Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Stepping Into the Fog: A Journey of Faith

Every once in a while you have an experience that re-teaches you just what it means to have faith. At least, it happens that way for me. I suppose that I often coast along in my life, going about my business and forgetting to rely on the Lord, and then something happens that wakes me up and reminds me just how much I need Him.

It's been a difficult couple of weeks for me. I injured my shoulder to the extent that I have been in a lot of physical pain, and after a few doctor's appointments and an MRI, I have a date set for surgery. I've been bummed about that, the winter months always get me down anyway, and December is just crazy time.

I have been holding onto the fact that as soon as I was finished up teaching for the semester, I would be flying out to Utah to meet up with all of my brothers and my parents. My mom has been singing in an amazing organization (The Millennial Choirs and Orchestras) and more than anything, she wanted all of her children to be in the audience at her Christmas concert last night. I live in Michigan, Dave lives in Seattle, Jon lives in Utah but spends the majority of his time traveling all over for work, and Nate lives in Arizona. Somehow we all managed to clear our schedules and get flights out to Utah in order to be in that audience and spend some time together as an original family.

My flight was scheduled to leave on Sunday at 1:30 pm. When I got up on Sunday morning a dense fog covered the ground and I saw that there was a weather warning on my phone. So, naturally, I started to pray. I live in a very remote area--trust me when I say that--and sometimes flying in and out is difficult. My last several flights out have been pretty crazy, and this one was shaping up to be no different.

I took this on the way home from the hospital on the day of my MRI. It had been very foggy earlier that day, too, and it froze on the trees later in the afternoon. I admit, frozen fog is gorgeous.

I went to church, where we had members of the Stake Young Men's presidency speak in sacrament meeting. I am in such a remote part of Michigan, that our stake headquarters is in Green Bay, Wisconsin. That is a four-hour drive for us. Not only do we have to drive that far just to go to stake conference and other stake events, the brethren who were speaking to us in church had also made that long trek that day.

I taught my Sunday School class, and then headed to the airport. It was still incredibly foggy out, and I couldn't believe that the incoming flight was actually in the air. The Maestro dropped me off and headed back to the church to do tithing settlements, and I sat in the airport waiting for the plane. I stared at the window, looking at the huge bank of fog that was sitting on the airfield and wondered how on earth it was going to land. And then it didn't. It had to turn back to Chicago, which automatically canceled my flight out.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Stay Healthy this Holiday Season with Maty's All Natural Products

I'm the kind of person who hates taking medications. I just don't always feel awesome about immediately turning to them when I am sick and often I would rather let things run their course if they aren't too bad, anyway. And I much prefer trying natural remedies first, if I can.

Recently, Maty's Healthy Products asked me to try out their all natural cough syrup. Lucky for them, they caught me at a time when I really needed it. I had already resorted to going to the doctor's and begging for some relief from the nasty bug I had come down with, but the cough syrup with codeine didn't help much. Plus I was filling my body up with codeine, and I wasn't very happy about that at all.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Keeping Holiday Tradition Alive With a Kids' Christmas Tree

We are super big on tradition at our house. My girls are so into traditions, that if I do something around any holiday just one time, it will automatically become a tradition, even though I didn't intend it to be!

But that's okay with me, because I love traditions just as much as my children do. Having my eldest daughter in high school this year is really making me realize how little time I have with my kids at home before they're off having their own little families. Traditions are something we can hold onto no matter where we are. We feel connected with our loved ones via tradition and it is something my girls can then share with their own children.

Just like I have done.

Some of my favorite traditions as a child include Christmas caroling to the neighbors on Christmas Eve, visiting Santa, Christmas PJs, and our Christmas Eve nativity.

I also absolutely loved decorating the tree every year.

This is a photo of me and my brother David decorating our Christmas tree together in what I am assuming is 1978. Aren't we cute?

My love of decorating trees has never died. When I was a teenager, sometimes my mom would let me do the whole thing myself and I loved picking the colors and making it look beautiful. It is one of my very favorite parts of Christmas. When I was first married I could not wait to purchase a tree and all the ornaments to go on it. I get giddy thinking about getting the tree up and decorated, and it is understatement to say I go all out on my Christmas tree.

But when my kids came along, it posed a slight problem with the Christmas tree decorating. It wasn't that they aren't allowed to help me decorate the tree every year, because they totally are. I would never deny them that joy! We decorate together every year and have a wonderful time together.

Peppermint Brownie and Ice Cream Sundae Bar

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #HolidayMadeSimple #CollectiveBias

Being gluten-free during the holidays is not easy. Especially when you are only 8 years old. Sophia has really had a hard time lately watching everyone else make and eat really yummy holiday recipes and having to settle for the same old gluten-free cookies she always has to eat. So, I decided we would make a super special decadent gluten-free treat, and invite some other gluten-free friends over to enjoy it with us.

(Keep reading even if you're not gluten-free, because the brownie can be made either way, and everyone loves an ice cream sundae bar!)

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Being Still During Crazy December

IMG_0691 Sunday Photo web

Since everyone is in the business of spreading Christmas cheer, it seems that Decembers are generally a little more insane than the rest of the year. Lots of holiday concerts and other special events abound, and I feel like it is sometimes hard for me to maintain the introspection and focus on Christ that I would like to for this season.

This last week was our normal full schedule, augmented with a few other things.

Chloe had a recheck on her broken finger. They changed it to a smaller splint which she has to wear only to school and at night, but she is allowed to keep her fingers free for a few hours a day (which means more piano practice!).  Still, her left hand isn't quite strong enough for a lot of piano playing, so at our Branch (church) Christmas party on Friday night, she only played the right hand for the musical number she and her sisters were asked to do.

I must add that I, as their mother, really dropped the ball on this. I almost forgot about it completely (see above mention of insane December) and didn't have a chance to throw something together with the girls until the night BEFORE the party. It was kind of late because we first had to go to Bria's High School choir/band concert. Thank goodness Bria is a great sight reader, and Sophia could learn a simple part. Chloe played the right hand (you can't see her in the video, but I promise she's there!) and I played the left hand. And we somehow managed to pull off a decent (though definitely not perfect) version of "Still, Still, Still."

2014 Gift Guide for Tween Girls

Last week I posted Christmas gift ideas for a teenage girl, courtesy of my 14-year-old daughter, Bria. Today I am going to post a gift guide for tween girls, courtesy of 11-year-old Chloe. Again, it might be better titled "Chloe's Christmas List," but hopefully there's something here that your own tween daughter might enjoy. And, frankly, because Chloe isn't super girly, I think most of the items on her list would be loved by tween boys, too!

Chloe is fun. Everything is fun when you're with Chloe. She's very athletic and enjoys sports very much. She is also an excellent artist and loves to make all kinds of art. She also enjoys reading. This is what has informed her gift guide for this post.

(Note: The majority of links in this post are Amazon affiliate links. Since I live in a rural area that is hours away from most mainstream shopping, I rely heavily on Amazon Prime to deliver my Christmas!)

Christmas Gift Ideas for Tweens

1. A Snowboard

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Chewy Gluten-free Holiday Cookies

We're always looking for new gluten-free recipes around here, and this one is a goodie! They were gobbled up pretty darn fast! We adapted the recipe from Alton Brown's "The Chewy Gluten Free Recipe" because we didn't have all the ingredients on hand.