Friday, April 27, 2012

Homemade Ranch


Homemade Ranch

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp. dried dill weed
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp ground pepper

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and then try not to drink it.  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hope in the Form of a Tomato Plant


Spring is a persistent teacher.  Every year, wisely reminding us of sacred truth.  No matter how dark or dreary the season we're in, Spring gently shows us that seasons change, and when they do it's hard to remember the cold, ugly days of winter.




In the bleakness of winter we began planting seeds.  The urge so strong, there was no containing it.  On those sad dark days, filled with confusion and a lot of hurt, I would sit and watch the sun rise every morning.  The words in my Bible meant very little.  They seemed empty and void.  The message of a sunrise spoke deeply to my soul.  It was during one of those sunrise shows I felt moved to plant some seeds.  Holding the tiny pieces of promise in my hand, I felt hopeful.  For days I watered nothing but dirt.  No signs of life.  Only faith that life was there...waiting...under the surface.  I could not see the work under the soil but roots were growing.  Strong ones. Reaching.  Anchoring the new life that was coming.


Every morning since those dark days I've watched these plants.  The days have grown warmer.  We're no longer hunched over, crippled by the cold.  We can stretch and breathe.  The sadness of winter has been replaced by the skip of Spring.



These little plants and our little hearts are stronger.  Healthier.
I water these plants every day and whisper "thanks" for the lesson they have taught me.


What once was dead is now living.  What once was cold and dark now shines with rays of warmth.  What once was barren and ugly is now inhabited and beautiful.  Spring.  Relentlessly reminding.

If your soul resides in a season of winter, will you spend some time outside beholding the miracle of Spring?  May Jesus meet you in the middle of this seasonal gift He has given and speak truth to your hurting heart.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Day I Bought a Bag of Poop



One of the perks of an Earth Day event is the bounty you bring home.  Seeds.  Flowers.  Bird feeders.



We spent an afternoon planting all that the boys brought home from the Earth Day event.  These days with hands in dirt and hair blowing in the springtime wind will always be what I think of when I remember this house full of boys.





The boys returned home with these simple, little bird feeders.  They hopped out of the car and began running around the yard looking for the perfect spot for a bird buffet.  Every morning they wake up and head straight to the back yard to eagerly check their feeders.  



They barreled back in the house one morning excited to show me that this particular feeder had been completely devoured.  Boys.  They appreciate a good display of gluttony.  I found how to recreate these cute little feeders here.  We need to make more.  Either these feeders offer the simplest of fun or my kids are way too easy to please.



This is manure.  In the store I thought buying a bag of cow crap was a good idea.  After looking over all the bags of soil, I opted for what seemed like the most organic.  Imagine how good this will be for my plants.  And for the planet.  Just imagine it.  What I failed to imagine was how smelly manure would be.  Mama.

If you've ever wondered if marketing strategies are effective, wonder no more.  I paid for poop.  With real money.  When we got home and opened the bag the smell about knocked us over.  We tried not to breathe, but when we were forced to, we could taste the doo-doo soil in our mouths. How is this possible?

Here's a proven weight loss strategy:  Spend the day with your hands in cow poo.  No matter how many times you wash your hands, it takes 48 hours for the smell to go away.  Consequently this is also how many hours it takes for you to want to eat if eating involves using your smelly hands...which it does.  Nothing curbs an appetite like poop hands.  I came really close to burying my appendages and licking food out of a bowl like a dog.  I actually daydreamed about popping my hands off, leaving them outside, and then coming in to watch some TV feces free.

However you are spending these days, I hope you are having a beautiful, manure-free Spring.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Earth Day Photo Booth


The event today went really well.  We're both so tired we want to cry but since we're on the computer anyway uploading photos to our website, why not pop over here and jot down a few observations?

1.  My brother-in-law who bravely handled kid duty this morning walked into the door, took one look at the signs I had made for the Earth Day photo booth and said, "Why do you have a giant, pink Mercedes emblem?"  What?  Shut up.  That's a peace sign.  "Uh...no," he said.  "That's a Mercedes symbol."  Wow.  I'm a dummy.  I quickly did surgery on my sign, and we all spell checked the other ones.

2.  We drove a giant diesel truck up to the Earth Day Event.  Then we proceeded to allow our truck to run while we unloaded a butt-load of Earth Day supplies.  The people helping us transport our booth materials were thrilled.  


3.  Since our kids hung out at our booth today, I'm pretty sure we allowed 80 snow cones each just to keep them happy.  This is why they are like bouncy balls at the moment.






4.  The photo booth was really fun, and we got to meet a ton of families, business owners, and city officials today.  The fact that people are really excited and thankful for this new service to families in our area was extremely encouraging.

5.  People are way more into a photo booth than you'd ever expect.  When I'd be giving my shpeel about the new website and the photo booth, I'd read a person's face during my verbal presentation and think, "I'll offer the photo booth option just to be nice, but aint no way this stoic person is going to actually put on an afro wig and cheese it up in the photo booth."  Wrong.  I was always wrong.  Someone could look like they wanted to throw me in a recycling bin while I was explaining the photo booth and then say, "Yes!  I'd love to do it!  Kids, grab a rake and a raccoon costume."  There is a lesson here, and I think it's this:  I can't read people.

6.  It seems ironic that on Earth Day so many people handed out fliers and my kids came home with a bag full of junk I want to trash.  Hmmm.


And don't you think for one minute I'd leave the photo booth without really earthing it up.  
I heart my netti pot.  It saves the earth and my sinuses.


And girl, don't even get me going about my diva.  Happy Earth Day!

Friday, April 20, 2012

10 Ideas for Celebrating Earth Day

Earth Day is Sunday, April 22.  Looking for ways to celebrate this great planet?  Here are 10 ideas to make Earth Day fun and memorable.
1.  Plant a Vegetable Garden
With the weather this nice, it's the perfect time to be outdoors.  Nothing is more exciting to kids than getting their hands in the dirt and planting a garden.  Rumor has it kids are more likely to try eating vegetables they grew themselves.  Check out this free, printable gardening journal for added fun. Gardens can be really elaborate or as simple as planting a few tomato plants in a container.  Either way, grab your gardening gloves and grow something together!
2.  Plan a Picnic
The Nature Conservancy is attempting to break a world record for most picnics in one day in celebration of Earth Day.  Want to join the fun?  Check your local parks and recreation website to find a list of parks and amenities or throw a picnic right in your own back yard. 

3. Hike a Nature Trail
Many cities have nature trails to enjoy.  These are oftentimes hidden and hard to find.  Check your local parks and recreation website or call their office to find a nature trail near you.


4. Feed the Ducks
If you want to get close to nature, you can take a trip to a local pond and spend some time feeding the ducks.  

5.  Fly a Kite
Did you know it's National Kite Month?  Celebrate Earth Day and National Kite Month by getting out and flying a kite with your family.  Many Hobby Stores run specials on kites during the month of April.  If you don't want to purchase a kite, you could try making one of your own!   

6.  Attend an Earth Day Event or Festival
Check your community's calendar or newspaper to find local Earth Day Events and Festivals.  Chances are, your city is celebrating and you won't want to miss it.  Earth Day Events are usually fun for the whole family.  The kids have a blast, and we as parents get a lot of green ideas to implement at home.  Community Earth Day Events are a great, one-stop-place to find green resources available to households in your city.
7.  Free Some Critters in Your Garden
And by critters, we mean the good kind.  Ladybugs and earth worms are great for gardens.  You can usually find both at your local nursery or hardware store.  Our kids love going to our local feed store, buying a container of ladybugs, and then setting them free in our garden.  What a fun Earth Day tradition.
8.  Pick Up Litter
Why not spend an hour or so picking up litter at one of your family's favorite public places?  Not only will you be giving back to the community, you'll also be teaching kids a valuable lesson about caring for the Earth and your community.  Got a favorite park or green space?  Celebrate Earth Day by tidying it up a bit.

9.  Cook an Earth Day Meal
Get excited about Earth Day by planning a special family meal using locally grown ingredients.  Take a trip to your local farmer's market or out to a small, family farm.  Consider trying something different like a new type of vegetable, free-range eggs, raw milk, or grassfed meat.  If you're not sure where to find locally grown food, Eat Wild has a database of small farms.  Maybe there is one near you!

10.  Make a Bird Feeder
If you feel like celebrating Earth Day without ever leaving home this weekend, try your hand at a bird feeder made out of recycled materials.  Find the directions and details here.

However you celebrate, Happy Earth Day!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Earth Day Thinking



The Earth Day Photo Booth is coming along!  Thanks for all your fun ideas!

Driving around in our vehicle either one of two things happens:  1.  We fall hard and heavy into a beautiful, deep, rich conversation.  OR  2.  Total chaos is erupting.  99.9999 % of the time total chaos is what's going down, but every once in awhile bits of beauty happen unexpectedly.

One of those moments happened yesterday when we were talking about Earth Day.

The gist of the conversation was this: We all decided it would be really weird if we say we love someone a whole lot and then do not value what that person loves or has created.  One of the kids used the example of a friend of ours who is a musician and song-writer.  "So...you know how Mr. Ross writes music and plays it? It's a pretty big part of who he is?   What if Mrs Staci (his wife) said she loved Mr. Ross but was like... "Meh.  I don't listen to his music.  I mean sometimes, I do, but mostly....I don't really like it."  The boys all decided this had to be impossible.  No one can really love a person and not value what that person creates and loves.  The truth is, the boys actually thought Staci not liking her husband's music was an impossibility because Mr. Ross is a rock star to them, and he wrote a song about ninjas and bacon.  How could Mrs. Staci not totally dig those kind of tunes and lyrics?  These thoughts were appalling to our boys.  It took me a minute to reel them back in to the real conversation I was hoping would continue.  Yes.  They concluded: You probably can't really love someone deeply and not also love what that person passionately creates and loves.

Then we started talking about when Jesus asked how a person can hate their brother who they have seen and say they love God who they've never seen.  Jesus seemed to think you can't do both: hate and love at the same time.

Obviously, loving what God has created applies to people but we started wondering if celebrating, loving, and caring for the Earth...God's creation...is just another exercise in faith...where we love this tangible gift we can see as an expression of love for the one who created it - the one we long to see some day?

If God's Kingdom is coming, and our heart is set on it, I think it takes great faith to physically live as though this earth will be redeemed and restored.  As citizens of heaven, of a Kingdom we believe is advancing, I wonder if it should come more natural to us to look around this lovely place God formed, appreciate it, and want to see it protected and well stewarded?

I think so.  I want the faith to live so. 

Sometimes it overwhelms me how often God weaves into our normal, every day life, opportunities to live out faith.  I've never thought about recycling or repurposing being a way my soul longs for God's Kingdom to come.  However we care for the Earth, it's kind of nice to think of these normal, everyday, exercises being used to remind us of a coming Kingdom.

I'm hoping it's okay if every once in awhile I take what I posted on our new website and adapt it for this one.  I won't do that often, but sometimes, I think it would be cool.  Earth Day is Sunday, April 22.  I needed to write up some ideas for celebrating this great day with kids anyway, so I thought I'd post a list of "10 fun ways to celebrate Earth Day" here in this space as well.  Happy Earth Day!  List coming soon...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Calling All Creatives



We're hosting our first-ever booth at an Earth Day Event this weekend.  We decided to do this two hours ago.  The event is Saturday morning.  Story of our life.  We'll promote our business.  Meet tons of people.  Smile until our faces hurt.  Rumor has it there will be unlimited lemonade and snow cones, so I'm sure all the smiling and hand shaking will be worth it.

Since photo booths never get old, I'm thinking we'll have an Earth Day Photo Booth.  I need to gather props.  When you hear the words, "Earth Day" what comes to mind?  I'll admit, Diva Cup pops into mine.  This is just a guess, but I'm thinking no one will want to hold one of those in the photo booth, so that's why I'm here...asking my favorite people for help.

Earth Day.

Earth.  Day.

Errrrth.  Day.

What stands out?  I need prop ideas, friends.  Let's put our heads together and think earthy thoughts.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Fireflies


One year ago sitting in hot, Haiti traffic if I closed my eyes and imagined our one-year-from now life, let's just say that not many specks of our present reality would have made their way into my daydream.  To say we never expected to be in this location with this set of circumstances piled high and heavy on our laps would be like saying Madonna was semi-popular in the 80's.

Yet here we are in what must be the longest running limbo I have known.

Very few life stories are void of sudden shifts and shocks.  This isn't the first time the unexpected has abruptly knocked on our door.  It's simply the longest this unwelcome guest has ever had the nerve to stay.

A child whose broken soul is falling out all over our house and consuming it.  Financial stress.  Attempting and failing to balance being a "working mom" and motherhood.  Learning to let the laundry pile up and realizing cereal for supper does not kill children or make them fat.  At least not immediately.  This is my new world. It's like I moved to the moon.

There are moments.  Short ones.  When I think of my old life.  The one with enough money in the bank to never think of it.  The one with the tall, yellow house, the shiny car...when parenting was hard but easier and exactly none of my children required therapy.  Those memories flash through my mind.  Brilliant.  Bright.  Warm.  I'm tempted to reach for them.  To run barefoot through the dark in pursuit of what once was.  Catching my old life in my hands like a firefly on a perfect summer night.

But I don't.  I stand still and lovingly watch that flashing light gently fly away.  It's beautiful.  Yet strangely...unwanted.

There are only brief moments when I am tempted to feel sorry for myself.  Or angry.  Those feelings come in waves, but the waves are small, so I simply feel nudged instead of knocked over.  In this place of limbo there is peace in what is and hope for what will be.

Even though it seems I must be living someone else's life, I find that I'm happy.  Hopeful.  I feel creative and alive.  There is laughter and focus.  I have friends who remind me that we serve a God who is kind and loving.  He's at work even when we feel forgotten.  There's grace on the days when the most faith-filled action I can accomplish is to keep truckin' along with a smile on my face and a heart that trusts there is a reason for all of whatever this is.  And that reason is part of our family's ongoing rescue.  It feels kind of nice to not really care to know exactly what that reason is. I have no energy or desire to figure it out, dissect it, or label it.  For now, I rest in this: if only good can come from a good God's hand, then this strange place we reside is better than the one-year-from-now place I imagined on my own.  It's better than the three-years-ago place too.  When I actually find time to look around at this strange life, I am surprised by how overwhelmingly grateful I feel.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Cream Cheese::The Egg Salad Game Changer


A few short, sad years ago if you said the words, "egg salad" and asked me what immediately comes to mind, I would have shouted out..."cute little grannies."  I was convinced no one under the age of 92 ate egg salad sandwiches.  That's until my friend, Jenn shared her egg salad recipe with me.  There's cream cheese in this version.  That's right.  Cream.  Cheese.  Save me a place at the table please, grandma.


If you still have a refrigerator full of colorful Easter eggs, get excited.  You'll need:



8 boiled eggs

1 block of cream cheese

1/4 onion

1 heaping tablespoon of spicy mustard

salt and pepper to taste

paprika

While your eggs are boiling, put cream cheese in a bowl to soften. Do you know if you boil eggs with salt in the water, they are way easier to peel? They are! Ironically, I learned that trick from a real-live granny who owned a restaurant where I waitressed in college. 

Peel eggs. Add them to the bowl.

Chop onion super tiny (I use my handy-dandy Kitchen-aid hand chopper). Add onions to the bowl.

Smash the cream cheese, the eggs, and the onion together (I use a potato masher).

Add mustard, salt, and pepper to taste. I add a lot, because I like salt and pepper and thus, taste. Then add paprika. I would say add paprika to taste, but I'm sorry...I'm convinced paprika is a placebo ingredient. So, add paprika for visual stimulation. Even though I can't taste the paprika, I still add it...because it makes me feel fancy...and it makes me feel like a wise old granny.

Stir

Then, put the egg salad in the refrigerator for a couple hours. Honestly...I never make it in time to leave it in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before lunch. So, on the first day, I eat a luke-warm egg salad sandwich. It's good...but the next day...oh egg sac...this stuff has turned into a huge bowl of egg cheesecake like material that is even more to die for than the day before.


When I was in my 20's and had a metabolism that actually got out of bed in the mornings, I could eat egg salad on a croissant with cherry tomatoes and a heaping side of jalapeno chips.  Pure bliss.

Now that I'm not in my 20's and my metabolism is more like a drunk aunt who never changes out of her pajama pants or leaves the house, I eat egg salad lettuce wraps.  They are still pretty good, but man do I miss the egg salad of my 20's.

I'm still standing my ground with pimento cheese.  I refuse to eat it.  You have to draw a line somewhere in the sandwich sand.  

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Let's Go Fly a Kite, Up to the Highest Height


Did you know it's National Kite Month?

You know what that means.  It's time for our family to pack a picnic, head to a park, and watch our kids run kites into trees.  And then watch them melt down.

The National Kite Month website offers lots of ideas for having fun with kites.



I found a creative, fun, do-it-yourself kite idea on Pinterest.  I think we're going to add kite-making to our resumes this month.  These tissue paper kites are precious.

Happy Kite Month!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Art You Eat


I love when the strangest of objects becomes an art form.  Eggs as a canvas.  I'm not sure who came up with the idea of dying and decorating eggs, or how something so odd became popular prior to Pinterest ever existing. I'm just glad egg dying caught on.  How many other art forms do you get to create and then turn into egg salad?  I've never sat down and officially counted, but I'm thinking the number may be really low.  As low as 1.




I'm also not sure why a table filled with cups of dye...a potentially, permanent mess waiting to happen...does not stress me.  Yet baking with my kids does.  It's mysterious.


Something else I'm not sure about...whether or not this child could be any cuter.




What I am sure about is this:  If you dye eggs with four boys, the design of choice will be...alien faces.  We had a whole planet's worth of different alien eggs this year.


 Take me to your leader.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Playdough Mountain

We have been making a playdough mountain on Good Friday for many years.  I got the idea from Desiring God's website.  It's also in Noel Piper's book, Treasuring God in our Traditions.


Ingredients for the playdough

4 c. of flour
1.5 c. salt
1.5 c. water
1 Tbs. oil


Other supplies you may need

empty can, washed and dried

pipecleaner (or some other way to symbolize Jesus).  
We have used Lego men in the past.

paint

large baking pan

enough sticks to make three crosses

glue gun

This time of year may mark the one year anniversary of when I declared to the blog world that I pretty much loathe cooking with my kids.  I do.  It's true.  Sue me.

Thankfully, it only took me 11 years to figure out a way to get around kitchen crafts being an all-around stressful time in our house.  Before we started the tomb making, I gathered the supplies and the kids and said something like this...

"I love you guys.  I want to do fun things with you.  I want to be the kind of mother that cooks with you, makes a big, nasty, fun mess with you.  I want that.  It's just...I'm not that mom right now.  You guys are freakishly messy when we're cooking and it makes my insides go a little bit insane.  I try to be patient, but I end up snapping, turning something that I really want to be fun into something that isn't fun.  I hate that.  So...if I seem snappy, you are free to remind me to take deep breaths...to chill out.  You are free to mock me and laugh at me."

Half way through this speech the boys were already mocking me.  Mission accomplished.



Mix all the playdough ingredients, stir, and knead until a soft dough forms.  
Add water if necessary.


Hudson looks a tad-bit in love with the salt.



  

At this point, flour and salt were flying all over the kitchen and in one child's nose.  As soon as something would go awry, the kids would look up at me and say, "Take a deep breath mom."  This strategy worked.  We had a blast even though I found flour in four different rooms in our house.






Shape the dough around the can leaving enough to make a large stone to cover the tomb.


While the dough is soft, use the end of your sticks (the ones you will use to make the crosses) to form holes in the dough.  Form the holes a little larger than the sticks (the holes shrink up a little while the tomb is in the oven.)  Bake on 350 for about 2 hours. 


While the tomb is in the oven, it's time to make three crosses.

Once the tomb has cooled off, it's fun to paint it.



Next, make a pipe cleaner Jesus, or use something you already have to symbolize Jesus.  I like the pipe cleaner because it's abstract.  We purposefully don't use a white pipe cleaner because it's important to us to remind our kids that Jesus wasn't white.  Personally I like using a totally bogus color for Jesus because it's fun to talk about how we really don't know what Jesus looked like.  We can only guess.





We tell the Easter story, then wrap Jesus in toilet paper (poor Jesus) and put him in the tomb.


Then we seal up the tomb.


 On Easter morning, the kids find the tomb empty, and the "linens" folded neatly inside.  He has risen!

True story:  It always feels kind of creepy throwing Pipe Cleaner Jesus in the trash on Easter morning.
I know this craft is for the kids, but the past six or so Easter mornings, I've rolled out of bed bright and early, removed Jesus from the tomb, and tossed him in the trash.  This does not seem like the best way to start the day!  Maybe next year we need to spend some time talking about how Jesus didn't go straight to heaven.  He appeared to his friends and to a large crowd.  

Last year the kids were really into Legos.  Jesus was a Lego guy, and Lego guards surrounded the grave.  The light sabers got edited out of the real Easter story, but surely they were there.



Because the grave is empty, this life feels incredibly full.  Of light.  Hope.  Forgiveness.  Grace.  And love.

Happy Easter!