Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Boldness

It was a little over a year ago, about last June to be more exact, that I decided that I'd had enough anxiety over the loneliness that being a stay-at-home mother of two young children can cause, and I wanted something more out of my life. Six months previously I'd become the mother of a second sweet, little daughter and also counted myself as one of many housewives in Suburban American instead of rural, small-town U.S.A. (Let's not rehash my Philadelphia roots here and exactly why Ed and I had ended up in a small town, but I'm glad to have had the city as my foundation, the country as an experience, and comfortable suburbs as my reality). My daily interactions in the country were pretty much confined to the Dunkin Donuts workers at the Maidencreek, PA establishment twenty minutes away (ghastly considering that now I have about four Dunkins within six miles) and Sandy at the post office on my street. God bless Sandy and small conversations over how astonishing it was to see the teeny, tiny interior of the post office crammed full of a Christmas tree and holiday decorations and also about the time that I actually owed a penny on the postage of a letter I received.

God had moved my family and I to the home that we prayed for, the area that He had purposed for us, and like our forefathers who He always looked after, the place where He would prosper us. All I needed was faith, which meant not only the hope that God would provide for my happiness but also the boldness in my actions to allow Him to accomplish His plans.

So, what happened next? I became that lady with the toddler around her leg and the baby on her hip who was accosting other women (um, "conversing over cute dresses") at Kohl's, chatting moms up about breastfeeding in the sandbox at the park, talking about the weather three times a day to three different people.

I remember knowing that God wanted me to be bold. He wanted me to step out of my comfort zone, open myself up to new experiences, not worry what people thought about me. Who cared if a lady in the book check-out line in the library thought that I talked too loud? Would it ruin my life if the mom at the playground wasn't as friendly as I was? The feeling of joy that I received after putting myself out there socially, being there and making connections with other human beings, was worth any little ounce of self-doubt that creeped in and tried to steal these wonderful experiences from me before they'd even begun. As time went by, I realized that self-doubt left right before sweeps and rarely made a cameo appearance. God promised that He'd bring me into joy, reminded me again and again to simply allow Him to do it, and He only required that I be willing to receive what He would send.

Following God's plans for our lives doesn't mean knowing exactly what He wants us to do...it means just doing, and doing boldly.



"Then he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.' Then the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.' I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs. So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."

(Luke 11:8-9)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Coming up roses

Wonderful things that come in fours: a pizza (I'd LOVE a slice that huge!), seasons, quarters of a football game (remember, we're huge Eagles fans over here)...and the years that I've been a mother to my Rose! My big girl turned four years old this July and, because of logistics, was the recipient of quite a few birthday parties. An annual tradition is a relatives one at my parents' house, for which I totally seize the opportunity of making a creative cake. While browsing (and salivating) over at the Bakerella blog, I came upon the idea of fondant roses. Absolutely beautiful, very easy to create (even for people like me who routinely bite off more than she can chew...) and lovely decor for the cake of a lovely little gal.

Ribbon roses are terribly simple to make as well as being terrifically difficult to resist making. Trust me. I could've be-floraled everything in my fridge from the leftover Chinese food to a bagel. Hmm...

What I did was simple:

- Bought a box of white Wilton fondant from the cake decorating aisle at Walmart and used red and blue food-coloring to achieve the color that I wanted. This part took a lot of kneading, but I was red-handedly caught being a wonderful baker while doing it. Who doesn't love a pun? Oh, everyone? Whoops!

- Rolled out the colored fondant pretty thin and then cut it into strips, which were about six inches long and a couple of inches tall.

- Rolled the strips up (a la Fruit by the Foot) and then moistened the edge with a bit of water to make it stick.

- By the way, that cake? It's a chocolate fudge cake already made and frosted from the Walmart bakery (semi-homemade = less stress for party planning!). I found the beautiful idea to create a "basket" of ladyfingers from Bakerella and kept them in place with some pink satin ribbon.


Happy 4th birthday, my sweet girl! You are so completely and utterly adored!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

S'mores on a stick

For my friend Sarah's birthday, our friend Katie and I made a little birthday celebration at our regular park playdate. Always looking for a reason to use sprinkles (I'm forever fascinated by all things multi-colored...I can think of worse obsessions), I made these decadent S'mores on a Stick. Easy peasy for little ones, and, of course, big ones, to eat without all of the melty mess of a traditional campfire snack. Mess is fun, though, so I'm not complaining. Only exhorting. This is one yummy snack!




Leftover marshmallows and leftover chocolate certainly isn't left wanting.


1 (14 ounce) can of sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
1.5 cups of milk chocolate chips, divided
1 cup of miniature marshmallows
11 whole graham crackers, halved crosswise
Toppings of your choice (sprinkles, nuts, mini-candies, etc.)

1. Microwave half of the condensed milk in a microwave-safe dish on high for 1.5 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of chips until smooth; stir in marshmallows.

2. Spread chocolate mixture evenly by heaping tablespoonfuls onto 11 graham cracker halves. Top with remaining graham cracker halves; place on waxed paper (which I didn't - just a baking sheet).

3. Microwave remaining condensed milk at high for 1.5 minutes, stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of chips, stirring until smooth. Drizzle mixture over cookies (I spread it on instead) and sprinkle with desired toppings. Let stand for 30 minutes. Insert wooden craft sticks. Serve after standing for 2 hours.

Need to dig into your summer beach read?

I have the perfect way to keep the kids under a watchful eye...




Jersey Shore family vacation 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Children in houses without fireplaces

...roll like this, LOL.


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However, this is a few weeks' old picture. I'm happy to announce that that spring has sprung! Unofficially at least. It's been super warm and sunny the past few days in Pennsylvania and this lady is LOVIN' it! My sister gets married on Saturday, the actual start of spring, so things are peachy, sparkly and shiny as a lamb's lick over here. :o)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The secret to staying slim



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...is to eat your Betty Crocker Warm Delights in the shower. Or your cookies, cupcakes, chips, ice cream, chips and guacamole, or fun-sized Snickers bars (especially fun-sized Snickers).

The thing is that once you're all toasty and drippin' wet in a nice, warm shower, you don't really want to get out. It's too cozy. Plus, even in a sauna of a house in the wintertime you still probably don't feel too keen on scampering downstairs with sopping wet hair and getting your feet all chilly on the kitchen floor just to grab another of the oh-so-delectable-but-necessary-to-eat-in-moderation food item that you were just grubbin' on.

See what I mean? That's why I can manage the will power to eat just one Warm Delights at a time. Portion control and rationing.

It's all about the shower.

Friday, February 19, 2010

"Um, could I get a lobotomy over here?"

Sometimes it's so easy to be a woman. Well, it's easy to be a woman when you need an excuse for something. It's easy to blame things on hormones, fatigue from raising children, and not being able to find my Dunkin Donuts gift card. The past few weeks I've been feeling sort of down, lackluster and overwhelmed by feelings of worthlessness that were infiltrating every thought. I've been a deep thinker all of my life, pondering the most miniscule of topics to the greatest questions that this life could raise in my mind. Although I'm an eternal optimist and have an innate hope that can never be quenched, I still sometimes experience being what my dad used to call "a positive person with a negative brain".

I've been consciously retraining my mind to create new habits of thinking. I keep reminding myself not to dwell on anything unless I'm currently right smack-dab in the middle of doing it. That means not worrying over what someone said three days (um, weeks, years...) ago, not planning and replanning an event a few months away, and definitely not tackling any mentally-demanding project before bedtime. My zzzzzzzz's and my creative energy just don't seem to mix. Forming new thought patterns is one way that I'm finding much more inner peace. It's simple to blame external factors - being a busy parent, living in a materialistic culture, having a case of the Januarys (even though it's February...) - for not being able to find a higher level of contentment. Disconnecting from the obvious reasons and retraining our minds to let go of negativity helps bring us lasting, substantial contentment.

As I said, being a woman affords me plenty of excuses for why I sometimes feel like a loser or adopt an attitude that would better suit me if I were green, in a trashcan and had a puppeteer up my back (um, no thanks). More than being a woman, being a human being, affords us the greatest excuses for not tapping into the transformative process that God so graciously begins in each of us when we come to Him. Our sinful minds, which some people like to refer to as "ego" in psychological terms, separate us from our heavenly Creator. They keep us bound to these bodies, this world, these ways of thinking and feeling. All it takes is pushing ourselves to grasp the world in a different way, from a different point of view, and we can shift our energy around to receive the Holy Spirit upon us and embody more fully the way we appear in God's eyes. Remember, our physical self is not what ascends to heaven. It's our souls that make that journey home. I firmly believe that God's salvation doesn't only include a ticket to His Paradise but also the tools necessary to become a good traveler - the ability to attain His peace, His happiness, His love and His grace here on earth.

I have so many more thoughts on the topic of accessing your God-inspired peace, and I'll write much more after I've had a chance for God to direct me in what I need to say. It's just amazing how taking the time to create new habits in how I process thoughts, cracks appear in the walls surrounding my earthly mind, letting in the brilliant shine of His glorious heaven. Remember, you are here because He made you. Don't walk this earth thinking (and acting) like you only have a purpose if you choose to. Don't be melancholy because you can't figure out what you're supposed to do or who you're destined to be. God didn't make anyone who wasn't a part of His plan. He created you because you're supposed to be here. You don't need to prove to yourself or to anyone that you deserve to be. Let your thoughts and intentions stem from that truth, and you'll see yourself and your time here on earth in a whole new Light.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What's your passion? (longing after iced coffee doesn't count!)

I put that part in the parentheses up there for myself.

Mental slumps stink. Seriously. Putting our all into motherhood and serving our families is one of the greatest responsibilities and most blessed roles that we can have as women, but it's also exhausting and, at times, stifling. I thank my Jesus daily for the joy of my husband and children, in between praying that He keeps me from eating all the dark chocolate in the house because Libby just accidentally punched me in the eye or Grace is having a 3-going-on-13 drama day. Raising a young family makes it hard to find time to take deep breaths and let God permeate my heart, refilling my joy tank with His simple peace. It's also hard to evolve as a woman when my biggest daily transformation is making a poopy diaper turn magically clean (with the aide of a trashcan, of course). So, when I think about what my passion is as a person, it makes me feel guilty to ponder anything outside of the realm of family life. But, that's mama guilt making me all willy-nilly. I need to turn on the mute button.

Recently I was in a mental slump, and one of my good friends pointed out that we were created by The Creator in His image, so we are creators ourselves. I just wanted to smooch her and then bronze her bust (statue of her head, thank you very much). When we move through life in a spirit of following instead of creating, of being transformed but not sharing, then we're lacking a very vital piece of who we are. God created us to be artists whether it comes through painting, calculating, talking, thinking, being, staring, walking, writing, jumping, traveling, cultivating, decorating, baking or any other -ing that produces that thrill and zeal inside of our hearts.

I once read in a magazine that one of the ways to tap into our true joy is to think about what activities made us happiest when we were around the age of ten. For me, it's reading and writing. I used to long for Christmas Eve not to anticipate the gifts on the Lord's Birthday but to stay up all night long speeding through the pages of those mega-huge "special" books in The Babysitter's Club series (how badly I wanted to be Claudia...then Stacy...then Claudia...then Stacy!). I've also written for as long as I can remember and was one of those kids who always placed in the Young Author's competitions in elementary school. I even dabbled in journalism as a college major and was asked to take the next level class by my journalism professor, who I admired greatly, but was really touched when his response to my telling him that I was pursuing an education degree instead was, "the world needs more good teachers". I agree, and it's cool that today I'm able to write (blog) and teach (my daughters).

So instead of feeling guilty for contemplating a passion outside of the spectrum of serving my family, I'm going to revel in the passions that make me feel more joyful and complete so that I can serve my loved ones and my God better.

We were created to create. I like that.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Free massages

I've finally stumbled on a way to get a free massage in the middle of the afternoon.

Wait, I said massage?

Well...

It's actually called "being kicked by your wiggly nursing one-year-old in your right bicep muscle that's tight from working out".

Is it sad that feels kinda good? I mean, really, who's gonna work out my kinks for me? I'm still waiting for my personal photographer to show up, and wherever is that chaffeur? I have no idea (Hi, Ed, honey!).

I'll take a few good leg whacks in the arm from Libby. After all, I just realized that I don't really work out my bicep muscles at the gym. They're tight from - you guessed it! - holding one sweet little sugar lump of a baby (very worth it!).

Kick away, child!



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Thursday, February 4, 2010

You know you're a mama when...



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...photos of yourself posing in the fabu new dress you just got for your hubby's company party feature not only your but a room full of toys and little people's clothes in the background - and a baby running toward you to nurse.

Good thing this dress ain't a turtleneck. Sheesh.



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But, oh my word, how could a mama resist her? :o) (The initial donut icing face painting was my Alice's idea, but her father took it to a whole new level...you see the eyebrows and daddy-esque mustache and goatee, right?)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Toy Recall

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ALERT: If you have one of these spin-the-wheel barnyard sound toys with a scary picture of a daddy mug shot (a.k.a. passport photo) return it immediately to the store. Moms will be quite frightened. Children, on the other hand, think it's pretty much hilarious.

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Ahh, daddies. How they keep us entertained!

(Passport photo, wink)

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