Sunday, July 31, 2011


Benett doesn't have a nickname. He's always been "Benett." Not even 'Ben.' I tried it out once. It didn't feel right.

He gave Gavin the moniker "Bubba." That's just how 'brother' comes out of a 1-year-old's mouth. Much to Gavin's chagrin, Bubba stuck.

I'm not sure how Ellie got the nickname of "Bug." It's usually "Ellie Bug" but from time to time it's just Bug. I especially like the way Benett says, "Ellie Bug... come here Ellie Bug..." It's pretty cute. (But dangerous for Ellie. Behind that sweet beckoning is a roughhousing session which usually ends in tears.)

But Benett has no nickname... Since he looks so much like his Bapa, I thought we should try "Buster." But there can be only one Buster.

It's a serious business earning a nickname. It takes time. It's something that can't be forced. So we'll sit tight, with Benett's serious little lips, contemplating a nickname for a not-so-serious little boy.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Days like today are extremely satisfying.

We crossed more than one project off the list.

Monte got to a couple of those chores that we'd been putting off 'til the weekend. There is nothing like a clean kitchen floor. We could have eaten our lunch off of it... actually, I think Benett did.

We filled the freezer and fruit cellar with stores that will remind us of these sunny summer days. (I couldn't help but photograph the pickles again. The light this morning was so pretty...) Today I 'processed' some zucchini... I may even make some bread tonight... maybe. Tomorrow we'll tackle the eggplant.

I'm also playing with a new toy and had to take some time to snap a few shots of random things... eyelashes... sunsets... and lots of other things in between.

The biggest project of the day has been an ongoing one. Today we really knocked out a big chunk, and we've nearly got it complete.

I can't tell you about it just yet. It's a surprise and I can't wait to share it with you! Maybe next week...

Friday, July 29, 2011


Pickle project #1 is complete.

Gavin was a great helper. From washing to slicing and packing the spears in the jars, he was very helpful. He also asked lots of questions along the way, which with him, always makes for an interesting exchange.

I must have been a bit repetitive, about washing the cukes... making sure that they're clean... it's important you know. Because he told me, "It's a process you know, Mom. I'm processing them over here [in the sink] and you're processing them over there [at the cutting board]."

We've never made dills before, so this was a new experience. I hope they're good, because we have a whole lot of them... 12 jars to be exact! The 'process' was quite straightforward, thanks to Joan's recipe. We're excited to try them. The decision was made to save them until Gavin's birthday. Our fingers will be crossed until then...

I followed the recipe for 9 of the jars, and made a little modification to three of them... just as an experiment. I think they all look pretty. I can't wait to photograph them in natural light, in the morning.

There is something very satisfying about the process... especially to hear the intermittent popping noises, as the jars form their seal.

Tomorrow, we'll finish up Project Cucumber by making refrigerator pickles. I'm looking forward to the outcome... and more than that, the conversation with Gavin.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


I'd like to do away this word. At my house it is an automatic response and most of the time it doesn't mean "okay" at all.

Gavin's always been an 'okay' guy. He says it to just about any question, statement or directive. It's also something that Benett has begun to pick up... It's time to replace the word with a response that actually means something.

It's funny how one little word can be translated in so many different ways. Some of favorites are:

  • ok = "I'm not really listening to you." (Especially if there is no eye contact.)
  • OK = "I'm only half listening to you."
  • Okaay = "I hear you, but I don't really want to do what you're asking me to do... so I'll trudge along and slowly do what's being requested in a very lackluster way."
  • Ookay = "You've asked me several times to do something and I've already said 'ok' once... and now I have to take action... and I don't like it."
  • Ooookaaaay = "I'm doing it!"
  • kay = "I'm embarrassed & please don't hug me in front of my friends."
  • O-Kay = "I'm mad." (This is usually accompanied by the hairy eyeball.)
  • M-Kay = "I'll remember and do it later." (Which never happens. Ever.)
Mom! = This really means "Okay." It means I've been heard... I've made myself unignorable... probably by turning off the TV/video game or taking away the toy. It means everything stops. Words are considered and the real conversation begins. It's not a good replacement for that nasty 4-letter word... but it's a start.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


I'm going to call this picture, "Really mad because she wants to pretend to eat something that we know she won't like, but her big brothers are doing it so she should to."

Really rolls off the tongue, don't you think?

All of the heat and humidity that we've been experiencing is just the stuff our cucumbers needed to go from the puny little nubs that I photographed just last week... to the plumb green beauties the boys are holding above.

Although only two were ready to pick tonight, as is evident by the red-faced, unhappy child in the middle, I know a few more will be ready by the weekend. I'm so excited! (I know... being excited over veggies means I really need to get out more.) I'm excited because our plans for the weekend were going to consist of tending the garden, and now making dill pickles. If we're really ambitious, we may even make some refrigerator pickles as well.

In case you're wondering, after the thrill of having their pictures taken, the boys soon lost interest in the spiny little cukes... so Ellie got her chance to take a bite. She didn't get the memo about the 'pretending' part though.

She did not like the taste, but the drive to one-up her brothers was so great... she just had to take a nibble.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Tonight the baseball season ended for the 8 & under teams. It was a beautiful night for a game. It was also fun to see how much the boys have grown through a short season of ball.

Gavin really learned some of the basics. He learned what he was good at, and the areas where he needed some extra practice. The coaches were great about encouraging the boys and helping them to be the best they could be.

Gavin also learned that baseball is a game that he enjoys. I think Monte is really excited about that... they now share a love for sports. That bond is going to be so much fun to watch, as it grows and blossoms.

Gavin is a lefty, which means there are limited options for a position that really suits him. He is an okay fielder... but there are just so many things that are distracting... way out there in the field... away from all the action... things (baseballs) tend to get missed (fly over your head) when one is distracted (has his face in his glove).

Luckily we got some of those embarrassing moments out of the way early in the season... tonight he was on task, paying attention. Only hiking his pants up occasionally... but spitting a lot... which I've been told is "okay." (Rest assured there will be an ongoing debate on that topic.)

Although he tried his hand at a number of positions, Gavin most enjoyed catching. He is good at it too. He's better suited to play where all of the action is at. And he doesn't mind the get-up and how hot it can be under those pads. I'm biased, but I think he looks pretty cute too. I love to see his sparkling eyes behind that catcher's mask.

After the game, I asked Gavin if he was sad that the season was over. He said that he wasn't. I think his activity-filled summer is catching up with him. Benett and Ellie don't share that sentiment... I know they'll miss coming to the park (parking lot) so frequently. Ellie was content to sit in the swing for most of the night, soaking it all in.

We're taking a little break, until soccer starts in the fall. Durring that time, we'll keep practicing hitting and throwing and catching. We'll also be taking some time to work on un-learning a couple of things... namely, that baseball pants don't need to be worn so high and that spitting isn't necessary unless you have a bug in your mouth.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Life, as an adult, I've found can be complicated. Sometimes the complication is my own doing... most of the time it's my own doing. You see, I tend to over think some things. Shocker, I know.

Sometimes it's a conversation that I'll play over and over again in my head, like an athlete trying to learn from a coaching video. I'm not sure what I'm trying to get out of it... after all, what's in the past is in the past.

I've also found that stuff really complicates things. I don't really care for a lot of stuff... but you wouldn't know it by looking at my house. With three little people, copious amounts of stuff comes with the territory. My mode now is in controlling the mess. I'm not sure that I'm gaining on it... but it's a work in progress.

Our little Benett likes to complicate things, in his own little way. Specifically, he likes to add syllables:

  • We don't play at the park, in Benett's world we play at the "parking lot."
  • He enjoys playing with "Lightning McQueen Ca-chow."
  • There is no such thing as cake, but he loves "cupcakes."
  • He refers to his sandals as "beach party shoes."
  • And when we tuck Benett in to bed, he says, "Good night... don't let the bed-bugs out." (Disturbing.)

So, if Benett asks you if you want to, "Wear your beach party shoes to the parking lot to play with Lightning McQuee Ca-chow and eat cupcakes..." consider saying 'yes.' It might be a good time. Provided the bed bugs don't get out.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


We had the opportunity to spend time with babies this weekend. Three little cousins who are just as cute as can be... and three of the most contented children I've ever seen.

Though Ellie was all about the babies... Benett was especially smitten. He just couldn't get enough of them with their tiny little fingers and toes. He wanted to hold them. He wanted to cuddle them. He wanted to kiss them. He's such a sweetie. (When he's not sitting on his sister.)

Benett got his chance to hold a baby. He was thrilled... I'm not sure if the wee ones shared that same enthusiasm... as a matter of fact, I think I saw some relieved looks on the babies' faces, after Benett had said his goodbyes and was loaded into the car... sometimes he can be a bit much.

A Week

A week has already passed since we heard Immaculee speak. At the time I thought it would change my life. A week later, I know it has.

One thing that she talked about really spoke to me and has remained on the surface... sticking in my thoughts. She spoke a great deal about Kibeho. I'd never known about this small town in Rwanda... I can't say that before last week, I'd never really given much thought to visions (confirmed by the church or not) that people have had through the ages. But the story about Kibeho was compelling, and I haven't really been able to stop thinking about it.

Our Lady of Kibeho referred to the people gathered as "flowers." She said that all of her flowers needed water, those who stood tall and strong, as well as those that were wilted.

It's true that we haven't spent much time in the garden, but each time I see the flowers that we've tended (and those that have found their way all on their own) I can't help but think of this reference. I can't help but think of the little people... of Monte and me... all of us... how we alternately stand tall and other times droop a bit. I love the thought that we're all worthy of love and have a place in this world and the in the next.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


We haven't really been spending much time outside the last couple of days. It's just been too hot... steamy... and generally uncomfortable to be in the elements.

Being stuck inside, in the summer, is akin to torture... or so it seems to the little people. So, I've been trying to put a positive spin on being confined to conditioned air, and came up with the following.

1.) Ellie hasn't been eating dirt. Any day that I can keep my daughter from eating a handful of dirt is counted as a successful day.

2.) The tomatoes are very plentiful. It looks like we're going to have a bumper crop.

3.) Cucumbers are scrambling along their fence at a record pace. And since there are no little fingers to "help" pick them at this stage of the game, we might actually be able to enjoy the fruits of our labor when the veggies are a little bigger.

4.) Playing inside means there is less laundry and fewer baths. (Until one steps outside for anything longer than 2.4 seconds... then all bets are off.)

5.) We've been playing on the computer for the first time since school let out. We play a few games, but it's just as fun to create these silly things on Picnik. His school pictures were perfectly cute all by themselves, but who could resist adding a mustache to a kindergartner? (We did purchase the copyright release from the photographer... that's a very important step in the process!)

I'm afraid we're running out of ideas though... let's hope the weather turns around so we can get back outside soon!

Friday, July 22, 2011


Every one of us got a haircut this week. It’s quite a liberating feeling, to lose all of that hair, especially when the weather is so warm.

For Ellie, it was her first time under the cape. Her mullet now looks a bit more intentional. I’m not sure how I feel about that… I just wish her hair would grow a little more consistently. Her bangs seem to grow disproportionately faster than the rest of her hair.

My sister-in-law says that if a child’s hair comes in slowly, it means they’ll have thick hair as they get older. If that’s the case, Ellie’s fine blond strands will be transformed to thick locks before we know it.

Gavin has great hair… thick, straight… no cowlicks. He just looks great in any kind of cut. Benett on the other hand has that same fine hair as Ellie. And his hair would rather stand on its end than lay flat. We call it his ‘stick-up hair.’ I’m not sure where that trait came from, since both Monte and I have thick hair that refuses to do anything.

The boys now have strange tan lines on their necks… you know the ones that make them look dirty... Actually, I think they’re 75% tan and 25% dirt. They refuse to let me scrub them in the tub. I’ve been trying to pick my battles, and scrubbing off tanned dirt marks isn’t one that I’ve chosen.

I'm tickled to see their tans, because it means that they’re enjoying the outdoors this summer. Running bare footed through the summer, basking in it's sun is what kids are supposed to do, right? With all of the time outside, we're using loads of sunscreen and have already been through two big bottles… yet slowly the bronzing continues. They wear their farmer tans with pride… Even their little feet have tan marks. It’s cute… on them… Monte’s Keen sandal tan lines on the other hand look a bit odd.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Chocolate pudding. No spoon. Much delight.
Ellie may never eat with a spoon, but when
the result is this cute... who could care.

Monday, July 18, 2011


The human body is an amazing thing. We humans are able to adapt and to compensate for deficiencies. Sometimes these adjustments are consciously performed. Other times they're not... that amazing brain of ours does what it deems best.

Ellie's amazing little brain has been doing just that... urging her to eat lint. Yes, lint. Right... I know... She'll pick at a knitted blanket, or a shirt or even the carpet to get a little bundle of lint. (I'm thrilled that she doesn't know about the lint trap in the dryer.) Without hesitation, she'll pop that little lint ball in her mouth.

This lint eating habit has been a bit disturbing... it's caused my imagination to get the best of me. I was convinced that there was something very wrong with her. I was convinced that she'd be destined to join a carnival and travel the land performing with the fire eaters and sword swallowers. After all, who rationally looks at a steak knife and thinks, "I think I'll try to swallow that." It must all start by eating lint.

Much to my relief, we learned today that Ellie is iron deficient. I'm hoping it's the reason for her strange craving. We're treating her with Fred Flintstone and his amazing iron-filled vitamins. We're hopeful and quite relieved that she won't be traveling with a carnival in the foreseeable future..

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Today is great kite-flying weather. There is enough wind to keep a kite aloft, but not so much that it's unmanageable. Gavin did a great job... and the little ones were happy to watch their big brother.

The heat index today must be well over 100 degrees. Even the dog won't climb out of his cool resting place to join all of the revelry. So Benett & Ellie sat and watched the kite skitter across the sky, undisturbed by the happy black dog... Instead the contented themselves with watching the kite dance in the sky, inspiring Ellie to dance as well... she hates to see anyone, or anything, dance alone.


I had the fortunate opportunity to attend a retreat this weekend. The fact that I'm saying that this was an "opportunity" is, in and of itself, out of character.

Not only did I willingly attend (perhaps a bit grudgingly at first) but I actually took a lot away.
It was amazing to listen to the speaker talk about her faith... I wanted to soak up all of her messages and recall each word for word. But I couldn't take my eyes off of her to write anything down... Instead I relied on my little brain to take all of the inspiration and emotion and keep it tucked away to put into practice as I change my life.

I know after listening to Immaculee, that I can change my life. My kids are very important to me, but there is a better faith-filled way to live our lives. To not just walk though life knowing what we know and doing what we do... but instead stop and really see.. not with our eyes, but with our hearts. Stop to think about what we're saying. Stop to see what we teach when there are no words. Stop and forgive... and always love.

I have no illusions that it's going to be easy. There are always part of life that are difficult. But I've learned that it's okay. It's how we react, and the lessons that come out of the unintended teaching sessions make up who we are.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


When I was in third grade, my teacher taught me how to properly spell dessert. "Dessert is twice as tasty as the desert." In my 9-year-old brain, that conjured up thoughts of eating sand. Not pleasant.

My kids would agree that dessert is twice as good as just about anything. For that reason, and in an effort to try to develop a healthier lifestyle, I'd like to make things like what Gavin's eating in this image, more of a special occasion treat.

I decided that today was a good day to really make a push... To hold my ground and offer more fruit when the "I'm still hungry!" line was used after dinner tonight. To hold my ground, even when Ellie screamed for 45 minutes because she couldn't have a treat that she'd seen sitting on the counter earlier in the day. (Why is it that she can instantly identify when something is missing, that isn't even at her eye-level... but she can't find her pacifier right in front of her?) To hold my ground, even when I'm tired and cranky and just want some quiet.

I felt like a lunatic for trying… today. I’ve been away for a few days, on business. I rushed home… I’ve been missing my kids, you see. I’ve had long days and short nights… I’m tired. My kids weren’t nearly as excited to see me as I was them… There was a lot of crying tonight, which made me wonder why I rushed home.

They're all in bed now. In the still of the night, with the dishwasher wooshing and the dryer tumbling I am glad I rushed back. That’s easier to say when they’re not crying in my face, or locking every door in the house and then pulling each door closed for some unknown reason. (If the door locking thing is to get a reaction, Benett was successful. Sheesh, that gets under my skin!)

With all of that… I really should have picked another day to start our new eating habits… I’m not really sure why, but being healthier has been on my mind quite a bit lately… And waiting didn’t seem like an option. So crying kids, locked doors and sleep deprivation aside, we got the ball rolling today.

I'm confident that hunger pangs won't wake any of us in the night. I'm sure that the meal we had was nutritious and filling. I know they'll test me again tomorrow... but I get to sleep in my own bed tonight… so bring they can bring their worst! I’ll be ready for ‘em.

Monday, July 11, 2011


It's been a while... and I'm a bit nervous about it... but tomorrow I leave for a meeting. I've been relatively spoiled lately, with required meeting attendance at an all-time low.

I have no presentations to give. No lectures to host. I'll be attending this one as a participant only, which will provide an interesting perspective.

So, tomorrow I'm gonna hop behind the wheel and head out of town. I don't have to go far, but leaving the little people behind is going to be a challenge. Benett took me on a mini trip tonight... a guilt trip, that is... when he said, "Mommy, you stay home. You stay here with me." I should have known better than to get my overnight bag out in front of him...

The one nice thing about being gone, is coming home. It's exciting. It's fun to hear all about what happened in my absence. It's fun to see everyone's bright twinkly eyes... and grubby little faces.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


The rain finally came, early this morning. We could practically hear the garden sigh. I half wished I could have been in the garden when it rained, to see the dusty raspberries getting a bath. They're shining like jewels... spots of red in my green, green garden.

I can't wait for the noon-day sun to warm things up... The cucumbers will crawl along the trellis and the tomatoes will really start to make fruit in earnest. I'm convinced it will happen so fast, we'll be able to watch it, like a Discovery Channel time-lapsed video.

On warm and muggy summer days like this, it seems as though we can hear the corn grow. The corn looks different for sure, as it stretches... reaching out for the sun.

On warm and muggy summer days like this, we're also very grateful for conditioned air. Being outside in the heat is always fun to do when you know you have a cool house to go into.


Gavin is at a birthday party today... at the pool! He's been so excited all morning... the anticipation was almost too much to contain.

Now that he's gone, the house is quiet. Benett is playing with tractors, dropping toys down the registers and slowly following his sister with his trike.

Ellie doesn't seem to be too bothered by the stalker who is quietly following her around the house. She knows that eventually, he'll break down and play with her... or sit on her. And she's learning to fend for herself... we can see the confidence growing each day.

Even though things are quiet... there's little yelling and no fighting, Benett misses his brother. I can tell by his pouty little lips.

Friday, July 8, 2011


I love Black Eyed Susan's. They mean summer to me. They are sunny and bright and just seem so happy. This year the flowers are thick. They've spread and are growing like a carpet in each garden... digging their roots deeper and establishing themselves. I love how wild and carefree they look.

But have you ever noticed them before they unfurl and show their happy faces? They look messy, like they're clinging to themselves... undecided about whether or not to show their lovely faces.

They seem to be peeking through, trying to get a glimpse of what lies beyond their pretty yellow petals. The plants in my garden must feel comfortable with what they see lurking in the great beyond, because eventually they all unfold and make their happy presence known.

Lately, I've been peeking through the proverbial petals in my life too... a little too scared to look too far into the distance, for fear that I might not be able to handle what I see. Also like my perennials, I feel firmly rooted... which is great for creating a stable environment for kids, but isn't always a good thing when we need to be nimble... when the rest of the world is quaking, it's nice to be able to move to a safe place.

I know that as time marches on, I'll become less and less afraid of what's out there... out beyond my petals. I'll feel confidant enough to open up and feel the sun. To smile a happy smile and sway in the breeze... no matter which way it may be blowing. I'll know my roots will keep me safe on the windy days and nourished when the landscape around me becomes parched.

Time will ease my fears and sooth away the angst, helping me to not cling to my worry, but find that carefree feeling of joy... even in the parts of my life that I cannot control.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Root Beer

We've only recently discovered just how wonderful root beer floats can be on a warm summer day. They're even more refreshing, when shared with someone you love.

I think if you were to ask Ellie, she's say the only thing that could make this scenario better would be a bigger glass! (Dad probably would too... who knew such a little girl could drink so much!)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


The saying, in the Midwest, is that the corn should be "knee high by the fourth of July." It's old fashioned, but each year on the fourth, it's fun to see just how much the corn really has grown.

Our tradition is to take a picture next to a field. Growing up I recall taking a picture most years. Looking back on them is great fun as an adult, and brings back many memories that had faded. My hope is that one day, my kids feel the same way about our photo traditions. And that the pictures help them recall happy times.

For our photo opp., Ellie didn't really want to cooperate... For some reason, she wanted to be IN the dirt. Standing on it wasn't enough... she needed to be sitting in it. So we resorted to Gavin holding her up... She looks a bit like a scarecrow... with a voluminous belly.

The boys were just happy to be allowed to play so close to the field. Lately they've been enthralled by being in the field... which makes me nervous. I mean I'm not sure how they could get lost... after all Monte & I can't seem to get a moments peace... all the yelling and general merriment at our house must be heard from miles away... but the nervous mother in me likes to have eyes on them.

With Benett being so... vertically challenged... the early July corn is a perfect place to hide. And although it makes me nervous, I love this mischievous little face peeking out through the sea of green.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


This summer, we've continued Gavin's daily journal. We don't get an opportunity to write in it every day, but we try frequently.

He doesn't always have a topic, many times Gavin just writes what he's thinking about. Hence the fact that there are several entries about Legos, and how "awesome" and "cool" they are... which resulted in our first journal rule -- no more use of the words 'awesome' or 'cool,' to which Gavin said, "what words do I write then!?" He just couldn't imagine a world where he could get his point across and NOT use either of those words.

I love to read his entries. It's a real treat for me. I'll save and treasure each of the notebooks that he's filled with his thoughts and hopes and super-cool Lego building escapades.

Little Miss Ellie has also come to enjoy journal time. She climbs right up onto the chair where Gavin is sitting. After a couple of wiggly moments, Gavin is standing beside the chair while Ellie stands perched next to him. She digs to find all of the crayons and hunkers down next to her big brother to draw.

She can't quite decide which hand to use, so she uses the same technique she employs while eating... one in each hand. Although I'm nervous about her standing on the chair, I love to watch her so intent in her little activity.

Monday, July 4, 2011


We had a great holiday weekend.

I know I speak for Monte when I say that we're ready to get back to a more regular routine. The last two nights we've been up late, enjoying the fire-works shows. And our days have been filled with a lot of outside time.

All that fresh air has us all tired. Ellie looks the way I feel... she fell sound asleep while eating her dinner. Unfortunately, Benett did not do the same... He was determined to stay awake, not wanting to miss a thing.


Gavin and I made a little time for a project today.

I've been wanting to try heat transfer vinyl for a while, which is a little surprising. My job 14 years ago was creating selling materials and convention display items using vinyl. It was tedious work. The vinyl and transfer material seemed endless. I never thought I'd use vinyl again, by choice.

There are some really great crafting tools out there these days. We use our Silhouette machine often... and the company always seems to be introducing new and fun ways to use it.

A few days ago I placed an order for a couple of different types of vinyl. It arrived on Thursday... and as luck would have it, Gavin needed a new muscle shirt for these warm summer days. So we had the perfect excuse to work on a design together.

I think next time we'll try something a little more advanced. We tried to keep things simple so we didn't get frustrated. It turned out to be a quick and fun project. I think the end result is pretty okay for our first try too.

This is no substitute for embroidery. I'm curious to see how long the design lasts. I'm afraid it may not come out of the washer and dryer in one piece. 

Gavin was a good helper today. And a cute model.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


Yesterday, Monte and I picked up a Slip 'n Slide. We though it would be a great way to spend some time, on such a warm weekend.

It was the best $5 we've spent in a long, long time.

But the name is all wrong. With all the anxious kids, impatiently waiting their turn... I think it should be called a Push 'n Pull.

Gavin is such a hot dog. He loved every second.
Benett grinned ear to ear the entire time.
Even Miss Ellie was a pro. She needed a little help,
so I tossed her. It sounds like bowling...
But she laughed so it can't be all bad, right?