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GIVE LIFE -BLOOD DONATION

this past week i’ve had that nagging feeling i needed to donate blood. you are able to donate every 8 weeks and right when i hit my eight week mark i start getting the calls. asking me if i can donate again. then the emails. i had three emails in my inbox in the last week alone all with donation spots close to my home. somehow the days flew by and i hadn’t made it to donate. last night was another chance to donate. i had promised henri a date night and by the time we got home it was 7:40 and i had forgotten all about it. i sat down and checked my email, there it was in my in box. united blood services taking donations at my church building until 8pm. i grabbed ava and said lets go.

ava has never gone with me to donate blood. she knows i do it. she is scared to death of shots and needles. i have to admit i was the same way when i was little and up until i had my first baby i would freak out at the sight of a needle. i didn’t sign up ahead of time so it took a little longer than normal. we had to go through all the questions. they were so kind to her down there. she got to eat as many snacks as she wanted and they talked to her about the importance of donating blood. the phlebotomist explained that every bag we donate saves 3 lives, that they separate the blood into platelets + plasma + blood. each are used for different traumas. she also said they need 700 donations a day to keep up their supply and get nowhere near that. so they are always in a deficit.

ava was so loving. she held my hand and rubbed my arm (the one that wasn’t having blood taken) it was sweet to see her being the brave one. telling me it was ok. usually i’m consoling her at the doctors office. i could tell she was nervous for me and she didn’t want me to feel nervous. i assured her i was fine and i am happy to donate blood. my veins are huge and i fill a bag quick. i don’t have side effects. i’m ready to go the minute i’m done. how can i not donate. there was a young boy donating next to me. maybe 17 or 18. i wanted to hug him. i wanted to tell him how awesome he is. donating blood out of the goodness of his heart on a tuesday night on his summer vacation. he could be out with friends, at a movie. but he chose to be here doing this. his mom must be proud.

jack had two blood transfusions when he was in the hospital. one the night before we found out he had TAPVR. i remember the nurse waking me up in the middle of the night and saying they would have to transfuse him. i was so out of it. it felt like the first time i had sleep in 5 days. i said ok and dozed right back off. she woke me up again and said i need you to sign for the blood transfusion. shocked i said “BLOOD TRANFUSION???” what?! no!! i said i guess i didn’t understand what you were saying. they did so many tests and X-rays. it was all blurring together. i thought it was just another test. she brought the doctor in and he explained jacks body was shutting down. he was no longer making new blood. i was raised jehovahs witness. (i no longer am) we were not allowed to be given another persons blood. i remember every field trip permission slip my mom would write -do not give blood for any reason. all over it, in capital letters and underlined. it was ingrained in me that we don’t take anyones blood. for anything. so being faced with this decision was very difficult. ivan and i talked about it. the doctor explained this was his only option. i cried. he was given his first transfusion. a tiny bag of donors blood. i called my sister the next day. i told her how i was worried about telling my mom. she is no longer jehovahs witness either. we’ve never talked in depth about it but i know she would have done the same thing. when faced with the decision, you do whats best for your baby. he was given his second transfusion during open heart surgery. i am forever grateful to those donors that saved jacks life. i often think about who they are. i look around when i’m donating and think it could have been one of these people. i wonder whose life i’m saving. a baby like mine. someone with cancer, a mother a father.

life is precious. life in unpredictable. you never know if that could be you or one of you family members in need of a transfusion. having that blood available is so important. i hope to encourage anyone who is able to give to do so. it is one of the greatest gifts you can give. if not the greatest. to save a life is invaluable. its quick, virtually painless and usually very convenient. united blood services  set up all over the valley. get on their email list and they will let you know when they are in your area. thank you to all that donate. you are a hero. you have touched my life and saved jacks.

Go here to donate https://www.bloodhero.com

 

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STRAWBERRY SPINACH SALAD

ava has really taken an interest in cooking. she especially loves it when i let her make a recipe all by herself. she recently learned how to use the stove and is very cautious. we have gas so i explained to her that she has to keep her hair + clothes away from the open flame. i’m so proud of the young lady she is becoming. my mom did such a good job of teaching us how to cook + clean. if you read this post then you know we started at a young age. i feel i would be doing ava a disservice if i didn’t teach her all the things i want her to know before i send her off into the real world. she doesn’t have near the amount of chores i did but she is starting to cook, clean and sew. she helps me out so much and i enjoy these teachable moments. hands on is the best way for her to learn. so the other day when she asked me if she could make something i new this salad would be perfect for her. its easy and really delicious.

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strawberry spinach salad

1 bag spinach

1/2 pint strawberries, sliced

1/8 red onion, sliced thin

1/2 c. sliced almonds

1 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. sugar

put spinach, sliced strawberries and onion in a bowl. in a sauce pan on low-med heat cook almonds + butter + sugar until almonds are browned, careful not to burn them. when they are browned pour them onto wax paper to cool. once cooled break almonds into pieces and add to salad. feta would be great on here too. add dressing right before serving.

dressing

1/4 c. vegetable oil

1/2 c. red wine vinegar

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

this dressing is great for all different salads. this recipe makes a lot and it stores well in the pantry. i like to keep it on hand and use it in place of tradition ranch or italian.

 

 

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GAINEY RANCH

my sister is in town from california and they are staying at the hyatt in gainey ranch. we’ve stayed there a bunch of times and love the pool especially for little ones. they have an adult and kiddie pool so if you don’t bring your kids you don’t have to be surrounded by everyone else’s. the kid pool has a beach entry, so perfect for jack. he kept calling it the beach. they also have a toy box of sand toys. so perfect! they have a splash pad in the center of the pool that shoots up water and the kids loved jumping off it. elle has been able to swim since she was 18 months old. we did isr swim classes with her and our older two. it really is amazing what they can do when they are that little in a 6 week class. every year she starts out rusty and then within the first week of swimming she’s back at it like a fish. the weather was amazing, overcast but warm. arizona is really doing it right. normally we are sweating right now and can’t keep cool for anything. this year its a whole other story. i like it.

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ava and henri really are the best of friends. they always stick together. elle sometimes joins in but i know those two will always be with each other. they have a swirly slide that the kids went on a million times. elle was finally big enough and she thought it was so great. i think she went on it the most. i love seeing her be so brave and getting so excited realizing something she thought was scary is actually really fun.

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the beach entry was perfect for jack. sometimes baja steps can be slippery for him and before i know it he’s got water in his face and is so mad. a beach with no waves is right up his alley. i love this picture of ava catching elle as she jumps off the side. i love that my girls have each other. everyone needs a sister.

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jack and my niece amelie play so well together. they sat in that toy box playing with the sand toys for a good 30 minutes. kind of nice to keep them confined.

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theres nothing easier or better than ordering lunch by the pool. the kids thought the food was fantastic. they ate every last bite and wanted more. the lounge chairs were great, they sat right on the beach and made it so comfortable for us to sit and watch the kids while hiding under the shade. the older i get the less i want to be in the sun. we had so much fun with our cousins today and i loved getting to hang out with my sisters. all these fun days are making it so hard to leave.

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CLEANING HOUSE

i am currently looking for a place in seattle. the prices are skyrocketing and the houses are teeny tiny. its kind of funny, living in the suburbs like we do right now and all that goes with it. everyone wants a huge house with a big backyard and a pool. an oversized suv. a bedroom for each kid so they don’t have to share. a playroom. an office. a movie room. it all makes me laugh. the rest of the world doesn’t live like this. the me just over a year ago thought i need the same thing. until i moved into 1819 sq feet with 4 kids a husband 1 dog and 6 chickens. yes i do have an amazing 1+ acre backyard and that makes up for a lot. but really i could never see myself living in a 3500+ sq foot house ever again. my sister sent me a picture of a pillow and i can’t remember exactly what it said but something to the effect of we don’t mind our small house we actually like being in the same room as each other. made me laugh so hard. she also lives in a small space in california and loves it. i think we all dream of having a little more room for that craft space or bigger laundry room. i’ve come to realize i don’t need all that extra “stuff”. you know the stuff that sits around and never gets used. the “nice” stuff and the “everyday” stuff. i caught myself not using the serving dishes i really love and saving them for special occasions that happened twice a year. what a waste! when we moved from our last house we lost almost 600 sq ft but gained a lot more yard which meant a lot less time cleaning and a lot more time playing with the kids outside. a lot more picnics under the eucalyptus trees. i got rid off all the junk we didn’t need, the toys that didn’t get played with. the clothes that didn’t get worn. the ugly dishes. anything i didn’t love or use everyday went. i can’t tell you what a burden that extra stuff puts on your life. it feels amazing for everything to have a spot. no junk drawers. no closets full of clutter. if it doesn’t bring us happiness it doesn’t stay. that also means i don’t just buy to buy. i weigh my decisions. do i need it? if not, it doesn’t come home with me. this will save you a lot of money and even more regret and waste.  here are a few tips that helped me break free of all the clutter.

– evaluate what you have. do you need it? do you love it? start by getting rid of anything broken or that has missing pieces. next if you haven’t used it in a year it goes. if this is hard for you, box it up put it in the garage. if you don’t open that box in a year take it straight to the goodwill. no need to even open it again, you already know you don’t use it.

– i stopped reading websites/blogs that tell me i need to buy. consumerism gets the best of all of us. everywhere i turn i’m being told how great the newest hair, shoes, clothes, cleaning products are. how they will change my life only to be told a month later how great the latest product is and how mine is now junk. they are paid to tell you that. they received that product for free and are paid to promote it. which is fine but im not taking it as their real opinion. i’ve fallen into this in the past and i end up with 10 different kids of hair smoothing serum, non were great. i however do love an honest favorites list. somethings work better than others and i like getting my moneys worth.

– realize whats important to you and work on that first. is it having a playroom? then maybe having two kids share a room is worth the trade off. we don’t need huge homes we need our current home being used in the most functional way possible. our home is three bedrooms + a large playroom. our kids share a bedroom and they love it. it keeps them close and keeps the toys out of their bedroom.

-everything has a spot. if you don’t have a spot for something you either need to get rid of it or get rid of something else to make room. when toys are arranged nicely on a shelf they are more likely to get played with. this makes cleaning up easier. i like to keep crayons/markers + craft supplies in nice jars or containers. i do the same with my pantry. oxo makes great airtight stackable containers. this keeps things neat a tidy.

– keep up on decluttering. this is a weekly/monthly chore. weekly, get rid of extra school papers + mail + trinkets from birthday party’s or mcdolands toys. monthly, go through closets + drawers and anywhere clutter is starting to pile up.

im not a minimalist in the sense of having 20 items of clothes and 1 blanket on my bed. i do keep “things” to a minimum to make room for memories. i spent a lot of my childhood cleaning. i remember most saturdays not getting to go play because we had to clean. it was bizarre as a child, i remember a friends sister saying “yeah right! you always say you have to clean. you guys are not cleaning that much.” we were. my mom has too much stuff. she holds onto stuff instead of memories. she still does and every time i talk to her she tells me how overwhelmed she is. how messy her house is and how she has to spend her weekends cleaning. no amount of cleaning will help with the clutter. get rid of things. enjoy your life and have fun with your family. you don’t want your kids to say all we did my whole childhood was clean!

 

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MOVING ON

i’ve been debating on the timing of writing this for a while now. thinking of where to even begin. so i’ll start all the way back. we always talk about moving to another state. i mean always. i’m more of a fantasizer and ivan’s more of a realist. every vacation we take i’m weighing whether we could live there or not. doesn’t matter where it is. i start picking out my favorite neighborhood and how i could walk to the store and look how cute that school is. i just really enjoy day dreaming and ivan likes to bring me back down to earth. he always jokes that if i married someone like myself we’d be homeless. he’s my voice of reason.  right before we bought the farm i told him this is our chance to move if we want to take it. we could buy the farm or we could move out of state. he pushed for buying the farm and i resigned to living in az forever and truth be told i was happy with that.

 

a few months back after the longest hardest winter henri has had with his asthma, ivan said to me we have to move. now i’m thinking he’s joking. i’ve said lets move a million and one times and he always reigns me in and goes over all the reasons we can’t. so i said really??? he said yes, he went over how he couldn’t forgive himself if henri had life long asthma and he could have somehow prevented it. herni’s asthma has been no joke this year. he’s been on more antibiotic + steroids + nasal sprays + saline solutions + allergy pills + inhalers + essential oils + vapor rubs + cough drops (did i forget anything???) than you can imagine. none of them have worked. we try every preventative medicine we can to keep it from turning into an antibiotic + steroid situation but we still keep going there. within a week of getting off the antibiotics + steroids he starts coughing again which then turns into fevers and a rattling chest. the coughing is a enough to make you mad. its all day and allll night. no one sleeps. his allergy dr. said to me right now this is childhood asthma and he can grow out of it but if he keeps having this many episodes it will be life long.

 

a little bit about henri’s asthma- its triggered by allergies and sickness. he also has cough variant asthma so its a constant cough. its been so bad he couldn’t even talk, he would start coughing even trying to get words out. he gets fevers from it. he feels down and out. he can’t play grass sports. he can’t play on a slip and slide or in wet grass. he can’t be outside when the weather does its random spikes + drops or windy days or those health advisory days. he can’t be around a camp fire. he can’t go outside if anyone on the whole street is mowing. its exhausting and sometime i let my guard down and let him play in the irrigation and then boy do we pay for it. his asthma affects every aspect of his life and ours too. its difficult to watch your baby suffer constantly. i’ve gone back and forth with his allergy dr. and we’ve both come to the agreement this is a bad place for henri to live. az used to be the best place for asthma suffers. back when it was a dessert. then everyone decided to bring their nice pretty flowers and plants and this dry air just blows the pollen all around. that combined with the over population and topography of this valley. its a disaster for asthma + allergy suffers. we bloom year round. if magically we get a freeze and everything dies we are still dealing with sicknesses which triggers his asthma.

 

we had been going back and forth with the idea of moving when one night we ran into some friends at our favorite sushi joint.  they said they wanted to bring their brother over to see our house. they were looking for something just like our house. we looked at each other and i said do they want our house? they didn’t end up buying our house but that set the whole thing in motion. we listed it and got a buyer right away. we love the family buying the house which makes it so much easier. they love everything about the house and are even buying our furniture!! i have to admit i did cry my eyes out when they sent in the offer. this was supposed to be the house i raised my kids in. but having an awesome family who can appreciate all the love and handwork we put into this place makes it easier. that and all the coughing. i know this is whats right for our family. i know i can’t continue to keep medicating henri with no relief from his symptoms. he is allergic to every tree on our property + the animals around us + the grass. we’ve made great memories here. i loved remodeling this house. i’d do it again in a heartbeat. i’m also excited for this next chapter.

 

so whats next?? i get asked this daily. well we don’t really know. how fun is that? i’ve let myself get wrapped up in the nonsense i get for moving the kids. after talking with a friend who travels/moves a lot with kids it made me realize we are all just doing the best we can and what works for one family doesn’t work for another. this works for us. my kids are happy + well adjusted. they love traveling. they love adventure. they have an amazing relationship with each other and with us. henri’s health is what is most important to all of us. we are trying to decide our next step. we want a vacation or fun adventure before we settle into our new life. do we travel up the coast, go to our favorite cities along the way and end up seattle? do we go the opposite direction and head towards the east coast then up to boston and back west? (thats a lot of car time) do we just go to hawaii? for a week or a month?? maybe for good. (my hang up with hawaii is the lack of good healthcare and schooling. i need a good pediatric cardiologist) we need to be on the water. humidity is so good for henri. north carolina? boston? oregon or seattle?? we are lucky enough to be able to pick any city and go. so for now we wait for this house to close and then we are off. any ideas, thoughts or advice is welcome. where would you go? we want an adventure but need to be near a city (doctors for both jack and henri) the ocean or water for the humidity and a great community for families.

i figure this is a once in a lifetime chance. we won’t have much for belongings. we are sort of free of any baggage. i live for this kind of freedom. i can’t wait for henri to be able to breathe without inhalers + medicine. i love a good adventure and can’t wait to start this one. stay tuned!

 

lots of good memories made in this house

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BLUEBERRY CRUMB CAKE

i woke up this morning with jack while everyone else slept in. i really love that quiet time in the morning when its just the two of us or even better yet if i’m the only one up and can have a peaceful moment to prepare myself for the day. luckily its sunday, we don’t have church until 12:30 so we can all be a little lazy. i decided to make a blueberry crumble with the berries i needed to use up in the fridge. i sort of threw this together and it turned out really good.

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blueberry crumb cake

3/4 c. white sugar

1/4 c. butter, softened

1 tsp. vanilla

2 c. flour

1/2 c. milk

 

cream together sugar + butter + egg + vanilla in a mixer

in a separate bowl combine flour + baking powder + salt

alternate pouring dry ingredients and milk into mixer

stir in blueberries by hand

 

crumb topping

combine with a fork

1/4 c. butter, softened

bake in a 9×9 pan on 375 for 30 minutes or until done

(i doubled the topping because you can never have too much topping)

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WEEKENDS ON THE FARM

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these sunflowers sprouted up in the yard.  such a bright yellow, i love the color in the yard.

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this swing is the best investment we’ve ever made.

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the chickens are back to laying eggs. did you know they don’t lay during the winter unless you put a light in their coop?  they need a certain amount of daylight to lay.  we gave them the winter off.  we sure are happy they’re back in business.

 

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i finally convinced ivan to take me to lunch at 4pm on saturday.  i was starved and this burger always hits the spot

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we have all been staying up way too late and sleeping in even later.  i really really like these lazy morning and this cute face snuggling up in my bed.

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sharing chocolate milk.

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pancakes on repeat every morning.  jack always has us all laughing.

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who knew chickens could be such loving animals.  our girls are the sweetest.

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jack pushes the stool up to the window and just stares outside.  he gets so excited if a car drives by.

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“hey guys smile”

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that face.  i sometimes think about how awful it would be to not know this face.  this personality.  this jack.

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and this sweet face.  man i’m lucky

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a sunday morning spent in your pj’s and robe is a sunday well spent.

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END OF SCHOOL 2015

another school year has come and gone.  i can’t believe it flew by so fast.  doesn’t it seem like the years are just flying by?  they say with kids the days are long and the years are short. aint that the truth.  elle graduated from preschool this week and my heart has been very heavy.  she’s so easy and good.  i love having her home with me.  jack can be hard and wild.  she’s a breath of fresh air.  theres this strange shift in my family, we are going from that young family with all the little ones to having older kids who are self sufficient.  you don’t realize how much you love those crazy chaotic times until you see them slowly slipping away.  its still crazy around here and they aren’t big yet.  but i see their independence coming in strong and some of them don’t need me like they used to.  this whole mothering business is the best thing in the whole world.  its what i was made for.  i could hold a baby in my arms for the rest of my life.  i’m not that mom who’s kicking them out the door shouting my independence from the roof tops.  i’m that mom crying at preschool graduation knowing i’ve only got one more of these graduations left.  its all so bittersweet.  watching them grow is amazing.  so while i can’t believe another school year is behind us i am so excited for summer break.  i can’t wait to stay up late watching movies + sleep in even later, drag our blankets to the couch and lay around because we have nowhere to be.  i don’t sign my kids up for any activities during summer.  they are all mine.  we’ve got some really fun adventures coming.  ill get into more of those later once they’re set in stone.  but lets just say for now its gonna be good.

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we’ve been picking our neighbors apricots and peaches every night on our evening walks and eating them on the way home.  they are tiny and perfectly sweet.

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we really love tractors + trucks.  jack looks so cute pretending he’s reading.

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heading out to look at the animals around the neighborhood.  our favorite right now is the emu.

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“here chicky’s, come eat it” feeding the chicks some breakfast

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jack is happiest when we are down on the floor at his level.  so we spend a lot of time on the ground.

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ava did elle’s hair in a bunch of braids before bed.  elle loved it so much she slept in them and wore them to school the next day.  theres nothing i love more than seeing my kids doing nice things for each other.

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jacks first real dose of hard rain.  he just sat there staring out the window.  i haven’t heard it rain that hard in years and then in the blink of an eye it was gone and the sun was shining.  thats az for you.

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BBQ-ING WITH IVAN

we love bbq-ing.  especially when the weather is so nice like it is right now.  i don’t know what is going on in az right now but i like it.  we try to spend as much time outside as we can before it really starts to heat up.  if you’ve been over for a bbq then you know ivan really is the best.  he is constantly getting asked if he has a restaurant and why not?  i asked him to share a bbq recipe and some tips he has learned along the way.

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prepare your meat the night before so it has time to marinade.

you can use whatever seasoning or spices you like. he typically does a wet rub on the meat.

wet rub recipe:

apple cider vinegar

olive oil

brown sugar

garlic salt

montreal steak seasoning

apple cider vinegar

olive oil

pepper

cocoa (dash)

tony chachere’s original creole seasoning

coat the meat with oil and vinegar then add the dry ingredients on all sides.  place in a bag, remove as much air from the bag as you can.  store overnight in the fridge.

in the morning he will start up the smoker.  he prefers to use a mix of mesquite and pecan wood, mostly pecan.  he smokes the meat for 3-4 hours at around 225, then places it in a deep pan and covers with foil and bakes it in the oven at 270 for another 3-4 hours depending on how tender you want it.

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a few of his favorite cuts of meat are

beef-

cross rib roast- for shredded beef

brisket

pork-

pork shoulder- for pulled pork sandwiches

st. louis ribs

and of course his amazing bbq sauce completes the meat.  i couldn’t get him to share the recipe,  but come on over and grab a jar.  he’s always willing to make extra.

 

 

 

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SATURDAY CHORES + FARMERS MARKET

we went to the gilbert farmers market this morning.  i love showing the kids what fruits and vegetables look like fresh out of the ground.  carrots aren’t always perfectly straight and tomatoes aren’t always perfectly round.  they had a lot of fun checking out all the booths.

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i had no clue that artichokes bloomed into beautiful flowers.  the color was so vibrant.  the nice lady at the market said if you don’t pick the artichoke it will bloom into this amazing flower, once they bloom they’re no longer edible.

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after chores were done we decided to get a pretzel at qt.  i don’t typically eat gas station food.  as in i never ever eat gas station food.  except for pretzels at qt.  did you even know they have pretzels?  i didn’t until this past week when ivan got me one.  they’re delicious and the machine you order them on is so fun for the kids.  you can pick flavor, butter + salt, cinnamon sugar and a few others and then pick your dipping sauce.  a little bribery helps make chores a little more enjoyable and qt pretzels make us all happy.

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we ended the night with dinner at houstons.  i can never decide between the french dip and the cheeseburger.  i got the french dip.  you can’t go wrong either way.  the ice-cream sundae really made my night!

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