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Merry Christmas! 

Thank you everyone for journeying with me since I started this blog in June of 2017. I’m thrilled when you visit and share your thoughts and comments with me. I’m looking forward to the new year and sharing more of my writings with you.

December is almost over, but there’s still a few solid days to wind down and catch up on mundane tasks that need attention. Most urgent on my agenda: rest, uninterrupted if possible.

This year has been full, but this month seems to have taken me to another level of fullness or drama: taking care of kids and managing Ellis’ medications while Chris was on business trip, wrapping up homeschooling for this semester, readying Elliot for his winter hip-hop recital, baking Christmas treats, shopping, freaking out when car started to overheat on the freeway, replacing the car, finally completing a year-long dental issue that’s still giving me problems, taking Chris to urgent care for a stomach bug, and taking Ellis to the emergency room for unexplained vomiting after a head bump from falling out of car seat. It’s been an overwhelming month but there’s still some days left before 2018.
I’m aiming to let go and enjoy the last bit of this month as much as I can and be grateful for this imperfect life of mine. It’s not about what the world tells me I need and should be doing; this Christmas I’m learning to celebrate the meaning of Jesus’ birth and realizing how God works out his plans for my life in unexpected and extraordinary ways… although at the time I’m going through something,  I could  definitely use more faith. For a worrywart like me it’s something I have to relearn on a daily basis.

Those are just some thoughts going through my mind these days. Before Christmas morning I wanted to wish you all a merry, hope-filled, meaningful, safe, blessed, and lovely holiday season!

p.s. I wrote this post while Elliot was cleaning up his dinosaurs so Santa doesn’t slip on them and to show Santa his helpful side, Ellis finally sleeping after a long day of stomach pains, and Chris zoning out with Korean drama blaring in the background. Me typing furiously and getting annoyed that I don’t understand how to utilize all the cool features of WordPress.  What a month…What a week…What a day.

Christmas cheer. *Thanks Pexels for this free image.

 

Sibling adventures this autumn.

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
― Dr. SeussHow the Grinch Stole Christmas!

 

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Baking for the holidays

Baking is a mystery to me. I have friends who can bake moist, fluffy, delicious, too-pretty-to-eat desserts. Mine, on the other hand, emerge from the oven misshaped, too hard, lumpy, or burnt.

I’ve been told that baking successfully requires meticulous measurements of ingredients and following directions closely. Those requirements kill me. I tend to improvise and hope for the best.  Past experiences obviously show me that I need to change my ways. I must stop improvising,  eyeballing measurements,  or substituting ingredients.

I need to take it easy.  Think before I do add too much of something and botch the batch.

This month marks off a new start to bake well. It started with Elliot taking a few baking classes.  And the stores have all kinds of pretty and sparkly baking supplies.  It’s hard to resist.

Chris doesn’t bake with us directly, but he plays an important role too. He is our official taste tester and last-minute-grocery-pick-up-person. He sometimes offers unwanted advice or comments about the taste, but I’m ok with that.  I need to stay open to constructive criticism.

We’re hoping to share our baking goods this year, so we’ve been busy. The kids take turns measuring ingredients, mixing, stirring, rolling dough into balls, and watching the cookies expand inside the oven. I have this fantasy that baking with kids is an overly delightful activity where laughter fills the kitchen over spilled messes; silent music playing in our ears; glowy sunlight pouring into the windows; and the kids beaming with smiles. Yep, if you’re shaking your head by now, I totally get it. Like I said, it IS and WILL remain a fantasy.

It’s a messy and noisy activity. They fight over who gets to hold the spoon, how many turns each one gets to stir the wet ingredients, pointing fingers at who spilled the sugar, and wanting to do whatever else the other person is doing. It’s hard to stay calm when I’m multitasking and mediating petty arguments. I sometimes want to sit in the small pantry to get some alone time.  But that still wouldn’t stop the kids from fighting; they would relocate their fight to where I  am hiding out.

Anyhow, we’re striving to bake fancier treats before Christmas. We’ve successfully baked chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, gingerbread man cookies, and cornbread (except for a recent rock hard batch that got tossed into the trash). Our next baking adventure will be sugar cookies so we can finally use our Christmas cookie cutters, which we got on clearance the day after Christmas last year.

It’s going to be a baking experiment. The key word is experiment, meaning that it will be a lot of trying out and messing up. It’s also a parenting experiment for me: try to overlook the mess kids make and loosen up. Who cares if they prematurely dump all the ingredients together, drop spoonfuls of sugar on the floor, not follow instructions, or turn cookies into icing creations? (just listing these examples made me cringe inside) But for the sake of creating a memorable holiday tradition, I’ll adopt a better attitude about baking with small kids. It’ll get better each year as we hone our baking skills.

Baking is an art that takes time,  practice,  and patience to make delicious treats.  If you are planning on baking this holiday season,  I hope you have fun being creative and messy!

Ready to make apple pie from scratch in baking class.
We gobbled up the apple pie Elliot made in class.
Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies… the tiny ones are made by Ellis.
Supplies we got to make gingerbread man cookies.
No more hand stirring. We’re going fancy with the hand mixer.
Into the oven… fingers crossed that they don’t crack.
Ready to decorate.
Worthy of sharing.
These gingerbread cookies are too crazy-looking to share with anyone besides family.
Melted Wilton chocolate in snowflake chocolate mold.
Amazed the chocolate held its shape. Kept it in the fridge for 1 hour before popping out the chocolate pieces.
Awful cornbread… Rock hard. We’ve been having lots of cornbread success,  but this batch was hard to chew. Got thrown into the trash.

 

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Last bit of autumn in December

 

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A little sprout growing among fallen leaves
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Acorns and moss discovered on a nature walk
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Kids thought this wild mushroom was a dinosaur egg

I’m a leaf hog. I admire leaves of every kind, shape, and texture. So autumn is that wonderful season for me: a sweet transition phase from the blazing summer heat to the cold wintry weather. 

One thing I could watch for hours is leaves falling off branches. How do they gracefully swirl like that? It’s a magical yet fleeting moment. These sights produce in me “wild delight” and “perfect exhilaration,” words from Ralph Waldo Emerson to describe his experiences of nature. It makes me marvel at the vastness of God’s imagination for his creations.

I would enjoy this view more if it wasn’t for the slight panicky feeling that sets in: the beauty I see today will have changed tomorrow. Soon the branches will be bare and the leaves gone. So I take lots of pictures, probably too much if you ask my kids, to capture the landscape or object in nature that was breathtaking. But they show only a sliver of what I saw, most likely due to my amateur photography skills. Anyhow, I hope you enjoy my snapshots of autumn’s beauty.

According to Wikipedia, it’s officially autumn until December 21/22.  Strange how we, I hope you don’t mind me making this collective assumption, slip into winter and holiday mode right after Thanksgiving dinner. Makes me sad. We barely have time to digest our big meal and put our pumpkins away. I hope to prolong this season and enjoy a leisurely transition to winter. I’m going to have to try really hard, because I have a tendency to live in the future and overlook the present. There’s still time. It’s early December.

I hope you all take a moment to breathe deeply,  inhale the crisp air,  enjoy nature, marvel at the moon,  drink hot chocolate,  stay under warm covers, or do whatever else warms your heart!

 

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After the rain