Tag Archives: family

An Intentional, Quiet Easter

You may have gathered that life has been a bit hectic around the Hacienda lately. I am guessing that is really not surprising as life these days is hectic for most of us. We understand over-committed, over-taxed, way too busy, spread too thin, wearing way too many hats, just hangin’ on. And somehow, we just keep piling it on.

Doing, doing, doing, to the point of exhaustion.

Going, going, going to the point of gone.

The craziest part is, we do it to ourselves.

We do it with the best of intentions. We say yes before we even take a moment to think or breathe or be realistic. Before we sit quietly with the Lord and ask Him, “is this what you have for me?”

Yes.

Yes, I can do that. Yes, I’d love to help. Yes, I can write that, make that, bake that, decorate that, plant that, plan that, chair that. Give it to me, I’ll do it.

I have done it. And I have done it to myself. No one expects or demands it of me, it does not happen without my permission. It is all me and I just keep heaping commitment on top of commitment. All good, important, worthy things.

But at the expense of what?

Quiet, still time with my maker and savior and sustainer?

Peace of mind and rest and perspective.

Patience and focus and stillness.

He has given me a servants heart and that is a good thing. But I have weak boundaries and that is a bad thing.

And all of the “yeses” have left me undone or overdone – as in stick a fork in me ’cause I’m done.

So what does all of this have to do with Easter? Well, pretty much everything.

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Normally at Easter we have a house full of loved ones; those born to us and those gifted and chosen. We prepare for weeks and then we gather together, serve a huge meal, hide dozens of eggs for a dozen (or so) kids and I truly love it. Every bit of it.

But this year, I must be honest, this year I just wasn’t feelin’ it. And it kind of caught me off guard. All of the “yeses” finally caught up with me.

I’m weary and spent. So this year, I said to my husband “do you think it’s okay if it is just us”.

“Just us”, as if that were inconceivable, unthinkable, unimaginable. As if there were something wrong with “just us”. As if “just us” weren’t enough. He immediately said YES! But I had to give it some time to sink in. It is hard to let go of self-imposed expectations.

Easter is a celebration that matters deeply to me and while I am not feeling the big production, I am feeling something that means more. I am feeling the need to renew, reflect and be still. And I’m feeling okay with that.

So this year, it is going to be just us. Enjoying a very intentional, very quiet Easter.

The house is decorated, but it is just for us.

I have menus planned. But this year, they are just for us.

For Good Friday …

  • Rack of Lamb Persillade
  • Roasted Baby Red Potatoes
  • Greek Salad
  • Steamed Haricot Vert
  • Grandma Ibby’s French Strawberry Pie (I will share this recipe with you tomorrow)

And the “agenda” …

Well, this afternoon, Nathan and I will head to the market to pick up our groceries. And there will be no rush or stress, we will enjoy our time together. This evening, we will sit down to a wonderful meal together and bow our heads to thank our savior for the blessing of His sacrifice. This morning I asked Nathan what “Good Friday” means and his sweet simple answer was “God wants us.” And so He does. He wants us so much that He bore all of our sin on that cross that we would be washed clean, forgiven and redeemed.

And while Easter isn’t about baskets and bunnies and eggs, there is value in the joy of these family traditions.

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So, tomorrow, we will color eggs together and attend Easter Services (yes on Saturday – our church is big so we will save five seats Sunday for the many visitors we are sure to welcome). After the kids go to bed, Gary and I will sit together and stuff plastic eggs with scripture, hand written love notes, candy and coins for Sunday’s Easter Egg Hunt.

And Sunday, we will hide those eggs and breathe easy, relaxed and happy as our kids hunt excitedly for their tiny treasures. The day will come all too soon when their enthusiasm for such things wanes. We must put the bustle aside once in a while and take the time to enjoy it now. And so we will.

A bit later, we will sit down to brunch together at the picnic table under the Palo Verde tree. Just us. And we will linger, the rest of the day ahead to be still.

Easter Brunch …

  • Ham with and Orange/Fig Glaze
  • Deviled Eggs
  • Asparagus with Hollandaise
  • Coffee Cake

Yes, this Easter, I hear him calling me to slow down and to proceed with intention.

There will always be big gatherings at the Hacienda, big Easter. We are encouraged to gather and it is wonderful. But there must also be “just us”.

And so it is of our relationship with the Savior who draws our hearts to seek Him. To find time with Him. To make time for Him. Just us. He and I.

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On this Good Friday, may you find that time with Him. May you be reminded of what has been done for you. May you hear Him whisper “it is done and you are worth it. Let us be, just us.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-16

 

 

 

 

 

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How to become a Broncos fan and make the best hot wings; just in time for the big game!

This coming Sunday is no ordinary Sunday. If you haven’t heard, there is a scheduled sporting event that consumes a large percentage of the American population.

The “Big Game”.

The championship of a sport that consumes a large percentage of the American population for roughly five months out of the year.

Football. The Superbowl.

In this house, we are among the football obsessed masses. Broncos Fans. We bleed orange.

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Photo Credit

And this year, we are going to the Superbowl!

And of course, that means a Superbowl party.

I am going to share with you a great Superbowl party menu and my thoughts on how to make the best hot wings, which are a must on game day, but first just a little background on how I came to be a Broncos fan.

Oh come on, Indulge me.

It is a bit Ironic that I am a Broncos fan as the Seahawks are also going to the Superbowl this year. I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest by Seahawks fans, immersed in Seahawks culture. Some of my fondest memories of my dad center around the many Sundays we spent watching football together; the foam brick shaped “Hawk Block” being hurled at the TV over and over and over again – the Seahawks weren’t very good for a really, really long time.

And then the day came when I sought my independence, my freedom and I boldly confronted my father and informed him that from that day forward, I was officially going to be a Broncos fan. I offered the small concession that I would still root for the Seahawks too, unless of course, they were playing the Broncos.

Rebellion. Mutiny. Treason.

“A Broncos fan?! You can’t be a Broncos fan, you’ve never even been to Denver. And … they are in the same division as the Seahawks!”

“Yes, I can. I am a Broncos fan.” 

“But why? Why the Broncos?”

And then I said this, “because they have a horse on their helmet and I like horses”  and his face contorted into the strangest gaze as he slowly exhaled the breath from his body.

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Photo Credit

And so it was. On that day, I broke away, turned my back on all I had know and became a Broncos fan.

I’m sure my dad thought it was just one of about a million passing fancies but it was not. It stuck. To his credit, my dad made the most of it and a friendly rivalry developed, which, as it turned out, was even more fun than rooting for the same team. Especially since the Broncos were a whole lot better than the Seahawks.

Yes, I chose my team because they had a horse on their helmet. For what other reason would a young girl choose a team of her very own? Still, there is a bit more to it than that.

Truly, it was destiny.

The Big Guy knew that someday, I would meet and fall in love with the most fanatical most devoted Broncos fan ever to walk the earth. It would not be my charm, quick wit or perfect apple pie that would win his heart; no, in the end it would be my Elway jersey.

Just yesterday, we celebrated 18 years of marriage. Love, commitment, hard work and a united front on the field of play (well, at least on the couch watching the field of play). Friends, that is the secret to making a marriage work. It is okay, even expected, to have a rivalry with your dad but with your husband it is best to root for the same team. And it is ALWAYS best to root for the Broncos.

So there you have it. A Broncos fan not by birth but by choice.

I am proud to say that we have been able to properly influence at least part of the next generation.

Connor-BroncosConnor, my first born nephew, my first baby love.

He’s had my heart from the moment I laid eyes on his pink wrinkly self and he just keeps charming his way into my heart. Like at the age of three when he told his mom he wanted to wear makeup so he could be “pretty like Aunt Dani”. Sweet, smart boy. I can share that story with you because I guarantee without doubt that not one of his friends reads my blog. And because his mom said I could so if it scars him, it’s her fault.

And then, a few summers ago when he came down for a visit and asked me to teach him how to make a soufflé. We made two, blue cheese and chocolate.

Come to think of it though, it was on that same visit the he ditched me at the mall, giving me the first indication that I was no longer completely “cool”. Apparently a 14 year old boy shopping with his aunt is style cramping and just not done. What is even more sad is that I actually did not expect it.

I still thought I was cool.

Imagine my shock; “seriously, you don’t want to shop with me? Or be seen with me?” Luckily, he left me feeling old and uncool right in front of the Forever 21 store so I could pop in there and feel better about myself. [sarcasm]

Not to worry though, all has been forgiven because with no undue influence, bribery or coercion, my sweet, smart, awesome nephew has chosen to be a Broncos fan. All on his own. All by himself. No undue influence. None.

Alex-Broncos

And low and behold, my niece Alex, Connor’s little sister (she’s on the right), has also chosen the to walk in the light. In fact, she and the friend pictured here with her wore their full Broncos gear to school on “Seahawk Day”. From what I hear, the school administration frowned on this anti-Seahawk treachery. Whatever. That’s my girl! I’m just so proud. Upon further examination of this photo, I believe that is actually just one pair of Broncos socks and they are sharing. Sharing socks. Still, I’m proud.

She likes horses too. In fact, I chased her escapee pony through razor sharp wheat field stubble more than once. In shorts. But she’s cute and I love her and she’s a Broncos fan so I hardly notice the scars on my shins. [complete exaggeration] Or the sock sharing.

Colin, Brenton and Grace I love you too and will mail Broncos jerseys to you when you come to your senses and realize you are really Broncos fans.

So, readers, if you actually read all of that and didn’t skip ahead, bless you. I am pretty sure that you are ready for me to get to the food. I know Connor is, if for no other reason than to be certain I don’t pull out anymore embarrassing cute stories. Oh, I’ve got plenty but for now, we’ll just move on to talking wings.

How to Make the Best Hot Wings

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Hot wings are pretty much a game day must but not all wings are created equal.

Personally, I am extremely picky about wings. Mostly because I don’t like to eat chicken off the bone. It truly gives me the heebies. In fact, the thought of eating a drumstick makes me break out into a cold sweat. Really, it does; you know I am not at all prone to exaggeration.

Wings are smaller so I can eat them if they are crispy. And I mean CRISPY. C.R.I.S.P.Y. As in not one teeny tiny, itty bitty little bit of fatty smooshyness. Yes, I am using a made up word. It is the only way I can accurately depict the absolute grossness (that might be made up too) of biting into a soggy wing. Cold sweat shudder.

So, now that you are hungry for wings, lets get to it.

This isn’t really a recipe as much as it is a preference of technique. I hate to be the one to tell you this but the best way – by far – to make hot wings is to fry them. Deep fry them in HOT oil.

Why do I hate to tell you this? Because it is messy. And a bit tedious. And somewhat perilous. But in the end, oh so worth it.

While it is far easier to just throw a bag of pre-sauced, pre-cooked frozen wings into the oven and heat them up and it may seem healthier to bake homemade wings, there is NO WAY to ensure an acceptable level of crispiness in the oven. And I for one, just cannot risk the horror of biting into a mushy wing. Really, I’ve got to stop talking about it.

Also, they just don’t taste as good.

So, let the frying begin.

Start with fresh chicken wings from the meat counter. You can buy raw frozen wings that have already been prepped but I really prefer the fresh whole wings as they have less moisture and fry up better.

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Crazy enough, I can’t stomach the though of eating (let’s just call them gross as to avoid anymore unfortunate made up words) a gross wing but I have no problem dispatching a whole wing into “hot wing” parts. Not grossed out a bit.

I like to use a very sharp, heavy chef’s knife. First, remove the tip of the wing. I put the tips in a baggie and then freeze them so I can add them to the pot the next time I make chicken stock. Next, pull the wing gently open and carefully run your knife between the two parts, cutting through the soft spot at the edge of the joint, separating the two pieces.

Once they are all separated, pat the wings dry.

If you are using frozen wings, be sure they are completely thawed and all of the excess moisture is patted off. If they are too wet, you are going to have just a bit of excitement when you put them in the hot oil. Dangerous excitement.

Speaking of oil, this is by far the number one tip I can offer. Do NOT fill your pot too full with oil. If you do, it will bubble over which is messy and dangerous. I fill a enameled cast iron pot about 2/3 full with canola or vegetable oil and then heat the oil on med-high heat to 380 degrees.

Frying-Oil

Use a candy thermometer for an accurate temperature and adjust your heat up or down as needed.

Kitchen-Spider

If you don’t have a kitchen spider, I highly recommend getting one as it is the perfect tool for removing the wings and draining the oil off of them quickly. I use mine for all sorts of things.

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I gently place the wings into the hot oil with a long pair of metal tongs that keep me a safe distance from the pot. DO NOT drop, plop or toss the wings in, think careful and gentle. On that note, it is also a good idea to use a back burner if possible and to keep the kids and pets out of the kitchen just to be extra safe. You can never be too safe or cautious with hot oil.

Frying-Chicken-Wings

Fry the wings in small batches, about five at a time, for 6-7 minutes. I have seen recommended cooking times anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes but 6-7 seems to work best for crispy, juicy wings. Carefully remove the wings with your spider.

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Place the wings on paper towels to absorb any residual oil. If you are doing a lot of wings, you can keep the cooked ones warm on a sheet tray in a 250 degree oven while you finish up the remaining batches.

Hot-Wings-1When you are done frying, it is time to get those wings dressed for the party. Traditional wing sauce is a cayenne pepper based sauce. We like Frank’s RedHot and follow the recipe right on the back of the bottle, with just a couple of tweaks.

For 2 1/2 pounds of wing pieces you will want to mix 1/2 cup of hot sauce with 1/3 cup of melted butter. I just put both the butter and the sauce in a small saucepan and heat them up together on the stove over medium heat. Once the butter is melted I add a pinch of salt and several twists of the pepper grinder. I don’t know if it really matters that much but I add a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper to everything. Even my bath water. Not really but I’m thinking maybe I should try it. You can also add cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes to taste for extra heat.

Whisk everything together (except the bath water) and incorporate well. Pour the wing sauce over the wings and toss well to coat.

Hot-Wings-3

Serve them with celery and carrot sticks, any extra wing sauce and blue cheese or ranch dressing.

After you’ve enjoyed the game and the most amazing wings, you’ll wander back into the kitchen happy (because the Broncos won) and full only to face the pot of used chicken oil mocking you from the stove.

Not to worry, click here for tips  on re-using or disposing of the oil.

That’s it! I hope you will give these wings a try for your game day festivities and of course, I hope you’ll be rooting for the Broncos.

I will share another game day appetizer and the rest of my Superbowl Party Menu and plans with you in the next few days.

Oh, and for all you 49ers fans out there, we welcome you brothers and sisters.

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 Photo Credit

 Even if for only one game.

Go Broncos!!

Catching Up

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Nathan’s 2014 Calendar – I love these calendars the kids make at school and will be so sad when the year comes that they are all too big to make them anymore.

I’d say it’s about time we do a little catching up.

No, I have not given up blogging.

No, I was not kidnapped by Aliens.

No, I did not move to the south of France to hide away from the world. Although some days, that is still on the table.

We have had a pretty challenging couple of months with some big losses in our family and my heart has been processing it all. Throw in a couple big holidays and a birthday and this unprepared lady just had no time to write or visit my favorite blogs.

I’ve missed you guys.

In early November, we received a call that my father-in-law, who had been battling cancer for last 10 years, was being moved to Hospice care with only a few days to a week before it would be his time. My husband immediately hopped on a plane to be by his dad’s side. Proving that he is absolutely the toughest guy I know, dad fought to live for another three weeks. I am so thankful my husband was able to spend most of that time by his dad’s side. After dad’s passing, our whole family flew out to say goodbye to grandpa. Well, goodbye for now anyway. We know he’s saving us a place at the best fishing hole around.

We stayed with our family in Indiana for a bittersweet but very blessed Thanksgiving.

While in Indiana, we were also able to squeeze in a trip to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis…

Sara was off with her cousins so I only have boy pictures and boy did they have a great time! True to their nature, David loved the history and “fact” finding opportunities and Nathan was all hands on energy. We only lost him once. He knew where we were and was evading. Nearly every gray hair I have is his doing. Nearly. They aren’t all his fault but I’m still sending him the cumulative salon bill someday anyway.

It was hard to leave grandma Judy and the family, the big blue Victorian house, the crisp fall air, the falling leaves, the warm fire and the quiet time.

We love you grandpa and we will miss you everyday. Until we meet again.

After getting home from Indiana, there was not a moment to waste getting ready for Christmas. Christmas cards and letters, decorating, shopping, baking, teacher, neighbor and co-worker gifts, brunch, parties and even a Women’s Ministry event thrown in for good measure! Thankfully, my trusty staff was on hand to help – see picture below., way below.

Oh, and a Birthday to celebrate too!

Happy Birthday, Sara!! One year from now,  we’ll have a teenager. Actually, less than a year from NOW.  Gulp.

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We try very hard to keep her birthday separate from Christmas and just celebrate her. With all that had gone on and all of the “Christmas catch-up” I had to do, Sara was very gracious about having a simple, low-key celebration this year. Low-key was officially supposed to come next year as the last of the “big” parties is sixth grade; says the parental management team. With the exception of Sweet 16 of course.

Instead of a big party, we decided it would be just as much fun to take her and as many friends as I could safely fit in the van to Jump Street where they could trampoline themselves to their hearts content.

Fun. Did I say fun? Oh my will I have to tell you all about it some time. For now, I will just let you imagine a half an hour in a car with six 11-12 year old girls, too many cell phones, too much perfume, lip-gloss and nail polish (all of which were opened, sprayed, dripped and gooped in my car at least once) and far too many pre-teen hormones. They are fun in groups of three or less. Anymore than that and a pack mentality seems to set in. A half an hour EACH WAY. Did I mention that.

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We do have a special birthday tradition just for her that we never miss. Every year, on her birthday, we take her out to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory and give her all of her gifts from the family. It is always a special evening and she loves it.  This year’s coveted birthday items – crazy knee socks, floral combat boots and anything with a moustache print on it.

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Nope, I wasn’t kidding. Don’t ask me?? If it is safe, appropriate and makes her happy, I don’t question.

One day soon, I will do a series of posts on some of the kids’ past parties. We’ve had some fun ones! For now you can check out the two I have posted; David’s Duck Dynasty Bash and Nathan’s Despicable Me Party.

In other news, Noodles the Elf on the Shelf was back for the Christmas Season so there was much Elf Management to be done …

The Elf Management team wasn’t quite as creative as last year but we got the job done. Mostly. When you have a six year old who misses nothing and wakes up instantly hyper-focused on a mission to find the elf, it can be complicated if the elf has not in fact been moved because management was dragging into bed at 1am and … gasp … forgot. “Oh, no someone must have touched the elf” came in handy more than once.

And then, all too soon, it was Christmas …

I love Christmas. Everything about it. Next year, my goal is to have posts ready ahead of time so I don’t miss sharing this wonderful season with my blogging friends. Unless you are prepared in advance, It is just too hard to write and keep up with all of the “busy” while desperately trying maintain focus on what truly matters. Lesson learned.

Desperately busy. Which leads me to December 26th and hibernation. I am an extrovert who becomes an introvert for about two weeks a year; December 26th until the day the kids go back to school.  I’m done. Finished. Spent. Turtle in her introverted shell. I may stay in my PJs all day. I may watch movies with the kids all day. In my PJs. ALL DAY. For many days.

Needless to say, I am not a New Year’s party girl. Well, I’m not really a party girl at all (anymore – for any of my college friends who might be reading) unless it is a dinner party or a birthday party or there’s cake. You know what I mean.

New Year’s Day consisted of bike riding and a picnic out back oh, and we did share the week with one very special and adorable house guest “Buster” or “Sassy McNoodle” as we like to call him.

And New Year’s Eve?

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Well this is about as exciting as it gets around here folks! H.I.B.E.R.N.A.T.I.O.N. Only one kid made it to midnight. I’ll give you one guess. Yup. The youngest. Party animal – just look at that face.

JanuaryAnd so, here it is the middle of January and sadly, 2014 has not had an easy start. We just returned from Oklahoma after saying goodbye to Gary’s incredible cousin Mike who passed away just after the New Year. I will tell you about Mike sometime as I will tell you about dad. For now, I will just share this from a card that was sent to us by Gary’s uncle Chuck after dad’s passing …

My prayer for you is a little light in the midst of this darkness. “We will never be the same as we were before this loss, but are ever so much better for having had something so great to lose.” – Leigh

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Indeed we are. And we are grateful to the God who loves and sustains us and we praise Him in all things. We trust in Him an look to Him for comfort even when we can’t find understanding.

Boomer-Sooner!

This one’s for you cousin Mike – Boomer Sooner!

Yes, it has been a difficult and busy few months for our family but we are moving forward and I am so glad you and I are finally catching up. Thank you for hanging in there with me and for your readership and friendship. A special welcome to the new visitors who have stopped by and the readers who have so graciously followed Welcome Company. I have a long list of recipes, ideas, plans for the Hacienda, stories to share and adventures to come.

I am looking forward to all that 2014 will bring.

I hope each and everyone of you had a wonderful holiday and got some time of your own to “hibernate” with those you love most. May 2014 be a year of blessing, adventure, friendship, family and fun. And may we be thankful to the God who loves us in all that may come.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13

Blessings my friends!

 

Nothing Says “I Love You” Quite Like Banana Pudding

A few weeks ago, the phone rang. All plans were set aside. The busy-ness on my ever-present “to-do” list suddenly became unimportant and I found myself hastily throwing a bag together and waiting in the airport for a seat on a flight to Oklahoma.

My husband’s Uncle Milt passed away. My Uncle Milt passed away.

We quickly decided I would be the one to go and be with the family for the funeral services and my husband would stay home with the boys (Sara is in Washington with my mom for a month). It might seem strange that I was the one to go when the loss was on my husband’s side of the family but that is the funny thing about family, love blurs the lines. And I loved my Uncle Milt so very much.

I first told you a little about Uncle Milt and Aunt Peggy last fall when I shared Aunt Peggy’s delicious corn casserole recipe with you. I told you a bit about their love story and what they came to mean to me so many years ago when I was a new military bride desperately missing my own family. And I briefly mentioned the banana pudding.

This is the first chance I have had to sit down and gather my thoughts after the five beautiful days I spent in Oklahoma (that busy list didn’t go away while I was away). And I am struggling a bit. It is hard to find the words to sum up this sweet man. To sum up what he meant to me; to so many. To sum up a life lived so well that left behind is a far-reaching legacy that winds its way through an entire family, binding together a wife of 56 years, four children and their spouses, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, cousins, sisters and brother-in-law, nieces and nephews. And me, married to a nephew but embraced as a daughter.

As I write, I remember that today is Aunt Peggy’s birthday and I am thankful that these words have waited until today. I can think of no better gift than to remind her of the blessing she and Uncle Milt have been in my life.

And it all started with banana pudding.

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I don’t remember the exact moment I had Aunt Peggy’s banana pudding for the first time but it instantly became my absolute favorite thing in the universe. No exaggeration. Better than French fries.

And Uncle Milt quietly took notice.

We lived about 45 minutes away from Uncle Milt and Aunt Peg when my husband was stationed at Altus Air Force base. We spent a lot of weekends playing cribbage around their cozy dining room table; always Aunt Peg and I teamed up against Uncle Milt and my husband. Those boys like to think that they won most of the time but I don’t remember it quite that way. What I do remember is feeling loved and welcome. I remember missing my own family a whole lot less because Uncle Milt and Aunt Peg became like parents to us and their four children and their families like siblings.

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So many times I walked through their front door to hear Uncle Milt quietly say “it must be ‘That Girl’! Go look in the fridge, you might find something in there for you.” Always there was a banana pudding waiting for me. If it wasn’t Aunt Peggy’s banana pudding, it was a Styrofoam container from Ryan’s Buffet heaped full of banana pudding that he had gone and gotten for me. He was a big man with a big presence and an even bigger heart and I adored him.

We were stationed in Oklahoma for only two years and too soon, it was time for us to move to Arizona where my husband would fly part-time for the National Guard and full-time for American Airlines. I was devastated to leave and cried most of the way through Texas. Life quickly took over and we didn’t see or talk with Uncle Milt and Aunt Peg nearly enough but the bond we had forged with them in that two years remains such a part of us.

Over the years, Uncle Milt’s health declined with the onset of Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s/Dementia. He eventually had to be placed in the Veteran’s Center where his growing needs could be met. Aunt Peg was right by his side everyday. Such love. Such an example.

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I have heard it said that while Alzheimer’s may rob your loved one of his memory, what matters is that you remember. You remember.

I remember.

I remember and was blessed to join this amazing family  to celebrate the life of a man who meant the world to me. Cousin Jim’s sweet wife Yvonne even made a banana pudding for me shortly after I arrived and I jumped off of the gluten-free/sugar-free wagon with reckless abandon. Only for banana pudding. And I did stick five spoons in the bowl and share it. The only thing better than a big bowl of banana pudding all to yourself is a big bowl of banana pudding shared with five people you love.

We told stories, we laughed, we cried, we prayed and we rejoiced in the knowledge that Uncle Milt is restored and again whole in the arms of the Savior he spent his life glorifying.

I promise you Uncle Milt, I will remember.

And I will forever remember so many things about saying goodbye.

I will remember Uncle Chuck’s story about the anger he felt when his own father passed. A man poor in the pocket but rich in all the ways that matter. How he was unable to comprehend that the sum of a man’s life could end up a few papers and documents in a shoebox. It was you who showed him that the true sum of his father’s life was not in that shoebox but was in him and his four beautiful sisters. It was you who helped him to realize just how remarkable his own father was. He remembers.

I will remember Jim’s eulogy and the stories of a husband and father’s love and strength. Your wife and your children and their children remember.

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I will remember the internment ceremony at the beautiful military cemetery that is your final resting place. I will remember the full military honors for a man and a career that included two tours in Korea and one in Vietnam. I will remember the cry of the bugler sounding TAPS as the wind gusted mightily and it was finished. All of your family remembers. And a grateful and free nation remembers.

I will see you again Uncle Milt. I know you will have the cribbage board waiting and I will smile to again hear “oh, here comes ‘That Girl’ – go look in the fridge, you might find something in there for you.” Until that day, I will remember.

Aunt Peggy’s Banana Pudding

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It isn’t a fancy recipe. It isn’t a complicated recipe. But it is how someone very special shared with me just how much I meant to him. How he reminded me how much I was loved. I am happy to share it with you and hope that you will make if for someone you love.

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Ingredients

  • 1 – 3.4 ounce package of instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • 2 cups heavy cream, whipped
  • 3 bananas, sliced
  • 36-48 Vanilla Wafers

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Directions

Whisk together the sweetened condensed milk and water. Add the instant vanilla pudding and whisk again until smooth and well blended. Chill the pudding mixture for 5 minutes.

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The pudding mixture will be starting to set. Fold in the whipped cream.

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Begin layering the ingredients …

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Start with pudding,

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add a layer of vanilla wafers

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and then a layer of sliced bananas.

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Top with more pudding, wafers and bananas and finish with pudding.

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It is always pretty to have some of the wafers peaking through a glass bowl.

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Top with crushed vanilla wafer crumbs. You can garnish with a few fresh banana slices and vanilla wafers just before serving.

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Or dress up individual serving bowls. You can also eat it right out of a Styrofoam container. Whatever works for you!

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When I got home from Oklahoma, I whipped up a batch for the girlfriends who had stepped up to take care of my boys for the two days I was gone and my husband had to work. One batch fit nicely into two 8×8 disposable pans.

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Just layer in the same manner as above.

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Top with vanilla wafer crumbs and pretty up the packaging and you will have a gift that is well received.

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It is simple but it is my absolute favorite banana pudding. For many reasons. I hope you love it too!

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Happy Birthday Aunt Peggy. I love you so much!

One final note, I am working on a gluten-free/sugar-free version. Right now, as we speak. I’m having a little trouble with the vanilla wafers but I am determined to eat this whenever I wish. Well the bananas will still be a splurge but not the end of the world. Stay tuned …

My Boy is a Bear

Yesterday, the Boy Scouts of America voted to lift a ban on openly gay youth. Read the article by Miranda Leitsinger and Jason White of NBC News by clicking the link above.

Scouts is a huge part of our life. My boys are still very young so we are involved in Cub Scouts which is for first grade through fifth grade boys. At the end of fifth grade, Cub Scouts cross over and become Boy Scouts. We love the values and skills that Cub Scouts teaches as well as the friendships and fun it offers!

I was David’s Tiger Den leader when he was in the first grade and I am now the committee chair for our pack working to coordinate the dens, plan pack events and keep paperwork in order. It adds a bit to my already full plate but it is worth it. I love my boys and I love what they are learning through Scouts. I love Scouts.

I also make the cupcakes.

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Nathan isn’t officially a scout yet but he loves “Hub” Scouts and can’t wait until he becomes a “Tiger” in first grade.

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I can’t imagine someone telling him he couldn’t be a Scout because he was different or he wasn’t what they deem acceptable. His heart would be broken.

This post is not about debating morality or gay rights.

It is about compassion.

I am thankful and proud to be an American. I believe in the constitution and the principles this nation was founded on and am deeply blessed to enjoy the freedoms that we have in this country.

Those freedoms are for ALL. Whether we agree on everything or not. You can disagree with me. It is okay. Many people I love and respect will disagree. I will still love and respect them. My heart is led to err on the side of compassion and love. To welcome and walk along side my neighbor. Some details I will leave to God.

America needs Scouting! Boys need Scouting. We need to be reaching out and sharing the adventure, not pushing people away.

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David and some of his “Wolf” buddies.

Tico Perez, the BSA national commissioner summed it up well when he said “there were divisions about how to serve kids. If we have disagreement, if we have discomfort, we are going to talk through it. America needs Scouting. Our singular focus moving forward is serving more kids in Scouting, and we believe this resolution is going to do that.”

One parent had this to say “we’re very disappointed. I will compare it to a funeral.” His son expressed concern about being allowed to remain a Scout. “I hope I can continue,” he said. “It depends if my parents feel safe to let me stay.” I find that so unfortunate and very sad and I hope very much that he gets to continue on his journey as a Scout.

A boy scout who is gay is not a threat to my boys.

Allowing my boys to think they have a right to be exclusive or elitist or can turn their backs on people because of differences is the threat.

It is my job to teach my children what we believe and it is my job to teach them to walk in love.

It is my job to “show” others what I believe in the way that I act and live my life.

I will teach my children about a dream where people are judged by the “content of their character”. Remember that dream?

I will teach them to be compassionate, even in disagreement.

Every night at the dinner table we ask each of our kids “how did you show your Jesus today?”

How did you show love, compassion, humility, grace, mercy, hope?

How do we “show our Jesus” if we exclude, push away and turn our backs?

I think yesterday, the Scouts “showed their Jesus” and I may just start sportin’ one of those “I’m proud of my Cub Scout” stickers on the bumper of my ride.

Which is a mini-van. Oh yes, I am a Scout mom.

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And I make a mean cupcake.

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Last week, my boy became a Bear. He completed all of his achievements and graduated from the second grade rank of Wolf to the third grade rank of Bear.

Here are a few photos from our Advancement Ceremony …

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David receiving his recognition and awards from the Wolf Den leader, Eileen. I like to call her Ethel – take a look at my Scout Halloween Party post if you want to know why.

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Part of the Wolf badge ceremony. I sure wish I had a picture of the looks on their faces when they had to drink wolf’s blood. Well it was V-8 juice but I think it may have actually been more palatable to them had it been actual wolf’s blood. I truly thought it was coming back up with a few of them – which would have made the ceremony all the more exciting.

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Our Cub Master and our youngest Scouts, The Tigers, getting ready to become Wolves.

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Our Bear Den getting ready to move up to the rank of Webelo.

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We didn’t promise it would be without peril.

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I love that members of our local Boy Scout Troop conducted our ceremony. They help us out with a lot and it is good for the younger boys to interact with the older Scouts.

If you have a boy of scouting age, I hope you will consider Scouts. The boys can join anytime and will automatically be placed in the appropriate rank for their age. Don’t worry if your boy didn’t start as a Tiger, there is a place for him and he will transition in easily.

If you are interested in learning more about Scouting, please visit the BSA Website or contact your local Cub Scout Pack or Boy Scout Troop. There is also Venture Scouts which girls are welcome to participate in. I promise you, adventure, friendship and fun awaits!

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Look, my boy is a Bear and is beyond excited to leave soon for camp with his dad – who will be the Assistant Cub Master next year because his wife volunteered him.

Lucky for me, he’s a good sport and loves Scouts too.

Mother’s Day Blessings and Memories

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms out there who love everyday in big and small ways. In ways that are noticed and acknowledged and in so many ways that are not but will be felt, remembered and cherished. Generation after generation.

I know I am a little behind on sharing Mother’s Day sentiments but I had a busy Mother’s Day myself; enjoying church with my family, doing a little antiquing on my own, and then watching The Avengers and Captain America with my husband and kids.

Yes, those were my movie choices.

What? Well we couldn’t watch Thor, we’d just seen it a few days ago.

Then yesterday, my husband and youngest took me out for sushi and to browse the bookstore and enjoy a treat in the café. So today is the first chance I’ve had to share Mother’s Day with you.

While Mother’s Day is a day for watching action movies … what? … it is also a day for reflection and celebration of the women who have mothered us. The women who have nurtured us, stood by us, been both patient and frustrated with us, disciplined and molded us, mentored us but above all, loved us. Always.

Everyone’s story is different. But I hope with all my heart that you had or still have a mother or mother figure in your life to remember and be thankful for. Whether you are able to hold her hand or just her memory.

I am blessed to have some wonderful women to celebrate on Mother’s Day …

Mom-and-MeMy fabulous mom who was always in my corner.

I am so thankful for all she taught me (and all she put up with from me in the process). Self-sacrifice, the reward of  hard work, the ability to do a lot with a little, dinner at the table as a family, cooking, gardening, homemaking – homemade is best, anything after 1am is just going to get you into trouble and to pray, attend church, read and study my bible and look to God in all things.

I also got her sassiness, temper and eye rolling death stare. It’s true.

And if you ever wonder why I am a little “over-the-top”, this was my 4th grade Halloween costume …

Marie-Antoinette-for-HallowMarie Antoinette

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She made the whole thing.  The dress. The powdered wig.  I got “over-the-top” from her.

And I love her for it!

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I celebrate my Aunt Andi (my mom’s sister) too. She’s fun, independent and tenacious!

And I still look at her like that sometimes.

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And my grandma Ibby. I’ve told you a lot about Grandma Ibby and her incredible recipes have been the subject of many of my blog posts. I’ll be posting her delicious banana bread recipe on Friday. You won’t want to miss it! So much of what I learned from my mom came from the lessons and example of her mother, Grandma Ibby. She is deeply missed.

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I love this picture of me with my great-grandmother Rose, my great-grandmother Clara, my grandma Eileen (my first best friend) and my very own super-mom! It is a blessing to have known two of my great-grandmothers. I will share their stories one day. But I do hope you will click the link just above and read about my grandmother Eileen. She was such a huge part of my life and I have so many wonderful memories of her. A love of antiques and making all that is old new, beautiful and loved again comes from her. Plus she let me eat Fruit Loops (banned and forbidden by my health conscious mother) before bed. Which was awesome.

So now, I am a mom too. I have learned from the best. Not how to be June Clever perfect  but how to give everything I have, to keep trying when I fail, to say I’m sorry when I need to, to love the Lord with all my heart and to pray for my children in all things.

I received some pretty incredible gifts this Mother’s Day. Gifts that let me know my kids love and appreciate me, even if I don’t always think they show it.

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Ask any mom, that is what she wants most and the simple gifts made by her kids are the most precious!

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Nathan gave me a sweet card and poem and “mom’s helping hands” with the things we like to do together written on them.

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Purple was my favorite color as a child. Sara knows that and made a purple necklace for me. Her sense of humor came through with a piece of paper with the word “PEACE” written on it. Whenever they ask me what I want for my birthday or Mother’s Day, I always answer “peace” as in a peaceful relaxed day with no kids fighting or arguing. So, she gave me peace.

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David made a book for me at school which was filled with his creative writing and story art all the way from the beginning of the year.

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This is a picture of him in his Halloween costume. He was a Ninja and that is exactly what it looked like right down to the “spider” treat bag and the “fluf pads” muscles. So cute!!

No, I did not make it.

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He answered questions about me. He knows me. I love that!

He also said my favorite TV show was “Beerfoot” which is Barefoot Contessa. My favorite hobby is cooking. My favorite book is a cook book. My favorite restaurant is “all” restaurants. I enjoy cooking. And that if there were four extra hours in a day, he would spend them cooking with me.

I’m sensing a theme, maybe I need to expand my horizons a little.

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He also listed three reasons why “you are special to me.”

You love me.

You say prers (prayers) with me.

You love me more than I can love you.

And then he wrote this. And I cried.

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I’ll never forget the time you “never gave up to adopt me.”

And that is what being a mom is. We never give up. Not ever, no matter what. We are always there for our kids. Fighting for them. We sometimes fail and we often regret but we never give up.

Mother's-Day-2013Because our mom, or someone who loved us like a mom, was always there for us.

Fighting for us.

And just when you think your children don’t realize or appreciate it, they come out of left field with just what you needed to hear.

“You never gave up …”

Of course I didn’t, I’m your mom.

Adoption Day Reflections

It is a busy Monday. A day filled with errands, laundry, picking up endless toys and shoes and books. A day filled with plenty of the usual things that make-up a typical weekday for me.

But it is not a typical day.

Today is my baby’s adoption day.

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Four years ago today, the documents that made my husband and I his parents were signed, stamped, sealed and filed. Official.

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But I have always been his mommy.

So really, April 29, 2009 was simply the day the State of Arizona finally caught up.

My husband and I are over the moon with joy to have our kids and we are blessed to be adoptive parents but we don’t make a big deal on adoption day. Every family is different and for some it is a day for a party and that is wonderful.

For us, it is a quiet day of thankful reflection. No party, no fuss. That may seem strange, but there are reasons.

For me personally, the pain of our journey through the foster care system remains and while that journey has a happy ending, I feel the welling in my chest as I think back on the struggle.

No, the filing of a piece of paper is not what I celebrate. I am happy and relieved to have it but it is not what I celebrate.

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I reflect and I celebrate the moments I spent rocking my son as he attached to his new life.

I celebrate the dimples and the smiles and the energy and the laughter.

I celebrate the hundreds of times I read Brown Bear, Brown Bear as his tiny hand excitedly turned to the next page.

I celebrate all of the memories yet to be made.

I marvel at and celebrate the depth of the love I feel for this child God has blessed me with.

I celebrate the miracle of him.

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April 29, 2009 is not the day Nathan became my son.

He was my son from the moment God placed the desire for him in my heart.

He was my son from the moment I first laid eyes on him and held him close to me.

He was to be my son from the moment he took his first breath.

But he is not my son alone. My son was not an orphan. My son has another mother. Barely more than a girl herself when he was born. My gain was her loss. I think about her today. I’ve thought about her all day. And I’ve prayed for her.

It has taken me a while to get to this place. A place of forgiveness and understanding. And while my heart is bursting with joy at being my boy’s mama, balloons and cake and celebration just don’t fit.

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I think about the day he will ask me about adoption. The day his daddy and I will explain it to him. He is still too young to completely understand what it all means.

I want him to know that he came from her to me not because he was unwanted or because there was something wrong with him but because he is loved by a Heavenly Father who has a great plan for his life.

I want him to know that before he was her child or my child, he was His child.

I want him to know that he healed my broken heart.

I want him to know that it doesn’t matter that the color of his eyes, his skin, his hair are different from mine. He is my son and I am his mommy. God has made it so.

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II want him to know how his sweet spirit and adventurous nature brought life back into our world. Just when we needed it most.

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I want him to know how much his joy for life and laughter consume me.

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I want him to know that I will always be his mommy.

Always.

I want him to know that he will be covered in my love and prayers.

Wherever he goes, whatever he does.

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So while April 29th may be his adoption day, I want him to know that every day with him is a party and a cause for celebration!

Your mama loves you sweet boy. For ever and always. And I celebrate you Every-day.