Wednesday, October 31, 2012


doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. 
~Albert Einstein 

And, that, my friends, is why you have never met a sane parent of young children. Because all we ever do is tell the same people the same things over and over, expecting some change in their behaviors or actions. And that is why our voices sometimes reach feverish pitches, and our eyes look wild, and it seems like our heads might explode at any minute. We are all completely insane. And, frankly, we would welcome the opportunity to be locked up for a while (provided there were no voices in our heads to keep us from enjoying the quiet)--for our own good, and for the good of all those around us. Many people probably think Einstein was trying to encourage people to look at things a different way or try out-of-the-box approaches to problem solving. Personally, I think he was only stating a fact, gleaned from his own journey through parenthood.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Fun and Games. And, of course, food.

We began our weekend on Friday with a reading poster celebration for Max, which included picking up dinner from McDonald's and eating it in the living room, while watching the 1967 version of Dr. Doolittle. 

Early Saturday afternoon we made our way to Bulverde for Weston's last football game of the season, which was followed by an end-of-year party and the passing out of trophies. This has been such a fun experience for us all!

Shortly after we returned home, we had some lovely house guests show up:  three sweet Baylor students, two of whom we've known since they were probably around Ruth's age. We had a blast cooking for them, playing capture the flag, staying up late and just hanging out. We tried out a few new recipes and definitely found some keepers, which I will share here:

Crock-Pot Pumpkin Bread

I'll admit, I didn't even know you could make something like this in the crock pot. I only use mine sparingly, and usually only for things like soup or roast, even though when I come across crock pot recipes, they always seem like a good idea. I just don't plan ahead enough. So, anyway, I really had my doubts about this actually working, but I thought it was worth a try, since I had a number of people to feed breakfast to before church this morning. Well, it not only worked, it may well be the best breakfast-type bread I have ever made! It cooked so evenly and was incredibly moist. And, it was SUPER easy! The old crock pot will definitely be getting more counter time in the future. So without further ado, here's the recipe:

  • 1/2 cup of oil
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs (beaten)
  • 1 can of pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 cup of flour (sifted)
  • 1/4 tsp. of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. of nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. of baking soda
  1. Blend the oil and both of the sugars into a large bowl.
  2. Then, stir in the beaten eggs and canned pumpkin. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  3. Pour the batter into a greased or oiled bread pan. (I used a canola oil spray that worked just fine).
  4. Now add two cups of water to your crock pot and place the bread pan inside.
  5. Cover the top of the crockpot with eight-ten paper towels. This is to trap condensation and keep the bread from becoming mushy.
  6. Place the crock pot lid on top of the crockpot (I tried to make sure the paper towels were trapped around the lid so they didn’t slip) and bake on high 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
Mandi's note: I doubled the recipe and put it all in a Bundt pan, which fit perfectly inside my large round crock pot. A regular bread pan would only work if you had an oblong crock pot. I probably put closer to three cups of water in the bottom, and I cooked it on low overnight.

Both of the girls who were staying with us asked for a copy of this recipe. It's just ooey gooey happiness in a pan. I made a double recipe and only have four little brownies left. They could be quite dangerous if I didn't have a crowd around to share with!


  • 1 box (18.5 Ounce) German Chocolate Cake Mix (I Used Duncan Hines)
  • 1 cup Finely Chopped Pecans
  • 1/3 cup Evaporated Milk
  • 1/2 cup Evaporated Milk (additional)
  • 1/2 cup Butter, Melted
  • 60 whole Caramels, Unwrapped
  • 1/3 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1/4 cup Powdered Sugar

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix together cake mix, chopped pecans, 1/3 cup evaporated milk, and melted butter. Stir together until totally combined. Mixture will be very thick.
Press half the mixture into a well-greased 9 x 9 inch square baking pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven and set aside.
In a double boiler (or a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of boiling water) melt caramels with additional 1/2 cup evaporated milk. When melted and combined, pour over brownie base. Sprinkle chocolate chips as evenly as you can over the caramel.
Turn out remaining brownie dough on work surface. Use your hands to press it into a large square a little smaller than the pan. Use a spatula to remove it from the surface, then set it on top of the caramel and chocolate chips.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for several hours. When ready to serve, generously sift powdered sugar over the surface of the brownies. Cut into either nine or twelve helpings, and carefully remove from the pan.

Nicole's Corn Chowder

This is more in line with my usual crock pot usage. It was a perfect lunch for a chilly fall day, especially when combined with some fancy schmancy grilled cheese sandwiches.

4 potatoes (peeled and diced)
1 can of cream corn
1 can whole kernal corn
2 cups chicken broth
8 ounces diced ham
1 cup of diced onions
1/4 cup butter
2 cups of half and half


Step One

Place potatoes, both cans of corn, chicken broth, ham and onions into the slow cooker.

Step Two
Cook on low for 7-8 hours

Step Three
Mash the mixture to your desired consistency, and then add the butter and half and half.

Step Four
Cook for an additional 30 minutes on high, and you are set!

Grilled Cheese Reinvented
the best thing since grilled cheese sandwiches…
is a grilled cheese sandwich made on sourdough bread.
with pepper jack cheese.
and apple slices.
yes, apple slices.
i am obsessed.
(Couldn't have said it better myself)!
I hope you all had a wonderful weekend as well! Feel free to share a new "keeper" recipe you've tried recently.

*For links to original recipes (with pictures!), just click on the titles of the recipes.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hard Questions

Jeff and I have been spending some time lately asking ourselves and each other some hard questions. About parenting. About homeschooling. About relationships. About our involvement in certain activities. About our goals for the future. About our real and perceived flaws. Et cetera, et cetera. And the thing about hard questions is they usually always have hard answers, if they have answers at all. Hard answers that require the asker to change in some way (or to cry like a baby, which is usually how I handle it). It isn't any fun at all. It is so much easier just to stick with the status quo, even if that isn't really working. But not to ask those questions is to stagnate, to assume that you are the best you can be and that you (or your situation) cannot be improved in any way. And, nine times out of ten, even a good situation (or person) can be bettered. So, we find that we've no choice but to go ahead and ask the questions and muster up the strength to stare down the answers (or lack of answers, as sometimes seems to be the case).

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pumpkins and Parades

It was a big day for us. We had a field trip with our CC group to Sweetberry Farm today, where we stuffed scarecrows, did a water pump relay, shelled corn, went on a hay ride, navigated a sorghum maze, painted pumpkins, took tons of pictures, and ate the most amazing homemade pumpkin ice cream (which you would have LOVED, Crystal), all while enjoying a beautiful fall day. Then, this evening, Weston had the opportunity to participate in the Marble Falls homecoming parade.

the big man

pumpkin love

big fun

lovin' on Bucky the scarecrow

water warrior

pump it up

making a splash

pumpkin race

posing with the pumpkins

My sweet little "punkins"

settled on the float and ready to roll

Max's haul at the parade

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Why we can't have nice things

There is a very good reason why we can't have nice things. It's because we chose to have children. And, God, in His wisdom and humor, made three of those children boys. Curious, destructive (though, quite creative) boys. Probably to teach us how little having nice things matters, or some other equally important lesson we haven't gotten through our thick heads yet.

Do you know what this device is used for?

If you said "peeling potatoes," you are not really thinking outside the box. At our house today, one of these was used to, not only strip the stain off the drawer fronts on one side of the island, but also large chunks of wood, which curled neatly to the floor in nice little piles, resulting in something slightly more horrifying than this, when taken in all at once:

Never fear, the child who did this is still alive, thanks to some quick work by his father to send his mother (namely, me) out of the house for a couple of hours. 

I'm counting on that forgiving memory to soften this blow for me over time, but I wanted it preserved here so that this child can look back one day and be thankful he ever made it to adulthood. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A different kind of storm

Besides the Toddler Tornado we have running around the house, we also have a storm of an entirely different kind brewing. And, frankly, this one simultaneously scares and fascinates me, in the manner of any decent storm! All at once, my oldest child has come into the Tempest of Preteen. As the storm gathers steam, I can appreciate the beauty of of this time of life, where my little girl begins her struggle to become a woman. But, I also want all of us to get through the next few years with as little damage done as possible. I remember, so vividly, this time of my own life, which I'm not at all sure I weathered gracefully. So, I wonder how on earth am I to lead someone else through it?! Foolishly, I thought I had more time to prepare, or that maybe, just maybe, we would never actually enter into this turbulent time. But, alas, we are here. There is no denying the new training bras I bought over the weekend, the frequent talks about peer relationships, or the wild mood swings and incessant arguing. It's time to batten down the hatches and renew my faith in rainbows.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Toddler Tired

There is a physical and mental exhaustion which cannot be reached by humans unless they are stay-at-home-moms in a household where there is a toddler running around. I seriously doubt if it can even be described in words. But, if you find yourself answering to that title, you know what I'm talking about. You. Know. (I purposely exclude those of you who have been in that position in the past but are not there now, because, thankfully, the memory is forgiving of this stage of life, remembering only chubby little fingers, lopsided smiles and huge slobbery kisses). I have been here before, and I know, intellectually, that these hard toddler days will pass. But from the throes, it is hard to have faith that such a time will come.

The day with this little incoherent mess begins with Mom trying desperately to understand what "uh-uh-uh" means before it turns into "EEEEEEE! AAAHHH! WAAAAA!" Then, the partially undressed child is taken to the changing table, where he begins attempting to remove every item touching the surface of the table, while simultaneously trying to stand and do a backflip off of it. Breakfast is relatively calm, because the child is strapped into a seat, from which the most damage he can do is throw the occasional morsel to the floor or disperse the milk from his sippy cup in a four-foot radius. The real fun begins after breakfast, when the child is released from his constraints. He immediately runs into the pantry and sweeps everything off the bottom shelf, making sure to turn all the cracker boxes upside down, insuring the powdery crumbs on the bottom fall to the floor. When Mom removes the child from the pantry and turns her attention to the mess, he makes his way over to the cabinets and begins emptying them as quickly as he possibly can, stashing many of their contents in the incredibly nasty trash can. As Mom exits the pantry (hopefully remembering to close the door behind her), she discovers this new mess, shoos the child out of the room and turns her attention to this newest domestic disaster. In the meantime, the child makes his way into other parts of the house to visit other trashcans, wreak havoc in siblings' rooms, remove every book within his reach from the bookcase and every writing utensil from the desk drawers, and splash in a potty or two, if anyone has been so careless as to leave a bathroom door cracked, even just a fraction of an inch. Before long, other members of the household demand that something be done with the menace. Mom pries some inedible object out the the child's mouth and attempts to hold him in her lap for a period of time, looking at pictures of puppies on the Internet. The child will abide the cuddling only momentarily and then goes completely limp, in an effort to slide off the mother's lap onto the floor. Once more free, he dashes off to his room, where he sets some noisy toy in motion as a cover for his empty-all-the-dresser-drawers mission. Mom catches him at this, shoos him out of the room and starts picking up the clothes and blankets, which had once been neatly folded and dust-free. When Mom leaves that room, she finds the toddler carrying some unsafe item or other from the laundry room. She stashes it in a high place just in time to hear the sound of breaking dishes coming from the kitchen. She rushes into the kitchen (hopefully remembering to close the laundry room door behind her) to find the toddler (wielding stolen silverware from the dishwasher) and a barefoot dishwasher unloading sibling surrounded by white shards of a once-nice, recently thrown ramekin. Of course, the toddler is to blame. After she vacates all the unscathed, shoeless wonders from the kitchen and says a prayer for nap time to come soon, she cleans up the broken dish. While she is doing that, the toddler slips over to the off-limits staircase and begins his assent. Mom scoops up the child and straps him into his highchair for a short break snack. When the food throwing begins, she gets the child down, just as an older sibling heads out the front door. The toddler throws himself against the door in a wailing fit, and Mom begins a myriad of unsuccessful distraction techniques. A ball eventually works. But, as Mom plays catch with the little guy, he slips past her, when she bends to retrieve a stray pass, and begins unloading the crate of things she needs for work. She relocates the crate to a higher shelf, even though it is not a good fit and seems as if it might fall if breathed on too hard. That's when the child finds one page of his sister's report, which accidentally slipped to the floor, and crumples it up into an unrecognizable mess. Mom attempts to smooth papers and feelings all at once, while the toddler makes his get-away. The momentary silenced "uh-uh-uh, " sends Mom into search mode. She finds the child in his father's office, sitting on Dad's lap, looking at pictures of puppies on the Internet. It seems briefly precious. Then, Dad puts the child on the floor and asks Mom some question or another. By the time Mom leaves, Older Sister is in a tizzy, because she can't practice the piano properly with the little man madly banging alternately on the highest and lowest keys. Once at older siblings' various lessons, the child demands to be held when set down and set down when held. Mom cannot possibly win. And, when she and her brood get home, she discovers that, despite all the cleaning and picking up during the day, the house is a complete wreck. She has accomplished nothing. She will endure one more food circus, bathe the slippery rascal, who continually tries to stand up in the tub, finally (and happily) put the child to bed, and give in to the exhaustion, by sinking into her zebra print lounger with her laptop, almost unable to form coherent thoughts, knowing she will do the same thing over again tomorrow. This woman is "toddler tired." She is afflicted body, mind and soul, and she wonders if her sanity will hold out much longer. 

It's a good thing he's super-cute!