Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gingerbread houses.

Chip made the gingerbread dough from the recipe in the book shown here. I saw that it was available for purchase at for about $5.99 a couple of days ago. There are templates for the houses we made and some for trees too- which we've made in previous years. My own opinion is that this recipe is easy and tasty- as compared to the Martha Stewart one we made a couple of years ago. Her recipe has some black pepper in it and none of my kids really liked that savory flavor burst.
All that to say I will try to post the recipe for the houses and frosting here. But only if I can squeeze that into my free time. =) Otherwise I recommend that you google gingerbread houses and just take a chance on making one that sounds good/easy to you!
This whole gingerbread-baking tradition is one that was passed down to us from Chip's side of the family. Over the years, his mom, Grandma Karen, has always made elaborate houses. She instilled the love of baking the dough from scratch into both Chip and me, and is to credit for the tradition we now are carrying on with our kids.
Teagan got in on decorating a big house with Grandma the year I was pregnant with Wyndham and we were just moving/settling into our home in Gaylord, MI. She helped make our home smell and 'feel' like Christmas that year, when likely I would have just done the minimum if it had been up to me.
The next Christmas was the first Christmas season without Teagan, and we were able to be 'home' in Minnesota with family for a bit just before Christmas. (We actually spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at the American Club in Kohler Wisconsin and tried to relax and enjoy the day despite our pain and loss that year. I could write a lengthy post on how we came to do that, but I'll skip it for now and finish writing about gingerbread houses.) So, we were back in Minnesota and thankfully, Grandma Karen still had the ability to bake and decorate gingerbread houses. In fact, I think that was the year she spent about 3 days baking all the pieces- she outdid herself with the big houses and massives amounts of candy! Brock was able to get in on the decorating and I think that was the longest he actually sat at a table for us in months. Leave it to Grandma and candy to help him through some of his post-traumatic stress issues. =)
Ever since then, it just feels 'right' to make houses together. Whether at home in Minnesota or at home here in Michigan. Our family has found that baking and making them on Thanksgiving Day/weekend is a fun activity to do together and it sort of kicks off the Christmas season in our home.
The kids had a really great time with the decorating this year. They were all at such capable ages to do their own designing and they even listened to our instructions about how much of the candy they could eat. I think we could almost call that a Christmas miracle!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A mellow holiday...

For our family, a mellow, uneventful holiday is one of the best things we can hope for. This year it meant that there was some scrapping going on (using the Homebody mini camper book here), Chip cooking and baking in the kitchen- (which is one of the things he loves to do!), as well as smiles and even laughter- for the first time- from baby Crew. His whole face grins when he smiles. All the other kids think it's the cutest thing ever. I have a feeling he may turn into a little comedian. He seems to love an audience and there's never a shortage of people to entertain around here. Hope you're having a great Thanksgiving weekend. As you may have noticed, my blog is getting into the Christmas spirit this year. Stay tuned for gingerbread house pictures- coming soon!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving.

Our gingerbread village will come together with frosting tomorrow. We are home as a family enjoying good food, trying to maintain a managable noise level that the kids feel is acceptable too, and basically we are just feeling grateful.
For so many things.
From our home to yours, may you see blessing in everyday as well.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Head's up!

My sister called me from Las Vegas today (hi, Jacque and was fun to talk with you!) to tell me about Oprah's Holiday mix available for download- but only for a short time. {Click here for O's holiday mix.}I just finished saving all the tunes to my laptop and am now burning a cd. I thought I'd pass on the link to anyone who wants it and gets it in time. I LOVE Christmas music...and I love free finds too. The rest of Oprah's holiday favorites are supposed to focus on how to have a thrifty holiday. I'm hoping to get a few ideas and looking forward to a more laid-back holiday this year. Enjoy the free sounds of the season!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Brock got a haircut and other misc. stuff I'm thankful for

My kids have Thanksgiving break from school the rest of this week. I am hoping that I see lots of what you see pictured here...hugs, smiles, twirling and playing together. Maybe a bit of scrapping- with that vintage record cover and cute Happy Campers paper, and then some Christmas decorating as well. I am hoping to have enough energy to keep up with all 5 of them. Or at least a chance to nap when Crew naps, if I can get so lucky. =) Crew is either wide awake and happy and cooing, or fussing really loudly. And when he's not doing that he sleeps. Really well. Especially in the bouncy seat that has the calming vibration switch.

If I had to choose just 10 things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, that little bouncy seat with an on/off switch would be among them. =) Sometimes the little things can bring us the most gratitude. I am glad that I have so much to be thankful for, even with our nation's struggling economy and the uncertainties that are so prevelant in this world. I have more than I need; more than I deserve, and I overlook things far too often. However, I am grateful. Not just today, but as I look back in my life I see how much I have been given. I'm glad that we have a holiday and time to spend thinking about our blessings. I hope you have a lot to be thankful for in your own life. I wish for you a Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I love retro stuff.

That sock monkey next to Crew is from another scrap friend of mine. I am so lucky to have taken up scrapping and more than the fun products, I am thankful for the friendships that have come my way as a result. There are so many amazing, fun, supportive and just down-right talented people in this community. Two years ago I was just starting to grow my list of friends in this I have too many "scrapfriends" to count. And I considered myself blessed to be among them. Scrapping has truly enhanced my life the past two years...more than I ever imagined it could.
I scrapped an emotional page for the latest SIS Challenge can see my page here, and participate in the challenge here. There is a prize offered for one challenge participant and sometimes it's nice just to push yourself to see where the challenge takes you. If you're a scrapper, I hope you check it out- for fun or therapy. =)
Now, on to the retro goodness. I consider myself very lucky to be on the SIS Fashionista design team and find myself loving every single Collection of scrap goodies that comes to my home each month. Yesterday I got a package containing the next Collection called "The Homebody" which will go on sale this Monday. It is so fun! There are little fabric swatches and orange, green and yellow papers and a couple of items you won't believe too. I'm not telling you everything about it, but have to say this stuff made me happy. Even Chip thought part of it was cool! And he's a 'tough-sell' when it comes scrap stuff. You can see the inside of that little mini-book here. I think I may fill it with pictures of Crew. He's growing and changing so fast- can you see it in his pictures here?! Even so, he's sleeping {very soundly at the moment} against my chest and I love that he's still small enough and content enough to be swaddled and snuggle up so closely. He sleeps best when he's being held, and I am guilty of holding him far too often and too long. But that newborn scent he has is too much to resist and I have learned from all my other children that it doesn't last forever. So, I am happy to hold him too much and blog one-handed when needed and soak up his "baby-ness" as much as I can. Before I know it these moments will be the "retro, good-ol' days" of my life and I will want them back.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cover them.

These photos are of my friend, Becca and her family. {Thank you, Becky, for your amazing photography skills and for allowing me to post these beautiful pictures.} Becca is asking for those of us who believe in the power of prayer to join with her as she prays for her two children. They have been in her home for nearly a year and are being placed back with their biological mother next week. Becca and her husband and crushed to learn this news. That is why she is asking for our prayers.
I find the most difficult aspect of having faith is not in trusting that God CAN do things, but rather when we find ourselves having to trust His ways even when they don't make sense in our human hearts and minds. This is one of those times. It just doesn't seem that this situation will prove best for these adorable babes- and it causes great pain in the lives of Becca, her husband and all their family and friends. My heart goes out to them.
My faith teaches me that God works for the good of those who love Him. And that is where the testing of my faith often wains most. I cannot begin to understand how God allows 'bad stuff' to happen in our lives. And yet I know that He has all the power to change circumstances and take the suffering away. Still, there are many times He doesn't do this- and so we ultimately just have to sit back and accept the trials that come our way, trusting fully in God to weave these hardships into beautfiul chapters of our lives.
It takes everything in me to trust when situations come my way and the way of others. Will you please join me in covering Becca, her husband, Scott, and these two little children with prayer? I know her faith must feel weak and small at this time. I cannot imagine the agony and fear she has inside, and that's why I ask you help hold them up in prayers. There is strength and comfort that comes in knowing so many are sharing your burdens. I know that, full well. I know that God can do amazing things as a result of our prayers and that He hears the cries of our hearts. I don't know how this chapter will end for Becca and her family, but I know she will appreciate all your thoughts and prayers. Forever.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Directionally challenged.

If you want to know how bad I am with directions, just ask my husband, Chip, sometime. He can't believe how turned around or confused I can get when I am in a car headed somewhere new. Or even on a route I should know just because we've driven it several times. It's just a part of who I am and I have come to accept it. I used to fight it. I would spend a long time going the wrong direction or find myself frustrated and in tears before I would stop and read a map or ask for help.
I have learned now to have a phone handy in case I need to confirm or reroute myself; I often bring detailed Mapquest directions along and keep them right next to me as I drive to my destination. As good as I am in math and reading and other subjects, geography just isn't my thing and I now just live with the fact that I have no sense of direction. Someday I may get a GPS system. If I ever start traveling more than 11 miles in a week. =)
I'm telling you this for a couple of reasons. One being, now you all know I'm not perfect in another area of my life. I almost laughed at some of the previous comments where a few of you think of me as "holier than thou" or all put-together. It's so not true and yet that's the beauty of some of my life at the same time. It just goes to show you that God will use anyone- even the messed up, not-so-put-together ones...just like me!
Secondly, the idea of not knowing where you are or where you're going just resonates with me beyond being directionally challenged. I have often questioned God and the "direction" He has allowed my life to go. Remember how I had my life all mapped out as a college graduate?! I was going to have a great career, no kids, a nice house, at least 2 cars, maybe a boat {or at least friends who boated on Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota and they would invite me out on the weekends =)} and definitely "me time" for vacations and breaks from my routines.
Fast forward from 1994 to 2008 and I find my life doesn't really look like what I had pictured in my head all those years agos. From a hubby to 6 kids and no "career", and rarely a vacation, this is what my life is made up of.
Please don't get me wrong. I love Chip so much. I can't imagine life without my kids, and I DO have a nice home, two cars and friends with boats. =) I have more than enough. And I realize that everyday and feel very fortunate and grateful for it all.
The fact is that sometimes I just don't 'feel' like I'm on the right path. I look around my world and the scenery looks a little bit foreign and sometimes frightening or more 'rocky' than I'd like. I happened to hear a short message on the radio the other week as I was driving Wyndham to therapy. The speaker (and forgive me, I don't have a clue who it was) talked about how he printed out the directions from Mapquest to drive his daughter to a friend's house several miles away, and although he thought he knew the way as he got nearer the destination, it just didn't seem right for some reason. Then, as he turned onto a one of the roads that the directions instructed him to go, the road actually 'disappeared' and turned into a dirt path. He was sure he was on the wrong route. He stopped for a moment to read through the directions and they actually noted that some of the roads had "portions unpaved".
He went on to say that just as he was ready to turn around and find a different route, he came around a bend on the bumpiest part of the road and there the scenery changed. There was a big clearing and it was lined with trees that were bursting at the peak color of autumn. It was a beautiful sight and just a bit ahead of the wall of glistening trees, he spied his destination. Not only was there relief and renewed sense of direction, but there was a glorious backdrop as he headed toward it.
That little story struck me even moreso as I recalled it in my mind the past couple of days. Yes, I have been down and discouraged and sitting in a place where I just didn't feel right. But I also know that sometimes that's how the path in life goes; it doesn't mean I've lost my way or that I'm headed somewhere I shouldn't be, but rather it's a reminder that I need to trust God even more to guide and direct me as the path twists and turns.
The pictures posted today a some of the 'scenery in my life' right now. Wyndham just got a Dynavox communication device. It's something she was approved for over a year ago, but just the past couple of weeks finally received. We are starting a new adventure of learning this tool and trying to figure out how to incorporate it into our lives. We are excited and hopeful that it will be a wonderful means for Wyndham to communicate- as she continues to learn signs and as we still hold out hope for her to speak someday. But it's one of the things that I never "pictured" as I played out the story of my life. However, it will likely become a tool that transforms Wyndham's life in many ways. It's a part of our 'new scenery'. I am learning (slowly at times!) to accept the life that I've been given and rather than question "why me...why us...why our family?", I should seek to look at the 'gifts' and the beauty that comes from being on a road that many times has "portions unpaved". We've gone down routes in life that I never would have thought were "the right way"...they felt wrong, they looked scary, they caused pain and grief and tears, and yet I am finding that those very bumps and turns often hold amazing scenery and create beautiful backdrops that provide amazing contrast to the times when life allows us to travel easily.
So as I snuggle Crew and breathe him in each day, knowing full well what a gift he is in my life- as each of my kids are, I am trying to let go of the idea that just because something doesn't "feel right" in my life doesn't make it wrong. I was so encouraged by many of you who left comments about the season of life as a mother to young kids. It can be overwhelming and I feel like I am just going in circles somedays. But in the end, when I come to God and just thank Him for what He has given me and I try to see that tomorrow's laundry and packaged meal is just one part of the path I'm on, well, it gives me hope. There is a renewed sense of awe as I come to Him and surrender to the path He has placed me on.
I know I will still fall down and need help more often than not, but I love that God gives rest to the weary and He can continues to direct my path. I wouldn't want it any other way! Thank yo for your prayers, your support of my honesty shared here, and for your encouragement to keep going even when it doesn't feel right.
As for the suggestions, I see I'm not the only one that needs a nap and loves a latte from time to time as a way to rejuvinate the soul. =) I am praying for some of you that are in this same place- right there with me- directionally challenged, but learning to accept that it's okay. As long as we know who our Source of help is and we accept His instruction. May you be blessed on your journey today and each step of the way.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

One of those days.

Something happened the past couple of weeks. I'm not sure what, but Chip is telling me I need an attitude adjustment. The sad part is that I agree with him. He told me to never blog again. Or blog about the fact that I'm in this place- this strange and not-so-happy place.
I don't come here often, but when I do, I remember how much I dislike it here. The frustrating part for me is that I can't put my finger on the "why I'm here". I just am. Maybe it's the weather turning cold. The leaves changed color and fell to the ground- that changing seasons are always such a visual/obvious reminder to me that life goes on. This time of year reminds me that another year is coming to a close...another year of loving and living, yes. But also of missing Teagan and moving further from the fond memories I have of her.
Maybe it's the cold and snow flurries that are blowing around outside. I'm not a fan of cold weather and I dread the long winter months. One day Chip and I hope to live in a warmer state- at least for part of the year. The cold part.
Maybe it's the fact that no matter how many times I give my kids instruction on certain things, they still fail to follow through with my requests of them. Now, I understand that this is a part of parenting- you tell your kids the same things over and over sometimes, and they still don't get it. Like "eat your vegetables", or "flush when you're done", or "don't hit your sister/brother". It can get monotonous and the past week I feel like I'm a broken record and that I'm wasting my time instructing my kids. They seem to be getting the upper hand- for some reason.
Maybe it's because I'm hitting that wall of sleep deprivation with a newborn. Maybe it's the fact that Wyndham was sick for a couple of days, and even though she didn't need hospitalization this time, when she gets ill, I get stressed.
I guess I'm just putting this out there 1) because Chip told me to- he told me to blog about how I really feel right now, and 2) because it's true, I'm not always some bouncy, happy person. I get worn out and run-down and I question my faith and wonder what the point is to everything sometimes.
Like today.
Getting ready for church.
It wasn't fun at our house.
I yelled at Ava because she cried when I put her hair up in her ponytails...ans then she pulled them out. It made me mad...and we were already running late.
I didn't feel like going to church- I have to be honest, it seemed like a joke to go and sing praise to God and smile to other people when inside I was grumpy about hair and breakfast and thinking it was a waste of time because surely my kids won't take the lesson to heart and I will still have to break up arguments between them this week.
It all seemed to fake and pointless.
And I'm sharing this because it's exactly how things were and I have a feeling I'm not alone in this place.
In fact I know of at least one other person who questions why we try so hard to do good things and be good people and have values and morals, only to have life "dump on us" or let us down. It doesn't seem fair sometimes to try so hard when in fact, life will send things our way regardless of how neat we try to keep our homes or how often we get our kids to eat their vegetables.
Now, I don't want to worry anyone, I'm still looking for the simple joys in life and I'm still taking lots of photos and sharing them here. Today's photos are a short series of Ava putting a hat on Crew and they show the special relationship those two share. It's very cute and I'm blessed to be a part of it and I don't take it for granted. I'm very aware of how much I have in life to be grateful for.
The reality is that sometimes I still question and wonder and ask why. The reality is that I sometimes worry that I'm not cut out for the path I'm on in life. The reality is that sometimes we all have days where life gets the best of us. I had one of those today. And I promised to keep it real around here.
So that's it.
Now it's your turn to share if you want to...leave a comment telling me your favorite thing to do when you have "one of those days". I'm looking forward to a brighter tomorrow.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Buttercream thank you's and free photo books...

Chip brought home a Ryke's chocolate buttercream cake, given to him as a way to say thanks for all the referrals he sends their way. Our kids were very happy to eat a thank you cake. Happiness is definitely found in unexpected buttercream thank you's...yum!
I happened to find a link that brought me to Oprah's website yesterday and spent a great deal of time loading photos up to Snapfish yesterday in hopes of getting one of the free photo books they are offering right now. You can follow this link (by Friday 11/14) to get in on this deal too. Maybe you can get a book ordered and cross one gift off your Christmas list as a result. Happy book-making. Thanks for the tips on gloves too. I think I may need more than one pair- so thanks for the links yesterday. I appreciate your help!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Scrappy stuff and commissioned knits

I did a bit more scrapping and creating the past couple of days with the latest SIStv Collection called "The Night Owl". It's got so much packed into it- a mix of colors and fun patterns too. You can see my mini book here and the rest of the scrap page I made by clicking here.
I'm now on a hunt to find some warm, fingerless mitts as the weather here in Michigan is cooling down and winter is upon us. If you are a knitter or have an Etsy shop or know someone who does, leave me a comment for send me an email... I'd love to buy them from one of you! I'm going fingerless this year because they are easier for holding onto a carseat handle, pushing carkey remote buttons and answering my cell phone.
Which only rings about twice a week. =)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Is there anything sweeter than a sleeping baby?

Crew is such a mellow baby. The perfect addition to our wild, crazy bunch it seems. He has just found his place in our hearts and homes... and is now approaching 8 weeks and weighing in at 10 pounds, 10 ounces. He's a bundle of love.
As for the title of this post, "Is there anything sweeter than a sleeping baby?", I'll tell you the answer is "yes". Kissing one. =)