Homeschool Conference!!!

Look at all those beautiful little feet two people can create!

Look at all those beautiful little feet two people can create!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The "No" Parent...

Tonight I was told I am the "No" Parent...
what a crappy thing to hear.

This is not going to be one of my happier if you are looking for a bunch of joyful thoughts, this may not be the place...
tonight this blog is all about pouring out my heart and trying to find solace in this hard place called Motherhood.

Why can't I just close my eyes and not worry about my kids so much? 
Why does my heart have to hurt and feel concern? 

Why do I find myself comparing me, as the Mom, and my family to other moms and other families?  Why do I feel like I'm just not cutting it???

Yes, I've whined like this before...
I know, it's not pretty,
sometimes it just happens...
and tonight
my heart needs to dump.

We hear all the comments that people spout off about how kids will always turn out just so,
as long as we do all the right things in raising them. 
If we take them to church
and we read to them at night
and we say our prayers together
and we have meals together as a family
and we play with them
and tell them how much they mean to us
that all will turn out in a "happily ever after" sort of fashion. 

I haven't been perfect
BUT I am going to say that I have given it my all, I've done EVERYTHING I've been able to do...

I've poured my entire heart and soul into these kids that were sent to me. 
I've loved them all the time,
even on days that they felt less than lovable...
I've held them,
I rocked them to sleep every single night of their little lives,
I pray for them,
I hug them,
I tell them I love them,
I really do try to be the best Mom I know how to be...

but guess what,
that's not always enough...
sometimes they still don't really like you...

and guess what else
it really hurts when that happens

and guess what else
nothing anyone says or does makes it any easier.

My heart doesn't stop worrying
my heart doesn't stop wishing that they thought I still made the world go around, just like they believed when they were little tiny people.

It really stinks when one of those little children,
that aren't so little anymore,
look at you with rolling eyes and a look of utter disgust in their face...
I wish I could wipe that memory from my mind like I can wipe away words from my white board, but I can''s right there, vivid and yucky!

To be told from your kids how much they hate their life, or how living in this house sucks, or how they never get to do anything, or that they are "the one" who has to do everything, or to hear the words I did tonight ~ "You are the No always say no!" 

And then to have the "No Parent" comment confirmed by my husband.
To be fair, I told him he was acting more like the friend than the parent...

Sometimes we say things we wish we could take back. 
Why does this have to happen between husband and wife when things are already so hard in the Mom and Dad department???  We are okay, hard times do come when raising kids, especially when you don't always see eye to eye, but we communicate well and we'll tackle this one just like everything else...but right now, my feelings are just a little too achey.

Dang, I just wanna give up. 
I can't,
but I sure want to!
I want to get in my car and just go have a little vacation doing something I want to do.
If what I am doing is turning out so crummy in the eyes of my family, then by all rights, I should be out doing something else ~

I could be walking along the beach ~
but when I say that,
I instantly feel empty at the thought of being there without my kids...
beaches are where our kids build sand castles and run out to chase the waves,
beaches are for smiles and giggles and shovels and pails,
they are for covering each other with sand until a mermaid appears before our eyes...

What am I ever going to be without being the Mom. 
It's all that I really know how to do.,..
apparently I am doing a pretty crappy job of it...

Yes, pity party filled with all the tears you could ever imagine happening right here, right now!!!

When I look around at other families
(I know I'm not supposed to be doing that, BUT I do!)

It "Appears",
that is the magical word here...
because how do I really know, it's just my perception of their life. 
Anyway, for the sake of my story,
it appears that all is rosy and peaceful. 
Then I look at what they are doing as parents and I think to myself,
"Well, I am trying to do the same sorts of things,
so WHY? 
Why is there all this strife and struggle happening?" 

It's that dang thing we've all been given...
and my kids are choosing to exercise it...
you can call it what you may ~
agency or free will ~
We've all been given this,
it is our right to exercise
and it is good
but it also makes it really hard to be the Mom sometimes.

When I fear that one of my children are straying from the path that I believe will lead them to happiness, what do I do?
Do I just sit by and watch?
Do I jump in and try to fix it all?
Do I attempt to force them to do it my way?
Do I try to bring everything to a screeching halt?
Do I keep saying no or do I say yes and hope for the best?
Do I tighten or loosen the Momma strings?

I just want them to be happy.
I just want them to be safe.
I just want them to be living the life that is best for them.
I just want them...
that's what it is ...
I just

I want to hold them and not allow them to grow up...
maybe that is why I say no.

I didn't even know that I was a no mom,
I really try to be
the happy, joy filled "yes" mom
that makes smiles come to the faces of my kids,
but I guess I'm not.

I should be happy that my kids are not out doing horrible acts,
they are not committing crimes,
or offending anyone,
or causing problems,
they are just rebelling a little
and pulling away a lot
and I am desperately pulling just as hard as I can to keep them close
and safe...

I'm not a good mom for older kids.
I've got it down for the little ones,
but it is so much harder when they want to be independent
when they want to go out there and explore
and become
and grow
and get ready to go...

Thanks for listening to my heart
I don't know who you are
I don't know if you've ever felt these same feelings
or thought these same thoughts
or cried these same tears...
I don't know if you've ever prayed with all your might
and worried that it just might not be enough
but had the faith to believe it just had to be...

I wonder if you knew what to do
I wonder if your heart felt peace
or worry and concern
I wonder if I will feel this with each of these children
if some will be easier
and some harder
or if it is just one of the things that moms get to go through...
and I wonder just how many tears these eyes of mine can hold.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Revisiting Joy....

Is it safe to be JOYOUS???

This was a post I wrote some time back...
Yesterday I had three different comments in various forms come to me regarding the words that I shared then.

I was a little curious why this post all of a sudden brought about the "feelings" that it did,
why 3 in the same day???

I went to that post,
I read it,
I cried,
I smiled,
I laughed,
I cried a little more,
then I hugged my husband
and thanked him for who he is
and what he has done for me for the past several months.

Then I just pondered...

so many things to ponder,
so many thoughts,
so many tender feelings,
so much growth
and understanding about myself,
hard things
happy things
enlightening things...

Even though life is still not really "back to normal" ~ whatever that means...
I am doing well...
I am happy,
I am content,
I laugh everyday,
I smile everyday,
I count my blessings everyday,
I try to remember how far I've come ~ in so many ways,
how much I've learned.
How much this "trial" ~ if we should call it such a nasty name ~
has helped me to feel a little more alive
it has helped me to focus on some of the things that I've put off
because I was too busy
too pre-occupied with "life"
too caught up in all the stuff that needed to be happening.
or that I THOUGHT needed to be happening...

I'm certain I've mentioned this before,
but it is amazing that when "we put out there"
that we are tired,
that we need a break,
that we wish life could just slow down a smidge,
when we wish that we had just a moment to stop and smell the roses, if you will...

that those very wishes may be heard
and then answered
and we may feel a little shocked
even mystified
that the "things" we had asked for ~
even though we didn't REALLY mean them (at least not in their entirety)
come to pass...

Such is the life I have been living for the past 6 + months...

and after re-reading my post (Is it safe to be joyous?)
I was overcome with emotions I did not expect to feel.

For Heaven's Sake,
I wrote the post...
why did it move me so?
why did I lose sleep over the words that I shared months ago?

Why did I read it as though I had never read the words before?
Why did I feel as though I was in some one elses shoes reading the story of another struggling woman?
I was so surprised at my feelings...
yet so grateful for them...
so grateful I had taken the time to pour out my heart ~
as hard as it was.
How grateful I am that maybe in some small way, my words will help some one else.

And today,
as I am contemplating
BIG things
in my life
and trying to move forward
leaving all the fear behind me
wishing to not just "fit in"
but to
by doing anything
and everything
my heart leads me to do...
I am grateful that I re-read the words I shared then...
because some of them had grown dim in my mind,
some I may have even disregarded...
I feel renewed
and I remember
I look forward to all my days ahead of me
To Be
my heart is so full of it!!!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Keeping it alive...

Christmas is a beautiful time of the year.
We love the excitement, the giving spirit, the special awareness of and appreciation for family and friends, the feelings of love and brotherhood that bless our gatherings at Christmas time. In all of the joyousness it is well to reflect that Christmas comes at three levels.

Let’s call the first the Santa Claus level.

It’s the level of Christmas trees and holly, of whispered secrets and colorful packages, of candlelight and rich food and warm open houses. It’s carolers in the shopping malls, excited children, and weary but loving parents. It’s a lovely time of special warmth and caring and giving. It’s the level at which we eat too much and spend too much and do too much ~ and enjoy every minute of it.
We love the Santa Claus level of Christmas.

But there’s a higher, more beautiful level.

Let’s call it the Silent Night level.

It’s the level of all our glorious Christmas carols, of that beloved, familiar story: “Now in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus....”
It’s the level of the crowded inn and the silent, holy moment in a dark stable when the Son of Man came to earth.
It’s the shepherds on steep, bare hills near Bethlehem, angels with their glad tidings, the new star in the East, wise men traveling far in search of the Holy One.
How beautiful and meaningful it is;
how infinitely poorer we would be without this sacred second level of Christmas.

The trouble is, these two levels don’t last. They can’t.

Twelve days of Christmas, at the first level, is about all most of us can stand.
It’s too intense, too extravagant.
The tree dies out and needles fall.
The candles burn down.
The beautiful wrappings go out with the trash,
the carolers are up on the ski slopes,
the toys break,
and the biggest day in the stores for the entire year is exchange day, December 26th.
The feast is over and the dieting begins.
But the lonely and the hungry are with us still, perhaps lonelier and hungrier than before.

Lovely and joyous as the first level of Christmas is, there will come day, very soon, when Mother will put away the decorations and vacuum the living room and think, “Thank goodness that this is over for another year.”

Even the second level, the level of the Baby Jesus, can’t last.
How many times this season can you sing, “Silent Night?”
The angels and the star, and the shepherd, even the silent, sacred mystery of the holy night itself, can’t long satisfy humanity’s basic need.
The man who keeps Christ in the manger will, in the end, be disappointed and empty.

for Christmas to last all year long,
for it to grow in beauty
and meaning and purpose,
for it to have the power to change lives,
we must celebrate it at the third level,
that of the Adult Christ.

It is at this level ~ not as an infant ~
that our Savior brings his gifts of lasting joy, lasting peace, lasting hope.
It was the adult Christ who reached out and touched the untouchable,
who loved the unlovable,
who so loved us all that even in his agony on the cross,
he prayed forgiveness for his enemies.
This is Christ,
creator of worlds without number,
who wept because so many of us lack affection
and hate each other ~
and then who willingly gave his life for all of us,
including those for whom he wept.
This is the Christ,
the adult Christ,
who gave us the perfect example,
and asked us to follow him.
Accepting that invitation is the way - the only way - that all mankind can celebrate Christmas all year and all life long.

by William B. Smart, Messages for a Happier Life

I loved this story and how it touched my heart...
I love the first and second levels of Christmas so very much!!!
I truly believe I could linger in them forever...
they feel magical and blissful to me, but it is really the third level that does change hearts and makes a difference.

This is a story that will be added to our Christmas Book that we pull out each year; sharing stories nightly through the month of December is a treasure that I look forward to and cherish. 
I have hope that the stories we share with our children will last in their hearts and that by keeping the Spirit of CHRISTmas alive in our home, a difference will be felt by all who live within these walls.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Awesome Stuff...

Let's try it!  A gratitude jar filled with memories...

Saw this and thought to myself ~
"What a marvelous idea...
I'm so gonna make this happen for myself and for our kiddos!"

The best part about this idea
 is that it will cause us
to focus on all the super wonderful moments
of our day
and then jot 'em down...
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this!!!

It's sad that we "forget" so easily all the awesome stuff that happens...

This will be such a wonderful gift to ourselves...
and will serve as a beautiful reminder that life is good!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

On the first day...

In honor of 12/12/12 and the Twelve Days of Christmas,
I challenged myself
and each of our children
to ponder
and then write down
12 things
they are Thankful to God for...

This is something we typically focus on around Thanksgiving,
but this just feels right to revisit.

The tough part will be to narrow my list to just 12...
my problem has never been with ingratitude;
I could go on and on and on and on and on with all that I am truly grateful for, I have been richly blessed in this life and
I choose to focus on my blessings,
it keeps me smiling each day!

So, the song that comes to mind that is just replaying itself over and over is ~

"On the first day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me..."

maybe that is because the things I am grateful or thankful for I really do believe have been given to me...God or Heavenly Father (however you wish to refer to Him) has blessed my life in the richest of ways. 
Sometimes those blessings are revealed through trials, and at other times through rays of sunlight and smiles...
but He is always there giving me what He knows I need to become who I am to become.

So back to is my list:

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
The blessing of a husband who treats me as a Princess each day of my life.
He is my Knight in Shining Armor and I KNOW he was a gift to me, he was given to me to help me smile each day, he was given to me to help me see me the way he does, he was given to me to help me make my dreams come true, he was given to me to help me work through the trials I would face in this life, he was given to me as a reminder that good does exist in this world!

One the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
one little baby girl
and another baby girl
and then a little baby boy
and one more baby boy
and another tiny little baby boy
and then another sweet baby girl
and finally one last little baby girl...

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
Arms and a Body to hold that dear husband of mine close
and to rock those sweet little babies each and every beautiful night.
This body He gave me allows me to do all I could ever dream of,
the only thing that limits me ~ He sent me here to show Him and myself what I could and would do. 
The best thing I believe I could do is to use this body to Love those He sent to me
and to love the body I was blessed with.

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
The best friends I could ever dream of having...
those that I could laugh with
cry with
run with
dance with
and talk endless hours with...
he gave me friends for every season of my life.
He gave me a heart big enough to love each of them for who they are
and to cherish the time (limited as it may be) that I have with them.

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
Parents who have always loved me and supported me.
A mom who showed me how to love my family through the service I could share with them, a mom who taught me the value of taking care of myself, my family and my home, a mom who is always there, a mom who I treasure and am thankful every day of my life for, a mom who is so much more than just a mom...she is my friend!
A dad who showed me what hard work is, a dad who taught me to play baseball in the backyard and run for all I was worth, a dad who tried with all his might to turn me into the boy he never had, a dad who has softened into one of the sweetest men you will ever know.  A dad that I am so grateful I can call My DAD. 

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
A sister that I could grow up with...
a sister that I could learn life lessons with...
a sister that even through all the hard times and the battles we've had to endure is still present in my life and more importantly in my heart...a sister that I love and cherish and am so grateful to have close by.  A sister that I hope to spend countless hours of happiness with in the very near future!

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
A mind with which to think
and to dream
and to imagine
and to create.
A mind that allows me every opportunity in the world.
A mind that is alive and vibrant and full of life and wonder!

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
flushing toilets,
hot showers,
curling irons and hairspray and lip gloss,
and at the end of a hard day
hot bubble baths with beautiful candles and dark chocolate.
(Do you like how I squeezed a whole bunch all into one...that still counts, right?)

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
Wonderful kitchen tools
and the desire to create in that wonderful room in my home!
I am so thankful for all of the delicious foods we have to choose from,
I love the colors of food
and the smells
the various textures...
I love spices and how they make food just JUMP to life!
I love the fun I have in my kitchen with my family.
I love the smiles and the oohs and aahs that come after a yummy meal has touched their happy little taste buds.

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
Beautiful things that surround me no matter which way I turn ~
whether they be artwork created by a famous artist or the sweet artwork of a child,
the beautiful music that I am blessed to hear,
the budding flowers,
or the snowflakes falling from the skies.
The sunsets and rainbows,
the smiles of little children,
the birds that fly overhead
or the wonder created by using my imagination.
I am so thankful for this magnificent world and all the creations that are here for us to enjoy.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
The gift of expressing myself.
The gift of being okay with expressing myself.
The gift of being me and finally loving me.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
the gift of the Atonement...

the biggest of all gifts.

My Savior died for me and I know with all of my heart, He would have done it for me and me alone if I were the only person on this earth...I am thankful to Him for loving me enough to pay the price for suffer for experience all the trials, heartache and disappointments I would have to go through. He gives me strength and a purpose...He helps me to believe when I doubt.

"The Atonement makes wrong things right"
is a quote that I received from a friend many, many months ago...
it just makes sense and again proves that HIS GIFT is the greatest of all.
With this gift, things that I may do wrong can be made right through repentance.
With this gift, things that others do to wrong me allows me to feel peace because that is His promise.
With this gift, the ugly things in this world, the things that bring tears to my eyes and pain in my heart can and will be made right.
The Atonement is a most priceless gift for each and every one of us, but is often unnoticed or invisible, please always remember how very much YOU are loved.

My gift back to Him will be to live a life in which I share all the love I can with all that I ever meet.

Happy 12 Days of Christmas to you!

I'd really love to do a little cheating about now...
Don't you think we should add a couple extras???

On the 13th day, on the 14th day, on the 15th day...

I feel like I should be listing the 25 days of Christmas...

So so so so many wonderful things to cherish and be thankful for in life...
now I'm challenging you...
you will be grateful you spent the time on this.

I am happy enough to do a little happy dance...don't ya wanna feel that way, too?
Then we could be happy dancin' together!  :0)

Don't Forget...

Let's not forget to focus on what is really worth remembering...

Merry Christmas to each of you!
Photo: Keeping the true meaning of Christmas in our hearts and passing it along to our children is the best gift we can give them.  Merry Christmas!
(found on facebook ~ from The Busy Homeschool Mom)

Friday, December 7, 2012

O Come, Emmanuel

This may very well be one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen...
I could listen and watch it over and over and over...

If your heart is in need of a little Christmas Spirit, take a few minutes to watch this and you will be overflowing!
I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Texas Grilled Chicken with Lime Butter and Mexican Rice with Creamy Tomatillo and Cilantro Dressing

Oh my goodness...

Are you ready for the yummiest dinner EVER???

This is so tasty that my mouth is actually watering just thinking about it!!!

YOU WILL WANT TO MAKE THIS ONE...don't even give it a second thought, just get all your ingredients together and get are gonna WOW everyone who eats it, I PROMISE!!!

First, let's make a little marinade and get that chicken doin' it's thing!

Texas Grilled Chicken with Lime Butter

You will need:
4 -5 large chicken breasts,
set them to the side to rest
while you combine the following for your spice seasoning marinade:
if you are feeding an army, like I do...
You can easily adjust this recipe, just double it.
OR if you are preparing it for a dinner party, quadruple the hummer and make a load of people smile!)
2 Tbsp Cinnamon
2 Tbsp Chili Powder
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
2 tsp Cocoa powder
salt and pepper (probably a tsp of each...or more if you prefer)
5 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
Stir together well...then add a little water (just a tsp or so at a just want this to be runny enough to coat your chicken breasts well on both sides)

Coat the chicken breasts and let them hang out for a decide...could be for as little as 30 minutes or so -- up to all afternoon if you stick them in the fridge.
When ready, grill over medium heat -- about 7-8 minutes each side.

Drizzle with lime butter: 
(Don't be tempted to leave this off thinking the chicken will have enough flavor ~ even though it really does ~ but I'm tellin' ya this drizzle is to die for, so take just a minute and throw it together, you'll be so happy you did!)
1/2 C melted butter
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Serrano Chili, minced
2 Tbsp minced onion
Handful of cilantro, chopped

Mix all together and drizzle away over the top of your grilled chicken breasts...
Garnish with lime wedge and serve with the delish Rice Recipe. for that deeeeelicious rice recipe...

Mexican Rice with Creamy Tomatillo and Cilantro Dressing

Ingredients for Rice:
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 large white or yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small can chopped mild green chiles
2 C Brown Rice
3 1/2 C chicken stock
salt and pepper

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat...toss in onion, garlic and green chiles.  Cook until onion is soft, about 5 - 10 min.  Mix in rice, stir about 2 minutes.  Add chicken stock, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and cover...cook until rice is tender and broth is absorbed.  (BROWN RICE takes a little longer to cook, so be is so much tastier than white rice, you'll be glad you tried it!)
Turn off heat and let rice rest covered for about 5 minutes, then add dressing and toss...then serve alongside your Texas Grilled Chicken!

Ingredients for Tomatillo and Cilantro Dressing:
First I'll give you the "real" recipe...
Then I'll give you "MY FAVORITE VERSION"...
both are super yummy!!!

2 C Mayonnaise
2 C Sour Cream
Bundle of fresh Cilantro, washed and with stems removed
3-5 Tomatillos, quartered
1 garlic clove
2 green onions
1 Serrano chile, seeded and chopped
1 tsp salt and pepper
2 tsp Cumin
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until nice and smooth.
Give it a little taste, if it still needs a little extra zing, add in a bit more lime and possibly another pinch of salt and pepper.

Substitute the Mayo for Vanilla Bean Ice Cream...
You gotta try it, it is so, so, so divine!!!

It's actually a GREAT thing when you run out of certain ingredients...
that's when the magic happens!!!
I love "creating" in the kitchen...the things we can come up with are remarkable!

I do hope you'll love these recipes...they are some of my favorites...I've done a lot of tweaking to get them "JUST SO" ~ feel free to do the same if you desire.  :0)

And the Magic has begun...

Only 20 more days!!!

So many wonderful things to fit in...
right now, it's time to finish up our paper, love, love making these with my kiddos!!!

Tomorrow, we'll be whipping up a batch of these adorable snowmen!!!

Is it any wonder, I LOVE this time of year???

So many fun things to do with so many fun kids...

Our paper countdown chains are up,
and the creations are appearing EVERYWHERE!!!

(along with the creations, come huge messes...
papers here and there
yarn spread throughout the house
stickers stuck to every surface
glue residue on the counters
scraps of fabric and cotton scattered
and my personal favorite --
my floor glitters and shines like no other...
pretty magnificent!)

We have so much more to do...
here's a small sample of the fun we've been having!
Stinkin' cute, huh???

December is the perfect month to be as creative as your heart desires...
keep watching...
I'm sure I'll be doing a little show and tell throughout the month.  :)

A gift for you...

During this busy time of year, I wanted to give you each a special gift…

Since I can’t drop in to each of your homes, I thought I’d share some special quotes of Christmas and the beautiful Spirit that accompanies this wonderful time of year.

My hope for you is that you will sneak in a little time to sit and relax and to soak in the wonder of Christmas; that life will not be so busy that you will breeze past all that is lovely and peaceful. It is so easy to do as we prepare for all the festivities of this season…pamper yourself a little…grab a cup of cocoa, a nice soft blanket and wrap yourself up in the wonder of all that is to come ~ you deserve it!!!

Wishing you a beautiful Christmas full of all that makes your heart smile!

Love, Stacey

“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things - not the great occasions - give off the greatest glow of happiness." Bob Hope

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful."

“It comes every year and will go on forever. And along with Christmas belong the keepsakes and the customs. Those humble, everyday things a mother clings to, and ponders, like Mary in the secret spaces of her heart.” Marjorie Holmes

“Were I a philosopher, I should write a philosophy of toys, showing that nothing else in life need to be taken seriously, and that Christmas Day in the company of children is one of the few occasions on which men become entirely alive." Robert Lynd

“What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace." Agnes M. Pahro

“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans--and all that lives and move upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused--and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.” Sigrid Undset

“If you desire to find the true spirit of Christmas and partake of the sweetness of it, let me make this suggestion to you. During the hurry of the festive occasion of this Christmas season, find time to turn your heart to God. Perhaps in the quiet hours, and in a quiet place, and on your knees—alone or with loved ones—give thanks for the good things that have come to you, and ask that His Spirit might dwell in you as you earnestly strive to serve Him and keep His commandments. He will take you by the hand and His promises will be kept.” Howard W. Hunter

…I realized that tradition is priceless, whether you have a small family, a large family, or no family. Tradition doesn't have to be logical; it only has to emphasize the light of Christ and his everlasting love.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I LOVE Packages....

I just received a second gift in the mail from a friend I made while on a retreat in McCall earlier this Fall...

I am so excited to learn from all that these pages hold me for ~ I know it's going to be so helpful to me while I am on this path of learning all I can about the world of cooking.  I would LOVE to go to a Culinary Arts Program, but that is not in the cards for me at this time in my life, soooo.....I'll just soak it all in through these pages and do it "my way!"

After all, I am a homeschooling Mom, so I am used to doing it my way.  :0)

A HUGE THANK YOU to Ramona for such a sweet gift ~ I am overcome by your kindness!
...I will love, love, love using this book and will hopefully be able to share something wonderful from it's pages with you!  :0) 

Not too long ago, I also received this in a package in the mail...
Photo: Look at the super sweet gift that arrived in the mail for me...Thanks Sandy Rowe--can't wait to have some fun baking with my kiddos!!!
Can I tell you how exciting it is to get a package in the mail??? 

I am used to just receiving bills and junk mail,
nothing fun and for me...
so this has been quite the treat...
two in the same month...
Sandy and Ramona...
the two of you have given me a wonderful reason to smile...
I really appreciate you and your kind hearts!!!

YOU both make me want to do something nice for someone else so they can feel as great as I do ~ it's not even about the sweet gift, it's just about you reaching out...your kindness and your sweet thoughts mean more than you'll ever know.  {{HUGS}} to you!

Now, I'm off to flip through the pages and do a little baking...
who knows what I'll come up with!!!

Fish Slappers!!!

We've been busy studying a little history around here...
The topic we've spent some time on that I keep wishing to go back to is the study of The Assyrians and The Babylonians...

Those Assyrians just were not the nicest of people...
I shared a video (parts of it anyway) with my kids that related the cruelty of the acts these people participated in. 
So harsh,
 so sad...
but history and so,
I felt parts of it were worth sharing...

BUT I am happy to say that I am following it all up with a nice, sweet ending...

Jonah:  A Veggies Tale Movie...

This sweet simple story portrays the people of Nineveh (the Assyrians) as a group of nasty "Fish Slappers!!!"

"Fish Slapping"  just sounds so much happier than the terrorizing acts that the entire Middle East went through at the hands of the Assyrians.

History can be ugly...
I still love teaching it,
and believe it is one of the most vital of all things for our children to know and understand...however, I also love to keep the innocence of my children alive as long as possible; thus the reason for following up with a little bit of sweetness.

Maybe I'm foolish but I'd rather leave fish slapping in their minds than the awful terror that was actually experienced. 

I love that Jonah delivered his message that he'd been sent to share and that the people from Nineveh put down their mackerels and their halibuts and went about doing good...

(unfortunately, as we continue on through the history of these people, we find that it was fairly short-lived, in a matter of just 40 years they were back to their tyrannical ways)  But again, that is history and that seems to be the cycle for most civilizations...

I also love that Jonah had some serious lessons to learn himself...compassion and mercy were big for him to "get"...

I appreciate the lessons that are taught in this little movie...

and so numerous ~

Slow to Anger
Unconditional Love
Power of Prayer
Second Chances
a lesson in stopping all the fish slapping and starting to be nice to all the people...
and then finally watching as Jonah learns a few lessons of his own...

Can't wait for the conversation will start the moment this movie ends....
And the music that will surely be happening throughout my house, I can hear it now...
"Jonah was a prophet...oo,oo, but he really never got it...oo, oo...Jonah was a prophet, oo, oo, ....compassion and mercy from me to you and you to me...that's what God wants to see...Jonah was a prophet....oo, ooo!"

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Gratitude brings about true happiness...

As I've watched over this past month of November friend after friend posting daily what they are thankful for...I found myself wishing I had done the same, but each time I saw one, I'd think of those things I felt grateful I think in my own "special little way" I embraced what was significant.

On Thanksgiving Day, I tried very hard to focus on all the wonderful things in my life...the numerous blessings I have...

Everything from my beautiful family,
to a warm home to live in,
to good food to eat,
to the Love I have for my Savior and the Unconditional Love HE has for me...

right on down to the simple "things" that I Love in my home ~

Shall I share a few with you???

Okay, you twisted my arm hard enough...I'll gladly share!  ;)

I looked down at my feet and smiled ~

who can resist smiling when wearing polka dots on their feet?
And the multi-color also makes me smile (If I allow it to)...
you see,
the reason I can NEVER find a "matching" pair of socks is that all my girls prefer to mis-match their socks...and guess what their favorite socks are???
MY POLKA DOT ONES...but can ya blame 'em?
So yea, double reason to smile at those cute socks!

I had to smile as I pulled my pumpkin pies out of the oven...

and then I allowed them to cool and added all the "Pretties" to them...

Just lovely!

And then the Peaches and Cream Pie...oh so yummy!!!

And while we are on the subject of ovens and the beautiful things we can bake in them, I will share another HUGE thing I am grateful for...
count 'em


I know,
totally crazy
but in a completely and totally wonderful crazy kind of way.
I can cook up a storm in this kitchen!

While watching the Holiday Parade, my little girls were dancing around and I caught them in a spin together ~

their happiness and delight with one another could melt any ones heart ~ especially mine!

I am grateful for my menu board...I know it sounds kinda dumb...but it's another one of those things that has just made my life easier...gotta love that!

I am grateful for the beautiful music that fills my home...
Danielle plays and sings and my heart dances!

Our little girls are now taking lessons a couple times a month ~
their music makes me is beautiful in such a sweet and pure sort of way. 

I love my rocking chair ~
even though my babies are getting bigger by the day ~ I still love this chair with all of my heart! 
And EVERY chance I get...I will still rock one of those darling children of mine...they may be almost as big as I am (and some of them bigger) but that's not gonna stop me!!!

I will never forget the day I received it as a gift from my husband. 
I was pregnant and actually in labor with our son Bryce...
it was Christmas Day, just shy of 14 years ago...
and this was the special gift my hubby gave me. 
Our son was not due until late in January...but Christmas Eve he began wishing to make his appearance a little early.  :0)
I rocked that sweet boy of mine before I ever held him in my arms...
we rocked away Christmas Day
and Christmas Night
and into the morning...
that little child was determined to have his own day ~
the day after Christmas he finally blessed us with his presence. 
He still remains the most precious Chirstmas Gift I've ever received!
This wonderful rocking chair held me and our last four babies every single night as I rocked them to sleep...I am so thankful I took the time to cherish those moments with my babies and so thankful to a husband who knew how very much I would love to have a rocker.  (So much easier than being a human rocking chair like I was for the first three)

I love my tea kettle...such a happy yellow!

In fact, I just used it before beginning this post...tea and late nights go hand in hand!

I love being a Grammy...
My sweet little Preston wanted so badly to eat whipped cream...
So I had him help me whip it all up, add a little sugar and vanilla,
and then he was the taste tester!

That was one happy little guy...the best part was when I gave him a piece of the peaches and cream pie and put a big ol' dollop of whip cream beside it...his eyes grew as wide as ever and then he had a smile to match!
Those little people make my heart melt!!!

Candles ~
I love them...

day time, night time, bath time...
with a flame
or without...
I'll have to look it up, but I am CERTAIN that a Mom created the first candle
and I have no doubt that right after she did
she smiled
and then she relaxed
and was at peace
that's just what a candle can do for you...

I love my Kitchen Aid...
It has seen better days.

It no longer works on the low setting, so now and then I get quite a surprise of a mess as it turns itself onto a high power...always at the most inopportune times...flour flying, or liquid spewing all over the place...
But the reason I love this handy little kitchen tool is for the smiles and the happiness it helps me to bring to my family!
That is why it is wearing out...I wish I had any idea how many times this little hummer has done it's job...suffice it to say, it has earned its keep in my kitchen!
IF I ever replace it...I'll be searching for the Yellow adorable would that be sitting on my counter??? 
I can imagine it perfectly! 

A big, big one on my list is really such a small one...
but it's important ~
and IF you haven't tried THIS toothpaste...YOU MUST!
I love it!!!
There is nothing else that makes your mouth wake up wishing to shout "Hooray, I'm ready to start a new day!" like this fabulous tube of extreme clean!

One more that stands out in my mind...
Our School Room...
This represents so many things to me.
I LOVE that I have the blessing of homeschooling our children,
I LOVE that I have the freedom to do so,
I LOVE that we have this fabulous room to spend our days in
and I LOVE that it is large enough to invite many families to join us making our own special little school a couple days a week! 
One more thing I LOVE about it...
I LOVE all that it holds ~

art in the making -- because this classroom is all about creating and expressing who you are -- it is about finding who you are and embracing that special YOU.

In our classroom, we have some other very special "things" --
Classroom pets ~ Max and Millie, our turtles!
Our box of Silk Worms...
We started out with at least 50...
half were named Fred,
the other half Bob...
unfortunately, our number of silk worms is dwindling...we may be down to a handful or two of each ~ they should have taken lessons from Max and Millie who've been with us a long time.
Zeek just passed away...
he was our classroom lizard...
he was a charming little guy ~ too bad he didn't stick around a little longer.
Next on the list???  Who knows...
What I do know is that this room makes me happy for so many reasons...
Most of all my happiness stems from all the amazing kiddos that fill it daily!!! much to be grateful for...
so many reasons to feel happiness!

One thing I can't photograph that I really love is the feeling that I have when I know everyone is about to arrive on a special day...

It is such a...
well, you know...
it feels like...
dang, how could I possibly describe this for you...
then go back to being a little child
remember getting ready to walk into
that special room
on that special day
Christmas morning
try to recall
that special feeling inside you
the one
that is just bubbling over
that is just ready to jump out
and then jump up and down
and announce to the world
that you are just as warm and fuzzy on the inside
as you feel on the outside when wrapped in the arms of someone you love.

Yeah, that kinda describes how I feel...
just so perfect and warm and fuzzy...

I should probably end this little post of mine here, I think I might be able to go on for a week adding in all the things I am grateful for and I'd love to continue with this show and tell, but I'm sure you have something important waiting for you...and I'd hate to keep you from it...
so until next time, know that I am also grateful for YOU!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Traditions worth counting on!!!

What I think I love the very most about this time of year is the traditions that come with it...
I love "counting" on things that I KNOW are coming...
it just adds a little spark to my days.

Thanksgiving Day was beautiful.

Today, the day after Thanksgiving, Just Perfect...
It holds another tradition...
YES, it includes shopping,
BUT that is the SMALL part of it...
what it is really all about is spending time with people I LOVE that I don't see often enough. 

Each year, for many years now,
my cousin Angie and I rise bright and early and head out to the stores...
we always sneak in a yummy cocoa for me and coffee for her...
we look,
sometimes we buy,
but it really isn't about the buying ~
that's just a bonus if we find spectacular deals that we just cannot live without!!!
There have been "those years" when we bought so many things we wondered where we could possibly fit in the car afterwards...those are times worth remembering.  We laughed about years that we stood in lines outside and then stood in lines inside...our goal was to make sure everyone around us was smiling ~ too many grouchy people out on days like these ~ But not after standing close to us!!! 
This year was actually the first year we weren't out hours before the sun started to peek it's sweet head over the mountain tops...we slept in and then left after our cocoa and coffee and we were off ~ it was perfect for this year...maybe NEXT YEAR I will be back up to doing the whole crazy thing again, but this year it felt like a little too much.

I love, love, love my time with Angie...
we are only a month apart in age...
she teases me that I'm OLD! 
We have memories that started when we were just itty, bitty. 
We got into far too much trouble together when we were young and not so smart, our moms were at their wits end because of the two of us!
We've been there for each other through so many things
and now we cherish the times we can get together to share our lives and stay connected...I wish we weren't so busy...but we do great catching up when we do see each other!!!
We laugh
and we talk
and we laugh some more...
and we talk and talk and talk and talk...
We search diligently to find the PERFECT parking spot...
then Angie sings "Hallelujah" when one opens up...
that's when we KNOW we were meant to be out shopping on this glorious day!

Then we meet up with our other cousins and aunts, moms and sisters and now my older daughters for a celebration lunch...
usually Olive Garden for the amazing soup, salad and bread sticks...
this lunch typically lasts for 3 + hours, cause we just cannot get enough of one another ~
there's a lot to catch up on when you only see each other a few times a year.

once again,
I am SUPER happy with my last two days...
I LOVED my time with people I LOVE...

Found a couple of fantastic deals ~ LOVE it when that happens!!!
Christmas will be sweet and simple around here ~ those are the best kind!
I am looking forward to making some FUN gifts for my kiddos and grand babies and IF i can sneak in enough time, I even have one planned for my hubby.

Looking forward to this next month, as it is also packed with beautiful traditions for our family...
Tomorrow will be The Christmas Light Hanging Day...
Did you know such a day existed??? 
Yep, it does and I LOVE it!!!

On the 8th ~ off to the MOUNTAINS ~
The perfect Christmas Tree will be waiting for us!!!

So much to look forward to...

the baking
and the bow making
and the decorating
and all our favorite little Christmas movies
and the sledding
and the drives late at night looking at all the Christmas Lights
the parties
and the friends
and the family...

These are all traditions worth counting on...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Delish PIE CRUST ... I am SO happy!

Okay...I spent pretty much my entire day Monday determined to PERFECT and MASTER a Gluten Free Pie Crust...
I am happy to say that I accomplished what I set out to do!
At least as far as the taste factor goes...
still working on making them look PERFECT...
not sure if that is going to happen, but I'm giving it my best shot!
Those of you who know me well know that I don't give up easily!!!
The truth is though, if I can only have one thing pretty close to perfect, I'd prefer it were the taste...if it doesn't look quite so beautiful, maybe that's really is all about how happy it makes your mouth feel, right?

After spending most of the day, I started to wonder if it was really worth all the effort...
That was about the time for taste tests...yep, I'd say it was worth it!
Pretty yummy!

When my hubby came home from work,
he asked what we were having for dinner...
I looked at the clock a little shocked at the time and suggested,
He smiled his great smile,
so pie it was for the whole family...
I had all my little judges critiquing which crust was the tastiest and the flakiest and the prettiest...

I tried a couple different recipes, one that I found on the internet and another that I reworked from my FAV Recipe ever...
in the end, "THE CHOSEN ONE" turned out the be the one I had re-invented to be Gluten Free...
it turned out very flaky...and reminded me very much of a shortbread flavor and texture.
Oh Happy Day!!!

So without further adieu...let's get to making a delicious, flaky GF pie crust...

Your list of ingredients:

3 Cups All Purpose GF Flour Mix
2 Cups GF Mix for Goodies
(Flour Mixes are on a past post that you can find here: Gluten Free Flour Recipes...
3 Tbsp Brown Sugar (packed)
2 1/2 tsp Xanthan Gum
1 3/4 tsp Salt
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 Cup Crisco
1 Cup Butter
1 Egg
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Cup (or less) Ice COLD water

Mix all dry ingredients together with a fork
Add Crisco and Butter, sliced into small pieces, into flour mixture.
Use your pastry blender for the first couple of minutes to help break up the fats.
Then put it to the side and let your fingers get busy...this works the very best!

The motion you will use is NOT like Kneading bread dough...
You are kind of massaging with your thumb and your first two fingers and just gently working the dough...This breaks up the fats and allows them to bind with the flours nicely.

You are done when your mixture resembles small pebbles in your bowl ~ a cornbread type consistency.

Now you will beat your egg and apple cider vinegar together and pour into your flour mixture, spreading it as evenly as possible over the top, then simply work it in with your fingers just as before.

Now take your ice cold water...I prefer to have a larger bowl of ice water and then pour it into my measuring cup...

SLOWLY add your water,
a LITTLE at a time until you end up with a nice ball of dough. 

IF you have some crumbly stuff on the bottom, LEAVE IT...
take out the nice ball you have and set it to the side. 
NOW you can add a smidgen more water to pick up your leftover crumblies...
when they have formed a nice ball, just stick them right into the middle of your larger ball...
they will mesh together very nicely.

At this point...
grab out your parchment paper
your rolling pin
and a little tapioca flour.

Also, this is a great time to choose the pie plate you will be using.
I LOVE using my glass pie dishes...
I think they cook more evenly and I just love the way they look compared to the little metal tins...
BUT those will work just dandy if that's what you have.  :0)

Okay, ready to roll???

You will need a nice amount of pie dough in your hands,
I like to just mold it nicely into a small disc and then place it on my parchment paper that I've put just a little flour onto...
You only need to place your hand into your flour bowl
(Fingers out, just like you would do if you were going to trace your hand to make a lovely little turkey!) 
What comes out on your hand is plenty enough flour to add to your parchment your little disc down and do the same with the flour on your rolling pin...One hand print will do...You will reapply it as needed when the dough starts wanting to stick to the rolling pin.

Rolling pin in hand???
Let's get to it!

Roll a couple times back and forth (same direction) always starting in the center and working out.
This will ensure an even crust...if you start from the edges and work's just not good, so don't do it. 
Then FLIP your dough and do the opposite side, back and forth.
If necessary, do again and again...

YOU do NOT need to make a perfect circle here, so don't even bother with such will be cutting off any excess in a minute anyway, so save yourself the bother.

When it looks just as you'd like, roll your parchment paper and pie dough and then place over the top of your pie dish...this is so much easier than trying to lift the dough...
one sad note: 
GF pie dough is not as easy to work with as regular is a little more fragile and less forgiving...BUT never fear, you can always do a little patchwork if needed.  :0)

After you've got that pie crust in your dish just can grab yourself a little butter knife and trim away the edges...super easy!  NOW, IF you are wishing to add a top crust, you will want to trim a little less so as to have some extra for adhering the top layer to.

After you are done there, add your favorite "insides"
This scrumptious looking one was a hit for dinner...
Cherry/Blueberry Pie,
yeah, it was gooooood!

Something to make note of here:
Make sure to NOT fill your dish TOO FULL
or it will just bubble out all over and make a nasty mess.
I fill it to just barely below the top of my pie dish.

Next, you'll add your top crust...
do just as you did for the bottom layer, rolling it up to place over the top...
this is where you may have to do a little patchwork...
I had to, sadly, but it still turned out pretty nice. 
And again...what matters the most???
The taste...
If it tastes yummy, they will get over it not looking Perfect!

If you add just a little water to your finger tips, it makes the two layers of crust stick together quite nicely as you flute the edges.

Make sure to put a few little slits (4 is fine)
to vent.  This will also help with not having it bubble over.

If you wish to make it adorable...
use your favorite little cookie cutter right in the middle.
(this is actually done prior to placing it on the pie)
I cut out the shape and set it to the side.
After the pie is all nice and ready for the oven, I place the little cut out shape right back in its place and let it bake...looks just cute as can be when it's baked!

If you like, you can add a dandy little wash over top to make it shine...

This again, would be done, PRIOR to BAKING...
Simply beat an egg and brush over the top,
then sprinkle evenly with a dusting of sugar.
YOU will love the shine!

Sadly, I left out that little detail prior to my baking, so no shine happening here, but next time, ya better grab your sunglasses cause I won't forget!!!
Place your pie in your preheated oven ~
I chose to set mine at 400*
Move your bottom rack ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THE VERY, VERY BOTTOM!!!
That's the IMPORTANT part if you didn't catch it.
Your top will NOT burn and will turn out just lovely this way...
no need to do any covering of the edges at all...
AND the bottom crust turns out just right...
nice and flaky ~
none of that ooey, gooey, yucky mushy crust goin' on here!

Just cook until the crust is nice and golden on top...
I think mine cooked for about 4o minutes...just watch for that golden color.

Check it out!!!
And the next picture speaks for itself!

This pie was a hit!

So what do you think? 
A wasted day???
Or a day to treasure?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Show and Tell Time...

Wanna see what I've been up to???

I started a couple of these on the retreat I cooked at a little while back and finally finished them up and have them where they belong...

The first is my favorite ~ it is displayed in my kitchen ~ what do you think?

I absolutely LOVE it!!! 
Makes me happy.  :0)

Next is another one I really love ~
Give Thanks...
I didn't have too many things around here that I had made for Thanksgiving and since I love this holiday and all that it stands for I wanted to make sure to honor it in a special way...
so voila...this is what I did.

I think it turned out pretty darn cute, if I say so myself!!!

And finally,
one that will be super fun for my kiddos...
a sign that is versatile for anything and everything that is coming up.
How many times are you asked these kinds of questions?
"How many more days until Halloween?" 
"How many more days until we can go bowling?"
"How many more days until Christmas?"
"How many more days until we can paint our fingernails?"
"How many more days until I can do your hair, Mom?"
"How many more days until my Birthday?"
"How many more days until we can go swimming?"
"How many more days until Saturday?"
"How many,
how many,
how many???"

IT can be EXHAUSTING...SO, I created a cure for what ails me...
And here it is!!!

Chalk board paint on the ends
so they can fill the days and the event in
and keep track of it themselves...
genius, huh??? 
Yeah, I thought so, too!!! 
And I really prefer the distressed look ~
so I bunged it up a bit, took my handy little sander to it and made it look like it was already loved!

Well, that's all I have for Show and Tell today...

Happy Saturday Night to YOU!
I am off to join my pillow and blanket...they are calling me!!!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Science Fair Projects!!!

Well, that time of year rolled around again,
finding the Lytle family deep in the world of Science and all that we could learn from it.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Science Fairs!!!

Seeing the creativity of all the kids does it for me...
Once a year, we hold a Science Fair for any and all homeschooling families in our area, this year
we had little ones from the age of 3 or 4 all the way up to teens participating.
This is a time that the kids can shine in their own special way, sharing what they love and the things they are interested in learning about.

Now it's show and tell time for's what my kiddos did!

I have to say that one of the projects for my kids wasn't what I would generally classify as a Science Project...but if you take a look at the picture below, you will know that what was learned was worth more than anything else in this world...
two brothers
who usually
prefer dukin' it out
with one another
were working side by side on their project...

it was all about bikes ~
because that just happens to be what rocks their world...
but they did a great job. 
They showed the differences between the various bikes we have in our garage, as well as the difference in bikes from the very beginning of bikes...
which, in their opinion -- is one of the finest creations this earth has ever seen!
They went into the braking system and the various kinds of brakes you might find on a bike.
They also covered the suspension...didn't know there was so much to all of this, but they did and they were happy to share it.
Coming from a household of boys that LOVE to ride and jump and sail through the air...I am grateful that they at least have an understanding of how their bikes operate. 
Cutie-Pie Boys!!!

Our next Science Fair entry was all about Islands...
what forms them, where they are located, the favorite island of my sweet little girl -- which happens to be Coconut Island, and the differences between an island, a peninsula and an isthmus...
Unfortunately, I didn't capture her moment of showing one way an island could be formed (with the sea level rising) as she poured her pitcher of water over her landscape forming various islands, peninsulas and isthmus'...but it was cute ~ she did a great job.
And check out her poster board (this is just the center section of it, I wanted you to be able to see it up close and personal!)...
she's an artistic little one! 
I think she had a great time learning about the islands, the only problem is that she wishes to go visit them and I can't make that one happen. 
I guess that's what books and google are for, right?  :0)

And the final entry for the Science Fair from the Lytle Family...
was all about Oceans and Seas.
Pretty dang cute! 

And just like our other little girl, this one wishes to go try out swimming in sea water.  She did an experiment with two eggs and two cups of water...what she was trying to see was whether an egg would float or sink in "regular water" and the same with the "salt water"...
Sure enough, the floater happened in the salty water, which represented her oceans and seas and the one in the regular water sank like a rock!  She thinks going to the Dead Sea would be the best test for her body...I'm thinking that might not be the case, I wonder if she'd settle for a swimming pool filled with salt water???

Well, until next year...or until one of them gets a wild hair (which could be as soon as tomorrow or next week) we are officially done with Science Fair Projects.

History Fair is next on the radar...
I wonder what kind of fun we'll come up with there???