I wish I had an Aunt Stephanie.
Monday, December 29, 2008

Lauryn has one.

And a few times each year, Lauryn gets a magical package in the mail with an adorable outfit and, perhaps most importantly, cute shoes.

I think we all need an Aunt Stephanie.

("Thanks" to Uncle Michael too!)

Christmas 2008: The good, the bad, and the ugly
Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Good: Celebrating advent, reading the Bible each night by candlelight

The kids were surprisingly attentive. For a good 10 minutes each night there was little to no squabbling, everyone was attentive to the scripture reading, and no one impulsively blew out the candles. That takes some serious self-control for wee ones.

The Good: Completely on his own, Ryan found an empty box, made a gift tag, created a gift for Dylan (a lego creation), and put it under the tree. Sweet.

The Good: One of Jonathan's Christmas gifts to me was a new 2009 calendar. But, the real gift, is that one Friday night a month is already marked as "Date Night." He's finding child care for the kiddos and taking me out once a month. Bless his soul. With our schedule, it's quite a feat to look through all the church/family/work obligations for a full year and find one Friday night a month to reserve for a date.

As an added bonus, he's already made reservations in Santa Fe for June so we can have a re-do of the ill-fated 10th anniversary trip. (We just have to find someone brave enough to watch our kids.)

The Bad: the dressing

Oh...the dressing. It pains me even now to think of it.

I tried to prepare my Grandma's dressing. It was a hideous disaster. I can't find the adjectives to describe this nasty, awful mess. Oh my. The outside burned and the inside turned to liquefied slop. It was the texture of glue. It went straight in the trash. Next year I'll just ask my Grandma to make extra dressing at Thanksgiving and I'll freeze some to eat at Christmas.

The Ugly: Luckily, there was nothing really "ugly" about our Christmas this year. I briefly considered posting a picture of myself that Jonathan snapped of me early Christmas morning. Pre-shower...pre-coffee...pre-make-up. But I lost my nerve. Even I won't go that far just to be able to make full use of a catchy blog title.

I could waste some serious time....indeed, I already have.
Saturday, December 27, 2008

I'm a sucker for a Top Ten list. Put any kind of magazine article/news story/blog posting in a top ten list format and I'll probably read it. Does that mean I'm simple-minded? Probably.

TIME magazine has put their "The Top Ten of Everything of 2008" online here:


A warm holiday greeting.
Thursday, December 25, 2008

We got a new webcam for Christmas.

The distortion feature has been giving us big laughs all day. Well...it's been giving me big laughs. And the kids have been nice enough to indulge me.

Merry Christmas!

Sadly, there is no video from Lauryn. She's much too dignified for such silliness.

I have no idea where she learned to be dignified. It's an outrage. A downright cryin' shame.

Merry Christmas!

Rag Rollers
Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Back in September I read this post about rag rollers on Rocks in My Dryer.

I've kept it in the back of my mind for when:
a.) I would have the time to sit and roll Lauryn's hair
b.) I would have the energy and means to convince Lauryn she wanted to have curly hair

I hit the perfect storm this week:
a.)we have loads of free time, with our whole family home all week for Christmas break
b.) a little girl that Lauryn idolizes had curly hair in the PDO Christmas program last week

Perfect! All I had to do was ask Lauryn if she would like me to fix her hair like Evyn's, and she was all in.

The first step was easy. I had some fabric scraps that I cut into several 1 inch by 7 inch strips.

Next (with possibly another mention from me of how she would look like Evyn), Lauryn happily sat in my lap while I tried to figure out how to roll up her hair in the fabric strips.

With her hair slightly damp, I rolled up sections to the scalp, then just tied the ends of the fabric. It was a little tricky but I got the hang of it toward the end.

After I got her rolled up, we took all the kids on a long drive to look at Christmas lights. She rode around like this without complaint, which totally cracked me up.

When we got home, I untied the fabric, and pulled it out without "unrolling" the curl. It came out super easy. Here's what it looked like before I combed out the curls:

And then after I combed it out....she had curls galore! From scraps of fabic! Who knew? No cost involved...no sponge rollers getting all tangled up in her hair....and no chance of burning her with hot rollers or a curling iron. Love it!

"Hoodlums spotted in the neighborhood."
Monday, December 22, 2008

It's just me and the kids in our cheap Wal-Mart stocking caps, out walking around looking at Christmas lights.

I got the bright idea to bundle all the kids up and take them on a walk around the block. This marked our first walk around the block in the dark. The excitement level was pretty high. Giggles all around.

It took a good twenty minutes to round up enough hats and gloves for us all. Lauryn wore a "special" pair with flowers on them! Wow! (Yes. They are my weed-pulling gloves. Don't tell her that. She thinks they are lovely with beautiful green and yellow flowers.)

Dylan is generally not too much of a complainer, but on our walk he whined a few times about his hat being too big. I think I vaguely remember him saying it kept falling down over his eyes. Now that I've viewed these pictures I can see why he would have mentioned it. No wonder he kept stumbling...his mother should really be more attentive.

Oh Dylan, how I love you. Your brother or sister would have pitched a fit until I fixed their hat. But once ignored, you just kept trucking along, occasionally pushing the hat back out of the way only to have it slip back down again. What a character.

I am a Cliff.
Saturday, December 20, 2008

So it just wouldn't be right if I let this historic night pass without comment.

Tonight is the last Dallas Cowboys game to be played in Texas Stadium.

I doubt I had ever watched an NFL game until I met Jonathan. But soon thereafter, every Sunday during football season was spent watching Dallas Cowboy football. Every Thanksgiving too. I think they've managed to win two Super Bowls since we've been together as well.

At first, the games were simply a good sedative to put me to sleep on the couch every Sunday afternoon.

Then, about the time the magical, yellow, first down line made it's appearance (how do they do that?!?), I decided to try and at least figure out the general object of the game. Call me simple-minded, but that little yellow first down line makes all the difference in trying to understand football.

Jonathan took me to one game while when we lived in Dallas. In our carefree pre-children days! It happened to be the game when Terrell Owens "disgraced the star". I didn't fully get what all the hoopla was about, but it was entertaining watching the Cowboy fans come unglued. Beer was spilling and veins were popping. Good times.

I'm a little sad that our kids will never see a Cowboy game at Texas Stadium. The new stadium looks like it will be a destination unto itself. Maybe instead of taking the kids to Disneyland like we've wanted to do, we can see a cowboy game instead. Except I think the football tickets cost more than the amusement park.

And now...may I present my now 19 year old brother-in-law attending a game when he was 11 or 12. Wasn't he a cutie?

(Sorry Stephen. I couldn't find a picture of me and Jonathan at the game. It was the pre-digital age. This picture was by far the next best thing.)

How to have a great dinner in six easy steps.
Friday, December 19, 2008

1. Coerce your friend with the biggest kitchen to open up her home for a dinner party.

2. Choose a meal with several ingredients. (Or, use the meal suggested below.)

3. Call/Email your friends and assign them one of the ingredients.

4. Choose a date and time to tell your friends to arrive at the house with the big kitchen, bringing with them their assigned ingredient.

5. When everyone arrives with their ingredient, cook the meal together.

6. Eat the meal. Have fascinating conversation. Laugh. Cry. Talk long and often about how great the apple dumplings are. Then talk about the apple dumplings some more. (Need conversation starters? Just a sampling of our conversations: Santa Claus...Chop Stick Usage...Stranger Danger...C-Section Recovery...Gingerbread House Construction...Fascist Governments...Children's Christmas Concert Solos...Pick-Up Lines...and last, but certainly not least, Concealed Hand Guns. We're Texans.)

as always, click to enlarge if you so desire

Here's the incredible meal we shared together. Oh-my-yum.


1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 lb. bowtie pasta
2 pkg sundried tomatoes, softened according to package directions and cut into strips
1 garlic head
1 can pitted black olives
16oz feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

Slice chicken in bite-size peices and saute with sun-dried tomatoes and minced garlic until the chicken is cooked through. Cook pasta according to package directions. In a large bowl, mix crumbled feta, pine nuts, and chopped olives. After the chicken, sundried tomatoes, and garlic have been sauteed, add them into the bowl of dry ingredients and toss thoroughly. When pasta is cooked, add it to the mixing bowl and toss again. The pasta is then ready to serve.


4 vine-ripened tomatoes
8 oz. fresh mozzarella (preferably the kind packaged in water)
basil leaves
fresh cracked pepper
olive oil
balsamic vinegar

Slice tomatoes and slice fresh mozzarella. Wash basil and layer tomato slice, mozzarella slice, and basil leaf, repeating this pattern until you are through your ingredients. After layering, sprinkle salt and pepper on salad. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the salad.

(The above recipes are taken from the Bible study "No Other Gods" by Kelly Minter.)


Recipe is found here on The Pioneer Woman blog. This will be inhaled quickly, and then everyone will sit around discussing how great it tasted.

Disclaimer: The only thing I did to make this evening happen was conceive the original idea. After the friend with the big kitchen made her house available, she then found the recipes and assigned the ingredients. So basically I did nothing but enjoy the evening. What a gift.

Disclaimer 2: There was a time not too long ago I didn't have nine friends I could email or call to invite to a dinner party. If that's you, don't lose heart. Just invite the people you think you might like to be friends with. People with cool shoes or funky jewelry are a good place to start. Just kidding. Kinda.


I don't want him scared. But I do want him safe.
Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ryan is at the age where we've had serious discussions with him about "stranger safety."

And I hate it.

I know these are talks we need to have to keep our kids safe.

But I hate it because Ryan is inquisitive. And he's not satisfied with just having the knowledge that he should only fully trust Mom, Dad, Grandparents, and select relatives and close family friends.

He wants to know why.

Why should he never accept toys or candy from strangers? Why would they try and give him those things if they were mean? Why would any stranger try to get him into their car? Why would someone lie to him, or tell him that Mommy said he is supposed to go with them? What would they do to him?

I try and explain in the most age-appropriate way possible, but it's tough.

I want to protect him. To do that he needs to be armed with the knowledge that he should only trust a select few loving adults.

I hate it that to give him that knowledge, I'm also giving him cause to worry, and imagine all the bad things that bad people might want to do. I know my baby - and I know his imagination is pretty much going at full speed all the time.

I wish he could stay innocent to these scary things for just a little longer.

Lubbock readers: We received word from Ryan's school yesterday that an older Hispanic male in a 4 door green sedan has been seen near neighborhood schools/parks attempting to lure children into his car with toys and candy.

Family Night: All Aboard!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008

We had a train themed family night, inspired by the movie The Polar Express.

First up, we made Chocolate Trains. I went to purchase a train shaped cookie cutter, and when I couldn't find one ended up purchasing candy molds. Being that I had never used candy molds before, I wasn't expecting perfectly formed chocolate trains; I imagined the chocolate not setting up properly...the candy falling apart...and various other forms of chocolate train mayhem. These expectations were based on the fact that I generally don't get first time success on anything I do in the kitchen. But, I'm happy to report, the candy molds turned out to be fun and incredibly easy to use! Foolproof! Who knew? This opens up a whole new world of possibilities for birthday party treats...

At dinner the kids wore train conductor hats:

Then we painted some Christmas Train ornaments. My little artists were surprisingly conscientious about not getting paint on their clothing or on the table. It's a Christmas Miracle.

Then we watched The Polar Express while drinking hot chocolate. My kids will do just about anything for hot chocolate. They're nutso for the stuff, especially Ryan. It's like he can't fathom that I'm letting him drink liquid candy, and he must ingest it as quickly as possible because any minute I might come to my senses.

Check out WhittakerWoman for more family night inspiration.


Calorie Counting
Friday, December 12, 2008

I have a little guy on my caseload right now who is trying to come off a feeding tube. He's not able to take in much food by mouth volume wise, so his mom and I are on search to find low volume, high calorie foods.

Among the list:

1 pat of Fleischmann's butter: 100 calories

1 T of heavy whipping cream: 60 calories

1 T of french vanilla coffee creamer: 40 calories

Can you BELIEVE that? 100 calories for ONE stinkin' pat of butter! Wow. I honestly never even glance at nutrition labels...but the knowledge of that 100 calories puts eating a piece of buttered toast in a whole new light.

Anyway, his mom adds that kind of high calorie stuff to his mashed potatoes, puddings, pureed mac and cheese...all kinds of foods, to help him get more 'bang for his buck.'

All this thinking about calories has been good for me! No more just haphazardly dumping 1/4 cup of french vanilla creamer in my large coffee! Or... at least feeling a little bit of guilt when I do, rather than never giving it a second thought.

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

Speaking of food...

I wish I had a sophisticated palette. I wish I wasn't tempted with the vast array of high calorie concoctions that fine eating establishments (Sonic) can dream up.

But alas, I seem to have the palette of a 13 year old boy, and I find things like this very tempting:

I came very close to parting with $1.99 today and leaving Sonic with Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake Bites with caramel dipping sauce.

It was a close call. But I stayed strong, and parted from my time at Sonic with only my Cranberry Slush to show for it.



Among my top ten "mommy moments."
Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My friend Cheri and I had an absolutely charming night with our daughters on Saturday. (That sounds trite and a bit snobby...but 'charming' is the only word that does it justice. Seriously.)

We took them to see the play A Little Princess, performed by the Lubbock Community Theatre.

I expected that Lauryn would enjoy getting all dressed up. I expected that she would enjoy going somewhere special with her friend. I knew she would love that she was going out (past bedtime!) without the boys.

What I did not expect was that she would be so absolutely and fully transfixed by the play. She and her friend sat on the edge of their seat through all three acts - a full two hours! Considering their ages, it was near magical to watch them! I anticipated maybe making it through act one, then roaming the lobby when she got bored, as to not be a distraction to the other theater patrons.

Of course, the play is full of little girls with beautiful dresses and big bows in their hair, so in some ways it was an easy sell.

The young actresses did an amazing job. Cheri and I almost enjoyed watching the play as much as we enjoyed watching our daughters enjoy the play. (That last sentence makes sense to mothers.)

Among the highlights of their evening was taking their picture with the young stars of the show.

Smiles all around.

I love how the little guy on the right is clutching his brother's shirt like he's flying down a roller coaster instead of just an inflatable slide. So cute.

I guess I should expand the lunch menu around here.
Saturday, December 6, 2008

Ryan says,

"Mom, can I borrow Dad's tools?"


"I want to build a robot who knows how to make lunch. But it won't be just a normal robot that makes the same thing every time...it will know how to think of different things to make for lunch everyday."

Hmmm....was that possibly my sweet six year old subtly telling me I should expand the lunchtime rotation beyond PB&J's, mac-n-cheese, and fish sticks?

I would welcome a lunch-making robot. But alas, we seem to be all out of the necessary components for robot construction.

Family Night: Water
Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A few years ago, we started a tradition of buying our kids three gifts (and three gifts only!) at Christmas time. We thought it was a nice way to honor the Christmas story, remembering the three gifts brought to Jesus. Plus, the "three gift rule" keeps us from overspending. And having a biblical tie-in keeps me from feeling like I'm just being my normal cheap-o self.

Our church family is participating in the Advent Conspiracy, and we want to be very intentional about our worship this season. We're looking for deliberate ways to involve our kids in honoring Christ as Christmastime.

So this year, the kids will open two gifts from Mom and Dad on Christmas morning, and for their third gift we're making a donation in their names to Living Water International.

Let me just echo my husband here, and say please do not be tempted to shed a tear for our children who only get two presents at Christmas. There are already well over 20 gifts under our tree just from Granny and Great-grandma alone. Trust me, there will be gifts-o-plenty to be opened Christmas morning.


....Family Night this evening was all about WATER.

We started out painting with watercolors, while we waited for our water to boil to make our mac-n-cheese for dinner.

Then we talked about how not everyone lives in a place with running water, or access to clean water.

Then we looked at pictures of people and places in need of a clean water source.

We talked about young girls who spend all day walking long distances to collect clean water and bring it back to their homes, often giving up their education to do so.

We made a poster board with a few pictures of these people and places, and also included several pictures of people collecting clean water from wells like the ones the kids will help build with their Christmas gift.

A picture is truly worth a thousand words. Ryan and Dylan really seemed to "get it" after looking at the images.

Then we talked about how easily we get clean water in our home - just by turning on the faucet. Or the dishwasher. Or the dispenser in the fridge. Or the washing machine. Or the filtered water cooler in the corner of our dining room.

On the other side of our poster we made a list of all the different ways we use water.

Then the kids each made a "tornado in a bottle." Which is just a fancy way of saying dump a bunch of glitter a bottle, shake it up, and watch the glitter spin. The main purpose was so we could put a label on the bottle to help them remember to pray for Living Water International and the people who need wells.

It was kind of a heavy theme at times tonight....so to end the night on a super fun note, the kids put on their swimsuits and got to take a "swim" in our tub.

I wasn't sure how much Lauryn was taking in or understanding this evening, but as I was putting on her swimsuit she somberly said, "Mommy, we get to take a bath in clean water. Not dirty water."

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in...." Matthew 25:35


These berries are probably poisonous if consumed. I should probably find out.

Over Thanksgiving, I commissioned my mom to collect some red berries and some pine cones for me from the trees in my Grandma's yard. Technically, it may have been the neighbors yard. But it's out in the country....things like property lines are rather subjective, ya know?

So after stringing lights around some $2.00 garland from Wal-Mart, and trying my best to decoratively poke the red berries and pine cones throughout that same cheap garland, I have a little bit of Oklahoma draped across my mantle.

Oh, and also in a tall vase that usually lives on the mantle, but during the holidays is serving as the table centerpiece.

Hopefully the berries won't shrivel up and turn ugly before Christmas, but that's entirely possible....if that happens, I saw these same berries, in the plastic variety, for sale right next to the cheap garland.

Carrots! They ate carrots!
Monday, December 1, 2008

Every person at my dinner table ate cooked carrots tonight. Lots of 'em! THEY REQUESTED SECONDS!

They were glazed baby carrots...covered in brown sugar and butter. But still...I consider it a major victory.

A vegetable consumption victory.

Friends and Family and Food in Oklahoma

click to enlarge

Just as I have almost every Thanksgiving for the past 10 years, I ate two full Thanksgiving dinners in one day. First with my extended family, then with Jonathan's. I am more than able to meet that food challenge. Every pie must be given equal attention.

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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