Thursday, March 28, 2013

Martial Arts - A Hard Lesson for Mom

About five weeks ago our oldest son began taking martial arts lessons.  He has loved every second of it.    Since then we have also signed up our youngest son.  They are in two different classes because of the difference in age.  Luckily the classes are back to back.  So twice a week we "set up camp" in order to make it through both class.  Our daughter (and youngest child) keeps herself entertained...kind of.  Usually she is in my lap or watching herself perform her version on ballet in the mirrors.

Yesterday, was our oldest son's first opportunity to stripe test.  I grew up dancing and taught dance for 10 years.  So, I am not at all familiar with the terminology of martial arts.  However, I will say that the discipline, class structure, determination, etc. is very similar to dance.  Where was I???  Oh yes, it was our first experience stripe testing.  In order to earn the next belt color, you first have to earn three black stripes.  You have the opportunity to earn a stripe once a month.  Our son had been studying so hard.  He was responsible for terminology, techniques, and self defense.

As a parent, you sit at the back of the room.  You are able to watch all the kids but you cannot help them or give any hints during testing.  I could physically feel myself flinch each time he was asked a question.  However, he seemed so calm.  I was a nervous wreck.  Plus trying to keep the other two kids quiet and entertained seemed unusually hard.  The test went on for 45 minutes!!!!  That is a long time for a nervous momma!  At the end of the test, all students "lock it up" (sit with legs criss cross and hands on knees).  The teachers read a list of names.  If your name is called you stand up.  Our son's name was called!!!  Wait...is that a good thing or a bad thing???  A few more hours, I mean seconds, passed and the question was answered.  All students standing received their stripe!!!!  EXHALE!  I finally took my first breath in 45 minutes.  In total confidence, he turned around and gave me a thumbs up.  He melts my heart.  Is it okay to tear up in the middle of a martial arts studio???


Proudly showing the tiny black stripe on the end of his white belt.


The other two trying their best to stay quiet.

Well it was definitely an intense afternoon.  I am so proud of our son and very thankful we don't have to do that again for another month!

Elizabeth



Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Great Educational Game

Ok, so this post is not going to be very exciting.  For my family members, it will not have pictures of my kiddos.  It also does not have any yummy recipes.  However, it is about the best educational game I have ever purchased.  I think we can all agree that a game that is fun, easy, and educational is a major A+!

About six or seven years ago I was invited to a Discovery Toys party.  To be honest I really wasn't all that interested in going.  I had heard that the toys were really expensive.  I always like the items I see at home catalog parties but I always feel torn and stressed because of the sticker price.  Plus you know the hostess is earning points, credits, etc.  so you want to help her out but you don't want to break the bank!  So by the end of the evening, I settled on Busy Bugs.  I figured it looked somewhat useful and it wasn't too expensive.  Years later, it is my all time favorite educational game.  All three of my kids have learned how to sort, pattern, add, subtract, etc. with this game.


I am also impressed that we still have the box and all the pieces!!!

When you open the box you have a stack of cards and rubber bugs.

The bugs come in five different colors and types.  As you can see the sorting possibilities are endless.

 This is an example of the beginner cards.  Younger children (toddlers) can practice matching one bug per square to match colors.

The cards get progressively more advanced.

Yet another example of the different types of cards.


This will be a game I carefully put away in hopes to pull out for my grand kids, someday.  I am not sure if Discovery Toys still carry Busy Bugs, but you could always use other objects and cards for the same idea.

Elizabeth

Monday, March 25, 2013

Camping Trip

Yet another successful camping trip!!

Our oldest son is in his second year as a Cub Scout.  He loves every part of it, especially the camping.  This past weekend we camped at Goliad State Park.  It was a two night camp out and trip to Presidio LaBahia (which is a part of Texas history).  I thought the best way to share our weekend would be through pictures, enjoy!


We set up the tent in less than 30 minutes!!!  Actually, we set it up two times in less than 30 minutes after my husband decided he didn't like it's location.  I think we moved it a total of 6 inches...sigh. :)

Home Sweet Home 

Let me state for the record I did not pick out her outfit...she was very proud of her 4th of July shirt and Valentine leggings.

Our middle son trying his hardest to jump rope.  He was really putting a lot of effort into to it. :)


Ready for bed
Have you ever seen so much pink on a Cub Scout camp out?

My husband showing the kids how to light a fire with magnesium and a flint something or other.  Before we knew it he had a crowd of about 10 boys watching and cheering him on.  It was a very long and intense process.  He would get the smallest little flame going and then the kids would cheer and the flame would go out.  This happened over and over.  Like I said, INTENSE!

POISON IVY - EVERYWHERE!!!

Presidio La Bahia


Live re-enactment of the battle at Presidio La Bahia


Anyone who has three kids understands that a great picture of all three (at the same time) is partly luck and the rest is nothing short of a miracle!  This was not our miracle... :)

Still not the miracle I was going for...

Come on kids, work with me! 
:)

Our little Cub Scout is working on his photography belt loop, this was one of his pictures.  I think it is beautiful!

This little guy busted his lip wide open from falling on the metal part of our cots.  I believe he was told not to jump around in the tent.  This picture shows the band aid we placed between his nose and lip.  

My favorite part of the weekend was taking pictures of the kids and the spring wildflowers.  Texas has beautiful wildflowers.  It is actually a state law that you cannot pick bluebonnets because they are our state flower.

We did allow the kids to pick the yellow flowers.

Here we go again, luck and miracles...

The youngest left the picture and the middle is not cooperating.  I give up! :)

My blondie!


When you are a kiddo who is allergic to everything in the environment...this probably isn't your idea of fun.
(mid sneeze)

 love bluebonnets

love this picture

and this one too

Sigh.... I wish this view was in my backyard.

We had a wonderful weekend.  It was nice to get out of town and spend some quality time together.  

Did I mention in between the adorable pictures and wildflowers we had crazy weather?  We had rain, cold, crazy heat, and unbelievable wind.  TEXAS WEATHER... you just have to go with it.

Happy trails y'all,
Elizabeth



Saturday, March 16, 2013

Yummy Chocolate Pudding Frosting

Chocolate Pudding Frosting...YUMMY!  Yesterday I made vanilla cupcakes using a box mix.  My plan was to frost them with a caramel frosting, however, none of us liked the way it tasted.  So, the cupcakes sat...naked.  There is nothing worse than a naked cupcake!  It is just plain wrong.  I realized this morning that I never got around to making a batch of frosting.  I looked in my pantry to see what ingredients I had to work with.  Then I remembered, I had recently seen something about putting pudding in frosting.  I hadn't looked at a recipe or researched it so I decided to just wing it.

This is what I used:

2 cups powdered sugar
1 tbsp. butter (cold)
1 tsp. vanilla
4-5 tbsp. milk (add slowly, you may need only 3-4 tbsp.)
3-4 tbsp. chocolate pudding mix (just the powder)


ingredients (butter not pictured)

mix powdered sugar, vanilla, butter, and milk in mixer

The most handsome little blondie showed up in my kitchen to help!
After everything is mixed, add in the chocolate pudding.  My theory is continue adding until you like the way it tastes. :)

Doesn't everyone hold onto the mixer knobs like they are riding a motorcycle?

Mix until the consistency is thick but not so thick that it won't squeeze through the piping bag or spread with a knife.  If it is too runny just add more powdered sugar and continue to mix.

I pipped the frosting on with a pipping bag using a large star tip.

This will now be my "go to" chocolate frosting.  I love the taste and it sets really well.  It would be great on so many things (graham crackers, Nilla Wafers, etc.).  Also, you could add any flavor of pudding to change the taste and color of the frosting.  So many options!

Elizabeth






Easiest Way to Fill a Piping Bag

Piping bags!  I love the way they help frost cakes, cookies, and cupcakes but they are a pain to fill.  Until I learned something new on The Chew www.thechew.com.  It wasn't even a segment devoted to piping bags.  I just happened to notice the technique while they were making Shepard's Pie.  It is so simple, I can't believe I never thought to do it.

Are you ready???  Before filling your bag, prop it upside down in a jar or glass!  That is it!  Ta-da!!!

piping bag and jar

Please excuse my pink stained bag.  I used hot pink icing for my daughter's birthday cupcakes and it stained the bag (and my hands for days).

piping bag inverted into jar


fold sides of bag down over the jar


view of bag open and ready to be filled


fill bag with icing using spatula or spoon


filled bag with end pinched, ready for piping

Like I said, it is so simple!  It is the little things that always make me so happy.

Elizabeth



Thursday, March 14, 2013

"Me Time"

Ahhh, "me time" what every mother can never get enough of.

 It is something that is essential for any mom to survive.  Don't get me wrong I love my kids more than life it's self but I also love myself (especially when myself is in a quiet place...ALONE).  The fact is most mom's probably don't get the type of "me time" they feel they deserve.  I think we can all agree that a secluded beach, good book, and something cold to drink would be an idea way to spend "me time".  If you don't like the beach maybe a spa or quiet area in a library.  Anyway you look at it, we all need more of it.  But what do we do when it just doesn't fit the schedule or budget or any other issue that may come up?

 I have finally figured out that question, after months of arguing with myself and feeling pitiful that I was the "only" mom that didn't get that special time.  I even posted it on Facebook awhile back.  My status asked the questions, "How do you spend your "me time" and  how often do you get that precious time?"  I received so many responses.  Some moms had the opportunity to have a couple hours a week, others tried to take a small amount of time each day, and still others hoped to get an ounce of time within a month.  After reading all of the posts, I realized that I needed to change my attitude towards my personal time.  My husband works six days a week.  His work day usually lasts between 10 and 12 hours.  Soooo, I needed to get creative.

As I have mentioned before, my life has recently taken a huge change.  Actually, you could consider it an overhaul!  Six months ago I was a 10 year veteran teacher with one child in public school and two children in full time private daycare.  A huge bonus to being a teacher is having so many holidays and summers off.  I really felt I had the best of both worlds.  We were able to have two incomes and I still had a lot of time at home with the kids.  What I didn't realize is how easy my alone time was to fit in.  Some days I would rush out of school so I could run to Target or Hobby Lobby before I went to pick up the kids.  Also, money wasn't an issue so scheduling a pedicure every two weeks was a piece of cake.  My how all of this has changed!

When we decided I needed to resign and homeschool our children "me time" came to a screeching hault.  Now we follow a  very strict budget and my children and I spend just about every waking moment together.  This was a huge adjustment.  Gone were the days of running errands by myself and sitting for 45 minutes while someone massaged my legs and feet.  Today,  I am totally embarrassed of the way my feet look.  Oh well... :)  Getting back on track, I had to change my perspective of what my "me time" should look like.  I realized that the pedicures, Starbucks, etc. where out of the question.

I was unexpectedly saved when my husband and I received the most amazing Christmas present from my parents.  Drum roll please.....


Isn't she a beauty?!

Ahhhh!!!!!

The Keurig!!! It has become my new and might I add, inexpensive me time.  Everyday, yes I said everyday, I make a wonderful cup of coffee and that is my "me time".  It is not glamorous but it is a guarantee that I will get it.  Most of the time I wait until the afternoon to make my precious cup.  By that point homeschool is over and the kids are more than willing to play upstairs or in the backyard.  So then I get coffee and quiet!  AMAZING!!!  Yet again, it's the little things in life!

So I just have to ask the question again.  How do you spend your me time?

Elizabeth

***While I wrote this blog post (during today's "me time") the following things happened:
1.  I made my cup of coffee and anticipated a great amount of quiet time, and then...
2.  My three year old daughter insisted on sitting in my lap even though I was typing on the laptop.
3.  My oldest son decided that this was the best time to discuss many activities in his Cub Scout handbook.
4.  My daughter wanted an apron tied around her waist and then two minutes wanted it removed.
5.  She also gave me multiple hugs and laid her head on my shoulder. :)
6.  My middle son asked to go outside (1 out of 3 isn't bad) :)

I wouldn't switch my old "me time" with my new "me time" any day.  I love spending so much time with me kids.  It really will be gone before I know it.  AND when I finally do get that glamorous "me time" it will be so much more appreciated.



Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Organizing the Family Command Center

"Today, I am going to get that counter cleared off!"  How many times have I uttered this statement?!  We have one counter in our kitchen that is such a "catch all" and once it is full the stuff just begins to creep to all the other counter tops and kitchen table (and stairs, cubby....)  What I mean to say is that when you have three kiddos, everything is a catch all!!!.  It is something I have battled for years.  I have read so many blogs about organizing your command center.  I try and try but day by day the clutter creeps back.  I decided on a whim to give it another try.

Now, I did not spend a single dime on this organization project.  I would much prefer cute baskets and scrap booking paper for my labels but it is just not in the budget this month.  My goal was organized and functional!  Maybe on another day I can change out baskets and labels. :)

Here it is, in all it's glory...the counter!  There is a little bit of everything on it and sadly this is how it usually looks.  Even if I get it cleared off with in 5.2 minutes (yes that is actually how long it takes) it is full again.  It is actually a step in the right direction that I am letting anyone other than family see a picture like this.  Typically, I do a mad clean sweep before anyone comes over.  Did I mention I don't like it when people drop by unexpectedly? :)

"Catch all" counter - BEFORE

"Catch all" cubby with hooks - BEFORE  (This typically looks much worse, but my husband and I recently cleaned it out)

As mentioned earlier, I only used supplies that I already had on hand.  

2 plastic baskets
1 small standing divider
packing tape (for securing labels)
card stock
quart sized baggies (one of my favorite household supplies, I use them for everything)

 I like to file our bills in quart sized baggies.  I have found that it is a quick way to file and have everything together.  I keep them in a basket inside a cabinet in our kitchen.  We don't have a home office so this is the most practical place for us. 

Now the paid bills are easy to file and access if needed.

About a week ago I took our family calendar and moved it from the wall to the inside of a kitchen cabinet door.  It has been a great change.  

On the inside of the other door, I placed cork squares with Command strips.  Here I keep our monthly menu, kids chores, my daily housework, and any other extra info.

I typically would never show the inside of my cabinets but I really wanted to show how the calendar,  menus, charts, etc. are tucked away.  

"Catch all" counter - AFTER
Isn't it beautiful!!!  I was even able to add a small family picture to decorate.  I also have a small spiral notebook and pen ready for any last minute to-do lists.

"Catch all" cubby - AFTER

The small standing divider is labeled ACTION REQUIRED (in red to get my attention).  This will be designated for bills and any paperwork that needs immediate attention.  The blue basket is labeled PENDING (for those items that you can't throw way or file but will need your attention in the near future.

BEAUTIFUL!!!

Okay, so should we make bets as to how long I can keep it this way???  I am going to be optimistic and go for 5.5 minutes!  Seriously, I am going to really try and keep it nice and tidy.  :)

Time will only tell!

Elizabeth