Thursday, May 30, 2013


This Florida sky!
Things always heat up in the summers down here in Florida, literally and figuratively-speaking.
It is starting to get feisty-hot outside, and you can tell that the summer storms are beginning to move their way into our afternoons to relieve the almost constant humidity.  Thus far, though, some of the humidity that marks our Florida summers has been kept at bay, so we have been enjoying the outdoors as much as we can until it literally becomes unbearable!

Our family life has recently become much busier as well.  It seems schedules can change quite quickly, and so they have.

Just a few weeks ago, at the suggestion of a friend, I was encouraged to look into my guidance counseling certificate renewal requirements, as I knew my FL state certificate would expire this summer.  I kind of brushed it off initially, thinking, Ah well, if it expires, it expires.  I don't think I'll be working anytime soon, so what's the rush?  but something caught my attention again that made me think, I should really look into this!
So, I contacted the Department of Education and after a few clarifying phone calls, I figured out what the requirements were.  Which then required a few calls to institutions of higher learning, such as my alma mater, USF.  Within a matter of days I had submitted my non-degree seeking application to USF, signed up for a class and completed a few checklists to make sure my online course in Anthropology (whaaat!?) would count towards my certification renewal.  According to Courtney at FL DOE, it does :D  So, in addition to this online course I'm taking, I have to retake a professional subject exam for the state in guidance counseling, and I plan to take that soon after some intense spurts of studying.
I learned that if I let my certificate lapse and expire, it would be about twice the amount of work to reinstate it as it would to renew it, and I just felt it would be the wiser route to go.

I'm actually enjoying hitting the books again and it is requiring that I add a bit more structure into my day-to-day for the next few weeks, which I invite at the moment.
These children!

Not only am I exercising my brain, but Greg and I collectively are exercising our hearts & brains right now as well as we have started a parenting class with a small group from our congregation. We are studying a parenting curriculum that is bible-based and is focused on getting at the heart of our children in training and discipline. We have only had 2 meetings so far (next one is tonight)! but we are already gleaning a lot from it.  I'm thankful we have this opportunity to grow and learn and to also study it alongside an older couple with older children, as well as a few of our peers who are in similar family stages such as us.  I've had several friends go through this curriculum as well and they have only said good things about the results it produces, so we are excited about that.  Sometimes growth is hard, but I'm feeling good about growth that improves our family dynamics! It can only benefit :)

That was a whole lot of information about me and Greg, but that's been part of the reason we've very much been MIA (missing in action) the last little while.  Things will only get busier over the next little while as we travel to Indiana for my younger brother's wedding (ahh! the final child will be married off!) and spend some time with the fam.  We are looking forward to the trip but I won't lie, I'm a little nervous about my youngest child's behavior, as he has entered the squirmy-worm, temper-tantrum phase that so often plagues the little ones.  We are doing the best we can to communicate with him, show proper boundaries, and work with him, and sometimes it is just a guessing game.  Fingers crossed he makes it through the wedding ceremony!  With that said...

We'll catch you on the flip side.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Turning 4, Going to Disney

Just a few weeks ago, we celebrated Mia's birthday of turning 4.  It was a fun day with family at home & a swim in our community pool in the morning, followed by a small family party at our house that night.  Aunt Allison, cousin McKaber, Uncle Brian, Aunt Amanda and cousins Braden & Abby joined us. We had an impromptu Disney princess/female character theme (Tinkerbell, Belle, etc.) with strawberry cupcakes for all.  We have typically done a big party at our neighborhood park/community center in years past but this year we kept it a bit closer to home (literally).  Mia didn't believe she officially turned 4 until we sung her happy birthday and she had her cake.  Here she is at the moment of "officially turning 4":
a bit bashful now that everyone is singing to her

recap of Mia's 4th birthday
Keeping it low-key that day was the way to go, because a few days later we packed up several belongings, a cooler of food, our double stroller, and headed to Disney!  This was our first family Disney trip EVER (Greg & I haven't gone since college days) and Mia was more than thrilled about visiting the "happiest place on earth."  We took advantage of the FL Resident 3-day pass and stayed overnight at a nearby timeshare, which worked out super well.  All props for trip-planning to to Greg.  He really made sure we had a fun time and that all the essentials were taken care of.  

We spent Monday at Magic Kingdom, getting familiar with the park and seeing what our kids would enjoy the most.  Tuesday, we checked out Hollywood Studios and saw a couple of shows, including Disney Jr. Live on Stage, which was embarrassingly fun for all of us.  (If your child watches any popular Disney Jr. shows, then they will most likely highly enjoy that performance!)

This was actually taken our last day
at the park at the very end of our stay!  

Wednesday, we kicked it around our hotel at the pool and took monster naps to catch up on all the fun we were having, and on our last day, Thursday, we went back to Magic Kingdom.

Mia's favorite parts were the rides.  Gabe's favorite things about Disney were the curbs we let him jump on and off while Mia was on a ride, falling asleep in the stroller everyday, and meeting the Disney princesses (which, surprisingly, was NOT Mia's favorite part)!  

We brought all our own food to the park or bought it at Publix, and only got ice cream treats while we were there.  This was a major timesaver and advantage in our minds, because there was no waiting in line for food, no wasting of money on food no one really wants to eat, and no headaches from eating something our bodies didn't necessarily like.  Props to Disney on letting you bring your own food to the parks!  We'd highly recommend that.  

Walking into Magic Kingdom for the 1st time

Dumbo Ride

Gabe: Disney? NBD

Mickey's Philharmagic. Totally cool until the show started.
Then Gabe was terrified.

Waiting in line for It's A Small World

Killin' it on Barnstormer, Mia's favorite Roller Coaster

Waiting for Disney Jr. Live on Stage to begin

Mesmerized.  Mickey! Sofia! Doc! Jake!

Silly moments while we wait for Greg to finish a ride

Lounging around the pool

Finding ducks outside the hotels

In the words of my friend, Erin, "Owning Disney" despite the rain.
Ponchos didn't disappoint.

Gabe's feelings about the line for Peter Pan's Flight.

PeopleMover.  Also a good place to take a break.

Mia giving Greg a preview of age 15.

And age 16.

These princesses were SO nice.  So impressed with their hospitality skills.

Gabe had a thing for Aurora, Sleeping Beauty.

If you can't tell, even Greg & I are kinda jazzed.

We hands-down really enjoyed this trip.  Not coming from a long ancestral line of Disney-freaks, I set the bar kind of low for myself but was blown away by how much fun we all had!  Gabe is still in that meandering place where he doesn't really know what he is missing and gets tired enough that he'll fall asleep, so it worked out well with all that Mia wanted to accomplish.  
We are so thankful we got to go as a family, not only to semi-celebrate Mia's 4th birthday (!), but to also have a nice, quick getaway that provided good family times and even some relaxation. Hey, I might even call it a real "vacation," and that can be hard to do when traveling with little ones!  +1 for Disney. +1 for good family vacations.  

Monday, May 20, 2013

Growing Kids...

Last week both Mia & Gabe had their well-checkups.  Mia, for her 4 year, and Gabe, for his 18-month checkup.  Both kids were lookin' good and all checked out fine.  One of the questions they asked me about Gabe in terms of his developmental milestones were if he could say at least 15-20 words.  I sat there, a little perplexed, trying to remember if he could say 15-20 words.  I thought he could probably say at least 15, so that's what I answered.  I just couldn't think of all of them at the time.

This past weekend, we were eating breakfast Saturday morning rather leisurely and I got out a pen and paper and started writing down all the words I knew Gabe could say.  It started off with the easy ones, like, "daddy, momma, sis-sis," and before I knew it, it had morphed into a list of over 20 words!  As the weekend wore on, I kept hearing Gabe say other words, or I'd think of other words I knew he could say, and I continued to update the list.  As of this list, I have around 40 words that I know he can say:

  1. daddy
  2. momma
  3. sis-sis
  4. banana ('mana)
  5. apple
  6. Hosanna
  7. no
  8. mh-mmm
  9. snack
  10. milk
  11. help (sounds like "up")
  12. Maddie (mah-eee)
  13. toodles
  14. water
  15. uh-oh
  16. what
  17. look
  18. bird
  19. that
  20. dog
  21. bible
  22. phone
  23. up
  24. down
  25. tickle-tickle
  26. hi
  27. ta-da
  28. socks
  29. shoes
  30. thank you (day-doo)
  31. please (peaz)
  32. hot
  33. eggs
  34. bye-bye
  35. sure (sho')
  36. night-night
  37. stuck
  38. backpack
  39. truck (duck)
  40. hug
  41. potty
  42. Isaac
  43. tacos
  44. song

Of course, most of these words are most intelligible to his immediate family members, so it might take some interpretation or context to figure out exactly what he's saying, but it usually becomes clear.

Who knew we'd have two talkers?! :D

Thursday, May 16, 2013

That one time my kids endeared themselves to a Home Depot employee

Munchkins on Mother's Day
Lots of times I find myself telling the silly or ridiculous stories about my children, usually for comic relief or to share in the "we're all crazy!!!" craziness.  We all love those stories and they are fun to tell.  Likewise, I also find it helpful to share the good stories, the ones that redeem your faith in humanity (or, just your children) from time to time too.  We need to share the good, lest we forget.

So here's another one for ya.

Last Friday night after we ate at Moe's (welcome to Moooooe's!) we ran over to Home Depot to get my Mother's Day gift.  Awh, isn't that sweet? What mom doesn't shop at Home Depot for Mother's Day? Well actually, we were going to get a spice rack for our pantry, and seriously, I wanted that for Mother's Day. Like, for real.  I really need my spices organized.  In a rack.

It kind of looked like this, except in a cart, at Home Depot...
and so, not really like this at all.
Also, Home Depot for men is like Target for women.  You can just keep walking around and around, and finding more stuff that you think would make your home awesome. Well, we found the spice rack we wanted, and were walking around looking at random things, when the kids, who were securely seated in one of those race-car carts, started getting a little fussy.  So I decided to see if they could distract themselves by seeing if they could give each other a hug (brilliant mom moment, right?).  They both have their affectionate moments, and they seemed to be aligned that night so they began hugging each other, a lot.  I'm not going to lie, it was adorable.  You'd think I'd have the perfect picture of them doing it too because I'm always snapping pics of them, but I was afraid if I moved in front of them to snap a picture, they'd stop doing it, or they'd want to hold my phone, and the moment would be over. So I just stood behind them pushing the cart, mentally savoring this moment of mutual adoration and love they were having for each other.

The moment was kind of like a mashup of this and the last picture.
(also don't try this stroller maneuver at home)
We were approaching the checkout, and the employee behing the register was just completely *endeared*.  He was lovin' it!! As they kept on hugging, releasing, and then hugging again, he was exclaiming, "Oh my goodness! I just love this! These kids are so cute! They are making my day!  This is the cutest thing ever.  Oh my goodness!" and putting his hands on his head like,  WOAH.

Greg and I both knew this was not completely normal behavior for our kids, but we did not try to excuse it like, "Oh, sometimes they fight!" or, "You should've seen them earlier.  Just horrible!" We just laughed and smiled along with the guy and I might've said something like, "I just asked if they could give each other a hug and this is what they started doing..." and then as we were wheeling the still-hugging kids out of the store, Mia shouts, "BIBLLLLLE!" (bible)  She does that because she knows it's one of the words Gabe can say, so if she's trying to coax Gabe into talking, she'll say, "bible!" or "Da-da!" to see if he'll respond.  That "bible" shout was like the cherry on top for this Home Depot employee.  I think he might have gone to Nirvana after that; our kids just lifted his soul so much.

And so that was how my squirrelly, rambunctious and crazy-fast growing kids made the night of an employee at Home Depot.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

3 simple meals in 30 minutes or less

Bacon & Sweet Potato Hash
Photo by at flickr
I like simple. And I like fast.  So this week while we've been sharing a car as one is in the shop getting some repairs, my typical late afternoon meal prep time has been squashed so that the kids & I can pick Greg up from work. We've enjoyed the time together in the car, but it means dinner must be made fast.  Slow-cooker meals would definitely work in these instances, but our mornings have been so busy too I haven't had the chance to throw something in there earlier in the day!  So, fast meals it must be.

These meals can be adapted for various diets, and you can go so far as swapping the type of ground meat, bacon or potatoes that are required in a few of the recipes.  

Here are 3 simple meals you can make in likely under 30 minutes!

(Potential modifications: using ground beef instead of ground turkey; using homemade salsa; using a different biscuit, bun or breading or opting out completely if grain-free.  We made them Monday night with hamburger buns instead of the tube of buttermilk biscuits.)
1 lb ground turkey; 1 cup of fresh salsa; salt & pepper; biscuits or buns

This is our new favorite and go-to meal!  We modified by only making the bacon and sweet potato hash; we did not make the eggs or avocado cream, but for even a more filling & complete meal you certainly could!  
1lb bacon; 1-2 sweet potatoes; 1 medium onion; butter; salt & pepper to taste

Very similar to bacon & sweet potato hash just variations on the ingredients list!
1 lb. ground beef (preferably grass-fed); 4 – 5 medium potatoes, thinly sliced; 4 tbsp. butter; 1 tsp. onion powder; Sea salt 

For any of these meals, I may steam or saute a veggie on the side, which hardly takes any time as well. 

What are your favorite quick & easy meals?