The Perfect Blend of Boyhood Joy:
Hermit Crabs, Lego’s, Stuffed Animals and Forts...(just in case you need the recipe)
With my two older sons away at Scout Camp, I found a sacred little niche of time with my two younger sons. It has been unstructured and simple, just the way we all like it. We’ve had breakfast for dinner and snacks in-between. We’ve read books, watched videos, played in the garden and even busted out the puzzles and board games.
After a couple of days of complete chill, we rallied to tackle a monumental task…their closet! It took most of a day and into the night, but they were champs at sorting, cleaning and releasing things to the recycle pile. Then they relished in how nice their room felt with its new, clean edge to it. (And so did I! Purging kiddie litter always makes me feel great!!)
During this process we stumbled onto a perfect blend that creates much joy in a young boys heart. The stuffed animals had been overwhelming us all winter, and no amount of structure seemed to contain them. We finally have found a fun summertime approach to taming our zoo!
By claiming a nook in their room, we piled it high with penguins, bears, giraffes and puppy dogs. We then grabbed some large legos and built a wall around them. It was just high enough to keep our live dogs out, but short enough that boys can step over to get in. And then it’s kind of like a garden, but instead of water and sunlight, just add books, blankets and a sheet to transform or upgrade to fort status when needed. (I actually haven’t seen the boys since!!) This also keeps your couch pillows from being kidnapped for fort use because all those soft stuffed animals fit the bill perfectly.
We added to our joyful blend by taking a trip to the pet store for much-anticipated hermit crabs. The boys have been waiting patiently since March when we first started talking about them. It was a sweet surprise reward for their hard work cleaning the day before. It seems like a rite of passage to give children the chance to care and nurture a pet and keep it in their room; they return often and linger longer because of it.
Relaxing and then cleaning out closets has all turned out to have been quite exciting and the boys have proclaimed they have the “best room ever!” I whole-heartedly agree! When the right combination reaches this simple level of joy, it makes you want to linger as long as you can. One day when these two are grown up, I will smile on this week and cherish every piece of it.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Isn’t Snack a funny word? Just writing it and saying it out loud sounds silly. But lets definitely get this straight: a Snack is a serious business! My children “snack” more than they “meal”…(see, that just sounds ridiculous). Snacks tide you over till the next meal, they energize kids to get back outside and play, they stop whining on a car ride, they distract small children when you need a quiet moment, so on and so on…THEY ARE VERY POWERFUL.
Throughout our week, family members trail back home at different increments in the afternoons as school buses drop off and boys get picked up. My two older ones love to arrive first to the kitchen and begin “the snack”. After several years of this constant question, I wised up this school year and devised a snack strategy! And for your viewing pleasure, I have visuals!!
So here is my kitchen cabinet of Post-It notes. Somewhere between the third and fourth child, I resolved myself to the need of Post-Its if I was ever going to remember anything again. I use them ALL the time for everything. In the case of Snacks, this method works beautifully because I reuse them as needed. (And as you can also see, we don’t eat very healthy snacks always! I may need to revise that now that I’m looking at it!)
I usually pick the snack before they get home and lay it out on the counter with a note of what it is and how many they get if its something like cookies, brownies, etc… and if you don’t know about 3-2-1 Cake, let me enlighten you: a simple, one-serving cake that a child can make in the microwave. You need 1 Cake Mix of choice and 1 Angel food Cake Mix combined together as the Dry Mix. Independence abounds as a child scoops, stirs, zaps and eats! They can add chocolate chips, whip cream, syrup, whatever add-ins of happiness to their cake too.
There is always a big bowl of Trail Mix available in the house also. It’s easy and great for a quick grab and go snack. I buy all the ingredients in bulk to save cost; then make my own variations of yum!
Well, we could all snack forever, but after a while one gets thirsty… so I want to remind you that if you didn’t read my post on Drink Stations , then its time for you to get on board! Seriously, this technique has saved me many runny noses, coughs and such.
Super easy: set up a station in your kitchen with coasters, tray, compartment boxes, etc. and put your family’s names on designated spaces. The rule: 1 cup per day. Wash them at night and let them pick a new cup the next day! Everyone knows where their drink is; no one drinks after another!! Germs are thwarted. Dishwasher is not exploding. This is a game changer for me.
Alrighty! Here’s to tasty snacking! And don’t forget the Post-Its! They sure come in handy.
Our family almost always has a project going on. Please tell me we’re not the only ones?
Currently, we’re in the midst of a storage room expansion. We’ve all adjusted to the perpetual whining of saws, staccato of hammering, and swooshing of sanders. Even our dog has adapted to the workers and extra activity, preferring to hide out in their space filled with the familiar drone of power tools rather than the unpredictable rumble of thunder last week.
Starting a construction project is exciting. Expectations and hopes are high.
Finishing a project is thrilling. Moving into a new space is fun!
It’s where all the gritty work and dedication to the task happen. It’s the messiest part and often goes on longer than planned. Sometimes we face challenges in the Middle that we weren’t expecting. Footprints suddenly appear on countertops and construction nails are discovered in a car tire …or two!
For any construction project, we prepare for the noise and surge of activity. Big movements mean change is coming. We brace ourselves and dive in to the adventure.
Somehow we forget about the quieter aspects of construction upheaval. (Is there such a thing as Home Improvement Amnesia??) We forget about that sneaky sheetrock dust and its magical pervasiveness — even if doors have been closed and precautions have been taken. It seeps in EVERYWHERE, mysteriously settling in place overnight, greeting us each morning like a dusting of frost.
I keep reminding myself that we’re almost there. Sanding signifies the painting phase is coming soon, which means the final stages are around the corner. We just need to persevere a little longer.
When we’re at the starting line of a race or a project, we’re hyped up with anticipation and energy to begin. It’s a very tangible place. Our senses are all perked up in awareness of the task ahead.
Somewhere in the middle, though, things tend to get a little blurry and uncertain. We don’t have the finish line in sight yet, and we have to face the realities of this murky Middle part.
Perseverance is an important life skill often learned through struggle and the shedding of a few tears.
Ironically, my Community Bible Study group is reading through the book of Acts and we’ve just gotten to the passage about Paul striving to finish his Course well.
“If only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me…” Acts 20:24
Paul’s story is filled with tenacious boldness despite all the opposition he faces, yet also demonstrates his gifts of encouragement and grace throughout his trials.
These are all wonderful attributes to adopt in the Middle of a long-term project or a particular life struggle. We are all under construction in some way or another, muddling through the messy Middle.
Some of our struggles might be obvious and expected, but others will be quietly devastating in their unexpected ripple effects.
May we each be able to lean on one another with grace and encouragement during our earnest efforts to maintain our course. Much growth can occur in that Messy Middle, depending on how we adapt and respond.
Whatever rebuilding process you may be in, here’s to finishing well, friends!
As I walked through the house on my nightly clean-sweep of rooms, I paused last week on this grouping left on a desk. Two sons had mingled parts of their day on this surface. I see this stuff all the time, and usually sort and sift quickly to keep or trash. But for a split moment I was inspired to pay attention before I disbanded the “clutter”.
I felt the need to snap a picture for my memory bank. It means nothing to most eyes that see it, but for me, it reflects two rambunctious boys that I love. The stick and duct tape, the fidget spinner, the rock, the beginning attempts of drawing circles…such sweet pieces of childhood. It’s not something I will scrapbook later, but I will begin to snap more pictures like it for my own heart and memory.
And so I hope to plant a seed for you too as you walk through parts of our mundane days. They are Ordinary a lot of the week, but in that Ordinary, look for the gems that are visually laid out just for you as a gift from God; these snapshots are beautiful reflections of family, love, joy, contentment, security… they are hidden treasures unless you really open your eyes to see.
As I was unpacking boxes from our move, I unloaded children’s books in the hallway with no plan yet of where to place them. Eli instantly sprawled out and began absorbing them as if old friends had just arrived. He lingered there for an hour! (A looong time for a 5-year-old). I kept stepping over him to continue unpacking, but then glanced down and realized that I didn’t want to ever forget such sweet innocence in that moment. You think you’ll remember; but take the snapshot.
So many Saturdays are on the soccer fields right now in our family’s life. My views are similar each week, and I make sure to take a pic or two of my boys playing the sport from time to time. But with my quest to see the hidden gems, I snapped this thinking I would probably delete it once I could actually see it out of the direct sunlight…but oh no, I will keep it. I love it in fact. It has all the components from the quilt blankets laid out each week, to the sibling drifters that are needing busy work and snacks while waiting out a game. To me, it’s a sweet reminder of this season.
And so I have these:
Two leaves that one son thought were worthy of keeping,
A beloved pup that always lingers at the top of the stairs hoping for a pet on the landing below,
A crazy fort that I ran in to while trying to get though my bedroom!
Boys enjoying the quiet process of creating art late at night when the house finally stills… Oh, I don’t want to miss any of these! I probably would not have normally taken these photos last week. The are all just natural parts of our family’s routine. I see them all the time; but this week, through the camera lens, I see the beautiful treasures they are just for me. My heart overflows with thankfulness to the Lord for His abundance in my Ordinary day! You can keep your eyes open for the hidden gems that are laid out just for you too! You see them all day long. When you spot them, snap the picture. You never have to edit them; they are perfect just as they are.
Ordinary Threads is about to meet with a great group of women to help them set up Menu Planning Boards for their homes next month. As the preparation for that swirls in our heads, our thoughts are focused on FOOD! I have a few Go-To meals that I’ve been making for years now. When a week turns crazy, these are my steadies. They are easy, fast and yummy. Add a salad, veggie, bread or fruit and you’re ready to eat! Try one or all!
1 Kraft Italian Dinner Box
1 16oz. can Tomato Sauce
1 6oz. package of Mozzarella Cheese, grated
Boil spaghetti from dinner box and drain and rinse. Beat eggs in large bowl and add parmesan from dinner box. Add spaghetti and mix well. Put half of spaghetti mixture in bottom of greased 9 inch pie plate and then layer half of the grated cheese and then repeat layers one more time. Bake 10 minutes, uncovered, at 350. Do sauce per package directions. Cut pie in wedges and serve with sauce.
1 lb. smoked sausage, sliced
2 TBS Butter
1 small Onion, chopped
half cup fresh Mushrooms, sliced
1 8oz. can Baked Beans
1 8oz. can Kidney Beans
1 8oz. can Tomato Sauce
1 envelope Chili Seasoning
Cheddar Cheese, grated
Melt butter in large skillet and add onion and mushrooms. Saute 5 minutes. Add beans and tomato sauce. Stir in Chili Seasoning and add Sausage. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally until heated through. Garnish with grated cheese.
1 Half-baked Pie Shell
4 Slices Bacon, crumbled
Veggies of choice, diced
Blend of Swiss and Cheddar Cheese, 1 1/2 cups together
1 cup of Milk
Dash of Nutmeg
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
Mix all together in a bowl. Pour into pie crust. Bake 35-40 minutes at 350 Degrees.
1 lb. spaghetti
1 pkg. Smoked Sausage, sliced
1 large Onion, thinly sliced
3 cups Grape Tomatoes, halved
3 cups fresh Basil
Sea Salt and Pepper
1 cup Parmesan, grated
In a large pot over medium heat, combine EVERYTHING, but cheese and add 4 1/2 cups of Water. Bring to a boil, reduce and simmer till Pasta is cooked through and water reduced. Stir in Parmesan and Serve.
1 small package of Ranch Dressing Mix
6 Chicken Breasts
1 sleeve of crushed Ritz Crackers
1 cup of Parmesan Cheese
Coat Chicken in Melted Butter, then in a bowl filled with mixture of crushed crackers and Ranch mix. Place in a greased 9×13 pan. Sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese. Pour remaining Butter over the top. Cover with foil. Bake 40 minutes at 350 Degrees.
These Recipes are a culmination of Family, Friends and my own Finds that have proved Faithful time and time again for our Family. I enjoy cooking for my family, but time doesn’t always allow for it. The focus for me in a season of young children and after school activities is to share as many meals around a table as possible in the week. When a meal can be made fast and in one skillet, pot or pie crust, it’s a winner in our books! Makes clean-up a breeze too. Make a list of these meals and more that will give you quick sustenance but also rich time with your loved ones.