Monday, January 26, 2015

Jello Cookies

We had an open night tonight.  Normally on a night like this, Jared would take the kids downstairs and wrestle them or play dodgeball or some other mom-disapproved game.  Since he's gone, I wanted to be the fun parent. 

I'm never the fun parent, but I thought I'd give it a try.  I had to do it my own way though.  Of course.

So, after dinner, the kids and I made Jello Cookies.  We followed the recipe on I Heart Naptime.

Don't you just love this picture??

I need for you to keep a few things in mind.  First, our cookies did not look as beautiful as the originals.  That's okay with me, but I need you to know that I know.  Second, I only snapped a few quick pictures on my cell phone with my messy hands.  I was in Fun Mom mode, not Blogger mode.  I decided to focus on having fun with the kids rather than getting good pictures.  Oh, and I didn't edit any of the pictures.

I had all 3 kids help me make the cookie dough.  Then I divided the dough into four equal portions and gave one to each kid (and kept one for myself).  We each chose a flavor of Jello from what I had on hand.  Yes, I already had 4 boxes of Jello on hand (5, if you must know).


Each person had to knead 2 tablespoons of Jello into their dough.  I put the rest of the Jello into a bowl and mixed it with a little sugar for a later step.



I let the kids add food coloring to punch up the vibrancy of the dough color.  Griffin's Jello was watermelon flavor, but he wanted to add blue food coloring.  I didn't argue.  Griffin does things his own way.

Nora's cherry dough was bright red, so I added a little purple to my raspberry dough to make our distinguishable. 

Then we had to break off a little dough, roll it into a ball, and roll it in the Jello and sugar mixture.





Normal Mom would have insisted on using a cookie scoop to get the dough balls all equal in size, but Fun Mom let the kids estimate and just occasionally told them to make one bigger or smaller.

Once the pans were full, I flattened the dough balls with the bottom of a drinking glass.


Into the oven they went!


When we finished rolling the rest of the dough, we had an odd amount left of a couple colors, so we just combined them!



This was a messy project, but we all survived it.


Our warm, fresh cookies:



And the mixed-flavor cookies:


I made the kids take their showers while the cookies cooled.  I may be Fun Mom, but I'm also Smart Mom who also happens to be Tired Mom Who Wants to Hurry Along Bedtime.

We all sampled each flavor of cookie.  Cherry and raspberry seemed to be the biggest hits.  The kids liked watermelon, but I just don't like watermelon flavored things.  Nolan's peach cookies were a bit bland to me, but he really liked them.  He just likes anything orange.

These were really fun to make, and the cookies are super tasty.  This recipe could be used for so many things.  We started naming the holiday applications:  cherry and lime for Christmas, strawberry and blue raspberry for 4th of July, any pastel colors for Easter, and orange for Halloween (although the kids were concerned about how to work in black; they theorized that you could do grape Jello and add black food coloring or just roll the orange cookies in black sugar).

I hope your Monday evening was as fun as ours!

Jessica

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Inevitable

We all saw this coming, right?

I mean, no one gets to write a blog post about motherhood going well without having to pay the price.  Immediately.

Just so we're on the same page.

So in this little cause-and-effect scenario, I started by writing about how I love my kids and we've had a good week and all that mushy stuff.  Then, just to seal the deal, I painted my nails and straightened my hair.  Do you know when a mom's plans will go awry?  It's definitely when she has a new outfit or new shoes or has painted her nails or done something fancy to her hair.  These are triggers that unleash plan-wreckers.

My plans weren't lofty.  I was just planning on getting a good night's sleep Saturday night so I could get up Sunday morning and get myself and all three kids ready for church.  I teach an adult Sunday school class at church.  I had spent a lot of time on this week's lesson, and I was prepared.

Since my husband has been gone, I've been letting the kids take turns sleeping with me.  We don't usually do this when he travels, but I have been having such a hard time sleeping without him this time that I thought we'd give this a try.  Anyway, last night (Saturday night) was Griffin's night to sleep with me.

I finally fell asleep around 11:30 or so, but I woke up in the middle of the night when my little snuggle buddy seemed to be too warm.  He woke up too and said, "Mom, I don't feel good."

I got up to get the thermometer, which confirmed that he had a fever.  I got up to get him a puke bucket when he requested it.  I got up to get him a cup of water.  I got up to get him a Tylenol.  I went back out to exchange the pill for the liquid when he changed his mind.  I went back out to the kitchen to wash the little medicine cup.  Then I finally snuggled back into bed with Griffin.

But he couldn't get back to sleep.  I got up and retrieved his book light and a book for him to read.  Then I spent a lot of fruitless time trying to fall back asleep despite his light and movements, as well as my anxious mind trying to figure out what our morning would look like since we can't just skip church when someone is sick.

Eventually Griffin decided to go back to his own bed to see if that would help him sleep.  Just as I started to quit trying to figure out the morning and just fall asleep, I heard Griffin get up and go into the bathroom.  I thought he was puking, so I shot out of bed and bounded toward the bathroom.  It turned out that he wasn't puking, but he was, uh, "going number two," as my kids would say.  But he was having trouble.  So I had to rub his back and encourage him.  Encouraging someone to poop is not the most glamorous part of parenting.

Griffin was finally successful.  I reminded him to wash his hands, and I headed back toward my bedroom.  Until he yelled for me in a panicked voice.  The toilet was overflowing.

I took care of that little situation, sent Griffin back to his bed, and climbed into my own lonely bed.  The little bit of sleep I got after that was filled with dreams relating to Griffin being sick and me trying to figure out how to get to church and also take care of Griffin.  That restless, weird-dream sleep was brought to an abrupt halt when Jared sent me a text saying he was ready to call me.  When he's on the other side of the world, I just adjust my schedule to be able to talk whenever he's available. I was able to talk to Jared just long enough to explain my predicament while getting the kids breakfast and starting the process of getting myself ready.

The problems:
  1. I could either have Griffin sit with me while I taught my class, or I needed to ask someone to teach for me.
  2. If I got a sub, I would need to copy all my teacher materials for him (my sub happens to be male).
  3. I still needed to make photocopies of the lesson sheets I made for the "students" in the class.
  4. A boy from Nolan's basketball team was planning to come to our church for the second service, and I had talked to that boy's mom about our church at their game on Saturday.  She was counting on Nolan to be there to help her son feel more welcome, and I was hoping to see her at church as well.
The solution to all of these problems?  Friends.

I was able to text a friend to get a sub to teach my class.  A friend sent me a text to check in on us, and she offered to help with our crazy situation.  I drove to the church a little before the second service (my class is during the second service, and we were expecting Nolan's friend for the second service).  My friend came out to meet us at the door so she could take Nolan and Nora to their classes for me.  Another friend came out to meet us and get all my papers from me so she could make all my copies and make sure the materials were delivered to the class and sub.  It all felt insanely weird to me, but I left my kids and my lesson in capable hands and took Griffin home so I could dote on him and care for my sick little one.  A little after noon, we drove back to the church and my friend brought Nolan and Nora out to our car.

We made it.  I have no idea how my class went, but I trust that it went well.  Nolan and Nora had a fantastic time at church.  Nolan's friend did come, and Nolan was so happy to see him participate in their kid church service.  I got some rare one-on-one time with Griffin, and I took advantage of the opportunity to snuggle him.

I may have a very hard time asking for help, or even accepting it when it's offered, but I am so blessed to have people in my world who are willing to help.

Blessed as I am, next time I'm feeling good about life, I might just keep it to myself.  I don't have the energy to deal with the backlash.

Jessica

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Sweet Spot

I've decided I am in a sweet spot of parenting.

This week I spent time with friends who have younger kids than mine.  They were dealing with things like potty training failures, sippy cups, high chairs, and dirty diapers that could make a grown man cry.  I am very happy to be past these stages.

I also have a friend whose oldest son got his driver's license this week.  I can easily name 57 reasons why I am happy to not be in this stage yet.

My kids are little enough to be adorable and fully enjoyed; however, they are also big enough to be hilarious and a little independent.  I can kiss them as much as I want, and I can send them off to play when I need a moment.

Two of my three kids can take a shower independently.  Two of the three can get their own breakfast.  They can all dress themselves and get their own shoes on.  They can all wipe their own rears.

It's not all easy and enjoyable.  I mean, how many times do I have to explain that I can't hear you from the other side of the house?  You have to come to me to talk to me.  Is there a limit to the number of times I can repeat myself before my head actually explodes?  If all three of my kids are separated from each other for 6.5 hours per day, why can't they get along for five minutes after they're all reunited?  And why is it that the only magical ability my kids have been given is the ability to turn a cup of 6 oz. of milk into 4 gallons simply by dropping the filled cup on the floor?

I think parenting goes in cycles.  A difficult behavior arises, the parents stress out and work hard to face the behavior head-on, and eventually the behavior is overcome or the child masters the difficult skill and everything calms down.  After a little time, the cycle repeats.

We've had times where all 3 kids were in the difficult part of the cycle.  We've had one kid complete a cycle only to have the next kid start up with the rough part as soon as we got the first kid in the calm part of the cycle.  It can be so exhausting.

This week has been a time of all 3 of my kids in the good part of the parenting cycle.  And, as previously stated, their ages are right in a sweet spot.  So this has been a great week for me as a mom.

Which is significant to me since my husband has been out of the country.  That's not so sweet.  I guess you can't win 'em all.

Jessica

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sunrise

I have been quite busy around here working on all those things I want to accomplish in this new year.

Paint a room--check!
Organize stuff--check!
Plan dinners--check!

I'd love to tell you about all of these things.  The problem is that none of them are quite picture-worthy just yet.  Plus Jared surprised me and bought me a new laptop for Christmas.  It's the first Mac we've ever had, and we are still working on how to get PhotoShop onto it.  So for now, I have to edit my pictures on my old laptop and do everything else on the new one. 

I'll be back up and running in good time, but for now I'm putting all of my time and energy into making progress.  Progress on the house.  Progress on being more organized.  Progress on trying new healthy foods.  Progress on teaching my kids the things I'm embarrassed I haven't taught them yet.

So for today, I will leave you with a picture of what I saw this morning when I woke up and looked out past my back yard.  A photograph cannot truly capture the colors and brilliance.  The sky was neon pink.  It was gorgeous.


Hope your week is going well.  I'm off to hang new curtains!

Jessica

Friday, January 9, 2015

Chia Seed Wrap

A friend of mine recently told me about some of the health benefits of chia seeds, and she gave me a container of the seeds to try.  At first, I consumed them the same way she did--by putting them in my water.  They absorb the water and become like tiny tapioca pearls. 

Lately I've developed a new obsession.  I started making wraps with peanut butter, chia seeds, and apple slices. 

Here's how I make them.

I like to use a small apple so I can use the whole thing.  I quarter the apple and remove the seeds.


Then I cut each quarter into three or four slices.


In case you're wondering, I don't use a cutting board.  I am well versed in the ways of using the least number of dishes possible.  It started in college and I never shook the habit.  I wash the apple, dry it with a paper towel, and cut it right on the paper towel.


After I slice the apple, I even wipe my knife on the corner of the paper towel and use the knife to spread the peanut butter.  Maybe a little ridiculous, I know. 

What were we talking about again?  Oh yes, the wrap.

So I've been using flour tortillas because that's what I have on hand.  Since they're kept in the fridge, I microwave one tortilla for 8 seconds to make it more pliable.  You could use wheat tortillas, low-carb tortillas, flat bread, etc.


I spread peanut butter on the bottom half of the tortilla.  You could use any nut butter you like.


I sprinkle chia seeds over the peanut butter.  You could measure out a tablespoon of seeds, but I don't want to dirty the tablespoon.


I lay the apple slices in a row over the chia seeds.  Resist the urge to make the row perfect.


I fold up the little end at the bottom of the wrap (currently on the right side in my pictures).


Then I fold up the short side.


Then I finish wrappin' it up.


Done.


Then I enjoy! 


The tortilla is chewy, the peanut butter is creamy, the apple is crisp, and the chia seeds are crunchy.  Yum!

Jessica

Friday, January 2, 2015

Changing Years

I know there's nothing magical about a new year.  Yet somehow it feels important.

Christmas is like an overwhelming project that trickles into my October, puts pressure on my November, and stares down every moment of every day in December.  I understand Christmas and I love it.  I enjoy so much about it.  This year was probably my most meaningful Christmas yet because my relationship with God has grown so much deeper this year.  But now that Christmas is over, I feel like a monumental event is behind me and I can look forward to new things.

I am quite relieved to close up 2014.  There's no delicate way to say it was a difficult year for me.  There were things I never discussed on my blog and things I never discussed at all.  And then of course there's all the stuff I rambled about.

Our year was filled with difficult days struggling with Nolan's health.  Doctor's appointments and medical tests filled our schedule, but the battle just to get through every single day was the hardest part.  My sister and her husband left the church in our hometown where they have pastored for 14 (I think) years, and they moved with their two children to Orlando, Florida, to teach at an amazing Christian school.  I am incredibly proud and thankful for how my sister and I have adjusted to this major change and made our relationship flexible in order to become stronger through the newness.

Jared's job has been difficult and uncertain.  Many of my friendships have been strained due to new jobs, new babies, and just the scheduling difficulties that naturally come as families grow and get busier.  My own stomach issues flared up, most likely triggered by all the stress of caring for Nolan.

It hasn't all been bad.  I lost a little more weight.  The kids have been doing very well in school.  Nolan branched out and auditioned for solo parts in his school and church Christmas plays--and he got them!  Griffin cooperated for all of his Christmas plays without crumpling due to stage fright.  Just seeing him stand on stage and sing the songs was a huge victory.  We had our best yet family vacation in the summer of 2014 when we went to Michigan.  Jared and I fulfilled our dream of going on a getaway for our anniversary, and it was indescribably amazing.

Jared traveled a lot for work, which is always hard but we've also learned how to deal with it.  He went to Africa this year, which means Antarctica is the only continent he has not visited.  I'm not sure if that goes in the good or bad column. 

My faith was really tested this year.  I feel like my understanding of God deepened more than ever, but I also had to learn some painful lessons about trusting Him when I don't at all understand.  I met with Him in new places and in new ways.  I experienced His Word like never before.  I saw the fulfillment of some of His promises in my life as He brought me into some new friendships and met my personal needs in unexpected ways.

I have no idea what to expect for 2015.  I just know I'm glad to be done with 2014.  The hard parts were necessary to make me who God wants me to be, but I wouldn't repeat them for any amount of money.  A new year fills me with hope.  There's nothing magical about flipping the calendar, but I at least feel the lightness of expecting that anything can happen.

I don't necessarily set New Year's resolutions.  I simply take time to reflect on the year past and consider what I'd like to see happen in the year that's beginning.

I obviously hope for relief for Nolan and all of his stomach issues.  That would change so much in our lives.  I am faithfully waiting for God to complete that work.  While I have no evidence that this new year will look different than the one past, I am still holding onto hope.

I want to start leaving my mark on this house.  We have lived here for a year and five months, and we have done nothing to this house other than decorate for Christmas.  I want to paint walls, add color, hang pictures, infuse something that shows my own style.  I would love to finish a room.  Any room.

I want to organize things.  This house offers endless opportunities for organizing.  We basically moved in and just put stuff wherever we could and have been living that way since.  It's time to start making spaces more efficient as well as more appealing.  Maybe I could at least start by cleaning out my purse.  That alone could be a comical blog post.

For the VERY FIRST TIME in the history of my 32-year life (or least since I was a teenager), I don't need to make major weight loss a resolution.  This is truly the first time I could ever say that.  However, I do need to work on my fitness.  I've focused on losing weight for the last few years, and now I need to work on my cardiovascular health, weight training for bone density, and overall wellness.  Instead of counting every calorie, I need to see what new healthy foods my tricky tummy can tolerate.

Meals have become a filthy word to me.  Food is something to measure and count so I don't gain weight.  Food causes pain and discomfort.  Food is something about which each of my children has opposing opinions.  Food is a tricky battleground riddled with landmines just begging to be detonated.  Food costs money and requires time.  Note to self:  add "work on relationship with food" to list of resolutions.  Since those pesky meals just keep coming around and my children keep demanding to be fed, I would like to work on meal planning this year.  I used to enjoy cooking, even if I've never been great at planning meals ahead of time.  Nowadays I resent the very fact that we need to eat.  So I'd like to charge the challenge of feeding my family head on.  I want to try new recipes and find ways to meet everyone's nutritional needs.  I want to remember what it feels like to feed my family and enjoy mealtime again.

So join me as we take a breath, close our eyes, and imagine that we can do all the things we want to do.  Even if all I end up doing is halfheartedly cleaning out my purse and trying one new meal that ends up being disgusting, I'm gonna enjoy the hope that comes with January.

Happy New Year!
Jessica

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Letters

Each of my kids have written a letter of sorts this week.  Since they warmed my heart, I thought I'd share them with you.

First up:  Nora.

The boys made Christmas cards for kids at St. Jude, and Nora copied the words from one of the cards.  She made a note for me while I was sick. 

I hope you feel better soon!

That's a keeper.

Next up:  Griffin.

Griffin lost a tooth on Friday.  It had been wiggly for a very long time, and it was painful when he ate.  So we were all very happy for him when he finally pulled it out.

Griffin disappeared for a few minutes and then came upstairs carrying a letter to the Tooth Fairy that he had created in Microsoft Word on our computer (including clip art) and printed all by himself.


He left the letter and tooth under his pillow that night.  He was highly disappointed Saturday morning when he awoke to find just a dollar under his pillow.  He was hoping for a letter from the Tooth Fairy in response to his letter.  Little does he know just how lucky he was that she remembered his dollar.

Last but not least:  Nolan.

This'll get your heart all warm and fuzzy with Christmas cheer.

All the kids in Nolan's class had to write a letter to Santa and create a construction paper Santa to go with the letter.  These were just for decoration.  Nolan's letter made me melt.



Since Nolan's handwriting leaves a little something to be desired, I'll tell you what his letter says:
I want my cousins house to sell so they don't have to pay a lot of money.  I would love for my brother to have a great 7th year of life.  Please can you make my stomach to get better so I can eat all foods.  I hope you make my mom's stomach to get better too.  I want Nora to have a great 5th year of life.  Love, Nolan
Seriously amazing.  I think I'll keep this letter forever.

As I marvel at my growing babies and each little thing that they learn and accomplish, I am super pumped for extra family time over Christmas break.  This weekend has already been a great kick off for us.  I accomplished so much as the kids played wild and crazy games with Jared.  My gifts are finally ALL bought/made and wrapped.  I have a plan for making all foods for all the events of the week.  Everything is organized and managed.

There's nothing left to do but enjoy the season, and I'm feeling the excitement of Christmas!!

Jessica