Husband and I moved to South Florida in the fall of 1998. We had just left art school in Pittsburgh, a life of cold winter days, coffee shops and art galleries. South Florida was polar opposite with it's hot humid days so naturally we switched hot coffee for cold drinks and got jobs at the Smoothie King on the beach.
Our Smoothie King was located directly under a premium gym where guys drove expensive cars and acted all knowledgeable about health products and such. Parking was so expensive that you had to be wealthy to drive to the beach and park every day. The irony is the drinks were so loaded in carbs that it was almost funny to mix up a 20 or 40 ounce drink for people who just worked out to burn the calories. We had one drink that was almost 1000 calories!
Accross the street was the International Swimming Hall of Fame which hosted non-stop events around the year for swimmers. We'd get kids of all ages marching accross the street for a "health" smoothie.
There was also the international crowd who worked the cruise ships and would bus into the beach for supplies and entertainment on the weekends.
The local kids employed at Smoothie King were an odd mix. Some were from a nearby private school who were very lazy and would forget to do all their closing chores. There was also a 16 year old girl who had false teeth and lived with her much older boyfriend. There was Jill, a girl who's mom had ruined her credit by 16 and Debra, a local with lots of tattoos who got pregnant by 16 and raised the baby with her boyfriend.
We befriended them all, regardless of race, gender and eccentricities - well I say that last part with one exception because when we met the creepy guy who said he was an internet porn star and offered us a job, well, we avoided him.
Finally there were the homeless.
One man stood out from the homeless crowd because of his manners. He'd come in to ask for a drink and always ready to pay $0.20 for the cup. Our boss had befriened this man and learned his life story. His name was Mike. Mike had a family once, a wife and daughter, both were killed in a car crash and Mike never recovered. He used to have a good job but could not function after the death of his family and he turned to drinking. We knew if we gave him money he would buy alcohol so we simply tried to be kind to him. We'd talk to him whenever he stopped by, always gave him water and food if needed. But it still came as a great surprise when we heard one day that he'd passed away on the beach. With an unexpected death there is always that thought of, what more could I have done for this person? Yes I tried to help, but could we have done more? Death is sad no matter when or how it hits, but always more so when it's unexpected.
Being 8 months pregnant in the month before Christmas has made me painfully aware of what Mary must have gone through to have baby Jesus in Bethlehem. The aches and pains at this stage can be tremendous along with going to the bathroom once an hour and feeling like labor could start at any moment with all the Braxton hicks tightening my tummy. It makes a mama want to take it easy and stay home! So what caused Mary to get on that donkey at this late stage in her pregnancy?
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife,who was with child.
Here is a google map showing the distance to be 36 hours of walking so it would have taken them 3 days if they walked 12 hours per day. (However, studies suggest it actually took 70 hours of travel due to political boundaries and ancient roadways.)
There is no specific mention of a donkey in these passages but I'm going to assume that this made it into the story because the idea of a pregnant women walking this far is hard to imagine. (And no husband in his right mind would let his wife walk that far anyways.)
Once they arrived in Bethlehem the story goes they could not find room at the inn and were given what we assume to be the stable to spend the night since she placed Jesus in a manger after birth. Definition for manger is a feeder that is made of carved stone, wood, or metal construction and is used to hold food for animals.
So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Can you imagine not finding suitable accommodations after a week of hard travel? Some people suggest they could have been in Bethlehem for a period of time before having the baby but that would mean living in the stable during that time. I'd like to believe the story goes more like the traditional tale which suggests that she gave birth right after settling down in the stable. Otherwise she'd have had weeks to fret over the potential of being stuck there for the birth! Can you imagine the stress of asking your husband every day - did you find a better place for us to stay yet? Sorry Mary, Bethlehem is just packed and there is nothing left!
We can only hope that after the birth they were able to find better housing because they had 40 days post birth to complete the circumcision, naming and purification. Leviticus 12:2-4 provides the details of post birth requirements. Plus we don't know how long it took to be counted for the censes.
In Luke 2:39 we learn the family returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth.
39 So when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth.
Luke skips over the 3 wise men's visit but we can pick this up in Matthew where we learn the wise men go see Herod first to inquire about Jesus King of the Jews and then the star leads them to the house where Jesus and family are living. We can only assume, based on the above verse in Luke, that they must have traveled onto to Nazareth.
Harod, feeling threatened by this young King of the Jews, makes a horrific decree to kill all male children under the age of 2 in Bethlehem. Immediately after the wise men visit Jesus and family, an angel spoke to Joseph in a dream telling him to flee to Egypt immediately with his family where they stayed until Herod's death.
13 Now when they (wise men) had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”
14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
That's a lot of travel for a young family just starting life together. I can only imagine they must have been very dependent on God to meet their needs because even moving that much in this modern age would be daunting.
There are so many lessons one can pick up from this story but as a mom who is 8 months pregnant, I take away the following:
We have very little control over the final outcome of pregnancy. No amount of planning can remove barriers like sickness, accidents, early labor, and in Mary's case, a last minute trip to Bethlehem. Therefore it's so important to listen for God's will in these final days.
Mary trusted God would work things out - I'm sure she could have put up a fight and told Joseph to go alone but she went with him and trusted things would work out.
Mary and Joseph did not complain about the inconvenience to their lives at having a baby in a stable or having to rush to Egypt in the middle of the night. They just kept doing what they were called to do. Now there are plenty of accounts in the Bible of people complaining about God's commands so I'm sure if it were relevant to the story, complaints would have been made known but we have a pure clear story of obedience and absolute trust.
As parents, it's so interesting to consider what Mary and Joseph went through. My husband and I discussed a scenario of how would we react if God came to us in a dream and said pack whatever you can fit in one vehicle and leave Hagerstown, MD tonight, oh and you're going to be gone two years so trust that I'll meet your needs. We'd probably be completely overwhelmed!
In this modern age, we have so many ways of maintaining strict control over our lives that it's easy to be lulled into thinking we are in complete control. Need a car, just take out a line of credit. Need food, call any number of fast food places and have it delivered. Get sick, go to the doctor and get meds - except in my case where being sick during pregnancy means very limited options so you better believe I've been praying every day for recovery! So there are exceptions when it hits us that we can't resolve things on our own but you can see how easy it is to largely live our lives without giving any consideration to God's will.
I think this is a good time to pause and consider just how much we really should feel dependent on God for our present lives and future. Even Jesus had to depend on the guidance of his heavenly father. Think about it - Jesus didn't come to earth as a God, he came as a human and therefore was solely dependent through his parents as a young child to follow God's direct will. As an adult we see Jesus praying constantly for guidance. Why then should we do any differently?
Last Tuesday Sam complained of a sore throat and I made the call to send him to school anyway. It's hard to tell the difference between normal stuff kids complain about and a serious oncoming illness - or so I say to comfort myself. By 10am we got calls and text messages to come get Sam because he was getting worse and crying. He stayed on the couch for 2 days while we did our best to comfort him and by Friday he was better! Saturday the two girls got sick and by Sunday husband was down for the count so I spent the day catering to everyone and wishing someone would come get Sam and take him out to play because he was bouncing off the walls!
I worked Monday and took care of sick husband and girls and I guess they wore me down because by Tuesday morning I was unable to work. For 3 days I've had the most intense cold/sinus headaches and body aches and pains. Being 35 weeks pregnant means I can take very little medicine. The only bright side is this little girl really appreciated the extra cuddle time.
Today is the first day I'm finally able to look at a computer screen and function normally.
I've lost all ability to send out Christmas cards and do all those fun little Christmas projects with the kids that I wanted to do. The tree is up though, we managed to squeeze that in on Friday in between the kids trading illnesses. So at least it looks like Christmas in our home. I'm just not sure I have much energy to do anything else at this point. My biggest regret is not getting a family Christmas picture taken while I'm pregnant but maybe we can squeeze that in next week.
Next week is the school Christmas program on Tuesday and husband declared the only way we're missing that is if I'm in the hospital giving birth! Then there's a bells program on Wednesday and a Christmas play on Sunday so I guess quarantining will not work. Let's pray for complete healing and no more illness for the remainder of this pregnancy!!!
Sam turned 4 in August, but we waited to enroll him in pre-school so he could spend a month in Texas with his grandparents. It gave little sister Vi a month to get used to him not being around every day.
So far he's enjoying the new schedule but he seemed so tired at the end of the day. I go back and forth about wanting to keep him home longer and knowing the timing is perfect. Our forth baby will be here around mid-January 2015 so it's important to get routines established before she arrives. So off goes my 2nd child, to school, for the next 20 or so years!
We really need to rethink our Halloween costume strategy. Myself and husband are artists yet we went out and bought 2 out of 3 costumes and spent way too much money. Next year all costumes WILL be homemade! Especially since we will have 4 kids by that time!!
Charlotte Indian - 6 years old
Sam Ghost - 4 years old - but shortly after this photo he decided he hated the costume so we had to switch to a backup cowboy outfit. Our neighborhood thought it was a hoot to have a Cowboy and Indian together! No more costumes over the head for this boy! We had trouble last year with his robot costume for the same reason, he can't stand anything touching his face.
Violette Butterfly - 2 years old (she removed the wings before the photo shoot, I was just glad to get her standing still long enough for a photo!)
By the time we got Sam redressed in the Cowboy outfit, light was almost gone.
So after trick or treating we did a few more photos inside.
We had less trick or treaters this year. I guess next year I'll only buy one bag of candy!
These orange mushrooms fascinate me. Last year they popped up on 10/4/13 and this year I took photos on 10/13/14 but they had already been there for about a week. I just find it so interesting that they have held the same schedule for two years straight!
Last year I made a photo montage in Photoshop of our family sitting under the mushrooms and it's one of my favorites. I'm by no means an expert in Photoshop but I love to play!
Here's a photo of this year's orange mushrooms:
Three days later it rained and they got bigger and flatter!
I think that this one is perfect for an updated family photo under the mushrooms. Now I just need to get a good shot of us on a bench like last year, or maybe on a rock or something outside.
But at least I can squeeze in a few more fun things when I work from home!
Wake at 8am
Yoga 20 minutes
Prepare breakfast for self and two year old
Read news whilst eating breakfast and two year old watches movies
Work from 9-11:30 then get shower, take photos of cute orange mushrooms in the front yard
Work from 12:30 - 3:15, stop and go get daughter from 1st grade
Decide we all need a nice snack, stop at Panera and get full sandwich, chocolate croissant and mocha, let girls get whatever treat they want, everyone should benefit from moma's pregnancy!
Home at 4:30, work until 6:30, make girls dinner, still too full from "snack" so go back to work until 8pm. Spend 15 minutes with girls then work until 9:00 when back hurts so bad I can't see how I could possibly sit for another minute.
Yoga for 20 minutes.
Get call from Hong Kong office at 9:30, go back to work until 11pm.
Well, at least I did yoga twice and had a nice afternoon break with the girls!
I asked myself this question last night during our church's Wednesday prayer meeting. I asked because prayer is now a very big deal to me at this point in my life, but when I was a kid, sitting through these long prayer meetings were pure torture. Sorry mom, but I dreaded the long prayer meetings. I'd bring a full bag of entertainment and draw or read.
As a child I'm sure I had needs, but mom and dad took care of the prayers so I only participated as required. As a teenager, I got so distracted with high school and pressures within that it simply didn't occur to me to pray for my problems there. Was God going to stop the bullies from pestering me? It just didn't register. In college, I was fearless, although I probably could have been a little more cautious. I think at that time it was my mom's continued prayers that probably kept me safe.
As an adult, with real problems, I find I can't pray enough. Every day I hear something about a friend or family member that makes me want to intercede on their behalf. You see, it's no longer about myself - I have three kids, 4th on the way and deeper relationships with people. There are major things happening in the world affecting our futures. There are major illnesses affecting friends and family. And the one thing I can do is pray on behalf of everything that bothers me. When I wake up at night, the first friend I think of get's prayed over for something. At this point I even have atheists friends calling and asking for prayer because they know I'm good for it. I have a simple faith but with my simple faith I've seen prayer work and that gives me the confidence to keep going. I actually enjoy these prayer meetings now and I even speak out with thanksgiving when prayers are answered. I guess I've finally matured as a Christian.
After a two day return trip from Texas, we decided to stay home from church this Sunday. We got in late last night and the girls looked like they needed rest. But rest is more than sleeping! It also involves acclimating to home, toys they haven't seen for two weeks and a much colder temperature than when we left.
By 3pm I declared it was time for a coffee break outing. With fond memories of drawing with husband before kids, I declare it coffee shop sketch day. Much time and effort is spent in finding our sketch books - I'm afraid it's been so long for mom and dad that we had to really dig. Next we bravely put on our outdoor gear - one of us over compensated by putting on a snow suit which was promptly removed upon entering the truck due to discomfort.
Finally we arrived at the coffee shop with grand intentions! We order coffee beans for the month, drinks and snacks. We sit to eat the snacks and the oldest dives into my peanut butter pie and consumes 90% before I've opened my sketch book! Then she melts down when we ask her to stop. Dad takes her for a walk. It turns out she's just really hungry from not eating much lunch so we order a cheese bagel. Then she's suddenly wet, and we can't figure out if she sat in something or had an accident when she was freaking out earlier so dad takes her to the truck for a change. Back from the truck she happily eats the cheese bagel and finally draws. The youngest rolls her sketch into a ball and loses all interest in drawing. All she wants is cheese and entertainment. My delicate pond sketch with cattails and swan is roughly colored over. Finally husband, having drawn nothing, says quietly that it might be time to go.
On the way home there is more whimpering from the oldest because her tummy hurts again. I wonder how she's going to survive first day back to school tomorrow with all this drama!
It's our 6th year celebrating Talk Like a Pirate Day. Coincidentally, our oldest is 6 years old so we've managed to celebrate this as regularly as Christmas! I love going through the prior TLAPD photos and seeing how much the kids have grown.
This year we repeated the chocolate gold coin hunt in the back yard but with competitive kids, we had real tears and drama over who could get the most first! The oldest, with the most coins, had the biggest breakdown because someone reached a gold coin before her. The middle child got sad then happy after I helped him find the next coin. The youngest had the least coins and was the jolliest.
Astonishingly, the only real problem with our home laptop was a faulty cord! The computer worked until one day the cord just refused to provide power. We tried out a local computer tech in Williamsport, MD who after hearing our sad tale, opened a drawer full of replacement cords and charged us $40! I immediately spent the entire weekend updating our backup drive and I've instigated regular back ups into our home routine. It's always nice when things work out in the end.
Our primary home computer has been cranky all year but it seemed like more old age issues of working really slow, not wanting to visit many websites, etc. I'd learned to work around it's quirks and only used it for very specific basic things like scanning, saving photos, storing home information, etc. So when the computer suddenly shut off while plugged in I was completely mystified! No blue screen warnings of hey, I'm about to take a nose dive into computer death. No warnings. Just sudden death.
Of course I'll be taking it to a computer store to try and salvage the information, which will put a dent in the computer budget I've been saving all year to get a new one - boo hiss! I haven't backed up all year and that's just irritating me because it's been on my list of things to do for a year.
Henceforth my plea to please back up your work, always.
She asked for paint and then to my horror, barely used it. As a former art student wasting materials is a very very bad thing to do so I sit down to use up the leftover paint. She comes to join me because it's more fun to paint what mom is drawing.
It's a crazy unplanned art piece. It was only supposed to be a few flowers that I'd crop and put in my journal because the center was already cut out but it turned into a full art piece so I just glued some pink paper to cover the hole and placed a few more cut flowers in the center. Weird, unplanned, total random piece of art, and we still had a little paint left over!
I had a long mental list of things I was planning to do with Charlotte this summer and I can't say that we did any of it but she had an amazing summer so I'm not beating myself up over this.
There's this educational bug that's going around that makes parents want to cram as much knowledge as possible into our kids heads. Make them read as many books as possible over the summer. Make them do math every day. It's helpful when people post articles about "Unschooling" on Facebook to help bring the frazzled overburdened parent back to earth.
This summer, Charlotte left home for a month and not once did she call in a panic out of boredom or fear. I knew she's be okay but I really thought she might need a little more hand holding, more phone calls, etc. She did not.
She left for Texas on June 26th, a week after her birthday and spent about one week in Texas with family. She then went on a 2 day road trip with her grandparents to Montana where they stayed for two weeks. She then did the return trip back to Texas and flew home on July 29th, just in time to celebrate Sam's birthday.
She hasn't stopped talking about this trip since returning. The outdoor stuff she discovered like finding dead animals, a bird that Odie the Dalmatian may have killed, a butterfly that had it's head fall off, a bag of rocks that were brought back to paint because she found a lovely one in a shop that she wanted to imitate. So much learning and we just had to set her free to discover things. This is the beauty of education. The ugly part is the cramming. Let's just hope I've learned my lesson and don't go into over drive next summer thinking we have to do school every day!
I've been baking muffins obsessively for about 3 years now and have learned the value of butter VS oil. Aside from taste, the biggest difference is the oil based muffins will last in the fridge longer than the butter base. The butter base get harder and denser as the days go on so I suggest to eat these up within 2 days of making them. If you want an amazing butter based recipe, I suggest this one from Pioneer Women. I've made it over 50 times and it's just wonderful. It never lasts more than 2 days anyway!
This recipe is oil based and I can't remember where I got the original recipe but I've made enough changes to make it my own so here goes:
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 eggs beaten
1.5 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin (or use your favorite squash)
1 cup oil
You know the drill, mix powders in one bowl and wet mixture in a second bowl. Slowly combine both in a mixer or by hand.
Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.
This recipe makes 30 muffins so be prepared to grease a lot of muffin containers! I haven't tried cutting it in half, instead I just got creative with the toppings.
1st 12 muffins - AWESOME ADDITION!
1 bar of cream cheese blended with the following:
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Add one scoop of cream cheese mixture to each muffin, I use a cookie scoop
Sprinkle cinnamon/sugar on top of muffin
2nd 12 muffins - AWESOME ADDITION!
Topping can be any nuts and dried fruit you happen to have on hand. The ones you buy at Starbucks have Pumpkin seeds so we thought why not use up some of this trail mix we have on hand!
3rd set of 6 muffins - AWESOME ADDITION!
We had a bag of cranberries to use up and thought, why not put these inside the muffin mix! The topping was back to the brown sugar/cinnamon mix.
These freeze extremely well. To thaw in a hurry, microwave for 15 seconds to thaw inside and then in the oven for 5 minutes at 350.
Peeking my head out of the covers to rejoin the Random community. Yawn, stretch, it's been a long year since I've joined in the merriment!
1) Husband brought this flower inside while it was a bud. As it opened we discovered a beetle. He moves occasionally, even after we were sure he was dead. Maybe he's just alarmed by all the noise.
2) I've declared today to be the last day Frozen shall be played until it snows again! I want the kids to fall in love with it again and get excited about building snowmen so I'm hiding the DVD after today! Sorry little girl.
3) Fun signs my husband leaves on my work white board.
4) Did you know it's cheaper to rent a castle in France than to stay at some Disney Resorts?!? Check out the link.
1 - shop with your kids, ALL of them!
2 - shop after dinner, when you are tired and less likely to walk away from a transaction gone wrong.
Here's the scenario:
You find a wonderful $10 off shoes coupon from Money Saving Mom and envision shoes for $15 each after coupon.
Rush to JCP with entire family in tow
Go through the entire shoe fitting experience complete with two year old insisting she needs new shoes and telling her no, it's only the big kids who get shoes.
Get them to fall in love with shoes
Take each oldest to the bathroom, separately, because they couldn't consider going at the same time and we were too daft to ask
Finally take them all to the register only to find out they don't take Disney brand with the coupon
Resolutely redirect entire family back to shoe department to find they only stock brands that are not honored by the coupon. In fairness to JCP, there was one brand available but they were out of stock on our sizes
Give up, buy shoes
Later in the week, stop buy Target to get their 2nd back up pair and find "Buy one, get 2nd pair half off". Cry self to sleep because the total price of shoes is $37.50 rather than the $49 spent at JCP.
3 - Torture self further by taking all 3 kids (without husband to act as human shield to their grievances) and shop for the last thing on the list - school shirts for one child. Go to Bon Ton, find nothing. Return to Target for 30 excruciating minutes of holding two year old because she wouldn't stop screaming bloody murder from the cart and giving four year old a phone with games to play at full volume while trying to convince picky six year old to just pick 5 shirts that are in her size!!!
Next year, shopping will be done on individual child basis.
This recipe is truly a labor of love because refried beans are cheap and how often do you eat them on a weekly basis? If once a week then $1.00 per can is not going to hurt your budget. However I like to think it's a matter of taste and preference for making food in bulk.
I started with this recipe from Money Saving Mom and modified it to my own taste because the amount of onion made it taste too strongly of onion. Also, I'd like to explain things more in detail and with photos. If you are seriously into this project I suggest to read MSM's full article along with mine and make your own judgement call.
Soak Dried Beans
I started with a 2lb bag of dried pinto beans from Aldi. I'm told dried beans can contain small rocks and to sift through them. I found one rock and pulled out all the half cracked beans which was only a handful, washed the entire set in a strainer and put with 12 cups of water to soak overnight.
Cook Soaked Beans
The next day, it is recommended to drain the water to reduce flatulence. Refill the pot with enough water to cover the beans, bring to a boil then cook on low temperature for 3-4 hours. Some recipe's suggest less time but I like them really cooked through.
Refried Bean Recipe
4 cups cooked pinto beans
3 T butter or bacon grease (my husband actually strains bacon grease and freezes it, see MSM for other fat options)
2/3 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon garlic powder (I didn't have fresh garlic on hand)
2 1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt (I found the 2 t. sea salt from MSM to be too salty)
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Milk, as needed - I found that splashing it 4 times throughout the skillet seemed to give the consistency I was looking for. A little more will just cook out so don't worry if it looks too liquidy
Cook the onions in butter or bacon grease for 10 minutes, I cook them this long because I don't like the chunky taste of onions.
While the onions are cooking, blend all spices in a small bow and mix with 4 cups of cooked pinto beans
Once the onions are done, add the pinto bean/spice mix and splash milk on top, mix until it gives the consistency you are looking for
Cook on low heat for 15 minutes, keep an eye on it because you don't want the beans to dry out so if the milk is disappearing too fast, then you can reduce cooking time.
At this point you can mash them with a potato masher if you feel the need to be more smashed but I find that with the additional cooking time on the pinto beans it's not necessary
2lbs of dried beans will make 10 cups of cooked pinto beans
We made 5 pints of refried beans which equals 5 cans bought in the store