Thursday, June 30, 2011

Friends are Friends Forever

I am so fortunate to have visited three lifelong friends over the last year whom I had not seen individually or collectively for years.  I am so fortunate to have people in my life who I consider lifelong friends

Recently, my friend Cherrie - my friend since 7th grade - posted this quote on her Facebook wall:
everlasting friends go long periods of time without speaking and never question their friendship. These friends pick up like they just spoke yesterday, regardless of how long it has been or how far away they live, and they don't hold grudges. They understand that life is busy… and… you will ALWAYS love them.

This week I reunited with another friend - from college - whom I hadn't seen since her oldest (now 11) was a newborn. And the meeting was pristine.

First, the best part of the photo above is the cropped portion:

(our two 9 year-olds searching for snails in the mulch!)

Then, Kathleen suggested Yogurtini - which is basically a frozen yogurt bar {YUM!}.  With dozens (let's call it a quillion) flavor choices and endless topping choices (YUM times a quillion!).  I had to squelch a few Littles from putting me in the poorhouse with all their sugar-in-a-bowl (you pay by the ounce)!

not too sugary-sweet

truthfully only missing the kitchen sink
And finally, just talking, and catching up, and letting the kids run around and get to know each other...was a tangible reminder that this is what life is about: connections.  There's a reason that we go through what we do and we know who we know and our paths and lives are entertwined the way they are.  Once or a million times.  The people in our lives matter.

And sometimes?  Sometimes we are blessed to have Friends - who are friends Forever.

Just for fun...
snail races, of course

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

On Going Home.

We traveled farther this Tuesday than any other this summer.  Hubs had a business trip to Kansas City and suggested we come along for the ride.  At first I was a little wishy washy.  I grew up in Kansas City.  What could we possibly do that would be fun?

  :: Hahaha ::

Then I realized I was missing an opportunity to share my hometown with my kids - who really are interested in knowing who we were 'when we were kids' {which really just doesn't seem like that long ago... Until you drive down the streets of your old town and can't find your high school.  I could have sworn they'd moved it.  Sort of.} 

Nowadays, my 'little' hometown sports 4 high schools - there was one when I lived there.  The old movie theatre where all the action was on any given Friday night - gone.  There may or may not be a strip mall there now.  Or a bank.  Or a DollarGeneral.  I never did find the exact spot.  {Does that mean I really am old?  Or just forgetful?  Or it has changed literally that much??  Yeah.  I'm going with number c).}  Pizza Hut where everyone went on their first date?  Gone.  Taco Bell where everyone went after school?  Gone.

It was an oddly horrific feeling driving around and sort of knowing where we were.  But not.  Remembering - oh!  There's Leigh McKeighan Park.  OK, that's Unity Village and there's John Knox Village and wow!  Dave Cross is still in business?!

And I'm well aware that none of this means a thing to anyone out there --- except Frizzy --- but to say, seriously.  We've lived off our road for going on 15 years.  I'm pretty sure it looks exactly the same today as it did when we moved here.

What a wonderful opportunity Hubs gave me to travel back in time - and to share it with my kids.  I have lots more to share this week.  I actually snapped a kajillion photos in  36 hours - 10 of which were in the car, 8 sleeping, you do the math....and yet I wish I'd taken more.  One of the high school.  Of the track and the door we used to march out of playing the Fight Song.  Of the PAC which has a new door.  Of the old apartment.  Of the place where the movie theatre used to be.  (I think.)  Of ... ... everything.  So I don't forget for real. 

I guess, fortunately, it really is 20 years this year since I graduated from high school (*gasp!*), so I'll be going back for the reunion.  And seeing who I remember and who I don't.  I'm just hopeful that I remember people more then than I did the places.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Traveling Tuesday 6/21

The Marines have landed in St. Louis! 

We spent this past Tuesday traveling to downtown St. Louis city.  I heard the Marines were in town and I wanted the kids to see the Marine Corps Band - so off we went! 

The best part for me was listening to John Philip Sousa's Stars & Stripes played by the Marine Corps Band in view of the Court House and The Arch.  In high school, the greatest honor for a flute player was to be allowed to play the piccolo solo of this song during the final concert of the year.  It was an emotional, annual event.  To this day, I get goose bumps listening to the dog fight and then the piccolos...The best - best part Tuesday was when one of the kids unabashedly exclaimed, "That was fun!" as the last note played.

I'm pretty sure the kids thought seeing Fredbird was the best part of the day - and receiving Cardinals tickets from him for the next night's game!  You would've thought they'd won the lottery.  And they did go to the game - at least the three big kids and their dad (Fredbird gave them 4 tickets), so Sash and I went to Oberweis and took a veeeerrrrryy long walk around the neighborhood!

Oh - and let's not forget, handling real Marine weapons.

And climbing into real Marine vehicles.

I did hear that the ceremony to attend is the Sunset Parade complete with the Silent Drill Platoon and the Marine Corps Band Saturday night.  If you go, you have to tell me about it!


Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Importance of Regular Check-ups

June has been hectic.  So much for a relaxing summer vacation.  Between VBS and Smart Start Mondays and all the vacuuming and laundry and violin lessons and baseball practices we have going on, I barely find that I have time to breathe!  But, part of our busyness - OK, all of it actually - has been self-inflicted.  For instance, I've scheduled all the kids' well visits this month (doctor, dentist, eyes).  At the time I scheduled them I thought I was pretty smart.  Now I'm just pretty exhausted.  But, a recent visit to the eye doctor proved that all the running is worth-while.

I have one kid who complains constantly.  My side hurts.  My ear hurts.  My throat hurts.  My left eye is blurry.  My right eye is teary.  It's always something - which, quite honestly, sort of makes it hard to tell when it really is something.  So with all the complaining about vision lately, I figured it was time to get us all back to the eye doctor.

Well surprise me silly and call me Willy when two kids (including my complainer) skated through the appointment with flying colors.    But when T walked in (he never complains - about anything!  <3) and started randomly calling out letters, I turned around and gave him that maternal, "Stop screwing around" look that we all have down-pat.  Until I realized he wasn't kidding around. 

We left with a prescription in hand and a loving talk about how it's perfectly wonderful to wear glasses and how much brighter the world is now that he will be able to see.

Well, and then his brother tried to make him feel better with a heart-felt discussion about how he really is a nerd now because he's smart AND he wears glasses (which double qualifies you as genius, as we all know), only he didn't really realize that 'nerd' is a negative word and everyone in the van was reduced to tears either from crying or laughing. 

Which is just, apparently, how we roll.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How Girls on the Run Made Pookie Fearless

The following is an essay Pookie wrote about her experience training and running a 5K with Girls on the Run this spring.  She didn't win the essay contest (even though I totally think she should have) so now I can post it here! 


My heart pounds, my legs shake, and my lungs are on fire! Well, that's what I used to fear about running.

Running used to make me feel depressed. It was so hard. I would always come in close to last. My P.E. teacher said everyone in my class had to finish running a lap in 3 minutes, but she would always say to me, "That doesn't mean you, Pookie."

You see, I was born with a hole in my heart. I've had 6 open heart surgeries to fix it, so running has always been hard for me. My doctor told me not to run long distances. 

Then I heard about Girls on the Run and I really wanted to join. I thought it would help me practice so running would not be as hard for me. I didn't have to be fast, and that was good! My doctor said yes!

I'm still not the fastest, but running is getting easier. Now I'm finishing a lap in P.E. in under 3 minutes! I've made new friends and I've learned really cool new cheers. We've learned a lot of healthy habits, too!

When I run, my heart still pounds, my legs still shake, and my lungs still feel like they are on fire, but I'm not afraid of that any more. Thanks to Girls on the Run, now I'm fearless!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Professional Baker?

A few weeks ago, my friend asked me to bake a large order of cupcakes for her daughter's post-wedding reception.   Oh my goodness was I excited! 

We knew immediately that one cupcake would be the strawberry with strawberry buttercream and chocolate butterflies.  From a list of about a dozen flavor choices, my friend also requested amaretto and snickerdoodle.  What a fun trio!  I spent the two weeks prior to the event baking up a storm.  Literally.  And loving every minute!

I took the amaretto cupcake and frosting recipe from The Primrose Bakery and filled them for fun with a white chocolate creme filling that I actually also used in Sashi's strawberry-flavored ballerina cake.  (Yum-oH!)  I highly recommend Ghirardelli white chocolate chips - even over Callebaut white chocolate (which I actually didn't like at all!) if you try this recipe.  I also added coursely chopped, roasted almonds to the chocolate cream to accentuate the almond flavor and to add texture. 


The Snickerdoodle cupcake proved a little persnickety and required a couple of trials.  My first attempt came from Martha's Cupcake cookbook - and this time the taste tester (my husband) gave me a big thumbs down.   

In the end, I used this muffin recipe.  I researched (yes I did!) whether a muffin could be used as a cupcake and officially decided that, because the line between the two is blurry, if you top it with frosting and call it cake, then it is cake.  :)  (Cupcake wisdom by Karin.  Amen.)

The morning of the party, I finally settled on a frosting - my bloggy friend Daiana's vanilla bean buttercream - and through the help of my friends on Facebook, went with a rich cinnamon cream in the middle of these.  Pookie helped me with the decorating - a Pirouette cookie and cinnamon sugar sprinkles. 

It took a village, but it sure was fun!

Later that weekend, I made margarita cupcakes for Father's Day.

And then I retired from my professional baking career. 

...unless someone else wants me to try a recipe?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Just for Fun

Last week I sat at the deck table taking in the sights of the kids enjoying the pool when a pesky mosquito landed on my arm.  And then ran up it.  Which is atypical of a mosquito - who usually land {bite you} and then fly off, right?  Can they even run?

Imagine my surprise when I instead discovered my pesky mosquito was the world's tiniest preying mantis.  Here, see for yourself!

See him there? 


He was the funniest little guy you could ever imagine.  I'm not kidding when I tell you he did the absolute funniest little dance - complete with hip waves and head snaps.  Too awesome.  I loved it.  I called Pooks over and we enjoyed snapping a dozen pictures of this spirited little guy.  Before he disappeared as quickly as he'd arrived.

God's creations are truly remarkable.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Ballerina Birthday Cake

For Sashi's birthday cake, I really wanted to do something special.

For the better part of the last six months, every time I put her down for a nap, Sash would ask, "Why do I have to take a nap?"

"Because you are three," I consistently answered.
This always initiated a sweet exchange of ideas about what one does when one is three, versus, say, when one is four. So, when Sash turned four, she was under the misguided impression that she no longer needed to take naps.
She also knew that four meant taking ballet.

Now, when Pooks was 2 or 3, she took ballet. But, agree with me here - the baby of the family doesn't always get what the bigger kid got {and vice versa} and we (I) just never signed Sashi up for dance lessons. {Bad Mommy.}

But, for her birthday, we gave her (hand-me-down) ballet slippers and dance gear, ...along with some really cool photo albums of all her previous birthdays.
Here...Li'l Roo is perusing one said birthday book at the family party:

So, back to the ballet story. And cake.

I knew I wanted to do something special for Sashi's birthday cake, so I decided to make her a ballerina. My friend Melissa at A Little Loveliness once said that every girl deserves at least one Barbie cake.

This was Sashi's year.

And my very first attempt.

After perusing the web, I felt ridiculously incompetent to make a Ballerina Barbie cake.

And my first attempt failed. Yes, after baking my bowl for over an hour, when I went to flip the cake out, cake batter came pouring out of the center. At 1AM.


Here's what we bought the next morning:


Here's what their faces looked like when they ate that totally-healthy-and-surely-good-for-you-flourescent frosting:

Second attempts at the ballerina cake went a little better. Mostly. And just to prove it, here's Sashi's face when she saw her Ballerina cake in the fridge:

And here it is in all it's purple ballerina-esque glory:

Not tooooo bad for a first attempt. And frosting that wasn't supposed to be refrigerated before piping it.

I learned a lot. And Sashi loved it.

That's all that matters.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

:: How to Make {Diva} Flip Flops ::

How cute are these feet?  I know

You can't even see those finely pedicured tootsies under those ADORABLE BOWS!  You wanna know how we made those, right?  Right?

I let Sash have 'a friend party' last week.  A party of one ---> her BFF Miss R.  {As our beloved preschool teacher Miss Jane always says, "You wrap it up and put a hat on it and [to a preschooler] it's a party!"  I l.o.v.e. that!}  At the last minute - as always - we decided our 'goody bag' should be filled with Diva Flip Flops.  So ~~ without further adieu ~~

:: How to Make Diva Flippy Flops ::

First and foremost, Meiners and I watched this video that completely explains the ribbon-into-bow process in real-time.  Feel free to watch her and enjoy her southern drawl. 

Then come back 'cuz here's our bow-making process for Sashi and her BFF's birthday 'party' take-homes. 

First ~ Wrap.

Pinch and stitch.


Stitch all ribbons together in desired layers.

Wrap thread around the ribbon bundle and pull tightly.  Knot.

Take another string and use it to crisscross wrap the bow onto the flippy flop.  Tie tightly.

Now, here's where we deviated from the Mickey Mouse diva flippies that Meiners made.  For the teacher's custom fabric-wrapped buttons, we used this button maker from Hobby Lobby - after ironing on pre-fab stitched monograms also purchased there.  BUT, for S&R, Sashi found PINK pre-fabbed monogram pins that she insisted we use.  So - once the ribbons were securely attached, we stuck the pins in.  It might be wise to glue the pin part shut to avoid future oops-sticks.  We'll have to do that {Note to Kimberly}.   In the meantime...voila!

Diva Flippies.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Teacher Gifts 2011

For the end of school year teacher gifts this year, I asked each child what they wanted to give their teachers. 

Every year I swear I'm not doing end of year gifts.  And every year, at the last minute, I realize another year has past while my kids sat in a classroom for more hours than they sat at my table or in my van and I acknowledge that our teachers deserve a grateful gift of thanks.  So we come up with some crafty plan that I insist they make, and we fret and fight and pull it together in the end.  This year was no exception.  Except I didn't come up with the plan - other than to tell the kids to come up with something. 

Pookie {my mini me} immediately decided a cake.  She truly did an amazing job.  I messed up her frosting by having her make it the night before and then adding too much milk to help it regain its spreadability the morning of the gifting.  I prayed fervently all day that it would hold up and appear edible by day's end ;)

Beautiful, isn't it?

Meiners didn't hesitate when he declared, "Flip flops!" for his beloved first grade teacher.  I immediately agreed, knowing these would be perfect (we made them here, too).  The humorous part of this story is that I pulled Meiners over to watch this video on the web showing how to make bows.  Incredulously, he asked, "I have to make the bows??"  He actually quickly embraced the task, even insisting that my design plan of two bows was just not enough for Mrs. M's always-pedicured tootsies.  "It's not enough!" he declared and disappeared into the basement.  He reemerged with a final coordinating color of ribbon and made these - not bad for a sports fanatic, girl fearing, man's boy {Teacher is a HUGE Mickey fan ;)}  She LOVED them, by the way ~ and put them on her feet immediately!

Mr T decided on a gift card to a running store for his teacher the runner.  She was so excited, she promised to pick out a flavor of Gu and to think of him on her half-marathon attempt in California this month.

Sashi chose flowers for her teachers - in their favorite colors of red and purple.  {I love that she knows their favorite colors!}

Anyway, that's what we did this year!  Stay tuned this week and I promise to show you how to make a pair of those fancy flipflops!  Too easy and incredibly cute! 

See ya soon!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Last Tuesday's Travels

My friend asked me to take pictures of her family before her exchange student returned to Germany recently.  Then the temperature soared over 100 degrees and the photo shoot was scratched for health reasons.  In an effort to salvage the opportunity to snap lasting photos of these sweet ladies, I racked my brain for alternative {indoor} locations aside from our original plan to meet at the Missouri Botanical Garden (free to county residents Wednesdays before noon!).  I quickly remembered The Jewel Box. 

I took the twins there when they were about 18 months-old to see an azalea exhibit at Eastertime.  It was gorgeous.  Small, but stunning.  Although it costs $1 during the week to enter this historic building in beautiful Forest Park, it is free from 9 til noon Monday and Tuesday mornings.  And it's air conditioned!  Unfortunately, our photo shoot did not work out, but I talked myself into taking the kids there before heading to the zoo last week for our first Tuesday of Travel.

I'm so grateful for the idea and the time spent.  Pookie snapped dozens of photos of flowers (her favorite photography subject), and I took dozens of photos of the kids!  We had a great time - and learned a little history about this once bustling, rotating garden of extravagance.

Pookie's Photography

Mommy's Photography
Aterward, we reentered the wonderful world of heat and visited the Korean War Memorial.  The kids climbed around the giant sun dial {I'm still not sure how it tells the time} that aptly states, "It's time to remember."

 Pookie took this photo, too:


I forced the kids to take just a few more photos before we headed to the zoo - way too late and way too hot.  But these images were well worth it!

These two were a little squirrelly - as I am discovering they are most of this summer.  They did give me this, at least...

...before degenerating to this:

And I really just don't even know what to say about this one:

When we'd all had enough, we headed off to the zoo.  {The best /free/ zoo in the world.}

Meiners gets in on the Photo Action

By noon we were all sweaty and exhausted and ready to go back to the van for lunch and home for an afternoon swim.
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