Monday, September 27, 2010


Haven't these fall temperatures been amazing? I love walking outside and thinking, "hmmmm, I need a jacket." The mornings are crisp and cool; I even saw my breath today. I am really looking forward to fall this year. I can't wait to see Reese in her cutie little Halloween costume. I want to go on a hayride and go get pumpkins to carve. I did buy one yesterday that we painted and Reese played with it all day. She really liked the gourds at Hyvee but I wasn't sure what to do with it once I got home.

I am hoping to go to make some homemade canned applesauce and maybe even those apples that are all red when you bite into them. I have no idea what they're called so someone help me out if you know what I'm thinking of.

The part of fall I am most looking forward to is Reese's birthday. I just can't believe we made it a whole year. It has just flown by, but it's been a good time too. I can't wait to see her tear into her birthday cake and look at all her presents. I doubt she will care too much about them though, she has a room full of toys and tonight she sat and played with a piece of tape she found in the closet for 45 minutes. Seriously, a piece of tape, scotch tape even....

So, yay for fall! Bring on the hoodies!!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Birthday Weekend

This was one great weekend. Friday was my birthday and the day started great. Dustin and Reese got me a necklace to match the ring he got me as a surprise in the spring. And we had a family breakfast at Panera. I had a great day at school and to finish the day, we went out for a couple of hours and left Reese with a non-family babysitter for the first time. They both got along great and hopefully we have a "regular."

Saturday, Marsha, Eric, and Maggie came up to meet us for lunch and spent the day with us. We went to our favorite stops, Target for the girls, Home Depot for the boys and Maggie Moos for the crowd! It was a great day!

Today was a quiet Sunday. Reese chowed down on some yummy pasta and wore that stuff from head to toe! We laid in the yard and played with the leaves before we had an amazing roast for dinner. And the girls made a fun little craft tonight. It wasn't much to report but definitely one of the best birthday weekends I've had for awhile. Here are a few highlights.

Halloween Craft

Reese and I decided to make a little craft for Halloween. We saw these lanterns in a magazine and thought it sounded right up our alley. We got some jars right out of our refrigerator, put on a little mod podge and tissue paper and put a tealight inside. They weren't a bad first try and candlelight is pretty forgiving. Happy Halloween, Everyone!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Kid

Take a look at this picture. It is of a kid I barely even recognize. She is so tiny here. I just can't hardly even remember the no-hair barely holds her head up stage. This picture was taken the first time she ate cereal or anything more than formula for that matter. She just kind of looked at us like, "seriously? What IS that?!" My goodness that seems like lifetimes ago. Especially when tonight we fed her a full-blown meal. The kid is an eating machine! A long, long way from the 3 bites of cereal that she mostly wore this first night.
Raising this kid has been a fast ride so far. In one year she has come so far. If I blink she is suddenly doing something new. She is getting big so fast and each stage presents a new problem but, more importantly, a new joy. Sure, the little monkey can make it to the cabinet doors before I can even get myself off the ground. But she can also crawl into my lap and put her head on my shoulder pretty fast too.
It is a lot of fun looking back at where she's been to see how far she's come. We just keep plowing ahead making memories of how fun this new stage is. Because big or small, cranky or laughing, covered in food or clean, I look at those brown doe eyes and they always make a sucker out of me!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Jenny and Pat

This weekend we went to an unbelievable destination wedding! We were lucky enough to be friends with the happy couple and to be a part of their big day. Jenny is a good, good friend of mine since the first day I moved to Brookfield. She showed me the ropes and I learned much more about life from her than how to navigate the hallways of good ole Brookfield Middle School.

Anyway, this weekend she married her best friend, Pat in beautiful Keystone, CO. We knew immediately that we wouldn't miss it for the world. So Thursday, we loaded up and headed out for the 12 hour drive. We drove through the night and rode into a beautiful mountain sunrise and cool temperatures.

The sights were beautiful, yellow Aspens, rocky mountains and gorgeous hardy lanscaping. There was a crisp blue sky and never one cloud to marr the view. Jenny was lucky enough to have the most beautiful canvas to compliment her lovely fall-colored wedding. We enjoyed the local food, a brewery, and a couple of local restaurants. We took a hike in the mountains. Everything was in walking distance so we could enjoy the jacket weather temperatures!

Having Colorado as a backdrop was definitely a perk of the weekend. But the best part about all of it was the reunion of friendships. We roomed with Mary, Eric, Clara, Lesley, Drew and a couple of Jenny's friends; Angela and Mike. Having some one on one time with old friends is always my favorite thing to do. Some other friends were there too and Dustin and I commented all weekend on how much we felt a part of their clan as well. It was great partying atmosphere for sure!

So as we danced the night away to Jenny's blue grass band, visited with old friends while making new ones, we can easily say this Colorado weekend was memorable. We both feel so happy to have been a part of this great weekend!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Good Morning!

Here is the view from our wrap around porch on our condo. I've never seen the mountains before and they are absolutely beautiful! We have many great viewing options but this was the best straight out of the camera shot I have.

We left Meadville last night at around 6:00 on our journey west. We had a caravan of 2 and a cooler full of beer. It was a fairly quick trip with 3 girls, a baby, and 3 men full of energy drinks. It would've been amazing to drive into Keystone during sunrise but we were a little early for that. But it was still pretty awesome to see the black silhouettes of the mountains.

Anyway, after a little nap, and some bacon and eggs prepared by Chefs Drew and Eric, we took our party out to the porch to enjoy the morning view. I think we'll enjoy it here.....

Thursday, September 16, 2010

...And We're Off!

Today we are headed out to Colorado to see a good, good friend get married. We are so excited about our trip, we just can't hardly wait! We leave right after school to drop Reese off at her Aunt Marsha's house for the weekend where she will be pampered and spoiled beyond her wildest dreams. And Dustin and I will head off with our good friends, Mary, Eric, and Clara and Lesley and Drew. We can't wait for the adventurous car ride through the amazing Kansas scenery (okay, not really). But we are looking forward to the beautiful mountains and fresh fall air waiting for us when we get there.

So, tune in next week for recaps of our fabulous weekend in Breckenridge, hopefully you will be as delighted as we are!

Monday, September 13, 2010

The First Spaghetti

Spaghetti: making messes since 1854. (I have no idea on that date, I completely made it up).

Every kid has a picture like this. Every kid has made a gigantic mess of this fine cuisine once or twice. But it is definitely a crowd pleaser for a reason. Tonight was our night and we really enjoyed it.
We had once gotten Reese a little toddler dinner of pasta and tomato sauce and it turned out to be one of the biggest eating disasters we've ever had. She was a complete nightmare and refused to eat. Even worse than the applesauce fit. I wasn't in too big of a hurry to try it again. So then tonight when I made dinner I had a separate dinner lined up for Reese just so we didn't have to deal with a huge fit on a week night. Just for fun I threw in some rontini that she could pick up herself and put it on her plate. And can I just say, she LOVED it! She scarfed that rotini like it was her job. We couldn't refill her plate fast enough. Not to mention the gargantuan amount of green beans she ate along with it.

Needless to say, it turned out to be quite a mess. But it was a fun mess. We even found sauce on her diaper; Lord only knows how it got there! She really enjoyed dinner tonight and the dogs really enjoyed the leftovers. It put us all in such a great mood and we ended up having one of the best evenings we've had for awhile. Spaghetti was a success and tonight's leftovers will just be eaten in the nude!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Beautiful Sunday Afternoons

Today has been a gorgeous almost fall but still summery day. We hated to waste the day inside but Reese is still too small for the park and our back yard is a land mine of, well with two dogs, use your imagination.

Our carpet has been wet and we can't figure out what is leaking so Dustin wanted to work on that. He tore up our kitchen so Reese and I were going to have to take it outside if we wanted to have any peace and to avoid the risk of poison from who only knows what is under our kitchen sink.
Before Dustin did that, Reese and I decided to bake some banana cookies and take them outside and have a picnic. The recipe turned out delicious so I wanted to share with you how we made them. Here is what you need:

I put some cinnamon in too to give it a little extra flavor. But you must cream together the sugar and butter. Add an egg, vanilla and 2 ripe bananas. Finally add the dry ingredients and continue to mix until it resembles a mixture. It kind of looks like thick cake batter and it's very soft so make sure you use a cold pan when you make additional batches.

After I mixed them all up, I baked them for 10 minutes at 350. I mixed up some icing but there was no recipe because I had a tub of frosting that I just added some cinnamon and brown sugar to, but there is a recipe that I will list below. Here is a shot of my little helper. Instead of mixing today she made sure nothing escaped the refigerator. Please excuse the mismatched outfit. It's laundry day and earlier in the morning I let her play with tupperware filled with water. It was fun but a little sloppy.

The cookies are amazing. Light and fluffy almost like cake. They were a perfect little snack to use up those overripened bananas. Finally, we were ready to take our picnic outside. We feasted on our delicious banana cookies and examined the leaves. We also enjoyed the sun and just laid back to relax.

Here is the recipe for banana cookies with icing:

3/4 c butter (1 1/2 sticks) 6 Tbsp brown sugar
3/4 c brown sugar 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg 4 Tbsp cream
1 tsp vanilla 4 Tbsp butter
2 bananas, smashed powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 c flour

Cream 3/4 cup butter and sugar, add egg, banana and 1 tsp vanilla. Beat well. Add dry ingredients and bake for 10 minutes at 350. For icing: cook over medium heat the brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. vanilla, cream and butter. Remove from heat and add sugar until spreading consistency.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Disaster

I came home tonight to a disaster. What was this disaster, you ask? Did someone break in? No, no that wasn't it. Did a fire occur? Nope. A bomb, you wonder? Not that either. This disaster was caused by the occupants of this small, cozy house. All of the occupants to be exact. See, we have a 10 month old crawling, pulling up, mess-making child who likes to throw fits when she doesn't get what she wants.

So, the disaster I came home to tonight was this:

7 ponytail holders
9 pairs of shoes/flip flops
5 separate socks none with a match
1 set of stacking cups
12 books
6 sacks or bags of some kind
3 remotes
15 (yep you read that right) DVD cases
1 torn up box of Chex granola bars
1 lone brown toddler shoe of which a match has yet to be found

I'm sure you can sympathize with me. I'm sure that some of you my pity my lack of house cleaning skills. In my defense, the dogs did do some of this mess. And I have to say, it is tiring enough just keeping her away from things that are unsafe and not edible that when she opens cabinets and grabs for handfuls of movies. But the bottom line is; although it may look like we had a break in, or a police raid, or a bomb detonation you rest assured that we are safe. It is just another messy day in the Neal house.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Famous in a Small Town

It's no secret that I love Miranda Lambert; love her. She's just the kind of person I aspire to be. Beautiful, for one. But that's not the point I'm trying to make.

The point is, Miranda sings Famous in a Small Town. It's really just about Brookfield or Meadville or wherever.

"'Round here you get just as much attention, cheering at the high school football game."
Really this is true. Every fall Friday night I felt like a celebrity. The crowd's eyes were in my (general) direction. I had 15 minutes of fame as the cheerleading captain and Homecoming Queen candidate.

"Every grandma, in-law, ex-girlfriend maybe knows it just a little too well."
Okay, I can think of at least 6 examples of this statement. Everybody has their story to tell of the version of the town gossip. Sure, gossip starts somewhere, but usually it's along the grapevine that the juicy details are stated. And I'm sure somewhere when Dustin and I got together the switchboards lit up.

I think she conveys her point pretty well in this song. Every small town has a little story going on behind the scenes. Someone's pregnant or broken up or getting married. Everybody has their small town story of something that made them famous (or infamous). Some stories are better than others. Some stories can be told on the internet, some are best left for the memories of a fall bonfire. But all this talk of stories and memories leaves me to wonder, what makes you "famous?"

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

6 words

Two weeks ago I went to a training for Staff Development Coordinators. While we were there we watched a video of a high school teacher's assignment. (Here is the video if you'd like to see it.) The teacher asked his students to write a six-word memoir. We were then asked to create our teaching philosophy in 6 words. I instantly knew my teaching philosophy, that was easy.
Each day is a fresh start.
I brought the assignment back to school and we created a fantastic collection. But it also inspired many of us to think about our own personal philosophy. How do you sum it up in 6 words? I've been thinking on this for a few days and I've decided
Happiness: a thumb and a blanket.
Can't all life's lessons be summed up in a Peanuts comic strip?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I Shoulda Wrote a Book

My grandma was probably pretty much a saint. I say that because she had 5 kids, 4 of them boys and onery ones at that. She lost her husband when my dad, the baby, was only 4. So living out in the country she raised 5 kids. I cannot even imagine doing that, but then I hear the stories and I wonder if there is a special place in heaven for mothers of many.

I have heard stories of fights, jail, football rivalries, swimming lessons in the middle of a pond, cats and gasoline (don't even ask), and brotherly love. People come up to me all the time with a new story about my dad. And at holidays we all love to sit around and listen to the stories of the brothers. It is especially entertaining after a few beers and when they are all there to help each other tell their side of the story.

My grandma always used to say, "I shoulda wrote a book." And oh how I would love it. I can't even imagine how funny it would be if all the Olinger boys got together and wrote down their take on childhood. Unfortunately, one is missing and I doubt any of them are too interested in typing but maybe one day all the grandkids will get together and write down the hilarious anecdotes of 5 crazy kids who onery, beer drinking, and loveable. Oh and the best seller it would be!

Monday, September 6, 2010

10 Months

Reese turned 10 months old yesterday. I just can't believe how time flies. This time last year we were at the lake and I was crying over my swollen feet and lack of alcohol. And here we are a year later and I'm back to the booze.

Anyway, yesterday was a big day of milestones. She of course turned 10 months but she decided to celebrate by getting another tooth, saying her first consonant sounds of ba ba ba and da da da. She is saving Ma ma ma for the next one so that it can be her first word that has meaning. But she also began standing up completely on her own too!

We have seen her gain so much independance and she has become so scientific. She studies everything and usually runs the mouth test on most objects. She can feed herself and eats almost everything we eat. And of course, applesauce is still her favorite. She really loves to help me put on my make-up in the morning and to tip over her toy box.

Each passing day, our little stinker has won our hearts a little more. She lays her head on our shoulder and all transgressions are forgotten. Her giggles are like little rays of sunshine and to say that we live for that huge two-tooth grin would be an understatement. So, happy 10 months of Reese and to thousands more milestones to celebrate!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

School Days

This marks the 3rd week of school. The sprinting marathon is now over for the most part and we've settled in to a nice routine. I have a pretty nice class, and I can honestly look at all of them and think, "what a good group of kids." I have become the alpha female, thank goodness and overall I really enjoy this group of kids. Here are a few things I have noticed though.

1. Girl drama starts early. I had none of this last year because well, they were perfect. Today I had a sobbing, hysterical girl because someone said she was "dating" someone....ahhh jeez.

2. I would gladly take a class of 15 boys and 5 girls instead of the other way around. Not so lucky on that this year.

3. Parents love spelling tests. Every year I get a call as to why I don't do this particular part of school. I'm not going to go into depth as to my philosophy on this subject, I just don't do it. You can spell or you can't. If you can, good for you, if you can't, well, there's always spell check.

4. Ending a story by saying, "...and then I went to bed" is NOT an effective ending.

5. I have had many siblings in the past 7 years. Last year I had almost 7 kids who also had a sibling in my class. But this year I cannot call J anything but L; luckily he doesn't seem to mind. (This is also the family that I saw at the bar once when I was absolutely too drunk to be around kids, the boy in my class was only 2 at the time. In my defense, they had a baby in a bar.)

6. Kids are surprisingly obedient when you phrase directions in a Simon Says game.

7. Pencil sharpening is always a battle.

8. The kids you loved the most always come visit.

9. Some kids just need more hugs than others. And if you stand in my dance space and expect a hug constantly, you are probably going to get on my nerves really fast.

10. I'm gonna give Jenny Y. a little amen here when I say, Silly Bands are best left at home.

So, there are good things about this year. There is definitely a lot of training to be done still. Will they be an epic class like last year? No, probably not. Will they turn out to be a little better from where they started? I'd like to think so. And let's hope they blow the MAP test out like we did last year, that would be even better!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hunting Shows

Do you it is only 14 days until deer bow season? I do.

Do you know that "160" constitutes a BIG deer? I do.

Do you know what Scent Blocker, Drury Outdoors, and Mossy Oak are all selling? I do.

And do you know why I know these things? Because I live with a hunter. An avid hunter. An avid-hunter who watches the Outdoor Channel like it's the Food Network. For the past month we have watched every hunting show imaginable. EVERY STINKING ONE!

I have taken up the Kardashians in response to this behavior.

Soon I will become a single mother to the woods. I will spend my weekends alone because I cannot bear to pack up the car and go home another weekend. I will probably end up throwing at least one temper tantrum due to the neglect I am feeling.

You see, my outdoorsman husband refuses to be lured into any activity outside of hunting that he is not expressly interested in. He doesn't visit friends, or come in early for a party. And if you catch him on opening weekend of gun season....well, you might as well save your invitation.

He does have one tiny little commitment falling around November 5th, however.

Wordless Wednesday