Sunday, May 30, 2010

Life's Bittersweet Moments

Have I ever mentioned just how much we love our homeschool group?  This group of families are so special to us.  We moved to this new, small town, in a different state than we had ever lived in previously last June.  We spent the first six months settling in to our new home and new routine, but we quickly became lonely.  I was introduced to our homeschool group in December of 2009 and was instantly impressed with this group.  They are so warm and welcoming.  Even though they didn't know us and even though our kids are not "official" school age, they never left us out from events.  In fact, they treated us as if we had always been part of their group.  We looked forward to our weekly park play dates and field trips.  In the short amount of time that we have known this group of families, we have made life-long friendships.  So, it was with a heavy heart on Friday that we announced we'd be moving.  On one hand, we will be so sad to leave our new friends, but on the other hand, we are so, so excited about the new adventures that lie ahead of us.  We are no strangers to moving.  Andy and I have been married seven years and with this next move, we will live in our seventh house.  Arin will be four this summer and this will be her fourth home and in Ella's short 19 months of life, she will be moving into her third home!  So, if anyone was wondering about my lack of blogging lately, it is because I've been busy packing, painting, and finding a new place to live!  We are so excited about this move because we will be living near much of Andy's family and within only two hours of the rest of the family (except one of his sisters that lives in a different state).  I am so excited that our girls will grow up near grandparents, cousins and aunt and uncles.  We are also quite excited that we will not have to travel as often to see family.  My blogging will continue to be sparse over the next few weeks, but will return after that!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Family Weekend

Last Friday night, we took a road trip to meet up with part of Andy's family in Jacksonville for the weekend.  We had a great time, even though we didn't do much more than just spend time together and swim.  The simple things in life are often the best!

We all had a great time together, but the girls especially loved being with their cousins.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Swamp Field Trip

Last Friday, we met up with our homeschool group for a field trip to the swamp!  We took a boat tour and a train ride, saw an animal show and had a picnic.  We saw an otter, turtles, alligators, snakes, and chickens (there were also bears, but we had to leave before we saw them).  As always, we had a great time with our friends!

Yes, this is a real alligator, which was sunning itself on the bank, nears the cars in the parking lot!  Apparently, the gators have free roam of the park, which is a little unsettling when you have kids out there.
This is the alligator that everyone got to touch.  It is about two and a half years old.  I was surprised how slowly alligators grow, even in the beginning of their lives.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wading Pool

The girls and I were outside cleaning out the truck and also playing today.  As cold as it was this winter, it is equally hot this spring!  Once we were finished our chores, I got out the girls' wading pool.  If I remember correctly, this is the first time that Ella has ever been in a wading pool.  Both of the girls loved it and they spent a couple of hours playing in it this afternoon!  Got to love the simple things in life!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Declutter Challenge: Final Post for this Challenge

It was two months ago today that I challenged myself to get rid of 372 things in twelve months.  Amazingly, I was able to accomplish that in three and a half weeks.  Even more amazing is that after I finish this post, we will have decluttered a total of 898 things from our house in two months!  Wow, that's a lot of stuff!  We still had a few boxes in our garage that needed to be cleaned out, so we have recently done that and have found a few more things in the house for a total of 121 things this week.  Thanks for putting up with this challenge over the past couple of months.  It has been incredibly motivating to get rid of stuff when I take pictures and post about it (also eye opening and a bit embarrassing to know we've had so much junk stored here and there around the house!)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Delicious Muffins

I saw this recipe last week and knew that we had to try it.  We were not disappointed.  These muffins are so good!  If I would have had the right kind of sweetener on hand, which I didn't, then we could have even considered these healthy!

Apple Banana Muffins

◦2 cups whole wheat flour (I used fresh milled hard white wheat)
◦1 teaspoon baking soda

◦1/2 teaspoon baking powder

◦1 teaspoon salt

◦1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

◦1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

◦2/3 cup coconut oil, melted

◦1 cup sucanat or rapadura (I cut it back to 3/4 cup sugar and wouldn't doubt that we could cut it back a bit more)

◦2 eggs
◦1 teaspoon vanilla extract

◦1/4 cup cultured buttermilk, kefir, yogurt, or acid medium of your choice (I used plain yogurt)

◦1 cup ripe bananas, mashed

◦2 apples – peeled, cored and shredded


A.Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease and flour muffin cups, or use paper liners. Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.

B.In a large bowl, cream together the coconut oil and sucanat/rapadura/sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla and buttermilk/yogurt/kefir. Beat in the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated. Fold in the mashed bananas and shredded apples. Fill each muffin cup full.

C.Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Declutter Challenge: Closet Clean Up

We've had a hugely successful decluttering week.  This week, I worked in our closet.  I chose to paint it the same color as the bathroom because we had paint left over from that project. 

Here is the before pictures.

They aren't the greatest pictures, but they give you an idea.  When we first moved in, we had Ella's crib in our room, so the only place we had for Andy's armoire was in the closet.  The top of the armoire quickly became a catch-all for clothes and other stuff.  I know, shame on us!

The first step in this project was to move everything out of the closet and get rid of unused items.  Both Andy and I have gained weight since we got married.  There's a part of us that previously had a hard time parting with our old clothes because we always think we'll fit back into that stuff some day.  During our garage clean up, I went through boxes of my smaller clothes and realized that even if I were that size again, it is unlikely that I would wear much of that stuff anymore, so I got rid of most of it.  Yes, I still held on to some "just in case things, but mostly I got rid of my smaller clothes last month, and this week was Andy's turn to do the same.  I am thrilled that he was extremely willing to part with this stuff.  We're both just so over hanging on to stuff.  I have a couple of teenaged nephews, so I bagged up Andy's old clothes and shoes and we will let them see if they want any of the stuff, otherwise it'll find a new home at Goodwill.  We ended up bagging up seven garbage bags full of stuff. I could do a dance - that's how excited I am that we are getting rid of this unused stuff - plus, laundry day is going to be a breeze now that I won't be trying to stuff clothes into overfull dressers/closet!

Here are the pictures of the stuff that we have gotten rid of from our closet (and also a box from our bedroom).

Clothes: 102 items
Shoes: 18 pairs
I actually wrote this post last week and have since donated an additional 10 items of clothing/shoes, which are not pictured.
Total things decluttered this week: 130
Grand Total things decluttered: 777!!!!
Here are the after pictures of our closet.  Again, the contrast of the paint color isn't very great.  I still don't love painting, but I am happy to report that it was not as frustrating as it was in the bathroom. 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Declutter Challenge: more and more clutter

In addition to a few things that I needed to declutter this week, I decided it was time to get in the girls room and start cleaning it out.  My mother-in-law often says that she wants to buy some toys to have at the house when her grandchildren come to play, but toys are expensive and we are on a mission to simplify our house, so we asked if we could donate our old toys to them.  They agreed, which is awesome because they don't need to buy any toys, we get rid of the toys from our house, but the girls still get to play with the toys, which will make it seem like they are "new" toys since they will only have them when we travel to their house.  I do not want my girls to have the same attachment to stuff that I have had in the past, so I decided it was important for them to help me.  However, I did explain that they were only sending the toys to Grandma's house, so that probably made it a bit easier knowing that they would get to play with them again.  I showed the toys one at a time to Arin and let her decide what to do with them.  I really wanted to sway her decision on some items, but decided that this first time should be completely up to her.  I was very proud that she was so decisive.  She looked at a toy and immediately knew if she wanted to keep it or send it away.  Although I wished that she would have chosen to get rid of more stuff, I was actually surprised that she got rid of as much as she did.  We will try this activity again in a few weeks and see if she is willing to part with more of her stuff.

Things being decluttered this week:
fabric x 3
clothes x 17
children's books x 5
hangers x 13
toys x 12 (would have been 13, but after looking at this picture, Andrew decided we should keep the American Girl doll for Ella since she loves baby dolls)
total this week: 50
total since challenge began: 647

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Blow Paint and Painting with a Straw

In a recent issue of Family Fun magazine, we saw an activity for blow painting. They used the blow painting technique to make monsters, but my kids were uninterested in that, so we just made designs.  At first, I forgot to add the water to the paint to thin it and it was too thick for them to be able to blow it around the paper, but once the water was added, it was much more fun.  Arin did a great job with this activity and she liked that it was a different way to paint.  As I feared, Ella tried to suck the paint up the straw, but I caught it before it went in her mouth.  After that, I told her to use the straw as a paintbrush.  She liked this for a little bit, but once she got the paint on her hands and on her shirt, she decided she was done!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

So Many Friends, So Little Time

One great thing about being a stay-at-home mom is when Andrew needs to travel for work, the girls and I get to go too.  Earlier this week, we all headed to Florida.  Andrew had training the first part of the week and the girls and I had a lot of fun catching up with friends that we haven't seen in several months.  It was a short trip, so we booked several activities each day.

First, we met up with a few people from our old playgroup.  The kids were so cute together.  We first met this group when Arin was about 18 months old.  It was so great to see them as we've only seen them once since we moved a year ago!  The kids played awesome together and the mamas had a great time catching up.

Then, we met up with one of my best friends from high school.  Always great to get together with her.  Her son is only six days older than Ella.  He's such a sweetheart - so cute and so smart - makes me want a little boy of my own!

Then, we met up with another friend.  She has a farm which the girls love to visit.  They love seeing and feeding the animals.

Lastly, the girls' Uncle Todd drove up to visit them.  They were so excited to see him.  He suggested we go to Chuck E Cheese, which the girls loved!

We had plans of seeing my sister and her boys, but they got sick and we had plans of seeing my mom (we did get to see my dad), but she was in NY part of the time and on vacation with my dad the other part.  We had such fun with our friends and hope that it isn't another year before we get to see them again.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day Interview

Mommy:  Why do you like Mother's Day?
Arin: Because, I love to make you cards and everything.

Mommy: Why did God make mothers?
Arin: Because, that's part of our family!

Mommy:  What are mothers made of?
Arin: skin and hair and teeth

Mommy:  What do mothers do?
Arin:  Clean-up when we make a mess, clean-up dirty diapers, and get something for their kids when they are hungry.

Mommy:  What kinds of foods do you like your mommy to make?
Arin:  quesadillas, pizza and cream cheese muffins

Mommy:  What's the best thing about a mommy?
Arin:  She plays with us n- something we like, like tag or hide-and-seek

Mommy:  If you could change something about your mommy, what would it be?
Arin: (whose eyes lit up at this question) Oh, I would make her a princess!! (yes, please!)

Mommy:  What do mommies do in their spare time for fun?
Arin: Play, play, play!

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all the mommies, especially to my wonderful mother!  She is kind and thoughtful, slow to anger :) and quick to love.  She has set a wonderful example of service and generosity towards others.  She is a wonderful hostess and a hard worker.  She will stay on the phone for hours while Arin talks her ear off!  Such sweet, special times for Arin!  My mother gives of her whole self, even when she is exhausted.  I love my mom! 

And I must confess, she is the driving force behind this blog.  She has always loved to see what is happening in our lives, but moreso since we no longer live in the same state as her.  Because I like to bring my mother joy, I try to blog about something daily, but seriously, we just aren't that interesting!! 

Of course, I don't want to leave out my awesome mother-in-law, who reminds me so much of my own mom.  My mother-in-law is kind, loving, hard working and ever so patient!  She spoils me when we visit by helping with the kids (diaper changes and baths and so many other things!).  She is a wonderful example of a loving wife and she has raised seven wonderful children, one of which I am particularly fond of :) 

Because Andrew and I love our moms so much, we combined parts of their names (Ellen and Janice) and named our little girl (Ella Jane) in honor of them!  We are so blessed to have two fine examples of Proverbs 31 women in our lives!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Declutter Challenge: Another Week, Another Basket of Clutter

This week we are getting rid of:
clothing x 2
fabric x 2
picture frame
fondue set x 2
misc. lids x 3 (one's not really a lid)
books x 2
craft x 3
hangers x 8

27 things decluttered this week
597 things decluttered since March 2010

Thursday, May 6, 2010

End of the Season Library Party & Picking Strawberries

Our friends, whom we haven't seen in several months, invited us to a playdate.  First, we went to their library's storytime party.  They have an awesome librarian.  We went to their library one other time and had so much fun!  Storytime has ended for the season, but will return again next school year.  We hope to be more active with that library in the future.  It is much farther to drive, but well worth it.

Today, the librarian had prepared a Mother's Day craft (and snacks) for the kids.  Each child was given a terracotta pot, which they decorated with flowers cut from magazines.  Once they were finished gluing the flowers (they used Mod Podge), each child was given a flower to plant in the pot. 

I helped Ella decorate her pot.  Then, I walked by Arin to see how she was doing.  She told me, "Don't look, Mom!  This is a surprise for Mother's Day.  You just go and relax!"  Of course, I couldn't wait to follow those awesome orders! 

Once we were finished at the library, we went to our friends' house for lunch and playtime.  It was so great to catch up with them.  The first time we went to their house was last year.  Strawberries were just in season and they let the girls pick a few, though they didn't have a lot of strawberries, because it was the first year they had planted them.  This time, the strawberries were back in season and they had quite the bounty of berries.  The girls loved picking them.  They picked and ate the sweet, juicy berries.  They did save a few to take back to the house to wash for a snack.  I cut the tops off and the girls devoured them as quickly as I could set them in front of them.  It was amazing, but I was happy they were enjoying such a delicious, nutrious (they are organic, heirloom strawberries) snack.