Vacation 2014 Part Two: Orlando

DSC_6357Vacation. Oh, vacation. I miss you.

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In less than two weeks my husband returns to a sun up til sun down (or later) work schedule and looking through all these pictures of our fantastic family time is making me very sad to see him go but so thankful for all the time we got to spend together this summer. Especially vacation.

We stayed at Holiday Inn’s Orange Lake Resort in Orlando, Fl. It’s a timeshare property that we were fortunate enough to stay at for a reduced rate because we are members of the Holiday Inn Rewards Club.

We knew what the resort offered as far as accommodations and had seen pictures, but we had no idea until we arrived there that it’s a 5 star resort right in the heart of Disney property that boasts all kinds of pools, water slides, playgrounds, restaurants, golf courses, and more.

DSC_6417And the landscaping–we were surrounded by the most beautiful plants.

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Every day we were there it rained, and every day it was beautiful which made for such a fantastic vacation. Because everything was right outside our door, it wasn’t stressful to have to come inside if we needed to and the rain forced us to have down time and get good rest. Even Aisley, worn out from all the playing, fell asleep right in the middle of the floor. She laid down to “hide” and got up 2 hours later.

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My brother made the whole trip so much more relaxing and was AMAZING with our kids! He kept one or both of them on several occasions so my husband and I could go on a date, enjoy the pool sans children and take a walk. I’m sure for the right price he’d tag along on your next vacation too.

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In addition to having such a wonderful helper, my dad (my sweet, sweet daddy–and mom too) sent money to my brother to pay for all the gas for our whole trip as well as dinner out one night. He is such a blessing to us.

The kiddie pool area was just around the corner from our condo and there was such a cool splash pad. Aisley loved it and spent most all of her time running through the fountains of water squirting up from the ground.

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DSC_6309We also went mini golfing and I would just like to mention that with a baby strapped to the front of me AND the score card between my teeth AND the assistance of a very helpful toddler AND a toddler sized golf club, I still managed a hole in one.

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And despite my sweet, patient husband’s best efforts, Aisley golfed with her own free form.

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The pools were so nice and the one closest to us was never crowded! We went every day around 4:30 and stayed for a couple hours. Aisley was all about the pool until we got close to it and then she was pretty timid. Which was an unexpected (and pleasant) surprise. Because she didn’t want to be in the water alone we didn’t have to watch her as closely.

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She was however all about the faucet and shower with a pull string. She flooded that area consistently. It may still be flooded.

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The condo was 2 bed, 2 bath and I somehow managed to take zero pictures of what it looked like. It was the perfect toddler space though and we were so thankful to not have to keep such a close eye on her making sure she didn’t break anything. It was roomy and cozy and perfect. And we made ourselves right at home.

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We know that people go on vacation all the time and that while it’s wonderful, it’s not unique. Something about this trip though–I don’t know if it’s because it was our first family trip, or because we were craving time together, or because the kids were so great, or the Florida sunshine–but my husband and I looked at each other over and over and said, “This is wonderful,” or “Why don’t we do this all the time?” God blessed us so greatly in allowing us the money, the time, and the location to enjoy each others company and his creation and we are so thankful for the good food, the laughter, the rest, and the rejuvenation.

 

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Recipe: The Best Taco Meat

DSC_7566Simple and delicious. Here’s the recipe.

2 lbs ground beef
1 Tbsp Cumin
1 Tbsp Chili Powder
1 Tbsp Garlic Powder or 5 minced garlic cloves
1 Tbsp Oregano
1 tsp tumeric
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 8 oz can Tomato Paste

Brown ground beef in a heavy skillet on medium-low heat (I like my iron skillet). The low heat is key here. When it’s about half way cooked, add all the dry seasonings and mix it around. Once cooked well, add the tomato paste and a little bit of water. Cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes.

We love this in butter lettuce cups with refried beans, but it’s also good on nachos, over rice, or baked in enchiladas. My toddler likes to eat it with a spoon right out of the pan. As does my husband.

 

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Happy 50th Birthday, Momma

DSC_5580Today my mom turns 50. I know you’re not really supposed to talk about a woman’s age, but I feel like 50 is a pass because it’s such a milestone in our society. Normally when people say 50, it sounds “old” because they pair it with “Over the Hill.” But nothing about my mom seems old or over the hill. I hope someday when I’m 50 I look as good as her. She could probably do a cartwheel if she wanted to.

When my dad turned 50 last year (he’s way older than her and she reminds him regularly), I wrote a post of 50 things I really like about him. I’ve gone back and read it a couple times and it always makes me smile to see in writing some of the wonderful things about the father God gave me and I wanted to do the same for my mom. For her to know some reasons why I love her, for me to have to look back on someday, and for others to get a glimpse into the person that she is. She’s a gem.

1. She loves to laugh and she has a great laugh.

DSC027462. She loves to give good gifts to her children.

3. She is so very creative.

4. She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty (playdough, paint, dirt, etc).

5. Growing up, she let my brother’s and I help her do things that she could have much more easily done herself.

6. She very patiently and lovingly home schooled us in a way that makes us all wish we could go back and do it again.

7. She let us all be who we are while teaching us to be like Christ.

8. I would come down the stairs in the morning when I was in high school to find her sitting on the couch reading her Bible.

9. She was purposeful about spending time with my brothers and I in every stage of our lives.

10. She sang songs with us in the car.

11. She taught us Bible verses.

12. We started school every morning by reading Scripture outloud.

13. She loves other people.

14. She gives of her time and energy regularly to help those in need.

15. She is a fantastic teacher. Throughout my lifetime she has taught Bible studies for women and youth, taught at VBS, homeschooled my brothers and me, taught English to people of all ages from Japan and Korea, taught me how to sew, and so much more. She is patient, and kind, and doesn’t make you feel inferior for not already knowing something.

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16. She thinks my dad is the bees knees (he is).

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17. She’s a researcher. She doesn’t want to know surface level information. She wants to study and understand.

18 She loves to watch television series and even though she absolutely knows it’s just made up, she still likes to talk it through and analyze it. (We’ve spent many a facetime conversation discussing 24 and NCIS)

19. Every Thursday, she plans, preps, and cooks dinner for a ton of people that come to their house for Bible study. And then she cleans it all up.

20. She has a servants heart.

21. She loves my babies.

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22. She remembers things about me and makes a point to talk about them, compliment me on them, help me through them, or give me special treats based on something I’ve mentioned in the past.

23. She holds my dad’s hand.

24. She’s occasionally sarcastic and I love it.

25. She has great style. I miss living close enough to borrow from her closet.

26. She likes to quote funny lines from movies, shows, comedians, and past conversations.

27. She is excellent at having conversations. I always love to hear her talk to people (especially people I already know) because she has this way of asking things that make them talk about the most interesting topics and it’s normally things I’ve never heard them talk about before.

28. People see how genuine she is and open up to her. She’s a magnet for people who need help, are struggling through a situation, or want to know more about who our great God is because she’s so authentic in her faith and honest about who she is and how she got to where she is now as a wife, a mother, a friend, and a Believer.

29. She is such a great friend.

30. People LOVE her. It’s such a privilege to be her daughter because whenever I meet someone who knows her or see old friends of hers they treat me well on her behalf because they think so highly of her. (I could give MULTIPLE examples of this)

31. She and my dad still “date” after more than 25 years of marriage.

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32. She likes butter.

33. She didn’t use to like coffee, but now she likes it so much that she receives at least one coffee cup for almost every gift giving holiday. She LOVES them people and your kindness is not overlooked, but you can start getting her something else now. (Hint: Coffee. They have a Keurig. She likes Starbucks.)

34. As a new mom now, she is the perfect amount of helpful to me without overstepping.

35. She and I can accomplish a task together with almost no words because we think so much alike.

36. She can put together furniture like nobodies business.

37. She (and my dad) “let” my youngest brother have purple hair. I wasn’t even allowed to color my hair normal colors.

38. She has the prettiest hands.

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39. She is so very good with Aisley. She loves her and spoils her while at the same time teaching her and not letting her get away with too much.

40. She has a scooter.

41. She is scuba certified and loves to snorkel.

42. She (and dad) is responsible for nearly half of Aisley’s wardrobe and it’s the half that I can’t stand to get rid of or even pack away because it’s all so cute and thoughtfully chosen.

43. She reads and comments on nearly every blog post of mine.

44. Even from oceans away she’s my biggest cheerleader and constant encouragement.

45. She has flown over for the birth of both my children and been such a huge help in both preparing for their arrival and adjusting afterward.

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46. She sends us the most thoughtful packages filled with handmade, sweetly folded clothes, the best and most beautiful toys, and treasures she’s collected just for Aisley.

47. She takes pictures. But not just snap shots. She puts heart and thought and care into capturing meaningful moments. (Most the time, but she also is known to take 1000 pictures of the same thing and then not delete ANY of them!)

48. She takes really good care of things.

49. She is such an incredible example of a wife and mother and while I miss her, I am so very glad that she gets to be salt and light and wisdom and love to all the Navy/Marine wives around her!

50. She came to visit me a few times when I was in college. All my friends thought she was so very cool and if I could go back and do it again I would have had her come visit way more often.

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Love you Mom! Beyond thankful for you in my life. Happy Birthday!

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Recipe: Double Chocolate Banana Muffins

DSC_7433We buy bananas in bulk because we eat them as though we were gorillas. Smothered in peanut butter, frozen for smoothies and ice cream, baked into breads, cookies and granola bars. We love them.

We had 6 that I’d let get too ripe to freeze and turn into smoothies so I went on a hunt for a good banana bread recipe.

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There are some foods, like cookies, that when I find/create a good recipe, I just make those over and over. Lavender shortbread cookies and my coconut chocolate chip cookies are up there–recipes soon.

But I’ve yet to have a banana bread steal my heart. Until this week. I’m in love. I may never make another banana bread again. I started Smitten Kitchen’s recipe and with most everything I cook, I made changes.

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Aisley helped which meant added mess, but it paled in comparison to the proud smile on her face.

DSC_7423DSC_7424I measured out all the ingredients and cringed with subtle anxiety as she dumped them (mostly) into the mixing bowl. She looked up at me with eager hopefullness that I would let her turn it on, and after a very stern warning of the consequences if she turned it on full speed, I gave her the “Go ahead” nod. DSC_7421

It perfectly pleased all the appetites in our household and these sweet little dirty toddler fingers grabbed muffin after muffin.

DSC_7443Here’s how I made them:

6 medium-to-large very ripe bananas
1 cup melted coconut oil
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup organic palm sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chunks or chips
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
2 cups gluten free all-purpose flour (or regular)
1 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder

Mash the bananas first and then mix in the oil, sugars, eggs and vanilla. Mix in the chocolate chunks at this point to make sure they’re spread evenly throughout. Then dump in the remaining ingredients as you stir making sure everything is fully incorporated.

Bake at 350. About 50 minutes for a loaf, 30 minutes for muffins and 30 minutes for small loaves.

This will make a lot. I made one large loaf, two small, and 6 muffins. They lasted less than one day.

 

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Vacation 2014 Part One: Savannah

DSC_6060 We took our first ever family vacation last month (my husband’s first ever, ever) and words cannot even describe what a wonderful time we had soaking up the sun, relaxing through the rain, chatting it up in the car, and spending quality time as a family.

DSC_5788DSC_5789DSC_5790Our first stop was Savannah to explore the city, splash in the waves at Tybee Island and see our cousin before he moved to California. One of my brothers went with us which made the trip so much smoother and less stressful for my husband and I.

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I now have a much better grasp on the mindset of those who pay people to vacation with them.

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My husbands cousin has lived in Savannah for several years and graciously hosted us and served as the most perfect tour guide. He was patient, and helpful, and understanding of the “two small children” situation. (Thanks, Joey!)

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Aisley quickly took to calling him “Uncle Joey” and asks about his on the regular. Our day in Savannah really could not have gone better. It was a good mix of walking and resting, laughing and talking. It was relaxing and stimulating. Exactly what vacation should be.

DSC_5866We went at the pace of the kids and stopped to run around and play when they got tired of riding in the stroller or the Ergo. Barrett is quite possibly the most relaxed baby ever. He travels so well and we are so thankful.

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The Savannah scenery is breath taking and every streets holds a different history. And the food. Such yummy food. While there we ate at a cute cafe and pizzeria at City Market where I cannot recommend the chocolate cake enough. For dinner, we ate at one of the oldest buildings in Savannah called Pirate House where I had pecan crusted fried chicken that was amazing. For breakfast before heading out of town we ate at Clary’s outside on the patio.

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We ended our time in Savannah with a trip out to Tybee Island where we all enjoyed the waves (even Barrett).

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Christopher had been to the Pacific and the Gulf (with me) but never the Atlantic. I love that God allows me to make such beautiful memories with such a handsome man. I love him.

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The beach (which we later read online is one of the top 5 cleanest in the country) was beautiful and wonderful and we were there on the most perfect day. Warm sun, cool breeze, and gorgeous waves.

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Barrett was not at all bothered by the sun or the sea and stayed right on pace with his usual napping schedule. We each took turns snuggling him while the others played. It really could not have been more perfect.

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This cutie pie little girl (modeling a third generation swim suit) could not get enough of the beach.

DSC_6001From Savannah we continued on to Orlando. Check back next week for a recap of the rest of the trip.

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Sibling Love

Alternatively titled: STOP!! GET AWAY FROM HIM!! YOU’RE HURTING HIM!! (Baby cries. Toddler screams. Mommy brain explodes.)

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I don’t think there are any words that could accurately describe how much Aisley loves Barrett. Or how much Barrett loves Aisley. He’s the first thing she wants to see when she wakes up in the morning. The second is food. And even when she wakes him from his sweet baby sleep, he just grins at her face that’s inches from his through the stretches at moans and whimpers. She wants to hug and kiss and squeeze and burp and hold him. She mauls him and he loves her.

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She looks at him ever so sweetly as she says “Hey sweet boy” or “hey chubby” in the sweetest two year old baby voice you’ve ever heard. But at the same time she’s hitting him as hard as she possibly can. Or squeezing his poor cheeks so hard he can’t see. Or laying on top of him with all her might so he can hardly breath.

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And most of her aggression is just pure love oozing out of her. But sometimes it’s anger or frustration or rebellion towards me. And she know’s he’s the fastest way to upset me.

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But even when she’s in the middle of melt downs, his smile calms her. When he’s crying, her rendition of B-I-N-G-O soothes him. On the other hand, when he’s perfectly content and playing so well, her violent body slams send him into a panic of tears and screams.

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Seeing her interact with him has caused me to apologize to my younger brother for all I must have done to him. It frustrates me. It infuriates me. But every now and then, it melts me.

I love them. I can’t wait for them to play together. I also can’t wait for him to be big enough to defend himself against her. Except not right now. Please don’t grow up too fast.

I’m overwhelmed with the responsibility of teaching them to navigate life, but I’m so glad they’re mine and I’m so glad they have each other.

To sibling love.

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Mom Tips: Things I Didn’t Know Had To Be Taught

DSC_7141 Parenting is not for the weak. And it’s in fact quite harder than I had imagined. Toddlers are like overwhelming tornadoes of love and laughter and unexplicable emotional outbursts. I am most absolutely certain that I’m learning way more than she is as we navigate this parent-child life together, but I like to think my lessons learned are a bit more sophisticated than hers. For instance:

Don’t squeeze your brothers face.

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Don’t go potty in your cereal bowl in the middle of the kitchen floor. (This has sadly happened more than once.)

Don’t wrap a towel around your brother’s face.

Don’t dip your food in your water cup.

Don’t paint yourself using your fork with the water you just dipped all of your spaghetti casserole in.

Don’t clean the inside of your mouth with the same wash cloth you just used to clean your potty. (Also: ONLY MOMMY CAN CLEAN YOUR POTTY) (Also: We don’t clean the inside of our mouth with a wash cloth.)

Don’t blow your nose and then eat the kleenex. In fact, lets not eat kleenex at all, please.

Don’t gag your brother (I re-teach this on the daily)

And my personal favorite: If you have to go potty, don’t stand here yelling at me that you have to go potty because you’ve been going potty alone for months. AND, especially since once we get to the bathroom you will absolutely refuse to let me help you in any way.

Got any crazy teaching moments? I’d love to hear how I’m not alone in this insane mommyhood.

 

 

 

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