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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Happy Father's Week!

For Kid's Camp this year we are all packing up and going for a week of volunteering. Zachary will be a camper for the first session but other than that, we are going to serve. The problem is that we will be leaving the evening before Father's Day.

David will be taking some days off of work and holding down the fort at home. He has been working so much lately that some days of peaceful relaxation will be good for him. We went to the Outback to celebrate David and gave him a new drill. He has always wanted an electric drill that plugs in for those projects that need more power and so he can continue on his project even when his battery runs out and has to recharge.

We enjoyed the yummy food and found that not many of the kids were very hungry so now not only did David have a great meal, he has a lot of leftovers to eat from all week!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Boy Scout Camp

Ryan has been gone to scout camp this week and although other sibling type family members have insisted the don't miss him, I have been missing him! I had to laugh when we went out to camp tonight to enjoy a pot luck dinner with him and let him show us around the place. 

The triplets are so vocal about how much they annoy each other lately that when the three of them got together at dinner, you could tell they hadn't seen each other for awhile. They really were goofy.

We got to see Ryan's tent where he sleeps all week, the store, the pool, and other areas of camp where he spends most of his time during the camp days. He shared with me what merit badges he is working on and how he will finish up the tasks. 

Of course when the little boys saw the little shack that was the place where the boys in the tents went to the bathroom they both decided they had to use the facilities. It was all fascinating!

It was a warm evening but it was fun to see where he has been and what he is up to. Zachary and Matthew thought the weather rock was their favorite thing about camp and when Zachary realized his Cub Scout day camp was just down the road, he was pretty amazed.

Ryan will be spending the rest of the week here and on Saturday he comes home, unpacks, repacks and then takes off Saturday night to Kids Camp for church. He has kept this rigorous schedule before and says it doesn't bother him but I am sure that he will be tired when his head finally hits his own pillow located in his own bed a week and a half from now!

I am proud of the time that Ryan has put in pursuing his scouting goals. He is very focused and is having fun along the way. A mom is pretty blessed to have a kid like him!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Love is an Open Door

I am a little out of the ordinary in some ways. I spend way too much time over thinking things. That doesn't stop me though from spending my time on things that I enjoy and having fun with it.

My example today would be the banners I am making for Kids Camp. I am going to be counselor for the first time. First Session I will have the PINK bunk and Second Session I will have the LIME GREEN bunk. Part of the bunk inspections I have learned is to decorate in some way based on the theme or something entirely different.

The Camp theme this year is "Chosen" a take off of the movie Frozen. You can imagine this creative quilting mind go crazy then when I saw the Frozen fabric at the store. I can afford a yard of each and I can certainly come up with something to decorate our bunk.

So here you have it:

Exhibit A: PINK bunk
Exhibit B: LIME GREEN bunk

I will let you know how we do with our decorating sense after camp! Oh...and if you are interested in these to use to decorate that special "crazy for Frozen" someone's bedroom, I am selling them after camp for $25.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Managing Money

It seems like every time we are out and about and a kid says "hey Mom, just transfer money from my savings account into yours" when they want to buy something they see, they forget about it later when the look at the total in their savings account. I know this because I hear "what have you been doing with my money? I used to have [amount A] now I only have [lesser amount B]"
They don't remember how many times and how much they have told me to transfer for the different items that they have purchased and now could find stuffed under a bed or in a corner forgotten. There are two in particular that seem to be absent minded that way and so I have been looking for a system so they can see in front of them the things that they spend their money on.

I found many many options for ledgers and "check" registers that they can use and decided on this one. It has already been a learning experience as they have both made extra money and spent some that they forgot about. I have already found more peace in our discussions about their money and how much they have (or don't) have!

I made each one of them a book and now whenever they say "can you transfer..." I mark it in the book with the date and what it is for and they have a permanent record that no, Mom has not been sneaking your pennies out of your savings accounts.

It has been fun to see the light go off when they forget and look up the record to see that "oh yeah, I made extra money this week BUT I spent more than I made!" It is good lessons for life!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Summer Sleeping Arrangements

These are my loves...all five of them. They have been driving me crazy in all kinds of ways since 2002! Here they are after finally figuring out how they can ALL sleep downstairs on the pull out sofa bed. Now, let me tell you, their father and I purchased that sectional in 1995 when we moved to our first house in Flowery Branch, GA. It has been through MUCH...let's just leave it at that. The mattress is probably no longer able to be called such because when I sit down on the bed, I am basically sitting on the bars underneath. Not at all comfortable. 

The pull out part really hasn't been slept on that much but the sectional has been used and lived on for many years now. Some of my favorite memories of this sectional would include:

  • It was a great place to prop up babies who couldn't quite sit up by themselves yet.
  • It was a wonderful place to fall asleep while watching television or reading. I found it quite comfy when being up in the night with a sick child - MANY times!
  • It was a great place to sit a "big brother" or "big sister" as they tried for the first time to burp the new baby, or hold the new baby (or sometimes fall asleep with the new baby)
  • In the days when it was just David and I, it was difficult not to fall asleep during a movie we put in way too late. (especially if it was one that David picked out - I fell asleep every time!)
  • Auntie Chelle loved to sleep on it when she spent a weekend night at our house to help with "nigh-time feeding of triplets" duty.
  • This was one of our very first brand new furniture purchases.
I am sad now that it is banished to the basement with one recliner not working and a mattress that is as flat as a pancake! But, four out of the five of these children love to sleep down there on the pull out bed. Don't ask me why, they all have perfectly comfy beds upstairs, but they like to have a "sleepover" together in the basement. Strange. Ryan is the only child who won't give up his bed for the party going on in the basement. I don't blame him!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Make Hay (or Pull Weeds) While the Sun Shines

I was young when I remember sitting around the table at my grandpa and grandma's doing a crossword puzzle with Grandpa. He seemed a little disappointed at my lack of response when he read the question "Make ________ while the sun shines." I may have been in 3rd or 4th grade at the time and I didn't know what word filled in the blank.

I remember my mom saying that is something that all farmers know and then Grandpa explained that as a farmer he has to plan when to do which work. When the sun is shining, we "make hay" or get the work done when we can because you never know with the weather when you will be able to be outside.

Lesson learned. We haven't done much garden work these past couple of days because of the rain (and wow, has there been a lot of rain!) 

Wednesday Dawn went out for awhile but it was so hot she could hardly breathe. Last week was perfect though. We had been busy with end of the year activities and the weeds had gotten a little out of hand. After our time out in the garden though, we were able to find the carrots, beets and pull up all of the radishes that were ready to harvest. 

When we get back out there I am afraid we will have plenty more to do because looking out of the window from the dining room we are seeing how much the weeds love the rain! The good part of all the rain is that it won't take much at all to pull weeds out of damp ground!

Dawn made it her personal quest to rescue all of the volunteer tomato plants that she could. She enlisted her brother to help her plant some in the planters around the patio. When she ran out of planters she then asked her dad for the part of the garden where the radishes had been to replant the tomato plants so she wouldn't have to pull them up and "kill" them.

Imagine how many volunteer plants she will be tending when last fall her brothers and friends had a grape tomato fight in the garden the day after the first frost. There are little grape tomato seed EVERYWHERE! So the result? This spring we have little volunteer grape tomato plants EVERYWHERE!

I will be looking forward to the yummy salads and grape tomato snacks in the next month or two!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

TBT: Ode to Jacob

I am so excited! This spring for the first time in a few years I was out of the "fog" of surgery recovery, exhaustion and fatigue to plan and execute some great gift projects. The fog lifted just in time because THIS young man has graduated and although any gift that is given from the heart is a great gift, I am one who finds it very enjoyable to be able to find something that can be especially meaningful to each recipient. This desire of mine can be fun at times and at other times it can drive me crazy!

As a little throwback, and me taking a nostalgic "auntie" moment, I am going to ponder Jake today in honor of this boy who I fell in love with the first time I heard he was coming. I remember my brother calling and giving me the news. I was sitting on the couch in our Flowery Branch, GA living room listening to he and Loretta very timidly announce their surprise that they are expecting a baby. They announced timidly because they knew that David and I had already been trying for sometime to start our own family.

It is tricky with "infertile" family members and friends. You want to share your good news but you don't want to cause hurt. To be honest, the very first emotion that hit me was excitement. I remember saying that I may not be able to be a mom right now but that doesn't mean I can't be an amazing AUNTIE! I was truly excited about welcoming the next generation of Bushlack's onto the scene and I still remember the night Jake was born.  I was standing in my sewing room in the same house listening to my brother share the news hoping that it wouldn't be too late to call. The very first thing I learned about my sweet little nephew from the very mouth of his proud father was "he has my feet!"
Arm Wrestling Aunties!

I had a week off between the time I had quit my admin job and was moving into the classroom to teach so my sister and I drove up to see Jake for the first time. Remember the days when our cameras used "film"? Yes, Jake was born before the days of digital (just barely) and I had one more picture on the film to take before Johanna and I were to head back south to our respective homes. So, who would get to hold Jake in the very LAST picture on the film? We resolved our problem the way any respectable siblings would, arm wrestling.

Last picture on the roll...the strongest
 arm got to hold sweet baby Jake!
That was a long time ago and much time has passed. We have watched Jake grow up and now he has graduated and is preparing for his first year at college. It is amazing how fast time flies. And it flies even faster once you watch your own kids. Jake plays a huge roll in that too. My children arrived on the scene when Jake had already had a few years of "big brother" experience and his little cousins looked up to him immediately!

Through the years Jake has been a great role model for his younger cousins and has spent many hours at Grand Central playing all kinds of things that entertain and build the relationships among the cousins. When it came time to think of something to give him for his graduation from high school it took some time. Through the course of the planning and switching gears a week before the party, I came up with something that I felt was worthy to express our well wishes for him as he leaves home. Here is what I came up with...
All is wrapped in the Navy bag that I had
when I went to college. It belonged to
Jake's Great Grandpa Johnson.
A quilt made to look like loose leaf filler
paper and some fabric pens for people to
write their well wishes
A couple of fun throw pillows for throwing
during all nighters when people start getting

I threw in laundry detergent and a couple of roles of quarters to give it a laundry theme and hoped that it would be "cool".

Jake and Ryan have come a long way in their relationship as cousins. Ryan has always looked up to Jake and has treasured the times they get to spend together.

Jake and Ryan: a little one on one time
while dropping off Jake's gift
This marks a pretty big milestone, not only in Jake's life but in our family's life. With all of us living so close together and seeing each other pretty regularly, Jake will leave a hole when he leaves for college in a couple of months. One thing is for certain, he has left a great set of footprints to follow!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Shoveling Out of the Hovel

Its the FLOOR! I see the FLOOR!!!!

It truly would be embarrassing and a poor reflection on my mothering if I were to show you a before picture of the boys' bedroom.

Let's just say, I had had enough months ago going in there and cleaning things up just for them to go in and mess it up with all their stuff.

I am ready to quilt Ryan's Mario blanket for his bed and lets just say, if the top sheet was on his bed after he got out of it each day we were lucky. Most days all of the blankets and sheet were strewn across the floor mixed in with the smelly dirty clothes (it has been soccer season after all!)

I decided a couple of months ago to put aside the Mario blanket and focus on some other projects that I needed to do because I had lost the inspiration.

But last week I went in with shovel and mask (I am allergic to dust) to see what I could do. Climbing over the stacks of dirty clothing I got to the book shelf, the dresser and Ryan's headboard. Those were the things that I thought I would work with to show the boys how to "display" the things they liked and enjoy them rather then throw them in a pile and never see them again.

With the hammer, screwdriver and nails and screws I went in to attack the items that should have been hung a long time ago but had gotten buried under other things. Ryan's Arrow of Light plaque is very heavy and I guess I was just a little concerned that I couldn't get it mounted right with all the weight. It wasn't as difficult as I thought although I did have to resort to my Plan B.

Unfortunately Ryan didn't really notice for about 24 hours but then when I asked him if he did he said he did. I think that he learned a little about thankfulness when I asked him how he would feel if he had helped someone and no one said anything. I keep telling myself that one day all of that will click for him.

As the concept settled in his brain overnight he did get up the next morning and work on the "cleaning" part of the room. He was pretty happy how it turned out and spent awhile playing with his little brother on the floor that they hadn't seen in MONTHS! Matthew was pretty excited to play with the toys he found in all the hovel!

So far a week later, the room still looks good and I am back to my sewing machine for a date with Mario!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Work For Hire

Tackling the refrigerator

I have a board out in the garage as we come in from the van that has a section on the bottom labeled "Work For Hire". Anytime there is a bigger chore or job that is above and beyond the regular chores of the people in our home, it is posted along with the value of the chore and children can choose to make a little extra money if they want.

Say "NO" to moldy stinky food!

Today was almost like the twilight zone in my kitchen. I had to sit at the computer for much of the day catching up on emails, syncing calendars for the next few weeks, returning phone calls and filling out forms. Dawn and Ryan both were willing to do some work so I gave them some tasks that had not made it up on the board yet. Cleaning the refrigerator for $5.00 is what Ryan claimed and Dawn chose cleaning the stove and the freezer for $5.00.

Busy workers

For the first time in a long time the kitchen was bustling with energy. I sat and worked away as they accomplished things too, this time thoroughly and cheerfully. They seemed to learn that it isn't all that bad, especially when we are all working together and laughing and talking. Work can be fun.

Fully equipped and ready!

I did get some photos to mark the momentous occasion to pull out on those days I get frustrated. There was a good bit of food in the fridge that had been there for awhile and so Ryan learned first hand about disposing gross long neglected leftovers. I am not sure if the napkins clothes pinned to their noses helped at all but it did good to add a little extra drama to the afternoon!

Monday, June 8, 2015

A Covert Fifth Grade Math Challenge

We always speak at the beginning of each summer about spending some time working on not only reading but also some "school" type work so that it will be easier in the fall to start our next levels. Zachary has always loved "workbooks". We get the one for the next grade level and spend time doing pages in them.

I would say last summer was the first real challenge for me. I wanted to get him to stop fixating on video games all day while home for the summer and in instead, spend time on reading and "seat work" for a very SMALL amount of a summer day. I admit, it was exasperating and I pretty much gave up on it early on. I was not feeling that well on a daily basis and the struggle was taking too much of my energy.

Not so this summer. So today after they played their morning 30 minutes of video game time and spent the rest of the morning in front of their favorite Netflix show, I told them no, just because they had lunch didn't mean that they could play their afternoon 30 minutes since they had spent the whole morning in front of the television. They argued that it wasn't the WHOLE morning until I made my point by asking them what ELSE they had done today and they couldn't come up with anything.

Zachary did his typical belly-aching and settled for some time at the table with Play-doh. I pulled out some "workbooks" from the cabinet and went through to figure out which ones were still usable. (I really don't have pre school or kindergarten kids anymore - SIGH) 

I happened upon a hard back fifth grade math text book that I had acquired from the old "school room" upstairs at my grandpa's house. That is a story for a different blog, but I have a few readers and other school books from that special place from my growing up years.

Sitting next to Zachary at the table (who was squishing Play-doh between his fingers), I shared with him how when I was growing up I remember looking forward to third grade when we would get "hard" books. Back in the old days a hardback textbook was kind of a rite of passage when you hit third grade. I remember Mrs. Jurgens teaching us how to do math "without writing in the book". We had to copy our problems onto our loose leaf filler paper with our name clearly in the top right hand corner. We had definitely arrived...given up our "workbooks" from 2nd grade and graduated to filler paper and textbooks in third!

Not so much today and this seemed to intrigue Zachary so I continued my story. I picked an "assignment" grabbed a piece of paper and showed him how I would put my name on the top and "do it like this". Then I started doing problem #1 of the assignment on my paper and he listened and watched. I also mumbled as I went along, "Oh, I forgot, this is a fifth grade book, you probably don't know how to do this kind of math yet."

That is all it took. (Actually, that is all it ever takes for that boy. Just a little challenge put in front of him). He was showing me his stuff and before we knew it, he had "completed" a fifth grade math assignment while Mom tried to "trick" him the whole way. I told him I am going to find something in the fifth grade book that will stump him before the summer is over and he has taken the challenge. Meanwhile, we did 30 minutes of math on this summer day and he still doesn't even know it!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Hello, My Name is Jody...and I am a Soccer Mom!

It has happened. This boy, who I put off for much of his younger years signing up to play soccer (probably because he was a first born and I wasn't used to driving my kids around to all kinds of activities) has given his all to the sport for the last three years. That puts me out on the field watching.

As much of a surprise as it is that I would one day say that yes, I do enjoy a good soccer game, it isn't a surprise to me how three of Ryan's siblings are now soccer players too. Stacey will be forced into early retirement after this year however because of the beating her knees take on the field. 

Soccer isn't that bad actually. I may just say that it isn't so much the game I love, it is the love I have for watching my kids start with a certain level of skill and improve to impress me numerous times over the past three years. It is a lot more fun when you factor that into the equation.

Ryan had the short end of the stick this spring season mainly because on the schedule when there were games that overlapped, he was overlapped with Zachary and I felt with Zachary's age that I needed to be at his field so that he could find his way over to the other game when he was done. Needless to say, I saw a lot more of Stacey and Zach's games this spring.

Imagine my surprise when I got to see a game of Ryan's for the first time in over a month! The entire team was amazing and their practice time was evident in the teamwork and energy they showed. Over the course of the weekend they worked their way into the championship game at the U12 level. The team they were playing was a club team that they had played earlier in the season and lost to 0-7! I didn't know that before the game thankfully and I just cheered as I would usually cheer.

Although they ended up taking second place (to a club team that had eight subs to their 4), they fought the entire game and played incredibly! I was so proud of him this weekend for all of the effort he has put into the game this year. One of the parents from the other team who was sitting next to me at one of his games leaned over at one point and asked "Is that number 13 on your team a pretty good player?" How does the mother of number 13 respond to that? "He's my son and I think he is a pretty great player!"

I think that the most exciting improvement that I have seen in Ryan is the ability to answer back to the other teams goals. When the other team makes a goal, so many times in the past Ryan and his teammates will let it get them down and affect their playing (I have a clear reminder every time I watch Zach on the U10 team). With the maturity comes the ability to shake it off and keep your head in the game. I saw that yesterday and as a result our boys proudly took second place with a 1-2 score against a team that as Ryan would say "kicked our butts" last time we played them!
Size 11 1/2!

Funny story through the weekend of eleven soccer games...before the second and last playoff game of Ryan's we were on the way out to the field in the van. He pointed out that he may need new cleats. Yes...I looked over as he pulled the whole entire top of the cleat away from the sole. Not sure how he thought he was going to play in that shoe, I told him I couldn't do anything about it right now. He went out and played one of his best games ever so I guess he didn't let it bother him!

Thankfully we had an overnight before the championship game and we went out and looked for cleats (at my favorite "Play It Again Sports" store) and he opted for a new pair (the deal is that if the kids want to buy one of their brand new pairs, they pay half). That was fine until he said the 10s were too small. He ended up in a size 11 1/2! UGGGHHH! That means more growing to come! I am happy for him because now that he knows what to do with those long legs and arms, he will be okay! And I will am the blessed mom who gets to cheer from the sidelines!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Best "Fried" Chicken (Gluten Free too!)

I cut apart the leg quarters and take off the skin
 I have eaten this chicken since I was a young girl and as I was thinking about sharing the great family recipe, I realized how it has changed over the years.

I am sorry that I can't credit the woman who submitted it to the church cook book that my mom found it in, but from my memory, it is what my mom made and has become my family's favorite recipe for chicken. With some mashed potatoes and broccoli...YUM!

Melted butter ready for chicken
My mom used to use a whole chicken and cut it up to bake. I just can't say that my favorite thing is cutting up a whole chicken so I don't (maybe on a rare occasion if that is all I have in the freezer. We love leg quarters because in our house, dark meat rules. (By adjusting the bake time I am sure this would also be wonderful with boneless/skinless chicken breast if that is your preference.)

First, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Take your sheet pan while the oven is pre-heating and put it in the oven with a stick of butter to melt while the oven warms.

Dredge the chicken
There are two ways to do the next step and I use both methods, depending on my mood. Prepare the first dredge plate with 1 egg and 1/2 cup water whisked together. On the other dredge pan, place 1 c. flour (gluten free all purpose works WONDERFUL), 2 teaspoons garlic salt, 1 teaspoon baking powder and 2 teaspoons of pepper and mix it all together. For the other method, I would put all of the dry ingredients in a zip lock bag and shake instead of dredge (when I don't feel like getting my hands messy).

Dip chicken pieces into the egg mixture and then the flour mixture placing each piece on the pan with the melted butter. (or put the egged chicken pieces all together in the bag and shake til they are all coated and then place on the pan to bake).

Bake 45-60 minutes and turn the pieces over. Bake 45-60 minutes on the second side and remove when finished. The difference in the time depends on what type of pieces you are baking. (probably less if you choose boneless/skinless breasts)

The house will almost immediately start smelling marvelous...the people who live with you will walk through the kitchen with their mouth watering and start asking you when dinner will be ready, I guarantee!

Ready for the oven
As I feared when I started taking pictures of the process, I forgot to take the final picture before everyone dug in and scarfed it all up! Obviously I am not very good at blogging recipes! Take my word for it though, this chicken is THE BEST!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Faith Project

Our friend from college, Todd has been going through a very difficult life event. His 4-year-old daughter had to have her foot amputated after a lawn mower accident about three weeks ago. She and her dad had just planted a garden at home with some favorite plants and she asked her dad numerous times while she was in the hospital not to forget to water the tomatoes!

That is when I thought of a fun idea. I had some very soft fabric with a "garden" of sorts. Pink and yellow flowers and they looked perfect for a little girl who had been through a tragic event and would be convalescing for many months. She needed a "garden" she could enjoy inside too. It was a perfect project to try out my hand at more free motion designs.  I doodled on paper for a couple of nights until I found the perfect design to copy onto each open square of the quilt.

I pieced the front together and sandwiched it in no time at all. Next came the flowers and my two "samples" on separate fabric were promising. I was so surprised at how quickly the quilting was completed and if it wasn't for running over my thumb on the last flower of the quilt (see a previous post) I would have been sad that the quilting was done. (Especially since binding is NOT my favorite!)

I was happy with the results and was so glad when Todd posted a picture of her enjoying the softness. It is exactly what drew me to that fabric to start with. Everyone should have something with their name embroidered on it so I asked my mom to help me (since she has an embroidery module for her machine) put Faith's name on two of the corner squares in lieu of the flowers in those corners.

Super fun project even though I am sad for the circumstances that caused me to be moved to plan it and execute, but it is so fun to spread a little sunshine (or plant an "indoor" garden) whenever I get the chance.

Many prayers have been said for this sweet girl and her family and many more will be said as she faces the days ahead!
Faith and her blanket