A Bushel of Brooks

A Bushel of Brooks
Us as we are ...

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas

With Christmas and all the family events and activities and you-name-it going on, I just got behind of writing things down and putting up pictures! Hopefully, the pictures will trigger memories as I look back.

Overall, it was a great Christmas. The boys enjoyed every minute of it! They took naps to recover before heading to next events, and we tried to continue to remind them of the Real Reason for Christmas, plus the joy of giving to others. = ) It has been a fun week. Lots of family time at home, and time with our immediate families, and extended family. The boys are now hankering to have friends over to enjoy their gifts with!

A few of the many pictures ...

Yes, early in the morning! I look awesome, yes? = )

Present time at home!


Got the boys costumes after Halloween and saved them! They love them!

Me, my little sister, my mom, my big sister, and my sister in law!

Jessica and Nathaniel

My "present!" He wore that bow all afternoon with no complaints! I loved it!


At Eli's parents house Christmas morning ...

Setting up a Hot Wheels track with Uncle Seth and Uncle Ezra

Playing cribbage on Daddy's team against Grandpa

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Elf Hats


Elf Hats! That's the name of our little cookie creation that I was so excited about. Meant to post earlier this week, but we have been battling sickness on many different fronts, and so I haven't hardly been on the computer except to order a couple last minute presents and to keep up on my email = )

It's a meringue cookie. Saw a version of this in a Parents magazine that I get everyone, so was definitely up for the try! I'm currently putting together a second version upstairs this afternoon, just dipped in dark chocolate and chopped peanuts. YUM! Since the entire cookie is meringue, it is light and airy, but has that sweetness on the bottom.

 
ELF HATS
 
3 Egg Whites
1/2 tsp. Cream of Tartar
Dash Salt
2/3 c. White Sugar
 
*Beat Egg Whites, Cream of Tartar and Salt together on high with wire whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Add in sugar, about a Tablespoon at a time, until meringue is glossy and stuff peaks form. I used a decorating bag and star tip to form my cookies, but you could even pipe through a little sandwich bag or something! Pipe cookies onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and bake at 200 degrees for around an hour or hour and 15 min until cookies are lightly browning and shiny. Remove from oven and let cool.
Dip bottoms in melted white chocolate and then in crushed candy canes (the boys had a great time smashing these with a hammer!).
DELICIOUS.

Wrapped up and ready to share!

Would love someone else to give them a try! I think there are a million little flavor combos that could be used!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Done Done DONE!


 It is done! Eli turned in his thesis yesterday, and we - yes, I mean "we" collectively, as in the entire family in this house - are DONE! Three and a half years of dedication by my husband to get his Master's degree and pursue the desire in his heart. So, so proud of him. Which is a gross understatement.

He has put so many hours, late hours especially, into his schoolwork over the last three years, and done excellent. We don't know his grades for this final semester, but at this point, he is graduating with honors (keep your fingers crossed!).  My heart is just bursting for him.

The boys are getting Daddy back for lots of Lego play this Christmas break, and I can't wait for some nights when we actually can go to bed at the same time! Or watch a movie together after all the boys are in bed ... ahhh, lots to look forward to.

I am so proud to see Eli accomplish this ... he laughs when he said how he was sure he would never go back to school! But, he has loved his studies throughout seminary, and with a lot of Grace from the Lord, commuted each week to class several hours.

Got a family picture before people started coming over! Yay Daddy!
We had a little reception for him at his parents' house today - just to celebrate and have friends and family celebrate with us. It was great. Yesterday, I kept telling Jonah that it was Daddy's LAST DAY of school down in the office. He would respond with "but, tomorrow, tomorrow, he will have to work on school again, Mommy". I can't wait to see as he figures out that isn't true, and that we'll have evenings together again to do fun things, to go see Christmas lights, to read books and play games and all those good things.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Cookies!

What would Christmastime be without the classic cutout sugar cookies? In this household - that would be just plain wrong. The boys love decorating cookies (I can already think of numerous posts on this: think Easter, Halloween, Christmas, etc), and so these cookies get infused into many of our celebrations throughout the year!

With Eli working at the church, I don't make tons of goodies to give out. When he worked retail management, I was always baking and sending things along with him for the teams. But, other ladies at the church tend to send trays of stuff to the office this time of year, and the staff is obviously much smaller than Target or Kohls! So, in the last two years, my Christmas baking has seriously pared down. Which is fine. My house has also increased in general business and household work = ) But, we still do some baking and have some to give out to preschool teachers, friends - and for some reason we always leave a little goody bag in our mailbox for our mail carrier! We love him - he's been delivering to our house a long time, and so we like to surprise him too!

So, Tuesday was the day to mix up the dough so that today we could roll out, bake, and decorate. Jonah was delighted to be my helper while Reuben was at preschool. He LOVES to bake with me, but doesn't like to argue over who gets the spot right in front of the mixer! We donned our aprons, and got down to discussing quarter cups and measuring things. Kindergarten math lesson booster right there.


Fun times! My oldest is growing up so much right now it is hard to believe he will be six years old in the spring.


I also made a new recipe later that day - Eli dubbed them "Elf Hats". A meringue cookie that I now adore! They look super festive and cute - but easy and a "lighter" cookie, which is nice to have around. I will share the recipe and pictures in a later post!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Preschooler

I had hoped that either last night or today I would be posting adorable and silly little pictures of Reuben at his preschool Christmas program. Reuben - all dressed up. And who knows what to expect at a preschool program, right? Jonah's three year old program, he "sort of" sang along, but it was still so cute, and such a great little memory of him.

Ha.

Reuben proved himself to be, well, Reuben.

He was sooooooo excited to wear his little dress outfit. Thankfully, one given to us, because those things are ridiculously expensive! Button down shirt, slacks, a matching vest, and THEN he got to wear the reindeer tie that I got for a $1 at Kohls' last spring on a clearance rack. He was parading himself around the house ... so loving his "outfit" as he proudly proclaimed. We bundled up (because it is actually getting cold!), headed to preschool, walked into the building, and he had a meltdown.

Not just a quick meltdown. No. A meltdown like "I DON'T WANT TO SING! I DON'T WANT TO BE ON STAGE! I DON'T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL ANYMORE!"

Say what? Weren't we just super excited about this - like only 10 minutes ago?

His teachers tried. Eli talked to him. His favorite music teacher talked to him, I talked to him ... begging him to participate. And this is where it is so frustrating. You can't really force a three year old to stand on stage and look happy and sing along to songs. Doesn't work. He would not, for the life of him, get up on the stage. He sat on the floor, outside the room, while all the other beginners sang.

Ugh. He had been singing his songs at home for me for weeks!

Nothing.

Several times I would whisper, You love this song! Want to join your class and sing for us?

Nope. He sat with his legs crossed, chin in hands, no response.

I admit - I was furious. Furious! No pictures, no video, just us - the parents with THE KID ... you know?

And then I had to let go. Elisa ... let go. This was a preschool program. Just a preschool program. The poor kid feel asleep on short drive home. I could tell he was a little tired, but apparently he was t.i.r.e.d., and no preschooler operates well in that state. This day does not determine the rest of his life ... he just did not want to sing to a room full of people. In the grand scheme of life, this will not matter, and someday, I will actually laugh about it!

I was excited for that little sing. Excited to tape him and have the same memory of him that we had with Jonah. And as I sat fuming on the drive home I realized I could let this ruin my day, or just let it go. And I certainly didn't need to ruin his day (post-nap) by reminding him of his failure to "perform". He will return to preschool no worse for the wear - hopefully - and I still have a memory. Not the one I hoped for, but a memory! He woke up, and happily wore his outfit all the rest of the day.

So, no cute little preschool Christmas pictures. But a good Mommy lesson learned.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Better and Better!

video

I know, probably not necessary to post this ... but look how much faster he is getting! He is starting to figure out that he can follow me = ) Good and bad, right? He is just my sweet little guy!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmastime?

Somehow when the temperature is still often hovering at 70 degrees, I have trouble getting into all things Christmas. Which is strange for me! Usually I am all about Christmas ... and I still am! It just doesn't feel like it could be December 4th already. I have had the back door open nearly every afternoon while the boys run in and out, playing on the swing set and enjoying being active little boys. Not complaining in the least! Just musing. I don't want Christmas to come and go - and realize that I missed it. You know?

I know that cold weather will come in due time. And probably when I am scraping the ice and/or snow off the windshield, I will not feel so happy about cold weather. But, somehow, bundling up to run shopping errands, and craving warm coffee or hot chocolate in the evenings seems to be Christmas-y to me. I live in Kansas, after all. The tree is up, and I'm thinking I should start wrapping presents sooner than later, thanks to big families, advent calendars are in full swing, and Christmas music is playing in the house and in the vehicles! But, December 4th? Really?

The boys and I got on the front porch today to wrap some lights around the poles. Eli has always been so good about getting lights up on the front of the house - and loves to do it. But, deep in the mires of writing his thesis, putting up lights has to be put on the back burner. The boys and I had been planning to get a few up as a surprise. Our efforts are seriously pathetic compared to what he normally does, but at least it will look somewhat festive! I had about twenty minutes of a happy baby to work with, so we just quicky wrapped around two strands, but hopefully tonight when dusk falls, it will still look fun!

And I am enjoying the bits of Christmas we are getting around here. Maybe I am still just not used to being little ... I looked forward to Christmas so much that I made myself sick. Literally. = ) Perhaps I should just enjoy that there is no sickness involved, and watch the boys point out lights and cherish the singing of Silent Night and O Holy Night as they are tucked in each night. Laugh as they seek their advent treasures each day, and discuss with them the true meaning of Christmas. Not perhaps ... I will! In three short weeks, the big anticipatory day will be over. I don't want to look back and wish these next three weeks back.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Can't Get Enough

I seriously cannot get enough of my Matthias. He is cuteness itself. Yes, challenges are there ... but he is at such a fun fun stage! Eli and I are always smiling at each other as we watch him and enjoy him! I can't even count the amount of people who have commented on what a happy boy he is. I know it is a gift from the Lord to have such a good tempered little baby around as I juggle learning to be a homeschool mom this year while having a baby to entertain.

I mean, really, just look at this guy!


Playing at the park by Grandma's on Thanksgiving Day!

This is a Mommy kiss from him - love those slobbery kisses!
I just love this picture ...


He starting pushing up onto his knees the last couple days - army crawling days are numbered and I am sure it won't be more than a few short weeks and he will be a little crawling pro. Yikes. We're working on a plan to put a gate inside of the door that leads to the basement to avoid any accidental falls, even as we try and drill the bigger boys to remember to keep that door closed at all times. He is laughing, giggling, and giving Mama all kinds of hugs and kisses when I pick him up.

What a joy he is to our house right now!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Wedding

The wedding last weekend that I was a bridesmaid in was beautiful. My friend that got married started out being a little girl in grade school that I baby sat for when I was in junior high! Yup! Over the years, we have always stayed close, and are now great friends. The kind of friends that will always be friends. I am so excited to see how married life is for her, and to just see the new turns that she gets to take with her husband. I can think of so many conversations she and I had over the years when she was in high school about her future ... all those things girls wonder about, right? And to see her on her wedding day, and so thrilled with the man that proposed to her - so, so good.

Yes, it was crazy, and yes, I still was running back and forth feeding Matthias every few hours (thanks to my wonderful mother in law who brought him to me so Eli could keep studying!), but it was fun. And some of the other bridesmaids were dear friends and we had a great time together. One of the things that makes weddings like that even better is seeing friends' faces that I haven't seen in a long time! Catching up with people, laughing together ... ahhhhhh.

Amanda and I were friends as little girls. We grew up together!


My sister in law Grace was also in the wedding - isn't she gorgeous?


And of course, the bride! This is actually before her dress was even on - but she looks beautiful!


And another dear friend, that I didn't get a picture with, was also in the wedding party. How fun it was to catch up with Leanne as well. It reminded me HOW grateful I am for the friends God has given me. Even these friends that I don't get to see all the time, but when we are together, we can just talk and pick it right back up. Lifelong friends. What a gift to have that shared past together.

We just sent away some dear friends from church (one of whom I have known since we were born!) to another country. Bittersweet. Eli and I are so excited for them to embark on this journey - but it is also heartbreaking to not even know when or if we will see them again. And to see their family here say goodbye. But, at the same time, there is a peace because our hearts are connected. And I know that no matter how long the time span might be, when we see them again, it will be an instant "we love you" and able to get right back in. Again, a gift. A relationship deeper than just surface talk and bound by time and history shared together.

As we wrap up November (and I really want to focus more next year on making November and Thanksgiving shine and get some attention in our household!), my heart is full of gratitude. The most important things in life are not things ...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Imagination

Eli made me promise to write this one down ...

Since Reuben remembered - oh, about three weeks ago - How The Grinch Stole Christmas, he has pulled out his stuffed Max and been toting him around the house. Max has eaten breakfast alongside Reuben, gone to Grandma's, to the gym, they have slept together, played together ... you get the gist!

They were sitting together at the table, eating Goldfish crackers, I believe, when I commented to Reuben how lucky he was to have such a good dog like Max. He looked at the out of the corner of his eyes: "Mommy, Max is not a real dog."

"I know, Buddy. But he is a fun dog to play with."
"But he is not a real dog."

"I know, but you get to pretend with him and use your imagination! That's what makes it fun!"
I get another side glance and small shake of his head: "Mommy, onwy gurls use their imagination. That's a gurl thing. Boys pretend. I don't do gurl stuff."

Who knows where he got that one! Sometimes you wonder where on earth they come up with their take on things.

And he has also decided that all songs that we play in the van while we're driving that are sung by women are just NOT fun to listen to, because they are "gurl" (I wish I could imitate how on earth he pronounces that word) songs, not "boy" songs. And I, for one, am forbidden to sing along when a male is singing, because ONLY boys can sing to boy songs. I certainly overstepped any boundaries the other day when I offered him a piece of pink construction paper for his drawing. Right. Like any 3 year old boy in his right mind was going to take that! Oh, his little offended face ... = )

Monday, November 26, 2012

Tree Time!

The last week of our life was B.U.S.Y.  If I could scream that word, it wouldn't do justice to last week! All was good stuff, but still full full full days! Eli is cramming school like nobody's business, we had Thanksgiving, and I was in a wedding. And let me just say, being in a wedding with a nursing baby who does not take a bottle is a lot more challenging than I would have thought! Enough said. I fell into bed Saturday night super tired.

We are ready to go!
But last night, no matter how much school there is to finish, Eli was determined (and I am happy he was!) to get up our tree. We love having the tree up, and the wonderful "warm" feeling it brings into the house. We want to enjoy the leading-up-to-Christmas with the boys, and heck! We just wanted it up. And so did those little guys running all around the house. So, we pulled out the tree, lights, and ornaments and put it up. It really doesn't take a super long time, and I'll work on the other decorations another day, but we have our tree up!

Got some lights!
Got my lights, too, Mom!



The boys had so much fun. They pulled out ornaments, asking where they came from, who's they were, etc. Wanted to hear all the stories, find ones that they had been given over the years, and proceeded to hang them all on about the same five branches. My job was to quietly "rearrange" as they pulled out more with Eli from the tub. We had on our Christmas music, and it was wonderful! Matthias obliged by taking a short nap in the middle of the work, and then playing with some bubble wrap when he was awake. = )



Said Bubble Wrap ...

Almost done! Classic "SMILES" from my boys = )
And although I have my complaints about how it gets dark so early in the evenings, having those "sparkwy" lights in the house - as Reuben calls them - will make those dark evenings feel much brighter.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

7 Months old ...

video

And surprising us yesterday when he suddenly starting to army crawl/scoot across the living room! Oh my ... it is starting = ) He had only been scooting backwards, and rolling to where he wanted to go, but I think I am going to have to start keeping a super close eye on this little guy ...

Friday, November 16, 2012

Don't ...

lolligag ... or how would you spell it? Right? I've never spelled it before, but I say the word to my boys! Especially Reuben, who can buckle himself into his carseat, but seems to think the process should take around ten minutes. Don't lolligag (lollygag? One word? Two?) around!

I try, very hard, to keep in mind that "hurrying" the boys does nothing positive for them. Yes, they need to learn to do what I say, right when I say it. But, hurrying them like crazy when we're trying to get out the door, in the van, etc., only causes frustration. In ALL of us. Saying "we've got to hurry!" really accomplishes nothing but making me feel more frustrated, and seems to probably slow them down!

Explaining to them in a firm way that they need to get ready, or buckle themselves in, yes. They need to obey. And when I have to be at work at a certain time ... they need to be quickly obedient! But Reuben, oh Reuben, how often I look back after getting buckled in myself. The child has probably been in the van, and maybe even in his seat for at least three to five minutes, but NOTHING! Just telling some story, or even (gasp) knowing that he should be buckling and not doing it. Sigh. Working on this one.

Buckle, Reuben, Buckle!

I find myself often saying those words.

And today, we were leaving the gym to head home. Not in a particular hurry, but the boys were getting into their seats, and I was loading Matthias in and then getting into my seat. I looked back, asked, is everyone buckled!

And Jonah, looked at Reuben, sighed, and as exasperated as he could sound, said: Reuben! Quit gollylagging around! Buckle your seat belt!

Yes, no gollylagging around here = ) Just made me smile.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Flax Seed Bars

When I was at the beginning of nursing Matthias ... and joining the ranks of nursing mamas who want to ensure a healthy milk supply, I googled lactation cookies, and oh my! I had actually never heard of them until a friend of mine mentioned making them for another friend who was also nursing at the time. Apparently, I have been behind the times. Recipes abound as well as websites that you can order lactation cookies from! Basic premise is this: (if you're like me, and didn't have any idea) they include flax seed, oats, and nutritional or brewer's yeast, all believed to be galactagogues, substances that improve lactation. Put all three together, and it's like a power packed little treat.

Anyway, I found a recipe that looked decent and wasn't completely packed with sugar = ) and made a batch. I was pretty happy with the results, and began tweaking the recipe to suit me and my tastes. I altered some ingredients, and make the cookies into bars - because, well, dumping all the dough into a pan and baking it was easier than making cookies! Eli affectionately calls them "birdseed bars" and will have nothing to do with them.

I still make them on a regular basis. Not because of milk supply concerns (because obviously anyone can eat them! Doesn't mean you'll start to produce milk or anything ...), but because they are a quick and easy snack to grab if we are running out the door and I haven't had a good breakfast, or I need a little something in my stomach before teaching a class at the gym, or any other number of reasons! My mom often has one when she stops by around lunch time to do math with Jonah.

Sorry - the picture isn't great, taken at night, but you get the idea!

My basic recipe is pretty modifiable ... you could leave out the yeast, you could add in raisins, choc chips, other dried fruit, or any number of things, I think. I want to try subbing the margarine for applesauce next time I make them. I often measure rather loosely, I admit! And they come out fine every time = )

Flax Seed Bars
 
1/2 c. peanut butter
3 T. softened margarine or butter
1/2 c. ground flax meal
2 T. nutritional yeast
1/6 c. water
1/2 c. brown sugar (I usually do a bit less)
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
*Mix all together well
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c. old fashioned oats
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
*add to wet mixture and mix well. Pour into a greased 8x8 pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes!

Sometimes they are a bit crumbly, but that really doesn't bother me! I enjoy the nutty, oat-y flavor very much. I keep them cut, in a container in the fridge, since I am the only one who eats them, I figure they will keep better that way! I would love it if others would give them a try!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Park Time!

The park a block away from my in-laws has been "under construction" for quite some time now. The old one had been torn down, and we kept waiting and waiting to see the new one come up! Last week there was an AWESOME one put in place, but it was still surrounded by orange mesh while they finished up other stuff around. Finally, yesterday I got a text from Eli's mom that the park was open! I was so happy that the weather today was suppose to be in the 70s one more day! We already had a family gathering planned for lunch time, so we spent time before and after down at the park.

Little boys (and big boys!) and outside parks just belong together. Here are some pictures that capture how much fun our time outside was today ...





Uncle Ezra! His hair looks awesome = )



I love this one! I have no idea what they are doing, but it looks so great!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Turkey Time!

Can you believe it is already the 7th of November??? Yikes! I can't! Thanksgiving is a bit early this year, so it is crazy to think that we will be celebrating with family and friends in only two weeks' time! Jonah and I have been spending time during school studying the pilgrims, their journey, arrival, and beginning times in America. It has been fun ... he has memorized facts about them and the Mayflower, and Eli helped him draw a big replica of the Mayflower on piece of poster board, and then we wrote facts all around the ship. He loves to study about it all.

And of course, there are turkey pictures to be made, right? My MIL had the boys over for some oceanograpy on Monday afternoon, and then had Matthias and I join her at the house to hang out while Eli finished up his day at school in Springfield. The boys made turkey pictures, and frosted sugar cookies. All good things = ) And then Jonah was super excited when he got to make a second turkey at the gym yesterday! The boy loves crafts ... I wish I was more creative and crafty for him!


Anyway, I remembered today to take a quick snap of the boys with their pictures. They are very proud of them, so I taped them up to enjoy their artwork because before you know it (gulp!), we will be putting Christmas decorations up!

And then I just had to turn around and capture Matthias, who was happily chewing on one of the boys' dinosaurs in the living room.



He isn't crawling yet! But he manages to roll and sort of scoot around to get where he wants to go - at least in the living room! The boys are learning to watch what they leave lying around = ) Matthias got his first taste of bananas today and BOY! did he love them! Ha! That little mouth swallowed and opened right back up like a little bird ... So fun to see him growing right now.

Friday, November 2, 2012

October Wrap Up!

Just a few pictures to wrap up October (GULP!) because today is November 2nd! Yay and Yikes at the same time, right? I LOVE LOVE LOVE holidays, but November and December always go by faster than I want, and I have to remember each day to savor the season and the gifts of time with family and friends. Or else the hurry and bustle sweeps me along, and I forgot how many fun things there are to enjoy during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

But, we finished October with a short costumed sing at Reuben's preschool ...

Walking in with his teacher


With his teachers and his class!


And then, of course, the Harvest Party at church! Eli did a fantastic job, I thought, of running it again this year, and although we now never get as many pictures as we would like (since we are running around a lot!), we did manage to get a family picture, unlike last year! Goal achieved! And a few other pictures as well ... and although Reuben only went to about six booths before hanging out in the offices because we're dealing with a cold/wheezing/breathing treatment round again, he still had fun, and Jonah just went and went and went!

We're mssing our friend who dressed up like Captain America ... but here's the rest of the AVENGERS!


My sweet niece, Selah, and her baby cousin, Harper!

Eli and his brother Seth, aka Jack Sparrow

And Seth with our niece, Mya


One large event successfully completed! And now the focus will turn and be intense on Eli finishing school ... SIX MORE WEEKS! And then my hubby will graduate with his Master's degree. So, so so proud of him! We are almost there = )