Chesed

A New Cookbook for the Low Glycemic Index Diet

I am so excited!

My cousin Esther became an author this month when her cookbook Nourish was published.  Publishing a book is a huge accomplishment for any reason; but this feels like an even bigger event.  You see, this cookbook isn’t just any cookbook.  It’s a symbol of success from a medical standpoint.

black bean brownie dessert

Jamie and Esther’s daughter was diagnosed with absence seizures three years ago when she was four years old.  I clearly remember the day Esther called me and told me they’d gotten Andria checked because she literally walked off the porch and fell into the shrubs while playing with her sister.  Her EEG showed she was having hundreds of seizures, most of them only a few seconds long.  A few weeks later when I asked how Andria was doing she said, “I can’t believe the difference in this child!  She can finally answer questions after a story because she’s hearing all of it.”  Unfortunately, the new Andria came with a price.  The seizures would seem to be controlled, only to show up again and her medication dosage needed to be increased and increased until finally she was maxed out on an acceptable dose.  In Esther’s words, “I had a drugged little girl.”

low glycemic index

Concerned, her pediatric neurologist suggested they try a low-glycemic index diet as an alternative form of seizure control.  The low glycemic index diet is a simplified version of the ketogenic diet.  Essentially, it keeps your blood sugar low and stable by decreasing carbohydrate intake and increasing protein and fat.  If you’ve ever experienced a radical diet change for health reasons you know the way it turns your life inside out!  Like it was yesterday, I remember the day I had to take Liam off of gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, peanuts, tomatoes, citrus, chocolate, coconut and a number of other things.  It’s even harder for a young child who has a limited diet either because they are still too young to chew more than soft foods or in a preschooler with definite food likes and dislikes.  Mostly dislikes. Those first days and weeks are like having your brain turned upside down as you begin to realize the way everything, and I mean everything, seems to revolve around food!  Nearly every social event involves food and a radical change means it is likely you wouldn’t be able to eat or drink a single thing provided!  What’s a birthday party without cake and ice cream?  Where are we going to eat on a road trip?

low glycemic index

Esther and Jamie did some research and after spending a little time thinking, decided to dive in.  The results were amazing!  One year later Andria was completely seizure and medication free!  If you know Esther, it’s no surprise that she did so well with this diet.  She spent hours researching and experimenting.  The result was dozens of yummy recipes that allowed Andria to have many of her favorite treats in a safe way!  Her neurologist noticed and suggested she write a cookbook to help other families dealing with epilepsy and the project began.  Esther asked Christy and I to photograph the food for her book.  We were delighted!

We spent five looong fun days in Tennessee.   We worked almost fifteen hours a day in pursuit of the lovely images the book deserved.  Esther was stirring and baking and cooking on high in her kitchen while we decorated food, arranged props, and clicked away in the garage.  I think we all knew we were working hard at the time {or in Esther’s words: “We were all in Hershberger mode … strong genes going the distance”} , but looking back I am utterly amazed at how much food Esther made in those few days!  I’m also realizing how much faith she put into us every time she walked out to her garage and saw our primitive setup!  I think we tightened those clamps umpteen times. ;)

on-site photography

There were always lots of children around to help or lend a hand and Esther and her sister in law kept our energy high with chips and salsa, tea or coffee!  And of course, we could always sample the food after shooting it!  I can still taste those spiced pecans!

low glycemic index

low glycemic index

I was so amazed at the variety of recipes Esther created.  The selective taste buds of a young child pushed her creativity outside the envelope and there are lovely appetizers, snacks, beverages, and desserts alongside a generous variety of main course items.  The breakfast dishes are something I’m already incorporating into our regular menu plans at our house and they are quickly becoming favorites! I also love the way Esther incorporated her story along with many tips for making the diet easier or more palatable along with the recipes.  The book is not only fun to look at, it’s a pleasure to read!

low glycemic index recipes

While these recipes were tailored for Andria because of her epilepsy, they would also work for anyone watching sugar intake.  My first thoughts turned immediately to a few diabetic friends because of the way the diet does so much more than just eliminate sugar.  It evaluates carbohydrates based on their fiber content and cooking time (among other factors) to help keep blood sugar levels very stable.

sugar free ketchup {this homemade ketchup is so good I could eat it right out of the jar!}

Whether you suffer from epilepsy, diabetes, are trying to lose weight with a diet such as Trim Healthy Mama, or simply want to embrace a healthier, no-sugar diet, this cookbook is sure to delight!

low carb recipes

When I first received my copy, I spent at least an hour perusing its pages even though I’ve seen it’s virtual form a number of times.  My cousin Tiffany did a gorgeous, gorgeous job with the graphic design in this book!

And what’s most exciting about all of this?  As an introduction, Esther is offering to give away one copy of her new cookbook!  One of you will win this lovely gem!  Meanwhile, you can peruse her website or order copies for yourself or a friend!  To enter the giveaway, leave a comment here (facebook comments are lovely but won’t count as an entry for the giveaway).  To get a second entry, share this post on facebook and come back leaving a second comment saying that you shared.  I’ll be using a random number generator to determine the winner so if you want a second entry, be sure to remember to leave a second comment for facebook shares.  The giveaway will close April 2. Good luck!

This giveaway is now closed!  Congrats to B Jane Weaver!  I will be emailing you for your mailing address.  Thanks to everyone who entered!

 


And the days fly by

Like waves tumbling in across the sand, these newborn minutes tumble into hours, then days, then weeks.  I sit, mesmerized by their beauty, overwhelmed by their demands, and speechless at their agile disappearance.  These moments of savoring and survival, how dare they melt into history so quickly?

A hundred words crash around the frontal lobes of my brain, but the clock is ticking away mercilessly and sleep is priceless.  How about a hundred pictures instead?  Well, more or less.  Hopefully less.  But no guarantees.

Zara’s first week:

::Three days old ::

A sweet sleepy baby.  That red newborn skin.  Those uncoordinated hands waving wildly when she’s startled. And best of all, those baby streeeetches.

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Adam and Liam were completely caught up with the boxes of baby things I emptied and took them downstairs to build a house.  They spent hours, cutting windows with pocket knives, putting tape over them to make “glass”, adding vinyl and carpet scraps, and even cutting a hole in the top of each “room.”  They used their miner headlamp and stuck it into the top of the room that needed “light” at the moment.

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::Day Four:: Grandpa and Grammie come to visit

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“I just fell totally in love with her,” he whispers over and over.  ”I could never stop loving her.”  or “I’m so proud of her.  I don’t really know what I’m proud about, but I’m just proud of her.  Do you think she’s proud of me, too?”

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::Day five::  Newborn cries are so cute they should be documented.  The howling ones, yes, but especially the darling little “offended” ones.  You know the ones I mean.  ”I’m just a little bit displeased.”

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An attempt at a bottle

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Those first sponge baths

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Her adoring big brothers

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:: ONE WEEK::

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And the second week:

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A fun baby shower. Having my mom come for two and a half days {oh bliss.  winging it on your own is overrated}.  A fun lunch with three of my sisters in law before the shower.

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A visit from Grandpa and Grandma Beachy.  Sadly, there are no pictures.  You can tell the newborn moms by the photos snapped with their tablets instead of good cameras, or worse, not snapped at all.  And by the way they click like on facebook, but rarely comment, and all but neglect their email accounts.

First time in a tiny dress:

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More brother love {it’s not like we hover or anything}

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Babies have a mommy and a daddy for a reason.  Mommies say, “Oh good, you’re asleep.”  Daddies say, “Oh good, you’re awake.” Mommies snuggle them and wish they’d stay tiny.  Daddies give them tummy time and help them get strong because they can’t wait until they’re big enough to play and interact.  One night as Zara kept lifting her head around while David held her the boys insisted I come look.  I said if he makes her grow up too fast we’ll have to have another newborn soon. David shot me a look and Adam said, “Isn’t that kind of selfish?  Shouldn’t you be grateful for what you have?”

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Some of my favorite moments … in the evening or early morning when the house is quiet and it’s just the two of us.  I inhale the scent of her, kiss her soft baby cheeks, and do everything I can to remember who she is this minute.  Some day, she’ll be a strong, confident woman.  But today, she’s my itty bitty bundle of precious perfection.

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More wakeful

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More darling {how can this be possible}

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And chubbier by the day.  She dropped from 7lbs 2 oz at birth {Wednesday} to 6 lbs 9 oz on Friday. By the following Friday she weighed 7 lbs 8 oz.  The look on the pediatrician’s face was priceless.

:: Two weeks::

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Goodnight, world!

 


It’s a girl!

Zara

It’s been a week and we are still marveling over the wonder of her.  She’s a darling, darling lump of sugar; but best of all, she is here.  She is alive.  And she is healthy.  Liam thanks me almost every day for “eating healthy and keeping her alive” and every day I remind him it is God who kept her alive and brought her to us.  ”She is just darling,” he says over and over and his darling sounds like a cross between darling and dare ling.  And then he follows up with, “She is just adorable.”

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Last Tuesday night I sat on the recliner listening to Michael Card lullabies.  Earlier I’d sent a text to a friend that said, “I think I’m going to be pregnant til July.”  Zara had squirmed into a better position, but there were certainly no signs of imminent labor.  I’d written a welcome baby sign on the chalkboard on Saturday and joked to the boys that maybe she’d know we’re ready.  On Tuesday at lunchtime Adam stared at the sign a bit and said, “Maybe if you would have written the welcome a little fancier, she’d want to come.”

welcome bebe

We’d eaten supper at chuckwagon and afterward I asked Sheryl if she would hear the phone if I called at night.  She said she’d been thinking about that and would move a headset in that night.  We kept toggling with what to do with the boys.  Sheryl only has off on Wednesday and if the next day was her morning to do breakfast she needed to be in the kitchen way early in the morning.  For awhile Becca was around and available, but she’d left for Pennsylvania a few days earlier.  If push came to shove, we were going to take them along to Hagerstown and have Nola meet us at the hospital since they were going to stay with her anyway.  I just wasn’t sure I envied her if that happened in the middle of the night and they arrived in her car after listening to me labor for an hour. ;)  My sister, Christy, said earlier when I was discussing all the variables, “You know, somehow I think God is going to take care of everything and it’s going to work out.”  How right she was.

That night, a few minutes before 1, I woke to a wet whoosh of fluid and about fifteen minutes later we realized the race was on.  It didn’t take long to decide to call Sheryl.  I could hardly believe this “happened” to be the night before her day off.  It takes one hour and twenty minutes on a good day to get to the hospital.  It just so “happened” that we got in a measly few hours before the freezing rain hit the next morning.  It’s been a bit of an adjustment to get used to not be able to access David directly when he’s working at camp (no cell phone service and there aren’t separate office lines).  I was really just relishing the idea of going into labor while he was, oh, say, in supervisor’s meeting (not interrupted unless it’s serious) and having the secretary relay my desperate message to the whole group of men.  Not.  It just so “happened” that I went into labor at night when he was home.  And I guess if we’re talking about things that just “happened,” we could also be glad it didn’t just “happen” six hours earlier when I was sitting in chuck wagon.

I say, “just so happened.”  Clearly, God had a few little surprise gifts all planned out ahead of times.

Two and a half hours after our first warning, Zara was here.  All 7 lbs 2 oz and twenty-one inches of her.

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It was love at first sight.

Lots of people ask how to pronounce her name.  The first part of Zara rhymes with “car.”  It’s a name David and I learned to love when we spent two months in Ireland and fell in love with a beautiful, red-haired little girl just a bit older than Adam.  The best I can tell, the name is either Aramaic or Hebrew in origin.  We hadn’t really come up with another first name we were considering seriously, but as soon as I found the Hebrew meaning, I knew it was meant to be her name.  In Hebrew, the name Zara means “dawn, glorious.”  She is truly the glorious dawn breaking after a long night of hopes deferred and baby loss.

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And now, for some pictures. And yes, there are a gazillion without even the slightest apology. No one in either of our extended families, with the exception of my mom and dad, has seen her yet.

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My sweet friend, Sheryl.  I’m so lucky to have her here this year.  I was doubly glad we chose the hospital we did, even though it was so far away.  Our only reason in making the decision was the incompetent care Adam and others received at the local hospital along with the fact that I couldn’t find a local obstetrical office who took me seriously when I was first pregnant and my symptoms were most similar to my molar pregnancy.  I wanted an ultrasound NOW because I was not about to go through the horrible, horrible hormone wash of a molar pregnancy not discovered until twelve weeks.  As it turned out, no one could offer me anything and I traveled back to Virginia to my regular office where they insisted I do a high def, not just an in-office ultrasound.  You cannot imagine the sweet relief of seeing a baby that day.  Even the ultrasound tech said, “Can I just give you a hug?  I am so happy for you!”  Other than that, I was mostly happy with my care here.  The nurses at the hospital were fabulous and most of the midwives / doctors at the office were great, there were just so many of them.  I had two favorite midwives and one favorite doctor and one of those midwives did my delivery (another little God-gift since I knew there was a distinct possibility someone I hadn’t even seen in office would be on call).  She was FABULOUS.  Later at least three people said she is the best of them all.  The nurse told me the next day she’d have ten children if she knew D____ would deliver all of them. :)  But the fun side benefit of this hospital was that I was close to friends and they came to visit that first night!  It was my first baby so far away from family and it was so. much. fun. to have friends pop in with smiles and hugs and pink to celebrate with us!  Clearly, the pregnancy is over.  My hermit tendencies are gone!

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I kid you not, I’m convinced this is exactly how she lay in utero.  Twisted halfway to the side with her legs up!

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Seriously, Mom, don’t you think that’s enough? ;)


A Collection of Boy Quotes

There are random papers floating around the house with quotes from the boys scribbled on them and it’s time to get them into one, retrievable location.  Have a chuckle if you need one!

We absolutely love having guests.  But if you come, please, please come prepared.  I told a friend the other day one of the parenting issues I still struggle with most is just having NO idea at all what will come out of the boy’s mouths, Adam’s especially.  It’s one of those odd situations where it’s not mean, just, well, odd and forthright and sometimes embarrassing.  Please just know in advance that he probably either thinks of it as neutral or a compliment ….or more likely doesn’t think at all!

Last summer when Durlin and Emily were here, we were enjoying a leisurely supper outdoors at the picnic table.  Metri, Xander, and Liam had scrambled down to play while we adults relaxed around the table.  Adam decided to stay with us.  When there was a lull in the conversation, Adam, with tremendous expression, said, “Emily …. I’m just looking at your blue eyes.”

The next day at lunch time, in that pregnant pause between the amen of grace and the moment when everyone starts talking and reaching for food, he piped up with “I just thought of a Bible verse for this.  Well, no, I guess it doesn’t really fit.  {pause} Well, I guess I’ll just say it anyway.  If your enemy hungers, feed him.”

Last fall when Tim and Rachel came to visit we were about to head out the door to Cumberland to take some pictures in the historical section of town.  Rachel chose a darling dress with vintage vibes.  Adam took a good look at her as she was collecting jackets for the children and said, “You look just like a woman in Chicago in the ’70′s.”

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One night I asked Adam to fry the hamburger while I was doing something else.  He kept running into the living room and needing to be called back to the kitchen.  On one return he said, “I’m reading Encyclopedia Brown and it’s addictive.  Kind of like morphine.”

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There has been a great deal of baby talk around here.  The boys are still in disbelief that we will actually have a baby because somehow they seem more acquainted with baby death than baby birth.  They still talk about the two babies we lost and in the last two years we’ve been to two funerals of baby’s who went straight to God.

Almost every week one or the other of them will ask, “Is the baby dead yet?”  One day during school Adam asked, “Is this baby actually going to live?”

“I hope so!” I said.

“Well,” he said a bit nonchalantly, “the last two died.”

Liam looked up from across the table, furrowed his forehead a bit and said, “Two? I thought it was more like thirty-six.”

Around thirty weeks or so I also heard them talking about when the baby would come.  I was trying to explain that the baby was still much too premature to come now and maybe it wouldn’t even live if it was born so early.

“Oh, yeah,” Adam said, “it would have to be on an aerator.”  (Apparently we do more yard work than medical talk around here.) :)

There is an equal amount of talk about my enormous size.  Adam looked at me one day and said, “After you have the baby, will you start thinning down?”

Or the time he said, “Is that the fattest you’ve ever been?”  Well, yes, bud, thanks for asking.  ”Maybe you’ll win the world’s record for fattest pregnancy.”

But that was mild compared to a few mornings later as I was making omelets.  He took a good look and said, “Did you have the baby last night and that’s still just your winter fat?”

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I love when the boys botch words.  Liam’s current misuse is “forch nut” for fortunate.

As in, “Every time I see muffins I’m just SO forch nut.  So can I have one when I get home because I’m just so forch nut.”

Or when I was asking Adam about school versus homeschooling and whether the subjects were more interesting in one or the other and he said, “Oh my word, yes, this!”

How is that?

“In school we didn’t really do Reading.  We just read a short story and compromised it.”

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Speaking of homeschool versus school conversations.  Last year it was all about school and this year suddenly homeschool is his favorite.  I’d like to take this and run with it, but the truth is, he’s probably just forgotten school a lot more.

When I asked him for a list of pros and cons he couldn’t come up with anything for school except that he got to see his friends all the time.  I could definitely help him out with that list, but I’ll refrain since it’s not an option right now. ;)

But he likes homeschooling because:

:: you get a longer break

:: you make your corrections right away (“you have no idea how painful it is to make corrections the next morning before school”)

:: you get to see your family more

::have a mom for a teacher because she knows how much to push you (score!)

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One day when his Grandpa and Grandma Beachy were here to help with the basement we were plowing through school work so he could go join the men.  Like he often does, Adam wrote a “d” when he meant to write a “b”.  This is never a huge problem because he sees his error as soon as he does it.  But it does happen frequently and it makes him grumpy.

“UUUUUUUGh,” he said in disgust.  ”I think I have that disease where you get your d’s and b’s backward …..”

Me: “dyslexia?”

A: “yes”

Me: “Well, not badly because you recognize it right away … maybe it’s floating around in your gene pool but it’s not fully expressed ….”

A: “Well, maybe I should quit wearing jeans all the time.  Maybe I should just start wearing pants (black slacks) like Grandpa Beachy does.”

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Liam was sitting on the back of the loveseat while I read stories to him when I noticed he was picking at his toenails.

Me: “Liam, don’t pick your toenails.”

Liam in complete indignation: “I’m not picking them.  I’m just adjusting them.”

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Adam while playing with a tractor that had a wobbly wheel:  ”This tractor tire just isn’t being very loyal.”

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I was so worried that we’d get finished with the basement and the boys would refuse to move down out of fear.  Liam would never go downstairs alone for anything and even Adam seemed hedgy about it after dark.  Frankly, I still don’t like dark, unfinished basements myself.  I’d toyed with the idea of David and I moving downstairs and got vetoed strongly by everyone else in the house.  My worries were COMPLETELY in vain.  The boys absolutely love it downstairs and spend way more time down there than they do up here now that it has carpet.  We moved in Thursday night and Adam quickly said he planned to just live down there except for meals.  As soon as we had their room set up they literally sat in there for the next hour, Liam strumming his guitar and Adam engrossed in a childcraft book from his nightstand he never paid a minute’s attention to while it was upstairs.  Their room up here was boring.  I painted it white thinking I’d keep it more gender neutral.  I was planning to paint a tree and an owl on one wall and add color in a few other ways but last summer went crazy and I never got it done.  They never liked their room.  Downstairs, their room is not only brand new, it’s navy and all boy.  To say they’re thrilled is an understatement.  Adam says it’s his favorite room in the house.  It’s so much fun to hear them exclaim over it, but my favorite moment came after their first night of sleeping downstairs.  All night.  No nightmares.  They woke up and instead of tearing out to the living room, they stayed in their room for a bit talking and laughing.  After about twenty minutes Liam came stomping up the steps and bam went the toilet lid.  When he finished his necessary work in the bathroom he came out to where David and I were and gave an indignant shake to both his head and his hand.  ”WHEN can you guys get that bathroom finished downstairs?”  We’re working on it bud, but we need a few more days til the vanity and the toilet come.  And just as quickly he turned around and headed right back downstairs to the favorite room of the house.  The good news in Liam’s words: “Well, I got my hope.”  What was that? “I hoped we would get to move into our bedroom before the baby comes.”

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Adam claims winter is his favorite season; but I think even the biggest winter lovers are running out of love this year.  He looked out the window, gave his head a little shake as though to clear the visual, and said, “I just wish I could glance away and look back and it would be 60 degrees and lush out there.”  Me, too!

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Funny or not, sometimes there is a great deal of truth in their statements.  Like this one from Adam:

“The bad thing about Mommies getting tired is that they put their children to bed earlier.”

 


Waiting on Baby

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Some days I still can’t believe the miracle gift that is happening at our house.

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Three years ago on Valentines Day, David and I checked into the hospital for a D&C.  The day when not only our dreams for a baby ended, but the journey with a molar pregnancy began.

Pink tulips have always spoken to me of hope and the promise of spring and new life; but when several people sent pink tulips to me during that time, they also began to symbolize hope for a healthy baby.

The next year in March our dreams were dashed again, this time during our tenth anniversary trip.

I still loved pink tulips; but sometimes I wondered if God had only given me a symbol of hope and not a promise to be fulfilled that long ago morning.

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Today we are nine days away from a due date with a precious baby who by all appearances is alive and well.

I can’t wait to hold this baby … to smell that newborn smell.

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I just wish she’d get here already.  I want to tell her that I know it’s cozy in there, but I promise I’ll keep her swaddled and warm out here and there are four people already clamoring for turns to hold her.

And I know there’s an all you can eat buffet going on in there, but I’ll happily keep her tummy filled and pat her through the tummy aches of getting used to the real world.

There are warm blankets and soft onesies and darling little hats just waiting to be tried on.

Please, baby, come soon.

We’re all so ready to say hello.


Winter Warriors

The idea that Virginia and Maryland aren’t that different when it comes to weather is a joke.  Not even watching accuweather for a few months before we moved here could have prepared me for how much colder it is here.  The so-called 3-5 degree average difference sometimes runs more like ten because of where we are in the mountains.  But perhaps the biggest difference of all this winter is the way we get no breaks.  In Virginia, it gets cold, but the sun still shines.  Here, not so much.  Seeing sun for  more than two hours a day is cause for celebration and seeing sun on consecutive days is enough to make you think spring is here.  And those occasional days of 50 degree weather in Virginia?  Not happening here.  My friend called me one day and said it’s 57 and feels just amazing.  Our thermometer didn’t even register 40 and it wasn’t because we were a day ahead or behind the weather system either.  It’s just been cold.  And stayed cold.

On Friday, I walked out the door for a doctor’s appointment and seriously thought it felt like spring. The sun was shining and it was so warm!  I picked my way through the snow and ice, started the van, realized it was stuck and went in for help to push it out of the frozen snow.  As I backed onto the road I glanced at the thermometer.  32 degrees.  I think I’ve completely lost my mind.

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The ground has been white more than brown which is actually very pretty and helps to compensate for the lack of sunshine.  And, of course, every few days, it snows again.  It’s so cold there have been snowy owl sightings near here.  I guess I’ll get worried when I hear someone is seeing penguins.

The boys think this winter is the most amazing thing ever.  They’ve gone ice skating numerous times and nothing makes them cheer like hearing there will be a game of hockey on the canal.  Liam even got to play goalie one afternoon using a broomstick to block the puck. It’s one of the most amazing things about camp staff … the kindness they show to children.  Camp even had a winter picnic after playing games on the canal one afternoon when it was oh, around 12 degrees outside.  I didn’t know people even do this kind of stuff!

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One snowy day Adam and Liam decided to attempt building an igloo in the backyard.  Adam shoveled a huge pile of snow and then tried to dig out the inside.  Unfortunately it collapsed on him and Liam had to pull him out.

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That night at chuckwagon they were talking about their afternoon and Chief Albert told them about the huge igloo he helped build one winter at Bald Eagle.  He offered to help them if they wanted to come over to camp to do it and the entire camp ended up helping during a lunch sharing time or two.  They rounded up five gallon buckets, filled them with snow, dumped them out and let them freeze overnight.  Then they stacked them sideways in a circle to build up the igloo.  It was big enough for an entire group of campers to sit in (although a little squished) and the groups took turns sleeping in it at night.

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building an igloo

igloo

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On Thursday night after party night, David took Adam and Liam over for a turn to sleep in the igloo.  I stayed home and drank hot chocolate and just soaked up the quiet and wished for some girlfriends.  But seriously, if I wouldn’t have been eight months pregnant and the idea of midnight bathroom trips so frigid I would totally have joined them.  Who ever gets to sleep in an igloo??

sleeping in an igloo

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The Monday of the February homevisit is traditionally the day camp staff go skiing not far from here.  Last year Liam and I stayed home because he seemed too young to ski.  We thought we’d go this year, but baby changed those plans so he and I stayed home again.  The Friday prior, at 36 weeks, I found out I was dilated to three and baby could come anytime.  I was just a bit nervous about being alone so a friend offered to come out for the day and we were going to have fun working on a project for the boy’s new room downstairs.  Well, on Sunday it was clear that Monday was going to be yet another snow day with six to eight inches predicted.  Obviously, not a good time to take to the road across a mountain, unless your skiing.  Liam was as disappointed about not having a friend over as I was, so we planned a cozy, fun day for just the two of us.  With no one here to chauffeur in the event of an emergency, I was planning to stay parked on the couch with my feet up.  I’ve been having timeable contractions since before Christmas.  So much so that the doctor sent my records along down to Virginia just in case.  David wasn’t sure which vehicle to take because of the snow.  The tires on the van are terrible, but the brake light is on in the Escape for some odd reason so it didn’t seem like a great idea to drive it either.  He finally opted for the van; leaving me with the lesser of two non-great options.  I figured it was a no-brainer.  If I go into labor I can’t drive anyway.  I’ll just call 9-1-1.  No problem.  I really was so glad he was going.  He’s worked pretty much six days a week since July, except for a few days off over Christmas and he needed the time off.  Adam needed some fun dad-time desperately.  I just hoped for the best of both worlds!

I couldn’t sleep that night and ended up on the recliner half the night.  At three I heard the ice start pinging against the window.  I knew the snow wasn’t far behind.

David kissed me goodbye in the morning and I was about to drift back off to sleep when I heard thumping footsteps on the front porch and he and Adam burst back in through the front door.  Startled, I walked out to investigate and discovered they’d slid off the road into the ditch less than a half mile from the house.  Did this deter them?  Not in the least.  They just called the rest of the group to come push them out and were on their merry way.  It was one of those moments where you really want to say, “Are you sure this is a good idea to go?” but you don’t.  You just beg God to bring him back safely when you kiss him goodbye again.  And then, because you’re not really good at keeping your mouth shut, you say, “Please, please be careful.”

Liam was up like a lark a few minutes later, way too ready to “start our cozy day.”  An hour and a half later, the power went out.  So there we were.  No power.  No water.  A bum vehicle.  Six to eight inches of fresh fluffy snow.  No phone.  And because the cell phone booster is powered, not even a cell phone.  I can’t call consistently, but the booster at least lets me text.  I felt very, very vulnerable.  Luckily, most of the cozy things Liam and I were going to do were still doable.  My projects weren’t.  I found it interesting that power affects adults so much more than children.  And luckily David’s laptop was fully charged so we watched a movie to help pass the time.  We read stories and he practiced his reading and piano, wrote a letter to his cousin, and I took a nap while he played jockey.  I brought snow inside to melt so we could paint later and have water to wash the brushes because Liam is always begging to paint.  Oddly, he had no interest in painting that day.  Because we had no water, we stuck pop cans in the snow to chill.  Liam said we were just like pioneers because we didn’t have any water in the house so we just drank pop. ;)

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By some miracle, I was able to get some texts through in the morning if I tried resending them about twenty times.  David sent Grandpa Dolyn and Grandma Donna to check on me around noon.  He cleared the lane and the Escape and got it turned around in case I needed to go anywhere and tried to hook up one of those ancient phones that plugs directly into the wall, but it didn’t work.  Still, it felt like I could at least get out without wading through snow and I felt eternally grateful!  Liam and I traipsed outside for a little photoshoot in the snow.

And then, at 4:30, the lights blinked, blinked, blinked and suddenly everything roared to life.  Roared because, after that much silence, the refrigerator and coffee maker are incredibly loud. :)

On Wednesday, the power went out again thanks to another ice storm.  I was not happy.  We were on a crazy deadline to get finished painting and I wasn’t in the mood to have my plans deterred by yet another day without power.  David brought home a small generator so we could power up the construction lights in the basement and we started melting snow on the wood stove to wash brushes.  I finished the boy’s room about the time we heard the power would be out for several days, possibly a week.  Really?  I’d thought through washing out the brushes.  I hadn’t thought through the no shower after crawling around on a dirty basement floor process.  And how were we supposed to finish painting?  At 8:30, about the time David had moved the generator upstairs to hook up the frig, we got power.  I still think this was nothing shy of a miracle.

Miracles after meltdowns.  It’s the theme of these days.  After going to Harrisonburg to choose carpet and then finding out three days later it’s backordered for a month … a meltdown.  A few days later finding a carpet sample and hearing it can be installed on the 11th … a miracle.  Finding out you will be without power for days …. a meltdown.  Having it come back on at 8:30 that night … a miracle.  Thinking you will not possibly get finished painting and then having Becca show up two afternoons and helping you push through plus a few late nights … the miracle of finishing up what most has to be done pre-carpet.  Finding out about the broken theme for the website … meltdown and then working like mad and having it go live this week … miracle!  Finding out baby has shifted from sideways to completely posterior and the statistics say that instead of going imminently, you will now go late, have a much harder labor, and very difficult delivery …if you manage to deliver on your own at all.  It’s the current meltdown.  I am choosing to believe that God is going to miraculously take care of this one, too.  Choosing in my head.  My eyes haven’t quite caught up.  And I’m hoping for a bigger miracle than the fact that since she’s posterior, the contractions have stopped and I can sleep or that because I now won’t go into labor anytime soon we’ll nicely get the boys settled and the nursery set up.  I’m choosing to take I Corinthians 16:13-14 out of context, put it in my own words, and make them my mantra for this week.   Be watchful.  Be faithful.  Be brave.  Be strong. Meanwhile do everything with love.

Judging by the tone of my voice with the boys the last few days, the last sentence might be the hardest one of all.

 


The January Rollercoaster

It’s been one of those weeks where you keep thinking you’re going to hyperventilate at any moment.

It started with feeling like it was Christmas in January when a replacement UV bulb was installed into our water system and we could once again say goodbye to hauling our drinking water from camp and to having GI symptoms when we forgot and used tap water to brew coffee.  As if that wasn’t enough, a few hours later a brand new stove, frig and dishwasher were delivered to our house and the thirty year old models left the same night.  I shed no tears.  The frig wasn’t actually the original thirty year old version but it was the third one we were using in a year’s time thanks to two other models that didn’t work.  I really don’t miss having to turn around and shove the door with my hip to make sure the seal closed the entire way down.  I also don’t miss having the dishwasher leak water all over the floor.  Or the noise when it ran.  Do you have any idea how much appliances have improved in thirty years?  And the stove?  Well, let’s just say I was most grateful of all to get rid of the timer knobs that punched me my distended belly every time I stood in front of it.  I thought it worked the best of the three until the new one was installed and now I can’t believe how fast my food cooks!

The guys did most of the loading and unloading, but I scrubbed thirty years of dirt from underneath their original lodging places and ended up on the recliner with too many contractions to sleep until nearly two that night.

On Tuesday, I thought I was about twenty minutes from going live with camp’s new website.  I’d only spent about a hundred hair-pulling late night hours trying to figure out how to make it work and I was down to two main issues.  When I called our former neighbor who is a very knowledgeable web developer he informed me the theme I’m using is broken and can’t be fixed.  This is not the kind of news you really want to hear when you are thirty-five weeks pregnant and trying desperately to wrap up projects before baby arrives.  But, it DID feel better to hear that perhaps there was more to blame than my lack of functional grey matter.  I’d never worked on anything that made me feel so inept in my entire life!  I stayed up til one that night installing a new theme he recommended and trying valiantly to figure out things that are way over my head.  I’m pretty sure I’m using about 2.7% of the power of the new theme, but at least it’s working.

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On Wednesday, we went to a local flooring shop to look for carpet for the basement and met what I’m pretty sure must be one of the most annoying salesman I’ve ever met.  His sales theology could only be described as a McDonalds dollar menu version.  He continuously attempted to get us to consider much cheaper carpet because he “knows we don’t want to spend more money than that” and in a few years we’ll be bored with the carpet and want to change it anyway.  Really?  We’re just dying to redo all this work. Not. What should have been a twenty minute stop took two hours because he.would.not.stop.talking and the boys got an education from us afterward on what NOT to do if they ever have a job as salesman.  Among the top don’ts: Don’t peek your head around acting as though you’re being all sneaky behind your co-worker’s back and buddy buddy with me and giving me a “cut” in price.  I picked a few sample boards and a color and hoped that was that.  It was one of those days where you feel like you work three shifts.  Homeschool.  Make food to feed your family.  Clean up the house.  House shopping x2.  Get groceries.  Put boys to bed.  Work on website til 3 AM.  David was amazing and stayed up with me til 2 helping me get things converted.

On Thursday, David called the guy who will install our carpet (and who we trust implicitly) and he said the carpet samples we were looking at were among the worst on the market and the carpet wouldn’t hold up.  Translated: I would need to drive two hours one way to pick out carpets from a flooring shop where he does business and could be trusted.  Breathe.  Just breathe, Michelle.  I tried to paint trim that afternoon and pretty much collapsed.  Let’s just say there were no late night web development hours going on that night.

On Friday, I woke to the sound of Adam throwing up.  All I could do when David walked into the room was mutter, “Please tell me it’s not true.  Please tell me it’s not true.”  But it was.  Liam decided he was sick, too, and both boys were hunkered on couches with warm, fuzzy blankets.  David insisted I keep plans to get carpet.  It’s going to be the biggest holdup and if didn’t get ordered, the risk of baby arriving before install went up exponentially.  Three hours later the house was clean and the boys were bouncing around as normal as ever except Adam had a residual headache.  First migraine?  I left to choose carpet and came home to discover Adam flunked a Math test for the first time ever.  I’m pretty sure I want to throw away the homeschool hat.

On Saturday, Darius and Ro came to help us work on the basement.  Seriously, David’s family has outdone themselves with helping us on this project.  We are not strangers to DIY building projects, but it has been different doing it away from our families, a church community, and access to a trailer full of Edenali’s tools.  DIY really means DIY, not DIY and some days your family and friends come help you work or bring food or keep your kids.  In spite of living three hours away, David’s dad has been here twice helping him with plumbing and electrical.  When it was time to hang drywall, three of his brothers carpooled up for a day and helped him knock it out.  Two weeks ago, all four of my sisters-in-law traveled up and helped me get first coat put on all the walls.  It was a HUGE boost and after they left I realized the social boost was equally powerful.  I don’t think homeschooling moms always realize how lonely and adult-deprived they are until they hang out with other women!  Although in this case it probably had as much to do with hanging out with women you’ve known for a long time as anything else.  You know, the kind of girls you show and tell the new baby clothes for and they ooh and ahh as excitedly you do.  And who bring you the partial bottle of your favorite baby soap they still had left because the manufacturer quit making it years ago and they know it’s your favorite.

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It was the same week the girls were coming that I realized we really weren’t going to get finished pre-baby.  I asked David to tell me the truth and he said “probably not.”  That same week I prayed a desperate prayer for help.  ”Please God, can you send help for David?”  I don’t think I really expected an answer.  Three days later, David and Joanna called to see if they could come help us the following Saturday.  David and Joanna attended church here every other Sunday for a year to help out and still do sporadically so we’ve gotten to know each other through that.  I could hardly believe God was giving us this gift.  They live an hour and a half away and were planning to attend church here the next day which meant packing up a family of seven for the weekend, including food for carry in on Sunday.  Plus, Joanna brought fabulous food for our meals on Saturday.  I’m pretty sure I gained five pounds on her chocolate cake alone.  The two David’s knocked out a tremendous amount of trim and Joanna and I painted and painted and painted trim with plenty of talking and laughing in-between strokes.  We were assembling pizzas when the phone rang and I heard David say, “Absolutely I could use your help.”

And so it was that one of the board members came out early Monday morning before the board meeting and helped David with more trim.  Adam looked at me incredulously that afternoon and said, “Mommy, your prayer got triple answered.”  I was in disbelief myself.

Becca came over for two afternoons to sand and caulk while the boys puttied nail holes.

The next afternoon I got the email from Ro saying they wanted to come help  this past Saturday.  I cried.  We went from not possibly getting finished to hopefully being able to wrap up pre-baby.  Darius and David worked on shelving and fixing drop ceiling issues and installing baseboard in the bathroom and Ro and I painted and painted and painted trim.  I could not believe how much got done in one day.  But the gift these people gave was so much greater than their physical labor.  There is something profoundly powerful that happens with this kind of help.  It is the gift of hope when a situation feels hopeless.  It is the humble gift of unselfishness when we all know that everyone has a million things they’d rather be doing for themselves on a Saturday.  It is the gift of friendship, and smiles, and energy to people who’ve been holed up with drywall dust in a basement for many months.  It is the gift of Jesus’ hands and feet and heart and what happens in our spirit exceeds what happens in the basement.  We are grateful beyond words.

Meanwhile, I am once again saying, this week the website is going to go live.  And hopefully it really will happen.  I would love to say this week we’re going to wrap up the painting, but I don’t quite dare.  Each week it gets harder and harder to move up and down ladders and drag my body along the perimeter of a concrete floor with a paintbrush.  After a day of painting, my pelvis does the hokie pokie all by itself when I attempt to stand still in the mornings.  Today, I can barely walk.  But I am believing that the God of miracles who carried me so completely this past week will carry me right through the next one as well.  When God said He will gently lead those with young, I thought He meant that He would make their life easier.  Now I realize He meant that He would give them supernatural grace.  Every morning this week I looked at my day and could do nothing but hold out my arms across the bed and say, “God, I need strength.”  And every night I went to bed in amazement at the way God answered those one line cries.

There is something so incredibly powerful about living in that place where you can’t and God does.  It’s those days when I feel as though I can almost feel a tangible connection to heaven itself.  Still, I am human enough to hope this week will hold a few less technical web issues, a few earlier bedtimes, a few less non-productive contractions, a few more this-has-second-coat moments, and a few better Math grades.  What are you wishing for this week?


Reminiscing about Christmas

It’s true.  Christmas is so long gone I’ve started hallucinating about pink tulips.  But it was such a wonderful week I want to memorialize it somehow.  All except for the Monday memories when all the camp families got together and cut up five pigs.  I’m actually just fine with not remembering that day.  Grandpa Dolwyn couldn’t believe my inner farm girl didn’t love it; but somehow I haven’t gotten in touch with her yet.  I tried to stay very busy making lattes for the real workers and then packaging and marking meat. ;)  Ziplock bags, freezer paper, and black sharpies are tools I can work with just fine.  The truth is, I’m super grateful.  We have a freezer full to the brim and a good portion of it is vegetables, chicken, and pork that we’ve raised.  It’s an amazing privilege to have access to food you know is raised in healthy ways; I just have a love / hate relationship with the process!

Christmas morning

But then, it was Christmas. We celebrated our own little family Christmas on the twenty-fourth.  I adore those times with just us having fun.

Christmas morning   Christmas donuts

No one rushing off to work, no school assignments,  no working on projects, just a day of downtime and special foods and love and gifts and games and stories.

I love the warm coziness of it and the sweetness of actually just enjoying being together.

The boys could hardly wait to get and give their gifts.  After investing so much of themselves into making things, they were nearly hopping with excitement for us to open them.  And, being normal boys, they were even more excited about opening their own gifts.  Some years it feels like I’ve found the right gift for them only to not have them really enjoy it until two or three years later.  This year, for some reason, it was so much easier to decide what to get and, almost unbelievably, I found both items reduced nearly 50% when I went shopping!  It felt like such a God-gift and I wondered if God doesn’t enjoy giving us gifts for Christmas as much as we enjoy giving to others.  It was an incredible thought … that perhaps He celebrates Jesus’ birthday the same way we do and made me much more intentional about looking for gifts in the coming days.  I found so many beginning with that last shopping day before Christmas: the discounted presents for the boys, one copy of the exact bird book on my sister in law’s wish list in a teeny, teeny bookstore, parking spaces close to the door at almost every stop.  It was incredible.

Adam has wanted a woodburner ever since he used a friend’s at a cabin before we moved here.  Now that we’re here and wood carving and wood burning happen all around him, he’s been even more interested.  He borrowed one to do a craft for David and came up with the design and content all on his own.  The board he chose was enormous and I gently tried to suggest he let David cut it down to a manageable size.  Thankfully, he did or we might need wall reinforcements in David’s office.  He told me he was doing a drawing with a trout and which Bible verse he wanted the day after David entertained a somewhat difficult work-related call at home in the evening and I listened to his patient responses as he got blasted with false accusation.  I nearly got goosebumps as Adam began reciting, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee….” I mean, what could be a more fitting promise for his office.  ”You know, Adam, I think God’s Spirit gave you that verse just for daddy,” I began.

“Really?” Adam asked.  I thought the water part kind of went with trout fishing anyway.”

So much for over-spiritualizing. :)

Aside from David cutting the board to length and my giving him a third hand with keeping the stencils straight as he traced the lines of the letters with a pencil, he did his project all on his own.  Drawing, wood burning, poly, and wrapping.  I was proud of him, especially because he was so focused and diligent with his project.  I suggested spacing it out because it got really tedious.  Instead, he doggedly pushed on, taking ten minute breaks when it was too much and he started getting sloppy.  But the best moment was seeing the accomplished look on his face when David exclaimed over it as he opened it.  I want to give like that in life.  To know that I have given my best. Unashamedly offering from the talents God has given me.  Recently I’ve caught myself trash-talking about things I’m trying to do that I don’t feel capable of in front of the boys and I suddenly heard it through their ears.  I never want them to think that their best is not good enough or that it needs to compare with someone much more talented or trained than they are.  Then why do I let myself think that way? I hate that comparison trap. so. much.  I want to live life like Adam and Liam do.  Minus the bickering. ;)

wood burning

artist, wood burning

And how I loved the look on his face when he opened his gift and discovered his very own wood burner!

woodburning tools

I didn’t have to worry about David needing to guess about his soap carvings.  Liam giddily stood right beside him, almost unable to keep his own hands off the wrapping paper as he described each one (including it’s unique problems) as David pulled them out.  The first one was so broken he mistook it for another, but he was no less pleased with the gift he had given.  I want that kind of joy in giving in life.  Uninhibited.  Transparent.  Giving because it is so much fun to give!

soap carving for beginners

child's soap carving

Liam is actually harder to shop for than Adam.  I’m never sure if it’s because he just enjoys all of life instead of being super passionate about one thing for a six month period or if it’s partially because when you’re a second-born, you already inherit the goodness of a full toybox.  This year it was easier.  He’s looked at walkie talkies in the store and wished for them and for once, it was something Adam didn’t already have.  Plus, I was secretly pleased at the idea of having an easier way to talk to them when they’re deep in the woods with their friends at camp!

Don’t you just love that “OH” moment when they open a gift and are thrilled to bits!

perfect Christmas gift for five year old

Liam is a words person and his cards are always almost as much of a gift to him as the gift itself.  I’d barely started reading, “Dear Liam, We are so glad you are in our family …” when he let out a tiny giggle of pleasure and just threw his arms around my neck.  Melt my heart!

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Their gifts to me were equally precious.

Adam cut out and stained little wooden coasters since we never have anywhere to put our drinks when we’re hanging out in the living room and Liam proudly made a coat rack for the basement entrance with a bit of help from David.  I think these boys caught their dad’s woodworking abilities and I love it!

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But the best gift of all was downtime together.  It’s such a rare gift these days and I kept catching myself thinking, “I need to get up and …” only to realize there was nothing to fill in the blank.  David showed Adam Google Earth satellite and he had fun tracing routes he’s familiar with and finding our house.

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Late in the afternoon we packed our bags and headed for Virginia to celebrate Christmas with David’s family.  And what a celebration it was!

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It was a day of catching up on what’s going on in each other’s lives, delicious food, a fun gift exchange, and a birthday party for Chloe in the evening.  One of the sweetest parts of the day was right after lunch when David’s dad suggested each family share something.  If ever there was proof of how much our kids have grown in the last few years, this was it.  A few years ago, our days together were chock full of nap time co-ordination, bathing babies in the evening, re-orienting toddlers, and hoping that maybe we’d get thirty minutes of adult time somewhere in the middle of naps.  Now, not only do the children play together with far fewer power struggles, they feed themselves, don’t need naps, can stay awake on the ride home, AND can manage to sit through dinner AND give us a mini performance when there are gifts waiting in the living room.  I mean, next thing you know, they’ll be the ones doing the dishes!  Chloe even sang a solo.

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Family is a gift from God and one we way too often forget to count.  I kept thinking of that so often this season, especially because death touched the families of two friends of ours.  These happy, celebrating times are a gift to be treasured.

The next day brought another gift.  God has given us amazing renters for our house.  Almost every time someone hears we have renters they say, “Oh my, how is that going?”  Apparently renters have a bad rap.  And every time we get to say, “Fabulous! We could not ask for better people.”  But June will be here before we know it and we didn’t know if they wanted to stay longer or if we’d need to put the house back on the market.  During a rough weekend in November, David and I both clearly felt God telling us He wasn’t finished with us here; but we knew that could be overridden if we couldn’t do something with the house.  We loved spending time with Paul and Jeanne and when they said they’d like to stay on, I felt God quietly say, “See, I’m writing this all out perfectly.  You wouldn’t need to even think about it.”

Friday held more gifts …..

a breakfast date with two of my besties

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and a stop at the hospital to see a brand new niece!  Isn’t she a doll?

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And then it was over.  But in another way it’s not.  What we have enjoyed and remember, we can enjoy again and again.  It is only the gifts we don’t see and the experiences we forget that are truly over.

I hope your Christmas 2013 was a beautiful gift.


The month before Christmas

It’s been a month of finding greenery and adding a little warmth to the drabness that is our as of yet unhelped kitchen and dining room.  You’d think after a year I could have at least managed to find curtains.

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…of David working in the basement every possible spare minute and in spite of his amazing, frequent clean ups, finding a new layer of dust in the house every single day.

…of cookie baking …. every single one of the traditional favorites I grew up with except for turtles.  It still takes a mom to make turtles and mine lives too far away.  But date nut balls, rice krispy candy, peanut butter balls that make Reese’s cookies cower in the corner with their hands over their eyes, peanut blossoms, Russian tea cakes, thumbprint cookies, chocolate covered pretzels …. yep, we’ve got those covered.  Or maybe by now they’ve got us covered.  Or they would have if 80% of them wouldn’t have been gifted to our lovely neighbors.  Did you know that the secret to making the best rice krispy candy ever is to put almost three times as much butter as what the recipe calls for?  Seriously, they’re light and fluffy instead of dry and chewy.

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…of crafting.  At camp, the boys make crafts for their families.  Staff make crafts for the staff Christmas exchange.  And this year, Adam and Liam jumped on the bandwagon of crafting, too.  Adam came up with a wood burning idea for David and pulled it off pretty diligently one afternoon.  Liam’s first soap carving didn’t go so well because the soap kept falling apart.  I’m just hoping David’s guessing skills will shoot up like a ski lift Christmas morning.

soap carving

wood burning

 

I’ve been having fun crafting, too, although mine has *mostly* stuck with the paper version and simple things like Christmas table decor.  But oh, it’s been fun to do something mindless and creative … especially after going cross-eyed late at night over technical issues while trying to set up a new website for camp.  I love being stretched and learning new things.  I just have to keep chanting that to myself when I google a question and I still don’t understand the explanation in the tutorial.  ;)  But I have a few fabulous resources I plan to make the most of soon and hopefully in January we’ll be able to replace the existing site with the new one.  But decor?  Just fun!  The only downside is that it is so much fun the boys keep wanting to take the job!  I’m exploiting the gold crush that’s running viral and loving it!  I still haven’t pried my fingers loose from the beloved greys and silvers when it comes to clothes, but ribbon and table decor?  It’s so sparkly and pretty!  I can’t wait to put it all together Christmas Day!

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No tools?  no problem.  Did you know you can make a lacy paper edge with a scallop scissors and a pin?  I’m pretty sure an edger of some sort is probably out there just hanging on the store shelves, but I don’t have one and this works.  The holes may or may not end up in the middle of the scallop when you have five years olds who want to help poke though.  It’s called embracing imperfection and life and assuming the lace is handmade and unique.

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I thought I was doing relatively well with that thought until Liam wanted to finish out writing the names for me.  Does anyone else ever get torn in that no man’s land battle zone between “I love that the boys want to help and be involved and oops, this is not going to look like I was planning?”  I was nearly finished and I really, really, really just wanted them to all look the same.  But I felt so guilty about saying no.  When is it ok to have your own project and when is that just selfish??  I bet that if you’re a mom in my generation you’ve heard it over and over and over.  ”Let your children help you now if you want to be involved in their lives later.  Get your children involved; don’t just push them aside.”  I agree with them.  I really do.  But sometimes when the boys want to be with me all.the.time doing everything I do, the devil’s advocate in me wants to ask, ten years from now are we going to be telling mom’s that it’s great to let your children help, but they should also learn that sometimes they have to be okay with just watching or doing their own thing?  Because I’m pretty sure we can fall into the opposite ditch so far that they end up feeling entitled and like the world revolves around their being allowed into every fun thing that happens.  Do you let your children help with everything?

Philosophy aside, I suggested Liam make paper name tags to put around our napkins for our own little Christmas breakfast with just our family.  He and I were both thrilled.  I stitched a big red zig zag stitch along both edges for a bit of chevron vibe and he sat down with the new silver paint pen to write names.  And then I nearly swooned.  I know it’s just mom-heart palpitations but that five-year-old kindergarten font is so precious I want to save them forever!

paper crafting

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kindergarten

place cards

 

… a month of this lovely Pear Pomegranate Salad becoming almost a staple.  My sister-in-law, Jo, is the finder of the most amazing salads.  She introduced us to this one at our Christmas get together two years ago.  Now I can hardly look at a Pomegranate without instantly thinking of this salad.  Spinach, lettuce, glazed pecans, pears, feta cheese, and pomegranates married with a red wine vinaigrette dressing.  Seriously.  That pile is none too big when you’re looking at this salad.

Pear Pomegranate Salad

 

And because I already know you want the recipe, here it is.

Pear Pomagranate Salad
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/4 c. sugar
1 head romaine lettuce
1 (14 oz) bag baby spinach
seeds from 1 pomegranate (about 1 cup)
2 ripe pears
Juice of 1 lime
4 oz crumbled feta cheese
1. Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with non stick cooking spray and set aside.
2. Combine pecans and sugar in a small nonstick skillet. Cook over medium low heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar melts and coats the nuts (about 15 minutes). Place on the prepared foil and set aside.
3. Toss together lettuce, spinach, pomagranate seeds, pears, lime juice, and cheese, adding the candied pecans right before serving. Drizzle Sweet Red Wine Vinaigrette over the salad and serve immediately.
Sweet Red Wine Vinaigrette
1/2 c. red wine vinegar
1/2 c. sugar
1-2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 c. oil
Combine vinegar, sugar, garlic, salt, and pepper in a blender and process on high. Lower speed, and while blender is running, add oil in a steady stream. Dressing may be stored in refrigerator about 2-3 weeks. Shake well before serving.

….it’s been a month of gorgeous snows!  Two weekends in a row we were gifted with amazing, gorgeous, add many superlatives snowfalls.  The last one was especially heavy and just beyond gorgeous to watch.

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(These pictures are hard to believe now that it’s been sixty degrees two days in a row.  How can the weather possibly change so fast?)

…. a fun afternoon of sewing with this girl.  Sheryl and I grew up together in South Carolina and some days I still can’t believe we actually get to live in the same community for a little while again while she works as cook at camp.  She’s such a fun, happy person to hang out with; but best of all, it is just a fabulous gift to be around an old friend.  Unfortunately, her time is flying by and we don’t get to spend nearly enough time together.

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… a month of growing.  Or at least baby is growing.  I think I may be exploding.  Each of my pregnancies have involved Christmas time and each time, I think about Mary, with even more questions than before.  What was it like carrying the Son of God?  I wonder what her pregnancy was like and if she woke up during the middle of the night too miserable to go back to sleep like I do or if she was one of those women who blipped through pregnancy like it’s no big deal?  I wonder if she went til her due date or if Jesus arrived early thanks to the bumpy donkey ride to Bethlehem?  But even more, I wonder what questions she asked herself throughout those nine months.  Did she ever wonder if she was capable of being the kind of mother He needed or did being divinely chosen and talking with the angel remove all her womanly tendencies to doubt herself?

thirty weeks gestation

I love singing Christmas songs and the way different words become so meaningful from one year to the next.  This year, these are some of my favorites … “the weary world rejoices.”  There is so much weariness in the world right now.  Not just physically (although it’s nearly become my middle name these days) but spiritually.  It feels as though evil is everywhere wanting to win.  Evil possesses a man and causes him to shoot another man in the head.  Evil causes tension and hardship in relationships.  Evil wants us to get caught up in ideals and opinions that don’t really matter so that we don’t focus on Jesus and the things that really do.  And evil desperately wants to get the upper hand in our families, our churches, and the boys at camp.  This week as some things surfaced, I woke up some mornings feeling such a heaviness.  Not fear, because I know God’s power is infinitely greater, but a heaviness with the realization of how intense and close the battlefield lies.  I love Christmas and celebrating the miracle of Jesus’ birth; but more than ever this Christmas, I find myself longing for His next coming.  Unlike the silent four hundred years of darkness, we have his Spirit among us.  Meanwhile our world is weary and broken and leaking and longing for Him.  Thinking about how dark their world felt back then makes me realize how much more glorious it must have been to see the heavens light up with dozens of angels announcing the arrival of the Savior!  I can only imagine what it was like back then or what it will be like someday.  But for today, the weary world rejoices because He did come and He is coming again.