Then and now.

Do you ever feel like nothing has changed….while simultaneously feeling like everything has changed?

It’s weird. I know. But a sentiment I bet anyone married for a decade or two understands. 
Those couples on the right and left, they’re the same people. But also not. 
Looking at those two on the left from 1996. Oh man. I know them so well, but they kinda feel like old friends you haven’t seen in a while. Those two were born and bred Oklahomans, never living farther than an hour and a half from home. They had 5 living grandparents, all of whom would attend their wedding in a year and a half or so. They didn’t look for friends or influence too far outside a circle of people who looked and thought and dressed and worshipped pretty much just like they did.  They wanted adventure but had a shallow understanding of what adventure really means. 
Those two on the right. They’ve moved to Georgia. Those jokers on the left might not have been able to find Georgia on a map, and certainly knew nothing of it’s beauty and history. The two on the right have suffered the heartache of losing some of those precious grandparents who were there to celebrate the “I do” of the ones on the left. The ones on the right are learning to look beyond an educational and socio-economic homogeneous world; trying to expand their circle to include people who don’t look or think or worship exactly like they do. Trying. And they know something of adventure. They know it comes from laying down your pride and loving well when you want to give up. They know it comes from offering your heart and home to kids who are hard to love but to whom it’s even harder to say goodbye. They know adventure is trusting their lives and their childrens’ lives to the One who numbers their days. Knowing they will live out every one of those days and not a single one more. Adventure is living with the truth that we all get one shot at this life and trying to make it count for something. Those two on the left wouldn’t have known to define adventure that way. As a daily offering up of ourselves to the One who made us. But it is. Adventure that is. Oh, it is. 
Those two on the left have learned so much in the last 15 or so years. And those two jokers on the right have so much to learn in the next 15. 

Tortillas from scratch

I can generally hold my own in the kitchen (it’s taken me 15 years to get there; from comedy routine to slightly more than adequate), but I don’t wanna spend my whole day in there. I like meals that are prepped, cooked, and done in under an hour. (Less time is even better.)

But y’all. My kids shower me with love, praise, and affection when I make these homemade tortillas. They’re so good; but labor intensive, and so I honestly only make them a couple times a year. It takes way more than an hour. (Measure…mix…separate…let rise…roll out…cook….And it’s worth it to just go ahead and double the recipe.)

The magic dough that makes my boys sing my praises.

Ryan and Dylan help by standing over the cast iron skillet and flipping the tortillas as I roll the next one. It’s a family affair. 
Try them with these carnitas from My Kitchen Ecapades! We’ve found the most crucial step in the carnitas recipe is browning them until slightly crisp under the broiler. So, so delicious! 

Don’t forget to save a few of your homemade tortillas for breakfast burritos the following morning with eggs, cheese, and a bit of your leftover carnitas. 

Washington D.C. with the kids

Our family took a quick trip to D.C. after Christmas.  We only spent 3 nights, giving us two full days to cram in as much sightseeing as we possibly could! It was a great trip. Here’s what we learned on our whirlwind tour:

Lodging: Don’t be afraid to stay across the river in Arlington, VA.  You can find better rates on hotel rooms, and take the metro into D.C.  Your hotel will likely provide a free shuttle to a metro stop.  Once you ride the metro into the city, you can walk to all the major highlights, and take the metro back to your hotel in the late afternoon before resting up and driving to dinner.  The metro to and from any outlying location will cost around $7.00 per day, per person.  We stayed at the Sheraton Pentagon City and had a good experience, and our room had an amazing view of D.C.

View from our hotel room: The Pentagon in the foreground and D.C. in the distance
The kids became pros at using their metro card!

Our top three spots:
1. The Lincoln Memorial at night
2. National Museum of American History
3. National Air and Space Museum
(Close runner-ups are the Natural History Museum and a tour of The Capitol.  Contact your congressman to ensure an appointment for a tour.  You can also secure a tour time of the National Archives via their website, and avoid the wait in line!)

We drove directly here. From the steps of our front porch to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Don’t miss visiting at night, then make your way over to the equally sobering Korean War Memorial. 

Also fun was taking our van into Georgetown one evening.  The fight to find on-street parking is worth the fun walk around Georgetown.  After a great dinner at Pizzeria Paradiso we had planned to get dessert at the famed Georgetown Cupcakes.  After seeing the line was around the block, we opted for brownies and coffee at Dean and Deluca’s across the street instead.

Mistakes we made that you should avoid:
1.  We spent our entire first morning touring The Capitol, making a stop at our state senator’s office, and visiting the National Archives.  All of those things are great….but can get a little tedious for the wee ones.  If I had it to do over, I would have spent our mornings being the first ones in line for our favorite museums, to avoid the crowds and to enjoy the experience while we were fresh.  The tours of buildings and the viewing of documents aren’t quite the crowd pleasers for the younger set – intersperse those instead of tackling them all at once.

2.  Not prepping the 8 year old better.  One example:  The rest of the family was totally pumped about seeing The Declaration of Independence…and the way we were all acting she must have thought “The Declaration!” was the latest roller coaster at a theme park.  She needed more context, and frankly needed to be prepped that “Yes.  We are indeed standing in line to see an old piece of paper.”

3.  Not having a meal plan for lunch time. We knew that none of the museums or government buildings allow food inside, so we knew we couldn’t brown bag it or even take along snacks and water bottles. I assumed, however, we would stumble onto some family friendly (aka budget-friendly-fast-food) options, and we didn’t on day one.  We ended up overspending on a not-great lunch at a super crowded restaurant.
TIP:  There’s a McDonald’s inside The National Air and Space Museum.  If you’re pinching pennies it’s your best option!  Our advice is to make lunch quick and cheap to get back to sightseeing, and spend your money on a relaxing dinner.

4.  Not checking the times things open and close.  We arrived at The National Air and Space Museum a bit before 9:00…only to discover it didn’t open until 10:00.   What?!? It left us time to spend exploring statues along the National Mall and doing cartwheels on the lawn…but still frustrating.

5.  Over dressing the first day.  We knew the weather was on the cold side, so on day one we all bundled up with heavy coats, hats, scarves, and gloves.  It was a big pain to keep up with all that stuff once we were inside the buildings. (Many places did offer a coat check, but the lines were long and we opted not to bother with it.)  The second day, we just wore light jackets with hoods.  There were times we were on the chilly side, but it was worth it not to have to keep up with all that paraphernalia!  And there’s plenty of walking and exercise to keep you warmed up. On day two…I didn’t even carry a purse.  I stuck my license, some cash and a credit card, and my phone in my jean pockets.  It’s the only way to go!

Other miscellaneous tips:
1. Check out some kid-friendly books on our Nation’s capitol and our Founding Fathers before your visit
2. Remember:  all the museums have free entrance, so with good planning this can be a budget vacation!
3. Take advantage of the free guided tours offered by most of the museums, if your kids are late elementary age or older.  The younger crowd wants to move at a faster pace than the tour group.
4.  Decide what you think will most interest your kid (The dinosaurs at Natural History?  The planes at Air and Space?  The automobiles and trains at American History?) and make that your FIRST stop.  You’ll be fresh, and the crowds are thinnest in the mornings.

We had a GREAT time and I would love to visit again.  There are several things I want to see that we had to miss this trip, and several places I would love to devote more time to.  (We all agreed we could have stayed much, much longer at the American History Museum, had we visited earlier in the day before our legs were jello and our patience with each other was thin.  So much cool stuff to see!)

To see more pics of our whirl wind tour and all we managed to cram in, check out our Washington D.C. Flickr set!  

Life lessons from rubber band bracelet making.

It’s better to follow the directions or ask for help. Listen to the people who’ve done it before.

If you don’t read directions and manage to screw everything up, you can start over. 
Some people can make better bracelets than you. It just means they’ve been doing it longer and have more practice. You’ll get there. 
Don’t throw fits when things don’t work out as planned. It makes things worse and you lose opportunities. (In the case of the Rainbow Loom, the loom sits on a shelf in your mom’s closet for a while. In real life…throwing fits might get YOU shelved while someone else gets a shot.)
The better the end result, the longer it takes. 
If you leave rubber bands all over the floor and your mom or dad has to pick them up, they get thrown away. [That one doesn’t really have a parallel life lesson. It’s just true.]

Reading Up!

We visited the library and got a stack of books to prep us for our upcoming trip to Washinton DC.  We’re heading to the Nation’s Capitol on December 26th. None of us have ever visited, and it’s been on my top 5 “want to visit” list for years. I’m so excited!

I got kid-friendly books that we could all enjoy and understand, and….I love them. I struggle to read non-fiction, but these are great! I think I’ve found a way to enjoy non-fiction. (I’m only sorta kidding.) (I may be a frequent visitor to the Junior Non-Fiction and Junior Biography section of the library.) 
I am feeling such a surge of patriotism reading about our Nation’s beginnings. 
Closing statement of the Declaration of Independence: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

Home Alone

The kids asked to do a “Home Alone” party this year. So fun! 

We set up a speaker on the porch to play “I’m gonna give you to the count of 10, to get your ugly, yella, no-good keister off my property…” when our friends rang the doorbell. Pretty great stuff. 

‘Tis the season for swinging paint cans, mannequins in the windows,  and strategically placed ornaments to foil the bad guys. 

The things they pick up along the way.

One day it was just Ryan and I in my van on the way to school.

“Hey mom, do you think you can know a lot about a person from the kind of car they drive?”
“I don’t know bud. What do you think?”
“I think you can. Like, your car says that you’re a mom. And Dad’s car says that he cares more about you than he does himself.” 
I just had to smile. I marvel at little things that kids pick up on. I love the inferences they draw without ever being taught or told. And I love that everyday my kids see their  Dad communicating love to us all in ways both big ways and small. 
Here’s hoping that one day Ryan is willing to drive a 15 year old, paint-peeling sedan, while his wife has the mini-van of her dreams. 

Rusty Tools

β€œIt’s funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools – friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty – and said ‘do the best you can with these, they will have to do’. And mostly, against all odds, they do.”
I love the above quote.  Against all odds, we make our way in life, and it’s good. So good.
Friendships. Prayer. Conscience. Honesty.  These are our tools.
I am not always the greatest friend….and occasionally my friends aren’t perfect either.  My best friendships aren’t shiny and pristine and without flaw.  Our conversations don’t always read like a movie script; sometimes there are not tidy resolutions.  But I count my friends among the biggest blessings God has given me.  I learn so much about the character of God by watching my friends nurture and love and forgive and celebrate.  It’s amazing.
My prayers don’t always get answered.  Sometimes God seems inattentive.  Prayers that I’ve prayed for years start to sound old, and yes, they seem rusty. But then, suddenly, God moves.  He acts on my behalf.   I keep hammering away with that seemingly rusty tool, and God begins to build something.
Conscience and Honesty: Mamas are so grateful when we begin to see these things in our babies.  An apology rendered earnestly.  A confession given freely.  A tear shed over an injustice.  Conscience and Honesty are, to me, proof of our soul.  Telling the truth and acting on conscience isn’t always an act of self-preservation, especially when you’re 8 or 10 or 11.  It’s hard. But good.