26 May 2015

recipe: the perfect dip

Not too long ago I was at a little party and the hostess served a big, lovely array of appetizers. Among them was a small dish filled with a magical dip that was everything I loved in a tiny bowl. When I asked her what it was, she said that it was something they served at their neighborhood parties and it had just come to be known as "the dip". She told me what was in it, no measurements or anything. I went home and tried my hand at it, and this is what I came up with. It really is magic.

It's easy and delicious, and the perfect addition to any get together. Or just make it for yourself on a Tuesday afternoon and try not to eat the whole batch. Serve it with your favorite cracker or a crusty baguette... it goes with just about anything.

Magic Dip
makes about 3 cups
4 ounces goat cheese
4 ounces cream cheese
1-2 teaspoons sour cream
pepper to taste
1 14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed and roughly chopped
(about a cup if you're using frozen or jarred)
1/2 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped

Stir together goat cheese, cream cheese and sour cream until blended. Pepper well.
Add in olives, artichokes and peppers and combine. Taste and add more pepper as needed.

This can be made in advance or served right away. Store up to 3 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Serve with crackers, pita chips or your favorite crusty bread. Enjoy!

30 April 2015

a playmobil screening party!

This month has been so busy - two of the boys have officially started little league, my husband has been on call and traveling, and then also normal life with five kids in tow. So we are always super excited for a fun surprise and something a little out of the norm.

The good people at Netflix got in touch to see if my kids would want to have their own Playmobil Super4 screening party! We were all over that. What kid doesn't love Playmobil? And an excuse to have a mini party in the middle of the week? Always.

We started out with some fun coloring sheets that feature some of the characters on Super4, which premiered on Netflix on April 1. It's a fun, fast-paced show filled with adventure that my boys really enjoyed.

Frances and Ivah were totally down for a coloring sesh before the show. In fact, they'd prefer to "cully" all day if they had their choice. But mama doesn't love following them around and picking up the five million crayons they leave trailing all over the house, so we limit it to a few sessions a day. This was totally their jam. 

And then, of course, the costumes. Eddie and George are obsessed with the shields (which double as backpacks, apparently) and Frances always loves a sparkly crown. My very own Super4.

If you're looking for a fun show to stream for your bigger littles (think 6+) that has a wide variety of characters going on big adventures, definitely check this out. It follows Ruby the pirate, Alex the knight, Gene the secret agent, and Twinke the fairy. It's perfect for boys and girls to enjoy together without fighting over whose show they're going to choose. 
And when does that ever happen?

Here's to lots of adventures, kids who love to party, and mid-week pick me ups!

07 April 2015

take heart, mamas. it gets easier.

It wasn't that long ago that I felt like I was going to lose my mind on a daily basis. I'd count the minutes until I expected my husband to be home, and then he'd walk in the door and I'd hand him a kid, or escape to my room to breathe (or cry) for five minutes. I felt overwhelmed most of the time, unable to get everything done, unable to meet every need, unable to stay bubbly and joyful and not turn into a dragon lady by 5 o'clock.

My sister just had her third sweet baby a couple of weeks ago. Her oldest is three. So, they are really in the thick of it. Wading through the adjustment to three really little littles is hard. My brother in law said to me the other day, "We think of you guys every night around bed time and wonder how you did it." The truth is, not very well. I loathed bed time, knowing it would be chaos every night. Knowing someone, if not many someones (including myself), would have a meltdown before it was all said and done. Pleading with them to stay in bed. Definitely yelling on a regular basis. Feeling defeated almost every night.

But as I sat there talking to him about those feelings, remembering feeling like you have almost no control over the situation, I realized how much has changed so quickly. Jim Gaffigan has said, "People ask what it's like having four kids. I say, 'Imagine you're drowning and someone hands you a baby.'" It's funny because it's true. But I think it's even true for one kid, two kids, three kids... adding another kid to the mix is always a huge, hard adjustment. But there are beautiful moments of grace where you step back, zoom out, and feel overwhelmingly blessed and grateful and undeserving of these precious gifts you've been given. Granted, it's usually when they're sleeping, but still.

And here is my encouragement to all of you wading through it: it gets easier. The workload isn't less, the needs don't go away, but they change. And best of all, you change. I can honestly say we are at a really sweet time in this journey of parenting. There are hard days. I still don't relish bedtime, but it's not a chore. My older kids (5, 5 and 8) have their hard moments, but I feel equipped to handle them. And when I don't feel equipped, I've learned to ask for help. My oldest has reached an age of reason, where we can hash things out in productive conversation, rather than tears and tantrums. Things rolls off my back in ways they didn't used to, probably because I just don't have the time. I won't die if they don't eat my dinner. I have come to grips with the fact that my furniture is going to be scratched and dented for the next ten years. Clothes will have irreversible stains. My kids are going to fight. But in the big scheme of things, I don't really care. I get little flashes now and then, of an empty house, tiny laundry piles, undefiled furniture, and honestly? I get a little misty eyed. My job isn't to hover over them and micromanage, my job is to encourage them in the right direction. To help them deal with (or provide) the consequences for bad decisions, celebrate their accomplishments, lift them up when they're feeling down, challenge them when they could make better choices, ask for forgiveness when I fail (daily), LOVE them. 

Every day is not blissful joy. I still get frustrated and yell and plead with them. But that's the exception, not the rule. And while it felt like those hard days, feeling like I was drowning, would never end, I blinked and everything was different. "The days are long, but the years are short." I feel like I'm beginning to get that now. I'm probably going to be that annoying lady at Target that looks at a young mom trying to wrangle three unruly kids and tells her to enjoy every minute. (I will NEVER EVER tell her she has her hands full.) But really, it does go so quickly. I know there will be new challenges ahead. Teenagers, you guys, I know. 

So, take heart, mamas. It will get better. Before you know it, you'll look back and realize you got this after all. In the meantime, pour yourself a glass of something good, give yourself a whole lot of grace, and know you are not alone. 

01 April 2015

hope spoken

(photos via)
I spent last weekend in Dallas at Hope Spoken. The night before I left, my husband told me he was glad I'd have some time away to be refreshed, encouraged and deepened in my faith. He wanted me to go, free of the guilt that often comes when leaving your family behind, fully aware of the task that lay before him with five small children and baseball games, school schedules, and social obligations. I scrambled the week before, finishing up the laundry, doing the grocery shopping, arranging babysitters, praying that my sweet baby (who is really a toddler) wouldn't think she'd been abandoned, secretly hoping this would also be known as "weaning weekend". It wasn't, of course, but so it goes.

I climbed into the taxi in the darkness of early morning, made my way through the airport, got my giant coffee and sat at my gate, waiting to board my flight to DFW. I met a friend at the gate I'd only known through social media, and talked about our anticipation for the weekend ahead and the funny goodbyes we'd had with our kids.

I flipped through magazines on my flight because I didn't have a baby on my lap and I was not going to waste this solo travel experience with sleep, let me tell you. I can't remember the last time I made it through an entire periodical in one sitting. It was weird, you guys.

Soon enough we'd arrived, the warm Texas air hugging our shoulders as we made our way from the airport to the hotel, riding in sweet Sarah's Tahoe, chatting and laughing and catching up on our 20 minute drive. And then, magic. Walking into the hotel lobby, recognizing faces of people you've never met, awkwardly introducing yourself, giddy with excitement upon hugging friends you haven't seen in ages, breathing deep, knowing you are where you are meant to be. And then, waiting to check into your hotel room and who is standing right next to you but JEN HATMAKER and you suddenly become super awkward and silent because you know if you open your mouth you're going to ask if she maybe wants to share best friends broken heart necklace and that might make everyone uncomfortable. 

I'm still processing everything I experienced this weekend, but every single detail adds up to feeling full and encouraged and truly experiencing something so lovely. From the love that was poured into every beautiful detail: backdrops and signs and centerpieces. Twinkly lights and garlands and treat tables. A beautiful devotional, a bag full of gifts, genuine care for every person in attendance. There were people there sharing their gift of music, leading us in worship. There were women there sharing their stories, being vulnerable and talking about the hard places the Lord has brought them to and through, speaking truth in love. We met in small groups to share our hearts and struggles and pray for each other. We were 250 women together for 48 hours, sharing life. We were encouraged and loved, we were challenged to dream, to remain faithful, to stay strong, to trust, to believe in His best for us. For me it wasn't a breakthrough or an "aha!", but it was a peaceful breath of life and refreshment over me, a gentle reminder of the love that God longs to lavish on each and every one of us as often as we will let Him.

And then almost as quickly as it started, it came to a close. We hugged and said our goodbyes. And there are so many wonderful women that I wished I'd been able to pull aside and grab a cup of coffee with. To hear more of their heart, more of their stories. It was like a little sampling of Heaven and the family He has established.

I was so grateful to have an extra day before I had to head home. A day to spend with my girls. To nap by the pool with, to laugh with, to help me fulfill all my taco and queso dreams (life changed, for real. tacos are my love language), to sit around a table with and take photos in front of turquoise walls with and cry and laugh some more. Another glimpse of Heaven and hope.

It was an amazing weekend, a gift. And I am so thankful for it. 

23 March 2015

let's talk television

I think it's fairly well known that I think Friday Night Lights is one of the best shows that ever was. It was so well written and the characters were relatable, and I still want to grow up to be Tami Taylor. So when I saw a preview for the new Netflix series, Bloodline, I was absolutely positive I was going to check it out because I still have a schoolgirl crush on Coach Taylor and Kyle Chandler plays the lead (cleareyesfullheartscan'tlose).

All 13 episodes of the first season began streaming last Friday and I started up the first episode while I was baking some birthday cupcakes. I am a multitasker and I admit, I feel a little guilty if I am not doing something productive while watching TV. I pressed play with a little trepidation, nervous I wouldn't like it or it would be terrible and my hopes would be dashed.

But you guys, it's good. It's uncomfortably good. There isn't much happening in the first few episodes that give you any warm fuzzies, but that's not what this show is about. The story follows four siblings in a family with dark things in their past that slowly reveal themselves over time. It's set the balmy beaches of Florida, which makes for an beautiful backdrop that is also strangely eerie. And there is an amazing cast of actors, all playing significant roles really well. I can't decide if I actually like any of them, but I am mesmerized by each of them. And if you need a selling point: my husband liked it, and we haven't watched a show together with any regularity since Lost, so he's not easily sucked in.

I mean, it's good enough that I can't do anything else while I watch it, so there goes 13 hours of my life, but I'm pretty sure it's worth it.