Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Don't is only temporary! Tomorrow I am flying to Little Rock! I will be gone for 12 days. Here is what is on my agenda.

  • Spend lots of time with my Arkansas BFF, Karon
  • FamilyLife staff wives' retreat. I'm not on staff anymore, but they are letting me come. I can't wait to spend a few days with some of my favorite ladies!
  • Eat at Larry's Pizza, my favorite restaurant in Little Rock
  • Do Ashten's 1st birthday photo shoot. I have done photos of him at newborn, 3 months old, and 6 months old.

3 months

6 months

  • Take my dear friend Stephanie out for frozen custard at Shake's, my favorite dessert place in Little Rock.
  • Go to Thursday morning Bible study at our church. I was in Bible study with the same core group of ladies for 4 years, and oh, how I miss my Thursday girls!
  • Enjoy weather that is less than 75 degrees, which is the lowest temp I have felt in 8 weeks.
  • Help my sis-in-law get ready for her wedding.
  • Take Snapper and Pepper for annual check-ups. We're also having Snapper evaluated for ADHD. Her inability to focus, complete a task, follow directions, remember where she has put stuff, etc. is getting worse, and is starting to affect her at school. We've been waiting since she was 3 to see if she will outgrow it, and she is not outgrowing it. It is time to find out what is going on.
  • Take Snapper to a swim practice with her old team. She is beside herself with excitement!
  • Spend time with a few other friends
  • Work on raising support
  • Play chauffeur to the various family members who are flying in for the wedding
  • Photograph the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner
  • Photograph the wedding--my first wedding on my own. My dad did wedding photography when I was growing up, and I often was his assistant when I was in high school. I am both excited and nervous. Here is the collage photo they sent out in their invitations. Photo credit goes to me. =)

  • Drive home to Orlando
Yup! It's gonna be a great trip. I won't have internet access other than on my phone, so I doubt I'll be blogging while I'm gone. I'm sure I'll have lots to talk about when I get back. So for now, fare thee well, my friends! 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Wet Weekend

I suppose spending the weekend in and around water is a fitting thing to do in Florida. Whether it was Snapper setting 4 new personal best times and winning in 4 ribbons at her very large swim meet, or spending 3 glorious hours at Cocoa Beach, the water was delightful.

She reached a big goal in her breaststroke, finally coming in under 30 seconds! She broke below 20 seconds in her freestyle!

Butterfly is her favorite stroke.

Yup...there is still time for silliness at a swim meet. 

After the second day of swim meet ended, we decided to relax at the beach. Daddy and Snapper rode the waves on their boogie boards for close to an hour.

If you wade out into waist-deep water, the ocean floor is thick with shells. We scooped up these shells over the course of about 10 minutes!

Snapper is definitely Daddy's girl. I love watching them playing together.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Florida, Are You for Real?

I received an invitation in the mail today. It is from the Orange County Waste Management. You know, the trash and recycle company? Yes, I got an invitation. To a party. At the landfill. Whaaat? Yup, a party at the landfill to celebrate 20 years of recycling. They will have music. And games. And activities for the kids. And guided tours of the landfill. Unfortunately, the tour bus can't accommodate children under 4 years of age...too much Disney influence in this great city, perhaps? Even the dump has tour buses!

I am tempted to go and take my camera, just because this is so out there...
For real? A party at the dump? Oh, and the show will go on, rain or shine. Because we all want to party at the dump on a steamy, rainy, hot day in Central Florida.

Just for laughs, I have scanned the infamous invitation for your viewing enjoyment.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Morning Laugh

One of the coolest things about living in Florida is that there are all sorts of new birds to get acquainted with. Our favorite so far is the Sandhill Crane. They stand about 4 feet tall and make the most obnoxious noise! There is a pair of them living in our neighborhood, and I never get tired of watching them. We have named them Inigo and Halulu. Inigo means "fiery," which fits his big-bird-with-attitude personality. Halulu means "roaring, loud." And it is a load roar she makes when she flies squawking over our house at 6 in the morning! This morning Matt called me to get my camera and come outside. Inigo and Halulu were on our front lawn...with our cats, Pixie and Zoe. I'll let my photos tell the story.

 The cats were enamored with the big birds in the yard.

Pixie just wanted to be friends with Inigo. She should have known better than to tangle with fire!

Oh, how I wish I'd activated sport mode on my camera! After receiving a powerful peck on the noggin, Pixie abruptly changed her mind about developing this friendship.

Zoe watched Inigo and Halulu from a respectful distance. I think her mind was more on dinner than on friendship.

Zoe is our faithful watch cat. She chases away dogs of all sizes.

We figured she would chase Halulu, too.

But when Halulu began her charge, Zoe thought better of it and made her escape.

It has been a half an hour since the front yard drama, and I am still laughing!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


When Matt was working in the garage a few days ago, he found the bird feeder the kids gave him for Father's Day in 2009. We ended up not using it for very long because we had such a bad squirrel problem in Little Rock. As Matt was putting the feeder out in our yard here, he found something very interesting.

Here's the pole for the bird feeder. 

And here's the interesting thing he found where the two pieces of the pole connect.

I checked both our cats' claws to see if either one was missing a claw. They weren't. So the question remains: is this a cat claw or a squirrel claw? Either way, we know someone was caught with their "hand" in the proverbial cookie jar!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sweetest Girl

This weekend Snapper turned 8. Because she doesn't have any friends in Florida yet, we decided we would have a family birthday blowout. We took the money we would have used on a party and spent it on a great family day.

Our day started out the night before the actual birthday with an 8th birthday cake and all the ice cream we could hold.

On birthday morning, Snapper had a swim meet, so it was up early for balloons, banners, and presents in our birthday tradition.

She had a fabulous swim meet, setting three new personal best times, and finishing 6th or better in all events she swam with the 8&unders.

After the meet finished, we took our sweaty, starving selves to McDonald's for lunch. Then we headed down to Downtown Disney. Downtown Disney is a great shopping and dining area just outside of Disney World. Admission is free and it is a fun place to walk around and shop. Snapper spent some of her birthday money at the Lego store.

We ate dinner at T-Rex, which is like the Rain Forest Cafe. The only real difference is that there are giant robotic dinosaurs everywhere. The food, while a bit pricey, was fabulous. The portions were generous, and the atmosphere delightful. Totally worth a little extra money.

We finished our day with a stop at Build-A-Bear Workshop, where Snapper spent the rest of her money on Clara Lia Kittycat and accessories.

We are so proud of our sweet girl and the lovely young lady she is becoming. Where in the world have the last 8 years gone?

Friday, September 10, 2010


We have now been in Orlando for one month, and I learn something new every day. Just this week, I have learned these things:

1. I should not drive when I have a sinus infection because I get lost going places I go every day. Apparently having a full head infringes on the functionality of my logical thought process. Did I mention that yesterday morning I unloaded the dishwasher and then ran it empty? Now there's some brains for ya...

2. It is possible for you to see a driving maneuver that is worse than anything you've ever seen before, even when you think you've seen it all. Yesterday I saw a woman come to a dead stop in the fast lane when she heard sirens behind her. All the other cars pulled over to the right. This woman just stopped. Completely stopped. In the left lane. In a 50 mph zone. IN FRONT OF A SPEEDING FIRETRUCK! Did I mention that the firetruck was a tanker, and that it was in the left lane, and that it was probably going 70 mph? And she stopped in front of it. It didn't hit her, but it was a very close call. Had the driver of the firetruck delayed even a second in changing lanes, he would have crunched her right into eternity. Maybe that woman had a sinus infection too?

3. Never underestimate the value of a good friend. I knew when we moved that leaving our friends would be the hardest part. What I wasn't counting on is how far away I would feel here, and how much I would long for a good friend to go to coffee with, to shop with, to hang out with. I wasn't counting on crying as much as I have here. I didn't cry at all when we moved to Little Rock, except for when I was PMSing...

I just need to take a moment to brag on a few friends who are exceptionally special to me, and have been over the years.

This is Diana, my childhood BFF. Of course, we didn't say BFF back then, but we really were the best of friends, joined at the hip from age 6-18. She moved to Washington when I was 10, but we stayed close across the miles. I still have the shoebox stuffed full of the letters she wrote me over 6 years. Then when I was 21, I married her big brother. I don't think Matt's and my marriage had anything to do with us growing apart, but whatever the cause, it happened. But now it is coming back around, and I am so glad! When we were visiting Matt's family in Spokane, Diana and I spent quite a bit of time together, and thoroughly enjoyed it. This photo was taken in the summer of 1994, right before I turned 15.

When I was in college, I met Noel. She started dating Matt's best friend, Stan. The first time we met the bond was instant. I knew that day that Noel would be a forever friend. Here we are 11 years later, and she really is my #1. She knows me better than anyone else, except for Matt, of course. I could not ask for a better best friend...I think finding someone better for me than Noel would be impossible. The biggest fly in the ointment of my life is that she lives 3500 miles away in California. I don't know what I would do without my Noel. Is it possible to love someone more?

Then comes Carol. Right after Pepper was born, Carol and her husband Brian, who went to our church, brought us dinner. Carol offered to keep Snapper for me when I had doctor appointments for Pepper. That was the beginning of another lifetime friendship. Whenever Matt traveled for extended periods of time, I would go stay the weekend at Brian and Carol's house. They are the ones who got me hooked on sweet tea and NASCAR. We have spent hundreds of hours together--grilling, playing games, watching NASCAR, and laughing together. Carol's two older daughters are Snapper's best friends, too, which makes being with their family even better. Almost 2 years ago, though, Carol and her family moved to Tennessee. We look for every opportunity to drive through Tennessee and stay with them. I wish I had a photo of Carol and me together, but the most current one is archived, and I don't feel like digging through my cd's to find it. This is my most current photo of Carol with her littlest girl.

After Carol moved, I felt kind of lost. I had lots of really great friends, but I wasn't close enough to any of them to really share hearts. And then along came Karon. Her hubby and my hubby often traveled together for FamilyLife, and they thought Karon and I would enjoy each other. That was an understatement. We hit it off the first time we met, and the rest is history. Karon do I describe her? Soul sister. Yup, that says it. I miss her dreadfully. On my birthday, I talked to Karon and told her how lonely I was. I had planned on going to Little Rock a week ahead of my sis-in-law's wedding in October, but we couldn't afford the plane ticket. I was so disappointed because I had planned on the plane ticket being my birthday present. Unfortunately, some bills came up that trumped the birthday plane ticket. I didn't cry when I told Karon, but I almost did. Almost. And then that afternoon when I checked my inbox, there was an email from Delta Airlines. It was an itinerary...for me...from Karon and her hubby, Jim. Those amazing people bought me a plane ticket for my birthday! I know their budget is as tight as ours, but somehow they managed. So Karon, here is the public thank you that you deserve. Thanks for being an amazing friend, for making the sacrifice I know you made so I can come visit, and I can hardly wait for September 30th! I get to stay with Karon for a week, by the way! I have a feeling much chocolate and laughter is in my near future.

I can't help but wonder who my Florida friend will be. I have a best friends in California, Tennessee, and Arkansas. Show yourself, woman, whoever you are! I'm ready for you!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Culinary Bliss

I have a sinus infection. No, it has nothing to do with the culinary part of this post. Eww!!! Moving on. So, I have a sinus infection, and this one has totally nailed me. I don't have much pain, which is good, but I'm so completely out of it. On the way home from Snapper's swim team practice tonight, I got lost going a route I have been driving daily for two weeks. I found myself out on some back road, and I had no clue where the heck I was. What I would have done without my GPS, I don't know. Okay...yeah. But this morning I had planned on putting ham and potatoes in the crock pot to simmer all day. At 3:00 this afternoon I realized I had forgotten to put the ham and potatoes in the crock pot, and they are an 8-hour recipe. So we decided on Plan B and we were going to have my yummy guacamole with chips, veggies, and cheese. On the way home from swim team, I called Matt and asked him to start the guacamole for me. When I got home, there was a red onion in the blender and avocado residue on the counter, but nothing else. Turns out the avocados had gone bad. Ever smelled a rotten avocado? Trust me, you don't want to. Ever! Because of Snapper's swim team schedule, every dinner on my meal plan this week is a crock pot meal. I had no meat defrosted, and no quick recipe to whip up for kids who were hungry right now. So we threw everyone in the car and decided to try the little Thai and sushi place by our house.

10,000 lip-smacking, belly-rubbing yums can't even begin to describe how good it was! Turns out massama curry might just be my very favorite food. Why have I not tried it before tonight? 31 good years that I could have been eating this masterpiece of savory, sweet, and spice--wasted! Wasted on boring food. I stuffed myself so full that 3 hours later, I am still uncomfortable. I usually eat half a meal and enjoy the leftovers for lunch the next day. But tonight that giant dish of glorious massama curry didn't stand a chance, even though it turned me into the Michelin Tire Man for the rest of the evening. I just could not stop eating until it was all gone. And you know what is even better? It cleared out my sinuses enough that I was able think clearly enough to help Snapper with the mental arithmetic subtraction worksheet she had to do tonight. Nice! So three cheers for the new little Thai place, my first really awesome Orlando restaurant. Most definitely culinary bliss!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Cleaning Machine

When reading through my blogroll this morning, I read one post that inspired me. I don't even really know how to describe the covered a variety of ground, all in reference to the keeping of a home. It is a good rant, and one I can relate to. Reading her thoughts made me evaluate my own philosophy on keeping my home. Immediately a fresh post began rambling through my mind. Must write!

First of all, as Stef says in her post, the keeping of a house is going to be different for every woman. I can guarantee that my floors will stay cleaner than the floors of my friend who is homeschooling 7 children. But home will never be as neat as the home of another friend of mine who is--and has been since childhood--uber-organized. I need to keep our home neat because my family always--and I mean always--functions better when the house is tidy. Matt works from home, and when there is mess in the home, he has a difficult time focusing on work. He is distracted by dishes in the sink, by paperwork on the table, by piles of laundry on the couch. Snapper is naturally a messy person...drives me crazy, in fact. She is very messy. Very messy! When the house is tidy, she is less tempted to leave her messes around the house. Because responsibility is a character area we are working on with her, having her messes stand out against the tidy house makes it easier for me to work on this with her. Pepper is like me--he likes order, and he is more peaceful and less prone to meltdowns when the house is tidy. We're talking general tidiness here, not necessarily neat-as-a-pin tidy. As the wife and mom, this never-ending task falls mainly on me. God has called me to be the keeper of my home and family. This should probably be first on my list. Even moms who work outside the home share this calling. I have been in that boat before, and I know how difficult it is. However, an outside job does not excuse us from keeping our homes. In fact, my home was even tidier when I was working because I had less time to procrastinate--and less time at home to be making messes.  I believe keeping a tidy home really comes down to time management. I'll let you fill in the rest here. Over the years, I have developed a pretty good routine for keeping my home. Some of my tips I gained from Good Housekeeping and Real Simple magazines. Other ideas came from my mom and aunties. Still others come from my friends. Very few of these things are original, but they all work well for me.

1. Have a place for everything. This one takes some time to establish, and is hard if you have a difficult time throwing or giving things away. If you can't find a place for everything you own, you have too much stuff. It is time to take a look at your possessions and make some hard decisions. Do you really want to live a cluttered life? Having in your home only what you regularly use and enjoy simplifies life for your whole family and makes keeping house so much easier for you.

2. Clean as you go. Don't waste your steps! When you make lunch, put away each ingredient right after you use it. If you have to run upstairs to get something, take a few upstairs items with you and put them away. When you use the bathroom, take a minute to wipe down the counter after you wash your hands. This is using your time wisely.

3. Take advantage of the many products that are made specifically to make housework easy. Because we operate on a fairly tight budget, I pick up only one new tool at a time, and only then if I really need it.

       -A few weeks ago I bought at $15 handheld vacuum at Target. I use it at least twice a day, usually to
        pick up crumbs on the table and floors after meals, and to spot-clean throughout the downstairs. Who
        says I have to vacuum my entire downstairs every day?

       -Magic Eraser has saved me much time and energy. When I notice grime accumulating around
        doorknobs and on the stair rails, I take a few minutes and scrub with Magic Eraser. The grime comes
        right off. I use Magic Eraser to remove tough stains on my countertops, too.

       -And then there is my newest favorite. We have two cats who delight us each day with their playfulness, 
        purring, and soft fur...soft fur that gets all over the place. I recently discovered Scotch Fur Fight and 
        decided to give it a try. This simple plastic form with disposable pads pulls the fur right off our furniture 
        with almost not effort at all! I'm in love!


4. Keep a bucket of cleaning supplies in every bathroom. In my arsenal, I keep a roll of paper towels, a spray bottle of cleaning spray, a dust cloth and a bottle of dusting spray, a toilet cleaning wand, a container of Ajax, a bottle of Windex, a container of Clorox wipes, and a Magic Eraser. How much easier is it to give the bathroom a once-over if the supplies are already there? At the very least, wipe down the counter with a Clorox wipe each morning after you get ready for the day. It will seriously only take you 20 seconds to do.

5. Put a stash of empty plastic grocery sacks in every room that has a trash can. They make awesome trash can liners!

6. If you have stairs, keep a basket for each family member on the stairs. As you come across items belonging to another family member, put it in the appropriate basket. Each person is responsible for putting away the items in his or her basket.

7. Don't leave dirty dishes in the sink. I have to enforce this rule in our house because of the thriving local ant community. Make kitchen clean-up a family affair. In our house, Pepper clears the non-glass items off the table. Snapper clears everything else and puts away the leftover food. She also wipes down the table. Matt and I work together to do the dishes and wipe down the counters. I usually go through with the handheld vacuum at the end and get the crumbs off the floor.

8. If you know the kids have lots of homework, or if you have a busy evening planned, use paper dishes and plastic utensils. There is nothing wrong with doing this on occasion!

9. When you cook, do your dishes and wipe up spills as you go. 

10. Get the kids involved. As members of the family, they are responsible to help keep the home tidy. Even a very small child can be taught to set the table, put away the silverware, and wipe down the bathroom counter. Elementary school kids can make beds, clean their rooms (which is made easier by having a place for everything in their rooms), cycle and fold laundry, clean bathrooms, and vacuum. Older kids can do even more! They don't need to be you get paid for taking care of them? No, they should be contributing members of the family. Their future spouses will thank you for it, too.

My house is not perfect. I don't have the time or emotional energy to keep a perfect home...besides, a perfect home is not being lived in. Home is where our lives happen. I strive to keep peace, order, and general cleanliness, for the sake of my family and the comfort of those who come into our home. I hope my little tips will be a help to you, too. Happy housekeeping!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Evening Laughter

At dinner tonight, Pepper dumped a huge forkful (is forkful a word?) of lasagna on the kitchen floor. Then he slid out of his seat and stomped on the lasagna.

Whaaat? Why?

Matt asked Pepper why he stepped on the lasagna.

Pepper's reply: "I was mad at it for falling off my fork so I decided to step on it!"

When Pepper had finished eating, he had food all over his face, I sent him to the bathroom to wash. I could hear the water running, and when he came back, half the mess was gone from his face. However, his upper lip was still coated in chocolate cupcake frosting. I told him he needed to to go his bathroom and wash his face again, this time where he could see the mirror. He asked why, and I said that he still had food on his face. He licked his upper lip, giggled, and said, "Oops! My bad!"

After dinner was done, I told Snapper she needed to clean her room, and that seeing her room properly tidied up would be an awesome gift for me.

Snapper's reply: "I'll have it clean faster than you can say 'pickle' 500 times!"


I love my kids. They make me laugh!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My New Favorite Lunch

Ask my dad what food I have always hated, and he will probably tell you avocados. He is right--I have always hated avocados. When I was a kid, he used to tell me that my tastes would change as I got older. He is right--my tastes have changed. There are lots of foods that I couldn't stand when I was little that I love now, such as salsa, fish, and sour cream (but not together, of course). I am still waiting for that avocado taste bud reformation, though. There is hope for me yet! Back in the late spring, Matt made some guacamole and encouraged me to try it. Because I always make my kids try one bite of everything, I figured I should try the guacamole. And guess what? I liked it! No, that's not right...I loved it.

That began a new era in my life, the Guacamole Age. I can't get enough of the stuff! I started eating it for lunch almost every day. 2 avocados+1 seasoning packet+juice from half a lemon=bliss in a bowl. I quickly learned that there are pros and cons to eating guacamole every day. The pros are: 1. I never had to decide what I wanted for lunch. 2. The Rosacea and Eczema I have struggled with since junior high cleared up. But the con was a definite the form of a larger pants size. So I quit my guacamole habit. All summer long I would gaze longingly at the avocados and guacamole seasoning every time I was in the grocery store. *Sigh* I began wishing for a way to keep eating the stuff without turning into a...well, without having to buy a whole new wardrobe.

When we arrived in Orlando, I found my Weight Watchers cookbook when I was unpacking the kitchen. I began flipping through it, looking for new recipe ideas that are good and healthy. And what do you know, there was a recipe for guacamole!!! The coolest part was that it was only 2 points per serving! I made it, and it was okay. Kinda bland, though. After using the store-bought seasoning, I had gotten used to a richer flavor. So the next time I made it, I did my own spice measurements, and oh wow, was it good! I also added a second avocado, which pops the points up to 3. But it is worth that extra point (if you do WW), and worth the added calories if you are not a WW person. Here is my version of the recipe. By the way, I like it better than the way I was making my guacamole in the spring. It is that good!

Better Guacamole 
(serves 4)

In a blender, puree:
1/2 a red onion
1 can (15 oz) white beans, rinsed and drained  (great northern beans will work, too)

In a bowl, mash two avocados with a fork to desired consistency. (I like my guacamole a tiny bit chunky)

Add the bean/onion mixture to the avocados and stir until completely mixed.

3 Tbsp. lemon or lime juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Tabasco sauce to taste (depends on how spicy you like you guacamole)
Mix well
At this point, taste it to see if there are enough spices for you. I will often go back and add more cumin, and a bit more salt to perk it up a bit more. 

3 Tbsp. minced fresh cilantro (or more, if you are like me and love cilantro)
3 grape or plum tomatoes, finely diced

Serve with corn chips or pita chips if you have extra points or calories to blow. Whole grain crackers are a delicious, healthier alternative.
Serve with a platter of fresh veggies for dipping if you want an even healthier meal. We love to dip carrot sticks, sliced bell peppers, celery, and broccoli. Yum, oh yum, oh yum!

Though this recipe requires a little more work than just smashing 2 avocados and mixing in a packet of seasoning, it is well worth the time. It takes about 10 minutes from start until eat. The beans add a wad of non-animal protein, but they are so flavorless that you can't taste them. Even my bean-hating husband agrees that this guacamole is better than the old way. The consistency is also lighter, and the beans make the avocado stretch farther. This recipe is 4 servings, where the old one served 2. Using plain spices instead of a seasoning packet eliminates the preservatives, and makes this recipe gluten-free! Even though avocados are healthy fat, they are still very rich in fat. I eat half the avocado in this recipe than in the old recipe, and I am just as satisfied. And my skin is on its way to happiness again, too! I hope you will be able to use this recipe, and that you enjoy it just as much as we do.