Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My Groundhog Day

Some days I feel like I'm living my own version of the movie Groundhog Day.  Today is one of those days.

I was awakened by the same annoying alarm noise I hear every morning.  I drank the same coffee that I have first thing every morning.  Same breakfasts for the kids, same reminders for them to get ready, same sibling fights. 

I dragged myself into the shower, where I went through the exact same rituals I do every time.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  After drying off, I had to face the same battle I face every morning:  wrestling with my hair.  The only thing that ever changes is whether I wrestle it into curls or wrestle it straight.  Makeup.  Jeans.  One of 7 shirts I wear all the time.  Wedding rings.  Optional necklace and earrings.  Oh, and socks.

Next is putting the finishing touches on the boys' lunches and refilling the water bottles they take to school every day.  Pack the back packs.  Holler for the kids to put on coats and shoes at 8:15.  Have everyone buckled and back out of the driveway by 8:21.  Park near the school and give hugs and kisses to each boy while we wait for the buses to unload kids in front of the school.  At 8:26 pull up to where the buses were and give last kisses and a cheery "Have a marvelous Monday!" or "Have a terrific Tuesday!"

Today I had the pleasure of coming home after school drop off, breaking my usual schedule of walking at a nearby sports complex with some other moms from the school.  Nora begrudgingly helped me sort laundry.  The same laundry I sort every week.  Into the same four piles.

After I started the first load of laundry (always blues/blacks first), I had to sweep the kitchen floor.  It was an exact repetition of the sweeping I did yesterday.  I sorted through papers that perpetually gather on the main kitchen counter.  Wiped away the same crumbs I wiped away yesterday.  Gave into Nora's pleas to play iPad and felt just as guilty about it today as I did yesterday.

I checked my phone to make sure I hadn't received a call from the school nurse.  Afterall, Nolan had come into my bathroom this morning, hands trembling and face pinched as he grabbed his stomach.  He spent a few brief moments bent over the toilet with no results, but mostly I just held him.  This is also nothing new.  Nor is the anguish of sending him to school after such episodes.

I won't see my husband until about 9:00 or 10:00 tonight, which has become the norm over that last few weeks.  That is, when he's not traveling for work.  Or at the Emergency Room with stomach pains from work stress finally catching up with him.

Dinner comes around every evening, and I'm generally unprepared for it.  Showers for the kids.  Brushing teeth.  Oh the teeth.

Every now and then something changes.  Like Nora's sudden paralyzing fear of getting sick.  She's afraid of the Fifth Disease someone at preschool had.  She's afraid of the stomach bug that's been going around (that she and I already had).  Last night she overheard Jared and Griffin talking about kidney stones, and she ran out of bed crying to tell me she's afraid she's going to get kidney stones.

So the mundane repetition gets old, but the changes aren't always improvements.  

Adulthood isn't always all I thought it'd be.  The biggest advantage of being an adult is that now I can eat what I want, when I want.  And I do.  Which causes other problems.

I don't mean to be a downer.  Just having one of those days.  I'd like to say that tomorrow will be better.  I happen to have a pretty good idea of what tomorrow will look like.  Hint:  I've done it all before. 

I'm just hoping to do it all with a better attitude tomorrow.

Jessica

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Best Compliment

I recently heard two radio show co-hosts discussing the question What is the best compliment you could receive?

The female co-host said her favorite compliment is, "I enjoy spending time with you."  The male co-host replied jokingly that his favorite compliment would be, "Now that you've lost your hair, you look better."

The conversation got me thinking.  What is the best compliment I could receive?  I wasn't sure of my answer.  Until I received it this week.

The best compliment I could receive is:  I trust you.

These words are more often implied than explicitly stated.  Someone said these words to me this week, and it clicked.  That is my favorite compliment, whether it is stated or implied.

I tend to interpret many different words and actions as either I trust you or I don't trust you.
  • "Can you watch my child?" = I trust you
  • "We're not telling you our baby's name." = I don't trust you
  • Discussing a parenting struggle = I trust you 
  • Crying = I trust you

Editor's Note:  I'm not bringing up the baby name issue to anger anyone or stir up old issues.  I'm simply trying to explain why it makes me sad when people don't share their baby names.  Please don't leave me angry comments defending expectant parents' right to privacy. :)
 
I suppose this is what makes me agree to any favor I'm asked to do.  I enjoy being trusted with a task.

Let's not waste anybody's time discussing the psychobabble behind why I desire to be trusted or why I have a hard time trusting other people but work very hard to earn their trust.  Who really wants to pull at that string?

Sometimes people don't share information and it feels like a lack of trust.  My logical brain tells me that some people have a hard time being vulnerable or don't know how to trust a few people without losing control altogether.

I have a friend who is one of the strongest women I know.  She is independent in a way I never will be, and she can carry loads that would topple other people.  We've reached an understanding where we both know that I'm emotional and sensitive, often to a fault, and she's more of a warrior but perhaps too walled off.  We are able to joke about our differences, and we can even learn from each other.  When she recently opened up to me and shared extremely personal information with me, I treasured her vulnerability as a fragile gift.  I could recognize that trusting me in this way was a rare moment that made me feel honored and purposeful.  This is delicate trust.

This week I had two friends ask me for prayer for critically ill family members, and these women had never talked to me about prayer before.  This is precious trust.

A friend's grandmother passed away the same night her son fell off the couch and broke his arm this week.  She allowed me into her home, without cleaning it, and stood before me with tears on her naked face.  This is bare trust.

Sometimes trust is wrapped around joy as well.  Whispering news of a pregnancy or a new job or weight finally lost all involve trust.  This is joyful trust.

Years ago a friend of mine experienced a painful miscarriage.  She did not tell me about it until many months later, when I also learned that my sister had known all along.  I felt betrayed by my sister and asked her why she hadn't told me that our mutual friend was suffering.  She told me that she had been trusted with the information and refused to break that trust.  That has always stuck with me.  I wanted to be like my sister.  This is fiercely defended trust.

Last year I attended a Beth Moore conference that was basically about how to be a Christian woman.  Beth said she wanted to talk about "being female well."  At one point, she had us repeat this sentence:  I want to be a woman other women can trust.  That line also comes back to me in the moments when I have to decide how to respond to someone.

I truly do want to be a woman that other women (or people) can trust.

What is the best compliment you could receive?

Jessica

Friday, February 13, 2015

Valentine's, Shmalentine's

This is an insane week for me.  I had to make lots of lists in order to figure out how to get everything done.  And a list to organize the lists.  Here's a brief overview of my tasks this week:
  • Make valentines for Griffin's class that reflect his love for Minecraft but also take into consideration the kids who have never played it and wouldn't get some of the references (and no, there are no Minecraft valentines available for purchase, which would have been my first choice)
  • Make valentines for Nolan's class that reflect his goofy 8-year-old-ness and also consider his own dietary restrictions
  • Make/buy valentines for Nora's preschool class (party Friday)
  • Make/buy valentines for Nora's dance class (party Thursday)
  • Come up with a craft for Nora's preschool class party and purchase and prep all supplies
  • Help run Nora's preschool party on Friday
  • Make a valentines box or bag for Nolan (the other two kids made theirs at school)
  • Make 24 cupcakes for my mother-in-law's workplace's (Red Cross) annual cupcake competition on Thursday
  • Make 24 cupcakes for my husband's workplace's bake-off on Friday
  • Make 50 cupcakes for a Valentine's dinner Friday night, ordered by someone from church
Let's not forget that I also had to provide my family with clean clothes, a few meals a day, and at least a clean path to walk through the house.  A shower now and then would be great.  Sleep just ain't happenin'.

So here's what I came up with.

We decided to go with a non-candy option for Nolan, and he loved the yoyo valentines from Uncommon Designs.


We printed the free printable valentines on cardstock and cut them apart.  Nolan wrote the "to" and "from" on the back of each valentine.  I let Nolan choose from the yoyo selection on Amazon, and he chose hamburgers because that's goofy enough for Nolan.  We used removable glue dots to stick the yoyos to the cards.


Griffin wanted Minecraft valentines, and many of them have cute puns, but I just didn't think every kid would get them.  So we were both happy with the free printable Minecraft valentines from LinnieP.


We printed the valentine cards on cardstock and cut them apart.  Griffin wrote the names on the cards (I wish they had a "To:" spot on them).  I printed the TNT strips on regular printer paper, and Jared and I cut them all apart and wrapped them around Hershey Nuggets and taped the backs.  We used removable glue dots to stick the covered chocolates to the cards.


By the time I got to turn my attention to poor little Nora, I was out of steam.  Plus she needed 17 valentines for her dance class and 17 for her preschool class, so I wanted to keep it cheap and easy.  I let her choose from various Valentine's Day candies available at Walmart, and she zeroed in on Ring Pops.

I thought I was making my life so easy by just purchasing two boxes of pre-packaged candies and having Nora write her name in the "from" spot.  What I didn't realize was how DIFFICULT it is to write on a Ring Pop package.


In case you're wondering, all of the kids' teachers got the exact same thing as the students.  I don't have time, energy, or money to put into special teacher gifts for Valentine's Day.

Not only is this Valentine's week, but it's also cupcake week.

Every year (for the last few years) I make cupcakes for my mother-in-law to take to her office cupcake contest.  The contest always falls on or around Valentine's Day.  Prizes are awarded for Best Tasting, Best Looking, and Most Creative.  The last two years I've won for Most Creative.

My 2014 entry:  Snow Cone Cupcakes
My 2013 entry:  Hot Chocolate Cupcakes
This year I didn't feel like I had the time to make something really creative that would require lots of time spent on decorating.  So I decided to go for flavor this time.

A little time on Pinterest and baking blogs gave me the direction I wanted to go.  I ultimately made French Toast Cupcakes with Maple Frosting and Crumbled Bacon Sprinkles.


This is a pretty popular combination for cupcakes on the interweb these days.  I spent lots of time reading everyone else's recipes to figure out how I wanted to make mine.

I followed the recipe on Bakingdom for Streusel Topped French Toast Cupcakes, with a few minor tweaks.




I made the frosting  that went with that cupcake recipe, but I wasn't wowed.  I read lots of other frosting recipes, but none of them seemed like what I wanted.  So I made up my own recipe starting with my favorite basic recipe (it uses part butter and part Crisco) and adding pure maple syrup, a little dark brown sugar, and maple extract.



I wanted to put a little something special on top of the cupcakes.  I cooked some bacon in the microwave to make it nice and crispy.


I crumbled the bacon with my fingers and sprinkled it over the cupcakes.

Who needs sprinkles when you've got bacon?




I topped each cupcake with a single piece of French Toast Crunch cereal (it's right next to Cinnamon Toast Crunch in the grocery store).



After all the work to perfect these cupcakes, I thought it best to just make the exact same cupcakes for the bake-off at Jared's office.

Curious how my cupcakes fared?

Well I won a big fat nuttin' at the Red Cross competition. 

I tied for first at Jared's work competition.  They called in another judge for the tie-breaker, and she chose the other cupcakes over mine.  Jared tried to make me feel better by saying the last judge was a chocolate-lover and the other cupcakes were chocolate.

Pppfffffth. 

Good sportsmanship.  Yay for the other guy.  It's a good fundraiser for the company.  Blah blah blah.

The next item I tackled was the craft for Nora's preschool class party.  A friend helped me brainstorm after I spent countless hours on Pinterest.  The main challenge was that I didn't want to use paint or glue that would need dry time since the kids were going to make the craft and then take it right home.

We finally came up with the idea to have the kids make necklaces out of foam hearts decorated with markers, peel-and-stick foam stickers, and beads on the necklace strings.

This was my example to show the kids:


I bought foam sheets and traced and cut out the hearts.  I also punched a hole in each heart.


I bought several packages of foam stickers and dumped them all into a gallon zipper bag.  There were Valentine colors, basic colors, glitter hearts, animal prints, and a few extras.



I bought a container of beads and dumped those into a quart size zipper bag for easy clean up.  I let each kid choose 4 of these to go on each necklace.


I also picked up a kit from the VBS section at Hobby Lobby.  The kit was designed to make beaded cross necklaces.  Since it was technically in the "Summer" department, it was on sale!  The kit had more than enough black string, plastic red heart beads, and colored plastic beads.  I just mixed the colored beads in with the others I bought.



The craft went really well.  The kids got to choose the color of their foam heart, how to decorate the heart, the color of their beads, and where the beads went on their necklace.  I originally wanted every kid's heart to say "I am loved" because I thought that was an important message.  However, they each wanted to write their own message.  I had to let that go and let them do it their own way. 

The kids' necklaces were super cute.  Some proudly wore them and some were excited to give them to their moms.  I'd say the Valentine's Day party overall was very successful!

I really didn't have time or energy to help Nolan make a really cool box for his valentines.  I did, however, find his valentine box from last year.  He decided just to add more decorations to it and use it again.  Score!

Maybe this is a good time to insert the fact that Nora and I both came down with a stomach bug in the midst of all this craziness.  It was the worst on Thursday.  By Friday, she was about 90% better and I was about 78% better, so we pushed through to accomplish everything we needed to.

The last Valentine's Day item I have to present to you is the last batch of cupcakes.

Our church has a group called Prime Timers.  It's all the active, social senior citizens.  They planned a big Valentine's Day dinner for Friday night, and the woman in charge of planning it called me a couple of weeks ago to ask me to make cupcakes for the dinner.

She requested 50 cupcakes, half white cake with vanilla frosting and half chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.  She asked me to simply top them with store-bought candies.






All cupcakes were baked in Valentine's Day cupcake liners.  I bought SweetTarts hearts for the vanilla cupcakes and cookies & cream hearts for the chocolate cupcakes.  I didn't think chocolate hearts would be visible on the chocolate frosting.

Ok, well now I have to go deliver these cupcakes to officially wrap up my Valentine's week.  I already told Jared my Valentine's gift to him is that I will try to survive this week and live to celebrate another Valentine's Day.  We will have a date tomorrow (on actual Valentine's Day), but Nolan also has a basketball game tomorrow morning and we are all going to a friend's birthday party at an ice skating rink in the afternoon.

Tonight Nolan will be spending the night at a friend's house for the first time.  While he's gone, I have to read and prepare my Sunday School lesson for this Sunday.  And maybe I should try to eat something at some point.

The fun never ends.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Jessica

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Kid Pictures

As I was figuring out how to get pictures from my phone onto my computer, I cracked up at some of the pictures I've taken of the kids recently.  Just for fun, I thought I'd share a random collection with you.

Griffin grocery shopping with me


Nora CRACKING UP at her own video made with the app Helium Booth (Lite).  Seriously, let your kids play it.
I tend to take lots of pictures of the kids sleeping to send to Jared when he's on a long business trip.  Some are so sweet, and some are just plain funny!

Griffin and Nora both fell asleep on the couch.  See the pictures below for more details. :)

Griffin was on top of the back of the couch!


Nora in my bed

Griffin in my bed

Nora likes to "read" books to get ready for sleep.

Love

Sweet Griffy

This is looking down at Griffin on the couch.  He tucked his legs and head in his sleep t-shirt and fell asleep.

Nolan is in love with this blanket that my mom made him.  He ended up sleeping with it on his face!
Nolan fell asleep on my arm.  I love snuggling my babies.
Just thought you could use a smile.

Jessica

Monday, January 26, 2015

Jello Cookies

We had an open night tonight.  Normally on a night like this, Jared would take the kids downstairs and wrestle them or play dodgeball or some other mom-disapproved game.  Since he's gone, I wanted to be the fun parent. 

I'm never the fun parent, but I thought I'd give it a try.  I had to do it my own way though.  Of course.

So, after dinner, the kids and I made Jello Cookies.  We followed the recipe on I Heart Naptime.

Don't you just love this picture??

I need for you to keep a few things in mind.  First, our cookies did not look as beautiful as the originals.  That's okay with me, but I need you to know that I know.  Second, I only snapped a few quick pictures on my cell phone with my messy hands.  I was in Fun Mom mode, not Blogger mode.  I decided to focus on having fun with the kids rather than getting good pictures.  Oh, and I didn't edit any of the pictures.

I had all 3 kids help me make the cookie dough.  Then I divided the dough into four equal portions and gave one to each kid (and kept one for myself).  We each chose a flavor of Jello from what I had on hand.  Yes, I already had 4 boxes of Jello on hand (5, if you must know).


Each person had to knead 2 tablespoons of Jello into their dough.  I put the rest of the Jello into a bowl and mixed it with a little sugar for a later step.



I let the kids add food coloring to punch up the vibrancy of the dough color.  Griffin's Jello was watermelon flavor, but he wanted to add blue food coloring.  I didn't argue.  Griffin does things his own way.

Nora's cherry dough was bright red, so I added a little purple to my raspberry dough to make our distinguishable. 

Then we had to break off a little dough, roll it into a ball, and roll it in the Jello and sugar mixture.





Normal Mom would have insisted on using a cookie scoop to get the dough balls all equal in size, but Fun Mom let the kids estimate and just occasionally told them to make one bigger or smaller.

Once the pans were full, I flattened the dough balls with the bottom of a drinking glass.


Into the oven they went!


When we finished rolling the rest of the dough, we had an odd amount left of a couple colors, so we just combined them!



This was a messy project, but we all survived it.


Our warm, fresh cookies:



And the mixed-flavor cookies:


I made the kids take their showers while the cookies cooled.  I may be Fun Mom, but I'm also Smart Mom who also happens to be Tired Mom Who Wants to Hurry Along Bedtime.

We all sampled each flavor of cookie.  Cherry and raspberry seemed to be the biggest hits.  The kids liked watermelon, but I just don't like watermelon flavored things.  Nolan's peach cookies were a bit bland to me, but he really liked them.  He just likes anything orange.

These were really fun to make, and the cookies are super tasty.  This recipe could be used for so many things.  We started naming the holiday applications:  cherry and lime for Christmas, strawberry and blue raspberry for 4th of July, any pastel colors for Easter, and orange for Halloween (although the kids were concerned about how to work in black; they theorized that you could do grape Jello and add black food coloring or just roll the orange cookies in black sugar).

I hope your Monday evening was as fun as ours!

Jessica