc

2 heaping spoonfuls of creamy natural peanut butter
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 limes, juiced
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce, Bragg’s liquid aminos or tamari 
salt to taste

Clean and prepare veggies. The kale especially, tastes better in small pieces. Place all in a large bowl, then prepare the dressing. If you have added extra veggies, go ahead and double the dressing recipe! (I always do.) Whisk all dressing ingredients together in a small bowl, then drizzle and massage them over the kale mixture. 

Leftovers will taste great the next day! Thanks for the recipe, Jennifer!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Triple Boy Bedroom

You know, I think this post was what caused my unintended blogging vacation in June. Not that it's a big deal--it's not! The pictures just didn't turn out great and I'm too annoyed to go back and retake them, and editing them was so intimidating... I don't really have chunks of time to spend editing bad pictures. So I took 20 minutes today and just did a few things. No watermark, no painstaking editing, just super-easy short cuts.

And you know what? It's just for the record anyway. I'm not trying to make a bunch of beautiful, pin-worthy pictures. That's not my intention. I just want to look back in a few years and be able to see the cute, triple bedroom we created for our boys. So that's what I'm putting here!

You know, now that I waited a good 6 weeks since I took these pictures, things have changed a little. I'll do some updates soon. Hang on to your seats!

It works best right now for us to have all three boys together in one room. I'm usually a divide-and-conquer kind of person, but instead of dividing the boys, we divided the purpose of the rooms.

This is Josiah's bed. He's in the middle because he's most apt to to to sleep! I know it would have been more practical to have my youngest (he just turned three) against the wall, but he's doing really well and it helps the older boys to have him in the middle. Josiah still uses the original transportation quilt my mom got when Jonathan was just transitioning out of a crib. *Grandma just gave Josiah his jean quilt that she made for him, so in the updates you can see that.

This is Jonathan's bed. This room is long and narrow, and I liked the idea of having two of the beds under windows and the third in the middle with two nightstands in between. The dressers are on the opposite wall. You'll see that in a minute.

Jared is on the right. Each boy's quilt has a different color back. Jonathan's is blue, Jared's is red, Josiah's is green. The color of the blanket is the same as that boys' sheets. Just how we made it work for us!

This room is in the basement, right across the hall from the room Gary and I use. That means the windows are up high, but there are four of them and they're a little larger than most basement windows because we're in a raised ranch. I think this is a bonus room, or family room or something. It doesn't have a real door, but the three boys don't care!

Each boy has a special bear from build-a-bear. They don't have many stuffed animals, but they do like their bears!

At each end of the room, I hung a set of hooks and strung twine between them. The boys keep more artwork here, hung with clothes pins.

Towels on a propeller hook, a bin for laundry, church shoes in a row. The boys have bins of out of season clothes and clothes that are in-between sizes under the stairs. There's also a rod in there for hanging church outfits. Other than that, all their clothes are in the dressers and shoes live upstairs in a closet.

You can tell we once had an airplane theme! We have quite a few pieces left, but some have been given away in our downsizing over the last two years. The red dresser and yellow dressers belonged to Gary and his brother when they were little!

So there you go, a quick little tour of our simple solution for our three boys! What do we do with the upstairs bedrooms? Funny, but they're kinda extra! We're just all cozy downstairs! One is our classroom and one is a guest room where the daycare kids nap and where I keep art supplies. Now you know!

Anyway, hope you have a great day!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Life Lately {June}

Well, shoot! Here it is, July already. I'm ok with that, it's just that I didn't blog in June. I seriously don't mean to do that! And I hate it when that happens. Not that there's nothing to blog about, it's just that life is busy and there are lots of balls I'm trying to keep in the air and I can't do them all at once. It seems like if I'm homeschooling, then I'm not cooking or keeping up with laundry. If I blog, I don't exercise, if I babysit a lot, I don't homeschool... I'm sure you know how that is. 

I love that saying I've seen posted on Facebook and Pinterest lately: Not my circus, not my monkeys! Well, these are and it is. And I love it! I wouldn't have it any other way, except a few more monkeys! I just love them, and they're so much fun! 

Let's see. June was full of signs, healthy coffee, snacks for kids, the park, more signs, iced tea...  I had someone local contact me through my Etsy store about selling my signs at her shop! I'm super excited about the opportunity and was able to make 12 signs in two weeks. The store is called Kindred and it's in Grand Island, about an hour away from Lincoln. It's actually where my husband lived for awhile growing up! Anyway, I have a whole post about the signs I made and will be adding to my Etsy store in the near future. Apparently it takes lots of iced beverages and the occasional pretty skirt to pull that off.

Speaking of my monkeys... They keep growing. And getting tan! And my oldest, Jonathan, got glasses! Apparently, he really needs them. I'm hoping they'll help. He was so brave at the optomitrist! I let him pick out his own frames--they are not at all what I would have chosen, but I wanted him to have something he likes since he has to wear them all the time. He usually does wear them and only sometimes complains that they're in the way.

The sunrise pictures are from my early morning walk. I've been going a lot more frequently, although after our mini-vacation over the 4th I haven't gotten back out there. On days I go I'm SO glad and it's pretty and I feel good getting something good-for-me checked off the list, but it's 4 miles around the lake which just about wears me out for the day. Hopefully that won't always be the case.

For Mother's Day I got a picnic table, and for Father's Day, we got Gary a little fire pit! We've had a couple marshmallow-roasting sessions, but usually the weather is already roasting without adding a fire! And it's not dark until after 9 PM. Hopefully we'll be able to use it more in the fall. We definitely use the backyard a lot! The boys and their daycare friends spend some time there every morning and afternoon, although it does get hot and buggy. Some days we declare it a water day and hook up the sprinkler or slip 'n slide. Sometimes by evening it's cooled off enough to enjoy supper al fresco!

There are lots of lakes around Lincoln. We've spent time at two of them, canoeing, camping, playing in the sand and water, or reading and enjoying an iced tea while you watch from the shore. Hey, I'll take my quiet moments when I can!

We've also had a lot of rain this summer. It's not uncommon to have thunderstorms after a hot day, but we haven't had to wait in the basement much. Things are very green and our garden is happy! I'll try to get some pictures of our cute little landscape garden for you. I'm looking forward to tomatoes and cucumbers!

So, there you go! June according to Instagram! What have you been up to this summer? What do you do to beat the heat?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Life Lately {May}

The problem with using my cell phone pictures so frequently when blogging is that I don't have much new content left for InstaFridays. But maybe no one cares, and this is easier anyway, so here I go! What's left of May, for your viewing pleasure.

We're renting right now, but we got a garden planted anyway! There are some great raised beds as part of the landscaping around the house, and they were completely empty.

Jonathan really does a great job with a hoe, and was so excited about planting flowers! We gave him his own little plot. We planted tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, spinach, lettuce, garlic, cucumbers, beets, carrots, basil, parsley, cilantro and marigolds. I'll show you more when they grow in.

These little guys actually did a great job spreading mulch and hauling away rocks, but I happened to catch them taking a break and accused them of being our supervisors! Little cuties.

On one Sunday I was told very firmly that I was supposed to leave the house. Yeah, I got kicked out! I had no idea where to go for my free time, so I grabbed my latest Country Living and happened to find a Scooter's Coffee shop in a cute little neighbor hood. New magazine + yummy beverage + free time = bliss!

This cuteness? Said Scooter's from above. This is their drive-thru. Totally love it. Totally need a friend to go hang out with me there once a week or something. #mommytherapy

One day a couple of weeks ago, we were invited to join another family at Pioneers Park. The day was perfect; a little cool in the morning but sunny and enjoyable. We saw elk and baby geese, ok, fine, goslings, learned about the prairie and beavers and turtles and all sorts of stuff.

The boys liked this tee-pee and would have stayed much longer but it was lunch time.

We also got to see this turtle eat her lunch--a piece of banana!

One of my kids takes fingerpainting quite literally.

Another emulates his big brother.

And the third is three, what more do you expect?

Ok, there are moments when they take it seriously and have so much fun creating!

Then they go back to doing this...

... and this happens and they wonder why we don't paint more often. #rocketscience

I love love love this jar board! It's for sale at my Etsy store, if you love love love it too!

Nothing beats time at a lake throwing rocks!

I let a mess overwhelm me and procrastinated cleaning it up.

It took less than an hour. Next time I'm not putting it off so long. Duh.

This was the first time we broke out the sprinkler to beat the heat! The boys were in heaven!

But then they found mud and painted on some war paint while Gary was grilling and I was inside making the rest of supper. We've been eating outside on my new picnic table a lot! But this night, a certain trio got hosed off before enjoying their dinner al fresco!

We had our first camping trip of the season this weekend! We went to a little lake near Lincoln, and I think the boys had fun. I'll tell you more about it in an up-coming post. #spoileralert #wehatedit

So how did May treat you? I feel I had a better balance of babysitting and other Mom responsibilities. We got all the birthdays celebrated and I survived seeing all my babies turn a year older. #iwantanotherone #kidding #notkidding

I also want to state for the record that this was the shortest spring ever! The first of the month was still a little cold and rainy and by the end it was officially too hot/muggy/buggy to stay outside all day. I want spring back!


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