Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween: Round Two

      Well, it is well-after bed time, but I am lasting on with the sugar high from the Smarties and the s'more that I consumed.  I do love the fun of Halloween.  We were the Birds and the Bees.


I kept the girls in their costumes all the live long day, because they are very wearable, and it is fun to spread holiday cheer to everyone.  This picture is from a random man's iPhone in our CFA dining room during lunch.  They both looked and sort of smiled - I wondered what he had that I don't to cause this behavior.


Tonight we had friends over for trick-or-treating.  I got a picture of one of the families that went with us. (Their children are really good at smiling at the camera.)


The Bees were ready to head out for candy.  Bella was really excited - she loves anything that has anything to do with consumption of anything.


Our neighborhood is a little over the top crazy for Halloween, which we discovered last year.  So, there are lots of houses with candy and lots of decoration.  We really only did one area and kept having to empty their treat bags into other bags since they were filling up.  At one house, they gave us slap bracelets and toys.  The kids were so cute, and I actually heard Lily say "Thank You" to an adult that she didn't know, which warmed my heart so much.


Somehow, Bella got a hold of a Tootsie Pop, and by the time we really realized it, this is what we found.


We gave it back to her, because she was so distraught over us prying it out of her little hand.


And, she held on to it the rest of the night.


We got a picture with all the kiddos.  So fun!


Then, we did s'mores and apple cider while we passed out candy to the masses of trick-or-treaters that came by.  One of the girls over at our house kept calling them "customers."  "We have more customers!"  And Lily basically repeated everything she said.  Hilarious.  Such a fun night.  Such great friends.  Such great memories.


I cannot believe tomorrow is November, and that we are ushering in the holiday season.  I love that we have a month of gratitude to look forward to!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween: Round One

      Yesterday we went to our neighborhood's fall festival to kick off Halloween round these parts.  I dressed the girlies in their bumblebee outfits.

Picnik collage

I got the tank tops and leggings from Gymboree on clearance, and I made the antennae (pipe cleaners wrapped around alligator clips with a yellow pom pom on top) and the wings (tights around hangers tied together with black knit and worn with elastic around their arms), and I made little knit skirts for them.  I really did try to keep it simple, and I love the way they came together.  And the girls seem to like being Bumblebees.
      We headed down our street in the wagon.


We saw this gorgeous fall foliage on the way.


We arrived and tried to coax Lily into playing games.  She warmed up after a bit.


After a little while, we did the pony ride, which was a giant hit for Lily.


Not so much for Bella.  We took her off immediately.


She did like flying with dad much better.

Picnik collage

The last thing we did was ride in a trailer filled with hay, pulled by a four-wheeler.  Lily practically dragged us over to this - she was so excited.  And it was a great way to round out the party.


One funny thing came from this little shin-dig.  There was a jar of candy corn pumpkins, and people had to guess how many were in it.  We got a call later that night that we had won, with the guess of 362 when their were 367 in the jar.  She said she would drop off the prize today, and I didn't think to ask her what the prize was.  We won all those little pumpkins.  Lily asked if we could carve them - I wish.
      Tomorrow we will be celebrating again with friends, and John and I will also be dressing up.  Looking forward to another great time!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sideline Mothering

      I am a mom.  I am a homemaker.  I do "mom" things.  While it does not ultimately define who I am, it does dictate a lot of my life right now.  This also means that I hang around with other moms a lot.  Which I am so thankful for, because talking with other mothers and hearing about their mom worlds can help normalize my own.
      However, there are some drawbacks.  Comparison is something that so easily creeps into life, and the mom world is very fertile ground for this.  And, while I struggle with comparison to some degree (why is your child so much more pleasant to adults than mine?), I have realized that more than that, I struggle with thinking that I know best - that I even know better than that mom might, maybe even about her own child.  How horrible is that?  I know the root of this is pride, and that is a sin.  I found myself sideline mothering before I even had kids - thinking, "If only she would do this, then that child would not behave that way" or "Doesn't she realize what is happening?"  I could be and can be extremely judgemental in my mind before I have even made a conscious decision to go down that road.  I also thought that when I was a mom, I would get it right.  Sure, I would make mistakes here and there, but ultimately, I would know what to do.
      Then, I became a mom to these two precious girls.


And the curveballs began.  Why is breastfeeding so much harder than it seems it should be?  Why does my child crawl like a pirate?  Why does it feel like I am wrestling a pig to dress my one year old?  Why does she react so intensely to someone else eating something when she has a plate full of food?  Why is it so hard to get into the car?  Why does she have to ask "why"?  Will my child ever, I mean, ever be potty-trained?
      And the guessing game began.  Oh how motherhood is so much more guesswork than I would have imagined.  If something doesn't work, try something else.  Ask your husband, ask the doctor, ask your mother-in-law, ask God and keep throwing things at the problem until something sticks.  And then in a week, it will change.  This is motherhood.
      For all of that, I still often think I know or should know the answers.  I have a degree in Family stuff!  I come from a great family!  I am smart!  I should know what to do.  I still often look into the families around me and think I know what they should do, which is wrong and prideful.  They know their children best and are seeking the Lord for wisdom and trying their hardest.  Sideline mothering is a dangerous and prideful road to walk.
      What I am realizing even now, is that I am afraid people are sideline mothering me.  I am afraid of being really real with where we are in potty training (which is nowhere), because I do not want some other mom thinking she knows best what I should do.  That is the sick way that I think sometimes, and I don't want it to make me miss out on the wisdom of those around me.  I want to be authentic about the real struggles that we face.  I know that potty training is not a true hardship in life, and I know that someday, my children will be potty trained.  They will be big girls, and this will all be behind us.  (For good and for bad.)  Somehow.
      But, walking the road from point A to point B seems like a challenge right now.  And, I am realizing that for Lily, it is largely a control issue.  (I think.  I am guessing again.)  The Lord will give us wisdom, and we will do the hard work, and someday Lily will not wear diapers.  It will be in the right time for our family.  I will stop reading the research that children in our country are potty-trained later than most of the world and wondering where I went wrong.  It will happen when it should, and I am praying that I will know at what point I may have to really force the issue.  Because it may come to that.
      And, I will thank the Lord for what he is teaching me through Lily and Bella, because it is more than I would have thought.


It was easier to sideline mother before I had kids - now in many ways I have more compassion, and in other ways, I still find myself thinking I know best.  But I don't, and I am thankful for the humbling roads that I get to walk that teach me that.  I really am, because I know that I will be a better mother, wife, and friend because of it.  Thanks be to God.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Seven Years Ago - Our Engagement Story

      Seven years ago, the Red Sox broke the curse and won the World Series.  Normally, I do not keep track of these sporty things, but it was the night John and I got engaged.  I realized that I have never written out the story, and since it is a good one and very important, I want it recorded, some place where we can go back and remember it.  Sadly, it was before I had a digital camera (gasp!), and because it was a surprise to me, I didn't know to have my camera with me, so - no pictures from that night.  We do have great engagement pictures taken by none other than Luke Davis who was just a college friend then - we had no idea he would someday become family by marrying my sister, or that he would end up buying the studio that would shoot our wedding.  Crazy world.  I do love these pictures.


      So, here's the story about how we got to the place where we could take these pictures - engaged.  The plan, as I knew it, was that we were going to meet up with John's youth pastor from high school and his wife.  We lived in NW Arkansas, and they lived in Dallas, which are about 5 hours apart, so we were going to meet up with them in some town about half way between for dinner.  (We did end up actually following through with this plan the next month, so I did get to meet them.)  As we were driving out of town, we were actually headed north-ish.  This is one of the funny parts of this story.  When John had told people of his plan, they usually noted that we would not be driving the right direction.  John was confident that I would not notice.  He was right.  So, we headed north, when we should have been headed south, and I was none the wiser.
      As we were driving, we got to a town called Disney, OK.  Knowing my love of Disney, John thought we should stop for a picture with the sign in Disney.  I was game, and I hopped out, while he supposedly dug for the camera.  There was no camera to be found, so we loaded back into the car, only to find that it was "not working."  What I did not realize is that John was stalling for time and not pushing down the clutch.  I came up with the brilliant solution of "wait a few minutes, and try it again.  surely it will work then."  Since it was all a time-game anyway, he said that sounded like a great plan.  (Do not come to me for car trouble.)
      Since we were in a parking lot by a lake, people were coming in and out.  I eventually wondered aloud if we should ask any of them for help.  He said they all looked sketchy, and since I had apparently left my brain at home that evening, I agreed, and we continued to wait, with a not working car, in a parking lot by Grand Lake.  After about 5 minutes, he suggested that we walk down to the pier, since we were killing time waiting for the car to fix itself.  We walked onto the pier, and a within about a minute, a boat came headed straight for us.  I remember feeling like we should get off the dock, since we were very much in the way, which did not seem to concern super-conscientious John at that moment.  As I looked up at the boat again, I realized I knew the driver, and that was when I knew.  This would be no ordinary night.
      It was one of John's roommates driving the boat, and he ushered us aboard.  We sped across Grand Lake as the sun set, with the wind whipping through our hair.  That really is not embellished for dramatic flair, that is really what happened.  The boat slowed as we neared the shore, and I realized that where we were docking was covered in Christmas lights and the path leading from the dock was lined with candles.  It was gorgeous.
      Because John knew that I would know what was happening at that point, he decided to get straight to the engaging part, which I appreciated.  We went into a candlelit den in a beautiful cabin.  There was a small, but tall, chest there with four drawers - it still lives on my dresser to this day, and I do have a picture of it.


He had me open the top drawer, which had this note inside of it, with pictures underneath it of our time dating.


Then, the next drawer revealed this note.  He explained to me that he knew he was going to have to give up many things to get married, and those were listed on little notes underneath the yellow card.  Basically, he told me all the ways he would need to die to self.


After telling me that he believed he knew clearly what God wanted him to do and all that he would need to give up, he had me open the third drawer, which had this verse inside of it.  Makes me tear up even now as I look at it.  John does a beautiful job of striving to love me as Christ loves the church, and I am so thankful for that.


And, the final drawer held that box.  The one that I knew by this point must have a ring inside.  He removed the box and got down on one knee, told me he loved me and asked me to marry him.  I said, "YES!"  And, he slid the ring that I did not even know he had, the one with the antique diamond from my mother's engagement ring from my father that was once my grandmother's, he slid that ring onto my left hand.  Oh, the joy of that moment.


      The engagement ring was the simple solitaire, and the wrap around it is my wedding band.  He explained that he had driven up to Wichita one Friday when I thought he was working and asked my mother for my hand in marriage.  She had said yes and given him the diamond.  What a precious gift!
      After the thrill of the engagement, we got to explore the rest of the cabin.  Dinner was set for us in the living room, on a candlelit table for two in front of a roaring fire.  Our dear friend, Becci, had prepared it for us, with an amazing cheesecake dessert with raspberry sauce (I should get that recipe!).  We called our families and friends to tell them the news.  We talked about dates, because we had held off on any wedding planning at all until after we were engaged.  We laughed about the surprises the evening had held, and we reveled in the joy of what lay ahead of us.  And after all that, we watched the Red Sox win the World Series.  Not because we are die-hard baseball fans, but because we had watched the whole series, and I genuinely wanted to see who would win.  We had been cheering for the Red Sox, so it was a satisfying conclusion to our evening.  His roommate had brought John's car around to the house, so we were able to drive home without going via lake.
      Getting to the point of engagement was a long road for us.  Not that it took so long, but it contained some unusual hurdles and hiccups, because of the time of life that it was.  Sometimes I wonder what I would have thought if at that moment we had had a glimpse into our future.  If we could have seen what our marriage would bring us, the good and the hard.  I am so thankful to have said yes to John and ultimately to God on that night.  I am so thankful that God writes stories better than the ones we would write for ourselves.  He did for us, and I trust that he will continue to do that.  And, while being married does not make our lives easier, it does make them enormously better.  I would say yes all over again.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fall Sugar Cookies

      I love making sugar cookies.  Actually, I like making any food that can be made really cute, and these have such endless potential.  Yesterday, I took dinner to a friend, and I used that as an excuse to make up some fall sugar cookies, since that combines two of my favorite things.  Sugar cookies and fall.  Perfect.


I realized the full potential of sugar cookies for greatness several years ago.  John and I were about to head to Africa for a month, and a woman from our community group wanted to do a cookie sale to raise funds for our trip.  This act of kindness and sacrifice still stands out in my memory as a beautiful picture of someone using their gifts to serve the Lord and those around them.  She organized the women in our group to bake cookies, and she then decorated them into adorable animals.  The fundraiser was wildly successful, and I got to see the body of Christ at work.  And, I got to see how to make really cute sugar cookies.  Here's a peek at some of hers.



      Sorry - I don't know how to get those pictures to be any bigger.  Anyway - I learned how much fun sugar cookies can be.  I use this recipe from All Recipes - it was the most similar that I found to the one that she had used.  I do add an extra cup of flour to keep the dough from being too soft.  Also, a trick that I learned is to roll out dough using powdered sugar instead of flour.
      I, of course, had helpers with this little project yesterday.  Lily was so excited to work on her own cookies.


I used buttercream frosting made from this Wilton recipe and dyed it brown.  I didn't have any of the brown food gel, so I used red and green food coloring to get it brown.  Once I still didn't like the color, I added cocoa.  I actually liked the way it tasted and the color got a little richer.  I cut this recipe in half, and I still had way more buttercream than I needed for this batch of cookies, especially since I was just using it as an outline and accent.  I outlined the leaves in the brown buttercream.


Then, I made up some of this frosting from All Recipes, which is more like a glaze, and it dries hard and shiny so they are stackable.  I dyed it orange and used it to fill in the cookies.  It spreads beautifully, and it is easy to adjust how thick it is based on how much milk or corn syrup you add to it.  I spread it around with a spoon after getting it piped on.


This is how Lily's cookies turned out.  She is learning!


Then, I used the brown buttercream to make leaf lines to complete it.  I have the Wilton decorating tips, but you could easily use a ziplock baggie with a little hole cut out of the corner for these.


There you have it!  There are a million tutorials about sugar cookies out there - I just thought I would show how I make mine and which recipes I use.  I have an entire Cute Cookie board on Pinterest where I keep fun ideas that I see.  People are so creative!

My assistant and her assistant would like to wish you "Merry Fall" and happy cookie making!