When a Three Year Old Girl Plans Family Night
Tuesday, August 25, 2009

When a three-year-old little girl plans Family Night, it looks very much like this:

I was fresh out of Family Night ideas this morning, so I asked the opinion of the only other person in the house at the time. Lauryn thought a Strawberry Shortcake night was a fabulous idea. What else could I do but agree?

First up, a shopping trip was in order. We went to the grocery store that has the cute little "future shopper" carts, and I left the shopping to Lauryn. Excuse the fuzzy pictures. She was a girl on a mission and could not be bothered to slow down to pose.

After the strawberry purchases were made we were off to pick up the boys from school. There was a mild to moderate amount of eye-rolling behind Lauryn's back when she told them the Family Night theme. But to their credit, they acted thrilled with her idea and were great little encouragers. I was shocked and proud of them. No push back at all. She was so cute and excited to tell them her idea that they could hardly react otherwise.

When we got home, she talked the boys into wearing red t-shirts, and green bandannas on their heads. The complied mindlessly while watching cartoons, then promptly ripped off the bandanas when she later squealed, "Yay!! You're dressed up like strawberries!" Apparently they were willing to comply if it was merely a color theme, but not if they were supposed to actually be a strawberry.

While we waited for Dad to get home the kids each made a strawberry pillow. (I didn't intend for it to be a "pillow"...I was just planning on them making a random stuffed toy...but the kids started calling it a pillow...and each of them are sleeping with it tonight...so whatever....) For around $2 bucks total, I bought enough red, green, and black felt for them to each create a stuffed strawberry. They helped trace and cut out the shapes, glued the "seeds" on, and helped me sew the edges together on the sewing machine. Dylan and Lauryn just wanted to push the pedal, but Ryan actually sewed the material. For about 38 seconds, then he was bored.

Here's a few pics of the kids making their "pillows." In the first shot Lauryn is holding the "strawberry prototype" - - my practice round trying to figure out a pattern. Except it was made entirely with a hot glue gun. I was trying to avoid getting out the sewing machine. Because I'm lazy that way. After I burned my fingers repeatedly, I finally caved and got out the machine. (Who knew hot glue could seep through fabric? Probably everyone but me. Not kid friendly.)

Lauryn was proud to show off her "pillow" to her Daddy when he got home. I can't be certain, but I'm fairly confident that as this was taken he was thinking, "Thank you, lovely wife, that you got the crafty part of Family Night over with before I got home." You're welcome.

And yes, that thing on Lauryn's head is indeed supposed to resemble a strawberry leaf. She can be surprisingly easy to impress.

As for the rest of the night's activities, we made a "strawberry drink", which consisted of dumping frozen sliced and sugared strawberries into a pitcher of cool-aid. We ate fresh strawberries with dinner, and Blue Bell Chocolate Covered Strawberry ice cream for dessert. Yummy.

Fun night! Thanks Ms. Lauryn!


Brothers. They annoy each other sometimes.
Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dylan did something to his brother, who knows what, that made Ryan feel retribution was in order.

What did Ryan do?

He wrote a scathing sign that he then posted in plain sight. A terrible indictment. A sign that read,

Dylan's favorite movie is Sleeping Beauty.

Ooooo!! He did not just go there!!!! Once the sign was discovered and deciphered it was promptly torn into pieces.

If you've met Dylan, you know that to insinuate he would even slightly enjoy a princess movie is an insult of the highest order. Especially a princess movie that features....horror of horrors....kissing!!!!

The child dive bombs under the couch pillows, hiding his face if there is any hint of an impending kiss.

Oh how I love my five year old boy.

What "Family Night" Looks Like After a Long Day
Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Today, our family went with about 200 other people from our church to Joyland. It was the last big Kidsplace hurrah before school starts next week. Great fun! It was also kinda hot. And tiring.

We're all pretty worn out from traipsing all over the amusement park, but since this was the last Tuesday before school starts, I still wanted to do a little something for Family Night.

So we had a Homemade Pizza Night. First up: pepperoni, cheese, and black olive pizza for dinner. Then it was fruit pizza for dessert.

I bought pre-made pizza crusts that come two to a package with sauce. Not as good as dough made from scratch (not that I would know for sure), but still pretty good.

Next we made Dessert Pizza - - - Warning: not for those without a serious sweet tooth. Luckily, my sweet tooth is in perfect working condition and I thoroughly enjoyed this creation.

Fruit Pizza
way too many calories to have the name "fruit" in it:

Frozen Sugar Cookie Dough (in the "tube")
8 oz Cream Cheese
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Sliced Strawberries
Canned Mandarin Oranges
Sliced Kiwi

1. Flatten sugar cookie into a round crust using a rolling pin. (Or use a glass like I had to. I also had to microwave the dough about 15 seconds to get it soft enough to flatten out.) Cook according to instructions on package and let cool.

2. Mix softened cream cheese with powdered sugar using a hand mixer. Beat until a frosting consistency.

3. Spread cream cheese frosting over cookie crust. Place cut up fruit on top.

4. Eat and enjoy the sugar rush. Don't overdo it or your tummy will ache. Trust me.

He goes in full force because he's learned at any moment I could take it away.
A bit of frosting on the face is of no consequence.

Dad and the boys cut up the strawberries.
Lauryn dumped the oranges out of the can.
Mom cut the kiwis.

Ryan was artistic director. He decided the placement of the fruit
while the other two helped bring his vision to life.
Just lovely, don't you think?

Originally I meant to buy supplies to copy my friend Amy's really cute idea for making a "pizza game"...I never got around to it, and today was filled with amusement park fun. But you should click here to see it because it looks fun.


Feeling Nostalgic. (It's among my favorite emotions.)
Thursday, August 13, 2009

This week I received a letter from my Great-Aunt; enclosed with the letter was a picture of my Mom and Uncle when they were little. She thought it was "a cute one", and I totally agree.

I think this picture was taken at my Uncle's graduation from Kindergarten. (Circa 1960?) I like to think about my Grandparents as parents of these two small children. Grandma and Grandpa were once where I am now, parenting little ones in the throes of white tights, hair bows, and endless school events. And they came out on the other side. There's hope for me yet.

When I was stashing away this picture, I got drawn into going through all the pictures in the huge shoe box full of random shots I've collected (and snatched and stolen from Grandma) over the years.

I love this one of the same Uncle, taken his Sr. Year of High School:

This picture was taken in 1973. It's now 2009, and approximately 87% of the high school boys I know at church are wearing this exact hair style. All things old are new again. (Not that you're "old" dear Uncle....ahem.)

Remember the post I did a while back about growing up at the lake? And how my grandparents graciously tolerated the "prepubescent, loud and giggling friends" that were at their house all summer long? I give you the prepubescents:

Ahh...life before teenage angst. 1988. 11 years old. Back when flirting with a boy meant you acted like you despised him and did the best you could to completely ignore him. Well, that's what I did anyway. In this picture, I'm standing as far away as possible from the boy I had a crush on all through elementary school. I would go on to keep the "despising/ignoring technique" as my primary flirting tool for a good 3 or 4 years after this picture was taken.

Remember this post, about my love of Bette Midler? Sadly, I have photographic proof that I really was that weird.

Also...I was 10 years old....so why does it appear my shoes are on the wrong feet?

And look at the sweet young faces:

I was 18 years old and a freshman in college. Pretty much completely ignorant of what the future held. We weren't yet engaged....Jonathan was a business major and I had no inclination he would wind up in full-time ministry.....neither of us had a clue we would end up becoming Texans....

I love how much life has happened since that picture was taken. Most of it we never saw coming.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame
Wednesday, August 12, 2009

We love Lubbock. But we really, really miss going to watch the Texas Rangers play any old time we want to.

Other than our friends, The Ballpark is probably the thing we miss most about Dallas. (Also on the list are Glorias and West Village, my favorite date night area.)

Last month on our way home from Oklahoma, we took a quick one night detour through Dallas so we could catch a game. We happened to attend on "free hat night", which was possibly the highlight of the evening. I must have heard "Do we get to KEEP these!?! We get to TAKE THEM HOME!?!" at least a dozen times. Close behind as the favorite part of the night were the five home runs the Rangers hit, each followed by fireworks.

Sidenote: Dylan and I missed seeing THREE of those home runs waiting in line for ridiculously overpriced hotdogs. Wow. THREE HOMERUNS. MISSED. I was really mad. I learned I only think I'm a nice person, but in reality I can be kinda mean to innocent people who may or may not be to blame for my frustrations. I apologize Mr. Concession Stand Man. I'm sure you really are capable of moving quickly despite my accusations otherwise. My thanks to Michael Young who hit another home run for my baby boy to see. You solidified your place as my favorite player.

Ryan really hung in there, interested in the game. Dylan and Lauryn needed a little something to keep them occupied, so they took turns taking pictures with my camera.

Among their best shots:

Their shots of me didn't turn out quite so cute. I just don't understand it.

I also have hundreds of other lovely images like this one:


We made it to the end of game with little to no whining or complaining, and saw the Rangers win 7 to 1. Great night!

A great series. Written by a great man. All around greatness ahead.
Friday, August 7, 2009

So we've established that I think the following links are great. I know you'll agree!

The Childrens' Pastor at our church, a phenomenal leader and thinker, recently posted an excellent series, "Five Essential Parenting Skills."

Each of the posts in this series is a must read. Click on the links below and then let me know what you think!

#1. Imagine the End

#2. Fight for the Heart (This post may be favorite of the series...Excerpt: "The unpredictable and rebellious actions of my kids provide the perfect opportunity for me to demonstrate a consistent message to them. The message that I will forgive them over and over and over again. The message that I can be trusted. That I love them." That's good stuff people.)

#3. Make it Personal

#4. Create a Rhythm (Okay...maybe this is my favorite post. Am I allowed two favorites? Read it moms! You'll find practical advice for making the time you already spend with your kids each day more deliberate. I can't overemphasize how important "practical" advice is in the life of a busy mom with young kids!)

#5. Widen the Circle

Oh yeah...and if you didn't know it already, the writer of these great posts also happens to be my devoted husband.

But I would heartily recommend these posts even if I wasn't married to the author. So click on over and leave him some comment love. We bloggers like that. Encourage him to keep this great content coming!

"Nocturnal Creatures" Family Night
Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Jonathan got the crazy notion that it would be fun one night before school starts again to let the kids stay up as late as they want.

Thus, "nocturnal creatures" family night was born.

All day while their Dad was at work, me and the kids talked about the different animals that come out at night. We found pictures of several of them, and the kids colored them, cut them out, and put them all over the house.

My personal favorites: the rat peeking out from behind the TV, and the raccoon trying to get into the trash can.

There were several others as well (here's the list I pulled from), and the kids made Jonathan go an on "animal hunt" to find them all when he got home from work.

After all the animals were found, Jonathan gave the kids the news that the fun part of Family Night was that THEY got to be "nocturnal creatures" themselves and stay up as late as they wanted.

[insert excited squealing] As! Late! As! They! Wanted!???!!???? A totally foreign concept for my kids, as every night by 8:00 I'm ready for them to go to bed, whether they're ready or not.

It was at this point of the evening their energy level quadrupled.

And I put on some coffee for me and Jonathan.

We hung out, ate dinner, made all the kids take baths, and at 8:30 sat down to watch Wipe-Out. Yes, we're very sophisticated.

Before 9:30, Lauryn was out cold. Sleeping under the stars. (In the living room floor, under the stars we had hung from the ceiling.)

At 10:15 or so the boys headed to the front porch. They hung out chatting, listening to the crickets, and reading a book together.

By 10:30, Ryan was moping on the couch, acting like Family Night was a punishment, and I had to remind him he was free to go to bed whenever he wanted. Off he went. The first born put himself to bed and Lauryn fell asleep in the floor - I had totally called it.

That leaves Dylan. Oh Dylan. My precious middle child. He was tired, but fighting the good fight.

Observe the methods he employed to keep himself awake.

Messing with his sister:


Helping give the dog a bath:

And at 11:45pm, still racing madly around the house with a paper airplane:

By 12:10am I was worn down, but he was still going strong. I strongly suggested (okay, insisted) that he turn off all the lights and lay down on the couch with some books. (Okay so I cheated a little! But I didn't technically make him go to bed! ) He managed to fight off sleep another 20 minutes or so before he finally fell asleep. Ahh...sweet slumber. They are just so darn adorable when they're sleeping.

Click here to see all our previous family nights.


Bring on the messy.
Monday, August 3, 2009

Dylan likes stuff that's messy.

He's a kid whose fingernails are never, ever going to pass a close inspection. Generally a periphery glance is enough to reveal that he likes to play in the dirt.

That periphery glance will also reveal that his mom gets lazy about cutting/cleaning fingernails, but that's a whole different issue. I have three kids! That's sixty nails! SIXTY! It's a little overwhelming, okay!?! I feel your judgment and feel I must explain myself. I know their nails are dirty. I know their nails are well past anything considered an appropriate length and are approaching "claw" territory. I just don't have the energy right now to cut THIRTY little dirty fingernails and THIRTY little toenails okay?!? Whew. Glad I got that off my chest. Thanks for listening. You're so very understanding.

So...back to the messy.

In trying to teach Dylan to write his letters, the messier the better. Practicing with a simple paper and pencil? Not so motivating. Spraying shaving cream all over the table and "writing" his letters in the foamy messiness? He's all over it.

Last night we busted out the flour. Yes, I said flour. Yes, that picture below was taken at my kitchen table. SIDENOTE: I am a weirdo for thinking this was a good inside activity. This should have totally been taken outside. To which all the logical mothers respond, "DUH!"

Lauryn got in on the action too, and the mess grew exponentially.

My eldest born, a child after his father's heart, took one look at our ambitious project, shook his head, and sighed, "Mommy, you're going to have a huge mess to clean up."

And Dylan just grinned.

To Dylan's future kindergarten teacher: I am happy to report that Dylan will enter your class knowing all his letters and the sounds they make. You may, however, need some shaving cream and/or flour for him to prove it.

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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