Friday, March 25, 2011

Spring means kittens

It is getting to be spring. This means flowers and warmer days, sunshine and things turning green, and if you foster cats it means LOTS of kittens.

We have been a foster home for kittens for almost a year now and what a blessing it has been. Besides my daughters loving it, they have learned so much about compassion and responsibility. Having kittens has stimulated all kinds of great conversations about life and death, the effects of our choices on others and doing your work even when you don't want to because someone is counting on you. The girls and I have learned so much.

At our house we currently have 2 mama cats. Sasha gave birth to a litter of 4 girls last week. Honeybear is huge and pregnant and going to pop any day now. I swear she must have 6 kittens at least in there, with her tennis ball head and beach ball belly she can hardly walk. If left at the shelter, these mama and their litters would have been killed. You see, shelters have limited space and kittens can't be adopted out until they are 8 weeks old so shelters just can't keep them. My friend Georgia picks them up and we keep them until they are big enough to find forever homes.

Interested? The amount of work it takes to care for kittens is minimal and more could be saved if more people were willing to snuggle a kitten for a few weeks. You won't be sorry.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tea

I love being the mother of girls. The dresses and shoes, the bows and babies and especially the tea parties. Eliana and I have been doing tea since she was about 2 years old. We don't do it every day but it does seem to happen several times a month. Sometimes we use my tea stuff (full size) and sometimes we use hers (miniature). We set the table/floor, get out our napkins and table cloth, brew some tea, fetch some cookies and sometimes invite our friends. It is all very formal. I have discovered that some tea edict, that you would think is a given, is less so when doing tea with a one, three and five year old. Here is my list:

- It is impolite to stick your toes in your cup of tea or anyone elses.
- Sisters will get angry if you take their cookie off their plate, even if you were not going to eat it but just lick the frosting off of it.
-It is good manors to wear undies to the tea party while wearing a dress and sitting on the floor
- Don't lick the spoon that everyone is using to stir their tea even if there is a little sugar stuck to it.
-If you turn away for even a moment, someone will empty the sugar dish into their mouth
-When papa comes up from working JUST so he can have a tea party with his girls, the girls will glow the rest of the day
-It is always good to have a metal list of good conversation topics so you don't get stuck talking about why the kittens have stinky toots.
- Everyone is invited, even the baby, even though she may spill her tea and sit on the fruit plate

If you ever find yourself without something to do mid day, please give me a call. We will brew a fresh pot, put on our undies and wash our toes just for you.

Monday, March 21, 2011

the IN BETWEEN

We all have areas of our character that are in need of...refinement. I have some things I have made progress on and some that I have a loooooong way to go on. One of these is living in the in between stages of life. When you know a big choice is looming on the horizon but you don't have any information or power to make a choice and keep moving. I am a do-er. I am a fix-er. I am not a wait-er.

We are at that place in our life right now. Matt has some big job changes coming up but nothing that we can move on just yet. I hate this place. I makes me grumpy and hard to live with, just ask Matt. You see, Sony has decided that Matt's job is no longer remote based. That means he has to go into his office. Every day. And California is a reaaaaallly long commute. While they have told us this, they have not yet given us the "move to California" offer. So we wait.

A former coworker of Matt's has contacted him about another position. Matt is really excited about what the job includes....everything except that the job includes living in New Jersey. Actually, Matt is ok with living in New Jersey, it is Gretchen who who wants to live there like I want a hole in my head. That is ok, because they haven't given Matt an official offer yet either. So we wait.

Another person who used to work with Matt has been trying to get him to come on board for a while now at his new company. Matt has been talking to him, too. We would have to live in the Bay area or in Fort Collins for that job. But they haven't given Matt an offer either and we are still waiting on a interview for them. So we wait.

A local company just asked if Matt would be willing to talk to them on Wednesday. Of course Matt is very willing. But it is Monday and we don't know much about the position, so we wait.

I hate waiting. If I am to move, fine, let me know so I can start the organizing, packing, purging, etc (ugh, even writing that makes me tired!) But I HATE waiting. I bet God is trying to teach me something right now, but I am not feeling real "teachable". I am feeling grumpy and impatient. Have I mentioned that I HATE WAITING?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Overheard

-Eliana, while watching mama cat giving birth to kittens "I sure am glad I am a people so I don't have to lick all that icky stuff off my babies"

-Addilyn, while introducing me to her newest polly pocket "Meet Repunzel-Repunzel-let-dow-your-hair"

- Annabelle, while pinning a kitten down to wash its face with a wet wipe "Wash. Ick"

Friday, March 18, 2011

Hello Cupcake

Some things just make my day. The children sleeping in and waking up happy, a clean house, empty laundry baskets...and food. I am a big fan of food. Some people are "eat to live" types, I am not one of them. Finding a great deal at the store also makes me happy. I choose to believe I am "thrifty" not "cheap". And kitchen gadgets. Ok, so that is a little random, but I really like kitchen things. Maybe it is my love of food. The other day was a GREAT day when I came across a cupcake maker on clearance at Target. My heart skipped a beat. My husband rolled his eyes but my girls were thrilled.
Meet my new friend. Isn't she adorable?! And the best part is that she makes 6 cupcakes in 10 minutes! The girls and I put the little gadget to work right away with some chocolate chocolate chip cup cakes that I frosted with chocolate frosting I had in my fridge (what, you don't always have several types of frosting on hand?!) They were great, fast, easy and yummy.

I suppose some might argue that 1-No one needs cupcakes so often that they would need one of these and 2- an oven works just fine. To this person I say HA! You have no scope of imagination!! And of COURSE you need cupcakes often enough to justify a cute little guy like this! But, even if you're not a cup cake eater (really, can we still be friends?) here are some things that I will be making in my sassy pink machine:

-Cheesecake (use ginger snap as a crust)
-Rice Pudding (left over rice mixed with milk and an egg, dash of sugar, Cinnamon and vanilla)
-brownies
-Cookie cups (press cookie around cupcake form and fill with ice cream when cooled)
- Muffins (pams if your GF or Jiffy mix if your not, add whatever fruit you have on hand)
- bread pudding (dry bread mixed with milk, eggs, Cinnamon baked then topped with syrup)
- Baked oatmeal (oatmeal, egg, milk, applesauce, brown sugar and whatever fruit you have)

Now my husband is not really a sweets kind of guy, although the cookie cups and brownies did get his attention, so here are some ideas for REAL food

-quiche (mix eggs, dash of milk and creamed spinach to cook in cups)
- fritatta (frozen hash browns, frozen pepper and onion mix, eggs)
- Biscuits (prepared biscuit mix stirred up with bacon bits and cheese)
- Corn bread (plain or add ham and cheese or black beans, green chilies and cheese)
- Meatloaf cups (meatloaf formed into cup, baked the filled with mashed potatoes)

My mouth is watering. I have used my fancy little machine for several types of cup cakes and muffins and can't wait to branch out. I should add that I use it with silicone muffin cups to make it easier. I know there is a children's cook book devoted to making things in the little silicone cup cake cups that I may need to check out from the library for more ideas.

If you have little pink cupcake machine envy (and I KNOW you do) you need to scoot yourself over to Target and pick one up while they are on clearance. You won't be sorry, but you might go up a pant size.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patty's Day

We are big on celebrating random holidays in the Crocker house. St Patricks day is especially fun. We get the chance to celebrate a man who chose to spend his life telling the very people who wronged him that Jesus loves them. We get to learn about and celebrate all things Irish. And don't even get me started on the green beer and corned beef and cabbage.

Need to brush up on your St. Patrick facts? Read on:

Who Was Saint Patrick?
Even though Saint Patrick the patron saint of Ireland and one of the most celebrated religious figures around the world, the factual information about his life and times is quite vague. Most information about St. Patrick has been twisted, embellished, or simply made up over centuries by storytellers, causing much ambiguity about the real life of St. Patrick. However, there are a some elements of his story about which most scholars accept to be true.
According to Coilin Owens, Irish literature expert and Professor Emeritus of English at George Mason University, Saint Patrick is traditionally thought to have lived "between 432-461 A.D., but more recent scholarship moves the dates up a bit." At the age of sixteen he was kidnapped from his native land of the Roman British Isles by a band pirates, and sold into slavery in Ireland. Saint Patrick worked as a shepherd and turned to religion for solace. After six years of slavery he escaped to the Irish coast and fled home to Britain.
While back in his homeland, Patrick decided to become a priest and then decided to return to Ireland after dreaming that the voices of the Irish people were calling him to convert them to Christianity.
After studying and preparing for several years, Patrick traveled back to Ireland as a Christian missionary. Although there were already some Christians living in Ireland, St. Patrick was able to bring upon a massive religious shift to Christianity by converting people of power. Says Prof. Owens, "[St. Patrick] is credited with converting the nobles; who set an example which the people followed."
But Patrick's desire to spread of Christianity was not met without mighty opposition. Prof. Owens explains, "Patrick ran into trouble with the local pagan priesthood, the druids: and there are many stories about his arguments with them as well as his survival of plots against them." He laid the groundwork for the establishment of hundreds of monasteries and churches that eventually popped up across the Irish country to promote Christianity.
Saint Patrick is also credited with bringing written word to Ireland through the promotion of the study of legal texts and the Bible, says Prof. Owens. Previous to Patrick, storytelling and history were reliant on memory and orally passing down stories.
Patrick's mission in Ireland is said to have lasted for thirty years. It is believe he died in the 5th century on March 17, which is the day St. Patrick's Day is commemorated each year.
The first year St. Patrick's Day was celebrated in America in 1737 in Boston, Massachusetts. The first official St. Patrick's Day parade was held in New York City in 1766. As the saying goes, on this day "everybody is Irish!" Over 100 U.S. cities now hold Saint Patrick's Day parades


So today, put on something green, go hunt leprichans, and raise a toast to all things IRISH!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mac and Cheese


I am not a food blogger, forgive the "meh" picture and understand the AWESOMENESS that is what I am going to share with you.
I am not a flaky person, generally. I am a list maker to keep me from being a flake. Sometimes, while at the store, I have a moment when I questions my list, thinking I forgot something I am sure we needed. I toss the item in the cart only to find 3 more like it when I come home. Sigh. I should trust the list.
This is what happened with cottage cheese. What does one do with 4 containers of cottage cheese, especially when one daughter is dairy free and one loudly announces that she no longer likes cottage cheese? Mac and cheese, baby.
Home made mac and cheese doesn't make the list of "diet foods" or "healthy foods" but seems to be right at the top of the "comfort food" category. But it is generally a lot of work. If I can come up with a recipe that is healthy, low cost and yummy it is the dinner trifecta. MMMMMMmmmm. This one totally counts.
I am not a recipe follower, but let me tell you how I made this tasty dish.
-Empty half a pack (8 or so oz) of dry pasta into a dish, a 8 x 8 would be nice and full. I had shells. Any small noodle would work.
-Dump in most of a 1 pound container of small curd cottage cheese, choose low fat/non fat if your being healthy. Add about 1/2 cup of milk (skim, if you must) and about 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheese. I had sharp Cheddar on hand so that is what I used. Stir it all up. Salt and pepper to taste
-Cover dish tightly with foil and place in 350 degree oven for about 30 min. Check your noodles to see if they are soft. If so, pull out of the oven and top with bread crumbs mixed with butter and seasoning. Return to oven until crumbs are a little crisp, maybe 10 minutes.
-ENJOY!
This is so easy and so fast and very yummy. Doctor it up with ground beef or ham and peas and you have a whole meal. Serve with a salad and try to save some for tomorrows lunch, makes great left overs :) Pretty sure it would work in the crock pot but I haven't tried it yet.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Parenting the heart

I was a perfect parent...before I had kids. I knew EXACTLY how I would raise my children, who would be obedient and well behaved. And then I had kids. Each fearfully and wonderful designed...differently. What works on one doesn't phase the other. Just when I think I have a plan of action everything comes apart at the seams.

Today I read this and it challenged my heart.The author speaks of parenting from the position of grace, understanding who your child is and what they actually can do, and choosing to understand your childs HEART above their actions. Parenting with the intent of shaping character instead of punishing behavior.

Eliana is my sweet oldest. She loves to be in charge, she wants to be older than she is and, to my occasional dismay, she completely orbits her own universe. She is generally honest, wants to obey, loves to have my full attention to talk and can't stay on task to save her life. She SOOOO reminds my of my oldest sister. Wonderfully creative but scattered, smart but ditzy, so loving if she could just remember where she put her...I am sometimes to harsh on Eliana. I get frustrated by her inability to finish a task and end up making her feel bad. If I stop to understand her heart, I know she isn't being rebellious. Instead of nagging her to stay on task, I need to remember to teach her the tools she needs to focus her attention. I need to break big projects down into 5 minute jobs. She is like Matt, needing to daily hear how important she is to me and how much I value who she is. She needs one on one time with just me, with my full attention.

Addilyn is my joyful puppy. Always knocking things over, unable to sit still, silly, happy, funny. Loves her sisters but needs her space more than Eliana does. Wants to know how and why things work the way they do. Everything still goes in her mouth. Loves to work with her hands, run, wrestle, jump and climb. Needs time to be still and snuggle with me. At this age Elie never used a sippy cup but Addilyn knocks over more glasses of milk out of shear inattention. I try to remember that it isn't intentional. I give her sippy cups instead of setting her up for failure. When this girl is tired or hungry her world falls apart into tears and fits. It isn't her fault I made her run errands past her lunch time when she is ready for a nap, she is too little to have the self control to keep it together. I need to remember her heart isn't rebellious, her tummy is hungry and her head is tired.

Annabelle is a firecracker. Little and loud, full of opinions, I found her standing in the middle of the kitchen table the other day and she screamed bloody murder when I removed her. Sigh. She babbles non stop, wants to do what the big kids do, has ideas about everything and comes unglued when she feels like you don't understand or are not listening to what she needs. She wants what she wants and she wants it NOW. She, more than my other two, I need to remember I am shaping her heart not punishing her behavior. She doesn't have the ability to 'wait' yet, it is a concept completely beyond her grasp. Her world is NOW. She throws fits in frustration and needs compassion when what I want to do is THUMP her head. She is one, she is a baby still. God grant me patients!

Parenting can't be reactive. I don't want to lay down hard and fast rules that my kids feel the need to challenge to defines themselves as there own people. I want my children to be set up for success, guide them into making good choices, shape there character to be like Christs. Even on my best parenting days, I don't get it all right. Thank the Lord for grace and good therapists!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Mrs. Fix it

The older I get (all of my 30 years) the more I learn about myself. Some things are good, unfortunately, the ones I most need to learn and most often learn are...something less than good.

Today I was reading a friends blog (Hi Shi!) about a young teen whos life is very hard. Pregnant, crappy home life, now dropping out of school with a young toddler. My first thought? We should invite her to live with us! She can go to school, I can help her, and the baby can stay with us while she is in class! Ok, I have never met this girl. We have 5 people in a small 3 bed room house. I doubt she is interested in living with a complete stranger. But I can't help it.

Hi, my name is Gretchen and I am a fixer. Need someone to listen to your problems? Ha! Not only can I listen, but I will give you a laundry list of ideas of how to FIX those problems. Matt says I am totally unsympathetic when he is sick. Not so! I bring him tea, give him ideas of how to feel better, go to the store for drugs that might help.

Being a "fixer" happens not to be a very helpful character quality. When I offer all kinds of ideas of how to fix something I end up coming off as a "know it all" or someone who thinks I am always right. It doesn't help that I am a complete information junky. When a broken hearted friend spills their heart to me and I go off on how to feel better, I come off as insensitive and not listening. When Matt is sick and I try to fix him, he feel like I am impatient when all he wants is a little sympathy and a long nap.

God, help me shut my big mouth. Help me serve without unwanted commentary. Help me speak truth in LOVE when the time is right, not just when I feel the need to fix people. Help me have a deep understanding of all the fixing that needs to be done in my own life, keep me humble. God let me be your hands with an understanding that you alone are the real "fixer".

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Grumpy

I am feeling grumpy today. I have no good reason. I got a full nights sleep but still feel like I could use more. The weather is awesome, the kids are being reasonably well behaved, we are fostering 3 adorable kittens, my fridge is stocked my laundry is started, my house is... kind of a wreck, but that is nothing new. I have no reason for my bad attitude.

I just took a meal to a friend of mine with seven children, most of whom are sick right now, three who are sick enough to be spending time at the hospital and on oxygen. One of those three is under a year old. My kids are all healthy, as are Matt and I.

I leave for a few day in Miami a week from today. I will be spending time with Matt and laying in the sun, hanging out with friends. I have no reason for this funk.

We got our tax return. We have enough to pay for the un-fun stuff that comes up in life and a couple of plane tickets to CA later this summer. We are blessed beyond reason.

Matt just told me not to bother with dinner, that he will pick something up, so I am off the hook for cooking.

But no one took naps this afternoon. And the baby has an attitude problem. And the kittens pooped on my kitchen rug and then I stepped in it with my slipper and tracked it around the kitchen. My hair is doing crazy things. My husband is crazy busy at work and stressed out, then he leaves and I won't see him until next week. Though it is started, my laundry NEVER ends.

I would pray for a better attitude...but I don't want to. I don't want to clean the play room or vacuum the stairs. I don't want to hand the dress shirts. I don't want to scrub the floor, toilet or shower. I don't want to...do anything. Except sit here. Wallowing in my grumpys. Stewing in my surliness. Making those around me wish they weren't.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

National Pig Day


Today is National Pig day! Need some ideas of how to celebrate?


-Do "this Little Piggy" on your toes or someone elses

-Act out the story of the 3 little pigs

- Wear a pink curtly tail (cut a circle in a spiral) a nose (tp roll) and ears

- Eat pigs in a blanket (biscuit covered hot dogs/sausage)

- Practice spelling out the word PIG

- Look up information and pictures of pigs and how they live, what they eat, etc

- Build a piggy habitat out of blocks

- Lay blankets on the floor and pretend to roll in the mud

- Get out the pink play dough and make some piggies!

- Read a pig book (If you Give a Pig and Pancake or Pigs Can't Fly)