Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday Menu ~ A Recipe For Insanity

Here's a Monday Menu for ya...wanna go a little bit crazy?  Or a little bit craziER? 

Try giving your blog a little Christmas facelift.  Try running a search for "lingual tonsils".  Both are sure to bring you frustration.  Then cause chaos.  Then make you feel just a little bit crazy.  One just wasn't working for me.  The background that I loved last year is no longer available.  And blogger has added some crazy "features" that are suppose to be cool but instead just make me longing for the simpler times.  The other led me to a website that tried to download a virus.  Fortunately I'm good at freaking out and drawing attention to myself, and I have a live-in IT supervisor, who had just emerged from the attic and was able to come to my rescue.  Crisis averted, and the IT supervisor offered to help me figure out my blog chaos.  As I sat back down at the desk, I whacked my knee cap right into the edge of the doggone desk.  I think the desk is even rising up against me.  The IT supervisor is also great at giving out a bit of sympathy, a kiss on the forehead, and an encouraging word in the form of "I think it looks fine."  So it's official.  I guess it is fine.  My knee and my lingual tonsil and my blog.

And what about this blog?  It's not nearly as festive and joyful and bright and Christmas-y as I would like my blog to look during this season.  But I'll live with it for a few days and see if it grows on me.  Any thoughts?  I'd love to hear them.

And!  (This is the point in the post where you can tell I'm entirely too tired to try to write anything worth reading.  Bear with me.)  Where was I?  Oh, yes...And!!  I was thinking back to last year, when I did the "Twelve Days of Baking" leading up to Christmas.  I don't know if anyone else liked it, but I loved putting those recipes in one place.  It was fun for me.  At some point yesterday when I was decorating my tree, I came up with a really fun idea for this year.  "Twelve Days of...."  I'm not going to tell you yet.  Mostly because I need to make sure I have twelve of these.  I know I have at least six good ones.  But I'm going to work on it and hopefully start soon.  It just might add to my crazy, but it could be fun.

AND!!!!  One week from today my sweet baby girl will enter her teen years.  I.  Could.  Weep.  To think of her as a teenager just baffles my mind and makes me realize that she IS growing up and she won't live with me forever.  Sigh.  Now I'm feeling the crazy take root.  I think I'll go find some chocolate...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Thanksgiving of Firsts

As I reflected on this Thanksgiving, I realized it was one filled with firsts.  A couple not-so-great firsts, but I'm going to look past those and sum up the great firsts we celebrated.


This was the first year that we celebrated Thanksgiving with a 6-day weekend, compliments of snow and ice that kept the schools closed two extra days.  The kids spent hours sledding and then coming back in to warm up, then sledding some more, then coming back in to warm up...a cycle that produced both enormous amounts of fun and enormous amounts of laundry!  Ridiculously enough, I did not get one picture of the snow this go-around! 


This is the first year that I made Bobby Flay's Pumpkin Bread pudding...and it certainly won't be the last.  It was so delicious...all the flavors just blend so masterfully.  You know I could go on and on about this one.  I love you, Bobby Flay.

Food Preparation:

This is the first time, in making the above mentioned, over-the-top fabulous dessert, that I cooked something using a whole vanilla bean.  I've watched it lots of times, but never have I tried it until recently.  Really, when someone has done all that work for you and somehow turned all that into that easy-to-use bottle containing the vanilla extract, why would one go to all the trouble of slicing and scraping and simmering???  BECAUSE IT ABSOLUTELY MAKES THE MOST DIVINE VANILLA TASTE I HAVE EVER HAD THE PLEASURE OF EATING!!!  Oh, the sweetness!  You know the difference between real, homemade vanilla ice cream and the giant party-sized tub of "vanilla flavored" ice cream?  Same difference.  Huge.  I loved it.  Again, I love you, Bobby Flay.


Thanks to the genius planning of Emily, this was the first time that I tried to make an Oreo cookie go from my forehead to my mouth using nothing but facial expressions.  I said I tried.  It wasn't successful, but it was fun.  She also organized a host of other "Minute To Win It" games for us.  I'm proud to report the following:

*3 out of 5 Carlsons were able to stack 3 golf balls on top of each other in less than one minute.

*my husband, with his swimmer lungs, is a champ at blowing up a balloon and using the air from the balloon to knock plastic cups off a counter in less than one minute.

*I learned that, when trying to get pasta tubes onto a thin spaghetti noodles, it would have been better to get on my knees rather than squat.  A one-minute squat was good for the quads, but bad strategy for the game.

*Brenna has an amazing ability to swing her hips, even though she has no hips, in an effort to bounce ping-pong balls out of an empty tissue box tied around her waist.  Not as amazing as Emily, but she gave it a great try!

Once again, I'm a proud mommy.

Frightening Faces:

Every year, every. sweet. year., we go through the agony joy of trying to get a satisfactory family picture.  I've lowered my expectation of "nice" family picture, or even an "ah, that's great" family picture, to just satisfactory.  Really, who likes pictures of themselves?  I mean, once you are over the age of 18-ish, who really likes to look at pictures of yourself?  So that's one problem with a good picture.  The other, that I thought would lessen as the kids grew but hasn't, is trying to get FIVE people looking good in one shot.  But we try.  We are persistent.

Usually we bait the kids this way:  let's just get a couple good pictures to choose from - please! - and then you can do one silly picture.  I say we are baiting the kidS, but really it is baiting one kid.  I won't reveal which one, but let's just say the oldest is a sport, and middle loves to have her picture taken. 

So at our traditional trip to The Christmas Forest after our big feast, we tried to get a good picture.  This is the best we got:

I'm getting shorter every year.

And then, here is the frightening result of "silly" faces:

Apparently, Brad thinks kissing is silly.  Alex thinks putting Brenna in a choke-hold is silly.  Brenna totally nailed "silly".  And Beth?  That is simply disturbing.  We showed her the picture and then sent her to the bathroom to find a new silly face.

And, lastly:

Mushy Movies:
This year Brenna has discovered the joy of cheesy, mushy, Hallmark Christmas movies!  She watched one with me last night, and we both got all teary-eyed!  I've apparently passed down my love of all things cheesy and emotional.  And that makes me very happy.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Eve ~ Lil' Pie, Anyone?

I'm taking a new approach to Thanksgiving desserts this year.  In addition to the Pumpkin Bread Pudding that I literally start salivating for just imagining it, I am making some little mini pies.  It's always so hard to choose what kind of pie I want.  And you try to get just a small piece of each, but cutting those pecan pies into small pieces is nearly impossible.  And then there's all the cutting and serving which, let's face it, just delays the moment I get to eat my pie.

So here's what I'm making this year:  mini chocolate/pecan pies and mini pumpkin/pecan pies.  I'm also going to make some mini sweet potato pies if I get myself to the store today.  I'm thinking those will freeze beautifully and make a yummy quick snack when the craving hits.

Here's the lil' pie recipes I'm using this year:

Pumpkin Pecan Mini Pies

1/4 cup pecans
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup flour
6 TBSP cold butter
2-3 TBSP ice water

1 egg plus one egg yolk
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1 TBSP sugar
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
24 pecan halves, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray a mini-muffin pan with non-stick spray.

For the dough, place pecans and sugar in a food chopper and grind until well-combined and nuts are very fine.  Place in bowl with flour and salt, whisk together.  Add butter and cut in until all crumbs are smaller than pea-size.  Drizzle in ice water, 1 TBSP at a time, and continue cutting just until dough barely starts to hold together.  Now get in there with your hands and form into a ball.  (You can also do all this with a food processor if you'd rather.) 

Divide dough evenly into 24 pieces.  Roll each piece gently into a ball and place in mini-muffin pan.  Press evenly into cups.  Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the crusts are golden.

Meanwhile, make filling:  whisk together egg, egg yolk, corn syrup, pumpkin, spices and vanilla.  Stir in chopped pecans.

Remove dough from oven and spoon 1 TBSP into each cup.  Top each with 1 pecan half.  Return pans to oven and bake an additional 13-15 minutes, until the filling is set.

Allow to cool before removing from pan.

Chocolate Pecan Mini Pies

Pie crust for 9-inch pie (refrigerated if you must, or make it yourself.  Use the above recipe or my favorite crust recipe below).
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 TBSP flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 cup mini-chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray mini-muffin pan with non-stick spray. 

Divide dough evenly into 24 pieces.  Roll each piece gently into a ball and press evenly into muffin pan.

For filling, combine brown sugar, butter, eggs, flour and vanilla.  Whisk together until well-combined.  Stir in pecans and chocolate chips.

Spoon evenly into the 24 muffin cups.  Bake for 20 minutes or until filling is set and crust is golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes before removing from pan to cool completely.  (Or until cool enough to pop into your mouth for a taste-test.  Just don't burn your tongue ~ that has the potential to really put a damper on the Thanksgiving feast!)

My Favorite Pie Crust:

(will make 3 9-inch pie shells)

3 sticks butter
3 cups flour
1 egg
1 TBSP ice water
1 tsp white vinegar

Combine butter and flour with pastry blender.  Whisk together egg, water and vinegar.  Add to flour/butter mixture and blend together with pastry blender, until just starting to hold together.  Roll into crusts.  (For one recipe of the min-pies, I used 1 stick butter, 1 cup flour, and then eye-balled about a third of the egg/water mix.)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I Am Thankful For Cookie Monster

Okay, when I saw this, I just had to post it.  Brenda recently gave her ode to Grover, and I quipped that I must somehow honor Cookie Monster.  I think that needs no explanation.

So when I saw that my dear Cookie Monster has begun a campaign to host Saturday Night Live, I had to show him a little love by sharing this.  I do love that guy.  I love that he has given himself the title of "Cookie Enthusiast" over "glutton".  I can relate, CM.  And the little section on Fake News made me laugh outloud.  That in itself is a little glimpse into the simpleness of my mind.

And watching him eat his cookie at the end brought back so many fond memories.  One thing I remember, from a young age, is thinking that he wasted a lot of his cookie by eating it so frantically and sending it flying around.  From the looks of this clip, he continues to waste a lot of perfectly good cookie.

I hope you are safe and snug in your home with some fuzzies on.  It's bitterly cold out there, some might say it's frightful.  Grab yourself some cookies and milk (delightful) and enjoy 4 minutes of cookie love...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Monday Menu ~ A Rough Recipe for Magnificent Mashed Potatoes

Boy howdy, what a weekend!  Was there a weekend??  I'm pretty sure there was, but the blurry thoughts all stringing together are making me wonder.  But since today is Monday, that must mean we just finished a weekend.

And this week is Thanksgiving?!  How did that happen?  Well, in honor of Thanksgiving, I'll post a few recipes that are too good to not eat this week. 

First up are these yummy mashed potatoes.  The recipe is rough, meaning I don't have exact measurements, but you'll get the idea.  These are perfect for a crazy day like Thanksgiving, because you can actually make them a day before and heat them to serve on Thanksgiving.  They are rich, creamy, and even delicious without gravy.  Not to say you shouldn't make gravy.  Don't be silly.  There is no picture to include, because it honestly has never occurred to me to take pictures of mashed potatoes.  I'm sure you understand.

Magnificent Mashed Potatoes

5 lbs. potatoes (regular 'ole baking potatoes)
8 oz. block of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
garlic powder

Peel and quarter potatoes.  Boil in a large pot until they are very tender.  Drain.

Return to pot, place back on hot burner (turned off) to let the last of the moisture steam off.  Add the cube of softened cream cheese, softened butter (even melted is fine) and sour cream.  Beat with a hand mixer or stand mixer until creamy and non-lumpy.  Mix in salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste.  (One of the keys is to have the cream cheese and butter very soft, so they will blend in easily.)  If not serving right away, place potatoes in a 9x13 baking dish, cover and refrigerate.  To serve, remove from fridge and heat in a 350 oven until warmed through while covered with foil.  Remove foil once heated through and continue to heat for another 10 minutes or so.   That way you'll get a lovely little baked crusty goodness on the top.  Yum.

Hmm.  What else?  Well, probably a dessert soon.  For now I will stare out the window and wonder how much snow is going to fall before I leave for work.  And, more importantly, how much will have fallen when it's time to come home from work.

If you are looking for a really scrumptious dessert, you must check out the Pumpkin Bread Pudding With Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce and Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise that Bobby Flay made in his losing throw down with The Pioneer Woman.  It looks incredibly delicious, one I will be trying soon!

Friday, November 19, 2010


As I mentioned in my previous post, I've been thinking about how much I love this season we are entering.  I love the coziness of the whole thing.  The house glowing with Christmas lights and candles.  The rush of warmth the house brings when the days get so crisp.  The smells that fill up the house with all the baking.  The TASTE of all that Christmas baking.  The sounds of Christmas music playing everywhere we go.  Yes, it fills up my senses, as John Denver would say.

And at the heart of it all, there is such a calm sense of thankfulness.  Thankful.  I love the peace that comes with being truly, deeply thankful.  And here's what I've learned about being thankful.

Sometimes it's a beautiful, warm feeling that overwhelms you.  That moment when you first hold a new baby, you ooze with a flood of thankfulness.  It takes you over.  Sometimes being thankful is not even a choice:  it chooses you.

Sometimes, being thankful is a choice.  "In everything give thanks...."  In everything.  In those times when our feelings would want to take over and scream the lie that we have nothing to be thankful for, we need to be the boss of our feelings and speak the truth.  There is truly always, in every situation, something to be thankful for.  Sometimes it may start out as strained and forceful...being thankful for that breath you just took without even thinking about doing it.  But when you take ahold of your thoughts and choose thankfulness, it's amazing what will come bubbling up.  Because truly, there are people right now who have no ability to take a breath on their own.  There are families standing over bedsides, begging God to breathe life into someone they love.  And I just took a breath.  Thank you, Lord.  I walk without giving a thought to it.  Some can't.  I can open my eyes and see the faces of the ones I love.  Some can't.  Obviously, I could go on and on.  I have been in some dark moments in my life, and having a posture of thankfulness, even when it was forced, kept me plugged into perspective when I desperately needed it.  We can choose.  Choose to make that mental list of everything we wish was different, everything we don't have, everything we long for, (Like the Festivus celebration, the "airing of the grievances"!) or choose to make a list of thankfulness. It is obvious which list brings peace.

Being thankful is an attitude of your heart, not just words.  It becomes a habit.  It becomes ingrained in you, so that your whole outlook is one of thankfulness.  With practice, it becomes who you are, not just what you say around a table once a year.

We are entering that time of year when opportunities will abound to make the thankful choice.  Traffic getting into the Target parking lot may just draw you into being less than gracious.  So when you are sitting in that heavy traffic, be thankful you are sitting in a warm car, and not the one walking.  You'll probably wait in a longer line than usual to buy your food.  Be thankful you are buying food.  The choices are all around us to make.

And say the words.  Say "thank you" and mean it.  Did you get a hug from someone you love?  Look them in the eye and tell them thank you for the hug.  When you finally get to the front of the line in a store, look the clerk in the eye and tell them thank you.  And mean it.  And, for all things, look to the One who gives us this life to be thankful for.  We are not promised "easy", but we are promised provision.  Look to Him, and tell him "thank you".  And mean it.

Colossians 3:15:  "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts...And be thankful."

Okay...ready to be thankful?  Need a place to start??  Today through Sunday, from 2 pm to 5 pm, Starbucks is having a "Buy one, get one free" special on all their holiday drinks.  Yipee!  Have you tried the Caramel Brulee Latte???  Oh, you must.  Or the Gingerbread Latte?  Or, I suppose you could do the eggnog, if that turns your crank.  So grab a friend you are thankful for, and go get a drink together. 

What are you thankful for??

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Laughter With Friends and Bragging Rights

Here I go again, a head full of thoughts that I need to get out.  The things are piling up in my mind faster than I can take the time to put them in order.  So there will probably be very little "order" to this post.  Like usual.

A WEEK until Thanksgiving?  Oh, my.  I cannot believe how quickly this year is going.  Again.  It's not creeping up on me, it's barrelling towards me.  I love, love, love this time of year.  I love that during this time, so many memories are made together as a family.  I love that I get to create memories for our kids, things that bind us together, things that we will look back on with great happiness.  I feel an entire post bubbling up in me on just that idea, and since I've been struggling a bit with even continuing this blog, I know I must grasp hold of any idea I have for a post.  Maybe tomorrow I will revisit that.

Last weekend we had a fabulous time at our marriage conference in Seaside.  We had a massive amount of time with friends, treasured friends that we don't see nearly often enough.  We laughed and laughed and laughed.  Laughed so hard our sides each other, at ourselves, with each other, it just was a big weekend of laughter.  Great food, great fellowship, great times. 

the eight of us go back a long way.  one of these couples actually became grandparents this year, which makes me feel extraordinarily old.

no trip down the Oregon coast would be complete without a trip to Mo's.  The chowder disappointed, I'm sorry to say, but we had a great time.

Larry & Shelley...I love these two people so much!

And I'm pretty fond of this man, too.  Even if I think it's stupid to sing Buttercup.

This picture made me laugh because on the table is a box of acid controller that I pulled out because these nuts enthusiastically requested that I bake some stuffed jalapenos at 11:00 at night.  Marda was the stand-up comedy for the night.  She is such a hoot.

Girls I dearly love and wish we could be together much more often!

Taking a wide left turn now, and with no great segue (is that how you spell that???), I'll switch topics to brag on my son.  I've already bragged on this topic many times before, but once again he earns some bragging rights.  And one thing I've noticed:  my children love to read about themselves on this blog.  They unashamedly read with great pleasure when they are mentioned in any way here!  Here's the latest with my hard-working musician:

First, he was recommended by his high school teacher to participate in the Pacific Lutheran University Honor Band.  I know very little about this, other than it' honor...and he will head up to PLU for two days in January where he'll audition for a placement.  (The audition is to rank him into which group he'll play, not whether or not he'll play.)  His private teacher is thrilled, as Alex will get to work with his former teacher (the teacher's teacher), and this is a connection that has been suggested before.  A good connection for all.

Then, Alex had recorded an audition for the All-State band back in October.  Every other year is an "All-Northwest" year.  They select kids for the All-State groups, then select kids for the "All-Northwest" groups.  I received a text at the beginning of this week from Alex:

"I didn't get into All-State this year.  Bummer.  But that's okay, because I got into All-Northwest!"

So he will be playing in the band representing high school kids from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and Alaska.  He is the only band member from Olympia High School to be selected, and will be joined by two cellists.  In February, he will descend on Bellevue (SO glad it's close!!) for a few days! 

I'm happy for him, I'm proud of him, and I'm thrilled to see the fruit the Lord creates when you combine a God-given gift and a lot of hard work! 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday Menu ~ I'm Hungry NOW!!

So here's the thing.  Most of the time, when I get hungry, I'm HUNGRY.  I do not feel it creep up slowly.  I do not feel a little bit hungry.  I am, at any given time, one of three things:  1.  Satisfied.  2.  Full.  or 3.  HUNGRY.

It is no fun to be the person who is with me when I hit number 3.  I get C.R.A.N.K.Y.  Almost panicky, even.  Some people wait until they get hungry, then start the discussion about what they should eat, what sounds good, what everyone else "feels like".  I just don't get that at all.  At the point I get hungry, I cannot have a conversation about what sounds good.  I just need to EAT.  That must sound horribly immature and selfish and like I have no ability to be patient and delay any gratification.  While all that may be true, I know this specific issue is a completely physical reaction for me.

With that in mind, I have to make sure I am prepared for that moment to strike.  I usually can prevent the panic by paying attention to when I'm eating.  But somedays I will forget to eat, or be busy and skip right by when I should have eaten or whatever.  And if I've had a day like that and then I run without out.  My insides will scream in protest. 

So lately I have discovered a new love that I like to keep in the house for when this moment strikes.  It is too early to tell if this is a passing phase or not, but I don't think so.  And I really think you need to try this, because it is just so very yummy!

(I had to ramble on with all that intro, because otherwise this "recipe" sounds like something you'd say "Are you kidding??" to, and I felt that I had to defend it.)

Tomato/Alfredo Pasta

1 jar of your favorite tomato pasta sauce (I like Prego traditional heart-smart)
1 jar of prepared Alfredo sauce (I like Bertolli)
Pasta (I like thin spaghetti or angel hair)

Combine pasta sauce and Alfredo sauce.  Heat on stovetop or microwave, serve over pasta. 

That's it.  I know, but it's so yummy and quickly filling.  It tastes a little bit like cream of tomato soup without the strong acidity that makes your throat burn.  If, you know, you are one whose throat burns when you eat tomato soup.

I like to keep a bowl of the sauce in the fridge so if the "mood" strikes I can quickly have some.  It also makes a great packable lunch!

Of course if you want to make it a full meal deal, you can just add in a salad and some great garlic bread and you've got yourself a winner.

Friday, November 12, 2010

So Much To Say, So Little Time

Here's a week's worth of information, condensed.  I blame the time.

My, Oh, My.  That's what I have to say about the passing of Dave Niehaus.  He leaves a huge hole, and the sounds of the Mariners will be very different this coming Spring.  I can't imagine listening to a game without his voice.

Beth's birthday was a blast and a half.  Ten has certainly been good to her so far!  We had a very energetic sleep-over on Friday night.  (Who labeled these things SLEEP-overs??  There's not a lot of sleeping involved.  How about STAY-overs?  Or LAY-YOUR-SLEEPING-BAG-ON-MY-FLOOR-AND-STAY-UP-UNTIL-THE-WEE-HOURS-GIGGLING-AND-SINGING-DYNAMITE-OVER-AND-OVER-AND-OVER-over??)  Nah.  It was all great.  After pizza, we were off to see "Secretariat".  Great movie.  Brenna and I sat in the row right behind all the girls, and at one point I was worried that they weren't going to like it, basically because I was liking it so much.  But as soon as the movie ended, they all turned around with wide eyes and said, "That was SO good!!"  Sweet girls.

As soon as they were all claimed by their own parents the next morning, we set off for Ikea to shop for a new dresser for Beth.  We are re-doing her bedroom for her birthday, and she needs a smaller dresser as a part of this.  It was a crazy busy day at Ikea, and we were the shmucks weaving our way against the current trying to make our way to the right department.  If you've shopped Ikea, you know exactly what we looked like.  If you haven't, you must experience it soon.  After picking out the dresser and other fun things, we, of course, sat down for a delicious meal of Swedish meatballs.  I do love those.  I hadn't been there since they switched to mashed potatoes...delicious!  During dinner, Beth asked why so many people around us were speaking different languages.  The responses from my other children were hysterical.  According to Brenna, when you enter a place that large you just are exposed to a lot more people and the odds of having other languages just go up.  Someone prepare the statistics teacher at our local high school...a few years from now that teacher is in for a treat.

And we stopped at Krispy Kreme for a birthday treat!

Then we were off to see Disney On Ice.  Oh, I wish I could share the entirety of this story.  Like the look on Alex's face when the receptionist at the orthodontist told him she hoped he had a fun time at Disney On Ice...and until that moment he didn't know he was even going.  Or the moment when he was handed his official Disney On Ice Girl Scout patch that we got with our Girl Scout discount tickets.  He was a great sport about it, and we had a great time.  More importantly, Beth loved it...and since it was all about Beth, that made it a great success.

notice the theme...keep food in Alex's hands and he'll have a great time!

how nice of them to wish my sweet girl a Happy Birthday!

we especially love the salute to Toy Story.  how cute is Hamm??

The next morning it was time for the Turn Back the Clock 5K.  I had the privilege of staying alongside my niece as she finished her first ever 5K!!  I was so proud of her, and I look forward to the same one next year, when she has vowed to run the entire course!

cute picture of us and all that, but check out the shirtless dude behind us.  It was a pretty chilly day.  He passed us coming the opposite way on the course, and I made some comment, and Stephanie had completely missed it!  I told her next time she had to keep her eyes open and enjoy the passing views!  This guy clearly wanted to be viewed!

blindingly bright sun, but this is Phyllis and Sherie.  Phyllis also ran her very first 5K, ran the entire way, too!  That's her first time ever running that distance...she ROCKED IT!!  So proud of her!

Brad had a great time in his run.  Third in his age group again this year.  He does like that number 3!  He started with a very tight hamstring and was concerned about how it would feel, but he ended up feeling great! 

Brad coming into the finish

I had to include a picture of Brad receiving his "major award", because we waited and waited and waited in the cold for him to collect that.  Plus he's just cute and I like to take any opportunity to put pictures of him on my blog.

Brad was then off to Arizona for a work trip.  Among other things, he was able to tour a data center that was the size of 3 football fields.  His report was that it was straight out of "24".  Complete with retina scanners to enter the building, glass-walled conference rooms, security cameras that were motion sensitive inside and outside.  He went on and on.  When he called to describe it to me, I could only imagine that this was to him what touring a chocolate chip factory would be to me.  Or going to the Pioneer Woman's ranch.  He came home with a cold, but he came home.  So glad to have him home.

While he was gone, Alex had his cross country banquet.  Fun times, but they must learn to be more efficient somehow.  We left THREE HOURS into it, and they weren't yet done.  They apparently weren't aware that The Biggest Loser was on and I was missing it.  I'm kidding.  Sort of.

And speaking of Pioneer Woman, as I was above, I was read that there is going to be a one hour episode of Throw Down with Bobby Flay on Wednesday...a Thanksgiving Dinner throw down featuring...oh, you are so smart:  The Pioneer Woman!!  Please don't call me or ask anything of me next Wednesday at 9:00.  I'll be busy.

AND!  I fell in love at Costco today.  It was sample-palooza today.  And among the yummy samples was Dave's Gourmet Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce.  Oh, heavens.  It is so incredibly yummy.  They sampled it over their chicken/mozzarella raviolis.  Yummy, yummy, yummy.  I cannot wait to have that soon.  I would eat that sauce just over plain-jane spaghetti noodles.  Well, preferably angel hair or thin spaghetti.  But, you know...I'd just be happy to eat the sauce.  Maybe even just lick it off a spoon.  So.  Good.

And I've had deep thoughts, seriously deep thoughts, stirring around in my brain all week.  I think I just may share them soon.  But let me say this much:  we need each other.  Don't try to do "this" (whatever your "this" is) alone.  We need the accountability of each other.  We need the encouragement of each other.  We need the comforting safety of true relationship with each other.  I'll stop there or else I'll just keep going.  And it's getting so late and it's a busy day tomorrow.

Most importantly, Happy Veteran's Day today.  At our school's Veteran's Day assembly yesterday, which is so beautifully done, I was able to greet and shake hands with all kinds of veterans.  Young, old, men, women.  One thing they ALL had in common was just an extreme humbleness and appreciation for the acknowledgement.  I got very teary-eyed over and over as these humble heroes came, some in full dress, and stood as our choir sang their military branch's song.  There is something so touching about seeing those young kids show honor to these men and women.

All.  Done.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Happy 10th Birthday, Bethie!

The magnitude of the words I am about to type are overwhelming.

My youngest 10 years old today!  All of my babies are now in double digits.  I would wish it no other way than for them to grow and move through their life the way the Lord intended for them, and yet it stuns my mind that we have reached this point.  This one really snuck up on me.  But I guess in many regards that's as it should be with this one.

She was our "surprise" baby.  No accident, let me assure you.  But a surprise for sure.  It was the end of March 2000, and I was reading a book to Brenna before her nap.  "Put Me In the Zoo" was the book, ironically enough.  About half way through, I fell asleep.  Hard.  Brenna nudged me awake, and I was so shocked I had even fallen asleep.  "That's weird," I thought, "I haven't shut down that suddenly since...."  (Insert shocked gasp here as I realized it was during my last pregnancy that I felt like that.)  I quickly started calculating in my mind.  My thoughts ran into hyper-drive as I churned through the possibilities.  Maybe this intense PMS was not really that.  Was it possible?  Then, with a bigger gasp, my mind shot back to Valentine's Day....sorry, but yep, it was entirely possible.

It was a Friday, and after dinner we had planned to take the kids swimming.  The whole time in the pool, I kept asking Brad, "Do you think???"  Now, as a back-up, our first two babies were not so quick to show up.  Alex took almost 2 years, Brenna just over a year to get cooking.  So we didn't really think it was even possible for it to be that easy for us.

After swimming, we ran to the store.  Our purchase?  Ice cream and a pregnancy test.  More irony that was totally lost on me in the moment.

So after Alex and Brenna had some ice cream and were all snug in their beds, I took the test.  And three minutes later, I picked it up, started shaking and crying, overwhelmed with the joy of knowing that another life was underway, and that I had the privilege, again, of having a little life growing inside me.  Truly, such a privilege.

a few moments after we found out!

Fast forward to November 6, 2000, and I finally got to meet that little life.  Finally knew the name of my last born.  Finally saw the completion to our family.  All wrapped up in a perfect 7 pound 6.5 oz. package that was so eager to start her life she almost made her daddy (and everyone else) miss it.  Her entry was so in keeping with who she now is.

our first complete family picture!

one day old, peacefully resting up for all your adventure to come!

seven weeks old, look at the sparkle and joy in your eyes!

Ten years since that morning.  A decade.  So much life has been lived between then and now.  This child has caused me to hit the depth and height of emotions that I didn't even know existed.  She has found frustration buttons that I didn't even know I had.  She has forced me to grow in ways I didn't even know I needed to grow.  She truly has been an instrument in the hand of God to change and shape me in beautiful ways.

That first moment of discovering she was on the way, my heart soared.  Watching her enter this world and take her first breath, I grew a new heart.  Emotion like no other.  Watching her be so quick to roll over, sit up, crawl, walk, talk....always eager to grow up and be bigger.  At 10 months old, watching her down a bottle with such urgency and gusto that she broke into a sweat, giving a satisfied sigh and smile when she was done...always in a hurry to get on to the next thing.  At one year, watching her heartbreak when we walked away from preschool, leaving her sister there...always wanting to be with her sister, her best friend even then.  At five years old, watching her lifeless on a pool deck as her daddy gave her CPR...a heartbreak I cannot even begin to find words for.  Then watching her on life support in ICU, being told that I could not even touch her, literally all I could do was pray...learning a level of surrender and trust that I do not know can be learned any other way.  Then, watching those eyes flutter open and tears form as she tried to reach for me...a moment of joy even deeper than the moment of birth.  A gift re-given to me...a level of humble thankfulness so deep it is inexpressible.

Now, at 10...

Beth, you continue to be a joyful light in our home and in my life.  I am so very thankful to have the honor of being your mommy.  You tell me all the time that if you could choose any mommy, you would choose me.  That is a compliment I'm not sure I'm worthy of, but am inspired by.  I would choose you over and over and over, Beth.  As you grow and change, I pray that you always keep the sparkle in your eye.  Keep your love of life bubbling strong.  Keep your sense of adventure.  Keep your curiosity and fascination for this big world.  I can only imagine the adventurous life you are going to live!  The world is wide open to you, Beth.  This year you are being challenged and learning how to work hard...lessons you will carry with you forever.  Combine that with your adventurous spirit...there are no limits for the great things you can do!  Keep your sensitive heart, stay close to Jesus, be a good friend, have compassion, know when to let Jesus "quiet you with His love", and know when to live loud.  You are a bundle of great things, Bethie, and I love you so very much.  I am so very, very thankful to be your mommy!!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Beautiful Collision of Seasons today a beauty or what?!  Absolutely stunning.  The thing-a-ma-jig in my van that tells me the outside temperature (forgive me, I can't for the life of me remember what it's called right now) hit 70 degrees this afternoon!  The sky is a brilliant blue, the sun blindingly bright.  And the leaves are absolutely brilliant, bold shades of reds and oranges and yellows.  I have interrupted so many conversations to point out gorgeous trees while we are driving around.  And today I went to Starbucks at the grocery store and noticed that they have their Christmas cups and flavors out!  I literally wanted to jump up and down, but refrained myself.  I bought myself perhaps the last iced beverage of the year, because it seemed to more match the weather.  Summery sunshine and warmth, fall leaves, winter beverages...what a beautiful collision of seasons!  I love it so much.

Very symbolic of the seasons changing in our home right now.  One cheer party to go, one volleyball game to go, one cross country banquet to go and we can close the books on Fall.  Music on-going, with honors coming head-on at one (more on that later).  Birthdays for two right around the corner, followed closely by all the greatness of Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Winter sports for one, crazy amount of school work for three.  Me adding an hour a day to my work schedule, Brad taking a quick work trip to sunny, exciting things for all.

On a completely unrelated note, here is a special treat I got to enjoy at work today:

I spent about 20 minutes guarding a beastly-sized pile of dog doo that was deposited on our playground.  (I'm assuming it was "dog" doo.  But from the looks of it, it could have been small pony doo.  Although I don't see many small ponies wandering the neighborhood.)  The first graders were FASCINATED by this pile, of course.  One girl just stared and stared and said, "What IS that?"  I told her it was dog doo.  "Where did it come from??"  I told her it came from a dog.  "But how did the dog get it here???"  REALLY???  So I told her the dog must have been playing here and it went doo right there on the playground.  She was appalled and said, "Well, that was not a good choice!"  I couldn't agree more, little cutie-pie.

On that note, enjoy the beauty of our seasons transitioning and watch out for dog doo!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Big Contented Sigh...

With tonight's cheer banquet, I officially closed out our 2010 cheer season.  (And in my fatigue, I just typed "cheese ason".  And in my fatigue, that made me chuckle.)

Lots of them I will continue to see because they are Beth's friends, but some of them I won't see until next summer.  Some I will not even coach again as they abandon me for the big step-up to 6th grade.

It hit me tonight as I was giving each one their gift and saying some special things to them individually, as it does every year at the banquet, that I'm really going to miss these sweet girls.  A couple girls got all teary-eyed as I was talking to them, and that just did me in.  Then I was fighting tears through each girl.  I get a little bit attached after spending three months with them.

This is all so much more than a cheer squad.  This is a group of 19 girls who are each someone's daughter, and I work very hard to treat each one as I want my own treated.

One girl's family is in the midst of a very sad breakup, all unfolding over the last three months.  One girl is very new to the area and knew nobody before our season started.  I could go on and on with the situations that some of these little girls are facing.  I become very motherly to each of them, and they become very close with each other.  They worked very hard together, they had a lot of fun together, and they won together!  One little girl who is going through a particularly hard time, hugged me goodbye several times.  One time she just hugged me and hugged me and said nothing.  She didn't need to say a word.  I know this has been a very steady, consistent, calm place for her in the midst of a lot of shaky, new, and chaotic situations.

This season had its stress for sure, and that part I am so glad to be done with.  And I pray that the little bit of good I was able to drop into each girl will take root and stay with them. 

I will indeed miss these girls, but I sigh a contented sigh knowing that I invested all I could and gave them everything they deserved!  And also knowing that I now can reclaim some of my evenings.  And Saturdays.  Bye-bye season of 2010!