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Changing Views

25 Jun



A little over a week ago I made the kids go outside, still in their pajamas, and run around in the back yard while I frantically snapped pictures.  They thought their dad and I had lost our minds, and I am sure they really thought we had gone off the deep end when Jason and I just stood behind our house, Jason shaking his head and me crying.

When Jason came home a few months ago and told me that all of the timber on the land adjoining ours had been sold, I didn’t think too much about it.  You know, it was one of those things that just wasn’t going to happen.  But two weeks ago, they moved the saw in, and the next morning we were awaked by the sounds of trees being cut down: a sharp squeal of a saw followed by a crash.

I know not everyone understands this, but losing these trees has been so sad for us.  We spend a lot of time outside, and the canopy of trees around us that has been forming for the past 100 years or so is one of the best things about living where we do.  It is hard to explain to the kids that even they, in their lifetimes, won’t see that view out of our kitchen window.

So, one by one the trees have been coming down, and every day there is another chunk of sky or torn-up ground visible through the thin line of trees left on our property line.  Jason and I joked about chaining ourselves to one of the trees in protest, but we both know that there is nothing to do but get over it.

So, in my effort to get over it, I am trying to cheer up my kitchen window.  I spend a lot (I mean, a ridiculous amount of time) looking out of this window, because it is where I stand when I cook or wash dishes.  I love to look out that window, but the view isn’t quite what it once was. Plus, I have really been neglecting the window and window sill.  It was really quite pitiful!

Brighten up a windowsill1

Bad, right?  My poor lipstick plant definitely needs to be repotted in a bigger pot, and Maddie’s rock that we brought her from Mexico (sounds ridiculous, but she loves that thing) needs to find a new home.  Plus, the window is just plain dirty.  Definitely neglected.

So, I moved the plant to the back deck (Don’t worry-I am going to save it!) and gave Maddie her rock to relocate (She’s been rolling it around in her stroller all afternoon), and got to cleaning.  That in itself made a huge difference.

Before we built our house, we had to tear down some really old houses that were here.  The people who lived here threw their trash out in the woods, so every time it rains now, glass and other things rise to the top.  We find all sorts of old glass bottles and keep most of them.

I got some of my favorite bottles that we have found and used them to hold some different plants from the yard.  Turned out really pretty, I think!

Brighten up a windowsill3


Brighten up a windowsill2


Brighten up a windowsill4


So, even though the view out my kitchen window is changing, I still plan to enjoy being at my sink and looking out of the window.  I do spend half of my life there, after all, so might as well do everything I can to make it pleasant!




Mini Chocolate Cheesecake Puffs

24 Jun

Hi everyone!

I feel like I haven’t blogged in forever, but I’ve just had…..more important things to do.  You know… summer stuff!  We have been busy going swimming and working outside and taking vacations to the beach and visiting museums.

Plus, I just haven’t had anything I felt like writing about.

But, I am so proud because I just made up a recipe.  Totally made it up, on my own, with nothing to base it on. I consider myself a pretty decent cook, but I always have a recipe to follow, so when I just made this up and they turned out GREAT, I decided I had to share the recipe with you.

I am part of a summer Bible study at my church, and am bringing some refreshments for tonight.  I knew I wanted to make something chocolate, but I am tired of making my old standby, symphony brownies.  Everyone loves them, but I have made them so many times that I kind of feel sick to my stomach when I think about making another batch.

I was in the grocery store, and saw the their phyllo shells were on clearance, so I bought up all they had left (because they are so good filled with so many things).  And that was the beginning of my masterpiece!


Mini Choc cheesecakes


Aren’t they cute?  And they were really easy to make.

You will need:

3 packages of phyllo cups (there are 15 in each pack)

2 blocks of cream cheese (softened)

1 1/2 cup of powdered sugar

Magic Shell Chocolate Sauce

Cook the phyllo cups according to the package directions (You don’t have to do this, but I like them extra-crispy).  Mix together the cream cheese and powdered sugar until well-combined.  Pipe the cream cheese mixture into the cooled phyllo cups, then top with the magic shell.  Pop them in the fridge for a few minutes to harden the shell.

The kids loved these, and they could be really versatile.  You could add fruit, jam, pecans, caramel, or any number of toppings to change them up a bit.

I can’t wait to share these at Bible Study tonight.  Enjoy!


Weekly Photo Challenge: Extra, Extra (An Extra-Special Weekend)

16 Jun

After a super-busy week last week, the kids and I spent Friday and Saturday in Mt. Airy, visiting with my dad for an early Father’s Day celebration (And giving Jason a little present-a couple of days with nothing to think about but playing golf!)

We had a great time seeing everyone, especially my step-sister Brie and her friends who were visiting for the week. We don’t get to see them very often.

Charlie and his cousin, Kellan, are “best buds.”  They love playing together and just run to each other and hug when they get to see each other.  Charlie now wants to move to Papa’s house so he can play with Kellan all of the time!

The kids rode up and down Daddy's driveway a million times-they loved walking around the garden and through the vineyard.

The kids rode up and down Daddy’s driveway a million times-they loved walking around the garden and through the vineyard.


Charlie and Kellan on their scooters.  They were so funny pretending to wreck and help each other up!

Charlie and Kellan on their scooters. They were so funny pretending to wreck and help each other up!


We went up on Pilot Mountain on Saturday and had a picnic and walked around a little.  This was extra special to us because we used to go up there all of the time when I was growing up, but I haven’t been in probably ten years.  We would take lunch up there and walk around the knob.  I haven’t taken the kids up there yet because I have honestly been too scared that they would fall off the mountain, but they are big enough now to have a little fear in them!

We had a great time.  The only thing missing, according to my sisters, was a bucket of KFC fried chicken!

Here are some pictures from our day:

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And can’t forget a picture of this wonderful daddy!

Spending some cuddle time with his Baby Girl on Father's Day.

Spending some cuddle time with his Baby Girl on Father’s Day.


Grilling out some burgers in his new "Daddy set. 2009 " shirt.

Grilling out some burgers in his new “Daddy since 2009” shirt.


Jason moved on to a new stage in his life-the kids are now picking out their presents for him!  Don’t worry, he didn’t get  a tacky tie-He got an iron man toothbrush from Charlie and a cow mug from Maddie.

Add in a couple of cookouts to celebrate Kitten and Ed, and we had a busy but good Father’s Day weekend.  I hope you did, too!

The Work of our Hands…

10 Jun



As my family and I are moving on through 2014 (Can you guys believe that the year is almost halfway over?), it seems be getting busier and busier.  I feel like we are moving into a new season in our lives, and if I think too much about it i feel a bit panicky.

Ove the past 5 years, I have protected our schedule fiercely.  We are homebodies, for sure, and enjoy just being home together, working in the garden and playing with Legos and Play-doh, reading books, and watching cartoons.  Jason loves coming home in the afternoons and having dinner on the deck and just working around the house on Saturdays.  If you come over on a Sunday, there is a good chance you will have to wake the entire family up from a nap.

I have become really good at saying no to people.  We didn’t sign Charlie up for tee ball this year (at Jason’s insistence) even when it seemed like all of his friends were playing, instead opting to enjoy a summer free of weeknight practices and Saturdays spent at the ball field.  Maddie isn’t taking any dance or gymnastics classes, and we practice kicking the soccer ball out in the yard instead of at 5:30 every Saturday morning (Soccer practice isn’t really that early, but it is at a ridiculously early hour.).

We really enjoy our life, and these years have been good.

But I can feel it changing…

Charlie is starting Kindergarten this year.  We have decided to homeschool the kids, and I am really excited about that.  This is, however, requiring a change in our schedule.  I am signing up for field trips and co-ops, scheduling weekly activities that we will HAVE to be at.  Our mornings are now going to be set aside for school, not hanging around the house in our pajamas, or doing housework, or going to the park with friends.

My church is chartering a MOPS, and a friend and I are the co-coordinators.  This is a huge responsibility, but something I feel is really important for our community and definitely feel called by God to do.  Every Wednesday morning will be set aside for this, plus planning and preparation throughout the week.

Then there are our regular activities: Bible Study on Tuesdays and Story Time on Thursdays.

Also, I am considering signing Maddie up for ballet on Monday afternoons in the fall, just so she can have something for herself when I know I will be focusing so much on Charlie.

Then there’s me.  I am still writing for a local magazine and teaching Sunday School off and on.  I am directing VBS, and am in the middle of the planning crush for that. Plus, I want to love and support my husband in all of his endeavors, and just make sure he still gets the best of me and not the leftovers at the end of the day.

Can we do all of this?  Are some things going to have to fall by the wayside? Of course. 

My devotion this morning dealt with the fact that God puts every thing in our life for a reason.  It is all for a purpose: to prepare us for His greater plan for our lives.

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;  establish the work of our hands for us- yes, establish the work of our hands.  Psalm 90:17

This is my prayer for my family: that every single thing we do and every moment of our calendar is established by God, that it is meaningful for something.

If there is anything that I don’t need to be doing, I want to release it and leave it to someone else and not feel badly about it.  It could be someone else’s mission, after all.

There is one thing I know for sure-I am going to soak up every minute of this summer!  We are going to go to the pool and read books and be lazy when we can.  And I am really going to appreciate it.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Split-Second Story

31 May

*Disclaimer:  This post is a complete exaggeration based on a recent conversation with a friend. Thankfully, my wonderful husband could care less if the house, the children, or myself are a complete mess when he gets home from work, or he at least has the sense not to mention it.

The kids and I had great fun staging these pictures that represent a split-second in our day, with so much change going on in between the two pictures! 


You know that moment of clarity when you look around at your life and realize, something must change?  You see that your life is a mess, that you are living in chaos, and there is a strange smell coming from somewhere in the room, possibly from you?  You recognize that something must be done, that you must get to work to end the wreck that your life has become?

This happens every day in my house.

I call it the 5:30 rush.  5:30 is when my husband’s office closes.  I picture him calmly getting up from his desk, gathering his things, and walking out the door, locking up behind him.  Of course, he is looking so forward to getting home to his clean, cheery children and wife, to leaving the stress and busy-ness of the day behind him.

It takes him 30 minutes to drive home, and during that time I am a mad-woman.


The husband rush


I look around, assessing the situation.  I yell at the kids to un-attach themselves from me, go up to their rooms, take off their pajamas, and get dressed in real clothes including underwear.

I begin frantically loading dirty dishes into the dishwasher and putting cereal boxes, a jar of peanut butter, and other various food items into the cabinets.  I throw the stack of paper plates and juice boxes left by the 10 kids and their mothers we had over for lunch into the recycling, then grab the Lysol Wipes container and run through the house cleaning off countertops and toilets.

I quickly make the bed and snatch up the wet bathing suits laying in the floor, running into the laundry room to start a load of laundry.

The kids and I meet up in my bathroom, washing faces and brushing hair.  Charlie finds a can of Glade and goes around the house spraying coconut-scented air freshener around while Maddie begins searching the house for our cats so she can put them outside.

I realize that I haven’t started dinner yet, so I rush into the kitchen, grabbing the glasses of melted ice left on our nightstands from the night before to put into the dishwasher.  I stick a frozen lasagna in the oven, not bothering to preheat the oven, then lay a cutting board and knife out on the counter and arrange a head of lettuce, some carrots, and a tomato artfully on top of it, creating the illusion that I am in the middle of cooking a delicious, healthy, labor-intensive dinner for my hard-working husband.

I walk quickly through the house, picking up Legos, Barbies, and Transformers and tossing them into bins and closets, strategically leaving books scattered about.  I leave a puzzle box lying on the living room sofa and some play-doh on the kitchen table.  Evidence of organized learning must remain as proof of our productivity.

Back in my bathroom, I throw some concealer under my eyes, adding some mascara, blush, and lip gloss for good measure.  I take off my old shorts and T-shirt and put on clean clothes that I would actually wear in public.

Glancing at the clock, I realize that I have 5 minutes left before the husband pulls up in the driveway.  I grab the vacuum and run it over the floors, vacuuming up little piles of sand brought home from the park and the occasional small toy that was inadvertently left out (Casualty of war, I think to myself.) while the kids scrub with some Windex wipes at the chocolate handprints on the kitchen door. As I am placing the vacuum back in the pantry, I hear the garage door opening.

I smile to the kids as they take their places at the kitchen counter, coloring quietly.  I grab a pitcher of iced tea out of the refrigerator and set it out, then stand at the island and begin chopping up the vegetables I had put out earlier.

“Hi, Honey, I’m home!” Husband calls out when he enters the house.  I press a button on my iPod and switch the music playing in the background from “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” to Beethoven’s “Symphony Number 5”.  The kids put down their crayons and run to him, screaming, “Daddy, Daddy!”

He looks at me, “Did you guys have a good day?  What did you do?”

I smile sweetly, noticing that he has on his golfing clothes, and hand him a glass of tea.  “Nothing much.  Just did some stuff around the house.”

The Big Rush After_1


The School of Charlie

27 May

When you hold your baby in your arms the first time, and you think of all the things you can say and do to influence him, it’s a tremendous responsibility. What you do with him can influence not only him, but everyone he meets and not for a day or a month or a year but for time and eternity. –Rose Kennedy

This quote sums up exactly how I felt when I was pregnant with my little Charlie and when I held him in my arms for the first time.  I knew that I wanted to do this motherhood thing right, that I wanted to teach him and mold him into someone great.  I felt a tremendous responsibility to produce someone good for the world.

However, as we spent last week celebrating Charlie’s 5th birthday, I have been reflecting on how much Charlie has taught me.  Because I spend a great deal of my time with him (every waking minute of every day), he has become quite an influence on me.

Here are a few things I have learned from Charlie over the past 5 years I have been blessed with him.

1.  It’s good to be silly sometimes, or even most of the time!




2. Do not be controlled by your fears, whether they are fears of embarrassment, what others think, a monster in the closet, or a life-sized wolf.  You will miss out on life’s experiences if you are held back by fear.




3. It’s okay to express your emotions and be clear about your feelings.

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4. Be inquisitive.  Ask questions about EVERYTHING!

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5. It’s okay to do things differently, to go against the grain and break the rules sometimes.  Why simply trace over the letter “P” when you can destroy the “P” in a fiery explosion?



6. The most important thing Charlie has taught me is that it’s okay to start out small.  In the end, we will all end up the same, anyway!

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Being Charlie’s mama has taught me much more than this.  He has taught me about compassion and friendship and imagination. He has shown me how to be still and listen, and how to spend my time wisely.  Most importantly, he has taught me about unconditional love and forgiveness.

Children are a gift from the Lord;
they are a reward from him. Psalm 127:3


Banana Cookie “Milkshake”

23 May

During the summer, the kids and I love to have a milkshake or smoothie as a nice, cold afternoon snack.  One of our favorites is a banana peanut butter “milkshake.” I call them milkshakes, but they don’t really have any ice cream in them.  I like to slice and freeze bananas, then blend them with peanut butter and a little milk.  They come out really thick and creamy, but don’t have any of the added fat and sugar of ice cream.

Since discovering cookie butter (which is now my favorite thing in the world) I have been trying it in and on everything.  Today, I used it instead of peanut butter in our afternoon “milkshake,” and it was a big hit.

Add about 3 frozen bananas, 1/2 cup of cookie butter, and some milk.

Add about 3 frozen bananas, 1/2 cup of cookie butter, and some milk.


Blend together, adding milk as needed.

Blend together, adding milk as needed.


The kids and I loved this new twist on one of our summertime favorites.  If you have any leftover, pour it into popsicle molds and freeze-it makes fantastic popsicles!



Starting Summer

21 May

Even though summer isn’t officially underway yet, it has definitely begun at the Watkins’ house!  We have had some cool days this spring, but it got into the high 80’s today, so we had to bring out the new slip-n-slide that Charlie and Maddie’s Gramma brought them yesterday.

I went down a few times as well, but no pictures of that, praise the Lord!

Psalm 118:24 – “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Weekly Photo Challenge: Letters

29 Apr

The kids and I are sitting around waiting on some horrible weather to reach us, so we decided to get out our big bags of letters.  I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to snap some pictures for this week’s photo challenge: Letters.

We have a lot of letters to play around with, thanks to my cousin who is a kindergarten teacher!

We have a lot of letters to play around with, thanks to my cousin who is a kindergarten teacher!


Maddie loves digging through the letters with her feet, kind of like sand.

Maddie loves digging through the letters with her feet, kind of like sand.


The Madster!

The Madster!


And Charlie, contemplating.....

And Charlie, contemplating…..


....doing this to his name!

….doing this to his name!


Charlie got a big kick out of this word...

Charlie got a big kick out of this word…


...but he really like this one!

…but he really cracked up over this one!


It's Letter Face!

It’s Letter Face!


Maddie's O's.

Maddie’s O’s.


Nothing like a mountain of letters to pass the time!

Weekly Photo Challenge (A Week Belated): On Top

27 Apr

Last weeks weekly photo challenge was to share a photo that says “On Top.”  I know that I usually share photos of my kids and things that are going on in my life at the moment, but as soon as I saw this challenge I knew what picture I wanted to share.  The reason I am a week late is because the picture was taken over 6 years ago, and it took me awhile to find where I had stored it.

Jason took this picture of me in 2008 when we traveled to Italy.  We rode the train from Rome into the mountains to a smaller town called Orvieto, and spent the day walking around exploring.  It was a really great day for us.

We thought it would be fun to climb to the top of this really old bell tower.  It was TONS of steps to make it to the top, and we had already spent almost the entire day walking, so it seemed like we would never make it, but we did and it was totally worth it so see this ancient town from up high.

Here’s the picture that I have always loved so much.  I don’t know why I like it so much, but I do!



While we were up there, the bell actually began to ring, and it was deafening!

Here’s another picture of the actual view from the top:



Jason and I have seen lots of views from the top of different places all over the world, but I will always remember this as one of my favorites!