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Friday, October 28, 2011

Delicious comfort food!


It's been getting quite chilly (if not downright cold!) here in central Indiana the past week or so. I'm not one for cold weather. In fact, the only thing I enjoy about it is the built-in requisite slow down; one is basically forced to pause for a season.

So yesterday, I found myself thinking, "Comfort," as I planned dinner. And what came to mind was a good tuna casserole (good being the key word).

Creamy, comfy, YUMMY tuna casserole.

The recipe I use really is both simple and good, if I do say so myself.
I happen to get all 12 thumbs up here (two per body count).
Just sayin'.

Tuna Noodle Casserole
*************************
16 oz elbow macaroni, cooked and drained.
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and finely chopped.
2 cans tuna in water, drained.
1 cup mayonaise.
1 Tbsp. lemon juice (I use concentrate)
At least 6 green onions (I choose to lightly sautee mine first)
8 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
2 sticks celery, chopped (optional; I usually leave this out)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Mix all ingredients in large bowl and pour into greased casserole dish.
Bake in preheated oven at 350º for 15-20 minutes, just until heated through.
serves 8.

Enjoy!

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bringing home the gold.

My Olivia had her first swim meet today. She has been training on the developmental team for a year and finally moved up with "the big dogs" so it was an exciting day for her. Though she likely didn't place, she established her entry times, learned the ropes of knowing when her heat was up, and so on. All in all, a fun day.


I competed in gymnastics when I was her age and it was such a fun time in my childhood. The coach would pick us up in the YMCA van and off we'd go, sometimes a half hour away, sometimes 2 hours away. We'd be gone all day and our parents never knew how we did until we returned home late in the evening (I only placed on 2 events my entire first year, so you can imagine how encouraged I was after the first meet of my second year, when I came home to report that I had placed in every single event and had placed 2nd all-around as well.)

How things have changed. In my day, it was a personal commitment, but not so much a financial commitment. Sure, there was a YMCA junior membership to purchase, and the expense of practice suits (team suits and warm ups were provided).
The coach drove, and we stopped for fast food on the way home. There were very few expenses involved.

Today?

Parents have to volunteer 4 times/year (per family). We had to sign up to bring food items. $5 per person to attend the meet. $5 for a program (A program? We never had programs before). A fully stocked snack bar was open for business (including Subway sandwiches for sale). Really? Because back in the day, I had to hit the candy machine for M&Ms, banging on the glass when the Archimedian screw failed to plop out my chosen treats. But today, apparently it's "all out". They were even selling meet tee shirts for $10. We did have shirts made for our regional meets back in the day, but regular season meets? No way. The whole experience, from a worldly perspective, felt a bit over the top to me.

But not from the perspective of watching my sweet girl compete. She has worked so hard to have her own lane. And she was so very proud of her efforts. A few of the kids came off their events crying because they were unhappy with their times or because they finished last in the heat. And who knows, maybe those days are yet to come for my kids too. But for today, it was simply a wonderful moment in my daughter's childhood; a moment where she gave her all and smiled ear to ear over her efforts. In that regard, I'm happy to say we brought home the gold.

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

MOMMY GUILT



Mommy guilt!
Been there, done that?
I thought so.
Me too.

So I was thinking about it yesterday as dh and I worked on our third batch of cinnamon apple butter together.
(Yes, we make bodaciously marvelous apple butter together; gals, this is what happens when you convince them the stove is a "grill".)

There our four kids were, watching The Wilderness Family on DVD, while we spent about 2½ hours busying ourselves in the kitchen.
[Begin lament]
I should be with them.
They need me.
Why am I sitting here stirring apple butter?
This is lame.

[end lament]

Wait,...just why am I sitting here making apple butter? The obvious answer was that my family likes cinnamon apple butter and I was making it to please them.
So why do us moms have to complicate the issue?
I mean, hubby wasn't having "daddy guilt" (at least not that I could see; has that been invented yet?) And the kids did seem perfectly fine without me.

So I got to thinking. It wasn't so much that I was busy making apple butter that gave me a small dose of mommy guilt. It's just that I was busy.

Busyness.
Time sucked away from the precious moments of our days.
Time is limited and must be stewarded wisely.

So, I slathered a little apple butter on a bite of english muffin (to help me think, of course) and thought some more.

Mommy guilt when I'm washing and folding the bed linens. Sure, we do need clean bed linens, but if one (or all) of my children is feeling particularly mommy-needy that week, why can't I delay that chore and invest in my children instead?
When they are gone, will they recall those clean sheets?
Or the time spent (or not spent) with me?
Which one do I want them to recall with fondness?

Mommy guilt when they want me to go outside to play with them, but I decline because it's "too hot" (seriously, do we ever outgrow that whine?) and I'm feeling right comfy in the air conditioned house.

But,...

Would I melt?

Actually, yes I would.
I have naturally curly hair and it totally frizzles to the max after too much heat and humidity (seriously, I do).
But just because I'll come back inside looking like an English sheepdog doesn't mean I should take my dose of mommy guilt lying down on the sofa.
Time is what they want and it's mine to give.

Or not (gulp!)

Cautious note to self: I cannot buy it back when the fleeting moments of childhood are gone.

As I recently read (and agreed with) elsewhere on the net, I'm certain when my children are grown and gone, I will yearn for these days I'm in midst of now.
I will wish I could do it all over again.
I just don't want to wish I had done it differently.

Throw mommy guilt out the window at some point this week, won't you?
When your child comes and asks you to get stuck in the Molasses Swamp for 47 turns (again), indulge him.
No matter how well intentioned your busyness may be regarding the serving your family, your children will be well served indeed by your willingness to simply be with them.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven..."

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Evidence of (His) Love


"Open your eyes
And look upon the handiwork of God
Open your soul
And feel the breath of glory all around
For everywhere there's evidence of love."
~First Call


Our homeschool week (our family week, for that matter) goes from Tuesday to Saturday, as hubby has Sunday/Monday off from work. Today, therefore, was our first day "back at it" after our vacation. I begin school promptly at 8am each day. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I must break away at 9am to drive my youngest to preschool (5 minutes away) while my oldest assists her younger siblings with their spelling lesson.

As I drove my youngest to preschool today, I couldn't help but drink in the absolute lovliness of yet another blessed Indian summer day here in central Indiana. The sun is shining, the temperatures are mildly warm (going up to 80º today), and a gentle breeze is blowing. Truly, everywhere I looked, my eyes were rewarded with the handiwork of God.

Sunshine.

Blue skies.

And color. Glorious, wonderous, rich hues of autumn.

Golden yellows.
Fire reds.
And my own personal favorite, blazing orange.
All this color against the remnant background of the greens of summer.

As I pulled into my parking space at the school, my eye caught sight of a gentle swaying movement in front of me. I looked up and was rewarded with the most soothing sight; a tree yielding to the moment of transition from one of life's seasons to the next; yielding ever so gracefully as, gem by golden gem, it surrendered one falling leaf after another, ever so slowly. I was mesmorized for the moment, my senses truly engulfed by the gift. And it was that, a gift, straight from the hand of God.

I would encourage you, as you take in these last days of fabulous fall color too, to not miss the gift within the gift within the gift. First, we are given God's color palate to behold, painted by His most creative hand on all the trees of fall. But the gift doesn't end there. Do not miss the beauty of leaves fallen, a delicate blanket of color resting on the ground below, or floating gently on the surface of a pond or river nearby. And finally, be sure to hear the message of fall; that yielding to the seasons of our lives can be done with grace and beauty; that to everything under heaven, there is a season and a purpose. God is in the details.

Are you embracing the blessings of the particular season you find yourself in at this moment? Is it possible you are missing some of its unique beauty by clinging to a season now past? Like a lone withered leaf clinging to a bare tree of winter, so can we be when we fail to yield to a new season of life with grace. I'm not trained as a preacher so I assure you, no preaching intended. I would be the first to admit to "lone leaf" status at times, and therefore this is an encouragement borne of experience.

As First Call so perfectly stated, "Open your eyes and look upon the handiwork of God....for everywhere there's evidence of love."

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Planes, Ships, and Automobiles


Yes, I took this photo as we sailed out of Freeport. It's amazing.

Please note: If you dare to read this post, grab a cup of coffee and something to keep your blood sugar up. It's loooong (mainly because I need to document the trip for our family.) Next, I hesitate to post details of our vacation, as I realize many families do not have the means to take a trip like this one. If you know me personally, then you know that one thing I am NOT is a "material girl" (whatever, Madonna). I'm not impressed by "stuff" and I don't covet it. I am a girl who loves nature, wide open spaces, and minimal "stuff". The only reason we are able to take advantage of traveling as we do is because we are blessed through my husband's airline job with the privilege of doing so. I recognize that this is a blessing straight from the hand of my God and Father and for that, I am nothing but grateful.
Just wanted to make that clear before I begin.

************************

Just got back from our family vacation. My husband and I have taken many cruises over there years, but never with our children,....until this past week. They have been counting down the days since late July, eager to take in this new-to-them experience. In a nutshell, we all had a most blessed and wonderful time away. But let's step out of the nutshell for a moment, because outside the nutshell, our trip was, well, an "adventure" within an adventure.

Our children posing with one of the cabin steward's many towel creations we would discover in our stateroom on the ship.

We began with standby challenges. Our family always flies standby, as my husband works for a major airline and we are able to board flights when there are available ("open") seats. When we cruise, we always fly the day before our ship's departure, to guarentee that we don't encounter any standby problems. With our ship sailing on Monday, we had planned to fly Sunday.

"Honey, Sunday's flights are full. We're now traveling on Saturday night."

Okay then, we were now leaving TWO days early. There was a non-stop flight on Saturday evening at 6:30pm with 15 open seats (we need plenty of those with a family of six). Dh and I sparred a bit about what time we should head to the airport. He wanted to go early (3:15pm), while I didn't want to sit in the airport that long, rallying for 4:30pm. He won when he suggested we eat dinner there so I wouldn't have to cook.
Deal!
Good thing too because right after we finished our airport dining, we learned that the aircraft we were waiting for had to return to Miami after take-off and thus our outbound flight was now indefinitely delayed. Joy! We hustled to the gate to see what our plan B options were, only to realize we had to make a split second decision. Stay and wait for the now delayed non-stop flight or hop on the Dallas flight that was leaving in several minutes and hope our connection in Dallas ran smoothly. We chose that option and a dear co-worker of dh's quickly rerouted our bags so they would arrive in Miami that night as well. We arrived in Miami at 11:00pm and had to wait until about 11:45pm for our bags. Travel disaster averted.

Next, dh went to check in at our hotel, only to learn they couldn't find one of our reservations (we booked two, adding an additional night when we realized we had to leave another day earlier due to the full flights menioned above). The desk clerk could not locate our reservation, even though dh had a confirmation number, so he just booked us. Whatever. Just get us to bed, thank you for your help.
Our "littles" in one of the hot tubs on board.
The next morning, we walked to a McDonald's for breakfast, then inquired about the bus schedule to Bayside Mall. We had told the kids what fun it is to hang out there before cruising. It's very artsy and gives one a little taste of local Miami culture.
"Ooooooh, good luck with that. Today is Sunday and the bus schedule is seriously reduced. You can wait for it to come along, but it might be 90 minutes before you see it."

Swell!

Dh hailed a cab. $25 later, we were at Bayside and had a great time. The kids got to see Carnival Cruiseline set sail, and to imagine their departure from port the next day. We walked a few blocks down from Bayside and sat in adirondack chairs in the sand along the bay. And what did we see?

Porpoises!

Oh yes we did too. We saw about 5 or 6 of them feeding on schools of fish that were frantically leaping out of the water, trying to get away. And the feeding show continued for a good 10 minutes. They came as close as perhaps 50 yards away. What a treat to spot them while resting in such a beautiful spot. We also saw some type of shark at Bayside (again, tipped off by schools of fish leaping out of hte water to get away). We hailed another taxi back to our hotel after "negotiating" a single cab ("Sir, we only took one cab here. Yes, we know we have six people. Four are children." Oy vey!) And the cab driver's daughter is presently enjoying her sparkly bling evening bag, courtesy of my 8 year old, who accidentally left hers in the cab when we got back to the hotel. :(

We let the kids swim in the hotel pool before tucking them in for a night's rest prior to the big day (they were exhausted from our trip to Miami by way of Dallas).
We usually make our boys wear shirts into the water so they won't sunburn, but this time we let them go in without them. Brandon, our 4 year old, was beside himself with joy. "Oh, this is soooo es-siting swimming without my shirt on." You just have to love that boy's take on what is worthy of being dubbed "exciting", lol.

Monday morning finally arrived and we boarded our bus for the port of Miami. A short 15 minute drive and we were there. Four enormous ships were in port; 2 Carnival, 1 Royal Carribbean, and ours, the Norwegian Sky. It was last in line to leave port, so the kids would get to see three ships sail before their own gave the long departure blasts and headed out to sea. We always head to port early so we were checked in and on board by about noon. We knew to keep our bathing suits with us in a carry on, as the kids would want to swim and the porters take your luggage from you and deliver it to your stateroom later in the day. We all enjoyed a lunch in one of the formal dining rooms together, where the children loved being able to order appetizers, an entree, and a dessert without regard to price. It made me smile when they asked the very same question a dear friend asked me when they took their first cruise with us a few years ago; "You just get up and leave when you're done eating?" Yes, you do.

The kids then swam the rest of the afternoon until it was time to set sail. There are millionaire homes along the channel at the port of Miami so it's fun to look at them as you leave. I'm so not a materialistic person, not at all impressed by "stuff", but it's still fun to catch a glimpse of such pricey real estate as the ship leaves port.

Our oldest son playing on Junkanoo Beach in Nassau
Our first port was Freeport in the Bahamas and oh, let me tell you, it's a tropical,...er,..it's,...there are palms and sunshine and,.....okay, so there's nothing to do there. Nope, nada. We walked around at the portside shops and passed on our chance to take a taxi 11 miles into town to shop some more. It was fine though. The kids wanted to spend some time in the ship's Kids Club, which gave dh and I time to walk 2 miles on the ship's jogging deck. Ah, mighty nice.

The view from a porthole on the ship's walking deck, in Freeport.
The next day was sure to be our favorite; introducing the kids to one of our favorite spots in the Caribbean, Norwegian's private island, Great Stirrup Cay. I was hoping it wasn't too torn up as it is currently under rennovation and I wanted the kids to see it for the tropical paradise we have come to love. A day of snorkeling and swimming, dancing on the white sand beaches, enjoying an island barbecue, reading in a hammock while an island breeze dares to turn your page, hiking to the "airport" and lighthouse. Oh, what fun they were in for.

Were.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. I am most sorry to have to make this announcement but do to current water conditions, we have been unable to safely bring the tenders shipside to take you over to the island. Multiple attempts have been made and at this time, it is my decision that we must cancel our scheduled day at Great Stirrup Cay." And we were literally heading out our cabin door to board the tenders when we heard this announcement. Sad, sad, sad! (Tenders, btw, are smaller boats that transport passengers from a cruise ship to dry land when the ship does not physically dock in a port). We were most disappointed but quickly decided not to let it ruin our vacation and got on with swimming, an afternoon craft class, a magic tricks class, a story read to our children in the library by moi, and an afternoon gameshow where guests played the ship's version of A Minute to Win It. We also watched Voyage of the Dawn Treader together as a family.

Our "littles" watching the Dawn Treader."
The next day was spent in Nassau. We walked to Fort Fincastle and the Queen's Staircase, then went back to the ship for lunch before walking to Junkanoo Beach so the kids could make up for not having the chance to swim in the Caribbean waters. What a great time they had, diving down and bringing up shells and coral remnants.
Ironically, the hotel directly across the street was one of three that we stayed in on our honeymoon (we went to Kennebunkeport, ME, the Bahamas, and Tampa, FL). We chose the hotel through an airline travel guide, pre-internet era, only to discover it was a dive. We were so uncomfortable being there that we promptly left Nassau the next morning for Tampa to finish out our honeymoon.



Sailing out of Nassau was a bit unnerving, as we were experiencing very high winds (higher than the conditions that caused our captain to cancel the private island the day before). As we left the harbor, we experienced quite a bit of rocking. Not comforting, seeing as we weren't even in open water yet and could see breaking WAVES (not caps) on the ocean. As we entered the open waters, the ship listed toward the starboard side and basically just stayed that way for a good 90 minutes. I did not enjoy that, as we've never experienced it quite like that while sailing. But I had to keep my concerns to myself since I didn't want to frighten our children. Eventually, the ship uprighted again and we didn't have much to contend with after that. A good final evening was had by all. We went to dinner, took in a show, viewed the many pictures taken of us by the ship's photographer throughout the cruise, danced by the pool, and finally settled into in our staterooms after I packed our bags for home.

Home.

Home is very far away when you travel standby, especially if you're leaving out of a busy city like Miami. Especially if you need 6 seats. Especially if flights are full. And they were. Usually, it's the "get out of Miami" part that is challenging for us. Not this time. We boarded a 10:30am flight to Dallas, no problem. But ALL the flights from Dallas to Indy were full for the day. Our options were A) spend the night in Dallas and fly out in the morning (and hope there are no weather or cancellation issues) or B) fly to Cincinnati and rent a car for the 1 hour 40 minute drive home. We chose B, arriving in Cincy about 10:15pm, then drove to the Indianapolis Airport, arriving after midnight to claim our van and our bags. Only, our bags were locked up in baggage service and hubby didn't have his work keys with him. Oh well, we'd drive back and pick them up the next day.

AND contend with the over-charge for our hotel stay.

Hey Mon, is this the cutest little Jamaican dude ever or what?!
At 1:00am, our children were finally tucked into their own beds at home after beginning their day on the ship with a 6:30am wake-up call. They're troopers, every last one of them. They know how to roll with the punches of stand-by travel and how to deal with long lay-overs when we can't get on a flight. They had a wonderful time and for my part, I loved seeing the experience through their eyes. They're already "planning" their next cruise. Brandon has put in his request for "Royal Caribbean." Did I mention he's 4? How the heck is that boy learning the lingo already? :D
Pictures to come!

End note: If you've never sailed before, don't let my description of the ship's rocking scare you out of going one day. The fact is, I have periods of vertigo that have plagued me for many years. ALL rocking bothers me but even I don't get sea-sick on board, not even in rough seas. I just don't like it. Today's vessels have wonderful stabilizers in them that reduce rocking tremendously. In fact, if you feel it at all, it's more of a comforting sensation that makes you sleep like a baby. ;) If vertigo was not a constant challenge for me, I doubt I'd give it much of a thought at all. Cruising rocks! (no pun intended)

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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