Friday, November 6, 2009

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Every year I think "Oh, this is going to be the best holiday season EVER!!", and I end up in a heap on the couch crying because it didn't turn out like I expected. My first thought on December 26th is always "but it's not the most wonderful time of the year anymore!!". Sob, sob, sniff, sniff. Do you know what I'm sayin'? Am I the only one who does that?

Every year is going to be more magical, more romantic, more delicious, more beautiful, more dazzling than the year before. Last year I had a 3 month old at Christmas and barely got the tree up. In the simplicity of it all, I was really able to enjoy it more. I didn't spend hours laboring over wrapping, table top decor, baking, blah, blah, blah. It was nice. This year I DO want to do those things, but I'm going to do them with a different spirit. There will be no rushing, no stressing, no fretting. This year I'm just saying no to ending up in a heap on the couch on December 26th.

The other day at MOPS we were presented with the idea of making a list of "will's" and "won'ts" for the holiday season. This isn't a new idea I have here, but I found it helpful to put pen to paper, or fingers to laptop, and write them all out.

Let's start with the "will's"...
1. I WILL make Christ the primary focus of our holiday season together. It's not about the gifts or the cookies...for us, it's about the King becoming a babe in a manger in order to save us from eternal separation from him.

2. I WILL teach my child to be selfless in giving and that it's better to give than receive. How will I do this? By example.

3. I WILL enjoy baking and making treats for friends and family but they won't be so crazy that it stresses me out! Am I the only one who stresses out about making the PERFECT sugar cookies in the Martha Stewart Christmas cookie magazine?? After all, she describes them as "perfect"...I should as least TRY to make them so, right? Not this year.

4. I WILL spend time with my family enjoying each other, sipping hot chocolate, watching Christmas movies, singing Christmas carols, looking at Christmas lights and doing whatever other Christmas stuff we can! But I won't stress when we can't seem to fit it all in.

The "won'ts"
1. I WON'T buy a single shred of wrapping paper. My grandmother has enough in her attic to paper the great state of Texas. Everyone on my list will be getting their gifts wrapped in paper from the seventies...I'm calling it a "retro chic" Christmas. AND I won't stress over making a perfect, custom bow for each gift. I may even incorporate the "Dad bow" as seen in this photo.

2. I WON"T go over my budget on anything!! For those of you who know how I love to buy things for people, bake things, decorate things, you know that's a toughy.

3. I WON'T send Christmas cards, and I won't feel guilty. OK, maybe a little, but the postage alone will blow my budget! E-card, anyone?

4. I WON'T put such high expectations on myself and others that I forget what the real meaning of Christmas is for us. I also won't forget to put the reindeer ears on my dogs this year and take a picture. That alone makes for some pretty good fun.

What are some of your "wills" and "won'ts" for this holiday season?? Do tell.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Caramel dipped apples

I decided it was time to dip some apples so here they are and how I did it...

1. Wash the apples and dry well.
2. Coat a piece of wax paper or a plate with butter.
3. Use pre-made caramels and follow the directions on the bag for melting. I made my own caramel last wasn't any better and a WHOLE lot more work. Plus, the kids can open all the candies for you!
4. Dip the apples in the caramel and allow the excess to drip off. It will puddle some, so take it off the wax paper and cut the excess off. Redip them if you like it thicker.
5. Roll them in nuts if you want.
6. Melt chocolate chips in a saucepan. Place the melted chocolate in a ziploc baggie. Cut a tiny tip off one corner of the you have an icing bag.
7. Swirl the chocolate around the apple in a line. It's easier to just go back and forth rather than try to spin the apple around.
8. Place back on wax paper and set in the fridge for about an hour. Cut the apples in slices when you are ready to enjoy.

You can use all kinds of different nuts and other types of chocolate. My next batch will be white chocolate...yum!!

Have fun and get the kids's super easy! It only took me 30 minutes to make these!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Check out my friend Brandi's blog and her latest giveaway

My friend Brandi is giving away some very eco-friendly cleaning products and I wanted to share this with you all! Check out her blog...she's an amazing home-schooling, natural living mama and you could pick up some great ideas from her. Enter the contest! Good luck!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sweet little beach bum

The Husband's parents took all of us to the beach for a little R & R. We had a lot of time for the three of us to just play and vegetate. These are just my favorites from the week...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Caveman turns one!!

Saturday we celebrated the Caveman's 1st birthday with lots of friends and family. We did Peter Rabbit inspired games and decor. Baby Boy did VERY well with all the excitement...he loves people! Thank you to all who came and made it so special!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Vegan sugar cookies

I came across this sugar cookie recipe a few months ago and it is goo-ood. It's from another couples' blog so I don't have any copyright info or anything...they didn't either. The cookies are really good and the icing is even better (I think, anyway). To me they aren't too much different from a regular sugar cookie. So, here are the recipes...

Vegan Sugar Cookies
1 C Vegan Margarine (can be found at the health food store)
1 C sugar
2 Whole Egg Replacers
1 Tsp. Vanilla extract
3 3/4 cup AP flour
2 Tsp baking powder
1/4 C Tofutti (vegan cream good)

Preheat oven to 350
Cream marg. and sugar
Stir in egg and vanilla
Gradually add flour, baking powder and tofutti
Form dough into a roll and refrigerate for a couple of hours
Roll out dough to 1/4" thick
Cut shapes with cutters
Place them about 1" apart
Bake about 12-14 minutes or until edges are golden

Vegan Sugar cookie icing
2 cups 10X (confectioners) sugar
6-8 tsp soymilk
4 tsp light corn syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract
food coloring of choice

Mix together until smooth
Dip tops of cookies face down into icing and allow icing to drip back into bowl

*if the icing is too think add more corn syrup a little at a time

I did these for a baby shower and used a duck cookie cutter...too cute! Perfect for the holidays! Enjoy...

Following directions

Oy. I have sat at this computer for the last hour and a half trying to change the template of the blog. I read countless instruction sites and tried a hundred different ways of doing it. I finally scrolled down a little further and saw the REST of the directions. If only I had done that an hour and a half ago. I wouldn't have a horrible crink in my neck or a sore bottom from this wretched chair! Oh well. The new blog is prettier than the old one, I think. ;-)

Why don't we follow directions anyway?? I'm the worst about diving in and not even looking at the instruction manual. Give me a bookcase from IKEA with a billion different parts, and I'm in hog heaven. Toss the manual and dive in...that's me. You'd think I was a man or something. I can remember my teachers in elementary school always saying "you need to slow down and follow the directions".

The one area that I don't want to ignore instruction is my spiritual life and ministry. Right now I'm really seeking my ministry. 10 years ago when I moved here, I really felt lead to the area of inner-city ministry. Over the last few years I have felt a shift to women and now to moms. I love mamas. I love being a mama. I love being around mamas. I'm inspired by other mamas. I'm encouraged by other mamas. I LOVE MAMAS.

So, what now?? What do I do with all that? Hmmm...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Don't pick that!!

Remember when you were little, and you got a scrape on your knee? What did your parents tell you? "Don't pick that scab, you'll leave a scar", right? I was pretty obedient, but for some reason, this was one thing I couldn't help. I wanted the scab OFF...they were just gross. But what I was left with was even worse. A wound that took forever to heal and a lovely scar afterward. Pretty.

They say that time heals all wounds. I don't know who "they" are, by the way. Just the collective "they", I guess. Anyway, I don't think that's necessarily true. It may heal OVER time, but it's not the actual time that heals them. They take longer to heal when you pick them. Pick and pick until you're left with an oozing, disgusting hole in your flesh. That's attractive. In some ways this is what I tend to do with my life. Pick at the situation I'm in until it becomes something so completely different that I don't recognize the original problem anymore. Allow things to fester until I'm so eaten up with disgust or frustration or hurt. This can't be good, I'm thinking.

The reason for all this thought would be so simple to some. I was taking pictures out of a frame and putting new ones in. It's taken me quite a while to do this, and I haven't really been ready until now. Without even thinking about it I started my task, then began to think. Then the wound started opening again. Apparently, I'm still in the "scab" stage. As the emotions and thoughts started pouring out, I kept at my task. When they wouldn't stop, I had to sit down and start writing it out.

You'd think after two years I'd be over it, right? Nah. This is one wound that time hasn't healed. See, only God has brought me through to this point. I've tried everything else though too. I've tried blocking it out...medication...staying busy...putting on my big girl panties and getting over it. Some of those things worked part of the time, but didn't really HEAL.

How do you "get over" the love in your heart for someone you've lost? How do you move on? For me, initially, it was just clinging to God. Knowing that He was the One Who could get me through those first dark, dark months. I look back and think "how in the world did we get through that??" and just know it was by His hand. Now, it just becomes a little less of an "ouchy" each day. It's weird. It's kind of like a tornado. You really don't see it coming, and it leaves lots of destruction in its wake. But you can watch it as it gets further and further away knowing it won't be coming back. You're left with a mess to clean up, but you CAN pick up the pieces. You can and you will...just one day at a time.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

30 minute warning??

So, I learned a long time ago from my Roomdog that there's not much of anything funnier than someone falling down. Terrible, right? But, it's true. If it weren't, shows like America's Funniest Video wouldn't spend hours on it each year. There. I've justified myself. Pair the humor of falling down with the humor of a loopy dog and you've got $100,000. Poor Chico. He's a little altered right now. Earlier today it started to thunder really bad, and he began his usual freakout. I remembered that I had gotten him some tranquilizers last time we were at the vet. So, I pulled the bottle out of the pantry and read the instructions. They read as follows: "Give 1/4 tablet 30 minutes before stressful event". Seriously? Being the literalist that I am I thought, "Really? How am I supposed to know a storm is coming in EXACTLY 30 minutes? That the first clap of thunder or bolt of lightning will occur in EXACTLY 30 minutes??". It totally stressed me out! So, I took a whole one and gave him a quarter.

Seriously though, we don't have the luxury of knowing when a stressful event is going to occur. I don't care how much we plan or how in control we are of our lives. It just plain, old doesn't work that way. Just think of it. If this were the case we could be totally ready...armed and dangerous...ready to ward off whatever comes our way. But in reality, these are the moments that push us closer to God. Without the unexpected, unplanned for nature of stressful events, we wouldn't be thrust onto our knees when they hit. We wouldn't be forced to rely fully on God. We wouldn't be powerless before Him, trusting in HIM to bring us through. I'm sad to admit that these are the times when I'm closest to God. In light of some recent events, this is an area of my life that I'm really focusing on...getting back into the face of God. Getting back in His face with my ear up to His mouth...listening. Not only when I'm stressed. Not only when something life-altering occurs. Not only when I can't go anywhere else for help. He IS my Help. He IS my Refuge. He IS my Rock.

I grew up in the Banner Ministry at church and learned the names of God from the most godly women on the planet. Those are the names I'm clinging to. Those are the ONLY names worth dropping. Those are the ONLY names with the power to bring us through stressful events. There are all kinds of names on all kinds of different bottles, and from experience, I know the only one to cling to is...Jesus. Cling to Him, friend. Let's dig our fingernails into the hem of his garment and hang on tight. He is the only Way, and He loves you.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Samuel, Blue Dog, and Me

Did Mary complain?

A few moments ago, I closed my fun-filled evening with my second most favorite part of the day…putting my sweet baby boy to bed. My first most favorite part of my day is picking that same sweet baby boy up out of his crib each morning. He holds up one empty arm, the other clutching “blue dog” tightly, and begs to be rescued. We start the day with cuddles and prayers and end the day with cuddles and prayers…me, Samuel and Blue Dog. These are the things I never thought about when we prayed for a baby. I never thought about the kisses, the cuddles, the pats…the love. We just wanted a baby. I didn’t realize the love would be THIS intense. I also didn’t realize having a baby would be so much work. Weird, coming from someone who cared for twin babies for 8 months, right?

As he nursed tonight, I sang him a few songs. If he could have, he probably would ask me kindly to be quiet, but I sang them anyway. “There is a Redeemer”…the Keith Green version, popped into my head. I thought about Mary nursing Jesus and most likely singing to Him. I thought about the songs she may have sung and if they were about a coming Messiah or Redeemer. I thought about how she must have felt, knowing she was nursing the Savior of the world, Jesus the Christ Child. I wondered if she had the temptation to wrap that baby up and run like the wind, knowing that one day He would suffer a torturous death for people who wouldn’t even accept the life He had afforded them. Then I wondered, “Did Mary ever complain?” Did she complain that Joseph didn’t help enough? Did she complain that their home wasn’t as big as cousin Elizabeth’s or that her robes were old and shabby? Did she complain that she worked day after day and didn’t get paid a single cent for any of it? Did the mother of Jesus complain about changing His diapers or fuss at Him for ruining her pretties?

These questions hit me hard. I did a mental checklist:
Hard-working husband-check
Roof over my head-check
Closet full of clothes-check
Getting “paid” in “sugar” and cuddles-check check!
Healthy family-check

This story will portray me to be about as deep as a kddie pool but oh well…
If you know me but at all, you know I complain about my hair…a lot. It’s just so crazy!! Anyway, I complained constantly in high school about it but got a serious attitude adjustment in tenth grade. I was in FHA, that’s Future Homemakers of America, (shocking, I know) and we took a field trip to the Ronald McDonald house. Seeing all those children who were sick and had lost their hair made me so thankful for my health. My hair didn’t seem to be that big of a deal anymore. Silly story, but it was huge for me back then.

I think we need to remind ourselves what we’re put here for…to build up, not tear down. Each time we complain we bring down the person we’re talking to. If it’s our husband, we’re saying “you don’t do enough”. If it’s our friends, we’re saying “I’m insecure”. If we’re believers we’re saying “God, you haven’t done enough!”. Wow. I’m feeling a bit guilty right about now.

OK, so what? I challenge you, and myself, with this: when you’re tempted to complain or find fault in any aspect of your life…make a checklist. When your husband is driving you up one wall and down the other…thank God that you HAVE a husband…a healthy one, a working one…find something GOOD to say about him. When your kids make a mess… thank the Lord you HAVE kids. When you’re tempted to fuss about your “small” house, (hello, I’m talking to myself here) thank the Lord you HAVE a house! We could all be living in a van down by the river, for crying out loud!!

And if all else fails, remember what mom used to say…”If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”. Just make sure you put your hand on your hip and wave your finger when you’re saying it.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Remembering Andrew

Even as I begin to write this I am tearing up at the thoughts swimming through my mind. This has been a rough week. 2 years ago this last week, we lost the physical body of our unborn baby. This is one of the two or three things I don't have closure on in my life and won't until I reach heaven. This fact occurred to me this week during our garage sale of all places. I was talking with this woman whose daughter-in-law lost her daughter at the same in her pregnancy. She was able to deliver her baby, but I was not given that option. I know that it would have been difficult and painful, but I think seeing him would have helped me really grasp the idea that he's gone. Let me back up a little...

For those of you who don't know, we found out we were having a baby in March of 2007. Around 14 1/2 weeks into the pregnancy, there was a rupture in the sac and the amniotic fluid was lost. After a week of bed rest, we went to the doctor only to discover the baby had died. I remember staring at the sonogram monitor intently, searching for any sign of a heartbeat. None. The doctor didn't skip a beat..."when do you want to schedule surgery?". With no thought at all about giving birth, I scheduled the D and E. It was a year later that I realized what that actually meant as far as the procedure was concerned. Anyway, I had to wait 3 days before the surgery. We had the twins still, and they still had their weekly visit that week. While they were visiting their family, Mom and I went to La Madeline. There was a pregnant girl in line right next to me, and I remember thinking, "Don't ask me when I'm due, PLEASE!!"

The days leading up to the surgery were pretty typical. I was trying to cope the best I could and felt comforted, in an odd way, that the baby was still with me. Waiting in the hospital, the nurses, mostly male, were so kind and one even prayed for me. I knew that in a few short moments, the baby I had longed for so badly would no longer be physically with me. Going into the operating room, I felt this sudden urge to jump off the table and run. I wasn't afraid. I knew that this was it...our final earthly moments together. Oh, I knew he was gone, but he was still with me. He was safe and in the place he was supposed to have lived until time to be born. I knew that when I woke, he would be gone. I didn't want to go to sleep. I fought it until they put the mask on my face, and I could fight no longer.

When I woke up, there was no one there to hold my hand or hear me cry. The nurses were all too busy to even come when I called. My legs were aching, my head was pounding, but none of that compared to the unbelievable pain in my heart. I lay their crying with no one to hear me but God. I've never felt more alone or more helpless than at that moment.

My Mama was there in the second recovery room they took me to. I was so glad to see her. I wanted to cry and let her cry with me, but for some reason I just couldn't. Looking back, I think I had resolved to be strong and just "move on" because I had too much other stuff to do. I couldn't just sit around and mope about something I couldn't change. We finally got to leave the hospital and went home. Ruby and Rose were a great blessing during this time, because they gave so much love. The Lord knew we needed them and was faithful to let them stay through this ordeal.

The Lord had been so faithful to speak peace to my heart through His Word. At some point, though, I developed this toughness around my heart. I told a friend the other day that I think I've shut down emotionally. For so long I've thought "I don't have time to cry about this now, I'll cry about it later". My favorite line in Gone with the Wind (besides "Get offa those stayuhs, you trashy wench!") is "Oh, I'll think about that tomorrow". I've been shoving all these thoughts and emotions down, and I'm the only one who knows I have them. This is not good. We all have good and bad days, but it seems like my bad days are just hellish. I crash and burn into this angry person and lash out at the one I love most. He calls it going all "Jon and Kate plus 8" on him. Anyway, these are the times I cry out to God for reassurance that I'm not hateful, ugly, disgusting...all the things Satan throws my way at these times. He is so faithful to remind me that I'm His child...a daughter of the King, as my mom says. Nothing can snatch me out of His hand.

Well, now to finish. It was several weeks after the surgery that I got a phone call from the doctor's nurse. I was getting my hair "did" when the call came and was totally caught off guard. She very matter-of-factly informed me that it was a perfectly healthy, boy. Wow. OK, this did not help. I'd be lying if I said I didn't want more of an explanation, something to blame. There's no reason for the sac to have ruptured, really. I sat there in the stylist's chair, white as a sheet, tears streaming down my face. But, again, I forced them away and thought, "I'll cry about this later". The only problem with that mentality is that I haven't given myself that luxury. I've never really fully mourned that loss. How do I do that? How do you let go?

Oh, several months after all this, I was impressed to give the baby a name. I don't know why, but Andrew kept coming back to me. After talking to Jeremy, we decided that would be his name. About a year and half later some sweet family friends gave us a plaque to memorialize little Andrew. It has the only picture we have of him, his sonogram, and a beautiful engraved plaque with Romans 8:28 on it. I know he's in heaven with a perfectly intact body, praising the Lord and walking those golden streets. One day we'll meet, I know. I long for that day. As any mother with babies in heaven, I long for that day. It's really hard for me when I hear people say his name. I have as yet to refer to him out loud as Andrew. Hopefully one day I'll be able to say it. Hopefully one day I'll have closure.

Romans 8:28 "And we know that all things work together for good, for those who are called according to your purpose." What is the purpose of going through something like this? Hopefully I have been able to be an encouragement to others through this in being faithful even when it was so hard. Hopefully I can encourage others to talk about their joys AND their heartaches and to embrace them fully. I'm still a work in progress in this area and need all the encouragement I can get. Hopefully God will use me to witness to others and be a testament to His faithfulness.

The purpose of this blog

Well, I decided to finally get a blog going. I've talked to so many different women about being moms, wanting to be moms, miscarriages and infertility that I decided this blog will be for them. This will be a place for you to post YOUR stories of faith, doubt, joy, and heartache. It is so important for women to stick together and come alongside each other during every season of our lives. I think we often have so much pressure put on us to be "Super Woman" that we forget that we are fragile, emotional creatures. Then, when we do finally burst from holding it all in, we feel weak and vulnerable.

I don't know about you, but I love hearing stories of hope and answered prayer. Conversely, I'm so eager to listen when women feel open to share their hearts with each other and pour out the hurt, the devastating pain, of loss. I want this blog to be a place where women can share their stories, their thoughts, their desires for themselves and families and their heartaches to be an encouragement to others. We have to stick together! I can't tell you how many times I've talked to women about different issues, and they've felt they were alone in their feelings or experiences. I think this is largely due to the fact that we don't open up out of fear of feeling inferior.

I've often been accused of giving out "too much information". I'm not sly or cunning. I can't ever think of the perfect "zinger" to shoot back at someone. I'm not a good public speaker. But I do love to write. I want the first official story to be my story of my Andrew. It'll be kind of a bummer to some, but it's real, and it's mine. If you would like to share a post with others, just let me know.