Sunday, November 30, 2014

November 30

Today is the last day of November. Jenna would have been 42 today. (If you don't know about Jenna, I have blogged about her periodically, like here and here.) It's also the last day of Pancreatic Awareness Month and the month where, more than any other, we reflect on our thankfulness and, hopefully, express our gratitude and appreciation to others.

In honor of all of those things, I will say what I've said before. Go out and be kind. Be kind to the people in your home and the people you see regularly and the people you meet by happenstance.



Choose love over hate and good over bad and forgiveness over grudge and kindness over anger.

It's not always easy. Don't I know it?

But, it's always right. It matters. We may never know just how much it matters.



Happy Birthday, Jenna. May the chorus of angels serenade you with the loveliest of Happy Birthday songs. May your legacy of love and strength and joy and kindness live on.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Apple Saturday

Yesterday was lefse day and today is apple day. My grandparents brought three bags of apples from their tree in South Dakota, so we are in a peeling/coring/slicing/baking frenzy.

(I interrupt this blog post for story. We started making applesauce when Isaac was a wee little boy. We got out the peeler/corer/slicer and showed him how it worked. He was enthralled. He started to twist the handle and said, "I tist and I tist and I tist and I tist," because he couldn't say twist. Now we say that every single time we use the gadget and tell the story of Isaac. It makes us all smile.)
 
Here they are, tisting and tisting and tisting.


Back to business: We've got a few pans of apple crisp in the oven, apple cinnamon bread in the queue, and apple sauce simmering on the stove. Yes, it smells as fragrant and delicious as you're imagining.

If you're into homemade and personal Christmas gifts, here's an idea I've done in the past. I gave someone an apple peeler/corer/slicer and compiled some of our favorite apple recipes along with some recipes from my friends who I know to be wonderful cooks. Write the recipes up on pretty recipe cards and there you have it. Ho ho ho. Merry Christmas.

Whether you use the recipes or give them as gifts, here are the recipes we're baking today. Enjoy!

Apple Sauce:

This is a very scientific, exact recipe. Just kidding.
Peel, core, and slice apples. Put them in a large pot. Add a bit of cinnamon to your liking and some water. Simmer until the apples break down. You can let this cook as long as you'd like to reach your desired consistency. We prefer our apple sauce a little chunky. You can make this in big batches and freeze it in baggies.



Apple Crisp:

apples
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter
2 c oatmeal
1/2 cup flour

Fill a 9x13 pan 3/4 of the way full with peeled, cored, and sliced apples.
Mix together brown sugar, oatmeal, and flour. Cut in the butter. Pour mixture over the apples and sprinkle with cinnamon.
Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes, or until apples are soft and topping is crisp.


Apple Cinnamon Bread: (tweaked from this recipe)

2/3 cup sugar
1 stick butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1 apples, peeled and chopped.

Beat sugar and butter together until creamy. Add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla.
In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add dry mixture to butter mixture. Pour the milk in and mix until smooth.
Pour half of the batter into a prepared loaf pan. Add half of the apples and sprinkle with cinnamon.
Pour the rest of the batter over the top, then add the rest of the apples and sprinkle with cinnamon.
Bake 45 minutes in a 350 oven. Check by inserting a toothpick into the center. It'll come out clean when the bread is finished.

I tripled this recipe and it worked really well.
As usual, Asher helped by taste testing the delicious apples and we used the bake time to play some cards.

I was feeling so domestic right until Jim started praying and thanked God for my grandparents and the delicious apples they brought to us and the tasty treats we made with them. It was right at that moment, mid-prayer, that I slapped the table, jumped up, and got the two apple crisps out of the oven that were definitely a bit too crisp. Whoops. I guess that's why people set timers.

Do you have a favorite recipe that uses apples? I'm all ears since I have another bag of apples.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Lefse Friday

If you're passed out in a smoking hot deals, shopping induced coma, I applaud you. I myself am a throw out the ads without looking at them, hang out at home all day Black Friday kind of girl. This year we were in for a special treat because my mom and Keith and grandpa and grandma came over to our house to make lefse. This is a Norwegian family tradition that we learned from my great-grandma B, who passed away two years ago. We like to imagine her looking down at us as we get covered in flour and wonder how it always takes much longer than we expected. But, it is one of our favorite traditions and my kids start asking about it as soon as the leaves change and we start planning for Thanksgiving.

Now, if you know me at all, you will not be surprised to find out that things didn't go quite as scheduled. We got the dough ready and grandma headed to the quilt shop for a little browsing, when much to our dismay we realized that we didn't have the cover for the pastry board. This resulted in lefse dough sticking to the board and making it impossible to proceed. UGH!

We took a break from lefse-ing to play Three-Thirteen and Pit, (Side note: play Pit. Noisy, rambunctious fun!) while grandma purchased fabric and sewed a cover for the pastry board. This took longer than expected, like it always does, but she did it. We put it on, hoping it would work since she put a lot of time and effort into it. Voila, it worked!

Unfortunately by the time we got all the ducks in a row, it was time for my mom and Keith to head home, but at least they got to be in on all of the game fun. The kids had a blast helping and we all loved sampling our wares. This is the first year Elliot has wanted to help and he did a great job. I just love carrying on this tradition and being surrounded by generations of love and experience.

OK.Prepare yourself, people.Photos galore of our fun day.
My beautiful mama
Audrey and grandma Fischer prepare the dough
Game break: Three Thirteen
Asher and his good buddy, Grandpa
Grandma hard at work sewing her cover
Still on game break: Pit. It got so loud that Asher cried. We tried to quiet it down a bit.
Elliot wants every kind of animal as his pet. He loves playing with his nana and babu's dogs.
Audrey: flipper extraordinaire
Isaac hard at it, too.
We gave Asher a piece of dough and some flour to go to town
Audrey practices rolling out
Elliot and Grandpa play cars
Isaac perfects his rolling technique

Elliot gets in on the flipping action
And tries his hand at rolling, too.
Asher loved the finished product
Here's the lefse gang, minus me
Mmmmmm. Success! And fun, family memories, too.

Now that's my kind of Black Friday!

What did you do? Are you a shopper, decorator, relaxer, or something else entirely? 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving

After spending two nights at nana and babu's house, the big kids are back home. Life with four is noisier and bedtime takes longer, but it's just right. Goodness, I missed those kids like crazy.
Full tummies and happy kids, but don't even try to take babu's phone away from Asher
We celebrated Thanksgiving with my mom, Keith, Grandpa and Grandma Fischer, and my cousin, Matt, his wife, Sarah, and their two daughters. We ate delicious food and shared delightful company.
Audrey was instrumental in decorating the table. It was gorgeous!
It was 70 degrees out. Yes, that actually happens on Thanksgiving Day. Who knew?! Jim, Asher, and I started our day with a Turkey Day Fun Run. I predict this will become a new family tradition and next year we'll bring the big kids.
It was a great to start our day with a fun run.
I talked to my dad and my brother and his family on the phone. It wasn't enough, but it was something. Hearing their voices and telling them I love them will have to do when there are all these miles between us. On the other hand, I live in the same state as my mom for the first time since 1996. Seeing her more often is such a gift.
I love seeing my mom and Keith with my kids
Spending time with my grandparents is a delight. They are in their 70s and have been married for 56 years. They are healthy and active and seeing them with my kids brings such a smile to my face. Knowing my kids will experience the love of all of these generations and remember their great-grandparents is something I do not take for granted.
Grandpa Fischer, Asher, and dr. Seuss. A great combination

This just warms my heart.
We have a home and food and vehicles and running water and computers and more than a person would ever need and I'm so thankful for all of that stuff that makes life so much easier. I know that many, in fact most, of the people in this world do not have those luxuries and I am so grateful and humbled by the bounty before me every day.

But these people I get to call family and the people that choose me as their friend are my greatest treasures.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Why I play Clash of Clans

Are you baking/cooking/prepping today? Or is it work as usual? I'm making this and this and these:

Sweet Potato Biscuits
2-3 sweet potatoes
1/2 c. butter, cut into chunks
2 TBSP brown sugar
2 TBSP sugar
1/2 tsp salt.
1/4 tsp cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 c. flour

Preheat oven to 400. Scrub sweet potatoes, prick them with a fork,and microwave until tender, at least 10 minutes. (I don't have a microwave, so in the oven they'll go.) Slice them in half, scoop the hot flesh from the skins, and add to a mixing bowl along with the butter. Whip about 2 minutes. Beat in sugars, salt, and spices. Let cool for 15 minutes.

Mix flour and baking powder. Add to potato mixture and combine well with a fork. Pat into 8x8" square on a floured surface. Cut into 16 squares.

Place 2 inches apart on a sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake 14-18 minutes or until brown on bottom.

These are so easy and so tasty. They can also be made ahead and frozen until needed, but I didn't have my act together enough to do that. Surprise, surprise, surprise!

The big kids hustled through school on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday so they could stay at nana and babu's tonight so it's just the Asher boy and me. He's not my most helpful sous chef, as in he hides the measuring cups, but at least I'm not trying to bake and cook and teach and mother. Not that that's the hardest thing a person would need to do, but let's just say that productivity is up. But that's not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about Clash of Clans.

Have you heard of it? Have you seen grown men walking around with their noses in their phones, ignoring the rest of the world while they build up their imaginary, fighting clans? Yes. That happens. It does not happen to me, but it happens.

Here's the thing. I do not like the game. I don't care about the strategy. I don't check it often enough to win battles or build the stuff I should be building. It's not even remotely my idea of a good time.

Yet, in spite of all of that, last week I pushed the little free app thing on my phone and started playing Clash of Clans.

Jim started playing it a few months ago and the kids thought it looked cool and heard people from co-op talking about it. When we got my mom's old Ipad we decided we'd let them use that to make their own clan (village? Whatever it's called.) We don't engage in a lot of screen time over here, so the kids could trade in their wii time for Ipad time if they wanted to.

Turns out they love the game. The six year old in particular did what six year olds the world over are famous for. He fixated on it. If he's talking, which he does A LOT, it's often about football, Droon books, his baby brother, skiing, and Clash of Clans. The other kids really like it, too, but he takes it to another level.

They started talking about it more and I wanted to know what they were talking about. Jim and I do a fair amount of rule setting regarding screen time and I wanted to share something fun with them with the Ipad. So I joined. I don't have enough gold (elixir? trophies?) to join their clan yet, but it'll happen. I ask their advice and they are so proud to fill me in on what I need to know. They ask if I've upgraded stuff and I ask for their help. But mostly I just enjoy the fact that I can join in on the conversation and laugh with them and share this with them.

getting my tutorial in Omaha
There you have it. I've joined the Clash of Clans world. Not because I like Clash of Clans, but because I really love my kids. These four:
mama hiking selfie with 3 kids and a hat
What have you learned about or done because your kids loved it? 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

at a loss

I had a different blog post started.

Then the grand jury came back and said no charges would be filed against Darren Wilson. I didn't see Michael Brown get shot and I wasn't in the room hearing the testimonies and arguments. I don't know what happened. I never will.

As an outsider looking in, here's what I know. I know is that it has to stop being okay to shoot unarmed black boys and men. I know their lives have to be valued for the grand, beautiful, worthy creations they are. I know I shouldn't feel this sense of relief that my boys have white skin. I know rioting and looting aren't the answer.

But I most certainly don't know the answer.

I am ill. Shaking, angry, furious, pissed, ill.

So, go read this. It's important.

And let's do this.
"So, we must acknowledge our faults, confess our sins, repent to those we harm, and seek reconciliation in the grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Listen, understand, acknowledge, and come along the side of those who are hurting, bearing their burdens in love.
They will know us by our love. Might we love in such a way that others see the unconditional love of Jesus."
That's all I have. 

Thoughts? 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Making our way: Monday musings

Two weeks. We've been here for two weeks. I assume the day will come when I'll stop squealing and saying, "I can't believe we actually live here" at an octave more fit for dogs than humans. I assume the day will come when we'll crest a hill and I won't clap my hands and say, "Well done, God. Well done."

Right now I am in awe of the layers of gorgeous that meet my eyes each day. The rolling brown hills with the majestic green trees set against the white-capped mountains. It is a feast for my eyes and I gobble it up. Right now I still get lost on the way to the grocery store. Right now I still have to think long and hard about which curve of the road to take on my run. Right now it still kind of feels like a long vacation.
On Friday we made homemade pizza for movie night. (I did my dad proud by falling asleep about a half hour into it, just as Audrey snuggled up next to me to get me all comfy cozy.) Since mozzarella cheese is a key ingredient, I hopped in the car for the quick trip to the grocery store. Except I turned the wrong way. I didn't want to turn around because I kept thinking it might be just around the next curve. It wasn't, but I eventually made my way back to the store and I will not make that mistake again.

As I drove in the waning sunlight and watched the sky turn all those colors skies turn as the sun says its last goodbye of the evening, I just cried. I cried because I really believe this could feel like home. And I so badly want it to feel like home, but I so badly want the people I love and miss to experience it with me. I thought about what I want to share with my friends, the runs I want to run with them and the laughs I want to laugh with them. I thought about what I want to show my nephews. But I don't want to show them on a visit. I want to experience it together as part of our lives.

But I can't have both. I can't have what I have here and what I miss there.

And that stings.

But, we love it here. We are thrilled we're here and love the mountains and the skiing/hiking/running and the proximity to nana and babu and the glorious weather. And we're going to give it a chance and live in the assumption that it's going to be our home and we're going to find another group of people to love and be loved by. It won't be a new group because our friends cannot be replaced, but I have to be okay adding to my tribe, too.

I'm running a 3 mile fun run on Thanksgiving. My first time running with other people since moving away from my many running friends. (Please, sweet Jesus, let it be relatively flat and oxygenated so I don't vomit in front of strangers.) We're visiting a few homeschool co-ops the week after Thanksgiving. We continue to look for a church home.

We're making our way.
It's tricky.
It's winding.
It's beautiful.

We're making it.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A nice little Sunday

Jim slept until 1 pm since he worked until 6 am. Asher took a nap at 9, so we couldn't go to church since I knew he'd wake up before we got home and Jim would not want to be up yet. The big kids and I got school done for the day, awash in the warmth of the fireplace. (School on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, ski on Tuesday, spend Wednesday and Thursday with nana and babu and grandpa and grandma Fischer, then school on Friday.) I addressed some Christmas cards. I absolutely can't listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving, but I love sending out Christmas cards so I do that one Christmas thing before Thanksgiving. Well, I also shop for gifts because I can't spend December stressed about gifts. I go crazy. We cleaned up the school room and the kids played a little bit. Asher woke up in a giggly mood. We had the perfect winter lunch of grilled cheese and chili. Tummy warming perfection. Jim woke up and once we got ready we headed to Denver to hang out with my mom and Keith and my grandparents. My grandparents are in town for Thanksgiving as they travel from South Dakota to Arizona for the weekend. It is such a treat to be able to buzz over to my mom's for Sunday dinner. Dinner was great; the company was even better. We drove home and got the kids to bed in time for me to use technology to catch up with my two BRFs for a bit. It wasn't enough, but it was something.

Yes. It was a nice, relaxing little Sunday.
Good night.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

fifteen months

This little choochie face turned 15 months old today.



Sigh.

Hard to believe I've been loving this baby for all those months and hard to believe he's only been part of our family for fifteen months. It's the great paradox of grand love. How has it gone so quickly and how have we not loved you forever?

Asher celebrated by attending his first every wood stacking party. Yes, that's actually a thing. He and I made ourselves at home while Jim and the other kids actually helped do the work of hauling and stacking wood at my cousin's house. And by made ourselves at home, I mean he slobbered all over their floor to ceiling mirror and I hid all of their remotes to keep them from being lost forever at the hands of a very slick toddler. Then he napped for 15 minutes on the way home and decided that a 15 minute nap on one's 15 month birthday is plenty of rest.

He learns new things every day. It's so amazing to watch and so fun to see Isaac, Audrey, and Elliot marvel at the changes. He loves to "dan, dan, dan," which means dance, dance, dance. You would know that if you saw him waving his arms and shimmying as he said it. He loves "ball balls" and wants whichever one a big sibling is holding. He hugs it out. He mimics almost everything we say, with love you (uv u) being my personal favorite right now.


His hair is so long that he wakes up each morning looking like a combination between a mad scientist and Farrah Fawcett from the early 80's, all feathered out and stylish. Except it's not the 80's and he's not a girl. But when it's wet or he's sweaty it curls and it's just the sweetest and I know what happens when you take your baby boy in for his first haircut. He goes in a baby and comes out a little boy and I am not quite ready for that. Jim is ready. I'm getting there.

He sleeps terribly, but is almost always in a good mood, provided he is held often, nursed often, and no one takes his ball balls.

His giggle. Oh, dear me, his giggle. Whether he's playing hut hut with his biggest brother, tag with his sister, or being tickled by his big brother, that giggle with that wide smile just stops me in my tracks.
He is loved. He loves.

Always.