Friday, January 31, 2014

Random, Happy Thoughts.

As we reach the end of the week and ready for the weekend I thought I'd take a quick moment to write a few thoughts.  Random, happy things.

The School Science Fair.
Last night was the girls science fair.  They worked so hard, every day on their project and proudly showed off their work during the fair.  Well...Ava proudly showed it off.  I do believe Layla was more interested in everyone else's science projects and she clammed up as soon as the judge showed up.  Ava handled it like a pro, telling the judge all about their project.  When it was done, she told me..."I'm glad that part is done, I was really nervous".  Couldn't tell baby girl...well done.  
Layla got another chance because her teacher was having the students bring their projects to the classroom.  It sounds like in the comfort of the familiar classroom she was able to do the presentation she had practiced so hard on.  It's funny to see my wild spirited, outgoing girl turn so quiet in different situations.  She always reminds me so much of Matt, but apparently there's a dose of me in there as well, especially when it comes to public speaking.  

Distinctly Montana.
I have another article posted by Distinctly Montana Magazine.  

It has been such an awesome opportunity to write for them.  You can check out the article here.  The publisher told me he found it heartfelt and authentic.  This makes me very happy indeed.  

This Hallmark holiday is right around the corner and as cheesy as it is, I dig it.  It's about love, what's not to like?  It's all pink hearts and chocolate and roses.  It takes me back to making purple and red mailboxes at school, waiting to be filled with Valentines from my classmates.  Last year I was all about PInterest for Valentines.  I gently urged the girls to make the ones I found on there and although they had fun making them, I felt like it wasn't their idea.  And, it seemed a lot of work for something that was probably tossed.  This year, I thought it was time to introduce the girls to store bought Valentines.  You know the kind...they come in sheets to tear apart with your favorite characters on them. All you have to do is fill in the To and From.  Layla was completely on board and quickly decided on puppy and kitty ones over the Frozen ones.  Ava, however, was a different story. I think I have successfully drilled the "homemade" idea in her head and she was not to be fooled by the wide array of colorful Disney Valentines to choose from.  Instead of a box of Valentine's she came home with some foam hearts and stickers and quickly set to work making her own.

She won't get to experience the old school Valentines we used to do, but it also wasn't something I pinned and encouraged her to do.  They are pure Ava.

New Recipe Success.
Speaking of Pinterest, last week  I tried a recipe I had found.  Tortellini Soup with Artichokes...
I have had some PInterest disasters before, but this was fantastic.  It was so easy to make and quickly became a family favorite.  It has a nice creamy base, cheesy tortellini and full of spinach and garbanzo beans.  Throw in some crusty bread and you've got a meal.  It was inspired by a recipe I found here.  But I changed it up a bit...
In a large pot boil 5-6 cups of veggie broth.  Toss in some tortellini and cook around 5 minutes.  Reduce the heat.  Add a can of garbanzo beans (rinsed and drained), 1-2 cups artichoke hearts, 1/2 cup half and half, around 1/2 cup some sort of tomatoes...fresh diced, slow oven roasted (we had some left from our garden!) or sun dried, a pinch of red pepper flakes, s&p and some fresh basil, torn into pieces.  Cook for a few more minutes and then add a couple cups of fresh spinach and cook until it wilts.  Top with parmesean cheese.  So, so good.  

And that wraps up January.  At the beginning of this month I mentioned how much I enjoy it for its calmness after the holiday chaos, and it delivered.  It was filled with cold, cozy family days and a few wonderfully warm and sunny days to keep my spirits high.  It was filled with quiet schedules except for the usual routines.  I'm hoping February brings the same.  With a bit of birthday of Valentine celebration tossed in.

Happy Friday.  

Sunday, January 26, 2014

For the Love of the Weekend.

I wrote this evening while the Grammy's went on in the background so apologize ahead of time if it's a little scattered...I kept getting pulled into performances.  And, on a side note the performance by Pink and Fun. was awesome.  Love that song.  And Imagine Dragons...rocked it.  Love that song too.  


So much for quiet weekends of January.  This is the last one of the month and we filled it up.  But it wasn't in a crazy, too much was in a how lucky we are to spend a full weekend of activity together.  A weekend that began spring like and ended with a cold snowy Sunday.  You know it's going to be a good one when it begins with flowers...
Their beautiful smell fills our house and with their tropical look, lilies are probably one of my favorite flowers.  No matter what type of flower, they always make me happy.  Especially because they are a reminder of how lucky I am that after many, many years together my hubby still brings me flowers often.  Yup, he's a keeper.  

Saturday opened with bright blue skies.  The air was still crisp but the warm sun on your face felt wonderful.  We had a birthday party in the morning and then it was the return of horse back riding lessons for Ava...
Which also meant the return of me aging just a little faster during the hour she is on this animal.  I watch her up there with a mix of worry and pride.  The worry subsides when I see her huge smile after completing something new.  I don't ever want my fear to squash her love of this, but man couldn't she have a deep passion for kittens instead of horses??  No one ever got hurt by kittens.  I think as long as we stick with the basics, I'll be okay...if she starts getting into jumping or things of that sort I don't know what I'll do.  

For Ava, I don't think Saturday could have gotten any better because after lessons she was off to a birthday party with friends.  This gave us some time with just the little one and all she wanted to do was go to a park.  I think spring fever is hitting her like it hits her mama.

As the girls are growing up there are more opportunities for one on one time with each kid.  Between individual activities and play dates with friends we occasionally find ourselves with only one girl.  It's interesting.  I like the time to really focus in on one of fighting, no competing for attention.  It's an opportunity to learn a little more about one of my girls.  But, like Matt said when we were at the park "When do we get Ava back?  It feels off without her".  I do have the feeling we aren't quite complete when one is away.  

I soaked up some more time with just Layla as we walked a few streets over to where Ava was at the party.  Matt stayed home for this one, so it was only me and my baby girl.  The weather was perfect for an afternoon walk and I swear everyone was out enjoying it.  That is one thing about Bozeman...we do not take a nice day for granted.  If the weather warms up to over 40-degrees in January and the sun is out, people will be outside taking advantage.  Layla brought her "magic" key so our conversation took a turn to wishes, fairies and flying magical pigs.  It was a lovely chat.  I savored the moment and it lasted until we started the walk home with Ava and as she animatedly told us all about the party, Layla pouted behind us saying "I want to talk about pigs again".  Oh, how I love these girls.  

To wrap up our Saturday we made pizzas, rented movies and stayed home.  We make pizza often at our house.  The toppings tend to be the same...lots of mozzarella, garlic stuffed olives and artichoke hearts.  I was feeling bored with this, so added spinach and caramelized onions this time.  It was a good decision...

The caramelized onions added the right amount of sweetness to the spice in my sauce.  Mmmm.  I love pizza night.  (I'll put recipes at the end)

The plan for Sunday was to head to Norris Hot Springs with friends, but the giant snowflakes started coming down that morning changed our plans.  Plan B was lunch out with said friends, working on the girls Science Fair project and staying warm with hot cocoa .  This is the first year the girls are doing the Science Fair at their school.  Their project is what will rot first...a store bought or homemade banana muffin.  They have both been really into it...checking the muffins each day and writing down their observations.  Today we started putting it all together and it's coming along.  I dig this age we are at.  School age kids, working on projects that we can actually still help them with.  Watching their little brains work and grow.  It is awesome.

This week will be my last week of being 35.  Then I tip dangerously close to my late thirties.  Ugg...that sounds so much worse than mid-thirties.  I actually don't get caught up in the aging thing much, but it feels like my thirties are going way too fast.  I suppose instead of thinking about that, I'll just concentrate on celebrating my birthday week.  I'm good at that.  

Hope your week is fantastic.

Pizza Sauce and Dough Recipes:

Pizza Sauce-
-1 small can tomato paste
-around a tbls of freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
-couple tbls of honey
-couple cloves of minced garlic
-around a 1/2 tsp of oregano, basil, marjoram, onion powder & 1/8 tsp of cayenne pepper & red pepper flakes
-warm water (adjust how much you need to your desired thickness of sauce)
Mix all the above together and let sit for around 1/2 hour so the flavors can blend (you can refrigerate and use later)

Dough-(I double this to make two pizzas)
Mix 2 tbls sugar and 3/4 cup warm water together in a bowl.  Add one package active dry yeast and let rest 5 minutes.  Stir in 1 tbls olive oil, 2 tsp salt and begin to add flour...around one cup at a time. Once in starts to form a ball, put in on a lightly floured surface and knead more flour in until it gets smooth and elastic.  Around 6-8 minutes.  Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise around 1 1/2 hour.  

Heat a pizza stone in a 450-degree oven.  Carefully add a rolled out piece of dough on the stone after your've sprinkled the stone with corn meal so it won't stick.  Cook just the dough around 7-10 minutes.  Remove from oven and top with sauce and goodies and cook around 10 more minutes.  Enjoy! 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Distractions and Awareness.

So... I just started reading a new book.  It's a guide to living a less distracted life.  Not only in an IPhone, computer, device way but in a throw-away-the-To-Do-list way.  I'm only one chapter in, but find myself thinking about it throughout my days.  Her words make so much sense and in hopes to not simply read the book and add it to my shelf I want to take my time with it.  Slowly read each chapter, let it simmer and try to really take to heart the words.  I know by writing about it in this space I will be more likely to stick with it. I'm not sure why that is, but I do believe I hold myself more accountable if I write these things down.  

First up was most obviously putting down the devices.  We live in such a different world now.  A world where taking a phone call during dinner is acceptable.  A world where we can go out and see a couple who appear to be on a date but aren't even talking to one another because they are on Facebook.  A world where kids don't even know how to actually call a friends house because they'll just send a text.  I remember having full conversations with friends parents on the phone before I actually got to talk to my friend. Learning to communicate with actual words not having to Google what YOLO means.  As many do, I struggle to find the balance between embracing this technology and resisting it.  Trying to figure out what is the "normal" amount of times in a day to check your Facebook, email or Instagram.  Trying to know if the example I am currently setting with my phone use to my 6 and 8 year old will be acceptable to me when they do the same as a 14 year old.  If I'll remember the time I tell them to give me a minute while I send a text when they are asking me a question and if I'll give them the same patience when the situation is reversed in a few years.  Will I get angry if they don't take their eyes away from the screen to really talk to me like I sometimes do to them?  These are things I think about and were brought more to my attention as I read this first chapter.  It said to take time each day to disconnect.  Even if it is for only ten minutes.  I believe I can do better than that.  I've set real boundaries for picking up my phone to check the social networks or browse PInterest.  It's interesting how much you realize you reach for your phone out of boredom to fill a few minutes and then get sucked in.  When I put a limit on myself to only check it once in the morning and once at the end of the day I have found those extra ten minutes here and there get filled with these sweet faces...

Or instead of half way listening to Matt with one eye on my phone, I stop and get a full conversation.  Instead of glancing at my phone while sitting at a red light (a bad habit I am strongly trying to quit, especially as I set an example for my future drivers in the backseat) I look around outside and observe the world going on.  One point I really liked in the book was about things going on around you, like a beautiful sunset or the way the clouds are moving around the mountains, are going to happen whether you take the time to see them or not...but why would you want to miss something like that?  Just to see a friends status update?  It's about being aware of what you are missing while you are mindlessly getting sucked into things that don't matter.  It's being aware how many small things you miss out on.  Being aware of how often we get distracted by the devices.  Those social networks are designed to keep you checking back over and over...when I think about it that way, it irritates me that I let myself be sucked into it.  By being more aware of my habits these past couple of days I have been able to change how I think about it.  And, not only because I get to be more present with Matt and the girls but because I also have better things to do than stare at a screen.  (I say as I type staring at a screen...but writing is like my therapy so sometimes you gotta do what ya gotta do).

Other thought...Going a few days without a To-Do list.  Now, I don't write down a daily list, but I certainly make one in my head every single day.  As a creature of habit, there are certain things I like to get done each day and when I do make the occasional list I take a weird amount of pleasure in crossing things off.  I feel accomplished and exhausted at the end of a day when I get everything done.  But, then I wonder if the day could have been better spent doing something other than crossing the mundane chores off a list I created.  The suggestion in the book was to not make any To-Do lists for a few days and then notice what happens.  See if the world crumbles because you didn't get everything done.  For those days, notice what other things you may choose to do to fill your time.  Let me tell you...I could easily throw all my devices in the trash and not have a care in the world, but trying to let go of doing all the things I think need to get done in a week is so, so hard for me.  It's hard because you have to figure out what can be let go. In the day to day there are a lot of things that do have to get done.  I have to feed my family and to do that I have to go to the grocery store and then make the food.  If you make the food, then you do have to do dishes.  And if you have kids, these meals will result in dirty clothes, so you do in fact have to do laundry.  And clean clothes don't magically get back into closets, so you have to put them away.  You see, it's a vicious cycle that continues on top of work and school responsibilities so I find it tricky to figure out what I can and can't let go of.  In hopes of trying to figure it out I have tried to push my mental To-Do list out of my mind this week. If something needs to get done, I'll do it, but not in a clean on Monday, store on Tuesday, laundry on Wednesday way.  I'm doing okay with it.  It was easier over the weekend because I truly value that as family time.  If things get messy and beds don't get made, I don't care.  It's harder as we go into the week and I've become so accustomed to doing certain things.  I'm working on it and it's funny how instantly you see rewards.  Tuesdays for example are generally a day I don't have to go to work so try really hard to get all the housework done.  That morning the girls were ready for school early and we had twenty minutes before we had to leave.  Normally I would have taken that twenty minutes to get a head start on vacuuming or something.  Instead I put that mental To-Do list away and got lost in the girls Polly Pocket world.  Later in the day instead of catching up on that missed cleaning, I went to my sisters and spent a lovely afternoon catching up with her.  This one will continue to be a struggle for me, but one I know is important I continue to work on.  And to be okay with whatever balance I find because sometimes a girl has just got to make a list so she can cross things off.  

Speaking of said weekend, the weather was wonderfully spring-like yet we did many winter activities.  Things like ice skating in the sunshine...

Coats did not stay on for long and instead of hot cocoa after we had ice cream.  How crazy is that?  I am not complaining.  We also did some sledding...

We had to get up in the mountains to find enough snow for sledding.  It wasn't perfect, fluffy sledding snow, but at least there was snow.  And the views weren't bad either.  

The question at the end of that first chapter of the book was what you consider a valuable use of your time and does your daily agenda reflect this.  When I really focused on being more aware of distractions in my days I was able to realize how many things I do that are not valuable.  I know changes cannot be made overnight, but I hope to continue to let the distractions take a back seat to the more important things to me.  

I promise I will not give a play by play of each chapter as I read this book.  Only the things I am feeling strongly about.  Sorting my thoughts on it here so I can figure out the best way to move forward with it.  I think it is valuable.  

Happy snowy day to ya.  The spring weather sure was nice while it lasted.  

Friday, January 17, 2014

My Cooking Evolution.

We are halfway through January nothingness.  Even when you don't have the chaos of the holidays time seems to go so fast.  I have been embracing January for all of its settling back into calm.  However, I am beginning to feel the familiar itch of spring time longing.  It is many months away so I get a little nervous when the itch begins so early.  It's been fairly warm out and sunny giving hints to springtime.  This in Montana's idea of a cruel joke because there will be many, many cold and snowy days long before spring actually makes any sort of appearance.  Sigh.  Same story, different year.  

I have realized with the holidays this space has been lacking in the food department.  Now, there has been no lack of cooking and eating going on, just not so much writing about it.  To get back to where part of this blog began, I thought I'd get back to it.  For starters...
Fried Mozzarella Ravioli with Marinara~
I have mixed feelings about homemade ravioli.  Of course I believe most things made from scratch taste better, but with ravioli I'm not sure if the effort makes it that much better.  I tend to run out of patience after the first few, so then the rest get over stuffed because I'm trying to get it over with.  Over stuffed means they fall apart in the water and it all ends up a big mess.  I've got making pasta down and very rarely buy store bought noodles...ravioli is a different story.  But then I got a pasta maker for Christmas and it changed the game.  I have seen how it makes noodles twice as easy so decided to attempt ravioli.  And, then to up it a notch decided to fry them because what is better than fried cheesy pasta?  Using the pasta machine definitely made the process easier.  The dough was pressed thin enough to make assembly easier and look much more like real ravioli than the thick, uneven dough I used to get when I tried rolling it out.  They really were delicious...all ooey-gooey and dipped in the warm marinara.  I'm not going to say I'll never buy store bought ravioli again, but I was pleasantly surprised making them this time.  (I'll put the recipes at the bottom!)

I've been doing a lot of experimenting in the kitchen.  My cooking has evolved over my adulthood and has taken several major turns through the years.  The first big change was going from cooking a ton of processed, pre-packaged meals to a more natural, organic approach.  When Matt and I were first married, I proudly took on the roll of him amazing meals of Hamburger Helper and a lot of tacos.  I thought browning some beef with a pre-packaged taco mix and dicing a few tomatoes made me ready for Top Chef.  Fortunately we had both just graduated college so this was a step up from our usual Top Ramon and Burger King so all was good.  Enter little Miss Ava and everything changed.  Instead of working all day I was home taking care of a baby and watching more than my fair share of day time television.  A favorite, besides my guilty pleasures of trashy reality TV, was the cooking channel.  I watched Giada and the gang cook with real food and not out of a box...I was fascinated.  I also had a sudden interest in doing everything the "right" way with Ava so took an interest in what she was eating.  Reading baby books put the fear of chemicals in my head and I began to look at organic in a different way.  Add these things with the extra hours I had at home and needing something other than taking care of a baby to put my focus on and I turned to the kitchen.  It began slowly...carefully following a recipe to make chicken parmesean and not missing a step for fear I would ruin it.  As the years went on, so did my confidence.  I began to rely less on recipes and more on my intuition of what tasted good together.  Now, with a few basic ingredients I can pull something together.  I still devour cookbooks and recipes for inspiration, but feel comfortable making adjustments as needed and creating my own.  I have found a love of food and cooking it.  I have also found that at the end of the day, a time some find to be a struggle, I turn on the music, pour a glass of wine, head to the kitchen and cook.  I love it.  

The second change in my cooking came a couple years ago when we headed down the vegetarian road.  I grew up in a big meat eating family.  I didn't think anything of it, but had to separate the animal=meat part in my brain.  It sounds a little crazy, but one night Matt and I were flipping through Netflix and ended up watching a food documentary and it changed everything.  We had literally just eaten a huge roast dinner and by the end of the movie decided to feed the leftovers to the dog.  My thoughts on this...if we had truly been carnivores I think the show would have left an impression for a week or two and we would have been back eating steaks.  However, it turned out neither of us missed the meat in our meals.  I believe this means that deep down, I've always been a vegetarian at heart.  BUT!  Not a hard core one.  After a few months we would have the occasional burger...bought from a local ranch raising happy cows.  I liked the idea of knowing where my food was coming from and just like I prefer eating veggies fresh from our garden or CSA, I liked eating meat from a Montana ranch instead of who knows where.  This semi-vegetarian way went on for awhile with me being more into it than Matt.  He would indulge more often in meat and I started thinking maybe we should begin to introduce a bit more into our meals.  I was feeling stumped and uninspired with the vegetarian cooking.  As I was settling into the idea adding meat back into our meals Matt had a change of heart and decided to jump full force into vegetarianism.  He even tossed around ideas of becoming a vegan and although I would support him 100% I have no desire to give up cheese.  Or ice cream.  No way.  Luckily that idea didn't last, but if he was considering the vegetarian route I knew I needed to embrace it and find my inspiration with it.  I haven't joined him completely in this endeavor.  I no longer cook with meat because Layla and I would be the only ones who would eat it and that's just not worth it.  I will, however, indulge in a burger at a couple restaurants in town.  Thanks to a couple fantastic vegetarian food blogs I have become re-inspired with this type of cooking.  My favorite has been Oh My Veggies.  I love her entire philosophy regarding it.  They are easy recipes with seasonal ingredients and so much variety.  There are no politics about vegetarianism...only cooking.  I have made a ton of the recipes from there and they have all been fantastic.  Who knows when or if our eating or my cooking style will take another turn in the future.  Right now I'm quite comfortable and enjoying this pretty-much-vegetarian-with-the-occasional-burger type cooking.  

This morning I overheard the end of a conversation the girls were having in the bathroom.  It made me smile...
Ava  "Yes, Layla lots of people get married...sometimes it's a girl and boy, sometimes it's two girls and sometimes it's two boys.  If it is two girls or boys they have to adopt a baby because you need a mommy and daddy to make a baby"
Layla  "But, it two girls have a baby then the baby wouldn't have a daddy!!!"
Ava  "That's okay.  The baby would get to have two mommies."
It made me smile because I like that they understand families can look many different ways.  They get to see that within our own family with step-parents and half siblings, cousins that are like siblings and friends that are like family.   I like that they see family isn't defined in one's only defined by love.  Smart girls.

Happy Friday friends.  

Fried Ravioli
Pasta dough:
1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cups semolina flour
3 eggs
1 tbls olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tbls water
Combine flours and salt on a clean surface and make a well in the middle.  In a small bowl mix eggs, olive oil and water.  Slowly add to the well of the dry ingredients while incorporating with a fork.  Once all is mixed, knead the dough for a couple of minutes.  Wrap in a towel and let rest for 20 minutes.  

Divide dough into quarters and work with one at a time.  Keep remaining sections covered.  Flatten the dough out you are working with, dust with flour and run through the pasta machine to flatten  (I need two times on setting 1 & 2, then once on 3,4, 5)  If you don't have a pasta machine...roll out with a roller as thin as you can get it.  Lay the sheets out on a floured service.  

Fill two of the four sheets with a small piece of mozzarella and basil.  Place another sheet on top and press around the mozzarella.  Cut into squares to make ravioli's and use a fork to seal the sides.  Repeat with the other two sheets.  

To Fry:
Dip each ravioli in an egg wash and then in a mixture of half bread crumbs, half panko crumbs.  Fry in hot oil around 3 minutes.  Work in batches.  

For Marinara:
Olive Oil
2 garlic gloves, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
1 carrot or 1/2 zucchini or both, diced
1 can tomato paste
1/2 tbls sugar
1 tsp each...oregano, basil, marjoram
Salt and pepper
Heat olive oil and add garlic and onions.  Cook around 8-10 minutes.  Add carrot and/or zucchini, cook 5 more minutes.  Add tomato paste, 2 cans of water, sugar and herbs and stir together.  Bring to a slight boil, then lower heat to simmer for around 45 minutes.  You can keep it chunky or puree for more of a traditional marinara.  Sprinkle with some parmesean cheese. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Fortune Tellers, M.A.S.H. & Other Happy Things.

The two week break is over.  Sadly, on Sunday night the backpacks came out of the closet, lunches were made and bedtimes were enforced.  Instead of a lazy Monday morning in pj's, everyone reluctantly got up and ready and out the door by 8 am.  This week we've been getting back into the groove of things.  As much as I loved the break, I'm a creature of habit who thrives on routine so part of me is happy things are returning to normal.  However, Sister's still gone so our new normal consists of two extra kids which adds a little chaos to our routine.  A couple more kids means longer homework routines and raises the general volume in our small house.  It also means more hugs at bedtime and a change from our usual dinner conversation.  It means a full on dance party and kids singing "What does the fox say?" at the top of their lungs.  It means a lot of laughs.  So even though it adds a little extra work and I'm left with zero motivation after they go to sleep, I totally love it.  It's a taste of larger family life, much different than our family of four dynamic.  

And, everything is more fun with cousins.  Things like getting ready for bed becomes a game of trying not to spit on anyones toothbrush while four kids use the same sink...

When there are four rather than two the games get more creative and easier.  Playing school becomes more fun when there is one teacher to three students.  And, I always get to play principle.  Speaking of games and school...remember the old fortune tellers from grade school?

Ava was supposed to make one with math facts for her homework.  After several attempts I became frustrated that I couldn't remember how to fold the dang thing when I probably had made hundreds of them between 4th and 6th grade.  After Ava's suggestion to "Just Google it Mom!" it all came flooding back to me.  The math one was fun for awhile, but then I showed them the way we used to make them and soon each kid had me making one for them and fortunes were told all night long followed by endless giggles.  It was awesome. Inspired by their enthusiasm for this simple game in a YouTube world, tonight I introduced the old M.A.S.H. game.  You know, the one...Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House, etc.  This one also was met with lots of laughs especially when Greg's future said he would have 1,000 kids and live in a shack, but he'd be a football player living in Greenbay.  It makes me happy to bring these old games to a new generation.  These four make me smile.  A lot.

Other things I'm liking a lot right now-

My girl losing her first top tooth...

She's lost a couple bottom ones, but a top one changes her smile.  And adds a little lisp that I find adorable.  She was so excited to leave her tooth for the fairy and had notes all ready for her.  And then Matt and I had one of our bigger parental failures.  We forgot.  We had spent the evening at our friends, laughing and having a good ole time.  We came home late and put tired girls to bed.  We told ourselves we'd let her fall asleep and then go do our tooth fairy duties.  Bad, bad parents fell asleep.  I woke up the next morning when I heard Ava get up, sat straight up and realized what we had done.  I rushed and grabbed Ava and brought her to bed with me, telling her I wanted snuggles while Matt ran to make the tooth/money exchange, both of us hoping she had forgotten to check.  Of course she hadn't.  I could tell by the look in her eyes that she had checked and instead of money had found her tooth.  She wouldn't tell us though...she said she forgot to check and went back to watching morning cartoons.  On a commercial we encouraged her to go see and she came back all smiles with two bucks and the note I managed to scribble as fast as I could while she was watching her show.  Thank goodness for the innocence of a child who hasn't been tainted by a cynical world...she believed the fairy came that morning and all was right with the world.  I may have added to this a bit when I told her I thought I'd heard something in her room.  It was the least I could do after such an epic fail.  The poor girl is losing teeth so slow and we go and screw up the tooth fairy.  Geez.  

She really wanted to spend her $2.00 on hot cocoa at Barnes & Noble.  Thanks to the guilt Matt and I were feeling, I'm pretty sure we would have let her do anything she wanted that day.  Sweet girl even told Layla that if hot cocoa was only a dollar she would buy her one too.  Turns out hot cocoa is $2.75 so we told her we'd buy Layla's and cover the difference for hers.  Again, at this point we would have probably bought her the coffee shop to make ourselves feel better.  Luckily she was satisfied with the cocoa.

One last thing I'm new pasta maker-

Now I can make pasta for days!  No more rolling the dough flat until my arms are exhausted and then rolling, slicing, unrolling, laying out, repeat.  Now it's just run it through the pasta roller a couple times and then through the cutter and viola...beautiful, perfect pasta.  For this pasta loving family this is the Best. Thing. Ever.  

That's all.  I wasn't sure if I had the motivation for this tonight, I sort of pushed myself to do it and as usual I'm glad I did.  I can't crash on the couch every night by 8pm, that's lame.  Although I do believe that is exactly what January is for.  Resting and rejuvenating for the new year.  And my idea of rest and rejuvenation occasionally  usually means vegging on the couch for a "New Girl" binge on Netflix.  

Happy Thursday to ya.  

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Why, Hello 2014.

2014 started very slowly for us.  Everyone tired from staying up late the night before.  Christmas came down and the house returned to normal.  I like the slowdown January brings.  On New Year's Eve I took some time to write down my thoughts of the past year and hopes for the next.  Those thoughts, unedited...

Today is the last day of 2013.  I remember my Grandma telling me once that as you get older time seems to go faster and faster.  As I inch toward my 36th year, I couldn't agree more.  This year has flown by.  It was a good year.  I think I learned a lot and I don't know what else you could ask for from a year.  The girls each grew one year older…inching towards independence, showing signs of the young ladies they will become.  Matt and I continued to get stronger in our relationship.  I do feel lucky about this fact.  I know there are a lot of couples who grow apart as the years go on…begin to take each other for granted and start to forget why they are together in the first place.  Fortunately we seem to get closer.  Continually learning how to better communicate and always reminding each other we are on the same team and to treat each other as friends.  Important stuff.  The only crappy part of this year is my sister hasn't improved.  With her gone right now ready for some more opinions I'm hoping 2014 will be the year this nightmare ends for her.  With her kids here right now our New Year's Eve is low key.  Making pizza with the kids, toasting sparkling cider at 7 and watching a movie with popcorn.  The kids all really want to stay up until Midnight…I don't have the heart to tell them I don't think anyone in the house, myself included, will make it much past 10.  (Although I plan on trying!)  I like a low-key New Year's Eve.  I always had high expectations for the night when I was younger.  We would get dressed up and head downtown ready to kiss one year good bye and welcome the next.  I remember some fun times, but for the most part it was a bit of a let down.  Too much hype surrounded it.  I found comfort in having to stay home once we had Ava.  The past eight New Year's have consisted of either staying home watching movies with babies or hanging out with Amy and Chad and their kids.  The champagne still flowed, food all around and usually some sort of games.  Nothing crazy, good old fun.  This year our friends had other plans so we are here watching Herbie Fully Loaded and I couldn't be happier.  A bottle of champs is chilling in the fridge for after the kids fall asleep and we'll see if Matt and I can stay up late enough to toast a new year.  

I like the feeling of a New Year.  I know nothing magical changes from December 31 to January 1, but it feels very much like a fresh new start.  The holidays are over and it's a clean slate.  January holds nothing more than new beginnings.  No holiday to celebrate, no change in season…just the middle of winter.  But to me it's a time to reflect.  A time with nothing else besides thinking of how you want this new year to shape up.  A time to slow things down.  This morning, first thing I found the four kids sitting around the Christmas tree, each with a piece of paper and pen in hand.  No other lights on and all still in pj's.  I asked what they were doing and the reply was "We're writing down our New Years resolutions".  Or revolutions as Greg kept calling them.

They came up with really cool goals for the year.  A couple favorites…Layla wants to have way more fun.  Um, shouldn't that be on everybody's list?  Something we often forget to do.  Life gets so serious but in the end I think we should all have way more fun.  Otherwise, what's the point?  Greg had to be nicer to his sister.  In fact, each kid had be nicer to others on their list.  Again…this one should be on the top of everyone's list.  Imagine our world if everyone simply tried being kinder.  No grand gesture, no trying to change the world.  Just be nice to others.  Things could really start to happen then.  Kim had one of the most grown-up responses…to not step away from my problems, but to talk about them.  Where did that one come from??  Little Kim has always been wise beyond her years and this resolution reflected this.  Communication, another great concept.  And then Ava.  She had the most resolutions written down, complete with drawings.  Oh, my sweet Ava.  Her list included giving to the poor and being kind to nature.  Oh, yea and to remember to feed the dog before breakfast every day.  This girl is something else.  I learn from her everyday and hope to have half the goodness in my heart she does.  These kids are all amazing.  As we toasted to a new year with our sparkling cider each one wanted to give their own toast and each included Kori coming home and not being sick anymore.  It's what we all are wishing for this year.  

Beyond that I have done some thinking these last couple of days of resolutions of my own.  I don't want to completely change who I am so if I have to really force a resolution then it is not meant to be.  I want to embrace some of the things that sometimes get a negative connotation and turn them into a positive attribute.  Find a balance.  Last year I resolved to try and be a less controlling, Type A person.  However, I am well aware I well never be someone who is totally "chill".  Instead of beating myself up about this, I try to find a balance between letting the little things go and getting things done.  Knowing if one thing on my to-do list doesn't get done, the world will not fall apart.  Knowing sometimes it's okay to let the housework go if the other option is hanging with the family.  Knowing missing a run one day is worth it if it means I get to hold my baby nephew longer or help my sister get a few errands done.  The time spent with those I love trumps the rest and to embrace those moments because they are the ones that count.  But, also know if I have a morning to myself while the kids are at school and I choose to turn the music up loud and clean the house like a crazy woman, that's okay too.  With this new year I hope to continue to find this balance between getting everything done and letting go.  

This leads right into my second resolution…to be present.  When I'm thinking of my mental to do list or worrying about what is not getting done I get anxious.  And, it doesn't help with anything.  With the return of yoga to my life I am reminded of the importance of staying in the moment.  Worrying about the past or future never solves either…enjoying and living in the moment will bring true contentment.  I found a saying this year I reflect on from time to time.  "There are three solutions to every problem.  Accept it, change it, leave it.  If you can't accept it, change it.  If you can't change it, leave it."  Love this.  It reminds me to push those thoughts of things I can't change away.  Take a breath and simply take in what is before me.  This continues to be a work in progress.

One big one this year, different from any years past…to have more patience and talk kinder to the girls.  I tell them on almost a daily basis when they are fighting to talk nicely to each other…not yell or snap at one another.  Because kids learn by example, I know I need to change in this way.  I often find myself talking to them out of frustration.  I have gotten better about not yelling, but they can sense when I'm annoyed and I think that is just as bad as yelling.  If I want them to communicate in a better way then I need to lead the way.  This is probably the one I want to work on the most.  This also goes for how I talk to Matt.  I think we argue pretty well, but I do believe I could improve on communicating better and having more patience.  It's easy to take the ones closest to us for granted and forget to treat them with respect.  I want to change this…if they are the ones I love the most in the world, they deserve my very best.  

Something else I think I have improved on this year and hope to keep up in 2014 is staying true to myself and not worrying about what others may think of it.  The people whose reactions I truly care  about and respect are a small circle…the rest make no difference in the grand scheme of things.  This is important for me to remember.  Sometimes I hesitate with the words I write or the things I say…molding my opinion to match those of whom I'm with.  As I've gotten older and found out more of who I am, I want to let that shine.  More than anything I want my girls to grow up to be their own beautiful, individual selves.  To be kind, compassionate and strong.  These are things I also want for myself and strive for.

I like the idea of being a work in progress.  Of things not always being perfect.  If things were always perfect we would have nothing to learn and what a boring place it would.  I look back at 2013 with gratitude for all the experiences I had.  For the health and happiness of my family.  I look forward to 2014 with anticipation of a fantastic year.  To learn more about myself, continue to grow, find balance and contentment.  To be the best mom, wife, friend, sister, daughter I can be.  To be the type of woman I want my girls to grow into.  

Happy New Year. 

And, we did in fact make it to midnight.  It took a bottle of bubbly and a couple rounds of cards but we officially welcomed 2014 at midnight.