happy sticky fingers

a place where hearts, minds & creativity are encouraged to soar

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A Passion for Winning

Hayden had a wonderful first season of soccer. He is incredibly agile for his age and has a passion for winning. The latter, we need to work on a bit as his winning spirit occasionally leads to a tantrum if he actually isn’t winning. I usually can see it coming as a seemingly innocent question precedes the change in mood. Am I winning, mommy? Ah….deep breath.

Shear determination

Shear determination

Even with a gentle touch, “You are very close but, your brother is slightly ahead at the moment,” the monster seed is sprouting. “No, I AM winning, mommy”. Huh, change the course and lie or do the right thing? How tired am I today?

Of course by my third child I know, avoiding the lesson lead to prolonging the stage – more whining, more tantrums and inability to navigate in the real world. Lately we have closed down a few games mid-stream proclaiming it simply not fun to play a game with someone who is crying.

I sympathize. No one likes to lose. I certainly don’t like to lose. And in the US, we are raised from birth to value independence and the concept that hard work leads to success. Lately I have noticed a very important nuance has been lost.  We don’t all get to win every time. Hard work doesn’t immediately lead to success every time but, it certainly leads to more success over time though.  It’s a fine distinction for a 4 year old but, one that it is better to learn early.

The flipside to this phase in his life is the shear elation he expresses when he does win.  Recently we were playing a family game for ages 6 and up.  Amazingly my little loving four year old WAS winning – and winning by a large margin.  “Am I owning you?  I am owning you mommy.”  I can only assume his brothers taught him that phrase but, it made me laugh out load.  That night, he WAS OWNING us!  I chose to save the ‘graceful winner’ lesson for another time and let him revel in his glory within the security of our own home.

And, as a side note, there are days that I envy my 4 year old. I would love to kick, scream or quit on days when I don’t win.  Ah, to be four again…

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ACME Birthday Blast

I agreed to sleepover party to celebrate my son’s tenth birthday. Ten 10 year olds – What was I thinking? And what could we do to keep that many boys occupied all evening?

Last year, I found that a movie was not enough.  Half the kids had seen it and the other half just wanted to run.

I remember yelling, DON’T and STOP a lot last year.  “Don’t jump on the bed.” “Stop slamming the doors!” “Don’t jump off the top bunk.” (Did I really have to articulate that?  Yes, and still someone fell from the top bunk. It was my son which was stressful but, at least I didn’t have to explain it to another parent)    Aurgh!

So this year the game plan was different.  Keep the kids occupied and running for as long as possible so they would collapse from exhaustion at the end of the night.

ACME Air Rocket Launcher

Finding a theme was challenging.  Ten is too old for Power Rangers and we’ve tackled both Batman and Godzilla before.  I found inspiration on the Silhouette store – Wile E Coyote.Blowing something up was out of the question of course.  The next best thing to blowing something up is a rocket, right? We got lucky – very lucky – as we had a friend with an air compressor rocket launcher.  The boys had to construct their rockets – which only requires paper and tape.  Then we raced outside to see how high they would fly.  Some easily went 250 feet into the air. The boys had so much fun, I may make a launcher myself!

Paper, tape, compressed air – lift off! Click here for Instructions to make your own rocket launcher.  Good luck if you try it!Rocket Launching

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Apple Banana Breakfast Cookies

Apple Banana Breakfast Cookie

If you’ve seen a roadrunner cartoon once in your life, you know what a typical weekday morning looks like at our house. Beep! Beep! Hayden wakes up desperately hungry and wants food immediately.  Beep! Beep! Patrick asks for steak and loathes both hot oatmeal and cold cereal (anything really that one would consider normal in the morning). Beep! Beep! Parker who’s the oldest usually doesn’t really want to eat in the morning since he is still half asleep. Beep! Beep! The only morning food they all agree on is junk. I hoped to find a new middle ground – something better than pop tarts, that they would all eat, and that I could manage during a typical ACME morning.


Inspired by a recipe I found recently in Martha Stewart magazine for Breakfast Cookies, I gave them a try.  I faithfully replicated the recipe and found that it indeed were very good.  But, as they were loaded with sugar, I envisioned notes home from teachers highlighting hyper behavior or how my son fell asleep after a sugar crash.  To be fair, the recipe has a ton of nuts, butter and whole wheat which all helps temper the glucose rollercoaster.  (Here is the link to the Red Barn Bakery recipe featured in the Martha Stewart Magazine.)To cut some sugar, I used apples and a bananas instead.  (I have never gotten away with using a sugar substitutes in my baking. My 9 year old always catches me and asks, “What is the weird aftertaste?”) I ended up roasting the bananas to bring out the flavor and sweetness and avoid weighing down the dough.  (I learned this little trick from America’s Test kitchen.)  I know roasting bananas sounds a crazy but, it is worth it if you have the time.

Apple Banana Breakfast Cookies

  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup cake or all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 stick butter, unsalted at room temperature
  • 1 cup dark-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ripe banana
  • ½ cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup nuts or seeds (I used sliced almonds, raw sunflower and roasted pepitas)
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • ½ cup dried apples
  • Banana chips, optional


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Roast banana on rimmed baking sheet until skin is completely black, about 20 minutes.  Cool banana completely, peel and mash until smooth. Mix flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.  Using your mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high.  Add mashed banana and apple sauce until blended then incorporate eggs, one at a time.  Slowly incorporate flour mixture.  Mix in oats and nuts and dried fruit.

Lightly spray a cookie sheet with baking spray.  Scoop ¼ cup dough onto baking sheet and top with banana slices.  Bake for 20 minutes until lightly golden.

As a side note, Martha’s recipe said 1 cup to 1/2 cup per cookie – which is insane!  1/4 cup makes a perfect size for morning with a glass of milk along side.

Everyone’s a critic

Hayden, age 4, did not care for the banana chips.  The banana chips really do not add much flavor and can easily be omitted if it pleases your picky eater.

Parker loves all things carbs. I gave him my lower sugar version first and he raved about it. When compared head-to-head, go figure, he prefered the version with more sugar.  I am not deterred.  Getting a 12 year old to eat anything for breakfast is a win.

Patrick doesn’t like raisins so I will have to whip up another batch with cranberry, apples and walnuts next time.  At least he didn’t ask for another steak for breakfast!

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Fresh, Colorful and Fast – Tortellini Soup

It has been a busy week with scouts, soccer, trumpet, and football every night so far.  And of course there is work for both my husband and myself.  As such, I fell back to one of my favorite weeknight recipes – Tortellini Spinach Soup.  Before we get to the recipe, just a brief recap on the boys.  Hayden had his first soccer game at the YMCA and while the team lost, he enjoyed every second of it.  Patrick had his first football game, which ended at 10pm Wednesday night.  They won and he was ecstatic!  We were tired.OK, back to a fast, fresh recipe perfect for busy nights!Tortellini and Spinach Soup

Less than 5 minutes preparation

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 (14-ounce) cans chicken broth
  • 2 (9-ounce) packages fresh three cheese tortellini
  • 1 ¼ cups chopped plum tomato, seed removed
  • 1 (6-ounce) bag spinach
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium high heat, add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds until just fragrant.  Add wine and chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Cook for 2 minutes then add tortellini and cook for 6 minutes longer, stirring occasionally.  Stir in tomato and spinach and cook until spinach just wilts – about 1 minute.  Add butter and you are ready to serve.


I have seen some variations on this recipe on the web but, I really prefer this version since it uses fresh ingredients rather than canned or frozen.  The fresh ingredients make this dish as lovely as it is quick and tasty.Add the spinach right before you are ready to serve as it will lose its vibrant color if in the liquid too long.  This is a beautiful dish that our entire family really enjoys.  A loaf of french bread and the bottle of white wine you’ve just opened makes this a perfect meal.

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I Can’t Believe it is Butter!

I just may be the female reincarnation of Tim Allen.  I love my power tools.  I recently got a new food processor. The first thing I made was hummus which turned out to be hum-horrible. My entire family loves hummus but, we all agreed, that was hum-horrific!

So here I am. In search of fool-proof recipe that requires a food processor.  And I hear that you can make butter with a food processor.  Heck, why not?  And how cool it would be for the kids to see how butter can be made from milk.  With everything ready made from cloths in malls to food in grocery stores, kids don’t have an opportunity to see our connection to the land first hand like our ancestors did. Butter would be just the thing to pass on that connect, right?

So here is how it is done,

  • Fit your processor with a plastic blade
  • Put in 1-2 cups heavy whipping cream (“vat pasteurized cream” tastes better than UHT or HTST pasteurized so I read)
  • Blend


Seriously, it is just that easy.  For a fabulous description of the stages the butter will go through, notes on variations, and even history, check out Butter through the Ages.

The truth about our adventure in butter making. I was much more amazed by the process than my kids. And  since I still bought the cream from the grocery store, I don’t think they learned anything about our remarkable connection to Mother Earth. (Seriously, what was I thinking?)

I wasn’t able to find anything other than ultra heat treated milk at our local HEB but, it tasted just fine.  While I don’t envision myself calling the ‘state Department of Agriculture’ anytime soon to find vat pasteurized cream, as suggested in the Butter through the Ages website, I will checkout the local health food store next time I am there.

I did clean and work the butter as well.  That is simply to add cold water, blend and discard the water until it runs clear.  This helps the butter stay fresh longer.  I did not culture the cream as it sounded a little risky for my first time out (still reeling from the hummus fiasco).

We ate buttered noodles for dinner.  Much to my surprise, the kids were extremely pleased and even cheered for what sounded to me like the laziest meal for the cell block that week.  But hey, I had fun making it and the kids loved dinner.  It was a win-win kinda night!

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Gratitude Made Simple

I have been thinking a lot about how to instill a sense of gratitude in my kids. I started off by saying, “When I was a kid, a candy bar only cost a quarter!”  OK, I am kidding of course. We all know that lectures and guilt are no way to pass on an understanding of gratefulness. True appreciation has to come from within. But, I believe parents can plant and nourish the seeds.

So, how do you plant those seeds in your little ones? There are 4 things you can do today.

Live it.  About a year ago, my husband had been laid off from his job. In order to save money, we got rid of our maid. Like most families, we are very busy and cleaning the house doesn’t bubble to the top of anyone’s fun chart (sometimes I still really miss our cleaning lady). We were fortunate that my husband was only unemployed for a couple months but, it was long enough for us to realize something important. We found that working together as a family and taking care of a home we cherish, is an invaluable experience. Just telling kids how a family should help each other out and care for things that are important to them, is not half as effective as actually doing.  As a team, we knock off all the chores in about an hour and a half – there are 5 of us. Everyone gets to help. Even Hayden, who is 4, pitches in with the mini-vacuum and dishes. You don’t have to clean your own house to live your values– find whatever is right for your family. What I hope to express is that ‘doing’ embeds a seed more deeply than ‘saying’ ever could.  And as a side note, we don’t sing hi-ho-hi-ho while we work. As I said, no one in my family loves to empty trash cans. Sometimes we do rock out to Ce Lo Green’s ‘Open Happiness’. You can’t help but be in a great mood while listening to that song.

Be Genuine.  If a family only talks about rainbows and puppy dogs, kids may not learn the difference between a challenge and a blessing. Well, they may but, they won’t think you ‘get it’ or ‘get’ them. Not all things are going to be perfect at all times, and that is OK. Even with challenge, we can be grateful. Kids need to know those around them have honest and similar feelings. If the file with a presentation you worked on for 2 hours got corrupted and you lost all your hard work, by all means, tell your kids you had a frustrating day. Being genuine builds trust and opens up a child’s heart to understanding. Your kids need to see how you react to your setbacks. Often, I react by saying I am grateful to be home and sometimes by admitting that all I have the energy to do is order pizza for dinner!

Go Beyond your Family.  A friend of ours recently had a fall and was admitted to the hospital for broken ribs and a couple of vertebrae. Rather than talking about how lucky we are to have our health, the boys made cookies and handmade cards to deliver to our dear friend. Admittedly a very little thing in comparison and still somewhat close to home but, going beyond your family often develops perspective.

Remember Little People are Worthy.  My youngest son is so demonstrative with his love.  He will stop in the midst of playing with friends just to holler over his shoulder that he loves me. I can’t explain how grateful and adored he makes me feel. If his words mean that much to me, I had better make sure I use my words too – it is only fair, right?  When Hayden snuggles with me before heading off to bed, I describe the scene in much detail as possible and how much I appreciate him. “Hayden, today when you were wearing your batman shirt, you looked hot and sweaty but, also like you were having a great time playing with Lauren.  You stopped riding your scooter and looked right at me a said, I love you mom. You fill my heart with joy. I am one lucky mom to have a caring boy like you.” He always smiles. When I come home from work and notice the dishes have been put up, without my having to ask, I have been known to call all the boys into the kitchen in the same tone they may hear when someone is in trouble. Once everyone has arrived, I say, “I don’t know who did these dishes but, I really appreciate it. It means so much to me that you cared.”  Huge smiles all around.

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Slime Time

Keeping three active boys occupied during the blisteringly hot, late summer days in Houston is a challenge.  Finding a single activity that all the boys, who range in age from four to twelve, will enjoy is even more so.  But, there is one thing that has never failed to entertain us for hours on end – and that’s slime.

We have been making slime for at least six years now and one piece of advice I can share with confidence is, stock up on glue.  Take advantage of the back to school sales going on now and buy more than you think you’ll use.  Seriously, you will thank me for this later.  Once you make slime the first time, your kids will ask for more again and again.

Also, economy glue isn’t a great idea.  I have seen prices at my local grocery store for $0.10 a bottle which was impossible to ignore.  I think I bought 5 bottles.  Whoa, slime for all, I thought.  We found that the consistency was off and the resulting slime was overly sticky. By all means you are welcome to take the gamble but, neither of the times I tried turned out well.  I assume the other brands have a different amount of water in them.  It is possible that, with some tinkering, it could work out but, for now, I’ll just stick to good ‘ol Elmer’s.  Oh, and on the topic of Elmer’s brand, there are two versions; All-purpose and School.  Both work just fine but, the School glue is normally less expensive.

Get started with:

  • Elmer’s School Glue
  • Borax Laundry Booster
  • Food Coloring
  • Tap Water


Get jiggy with it:

  1. Mix equals glue and water in a measuring or disposable plastic cup.  I usually empty the entire bottle of glue into the cup and use the glue bottle to measure.  This saves me from getting an actual measuring cup dirty – I do enough dishes as it is.
  2. Add 10-20 drops of food coloring and mix until the color is mixed throughout and you are happy with the intensity.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix 4 teaspoons Borax with 1 1/3 cups of warm water until well dissolved.
  4. Now, here comes the fun part.  Slowly pour the glue mixture into the water and have your kids roll it around a couple of times with their fingers.
  5. Now, just take the slime out of the water. (Ha, easier said than done.)


After using our old standard recipe for a couple of years, and seeing some cool variations on Pintrest, we have tried a few.  Along with green and yellow food coloring, we added some glow paint to make super cool glow in the dark slime.  Another time, we added glitter with blue tempera paint instead of food coloring.  The concoction appeared to work but, the slime broke down after a day or so and ended up oozing an orange tinged liquid.  That one ended up in the trash the next day.

Oh and there is one other thing I should mention, straws are a fun addition when playing with slime.  Parker makes some crazy super-sized bubbles with his slime.