Sunday, October 10, 2010

Joy has to be a priority!!

I need to thank Pastor Chuck for that wonderful quote, "Joy has to be a priority". Two weeks ago as he was finishing a sermon series on "Play" he said this and I knew that it would be the title of my next post!
I think there is a period in the life of every "mom" in which she forgets to put a priority on her own joy. We are so busy raising kids and enjoying their "joyful' moments that we tend to put a priority on their happiness. Don't get me wrong.....I have been plenty happy watching my kids enjoy themselves but I often failed to branch out on my own and develop my own "play bucket list".

A "play bucket list" is a list of things that I have always wanted to do for enjoyment. Some of them I have never even mentioned to Sir Bill!! So, here is my list....I figure if I make it public I will actually be held accountable by one of the ten people who actually read this!!!!

1. Learn to shoot a pistol.
2. Drive a combine (or other piece of large farm equipment)!
3. Hike in as many of the US states as I possibly can.
4. Learn how to really play bocce...not just pretend!
5. Camp at least once a year.
6. Fly Fish.
7. Make my own fishing lures.
8. Rock Climb (baby steps at first, people).
9. Become an expert cookie and cupcake baker. I'm pretty close to that already!
10.Climb Trees. At one of those places that actually puts you in a harness!! I'm not stupid.
11. Learn to dance......with Bill. Problem is I don't think this is on his bucket list.
12. Walk in 5ks for charitable events.

Twelve is enough for now. I'll keep adding to my list though...and I'll let you in on a little secret.....I've located a combine!!

Just a note. I know the pictures have nothing to do with my bucket list but I wanted to share some of Christian "the king of joy". He knows how to play and he does it well!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

At last the Pity Party is Over!

Hello and please forgive me for my absence. I hadn't planned on being away from the blog all summer but I found myself with no spark to even start a decent blog post. I blame it all on the pity party I was having for myself; the pity party that zapped all of my creative juices. You see I have not had an extended pity party before, maybe one that lasted a day or two, but not one that took up 3 months time!!

So, how and why did this pity party begin? Well first you need to understand that our family is pretty low key. We do our work, help each other out, help others out when they need, and we don't ask for much (if anything) in return. We are pretty predictable and faithful in our work. We do not make a lot of noise, live in a lot of drama or clamour for attention. But this summer we were blindsided, two times, and I found myself wanting some ATTENTION! But, alas, since we are so self sufficient and pretty much backwards at knowing how to attract attention.....we got very little. And this fueled my pity party!!

The first blindside happened with Anna's gymnastic team. I'll spare the long details of this situation but it was a situation that hurt Anna and our family and we had no involvement in the issue or decisions. We were just the innocent (blindsided) ones left behind to pick up the pieces. And watch the others' drama get ALL of the attention. That just ground my gears!! And began my pity party!! I was angry and I had Anna as my anger partner. At least I wasn't going through this myself!! Its nice to have a pity party buddy in times like this! But that didn't last long......Anna asked me shortly after the incident why some people tend to get all of the attention when things like this happen, and we, the Gortners do not. I think I said something sarcastic about learning to become drama queens and Anna replied that if it meant plastering drama all over Facebook it was just a waste of her time.....and that ended it for her!! I, on the other hand, thought long and hard about the Facebook idea!! And though I didn't follow through with that, I still held on tightly to having my pity party!

Our next blindside, and definitely the hardest to handle , was Bethany being diagnosed with Crohn's Disease. This, my friends, has been tough. She had just graduated with a BSN and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Army and was ready to start her adult life and this happened. And with this diagnosis a whole host of other issues cropped up. The army has put her on hold while they decide what do with her and her disease (pity party fuel); insurance is refusing to cover the medications (more pity party fuel); and now, she is forced to look for a nursing position eventhough she had one secured with the army (more anger to fuel my pity party)!! Attention!! Hey, we needed some attention here! If there ever was Drama in the Gortner household.....this is it! Does anyone notice us?

Well, Someone has been noticing us all summer....... giving me and my family attention all summer. But I was too busy fueling my pity party to accept the attention. Fortunateley, just a couple of Saturdays ago, our pastor spoke on the triumphs of faithfulness. The attributes of pounding the same nail and knowing that God honors that committment to Him even though others might not notice or find our committment worthy of attention. During that sermon, my pity party started to weaken. By the time I left was pretty much nonexistent and I had this overwhelming feeling that Someone was paying attention to ME! Even though there was not a lot of fanfare or drama....I felt the attention!!

I talked about being blindsided twice this summer. Well acutally after church that Saturday...I was blindsided the third time!! Then a few days later...blindsided again...when Anna told me she is happier at gym than she has ever been!! Blindsided for the fifth time just a few days ago. Bethany's doctor's office let us know that they found a way for her medicine to be provided to her!!!

So....I am done wasting my time having pity parties!! They just get in the way of all of the attention that God is sending my way!!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

28 Levels of Compatibility

Yesterday I was feeling tired and lazy so I took a little time in the afternoon to veg. Vegging to me means curling up on my bed and watching college softball for the afternoon. After years and years of playing softball I find it soothing just to sit around and take in a few innings every now and again. Odd, I know but at least I was never a smoker!!

While I was enjoying the game on Fox Sports a crazy little commercial came on the tube - one for an online computer dating service. The ONLY one that uses the 28 levels of compatibility to match someone with that perfect person. I had to think about that for a few minutes. Then I called Kind Sir Bill in to ask him. "Hey, are we compatible on 28 levels? Did we try to figure that out before we got married?"

Bill then looked at me like I was a crazy woman and asked me what level we missed on.
Yes, he thought, that was an important error in judgment on his part!! But, alas, he loves me!

Funny. When I first saw Bill, singing in front of a bunch of people, holding that guitar.....the thought of being compatible on 28 levels never entered my mind. The thought that "this guy is hot" however did!!! Then after dating this hot guy for a few months I just knew this was who God wanted me to be with.
We didn't have any deep discussions about compatibility. No questioning whether he would still love me even if I didn't organize my closets, keep good check book records, love listening to music at all times, take off my shoes in the house, etc.

We may not be compatible on 28 levels but we are in love and we are committed. That is what has mattered for 24 years.

And do you know what? Bill doesn't roll his eyes at me when I get lazy and veg in front of a women's softball game. He cuddles up next to me. And I switch the station over to baseball cause that's the sport my "hottie" likes the best.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Titanic and Digestion!

Those were two topics that Anna studied early this spring and lucky for us COSI (Center of Science and Industry in Columbus) had exhibits involving both of those things!! So, being the good home school mom that I am, I corralled the troop and headed up there. Troop being Bill, Anna and myself.
Before going we learned a lot about the Titanic. Much of our research came from the internet and we came across one site that was really intriguing -!! Did you know that you could go to Branson, Missouri and not only see some crazy live entertainment but you could also have a tea party on board the Titanic. Better yet, you could get married on the Titanic! Does the thought of that creep anyone else out besides me?! Where does a marriage get to after it begins on the Titanic?? Not sure.
Anyway......back to COSI. The exhibit was awesome and we just happened to be there on the actual anniversary of the iceberg hit. Didn't even plan that. Happens a lot when you home school!!
I only wish we had been allowed to take some pictures. So, you will have to take my word. It was a great exhibition.
The Grossology (Impolite Science of the Human Body) Exhibit was good. Not great. But it did keep my two kids amused. Yes, Bill was one of the kids. Below he is experimenting with the fart machine. Notice Anna didn't stick around for a picture with dad.
Other exhibits were fun and included the vomit center, nasal passages, giant operation, and the burping machine.
Below Anna and I are at the Booger machine.

My favorite activity in this exhibit was viewing the colonoscopy and the upper GI. Fascinating!! Least favorite was the odor sampling of foot jam, arm pit and anus. That exhibit stuck with us for awhile but didn't keep us from eating lunch at North Market!!! post.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Montgomery Park in Montgomery, Ohio!

Wednesdays are a special day for us. It is Anna's day off from gymnastics and a short school day for us. Well, I make it a short school day so we can get out and play!!
We are on a mission to find the best playground in the tri-state area. So, many of our Wednesdays include trips to different neighborhoods! Let me say up front that a great playground should always have a great treat possibility nearby!!
Montgomery Park is on the corner of Montgomery Road and Schoolhouse Road. For your treat pleasures The Original Pancake House and Aglamesis Brothers Chocolates and Ice Cream are within walking distance!!
We love it when playgrounds include the "not so ordinary equipment". This one has many of the newer and unique pieces. There are two large play sets. One encourages strategic climbing skills while the other allows kids to test their balance in a number of different ways!

Kids can spin and balance to their hearts content!! Anna really enjoys spinning. That is why we save treats until after we are finished at the park!!

Montgomery Park also has preschool play equipment along with mini backhoes for sand digging. I loved those cute little things but Anna's legs were a little to long to fit on the baby backhoes!! I was a little tempted myself to get on but could see myself getting stuck and having to ask the park crew to rescue me!!
A really nice basketball court sits in a shaded area and there is also a small baseball field. Restrooms are on the premises and many picnic tables, too.
Very nice park!! We would rate it a "7" on a 1-10 scale!! So give it a look!!

Friday, March 26, 2010

West Point Market and the Killer Brownie

Bill received a book for Christmas entitled 500 Things To Eat Before It's Too Late by Jane and Michael Stern. We have been reading about unique restaurants and unforgettable food found throughout the United States. We are on a bit of a mission to try as many as we can. Some, by chance, we have already partaken of but others call our name! Last weekend the Killer Brownie from West Point Market in Akron, Ohio called our name!
Since Anna's gymnastic meet was near Akron we decided to stay in the area and locate the market. I was a little apprehensive about how much I was going to enjoy it. After all, we do have the legendary Jungle Jim's Market nearby and since I go there about once a week I was worried that there would be no thrill to this store. Other than the hopes of retrieving a "killer brownie" of course!! Boy, was I wrong. This store was unique and gourmet and fun!! Their food displays were cute and inviting and delicious! Cheese! Who could resist with Wallace and Gromit telling us to help ourselves!!

The store tastefully mixed areas of food with areas for kitchenware and seasonal displays. Above is Anna looking at Easter decorations and a how to book on making fancy colored eggs. I could have spent hours looking over the kitchenware!!
West Point Market also has a website So if you are not in the Akron area any time soon you can still order that "killer brownie" and have it delivered right to your door. It would definitely be worth it. The caramel oozing out of the chocolate was awesome!! We also recommend the double fudge brownie and the cheesecake brownie. Next trip, I try the Blarney Stones (bourbon balls)!!

State Champions!!

A big congratulation to the CGA level 10 gymnastic team for winning the State Championship!! We are all very proud of this group of girls. They faced quite a few challenges this year that would have defeated many but this group persevered in mind, body and spirit and triumphed!! Great Job Acacia, Allie, Khadijah, Mary, Kayla and Anna!!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Trader Joe's and an Easter Tip!!!

I have a confession.....I do love me some Trader Joe's. But before any of you start thinking I am a total health food nut I thought I should add one of my favorite pictures to this post. Below shows that I am a firm believer in balance. A trip to Trader Joe's and then lunch at Johnny Rockets - perfect day! Trader Joe's is a mini field trip. While browsing the aisles you can munch on samples, and guess what, no annoying sample ladies!! And you can always get a cute little cup of coffee - for free!! Even more exciting is that you can put real organic HALF and HALF in your little cup of coffee!! A delight!! But my all time favorite thing to buy at Trader's is a floral bouquet and at Easter they have an awesome assortment.
Trader Joe's flowers are the best! They offer a bunch of unique and different arrangements and the flowers last forever!!
There are so many offered that it is really hard to choose. So, I suggest that you go and get your little cup of coffee first and then browse the floral aisle.
After picking out your flowers you'll want to look around the store. I can suggest the very healthy cage free eggs and the ever so healthy cereal, Joe's Fiber Os. But I highly recommend the dark chocolate blueberries, the peanut butter pretzels, the chocolate chip dunkers, the ginger cat cookies, the pecan pralines and the dark chocolate covered raspberry jellies.
Balance. Balance is the key.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Newport Aquarium

Once you take your kids to an aquarium they form a type of addiction. Ever since last years visit to the Virginia Beach Aquarium Anna has been dropping little hints to visit the one right in our own backyard. Well, right down I75, anyway. My only reservation has been the cost of those darn aquariums. I know, it must cost a fortune to keep them up and running, but $22 dollars for a one time adult admission hurts a little bit. Good thing they offered a senior discount for Grams and Gramps - $21 each. Gee. I think I will send a little note to the aquarium about being a little more senior friendly!!
We had a great time despite the admission fee. Just look at Gram's face in the above picture!! Pure joy at feeding the lorikeets in the Rainforest Exhibit! We call her "The Bird Whisperer". I think we will put her out by the hummingbird feeder this summer and see if she gets one to land on her finger!! Thank you Gramps for buying the bird food. Maybe next time it will be included in the price of admission! After Anna got over the fear of being pooped upon she really enjoyed this. By far I think this was Gram's favorite but Anna's favorite was the Shark Touch Pool. We had visited other aquariums with stingray touch tanks but this was fun and unique. They gave a little lesson about the two finger touch system and then we were free to pet away. The only thing we had to watch out for was the spitting shark. Picture below. He was pretty funny!

All the exhibits at the Newport Aquarium were very well done. The jellyfish were awesome and the frog bog was pretty cool, too. We were slightly disappointed in the penguin parade. I guess we thought that the penguins would be walking in the parade and not riding in a wagon. Bad assumption on my part! If I had thought about it more, letting those little penguins walk on their own would mean a lot of clean up for some poor aquarium worker.
So, final review. Definitely save up some money and head to the Newport Aquarium. Your family will have a great time exploring. Since our daughter is aquarium addicted... I think we may have to include aquarium costs in our yearly family budget.

Friday, February 26, 2010

My Kids Have Changed Me!

I have done a lot of growing up over the last 22 years. I look back on my life before kids and realize that I was a kid back then, too, even though I was 25 years old!! All three kids have changed me for the better and much of that change has come from each of their unique personalities.
Anna is the youngest and the youngest by 6 years. She has an incredible sense of adventure and is always ready to "get up and go". I have really made an effort over the past few years to embrace this part of Anna's personality. I admit that, by nature, I am a lazy person. I would, more often than not, choose to curl up by the fire or in front of the computer than to romp around outside in 20 degree weather. Anna has changed me and thank goodness she has. As I get older I am grateful that she invites me to share in her adventures. Keeps my mind and body active!!

Christian is the middle child and as I have mentioned before the "free spirit". Christian is so laid back that I don't even think the word "stress" is in his vocabulary. He lives in the moment and enjoys every moment. He's secure in knowing that God has a plan for his life and he is more than happy to enjoy the ride. Chris has shown me how to let go a little bit more with my life....worry less, embrace more. Thanks, Buddy!

Bethany is the oldest. The boss and protector. The second mom. And I don't use those titles in a bad way. She is loved by her siblings and respected by her mom.
She has taught me to embrace knowledge. I admit that I am the type of person, when needing to find an answer, will take the lazy way out and just ask someone else. Beth loves to find information and absorb it; which is rare with young people these days. I am grateful that over the years she has given me the desire to read more and to write more and to share more. She is a smart girl and I want to be a smart girl, too!
Thanks, Bethany, Christian and Anna. You have taught me well.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Show Some Love - Sweet Love!!

I love sweetened condensed milk. Versatile tastiness should be its name.

Today I will share two "show some extra love" tips that involve this tasty treat that comes in the "oh so cute" 14 ounce can.

If you have a coffee lover in your house who likes their java a little sweet replace the sugar with the sweetened condensed milk (SCM). My friend, Deb, who grew up in Africa, shared this little gem of an idea with me. Thank you, Deb. You are a true friend.

This weekend I will add some to Kind Sir Bill's mug and he will feel very much loved (just as a note, he likes his coffee a little creamier, so I add a bit of half and half also.) Nothing says "extra love" to a coffee drinker more than SCM and half and half!!!!
My next tip will show some love to all the crafty painters in your household. Take a look at the heart painting below. This my friend was painted with, yes..believe me....Sweetened Condensed Milk!!
Open a can of SCM and divide it into four or five different bowls. Add some food coloring to each bowl (Anna used neon colors). Begin painting. The end result is shiny and puffy and dries like plastic. The paint is very tasty but there is one warning. Your tongue may be neon colored for the rest of the day!!!
Have some fun and definitely share any Sweetened Condensed Milk secrets with me!!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Show Some Love - Celebrations!!

This is a picture of my calendar last March. This is how I keep track of all of the important meetings, events, holidays and so on for our family. No new-fangled electronic devices for me. No daily planners. Just a hang-up calendar that I get for half price after the new year begins!!! Just give me some coordinating stickers for each month and I am a happy camper!!

Many people comment on my calendar. They like the festive look. I admit some have asked when I will grow up and ditch the stickers........never. Just another way for me to keep daily life festive. And that is my tip today for "showing your family a lotta love" - Be Festive!!!

Everyone looks forward to holidays and I am not trying to down play the biggies at all. I want to encourage you to celebrate the little known holiday. You might want to let your family in on the celebrations before hand or just surprise them out of the blue. You may want to do something grand with food or just something simple to celebrate.

What kind of days can be celebrated????? Here are a few examples:

  • February 5 Bubble Gum Day
  • February 7 Daytona Pole Day
  • February 9 Read in the Bathtub Day
  • February 15 Susan B. Anthony Day
  • February 23 Curling is Cool Day
  • February26 Levi Strauss Day
  • February 28 Tooth Fairy Day

The possibilities are amazing!! My personal fave - Curling is Cool Day!

You might think that the kiddos would be the only ones interested in such holidays. Not in my family. Kind Sir Bill is always interested in mindless trivia and the more I can fill his brain with little tidbits such as these lesser known holidays the better. You see one day he will be playing some trivia game with a bunch of friends.....the question will be......when is Bubble Gum Day celebrated? Kind Sir Bill will triumph with the answer and do you know why? Because I cared enough to show a little extra love!!!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Show Them Some Love - A Little Bit More Love

I thought for the month of February I would write about how to turn everyday opportunities of love into ones that offer a bit MORE love! And before I go on......yes, that is me in the attractive 1970's snow suit. Don't judge. It keeps me warm. Enough said. For my first February "show them some love" post I would like to talk about Hot Chocolate!! Yes, everyone loves hot chocolate on a cold day.....especially after hitting the sledding hills. See Anna's excited face below? She was thinking, "Hot Chocolate is calling my name!!!". Well, that's pretty close to what she was thinking.
On these cold, cold days we could treat our kids and ourselves to a packet of hot chocolate. After all , there is quite a bit of love in serving this when it is not an everyday treat. But here is where I will tell you how to turn this into an opportunity to show "a whole lotta love". I'll let you in on a little secret about me that was inspired by Mrs. Doubtfire..........
"I can hip-hop..... till ya drop, and yo yo, make a wicked cup of cocoa."
And you can make a homemade wicked cup of cocoa, too, in 5 minutes!!!! Believe me.. you can and your family will treasure your efforts!!
Before you think I am some Julia Child and came up with the "lotta love wicked hot cocoa" recipe myself, I will stop you. This recipe is from Paula Deen and I will forever love her for it. And now I will share the love with you........
1 can sweetened condensed milk (low fat for us!)
1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa ( I use half milk chocolate and half dark chocolate)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon of salt
6 1/2 cups hot water (I get mine from the tea kettle)
In a large saucepan, combine condensed milk, cocoa, vanilla and salt - mix well. Over medium heat slowly stir in water. Heat through, stirring occasionally. Do not boil. Store leftovers up to five days in fridge. And believe me the leftovers are even yummier!!!
Let me know how yours turns out!! Remember, a little love goes a long way and a little more love goes even further!!! Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mainstrasse Village!!

Last weekend I spent three whole days in Covington, Kentucky working at a gymnastic meet. My only wish that entire weekend was that someone would skip on over to Mainstrasse Village and pick me up some yummieness. Mainstrasse is a restored 19th century German neighborhood. There are shops and restaurants housed in renovated buildings that are joined by cobblestone walkways. This area is just too cute. All a Cincinnati family has to do is cross the 75 bridge into Kentucky and take the first exit. The one landmark you see from I75 is the above Chime Bell Tower.
This bell tower plays a 43 bell carillon hourly and presents a little puppet play of the folk tale "The Pied Piper of Hamelin". Bill and I had just visited this area in November and these pictures are from that trip.
The shops are fun and entertaining. I do hope that more will open and many of the ones in business now stay for a long time. We were able to spend time in a few but will definitely go back for more sight seeing and eating. Fun and relaxing.
One of my favorite shops was Strasse Dog. I all remember that I am not a doggie clothing kind of person, but this shop was full of fun doggie toys and treats, too. Plus, the adorable little corgi, Cowboy, was on hand to greet the customers. I think I spent a good 15 minutes with the little pup. Too bad he wasn't for sale. Really......too bad. I think he loved me!

Our favorite memory from that trip was the tasty, creamy, oh so delightful gelato from Europa!Let me tell you...before tomorrow comes....go to Europa in Mainstrasse and get some!! You will make me your new best friend for telling you about this gelato. Really. You will.
Creamy....yummy.....yummieness. I enjoyed it just as much as the ice cream from that famous Cincinnati ice cream establishment. Yes, the gelato was that good. Could become an addiction. See all that loveliness in the picture below? Gelato!

Just so you know, my wonderful Sir Bill stopped into Europa last weekend and brought me some gelato while I was working so hard at the gymnastic meet. I cried and I ate and then I cried again.
I think I'll get myself down to Mainstrasse again this weekend!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Lessons Learned from Birthday Shopping

Bethany's birthday is on New Years Day. It was a great birthday and having her birthday fall on this holiday has been fun. If not for a birthday celebration we would just be sitting around watching football and eating leftovers and never getting out of our pajamas. OK, we still don't get out of our pajamas.

The problem, however, is shopping for this birthday. I don't like to pick things up during Christmas because, well.......I feel guilty. I would feel like she was just receiving left-over Christmas presents. So, that leaves me with shopping the week after Christmas. Which is fine, unless a major obstacle comes up during that week. And this did.

I, purchaser of most gifts for the family, came down with the stomach flu. By the time New Years Eve got here, I was able to stand up and walk but I had to enlist my parents to chauffeur me around. I felt like a baby asking my children's grandparents to crate me around but they were also needed because they hold the membership card to the most important store I needed to go to - Costco. And this is where the lesson in life comes in....

Don't Go To Costco on New Years Eve if You Are Recovering From the Stomach Flu!!

All the sample ladies were out in full force on this day and they must receive commission on items sold because they were Relentless!! It just wasn't enough that my poor pitiful almost throwing up self had to deal with the SMELL of the food; I had to listen to every little sample lady's plea to try HER delicacy......Asian salmon, barbecue beef, guacamole, fried dumplings, granola, chocolate cake, so much more and the topper........Three Bean Salad. (I get squeamish even now as I type that one). One thing I learned about these women - they are hard core. I just wanted to scream out, "Leave me alone or there will be a clean up in aisle 4."

Fortunately, that wasn't needed. With Grams and Gramps help we found Bethany's Pyrex and movie, a couple of other things and skedaddled out of there. I think my parents saw that I was turning green and wanted to avoid a scene. Because that would have been more than they signed up for.

The opening picture......the Pyrex. It was very much appreciated.