Tuesday, July 31, 2012

1 year

It's been a year now since we started building houses, so last night we invited over our team and prominent volunteers for a barbeque.  It was way fun.  We know these people so well and have had so many experiences with them... it's hard to believe that it's been just a year since we met!

(A couple guys were bums and ducked out of the picture, and only some of the kids came over, but this is still by far the best picture.)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Day 2 of olympics: Italian

Tonight's olympic-inspired dinner: Turkey Tetrazzini and tomato-basil bread.  I decided I needed to tweak my rules a bit: we're going to support an amazing Olympic moment each night.  Why? I don't like hearing who wins the medals before seeing it on TV.  :)  So today's inspiration: Italy sweeping the podium in women's fencing, and also the gold medal in men's team archery.  Pretty amazing!  And dinner was way yummy.  

Olympics and coming to

Sorry I've been busy for the last week... I'm working on a blog post but haven't downloaded my pictures yet.  Oh well.  It's my blog--I can take a week off if I need! :)

But now for what this post is really about: the Olympics!  We love them around our house.  I love just letting them play and peeking in to see how things are going, occasionally pausing to cheer on our favorites.  This year I wanted to do something to help the kids learn about different world cultures and just to make things fun and interesting, so we're going to have dinner from whatever country earns the most medals each day.  If it starts getting too boring, I may switch up the rules.  Also, I may have to tweak it a bit because we do still have some life outside of this...like a BBQ coming up... but who knows?  Maybe the USA will get the most medals that day and I won't have to worry about it?

Night 1, Bangers and Mash (Opening Ceremonies in honor of London).  Stay tuned for the rest of the adventures! 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Yay! Our lives aren't ruined anymore!

 Lee-Yay! Our lives aren't ruined anymore!
Anna-yes, it's so beautiful!
Lee-we have to wait until...how many days... maybe seven or fifty or seventy?  How many days, mom?
Me-Probably after our campout we can walk on it.
Anna-'Cuz there was a crack on it.  That was bad, huh.  NOW, we have a new sidewalk!  But, we don't want our new sidewalk to get ruined and fixded again.
Lee-Or, wait a couple days and then we can walk on it.
Anna-I'm so excited to walk on it!
Lee-As soon as it's dry I'm going to ride my bike and ride and ride and ride!  Every day!
Anna-Every day when we grow up.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Land of the Free?

This post is going to be vastly different than my normal posts, but I didn't have anywhere else to really delve into my own mind, so here we go.
Star-Spangled Banner

Tonight as I was eating dinner with the kids, we got into a silly song time, which is not uncommon around here.  We love singing goofy songs, or taking songs we know and putting silly words into it, and the kids laugh and laugh.  As I was singing words about spaghetti-faced-Katie to the tune of Scooby Doo, Anna started singing one about broccoli set to the tune of the National Anthem.  I laughed with her, but then decided to take a teaching moment about where that song really came from.

A few moments later, I found myself in tears as I told the kids about Francis Scott Key and how scared he must have been the night he waited and watched as the British bombarded Fort McHenry, but when he looked at dawn's first light--we had won! The flag still stood as a symbol of freedom and hope, and how inspired he was to write the Star Spangled Banner detailing that horrific night, and both the physical and spiritual light the next morning brought.  Then I sang the song to my children, and amazingly they listened with eager ears.

When I reached the final line of the first verse, though, something struck me that I've never really thought about before.  "Oh Say, does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave?"

Does it?

I'm such a big fan of the next three verses that are so rarely sung, that usually I glean over this very important line without much thought and say "Well, if you read on, you'll learn more..." But truly, the point is made here.  What are we doing on a daily basis to secure our freedoms and bravery?

Recently I've been struck at the polarity of this country with the upcoming election.  I'm not making a statement here over which candidate or political party I prefer.  Neither are perfect, and neither should be hailed as such.  Both should be respected, but more importantly, it is our job as citizens to respect our elected officials and to vote according to our conscience.  It's not going to be the same as your neighbor because, let's face it, you are different people!  You come from different backgrounds, and what your whole life is based off of may not have any significance to someone else.  Your jobs are funded differently.  You pay different amounts of taxes.  You prefer different music.  You want different lifestyles, so naturally you should vote differently.  We do all have one important thing in common, though: where we live.  We choose to live in this beautiful country, but it is our responsibility to make it great.  If we want the freedom to raise our kids our way (or also, to not have children at all!) we must protect those rights by upholding them, and to me that means studying the viewpoints of political candidates and voting for what we as individuals deem the best fit for us.

I firmly believe that this right to choose our elected officials and also to vote for laws they pass is what makes our country the land of the free.  It is our great constitution that originally granted us such rights, and since it was first written in 1787, it has only been changed a few times: changes that allow voting rights to extend to all US citizens of legal age. Otherwise, nothing has been changed that prevents us from exercising our sacred right to dictate the way this country is run.

I want to do everything in my power to uphold this right, and the other freedoms extended to us in the Constitution.  Along with voting my mind, however, I also believe it is my duty to support everyone else in their rights.  I don't mean that I agree with everything they say... in fact, at best we usually only like about half of each other's ideas... but it means that I acknowledge their right to their opinion and don't hate them, get angry with them, demean them, or hurt them for having it.  Sometimes that is excruciatingly difficult--especially when their highest priority in life is perfectly contrary to mine.  If they are law-abiding citizens, they have the Constitution-(and dare I say God)-given right to their own opinions and plans on how to run their life.  That is not my choice to make or enforce. 

It does not help us have a land of freedom and bravery to put down another's opinions.  It does not help us uphold the constitution to call someone "The Devil Incarnate"--especially one who has been backed by the majority of citizens to represent us for a few years.  It does not help us be a united, strengthened people if we are angry and vengeful because we happen to disagree.  Extremism is not helpful in the quest for hope.  It's time, at last, that we simply agree to disagree, to support our good choices and do our best to keep the laws.

I think we all have the same eternal goals in mind: to live in a country that is safe, secure, and strong; a country where we can live our dreams--whatever they may be; a country where we can raise our families in peace without fear of recrimination because of our differences; a country where we are free to choose who we want to be and will be supported by our neighbors, friends, and governement in that quest; a country that is free and brave.  Shouldn't these universal goals be enough to unite us and stop this constant fighting between political parties?  Just because we take parallel roads to get there doesn't mean we're not heading in the same direction.  Oh, most certainly those roads twist and turn independently, but that's because they left from different locations.  The important thing is that we keep blazing our own path to get to our destination, and that we pause as often as we can to help another along.

Politics will always be messy.  It must always be messy.  One government cannot be perfect for millions of citizens.  But it is only as strong as those citizens.  We must set aside our conflicts and buoy each other up in our differences.  A flag pole cannot hold up our great flag.  We must hold it up ourselves, in our hearts and actions.  It is us and our unwavering tolerance and support for each other, our representatives, and our freedoms that releases the broad stripes and bright stars over our lands.  It is us that makes it proudly wave.  Every day that we work at this and try our hardest is another day that "The Star Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave--O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!"

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Two little ruined lives

Lee-First, there was no man. And then, the man came back and got this kind of water saw and then it was all gone and then he left and then, we were watching out the window and then I was gone and you were gone and Anna was gone.
Anna-I feel really sad that our sidewalk is ruined.  Yeah, it-it-it ruined my life.
Lee-Yeah, mine too.
Lee-It makes me feel sad.  Because I wanna ride our bikes! I want my exercise! 
Anna-So we have to go [across the street].
Lee-yeah, because our sidewalk's gone.
Anna-It was was like that man came over and just ruined our sidewalk.  That's what happened.
Lee-And I looked out the window and the man was there and I said "Uh--don't don't don't don't don't... aw man!"
Anna-And I said "Don't do that ever again!"
Lee-And then... the sidewalk was GONE.  And we were really sad.
Anna-And we want it now! 'cuz we're really sad our sidewalk is gone.
Lee-And that's the end of our story.
Anna-Yep, that's the end of the story.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Katie at 16 months

After her first year, I haven't been tracking her growth and progress quite as steadily, but Katie is developing so quickly and cute!  Her first word was "Daddy," which she said after Alisa's wedding.  Now just about every morning when she first sees Cody, (usually during breakfast) she'll call out "Daddy!"  The only other word she says with perfect clarity and comprehension is "No."  Example: last night we had a family treat of pumpkin pie.  I was feeding Katie bites of mine, and after giving her about six bites in a row I started to take the fork to my own mouth when Katie yelled, "NO!"  and then opened her own mouth super big, awaiting her bite. So hilarious, Cody and I were both in stitches.

Apparently nobody said "Say cheese."
Despite her first word being "Daddy," Katie's really a momma's girl.  She love giving me hugs and running to me when I call her... you know, when she wants to.  She loves it when I hold her, and the majority of the time I do too.  I know that within a few more short months, she'll probably outgrow her cuddles and then I will be really sad.  I have to force my older kids to give me hugs goodnight, so I'll take the lovey baby.  She loves her hugs, but she's also very independent.  Her favorite is to run to me, give me a hug, then run off to go back to doing something else.  She is very active and despises being forced to sit still, meaning that Cody and I are becoming increasingly familiar with the halls of the church. :)

One fantastic thing is that Katie usually still takes two naps a day--one at 10 AM and one at 2 PM, on the button.  Then she goes to bed at 8:30 PM, and still wakes up (usually) once at about 10 PM and then sleeps the rest of the nights until about 7:30 AM.  Occasionally she will wake up at about 1:00 AM and those nights are rough.  Of course I can't really complain--it's just once a night, but after over a year of sleep deprivation, I'd like her to just sleep through the night.  :/ Oh well, I love her guts.  I'll get up with her once a night.

Katie is such a ham!   She loves doing things to get a laugh, like fake sneezing, whacking you and then kissing it better, dancing, and playing peek-a-boo around door frames.  She is a pleasure to have in our home and we love her to pieces!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

My oven

I promised a post just about my oven, and here it is.  If you don't like unabashed bragging, please skip this post. :)

In this photo I'm making turnovers and scrambled eggs: Lee's birthday breakfast.
5 burners--2 "quick boil," one small simmer, one regular, and then the oval center burner that came with the pictured griddle.  We leave the griddle on all the time, but when it comes time to make gravy in a turkey pan or something like that, it also came with a regular grate that we can swap out at ay time.

Natural gas fuel, of course. 

Three oven racks, including one that is cleverly attached to the door so that it slides out when you open the door for easy access.  The top rack you can easily remove half the rack, so if you're cooking a turkey and green bean casserole at the same time, you can have one tall item and two shorties in the oven all together.

It has convection, which I'll admit I was hesitant about.  I've never used convection on a regular basis before, and I was worried about the conversions.  But since it is optional and there's a conventional bake feature, I figured I'd be safe.  I am now in love with it.  It auto-converts, so with one button, you just type in the conventional temperature from the recipe and away it goes.

It has a 4-minute preheat.  :D

It has a double wide broiler with a ceramic top so that it makes super even broiling.

It even has a pizza feature. 

It has 2 self-clean options: 3 hour and 4 hour.  And in case I have a case of the scatterbrains, it will automatically shut itself off if it gets left on accidentally (after 6 hours). 

It came with a thermometer probe that plugs inside the oven that reads on the digital display up top, and I can set the oven to hold temperature or turn off when the food reaches whatever temp I want.  That comes in pretty handy for roasts, lasagnas, enchiladas, or even just casseroles.  Take it to 180, then keep it warm until dinner time... perfect.

I'm so grateful to Cody and his kind understanding that led him to upgrade the stove instead of something else.  He knows me and knows how important the kitchen is to me, and I just love it.  I love cooking in our new house. Now, since you bore with me and read this whole post, you are now officially invited to our house to taste the fruits of this beautiful oven.  Just send me a note, and come on over for dinner, breakfast, midnight snacks--whatever! :)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Happy 6th Birthday, Lee!

 Today Lee is 6!  I can't believe how big he is.  We just got done with a super fun Super Hero party. 
 First, we made capes.  I purchased some plastic tablecloths from the dollar store and cut them into fouths, then cut out a little circle for the head, leaving two detached strips to tie around the kid's neck.  I put the capes on the table with stickers and we wrote the child's name on each cape at let them decorate them.  It came in handy throughout the party, because we didn't have to keep asking for names.

And that's how long Katie's cape lasted...not even long enough to get a single clear picture!
 We played a few games while everyone was arriving and making capes, like "Batman Says" and "Hero-Hero-Villain."  Then we went outside to do an obstacle course.
Super Anna!

Flying Birthday Boy!
 We told our friends that superhero costumes and gear was welcome, but not required.  We had a few guests in full costume, these cute girls brought their masks, and some (like our kids) were in normal clothes.  It was great.

Doing the obstacle course
 We played on the obstacle course for a while, letting the kids jump off a chair over some "hot lava" (pink balloons) and balance along some 2x4s and kick a ball into a box and things like that. 
Lee is in the upper left corner with his hand in the air.
 After the obstacle course, we came back inside for cupcakes, pizza rolls (that I had cleverly set up my oven to come on by itself, so I didn't even have to leave the party to put pizza rolls in the oven), and Kool-Aid.  I love cupcakes for a party because they are so easy.
 Then we opened presents...
 ...and moved to the garage for the pinata.  As we went out there, we gave the kids their goodie bags so they could add the candy to it. We built our Pinata out of a mondo goldfish box, so it was very, very sturdy.  Every kid got three or four whacks and we hadn't even broken through the paper yet.  Our oldest kid there was the last to go, and at 11 years old, he was itching to prove himself.  He broke the handle of the broom.  (Good riddance.)  Then Cody punched through the pinata, had the kids get ready with their bags, and ripped it apart, shaking the candy everywhere. 

 We posed for a quick picture, and then since all these kids live within a block and a half of us, they all walked home.  I literally stood in my driveway and watched eight of them walk to their front doors so I could make sure they got there safely.
We've now had a great day with Lee and he is happily playing with his new toys.  Cody and I are bushed, but so proud of our big boy and how kind and generous he is.  We love you, Lee!  Happy Birthday!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Dining room: complete!

First the table, then the chairs, and at last the bench--our dining room ensemble is finally complete!

 I love the bench.  Cody made it so sturdy and stable, and we added felt feet on the bottom so that they won't scratch and it also helps the bench from tipping.  I must tell the story of it, though, because it is too good to pass up. :)

After we built the table, I started browsing for chairs--you know that part of the story already.  The hard part was finding something that would go with the table, since the table is a custom piece.  I really love the straight, simple lines of the table, and after seeing some country pieces with benches, I thought that'd be the way to go.  We'd be able to build it out of oak just like the table and stain it to match.  It took us a while to get the money and the time to do it, but on Father's day weekend, I gave the bench to Cody (well, the materials and a whole day to piddle around in the garage building a bench) as his Dad-day gift.  He got the bench built that day, and we took it home to stain it.  Cody purchased the stain, and we were both quite certain it was the same color... oh, why must we make such an obvious blunder?  If you have a color you need to match up in the future, write it down! take a picture! do SOMETHING to be 100% certain you have the right color.  Anyway, it ended up being very very red.  The first coat it was quite pink--would it grow on us? nope.  So we then thought maybe if we doubled the coat it would look better? nope.  A few more days to grow on us? nope.  What if we varnished it?  nope.  Finally we had no choice but to paint it black, which is what we did.  After a couple more days of looking at it and using it, we added a final coat of varnish, and now I am totally and completely in love.  My only regret is having to paint a beautiful solid oak bench.  But it matches so well with the chairs and ties it all together--mmm.  Yes, I couldn't be happier.
Katie approves.
The last little piece of this story--ever since designing the table, Cody and I had both unanimously and unquestionably agreed that the bench would go on the side of the table by the wall.  It wasn't even a thought.  But when we brought it in and put it there, it made the table look lopsided.  When we switched it to the other side--the kitchen side--it opened the whole space up, made the table much easier to clean, and was just right.  This whole project has been kind of guesswork, tweaking as we go, I suppose; but, now it's done and it is exactly what we wanted.  It looks like us.  It feels like us.  It's going to be the family gathering place for many, many years, and I'm looking forward to the memories we get to make now of sticky messes and school projects, of family conferences, of birthday parties, and of laughing at talking and eating together.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Beat*EN* the heat

That's right folks, Beaten, as in past tense, as in it's over!  Our Air Conditioning is up and running perfectly! 

It was a drama-filled weekend and I'm glad it is over.  I hate being grouchy like that constantly.  Poor Cody and the kids have put up with a lot of complaining and misdirected hostility. :)  Apparently being hot makes me downright crazy.

But I did learn a few good tricks to keeping the house cool, which I want to remember to help keep things energy efficient:

-Open your garage door for half an hour at night and in the morning to air it out.
-Set up a fan at the bottom of the stairs and point it up during the day so that the cooler air is lifted to the main floor.
-Put foil or emergency blankets (you know the thin foil-type) over the windows to block the light and heat.
-Open windows during the night and angle multiple fans to draw air through the house--not just blowing on you.
-Use a crock-pot, rice cooker, bread machine, electric skillet, or other small appliances to cook--but put them in the garage while they're running so they don't heat up the house.  Grill whenever possible as well.
-Angle blinds so the bottom is pointed toward the window during the day to reflect as much light as possible, and whatever does leak through goes to the ceiling instead of the floor.
-Set up the tent in the basement and sleep down there.
-Don't leave the doors open for any length of time.  Get in and get out as quickly as possible.
-Eat lots of fresh foods and smaller meals.  Healthier bodies need less work to cool, and that's really all you can stomach anyway.
-Stay very hydrated, even if you're spending your entire day indoors.
-When all else fails, take a nap.

NOW, however, I will go do a little victory celebration by making homemade soft pretzels.  In my oven.  In the afternoon.  Bwahahaha!