Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fall, pumpkins and beer

Happy Fall!!! This is my favorite season of the entire year! The smells, the cool, crisp air, Honeycrisp Apples the size of my face, the fact that "Colorful Colorado" actually has a few colors, the maple leaves shedding in my yard, raking leaves, jumping in leaves, raking some more, scarves, fun sweaters, warm hoodies, boots, my outdoor fire pit, sleeping with the window open just to pile on the covers .....these are a few of my favorite things! But near the top of my list is Pumpkin. Pumpkin everything! Pumpkin spiced coffee (that I make myself with REAL ingredients!), pumpkin bread, pumpkin patches, pumpkin scones, pumpkin candles, pumpkin soap, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin filled ravioli with a brown butter glaze, pumpkin curry soup, Pumpkin O's (Trader Joe's, thank you!), pumpkin oatmeal, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin corn bread with Chili....and Beer. Pumpkin Beer.

Now that I have swooned over my love of all things fall and pumpkin - this post is actually about Pumpkin Beer. I walked into my local liquor store a couple of weeks ago, and there greeting me right inside the doors, like something straight out of a fairy tale, was this huge display of all the different kinds of Pumpkin Beer available at that store. I stood there for way too long pondering my decision - afraid I would choose poorly and be sad....until I remembered that this particular store lets you put together your own sample pack! So I did just that. I left a happy Pumpkin camper ready to find the perfect Pumpkin Brew. And well, I would just be selfish to not let you in on my findings.

Let me be very clear before we begin. I am NOT a beer connoisseur. I couldn't tell you the difference between a stout, a lager, or an ale ...I can just tell you if I like or not, and I happen to like beers from all the various categories! But I AM sort of an expert on Pumpkin. Don't be jealous. I didn't go to school for it or anything, I was just born with it. So my entire review is based on the flavoring and balance of the pumpkin spice.

In order from my least favorite to most favorite:

Eddyline Brewing Pumpkin Patch Ale: This one was really spicy. I actually couldn't take more than about 3 sips. The guy at the Liquor Store said it was his favorite. So obviously you should take all of my reviews with a grain of salt...but this one was just not for me. I dumped it. It may have had something to do with the fact that I rounded the corner to find my dog drinking out of my mug....she loved it. But no matter, I was planning on dumping it anyway. Bad dog.

New Belgium Pumpkick: This one had a good taste initially. But as soon as it went down - whoa! Watch out! It actually left a strong pepper aftertaste! Pepper does not belong with Pumpkin or Beer. (When I was grabbing the link for this one so you could read the company's actual review...I read that there is cranberry and lemongrass in this beer. Um. No thanks. Apparently cranberry and lemongrass taste like pepper to me....but I also don't particularly care for cranberry or lemongrass. So this explains much.)

Shipyard Brewing CO. Pumpkin Head: There is a bit of a bite when first sipping this beer. Strong enough that I didn't think initially that I would even take another sip. It doesn't go down easily, in my opinion. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the aftertaste! It left a very balanced Pumpkin Spice flavor lingering in my mouth. (After visiting their website, they offer up some recipes that I for sure plan to try. But they also recommend drinking this beer with a pint glass rimmed with cinnamon and sugar. And well, now I just feel like I didn't give it a fair shot and will probably have to give this one another chance!)

Epic Brewing Pumpkin Ale, The Gourdian: Because I hate the word Epic, I wanted to hate this beer. I didn't write any other notes other than, "Tasty". Sorry I can't leave you with any other details on this one. It was good though. But they should change their name. (After reviewing their website and description of this beer...I would agree with everything they wrote about it. It is very good. And they wanted a beer that you would throw in your backpack on a fall hike. Well, I'm hiking on Saturday. Maybe I'll give it a shot.)

Boulevard Brewing Company Funky Pumpkin: This one was so good! It tasted less like pumpkin spice and more like apple spice to me. (Is apple spice even a thing? It should be a thing.) You definitely could taste a mild pumpkin flavoring, but it also had an obvious apple presence....or some other fall flavor. I'm sticking with apple. I will for sure buy this one again. Pumpkin + Apple = Fall. Well done, Boulevard Brewing. Well done! (HEY!!! Their website says the pumpkin flavor is scarcely present! Maybe I'm better at this than I thought!!)

Ballast Point Brewing Company Pumpkin Down: AMAZING! Well balanced. Smooth. Just amazing. This one came in a very close second to my number one favorite....

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale: This has been my fall back for the past two years. (Get it? Fall back? That wasn't even on purpose.) I really enjoy this one. It holds the title of my favorite Pumpkin Ale. It's a good beginner for someone entering the Pumpkin Beer world as it is very mild and well balanced. It doesn't scream PUMPKIN PIE with beer poured over the top. It's just an easy to drink brew with just the right introduction of pumpkin. (The biggest downfall to this beer is that it is one of the most expensive. But it's still my favorite. And I swear...I am not a rep for Dogfish head...but in the summer, you should grab their Apricot IPA. You'll thank me later.)

I know there are many more that I didn't sample. If you know of one that you love that I didn't review, I trust you will let me know! Please and thank you.

Happy Pumpkin Fall!!!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

What to Expect When You Don't Know What To Expect. AKA: Get to 18.

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you have seen a handful of pictures from the past few days highlighting a chore chart that has taken residence in our home.

I had a few comments telling me it looked confusing, or intimidating....but what made me laugh the most was a friend who saw me in real life and said to me, "That chore chart?? No! Just no. Don't put your kids through that." Hilarious.

So I thought I would give you a deeper glimpse into our family "command center".

Our story starts 15 years ago when we began our family. I was a BIG fan of parenting books. Looking back, I realize the books of those early years should actually have their own category entitled: Parenting: Keeping your Kids Alive in the Early Years. There were so many helpful books to me when my kids were littles.

For the sake of this blog, I thought it would be fun to post some New York Times Bestseller Parenting books. However, when I pulled it up, I quickly began to see what is wrong with our children...with us. The top books on "Family" (this is what was translated when I Googled Parenting) included, #1) The Glass Castle. Which, while I loved this book, the only parenting advice I took away from it would be to not be convicted of anything, don't let your husband spend all the money on booze at the expense of your family, and don't become homeless parents. Deep and profound. (Seriously, good book though!)  #2) What to Expect When You're Expecting. Obvi. And my personal favorite in the top 10??? #5) Go the F**K to Sleep. Yes folks, this is a book. Funny....but obviously very crude. I mean, I heard it was funny....

Okay, so of all those books, the only one I had actually ever referenced for parenting was, What To Expect When you Are Expecting. So because the New York Times was no help to my research, I came up with my own list of books that got me through my kids lives from birth to about 5.

1) Give Them Grace
2) Parenting By The Book
3) Baby Wise
4) An entire series by Douglas and Nancy Wilson on Biblical Childrearing and general family topics
5) Growing Kids Gods Way
6) Go the ..... NO!!!!

I'm sure there are a handful of other ones that I thought saved my life at the time...but I have blocked out a couple of years here and there and blame it on sleep deprivation.

Fast forward a few years and all my kids are getting older. I went online to buy, "What to Expect When they Grow Up" , and couldn't find it! Maybe the books ARE there, and maybe I was just too weary of reading all that I SHOULD be doing, but just wasn't....but I realized very quickly that I was now on my own for this parenting gig. The manuals were all finished and I was now considered an expert. The problem is, I'm only actually an expert on how to keep them alive and get them to sleep by 9 weeks. Or maybe how to effectively discipline a toddler, or potty train in a day. (And even at that, I'm only a 50/50 expert!) I'm beyond thankful that there were resources for these topics, but they left much to be desired.

But my kids are older now. And do you want to know a secret?? I have absolutely NO idea what I'm supposed to do with them! So I'll do my has every generation prior. And I'm certain it won't be enough. As has every generation before us proved. A dear friend once said to me, "Every generation vows to do it better than their parents did. You'd think we'd be perfect by now." But noooooo!!! You bet we have a counseling jar in our home! A BIG one and A LOT of them!

So in my desire of and lack of training on how to grow little people into big people - hopefully mature, kind, helpful, serving, loving big people....the resources are limited.

Enter current day. I have five kids to get out the door each morning. Scratch that, four. One decided she wanted to homeschool herself. I can't even think about finding that book....

Our morning routines (who am I kidding? Our morning, afternoon and evening routines...) felt very dictatorship to me. Trying to get everyone ready to go and where they needed to be with all they needed to have while fulfilling all requirements of normal humanhood was starting to make me feel like I was a slave driver...or a circus master, depending on the day....

Aaron and I would find ourselves following around after the kids asking them questions we ask every morning, or reminding them of tasks every day that in our opinion...they should know! Examples: Did you change your underwear? Brush your teeth? Get your planner signed? Put on a new shirt other than the one you slept in last night AND wore all day yesterday? Put your homework IN your bag? Feed the dog? Unload the dishwasher? And did I mention...change your underwear?

I realized we are complete slacker parents to have to STILL be reminding our children about these things, so it was time for action. We sat them down and gave them full opportunity to voice their opinions about all that we asked and required of them. Was it too much? Are we unfair? Should we just put everyone back in diapers so we can change them every 3 hours? Okay....I didn't really ask that last one...but after 528 days straight of reminding a child to change their underwear, it doesn't seem like that bad of an idea!

In many areas, as our kids get older, they learn how to maneuver around what we expect vs. their convenience. Surely you and I have NEVER done that, nor do we still. Right?? But they had. I don't even know appropriate discipline for most of the things they do wrong because they are really good at making a case for how they weren't THAT wrong! It's true...they have outsmarted me.

So after their admittance to us that we do not, in fact, ask too much of them...and that our household requirements (um....growing up into mature people requirements) were not over the top, we then had a meeting about the best way to implement these things without mom going around freaking out on everyone all day.

I had one sweet child who asked for money. See, we don't DO money....AKA, allowance. Not that I think it's wrong. We just have always taken the stance that our kids get to live in the house with all the stuff that WE work to pay for. So if they prove to us that they can take care of their stuff and do the few things we ask of them BECAUSE we let them live in our house with all the things we pay for....THEN we may consider giving them some money when they choose to go above and beyond. But so far we are still working on the first half. So when said child requested money - I couldn't help but laugh. Money is obviously a bigger motivator than INTEGRITY!!! Oh my children to have Integrity!

What's that?? You want me to take the log out of my own eye??? Oh....right...sorry.

After all that explaining, here's the point. We now have a chore chart (for the 612th time). It's lovely. I found a cute shabby chic chalk board at Hobby Lobby and used my 40% off coupon. I had to use a coupon. The board will probably be gone in a week. I'm not Type A. I'm not OCD. I barely follow the rules and chores I know I'm supposed to as an adult. (No wonder I can't teach it to my kids!) And I'm an ESTP. You should have seen me trying to draw straight lines on the board. I was so worried that some super-mom-type-A person would come over and have a major panic attack upon seeing my board! But I did the best I could with my limited abilities. We'll see how it goes.

So far I have had one kid who doesn't wear deodorant mark that they put their deodorant on. Various checks (for REALLY IMPORTANT TASKS) not be checked and still need a Warden Mom reminder for. I've had to to add the category of - Get Dressed - with a certain child's name highlighted. And don't forget the kid who used the color for the other kid (they each have a color of chalk they are supposed to use to mark their chore done so I know who did what and who didn't) to write on the weekly plans something about poop. Very important.

For every kid we get to 18, I'm throwing a party. Forget graduation, sweet 16, golden birthdays....I'm throwing a HUGE bash for - MOM GOT THEM TO 18 AND WE LIVED TO TELL ABOUT IT party.

This parenting thing is no joke. And no degree or book in the world could cover it all. But do you want to know the best parenting advice I have ever received?? This is free...and maybe why no other parenting book has been matched in its advice and even The New York Times can't keep up with:

Deuteronomy 6: 4 -9
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[b] You shall love the Lordyour God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

2 Timothy 3: 16 & 17
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[b] may be complete, equipped for every good work.

The Chart

Poop is a priority for some