Thursday, July 31, 2008

We love company!

Right after arriving home from my Great Northwest trip, we were blessed with company from California! Our good friends, the Elliotts have been on a 5 week cross country trip, visiting old family and friends, and we were on their list! We got to know Cathy when we lived in Tuscaloosa and I was tutoring in the Athletic Department. We were both pregnant (me with Kellen, her with Molly) and she was looking for someone to watch Molly after she returned to work. So, beginning at 4 months old, I got the privilege of watching Molly during the day, and a few months later I began picking up Jeremy and Laine from school and watching them for a few hours, too. Lots of good times and fun memories! Now, Laine is 13, Jeremy is 9 and Molly is 6!

I had to include a pic of Molly and Kellen since they began their friendship at 4 months and 1 month of age, respectively. They sure had fun being back together! The Elliotts visited us a couple of times after we moved up here to J'town, but since they moved out west, it had been 4 years since we've seen each other.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Friends Are Friends Forever (that's for you, Bec!)

I'm renewed just breathing in air from The Great Northwest, which I miss so badly! I got back late Friday night from my annual girls' weekend with some of my Gonzaga roommates. After some brainstorming, I think we've finally decided to name our weekend "Intersect", since our lives intersect with each other once a year and we manage to just pick up right where we left off. Aren't those kinds of friendships great? I am so blessed to have these magnificent women in my life!
This year we stayed at Joy's parents' friends' cabin (got all that?) in Long Beach, Washington. It's right on the ocean, almost on the Oregon border. The weather was beautiful--sunny and breezy, but perfect for strolling the boardwalk (Joy borrowed a wheelchair from her church so they could push me). Only nursing babies are allowed on these trips, so Joy had her 2 month old, Sam, with her. He is adorable and did great all week!
We went into town for a little bit each day (partly so we could get cell service to call our families!), and walked in the surf and strolled around the little town. We fixed great meals while we were there and played lots of cards and Pictionary. A very relaxing time, full of lots of raucous laughter! Another bonus is that it's always a very affordable trip because we split all our expenses four ways (even travel, which I thank them greatly for!!!), we enjoy cooking our own meals (at least Joy and I do, and then Summer and Becca like to clean up!), and we're content to entertain ourselves with games, talking and laughing. 'Til next year, girls! I love you all!
A special thanks needs to go out to all our hubbies who support us to keep this commitment to each other. Also, thank you to my good friends Stacey, Elisabeth and Mallery who all took my children at various times to give Brian some free time. We appreciate you!!!

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Few Days of Silence

I won't be doing any more posting for awhile, because I fly out to Seattle tomorrow for my annual girls' get-together with my college roomies. It is always so much fun! So, I've been busy getting ready for it! Had a yard sale Saturday to raise the funds for the trip, have been grocery shopping and cooking meals for the family to have while I'm gone, and last night finished Brian's "itinerary" for all that is going on this week while I'm gone! I'll post some pics when I get back!

Our Little Boy is 3!

Today is Owen's 3rd birthday! I often call him my "miracle baby", as I was 17 weeks pregnant with him when we were in the car accident. Three years ago today I was still in a wheelchair, but blissfully happy that we had our first boy and he was amazingly healthy despite all the trauma, surgeries, anesthesias and medications. Today, he is as normal as normal could be, and just a perfect compliment to our family. He is cuddly but tough, loves his siblings, and is growing up to be such a big boy! We had his party on Saturday, and tonight he requested spaghetti and meatballs for his birthday meal!

Our kiddos in front of the bounce house we rented for his party. It was a huge hit with all the kids who came, and since they couldn't pick it back up until Sunday afternoon, we inflated it again yesterday before church for everyone to play again!

The bounce house in action!!!

Even Dawson liked it, as long as he stayed on the front edge where he felt safe!

My first attempt at truly decorating a cake! Previously, polka dots was about as adventuresome as I got! My awesome friend, Kelly, spent part of her Friday night teaching me how to mix colors and use her frosting tips. I think we came out with a pretty darn cute cake! THANK YOU, KEL!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Owen's T & F Debut

Tonight was the second mini-meet of the summer sponsored by ASU Track and Field. We just can't say enough good things about these meets. Their purpose truly is to spark an interest in kids to the sport of track and field. The meets are instructional, low-key, encouraging and FUN! All of Team Church won first place for their age divisions in each of their events!
As you can see from the pics below, Owen got to participate tonight. He was so PROUD! Since I showed pics of the girls last week, I decided to showcase Owen's events tonight.

Owen throwing the discus.

Owen coming down the lane in the 50 m hurdles. Notice the line of tipped hurdles behind him. He's not quite tall enough to clear them, but it didn't seem to faze him!

His first put. Oh, his Daddy was proud!

Sprinting to the end in the 50 m dash.
His leap into the sand pit in the long jump event.

We brought a friend with us tonight, Caroline. She's Kellen's buddy from Kindergarten and they will be going to 1st grade together next year, too.
The meets changed format a little this week. All participants received a medal, and then the 1st and 2nd place finishers in each event received certificates. All of our gang came home with medals, certificates, happy faces and proud souls!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Flip Flop Fellowship

Tonight the women from our church got together for a Flip Flop Fellowship, poolside at Lesle's house. We all wore flip flops and there was a contest for the ugliest flip flops and the cutest flip flops. Brooke won a new pair of flip flops because she had the ugliest! She wore a pair of Mike's with chunks cut out and masking tape all over. They were pretty bad! I actually won the cutest flip flop category and took home a gift certificate for a pedicure! My flip flops were designed by my friend Amy. I had her make the flowers and I attached them to my own Reefs. Now I can attach them to barrettes for Kellen! If you ever need any embroidery done or gift ideas, check out Amy's website, Angel Accents.
We also have all been reading the book "The Yada Yada Prayer Group" by Neta Jackson, so we discussed that tonight, too. It's a quick read and very good--any of you are welcome to borrow my copy! It's the first in a series about a group of women who randomly get put into a prayer group at a women's conference, and then decide to keep it going. They are from all different backgrounds and walks of life, so some people were asked to bring a food item from their background or heritage. I brought sweet potato salad. Now, you'd think that would be a recipe from a Southerner, but no! It is actually from Butte, MT, where my Mom was raised. It was famous as an appetizer at Italian restaurants, but the recipe was kept secret. Back in the day, my grandmother's friend set out to imitate the dish, and got her version of the recipe published in Better Homes and Gardens!
It was such a fun night! I so treasure my friendships with these women. The bond in Christ is strong and tangible, and they have been there for me through the years in more ways than I can count! "Yadah, Yadah", ladies!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Recipe Day!

I have received many requests since starting this blog to share some of my favorite recipes, so I will try to do that from time to time. Most of you know that cooking is one of my greatest passions, and I love to entertain and cook for other people. I'm not one of those cooks who "invents" recipes all the time, but over the years, I have compiled quite a group of very good "tried and true" favorites. I'd love it if my fellow blogger friends out there would post some of their own favorites from time to time, too!
Today I thought I'd share a couple of our favorite grilling recipes. (I say "our" because even though Brian does NOT cook, he does do all the grilling!) The corn is delicious, and a little different than most grilled corn because it is actually grilled with the husks pulled back and used as a handle, versus with the husks around them (which actually just steams the corn, creating a very different flavor). The herbed butter soaks into the corn, so you don't even need to add anything else to it once it hits the table. The zucchini boats are also delicious, and usually even a hit with kids because of the yummy, cheesey "stuffing". I've never used mint in the zucchini recipe, by the way. Enjoy!

Grilled Corn on the Cob

4 ears sweet corn in their husks
6 Tbsp. butter coarse salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley (or 1 Tbsp. dried)
1 clove garlic, minced

Strip back husks and leave attached at the stem end. Remove silk and hold back husks with a string or rubber band to form a handle. Brush corn with the garlic butter as it grills, rotating often. The ears are cooked when golden brown, after 8-12 min. Keep husks hanging over edge so as not to catch fire.

Stuffed Grilled Zucchini

4 medium zucchini
5 tsp. olive oil, divided
2 Tbsp. finely chopped red onion
¼ tsp. minced garlic
½ c. dry bread crumbs
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 Tbsp. minced fresh mint
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

Cut zucchini in half lengthwise; scoop out pulp, leaving ¼ in. shells. Brush with 2 tsp. oil; set aside. Chop pulp. In a large skillet, sauté pulp and onion in remaining oil. Add garlic; cook 1 min. longer. Add bread crumbs; cook and stir for 2 min. or til golden brown. Remove from the heat. Stir in the mozzarella cheese, mint and salt. Spoon into zucchini shells. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Grill, covered, over medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until zucchini is tender.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Shout Out to the Grocery Game!

A lot of you know that I have been a subscriber to The Grocery Game for almost a year now. The Grocery Game is basically a way to help you save money on your purchases from your local store. It has been HUGE for our family, saving us about $225 a month from our previous food budget, and about $150 month from our previous "household" budget (toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc.) It is a national program, so if you're remotely interested, you should check out the website to see if any of your local stores participate. Keep reading for more info...
Each Sunday you get the coupons out of the paper. I sometimes even buy an extra paper if there are a lot of inserts because I know it will be worth it in the long run. Here in our town I have to purchase a paper from a larger nearby city b/c our local paper doesn't carry all the inserts. Anyway, I clip the coupons and file them by category in a notebook.
Then, every Sunday you look on the website for the current week's lists. We can subscribe to Kroger and Walgreens here, so I do both. It is $10 for 8 weeks for the first store, and $5 for 8 weeks for the second store, but my savings far exceed the cost of the service. You look at the list and see what your family could use. The list is color-coded so that black items are on sale, but not the best deal, so only buy them if you really need them that week. The blue items are the lowest price that item will go, so go ahead and stockpile that item. The green items are completely free, by the time they're on sale and you use coupons, rebates, etc.
The Grocery Game has a database that tracks when items will be the lowest sale price. Often, a store will put fruit snacks, for instance, on sale for $1.67, but then if you wait a couple more weeks and they'll be $1.00. Then if you use a 50 cent coupon and your grocery doubles it, like our Kroger does, then you get your $2.25 box of fruit snacks for free! It's just a matter of knowing when to "play" your coupon.
While there are many great things about this, there are a couple caveats, too, that I should share. First, it does take some time, especially more at the beginning. You have to figure out your system of how you'll organize your coupons, and the most efficient way to find them when you need them. Second, you need a place to store your stockpile! I know several friends who have purchased an extra cabinet for the garage. Third, you can't be brand-loyal. I always used All Free Clear detergent from Sam's Club, but now we may have Tide, Purex, Surf, etc. because they're what were on sale in the past.
On the plus side, it has been fun to try out some new products that I may not have bought for my family before. It's also nice to buy the snack items or other more expensive items that my family enjoys but I didn't used to buy very often. It's come in handy when it's time to bring snacks for teams or pre-school classes, and I'm currently stocking up on very cheap school supplies! Another positive is that I have plenty of supplies to donate when there's a need. I also love to entertain, so it's nice knowing that I currently have a turkey, a ham, a couple of roasts, a couple of whole chickens, some pork tenderloins, and lots of chicken breasts and hamburger meat in my freezer! It has made meal planning easier, and if there's an item that we want to buy that hasn't been on the list, I know I can justify it because I've saved so much money on other items. Finally, though it does take some work and time on my part, as a stay-at-home Mom, I consider it my "job" to make Brian's paycheck go farther and be good stewards of our money. Plus, it's so fun! At my most recent Walgreens trip, my bill was over $110, and I only paid $31! It's almost addicting!
If any of you decide to check it out, they allow you to have a 4 week trial for $1. If you try it, let me know what you think, and if you have any questions about it, feel free to ask!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Naming Rights

I'm getting lots of e-mails complementing us on our blog name, so I just have to give kudos to Brian for being the brains behind that one! I had thought of Team Church, since that's what we often call our family, but he reminded me that he's always thought The Church Bulletin would be a good name for our Christmas letter. Well, I've never named our letter, so now we're using it for the blog! Thanks, B!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Our Track & Field Stars

ASU Track & Field finally revived their weekly mini-meets after last summer's hiatus. The year before, I don't think we missed a single meet all summer! With Brian being a former collegiate track and field coach, we're certainly big supporters of these events. Where else can a 4 year old learn to throw the shot or do the triple jump??? Tonight was their first meet of summer '08, and Kellen and Peyton had a blast. They competed in the long jump, discus, 50 m hurdles, 50 m dash (Peyton) and 100 m dash (Kellen). Owen is old enough, too, but we just didn't want to spend the extra money on his entry fee. I bet we'll probably let him enter in the last couple of weeks, though, just to give him a taste of it.
If you read the previous blog, you know that Brian is out of town, so I was flying solo at the meet tonight, but the kids did great. In the 50 m & 100 m dashes, there weren't any other girls competing, so Kellen and Peyton ran in the boys events. Kellen had some older boys in her group, but Peyton's group was mostly boys her own age or a little younger, and she came in first out of the whole bunch! In all, the girls won gold medals in each of their events, for a total of four per kid! They were certainly proud and had lots of fun tonight!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Vegas, Baby!

So how do I have all this time tonight to create all these posts on our blog? Well, I'm a bachelorette tonight. Or maybe single mom is a better word! Why do they call it being a bachelor when a wife goes out of town, but not being a bachelorette when the hubby's gone? Well, Brian flew out to Vegas today for the National Strength and Conditioning Association's annual conference. He's not that excited about the trip, though, being a non-drinker and non-gambler. He likes to walk around, though, and I'm sure will catch a movie one night. He's staying at The Paris, again, so that's fun.
Thanks to our excursion to the firehouse and a fun Chick-fil-A lunch afterwards, and then precious naptime, the day has gone very smoothly for us at home. The kids were great tonight, too. They ate a good dinner and then I built a fort in the living room and they watched The Lion King in it. And since none of them really know how to tell time yet, they didn't have a clue that they actually went to bed before their normal 8:00 bedtime! Is that being a mean mom? Hopefully I won't regret it in the morning if they get up early! Anyway, we miss you B, but we're doing great, so don't worry about us!

Future Firefighters?

Today we took a trip to a local fire station with our friend Stacey and her kids Ty and Sarah (Kellen was at her friend Bella's house playing for the day). Owen's birthday is coming up and he loves fire trucks, so we went to take some pics of him with the trucks so I could create his birthday invitation. They all loved climbing in and on the trucks, holding the hose, honking the horn and petting the fake dalmations! They even have an antique truck on display that was J'town's first motorized truck in 1933!

Happy Birthday, America!

We often head over to Union City, TN for the 4th of July. Brian's Mom and Dad usually have a picnic and the kids have a lot of fun playing with their cousin Hailey outside on their tree swing, riding the three-wheeler (which was Brian's 10th birthday present, and is still running, thanks to his Dad's magic!), and being pulled on a sled behind the three-wheeler or tractor. We watched the fireworks that night. Dawson wanted to be held, but was fine as long as he had his Daddy. Owen sat in my lap and covered his ears for the first 10 min., but had a huge grin on his face the whole time and soon forgot about covering his ears. The girls, of course, loved them, especially the finale!

Annual Redbirds Game

Good buddies Cade, Peyton, Kellen, Colby, Owen, Kate & Megan

We try to go to a Memphis Redbirds game once a summer, often with our church. We all sit on the bluff, laying out blankets and eating Rendezvous Barbeque Nachos! Of course for the kids, we're basically paying six bucks a head for them to just play on the playground and roll down the grassy hill! But they have a blast, and Brian and I do, too. It's a fun tradition!

Do I See an Oscar in the Future?

Kellen took part in a drama camp at the Foundation of the Arts. They focused on the works of Eric Carle, and on the last day, they performed "The Mixed Up Chameleon". Kellen was the Chameleon, and she got to take the class with her good buddies Joanna and Emma (pictured above). Kellen is often on the reserved side, but give her a role or a duty, and she's all about it, so we didn't see an ounce of shyness on that stage!

Venus and Serena???

Kellen and Peyton took a Red Wolves Tennis Camp at ASU and thoroughly enjoyed it. We opted for the morning session this summer and it was MUCH more enjoyable than the heat of the evening camp last summer! Their coaches did a great job, and the girls really had a lot of fun.

Another Wedding!

Our beloved babysitter, Mallory, got married in June. She asked the girls to be in her wedding, which of course they were thrilled and honored to do. She and Chip had a beautiful wedding, and we were so proud to be a part of it! We miss you and love you Mal!

6 & Under Softball Champions!

Kellen and Peyton got to play on the same softball team this year. With Brian and I being former athletes, we've dreamed about this day, but didn't think we'd get to see it happen 'til high school, since the younger ages are usually so divided. But, for once, they were on the same team and had a blast! They won their tournament, five games later, on a very hot day, so the trophies made it all worth it!

Erica & Josh's Wedding

(Almost) all the crazy cousins
Our family after the rehearsal.

My brother Kevin, father-of-the bride, and his baby girl Erica, the beautiful bride!

Are we having fun yet, Mom? My Mom, being hoisted up by her six kids!

Peyton, Erica and Kellen

Erica and Josh led some of the worship during their wedding. It was wonderful!

Our summer vacation literally began hours after the kids finished their last day of school, as we boarded a plane to Baltimore for my neice's wedding. It was basically a large family reunion, with only one brother-in-law, two nephews and a nephew-in-law (is that a word???) absent. My brother, Kevin, father-of-the-bride, did an incredible job preparing for the influx of all of us, providing us with vehicles, baby equipment, food, maps, etc. Whatever we needed! We had a couple of large picnics/parties, in addition to the rehearsal and the wedding itself. Kellen and Peyton were the flower girls, which was certainly one of the highlights of their little lives! We pray for Erica and Josh to have a fulfilling, fun, Christ-centered marriage!