Friday, May 31, 2013

My favorite No Bake snacks

It's hot and miserable already and it's not even June yet! The kids are begging for treats. Popsicles and ice cream treats can get messy and to be honest, I don't want them eating those kind of sticky treats all the time.

So, I'm sharing some of my favorite Summer snacks that don't require heating up the house!


Overnight Strawberry Oatmeal 
It may not seem like a snack, but it's a sweet and filling chilly treat. It's perfect fuel for kids who are playing hard this summer.

Nutella Apple Wraps
We love anything in a wrap, but when you add makes it even better. Portable, chocolatey goodness.

Grandma Pat's No Bake Cookies

Everyone loves a good no bake cookie. Grandma Pat would probably have a coronary that we added coconut to these. She hates coconut. But, my kids love them with the addition.

Angel food cake, Nutella and berries
I made this great treat for our Hunger Games party using a boxed angel food cake mix. It's just as easy to buy a pre-made angel food cake and add the Nutella and berries.

Homemade Pudding pops
This treat is made fun by pouring the pudding in to silicon shapes, fun food!

No Bake Energy Bites
These sweet treats might be just what MOM and DAD need to keep up with the kids during the summer. I know I need the extra energy!


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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How to remove Sharpie from Dry Erase Boards

When I was preparing for this little cleaning, I was on the phone with my mom telling her how excited I was to find a way to get Sharpie off the dry erase board Little Miss got for Christmas and promptly ruined. Leelee was eavesdropping and, in typical teen fashion, rolling her eyes at me.

Once I got off the phone, Leelee asked, "How did you not know how to do this? I do it in class all the time."

Apparently, they write on their dry erase boards with sharpies then remove the sharpie instead of paying attention to the teacher.

Still, it was news to me on how to do maybe it's a new trick for you, too.

I'm really quite embarrassed by how completely awful her easel looked. She had it in her room and found Danger Girl's school supplies. Little Miss didn't show me her art until it wouldn't come off.

The trick to getting the Sharpie off, is to use a dry erase marker.  Simply scribble draw over the Sharpied area with the dry erase marker and wipe off with a cloth or dry erase board eraser.

It took me less than 5 minutes to clean up this disaster.

Isn't that great? A five minute fix for removing Sharpie from a dry erase board. Too bad it takes longer than 5 minutes to remove Sharpie from pre-schoolers.

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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Chocolate sugar cookies

This week, I'm starting one of our summer projects...having the kids guest blog. Leelee loves to be in the kitchen and has graciously offered to share some of her projects with us. She prefers to go by AnimeFrog as her online persona :)

        Hello, it's AnimeFrog (a.k.a Leelee >.<) and my mom asked me to do a blog on snacks I made over the past week.

This week I made Giant Chocolate Sugar Cookies.

Except when I made them, I made them smaller because I needed to share them with a lot of people, and I forgot the shortening that was supposed to go in them. Oops.

 Anyways, they were really delicious. I had to use dark chocolate cocoa powder because we were almost out of normal cocoa powder and they turned out very rich. Because I forgot to add the shortening they were really soft. They were really melt in your mouth cookies. Those are my favorite type of cookies :3.

          This is a really good recipe. I really liked it. That's all I have so say now. Bye!

Here is our modified version of the recipe without the shortening and not giant.

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375*. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together  flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. 
In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla. Mix until creamy.  Gradually add dry ingredients just until combined. 

Drop by tablespoon fulls onto parchment paper lined baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

De-Tech your Kids for Summer

Today is our official first day of summer vacation. . . Or the part of the year I dread the most. Don't get me wrong, I love my kids, but the first few days of vacation are always the worst. The kids are fighting: me, chores, and each other.

This year is presenting a special challenge since the kids are a lot older and they've spent most of the school year completely plugged in. From friends to school work, they've had to be on the computer all the time. And in our house, we love our tech gadgets. The Boy had some challenges this school year because tech is so tempting for him. And Little B? He's taken to waking up before everyone else so he can have total access to the computer. Leelee sticks on her headphones and gets sucked in to Tumblr fandom. It wasn't so bad during the school year when they had homework, but without a set school schedule, it is so easy to sit back and get sucked in to the endless abyss of the internet.

You've certainly heard of detox. In our house, the kids are going to de-tech.

Tech access is going to be earned.  But first, it has to be taken away.

 Unplug. For real. Take away the cords, the mice, the game controllers. Unplug the WiFi. It's a hard first step. Lock it up. Hide it. I don't know about yours, but my kids will look for it.

But what to replace it with?

1. Tech with a purpose. Let the kids access sites to blog or find activity ideas. There's a good chance you'll "see" my kids guest blogging for me.

2. Summer reading programs. I'm glad my kids love to read. There are some big movies coming out based on books. We're all going to be re-reading our favorites. . . like Ender's Game.

3. Gardening. The garden needs tending every day. No one wants to weed the whole thing, but each person take a small part. With three distinct gardening areas, there's plenty to do.

4. Camp. Even if it's camping in the back yard, kids love to sleep in tents. Three of mine will be going to sleep away camp this summer. Just for a week, but it's amazing how much the household dynamic changes when you remove just one kid! We are also planning a big family camp out at the beach. Check your local state parks for camping options. I may tent camp, but I don't go anywhere without showers and real toilets.

5. Swimming and splash pads. Our house is located halfway between a YMCA and the city's splash pad downtown. My big kids love to go to both. 

6. Local museums or zoos. It's really too hot here to go to the zoo in the summer, but we have plenty of free museums!

7. Service Projects. Whether its walking dogs for the humane society or just mowing the lawn for an elderly neighbor, it's important for kids to have opportunities to give back. The Boy will be working on his Eagle Project this summer, with Little B helping. Leelee volunteers at a horse therapy camp.

8. Homework. Even though it's summer, there's still homework.  Three of the kids have major projects due the first day of school! 

9. Board games. Or as I like to call them bored games. As in "Mom, I'm bored." I have a jar of chores they can pick from or they can go play a game!


Ok, now let's get to the practicalities of it all. These ideas are great, but they are all based on two things: Having a schedule and keeping to the schedule.

The kids wake up before I do and are free to read and watch TV quietly. Cutting back on the tech is a hard step for us. We aren't quite ready to be TV-free, too!

Around 10 a.m. is the morning snack. Chores are done before lunch. If rooms are clean and chores are done, after lunch, we select an activity. It can be the park, swimming, crafting...pretty much something to stay busy. By 2 p.m. the kids are getting hungry again so it's time for another snack.  The afternoon snack is the fun snack and may require a bit more prep. I'll be sharing some of those adventures.

Late afternoon is hot. It's miserable. The little ones and the teens usually end up taking a nap and waking up for dinner. Little B and Danger Girl are suddenly left alone with mom. Whining gets them extra chores, so it's their turn to come up with activities and things to do. Danger girl has a big homework portfolio we need to get a jump on. This is also the perfect time for everyone to play a game.

After dinner, there are more chores to do and a garden that needs watering once the temps start to drop. I let the kids run through the sprinklers during the garden time. Or we may head back to the pool. We end up having different family theme nights, too. Family Home Evening on Mondays. Family Game Night. Family Movie Night. Midweek Church Activities.

With everything that has to be done this summer, it's a wonder the kids are going to have any time to get on to tech at all!

I'd love to hear your great ideas for de-teching this summer. Leave a comment and I'll be updating this list with your great ideas.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Blog Workshop was awesome!

This past weekend, I attended my very first blogging conference. I can't even begin to tell you how glad I am it was an online conference! I can't imagine trying to get around a hotel or conference center on crutches.

Aside from the physical issues I had that would have made an in person conference challenging, there are some huge benefits for attending an online conference.

The first one, I have to say is the savings. At $175, The Blog Workshop was less than you'd pay for hotel alone at a big conference.

Secondly, the time. No time away from family or work. With the sessions held in the evenings, I was all to get my To Do list done and attend without impacting the family.

Third, you happen to miss a session or information, its recorded so you can go back to it.

I always love the tweets from blogging conferences. Simple, 140 characters that get right to the heart of whatever session is being discussed. This conference was no different, and it was fun to be one of the ones actually tweeting!

Here are my takeaways from the conference:

Be true to your own voice. Don't try to be other bloggers. The best bloggers (and writers) are the ones that are consistent and recognizable.

Be yourself! There is a reason that your readers follow you. I want my readers to come back because they like what I have to say.

As a person who was trained as a print journalist, it's hard for me to get in to the friendly and casual blogging style of writing. I just need to embrace that my writing is probably going to sound more newsy than other blogs. I tend to write in paragraphs; I use semicolons properly. I just need to go with it.

I am looking forward to going over the sessions on SEO and marketing again. During those sessions my eyes glazed over just like they did when I took my advertising and marketing classes in college. Some things never change.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Caramelized Green Beans

All sorts of goodies are growing in my garden. My tomatoes are coming in very well and I have little peppers, blossoms on my cucumbers and even a few tiny strawberries.

What I'm not growing this year are green beans.

Don't get me wrong, I love green beans...but I'm not very skilled at preparing them any other way besides opening a can. There is a huge texture difference between store can beans and fresh. For years, I wouldn't eat peas because all I'd tasted were the canned variety. Fresh is usually better. Except for green beans.

My mission this summer is to find a delicious green bean recipe using fresh beans.

Tonight's side dish of caramelized green beans got mixed results among the kids. Little Miss loved them and the Boy hated them. That wasn't surprising. The Boy has texture issues and doesn't like most cooked veggies.

They did taste pretty good to me. I mean, you can't really go wrong with a recipe that calls for half a stick of butter and two onions. Butter makes so many things better.

Caramelized Green Beans

1/4 C butter
2 small sweet onions
1 1/2 lbs fresh green beans
3 T soy sauce
3 T brown sugar
salt & pepper to taste

Chop the ends off the green beans. Cut them in to uniform size to help even cooking. While preparing beans, boil a medium sized pot of water. Once beans are cut, place them in the water and cook for 2-3 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt butter over low heat. Add onions, and continue cooking on low for about 5-6 minutes. In a small bowl, mix together soy sauce and brown sugar. Add the drained green beans into the skillet and "stir fry" for 4 minutes. Next, pour on the sauce. Continue cooking and stirring the beans for another 3 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Paint Stick Garden Markers

I'm planting heirloom tomatoes for the first time this year!

A man who sells heirlooms lives just a few blocks away. He had 27 varieties and I really didn't know what to get.

I planted a hybrid tomato plant I picked up from the farmer's market and I think it's doing pretty well so far...


I had to pick tomatoes already because the clusters were so large and weighing the plant down, despite being well supported. Only one of these came home with me from the farmer's market. I'm a bit relieved by that because I can't imagine how many tomatoes I'd have!

With the heirlooms, I wanted an easy way to mark them and keep track of what I planted.

A painted paint stir stick, labeled with a sharpie seemed like the perfect solution. Free, fast and plenty of room to label things like when you planted and how long til expected harvest.

I'm really looking forward to seeing how these tomatoes taste. 

The rest of the garden is growing well. The hot peppers are already coming in and I saw some flowers on my cucumbers this morning! 

What are you looking forward to harvesting this year?

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tips for line drying clothes

Last week was a bad week. In addition to everything else going wrong, my dryer broke. And with my ankle not so hot, this was a much bigger problem.

The one thing I wanted for my birthday last year was a clothes line. D did get it for me so while I've been on the mend, the kids have been hanging out the laundry.

I have been loving the smell of the clothes coming in off the line. It smells so fresh and clean.

Today, I told D I wasn't in any hurry to get the dryer fixed. Sometime before September.

There are a few challenges to line drying *everything*

The kids are afraid of stiff undies.

And towels.

And jeans.

Probably reasons many people are afraid to throw caution to the wind along with the clothes.

no stiff jeans or towels

There are ways around these problems. . .

That's where my dryer without the heating element comes in handy.

Those stiff items will loosen up if you toss them in the dryer on an air only cycle. Another option is adding vinegar to the rinse cycle.

Running them through the dryer with no heat will also remove excess lint and pet hair.

When hanging pants, pretend like you're hanging them on a hanger...make the crease preserving fold then pin the hem or cuff to the line with the waist at the bottom.

You know what else to hang upside down? Your shirts. I seems like you should hang them from the shoulders, but it's better for the shirts this way.

Use three pins for button up shirts. Overlap the button area and pin that first, then one pin on each side.

Socks can be a problem. Heck, they are a problem when I have a working dryer. With the clothes line, you can kill two birds with one stone: Match the socks and hang them together with a single clothes pin.

One great benefit I've discovered has to do with folding. I have a table next to my line I use for folding. As soon as the clothes are off, I fold them. I have to touch the clothes one at a time; it's not optional. It's so easy with the dryer to just pull everything out in a heap and fold later.

So far I'm really loving the clothes on the line. It's warm enough here in the summer, I should be able to dry up to three loads a day!

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Vintage Frame Wreath...from Restoration Redoux!

 Hey, gang...I'm still recovering from a very crazy time right. I'm really hoping everything will be wrapped up and back to normal(ish) in the next few days. Lots happening in the family and right now, family needs to come first. Thank goodness for blogging friends to help me out!


Hi everyone! I'm Shanna from Restoration Redoux. The lovely Micki has graciously invited me over to visit today! I met Micki through Hometalk/Blogtalk, and we are now part of a tribe. For those of you who don't know what a tribe is, it's a group of bloggers that support, encourage, and challenge each other to meet our individual blogging goals. We have an amazing collection of ladies in our group, so when Micki needed some time to recuperate, I jumped at the chance to meet all of you! I blog about furniture makeovers, recipes, crafts, home decor and the crazy stories that come with being a mom to three dogs, a cat and a fifteen year old daughter.

 Speaking of being a mom, I thought I would share with you the gift I gave my mom for Mother's Day. There are only so many things you can give your mom over the years, so I was looking for something new. My mom loves having lots of photos in the house, and the only thing she said she wanted for Mother's Day was something she could put on her front door. I decided to combine the two. First I started out with a 14-inch foam wreath that I bought at Michaels.


Also from Michaels, I purchased these little vintage looking picture frames (I got them in the isle where you would get goodies for kids' birthday parties -- and they're plastic, not metal, so they're lighter than they look). They were two dollars a piece. I took my hubby and daughter with me, and we all used the 40% off coupons which helped a bit.

I took the picture frames and spray painted them silver.


Next I bought 1/2 a yard of black velvet at Hancock Fabrics. I took the fabric and cut it in half, leaving two long strips.

I took my hot glue gun and glued the end of one of the strips to the back of the wreath, and then I started wrapping it around the whole wreath. One strip will do a little more than half of the wreath. Once I got the whole thing covered, I made sure I ended with the tail on the back and glued that down as well. Next, I laid-out the pictures where I wanted them on the wreath. Under each frame, I put three or four metal thumbtacks -- I put the tacks there because I was concerned about the weight of the frames pulling on the fabric.

Black wreath with thumbtacks

I then removed the stands off the frames so that the frame would lay more flat on the wreath (no technique used here ... I just pulled them off).


One of the trickiest parts of this project is getting the pictures centered. After selecting the picture I wanted to use in each frame, I had to scan it, resize it to fit, and print it in order to have it the right size for the right frame. Once I inserted the photos I wanted into the frames, I hot glued them to the wreath -- make sure to use plenty of glue.

Last I took silver metallic ribbon and on the back of the wreath I made a loop, fastened it with thumbtacks and cut off the ends. This is what you hang the wreath from.

This is super easy to do and is a great gift for any occasion. Micki thank you so much for having me over, and hopefully you will be feeling better soon! I would love for you guys to stop by Restoration Redoux!

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Friday, May 10, 2013

Historic Homes in my neighborhood

DH is beginning to suspect I'm taking my sweet time getting up on my feet. Usually I'm running circles doing things I'm not within a day or so after the doctor tells me to stay down. This time, I'm not. I can stand for short periods of time, but if I start to put weight on the ankle, it feels like needles and pain shooting up my leg. So, yeah, I'm not doing much right now.

I'm really hoping to be back to normal middle of next week. . .

Tonight, we're having a teenaged girl sleepover. The boys are supposed to be camping. It's also supposed to rain and one of the boys is sick.

Other bad news this week? The heating element went out in my dryer. Oh and our renters skipped town.

Did I mention we're finally closing Monday on this house we've lived in and loved and fixed up for the past two years? It's also my 19th wedding anniversary!

I feel like I'm on some type of emotional roller coaster. I'm ready to get off...or at least get on that part of the track that is flat.

What I have for you today, are a few of the awesome houses in my neighborhood. I love old homes. I love being able to fix things. I love uncovering the hidden surprises of repairs. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an archaeologist. I guess living in and restoring an old home is helping me live that childhood dream.

This 1914 craftsman has so much character on the inside. Beautiful fireplaces. It used to have built-ins, but those are now over at my house and one of them is responsible for my ankle injury.  The picture doesn't do the English-style garden justice. There are all sorts of healing herbs and pretty blooming flowers. She also invites anyone in the neighborhood to pick her rosemary.

Built around 1916, this house is currently for sale! I haven't been inside, but I imagine it's very much like the other craftsmans in the neighborhood.

Our neighborhood was founded as a town in 1908 and later incorporated in to the city. We had beautiful tree-lined streets until a hurricane in the '80s took down most of the oak trees.

These craftsmans are the smaller houses. Ours is a four square or "prairie box" style and is one of the larger homes.

As with many urban neighborhoods, we are seeing a revival of sorts. We have homes that are being lovingly restored and preserved and others that are in rough shape. A wonderful civic association is doing everything it can. Heck, it was even recognized by This Old House.

We still have a lot to do. Take this amazing house, for example:

What? You can't see the 4000+ square foot house? 

We've lived here for nearly two years before we even knew there was a house there!

This is what the house originally looked like. And hopefully, what it will look like again very soon.

A group in our neighborhood has purchased the house and launched a campaign to save the historic home. If you click on the link you can see more pictures of exactly what needs to happen to save the house. Or you can follow the blog as progress continues. While our own money is tied up in restoring our own home, you can bet we will be donating our time to save this house!

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Chicken Enchiladas & avocado salsa salad

My Cinco de Maya post is late. Big surprise there. It was a hectic weekend. D managed to nearly electrocute himself and he also managed to nearly break my ankle. Not at the same time. Two separate projects.

Well, I guess technically, he did break my ankle. After waiting a day, I finally consented to a visit to the doctor where I was diagnosed with a microfracture. Which is like saying it broke, but only kind of: enough that I get a fun air cast and orders to hobble around on crutches for the next week or so.

I'm not doing any projects for a few days now!

Instead, I'm going to share  a recipe ... I'd say I'm less likely to injure myself or anyone else in the kitchen, but I've landed myself in the ER from kitchen accidents before.

I adapted this recipe from one of the Publix Aprons recipes. I had to make a few changes: poached chicken instead of rotisserie and homemade enchilada sauce.

This was a nice change from the white chicken enchiladas I usually make. 

Chicken Enchiladas

2 C cooked, shredded chicken
3/4 cup refried beans
2 cans enchilada sauce or homemade sauce 6 (10-inch) flour tortillas
1 large can olives, sliced
6 flour tortillas
1 1/2 cups Colby Jack Cheese
aluminum foil

Preheat oven to 350 and grease or spray a 9x9 pan.

Stir chicken, beans and half the enchilada sauce together. Divide equally on to the flour tortillas, then roll, burrito style. Place them seam side down in baking dish. Pour remaining enchilada sauce over the top. Top with cheese and olives. Cover with foil and bake 15 minutes. 

Avocado Salsa Salad

2 T fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
3 medium avocados
juice of 1 lime
3/4 cup fresh mild salsa (you can use jarred but a good fresh salsa like Jack's or from your deli is best)
1 (8-oz) bag shredded lettuce

Chop cilantro.  Cut avocados into small pieces. Squeeze lime over the avocado and cilantro. Stir in salsa. Serve over lettuce.

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Saturday, May 4, 2013

Miracle-Gro: The Gro Project inspiration

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Miracle-Gro for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.
Quite a bit of gardening is happening at our house. The weather has been just perfect: not too hot and not too cold. And, it's a great way to get the kids occupied.
Yesterday, we added mulch around the rose bushes and it made such a huge difference in making it pretty.
I've been spending a lot of time on pinterest looking at all the fun garden projects that are part of Miracle Gro's The Gro Project. I love the origami's so cute! There are just so many inspiring ideas that are totally doable for those of us who might be a bit gun-shy in the garden. Be sure to  follow the Miracle-Gro pinboards.
Miracle-Gro has many products that help your garden do what it's supposed to do...grow. For a long time I didn't feed my garden and it really suffered. I just thought you put stuff in the ground and it just... grew, yk? Turns out that only works for weeds. This is really where LiquaFeed All Purpose Plant Food Advance Starter Kit, Shake’n Feed All Purpose Plant Food and Moisture Control Potting Mix can really take your garden from blech to wow! I grew

For my part of the Gro Project, I decided it was about time I learned how to use a few of those tools I bought D and take some inspiration from this project. My first stop was the hardware store where I picked up several pieces of wood
(3) 1x4x8
(2) 1x2x8
(1) 2x2x8
Of the 1x4x8, make (6) 15 inch cuts. Then cut the remaining into 24 inches. You should end up with 6 short and 6 long pieces. Cut the 2x2 x8 into (4) 18 inch legs. The 1x2x8 will be cut into 24 inch long strips.
This was my first time using the nail gun, and really, D unleashed a monster. I can totally see myself doing more projects like this! I was driving him crazy because I had looked at a few pictures of planters and was basing this off of the vision I had in my head.
I started with the end pieces, nailing three short sides to each leg.
Miracle-Gro Project Grow planter box
Next, we attach the long sides.

Miracle-Gro Project Grow planter box

Finally, attach the bottom small slats
Miracle-Gro Project Grow planter box

And finally, enjoy your hardwork!

Miracle-Gro Project Grow planter box

Not too shabby for less than $15 and an hour of my time, right? I plan on painting it whenever I decide on a color. And, it may end up holding our strawberries instead of these lovely impatiens.
What do you plan to grow this year? We tilled the garden tonight, too! I can't wait to do more planting.
Visit Sponsor's Site

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

On being a family

I had plans to make this great blog post about all the ways you can develop your kids' talents. But, the truth is, I just really wanted to show off this video of one of Danger Girl's many talents.

The kid can pogo stick. With no hands. If you watch the video closely, you will see that she can also pogo stick on one foot without holding on.

She has asked for a unicycle for her birthday. And, she wants to teach herself how to juggle. I think she might be working on her act for next year's talent show. Or maybe she wants to be a circus performer when she grows up?

All I know is she had a huge smile on her face while she was "dancing."

It may not be an obvious "talent" like singing and odds are, she's not going to make a career out of the whole pogo schtick (please oh please don't run off and join the circus!) but clearly, she's happy and confident in who she is.

She and her siblings are each so different from each other. They range from nerdy to athletic, shy to outgoing, and pretty much everything in between. They fight. Oh do they fight, but they also stand up for each other when it counts.

I don't think we've done anything special to do this. There aren't any hidden tricks or a list of things you can do other than just love your kids. Accept them for who they are. Encourage them. Cheer for them. Hug and kiss them when they stumble.

We eat dinner together as a family. We pray together. We laugh together. We tease. We love. We cram the kids in a mini-van and take weeks long family vacations driving places. It's a form of torture, but I think hope they will look back on those trips with fondness. I liken family car trips to labor. While you're going through it, it's awful, but as soon as its over, you're like "hey, we can do that again!"

When I saw this at Hobby Lobby, I knew it belonged in our home. Well, aside from the awful grammar error (an apostrophe S denotes possession or a contraction, NEVER a plural, folks) ... it's a really nice sentiment. And for the people who need more education on the apostrophe... click here

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weekend wonders ** keep calm and link up **