Feeling joyful

Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday Jesus!

This year we've broken from our normal routine and enjoyed many fabulous days visiting with family and feeling full of JOY!

I can't believe that my last post was Thanksgiving.  Very unusual for me and it's certainly not been a lack of content or inspiration keeping me away... just a lack of time for many good reasons!

Last weekend we drove to Cleveland to see my dad, Junko, with our very own eyes.  He had to return to the hospital the day after my last post.  The thing about leukemia is it is truly a DAY BY DAY journey.  A wonderful, terrifying lesson in appreciating/ surviving/ overcoming each day.  

Jim Orris (donor), Dick Lehman & my mom celebrate my dad's new birthday as they watch new life pour into his veins.
*if you compare this pic to the Thanksgiving photo 2 weeks previous, you will notice how much healthier and stronger he looks!
In the above picture, my dad is receiving his stem cell transplant.  His brother (black sweater, white collar, looks like what my dad will look like when he's healthy...if he doesn't grow his beard again) JOYFULLY donated his perfectly matched stem cells.  That was a another gift of this experience, getting to spend time with my California-living Uncle.  Jake now refers to him as the family's best kept secret (between that and my mom's nickname of "golden egg" for my Uncle, I fear we sent him home with an inflated ego :)  We hadn't seen each other for probably 20 years, not for a lack of love, just unfortunate timing during his visits "home". 

So far, my dad has been a "textbook" case.  Throughout his journey his only good luck has been overcoming the odds as he gets slammed with turn after turn of worst-case scenarios.  The fact that he was eligible to receive this transplant is living proof in the power of prayer.  I am hesitant to ever feel or share optimism over my dad's prognosis and strive to feel THANKFUL and JOYFUL for every day he's been given since diagnosis in June.  The road ahead of him is long and difficult... yet I now catch myself thinking about future family camping trips and woodworking lessons for the girls.  Hope is a good thing and this season we are full of hope (and JOY).

Last weekend we traveled to Ligonier and Greensburg to spend time with Jake's parents.  The JOY my girls feel with each of their grandparents is truly a heartwarming thing for a mom to see.  

We were excited to take advantage of a free kids art activity offered every Sunday in Greensburg!

Last night, while aching for my biological family, it was wonderful to get to experience Jake's dad's family tradition...Valea!  We traveled with Jake's brother and his girlfriend to Gibsonia to enjoy more time with Pap Pap and Gammy & many cousins.  So many delicious traditional Polish foods, silly family traditions & wonderful people.  Instead of feeling sadness over missing my favorite church service and Orris traditions, I truly was full of JOY and love.

That day started with Hazel seeing deer tracks in the snow and JOYFULLY exclaiming that they were "Reindeer tracks".  Clearly Santa sent his reindeer a night early to double check directions to our home!  Later she helped me prepare Santa's plate, complete with cheese for "Santa Mouse", a cutie for "healthy food" and of course a carrot for the reindeer.  Before we left for dinner, SANTA HIMSELF CALLED FROM ALASKA THE NORTH POLE.  I never knew that her smile really could stretch from ear to ear!

The best shot I could get of my sweater (dress) crew on Christmas Eve :)  Dearest Heidi, for the jokester of the family, why don't you smile for photos?  
We returned home around midnight and Jake and I were giddy with last minute preparations and imagining the girls reactions in a few short hours.  Below you see our HILARIOUS Christmas tree (aka a tree from the driveway that needed to come down.  Notice the top extends at least 3 feet up with no branches);  Hazel starting in on her gifts; a rare photo of me (thanks Jake) helping Heidi work on her gifts; & a mid-present "cool down" to enjoy a new book.

Fortunately, this year Hazel did NOT ask for poop!  Instead she was quite practical and asked for "a sleeping bag and applesauce".  We were thrilled that Santa obliged with good quality sleeping bags that will be used & abused for the next ten years!

And finally, a truthful photo of the post-presents tornado (and super worn-out super-dad).  Though discharged last week, my dad had to return to the hospital on Saturday to deal with some chemo effects which while a bummer, gave my mom the freedom to be home for the Christmas Eve service and some much needed grandchild-therapy (for the next few months, my dad has to be within a 1-hour radius of the Cleveland Clinic.  We live 2.5 hours away, so they will be living with some wonderful friends during this time.)

Whelp, my house is filling with delicious smells as Jake and Josh (his bro) work their magic and spoil us rotten!

Much love and appreciation to all of you who visit my blog (and made it through this whole post)!


A Lot to be Thankful For!

Though I will not be content until my sister and her family join us from Alaska and Whitney joins us from England, I am SO THANKFUL this year for ALL of my friends and family.

This year, I've had more people praying for me and my family then I can comprehend.  Just thinking about the love, support & prayers we've received makes my eyes well up.  Aw shucks... I hate being sappy!

So, without further ado... a few photos from today to show what I am most thankful for...

My biological parents and my pseudo parents.  In this picture, I see 2 people in remission from cancer, I see 3 replaced/prosthetic joints, numerous heart stents/etc, I see unconditional love and support.  I see MUCH to be THANKFUL for!

*note to Whitney, though I did dress my girls in their coordinating outfits on purpose, our dorky parents did it unintentionally.  I consider myself VERY lucky that they happened to match the girls color pallet.  See what happens when you're not here?

Dick insisted that I appear in a photo :)  However, just looking at these 4 people whose DNA matches mine so closely makes me full of joy!

*note:  soon my dad will have a stem cell transplant and thereafter have HIS BROTHER's DNA!  So yup, this might be the last picture of me with both sets of my DNA donors :)

And of course, my tireless farm-hand husband who gleefully shapes our land into his dreamscape... all the while showering our little girls with love and adventure.

(note:  in this picture I see my grandfather's tractor, wagon that I used to ride in, flannel shirt & vest.  My husband LOVES hand-me-downs and it's so comforting to me to feel my grandfather's prescence!)


Melissa and Doug Terrific Twenty List and Giveaway

WINNER ANNOUNCED:  Congratulations #7, Julie :)  
You have one lucky nephew!

I am full of pure excitement for Christmas.  BOTH of my girls "get it" this year.  The excitement is going to be tangible... the temptations to go overboard are already here :)

I love the RULE OF FOUR:  
something they need, something they want, something to read, something to wear.

HOWEVER, I uh, well, uh, ummm.... I can't stick to that!

I WILL limit myself and keep things simple.  But I mean JUST LOOK AT THIS GIFT GUIDE... how can I choose just one?

I just had my professional consultant (Hazel, age 3) look over the gift guide.  As the oldest, she's the easiest to shop for and so I need an AWESOME gift (or two or three) for Heidi, age 1.5.  

We chose this: (ok, I'm pulling the mama card.  She couldn't choose and kept going back to the stickers and I am a little sick of stickers.)

 Ok, perhaps the Magic Mine Wooden Train set is for slightly older kids.  But in this house... we ALL play with the toys and this one will be a hit with those aged 1.5 through 35 ;)

How about it... YOU WANT IN?  Enter everyday on the Melissa and Doug Facebook page as they give away each item from their TOP TWENTY!

Even better, Melissa and Doug are letting me give a Magic Mine Wooden Train Tunnel to one of my readers!

I'm keeping it simple this time.  SIMPLY LEAVE A COMMENT TO ENTER (one comment/entry per email address).
Winner will be chosen on Nov. 30th at 9am EST using random.org.


Leap of faith :: a new journey for me

This past summer, I had quite a few worries about my family, our nutrition  my time, our finances (among others... it was a tough summer).  I took these concerns to the web and kept coming back to one particular website.  Your Own Home Store simply spoke to me.  It's written by a woman who puts her family first and that means providing healthy food & balanced meals all while running her own business.

That website is built around a particular brand of food and survival gear.  Now, I consider myself kind of an expert on food and backpacking gear... I'm out right snobby.  So, I simply read, clicked around, commented/questioned & considered it.  OF COURSE, there is no one local who sells this product and I am way too practical/ skeptical to buy without first tasting, feeling and seeing.  Finally, I contacted Misty (the woman who runs Your Own Home Store) and she generously sent me free samples!

Long story short... my summer blew up on me (hubby mono, me mono, sick father, dying grandfather) and the box of samples sat unopened in my pantry.  UNTIL life began to level out and we planned a camping trip with friends.

"Hmm...", I thought... "camping would be the perfect time to try that freeze dried food!"

Not-so-short-story continues:  I cooked the food.  The food critics I was camping with loved it.  I came home and decided not to just BUY MORE FOOD, I decided to BECOME A CONSULTANT.

No one is more surprised than me.  I want everyone to save their money. I don't want you to go shopping or buy frills.  I am not a natural sales woman.  However...

I DO want everyone to eat healthier.  I want us to get balanced dinners on the table in 1/2 the time.  I don't want us eating food that has been chemically enhanced to travel long distances.  I don't want us throwing away a huge percentage of our fresh produce each week because it turned to slime.  I don't want us to spend sleepless nights worrying that a storm is going to cut the electricity and we're going to loose all the food in their freezers (or was that just me during Hurricane Sandy's downpours and winds?).

So...here I am.  Here WE are!  I'm just starting this journey and I will be sharing it with you.

But you don't have to take my word for it:

Yesterday, my first shipment of food arrived!  I was SO excited!

I didn't want to be interrupted, so I plopped Heidi into her high chair (with her coat still on!) and gave her a HOMEMADE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE.

Then I began to open cans and taste.

AFTER ONE BITE OF FREEZE DRIED BANANA SLICES, Heidi threw her cookie down and grabbed the can!  "More crackers pees" said my little 19-month-old.

TO SUM IT UP:  Heidi preferred eating pure banana (with ALL the same nutrition as fresh) over a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie.

If I've piqued your interest, please HOST A COOKING DEMONSTRATION/ TASTE TESTING.

Perhaps, like me, you need to sample something on your own first... might I suggest one of our favorite snacks (we like them freeze dried, but they re hydrate in minutes if you like them "fresh"):
 Freeze Dried Banana Slices!  (click on the picture to buy from my store)
Try the pantry size can for $11.39 (13 servings)

Freeze Dried Strawberry Slices! (click on the picture to buy from my store)
Try the pantry size can for $9.89 (14 servings)

*Host a party for deeper discounts and hundreds of dollars of free & 1/2 off product!  I am willing to travel within a 2-hour radius of Venango County, PA.  If you live farther, I can send you the materials to host a long-distance party :)


Happy Halloween

It is always fun to get out of my own skin and dress-up.  This year has been EPIC!

First, an adult-only Halloween Party!  Six of us dressed as characters from a hit novel/movie... can you guess what it is?

The cast of HUNGER GAMES, of course!  From Left: Cinna the designer , Citizen of District 1, Effie Trinket at the reaping, Peeta at camoflage painting training, Katniss at her last interview wearing her wedding dress of fire & Haymitch the drunk

From all of us to all of you... may the odds be ever in your favor!

And of course, Halloween takes on a whole new meaning as our wee ones begin to grasp the awesomeness of this sugar celebration!  For weeks we've practiced trick or treating and I'm proud/ashamed to say, that even Heidi can say "Kick o Keek"!

Here they are in all their glory:


Latency Period :: A Toddler Understands Death

This past summer, Hazel had many new experiences, many of them very difficult.  As you may know, her Grandpa ("Junko") was very ill with leukemia and away for 9 weeks.  Even now that he's home, he is very ill and she shows a great deal of thought and understanding at times.  She is EXCITED on the days when Junko is at a Doctor's appointment because then he'll be "ALL BETTER".  Yesterday I told her that Junko was back in the hospital (or in her words:  Hopkawitz) and she said, "Oh, then can I cough at their house".  I guess all my lectures on not sharing germs anywhere near Junko have sunk in.

One of the biggest and most confusing things for her has been the death of her Great Grandpa, my maternal Grandfather.  He lived next door to us and she visited him 3-5 times a week throughout her life.  Her most visible bond has been with her Great Grandma ("Gigi") and I wasn't sure how she would react to the loss of "Gate Granpa".

Throughout the summer, Hazel witnessed the changes in her GGpa.  She said nothing as she watched him switch to all feeding tube meals.  As his weakness grew, he still had the oomph to "tease" her by swatting at her legs with his cane or taping her head if she was within arm's reach.  He grinned mischievously each time we chastised him for these behaviors.  Not surprisingly, Hazel seemed to find him a little bit scary.

although what's scarier than a toddler with a tattoo (temporary, of course)

However, when he died, I knew I needed to address his absence in an open and honest way.  She attended the funeral and asked a lot of questions over the days surrounding his death ("did Great Grandpa take a comb with him?").  Her grief wasn't visible and I assumed we made it through that hurdle...

Until a month later when I was driving her to day care and she began to sing "I'll fly away.  I'll fly away.  I'll fly away".  And then she said "Ok mama, now I die and you sing."  Talk about a terrifying mama moment.  You see, I had sung "I'll Fly Away" at my Grandfather's funeral.  That was the one and only time she had heard that song.  Still, I figured it was best to go with it and so we each took turns being the one who was dead while the other one sang the refrain.

Another month passed and Hazel and her dad came across a huge dead tree in the woods.  Hazel thoughtfully asked "Do trees go to Heaven?".  Daddy said yes (because who would want to go to a treeless heaven?).  Hazel replied "Good because Great Grandpa likes trees!".


This week she and I had a long conversation in the car.  She told me that it's time for Great Grandpa to come back.  I began to explain that once someone is in Heaven, they stay in Heaven.  They live with God forever.  I told her that someday, a long long time from now, I will be in Heaven and then even later, she will be in Heaven.  She thought about that and asked, "Mama, what will happen to all the houses?  They will have no people."


So, we began to discuss future generations... and she remembered that someday she will have a baby in her belly and that baby can then live with Heidi (who is her baby sister and clearly, was going to be a baby forever).

I never expected to be helping my 3-year-old process death.  I never expected her memory to be so good.  I never expected her to take months and months to process hard concepts.  I don't give toddlers enough credit.


Thoreau-ly wonderful day

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, 
to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
Henry David Thoreau

It is so tempting to keep the nose to the grind stone.  To attack the never ending chores.  To let the kids stay indoors.  Without a scheduled invite, it seems monumental to carve out a chunk of time just for enjoyment.  Yesterday at 9:30am, Jake and I realized that we needed to jump in the car RIGHT NOW or else the day would pass between chores, meals, naps, crabbiness  etc.  We spent 3 hours hiking through the forest, finding hidden gems and enjoying time together.  As we packed our sleeping children back in the car, we couldn't help but congratulate ourselves.  Our kids got to explore, experience, learn names of trees and sounds of animals... no TV show or "educational" toy can compare!


Early Warning Signs of Future Rock Climbers

I'd like to say "don't try this at home", but as you will soon see... this is what is happening at MY home.  I fear/ anticipate/ excitedly await that this is JUST THE BEGINNING (in fact, I don't have pictures of what these 1.5 & 3 year old girls yesterday with a tree stand... and we're heading to the site of some of the best rock climbing on the east coast in a few short weeks.  Oh my... )

STEP 1:  Acclimate your children to heights at a very early age

Crater Lake vacation 025
2 month old Hazel camping at Crater Lake National Park

18 month old Heidi at Lake Arthur in Moraine State Park

STEP 2:  Buy the tiniest body harness you can find for your toddler 
3 year old Hazel's first "ascent" up to the balcony.  She is FEARLESS! 

STEP 3:  Improvise a baby harness 'cause your wee one insists on joining in on the fun!
18 month old Heidi LOVES to climb, dangle & defy.  She LOVED hovering over the ground (just a few feet, of course)

And that my friends is what you get when you choose to breed with Jake Kosker.  Can't say that I didn't have plenty of warning :)


mama advice :: a playful lesson learned

I knew I shouldn't do it, but I did it anyway...

I bought GENERIC playdough.

It was sticky.  It was weird.  It was not fun.

However, I had just bought this kids baking set from IKEA:

It is AWESOME!  Real materials, heavy, could actually be used in a real kitchen.  Totally Montessori.

So, I splurged on the REAL PLAYDOUGH.

Suddenly, Hazel is spending HUGE CHUNKS OF TIME baking, making cookies and cakes and becoming an expert roller.  Such a great creative activity, building fine motor skills, role playing, and simply playing independently.   Though I am always convinced that each age the girls are at is my FAVORITE age, I'm loving observing my brilliant, creative girl play by herself... and Heidi and I love being food critics and "sampling" countless gingerbread men!  (ok, sometimes it ends up in 1.5yo Heidi's mouth, but mostly she mimics my reaction and fake chews... she loves it when I declare the cookie "YUCKY"!)


not ONE perfect match

As my dad gains strength and chemo side effects have time to heal themselves (fingers crossed), my dad is preparing for the next leg of his AML (acute myeloid leukemia) journey.  A bone marrow transplant.

According to the unscientific data rolling around in my head (ie: sound bites of things I've learned these past few months that a scholarly writer should confirm before writing about), a person's siblings are their best hope for a perfect bone marrow match.  My father is fortunate because he has THREE siblings (crazy, rabbit-like grandparents I have).  Each sibling has about a 25% chance of being a bone marrow match.

After years of meaning to get to that, I also joined the bone marrow donor registry.  The odds of being a match with my dad are about 1:500 (err... remember, not scientific on this blog), but I hope and pray that I get that call someday!  I will RUN to the hospital, perhaps even snubbing the Anesthetist as I joyfully give my healthy bone marrow to a stranger.

Keeping slightly on the subject, I would like to personally thank all of the Pennsylvania tax payers for helping us out and keeping my babies insured over the past 2 years.  I'm THRILLED to announce that I now have a job that provides all of us with great health insurance.  Both the CHIP and the WIC programs helped this family by providing health care for the kids and food for the family.  As a middle class, hard working, educated woman, it's tempting to hide the fact that we accepted public assistance.  However, I want more people to see the faces of those accepting public assistance.  Perhaps I can shift some paradigms by being more vocal and transparent?

To recap:
  •  SIGN UP FOR THE BONE MARROW REGISTRY (I'm not even gonna say please, just DO IT!).  
  • Oh, and as for not ONE perfect match for my dad... NOPE, HE HAS TWO PERFECT MATCHES!  (as for the 4th sibling who is not a match with anyone... uhh... shall we blame the mailman?)


where I am

Hello friends,

I've been a tad busy and I can't wait to tell you all about it!

1.  My grandfather passed away in utter peace.  His timing was impeccable... right before the school year started, right when travel schedules allowed.  It was an emotional and exhausting 2 weeks as his final journey drew near.  However, he was 91 years old, all of his kids and most of his grandkids enjoyed spending time together, his wife was as prepared as could be hoped for.

1.5.  Two things happened which I will not share many details, but have been very important in my life.  However, in case you have similar circumstances in your life, I want you to know that I have this in my life and we could chat privately:
- A loved one entered rehab this summer and conquered alcoholism.  It amazes me every day how this person keeps a positive outlook and is determined to stay strong.  "Staying sober is much easier than staying drunk."
- A loved one who lives with bipolar disorder hit a major roadblock due to this illness.  It's heart wrenching and there is no magic wand.

2.  My dad came home!  Though it feels like he won his battle, the reality is that he won a break, a period of rest and rejuvenation.  The timing was impeccable...almost as if my Grandfather got to heaven and said "The compound is now done taking care of me and has enjoyed a long season of company. Now it's time to send John home".  Had he been discharged one day earlier, his home and property would have been filled with relatives. Though his strength grows every day, he certainly needed to come home to an empty & quiet house.  It's wonderful to have dad home...making Hazel his perfect dippy eggs and cracking semi-inappropriate jokes.

3.  I landed a dream job!  I've been referring to it as "the answer to a prayer I didn't know I was praying".  Moving home, to the town where I did my school counseling internship, was a great decision for many reasons.  In particular, because my colleagues remembered me and at least one of them threw my name out when it became clear that a 1/2 time elementary counseling position was available.  The Principal needed someone who would commit long-term and someone who loves this community.  I needed an income, health insurance, and to fall in love with my chosen career again.

5 years ago, I didn't see myself in an elementary setting.  I'm a different person now and I LOVE working in this setting.  Though I'm thankful for my past for bringing me to where I am... I'm so glad that I'm not babysitting for friends 9+ hours a day or working with older kids.  I fully appreciate my new job and new schedule... it even provides me regular time to write!

4.  My kids :)  We had lots of mini adventures this summer and perhaps I'll write about them down the road. Right now, Hazel's language is leaps and bounds stronger than it was just a few months ago.  She and I can have big discussions, she can still out logic me in any "debate" and she LOVES to sing (though she mostly makes up new songs).  She can even correctly identify (and use) a trebuchet!

Heidi... oh, Heidi.  She is fearless.  I fear she's destined for great heights.  *mental note:  start scaring her about the dangers of climbing Everest now*.  She climbs on top of things I never realized where climbable.  She's independent and graceful.  She's a complete CLOWN!

In an effort to actually include Heidi in the family pictures scattered throughout the house, we finally had new family pictures taken!  I've only been allowed a sneak peek, but I 'm quite tickled with our farmer- themed shots!


auf wiedersen

Today we celebrate the life of Walter Otto Krumich, my grandfather.  I am a lucky lucky woman.  You see, my grandfather lived next door to me.  I saw him every morning as we waited for the bus.  He attended every concert, graduation, etc.

My sister shared many memories here.

When I think about my Grandpa, I tend to think of him 10-30 years ago.  He was as strong as an ox.  I used to hope he would just break my arm once so that he would KNOW that he was playing too rough with me.

He was my biggest fan and musical critic.  I sat through many many concerts with him, peeking at his program to see just WHAT he could be taking notes on.

I love my Grandpa and miss him terribly, but I know he's enjoying the heavenly angels sing... and someone needs to record their key signature, tempo, and remind them to keep practicing!


To Alaska with Love

The highlight of our summer was a visit from my Marianne, Christoph & Annaliese (Annie).  Their visit was chock full of laughter, chores, swimming, time with my dad and giggling girls.

Annie got to enjoy the warm weather (she lives in Alaska).

No toddler cousin-time would be complete without bathtub play!
FYI:  that is Heidi's "I'm being silly" face

 After baths, Marianne had fun playing dress-up with Hazel's vast dress collection.  The girls twirled and giggled and twirled some more!

And OF COURSE, a coordinating cousins photo shoot.  (Yup, this IS the best shot...sigh)

The photo shoot consisted of a little of this:
"We bouncin' Mama!"

A LOT of this:
Why is it that my smiley, good-natured girl cries during EVERY photo shoot?  Remember THIS?

And a LOT MORE of this:

Don't believe me?

Hazel needed very little encouragement :)  Notice the mid-shoot bribe... YUM!

Cousins are so special.  I'm thankful for mine and so glad these three girls have each other!

And finally, my all-time favorite photo from their visit:


Campfire Cooking Series

Hi friends!  Though I've generally been MIA this summer, I do sometimes appear at www.woojr.com.  That's my "bread and butter" blogging site.  The site is in the midst of being overhauled, so most of my writing is patiently chilling in the queue, but I wanted to share this tasty gem :)



Last night, I lay awake thinking of my girls new skills/ humor/ depth.  I struck me that I haven't shared some of these milestones on my blog for awhile and since this blog is mostly my journal to them, it's time I update!

good ole BOX-O-PACKING-PEANUTS!  Good distraction, horrible to clean-up!
Hazel is 3 years old and blossoming!  Last weekend we went to Eli's 4th birthday party.  I was a little nervous because Hazel is used to being the "belle of the ball" and opening all the presents.  She handled everything brilliantly!  She listened to the nature lesson, she graciously gave Eli his present, she used her manners, she LOVED it!  That evening she and I went to our local parade.  I told her that if she waves at the floats, they might throw candy.  You've never seen a girl wave with such ferocity and determination.  The best part was watching her dance and copy the moves of all the dance groups that went past.

This week Hazel has decided to be the "babysitter".  She sings "Jesus Loves Me" to the babies when they cry, she teaches them how to play with her favorite puzzle, she follows them around (which I think is annoying Heidi) and she insists that I go away (SCORE).

My favorite Hazel moment occurred the other night while she and I were cuddling on the couch watching the Olympics.  I called her "my baby" which she adamantly DENIED.  I sweetly explained, "but, I grew you in my belly" to which she replied, "NO!  GOD grew me!".  Wow... speechless mother moment... I did not teach her that (Thanks Sunday School Teacher, Susie!).

As for Heidi, my oh my!  For fleeting moments of each day, I panic knowing that any day now, she will stop being a baby.  She still has the Goodyear Tire thighs, the chubby cheeks, the finger sucking, the snuggling, the nonverbal way of explicitly stating her demands, but soon... she will cease to be a baby.

I spend my days removing Heidi from every tall object in the house.  Why oh why did I breed with a rock climber?  It is unbelievable.  If a chair is not tight against the table, she is triumphantly on TOP of the table.  Yesterday while canning blueberry jelly and had  a counter full of boiling hot pans, she repeatedly climbed onto the counter!  No matter how low I made her tower platform, she was able to raise her foot ABOVE head height, hook it on the counter and pull herself up.  It was a very long, hot 20-minute boil.

The past few nights, she's been waking up around 3am and gently INSISTING that I cuddle her in my bed. It's uncanny.  However, I can't sleep with her in my bed, so once she falls asleep, I TRY to return her to her crib... she wins every time.  And she doesn't just want to spoon, she uses her monkey feet to grab my waist and pull it closer.  How can something so annoying be so delightful?

Both girls have been caught quietly "reading" to themselves.  They also like to put themselves in a room, close the door, and GIGGLE.  I need spy cameras to find out what's going on, but I love it!

Oh, there's still lots of tantrums (mostly over candy) and pushing and food on the floor, but it's still a very good life.


Pineapple Classic:: Leukemia Fundraiser

Hi friends!  As you know, my father is fighting Leukemia.  It's been a long, hard battle.  He is tired of being sick & tired of living in a hospital room.  Every time I'm there, I'm so THANKFUL for the amazing medical staff at the Cleveland Clinic and the medications that make a cure possible.

Anxious to do SOMETHING to help my dad, I am super excited about running in the Pineapple Classic 5k!  It's a silly Hawaiian themed race with obstacles... all to raise funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Please help me to POUR MONEY INTO THE RESEARCH!  In many ways, I feel like every dollar I earn, is THE dollar that will CURE MY DAD.

I'll be racing with 3 dear friends under the name:  TEAM JUNKO.  Perhaps he'll be well enough to cheer us across the finish line?

Please and thank you :)

Junko's daughter.

( I can also accept cash donations if you prefer.  Please send me an email at lazygreenmama@gmail.com to get my address.)


To Prove That I'm No Fool...

This post brought to you by Astrobrights Papers by Neenah Paper. All opinions are 100% mine.

For the past 3 years, I've been mostly a stay-at-home-mom.  I've worked a few part-time jobs, but for the bulk of the time, I've been home with my kids.  For the past year, I've supplemented our income by babysitting and it's been a huge blessing!  I was able to earn enough to cover our grocery bill and my kids had regular play dates.  

Any time a school counseling job was posted in the paper, my mom would show it to me and I'd hem and haw with guilt and insecurity.  I didn't want to work full-time, but I live in a small town and if I pass up an opportunity, it may be gone for good.  My most basic goal was to stay home to breastfeed my children.  Sure, lots of awesome moms breastfeed and pump while at work, but Jake and I planned our lives around our goal of me being home with our infants.

It's been wonderful, and hectic.  Finances are stretched beyond reason.  I worry about being out of the professional loop.  While I love babysitting, I've noticed that Heidi is often ignored while I tend to all the other kids (darn her good nature).  Life as a short-order cook and toy picker-upper can feel tedious.  

Enter SERENDIPITY.  I give full credit to God who holds the reins in my life and who I strive to listen to.  A few weeks ago, the Principal of our local elementary school called me out of the blue.  Their full-time school counselor retired and he is only able to replace her with a part-time position.  I had known that she was retiring, but was dreading the classified ad for her full-time position.  My ideal job in about 3 years, but I want to spend more time with my wee ones and keep working on my freelance writing.  The Principal was desperate to find someone local, who understands our community, who won't leave the position for a full-time offer, etc.  It's truly incredible that I was sitting a mere 3 miles away while he was stressing over the impossible.  Fortunately, I had interned at the school and still maintain a few friendships.  One friend, the HS counselor (a former Lutherlyn counselor!), reminded the Principal about me and he called to see if this stay-at-home-mama was wanting to work part-time (for FULL benefits!).

Have you put 2 and 2 together?  I was offered and JOYFULLY ACCEPTED a part-time elementary school counseling job.  I can't imagine a better place for me right now.  Our local school has such a great reputation!  That's right, I'm going BACK TO SCHOOL!

My head is swimming with elementary counseling activities, curriculums, small groups, etc.  I am a very visual person and LOVE making hand-outs.  Enter AstroBrights papers!  Their 23 bold, bright colors are the perfect canvas for my brilliant lessons!

For those of you who want to make sure that your local elementary school has the resources it needs to encourage creativity, go ahead an enter the "Give a Brighter Year" sweepstakes.  By simply "Liking" the sweepstakes on facebook, you could earn cash and school supplies valued at $30,000 for your favorite elementary school (and $500 for yourself!).

Once you finish that quick sweepstakes, you can join the "Make Something Bright" sweepstakes.  Each week through August, there is a different challenge and a different Visa gift card up for grabs.  This week, you just have to share an IDEA of what you could make with AstroBrights papers!

I'll be posting a few of my ideas on facebook... wanna compete with me :)

Visit Sponsor's Site


The Perfect Beach

Anyone local will probably reply with "well...DUH!", but Farmer Jake and I think we've stumbled upon a brilliant discovery:

Presque Isle State Park on Lake Erie in Erie, PA.

this is probably my all-time favorite picture of Heidi!

I'm one of "those" moms who is paranoid about sun exposure...and makes her toddler wear her flotation device anytime she's within 5 feet of the water!  It doesn't matter... according to Hazel, LIFE IS GOOD when you're at the beach!

Hot sandy beaches, warm water, gentle waves, and best of all... FRESH WATER (ie:  not salt water!).  Why anyone would drive to the east coast is now totally beyond me.  Years ago, Lake Erie was not a nice place.  It was polluted and stinky and gross.  Now, it is GLORIOUS!


If it seems like I've been away...

it's because, I'VE BEEN AWAY :)

I have so much blogging to catch-up on!  Overnights at Cook Forest, Lake Erie beach fun, Tost wedding, trips to Cleveland and best of all... an unplanned long visit with the Kasch family.

So, though I'm home, I don't have time to sift through photos and write witty recaps.  You see, there's a certain little girl visiting who really likes to give hugs:

That's right, hugging my pig-tailed Hazel is my niece, Annie!  We're having lots of fun playing...and hugging... and now I'm off to find some legal ground which will enable me to keep her ;)

One more photo for Junko:  who is at the lowest blood count he will ever have to deal with (probably) and is more than 1/2 way through his "stay" at the Cleveland Clinic!  The end is within reach, Dad!  Keep up the good work (water, walks, weary rest & WINNING)!
Hazel's backpack is loaded with 18 eggs... since she refuses to eat breakfast at her house.  Her Uncle Christoph, a trained chef, seems to make dippy eggs almost as good as her Junko...almost.


sweet and low :: light and shallow

Taking a break from the land of DEEP THOUGHTS (commence jokes), I live on a very strict budget.  I live gloriously within that budget, but  strict it is.  My wardrobe:  3 years old OR hand-me-downs from my fashionable Aunt.  My kids:  spoiled rotten by grandparents.  My house:  worth every imaginary penny, yet not quite practical (living on the same property as my parents and grandparents!).

So, I look for deals and though I don't coupon, I try to save money whenever possible.  Enter EBATES.

For anyone who already shops online, it is WAY worth a few minutes of your time to sign-up.  Shop at your favorite stores and earn a percentage back.  SO easy!  I just got my first check and was relieved that it's a seamless process:  Start on Ebates, choose the store, shop, check arrives in the mail.  No hoops or tricks to jump through!

Oh, and about that strict budget... sometimes I'm a bit impulsive and sometimes I buy things 'cause I really really want them.  So, I kinda sorta really need to earn a referral bonus and CYA (cover your "bum").  I need 9 more referrals (people who join through my link and spend at least $25).

So, IF you shop online anyway, how about it?

Spank you very much :)


culture shock :: cancer unit edition

My mom hit the nail on the head the other day when she described life post-diagnosis as CULTURE SHOCK.  One simple phone call and less than 24 hours later, you are thrust into a new, germ-free, sanitized planet.  On this planet, there is a new language, there is new food, there is terror, there is camaraderie, there is hope.

For the cancer patient (my dad), his culture shock is different and I am clueless about what his journey is like.  However, he is so tired, that I think/hope he spends most of his time in the land of dreams... punctuated by frequent disturbances and, you know, feeling sicker than a dog.

For the primary caregiver of a cancer patient (my mom) it's been a steep, mean & challenging learning curve.  Trying to wrap yourself around your emotions, trying to wrap your brain around a new language, trying to find your footing while sleeping in strange beds...  However, this week, week 3, it seems like my mom is shedding much of her culture shock.

She is making new friends (no one is surprised by that), she is praying, she is getting creative with how to fill her time between updates and chemo bags.  She is amazing...

Dad is on the finishing sprint of chemo, round 2.  His "BRING IT ON" mentality is strong, though his body is weak.

We each fall restlessly to sleep with numbers, percentages and imaginary cells floating in our dreams.  It's not a restful phase of life, but through it all, I'm finding such HOPE.  Such RESILIENCE.  Such COMPASSION.

Folks, we live in a very beautiful world filled with very BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE.

For example, take Allie.  She chose to conquer a bone marrow transplant despite being in remission.  When she walks the halls (more like sprints), it's like looking directly at a sunbeam.  Before she ever speaks, you will say "there is a Child of God".  I chatted with her and her husband for a few minutes before I had any clue which of them was the cancer patient and which of them elected to shave their head (it would have felt rude to follow the path of the IV tube).  Though we are the same age, I can say honestly that when I grow up, I want to be just like her:  faith personified, hope personified... and well, GORGEOUS!  Please read Allie's blog and join her in daily prayer.  No matter what, leukemia is NOT going to dim the light within that woman!

When dad was a new patient on the leukemia/bone marrow transplant floor, I felt like the family members who walked the halls looked hopelessly forlorn.  Tentatively meeting your gaze, but looking briskly away before your sorrow could land on their over-burdened shoulders.  I now see things in such a different light (though I'd bet a pretty penny that that's exactly how another young adult daughter felt the other day when I watched her walk the halls with her newly admitted father.  It was like looking into a mirror in which your eyes balance in a pool of tears that never spill.).

Yes, every story is heart breaking, but every story also holds so much HOPE, LOVE, and the PROMISE that the BEST IS YET TO COME!  Everyone on that floor lives in a constant awareness of the gift of life, the awesomeness of life.  I feel sure that all the world's problems would disappear if only everyone lived with that awareness and purpose.

Recently, a sober alcoholic who is near and dear to my heart, shared that he's the lucky one.  When he struggles with his disease, he mentally visits a cancer unit.  Like he said, "ANY of those people would be thrilled to hold the key to saving their own life!  Go to a meeting every evening and exhibit self-control.  DONE!"  Yes, the world would be a better place if we each spent time watching cancer patients fight for the chance to continue their earthly journey.

So, the oppressive sadness has lifted a tad, though I miss my non-sick father fiercely.  I want to laugh with him, explore the woods with him, learn from him.  Until then, I'll wade through this new culture in body and spirit.   I look with hope and excitement to the day when we can close the door to this exotic new culture and move forward with the awareness of what we learned.  I'll tell you one thing's for sure... this is one culture whom I won't look back on with nostalgia nor dream of walking it's streets again!


Rainbow Fish Cake (with SPRINKLES)

I think it's something about July birthdays... they aren't meant to be celebrated just once, but for a whole week... or MONTH!  (My sister, Happy Birthday TOMORROW!, is the MASTER of extending her birthday celebrations... I learned from da best.)

In that spirit, we celebrated Hazel's birthday a week early.  Last week she gave me two torn slips of papers. They were invitations, one for me and one for daddy, to go fishing for her birthday.  "Ah ha!", I thought,  "that is easily done and gets me off the hook for planning a big party with 'ALL my FRENNS' (friends)".  Also, for the past few MONTHS she's been planning her birthday cake:  "pink, purple, blue, orange... ALL DA COLORS and SPRINKLES!"

So, last Friday night, we packed the car for an overnight with my Aunt, Uncle & Cousin who have a cabin in Cooks Forest.  I'll share more pics another day.  There was swimming, kayaking, biking, marshmallows, dutch oven fiascos deliciousness, pancakes with SPRINKLES, wood fire oven PIZZAS, missing tent poles, giant catfish, fishing ponds, books &....


*puffing out chest*... WHAT DO YOU THINK?  I THINK I NAILED IT! *proud face*

Once again, I give all the credit to other awesomely creative folks who I found via Pinterest.  HERE was my inspiration for the rainbow cake and HERE was my inspiration for the fishing poles.

It was a little time consuming (because I only had one pan), but a lot of fun and DEFINITELY worth it!

Here's the nitty gritty.  (disclaimer: this isn't a cooking blog, so I'll just give an overview)

1.  Make the recipe on the back of the Pillsbury Softasilk Cake Flour box.
   *If I did it again, I'd make a double batch.  It'd be a really tall cake, but the layers would be thicker

2.  Divide the batter equally into 6 bowls.
3.  Color the rainbow using Betty Crocker Gel Food Coloring (play with your red, orange and purple  
     FOREVER until you decide to stop being a perfectionist)
4.  Bake each cake in a 9" pan (I used a spring form pan).  Grease and flour the pan each time!  Bake at  
     350 degrees for 10 min.  Set on cooling rack for 5 min.  Using a plastic or rubber knife, loosen from pan 
     and flip cake layer onto cooling rack.
5.  Let each layer cool for about 15 minutes (till cool to touch).  Then begin stacking with a layer of 
     strawberry jam in between.  Any filling will do, I just happened to have made my first batch of homemade   
     strawberry jam this week.  WHO AM I?

6.  I had to make this cake 2 days in advanced.  So, I decided to do a crumb coat to help seal in the    
     moisture.  It's basically just a watered down icing layer that glides on thinly and contains all your crumbs.  
     Mine ended up more like a glaze (a key lime glaze... 'cause I'm too fancy to have lemon juice.)

7.  Ice and cover with about 1/3- 1/2 cup of sprinkles!  Due to time constraints, I went with pre-made lemon    

8.  For the fishing poles, simply take bamboo skewers, wrap one end of thread around one end (wrap it at   
     least 5 times before knotting), wrap the other end around the head of a swedish fish, and ker-plunk your  
     stick into the cake!  I also tied a few gummy worms on for bait :)  YUM!

Everyone always says that you learn a lot about yourself through parenting.  It's true.  I never knew how much I would enjoy making special birthday cakes and decorations.  I have LOTS more rainbow fish plans for Hazel's birthday WEEK... stay tuned!

Until then, I'll be polishing off the rest of this edible masterpiece :)  (humility is not my strong point)