Sew Much Fun
Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sew sorry. I fully realize that blog title is lame-o. Sew what? Sew sue me. I can't stop.

My friend Danielle and I pulled out our sewing machines this afternoon and had a big ol' time making ourselves some tote bags. And when I say "pulled out our sewing machines," I'm speaking quite literally - Danielle received her machine for a Christmas gift and had yet to pull it out of the box until today.

It was the blind leading the blind as we tried to figure out her machine. Moments of hilarity ensued.

Safe to say neither of us has a future career as a seamstress. Unless there is some bride out there who wouldn't mind her wedding dress having crooked seams and being significantly shorter on one side.

Here is the free pattern we used for our little project. A tote bag made from placemats!

Since we didn't want to pay more to make a tote bag than it would cost just to buy one, we bought our "materials" (placemats!) at Dollar Tree for the low, low price of $1 each.

Here is my creation. Placemats transformed. Ta-da!

First the front side with the handy pocket:

...and the back side, that was also supposed to have a pocket, but doesn't because I underestimated how much fabric I would need:

It frustrates me to see pictures of bags or totes online, and not be able to tell how big they are. So here are a couple shots that will let you better judge the size of the finished project.

Next to a full-sized backpack:

And held by a full-sized three year old:

Sew whatcha think? I'm sorry. I told you I couldn't stop.

Worth Every Penny
Sunday, September 28, 2008

Okay, several of you have been asking, and I'm happy to report that e-mealz gets my hearty recommendation! Best $1.25 per week I've spent in a long time. Possibly ever.

I recognize that some of you are better in the kitchen than I am. It's your element. You enjoy creating menus for your family, and every night spent around your table is a gourmet experience. E-mealz may not be right for you domestic divas.

But for the rest of's awesome.

Meal Quality and Kid Friendliness: Good to great. Kids and husband agree, as evidenced by clean plates and requests for second helpings.

Preparation: Super-Duper Easy to Easy. Nothing I can't handle. (And this from a woman who didn't know how to brown ground beef when I got married. I wish that were an exaggeration. It's not.)

Cost of meals: $75-$90 for seven meals

The best part of e-Mealz in my opinion is that is takes away that desperate feeling of sitting down with a piece of paper and pen to make my grocery list thinking...."What am I going to make this week?" I'm done with that feeling! No more my friends!

Click on the banner below to check it out for yourself. Let me know what you think!


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Happy Birthday to my BFF.

It's been a whole YEAR since I got the incredible chance to visit her in Japan, and I still think about that trip all the time. Best girlfriend week ever.

Here's some pics from that trip...a few of our eldest kiddos playing together back when we got to see each other a bit more often (not that an ocean has really been able to hinder our friendship; thank you God for email, blogs, and VOIP!)...and a few more pictures from years gone by thrown in just for laughs.

Love you and Happy Birthday!

Big Kid Adventure
Friday, September 26, 2008

Dylan's friend and soccer teammate turned five years old this week, and Dylan got invited to attend the fair with him to help him celebrate. Pretty sweet deal for Dylan!

Happy Birthday to Dylan's "best bud", and thanks for the fun day of corn-dogs, kiddie-rides, funnel-cakes, and Sprite. If the past two days are any indication, it was a day that will be long remembered. And talked about. A lot. :-)

Ponytails, Sunglasses, and Prayer
Thursday, September 25, 2008

On Thursdays I take Ryan to school. Jonathan takes him all the other mornings, but on Thursdays Jonathan leaves early and meets a friend for breakfast and book discussion, leaving me, Dylan and Lauryn with drop-off duty.

As I was sitting in the van in the drop-off line today, I noticed that, like me, 99% of the moms in that line had their hair in a messy ponytail, and were hiding behind huge sunglasses.

I wonder if they were also still wearing their pajamas, praying "Dear Lord, please let nothing happen that would necessitate me getting out of this van. And since my younger children are wearing only the T-shirts and underwear they slept in, it would be great if they didn't have to venture out either. Oh, and help my older child have a great day at school. Amen."

Craft time has taken a dark turn.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I remember when I would give the boys construction paper and scissors, and they would create trees and flowers...or maybe some cute bunny ears to wear...perhaps an ocean scene with colorful jumping fish.

Of course that was back when I was providing plenty of suggestions and guidance.

They've moved on from wanting my input, and moved on from making sweet little bunny ears.

Meet the creatures that emerge after two little boys are told to "make a craft" while mom makes dinner:

They do, however, have a softer side.

It's pretty cute to watch two masked monsters help their little sister make a pink princess crown, then agree to her demand that they all hold hands and pose for a picture.

May I just add that Lauryn dressed herself yesterday. She reasoned that this shirt and skirt "match" because they both have flowers on them. Can't fault that logic.


Marketers love my children.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"Guys, I'm going grocery shopping today. What kind of stuff would you like me to get for breakfast?"

Ryan replies slowly and with a sigh,

"Mom, just look for a cereal box with a picture of a toy on it. That means it has a toy inside. We'll like that cereal."

Little does he know I avoid "prize inside" cereal at all costs.

One toy. Three children. I don't need that kind of drama at breakfast time.

Monday, September 22, 2008

This little blog is for my own personal enjoyment.

And the hope that it brings you some enjoyment too.

Because let's face it - if it were solely for me I would just write all this stuff in Microsoft Word and hit "save", instead of writing it on a blog and hitting "publish."

Anyhow...I say it's for my personal enjoyment because that's mostly all I get out of it.


Remember my post about losing a favorite earring? Well...a certain favorite sister-in-law just happened to see a pair that reminded her of the pair I lost, and....THAT'S RIGHT - she bought them and mailed them to me! SCORE.

That was a few months back. Fast forward to this week, when I blogged about my fly problem. I got a voicemail from my grandmother who had read said blog posting, and.... THAT'S RIGHT - she purchased an indoor bug zapping device and put it in the mail for me today. It should be here by Wednesday. SCORE.

So even though this humble blog brings no actual monetary gain, I'd say a cute pair of earrings and a bug killer makes it all worth the time and effort.

And you can expect me to start blogging about my need for big ticket items. Earrings and a bug killer are nice. But I think we can do more. I kid!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Is there any more annoying sound than a fly buzzing around your head? SO IRRITATING.

We are having a serious fly issue. We even resorted to hanging those nasty sticky fly strips on the back porch, but they have not made a dent in our burgeoning fly population.

In the battle with the buzzing flies (two of which keep landing on my laptop screen as I type this!), I have found I am a terrible shot with the fly swatter.

For every 10 swats I take I'm lucky to hit one fly. ALSO IRRITATING.

I may need to invest in one of these slightly scary swatters (weapons?).

Off to practice my swatting skills...

Hijacking the Grocery Cart
Wednesday, September 17, 2008

When the boys were Lauryn's age, they would occasionally sneak things into the grocery basket. I would get to the checkout and discover they had thrown in some kind of sugary cereal...maybe some kool-aid....a box of Batman fruit snacks perhaps.

Today I took Lauryn shopping, and she continued the tradition her brothers started. When I was unloading my groceries at the check-out I found Lauryn had thrown in some extra items:

A huge can of yams and a large carton of small curd cottage cheese.

I handed them to the cashier and said, "I'm sorry, I don't need these. My daughter must have put them in the basket."

She looked at me with a raised eyebrow as if to say, "Seriously? Yams and Cottage Cheese?"

My thoughts exactly!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I saw this cool new picture/video tool featured here and tried it out today.

Easy and fun. Make short little 30 second videos with 12-15 images, all for free. If you want something longer you can upgrade and pay for it.

Here's my video in honor of the birthday girl.

Be sure to leave a comment if you make your own fun video for our viewing enjoyment!

Three, Glorious Three

Lauryn is three years old today! THREE!!!! The youngest child, our baby, is out of the toddler stage and entering the preschool years. Wow.

She loves all the things that you might think a 3 year old girl would love. The color pink, princess movies, Strawberry Shortcake, and her Daddy are all current obsessions.

She also loves to tell her brothers what to do (Dylan sometimes even complies!), and she loves to help me in the kitchen. Sometimes I let her be the main chef in charge of cookie preparation. She has earned the nickname the Cookie Nazi for the way she doles out the fruit of her labor.

She hates bugs (all of which are called "SPIDER!!!!", even the common housefly), getting her hair combed, and being told what to do.

Her current number one talent is helping me become a more patient and understanding parent.

She's indeed a beautiful complication.

Wheels Off
Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ryan got a bike a few weeks ago.

Today we took the training wheels off. His distance record so far is about 10 feet. But it was an amazing 10 feet!

He also had a couple of pretty spectacular wrecks.

Who needs a reflector? I wouldn't have let him ride his bike at night anyway! (The reflector is the only thing broken - he's fine. I think little boys must be made entirely of rubber.)

Safety Officer
Saturday, September 13, 2008

"Boys! BE CAREFUL! Don't fall down, okay? BOYS!!! OKAY?!?"

Lauryn spent the majority of our time at the park today admonishing her brothers, who were being far too risky for her comfort.

She parked herself in one place - the stationary steering wheel - and could barely pretend to drive to Oklahoma because she was too concerned with her brothers' risky behaviors.

I'm loaded. (Globally speaking.)
Friday, September 12, 2008

My pastor referenced the Global Rich List a few Sunday's ago in his sermon.

Wow. In terms of world wide incomes, Jonathan and I are loaded.
Stinkin' rich!

In terms of American incomes, however, we are solidly middle class. And so that's how we tend to classify ourselves.

I focus my energy on the "woes of the American middle class"
(Gas prices are up! Food prices are up! I can't afford health care! Taxes are out of control! My kids need new shoes!), instead of thinking globally.

Globally speaking, I am the envy of nearly 99% of the world.
Gas prices are up? Millions of people will never travel within a few miles of where they were born. Food prices are up? I think I can live without that 2 liter of Pepsi and box of name brand cereal. Millions of people are sustained on beans and rice, and with the global food crisis even those basic staples are uncertain.

If you are in a family of four earning $21,000 (the federal poverty guideline), you are still in the top 10% of the wealthiest people in the world. No doubt it's a struggle to live at the federal poverty guideline. I don't make light of that - I've been there before, and it's difficult. But globally speaking, even someone considered living in "poverty" in the US is wealthy by world wide standards.

At $21,00 per year, 90% of the people on the planet make less money than you do.

It's really mind blowing if you take the time to consider how rich we are.

It's also mind blowing to consider the responsibility that accompanies all that blessing.

Help me Lord, to move beyond just being thankful for my "wealth." Move me to action Lord. Amen.

I couldn't figure out why everyone was smiling in our direction.
Thursday, September 11, 2008

Walking into Ryan's school today I thought, "Do I know all these people looking at us? Do they go to my church and I just don't recognize them? Why all the smiles today?"

Then I remembered that Dylan dressed himself today. The novelty had worn off for me because I've been with him all day. But I guess he did look pretty cute in his brown hoodie, khaki shorts, and black cowboy boots.

Smile worthy.

"This is a day we'll never forget."

That's what my mom wrote on the card with a bouquet of flowers she sent me on September 11, 2001.

She sent me flowers that day because we called her bright and early that morning to tell her she was going to be a Grandma.

Not 30 minutes after we hung up the phone, the attack on the World Trade Centers began.

Early on September 11th, Jonathan and I were crying tears of happiness over a positive pregnancy test.

Not 30 minutes later we were crying tears of fear and horror as our country was being attacked.

I first called my mom, my voice shaking with excitement and joy. I called her back not 30 minutes later my voice shaking with sadness and grief.

I'm quite sure my emotions will never again change so dramatically in such a short amount of time.

I was changed forever. My country was changed forever. Indeed a day we'll never forget.

A few years ago, Jonathan posted his feelings HERE.

"Mom! Come look! Right now!!"
Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I hurry to the living room to see what the fuss is about.

Lauryn is pointing at the TV. Bouncing up and down on her toes, saying "LOOK! LOOK!"

What's created all this excitement?

A jewelry store commercial.

Image after image of necklaces, rings, diamonds and pearls were driving her into a near frenzy.

Time to pull out all the old costume jewelry I've been saving for just such a time as this!

Could this be the answer to my dinnertime woes?
Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A friend was telling me about a meal planning service called e-mealz.

$15 dollars buys a 3 month subscription; $1.25 a week. In return for your hard earned money you get a weekly dinner menu, complete with recipes and a shopping list. The website claims the menu will feed 4-6 people, and the ingredients for a week of meals will cost between 70-80 dollars per week. (That cost does not include "staples" that they assume you should already have in your pantry.)

I know some of you enjoy planning and preparing meals for you family. I don't understand you people. At all. You have genetic make-up that I am entirely lacking.

I've tried various meal planning strategies: wandering the grocery aisles hoping inspiration will strike...begging friends for their favorite cheap and easy to prepare meals...browsing through my many searches. It all gives me tired head. And I always end up feeling like over half the dinners I make are boring and bland. I try and blame it on working within a limited budget, but I think it has more to do with my limited food imagination. Anyway - if I can feel proud of the meals I make and serve, and can eliminate the stress I feel grocery shopping every week, it will totally be worth my $1.25.

So I'm going to try out a couple weeks worth of e-mealz menus.

Review to come! Complete with family reactions to the meals, cost of the groceries, and ease of preparation.

Anyone else tried it? Thoughts?

It's complicated.

I like things cut and dry. I like it when there is one obvious right answer; one choice to make that far surpasses the other choices.

But life does not always present easy choices.

So, I have decided to re-frame how I view complicated situations. Instead of being frustrated at my inability to make a decision, I'll view my circumstance as an opportunity to hear God's voice.

When there are several potentially right answers....or many choices that all seem wrong...I'll thank God that He has put me in a place where the only real option is to silence my disquieted brain, and just listen. Wait and listen for God to reveal His wisdom.

The waiting is the hard part. And the listening. The waiting and the listening. Both hard.

"If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking."

James 1:5

the male species
Saturday, September 6, 2008

Ryan, showing off a temporary tattoo of a pirate flag:

"I put it on my arm so the flag would wave when I flex my muscle. See?"

I didn't see. I couldn't even tell when he was flexing. But I acted like I could.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

After I spent a good part of the afternoon organizing the play room, making sure each piece of each toy set was in it's appointed storage bag, Jonathan says,

"Why don't you just dump all the toys out of those bags and throw it all in the toy box together? Wouldn't that be a lot less work?"

I couldn't even respond. Potato head pieces and legos and hotwheels and dinosaurs all co-mingling in the bottom of the toybox?, no, no. NO.

Hours later I managed to ask,

"Can you just promise me one thing?"


"Can you solemnly swear that if something ever happens to me, you will NOT just haphazardly dump all the toys in the toy box?"

"Hmm...I don't know... The best I can do is promise to tell my mail-order bride. But she may not speak English."

"Can you get a translator? Use mime? Label the storage bags in her native language?"

"Okay babe. Okay."

He said okay. But for some reason I don't believe him.

Bikes! New Bikes!
Friday, September 5, 2008

Time I spent maneuvering all three bikes into the van: 10 minutes

Time I spent driving to my friend's house, where there is little traffic and wide sidewalks: 10 minutes

Time they spent riding their bikes before they decided it was too hot outside and they wanted to go home: 5 minutes

Oh well. At least I got some pictures.

Thanks to Gigi for the new bikes! They aren't great riders yet. But they look awful cute in their helmets.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The preschool story time I started a few months ago has been a ton of fun. (It's also been quite a bit of work, so I'm very grateful for friends who have stepped up and helped with all the planning and preparation.)

Today our theme was "ducks". After we read duck books and sang duck songs, the kids made duck hats. Then we all waddled, quacked, swam, and flew around the room wearing our creations. I was the lead duck, quacking and waddling at the head of the line. Main requirement to teach preschoolers: have no shame.

After story time we headed to a local playa lake (which I would have called a pond before moving to West Texas) and feed the ducks and geese some bread donated from a local restaurant.

Today was the best story time yet. For our snack my friend Cheri made rice krispie treats. Then the kids used a cookie cutter to cut out a duck shape, covered their rice krispie duck with yellow frosting, and used a chocolate chip for an eye and a candy corn for the bill. I wish I would have taken a picture - they were adorable.

Here's one of my cute little ducklings eating his lunch.

I'm considering creating a blog post detailing our previous story times, and listing all the books, songs, games, crafts, and snacks we've used for each theme. Let me know if anyone out there is interested. (Potential story time leaders perhaps? Kelly? Becky?)

It's a blessing watching wee ones and their grown-ups interact. And waddle. And quack at each other.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

On Wednesdays, Ryan is in school, Dylan is in preschool, and Jonathan is at work.

That leaves just me and Lauryn at home. Girl time!

Today was our first day to have the house to ourselves.

I predict a lot more fingernail polish and Strawberry Shortcake cartoons in our future Wednesdays together.

Lauryn has been testing every boundary we set lately...and in doing so meeting her goal of irritating me to the point of exhaustion. Maybe I'm just imagining that her ultimate goal is to frustrate me? But after the week we've had I don't think so. I don't think I'm imagining. Am I imagining??!!?? PLEASE SOMEONE TELL ME THAT THREE YEAR OLD LITTLE GIRLS DON'T PLOT TO STEAL THE SANITY OF THEIR MOTHERS!

Anyway, we've been butting heads a bit often lately - so I'm going to work hard to make our once a week girl time enjoyable. The thirty minutes of peace snuggled up on the couch together watching Strawberry Shortcake was sweet indeed. Thank you Strawberry. Thank you berry, berry much.

Cliff Familyt

I'm Starr Cliff. A domestically-challenged mom, climbing over mountains of laundry to bring you my stray observations and amusing stories about my kids. (more)



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