Sunday, October 27, 2013

More Fall Love and Halloween Part 1.

The wind is howling.  Blowing in a winter storm with a promise of snow.  Earlier today I was wearing a tank top and flip flops taking in the glorious fall day.  

Gotta love Montana weather. 

After a busy week this weekend was a breath of fresh air.  Last week I worked more than usual so the juggling act felt a little trickier.  It's weeks like that I throw more appreciation to all the full time working mamas out there.  It's hard work.  You simply can't do it all so some things gotta give.  The hardest part for me during a hectic week like that is the transitions.  Our mornings are always smooth and I drop my babes at school and head to the office.  It's the leaving work and trying to shift from that mode to mommy mode that is difficult for me.  On my stay at home mommy days I generally stroll to pick up the kids from school, we walk leisurely home where an already prepared snack is waiting for them.  We take our time doing homework and then start on dinner and everything feels calm.  I can't keep that calm on a working week like last.  Snack consists of whatever is left from their lunchbox, homework is done in the car on the way to tap class and dinner is pizza on the way home.  This isn't a bad thing and the girls probably don't notice any difference.  I can feel it though.  As relaxed as I try to stay, I can't help but feel everything is rushed and there are not enough hours in the day to get it all done.  It makes me feel grateful I have the opportunity to only work part time, so weeks like that are few and far between.  It didn't help that this week was so beautiful.  Blue skies and warm temperatures.  It was brutal to be stuck inside and not even be able to walk to pick the girls up.  I did manage one day to rush home just so I could walk to get them.  That ten minutes of walking to the school really helped with the transition of going from work to parent mode.  Fresh air is an amazing thing.  That day we brought a couple extra girls for our walk home...

I grew up out of town so never had the neighborhood friend experience.  I was always jealous of friends who could simply walk over to their neighbors for a play date.  Watching these four giggling girls run ahead on the way to the park made me smile.  Budding friendships, whispers, laughter.  These are the moments.  

I welcomed the weekend with open arms.  Saturday was our annual Halloween party with our family and friends.  Ten years ago we moved into our house right before Halloween so we ended up having a Halloween/house warming party.  That year it was a little crazy.  But, it was the fun kind of crazy and it became a tradition.  A tradition where we have added another kiddo here and there throughout the years.  I make a couple pots of chili, pumpkin pie from our garden pumpkins, everyone dresses up, kids run around wild, adults chat and laugh and fun is had by all.  Actual Halloween is all about the kids and trick or treating, so this party is fun because the adults get to get in on the dress-up action.  And, who doesn't love a good costume?  We had some good ones this year.

Big Bang Theory fans will love this one...(Plus a mummy and an adorable Medusa)

Most creative goes to sister with her gumball machine belly... 

Rosie the Riveter and 70-s Man...

One cutie nephew referee...

A scary black cat...

Other sister, the ultimate Bears fan, and her hubby...Julian from Trailer Park Boys

Steve in my little nephews fireman costume because he neglected to come in one...

A couple of witches...

A cutie pie Minnie Mouse and the actual fireman...

As the years have gone by and we have grown, our house feels very full at the party.  And, it's funny because everyone gathers around the dining room table and the kitchen.  No one makes it to the couch or other living room furniture.  We all squish together around the food and drinks while kids run in and out.  There's lots of commotion and I don't ever feel like I have a full conversation with anyone, but I love it.  

The kids ran around the yard in the dark in search of pumpkins...

Had egg races...

 And listened to the older girls tell ghost stories before we headed on a spooky walk in the neighborhood to the creepy house down the street....

Yes, it was a lovely evening indeed.  They are no longer the wild parties they were back in the day.  Now we all go home at a decent hour and I'm pretty sure we all feel a lot better the next day than we used to.    

Besides the party the only other thing that went on this weekend was enjoying the glorious weather before the snow.  I went a bit camera happy with photos because I could not get over the lights and colors of our valley.  I am having a serious love affair with fall right now.  My heart still belongs to summer, but I am loving this right now.

At the park-

The sun, the bright blue sky, the gold trees...are you kidding me?!  

On my runs I seriously stop, take my phone out of my armband to snap shots because I can't get over the beautiful leaves in the neighborhood.  Any excuse for a break on a run, right?

On a walk up Peet's Hill with the family-

There's that sun streak again...just begging to be photographed-

I'm glad to have soaked it up this weekend because the way the wind is howling I do believe we will wake up in the morning to bare trees.  Fall will be shifting subtly into winter.  The gold and reds will be replaced with white snow.  I will miss these colors.  I'm kinda like a crazy person about them.  Can't quite get enough.

This week will be a very exciting one.  There is of course Halloween so we have two very excited girls.  Ready for class parties, more costumes and trick or treating with cousins.  I'm looking forward to that, but there is more excitement headed to our family this week.  A little gumball will be making an appearance.  More on that later.  

Hope your week is happy.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Weekend Things. From Here to Missoula.

It has been a whirlwind couple of days and I write with heavy eyes this evening.  Mostly from a serious lack of sleep last night.  However, I still felt the desire to write so I'm pushing through.  Our weekend was divided into two total family day with our girls and one day out of town just Matt and I.  Both parts awesome in their own way.   

I begin with our family day.  It started with no plans beyond pancakes for breakfast.  We ventured to the Museum because Matt needed to go there for a class project.  It was a little too nice of a day to be inside the museum, so we made sure to spend as much time out as in.
Because we were up by campus we decided to take a stroll down memory lane.  We showed the girls the dorm where we first met, the different buildings we had classes in, strolled the SUB and of course fed the very feisty ducks...

Hours later we finally came home.  The day was close to over but we still had things to do.  Pumpkins to be carved and such.  The girls quickly got to work.
I do believe they enjoy the cleaning out part better than the actual carving of the pumpkins.  Each year they get a little more self sufficient with the carving.  We ended up with a couple scary pumpkins and a couple funny ones.  They all look pretty great sitting on the front porch saying "Happy Halloween" to anyone who will listen.

And then came part two of the weekend.  This one only involved my favorite guy...
There was a band Matt loves playing in Missoula.  Not wanting to miss this opportunity we kissed our babies good bye, left them with Grandma and headed west to one of our favorite cities.  We were there less than 24 hours so it was a quick trip, but it was such fun.  First things first, we stopped at Kettlehouse for some "lunch".

Missoula is so pretty in the fall.  They have far more maple trees than we have here in Bozeman so the colors were spectacular.  The day couldn't have been nicer for walking around and soaking it up.  Then it was time for an early dinner, drinks with friends and off to the main event.  

The Avett Brothers.

I did not have high expectations for the show because I am not as familiar with this band as Matt.  I was totally blown away by them.  It was quite a performance.  Their passion and talent was so evident and they may be one of my new favorite bands.  They are sort of an undiscovered Mumford & Sons with a bit more edge and rock.  It was pretty amazing.  If you've never heard their music I highly recommend checking them out.  

I could have watched them all night, but like all great things it came to an end.  However, we did not call it a night there.  It may have been a Sunday but we had no babies to get home to so we ended up in one of Missoula's lovely dive bars until the very late hours of the evening and even a bit into Monday.  

This morning we had to head back to Bozeman and back into real life things such as grocery shopping, picking up girls from school and rushing to tap class.  It's always so refreshing to step out of real life once in awhile.  I love the balance of it.  A night away with Matt to be carefree and silly and laugh a lot and then come right back to my girls who we missed the whole time.  We are very lucky indeed.  

Now it is officially bed time.  Sweet dreams.  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fall Love.

Around this blog it seems as if summer gets all the love.  It's no secret how much I adore the warm months.  The hot temperatures, the playing in the mountains, the long lazy days.  Love them.  However, I have really been enjoying this beautiful, albeit chilly, fall we've been having.  The leaves are spectacular and our city is full of reds, golds and oranges mixed in with the greens.  The background is the bright blue sky and I find it spectacular.  And, leaves are so much fun to play in...
Greg's face kills me on this one!

I thought it best to give a little love to fall because the love affair begins to fade quickly for me as we approach our long winter.  With fall has come many family traditions.  Things like baking and slow cooking soups.  Things that evoke warmth and coziness into our home.  And much to the girls happiness, the return of Friday night movie nights.  In the summer we would never imagine wasting a beautiful summer evening watching a movie inside.  Now, it's often too chilly to go outside after dinner so we whip up some popcorn and turn on some Netflix.  The girls gather blankets and stuffed animals and we all smash on the couch for some adventure in fairyland or talking animal world.  

Last weekend we partook in one of my favorite fall traditions.  The pumpkin patch.

Now, we had no real reason for going to a pumpkin patch seeing as we have twenty pumpkins decorating the house currently from our garden.  However most of those will be used for baking and for our Halloween party.   And the pumpkin patch is so much more than just picking pumpkins.  It's the whole experience.  We've gone since the girls were babies.  In fact I remember nursing Layla sitting on a hay bale there when she was tiny.  It's funny to see them change.
From little loves...

To such a big girls...

We did the usual at the farm on this lovely day.  
Played in the hay...

Checked out the animals...
Layla has an obsession with pigs so seeing them is always a highlight for her, but even she knows they stink... 

Took a hay ride...
Finger in the photo...oh's hard to take a photo on a tractor.
 This year there were some new activities.  The best was the corn maze!!

The girls loved it.  They ran ahead while Matt and I strolled behind.  Layla was all about charging forward, but Ava insisted on waiting at the corners until we came into sight before running on.  The subtle difference between my fearless, one cautious.  Both awesome.
There was a moment in the hay maze that I stopped to take it all in.  The mountain view, the crispness in the air, the smell of fall.  It made me very happy.

Also new was a scary swamp trail.  It's meant to scare kids in the evenings when it's dark but because nightmares are not something we encourage at this house we walked through it in the daylight.  This provided more giggles than screams.  As it should be.

Don't worry.  He came back.
It was a perfect fall day.  I embrace these traditions while the girls are still young enough to be totally into them.  I know our days will come when they will want to go through the creepy swamp on a Friday night with their friends, not a Saturday with their family.  Sometimes I feel sad thinking about that and how quickly it all goes, blah, blah, blah.  I've gotten really good at pushing those thoughts aside and embracing the now.  Embracing it fully without nagging thoughts of time slipping away.  If you keep those thoughts to close to the front you can't fully enjoy the present.  You feel panicked to cram it all in and make sure you are enjoying it because before you know it, it'll be gone.  That doesn't really lead to warm and fuzzy feelings.  I have gotten better about taking in the present without the panic.  Enjoy the now and know the future changes will be pretty darn great too.  I know this because having tiny babies was really amazing.  Their smell, their snuggles, their total dependence on you.  But each stage has been equally amazing as they've grown from babies to toddlers to school age kids.  I have to believe that each stage will continue to be amazing.  There are hard parts to each stage and I'm not naive to think sleepless nights with worry over a teenager will be similar to sleepless nights with a newborn.  You just gotta focus on the amazing parts, right?  Right.  

As I mentioned above, baking is on the list of things to love about fall.  I found a new recipe on Pinterest for a brown sugar bundt cake.  It looked delicious in the photo.  It took awhile to make and I patiently waited the 80 minute cooking time and 30 minute cooling time before taking it out of the bundt pan.  It didn't go so well.  Like about half my Pinterest attempts this was a baking disaster.
The silver lining was, it still tasted good.  We renamed it Ugly Cake and called it a day.

The best cooking this past week came from Matt on date night.  He made a Lebanese salad and falafel with a cucumber sauce.  Best dinner he's ever made for me.  
I have attempted falafal a couple times and it hasn't turned out well.  They always turn out similar to my ugly cake...nothing pretty to look like but taste pretty good.  His were perfect.  They stayed together, looked good and tasted fantastic.  Not really fair, but I guess he has the Lebanese blood so I suppose he has an advantage.  But, I've got spinach pies down like nobodies business.  

Happy Hump Day.  Or for us it's a Happy Friday...girls are off of school the next couple days, yay!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

For the Love of Pumpkins

It's been a heavy morning.  What began as simply working on a couple letters and emails on my sisters behalf (we're trying to get some things together to send on to hospitals in hopes of finding a doctor to take on her complicated case) turned into reading past things I've written about her story.  This lead to reading some of her old blog posts on her health stuff.  This lead to an emotional start to the day.  Luckily I am home by myself as I am doing this.  Except for the poor sprinkler guy who showed up to a red eyed girl listening to sappy music while she typed.  He was polite enough to ignore this and go about his business.  Anyways...the point of all this rambling is I need to go for something more light-hearted now.  Therefore, I begin with my new found love of pumpkins.

Before I never really saw much use for pumpkins beyond the annual jack-o-lantern carving.  And then one year we found we had accidentally grown them in our garden.  One of the previous years jack-o-lanterns survived the compost pile and sprouted the next year into a dozen pumpkins.  Now, these weren't huge carving pumpkins so I decided to try to do something with them.  After some research I found out how to cook the pumpkins to get to the goods inside.  My first attempt to cook with them was to be a pumpkin pie.  My absolute least favorite pie and possibly dessert of all.  I always found it slimy, smelly and gross.  With encouragement from Ava who had tried some at a school party I thought I would give making a pumpkin pie from scratch a try...maybe it would taste better.  This is where the crush began.  I started to look at pumpkin pie a different actually tasted good.  And, the texture when not out of a can was creamy and delicious.  Throughout the past couple of years it has turned into a full on love affair and I look forward to our pumpkins come fall.  Yesterday I made my first pumpkin bread for the season, oh I love it so.
I use a recipe from the Simply Recipe fav.  

I love the process of scraping out the seeds, baking the pumpkins and scooping out the pulp.  After blending it having a beautiful dark orange puree ready to be turned into bread.  I love when it's cool outside and the oven is on and the smell of pumpkin fills the house.  It feels beyond cozy and appropriate for this time of year.  I will sacrifice a few more of our pumpkins for cooking.  The rest will wait for our Halloween party when they will be hidden throughout our backyard.  Kids will giggle with flashlights as they go on a scavenger hunt that night.  Yep, I have totally fallen for pumpkins and I'm so into fall right now.  Summer who?  I'm digging right now.  (Ask me again in three months and I'll totally be singing a different tune)

Onto other happy things...

I got to join Layla on her first field trip of the year and I loved seeing my social butterfly with her friends.
This girl needs her mama much less than my Ava.  When I got the email there was a field trip that needed parent volunteers I immediately changed my work schedule so I could go.  Ava has always asked me to go on field trips so I naturally assumed Layla would like me to join her.  After school when I asked if she wanted me to go along I full expected "Yay, of course mommy I want you to come, yay! yay! yay!"  What I got was "Um, I don't care, if you want to you can".  
Bam.  She brought me down a notch or two.  
My girls are so very different.  It throws me occasionally because parenting one who is very sensitive, tender and quiet is different than one who is outgoing and independent.  I have to try to find a way to nurture each of their strengths and they are such different things.  In the case of the field trip I decided she's six years old and only in first grade, I can't totally cramp her style yet so I'm going.  Plus, I like her teacher so I could just hang out with her if Layla ignored me.  Of course as the field trip approached Layla told me she was excited I was coming with her and she even held my hand part of the way there.  I love watching her flourish with her little group of friends...they are all giggles and smiles.  Happy girls forming friendship bonds.  Some of the most important friendships they will have.

Also this week was school picture day so my girls got all dolled up...

Hair was curled and outfits were laid out the night before.  I had to snap this shot before because who knows what they looked like when the actual pictures were taken.  A couple of recesses can really take the curl out of a girl.  I look at this photo and they seem so grown up.  My babies.  I love who they are growing into.  

Ava was playing with my phone the other day while we were sitting at tap class for her sister.  She wouldn't let me see what she was doing.  Since we have yet to enter the world of Facebook or Internet scariness I wasn't worried about what she was doing.  This is what I found when I got my phone back...

Oh, my little lover.  

That is all.  Short, sweet, simple and happy.