Friday, January 30, 2009

Happy <3 Day!

It has been one year since Lucy's little heart was patched up and we are celebrating with a day of heart shaped food and all kinds of yummy treats. I'll try to post some pictures of our festivities later tonight.

***sorry for the picture posting delay. We had so much fun yesterday that we all sacked out early!***

The girls woke up early and we had heart shaped toast with nutella for breakfast. The scarfed them down before I got a picture. Next we went to IKEA for some fun playing in the children's decor section and of course some yummy Swedish meatballs for lunch. Oh how I love IKEA!

Oh no...Grandma's being eaten by a hippo!

I'm only including this picture so you can fully appreciate the hat...It's a birthday cake with candles! Wait, it looks like I have horns...AND I'm being eaten by a hippo!

Maryn in a moment of reflection

Trying to get a picture of both girls together, AKA mission impossible.

Chris made a heart-shaped pizza for dinner and my contribution was chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting which Maryn decorated with sprinkle hearts. You may question the choice of cheesy pizza and buttery frosting for a kid with heart problems but we're just following doctor's orders :)

Heart ice cube tray from IKEA

This is kind of a birthday do-over as she was not too into cupcakes then. How things have changed!

We really wanted to do some kind of fund-raiser or to adopt a family going through something similar as a way to mark this milestone in our lives. Time and HIPAA regulations prevented us from organizing it for this year, but I wanted to mention that donations made to this Compassion International fund are used to provide medical care for children with all manner of medical conditions, including heart defects, to kids in third-world countries. We love Compassion!

There is also a really good movie that was made about the doctors who pioneered open heart surgery to save the lives of babies with Tetralogy of Fallot. It is called Something the Lord Made and stars Alan Rickman and Mos Def. It hit close to home knowing that if Lucy had been born 50 or 60 years ago there would be no treatment to save her.

We are so thankful for our sweet Lucy-goosey, for the doctors and nurses that took such wonderful care of her, for our friends who have supported us and prayed with us through it all, and for our wonderful Father who has had us in His hands the whole time.

Happy heart day, everyone!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

1st Corinthians 13

As I mentioned in the last post, I was really moved and inspired this week by meditating on Paul's beautiful description of love, and by a related passage in 1st John (4:7-21). One of my favorite questions from my CBS study this week had us write down each word Paul used to describe love (or love's opposite) and come up with a specific way we could put it into practice in our lives. Not surprisingly, most of mine were ways I could love my children more sacrificially and completely. I am still surprised at how selfish I can be during my day to day life with my kids. How completely lacking in patience and kindness I can be when one of the kids does something that I perceive as making my day longer, harder or messier. No wonder Maryn has a hard time sharing with her sister and Lucy hordes toys like someone is going to swipe them at any moment.

Anyway, I was sad to miss Bible study today but what better place to learn about love than right here at home. It was an especially timely lesson as the girls have been going through a really rough patch in their sisterly relationship. There were still rough moments, to be sure, but I tried to pray through them and respond in love rather than frustration or anger. And it ended up being a GREAT day. The afternoon is usually our hardest, right before Daddy gets home from work. Maryn surprised all of us by choosing to give her most cherished Cars to Lucy to play with and she patiently let Lucy direct their play instead of the other way around. It was a breakthrough. We had a totally peaceful afternoon full of play and fun. Together. Without crying, whining, shoving or swiping. Which must lead you to wonder what our days are usually like!

Really, they're not so bad. We're all in the process of learning how to put others needs before our own. How to build up instead of tear down. How to be vulnerable and risk being hurt or rejected or used and to love anyway. Learning that starts at home but radiates outward to all of those we meet and befriend along the way. Lord, teach us how to love and thank you for loving us first!

"We love because he first loved us...And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother." 1 John 4:19, 21

sickness and skirts

We've been diligent about taking our vitamins, washing our hands and covering our mouths and noses, yet somehow we've ended up with ANOTHER cold. The girls and I all woke up with sore throats and runny noses so we opted to sequester ourselves at home instead of getting ready for Bible study. I was pretty bummed to miss it as we're studying 1st Corinthians and spent the last week delving into chapter 13 - the "love" chapter. The study was so good, it deserves it's own post. So more on that in a moment.

As for the colds, I think they might be coming from the kids' area at the gym. I went for the first time in a while last week and the runny noses started not long after. Yet another reason I should be waking up early to get my gym time in while the kids are still sleeping. But it's hard to go to bed when there are projects to be undertaken. Like the skirt I've been wanting to make for Maryn. It's the twirly skirt pattern from the House on Hill Road blog. Maryn picked out the fabric herself at Joann's (they are having a 40-50% off sale on fabric through next week). It's a purpley-pink floral...but she calls it "fuschia," just like Fancy Nancy.

I used the basic twirly skirt tutorial but didn't have contrasting fabric for the top and the hem. So I picked out some matching ribbon and used the technique from the Oliver + S Lazy Days skirt pattern. The ribbon is so easy and makes the edge look really tidy. I have some fabric leftover from Maryn's skirt so I might make Lucy a matching one using the Lazy Days tutorial.

I finished the skirt this morning and Maryn and I had a twirly skirt photo shoot:

Maryn twirled...

Then I had to put my twirly skirt on (no, I didn't make it!) and we twirled together...

Until we got tired and plopped down in a sunny spot to take a rest...

Before having more fun with the tripod and timer!

That's what sick-days are for!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A simple Christmas

This year has to go down as one of my favorite Christmases ever. The voluminous amount of snow unwittingly helped me to pare down my "to do before Christmas" list, and while it was not totally void of some last-minute rushing, it was a far more enjoyable and contemplative season with more of a focus on relationship and quality over quantity.

Gifts this year were especially simple. We've never really gone all-out for Christmas as far as gifts go and this year I tried to be especially thoughtful and intentional with the things we gave the kids. I managed to come up with a few things I knew they would enjoy and get use out of in the year to come. I ended up giving each girl versions of the same thing to try to avoid fighting and the "her toy is better than mine" syndrome. It mostly worked.

$5 Curious George dolls from Kohls - with hand knit scarves so the girls can tell them apart.

Brown paper packages tied up with string. (they didn't stay that way for long!)

Markers, colored pencils and personalized sketch books.

This was my 4:00 am last-minute project - personalized minkee pillows (Maryn LOVES her "bumpy" blankies, so why not a bumpy pillow to match?)
Maryn got a construction kit from IKEA

And Lucy got her very own stroller (no more fighting over Maryn's - I hope)

After a leisurely morning opening gifts, Grandma Kathy, Grandpa Doug and Auntie Amanda came over for brunch and stockings. Such a wonderful morning! We missed being with the rest of the family, but it was nice to spend a Christmas at home. And I hope we can continue the tradition of a simple Christmas next year, with our without the snow.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

catching up

As a self-dubbed "procrastinating perfectionist" something in me needs to catch up on all of the blogging I've intended to do before I can start fresh with 2009 activities. The next few blogs will be a smattering of things we've done or random happenings from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Getting caught up (and hopefully staying that way) is a new year's goal for me. Thanks to those of you who are already helping to keep me accountable in reaching it!

Thanksgiving and gingerbread houses

We spent Thanksgiving at Grandma Kathy and Grandpa Doug's house. The dinner was amazing, but I think Maryn, Amanda and I enjoyed decorating gingerbread houses the most.

Amanda and Maryn before the project begins

Gingerbread house making is messy work!

Maryn's house (with a little help from mommy):

Amanda's house (I love the candy cane chimney!):

Here are all three houses together (Daddy was supposed to decorate one but decided he would rather play the Wii. He was going for a white-trash look, anyway...can you tell which one is his??)

We tried to get some pictures of the girls, but they just wanted to play with the boots:


I have always been a carb girl. Well, maybe more of a chocolate addict, but desserts of any kind have always been my downfall. When i was in elementary school I remember my mom asking my pediatrician how much chocolate was too much. It seems the love affair began early. It continued throughout my adolescence - I know I personally sent at least one fellow student to grad night during the See's candy fundraiser my senior year of high school. And now I'm passing the addiction on to my kids. I know I will have to curtail my dessert habits at some point but its hard when Maryn and I have so much fun baking together!

Check out Maryn's adorable apron from our friend Sandy.

A cute Maryn and Grandma baking shot - we are a family of bakers!

Our favorite cookie recipe right now is a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie from the Kutsch Family Cookbook. Chris' cousin archived the recipes online so you can find the recipe here (thanks, Denton!). We especially like this recipe because it is easily halved - a good way to keep oneself from the belly ache of over-indulgence which is an easy thing to succumb to with this recipe - you don't realize how rich they are until it is too late. You've been warned!

*The recipe is good as is, but I've found that they rise a bit better if you add a teaspoon of baking powder as well as the baking soda that the original recipe calls for. Just a tip!*

And one more recipe in honor of Erica's food challenge for November. The ingredient was yeast. I've been attempting to bake bread for the last year or so with mostly imperfect results. I've mainly used this recipe for Oatmeal Toasting Bread. While the taste is good, the loaves are always a bit dense and never light and airy like the bread you buy at a bakery or the grocery store.

My latest attempt is from this recipe for cinnamon-sugar swirl bread. This time I broke out the Kitchen-Aid mixer with the dough-hook attachment as I didn't think my arms could handle stirring the required 7 cups of flour into the dough. I really like how the dough turned out and it rose well during the first proof. Maryn helped me brush the butter onto the rolled dough and sprinkled the cinnamon and sugar on top before rolling it up and placing it into a greased loaf pan. The second rise also seemed to go well until I uncovered the pans to place them in the oven. All of a sudden - poof! - my lovely loaves deflated. Do any of you fellow bakers have suggestions as to why this happened and how to avoid it next time?

*awesome baker Carol noted it was probably because I let them rise too long. No more watching good but distracting movies while attempting to bake bread! (I think I was watching PS I Love You)*
The dough after kneading and ready for the first rise.

After the second rise and ready for the oven

Anyway, the loaves came out of the oven about 40 minutes later looking quite beautiful and brown, if a bit flat on top. Never being one to follow instructions too closely, I cut into a loaf after a few minutes and was pleased to find it very light...much more so than my previous Oatmeal Toasting bread attempts. I think I may have undercooked it a bit and will leave it in a bit longer next time. But I was quite happy with the results and the flavor. I think this dough would be great even without the cinnamon-sugar in the middle or as cinnamon rolls topped with cream-cheese frosting.

I also like that it makes two loaves - one for you, and one for a friend (or the freezer).

Happy baking everyone! Let me know if you try either of these recipes and feel free to share any of your favorite cookie recipes or bread baking tips.