Cousins!

 It has been a BUSY couple of weeks for us and it’s not stopping anytime soon! We had fun last Friday with the kiddos cousins from Ben’s side of the family. We got to see Inside Out” with them and Ben’s mom and we loved it!! (go see it!) Afterwards we ate pizza and played games. We love family time!

This week 2 of the kiddos Colorado cousins (my side of the fam) are in town. They are staying with my mom until tomorrow when they move over to our house! Wow, can we say 3 1/2 day long slumber party??? (I am already tired!!)

I have been doing cleaning jobs and then going to pick up my nephews to give my mom a break and let the cousins hang out. Yesterday we went swimming!

The boys are having an absolute blast together!

This was during rest time so they migrated to the splash pad part to stay wet while they were waiting:)

Eliana just jumps right in with all these boys! You can definitely tell she has brothers;)

Um, yes, the boys were being…boys!

Double floaties! She couldn’t decide which one to use;) She had SO much fun swimming with me while the boys were off playing together! I wish I could’ve gotten pictures while in the water. The boys were having jumping contest and the smiles on their faces made me so happy!


Getting dumped on!

Today after my cleaning, I picked the boys up and we all went to the Anthony Thomas factory for a tour! Turns out, it’s really close to where we live. Who knew?

Dylan being sweet for his mom:)

Samuel decided to copy Dylan for Father’s Day!

 Goofy Jackson!

Posing with the 235 pound Buckeye!! It only costs $3500…..

Eliana found a chocolate cross and wanted me to take a pic:) No pictures were allowed on the tour but we all enjoyed it! It takes about 20-25 minutes and you learn about how the company started, how chocolate is made and get to watch the workers and machines from above! Very cool. And you get treated with a free Buckeye;) (not a 200 lb one though!)

Afterwards, I attempted to wear them out at my mom’s with the slip n’ slide.

So thankful for sunshine!!

Eliana slips very easily!

Wipeout!

My kiddos stuck with it quite a bit longer than their cousins until I had to make them call it quits so we could clean up and go home. Eliana was SO exhausted tonight from all the fun and sun so she got to sleep early. The boys are tired, too, but a bit wound up from all the cousin fun!

Now I have to clean my own house and get ready for a house full of BOYS! Ah!

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Chicago Trip!

 This past weekend we went on a whirlwind trip to Chicago, our first visit back since we moved (one year ago this past Monday!) Ben earned a day off of work through a test he took so he was glad to have a brief break:)

We were totally unprepared for the emotions that hit us when we got really close and started seeing familiar exits, etc. We left broken last year. We were sent off by loving friends in various places, all hoping we would find peace and healing. And we have…and are but sometimes experiences or memories can open up a little of the rawness. And that’s what happened for Ben and I. I felt increasingly anxious and Ben couldn’t even face the thought of driving through Hyde Park, even to show our kids where they once lived.

So we stopped (or kept driving anyways) and said a prayer and just felt that God was with us. The anxiety was lifted off and we decided to just trust that He was with us and just to be ourselves for the weekend. 

You know you’re getting close to Chi-town when gas prices start rising! We left with gas prices hovering around $2.80 and found them up to $3.59 in Chicago. Ouch! Now there’s a painful memory:) haha.

One of our main goals for the trip was to keep promises to the boys and to let them have some time with friends. Samuel, especially, missed his two best friends (the middle two) so very much this past year. I emailed back and forth with their moms the week before we left and made plans for them to hang out. Another friend was able to join at the last minute and they all got to hang out for a bit and then go bowling! It seriously made Samuel’s weekend to get to reconnect with them. The boys were crowded at the front door when we pulled up and they all yelled, “Samuel!!!” So happy to brighten our guy’s life:)

We let Mr Z hang out with the boys for a little bit at the house but then we made the executive decision to take him and E out and let Samuel have friend-time. We found an old favorite restaurant, “Smashburger,” that we discovered not long before we left and split a couple burgers between the four of us. Yum!

E chose to sit with her daddy:)

And Mr Z was happy to sit with me!! Then we went and browsed through a bookstore briefly until it was time to pick Samuel up. After getting Samuel, we drove straight to our friends’ house where we were staying. They are an older couple that took us under their wing that last year and were such a blessing to us! They made us feel so welcome this weekend and we thoroughly enjoyed our time with them! We spent Friday night just catching up with them:)

On Saturday, they took us to our old church, which was hosting a Family Fun Day. It was HOT outside and really humid so we lathered up with sunscreen, put hats on and prepared to have fun. I started to realize, as we kept seeing people we knew, that the weekend was becoming more about putting some healing pieces into place and seeing people from church, people who were instrumental in caring for us last year.

We didn’t get to see other long-time friends, unfortunately, but we know there will be other times to soak up friendship with them!

Mr Z got a Zebra balloon made:)

Samuel got a really funny hat!

 All three happy with their balloons!

There was face-painting, of course! Samuel had the funny idea of getting sunglasses and a mustache painted on:)

We called him, “The Evil Mustachio!”

He made us laugh with this face!

Eliana was SOOO tired but she waited patiently in line, almost falling asleep on Ben’s shoulder, to get her face painted.

She got a sparkly purple bunny on her forehead:)

Poor Mr Z waited in line the whole time hoping to get Bugs Bunny painted on the side of his face, only to have the stressed face-painter snap at him that she didn’t have time to do it. She was so short and rude with him, giving him no time to come up with a second idea, that she left him in tears. He does not cry the way he did for several minutes after we left the tent. My heart absolutely broke for him. Doing things like that are out of his comfort zone and take him a lot of courage and to be shot down as rudely as he was, was totally uncalled for. He refused to go back up and try again with the other lady. Later, when I told our friends what happened, Mr Chuck went up and had a few words with the lady and brought back apologies for Zakkai. He perked up a bit after that but it took him a little while to recover. He has such a tender heart!

Eliana in the bounce house!

On a little train ride!

E had so much fun bouncing (that’s Samuel on the left! ha) that she dissolved into tears when they had to close it down and she had to come out. Can we say…tired?! We stayed for the concert just for a bit and then we were all so hot and tired, that we left early.

Eliana playing with Bella, Mr Chuck and Miss Sally’s dog. The sweetest dog ever! She is a lap dog and loves to come snuggle with you. Perfect and gentle for kids!

The next morning we packed up all our stuff and prepared to go to the service at our old church. Miss Sally snapped a few pictures of our Lovelies!

Our Family! We so enjoyed going to church. Through the weekend, we saw every person (except one) from church that we wanted to see and connect with, so that was a big blessing. I walked into the building and just felt like it was “home.” It’s SO hard to find a new church and settle in and I really miss that feeling of belonging.

We said goodbye to Chuck and Sally at church (very hard!) and then went to lunch with another family that we had gotten to know last year. They have two boys, one Z’s age and one a teenager. (The nicest teenager I have ever met in my life!!!) Their youngest was one of the boys Zakkai wanted to see, so that made me happy that he got some time in. We met at a funny little restaurant in our old neighborhood and spent a good hour and a half just catching up and talking. It was a nice way to end our trip!

So hard to believe that we lived here for 9 years and that we don’t anymore! Wow.

Oh look, our favorite part of the trip! Not…..

Seriously, the most exciting thing you see on the trip from Chicago to Columbus. The windmills! There is a section of hundreds of them and everyone likes to look at them. Apparently, we are easily amused;)

For a long time, everyone was happy with their books on tape! So glad I got those from the library!

Eliana showing me hers:)

Samuel:)

Mr Z gets stuck in the back because S gets carsick. He didn’t seem to mind, though, as he had full control of the DVD player while the audiobook was on:) He’s our techy-guy!

And this…..is what happens when you drive late into the night after a busy weekend!! Haha! I snapped this right as we pulled in the driveway. About 20-25 min before we got home, E was just exhausted and falling apart a bit so we leaned back all seats and told them to rest. She loved the idea of her seat going back and within a few minutes, was out like a light!!

Not the safest position for driving (I know!) but pretty funny. It was only for the last 20 minutes and since she was quiet, I didn’t care! We carried her right up and she never even stirred!

We were all exhausted on Monday. I mean, down to the bones exhausted. The boys have VBS this week and I got them there, did a little grocery shopping and it hit me like a ton of bricks! I could barely function the rest of the day! We saw this beautiful rainbow on the way to TKD Monday night. We got all the way there and found out it was cancelled and I have to say, I didn’t mind! I got everyone fed and in bed as quickly as I could! Feeling much more like ourselves now, despite a super busy week.

B and I are very thankful for a good trip “home” to Chicago. It’s hard to put into words what we felt by being there but it was good for us. And hopefully, the painful memories will be less sharp each time we go and we can instead remember God’s grace and goodness to us while we were there.

We have so many blessings, in the form of well-loved friends, to go back and see!

Recipes!

I haven’t shared any delicious recipes in awhile and I was just positive that you needed some, am I right? Right!

First up is a dinner recipe : Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Chicken and Quinoa Soup. I have never ever been a sweet potato fan but since this winter, I have been developing a whole new appreciation for them! Especially in soups:) They are delicious and good for you! The only thing I didn’t add was the chicken, as we only eat meat one to two times a week. We didn’t miss it! The texture is so not soup but rather “stew” like. I was admittedly a little worried about if it would turn out, as my last crockpot quinoa recipe was a total gloppy disaster. No worries with this one, it was done perfectly in 4 hours and a hit! Served with homemade wheat bread.

Next is Strawberry Pie! You may have seen my delicious picture of my beautiful pie from my last post and if you missed it…well, you’d better go look! I added a thin cream cheese layer because it keeps the crust from becoming soggy, plus it’s delicious! I combined 3 different recipes to make my own combo.


Strawberry Pie with Cream Cheese Layer

Pie Shell (store bought if you must, homemade if you can!)
2 lbs strawberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 TB cornstarch
1/3 c water
1 tsp vanilla
1 (8oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
3-4 TB sugar
1 1/2 TB milk

Preparation:
1. Make your pie shell. Or take it out of the box. Bake it per directions and cool. I baked mine on 400 for 12 min with beans in the shell. Then took the beans out, pricked it with a fork and baked it another 6.

2. While pie shell is baking, wash and dry strawberries and cut off hulls. Take 1 1/2 cups of the strawberries and puree them. Slice the rest and set aside.

3.Combine puree, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 TB cornstarch and 1/3 cup water in a medium saucepan and whisk. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute and remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and whisk steadily while mixture cools down; approx. 5 minutes.

4. Beat cream cheese, 3-4 TB sugar (depending on preference of sweetness) and 1 1/2 TB milk in a small bowl until smooth. Spread on bottom and a tiny bit up sides of cooled pie crust. Arrange sliced strawberries over the cream cheese layer. Pour strawberry syrup over the top, covering all the berries.

5. Cool in fridge for at least 2 hours before serving. Enjoy!!

I was going to post another picture of it just for your enjoyment (and mine) but alas, blogger is once again not cooperating. So go look at the last post!

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We are headed to Chi-town this weekend for a quick little visit with a few friends. We can’t fit in all the visits we want because it’s a short trip but it will still be fun and it will give us an excuse to go again! My main priority was keeping our promise to the boys to go back and visit and let them see friends…especially Samuel, who left behind 2 best friends. Thankfully, both boys were available and their moms and I have been working out some fun plans for them when we arrive on Friday!

And next weekend, we go camping! Woohoo!


First Week of Summer!

 We survived our first week of summer…and actually had some fun, too! The kiddos had to come with me on a few cleaning jobs the first part of this week but they were mostly good sports about it and I tried to balance it out with fun stuff.

Bright and early Wednesday morning, we went strawberry picking! We broke the silence of the clearly serious strawberry pickers with our happy chatter and exclamations over the beautiful red strawberries we found!

And the kiddos all got to try one. Have to make sure they’re good!

Samuel’s strawberry blends in!

My niece ate more strawberries than she put in the box:)

Zakkai made it a goal to find the biggest strawberries he could!

                  Gosh, aren’t they beautiful??! They blow store strawberries out of the water!

Had to do something with the 11 pounds of strawberries! I made some Strawberry Honey Chia Seed Jam with a lot of it and made this absolutely delicious strawberry pie and some strawberry lemon muffins today! The rest I froze for smoothies:)

Then after strawberry picking we met one of my best friends and her girls at a splash park!

Braving the chilly weather;) It was in the mid-60s but none of the kiddos cared! They stripped down and ran into the water. They were a little chilly but stayed active so they had fun!

The boys getting dumped on by a bucket of water:)
 We stayed there for a few hours, eating lunch, playing in the water and on the playground next to it. Then on our way out, the kids wanted to stand on the park amphitheater stage and put on a little show:) Eliana just twirled and had so much fun. I love her serious face!

Chilly!!

Yesterday, I packed up a picnic lunch and we hung out at the park for awhile, after running a few errands. It was a beautiful day! Look how big she’s getting!

She loves to climb!

All 3 kiddos loved this climbing thing (whatever it’s called!) and spent a long time trying to master it;)

Samuel was so determined to figure out how to get around it.

He worked for so long but finally had to give up. Maybe next time!

Eliana, thoroughly enjoying her peanut butter and homemade jelly sandwich:)

Silly girl!

Then last night, we got to go on a date!! My mom came to pick up the kids and we headed out on our first date since Feb! It was much needed time, especially with all the busyness these days. We had a really good time. We went to our new favorite restaurant “Amul India” where we practically groaned with pleasure while we ate. Seriously. Amazing food.

Then we picked out a new paint-by-number to start! We so loved doing the one last spring and finally got a frame for it to hang it up! We spent the last part of our date getting ice cream and taking a long walk in the park until the thunderstorm started. It was refreshing (the date, not the storm!) and just what we needed!

A great first week of summer!

My very favorite before and after!!

I learned something this past week. I sometimes have brilliant, genius ideas….in the middle of the night;) It’s often my favorite time to think or write because I am more relaxed, I guess, or something. One night last week I was up because Samuel was up in the night feeling very sick (he got a little overheated from spending too much time outside in the hot sun) and while I was up off and on checking on him and wondering if this warranted a middle of the night urgent care visit, I had an idea. An awfully, brilliant idea!
 
And then I forgot about it. Until I remembered to tell Ben about it a day later and was surprised when even he agreed it was great! Ready to see it??
 

 
So this was our entertainment center. We bought it off of some friends probably about 8 years ago when they were moving away from Chicago. It was absolutely perfect for our 17×20 ft living room! And for all these years, it has served us well as a tv stand, book holder, dvd and cd collector and toy storage.
 
Until we moved into our current place which has a very small, narrow living room. Suddenly our perfect entertainment center became not so perfect anymore. In fact, it totally dwarfed the room! It took a week or so to get Ben to agree to try to sell it and I had 2 very interested buyers but for some reason both of them (despite at least 5 exchanges with each) couldn’t commit to actually coming to get it!
 
So it went in the garage sale. And the price got marked down until we were practically desperate! And people touched it, looked in the doors, admired it….and no one bought it. So it was one of the items left behind after our 2nd attempted garage sale day. We even put a free sign on it! But at the last minute, I had my brilliantly brilliant idea…..
 
What if….we used the top of it and turned it into a sewing table for me? I was told we could buy legs and attach them easily. But after taking it all apart, I couldn’t part with the two side pieces and one good idea led to another until….
 
 
 
Ta Da!! My stepdad and Ben were my willing partners in this adventure! This table took just under 4 hours from start to finish and was entirely FREE!!
 
 

We cut down the 2 side panels to make the sides of the table. They already had legs attached so they were perfect! Plus they are beautiful wood:)

We made shelves!! My stepdad was a genius in helping us put this together (he works with wood and had all the tools needed!) so everything is very sturdy and built to last.

Gleaming in the sunshine!!

Now in its new home! We built it Saturday afternoon but couldn’t pick it up until yesterday because we had the wrong car with us. And let’s just say, for the record, that Ben and I absolutely should never move furniture together. Every marriage has its limits and that’s ours! Somehow, by the grace of God, we got it up the stairs and while dinner was cooking in the oven, I happily arranged my sewing supplies!

I have a small bookshelf also to the left with all of my fabric and patterns, since it doesn’t all fit in the shelves. But oh, I am thrilled to pieces over this! Can I just tell you that this is the first time I will be able to sew with my legs under the table?? I was using a piece of furniture that is not meant for sewing so I would sit sideways to sew! Reeeeaaaally comfortable;)

It’s hard to describe how I feel about my new space but suffice it to say, I am really really happy! And feeling the creative juices flowing. Yea to furniture repurposing!!!