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Thursday, February 15, 2018

A Life Poured Out

Exhausted.  Overwhelmed.  Defeated.  Worn out.  Spent.  Already ready for tomorrow morning's coffee.  That's how I feel most evenings.

2 weeks ago, when I spent all night on the couch with one very very sick little guy.

People have called this period the "trenches of parenting", the "tough years", and many other names I'm too tired to think of.  I am fully aware that every stage of parenting - and life, have their own struggles.  But there is a special kind of tired when you're in charge of a little-person's eating, health, sleep, fun, emotional well-being, etc.

All I want is to raise a decent human being.  Someone who is kind to those around him, someone I would want to spend time with, and someone who has a personal relationship with Jesus.

And yet, my days are full of snack-making (so many snacks), loads of laundry (I'd rather make another snack), answering non-stop questions, like "is Jupiter hot or cold?", "why is it daytime?", "can I have another snack?", "why is Batman's logo starting to come off?", and "how do construction workers get water into buildings?"

I'm just going to start having him call me "Alexa".

I kiss boo-boos, get him dressed (and then dressed again), take him potty a million times (ooops... get dressed again), read books, try to come up with fun/educational things to do, answer some more questions, and do another load of laundry.  I find myself saying, "be careful", "stop", "sit on your bottom", "are you okay?", "do you need a time-out?" more times than one can count.  As I'm writing this, I can hear the washing machine sound going off.

And by the end of the day, most days, I feel wasted.  I feel like I have wasted my time, energy, talents and brain.  Wasted.  

And then I'm reminded of a sermon I heard.  I couldn't tell you where, when, or who preached it, but it was about the woman who anointed Jesus' feet.  I've heard the story many times, but this time this was the passage that stood out to me:

Mark 14:4 "There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that?"

Mark 14:6,8a,9 "But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me... She has done what she could...And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her."

Huh.  Wasted.  Everyone around the woman thought that what she had done was wasteful.  That she had wasted something precious.  Something irreplaceable.  She had spent it on the wrong thing.  She could've used what she had for this, or that.  But she'd wasted it.

But then Jesus stepped in, and with the kind of comfort only His words can bring, he defended her, and said that she did what she could - and that what she had done was beautiful to Him.  Not only that, but He said that her deeds would be spoken of throughout the world, for all the ages.  

What others saw as waste, Jesus saw as treasure.  What others saw as stupid female hysteria, Jesus saw as sacrifice.  What others saw as disdainful, Jesus saw as beautiful.  
Because it came from her heart, and it came at a precious price for her.  She was giving up something of immeasurable worth, to show someone how much He meant to her.  

And that wasn't a waste.

So now, back to my world.
This story doesn't make me less tired or worn out.  It doesn't "magically" keep snacks on my kid's plate, or help potty train.  It doesn't get rid of the mountain of laundry.

But it does give me the ability to change my perspective.  I am sowing seeds I don't even know that I am sowing.  Sometimes I listen to Aidan play, and I'll hear something that gives me a glimmer of what all my hard work is doing.  Or I'll knock something over, and say "oh, sorry", and he'll reply "it's okay mommy, we all make mistakes".  Or if I tell him I'm not feeling well, and he says, "I can pray for you!"

Even the small things, like picking up his toys, or taking his own clothes off, and putting them in the hamper.  Or sitting on the potty swinging his legs, singing "I like you, I like you, I like you, just the way you are."  Or letting him help me with the laundry - the sorting, putting it in the machine, pushing the button.  Watching him peel his own orange.  Listening to him pray before his meal.  Or retelling what his class learned about in Sunday school, or asking me questions during our Bible story time.  Remembering his letters, counting to 19 - in two languages now! 
 All of these things matter.
And these are the results of my "wasted" time.  Because it's not wasted time (well, most of it).  It's time that I am investing in a little life that I love a hundred times more than my own.

No clue where to look...

This post isn't about neglecting self-care, or giving into mom-guilt.  I'm not saying this to humble-brag, or to tell you that I whistle while I work, and have woodland creatures help me around the house.  I'm not saying you need to buck up, and enjoy every minute of parenting.  I am not saying you can't feel like running away from your kids.  (What???  I know you don't feel like that.  Just kidding.)  I do have a wonderful husband who does just as much, if not more than I do, I have hobbies, and ways to decompress - I'm not trying to make my life sound harder than it is.  But it IS exhausting, and it's okay to say that out loud.  Sometimes it feels never-ending, and I feel like what I do doesn't matter.  

So this is a reminder in those low and tired moments, that our lives are not wasted, they are given in sacrifice, in love and devotion...

And it's a beautiful thing.

Dancing to Ol' Blue Eyes. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Minimalist Christmas Decor

Christmas is truly the most wonderful time of the year.
I enjoy elaborate Christmas decorations as much as the next person (honestly, you should see my mom's house - it's amazing!!!), but my personal style is a little (okay, a lot) simpler than hers.
It's due to a few factors, one - I just like it, two - with recently moving, and not having our own place for quite some time, we just haven't accumulated that many non-Christmas-tree type of decorations.  I DO have a fair amount of Christmas tree decorations, which are very special to me, and I am thankful to report, that they all made it across the ocean, and not a single one broke!

So, here is our "minimalist" Christmas decor this year.

The stockings are from Target
The Nativity is Willow Tree
The felt winter pillow cases are from the Budapest Christmas market
The very very cool mountain pillow is from here in Slovenia.
The candle holder is something my dad found us at the flea market
My mom made the table runner
We decided to do different metallic wrapping papers this year, and I love how simple it is, and yet festive!
I just used different branches and garland on top of the cabinets, and loved how it looked.
I love displaying our Christmas cards from years past - unfortunately this years' hasn't arrived in the mail yet (international shipping and all), but I like how it ended up looking on the back of the couch.
We've been using a galvanized tub for our tree for a couple years now, and I just love it!!
The green and white quilt on the teal chair was a gift from a dear family that has "adopted" us.  It's from the Target Magnolia Hearth and Hand collection.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Family Christmas Cookie Recipes

Dear friends!  It is my favorite time of year!  To make it even better, for the first time in my adult life, I live near my parents, which makes the holidays even better!
One of the family traditions of ours that I've always loved, is that my mom would bake cookies like crazy leading up to Christmas, then she would make plates of them to take to our neighbors.  Now, as a young kid, delivering cookies on Christmas Eve, when all you want to do is open presents, is pretty much torture.  But as an adult, I realize all the things my mom was doing through this practice - as missionaries, she was reaching out to those around her, she was spreading true holiday cheer, and she was keeping us out of the house so she could wrap up the last bit of our gifts.

So this year, I invited her to come stay with us for a few days, so that I could learn from the great master, and glean all that I could.
And friends... I now have all the recipes, as well as permission to share them.

You're welcome.

So, here are the "secret" family cookie recipes.

1. Peanut Butter Blossoms


1 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar 
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening (or margarine)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 egg at room temperature
2 tbs milk
1 tsp vanilla
48 Hershey's kisses, or in our case, 48 squares of Milk chocolate
Extra sugar in bowl


1. Heat oven to 375 F (191 C) or for a convection oven 350 F (176 C).  

2. Combine all ingredients except chocolate, and extra sugar in large mixing bowl.  Mix on lowest speed until dough forms.  (Or if you don't have a mixer, you can use your hands, like I did.)

3. Shape dough into balls, using a rounded teaspoon for each.  Roll tops of balls in sugar.

4. Place on un-greased cookie sheets.

5. Bake for 10-12 minutes (5:40-6 minutes for a convection oven).

6. Top each cookie with a Hershey's kiss or Milk square immediately out of the oven.  Press down firmly, so the cookie cracks around the edge.

2. Snickerdoodle


1/2 cup shortening (or shortening)
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
2 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cream of tartar

Separately - make a cinnamon sugar mixture for rolling.

1. Mix in order given.

2. Form into balls and roll in sugar and cinnamon mixture.  

3. Place on un-greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes at 400 F (204 C), or if you have a convection oven, bake for 5-6 minutes at 375 F (191 C).

3. Mexican Wedding Cookies

(These are my favorite.)


1 cup butter or margarine at room temp.
6 tsp powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups cake flour (or regular flour with a tbs taken out of each cup.)
1 cup walnuts or pecans chopped as finely as possible

Extra bowl of powdered sugar for rolling.

1. Combine all ingredients to make dough.

2. Roll into balls, place on un-greased cookie sheet, and bake at 350 F (177 F) for 10-15 minutes, or at 325 (165 F) for 7-8 minutes for a convection oven.

3. Once out of the oven, as soon as they are cool enough to handle, roll them in the powdered sugar.  

4. Sugar Cookie

1 1/2 cups butter, room temperature
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs at room temp.
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt


1. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Stir in the flour, baking powder and salt.  Cover and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).  If chilling over night, take it out of the fridge about 2-8 hours before using.

2. Preheat oven to 400 F (204 C) or 375 F (190 C) for a convection oven.  Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.  (This is actually harder than it sounds - but stick with it, it'll work.  I cut the dough into about 4 chunks, because it made a lot.  I put the chunk of dough on the flour, flattened it out some, then flipped it over.)  Use cookie cutters (dipped in flour first) to get the desired shape.  Place on un-greased cookie sheet.

3. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or 4-5 minutes in a convection oven.  Partly, it depends on the size of the cookies. 

After this we made a quick drying glaze that worked PERFECTLY. Here's the recipe:

1 cup powdered sugar
4 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla.

We used this to dip the cookies in, as well as in piping bags. It really worked like a charm, and dried beautifully!

5. Gingerbread Cookies


3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbs ground ginger
1 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
6 tbs unsalted butter
3/4 dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup molasses
2 tsp vanilla

In Europe I couldn't find liquid molasses, only powdered. If you find yourself in the same boat, add an extra egg, the powdered molasses and add about 1/2 cup of agave syrup.


1. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves until well blended.

2. In a large bowl beat butter, brown sugar, and egg on medium speed until well blended.

3. Add molasses, vanilla, and continue to mix until blended.

4. Gradually stir in dry ingredients until blended and smooth.

5. Divide dough in half, put each half in a zip top bag, and refrigerate. (Overnight is best.) Let sit at room temperature for at least 2-8 hours.

6. Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C) or 350 F (177 C) for convection oven. Line baking sheet with baking paper.

7. Place the first half of the dough on a floured surface. Sprinkle flour on top of dough, and rub on rolling pin.

8. Roll dough to 1-4 inch thick. Use extra flour as needed.

9. Use cookie cutters (dipped in flour) to cut out desired shape, and place on baking sheet, about 1 1/2 inch apart.

These are my gran's antique cookie cutters.
It was so fun to share them in a new tradition.

10. Bake 1 sheet at a time for 7-10 minutes (5-6 for a convection oven). Remove cookies from oven, and allow them to sit and cool until firm enough to move.

11. After they're cool, it's time to decorate! I used the same icing as the sugar cookies. They turned out fabulous, if I do say so myself!

And then, you package them in whatever way seems best and prettiest!

And I think that's all of it!
I hope you enjoy the recipes, that you make them your own, and make many memories with your own families!