Monday, August 26, 2013

Hanging Letters

Every now and then I have a good idea all by myself.  It's rare, so we have to celebrate when it happens.

Yesterday I finally hung up pictures and decorations in Nora's room.  She has painted wooden letters that spell her name.  They're tricky to hang because the letters are different sizes and the ribbons they hang on are slightly different lengths.

I was trying to figure out how to hang them by myself (Jared was outside riding bikes with Nolan!) when I got a bright idea.

I pulled out my poster putty.  You may remember this stuff from your college dorm days.  Or if you've ever been a teacher then you've most likely used it before.  Nora thought it was hilarious that it felt like gum.

I put two blobs of poster putty on the back of each wooden letter.

Then I positioned the letters on the wall where I wanted them.  I used a level to get the bottoms of the letters lined up.  I had to reposition them a couple times to get the spacing just right.

All the letters were temporarily held up on the wall by the poster putty.

Working with one letter at a time, I pulled the ribbon up as far as it would go, centering the bow above the letter.  I drilled a tiny pilot hole right under the bow.

I drilled just enough to make a mark on the wall, then I moved the ribbon down out of the way as I drilled the rest of the pilot hole.

Next I hammered my white nail into the pilot hole.

Then I simply put the bow back up over the nail.

I repeated the process for all of the letters.  Voila!

I was going to remove the poster putty since I just needed it to help me hang the letters, but I decided there's really no reason to remove it.  It's just extra insurance that the letters won't move.

I hung up Nora's letters, pictures, and all four of her bow holders.  AND I unpacked the last box in her room!  Jared unpacked the last box in the boys' room, so now we have several box-free rooms!

We're slowly but surely getting settled in!


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ham Loaves

Before I became a stay-at-home mom, I worked at a bank for five years.  My co-workers and boss were fantastic, and we were like a family.

We used to have these amazing pot lucks.  Not the kind where most people bring store-bought cookies, a bag of chips, or a 2-liter of soda.  No, no.  I'm talkin' about gatherings where every single person brings their family-favorite, time-tested recipes.

The food was always so good that we just got used to bringing our recipe cards every time we had a pot luck because we knew everyone would want a copy of each recipe.

Many of the recipes I inherited from my work family have become favorites amongst my actual family.  I still smile when I make them, remembering my old friends.

I want to share one of these recipes with you.  I just recently made this one and remembered how good it is.  These are called Ham Loaves.  The word "loaf" doesn't exactly make my mouth water, but just wait until you try these.

Start with some saltine crackers.

Grind 'em up in a food processor.  Transfer 'em to a big bowl.

Throw a pound of ham cubes into the food processor.

Yep.  Grind 'em up.

Dump the ham on top of the cracker crumbs in the bowl.
Add 1/2 pound of ground pork.  Wonder what you're going to do with the other half pound of ground pork since it comes in 1 pound rolls.

Add 1/2 pound ground beef (mine is packaged in 1/3 lb. patties, so I needed 1.5 patties).
Add two eggs.

Salt & peppa

Add milk.

Mix it all together with clean hands. Try not to compress the mixture too much.

Use a measuring cup to scoop out 1/2 cup portions.

Form each 1/2 cup portion into a little loaf.  Arrange loaves in a 9x13 pan.

In a small saucepan combine brown sugar,

dry mustard,

and water.  Bring to a boil.  Try to take a picture of boiling mixture for your blog post and accidentally let it boil over, filling your house with smoke and an awful smell and leaving an unscrubbable mess on your cooktop at your new house.  Oh wait, that's just me.
Pour the sauce over the ham loaves.  Bake at 350.

20 minutes later, pull the pan out of the oven and baste each loaf with the sauce.

20 minutes later, baste again.  The sauce will be slightly thicker each time you baste.

20 minutes know.

By the last basting, you'll have to tip the pan and draw up the thick sauce from the corner in order to baste the loaves.

Finally done after an hour and a half of baking!
These are so tasty.  I don't make them very often because they're time consuming.  Plus I don't regularly have ground pork and ham on hand.  Trust me though, your taste buds will thank you for making them!

Here's the recipe:

Ham Loaves

1 lb. ham (either chop into rough cubes or buy ham cubes), ground in food processor
1/2 lb. ground pork
1/2 lb. ground beef
2 eggs
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1 cup cracker crumbs (28 saltines)

Mix all ingredients well.  Form into 1/2 cup loaves.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1.5 hours.  Baste every 20-30 minutes with sauce (recipe below).

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup vinegar
1 tsp. dry mustard

Bring to a boil.  Pour over ham loaves.  Baste loaves with sauce throughout cooking.




I recently realized that I never experience any pure emotion.  Each emotion is mixed with something else. 

Excitement is diluted by nervousness.  Joy is tainted by others' disapproval.  Even anger is usually marinating in guilt.

There was a moment during this whole moving process when we had the opportunity to be very excited.  Jared told me he was scared to get attached to the house and feel excited when we didn't know if the deal would go through.

On that particular day I was able to respond by telling Jared to give all the way into the joy and excitement.  I knew there would be hard days ahead, and I wanted us to enjoy that one moment of pure happiness.  I openly admit that the rest of the moving process was filled with mixed emotions, and I didn't have any other days filled with pure joy or excitement.

But now I've identified this struggle and can work on separating out my negative and positive emotions.

Yesterday was an amazing day.  I'm talking zippity-do-da good.  The boys could not have done any better for their first day of school.  This mama could not be more pleased.

That's reason for celebration.  For joy.  For pure joy.

I walked into church last night just as the music was starting.  The first song was:
I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart
I will enter His courts with praise
I will say this is the day that the Lord has made
I will rejoice for He has made me glad
I felt it.  I did want to rejoice.  Rejoice and not anticipate what School Day #2 might hold.  Rejoice and not think about everything that isn't perfect in my world.

As I gave into my desire to rejoice and celebrate what God had done for us that day, the next song began:
This is the day (this is the day)
That the Lord has made (that the Lord has made)
I will rejoice (I will rejoice)
And be glad in it (and be glad in it)
Yes.  God did handcraft that day for us.  He prepared my boys for school and helped my heart cope with my babies being away from me.  He gave me plenty of reasons to rejoice.

The last song proclaimed:
Bless the Lord
Oh my soul
And all that is within me
Praise His holy name
All that is within me.  All.  For just a moment my brain tried to tell me that this was just one good day.  Certainly there will be a day when the teacher will pull me aside and tell me that Griffin didn't participate or had a meltdown or struggled with some activity.   

But I still heard God whispering that he wanted me to praise him for the good he had done on this important day.  Offer him pure praise, uninhibited by anticipation or anxiety or worries about struggles affecting all my friends and family members.

It is possible to focus my thoughts on what is going well and focus my spirit on praising God.  There's time later to plead with God, tell him about my heartaches, beg him to help the people close to me, etc.  None of that has to crowd out the praise and rejoicing.

So that's the newest lesson God is teaching me.  I'm grateful to hear from God and to know that he is working on me, even if it means retraining myself to operate differently.

I'm purely grateful.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Double First Day of School

My heart hurts.

Two of my little chickadees are not in my nest today.

These two:

Nolan started second grade at a brand new school, and he handled it like a champ.  He was excited, slightly nervous, and very brave.

Griffin started kindergarten, which has been a little scary for all of us.  He wouldn't speak a word to his teacher last night at the orientation.  He told me later that he was too nervous to talk to her.  This morning he was perfectly brave.  He smiled for all the pictures, walked into his classroom, and didn't cry or cling when we left.  Talk about an accomplishment!

Here are our traditional first-day-of-school pictures:

He chose a Plants vs. Zombies (it's a game on the iPad) lunch box

And Plants vs. Zombies ("PVZ") back pack

Nolan wanted an orange lunch box, but we couldn't find one.  We bought a black lunch box, and he decorated it with neon puffy paints and metallic Sharpie markers.
Nolan chose this orange and black back pack.  It matches the new school shoes he chose.
Me and my boys
While we were taking pictures, our next door neighbors were returning from their morning walk (how cute is that?).  They offered to take a picture of our whole family.  I like having a picture of our family in front of our new house!

Thus begins a new adventure for our family!


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Teacher Questionnaire

*This was originally posted last year.  I just updated it to include a link to the free printable Teacher Questionnaire (colored version) at the bottom.  Enjoy!

Today we have Meet the Teacher with Nolan's first grade teacher.  This will give us an opportunity to find Nolan's new classroom, learn a little about his teacher, and formulate expectations for how this school year will go.

I also want to give his teacher a questionnaire to find out all of her favorites.  That way I will have a better idea of what to get her for Christmas, her birthday, and Teacher Appreciation.

Last year I used this printable questionnaire because it is just so cute.  However, I wanted to include a few more questions this year.  I searched the internet for other teacher questionnaires, and I combined questions from four different ones to make my own comprehensive grill-the-teacher sheet.

I just typed mine in Microsoft Word.  Oh, how I wish I had graphic design skills to make mine as cute as the one I used last year!  The best I could do was use different fonts and a few colors.

I also made a black only version:

*Update:  I think I figured out how to link to a free printable. :)  Click here to print the colored version of the Teacher Questionnaire.  Let me know if it works!

Happy new school year!


Morning Routine Charts

Last school year I printed morning routine charts for the kids to follow.  They put up a sticker each morning when they had completed all tasks.  Then I had to remember to print out a new chart for each of them for the next week.  It worked for a long time, but I wanted to try something new this year.

I looked around on the interweb and didn't see anything too different from what we've already used.

Then I found a fantastic idea at My Name Is Snickerdoodle that looked different from all the others.

I just completed the kids' morning routine charts (charts isn't really the right word, but you'll see what I mean) last night.  They practiced with them this morning, and tomorrow is the REAL DEAL (first day of school).

Here are their new morning routine trackers (trackers is a better word):

Basically, each kid starts with all the flaps open first thing in the morning.  There's a picture as well as a phrase to specify each task in their morning routine.  Once each task is complete, they can close that flap to show the word "Done."  The magnet strips hold the flaps closed.

I still need to figure out where to put up each kid's morning routine tracker, but I think I'll use Command Strips to put them up in their bedrooms.

Right now the kids love these and are super motivated.  We'll see how long it takes for the newness to wear off and the nagging to start back up. :)

Oh, and in case you're wondering, I found my pictures on Craft, Interrupted.   There's a girl version and a boy version.  I copied the set of pictures into PowerPoint and cropped the set down to each picture that I wanted to use.  Then I inserted the black squares around each shape.

All the other details can be found in the tutorial on My Name Is Snickerdoodle (click the link above).

Let the morning routines begin!