Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Random Happy Things

I am officially 30. I thought I would mind, but as it turns out, I still feel 29 on the inside.

As my birthday gift, Don surprised me with a really special treat. He arranged for some close friends of mine to show up at our house at 5 pm on Friday and we all drove to his family's river house for a night out on our own. This was my first night away from William and it WAS AWESOME (sorry, son!).
Brandi, Melanie, William (who thought everyone was there to adore him!), and me
My older sister couldn't make it and she was missed, but my little sister Melanie, Brandi, and my BFF of the last ten years, Adri, and I had such an amazing time. (Adri was running a little behind us so I didn't get a picture of her before we left.) I didn't take any pictures once we were there because what happens at the river house stays at the river house. :)

We stayed up late talking and laughing and drinking wine. Well, I drank sparkling non-alcoholic apple cider, but that's because of this little one.

He or she is the best gift I have received. I took the first positive pregnancy test on Christmas morning. I'm seeing both my regular ob and a maternal fetal specialist who specializes in the blood clotting disorder I have, and so far all of our ultrasounds and tests have been perfect; our treatment plan is working!
 To celebrate, my mom bought me a pink purse. "You need something like this," she said. I agree.
 During a particularly rowdy play date at our house last week, I couldn't find William. Brandi told me that she last saw him by the chalkboard. Ah, yes. Apparently he needed some quiet time. In the basket of coloring books.
 Don and William make breakfast together every weekend morning, but last Saturday they broke from tradition and visited Shipley's. I am so glad they did.
 William ate his very first chocolate-glazed donut and I think he might have fallen in love.
 Until the sugar dried on his fingers. At the point, he was just very concerned. I know he was thinking, "Is this going to be here forever?"
 It was naive, but I never thought we'd have a messy house. Oh, how wrong I was. Between battling morning sickness and trying to teach an almost-two year old about cleaning up, I am having a good day if the clean laundry is folded and not just left in a heap on the ottoman.
 I will always use William's nap times for creating things, though, and am so excited to finally start using the amazing professional-grade fabric paints my sister gave me for Christmas.
 William loves to stack the containers while I paint.
I am still making use of all of those doilies, by the way!

So there you have it - a random assortment of happy things. What little things have made you feel happy lately?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Baby Cakes

I don't like it when people use abbreviations or acronyms when they're speaking, but earlier today when I pulled these concoctions from heaven out of the oven and tasted one, the only thing I could mutter was OH EM GEE. I handed a steaming morsel to Don and he shared my sentiment.

Let me first say that today is my birthday (I am officially 30), and I wanted to make something special for us tonight. In my entire adult life, I have never baked anything from a box. I am a baking snob, it's true. All my clothes come from Target and I can scarf Velveeta cheese with the best of them, so I feel like snobbery in this one area is acceptable.

But today, I wanted to try something different. I found a recipe that uses packaged devil's food cake mix and instant pudding, and I added some saltiness in the form of my BFF, peanut butter, and chocolate covered pretzels, and the result was, well: OH EM GEE.

I am not kidding. These are the kind of thing you should only eat once a year, but when you do, you should savor every bite. I am torn between making the peanut butter icing I'd planned on piping over these baby cakes and decorating them with a single perfect chocolate pretzel, but I almost think it would be overkill. They are so good as they are. They aren't cupcakes. They're baby cakes. You should make these today.

William was in agony; I set the cakes on the table to cool and wouldn't let him have one.

Here is the original recipe, without the chocolate pretzels and peanut butter cups. Below is the way I made them.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Baby Cakes
yields about 18 cup cakes

1 (18.25 ounce) package devil's food cake mix
1 (5.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1/2 cup warm water (I accidentally omitted this, but I think it would make the cakes even more moist.)
1 cup chopped up mini Reese's peanut butter cups (the very tiny ones seen in the first photo)
1 cup chopped up chocolate covered pretzels

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners.

2. In large bowl, mix together the cake and pudding mixes. Whisk together so that the mixes are fully blended and any large clumps have been broken down. Add the sour cream, oil, 4 beaten eggs, and water and mix well. This is a thick batter, so make sure to check the bottom of the bowl so that all of the dry ingredients are thoroughly mixed into the wet. Stir in the chopped pretzels and peanut butter cups.

3. Bake for 20 minutes, or until tops are springy and a dry spaghetti noodle inserted into muffin center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack and top with peanut butter icing or leave plain.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

On Happiness and Joy

I think about these words often, the differences between them. The absolute chasm that divides them. They are opposite sides of the river. One that is near and one that is far.

Happiness is a feeling, free as a bird. She comes and goes as she pleases.

Joy is a state, a platform way deep down in my heart, made of faded wooden planks with nails and splinters and places where happiness might never think to flitter.

I feel happy when my husband cleans the kitchen. I felt happy when I received my first big paycheck. I feel happy when William behaves in Target and everyone stops to tell me how beautiful he is.

But happy can't sustain me. Sometimes my husband will leave a trail of dirty clothes and shoes from the front door to the bathroom, and I resigned from my pharmaceutical research job to raise a family full-time (and the paycheck for this is non-existant). And once, OH THE HORROR, William had a tantrum and slapped me on the face in Target. Happy wasn't with me then.

But joy? Deep down, there in sorrow and happiness alike, with me always and forever, even when marriage feels hardest, or raising a child is monotonous, or the sting of multiple miscarriages feels too much to bear, joy in Him is with me. Joy that Christ is real, that He promises something better than this life. He is something I can cling to when happy circumstances have flown the coop and left me standing wondering what the point was in the first place.

I said it, and I know you might turn away, or roll your eyes, or wonder how someone with a master's of science can believe in something so unseen, but the peace and joy that come from knowing Christ are only a mystery before you believe. Outside of Him, friend, no peace like this exists. When you are shaken to the core, where can you go that cannot be shaken? Can't husbands and wives and church buildings and synagogues and mountains all come crashing down?

I try, in my happiness, to always feel my joy. So when I say that I choose joy, I don't mean that I put on a sunny smile if I am hurting, or that I push back tears, but that I remember this as they fall:

My heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon my to the have made known to the me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.
Acts 2: 26-28

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A True Story

A few days ago, after running a ton of errands, I set my humungous shopping bags full of groceries on the kitchen floor, plopped William down with some toys, and ran to the bathroom. I was gone for all of two seconds when I heard a strange sound coming from the kitchen, accompanied by William saying, "Uh-oh," and I remembered that I stupidly left an 18-count carton of eggs on the top of a shopping bag. Uh oh is right. Instead of immediately doing damage control and salvaging the eggs, I did what any sane mother would do: I ran and grabbed my camera.
You can't tell in this photo, but every single egg was cracked and leaking egg whites onto the floor.

The picture is blurry, but you get the idea. He felt BAD. I told him it was okay. They were just cracked eggs!

I think I laughed a little too hard at the situation because he started to seem proud of himself!
 I made him help me clean up.