One Perfect Spot for Kids- Lehnis Train Museum, Brownwood, Texas

When thinking of perfect places to tote a trio of grandkids on a road trip, Brownwood, Texas might not be the first place that pops in your head. However, Brownwood does have a lot to offer. One of those cool offerings is the Lehnis Train Museum. Daughter #3 is in her last semester at Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas. She also just celebrated her 22nd birthday, so on a whim, Tony and I decided to take a road trip with the trio.

We were super impressed with the space and scale of this museum. The kids loved all the model trains and watching them speed along the tracts. The volunteers are fantastic. The fellow running the model trains was also building new cars and engines as he spoke to us. We learned a lot and will avoid a lot of mistakes when we start building a set of our own.

The museum offers a lot of interactive exhibits. The play area is quite large and offered a lot for the kids to build and interact with, the trio spent about an hour and a half in this area and cried when we said it was time to go. The time spent here was so fun. You could see their brains working as they manipulated the levers, latches, and physics demonstrations. No one asked for a video all day!

But, the highlight of the day was the mini train that we got to ride. The cost is $2.00 per person (4 and under are free) in addition to the entrance fee which is $4.00 per person (4 and under are free). And this was the best spent $2.00 ever! The conductors were fun and let the kids blow the horn at the end of the ride.

Brownwood, Texas offers a lot of fun, low key family fun. The train museum is not the only attraction in Brownwood. You can learn more about Brownwood and other great places in Texas if you look in the Texas Travels category over on the sidebar. I have been traveling with kids for almost 30 years, and simple is a good thing.

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A Recipe for Christmas Fun

Way back when when I was a Pampered Chef Lady, I earned a stoneware gingerbread house mold. My oldest two daughters, the only kids at that time, were 2 years old and 4 years old. That was the first year we made a gingerbread house. We have made one every year since- with the exception of last year.

This year was the first with the grands. The grands are 4, 3, and 2 years old. Their mamas, the two toddlers from the beginning of this story, are 27 and 25 years old. That is a lot of gingerbread houses! That is a lot of really great memories.

Traditions can be a tricky thing. There can be a lot of pressure to continue traditions handed down to you and they can feel like a yoke. Those same traditions can also make you feel grounded, like you know who you are and where you came from. I don’t want my kids to ever feel like the things we do every year are a yoke. If we outgrow certain things, I don’t want them to feel guilty that things needed to change. But, I also want them to have a thread to hang on to that runs all the way back through their history.

The gingerbread house is one of those. It is also my tradition. They can develop new things with their own children, but this gingerbread house mold and this tradition belongs to me and Tony. Mostly me, he was usually at the station when the house was made. My family that I grew up in never made a gingerbread house, we have lots of other traditions. So this is a “new” thing. If someone wants to carry on the gingerbread house when I am gone, that is fantastic. If they don’t want to, that is okay, too. I will have made all the memories that I am going to make by that point and it will be their turn to make the memories they want. But, they will be able to look back at this blog and see pictures and know who I was- at least a little bit. I think that is the best part of traditions- the imprint it makes on family history.

I have included the recipe for the gingerbread just in case you wanted to create a new tradition.

A LITTLE EXTRA FLOUR MAKES THIS DOUGH STURDY ENOUGH TO MAKE GINGERBREAD HOUSES, BUT ALSO WORKS GREAT FOR COOKIES. PLUS, THE SMELL OF GINGERBREAD BAKING IS DELIGHTFUL. (pamperedchef.com)

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups (750 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp (7 mL) ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) ground ginger
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) baking soda
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) salt
  • ¼ tsp (1 mL) ground cloves
  • ½ cup (125 mL) vegetable shortening
  • ½ cup (125 mL) sugar
  • ½ cup (125 mL) molasses
  • 1   egg

DIRECTIONS

  1. Whisk the flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, salt, and cloves together in a medium bowl.
  2. Use a hand mixer to beat the shortening and sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Add the molasses and egg and beat until smooth.
  3. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until fully combined.
  4. Shape the dough into a ball and divide it into 2 portions. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill it for 30 minutes. Use the dough to make cookies with cookie cutters or press into mold.

What To Look At In Galveston

I have the pleasure of living in the East End Historical District in Galveston. This is the original spot where the city grew up first.

We even have ruins that a pirate called home.

With such an old place comes beautiful and diverse architecture. I walk about 20 miles a week with my husband and I never grow tired of looking around.

Here are a few of my favorites:

My Three Amigos

These three beauties are my grandchildren. T- Born in December, R-born in the following December and G- born the following September. Yes, it was an intense time for our family. I adore these blessings.

We took a morning and had a little photoshoot on the beach. We had so much fun!

I bought the outfits at a local shop in Galveston on the historic Strand. I bought them with this one specific purpose.

I planned to not have a plan. I mean how can you plan for what 3 toddlers/preschoolers are going to do? What mood they may be in? So, I just turned them loose and took pictures. Out of 500 I will probably get 10 perfect shots. But that is just fine. All I need is one to remember the fun we had and it doesn’t even have to be perfect.

I have no idea if they will remember- these moments were for me. There are pictures of me with the kids and pictures of my husband with the kids. Sadly, the Hawaiian outfits didn’t come in our size. But the kids will be able to look back and have photos of themselves with two people who thought they hung the moon and all the stars.

Ornaments, Tradition, & Tapestries

Mickey Mouse & 3 of his friends came from our trip to Disney World
Mickey Mouse & 3 of his friends came from our trip to Disney World

When Cheyenne was about 3, a wonderful lady shared about buying ornaments for her grandchildren to hang on the “cousins tree” in her house.  Each Christmas the cousins would all come over and were given a new ornament to go on the tree and would then decorate the tree with ornaments from years past.  I thought this was great and I changed it a bit to fit the season of life that I was currently in and still am as I do not have any grandchildren yet.

Each year I give the kids a new ornament which is the first ornaments to be hung on the tree.  Their ornaments are stored in a plastic shoe box labeled with their names.  The idea was that when they left home that these would be their ornaments to decorate their own trees.  Last year, the first box left home.  Honestly, this was more traumatic for me than when the child actually left home.  There are precious memories in those boxes.

In the beginning, I wanted a themed tree- you know color coordinated and just so.  So, I purchased ornaments that went with my theme, mainly mercury glass type ornaments in shiny colors.  But then one year when the kids were still very little, I had the idea to purchase the ornaments while on our summer vacation.  I was able to do this without the kids noticing as my husband is great at keeping the kids busy while I hunt ornaments. At Christmas, the vacation would have long been a memory but when the ornaments came out the memories came back. Being stealthy about the ornament buying worked for a few years, but the children being smart and observant started looking for ornaments for me while we would be shopping.  Then this became a new tradition.  Also, it dawned on me the year we went to Chincoteague Island that if I didn’t buy myself an ornament I was going to have a very empty and sad tree when the kids left home.

From the island of Chincoteague- the light house
From the island of Chincoteague- the light house

Now, each year when the boxes are relieved of their contents, we remember each trip and tell the stories one more time.  Some years, there weren’t vacations so the ornaments were chosen based on a significant event in our lives.  Like the year all the kids got into horses, I bought horse ornaments that looked like each kid’s horse.  It has become something we all treasure and enjoy.  My tree is not coordinated, but it is themed.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I often ask the kids about their friends houses at Christmas- I am a bit of a junkie and I like to gather new ideas- so often their response is “The tree is pretty, but not special like ours.”  It seems I set the bar high without even meaning to do so.

Hand blown glass ornament from Hot Springs, Arkansas
Hand blown glass ornament from Hot Springs, Arkansas

This is what traditions are to me- threads that run through the years tying us together and weaving the tapestry that when we look back, it is the tapestry of our lives.  As the mother, it is my honor to be the keeper and maker of these traditions.

Tony would always sing the rymn "little pig, little pig let me in" to the kids and one year I found a set of 3 pigs and one big bad wolf.
Tony would always sing the rhyme “little pig, little pig let me in” to the kids and one year I found a set of 3 pigs and one big bad wolf.

What says Christmas like a pink flamingo?  Brought back from one of the many tips to the coast.
What says Christmas like a pink flamingo? Brought back from one of the many trips to the coast.

This years ornaments were make by me with shells, sand and drift wood collected from Galveston Island.
This year’s ornaments were made by me with shells, sand and drift wood collected from Galveston Island.

Opening the 2013 ornaments
Opening the 2013 ornaments

Hanging the ornaments from their boxes, the three still left at home.
Hanging the ornaments from their boxes, the three still left at home.

Divorce & The Holidays

christmas

As the holidays approach, life can really get complicated.  Add in blended families and divorced parents and it can be a real mine field.

So I am going to offer something that, I hope will make your holiday what you hope for.  Sit quietly and think about what memories you would like to make with your children and what you want them to remember when they are grown and look back on the holidays that they shared with you.  Frankly, this applies to any facet of life- what do you want your kids to remember when they look back and make that happen.

In regards to the holidays, don’t let all the voices pulling at you influence your dreams.  Just take a few minutes to dream about what you would like and what would be best for your children.  Now go do that.

I am reminded of a conversation I once had with a friend.  Her children were all little and she was married to her original husband who was the father of all four kids.  The stress she was feeling was that both his and her parents were divorced and remarried- and all wanted them at their respective homes for the holidays.  She was exhausted and didn’t really want to make 5-6 stops in a 48 hour period with four small children in tow.  This was not what she thought was best for her kids or herself.  When asked what I thought I offered this:

“You did not create the problem.  It was not your decision or your husband’s for either of your parent’s to get a divorce.  The adults at the time made that decision.  Now, they have to live with the consequences.  Because they chose divorce, they now have to understand that they will not have all the children and grandchildren at every holiday.  And that is not your fault or your problem to fix.”

Now, will people get mad when you choose to stay home or only visit one or two homes?  Yes.

Will they get their feelings hurt?  Probably.

Will they be harmed? No.

The main thing is that you live and establish YOUR family in the way that is best for you and them.  Your  children are only little once, don’t let it pass by missing out on what you dream of by trying to make everyone else happy.

I hope this helps someone have a less stressful holiday.  The holidays should be a time of joy and celebration- but we have to be purposeful for that to happen.

 

Pumpkin Pickin’ and Memory Makin’

This past July I sweated profusely as I put 30 pumpkin seedlings in the ground.  I didn’t mind the heat or the sweat because in my mind I could see my children, my nieces, and little cousins picking pumpkins from a pumpkin patch not from a bin or pile at the store, but from a real live pumpkin patch.  Never mind that I had never grown a pumpkin before nor had I seen anyone around me do it, this was my goal.  I wasn’t shooting for Halloween as my target date, I was shooting for November- Thanksgiving.  That part turned out just about right, we did have pumpkins but we needed to pick them early as the cool wet rains we kept having were causing a problem with the powdery mildew.  As it happened, my nieces and my cousin, Luke -a preschooler, were around on Sunday so I hauled them all out and we picked pumpkins!  What fun!!

If you have never heard a child giggle or squeal with delight at the discovery in a garden- you, my friend, have not experienced one of the finer things in life.

new pumpkin patchThe pumpkin patch about a month old.  Growing strong and beautiful.

Searching for pumpkinsLooking for pumpkins amid all the large leaves.  These pumpkins did not turn orange as they should have.  Instead we had lovely molted green pumpkins with an orange splash.  No bother, it was still fun and the unusual pumpkins were pretty.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKatie found a baby, the kids all like the babies just as well as the big ones.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARylie has found one, with a nice orange splotch.  She is twisting it to break the stem off.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALuke has just discovered that the stem of a pumpkin is prickly!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJonathan totes the large pumpkin for Rylie, he was waiting with his trusty knife if the twisting did not work.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUncle Tony and Katie.  Tony requested that we pick pumpkins when he could be around.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALuke took to wrestling the pumpkins free and Sierra tried to help.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKitchen shears to the rescue, Sierra helps Luke get his prize

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASuccess!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA pile of cute kids and pumpkins!  We will do this again next year.  However, I plant to set a date and invite all the other cousins.  We will watch It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and eat something – maybe roasted pumpkin seeds that we harvest and roast ourselves.  I also plan to plant some “Mighty Max” pumpkins that reach weights of over 100 lbs as well as smaller pumpkins that can be handled by smaller pickers.  The seed order will be placed this Friday.  I just can’t wait.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For The Love of Bunnies

jonthan and bunny

About a week ago, I rounded the house to find our dog, Duckie, sitting with purpose on the sidewalk giving me a look that said, “You need to deal with this.”  As I walked closer I spotted the littlest brown bit of furry cuteness sitting at her feet.  I picked it up and was surprised to the the baby rabbit was still alive.

Baby rabbits need help to keep warm, so is took this little guy in, wrapped him in a wash cloth and tucked it in bed with Jonathan.  Jonathan fed this baby every hour with kitten formula.  Rabbit milk is extremely hard to replicate and all the information I have found (this is not our first bottle baby rabbit) says to use kitten formula.  The rabbit, named Spock, would lick the formula off of Jonathan’s finger and snuggled up to him during the night. It was just so sweet.

Then the other morning, he woke up to find that the bunny had died.  Yes, he cried.  His heart was broke and I just hate it.  One of the hardest lessons I have to learned as a mother is to let my children grieve loss- whatever that loss may be.   My first urge is to make it better, to get a new pet, or sweep it aside as if it doesn’t matter just so I don’t have to feel heart broke as well but none of that benefits my child in the long run. Like it or not, as long as we are on this side of heaven we will experience loss.  One of the best things I can do for my children is to walk with them through it and show them how to feel real feelings and then deal with them in a healthy way.  It is hard.

I must say that the farm has provided many opportunities to deal with grief and death.  When we began this journey of homesteading, I had no idea how much death would be a part of our lives.  But, never have we experienced the joy of life in the way that we have in our everyday lives on the farm.  If we refuse things like the baby bunny to save ourselves from hurt, we would miss the days of joy and fun that was brought by the bunny.  To love is to risk hurt, but love is worth the risk.

The afternoon the Jonathan’s bunny died our kitten ran up with another baby rabbit.  What did I do?  Handed it to Jonathan.  Some might think I am crazy to provide my son with another opportunity to feel loss and hurt, but I think I provided him with another chance to love.

That rabbit died, too but before Jonathan had gotten attached.  To be honest, we have never bottle-fed a rabbit and had it live.  But hope springs eternal on a farm and we will keep trying should the opportunity present itself.

bunny

My Tuesday

Nothing like a little Mario Kart on the wii.
Nothing like a little Mario Kart on the wii.

I am not really sure where the day went, but it went.  The morning began with my quiet time and yoga, as do most days.  Oddly enough the house has stayed picked up and clean without much effort- I can’t explain it but I am grateful.  Maybe that is why the day seemed to move at a relaxed pace, I just didn’t have as much house work to do.

This morning came with a craving for blueberries.  There is a great muffin recipe that has a strudel on top that we all love.  I, however, don’t make muffins I pour the batter into a cast iron skillet and bake it like one gigantic muffin.  I save steps and energy whenever I can so unless there is a need for muffins, the batter goes into a cast iron skillet. My muffin pan does not go unused, however.  My biscuit recipe makes a wet dough and instead of adding flour, rolling it out, and cutting out the biscuits- I just spoon it into the muffin pan and bake.  Viola!  Easy homemade biscuits.  As a matter of fact, I had a mother of  my daughter’s  friend call and ask for the recipe because her daughter went home talking about how good they were.  That kind of thing thrills my southern soul.  Southern cooks come wired with a desire to feed people well, there is no greater compliment than to have a recipe request.

We have nibbled on the over-sized muffin all day.  Jonathan & I were on our own today as the girls moved the horses down to Jacksonville.  This should work better since the kids visit their grandparents and this will making riding the horses much more convenient.  I worked on the computer all day while Jonathan played video games.  I have learned to use photobucket, to edit photos in a cool way, changed up widgets on the blog, and updated my website.  This computer work is exhausting- I would much rather put in 10 hours in the greenhouses and gardens.  I also had the pleasure of watching Madagascar 3 with Jonathan.  I get so tickled at the way he laughs out loud.  Love those moments.

As I type this, Jonathan just made the comment that hamburgers sound really good.  Tony and I just looked at him and shook our heads- the boy just ate half the meatloaf.  My how a growing boy can eat.  Tonight’s dinner of meatloaf, broccoli and cheese, and saffron rice was quite good.  Dinner had to be prepared around all the herbs I gathered yesterday.  The herbs need to dry and I have run out of room to hang them.  Wednesday is the day I plan to dry the in the oven and get herbs into storage bags.  These days our home-based business takes up a lot of the home.  One day there will be a workroom just for herbs and such but until then we just make do.

Now, to go cuddle on the couch with Tony.  NCIS is calling my name- so is a hot herbal bath.

All That Glitters…

Beautiful Bunch!
Beautiful Bunch!

All that glitters may not be gold, but it sure is pretty!  Which is good, because the floors in my house glitter, the table glitters, my laundry glitters, and the interior of the truck glitters. It seems that when you work with glitter it just gets everywhere, kind of like sand at the beach.  As we prepared for the Canton Christmas Parade, I made signs for Cheyenne and of course a beauty queen needs sparkle on her signs- which is the source of all the glitter!

Miss Van Zandt County signs were not the only thing we made for the float.  Tony built me a small stable with a cross attached to it.  I have been wanting one of these for several years and it turned out just a great as I imagined.  On the cross I wrote “My Redeemer Lives” after all, what would Christmas be without the celebration of the birth of our Savior?  All along the rails of the trailer we attached bows of pine, cedar, and nandina.  A new use for duck tape was found along the way.  In areas where I could not wrap wire, the duck tape worked just great for fastening the greenery to the trailer.  It really turned out really pretty.  A bale of hay was placed in the stable and Sierra & Jonathan rode along.  Katie and Rylie, my lovely nieces, accompanied Cheyenne and sat with her.  They were dressed in the cutest red outfits with tutus.  My sister, Windy, always has them decked out right.

Jesus is the reason for the Season!
Jesus is the reason for the Season!

This was our first Christmas parade and although at the beginning I was really nervous about such an undertaking, it was not hard a bit.  The only thing “new” was the stable and that was built from salvaged lumber.  Everything else came from the land or was borrowed from Windy.  She had these really large ornaments that looked fabulous wired in with the greenery.  No one fell off or even looked like they might.  All of the greenery stayed in place along the parade route that started at the Jr. High and looped around the square.  I did also purchase an adapter that plugged into the cigarette lighter.  This powered the lights via an extension cord that was run out of the back window.  This little contraption is wonderful and will be used a lot to charge phones and laptops as we travel.

Getting the float ready
Getting the float ready

So, at 6:30 all the floats and other entries powered up and the procession began.  What fun!!  There was a record 50 entries in the parades this year and more people than I have ever saw came out to watch.  It was just so much fun to wave to all and have lots of people shouting out “Merry Christmas”.  What a great memory.  One little boy imp-articular made me laugh.  As we rolled by, he figured out what the cross said and began to shout, “My Redeemer Lives!”  it was awesome and I certainly believe it made God smile.  Then he looks at his mom and asks, “What is that?”  I like to believe that a seed of faith got planted.

Having fun!
Having fun!

After all the festivities were wrapped up, all anyone local who came to the parade came by the house for soup and cornbread.  That was really nice, too.  Not surprisingly, the boys ended up outside burning things in the chimenea.  Next thing I knew, all the adults had made it out there, too.  Not that it was cold and a fire was needed.  I was grateful the cold weather held off another day, dressing warmly was one thing I did not have to worry about.  Another Christmas season is passing by and we are making some really great memories.

May your Christmas Season be filled with joy and love.  And remember- Our Redeemer Lives!

Beautiful
Beautiful

Sierra & Jonathan
Sierra & Jonathan

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