My cousin Jen asked me if I had heard of "Random Acts of Christmas Kindness" (RACK).  (I hadn't.)  She said:  "It sounds just like something I would read on Facebook that you and Kevin would do with your kids!"  GREAT suggestion!

And just like that "Mission: Spread Joy 2011" materialized!  (aka RACK It!)

Here's the basics:  each day leading up to Christmas, we Tepkers have a mini-mission to give, serve, and help others.  In doing so, the hope is that we will spread a little Christmas joy AND develop a greater understanding of kindness and learn more about the ways our thoughts and actions impact ourselves, others and the world around us. 

A kind heart is a fountain of gladness, making everything in its vicinity freshen into smiles.  ~ Washington Irving
There are SO many ways to spread joy!  As I was researching and planning, many of the suggestions I found were monetary-based.  Because I want to encourage my children to learn acts of kindness that THEY can practice and repeat, I have asked them to create our list with simple, cost-effective ways to be kind and spread joy.  

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.  ~ Aesop
I am super excited!  I can’t imagine a more simple and fun way to broaden our experience of the MAGIC and JOY of the Christmas Season.  We start tomorrow!  Check back over the next month for updates on our Missio
*Check out RACK Project for links to more info and ideas!  I'd love to hear back if you do RACK too!


Our First Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

(Knock, Knock!) ~ Come In!  Come In!  Please help yourself to a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Feast of popcorn, pretzels, wheat toast and jelly beans, grab a spot to sit back, and prepare to enjoy a big-screen showing of "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" and party with the Tepker Kids!
Since having kids, I am super sensitive to "kid-friendly" restaurants, parties, events, best parks, etc.  I came to realize that I also ought to be sensitive to "kid friendly" holidays.  Of course, most holidays have tons of kid-based fun, such as Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day, Halloween.  BUT Thanksgiving is traditionally NOT super kid-friendly.  Unless you get together with like-aged cousins or friends with like-aged kids, which somehow we rarely do for Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving is really for the adults.  Lunch is usually skipped.  Dinner is usually planned early, then served late.  The house is supposed to stay clean for guests, and the house usually fills so there's little room.  No roughhousing.  And after dinner everyone sits around, completely full, and watches football or plays "adult" games (I mean, cardgames, etc., People).  Not a lot of "kid" fun in THAT holiday!

So, Kevin and I started talking.  The whole idea was that we'd invite the neighbors and a few close friends to create not just a kid-friendly, but nearly a kid-driven, kid-based pre-Thanksgiving Tradition to create a little more excitment and anticipation for our kids before and during Thanksgiving!

Fast forward to the party.  Everyone arrived at 2:00 (school got out at 1:15).  And I nearly panicked.  I thought the whole concept was going to flop because the power strip running the projector and surround sound kept shorting, and I couldn't get anything to turn on.  Yikes!

Thankfully, I had activities like color pages, crossword puzzles, word searches, to fill the time gap.  Kate colored at least five pictures of Charlie Brown!

And even more thankfully, Kevin, who had taken my parents to the airport, arrived in the nick of time and tackled the power situation. Within 30 seconds, the party was back on track, and only 15 minutes behind schedule.  Phew!

"Now playing in a theater near you (literally, if you're our neighbor!):  A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving!"

Collin was psyched for the show!  And for some of our friends, it was a premiere viewing!

Everyone settled in and began watching the silly antics of Chuck and the gang.  When the show ended, I tested comprehension and hosted a Q&A on the highlights and classic scenes that made the show such a hit.  I was shocked by how well each kid had actually paid attention!

But as fun as the show was, Owen was itching to PLAY!  He wasn't the only one!

When the show was over, kids teamed up at game tables for chess, checkers, Connect 4, Mancala, and Memory:

The gaming was shortlived inside for the boys though because the sun started shining!!  They headed outside for, according to Lucy, the greatest Thanksgiving tradition:  football!

EVERYONE had an AWESOME time!  We had 19 kids, including ours, attend in all, and the boys continued their football fun ("flyers up") until way past dark, which of course is now around 5:00.  After all the guests had left, my kids and I cleaned up the garage/basement in less than 15 minutes (no joke!!), and the boys were ecstatic about the fun they'd shared!  The party was a complete success!!

**If you're interested in hosting your own Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, check out my Pinterest Board "Autumn Spirit!"  On it, I've pinned links to good resources and ideas, including Q&A samples!  Enjoy!


Thankful Monday

Today I am thankful for warm blankets and my loving son.  I came down with a bug late last night, and my tummy turned itself inside out.  Thankfully, Owen was home today as well (also slightly ill but significantly better than me), and he read to me most of the morning, let me sleep all afternoon, and brought me blankets and loves as we moved from room to room throughout the day.  I love you, Owen!  Thank you!


Family Reunion & the Friday Night Feature (Aug 2011)

Growing up, I had a gaggle of cousins ~ seriously, one of my dads was one of seven!  And we saw each other often ... not just three or four times a year; I'm talking every other week!  We lived 45 minutes away from the nearest, and yet I can't count the number of times we had sleepovers!  So cool.  (Thank you, Parent Group!)

I don't know that I ever realized then how lucky I truly was to have such a connected and fabulous family, but I know now how very fortunate and blessed I am.  My cousins, my aunts and uncles, my grandparents, and now my cousins' partners and kids ... we are a tight, extremely diverse, fabulously multi-talented, every-end-of the spectrum group, and it is AMAZING!!  

For as long as I can remember, we have had a multi-day family reunion.  It is one of my favorite vacations of the entire summer!  Everyone is invited; we pitch tents, some get rooms ~ everyone tries to at least make an appearance.  It's NOT to be missed.  Why??  Because IT'S SO MUCH FUN!  *When I was in my first summer of law school, I drove from Seattle to Chelan (round trip) three times so that I could enjoy as much of the week-long reunion as possible.  I didn't want to miss a beat, so every other day, I left Chelan at 3 pm and returned at midnight after my night classes.  That's how badly I wanted to be at that reunion! **I cried three years later when I thought I was going to miss the event because it was being held one week before the bar exam.  But I didn't miss it.  Instead, everyone timed and quizzed me as I ran flashcards and wrote essays on the beach!  So much fun!  (And, thankfully, I passed the exam.  ; )

This last summer was no exception!  And the long weekend was jam-packed with a new twist!  Almost every family hosted a highlight:  pickleball matches, football games, fish races, an outdoor theater, morning bootcamp, a ridiculously long slip-n-slide, smores galore, birthday cakes, rootbeer floats, potlucks, card games, kid-sized electric cars!  There was always something new to see and do!

Here's a video of Collin and his cousin Emma at the Friday Night Feature (Fish Races!?!), brought to you by my Uncle Mike and mc'd by my Dad Bob:
We had a BLAST, and I am already looking forward to next year!  

But first ... the Christmas party is less than a month away!!  (Yes, we ALL get together for that every year too ~ crazy fun!)  Woohoo!

"Leftovers, Anyone?"

This video is a bit shaky (I was helping Kate with a boo-boo and an ice pack, which you'll hear a bit in the background), but it is super cute!  Tuesday night, Kevin cooked up a family feast!  If felt like Christmas Dinner had come early.  In fact, we have officially set the menu for Christmas Eve: a delicious mustard and cracked pepper prime rib roast, carrots, broccoli, fresh baked bread, and a red wine and meat-drippings gravy.  Mmmmmm!  Eli liked it so much, he was saving some for later!  He had two tablespoons of food tucked into the front of his overalls!  Enjoy!



The wonder and amazement children enjoy is beautiful.  Each morning this week, Kate has rushed to the window to check for snowfall.  Unfortunately, snow has yet to flurry.  But Kate has hardly even noticed! Because each morning the ground has been covered in "frosting!!"  :-)  Some days, the frost is thick, coating everything, including the road; other days it's light, highlighting only the rooftops and fence posts.  No matter to Kate!  She is spellbound in anticipation of winter fun!!  I just read on Facebook that it's snowing only 20 minutes northeast of us ... flurries are expected for the next two days!  I'm keeping my fingers crossed and Kate's purple snow-boots ready and waiting.

Enjoy these pics of 2009 snowfall when Kate was a year and a half:

And this one from a sledding trip in Wenatchee New Year's Day 2010:
Here's a link to enjoy pics of Collin's first snow adventure Nov 2005 (about the same age as Kate in the pics above):  Collin First Snow!



My Monday Thanksgiving:  I am thankful for forgiveness ~ such a powerful, beautiful gift.

And since today is so excellent, here's a Bonus Tuesday Thanksgiving:  I am thankful for the bright sunshine, the crisp air, the promise of snow (brrr!), the sound of jingle bells and jolly tunes, and Starbucks Christmas Blend in my hot steamy cup!  Welcome back, Christmas Season!



Happy Anniversary!

 Every day is amazing because you're a part of it!  I'm so glad to be in this life, side by side, with you!  Happy 9th Anniversary!!


Delicious Caramel Popcorn Recipe

Ok.  You've heard of Pinterest by now, right?  It's fabulous.  You know all the articles, ideas, lists, plans, etc. that you hear of or read about in a magazine and think to yourself "I would love to try that someday!" but can never remember what it was or where you found it or how to do it when "someday" arrives?  Meet Pinterest, my Friend.  An online filing system that's e-a-s-y to use, to customize, to share, to borrow from.  And, although you can get lost in it and it can potentially suck up time, I assure you, if used right, it will save you time and very possibly inspire some fun stuff too!  Check it out.  And while you're there, feel free to find me - I've probably already saved you time.  I love it. 

Why am I telling you about Pinterest?  Because I am posting this recipe on my blog so that I can share it with you - but also so that I can pin it to my "Feed Me! Desserts" page and never lose it!  My cousin Kim made this tasty treat for us this weekend, and it was sooooooo good!  She doubled the recipe for 6 adults and 5 kids ... but the adults devoured it so fast that we never even told the kids she'd made it!  I thought about taking a picture while I was eating but I was afraid that if I got up to get my camera, someone might eat my popcorn!  It was THAT delicious!  (so I borrowed this pic; as i said, it is not a picture depicting the recipe below, but it looks pretty close).  Give this treat a try ~ you'll love it too!

Caramel Corn 
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter
8 marshmallows

Melt butter on medium low, add marshmallows and brown sugar and melt. Turn to low and stir.  Keep on low until blended together. (Pop popcorn while mixture melts and blends.)

Drizzle mixture onto plain popcorn, layering popcorn with caramel, then adding more popcorn. Serve while still warm. 


Thankful That Some Things Never Change

Last year I diligently posted every day of the month of November.  The result was fabulous!  A month of entries!  41 posts!  I shared, I laughed, I documented my kids ... but I was exhausted.  It may take mere moments for a short post, but the longer posts take time.  And I started each post after 10 p.m., - after bathtime, after the kids were in bed, after I'd shared 1:1 time with my hubby, and after the dishes were all loaded.  By months' end, I realized I was hitting the pillow closer to midnight each night, I didn't have the energy to get up in the a.m. and workout, the pile of books by my bed was untouched, and I was tired.

So this year, I'm taking a note from another organized mommy and trying another tactic:

And so today, the first Monday of November, I am thankful for my blog.  I am thankful that I spent the time - whenever I did - to write-up the memories I might otherwise forget and to share the laughter from our home.  As I was uploading Halloween this year, I went back and found Halloween over the years (see links on the right-hand side of the blog), and I melted in a sea of gush.  I was so happy to have so many photos all in one place and so accessible! I had forgotten that Collin once was a chicken and that Owen made a cute cowboy!  And one year I put Kate into 5 different costumes (here and here) ~ no wonder she didn't pick just one until the night before this year!  

Here's a few pics from October 2009 I pulled out of the archives while sailing on the Sea of Nostalgia:  

 I love Kate's ingenuity!   She had just climbed up to turn on/off the light!  And I love that she now has a very similar adidas skirt and top that she's wearing today in fact with those very same leg warmers!  How ironic!  
 This pic is SO Kate. A girly-girl -- playing with cars.  Two years later she still wears dresses and skirts every day (NEVER voluntarily puts on pants!) and although she loves her dolls and strollers, she'd play almost anything if it meant she could play with the boys.
I have to remind myself that these pictures were taken in 2009!   Just this past weekend, the kids were jumping off the slide and into pillows, wrestling in the living room, laughing with each other, playing with the cars ~ such great times!  

*This year, it was Eli climbing up on things!  His new trick:  pull all the cushions off the bench in front of the front window, climb up, and give shout-outs to any neighbors/dogs/birds passing by!  Very Collin-esque!

As I'm wrapping this post up, I'm realizing that the truth is that I'm "Thankful that Some Things Never Change" -- like legwarmers, playing with classic cars, precarious adventures, laughter ringing through my home!  I'm even thankful that I have so much to do as a busy wife/mom/etc that I don't have "enough" time to blog (but also thankful that - sometimes - I make some).


Happy Halloween!

All four kids were healthy and ready to enjoy family traditions and fall fun by Monday!
Harry Potter and Hermione Granger joined our crew!

(aka Collin and Rikki)

We called him Harry all day because he was such a fantastic replica!  Over the summer, Collin read Book 1 and 2 then got to watch the movies!  In doing so, he found a great character to inspire his costume request.  I love it!  Cute, cute, cute!

Eli was our third monkey in 6 years!!  (Only Owen didn't enjoy a year in the monkey-suit!)  I absolutely love this picture, this costume, this little boy!

Katelyn couldn't quite decide what to be this year.  First, she wanted to be Pinkalicious.  Then Purplicious.  Then a bunny.  Then a purple bunny.  In the end, she designed her costume herself --- a Purple and Pink Ballerina Fairy Princess!

I especially love the love that's spread on her face as she clutches her daddy's hand in this photo!

Owen just LOVES this costume.  For the third year in a row, he was Batman!  I think he likes the mask and the sense that he's incognito!  But how can you mistake this kid?!  He's so awesome!