Tuesday, August 26, 2014

First Day....Eighth Year

We're off and running for another year. We've started school and were ready to get back and settled into the routine. Or at least I am. I had to do some counting on my fingers the other day when I recounted the years and realized it's our 8th year already.

I learned a couple years ago that starting school as a gradual process works far better than jumping into all subjects right away. Once again, this year we'll have a couple weeks of several subjects/review and then get into full class load. It helps with the system shock for everyone.

We've made it a tradition that the students get a little first day treat. I thought I was being clever with the cookies, until a student reminded me that I'd done it last year. Oh well, I guess we'll call it a tradition now.

The big kids each also received a small Lego set (spoiled, I know) and the little students a coloring book and notebook.

They all seemed pleased.

(Smart Cookie and other first day of school printables are over here)

Everyone was diligent in their work and the little distractions toddlers, were content with building, creating, coloring and the general concept of "school" in their eyes.

I know we all say it, but the years sure are flying!

A SIXTH grader....

And a FOURTH grader!

(First Day 2014-2015 printable chalkboard signs are seen here)

This is going to be some year. Perhaps our best yet.

I'll keep remaining hopeful and optimistic.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

These Days {Captured}

They weren't meant to last forever. I knew they weren't. 

Summer days, they're passing you know.

The routine and the order will come back, I told myself. 
These days are good for me, they are good for us.

And then one day a cloud covered a portion of my world and I had trouble recovering.

But then, God showed up.

He showed me that the lifeline had been there all along.

I just needed to find it again, grab hold of grace and rest a while.

(photo credit: Jonah)

To enjoy the last weeks of summer and take the days as they came.

Thankfully, that came in simple days as well as fun, adventurous, family days.

I did a 5K walk/run (we ran at the very end of the race) with my big kids and we had a blast! My mom joined us as our cheering section and photographer.

The event was called the Fiat 5K and is done to raise funds/awareness of a young womens discernment house in our diocese. It's also held out at the home farm of one of the Fiat House foundresses. 

If you are in Minnesota and on a dairy farm, there has to be cow milking.

After a priest vs seminarian duel, a couple more names of attendees were drawn for another friendly competition.

And whose should be chosen? Lily's!

At first reluctant, we cheered her on and she decided to go for it. Thankfully, a dear seminarian friend of ours is from a dairy farm, and agreed to lend her a hand.

It really was a priceless moment and will forever remain a very fun memory of Summer 2014.

Then came some busy days for me with my part time church job. After which, I was ready to get out of small town MN for a day with my parents.

A little adventure day meandering through the heart of Minnesota in my old stomping grounds proved to be the perfect respite.

The kids enjoyed time by the Mississippi, at the park, playground, bakery, McDonalds for lunch, a new splash pad and treats at the DQ.

Days such as these are too good to let them pass us by.

Today, on this last day of these days, we spent our last official day of summer vacation together as a family.

Sunshine and smiles abound.

A picnic in the park, climbing around the playground, a splash pad to cool off, and the local ice cream truck. Of course, we had to let them get treats.

We finished the afternoon off with paddle boat rides with daddy, which the kids thoroughly enjoyed.

These days are worth the wait.

They are a beautiful and memorable finish line.

They propel us forward and prepare us for the next season that is to come.

Tomorrow, school begins.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Balm To The Soul

Last week I had the honor to to meet up with two of the most lovely bloggers. In the evening I received an invite from Jamie to a get together with Margaret the following day. It somehow turned into a game changer. Or maybe just a reset along the path.

Have you ever had that feeling when something just isn't right? I've felt it for months, wearing on my heart and soul. That unsettled feeling that makes me restless, anxious, stressed, grouchy and therefore makes the every day wear and tear grueling, unhappy.

Sometimes it's a blog post that you read that inspires, a conversation or an impromptu visit with a friend, that helps get out of the rut. Out of the funk. God provides us with the opportunities to get out of ourselves, see a new light and smile again.

It's tough because feeling like hiding and internalizing a whole lot of stuff is just easier, especially when you can't quite put your finger on what's wrong. 

Then a series of events happens or just one that changes your outlook, snaps you back to reality and draws you closer to God, your spouse and your family. 

Processed over days, a moment of clarity arises during an early morning conversation at the kitchen sink. A long list of changes, deaths I was unprepared for, changes in my children's seasons, transitions in motherhood, waning prayer time, outside demands of me and my time.

It all added up.

It all challenged me and took away my peace. Slowly, but steadily and therefore making the climb out of it that much more difficult.

Then the clouds broke and the sun shone in the form of a smiling face and small conversation while running around after our children. 

It helped the process of slowly chiseling away at the sadness, the unknown, the loneliness. All that has kept me from being able to live fully and trust in God's amazing ways.

All of the things that while seemingly small and hidden, found their way to grate and grind away at my true happiness in my heart and soul. 

Friends of the heart and a good laugh are a good medicine.

And sometimes that seemingly simple invitation, setting aside other plans and expecting God to show up, is exactly when He will.

**Read Margaret's version of our get together over here. She speaks more eloquently than I. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

July Garden

We've hit the end of July and I realized all the photos I intended to take of my blooming gardens this month, never happened. Last month I jumped in on a garden link up, so I thought I may as well keep you posted on my blooms in July too. 

This is the small flower garden Lily is tending this summer. I've had the yellow evening primrose for years now and they are a good, hardy perennial that keeps on coming back. Lily's choice was to add a mix of pink and red/white petunias. These have been a great grower in this location and she's been good at keeping them so prolific.

Natalie's Garden is filled with blooming lilies of all sorts and colors, but many shades of orange and red are currently in season.

The other end of the garden with more lilies and a number of daylilies, spiderwort and hostas. I have a row of Four O'Clocks planted in the very back which should be blooming soon. 

It's hard to tell below, but that would be our potato garden (all 99 hills of it) and then my rows of flowers in the background.

A couple of you mentioned in the combox on this post that you wouldn't mind knowing more about the cut flowers I planted this year. I decided that having fresh flowers for the table would be a nice addition to my gardening so I planted a couple of rows. I don't have the exact specifics on the varieties that they are, but I know I found specific seeds that made good cut flowers. I had a couple varieties of Burpee brand zinnias found at my local country store this spring. This variety is one of them and I also have a variety that is a bigger bloom, but I can't find the name. I am really happy with the choice of the zinnias that are hardy, needing very little attention and have been in bloom for three weeks already. 
The yellow flowers below I cannot recall their name. I am thinking they were a type of daisy, which again came from seed. 
This spring I just really scoured the seed packets to find annuals that could be planted, were little work, long bloom time and could be cut flowers. I'm looking forward to planting more next year so that I have more for home and to take in to church for a part of the summer.

The garden is growing and I've only had to turn the soaker hose on once so far this season. It looks like I'll need to turn that on some more this week though. The beans started out well, but don't seem to be lengthening their growing season at all, which is concerning for our winter needs. The carrots seem to be doing well, the squash vines are climbing the fence and have blooms. While the tomatoes are growing for the most part, some of them already have blight (grr!!) and that may keep down the productivity. Gardening and gardening in MN can be so uncertain based on so many variations in temp, rain, soil, etc. 

Happy August!

Come on back later this month as we wrap up the summer and the end to most of the color in my gardens. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

See You At The Fair!

The countless hours of preparation over the last weeks and couple of months are complete.
The kids' first 4-H projects were finalized and today they went before the fair judges to plead their case have their interviews.

We found out literally YESTERDAY that the student is judged 50% on the project itself and 50% on their interview with the judge. My kids freaked just a little as they were a bit leery on how this one on one talking would all work out.

Reed, doing the 4-H dad thing, took off work for the afternoon so he could take the kids to our county fairgrounds.

Last minute prep was done this morning, with final touches on Lily's cake and all the double checking that everyone's project components were present.

Lily's three projects she took to the fair were: her Midnight on the Heath cake, a penguin pillow she sewed herself following a pattern (part of a community ed class earlier this summer), and a homemade card with thread and needlework. (Click the photo below to see more detail)

Jonah, being more of the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-send-your-mama-into-a-heart-attack kind of kid, played it cool by waiting until exactly last week to FINALLY get all the moving parts together to finalize projects. Phew. But, they did get done!

His three projects: a traffic safety display board, a toilet paper roll owl (craft project), and his Lego creation (Ecto-1 from the original Ghostbusters movie, which he created himself from looking at Lego set photos online). (Again, click the photo to check out the details)

They survived their judging and came home with B-I-G smiles.

And these:

BLUE RIBBONS! for each of their projects.

4-H uses the Danish Award system which awards multiple blue, red, and white ribbons. Projects are not ranked in order but are judged against a standard of achievement.

Blue ribbon: signifies a member has done outstanding work

Red ribbon: is average work; you have done a good job, but there are areas you could improve upon

White ribbon: the exhibit and interview were below expectations; several things may have gone wrong, someone else did the project for you or you broke one of the rules

With that, we'll be heading to the county fair later this week. We're looking forward to seeing all of the other projects and our kids' projects on official display there. So excited! 

For now, I am off to go work off some of those calories I consumed in the last couple weeks test tasting Lily's delicious cake. Be back soon!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Summer Days Slipping Away

I've noticed that the blogosphere is quieted during summer. Which makes sense because our lives away from the computer are hectic and scattered. For those of us plagued with the long, dreaded winters, summertime is the season to take advantage of the outdoors. 
I am no different. 
Therefore, updates here are sporadic and random.

Sometimes there are just some things I can't help but post, even if they will only become reminiscent posts for myself one day.

Our newest additions at our household came just over two weeks ago.

They arrived in a small box with holes and made a chirping noise.

We are now 'farmers' or 'officially' REAL home schoolers because we have chickens. Our first 19 chicks arrived and the kids are enjoying watching them grow. They are also learning that sometimes animals don't all survive, even at a young age. So far, we've only had one casualty. Eighteen is an even number, so it all works out in the end.

Last week we took an afternoon outing with my parents. We went to check out a small grocery store not too far away that is ran by the Mennonites. It was a major score and such a quiet and clean place. We'll definitely be returning.

While in town, we visited this beautiful church and ran into the priest whom my parents know, so we had a nice visit too. 

An outdoor grotto just perfect for angelic little girls. You see they are folding their hands and implying they have never given their mama any trouble? 

In the swing of summer and the gardens are abundant! I've got to get a garden update posted soon. 

This year I planted cut flowers and I'm reaping the rewards of fresh flowers in vases in my home. I think I'll have to keep on doing this every summer to enjoy my gardens indoors, as well as from my windows. 

The yellow and green beans are also producing. I've already picked several buckets of them and I'm grateful they are doing so well. I was starting the inevitable rationing of last year's beans, but now I don't need to worry quite so much.

The highlight of this week was company coming for supper on Monday. We were blessed with our pastor, the diocesan Vocations Director and a transitional Deacon (he'll be ordained to the priesthood next June) all under one roof. My parents also came to spend a couple of days so they were here, along with another seminarian as well.

To say we had a blast would be an understatement.

As always, the kids were especially fond of the fun that can be had when priests and Deacon visit.

Of course, the little girls are easily entertained when anyone plays with them and does puzzles.

Priceless moment right here.

I insisted offered to take a photo to remember the fun and blog it too.

We also helped out with Vocations Camp: Men of Virtue day camp here this week. You can read more about some of the past years here, here, and here. Due to the small numbers, it was decided that we'd just do the one day camp rather than the overnight. It turned out to be a good decision and the young men who joined us were a great crew. 

My parents helped me cook the meals and entertain my kids so that we could volunteer again with the camp. In the end, as with every year, we enjoyed it and are so glad that we did it.

3 priests, 1 seminarian and 6 young men, just after our supper and before the end of camp.

Now with Vocations Camp behind us, we are looking ahead to the County Fair and sports camp for Jonah next week. 

Keep on enjoying your summer days. 
I know I am because winter will come whether I want it too or not.
 I've got to soak up this sun and beautiful weather while I can. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tween Test Kitchen

Yesterday we celebrated Lily's name day on the feast of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the Lily of the Mohawks. For several years now we've tried to at least hold to the tradition of feasting on cake for each child's saintly name day. 

Since Lily is entering a cake in the County Fair in a couple weeks, we need to do some test runs. What a perfect time than the present to put on the apron and get to baking.

This was her first cake done completely on her own (I was just in the background for suggestions and some direction) and I can't tell you how proud I am of a job well done. I think she was pretty impressed with herself too. I see many more afternoons in the kitchen together in our future.

The critics of the household all agreed that she did quite well for a first cake. Both taste and presentation were excellent. We may make a variation and perhaps glaze change next week when we do another trial. Then we'll decide how she'll make her final for the Fair presentation. 

Would you like the recipe? 

I believe it's a handed down family recipe from Reed's family. I will also include our variation which was vanilla yogurt and I believe this makes this cake much more moist (and appealing IMHO).  Lily also renamed the cake to show her creative flair for the Fair.

Midnight on The Heath Cake
* 1 1/2 this recipe to make 3 (9 inch) round cakes

2 1/4 cups Flour
1 1/2 cups Sugar
2/3 cup Cocoa
1 1/4 teaspoons Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
2 Eggs
1 1/4 cup Water
3/4 cup Crisco
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 cup Vanilla Yogurt

Mix all ingredients with electric mixer and pour evenly into greased pan (this single recipe makes a 9 x 13 cake). Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven when toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool. 

Filling (for layered cake):

5 oz. Cool Whip
1 cup Heath Toffee Pieces

Mix together in a bowl and divide evenly between layers of the cake when assembling. 


1 cup Semisweet Chocolate Chips
8 Tablespoons Butter
6 Tablespoons Confectioners Powdered Sugar

Put above ingredients in microwave to melt, being watchful not to get too hot or bubbling. Check periodically until ingredients are starting to melt and whisk together checking consistency. Put back in the microwave if needed to get to a smooth consistency thin enough to pour on cake and spread. (Ours was too thick at first, so we added a bit more melted butter) Glaze will become more thick as it sets, so be sure to work quickly if you do not want it to become a thick frosting before you have it all spread out. 
When finished with glaze, sprinkle as many remaining Heath Pieces on top to your desired taste.

Refrigerate cake immediately and keep refrigerated after serving.

If nothing else I think this is a great time (with the Fair as the incentive) for her to spread her wings a bit in the kitchen and for me to let her do it. I remember enjoying baking and cooking in my teen years and helping out in the family kitchen. I can't wait to now share my kitchen space with my oldest daughter.

**Note: I will either revise this post or make a new post of any changes we make leading up to the fair. 

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