Sunday, March 30, 2014

Happy Weekend.

I sat down this evening to write another article for Distinctly Montana.  I hit a bit of writers block.  I would start, then delete.  Start again...a couple paragraphs in, delete.  It wasn't working.  I give up for now.  Instead I'll write what I know will flow.  Short, sweet and happy moments from the weekend. 

This weekend there has been a lot of this...

As you can imagine, this does not please me in the least.  I wish I didn't get so grouchy about the weather.  I wish I didn't complain so much about it.  I wish I didn't feel compelled to write about it.  But, I'm sorry I can't seem to stop.  I'm simply one of those people whose mood is affected by the weather.  This explains why I didn't live in Portland long.  It explains why this time of year if  when the weather is crappy, Matt treads lightly around me for fear of angering the beast.  I can't help it that I NEED sunshine!!!  Okay, fine I'll stop.  At least for this post.  

Because there was a bit of sun interspersed with the crap snow.  We took full advantage.

The weekend was kicked off with play dates for the girls.  Four giggling, happy girls out of school for the weekend.  I love how full of life and energy they are when all together.  It makes me smile.  Blossoming friendships.  

The play date was a sign of the weekend to come...full of social activity.  Birthday parties with friends, birthday party with family and dinner guests one evening...I need a day to recover from it all.  I'm not complaining, full weekends like this make me realize how many great people we have in our lives.  I feel grateful for each of them, the conversations we have, the laughs we share.  We did manage to sneak in a Sunday morning with only our family of four.  A lazy stay-in bed morning watching cartoons, church, lunch downtown and a trip to the planetarium show.

Family time.  Moments I hold close to my heart.  Small memories that will fade, but not the enjoyment of being together.  

Weekends are the best.  Whether they are very full or totally low-key, they rejuvenate me for the week to come.  

That is all.  I told you it would be short and sweet.  Matt mentioned after reading my article over on mamalode, that people may have liked it because it wasn't as long.  As he said "someimes people don't like to read that much".  I think that was his way of nicely saying I tend to get a bit wordy.  

Hope your weekend was awesome.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Happy Blogiversary.

You remember the happy dance I was talking about in my last post?  The one that was caused by the always wonderful first day of spring?  Well, tonight I have more happy fact this one is more like a cheerleader happy dance.  This means more enthusiasm with kicks and toe touches.  It is happening because I got the amazing opportunity to have an article posted in one of my favorite magazines...
Mamalode is a magazine and website written by mama's.  I love the stories I read in it.  I often read them online because I haven't found them distributed here in Bozeman, but anytime I'm in Missoula I make sure to pick one up and admire the beautiful photography.  Because I am so impressed by this publication, I was so proud to be a part of it.  I'm happy I persisted through a couple rejections from them before getting a "YES!  We want to include your article."   It went live yesterday and that is where the cheesy, cheerleader happy dance began.  If you haven't read it, you can check it out here.  

It has been two years since I adventured into this blog world.  Inspired by a couple others I got hooked on.  Having always enjoyed writing, I thought what better time to start a blog.  Something for the memory books, moments from the girls childhood that we can all look back on and remember.  I started simply writing, but not posting anything.  Still unsure of the blog world.  And, then I thought I'd go for it...see if I liked putting it out there.  If I changed how I wrote if I knew people were reading.  I found I liked the creative process of doing it as a blog rather than writing only for me.  I stretched myself further to put the stories of our lives together.  Over the past couple of years I have gone back and forth on keeping it up and feel like I found a comfortable place in the blog world.  The other writing opportunities I have found with Distinctly MT and mamalode are icing on the cake.  So...2 years, 170 blog posts and 5 articles later...happy blogiversary.  

A couple things for the memory book from our weekend.  It was quiet and low key.  And with birthday month beginning in April around here, it was perfect.  It was a chilly first weekend of spring, but darn it we wanted to play outside.  And so we did.

They are Montana girls, so if there is no snow on the ground that means we can head to a park.  Even if we don't stay very long.  

And I had a rare night out with my BFF.  We squeezed in a hour and a half between my husband getting home from work and her husband going to work.  That was enough time to share a basket of fries and a couple of beers and catch up quick just the two of us.  We hang out with our families often, but a hour of one-on-one was a nice treat.

For those who have read and shared my article from mamalode...thank you for the support and all the kind words.  They really mean a lot to me.

Happy day to ya.  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Gratitude. And, It's SPRING!!

I'm doing a happy dance right now.  Today is the official first day of spring!  Winter is O.V.E.R!  Happy dance!  I know, I know in Montana the first day of spring does not mean the snow will magically melt, trees blossom and tulips begin popping up.  However, it means these good things are coming.  Of course they will be interspersed with snow storms and sad flowers that pushed their way through the dirt will get covered with snow, but the fact they are pushing their way up means spring!  This makes me very happy indeed.  And, just wait until the first day of summer...that's as good as Christmas morning in my book.

Because I am so thankful spring is finally here, I've been thinking a lot about gratitude.  There's a blog I follow that has been talking a lot about being grateful...for big things, little things, all things.  It's amazing how focusing on a small amount of the things you are grateful for each day can really make everything better.  What I've been trying to do is first thing in the morning, before I even get out of bed is take a moment to think about things I am grateful for right then.  In the dark, quiet of the morning, while everyone else in the house is still sound asleep (well, everyone except Layla...she's up patiently staring at her clock waiting for it to say 6:30 so she can get up).  I have found it to be a great way to start my day.  Take Monday morning for example.  No one likes getting up on Monday.  I always wish it was still the weekend and never feel quite ready to take on another week.  But, instead of thinking about that, I thought of a few things I felt grateful for and it made it so much easier to get up and ready to face a brand new week.  Try'll see.  

To keep with this gratitude waterfall of thoughts I have going on, I think I'll go with things I'm grateful for right now.  

First up...
Healthy Babies-

After a week of sick, everyone finally began to feel better.  Little girls got their sparkle back.  To salvage what was left of spring break, we threw on suits and headed to Chico.  The beauty of the Paradise Valley never ceases to make me smile...

The sun was out, the water warm and our little fish happy to finally be out of the house, splashing around.  And, one happy mama watching them with the sun on her face and bloody mary in hand.  I felt so very grateful to see them feeling like themselves again.  It's so sad when they are sick...sad eyes looking at me telling me their tummy hurts and not being able to do anything about it but have them sip on Ginger Ale.  I always feel extra grateful for health after they've been sick.  

After soaking we headed to lunch in Livingston where it was ever apparent Layla's appetite was back as she put french fries on her salad.
I think I would have let her eat whatever she wanted.  Both girls looked extra scrawny in their swimsuits after not eating much all week.  Poor babes.  

Funny lunch story...the place we went, Gil's, is a fantastic restaurant where they make almost everything from scratch.  It's delicious.  However, to use the restroom you have to go to the bar that is attached.  I took the girls, each one goes in a separate stall.  
Layla starts giggling and proclaims:  "Eager Beaver!"  
Ava responds "What?"
Layla "It's says eager beaver...if you want to keep them eager you got to shave the beaver!"  
Both girls begin giggling hysterically over this, not having a clue what this writing on the wall was really referring too.  Only in Livingston people, only in Livingston.

Next up on my gratitude list..
Baby Nephews-
Sister and her hubby had a night away this past weekend and we watched their boys.  It felt a lot less scary to watch the baby this time than it did two months ago when we did it.  Now he's a giggly, happy baby with plenty of snuggles.  It's good for me to get my baby fix.  There are times I wonder if we should have had a third to round out our family.  And then I watch a baby overnight and feel quite happy we are done.  Babies are hard.  You so easily forget this.  It's been almost 7 years since we've had a baby.  That means we've been sleeping soundly for a long time and it's hard to go back to waking to put a pacifier back in, change a diaper, or get a bottle ready at 4 am.  You forget that it's hard to cook a meal in the ten minutes a baby is happy.  My girls play for hours without needing a thing...babies and toddlers simply need more.  I am grateful for where we are in our parenthood journey.  I sometimes miss the girls being babies and that is where nephews come in.  I get to snuggle and love on them and then happily return them to their mama.  It's a win win.  And I get to catch moments like this...
Big cousin reading bedtime stories to little cousin.  We were getting ready for bed and I had to leave the room to grab something and came back to find Layla reading his bedtime story for him.  It melted my heart.

Only a couple more on the grateful journey today...
A Moonlit Run-
With the time change the days are longer in the evenings.  No longer is it dark when Matt is coming home from work...this is a sure sign of spring.  However, it means the mornings are dark.  The moon lit up the sky this morning on my run so it didn't feel quite as dark.  In fact, it was beautiful.  I finally got over being afraid of running in the dark.  I enjoy the solitude of it now.  I feel hidden as I run along the dark sidewalks with the occasional headlights from a car passing by.  I am also grateful I was able to run my usual time this morning.  About a month ago I tweaked my knee.  I've been babying it the last few weeks with a mix of running and walking.  I've been trying not to be too bummed about it.  Running is so important to me and when I can't do it, I feel defeated.  Instead of pushing through this injury like I've done in the past, I've chosen to be gentle.  Ease myself back into it so running can continue to be a part of my future.  And with hiking just around the corner, I know I want it to be healed up.  The snow is melting off the Bridgers and the "M" is almost visible which means a spring hike is in the very near future.  Running this morning gave me hope that my patience has paid off and my knee is healing.

And, one more for the road...
My Girls-
Always, always on the top of my gratitude list each day are my girls.  My family.  We are together and life is good.  It may get busy, kids get sick, we forget to be kind to each other.  But, remembering to stop and feel grateful for what we have makes all that stuff go away.  Catching my girls in a moment like this-

These girls fight as sisters will do.  They have a hard time agreeing on what to play.  Layla always wanting to play school where she gets to be the teacher.  Ava always wanting to play horses.  Compromising doesn't happen very often.  Then there are the moments they play beautifully.  Ava setting up a salon, complete with "magazines" to read during the pedicure and music playing softly in the background.  Yes, these moments I feel extremely grateful for.  

Happy spring.  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Spring Break.

Our spring break has not gone as planned.  We have had a sick house.  It started in the middle of the night Saturday and is still going strong.  No one has been spared, no one has been sleeping well.  The sun is shining outside and we've tried to get out and enjoy it, but for the most part have been stuck inside.  Ava's came and went quickly and she's been trying hard to entertain herself while little sister can't seem to get better.  

As much as it bums me out to be spending their spring break cooped up inside I am grateful they are off of school.  It saves me from the morning dilemma of...send them to school or keep them home?  And if I send them feeling guilty for doing so and if I keep them home, wondering if they really are that sick.  I am also grateful because Matt took some days off this week to stay with them so I could still work.  If my babies are gonna be sick there is no one I'd rather be with them.  We've had a healthy year so far, but this week is kicking our butt.  I really hope we are at the end of it.  

In between sick and trying to squeeze in some fun, it's been a good week.  When you're all home, things slow down.  A lot of movies got watched and I have am officially over horse films.  I'm pretty sure I could write my own.  Teen girl loses one or both her parents and goes to live with a long lost relative on a ranch in Wyoming.  There she befriends the "wild" horse of the farm.  They speak each others language.  Some drama happens where the horse may be taken away...the girl and the neighbor boy, who have become close despite their differences, fight together to keep the horse.  The girl and the long lost relative find out they have much in common and also bond over this wild horse.  The horse is saved, the girl kisses the boy and rides off in hillside on the horse and lives happily ever after.  Did I get it right?  No wonder Ava wants to live on a ranch in Wyoming.  

Some of the good from a sick spring break.

-Writing opportunities.
I have another article up at Distinctly Montana.  Every time I see one on there, I get excited.  I also heard this week about another publication that is going to post one of my articles and I can't wait.  More on that to come later this month.  For now you can check out the one on Distinctly Montana here.  The cheerleader in me is doing a toe touch and spirit fingers over this.  

Being home, means more opportunity for cooking for me.  Things like a Lebanese feast...

Much to Matt's delight the girls weren't up to eating much of this so he didn't have to share.  

And, homemade pasta...

I have yet to actually cook the noodles because nobody has felt like eating real food, but when everyone is up to it we'll be having some spaghetti.  Cooking soothes me so when I'm worried about my babes not feeling well, or just feeling over taking care of everyone it is my distraction.

-Making leprechaun houses and a snowman family...

The girls are all about leprechauns and each St. Patrick's Day they attempt to catch one.  However, each year the feisty green guy escapes with the chocolate they leave for him and mess up the house.  Silly leprechauns. 

The snow storm brought the best snowman making snow.  We didn't stop at one, we made a whole family.  Layla bailed on us pretty early on so Ava and I finished them up, complete with summer hats.  They didn't last long, the warm sun quickly melted our little family.  

-A snow covered valley...

Sister told me she's sick of hearing me complain about the winter weather, so here's some love.  We woke Tuesday morning to a thick blanket of snow covering our valley.  I went out early to attempt a run which quickly turned into a walk in the deep snow.  The sky had a pink tint, snow everywhere and the air extra quiet from the cold.  It was beautiful.  The quiet is different on a morning like this...calmer somehow.  

The end of spring break is drawing near and with it hopefully the end of a sick family.  Usually I don't want it to end, but this year I'm ready to get back into something normal.  

Happy's going to be a beautiful day around here.  

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Growing Girls, Super Heros and Spring Happiness.

It has begun.

Last night we were finishing dinner and my phone rang.  It wasn't for me.  It was for Miss Ava.  As I handed her the phone her face turned pink, also unsure of this new thing.  We told her she could leave the room if she didn't want all of us to hear her conversation and she happily left the room with a giggly "hello" into the phone.  Matt and I exchanged glances and it said so much.  Here we are...our baby girl getting phone calls from friends.  Knowing it won't be long before it's boys calling.  Yikes.

Thank goodness for now it was a girl and I assumed it was for trying to arrange a play date.  After a few minutes Ava returned and I asked if they had planned something.  "No." She answered.  "What did you guys talk about?" asked Matt.  "Oh, nothing, just stuff" was her reply.  This time the glance Matt and I exchanged said much more...something like What the...?  Resisting the urge to pry we let it go.  This doesn't mean I wasn't disappointed to not be privy to the conversation.  About an hour later I was rewarded for staying cool because Ava asked if I wanted to know what they were talking about.  Casually I said..."sure, if ya want to tell me."  Inside thinking "Hell YES I want to know!!"  Ava goes on to say how this particular friend was feeling left out at last recess and was feeling sad.  Ava said she apologized to her and that was that.  I could see she was disappointed the phone call was not to arrange a play date but something harder.  She shrugged it off and we continued getting ready for bed.  I had some time to think about it and as I tucked her in, we continued the conversation.  Me wanting her to know that she was such a kind girl and I know she would never hurt someones feelings intentionally.  Wanting her to know that trying to include this friend and saying sorry was good.  Making sure she knew if she did those things, then she shouldn't feel bad.  We all have different sensitivity levels and we have learned this friends is a little higher.  Honestly, I don't believe Ava would intentionally hurt someones feelings...she gets sad when we see a wounded butterfly.  As the conversation continued she began opening up about other kids in her class...girls full of drama that everyone likes, but who always get in trouble.  It was interesting, this far into the school year, to hear her talking about these things.  I tried to listen and offer my opinions lightly.  I know these early conversations may only be about playground drama, but want to handle them carefully so they will continue as we go into the tween and teen years.  Not wanting to say the wrong thing and have her close up.  I do believe listening is the key to this, which can be tough for me.  I tend to be a talker.  Having strong opinions about what I think could make things better.  I am happy I am aware of this in hopes I can improve.  In the end I tucked my girl in with kisses and reminders of how awesome I think she is.  Sometimes I rush through bedtime.  Anxious to call it a day and relax.  I am going to try to slow these down...take the opportunities for quiet, bed time chats at the end of the day.  

And then there is Layla.

She must have realized how much more time Ava got at bedtime, so she called me into her room.  She was sitting up smiling and said she wanted to tell me two things.  1.  I want  you to show Daddy my Dr. Seuss hat I made at school...

2.  I burped and felt it in my nose.  

Apparently 6 year old bedtime conversations vary greatly from 8 year old ones.  

Today was Super Hero Walk to School Day for the girls.  I tried to think of super hero ideas for them, since we aren't much into Batman and Spider man.  I encouraged princesses or fairies who I believe can be super heros.  They didn't go for it.  Ava said "I'll just be Super Ava hero".  Layla followed suit as Super Hero Layla.  Love this.  It's always best to be your own super hero.  And with that we grabbed our invisible capes and our super hero dog and we were off through the enchanted forest to school...

This week has been fantastic.  The freeze out of last week is gone and the rise in temperatures has equalled a rise in spirits.  We needed this.  Warmer temperatures and melting snow.  Grass peaking out from beneath...

Next it will be tulips and daisy's making an appearance and I might just do a twirl in the air.  I got a text from sister saying she has robins in her backyard.  Robins!  Yes, spring is on it's way.  And this pleases me very much.

One more day of school for the girls and then it is spring break.  Hallelujah!  We may not be getting on a plane to Florida like we should be, but we still get a break.  No school, no homework, no packing freakin lunches.  For one week.  I can't wait.

Happy Thursday to ya!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Hello There March.

Sitting here, watching the Oscars and realizing I haven't seen one of the nominated movies.  It seems like this has been the case the past several years.  Instead of rooting for my favorites while watching the awards show I use it as a guide to what movies I should rent as they come out on DVD.  This is because I only went to two movies this past year...Despicable Me 2 and Frozen, neither of which is up for best film.  I would totally go for Frozen if it was.

This weekend was cold, snowy, windy and then more snow.  Saturday the temperatures never creeped above zero so the girls stayed in pj's and inside all day.  Watching movies and getting lost in Polly Pocket land.  They were happy as could be.  I also was happy to be inside, warm and cozy watching the snow blow around outside.  Today it warmed up enough to get out and play in all this snow that has covered valley...

Lots of hot cocoa, layering up and tucking under blankets.  Staying warm and feeling grateful for our home and being together.

This morning for the first time in many weeks I decided to join the family for church.  Lately I have been choosing to find my spirituality on a yoga mat instead of a church pew on Sunday mornings.  For some reason I knew this weekend I wanted to go to church instead.  Maybe because I was feeling guilty due to the amount of weekends I've missed.  Maybe because I went to a kick ass yoga class Saturday and was still feeling the pain.  Whatever the reason, I am so glad I went.  The sermon was about John, born blind and Jesus returning his sight.  The pastor didn't go with it in a literal sense.  She spoke of being in the dark when it comes to any part of your life it with your faith, health, family, life decisions.  Being blind, so to speak and then finding the light and your way.  Talking of how if you have faith, the light will always find it's way to you.  Having felt somewhat in the dark lately in the faith/spirituality path, it really spoke to me.  Not that I suddenly saw the light and feel everything is clear.  Just knowing it's okay to feel confused and in the dark.  To questions things.  You have to go with it.  Don't judge it.  Keep the faith.  It will work out and you will see.  

No real way to transition from that.  Food is always good, right?  Last week Ava was home sick one day.  Now, I never like seeing the sparkle leave my babies eyes when they don't feel well, but I love a chance to spend a day with them.  And because she wasn't terribly sick it felt more like a bonus Ava-mama day.  Knowing we would be home all day left me compelled to bake.  We browsed cookbooks and settled on pretzel bites.  Yea, they were awesome.

These accompanied our soup that evening, but I know next time they will be with some gooey, warm cheese dip for dunking.  I've never made pretzels before and they were pretty easy...kneading, rising, boiling, baking.  I love the steps and process involved in baking.  Taking such simple ingredients and turning them into something delicious.  This was a first, but certainly not a last.  (I'll put the recipe at the end).

Once Ava got her spark back she was able to return to basketball.  And for a girl who had to be gently encouraged to give basketball a try, she was full of smiles putting on her new jersey for the first time.

Months ago when she started, she could barely dribble a ball.  This week I watched her be part of a play and make a basket.  I was a proud mama.  We haven't done sports much, a couple attempts at soccer.  Basketball has been more of a success.  It is a tiny team with her, her bff,another girl plus Layla and another little sister tag along.  It is totally casual, no big games, all just for fun.  The coach is her friends dad and is laid back while still teaching them the fundamentals of the sport.  The way any sport should be played at the age of 8 in my opinion.  

It is now March.  I smile when I turn the calendar to March.  I put a sunshine on the 21st to mark the first day of spring and a smiley face to mark daylight savings time.  It means the end of winter is in sight and the hope of spring coming.  Ya know the saying 'if March comes in like a lion it'll come out like a lamb'?  Well, March 1st was a blizzard of a day, bitterly cold and very lion like.  I'm holding out hope it will be leaving us like a lamb.  

Happy March.

Pretzel Bites
1 1/4 cups beer at room temp
3 tbls brown sugar
2 tbls milk
2 tbls butter (unsalted and melted)
1 package active dry yeast
3 to 4 cups flout
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup baking soda & water
Coarse sea salt
I used my kitchenAid mixer, but you could do it by hand.  Place beer, brown sugar, milk, butter, 1 cup of flour and yeast in the bowl and mix on low.  Add the dough hook and knead for 8-10 minutes while adding the remaining flour.  Shape into a ball and place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise for 1 hour.  
Turn out onto a floured surface, knead for another minutes and cut into 16 pieces and shape each one into a ball.  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, cover and let rise for 30 minutes.  
Pre-heat oven to 425-degrees and grease a second cookie sheet.  Bring water and baking soda to boil in a large pt.  Add the balls to the boiling water in batches and boil until they are puffed, turning once.  Around 3 minutes.  Drain on a kitchen towel and repeat with the remaining balls.  Place on the other cookie sheet and with kitchen scissors snip the top and sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake for 15 minutes.