On the Eve of my 42nd Birthday

You know those memory flashbacks that Facebook is so fond of posting, giving us the choice as to whether or not we want to remind others of what happened on that day 1 year, 2 years, or 5 years ago? So this one came up for me today: On the eve of my 40th birthday. Sometimes I’m hesitant to look at the memories of the past because…they hurt too much. And yet I don’t hide that option from my timeline. I’m trying very hard to look back and deal with, if not make sense of, the past couple of years of life. I haven’t wanted to feel the hurt there. There is a major part of me that thinks that feeling the hurt is the same thing as letting bitterness take root. And I want to be very clear – they can be co-mingled for sure, but they are not necessarily the same thing.

And I’m finding a bit of release in embracing the fact that I can still hurt over very real relational wounds without being bitter. I’m allowing myself to feel things a bit more and that means more tears, darn it, but so be it.

I was reading again in the Psalms this week and read this from Psalm 15:

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
    Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
    and speaks truth in his heart;
who does not slander with his tongue
    and does no evil to his neighbor,
    nor takes up a reproach against his friend;

I think I understood something that day. From January through the end of May we were not allowed to speak of what happened. I really wanted to. I REALLY wanted to come June. I didn’t. But there has always been this thought inside me that one of these days I will. I’ll write out the whole thing from our perspective just so there’s a fair representation of what happened. I’ve been waiting for some untold amount of time to pass so I can finally unleash it all.

And yet. He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend…that is the one who will sojourn in the tent of the Lord, dwell in His holy hill.

I got the message that day. There are some hurts that may linger for a lifetime. There are some stories never meant to be shared. God hears and that’s enough. It has to be.

So on the eve of this 42nd birthday, while I’m storing a prepped turkey in the front seat of the car in the garage here in Bozeman, Montana, I’m remembering an evening of sweet girls making pies and taking silly photos and watching a Christmas movie and then eating one of the pies and I’m grateful for this space of our lives. We’re in a good place. Educationally, we’re in a better place. Spiritually we’re working towards the same in our hearts. And I’m thankful.

I’m thankful for parents who stayed together through the good and the horrible. I’m thankful for a 4-year period of time where I could live close enough to them to be involved in my mom’s care during her last years. I’m thankful for fourteen little ones who softened our hearts in a fresh way over and over and over. I’m thankful…for the winter here (because if I say that one enough it has to come true, right? Where’s my sweater…)

I’m thankful for the hope of selling our OKC house soon. I’m thankful for the new relationships God is building into our lives. I’m thankful for a warm house here. I’m thankful for hope, for hope is sometimes all I have.

There was once a time when hard things happened in our life and I lost my way. I’m thankful God led me through that wilderness into a place of trust again. And trust in such a way that this time, though I’ve been wandering again for a while, I have not been lost.

And, in fact, I have a pretty clear view of where I’m heading.

And I’m grateful. Tears and all.

Happy Thanksgiving

 

Edible Solar System

Edible Solar System ProjectDid you know the solar system was actually created in a few hours and baked at 350? Millie has a school project due on Tuesday. We baked up the solar system this past Friday and today she’s decorating her heart out. Super fun.

Guilt by Apple Pie

Mrs. Smith
Today you could call me, Mrs. Smith. And purchasing four of these went against everything in my being, but it ended up being the right decision. I know how to make a killer apple pie, crust included, so it seemed an easy thing to sign up for for the 4th grade Founding Father’s Festival. So easy, I went ahead and signed up to make all four of the requested pies. Because I float around in a semi-constant state of denial most of the time.

Then Monday hit and it was a doozy. And I was sitting in the Walmart parking lot because I needed to get something else and before I knew it, these four pies magically appeared in my shopping cart. Oh, and I’d just been texting with Katie’s teacher who was all, “Just BUY the stupid pies, woman!” Okay, she didn’t say that at all, but she did imply that it would be no big deal if I didn’t hand peel, core, and slice 4,000 apples that night in order to provide pie for 22 very undiscriminating 4th graders. In the end, I agreed.

When it was all said and done, they really only needed three pies, so one came back to us. We had some after dinner and I must say, I can definitely tell a difference. And this will never do for a proper holiday pie, but for all the goofiness we experienced in this house yesterday, Mrs. Smith could very well have saved the day.

 

Checking In, Not Checking Out

On Saturday, Millie and I made four pie crusts together and eleven dozen rolls. We froze it up in prep for Thanksgiving and the various festivals and feasts taking place this week. I took a big step on Saturday when I gave each of us our own bowls and we mixed up our own pie crusts at the same time. She mixed. She rolled. She fluted the edges. And it was beautiful. It was a significant lesson for me in allowing my kids to do things that are typically easier to just do myself. They never learn when I do that.

I have a default when I’m tired: Do it myself, and be by myself.

Am I alone there? Probably not. And for the introverted mother of four, there is value in being alone. I will go so far as to say I need the two days/week my kids are in school to just keep my mouth shut and be alone. It’s a good thing.

But sometimes I don’t get that luxury and I must be ON all the the time. Either I’m substitute teaching or volunteering somewhere or just doing something that engages me with other people. This isn’t a bad thing, but it does wear me down much faster than I otherwise would.

This is why the last time I substitute taught I choose to come home that evening, get everyone settled, and pick back up in reading James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small to the girls before bed. We started this book well over a year ago, but I will confess to taking several months off from it, for no real good reason at all.

That Tuesday night I was tired. I’d been on my feet all day. The girls had choir rehearsal after school and all of us were away from the house from 6:45am until 8:15pm. All I wanted to do when we got home was check out.

But we read. And we’ve been reading every night ever since. I actually like reading aloud to my kids at night, but sometimes I get so caught up in what I “need” I forget about what I really enjoy.

I’ve said before that May is the new December and August is the new May. Now November is the new August and…basically every month is crazy. Craig is going out of town tomorrow and we have another busy day knocking on our door. It was for this reason that when I was asked to mystery shop a local hotel tomorrow night I actually said I would. There is something about the excitement of packing up for a little overnight trip that changes defaults into delight. The girls and I will cram into the room with cable TV and we’ll watch some movies and we’ll play some games and we’ll eat the free breakfast and we’ll just be together. I won’t check out on them because you really can’t do that when you are in that small of a space for that long. It’s my version of indoor camping, if you will.

So tomorrow night we will check in in order to not check out. I’m looking forward to it.

High Tea for the 11 and Under Set

Last week we enjoyed a high tea experience with a few other friends. We were getting together to discuss one the American Girl books about Samantha and decided to combine it with a tea party.

My 8yo and I made these using this Alton Brown scones recipe and they were darn good, if we do say so ourselves! And did I mention Devonshire cream? This was my first time to make it. If I’d realized how easy it was to make, then… oh, better to not have known, I guess. But watch out world (and waist lines) here we come! We served these with Lemon Curd too – oh man, where they good!

We made some super yummy cucumber tea sandwiches too.

And oh yes, what would a tea party be without TEA?

There was much tea drinking and giggling and talking and over-all tea partying to be had all around!

After our formal “high tea” we made our own stationery to write letters on.

I don’t know about you, but I think this was a definite hit. *grin*

Almost Friendship Bread

Amish Friendship Bread

You’ve probably received one. A starter for Amish friendship bread. And maybe you were excited because you’ve wanted to try it and it’s kind of fun and the bread is super yummy. Maybe that’s been you.

If you’ve been at all like me you’ve let your starter die several times. Maybe you forget to feed it. Maybe you forget to squish it. Maybe you just get tired of it. Done! In the trash.

And then you start to wonder – was this really a friendship bread or an almost friendship bread? Because what kind of friend, or potential friend, would inflict another friend with a ziplock bag full of liquid guilt?

It happened to us again a couple of weeks ago. And the funny thing is it happened on the sly. The friend in question had her kids handing out the bags of extra starter. One of the kids kind of ran up to me and tossed the bag in my lap and took off.

I had been starter-ed. My response? It was this: “No-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o!”

But my kids were exited about it, so we brought it home with us. The first round wasn’t so bad – my kids took our starter to a friend’s house and they made it there. But then my friend had some 9 new starter bags. This stuff multiplies faster than dust bunnies under my bed. That’s some kind of fast.

For the second round, I was determined to feel no guilt about it. I measured out the extra starters…straight into the trash can. I kept one for myself and didn’t inflict it on anyone else.

But that seems rather wasteful, you know?

Today I got a brainstorm (and yes, I’m sure I’m the last person on the planet to hatch this genius idea, but indulge me a minute here, okay?): I measured out one starter for me. I the poured the other three cups’ worth into a mixing bowl. The portion that remains in the original bowl is what you are supposed to use to make your bread with that day. I discovered that bit of batter is exactly 1.5 cups…bingo! I had enough batter to make 3 batches of bread.

So we now have 6 loaves of Amish Friendship Bread cooling on the counter. And I have a feeling that if I share some of this with a friend, there will be no almost about it.

A Heapin’ Helping of M&M Cookies!

I was recently asked to share my recipe for M&M cookies. I’ve shared my chocolate chip cookie recipe before and it is very similar, but I have slightly modified that recipe since moving to Missouri. (I guess the altitude did affect my baking a little bit when I lived in Colorado. Who knew?)

M&M cookies are pretty much a family favorite for holidays because they are just like our normal chocolate chip cookie with a bit of color added in. And it changes easily from season to season, thanks to the makers of M&Ms who happily sell us the current season’s colors every holiday. So nice of them, don’t you think?

Yum!

Here’s my recipe for a double batch of chocolate chip M&M cookies:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 C sugar
  • 2 C softened butter (real butter, not shortening or margarine)
  • 1.5 C brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 2 t salt
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 5 C white flour
  • 1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 packages of colored M&Ms

I add these to my Kitchen Aid mixer in exactly this order and the process goes like this:

Sugar, then butter. Start mixer on low. Begin adding everything else. When I get to the flour I add it 1/2 C at a time and do stop the mixer in between to avoid a culinary snowfall in my kitchen. It has happened before and it’s not a pretty sight. After I add in the package of chocolate chips, I scoop the cookies out onto a cookie sheet and hand a bowl of M&Ms to my kids with these instructions: Please do NOT eat the M&Ms (yet). Try to get 9-10 M&Ms on each dough ball.

Put the trays in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Pull them out at 10 even if they don’t look completely done. Leave them on the cookie sheet while the next pan cooks. They will continue to firm up on the hot cookie sheet on top of your stove.

Take them to your next party and try not to eat any before you go. I triple dog dare you.

Christmas Cookies

Megan DDP Day 4

This is the one in which we read a church email on Friday afternoon that said, “Family Night at the church on December 4! Bring a plate of cookies to share!” And we looked at the calendar and realized that December 4 was indeed that very same day, so we baked our favorite Christmas cookie of all time which also happens to be the easiest cookie in the world for us to bake and presto whamo: Christmas cookies to share.

Craig’s Favorite Apple Pie Recipe

This is the best apple pie in the entire world. And next week I won’t even have to make it because Craig’s Aunt Jan will do that for me. But I might not get a piece on Thursday. Her apple pie is so good, cousins, masquerading as grown men (one of them a pastor, the other a Bible teacher of all things), fight over this pie. I kid you not.

Here it is: Aunt Jan’s Apple Crumb Pie:

5 to 7 tart apples (5 cups)
1 9-inch unbaked pastry shell

1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
6 tablespoons butter

Pare apples; core and cut in eights. Arrange in unbaked pastry shell.
Mix 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over apples.

Mix 1/3 cup sugar with the flour; cut in butter till crumbly. Sprinkle over apples.

Bake at 400 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or till done. If pie browns too quickly, cover edge with foil. Cool. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.