gus · Manic Monday · sisters

Why My Sisters Are Incredible {& Manic Monday Link}

There’s nearly a foot of snow on the ground, both grandmothers have moved into her house, and on Friday after nearly 12 hours of regular contractions, the midwife sent her home with no encouragement that baby would be arriving this weekend.
But they like to surprise us, don’t they?  In the midst of what has been an overwhelming, jam-packed, too-many-commitments-to-process kind of week, and only four days after we celebrated my own second child, my sister gave us this beautiful baby boy.  
He decided early Saturday morning that he was ready and she moved fairly quickly through labor, quickly enough that since she was birthing in a hospital that doesn’t give epidurals and was a bit afraid of the alternative, she made my mama so very proud by giving birth naturally.  Then, as if that wasn’t enough to be impressive, the stats came in: 9 lbs 13 oz, 24 and 3/4 inches.
Now that’s heroic.  So far he’s been referred to as hoss, whopper, and fatback.  Bless his heart.
He’s beautiful, huh?  If you want to donate funds so I can travel 1200 miles to squeeze his cheeks, let me know 🙂  and that’s a Get Dolled Up Boutique gown he’s sporting.  Personally, I think it’s cuter than the camo, but that’s just me.  I might be biased because it’s also been worn by this sweet bug.
Gus and Great-Granddaddy Deforrest, May 1, 2012
I know some other folks who wish they were able to journey north to hold great-grandbaby #9.  The past ten days or so, we have all been praying diligently for my grandfather’s recovery from what he calls “old age.”  He’s been in and out of two hospitals and says he’s not telling anyone anymore when he feels badly because we just take him to the hospital.
Ever since this began, my sisters and I who are local have been taking shifts to keep him company.  But none of the rest of us have pulled the load my sister Katy has.
Celebrated her birthday in Dec 2011, clearly I need to take some new pictures….

She’s pretty bossy and she makes the rest of us jump, but she gets the job done.  For the past two weeks, she’s put her own life on hold to be there for my grandparents so my father could continue to work and be home with our youngest sister, since Mama is helping with the new baby.  She stayed overnight at the hospital  and helped granddaddy terrorize the nurses; she’s cooked and cleaned and driven my grandmother to the grocery store because she’s out of cookies.  Last night I took my family over to visit the grands, and I’m sure today she’s reaping the benefits of that: Amelia had an accident in the bathroom and when I offered to mop, my grandmother said I was alright, Katy could do it.  Nice.

But seriously?  Between my own four kids and nearly four dollar a gallon gas, I can’t be there the way I would like.  I’m so grateful that my sister chose a new home that’s close enough for her to be available when needed, especially since, right now, that’s all the time.
On a Manic Monday note, I think I’ve figured out the cause of some of my stress.
We’re now post-consignment sale and this clutter has GOT TO GO. Hopefully it can be today’s naptime project.  For me, when my mind and heart and house are all cluttered up with ideas and projects and worries, life becomes manic.  
I hate that because it means I yell more and grumble lots and don’t appreciate the sweet moments.  Like what we were doing while my nephew was making his appearance….

40 degrees and steady rain call for indoor egg hunts and puppet shows with friends.  Come on spring, I’ve got three linen dresses and a jon-jon for Sunday and they won’t look good with overcoats!
How’s your Monday?

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family · sisters · thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday {it’s a whole new month!}

I’m with Julia.  I’m so glad my series is over.  But, I might do it again next year…maybe.  Today I’m just thankful to be putting up a little post about little things and introducing you to a few little changes on the little blog.  Which makes me grateful for my 31 days posts because that definitely prompted me to make some changes.

I’m going to be adding some pages over the next couple of weeks, a little more about who I am and why I write and what this blog is and a page to begin linking my favorite recipes to.  I’ve decided that right now my favorite things to write about are random motherhood musings and really delicious whole-food recipes that fit my budget and my family.  Hopefully you’ll find something to interest you in keeping up with me.

I’m so glad it’s November.  I could hang out in November a lot longer than 30 days, not because I don’t love Christmas, but because it doesn’t come with the rush December inevitably brings.  November, for us, is slow.

We bid October farewell with lots of candy and frigid (for Georgia) temperatures.  I take no credit for those Halloween costumes hiding under the big girls’ coats and scarves.  It was all their dance teacher and for that I am very grateful.

My baby sister drove three hours to hang out with us for one.  I sent her home with lots of candy and the promise that she’s the favorite aunt…for the moment.

This exersaucer is the best $12 purchase I’ve ever made.  Viva la consignment sale!

Leaves are my one of my favorite fall motifs…though I wish jumping in them didn’t result in little leaf bits all over my house.

I’m so grateful that we had a quick beach getaway a couple of weeks ago, but I’m not sure how I feel about Amelia trying to kiss the fish at the aquarium, although I gotta admit, I love this picture.

Another item coming to the blog is going to be a series about how I’m learning to love the home we’re in.  The Nester is partially responsible for challenging me to stop putting so much pressure on my next house, but I’ve also spent a little time over at Bird and Branch and am realizing that a small home can be amazingly beautiful if I will open my eyes to what I have.

Thankful Thursdays Button
Christmas · Paynes · sisters

Santa Train Experience

https://picasaweb.google.com/s/c/bin/slideshow.swf

On Tuesday Marmie treated all the grandkids to a ride on the Blue Ridge Santa Train.  We saw Rudolph, Frosty, and Santa and enjoyed the antics of the small ones (and some pouts from the big ones).  These are my favorite Christmas gifts, not the ones you can wrap up under the tree, but the experiences you can give and the time you can spend with those you love.

http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post · Manic Monday · sisters · summer

(trying) to avoid the Manic

I hate when I get so behind that everything feels like a chore.  Blogging is supposed to be my release, my spread wings, my therapy.  I don’t like for it to be something I feel like I have to do.  Like the laundry.  Or the dishes.  Or brushing Amelia’s teeth, which FYI, we forgot to do again. 

Oh, well.

My sisters are begging for an update on all random things Brackett since for the past week I hosted my 8-weeks-older than Annabelle niece, Hailey….

Here she is.  Princess of the Stephens family.  Also known as Lava Girl.

and my 15-year-old-I’m-glad-I’m-not-her-mother sister, Audrey. 

Here’s Audrey enjoying some fine literature provided by her nieces.

It was VBS week and they always come.  It’s tradition, Audrey says.  Like macaroni and cheese at Easter. 

We had a fun, extremely busy, week.  And I found out that I’m glad I only have three kids.  Five is too many for this manic mama.  If someone wasn’t crying, they were fighting because three girls never works.  And someone always needed a popsicle, or a dry set of clothes, or a nap.  And they turned their noses up at my Pioneer Woman chicken spaghetti.  Seriously, what’s wrong with these kids?

To be fair, I should insert here that it was Annabelle who cried the most because she did not want “green things” in her spaghetti.  Spaghetti is red.  Lesson learned.  Next time, I’ll call it Mexican pasta.  After all, what’s in a name?

Here’s a little look at our fun times this past week and an answer to your question of where I’ve been.  I know you’ve all been wondering. 

Millie Moo napping on the deck of our friends’ pool.
Popsicles in the pool. 

Aunt Audrey giving Amelia her first water slide ride.

Tacky Tourist day at VBS.  Which I was informed meant they could wear whatever they wanted.

My living room on Tuesday afternoon.

The office on Tuesday afternoon before some major work.  It looks about 10% better now.

Playing in the sand at the state park beach.

Exhausted by Friday afternoon.

Playing with Moto at Uncle Corey’s campsite on Saturday.

Sliding Rock.  Belle’s only trip down into the 50 degree water.

Daddy and Madelynne trying it out.

“I’m n-n-n-not c-c-c-cold!”

Letting Amelia play.  Crazy kid loved it.

You know what?  I do feel better now.  Even chores can be therapeutic….

finding the glory in the mundane…on my way to 1000 gifts
#114  ooey gooey olive cheesebread
#115 Audrey playing Bananagrams
#127 5:45 a.m.
#133 children around my neck
#135 finding the lost box of summer clothes
#136 Annabelle cleaning her plate
#144 quiet hum of convenience

cooking · joshua · sisters

A Monday Menu

Disclaimer:  Do not read this post if you are in any way opposed to dishes with lots of cheese, calories, and incredible deliciousness.

Here in the Brackett house, we like to cook.  And I do mean we.  After all, Joshua wasn’t sad when we downgraded our tv package.  The “family plan” allows you to keep Food Network.

I’ve been struggling a good bit lately with how to keep us on budget and keep everybody happy.  So, this week I inventoried my freezer and fridge and planned a menu for the week that accomodates our family and our two little guests.  Well, Audrey’s not little but she eats like a six year old, so the plan works.  The other part of my plan is a desire to try some new recipes, spice up the old repertoire and pass these along to other folks who might enjoy some variety among their standard.

Disclaimer #2: The Pioneer Woman is my kitchen hero.

This weekend we thanked Joshua’s dad for all the work he did in our office (pictures, soon, I promise!) by grilling the country style ribs I found on sale at Publix.  Which was one of God’s little blessings to make up for me not realizing the ad I had prepared for started the next day and I had already driven the 40 minutes it takes to get to the nearest Publix.  But it all worked out, because Saturday night we had this for dinner….

mmmm…..barbecue sauce….

and here’s the grill master himself putting on his secret recipe….all I do to prepare this meal is buy the meat and wash the dishes.  Well, sometimes I consent to bake a potato or two.

On Sunday, I decided to give this much heralded yumminess a try. 
I think it turned out pretty good myself, although I could have made it faster if I’d actually read the directions before I neatly sliced all my olives. 
Rough chop.  That’s all.  No need for perfection because it all comes out gooey in the end. Then maybe both slices would have been in the picture instead of having been devoured by the starving children before I could get my hands on the camera.  Yes, my kids eat olives.  By the fingerful.  And who wouldn’t eat this?
Seriously, look at the cheese.
You don’t even want to know what all is in this.  Let’s just say, I don’t eat olives and I ate this while standing in the kitchen putting on pizza toppings for the rest of dinner and negotiating relations between three quarrelsome little girls.  Make this immediately.  Olive Cheesebread by the Pioneer Woman.  Eat it with a salad if you feel too guilty.
Here’s the pizza we also had. Obviously carbs are not a concern right now.  And here’s my cooking tip of the week. 
Don’t back pizza on an airbake pan.  It won’t cook in the middle but the edges will be nice and crisp. 

As you can see, we’ve got several different pizza tastes going on here.

So what follows dinners like these?

Ridiculously happy baby.

And a few rounds of bananagrams with Aunt Audrey.  Look at this, she spelled everything right!

So what’s on tap for the rest of the week?  A couple of casseroles, a meatless quiche, and a dinner for a sweet family who just got bigger.  
  
birthdays · Paynes · perfectly imperfect · sisters

Imperfectly Perfect Birthdays

I wasn’t going to blog about this at all.  I was ashamed.  I was embarrassed.  I was mad.

Then, I got convicted.

I’m NOT perfect.  Deep breath.  I wish I was.  But that would be boring and everyone would hate being around me, right?  At least that’s how I feel when I’m surrounded by people who do things so much more perfectly than I do.

So the first part of today’s installment is confession.

We celebrated my sister Calley and my brother Corey’s birthdays this past Sunday.  Their birthdays are ten days and six years apart and they both wanted fried chicken.  Seemed like a plan.  Then, disaster.

(This isn’t the embarrassing part yet.  This is just what led up to it.)

Mama got sick.  Really sick.  102 degrees and shouldn’t be out of bed sick.  We descended anyway.  Side note: I think I get this perfection thing from her.  I mean, really, she should have cancelled instead of believing she’d be better in twenty-four hours.

So I got put in charge of a few things.  Like the cake.  Another side note: My mother makes perfect cakes.  See example below.

Well, obviously I can’t compete with this.

But I thought I could reasonably pull together a pretty good chocolate cake for Calley.  After all, last week I whipped out the Pioneer Woman’s Best Chocolate Sheet Cake Ever and it was pretty darn good if I do say so myself.

I intended to make that sheet cake again but changed my mind at the last minute and instead tried a chocolate fudge cake from one of our many cookbooks that we have more for decor than actual use.

Well, evidently this cake is not meant to be made in two round cake pans with the purpose of layering.

Nope, didn’t work.  So there I was on Sunday morning, no more butter, an imperfect cake and a failed attempt at making cream cheese icing with Philadelphia cooking cream cheese which, FYI, doesn’t work because the cream cheese is thinned.  For cooking.  Not baking.  Duh, it says that on the package.

This is the picture I took and figured if I did post this would be the view you got.

Gee, doesn’t it look great?  Yeah, this is what it really looked like.

It was…a little flat.  But it did taste good.  I should know.  Half of it came home with me and I’m trying to get that plate cleaned off so I can wash it and I hate to see good ingredients go to waste….

I also made this for my brother.  Nothing like pre-packaged assembly.  Well, I did have to mix the cream cheese and whipping cream.  And of course my mom had the perfect cream cheese because she would never make such a mistake.

Actually, I’m sure she’s messed up plenty, but I don’t remember it because she somehow makes things work anyway.  Maybe one day my girls will feel the same about me.

Here’s a preview of our Sunday afternoon at Paynes-a-Plenty.  Picasa slideshow to come if I can figure it out.

48 pieces of fried chicken….
Loving the swing.
Well this looks good at least.
Happy Birthday Calley!
This so captures the moment.  I think I was telling Corey that I didn’t want to hear about the chicken if it wasn’t done because that’s what microwaves are for.
Uncle Bubby loves his nieces.
Paynes · sisters

Why I Love My Sisters

I’m not an expert on a lot of things, but I know about sisters.

I know all about sharing bathrooms and fixing each others hair and stealing clothes and fighting for attention. 

And I know everything about the fear that turns your stomach to ice and starts your hands to shaking when you get that call.  The call that one of them is hurt and I wasn’t there to protect my baby sister.

And I know all about rushing to be there to hold her hand and tell her it’s going to be all right.  And I pray I never again have to look at Audrey in a neck brace on a backboard and remember the first time I held her and marveled at her beauty.

I was a big sister long before I was a mama.  My children help recreate me every day, but my sisters remember who I’ve always been.

We may drive each other (and anyone with hearing range) crazy, but we will always drive each other home.

Audrey is recovering at home from a head-on collision that occurred Friday afternoon. Many thanks to the first responders, doctors, and nurses who have endured a Payne-full weekend.