Thursday, February 28, 2013

Super-est Dad

I have mentioned before that I married well.

Did I also mention that Aaron is a super daddy?

Because he is.  

He really, really is.

While I was puttering around the kitchen this weekend, he was playing play doh with the girls.


Then, they went bowling down the hallway!


They closed the doors and set up cups as pins.  The soft ball that Aaron played with when he was little made the perfect bowling ball!

We had plenty of snow yesterday, so while I was fixing dinner, they made a little snowman!


So sweet!

They even posed for their blogging mama and were shouting in excitement!


I'm super grateful for Aaron being such a great husband and involved Daddy!

I'm off to take Maggie to her Pre-K screening!  She's so.excited!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

View from the Floor

I wish I remembered to lay on the floor more often.

I know that sounds silly, but when Gracie was about a year old, I would lay on my back on the floor after dinner.  She'd crawl over me and press her face against mine.  We would talk, and she'd bring me toys.  It was a natural, relaxing sort of fun.

I think the beauty of laying on the floor is that I'm not multitasking.  So often I'm involving the girls in what I'm doing around the house instead of involving myself only with them.

Maggie pulled out the tea set today and set up a royal tea.


I was "royal" mommy, and we used "royal" spoons and "royal" cups.

She knew just how she wanted everything set up.


Gracie had some different ideas, but, alas, she was not the hostess of the "royal" tea party.


I did finally manage to get them to both be happy with the tea cup and saucer arrangements.  

There's lot of opinions and feeling to manage...even when I'm laying on the floor :)

While Maggie concentrated on getting the tea party just the way she wanted to,


Gracie danced around and made her own fun!


One of the best gifts we can give our children is to simply be present...

...and that's why I need to lay on the floor more often.

Because, as you can see, the view from the floor is pretty darn sweet.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Treasures

I love it when my girls carry around treasures in a  purse, dolly diaper bag, backpack, or shopping cart.  

I think Gracie currently has treasures in a majority of the aforementioned areas.  She can get mighty possessive of her shopping cart, but that's another story for another day!  

Maggie and Gracie have been pretending to go to school lately.  They have taken 2 bins out of the organizing shelf thing-er in Leah and Maggie's room so they can each have their own cubby.


This does mean that the contents of the bins are all over the girls' room, but I'm choosing not to think of that right now :)

I thought I'd take a little peek into Gracie's backpack and see what treasures she has!


And by "backpack," I do mean "pack pack."  I think all of my girls have called it a "pack pack."

I'm pretty sure that means their cute-ness is genetic!

Without further ado, the contents of the little front pockets:


Tissue: it's always good to be prepared for tears...not that there's any crying in the life of a 2 year old.

Dry Erase Marker Cap with Built in Eraser: you never know when you're going to need to erase something.  It would be nice to have, you know, the marker with this, but let's not fuss over silly little details :)

Polly Pocket Purse: I love the natural alliteration of this.  

Crumpled Paper: just because.

Dora Doll House Basket Accessory: I bet Dora weaved this herself.  She's crafty like that.

Which brings us to the contents of the BIG pocket:


Baby and Bottle: if you're going to have your baby with you, you should really have her bottle.  Very considerate.

Measuring Tapes x2: little measuring tapes are a HOT commodity at our house.  It's pretty smart of Gracie to hoard them have a back up!

LITTLE DORA!!!!: you're back!  You are such a treasure that you ended up in the treasure back pack!  I'm a little choked up just thinking about being reunited...

Washcloth: just in case things get a little messy.

Picnic Basket: if a girl's going to school, she's going to need a lunch!

I know you're wondering what's in the picnic basket!  I won't keep you in suspense:


Strawberry: oh my goodness, as I was typing "strawberry" there, Maggie SAID "strawberry."  What are the odds of that?  It's like winning the lottery!!!

Cup: perhaps the cup could even double as a cookie cutter or circle template!  You've gotta keep your options open.

Napkin: ooo, a cloth napkin.  Keepin' it classy, Gracie!

Juice Box: in case she didn't feel like drinking out of a cup.  Again, options, options, options!

Even cuter than all of the silly little treasures is my cutie little girl!  I love that she puts dress up clothes on over her pajamas first thing in the morning!


I hope your day is filled with happy little things :)

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Dora Doll House Gets a Time Out

Dear the Dora Doll House, 

It's time for us to take a break.

I do think that you are adorable and friendly.



You are so hospitable to open your home to others, even though your front door falls off every other time somebody touches it.

I love how you've been so creative in decorating your home.



I'd love to just settle in to one of your couches and enjoy some tea with you.  I'm sure we'd have some great conversations as long as you didn't say my name 19 times in a row like the "lyrics" to the backpack song.

I feel like that's not asking too much.

I love the ingenuity in your bathroom, too.  



The way the shower turns into a tub is a real space saver. 

It's inspiring, really.

BUT...

It's been documented that I have a HUGE problem with pieces.  When I went to gather all of the people and accessories to your house, Dora, I couldn't find YOU!

That's a problem.




Thankfully, I did eventually find you, but I STILL can't find the other, smaller Dora figurine from a different play set.  The "little Dora" allows Maggie and Gracie to each have a Dora to play with.

So, as you can see, it's really not you...it's me.



The main problem, though, is that Maggie and Gracie have been over exposed to your lovely home lately, which has led to way.too.much. fighting.

One of them wants to reorganize the furniture and the other doesn't, so they get all feisty with each other.  Then, the other wants to transition your house from a 2 story to a ranch style and the other doesn't.

Ain't nobody got time for all that drama.

Because, Dora, when you cause these 2 cutie pies to become frenemies, you get the boot.



I'm sure we can evaluate our relationship again once we've given each other some space.  But, for now, we just need some time apart so we can think things through.

xoxoxo,
me <3

Friday, February 22, 2013

7 going on 17


There's just something about this photo that makes Leah seem so grown up.  I don't know if it's the way she's holding the mug or the way she's curled up on the chair or the fact that she's drinking tea*.  

Maybe it's because it was just her birthday, so I'm painfully aware of the passage of time.  

The days are oh so fleeting.  

I pray that she still wants to sit at the counter and talk to me when she's 17...that she's as eager to involve me in her life as she is now.

I'm so grateful that God goes before us in the parenting journey.  I'm grateful for the many good days I've had with Leah lately, and that God is giving me the gift of the benefit of the doubt when I respond to her behavior.

I'm grateful for every day that I have with each of my darling daughters.



*And by "tea," I mean hot-ish water with honey and freshly squeezed lime juice (didn't have lemons).  She woke up with a yucky throat...the "tea" did the trick :)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Recipes!! Ginger Ale and Jen's Famous Raspberry Jello

As promised, here are the two recipes from Leah's birthday:

Let's talk about ginger ale.  

Some ginger ale soda you buy is gross.  Just gross.  It's sharp and bitter and horrid.

But not this ginger ale.

This ginger ale is delicious!  It's one of my favorite drinks and especially refreshing in the summer.

Or the middle of February.

It does require real ginger, which could be scary, but it's not.


As you can see, I pick the ginger that is long and skinny.  I don't like the knobs, because you pay for ginger by the pound, and I think the knobs are hard to deal with and I don't want to pay for them.  I usually get about half of a pound for this.

First, you want to peel your ginger.  It's super easy to peel it with a spoon.


I'm normally holding it with my left hand, but I was using the aforementioned left had to take the picture.  Please...hold it with your left hand.

After you peel it, cut it into thirds or quarters.


You can see that ginger has a "grain" to it kind of like wood does.  You'll want to cut with the grain.

I always cut it in half with the grain so that I can lay it flat and easily slice it.


Slice the ginger until you have 1 cup.


Your 2 year old might want to eat raw ginger.  You can let her, but it is a little spicy, so she might spit it out.

I don't have pictures of the next part, because...well, just because I didn't think to, I guess!

Put 2 cups of water and 2 cups of sugar into a medium pan.  Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until dissolved.  You've actually just made simple syrup here!

Add 1 cup of sliced ginger.  Simmer for 15 minutes.

After it is done simmering, remove from heat.  Let cool slightly.  Strain through a wire mesh strainer into a clean jar or bowl or random storage container. 

Your 2 year old can eat the sugared ginger if she wants to.  Mine loves it!

Refrigerate until cold.

When you're ready to serve it, put some ice in a cup.  Fill the cup about a quarter full of syrup.


Fill the rest of the cup with seltzer water and stir.  I use seltzer water (mine is $0.64 at Walmart) instead of club soda.  I feel like club soda has an odd flavor to it, but seltzer water doesn't. 


Squeeze a wedge of lime into the cup.  Do NOT skip the lime...it totally makes this drink!


Enjoy the taste of sweet ginger candy, with the tiniest kick at the end, in your glass.  It's totally worth conquering any fear you may have of fresh ginger.


And did I mention that you shouldn't skip the lime?  Because you shouldn't.

The recipe for this ginger ale was one of the first things I ever pinned.  Doesn't that make you feel sentimental?  Awww...

Now onto the jello that people-who-don't-like-jello actually like!

I got this recipe from the cookbook that our old MOPS group made like 5 years ago.  

I like to call this Jen's Famous Raspberry Jello.  I think I'm the only one who calls it that, but you should call it that, too.  Jen should be famous for this jello.

All you need is...


2 small packages (or 1 large package) of raspberry jello
2 cups boiling water
1 cup applesauce
8 oz (or so) frozen raspberries

Stir together the jello and boiling water until the jello is dissolved (about 2 minutes).  I stir it into the bowl I intend to serve from so I don't dirty another dish.  Add applesauce and stir well.  Fold in the raspberries.  I usually just dump some in from the bag until it looks good and then give it a quick stir.  Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight...at least until it's firm.

Now, if you're Famous Jen, you can top it with Cool Whip.  I haven't done that because I don't usually think of it, but you can!  

I'm not posting a picture of the finished jello because I'm a horrible food photographer and jello is reeeeeally hard to photograph and have it look appetizing.  But, believe me when I tell you that you should make it :) ...even without a picture to convince you!

I'm off to do baths and fold some laundry!  Whee!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

At the Park in the Dark

Every now and then, you just need to get your kids out of the house!

Saturday was such a day.  I was gone all day at the Women's Day Seminar at church, while Aaron stayed home with the girls.  They didn't really need to go anywhere, so they were inside all day.

We figured it would be a good idea to let them play outside after supper. 

It was still bright when we got done eating supper, so we got the girls ready to go to the park.

Naturally it took about 3 hours for them to get all of their stuff on, so it was dark when we got to the park.  

Okay, maybe it only took them 20 minutes to get their stuff on, but still...  :)

To say they were excited would be an understatement!

I think it's funny that out of all of the big, exciting equipment at the park, they are mostly drawn to the slide from 1950.


Maggie was beyond excited to be playing outside. in the dark. with snow on the ground.

She kept saying things like, "I love this!  This is my favorite day ever!"  

She is quite adorable...


...especially when she makes up awesome words like, "Boom-er-iffic!"

I'm going to be on the look out for ways to incorporate that into my vocabulary.

Leah is quite the pro at playing outside in the snow and on the playground equipment with all of the recesses she has under her belt now that she's a first grader.


Gracie was determined to go up the steps to the slide all by herself, which was quite the feat for a 2 year old in boots and snowpants.  She's so cute with her rosey cheeks!


We stayed there for about 15, maybe 20 minutes.  It was pretty darn cold, so we left before anyone got miserable.

And by "anyone," I mostly mean Aaron and me, because we weren't wearing boots or snowpants.  I think the girls would have been happy to be out there longer.


I think he's Boom-er-iffic!


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Leah's Birthday Party Details (Fun Rainbow Cake!)

We had a really fun birthday for Leah!  

I am, by no means, a decorating person.  I'd way rather spend that time making a fun cake!  Leah loves Hello Kitty, so I went easy and bought a Hello Kitty Banner, plates, napkins, and balloons at Walmart.

We decorated while Leah was in bed, so she woke up to decorations above her bedroom door and in the kitchen.  

"This is amazing!" she said, when she looked at her door frame.

I love her enthusiasm!



We always open presents right away in the morning on our bed.  The birthday honoree has the option of breakfast in bed.  Leah opted to eat with her sisters like she usually does.  

I think breakfast in bed is a little too solitary for her :)

I got her some of her favorite yogurt and made cinnamon rolls from a can...without burning them this time!  WIN!

My parents, sister and her boyfriend, and Aaron's parents came over after lunch for some more fun, presents, and eating!

For appetizers, I made ginger ale (recipe to come) and raspberry lime rickey for drinks and guacamole and spinach artichoke dip for snacks.



For supper, I kept it simple and made hamburger sliders, fruit salad (my sister cut all the fruit, but I DID pour in the blueberries), chips, and raspberry jello salad (recipe to come).



The food was really yummy, even though the picture isn't beautiful!

The cake was where I spent a lot of my energy!  It was well worth it, though.  Leah loved it!



It wasn't that hard to make the rainbow cake...it just took some time.  I followed this recipe.  The only substitute was that I didn't have vanilla bean paste for the cake, so I just used an equal amount of vanilla extract.  I put strawberry freezer jam between the layers of the cake instead of frosting, too.  The cake was really yummy...not dry and I loved the addition of almond extract.  

Plus, it's always awesome to have a rainbow in your cake!

Oh, the ice cream we served was chocolate and vanilla bean with mini M&Ms mixed in.  The chocolate ice cream was more like custard from Culver's...so delicious!  Both of these ice creams will knock your socks off!

It was a wonderfully fun day, but the fun wasn't over for Leah!  She got to have her school birthday on Monday!

I made Oreo Cupcakes for her, and they were a huge hit!  I used a different frosting recipe than the one listed.  The one I used is probably my all time favorite frosting!  So light tasting and there's no butter in it...just a cup and a half of whipping cream ;)  I don't know if you can tell in the picture, but there is half of an Oreo (the half with the frosting, of course) at the bottom of the cupcake!



We all went to school and had lunch with Leah.  Aaron picked up personal pan pizzas from Pizza Hut for each girl, although Maggie and Gracie were a little too distracted to eat!  I even bought pudding cups for all the girls to eat, which is quite special as I don't usually buy that kind of thing.  

The little girls didn't finish their pudding cups at school, so they enjoyed them at home instead.



I think we can all agree that they REALLY enjoyed them!  It looks like they each had a fu manchu moustache!

All in all, I think Leah felt really special.  

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Monday, February 18, 2013

To My Lovely Leah...on Her Birthday

I wanted to post this yesterday day on Leah's actual birthday, which you may or may not have heard that her birthday is February 17th (she greeted people with that bit of information at church), but time got away from me!  We had a fun family birthday party and I looked through a ton of pictures yesterday night to post today.  Picmonkey is my bff :)

I don't think you have to be Leah's mom to want to cry when you see how beautiful she has always been.  

And, how did she get to be 7?  I mean, SEVEN!!!

Be still my mommy heart.

Dear Leah, 

I remember the day before you were born, I worked and then Daddy and I went out for some sub-par Chinese food :)


Your birth was pretty darn easy as far as births are concerned.  I can't complain about a 3 hour natural birth :)  You were so beautiful and bright from the very beginning.  The nurses would comment on what a pretty baby you were and how you were so alert.  Maybe they tell everyone that, but I like to think they really meant it, because we sure thought you were!

I was so nervous I would do things wrong when we took you home.  I remember calling the pediatrician's office when you spit up "too much."  They probably hung up the phone and shook their head at the nervous new mommy.

And, if I'm honest with myself, I'm still terrified that I'll do things wrong.


Even since you were born we prayed that God would give you a quick and intelligent mind and a kind and compassionate heart.  We've been so blessed to see God grow that in you.  

Very often, I am so humbled by your resiliency and cheerful attitude.  


When you were probably 18 months old and we'd go grocery shopping, you would greet strangers and try to hug them from the cart :)  

You've loved people from the very beginning!  We taught you questions to ask people so you could engage them beyond asking them, "What's your name?"


I remember being at Cedar Campus with our students and you knew probably 50 people's first and last names!  I love your good memory and how you already seem to value people more than things.


I love watching you with your sisters!  Even though you sometimes can be a little bossy or pick them up when you aren't supposed to, I know you do those things because you love them.  You do a great job including them even when it can be difficult.  I know that you don't mean to be bossy, but just want to tell them your good ideas.

You have so many good ideas and we trust that God will use your heart for people and strong mind to be a great leader for Him.


I love how you make us pictures and love notes all the time.  

I love that you call for me to come and look at beautiful skies.

I love that you look so much like Daddy...and I hope that in all the ways that you act just like me, that you only keep the good things.

I love that this morning you told me that you really feel that you can run faster and jump higher now that you are 7.

I love seeing you be such a good friend to the other kids at school...asking them questions and being happy for them when they get something good.

I love that your Kindergarten teacher told me that she had never had a student who was so genuinely kind hearted and caring towards the other kids.  This is such amazing evidence of God working in you.


I love that you ask me questions about my day.  Sometimes you really blow my mind with your selflessness.

I love that you like to highlight really random verses in your Bible.

I love that you like it when we have guests in our home.  

I love going on "adventure hikes" (really more like a ramble in some woods/big park) with you and having you show me what you discover.

I love that you like to talk to me and I hope you keep doing that forever.

I love that God gave you to me...that you are the girl who made me a mommy.  I could never have dreamed of a more amazing girl.  Sometimes I'm just in awe of you and the fact that I get to be your mama.  

God is so, so good and gracious to us.


Every day we pray that God will keep you safe.  And, I pray that as you grow in your relationship with Jesus, that He would capture your heart and affections.  

It's our desire that you are always loyal to Jesus, just like Leah in the Bible was.  Everyone who should have loved and defended her...they failed her instead.  And while Daddy and I will always do everything we can to make sure that you are always well loved and cared for and defended and celebrated, regardless of what happens in life that is out of our control, we long for you to be loyal to Jesus...the One who deserves your loyalty and heart more than anyone.

My sweet Leah, you are already such a remarkable girl.  I love that I get a front row seat to see what God will do in you and through you and how you will be a holy force to be reckoned with.

With all my love always, 

Mommy