Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Bouquet of CUPCAKE Flowers!

My daughter and I watched this amazing video on a 
Immediately we knew who to make it for, my sister-in-law or to my daughter-her aunt.
My daughter asked me, "Can I make it for her?" 
I thought, "Wow! she wants to make this by herself for someone else!"
"Okay!" I said and we began creating the plan to accomplish such a task!

My daughter, who is eleven years old, baked all the cupcakes,
and assembled them with some of my help.

She made the icing and carefully
considered the four different colors of icing she wanted for the cake.
Then the piping began!

 She is an amazing perfectionist!
She had four different bags of icing going at the same time!
Some were in the refrigerator, while she used others, and
at other times she would put the bouquet in the fridge to make sure
the original flowers wouldn't "wilt."
This was a two hour process!
 I stayed by her side the whole time, coaching, encouraging,
taking pictures and being so proud!

 The part that she couldn't wait for-
presenting her cake to her special auntie!
 And for my daughter, whose love language is physical touch,
no thank you could have made her happier!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Top 5 Character Traits of a True Friend

Lately, I've been thinking about my friends and the wonderful things about them that makes them so special. It all started one day when my daughter was crying telling me how her 'friend' hurt her. I sat and listened and thought I could totally do a preachy sermon right now, but I decided to let her do it. I simply asked her, "What are the things that make this person a special friend?" She tried to list some 'good' traits, but as she heard herself she realized they weren't so good. She began to realize on her own what it takes to make a dear friend, a true friend. It also got me thinking about my friends and what makes my friends more like sisters.

Here are my top five character traits I love to have in a true friend.

Number 1: They must know how to smile and laugh at a good joke. I have sincerely tried to make friends with just about anyone, but I have found the only ones that stay on the road of life with me are those that can heartily laugh. There is nothing better than getting together with a friend and laughing about life. You don't have to perform or have great jokes, it's about being joyous. Life is good and we have much to rejoice about and I'd much rather focus on the good than the bad.

"Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them." The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy." ( Psalm 126:2)

Number 2: You must love children. I love my children and I love my friend's children. If you want to be friends, remember I have six of them and they mean the world to me. Understand, I will not abandon them so we can go off somewhere and get a cup of coffee. My rule is this: coffee at my place or yours including all the noise and chaos-this is just how I roll.

It's simple, children are a blessing not a curse.

Courtney loves my kids like as if they were her 
own nieces and nephews.

I absolutely adore my very own nieces!

"Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them." 
(Psalm 127:3-4)

Number 3:    Be supportive, encouraging and excited to see the very best happen in your friend's life. We are not in a competition. A true friend isn't jealous or envious. A true friend is happy when you're happy and sad when you're sad and not the other way around. 

My friends came to hear me share my testimony

"One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." (Proverbs 18:24)

Number 4: You gotta be real. When we talk, tell me about you and what is happening in your life. I don't want to hear gossip. I want to learn about you.  Life is short and it can be hard, so let's do life together. I'm not afraid to share my crazy life with you, skeletons and all, so give it right back.

My friend and I couldn't stop talking 
while my son was trying to take a picture of us!
He finally had to say, "Hey guys! look THIS way!" 
After many tries...he got one!

"A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends." (Proverbs 16:28)

Number 5: Be loving. I'm tired of the sarcastic remarks that make me walk away guessing. Just be loving and if you don't love me, well, that's okay, just don't act like you do and drop confusing comments- I'm over it. Kindness is the order of the day.

Rebekah and I...there are no words for our friendship-it's just love!

"A friend loves at all times." Proverbs 17:17a

My buddy Kelly and I raised our babies together!

Marla and I raised each other!

An incredible Bible small group of women called, "Babes in Arms."
I bonded with these women so quickly. We shared openly, prayed unceasingly, and loved each other endlessly.

Like many of you, I've tried making friends and tried making old friendship last. There has been a lot of hurt and confusion along the way. And I know I have not been the sister I had hoped I would be to many friends and that has been sad too. I'm certainly not perfect in this, but I am striving to be a sister and have people in my life that will be a sister to me. 

I guess I naively thought that anyone could make a great friend, but truly there are only a few people that will be in that inner circle of trust so you must choose them wisely. "The righteous man chooses his friend carefully..." (Proverbs 12:26)  Think about what makes a friend a sister and not just a friend. A sister friend is someone who is going to lift you up and encourage you to grow. A sister friend will help you reach your God given talents, face fears, strive to be a better wife and mommy. A sister friend speaks into your life and helps tear down pride and selfishness. A sister friend teaches you and is open to being teachable. A sister friend is always praying for you. 

True sister friends are rare and when you find them,
 they are also such an incredible blessing! 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

What's for Breakfast?

Each morning, seven days a week, for sixteen years I have made breakfast for my family, but over this past year I have found myself getting tired of the routine, and bored with the food I was making. So, I came up with the best idea ever! Have my kids make breakfast!

The plan is set:
1) I have four children who are old enough to make breakfast. I have been training my children to cook on their own since they were eight years old. I now have a 16, 14 and two 11 year olds in the house. Why not use all that training for some true practical use?  I homeschool-right? Lessons in life are every where I turn! Whatever the age, challenge your child to choose a breakfast idea, prepare it with or without your help, the night before and wake up the next morning at ease.

2) Each child has chosen one day a week to create a breakfast for the rest of us.
Monday- Daughter number two likes to make delicious healthy muffins,
Tuesday- I make eggs over easy with all the trimmings
Wednesday- Son number one makes...well, we'll get to that later
Thursday- Son number two likes to make homemade breads: banana, pumpkin, squash etc.
Friday- Oldest daughter likes to make...cereal, toasted bagels, the easy stuff.

3) The child responsible for breakfast must make it the night before. For example- if  the child is responsible for breakfast on Monday, she has to make it Sunday night. (We reheat in the morning).

4) All dishes and pots, pans etc. are cleaned the night before.
(Table is set usually using paper plates for even easier clean up).

Now, I wake up and breakfast is done four days of the five day week- (Hubby cooks on the weekends) I no longer dread waking up and having to prepare a meal at 6am!

So, now let's get back to my eldest son. My oldest son likes, well, he likes cookies and cakes. Each week he comes up with a cookie idea that he turns into a healthy breakfast. This week he wanted to have brownies for breakfast! I simply said, "Son, Just make it healthy."  He got busy. Below is the recipe he found at 'chocolate covered Katie:

Black Bean Brownies:
  • 1 1/2 cups black beans (1 15-oz can, drained and rinsed very well)
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder 
  • 1/2 cup quick oats 
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup honey
  •  2 tbsp sugar 
  • 1/4 cup coconut 
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup chocolate chips
(My son doubled the recipe). 

Place all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth. 
Pour into a greased 11x13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
Total Time: 15m
Yield: 9-12 brownies

We printed the recipe, and put it our "Breakfast Ideas" binder to be made over and over again!

So, what's for breakfast?  Tomorrow morning when I wake up, I will have a hot cuppa couffee with a brownie for breakfast! Mangia!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Just to be Clear, I will NEVER be "Ma"

As many of you know I love reading the Little House series by Laura Ingals Wilder, and if you don't know, check out my 'Home School' page on the blog. Each chapter I have read, whether in Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, or now reading, Farmer Boy, I am astounded by the trillions of things that Ma and Pa were capable of doing. They made their own straw hats, prepared the leather to make shoes, made yarn and weaved it into clothes, farmed, baked, and cooked just about anything. I am fascinated by it all and have tried to make and do with my kids a few of the things we have read them do. I am usually encouraged and go around talking to all my friends what 'Ma' did, but recently I've been sitting back and saying to myself, "I will NEVER be Ma." There is a bit of sadness in my heart to have to admit that, but a true realization is also freeing.
The truth hit me when I read the story found on page 281 in the book, Farmer Boy. "Then she made the headcheese. She boiled the six heads till the meat came off the bones; she chopped it and seasoned it and mixed it with liquor from the boiling, and poured it into six quarter pans. When it was cold it was like jelly, for a gelatin had come out of the bones."

Mmmmmm. Doesn't that just make you feel all warm and cozy inside. Don't you want a bit of headcheese on your sandwich right now? I can just hear my hubby say, as he walks in from work, "Hey, Honey, whattcha got cooking in these huge pots on the stove." Then as he lifts the cover of one pot he spies the head of a PIG! Okay, NO, this is never going to happen in my house and yes, I am thanking God for it. Come on now, how did she not throw up? I can picture her yelling out the back door of her house to her husband, "Love, when you're done butchering up the six pigs make sure you bring me the heads. Yes, all six of them." For Ma, it was all very natural, but to me it is a bit horrifying.Yes, that story clinched it for me, so, just to be clear, I will never be a "Ma."

I will say that I had my suspicion that I could never be Ma when I read all that she prepared for dinner on page 27. "Mother set the platter on the table. She looked to see that everything was ready, and the table properly set. She took off her apron and hung it in the kitchen. She waited until father had finished what he was saying to Mr. Corse but at last she said: "James, supper is ready." .....Almanzo ate the sweet, mellow baked beans. He ate the bit of salt pork that melted like cream in his mouth. He ate mealy boiled potatoes, with brown ham -gravy. He ate the ham. He bit deep into velvety bread spread the sleek butter, and he ate the crisp golden crust. He demolished a tall heap of pale mashed turnips, and a hill of stewed yellow pumpkin. Then he sighed and tucked his napkin deeper into the neckband of his red waist. And he ate plum preserves and strawberry jam, and grape jelly, and spiced watermelon-rind pickles. He felt very comfortable inside. Slowly he ate a large piece of pumpkin pie."

Ma made all of that! She made the baked beans, pork, potatoes, butter, gravy, ham, mashed turnips, stewed yellow pumpkin, plum preserves, strawberry jam, spiced watermelon-rind pickles and pumpkin pie. I am not a cook. As you can clearly see from this blog the section on cooking is pitifully small. Yes, I menu plan for the month and I have a hot, prepared meal for my family every night, but it is not a 'Thanksgiving' meal with all the trimmings each night either. I have a fear of cooking that is gradually diminishing through the grace of God, so my meals are quite basic: a meat, a starch and a vegetable and I am done! By the way, I am not a Martha Stewart either.

Ma was not only an amazing cook, she was also an entrepreneur. She made 500 pounds of butter, the best in the New York State, and sold it for fifty cents a pound. That comes to $250.00! She did that! She worked her for her family and sold the fruit of her hands to help provide. In comparison, I wrote my own Bible/Alphabet Pre-school curriculum called, "God, Me & My ABC's" and have sold a few books, but have not been able to truly use it as a steady provision for my family. I am not "Ma."

Okay, 'Ma' was definitely an amazing woman. She really was. She was devoted to her husband. She supported, loved and respected him. She took care of her family's every need, which made her and incredible planner. She was always thinking ahead. For example she knew that her eldest son, Royal, would be going to Academy in the Fall so she began dying and weaving the material she would need to make his suit for school a whole year before he had to leave just to make sure he would have it. (If you didn't catch that-She made a suit!) She had parts of her day where she worked with her girls training them and part of her day, in the evenings, where they sat around the fire together snacking and catching up on the days events. She was strong, disciplined, loving, comforting and courageous. I really admire this woman.

I have found, as I walk this road of mommyhood, I have compared my work or job as a mom to other moms. I have beaten myself up for not being smart enough, not reading enough, not being kind enough, being too controlling, allowing too much television, too many sweets and simply not knowing how to be a mom, but when all my wrestling with myself and God is all said and done, the truth is HE trusted me to be the mom to my six children. He trusted not that I would be great, or I would know everything and read everything or even that I would do everything right,
HE trusted that I would turn to Him. 
He knew that I would be on my knees asking Him "How?" He knew that I would surrender my mommyhood over and over again. He knew that I would ask for forgiveness, repent, and get up and try again. He knew that my heart wanted to be the mommy that He wants me to be. I may never get this mommyhood right or perfect, or be like "Ma," but to be surrendered to God, listening for His voice, and hearing what He has for this city-girl mom in the twenty-first century is what pleases His heart. Although I will never be a 'Ma' I will do my job with excellence as unto the Lord as Ma fulfilled her calling with excellence. We may be extremely different, Ma and I, but we have this in common, a deep love and respect for our husband and a deep desire to raise our children to be ready for His calling on their lives. Mommyhood is a calling. A calling in a relationship with God, being lead by God, and resting in Him. I am at peace with what my mommyhood calling looks like because it's what God says is good for me.

Decorating PLASTIC Easter Eggs

I saw the most adorable decorated plastic eggs in a catalog,
but I didn't want or need 24 of the same style egg.
I wanted personalized plastic eggs,
and I wanted them to say something that Easter was all about-Jesus!

So, I got out my paint pens, NOT Sharpies,
and began designing plastic eggs for my children.

I bought large plastic eggs and I wrote
"Jesus loves _____" (child's name)

Then with the smaller plastic eggs 
I made all sorts of different sayings on the eggs:
"HE is Risen!"
"He Lives!"
"Jesus loves me this I know!"
"He washed me white as snow!"
"Let the SON Shine!"

Something simple, but it truly brightened up each basket!