Christmas Time Is Here Again....

Christmas Card 2011

Fenley, Mary Ellie, and John Barron

Time for fun and time for cheer! I am baaacckk.  After an embarrassingly long hiatus, a husband actually nagging encouraging me to start chronicling our little family's comings and goings, I am going to fervently try to keep everyone updated about our little family.
First things first, to get everyone back up to speed, Two lambs and a Bear is about to be Two Lambs and a Bear plus a Baby. We are expecting Baby Number Four in the Spring. Our due date is late April but this little munchkin will be making her debut in early March. This pregnancy has proved challenging and complicated {not that the other pregnancies were not challenging but this one has it's own set of complications}. I am resting in bed according to the doctor yet trying to survive the Holiday Season as well.

Baby Flack with her arms and legs covering her face

Baby Flack looking right at us!
 The children have been already getting in the spirit at school: Snow Days and School performances. Bear had his Snow Day at school complete with Gingerbread houses and a visit from Santa Claus! I only got to attend the Gingerbread House decorating aspect of the day. He was adorable and ate three candies for everyone one he attached to his house! Honey was a big help and got there first and helped him until I could arrive for my short outing. It was worth the trouble. Honey and I had a good time celebrating Christmas and playing with Bear.

Gingerbread House Decorating

Bear focusing on his decorating

Bear and Santa Claus

Mary Ellie and Fenley had a Snow Day at their school as well. Parents were not invited so I don't have any pictures to share but they had hot chocolate and met Santa. They were elated. If you are not a fellow Texan, then you probably think the preschools down here are kind of funny pumping in snow to make up for the nonexistent snow in our state but the children love it! They had a wonderful time and I am so thankful that their schools make such an effort to make the holiday season so special for them.
Mary Ellie and Fenley also had a Christmas Breakfast and Performance of The Friendly Beasts that Joe and I did get to attend. We had a great time visiting with their teachers, friends and friends' parents at the Breakfast but an event better time watching the performance. The twins were the Singing Reindeer which is where all the youngest children able to participate in the school play come on stage (after all the friendly beasts, Mary, and Joseph) wearing reindeer antlers and they sing all together. This is really cute since I am pretty sure the stable animals were present at the Birth of Christ but not the singing reindeer. Mary Ellie and Fenley were adorable. Fenley sang his heart out and we were so proud! Mary Ellie seemed to enjoy the onstage view of all the action. Precious Singing Reindeer! It really put me in the holiday spirit.

The Friendly Beasts and The Singing Reindeer

My Singing Reindeer and a Bear

But now school is out and the small people are home all day and every day.  My children have been out of school exactly four days {who is counting, though?!}. I cannot leave the house and entertain them so they are stir crazy and so is this mama. I am trying to drum up some projects and things we can do around the house that require limited standing and activity on my part. If you had three children under three years old you would realize this is an oxymoron but we are trying.
Our first project: Salt Dough Ornaments

Recipe From Fly Through Our Window:

Darby’s Salt Dough Christmas Ornaments

4 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 1/2 cups of warm water                                                                                          
small to medium cookie cutters

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
2. Whisk together flour and salt in mixing bowl until incorporated. (Use a stand mixer with the bread hook attachment.*) Gradually add water until dough ball collects.
3. Using half the dough at a time, roll out on a floured surface until flat and very even. (Dough does not rise at all.) Dip cookie cutters in flour and use to cut out shapes. Using a straw, add a hole at the top of each ornament. Transfer to cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.
4. Bake for 2 hours. Turn off oven and let sit for another hour.
5. Remove from oven and place on cooling racks. Using a basting brush, dust off excess flour. If still soft, put back in preheated oven for another hour.
6. Once dry and hard, paint ornaments, if desired. To finish, spray with clear polyurethane (outside or in a well-ventilated area) or glossy Mod Podge, or leave all natural. Yields 30 - 40 small-to-medium-sized ornaments.
*If you don’t have a stand mixer, mix by hand. Knead until dough is well incorporated and pulled together in a ball

** I am making the Cinnamon Salt Dough Ornaments First. "You can make cinnamon salt dough by omitting 1 cup of flour and adding 1 cup of cinnamon and 1 cup of nutmeg. I think I’d skip the glaze and let them be “natural” as to maximize the scent! Her’s always smelled wonderful, even through many years!" Fly Through Our Window

We made the salt dough both ways. They turned out darling! It made our kitchen Christmas Tree very homey and it smells wonderful. Mary Ellie, Fenley, and Bear decided to add their school ornaments to the kitchen tree to spruce it up a little more. One holiday project down and I think we have a new tradition.

The Ingredients

Bear watching the mixer action

First, mix the dry ingredients

Slowly add the water until dough forms

Fenley and Mary Ellie putting the ornaments on the tree

The Flack Children enjoying their ornaments and gingerbread house display

The Finished Product

Hmmm....a little low?

Mary Ellie making round two: plain salt dough ornaments

Ta-da! I even remember to do their hands

This was an easy and fun project for the kids. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for something crafty and not too labor intensive. We enjoyed it. Let's see what else I can drum  up to do next....

PS Forgive the choppy writing, I'm pretty rusty!

Summertime....and the Livin' is Easy

The summer is fast approaching and may all our summer days be as fun as these pictures portray. I remember as a child summer being lazy with days at the pool, biking, playing with friends, and Popsicles. As school wraps up next week and the twins finish their first year in a school program I have mixed emotions: on one hand, my babies are done with their first sweet school experience and it happened so fast, and on the other hand, whew...we survived: bring on the pool and Popsicles.
Fenley, Mary Ellie, and Bear were kicking off the impending stifling heat and lazy summer days ahead with some backyard fun with Wynn and Jack at their side. Fudge Pops were a hit! Party in the backyard...clothes option.

If These Walls Could Talk

If these walls could talk, then they would tell you "Thank goodness it is March and February is over!". Our house survived a long series of viruses which resulted in 3 sick children and one very weary mama. Instead of recapping February and it's misadventures, I am charging forward with March and Spring. I will do a series of Post Scripts to fill you in on where we were and why we disappeared for a month. Hello March! A few Spring announcements:
1. First of all, a HUGE thanks to Carolyn, for helping me update the blog and make it even better than before. She is awesome to work with and you should check her out if you need blog assistance! Her blog Life in Graz is really cool too. Thank you so much. I seriously know nada about computer and Internet stuff and Carolyn gets me and what I want AND has the ability to not make me feel like a total dummy. I love the updates and look forward to get blogging again.
2. It is March and that means the mummies are donning new Saint Patrick's Day themed apparel. Hysterical. Thank you to their mama and stylist, Laurel, who keeps the joke going. We are rooting for the mummies to make it at least until swimsuit season this summer!
Getting Ready for Saint Patrick's Day
3. We have a new cousin! Precious Addison Faith has arrived. The two lambs and baby bear are super excited to meet baby "Addy". Welcome to the World, Addy!
Baby Addy and Proud Parents Aunt Holly and Uncle JP
Baby Addy

4. I tried a new soup recipe because I am trying new foods to make things healthier around here. It was delicious! Some of my children agreed and the non-eater, Fenley, thought it made a great decorative paste on his grilled cheese sandwich. Here is the recipe:
Cream of Carrot Soup

3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted (I splashed in some olive oil too)
1 clove garlic, chopped (I used 3)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cups carrots, sliced
1 potato, peeled and diced
10 ounces of chicken broth
10 ounces water
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 cup milk

Sauté garlic and onion in butter or margarine. Add carrots and potato. Stir to coat with the butter or margarine. Add chicken broth, water, salt, tarragon and pepper. Simmer, covered, over medium heat for 15 minutes until vegetables are well cooked.

Purée the soup in batches using a blender, hand blender or food processor until it is smooth. Pour the soup back into saucepan. Stir in milk. Heat and serve.

Makes 5 cups.

*Adjust the whole milk, fat free milk, cream etc to your family's needs and your fat intake desires. I personally made mine high in fat because my children drink whole milk so we used that and I splashed in some cream. Hey, not totally healthy, but getting extra veggies down them is the goal and if we have to baby step to become vegetable lovers, we will!
**I grated fresh ginger in my soup. Do this to taste and it makes a world of difference. I also omitted tarragon for my munchkins but it would have been even better with it. And a dash of yogurt, cream,or cream fraise on top! or even a smidgen of olive oil!
*** This recipe gave me an excuse to use my new Cuisinart Green Immersion Blender. This will be bring on a whole slew of recipes alone. Why oh Why Did i not buy this awesome little guy sooner? It saved any food mill preparation, blender or fancy schmancy Food Prep thing that I have long ago abandoned in my cabinets because it was too hard to clean with children underfoot. Go get an immersion blender! Here is a link to one like mineSur La Table Immersion Blender
Immersion Blender in Parsley
I also used Pink Salt for this recipe. My pal, Lauren, and I went to a seminar on healthier living. I am trying to purify our house, our food, and detoxify our living environment and Lauren is on the same mission. The creators of Three Branches gave the talk and we learned so much. I am attempting to make small steps to create a better little home for our three. I will chronicle what I have done thus far and fill you in as this month of Spring Cleaning goes by. BUT, check out their article on Pink Salt and give that a try. Note: I bought fine Himalayan Pink Salt at my local Whole Foods.Three Branches
5. It's March. My children are better but I am battling another raging case of tonsillitis. The only upside to this is I don't feel the need to run around all the time "getting things done" and I can focus a little more on my blog. I came across this great poem in one of my children's books. It goes well with my "If These Walls Could Talk" feeling of the past month.

"If" by Rudyard Kipling

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

If....I can survive February and this round of tonsillitis, mine is the Earth and everything that's in it.
All boy with a pail of dirt and oddly a lack of cumbersome clothes
Mamie taking Baby Doll Patsy for a spin in the car to buy milk
a wayward Croc because Fenley refuses to wear shoes {or pants} most of the time while digging in the dirt

I love this happy little rainbow drawing. Here's to March, sunnier skies ahead and hopefully a few rainbows!

P.S. Poor Baby Bear had to be rushed to Texas Children's Hospital with a 106 temperature last month. It was FREEZING. Literally, outside as I bundled him up in the wee early dark hours of the morning or middle of the night as I like to know it. He was an angel. Just a sick, sick little baby that's body was fighting a yucky virus but since he was so young with such a high temperature, they had us go to the emergency room. I am so thankful that my baby is better and we live in a place with access to doctors and medicine. Praise the Lord and big prayers for those without access to medicine.

Baby Bear snoozing. My little man turned 15 months on February 27th! He is growing up so fast. If I could just freeze time and keep him tiny and sweet in his crib forever!

Where Oh Where Art Thou?

In my short and ever so brief blogging break, I feel some things were a little glazed over that I should quickly recap. I will do it in bullets to move things along and let the pictures actually be worth "a thousand words".
1. Garage Sale
Boy, oh boy, am I so glad that is over. I am never, ever, ever doing it again. The garage sale was to begin at 8 and people were camped outside my house at 6:45 am trying to see things. To top it all off, it was FREEZING outside. The kind of cold where you have to bounce to keep warm and hover over your Starbucks begging for mercy.
Papa Joe and Honey were troopers though. They came in for Papa Joe's 60th birthday and helped me survive the onslaught of deal seekers. Honey worked the sale and Papa Joe helped my hubby, Joe III {family nickname and to help clarify things} watch all three munchkins. This worked out great until the threesome was allowed outside to experience the "fun" and found their beloved little treasures being sold. The boys tried rescuing a few items but they eventually made their way back to the sale or goodwill donations. Thanks for everybody's help. Please remind me to never do this again though. It was a lot of work!
The droves of treasure hunters

my scary hoarder room now in the driveway for all the world to see

a couple of jammie clad twins interested in all the action with posing with Honey

now properly attired posing with Papa Joe and Honey before a jaunt to the park

Cute picture but seriously....never again!

treasures reclaimed by Fenley

Bear finding his old bath toy
 2. Big Kid Beds
Mary Ellie and Fenley got into a habit of escaping from their iron cribs and scaling the plantation shutters. This caused lots of problems: they were practicing nastics on our shutters, pretty sure the neighbors did not like being spied on all the time, they were going to break something while climbing out if we did not take action, and we would find them wandering all over the house and making trouble. So, garage sale profits went to big kid beds.
This was a very exciting move for them and us. Mommy kind of forgot that new mattresses needed sheets, blankets, and rails so I had to dash off after the delivery, run to Target and Babies R Us for the items, run home to wash everything, and make it back to school by noon for pickup. The twins were thrilled with the new beds but they still escape. They have had them a little over a week now and they are getting better but the new found freedom is still creating a little chaos.
Now we need bed frames or headboards or something but more on that decorating project later!
Bye bye cribs

Mamie home from school and excited about new polka dot sheets

Car sheets!!

the lambs are so very sleepy after school but so excited about these strange new beds

Hello Big Kid Beds

Think we need to get a decorator in here to solve the blandness but more twins escaping and climbing out of iron cribs
 3. Into Everything
The children have been exploring and getting into everything at our house lately. Climbing on the kitchen counters, opening the fridge, emptying linen cabinets, emptying an entire box of wipes, and so on and so forth. The most noteworthy explorations go to Bear and Fenley.
Bear decided to climb the hearth and explore the inside of the fireplace. He was covered in SOOT. To make this even grosser, we have lived here almost 4 years and never have lit a fire there. Eewwww and not to mention a disaster to clean up. This little man was so proud of himself he was beaming and bouncing in delight by the time I captured him off the hearth. I decided to inwardly scream and pause to take the baby's picture.
We cleaned him off and rushed him out the door to a play date but I will never forget the look on his delighted face and the soot.
Fenley gets second prize for finding diaper rash cream and pretending to be like Daddy and shave with it while he was supposed to be napping. Also, not fun to clean up but he was a little more sheepish when I found him. I took a picture or two to show his father. Rascals have literally been getting into everything. Say a quick prayer for my sanity!

4. Date with Bear
I took Bear on a quick date after dropping off our trunk at my partner, Brooke's house, I knew we would never make it to bible study, so I spent the morning with the little guy. He is such a sweet boy and I loved every minute of just the two of us. Thank you for a great date, Baby Bear!
Bear is always on the move so a lot of my date he played hard to get

the sweetest toddler park

Such a great date!
 5. Severe Weather
As I mentioned in the last blog, we have been having some severe weather, freezing winds, and all over stay-inside and bundle up weather. This is a little hard to do with the two lambs and bear because they go stir crazy. I grabbed a few "new" toys or "out-of-rotation" toys from the closet and they entertained themselves for a couple of days.
The weather has cleared and the pipe newly capped {the one that flooded the backyard}, and Sunday has been sunnier and warmer. We got to take the kids to the park and on a picnic. What a treat for us all to get outdoors and the children love getting to run off some energy. Enjoy the park pictures. The munchkins look SO big to me in jeans and tee-shirts it reminds me why I keep them so baby and old-fashioned most of the time despite loving their tee-shirts. They love their tee-shirts too and proudly pointed to the new pictures on them and had a great day. Back to normalcy {relative term around here} and a new week ahead.
Fenley has a small obsession with diggers. This was a gift for Christmas that is quite noisy so it lives in the corner of a closet and makes appearances when Fenley really needs cheering up or the weather is too awful to play outdoors. Fenley loves it! Such a treat for him when the digger comes out to play.

Barbie and Barbie corvette were also gifts that live in the closet to entertain the twins. We play with mostly wooden toys so the kids think these toys are a riot when they get to play with them {we rotate toys as to not get bored around here}. I was a little concerned about Barbie and her lack of clothes so Pinkalicious has a new car that is pink-a-fabulous!

Fenley looks like a little boy here and not my baby. Boo hoo.

Bear also looks like a little boy. :(

Always running in the opposite direction, my little man. I love this picture because it captures his little toddler-trying-to-be-a-big-boy gait

He turned around. So thrilled to have a handful of gravel.

Happy Sunday and enjoy the Super Bowl!