30 March 2012

House-Plant Green

While strolling through the enormity of Home Depot the other day, one of my least favorite stores ever, I spied this happy little indoor plant. Chartreuse-y in color and good for a family game of "Is it real or fake?" It's oddly perfect in it's cuteness.

I have no idea what it is, but it nicely fills the home of it's predecessor, which I killed due to neglect. It happens.

I am so delighted with my bit of house-plant green, I am on a quest for more. Life, it all it's forms, does lend a spirit of joy to a room, don't you think?

16 March 2012

Planning a Trip to Europe, First Things First

Thank you for all of the kind thoughts and well wishes! It has been fun to share our good news. With all of the planning that has been taking place for the trip, I haven't been as frequent with my blog posts. I've decided to be okay with that and just allow my focus to go where it needs to be.

And due to location my mind often drifts lately, my successive posts may be heavily travel-plans related. Bear with me, if it gets tiresome or self-focused!

So. How to plan a trip to Europe for a young family of five? Uhhh .. well probably not how we are. We are definitely learning as we go. But here is how we started.

First, start with the tickets. Our research showed booking 6-4 months in advance was advisable. We chose six, as booking 5 tickets is more tricky than two. Next, you've got to select a general date range, but be willing to fudge if you can. We originally planned to go in June, but between summer prices and the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, we saved over $2500 on airfare alone by going in May. We also knew the general region we wanted to travel in, but looked for the best deals to determine our entry and exit point/country.

**As a side note, do some research on the area. Some countries may have some current instability that could raise questions for you when traveling with children.

We found an online site that had good prices on decent airlines (we decided that off-airlines with horrible reviews may not be worth the savings while traveling with small children) and then ... and here's the kicker ... call them on the phone. Do this late at night (11:00pm Pacific time worked for us) when the call load is lower. Call several times, if you have to, 'til you find an "agent" that seems friendly and helpful and get his direct line and give him your number, as well. He will be able to find deals, caveats, and potential issues that you will not find online.

Take his suggestions and do some more research on  you own, since you will now have a reliable baseline to go from. Once you've found your deal (I found an even better deal than our agent and got a "wow" from him) book it over the phone. Again, deals are to be had and fees to be waived when dealing with a real person. Ask for a 24 hour risk-free cancellation window.

So now you have your tickets! Whew! That was stressful and exhausting! But it means that for sure you are going! Hee, Hee. Now it's time to start clapping your hands wildly and prancing about the room.

**Any tips of your own? I'd love to hear.

15 March 2012

Full of Dreams

Ever had a dream that you've had to let go of ...

Fifteen years ago I took a college trip to Western Europe. That initial trip was a catalyst of sorts for me. Like part of me opened up that I didn't know was waiting to blossom. The travel, the culture, the vistas, the people, the history ... so quietly powerful it felt private, like a secret. In a strange sort of way, it was like falling in love.

In that time since, I feel as though I've traveled Europe many times over. Amazing what books, good movies, and an over-active imagination can do. I plotted and dreamed of many pretend returns. But there came a season where I had to stop taking the travel magazines and watching that darn Rick Steves on his magical PBS adventures. It was too hard. I was flat out jealous and covetous of the opportunities of everyone else. Nevermind that I had three healthy babies at home, a kind husband, and a cozy roof over our head. Wanderlust can be a brazen intruder. Covetousness wreaks havoc on contentment.

So I released the dream.

Before my grandmother died, she called me over to the sofa beside her. Having lost her voice to Lou Gehrig's Disease, she sat with her little typy-machine, Lillian. In her hands, with the familiar knuckles and veins that look so much like my own, she had an envelope. Without words, from her hands to mine, it was passed. Inside, from my frugal and simple-living grandparents, was a check. A completely unexpected chunk of change that left me with my mouth agape. "What do you want to see me do with this?" I asked. She looked at me with her ever-determined eyes and typed one word on her machine: "Invest."


But in what? So many ways to interpret that word.

It's now been almost three years since she went home to the Lord. And the gift has been sitting, waiting for the right opportunity. I didn't want to just buy stuff. I wanted it to go towards something that we could say to the children "This was from Great Mother and Great Father." And I wanted it to have purpose in each of our lives. So I waited. Waited for the purpose.

And then one day last summer I was musing over Peter. His love for history and ancient cultures continues to grow and I couldn't help but wonder how God would have us fan the flames of interest that He had placed in our boy. Then it hit me. Family. Invest the gift in the family. Travel. Experience. Bond. Tie ourselves together through a shared journey. Open up God's world to the children and have them wonder what is His intended purpose for them in it.

Since that day, God has given confirmation time and time again. I am so excited I will randomly break out into tears at the very thought of our impending trip. It's like that long-ago blossoming is occurring again. There is springtime in my soul right now and I am so, so overcome with gratitude.

In two months we will take a three-week trip to Europe. And I am full of dreams once more.

12 March 2012

Fancy Auntie Halie

This weekend we were able to travel south a bit to watch my sister-in-law sing. The video above is just rehearsal footage, but it will give you an idea how much fun it was. You can even wave hello to Grandpa as he walks in front of the stage midway through.

Halie had an entire symphony along with her band to accompany her for the entire concert. It was wonderful music and the kids were most enraptured to see their auntie all fancy on the stage!

09 March 2012

A Pretty Spot in My Day

Phewy, it's been a long week. My kids have been succumbing to a nasty virus that develops into high-fevers and croupy coughs. Another one bit the dust, as Jane is now bed-ridden and looking excessively puny. Somehow, I've managed to stay healthy so far, which is no small miracle given the propensity for sick kids to climb in one's bed and huff all over one's face. Besides the good Lord's mercy, I chalk it up to diligent hand-washing and, uh ... "nasal-rinsing" ... I'm telling you, it works. I started it last summer for my allergies, and consequently have not been sick since. I use it every day and twice a day if I feel something coming on.

It's not glamorous, but nine months of no illness even though every single member of my family has been sick at least once during that period? Who needs glamour!

That said, I am still weary of fielding sickness and wary of coming down with it myself. So in the midst of the yuck, there is nothing like a little moment of beauty. Water droplets on succulents? A pretty spot in my day.

07 March 2012

The Devil's In the Details

I've been on a restrictive diet lately. Trying to kick the sugar habit. Gobs of veggies, fruits, lean proteins, probiotic dairy. No sugar. Full stop. It's been good. I'm finding new ways to cook and enjoy food, as well as prove to myself that I do not have to punctuate each meal with something sweet. Except for yesterday.

I decided to give myself a 'cheat.' I would still eat good meals, but I was jonesin' for a cookie like nobody's business. So I made them. Chocolate-Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies. Do you like these? I know I shouldn't. At least not so much. But I do.

They are stupid-easy to make, which is dangerous if you are having an I-want-it-now sort of craving. You can be stuffing your face with the batter alone in under 10 minutes. It's bad. But I was dreaming of them and I'd been so, so good ...

So I went about a very premeditated glutton attack. I made them in the morning, right before I left for some appointments. While I was gone, they were cooling to perfection. Once home, I made myself a big salad and sliced up some grapefruit ('cause I'm so healthy and all ...). Then came the big pot of tea, my book, a cozy blanket ... and my cookies. So I ate 3. Well, okay 6. Sheesh, you are so nosy. Fine. I ate 9! Are you happy? But I was really planning on only 3. Does that count?

By three o'clock I was panicked and my belly was distended to second-trimester proportions. I maniacally wrapped them up and virtually threw them at the teachers during carline pick-up. It was that or throw them out, and I might as well pretend I'm one of those thoughtful parents that bake up cookies specifically for the school staff, right?

I'm back on the wagon. I think I'll still allow myself some 'cheats' but not these devilish suckers. Mercy!

"The-Devil's-In-the-Details" Chocolate-Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies

Stir and bring to boil:
• 1/2 c. milk
• 2 c. sugar
• 1/2 c. butter
• 3 T cocoa
• 3 T peanut butter

Boil for one minute and add:
• 3.5 c. rolled oats
• 1 t. vanilla

Mix well and drop onto waxed or parchment paper. While cooling, plan exit strategy. They are dangerous.

05 March 2012

Forgotten Coffee Cup in the Front Room

Recently, I've unearthed a pair of forgotten blue Spode cup and saucers I once purchased on a trip when I was in college. Pretty dishes really do make things taste better.

And when you forget to clean them up and find them the next day ... there they sit all happy and pretty. So you leave them another day just to enjoy the artfulness of forgotten, pretty things.

03 March 2012

Birthday Celebrations, Archery Style

A couple of weeks ago, our boy had a birthday. Eleven! Another year's worth of reasons to be so very proud of him. Ever a fan of Robin and his merry men, Peter received his own bow and arrow set this year. We have still yet to obtain the hay bales and set up a shooting range outside. Still trying to figure out the logistics on that one ...

 So while he waits, he had a band of his own merry men over to the local archery range for a shootin' party. Targets and balloons were obliterated and once Pops brought out the life-sized poster of the wart-hog, the arrows really started flying.

For celebration, Peter chose a smattering of donuts instead of birthday cake. Brilliant! A real crowd-pleaser and mom pleaser as well. Doesn't get much easier than ordering up 3 dozen donuts!

And Peter, in his ever-gracious way, allowed his wee-lass of a sister to partake on several rounds. (She was shockingly good. Just look at that stance!)

It is a happy thing, indeed, to celebrate one another. Peter, it is our joy to celebrate you.