The Joys of Family Time

Posted: April 19, 2011 in Family

It has been awhile since our family loaded up the minivan and headed out for a trip.  This last weekend we got to go to Springfield Illinois to watch our youngest daughter compete with her team in the state Junior Bible Quiz (JBQ) tournament.

As we led up to Friday, the excitement was building in our house.  Not only were we going to stay in a hotel for TWO!!! nights, but it also had a pool!  With this knowledge in hand, my wife tackled packing for the family and 19 bags later (exaggeration) we were ready to load the van.  We planned on leaving around 4 p.m, the kids (except Kourtni) were in the car at 3:30 waiting to leave.  To say they were excited would be an understatement!

We got on the road at 4:00 and to my amazement, for the first time, we got away from the house without somebody forgetting something and having to make the return trip home to pick up said forgotten item.  As we started out, the kids wanted to watch a movie, so they got to enjoy Despicable Me.  I enjoyed some uninterrupted conversation time with my wife and a chance to view the scenery in Central Illinois as I have never driven south of Yorkville in the 12 years I have lived here.

We stopped for a nice dinner in Bloomington-Normal and was able to visit an old family favorite “Fazolis” restaurant.  mmmm breadsticks!!!!!  We got back on the road after about an hour and only had an hour left in our trip.

We arrived in Springfield and found the hotel.  We stayed at the Drury Inn in Springfield.  The hotel was dated, but the staff and the amenities were AWESOME! there was a mistake made in our room so we were upgraded (like the high rollers we are!) to a suite which we got to keep for the duration of our stay.  They also had FREE breakfast and dinner along with popcorn and (for those of you who know me well) a FREE FOUNTAIN DRINK MACHINE in the lobby!  I was as close to heaven as I was going to get until I actually get there.

We got up on Saturday, had some FREE breakfast and headed to the church for JBQ.  Sarah did an outstanding job, it was her first state meet and she scored lots of points for her team.  Kourtni was hanging with the boys all day watching movies in the hallway.  At one point she looked like the Pied Piper of children with all of them congregated around her and her computer, it was very cute and appreciated.  I was a timekeeper in one of the rooms and this allowed Emily to watch Sarah compete without being interrupted every 5 seconds by something the boys said or did.

At the conclusion of the event we headed back to the hotel for some much anticipated swimming, but after 2 days with no naps and the trip added in, the little people were exhausted so we decided to go have FREE dinner and watch a little Disney channel before bed.  While we were having dinner and visiting with friends, the boys had the opportunity to learn how to make popcorn in the movie style popcorn maker in the lobby with one of the staff members.  Now they have a marketable skill!

The next morning (Sunday) we decided to go to Lincoln’s house and take a tour, which was very interesting.  Then it was time to head home.  On the way home, while listening to a made up song by the boys that included Darth Vader, Obi Wan Kenobi and Father Abraham I was thinking about how this will be a memory that lasts a lifetime.

We didn’t spend a lot of money and we really didn’t do anything (other than JBQ) that was really memorable, but the time spent together will strengthen our bond as a family and I am thankful for that!  I look forward to many more trips with my family and the time to strengthen our bonds.


Kraft Mac & Cheese

Posted: March 30, 2011 in Family, Goofy Stuff, Kids

Tonight I was making some macaroni & cheese for the boys to enjoy for dinner.  As I was making it, I was wondering what I was going to make for me.  After all, I couldn’t be EXPECTED to eat mac & cheese.

While I was preparing this gourmet meal, I got to thinking about the days when mac & cheese for dinner was the best day ever!  Kinda the stage that the boys are in now.  I remember growing up that this is the only kind of mac my dad would eat, he refused to eat cheese unless it was in Kraft Mac & Cheese or is mozzarella on a pizza ( I couldn’t figure this out then and am still baffled by it!).

As these memories came flooding back it made me think of all of the other “traditions” that my family did while growing up.

Here are the top 5 meals that I remember eating with my family:

1.  Mac & Cheese dinner with dad (mom was usually there, but for some reason I relate this to my dad)

2.  The “Traditional, non traditional, Thanksgiving dinner” which consisted of anything but Turkey and the fixings!

3.  Domino’s Sausage, Pepperoni and Mushroom pizza on paper plates while watching a movie.

4.  Toasted bread with the cheap lunch meat, like Carl Buddig, but it was usually a store brand (or if you read the ingredients label on it “mechanically separated chicken” and other junk).

The last one isn’t really a meal, but it was a family outing that I loved.

5.  Ice cream at any of the local ice cream stores after a night of “cruising” in 0ne of the classic cars.

I wonder what my kids will remember when they get older?

I did end up having Mac & Cheese for dinner and realized that sometimes the simplicity of something is the true beauty of it!  Finding joy in the simple things just might be a key factor of life…


I wonder what my kids will carry as memories as they grow?

I was eating some tortilla chips the other day and thought to myself…self, you could make these, so I did.  I bought some corn tortillas from the store (a bargain at $0.31 per dozen) and cut them into sixths.   The first batch, I whipped up some lime/salt juice and ran the chips through there before baking.  They were pretty good, not nearly the golden color I was looking for.  So the next batch I brushed the chips with canola oil and ran them through the oven.  I lightly salted them prior to baking, and once they came out…delicious!  How did I know they were delicious?  My 8 year old and 4 year old boys ate the entire batch!

I also decided to make Nachos out of some of them to go with our enchiladas for dinner, I baked the chips like batch 2 and cranked the oven up to 400.  Once they were done and cooled, I put some cheese on top and returned them to the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese.  Once again, a homerun with the kids!

The pork enchiladas were kind of an afterthought.  I used pork loin (we buy at Sams and cut into individual pork chops) and braised them in some spices and chicken stock until they were fall apart delicious.  I then stuffed the tortilla shells, added some sauce I made a few months ago and froze, topped it with cheese and onions and baked at 350 for 30 min.  Not a favorite of the kids, but it was pretty good!

Star Wars and the boys

Posted: March 19, 2011 in Family, Goofy Stuff

About a month ago, I decided it was time for our 4 year old boys to be introduced to Star Wars.  We have slowly made our way through 5 movies.  We started with the original Star Wars “A New Hope”, then watched “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi”.

Last week we watched Episode 1, I started the movie with trepidation, because I was worried about the effect of Jar Jar Binks on the boys.  I didn’t want to ruin a good story with a bad character…much to my surprise, they hardly noticed him!  They were enamored with Anakin (probably because he was a boy close to their age) and didn’t stop asking questions throughout.

Tonight we watched “Episode 2″.  There were two memorable moments from this viewing, the first one was when Yoda was fighting Dooku.  Jack looked at me and yelled ” Yoda is the best “lifesaverer” ever!  (quick note: they call the light sabre a lightsaver, and use anything they can to “lightsaver” each other, straws, pencils, paper towel holders…).  The second most memorable moment was when Anakin and Padma got married.  Nick looked at Jack and said “That’s Luke’s mommy and daddy!”

I am so proud!

The force is strong in these two…

Updated Web Browser Change

Posted: March 16, 2011 in Technology

I’ve been using the Firefox browser for the last few days…not happy.  It does not perform the way I expected.  I have now downloaded Chrome and am going to try that.

So far, so good.  I hope I can find an acceptable browser that doesn’t take forever to load a page.

I know I don’t have the fastest internet connection, but the pages should load faster than they do.  I know my computer is in shape and that isn’t the issue.

I guess I should have listened to my tech guru in Denmark and followed his advice on using Chrome.  After all, he is an internet wizard and knows about things before they happen on the internet!


My MOM’s Courage

Posted: March 15, 2011 in Family

Sometime in our lives we all come up against something that takes all our courage to face.  This could be a disease, a challenging person, a moment in time or something else that might seem insurmountable.

My MOM has been facing many challenges over the last few months and my brother and I are doing all we can to be supportive, loving and perfect sons…just like she raised us!  All of these challenges will end bad with the exception of one.

The first two challenges I am speaking of concern death, unfortunately my MOM’s mother and her stepmother are suffering from medical afflictions that are incurable, the doctors can only prolong the inevitable for a short time.  Soon, the women that helped my Mom become the person she is, are not going to be with us anymore.

I couldn’t imagine my life without my Mom, and I know that it is very hard on her to have to deal with both “mothers” going through this phase of their lives.  Most people only have to deal with it once, maybe twice if there was a divorce in the family.  Most people don’t have to deal with two at the same time.

Unfortunately, my parents are also in the process of divorce.  So, as you can see, my MOM has so much courage to face these challenges head on.  While there are good days and days that might not be as good as others, she will get through this with our support.

In the words of Jesus, from Mark 6:50 – Don’t be afraid, Take COURAGE! I am here!

(disclaimer-I am not Jesus, nor claim to be, I just find this passage applicable to what she is going through)

I believe that when she finally makes it to the other side of this mountain, my MOM is going to strive and be stronger for having endured these challenges.  My MOM has always been there for me, even when I was challenging (which as it turns out, was most of the time!).

I will ALWAYS be there for her, I will  LOVE and support her and hopefully be a rock she can lean on during these troubling times.

My MOM is an inspiration to me…

The Love Birds

Posted: March 13, 2011 in Family, Friends

I used to live next to my in-laws, then they wised up and moved away!  Actually, it was an amazing time and I really enjoyed them living right next door.  Not to mention the kids thought it was pretty great too!  I’m pretty sure my wife was very happy also!

In their backyard, they had a pair of doves that would sit on the fence or the top of the shed and were there from early spring until they left for the winter and went wherever doves go.  These two birds were always together, if you saw one, you saw the other.  I was always fascinated by that, these two birds, who I’m told mate for life, were there on the fence watching the events surrounding them.  Kind of reminds me of a set of grandparents (older ones) sitting on the porch in their rockers watching the world go by and just enjoying each other.  The doves were there, rain or shine, whether we were having a good day or bad day, enjoying the sun and each others company.

About 3 years ago, my in-laws moved away for a short period of time.  I haven’t seen the doves in the neighbors backyard since.  I have often thought about them and wondered what happened to them, where did they go?  Now, don’t get me wrong, I know thinking about birds is kinda crazy, but I really enjoyed watching them.  I imagined that the larger one was the male and he appeared to always be doting on the smaller one, who I assumed was the female. (don’t worry, I’m not crazy enough to name them…yet)

This relationship is kinda how I perceive my in-laws relationship.  Through thick and thin they are there holding each other up, encouraging, doting and most of all loving each other.  From my perspective they are demonstrating true Christian love between each other and everyone they come in contact with…even me!  Even though, I know I can be hard to love.

I am trying to love my wife from this example, I have to be honest though, it is very hard.  Not because my wife has done anything to make me love her less, but because I am learning (very slowly) how to become unselfish and put others needs and wants ahead of my own.  I would like to say that I have this mastered, however, I had modeled a good portion of my life around somebody that did not behave this way and tends to hurt a lot of people because of this.  Not too long ago, I took the rose colored glasses off (or they were shattered with some bad news) and I took a good, long hard look at my behavior and how it mirrored what I don’t want to be.  I have begun to make some changes to the way I treat people, and am working on listening rather than talking (this is WAY harder than I expected).

I know that there are some relationships in my life that need to be repaired or enhanced because of the behaviors I have demonstrated in the past to the people that I love.  I think that I am fortunate to have a good example in my father-in-law to demonstrate true love and compassion. I just hope it is received as intended!

Oh, by the way, I spent the afternoon at my in-laws house and was looking out the door into the backyard.  On the fence I noticed a pair of doves, that I have never noticed before that looked suspiciously like our old neighbors love birds!

Do you think they can sense it too?