Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Little Moments

Little ordinary moments that I want to remember forever and ever. William, today these moments are our reality, but some day they will be memories. I want to keep them as fresh as possible.
 When you wake up, you point and grunt until I put all of your stuffed animals in your crib.
 Then you throw them out, one by one. We do this over and over again.
 Your beautiful crib is a teething toy. I love it even more now.

 You had just finished doing belly flops in your crib. You were laughing at the scared gasps I made.

 You have started throwing your head back when you laugh, just like your daddy.

I didn't edit these photos at all, little one. The light in a room is a huge memory trigger for me, just like smells are for most people. I will always remember your after nap time playing.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Messy House Christmas Tour

You know all the Christmas house tours being hosted online? I love looking at other people's homes and seeing the beautiful decorations and the snow falling through windowpanes and Christmas trees that look like they belong in a Macy's window. But then sometimes I shut my macbook closed and feel a little...inadequate. Or not good enough. Like maybe our Christmas won't be special enough because it isn't dressy enough to be featured on a home design magazine cover.

So in light of that, I am posting pictures of what our house really looks like today, this afternoon, with an 18 month old, a 29 year old, a 30 year old, and visitors of all ages running loose.

That picture above is our humble, plastic, Little People nativity. And usually the donkey is perched on top of the stable, courtesy of William.

 I love our tree, but it has oddly spaced balls and it is still crooked.
 Someday I will set a beautiful holiday table, but this is really what the table looks like every day. There is always a miscellaneous blend of groceries, home improvement supplies, craft projects, and clean laundry (already folded when I took these pictures) on our table.
 Our stockings are strewn on the floor with care. Why? Because we don't have a mantle over the fireplace this year. Floor stockings...I like them.
 Our kitchen always looks like this, until 5 minutes before non-family comes over. I wish I had an excuse, but I don't.

 The beheaded nutcracker is also courtesy of William. I am going to fix him as soon as I have a spare 30 seconds. Unless I need to do something more pressing like photograph our messy house and write about it.
 These are things that were displaced by Christmas decorations. I don't know where to store them yet.
 Do you remember the other day when I said our guest room looked like a craft bomb exploded in there? I will have this room cleaned by Christmas Eve, so our lovely guest will not have to lay on staple guns, hot glue, and clothespins.
 This mini tree is out at least! But not decorated.

 Here is a beautiful Christmas card that I accidentally defaced while taking notes from the pediatrician. She was telling me how to treat William's allergies, and this card was the only piece of paper nearby.
The decorations may fall short this year, but the heart of our home is full of beauty. Maybe next year I'll have time to decorate.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Team Don

As far as I'm concerned (and aside from the head of coiffed hair), neither Edward nor Jacob have anything on my husband. I won't get all gushy and embarrass him, but I want to say this for the record:

 I think your bald head is HOT. You make male pattern baldness look sexy.
 It's funny to me that there was a time when I was giddy about diamonds from you. After five years of marriage, you have given me so much more than diamonds.
Like this guy. And encouragement in my faith. And support. And a tether to the earth. And you are still, hands down, the funniest person I have ever met. I used to be the funny one, but I am so happy to just sit and laugh at your wit instead. I hope our son grows up to be JUST LIKE YOU.


Except for maybe the farting in bed.

I love you, husband, and I am so happy I said yes to you.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Cards: On a Mission

We normally order photo holiday cards to mail out (in November), but I am taking my time this year. I took some photos today of William, but when I started shopping for cards online, I had sticker shock. The only affordable cards I could find weren't very cute. So tomorrow I am on a mission to make our Christmas cards and they are going to be cute AND cheap.
 By the way, I coerced William to play in front of the tree so that I could capture the lights in the background by putting chocolate granola bits and toy trucks on a table in front of the tree. It worked like a charm! At one point he was so happy with his treats that he clasped his hands and hugged himself, like in the picture above. What a little toot. If there weren't chocolate smears on his two front teeth, I would use the picture above.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Celebrating from the Inside Out

This time last year, I had checked off every item on a thorough cleaning/decorating/baking/shopping/gift wrapping list. It was a little bit crazy, and included things like, "Finish Christmas shopping by December 1." We were hosting Christmas for both sides of our family, and I wanted it to be really special. My husband and I both love having people over and providing a place for people to relax and recharge, and I thought I could make things "perfect" for everyone.

It's amazing how much things can change in a single year, isn't it? This year, while I still like making things with my hands, my shoulders slump under the weight of so much grace. I am undeserving. Yet here I sit, happy heart in my home, with a new understanding and insight about what it means to celebrate this season.

What would I have said, I wonder, looking at pictures of myself at Christmas last year, if I could tell her that soon, in just a few months, she would learn what it is like to lose? What if some magical visitor from the future had touched my shoulder gently as I served my homemade cinnamon rolls and said, "Next summer you will bury your baby." I wouldn't have believed it if someone told me that I'd lose a second child in the fall. Two in one year.

But here I am, these things came true, and still my cup runs over. He gave me enough grace. Grace enough to get through it. Grace enough to see with newly washed eyes. As beautiful as handmade gifts can be, as inviting as the smell of freshly baked pastries, perfection on the surface is just that. It's on the surface. It can be scratched away.

This year, we are only half-finished painting our house. You should see our guest room: it's like a craft supply bomb exploded in there. I haven't made those cinnamon rolls yet. But I wish I could show you my heart.

It's a garden of Eden in most ways. Like all the love and grace and tender care I never knew I would need left seeds when they rolled through my life this year. Laid seeds and tilled the soil and harvested the crops and cultivated heirloom roses, too. Two deep cracks can be seen running through it, my heart, but they are cracks out of which lilies grow. The kind of cracks that break in the soil of the soul before bulbs can shoot forth into flowers, or vines into fruit. Wellsprings of longing and joy.

This year, in this season of advent, I let the shopping and the decorating and the baking fall gently to the bottom of my list. Like the cream rising to the top, what is most important to me now is clear. I teach my little one about the truth, the lamb, the word, the grace God himself has given me and Don. "Where does Jesus live?" I ask William. He points to the sky, "Yee-sus," he says. Then he takes his hand and pats his little chest. "That's right," I tell him. "He fills up our hearts, too."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Labor of Love: Making a Jesse Tree Tradition

It's finished!
I've been working on a handmade Jesse tree for the last three weeks and I'm so excited that it's finally completed. Sculpey clay is my new favorite.
 I used the clay to roll out small (these are about 1.5 inches across) fluted circles using a tiny biscuit cutter, and then I painted them with champagne colored craft paint. I originally wanted to paint the symbols onto each circle, but my goal was to complete this project for as little as possible, and I didn't have the right type of paint. So I decided to mold each tiny symbol by hand.
 This took much longer than I thought it would, and it was pretty frustrating at times, but I'm so happy that I did it.
 While most of our symbols are the standard ones (you can find tons of lists of Jesse tree ornaments online), a few were too daunting for me to attempt, so I made unique symbols for those bible passages.
 I spray painted some large branches from our backyard with white paint and propped them inside a vase that my mom gave us as a wedding gift.
I put family pictures and glittered ornaments around the tree's vase.
 Since the goal was to complete this project for little or no money, I used only things I already had, with the exception of the $3 spool of silver ribbon I used to hang the ornaments from the tree. I made "snow" around the base of the tree by cutting long strands of creamy knotted yarn and bunching it around the vase.
 I wrapped small bits of the yarn randomly throughout the branches, and held them in place with bits of craft glue at each end.
 The little boy above is an example of some of the symbols I created that are unique to my family's new Jesse tree. Instead of the lion and the lamb, I made a little child with a balloon (as in, "a little child will lead them").
 And this is the symbol I created for Isaac- a baby in a womb. He's a little hard to see in the photo above.
 I wanted to make something that would intrigue William (and ME) for years to come.
The tree is on our entry table in front of the mirror. You can see the doily project in the reflection behind the white branches, and it looks to me like a wall of falling snowflakes. I can't wait to read William the first story that foreshadows the birth of a savior. I'm so looking forward to using this tree every December.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Banana Pudding for Carpentry

Prior to Saturday, I had neither made nor tasted a banana pudding in my entire life. It's true. And now that I have both made and tasted (or devoured, more like it) banana pudding, it makes me sad to know what I've been missing. 

My perfectly imperfect pudding. It needs a little sign that says, "Made With Love."

 There isn't a humbler dessert, other than jello, but as far as I'm concerned, jello doesn't count. Anyway, I am a convert. I will gladly make banana pudding from here on out. It was GOOD. It was easy. I used this recipe, using only 2 cups of whole milk rather than 3. And make sure your cream cheese is really and truly at room temperature, or you'll get lumpy pudding.
I wouldn't have even made the banana pudding if my father in law hadn't indicated that it was his favorite dessert. I made it for him because he built custom shelves for William's room, with help from Don. I'm so excited about them it's a little hard to sleep. Now we have storage for all of the toys that have been slowly multiplying throughout our house. The shelves are built and waiting for a coat of primer and paint. I plan on finishing them this week. Finally, things are coming together around here.

And all because of some banana pudding.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving at the River

Baking at home on Wednesday. I made these. Addictive.

I am fascinated by molasses. Like an inky lake in a measuring cup. 

One thing I've learned at BSF is that my priorities in my daily life should match my heart. Spending time in the word daily.

Not totally perfect-looking, but delicious.

Green bean ice bath in preparation for making a from scratch version of green bean casserole. A whole lot of work (I even had to fry my own shallots to make the onion topping), not sure if I would make this recipe again.
We arrived at the river house late on Wednesday night. William had fallen asleep in the car, but he woke up as soon as he heard his grandparents. He had a late night snack and story before bedtime.
 Thanksgiving sunrise!
 Peeling potatoes.
 All of the males passed out on the couch before lunch was served! Don, Sr. woke up at 2 a.m. to smoke a turkey and a ham...I'm not sure if my Don has an excuse. :)
 Lots of nature everywhere.
 Napping before lunch.
 This guy knows how to smoke a turkey.
This was hands down the most amazing turkey I've ever eaten in my entire life. Smoked in a double smoker for hours with a ham smoking above it, dripping onto the turkey to baste it, and a pan of water in the bottom of the smoker to add moisture. Everyone kept talking about how delicious the turkey was.
 There is no internet at the river house, so this is a common sight.

 I was so happy that Adri and her sweet boy Lucas joined us. Adri and I met in social work grad school and became BFFs immediately. We used to skip work and get pedicures and bubble tea when we were grad assistants together (mature, I know).