Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Past and Christmas Future ..... (also titled: It's a.....!!!)

The very first Christmas card we ever sent as a married couple featured a picture of Santa Claus covered in some unknown, brown, spotty substance. The inside of the card said something about remembering to add more fiber to the reindeer's diet next year. yeah. Guess who picked out that card, had to have it, LOVED it? And, well, being the diplomatic wife that I am (was?) I agreed. However, since that year (or maybe BECAUSE of that year), I have taken full charge of selecting and sending the holiday greetings! As the years continue, I find such joy looking back at the photos sent to say "Merry Christmas". Four short holiday seasons captured on film.

Yesterday we had the ultrasound. IT'S A BOY! How happy we ALL are. I just keep staring and staring at the photos of Christmas past and can't help but imagine what 2009's card will look like...a welcome addition of bouncing, excited boy, similar in age to the little guy in the first photo.
My first pregnancy was so new and exciting. And maybe that, coupled with the fact that I was busy, busy teaching, made it seem to fly by. My second pregnancy was tiring. Mostly because I had an 11 month old and was busy, busy with a church calling. This pregnancy is different. Although home life is fast paced, outside demands are slower. I find myself really THINKING about the miracle of being pregnant. I am cherishing this time a little more. And always in the back of my mind I wonder just how many more times I will experience this wonder that is pregnancy. David and I have never had "a number" in mind. It is always up for reevaluation after each babe! :) So here we are, surrounded by the number 4. Fourth Christmas with children. Four people in our little family, looking forward to the new one in only four short months.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

One of these faces is not like the others

I think that reality TV producers have missed an idea. The HOLIDAY PHOTO SHOOT. The concept is cleans up, attempts Christmas photo, disaster ensues. Typecasting wouldn't be an issue because family dynamics usually take care of that.
All I know is that last weekend, out of equal parts desperation and delusion, we grabbed our tripod and camera, set the timer, and hoped for the best. Once again, our Christmas card may deceive you, but 41/42 pictures taken involved 3 happy campers and 1 frowning, crying, or just up and left the picture, Lily. Bless her heart. Oh, there was the large dog off his leash that attacked the children and ran off with our bag as his owner screamed and chased him down, and there was the occasional hiker that showed up in the background of our pictures. The children had their own idea of what would make a good Christmas card, it involved climbing a large dirt hill and jumping off. There was ONE picture where Lily appears amused. (see below)
But it didn't make the final cut because during THIS photo, a strange lady walking by decided that we needed some help and came to "entertain" the children while the camera timer ticked away. Kids are laughing at the crazy lady, but mom and dad have a look on their face that reads a little more, "what the heck..."

fun times.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Advent Fun

Making the bird feeders was a HUGE hit.

This is the poor little tree (bush?) they inflicted their bird feeding enthusiasm on... I love how all the bird feeders found their home about 8 inches off the ground. so sweet. They check these feeders each time we walk by.

Play-Doh snowmen.
Created (left to right) by Zach (who informed me that "snowmen need feet too!"), me, and Lily (who enjoyed poking eyes, and mouth and buttons into her snowman)

Finally, David is really taking great pride in his job of "relocating" our Elf (named Essa, by the kids) each night. This morning we found Essa hanging from a dismantled smoke detector. Never a dull moment around here.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Laundry Day

Have I mentioned that there isn't a washer and dryer in these apartments? It's another one of those things we had to leave behind when we moved from KC. So far, each place we've stayed provided one. And really, it's a matter of laziness more than anything. Find something cheap on craigslist, use it for a couple months and then try to get rid of them again before we move at the end of Feb. urgh. I guess I haven't been inconvenienced enough to motivate myself into action.

Forgoing the comfort of our own home, we use the laundry facility on site. All we need are snacks, and my camera. The kids LOVE the sports feature where you can take something like 6.5 shots per second. So they jump off things, jump like frogs and run in straight lines, while I hold the shutter button. We took a ridiculous amount of pictures. And other than the two dudes that walked off the set of a rap video (and flashed some strange looks toward my "pregnant sprawled on the lawn to get the shot self") we were all alone. Or so we thought.
After each race, they demanded to see the photos on the viewfinder. They wanted to see themselves "run backward", "run forward", "do it fast", "make us run slow". And satisfied....they want to shoot a new set. Finally, when we were done, we headed back inside to check on the clothes. We heard a woman's voice, "Ma'am!?" (i know, I know, once you have two kids and are pregnant, you graduate to Ma'am, instead of Miss) I turned to look but didn't see anyone. She called again, and from the second floor balcony I saw a woman stand up from her chair.
"May I just say, that was precious. The whole thing. It was so sweet. You guys really made my day!" And then, I'm pretty sure she even clapped a little bit.
And I am pretty sure I said thanks, or something like it. And actually, what she said kind of made my day.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Holiday Traditions

We're mostly moved in, and feeling rather festive. Yesterday Dave went to the garage to get the box with the advent calendar and the kids went wild jumping on couches and yelling from the front door. I was so happy to see that they remembered this tradition. As soon as the calendar came out of the box, they spent the next 10 minutes taking all the lids off and putting them back on. You can bet this morning it was the first thing they asked about. I even found Lily sitting by the calendar, not daring to touch it, at 7am. Each day is stocked with a little treat and a fun holiday experience. This year it looks like this:
1. FHE: Buy gifts for our adopted family
2. Make Hot Chocolate
3. Make Play-Doh snowmen
4. Collect pine cones at the park
5. Make pine cone bird feeders
6. Go to Ward Christmas Party
7. Write letters to Santa
8. Christ's birth FHE packet
9. Have dinner by candlelight
10. Make paper snowflakes
11. Deliver Christmas goodies to friends
12. Take an eggnog break
13. Make/deliver holiday cards to retirement home
14. Take a moonlit walk to look at winter stars
15. Tell Nativity Story using velcro pictures
16. Bake cookies and give them away
17. Make breakfast for dinner
18. Dance party to Christmas music
19.Put on PJ's and take car to look at Christmas lights
20. Go HOME to Kansas City!
Another tradition that we are trying out this year is a book advent of sorts. I wrapped up our Christmas/Winter Holiday books, and because our collection isn't quite up to 20 books, we checked the rest out from the library. Each night before bedtime, they choose a book (mine are numbered because we have to get the library books back in time! :) to unwrap and read. I know they'll love this because a) they are unwrapping something and b) they love books. I'm super excited because there are some fabulous books I can't wait to share.

Last year David's grandparents sent us the Elf on the Shelf package. Cutest thing. It comes with a book (that rhymes the whole way through) explaining that Santa has sent an elf to the Painter household. This year we have to name our elf and welcome him to our home. There is even a place to write in the book what year your elf comes to you and what you decide to name him. The book explains that each day the elf will appear somewhere in the house (he's got bendable arms and legs so he can chill in the funniest from light fixtures and shower curtains) to watch over the kids and make sure they are on their best behavior. Each night he flys back to the North Pole to report to Santa the doings of the day. Then, each morning he finds a different spot in the house and the kids have a ball searching for him when they wake up. Fun stuff.
Like I said...feeling festive. Last year and this year we are traveling "home" for Christmas, so we don't have any Christmas Eve, or Christmas morning traditions yet. But even so, these activities make it feel special all month long. I think it will be fun to look back and see how we chose to celebrate, because I am sure as the years go by things will evolve. I am always inspired by family traditions, they have the ability to create the most magical and wonderful memories.

Friday, November 21, 2008

T minus 1

Moving. Tomorrow. Yuck.
I really have been meaning to record this part of our know, the technical part. But between friends that are here, friends on the phone, friends that are experiencing the SAME thing, and my dear, patient, ever ready to lend an ear family, I have told the story so many times I just can't find the energy to TYPE IT OUT. The short version (skipping the sad and painful parts) is this: the company Dave worked for was acquired. He works for the new people and his new office is an hour away from our current abode. This lease is up, we are moving closer. Moving for the third time in 1 1/2 years. New apartment is small. (interesting side note...we keep decreasing in square footage: House in KC=2200 Portland=1560 Houston#1=1300 Houston#2-1160 AHH!) New lease is only 3 months. Thank goodness.
I don't love the technical side of things. But where one door closes, new and exciting doors open. I truly hope and look forward to this spring which promises to bring changes I can get happy about. And in the meantime, I am packing boxes once more and dreaming about all the things I will cook for Thanksgiving, and how I will decorate my table. I am scrubbing down this apartment right now, but arranging the Christmas tree decor in my head and thinking about traveling home for the holidays. And when I get to that tiny apartment we will call home for 3 months, with its boring white appliances and checkered vinyl kitchen floor, I will be thinking about all the beautiful colors and surfaces I would choose for my own house.
Sometimes setbacks highlight all the things in which we have to be grateful. (or is it just Thanksgiving time?) Either way, I feel watched over. We're healthy. Our family is growing. I love my husband. Really, really love him. I feel secure in this financially crazy time. And I have pretty awesome friends, all over the country.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Comment to Remember

(My Dad posted this comment a couple days ago after reading my "Bitter and Sweet" entry. I wanted to publish read and remember. I'd never heard this story before, and I know my dad was generous in restricting his description of my emotions to "extremely". haha. I was a dramatic kid. The concept of eternal families is beautiful.)

I remember 23 years ago I was out in the yard when my very young impressionable little girl came crying to me EXTREMELY upset and hurt that a neighbor friend had taken her tricycle from her. I was anxious, feeling very inadequate, what do I do? How do I help my little girl understand? Then it happened, a wave of peace and clarity came over me. I explained that it was the right thing to do to let him play with her tricycle, that the little boy didn't understand and that Heavenly Father is looking at you right now and is you see? My little girl looked up and for what seemed an eternity stared up into the sky. I thought it was a cute little trick but what happened next I will never forget as long as I live. I was overcome with joy and felt as sacred an experience as I've ever had, as I watch my little girl watching Him, I knew I had witnessed....Tara, as parents our biggest fan, our constant support, our ever vigilant coach is our Heavenly Father. There is NOT a greater work to do for those who are blessed to do so than to raise his children. No one makes more mistakes than a parent, no one forgives more than a little child, and absolutely no one is given more divine assistance to succeed than a willing and patient parent.God bless you my little girl.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tag x 2

(I can't get over his "super hero" face...and by the way, he won't hardly TAKE a picture anymore without shooting his spiderman webs)
I LOVE reading tags...I'm just a bit slow in completing them myself
6 quirky things about me

1. The latch on the gas tank door of my car gets stuck (umm, every time). Its the kind that has to be popped open from a button inside the car, you can't open it manually. Sooooo, I have to stand on one leg and use my other toe to push the door while simultaneously reaching with my hand and pushing the button inside the drivers side door. Picture a low arabesque (everyone remember back to your ballet class). Except it's not so pretty at the gas station. Just weird.
2. I don't love air conditioning. Only when necessary for survival...I think it smells funny.
3. I take off ALL my jewelry when I'm home (including my wedding ring) only because I just don't like how it feels to be wearing it.

4. And maybe that's why I didn't get my ears pierced until I was 23. I wanted to wear cute earrings at my sister's wedding (my own wedding?...I guess not) that and maybe the 4th graders I was teaching told me they thought it was very strange that I didn't have my ears pierced. Sheesh, peer pressure.
5. My favorite job (before teaching of course) was also the worst job I had. Baker at Einstein Bros Bagels...summer before college. I ADORED baking all the bagels, muffins, bread and cookies...setting up the salad line, sandwich line and cream cheeses...brewing all the coffee. Ohh the smells... SO FUN. I love "setting up" and arranging all the food. I drank an almond steamer each morning. I HATED that I had to be there at 3 am...all by myself until 5:30 am when the manager would come in. So scary to be 18 and open a store in the middle of the night by yourself. I NEVER felt safe. Sometimes David would drive to the store in his little red pickup and sleep in the parking lot until the manager would show up. love that guy!

6. I love nightstands. Aesthetically: I cute that they get to hold lamps, clocks, candles, flowers and such! Practically: how awesome is it to plop your book down when you're tired, throw your pony tail holder on it or set a glass of water?

That was fun! Thanks Missy! I tag : Abbie, Christy, Erin, Lindsay and Margaret

Ok, Natalie came up with the Dinner tag...this concept I love! I mean, who doesn't love tried and true recipes from friends? 5 to be exact!

Homemade Granola

(Please imagine how AMAZING this smells baking at 8:30 am...let me tell you...not as good as EATING it at 9:00 am! By the way you can basically add or subtract any ingredients...what do YOU like in your granola)

Mix in bowl and set aside:
6 c. oatmeal

2 c. shredded coconut
1 c. powdered milk
1/2 c. nuts (I like almonds, pecans, walnuts)
1/2 tsp. salt
**1 c. Rice Krispies
**1 c. raisins
**flax seed

Mix well...and pour over ingredients:
1 c. honey

1 c. oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract

Bake (a little at a time...I do two batches) on a cookie sheet (with sides) at 350. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
** add chocolate chips, peanut butter chips after granola is out of oven, but still warm
(**ingredients are optional...but not for me! :)

Sassy Black Bean Soup

(EASY, ECONOMICAL, DUMP and HEAT recipe shared by my momma)

1 TB olive oil

1 c chopped onion
2 garlic cloves minced
2 cans black beans, drained
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can chicken broth
1/2 c. salsa verde (original recipe calls for picante sauce...use the me)
1/4 c. water
1 tsp ground cumin
2 TB lime juice

Heat oil, add onion and garlic...saute for 5 minutes. Stir in beans and next 5 ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in lime juice.

(garnish with, you know...whatever...I like sour cream)

Grilled Open-face ham, brie, and arugula sandwiches

(SHUT UP these are so good...the bitter arugula dressed with tangy lemon combined with sweet brie and ham on warm toasted mouth is watering) Oh yeah, the recipe calls for grilling the bread, which would be divine, but we had to give up our grill in the move and I've tried these "grilled" on the nicely too. eat them. eat them. (oh yeah, it makes 20 halve the recipe...but who am I kidding, sometimes, I don't)

1/4 c. olive oil, plus more for grilling bread

Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
20 slices (1/2 to 3/4 in. thick) ciabatta (1 loaf)
1 lb brie cheese, cut into 1/4 by 2 in. slices
3/4 lb ham, thinly sliced
About 1/2 lb arugula, washed and spun dry

1. Put 1/4 c olive oil, the lemon juice and zest, garlic, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste in a blender and pulse to combine.

2. Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium heat. Brush oil on both sides of bread and put on grill; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill 2 minutes. Turn over, top with cheese, close lid, and grill until cheese melts, 1-2 minutes.

3. Top cheese evenly with ham. In a large bowl, toss arugula with vinaigrette and arrange a handful on each sandwich. Drizzle remaining vinaigrette over sandwiches.

Halibut in Parchment

(an oh-so-good Martha recipe...I use all kinds of white fish in this recipe, tilapia..whatever is on sale honestly)

Serves 2
1 large russet potato, scrubbed and sliced 1/8 in. thick

1 clove garlic, finely chopped ( I use 2)
2 oz baby spinach, well washed (I use more)
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
Two 6-ounce halibut fillets, about 1 1/2 inches thick
Course salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using two 12 by 17-inch sheets of parchment paper, fold each sheet in half crosswise.

2. Place 1 sheet of parchment flat on a work surface. Place half of the potatoes, garlic, spinach, shallots and 4 lemon slices on once side of crease; season with salt and pepper. Place halibut on top of lemon slices, and season with salt and pepper. Fold parchment over ingredients. Make small overlapping folds along the edge to seal.

3. Place packets on a baking sheet. Bake until packets have puffed, and fish is cooked through, about 18 minutes. Transfer packets to individual plates. Serve immediately, opening packets at the table. Garnish with any remaining lemon slices.
Pumpkin Pecan Pie Squares
(and finally, because it's November, and because I made these last night and could take a picture, and because I love them)
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. old-fashioned oats
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 can (15 oz) Pumpkin
1 can (12 fl. oz) evaporated milk
2 large eggs
2 1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/4 c. brown sugar
Whipped Cream (please...the real stuff...ummm)
PREHEAT oven to 350
COMBINE flour, oats, brown sugar and butter in small bowl. Beat at low speed until crumbly. Press on bottom of ungreased 13x9 inch baking pan.
BAKE 15 minutes.
COMBINE granulated sugar, pumpkin, milk, eggs, and pie spice in large mixer bowl. Beat at medium speed 1 to 2 minutes; pour over crust.
BAKE 20 minutes. Combine pecans and brown sugar in small bowl. Sprinkle pecan topping over filling. Continue baking 15 to 25 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan. Top with whipped cream.

Thanks Natalie! (I hope a couple of these count as gluten-free!)

I wish EVERYONE would play along with this tag! (please) but whenever you say "everyone or anyone"...that translates to no one. So I'm gonna single you out! :)

I tag Brittany, Isaura, Katherine (both of you), Nicole, Sarah, Lisa, Alissa....seriously...I want you all to play!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Houston Halloween: eating chili in 80 degree weather

No one needed to tell my kids how to trick or treat this year. They were pros. Lily was so thrilled with the big orange Tootsie Roll Pop she received at the first house, that at each subsequent stop she would stand on the doorstep, rummage through her bag to find it and hold it up while pronouncing, "TA-DA!" I think it got her extra candy. Although Zach was a little tired (and therefore cranky) the night of Halloween, it still made an impression. Yesterday, while I was tucking him into bed he asked, "Mom, when can we go trick or treating again?" and when I told him we'd have to wait until next year, he looked a little contemplative and said, "Yeah, I guess so, but it is a great great day!"

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fall Festival

I brought my camera, just left the memory card at home. shoot. I was especially sad when I found out Dave was going to be in the pie eating contest. double shoot. But alas, cameras abound these days, and one sweet girl lent hers (in photo) and another family emailed these great shots. Honestly, the best part of the contest was watching Zach's face. He was SO EXCITED, he'd never seen Dad do something so silly. Seriously, how great is childhood? Zach had never heard of/imagined such a thing as a pie eating contest...and to watch your Dad participate? Well, it was obviously memorable! All Miss Lily wanted to do was lick the whipped cream!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Zoo Boo

We headed out to the Zoo Boo this weekend, Spiderman and Fairy in tow.
Zach was pretty excited to see all the other kids dressed up, but at one point, (I think he had seen one too many spidermen) he said in an exasperated tone, "Mom, WHY are there SO MANY superheros here?!"
Zach's old friend, Mr. Comodo.

Funniest part of the day: We waited in a little line so they could have their turn in the eagle's nest. Finally as Dave lifted them up to get inside, Zach turned to him, "Dad, are these eggs going to hatch while we're in here?"

Admittedly, this zoo trip was less about animals and more about finding the next trick or treat station to fill their candy bags. I think they are prepped for the big night!

Thursday, October 16, 2008


1. After Lily's birthday party, I threw away ALL the cupcakes...looking at them made me gag.
2. Yesterday I received a Deseret Book Catalogue, while reading pithy descriptions of their Christmas books/videos/cds for sale....I cried.
3. I've taken a nap almost everyday for the past few months. I get in bed around 9:30...and I am still tired.
4. Comments on the blog and phone calls from family telling me I've made them cry while reading my posts lately...attributed to my highly emotional state no doubt.
5. Unusual items showing up in my grocery cart.

All evidence pointing to the fact that I am 12 weeks pregnant today. yeah! I'm excited (and overwhelmed...but that's another post). I was able to have an ultrasound at my first appointment. With Zach and Lily, I had to wait until I was 20 weeks. So it was new and so beautiful to me to be able to see little bitty baby #3. I cried of course. And he/she moved his/her hands and legs while we were taking a peek. loved it. i've got a little picture on my fridge now. makes everything so very official. One of the BEST things about this pregnancy is that my sister Laura and I have THE SAME DUE DATE. MY SISTER!!!... I feel so fortunate to share this day with her. Its been fun to call each other and commiserate over how crappy we feel. My body is tired, my hormones are raging, but my heart is full. Life is good. Our little family is growing.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Day at the Oil Ranch

Where everyone can take a turn milking Daisy the cow.
Lily preferred just petting her, and Zach said it looked "too squishy to touch", he said he would let me! haha. So I showed them how its done, I think they were impressed. But then Zach wanted me to milk the horses.......ahhh, city kids.
We rode a train,
and peeked in on the barn animals.
They actually started out really brave, "come on Lily, let's go pet them"
Lily...wait a second, they're looking at us!
abort, abort!
We also took a hayride out to the field to feed the cows. WOW. That was an experience. They gave the kids pellets to feed the cows before we left, but as soon as our wagon rolled into the pasture, the cows knew what was up. They stuck their heads into the wagon trying to get to the food (ummm, we were sitting on hay bales). Imagine a wagon full of about 30 kids screaming and chucking pellets to the cows. We got slimed by hungry cow noses, but after a few minutes of panic...the kids realized that cows don't bite and had fun watching them eat our seats. No really, I didn't even have a hay bale to sit on after the cows got to it.

I think Zach and Lily were starting to get the hang of farm life after that, so they decided it was time to ride the ponies. They were pretty proud of themselves!

And of course, we grabbed a pumpkin on our way out.
It was such a great little day with our ward playgroup. My favorite part was probably the drive out to the the ranch. After we got off the highway, the country roads were soothingly familiar to me. One thing I really miss about my old home is how I lived so close to "civilization" with every conceivable store within 5-10 minutes, but I also enjoyed the idyllic scenery of rolling hills and pastures and farms. I didn't realize how much I need both. I rolled down our windows, turned off the air conditioner and turned up the "classic country" station. It felt good.