Thursday, June 4, 2015

Summer Fun List

My kids are on year round school which means we have 3 separate breaks (we call them Fall, Spring, Summer) rather than one long summer vacation.  Each time we are off track we make a "fun list" of the activities we want to do!

Some breaks we have a huge list with activities for every day.  Other times just a handful of really cool things we want to do so that we can leave some spare time open for some spontaneous things.  (I am not spontaneous so we are working on increasing my ability to cope with spontaneity).

Here is our Summer Fun List:

  • Swim Lessons
  • Knott's Berry Farm
  • Backyard Camping
  • Individual Movie Nights (each of our girls will stay up late 1 night with mom and dad)
  • Go to the Beach
  • Play date with Good Friends
  • Summer Reading Program at both libraries
  • Go to an Angel's Baseball Game
  • Go Kayaking
  • Make Hygiene Kits for the Homeless
  • Sister's Sleepover (the girls sleep in sleeping bags or on the trundles together)
  • Aquarelle Paintings 
  • Make Stepping Stones
  • Have a Tea Party
  • Go for a Hike (this turned into go camping in the mountains)
Now we will definitely still do other activities and while we might not finish this whole list (we have 5ish weeks off) we will try our best to get to these activities and have actually crossed quite a few off or scheduled them! 

What are your plans for the summer or any other break you have coming up?

-Ash of All Trades

P.S. The links above are not affiliate links - I don't make any money if you click them they are just products we like so I thought you might like them too!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Playing Out Front

While talking with some friends about playing outside with our kids it dawned on me that kids today don't really play our front.  Some do - a lot.  The vast majority however don't play out front and in the area I grew up in there aren't really backyards to play in.

These friends were a bit shocked that I let my girls play out front.  And then I said the magic words: "Yea they play in the street all the time!"  That blew their socks off.

Our culture right now is one of caution, anxiety, and fear.  Should we eat organic or ingest chemicals, should we watch T.V. or not, which baby lotions are safe, should kids play on monkey bars they might break their arms.  I am grateful for this information era and all that we know because of course I want my kids to live long healthy lives.  Yet I feel burdened by the weight of all the "what ifs".

So yes I let my kids play outside and feel safe doing so.  I am always out there with them and they wear helmets anytime they are on a ride on toy (bike, scooter, skates), they ride their power wheels up and down the street.

They know the rules though.  Look for cars both ways all the time.  Don't go farther than Kristin's House on one side and Kyle's House on the other.  Put each toy away before you get a new one.  Sidewalk chalk is for our property only, etc etc.

Now this happy pleasurable outdoor play didn't happen all at once.  The first time I freaked out every time a car drove onto the street. Some neighbors gave us dirty looks for making them slow down. Other neighbors called me out as a bad mom for letting my kids think the street was "safe".

Eventually though, my fears calmed down, the kids learned to get out of the street way before cars came close and sometimes told me when a car was coming.  They also learned which cars go to which house and whether they would turn before getting to close.  The neighbors started driving down the street more cautiously and smiling or waving to us. We ran into people at stores who ended up living on our street - they introduced themselves to us and felt like they knew us because they saw us outside all of the time.  Other moms let their kids play outside too and that is really fun.

Sometimes we don't go out as much and during that time people do forget but it only takes a day or two of playing outside to feel like we are in a good old fashioned street out of a book.

So have a good time, make informed decisions about your life and your kids life but don't live in fear that you can't do something!  Just go do it!

- Ash of All Trades

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The True Meaning of Memorial Day

This weekend was Memorial Day weekend.  To many people this means parties, barbecue, family, maybe a beach trip or a vacation.  All of these things are good, joyous even.  However, this weekend is not about the start of summer, good weather, or even time with family.  This weekend is time to reflect on life, liberty, freedom, happiness, and so much more.  Sure parties, vacations, and family time are all related to those things but why do we have these things?  How are we free?  We are free in large part due to the sacrifice of our military past and present.  Technically to those who died for our liberty, peace, and freedom.

Our Girl Scout troops gathered this weekend to place flags on every grave in our local National Cemetery.  Joining them (or rather we joined) over 1,000 people honored the sacrifice and strife these people went through for themselves and for us.  The sight of a National Cemetery covered in American flags is profoundly moving.  Kids, adults, veterans, everyone was moved to some emotional degree - the number of tears shed Saturday morning could certainly move mountains.  This was far from our first year attending this event yet it left me as emotionally raw as the first visit.

My grandfather is buried here, so are the grandfathers of many of my scouts and their families.  So is the brother of a friend I am getting to know.  Some of those buried here died of old age but with war stories, some died in the middle of life far from home, some passed here at home but still at war in their souls.  Each grave contains a host of memories and stories, love and loss.  As we audibly thanked each soldier or his wife (they serve just as much) for their service it brought the memories and love to life.  Grown men (bikers too) cried and it showed how precious life is.

The world has good in it.  Lots of it.  Over 1,000 people spread good in a matter of a few hours.  People will see and enjoy that good all weekend as they visit their loved ones gone before us.

A soldier, double amputee himself, placed flags on the graves alongside the Girl Scouts, parents, grandparents, daughters, sons, and random strangers.  People stopped and thanked him, encouraged him, cried for him.  Yet he was there honoring those who served our country the same as me, thankful, grateful, and full of love for this country and what is stands on.

Then on the way home from the cemetery, already emotionally charged, there was more good. Inherent biblical good.  Just as in the story from Luke 21:1-4 when the poor woman gives her all to the donation box while the wealthy gave but a pittance.

A homeless man dirty, hungry, unshaven, alone; asking for money on the left side of the road.  People well fed and clothed, clean asking for donations for a 13 year old girl fighting cancer on the right hand side of the road.  Traffic was at a stand still and the man - the homeless man - crossed through the cars and walked up the sidewalk.  At first I thought he looked defeated, tired, done for the day.  Then I watched the miracle: he walked up to the donation bucket and emptied his pockets - donating his money, his entirety into the bucket and smiling, fulfilled he walked away.

I am so thankful that I was witness to some amazing miraculous moments this weekend.  That I was able to see God working his hand and to know that these moments still exist.  The moments those soldiers fought, were injured or even died for happen every day on every street corner and in every home.  Moments for us to do good, to spread joy and happiness all around us.  Let us lift one another up and be happy.  Spread joy.

I certainly feel blessed by God this weekend and I hope he blesses you too!

- Ash of All Trades.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy

Recently our 5 year old under went a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy and I thought I would share some tips and tricks of the process - you know in case you find yourselves in our situation.  Now first and foremost none of this is medical advice.  This is maternal advice - advice from one mom to another.

Prepping -

We didn't tell our daughter she was having surgery.  She loathes doctors and hospitals and can stress herself out pretty well.  Literally she didn't even ask at the surgery center so we just let it be.  She did great this way and has not questioned us.  Her older sister however was sad that we didn't tell her.  Hindsight - I would do it exactly the same way!

Post Surgery:

We were told she would need a cold liquid(ish) diet for 24 hours.  What we weren't told is that she shouldn't eat anything with red dye for 3-10 days after the procedure.  This is in case of bleeding - we need to be able to spot it as blood not food right away.

Shaved ice
Jello (no red)
Popsicles (no red)
Apple Juice
Otter Pops
Ice Cream

Honestly by 48 hours she was sick of these foods and wanting regular food again.  I was paranoid mom and kept her with pretty soft foods for 10 days (the time frame for the scab to come off).  Hindsight - I would still do it this way!

This surgery cleared her "sleep apnea".  She sleeps so well at night now I had to confirm she was breathing the first 2 weeks because I was in shock.  She is so much happier and well rested.  Extra bonus some of her speech and hearing issues (undiagnosed) have improved.  Her teacher even commented that she is better able to pronounce things and to sound things out.  It is amazing what this procedure did for her and I am so glad we had everything done!

Good luck and feel free to ask questions if you have any!  Again this is just mommy advice!

- Ash of All Trades

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Sunday Dinner!

Welcome back friends and readers!  Above is our first Sunday Dinner of this new challenge albeit late.  Man oh man was it delicious!

Thankfully my husband likes to cook so after 4 hours at cookie booths with my daughters I came home to this delicious dinner.  Yes I am blessed and maybe a wee bit spoiled!

The recipe for the pork is here. (It is similar but not quite the same ours has cooked bacon in the salsa).

The potatoes are just mashed with roasted garlic, green onions and fresh cilantro.  They were awesome!

Asparagus and bacon go so well together - I never liked asparagus until we started experimenting with different cooking methods.  This is just salt and pepper dressed asparagus wrapped in bacon and grilled for 20-30 minutes.  My husband is a happy man now that we eat asparagus - he loves it!

What did you have for your family dinner this week?

- Ash of All Trades

Friday, May 1, 2015

Exercise For Your Sanity

A year ago this weekend I ran my first (and probably last) Marathon!  Yes, 26.2 miles!  It was horribly awful and yet exhilarating and fulfilling at the same time. 

I LOVE running.  I did not even like running 26.2 but it has been my life goal for a long time.  In preparation for running a whole marathon I started slow.  Couch to 5k style then up to a 10k finally I ran a half marathon.

Let me be clear - I am a runner at heart - I started at age 8 inspired by my dad and his running and ran through high school.  During college I ran off and on however once I had my first daughter exercise in general took the back seat.  Faster forward 6.5 years and I was ready to lose the baby weight.  But something happened this time around and losing the baby weight became second fiddle to so much else.

Each of these races proved difficult but thrilling.  Each one was a stepping stone to my ultimate goal.  Every race had its own preparation and took step after step of grueling training.  Missing family time, getting up early, watching what I ate, being far slower than ever before, the soreness of long runs!  There was a myriad list of reasons why anyone would give up on this lofty goal. 

Yet I was thriving and hadn't felt better in years!  Running is MY thing.  It is my exercise that radiates through my body, mind and soul - it is the only form of exercise which allows me to slim down and feel great.  Each pounding step releases stress, frustration, and fear.  I have a shirt that says "Mommy of 3 Running For Her Sanity" and it is so true.  When I run regularly I am more balanced and patient. 

While running is definitely my thing - and I truly believe in the runner's "high"; I think there is something out there for everyone.  You might be the queen of exercise DVDs, Crossfit, speed walking, roller blading, you name it you can do it.  And you SHOULD do it.  Find your THING and start it really does make a world of difference!

I have also found that half marathons are my distance of choice but due to life constraints will be sticking to 5k and 10k races as I actually have time to train for those! 

So I encourage you - look into your past or find something new but do something for you!

- Ash of All Trades

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sunday Dinner Challenge

Welcome back and boy has this week been crazy!  Our life is pretty jam packed full with three little ones and the activities we feel are important in our lives.  In fact today was the second weekend of Girl Scout Cookie Booth Sales which means we still have 4 weeks where we will eat drink and breathe cookies because I am the troop coordinator for both troops.

My pledge to my family during this cookie sale is that I would not let it affect our dinner plans.  Each year something always comes up and I end up dealing with cookies during dinner time.  No bueno.  We eat dinner as a family 95% of the time.  The other 5% is because we have a sports/extracurricular activity and during that time whoever is home eats together.  During cookie time the ratios were reversed!

We eat at the table as a family and we all eat the same thing.  Shocker right.  That doesn't happen very often anywhere anymore.  Especially with a somewhat picky husband and a very picky 7 year old.  Middle C eats quite well and Little C well she is a human vacuum cleaner.   Although I know some of you eat dinner together this is a challenge for all!

Anyways back to the topic.  Sunday dinners.  I think the whole world would benefit from more family dinners.  I however do not live in a bubble and know that this isn't reality.  After a recent meal that was absolutely fabulous (here.)  it got me thinking.  What if we started with Sunday dinner? 

A dinner that was somewhat fancier than the rest of the weeks meals and everybody ate it and they ate it together at the table.  What a concept.  

So here we go a family dinner challenge.  Can you try to have family dinner together every Sunday?  2 Sundays a month?  Every Sunday for two months?  You name the challenge but join me and comment with your Sunday dinner plans.  

Now let's be fair some of us have different schedules (heck half my neighbors are cops and work different schedules) - pick the day that works for you - Saturday, Monday, Wednesday?  Make it your Family Dinner Night with a little bit of a fancy meal. 

That is the first step.  Pick your day of the week.  Pick your start date and get ready.  I will be posting some recipe ideas  as well as blogging my Sunday night dinners.  

Will you join me?

- Ash of All Trades

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Kids Goals

Well I am back again and this time with a post on kids goals!  Yep we included our kids in our 2015 goal planning session.  We began talking about goals at Christmas time and kept the talk up until the 1st of January - then we sat down and wrote down our goals.

Here are their goals:

Big C age 7-8 in 2015
1. Run a 5k
2. Learn to read at 11th grade level
3. Reach 100 miles for the 100 mile club
4. Earn the Presidents Service Award
5. Make 50 Rainbow Loom Bracelets and Sell 20 of them.

Middle C age 5-6 in 2015
1. Learn to rollerblade
2. Learn to swim
3. Run a 1 mile kids fun run
4. Learn to read at 2nd grade level
5. Earn the President's Service Award

Little C age 2-3 in 2015
1. Learn letters and numbers
2. Learn colors and shapes
3. Learn to ride a tricycle/scooter
4. Start a class like gymnastics, ballet, etc.
5. Have 500 books read to her.

They are so excited about their goals and have been working almost everyday on at least one of them.  Little C got herself up and dressed on the 2nd and came running into our room telling us need learn ride tricycle! 

It is cute to see them so excited and also to see that some of their goals they might not accomplish this year - swimming is going to be iffy because we don't have a pool and we haven't had luck with swim lessons.  Maybe since it is on the list we will figure it out this year!

What goals do your kids have?  Do you remember any goals from when you were a kid?

- Ash of All Trades

Sunday, January 4, 2015

New Year New Goals!

Normally taking down my Christmas decorations bums me out.  I look forward to the holidays and family time then bam it is over!  This year I am really enjoying taking down the decorations, deep cleaning some rooms in the house and planning for a really awesome 2015.

Throughout the year of 2014 I felt like I wasn't accomplishing a whole lot.  Each time I did a project or finished something it felt great but I didn't feel like I was getting anywhere.  In hindsight it is because I didn't sit down and set any written goals.  I didn't feel like I was getting anywhere because I didn't have a checklist to cross off.  The only goal I felt I had accomplished was running a full marathon and even then I wasn't thrilled with my time. 

But last year was a great year and I thoroughly enjoyed our more "free spirit" functioning - in fact it is probably how we thrived during such a busy time full of ups and downs and lots of personal growth I just want to track my progress and see my goals being checked off.   For 2015 though I am setting written goals not only because this year is already jam packed but because there are certain things I want to accomplish in life and if I keep letting each year fly by I probably won't gain much traction. 

So many thanks to my hubby for pushing me to get that marathon done and off of my life goals list and many thanks to him for taking time to have a family goal planning meeting.  We started thinking about goals early this year and talked many times about them as a family.  We talked about how they would affect everyone - marathon training last year had a huge impact on everyone since mama was often running or recovering)! 

Without further ado here are my goals for this year:

1. Read 25 books
2. Earn the President's Service Award (100 hours of service)
3. Finish Carlee's Quilt
4. Run a Half Marathon in under 2 hours
5. Catch up on my photo books.
6. Amend soil so that my berry plants actually grow (must figure out how first)
7. Can jam/jelly (I almost always do this and last year it didn't happen)
8. Run a 10k in 48 minutes or less.
9. Meal Plan Every Single Month
10. Make Christmas Placemats for Dining Room
11. Bake 2 snack items per month
12. Teach Chloee to sew
13. Write on my blog twice per week.
14. Organize my closet permanently.

I originally wanted to start with 15 goals as in 2015.  I later decided these 14 were great goals and to leave myself leeway to add things later in the year when life may have added or changed some perspectives.  There you have it folks 15 things I want to intentionally set out to do.  Other things will definitely come up and change and I might not hit every one of these goals but they give me a purpose in deciding how to spend my time during this next year.

I will be back with more on setting goals with kids - ours had a fabulous time doing this last week and have since been working daily to hit certain goals.  Definitely a life lesson worth learning!

- Ash of All Trades

Friday, January 2, 2015

2014 Recap and Where Did Time Go?

Wow it has been a long time since I have last blogged and a lot has happened since December 2011!   I honestly thought I hadn't blogged in only maybe a year not 3!!!!!!!!!  I now have 3 beautiful daughters (actually I stopped blogging when morning sickness hit with my third)! Big C is in 2nd Grade, Middle C is in Kindergarten, and my baby is already 2!  Time sure does fly! I am sadly going to skip over 2012 and 2013 and just do a recap of 2014. 

2014 was an amazing year for our family with a lot of growing and doing.  While I feel that we were ridiculously busy; in hindsight everything had meaning and shaped us in some way.  When we do have down time (like the last week and a half) we almost don't know what to do with ourselves.  I am going to try and remind myself during this next year that keeping busy is a good thing (as long as it doesn't take over) - it makes us appreciate our down time so much more and it helps keep us away from things like laziness, too much TV, and or boredom. 

So here is 2014 in a recap.  Yes it was an amazing year!

Started out the New Year and really enjoyed a break from sports and holidays.  Enjoyed dinners with Auntie and Baby Jack.

I also started using my new sewing machine I received for Christmas and sewed two Girl Scout cookie costumes.  We had a Carmel d'lite and a Thanks A Lot running around for 8 weeks!

I ran my first ever half marathon!  This was a huge accomplishment and was a step towards my ultimate life goal of running a full marathon plus I ran it 20 minutes faster than I had anticipated.  My dad was able to come with me and watch me cross the finish line!

Mid-month Justin helped his brother move to Texas, while it was sad to see them go it is an amazing opportunity for them and we are so glad that they were able to embark on their new adventure.

I had a great birthday with family.  Caylee turned 5 and celebrated with a Snail party with our family and friends.  Our little ball of energy constantly amazes us and it seems like just yesterday she was born.

My grandma Ludie was experiencing health issues this whole year and we finally had to accept that she needed full time care.  She was placed in a convalescent hospital and we started taking her lunch a couple times a month.

Chloee turned 7 this month and it was a shocking revelation.  We couldn't believe that 7 years had passed since we became parents.  She is so much like her daddy but yet has several habits that are spitting images of mommy!  She had a ninja turtle party at her grandparents and celebrated her birthday and PopPops at Farrells!

This month I hit my life goal and ran a full marathon.  While my time was no where near my hopes I am thrilled to have hit this goal and can say I am amazed that my body could do something so crazy.

The day before my marathon my dad left for New Orleans to await a liver transplant.  On May 16th we received the call that an exact donor had been found.  May 17th is a day we will always be thankful for and we keep our donor and his family in our constant prayers.  The miracle of life was given and our dad was able to start his journey towards healing.

At the end of the month we welcome our nephew/Godson and couldn't have been more thrilled to see the family expanding!  He is such an awesome little guy!

This was an awesome month for us.  My dad was released from the hospital's care and sent home to California.  The day after they arrived home our family of 5 plus my sister embarked on a 9 day trip starting with a straight through over night drive to Oregon for Andrew's college graduation.

While my parents weren't able to attend due to dad's health condition we were thrilled to be there to support him and takes lots of pictures.  I got to play the crazy emotional "mom" role and played it well crying like a baby when he walked across the stage. 

We spent nine amazing days in Oregon, San Francisco and then Hearst Castle.  We saw some amazing sights, enjoyed sibling bonding time, and took the girls and Justin to 2 new states.  Our adventures during those nine days would normally take weeks but we woke early and stayed up late seeing something new every minute.  We were exhausted when we returned home and my sister has vowed to never vacation with us again but it was worth it for the memories made!

Before we left Chloee's Girl Scout troop earned the top Service Award for our area and I couldn't have been more proud to be their leader and to see how much they have grown.  We also bridged the girls to Brownies and held an investiture for our new Daisy troop.  Yes 2 troops!

Chloee lost her first baby tooth this month!  She was soo excited and the new one grew in in about a week!  She wasn't toothless for long!

Caylee started Kindergarten this month!!!!  Chloee is now in 2nd grade and life with 2 kids in school was an adjustment.  Carlee absolutely cried for a couple of weeks trying desperately to get her sisters to stay home.  Both girls LOVE school and are excelling in all they do. 

Carlee turned 2 and I just cannot believe it.  Where did 2 years go - it is even harder because she thinks she is a big girl like her sisters.  Nothing Carlee won't try and boy does she keep us on our toes!  I am making Carlee a twin sized quilt for her birthday and while it isn't done it is the most sewing I have ever done in my life and it is turning out great - only thing left is the binding.

Soccer was in full swing and between that and starting a second Girl Scout troop.  Yes I now have a 1st year Brownie troop and a 1st year Daisy troop (don't ask or remind me that I have a 3rd daughter).  Life got a little crazy and I felt like we never stopped this month.

The girls are off track and boy are we enjoying it.  We enjoyed our traditional weekend in Crestline and hanging out.  Enjoyed our first trip to Pretend City and can't believe I haven't gone before. 

In the middle of the month I ran my 3rd race of the year - the Long Beach Half and earned the Beach Cities Medal.  It was a momentous day as my father in law joined me for the race and ran his first half ever.  We were all so proud of him and glad we could celebrate with him.  It was a joyous occasion as my parents were able to watch me finish and my dad placed the Beach Cities medal around my neck.  I started running because of him and was glad he could be there with me. I also almost broke the 2 hour mark for the race and have now set that as my goal for 2015.

We started the month off baptizing our godson and it was a joyous occasion!  He was the cutest baby there!  We are so thankful to be his godparents!

While I started sewing a lot this year (making doll sleeping bags and tents) November saw the most sewing.  I replaced our store bought stockings with homemade stockings this year and the girls were thrilled to pick their own fabric.  I also sewed table tents for Tess and Carlee and they LOVE them.

We enjoyed a great Thanksgiving and then a second Thanksgiving with my family.  We celebrated a lot and really enjoyed our family time.  As usual we went to the Zoo on black Friday and had a blast!  Sad to see our zoo passes expire!

This month flew by what with Thanksgiving being so late.  It only went faster as we celebrated Tamale Day then Christmas with the Guerras in the same weekend.  My in laws flew to Texas for Christmas and while it was great for them we did miss them.  Chloee asked Santa to bring her Uncle Tio home for Christmas and she was disappointed when it didn't happen. 

The sad thing this month was learning that Caylee has sleep apnea and will need a tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy in the New Year.  The poor thing has trouble sleeping and is exhausted by 2pm every day.  Hopefully the procedure will provide relief and she can start to enjoy her afternoons more!

Christmas was beautiful this year and we felt that the year had been full of great accomplishments.  We can't wait to see what 2015 brings us and have set some awesome goals for this next year!

My next post will include some goals for the next year and some things I learned this past year!
(one of my goals is to blog again - I really miss writing)

Man it feels good to be writing again.  Even if only for my own eyes!