Monday, November 26, 2012

Weston, Weston:

Unbelievably, you are seven! I'm not quite sure where the last year went, but I do know it has been fun watching you learn and grow. You are maturing in many ways, and Dad and I are so very proud of you!  

You have (to my Aggie chagrin) become obsessed with the University of Texas this year. You wear the burnt orange with pride, and you follow the football team with rapt attention. Dad and I gave you tickets to a game for your birthday, and it may have been the best day of your life, so far. In the absence of a UT game to watch, you will watch most any football game, on TV or live. You love to keep up with the stats and rankings of high school teams, college teams and pro teams. You got your first taste of playing on a football team this fall, when you played flag football for Marble Falls. Your plan for the future now includes playing football for UT and then moving on to play for the Green Bay Packers or the Dallas Cowboys. Football has ignited a passion inside you that we have not seen before, and it is so fun to to watch you embrace that. 

Dad and I gave you a watch for your birthday last year, and you wore it every single day until it fell apart. So, we gave you another watch this year, because you really like to keep a schedule. You like to know what time things are happening and when they are supposed to happen. And you like to keep us all on track. You are also always noticing interesting things about the time, like if the numbers add up or can be the same forward or backward. This tickles you to no end. 

You and Max are big buddies and have so many adventures together. I love to watch you two, and I appreciate what a wonderful big brother you are, not only to Max, but also to Clay. You are sweet and kind and gentle, when appropriate, but you also have a rough-and-tumble side. You appreciate beautiful things, but you are happiest when you are filthy dirty. You are sensitive but strong, which makes you a very special person indeed. 

You love to play games, and your favorites are Forty-Two, War, Crazy Eights and Parcheesi. You also really enjoy the Angry Birds video games and are quite good at them. 

You are a whiz at memorizing things, which has really been helpful this year in CC. You continue to amaze us with your mathematical abilities, and you are also a really strong reader, though you aren't usually inclined to spend your free time reading. You have been enjoying the Amelia Bedelia and Wind in the Willows books recently, and you also like reading biographies and other non-fiction books, as well. And, you can often be found reading books to your younger brothers. You are a very smart boy, and your mind is always working away. 

Food is still a great passion for you. You love to think about it, and talk about it, and cook it and eat it. You like to eat at home or go out. You love Long John Silvers and Chicken Express. You are also fond of Italian food. At home, your favorites are Impossible Cheeseburger Pie and John Wayne Casserole. You are able to out-eat me at almost every meal, and I often wonder how it will be when you are a teenager. Even when I double and triple recipes, I find that food doesn't last too long around our house. 

Weston, you are an absolute delight, and I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to be your mom! You have a big body and an even bigger heart. I hope that this next year holds many blessings for you and that you continue to develop into a quality young man. I love you "too much," as you would say. Happy Seventh Birthday!


Sunday, November 25, 2012


After our wonderful Thanksgiving meal, Jeff and I sent the kids to the ranch with his parents and then pointed our van in the direction of College Station. We haven't really spent any significant time there since we graduated from A & M, so we were thrilled to have the opportunity to spend the weekend there, revisiting our past and making new memories. We went to a couple of wonderful movies (Skyfall and Lincoln), drove by our first apartment, ate at some of our favorite, nostalgic restaurants (including the Outback Steakhouse where we had our very first date!), did a little Black Friday shopping (which we had never done before), attended Midnight Yell, visited a popular local winery, wandered around on campus, watched the Fightin' Texas Aggies deliver a walloping to Mizzou, stayed up way too late, planned another (slightly longer) get-away, and generally, just had a blast! It definitely won't be so long before our next visit to Aggieland!

Midnight Yell

Marooned Out

Our old stompin' grounds

The Fightin' Texas Aggie Band

Messina Hof Winery

Thursday, November 22, 2012


We enjoyed having so much of our extended family over on Thanksgiving Day. We are truly blessed beyond words!

Thankful, indeed!

The bird 
An abundant feast 
Reading off what everyone is thankful for 
Mandi's side of the family

Jeff's side of the family

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Angry Birdsday

Today was birthday party day. Our theme was Angry Birds, and we had a blast hunting for golden eggs, whacking at the black bird pinata, eating fun themed snacks and shooting a giant slingshot.

Happy Day!

working the theme

cheese disguised as the red bird

black bird pinata 

Piggy Tower

taking aim

favor bags

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Grammar Adds Up

Today, in Weston's Grammar class, we were learning about action verbs. As part of the lesson, I read off a list of action verbs from the book, and Weston was supposed to see how many of them he could remember and say back to me. When I finished reading and asked him if he could remember any, he looked me straight in the eye and said, "I don't know what any of the words were, but there were forty of them." I was not expecting that response, so I stopped to count. There were 39. And, then I added "count" to Rain Man's little verb list.

Monday, November 12, 2012

True Story

It's 2:00 am. I am sound asleep and am hosting a fabulous birthday party for Katie's son out at our family's ranch in west Texas. We are just about to cut the cake, when, suddenly, a child is crying. Really, more like wailing. I look around at the other mothers but then realize that it is my child. He is crying loudly, but isn't getting closer like I would expect. I can't see him, but I know he's there, screaming hysterically just beyond my line of vision. And, now, everyone is leaving the party, because no one wants to listen to this kid going crazy in the dark. Well, the mostly dark. My eyes are open now, and I can see light slipping under the door to our bedroom. The clock tells me it's 2:00 am. But, the crying is real, so I get myself moving in the direction of the light. Every light (of which there are many) in the dining room and kitchen are ablaze. Max is sitting at the dining room table with a glass of milk, bawling his brains out. I am finally able to discern that he (thinks he) saw a spider in the kitchen while preparing his breakfast, which stopped him dead in his tracks. The spider blocks his path to my room, and he can't very well stay in the kitchen with the thing, so there is nothing left to do but sit at the table and blubber until help arrives.

"Max, look at the clock. What does it say?"

"Two," he proclaims, without realizing what that means.

"2:00 in the morning. Basically, the middle of the night. Not a good time for breakfast. Let's go back to bed."

With a new burst of crying vigor: "But my sheets are all wet, and I already took them to the laundry room!" (This seems ridiculously productive and responsible for a four-year-old at 2:00 in the morning)!

"It's o.k. I can get you some new sheets. Or better yet, how 'bout if you sleep in the sleeping bag tonight?!" (I did not suggest this because I'm one of those "fun moms," but rather because it was much easier to get a sleeping bag unrolled than to find and situate a set of sheets)!

He finds this more than acceptable, and after a quick trip to the bathroom, falls right to sleep, as if all the drama never even happened. He didn't really remember getting up to have breakfast at that crazy hour of the morning, but he did remember the spider (which I looked for and never found).

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Hook 'Em

 As an Aggie, that is not a blog title I thought I would ever write. But, alas, my oldest son is completely obsessed with the Longhorns, so what can I do. For his birthday, Jeff and I gave him two tickets to the UT/Iowa State game, which was today. I dare say a better birthday gift has never been given. Weston was absolutely thrilled! He counted down the days with enthusiasm. Besides the game itself, he was also looking forward to tailgating. The game was to begin at 11:00, but he wanted to arrived at the earliest possible time. So, he and Jeff left the house at 6:00 this morning, with doughnuts, cinnamons rolls, Yoohoo drinks and camping chairs in tow. They also stopped and picked up breakfast tacos along the way. Weston was in heaven. He loved every minute, and has thanked us over and over for giving him such a great birthday present. He even made mention of his thankfulness in his bedtime prayers tonight. As a parent, it feels good to finally get something so right!

Upon opening the tickets

Proudly wearing the orange and white

Friday, November 09, 2012

Friday Night Fun

For us, Fridays have always represented fun. It's the end of the work/school week, and we can relax the rules a little. We can stay up late and eat junk food and just have a good time. Tonight's fun time was a little outside the box, and I read somewhere recently that you should always record the really fun times so you have something to draw on when the fun swing sweeps the other direction. Because we are Watts, you won't be surprised that our fun night centered on food. We went to all the chicken places in town (which equals three) and ordered chicken tenders and fried okra so we could have a blind taste test and decide for sure which place is our favorite. We also picked up every variety of Root Beer sold at the local HEB so we could taste test those as well. Finally, we set up an ice cream bar, with two flavors of ice cream, all the toppings and even waffle cones. It was a blast! We giggled  and laughed and snickered and were surprised sometimes by what our favorites turned out to be. And, we had chicken aplenty leftover for future meals.

Which root beer is the favorite? 

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Broken Home

We are raising our children in a broken home. In fact, it is because of them that it is broken. I absolutely believe that my children are trying to make my head explode, with their constant destructive behavior. You remember (an are still probably horrified by) the potato peeler-on-the-kitchen-drawers episode. Well, last week, someone stuck a tree limb in the door lock of the van and broke it off in there. And, then, today, after running a couple of errands, I was met at the door with an accusation that someone (else, of course) had broken a cabinet door in the kitchen. This turned out to be more appallingly true than I'd even allowed myself to imagine upon hearing the words. It isn't just one kid, either, though some seem to be more destructively inclined than others. They all seem to be in on the action, working sometimes as teams and sometimes as individuals. We've been in our house only just over a year, and I can already see its ruin spelled out in the ominous handwriting on the wall garage door.

I do not hear other people talk about this kind of all-out destructiveness from their kiddos, and I do not remember it from my own childhood (though my mom may have clearer memories of that than I do). Is anyone else out there experiencing this kind of thing? If so, what are you doing to curb the destructive tendencies? Perhaps one of you has lived through it and is now willing to tell me all your parenting survival secrets? I feel like I'm beating my head against an already damaged wall over here, and short of running away or locking the children up for the next 17 years, I'm not really sure what to do. I will take any advice, commiseration, encouragement or bottles of alcoholic beverages you can give.

Monday, November 05, 2012

1 1/2

Getting so big!

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Best. Meal. Ever.

I was told that what I made for dinner last night was "the best complete meal [I] have ever put together." Thank you very much, Internet! Anyway, when you get comments like that, they must be preserved for posterity (and for a quick reference when you are trying to impress the family on another occasion)! So, since this now seems to be almost exclusively a recipe site, here's what I made (click on the titles for links to original recipes):

Lemon Angel Hair Pasta

Servings: Serves 4–6

  • 8 ounces angel hair pasta
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 4 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup fresh Parmesan, cubed
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped
  • 4 tsp. lemon zest, for garnish
  • Cracked black pepper, to taste
  • Finishing salt
  • or truffle salt (optional)
  • chives (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp. Walnuts for garnish, toasted or roasted and chopped

Boil the angel hair in 2 quarts of salted water for approximately 3 to 4 minutes or according to package cooking instructions. Pull out of the pot with tongs (do not strain) and place into a bowl. Save the extra pasta water in case the pasta gets too dry.

Add the butter, olive oil, parsley and lemon juice into the pasta and mix. Serve in small bowls. Garnish with a sprinkle of chives or scallion, Parmesan cheese (place the cubed Parmesan cheese in a food processor and pulse until cheese is pea-size or a bit smaller), finishing salt, cracked pepper and lemon zest.

Tip: Before transferring the pasta into serving bowl, swirl some of the hot pasta water in the bowl to warm it. Dump excess water from the bowl. This helps the pasta stay warm longer.

Inactive prep time: 0 minutes
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes

Mandi's notes: I doubled the recipe, because, you know, I'm feeding Weston. I also made a little marinade out of our fancy schmancy blood orange olive oil and coconut white balsamic vinegar from Grapevine Olive Oil company and cooked some chicken in that to put into the pasta.

Super Fast Cheesy Garlic Breadsticks

1 1/2 cup warm water
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon yeast (I use 1 little square package)
3 1/2 cups flour

1/3 cup soft butter
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1/4 cup Monterrey jack cheese, grated (or just use all mozzarella)
1-2 tsp minced fresh or bottled garlic
Parsley flakes

1. Mix water, sugar, salt, and yeast in a large bowl.  Rest 5 minutes.  Add flour and mix well.  Rest 15-20 minutes.  

2. In a separate bowl, make the breadstick topping by combining butter, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, mozzarella, Monterrey jack, and garlic.  Set aside.

3. Remove dough and place on floured covered surface and knead until smooth and not sticky.

4. Coat a big cookie sheet with butter (or cooking spray).  Place dough on sheet and spread out with fingers to edges.

6. Spread breadstick topping over dough.  Sprinkle with parsley flakes.  Let dough sit for 15-20 minutes or until dough has risen a little.

7. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 18-25 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom.  Cut in to squares or rectangles.  (Tip--use your pizza cutter for this step--makes it a ton easier!)

(I actually made mine cheese sticks, rather than balls, but it's just a matter of how you cut them)

String Cheese cut into balls (or just cut in half--or not cut at all if have a serious case of recipe rebellion), dipped in milk and then in Italian bread crumbs. Bake at 425 for 8-10 minutes. Serve with your favorite store bought or homemade spaghetti sauce.

And, there you have it. My best meal ever. (And, I'm sure the fact that it was the only homemade meal we had all week has nothing to do with the rave reviews)!

Friday, November 02, 2012

hot and steamy up in here

The big kids enjoying our new toy