Saturday, March 27, 2010

Choo Choo!

On a whim, we went to a tractor supply store this morning to look for tools for our new house and found an electric train set on on clearance for 90% off.  Of course we snatched it up (actually, we snatched up both sets they had) and brought it home to play with. Needless to say, Tommy was completely enthralled with it and played with it all morning and afternoon. Ben was also enthralled, but a bit less coordinated with his body and kept knocking the train off the track, so he was quickly banned from using the train.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Meal Planning

I used to scoff at the idea of meal planning until I tried it and realized how helpful it is. It seems like a lot of work, but it turns out to be a lot less work than trying to figure out what's for dinner at 4:00. So now I embrace planning my meals because it means my afternoons are a lot less stressful.

This week I went on a meal planning organization kick. My sudden need to organize my meal plans and recipes probably had something to do a few factors: a) We've been eating out way too much since we've had to keep our house pristine to sell and I needed to get some motivation to cook dinners at home again; b) things feel so out of our control since we're in limbo between moving into one house and trying to sell another house, that I jumped at the chance to have some control over this one tiny area of my life.

I was browsing one of my favorite blogs and found this idea for a Homemaking Binder. I particularly liked her way of menu planning, so I copied her ideas pretty closely. It took about two days of sporadic work, but what I ended up with is nothing short of glorious order: a binder with of a list of about thirty of my favorite recipes, a meal plan for next week, and copies of some of my favorite recipes that were loose papers which formerly lived in a ratty expandable file. 

Here's how I organized everything:
1. I wrote down all my breakfast ideas of foods we normally eat during the week and then made a meal plan out of that which will be the same plan every week. It looks like this:
Monday - Yogurt & Fruit smoothies + toast (Monday is usually very early and busy for us, so I need something quick and hearty)
Tuesday - English muffins + scrambled eggs + fruit 
Wednesday - Oatmeal w/ raisins & maple syrup (another quick & hearty day)
Thursday - Bagel & egg sandwiches + fruit
Friday - Cereal 
Saturday - Bagels at our favorite bagel shop
Sunday - French toast + bacon + fruit

2. I wrote down a list of lunch ideas. I don't like to plan lunches because our days rarely look the same around lunchtime, and I never know what they're going to look like days in advance, so that makes planning lunches very hard. It is very helpful, however, to have a handy list of ideas that I can choose from.

3. I gathered my most favorite Internet recipes and cookbooks and made a list of about thirty favorite recipes for dinner. From these thirty recipes, I made a meal plan for next week, and then made a grocery list from the meal plan. (I used free pre-made lists at at for my recipe lists and meal plans.) And viola! Now everything is in one place. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Things To Do With Matchbox Cars

The boys played with their Matchbox cars together for over an hour this morning. They both have had a love affair with cars and trucks ever since they could move objects with their, a very long time. I've realized that you can never have too many Matchbox cars, and so we currently have a bucket of about fifty of them, with more in storage waiting for their turn.

The other day Mark and I were talking about the boys' love of cars while we were waiting outside of a restaurant and watching them play with their cars, and we decided that great advice to first-time parents of a boy would be to never leave the house without a Matchbox car. Forget the diapers, forget the sunscreen, but don't forget a car. Because look at all the cool things you can do with them!:

Crash them!

Race them!

Do yoga with them!

Park them!

Run them over with a dump truck!


Show off their engines! ("Look Mommy, they have the same engines!")

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Pinnacles National Monument

Today we took the boys to Pinnacles National Monument.  It was a dream come true for boys who love to climb, for here was a place full of fun rocks to scramble all over! On the way there, Mark told Tommy that the huge rocks were formed many years ago by volcanos. Tommy missed a few words out of Mark's explanation, and so the whole time at the park, he kept yelling, "Wow, look at that big big volcano! That's a BIG one!" The weather was beautiful and perfect: sunny and warm with a breeze that cooled us down at just the right times. The boys had a great time running down the trails and climbing rocks.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bath Time Flashback

Matt (left) and Mark (right), 1979ish

Ben (left) and Tommy (right), 2010

Happy Hollow

For the past four days, we've been working from sun-up to sun-down to get our house ready to list on the market and start showing this week. It's been a very busy and tiring week, and we didn't get to see the kids much. So on Sunday we went to Happy Hollow a local amusement park & petting zoo so we could take some time out and enjoy being together as a family. It was so much fun to see the boys excited about going to the park and see their faces light up as they kept seeing new places to explore. The only downside was that we accidentally went on "Member's Preview Day" (we had no idea!), so the park was absolutely jam packed with parents and toddlers. We'll have to remember to come back on a dull weekday next time!

Tommy on the carousel. 

Ben trying to feed a goat from his hand. 

Tommy succeeding in feeding a goat from his hand.

Having a moment with a sheep.

The boys' first amusement park ride! This is one of the sacrifices they don't tell you about before you become a parent: that you will stand in line for 15 minutes, survive another 5 minutes of ride setup and lockdown, just to see the look of pure joy (or in this case, slight uneasiness) on your children's faces for 2 minutes.

This maze was the best part of the whole park. Ben took one look at those walls and decided they were something to be climbed over instead of run around like all the other kids were doing. Both he and Tommy spent about 15 minutes climbing the walls here. You can see Tommy in the faaaar corner of the maze in the red striped shirt.

See all these kids climbing on this rock? Yeah, my 2 year old was the instigator of this.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I Hear a Wonderful Echo

One of the most humbling experiences of parenthood has to be hearing yourself in your children's tone of voice and choice of words. When you hear this, as I'm sure every parent with talking children has, it can either be a moment of delight or one of guilt. 

There was a time that hearing myself in my children made me feel very guilty. I will admit - I used to yell at my children. Before God worked on my heart and used others around me to help me with my parenting, I was an impatient and unkind mom, and I lost my cool quite frequently. Anything, big or small, would make me angry and I would express that anger to my children. Then, to my horror, I began to hear my impatience and unkindness in their speech. I recognized it in the way Tommy would yell at Ben when he would take a toy or push him, and I saw it in the way that Tommy got so easily annoyed by Ben. Sure, it's common and normal for small children to become frustrated at each other and yell, but there was something about the particular tone and words Tommy used that sounded just like the way I would talk to him, and it scared me. I did not want to reproduce the same impatience in my child that I had in my heart, but didn't know how to change myself. 

It was right around this time that the major turning point in my life of my miscarriage happened, which, among many other things, taught me to place all my weaknesses in Christ and ask Him for help with them. When I did this with my parenting, He was faithful to change my heart in a truly miraculous way. Over a few months, I noticed an undeniable change in my attitude towards my children. It wasn't just that I didn't yell at them anymore (which I didn't), but I simply wasn't annoyed by them like I used to be. I saw their behavior as an opportunity to teach them the right way to act, instead of an intrusion on my peace and happiness. 

It's been almost a year since God changed my heart and made me a better mom, and I am now starting to see the rewards of His work in me in my children. Instead of Tommy mirroring my unkind tone, he is working on speaking calmly when his brother or another child wrongs him. I've overheard him telling two little buddies who were fighting over a toy, "Hey, guys, be kind!"

The other day the boys were in the kitchen playing together when Ben hit Tommy for no apparent reason. Here's how the conversation went:
Tommy: "Benji, do you want me to hit you?" 
Benji: "No." 
Tommy: "Then don't hit me."
Benji: "Otay."
And they continued playing together peacefully. Amazing, huh?

And at bath-time a few nights ago, I overheard Tommy going through our discipline routine with Ben using a squirt toy: 
Tommy: [in a very serious tone] "Ben, please look at me when I'm talking to you. I'm splashing you because you were not kind. Do you understand?" 
Ben: "Yes, Tommy."
Tommy: "Okay, Ben, you're getting two splashes. [splash splash] Now you're all done!" 

Hearing these exchanges warmed my heart and relieved me. They showed me that Tommy really does listen to what I say and is soaking up every kind word and tone of voice that he hears from me, now that my heart is changed.

Please don't misunderstand - I'm not a perfect mother and my children are not kind and loving to each other all the time. We do have some days where I struggle to keep calm, patient, and kind, and sometimes I do fail. But God is showing me how to lay down a foundation that will teach my boys and solidify in their hearts the godly way of dealing with their frustration and anger with kind and calm words.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


This weekend was my first time on a church women's retreat, from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon. I had an awesome time getting to know people that I usually only get to say a quick, "Hihowareyou, I'mfinethanks" to. I'm still digesting much of what I heard from our speaker, Judy Achilles, who is an amazing example of someone who held on tightly to God through her trials of battling ovarian cancer and losing her husband in a very short time. One thing that I'm going to put into practice immediately is finding time to just be with God. It's easy to fall into the habit of just doing prayer time and Bible reading time so I can check it off my To Do list. But I need to practice being still and quiet in His presence so I can hear what He has to say to me. I'm looking forward to getting back to 'real life' with a fresher perspective.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Week in Photos

Things have been pretty busy this week, so I'm taking the easy way out by posting the photos that happened to be on my camera this week. 

Last Friday was when we got word that we were moving into a new house soon, and that we will be living on this gorgeous property (and this is only a quarter of our backyard!):

Little explorers.

Little guy, all tuckered out.  (Yes, people, he does actually sleep!)

My sister-in-law, Cameron, had a baby on Monday and we watched her girls for a day while her parents stayed with her in the hospital. The cousins had a great time playing together. Here they are working on a puzzle together:

Cousin love.

Since I've begun packing, the boys are finding all sorts of fun things to play with, like shelves (yes, he did climb up here all by himself)...

and boxes. Should've seen this coming.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

We're Moving!

We are moving to a new house in early April! Don't worry, we will be just a block away from where we are now. It is right next door to the property where Mark's parents, his brother's family, and his grandmother all live. We're calling it The Knapp Family Compound (okay, not really...but we're thinking about it). There is granny flat in the back that will be great for our Mark's grandmother.

Mark's parents are helping make this happen, since we will be right next door to them. We will also be next door to Matt and Cameron (Mark's brother's family) and their three girls. We are really excited about this, since:
1) Our nieces and our boys are all the same ages and will grow up together seeing each other daily
2) We all plan on home schooling and it will be great to pool resources
3) We all get along well

The layout of the new house is more ideal to me. The kitchen, laundry room, and living rooms are on the opposite side of the house from where the boys' room will be located which makes me so happy.  In our current house, everything is very open and circular, and so our living room, kitchen, and laundry rooms (where we make the most noise) actually share a wall with the boys' room, which makes life a bit difficult when they're sleeping. It's been years since we've been able to watch a movie or do laundry while they're sleeping.

We are looking into selling our house now too.