Monday, February 29, 2016


I love capturing little moments of the day. Here they are waiting for their breakfast. Barrett isn't wearing any pants (potty training) and he's momentarily obsessed with this camouflage flashlight hat that needs its batteries replaced. Will's Book of the Hour is a Sesame Street book featuring the letter T and the Number 10. 
This tent saved my behind today. It's always set up in the basement, but I had the BRILLIANT IDEA (seriously) to bring it upstairs for the day. It took 20 seconds to pull upstairs. I added pillows and blankets and POOF, the boys disappeared. They just laid in there for at least 45 minutes. Then they played in there. Then they ate lunch in there.
When Barrett went down for his nap, I brought Neva into the tent and read Will some Berenstain Bears books. THEN (wait for it)... I put Neva down for a nap upstairs and when I returned Will asked, "Mom, can you take a nap with me in the tent?" YES I CAN. And I did. Maybe twenty minutes? Amazing. Thank you for today, tent.
The bouncer finally can sit on top of the counter! There was not nearly enough room before.

Is it creepy that I like to take pictures of my kids sleeping? Only sometimes. I just loved how his arms were airplaned, his current favorite puppy resting on his shoulder, swathed in his multiple blankets, with his "Serious Lightning" car next to him on the floor. We don't let him bring toys into bed anymore because they inevitably fall or get lost, resulting in midnight cries of anguish.
My little man, growing less little every day, still looks so tiny to me when he sleeps.

Notable occurrences upon this Leap Day also include:

-Brian painting the kitchen wall, installing switch plates, and caulking the sink.

-Neva got her first bath in the big sink! It was so nice. Glorious. You see, she's hated bath time up to this point. It's because I have to bathe her with the boys. So it's always rushed and tense! ("Don't throw that, Barrett! No, don't splash the baby! No, don't pour that on her. Will, she doesn't need a wash cloth on her, thanks buddy." Meanwhile their toys are clonking her in the head.) Now I can bathe her right in the kitchen while the boys play around the house. She has peace. She and I can gaze into each other's eyes for long stretches and I can gently massage her on the counter. Did she like this bath? YOU BET! 

-Neva also got... wait for it... her first haircut. Yup. Judge away. I don't care. I always swore to myself that if I had a baby girl I wouldn't let her hair make her look terrible. No mullets, no old man bald fringe. Well, the time had come to keep my oath to myself. Neva had BOTH a mullet and an old man fringe. She was bald on top, long on the sides, and very long in the back with a nice bald patch on the back of her head as well. Out came the buzzer and off it all came. I left the top alone (there wasn't much on there anyway) and buzzed all the sides. I saved her downy little pile of hair. She looks SO much prettier! I guess that makes me, like, a pageant mom or something, huh.

-William is desperate for a Frank the Combine toy. He had been talking about wanting a Frank, but then he saw a real toy Frank at Meijer and just fell in love. He wants it for his birthday, but that's still about 3 months away. So we've told him he can earn money. Not quite sure how to go about this, I read articles and asked advice and after a while, I formulated a plan. He gets an allowance of $5 a week, AS LONG AS he does his chores each day. (Make bed, dress himself, vacuum the floor after mealtimes, help set the table, and feed Bo.) He has to give $1 as tithe and offering and $1 to savings. He can earn more money by doing extra chores, but they're going to be challenging. I think if it takes him about four or five weeks to earn his toy, it could be a really good lesson for him. I drew a savings chart (Barrett ripped it off the wall at first) and Will LOVES looking at it. He pretends it's a report card or a television with a "Special TV Show" (both ideas from the Berenstain Bears). We've been reading about the Berenstain Bears getting a "weekly allowance," so he's familiar with the idea. Last night there was some confusion, still. "If I don't do chores, Mom, my birthday won't come!" So I sat him down and told him a story about a boy named *Joe* who wanted a really cool remote control race car for his birthday. But his birthday was so FAR away that he decided to save his money instead. He did lots of really HARD chores and day after day, he didn't give up. After he had saved all his money, him mom told him about tithing. He was sad to fall behind his goal,  but he was happy to give back to the Lord. The next day he did more chores and after a few more days he again had enough money. His mom took him to the store where he picked out his toy and paid for it all by himself! "And do you think he took care of that car? YES! Because he worked hard for it, didn't he?" "Mom, can you tell me the story about Joe again?"

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

C is for Car

It was a warm day today (well, probably in the forties), and I had to get the kids outside because we are having some serious cabin fever lately! (Well, maybe just me.) I hauled their trikes up from the basement and for the first time they were both actually strong enough and coordinated enough to drive them on the bumpy dirt driveway. It was William's first experience ever riding his trike downhill and it took him a while to realize he didn't need to pedal. Oh how I wish I would have gotten a video of him riding before that realization... his little knees pumping the pedals up and down like crazy as he flew down the driveway, his little back hunched over the handlebars on a bike that's a bit too small for him now, the dog ears on his hat flapping in the breeze. It's a memory I hope to never forget! Barrett would glide down on his Wishbone and yell, "Fast!"

Will was keeping Barrett company while he say on the potty.
Will gets SO excited when Barrett goes. It's because they both get candy, but I think it encourages Barrett when his normally "too cool" brother is jumping up and down with excitement that he went to the potty.
Neva was pretty in purple, but not too keen on getting her picture taken.
Barrett got a birthday gift from Aunt Kelly, Uncle David, Lake, and Sage in the mail! He loves it!!!
He says "airplane" like a little French boy: "ah-pee-ohn."
C is for Car!!! And caterpillar, Cheerios, and chores.
We make these during Barrett's nap time, and then Barrett gets to "keep" mine. (They all get trashed eventually!) He gets really excited about his craft! When he saw this he exclaimed, "Cheerios and milk!" (While we were making them, Will acted very concerned that Daddy would get "mad" that we glued the Cheerios onto our craft. Not sure why, since Daddy hardly ever gets mad and wouldn't care in the least about 16 Cheerios!)


Last night, as I was kissing William goodnight, he whispered, "Mom, thanks for the restaurant today." About a week ago he had said, after visiting my parents that evening, "Mom, thanks for the drive. To see Grandma and Grandpa." He is showing signs of a grateful heart and I'm so thankful for that.

The other morning, he told me, "Mom, I like Barrett, but he's weird. Can I say weird?"

Last night the two of them played together seamlessly for over an hour. They were running around in a little world of their own, grabbing things here and there to build their play. I looked at them and felt such a deep gratitude. For every day that having kids close together is difficult, there is a moment like this that makes it all worthwhile. I am so thankful that they are each other's best buddy. I wouldn't trade that for anything in the world. Not a cleaner house, slimmer body, or a more organized life. I need to remind myself of that when the frustration builds.

Yesterday Brian planned to be gone all day for a work conference. He didn't plan on returning until nine or ten at night, so, having no dinner to cook and no one coming home at 5, I took the kids out for the day to hang out with Grandma Jo Anne. We went to Once Upon a Child where I (meaning, Grandma) bought a couple of things and I sold some old things. Then we went to a McDonalds with a play place. We never do that and it was so much fun to see the boys playing together. We met a couple there with a little boy, and they were all enjoying the last day as a family of three before her c-section today. William played with the little boy for quite some time as grandma and I talked to the other couple. Then we went back to Grandma and Grandpa's house and hung out a little bit more. The kids came home exhausted. Which of course meant that they were all the more energized to play! It was such a fun day. I feel like I'm finally, maybe, starting to hit my stride with 3.

Neva sleeping on "Gogo."

Best feeling ever!

Showing "Hower" videos I've taken of them in my phone.

Smiley girl.


This is how Barrett was sleeping.

My boys!

"She's smiling so much!"

(Potty training is not without its problems. We are very good at pee, but Barrett keeps pooping in his pants unless he is commando. Changing poopy underwear at Once Upon a Child wasn't fun, but at least I was very prepared. It was exactly the opposite with William, he couldn't get the pee thing down but he was good with poop. Maybe by the end of this I will be a professional potty trainer, having dealt with every possible scenario! Hahaha. Just kidding. Who would possibly want to do this as a professional job???)

Friday, February 19, 2016

"Mom, can I hold baby girl?"

"Mom, she's so beautiful!"

"She was in your tummy."

"Mom, she's so fat."

"She's holding my hand! She just punched me in the nose!"

"Mom, she's... She's like you."

"That's okay. I gotcha, I gotcha."

"Mom, I love her."

Barrett turns TWO!

Our sweet second boy turned 2 years old this week! We celebrated first with a party for him on Saturday with the family and then on Tuesday (his actual birthday) when he opened his birthday gift from us. On Saturday we also started a little kitchen remodel and on Tuesday it was going full swing, so we didn't do anything too elaborate but I think he still had a blast. 

Poor little guy has been getting over a very nasty cold. I had an appointment scheduled for him on Monday because I was sure it was a sinus infection at that point. But that day he woke up from his nap feeling a tiny bit better, so I called the office and they told me to give him another 24 hours. Twenty-four hours later, on Tuesday, he still seemed on the upswing so we were able to avoid antibiotics this time.

His party was so much fun, both the party itself and getting ready for it. When I throw parties for people I generally tend to just think about the food. I'm not very good at coming up with fun and clever activities or cute decorations. But since he is only turning two and didn't really know any better, I figured what he would like the most would be his favorite people coming over, balloons, streamers, and cake. And he did!

The cake! I'm so happy with how it turned out. I wish I would have taken more pictures though. I am NOT a cake decorator by any stretch, though I do love baking. I feel like the baking gene and the cake decorating gene are totally different. Anyway, I was going to try to tint white frosting a couple different colors and draw a picture of a police car or a Jeep on top of the cake. I didn't want to spend a lot of money or time on a simple cake for a simple party. Then, one night, while I was shopping at Meijer all by myself after the kids had gone to bed, I took a look at the clearance toys and saw a matchbox-size Off-Road Lightning McQueen and a Sandy Dunes car, both half off. The boys have recently discovered the Radiator Springs 500 1/2 Cars Toon DVD that we had, stored for about a year now and never opened, so they've watched it several times in the last few weeks. I had the clearance cars in the pantry, waiting for an occasion to give them to the boys, and at the same time I was despairing (ha) because I didn't think that I'd be able to draw any kind of decent looking vehicle on top of the cake. Then it occurred to me! Why not use the cars to decorate the cake? So that's what I did! The two layers, which baked up concave to my dismay, actually worked out perfectly. I frosted them with buttercream and covered them with graham cracker crumbs and cocoa powder. (Barrett helped me process the graham cracker crumbs to a very very very fine dust. He really loved pressing that food processor button.) Then I rolled some large marshmallows in extra buttercream and rolled those in graham cracker crumbs, then positioned them on the cake to make it look like a rocky canyon. I flicked cocoa powder all over it and then put the cars in between to make it look like they were racing. Finally I added a paper banner supported by a straw (cut in half) that said "Barrett's Birthday Race." It was all very simple and the result certainly was not bakery-worthy, but the boys absolutely loved it and that's what's most important. They sat and looked at it for quite some time when I unveiled it at the party... and of course there were no tears when I had to cut it because then they got to play with the new cars!

The week before the party I had William cut out some shapes from construction paper and then I hot glued them to some twine to make a simple banner. He was so excited about the result and the entire time he was cutting he was talking about how much Barrett would like it. I made sure to tell everybody about about "the shapes that William cut." He was proud of it. I was really happy with this, because I want the kids to learn to do nice things for each other on their birthdays and holidays, but it's not quite right to go to the store and have him pick something out "for Barrett" because really he's just picking out a toy that he wants (knowing his brother will share!) and there's no self sacrifice involved. The banner looked adorable. The morning of the party, I put up balloons and the streamers and when Barrett came down for breakfast he looked around the room and said, "Fun!"

Becca was here the whole weekend (Friday and Saturday night) and was a HUGE help. Brian started tearing up the kitchen countertops, and thankfully she was there to help me keep the kids out of the kitchen and prep the food. And because I kept it simple, she and I were able to have fun painting on Friday night after the kids went to bed. I wasn't thrilled with MY result (her painting was gorgeous) but it was still a blast.

The food! When it comes to a party, I love planning for food. I wanted a menu that I could substantially make ahead of time. For the chicken pasta, I pre cooked the chicken and mixed it with all of the extras so I could dump it into the pasta and sauce and bake it quickly. I could have made the pasta and the sauce ahead of time too (and I should have), but I ran out of time the day before.  I made the dressing and croutons for the salad the day before, and re-crisped the croutons in the oven while the pasta was cooking. I cooked the bread ahead of time. I washed the lettuce ahead of time. I made the cake several days in advance, froze the layers, and then assembled and decorated it Friday morning. The frosting kept it fresh.

We had:

-Chicken Alfredo Baked Penne ( It was good! I doubled the recipe but quadrupled the sauce, per the comments; I also added spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and two cans of artichoke hearts. Next time I'd add four cans. They MADE the dish!

-Pam Anderson's Chopped Caesar Salad (from a cookbook; recipe at the bottom of this page: Meh. Call me a heretic, but I don't like homemade croutons. They sog up way too fast. I'd make this salad again, if I had enough time beforehand, but I'd use store bought crunchy croutons (or sprinkle the homemade ones on each individual serving). The lemon part of the dressing was great. More of that, less oil next time.

-Sundried tomato garlic cheddar toast, my own recipe! It turned out great! I've never used this "method" before but I will again for a party: I baked the bread a couple days before and froze it. When I pulled it out of the freezer it was still nice and moist. I sliced it in half lengthwise, buttered it, broiled it, and then sliced it like garlic toast. It was so nice not having to deal with bread dough 45 minutes before the guests arrived. In fact, I bet I could even just thaw the bread the day of the party and just re crisp it in the oven if I wanted to avoid the extra calories of butter. But... Why? :)

-Chips and guacamole

-Potato chips (for the birthday boy)

-Apples and caramel dip ( The dip turned out great. At first I thought it'd be a huge flop. It had tiny dark brown pieces in it (almost like I burned it at some point) and but it didn't taste burnt so I felt bad throwing it out. Definitely do not stop stirring the sauce for a moment. Also, the cooking time in the recipe must refer to a cooler stove; my burners tend to be hot and by the time it cooked for 7 minutes, my caramel dip was a very thick glob. Thankfully I did not pitch it, but instead thinned it out with a good amount of milk and then put it in the blender to get rid of any lumps. It turned out beautiful and perfect! People liked it a lot. And it was homemade with recognizable ingredients. I'll for sure make it again over buying it in the store.

-Pam Anderson's Tender Yellow Cake (similar recipe here, just without spices: with Buttercream Frosting ( This cake tastes delicious, but both times I've made it at has sunk dreadfully in the middle. I think I need to give it one more shot, however. Both times I have used a different method to mix the ingredients because the written method seems odd to me. Beating softened butter into the dry ingredients? Funny. The recipe reviewers agreed, so both times I have mixed it using the traditional cake method: sugar and butter, followed by eggs and vanilla, then adding in the milk and dry ingredients alternating. I will give this recipe one more shot and use the method written, but if it doesn't work that way, I'm moving on! The frosting is better with vanilla and a pinch of salt, but couldn't be easier.

-Ice cream, of course! And pink lemonade.

I really enjoyed having my siblings and parents over, as well as my grandpa (Grandma "Go-Go" Jo Anne was out of town!) and Becca. It was hard not having Erin for the first time. Barrett had such a fun time until bedtime at 8 p.m. I had planned to play games but we all just sat around and talked for a couple of hours. It was a very nice, low key night, and I'm looking forward to getting together with everyone again for the March birthdays.

On Tuesday (Barrett's actual birthday), the kitchen renovation was in full swing so we really didn't have time to do a big night for Barrett's birthday. I reheated leftover lasagna and baked some french fries, so the kids loved that as much as any gourmet meal. Grandpa came over and they opened Barrett's big gift. William was very lucky in that Barrett's big birthday gift included a gift for him. For his birthday, Barrett got a new copy of Meet the Cars (which still hasn't arrived yet) and a super cool three wheeled scooter. I knew it would be more fun for the boys if they each had a scooter, so William got one too. I really hemmed and hawed about whether or not to get these. For Christmas, Brian's grandma gave Brian and me each $100 to spend. So much fun! The past two years I have used it on Barrett's birthday present. :-) This year, I was very tempted to buy myself Barrett some Magformers. I have been wanting a set of those since I first laid eyes on them. But I think the boys are still a little young to appreciate them. I came across the scooter idea somewhere on the internet and started researching. The ones I ended up buying have a weight limit of 77 pounds and an adjustable handlebar, so they will grow longer with the boys than the other three wheeled scooters I researched. They also are more quality built than the typical $20 scooters at Toys R Us, and they have a cool lean to steer feature that's more user friendly than turning the handlebar. But it was hard for me to spend a hundred bucks on something that I wasn't sure would be a hit or not. Eventually I just told Brian I was going to forget it, that we could just take Barrett out to dinner and then to the toy store for his birthday and let him pick something out for his toy. But the more I thought about it, the more I figured we'd probably spend over fifty bucks on a dinner out and a trip to the toy store, so why not spend a hundred and be able to stay in and have a fun family evening and then have something that they could use all summer long together? (I also didn't think at the time that Brian probably wouldn't want to put the kitchen renovation on hold for a whole evening, and this way he didn't have to.) So I got the scooters and I'm so glad I did! They ride them constantly. William is getting pretty proficient. Barrett "rides" his by holding the handlebar and walking on each side of it. He will learn. It's so nice to have a toy that he likes but can also grow into quite a bit. I'm really looking forward to taking them up north in the summer to Nana's house and letting them ride in the quiet streets. It will be so much fun.

Of course I don't have any pictures of them riding the scooters because I was too involved in helping them figure out how to ride them. This always seems to happen, I get too involved in the moment and never take any pictures. But suffice it to say, they really like them, and I'm very happy about that. So that concludes Barrett's 2nd birthday. I'm very happy with it. I know this seems like kind of a silly post, but in the past I have either way overdone birthday (too many presents, too big of a party), or way underdone it and felt sad and guilty later. This time I prayed that whatever I did for Barrett would not stress me out (therefore stressing my poor little family out) or be a burden, but would be a pleasant time for Barrett and all of us, and that his gift would be a blessing to him. And the Lord answered my prayers. We kept it simple and he loved it. And I had fun too.

Cake, before the "race" banner.
Brian's sister, Christie, and her family sent Barrett some cool crayons and construction paper!
The birthday boy on his actual birthday, wearing Neva's cupcake bib (which he thought was REALLY cool) and a blanket "hat."
Christie also sent a "party in a box," which served as a centerpiece for the party until they got to make a fun mess with it on Tuesday.
Christie ALSO had balloons delivered for Barrett, from his cousins! She's something.
The boys looking at the cake on Saturday.
Barrett wasn't allowed to blow on the entire cake, because germs.
He carried the 2 candle around all day and couldn't WAIT to use it.
Of course, he wouldn't be Barrett Bri the Science Guy if he didn't stick his finger into the flames first!

Poor sick little guy was a good sport!
About to open their scooters with Grandpa!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

M is for Mouse

Today I rehearsed with William: "When Daddy asks you tonight, 'What did you learn today?', what are you going to say? M is for mouse!"

But alas, when Brian asked, Will told him, "P is for Mouse!"

Today I found their naughtiness hysterical, for some strange reason. I love these days.

Today I decided Barrett's going to be potty trained. He was diaper free from naptime until bedtime, and no accidents! Cold turkey, underwear it is tomorrow. Except at night. I'll even do naptime with no diaper. Being it on. I feel the steely resolve.

After going potty,Will lost the ability to snap his jeans. For Pete's sake, he had just done it this morning. He whimpered and whined and wailed for 20 minutes when I told him that if he didn't do it himself, he'd have to eat soup for breakfast. (Delicious soup, btw.) Eventually Brian took pity on him and helped him.

I gave mine to Barrett, who promptly ripped off the eyes and tasted them.
M is for Mouse!
Because I hate "playing" outside in the snow, they play inside. At least for now, when taking them out exhausts me. Who pulls the sled, builds the snowmen, and dresses them in 1000 layers? ME. And who would never go out in the snow if it weren't for kids?? This girl!
Just a pic I snapped. Will is playing in the box with his Lightning McQueen. Barrett has no pants or underwear on and is looking at the "Bessie Bears" (Berenstain Bears). What is it with the appeal of those books to kids??? 

I really liked her little outfit today.

I was so proud of how well he did, tracing in the letters on his own.

Thoughts about food, this morning.

I generally love cooking, but cooking for kids is no fun! They don't like anything! Anything!

This morning I didn't even have time to clean up breakfast before they were asking for a snack. Nuts!

Barrett has figured out how to open the fridge and get into the cheese drawer. Not sure how I feel about this.

Also, now that Barrett is two, he is of course suddenly *picky*. He used to love meat. He seriously walked around last evening all evening with a wad of meat in his mouth that he didn't want to swallow. Like, from dinner until bedtime, when I went to brush his teeth. Yuck.

Neva, at least, always seems pleased with her meals.
Smiling in her sleep.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

My Feel-Good Post

When I look at these pictures, I instantly feel a thousand times better.

I couldn't pick my favorite, but then again that's why I have a blog. I can post 'em all.

I plopped Barrett next to Neva and Will and started making silly faces to get some genuine smiles. Well, they thought I was hilarious. Maybe it's because it was almost naptime and they were in a silly mood. Neva, apparently, was not in a silly mood, but then again she's a baby who's still finding her sense of humor.