Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

One highlight of my summer has been the once a week book club that I'm part of. I've never been part of a book group before so, this is a whole new experience for me, a real adventure. The gals at my table are so easy to be around, so open and I feel like I've really been privileged to discuss the book and dig into big real life topics with them.

The book we've been going through is "The Artists Daughter" by Alexandra Kuykendall. It's an easy read and a great book for encouraging deep conversation. We've discussed all the major stuff: Our relationships with our parents, how mothering has shaped us, our fears and what brings us joy. This book is not for surfacey "how's the weather" type of conversations. Oh no, it digs straight into the depths of who you are and what has shaped you, which has been great for really getting to know these sweet friends.

So anyway, recently it was my table's turn to bring the snack and even though it's still July, I got a hankerin' for a treat made with pumpkin. The mornings have been cool and foggy lately and the days are just beginning to get shorter. I can't help but want to fully enjoy August, while anticipating all the goodness that comes with fall. After all, fall really is the best time of year, is it not?

As these baked, our house smelled amazing. After they were completely cooled, I whipped up our favorite cream cheese frosting, spread on a thin layer and then dusted them with Pumpkin Pie Spice. They were so easy to make and so good.

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

4 eggs
1 2/3 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
Pumpkin Pie Spice for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

In a medium bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir into the pumpkin mixture until thoroughly combined.

Spread the batter evenly into a greased 9x13 pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in preheated oven or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool before frosting.

To make the frosting, cream together the cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, beating until mixture is smooth. Spread onto the cooled bars. Dust with Pumpkin Pie Spice.

So, what do you think? Is it too soon to break out the pumpkin or should we go for it?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Summer Milestones

Things like our first backyard camping experience, first snow cones, Paisley's first time watching Cinderella, and Eliza's first time having Goodnight Moon read to her before bed happened this weekend. The weekend felt especially long, in such a good way. Like we were able to pack way more into two days, live summer in such a full way and not feel one bit like we over did it. It was so exceptional and as I've gone through the 100+ pictures that I took, I feel like I've slightly relived some of these moments.

Saturday morning we headed out after breakfast to go adventure at the fair. This fair is pretty small, free and one of my absolute favorites.
We ran into lots of church friends, pet chickens, held bunnies and ate corn dogs.
Every summer the same thing happens to me at the fair. I get bunny fever. And chicken fever. Oh, and I'd like to have a baby goat also. Country blood runs through me and I can totally picture us being one of those fair families. It's going to happen one of these years, it's just inevitable. The kids and I will talk Daddy into letting us get a couple bunnies and it's going to be a blast, a real memory maker. I've already decided that next summer will be our summer for getting some chicks. I mean, why not? I already have 3 little kids to take care of, we might as well get some chicks, love on 'em and get some organic eggs out of the deal. Oh yes, these chickens would only be pets, I couldn't handle anything less.

Paisley just loved this big, fat bunny. Who wouldn't? I just want to snuggle with it's big chubby chin.
Kissy bunny, double chinned bunny. We loved you.
The kids loved the fire house and did really well crawling through the smoke. What a great experience for them!
Judah said his favorite thing was spraying this fire hose.
Paisley's first snow cone...ever. Who cares if she dumped most of it straight down her dress. Really, who cares. It was so fun.

Later in the day, we turned our backyard into our own little campground. We made hard shell tacos for dinner, set up the tent and brought out the camping chairs. This was so much fun and gave me so much hope that yes...someday we'll be a camping family!
Before we had kids, Jeremiah and I camped a lot and I'm actually one of those gals who really enjoys camping. Most Moms I know say they're not a fan of sleeping in a tent, but I actually think it's super fun. Maybe it's because some of my best memories growing up are from when my family went camping together and with our church friends. I just love it and I really want our family to be good at camping. I hope that in a few years, when our kids are just slightly older, we'll go camping a lot together during the summer. That it'll be our thing and a huge memory maker for our family. I'd like to have those kids that actually enjoy going and doing things with their family so that someday when they're teenagers, they'll still want to hangout with us.

So this weekend, we got that memory making process going by doing our first camping experience close to our beds, toilets and running water...just in case. Eliza and I slept inside because it doesn't make much sense to have a tiny baby sleep out in a tent and I missed sleeping out with the kids. Next summer we'll all be out there for sure. The kids did really well and they had a total blast. First camping experience was a success!
Another milestone from the weekend was Paisley watching Cinderella for the first time. Oh, I wasn't expecting this to make me emotional. Something about her standing there, mesmerized with that princess just got me. Oh but then it got worse- As Cinderella started to dance with the prince, in her sweet, high pitched voice, she asked Daddy to dance like that with her. Being the good Daddy that he is, of course he danced with her in our living room. At that point, I started becoming an emotional mess of a Mom so, I had to hide my face behind a book. 
Last milestone from the weekend was introducing Eliza to Goodnight Moon. This was the first reading of many. The kids helped me read it to her and as I read it, I was thinking about what a different experience she has as a baby. When Judah was this age, the house was all quiet, his story time was just with us, without anyone shoving their nose in his face and pushing kisses onto his head. 

Eliza's life as our baby is so different. She seems to love the craziness in this house and the rough love that her big brother and sister pour out on her. I can't imagine her in that quiet house that existed 4 years ago. She loves this loud, crazy house and so do I. 
I hope your weekend was wonderful. Tell me about it. What were some of the best parts? What are you thankful for?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

So Not Super Mom

When it's almost midnight, I probably shouldn't be writing, but sometimes I just can't help it. The house is quiet, my ear phones are in and hopefully my words will make a little bit of sense. I've often heard gals refer to themselves as a "hot mess". I'm not exactly sure what a "hot mess" is, but I think I'm there. 
And, I don't mean "hot" like, "Oh, she's so hot...
Hahaha... Ummm, NO. 
More like the sweaty July, carrying two kids at one time, while chasing the dog, type of hot mess. Oh, I've been so thankful lately that I can laugh at myself. Most days, I'm convinced that I embarrass myself more than the average person. I'm the gal who pulled a Tampon out of her purse at the bank to write with, instead of a pen. 
And then I swear to myself that I'll stop all of my embarrassing shenanigans, that I'll pull it together and get a grip, but then I do it again. It's always been that way. I have 1000 stories about the strange and awkward things that I do. The good news is that I've cut back on my blushing. As long as no one brings it up....

Here are a couple of my So-Not Super Mom moments from the last two days. 

The moment where the family waited for me in the beach parking lot, while I frantically scoured through our mini-van, sure that there's got to be an extra diaper in there. Only to find out that no, I didn't bring any. No extra diapers, how could that be? So, I laid that patient little baby down, grabbed some of big sister's spare clothes and constructed an awesome (and super absorbent, I must add, homemade cloth diaper).
{Little baby in big pants. She said it's comfy.}

The moment when I was so excited to go blueberry picking with a new friend, only to pull in and discover that I scheduled our blueberry play date, at at Blueberry Farm that's not open. I profusely apologized to the sweet friend, who must have it way more together than I do, and we created a plan B, at a place that we knew was open. She was gracious, but I have this feeling that she'll want to plan our get together's from now on.

And then there's my strong willed Paisley, who humbles me daily. Two years old is hard on us right now, especially when I stick to my word and she doesn't like what I've decided. Oh, the meltdowns. Often I have to remind myself that following through is most important, even if results in a public display of protest. On the other side of this phase is a sweet little girl, with a huge heart. I'm keeping my eyes open to the big picture and reminding myself that I need to love her BIG during this hard phase. Big expectations and BIG love. That's what she needs right now.

The other night, we took our dinner to the beach and played until the tide covered the entire beach in water. Here are a few photos from our adventure.

 When we walked down to the beach, we walked through this grassy trail.
While we played, we lost track of how much the tide had come in and when we left, we had to walk through all this water.  The water was up to my knees and my pants were soaked. Soaked pants- not a big deal. What WAS a big deal is  the alligator and snake stories my husband told while we walked through that water. I don't do snakes. He loves me and giving me a hard time is part of loving me (or so he says).
Happy weekend, friends. Go be a blessing.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Relish the Charms

I read this quote tonight while I was sitting in our dimly lit room, feeding Eliza. Once in awhile, my 3 little ones feel more like 10 and today was one of those. But, the big kids go to bed and after wrapping her up in that favorite swaddle blanket, kissing her cheeks 20 times and breathing in her baby smell, I'd do it all over again. Again, again and again. 
Shared from Rebecca's wonderful blog: Simple As That

Us Lately//Sisters.

 What Paisley loves, Paisley sniffs. Eliza gets sniffed a lot.

Us Lately//Creating.
Paisley and I colored side by side. When the picture was done, she sat and just stared at it; "It's beautiful Mommy! It's beautiful!" 
Us Lately//Dress Up.
Hello Kitty jammies, and big brother's Batman undies. Perfect outfit for bike riding, yes?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Dear Judah

Dear Judah,

This morning you woke up, determined to find your red underwear and put them on over your blue pajama pants. You like to wear this Superman shirt everyday and when it begs to be washed, you make sure to know exactly when you can wear it again.

You told me today that I make your feelings happy and I want you to know, that it's YOU--YOU make MY feelings happy. You always have and you always will. You were born with the sweetest temperament and watching you become more of who you are, is one of the greatest joys of my life. I not only love you, but I like you. Being your Mommy is such an honor. Last night I told you that you're a gift from God to our family and I meant it. You are a gift.

Today you told me that we should make a list in the morning and on that list we should write "Vitamins and Lots of Snuggles for Mommy". See Judah, you are so good at loving your family. You are kind and patient with your sisters. When God created you, He knew you could handle the job of being big brother to those little girls. He knew that you would not only put up with them, but that you'd love them so well.

I watched you today with Paisley out in the yard. You were teaching her how to pump on the swing and listening to you explain to her made my heart so happy. You asked me this afternoon if when you're 5, you can go get Paisley up from her nap by yourself. You want to take care of her and when Eliza cries, you comfort her.

When I look at you, my heart feels bigger. I want you to know that you can do whatever you set your mind to. That God created you intentionally to be who you are and when you follow Him and ask Him for direction, He will give it to you. He has big plans for you. Big, BIG plans. He thinks you're amazing and so do I.

Just a few months ago, you weren't comfortable peddling this bike and now you're zooming around. I can see how proud you are and that makes me smile so much that my cheeks hurt. Be you, do things at your pace and don't ever let fear hold you back.

At 4 years old,  you're wanting more independence and I'm learning to say "Yes" and let you learn from your mistakes. You're capable of more than I give you credit for and when you do stuff for yourself, you get this really cute smile on your face.

Thanks for being you. I'll wash that shirt for you over and over again. I'll spy on you, while you teach your sister how to pump on the swing and I'll smile because that's what you make me do. You make me smile.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Feeling so grateful tonight. I've been away from the internet a lot this weekend and the habit of filtering the words in my head, down and out onto the keyboard has been absent. Instead, I've been at this beautiful lake, with equally beautiful ladies. My heart is full, my words are few and I'm okay with that right now.

This weekend, Eliza and I went away with a group of amazing women. We stayed on this lake and the place was so perfect, I could have stayed for a week. As a team, we planned out the upcoming MOPS year. So much more than planning happened, though. Transparency happened and friendships grew. When I walked back in our door, I felt so refreshed with a renewed passion for mothering. I had no idea how badly I needed that time away. 

Before I was a Mom, I never knew that even good Moms, who enjoy their families, need to get away. I didn't imagine that I'd need that break. Now, after being away from my "normal", I see how important it really is. From now on, I'm going to plan a short getaway with girlfriends every 6 months or so. Nothing fancy, just a time to get refreshed. We need it. Our kids need it. It renews our joy and isn't that something that everyone deserves? Joy. It IS possible!
So, a short list for tonight.

Still listening to Hillsong-Glorious Ruins. Yep, I'm that gal who listens to the same thing on repeat a crazy amount of times.

Just about to finish "Be the Mom" and I'll probably end up reading it again someday. It just hits so many of my weak spots. Just starting "1000 Gifts" and soaking up every page. And for book club, reading "The Artists Daughter".
For awhile now, my husband and I have known that we need to get up before our kids in the morning and spend a few moments with God together. The importance of us doing this is a whole other post in itself, but I'll save that for another time. For now, I'll just say that waking up before our kids is the number one goal for this week.

Campfire. Tonight we had some friends over, ate hamburgers and made s'mores. We're all going to bed tonight smelling like a campfire. Even little Eliza smells like summer.

This girl and her treasures. She named that plant in her hand a "tickle bush". Daily she reminds me to slow down and celebrate the small stuff.

Now it's your turn.
What are you listening to?



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