Gratitude Journal…Everyday Beautiful!

Deuteronomy 10:21 He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.

Celebrating the Everyday Beautiful…it’s been far too long since I posted a gratitude post. These pictures are from the last month, bits of beauty hidden in the minutes and hours of life, waiting to be found and cherished. These moments, these small frames of beauty…what blessings! What a difference remembering to appreciate them makes!

176. Thank you, Lord for small bits of color in Winter’s gray 177. For a warm breakfast of oats, nuts, cranberries and coconut, cooled with cream 178. For waking up to frosted trees179. For a beautiful bag handmade by a dear friend180. For the studies inside the bag, and the wisdom therein181. For the people who join us in these learning journeys, and their spirited conversation

182. For coins of light, glinting off wet cement in a moment of yellow sun183. For hot garbanzos, steaming in the kitchen sink (and hummus, later)184. For quiet moments in the Winter light
185. For games of strategy played with siblings186. For quiet naps on the couch187. For the cross found in a sliced tomato, and for the boy who noticed it188. For a daughter’s pensive moment, watching sun sparks on white snow189. For hubby’s smile after shoveling the driveway…yet another time190. For order out of chaos!


If memories were sparrows…..playing with poetry

If memories were sparrows
would they alight
like brown and drifting leaves
settled on thin bare branches
align themselves on straight black wire
in tight and tidy rows

Or would they dive and swoop
in silent aggregation
black against the cloud-gray sky
over a vacuous, empty space
winging on until the weaker ones
fail and fall, their sky-space quickly filled
with the flitting wings of others

This poem is part of a poem-play idea that L.L. Barkat of Seedlings in Stone came up with. What a great idea! She gave us the first line…”If memories were sparrows”…..and let us fill in the rest with our own ideas. Quite a few bloggers have taken up her call, and the direction things go after that first line has been fun to see! Does anyone else want to try? Go and see L.L.’s post at Seedlings in Stone and join in the fun. She has several ideas for poem-starters over there, I’d love to see what you come up with! There will be a feature on The High Calling Blogs tomorrow about this poem-play.

drawing of a sparrow: stock image

Something Fun…Popcorn Earth Balls

The girls and I found a fun project to do together…Earth Popcorn balls. I was writing a Sunday School lesson and came across this little blessing, in the book “Food Fun Devotions for Children’s Ministry” by Dennis & Lana McLaughlin. The lesson is on Creation, but you could make these popcorn balls for a homeschool geography, astronomy, or a Bible lesson!

We only had a short time to try making the snack, so we didn’t do the blue and green food coloring and model an earth. I’m kind of glad that we didn’t, though, because I think we’ll adapt the project and make a pop-corn ball solar system for a homeschool project! I’m thinking you could also roll the sticky balls in decorating sugar to give them color (a sparkly yellow sun comes to mind).

At any rate, this was just too fun not to share! I’ll post the homeschool project later, but if you’re like us you may be experiencing some cabin fever at your house, and it’s always great to fight that with a fun project!

You’ll Need:
2/3 cups of popcorn (or two packages of microwave popcorn…we like the plain since it’s not greasy)
Cooking Oil Spray
1 10 oz package marshmallows, or 4 cups of mini marshmallows.
1/4 cup butter
food coloring (or decorating sugar)

You’ll Do:
Did you know you can pop popcorn in the microwave…in a lunch bag?!? This was just about the most exciting discovery we’ve made all month. Just get a brown paper lunch bag, put in 1/3 a cup of popcorn, turn down the open part of the bag several times, and pop for 2 to 3 minutes (listen carefully for the popping to slow down, because it burns fast!). It works like a charm! Popcorn with no additives, in minutes! Or if you’re using the store-bought microwave popcorn, just follow the directions on the bag. Spray a large bowl with the cooking oil spray, put the popped corn in the prepared bowl. Melt the butter and marshmallows in the microwave, for two minutes…check and stir after one minute. For Earth Balls, prepare a separate bowl and put 1/3 of the popped corn in the other bowl. Separate 1/3 of the melted marshmallow mixture into a different bowl and mix a few drops of green food coloring in it. Pour the green mixture into the bowl with the smaller amount of popcorn and stir well, until the popcorn is coated. Repeat this with the other popcorn, but mix blue food color into the marshmallows. Have your kids spray their hands with the cooking spray, and use a globe or pictures of the earth to help them model their “worlds” with the blue and green popcorn.

Fun! I’m sorry I don’t have any colorful “world” pictures to show you…but we’ll post again when we do our little Milky Way project. I hope you get to try it…at the very least, the popcorn balls make an easy and fun snack! And, they’re Gluten Free, of course ;o)

This Week’s Gluten Free Menu (well, sort of)

In all the excitement of the Ugly Mug contest yesterday, and also because things were really busy at my house, and also because the creative menu-planning part of my brain has decided to take a short vacation to Maui, I forgot to post the weekly dinner menu. I also forgot to plan it.

This week I have only a sketchy, half-planned menu. I’ll share what I’ve got so far, and then direct you to my past menus and my friends Molly and Joann, who actually did plan their menu for the week.

Monday: Chicken Fajitas, with chocolate pudding for dessert. We had friends over for dinner, and I had a busy day. I threw about five large chicken breasts into a covered casserole dish, added about 4 cups of salsa, several teaspoons of chili powder, and a teaspoon or so of garlic salt. My chicken was already cooked, so I added some water as well…if you’re using fresh or frozen chicken you’ll probably need less liquid. Cook the chicken at a low temperature all day, breaking it up with a fork a few hours before dinner. Once it’s broken up, stir it well and check your seasonings to see if you need more salsa, water, or chili powder. If you have too much liquid, take the lid off your casserole and let it boil off. Right before dinner I cooked two thinly sliced onions and five bell peppers seasoned with garlic salt and chili powder in a large skillet, letting the onions caramelize and the peppers brown. I served the chicken and peppers buffet style with corn and flour tortillas, lettuce, guacamole, salsa, sour cream, sliced tomatoes, olives and cheese. Kraft chocolate pudding is gluten free and appears also to be dairy free, I made several boxes with milk and one with almond milk, which turned out OK.

Tuesday: Fajita salads. I have a lot of leftovers, so I’m going to make big salads for dinner. Lettuce, the fajita meat, the peppers, some cooked rice, some prepared chili beans in a can (check for gluten status), plus a little salsa, sour cream, and maybe a touch of oil and vinegar dressing. I may mix a can of corn into the beans as well.

Wednesday and the rest of the week: As of now, I have no idea! Argh. When I don’t have my menu planned, I inevitably spend more money at the store and end up with crummy meals, too. I’ll be checking my freezer and pantry to see if I can come up with something to tide us over ’till payday, so probably you don’t even want to know what’s for dinner the rest of the week!

The Dog Food Post

I’ve been observing our dog lately, and I think I am finally gaining some understanding as to her eating habits. What appeared at first to be just plain old random picky-ness now, after some consideration and experimentation, seems to follow a precise set of rules:

1. If it’s on your plate, I will eat it. Even if you plate is on the table. Even if what is on your plate is toxic to dogs. Especially if what is on your plate causes doggy GI distress, vomiting and profuse diarrhea.

2. If the cat is eating it, I will eat it. Even if I have to do so with the cat hanging off my muzzle, making interesting hissing noises.

3. If it’s on the floor, I will eat it (as long as it’s not dog food).

4. If it’s plain, brown dog kibble, I will not eat it until I have verified that there is no other food available to steal, beg, or pilfer. Then I will give you a nasty look as I begrudgingly eat only the amount necessary to tide me over until you leave something better out on the counter.

5. If it’s plain, brown dog kibble that comes in small pieces and therefore looks like it should belong to the cat, I will probably eat it.

6. If it’s a new brand of plain, brown, large dog kibble that cost you more money than it should have, I will not eat at all for three days. After three days, I will eat the dog food only while you are not looking.

7. If you put the dog food on a plate, stir it up with a spoon, and pretend to eat it yourself while making lots of satisfied human noises and professing loudly that it’s too bad this is people food, and then finally you put the food into my dish and pretend to walk away, I will eat it because I thoroughly enjoy watching you make a complete fool of yourself.

So! There you have it. The Dog Food Rules, as clearly exhibited by our Labradoodle, Maddy.

Project 365, Week 4 (January 18-24)

Project 365, week four…January 18th through 24th

Sunday, January 18: We had friends over for dinner. A fire in the fire pit, root beer floats, and some mad dancing in the living room. So much fun!

Monday, January 19: In which I begin to organize the girls’ closet…and discover that I should have started the project at least a day earlier. I bet some of you didn’t believe me when I said I have an organization problem! I know that the house looks reasonably clean most of the time…but lurking in the closet was this giant mess! Yes friends, all of that came out of one small closet. It’s clean now, thank goodness!

Tuesday, January 20: Rachel is my helper making tomato soup. Rachel opened the can herself (and honestly….I never saw anyone do it the way she did! She opened the can from the *side* somehow, with a regular can opener. Yipes!). She also got herself dressed that day, just in case you were wondering.

Wednesday, January 21: The last first tooth! In case you missed the post, it’s here.

Thursday, January 22: Sarah took this picture of Isaiah, up in his room. I’m not sure what they were doing, but I loved the shot and thought she did a good job.

Friday, January 23: Isaiah’s birthday is Sunday the 25th, and he had a couple of friends over for a sleepover Friday and Saturday. They had a blast, and I was feeling so very blessed that my kids have such wonderful friends! They’re polite, kind to the girls, and fun to be around. I love it!

Friday, January 23a: I couldn’t resist adding this one…Rachel has been working very hard on her reading for over a year now, and Friday morning she finally reached her goal of reading 100 lessons! Yes, this is the infamous “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons” book, which all three children used for their first reading lessons. Rachel has had the hardest time with it, mainly because it requires her to sit still for at least 15 minutes at a time. She’s doing really well now, though, and she was thrilled to reach 100 and get to open the prize we’ve had waiting for a year in the basement. It was a real red-letter week for Youngest!

Saturday, January 24: We had a sushi feast to celebrate Isaiah turning 12 with our friends, the McDowells! We made sushi (with Krab-with-a-K, avocado, cucumber, and scallions), rice balls with tuna and egg, Vietnamese chicken salad rolls with peanut sauce, cucumber salad, and shrimp with rice and wasabi (which has a Japanese name I can’t remember, and tasted great!). We also made dessert sushi with fruit roll ups and sweet rice. It was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time! The sushi feast may need to become a quarterly tradition.

Poetry Friday (R.A.P.): On the Fridge

We’re socked in with a disgusting inversion here. Our beautiful ring of mountains forms a bowl that fills with smog and causes the end of January and February to be….smog season.

I hate smog.

The world outside is a thousand shades of gray, visibility is poor, and it’s not safe to play or run outdoors. I feel crummy. There’s no relief in sight for now, the sun isn’t supposed to break though any time soon and our best hope for relief is a snowstorm that might happen Sunday.

I am lamenting the decision to give up our gym membership…it’s killing me not to be able to run!

So, this poem is just a fantasy of mine. How would I feel if the air cleared, the sun broke through, and I could just stand for a moment and soak it in?

I found the refrigerator magnet poetry to be irritatingly limiting, but that matches the way I’m feeling about about the smog, so somehow it seemed to fit!

Ahhh, Spring. You can’t come soon enough!

In case you can’t read the words in the photo, the poem is:

Sweet, delicate moment
knifes through the bitter void
crushes the raw and aching need
I stop and
here in shining sun

More Random Acts of Poetry:

L.L.’s wonderful description of writing poetry, and a poem about her couch that makes me smile (Writing a poem isn’t rocket science)

Dreaming in the Comment Box
at High Calling Blogs

Laure’s The 11 O’Clock Morning Hour at Weaving the Hours

At A Journey Through His Garden, Yvette writes Silent Slumber.

The Tooth

My baby lost her first tooth!

I’ve been privately dreading this day for over a year now…that little gap in the baby teeth, irrefutable evidence that my baby is growing up. A year ago, a friend’s child who is six months older than Rachel got his first loose tooth. In a surprise moment of emotion we both found ourselves tearing up over it…these last children seem to be growing up too fast, and I want to wring every little bit of childhood out of each day and enjoy it before moving on. God must have known I needed that extra year of baby-teeth grins, because Youngest is a full year older than her siblings were when they lost their first teeth.

She is thrilled.

The tooth got loose on Sunday morning at Church, and she was blessed with the opportunity to go around and show everyone she knew there that she is, indeed, old enough to loose a tooth. Everyone had to wiggle it (and I have spent the week trying NOT to think about the germs involved….*shudder*). Apparently, having a missing tooth is the only way to be a real six-year-old, and she has been reveling in it all week. With her new gap-toothed grin, she’s joined the next level of childhood…and I’ve had to pack another bit of childhood away in my heart. The last first loose tooth!

Loose Ends

I’m sitting here at a messy desk, feeling the weight of five extra pounds that have settled around my waist over the last few months, with no energy because I have not done anything more active than walk the dog for a month. There are a thousand loose ends today! I need to make sure we’re back on track with homeschool and order the second module to Eldest’s Algebra program. The kids are going to an art history co-op this afternoon, which frees me up for a couple of hours. Where to start? Every time I start to think about it, I get paralyzed by the number of things that need my attention.

I have the girls’ closet taken apart and am trying to organize it, however I seriously miscalculated how much time it was going to take me. How on earth did all of that fit in such a little closet?!? I finally got the wire cubes I’m using to store their clothes assembled, but it’s going to be awhile before I can sift through all the outgrown, unused, and out of season clothes that had collected behind the old drawers. Should I start there?

I forgot to start the dishwasher last night, so it’s still running this morning and there are breakfast dishes piled in the sink. Should I start there?

There is clutter in the living room again, and the floor needs vacuuming. A piece of the flooring in the front entryway has come loose and needs to be screwed back into the floor. Should I start there?

I have a Bible study class that I’m looking forward to tonight, but I don’t have the homework done yet. Should I start there?

And of course, because I seem to have lost my ability to organize this week, the kids have picked up on it. How are they supposed to stay on track if I’m not? So in between all these little things that are pulling me in all directions I am having to re-direct, re-direct, re-direct. Energy is going out in all directions except for straight ahead, pencils are being dropped five times in five minutes, chairs tip with two or even three legs dangling perilously off the ground, the random noise of pencil tapping, whistling, and other irritating repetitive sounds is driving me to distraction.

What is it? Why are things suddenly so difficult? Why can’t any of us concentrate on the same task until it’s completed this week? Maybe it’s the time of year…it’s cold outside and we’re socked in with an inversion…which is the polite way of saying that the air outside is so smoggy that visibility is poor and it’s not a good idea to go outside and play. My Montana-raised self just screams at this outrage, good clean air was taken for granted growing up. Maybe it’s just the letdown after the holidays. Maybe it’s just the dregs of the virus that had us all congested a few weeks ago, and has just sort of hung on ever since.

Maybe it’s just my attitude.

At any rate, it’s clear that I need to re-group, re-focus, and get back on track. It looks enormous and insurmountable right now, but just last week things were chugging along just fine…the house was clean, the schedule was kept, the kids were getting their work done quickly and correctly and life was peaceful. That’s how God wants it to be, and if we’re working according to His plan we’ll have that peace even when the world throws distractions as us. After all, there have been times when we have been dealing with a lot more external distraction and disorder and have remained calm and on track as a family…there are not really any external issues to blame this week…just our own lack of direction.

So….where to start. I’m getting up, right now. I’m going to round the kids up, pray with them, recenter ourselves and set a (small and easily attainable) goal for the day. Then, I’m going to do a little of that Bible study, because I know that it will bring me peace of mind and probably a few helpful verses to carry with me through the rest of the day. Then, I’m going to choose one thing…it’ doesn’t even matter what I choose…and I’m going to work at it until it’s done. And I’m going to keep doing that until I reach the point where I can sit down and feel peaceful about taking a break!