Snow Boots and God’s Will

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No snow yet…but it’s a-comin’

Sometimes, someone steps in, without knowing it, and says just the right thing at the right time. Words you needed to hear right then: to encourage, motivate, give you  little hope.

This was not one of those times.

North Carolina is preparing for a storm. A snow storm. We don’t get those too often here, so it kinda sends everyone in a tizzy. Milk and bread really do fly off the shelves and all events are canceled. The state pretty much shuts down.

Aimg_2909s the forecast for this epic event seemed to be more substantiated, Seth and I began to talk about all the fun he would have playing in the snow. Would he build a snow man, make a snow angle, try out sledding? Then I looked at his feet. Sneakers. He was wearing sneakers. Not a problem right now since the ground was bone dry, but if all this white fluffy stuff was really going to come, he was going to need something else. I quickly thought through his shoe arsenal. Those sneakers, flip flops, two pairs of sandals, Croc knock-offs, slippers,  and dress shoes. None of those would work for a snowy day.

So, as much as I hated to go out and shop, I swallowed my fear and braved the battle field of stores with the kids in tow. Each store I went into (three different ones to be exact) I could hear others ask the same question: Do you have any boys’ winter boots? The answer: No.

Seth was heart broken. He NEEDED winter boots. The last store I went into had “fire fighter boots.” Not snow boots, but maybe I could convince him these would work (they’d be better then his sneakers, for sure). He was not buying it. My best sales pitch did not make a believer of him. As I tried to reason with him (sometimes I really do wonder why I try to reason with a three-year-old?!?), I could hear another woman on the phone talking about boots too. “These should work, they’re not snow boots, but they are better then nothing, and I think they’re not too girly…” I tuned out of her conversation as I came back into my own world of a distraught little boy and rapidly melting down one-year old.

“Seth,” I finally said, “these are what we are getting. They are all they have, let’s go. We going home to have a snack.” The finality in my tone must have caught on, because although he was not happy, he came (or maybe it was the promise of snack?).

After paying at the front, I was trying to move Seth out of the way for the next customer.

“Don’t hurry,” she said, it was the woman who had been on the phone, “my daughter’s in the same boat as you. She’s got three little ones and they needed boots.” Yes, I was not alone in this boat. Then she added, “I told her to stay home and I would find them for her.”

Sigh. As a juggled Bridget, my purse and bags from Walmart and tried to herd Seth with his new boots, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for myself. I tried to imagine what it would have been like to have my mom say, “I’ve got this, you keep the kids and I bring you the boots you need.” This well-meaning Grandma, had no idea what meaning her words had.

Sometime I wonder why God has called  us to live in a place where we don’t have family. Why do I have to do so much on my own? Why can’t grandma just pop over so I can get my hair cut or go to the doctor by myself?

But although I don’t understand, I know this is where we are suppose to be. God is teaching Ian and I something (or should I say somethingS) while we are here. I would be lying if I said I don’t sometimes (like today) really resent it. But I know that God is a loving Father and He has the best planned for us, so I’m going to have to trust in that.

And besides, Seth has decided he LOVES his new boots, so it’s not all that bad 🙂

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A Not-so-Christmas Letter

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I love Christmas Lights. On my birthday we drove an hour to the “Festival of Lights” (a drive-thru light show). Last night we drove to walk thru a neighborhood that is one of those that seems like it could come from a Hallmark Christmas special. As a teenager, I strung lights around the boarder of my room at Christmas time, then I’m pretty sure left them up all year.

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At “Festival of Lights” 

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Bridget was excited about the lights too

There is just something magical about Christmas lights. There is something safe and warm and happy in them. Streets that seemed dark and unfriendly before, once lights begin to appear in the beginning of December (or even before Thanksgiving), no longer seem so cold.

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I think Seth likes Christmas as much as I do…or maybe just all the extra treats! 

This year “light” has had even more meaning to me.

I struggled this year with writing a “Christmas Letter” to go with our Christmas cards. I really wanted to. I promised myself I last year that I would do it. Well, I broke that promise.

As I sat trying to write the letter, the thoughts that  came to my mind did not seem to belong in a Christmas card. Usually letters like that are full of year highlights, fun times and things we are proud of. Well, this year for me has been more about difficult dark days and a time a growing in ways I never thought I would. It just didn’t seem like someone would want to read: “This year was really hard. I hope we never have to have another one like it. Merry Christmas and hears to a better New Year.”

What does a not wanting to write a Christmas letter have to do with light? You may be thinking I got distracted and started another blog post (have faith, this did not happen, although I will not promise that it never will, you never know what might happen with this distracted mamma). Here’s what light and Christmas letters have in common for me.

This spring I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. I felt like I was not myself. I felt out of control, overwhelmed, sad, angry, tired, and can remember saying to Ian, “I feel like I’m in a dark place.”

It was a very dark place. Unlike any other I’ve ever been. These past eight months or so have been a struggle as I work through all that comes with this reality. But recently, I feel God has been reminding me of His power and faithfulness. In John 1:5, John proclaims, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” That is God’s promise to all of us. Jesus Christ came and defeated darkness. Darkness will not overcome. Darkness will not win. Light will triumph. Light will shine and defeat the darkness that seems to be closing in.

This year, it was struggle of light and darkness for our family (especially for me). At points darkness seemed to be winning, but Light will ultimately win. I can trust in this promise. It’s not material for a Christmas letter. There is nothing about trips, promotions, births or other news like that, but it’s the reality I live in right now. And in a way, it has everything to do with Christmas. Christmas is about lights. The true and best LIGHT came long ago and defeated darkness. Now even though darkness sometimes feels close, we can know that it will not overcome. Light will win and shine.  This is “joy to the world.”

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Mumie’s Caramel Cake

There is nothing like holiday memories. They are some of my earliest and fondest. This past October my Mumie (Grandma) passed away. With Thanksgiving just around the corner I can’t help but think about her.

Thanksgiving and Mumie go together in my memories. For many years, we would travel to her house and enjoy a holiday that could have been in a child’s book. Cool South Carolina fall days, walks to the pond, cozy warm house and a delicious meal. Mumie went all out for Thanksgiving. Before Pinterest and Food Network, my Grandma could put a meal on the table that would leave everyone with full tummies and happy hearts.

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I am not making a Thanksgiving meal this year, but in honor of Mumie I made one of her signature cakes. Caramel Cake. Over-the-top sweetness and yumminess! This cake is full of butter, sugar and more butter and more sugar. It’s southern baking at it’s best. For some a glass of milk is a necessary companion. For me, I enjoy all the goodness with a cup of coffee.

Icing it can be tricky because the it has to be done quickly while the icing is still warm. But don’t let this scare you, even if it does not look picture perfect, your taste buds won’t mind. No matter what it looks like, they will thank you, I can assure you.

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Mumie’s Caramel Cake

1 cup sour cream

¼ cup milk

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

2 ¾ cup flour

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

Combine sour cream and milk; set aside. Cream butter, gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggs, one at a time; beating well after each. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in vanilla. Pour batter into 2 greased and floured 9-in round cake pans. Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes. Cool 10 min. (If doing 4 layers, freeze cakes first and make 1 ½ batches of icing.)

Frosting

1 stick butter

6 tbsp heavy cream

¾ cup brown sugar

16 oz powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Melt butter-add cream and brown sugar – boil 1 minutes – remove from heat – add about ½ box conf. sugar beating well – add vanilla – continue adding sugar until frosting is thick enough to spread.

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Dreams for a Daughter

Admission: I am a recovering addict. Yes, me.

For years now I have been obsessed about how I look, how much I weigh, what I eat, how often I exercise. All of these idols in my life have been centered around what I allowed the world to tell me what the perfect way a woman should look. Even when I was pregnant, I focused on controlling my weight gain and was excited after the birth of the children to get “back to normal.”

Well, I have come to the realization that I will never look like someone who belongs on workout DVD or magazine. My flat stomach has settled into a nice bump after pregnancy number two (my abs slit and although I have worked on repairing them and made some improvement, they will never be the same). I weigh more now than I did right after Bridget was born and have to work a bit harder to fit into some of my clothes. But, I have the body that God made me with and I am working on being content with that.

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This process of admitting my obsessed starting when I began to think about my nieces and daughter. A little girl  sees herself and smiles. She thinks she is pretty, look like a princess and are not worried  what the world is currently defining as “cute.” I looked at these precious girls and had a sting of sadness as I thought about when the first time they would look at themselves and think “I don’t measure up.” When would this happen? Could I just keep Bridget seeing her true beauty her whole life? Could I instill in her contentment that is so lacking in girls today? Could she always have a carefree innocence and hold onto the truth that she is God’s creation, made in His imagine?

I knew that this may be too lofty of a goal. I am sure Bridget will suffer from bad hair days, “nothing to wear” and the like. However, I want her to have the best chance at not feeling the pressure to measure up to a standard that is ridiculous. I don’t want her to focus on her appearance as much as her character. These are my dreams for Bridget.

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But I knew if this is my desire for her, I would have to first live it out. How could I tell her to not obsess and worry, if she saw me doing this? How could I instill in her something I myself was not possessing?

As I said in the beginning. I am a recovering addict. I still slip and get caught in the trap of being too focused on my aim for perfection in my appearance. But I am trying to be more aware and less down on myself. I want to be happy in the body that I have, not in one that I imagine will make me happy. I am not going to give up my workouts. I still want to take care of myself: eat healthy, exercise, etc. But my goal is not to become a perfect size whatever, but to be strong and energized to do the work before me. I don’t have to change  my lifestyle as much as I have to change my motivation and thoughts.

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I want to be an example to Bridget of a healthy woman, happy with the way God made me and confident in my Father’s love.

 

Desiring Perfection in a Messy World

Snotty noses, time targets missed, beds wet, dinners late, messy floors, messy closets, messy kitchen, messy clothes, messy hair, messy hands, messy…well, life is just messy sometimes. (I’ll even admit it, I have not had a shower in three days. Gross, right? I would take one right now while the kids are sleeps (phew), however, my goal is to mow the lawn tonight and enjoy a shower after the kids are in bed and the house it quiet).

This has been a tough week. Tough with a capital hard! I feel like I have to keep fighting back the urge to just explode. Or in some cases I have not fought well and the explosion erupts. Then feelings of failure and self-loathing (dramatic, but true) begin to take the place of the rage.

What a great way to  exist. Not.

This morning I began to pray that God would help me today; that He would help me not be so angry  and short tempered. I prayed that things would go more smoothly and that the kids and I would have an enjoyable day together. But as I was praying I felt Him push me in another direction. My prayers changed. “Lord, help me to be okay with messiness of life. Help me be okay with things not going well.” This was a small prayer, but it’s huge for me.

When you have two little people in the house, things just don’t go smoothly. Fact. There are going to be diaper blowout, temper tantrums, snotty noses, dirty socks, toys to trip over, plans to adjust and adjust again and again.

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I need to see that life is not going to be perfect. Nothing in this world ever is, and toddlers are a daily, hourly, minute by minute reminder of this. They require flexibility and consistency at the same time. It’s a balancing act. Losing my temper when life just does not look perfect helps nothing and no one.

Perfection is something I have always struggled with. I want things to be fair and right and well, just plain perfect. But when that is what I demand, I am asking something of myself and others around me that is unattainable. I am putting pressure on myself and others that cannot be withstood. No wonder I feel like I’m going to explode sometimes.

Wouldn’t it be nice if by just saying that prayer this morning all my perfectionist pursuits would vanish. But that would only happen in a perfect world and didn’t I just say that this is not. Today, I’ve lost my temper, the kids and dog sabotaged my 15 minutes workout (only 15 minutes folks and I could not get it done), Seth cried through most of lunch because he wanted a spoon that Bridget was using, Bridget has already gone through three outfits and I may have eaten quite a bit of chocolate to help survive this all.

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So I’m going to have to rest in the promise of God, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” There’s the perfection we can rest on: Christ Jesus. He’s not going to leave me alone in this mess of motherhood. He is going to help me through the dirtiness of long days.

And maybe I’ll even get a shower tonight 😉

Recipe Round Up

Here are the recipes I made last week.

Monday: We skipped meatless Monday this week since my mother-in-law was visiting and I made a paleo dish that I’ve been wanting to make for her. It was a Cauliflower “rice” and chicken. It took much longer to bake and was more runny then I would have liked. I think I should have drained the spinach more and squeezed the cauliflower more aggressively.

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Tuesday: This night was date night for Ian and I. SO NEEDED! Instead of going to a restaurant and eating, we decided to have a picnic outside and go for a hike/walk in the woods. This was a really nice relaxing way to spend a beautiful North Carolina fall evening. I made a chick-pea salad dish that a friend of mine introduced us to. It is a favorite of ours. Lots of veggies and you can’t leave out the pickles!

Here’s the “recipe:”

Raise one can of chickpeas and put in a bowl. Mash with a potato masher. Depending on how chunky you want it, is how much you mash it, I like it to be kinda chunky. Then, add diced red onion, peppers (I like to use a variety of colors) and pickles. In a small bowl, mix together about a 1/2 cup mayo and tablespoon Dijon mustard and a splash of pickle juice. Pour over chickpeas and veggies. Add more mayo if needed. Salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy on rolls, bread, pita or wraps 🙂

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Wednesday: Every Wednesday night we have our church community group meet at our home. We do a potluck dinner and everyone brings whatever they would like to share. Some nights we have lots of pasta, some times an overabundance of dessert (I never complain about this), but whatever we have to eat, its a good night of fellowship and growing together as a family of Christ. This week I made Chicken and Stuffing Casserole. This recipe calls for canned chicken soup. I don’t know about you, but I just have an aversion to condensed can soup. So I found a recipe for DYI condensed soup. Because I am forgetful, I thought the casserole called for mushroom soup, not chicken. So that’s what I made. Well, it was a hit, even with my little mommy moment of making the wrong soup.

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Thursday: We had left over pork and rice from the other week. This time to go with it, I made my take on Cracker Barrel’s Fried Apples. I melted a tablespoon of butter in a cast iron skillet, added 5-6 thinly sliced apples and a teaspoon or two of cinnamon. I let these fry for a about 10 minutes. Then I added about 1/2 cup of apple cider and let it simmer on low until apples are soft and cider is reduced. These are so yummy!

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Friday: We were suppose to have Bean and Rice. I found this a recipe that looked like an easy crock pot rendition of this basic meal. Well, when dinner time rolled around, the beans were no where near being done. Bummer! So we had leftovers.

Saturday: I let the beans cook for the whole day in my slow cooker, and by the end of the day, they were better. Still not as soft as I would have liked, but better. I am going to need to do some work on this one if I want to do it again.

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Seth has been watching me photograph our dinners lately and so he wanted to take a picture of his dinner too 🙂 Nice shot buddy! 

Apple Pulp Bread

Yesterday I wrote about my desire to not be so needed. Any mom out there can tell you how draining motherhood is. I have found that making time for me to do the things I love helps in this season. Something that energizes me and reminds me that I am more than just a mom (not that there is anything wrong or unimportant about this title). Sometimes, though, it’s good to do something that recharges me.

There are a few things that I have on my list of recharging activities. Toward the top of this list (maybe right in spot number one) is cooking/baking. I love to experiment and play in the kitchen. For me its my primary creative outlet and it happens to go well with having a husband who loves to eat 🙂

So last week when I blogged about making applesauce I encouraged you to save the “leftovers,” the peels and such that did not make it through the food mill. Today I introduce you to the reason, and believe me it’s a pretty delicious one.

Meet Applesauce Bread.

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However, there’s a little secret to my applesauce bread. It is made with the pulp. I take whatever leftovers remain after making applesauce and store them in a container in the fridge until I have enough to make a batch (or two) of this family favorite bread. Then it’s only a few minutes in my food processor and I have a gloppy mess that is perfect for the applesauce requirement of the bread. And bonus, no wasting any part of the apples when making applesauce.

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Don’t worry, if you are not into making applesauce or threw away (gasp!) the pulp from making your’s, you can always use “traditional” applesauce in this recipe.

This is a hearty bread. Made with a 50/50 wheat flour blend and depending on how sweet the applesauce is, does not require much sugar. This last batch of applesauce for me was pretty sweet, so I only added in 1/4 cup sugar for two loaves of bread. We love it toasted and topped with warm apple butter…awww autumn.

Apple Pulp (Applesauce) Bread

1 egg

1 1/2 cups pureed apple pulp (or unsweetened applesauce)

2 Tablespoons cooking oil of choice

2 Tablespoons brown sugar (can be increased if desired)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup craisins or raisins

1/4 cup walnut, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a loaf pan. Beat egg in a large bowl. Add apple pulp, oil and sugar. Mix well. In another bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to apple mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in craisins and walnuts. Spoon into prepared pan, the batter will be thick, and bake for 55-60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let rest for 10 minutes in pan and remove to cool on wire rack.

 

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