Friday, July 29, 2011

prayer for something dumb that’s stressing me out… =)

Hey, all. I figured I’d put a prayer request out there because extra people praying certainly can’t hurt, right? =)

Ok, so, our lovely new screened in porch is now being inspected. When we contracted with a local guy to build it, we didn’t realize (a) that it would need to be inspected because we’re ignorant buffoons that haven’t owned a house before, or (b) that we’d need to figure anything like that out because the guy building it would know, and he would take care of whatever was needed. After being asked by a couple of friends how much the permits were, etc., we then casually asked our guy if he had gotten permitting done. We found out that he had not. Problem. He had neglected to ask us to get a homeowner permit if we wanted one. And permits are required for new porches and decks in our city.

What to do? We felt like, as Christians, we couldn’t ignore this now that we knew about it. And so began the process of me waddling into a city inspections office with my two little boys, filling out paperwork, etc. A building inspector came out, and an electrical inspector (he’d put in a ceiling fan.) The building inspector immediately demanded that a bunch of boards be taken up and large holes be dug so that he could see the porch footing and how the porch was attached to the house. He also wanted some extra, different bolts attaching the porch to the house.

Our guy, realizing that he had screwed up, kindly came here and did what he requested. It took him a day and part of another. And I had to watch him unscrew boards from our beautiful porch and deck and put them in a pile to the side. This stresses me out, as you might imagine.

In the meantime, our guy discovered that there is a lot of water in our heating and cooling ductwork under the house. Soooo, I called about that, and we got more news. Our ductwork is over 20 years old, it wasn’t insulated right to start with, and now it’s filled with debris and water. It all probably needs to be replaced. I see more dollar signs.

I have scheduled an estimate for the ductwork for Monday, and I have an electrical guy coming to fix the minor things the electrical inspector wanted fixed on Monday…. and I have the inspection with the building inspector on, you guessed it, Monday.

It’s the building inspector that has me worried. The heating and cooling guys had nothing good to say about inspectors in our city. And this one seems like he could be on a power trip, depending on his mood on a particular day. I also confirmed what I’d thought…. we are completely at his mercy. If he tells us to completely dismantle our deck and porch and start from scratch, we either do it, or we face a yearly fine and a black mark on our house if we decide to sell it. This would all be over whether particular bolts are used that aren’t in code now but were 5 years ago, other nitpicky stuff, etc. I am not concerned about the porch not being built well and strong.

Pointless, government bureaucracy at its finest, folks. Oh, how I wish I didn’t believe in being ethical sometimes….

I’m trying not to let this really stress me out because I can’t do anything about it at this point. But it’s been hard on me the last few days, and I just want it all over. So PLEASE pray for me and for mercy on Monday.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

No bake oat balls….

I had Seth help me make these this morning. I was a good chance to talk about 1 c. and 1/2 c. measures, and he got to dump everything and help me stir a little bit. Mom made these for us when we were little. She got the recipe from my Great Aunt Mary, who was the world’s best preschool teacher…


No Bake Oat Balls

1 c. rolled oats

1 c. dry milk

1/2 c. peanut butter

1/2 c. honey

a handful of raisins or chopped nuts


Mix together well, roll into balls, and chill in the fridge. If the mixture seems too crumbly, just add a little more honey and peanut butter.

some folk songs…

My mom was a preschool music teacher before she started homeschooling us. She would go around to the classrooms in our little church preschool, play her autoharp, and teach all of us all kinds of songs… songs about frogs and squirrels and the days of the week and how to cross the street.

I was in the library a couple of days ago, and I ran across a picture book of this old Aaron Copeland song. This was the tune I learned, so I included it. There are lots of different animals and sounds. My boys are enjoying it with me…



The next day, I came across another childhood favorite. There are hand motions for this one, and there is also a tune, but I couldn’t find it on Youtube. We always clapped when the turtle caught the different animals, and I tickle them at the end when we say, “But he didn’t catch me!” Enjoy!

“I had a little turtle,

He lived in a box,

He swam in the water,

He climbed on the rocks.

He snapped at a mosquito,

He snapped at a flea,

He snapped at a minnow,

He snapped at me.

He caught the mosquito,

He caught the flea,

He caught the minnow,

But he didn’t catch me!”



I feel increasingly thankful that my mom gave me a heritage of singing and playing these classics with us. I have treasures to pass on to my children because she taught these to me. Thanks, Mom!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

good things…



- A 4-year-old who spontaneously decides to put his underwear and shorts on his head, just for giggles. And finding out later that his daddy taught him this trick. =)

- A Wednesday night trip to a baby superstore with the BFF to browse and dream and pick up a couple of necessities.

- The husbands who watched the kids so we could take off on a random weeknight for a bit. They’re bigger heroes than Superman, and you can tell him I said that.

- Cold, refreshing water in the local city kiddie pool this morning. And friends to play with there.

- A big batch of taco soup frozen in bags for later.

- 2 eggs borrowed from the neighbors last night to make a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough. And a plate of hot chippers that we walked over there after they were done. They said they’d trade eggs for cookies any day.

- “Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel.” And how Evan loves to point out all the cars and trucks in her beautiful vintage illustrations.

- Brainstorming a couple of ideas for freezer friendly meals that aren’t completely tomato or cheese based. Any ideas, gentle readers? Maybe a stir fry mix I could make up for the pantry and add chicken to later?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A slice of real life…

Ok, so yesterday was rough. Rough with a capital R. It’s about 100 degrees with high humidity, so I can hardly stand to be outside for more than 5 minutes. Seth has been harassing Evan more than normal for the last few days, and that really frustrates me. And naptime was short because a good friend dropped by on her way through town during it, and the boys didn’t stay down well as a result. Sigh. By the time they got up, I was begging them to play the “Mommy’s Eyes Are Closed While She Lies On the Couch Game.” It wasn’t terribly successful. Oh, yes, and Seth pooped in his naptime diaper for the first time in months, didn’t tell me that, and somehow tracked poop down the carpeted stairs. We’re learning how to use the steam cleaner that’s become a piece of downstairs decor tonight.

I told David that I was really wishing it was the weekend. He remarked that that wasn’t a good thing because it was Wednesday. I know, oh, I know.

So this morning, when I woke up, I was dreading the day. (It didn’t help that it started before the alarm went off with “Mommy, Evan’s out of the bed.”) So I spent some time praying for patience and strength and joy and supernatural amounts of energy.

And ya know, He came through.

I had to take them with me to the dermatologist to get a couple of tiny warts on my hands frozen off. Yeah, I know, TMI. But, my point is, this had “gigantic disaster” potential written all over it. You know, small doctor’s office, no way to know how long the wait will be, an inadequate amount of snacks, frowning elderly people with magazines, etc.

We were in the parking lot, and as I was getting out of the car, I swear the Holy Spirit started saying to me, “Ellen, take the huge, heavy stroller. Do it. If you don’t, you will regret it. Seriously, listen to me. I’m your friend.” So I did. It was all I had, and I don’t like using it in small spaces. I knocked into a few doors, and it wasn’t easy to turn around, but 5 minutes of Evan on the loose in the waiting room was enough to remind me how thankful I am for the Holy Spirit in my life. The 3 and 3/4 of us already look like a freak show as it is without 2 of us climbing and diving off plastic chairs.

Evan settles down and stops screaming to “get out of stroller!,” the dermatologist explains about skin to Seth, and I find out that the burst blood vessel smack in the middle of my forehead will probably heal after Trey comes out. Win, win, win! We’re in and out quickly, and I praise the boys to high heaven and promise them a treat at Target.

Off we go to Target, where we get backup carpet cleaner in case the steam cleaner gets mad at us for actually wanting to use it. Seth is hanging onto the side of the cart and making train whistle noises through a plastic straw that he found in the cart. (It was covered with the paper when he found it. I’m not THAT laid back.) Evan joins in. I don’t care because the only people in Target are wealthy middle aged women buying organic incense burners on their way home from the gym and other moms with kids. They smile at us; it’s all cool. My boys are behaving angelically.

They get Bugles in their snack trays on the way home. I used to love Bugles as a little kid. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree apparently.

We get home, and they eat lunch nicely and play well together. Seth and I discover that he likes playing catch now that we’ve unearthed some velcro catcher's mitts and a velcro ball. Who’d have thought that this would be the answer to every game of catch ending in tears? (I’m really looking forward to him getting better at playing catch, y’all.)

Now they’re down for a nap, and I’m soooooo thankful. So if you’ve just had a REALLY bad day, take it from me, tomorrow could be a whole lot better….

Tuesday, July 19, 2011



Seth planted this corn back in early summer. Now he gets to harvest the fruit of his labor. (I’m so glad he gets to experience firsthand where fruits and vegetables come from.)

DSC_0105  “Mommy, it makes a cracking sound!” Papa was proud of the fact that he learned the proper technique of twisting to get the ears off the stalks…


And this is what Evan was doing in his 1 minute of unsupervised time while I was taking pictures of his big brother…. =) Yes, he climbed it all by himself. He was very proud.

DSC_0121 Fresh cantaloupes and “his corn” that Nana served up for lunch.

DSC_0141One of my favorite pictures of them ever. This was my brother’s pedal tractor when he was growing up, and there is a picture of him driving with me in the trailer. Mom, I’m glad you didn’t let Dad get rid of this toy. =)

DSC_0154 Seth taking his brother for a ride. Things go a lot more smoothly now that Evan has learned that he can’t take the pin out that attaches the trailer to the tractor…. =)


Me and my little man at 34 weeks pregnant. I broke down and bought a couple of brand new maternity dresses. They help me feel a little less huge. =)

I went to my parent’s house for the weekend with the boys. In our 10 years of marriage, David and I hadn’t ever thought to take some time alone every once in awhile. If we were doing something away from the kids on a weekend, it’s either been together or going away with other people, etc. I got to experience some alone time on the weekend for the first time in years, and it was really rejuvenating. There was nobody to plan around and nobody’s needs to think about other than my own. If you haven’t done this in years, and you have young children, I highly recommend this kind of mini retreat.

Anyhoo… I got a chance at it, but David didn’t. I wanted him to have the chance for a little personal retreat before “Trey” arrives… and so did my parents. They know how hard he works for his family, and they wanted to give him a gift for all the help that he was with Claire and Isaac while we were at the beach. So they took care of us this weekend so David could rest. We all had a great time… and there was much hugging and rejoicing when we all got back together, too. =)

Friday, July 15, 2011

the truth about preschool….

I just ran across this article about preschoolers…

I’d been wondering recently if I should buy a nice days of the week/month/weather calendar. Seth has been asking about that more. And I don’t think it would be a bad thing to have.

BUT… I like to hear that it isn’t necessary. I like to look at preschool educational ideas, and we have lots of educational games and toys around here. Honestly, there is so much out there that it overwhelms me…

These days, my goal is for us to spend a good bit of time reading together, step back and let the boys create imaginative play together, and do 2-3 short learning activities.

Yes, I did some alphabet themed preschool. I may go back to it sometime. BUT… I think Seth and Evan can learn the same things that they got from that without me planning it all out so much.

Here is a typical day with preschoolers around here:

Seth gets up and puts on his clothes. I point out if his shirt or shorts are on backwards, and he corrects it. Evan puts diapers in the trash can. That’s his “job.” Seth puts his own bowl and spoon from breakfast in the sink.

We read several books together. Evan picks some, and Seth picks some. They will ask me to read a lot throughout the day. At this point, Evan has the attention span to make it through many of the books that Seth reads, including “Frog and Toad.” Pretty good for a barely 2-year-old boy, I think.

I spend about 20 minutes with them doing little learning activities. These can include a few worksheets with Seth from his Rod and Staff preschool workbooks, a letter matching or number matching game, building with multicolored bears, a memory game, doing increasingly more difficult puzzles, playdough, sticker books, etc. We often sit at our little table together, Evan on my lap, and he either tries to do what Seth is doing, or I have a little activity for him to do. We don’t do this every day if we’ve got something going on, but if we don’t, we do this.

If I’m cooking something, Seth helps me dump and stir, and we talk about measurements. I encourage them both to make up rhymes and songs. They pretend all kinds of neat things, often based on books. Seth packed a “picnic” and sat on a “rock” (the sofa), just like Frog and Toad in one story.

I feel like they’re thriving, and I’m trying not to stress about whether or not Seth can recognize all his lowercase letters and his numbers. Since I know he doesn’t know them, I throw more of those games or activities in there for him. David came up with the idea of having him pick a number from the number puzzle each afternoon, and he only gets that many Goldfish crackers. Talk about an incentive for learning numbers… heh heh.

Sooo, preschool? I think we’re doing well here for now. I care most that they’re using their imaginations and loving to read, and I figure that’s most important at 2 and 4…

What do you do with a black thumb?


You see all that beautiful fescue grass? It died.

It’s been a week of putting out little fires here and there. A car inspection here, a permitting thing there. A lamp breaks… you hunt in vain for a good cheap replacement, etc. David’s had the same kind of week at work.

And I realized tonight that I was fantasizing about having a paid gardener. David wondered why I wanted that instead of a full time maid/decorating consultant. I thought about it, and I realized that I feel like I’m making incremental improvement on the house. The yard, however, is another story entirely. Since we’ve lived here, we’ve gone backwards, not forwards.

Behold the seeding and aerating experiment of fall 2009. We paid a guy to kill some weeds, seed, and aerate. It wasn’t cheap. We watered religiously. The grass grew. It was BEAUTIFUL. And then we had a horrible drought. We were paying through the nose to the city to water our lawn. We stopped watering and prayed that the grass would survive. It didn’t. Now, our yard is a wasteland of crabgrass. It looks worse than it did before we seeded because of the patches of ground that were toxic from the guy’s weed killing technique. So almost all the nice fescue died, the crabgrass came, and we now have bare patches on top of that where fescue never grew in the first place. Sad end to story.

Did I mention that I fertilized twice with the fertilizer that’s supposed to keep crabgrass from growing at all? I did. I might as well have spread the yard with bunny feed. Maybe they would’ve eaten the crabgrass…

But I have other examples of my black thumb, my friends. This is not the only sad yard story.

Around the same time that we seeded, a pipe burst under the front sidewalk. We had to replace the sidewalk. They dug up our nice, new grass on both sides of the sidewalk. We replaced the soil. We bought grass seed kits that said “GUARANTEED TO GROW GRASS!” We watered. The grass never grew. Now there are patches of crabgrass and black dirt on both sides of the sidewalk. There is no actual grass.

I called my Master Gardener mom and asked her when to plant tulip bulbs. I had my friend with a yard like the Garden of Eden come over to help. She brought her bulb planter thingy. We put in special bulb fertilizer. We planted 20 bulbs from two different packets.

Not a single bulb came up.

I got a bunch of hardy mint from my mom to transplant on the side of our house. I’d planted some of her mint at the rental house we’d had, and it took over the place. I planted it here. I watered it. It died.

I grew sunflowers in little cups with Seth. When they had come up nicely, and Mom told me it was time, I planted them in the yard. I watered them. They died.

My dad and David mulched the pathway around the large flagstones leading from our deck steps to the fence gate. That was over a year ago. The mulch is now completely covered over with crabgrass. Crabgrass likes our mulch a lot. I want to tear up the crabgrass and cover this area over with rocks. David won’t let me. He knows the boys will just pick up the rocks and throw them in the yard so he can then lose an eye while he’s mowing. He’s right.

We replaced our deck. In the process, we made it a little bigger and had to dig up the monkey grass and hostas around the edge of it. Now we have hard packed red clay around our deck instead of grass or overgrown plantings.

From the proceeding paragraphs, can you guess how excited I am about trying to plant anything there again? Yeah. Not much.

Our yard has defeated me. I’m fed up. I’ve watched David and my dad sweat over it, raking leaves by the ton, putting down mulch, trying their best to beat back the weeds over the last 3 years.

But we’re not making progress. The weeds are winning. Sigh.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

s.O.P.P. Skillet…

In my never ending quest to find easy, somewhat healthy dinners, I came across a new use for turkey smoked sausage today. =)

It’s a Sausage, Onion, Potato, and Pepper Skillet meal!  Very simple…

Cut up 1 long turkey smoked sausage linky thing. (You know, from the Butterball package of 2 found at every supermarket.) Freeze the other one.

Chop one onion and one green pepper, and get a skillet heating with a little canola oil in it, just a couple of tablespoons.

Peel and cut one large baking potato into small pieces. Put in a microwave safe dish with a dribble of water and microwave for 5 minutes.

Start sauteing the pepper, onion, and sausage. Add cooked potato. Season with salt, pepper, and a little cajun seasoning or other seasoning blend of your choice.

Stir occasionally while you make a salad, mostly ignoring it all for 10 minutes…


I realized that I could probably do this a lot more easily without all the vegetable chopping if I just buy a frozen package of potatos O’Brien. And that may be exactly what I do when Boy III arrives… Or I may do all my chopping earlier in the day while male family members are napping… =)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A little church humor…


I got the opportunity to visit my best friend’s church this morning. David has the boys at his parent’s house, we recently stopped teaching S.S. at our church, and I realized all of a sudden that this would be a good opportunity for me to come…

I really enjoyed the message from a visiting pastor, so I googled his name. He’s recently moved to N.C., and the sound guys at his old church put together this YouTube video as a going away “present.”

His comment was, “Never trust the sound guys when they tell you to just leave your mic on…” Amen, brother. I laughed until I snorted. Enjoy. =)

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Good things…


In case you can’t tell, this is a boat. And that ring he’s holding is the steering wheel…. =)


- A durable plastic wading pool and water table that they love to splash in…

- Watching them take a break from splashing to go down the back yard roller coaster… wearing nothing but smiles. =)

- A heart to heart with Seth about loving his brother that yielded fruit…

- Listening to Seth “read” Evan books. Seeing Evan squeal and run with excitement to give him one to read. I’ve heard “Monkey and Me” 15 times today…

- Two yard sale Magnadoodles- one small and one large- for double the drawing practice. “Evan, come here and draw with me!”

- Gentle afternoon rain…

- Clean laundry folded and ready to go upstairs…

- Anticipation of a weekend to rest and do a couple of projects while my kind in-laws take care of all my boys, big and little…

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

homemade Mexican rice…

Mexican rice freezes well, and my boys both love it. Go here to see a quick YouTube video on how to make it. I heated it up on the stove top with a little oil after it thawed, and I think that did better for me than trying to heat it in the microwave would’ve….

I don’t usually have good luck with making more than 1 c. of rice on the stovetop, but this turned out well for me.

Also, she uses a can of tomato sauce in hers. I used the same amount of salsa and a generous dash of salt free mexican seasoning I had on hand….

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

homemade salsa with canned tomatos…

Homemade salsa is soooo good. I didn’t know what I was missing out on until I started making this, and now I think I’ll never go back to the canned stuff. It’s also full of flavor and FAR less salty.

This recipe is also from Good Cheap Eats, but I’m putting it here for those of you that won’t click over. I know who you are. =)

2 15 oz. cans of fire roasted diced tomatos OR 1 28 oz. can of diced tomatos

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, rinsed well and coarsely chopped

1/2 sweet onion, chopped

1 serrano or jalapeno chili, stem removed and seeded, finely chopped OR 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (cut up the pepper while wearing rubber gloves or face the consequences =)

1 Tablespoon lemon or lime juice

salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Serve with chips.

Seriously, it’s that easy. The fresh cilantro makes all the difference in the world. And now that you have the salsa, you can use some of it to make a big batch of mexican rice to freeze…

Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy 4th of July….



Happy 4th of July from our boys….


This was our second time doing our little neighborhood children’s parade. Seth was so excited about it that he told everyone he met for days that he was going to decorate his bicycle and ride in a parade. And he kept asking me if it was Monday yet…. =)

DSC_0055 Evan decided early on that his stroller was for sissies. He just climbed in with this little boy. (We made him ride in the stroller once the parade started. This 5-year-old was a wild driver. =) After the parade was over, Evan hopped on a battery powered 3 wheeler and tried to take off before anyone noticed. He’s our wild man.

DSC_0065   Seth never looked back. And he wanted to keep up with the older kids who didn’t have training wheels on their bikes. Oh, to be four years old with a big boy bike…


Somebody came out of one of the closest houses with boxes full of bomb pops for the kids once it was over. Sweet. Literally. =)

Sunday, July 03, 2011

delicious taco salad….

beans and rice

taco salad photo courtesy of Good Cheap Eats


I have found a meal that I would gladly eat once a week. It’s healthy, cheap, and totally delicious… and most of the ingredients we have on hand, or they can be frozen easily. I’m in love. =)

For all the details on making really wonderful taco salad, go to this page on Good Cheap Eats… I think Jessica Fisher of Life As Mom is my new favorite food blogger.

For this meal, we load up our plates with: homemade pintos, homemade salsa, a spoonful of sour cream, shredded cheese, a handful of crumbled chips and/or some mexican rice, and some shredded lettuce and green pepper.

Here’s her recipe for homemade pintos. They’re so easy, and the flavor is great after you take the time to season at the end with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. I freeze in 1-2 c. packages, and I double the recipe…


Homemade Pintos

1 pound dried pinto beans

1 onion, finely chopped-  (I think mincing it in the food processor and making sure to add all the onion juice is important for the flavor of these beans)

minced garlic- 1-2 t.



garlic powder

Sort through the dried beans, removing any stones or defective beans. Rinse thoroughly. Place in your crockpot insert and cover with at least an inch of water. Allow to soak overnight.

The next day, rinse beans. Add the chopped onion and enough water to cover by about an inch. Cook 8-10 hours on low. Stir in salt and pepper to taste.

We prefer to mash the beans slightly and season to taste with garlic powder.

*If you don’t want to use the crockpot, or if you don’t have 8 hours until serving time, you can cook them on the stovetop. Place beans, onion and water in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover slightly. Stir frequently, adding water if necessary.

(Don’t mash the beans in the water you cooked them in. Take them out and then mash and season them.)

Next up…. homemade salsa….

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Good things…


- Lazy Saturday mornings of bike rides, late yard saleing, and a quick stop by the neighborhood grocery for bread and baked beans…

- Snagging a really nice soft-sided cooler for $1 that everyone else had ignored because of a little dirt. It cleaned up in a jiffy…

- Sitting on the porch swing with my honey, watching the boys splash in the wading pool.

- Making homemade chocolate chip cookie dough.

- Being able to reward the 4-year-old who had gotten up from his nap to go potty (which equals dry diaper) with chocolatey goodness…

- Said boy’s smile of pride at his accomplishment…

- Suddenly insecure toddler wanting to cuddle with his daddy all day. And him asking first thing when he woke up, “Where’s Daddy?”

- Friends who loan us caulk guns and tell us about mold resistant shower caulk. =)

- Doing a numbers sticker book with Seth. And seeing him get better at counting all of a sudden…

- Offloading some princess dress up clothes (that didn’t fit nieces) on friends who want them. And remembering that that wasn’t the part of having a girl that I was that interested in anyway. Barbie princesses= blech.

- “Trey” letting me know he’s there with squirms and swings and kicks all day long. And the comfort and dawning realization that he’ll be here in 7 weeks…