Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My New Best Friend

I have wanted boots like these babies for about a year.  And I have had a gift card to a cute little boutique shop that sells shoes since my birthday in March.  A couple of weeks ago I finally went down to the store and tried on some boots.  While at the little shop, I fell in love with one pair but they didn't have my size.  The style and price were all perfect!  But the size was not.  Boo!  They only had 7s and I needed a 6 1/2.  If my husband wasn't there I would've just bought the boots and worn thick socks.  But my husband, Mr. Logical, reminded me that it was best to get the right size or my feet might hurt or even get blisters.  Whatever.  I wanted those boots and I never get to go shopping.  I wondered if I'd even get another chance to get down there before next year.  Plus, isn't beauty pain??!  I was also hoping to get a pair before we took our family pictures the weekend we were in SLO.  I ended up having to borrow some.

After that rare shopping trip, I made every effort to get my hands on a size 6 1/2 to no avail.  I made multiple phone calls.  I looked online.  The more I was turned down, the more determined I became.  After many failed attempts I thought I had finally gotten them when the store said they were back in.  So I had them hold a pair, only to make it all the way down to the store (40 minutes from home) to find out that they were the wrong style.

People, this is why I never go shopping.  Too much hassle.  Too much heartache.  And not enough time to deal with other peoples' incompetencies.

But I was determined and I must say, in the end, my stubbornness finally won out.

Saturday night Steve and I got out on our first date without Nathan.  I have finally gotten the little man to go down at 7 pm and only be woken for feedings until the next morning, so I knew I could safely leave Nathan for two hours or so.  In the evenings, he sleeps so soundly, kinda like, you know, a baby!!  Ha!  Steve had taken an 8 hour exam that day and so I arranged for us to head out to a late dinner while my parents put the other kids to sleep.  My parents live pretty close to downtown so in an effort to be close by if the baby decided to balk at my careful planning, we went there for dinner.  But I also had an ulterior motive.

I wanted those boots gosh darnit and I was going to look at the shop again.  While I was packing for the day at my parents' house, I remembered my gift certificate on the off chance I might actually get to use it this time.

After checking with the workers I quickly discovered they didn't have the boot I wanted.  So I went searching.  I was going to find one just like it.  And my hard work paid off.  They had one that looked nearly identical.  In fact, I think it was even cuter than the one I really had wanted.  I cringed when I asked for the 6 1/2 thinking that they probably wouldn't have it and I would have fallen in love with yet another pair of boots I couldn't have.

But I was wrong.  Out walked the saleslady with those adorable boots and once I slipped them on, I knew it was worth the wait.

They were perfect.

I'm not very stylish and I'm usually way behind the times on these sorts of things.

But I understand now how a pair of boots can be a girl's best friend.

Because currently that's what they are...they go with me wherever I go.

We're pals ya know.  I feel so trendy, so "with it", so I don't know, stylish!  Ha ha!  Just me and my silly brown boots.  

And P.S. Don't tell him I said this but the husband was right :).  It definitely feels good to be wearing the right size.    

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Last weekend our family had a much-needed getaway to our favorite place on earth-San Luis Obispo.  For some reason, whenever we drive past Cal Poly and on toward downtown, it's like our worries fade and we become young again.  It was perfect.

On the drive down Steve and I were able to have some great talk time.  Every single child fell asleep.  This hardly ever happens.  All that could be heard was the steady hum of the engine.  It was the perfect backdrop for both of us to unwind and catch up with one another.  Currently we steal moments here and there.  But this was two and a half hours of straight, uninterrupted talk time.  And it was needed.  That grounding will float us for awhile.  Steve finishes his Masters next semester so there has been so much to be done from paperwork to big exams to tackle.  It's all good work but the fatigue of the last three years is finally starting to settle in (we are also two children heavier than when we started) and so beginning our weekend with good talk time was really crucial and incredibly refreshing.

But not only have Steve and I needed some time to keep our feet on the ground, but so have the kids.  We haven't taken any sort of family vacation in awhile.  Weekend trips have pretty much been forgotten due to Steve studying through every weekend so even the short trips have eluded us.  We also hadn't been to San Luis Obispo as a family for a year.  It was definitely time.  It's our happy place.  To be honest, as we drove up and down the streets, I had a sense of longing for home.  That town will always be home for us, wherever we go.  We began there.  It holds our history.  It will always be home.

We arrived Friday night to the Weeks, who are like family to us.  The kids all went straight into their beds and the adults settled in to talk the night away.  I have no idea how I manage to do it on so little sleep but, I just must stay up and talk to Debbi.  It's just the way it is.  In fact, we all stayed up late but Steve fell asleep in the comfy chair while the rest of us girls chatted away.  Seeing Debbi, Matt and their daughter Rebekah was definitely a major highlight of the whole weekend.  We love them so much.

The next morning we left bright and early and headed out to the beach for AGO's 20th Annual Pismo Football Tournament.  I have been to many Pismo tournaments now and many of them have had nice weather.  In fact most of them have been pretty good since we usually get an Indian Summer all along the California coast.  But this year, it was cold.  Seriously cold.  So by lunchtime, I was ready to head out with the little ones, especially Nathan.  The kids all had to be dragged away from the sand and the fun they were having with other alumni kids, but that's okay.  More fun was to come.

For the past few years we've headed over to a friend's house in the afternoon who lives just a few miles from the beach.  Husband and wife are both AGO alumni as well and are so gracious to open their home up to all of us moms so that the dads can keep playing for the afternoon.  It was a blast.  All of the kids played, ate yummy kid food and us moms got to catch up on each other's lives.  I think the afternoon is my favorite part. I look forward to it so much.  This year one of my best pals and a fellow AGO alumnus came with one of her sons for the afternoon to meet Nathan since they couldn't make it out to the beach.  Seeing her beautiful face just made my day.  I miss my college friends so much.

After the dads beat their arch rivals-UCSB's Alumni team, we extended the fun day even more to include dinner.  My two older boys had gone back to the beach with Steve after lunch to watch him play and dig in the sand some more themselves, so when they got to the Dorns at dinnertime, they had tons of fun playing with the other kids there too.  Once we made it back to SLO for the night, everyone climbed in bed very tired but quite happy.

The next day we took the kids around to hit our favorite places after church...Mondeos for wraps (for us adults), pizza sticks for the kids and dessert from Bali's followed by a quick trip to the Cal Poly store.  All of these things are tradition for us now.  If we go to SLO and don't do these things they kids call us on it.  Pizza sticks and Bali's must happen for them!  And Mondeos and the Cal Poly store must happen for Steve and me!  Ha!  We then headed over to the alumni lunch to say goodbye to everyone and made it back to the Weeks for naps.  We still had an afternoon ahead of us so we needed some rest!  Once everyone was up, we met our dear friend Shelly at Avila Valley Barn for our annual family pictures and pumpkins.  So much fun.

On our way out of town we hit up Splash Cafe for dinner.  It was the perfect ending to a much needed little family vacay.  The kids cooperated again and fell asleep on the way home giving Steve and me more time to talk.

It's been a long haul since January.  We needed this trip.  All of us did.  It was an incredible time of relaxation, just being with our kids with Daddy not needing to study, and seeing amazing friends (though some of our pals were missing), all in our favorite place on earth.

Who knew a weekend trip with five little kids could be so refreshing?!  Well, it was.

Thanking God so much for our time away.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Smack Down

I'm about to start my baking bonanza for tomorrow's cookie stand but before I do, I thought I'd pop on and say, "Hi!"  Yesterday Steve took his first midterm of the semester and afterward, his mom came over so that he and I could steal away for a few hours (with baby Nathan in tow of course).  It was like a little slice of heaven.  He left a wound up ball of frustration over being sure he didn't quite get all the parts in one of the problems done correctly (there were only four so it could end up being more significant, we'll see), to laughing and relaxed by the end, which is much more like the man I sleep next to every night.  Sometimes a few hours away to regroup can make a world of difference.

However, I must admit, he wasn't the only one who was cranky.  I was.  I had been all day.  Whenever he takes exams I feel just about as much weight as he does.  I don't sit there and do the math but, I have to sit at home, keep the kids going and wonder how he is doing, knowing how much is riding on all of it for him.  As his wife, I feel just as much pressure.  So I'm sure being nervous for him didn't help.

But that wasn't all of it.  In fact, I had gotten myself in quite a slump that I began listing out all of the things I was cranky about and I made sure to get them all down and tell God about each one of them.  I huffed around the house saying to Him in my mind, "Oh and THAT!  And THIS!  And THAT!"  Thinking that at least I was being "spiritual" and "praying" about these things rather than just keeping them all in.  Ha!  Sometimes, I even amaze myself with how totally sinful and sneaky I can be with myself when no one else is watching.  It is quite amazing.  It's also amazing how much grace we want to extend ourselves but how little we want to extend to others.  But I'm digressing...

As the day went on, I had racked up quite a list of complaints.  And I felt quite dignified by them.  I was right to be upset about these things (little though they were) and God was going to know all about them because well, I felt better when I was complaining to Him about them all.  Well, good thing I "prayed" about these things because God had prepared quite a smacking for me.

I climbed on the treadmill around 2 pm to get some pound the pavement time.  I needed it.  That helped relieve some of the stress and pressure I was feeling.  And after my shower, I decided to check the Femina blog since I hadn't read it in awhile due to it having some issues with their website.  That's when I got smacked.  Here's a little snippet from the post Harvest Time:

Now that I have hit sixty (and I don’t mean mph), I have lived long enough to see a few harvests. If you are reading this and you are in your teens or twenties or thirties, consider what you are diligently planting, because when you hit your forties and fifties, a harvest starts rolling in.
For example, if you have been sowing a whole lot of low-grade discontent, you’ll be reaping a harvest of misery. If you’ve been picking on your kids for a decade, you will see them disappear over the horizon. If you’ve been complaining to your husband for two decades, you might see him disappear over the horizon as well.
We see a harvest on both the physical level as well as the spiritual. Women who have been trying to look twenty in their thirties and thirty in their forties reap a harvest of looking  like day-old donuts. Stale. (My husband says that the only thing worse than a day-old donut is a day-old donut with a fake tan and hoop earrings.) Women who have been sowing idleness and slovenliness start looking neglected and rejected. None of this happens overnight. It takes years of diligent seed-sowing....

Now don’t quit reading this post because you think I’m being so very pessimistic. I’m just saying that the things we do, the habits we cultivate day-in and day-out are like seeds. They germinate. They grow, and they produce a crop.  So consider what you are planting. What kind of seed have you been sowing in your field?

If we are planting faithfulness and sacrifice, the harvest is peace and joy. If we are cultivating a gentle and quiet and meek spirit, we will have a beautiful crop to put in the barn some day. So what’s sprouting in your field right now? Respectfulness, kindness, gratitude? Envy, bitterness, self-centeredness?

She continues on for a few more paragraphs but this should give you the general drift and it should also explain why I got the smack down.

Ever since Steve started grad school, there has been an attitude in my mind of sprinting.  It goes something like this, "Okay, I can't do this forever, but I can do it now.  So I'll give it everything I've got so that my favorite person in the whole wide world can succeed, and then once I've made it to the finish, we'll have accomplished something."  That's not necessarily bad.

But with sprinting also comes the things you leave by the way side.  When you're sprinting, you don't stop for a drink.  You grab one and throw the cup on the ground for someone else to pick-up.  And then you keep focused on the finish line, while you're panting and straining.  You don't see those alongside of you.  You just keep going.  And although these are survival techniques, they are also a means to leaving important things on the side of the road like a crumpled up piece of trash.

But remember, I'm not going to do this forever, so it'll be okay!  Right?!  A few harsh words to this child here, an unjust punishment here, an absolute inability to listen to that story over there because I'm too exhausted from the long days by myself, add up over time.  And even though it just seems like one cup, if I keep doing that, I'll have built up quite a stash.  And then what am I sowing over the long term?

Not to mention the frustrations that can stack up in my mind?  Discontent with this, upset over that...although it's okay to go to God with frustrations, if I'm building them up and righteously leaving them at His feet in a huff all because I just want to complain because I have a right to, then I'm just sowing self-centeredness.  And I need a major smack in the face.  I need to get back on track.  And I need to remember where I come from and what God has called me to do.

I am a woman.  I am strong.  I am capable.

But NOT because I think I am or because I can sprint for awhile.

But because I have a God who will carry me, one who will fight for me and one who has made me to accomplish my tasks even when I'm weary and frustrated.

He's capable.

I may not have far to go with this Masters.  But after that, it'll be something else.  I can't hide behind it.  The principles are the same.  Sowing cheerfulness, thankfulness and joy will produce a beautiful harvest in my home and more importantly, my own soul.

I just need to choose it.  And I need to keep choosing it.  That's what sowing is-hard work.  But it's work that's totally worth it in the end.

Monday, October 8, 2012

As American As...

With the election coming up and apple season in full swing, I decided to do something downright American with my abundance of local grown apples this last weekend.  After watching the first Presidential Debate, I was just in the mood and feeling all patriotic.

It was also our first Shabbat (Saturday night dinner) in almost two weeks due to some scheduling conflicts.  We were ready to be together again breaking the bread, reciting the liturgy and eating God's goodness to us.  It felt really good to get the Challah going before the morning errand run and it felt even better to set the table beautifully.

I love fall flowers.  They're simply the best.

But even better, is this apple pie.  It's simply the best one I've ever baked and devoured.  And it doesn't have anything to do with my skills.  It's all in the recipe.

Debbi, you know who you are.  Thanks a bunch.  Many mouths thank you.

After dinner our family and neighborhood was full of smiles.

Don't think I'm a super mom for making this pie.  Baking makes me happy.  I definitely dropped the ball in other areas to get this done.  But sometimes a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

And Saturday, making this pie just made my heart glad ya know!

As American as apple pie....

God bless America.

Best-Ever Apple Pie

Pastry for a 9 " double pie crust:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup frozen butter
6 + tbsp ice water

Pulse first four ingredients in a food processor until small chunks of butter remain.  Add ice water one tbsp at a time until crust just comes together.  Dump onto a lightly floured cutting board.  Shape into a large disk, cover in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour.  This can be made two days ahead.  Soften slightly at room temperature before rolling.

Now for the pie:
1/2 cup butter
3 tbsp flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp nutmeg
8-9 baking apples, peeled, cored and sliced (use that food processor again!)

I deviate slightly from the original recipe and I spice the apples.  So mix the apples in a mixing bowl with some cinnamon and nutmeg.  Do it to taste.  Then set them aside to roll out the crust.  Take the dough out of the fridge and cut it in half.  Roll the first half out into a nice large circle made to fit snugly into the pie pan.  I use a deep dish one because it's what I have.  Then dump the spiced apples into the pie pan.  Afterward, do your lattice top with the second round of pie crust dough.  If the dough is getting too flimsy, cut your lattice pieces and then put them in the freezer.  Then you can assemble them much easier.  After the pie is put together, put it in the freezer to firm back up for at least a half an hour or up to two-three hours.

Preheat the oven to 425.  Five minutes before you want to put the pie in the oven make your syrup.  Melt butter in the saucepan.  Stir in the flour to form a bit of a paste.  Add sugars, water and spices.  Bring to a boil.  Turn heat to low and simmer for five minutes.  Remove from heat.

Get pie out of the freezer and slowly pour the syrup all over the top of the pie.  Bake (with a pan on the rack beneath to catch spill-over liquid if there is any) at 425 for fifteen minutes.  Reduce the heat to 350 and continue to baking for 35-45 minutes until the apples are tender and the top is golden.


Let cool and then devour.  You won't be able to stop.  Believe me.

It's good to be an American.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

And.....I'm Back!

So, last week was insane.  Just plain insane.  I didn't even open my blog which is VERY unlike me.  It's my sixth child for heaven's sake but last week it simply didn't exist.  Sorry for the delay but, so many crazy fun things were happening that I simply had to live life and not comment on it!
Birthday Buddies-They're born a day apart so we always share their party!  
Also, in case any of you were wondering about my blog being infected with malware, it isn't.  I had a link on my bloglist that evidently is dealing with malware but I deleted it until they get it figured out and my blog was not affected.  I hope that helps and calms any fears you may have had regarding my site.  I'm just a simple little blog here...not a big website.  Hopefully I won't have to deal with problems like that!
Chillin' in Uncle Pete's arms
Okay, so since I've kept you all waiting in suspense as to what's going on in my rather boring life, I thought I'd update you on a few pertinent things and then tell you all a big story that will for sure help you feel much better about yourself and more at ease in your parenting.  You'll be able to snicker and laugh at me thinking to yourself smugly, "Well, at least I haven't ever done THAT!"  You may even question my ability to manage my children well because this is definitely a story that shows I'm not up to snuff all of the time, much less perfect in any way :).
Birthday Breakfast of Cinnamon Rolls
But first things first.  We had a slew of celebrations last week:  Grandma's birthday, Joshua's 4th birthday, parent/teacher conferences, shopping for presents, baking galore for class treats, cakes, birthday breakfast/dinner and the weekly cookie stand, my brother and his girlfriend visiting, and a shower for Nathan and me.  It was glorious.  People were so generous.  Joshua was celebrated and blessed.  But boy am I exhausted.  Everything from shopping for presents to decorating a Thomas cake just about wore me out...in a good way of course.
Bows and Arrows at Grandpa's House
Now I have the pile of laundry to tackle and just the "normal" activities of everyday life.  Bring it.  I'm ready.
The Thomas Cake
I'm also ready to make a confession about a major mommy fail I was a part of a little over a week ago.  In fact, my folly was actually the whole entire situation.  It was a debacle and I was quite the spectacle.  So without further ado, I give you, our innocent trip to Target.
Elle and Uncle Pete at Josh's Party
Recently a new Target opened fairly close by.  When I say fairly close, I mean within 20 miles.  Pretty much everything worthwhile is about that far away.  We have one that is a bit closer but it's not as nice so, I decided we'd try out the new one to see what it was like.  That was my first mistake-heading into seemingly unknown territory on a busy Saturday in Santa Cruz with all five kids and no husband.  I often take the kids with me on errands by myself.  And I don't mind it one bit.  But I don't often do it to places I don't "know" and have a plan for, and the family friendly people are not around nearly as much on a Saturday as during the week.  So the environment was not as conducive to us either.  But I did it anyway.  I had presents to get and things needed for Joshua's upcoming birthday party at the park.  Like I said, these things don't scare me.

We made it through our list fairly well.  Everyone was listening.  Nathan wasn't screaming.  We found all of our items quickly and even scored on a great present for a birthday party taking place at our house that evening (for one of Isaac's classmates).  I was feeling good.  All eyes were on us as we wheeled through Target but the children were doing wonderful and so I had nothing to be ashamed of.  That is, until we began our descent toward the cash register.

Now when I say "descent", I mean it.  We were on the second floor of this particular Target.  And being as though it has two floors, it has a very handy escalator that takes you up to the second story with ease.  Who doesn't like moving stairs huh?  My kids think they're about the coolest thing ever so they happily rode the ride up and were very glad to be doing it again on the way down.  But Target isn't like a department store.  There is this crazy thing called a shopping cart that has to be carted up to the second story somehow.  And so to solve the problem, some fancy engineers created a shopping cart escalator made just for the cart.  All you do is simply push the cart onto the track and it catches it and carries the cart up for you.  Everyone thought it was so clever as they watched our cart ride right alongside us on the way up.  It was brilliance on all accounts and very cheap entertainment.

The only thing about these escalators is that they absolutely forbid children riding on them.  So, there is a big sign that says, "NO CHILDREN ALLOWED".  That means, that every sane, normal and good parent, removes their child from the cart before pushing said cart into the special escalator.  Easy enough.  It makes sense.  And on the way up, I remembered.  The only one who rides in the cart is Elliana so she was the only one I needed to remove.  The boys walk and I have Nathan in the carrier so, when it came time to go up, I took her out and had her ride the escalator with me.  It was great fun.

But on the way down, I somehow lost my mind.  Maybe it was a result of me not getting much sleep these days, or maybe it was the fact that I was walking through Target, on a Saturday, with five kids 7 and under without their Dad, or maybe it was just that I'm an absolute idiot and need to be reminded of this fact at times to keep me humble.  I don't know.  Yet, what I do know is this...I went from Mommy of the Year, with my beautiful children behaving wonderfully and everyone around staring, to Worst Mommy of All Time with everyone still staring in two seconds flat.

As soon as I pushed the cart into its special escalator I knew...I looked up and Elliana was still in the cart.  I panicked and tried to grab her out quickly before she slipped out of sight and down the chute.  But remember, before I was a good mommy.  And good mommies always strap their kids into the cart.  For once, I was wishing I had been a bad mommy previously so that I could be a good mommy then and rescue  my daughter out of the cart before she went down the forbidden escalator all by herself!!!  But alas, I realized quickly that Nathan was strapped to me and that if I kept trying, all three of us were going to get hurt.  So down she went.

By this time, the entire store was watching.  And I mean, everyone.  I tried to remain calm.  I quickly herded the boys down the escalator and practically ran down to the bottom as safely as I could with Nathan strapped to my front.  People's jaws were hitting the floor.  "Look, there she goes trying to save her little girl!  And she has five of them!!  Someone, get her some help!  She must've lost her mind."  In my heart, I knew Elliana would be fine.  It wasn't going to crush her or anything.  The reason kids aren't supposed to ride in them is because they don't want anyone falling out.  They're probably worried about the weight too.  I don't know.  But remember, she's as light as a feather and she was strapped in.  I had made sure of that.  If I had to be a bad mommy now, good thing I'd been a good mommy earlier or the story could've ended differently.

I've never been more embarrassed.  Most people didn't say anything.  They just judged with their eyes and a few said, "I'm glad she's okay."  I took their judgment.  I knew I deserved it.  I had done a stupid thing and I only had myself to blame.  Yet usually, such embarrassment makes for great stories and laughter after the fact.  If I can't laugh at myself during these years, then I must be taking things way too seriously!  However, in these moments, I'm definitely aware of God's utter grace to me.  How easily these follies can turn badly.  I can't remember everything.  God definitely cares for us and extends his grace.  
As we made our walk of shame to the front to pay for our stuff, I plastered a smile on my face and tried to act as normal as possible.  But deep down I was thanking God that all went as smoothly as it did and that Elliana really was fine.  It was simply a little ride for her and nothing more.  I then checked out and bolted for the car as fast as I could with my entourage in tow (which wasn't very fast).   

So there you go.  Feel better about yourself.  At least you've never sent your darling little 2-year old down the forbidden escalator at Target.  

As for me, if I ever muster the courage to go there again, which I probably will considering my determined, feisty nature (I just can't help who I was made to be huh?), I think I'll opt to use the elevator.