Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Softball Chick

So we've got this girl who plays softball and we absolutely love watching her play...

...she's having a blast and is learning so much about the game.

It is our girl's habit to march into the batter's box and whack home plate with such force that the dust flies, most of the time she hits the ball that hard too...
...most of the time.

And even though she enjoys batting, Kate  Lauren Kate will tell you that the reason she plays ball is because, 

"I get to play catcher sometimes."

It was while playing catcher last Sunday that Kate got very...

...sweaty and...


And all of the sweat and dirt and heat and sweat and dirt was worth it because...

...this girl...

...caught a foul ball in the air and made an out.

An official no-kiddin'-looky-there-the-ball-is-in-her-glove OUT. 

For the first time in her softball chick career!

Oh yes she did!!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Coach, The Runner, The Flag

In Kate's softball league each team's coach pitches to his own players. Kate's coach was doing just that, and had been for about three innings when, mid-pitch he stopped, and turned to the umpire and said, "They're about to play the National Anthem on the field behind us." With that, he turned, removed his cap and waited while the rest of the adults and children on the field followed suit.

There was a tournament game about to begin on the field next to ours, and they were doing it up big. As the music began and the late Whitney Houston's voice echoed off of the hills that surrounded us, "Oh say can you see..." the crowd at our game looked about with uncertainty. I debated long whether to stand, no one else around me was moving. After all, we'd already begun our game and the song wasn't for us, it was on the other field. But there stood Kate's coach, back to the batter, face toward the flag in the distance.

Yet, I debated and shame on me for it. I didn't want to feel odd among a group of parents I'd been enjoying getting to know during this ball season. It's tricky to fit into a group sometimes and I didn't want to make anyone feel awkward. But then I thought, you know what else it's tricky to do?

It's tricky I'll bet, to leave your family and go to a strange land with no promise of returning whole, or even alive. It's tricky I'll bet to be the family of a soldier who must adjust to life without him while he's gone and then must adjust to life with the slightly or completely different soldier who returns home. I'll bet it's also pretty tricky as a member of a military family to keep your head when folks use the freedom for which your family in particular has sacrificed, to choose not to stand when your country is being honored at a simple baseball game. Tricky.

So, I stood. Alone...for a moment and then I motioned for Meg to stand too. I checked the dugout to make sure that Kate was also on her feet. I need not have worried. Those little girls had followed their leader and were flag-facing, way before I had been. Soon, everyone was on their feet and all felt right and proper. The song ended, we took our seats, and our game continued.

Today, my family headed a short distance down our street to watch a half-marathon being run and my Man said, "Remember last year, the guy who ran with that huge flag?" I didn't remember, but today I got a second chance to see him. "Here he comes!" said my Man, leaning to see.

He came running hard underneath a huge flag. Running almost 13 miles with a huge flag. Running up large hills with a huge flag, in humid 90 degree temperatures with a huge flag, running under the burden of that heavy flag.

That very same flag that I wasn't even sure I was going to stand up for just a few nights earlier. 

I was standing when this flag went by...and cheering...

...and next time the National Anthem is played...

...I'll be quickly to my feet.

"I have long believed that sacrifice is the pinnacle of patriotism."
~Bob Riley

"The greatest glory of a free-born people is to transmit that freedom to their children."
~William Harvard

Happy Memorial Day !

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


{From the archives...these few paragraphs were originally posted in June of 2009 when Megan was nine years old.}

Have you ever come across a word while reading, that you don't really know, but kind of get the gist of from the context? My Meg has experienced this a time or two. 

Megan will, from time to time, take a word from her growing vocabulary bank and use it in the proper form, yet with such an upside-down and backwards pronunciation that the rest of us have no idea what she has said. A long pause usually follows and then a blurt of laughter escapes from the one who figures out the mystery word first. It's really great fun, especially since my oldest gal is the first to see the humor in the situation and usually enjoys a good laugh even at her own expense.

We experienced just such a situation at the breakfast table this morning. As Cole and Meg were finishing their meal, Meg made an eyebrow-lowered grimacing face at Cole and then grinned. I asked her what was going on and she said, "I'm trying to send Cole a tele pathetic message." 

"Telepathic message?" I guessed, and the laughter broke out all around. It didn't occur to me to ask Megan where she'd come across her big word of the day until I was tucking her into bed. She said it was from a book she had been reading about a dog who could send telepathic messages. 

I completely neglected to ask her a what really is the more pressing question, "What message were you trying to send to your brother telepathically?"

Since then, I've been pondering a fitting definition for "tele pathetic". Perhaps it should describe those times, which occur more and more frequently these days, when you sit down to watch TV and there is absolutely nothing on worth watching--even though you pay out the nose for the privilege of having cable. 

It might sound something like..."I sat down to watch TV this evening before going to bed, however, as I considered the tele-pathetic choices, I read a book instead."

Monday, May 21, 2012

Grandparent Detox (Is it only for the kids?)

Dear Children,

As we all come back together this weekend after having been apart from one another for almost an entire week, I was thinking about what it will be like for us to "get back to the real world" as your father has been referring to it today.

Usually, when the time nears for the end of your visit with your grandparents, your father and I begin to dread the inevitable necessity of what we've lovingly referred to over the years as Grandparent Detox.
{The Croquette Open in Grandma & Poppy's backyard...Grandma not pictured due to an impressive shiner obtained at wiffle ball championship earlier in the week}
{a "little" whipped cream for breakfast}

{a little more whipped cream for breakfast, again}

This need for your detox is, at its root, an excellent thing in that it means that you've been in the company of grandparents who have been doing exactly what grandparents were made to do...spoil you rotten.

{Molly & Mamma}

Now, you are good kids and a bit of spoiling isn't a bad thing, in fact, it may be good for you once in a great while.
{shopping with Mamma & Pappa}
{result of shopping with Mamma & Pappa}

Unfortunately, the un-spoiling is good for you too and we all come out of Grandparent Detox none the worse for the wear. This time however, your father and I foresee what could prove to be a rather sticky problem...

You see, while you've been basking in the glow of your grandparents' loving attention, your dad and I have been driving around in a minivan with empty back seats. For a while, the silence from back there was a bit eerie, but we eventually got used to it.

We have been enjoying uninterrupted conversations and eventually, we got used to it. We have been staying in a hotel where our bed was made for us, our wet towels were removed from the floor for us, and our breakfast was ready and waiting for us to eat...everyday...and it didn't take long for us to get used to it.

While your father was participating in a conference, I spent my time seated, alone, reading any one of the twenty or so books that I brought with me.
{one of three full bags I'd packed full of reading material...clearly, I'm in need of an intervention}

When not reading books, I could be found wandering aimlessly around a local bookstore...

...looking at cookbooks, mostly. One day when inspired by some fascinating ingredients discussed in these cookbooks, I decided, on a whim, and without taking anyone else into consideration, to go shopping at an amazing grocery store where I spent a ridiculous amount of time in the baking and bean aisles.

While I was painting the town red, your father was listening to wonderful speakers, writing copious notes, and pondering all that he was learning. When finished pondering, he also, made his way to a wonderful bookstore and spent a ridiculous amount of time in the "Spurgeon" aisle, as you might well imagine.

Since we have all been apart, I have not cooked one meal, washed one piece of clothing, swept one floor, refereed one argument, tucked even one child into bed at night, and have not instructed anyone to brush their hair or their teeth.

Your father has fixed no breakfast for "hungee" three year olds, hasn't stepped on any toys, hasn't taken anybody to any practices, hasn't instructed even one soul to take out the trash or to clean their room or to get their school work finished. He hasn't mowed one single blade of grass.

It would seem, dear children, that your father and I may need a bit of detox ourselves.

All of us have partaken in a bit of luxury this week. We've all lived a bit "high on the hog" as they say. All of us will likely be short on patience as we get used to one another again, as we get used to sharing our space again, as we get used to pitching in to get chores done again, as we get used to considering one another again.

I'm confident that, as in times past, you children will come out of detox none the worse for the wear. You've all been down this road before and have met with success each time. My concern is for your father and I.

Please, take it easy on us. We missed you ALL so much, but we've grown soft and spoiled...

...and we liked it.

With love,
Your Soon-to-be-Detoxed Parents
{on a little footbridge over a gentle waterfall...just before the ice cream shoppe}

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Teacher and The Taught

Can you see those thumbs up in the picture above? Did you notice that smile and those bright eyes? What you see is a picture of a sense of accomplishment.
Also in the picture, you see my fastest, let's-get-this-done-quick-so-I-can-go-change-clothes, no-nonsense, I'd-prefer-if-you-didn't-make-me-write-too-much student, Kate.
Kate, who didn't want to learn to read and made am impressive stand against it, but then decided it was the only way to fly in this book-crazed family, and now is as book-crazy as the rest of us. Kate, who told her entire softball team and anyone else who will listen that "I really don't do school work."

Kate, would prefer that we call her by her given first name "Lauren" and
somehow her softball uniform bowed to her wishes, but we can't because she is just so much a...

Despite her claim of no school work, our girl certainly made me grin with one of her latest assignments. Often, Kate is assigned copy work as part of her school day. The benefits of copy work are many including reinforcing the mechanics of punctuation, grammar, spelling, and practicing handwriting. Kate has been using one of our favorite school books for her copy work called Primary Language Lessons.

See it up there in the middle? It has a very old-fashioned look to it and really, it should.  It is, at heart, an old-fashioned book which is a large part of its appeal. The above picture is from 2 years ago when Cole and Meg were working in it, which is another wonderful thing about such books, they travel nicely from one student to another!
Kate's assignment was to copy and complete the first four sentences on the following page...

This was one of the first of such exercises I'd asked her to do and I was curious about the results as she handed me her completed assignment...

Translation: (in case your 1st grade spelling is a bit rusty...)
1. James was late at school because he was sick.
2. Nellie did not know her lesson because she did not study.
3. The squirrels had nuts to eat all winter because they stocked up. 
{Haaaaaa! Loved this one especially!}
4. Tom's garden did not grow because he did not water them.

Not bad for a child who claims to do no school work, no?

As is usually the case, I learned more from this assignment than Kate did. Later, we reviewed the spelling and punctuation, and made corrections. She finished the next six sentences the following day feeling much accomplished and very confident, if not in her spelling, then absolutely in her ability to craft engaging sentence endings. I loved getting a glimpse at how her busy mind was working. 

"While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about."
~Angela Schwindt

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How to take "A Nice Happy Picture"

"Quick girls, sit down and let me get a picture of you."

 "Come on girls, let's not make this difficult...every one sit up and look At MEEEEE!"

 "Megs...look here! Kate sit up pleeeeeeeeezzzzzzz. Molly. Don't. Move. Cole, get your tail over here care to join us?"

 ", let me put it to you gently: You will NOT be getting lunch UNTIL I get a nice HAPPY picture of you! GOT IT?!?!?"

"Thank you ever so much sweet children, that wasn't so bad was it?"

"You don't take a photograph, you make it."
 ~Ansel Adams~

Amen and amen!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Now Hiring...

We were out and about seeking to cram some much needed family time into a schedule that had, in past weeks, allowed for very little. Whenever it can be arranged on outings such as these, a visit to Sonic is usually in order, AND if we happen to arrive during the happy hour when our sodas and slushies are half price...all the better!

We pulled into the drive thru just as Kate noticed a large sign, "Hey! Sonic is hiring! Dad, you should get a JOB!" At that, the pair of us in the front seat grinned at each other as if to say, "even our own child!"

It is a common occurrence for a child to approach my husband and ask him what his Real Job is.  As you are grinning at that, also know that a fair number of adults have asked the same question!

Cole, rolling his eyes answered, "Kate! Dad has a job already!"

"Well," she considered, "Mom could get a job there..."

"Really Kate! Mom has even more jobs than Dad does!"

Now, I'm not sure my kiddo was actually correct, but I kinda like it that he thinks it's so!

{Now I'm off to go bake that boy a pie...}

My portrait, by Kate. 
(Skinny legs, no doubt a result of all my work in the gym!!)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Oh So Easy Oatmeal Bars

"Mommy is gonna watch TV this morning for thirty minutes. I'm not gonna help anybody with anything, I'm not gonna get off the couch. So...before I go sit down, does anyone need anything?"


Guilt...mild, but guilt all the same...

"You guys can come watch with me, but you've gotta be quiet..."

The sound of a small stampede...

I was making a Saturday morning stand. No ESPN or Little Einsteins this morning! I'd missed my favorite cooking show last weekend, and I didn't want to miss it again this time around. The kids and I settled in to see what The Pioneer Woman was going to make on the Food Network.

I feel a certain kinship with this famous blogger, turned Food Network star, Ree Drummond, who lives on a cattle ranch in the middle of Oklahoma, not because of the cattle ranch or Oklahoma, but because she is a homeschooling mother of four who is passionate about cooking for her kiddos and for her husband. Her cookbooks have become sources of some of our favorite meals.

As the kids and I watched the show, and were rewarded for our efforts with a simple but absolutely delicious recipe for Strawberry Oatmeal bars. We've made this recipe two or three times in as many weeks, and we're not yet weary of it! {Click here to watch the video of The Pioneer Woman making the original recipe on the Food Network website.}

I've made the Oatmeal Bars by strictly following the recipe {here} and I've also made it with a few tweaks of my own. My illustrious panel of taste testers has declared the oatmeal bars delicious either way. They simply suggest that I keep 'em comin'!

Here's how I make these easy treats that can be used as a dessert, or as breakfast. We, of course, have done both.

Fruit-Filled Oatmeal Bars
[adapted a little from Pioneer Woman]

{Printable Recipe HERE}


1 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (if you do not have whole wheat, use 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour but adjust amount of butter to 1 and 3/4 sticks)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks of butter cut into small chunks
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
18 ounce jar strawberry/blackberry preserves

Here's what to do...

In a large bowl combine flours, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt.

Add butter and either with hands or a pastry blender,

...and cut the butter into the flour mixture until the whole mix looks like small pebbles.

 After butter has been well cut in, add the oats and stir well with spoon or fork to combine.

Place half of the flour/oat mixture into a sprayed 13 x 9 baking pan and press to make an even crust on the bottom of the pan. (If you forget to spray the pan...don't worry, just run a knife around the edge of the pan immediately after you take it from the oven. No worries!)

Next, pour preserves into a small bowl and stir to thin and make smooth. 

Spread preserves onto the bottom flour/oat layer. You'll want to take your time here and spread the preserves evenly which could prove tricky. It may also be a good idea to wet a spoon to help spread the preserves. Don't fret if some of the oatmeal layer gets into the preserves, it won't ever show up in the finished me here.

The original recipe calls for 8-10 ounces of preserves. The jar I used was an 18 ounce jar, and I had this much left (about a tablespoon). The whole point is to completely cover the first layer of oat the oat mixture. Ten ounces has been sufficient with other preserves and jams, this one was especially thick and needed more.

  Pour the other half of the oat/flour mixture on top of the preserve layer...

and press gently to create the top layer.

Bake in a 350 oven for 30-35 minutes, until golden...

Let cool for 5-10 minutes then cut into squares.

 Now the hard part...wait 20 more minutes for the oatmeal bars to cool completely. Your efforts here will help you to avoid being burned by hot strawberry me here too.

After the Oatmeal Bars have cooled completely, they're also much easier to handle, so call in your crew and let 'em get started!

Besides eating these as a dessert (my Man says some vanilla ice cream would be perfect here...) and for breakfasts on the porch in the sun...

these make a wonderful snack to enjoy through out the day, say, 

for those times when lunch or dinner is waaaaayy too far into the future but when grumbly bellies are in action!

A note about the preserves:  I cannot think of any fruit preserve or jam that wouldn't be wonderful in these bars. I've used a combo of strawberry/apricot...yum. 

I've used plain strawberry...also yum. My sister used a homemade peach jam...the reports were...yum. Today I used this new jam from Smuckers...very, very...yum.

Go ahead and make these for your gang...they'll love ya for it. 
{Really, they probably love you anyway, but now they'll not be loving you with hungry bellies!}


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