December 23, 2014

Ugly Sweater Cookies

Another day, another party.
Anna and Ellie baked these sugar cookies and we decorated them together while watching Netflix.
I really love these girls.
Anna is calming and sweet, Ellie is creative, dating, and exciting.  I'm their mother but they are my friends.

We've been sewing cute blankets and projects.
This is the only picture I got of the blankets/pillow cases Anna made...
I wrapped my first gift yesterday, only 900 more.

Life is good.
Be jolly!!

December 22, 2014


These taste as good as they look.

Tis the season.
(Ninja bread fail.)

Ok-- honestly, we nailed it.
I thought they were pretty awful, but these ninja's kicked into gear.

Todd woke up early to make me dough, because he's amazing like that.
(And because the dough that came in the kit was awful.)
When he happily announced that he used blackstrap molasses and real ginger I was worried they wouldn't exactly taste good to a class of second graders.

My ninjas look nothing like the kit we were copying.
But, they were darling.  Leah was so excited and so was her class.
Everyone loved them.
I love being a mom.
I love being up at the school.
I am head over heels in love with my gingerbread making man.

Life is good!!

December 19, 2014

The Week Before Christmas.

Oh what a wonderful time of year!
I told you already that I was a bit grinchy this year and my children have been praying for me.
I can feel my little Grinch heart has grown two sizes this week.
I just want to record a few of the ways I have felt the Christmas Spirit crowd out the feeling of materialism that crept into my life.

Notes to Self for next year::

--Invite people over!!
Remember the idea to have "12 guests of Christmas".  It doesn't have to be grand, your house doesn't have to be a museum piece.  Just invite people into your home and feel how much you love them.  

This year we had Anna's (and Drew's) two friends and their families over before the Choir/Band concert.  We also have enjoyed Ben's physical and speech therapist, two representatives from the Red Cross, and we've got some more visiting in the works.  Simple not fancy-- but fun.

--Go to the parties!!
Don't even worry about what you are wearing, go to the parties.  GO to the concerts.  GO caroling.  Go to the Messiah Sing Alongs.  Pretend you are going to love it and then you WILL.  The busyness of the holiday season makes life busy, but also festive.  You will feel the special spirit of the holidays as you join with community to praise God, celebrate the birth of His Son, and fellowship one another.

--Keep Christ Simple!
Just try to sing ONE Christmas song every night, maybe at dinner.  Talk about one name of Christ as you eat.  Maybe read one scripture.  If your plan is too hard you won't do it.  Just one thing.  Don't feel guilty for not doing picture perfect completely extravegent Christmas devotionals.  This isn't how Christ taught either.

--Buy big meat.
After Thanksgiving, I bought two hams and two turkeys.  I didn't get expensive, free-range meat this year, just spiral hams and medium-sized turkeys from Aldi for about $15 each.  The day we eat our big meat, we have had company come.  Here is a link to the $40 Turkey Roaster that I love.

Meal-- Spiral ham, cranberry sauce, cooked carrots, green beans, applesauce, butternut squash or sweet potatoes, rolls.

One spiral ham cooked in a turkey roaster all day is EASY and delicious.  I paired this with homemade cranberry sauce (1 bag of raw cranberries, one cup or less of sugar cooked on the stove until the cranberries pop), maple syrup/dill cooked carrots (just peel and cut whole carrots and cook them in a little bit of water, when they are soft drain the water and squirt in maple syrup and dill seasoning).  I also cook whole green beans, frozen are the cheapest (put the frozen beans in a small amount of water in a big wok type frying pan, cook until thawed and barely soft, dump them into a bowl, in the big pan, melt a fourth to a half a stick of butter and fresh garlic, you can add craisins or almonds and then dump the green beans back in for a minute to season them. Mmm.)  

I always serve ham with a jar of homemade apple sauce, or I just peel and slice about 5 apples and cook them real fast on the stove to make fresh homemade applesauce, you can add a dab of cinnamon on top of the bowl as you serve it.   Another easy side dish is sweet potatoes or butternut squash.  Roasting vegetables is so delicious and easy.  I just peel them, cube them, splash them in oil (olive or canola), salt and pepper them, and throw them in a 9x13 pan in the oven for an hour at about 425".  If I'm cooking something else at a lower temperature, I just throw the veggies on the bottom and keep them in longer.  I like to add some seasoning, garlic salt, or nutmeg and cinnamon.  With ham, I keep most of my side dishes sweet, so this week I added a splash of cinnamon and a tiny sprinkle of dark brown sugar.  Easy and good.  Rolls or homemade bread are just my extra fancy thing.  I usually only have time for this if I really plan ahead.  For drinks we have crystal light lemonade or water (to make it fancy I like to slice a lemon or orange in it and sometimes I throw in raw cranberries for prettiness), if we have Egg Nog my kids are on cloud 9!  Note-- save the juice from the ham that collects in the bottom of the roaster as it cooks.  (Just stick that juice in the fridge so the fat goes to the top.)

Ham- Day Two
Meal- leftover ham, couscous, vegetable OR  leftover ham, rice, and pineapple with veggie

The day after you cook a big ham, you can usually cut of enough actual meat to make a meal with chunks of ham in it.  This week we just warmed it up leftover ham in the microwave and took 5 minutes to cook couscous (or butter noodles) and broccoli.  Simple dinner for our night of Christmas Caroling.  I also like to cook rice and serve it with a sauce of ham and pineapple, sometimes I cut up colored green peppers in it, or I just steam a vegetable on the side.  For the pineapple sauce I just dump one or two cans of pineapple tidbits or crushed pineapple into a big wok frying pan.  In a separate tupperware I shake water mixed with 2 or 3 Tb of cornstarch, then I pour that mixture into the pineapple juice and cook it until it gets thicker.  I add the peppers at the last minute so they can stay a little bit crunchy.  You can google ham and pineapple to find a real recipe.

Ham-Day Three
Meal- Ham and Beans with biscuits or corn bread

I have been cooking with beans a lot this winter.  Beans are so easy, cheap, filling, and good for you.  Bean soup is a perfect warm, winter dinner.  And, so easy for company because you can cook it ahead of time.

In the morning just put the whole ham bone into a big roaster or crock pot.  I take the juice that I saved from cooking my ham, skim off the white fat, and dump the glop (it is thick like gel) of ham stock into my pot.  One bag of beans usually needs 8 cups of water.  For my family, I usually add two bags of beans, two quarts of broth, and 4 cups of water.  I open my spice cabinet and sprinkle whatever seasoning I think looks good.  Usually garlic salt and pepper, something green like basil, and if I'm in the mood a dash of something brown like turmeric or curry.  If I want a splash of spice, I add a dash of red pepper flakes.  I'm very precise in my cooking.  This week I used pinto beans because they were 75 cents a bag.  I LOVE using a bag of mixed, colorful beans.  White beans are so good with ham, black beans are my favorite, lentils are fun... I don't think it really matters what kind of beans you use.  Let your beans cook all day on low, stirring them occasionally.  I can't even tell you how easy this meal is. Right before you serve it, take the ham bone out and cut up the small pieces of meat that are stuck to it.  Add the meat back into the beans and throw the bone away.

Just cook a batch of cornbread or some drop biscuits and you have a whole, cozy meal that only cost you about $5 per day.  Three days of meals from one $15 ham.

I do the same thing with Turkey.
Day One- Mini thanksgiving company meal.
Day Two- Turkey Pot-pie (Use two 9x13 pans.  In a big wok frying pan, saute until clear cut up onion, carrots, celery, add the cubed potatoes, bag of mixed veggies, turkey.  Make a homemade white sauce right in this pan and cook your veggies for a little bit.  Then pour all this stuff into two 9x13 pans, and cover it with one store bought pie crust that you roll out and lay over each 9x13 pans, no bottom crusts.)
Day Three- Turkey noodle soup (make homemade noodles OR use yummy thicker bought noodles) or Turkey soup with dumplings (I love this recipe from Pioneer Woman.)

Big meat is an EASY, inexpensive way to feed a lot of people for a few days.

--Make treats for friends, neighbors, and pure festivity.
This year I made this easy recipe of chocolate covered peanut chunks.

Here is another recipe.
I just used one jar of salted peanuts, one jar of unsalted, one bag of chocolate chips, and two things of Almond Bark.  I put it in my crock pot, left it on low all day while I went shopping, and scooped it onto wax paper as the kids came home from school.  I LOVE THIS RECIPE!!
Crock-Pot Chocolate-Covered Peanut Clusters - SO easy and addictive! |
(Image from Brown-eyed girl.)
And pretzel, rolo, pecan turtles.  (The kids are my rolo unwrappers.)
(Image copied from internet.)

We are excited to decorate ugly sweaters and ninjabread men.

--Turn your scriptures on AUDIO.
I have LOVED listening to my scriptures as I travel or bustle around the house.
Yesterday I was listening to the beginning of the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

I was AGAIN amazed at how God works.
God is different from Santa Claus.
He blesses us with what we need to accomplish the work He has asked us to do, after giving us time to try and struggle and endure.
He does not ask us to write him a letter of wants promising that we will wake up one morning to get everything on our list.
He often uses poverty, hunger, and wanting to create a holy, humble people.
If you are on His good list, you may actually end up with less worldly goods than those on his naughty list, but you will get a place on his sleigh delivering cheer to others.
He doesn't want us to ask and then go to bed, He wants us to ask and then try... He blesses us to be able to make or find or earn or at least walk in the direction of our dreams as He is helping us accomplish all that He knows we can accomplish.
Heavenly Father is not really concerned about what we have, he uses physical things to help us become better people.
His gifts are less about what He can give US, and more about how He can help us to give to others.
I believe in God.  He fills my soul with joy, desire to serve others, and love.

--Donate Blood!
My time is up, but I just wanted to tell you one thing I'm really, really excited about.  I just met with some local Red Cross coordinators and we are planning a big blood drive for Ben's 2nd Birthday.  Over 200 people donated 200 pints of blood that saved my life almost two years ago and I really want to pay this gift forward.  Will you help me?!!!  The Red Cross has a harder time getting blood during December, January, and February  and then again in June, July and August.  These are busy months where people don't usually donate, and also months where they need the most blood because accidents are more common.  I'm overwhelmed with symbolism of giving of yourself to save another.  I'm humbled every time I think of the ways my own body is a mixture of so many good people.  I'm so excited to start planning Ben's Bloody Birthday.  200 for 2!!  I'll be telling you more about it as time gets closer.  But, I think I can just give you a code and you can donate anywhere in your local area, but your donation gets added up into our blood drive.  Isn't that cool?!!

At this time of year, people feed the hungry, buy coats and clothes and toys for those in need... and all that is good, so good.  But, nobody needs a coat if they don't have blood.  Donating blood is FREE, it just takes time.  Isn't that symbolic of the very best things we give?  You can save a life.  Do you know that in the US, we give 44,000 pints of blood everyday?  Blood has a shelf life of 42 days.  Blood platelets only have a 5 day shelf life.  The Red Cross is a great organization.  There are so many opportunities to serve.  One thing you can do with a little training, is volunteer to be a blood runner.  You would drive a Red Cross car, pick up blood from a donation site and drive it to the blood bank.  Doesn't that sound cool?  Do it!!  Call your local Red Cross today, and save the day-- June 6, 2015!!  All I'm asking for is a pint of your blood...  xoxoxo

--Don't sweat the small stuff!
Chocolate does NOT kill dogs.
If your dog happens to eat a plateful of pretzel, rolo, pecan turtles, he will not die.  Just get a tad bit sick.

If your dog has diarrhea on your carpet before company comes, and your attempts to clean it yield even greater mess.  Don't worry!!  You might find an inexpensive cleaner willing to come out quickly.  What a good excuse to clean carpets and create wonderland for your kids.
The good thing about a naughty dog is that your husband probably never really wanted a dog in the first place.  So, his frustration and your attempt to justify that it was not the dog's fault that the husband left an uncovered plate of work treats at dog level, will keep things humorous instead of contentious.

--Be Prepared for Not Being Prepared!

Buy extra "Secret Santa" gifts, treats, and school party snacks.  I bought a few round EOS lip glosses, a cute, cheap journal, some gummy bears and chocolate, and 5 liters of soda instead of one.  

I was thinking these would be for stocking stuffers, but despite my best effort to get a list of what every kid needed for school holiday celebrations, they still wake-up Friday morning (or wander in late Thursday night) with "Oh Yeah! I need to bring..."  

I'm loving my little stash.  "Volunteer to bring soda," I tell them.  

We printed out a sheet of cute "You're the BALM" ribbons that they attach to red lip balm with a bag of Haribo Gummy Bears and bam!!  Another happy child!

Tis the season!
Merry Christmas friends!!
Life is good.

December 18, 2014

Too Smart for Santa

(Jakob and Ellie got new glasses.)

I did my "last trip" to pick up stocking stuffers yesterday.
I'm soo excited for Christmas!  Which is a Christmas miracle in and of itself.

I do have to lament the fact that my children are smarter than Santa Claus.  I'm afraid Eve is ruined.  She has seen me purchase Christmas, or drag UPS boxes up into my bedroom.  And, SHE DOESNT FORGET!

She keeps telling her sisters, "We bought animals today." 
I try to hint that we didn't actually buy them, but she insists.
"Yes, we did Mom.  They were under your coat and the nice lady put them in the red bag.  Let's go look in the trunk together."

Oh my.  Christmas morning may be surprising for everybody except Eve.
She's too smart for Santa.

In other exciting news-- Ben (age 18 months) actually chews gum.  Don't judge me--- shopping with littles I pull out every distraction in my wallet,  Ben got one-third of his sister's piece.  I told him to chew it not eat it... And he did.  For 30 minutes.  Kids got skilz...

Todd took the big kids Christmas caroling last night.  They went to an assisted living apartment complex and they sounded professional, so good that people offered them money.  I love that my kids have experiences like this.  Traditions are fun.

It's a good life.

December 17, 2014

Patience of an Angel

We had band/choir concerts last night.  Anna invited her two closest friends to come get ready at our house and I invited their (small) families over for dinner before the concert.

So fun.  As I was attempting to finish cleaning up this morning, I was distracted looking for Christmas Cookie recipes... I was invited to a neighborhood cookie exchange tomorrow night.

The kids were quiet upstairs and I found them in my make-up drawer.
"Ben got into your make-up!" Eve announced.

I cajoled them into clothes while mentally compiling a shopping list-- Christmas sugar cookies for Ellie and Leah, secret Santa for Jakob and Anna, 16 small gift things for Lily's class, a white v-neck shirt and 8 inch tortillas for Jakob, Sierra Mist for Anna, nothing for Drew-- which means his teachers will tell us things to bring at the last minute.  Stamps for Christmas cards I still hope to mail.  Deodorant stocking stuffers, cute wrapping paper, something cute to hold our neighbor gifts.

I wrestled Ben and raced Eve into coats, brushed hair, boots (oops, forgot teeth).  Stuffed my purse with clementine oranges and fruit snacks (forgot a diaper and wipes).

I noticed a car seat in the garage as we headed to the car.  Ben played in the snow while I carried his car seat to buckle it into the van.  I put Eve in her car seat and told her to buckle up while I headed to get Ben, who was now headed down the driveway towards the street.

My neighbor hired a landscaper to fix some big tire tracks a delivery truck made in our front yard.  The landscaper moved to block Ben from the road.  I was chasing Ben while Eve got out of the van and ran towards me, slipping in the ice.  She hit her mouth (not her chin thank goodness!!) and was bleeding.  Ahhhh!!!  I turned from Ben, scooped Eve up and put her back into the van.  Ran to grab Ben and smiled at the kind landscaper, thanking him profusely.

I was about to melt into a puddle of tears and was mentally leaving a not-too-kind message on my husband's phone blaming him for not putting Ben's car seat back into the van.  I had sternly told Eve "You need to listen.  You are going to have to get stitches AGAIN."  I was not feeling particularly angelic when, the landscaper said, "Ma'am, you have the patience of an angel."

My eyes are still filled with tears as I type this.  My kids are buckled into their seats.  My To Do list is prolific, and Christmas music is filling the car.

"I try!" I told the landscaper, my bustling toddlers, myself, and my God.

Patience of an angel is what God is creating in me as I learn to mother many. It is a skill that is hard to measure but rivals the self discipline required to win an Olympic gold.

Today, I'm thankful for a kind landscaper.
Oh Father-- please bless me with the patience of an angel as I try to raise your favorites.

Life is good.
Tis the season to Be Merry!!

December 16, 2014

Stitches before Christmas

Eight kids and my first ever trip to the ER for stitches.
(Should have gone to urgent care and saved the $150 ER copay.)

Our night was calm, our home was happy.  Christmas tree lights twinkled, magical icicles around our windows gleamed, and dinner talk centered on Secret Santa and teacher gift ideas.  When Eve came downstairs with her pink fuzzy sheet, I showed her how to sit down and her cute siblings took turns pulling her around the kitchen, living room, entry way circle. 

Darn that one step from the living room to the kitchen.  They gently pulled her over it a few times but finally, one smack, Eve crying, and confused laughter that turned into alarm when someone spotted "Blood!"  One glance and I knew.  There would be no early bedtimes at my house that night.

I called Todd who tried to tell me to apply pressure and maybe it wasn't that bad.  I had scared and screaming children in the background and I said-- "I have mothered for 16 years and have never taken my kids to the ER for stitches.  I know when we need to go.  Meet me there.  Can't talk now."

As I tried to stop the bleeding, I called friends who would need to pick my other kids up from lessons for me.  I assigned my big kids dishes, Ben, little kid bedtimes.  No Screens.  Say a prayer.  Everything is going to be OK.
Eve calmed down in the car and we talked over what you can do if you're scared.  I explained that doctors and nurses are nice people.  They are mommies and daddies who go to school to learn how to help people heal. The most important thing, I told her, is to stay still.  If your scared you can cry, or squeeze mom's hand, or count to ten, or sing, or watch TV... But, don't shake your head, lay still.

We talked about being brave.  Being brave doesn't mean you don't feel scared.  It means you try to be still even if you're afraid.

Big concepts for a three year old.  But, she was the bravest little three year old I've ever seen.
The kids at home called often for updates.

They put some gel on a gauze and let it sit to knumb her chin.

The nurses were wonderful.
The first doctor who came was a large, duck dynasty man.  He was huge, gruff, and a bit intimidating.  He asked Eve what happened and how she got so much blood all over her?  Grrr.  We had just gotten her calm and he was scaring her again pointing out the blood.  When she was quiet, he assumed she was scared and said "Are you afraid you're going to get in trouble?  Are you in trouble for what you did?"  Seriously?!!

I stepped in and stopped that interaction, protectively.  I immediately knew that he was not the doctor who was going to stitch her up.  Nope.

In my nice but firm voice I expressed concern for the scar on her face and asked for a plastic surgeon to stitch her up.  There was no plastic surgeon on call, but they did have an ENT who was used to delicate sewing.  Sounded good to me.  

When the doctor left, Todd explained that her chin wouldn't even show the scar.  I told him, I really was not worried about the scar, I was more concerned with the doctor.  He smiled, because he knew I was right.

The ENT was the cutest young doctor.  He was gentle, kind and smiley.  He wanted to try and stitch her without general anesthesia or Versad up her nose.  "Sometimes they do better when they aren't loopy," he explained.  "Let's get an iPad and try to distract her."  Yes, he was the man.

Stitches were gross and hard for me to watch.  I'm more squeamish than I should be.
Oh, that sweet little face.  My brave girl.
One red Popsicle and all was well.

There was a child specialist there who was wonderful.  Before I left, I asked her to talk with the first resident who worked with us.  Maybe she could explain to him that pointing out bloody shirts or insinuating that a 3 year old would get in trouble because she was hurt might not be the best way to approach the situation.  

We were home before 11pm, which I thought was another miracle.

Eve is fine.
Todd hugged me and told me how much he enjoys our hospital dates.  
Oh my life.
My house is on Screen Lock Down till Christmas because there was some confusion about what "No Screens, Go To Bed" meant.  
I'm actually looking forward to it. 

Life is good!!! Soo good.
Even with stitches.
Be safe.  Merry Christmas!!
I'm so grateful for healthcare in America and Pinkie Poo Bunny.
(Picture credits go to Todd-- I was a bit too focused to document.  Anna did ask us to take a lot of pictures because she really wanted to come watch and couldn't.  She'll be a great nurse someday.)

December 15, 2014

Away in a Manger

This picture is pretty symbolic of my December this year.

Who doesn't love baby Jesus swaddled in a trash bag with sharpie on his head (we're having a sharpie epidemic at our house)?

I brought real hay to nursery (a big, fun mess).  Each kid had a chance to "sleep on the hay".  We used Little People to act out "No room in the Inn," my heart smiled as the little ones happily announced, "Mary can come to MY house" or "We have a crib!  Jesus can have a crib at my house!"  Sweet children.

Again, I reflected on the fact that I would 100% prefer to have a baby in a stable than a busy Inn.  (I mean, I would prefer that IF I didn't need 200 units of blood transfused during my deliveries.)
I do love this time of year.

Our cows are fuzzy and sweet.  The sound of cattle lowing is one of my favorites.  Cows only moo when they are waiting to be fed or something is wrong.  They call Drew to them on cold winter nights when he waits a little too long to go finish his evening chores.  It's adorable.  I wonder if there really were oxen or cows nearby as Jesus was born?  I wonder if they felt the anticipation and welcomed the sweet baby with their gentle moo?  

I have asked my children to pray for me this year.  I'm tired.  They are praying (so sincerely) that I will get the Christmas Spirit.  I was hoping that the Christmas Spirit would zap me into the high-performing, super fun and creative mother I used to be.  Instead, my eyes are misty as I feel the reality of the story.

Yes!  My soul cries out!  Yes, the hustle and bustle of the holidays would leave no room for the King of Kings.  The shepherds would notice while the Inn Keepers  would be too busy.  

I want to be a Shepherd.
I want my home to feel like a humble stable, not a bustling Inn.
The Christmas Spirit is not propelling me forward, it is grounding me.
I know He lives.
I know Him.
I know that He isn't money and extravagance, greed, wealth, or busyness.
He is love.
His home welcomed visitors but was never a palace.
Today-- I'm feeling it.
There is magic in teaching this story to children again, for the first time.

I don't believe this is a fable.
I don't believe Jesus was just a good man, a wise teacher, or even a prophet.

I believe He is who He said He was.
I believe He is the son of God.
He lived, He taught, He died, and He rose again.
I believe our lives have purpose and direction.
Life isn't about collecting things, life is about giving and becoming.

We sang together around our hodge podge Christmas tree the other night.  Jakob, Todd, and Ellie sing beautiful harmony.  Drew and Anna can play the Christmas songs on the piano if they work together. Leah and Lily read well this year, so their sweet singing voices touch my soul.  Baskets of folded laundry and ornaments thrown around the room (Ben happily plucks and throws all the "balls" of the tree) surround me with realness.  

Yes, these moments are holy- Stable holy, not Temple holy.
And, I feel it.
That Christmas spirit is coming.
Ellie- star, Leah- donkey, Lily- angel.

Life is good.
Merry Christmas friends!

December 07, 2014

What Really Matters

(A little Christmasing with Santa)

I was cooking and my girls were gathered near.  Ellie, my 6th grader, was having a tough day.  She said it was really hard listening to girls at school talk about their shopping trips to buy new dresses for the upcoming Christmas program.  She wasn't asking for anything, just sighing at how hard it was being so different.  

I asked her if she felt like she needed a new dress.  She said she didn't know, but it was just hard hearing about their new dresses.  She felt embarrassed saying that she was just wearing something she already had.

Her 7th grade sister piped in saying she knew exactly what Ellie was talking about.  "You don't have to just sit there quietly," Anna said.  "Want to know what I do?  Instead of feeling jealous, I'm excited for them.  I ask my friends to tell me all about their new dress. Then, I describe what I'm going to wear.  Everyone is nice.  They don't have to know I'm wearing something I already have."

My mother heart broke and swelled at the same time.  I know I might sound petty here, but it hurts me when my kids want. Sometimes I see so clearly the wants and needs that I am unable to fill.  More than physically buying her a new dress, I wanted her to feel as loved and cared for as she might feel if she were my only little girl.  

I think every mother wishes she had more to give.  

I wanted to wisk these sweet girls away for an evening of pampering with new clothes, new shoes, hair and a special dinner out.  I ache when they ache, my heart rips when I feel their want.  

It is so ironic to me that in the moment I am aching for the sacrifices my children have had to make, I am also really seeing the depth of character that these sacrifices develop.  I'm amazed at the maturity and goodness I see in my kids.  

As I've come to know God, I've come to see and accept His plan.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst.  Blessed are those who mourn.  

I believe wanting and struggling refines our souls.  We talk so often about the gifts and blessings God gives us-- but as a wise man once sang, "Some of Gods greatest gifts are unanswered prayers."

I can always buy my girls a new dress, but you can't buy maturity, humility, courage, or contentment.

My Savior descended below all things so that He could overcome all things.  He knows the value in struggle.

His promises are great!  Consider the lilies of the field.  They toil not, neither do they spin, but behold I say unto you that King Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

My shadow by day and my pillar by night.   My Lord, my Deliverer, my All.

Lose yourself and you shall find yourself.

As I walk humbly each day trying to be a disciple of Christ, I am learning who He is and how He works.

Christ isn't just someone who calms the storm or heals the blind.  Christ is someone who is comfortable in the storm.  He does not doubt.  He uses adversity to teach us what we are capable of.

As I've prayed about what to GIVE my children for Christmas this year, I have felt Heaven help me shop.  I get many small miracles, like sales and coupon codes that let me order the cutest, matching Christmas pajamas for only $5.63 each.  What a sweet blessing.  I've had friends sell me used ski equipment for next to nothing.  One friend texted me Thanksgiving morning when she just happened to find the toy I wanted for Ben on a super sale.  

But as I've thought about what to GIVE my kids, the Spirit has whispered to me to focus on what I DO with my kids.

Isn't it funny that our efforts to give more almost make it impossible to DO more?  Another one of those odd paradoxes of life.

Christ's gifts are hardly ever traditional, typical, or expected.  It's so interesting.  Christ does not expect excessive planning and perfect time management.  He says to the weary, hungry fisherman, cast your nets down again.  And the fish swam in overflowing.  He found his taxes in a fish's mouth.  He asks us to give Him our five loaves and two fishes and He feeds the multitude FULL with baskets extra.

Come, follow me.  Whosoever drinks of the water I shall give him shall never thirst.

Sometimes as I'm walking with Him, I forget who HE is.  I toil.  I am careful and troubled.  I fear.  I sink.  I feel condemned for not planning ahead and bringing a sack lunch and I miss His bread.

Sometimes, I walk on water.  Sometimes I trust Him and feel peace amidst the waves.  His yoke is easy.  I need His rest.  

I didn't buy my girls new dresses for their Christmas concerts.  I did spend some extra time with them planning their outfit and hair.  I have some sleeves to modify on one dress to make it fit a little better.  I will probably buy some new tights for them before the big night.  I'll carve time into my crazy night before the show to curl hair and put on just a hint of makeup.  My girls will feel loved and beautiful.

Kids don't need to equate money with love.  Time is love and time is priceless.

His ways are not our ways.
Especially at Christmas.
Today I'm learning of Him more and my soul cries "How great Thou art, how great Thou art."

December 03, 2014

Post Traumatic Holiday Disorder-- PTHD

I have a mild case of Post Traumatic Holiday Disorder (PTHD), second cousin to the more commonly known Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

My house-full of company left yesterday.
This morning I dragged myself from bed.

My kind mother straightened up the day she left AND she just about finished my literal mountain of laundry.
(I didn't do laundry the week of Thanksgiving and oh my!!)

I have a table clutter with games to put away, and old Thanksgiving decor mixed with new Christmas decor that I'm just setting up.  Bleh.

My toddlers have, for the day, lost their cuteness.  We're at the "how the heck is this child going to survive to the age of two phase".  Climbing, drawing, splashing in every toilet and dog bowl...  

PTHD makes these normal and otherwise endearing behaviors somewhat mind altering and frustrating!!  Sigh.  

PTHD is triggered by sharpie markers and nail polish bottles found within reach of toddlers.  Only those trying to raise teens and toddlers in the same environment can understand the intensity of emotional responses to such objects.

My brain is swirling with fun holiday memories, good times, wishing we lived closer to family, joy that everyone is growing up, and a secret desire to just be a kid again and really spend one holiday vacationing.  I am excited for Christmas and overwhelmed by Christmas.

I have a list two miles long of things I have already done and things I should have done by now.  

Oh Internet-- someday feminists will unite to save women from the tyranny of our own desires for improvement.  On PTHD days I take a big drink of "come down with the rest of us sister!!"  I laugh at my ghetto transitional Thanksmas decor, bask in my humanity, surrender to my imperfections, and tell myself that the women behind the smiley Instagram pictures are either saintly, faking it, or they are just as PTHD as me some days.  

I have become skilled at feeding large groups.  I really love to entertain.  A week of 14 for breakfast, lunch, and dinner is a lot.  It's fun for me to plan and budget and create.  But, boy howdy, even with a lot of help, it is work.  Shopping, preparing and cleaning up... Well, that's my life.  

Add in sightseeing day trips, intense conversation, an intelligent active toddler who prefers drawers to toys, and eight excited children who don't want to miss a moment of visiting night or day, and you've got the perfect storm for a PTHD relapse.

The day after company leaves I am always down and always exhausted.  I used to think my mood swing was because I felt overwhelmed with the clean-up.  But, I don't think so.  I clean my house weekly with or without company.  I think the real reason is-- I feel lonely and tired.  I get angry that my life does not allow me to rest-- I must go on.  I miss the excitement and anticipation of the holidays and I dread their return.  I love celebrations and family.  I need schedule, routine, and order.  I am always sad and relieved when real life returns.

I think PTHD is caused by a sudden drop of adrenaline.

I have wondered if the only real cure would be living near family such that holidays were just a glorified every Sunday experience.  In this instance PTHD might lessen, but I also think the actual joy of the holiday would lessen as well.

I'm choosing to embrace my PTHD.

Truthfully, caring for others day in and day out is just plain exhausting.  Especially the day after company leaves.  And, I'm just a normal woman with good and bad days and predictable holiday hangovers. 

The best antidote for PTHD is rest, evaluation, blogging about the holidays so you have a record, and a good chat with an old friend to swap stories and realize PTHD is more common and normal than you think it is.  

I try to focus on the positive and not replay the things I wish I had done differently. I try to bask in all that I finished and give myself a day or two before I start compiling my next long list of things to do.

To those of you who might also suffer from Post Traumatic Holiday Disorder, I recommend one relaxing night.

Eat a simple dinner (we're having broccoli and mac n cheese on leftover Thanksgiving paper plates), you're probably out of groceries anyway.  Joyfully return to early bedtimes for the kids.  Perhaps sneak a bootlegged episode of Downton Abbey, make time to talk and reconnect with your spouse, and maybe take a long bath with lavender and epson salts.  

I actually forced myself to go to Storytime at the library this morning so that my littlest got some fun interaction and I had people to talk to.  I did not however, shower or change out of my yoga pants.  PTHD symptoms get worse for me if I allow myself to isolate.

Today I feel tired, but I'm not afraid of my emotions.  PTHD reminds me to take care of me.  

Holidays are full.
We do a lot.
We care a lot.
We plan, we serve, we work hard.
Our job is constant.  
Our job is fun and good and there are many, many great days.

I'm ok with a few PTHD days.
I'm excited for Christmas!!
Life, with it's ups and downs, is absolutely normal and oh so good!!
Thank God I'm healthy enough to be tired.

And, as I typed this, another pilgrim lady lost her head.
Heaven help Mrs Claus.
PS-- I wanted to say something funny about chocolate being a good antidote for PTHD, and I do think chocolate helps, but truly what I really want when I'm down is a big gulp of healthy.  For me, it is a glass of vitamins, a plate of kale, a green smoothie, fresh apples and natural peanut butter.  I'm hungry, tired, and excited to "sharpen my saw."  Christmas is coming...

My phone therapy friend said she is exercising and it's amazing!!  Oh- I know I need to return to the land of exercise.  Soon.  

Thanks for reading this silly blog!!
Onward friends!!  
Life is grand!!

Thanksgiving 2014

Thanksgiving 2014 was so full of healing and progress.

Two years ago, I tried to prepare Thanksgiving while I was bleeding and miscarrying.  It was the very beginning of a long battle to health.
Last year, we celebrated, but I was still very sick and healing.

This year, I felt myself returning to normal!!  I felt joy in celebrating not just joy in enduring.  It was quite ridiculous that in the midst of my celebration of health and independence (Todd was out of the country most of November) I found myself on a dumb cot in the Syracuse ER.  Again, so Thankful for responsible kids, soo many good friends and family members, and fast airplanes that quickly returned my husband to my side prior to any operation.  My neighbors and my sweet sister in law (who drove up from CT to be with me for the weekend) saved my life- again.  How I love them.

We still have only guessed as to what caused 5 hours of sharp pain... Either ovaries, internal bleeding, kidney stones, or diverticulitis (intestines).  I thought it was food poisoning.  I'm currently "tracking my menstral cycle" which is a humorous thing to ask someone who has had a hysterectomy.  Moodiness is my only symptom and I'm afraid I might be moody from now until Christmas, or at least until they tell me there is nothing wrong.  Ha!! 

Anyway-- I felt healed and able to conduct this Thanksgiving.

I loved having my mom in town for a week!
We haven't seen my younger siblings for over four years!!  It was so, so, so good to see them again.  They had never met Eve or Ben, they had never heard Lily talk!  I'm certain they got a bit overwhelmed with little kids-- but there was healing in togetherness.
Todd invited over one of his international students.  How fun it was to share new foods and tradition with this good man.  After dinner, I sat talking with him while my children, brothers, and husband cleaned up.  He said, his favorite part of the evening was seeing how we all worked together.  He explained how in his country only the women serve.  His own father helped out, but that was rare.  

I loved that he could be in our home to see my good, hardworking husband.  I love that he could join us for family prayer and as we recited the Burn's Grace together.

My mother is one of my greatest heros.  What I do very best I learned from her.  She is a magical teacher of young children, she is one who pushes forward with faith, and she is a truth seeker.  Despite enduring a nasty, heart wrenching divorce, and being diagnosed with MS, she has endured with grace and class.  My mom loves much and never gives up.  It was so good to see her again and to feel like we were almost (one sister and her family didn't come and was sorely missed) all together again.

I really enjoyed time with my brother Matt.  For years he was a smart, strong atheist. He had some beautiful and holy experiences that ignited years of intense study and has produced a conversion to mono-theism and Christianity that is inspiring and humbling.  I have always adored this little brother of mine.  I love how his mind works.  I love his goodness.  I am a better person because of our deep spiritual discussions.  It was so fun spending the holidays with him.

My brother Aaron felt so European.  They are all just returning from four years in Germany, but Aaron has the most European style. He's such a sweet uncle to my kids, and has a gentle spirit.  It is fun seeing my baby brother (born the week I left for college) all grown up.  He doesn't travel without his guitar and plays the piano whenever there is a free moment.  He flips in the driveway, and unbuttons his shirt low enough that his cute nieces are always reminding him that he missed a button.  How I love this cute boy.

My baby sister Amy is just one year older than my oldest.  She has always been my beautiful, happy, sweet littlest sister.  We are a lot alike and it was fun showing her that she does look like her family.  (She insisted she didn't look anything like her siblings.)  We had fun talking and shopping together on Black Friday.  And, my girls STILL adore their cool, young, beautiful aunt.  Our family is better because we have Amy.

I love being together with family.
I love good, harvest food.
I love friends.
Our cute friends offered to fry one of our turkeys this year.  They dropped it off just as we were sitting down to eat.  Sooo nice and soo delicious.

I'm so grateful to be alive and healthy enough to serve.
I am so grateful for the kids in my home.
Leah and Lily are so into Settlers of Catan-- it was fun having them join us in adult games.

Jakob is so independent- I can give him any recipe and he makes it beautifully.

Drew is the most thoughtful and helpful kid-- constantly asking what he can do to help.  It is SO helpful!

Anna is magical with her younger siblings.  She teaches them, feeds them, dresses them, comforts them, etc..  It's beautiful to watch.

Ellie creates masterpieces.  This year it was banana cream pie-- she just got an idea and created it with great skill.

Leah is busy doing good.  She's so smart and fun to be around.  I loved how mature she was as we played game and what good sportsmanship she showed.

Lily is determined.  She gave a beautiful, confident talk at church, she reads well and frequently, and she buys development cards like they are gold!!

Eve is happy and adorable.  Playing dolls all day, singing, and dressing up.

Ben is an adorable bundle of trouble.
He is the cutest little feisty boy.  He's going to be absolutely ridiculous with a Christmas tree.

Oh-- life is good.
I am full and grateful!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

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