Thursday, May 27, 2010

Freezer Cooking II

Want to see my grocery list for this round of freezer cooking?

4 cups minced celery
Green onions
5 onions
12 oz. fresh mushrooms

46 boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 lbs mahi mahi
8 lbs. ground beef
3 lbs. flank steak

2 cans cream of mushroom soup
3 cans cream of celery soup
3 large cans petite diced tomatoes
2 large cans tomato sauce
2 8 oz. can tomato sauce

24 corn tortillas
16 oz. can green chiles
4 cups evaporated milk
4 teaspoons minced onion
Minced garlic
Jar of roasted red peppers
2 cups blanched and slivered almonds
4 cups crunchy Chinese chow mein noodles
Sesame oil
Soy sauce
Balsamic vinegar
Sherry cooking wine
Seasoned croutons
1 can pineapple slices

2 boxes manicotti noodles

2 6 oz. cans orange juice concentrate
2 1 lb. loaf frozen white bread dough
1 bag frozen spinach
2 bags southern style hashbrowns

2 cups grated Parmesan
1/2 cup finely shredded cheddar
2 8oz. bags shredded cheddar
2 cups shredded Parmesan
2 16 oz. bags shredded mozzarella
8 cups Monterey jack cheese
6 oz. bleu cheese
6 oz. low fat cream cheese
2 large cartons small curd cottage cheese
5 cups sour cream
4 8 oz. cans crescent rolls

All that, plus some things from our cabinets, plus some ingredients left over from our last freezer cooking session, were combined and divided to make ...

Chicken Lelani
Ginger Glazed Mahi-Mahi
Savory Chicken Bundles
Cheesy Breadsticks
Orange Teriyaki Chicken
Maui Grilled Chicken Sandwiches
Parmesan Garlic Chicken
Asian Flank Steak
Hashbrown Casserole
Elliot’s Gourmet Burgers
Beef Enchiladas

We cooked and prepared food from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., minus some breaks, of course, to tend to our four combined children (who are 5 years old, 3 years old, almost 3 years old and 6 months old). Despite the few toy wars that come with preschooler territory, the three older kids played so well together.

And I love my new freezer, for the record.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Ben is on the move ... sort of ...

always watching, always thinking

Those little eyes are always watching and those little minds always thinking.

When we were at the grocery store earlier this week stocking up on items for our everyday life, Cate saw a girl about her age pushing one of those small grocery carts. "I want to push one." Of course. I really was surprised she didn't know they existed until now.

"Maybe next time we come."

She was fine with that.

This morning I told Cate we were going to the grocery to get lots of food for mommy to cook with Courtney and for us to eat at the lake this weekend. "I can push a cart."

Not a question. A statement.

Because she remembered my "maybe next time we come" response earlier in the week.

In thinking about my really long grocery list, I thought maybe her pushing a little cart beside/behind me would help me keep my groceries sorted. I could put what was for our family in her cart and what Courtney and I would share in my big cart, which also included Ben, of course.

"Sure. We'll try to find a cart for you."

So we did. And off we were.

Cate hit my heels with her cart almost immediately and I remembered the look my mom would give me when I walked too closely behind her and stepped on her feet, literally. She didn't want to be mad but being tripped up is never fun. I think I gave Cate the same look. And then I told her to stay close but to watch where she was going.

She wanted to put everything in her cart. And she wanted to touch lots of things on shelves. None of this is surprising, especially because this was the first time she's walked in Kroger. Ah, freedom. And with a cart.

But we didn't need the pourable Bisquick mix. So I explained that momma had a list and that wasn't on it. She seemed to get it, especially when I let her pick the items we did need off the shelves. The only non-list item that made it into her cart was a package of mini marshmallows. And, hey, she asked nicely.

At one point, I stopped in the canned vegetable aisle to evaluate my list. I caught a glimpse of Cate pretending she had a list in one hand and a pen in the other. Apparently, she was marking off "marshmallows."

Once both our carts were filled, she wanted to help unload hers. She waited patiently while I unloaded mine, and then "I do mine myself." Of course. The near breakdown came when the bagger -- who I'm sure was wondering what the heck I was going to do with 36 chicken breasts, 3 pounds of fish, 3 pounds of steak and 11 pounds of ground beef -- wasn't putting anything back in Cate's cart. I ended up bagging a couple of bags and putting them in her cart. She wanted everything that had been in there back in there. And I'm certain she remembered just how many hot dogs, apples, strawberries and marshmallows belonged. I explained to her that it was all going to the same place -- first the trunk of the car, then to our home.

All was well, until she wanted to put the watermelon on top of everything in her cart.

"Well, that watermelon is heavy. I don't want it to smash the cookies."

"OK, I push this."

Yes, sweet girl, you push yours, I'll push mine, and that bagger guy will push the overflow that somehow didn't manage to fit back into the two carts we brought to the check-out line.

She would have helped me load them groceries into the trunk, but she couldn't reach in very far and the watermelon would have landed on top of the bread and eggs. So I used the marshmallows to my advantage. "How about you get in the car, start cooling off and I'll find the marshmallows for you?"

"Sure, Mom. I turn on the air."

"Well, I'll turn it on, since I have the key."

"OK. Ben cool off too."

Sounds like a plan, my sweet girl who really is like me. Always thinking. Always watching. I better be on my best behavior, always. And then I handed Cate an entire bag of marshmallows.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Freezer Cooking

[I started this post more than a month ago, but I'm finally finishing it now, a few days before we freezer cook again!]

I like to eat. But cooking is another story. It's not that I mind the actual cooking. I just get discouraged when it takes some time to prepare a meal, usually during the time of the day when Ben wants to eat and Cate is eager for Daddy to get home. Then we eat it and I'm left with dishes and a counter top to clean.

So the idea of cooking a bunch of stuff at once, with a friend, is completely appealing. Then I have lots of meal choices with little effort required from 4 to 5 p.m. We cooked so much this last time [our third time together ...] that I had to rearrange the freezer twice to make it all fit.

As of last week, we have a freezer! It's an upright freezer with lots of room for lots of food. I am looking forward to filling it ... or at least coming close!

But for now I thought I'd share some of our freezer cooking day last month, which involved ...

10 recipes [which we doubled and still managed to produce more than one meal each]
4 whole chickens
11 lbs. of ground beef
36 chicken breasts
16 porkchops

We cooked from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., although that time involved feeding my baby twice, changing a few diapers, feeding three other kids lunch, and a trip to Dollar General Store for the cream of mushroom soup we forgot.

Our recipes usually come from "Don't Panic - Dinner's in the Freezer" and more recently "Don't Panic - More Dinner's in the Freezer." We also use other recipes we like that freeze well, such as lasagna, manicotti, broccoli casserole, hashbrown casserole and taco soup.

It's best to come into the cooking day with a plan. And plenty of pans. Although the more you can freeze in gallon-sized Zip-loc bags the better, at least in terms of space.

Here are some recipes we've enjoyed, but I highly recommend "Don't Panic - More Dinner's in the Freezer ...

Parmesan Garlic Chicken
From "Don't Panic - More Dinner's in the Freezer"

6 boneless chicken breasts
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 envelope Italian dressing mix
2 gloves garlic (I just used minced garlic)
1/2 cup olive oil

Cooking day instructions
Mix together cheese, garlic and Italian mix. Dip chicken breasts in olive oil, then coat with cheese mixture. Store in freezer bag.

Serving day instructions
Thaw completely before cooking. Place in greased baking dish and bake at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes.

Hawaiian Chicken
From "Don't Panic - Dinner's in the Freezer"

6 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved
2 16 oz. cans pineapple slices, drained
2 15 oz. cans mandarin oranges, drained
1/4 cup cornstartch
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 t. salt
1 t. ginger
1/2 t. red pepper (or less …)
Green pepper

Cooking day instructions
Place chicken in freezer bag. Mix together remaining ingredients except green pepper and pour over chicken in bag. Freeze.

Serving day instructions
Thaw chicken mixture. Place in Crock Pot and cook on low for 4-5 hours or on high for 2-3 hours. Add green pepper to Crock Pot one hour before serving. Serve over rice.

Colorado Beef Enchiladas
From "Don't Panic - Dinner's in the Freezer"

1 1/4 lb. lean ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
3-4 T. taco seasoning
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1 small can mild green chiles, chopped
1 6-8 oz. green chile salsa
1/4 cup water
Vegetable oil, for quick frying
12 corn tortillas
1 lb. cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

1 15 oz. can red chile enchilada sauce
1 15 oz. can green chile enchilada sauce
1/3 cup sour cream
3 T. milk

Cooking day instructions
Brown meat and diced onion in skillet on medium heat. While meat is browning, prepare sauce (see below). Drain meat and return to pan; add dry taco seasoning, salt, pepper, green chiles, green salsa and water. Mix well, cover and simmer on very low heat for 15 minutes. Check meat mixture to see if most of the water has been absorbed. The meat should remain moist. Adjust seasonings at this point, if desired. Cover and keep warm.

Sauce: In medium bowl, combine red and green enchilada sauces, sour cream and milk. Whisk together until well blended and smooth. (Add more milk or sour cream if you want a less intense sauce.)

In a smaller pan, add 3 T. oil and heat over medium heat. Dip each corn tortilla in oil for a couple seconds and promptly place on plate lined with paper towels to drain excess. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Assemble: In 9x13 baking dish, pour 3/4 cup of sauce on bottom to cover dish. Place a single layer of tortillas in sauce. Top with layer of half of the meat mixture, then sprinkle with cheese. Repeat tortilla, meat, cheese layers. Pour remaining sauce over layers and top with cheese. Cool. Freeze.

Serving day instructions
Thaw completely. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

Taco Soup
1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 package ranch-style dressing mix
1 package taco seasoning mix
1 cup water
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes with green chilies
2 cans (15 ounces each) pinto beans
1 can (15 ounces) black beans
1 can (15 ounces) cream-style corn

Cooking day instructions
Brown beef with onions. Then combine all ingredients in slow cooker. Cook a few hours on low. Freeze in Zip-loc.

Serving day instructions
Reheat in slow cooker. Top with sour cream and corn chips.

sprinkles of summer

Cate wasn't sure what to think about the crazy flower sprinkler this morning ...

Ben @ 6 months

One-half of a year. Seriously. Already. [Officially, yesterday.]

And I'm happy to be here, honestly. I love watching Ben's personality develop as he learns to express himself. At six months, my sweet boy ...

* Likes to be on his belly.
* Still hasn't rolled from his back to his belly.
* Continues to sleep well at night and catnap during the day.
* Giggles. Often.
* Chews. Drools. Still trying to cut his first teeth.
* Started eating baby food a few days ago.

Speaking of baby food. Here is Ben eating some green beans ...

[For those of you into details, we go to the doctor tomorrow, so I can let you in on the details of his height and weight after the appointment.]

Day-long Date

We like St. Louis.

So when I wasn't sure what else to get Greg for his birthday, I decided to plan a date to watch the Cardinals play baseball. Unfortunately, they lost of the Angels, but Saturday was a beautiful day for baseball ... and a great chance for us to get away. We also enjoyed dinner with John and Christine, who are expecting their first child (and our niece!) in the next couple of weeks. We rarely go away all day without our kids, but it was time. And the kids had a fabulous day with Gran-Gran, Charles and Angela, and their cousins.

In fact, my sister-in-law Angela even took some photos ...

LOST: The End

If you haven't watched the "Lost" finale, which aired last night, you may want to stop reading ...

But, wait, I still have questions ...

Why didn't Mr. Eko join the reunion party in the church? [And there were others missing, too.]

And why can't we learn more about Eloise?

What was the leadership combination of Hurley and Ben like on the island?

How/when does Hurley die? And Kate?

I was happy to see Rose and Bernard -- and Vincent! -- during the episode. They were happily living their live in who knows when. And then there was Shannon's reunion with Sayid and Juliet's with Sawyer. Both were sweet, and worth waiting for.

The irony of Jack trying to save Locke in the flash-sideways and trying to kill Fake Locke on the island was good tension.

The best line of the night: "I don't believe in a lot of things, but I believe in duct tape." Nice, Miles.

Shannon and Sayid. Kate and Claire. Kate and Jack. Juliet and Sawyer. Clarie and Charlie. Charlotte and Daniel. When they are with the people they are supposed to be with in the flash-sideways their souls find peace. Meanwhile, what happened on the island happened.

And they don't get it until they're ready. Ready to move on. Like the flash-sideways were purgatory moments of waiting ... and deciding. [I did like learning Juliet was David's mom in the flash-sideways, as I suspected. And I loved the parallels between the realities with the candy bar at the vending machine and Clarie giving birth to Aaron with Kate by her side.]

"There is no now here. ... This is the place you all made together so you could find one another. ... Nobody does it alone, Jack." Thanks, Christian Shepherd for that explanation. Sort of.

Were you satisfied? What did you like learning? What do you still want to know?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

pick up sticks

Cate is into collecting sticks and rocks. In fact, there is a bowl of rocks sitting on our back step. Yesterday I had to tell her to leave these sticks at the park because she wasn't going to be hold them and ride the scooter home. I reminded her that our yard has sticks too.

jump, jump ... sleep

This morning while I was working on the computer, Ben was jumping. And jumping. And giggling. And then I didn't hear him anymore ...

Obviously, Ben was tired of jumping.

Gran-Gran kept the kids while I worked at the office this morning. When she was telling me about what Cate and Ben did while I was gone, she started to say, "And Ben was jumping, then all the sudden ..."

"He fell asleep." I finished her sentence.

As I was telling her he did it earlier, she was already reaching for her iPhone to show me the picture. This time -- making it twice before lunch -- he was leaned back, which seems even more uncomfortable. Then I showed her my photo [similar to the one above] from my iPhone. Ah, technology, thanks for helping us capture our kids' funny moments.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Worth Repeating Wednesday

Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself.

--Leo Tolstoy, quoted in "Celebration of Discipline" by Richard J. Foster

Primary Election: SUCCESS!

Greg's first political campaign went well. He finished sixth among the 26 candidates for Murray City Council. Two were eliminated and the remaining 24 move on to November, when the top 12 secure two-year terms on the council. The five people ahead of him in vote totals yesterday are currently on the council and have been for several terms.

Here is the vote breakdown ...

Danny Hudspeth - 1,825
Dan Miller - 1,372
Jeremy Bell - 1,334
Jason Pittman - 1,291
Robert Billington Jr. - 1,258
Greg Taylor - 1,256
Linda Cherry - 1,122
Pete Lancaster - 1,114
Pat Scott - 1,058
Jay Morgan - 992
Martin Milkman - 918
Don Elias - 918
Jane Shoemaker - 910
Jane Brandon - 897
Amos McCarty - 878
Debbie Nance Griffin - 643
Brad Darnell - 602
John Mark Roberts - 594
Jeremy Boyd - 580
Richard Reed - 547
Mark Randall - 485
Billy Gene Pritchard - 468
Ron Gladden - 431

Thanks, friends, for your support and encouragement. We're looking forward to resuming the campaign in the fall.

LOST: Almost The End

Only one night of "Lost" left. Seriously. We got some answers last night in "What They Died For," but we have plenty of questions left.

But before we jump right in, if you haven't watched the latest episode, you may want to stop reading. Until then, if you need us, we'll be running through the jungle. Right, Miles?

Meanwhile, Desmond in flash-sideways is intense. And Ben seems to remember something from the island. But supposedly Desmond just wanted to help Locke to let go.

And then there was the Widmore/Linus reunion, which was intense in its own right, especially since Ben ends up ending Widmore. But are we really done with him? Seems like there is a little more of that story to be told ...

Jacob! And Kate, Sawyer and Jack can see him too. Hurley, buddy, you're not alone this time. Jacob even answers some questions! He wanted them to have a choice [free will, if you will ...] about deciding to protect the island. He assumed Kate didn't want the job since she became a mom. Yet, Sun wasn't eliminated in Jacob's mind, maybe because she was partnered with Jin.

Sawyer asks Jacob what gives him right to mess with their lives. Jacob has an answer! "You were all flawed. I chose you because you were like me. ... You needed this place as much as it needed you."

Jack wasted no time assuming responsibility of protecting the light. "This is why I am here. This is what I am supposed to do." The responsibility was passed like a torch ... er, a cup. [The communion symbolize continues for me!] Jacob tells Jack, "Drink this. ... Now you are like me."

The great lines abounded this week, maybe even more than usual. I guess those writers just wanted to show off before the show ended:

"I lived in these houses 30 years before you. Otherwise known as last week." [Miles to Ben]

"We are very close to the end, Hugo." Really? Thanks, Jacob.

"If you need us, we'll be running through the jungle." [Miles]

"We insist, even if we have to kidnap you." Danielle Rousseau to Dr. Linus. Then Alex's mom tells him: "You are the closest thing to a father she has ever had." Oh, the irony.

"I think you are mistaking coincidence for fate." Nice one, Jack.

And speaking of fate. Fake Locke wants to destroy the island. Not just leave it. We'll see, there are only 2 1/2 hours left. I have no doubt we'll be oohed and ahhed and surprised. And I'm still waiting to see if Juliet is David's mom in the flash-sideways. Oh, and these flash-sideways, surely they're going to make sense ... soon.

What do you think? What do you want to know in these final 2 1/2 hours? What do you expect?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ben and his friend, again

Ben and Davey had another matching outfit yesterday, so, of course, Sarah and I documented our cute boys. And my pretty girl wanted in on the photo shoot.

Ben kept scooting away. And once we finished snapping photos, Davey was ready to crawl.

And the giveaway goes to ...

Jonnie (aka edmonton jb) who blogs at MoM of BoYs with ToYs!

She wins a $60 gift certificate from CSN Stores. Jonnie, I copied your e-mail address from your Blogger profile and will send it to the CSN Stores representative, who will send you the gift certificate via e-mail.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

In this City

"Greater things have yet to come/And greater things are still to be done in this city" --From Chris Tomlin's "God of this City"

We were singing and praying tonight while gathered with people from different churches who believe God is going to do a mighty work here. In our city.

That means our homes. And, more importantly, our families.

Gran-Gran was holding sleepy Ben in the back of the room and Cate had been snacking on fruit snacks and a cereal bar. My 3-year-old girl noticed Gran-Gran and went over to her, pulled up a nearby chair and said, "Sit down, Gran-Gran."

I saw this happen. And a smiled. Then cried. I walked over and said, "Cate, you are so sweet to give Gran-Gran a chair." She noticed a tear fall from my eye and said, "Momma, you sad?"

"No, honey, I am happy. You are so sweet to give Gran-Gran a chair."

My heart was so full. Cate noticed Gran-Gran could use a place to sit down and provided it for her.

Oh I wish I always noticed when someone I loved needed something and took a break from my own snacking to provide. And, really, for my neighbors and strangers. We are called to serve. And give. And provide. Regardless of what we are doing.

Because that is where this call begins. In the ordinary moments. With an extraordinary God.

Since Granddaddy died a little more than a month ago, Cate has mentioned the pens he carried in his front pocket that he used to help her write her ABCs. And she mentioned something about his phone, which she loved to use to listen to the Murray State fight song. But she hasn't asked much about why he's not here, accepting that he's with Jesus in heaven and that we'll see him again one day. I suppose that's child-like faith.

Yet tonight she realized Gran-Gran needed to be cared for. And that is exactly how we cope. With losing Granddaddy. With anything that disrupts our plans. With realizing God is working and moving and challenging. We take care of people and let them take care of us.

In our family.

In our home.

In our city.

And it was through some songs sung mostly with strangers and the kind act of a 3-year-old who is independent and loving that God stirred my heart. Greater things are indeed yet to come, meaning tomorrow will be even better than today, which, really, has been pretty great to me.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I interrupt this routine for a GIVEAWAY!

People, for the most, part do some of the same things over and over again. Every day. Some of these things are required of us [at least if we're going to do our jobs well] and others are just part of our own personal routine.

Just the other day I commented to Greg, "I have cleaned this kitchen counter four times today." And then I thought about how we only have three meals a day in that room, yet I seem to clean it more than that. And some days we don't even eat every meal in the kitchen. Yet I still clean the counters. But, hey, I like a clean kitchen counter.

So I don't mind to neaten the piles and break out the Clorox wipes.

Really, it's the same way in the bathroom. Every morning after I finish getting ready, I wipe down the bathroom vanity with a Clorox wipes. And I put most everything away in its assigned drawer.

Again, it's just what I do. Because I like it like that.

I do, however, mind the constant need to sweep and mop my floors. That drives me crazy. Yes, I like clean floors, but I don't want to continually clean them. Can't they just stay clean?

But I do more than clean. Knowing I have a 3-year-old girl and 5-month-old boy, I'm guessing you know I don't just clean all day. Nor would I want to just clean all day. I fill juice cups, change diapers, bottle feed my baby and send many text messages throughout the day. Every day. And that's fine. I'm a mom. And I have an iPhone I love.

I know lots of other moms read my blog. Of course, people who aren't moms read my blog too. All of you readers have a chance to break up your routine, at least today, and enter a giveaway for a $60 gift card to be used however you wish at any of the more than 200 online CSN Stores, where you can find cleaning products, baby products, games for people who don't have kids, bathroom vanities, and pretty much anything else you can imagine. And this $60 gift card can be yours. Just hang with and I'll tell you how you can win it.

Speaking of technology, a day doesn't go by that I don't visit Google Reader, Gmail and Facebook. I like Twitter too, but only via TweetDeck on my iPhone. Routine, I'm telling you. With everything we do. Everything.

I like orange juice for breakfast. Followed by a Diet Dr Pepper.

When I am loading in the kids in the car in the garage, I open Cate's door, let her climb in while I snap Ben's car seat in, then return to the driver's side to buckle Cate in behind my seat. Cate even knows the routine.

Ah, yes, kids are routines. Greg often says Cate is just like me. And one of those ways is how she likes things like they are supposed to be. She puts things where they go. She does things like she did the time before. Really, I have a hard time fathoming that other people aren't like this.

Even our mail lady has a routine. She parks her truck in front of the same house on our street every day. Well, not Sundays, but that's how the government wants to do it. She delivers the mail around 4:30, sometimes 4:45. And I like to get the mail. Yes, even as an adult, I like getting the mail. And I always sort it when I get it. Open what is interesting. Set aside bills and other things that are important. And move the junk straight the recycling bin. You know, it helps keep my counters clear.

I thrive with a routine, but sometimes routines do get monotonous, so I'm learning how to find joy in these ordinary moments -- both the ones I plan and the ones that just happen because I'm the mother to two small children.

Then I read something last week that helped me really put daily life into perspective ...

In those moments I force myself to take a deep breath and thank God for this season of life. These children. The privilege of wiping noses and bottoms and countertops. A privilege many women would love to have, but don't. I remind myself that the days are long but the years are short. And one day I will look in the rear-view mirror and see empty seats. ... And I will find that a new set of daily struggles has overtaken me. When that day comes I will find the strength to face them as well because God gives the grace, daily.

The daily-ness.

As C.S. Lewis once said, "The thing is to rely on God … Meanwhile, the trouble is that relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing has yet been done."

Your daily-ness is probably different than mine, but it is nonetheless God-ordained. It is exactly what we need to live dependent on His grace instead of our own strength. The One who knows us best, who knit us together in our mother's womb, has allotted these days that are equal parts trial and triumph. And He knows that we will see Him most clearly from a place of dependence.

So today I embrace the normal things. The daily things. Another round of laundry. The ring in my toilet. The dust on my dresser so thick a child could write his name. But even more than that I want to celebrate the important things. A child slowly learning to read. A husband that finds his comfort in my arms. A baby who learns to walk and talk. Because all these are the things of life: some mundane and some holy. And all of them must be received daily.

--From a devotion I read last week

I embrace my routine, knowing full well all seasons are temporary. What about you? What do you like about your routine? How do you need to be intentional about embracing your daily life?

Just answer in the comments section, and you'll be entered to win the $60 gift card from CSN Stores. Want another chance to win? Follow me on Twitter [@kristinhtaylor] and retweet about the giveaway. Let me know [either here or there] that you've done so and you'll be entered to win.

The winner will be announced here on my blog on Tuesday, after my 3-year-old randomly picks an entry from a hat, or a box, or whatever container is convenient. Be sure to leave an e-mail or Twitter name so I can contact the winner.

For you faithful followers, CSN Stores is the same company that provided the Settlers of Catan game I gave away about five months ago. I'm excited for this second giveaway.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

side by side in a rice box

Cate and Ethne had a fun time playing in this "rice box," which is what Cate called it when she was talking about it tonight. "Remember I played with Ethne in rice box?" Yes, we remember. And Angela even took this darling picture that I made black and white so we can remember for a long time.

Oh, what's a rice box? It's a box of rice, noodles and beans that Elijah once used for therapy but now works well as an indoor sandbox type toy. Those two girls were in there for at least an hour. As you can see, they barely fit in there side by side.


My husband used to have a pet raccoon named Squeaky. I should make it clear I'm not really a pet person. Period. Especially when it comes to raccoons. And I've seen enough of this guy up close and personal in recent days.

Hopefully, he'll be departing in the morning, once the local animal control officer comes on duty in the morning. He works 9-5, which is slightly inconvenient when dealing with unwanted nocturnal guests.

Greg must have soft spot for raccoons because he said Fairway Frank, who is actually a opossum* on a TV show, looked uncomfortable. He poked his paws with a stick so he'd change positions. Greg said maybe he'd sleep better in the cage that way. Well, maybe, except he doesn't typically sleep at night.

* We actually had a opossum trapped in the cage yesterday morning. I told Greg he jinxed the trap by referring to our visiting raccoon by a fictional opossum name.

LOST across the sea

Seriously, there are only 3 1/2 hours of "Lost" left. And, boy, are there still many questions. I find it surprising at this point I was sucked into last night's episode, "Across the Sea," which featured three characters, two of whom don't even have names. And the only island friends [Kate, Jack and Locke] who made an appearance did so in a flashback.

But, wait, if you haven't watched "Across the Sea," stop reading, if you don't want to hear anymore ... So, remember, I had this whole format of writing the same number of observations as there were hours left? Well, yeah, "Lost" producers went an added 30 minutes to the finale, so that kind of throws me off, in a good way. And I have more than 3 1/2 things that need to be said.

In no particular order ...

* I kept thinking about the story of Jacob and Esau. I don't know if there are legitimate parallels, but I keep thinking about Jacob disguising himself as Esau to mislead Isaac and steal his twin brother's birthright. Jacob was also loyal to his mother, Rebecca, while Esau was rough and tough.

* We don't know Mother's name, yet we know Claudia was the name of Jacob and the Boy in Black's birth mother. Surely, the fact Mother and Brother don't have names will become meaningful, right?!

* The Boy in Black becomes the Man in Black and he sets out to prove his mother wrong by finding a way to leave the island. Was he stripped of his soul when he went into the light? Did Brother's soul become the Smoke Monster? [And Mother's description of the precious light is worth noting: "Life. Death. Rebirth. It's the source. It's the heart of the island."] So is that where the temple was built?

* Jacob drank from the cup Mother presented him as a sign of accepting responsibility for guarding the light. Seems symbolic of communion to me. Of course, Jesus isn't as forceful as Mother.

* A friend raised the question today when we were talking about the episode: When Oceanic 815 initially crashed [I know, that's so long ago in "Lost" time!], maybe when Locke got up and walked, no longer needing his wheelchair, he was actually dead and already possessed by the Man in Black, who we now know is the male body in the "Adam and Eve" scene in the cave with Kate, Jack and Locke.

* Claudia is the third woman [that we know of!] who came to the island, shipwrecked and pregnant, and whose child [children, in this case] were raised by someone else. Think Claire and Danielle Rousseau. Think Aaron and Alex. Think Kate and Ben. [Side note: I just typed "Kate and Ben" and my adoptive children are Cate and Ben. And here Kate and Ben are the adoptive parents. Whoa.]

I think that's enough to think about it. What do you think? Where is this going? What are we going to learn in the coming 3 1/2 hours? What questions do you still have?

Worth Repeating Wednesday

[About words]

... At best they are broken and fragmented witnesses to God's truth. ... And yet I am struck even more profoundly by the fact that God can take something so inadequate, so imperfect, so foolish as words on paper and use them to transform lives. ... It is a miracle of grace ...

--From Richard J. Foster's introduction to "Celebration of Disciplines"

Monday, May 10, 2010

a little more Cate

These ended up being two of my favorite pictures from Cate's party. My sister-in-law Angela took them, and she shared ...

another visit

He was back last night. Our friend Bryan took this photo with my iPhone. [I warned him not to drop my phone in the creek where the raccoon was hanging out!] Anyway, Mr. Raccoon better watch out. This morning the animal control officer set a trap between the creek and tree line he likes to run along. I hope the food tempts him and we can get him away from here.

The animal control officer did tell me not to touch him once he's trapped. Um, yeah, OK. That's not a problem. He also told me raccoon are all over this area; we just don't usually see them. I told him my problem was that I keep seeing this one and he's not afraid to come out in plain sight when we're hanging out with our friends and their kids in the back yard.

I wondered when the officer showed up this morning if he knew raccoons were nocturnal, but he did mention them coming out at night, so I guess he understands. I guess the officer doesn't come out at night, so he set a trap at 9 a.m. Whatever works.

And I hope the trap works.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

Greg took Cate shopping this morning. On the way there, he apparently asked her what kind of present she wanted to get me. "A big bag" was the response. So she picked out a zebra-print tote bag that I'm sure I'll put to good use soon. I guess it's no secret I like bags; my 3-year-old even knows. Greg also said when they walked by the shoes, she said I needed the pink slippers. I'm wearing them now, and they're quite comfortable. Greg picked out flowers and a card, which Cate signed with a little help. The sentiment was something about her being just like me.

Being a mom is the best thing I've ever done. When I used to think about my life down the road, I never thought I would be staying home with two children we adopted. But, you know, I wouldn't change a thing about our life. Seriously. I like where I am and who I'm with. God teaches me something new every day through my 3-year-old girl and 5-month-old son. They challenge me and inspire me. She makes me laugh. He smiles in a way that melts my heart every time.

Maybe I'll become a little more like her too.

While I'm feeding Ben or helping Cate put on her shoes, I'm sometimes think about these ideas I have to write a book or get back into reporting, but I'm quickly interrupted with needing to burp Ben, change his diaper, fill Cate's cup with apple juice that she still doesn't mind me watering down, helper her in the bathroom ... or many other tasks that easily fill our day. But I don't mind. I'll jot down my idea and one day when these two don't need me like they do, I'll have time to be a little more creative. For now, I'll let get creative with Play-Doh and crayons. And I'll let these two fill my time all they want.

Because I know it won't be like this for long.

our visitor last night

Look at who greeted us when we got home last night ...

There he is looking down toward the steps from our garage to our basement, seemingly ready to pounce. Then he got closer, making the move inside the garage.

He was actually in the garage, near the trash can next to that bicycle (of which you can see the front tire ...). Then he scurried off by those garage steps. That's when Greg decided taking pictures would be a good idea.

We have seen a raccoon* run from the creek in our front yard along the tree line in our back yard a couple of times. I'm guessing this is the same guy. Apparently he likes our property. I'm not so sure I like him. Cate and I didn't want to get out of the car until, Greg, who was armed with a BB gun had chased him away, after he took pictures, of course.

* Did you know racoon and raccoon are both correct? I've never understood how a word can have two correct spellings, yet, neither of these look right to me.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Celebrating Cate

I don't think I could have ordered better weather for an outdoor party with 12 kids [not counting Ben, who took a nap during most of the party ...] from 1 to 6 years old. It was simple -- playing outside, hot dogs, cake, ice cream, presents, more playing outside -- but everyone seemed to have a good time.

Cate was thrilled her cousin Milla from Oldham County could come. And it was fun seeing all the kids play so well together.

So, yeah, the wind made it a little difficult [four matches ... ] for me to get the candle lit, but we got it, eventually. Cate got lots of neat presents, including this Dora big wheel from Grandmom ...

Even Ben had a good time when he wasn't sleeping ...

... he liked Indy, the dog my dad is watching for a friend and brought along on the road trip.

I have more photos of this party and other recent birthday parties for our family in a Facebook album.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

a 'charley' ride

At the library or across the street at the park, Cate often sees the local trolley, which she calls a "charley." Today we rode on it. For 25 cents.

Cate was free. Ben was free. My token was 25 cents. What a deal when it comes to entertainment for preschoolers! Noah, Emma, Luke and Norah (and Courtney and Jaclyn, of course!) rode with us. Together, it cost us all $1, total, to ride because Noah (who is 5) was the only kid who required a token.

Yes, I like a deal.

And entertainment for my birthday girl.

Cate is 3!

Cate rode on the local trolley this afternoon,
clinching a fist-full of flowers, taking it all in.

My sweet girl,

When you woke up this morning and I said, "Happy birthday, Cate!" and you said, "I'm not 2 anymore; I three." And you had a big grin on your face. That pretty much sums up how you go through life ... happily and remembering everything.

Daddy often tells me that you're just like me. You're independent, stubborn and organized. You like things to be done just the way they were done the time before. You like to be warned of change before it happens. And you like to know the plan for the day. Motherhood certainly has taught me that children are sponges, soaking up their environment. I want to give you good things to soak up.

You like to read Bible stories, although Jonah is your favorite. You love the Little Einsteins, Little Mermaid, blowing bubbles, drawing with sidewalk chalk, cooking "valicious" food in your kitchen in the playroom, and chasing birds. You laugh often, tell great stories and give the best hugs and kisses.

Three sounds so much older to me. Having you as a 2-year-old has been my favorite year so far. People tell me I will keep saying that. I have no doubts you'll keep me laughing, challenge me to be a better woman for you and your brother, continue to take care of "my new brother Benjamin," and amaze me with the new ways you discover the world around you.

In August, you'll start preschool. The day we went to register you, the secretary gave you a tub of books to read while I filled out paperwork. You were so content, looking at the pictures on the pages then looking up to watch the other kids walk in the hallways to their next destination. You waved. You smiled. You talked about how you want to go to school. As you grow up, I pray you always embrace life like that. Eagerly. Enthusiastically. Willingly.

Daddy and I are so thankful you're the big sister in our family. You fit perfectly with us. Happy birthday, Catherine Anna.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Ben apparently had something important (and secretive!) to tell cousin Evelyn, who is eight months older than him, when we were at the park yesterday. Whatever it was, I think she liked it!

Worth Repeating Wednesday

If we believe God is a genie with a wand granting wishes and doing magic tricks, we don’t understand the God of the Bible. God gave David confidence keeping lions from his sheep, then killing Goliath, then running a country. God did not give David a country and then instill in him magical confidence.

--Donald Miller on his blog

Have we LOST the candidate?

I didn't like "Lost" taking a one-week break. Nope. Not one bit. Thankfully, the drama, mystery and questions continue with last night's airing of "The Candidate." If you haven't watched it, stop reading. Now.

Sadly, we only have four hours left with our island friends and the friends/enemies they've made along the way. Keeping with my format to honor the bittersweet countdown to the end of the series, let's get going ...

1. While Jack and Locke's interaction in the flash-sideways didn't leave either of them making island connections, it does seem like Jack is close to realizing something happened on Oceanic 815. At the beginning of the episode when Jack said to Locke, "I think you're a candidate." I had to chuckle. I also realized how much island Jack has changed. He spent much of the series being the leader, protecting his people, believing his people and creating hope that they would one day get off the island. Then last night he said to Fake Locke, "They aren't my people and I'm not leaving the island."

2. Jack and Claire don't know the significance of their father giving her the music box, but I'm pretty sure (after my husband pointed it out ...) that it plays the same song she sang to Aaron and when she was in the hole in the ground at the temple. Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket. Never let it fade away ...

3. I'm not surprised Fake Locke tricked his "friends." I thought he was going to do it on the plane, but, hey, why not the submarine? It's an even more compact space with nowhere to go. And that leads me to Sun and Jin ... At first I was (in my head) telling Jin to go. Their daughter needs him. But then I couldn't help but the think about the journey they had come on, as a couple. Their marriage was in shambles at the beginning and now they are holding hands as they drown. Sad. Sad. Sad. But at least they found each other first.

4. Sayid. I still have questions. What was possessing him and how did he change back into the hero for his friends? I'm glad to know for sure (as sure as anything is on "Lost") that Desmond isn't dead. Did Desmond bring Sayid back? Will we find out more of his story these last few episodes?

Other questions remain: What happened to Frank Lapidus? Why did the Smoke Monster kill Mr. Eko? (That one is courtesy my husband!) Where are Richard, Ben and Miles? And, dang it, how are these flash-sideways going to work with the realities already established in their off-island lives?

Your turn? What do you think? What are you hoping for these last few episodes?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Shopping. Celebrating. Bowling. Playing.

We took a road trip to Louisville this past weekend, mostly to visit family. Greg did meet with some contractors at our southern Indiana properties and we visited with a couple of college friends.

I considered it my birthday weekend, and I spent (more than) the Kohl's gift card my grandpa gave me for turning 31. And I stocked up on scrapbooking supplies at Archiver's. Mom and I even made an us-only trip on Saturday night (post-Derby!) to Target.

But the best part of it being my birthday weekend was this cake, courtesy my 6-year-old niece Milla and almost-3-year-old daughter Cate.

Seriously. That's a layer of white icing, another layer of pink icing, an entire bottle (and I believe a few more!) sprinkles, all 48 candles from the box, and all those plastics toys. Yes, we took the toys off before we lit the 31 required candles!

Cate was apparently too busy to join in the cousins picture. Oh, yes, she found plenty of ways to keep busy ...

... driving.

... bowling.

... jumping.

Teaching Cate to bowl was a fun experience. We went to Incredible Dave's, where the bowling alley totally exceeded our expectations. Right before we started, my brother and I wondered if we should have asked for bumpers for the girls. Well, turns out the guy (who we didn't think was the sharpest tool in the shed ...) programmed our lanes so the bumpers would come up in the gutters when it was Cate or Milla's turn. They really enjoyed it, as did the adults, who at times could have used the bumpers!

Between turns, Milla liked to take a break from bowling and hold her cousin ...

Jaxson, who wasn't bowling, enjoyed his snacks ...

And Cate just took it all in ...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mmmmm ...

I think Ben enjoyed his rice cereal ...

... and the spoon!

... and his fingers!

... and his sister!

And, really, to be honest, this momma enjoyed the Fisher-Price Space Saver High Chairshe bought Ben. It's his first new accessory (thanks to all the hand-me-downs from his sister and cousin) and totally worth having!