Opinions…thoughts from the blackberry patch…

Today (as most days but it seems a lot more lately) social media is flooded with thoughts, opinions, lessons, and open letters (what IS an Open Letter anyway?) on all the controversial issues…gender, flags, marriage…and all kinda of “stuff”.  This stay at home mama stepped outside to pick blackberries while the kids were watching Thomas the Train (or at least thats what I HOPED they were doing).  As I was alone with my thoughts…no one demanding food or other random things…silence other than buzzing insects..I formed my own opinions on all these issues.

However…my opinion on these really isnt relevant…some sides of some of these issues I adamantly disagree with and dislike.  Some of the opinions I read and some things make me down right sad at times.  However, I love Jesus.  I know He loves everybody.  I know I’m not perfect (I know its hard to believe).  Having a blog and a Facebook account do not  make me smarter than anyone else.  What others do actually has very little impact on what I do and how I live.

I love people.  The world has some beautiful people in it.  And know what..a lot of those people and I really disagree on a lot of things..but I still kinda like some of them.  My thoughts are…I’ll be friends with you unless you are mean to me…and even then sometimes Im a sucker.  We try to teach our kids to be nice.  But we are really ugly sometimes.  We think we can hide behind our selfies and say whatever we want.  What does that teach our children?  Are we nice?  Disagreeing doesnt and shouldnt mean hating.  Its really sad that on both sides of issues thats what we think…you disagree with my choices?  You must HATE me?  Jesus hung out with all kinds of people.  Some people society detested…

Ok..so if you came here to see what I had to say on it all and how I felt about topics..you came to the wrong place.  Sure I am passionate about my opinions, I kinda love a good debate at times.  But I’ll save that for closed groups where I know we all will still be friends in the end.  Or with my husband…man we can talk for hours on topics…and its great because we usually agree and he tells me I’m pretty.

Agree to disagree…be nice.  And like my oldest says “Get off electronics and enjoy nature…too much electronics is not good for you.”  Too much Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all those other things are awesome tools..they make the world smaller in a good way.  I mean how else would you all know what an awesome mom I am…there are so many pictures of my kids with the toys and laundry piles shoved out of the shot…smiling faces threatened with bodily harm and the magic of a digital camera to get “just one happy picture for mommy!”

Now…I’m off to make blackberry jam and frost the 23 cupcakes for a family reunion tomorrow (they were not just watching Thomas the Train).


Blackberry Jelly

There is a segment on PBS Kids where Ms. Rosa take the kids to a grocery store, they ask “where does all this food come from?”  The segment continues with the stocker showing them that it “comes from the back room”.  That makes me sad…maybe in a small sense it does..but food comes from a farm, a plant in the ground, or an animal, from God’s resources.  Food isn’t a complex out of reach item you have to go buy from a big concrete store.  I am a afraid we are raising a generation of kid who have no idea where food comes from!  As parents, grandparents, caretakers we need to teach kids…I dont think we all have to have a huge garden and can everything…but visit a farmers market, go to a pick your own orchard, grow a tomato or squash plant.    Learn, have fun….

This week we picked blackberries from our own patch and Isaac was big enough to help make jelly.  I did the super hot parts (filling jars and water bathing them).  Look for his very own jars at the fair!

My boys know that blackberries start out as white blooms on the thorny bushes, then grow into green, then pink, then black berries.  They then learned you wash ’em, cook ’em, mush ’em, strain ’em, and add a lot of sugar…and you get jelly.  Its really quite simple…and not much  beats a toast with still warm jelly from berries that had dew on them a few hours before.  Only thing better would have been homemade bread and homemade butter…but thats a post for another day..I AM a mom of 3 boys afterall… 🙂


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Nutella Banana Muffins

I always feel so frugal and smart when I actually use up those overripe bananas.  My family is picky and dont like “yucky nasty” brown ones.  So once that little bit of green is gone they are done for.  And we go in spells…sometimes I can’t buy enough bananas to make it to the overripe stage, and sometimes I’ll find the whole bunch turning brown.  Which is when I pretend I’m super frugal and “waste not want not” and make them into something new.  I’ve tried several recipes over the years for banana bread.  All were so so.  Most of it would be eaten, some would be left.  But this…this recipe rarely makes it to day two!  They are that good.  I found it on good ole Pinterest and I’ve made it several times.  It makes life “the best day ever!”  And I feel good about letting my kids devour the “Chocolate Banana Cupcakes”.  🙂

Here is where the recipe came from…http://www.thenovicechefblog.com/2013/01/nutella-banana-swirl-muffins/

I’m not going to tutorial the whole thing…you can read and follow a recipe right?  🙂  And dont be intimidated…the lovely cute chocolate nutella swirls are not nearly as complicated as they may appear.   They sure do look impressive though dont they?  But in my house, with three little boys…the beauty is lost for the fact its nutella…

You just mix up your batter.  Put into muffin tins..and if you are like me and dont plan ahead you put them in Christmas papers in September because you cant find any others.,


Add a “glob” of nutella…seriously..like 1/2tsp, I didnt even measure.,  I just used a baby spoon.  Nothing technical here, doesnt have to be consistent or neat.


Then I took a tooth pick and “swirled”.  Again not technical.  Just try to get Nutella swirled around so each but will get some.  Don’t “stir” in so its mixed in, just kinda draw it out a bit.


Then they’ll look like this.


I even did a few in my mini loaf pan (which is more like bars) to see how it would do.  Its silicone but I just sprayed it a bit.


Bake those babies up!  About 15 mins does it.


Dutch Oven Spaghetti and Chocolate Chip Cookie


This past year we decided to join a Dutch Oven cooking club.  Which means once a month we meet and cook meals in our ovens and eat way too much good food.  Its a great family event for us and we (and the boys) learn a useful skill…knowing how to cook using cast iron ovens over a fire/coals.  I’m going to start blogging about our creations and our recipes.

This past weekend Klay had his quarterly Search and Rescue field training.  And since we try to incorporate our whole family into our activities me and boys cooked in the Dutch Oven for the team.  Well…I cooked and boys roasted marshmellows, played in the dirt, and took rides in the wagon.

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On the menu for the day was spaghetti and chocolate chip cookie.

This one pot method for spaghetti has become my very favorite.  For indoors and out!  It is also very verstaile.  Ive made it with lots of seasonal veggies as well as the more traditional meat and sauce version.

To make it I cooked a pound of italian sausage along with some minced garlic in my 14 inch dutch oven.  Nothing technical about the heat here, just browning up the meat.


Once the meat was cooked I added a big can of crushed tomatoes, a big can of tomato sauce, and my spaghetti seasonings.  I wish I could tell you a teaspoon of this and that but I cant.  I just added a bunch of Italian Seasoning, Oregano, and some salt.  Then tasted it…then added some more.  Just use your best recipe.  Or even jarred sauce.  I then added a box of beef broth.  Just make it really soupy, you can add more along if needed.


Then I bring it to a simmer.  Once its good and hot add angel hair spaghetti.  Or any noodle, but a good fine noodle cooks good without becoming gummy and starchy.  I break them in half as I add them.  I used one box.  Give it a good stir.  Put the lid on with a few coals on the lid.  Again, nothing super technical with the heat, just want it simmering enough to cook the noodles.  If it starts looking too dry before noodles get done add some more broth or water.



I think this dish was a hit.  They scraped the pot clean!


I have a family of chocaholics.  There are so many yummy fruit cobblers out there for the Dutch Oven, my family doesnt like them much.  So I needed a chocolate option.  What could be better than a big, hot, gooey chocolate chip cookie?  Not much…just some ice cream on top!

There is no fancy Dutch Oven recipe for this.  I just took my favorite cookie recipe and put it in my smaller 10 inch Dutch Oven.  The 12 inch works good too, I like to keep it thin so a regular cookie recipe will make two.  Rather than cook two separate cookings I did one in my 10 and one in my 12.  I tried doubling and cooking in the bigger oven for a big crowd and it just didnt work well at all.  It burnt, I was embarrassed because it worked SO well every other time I tried it.  It might work well in one big pan but I suggest just doing two small ones.

I mixed up my favorite basic cookie recipe.  Then I spread it in the pan.  I highly suggest lining your oven for this recipe.  Either use the liners or aluminum foil.  Otherwise, the cookie will just be too hard to get out. I topped mine with chocolate chips because it makes the kids smile!


I’m sure there is a special formula for number of coals to temp etc.  I just do a few on bottom, a few on top, and watch it closely to see if its burning or cooking unevenly.  If I see one spot cooking faster I just try to rotate it frequently.  Take it off as cooking is just starting to brown.


And this is why you need to line this.  Just lift cookie out straight to a plate and cut and serve!  You will not be disappointed.


I think they really enjoyed coming in from training to a hot meal.  And it gave me and boys a way to be involved.  They have already put in their requests f0r next quarter’s training….dumplings has been requested…might have to give that a go.




End of our first “Summer Break”


So schools been back in for a few weeks now.  We’re starting to fall into routine.  Days are getting shorter, that breeze is a little cooler, the leaves are starting to rustle…school is back in, summer is over, I’m starting to want to make all things pumpkin.


Summer break went well, it wasnt the scrapbook-esque vision I had in mind in May, but we had some lovely moments.  We had some not so lovely moments too, but lets not blog about all those.  We only want the highlights reel online right?  


We did summer reading program, we happily turned in our reading log with our 15 books, which paled in comparison to the kids with hundreds of books..but we enjoyed ourselves, enjoyed the programs.  Had a good time, read a few books, saw a few great presentations.  Magic show, mad scientist, Kindermusic, made straw rockets and launched them, saw some cool science experiments.


We did some gardening…we picked beans, we canned beans.  We picked and shucked a LOT of corn.  We did tomatoes.  We picked and put up blackberries.  We fried and froze okra.  We ate and pickled squash.  We shelled and canned beans and peas.  We let the laundry and toys pile up while we worked on the garden stuff.  We got stressed over the mess, but we got through.

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We had VBS at church.  We learned about some weird animals.  We’re still singing the songs.  Right after VBS we went right into birthday parties…all 3 of them, not including the mini parties to make their days special.  Right after birthday parties, while still amid the mess of wrapping paper and rearranged furniture we went right into getting ready for school. 


Now, schools in.  Its September.  We’re having math tests and spelling words and reading homework.  We’re starting preschool at home with James.  

All in all summer was good.  I wish we would have worked on more “stay in practice” work.  I wish we would have had less stare at the TV days.  I wish we would have played outside more.  But life is life, schedules and plans are made to be broken.  Now we’ll focus on doing our best in first grade and enjoying the fall…I forsee apple picking, pumpkin patch, hiking trips, Dutch Oven cooking, and days that Im not going to blog about thrown in there too.  😉 

Little Monster First Birthday Party

 Sorry a little late on this post, things have been crazy the past couple months as we wrapped up summer, birthdays, and started back to school.

Littlest boy turned one on July 22.  With the help of Pinterest for a few ideas we threw him a Little Monster first birthday party.  We do first birthdays with a family meal so we had a cookout.

For invitations I printed the information on a half of a piece of green cardstock.  I suppose any color could be used.  Our tag line was “our little monster is turning one come have some cake and join the fun”.  I then folded in half and glue different size and combo of googly eyes on the front, then drew  a simple mouth.  Each invitation was a little different.  Sorry I neglected to get a good pic.  But I think the concept is pretty simple.  

For decorations I carried out the googly eye theme.  I did a monster banner with different colors of card stock, googly eyes, and glued triangles onto a strip of ribbon.



We also picked up a package of balloon animals and thanks to instructions and YouTube Daddy made a few creations, including a one eyed monsters, pretty much like the guy from Monsters Inc.


Cake was “contracted out” because I didnt want the mess or hassle.  We have a great cake lady who is very very reasonable so I just tell her what I need.  VERY worth it for me.  I do enjoy dabbling in some cake decorating but  I also enjoy removing any stressor and mess from my kitchen!  I sent her an inspiration idea for cupcakes and then picked up our two dozen monsters.  Very pleased.


Food was simple.  And made as much “ahead” as I could manage.  We had burgers, potato salad, and baked beans (in crockpot) which took a lot of the stress off of me and I could focus on cleaning, decorating, and enjoying his special day.  I didnt go too overboard with cute food, even though I saw some neat ideas.  I did give potato salad a face…



Of course, can’t forget the birthday boy.  I made him a super cute first birthday shirt to go with his special day.  Not much of a tutorial or explanation for it.  Just cut out a number one, had my mother in law embroider his name on it for me.  Then I never found the right mouth to embroider and ironing on didnt work so we just painted it.  It worked surprisingly well.   Added some button eyes.  And appliqued them on.  MUCH easier than the Lego people from my earlier post.  (I’m not an applique fan!)



All in all I think the party was pretty successful.  He had cake, got gifts, and was celebrated.  Now he is one.  Next year, I think I’m doing one big party for all three boys.  Theme still to be decided but I figure I have time right?

Lego Party

We recently had the boys birthday party in a Lego theme.  After months of browsing Pinterest, here is how we put ours together.

First of all, I wanted the boys to have custom shirts.  Being a DIYer…I made them.   I found a pattern online for the pieces and appliquéd them on.  I had my mother in law embroidery the features, number on the lego man, and their names.  It was a relatively easy project, just a bit “fussy” and Im not an appliqué fan but I was pleased with the results.   Boys loved them.



For invitations,  I printed info on cardstock and drew 6 circles on outside.   Im sure you could be fancier but it worked and kids got the idea. (Thought I took a pic…oh well…)

For decorations….
I used Lego colors for all the tablecovers.   I found a “lego bump” template online which I printed on various colors and then cut to various sizes, I placed them in clusters on tables and wall. 


I used clear jelly jars filled with Duplos to weigh down balloons.(see later pic)   I printed a Lego man outline on yellow paper for signs for gift table labels.



For games…
We played Guess How Many Legos in the jar.


We had color a lego person (which was a flop, no one cared lol)



And we had Legos and Duplos for free play.



For food….
I had mini sandwiches made on rolls.  Chips.  Veggie tray.  And water and juice boxes,  I found a juice box template online I just printed and wrapped around boxes.  For water I printed a face on yellow and cut to fit.



And cake….I sent our beloved cake lady some ideas and a box of Legos and we got this amazing creation.




For part favors, which I forgot to photograph,  we bought a bulk bag of mixed Legos online and sent each kid home with a little baggie. 

We had a great party.  It was done pretty frugally,  Legos were biggest expense,  but we considered it part of their gifts.  I had fun planning…next year….maybe superheroes…


Dear James

Dear James,
 Today you are three!  I forget sometimes that you are still just a little boy, you are so independent and grown up sometimes.  You’ve always been one to make your mark and make yourself known.  You even tried to steal Isaac’s birthday!  However, when that didnt work you made your own excitement, you were supposed to stay put and I was supposed to enjoy my leisurely 12 week hospital stay, instead on day three you caused all kinds of excitement and sent mommy into emergency surgery.

I was strangely not all that scared to welcome you at 25 weeks and 2lb2oz.  I had done this “NICU thing” before, we could handle it, you’d be okay.  We knew God was holding your hand.  And He truly was.  You still amaze everyone that you had ZERO issues, just a few “normal” things.  You needed NO therapy at all.  And you are SO smart.  But I’m not surprised, I knew all along what a miracle you were.  You see, we’re used to miracles in this family.  You were conceived after two miscarriages, even though I miss those babies I never knew, they were watching over you and sent me you.

Sometimes as the middle child you get forgotten.  But you are such vivacious child you could never be truly forgotten.  You had to become a big brother before you were two, but you can handle it. The phrase “thats just James” is spoken often in our house.  You are the one with the bumps, the bruises, the “troublemaker” as Isaac says.

You are my farm boy.  You’d drive the tractor and feed the cows all day long.  Your older brother would just rather design the automation to do it for him.  I’m so proud of you, I cant wait to see what you become.  As you turn three, please remember you are still mama’s little boy and give me a few snuggles here and there OK?

Happy Birthday My Jamesy Boy, my James David, mama loves you bunches and bunches.



Dear Isaac…

Dear Isaac,
Today you turn 6!  I need two hands to show your age now.  When did you get so big on me?!

You are our oldest.  Our first miracle.  You taught us so much. You’ve always had your own plans in life.  And as exasperating as that is sometimes I hope you continue marching to your own drum. Your traits that frustrate me most sometimes will one day be your greatest strength.

You came into this world defying odds.  Babies your size dont always come out screaming and as full of life as you did.  All 2lb 14oz of you.  I didnt know then how scared I should have been, all I knew was that I was finally a mama.  I spent your first day of life missing you terribly.  You were two weeks old before I held you. But I loved you from the first moment.  You were so handsome and tiny.  I didnt care about the tubes and wires, just that you looked a little like me, but were tall like your Daddy.   We were a family of three.

They day you came home was an amazing day!  63 days you were away from us.  I was so happy to have you home with us.  It was a little scary but we got by.  You made me and your Daddy grow up.  We had to be the adults.  You taught us that.

Today you are about to start first grade.  You are so smart, way smarter than you show people even.  You are so full of life.  And a whole lot stubborn, but I figure stubborn is what got you through the NICU and through a lot of life’s trials.

Being the oldest sometimes you have to share a lot of things. Sometimes you get “forgotten” when your brothers cause trouble.  But know you are never forgotten, and you are loved just as much.  You are special.  You are the oldest which has a big role, you have to set an example.  Its tough, I know, I’m the oldest, but you can handle it.  You can handle anything.

Happy Birthday, Isaac Terry, my big boy, my first baby.  Mama loves you a whole lot.


Dear Thomas….

Dear Thomas,
Today you turn one.  We’ve spent a whole year with you in our arms now.

You are our third son.  You are our baby.  You are most likely our last child.  You are an answer to a complicated prayer.  When your two brothers were born so early, I prayed to God to remove the longing from my heart for a third child, or to give us a “happy accident” because I couldnt make the choice myself to risk baby number three.  God chose the latter.  He chose to show me that He was still in charge and working miracles.  When I had so much trouble conceiving your brothers, God chose to give you me by surprise.  It was scary.  I had to go through a few things to ensure you “stayed put” but God was in control.  And you were born happily healthy, full term, and got to come straight to my arms.

You spent your first night sleeping beside me, and for the past year you’ve never left that spot.  I love that you love me so much (remind me that at midnight tonight ok? ;-)) that you never want to leave my side.  You are a mama’s boy.  It makes my heart swell. Dont be mistaken, your brothers are sweeties too, but you have always had a special preference for me and it makes me smile amid the exhaustion.

You are my big boy.  My “Monster Baby”.  You will always be my baby.  You will always be my special boy.  I am so thankful that God decided to give you to me.  I am so thankful that I have you and can’t imagine life without you.  Happy FIrst Birthday, Thomas William.  Mama loves you