Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Setting Goals and recording progress

We are quickly coming to an end of January and I'm still thinking about my New Year's Resolutions; or as I like to think of them my Goals for 2011. Yes I do have more than one. Each year I find I tend to have several things I want to change and/or achieve. I try very hard to not set any goal too high. And I find that new goals come up through out the year. But the nice part of celebrating a New Year is that it's a great time to look at our lives. Am I happy in my life? If not why? So here are some of my goals this year.

1) Post at least 1 blog post (in addition to menu plans) a week.
       - I find that posting about the boys, my achievements, or just every day life is a great way to get my thoughts out. I feel better after. And check it out, this post will be number 11 for the month (number 8 in non-menus)

2) Knit a sweater for myself.
      - I wrote about my desire for knitting for myself here. So far my progress is good. I have really enjoyed just sitting and knitting. It's meditative. Check out my progress. I have about 10 more rows on the yoke to go.

3) Have a family outing at least once a month.
            - I feel as if tension is high at our house. Being cold and snowy out means we spend alot of time indoors. And all that time indoors means little boys' energy spills over, driving mama and daddy nuts at times.  In hopes of reminding myself why I love parenting, I want to get out of the house as a family. Spend time not only together, but enjoying being together. This month we have had four outings. 
1st Fridays Fire and Ice Festival - check out Goshen's First Friday's schedule
Sledding and snow play at a local park
Bowling with cousins
Curious Kids' Museum in St. Joseph, MI

4) Going out on a date with my husband Mark at least every other month. 
           - Mark and I rarely go out anymore. Life just seems to get away from us. But Aiden is no longer so young that I'm worrying about him as much. While he still nurses, he no longer needs me at home to nurse him to sleep. Thus making time for a date should be less stressful. It's just a matter of setting aside time. Wish us luck. :)

5) Having family game night twice a month. 
          - Cai is now old enough to play many of the kids games we have. In fact Ian, Cai and Mark played Go Fish a week ago, and Cai needed surprisingly little help.  My hope is this week when my mother gets here we can spend an evening playing a game or two together.It is again a way to provide fun family bonding. 

As you can see, many of my goals surround how I spend time with my family. I find that sometimes I get so caught up in the daily living of cooking, cleaning, and such that I forget to enjoy the time I spend with my kids. My hope is to change this. Really enjoy my children's stage in life. I'm quickly realizing that if I don't I'm going to miss it. 

More week to week, and month to month goals will come up. My sister-in-law and I have decided to get together once a month to talk about these type of goals and help provide some accountability for each other. This month we went out for coffee after the kids were in bed, talked about our goals but also just our lives. It was a nice break. I'm looking forward to more evenings spend like that with her. 

One last note. Mark found this great website Family Days Out USA. It allows you to search your area for family activities, both indoor and outdoor. We found several places we didn't know about on there. So check it out.  

Monday, January 24, 2011

Menu Plan Monday- Jan 24th

Happy Monday everyone! I'm proud to say I finally took down all my Christmas decoration yesterday. The walls look so bare now. It's sorta sad. I guess I'll have to come up with some other decorations to bring color to our world. We have enough white outside, we don't need more inside. :) I always wanted more snow in Kansas, thought it made the cold easier to handle. Now I'm missing the blonde brown of dead grass. Weird yes, but very true.
On other notes Aiden has learned to say "Uh-oh" In addition he has started toddler tantrums. Luckily right now they just consist of him flopping on the floor (on his bottom) and refusing to look at me. It's cute really, when I don't think about how fast he is growing.
Well here's this weeks menu. My mother and step-dad should be here for a day or two at the end of the week, so changes may be in order. :)

Monday: Salmon Broccoli Bake
Tuesday: Black Bean and Corn Soup
Wednesday: Curried Lentils and Cauliflower
Thursday: Potato-Kale Quiche
Friday: Pizza
Saturday: Company Party
Sunday: Leftovers

For more menus and recipes head over to Organizing Junkie.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Knits for Mama

I'm a pretty slow knitting. Mostly because a project doesn't hold my interest for long periods of time As such it sometimes takes me months to finish something because I will go weeks in between without knitting.  However of late I've been on a knitting kick again. I've enjoyed the meditation of simple stitches. My hands knowing the rhythms needed to complete a row/round. For Christmas I made a hat for my mother. And liking the idea of knitting something other than diaper covers, I decided my next project would be for me. I started with a hat, similar to the one I made my mom.
 However, in my attempts to make the hat alittle bigger to better fit me I somehow achieved the opposite. The hat turned out too short for my head. :( It is so pretty though. And fits nicely on the boys.
Since neither Ian nor Cai wants to wear it, I've designated it Aiden's hat. And boy does he look handsome. So now I needed to find another project for myself. I've looked longly at patterns for sweaters since I taught myself to knit. But the very idea of such a big project always scared me. However, I thought it was time to branch out and give sweaters a try.
And who better than to start than with myself. So armed with the generous monetary gifts my family gave at Christmas I headed to our local knit store Ewe-Nique Knits. I should mention that I miss the ladies down at The Newton Beadery. However, I'm sure over time I can get to know the ladies at Ewe-Nique Knits. Just takes time. OHH thought, maybe I can spend part of my free Thursday afternoons there. You know on the weeks that my sister-in-law has the boys (Clueless? Check my post here)
Picture accompanying my pattern. 
Back to point, I found a pattern that will both challenge me without being too much. I found a nice summer cotton yarn. And I have officially started. One of my New Year's Resolutions is to knit a sweater. While I certain hope it does not take me a year, I'm trying not to make any unrealistic deadlines for the finished projects.
 My goal at this point in time is to be able to wear it this Spring as the weather warms. I think it will make a nice attention to my spring wardrobe. Wish me luck!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: Jan 17th

Happy Monday everyone! I've decided that my boys wake up with way too much energy. I mean how is it that as soon as their eyes open they are racing around the house? Really? Cai seems to take a few minutes to catch up with Ian. He is alittle like me in that aspect I think. But even he quickly runs after his older brother. Oh to be a preschooler with all that energy.
So the cous cous recipe my sister-in-law sent me was wonderful. Ian ate a whole plate without complaint which says alot. Mark's opinion was that it was ok. Poor Mark will just have to deal b/c I loved it, and will probably make it again in the future.
This week I am going to try two new recipes. While at the library last week I picked up a few cookbooks to thumb through. So we'll see how they work. Hopefully we'll have a healthy, low key week.

Here is the menu

Monday: Cheese corn Chowder
Tuesday: Tamale Pie found in The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook by Cathe Olson
Wednesday: Karen's Sesame Noodles found in Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair
Thursday: Stuffed acorn squash
Friday: Pizza Braid
Saturday: Leftovers
Sunday: Breakfast

What are you cooking this week? Visit Organizing Junkie for more menu and recipes.

Sunday Bowling

 Brain storming filled up our Saturday morning hours. While playing outside in the snow is lots of fun, Mark and I both agreed we need more indoor activities that take us away from our house. Cause sometimes you just need to be away from your living space. Among the ideas was bowling.
 We easily got Mark's sister and her husband to agree to come with us. So a Sunday afternoon of bowling with little boys began. This is the first time we have taken the boys bowling. And truth be told it's been at least 5 (probably closer to 6) years since I last went. It was an adventure to be had.
 We occupied two lanes, one for the grownups and one for the kids. All three older boys were very excited about the whole ordeal. It was fun to watch them work on rolling the ball down the lane.
 The bowling alley has metal runners for kids to push their balls down, but both were being used when we got there. So the kids didn't get a change to use them until the last two frames.
If I remember correctly Ian got the highest score at 36. With his cousin Josiah and Cai close behind. I think Mark won our game. But I did not pay as close attention to the scores. Mostly I was too wrapped up in watching the boys play and trying to keep an eye on Aiden.
 Poor guy wanted to play so badly. Another year I think it will be possible. It was certainly a fun filled afternoon. After a long game of bowling, we headed to Rach's (Mark's sister) house for homemade pizza. Yummy!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Weekend Sledding

 Last weekend's snow storm brought us 8inches of snow. All week it snowed off and on again. Yet we never made it outside, mostly due to illness or busy schedules.
 This afternoon we all got bundled up and went out to the park to sled. Ian was very excited about the whole thing. And it gave me a preview of what years to come might look like. Due to the fact that 2 out of 3 of our sleds are warped, they do not travel straight. Ian found on his first run down that the slightest movement can tip him over. However, rather than cry and be upset (which was the reaction I was expecting) he seemed to make a game out of it.
 I must admit that every turn over made me cringe; waiting for the screams. But he loved it. I'm almost dreading the future as he gets braver in his antics. Cai was not comfortable sledding himself, so he went down the hill with Mark.
 Or sometimes he would just run after Ian. Aiden went down several times with either me or Mark. He seemed to really enjoy himself. We ended up at the bottom of the hill in the soft snow to play.
Pushing snow around, throwing snow balls, and just exploring. Ian and I even made snow angels before we left.
 We all had a wonderful time. The perfect way to spend the afternoon.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Coffee break for Mama

Do you sit down to drink your morning coffee? I do. I find that if I don't I'm much more frustrated through out the day. And I try to not do "work" while drinking my coffee. Often I read. And while little boys ask questions and draw my attention away, it is still a time that I get to relax.
At least once a week Aiden, Cai and I make a trip over to The Electric Brew, a local coffee shop downtown, while Ian is at school. This too has become a relaxation ritual. While it works better to start the week there, some weeks we end our week there. (Such as this week) And that too can be a good way of winding down the week.
Yesterday started a new "mama" break schedule. My sister-in-law and I have decided to start switching watching boys once a week. Yesterday my boys went over to her house for an hour and half in the afternoon. This meant I got a whole hour at the library to myself. To look at whatever I please. And I didn't even step foot into the children's section. :) I spend the remain 30mins doing a quick grocery trip. Normally I do this on Wednesdays with the younger two boys while Ian's at preschool. But Ian was home for the morning due to stomach bug he had the night before. I'm very excited about this new schedule. And while I'm sure there is lots I could get done here at the house without little boys underfoot, I'm thinking I might just make sure to use this time for me. It would do me some good to do something I want to do, not need to do, every other week. And without the call of little boys to draw me away from said activity. Cause every mama deserves a break!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Christmas in KANSAS!

In attempts to document the Christmas season and not make it overwhelming I'm condensing some of the happenings. It should be noted that we (Mark, the boys and myself) all celebrated Christmas the night before we left for Kansas. We decided it was easier than trying to haul our gifts with us. Several of the gifts did make the journey but that was to be expected. The boys all received new water bottles which came in the car we us. Ian got a new backpack, which he decided to pack with some books and his and Cai's water bottle to take in the van. I got new wool mittens made out of recycled wool sweaters (a woman has been selling them at our farmer's market and I fell in love and asked Mark for a pair). These too came with us. We arrived at my folks house on Christmas Eve around supper time. We ate pizza with my brother, and then opened our Christmas Eve gifts. I grew up with the tradition of opening one gift on Christmas Eve, it was always pjs. This year I made Ian and Cai pajama bags. I found the idea in Amanda Black Soule's book The Creative Family . I plan on making one for Aiden in the future. We also give them each a new book in the front pocket of their bags. :) 

Christmas morning was filled with eager little boys. Not only were they excited to see Grandma and Grandpa (who they did not get to see the night before due to my mother's Christmas eve services. She's a pastor and has three Christmas eve services), they were excited it was Christmas. Add to the fact that Indiana is Eastern time and Kansas is Central, the boys were up way too early. But after playing upstairs, watching Bob the Builder and having breakfast, we finally woke Uncle Josh up to open presents. My brother still functions on a college schedule. Meaning late nights and sleeping in till noon. Must be nice.  
The boys got many wonderful gifts. It fun to watch them open their gifts. And even more exciting watching them try to help everyone else open theirs.
Before opening Grandma read the boys the Christmas story and we lighted the Advent wreath. I was surprised it stayed lit the whole time with no mishaps.
Mark and I found a great board game for my brother. Zombie Survival: the board game. I didn't get a chance to play. But he seems to like it. He can even play it solo, which is kinda cool.
Tradition has it that gifts wrapped by my stepfather, especially gifts for my brother, are hard to open. In childhood this often meant many layers of paper, boxes and scotch tape. (I should probably note the my brother has reciprocated this tradition and it has resulted in somewhat of a wrapping war)  Somewhere in our adolescent years duck tape was introduced, although I'm not sure if it was my brother or my stepdad. And now it is almost a yearly occurence for duck tape to appear on a gift's wrapping in some way. Mark has now been included in this tradition. A true sign of my stepdad's love for my husband.
One of the big hit gifts to the boys was new tools. Ian got a huge tool set, with construction and and tool belt. And Cai and Aiden each got a tool belt with a couple of tools in them. 
These belts were actually the tool belts my brother and I used while helping my folks renovate our house in my hometown of Lyons. Lets just say they bring up memories that make me smile and cringe all at once. It was several years of dirty work before we ever moved into that house.

It really was a great Christmas full of noise,
 giggles, music
and joy.  And let us not forget about the cat, who at this point was still very, very wary of the boys.  To bad my boys were fascinated and wanted nothing more than to pet said kitty.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Saner Christmas

We celebrated Christmas with Mark's folks and sister's family the Saturday before Christmas. With us traveling to Kansas and Mark's family traveling to PA to visit extended family it was the the one time we could all get together to celebrate. A fun tradition in Mark's family is decorating gingerbread men to hang on the tree. I'm told when they were growing up they would decorate them early on in the Advent season and then hang on the tree for awhile. Of course that meant very hard cookies when they finally ate them. The last several years we have decorated only a few days ahead of when we plan on opening presents. And then eat our gingerbread cookies sometime after our gift exchange. This year we decorated Saturday morning and then ate them later that afternoon. So while they didn't grace the tree for long it was still fun to do, and of course eat. :)
 After cookie decorating Mark and I took Cai and Aiden home for a nap. Ian got to stay with Grandma to bake more cookies. He loved this. (It should be noted that Cai also got an afternoon of baking with Grandma. On Sunday Ian and Mark when with cousin Josiah and Uncle Tex to a Notre Dame Basketball game. Cai got to spend the time with Grandma and Grandpa) After naps we all gathered together to exchange gifts, hang out and eat dinner. We also had a Skype video chat with Mark's brother and his wife who are currently in England.
In fact they sent to oldest three boys soccer shirts. Being that all three are really into sports, was a big hit all around. Ian got a wooden crane from Aunt Rachel and Uncle Tex.
And Cai got a wooden tractor with trailer. 
Aiden was given Global Babies. Which is such a wonderful board book with beautiful pictures.
For the adults we always have a gift exchange. I come to really like this tradition. Mark was given Settlers of Catan: Seafarers board game. We have yet to have a chance to play it. Hopefully soon. I was giving a new tea pot, smart wool socks and a gift certificate to a local knitting store. Very exciting. Rachel also gave me a peppermint lip balm and vanilla extract that she made. The lip balm is really nice. I haven't tried the vanilla yet as I had an open bottle in my cupboard. But I'm excited to try it. She had come across a recipe for making vanilla extract in bulk with vanilla beans. The whole idea fascinates me. The finally big gift was tennis rackets for the oldest three boys from Grandma and Grandpa.
 It was very exciting and they spent quite alot of time downstairs in the laundry room playing tennis together. It was a good celebration. Good food, loving family and generous gifts. 

The final thing I want to share is the gift I made my newest nephew Oliver. I found a discovery box at The Depot (a second hand store run by Mennonite Central Committee here in town). I than sewed little animals to hit inside. Ian was given a toy like this when he was about 15months old and it has been a hit toy for my babies. I added bells inside a few of the animals. I have to say I was pretty proud of the results. And Oliver is at the perfect stage for grabbing and holding. :)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

First Fridays- Fire and Ice 2011

I love First Fridays in Goshen. It always provides a nice reason to go downtown and spend time together as a family outside our home.
And being this was the second January Fire and Ice Festival I've gotten to attend, it must be said that January is quickly becoming on the favorite list of months for First Friday events.
I truly enjoy watching the artisans carve the ice with both chain saws and hand tools. And the finish products are always amazing. To add to the splendor both this year and last year it snowed. So while it was cold, it was so pretty.
Watching the snow fall, seeing beautiful ice sculptures and then dashing into stores to get warm and check out sales and art shows. The boys also seemed to enjoy watching the sculptures being made.
And it was fun to see if they could figure out what the different sculptures were. Some were easier than others to determine.
All in all it was a wonderful night. We went home cold but soon snuggled up in warm pjs, under warm blankets with warm stories to guide little boys to dreamland.