Monday, December 31, 2012

Abram's 2013 New Year's Resolutions

Mama says there is a lot of stuff in her heart these days. There are scary things happening in the world, new things about to happen in our lives, and many important things to think about. Mama says she is getting new gray hairs just thinking about all of them, but her age has two numbers, so I’m not really surprised about that.

Since I’m kind of the man of the house (when Daddy’s at work), I try to help Mama out as much as I can, which is why I often rearrange the stuff in the cabinets and scatter my toys around for her. (I don’t want her to get bored.) So I thought I’d help her out on here too and share some of my resolutions. I’ve only been around for one year, and I think I’m doing a pretty good job at this life thing so far (I eat, I sleep, I play…that’s pretty much it, right?), but I still have many more things to see and do and learn.

Here are the things I plan to do this year:

I will take every opportunity I get to play outside. In the mud, in the snow, in the sun…doesn’t matter. Being outside is the best!

Baby New Year's Resolutions

I will just keep getting cuter and cuter. (It’s impossible to stop.)

I will be nice to my sister. (She's got some cool toys.)

Cool Toys
I will let my mama kick her feet up and relax a little more. Maybe.

I will get the hang of this talking thing. I babble all the time, but I think it only makes sense in my own head. Mama thinks it’s really funny when she asks me what a duck says and I say “Kak Kak”.

I will get better at climbing. Mama seems to enjoy retrieving me from interesting places.

I will learn more facial expressions. I already have impeccable timing.

Basically, I’m just going to keep being my charming self. After all, it’s worked for me so far. Now, I’m only thirteen months old, but I think that’s a good resolution for everyone – be your charming selves. And dance whenever you hear music.

From bye-byes to blankies, may 2013 bring you all of your favorite things!

2013 Toddler New Year's Resolutions

Love, Abram

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Like Snowflakes, Soft And Gentle, May Peace Come To Us

Several weeks ago, a bookmark with an etching of a tiny, delicate snowflake and those words written on it fell out of my book and onto my lap, and I thought, “Yes, THAT is peace.” It’s an image that has stuck in the back of my mind, one that appears again when my household gets noisy and crazy.

Some days are just like that. My one-year-old and three-year-old chase each other in and out of rooms, laughing and shrieking, and I say “settle down” about 87 times before I remember those words about peace and think, oh wow,peace…I desperately need peace.

Other days I hear about children getting murdered. And I get a dose of perspective.

I listen to a mother tearfully describe her precious daughter who loved ponies and was going to get cowgirl boots for Christmas. I watch the screen cut back to the news anchor whose voice breaks as she struggles to get her words out, and I shuffle to the television to turn it off because I’m barely able to see it anyway…barely able to hear anything over my sobs.

No one needs peace right now more than the families of those sweet babies. They need peace to fill their world, grace to fall around them like flurries of snow. To be given the comfort they can no longer give their children. To be given hope they’ll one day live again.

After my friend Charles died, I spent about a year with a strange ache inside of me, as though at every moment I was acutely aware of his lack of presence on this earth. Grief can physically feel like an anchor weighing you down, pulling you under, refusing to let you surface no matter how hard you struggle. I think that’s why hope is described as an anchor in the Bible – because you have to replace the grief with the secure anchor of hope.

I know everyone wants to understand why this stuff happens. Why must we face evil? Why must we feel fear and pain? Why can’t we fix it? Why can’t we just make that evil disappear?

But the reality is it’s there. The reality is not one of us is guaranteed tomorrow.

I have tried before, unsuccessfully, to prepare myself for a possible future reality in which I no longer have my children. Gut-wrenching doesn’t even begin to describe the grief and pain that I see in such a world. Yet it’s a reality that parents face.

It’s a reality we all face – the sorrow and brokenness of a world that was never meant to be permanent.  And to be honest, I often choose to bury my head in the sand and pretend that reality does not exist. The pain is too great, the stakes too high. But my ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. My ignoring it doesn’t change the nature of its truth.

This world is not meant to be faced alone, and thankfully, it’s not meant to be faced forever. There’s a better one waiting for us. There’s light beyond the darkness, and no more tears beyond the pain of this earth.

I stalk a forum that my husband is on, and in reading through some of the posts after this tragedy, no words affected me quite like his:

“Evil has no self-restraint, but God has love and mercy immeasurable, and believe me, those children aren't lost but are safe and sound in the bosom of their Savior.”

His words broke me. It’s a truth that I know. It’s a truth that I often refer to in passing or smile and nod at when another person speaks of it. But this eternal truth needs far more attention – because it is the only one that provides an ounce of hope, the only one that knows of sorrow. Here we are, in the midst of the raging battlefield as the silent snow falls all around us. The light in the darkness.

Time does not heal, but hope does fill in those trenches that the grief dug. That’s all I know to do – cling to that hope as I continue down this path of brokenness and heartache.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Evolution Of A Family Christmas Card

Family Christmas photo

Attempt #1: Slightly overexposed. Toddler is enamored with Mama.

Attempt #2: Overexposed and blurry. Toddler is enamored with Daddy.

Attempt #3: Let's just pretend this one didn't happen.

Attempt #7: Daddy snaps fingers in attempt to get toddler to look ahead, resulting in blur. Preschooler is enamored with television.

Attempt #10: I want YOU to have a merry Christmas.


Attempt #15: Toddler successfully looks at camera, but preschooler...does not. Finally realize you forgot to clear off the mantel.

Just choose one, crop, and go for it!

Christmas On String Christmas
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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Joint Boy/Girl Birthday Party: Success!

I’m not one of those mamas who keeps the house spotless and bakes from scratch daily. I wish, especially since that’s how I always envisioned life as a stay-at-home mom to be, but no – it’s a little more…um…chaotic than I’d anticipated.

However, I am in love with creative projects. With two wacky munchkins running around, I don’t get to do that fun creative stuff as often as I would like, but when it comes to special occasions...well, let’s just say I’m determined to make time for party planning!

Birthday cake ideas for joint parties

Hannah turns three in a few days, and Abram just turned one. Although I would have loved to let Abram have his own party for his very first birthday, it just wasn’t practical, given that their birthdays are only eight days apart and right in the middle of the holiday season. So we had one big celebration with some amazing friends, and I’m so glad we did because, wow, we had a blast.

Knight Birthday Party
Princess Birthday PartyEven though it was a joint party, I really wanted to find a way to make it special for both of them, so I opted to make two cakes. (I’ve mentioned I’m an overachiever, right?) As you can imagine, baking and decorating two fancy cakes in two days is no small feat – made even more difficult by two tiny tornadoes twisting about my toes (Whoa, alliteration, anyone?) – but nevertheless, challenge accepted.

As I began my search for how to create a joint boy/girl birthday party, I came across a website with lots of pics of castle cakes. Then I found a dragon cake tutorial, thus a Princess/Knight birthday party was born! (It was quite fitting, since that’s also what they were for Halloween.)

For the castle cake I made the towers out of ice cream cones that were frosted and stacked end to end, and sugar cones that were frosted and rolled in pink sugar. I found the silver flags in the party supply section at Target.
Pink Sugar Icing Towers

To simplify, I just used boxed cake mix. Hannah, who was quite ecstatic over the idea of having a princess castle cake at her party, helped me mix the strawberry cake (pink for the princess!), which I baked into two round tiers. I have the Wilton Performance Cake Pans that I bought back when I thought I was going to be baking and decorating cakes all the time (HA!).

I added some graham crackers and pretzels for the door and windows, and voila!

Kid's Medieval Cake Ideas

I used dark chocolate mix for Abram's cake and just followed the tutorial to make the dragon's shape, though I had to scale it down a bit due to space. He's got graham cracker spikes, marshmallow eyes, candied fruit slice claws and eyebrows, bite size Milky Way nostrils, and Fruit Roll-Up flames (because he's fire breathing, of course.)

Boy's Knight Cake Ideas

It was a lot of work, but fun and totally worth it when Hannah went crazy over them. When she first saw the completed cakes, she actually turned to me and said, "Mama, did you make that all by yourself?"

*Proud Mommy Moment*

Joint Kids Birthday Cake Ideas

They were also taste approved by Abram, but that doesn't really say much, considering just about everything is taste approved by 'Leftover', as his grandpa calls him.

Baby Messy Cake Face

And, of course, what medieval-themed birthday party would be complete without ‘slaying the dragon’?

Slay The Dragon Medieval Party

Whew, I'm tired! But you know what the best part was? Celebrating with our friends. Since we live so far away from family, the outpouring of love meant more to us than they'll ever know. Party planning is fun, but nothing compares to the precious time spent with the wonderful people we've gotten to know here.

If you're thinking about trying your hand at homemade cakes but aren't sure if you have the skill, I say go for it. There are so many tutorials and pictures out there to help you get the creative juices flowing, and you just might surprise yourself. Besides, if you fail you can always make a last minute trip to the bakery, and no one ever has to know. :)

Happy baking!