Friday, July 30, 2010

Granola Bars

We made these granola bars yesterday for our RV trip this weekend. This is one of my favorite recipes to make with the boys because it is so easy for them to help with. And it helps that it's yummy (and healthy) for them too. 

Here is the original version of the recipe:

And here is my version, with just a few variations to make it a bit more healthy:

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup wheat germ
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup dried cranberries
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup honey
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil*
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Another variation from the original is that I use mini-muffin tins to make 'bites' instead of 'bars' and decrease the bake time to 15 minutes (any longer than that and they will burn.)

*I used coconut oil in my variation, and it seemed to bake identical to vegetable oil, but after 24 hours, the granola bars were rock hard. I think the low burning point of the coconut oil caused the insides of the bars to burn and harden. Bummer, huh?

All the ingredients. Guess who couldn't keep his hands off the cranberries.

Pouring honey, the best job.

Mixing is hard work.

Mix with your hands!

Pressing the granola mix into the cups

Thursday, July 29, 2010

This Kid...

can multitask!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Blessed... have a dining room full of a happy, loving family. This photo is from our recent celebration of Mark's grandmother's 85th birthday (Grandma is at the lower left part of the photo, in the blue shirt). How wonderful to be surrounded by your family on your birthday, and how wonderful that we can finally fit that family in our dining room!

Seen in this photo:
2 great-grandmothers, 1 great-grandfather, 2 grandparents, 4 parents, 5 (great)grandchildren

Friday, July 23, 2010

Who Needs Toys?

The boys have come up with so many different creative ways to play with these 4 x 4 sections of wood that were discarded by Mark as he was building a fence. If you see them wearing various outfits in these photos, it's because the've been engrossed with playing with this wood for a few days now. Makes me wonder why we would ever spend money on cheap plastic when they're perfectly content with wood scraps!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Singing Boys

This is just a 60-second sliver of life with these boys...this kind of thing goes on all day! Note Ben's gymnastic and singing skills, and also Tommy's singing in the background. The lyrics of their songs are "I don't want to" and "grace to you". What an odd combination of sentiments!

Monday, July 19, 2010

First S'mores!

This weekend the boys had their first s'mores experience. It was a lot of fun for them to help Mark build a fire and watch it grow bigger and brighter as the sky grew darker. They got to roast their own marshmallows, though they only had the patience to hold their poles for about 30 seconds before deciding they were too tired for such a job and handed them over to us. We let them stay up late so they could get the full effect of the fire, and also so they could watch the stars. Just one more thing we can cross off our summer bucket list.

Watching Mark start the fire.

As Mark stoked the fire, sparks flew up, which the boys thought were really cool.

Concentrating hard on eating their s'mores and watching the fire.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Back on the (Routine) Bandwagon

Now that our lives are getting back to normal after all the moving and house projects of the past several months, I've been finding more time and mental energy to get my life organized. Three  ways I do this are by setting up a daily routine, a weekly routine and with a habits chart for the boys. I'm sharing my routines and charts in the hopes that others might see some good ideas they can use. I've actually gotten many of my ideas from friends, blogs, or books, so I can't take credit for much of what you're about to read!

Daily Routine
It may seem excessively orderly for someone to schedule out their day, but there are several reasons why I've found I need to form a routine for my day and write it down:
  • There are several things I'd like to do in a given weekday that if not scheduled will never get done, or at least won't get done with any regularity. Some 'necessities' I've scheduled in my day are reading to the boys for 30 mins, cleaning the house, and taking a walk with the boys (which all three of us desperately need daily!)
  • It keeps the boys on a routine so they always know what to expect.
  • It helps me involve the boys in my daily life - When it's time to clean, we are all in the same room working on different tasks. When it's time to make dinner, the boys are often in the kitchen with me washing or chopping vegetables or just playing. 
  • It helps me set aside time to play with them - If I know I've already scheduled time to clean the house and do other things I need to do, then I can take the time to focus on them with a calm heart.
  • It takes the stress out of figuring out what to do next or how to fill large amounts of 'empty time' in a day.
  • By scheduling cleaning and other chores during the day and involving the boys, it ensures that I have naptime free. I always have a few things to finish up or pick up, but for the most part, the boys' naptime is my quiet time to sit with a book or Bible study and recharge for the rest of the day.
Finally, I should note that my routine has been made for me, not me for my routine. It is pretty rare that I follow the schedule exactly from one day to the next. But it is there for me if I need it.

Here are some helpful tips if you're interested in making a daily routine:
1. Pay attention to the chunks of your day that seem to flow well, and figure out why they flow well. Do you like it when you make it to the gym by 9:30am so you can head over to the grocery store before lunchtime? If that's important to you, schedule it in.
2. Pinpoint 3-4 main tasks you'd like to get done in a given day (such as going for a run, cleaning your house, spending 15 minutes quality time with your kids, family worship, etc) and structure your routine around those.
3. For some, it's ideal to schedule a routine around mealtimes. We like to aim to have meals around the same time every day, so it was easy for me to build my routine around those anchors in my day. 
4. Pay attention to when your children like to do certain activities. For example, I've learned that my kids are full of energy early in the morning after waking up, so giving them free play right after breakfast is perfect for them. After goofing around together for 10-15 minutes, they are ready to settle down for reading time. After 15 minutes of sitting still, they're ready to ride their bikes down the street.

Weekly Routine
It's taken a few weeks of trying  and tweaking routines, but I think I've finally hit on one that works perfectly for our family (at least for right now!). I arrived at this schedule the same way I arrived at my daily schedule: I decided on things that needed to get done in a given week (like cleaning the house, going to the grocery store, doing an art project with the kids, etc) and scheduled them into my week. Then I moved them around the week depending on other 'anchor' activities (such as a Wednesday morning Bible study and a Thursday Stay & Play). 
The best thing about scheduling errands and cleaning days is that I only have time to do them once per week. This means that I don't waste time making multiple trips to the grocery store in a week and I don't vacuum the floors every third day, because those things have a designated time. And just like my daily schedule, there are plenty of times that I deviate from this weekly routine, but I like knowing it's there to follow when I need it. 

Habits Chart
Almost one year ago to this week, I started a 'habits chart' with Tommy to help him learn to go through his morning and evening routines on his own. We've neglected doing this for so long, but I was recently encouraged both by a friend and by this book to get back in the habit.

I designed this chart so that both Tommy (who is almost 4) and Ben (who is  2½) could use it with ease, and so that one routine could serve for both morning and bedtime. When they get all eight boxes marked (which is four days' worth of morning/night routines), they are rewarded with a family date to our local frozen yogurt shop. Right now I have to go through the whole routine with them, but the goal is that eventually they will be able to do the full routine on their own, and then the rewards will slowly fade out so that we're not having frozen yogurt twice a week (not that I should complain about that). Tommy is already able to do each 'habit' himself, but he still needs encouragement to stay on task. 

I know that charts and scheduling is not for everyone, but if your days are feeling disorganized and chaotic, it may be worth a try. And if you're feeling truly lost and don't know where to begin to organize your time, ask God for wisdom and He will be faithful to help you.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

This Kid...

...has reached the age of guns. He will make a gun out of anything. Our best guess is that he learned about guns from watching Wall-E, where the EVE character tries to blast Wall-E with her laser gun. He doesn't realize yet that guns normally shoot bullets and hurt people (I think we'll leave that part out for awhile). 

In Tommy's world, guns usually shoot water or fire, and they're used against imaginary "bad guys", or the brothers will take turns being bad guys. I have no idea where he learned about the concept of 'bad guys' -- maybe just more innate knowledge that surfaces once boys turn 3½? This is his latest invention, a "water sprayer" made of Tinkertoys.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


This weekend we did a whole lot of nothing, for a change. We all slept in, made our way to the bagel shop, then moseyed over to the farmer's market. I didn't really need anything except a few pounds of blueberries to freeze before the season ends, but we went for the atmosphere: the sound of the local musician playing on the acoustic guitar, the smell of freshly popped kettle corn, people milling about and chatting, and the occasional toddler squeaking, "ButIwannacookie!" (not mine, of course. My children would never do such a thing.) The boys got honey sticks and played on the train tracks. The rest of the day was just as relaxing: some combination of naps, reading books together, a family lunch date to Chili's, and chasing each other around the house.

Sunday was a repeat of Saturday - the boys slept in while I made my traditional Sunday big breakfast.  We spent the morning at church and returned home for naps. In the afternoon, the boys helped me make dinner, and then played outside until bedtime.  It was a nice, slow, easy afternoon, and the ideal weekend for us.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How To Build a Sandbox... just nine easy steps.

Step 1: Decide on a 8 ft. by 8 ft. area where you want your sandbox, and shovel out all the lava rock (about a half ton worth).

Step 2: After lava rock is cleared away, dig the area down 6 in.

Step 3: Pickaxe (and wife) may be required to break up rocky soil and tree roots.

Step 4: Measure, cut, and join framing together. 

Step 5: Tack landscaping fabric along the bottom of the frame to keep the sand up and the weeds down.

Step 6: Test the payload capacity of your truck by hauling 1.25 tons.

Step 7: Add brace benches while warding off children eager to play in sand.

Step 8: Dump in 1 ton of sand. Be sure to clear the area of children first.

Step 9: Play in sand to see how it feels. Decide you need another half-ton of sand.


Monday, July 5, 2010

How We Spent Our 4th

Eating popcorn and waiting for the parade to begin. Ben was a social butterfly and kept visiting all the people who sat around us on the curb.

The boys loved seeing the old car show that preceded the parade.

Fire trucks parade! 

Some dancing at home after naps.

And some wrestling on the floor. These boys so often remind me of puppies.

Sitting in the back of our truck waiting for the fireworks to begin. For some reason, popcorn was a very big part of the day.

We had a fun fourth enjoying some of the traditions we started last year with the boys. They loved seeing the fireworks, and Tommy kept calling them "rockets that go to space". Amazingly, they actually stayed awake for the whole show and didn't fall into bed until 10:30pm! 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Blueberry Muffin Boys

For the last few days, Tommy has been whining and begging asking to help me cook something. So, one morning I decided to have the boys help me bake these amazing blueberry muffins. Tommy is actually becoming truly helpful. Besides doing the normal measuring, pouring, and mixing, he was able to fill each cup with blueberry muffin batter, press the extra blueberries into the batter, and sprinkle the top with turbinado sugar, all without much supervision. Ben is not so helpful, that is, unless it's a help that he eats half a cup of the blueberries you need for the muffins. We made a double batch and distributed many muffins among our family and some friends we saw later that morning. (Note to those who may have received some of our muffins - the boys' hands were washed and they only licked measuring spoons after the ingredients were mixed. I think.)
Sneaking blueberries and yogurt 

Ben's 'victory smile' after sneaking some yogurt

Ben's job was sprinkling turbinado sugar on top of the muffins. He kept muttering "speetle, speetle", which is how he says "sprinkle". So cute!

Lately, instead of smiling, Tommy gives me his 'monster face' and growls at me. Lovely.