Friday, June 28, 2013

7 Quick Takes - Unplugged Farming Edition

Last Sunday our family launched our traveling custom wheat straw business with a road trip to a quaint little town 3 hours from the farm. We set up camp at a cozy bed and breakfast knowing that the next couple of weeks would be spent swathing and baling wheat straw for local farmers around the area. (A more detailed description of our adventure is soon to come!)

Our little abode is perfect for our family and for Steve's parents.  Perfect except for one thing...there is NO Internet service. Which means no blogging. I can catch a little e-mail and Facebook on my phone, but even that connection is temperamental at best. 
Since I am parked at the laundromat washing Wranglers and work shirts for the next couple of hours, I thought this would be the perfect time to write a quick post while the little ones play.   Yes, I said play!  Thus begins the first of my "7 Quick Takes" for the day:
1. This laundromat of awesomeness has an indoor play gym, lounge area with wi-fi and coin operated massage chairs.  Really, people, why go to the mall or the zoo, when you can hang out at the laundromat deluxe?? If farming doesn't work out, I'm going to open up a chain of these joints with optional pedicure chairs and a chill station that serves hoppy-type beverages.  Any investors out there??

2.  I believe an indoor play gym (along with a commercial-sized washer and dryer) could revolutionize my laundry room. And, if not that, maybe a punching bag and a rock climbing wall would do.

3. Being unplugged has been admittedly a bit blissful. I miss writing, but I don't miss being in front of the computer. Five days of electronic retreat has me rethinking the life of blogging. I am honestly considering retiring this thing. Have you ever felt the same?? Any advice?? 
3.  Wheat harvest is a glorious season for the farm (usually - provided the crop is plentiful). I can't even begin to describe how beautiful the countryside is. Our little B & B is surrounded by idyllic country farmland, which has deeply inspired my a.m. motivation to roll out of bed early to run, just so I can take in a sunrise over the picturesque fields of gold.

4.  It's crazy hot. Hot like "lets fry an egg on the sidewalk" hot.  The only benefit of scorching heat is that it makes a iced cold beer taste heavenly.
5.  Two strides across the street from our country abode sits the most beautiful historic St. Mark's Catholic church. Daily mass, bells pealing on the hour, and the quiet cool sanctuary it provides for me to sneak away to in the middle of an intense day of work would make anyone envy the life of a monk. Being here makes my heart happy.  The children love to follow Steve and me over to the Our Lady of Lourdes grotto for evening prayer. It is very peaceful.
6.  A wickedly windy/rainy storm blew in last night and shut our harvest operation down. After it passed, the children led everyone outside for puddle jumping and frisbee playing in the church parking lot.  Everyone had a blast, especially wee Charlie, who wore himself out splashing through the rain past sunset.

7. A sneak peek at the post harvest story to come.....
That's my man in the tractor.  Please keep my family and our work crew in your prayers, that we may all remain safe and healthy throughout harvest and during our time away from home. Thank you!!

Have a great weekend, friends!!!

Friday, June 21, 2013

First Tee Golf Program - 7 QT Friday

The interior design of my house these days could be described as a cross between a locker room and a snack shack.  I'm thinking about gettin' crazy with my camera and creating an album on Pinterest for all ya'll to drool over.  I mean, who wouldn't want a double wide trailer custom decorated with baseball jerseys, football pads, Cheez-It's, Gatorade bottles and a nut cup?? I think they call it protective gear these days, but let's just keep it real around here, folks.

The only thing sparkly that's left in the house is a crystal vase that I got out to put some flowers in last week.  I'm thinking of replacing it with a beer tap.  I might as well, right??  Really, it would be the piece de resistance of our design masterpiece. Honestly, the poor vase is probably either going to become a convenient holder for golf tees or will accidentally get whacked to it's shattering death in a sword fight.  Doom to the pretty.

Just when I think Gertie (our affectionate name for Ms. Double-Wide) can't hold anymore athletic aspirations, Steve comes home and says the boys are going to join the First Tee Golf program.  



Oh, right. Okay, sure.  Just so you know, if we had girls this would be the equivalent of synchronized swimming lessons.  But, whatever.

For this weeks 7 Quick Takes, I'm going to break this whole golf thing down for you in an ESPN highlights version - short and sweet:
1. I was wrong, golf is an awesome sport (for the kids, not for me.  See item #2).

2. It's not awesome for me, because a reasonable decibel of laughter and conversation is appreciated and expected on the course as an understood "rule." ( Translation: you can't be loud.)  When I say "reasonable" decibel, that probably means scream-laughing while others putt or dropping some swears-erz *accidentally* and * repetitively* in the face of my failures probably isn't acceptable golf etiquette. This may or may not happen if I take up golf. Know thyself. Then, avoid the circumstance in which thyself cannot be thyself and must be someone else-self.  You know what I mean.
3. Just being out on the course is relaxing. The grass is so beautiful!  Yesterday during the tournament, I kept trying to scope out a spot on the course where there were no golfers so I could roll around on the plush carpet-like greens sort of non-chalantly. But, since the course was very busy, I decided that kicking off my flip flops and cruising barefoot might be a tad more adult-like.
4.  Kids pick up the sport really fast. My head was spinning right round as Ben and George, who golfed in the tourney yesterday, tried to explain to me the difference between a hybrid and a driver, bogey, double bogey, eagle and what a par is.  Here's my brain during all that school: Running = left, right, left, right. Yes, I think I'll stick with running and #5.
5.  A cart with shade (check out this beauty!), a great book, and a frosty six pack is my idea of a round of golf.
6.  The First Tee Golf program, with it's strong emphasis on character strength and personal development in the game, is a fantastic opportunity for young people.  You can learn more about it here.  If you have a program in your area, it's truly worth looking into. This is their mission statement:
Our Mission: To impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf.
7.  After only golfing for one month, both Ben and Andrew decided to jump right in and compete in the First Tee tournament yesterday.  They were playing against more experienced kids, some of them had been golfing for several years.  Ben, while he didn't medal, beat his personal best, and came in ahead of several seasoned players.  And, George placed 2nd in his age group!  Way to go, boys!!
I'd like to stick around and share my excuses reasons why I don't think the guys will be able to drag  initiate me into their crazy little golf troop, but I have to go and match socks for tonight's baseball games. Have a great weekend, everyone!! 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

T-Ball and Tools - My 5 Year Old Farm Boy's World

Our son Henry has been indoctrinated by his older brothers into summer's classic time and energy leech (for parents), also known as baseball.  He's a big t-ball player now, cheeks stuffed like a chipmunk with sunflower seeds, Gatorade stains on his uniform (before the game even begins), he's discovered that cleats are better for crushing bugs than for gaining traction on a double.  
His brothers have taught him everything he knows about the game, and just to prove to them that he's been paying attention to their example, he showed off his super-skills at the very first game by sliding at every base - every base, despite the coaches yelling, "Henry, stop sliding, just run!" Not only did he ignore them, he also thought it quite impressive to perch proudly on home plate after sliding in, squinting through dirt and sun to see which parents were watching the whole production.  Well, every parent was, and every parent was shouting at him to get up so that their kids could have a moment too.  

Sweet, Jesus.  Sweet, sweet Jesus, please help me not to spew my seeds on little miss "MOVE IT!" over here.  

Parents, chill out.  It's t-ball, not the majors. Anyway...if you know me you know how I feel about high blood pressure parents and sports.  (If you don't know me, here's a little revelation.)

On the way home from the game, this conversation between father and son took place:
Dad:  Henry, what do you think about when you get up to bat?
Henry:  Well, Dad, mostly I think about growing up so that I can have my very own pocket knife.
Dad:  Oh, you don't want to grow up too fast, son.
Henry:  Well, I think I'm at least old enough to have my own pair of pliers.  That would be awesome for me.  Then, I don't have to think about tools when I bat, I can just think about baseball!

The next day, I was planning a trip to town, and promised Henry that we could go by the Farm 'n Home and pick up a shiny new pair of pliers for him.  But, that morning, before loading up, Henry came running into the house, bursting with excitement over his new "gift."  Grandpa just happened to have an extra pair and an extra leather holder to go with them!
After our trip to town, Henry ran out to find Daddy, who helped Henry burn his name into the leather with a soldering iron.
Now, you must know that every Husband farm boy wears Wranglers, boots, a cap and a belt with thier pliers out to work every day.  It's our dress code.
As I was snapping these pics of Henry moseying out to "work" with daddy, the weight of the pliers was having a negative effect on his favorite pair of black Wranglers...
He would saunter a few yards across the lawn then stop to pull up his pants, wiggling his little bottom from side to side.  I couldn't stifle my giggles - it was the cutest darn thing I'd ever seen!
What do you use your pliers for, Henry?
Well, I mostly use them for pulling nails out of boards, and stickers out of my feet.
I received a long and detailed explanation of how a pair of pliers works. It was extremely informative, and entertaining as you might imagine!
As I watched Henry walk across the yard to the shop, I couldn't help but feel a twinge of regret in my heart.  Regret for every time I thought that my busy business was more important than his big stories and bold explanations.  We must treasure the little moments we have with our children, the sporadic fractions of our over-filled days that we attempt to them.  And in those moments, we must strive to be fully present to them.  For those are the moments that add up to a rich and full story of who they are, and who they are becoming, precious in their hearts, beautiful in their imaginations and unique in their perspective and perception of the world.
What a glorious life is the life that offers the chance to sit beside a boy, in the sweet soft grass, admiring the magic of a shiny new pair of pliers.  Set busy aside, choose the chance - you'll never get it back!

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Sunday Sip & Luscious Lemon Coffee Cake

Baking has always been a favorite hobby of mine, and I have truly come to enjoy the challenge of baking healthfully for our family by reducing or replacing sugar for healthier options and experimenting with different types of flour to make the product more wholesome.  However, certain times and occasions call for those crazy good recipes that you just shouldn't mess with.  Father's Day is definitely one of those occasions!

Yesterday, I made a surprise brunch for Steve and his dad (more on that here).  There were NO recipe makeovers here, and I wanted to include Steve's two favorite flavors: lemon and cinnamon. Here's what I served up:
Sausage, Egg and Cheese Casserole
Crispy Bacon
Fresh Fruit Salad
(The world's easiest, yet oh-so-luscious) Lemon Coffee Cake
The Sunday Sip

The lemon cake is really like having dessert for breakfast, because it's so sweet, so serve it with a cup of hot coffee or tea!  Finally, just for sipping, a twist on the traditional mimosa, made with ginger liqueur and citrus flavored sparkling water.  Since the cake and the cocktail are two of my favorite recipes that can make a brunch truly special, I thought I would share the recipes with you!
1 box lemon cake mix (with pudding in the mix)
1 package (3.4 oz.) vanilla instant pudding
1 cup sour cream
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup confectioners sugar
2 TBS lemon juice

Combine topping ingredients and set aside.  In a bowl, combine cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, eggs and oil.  Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Pour 1/2 of the batter into a greased bundt pan (the batter will be very thick).  Using a spatula, spread the batter evenly across the bottom of the pan.  Then, sprinkle the filling mixture evenly over the batter.  Finally, top with remaining batter, again spreading evenly.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, or until cake tests done.  Turn upside down onto a cake to cool.  Pour powdered sugar and lemon juice into a ziplock back and work until smooth.  Snip off a very small corner of the bag and pipe glaze onto the cake, allowing it to run down the sides.  Enjoy!
3 oz. fresh orange juice (not from concentrate)
1 oz. Canton ginger liqueur
Citrus sparkling water (La Croix), or club soda

Measure orange juice and liqueur into a shaker filled with ice and shake well.  Strain into glass of ice and top with sparkling water.  Optional: Garnish with a lemon wheel or mint sprig.  Cheers!!

{Thanks for Pinning!}

Sunday, June 16, 2013

WIWS - Father's Day & Brunch Undies

The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother. 
- Henry Ward Beecher

Since the boys are out golfing with daddy and grandpa on this glorious 101 degree day, I figured it's a perfect time for me to park it with a cold ice tea and whip out a lil' post for Fine Linen and Purple's What I Wore Sunday while the babe slumbers.  Here's how this Father's Day Sunday is shakin' down....
Life is very intense on the farm right now.  Steve works incredibly long hours, sometimes until late at night, while I do my best to keep the house from burning down.  We were supposed to go out of town to a wedding this weekend, and see my parents as well, but Steve couldn't break away from the demands of the farm. In light of the very long days and super short nights, we decided to go to mass Saturday evening so that everyone could sleep in today and have an honest day of rest and relaxation.

You would think that given the fact that our eyes are blistered red with exhaustion we would have hit the hay at a reasonable time last night, but oh no! Why not find the biggest bag of pretzels known to man and chase it down with that un-opened bottle of Wild Turkey Rare Breed and some coke over a mindless movie?? Genius. We are genius. Out of that Rare Breed came a rare idea, which I had to share with my lover (talking during boring movies is totally allowed), "Babe, you sleep in tomorrow, and I'm going to make a monster brunch for you and the boys, okay farmer boy??"

So, when the alarm went off at 7 a.m. (I can't believe I had enough pulse at 1:30 a.m. to set the thing), I was like, "Frozen waffles are going to jam this Father's Day!" Roll it over.  Back to sleep. Mmm, Yes! But, then, I peeled one eye open and saw my sweet love snoring softly, drooling slightly, finely wrinkled around the eyes, and hair disheveled.  My farm boy.  I love how you love me. 

When the heart beats with love and admiration, you know you can't let Eggo's be the brunch fantastique you had promised the night before.  Out of the comfort I rolled, and with swollen feet and sticky eyes I miraculously shuffled my way to the coffee maker (consuming a bucket of salt before bed does frightening things to the flesh. I don't recommend it.).  Then, I shuffled back to the bathroom to make myself presentable to the team...nothing impressive, mind you, I just thought I'd shock everyone with some non-running attire and an up-do (also known as a ponytail).  Make-up is for overachievers.  The only thing missing was a box big enough for me to jump out of.  Surprise!!
PANTS:  Tarjay. Old. 4 kids ago old. Pre-baby, post-baby, elastic, linen-y comfort.  
(I will seriously have them forevah.)
T-SHIRT:  Wild Olive Tees (you must have one of these, they are righteous!)
FLIP-FLOPS:  Clarks 
APRON:  Catholic Cuisine - a sweet gift from my sister-in-law!
ATTITUDE: Czech with a dash of German
The stitching on the apron is really lovely.  I love Blessed Mother Teresa's wisdom.  Here's some unwisdom:
Do great big things, because you have to, because you offered to, in a Wild Turkey moment.  
Me and my sweet ingredient, Charlie.
Old Indian Proverb: She who cooks with baby, cooks one handed (and makes big mess).
Here's the front of the tee.  (Photo courtesy of Wild Olive Tees website.)
This is the back of the tee, and yes, that's me, because it has the focus of an eight year old chewing on bacon while snapping the snazz.  Hebrew 12:1-2, my favorite lines from scripture (after: "Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish." Proverbs 31:6).  Just kidding.  Mostly kidding.
I love to see my boys eat.  The love might be borderline co-dependant in nature.
Hello, I love you, let me feed you, because it makes me happy.
Every year each of the boys picks out a funny card for dad.  And, then they laugh hysterically, each one wanting theirs to be the funniest one.
Then, it's gift time.  Golf was the main theme this year, but Henry and George strayed from the norm and found the following treasures at Target: 
1 bag of Oreos 
1 package of breath spray
1 pair of bacon and eggs undies
Maybe they should have a gift basket business.  Or not.
Boys in blue, heading out to golf with grandpa.  Seriously, I'm not sure how this happend.  Our ability to match our own clothing, let alone others is about as strong as our Latin skills. Andrew and Henry, who are missing from the shot, opted to stay home and perfect their water-balloon throwing form instead of tagging along with the rest of the crew.
Last night, on a whim, I typed up these little Father's Day letter pages for the boys to share with Steve.  I thought I would share our oldest son, Benedict's loving expressions:
Courageous and brave.  He makes me laugh, teaches me, is smart, cool and fun.  He teaches me to be a man and teaches me about my faith, is encouraging, kind but firm, good at sports, is a hard worker, tough, trustworthy, generous, talkative and strong.

Thank you, Dad, for teaching me all about my faith and how to be a man.  I don't think there are very many fathers who do that.  I love you and hope you have a Happy Father's Day!

Love Your Son,


Thursday, June 13, 2013

12 Essential Tips for 1st Time Marathon Runners

Although I've been enjoying the sport of running for almost 20 years, and have participated in numerous races, last spring was the first time I had ever run in a marathon.  It was an incredible experience, but I have to say that I could not have done it without all of the wonderful advice given to me by so many other seasoned runners.
Training well and training smart will make race day even more fun because it will help you to relax, have faith in your preparations, and go after your goal with confidence.  Here are 12 of the most essential tips that I believe will help make your first marathon a success!
/ 1. /   Hydration is extremely important for all runners, especially distance runners.  On your longer  training runs (6-20+ miles), drink something with electrolytes 30-45 minutes before you head out. (I usually drink 6-8 oz., and LOVE NUUN electrolyte tabs.) Then, be sure to drink while you run.  DO NOT wait until you feel thirsty to drink.  Your muscles are 80% water - so they need water to work! Don't worry if it feels uncomfortable to drink at first, you will get used to it.  Just sip an ounce or so at a time.  You dont' want to hear water sloshing around in your tummy - that's too much! There are many hand held bottles and hydration belt options to choose from, so pick one that's right for you (I like the Nathan brand). You need to keep practicing until it feels natural - DON'T wait until race day to figure out how to hydrate while you run.  When you see other runners passing out from dehydration along the course, you'll be happy that you did!

/ 2. /  Wear the right shoes - NOT the pretty shoes - the RIGHT shoes.  And, don't go into a store where the teenager says to you, "Well, I think that these are cool, try these on!" and buy a pair. Do your homework.  You need to know your foot shape, your gait, and correct shoe size (I actually wear a 1/2 size up in my favorite shoe).  Then, try on several pairs until you find one or two that fit well and feel good.  Buy two pairs and alternate wearing them when you train.  This allows time for the mid-sole and cushion to de-compress after a run. There are a lot of specialty running stores out there with experts who can help you.  If you have access to one of these stores, I highly recommend starting there.  You can read more about finding the perfect shoe here.

/ 3. /  On your longer runs (8+ miles) try using an energy supplement.  Once you find one that is comfortable to consume, tastes great, and gives you the energy you need, stick with it.  I have a pretty sensitive stomach, but found Honey Stinger Chews to be very easy to digest and they give me instant energy (plus, they're delicious!).  DO NOT try different energy sources on race day unless you have used them and tried them before.  You don't want to find yourself bent over with stomach cramps 2 miles from the finish line.  I dropped one of my sacks of chews along the marathon course and was worried that I wouldn't have enough fuel to sustain me during the race.  Toward the end of the course, volunteers were handing out GU, and I was tempted to try some, but followed my friend's advice and used only what I knew my body could handle.  I'm really glad I did!

/ 4. /  Consider adding B-Vitamins to your daily diet.  Running long distances for 3-4 months of training is a stress on the body.  Even if you're eating and sleeping well, you still need extra nutrients. B-Vitamins are key.  I take a B-Complex twice a day and also pop a sublingual B-12, such as Source Naturals MethylCobalamin, before I run and every mid-afternoon for a boost of energy.  The B's will help keep you from feeling run down and give your immune system the support it needs to carry you through training.  Be sure to drink plenty of water when you take your B's so the body can assimilate the nutrients!

/ 5. /  Don't discount your short runs.  It's easy to fall into the temptation to skip the 3, 4 and 5 milers, because they can't be as important as the long runs.  Wrong.  Every run counts, and every run helps keep you mentally focused on the marathon goal.  Sometimes my short runs would almost feel more difficult than my long runs.  Crazy! If I went out for a 4 miler and found myself struggling, I would change it into a tempo workout or walk a 1/4, jog a 1/4, build up to 80% for a 1/4 then repeat.  Give yourself permission to walk - it's okay! Changing up the routine always helped me finish the run, and kept my confidence and focus strong. 

/ 6. /  For any run 12 miles or more, ice baths are a must.  Yep, I said ICE baths!!  The first time I tried to take one, I was skeptical, but completely amazed at how it reduced post-run soreness. There are probably many ways to do it, but I just fill the tub with cool, not cold, water.  Sit in the water in your undies and a long sleeved shirt tied in the front.  Pour 2-3 large pitchers of ice into the water, particularly over the thighs.  Sit for 15-20 minutes.  Sipping on hot tea and reading a running magazine helps take your focus off of the cold.  Then, finish with a warm shower. 
*If taking an ice-bath isn't possible, foam rolling is a fantastic alternative.  More tips here.*

/ 7. /  On you longer runs (15 + miles) if you find yourself really struggling to get through the last couple of miles because you feel tired, consider an alternative energy source such as peanut butter pretzels. Or, if after your long runs, you feel sick to your stomach, this may be a sign that you need to eat more to keep your blood-sugar levels steady throughout the run. I was amazed at how well this simple food kept me going.  I packed some for the marathon and nibbled on them from mile 12 on. The combination of simple carbs, salt and protein worked like magic!  But, again, practice using them on training runs first.

/ 8. /  Look at your training schedule, find your longest run and highlight it.  That is your dress rehearsal run. Using this as a "practice" marathon will prepare not only your body, but your mind as well, for the big day.  Wear your race day clothing and shoes, fix your hair the same, set up your playlist, and pack the same hydration and energy that you will use that day.  I remember the day that I finished my 20 mile run, everything went pretty smoothly and I literally jumped up in the air and shouted out a big fat "YES!" because I knew that the marathon was going to be possible.  Proper practice is key.

/ 9. / With #8 in mind..... DO NOT do anything new on race day.  DO NOT go out and buy new shoes, no new clothing (unless it's an emergency), new fuel etc., etc.  Stick to what you've used, stick to what you know works.  Don't abandon the plan.  My only exception would be if you forgot to pack something essential.  I saw two different guys running in cut off jean shorts.  Oooo, can you say chaffing???  Don't be that extreme! But, you get the picture.

/ 10. /  Glide.  All over.  Glide.  If you don't know what it is, read more about it here.  Use it on your long runs to prevent chaffing, and take it with you to use before the race (don't forget bra-lines, inner thighs, inner arms and chest). YOU WILL THANK ME!!

/ 11. /  If you can, invest in a Garmin type watch to wear while training (to help you log exact mileage and keep time) and for race day.  Some of you may not care about your race time, and that's fine, but if you set a pace goal or a finish time goal, then wearing a watch can help you stay on track.  Remember, the time that they post along the route is the race start time, not your chip time.  And, if you have to stop to use the porta-johns (which I did), then you can stop/start your watch accordingly.  For example, my clock time was 4:15, chip time 4:09 and Garmin time 4:05. I wanted to finish around the 4 hour mark, and was able to use my watch to help keep the right pace.

/ 12. /  Lay your clothes, shoes and gear out the night before the race, so that there are no surprises the next morning. If you happen to oversleep, you're one step faster to getting out the door.  Don't skip breakfast!  You need the fuel! Eat what you're used to eating from your training - remember, nothing new!  Also, you may want to see if your race has a bag check, and if they do, pack a pair of flip-flops and an extra set of clothes - don't forget the undies! (especially if you are running on a warm day) to change into after the race.  If they don't have a bag-check, ask a friend or family member to bring your necessities with them when they meet you after the race.

======== >>> GOOD LUCK!! <<========

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

5 (Kid) Things to Beat the Heat & the Boredom - Moxie Wife's "Five Favorites"

It is BA-LAZING hot in our corner of Kansas right now.  And, dusty too, because there ain't no rain to be speakin' of.  Since we are surrounded by farm ground, most of which is currently a most unpleasant shade of tan, and gravel roads, most of which blows in my house or in my teeth when I run, the portrait of my household is a leather-skinned mama in a double-wide full of dirt with 5 sun-stroked kids.  And, we're out of Pledge and popsicles.  That's the report.
This photo was taken last year when the earth produced green things.
Oh, another country summer bonus is living half a century away from a pool. The boys have set up a sprinkler park and made mini-coolers out of rubber made containers (more about that here if you're super-procrastinating today), but neither of those things keep them from coming in the house tomato faced, begging for a bucket of lemonade, a fan and some cartoons.

Lemonade and a fan I can do, but when they ask for the creativity crusher a.k.a. the boob tube a.k.a. the television, I start looking for my stompin' boots (more effective when you need to "put your foot down").  There's just no need to vegetate, my sons!  Unless of course you want to watch Anne of Green Gables with me while I sip on a special kind of iced tea???? But, alas, there is dusting to do, so scratch that.

I've started writing on our white board a list of options that the kids can choose from when 1. It's too hot to go outside, 2.  Their chores are done  3.  They are bored and whining because there's nothing to do.  In the past I've tried to get great crafty, inventive, budget-friendly ideas from Pinterest to occupy the boy's creative and intellectual cravings, but despite the fact that I stay up until 2 a.m. burning myself with a hot glue gun, most of the projects either bomb or are too short-lived to be worth my time. 

I need tough toys that stand the test of time and are challenging for the boys - ones that they will come back to over and over again and won't end up in the Goodwill bin.  For this week's Five Favorites link up at Moxie Wife, I'm sharing 5 of my favorite time-tested toys and games.

1. Blu Track

Blu Track is hands down the best way to take your Hot Wheels collection where it's never been before! Because it requires some engineering skills to set it up, and set up options are limitless, your kids will feel so accomplished when they create the perfect raceway for their cars.  BONUS: The track won't break, and it rolls up for compact storage!

2. Keva Planks
I have a little obsession with these things. So, without going into great detail, I will say this - it is the best "toy" investment we've ever made.   Seven years strong, and the kids still play with them every week.  I use them often for school projects and lessons for every grade level.  This blog post covers Keva in detail.  You can also find dozens of great videos on You Tube.

3. Settlers of Catan

You have to use your brain to play this game.  I like that.  Cerebral activity is good.  My eight year old can hang in there surprisingly strong when playing the game with his older brothers, but younger ones might enjoy Ticket to Ride, another great game, made by the same company, better. Settlers of Catan details can be found here.  

4. Quadrilla
When we lived in Kansas City, we visited an amazing company called Moon Marble, and they introduced us not only to the beautiful world of marbles, but also to marble runs.  Quadrilla quickly became one of our favorite toys.  You can find discounts on e-bay, Fat Brain Toys and occasionally on Amazon.  Check out for coupon codes.  

5.  Scrap Wood & Tools  
Henry building with scraps from the chicken coop project.
Get a large Rubbermaid container, drive to your local hardwood store or lumber yard and ask for any unusable scraps of lumber or plywood that the company is going to throw away.  Buy a small hammer, a pair of pliers and different sizes of nails.  Let your kids construct anything they like.  Maybe you're thinking that hammers and nails can be dangerous, but (I know this is crazy) boys like danger.  It's not like your plugging in the rip saw and turning 'em loose.  Our 5 year old loves to build stuff, and I'll admit it, he has hit is finger with the hammer, but has lived to tell the story, and still LOVES to go out and "build." It's cheap, and it's fun.  If you really want to go all out, give your child some sand paper and some paint so they can give their  carpentry a professional finish.