Saturday, December 30, 2017

First Snow

The first snow dawned beautifully about two weeks ago.  Of course, the Blossoms were delighted and begged to play in it after the morning choring was finished.

I used to fight this.  I'd say, "Finish your schoolwork and then, we'll have some snow time."  They'd fidget their way through my reminders to get busy and usually by lunch time, the snow was well on its way to being totally melted.  That's just the kind of winters we've had over the past several years.  

Realizing that one of the best ways to enjoy winter is to do wintery things, I've changed up my approach.  Fresh air is good for you and knowing outdoor winter skills is useful.  

We embrace winter now, whenever it comes.  

They feed the livestock and then, we whole-heartedly do winter.  On this particular morning, it was windy.  We bundled up, dug out the sleds, skis and snowboards and trudged to the highest point of our yard.  

The view was breathtaking.  I snapped a few shots and then gave myself up to the mama tasks of the moments - strapping skis and snowboards and pushing girlies down the hill on their sleds.  Occasionally, I took a run down the hill with the girls in our massive toboggan-like sled.

It was glorious.  

Later, we all came inside to settle around the kitchen table with tea, hot chocolate and muffins. When all were warmed and fed, we broke out the math books and dug in there for some focused schoolwork, still accomplishing much.

What a treasure of a day!


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Christmas Hospitality

"Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality."
~Washington Irving

Kindling the fire of hospitality has been on the higher end of the priority list this December.  We've enjoyed having lots of little girls over.  We've savored whole family get-togethers.  We've enjoyed  quiet, impromptu conversations over tea.  

This is something that is important to me to instill in the Blossoms.  Real fellowship and true ministry happen within the bounds of relationships that are nurtured in a comfortable, welcoming home.  

You'll find entertainment and hospitality at two opposite ends of the spectrum.  Entertainment is designed to impress and perform an event successfully.  Hospitality puts all the focus of love on your guests.  

We've tried new recipes this December.  Things like pizza roll-ups and french toast casserole were a hit.  We've relied on old favorites like gingerbread men and peanut butter balls.  We've counted on the well stocked tea drawer and hot chocolate cupboard to welcome folks in out of the cold.  

That's not to say that things didn't go wrong.  Why in the world does the can opener break when you're prepping for a gathering?  Why, why, WHY?  

Yes, I googled how to open cans without a can opener.  Miraculously, no one was hurt.

There's always gonna be bumps in the road.  

I also reminded myself to let the Blossoms do it, which should probably just be taped to my forehead.  

Some nights when I looked at the list of what needed to be done, I knew it wasn't possible.

And, I handed things off.  You know what?  

They nailed it.  

Sometimes Usually when the little Blossoms tackled a project, it meant more clean-up.  Seeing what the big Blossoms can handle now on their own, helped me pep-talk myself through the process, messy or not.  

My grandma was able to be here from Wisconsin, joining us for some nice Christmasy gatherings.  What a precious gift that was!  Incidentally, she's turning 80 tomorrow, so I valued the time together.  After one gathering, she complimented me on my hospitality.  I'm sharing that with you because it made me reflect on all the hospitality practice my mom gave my sister and me.  
We were given the opportunity to do.

Friends, for true relationship building, to love and to minister to people well, open your home and your heart.  Give your kids the chance to do.  Branch out.  

Kindle the fire of hospitality, 


Monday, December 18, 2017

Pierogie Party

There's just something about being in the kitchen this time of year.  Aside from all the cookie baking, candy-dipping and dog treat baking that we've been doing, we added another skill to our arsenal.

Do you remember the story of friends in the kitchen, where we learned about ham potpie?  And then, our other adventure into "rolling pumpkin?"

Pierogies are a newly acquired skill and taste in this household.  I didn't grow up eating Pierogies, but seriously, dough, cheese and mashed potatoes, what could be wrong with that?

Sue ventured up the hill and we put our best Pierogie-making foot forward.  After making a simple dough, we got all hands on deck for peeling taters.  It goes much faster that way. 

Minions are handy, y'all, just sayin.

We got the taters on to boil for that easy mashed potato filling.  

It's just mashed taters and cheddar cheese, made a little runnier than usual.  

Pass out the weapons, I mean tools, and we're raring to go, see?

There are plenty of rolling pins for everyone!  

(I purposely collect rolling pins in order to equip my small army of Blossoms.)

Then, we cut the dough into little 6 inch by 6 inch squares.

Despite the chaotic excitement that ensued, we gently scooped mashed potato filling into our dough shapes, sealed them up and piled them onto the pan for boiling.

See, it was something like this... 

which we have since learned that many pro Pierogie makers use a dumpling press.  

Party poopers.  

I personally dig the homemade look.  

In any case, right about now, some folks are thinking that we're some sort of angels over here for doing this sort of thing together and acting like we like it.   

Reality check:  
This mama was trying to calmly coach, gently demonstrate and kindly facilitate, when in fact, she really didn't know what she was doing either.  Add in a little quality control, while the girls work fast and furiously and it's a take a deep breath, smile and embrace the experience kind of moment.  

The more moments we seize like that, the better.

Sue is good at that too.  Despite our 6 inch approximations, we had a variety of Pierogie sizes for all your Pierogie needs.

We dropped the Pierogies in boiling water and left them in there until they floated.  Served with sauteed onions and melted butter, they were savory pockets of delicious goodness.  

The Blossoms gave them a thumbs-up as we sat around the table enjoying neighborly company and good food.  'Tis the season, I say!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Taking Note; Grasping Contentment

For a mama, it's so easy to let this time of year become just a whole lot of extra work!  Endless to-do lists, late nights and extra demands can push already tired mamas over the edge.  To help myself keep the joy of the Christmas season, I've been taking note of the little things that make me smile. 

Meandering through Walmart, steering my cart around grandfathers, dads and sons doing their hunting camp grocery shopping together, loading their carts with bacon, sharp cheese and ring balogna. 

Driving home from our Christmas get-togethers, seeing numerous cars parked at various and sundry homes throughout the region, I enjoy day-dreaming about families getting together, just the same as we are. 

I'm enjoying the unexpected times with family this Christmas.  My favorite thing this season so far, is the gathering of my entire family at my place after my nephew's baby dedication.  Happy chaos!  We've squeezed in tea time too and we're looking forward to hot chocolate and a movie with cousins.

The extra baking, the putzing around in the kitchen, the messes we make together are special to me.  Our cookies and candy are never perfect.  They are creative, silly and a little off-kilter at times.  How did I learn though?  Right beside my mother, surrounded by chaos, ingredients, smiles, chatter and love.  I now realize that she might've been secretly taking deep breaths and grinning through clenched teeth, standing on tired feet.  Funny, I don't remember that part.  I remember the "together."

Hearing the strains of the Gospel in the dear old carols ringing through my home makes me remember that it all started with a baby and God's wonderful plan.

Rising in the morning, doing my chores around the house and discovering the popsicle stick star that travels around my home always makes my heart happy. The wise men eventually trail behind it.  The Blossoms are very creative when they hide the star.  Right now, it's reposing on the bulletin board with the wise men perched on the nearby printer.

The questions the girlies pose like "How many more sleeps til _______________?" and the exclamations of "There are so many nice things to look forward to this time of year!" are simple exclamations of their anticipation.  I like seeing things through their eyes, even though it means answering lots of questions.

Family and friends always check in with calls, texts and emails of "Did he/she get a deer yet?"  It's just another affectionate connection tied to this season that I appreciate.  I love listening and laughing over the hunting stories that are shared.

All the the secret attempts at gaining Christmas gift ideas with sneaky, leading questions make for fun conversations.  The silly smiles that accompany those conversations are priceless.  The conversations and bonding are more fun than the gift itself!

Remember the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31?  She smiles at the days ahead! (verse 25)

I'm finding that a simple way to smile at the days ahead is to 
take note of the good things of today.

Winter and the holidays may not be your favorite time of year.  Your budget may be slim and your family situation may not be idyllic, but finding joy and grasping contentment are workings of the heart that don't cost in money.  It's our choice to grasp contentment.  When we do, undoubtedly we have the greatest gain.


Thursday, December 7, 2017

On Fires and Forgiveness

Hunting season is always a bit interesting around here.  With the Rugged Mountain Man away at camp attempting to slay deer, things sometimes get a little hairy.  Sometimes they get interesting because I tackle a project beyond my skill level and sometimes they get crazy because random stuff happens, like the other night...

Around 10:30, I was working on Christmas projects while vegging on the couch.  Suddenly, I heard a very loud crackling noise.  It sounded like paper crinkling right outside my living room window.  I didn't know what it was, but it gave me the impression that it was very close.  When I rose to "nonchalantly" investigate, I caught a glimpse of 5-8 foot flames leaping off our compost pile about 30 feet from the house.  I ran back to wake Blossom1 and Blossom2, told them to watch their sisters and stay in the house.  Then I rushed to the basement to get the hose and nozzle out.  I can attest that you really do lose your fine motor skills when you're in a scary situation.  I could barely get the hose hooked up and the nozzle on.  The flames were high but I figured I'd know pretty quickly if I should call the fire department.

Thankfully, within a few minutes, I had the blaze under control.  Like a respectable smartphone owner, I proceeded to snap these few photos.  Then, I called the Rugged Mountain Man and chewed him out.

I'm not proud of this.  I remember briefly thinking that I could be totally calm about it; it was probably just a mistake.  It turned out fine, after all.  The sight of leaping flames near our woods really got my heart pounding though, plus an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right?

The Rugged Mountain Man and I pieced together what happened once I got done giving him a piece of my mind.  When we cleaned the ash out of the wood stove, it sat in a metal bucket outside until cool.  Then, he dumped it on the compost pile.  He explained that the ash hadn't even been warm when he'd dumped it.  It was extremely windy that night though.  One tiny coal must've ignited.

Because of the excessive wind, I stayed outside for an hour dousing the entire pile with water to ensure it didn't reignite.  I checked on the girlies and told them that all was fine.  He checked in on me several times via phone, apologizing for the scare.

After the adrenaline calmed down and I stood outside in the windy cold night air, thanking God that He helped me see the fire before it was out of control, I started to feel the poking of the Holy Spirit.

How many times have I made a mistake that could have large repercussions?  What about the time I let our two year old climb a high playground ladder without me holding on and she fell backwards, landing us in the ER in another state?  Or the time that I ran the tractor into the garden fence?  Or the time I backed the truck into a massive concrete retaining wall?

In moments like those, I wanted to be forgiven.  

We cannot withhold our own forgiveness and then, expect that same forgiveness to be offered to us in our time of need.

We cannot keep an account of how often we extend forgiveness, thinking that there is a limit to the instances of forgiveness that we can offer before we say "enough is enough."

Our own level of forgiveness affects our Heavenly Father.  If we do not offer it, He cannot forgive us.  (Mark 11:26) We mistakenly think that withholding forgiveness is a private matter, that it stays in our hearts and it isn't really hurting anyone.  How wrong we are!

If at this point, all you can think is how dumb my husband is, you have totally missed why I have shared this with you.

Though I gave into anger initially, the lessons of forgiveness are rippling around inside me this week, sticking with me, prodding me to offer forgiveness quickly and readily.  I feel encouraged to forgive, to be gracious, to walk in patience, to be like Father God.  It's a little odd that a freak fire is helping me to forgive, but I'm glad God is using it to help me keep "growing up."


Friday, December 1, 2017

Bathed in Pink Light

On the morning of our Jake's Cakes craft show, the sunrise was glorious; bathing our ordinary landscape in mystical pink light.  It was a surprise blessing on a morning that could've been brutal. 

Counting blessings is like that.  

The Rugged Mountain Man's alarm clock went off at 4 am so he could venture out to hunt bears, or "hunt bear," as they say around here.  The alarm clock worked, for him and for me.  Craft show day is long enough as it is, without rising an hour and a half before it is necessary, but I rolled with it as best as I could.  Of course, the little Blossoms woke up a full hour earlier than usual, whether because their Mommy radar was functioning in fine form or because they were super excited about the craft show.  Honestly, it was probably a bit of both.  

Stay calm, mama.  

There are a million little things that can derail a day - an unwanted alarm clock, littles rising too early, you name it.  But why do I let those things derail my attitude?  I still have a choice.

Mornings are like standing at a crossroads.  

I can literally see myself at the fork in the road.

Will I gripe, pity and complain, letting my attitude take our day down the tubes.  Or, will I choose a Godly attitude?  Will I revel in contentment?  Will I grab joy?  Will I really notice the blessings?  The sunrises, the snuggles, the million tiny little blessings that make up 24 hours of living for Him.  

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Millbrook Marsh Musings

All set for a little adventure!

On the heels of another boring errand - picking up the vacuum from the repairman - I decided that we'd finally check out Millbrook Marsh.

Are you noticing a theme here?  I love throwing something educational and fun in with the mundane things of life.  I see it as a priceless life lesson ~ 
behave in the boring things and good things come your way. 

The boardwalks at the Marsh are rather intriguing, since we don't normally get to explore such things. 

We're up for games of Pooh-sticks... ahem... Pooh-flowers.  

Brush up on your A.A. Milne if you aren't certain how to play.

And the cat-tails!

Oh, the cat-tails!  What curious marsh plants they are, especially when there are scads and scads of them, whispering and rustling gently in the breeze.  Blossom3's delight and fascination with her cat-tails rivaled glee over a true cone of cotton candy.

We checked out the bird-watching station, noting the calling "squee" of fowl 

amidst an azure sky.

Hmmmmm, more Pooh-flowers?

No, more exploring!  

Blossom1 lingered at the back of the pack, lazily and affectionately chatting with me.

Blossom4 enjoyed listening to her hollow footfalls, as the crunchy leaves tumbled down the boardwalk in the gentle wind.

She also adored balancing on the edges.  I don't usually mind walking a bit slower to accommodate her little footsteps.  I was a gymnast; I spent A LOT of time balancing on curbs and whatnot.  My mama never left me behind.

Blossom4's pixie energy drove her to stare inquisitively over the side of the boardwalk, in order to see what was underneath.  I can't say that I blame her, as I wondered that myself.  

It strikes me that a lot of parenting is a generous dose of empathy.  When I step in their shoes, I'm a little more patient, a little more understanding.  I slow down.  I look.  I listen.

Blossom4 also whipped out her magnifying glass to better admire nature's intricacies.  

This "lace" is exquisite, wouldn't you agree?

Blossom2 forged constantly ahead, willing to "harvest" these and other small beauties for her sisters.

So many little things are quite lovely ~ tiny packages of beauty.

Blossom3 was enthralled with the purple plumpness of these berries.  She sketched them in her nature journal, among other such things.

We lingered on a wooden outcropping, getting comfortable and quiet, relishing the cheery buzzing of cricket-like creatures and the faraway squeal of a chipmunk.

Colored pencils clattered about.

Erasers were shared.

The "Mama, how do you spell _______?s" littered our sporadic conversation.

Afterward, the Blossoms ventured creek-ward for more exploring.  Our rock hound, Blossom2, discovered this fascinating rock in the happily babbling creek.  It had been painted by a local artist, complete with a hashtag for internet searching.  

The Blossoms' curiosity was piqued when they realized that Blossom2 had to re-hide this rock.  

"It's a game?  Hide and re-hide?!"  

Mr. Drake here agreed that the perfect hiding spot was absolutely necessary.  (Blossom2 informed me of his thoughts on the matter.)

How 'bout a tree?

Look up!  Should she hide it there?

Or in the wild mint so jauntily swaying in the current?

Doggedly they hunted high

and low for a new hiding spot.

They searched far and wide, 

and settled on a non-descript garden.

I would've chosen the tree, but hey, I'm just an adult.  What do I know about hiding things?