Sunday, November 28, 2010

I Can't Wait Until Christmas Break!

I have just got to say that I have loved and treasured having my daughter home from school for an entire week during this Thanksgiving break!  Doing crafts, drinking cocoa, going on fun outings, or just being home together and seeing her in the morning hanging around the house in her pj's feeling so relaxed - it has been the best!  And now it has come to a close and tomorrow morning I will send her back to school and miss her a bunch.  

So now I feel like I used to feel as a student, and during the two years I taught at a school - Thanksgiving break was great, but now I can't wait until Christmas break!!  So bring it on, Santa! :)

On Faith, Kindness, Christmas Movies, and Sick Days In Pajamas

Yesterday I spent an absolutely wonderful and magical day Christmas shopping Disney style with friends....and then woke up at 4 am to a not-so-magical bout with either food poisoning or a virus.  I'll spare you the details.  (You're welcome.)

I'll just say when I very gingerly laid back down at 5:30 the cool sheet felt extra good against my face and when I woke up again at 7:30 I was wiped completely out.

Most Sunday mornings involve complete and total chaos getting out the door (when you are a pastor's wife who gets your kids and yourself ready solo every week you get an extra dose of pre-church "excitement"), but then valuable times of learning, listening, worship, and fellowship with our church family.  This is a very important part of our week.

But this Sunday the kids, who as usual woke up after my husband was already off to church, and I stayed in together and had a sick day.  And those two took the best care of me!

When my Superman pajama clad boy with some serious bedhead sleepily joined my daughter and me on the couch, I told him Mommy had [thrown up and etc.] in the middle of the night and we were going to have to stay in from church today.  He said something in his sleepy voice that I couldn't understand  - I thought he said something about being gone.  He looked up at me, pointing up, and said, "No, God - God up in the sky.  He will heal it."

And there was my reminder about faith for the day.  Maybe he'll be a pastor one day like his dad and Paw Paw, unless he goes with the current plan of being a superhero (though in my personal opinion many pastors are unsung superheroes, but that's a different blog for a different day!).  I loved his cut and dry take on the matter.

I put on Little Women because I think it's one of the most cozy and beautiful Christmas season movies of all times, and sipped on a cup of tea.  Though my daughter never makes it until the end she absolutely adores the first hour or so of the movie.  And my little guy even made it through a lot of it.

After awhile, Little Women went off and Max and Ruby went on.  And I dozed off.  Some rustling of kitchen drawers made me stir, and I asked if anyone needed anything.  My daughter said she was looking for one of her aprons, and I told her there was one hanging on a hook on my apron holder.  A few minutes later she came over and I sleepily tied her apron strings, then dozed back off.

A few minutes after that she tapped me on the head and said sweetly, "If you want, there's a snack ready for you." And sure enough, she had put a string cheese and a cup of water on the same tray I serve her snacks on.  It was on the end table by the love seat I was resting on.  And there and then I had my reminder about kindness for the day.  Hours later after my husband was gone again for an evening service, I thanked her once more for doing that, and told her how much it meant to me.  She smiled, hugged me again and said, "Well, I know you would do the same for me."  And I wanted to cry.

But I didn't.  Instead I upgraded my regular toast to toast with peanut butter and honey, and my tea for a cup of weak cocoa, served her some toast and cocoa with marshmallows on the tray, and the three of us snuggled up once again, this time to watch Polar Express.  We watched it from start to finish cuddled up, still in our pajamas, and it was magic.

Now the kids are tucked into bed and though I still feel weak, the toast has stayed in and I hope by tomorrow I should be good as new.  I missed our church family, as did my kids, and we can't wait until Wednesday to see them.  I am looking forward to hopefully eating something besides toast tomorrow. I'm pretty tired, and will head to bed soon.  But I will take to sleep sweet memories of this day and the two little caregivers who showed me faith, kindness, and lots and lots of love.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Breakfasts and Blessings

With our change of Thanksgiving plans, I wanted to do something special, especially for my parents.

So this morning I made another Thankfulness Breakfast. I really love making breakfast for family and friends...I think it's because it guarantees that before the day begins and brings whatever good or bad it may hold, you have already gathered together to spend a little time and enjoy some food for strength and stamina.

If I am planning a special breakfast I often set the table and do prep the night before.  That way things can be ready to go before everyone is starving or needing to be out the door.

This day after Thanksgiving held a fairly low key agenda for us.  I was going to do just a little shopping with my parents, then my dad and I were going to meet up with my crew and some friends to see Tangled around noon while my mom went on to the hospital.  So this morning we had a breakfast of thankfulness together served at 8:00 am.  And it was wonderful!  Just what we needed.

One neat thing about this breakfast was that my daughter and I made the place cards together last night.  She felt so proud of her work, and was excited to show them off!!  I love involving her in things around our home.

Those simple handmade place cards became a canvas for us to write down what we are thankful for. Together, we counted our blessings.

We ate baked oatmeal, fresh oranges, crispy bacon, and scrambled eggs.

I also made a fresh and fragrant cranberry relish, pumpkin doughnut muffins, and an orange spice drink that was warm and cozy.  They are recipes worth sharing, so I will post them soon so you can enjoy them!  We certainly did.

And we lingered over coffee and extra pieces of bacon and orange slices.

Then we shopped.  And though I didn't buy a ton, I saved way more than I spent which is always a good thing!

Saw a movie.  Which was funny, enchanting, and filled with great music! The magic of Disney I suppose.

Shopped a little more.  Still saving way more than I spent.  Cha-ching!  I get excited about some bargains, now!

And came home.  To a sink full of dishes (that are still waiting for me, no surprise there!!) and the scent of fried bacon still in the air and a green chair inviting me to sit and blog awhile.  I've been interrupted, oh, about 100 times in the process of that one.

But here I am...

And now I've gotta run - interruption 101, my daughter is calling me - again - but I'll be back, hopefully tonight or sometime tomorrow!


We Ate Thanksgiving Dinner At Cracker Barrel

I'm being for real, ya'll.  Here's proof!

But you know, it was very tasty and the right thing for this year.  I sure did miss my mom's amazing (and huge) spread this Thanksgiving.  But here is the story of how we ended up eating and laughing around a table for nine at the restaurant my parents used to stop at for at least two meals a day on our road trips down 95 each summer of my childhood.

This past June my grandma, who lives with my parents, fell and broke her hip while on a visit to my brother's house in Pennsylvania with my mom and dad.  This unfortunate event brought on a surgery, an extended hospital and rehab stay in Pennsylvania for her and my mom, and then extensive rehab here at home once they were able to return.  Obviously a hip break is not good for seniors, and about two weeks ago on top of her hip pain she started feeling quite sick.  And then she wasn't getting better. Things were going from bad to worse and my mom was exhausted from all the care this involved, and of course very concerned for her mom's health.  Wednesday afternoon she took my grandma to the hospital, where she was admitted for fluids and to try to regain some strength.

So that same afternoon I called my mom and told her that while we absolutely adore our Thanksgiving meal we share each year, we all think we should go to Cracker Barrel this year, and asked her please to not try to host our Thanksgiving dinner on top of everything going on. I told her we would have our meal sometime in the next week or so when things settle down, and promised we were all okay with this low key, stress free option that is five minutes from the hospital.

And to our surprise, she agreed!

So on Thanksgiving Day, our family met up with a few other family members (and my dad who had waited an hour to get us a table, bless his heart) and we enjoyed a surprisingly wonderful (and very inexpensive) Thanksgiving meal.  The place was packed and we found out why - we were served biscuits, ham, turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, green beans, dressing, pie, and a drink for $8.99 a person ($4.49 for kids).  My mom was marveling at the good taste and the price and the fact that she would have no dishes to do, and she said she could get used to this...

And I promptly told her not to get too used to it!!  :) 

It definitely wasn't the same as home.  But it was nice. Very nice.  I must say, if you ever find yourself in a bind on Thanksgiving with family members in the hospital or too tight a budget to buy the groceries for a feast or sick loved ones or being just plain too tired to do it all....Cracker Barrel is a good fallback!  The pumpkin streusel pie is absolutely outrageous.  And we were glad to be together and had a great time laughing and enjoying ourselves, even though we had a last minute change of plans.

 You can be thankful together and enjoy family anywhere, that is for sure!

After we ate, we visited my grandma in the hospital.  She was doing fairly well, but very weak.  If you would say a prayer for our family, we'd sure appreciate it...

I gather that we should all be more thankful for good health.  It's easy to take it for granted.

And I will look back at this Thanksgiving and remember the year we ate at Cracker Barrel at the last minute and be reminded of flexibility, contentment, and laughter around a round table for nine with brown paper menus, good iced tea, and some seriously killer pie.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!  Hope your day was blessed and content.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Raise The Song Of Harvest Home

I have a special affection for harvest hymns...old hymns that celebrate God's bounty and provision and are traditionally sung around Thanksgiving time.

One of my very favorites is Come Ye Thankful People, Come.  When I sing the words to the first verse I think of my beloved Little House on the Prairie books and episodes, and imagine a time when much hunting, harvesting, planning, cooking, canning, and storing was done by Thanksgiving time so there would be food and provision through the cold and snowy winter months.  The last verse yearns for the day when Jesus comes back to take His people to Heaven, the beautiful place He has prepared for us.

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home; all is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin. God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied; come to God's own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.

Even so, Lord, quickly come, bring thy final harvest home; gather thou thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin, there, forever purified, in thy presence to abide; come, with all thine angels, come, raise the glorious harvest home.

I also have a fondness for the song For the Beauty of the Earth.  This song is sung in the 90's movie version of Little Women, an absolute favorite of mine.  My daughter also greatly enjoys this beautifully directed and acted film version of the novel, and we are currently reading a children's classic version of this lovely story.  There is a scene in the movie where the family sings this "hymn of grateful praise" and I love it.

For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies, for the love which from our birth over and around us lies; Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise. 

For the beauty of each hour of the day and of the night, hill and vale, and tree and flower, sun and moon, and stars of light; Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise. 

For the joy of human love, brother, sister, parent, child, friends on earth and friends above, for all gentle thoughts and mild; Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

C'est La Vie!

What I Did Today:

Got up early since our kids did not choose to sleep in on this day off of school, served breakfast, did Bible study, checked computer, talked to my mom on the phone, took kids to park to play with friends, administered a disciplinary time out on a bench at the park in the middle of our play date (fun, fun, fun), took kids to an incredibly chaotic McDonald's to have lunch and keep playing with friends, came home and bathed the park and gross McD's play area off of my kids, tucked one kid down for nap, settled one kid in for some quiet time, folded a couple loads of laundry and put in another gigantic load that probably tested the maximum capacity of our washer, picked up some toys and clutter around the house, talked to my husband on the phone, made a Christmas gift order online

What I Should Be Doing Now:

More laundry folding (it tends to back up around here and washing the sink full of dishes that are waiting for me even though I keep closing my eyes and wishing they would wash themselves

What I Am Doing Now Instead:

Finishing a cup of tea, listening to some quiet piano music on Pandora, looking through various cookbooks, magazines, and recipes online and making my Thanksgiving shopping list for the dishes I am bringing...which I must say is infinitely more enjoyable than laundry and washing dishes

What I Will Be Doing Later:

Taking my daughter to a birthday party, stopping by the store if time allows, washing dishes and folding laundry

C'est La Vie!

Monday, November 22, 2010


My husband has spent the bulk of this day in the garage.  It was not what he had planned to do on his day off, but the brakes on his car started making some grinding noises and he decided to go ahead and change them himself.  Why? To save us money.  I felt sort of bad because he already usually spends part of his day off mowing our lawn, but this took way longer than that.

Did I mention his car is a 1998?  As in 12, almost 13 years old?  No slick SUV or big truck for my man. Just an old paid off car that we are grateful for, and that he doesn't complain about.

He also doesn't complain that there are no large, flat screen TV's in our house, just two old hand-me-downs.  And those are virtually used only for DVD's, because we don't have cable, and never have in our nearly a decade of marriage.  That means he has somehow survived his adult years without ESPN and other such luxuries.  Amazing.

Most days he eats lunch in his office with groceries he picks up.  It is only occasional that he eats out, even though I know he enjoys that more.

He also does not have an iphone, even though he would absolutely love one, simply because we could not manage the monthly payment.  That is only one of the many gadgets he has admired but resisted through the years.  In fact, he doesn't even have internet on his phone and our internet at home is the cheapest we could get, therefore not as fast as I'm sure he would prefer.

Why?  Because when we got married, we had goals to give to God first, stay out of debt, and to make whatever choices we could to try to enable me to be home as much as possible when we became parents.  He makes daily sacrifices to be a giving provider that puts God and family over luxuries that our society deems as necessities.  We have trimmed budgets and scrimped and pinched and been creative through the years to be the best stewards of what God has given us.  And we have seen God bless us beyond measure, never lacking for anything.  He is a generous God.

But as I saw my husband working so hard today to make another sacrifice and provision for our little family, I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you.

Thank you, Jimmy.  Not every man would do what you do, and be content in their relationship with God and family like you are.  Thank you for not pursuing things, but pursuing love.  Thank you for not being filled with insecurities that drive you to obtain, but for being filled with sincerity and compassion that drive you to give.  Thank you for saying no to purchases instead of yes to piles of debt. Thank you for seeing the value of a mom at home during this season of little lives, and being willing to do what it takes to make that a priority as long as we are able. I know you would shrug and say that's just what you do.  But it's not what everyone does.

And I would rather be married to a man like you than have any measure of fancy cars or possessions. Because every day when you make another sacrifice for our family, you are an example to me of Jesus, who made the greatest sacrifice of all for us.

Let's keep living this happy, simple little life together for Him.

Thankfulness Breakfast!

When and Where: This past Saturday in our kitchen

The Guests of Honor: My husband, daughter, and son

On The Menu: Pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pancakes, cinnamon apples, and crispy bacon

On The Agenda: A family prayer of thankfulness, enjoying a meal together, reading a Thanksgiving book, writing down what each one of us is thankful for, playing a fun game

The Purpose:  To remember what this time of year is about, to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, to celebrate family, to make a memory

The Result: A morning well spent

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Even if You Don't Really Like To Bake...

It's no secret that I love to bake!  And I love the results of baking - I like being able to serve my family homemade breads, muffins, waffles, pancakes, etc. throughout the week.

But if baking's not your thing, you can still use some great mixes out there to give semi-homemade staples and treats to your family.  One of the brands of mixes I always fall back on in a hurry are the Fiber One muffin mixes.  They take just a minute or two to whip up, they have several grams of fiber per muffin, and are surprisingly delicious!  My family loves their blueberry muffin mix, and the other day I made their apple cinnamon mix to change things up.  They enjoyed these as well, and I loved giving them breakfasts and snacks that hadn't been sealed in a package for months, but were freshly prepared.

So even if you don't really like to bake, you may want to try these out for something easy, tasty, fresh, and nutritious.  And I always find that seasonal and festive cupcake wrappers make any muffin more enticing!

What I've Been Reading...

This is what I've been reading the past few days...

Isn't this time of year inspiring?!?!!


Before I got married, the women in the church I grew up in gave me a huge shower.  My husband has always referred to it as a monsoon, and he isn't that far off.  We were very generously showered with everything a couple could need to fill kitchen cabinets and start the adventure of owning their first home.

But one of my favorite things about this shower was that everyone was asked to bring a recipe card with a favorite recipe from their home, as well as an ingredient from that recipe.  This helped stock our pantry (ironically, I got 4 or 5 cans of water chestnuts which my mom said was more than she'd ever used in 27 years of marriage!) and also gave me a wealth of recipes to choose from, given to me by people who were a real, sweet part of my life.

I keep those recipes in a special Longaberger recipe box, and go through them every once in awhile.  I have been on a butterscotch morsel kick lately and pulled out a recipe for Butterscotch Haystacks the other day, a recipe that was written on a card from a woman named JoAnn that I admired very much growing up.  She jokingly said on the card that it was from her "vast repetoire" of recipes (she wasn't too interested in cooking - she didn't need to be, she could do pretty much everything else unbelievably well!) and said it was a nice dessert in the fall or around Thanksgiving time since the finished product resembled haystacks.

All you do is melt a bag of butterscotch morsels, stir in a cup of peanuts and a can of chow mein noodles, then drop them on a cookie sheet or wax paper to harden.  They are super yummy if you like those flavors (which I do) and very easy to make.

And yes, perfect for this time of year!

Kindergarten Treasures

I love the kindergarten treasures my daughter brings home from school!  They have added flair and fun to this fall in our home!

What a precious and exciting time in her little life...

Thank you to every teacher out there whose daily efforts light up little faces and make little hearts burst with eagerness to race home and proudly show off their latest educational creations!

What you do matters.

Friendly Little Companion

I am so glad I picked up this little owl at Kirkland's earlier in the season!  He has been a friendly little companion this fall.  When I sit in my green chair to do my Bible study, write on my blog, catch up on facebook, read a book, or cuddle with the kids, he is always sitting across from me by his happy little orange knit self.  And I just love him!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Baby Cakes

So, for some reason, today my son keeps referring to me as Baby Cakes.  As in...

"Come on in the house, Baby Cakes."

"Baby Cakes, can you get me some pretzels?"

"Scoot over, Baby Cakes."

When I ask him where he got that one, he just grins at me with a twinkle in his eye.

And I think that this Momma will be his Baby Cakes anytime!

My mind flashed back today to a board book I used to read to my kids when they were little,  titled Baby Cakes by Karma Wilson.  I can still see their baby faces and grins as I would read, "Baby Cakes, Baby Cakes, I love you. Baby Cakes, Baby Cakes, yes I do."  You moms of babies and toddlers might want to check this one out!


Just so you know, if you are looking for a blog written by a perfectly organized woman who lives in a house with sparkling floors and empty countertops and organized closets and a tidy pantry and so on and so forth....I am sad to say you are in the wrong place!

The thing is, I try!  I really do! But I don't like cleaning.  It is not fun to me at all.  And though I am often inspired to organize a closet or section of my house, it seems that while I am doing it the rest of the house self-destructs.  It's really weird like that!

Plus, a lot of life goes on this home.  Kids run and play and dive bomb off the couch and make crafts and build with legos and "wincoln wogs" and race cars and dress dolls.  Friends are welcome to come to hang out and let their kids run around and join the madness too.  Out of town friends and family often join us for a day or a week at a time to visit.  Girls come over for Bible study and mentorship. My kitchen is daily utilized for meal prep and baking. Our music room is filled with instruments that are often played.  Books, cookbooks, and magazines are scattered around but are read and enjoyed.  And more.

So while I am always striving to do better in the organization department, I gotta admit I often fall short.

But the other evening, at a moment when my house was definitely not passing any sort of white glove inspection, my little boy and I were cuddling on my green chair and talking about our favorites as we often do.  It's such a great way for me to get inside my kids' little hearts and minds and create conversation.  After asking favorite foods, favorite colors, etc, I asked this question: "If you could spend a whole day at any place you wanted to, where would you pick?"  My daughter usually answers "Disney" to this sort of question, but the other evening, my son's answer was simply this...


And that sincere little one word answer reminded me once again the importance of perspective.  Yes, my closets need some attention. Yes, my pantry and laundry room sometimes drive me crazy because I cannot keep up.  Yes, there is unfolded laundry in my bedroom. But those things will always be there.  However, my son will not always be four and my daughter will not always be five.  My husband and I will not always be dancing to the soundtrack of  laughter and little feet (while trying to avoid stepping on Legos!). There will be a day when sure, it will be much easier to keep things clean and tidy...but it will be much quieter, emptier, and different around here.  This is a season, one that I love despite the chaos, and I realize it is moving along very quickly.

So while I will continue to fight my uphill battle for organization, I will first and foremost continue striving with all my heart to make this house we share a warm place where people matter, where they are nurtured and loved,  and where they would want to spend the whole day simply because here they are home.

"Home is the nicest word there is." 
Laura Ingalls Wilder

Monday, November 15, 2010

Creative God

I recently started a new Bible study called "Discovering Joy In Your Creativity: You Are Made In the Image of a Creative God."

The title was captivating because I embrace creativity in my life and the life of our family, and I am often stunned and in awe of the creativity of our great God.

The first chapter walked me once again through the creation account of Genesis.  The second chapter talked about various creative trades that are specifically mentioned in the Bible.  The third chapter elaborated on those, and delved into the concept of God being the potter and how he formed our intricate bodies from mere dirt.

This morning I finished the fourth chapter, and was fascinated as it took me to Exodus 35:30-35 to take a look at Bezalel.  Bezalel was a man whom God "filled with the Spirit of God in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship."  The passage goes on to talk about his artistic and design skills, and how he had a desire to teach.  And then it goes into great detail of how God used this gifted, creative man who was filled with His spirit to be the chief architect of the tabernacle and all the complex, involved details that construction entailed.

The passage was fascinating to me as I was reminded me that God is extremely into details, and He is interested in using creative people for His glory.  (I couldn't help but keep reading on and loved the verses at the end of Exodus that talked about how God's glory came into the tabernacle. That sounded so intensely incredible. Can you even imagine?)  As a person who thrives on the creative, I was inspired to continue to try to use creativity as a way to bring praise and glory to the God whom I am just plain crazy about.  Because He deserves every ounce of glory we can bring His way and infinitely more.

And I know it must make Him smile when we do that through creative means! After all, He is obviously a creative God.  Just a glance around our little town reminds me of that all the time...

So whoever you are, and wherever you are, and whatever your creative gift or talent is, I would encourage you to give that creativity right back to the God who gave it to you by using it for beautiful things that could only speak of a wonderfully creative God.

Revelation 4:11 "You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created."