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Pink Strawberry Cake





This is a sweet tasting old-fashioned sheet cake made with a white cake mix, strawberries (fresh or frozen) and strawberry jello.

1 box white cake mix
3 TBS white flour
1 (3 oz) box of strawberry jello
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup oil
2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries-one cup for the cake and one cup for icing
4 eggs

Combine the cake mix, flour, Jello and water in a mixing bowl.  Add oil and eggs beating well.  Add finely diced strawberries. Beat two minutes.

Pour batter into well greased and floured 9 x 13 pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

FOR THE ICING:

1 stick of softened butter
1 8 oz package of cream cheese, softened
1 cup frozen or fresh finely diced strawberries
3 cups of powdered sugar

Add all ingredients and mix with a mixer until creamy.  Spread over cake when it cools.  Garnish with strawberries if desired.

Refrigerate or freeze if you would like. (We love cold cake here.)



Little Gifts



When I hear Janey wake up after a long nap, I "spy" on her.  I can peek through the door and see her sitting in her crib looking around.  Sometimes she will play with one of the three little bunnies she has in her crib, but mostly she just wakes up slowly, and looks at things around the room.
It is just about the cutest thing ever.

And then I crack the door a little more, and she sees me spying and her whole face lights up into a huge grin.

My heart just fills with love and happiness.
I am grateful for every single day I spend with her.
I am grateful that I get to love her everyday, and be the first thing she sees when she wakes up.
I don't think there is anything in the world that can bring more joy than our own children, do you?

I made the mistake the other day of cruising the internet a little...you know, going to this link or that link and wound up off my strict course of my few favorite uplifting blogs.  I always regret it, darn it, I guess I just have to remind myself of that every once in awhile. When I stray I usually find something that just makes me feel so sad or like the whole darn society is going to pot. 

I hope I'm so wrong but it seems like it has become too common for parents to complain about their kids, or what a pain babies are, or think it's funny to have a misbehaving toddler or child. 

We parents reap what we sow, and much more often that naught, our children's behavior is the reflection of the time and love we put into our parental vocation.  

Babies are precious sweet little perfect creatures that need us, their moms and dads, to love them all day and night long.  So it's sometimes requires us to give a lot.  I just want to say to these parents-get over it!  Grow up!  

If babies are crying and fussy, they are tired or hungry or overstimulated and need some quiet time with us, their parents, alone.  Could we look at this huge new world from their eyes or do we always just have to think about ourselves and our needs?

Toddlers and children-they want so badly to be good, they want to please us, they want us to love them. They rely on us to provide stability and consistency and gentle discipline and exercise and a nice calm atmosphere and good food and enough sleep. 

And love and love and more love.  From us.  Directly from us. Which requires unselfishness on our part once again.  

It shouldn't be funny or cute or witty or popular to be a crappy parent.  Ever.  
But that's generally the stuff of the internet, so what did I expect right? 

I don't want to dwell on that stuff.  I want to see the good in this world, there is so much in it. 

Last Sunday at church we had the cutest little family sit behind us.  
They had four little ones, boom, boom, boom, boom, right in a row.  They looked so neat and cared for, they each had a book with them to keep busy, and were trying hard to sit still.  But two of the toddler boys had an argument over something, and mom had to take one to the cry room (in our church it's just the vestibule) for a little while.  I know she was probably cringing inside, but she shouldn't have been.  The love and care and time and investment these parents had was so apparent.  

The other morning in the grocery store, I saw a mom talking to her little son who must have been about four. They were at the checkout and he was having a hard time with something (gum or Matchbox car most likely, I can relate!), tears of distress pouring down his face.  She stooped down, and took his hands and listened to him, and said a few words, and he calmed down and wiped his tears. She didn't threaten to hit him, or just ignore him, or roll her eyes.  She loved him.  She took the time to love him. It was beautiful.

I know that I am not perfect for sure, far from it, no parents are.  I have had my days when I can't find even that little bit of patience.  I've for sure have had days when I've complained about my children and their endless needs, and when I've had a sleepless fussy baby, I've cried about how hard it is to have a sleepless, fussy baby.  

But I've also learned over the last two decades that when I find the joy in mothering, yes, even when it requires every ounce of me, when I look through the world from the eyes of those who call me mommy, when I stop thinking "oh, this is hard" and started thinking "oh, i'm so lucky", I've fully enjoyed all the aspects of parenting.  I think I owe love and devotion to my children-I think all parents do. 

I like to visualize each of my precious babies as little gifts I was chosen by the grace of God to receive-spiritual perfection enclosed in a tiny bundle of cute human-ness-I have such an obligation (sometimes overwhelming for sure!) to care and nurture these gifts-their little lives depend on us really, to survive and thrive for the rest of their lives.   

(First published 2/13/14)

Scars and Salve



I have neglected this blog in favor of Instagram and I do not want to do that.  The computer is often being used for school work right now and the house is busy and loud and not conducive to writing.

I am enjoying having the kids home so much.  I know some of them would much rather be in school (college in spring, HELLO!!!) but we seem to be figuring out how to all live together as we go, with fits and starts and little breakdowns and fun too.  Adjusting to a new normal I guess and the process of adjusting isn't always smooth but there is camaraderie-that which is love-in that also if that makes sense.

I was thinking the other night about the stages of grief amidst the hell of divorce.  The hardest stage is acceptance.  To accept what is happening to me, my life, my future, even my past feels robbed of all the joy it held.  It decimates a spouse. To the core.  It's not a sucker punch.  It's truly decimation. Everything that you thought was for sure is gone.  Comfort is gone. It's like getting pummeled until you can't breathe and then getting the legs knocked out from under you so you can't walk.  It feels like free falling while you watch parts of your life-things you loved-your children's hearts-fall with you.  Reality isn't reality anymore.  You don't know who you are, and where you are or what you have or how to come back.  It's terrifying.

The truth is there is no coming back-not to the world you once knew.  Ever again.  You are changed forever.  Made anew from the ground up, over years, hour by painful hour.  The naivety, that blind trust, that sure thing, that safe feeling, that self-confidence, the worthiness you possessed, seem like it will never exist in your world again.  It is a walk through hell.  I have had to start becoming me again, and lose half of me that I had grown so used to-and then question who that half ever was.  It gets tiring losing and finding every day when you just want to live.  It's easy to forget what just living feels like.  I honestly don't remember.

There is so much to write about.  So many women who go through this same thing.  And sometimes I feel like I've been through enough.  Do you want help with recurrent unexplained miscarriage? I'm your woman.  Cancer?  Triple negative?  Call me.  The devastation of a divorce and broken trust?  Yep I got you.

But please that's where it ends.  That is enough.  I have made that plea to God more times than I can count.  I have sat in church alone weeping and saying please please please fix this God.  And He didn't.  How many women, mothers, wives have had the same plea?  About our husbands, our children, our babies and all the circumstances that life presents us?

And here I stand.  Because dammit, I still want to be here. Fearful, broken hearted, lonely, scared to death, full of sadness and then full of rage, and then back again, full of joy, but is that joy?  I forget what that feels like but I know I want to be here.

I stopped asking why.  I stopped asking why me.  It took a long time before I ditched why.  Do you know there is no answer to that question in circumstances beyond your control?  Did you have a choice?  You won't get an answer to why that will ever be sufficient or that will ever ever come close to justifying the pain.  And when anyone tries to answer that question for you, it will hurt more and madden you.  Because we live in a broken world?  Because humans can be cruel to each other?  Because cells divide wrong?  See, that will never be sufficient.  Why does not erase the pain, it stings the wound.

I stopped imagining in my head that this can't have happened-I can go there but I don't let myself. I don't dream of it all being gone and only very rarely do I ever wake up with that awful gasp that hits hard in the chest thinking it was a nightmare.  I don't dwell much on the empty space on my chest with the big jagged scar where a breast used to be. I am used to it.  It's a part of who I am.  The memory of the children I lost doesn't hurt as much as it used to, because I didn't let that loss scare me into paralysis.  I have walked the path of that pain, and still the ghosts pop out, but rarely do they knock me over.  That I believe is what acceptance looks like.

And this next horror?  I have to trust that there will be a beautiful future for me in store.  That I will survive this.  That I will trust again, and love again, and that my children will be ok.  That the past and this trauma won't hurt like the hell it does now.  That we will all bear the scars but they will heal, that I can heal with time.  That my journey can help another woman-that is more important to me than anything else.  No pride.  Humbleness.  Vulnerability.  Courage.

I know this for sure-time is my salve.

Thank You


Thank you for all your kind words.  I appreciate them so much.  I am slowly gaining my footing in this new world that I find myself in, but there are times when I feel little confidence and fear can overcome me.  But when I look back and I see how far I have come from the beginning of being completely broken I know I am moving forward. 

There is so much beauty in the world.  Sometimes we overlook the most basic things.  I have so so much to be grateful for and that has always been the way out of my grief even if the cloud in front of me was so thick it didn't seem like it was working.  A friend who had the same experiences as I did all at once (yes, isn't that crazy?  I was her nanny a long time ago!) said if you do anything write down 5 things you are grateful for every day even if they are the same things again and again. 

In the context that women around the world are experiencing the pain I have walked through but have circumstances that make it much worse-no parental love-that complete trust that seems like the only trust you have left, no friends that endlessly supported me, maybe not even shelter and food, I could see the things I needed to be grateful for.  If I looked at the other end-all the other people who didn't have to suffer like I did-I would plummet down.  When I saw people living their lives without fear and pain and stress, or hair! :),  I would be met with so much anger and such deep anxiety and depression. 

There is a gift in loss. I don't want to accept it still-I loved feeling so naive and trusting and light about life and so sure that there is just common decency and kindness that is owed one another, I miss that with every fiber of my being.  So much has been taken from me, so cruelly.  But there is a sense of knowing that you can walk through the fire and still come out the other side, that you carry a wisdom of suffering that settles the soul and creates deep empathy and perspective, that I have to think will benefit me and those like my friend who guided me through the worst days, can benefit others.

Hope


Today I celebrate two years out from my last chemo treatment, cancer free.  

Seven months before that last chemo day my life changed so dramatically it still seems like that person I once was, has died, and I’ve had to remake myself from scratch.  My brain broken from emotional trauma , and then chemo that made it all worse, my heart shattered by the husband I loved,  my body fed poison to overpower the poison that was growing inside.  My life blew up.  

An atomic bomb.  

I remember the feeling like no other-pure shattering despair.  Panic never left my side.  I was trapped in a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from.  My life as I knew it and loved was gone.  I had no choice but to fight.  Fight for my marriage and fight for my health while I was the weakest I ever had been.  

I did fight and I didn’t do it alone.  I did it with the incredible support of my friends (the most awesome friends in the world) and my children and my family.  And my faith.  I rebuilt myself.  I’m still not  finished with that rebuilding.  I lost the fight for my marriage.  I won the fight for my life.  And I’m still here.  I have a body that is healthy, children that surround me with life, and a mind that is steady -and I get up when grief hits me hard and I know, like really know, who I want to be and how I want to show up in my life.  

I’ve had friends tell me I’m the strongest person they know but that’s not true.  At all.  Sometimes you don’t have a choice to be strong.  Sometimes life throws excruciating circumstances your way and many times I pleaded out to the heavens PLEASE STOP!  I felt like God was trying to destroy me.  I hate that saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.  I hate it because sometimes it does kill you.  And I hate it because it’s true - IF you grasp onto hope and just walk the path before you even when you didn’t choose that path and scary awful things keep jumping out at you just when you think you can’t take one more thing, you will survive. There is no way out but through. One tiny step at a time.  Just walk.  Crawl.  Drag yourself.  Keep going. 

I know I am not alone.  I know many many women have walked this path-I see their footprints and they show me the load gets lighter, the body stronger, the soul more peaceful, and I have to believe them.  I see them and believe I will rebuild.  I thank them with every ounce of me.

I’ve said it a million times to myself and to others.  Many times you don’t get to choose your crosses.  The question is “How will you carry them?”  

Tips For Schooling Children At Home And A Request



I am NOT a homeschool mom.  I have dreamed about it and read about it, but have never dove in for a plethora of reasons, some of them that ended up being heaven sent (like homeschooling during a year of cancer? NO!).

BUT that means if you are home trying to make this new thing work, I get it.  I'm there too.  And with six kids, I've also been a manager of a busy household, helped with homework all the time, and had multiple ages all needing my attention.

I learned by messing up and making mistakes and being totally overwhelmed sometimes.  I have the perspective of looking back and realizing that some of the things I stressed about were ridiculous and there were many routines and systems along the way that I found made my life easier and thought "why didn't I do this sooner?"

Since it looks like we all might in this for the long haul (I am praying my kids don't go back because I am loving teaching them) I have made a list of tips that might help:

1.  First up ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING.  It is!!!

Expectations are everything also!  If you are trying to keep up with the one million ideas on Pinterest to keep your children entertained, or all the ideas coming home from school, and all the great methods to learn everything under the sun, you will never ever feel like you are doing a good job or enough. Concentrate on what you have at hand and don't complicate things. If messy art projects stress you out than don't do them!  Find the system and activities that work for you and your kids, and don't get off track.


2. Take the Ipads, the video games and every other device and throw them in the farthest corner hidden of the attic so even YOU won't be tempted.  Turn off the TV except for a SET time.  I know, you will go through hearty and annoying withdrawal symptoms.  But these things entertain children.  So when they get off, they can't entertain themselves.  They can't concentrate.  They fight with each other more.  They don't want to get to work or to even play with their toys.  It makes their minds lazy, their moods bad, the whining worse and in the end TRUST ME, you pay the price.  You won't believe the difference.  You just have to get through the hard part and then it gets easier.

3. I know you will say "but the kids need them for school".  Well at a certain age they do, but they can sit at the home computer, do the work, and then get off.  Under a certain age, it's 100% unnecessary.  Print out the work if you can.  Instead of doing math online, print out a page on your own and explain to the teacher, if it is required, why they will get a paper copy of the work.  Remember when back in the 'olden' days we were taught with pen and paper and books?  They will learn without technology when they are young, and even better some would argue.  We are co-teaching right now so we DO get to have some say in how we want to accomplish that, as long as we don't make it more difficult for the teachers and let them know the work is getting finished.


In high school they are on their own. Don't save them. I've done that before, and it's hard I know, when you can see them procrastinate and not do the work.  Let the teachers know you are doing a "learn the hard way trial".  Brainstorm with your teen to figure out a system of getting the work finished on time.  Let them lead.  But don't pick them up when they fail.*


4. Some things my mother did and mothers everywhere USED TO DO and not feel guilty about: Everyone go to their room and read or play quietly.  Everyone go outside and don't come back in unless there is an emergency.  Take your little brothers on a wagon ride.  Draw pictures. Color.  Make a book. There was a list of jobs on the fridge.  NOT a star chart, and cute stickers and rewards.  Here's a list of jobs, do them before you do anything else.  Cereal for breakfast, the same lunch every day.  SIMPLE SIMPLE SIMPLE.


5. Learn about your child.  I have one child that needs breaks often.  He needs to get up and move.  He wants me to sit next to him when he does his work.  Sometimes I can and sometimes I can't.  I can tell when he is getting frustrated so I say go run around the block.  Or shoot baskets.  Or just get this done now.  Encourage, and then remind them how good they feel when the task was completed.


6. If you are having a bad day-baby crying, you are behind, getting frustrated, you all feel like crying and yelling, get in the car and go for a drive or turn on the music and dance.  Feed them.

7. Simplify everything else.  Easy meals!  Teach them to be independent in every way and you will make your job easier.

8. Watch where you are wasting time.  I can tell you from someone who remembers when we didn't have cell phones that it is the biggest time suck as a parent and I can get so much more done in a day when I put that thing away without checking it for hours or a day.

9. If all you can do is read or have them listen to books (I am thinking colickly baby in your arms, or bad morning sickness etc), then they are learning.  When my oldest kids were little I would have stressed so much about them getting behind or missing a day of school or creating some huge gap in their education.  I know mom minds go there-if they miss this or that, they will one day be living on the streets after flunking out of high school, and it will all my fault.  Don't catastrophize little things.  The big picture is what makes the difference.


10. Establish loose routines.  Get as much as you can get done before the kids wake up.  Or before you go to bed.  When Andrew had colic so badly as a baby, I would make my kid's lunches even when we didn't have school, and put them in the fridge so they could get them out themselves the next day.


*My oldest wasn't crazy about school and was very young in his class, because being the oldest we didn't know better.  (Poor oldest children you are just our experiments.)  He struggled but he got through it. Sometimes I felt like tearing my hair out.  Sometimes he did too.  I worried a lot.  I slowly let go through highschool and it was a big experiment in so many different ways.  In college they have to do it on their own!  And he did.  And he is so smart because he loves to learn new things.  A's aren't everything.  He knows how to teach himself and he does, as an adult, constantly.  He is successful.  Independent.  A self-starter.  An awesome adult.  Remember there are all different kinds of kids and different ways to learn.  Some kids are "school kids" and some kids aren't.  That does NOT predict their success in life.  But kids have to learn to do hard things, and do things they don't want to do.  And to help out.  And what it means to have a good heart. That's more important than anything else.

I am asking all homeschool moms for tips!  What did you struggle with when starting out and what is one or two awesome tips you have for us new moms at this for managing our days?  THANK YOU!