Saturday, July 30, 2016

School Stuff, Do With My Life Stuff, and Funny Kid Stuff. TToT Time!

When I taught 5th grade, I wouldn't let my students use the word "stuff" in their writing.

Even now it bothers me to see that I typed that.

But I'm leaving it.

Probly ain't gonna bother no one.


It's the last weekend before school starts. Can't say I'm happy about that fact. Although, I'm happier than the folks whose kids have started school already. One of the big, nearby public school systems started on July 26. Just the sound of a July start date doesn't sit right.

But, there's no point in whining or I-wishing. We'll get to the thankfuls...

1. Kids' imaginations are awesome. Completely out of the blue from the backseat, Turken asked, "Mom, who is your best friend?" I answered his question, and after a pause continued...

Me: Why did you ask?
Him: I don't know. It just came out of my mouth.
Me: What was going on in your head before you asked? What led up to it?
Him: Nothing. I think there is a hole in the bottom of my brain. Sometimes things just fall out into my mouth and then it just comes out.

2. Two of my boys went outside their comfort zone and tried something new. I was pleased as punch that they did, and even happier when they had a great time.

3. Phoenix, Bryan, and I had our meeting with Phoenix's counselor to begin the college application process. Good heavens, is it ever a process. An action plan is in place, and he'll be hitting the ground running on Monday.

4. I'm getting closer to figuring out what I want to do with myself when the kids are in school. I mentioned to a friend that I was really missing the classroom. I do love working in a school. Two days later I was offered a full-time job (for which I did not apply) to teach first grade. Cuckoo's class to be exact. I turned it down, but I will be putting my name on the sub list.

5. Also, I can't remember if I told you, but I found a volunteer opportunity that I think fits perfectly with me and my life at the moment. In mid-August I'll be training to be a Family Friend with Safe Families. It is basically an organisation which helps families who are in danger of having their children put in foster care.

6. I'm thankful for friends who know me well and let me know about opportunities I may be interested in, even if I do turn them down. ;)

7. I just got back from dropping Giant off at freshman orientation. Some tears were shed. Thankfully, not from sadness but joy. I always cry at drop off, but it was extra emotional this year, since Phoenix, as a senior, was there to greet him when he got out of the car. I am so glad we were able to have all these kids so close together.

8. I am glad the National Conventions are over. Perhaps we can take a break from political memes for a while. Are ya with me?

9. Libraries are the bomb dot com. We've been using ours frequently lately. While there are now more books lying all over my house, I don't mind. It means lots of reading is getting done.

A little yoga while he reads, I guess. 

10. I could not be happier with the fact that Cuckoo can read. He is the kind of kid who must have attention at all times and will do anything to get it when he doesn't have anything to keep him occupied. It was always worst in the car. Now, car rides are a breeze. He brings a book, and we don't hear a peep out of him for a good 10 minutes.

So, what happy things do you have to report this week?

Have a lovely day!

Ten Things of Thankful

 Your hosts

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Wednesday's Hodgepodge

Two posts in one week?!?!

Yup. Over-achieving blogger comin' atcha.

1. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your summer so far? Why?

Well, summer break is only one week away from being over, so regardless of what I rate it, there's not much chance of changing it. Thankfully, it has been an ok summer. Super fast and quite odd, with all the summer work the teenagers had to do. We managed to have some fun and get some much needed work done around the property. Unfortunately, we've only been to the pool once. That is a big fail.  I'll give the summer a 6.

2. July 26th is National Aunts and Uncles Day. Did you have many aunts and uncles growing up? Were you especially close to any one or maybe all of them? Are you an aunt? Share a favorite memory relating to one of your own aunts or uncles or relating to a niece or nephew who calls you Aunt.

We lived in the town where my dad, my grandma, and my great-grandma were all born and raised. My dad's siblings all moved away, but we saw them pretty frequently when they came back to visit Grandma. While I always enjoyed my aunts and uncles, I was actually closest to my great-aunt, Donna. (I even wrote a post about her a few days before she passed away.)

I have lots of nieces and nephews. My goal is to be the favorite aunt they have. While visiting them anytime is a treat, I especially love it when they come stay with us for a few (or more!) days.

3. What's your favorite food dipped in chocolate? What's your favorite food dipped in cheese?

Can't say that I'm a fan of anything dipped in chocolate. I used to eat peanut M&Ms every day, but I don't know if that counts. I do like ice cream with chocolate sauce on it. As for things dipped in cheese, tortilla chips. The cheese can be in a nacho form, with spinach and artichokes, or any other cheese dip form, as long as I can dip a tortilla chip in it.

4. When were you last astonished by something? Explain. 

I don't know how, but I'm still astonished every time I read comments on FB. The level of hatred and lack of empathy and actual thorough thought is mind-boggling.

That, or, if I actually get this done, I'll have posted two days in a row. Pretty astonishing after the dry spell I've been in.

5. Surf board, paddle board, ironing board, Pinterest board, score board, clip board, bulletin board...which board have you most recently encountered?

Each night, Sunday through Thursday, I iron Bryan's clothes for the next day, so I'm gonna have to go with ironing board. I would like to try paddle boarding someday, though.

6. What's your favorite story from scripture? Why that story?

I think I'm going to have to go with the story of Martha and Mary. While serving people is good and noble and expected, it is also necessary to stop the busyness to enjoy and appreciate the people in our lives, including some time with Jesus.

7.  If you were to travel from the east coast to the west coast in your own country, which five cities would you most want to see?

This is a tough one. While I love to travel, and I do have an appreciation for cities, I much prefer small towns and off-the-beaten track traveling. (Long-time readers know that, thanks to posts like this one.) Now that I think about it, I've gone to most of the cities this side of the Mississippi and many on the Mississippi and a few out west. The only east coast city I haven't seen and would like to someday is Boston. From there, I'd go west, hitting...maybe...Denver...a city in Texas, maybe Dallas or Austin...San Francisco...LA.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Based on this morning's debacle, this family needs to get it's collective butt off the proverbial couch and get in gear. At 9:51 this morning I was talking with Bryan about a get-together to which we were invited and happened to look at today's box on the calendar. Lo and behold, something was written in it! Phoenix was scheduled to get his senior yearbook photo taken at 10:15 at a location 20 minutes from our house. The boy had just woken up and was two bites into a bowl of cereal.

We have enjoyed that "nowhere to be" attitude of summer, but that lackadaisical state of mind is, sadly, coming to an end.

Good news, though. He was only 10 minutes late to his appointment and the person ahead of him was just finishing. No one was put out by his tardiness.

Any of the questions or answers jump out at you? You're welcome to join in the linkup if you're so inclined. Just head over to Joyce's blog.

Have a lovely day!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

On Footwear, College, Recipes, and Other Off the Cuff Thoughts

Have I ever told you I am anti-flip-flop. I cannot stand those shoes. Not just because anything between my toes drives me nuts, but they just aren't good for people's feet. I never bought them for my kids. Have you ever seen preschoolers trying to run around a playground in them? It pains me to watch their poor little toes balled up in a death grip around that tiny piece of plastic in order to keep their shoes on their feet. And if it's not the gripping the toe thing, it's the shuffling of the feet. Either way, the person wearing the things is not walking in the proper way a person should walk. And it doesn't have arch support. The only thing they could be good for is taking a shower in a public place or going to the bathroom at a public pool. 

Betty Crocker rules. It is one of two cookbooks that I own and use consistently. Recently, it has been the Blueberry Streusel Muffin recipe. Delicious. Lucky for you, it's also on the all-knowing internet.

Does anyone have a good, easy, quick way to make streusel? That whole mix until it's crumbly bit throws me for a loop. I've used my fingers in the past, but sometimes my hands just warm the butter and it turns into a blob instead of crumble. Lately I've been using the backs of two forks to kind of squeeze and press and get it to crumbly. It works, but it takes forever. Any ideas?

Speaking of recipes I love, I'll share two more. Both I found online when I simply googled what I wanted and found recipes with normal ingredients and instructions I could follow without difficulty. These were my first attempts. We enjoyed them, so I didn't look farther for other recipes.

Chicken Pot Pie minus the peas, of course.

I just had a helping of Black Raspberry Cobbler. My word, that stuff is good, especially when topped with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. And it could not be easier to make.

We're getting close to crunch time for college planning. Phoenix, Bryan, and I have a meeting with his counselor on Friday. Seeing as how Phoenix is basically putting all of his eggs in one tiny basket and planning to apply to one college, this should be a looooong meeting. Perhaps I should remind Phoenix about that time Turken collected eggs, then put the basket down to feed the dogs, only to find, when he turned around, the dogs licking their lips after eating every single egg...

While we will have 4 kids heading off to college, one each year for the next four years, it seems we'll have a break after that. Turken is currently researching jobs that don't require a college degree. His research began when he saw a sign outside Kentucky Fried Chicken which read, "Now Hiring. Pay starts up to $13/hour". "Mom," he asked, "does a person need to go to college to work there?" Can't wait to see how his counselor handles this in 10 years.

As I type, the dogs are howling outside the door, as they do every. single. time. a train goes by. The tracks are on the other side of a giant cornfield, and a train passes at least 5 times each day. It isn't loud enough to bother us, but apparently it bothers the dogs. As soon as the train gets within half a mile, they start howling. For 11 years, at least 5 times each and every day. I have no idea why.

Lastly, my new-to-me minivan has that bluetooth function in it. I can't seem to understand that it is not necessary to yell in order for the person to whom I'm speaking to hear me. I try not to yell, but with each sentence I get louder and louder.

Just so happens, my mom also got a new car. One day recently I called her from my car. The conversation went like this:

My mom: HELLO?

And we laughed and laughed until we went right back to yelling at each other.

'Cause that's how we roll.

Literally. :)

Have a lovely day!


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Ten Things of Michigan Thankful

I'm thinking most of this TToT post will focus on this week's Fun Friday that became Fun Friday AND Saturday.

1. I am thankful for Bryan's ability and willingness to take the odd day off of work to go on a short road trip with us. The man is super busy at work, with deadlines galore looming, but he always, always puts his family first. (When he was a new lawyer, for the first 2 years of employment, every single evaluation dinged him for never being in the office after 5:30 on weekdays or at all on weekends. He refused to change his schedule, and they finally backed off when they saw that he was still getting his work done, and done well, in his own time frame.)

2. I am thankful to live in a place with lots of things to do within a few hours drive. This time we took advantage of the nearness of Lake Michigan. We've vacationed there 4 times over the years (Here's a post about one of our trips.), but for some reason we've never gone on a quick overnight trip before. The closest beaches are less than 4 hours away from our house!

3. We are always grateful for fun dunes to jump and run and hike on.

The boys were trying and trying to get the timing of their jumps straight in order to all be in the air at the same time. This is as close as they got.

Five kids racing down a dune. I had to follow them down, collecting shoes and hats as I went. 
4. We're all grateful for beautiful blue skies for the entirety of our 25 hours in Michigan.

5. And in 95+ degree weather, we are extra grateful for the cool, cool waters of Lake Michigan.

For fear of sand, I didn't take my phone to the beach. I ran to the van right before we gathered our belongings to head back to Indiana to get my phone and snap one photo of everyone in the water.

6. We are grateful for the internet, where we found some tips about beaches in St. Joseph. Namely, to skip the ragingly popular Silver Beach and instead go to Tiscornia Park. We could see the Silver Lake beach from where we were, and it was PACKED with people. We couldn't even see the sand through the beach umbrellas. On our side of the river, there were people, but there was plenty of room for romping games of keep away and water football.

7. We are grateful for local, interesting places to eat. We avoid chain restaurants, especially when we're on a road trip. There are way too many new places to try, and it's a rare day that the local place doesn't taste way better than a chain.

This awesome ice cream stop is directly across the street from the entrance to Warren State Park, home of the dunes you saw above. We are blaming the sunburn on the crappy, cheap sunscreen Bryan bought. It was applied, but it didn't work very well.

If you ever find yourself in Lafayette, IN, this is a must stop. It's an 87 year old diner, where everything is made fresh, and half of it right in front of the customers. There are no tables. Everyone sits at the long counter that snakes its way around the entire inside of the building. The name of the place, Triple XXX, comes from the name of the root beer they sell. Seriously, it was one of the best burgers I've ever eaten. AND, the prices are more than reasonable.
I asked for volunteers to take a photo in front of the place. While Giant did volunteer, we have to be content with his perpetual 13-year old resting "whatever" face.
We also ate at a restaurant in St. Joseph called Clementine's, where we got to eat some fresh lake perch. So, so yummy. (No photo taken.)

8. I'm thankful that our van is still running well, even after 201,000 miles, so we can take these road trips without fear of breaking down along the way. Sure, it is now completely filled with sand and has been said to smell like toots inside, but it gets us where we want to go.

9. I'm thankful we were able to get a mini-vacation in before school starts. This coming week will be busy as we get everyone ready for school and squeeze in all the last minute summer fun we can get. Having two days to just have fun (and not cook!) was the perfect way to end our break.

10. I'm thankful I do still have another week to get the big kids ready for school. We haven't even started buying school supplies, and three of them need some pants! (Thankfully, only one needs shoes.)

How is your summer break going? What happy things were in your week?

Have a lovely day!

Ten Things of Thankful

 Your hosts

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Wednesday's Hodgepodge, Because I'm a Blogger! A Blogger Who Actually Writes Something Dagnabbit!

Joining Joyce for some hodgepodge question and answers.

1. Pokemon Go...your thoughts? Are you playing? Do you even know what it is?

I know what it is, but I do not play. No one in our family does because our kids don't have smartphones. They would love to, though. Lots of their friends play, and there's always talk about it at soccer practice. It makes no difference to me if people like to do it, as long as they are respectful of the places they go to find the things.

2. What was something you collected as a child? Do you still have that collection? If you're a parent, what's something your own children collected? Have you ever camped out, stood in a crazy long queue, or paid a ridiculous sum for a "collectible"?

I collected nothing as a kid. I still collect nothing except a few shells from a few beaches. I am not a fan of collections. There was a time when I was in my late teens when my mom and I were out shopping together. I must have pointed something out that had a cow somewhere on it. My mom apparently thought it meant I had an undying love for all things cow and bought me a variety of things for every holiday, including a pair of overalls with a cow on the bib. Proving yet again that my family deliberately found attire to make me look ridiculous.

A couple of my kids have collections. Phoenix has a coin collection. Giant collects bottle caps. There is a giant communal baseball card collection started by Bryan when he was a kid. Because Bryan is a pro at collecting things.

3. "Collect moments, not things"...tell us about a moment you've added to your collection this summer.

Ah, there are so many. For sure the white water rafting on the 4th of July and the biking downtown and the many hikes in state parks. But there are also the small moments, like cuddling with Cuckoo in the morning and playing endless games of Hand and Foot (a card game) and watching movies on rainy days and playing in the yard and just general chaos and noise that make every single day normal and wonderful all at the same time.

(Can you tell I'm getting nostalgic and sad about my Phoenix starting his senior year?)

4. What's something collecting dust in your home right now? Any plans to do something about it?

Bags. Lots of bags by the front door. Weeks and weeks ago we cleaned out closets and dressers and put all of the outgrown clothing into bags. Those bags are now waiting to be transported to Kentucky, where my nieces and nephew will dig through the bags and claim the items they like. I'm trying to find a day before school starts to spend a day or two with the fam. Crossing my fingers that it will happen.

5. A favorite song relating to time?

I can't say that I have a favorite, but I've always liked this one. Perhaps because it takes me back to high school...

6. What's been your most frightening or your most interesting encounter with wildlife?

You mean besides the bats and the mice and The Great Spider Infestation of 2005?

7. On July 20, 1969 Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong set his foot down on the moon. If you could travel to the moon would you go? Why or why not?

Maybe when I'm 80, after I've lived a full life and am willing to try all sorts of dangerous and stupid things. I'll go to the moon after I bungie jump off a bridge and jump out of an airplane. Except that the entire space program seems like a giant waste of money and resources to me. I don't really see the point.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

School is starting two weeks from today. The only reason I'm looking forward to it is because it means the end of summer work for the high school kids. As Buttercup said today, "Normally, I'm at least a little bit excited to go back. You know that feeling on the first day of school when you realize you kinda forgot how to write because you haven't done it all summer? I'm not going to have that. I've done more than enough writing over the last two months."

That makes me sad.

I know they are growing up and are not little kids anymore and it's a part of life and blah blah blah, but seriously. They only have a short SHORT amount of time before they go out into the real working world and never get the summer off again and wow, this Phoenix-is-a-senior-and-all-the-big-kids-are-in-high-school-and-in-4-years-we'll-be-down-to-two-kids-at-home-thing is really getting to me!

If you've like to join in with the hodgepodge, you have plenty of time. The link is open for several more days!

Have a lovely day!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Thankful Time!

1. First and foremost, the poison ivy and mysterious rash are both GONE!! All that's left is for the skin to heal from the major trauma it endured.

2. As the end of summer break nears (Sadly, the high school kids head back to school on Aug. 3.), I'm trying to take a few hours of one-on-one time with each kid. This week, Cuckoo went to volunteer with me at St. Elizabeth's (The boy loves to work. He tags along with me all day, helping me pull weeds, trim trees, clean bathrooms, do laundry. And he's old enough to actually be helpful!), then we went out to lunch.

3. I also had some time with Giant. He had an orthodontist appointment, so afterwards we went shopping for school pants and a few new shirts, then out to lunch at the place of his choice.

4. I love summer break for all sorts of reasons, but one of my favorites is the morning time with Cuckoo. He is always the first one up (by far!), and he'll always come downstairs and cuddle on my lap for a while. That just doesn't happen during the school year. We talk, we laugh, we sit quietly. This week, he made the comment, "I want to grow to 48 inches and then stop growing." Can you guess why?

At 48 inches, he will be big enough to ride most of the big roller coasters at King's Island and all the coasters at Disney, but he'll still be small enough for people to carry.

5. Funny things happen all the time around here, but this week a non-family member got to be part of the craziness. Buttercup's best friend has been spending a lot of time with us this summer. She went to Ohio for 4th of July, but she also spends plenty of days with us thanks to the driving laws in Indiana. She has her license, but she isn't yet old enough to have passengers in the car with her. She can drive to our house, but she can't take Buttercup anywhere. So, she stays. One day this week, she left her window down while it was parked in our driveway, not knowing that our cat loves to sit on, under, or in our vehicles. When it was time to leave, as she was putting the keys in the ignition, the cat jumped from the backseat and landed right next to her on the front seat and scared the poor girl half to death. She screamed and screamed as Buttercup laughed and laughed and came inside to tell us so we could laugh and laugh. Eventually, when her heart got back to it's normal speed, she was laughing, too. :)

6. My dad's sister is closer in age to me than to my dad. She has two boys, and the younger of the two is only 10 days younger than Phoenix. They live in Michigan, so we only see them a couple times of year at family gatherings in Ohio. My cousin is a very good baseball player, and his team this year has been playing in tournaments in different cities every single weekend this summer. They didn't get to go to the 4th of July party this year, and we were very sad about it. BUT, this week his team is playing on the north side of Indy, so we went up to watch him play on Thursday. (He's a pitcher, so he doesn't play every game.) It was so nice to see him play and catch up with my aunt in the stands. To make it better, it was a great game, with my cousin's team coming from behind in the last inning to tie the game, sending it into extra innings, where they pulled ahead and won!

7. Friday fun day this week included hiking at a new-to-us state park on the west side of the state. Normal walks through the woods are no longer enough for my kids, so we are always on the hunt for the "rugged" or "very rugged" trails, preferably with hiking through water. Shades State Park had one, and it was a fun 1.25 mile jaunt.

Unfortunately, the trail didn't take us that long to hike, and they don't have another rugged trail. Fortunately, this state park is only 12 miles from our favorite state park, Turkey Run, so we jumped in the van and headed there for another hike on their very rugged trail.

8. Funniest quote from the day came after the hiking. We had brought extra shoes and dry clothes and changed into them when we got back to the van. We stopped for dinner on the way home, and when we got to the van Cuckoo said of the van, "it smells like cinnamon on the outside, and toots on the inside!" One major negative of a big van is the lack of trunk space/ability to keep stinky hiking clothes separate from the rest of the van.

9. Long story short, 'cause this is already a long post and I need to get this wrapped up, had an appointment to get furnace regular, routine service, the furnace heard me reschedule the appointment and stopped working within hours, called the company back and was able to get back on the schedule for original time. Furnace is fixed and the fix was free as the furnace was still under warranty.

10. I get to laugh throughout every day. Thanks to my kids, Bryan, and friends, I do a whole lot of laughing.

I'm off to watch my boys play soccer. Expect lots of photos, seeing as how this may be the only time all three of my teen boys will play on the same team together.

Tell me the good stuff, Readers! What has made you laugh this week?

Have a lovely day!

Ten Things of Thankful

 Your hosts

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Poison Ivy Won't Stop Me! TToT time!

First, I am thankful for modern medicine yet again. Last weekend, I gladly received a gigantic injection in my rear end in order to make the torture of the worst case of poison ivy I've ever had come to a quicker end. Seriously, it was disgusting. Just ask anyone at my dad's 4th of July party. They got to see me in all my oozy, weepy, painful glory. But, in just a couple of days, I was feeling much better and the oozy, weepy bit was all but gone.

This weekend, though, I have a rash and horrible itch from head to toe from an unknown origin. I'm wondering if the steroids they gave me have run their course, and things that weren't completely eradicated are now able to rear their ugly heads. If it goes on much longer, I'll be heading back to a doctor.

BUT, before and through the entire itchy, oozy episode, some good things happened in our little world.

The little boys and Buttercup and I got to spend a long, relaxing, fun day in Cincinnati with one of our most favorite families in the world.

Despite my poison ivy, we had loads of fun at my dad's 4th of July party. While it was a small crowd this year, there was a crowd, so my dad was happy.

We stayed a few extra days in Ohio, so I was able to spend Sunday with Donna and Melody and their families.

On Monday, Bryan, the kids, my mother-in-law, and I headed to Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania, for a day of white water rafting. It was cold and rainy the entire day, but we all had a fabulous time.

Because of age requirements, we had to split up. I took the big kids on the middle-sized rapids (unfortunately, everyone had to be 16 in order to go on the part of the river with the biggest rapids.) and Bryan and his mom went with the little boys on the smallest rapids.

In case you noticed, there is one extra big kid. Buttercup's friend came to Ohio with us this year.
Bryan headed back to Indiana, but the kids and I stayed in Ohio an extra day. We spent the morning and early afternoon at one of my favorite places in Canton, McKinley Monument and the surrounding park.

At the Garden Center. There's all sorts of things to keep kids occupied, including a touch garden, a taste garden, a tree house, trails through the woods, a maze, and music. 

Did you know President McKinley was from Canton, Ohio? This is the monument where he and his wife are buried. It's also a popular place for the locals to work out. (The person in the orange shirt was one of about 15 people working out that day.) Those 108 steps (I counted when I was a kid.) are rough! It's way more fun to slide down.

There are lots of pretty, old stonework and water areas in the park.

Other good things...

We bought a minivan. With the number of drivers we have in the house and the schedules we keep, we rarely need the big van to transport the family all at the same time. But, we do need it to go on road trips to visit family in Ohio and Kentucky, and to take vacations. While we were in Ohio, the big van flipped 200,000 miles. We want it to last as long as possible, so we got the minivan for every day driving.

AP and SAT scores have come in, and I couldn't be more proud of Buttercup and Phoenix. They done good.

Green beans are coming in fast and furious. I'll be able to do some canning this week.

It was the high school's moratorium week (aka no practices allowed), so we were able to have everyone home to eat dinner together every night.

Seeing as how it's 10:00 on Sunday night, I'm wrapping this post up. Time to take some more Benadryl.

Have a lovely day!

Ten Things of Thankful

 Your hosts