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.

It’s apple time again!

We took our first trip of the year to the apple orchard this week! I’d like to go back a few more times, but we have so many apples already!! We went with Elizabeth and Alistair and had a wonderful time. We ran through the corn maze, picked golden raspberries, apples, and blueberries.


When I say “we” I really mean “they” ran through the corn maze while Elizabeth and I moseyed behind, chatting and occasionally regrouping the kids. Alistair looks like he’s yelling his corn maze battle cry! (I wish I could harness his energy!)


Fortunately Lex took care of reading the clues so we weren’t lost in there forever!

a corn

Alistair says, “what’s the point of a corn maze if we can’t pick the corn?!”

e corn

Eve says, “well… if he picked corn …”
I say, “You’re not supposed to pick the corn! But… since you already did let me take a picture.” :)


Lex waving to the tractor driver hauling pumpkins.

lex apples

Lex’s picking method was to fill all of his pockets as full as possible before coming back to the bags. I love his efficiency.

lex tree

We broke a few rules that day. He’s so cute though! A little monkey in an apple tree.


This year we got a wagon. I learned my lesson from last year, hauling apples all the way down the hill.

weighing pumpkins

While I paid for our goods, the kids decided to see how much the pumpkins weighed – altogether.

strong eve

Eve helped bring the apples to the car. Strong girl!

Yesterday I made apple pie and triple berry jam. We had lots of black raspberries in the freezer from our back yard so I added those to the golden raspberries and blueberries we picked at the orchard. It came out great!


Wait, don’t cut it yet! I almost forgot to take a picture!

BNL live in concert!

Last night we took the kids to see a Barenaked Ladies Concert. It was the kids’ first concert and they LOVED it!! Alan and I saw them many years ago at the Verizon Wireless Center in Manchester (a wee bit bigger than the Lebanon Opera House!) and we were excited to see them again. They put on a great show!

A terrible picture of very excited children.

The show started at 7:30pm, which is bedtime for Miss Eve, so we were wondering how it would go. She, of course, is a trooper and loved every minute of it. Almost.

For the final few songs the crowd finally stood up and started dancing. We had side aisle seats and the kids moved into the aisle to have a little more space. All along the aisle ushers were standing, watching the show. A few told the kids to move up so they could see better, so of course the parents went too!


We stayed there for the final few songs and the encore. At the end BNL went into this long montage of songs, mostly not their own. They played some Red Hot Chili Peppers, Zepplin, Katy Perry, and more. By this point Eve was getting a little overwhelmed. We were really close to the speakers!! I took her back to our seats, then out to the lobby. Alan and Lex followed and headed for the bathrooms. We were only in the lobby a minute or two before the show ended and people started streaming out. Luckily we had a head start and beat the crowd! :) We got home at 10pm and everyone went straight to bed. This morning we could not rouse Eve, so Alan took them to school a little late. Totally worth it though!!

As an extra yay for me, we saw in the program that John Hodgman is coming in November and today Alan bought tickets! That will be a fun night out!