This is nothing special, well to you anyway. I'm not a scrapbook type, or a baby book writer, or even a picture printer. I'm terrible at recording memories. This blog is my attempt at holding on to some of my life as a Christian, a wife, and a homeschooling Mom of 5. I am a country girl that lived in a big city for 14 years, and moved to the Deep South for quiet, quaint, small town living.

Monday, August 4, 2014

18 months later.....

It is a little embarrassing, but I think I'm ready to jump on the blogging bandwagon again.  Our last post was just after we found out about our sweet little surprise baby.  I remember thinking about how and when I would announce the news on here after I got over the happy shock (remember Troy's testicular cancer and my struggle to accept that our family wouldn't grow any more biologically?).  We were only in Mississippi for 2 weeks before this miracle happened and has become our first Deep South baby.

Little Ruby June is adored by the whole family and will be turning 1 on September 5th.  That, coincidentally was the week we bought our forever home here in Petal.  What a whirlwind of emotion and support from everyone, but that is a story in itself.  Basically, Troy tried to become Superman, and I tried to follow.

We bought a fixer upper and it has been a constant struggle, as these things are.  We aren't natural DIYers so multiply that struggle to those that love this kind of thing.  But persistence has paid off in many areas, and hopefully looking back at the befores and afters will encourage us to tackle the rest when it seems so overwhelming.

We joined a church that is over 30 minutes away.  It wasn't that far from the rental house when we joined, but the new house is pretty far out the opposite direction.  The commute is cramping my style, but God has made it very clear that this church is where He wants us.  Even if it is just for the friends that quickly opened their hearts and offered their help, any amount of driving would be worth it.  It has felt like family from the beginning.

We also felt led to do another year of homeschool.  It is a nice fit for our family, even though we moved to an area where I was thinking we would send our kids to public school.  There is a sweet peace in knowing and accepting where He wants us (when we are privileged to that information!).

Here is a quick recap of the pregnancy, birth, move, remodel (still in progress), holidays, and milestones.
 We spent 9 months looking for our home while we rented a house in Petal.  It was a little challenging to learn that the owners wanted to sell the house so we had to keep it show ready...with 4 kids, half our stuff unpacked, 2 cats, and being home full time to homeschool... and enjoying a pregnancy during a Deep South summer.  I was one big, sweaty, momma.
 But the dam was soon to break in the house hunt and in me.  Boom! Buy and house and have a baby in one week.
 Little Ruby June (named after my Great Aunt and Grandmom) has been a calming balm in the midst of the packing, unpacking, remodeling, postpartum depression, trying-to-get-settled STORM that followed.  I think I'm a forever gooey, mushball from what she did to my heart.  Excuse me while I go squishy hug my baby....
 This is the Stouffer Sanctuary.  You may decide for yourself if the name describes a safe refuge or a wildlife reserve.  I think both may equally apply with our crazy monkeys.
 Halloween- Trick or Treating right before the heavens opened up leaving us with runny makeup, wet candy, and memories.
LGVMR, as I like to call them, fell right into being a family of 5 kids quite naturally.  I wonder how many more kids we would need to name starting with Vowels to make a word with their initials?
 The Bloxom side traveled far and wide to spend Thanksgiving with us.    It was so much fun, we jumped right into Christmas with Grandpop and Christine's help. I'm not much of a decorator, so I appreciated the extra hands.
Christmas morning was sweet, relaxing, and a slow time reflecting on Jesus.  I can't explain how much I love the calmness of waking up in our own home and having no commitments that day.
 Troy has not had much of a break from building, replacing, painting, and problem solving while we change this house to what we want in a home.
 Valentines Day!
 We decorated the hallway with something we love about each kid every day until V-day.  I'm all for family focus on Valentine's day (and after the 14th, cheap) chocolate!
 Some projects like a grey water pipe that needed to be replaced (that was a mess), and a flood from the girl's bathroom sink (that required us to replace their carpet sooner than later) got thrown into our house project planning.
 Easter traditions holding strong!

And Ruby is growing like a weed!

 We busted out a garden too.  I didn't put as much time into it as I hoped with homeschooling and a new baby, but I'm pleased with what we have harvested and learned so far.
 The pool has been a huge blessing.  It wasn't even on our must have list for house hunting, but I'm so glad we have one now.  Within a couple months of swimming consistently we have 3 independent swimmers, and I'm sure Maggie will follow suit by next year.

The produce that came with the house is pretty exciting.  Garden space with pears, peaches, apricots, muscadine grapes, and my favorite- FIGS!

 But most of all, the space is what we all were longing for.  10 acres to run, explore, learn, and grow has done us all lots of good.
 Plus this little heart.  I'm all mushy again.

I'm sure there is plenty I've missed, but for an 18 month recap, I think it looks pretty good.  Here's to more posts of the Stouffer Adventures!

Friday, January 18, 2013

sticker fun

I love it when I find photos on my phone that I don't even remember taking.
 This was sometime back in Baltimore.
 All I can do to explain is say- sticker book gone wild.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Comfort and Easy should go hand in hand.

We stayed 2 nights with our friends in South Carolina on our move to Mississippi.  It was a wonderful trip just seeing that family again.   No one can make me laugh like the Gloriosos!  

We would have been happy to eat cereal the whole time, but our friend Kay just has a way with food that blows me away, every time.  
I think her specialty is comfort food!
Maybe that is how she has so many friends.
Who isn't going to want to be friends with someone who makes you laugh so hard you snort, 
AND feeds you happy food.
I'm not even going to mention she made us Nutella Mousse!

That weekend she made us Cracker Barrel Chicken and Dumplings!  They aren't exactly the same as the Eastern Shore Slippery Dumplings that I hold dear to my heart, but I have to say, these are easier to make and just as tasty!  In fact, because they are easier to make, it means less room for error.... and we all know now that I am working on narrowing the error margin.  I proved that by finding a copy cat recipe on pinterest and trying it myself.

But the best tip I learned from her wasn't in the recipe.  

She rolls her dough on a floured pillowcase!

 (Please excuse the cup.  This was a picture from rolling out biscuits.)

None of the dough stuck, it is larger than normal rolling mats, 
and my favorite part....
 the clean up was a breeze!  
Roll up, shake over the trash, and toss in the laundry!
I think I may need to plan another trip to South Carolina (it is ONLY 9 hours away, no big deal, right?) so I can improve my cooking even more.  If that is the reason, Troy might start saving up for my gas money!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Our little Decorator

We never know what we will find when we check on the kids before going to bed ourselves.

I don't know if Liv decorated Maggie's bed before she fell asleep or after.
She is even surrounded by her own animals.  Notice how they are all looking at her.
I do have to say, Maggie and Livia's room is usually more fun to check out than George and Ginnie's.

Friday, January 11, 2013

not so mmmmm good

I wish I was a better cook. 

I know why I'm not a good baker, and I accept that.
I'm too lazy to measure correctly and I like to improvise.
Those two things do not guarantee wonderful baking results,
yet I do it anyway.
I can't help it.

I mean really, who does this every time?
I'm more of a grab and pinch, or scoop and shake kind of girl.

(Once, when I caught a pan of brownies on fire (yes, flames!) my Dad walked in the door to see a smoking pan our charred batter outside.  I joked and said, "I guess I'm no Betty Crocker."  He looked at me, with the one eyebrow raised and said, "More like Betty Crock of s***."  I still laugh at that when my baking attempts flop!)

But cooking is a different story.
You can taste and adjust along the way.
There is no reason to serve bad, or even not-bad-just-bland, cooked meals, right?

I always preferred the idea of cooking over baking because there are no surprises at the end.  You can taste and entree during cooking and before you dish it all out.  There is no going back once you cut a cake in front of everyone and they all eat at once!  Ahhhh, the anxiety!

Yes, I know I have control issues.

So, why on earth can't I cook the way I want??
You know- like the pioneer woman, my friend Marcy, or my mother in law?

I can turn out a few dishes that wow people...... sometimes.
Mostly, it is a hit and miss, and I can never get every dish on the table hot at the same time!
I'm resorting to a lot of one pot meals because of this....

I have heard that it is all practice.
Hmmmm, I have been married and the main cook for over 11 years now.
Maybe I have a slow learning curve.

Before you write how great my meals have looked when I have posted in the past.... just remember, you didn't taste it!  There was a 1/3 chance it was good, a 1/3 chance it was just eh, and a 1/3 chance it was bad, we suffered through it, and I tossed before my sweet hubby put it in the fridge for leftovers.  That man will eat anything and be happy.

I'm not expecting perfection, just a better ratio, like 80% good, and 10% eh, and 10% flops. 

I think I'm mostly bummed because I'm not consistent.  I make a pretty banging meatloaf and it was just bland last night.  I forgot the onions and something else was missing too.  

Maybe I should writing things down.  I want to start getting some tried and true meals documented for my kids when they grow up anyway. 

 My Grammy did that for me years ago and it still means so much (even more now that I'm so far away.)

Apparently all my homesickness is connected with food.  
I learned that living in Baltimore.  
This saves me.

 After my Mom died, I took 1/3 of her recipes and taped them in my cookbook.  I taped the other 2/3 into a recipe book for my brother and sister.  I hand copied all of the recipes in each book so we all had a copy, and each of us had some of her original recipes.

 Back to becoming a better cook....

I seem to be forgetting God in all of this.
We always pray before we eat, but I'm going to start praying before I cook!
Here goes to a new year of recipe following, and prayer covered cooking! 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Life is a Vacation

I am not very interested in vacations.  I never was.  I hate the stress of planning and packing.
Somehow, with God's grace, we have packed and unpacked enough for 10 vacations, we saw so many friends and family, AND we made it to our new home 1000 miles away.  

All in all, it really wasn't so bad. 

 Thanksgiving weekend was spent with the Stouffer side....
 bonding with family,
 enjoying the Philadelphia parade,
 cozying up with cousins,
 and getting all the snuggles in we could.
 Oh, and we ate.  This isn't just a holiday thing with Nana- she always feeds us well!

We even got to sneak down to see the Bloxom side too.
We never share holidays due to the distance between them, but this year was special.

 Our last few days in Baltimore were spent saying goodbye to friends,
 eating local foods,
 and cleaning out the house.
 Did I mention eating our favorite, local foods?
What? We had to keep the house clean and show-able!

packing, packing, packing.....

 and spending time in our bare house.

I don't know how I forgot to document the drive from Maryland to Mississippi, but it was surprisingly easy.  We both drove a van, I had the kids, Troy had the cats, and we busted it out with only 2-3 stops during the day long drives.  We broke up the trip by staying 2 nights with our friends in South Carolina.  I would have added on another 10 hours to stay with them again!  It made our trip so much more enjoyable.

 Once we got into our new home, we set up house right away.

 The dining room/school room.
 The eat in kitchen with screened in porch.
 Living room.

 George and Virginia's room.

 Livia and Maggie's room.
 Master bedroom.
 Holy moley- we finally have closet space!!!!
 The kids even have a playroom!

 And kitchen.
Christmas was our first Christmas waking up in our own home. 
It was a little bittersweet not being surrounded by family that day, but it was also calm and lovely.  Our kids got to stay in pajamas, play with their gifts, and we started some new traditions while keeping some of our old ones.

Now that we have unpacked, and even put all the holiday stuff away, we are enjoying the rest of this vacation.  School is back in full force, and afternoons are free for whatever activities we want (mostly enjoying the yard and toys that where packed away from showing the house months before we left).  I think we will finally start venturing out to visit more libraries and parks, and have some play dates (one is set up for Friday!).  We are slowly meeting new friends as we visit churches, but we don't have the packed schedule of responsibilities one does when they are established in a community.  I'm taking this time as a respite and will enjoy a lovely cup of coffee on my back deck, watching deer run through the yard.  

God is more generous than I could have ever imagined.  Life is Good!