Labor Day Shrimp Boil

How was your Labor Day weekend?  Ours was nice and pretty low-key.  We don’t usually make big plans for Labor Day since this mom needs to get mentally prepared for the start of school.  And not just mentally.  Oh, the organizing of backpacks and school supplies and paperwork.  And grocery shopping for all of those cold lunches (can you hear the whining?  I hate making cold lunches…well, actually I kind of hate making any meal, but I guess I just don’t like doing them even more the same time as breakfast!) .  And don’t forget about picking out the First Day outfit and actually getting it ironed the night before!  Picking out clothes and ironing them the night before usually lasts about two or three days, and then we are winging it again.  Or we just don’t iron at all…  But hey, they always have clothes on.  So you can see why this procrastinator needs the weekend to prepare.  No camping for me!

My mom and dad usually have a little picnic on Labor Day, but this year they had the nerve to go on vacation without all of their children and grandchildren.  I still can’t believe it.  So Mardi, Kendal, and I had to take matters into our own hands and plan a little get together with just us and Mardi’s in-laws.  We’ve been wanting to do a shrimp boil all summer and just haven’t made it happen, so we decided Labor Day was a good excuse to try it out.  I have to say it turned out pretty well.  We used this recipe from Hearth and Vine, but doubled it.  Chris boiled it in his deep fryer, and Rob made homemade hushpuppies in another one.  Kendal also made coleslaw and grape salad.  And we rolled brown paper on the tables so we didn’t need to use plates, but I still had to anyway.  Just habit, I guess.  It made for easy clean-up, though!  It was nothing fancy, but it was different and fun, and I’m glad we tried it.  I think it might be a fun new tradition.  And maybe I’ll eat it right off the table next time!

Please excuse the horrible picture-taking and lack of pictures.  I guess I was in such a hurry to eat that I neglected to take decent pictures!!  Oh, and I’m sure you are super impressed with the high quality paper plate, too!

I made a peach dump cake for dessert with canned peaches and a cake mix.  I added about 1/2 cup of oatmeal on top, and it was really good for being not-quite homemade,  Best of all, it was super easy!    Which was good, because I had to do all of the school prep stuff that I had waited until the last day to do.  Maybe now that summer vacation is over, I will be a little more organized and disciplined…well, one can only hope!

If you’ve never done a shrimp boil, give it a try.  It’s a great way to feed a crowd, and also a nice alternative to the “if-I-eat-one-more-hot dog/hamburg-this-summer” feeling you get by the end of August.  Here’s wishing you all had a great end to the summer and a successful jump into a new school year!



September 11

Today is September 11.  One of those days that bring back lots of memories and emotions…almost all of them not very pleasant.  Most people remember what happened on this day sixteen years ago very clearly.  All of the details remain startlingly clear in my memory…where I was when I first heard a plane had crashed into one of the twin towers, who I was with as I watched another plane hit the second twin tower, and the sick feeling in my stomach as I wondered what was going to happen next.  I worked as a secretary at my church and watched it all unfold on tv with other church staff members.  It was so surreal and scary, and I pray that our country never witnesses such horror unfold again.

But it is also a day that makes me feel proud to be an American.  And besides the 4th of July, there is perhaps no other day that stirs such intense feelings of patriotism in my heart.  In the midst of the destruction and evil committed by people with a deep hatred for our country, so many stories unfolded of brave men and women sacrificing their very lives for the sake of their fellow man.  I think of all of the firemen and first responders who ran into a burning building knowing they were probably going to die, but doing so out of selfless love and sacrificial duty.  I think of the men and women on United Flight 93 that stormed the cockpit and forced the plane to crash so that it wouldn’t be used as a weapon on another building.  I think of all of the men and women who rushed to enlist in the armed forces to defend our land.  Can you imagine their fear?  Can you imagine the courage and bravery all of these people must have possessed?  I can’t.  I just can’t even imagine.  And I am so incredibly grateful for them.  They are heroes in my eyes.  They are the epitome of love, courage, and utter selflessness.  How humbled I am to know that their ultimate sacrifice was for me, for you, for us.

America isn’t perfect.  As a nation, we have our sins, flaws, and shortcomings.  There are many things that we could probably do better.  But isn’t that each one of us?  We all fall short.  We all sin.  We all could do better.  Despite this, I believe most people have a decent nature…one that is kind and good and willing to help out a neighbor or even a stranger.  Similarly, America isn’t perfect, but we have some of the most giving, generous, compassionate citizens this side of heaven.  September 11, 2001 is the perfect example.  As Governor George Pataki put it, “On that terrible day, a nation became a neighborhood, all Americans became New Yorkers.”  So if you ever have any doubt about the heart of this country and the symbolism of our flag, remember all of the heroes of September 11.  And be proud to be an American.


It’s a Boy!


My firstborn turned 14, you guys.  Kimball Morgan Hanks came into the world August 20, 2003 and has made my life an adventure ever since.  Not having a brother growing up and only having one close male cousin (poor Mitch…he played more “house” than probably any boy ever did with two sisters and three girl cousins), the idea of raising a boy was so exciting.  I didn’t know he was a boy until he was born, but I probably should have the way he made my stomach bounce with his vigorous gymnastics.  And he has never slowed down since!

At the beginning of his life, he made his preferences known…he wanted to be in constant motion, whether it was being walked around, bouncing in a bouncy chair, or riding in a car.  The second we stopped at a red light, he would howl until we were moving again.  He also loved being outside.  At just a few weeks old and somewhat colic-y, all I would have to do was go outside and he would magically calm down.  And trust me, nothing has changed in his fourteen years!  He still lives outside, is in constant motion, and gets impatient when he can’t be on the move!

As a toddler, he loved monster trucks and his battery operated four-wheeler.  One time he drove his little monster truck down a bench and over a gentlemen’s lap at Hollywood Studios without missing a beat.  You should have seen the look of surprise on the man’s face!  Luckily he also thought it was funny!  Kimball just kept right on walking, making his little car noises, never really noticing what he ran over.  And Chris had a part-time job charging the battery to his little four-wheeler.  One time, I noticed Kimball going around and around in a rather tight circle, and realized he had fallen asleep!

The man in the red hat is about to be ran over by the truck in Kimball’s right hand!

Monster trucks eventually turned into a dinosaur phase.  Oh how I tired of reading his dinosaur books and pronouncing all of those scientific prehistoric names!  I learned more about the Triassic period than I ever cared to, needless to say.  He also loved catching frogs, turtles, salamanders, and any other slimy little critter.  Actually, he still does!

Now it’s sports, sports, sports.  Which is good…it gets some of his tireless energy out.  And though he is small in stature, his heart is fierce.  He doesn’t back down from any challenge.  He has no fear (much to my fear!), and doesn’t think twice about sacrificing his body for the sake of a ball.  He is one feisty kid.  Sometimes that feistiness drives me crazy when the two of us are disagreeing about something.  Let’s just say he is very persistent in whatever avenue he chooses!

Number 7

But he is also kind, mostly polite, and well-liked by his friends.  He is the biggest cheerleader on whatever team he is ever on, always encouraging his teammates and celebrating their victories as if they were his own.  He goes out of his way to offer a pat on the back, a slap on the helmet, or a high five.  I hope he can always celebrate other people’s successes, for that is something hard to teach that he comes by very naturally!

At fourteen, he still tolerates this mom praying for him at night, and sometimes even makes specific requests known to me.  This is also something I hope and pray will never change.  It is usually my favorite time with him, when his body and mind are still for once and I have his undivided attention.  It’s hard to believe this kid is mine…that he has survived all of the crazy stunts he’s tried, that I have survived all of the crazy stunts he’s tried.  And it is my prayer that God continues to keep him safe and healthy, and that he will use his passionate, feisty nature for the good of God’s kingdom, in whatever capacity that may be!

Here are a few books/resources that I have found helpful while raising this son of mine:

Wild Things:  The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James and David Thomas

Triggers:  Exchanging Parent’s Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses by Amber Lia and Wendy Speake

Six Ways to Raise a Godly Man by Kaylene Yoder

Five Power Packed Prayers to Pray Over Your Son by Kaylene Yoder


Thanks for allowing me to celebrate my boy and for tolerating my trip down memory lane!


Do you have a favorite parenting book?  I’d love to hear what it is…I’m definitely still in training!

Yesterday, Kindergarten, Today College

On August 17, we brought our daughter Marek to college.  Well, we left on the 16th and spent the night in a hotel.  You see, she’s attending the University of Findlay in Ohio, so it’s a four hour-plus drive.  We wanted to get cracking early, see the campus again, put her horse tack in the barn, etc.  Since I’m writing this two weeks later, it’s obvious that I survived this milestone.  I dreaded that moment of leaving her for months.  I keep having flashbacks to when she was little, then I wonder where the time went.  It’s been a very long time since she’s pointed to a picture of Sleeping Beauty and said, “you look like her, Mama,” (what can I say, I raised a very smart, perceptive girl).  It seems like just yesterday I brought her to her first day of kindergarten.  Just as she was excited to start kindergarten, she’s ecstatic to begin college.  The entire day of August 17th, she had a huge grin on her face.  Like, it never left her face!  While we found the western barn and put her horse tack in her locker, got her dorm key, moved her in and made her bed, she smiled.  It was easier to leave her knowing she was excited, happy, and had a sweet roommate.

Marek has had her eye on the University of Findlay in Findlay, Ohio for a few years.  It’s a smaller school with about 4,000 students (sounds pretty big to me).  She is double majoring in Animal Science Industry and Western Equestrian Studies (I think that’s what it’s called anyway….).  She’s hoping to be an equine dentist.  Yuck!  Have you seen horse teeth?  They’re gross!  Anyway, we visited there last August and took a tour.  It may sound silly, but during that visit, I just knew that is where she would go and I felt at peace about it.  Findlay is a nice small town with tons of restaurants (always a nice draw), a great movie theater, stores, and just generally has a homey feel.  It’s the home of Marathon Oil–hence Findlay’s mascot, Derrick the Oiler.  Dave Thomas, who started the fast food chain Wendy’s, had his first job in a small restaurant called Wilson’s.  It’s still there and looks like it hasn’t changed a bit.  More importantly, Findlay is where Marek Christine Brott is.

Change is hard for me.  I’m used to seeing her everyday and I miss her.  I know that her going to Findlay is God’s will and a tremendous blessing.  This is still uncharted territory for me though, and sometimes I get sentimental and a little sad.  Or I worry about her driving the four hours home, etc.  But I know that God loves Marek even more than I could possibly love her.  I need to trust God with her and her future.  I love the saying “faith is of God and fear is of the devil.”  If only this truth would sink in!  My favorite Bible verses are from Philippians and I’m going to cling to these verses when fear or sadness grip me:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.”  -Philippians 4:6-9

So, God will get us through.  Lots of phone calls don’t hurt, either.  David is constantly saying, “have you talked to Marek today?  I just hung up with her.”  I think he talks to her more than I do.  The other day we spoke to her together on speakerphone.  We’re pathetic.  We’re going to Findlay to watch a football game next weekend, so we’re excited (to see her mainly, but the football game was a good excuse).  God is so good and we have much to be thankful for.  The adventure of life continues!


Blueberry Pickin’ in the Mitten

blueberry picking

Hey guys, have any of you been blueberry picking yet?  My mom, sister Kendal, and my two girls and I went a week or so ago, and it was so fun!  We found a good spot and started picking away.  My mom was methodical and tried to pick a bush clean before moving on to the next.  I felt a little scatterbrained and kept moving from bush to bush, looking for the best one, and sampling the occasional berry.  Fynn followed close by me, and at one point whispered to me, “How many have you eaten?  I’ve had five or seven,” as if she was confessing a deep, dark, secret.  Let’s just say that I had a few more than five or seven and was praying that my teeth wouldn’t be too blue when I went to have my bucket weighed!

blueberry pickingblueberry picking

My Grandpa and Grandma Fazakerley used to bring my sisters and I blueberry picking when we were little, and those times are some of my most favorite memories of them.  My grandma would pack a picnic lunch and we would sit on a blanket in the shade after we were done.  I know for sure we had cookies and lemonade, but don’t ask me what we ate for lunch!  And I’ll never forget when my younger cousins Eric and Andrew were old enough to come along.  I can still see my grandma’s eyes bugging out of her head as Eric swung his full bucket of blueberries around and upside down, testing gravity.  Which is exactly the sort of thing my Kimball would do.  Luckily, he had football practice and wasn’t able to come.  Did I say luckily?  Oops, I mean unfortunately.  Okay, now I’m lying.  Really though, the girls never once even thought of testing the centrifugal force of a bucket of berries.  Although, Fynn did walk back to the car with an empty bucket on her head, so who knows what she was thinking!

blueberry picking

The girls and I left with several pounds of berries, and I made blueberry crisp and blueberry buckle.  I also ate copious amounts of berries straight outta the fridge, and let’s just say my stomach has made the most unusual noises as of late.  Enough said.  Moving on.  So the recipe I used for the blueberry crisp was actually a rhubarb crisp recipe.  I had made it a few weeks ago with the rhubarb my Aunt Lynn had given me from her garden, and I liked it so much that I just switched out of the fruit.  I thought it turned out perfect!   You can find the recipe here.  You could probably use a little less sugar since blueberries aren’t nearly as tart as rhubarb, but I made it as is and loved it.  Of course, my tolerance for sugar is probably higher than the average human’s.  But if you are looking for a good blueberry crisp recipe, save yourself the trouble of spending hours on Pinterest and just make this one.  You won’t be disappointed!  (And try it with rhubarb, too!)

blueberry crispblueberry crisp

What’s your favorite blueberry recipe?  I’d love to hear!



Hay Day

hay wagon, hay bales
Kimball and Sander resting up before the unloading begins!

We recently had our first hay day of the year.  It involves hitching up a trailer to the truck, going over to the next town and stacking the truck and trailer with hay.  Like, 130 bales or as much as we can fit.  It was almost like an emergency because we were down to 6 bales.  We were close to having the horses graze in our front yards.  Sander would have loved it, because he’s not fond of mowing.  Anyway, this was the first time we ever had use of 2 trucks and trailers.  It was awesome!  David, Sheldon, and I took one and Chris, Megan, and my Dad took the other.  David and Sheldon filled one truck and trailer up while I counted bales (well, I tried….I lost track a few times and had to start over).  Then the other truck came and we took off to unload into our barn.  Having two trucks and trailers meant we can make half the trips we normally do to get the 1,000 bales that we need.  We have a borrowed hay elevator we use to get the bales into the loft.  It was the perfect temperature, too.  Usually our timing is impeccable and it’s in the 80’s and muggy.

hay wagon
Megan stacked the trailer up to the rafters.
hay, stacked hay
Chris looks a long way down from Megan’s view at the top of the stacked trailer
Fynn running through a field of wheat
This is what Fynn does while the trailer is loaded.

We’ve learned a lot about stacking hay these past few years.  Like, what to wear and what not to wear.  Megan knows what to wear and I know what not to.  She always wears jeans and I usually wear yoga pants….no more, though.  Hay sticks to yoga pants like lint to a lint roller. Like flies to a flystrip.  Like white on rice….you get the picture.  I once went into a gas station to get a pop in between loads…..with so much hay stuck to my pants, I was embarrassed.  But my thirst won out over my pride.  As far as shirts go, that’s a tough one.  It’s such hot and sweaty work, it’s tempting to wear a tank.  But the hay is so scratchy, and it has uncanny ability to get into the craziest places.  As long as I live, I’ll never forget the discomfort of hay stuck in my bra.  It doesn’t matter what shirt you wear, hay will get underneath it.  Maybe a turtleneck would work if it wasn’t so hot!  Don’t even get me started on hay stuck in our boots….

unloading hay bales
Kimball and Sander unstacking for Grandpa to send it up the elevator
Milla and Papa enjoying a break at the end of Hay Day

Megan and I don’t mind hay days, probably because we didn’t grow up having to do it (like David did).  It’s a family affair….many hands make light (but scratchy!) work.  One year Megan made these amazing brownies, so now it’s a must..  On Pinterest, they’re called ‘Slutty’ brownies (gasp!), but we named them ‘What the Hay?’ brownies.  They’re super delicious but calorie-laden, but we figure, why not?  After all that work, we’ve earned them.  We’d be happy to share them with you if you help us on our next hay day.  We’ll probably have at least two more of them!

Milla and Fynn enjoying their What the Hay brownies


what the hay brownies

















So we will see you at the barn, right?