Thursday, December 19, 2013

Processing the Spin Out of a Perfect Storm

Whew.. I'm back for a little update.

Xander is doing well in OT.  He's been discharged from speech and will be re-evaluated in a year.

Solomon is doing okay in speech.  We've been working hard (twice a week in formal therapy and lots of exercises at home) but we aren't seeing a ton of progress.  It's frustrating but I'm trying to just pray it out.

I've been going to Weightwatchers now for 6 weeks.  I've lost a little over 12 lbs.  I'm thrilled and the plan is working for me.  I need the accountability and social interaction.  It's been a wonderful experience so far.  

Brandon and I both finished our school this past week. And that is what the rest of this post will be about.

I had a hard time last week and since I'm no longer EATING my feelings, I nearly spun out of control in other ways. 

I've carried an amazingly large amount of baggage for many years.  Most of it stems from my childhood.  I was NEVER good enough.  Some of you that have known me for many years, know that I have a perfectionism issue.  It is not my natural nature.  I am MUCH more of a "good enough" person.  Try your best, do your best, etc.  I regularly tell my children, "Did you truly try your best?  Yes? Well, that is all I can ask for!" 

This is very different than how I was raised.  I had what I now consider the "misfortune" of being labeled "gifted" at a very young age.  I learned to read very young and I loved to read, so I really read anything and everything I could get my hands on.  Some things came very easily to me.  And honestly, I was pretty bored in my regular classes.  But my life really changed once my mom pushed the school to test me for the "gifted program."  I loved the gifted program in elementary school, but I quickly realized that it appeared I had to "work harder" than many of my "gifted" peers.  I couldn't do cool things like multiply two 5 digit numbers in my head when we were in the 3rd grade.  (Heck, I still can't!)

Looking back, I wish someone had gently said that we all have our gifts and that for SOME OF US, it is our work ethic.  God gifts each of us individually.  He uses gifts that aren't recognized by our culture or the world.

As an adult, I also see that testing can be biased.  There is comic going around facebook that has a few animals like a fish, a monkey, a bird and the "test" is to climb the tree.  Well the monkey is obviously going to win.. 

Anyway, getting back to my original point.  I'd bring A's home and it was "Stephanie, why didn't you get an A+? You are GIFTED!  You are smarter than this!"  I brought my first B home in the 2nd grade in math and you would have thought my world had ended.  I was afraid to go home.  I cried from the time that I saw my report card until I went home.  And I cried for good cause.  I was grounded from everything (including my beloved books) until progress reports came out.   My teacher suggested that perhaps my mom had overreacted and I remember my mom telling her that she wasn't raising a "mediocre" child-- she was raising a GIFTED child.  The G word has haunted me for many years. 

In third grade, I used to lay awake with worry the night before progress reports and report cards.  Sometimes I'd lay there thinking up really cool things I could propose for extra credit, just in case! Sometimes I just laid there with racing thoughts.

My heart used to race when papers were returned to us once a week for our parents to sign off on.  Mistakes (even while learning something for the first time) were unacceptable.  The line was drawn in the sand.  At 8 years old, I knew that to be considered "Good" or "Smart" by my mom, I had to be perfect- no exceptions, no excuses, no "off days".  The end. 

Perfection was driven into me at every point.  I remember testing for chairs in Band.  (For you non music folks, you test with your instrument and are "ranked.")  I was third chair.  Not good enough. "You'll never get a solo, Stephanie.  You are THIRD!"  I made the county honor band but was like 18th chair. (18th in the COUNTY with a very strong music program...)  Not good enough.  I didn't make All State.  "I don't know why I paid for your clarinet, you don't deserve it."  

Onto high school it continued.  Only now I was taking Honors classes, involved in multiple extracurricular activities, in a tough band program AND working 35ish hours a week.  I graduated with a 3.875 and was 7th in my class.  "Stephanie, I don't even know why I came.  SIX people beat you.  You don't even have a 4.0. Some of those kids weren't even in the gifted program!  It's not like you did anything special.  High school graduation is an expectation, not an option." No one else from my family came to my high school graduation. 

I was once told that I caused my own mother's breast cancer and that I am the reason that her hair fell out.  Not because she was undergoing chemotherapy.  It was me.  I was sixteen years old. 

Because I was not "good enough" at home, I found my worth other ways.  I developed a ridiculous sense of sarcasm.  I discovered the art of wittiness.  I was a model employee.  I did other things that were the exact opposite of "good" since "good" wasn't "good enough.  I smoke, I drank, I partied.  I put myself in dangerous situations and have lived with those consequences.  And eventually I thought I had found "love" even if it was from the wrong place.   We all know the story, because I've told it here a few times.  I married at 18 to a "man" that was verbally and emotionally abusive.   Hmmm... I didn't even realize for awhile.  I had lived like that as a child for many years.  I expected nothing more from the man I married.  *sigh*

 And later he became physically abusive.  He cheated.  He lied.  He fathered another child in our marriage. He spent money selfishly.  He put his fist through a wall.  I left.  I went back.  I left again.  I found out I was pregnant.  And I went back again.  Until he pinned me down one night and choked me.  I remember thinking he was going to kill me.    

I left, not for myself, but for my unborn baby.  In the moment, I didn't see my value-- only hers.  And yet... I still had moments of weakness where I thought we could make it work.  If I could just be perfect....  He'd be happy.  If I fixed everything that disappointed him,  he'd love me.  He wouldn't go outside our marriage.  I thought I could be perfect and it would make everything okay. 

I can close my eyes and still hear the words my mother spoke to me when she was trying to convince me that we could make this "whole issue disappear."  (Code for she would pay for an abortion and I could divorce without a child in the mix.)  I refused and it angered her.  She told me that everyone would know about my "mistakes" soon and I had a limited amount of time to change it.  She made an appointment for me anyway.  I had an image to uphold for our family.  And I dared to defy her and did not go.  Through that single instance of defiance I gained some freedom.

But I have lived in semi-bondage for years.

And it showed it's ugly side this past week.

Tuesday I weighed in at Weightwatchers and I gained 1.2 lbs. It was the first time gained since starting Weightwatchers   I was annoyed but tried to rationalize it away by saying it was nearing that time of the month... and I maybe had lost too fast all the weeks before it.  I even looked at their little chart and saw that I had been losing to fast and this gain had put me back in the "safe" range.

Strike One.  

Then I got an assignment back that took a bloodbath.  I worked very hard on it and had made all the corrections from the time before and suffered the same result.  I was frustrated.

Strike Two. 

Then I realized that it was mathematically impossible to get an A in the class.  Even if I maxed out all of the remaining points.

Strike Three.

I heard all the voices from my past. They all came flooding back. They all told me that I wasn't perfect.  That a B wasn't good enough.  That I had failed.  I'd not get a 4.0 for this semester and I might not get into grad school.   Couldn't I do anything right?  Why had I taken all the time from our family if I wasn't going to do it right? 

But I was determined to not turn to food.  I bawled in the shower.  I cried in bed.  I shutdown.

Friday, I just felt out of control.  I couldn't make myself focus on my school work. I couldn't quiet the voices from my past...  I seriously contemplated if finishing my degree was worth it.  I sat on the couch in pajamas all day.  I nearly called the school to withdraw. 

So I went to the gym.  I ran, I lifted weights, I swam, I soaked in the hot tub.  And I came home and finished the remaining assignments in that class.

And I cried again.

I reached out to some friends and they all told me that a 3.8 is incredible for a mama of five taking five classes a semester.  Several identified with the curse of perfectionism.  They all told me that they don't think any less of me because I got a 3.8 GPA.

I wish I could say everything instantly went away.

But yesterday the official grades came out and I had to look that B in the face.  Strike One.

And it was the anniversary of my first marriage.  I married him 12 years ago and the anniversary still brings me shame and disappointment.  A reminder of my poor choice and all I survived. Strike Two.  

I feel like I'm teetering again. 

I'm not going to lie.  I'm still struggling.  But I'm fighting still.  I want to be free.  I never want to forget where I've been and what I've survived, but I want freedom.  I want to be able to look at a B on my transcript and not instantly hear the disappointment from my past or try to drown it out with extra unneeded calories. 

My head knows that no one on earth is perfect.  I know the Bible verses.  I just need my heart to feel and know the same thing. 

2014 will be about finding freedom... I want to be free!


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Blur...

Some days, I lay in bed and try so very hard to remember what I accomplished during the day.

It's all a blur.  I live in fast forward currently. 

Here is a brief run down of what's been going on in our world.  I managed to remember these things while I was on hold with a medical office this morning.  (ALWAYS MULTITASKING!)

- We have planned our Anniversary trip.  We will be returning to Disney--- ALONE*.  (Ahem, anyone shocked?)

- Xander should graduate from speech this Wednesday. His beloved, Mrs. Megan has done an AMAZING job with him.  Between Megan and Xander's occupational therapist and Solomon's speech therapist, we have the dream team, y'all!  I'm looking forward to slowing down a bit.

- Solomon has an appointment with the ENT to see if there are any physical reasons that his speech hasn't recovered from the croup episode this past February.  He's been in twice weekly speech but we just need to make sure we look from all angles, just in case.

- I've started transforming the doors in our house from white to "black."  Black is in quotations because it isn't really black exactly.  It's graphite and tricks your eye into seeing "black" when it is next to white trim.  I have several inspiration pictures on my Pinterest board and finally worked up the nerve to try it on the inside of the half bathroom door.  Love it!

- Brandon's company has increased their adoption benefit for employees.  In addition to the six (!!!) paid weeks off he will get, they doubled their reimbursement rate from $5K per adoption to $10K per adoption starting in in January 2014.  We've been praying over a little #6 and this seemed to be some confirmation that this is His timing.

- Then I emailed our amazing social worker at the adoption agency we know and love and things have changed there in our favor too. (Anyone still doubt that God's fingerprints are all over adoptions?)  So I did what any normal (list making) person would do and sat down and made a dream list of things to accomplish during our 4 week break from school (mid-December to mid-January!) You know... because we don't have enough day to day stuff to fill that time. 

- *Speaking of that alone trip for our anniversary, things are subject to change.  But we have taken an infant to Disney before and lived to tell about it.  ;) 

- School is going well.  It's a little odd "only" having two classes this 8 week term (instead of three, which I pulled off with a 4.0, I might add!) but it's getting done.  My reading load is much heavier this term but I am taking an upper level psychology course (personality) and a biblical literature class. 

- I rearranged the livingroom while Brandon was at work.  The arrangement came to me in a dream.  (Seriously, I can't even dream of relaxing things like beaches and massages... I'm ALWAYS thinking about 2-3 things going on in our life.)  We have two doorways, a wall with large windows, and a fireplace.  It's REALLY hard to put enough seating in here to make it make sense.  But in my dream, one of the doorways was gone and we could fit a sectional.  So I did what any sane (haha) person would do and made a faux sectional in our livingroom and blocked the doorway just to see if we could live without that additional door way.  So far, so good.  When I moved the furniture around, I also finally (!!!) finished the white trim on the windows project and deep cleaned.  Oh! And we finally got the light switches swapped out.  We have white switches AND white switch covers (in this room!)  Moving on up....  

- We are also slowly tackling some landscaping for our yard.  This spring and summer we just let things grow.  We had no idea what The Flintstones had planted in every bed.  And here is the truth... a lot of what is planted is higher maintenance  than what we can deal with.  According to some of our neighbors, Mrs. Flintstone gardened every day without exception.  Some of it isn't our style.  So we'll be working on taking some things out and simplifying what remains.  

There.. I think I'm mostly caught up, for now. 


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Big Announcement

There is a big announcement over at my new YouTube channel...

You can click on this and watch it yourself!

~Stephanie from Mason Jars and Sweet Tea  ;)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


The term is over and I got three A's.  It wasn't easy-- not even close.  I did three semester courses in 8 weeks with my crazy schedule.

I plan on sharing how I did it.  I love hearing how others organize and get things done.  I can always glean 1 thing from someone (even if it is the realization that my system is working just fine.) 

The new term started Monday.  Just two classes this time but I have no nonsense professors for both.

Buckle up.. let's go!


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Look What's "Cooking" During Finals Week!

I have nearly survived an 8 week term with three college classes, y'all!

I have alot to catch you up on (a blog move and relaunch and reformatting, therapy updates for Xander and Solomon, a video house tour of part of our downstairs with more to come soon, a "how cool is God to interweave a few of my social circles together in a blink" story, some house updates, and even some what is working for me in this busy season for organization and homeschooling coming ahead!)

I even got a new camera so we don't have to rely on my iPhone for pictures!

I really should be working on a 10 page paper I have due on Friday (!!!!) that counts as 1/3 of my grade (!!!!)  Pray for me... I barely have an A and need 273 of 300 points in order to keep said A.


I just have to share this.  It's the first draft of our potential kitchen upgrade/reno that a friend sent to me!  We are tweaking and weighing options.  But I'm incredibly excited!

Pet it with me and coo at it.  "Pretty kitchen, smart kitchen, purrr, purr, purrrr!" 

~Stephanie, who loves exclamation points!

Monday, September 30, 2013

I Survivied September...

September is not my favorite month.  In fact, each year I dread it more and more.

The baby we lost after Julianne would have turned 6 this year.  It seems like it has been eternity and yesterday all at the same time.

And we lost our match to Annalise in September too.  This September marks two years since I felt like my world was crashing down.

But we made it through yet another September. 

'til next year,  


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

NOT All for Nothing, Sweet Child....

(I have a few posts planned to catch you fine folks up on our homeschooling year and I am planning on doing some re-launching here at The Simplebees, but I have the words for this post bouncing around in my head and need to let them out.. so I can sleep!) 

Pay attention, because this story has a few parts.

*slow deep breath*  

Sunday, I was running my usual evening errands and it was Julianne's turn to go with me.. ALONE.  She's my most tenderhearted child.  She cries the easiest and she has never been able to hide any emotions or even lies from me.  She is not my poker face child.  She isn't a "fake it til you make it" girlie.  What she feels is what you get.  This trait sometimes annoys me.  I'm just being honest here.  I know that sounds bad.  But really.. about the third time she bursts into tears about something... anything and everything... I'm a bit drained and fried for that day. True story: She once cried because the spaghetti sauce was burned and we had to change what we were having for dinner.

She has also prayed for a little sister since the beginning of 2009 when we announced that we were going to start the process to adopt.  She has waited.. and faithfully prayed for this little sister that she just feels like she needs.  She held it together when we found out that Xander was coming (and was a boy.)  She melted down when she heard Solomon was a boy.  And I greatly feared her reaction to the news that our newest baby would be Isaiah and not the girl's name we picked out.  And yet she prays.. every night for this sister.  Some nights I can barely get the words "I love you" out of my mouth when I leave her bedroom after hearing her earnest prayer.  She leaves me speechless.

If I would have known, I would have videotaped her reaction to the news that Annalise was going to join our family.  I've never seen her eyes sparkle so bright.  Both of her dimples could be easily seen and she had a smile that couldn't have been scrubbed off with a Brillo pad. 

The way she touched the pink and purple baby girl clothes we gathered... the way she squealed with delight when we named her soon to be baby sister "Annalise."  The way she declared it the "Most beautifulest name on earth, EVER."  These are all memories that come rushing back and can cause my eyes to leak waterfalls in the middle of wherever I am when they hit.

My girl was on Cloud 9.

And her reaction when we told the children that Annalise was not ours and would not be coming home is etched just as deeply on my heart.  She sobbed.  She collapsed on the floor.  And she declared, "But I love her and I want her to be with us!  And I want a baby sister! I prayed that!!!!"

I had to walk out of the room and let her Daddy pick up the pieces and right her world because I too wanted all that and I felt it too.  Over the now years (can you believe it has been 2 years this month?)  she has still prayed for "her Annalise."  Some days Annalise comes up, sometimes Annalise is just under the surface as my Julianne trudges through her day and some days the heartache of Annalise is tucked deep in her soul.

It's not been an easy road to walk.  One day I stood at the stove and Julianne asked me if we could pray that God would put a baby girl in my tummy and then we could name her Annalise and we would, indeed, have an Annalise.  Our eggs nearly burned because I couldn't see through the tears.

Then Isaiah was born and came home.  And the time between each Annalise mention started to stretch out longer and longer.

Still though, when she does come up, it takes my breath.  I've accidentally opened the box with her things a few times in the moving process.  I still can't go through them.  They are all still boxed exactly the way Brandon packaged them for me. 

So fast foward to this past Sunday.  We were in the van and my girl was looking out the window with her curls blowing all around from the strength of the van's air conditioning.  I could see the wheels turning in the backseat, but didn't want to pry.

We ran a few errands and then from the very, very back of my van, I heard a little voice.   She asked me to change the CD out.  She asked for a certain CD to be played. It's our Children of the World CD and I bought it when they came to our church.  The CD table was right next to the sponsorship displays. 

I happily put the CD in for her.

And she sang a few songs and then stopped in the middle of a song.  Her eyes welled up with tears and she said, "MOMMY!  I miss Annalise!  I mean, I know that I never got to meet her, but I miss her.  I want a little sister soooooooooooooo bad!"

I blinked away tears at that intersection.  And then put on my sunglasses and drove on.  I told her I was so sorry.. but that adopting Annalise didn't work out and that I knew God had a plan.

And then I sat at the next intersection having a silent conversation with God. 

It went a little like this:

"God, I know You called us to step out in faith with that adoption.  I KNOW it.  And we answered the call and it didn't happen. It didn't work out.  We were hurt so badly.. and we still are hurting.  The Word says that YOU have a plan for all of this.  My brain KNOWS that is what it says.  So that is what I told her.  But could You do SOMETHING? Please?  She so desperately wants to see You in this. Could You do something, anything?  Help me build her faith.  To be honest, I've been walking a road repeating the truth to myself too, but I just want to see You in this!  Help me! Show me this wasn't all for nothing!" 

And oh boy did the tears flow.  I hadn't prayed a flowery, poetic prayer.  It was a desperate prayer from a confused mama that wanted to make everything better for Julianne.  I needed a little closure.

We finished our shopping and came home.  I never said anything about our conversation or my prayer to anyone.. not even Brandon.

Fast forward to Monday afternoon, I'm getting ready to go to a plastic surgery appointment and my phone indicated I had a Facebook message.  I was running late, but felt I had to read it right then.  

Here is the message from a dear friend and Christian sister:  

We went to church last night to hear about our pastor's trip to Colombia with Compassion a few weeks ago. After, we had the opportunity to be the first to sponsor kids from a new project. The rest will be opened up to WMHK listeners tomorrow. So, Kevin and I talked a little about it, that we wanted to sponsor a little girl, probably around Ruth's age. (later we decided on another boy too) So, I went over to the table with all the packets out, and just started scanning. It was so hard to decide! There was one little girl, not anything special jumped out, except her name. Close to my Anna, but not. I kept thinking that it was a silly way to choose, but The Lord wouldn't take her out of my mind. I thought maybe because her name was so similar, but I realized this morning what it was! Her name is Annelise- and it was YOUR little one that touched my heart so much. So, know that a little girl in Colombia, South America was sponsored last night, because of your willingness to adopt a special little girl here, in the US.


Meet Annelise: 

Tears instantly poured down my face.   And once again, I put my sunglasses on and drove down the road.  

I've been unable to tell Julianne about THIS Annelise and how God used our heartbreak.  Maybe I should  buy more tissues first.  Or maybe stock in a tissue company.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Happy NOT Back to School Day

Years ago now, I had a sweet 1st grader that was so sad that she wouldn't be taking part in the Back to School traditions.  She wanted something else. And thus, HappyNOT Back to School Day was born.  We try to do something that is harder to do in the summer or weekends because it is overrun by children.  One year we went to the Science Museum.

This year was a little harder, because Isaiah had an afternoon appointment.  I had some free movie tickets good for Disney or Pixar movies burning a hole in my pocket.  And so we decided to go see Planes.

We planned to buy the remaining tickets we needed at the child's price and use the free vouchers for ourselves and a couple children.  Turns out we had an even greater blessing in store.

The cashier at the ticketbooth gave us full credit for each ticket voucher we had.  So she took $12 off for each voucher instead of the actual cost of the tickets.  We tried to point out the difference but she insisted.  We paid $2 for the remaining tickets we needed. 

Then since it was Tuesday, they had a special on popcorn.  Instead of taking the discount on the smallest bag of popcorn, the concession worker took it off the largest one that qualified for free refills.

And thus "Happy NOT Back to School Day" was much nicer on our budget.

Funny story:  So many people assume that our family spends the majority of our time together because Brandon and I force the children to do so.  Actually, it is quite opposite.  YES, we strive to spend time together.  Brandon and I strive to be the main "input" for our children.  But they all have opportunities to fly a bit further than the nest.

And yet, often times they choose not to.  Because we do spend so much time together, my children are each other's best friends.  They make friends easily, but really prefer to play with each other.

So here is an example:  We gave the girls free run of the theater, afterall we had a private showing.  "You can sit anywhere you'd like.  "Here is your tray of popcorn, go choose a seat," I said.

And yet.. this is where they chose to sit:

The empty seat on the left side of the picture is mine.  Followed by Xander, Brandon and Isaiah and then Solomon.

If you are a parent reading, I encourage you to allow your children to be friends and not just siblings.  We have our share of fights and disagreements among the children, but don't believe the lie that siblings have to hate each other.  The other lie I encourage you not to believe is that no matter what your children will always want to be far, far away from you unless you are a pushover parent or overly controlling.  Brandon and I are by no means "pushover parents." In fact, some consider us to be very "strict" parents and yet we are not overly controlling either.  And yet.. my birdies still love their nest.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Works for Me Wednesday: Flashcards Gone Haywire

As a homeschooler, I've collected various manipulatives for the children.  I often forget about what I have collected because I've not had a great way to store things.

I've started going through and working on a better storage place for many of our things. 

As I was starting to work on things, I was faced with our flashcard bucket.  It's an old icecream bucket but we simply had too many flashcard sets to make them fit nicely.  The lid is long gone.  And some of the boxes were showing serious wear and tear.  (The Target dollar spot is an excellent place to find flashcards if you are looking for them.  The other place I check is the Dollar Tree.)  One set is homemade.

Enter Pinterest.

I found these index card holders on clearance at Walmart.  (Yes! Clearance in August!  Public school hasn't even started here, yet!)  They were .50 each.  There were several colors but I bought black because I figured if I needed to add more boxes, I could probably always find some black ones. 

Then I walked to their storage area and looking for a container to neatly hold the index card boxes that also allowed me to see the labels I planned to put on the spines. 

Then while watching TV, I took out my trusty label maker and went to town.  Now I can see them all!

Here are the boxes. I nearly have enough flashcards to fill two boxes.

(Love the photobomb courtesy of Julianne? LOL!)

 I'm on the hunt for a money flashcard set, possibly some more geography based ones, and periodic table/element set.  I am still looking for our sight words cards. 


Works for me!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Prayer Hands Keepsake

I try to pray for my children before my feet hit the floor in the morning and as the very last thing I do at night.  I pray periodically during the day depending what is going on.

But, recently, my little guys have awoken before I have which has messed up my rhythm.  And I'm dragging myself to bed after falling asleep reading my textbooks.  Sometimes my prayers are a cop out.

"Dear Lord, please let them listen tomorrow! Amen!" 

I want to be better than that.  I want to prayer powerful, insightful thoughts.

Enter cheat sheet time. 

Thinking back to my Pinterest account, I remembered this link and decided to put it to use.  Who knew you could actually DO the projects you pin?  Ha.

For this project, I used a pad of scrapbook paper and what I grew up calling a "brad."  The proper name is apparently "brass fastener."  Who knew?


I looked through the pad of papers and chose girly ones for the girls in "their colors" and boyish looking ones in "their colors."

We do a fair amount of color coding.

Lainey is pink, Julianne is purple, Xander is blue, Solomon is green, Isaiah is yellow.

Then I traced their little hands onto the paper.  Isaiah was sleeping, so I skipped him.  I can add him in later.

It is okay if they aren't perfect.  You can fudge it later. LOL

I cut them all out.  Yes, Solomon does have short stubby fingers like that. 

And stacked them up.

And poked a brass fasterner through.

You can fan them open and look at their hand sizes.

I wrote prayers for each of the children on each finger.  Five things to remember to pray for are on the white side of the paper.  Some of them are sensitive in nature, so I'm not going to show you those.  

I can't wait to put these in practice.

I plan to make more in the future years and then I can compare their hands to the previous one.

What's that?  A double duty project?  Works for me! 


Monday, August 19, 2013

A Simple Beautification Project

So one of my quirks is that I really, really, really like clear counters in my kitchen.  It calms me when the chaos of life is removed from the horizontal surfaces in our home. 

Since we don't have a pantry in this home, it has been a challenge to keep the counters clear.  My cabinets are full and I really am a minimal kitchen tool girl.  I don't like a zillion small gadgets that all have to be cared for and stored.

Let's face it.  I have five little people that have to be cared for.  Most of the time I can find some replacement tool to work in a pinch and do double duty.  So no, I don't have an egg slicer, a lemon zester or a food processor (among other things.)  We cook and eat just fine without them.

I also had to move around some things to make better sense and save steps in the kitchen.  Steps=time.  And we all know about how much of that I have. 

Once I reorganized our kitchen, I wanted to make it pretty.

I've been storing our kitchen utensils (spatulas, tongs, ladle, metal spoons, etc) in a large metal can.  I think it is a 5lb tomato sauce can.  Yeah... we roll like that.  I know you are jealous.

I've always intended to do something to it to make it prettier.  But quite frankly, function is valued over aesthetics in my eyes.  It worked and until now that is all that has mattered.

But enter Pinterest.  I saw this pin and knew how I could make it prettier and still leave the functionality.

So I put the items on my list and gathered them on my next shopping trip.

I found the sisal rope in the home improvement section of my local Walmart.  (Don't judge, I was running in with four kids while Brandon had an appointment with Xander in the office park next door. HA I much prefer Tar-jay.)  It was less than $5 and for this project I used about half.

Here is the said can that needed some pretty all over it.  Don't you just love my 80's backsplash?  It has gold glitter flakes in it and is busted underneath the microwave.  I know you are jealous. Bleh.  It is on the Hit List, along with those grungy electrical outlets.

I started at the top.  I put a little bead of hot glue and then laid down the rope.  Folks, this isn't rocket science.  I am NOT crafty. LOL

And then I kept going and ended up with this.  I gave the rope a little hair cut because there were little pieces sticking out everywhere and it bugged me.  I have a fair amount of OCD in this brain.  No shame in admitting that.  I also most likely have a bit of ADD. So not every hair was trimmed.

Seriously, this a 10 minute project. I had to stop to referee the heinous crime of someone's block tower being knocked over.  The rope could have been closer together in some areas, but as the artist I'm going to claim that is "character."  See what I learned from all of my artsy fartsy friends? 

It is much better than what I started out with.

Bam.  A tiny project knocked off of my list.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Keepin' It Real

I've always been a keepin' it real kinda girl.  Don't sugarcoat things for me.  Don't tell me that things are all sunshine and roses and that flowers and unicorns.  As Brandon says, don't set me up for the "okiedoke."

This life is messy.  And at times hard.

That has never discouraged me.

I typically rise to the challenge.  But there are days that I look at things and want to say, "HOLY MOLY OLY!  What have I gotten myself into?"

I submit Exhibit A:

That is my homeschool planner.... and ONLY has our school lessons and medical appointments in it.



Monday was HORRIFIC.  I battled for FOUR hours to get 22 problems completed. Then I got a migraine. Brandon called that afternoon and I had to fight tears to talk to him.  I finally caved and stopped school, turned on the tv for my heathens... I mean children, and went upstairs to take a hot bath... that turned out lukewarm.  So I went into our office and shut the door to take my aggression out on a box of unsharpened pencils... and gave myself a blister because OF COURSE my electric pencil sharpener was broken and no one told me and I thought I'd sharpen a box of pencils with a handheld manual sharpener.

Smooth move, Steph!

Brandon had an equally terrible day at the office but showed up at approximately 6:30 with gyros from our favorite Greek restaurant in hand.  I tagged out, stuffed my face and went upstairs to bed.

Love that man.

Tuesday was MUCH better.  I woke up with a renewed spirit, my students woke up eager to learn and we knocked out over a day's worth of work.

Wednesday morning, I woke up a bit nervous.  Xander had speech that afternoon, which meant that we were going  to lose 2 hours of homeschooling time and we were meeting his new therapist.  I packed what we could and off we went.

The day wasn't as productive as the day before, but it wasn't a total loss either.  Part of the issue is that the girls had completed a good portion of their seatwork and we needed a computer to finish the rest.  Lesson learned.  I'll more carefully manage their mornings on therapy days.

In the next few weeks, we add another weekly therapy for Xander.  He'll have two hours of therapy a week that will cause us to lose four hours of HOMEschool time.  The girls have dubbed those hours as "ROADschool."  I'm sure we will find a routine soon.  And now that I think about it, this method of ramping up has worked out in our favor.  Maybe I'll put it in my notes to "ramp up" next year too.

Then came Wednesday night when we checked into our university and print the schedules and syllabi.

I shouldn't have done it so late at night when I was already fading fast.   I had just gone to the gym for a 2 hour work out and watched Big Brother so I was a little spent.

To say it plainly, "Y'all... I may not be able to check in again until October!"

I have a ton of work to complete over the next 8 weeks.  I'm taking three classes.  An Online Learning computer course (required), Developmental Psychology and Introduction to Substance Abuse.  I'm excited to finally get into classes for my major, but this is not a online degree mill and therefore a ton is expected.

I'm glad we knocked out some house projects because that will come to a screeching halt and instead our time will be filled with completing assignments, writing papers and studying.

Ohhhhhhhhhhhh did I forget to mention that?  Brandon is also returning to school.  Although he is only taking two classes to my three, I do not envy him.  He is in my Online Learning class and he is taking statistics.


Lord, help us.  

If you think about us, pray for us.  I'm not really sure what we've gotten ourselves into.

This too shall pass, this too shall pass, this too shall pass. 


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Year Uno

Happy first birthday, Isaiah!  I'm so excited to celebrate your first birthday!  You, my sweet boy, are exactly what our family needed to heal.  I'm so glad that we were blessed with you!  God knew what we needed best!

You can light up a room with a flash of a smile.  Your laugh cuts through tense moments immediately. 

I love how you are so studious and watch your siblings so carefully.  You are studying their every move.

Nighttime is still my favorite though.  You *still* hum in your sleep, just like you did the day you were born.  You usually sleep on your tummy with your tush in the air.  Sometimes you rub the back of your head with your hand until you fall asleep. 

Your eyes squint just like mine when you smile or laugh.  And so far everyone says that you look like me.  My usual response is that it *only* took five.  Tee hee!

Sweet boy, you have been prayed for by many.  I can't wait to see how you change over the next year and all of the other years you have in your future. Know that Daddy and I only want the best for you.  We are your soft place to land and always will be.  

Love you to the moon and back, times infinity,


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Revere Pewter for the Win!

We finally, finally, finally have completed our first wall paint project here at Casa de Bees.  Revere Pewter was an excellent choice, although I'm not going to lie, I was TERRIFIED when I first started painting the walls.  It looked very, very white and I had a huge sinking feeling in my stomach.

But as it dried, it turned a nice rich color that is anything but white.  I adore this color and have threatened to paint every room this color if we can't pick other colors soon. 

It only took two coats and the ugly khaki yellow color (and Seal in one corner) disappeared! One gallon was just enough paint for the room..

We have a few other things to tackle but this room is coming right along.  We spend the majority of our time in this room and that is why it was high on the priority list.

Sorry I couldn't do some more wide open shots.  I've been trying to take pictures for this post for a few days but the weather (rain, clouds, etc) made the color not show accurately.

So today, I pulled out some things to work on and of course, the sun comes out in our large picture window.  So I seized the opportunity but I had to take tight shots to crop out the mess in my floor.  (Organization projects always make things look worse before better!) 

This is the corner that was Seal.  (The same color as the fireplace.) 

We plan to have built ins on the fireplace wall and we'll be mounting our TV over the fireplace. 

I especially love that the white trim really pops with the Revere Pewter.  (Yes, I still have some trim work to do.  There are miles worth of trim in this house...) 

This is the other wall that we plan to do built ins on.  (Same wall, other side of the fireplace.)

One room painted... feels like a zillion and five more to go. 


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Just Swell...

In the last few weeks, we have had massive amounts of rain. Our yard is a jungle because everytime we get ready to cut the grass, it rains. 

The children have been more wound up than usual because of the rain.  They had all gotten used to playing outside.  We all love it.

But there has been a bigger issue with the rain.

We have a wooden door.  It's not 100% our style to be honest, but was very low on our "to do list." 

Some of the door knob and lock finish is coming off.

And the gold really isn't our thing.

But with the humidity the door is stuck.  Seriously!  It has caused the door to swell making it very hard to open and close.

For now, we are considering it an added security feature and we are hoping that with fall soon approaching and then winter that the door shrinks back.  We are going to try to make it to next summer before replacing it with some other kind of material. 

Just another quirk.  An annoying quirk, but just a quirk.  *slow deep breaths*


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Pepper Allergic Cook Cooks Peppers

Let me explain.

I have this little problem with raw bell peppers.  I can't touch them.  If I do, I start to itch very badly.

I can eat cooked peppers, which is a good thing for a fajita chow hound like me.  But actual preparation usually takes place when my husband is home.

But I was desperate to use the peppers I got for .33 each.  The typical "on sale" price here in Richmond is .50 a pepper.  So I snagged quite a few when I saw them for .33 each!  I have this complicated method of using a produce bag to cover my hands so I can actually buy the peppers.  But I 'git 'er done!'

And then they sat on my counter for a few days while we made peach jelly etc.  After a few days I got nervous we were going to waste my savings.  So I loaded up the crew and headed to Target.  I had an idea.

Yes, that is my babiest facing the wrong direction in the cart.  He likes to see where we are going.

I went to the pharmacy section and bought a box of these.

Don't worry!  No obgyn exams going on here!

Instead, I used gloved hands to take care of my peppers!  I had plenty of benadryl on hand in case things went south.

First, I chopped off the tops of the peppers using an old cookie sheet with an edge as my cutting board so that the pepper juices would stay in place.  I cringe when I watch cooking shows and they throw the tops directly in the trash.  I'll show you why in a minute. Just know I saved them!

 Then I took the seeds out.

And then I boiled the pepper cups.  I can eat bell peppers but they must be cooked to soft.  Sometimes when you make stuffed peppers they don't get soft enough to change whatever oil I am allergic to.  So I parboil them to help out with the softening process.

And I started a pot of rice and started browning some hamburger and onions.

While the peppers and rice were cooking, I turned my attention to the pepper tops that I see thrown away on almost every cooking show!

We use peppers in various things.  They appear in our spaghetti and our meatloaf among other dishes.

So I dug out my most favorite kitchen gadget (besides my Keurig-- who can argue with 30 second coffee?) 

Introducing the Vidalia Chop Wizard! 

And I went to town chopping the tops!

Then I measured 1/2 cup portions and put them in regular sandwich bags after labeling the date and marking that each bag was 1/2 cup.

THEN I put the sandwich bags in a large freezer bag.  I do this for a few reasons.  First, sometimes peppers and onions make your freezer stink.  Secondly, freezer bags cost more than regular sandwich bags and I was putting a small amount in the bags to make it more convenient for grabbing a single bag.  I didn't need to waste 5 larger freezer bags. Plus now my five bags are corralled in the craziness we call our freezer. 

By the time I did this my peppers were boiled enough!  I took each pepper cup out with my tongs and poured the extra water back into the pot.

Then I mixed the other ingredients into the rice to make the filling and filled the cups and topped them with cheese. 

I had more filling then I needed, even after I made a small casserole for Xander (since he will not eat the peppers and cannot have cheese) so I froze the extra filling.  Next time I buy peppers I can skip making the mixture!

I had extra browned hamburger so I put it in a container.  It will be a starter for another meal.  (Tacos? Spaghetti?)  

After the stuffed peppers baked long enough to heat everything through and melt the cheese, I took them out of the oven.

Dinner was ready!

In the time it took me to make one meal, I also prepped the stuffing mixture for another meal, processed 2.5 cups of chopped peppers (from the tops), and browned meat to start another meal.  All in ONE hour!

And I'm pleased to report that the vinyl gloves worked beautifully!  No need for a side of Benadryl to be served with my stuffed bell peppers.

Now that is success!


Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Georgia Peach makes Peach Jelly!

Last weekend I made my weekly run through the grocery salvage store.  It's quickly becoming my favorite place to shop.  I've gotten great deals there.  You just have to look carefully at expiration dates and such although I don't buy much of anything with an expiration date.  I have bought cases 

But the true gem of shopping at that store is that they get a ton of produce in. I got flats of strawberries (12 cartons) for $1.50 each.  Yes, they were super ripe.  A few had a "bad" berry in it.  But to be honest, I have had the same thing happen at other grocery stores while spending top dollar.

The thing about this store is that you never know what they will have.

This past weekend, peaches and peppers were the stars of the show.  Peaches were .88/lb!  The cheapest I've seen in the sales papers were .99 a lb and they were tiny and rock hard when I got to the store to check them out. 

I quickly grabbed a produce bag and started picking through the peach bin. I got about 6 lbs of peaches.  They smelled amazing but I decided that these weren't to eat fresh.

My very, very, very favorite kind of jelly/preserves/jam is PEACH.  And I wanted to try my hand at making some jelly.  One issue though, if I did the waterbath kind I had nothing to pull my jars out of boiling water with.

I asked around for a recipe and was told to follow the directions in the box of Sure Jell.  There is a chart for different types of fruit and different ways to process it. 

I didn't intend to get the low sugar kind.   But oh well. 

The first thing I did was wash and peel the peaches.  I put the peels down the garbage disposal as I wondered if there was anything I could do with the peels.  (Turns out there is!)

Then I put the peaches through my favorite kitchen gadget (well second to the Keurig!) our Vidalia Onion Chop Wizard.

Then I mixed the Sure Jell, sugar and water like the directions said and stirred, stirred, stirred waiting for the mixture to boil.  It didn't look to appetizing. 

Then I mixed in the fruit and stirred for about a minute.  I ladled it into jars while being mindful of the "fill line" so that there was room for the jelly to expand in the freezer.  (There were multiple warnings about making sure you allowed space.  My jars had a marking for the "fill line.")

I sealed the jars and admired them on the counter.  I had enough peaches for two batches of Sure Jell.  It made 7.5 jars. 

After 24 hours, the jelly had set and we moved one jar to the fridge where it will be good for 3 weeks.  I put the rest in the freezer, where they will be good for a year.  We already gifted a jar to one of Brandon's coworkers. 

This was my first experience actually doing the jelly-making.  I watched my aunt and mom often when I was little girl but I was only an observer.  Next thing to tackle is water bath canning.  Those jars won't take up room in the freezer.  Thumbs up!