Here is Emma, all ready to bake this morning! She is my right hand helper in the kitchen. We often bake on Saturdays. Today we made Cherry Swirl Coffee Cake (from http://www.allrecipes.com/). We also ended up making a batch of brownies to freeze, but I didn't get a picture of them first! :)
Isaac decided to join us,too!
Here they are below, posing with the amazing finished product--yummy!
They cannot wait to surprise their Daddy with it. :)
It is so easy to become caught up in thinking about the future to the point that we miss the present, the blessings right under our nose. Life is not a race. We will never re-live this moment right now. In the blink of an eye, time is gone and cannot be retrieved.
Today I was feeling very stressed out about some aspects of my life right now. It is easy to let those issues overwhelm and consume. It seems that human nature has the tendency to focus more on the negative rather than the positive.
Then, I happened to see an obituary in the newspaper for a little baby that passed away recently, very unexpectedly. I do not know the family, but it still saddened me to read about it. I cannot begin to imagine the pain of losing a child. How devastated those parents must be!
Reading that kind of brought things into perspective for me and opened my eyes again to how all of these momentary stresses and problems are really nothing in the long term. Someday when I look back on my life, I never want to regret that I did not "stop and smell the roses", as they say. I want to know that I savored the small, special, every day things that are essential in weaving life's tapestry together. You cannot really enjoy the final big picture if you don't enjoy the creation of it.
So, today I did not worry about if I accomplished my entire "to-do" list or not. I did not worry about cooking a fancy supper or getting every load of laundry done. I asked myself, "Is a 'good day' really measured by how much gets accomplished?!?".
Instead, I took time out to sit on the floor and actually play with my children. We went out and tasted snowflakes as they were coming down from the sky. We came inside and baked cookies. I wrote a card to mail to a friend I haven't seen in awhile. It was so nice to go at a slower pace and not feel like I was running a marathon.
Counting blessings and enjoying the present is a running theme on this blog. I keep writing about it because it is something that I am working on in my own daily life and it is such an important thing to remember. Between watching my good friend deal with her child fighting (and winning!) against cancer and others around me dealing with crises, I am continually reminded again and again how precious life is, how quickly it passes, what a true gift that it is.
Enjoy it, savor it, be thankful for what you have now, not what you do not have. Don't be so focused on the future that the present slips right by.
We used to enjoy going to the Olive Garden in our early years of marriage. Quite often we were able to go "out on the town" for dinner and a movie. It was fun then to get dressed up and be able to just jump in the car and go...now fast forward to present day and it has been a LONG time since we have eaten at that particular restaurant. It's kind of expensive there for a family of five to have a meal (and that's not including dessert!), and seeing as the children are just as happy with the dollar menu at McDonald's.....well, we just don't make it there often! At this season of life, with hungry, squirming, sometimes mischievous little ones in tow :), lingering over a multiple course meal just does not happen. It's alright, though. I would rather have the three children we have been blessed with more than anything else. Having the privilege to be their parents is worth way more than being able to do whatever we want, right when we want to, such as in our pre-children days. There will come a time in the future where we do not have to cut up food on their plates, have to request extra napkins, or need to be getting up to rush a child urgently to the restroom. There will not be child care to arrange. Someday we will even be able to have uninterrupted conversations without french fries flying through the air!
So, for right now, fine dining out has to be reserved for those rare times when my hubby and I get a date night alone. (And I'm really okay with that!) Since that doesn't happen but a handful of times in a year if that, I do try to make meal times at home nice. Occasional candles and fancy glasses can transform even simple fare into something a bit more special. I like to try new recipes and make my family home-made treats.It is my hope that the children will have fond memories of meal times as a family while they were growing up.
Recently, I was thinking about those Olive Garden bread sticks. I went searching for a soft bread stick recipe that was similar to the signature ones served there.
The Food Network website has a great recipe for Almost Famous BreadSticks, and I must say that they were not only simple to make...but they actually DO closely resemble the real thing. I spread mine with olive oil before baking. Everyone loved them! They went perfectly along side lasagna for supper (and then the next day were still equally as yummy when spread with peanut butter and jelly as a quick snack for Isaac). I will definitely be making these again! Even if you don't usually make your own bread, this recipe is so easy--really!
Now if I could just replicate Olive Garden pasta dishes.....
As I woke up this morning on Valentine's Day, I was thinking about how blessed I am to be surrounded by an abundance of love in my life...especially from my husband and my children. They love me no matter what--even on the occasional day when I am impatient or grouchy! They put up with my clean freak/perfectionist tendencies. It doesn't bother them if I wear yoga pants and sweatshirts around the house quite often, or if I serve simple meals on those busy days. My little family loves me just the way I am, no strings attached! They are continually doing things to demonstrate their love, too...whether it is a newly colored picture from my children and little arms wrapping around me in a "bear hug", or an unexpected phone call during the day from my husband--just to check on how I am doing and to say "I Love You". He always has the knack for knowing when I am especially stressed out or exhausted and in need of some encouraging words. He rises at the crack of dawn every day to go to work and even puts in extra hours so that I am able to stay at home with the children. He cheerfully takes out the trash and shovels snow.
Those kinds of things are real love in action and mean far more to me than diamonds or a box of chocolates. You simply cannot put a price tag on them.
Don't get me wrong. It's nice to receive gifts, and I have received more than my fair share over the years.My husband is great about that, and I'm very appreciative. Physical signs of love in the form of a special present certainly do have their place. This year I have a vase full of beautiful red roses, courtesy of my Valentine. It was so special to answer the door and be surprised by a flower delivery! But, do you know what was most special about this gift? The heartfelt little card that accompanied those roses...I will forever treasure it and will no doubt be re-reading it again and again over the years, just to "hear" those touching words once more.
It's important to remember, though, that no amount of material things can create love or keep it going if it is not already there to begin with. It often seems like in our society, love tends to be measured by how large an engagement ring is, how extravagant the wedding was, how costly a family vacation will be, or even how much money we are spending on our children.
Again, there is nothing wrong with using some money to benefit or enrich our family's life, but it will never replace actual love, or cause someone to love us more.
Real love cannot be bought or sold. Real love knows no limits. Real love is not hinged upon material "stuff". Real love lasts forever.
Valentine's Day is almost here. For the past week at our house there has been a perpetual mess of glittery stuff, paper hearts, and well...PAPER everywhere. :) Isaac and Emma had so much fun crafting their own Valentine cards
and today we made a huge batch of sweetheart cookies
(Ethan just hung out with us and looked cute!)
We like to celebrate Valentine's Day mainly because it is neat to have a set aside day every year where you focus on appreciating those who you love. And not just romantically...it's been a good opportunity to use as teachable moments with the kids. We have been talking alot about what it means to have loving, kind behavior towards each other and also to stop and realize God's great love for us. I have challenged them every day to think of something nice to do for each member of our family.
And secondly, let's face it: winters are LONG in these parts. We need fun diversions during this cold season to distract us from the reality that it is still several weeks until spring truly arrives for good. :)
Okay, I just had to share this super simple (but brilliant!) idea, courtesy of the ladies that author the Coupons Are Great blog (www.couponsaregreat.net). You can find the specific directions there.
These "lollipops" require only a few inexpensive ingredients, minimal effort,and are a quick, child-friendly little project to make anytime. All you need is regular size marshmallows, chocolate or almond bark for dipping them into, and a variety of colored sugar and sprinkles to decorate with. Seeing as Valentine's Day is just around the corner, we made ours with red and pink themed sprinkles. Isaac and Emma had no trouble poking a white lollipop stick into each marshmallow. That was their favorite part, except for the taste testing, of course.
Even Ethan got in on the dipping action!
They all had so much fun making a huge sugary,sticky,chocolatey, mess all over the kitchen .
And they actually even went to bed on schedule after all that sugar!
This morning we ventured outside for some fresh air and play time in the snow. It has been a milder day without that harsh arctic wind that we often seem to have. Perfect chance for the children to use
It has been a long, very busy week and so I have not had the opportunity to blog...or do much of anything computer related, really. It is hard to believe February is now here--the last full month of winter (at least according to the calendar!).
We are finding ways to stay occupied this cold season, especially on the below zero, freezing wind days when it is hard to enjoy being outdoors. Alot of arts and crafts, baking, and reading. Next week it will be time to launch into all things Valentine related, so that will be fun, and Isaac's birthday will be in a few weeks as well. Before we know it, spring will be here! We are all looking forward to the warm weather and thawing snow. Usually we can begin taking walks in mid March, as soon as the sidewalks are clear.
Homeschooling this year is going great! The children are soaking everything up and learning by leaps and bounds. I am continually amazed at their inquisitive minds and thirst for knowledge. Isaac is reading very well and has been delving into some real chapter books now. It is like a whole new world has opened up for him by being able to read whatever he wishes on his own. Emma, now that she has seen how much her big brother loves to read, has been begging to learn herself. She just turned 4, so I was not planning to start phonics with her until next fall, but given her eagerness, I decided to just go ahead and start the Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons book with her and see how she responds to it. Thus far, since beginning with it last week, her reading lesson time is the highlight of her day!
Ethan is a bundle of energy at 20 months old. He always wants to be involved in what the older children are doing, so keeping him occupied while I am teaching has been the only challenging aspect of homeschooling. It is constant activity in our house, with Ethan climbing onto everything, making huge messes, and daily learning how to do new things...such as open doors. :)
So, life is busy and very full to the brim, but going well. I have many things that I am itching to write about, but have had to put those on the back burner lately and focus on my family, which of course is my main priority right now. :)
I wanted to also put an update on my friend's son, Jacob, whom I wrote about back in December in the post entitled "Heavy Heart". At that time, he had just been diagnosed with stage IV cancer and had to have surgery to remove one of his kidneys. Last month he began to have chemo and radiation and will continue to have staggered treatments over the next several months. A benefit is being held for him on February 17th, so pray that some funds will be raised that will help with costs such as gas for the family vehicle (the hospital is almost 2 hours away, thus making for a lengthy round trip!) and also to help if Ben (Jacob's father) should need to take some unpaid days off of work. Jacob will be going back to the hospital on the 18th for a four day stay to have some intensive treatments. Please continue to keep Jacob and his entire family in your prayers. It has been a roller coaster for them all, something that they never, ever expected to happen, especially to a five year old. Jacob's mother, Elizabeth, has been a good friend of mine ever since we became penpals many years ago. She has a blog, http://www.trenchesofmommyhood.blogspot.com/ that she updates often with information on how Jacob is doing. Jacob's grandmother also has a blog, http://www.marypotterkenyon.wordpress.com/ and she shares about him there, and has written many other inspirational, thought provoking posts. Anyone interested in following Jacob's progress can read these two blogs.