Friday, August 30, 2013

Football + Food = Love!! My Recipe Line-Up For This Season

Hello fellow football lovers!! This post is for ya'll! Our family has been counting down the days until our favorite college team, the Kansas State Wildcats, begins their season.  We're down to the minute now, as they kick-off tonight!  Two of our sons are also playing youth football, so the baseball gear has been packed away, and I'm now tripping over shoulder pads and cleats.  Love that.
I try not to be that mom who is crazy bonkers all over her kids sporting activities. In an effort to keep a reasonable level of self control, I do a lot of emotional "stuffing" at the boys' games, which can be stressful, and which also may be why I've included some special beverage recipes in my list of this season's football faves *winky-wink.* 

Ben and Andrew's team mascot is the cougars and their team colors are green and gold.  I'm thinking about taking the season up a notch in two ways:
1.  Our family will host a team party (I've always wanted to do this!).  Nothing big, just a little BBQ or something simple. I found these free printables online in the perfect team colors that will make the party a little festive:
{Free Party Printables from The 36th Avenue}
2.  I will temporarily lift my personal ban on time consuming, high maintenance beautifying rituals by polishing my nails for the first time since 2001. This photo was my inspiration to let go and let lovely make a come back.
{Game Day Nails from Polish and Pearls}
My love for football began back in college when the Wildcats emerged from being a "no-name" team to a nationally recognized pigskin success.  Actually, that's not entirely true.  My love for the game really began at my first tail-gate party when I discovered the glorious culinary category of Football Food.  Chow down and touchdown are pretty much synonymous in my soul.

Every season I like to search out new recipes to serve our family and friends on game day. For us, that's Saturday, since we're not big pro-ball fans.  College sports are #1 around here.  Here are a few of the goodies I'll be serving up this fall:
With this appetizer recipe collection from The 36th Avenue, I'm bound to find something yummy!
For the cheese lovers - Baked Mozzarella Sticks in Wonton Wrappers from Taste of Home.
Can you ever go wrong with meatballs? Just looking at these Sweet Heat Molasses Meatballs from Oh Bite It makes me hungry!
When the weather gets cool, the kids always beg for a big pot of soup.  I think this recipe for Bacon Corn Bread from Simply delicious is the perfect accompaniment!
Everybody loves a great Mexican dish.  Serve this Mexican Chicken from with some soft tortillas, a little guac and a margarita (recipe below!) for the perfect half-time meal.
This is my #1 must try recipe.  We love spicy food around here, and these Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Jalapenos from The Sweet Life are just the ticket!
What can I say, she had me at Whiskey! 
Whiskey BBQ Sliders from The Pioneer Woman aren't going to let any hungry tummy down!

Okay, cauliflower? For real? Is that what you're thinkin'?? As a lover of buffalo sauce, I'm willing to try anything.  And, since I'm eating gluten-free, these might actually be worth a try! 
Spicy Buffalo Cauliflower from Daydream Kitchen.
If there were ever a peanut butter shortage, my family might actually faint in devastation. This Peanut Butter Football Dip from Crazy for Crust is going to score some big points with my fans!
Every year I make the Caramel Bars recipe that my mother-in-law gave to me when Steve and I got married.  They are THE BEST bar cookie in the universe, people, trust me!

My favorite Mexican restaurant out West serves up a mean Frosty Mexican Bulldog Margarita.  This recipe from Dreamy Blog is easy to reproduce at your own party!
I believe that a Drunken Root Beer Float from Corey Marie would taste mighty fine with those Whiskey BBQ sliders...or with pizza, or nachos, or.....

Who are you cheering for this season??
Do you have a favorite game-day recipe?? 
Please share - pretty please!!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Jesus & Doughnuts - The Best Way to Kickstart Another Homeschool Year!

When the topic of homeschooling comes up in conversation with family, friends or strangers, the feedback can be everything from positive and supportive to negative and demeaning.  I wish I had a list of all of the inappropriate things people have said to me over the years, because I think I could laugh at all of it now.  After 7 years of patiently learning to respond intelligently and gracefully to the misinformed narrow-minded opinions of "concerned" individuals, my skin is pretty thick.

And, seeing the fruits of my love and labor over the past few years in the boys' formation, intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and *gasp* socially instills within me a definite confidence and gratitude for our decision to homeschool. I truly feel blessed to begin another adventurous year of learning and discovery with the boys!

I get a little bit nervous, and a little bit excited, each year on the first day of school.  With the classroom decorated and organized, everyone's books and lesson plans in order, we're all energized and ready to go.
{Munchkins awake and ready to roll!}
This year, we have made a firm resolution to go to daily mass as a family before school, which is a reasonable goal now that we are no longer 30 minutes from church, but a mere 3!!
{We made it, praise the Lord!}
It's a beautiful experience to see other young families who are also striving to make the same early morning devotion as our family is.  Older generations are always eager to come up and visit with our family after mass, which is such a pleasure!
After mass this morning, I surprised the boys and took them to the local gas station to get a doughnut.  I had this great plan to talk about how "sweet" is the privilege of receiving an education and "blah, blah, blah" is what they heard.  Once I said doughnut, their little heads were in a sugar vacuum.  I should know by now that it's teach first, treats second.
7 years ago, I'm pretty sure that I served sugar-free, fat-free, gluten-free, taste-free pancakes with a side of scrambled eggs, a glass of fresh squeezed juice and a tower of vitamins for breakfast.  I wanted everything to be perfect, to run smoothly, to be engineered for excellence.  Haaaaaaaa!!!! Who's that girl?? She be gone, honey!!
{George explains why he believes he got the longest long john of the batch}
7 years later, my priorities are finally in line - Jesus and doughnuts for the first day of school. Both are food for the soul!! In my husband's eloquent words: Boo-yah!

{Sometimes watching my baby eat is like looking in the mirror.}
The boys are used to eating so healthy....they literally thanked me 17 times on the way home for their morning treats.  I love that about them. They roll pretty well with my constant "No, you cannot have pop, no you cannot have candy, gatorade is the devil, processed food is not food,  no, no, no...." so, when I finally say yes, to something, it really is such a wonderful treat.  And, they savor every bite with smiles on!
Time to hit the books!! 
We will have a lot of exciting moments to share with you this year, so stay tuned!!

Want to know more about our homeschool life? You can read about why we homeschool in a series of posts I wrote a while back (part 1, part 2, part 3).   Or, check out all of our topics under the "Homeschool" category at the top of the blog.

If you are remembering the feasts of St. Monica and St. Augustine today and tomorrow, enjoy out our celebration idea here!

Have a great day, everyone!!

Friday, August 23, 2013

7 QT Friday - The Secrets to My Moving Success

I've decided that my Fridays 7 Quick Takes posts aren't actually quick at all.  I think it's time to speed things up! A couple of weeks ago I was working out while watching the Pioneer Woman on Food Network (why else does one work-out, but so that she can eat things made with butter and bacon??!!), her focus for that episode was was to make 3 meals in a certain amount of time.  She set a stop-watch for herself and then busted out some crazy yummy platters of heaven in just minutes.

So, I thinks to meself, could I blog as fast as she cooks?  Then, I decide to engage in an imaginary "who's the fastest" contest with little Miss. P.W.!  (I know I'm shocking you with my brilliance right now.) Today is my first attempt at making my 7 QT's quick.  30 minutes from start to finish. I'm gonna set the timer and let my fingers set the Mac keys ablaze!  Here I go!!

7 Quick Takes: The Secrets to My Moving Success:
1.  Hand over the tape gun, boxes and sharpies to your kids.  Grab your headphones and a sedating beverage.   Keeping your fingers crossed, continue to move junk and empty boxes in their direction. This is my Type-A child working dutifully, in an organized fashion and this.....
...this is my l-m-n-o-p child who thinks chores are a recreational activity.
2.  Keep caffeine and carbs within reach at all times. Behold - one iced coffee and one slab of homemade granola bars.  That's how you give exhaustion a swift kick in the pants. One night I collected 7 coffee mugs that had been scattered throughout the house during the day of packing. I'm gonna need a patch after this whole thing is over.
3.  Have your husband read to you while you labor through the drudgery of of bubble wrapping all things fragile. We are a little bit obsessed with this book right now.  You know you've found a great read when you stay up until 1:00 a.m. in conversation over everything you've read that day with the one you love....waiting for the caffeine to give your eyeballs a break.
4. Know where your tape dispensers are at all times.  Or, better yet, use them to accessorize the one who is also reading to you....
...or flexing for you, or showing off for you, or distracting you from your bubble wrapping duties.
5.  Pack up all of toys except for one that will force the kids to entertain themselves without battery powered nerve-severing noisy things.
Every day while I packed the boys spent some time building with Keva planks. If they worked cooperatively, used every single plank (over 1,000!), gave a presentation on their design and cleaned up afterwards, they were given some small reward.  This is their parking garage deluxe. My kids will do just about anything for a donut!
6.  Take breaks.  Thankfully the weather was beautiful the week of the move, so the boys were able to spend an ample amount of time outdoors.
{Good-time Charlie!}
One evening, Ben and Steve chipped off our farm greens while the little ones rounded up golf balls with their dump trucks (because that's how you do golf on the farm!).
As the week came to a close, the amount of groceries in the house began to dwindle.  Thankfully, we had a little bit of extra nourishment in the garden for the boys to harvest, including green tomatoes and a few ears of corn that weren't quite ripe.  Watching Charlie chomp on the little tiny kernels reminded me of the scene in the movie Big where Tom Hanks nibbles on a piece of baby corn at an office party. Hilarious!
7.  Make time for proper good-byes.  Our good friends, the Pfeifers, also have 5 boys, and they came over one morning to spend time with us before our departure.  We will miss them and so many more of our wonderful friends from Southwest Kansas very much!

24 minutes and 18 seconds later this post is published.  Bam! BTW, that time included one rush to the bathroom and a predictably high number of interruptions from adorable boys who refused to sit contentedly and watch Micky Mouse Clubhouse and eat Cheerios. 

Hasta la vista!
Have a great weekend, my friends!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Baby #1 Flies the Homeschool Coop ~ And I'm Going to Need Therapy

Helloooooo!! I have missed you!! Where have I been for the past 1.579 weeks?? Well, just as we moved in, our sweet new home served us up a fresh slice of surprise, surprise, surprise (say it Gomer Pyle style!) which was no internet and absolutely no cell phone reception.  {Yay!} After living in a black hole for the last few days, we finally saw the light yesterday, thanks to all of the techie folks who threw us a rope and pulled us out.

Anyhoo....I can only assume that ya'll are back in the swing of school.  While my classroom is currently in fantastic crapstorm form, I am happy to report that our oldest was shipped off in tip-top form to a happily organized school with teachers who shower regularly and dress accordingly (unlike this teacher who, well, let's just not go there).  

How do you all do it?? I need your professional school mom advice. In an effort to kick off the academic year with a healthy dose of positive, I made waffles with love, dished out squishy hugs, pepped up my pep talk, and controlled my pathetic snotty sobs as best as I could. But, after all of that, he is fine, but I'm a wreck! I really don't know how I will handle Ben's absence in our homeschool.  I may be tempted to snatch him back...
Last night was the first time in ages that my nerves, like a pesky gnat buzzing relentlessly around my head, kept me from settling into a good night's sleep.  Sleep has never really been an issue for me.  I can sleep pretty much anywhere, anytime (any priest or professor will happily confirm your fact check).  But, last night, I knew that my son Ben, would be struggling to catch some REM's too, and worrying about him was really what kept me awake.

Sure enough, 11:00 p.m., we both staggered into the kitchen and rifled through dark cabinets in search of our trusty sleepy time tonic (you have to try this stuff!).  

"Are you nervous about school tomorrow?, Buddy?" 

{Long Pause}  "Yes."

His short and sweet answer was confirmation of my own restless feelings.  After another "good-night," I flopped back into bed, and stared out the window at the moon, wondering why we, in this big, big world feel so small and insecure about something as ordinary as school.  School.  Every kids goes to school.  It's not Mount Everest, it's school...

Knowing and accepting that we are in new in this community, that Ben has to begin again the process of making friends, learning a new system of procedures, accepting a fresh set of expectations, and waiting patiently for everything around him to become familiar and comfortable, left me wishing for a simpler path for him....for me.

I think that deep down, I just want it to be easy for him - easy like new experiences were for me growing up.  I wasn't afraid to do anything, I looked forward to change and newness, adventure and unpredictability.  I slept at night - every night, nothing kept me awake, especially nerves.  But, he's not like me in that way.  

The challenges life throws at us strengthen our character and our will.  Strength and endurance is what I truly desire for my children.  I don't want to raise sons who wilt under the slightest bit of pressure....or worse yet, run away from life's fiery furnace screaming, "Mommy!"  Easy street for them is easy street for me.  I won't deny the fact that at times I wish that everything in life was smooth as a baby's butt for the boys, because then I could check out for a moment, sit down and put up my parenting feet for a while....wouldn't that be nice??

This morning, I rose early, wanting to ensure that I had plenty of time to prepare a big breakfast for Ben's hearty appetite.  I was surprised to hear him up and around before the sound of his alarm.  Darn nerves.  I sipped my coffee while he inhaled his stack of waffles, letting his signature hum (the one that rises from a happy mouth whenever it's full of favorite food) fill the silence.

Ben's contemplative nature offers quiet more often than conversation.  Again, NOT like his mama, who would do well to contain the spewing verbal fountain of her mouth once in a while. He has a quiet confidence that is admirable, and a pleasure to know. If only he knew how very much I love spending time with him - even if we just sit and eat together - love for food is something we do have in common!
I wasn't sure if Ben would let me take a few pictures of him before school this morning - him alone, his brothers still buried beneath the warm covers.  Those boys do everything together, but today, Ben was flying solo. I wondered if he would miss them, or if he just knew, deep down, that this is his time, that he's the one who has to go first, he's the one who will show them how this "school outside of home" is done.
Any anxiety that may have been stirring within our big boy, was held at bay, concealed by the curl of a grin that I know and love so well.
Here we go. 
It's time. 
 Every mom in America does this.  
I can do this.  I can let him go. 
I will let him go - and he will be himself, just as he should be.
The end of all learning is to know God,
and out of the knowledge to love and imitate Him.
- John Milton

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Here We Go Again - The Scoop on Our Move Eastward

When I was 8 years old, my parents took me and my 3 siblings on a family vacation to the Black Hills of South Dakota.  I remember how perfect our little rental cabin felt, nestled comfortably in the shade of the towering pines.  There was plenty of wilderness to explore, and tourist sights to take in.  Every cabin had a picnic table just outside the front door, and it was there that my sister and I perched with our new coloring books and fresh box of crayons, letting the silence introduce the songs of the birds, the whisper of the wind. We colored contentedly while our mother prepared lunches to satisfy rumbling tummies.

I recall distinctly that, as we colored page after page in our Rapunzel books, I couldn't help but notice how absolutely perfect, in every way, my sister's artwork appeared.  The saturated colors were bright and rich. She added red to the lips, blue to the eyes and outlined the royalty's regal garments with thick, bold strokes.  It was lovely. My pages looked nothing like that.....but I wanted them to, I wanted mine to look as pretty and perfect as hers in every way. Later in the day, without my sister knowing, I snuck off with our books, somewhere where no one would find me, and I copied that perfect page, every color, every stroke exactly the same.

Of course, when my sister discovered my handiwork, she was as angry as any accomplished 9 year old artist would be.  Her emboldened words of criticism cut across my conscience like a razor, and I bled shame and regret, but didn't know how to explain to her, nor to myself, why I had done such a thing. Looking back, I know it certainly wasn't the worst of my youthful fouls, and I know my sister would laugh if I recounted the story to her today. But, the memory of it points toward something that is concerning, something I've struggled with for a long time - that is, looking over the fence, admiring the grander green, the seemingly perfect colors and lines of every one else's life.
I catch myself, in gazing over the fence, wanting God to draw the same unmistakable, clear cut, vivid lines for me, for my life.  Lines that create an unmistakable picture that I can simply fill in with all of the lovely I can imagine.  I think that's what, deep down, I expected when Steve and I were first married - that we would always know and follow an exact plan for our life, and that that plan would make sense to us and to everyone else.  That plan would point us toward a place where we would buy a house, plant roots, raise a family, contribute to a community, and never wonder where else we could or should be.

We thought that three years ago, when we made the decision to move out to the farm where Steve grew up, that this would be our last move, this would be the place that we would always called home, this would be where we would plant roots, deep and wide, settle in and build a life that would last.

That wasn't meant to be.
About a year, or so, ago restless feelings began to stir within both of us.  We shifted uncomfortably in our seats at every conversation concerning the longevity of the water resources on the farm.  Our farm's sustainability is completely dependent upon water, upon our ability to irrigate the crops.  And, with the water tables dropping on the acreage that we own, the question becomes, "how much longer will our wells hold out?  Is there a future here for us, for our children?"

I must admit, though, that it isn't the economic state of the farm alone that has caused this shift. Concerns for our kids' education and a deep desire for community - something we've struggled to find here - have also kept us up at night. We have found that accompanying the isolation of rural living is the absence of friendship and, in that, a strong presence of loneliness. I can't help but wonder if God has withheld the fulfillment of some of our most basic needs and, as well, our deepest desires in order that we might thirst for something more, something different, for what He truly wants to give us.

When all plans and all resources are exhausted, there is nothing left to do but open our eyes and open our hearts to the possibility of change, of yet another move, and that is where we are right now.
Thankfully, aside from our ties to the family farm, Steve has also built a farm commodities brokerage business that is "portable," and will keep us afloat while we work to establish a new farmstead for our family in the central part of the state.  While this transition will be a challenge for myself and for the kids, I cannot express how difficult it will be for my husband to leave the family farm.  Even though we will more than likely return in the summer to help, this has always been, and will always be, home for him, and I so wish, for his sake, that we could stay.

Those feelings of temptation that I experienced years ago as a child, feelings of longing to have the picture of my life, now of our life look as lovely as all the other "normal" lives out there, has surfaced with great strength throughout the packing process.  It's been a fight to fix my gaze on the here and now, on what we've been given and not on what we don't have, a fight to lay down my desire for a straight and predictable path in exchange for the courage to travel the unpredictable one we're on - even though I can't see two steps in front of me. Lord, grant me the grace to trust You!

The movers will be here soon.  It's time to say good-bye to Gertie (she's been the sweetest little house on the prairie), to all that is familiar, and hello to the new and hopeful adventures that await. No more gazing over the fence, or, rather, at all the lovely in everyone else's story books.  My eyes are fixed on my own page, and it's all about looking forward from here.
Wish us luck - and if you pray today, remember our family in your requests, if you would, please.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

What I Wore Sunday ~ The Beginning of Our Good-Byes

After a long week filled with the mental, physical and emotional demands of packing up hearts and home for yet another move, I was completely and utterly drained.  Trying to peel my lifeless body out of bed at a decent hour this morning was a mortification of great proportions.  But, miraculously I arose, thanking God, from the depths of my being, for creating Sunday, a day of rest for his children, a day to be revived and renewed, a day to just be.

As Steve and I went through our normal Sunday morning razzle-dazzle routine, both of us knew, without saying a word to one another, that today would be the beginning of a series of good-byes, as we prepare for our departure on Tuesday. We're not completely immersed in the life and happenings at our church, so we don't actually know everyone who belongs to our parish. Aside from sponsoring the Guardians of the Alter program, we're, just the funny couple with the troop of boys that (tries) to sit towards the front on Sundays, so that our kids can see "Fahder" up close. Nonetheless, the friends we did make at St. Dominic's are very special to us, and we hoped for the opportunity to thank them for being a part of our lives.
To our great surprise, our friend, Sister Mary Pieta, from the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal was at Mass. We have known sister Mary since she was in high school, and were blessed to be a part of her vocation discernment process.  One of our family goals is to let the boys choose any place in the U.S.A. that they would like to visit in honor of their 8th grade graduation.  Benedict has asked to see New York, City.  After visiting with Sister Mary about her order and their ministries, we learned that we can spend at least a couple of our anticipated vacation days volunteering with the Franciscan Sisters serving the poor.  What a tremendous experience that would be for our family!!

Today, we also extended parting wishes to our close friend, Joel McClure, who will be heading to the seminary in Denver for his first semester of study this week.  Both Joel and Sister Mary were able to join us for lunch after Mass today.  What a joy it was to share a meal with two incredibly beautiful souls!  Rich conversation in matters of faith and family life filled my cup with gladness and gratitude. As I looked down the table at our five sons munching on chips and queso, trying to ignore the drips down happy chins and onto untucked shirts, I smiled, knowing that God has a great plan and purpose for their lives too.
This morning I was in the mood to put on something un-fussy, something fresh, something I didn't have to iron.  This is what I came up with:
Skirt - Target
Tank - Target
Cardigan - Old Navy
Shoes - Sketchers from Shoe Carnival
Belt - Target
Necklace - Old Navy
Earrings - Target
Bracelets - Francescas

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... 
It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival. 
C.S. Lewis