Mother-Son College Road-trip

Monday, February 16, 2015
I had NO idea that President's Day weekend is apparently a HUGE time to visit colleges.  Will is our oldest so this is our first go around at college visits.  Last Fall, Dave took Will to visit UVA and William and Mary.  He really liked both of them.

I decided (when I found out Will had off last Friday) to plan a very spur of the moment road trip for us to visit Baylor, TCU and SMU.  Now this is kind of ironic because a) I don't really do things spur of the moment, b) I don't really travel and am a homebody and c) I have a severe phobia of driving on the Texas freeways (a recent one since I have been hit a few times on them through no fault of my own).  Even Dave could not believe I had planned this little road trip.

I really enjoyed my time with Will.  He introduced me to his favorite music.  We ate a lot.  This boy ate 6 full meals on Friday.  Our first stop was Baylor in Waco, Texas.  It was my first time in Waco and we were both pleasantly surprised.  We pulled into Waco around breakfast time so we went here and had a great breakfast.  There were lots of very cute co-ed girls there and so Will was a little distracted.  Baylor has 60% females to 40% males.  I think that was kind of appealing to him.

After breakfast, we had to make a slight detour.  I love the show Fixer Upper and it takes place in Waco.  My Mom is kind of obsessed with the show and Joanna Gaines.  When she found out we were going to Waco she made a big fuss about us visiting the Magnolia shop.  So we did.


It is a cute shop but the inventory is very limited.  I hear they are expanding.  My Mom was looking for a "g" for her wall but I could not find one.  I did pick her up a little something for Mother's Day (she is coming to visit for Kate's 1st holy Communion!)

Will hated this.  He was embarrassed and did not want to take my photo.  He did notice there were lots of other old ladies in mini-vans stopping;)

Then we went to the Catholic Student Center at Baylor.  We just walked in and there were some kids studying.  They were so welcoming.  I really enjoyed talking to these kids. We got a great tour of the center and learned a lot about the campus ministry.  I felt confident that Will would find a great place to support his faith there.

Will was hungry again so we headed to this place (at a friend's recommendation)


I got a coffee milkshake because I was sleepy.  Will ate a double cheeseburger and a peach milkshake.  The food here looked amazing and not at all healthy!

Then we had a tour at Baylor.


We had fabulous tour.  Baylor has such great traditions and the campus was lovely.  We both were so pleasantly surprised.  Will had always thought he'd go out of state for college but I think he will seriously consider Baylor now.  As we started this tour, Will said, "Mom we should walk near the front of the group.  You learn a lot more that way."  And he was SO right.  On both this tour and our SMU tour, we learned all sorts of tidbits that the rest of the group did not hear.  Just my piece of advice for those of you about to tour colleges.  Stay near the front and strike up conversations with your guide as you move from point to point.

After our incredible Baylor tour, we headed up to Dallas.  It was a harrowing drive during Friday afternoon rush hour but we made it.  We checked into our hotel in Highland Park and then went to dinner with Eloise, Robert and Vivi.  Eloise is a blogging friend who we have gotten to know a bit over the years.  She has visited us in Houston and we have visited them in Dallas. They were so kind and gracious to take us to their local Mexican restaurant.  Then they drove us around the SMU campus.  They are both SMU alums as they met there:)  I did not get a photo of us and I am so bummed because I just love their family.  They have a daughter Will's age who is also touring colleges.

Saturday morning was GORGEOUS!  It was perfect Texas weather….  blue skies, no clouds and perfect temps. And the SMU campus is absolutely beautiful.  I cannot overstate how beautiful it is.


I LOVED SMU!    Seriously, I would go there if I could. If Will chooses a different school, I'm going to hope Kate or Harry goes there;) It is beautiful and the alumni are incredible.  I loved the academic programs and the traditions.  Again, we had a great tour guide and we stuck near the front and got a lot more information from him.


We did not have time to visit the Catholic Student Center but I wish we had. Next time.

Will was starving (again!) and really wanted In-n-Out.  We don't have them in Houston.  So, we went. It was heavenly.


So, at this point, I kind of needed a nap.  But we headed back onto the freeways down to Fort Worth to visit TCU.  We could not get into an official TCU tour because they were full.  But we walked around campus and talked to students in the rec center, visitor center and student union.  Will really liked the laid back feeling of the campus.  Kids were laying out on the lawn and playing music and tossing a football.  It was super chill.



The mascot is the "horned frog"


This is frog fountain.


I really wish we had an official tour.  But I think if Will wants to, we could come back and visit again.

We were SO TIRED after this visit.  I seriously wanted to get a hotel and sleep.  But we had to drive home.  It was a long drive that afternoon but Will and I had some good talks.  He slept some of the way but then we talked about some really good stuff.  I really am so grateful for the relationship we have.  I am kind of tough on my kids.  I have high expectations but I give them unconditional love and we talk about everything.  I am incredibly blessed that they talk to me and trust me too.  I will never forget our talks on this road trip.

As we pulled into Houston (I was completely fried), Will played me some awesome upbeat 80's music from his phone.  He held out on me the entire trip.  I laughed as we enjoyed some fun 80's music for the least few minutes of our drive.  I am still tired from this trip and cannot imagine touring colleges in 9-10 years with Kate.  I will be SO OLD!  

I am just so proud of Will.  He does not know where he wants to go to college or exactly what he wants to major in but he has such a good head on his shoulders and he is a good person.  I am blessed to have had this time with just him.

{All I-phone pics}

Cotillion 2015

Saturday, February 7, 2015
A few weeks ago, Will was invited to go to Cotillion with a friend of his.  I love Will's high school friend group.  He went into his high school not really knowing anyone.  He did not come from one of their typical feeder schools and I was concerned about him making friends. (BTW--Harry will likely be in the same situation and I am praying about it already.)  But, Will has found awesome friends who, for the most part, have the same values and morals as he does.  They are good students, dedicated athletes and responsible kids.  They are respectful.

As these dances roll around (homecoming, winter formal, cotillion, prom), it seems that it is always the same group of guys and girls going together.  I have gotten to know a lot of the parents as there are always little parities or dinners before hand and the parents have always been invited. I love that.  And our kids actually seem to enjoy us being there and taking photos.  In fact, Will has already asked us to host his senior homecoming dinner.

This one was hosted by some parents at a beautiful country club.  They had food for the kids and cocktails for the parents.  It was lovely.  I cherish all of these moments of Will's high school life.  As I write this, Will is at school taking his ACT.  I have one more year with him at home.  Only one more year of these dances and memories. I know there will be college memories (parent's weekends) but I am soaking in as much of this as I can.



Will's date, Elizabeth is such a sweet person.
They have been friends for a few years and I really like her.

I took a few photos of Elizabeth and her Mom.





These are a few of Will's best friends, Caroline and David.



Thomas, David, Gunther and Will

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Will is good friends with both of these girls and their Moms asked me to get a photo…

Tori, Will and Elizabeth

I love these candids too…



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One of my favorite parts of this night (and something I want to remember) is that many of the Moms, Dads and girls went out of their way to tell me how much how highly they think of Will. It warmed my heart to hear that Will is the respectful gentleman that we raised him to be and that these friends and parents see that in him.

How to get your kids to stop fighting.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Last week I was giving  talk to a group of women at a church and afterwards a woman came up to me and asked me if my kids fight.  I stopped and really thought about it and said, "No, not really."

I'd like to clarify immediately that yes, once in a while they bicker and sometimes the boys put one another down.  However, for the most part, my kids do not fight.  And honestly they never really did fight much. Sibling fighting in our house has been the exception rather than the norm.

The woman then asked me why I thought they did not fight.  I really thought about it for a minute.  First, I considered the age difference but I quickly realized that I have clients and friends who have big age gaps and their kids fight a lot.

I really think the reason my kids don't fight very often is that most of the time their emotional buckets are full.  Siblings fight primarily out of jealousy, boredom and lack of attention.  I firmly believe that if you connect emotionally and meaningfully with each of your children every day, the fighting will be insignificant in your home.  That meaningful connection will fill their need for both attention and jealousy.  You might see small and occasional bickering but the constant battles will disappear.

What exactly does that daily connection look like? Well it is different for each child depending on both the child and the age.  For Kate, it might simply be sitting at the table while she does her homework and asking about her day.  It might be watching the last few minutes of her violin lesson and talking to her about the new song she is learning.  It might be sitting on the couch snuggling and reading a chapter of Little House on the Prairie with her.  I connect with her in a way that she feels my undivided attention and interest.

For Harry, it might be hanging out in his room and asking him about the music on his phone or going out in the garage and looking at the new fishing lures he has painted. When Harry was younger, we would go out in the driveway and throw the baseball back and forth.  I was terrible and we would laugh at how uncoordinated I am but it was a great bonding experience for us.  Another way to connect  with teenage boys is over food.  I am not usually a fan of the drive thru or fast food in general, but if I drive through whataburger for my boys, they talk and we connect.  It's a win-win. Plus my skinny boys can use the extra calories.

With Will, I simply go in his room and hang out on his window seat while he is doing homework.  Usually, he will chat with me about his day, friends and classes.  But when he was little I would ask about his lego scenes and build something with him.  We also connected a lot though reading and books.

By taking just a little bit of time every day to make each child feel special and valued, we reduce the bickering around here. It was not really my intention to connect with them for the purpose of reducing the bickering.  I simply want to connect with my children on a daily basis.  But I will guarantee for every one reading this…that if you connect with each of your children in a meaningful and consistent way, giving them 100% of your undivided attention, you will not have a lot of bickering and fighting in your home.

I notice that when the boys do criticize one another it is almost ALWAYS after Dave or I just praised one of them or gave one of them extra attention.  I can literally see the ugly green monster of jealousy come out in whoever did not get the praise or attention.

My children are not perfect and Dave and I make mistakes in our parenting. There is no such thing as perfect parenting or perfect children.  But this is one thing I have noticed…. when my kids needs for attention are being met, our house is a lot more peaceful.  I have parents in my office who tell me they don't have time to connect with all of their kids every day.  I hear where they are coming from and I can empathize with them.  Life is busy.  If you are working outside the home and your children are in school and activities, you might only see them a few hours each day.  You might not be able to connect with each one every day but try to do it most days.

Also, sometimes it is really hard to connect with a child who is in a difficult phase of life. It can be a vicious cycle because often the kid who needs our attention the most is the one it is toughest to spend time with.  So, we spend less time connecting with that child and they act out more.  But just a few minutes of your undivided attention is the best investment you can make in your relationship with your child.  And just think about the time it takes to discipline and intervene in sibling arguments and power struggles. By doing this, you will actually have more time with your children and the time will be positive.

One of the things I recommend to my clients is to keep a small notebook on your bedside table and keep track of how you connect with each child each day.  It helps to keep you accountable and it helps you to track the patterns that make a difference with your children. Are there days when I don't connect with all (or any) of my children?  Yes, I am human and very flawed. But if I keep track of it, I am more likely to do it.

People ask me all the time if this is true for kids with special needs like ADHD, autism, sensory issues and the like.  I think kids with impulsivity will often have more challenges controlling their behavior which can sometimes escalate sibling fighting.  But in general ALL kids need these connections daily and they will all benefit from it.

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Tell me what you think in the comments:)

This is the day

Sunday, February 1, 2015
It was exactly 8 years ago today that we saw Kate's face for the first time.  I really cannot believe it was that long ago. I remember it like it was yesterday.  I even remember choosing my clothes that day thinking I would be seeing her face for the first time (so silly!)  Our agency emailed us the photo in the early evening and we all gathered around my laptop to see what she looked like. I remember seeing her sweet face.  She looked very serious (and she is not serious at all). Her nose was so tiny and her cheeks were so full. My friend, Amie was there as we saw Kate's photos for the first time and she captured it on video.  Will just kept saying how beautiful she was. You can read the whole story here.

I had no idea on that day how perfectly and seamlessly she would fit into our family but she does.  God blessed all of us so much with Kate.  She brings JOY to so many people.

Each year, I take a few photos of Kate with her referral photo.  I was not sure she would still oblige this year as she is 8 and 1/2 and she is too busy doing other things to give me a few minutes for a photo shoot.  But she did it for me.  They're not the best photos as she was in a hurry to get back to her knitting and her TV show.  She is obsessed with knitting these days.

This morning after Mass, Kate wanted to go to our favorite place for breakfast. No one else really wanted to go (but me) so Kate and I went and had a lovely Mommy/Daughter date.
It was really nice as we ran into some old friends and some new friends who are about to travel to China to meet their daughter.  I am continually amazed at the ways that God brings people together. Lately our paths have crossed with some other families considering adoption or in the process and it is has been honor to be a part of that journey.




We always get a chuckle out of Kate's referral photo as it certainly is a unique one.





Thank you God for brining Kate into our lives.  We will never really know why her birth parents could not raise her but we are so blessed and honored that we get to be her family. I really cannot imagine our lives without her. We love you Kate.

You can see our referral day photos over the years by clicking here and scrolling through them.

Family Meal Planning

Saturday, January 24, 2015


From my Instagram (where I do post a lot of our meals)
Delicious and easy recipe here (I used fresh basil from our garden and gluten free pasta)

A really good friend of mine recently asked how much we spend a month on groceries.  She was shocked and in disbelief at the low number.  In fact, she thought that I could not possibly be correct.  In light of our way of eating (some organic and gluten free), she assumed we spent a lot more.

After talking about it, my friend and I realized that the reason we don't spend as much is the planning. After asking around, I learned that many of my friends don't have a weekly menu plan.  They run to the grocery store (often whole foods because it is the closest) and buy their ingredients daily or a few times a week.  I could never do that.  It seems so time consuming and stressful to me. But maybe some people like the grocery store (like my friend Shana!)

Dave (awesome husband) does our grocery shopping.  I typically plan our meals for the week and write the list. He does our shopping for a few reasons.  It kinda started back when I was in a car accident and getting acupuncture/chiropractics and was told "no lifting."  But honestly, I hate grocery shopping and Dave sticks to the list.  If I go (which I do sometimes), I throw in all sorts of treats we don't need and waste money and food. Plus, did I mention that I hate grocery shopping and he's the best husband?

So, when I sit down to make the list each Saturday or Sunday, I have a few methods.  First, I look at our week to see what we have going on.  For example a few nights a week, we are not all home at the same time.  Kate has gymnastics, Will has water polo or ACT class or work or friends, Harry has lacrosse, I have clients or book club, etc. On those nights when we all need to eat but at different times, I typically make something like a lasagna or chili or stew or something in the crockpot. Most of those meals make enough for 2 dinners so we eat leftovers the second night. That way, there is something simmering on the stove and people can eat as they get home.  Or they can warm it up easily in the microwave. Dave and I usually eat together with whomever is home around 6 or 6:30 (Harry and sometimes Will) and then serve the others as they get home.  Kate doesn't get home from the gym until 8:50 so she eats a small late dinner a few times a week. I really hate that.

Until this year, we ate as a family almost every single night.  That was HUGELY important to me.  There are tons of studies on family dinners and the benefits to families. And for 17.5 years of parenting, we were able to do it.  Unfortunately (but fortunately for her), last month Kate was moved up a level in gymnastics and now she gets home too late 2 nights a week for us to eat together.  But we really try to do so the other nights as best we can.

At least three/four nights a week we eat together at home (some of the other nights, we eat out as a family too).  On those nights that we are all home, I typically plan things that should be eaten right away such as grilled meats and veggies.  For example, this week, I will make the pork tenderloin on a night we are all home to eat together and the slow cooker meal on a night when our dinners are staggered. Make sense?

Typically, we plan the meals but not the exact nights. So I have meals I make on gymnastics nights and meals I make on non gym nights but I don't always plan which exact one I will make when.  We probably should do that but I like to be a little flexible.  Sometimes we are craving meat or pasta.  Our weather fluctuates so much this time of year (freezing one day and gorgeous the next) that we might want a salad one day and stew the next.  So, we have an idea of what we are making but we decide the days as they come that week.  Plus, plans are always changing with teenagers and an 8 year old.  And I hate when I make a big meal and no one is home to eat it.

Dave used to cook about 50% of the time (when we lived in VA 6-10 years ago).  Dave is a really good cook. Now he works later and so I typically cook during the week. He will sometimes do a quick weeknight dinner of tacos or sautéed fish if he gets home at a good time. And he typically cleans up on the nights I cook.

Usually, Dave cooks a big and delicious Sunday dinner for our whole family.  Sunday night dinner is kind of non negotiable in our family.  I want everyone home.  Friends are welcome but I want my kids home.  In fact, we have sometimes opted out of games, parties and practices on Sunday night because I strongly believe that is family time.

How do I decide on the meals? Some weeks, I ask the kids and Dave if there is anything they especially want me to cook.  I am  also a big fan of cookbooks and pinterest.  Some weeks, we stick to the things we have been making for years (tacos, pasta with sundried tomatoes and grilled chicken, lemon pepper shrimp, roasted chicken, gluten free pasta with sausage and meatballs, etc).  Some weeks, I am adventurous and find new recipes to tackle.  I use Pinterest and cooking blogs a lot.  Pioneer Woman never lets me down.  EVERY SINGLE recipe is good (although I sometimes adapt them to make them gluten free or use more fresh ingredients).  Ina Garten is another favorite as well as Giada, Two Peas and their Pod and Skinnytaste.  I also try to plan by varying the kinds of meats (pork, turkey, chicken, red meat and fish) and including one meatless night but the teenage boys rebel so I have to be sneaky about that.  We choose about 4 meals per week counting on leftovers for one or two and eating out once a week.  Once in a while, we have grilled cheese and avocado sandwiches or hot dogs (GASP!) or pizza or Chinese food.

So, this is our meal plan for the upcoming week:

Honey Butter Pork Tenderloin
Slaw Salad
Baked Sweet Potatoes

Slow Cooker General Tso's Chicken with jasmine rice.

Note ~ If I make this again, (which I probably will because the flavor is great) I will make on stovetop so the chicken stays crispy. The crockpot was an added unnecessary step in my opinion.  Also, you MUST double the sauce or it will burn/stick in the crockpot.  Luckily, I did this.  

Caprese Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with a fresh green salad.

Dave will also cook a Sunday meal tomorrow. I just don't know what it is yet:) Often he grills or cooks ribs or steaks or fish or beef braise with veggies and sides. The boys are meat eaters for sure.

Added: Dave slow smoked ribs on the grill. They were delicious!!!  He also made sweet potato fries and a wedge salad.

Last week we had:

Lasagna (I use fresh bulk Italian Sausage and gluten free noodles and freshly shredded Parmesan to lessen a little of the processed foods)  This makes enough for our family for 2+ dinners and everyone LOVES it!

(This was really good but TOO spicy for Kate and some others).  I used half the creole seasoning and we like spicy foods.  I am thinking our  andouille sausage was also very spicy)  I will make it again but adapt for the spiciness. This also made enough for 2 meals for our family.  Maybe I doubled the recipe…not sure?

Slow Cooker Honey Chicken Thighs
Sweet Potatoes


*This last meal was in the plan but because of a few missing ingredients and a change in plans, I had to punt.  I ended up making buffalo chicken thighs that I kind of made up on the fly in the crockpot.  They were surprisingly good.  I will make these properly very soon though as they look delicious and easy and the reviews are excellent.

If you want to see the recipes I pin, you can follow me on Pinterest here.
If you want to see the recipes I Instagram, you can follow me here.

I am not a meal planning expert at all, this is just what works for us and I thought it might help others too. If you have a favorite recipe or tip, please share it or leave the link in the comments.  I am always looking for new ways to feed our family (we need more vegetables).  I am going to try to post more often about our meal plans here as well.  Maybe not weekly but maybe twice a month:)  Also, if you have any questions, I will answer them in the comments too.

Also, thank you for all the kind comments on my last post.  I think I responded to everyone and visited those of you that have blogs.  I am grateful for the continued support of all of you.

Blog Anniversary (8 YEARS!) and Christmas Day 2014

Monday, January 12, 2015
My first blog post was January 7, 2007.  I have written one thousand two hundred and fifteen posts (1215!) for Three Peanuts.  You have left almost 34,000 comments over the years and I cherish each one of them. And there have been almost 4 million visits to 3 Peanuts (more if you read on a reader or feed).

I have shared so much of our lives with you.  When I started this blog my goal was only to document Dave and Will's trip to China to bring our daughter home.  I never imagined that I would still be journaling on line all these years later.  But I am so glad that I have.  First and foremost, this blog has served as our family photo album and scrapbook.  I always say that some day when I am gone, my children will be able to come here and see how fiercely I loved them.

But this blog has brought us so many more blessings.  I have made incredible friends through blogging…some that I have met and become real life friends with and some that I have never met but I cherish just the same.  Kate's adoption has inspired other families to adopt.  I never had any idea God would use us that way.  Harry's prayer table brought a family back to God and church.  Again, we never had any notion that things like that would happen.  So, thank you. Thank you for saying hello when we see you out and about.  Thank you for reading and for praying for our family over the years.  It means a lot to me.  If you feel comfortable, I would love for you to say hello in the comments today.  I love to know who is reading over the years. Tell me how/when you found 3 peanuts.

Now onto Christmas Day.  Thankfully, Kate and Harry woke up at a reasonable hour.




Harry and Will asked for some clothes and a few things. Kate asked Santa for a balance beam. That was what she really wanted.

The kids coming down the stairs…



I think Will is still asleep here;)

And here is when she saw the beam….



Running to look for the beam:)


This was the first gift Harry saw.  It was a total surprise for him and he loved it.  I took his shirt from the Junior Olympics (which is too small to wear now) and put it in a t-shirt frame. I love this idea to frame a kid's first t-ball jersey or favorite t-shirt.  Harry LOVED it.  You can get it here.

Harry also got a new fishing rod and reel…


Dave did too…


Will, Harry and Dave are kind of obsessed with fishing these days.


Will really wanted this patagonia fleece.  And everyone else in the world must have wanted it too because it was SOLD OUT everywhere locally and online.  Finally, I found it at the last minute at Zappos and it was here in time.  I love Zappos.  I think Will has worn it almost everyday since Christmas so I'd say it was a winner.


Will gave Kate a skien of beautiful yarn and a box of graham crackers.  She had asked for both and was so happy.  Kate learned to knit on the 23rd of December and was in heaven with this yarn!!

Kate gave Dave a winter hat and Will gave him this Southern Marsh baseball cap.
 I think he is all set for hats.

And Miss Katie Ru asked just days before Christmas for a hot pink "Columbus" fleece.  It is Columbia but she calls it her Columbus;) And she wears it constantly.  We like cozy fleece here.


Harry and Kate are so cute together.  I love how they love one another.  Kate bought Harry some stinky fish stuff.  She knows what he loves.

I bought this sign below for Kate's room. I thought she'd love it.  She was not a fan.  It is too bright so we returned it:)


Scout always gets a new toy or treat in her stocking too…

See that beautiful hand made portrait/ornament with my monogram hanging on the tree?
 Kate made one for each of us.  That one is me.  I love it.

 There is a funny story about this Santa toy. I bought it at Marshalls months before CHristmas with a few other things.  It was in a bag in my closet with the other things…HIDDEN.  One day I came home and Scout had it out and was playing with it.  She had gone upstairs (which she is not supposed to do), found this toy amongst several other gifts in a bag and brought it down stairs to play with. I have no idea how she know to go looking in my secret hiding place for her Christmas present but she is one smart dog! I had to hide it up high until Christmas.

We had a nice brunch as a family and then Dave and I got busy cooking Christmas dinner.  This year we served beef tenderloin, ham, sweet potato casserole, roasted asparagus with shaved parmesan, mixed greens with pomegranate seeds and goat cheese, my homemade world famous macaroni and cheese, Aunt Waukita's zucchini casserole (yum!), biscuits, pies and a yule log.  I also made gluten free mint brownies (interest recipe…lots of work not very yummy).




 We had a great time telling the jokes from our crackers.

DSC_9589 I did not make the yule log this year but it was delicious. DSC_9590

After dinner we played a game we like called the family game. We had never played it with Dave's brother and the nieces and nephews before but it was a lot of fun!


We had to get Scout in the photo too;)

Here are two more videos I want for my own memories …

This one is the letter our elf, Happy left…

And the letter Santa left on Kate's beam…

That is it for Christmas. It was a good one.
 I have a couple of posts planned for favorite things and books and such.  Be back soon.

Please make are to say hello in the comments.