CHaD Hike and Run

I need to get last weekend’s CHaD post done before this weekends Halloween fun begins!

Last weekend Rosy came up and joined us for another CHaD Hero run/walk. They used to just call it the “CHaD Half” and it was easy to say, now they’ve added a 5K run or walk, a 1 mile fun run, and a 10K hike, so the whole title is just unclear to me. I think they call it the “CHaD Hero” now, but I feel like it needs the word “race” or “event” or something after it. Anyway… we did it!

The weather was drizzly that morning and the forecast was iffy (and variable depending on who’s phone you looked at), but we bundled up and headed out anyway. By the time we got there the rain had stopped and things were looking a bit better. We hung out a bit, joined our team for a photo, then headed off on our hike!

We munched on sandwiches, chatted, and generally enjoyed the day. The kids were awesome and didn’t complain even once! Lex kept saying how nice the day was and how happy he was to be there. I was so happy to be there with them as well. Eve and Rosy did half the hike well ahead of me and Lex. Occasionally they would stop and wait for us, but as soon as we caught up Eve would take off running again. Next year that girl will be doing one of the running events!


Over the river…


… and though the woods…


… and through the fields …

snack break

We stopped at a water station and had a little lunch. Eve though maybe shoving a water bottle in her pants would be a good “pocket” but quickly changed her mind. :)


They had inspirational messages along the way. Lex liked this one.


Eve and Rosy waiting for us slow-pokes. (I have no image editing software on my computer these days so my photos are all straight off the camera (SOC) and the camera isn’t the best these days. #firstworldproblems)

finish line

Waiting for Alan at the finish line.


He came in strong, beating last years time and his own personal best. He was a happy guy!


He even had energy for hugs at the end! :)

group shot

Rose took a happy family picture for us. :)

Our team leader hosts a big after party at her house each year, but this year we bailed and headed home instead. Alan has a gym membership and was eager to soak in the hot tub, Lex had Lego League, and I just wanted to be home. It was a nice way to end the day.

Next year Eve and I are going to run the 5K! That’s the plan at the moment anyway. :)

Halloween Gingerbread

Last week we went to visit a friend who had, in the past (2012), helped us make gingerbread houses. We don’t see her often and when I mentioned our plans to visit, Eve immediately asked if we would be making a gingerbread house. I told her no, just visiting, but the idea stuck and she insisted. Sooo…. behold the Halloween Haunted Gingerbread House!

completed house

Our Haunted Halloween House

The process took a few days. On the first day we made the dough.

eve baking p1

Eve in the kitchen. I love it!

eve baking p2

She doesn’t even need a chair, just a little stool. :)

Then we rolled it out, cut it, and baked it.

eve baking p3

She was eager to help cut out the pieces and ended up doing most of them all by herself.

baked pieces

Here are all the pieces.

On Saturday we built the house! Sadly my royal icing was not strong enough and did not “set” quick enough, so, alas, we had an unstable house on our hands.

construction p1

Off to a messy start already! I think I need to use a smaller icing tip next time.

decorating extras

While we waited for the walls to dry we decorated the trick-or-treaters and house accessories.

construction p2

The roof is on. We decided to add an M&M border to the wet icing, on the assumption that it would dry quickly!

construction p2

After a wall and roof panel fell twice I decided it was time to bring out the reinforcements!


The second collapse also gave us a chance to put the gingerbread people and ghost inside, which we had forgotten the first two times we put the roof on!

I stuck the house in the fridge for awhile and we all went out to play. You have to take a break from the sugar fumes sometimes and it was a beautiful day!


These look good enough to eat!

house decorating

When Aunt Rosy arrived we decorated the gingerbread house and added the accessories.

house p1

Ta-da! I took away the glass in hopes that the roof would stay. We propped it up with some gingerbread trees. :)

house p2

In this picture you can see the gingerbread dog house, the dog (white with red spots), and the trick-or-treater dressed as a pencil. I love that costume idea! I told Eve she should be a pencil next year and she decided Lex could be an eraser to go with her. :)

house p3

A rickety old house needs a rickety old fence in the backyard.


Happy bakers! (Eve has her bunny ears under her chin and it looks like some weird neck scarf.)

The house was lovely, kind of, and I stuck it back in the fridge for a little more firming up. It stayed there all day Sunday while we were busy with the CHaD (another post on that will follow soon). This afternoon I cleared off the table (not a small feat!) and set up a nice Halloween display. The kids were super excited when they came home from school.

on display

I tidied up the table and set up a nice Halloween display this afternoon before the kids got home. They were excited to see it all setup. (Notice the glass behind the house? It started sagging after all the decorations were one, so we figured the glass was a required structural support. Lex added some candy to the top to make it look better.)

Sadly, we got back from karate to discover this:

caved in

Oh no! It lasted for a few hours before it caved in. Not even a nice roof slide like the first few times, this was just a complete cave-in.

Eve did a dramatic cry for awhile and then moved on. We agreed it was now a super spooky fallen down Halloween house. There were two casualties of the roof collapse, but the kids were consoled when I promised they could have the casualties for snack tomorrow. I claimed the third causality, a ghosts, for myself!

The house might not be perfect, but we had tons of fun so I’m going to call it a success!! (and try my friend’s royal icing recipe next time!)

Crazy cat lady post

We had fun with Daisy today.


Time to wash the kitty. She hopped right into the open dishwasher (clean, thankfully!) and started exploring.


“A person riding a person riding a cat!” said Lex. Eve likes to ride on Daisy.


Pure silliness. Notice Daisy escaping? :)


Eve pretends to be a cat sometimes. Specifically, she pretends to be Daisy’s momma cat. Tonight they both had fun with the laser pointer. Eve batted at it longer than Daisy did!


Fun in a box. She yelled at Lex to get off, then we all had a laugh when she realized it wasn’t Lex.


This went on for awhile.


This was from a few days ago. When the kids were little they’d stick their pudgy fingers under the door and we’d say “little wormies”. Much of my bathroom time was spent with “little wormies” under the door. Now they are more independent, so Daisy has taken over the job. :)

Never a dull moment in this house!

Swear words

I had a funny conversation with the kids this evening, standing in the hallway. Lex said that sometimes at school kids talk about words he doesn’t understand. The conversation proceeded and we discussed “the D word” and “the F word” and several others. The final question was, “and what does doody mean, not d-u-t-y like I know, but spelled some other way?” So then we ended up in a discussion about all the different words that mean poop. My kids are so sheltered. :)

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

pb&j barsIt was my day to bring snack for Lego League, so I made Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars from the latest edition of The Baking Sheet, a King Arthur Flour publication. (I tried to find a link to it, but I think this is the final edition before they switch to some other format, so I can’t find any useful links online. Oh well.)

The recipe looked tasty and easy and sure to please ten hungry kids. Turns out it’s fantastic! So tasty that I can’t stop nibbling. Fortunately there were a few left over for us to enjoy at home. :) If you want an easy, tasty treat, give this a shot!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars
(directly from King Arthur Flour, The Baking Sheet, Fall/Holiday 2014)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups cream peanut butter
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Filling & Topping:
1 1/2 cups high-quality jam (I used a mix of store-bought blackberry jam and homemade triple berry jam. The color contrast between the bars and jelly part was great.)
1/2 cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9″x13″ pan, or line with parchment.

In a stand mixer cream the butter and brown sugar until well blended (about 2 minutes). With the mixer on low add the vanilla, eggs, and peanut butter; mix until well combined. Scrape the bowl a few times during mixing.

In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients with the mixer at low speed to the peanut butter mixture until just combined.

Spread half the dough into the prepared pan (an off set spatula or bowl scraper works well here). Spread the jam evenly over the dough. Drop small globs of the remaining dough over the jam. Sprinkle with the peanuts. Bake for 35 to 38 minutes until golden brown and set. Remove from the oven, cool, and cut into 1″ x 2″ bars.

Yield: 30 bars.

Different kids

I’m going to ramble. It may or may not make sense. I may or may not even proof-read before posting. We’ll see how it goes.

My kids are so different. Different from each other. Different from how they were before. Different from other kids. The differences are striking lately. I’m sure the changes have been slow and subtle, but it’s coming to the forefront of my mind lately.

Lex, my stubborn, fixed little boy has been so flexible, so kind, so generous, so helpful, so supportive, so easy going, and so sweet lately. He is eager to help with the leaf cleanup (there will be a post on that, just as soon as I get a break from leaf cleanup!), he makes good choices, he is smart and creative, and generally a pleasure to be around. He is buggy at times to Eve, but great with me. Tonight he had a fight with Alan and ended up in his room. I was surprised because that hasn’t happened in so long. I went up to talk to him and he was able to talk through the whole thing, think about his options, and make a good choice. He verbalized a few bad choices, but when I asked “what would happen after that?” or “what do you think dad would say?” he was able to think it through. He ended up back downstairs in a calm, problem-solving discussion with Alan and the evening progressed smoothly.


Lex is ready to rake!

While we’re on the subject of Lex, do you think it’s harder to be unpopular or to have child who is unpopular? Well, maybe unpopular isn’t the word, but he’s not popular either. I grew up the same way, having just a small handful of friends. I’m really the same way now. Lots of acquaintances, but only a few close friends. I see the same thing in Lex. He’s ok with it and so I’m ok with it, but often I hear of happenings (thanks to Facebook!) that his friends are at and he isn’t invited to and I feel sad for him. Quietly on the inside, of course, never out loud to him. He had a friend over the other day, a boy he considers his best friend, and the kid played with Eve the whole time. We were in the car for part of it and the boy literally sat facing Eve with his back to Lex. Lex thought the playdate went fine, so I didn’t say anything, but I thought the whole thing was weird. I tried to disengage Eve towards the end, but the boys wanted her around.

Eve, on the other hand, is no longer my easy, go with the flow little girl. She has found her stubborn streak and is showing it daily! She makes noise non-stop, but rarely actually says anything. She moves constantly – running, jumping, bouncing, wiggling… Oh, to have her energy! Next spring I’m signing her up for the local track team. I wanted to do it this year, but she refused. I think she needs an outlet for this energy and if she won’t pick then I will. I’d love for her to do the swim team too, but she refuses. It’s a huge time and money commitment, so I don’t push her. Track is cheap and a lot less time, so I might push for that. Not only does she move constantly, but she leaves messes everywhere she goes. I think she might be ADHD. Everyone is these days, right?! She leaves unfinished work and toys scattered everywhere. If I ask her to put something down, she literally drops it right on the floor. If I was more diligent with the Toy Jail, I think 90% of her stuff would end up there. She wouldn’t even be able to buy it back anymore either since she rarely makes it through family meeting for allowance these days! (Reading that toy jail post I noticed that Lex also went through a period of dropping toys on the floor… and he was roughly the same age as her then… hmmm….) The house is a constant mess of her messes everywhere. Drives me crazy!


This is what Eve thinks about raking the leaves.

She’s also an emotional roller coaster. Do hormones kick in this early?! I should probably Google that some time. She’ll be manic happy, bouncing around, then get angry about something (like when I ask her to brush her teeth or Lex looks at her funny) and burst into a screaming tantrum. Ugh. Fortunately after a few minutes on her own she usually calms down and rejoins the group. She’s ready to play again, but we are left emotionally drained. It reminds me of Lex and his fighting days. He’d bounce right back, but we’d be wrecked for hours. Eve has some other things going on that I’m not going to blog about. There’s a fine balance on the blog, but I write it mostly for me, but also for you, and of course it’s available to anyone, so I do need to censor it sometimes. As the kids are getting older I think that will happen more and more.

On the social front Eve has all the friends in the world. She has lots of friends at school and always has friends who are happy to come over and play. Sometimes I get cute notes written from her friends asking if they can have a playdate soon. She makes friends with everyone she meets, including the neighborhood dogs and cats. Her socializing often drags the rest of us out to meet people too, which is nice. We pulled together our fun last minute yard sale this summer because Eve was out chatting it up with the neighbors. I see great things in her future. I’d love to get her more involved though.


Mostly they are pretty perfect though. :)

Anyway, I’m about done for today. I had a frustrating day, working on the leaf clean-up and trying to move the “bedroom rearranging” project forward, while also cleaning up messes behind everyone all day! Eve had a high-energy friend over, then a melt down at family meeting, then Lex had a melt down at dinner (to be fair it followed closely on the heals of MY melt down at dinner!) and the kids ended up with a pretty late bedtime. Now I’m exhausted and ready to crash with a mug of spiked apple cider and a snuggly hubby.

Good times in Orange town!

We had an awesome weekend in Syracuse! After all the planning (done mostly by others, thankfully!) the weekend finally arrived and we were off. Friday, our travel day, was beautiful. Saturday, our campus tour and park day, was a rainy mess. Then Sunday, another travel day, was beautiful again.

I posted all of my pictures in a Google album, but I’ll add a few here as well.

We packed Friday morning and headed to Syracuse. When we arrived at the hotel we had a few minutes to hang out with friends who were already there, then we headed out to a SU football game. We watched the Orange get crushed by the Louisville Cardinals. We also dropped a small fortune on “dinner” at the Dome, consisting of soft pretzels, nachos, popcorn, and ice cream. Alan had a Dome Dog too. Sounds like a nice healthy meal, right?! All bets are off when it comes to vacation food! :)


We went with Mark and his daughter Victoria, and Amy and her son Andrew. Plus apparently a grumpy guy in the back. :)


The Johnsons go to a football game. Go Orange!

Mark and Amy left at half-time, but we made it almost to the end. If the game had been any good we would have stayed for the whole thing, but since Syracuse was getting a beating we decided to be fair-weather fans and high-tail it out of there before the storm and the crowds! And the storm did come.

Saturday we had planned a lovely day of touring the campus, lunch and shopping on M-Street, and then an afternoon at the park. Unfortunately the weather had different plans! We rallied and dragged our spouses and children through a typical day in Syracuse. We figured it would be best to give them the true look at Syracuse. :) Seriously though, we actually had a pretty good time, despite the rain and a few grumpy children (mine!).


The kids (L-R) Greg (Mark’s step son), Andrew (Amy’s), Devorah (Ron and Laura’s), Joe (Mike’s), Cassandra (Ron and Laura’s), Victoria (Mark’s), Lex and Eve, Andy and Bethany (Ron and Laura’s), Lucas (Mike’s)


The grown-ups (L-R) Mark and Barbara, Amy, Andrea and Mike, me and Alan, Ron and Laura

After our walking tour we took our soggy selves to The Varsity for lunch and a little shopping. Then we headed back to the hotel where Jim and Julie met us for an afternoon in the pool. They aren’t technically SU alum, but they knew most of us and they live so close we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit!

We swam…

we snuggled…
kate and me

we played games…

and then we said goodbyes.
goodbye girls

Then the Kirkwoods had to leave and the rest of us moseyed into the fancy banquet room we rented for the evening. The hotel catered a delicious meal for us and we spent the rest of the evening hanging out, eating, drinking, playing games, and enjoying each others company after so many years apart.

girls and games

me and amy

wrestling boys

eve and mark

It was so nice just hanging out, getting to know each other’s spouses and children better, letting the kids play together, etc. Just what we wanted for that evening!

The next day we woke bright and early. NOT! The kids actually slept until 8am!! A new record in our family, I think. We met a few friends for breakfast before saying goodbye and heading our separate ways. Alan and I decided to take the kids to the mall, after hearing rumors that it has grown a bit since our time. Boy, has it!! They now call it Destiny USA instead of the Carousel Mall. It still has the carousel, but it also has sooo much more! I can’t even imagine that place on a Friday night. If they had a hotel a person could feasibly live their entire life in the mall.

glass elevator

mirror maze


There was so much more we wanted to do at the mall, especially a really amazing looking indoor ropes course that Lex was eager to try. Unfortunately they said it typically takes a least an hour and we just didn’t have the time. Lex was very disappointed and we immediately started making plans to come back! Destiny USA, we will return!!

After leaving the mall, and before heading home, we went back to M-Street to exchange a pair of pants Alan had bought the day before. While we were there we did a little more shopping and a quick trip the Syracuse Bookstore, just for fun.


One final family photo and then we were off – heading home with a very tired crew. The return trip seemed to take forever, perhaps because everyone was was tired but no one slept, or perhaps because we stopped frequently for drinks and bathrooms. Finally we got home around 8pm, rushed the unpack, and went right to bed!

It was a great trip! I hope it doesn’t take another 15 years before we can get the crew together again. I think we’ll be back in Syracuse this February though. Anyone want to join us?!?

In the meantime, you can check out all of the pictures, with captions, in the Google album.

A Sunny Sunday in September

It was a beautiful day today! We had a quiet morning, reading the paper, building robots, writing scripts, and doing the things we do at home on the weekends. This afternoon we decided to take advantage of the beautiful summer-like weather and go golfing!


Eve, wearing a jump rope as a belt in case she gets bored of golfing.


Lex, still golfing like a hockey player.

pond water

I’m pretty sure they were using the gross pond water to cool off. I probably should have stopped them, but instead I snapped a picture and told them to come back to the green.


I always love “looking up” pictures of my kids. Someday I’ll learn the proper photography term for this angle.

We made it half way through the course then we ran out of time and patience, so we ditched it and headed for ice cream instead!

ice cream


After ice cream it was time to drop Lex off at his Lego League. While he did that, Alan, Eve and I headed to an awesome rock store called Gemstar. Mema discovered this place a few days ago and it was so cool she wanted to go back and take us along. So we went. And we loved it!


I think this is called selenite. Correct me if I’m wrong. It looks like firewood, but really it’s a rock! Very cool.

We met Mema, G’Tom, Carl, and Kathy there and we all bought a few cool rock products – even Alan! It’s definitely a store we will return to!


Eve and Carl. :)


Awesome uncle. I wish he could still spin me like that!

We said our goodbyes and headed home for a proper night-before-school evening. I wish we had more summer vacation and family visiting and time for fun and exploration!

Notice all the different picture formats? I officially have too many picture-taking devices. I find myself using less of my camera and more of my phone these days. I like it for convenience, but I’m going to have to figure out the photo organization because I have an awesome system going for pictures from my camera, but ones from my phone aren’t organized at all. How’s that for a first world problem!? Then I ask Alan to take a group picture and he insists on using his phone! Too many devices!

Happy 89th!

We celebrated Popcube’s 89th birthday today!  Greg and Kathy and Carl came to town.  I love seeing my family.  We had delicious food and cake and presents and fun. We partied all night… or at least until 9pm when I put a stop to the fun and dragged my crew home.  Tomorrow will bring more family fun.





Happiness is.