Sunday, September 14, 2014

Weekend Scenes {Autumn}


While we're gearing up for 60 and 70 degree days this week, last week we felt the autumn chill. The crisp air, the cooler mornings, the return to school and the dwindling garden are reminders that fall has arrived.

Our weekend was one of embracing the season, family time and celebrating. Just the way we like it.

Friday evening we went to a Fall Kickoff event with the (new) homeschool group we joined mid-year last year. We attended one or two group events last spring, but not much. The kids have had some interactions with some members of the group as there is some overlap in the members also being in the same 4H group they are in. We planned that intentionally when we joined.

I must say here that Friday evening was a blessing and what I needed. I was quite apprehensive prior to the event on Friday. I just didn't know how I'd/we'd fit in, if it was going to be like our past group and how/if we'd find a new home in this group. We all agreed as we drove home that night that it had been a good time. Each one of us felt welcomed, invited, wanted. From the moment we stepped out of our vehicle, in the line waiting for food, running around in the yard, or just sitting around with the moms, we were introduced, people talked to us and they made us feel needed there. If you have ever been in a group (not just a homeschooling one) that has been less than friendly and you'e struggled to fit in, you know where I'm coming from.

With that, again I'll say that Friday evening was the perfect way to start our very nice weekend.


On Saturday we had plans to have my parents over as a pre-birthday celebration for Lily. Her birthday isn't until next Sunday, but we'll be busy Saturday and heading out of town on her birthday.

The biggest plan on the agenda was a huge right of passage, if you will. Lily was going to get her ears pierced. *yikes* She'd been talking and asking about it for months and we kept pushing it off. During the summer we decided that we'd move up the age limit we once talked about (13) and consider them when she was 12. Being that we'll be leaving to go out of town, we moved it up to this past weekend so it fit our plans better.

Just as I went to get mine pierced (I think I was 13) with my maternal grandma, Lily wanted my mom to join us for the big event.

She handled it really well and hardly flinched. I was pretty concerned since Lily isn't real pain tolerant. She was a tough cookie. She looked pretty nervous as the lady was getting everything ready and she was acting like she was fine. Being her mom though, I knew that the almost constant jiber-jabber from my girl was her way of keeping her mind off of what was about to happen.

Afterward she said it wasn't that bad and she survived. Hooray!

Once we heading back home, we enjoyed homemade pizza with my parents for supper. Lily's choice instead of cake (she doesn't like frosting) was homemade apple pie. Hubby was kind enough to clear his afternoon to whip up the pizza and the apple pie. Delicious.

As always, a visit with Papa and Grams always puts smiles on our faces. It was a very good day and a very special day. Man, I cannot believe Lily is almost TWELVE. I feel old now.


Sunday we declared family hiking day and headed out just after Mass and brunch. We drove close to 40 minutes away to Inspiration Peak, the highest point in Minnesota. It's a beautiful view at the top and a woodsy journey up there.

At the top, you can see for miles. My camera just can't do it justice. In another week or two the fall colors would be just glorious to view from the peak.

The kids enjoy the downhill descent, but little ones need a hand to hold on to with it being so steep.

Our next stop was a State Park about 20 minutes away. Even making the miles to trek there is beautiful this time of year. Taking in the scenery and all your eyes can survey when your heart is being grateful, really takes your breath away.

We had been to this particular State Park last fall with friends and our kids had a blast. We knew we needed to get there again this year. We hit the wooded trails and probably meandered through at least a couple miles worth of bountiful trees with acorns popping beneath our feet as we made each step.

The autumn air wasn't too chilly and the sunlight peaking through the trees above made for the perfect fall scene.

And photos.

The crew, giving into mom's need for lots of photos to remember our day together. 

All smiles as we finish out the weekend.

I hope your autumn weekend was a wonderful one, wherever you are in the autumn spectrum.

Tonight I sip on pumpkin spice cappuccino while huddled on the couch in my fuzzy robe. 

Tomorrow we hit the books again and plan ahead for some time away and more birthday celebrating next week. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Easy Blueberry Cake

Or Streusel if you prefer.

Another Pinterest goody that I wanted to share.

While recently filing through recipes in an effort to come up with something that didn't have either of my two favorite ingredients:

Chocolate chips or Peanut Butter,

I found this blueberry cake recipe. 

With just enough time to whip this up, I've now even made it twice. Yes, it's that easy. The first time was just for us and the second was on Labor Day when we visited a family. It was a hit both times! 

You can also find the recipe with far better looking photos over here.

2 cups Flour
1 cup Sugar
3/4 cup Butter or Margarine (room temp)

Mix with pastry blender until well blended, but crumbly.

Put 1 1/4 cups aside to use later for topping.

To the original mix, add the following:

2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 Egg, beaten with fork in measuring cup, then filled to 1 cup with Buttermilk

Mix baking powder and soda into dry ingredients of original mix.

Then add egg and buttermilk.

Spread into a greased (10" round, 9x9 or 9x13) pan.

Sprinkle with 2 cups Blueberries and the crumb mixture, squeezing crumbs a bit as you drop them on top by handfuls.

Bake in upper part of your oven, at 375 degrees for 35-45 minutes.

Cool or serve with ice cream or whipped topping (like I did).


Monday, September 8, 2014

Girl With Scissors

Alternately titled "It Was Bound To Happen."

Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

The other week my toddlers both held the small safety scissors during school time for the very first time. Impressed by their new found tool, Gianna especially, spent some time cutting away at scraps of paper. As a mother/teacher would, I explained the safety rules of scissors, how they should only be used while adults are present and we only use them for cutting paper.

I neglected the part about 'stay out of your older sister's room where you may find a stray scissors on her desk on any given day as she's always busy crafting.' 

Fast forward, a couple days later.

It was Saturday and I was in the bathroom getting ready for my day when I hear the 3 yo tromping up the stairs. She burst in and with a chipperness declared:

"I wanted my hair to be just like Elsa's!" (we later figured out that she meant Anna's)

My heart sunk as I spun her around and found this:

Well, she kinda looks like Anna...

I mean, she's got the side swept bangs thing going on. Sorta.

And still, I don't think there's been a whole lot of remorse on her part as she swings around her shortened mullet.

I've kept it as-is even though I was tempted to give the rest of her hair a shorter bob cut. For now, my solution is pulling it back as often as I can and pray that it grows quickly.

She likes it because now she thinks she looks like Wildstyle:

Oh boy.

On the flip side, she now as her Halloween costume all decided based on her hair.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

Taking the idea of Thursday Thoughts from Billie Jo because she's always full of inspiration over at her place.

Thinking About...

Gratitude: A 7 day Facebook Gratitude challenge turned into an enlightening week. When I was open to seeing things to be thankful for, even the smallest of daily tasks or events turned into inspiration.

I found that coming up with three things a day was quite easy. It's so obvious to find so many things and people to be grateful for each day. In turn, I also found reading what others put on their list fun to read and a joy to share the gratitude with them.

I think this is a challenge I want to keep up on. My latest thought was to keep a Gratitude Journal and daily list 2 or 3 items of gratitude. It will keep me grateful, but also serve as a reminder of the daily simplicity and God's blessings in my life. I know, it's not a new concept that an attitude of gratitude is a good idea, but somehow for me right now it seems like the perfect idea to keep in perspective.

Socialization: You know that's everyone's greatest fear when you tell them you homeschool. "What about socialization??" I'm finding now as the kids are getting older that I need to be more aware of it and set out to be socialized. We're still struggling here with a couple homeschool groups we've been a part of in our areas. One of them, the people dropped off the face of the earth and did just about nothing for group activities the last two years. The other group we just joined last year, but still haven't found our fit there. 

I don't want my kids to be the socially awkward children. I want them to be comfortable and confident with other kids and in groups. Believe it or not, homeschool groups still have cliques that are tough to break. Being that we live where we do, it's tough for me to make the effort in the middle of winter to drive many miles to make these social connections. Being an introvert who enjoys days at home, it moves me out of my comfort zone to be social in a group where I am not at ease. It makes it even more important to do that for the opportunities it will bring my kids. 

As we settle into our new school year, I'm trying to be intentional about getting things on the calendar like field trips and outings to get my kids out and about. I know it will be a good thing to work harder at this to make it happen, but it sure is going to require me to stretch a bit too.

Happy Thursday, my friends!

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. 

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