Friday, October 7, 2016

Taco Soup

Dear Riley,

You love my taco soup. The recipe came from Grandmom but I want to make sure and share it with you. When I was growing up Grandmom always made this soup for us during Fall and Winter. Aunt Ma and I always loved it too. Grandmom would serve it with cheese and saltine crackers in her white bowls. She always made plenty for us to have as left-overs. I've changed a few things to her original recipe, but it's still pretty close to what she made.

Taco Soup

1 pkg taco seasoning
1 pkg Ranch dressing seasoning
2 lbs ground beef
2-3 cans corn or hominy
2 cans of Ranch -style beans
1 can of black beans
1 can Original Rotel
1 can Mild Rotel
1 small can of diced green chiles

Brown the beef. Add the taco seasoning, following the directions on the package. I throw all of this into a crockpot and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.

Serve with cheese, sour cream, and tortilla chips.

Friday, September 2, 2016

2016

Kids,

These newsletters have slowed down, haven't they? I hate that we are so busy. I hate having two jobs that keep me away from you all. These newsletters are important to me and I need to do better. I want these newsletters to be a connection for you to your childhoods. When you're older I want you to be able to look back and read about my feelings and what we were going through.

Riley,

This school year we started at Brownsboro and you adjusted beautifully. I was worried about you moving schools but you're doing great. You love your teacher and have enjoyed the school work. I am proudest of your reading! You are a wonderful reader! You even like to read to your brother and sister sometimes. I love to talk with you about books. You really like it when I order you new books off of Amazon.



You are really just growing up. You're getting taller and taller every week. Lately I've had a hard time keeping you in clothing because you grow out of stuff so quickly. I don't even pretend to try and remember what size shoe you wear. Your independence is growing too. You don't need me to wash your hair, brush your teeth, or lay your clothes out. Sometimes I don't even have to run your bath water. You like to help me cook and do laundry, and you can actually do things that help out. Hey, if you want to make muffins I'll let you. You are old enough to following the simple directions and you enjoy doing it. Yay for independence!

I love how you play with your brother and sister. It's crazy how much you occupy them. I love how serious you take homework or something like that. It's very important to you to turn things in to your teacher correctly and on time. You're definitely a perfectionist.



Ella,

Hello sister. You are probably the "craziest" kid I have. You love to have fun, laugh, and play. If you're sad, you're really sad. If you're happy, then you're really happy. You are very dramatic too. You use facial expressions all the time, and those expressions match your stories and pleas. If something's not right, you're gonna let me know.



You are the first to say "yes ma'am" when you and your brother and sister are in trouble. You somehow know that a "yes ma'am" is the best thing to say when you're in trouble. If I get on to y'all for too long though, you'll start crying. I've learned it's best to tell you when you mess up and then move on. Harping on you doesn't do anything but make you cry.



It's hard disciplining you and Nolan especially. Most of the time I tell you to quit or stop 10 times before either of you let up. And then it's usually because I yell. You and Nolan are together 24/7 and I try to remember that most people would not be able to get along with someone else for that length of time without having a disagreement. I try to let you and Nolan work your problems out, but that usually always ends in you hitting each other.

Dressing up is by far your favorite activity. All the time. Multiple outfits. Clothes everywhere. Turn some music on and you are good to go.

Nolan,

Hey Mr. You are Mama's boy and you know when to turn it on. You love to be petted on and it reminds me of your daddy. Treat you like the baby and you are the sweetest thing ever.



Your favorite thing to do is chase your sisters or mess up their toys. You're always right in the middle of them whether it's coloring or playing Barbies. I bought you a whole bunch of boy toys for your birthday. When we got home with all your new toys, it had been about 5 minutes when Captain America started marrying Barbie. I haven't seen that Captain America since! You don't seem to mind too much.



Three is supposed to be the stage when kids start wanting to please and I am ready for that to begin. You still get in a lot of trouble and have to be constantly reminded to do or not to do things. Nolan! That's what I say all the time. You are definitely a button-pusher. You know just exactly what to do to make your sisters mad. All bats and sticks have been confiscated because you only want to chase and hit your sisters with them.



I want you to know how good you potty-trained. Hallelujah! No more diapers for this lady. Nolan, you were by far the easiest to potty-train. You did not want to sit on the potty the first day, but by day two, you had it down. You started standing up to tee-tee pretty quickly. I had you sitting and for obvious reasons that wasn't working out very well. But you got it down and rarely have accidents. It's crazy, but we have been to the park several times and you and Ella both have had poo-poo accidents. That's a joy to clean up, let me tell you.



It's funny sometimes when I'm in the shower I can hear you all tromping through the house. It sounds like a bunch of elephants. Usually when I get out it's to find that Nolan is chasing somebody with something.

We are working on behavior out in public. I give lots of warnings before we get out of the car. "You better behave." I try to be quick to nip bad behavior before it starts. It's hard! I just want y'all to be sweet! When you're older, I think I'm going to come over to your houses and knock holes in the wall, chip paint, put dents in your kitchen tables, jump on your couches, jump on your beds, constantly be hungry and thirsty, and any other destructive thing I can think of... all in the nude. This is what it's like at our house.







Wednesday, January 6, 2016

2015 Wrap-Up

Riley, 

I've said it before, but you really are my best friend. I love the "you" that you have become. You are a sweet girl, smart, caring, kind, loving, everything a little girl should be. It's so fun to see you blossoming into a young lady. 


You usefulness has increased tremendously in the last six months. You are actually "useful." Helpful is probably a better word. You are capable of doing certain chores just as good as I can and you usually enjoying helping out. Especially if there is a financial incentive around. I have no problem paying you, either. It means one less thing on my to-do list and more money in your pocket. 

I am so proud of the reader you are becoming, too. You love to read. You will even read a story to your brother or sister. You read with feeling and expression and it awesome to hear you. You also really like school and you love to learn. Some of your favorite books are fiction or educational. This makes me happy. 

Ella Rae, 

For about the last three months I have battled your lice infestation. This whole thing started in October, and I think Riley brought head lice home from school. It was transferred to your head and I have struggled to get the bugs out of your hair. I actually don't have much trouble removing the bugs, it's the nits I can't seem to get. I have treated your hair, washed your bedding, sprayed your bed, put mayo on your hair, left your hair dirty, etc. I have really tried everything. Morgan sat you outside and pulled nits from your hair. After she did this, I didn't see any nits or bugs in your hair for a couple weeks. I thought, "Finally!" But no, not finally. I checked your head a couple days ago and nits were everywhere. It's been very frustrating for me and you. You know when you have bugs in your hair and you can answer me when I ask. At this point, you HATE for me to even touch your head or hair. You will run, scream, bat my hands away, anything to keep me from going through your hair. It's been hard. 


You love makeup and anything girly. You love for someone to tell you that you are beautiful. "Am I beautiful?" One of the funniest things you're doing lately is gurgling when you brush your teeth. Our routine is for me to brush, then let you brush, you put water in your mouth, and before you spit that water out, you tilt your head back and give a good gurgle. Every time. At first it was annoying to me because it took up time and prolonged our bathroom sessions. But now I just laugh as you gurgle. A three year-old gurgling is funny. 

Another routine that just you and I have is a kiss on your nose at night when I tuck you in. I cannot leave your room until I've kissed you on the tip of your nose. 

Nolan, 

My boy. My 100% boy. You love balls and bats more than anything. You like jumping and rough-housing. You like running. You are full-speed all the time. 


Except for when you want to be a big ol' Mama's boy, which you are a lot of the time. You love to sit in my lap. You say, "Maaammmmmmmmaaaa!" as loud as you can and as often as you can. The other morning at 4 a.m. I heard you yelling for me to come and cover you up. I was dead asleep and when I finally figured out what you wanted I started getting up. I stopped to use the bathroom first, and by the time I had finished using the bathroom you had quit yelling at me. I was so mad! It would have saved a lot of your energy to just cover your own self up, but no! You love to yell from your room to your Mama. I've thought about putting you in a big boy bed, but this incident is one of several reasons that I still have not. 

I've also been thinking about you next year during the school year. Ella will start pre-K and you'll still be staying home. What will you do without Ella? She's been there with you every day of your life. You two are always together. I keep on thinking that you will be lonely for Ella. As much as you two fight, fuss, and argue, you are still the best of friends. 



2015 was a tough year, bottom line. You three survived it and thrived. We are happy in this life just like we are. Thank you for putting up with my tears, moods, and messy house. Thank you for your hugs, kisses, pictures, and dirty clothes. Without you three I wouldn't be who I am today and I'll always be thankful to you all for making me a Mama. I love you with everything I have. 

Here's to 2016 being our best year yet. Love you so much.

Mama

Monday, August 31, 2015

Summer 2015


Riley,

You grew up a lot this summer. Your appearance changed so much, mostly because you’ve now lost your two top teeth and your two bottom teeth. You sent the tooth fairy to the poor house this summer! I loved pulling your teeth with you. You would go through the usual, “Is it gonna hurt?” questions. When I was finally able to convince you that no, it would not hurt, you would let me pull the tooth out. It probably hurt you for a half of a second, but once you saw the tooth in my hand, you immediately went into denial. “It’s not out! It’s out?” We almost had a disaster when you nearly swallowed one pulled tooth, but thankfully you gagged it out. Blood makes you gag, too. These tooth-pulling moments were intense. 


Another reason I think you grew up is because you now take the lead and do things or complete tasks you wouldn’t have six months ago. You’re not afraid to run back in the house to grab something, or to walk to the trash dumpster alone. You don’t mind being the first to do something you and Ella and Nolan have never done. You were the supreme leader at Splash Kingdom and even talked both Ella and Nolan onto the little slides. I think you enjoy these moments and it makes you proud of yourself. 


Your reading has improved so much over the summer. I can’t say that we read a book every day or that I read a good night story every night. Most days and nights we did this, but you also read on your own and without being asked to do so. You just read everything. Signs, texts, odd papers laying around the house, etc. You love to read books especially, and I have even found you reading to your brother and sister. 

For the past couple of summers we’ve gone swimming off and on. No one that I am close to has a pool, so it had to be either the lake, a hotel, or a birthday party for you to get exposure to swimming. Undeterred by this, you have proclaimed for three summers that you know how to swim. I would always have to go behind your back and let others know that could not, in fact, swim as you proclaimed. Well, things changed this year. We went to the lake. We went to Splash Kingdom. Aunt Shanna got a pool. We visited Aunt Waynette. You swam at least twice a week. You learned to really swim. We went to Splash Kingdom once at the beginning of summer and once towards the end of our summer, and the difference in your swimming abilities was incredible. You were a much stronger swimmer the second time at Splash Kingdom and you could slide down the “Volcano” without being rescued by the lifeguard. I am so proud of you. 



Ella, 

Hello, Miss three-year-old! You are a very sweet little girl. Your favorite thing to do is to play with Riley. You really look up to your big sister. Anywhere she goes, anything she does, you want to be right there with her.

You had a wonderful 3rd birthday party at Sonic. I had so much fun watching you open your presents. The first gift you opened was a cute outfit from Vicky. You were not impressed with clothes and made the most awful face to show your displeasure. You threw the clothes down and quickly moved on to the next gift. Your face lit up when you saw your Frozen cake. You were so proud to be three years old. I love to watch you hold your three little fingers up when someone asks how old you are. 



Potty training you has been a completely different experience from potty training Riley. She caught on fairly quickly and had few accidents. But you, Ella, you just do not care to be potty trained like that. There are much more important things you could be doing besides using the potty. You are perfectly happy to have a wet hiney. My friend Teresa gave us about 50 pairs of panties. I thought she was crazy, but let me tell you, they have all been used. 

You have very few behavioral problems anymore. We do have standoffs, but you’ll realize I’m not budging and give in and do what I ask you to do. When I tell you to pick up your toys, you’ll answer, “I don’t know how.” Things like that. You’re just a little bit stubborn. And who likes picking up their toys anyway? 

Nolan, 

Mister, you are definitely a handful right now. You have no idea that you’re only two and can’t do a lot of the things your sisters are able to do. Not to mention, you make ten times the messes that they did or do now. If it can be spilled, you spill it. If it can be broken, you break it. Constant. You are constant. 


Maybe it’s just because you’re a boy, or maybe it’s because you are a natural athlete, but you can swing and throw like crazy. Your swings are intense, and you land them. Your throws are hard and fast. You love to carry your “football game” (just a football) around with you. You play with balls all day long. If it’s long and skinny, you use it as a bat or golf club. 


You also had a great birthday party. It was a swim party with just family at the Villages. I think you loved the attention and loved your gifts. When we sang the “Happy Birthday” song, you sang right along with everyone. 



You’re growing and getting stronger. Just the other day you ran into the living room, and I sat there a second marveling at how well you had just ran. It’s a real run and not a baby tip-toe type thing. You are definitely Mama’s Boy and love my attention. “I won’t you.” All day long. When not wanting me, you want what I’m eating or drinking. 

And anyway, do you kids know how much I love you? If I could give hugs and kisses all day, then I would. I try to make sure you have healthy meals, clean clothes, clean bed sheets, giggles and smiles all day long. I hope one day that you understand why I have two jobs that sometimes keep me away from you. When I’m working, you’re always on my mind. I would be incomplete with you. I love you so much.

Love, Mama


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Spring 2015 Newsletter

Riley,

If there is anyone on the planet who is the most like me, it would be you. You are very smart and love to read. Your reading has just taken off in the last five months. There really isn't anything you can't read, especially when it's not something you're supposed to be reading. You love to read my text messages. Your teacher told me that you will read notes to other teachers that she's asked you take deliver. You can read and you're nosey!


You're very tender hearted just like I am. You don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, and it doesn't take much to hurt yours. You really try to do the right thing most of the time, but if you get in trouble the tears will flow. I know it's hard always trying to set a good example for your brother and sister, but just like I always remind you, "That's what big sisters are for." We couldn't ask for a better big sister in our family.


You're very aware of the things going on around you, and especially the last five months. You don't want anyone to be sad and sometimes you wish things were like they used to be. I know you understand things won't ever be like that again, so it's not something I keep from you. You are just six years old, so I don't burden you with things I don't think you can handle. However, I won't lie to you. Just like how I've always told you that I will always be here for you no matter what, I can also promise to never lie to you.


You're the best person I've ever met. You love to laugh and giggle with Ella. You love to ask questions and know and learn things. You love to play. You stand at the top of my list in any category. I love you so much and am grateful for your sweet spirit and love.

Ella,

I just start laughing every time I think about you. Will you always be like this? Funny. Spirited. Adamant. Sure of what you want. Sure of what you don't want.


You've also grown in leaps and bounds over the last couple months. You can talk so much better, and I can tell that you understand so much more of our world. If you can do it, then you let me know that you want to, "Do it all by myself!" You usually don't just come right out and say it, but due to frustration and excitement, you have a hard time getting the words put together and out of your mouth. It will instead come out in a, exclamatory, rapid stutter.


I think you are the most caring of the three of your. You love to see a baby puppy or kitten. You'll put your hands up by your face and say, "Aww. How cuuuute!"


You are for sure coming out of the terrible twos. Here lately, you really want to please and be praised for your good choices and behavior. You don't mind pointing out when Riley and Nolan are misbehaving either. There are still fits, but for the most part you are just the sweetest little thing all day long. Bedtime can be a little rough. You like to blame Riley for keeping you awake, when I KNOW who is really keeping who awake.


Since starting potty training, you've had some ups and downs. You've just about got the hang of it though. The hardest part is getting you to poo-poo in the potty. You tend to make excuses. April asked you why you didn't poo-poo in the potty at her house, and you told her because you're supposed to poo-poo in Grandad's potty. You definitely keep us laughing.


You're still known to have a little tantrum occasionally. You will pout, cross your arms, and stomp off, sometimes for no apparent reason. I never did figure out what was wrong with you the other night. I asked you, "What are you mad about, Ella?" You yelled back, "You!" I hadn't even done anything to you!

Nolan,

Just as Ella is leaving the terrible twos, you are entering them. When you were acting bad the other day, Shanna pointed out that you are just a two year old little boy. That's very accurate! Well, you're almost two. You are tyrannical, willful, mean, and an instigator. You love to pester Ella. All it takes is for you to grab ahold of Ella's shirt, and there will be many yelps from her. She's now to the point where she strikes back. It's funny to watch you and Ella fight back and forth. She gets so mad at you, but all the while you just stare back at her grinning. I really think you are just trying to play with her most of the time, but you just get on her nerves.


You're talking up a storm too. You can say anything you want to. You can communicate the things you want and need without just crying. It's been really nice knowing what you want instead of having to guess at it. However, usually what you want is not what you need. Every water bottle you see is yours and you want it opened. When I tell you no, you head to Grandad. You will drink the rest of the milk in your cup just so you can carry around a full glass of milk. You aren't thirsty, you just want a full cup of milk.


We like to walk from Grandad's house to Paw-Paw's in the evenings. Riley and Ella either stay ahead of us or sprint the entire way. Meanwhile, I'm stuck with you saying your name over and over to get you to come on. You like to stop and look at EVERYTHING. I've gotten a little ahead of you and stopped to wait on you to catch up, only to have you start walking in the opposite direction. You love to stop and look at the grass and flowers. When you do decide to catch back up, you'll come running with both arms stretched out in front of you just like a zombie. It's hilarious.


You also like doing things yourself. I'm to the point where it's ok with me if you ride home in just a diaper or if your clothes get messed up. I let you get dirtier and messier than I ever thought about letting the girls.


You're still my handsome little boy. I can't wait to give you a buzz cut this summer. You have pretty thick hair and I think you'll look really cute with your hair buzzed.

I love you three kids so much. Everything I do is for you. The two jobs. The graduate school. All of my decisions are made with you in mind. Don't ever forget that your mother loves you more than breathing, more than living.