Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Country Thankfulness

When we first talked about moving to the country Ben said, "Let's just try it. I think you'll like it. It will be good for you. Country livin' is good livin'." I had a pretty bad attitude about even thinking about it. I tried find something to like about it; I thought and pondered for days and finally came up with the fact that I would like the space for kids to run around. But that was about all I could come up with because I'm a fairly social person. What I mean by that is that I thrive by being with people. Which means that I become a complete idiot when I'm by myself for long periods of time. I NEED neighbors, if nothing else, just to have someone to spy on someone to borrow an egg from. Ya know?

But I think God likes playing jokes on me, it always goes something like this:
Step 1) I say I will never do something.
Step 2) Ben chuckles.
Step 3) God gets the circumstances all lined up.
Step 4) BAM- I am doing the VERY thing I said that I would never do.
Step 5) Everyone's laughing except me.

So when we decided we would go to the country I chose to embrace it by buying Wrangler's. Just Kidding. I bucked like a bronco and set my forehead like flint against this crazy idea and set out to prove how wrong he/He was! Not my best idea. I don't know how God changes hearts. I don't know how He sets wrong things right. I don't know how He works all things out for our good. But He does.  And over time I have begun to fall in love with where I live! We've been here, in the country, for about 18 months now and it has become a place where I love spending my days and I long to return to every evening.

Once, when I was throwing a large fit about livin' excluded from the whole world, a wise friend told me, "Well, you can embrace the beauty of where you are and be thankful for it. Or you can stay miserable." I looked out my window in that moment and saw one small bird in our walnut tree. I started there. One miniscule act of thankfulness. And He began to turn my world around. So, in honor of a humorous God, a patient husband, and a country-girl's heart change, here is my list of the top 10 things I love about where I'm livin'....

1. Gardens and their fruit
Summer Harvest
Fall Harvest

2. His Creations
Annoying when they eat my flowers, but really, beautiful!

3. Chickens and Eggs

4. Space

 5. Animals

Love that the kids have a dog!

6. Cowboys
Be still my wildly beating heart... <3

7. Fires
I made this ALL BY MYSELF, I'm getting better ;)

8.  Peace

9.  Country schools, buses and the kids that ride them!

 10. Silence
Silence, I didn't think I would enjoy it, but I do!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!
~ Ms. Simplicity  

Saturday, November 23, 2013


I'll just start out by saying I'm competitive. It's in my blood: I'm 1/4 Italian...(is that enough proof?)... also my dad rode motorcycles and broke both wrists (one, then the other a week later). So it's not really my fault. I have lots and lots of stories about my own competitive nature to share another time....the problem is that Ben is competitive too. His is sports induced. Let's just say that at our first pre-marriage counseling session the pastor told us that competitiveness would ruin our marriage if we weren't very, very careful. So it's not like it was something that we "hid" very well. We've managed for 11.5 years with only some damage.

Anyway, now our kids play sports. That's probably all I have to say and you know where this post is going. It's just that I must admit something...  I think I'm "that" parent. I kinda have a loud, squeaky voice and I don't want to be the coach, but I still have some input to give. Which I give only to my kids, not to others. Well, except, occasionally the refs. OH, the refs. Really, just make sure you know the game before you take the job. That is all.

So poor Ben, while he keeps his closet competition all stuffed into his brain, I'm the one who lets it all out through my loud, squeaky air hole. And 'Closet Boy' keeps asking me if I think that a) the kids can hear me? and b) is what I am saying really helping? I'm not sure I ever have a good answer and it usually just makes me want to yell a little louder. I'm convinced that one day, Alena will jog off the field and tell me, "Mom, I heard you yell, 'GO TOWARDS the ball,' and so I did it, and that's why I scored that goal today! Thanks mom!"

Or perhaps there will be a day that Caleb will be like, "Mom! I'm so proud you yelled at that ref and all my friends heard! Thanks, you really got him on that one and did you see him change the call, right on the spot, because of you? Awesome, thanks mom!"

Or maybe, just maybe, Nathan will one day be like, "Mom, I missed your loud squeaky voice at the game today...and so did all the other parents. They were all asking me where you were. Thanks mom for being so loud."

I was really hoping these things would happen...

But then....

Last week after an indoor soccer game I was doing a little after-game instruction coaching. I was blabbing along, the child politely nodding her sweet/sweaty head at me and trying to visualize what I was talking about, and I turned around to see if she was really 'getting it' and I saw..... her eyes. Oh, her ever-telling, honest, big brown eyes. Her eyes could not lie, they were not understanding the "coaching" at all, in fact, they were.....sad. And my heart broke. Right there in the van. And I realized all she really needed was a biggest fan. Someone who yells, all loud and squeaky, about how hard she worked and how fast she was and how she'll get that goal she's been practicing for soon! She wanted to hear that I love coming to her games and watching her... and perhaps that I was proud she was actually PLAYING soccer at the age of six, something I for sure didn't do and still made the Varsity team in high school (no looking back at old SPHS records ok, you can make the team and not make a goal).

I realized I want to be my kids' BIGGEST, LOUDEST cheerleader. I was getting confused with all that competitive juice flowing through my veins. I'll leave the coaching to practice time with the real coach. And also to my husband (aka 'Closet Boy'), who coaches as a profession. He clearly does a much better job at keeping his own emotion in check. And while he still wants our kids to get better and go for the win, he certainly does not want to crush their little spirits! And neither do I. There's a line on the "parenting field" that I want to learn how to "play fair" - To teach and encourage my kids, not exasperate or spoil. 

So...I was better this week. I still have lots to work on, but this week I sat with the other moms, tried not to pound on the glass at the indoor field, and I only joked about chanting, "Fight, fight, fight" - like at the hockey games - when the one girl elbowed my daughter. After the game sweet girl and I talked about what she wanted to-- which happened to be nothing related to soccer and everything related to the "awesome" snack she got. I still had a lot of fun at the game and my little soccer star was much more relaxed <SURPRISE> . I have two more games to practice my new behavior and then we are on to basketball and wrestling... which I'm sure will be a totally new learning curve!

Still learning how to play this life game of parenting! ~ Ms. Simplicity

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Paleo what???

So, ok, confession, we are trying to go Paleo around here.

Basically how this has been explained to me, by my husband (bless him), is that we are trying to eat like cavemen and cavewomen. Hmmm, ok. He also told me this week that we should try to exercise like the cave people and also sleep like them.** Perfect, I can go to bed when it gets dark, at 4:37pm, and he can exercise by running from danger the kids. This is gonna work for me I think.

No, honestly, we have been thinking about this, talking about this, and test-trialing it for years and we have been practicing it (AT DINNER TIME ONLY) <----- please read that part---> for a few months, ok for a few weeks, ok about 3/7 meals a week. And it's actually been good. Mostly. The hardest part is that some people are SO Paleo. Which is weird. But I pretty much think all diets are kind of odd. I mean who doesn't love egg nog and chocolate and wine every night once in awhile? Not to mention, think about what you eat for breakfast...please tell me you answered with "BISCOTTI-every-single-day"... it's hard to find something good with no gluten.

BUT! We have found, what I am calling, The Paleo Book From Heaven. It's actual title is: Against All Grain by Danielle Walker. It is awesome. First of all, google the book or her blog, look at her picture, and clearly she is not Paleo-weirdo. She's just a mom who had some health issues and has taken time to make really good alternatives to all the "bad" stuff with gluten and sugar and all those chemicals. The key to that last sentence is: she has taken the time to make really good alternatives. For example, we have made, and thoroughly enjoyed, her ketchup and her mayonnaise, and might I add right here, that we have tried a lot of recipes for these condiments. Hers are the best.

Also, every dinner we have tried has been so yummy. Even the kids have eaten them! And the kids are always my hold up....I don't want my kids to ever think they are on a diet. This has been my main concern in this debate of switching over (when I say switching what I mean is, we eat Paleo most of the time but there is always room for cheats, which include but are not limited to, egg nog/wine/chocolate/all desserts/and black licorice, these are just the current exceptions, please check back for more added next week). But back to the switch.. the nice thing about her reciepes is that they are pretty kid friendly and if there IS something missing (like the bun on a bacon burger) it's easy to buy the kids some buns and x-nay them for us. That way they have NO CLUE what is happening in their little world! It's awesome.

Lastly, I would add that most of her recipes don't ask for Paleo-weirdo ingredients. Well, at least not the ones I've tried. Which is helpful because really who knows what some of that stuff is? Even if I use google to find out WHAT it is, it's super hard to find out WHERE to buy it. I'm not into traveling all over town to find coconut aminos. Just call it what it is - soy sauce without gluten. And then find it wherever you already shop... ya know? Alright well, I wanted to add a few recipes here but I will blog another time about my love for Danielle and her simple, yummy recipes. For now, just keep me accountable to my 3/7 dinners and I'm working on eliminating the egg nog, ok??

Ms. Simplicity (the not Paleo-weirdo)

**To Ben's defense he is reading Paleo Manifesto by John Durant, so he's a little Paleo-weirdo right now...let's give him time and see if it sticks.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

It's Been Requested

This post is for the ladies who have requested the Christmas Countdown...

We have been doing this for two years now, but it is SO FUN! The kids love it and look forward to it with great anticipation. We started this tradition when we moved to Spokane, probably mostly because I had time on my hands when we first moved here and thought this would be a fun idea, little did I know it would be enjoyed year to year!

If you want a few pictures of what we've done in the past... I did blog about this briefly last year... but here I will give you the full list of ideas we use and give you a few hints about how we pull it off.

Hint #1: PLAN ahead. Which is why I am posting this now. It's hard to do something every day, even the necessities, like brushing your teeth making your bed... but if you want this to be super FUN, all you have to do is make sure you 1-have a plan and 2-have the supplies.

Hint #2: Be flexible. The first year I planned the whole month and put numbered days on the little tokens they pulled out. DON'T DO THIS. Some ideas are easier than others, so if you've had a crazy day, you might pull off Sparkling Cider night, rather than Making Gingerbread Houses night. Also, I put the "funner" activities on the weekends so we have daddy around to help enjoy. ;)

Hint #3: This follows be flexible, but I also say, keep it a surprise as long as you can.... so you have the ability to change the plan if needed. For example, if we were going to go look at Christmas Lights but a blizzard blows through, we switch to Cocoa and Carols... you get the drift, but I made so many mistakes and had sad kids a few times the first year....

Hint #4: Be creative with how you tell the kids what each day is. This year I am going to try to do it Advent Calendar Style but I don't know how yet...I'll probably Pinterest it. We do have green and red popsicle sticks that say each of the events (written with a Sharpie, nothing fancy)...but I haven't found the best way to have them pick those sticks out. I promise to keep you posted on this part, or if you have ideas, please share! (We have completely eliminated the chocolate advent calendars because there's really no need if you are doing this every night - plus, you'll see, there's more than enough sugar involved with our list - add or subtract the treats as you see fit for your fam!)

Ok, so here's our list.... no need to use all these ideas, make up some of your own, but this will hopefully get you started!

Countdown to Christmas:
1-     Kids decorate rooms with lights/decorations 
*Hint: This often keeps them occupied while I do the main area decorations, it's fun for all!*
2-     Movie Night
a.     Miracle on 34th Street
b.     popcorn
3-     Craft or Sugar cube castle 
*Hint: Last year we made their teachers gifts on this night*
4-     Make Christmas Cards
a.     Make pieces in advance
*Hint: We did this year one and it was CRAZY, but year two they helped me pick out the Christmas card on Costco's photo page and we picked which picture to put on it, simple but still fun*
5-     Sparkling Cider with Dinner
*Hint: We do table cloth and wine glasses for all on this night, really fancy is fun!*
6-     St. Nick Night (which I believe is December 6th, but you'd want them to leave their shoes out on Dec 5th...this is cute and I like the story of St. Nick a lot better than Santa :))
a.     research and other cultures…told story of St. Nick
b.     we did one book for each kid in their shoe and a healthy snack
7-     Snowman Night
a.     white donut snowmen (look on my Pinterest page for picture of this)
b.     decorate table with snowmen napkins, etc.
8-     EGG NOG
9-     Ice Cream Night
*Hint: We do hamburgers on the grill and peppermint milkshakes
10- Game Night
a.     tree brownies (on my Pinterest page)
11- Tell Christmas Story with costumes
*Hint: This was a HUGE HIT!! The kids LOVED it and did so well*
12- Sing Carols and drink cocoa
13- Dollar Store Christmas Shopping w/ the kids
a.     for one another
b.     for relatives
14- Red and Green Night
a.     tablecloth
b.     7-Up w grenadine
c.      pasta (fun shapes) with pesto sauce or red sauce
*Hint: World Market is where I found Christmas-shaped pasta*
15- Birthday Party for Jesus
a.     cupcakes
16- Dinner out and Alena’s Program
a.     OSF
*Hint: Obviously this was specific to us, but you probably will have at least one kids program in your holiday season and can make it into the "special event" for the countdown
17- Gingerbread Houses or Nativity Houses
*Hint: Holly's idea posted to FB
18- Drive around to see Christmas lights
19- Make popcorn balls
20- Wrap Gifts
21- Slumber party by the tree
22- Make sugar cookies
23- PJ Night
a.     new pjs!
*Hint: We're going to change this up since my mom always gets them pj's on Christmas Eve, my idea was getting them a new pillowcase or something like that...but for me, I want it to be something that gets them excited about bedtime....as I know the next few days will be full. 
24- Christmas Eve

One day we'd like to go Ice Skating as a fun event, but we're waiting until everyone's a little older...maybe next year! And we'd like to add a service project too... So, I'm sure you all have lots of things going through your mind now - add them to personalize this countdown to fit your family and age of kids...but this will get you thinking! Enjoy and MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Ms. Simplicity