Monday, February 23, 2009

A Weekend to Remember

This past weekend was definitely a weekend to remember for Kevin and I! We were blessed to be able to attend a Family Life Weekend to Remember marriage conference at the Amway Grand Plaza hotel in Grand Rapids. Just imagine . . . just the two of us . . . no kiddos . . . in a beautiful, fancy hotel . . . for an entire weekend! Spoiled luxury, I assure you!

The conference was amazing and indeed life changing. I would say that Kevin and my marriage was strong and great before the retreat, but now as we move closer to oneness, we are stronger and even more on fire for each other. That alone makes the weekend an amazing success! To top it off, though, was just the opportunity to spend good quality time alone together to grow closer, play and explore the hotel together. Neither of us had ever been in such a phenomenal hotel and we had a lot of fun walking the halls and corridors, snapping pictures and playing around with our camera equipment. Although none of photos would be considered photography masterpieces, we love them and will treasure them because they represents such a fun, carefree time we spent together.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What's For Lunch?

Lunch is my nemesis, my daily mental block, my frustration. I love being creative with dinner and dessert ideas, but for some reason I am completely stumped when it comes to an interesting and varied mid-day menu. Our typical lunches are either leftovers, pb&j, grilled ham & cheese, soup (sometimes homemade, sometimes from a can), or mac & cheese. While these are fine and great, when we eat lunch at home at least 6 days every week, we get REALLY bored with the same ol' options.

To remedy this situation, I have been searching for better and more interesting lunchtime options via the Internet. I thought I'd share my findings with you all, as well as put out a request for more unique ideas. What do you like to eat for lunch? What are your quick and easy fixes when you are pressed for time? PLEASE share your ideas with me, I can use all of the inspiration I can get! :)



PB and banana
Lunch meat and cheese
Grilled cheese

Grilled ham & cheese
Tuna salad

Tuna melts
Egg salad
Chicken salad
Cucumbers and cream cheese
Bacon and cheese (with lettuce, tomato, or onions if they like them)

Tortilla roll ups or pita sandwiches:
Lunch meat and cheese
Tuna salad
Egg salad
Veggies (julienned) with peanut sauce
Chicken salad
Stir fry leftovers
Cucumber (julienned) and cream cheese
Hummus with julienned veggies

Homemade soup
Pizza on English muffins or bagels
Pizza or Stromboli
Mexican pizza on tortillas
Macaroni and cheese
Impossible cheeseburger pie (easy when you have onions and beef already cooked in the freezer!)
Fried Rice
Baked potatoes (they cook in 6 minutes in the microwave) - coat them in olive oil and coarse salt and pepper and prick with a fork before cooking
Pasta salad with meat and/or veggies added
Taco salad
Nachos with chili & beans
Hamburgers (use individually frozen cooked hamburger patties)
Octopus hot dogs - cut the wiener lengthwise about 2/3 of the way down to make tentacles then boil or microwave then make eyes with dots of mustard or canned cheese

Pancakes or waffles with fruit
Bacon, egg, and cheese English muffins (or sourdough bread sandwiches)
Rice and beans (the little packets are good)
Pinto beans and cornbread (soak your pinto beans the day before and cook them overnight in the slow cooker)

Any other suggestions?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Not For Weak Stomachs

DISCLAIMER: Do not watch these videos if you have a weak stomach . . . :)

WHAT TRANSPIRED: Kaden was watching Kevin and Elijah play on the computer when he fell off the chair and hit the corner of the desk with his head. Immediately there was a lot of blood and when we got it mopped up there was about a 1/2 - 3/4 inch gash that went very deep and gaped at least a 1/8 inch. Although I wished we could just ignore it, it was obvious this needed stitches. Here is Kaden at the Lakes Urgent Care:

THE RESULTS: Kaden received 4 staples and a cool looking "headband" after the procedure. He was such an amazing trooper and even received compliments from the doctor and urgent care staff. He only cried when they injected the area to numb it, otherwise he laid very still and allowed the doctor to do what needed to be done.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

40 Random Questions (as if you really wanted to know . . .)

1. WHAT IS YOUR FULL NAME? Heather Diane Autry

2. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? Yep, both first and middle names. My Dad's sister is Heather and my Mom's best friend when she was younger was Diane.

3. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? Hmmm . . . I think the last time was the night our external hard drive died (see previous blog post for more info).

4. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? I like it, but I'm not in love with it. I wish it were a little more "funky" and unique. Strange wish, eh?

5. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT? BBQ Chicken breast by Boar's Head, but Honey Ham is a close second.
photo by rick
6. DO YOU HAVE KIDS? Yes, three crazy and amazing boys, and one little girlie on the way!

7. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON, WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? I sure hope so! It wouldn't say much about me if I wasn't now would it???

8. DO YOU USE SARCASM? Nooooooooooooooooooooo . . . . hee hee

9. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? Yes, thank goodness! My lymphatic system wouldn't be the same without them! :)

10. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? Ha ha, yeah right - NO WAY!!!
11. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? Hmmmm, it used to be Lucky Charms or Cinnamon Life, but now that I'm trying to be more health conscience it's Honey Bunch of Oats.
12. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? Much to Kevin's frustration, no.

13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM? Breyer's Mint Chocolate Chip (the white ice cream, NOT the yucky green kind)

14. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE? Whether or not they make eye contact.

15. WHAT DO YOU LIKE MORE THAN DIET DR. PEPPER? I don't like Diet anything, so that would be pretty much everything else.

16. WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF? We don't want to open that can of worms! So, I will choose to live in denial and say that I love everything about myself...positive confession never hurt anyone.

17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? My Grandma Lynn and Grandpa Bill (like I remembered them when I was young).

18. WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? Blue maternity jeans and old ratty brown slippers - ahhh, comfort!

19. FAVORITE SOUNDS: A quiet summer afternoon in the woods (minus the mosquitoes) - birds chirping, the leaves gently rustling, a stream bubbling . . .
photo by GardnerGal
20. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? The boys are all in bed so I actually get to listen to my Favorites playlist on my iPod! Some of the songs that have played while I've been on the computer are "Gone" by Switchfoot, "Holiday" by Britt Nicole, "Hands" by The Benjamin Gate, "Jesus Take the Wheel" by Carrie Underwood, "The Uncloudy Day" by Brad Paisley, "Mirrors and Smoke" by Jars of Clay, "When We Dance" by Sting . . .

21. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE? Sage green - relaxed, comfortable and natural.

photo by Ali.ce

22. FAVORITE SMELLS? Yankee Candle's Macintosh candles, warm chocolate chip cookies or Kevin's homemade bread baking

23. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE? Kevin. He called when he was on his way home from work.

24. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH? I'm not much into watching sports (or TV at all for that matter), but if there is an Equestrian event on and I had nothing else to do (ha ha), I would watch that.

25. HAIR COLOR? I'm a wannabe red head, but I am authentically a brunette

26. EYE COLOR? Boring . . . er, I mean brown


28. FAVORITE FOOD? There are just too many options . . . homemade chocolate chip cookie dough, a good steak - preferably filet Mignon, Kevin's Amish White Bread warm from the oven and spread with butter, homemade banana pudding, warm and fudgey brownies, cheap hot fudge (Big Boy's brand is the best) . . . the list could go on and on. I love food! :)

photo by semicharmedpiper

29. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? Happy endings, of course, as long as they are not too sappy.

30. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? I think it was "Stardust" with Kevin and Julie.

31. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING? Bright blue t-shirt layered over a white long sleeved shirt. It's long, but it's not maternity so I have to keep pulling it down over the belly. Real classy . . . LOL.

32. SUMMER OR WINTER? Both. I couldn't handle too much of either. I need all four seasons in my life.

33. HUGS OR KISSES? Yes!!! The more the better (well, as long as they're from Kevin or my kiddos) . . . I am a physical touch person, could you tell?

34. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW? "Financial Peace Revisited" by Dave Ramsey
35. OCCUPATION? Domestic goddess, Homeschool Teacher, Photographer . . . see my side profile for more info.

photo by St. Jimmy!

36. WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON TV LAST NIGHT? I didn't watch TV last night (or most nights, for that matter). I might have flipped on the Weather Channel for a second or two to see the weather at sometime yesterday . . . but even that's unlikely.

37. FAVORITE SONG(S)? Hmmmm . . . another hard one, but if I had to pick one I'd say it was "How He Loves" by Kim Walker.

38. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME? Tallinn, Estonia or St. Petersburg, Russia.

photo by Driftings

39. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL GIFT? I can make a very convincingly real goat sound. Don't ask to hear it, it ain't pretty.

40. WHERE WERE U BORN? Southfield, MI

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Just a Few Reasons Why I Love to Homeschool!

Here are some examples of why I love to homeschool:

The first reason is Homeschool Nature Classes at Indian Springs Metro Park. These three hour classes occur twice a month and are just chock full of great information and really fun activities. The naturalists do a wonderful job thinking of creative ways to teach all different areas of science to the kids. A few weeks ago the children studied Astronomy and visited the Planetarium. Afterwards they "visited" each planet individually and wrote and illustrated a guidebook of the galaxy. Their fun activity that time was to make Astronaut helmets out of empty milk jugs. Elijah loves being creative and I (unfortunately) do not do crafts with him very often so he had an absolute blast cutting, gluing, coloring and creating. Here are a few pics (from my camera phone) of the end results:

What a fun idea and what a huge amount of information Elijah retained because of the hands-on activities. He also had to write a short report about what each part of his helmet did, so we used that as an opportunity to work on his computer and typing skills. He was so excited to turn in his report to the naturalist today!

We were back at Indian Springs today and this time we studied dinosaurs. The class started with each child creating a casting of a dinosaur's tooth and claw. We made a huge mess with sand, plaster of paris and water, but the end result was something fun and hands-on that the kids could take home and later "unearth", if they wanted to. Once home they could continue their learning by pretending to be junior Paleontologists. Next we sat down to a VERY informative slideshow on dinosaurs, and finished up by doing a lifesize demonstration of the stride of a huge quadraped dinosaur (I can't remember which one!!!). It's one step equaled 15 of Elijah's steps! Wow, now that's a great way to put a perspective on things! The children were assigned some fun activities to take home with them to complete as homework and I know Eli is really looking forward to working on his sheets because of the excitement generated in class.

After we got out of class, Elijah and I were able to spend some time outdoors enjoying the beautiful spring-like weather. This is another of the reasons I love to homeschool - flexibility and spontaneity. You can view the videos below to get an idea of the fun we had:

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Mourning My Loss

January was a very sad month here in the Autry household. There was a death in the family . . the death of our external hard drive . . . the location of all of my family photos and personal information. WAHHH HAAAA!!!! The loss has not completely registered yet or sunk in yet, but I know the pain and suffering has been great.


Sniff, sniff!!!

I am comforted somewhat in knowing that I have family photos up to March 2008 backed up on CDs, but everything else from March to December is no more. All our personal paperwork and saved files are adios, arrivederci, finito.

How does one recover from this? Well, I don't know yet, but I'll keep you informed. In the meantime, though, I am giving you all a homework assignment - go NOW and back up your photos and your files. "I already have them backed up on my computer, or on CD's" you might say. Well, my response is, so did we! Our external hard drive and CD's were our back-up, but obviously we put a little too much faith in hardware. Put your info on thumb drives. Put it on external hard drives. Put it on CDs. Make an extra copy. Make two extra copies and send one to a friends house. Take out stock in the CD manufacturer and buy an entire pallet of them from Costco. Don't risk anything!

Kevin is attempting to recover any files he can from our poor, lifeless hard drive as best he can. I'll let you know if there is any sunshine to report, although the diagnosis looks grim. Please pray for our troublesome hunk of plastic and metal! :)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Try These Snacks on Your Kids

I am constantly being tugged on by little hands and pleaded at for snacks by the boys throughout the day. Typically we will grab something small, but nutritious, around 10am and maybe something small to tide us over again around 2:30. With the idea of snacking so much throughout the day, it is important to me to supply my kids with healthy and smart options. I was starting to run low on new ideas, however, and I went searching the web for some fresh ideas to add to our ol' stand-bys. Here is an accumulation of options I have used and some new ones I found that you might want to try out on your kids next time they come a' askin'.

- sliced and cored apples (served with peanut butter, cheese or carmel dip)
- peeled and sliced oranges or grapefruit
- bananas (we like our cut into wheels for a little fun)
- grapes (fresh or frozen)
- lightly salted popcorn
- mini bagels (spread with jelly, peanut butter or cream cheese)
- homemade muffins (store bought are just too high in fat, preservatives, etc)
- dried fruit and nut mix
- breadsticks
- homemade sweet breads (pumpkin, banana, zucchini, apple, etc)
- crackers and cheese
- hard-boiled eggs
- carrots (plain or with ranch dressing)
- celery sticks spread with peanut butter
- cherry tomatoes
- cucumbers
- homemade pickles
- cheese
- all-natural fruit leather
- homemade cookies (try healthier options like oatmeal craisin, etc)
- pudding (homemade banana pudding is a personal favorite or ours)
- yogurt popsicles
- homemade granola bars
- beef jerky
- pretzels
- tortillas spread with cream cheese and finely chopped veggies (roll up)
- yogurt with granola
- homemade smoothies
- homemade milk shakes
- bread or toast (spread with jelly, peanut butter, honey or honey butter)
- crackers (spread with jelly or peanut butter)
- leftover pancake spread with peanut butter and honey (roll up)
- animal crackers
- pickled peaches or pineapples

I'd love to hear any additional ideas that you might have to add to my list, we are always looking to try something new. Please share!