Friday, November 27, 2015

Full House, Full Bellies, Full Hearts

We celebrated Thanksgiving with my mom's side of the family this year. Our day included a bit of sledding, baby rabbit-petting, and a thankful tree. And lots of scrumptious food, of course.

So thankful for this little life that provides enough challenge to keep me dependent on God, and enough friends and family to keep my spirit buoyant. 

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Farm Life

As Thanksgiving nears, my heart continually swells with gratitude for this country spot we now get to call home. 

When we first looked at the hobby farm last spring, everything felt right: built on a hill, perfect number of acres for us (12), peaceful view, no close neighbors, and a parcel of woods in the back for hiking, hunting, camping, and fort-building.

After looking at several other properties and realizing nothing else "clicked" like this one, we made our offer. October 1st we had the keys in hand!

We moved during harvest time, and the kids stood by the windows for hours, watching combines and grain trucks zig-zag back and forth across the vast fields. The first day's tractor-to-car ratio on the little road in front of our house was 13:1, much to our delight.

The sky seems bigger here. The stars crisper. Many nights we stand on the back deck and gaze up at them. No car horns or neighbors' radios punctuate the stillness. Nothing but a soft breeze rustling the trees.

The neighborhood feels old-fashioned in its friendliness.

"Use the trails in our woods anytime. There's a trampoline back there...jump on it if you want."

"Here's a jar of syrup for you. Mind if we tap your three trees that border the fence line?"

"On behalf of the church, feel free to use our playground anytime."

"Do you have a helmet, little guy? Next time I come around on my four-wheeler I'll take you for a ride."

This is how things used to be--how neighborhoods are supposed to be. We feel so privileged to call it home.

A few Saturdays ago Mike and I sat down with our coffee and a notebook. Pages soon filled with diagrams and dreams...chicken coop, swingset, garden, clothesline, pole shed, sheep fence. With a lifetime of farm ideas ahead of us, the hardest part is knowing where to start.

We're so excited to raise our children in a place where they will know the hopefulness of a sunrise, the roughness of a calf's tongue, the satisfying soreness of a full-day's woodpile. Where they can fill a knapsack with books and peanut butter sandwiches, say good-bye to Mom, and go on daring adventures in the woods. Where they can learn to appreciate the beauty of tender corn shoots poking through soft spring dirt, deer grazing on the fence line in that blurry time between day and dusk, and blustery snow blowing unhindered across an open field. 

And most importantly--we're excited to have plenty of room to host family and friends. Let us know when you're coming, and we'll throw and extra burger on the grill!

Here's to a lifetime of happiness in Beldenville--we hope to live on this little plot of land until we're old and gray! 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Summer Garden

One of my favorite parts of summer was watching how much the kids enjoyed our little garden. 

They filled their gator with lettuce

Showered the Zinnias with affection

Dug in the dirt to their hearts' delight

Picked a wagonful of onions (When I only needed one!)

Helped Daddy pick beans for supper 

Learned to identify that pesky "Creaking Charlie!"

Hoed some flowers (and a couple weeds)

Chowed down on all the red tomatoes before we could even get them into the house

And begged to water whenever possible

If there's a happier place than a garden, I don't know what it is!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Watermelon Ice Cream

This Watermelon Ice Cream is in the running for my favorite discovery of Summer 2015. It's super easy, cheap, and healthy enough to justify serving bowlfuls to the kids for breakfast. Fair warning: don't attempt this recipe unless you're prepared to make it several times over. It's that addicting! 

Here's all it takes:

4 cups seedless watermelon
4-6 strawberries (not necessary, but I add them for an extra burst of color and flavor)
1 can full-fat coconut milk (if you only have low-fat coconut milk, add a few tablespoons of heavy whipping cream)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup lemon juice

Blend ingredients in blender until smooth. Pour into ice cream maker and mix until thick, about 20-25 minutes. Texture is similar to a sorbet, only creamier. 


Adapted from recipe in Kinfolk Magazine, Volume 16

Monday, June 1, 2015

Cheap Fun for Toddlers and Preschoolers

My husband sometimes accuses me of being a cheapskate. (Every marriage needs one, no?) Lately I've been excited about thrifty homemade fun. Here are some activities we've been enjoying:

I have no idea where this crooked plank even came from, but it's been a major playtime hit. Gray has used it as a bridge (Culligan salt bags make great bridge pillars, in case you're wondering), balance beam, stuffed animal picnic bench, train track, and ramp. 

Corn pool
This brilliant idea came from my sister. $8 gets you a 50-pound bag of corn and countless hours of fun. We poured the kernels into the kids' wading pool and added scoops, dump trucks, and diggers. A tarp underneath helped keep the mess in check.

Water play 
What is it about kids and water? They can't ever resist its draw. I grabbed this big bucket and some funnels on a whim, and now we use it on days that are too chilly for the wading pool.

Nature Collection
Gray collected these treasures during a family hike, and we arranged them on a tray after returning home. I smile every time I see the display; not only are God's creations stunningly beautiful, but the collection reminds me of our slow-paced Sunday evening togetherness. I also love that Gray regularly visits the tray to smell the pinecones, and their kitchen table placement has prompted several mealtime discussions about our adventure. I think collections will become a regular part of our hiking routine!

How about you? What kind of thrifty fun have your kids been enjoying lately? 

Friday, April 17, 2015


My hands-down favorite part of parenting has been watching how much fun our kids have together. They are only fifteen months apart, and that gap seems smaller and smaller the older they get. 

Yesterday Gray was tackling Rain, and I reminded him, "Be careful!" He replied, "It's okay, Mommy, she has a ton of giggles in her mouth." I have been trying really hard to teach him to listen to what she is "telling" him during their roughhousing and apparently the lesson is starting to sink in. :-)

Here are some things they've been up to lately (the greater the "mischief factor" the greater the giggling!):
 Digging around for a snack
 Pushing a "ferry boat"
 Wearing coordinating Mickey/Minnie pjs. (Cue major sadness when they're in the wash!)
 Pulling their pull toys from Auntie Kayla
 Going on wild fire truck rides
 Making major messes
 Pulling Sister to the park (all his idea!)
 Motoring around the backyard
 Lounging around reading Berenstain Bear books 
(the current fave!)
 Zooming around the house at breakneck speeds 
(Notice how there's usually a vehicle involved with these two?)
 Celebrating balmy temps with a backyard picnic
Helping Mommy with laundry
Sharing an umbrella

Gray and Rain definitely have their share of squabbles, but for the most part they operate as a unit. I know they will eventually go through stages of greater conflict, so I am enjoying the current harmony while it lasts!

I would love to hear your thoughts on sibling relationships. Are you close to your brothers and sisters? Do you wish you felt closer? What did your parents do that helped or hindered your sibling relationships? What are you doing differently with your own kids?

I've heard amazing things about the book Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (the same authors who wrote How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk), but I have yet to read it. Anyone a fan? 

Off to see what the latest giggle and crash is all about! 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Winter Sanity Savers for Moms

As one of my friends recently stated, "I think our household has upgraded from 'cabin fever' to 'winter psychosis.'

Personally, I was feeling fine until last week's string of events: an insomniac teething baby, multiple subzero days, a resident mouse who resisted all catching attempts, and a husband gone to Japan for the entire week.

Here are a few of my tried-and-true suggestions for staying sane when the walls are closing in. (I revisited several of these last week, and they carried me through until Mike's return!)
  • Visit the Caribou drive-through (or whatever overpriced-but-delicious coffee shop is near you). My darling husband gave me a Caribou gift card for Valentine's Day, so now I have no guilt about spending $4 on a mocha. :-)  If I'm not up for tackling naptime at home, I've been known to bundle up the kids, grab a coffee on my way out of town, and explore the scenic country roads surrounding Red Wing. Once the kids are asleep, I park next to the river (insert van by the river joke here) to read or work on paperwork while the kids nap. They rarely nap at the same time at home, so this is a huge treat! I'm tempted to use this trick more often, but I try to limit myself to once every few weeks. 
  • Cue Pandora and throw a dance party in the kitchen. (This often solves that 5:00 "Mommy's ignoring us and making dinner" crankiness that every kid seems predisposed to!) My kids love the Raffi station. (Okay, confession: I love Raffi too.)
  • Blend up a tropical smoothie.  
  • Diffuse something happy. I blended Wild Orange and Lime a few days ago and felt a sudden surge of energy.
  • Treat yourself to some flowers. Trader Joe's has the best bouquets, and for a decent price, too. (Don't forget to pick up a carton of dark chocolate peanut butter cups while you're there!)
  • Work on something you love. Editing pictures is one of my favorite quick pick-me-ups.
  • Call your mom. Or sister. Or best girlfriend. Sometimes just hearing a loved one's voice turns our day around. 
  • Rearrange a room. Throw a bunch of stuff in a bag for Goodwill--you will feel so much lighter! 
  • Just. Get. Outside. Even if it's only for ten minutes. You won't regret it.
  • Check out your local gym. We purchased a family YMCA membership this winter, and it was a lot more affordable than we expected. Some days it's hard to get there (kids + winter = GEAR!), but I never regret putting forth the effort. Gray and Rain love playing in the Y childcare, and I have been hitting the track while listening to a book on my iPod. So revitalizing! 
  • Pull out a new toy. (Think outside the box!) I retrieved our wading pool and plastic balls from a garage corner, and voila, indoor ball pit! It's currently hogging most of our living room, but I don't really mind since it's provided hours of entertainment.
  • Host a playdate. My friend recently invited us to an indoor picnic in her living room. The kids were too distracted by the surrounding toys to eat much, but that just meant more meat and cheese for the mamas. :-) 
  • Talk your husband into watching the kids for an hour some evening. Fill the tub with steamy water, add a couple drops of lavender, and grab a book you don't mind getting a little water-rippled. So relaxing. Warning: it takes huge amounts of motivation to make yourself get out of the tub!
  • Hit up the local library for a stack of new books.
There you have it--a few ideas for saving your sanity this winter. You can thank me with chocolate. :-) And let me know in the comments what's been getting you by until Spring.

P.S. I just checked the extended forecast, and there are several days in the 50s in the foreseeable future! So this post might be rather useless soon. In that case, replace subzero temps with rain, mud, or a sweltering heat index!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Easy DIY All-Purpose Cleaner with Essential Oils

One of the most frequent ways I use essential oils in my household is in this spray. With two little kids underfoot, I am always wiping up some sort of mess! The recipe is so simple I almost feel silly writing it down. But since a few of you have asked for it, here you go:

Find an old spray bottle. (I use a laundry stain remover bottle with a big nozzle.) Walmart has large empty bottles for $0.99 if you don't have any spare ones lying around.

Fill your bottle with
  • 1/3 white vinegar
  • 1/3 vodka (a great sterilizer and disinfectant) 
  • 1/3 distilled water
  • Top off with 10-12 drops of whatever essential oil you're in the mood for. I like to clean with citrus oils like Lemon, Wild Orange, or Citrus Bliss. (Citrus oils tend to be good degreasers.) Sometimes I use OnGuard for extra germ-fighting power.
Give a little shake, and ka-bam, you're done! This spray works great for floors, showers, toilets, counters...pretty much anything. DoTerra's citrus blends smell so amazing; don't be surprised if you're suddenly in the mood to scrub down your entire house!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy 2015!

Happy New Year to you and yours! We celebrated the first day of 2015 by cleaning the house from top to bottom (nothing like a fresh start!) and then rewarded ourselves by sledding at a nearby hill. I think Mike and I enjoyed it more than the kids did (sledding still makes them a little nervous), but I'm sure it won't be too many years before their jumps and crazy stunts will make me wince and close my eyes!

Here's hoping the new year brings you peace, prosperity, and an ever-growing circle of friends and family to share in it all.