Sunday, December 31, 2006

Going out with a bang...

How appropriate that I am blogging from bed, watching old episodes of Seinfeld as the New Year is about to ring in. What did you expect? With four little ones, I hardly am one for the party seen. My day to day living is a party around here. One that lands me in bed tired and looking for sleep before midnight whenever I can get it! =)
So, I totally skipped the decadent chocolate desserts, and instead made an old-fashioned Carrot Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese icing. My favorite. I used to loooove Carrot Cake Haagen Daas icecream...but haven't seen that flavor around in years. There. An interesting Nitty.Gritty. little fact about me. This cake that I poured my heart and soul into today (peeling and grating there anything more time-consuming when it comes to baking cake than that?) turned out delicious, despite the fact that I messed with the recipe and made it my own. Like subbing applesauce for oil, and adding cinnamon (can you believe a recipe for carrot cake would omit cinnamon!) and nutmeg and coconut. I love coconut.
Anyway, all the revisions and it still turned out moist and yummy. My kids all ate a big piece. And Chip is sticking to his diet. So proud of him.
I look forward to lots of interesting posts, pictures, comments and debate here on Nitty.Gritty. in the coming New Year. And now for some shameless excuse to get comments (actually I think it's fun to find out about you!)...
Where are you as you ring in the New Year 2007? Or tell me what delicious dessert you ate before 2006 was o'er. I may just need the recipe for next year. =)
Happy New Year's Eve. Stay safe. See you in '07.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

What's not to love. =)

You'd never guess I'm not a chocolate lover...

First of all, a few more details from previous posts. {Sort of like I'm 'tidying up' around here} I had some comments and questions about my Christmas card and which ribbon was Teagan's. The truth is, I whipped that card up basically to post here and email to my friends/family who didn't get cards in the mail. I didn't intend for one ribbon to be representative of each child. But, if I had to pick, it would probably be the pink-stitching one.
We had Rachael take a last minute family casual shot as Chip and I headed out the door for dinner a couple of nights ago. {Thanks, Rachael!! for the pics and babysitting!!} As I reviewed them and then edited one for posting, it hit me as it does every year since Teagan died. The first thing I notice when I look at my 'family pictures' is the hole in the picture where Teagan's smiling face should be. Everyone else looks at it and sees a big, happy family. I see that too. But only after I imagine what our picture would be like with Teagan in it. Anyway, just thought I'd post my thoughts on cards and pictures...and the fact that it's so true. You never stop missing and loving someone no matter how long they are gone.
Secondly, I didn't fill you in on all the details of my Dad's life yesterday- but some of you were asking about his life after dairy farming. Can't you figure that out on your own just by reading all my posts here?! {Just kidding} He finished Bible College and pastored evangelical churches all the years I was growing up. Yep. I was a "PK"- otherwise known as a "pastor's kid". I know, I know the saying..."they're the worst kind". Well, I was a pretty good PK- ask my friends from youth group. =) Now my dad (and mom) work as clergy/caretakers at a senior 'independent-living' facilty. Somedays they work harder with their senior residents than they ever did all those years milking cows and cleaning the barn! I am proud of their humble service and dedication to each other and those they take care of everyday- around the clock. I don't know that I could do what they do.
Finally the title suggests...a little chocolate love- not for the faint of heart. The number of calories in a slice of this dessert can ruin any good intentions you have for weight-loss and dieting in the New Year. SO, I suggest you eat this before you make any outlandish resolutions...or just forgive yourself now for blowing it when you sink your teeth into this baby.
The recipe comes from Emeril Lagasse's Creole Christmas cookbook. You can find it at too. Our book is special because it was personally signed by Emeril himself. Chip and Teagan stood in line outside a small bookstore in Vero Beach, FL at a booksigning. Teagan was about 18 months old...I don't know how Chip kept her entertained for the more than 2 hours that they stood there- he must have had superpowers or something! Anyway, it's a great memory and a special book to have. Especially when creations such as this come from it. I hope you enjoy it if you make it. I'm truly not a chocolate fanatic...but this one ranks among my top 5 favorite chocolate desserts. ( I think it's more about the spiced cream than anything {wink}!)
Chocolate Bread Pudding with Spiced Cream
1 teaspoon unsalted butter

2 cups half and half
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, about 1 pound
4 large eggs
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
8 slices day-old white bread, crusts removed and
cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
1 recipe of Spiced Cream, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 6-cup (9 1/4 by 5 1/4 by 2 2/4-inch) loaf pan with butter.
In a large saucepan, over medium heat, add the half and half. When the cream comes up to a gentle boil, whisk in 1 cup of the chocolate chips, whisking constantly until the all of chips have melted and are incorporated into the cream, remove from the heat. Whisk the eggs, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and Grand Marnier together in a large mixing bowl until very smooth. Add the egg mixture to the cream mixture and mix well. Add the bread, incorporate thoroughly and let the mixture sit for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour half of the mixture into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the top with the remaining chocolate chips. Pour the remaining bread mixture over the chocolate chips. Bake until the pudding is set in the center, about 55 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. To serve, cut the pudding into 1-inch thick slices. Top with the spiced cream.

1 quart heavy cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Beat the cream with an electric mixer on high speed in a large mixing bowl for about 2 minutes. Add the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and beat again until the mixture thickens and forms stiff peaks, another 1 to 2 minutes. Yield: 4 cups

Friday, December 29, 2006

Lucky me...

My dad is one of the 'stars' of my life. Today is his birthday and I don't know that I can give him as much honor and respect that is due him with a simple picture and blogpost. But I will try.
I say 'lucky me', because I know that there are hundreds of thousands of people in the world who don't have a dad that they admire, or look up to, or get sound advice and direction from, or possibly even know who he is. I am lucky to have been raised with the love and support that my dad has given me all my life.
He grew up working hard with his own dad and brother and mother by his side- long hours and {dirty} work on a dairy farm in rural Minnesota. I wonder if he ever 'glimpsed' into his future and saw that he would one day have a loving wife, 5 kids and lots of grandkids to love and 'gush' over? He was into showing dairy cows through 4-H, playing softball with friends and relatives, and then owning his own farm and making a living off the animals and land.
One day that changed...and he sold it all to head off to Bible college...he felt God calling him to serve others. I doubt that he knew how drastic his life would change....from fields to books. From physical labor to mental challenges.
I am thankful that my dad has followed his heart and grew into the man God chose him to be in this life. I have been lucky to have his ear, his guidance, his support and his heart from day one. I hope to give back to him as much devotion and love as he has shown me. Happy Birthday, Dad. Hope you don't mind this picture. =) It was snapped earlier this summer...the hat is not for fashion, but for protection from the sun. He had a spot of skin cancer removed a few years ago...and is much wiser because of that lesson in life. Thanks, Dad for the lessons, love and life you have shared with me and the rest of your family and friends through the years. I wish you many more...and much happiness too!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Remember this picture?

I think I've posted this moment once or twice already. Ava has pulled all of the folded clothes out of the closet on more than one occasion. SO, being the calm, patient-scrapper Mom that I am, I decide to snap pictures at moments like this knowing that they will turn into scrap layouts someday.
This layout {click on it to enlarge it if you can't see all the details} was done as part of my submission to the Fancy Pants Design Team contest a couple of weeks ago. Scrapping and submitting layouts during the busy holiday season is yet another reason why some of you didn't get a real-life Christmas card/picture this year. Now that the calls have gone out and I didn't get a phone call from Fancy Pants, I get to post my scrap pages online. That's half the fun of making pages, I think...sharing them!
So, thanks for all the nice comments and emails about sick kids. We've only had one 'sick moment' so far today (and NO, I didn't snap a picture of that to scrap at a later date...I do have some things in my life that I like to keep private). Things are looking better, and my laundry baskets are empty, for a brief moment or two anyway. I love being caught up on laundry! You know what else I love??
Chocolate Bread Pudding with Spiced Whipped Cream.
Chip baked one up for Christmas. I DID take pictures of that...and we enjoyed every bit of that dessert- even the leftovers the past few days. I will attempt to post the recipe here- so if you are looking for a dessert to ring in the New Year in a really great way...well then this would be my top pick. Scrap pages, laundry and dessert. Yep. Things are nice and normal around here today. =)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas letdown.

I don't know if there is such a thing, but if there is, then a little bit of it came to our house the past day or so. Bella was up almost all last night (which means Daddy and Mommy are up half the night or more as well...) and then spent the day not looking so hot, feeling warm, throwing up and just generally being not her ordinary self. A trip to the walk-in clinic confirmed an ear infection- which explains why she wasn't looking or feeling so hot.
We did get one dose of medicine in her and so far it has stayed down, but it's likely she'll be up some during the night. Thank goodness for caffeine in the morning coffee pot. =)
So, while we enjoyed a relaxing, laid-back kind of Christmas, reality and routine hit us head on only a day later. I wonder why it is that some people never or rarely have sick kids, and I seem to have them a large percentage of the time. Is it just my perspective? Do I have too many kids- raising the number of times I can have sick kids compared to others, or is there a 'sick fairy' that hovers too close to my house- no matter how many times we get put through the wringer?
I don't know. I just know that if you have happy, healthy kids that you should thank your lucky stars more times than you know.
Still, it's also amazing to me how adaptable we become to the cycles of sickness in our home. I am glad that Chip and I have worked out a 'system' that allows us to function well together (most of the time) and 'divide and conquer' these times in our life. Like last night...he was up, I was up, he went back to bed with Bella, I got a bit more sleep. Then he went off to work, I juggled meals, laundry, sick Bella and keeping the other kids happy and entertained so that Bella could rest. Next up...I cooked dinner, Chip took Bella to the clinic; I gave kids at home baths. When he got home, I grabbed groceries and filled a prescription, while he entertained kids. Then it was jammie time and tuck-ins. Both of us were able to do that.
Now we get to draw straws to see who has the 'night shift' tonight. =) Hopefully it will be sort of quiet.
But in all this, I see how we are a team, and that that is the best way to get through these kind of days. We don't have family around to call on or send kids over's us almost all the time. I don't mean this to turn into a pity party. Quite the opposite. Yet I don't want to sound like I'm bragging either...I'm caught in between. I just want Chip to know how much I appreciate him and the way we handle life together really well, on the 'bad days'. It's the tough times that make me realize over and over again, just how lucky I am to have hooked up with Chip.
I know a lot of people don't have a dependable spouse or best friend. I would take sick kids and a husband who stands by me and gets me through our ills over healthy kids and nobody to lean on. Maybe that sounds crazy. Maybe it's just my lack of sleep talking here, but I think it's true. A good friend is better than medicine in many ways. So, if you find yourself getting hit with the winter blues or the holiday letdowns in the next days and weeks, my advice would be to call on a friend. Hook up with someone you really love and can depend upon. Ask them to see you through this time.
I have a hunch it will be all the 'medicine' you need. And if you have no idea what the blaahs are that I am talking about- well then, just thank your lucky stars...and seek to be the best friend to those around you that you can be. They'll thank you for it, I'm sure!

Monday, December 25, 2006

~: Christmas 2006 :~

Merry Christmas from the whole Nitty.Gritty. family!
Our day has been spent at home, almost too perfect and peaceful that it makes us think something must be about to happen. =) {We have a track record of perfect days turning out otherwise.}
The kids had a full night sleep, the gift opening was fun and happy, rather than dramatic and chaotic...Chip baked Gruyere Cheese Souffle...and I was showered, with hair and make-up done before any of this got underway. To top it off, Ava has been almost good as gold- she has gone from one new toy to the next...I think Santa brought her an extra-large attention span today. It's felt a real-life Christmas miracle. =)
Of course the first thing I did this morning was thanked God for the way He has more than filled my heart with His blessings, love and goodness. Especially in contrast to the way our Christmas felt just five years ago. We were in a beautiful place (The American Club & Spa in Kohler, Wisconsin) with just our family (our family...minus Teagan) but it just didn't feel like Christmases of past. We were hurting and trying to make the best of the holiday with raw emotions and pain.
This year I can't believe that we actually have hearts, that although they miss Teagan all the time, and the memories of what we have lived through are still clear as ever, that are full of love and joy and peace. I can only explain that by saying that we have asked God to pour Himself out in our family- we have needed Him every step of the way.
And just as God sent His son Jesus to earth so many years ago- as a gift of love and joy and peace to any who were willing to receive Him, He has done it in our hearts and home as well. I am so happy to be able to say that God's promises have been true.
I remember feeling so bad about having to leave Teagan out of our family picture the past several years. It's been tough to find a way to include her in our photos without making it seem too gloomy or unusual. This year, when looked through the pictures I snapped of the kids (and even of Chip and I) I didn't feel like I was 'leaving Teagan out'. Instead, when I looked at the pictures, I couldn't help but think how much Teagan is still a part of each of us in our way. She must look down from Heaven and be glad that we have been able to find love and joy and peace...all while wishing we could have her here with us every single day.
I am learning that who I am and who I continue to become will always have a part of Teagan inside. It's like the true Christmas spirit. It doesn't just have to be for Christmas. In fact the elements that make up the true Christmas spirit should shine from all of us no matter the location, day or time of year. My biggest hope is to take a piece of it with me into everything I do. Afterall I have been given, it's the least that I can do.
Merry {Nitty.Gritty.} little Christmas from my heart and home to you.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Those smiles...

Those smiles are the prelude to Christmas at our home. We have no feels like spring outside. But the cookies, trees, lights, Little People Nativity and wrapped gifts tell us that it's indeed Christmas Eve.
Isabella was playing and singing with Ava today. At one point she told Ava, "It's Christmastime. That's when Teagan sings glory in the highest because she's the angel". I just thought that was so sweet. Bella thinks that Teagan is one of the angels announcing the birth of Jesus. It's almost better than believing in Santa Claus. =)
Our kids are snuggled in tight... they settled down for bed better than they do on the average school night. There is peace and comfort and calm in here. That is one of the best Christmas gifts a Mom can get on Christmas eve. Wishing you this same feeling...and rest and peace too.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Love this day.

I took that picture yesterday after baking Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies {finally}. I had previously posted a picture and the recipe, and decided to take my own version of the same picture. (Does that make sense?)
That Starbuck's mug is my new favorite...the one I asked Chip to bring home for me on my birthday. He did and it made me happy. I plan on using it year round...either sipping my morning coffee out of it, or as a pencil holder on my scrap desk. Or maybe I'll just go and purchase a second one so I don't have to decide. =)
So, why do I love this day? For starters, I got to 'sleep in' {again} and had no place to be by a certian time. I have enjoyed 48 hours of not having to strap kids into carseats to drop off or pick up anybody. I had no idea how good 'lazy days' could feel!
I've had my kids singing, playing, making pictures with markers, running, laughing, snacking, and of course a few hugs and kisses thrown in here and there too. Feels good to just be.
Hubby will be home late, but then his holiday will kick in for a couple of days. We'll get to just be for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
The icing on the cake came for me just a few minutes ago. Some of you will understand. Others of you will have no idea. =) Brock brought in the mail and as I flipped through the {small} stack of cards, one in particular jumped out at me. The return address reads: 'the Swapp Family'.
I told'd either get it or not.
All I know is a little Christmas card can bring a lot of good cheer! I really should go get to work on my own {belated} Christmas cards. For 39 cents, you can spread lots of goodness and cheer.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Missed blessings.

I think I have written a time or two about missing out on blessings in life because we have our own set of plans or ideas or feelings. Like when Chip proposed to me and I made him swear over and over that he agreed to 'never having any kids'. I was adamant about that at the time; I had other 'plans' in life and they were going to fulfill my desires and dreams- and kids were NOT in the picture.
Then on the eve of our first anniversary, I found out that I was pregnant. Needless to say, I was less than thrilled...and the timing couldn't have been 'worse'. I struggled that whole pregnancy with accepting the idea of having a baby and moreso with having to change the direction that I had seen my life headed. It was tough.
Then Teagan was born. Tears rolled down my cheeks from the moment she was placed in my arms...I couldn't have been more overwhelmed with love for her, and my heart was filled with peace. I remember holding her later on that first night in the hospital and a feeling of guilt swept over me as I looked at her perfect features and her little fingers curled around my own. I kept thinking that she was more than I deserved- especially after all the months I had been depressed and sad during my pregnancy. She was beautiful and perfect, and she consumed my soul with goodness from day 1.
I have shared here how I would have missed out on 4 and a half years of Teagan in my life if I had followed the plans and dreams I had for my life. I would have missed out on a lot of joy. I would have missed out on the lives of my other kids too, because once Teagan came along she broke my 'rule'...the one about not ever having kids. Chip and I knew that once we had one child, we would have more...because our plans and dreams had changed.
I have blogged about how I would have missed out on the blessing of our 'Barbie Tree' if I had chosen to stay depressed and angry that first Christmas without Teagan. Instead, something inside Chip encouraged me to rise above my grief and to do something bigger than myself. I know now, that God was walking with us each step of the way during those bleak moments of our lives, as He continues to do each step of the way as we walk through the rest of the adventures of our lives.
This Christmas has been more of what the past several have been in my life...time of reflecting, remembering, questioning, and creating new joy and traditions and seeing goodness in spite of everything. I have thought long and hard this year and have tried to put myself in the position of the different people who we 'see' in the Christmas story this season. I have looked at this story from different angles and perspectives. I will not claim them to be Biblically based, and maybe some of these views have been thought of or written about in books, I'm not sure. These just happen to be the ones that have been in my thoughts the past few weeks, and I am jotting them down just to get them out.
I have wondered and sympathized with Mary many times. Especially the times when I was 'with child' at Christmas myself. I know that God picked the right person to bear His Son when He chose Mary...she was humble and open and willing, and she accepted God's plan for her life without question. In fact, when the angel came to her and told her she would bear God's Son, she answered simply, "May it be as you have said". That's amazing to me...Mary was a very young, unwed (engaged) woman, who had everything to lose- including her life- because of this news. Yet she accepted it willingly. Her response has made me wonder more than once, how would I have responded to news such as that? I can't say for sure, and maybe God placed some peace and reassurance within her heart as only He can do...but I have a feeling I would have been a little bit more 'animated' to the angel at that time. Me: "What? You're who? God told you what? No. I think you have the wrong Mary. Couldn't be me! I'm engaged and not planning on having kids for a long I think you must have misunderstood what God told you. Go back to Heaven and ask Him again and then come back and tell me what He really wants me to hear. Okay, angel?!"
If it was me and I had been Mary, I would have missed out on the blessing of bearing God's Son. It's true... God could have said, "Fine. I'll choose someone else. You don't have to be a part of my glorious plan if that's how you want it to be."
How many times do we question God and His plans for our lives? How many times do we mess things up or make Him put up with our attitudes because things aren't going the way we think they should in our life.
Think about this scene...Mary and Joseph have traveled miles upon miles to get to the village of Bethlehem. Mary is 'great with child'...can't be very comfortable or happy with having to travel by donkey and foot at this late stage of her pregnancy. When she and Joseph finally arrive at the Inn, the innkeeper tells them "We're full- sorry". No room for them? Me (I'm still Mary at this point): "What do you mean 'no room' mean the best rooms are all taken, right? We can stay in a twin room. That's fine. I'll take the bed and Joseph will just sleep wherever. We don't need a full bed."
Innkeeper, "You didn't hear me, Miss. There's NO ROOM. None. You'll have to go elsewhere."
Me: " don't understand. An angel told me that I'm going to have the Christchild- yep. I'm prgenant with God's Son. I'm sure you have a room for God's Son, right? Just kick someone else out...I'm sure they wouldn't mind...especially when you tell them who I am."
So, did the Innkeeper miss out on the blessing and turn away 'God's Son'? Or didn't he have a clue who Mary was because she just kept quiet (once again) and accepted God's plan for her life- even if it included giving birth in a barn?
What about the shepherds? They were out on the hill when the angels appeared singing glory to God in the highest...what if they decided that they didn't want to trek all the way to Bethlehem with a herd of sheep. They could have thought the angels were crazy. Or just a weird vision. They didn't have to follow the star that night so long ago. But for some reason, they went.
And those wise men that we read and hear about? I'll bet there was a bit of bickering going on at the castle before they went to Bethlehem. Think about it...the king calls a bunch of his wise men to his chambers and tells them, "I want to send you to Bethlehem with some gifts to bring to the Savior, who was born in a stable. He is the Christchild."
Me (as a wiseman, now): "Um, King? I have lots of things going on here at the castle. I think I'll just stay here. I'd rather not get my clothes dirty on the trip and I'm not really into visiting stables. I'm not good with babies, either. So, you can skip me. Someone else can go in my place."
Do you see what I'm saying? These characters that we see at Christmas were real people, like you and me. They had choices (in some cases) to go see baby Jesus or to accept God's message, and be blessed beyond measure for their faithfulness. In accepting God's plan, and believing in His word, they were a part of something so special and wonderful that a couple of thousand years later, people are still singing and celebrating about this event. Amazing.
One final makes me realize that God's plan is something bigger than you or I will ever understand. It makes me realize that God uses ordinary people (like you and me and Mary and Joseph and shepherds on a hill) to fulfill His glorious purpose. He gives us the opportunity to accept His message and His gift (His son Jesus) and in so doing, we are blessed beyond measure- more than we ever deserve.
All He asks is that we have an open heart for Him to guide and work through. Sounds so simple. Sounds so easy, and yet we make it so difficult at times. I wonder how many blessing we miss out on everyday, because we have our own plans and dreams. Or because we don't like the way the blessing is 'packaged'. I've celebrated many Christmases through the years...and yet the story never ceases to amaze me.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

As you might expect...

I stuck to my motto all day yesterday and kept things simple and as routine as possible, and it was all good. I made it to part of Bella and Wyndham's preschool party and got to watch a room of 4 year-olds be excited about a sugar cookie, stuffed bears and lining up to read a story by a big Christmas tree. Then on to 2nd grade where the kids got to eat as much candy as they wanted to while decorating little houses. So fun. That's what made my day... realizing that the blessings aren't in big extravagant gifts (which I will admit can be nice at times!), but that the best gifts come in the form of good feeling and contentment.

Isabella was so proud that she 'made me a birthday cake all by herself'. I had no idea she could make such a beautiful cake- she's never drawn one before. I was so proud of her and seeing her creative mind at work. Of course, I was taken back to the last birthday I had with Teagan in my life and it made me a tinge sad- even on a day like my birthday. Bella is about a week or two older than Teagan was when she died. I remember thinking how old and grown up Teagan seemed as I sat by her bedside those last few hours. We had a few moments to cry together and say our goodbyes (which doesn't really sink in until a much, much later time). I couldn't believe she was really going to be gone at that time- forever- the finality of it is just so surreal- even now it doesn't always seem real.

Yesterday, as I spent time with my kids and watched them in their daily activities and felt their hugs and just loved them as they were, it hit me just how young they are and how much life they still have ahead of them. It struck me as I watched Bella at preschool, and then as I tucked Wyndham into bed (and gave her 34 kisses) that these little 'gifts' of mine are still fragile and tiny and have a big world to take on someday. It sunk into my head just a little bit more throughout the day, that I have missed out on Teagan's life more than I will ever know. She wasn't as 'old and grown up' as I used to think, now that I compare her life with my growing kids. She was a little girl with a whole lotta of life ahead of her.

But, you should know me well enough by now to know that I didn't get hung up in reflecting on my past and the sorrow that could easily consume me. Instead, I thanked God that I had four healthy kids and a lot of love from all of them and Chip, that I didn't have the opportunity to become overwhelmed with sadness. There were smiles and laughter and hand-made paper cards and simple goodness in my life at every turn. The best part about my day were the things that didn't cost a thing...

~the memories and thoughts I had as I thought about Teagan and the joy she brought to my life

~the fact that Wyndham could go to school after missing more than a week- she has finally gotten her smiles and personality back to her usual self

~getting to spend time with Brock at school and knowing that he was excited to have me be in his class next to him...I know that could easily change in a year or two from now

~all the cards, emails and comments that I have received in the past few days from family, friends and bloggers that support and care from me- even if we live miles apart

...and the best part of my birthday by far, was climbing into bed at 9:30 last night (with all the kids and hubby tucked in too!) and not having to get back out of bed until 8:30 this morning. I think I got 9 hours of sleep during that time...something I can't recall happening to me in months! It was wonderful. The only thing that could have topped my day would have been to have indulged in some buttercream. Today we plan to have dinner as a family and make up for that missed opportunity with some really tasty dessert. Afterall, my kids have a whole world ahead of them (if God allows that in their lives) and I can't help but think that it involves decadent desserts and sweet memories along the way!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Post #334.

Must be sort of a magic number. I logged in to write a new entry and my post count this post is 334. Today is also my 34th birthday. Just thought that was a cool coincidence, no? =)
Busy, busy day at our house...Christmas parties at school and gift giving and hubby working, but still he took time to get me a couple of gifts~ including a couple from Starbucks.
I told him last night that he could be my guest blogger today and say something nice about me. Instead, he told me to write whatever I wanted and to sign his name to it. How's that for TRUST in our relationship! He's either really brave or really naive. =)
Another friend asked me to blog about 'Jody- the Early Years'...but that would be a bit frightening to some. Or to most of you. I'm really thankful to say that in 34 years I've evolved and grown and changed so much that many of my 'early years' friends wouldn't hardly recognize me- inside or out. That's a good thing.
So, for my Nitty.Gritty. birthday today, I invite some of you die-hard fans to do something nitty-grittyish. You know...go out and create some joy, or take a moment to hug and love someone in your life- maybe someone you wouldn't normally show much love to. Kiss your hubby when he walks in today (or when you walk in)...wearing a vintage apron and with the smell of dinner cooking. Ha! Or just something little, that means a lot- like throwing a couple of extra dollars into the change holder at McDonalds. That cash adds up across the nation and helps to create places like the Ronald McDonald house that Devon Kaat and his family just stayed at. Shoot up another heartfelt prayer for Jaymun when you drop your money into the slot.
Or, take a minute and search your heart. Ask yourself in the midst of this crazy, hectic month, 'what are you TRULY living for?' Is it to get more money to buy more stuff? Is it to be praised and promoted at your job? Is it the things you do to try to make others love you or your kids? Or is there a deeper purpose- one that seeks to do what you feel God has called you to do in this world. Maybe it's not the grandest life, maybe you don't even like where you're at or how you look or who you live with, but this is where you're at. Choose today to accept your place in this wolrd, and do what you can within yourself to bring glory to God in this place.
It makes me think of all the characters of the Christmas story (which I believe is true- through and through). I will share more of my thoughts on this topic in the next few days, but for now, imagine for a moment that God came to you (through and angel, or a shining star or any other way you can see/hear Him). How would you respond?
I would like to think that I would follow Him and do what He asks of me without question. I'd like to think that my heart would be open and willing. I know that He has already asked much of me in my life. But here I am turning 34 today. And for some strange reason, I have a feeling He's not through with me yet.
Okay. Enough deep thoughts for this birthday. I'm off to party at second grade again! The class is making gingerbread fitting that I should get in on that! Twice in one holiday season. =)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Holiday Spritz Cookies.

Remember? I promised I would give you the 'perfect pressed cookie' recipe. These have been standard at my house each year- even as a little girl while I was growing up. I loved watching my mom make my kids watch me! They tend to overdo it on the sprinkles...but that's part of the magic of Christmas. It's just a bit more sugar, and a whole lot more fun!
So, without further ado, I give you Betty Crocker's Spritz Cookie recipe.
1 cup of butter or marg (softened)
2/3 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1 tsp. flavoring (vanilla, almond, peppermint, rum...)
2 1/2 cups flour
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix butter, sugar, egg yolks and flavor thoroughly. Work in flour until well-combined. Divide dough and add food coloring, if desired at this time. (If dough is warm and soft, chill for a short time...if too cold it crumbles.) Using 1/4 dough at a time, force it through your cookie press onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 7-9 minutes or until set, but not brown. Makes about 6 dozen cookies.
I also made my own candy cane shapes by rolling green and pink dough into little ropes and then twisting them together (hence the peppermint flavoring if you like). Or simply roll them into balls and press them down with the bottom of a glass if you don't have a cookie press. Then add cookie press to your Christmas wish list and be good until next year. =)
And now, because I spent time posting this recipe, fewer people will receive their Christmas cards and packages from me on time this year. I have to go work on that right now!!! Does anyone else think we should just bump Christmas a bit further into the future than next Monday?
But leave my birthday where it is. =) {It's this Wednesday, the there's still time for you to send me Starbuck's gift cards online. Do they even do that? They should!}

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Nitty.Gritty. Martha Stewart. {Not!}

That's me! Okay...some of you commented and others emailed me asking about the gingerbread village. It's all homemade from the Better Homes & Garden Recipe book that I did some other baking out of earlier this month. Some of you didn't know you could make your own gingerbread, huh? I bought the molasses and traced the templates and rolled out the dough and baked it and everything. =) You can still do's fun. It takes a lot of time compared to doing a kit, but that's the best part about life, I think.
We live in such an automated, take the shortest route, do things the quickest-most convenient way, that often times the part we're missing out on is the best part of all! My girls were so into the baking and cutting out of shapes. Brock was thrilled when we made the frosting to decorate and I totally got covered with confectioner's sugar when my mixer whipped it all over the place. Those are some of the pictures I missed taking. But they are some of the memories I have to cherish evenso.
So, yes, I took the 'scenic route' to making my gingerbread houses and trees and church. But it was well worth it, I think. I'm no Martha Stewart, but, there are times when I think life calls for going over-the-top. For me, it meant the love and time and effort I put into making gingerbread with my family. I think pre-made kits are awesome though, too. They get people doing a project together...for some people that's a big step to take!
I will not claim to be perfect here, or full of the best ideas, or have the greatest talents, or most creativity, or money to spend on the fanciest products...but, I do have time and love and I hope that rubs off on my kids. Not just at Christmas, but everyday.
I have thought a lot this past year about 'what I am good at'. I've really given it a lot of thought, and I think I have finally come up with a good answer. I'm good at 'everyday life'. Nothing extravagant...but I think I have a knack for seeing beauty in the ordinary and loving the simple things in my routine days. I think it's something people miss out on in their busy, stressful lives.
Maybe that will be one of the books I start working on writing. I could call it 'The {Lost} Art of Everyday Living'. I kind of like that...I should google it to see if it's already been done.
One side note that some of you may find funny...I may find myself more like Martha Stewart than I'd like to be. As we all know, she spent some time in a jail cell. Well, turns out that I, yes me, Nitty.Gritty. presidential-nominee wanna-be, may be held in contempt of court. I missed calling in for jury duty a couple of weeks ago. I plan to clear things up right away Monday morning.
My hubby finds it sort of humorous. He told me to go out driving and speed up and down the highways and to get pulled over to find out if I'm wanted. I said, 'Yeah, real funny. I'll get thrown in a jail cell and then I can make my own construction paper Christmas tree to decorate my wall'. Just so you know, I feel terrible about not being a more responsible citizen...
I was in fact looking forward to being questioned in hopes of being chosen for jury selection. Even though with my previous experiences in courtrooms, and my story and link to local prosecutors and all, I likely wouldn't stand a chance to get on the jury. I thought it would be fun to see how far I could get in the selection process.
It may still happen. Til then, I'm going to keep a close eye on my speedometer. I don't think anyone would let me blog from a jail cell. I think I'll stick to staying home and baking. =)

Saturday, December 16, 2006


Well then. This should be plenty of pictures to satisfy your gingerbread fix for the 2006 Christmas season. My kids have enjoyed nibbling on this village will probably be half gone by Christmas. The snow frosting is actually quite tasty this year- more vanilla and shortening in the recipe, so it is softer and sweeter, but still did the trick holding all the houses and trees together.
It is becoming a tradition around here. One that Grandma Karen instilled in me back when I was expecting Teagan- that was 10 years ago. I haven't made houses every year, but I plan to do so from here on out. The kids had fun doing their own decorating this year...and Chip is twice as skilled with the 'framing' and 'roofing' as he was last year. I think he'll be ready for the Food Network Gingerbread Challenge in another year or two.
Things are calming down around here in regards to our health and sleep patterns. Wyndham isn't back to her usual self and diet...but she's headed in the right direction, so that's a good thing. I'm hoping we're all immune to everything out there for the next couple of months, at least. Now I can turn my focus back to gearing up for Christmas and having fun with all that goes along with the season.
I can't close this post without mentioning my parents and wishing them a Happy 39th Wedding Annivesary. They have had their share of ups and downs through the years, as we all do, but I have seen them grow more and more in love with each other. What a wonderful example they have been to me and countless others year after year! Here's to 39 more {at least!} even though my Mom doesn't want to get THAT old! =) Love from your favorite Nitty.Gritty. blog.

Gingerbread village 2006...con't.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Construction paper Christmas trees...

{Note: This post was started on Tuesday, but before I could finish it and post it, I had to take Wyndham into the ER...I just got around to completing my thoughts tonight.}
I'll warn you right now that this may not be the upbeat Christmas story you are hoping to read at Nitty.Gritty. today. So much going on, yet I'm getting nothing done. Someone {Andy} isn't saying enough prayers for Wyndham because she is still not bouncing back from her bout of the flu. We are on the verge of bringing her into the Urgent Care or ER if she doesn't start keeping liquids down soon.
Poor girl. This is not new to us or her, as she has been hospitalized several times because of this same thing- she just gets so weak and has a hard time with clear liquids because of her head injury. We have learned that most often she needs a day or two in the hospital hooked up to IV's and then some anti-nausea medicine and then she starts to turn a corner. But in the midst of it, it's no fun.
Today my head is pounding from a 'lack-of-sleep' headache, and while I should be getting a quick nap in right now, my head is spinning and here I am blogging instead.
It's really not that horrible around here. We did manange to frost, decorate and set up our gingerbread village last night, so there is still some holiday cheer to be found in our home. You just have to look for it among the rest of the chaos in my house. And those Christmas cards that I'm ususally so on top of? Sitting in a stack to be written, stamped and mailed.
But, I decided they had to wait, and I needed to take a few minutes for myself and so this is it. I've had lots of thoughts and memories going around since I put up our Christmas tree this year. Some of you remember we have a Barbie Tree in memory of Teagan from a charity event that Chip and I attended that first Christmas season after Teagan died.
This year I put up the tree with all the Barbie trimmings, and my girls really enjoyed seeing all the fun stuff we put on it. There are real Barbies, plastic dress-up shoes, and mini-Barbies too. {See Dec. 2005 archives for a post or two and pictures of the tree and the angel topper.}
The best thing about the Barbie Tree is that it is a reminder of our sweet little Teagan. The worst thing about our Barbie Tree is it is a reminder that Teagan isn't here with us. It isn't that I sit and stare at the tree all day long, or cry every time I walk past it. I haven't shed a tear over the tree in a couple of years, but still, it brings back lots of memories. Mostly good, but occasionally it makes me stop and wonder.
That's where this post comes recent Christmas 'wonderings'. Brock came home with a construction Christmas tree mixed in the papers in his backpack last week. This little tree hit me in a big way- and I've been thinking about it more than I probably should. Afterall, it's just a cut-out Christmas tree.
My mind keeps going back 5 years, and asking questions and making me think. That first Christmas without Teagan and with all of pain and injuries and post-traumatic stress stuff lingering in our bodies and minds, we had more than our share of 'issues' in our home. I could probably write a book on that topic alone- dealing with the holidays when you're missing a loved one...It's true. There was so much emotion and pain and questions, and trying to make sense of everything was just plain hurtful. So, one day our local paper ran yet another article in regards to the woman who killed Teagan (and Peggy) about her upcoming court hearings or something involving our case. At the end of it, there was a sentence or two stating that this woman had a construction paper Christmas tree decorating her jail cell.
That's it. That's all I didn't need to know at that time in my life. Seriously. Ask Chip how many times I brought up the subject about the construction paper Christmas tree in the jail cell. I'm sure it was almost one too many. Remember? I told you Chip and I had moments when we almost couldn't stand to be together anymore after Teagan's death and our leftover pain and grief...that tree was probably one of the reasons we were ready to call it quits at times.
But that tree was a big deal to me. A few months earlier Teagan was to have started her first day of preschool. She never got to go. Guess what my mind imagined that her classmates did at school that year? Yep. Probably came home from school glowing and gushing about the Christmas trees they cut out of green paper. I'll bet the Moms of those kids were so proud to hang them up along with all their other holiday decorations.
So there I sat. Too many times to count, my mind would obsess about the unfairness of my life. How was it fair that the woman who killed my little girl got to sit in a jail cell and look at a tree, when my little girl never got the chance to make a tree that year? I was mad. I was so hurt- over a construction paper Christmas tree. I can remember some of the headaches I had crying myself to sleep at night because life was so unfair, it hurt more than I could believe it could, and something as little as a paper tree could affect my whole day. More like a couple of long weeks, and it affected my marriage as well.
When I unfolded Brock's tree from his Friday folder of papers the other day, you can imagine how my mind flashbacked. To thoughts and emotions I've stuffed for a long time. This time though, my thoughts have been so very different, and that's what this blogpost is for.
I couldn't help but wonder if the woman who killed Teagan got to decorate her jail cell again this year. I don't know- but I wondered. I couldn't help but think how far I've come in five much of my life is different- I have 2 additional little girls since that time, a new larger home, new vehicles, new friends, new insights, and a new attitude in many ways. I couldn't help but feel suddenly overwhelmed. Not with anger and bitterness at the unfairness, but at the realization of how life has been so good to me. And to think, this woman still sits in a jail cell- just as she did 5 years ago. Not much has changed for her. I couldn't help but wonder if she ever had someone get excited for her when she came home from school with a construction paper Christmas tree. I couldn't help but wonder if anyone had ever been proud or pleased with something so small- that it made her feel wonderful inside.
I began to feel sad. Sad that what I missed out on with my four-year old daughter was what a grown woman was doing...making a paper tree. It just seemed pathetic and sorrowful. And twisted- how could life get so twisted I have wondered, that a grown woman was making the tree my daughter never got to make? It hit me hard. It's a paper tree, but it has made me stop and think for several moments.
I can't help but feel humbled, that I have been loved and encouraged and supported and praised for lots of things and many times through my years- from family and friends and coworkers. I've had it easy. I've been very fortunate. I can only hope that my own kids will know how much they are loved and appreciated and cared about in this life. I can't help but miss Teagan when I see trees at Christmas. But this year, they are reminders of the blessings in my life. I wonder how I got so lucky in life- it could be so unfair. I have learned that lesson from a construction paper tree.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Debunking the Nitty.Gritty. myths

A week or so ago I was posting a response to the person who commented that I was so 'happy all the time'. Well, there is some truth to that. I 'try' to be happy as often as I can and in the midst of any circumstances, only as a result of living and learning that life is short and precious and should not be taken for granted and can change in a moment's time, and that it's not so fun to live life the other way- 'not being happy'.
However, I strive to be honest here, and I would be remiss if I told you that I didn't question my life and some of the things that happen, or that I just 'accept' everything as it comes.
I am human. I question and worry and get mad and sad and depressed and once in awhile a bit perturbed. Is that a word? Like, a little bit angry or frustrated.
This last week has been a trying one for me in many ways. Christmas brings it's own set of emotions and memories to mind, as well as vivid reminders of dreams that will never be realized because of the death of Teagan, and that life is 'different' for me and my family forever- even at a happy time such as Christmas.
Throw in a bout of the stomach flu, and now hospitalization and you've got real-life Nitty.Gritty. questions bound to come up. I am much better about keeping them in check than I was 5 years ago, but still, I have to wonder sometimes, was there something I did in my past that is the cause for ongoing suffering in my life and my family? Or could I do something different to prevent 'bad stuff' from happening to should I be happier and love and appreciate life more, or have a stronger faith, or give more money to charity or what?! Sometimes I wish there was something 'concrete' that I could do to affect what happens in life.
But I have learned that there is not. I don't choose when things go well or when they take a sharp turn. I don't get to pick when the sun shines or when it rains. I don't have the power to walk a different path just because the one I'm on starts to get a bit bumpy. This is my life. This is my road, and for some reason, it seems to have a lot more twists and turns than I ever expected. Or at least pitstops to hospitals and having medical procedures done on my kids and stuff that is hard for anyone to watch- and these pitstops are getting more and more difficult to handle as Wyndham grows and understands what is happening, and also can express her dislike for her situation. It hurt to help hold her down for IV attempts yesterday and then it hurts to be away from the other kids and to have to take a break from what we were trying to enjoy as our Christmas tradition routine at home. It all hurts...and it has gotten more difficult.
However, I am sitting in Wyndham's room today, and even though I wonder why we are going through this again, I realize my experiences in hospitals and with life and death have changed me. Inside and out. And as hard and difficult as this may be, it has gotten to be sort of a 'normal' part of my life. I knew {mostly} what to pack in my bag as I took Wyndham to the ER yesterday. I enjoyed talking with the doctors and nurses that I used to resent in past visits- as though they were a part of the problem in my life. I have been shaped by the number of times trouble has come my way, and now I am not so easily shaken by it when it comes. I don't like it and it isn't easy, but I have learned to embrace it and it has stretched me as a person and I hope made me more aware. More compassionate. More grateful. More faithful. More humble.
Interesting to me. I set out on December 1st hoping to realize more fully what the true Chritmas spirit is all about. I think I have found it in sitting in a hospital room.
Now, I don't wish for any of you to have to spend time in a hospital just to find the Christmas spirit. I honestly believe there are better 'places' to find it in the world. I just want to note that I think it can be found anywhere at anytime. I plan to look for it a bit more once we get out of this room too. I think it's most easily found inside each of us.
There you go. A little Nitty.Gritty. tour inside the thoughts in my head while I sit bedside to my little sick pumpkin. I don't love this part of my life, but I learn from it everytime it shows up. So, in the end, I guess that's not such a terrible thing afterall.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Hospital Schmospital.

How's that for a little ba-humbug for ya?! I am blogging live from Wyndham's hospital room where I am spending the night with her as she gets pumped with IV fluids. Not exactly how I like to spend my week or so before Christmas. Or anytime for that matter.
But, I've got an hour of free wireless, so I am counting my blessings in spite of this not-so-fun situation.
I guess I'm not so sure what to blog about. You can now add Wyndham to your prayer list and keep the prayers coming for the Katt family. One nice Nitty.Gritty. fan emailed me about doing a 'paper crane' prayer thing for Jaymun and I'd like to do something like that, but it's a little tough for me at this point in time. SO, I will just ask for your concern, thoughts love and prayers. As for Wyndham, I'm hoping she will bounce back and be discharged by tomorrow...but we will just have to wait and see. And of course, I will do what I can to keep you posted.
I hope that some of you will go out and do some window Christmas shopping for me, and I hope that I will be back to realizing a little bit more of the Christmas season in the comforts of my own home soon.
Thanks in advance for your words of comfort and care. They mean a lot. Even to seasoned hospital pros like Wyndham and me.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Pause and pray today.

I hope they don't mind, but I pulled another picture from the Kaat's website and am asking all of you to pause and pray for the health of Jaymun today. I'm sure the whole family needs our prayers, now more than ever.
My own kids are beginning to perk up from a long-enough bout with the flu...and I know nothing drains the body, mind and spirit than watching a loved one be sick. My thoughts and prayers are with Jennifer, Dave and family. I can hope and pray that God knows their hearts, and they would love nothing more than to have a healthy family this Christmas.
In the midst of my gingerbread house decorating, I know that my heart can be saying prayers for Jaymun. Wishing him blessings from afar....

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Not so very merry around here, yet.

The gingerbread village pieces and trees are all baked and cooled. Next up? Frost and decorate and eat candy as we create.
One little glitch. Nitty.Gritty. hubby and I got no sleep last night, and I currently have 3 out of 4 of my kiddos laying around with bowls next to them- 'just in case'. Needless to say, nobody is in the decorating/candy-eating mood. Yet. I'm hoping things will take a 180, or even a 90 around here, at least to ease my laundry burden.
Those of you who know me in the least can tell you I have a heap of patience- especially when it comes to sick kids...and I rarely get emotional or cry. Last night as I went to throw my 18th load of {sickie} laundry into the wash, I had a moment where I would have liked to call it quits. And maybe even cry for a minute.
Instead, I thought of all the moms who would love to be doing laundry for their kids and can't. I held back my tears and thanked God that I wasn't sick myself. It's tough. I'll admit that loud and clear, right here in front of everyone. I wasn't loving life at 3 am last night. Or even 4 am, or 5:32 for that matter. But, I found a tiny silver lining in the midst of all my laundry, and hopefully things will just get 'more shimmery' around here as the weekend wears on.
All I know is I should have taken out stock in Tide and Febreeze about 10 years ago. Could have been a nice little 'nest' for us by now. I just might look into stock for Christmas gifts this year. IF I get back around to shopping before the season is o'er.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Beyond sugar and spice...

I went missing the past couple of days, not that far- just to my laundry space. Poor Bella hasn't been feeling very sugary or spicy the last few days, and because of that, I am in the middle of my 15th load of laundry in three days. I'm telling you- nothing takes the 'spirit' out of the festive holiday season like a little influenza. Seems she's beginning to perk up, and I've got some cookie baking on my list of things I'd rather do today.
With my butter softening on the counter, I am deciding whether to begin making my gingerbread dough for our village this year, or to instead make my hubby's favorite...Peanut Butter/Chocolate Kiss Cookies. Funny note. We've been married 11 years, and just this year I found out that this is his favorite cookie. I should maybe spend more time with him and less with my washing machine, huh?! =)
Since my sister (thanks, Steph!) just sent me the recipe to these Holiday Classics, I will post it for you. And at some point I'll get that Spritz one up here too. I promise! Someday.
Here's to more of the 'goodness of the season'...and less laundry to keep me from the all-important Christmas cards that keep getting backed up further and further on my list of things to do. Hopefully I'll have them out by New Year's! Enjoy.

Peanut Butter/Chocolate Kiss Cookies
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 egg
1teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
48 milk chocolate candy kisses, unwrapped

Directions: Heat oven to 375°F. Combine 1/2 cup sugar, brown sugar, butter and peanut butter in large bowl. Beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add egg, vanilla and salt; continue beating until well mixed. Add flour and baking soda. Continue beating, scraping bowl often, until well mixed. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. (If dough is too soft, refrigerate 30 to 60 minutes.) Roll balls in 1/4 cup sugar. Place 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until very lightly golden brown. Immediately press 1 chocolate kiss in center of each cookie. Remove from cookie sheets; cool completely on wire racks.
By the way, the cookie photo was not taken by me, and I don't know who to credit for it...same goes for the recipe. Still, I will take full responsibility for how your cookies do or don't turn out. I mean really, they've got a big candy on top- so how bad could they turn out!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

'Sugar and Spice'

Sugar and spice is what little girls are supposed to be made of, right?! Well, then Bella is all girl, alright. She's got the 'perfect blend' of each, which makes for interesting stories and memories as she grows up in our family.
The other day I picked up this 'Chocolate Mint Truffle' creamer...partly for the flavor, partly for the cute packaging. I mean, who can resist that little snowman grin as you walked past the dairy asile...score one for some marketing that actually works on me! Anyway, it didn't take long for my kids to notice this bottle in the fridge and want to try some in their milk. That's what they do with creamers. They flavor their milk with any of the flavors...coconut, pumpkin spice, butter pecan, eggnog, and now chocolate mint truffle. It's really good. It's like drinking a Girl Scout Thin Mint cookie in your milk (which I actually like better than in my coffee). Tasty stuff.
Here's where the story takes a turn. Bella had this mixed in her milk the previous day and loved it. She told me that more than once. I was not surprised when she asked for chocolate mint milk at breakfast the other morning, and Brock wanted it too. I proceeded to make them each a glass of it, and Bella had barely taken her first sip when she said, 'I want chocolate milk, not mint!'
Brock starts laughing right away, and I just kind of looked at her funny. Then she said to me, 'I said I want CHOCOLATE-mint, not mint!' I tried explaining to her that it was chocolate-mint....meaning it has both. I was going round and round with her for about 2 minutes, using her own words and telling her that what was in her cup was exactly what she asked for. She wouldn't buy it. I finally stopped and said, 'Bella, what DO you want in your cup?', to which she replied 'I want chocolate'. I swiped her cup away, set it in the fridge, and then made her a new cup of just chocolate milk.
I know. It was no big deal, but really- there was a lot of drama involved, and Brock was standing there watching the whole event unfold. He was finding it amusing.
So, as I turned back to the toaster to start some breakfast, Bella walked over to the fridge, reached in and took out the chocolate-mint cup. Just as the door closed, I turned around and she caught my eye. This devious grin spread across her face and she said to Brock, 'See what I got?' He just looked at her and didn't say anything, but I could see his eyes starting to light up...I think he could tell she was up to something.
She then said, 'See? I got two cups...a chocolate AND a mint!' I stood there looking at her holding two cups of milk with the biggest grin ever, and Brock couldn't control his laughter. I think I said something like, 'Are you kidding me? You just messed with my mind for more than 2 minutes in order to get two cups of milk!' And then I looked at Brock and said, 'Did Bella just outwit me for a cup of milk? I think she just outwitted me!' (Brock had been saying the line, "You don't have to be bigger than someone, just smarter to outwit them" since the previous day.)
I have to admit that I was at a loss as to what to do with Bella. She definitely had used her wits to get what she wanted, and I still can't believe that she did it. I mean, she could have asked me for two cups of milk right away, and although I might not have given them to her, at least we could have negotiated things or been on the same page about what she wanted. Instead, she played around like she didn't like the chocolate-mint, in order to score two cups of milk. See what I mean? She's got it- two sides to Bella. Sugar and Spice...and sometimes a whole lotta other stuff mixed in. I love it all, and I know she's gonna provide us all with lots more stories as she grows and gets more 'wits' about her. By the way, if anyone knows how or where kids learn the art of manipulation, I would love for you to leave me a comment- just so I can be prepared when Ava gets into this same "spice". =)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

'Army Recruitor'

I am officially giving myself the title of 'Army recruitor' and that means I have another Nitty.Gritty. opportunity/challenge for myself and whoever wants to join me here.
I didn't personally ask permission to post these pictures, but somehow I think that the families involved won't mind my stealing them and reposting them here. I guess I felt it would be more 'effective' or stop-you-in-your-tracks for a minute posting pictures, rather than links. I've got links too! and .
Many of you have followed the Kaat family and I am a bit behind in thanking you for supporting this family. I blogged about them a couple of times last month, and invited anyone that wanted to reach out to them at such a critical time in their life to do so in a tangible way. Well, in the second photo, you will see that they had an outpouring of support as little Devon (age 7) underwent surgery recently so that the doctors could harvest some of his bone marrow and then donate it to his 4-month old brother, Jaymun, in hopes of a life-saving procedure. Some of you can't imagine having to be in their shoes. I can't either, but I share some similar feelings as I recall memories of hours spent at my childrens' bedsides, and the reality that a loved one could be gone forever. It's beyond words at times.
I have been following another family as they blog their journey in life after recently having a cancer diagnosis in their own family. Through a scrap-friend and her new hubby (Carrie & Bradley Batt ... ) I have come to 'know' Julie and Brendan and their kids in a special way. Julie is battling cancer- and in an extreme way. She is undergoing treatments using experimental 'concoctions' and at high doses in hopes to wipe out the cancer in her system. Julie and her husband have three kids...their youngest just 6 months old, I believe.
How is this related to Christmas? I'm glad you asked. You see, each time I pull out my butter to soften on the counter, or my sugar to get ready to measure for a batch of cookies... or as I hit 'print' to print out another picture of my kids for my Christmas cards... or as I pull into a parking spot at the mall to do some shopping- at these moments and many inbetween, I can't help but think of these families. Then I shoot up a prayer for them and try for a moment to imagine that next Christmas they will be celebrating their best Christmas yet- with freinds and families that stood with them at this time.
I am asking any of you who believe in the power of prayer and are looking for opportunities to feel the 'true Spirit of Christmas' and then want to act on that feeling to embrace these families. I don't know that you will ever know in this lifetime what your prayers and thoughts and carepackages mean to them- but isn't that part of the very definition that I was trying to grasp a few posts ago?
I don't know the odds that these famlies face. I do know that they have hope in abundance, and that in my own experience, hope sometimes defies medical odds anyway. I don't understand why so many people seem to be struggling with cancer and grief and other pains in life right now. And the biggest hurt is seeing the season pass without concern to their pain. I wish everyone could push 'pause' at Christmastime- it seems as though everyone deserves some good memories this time of year.
But I know, all too well, that the season comes and the best way I have learned to 'endure' it, is to look for the silver linings and to find the beauty in the little things from day to day. That is my wish for these families. Cancer and Christmas don't belong in the same sentence. I hope that sending wishes and prayers and more 'care support' will be a small gesture of goodwill that will be a glimmer of light in their bleakest days. And may God be the source of their hope, joy and ultimate healing in life at this time. God bless the Kaats and the Lyons this Christmas and for many, many more to come.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

More cookies.

If Christmas cookies are any indication of the season, well then Christmas is in full-swing in our home. The kids are all very happy about that! These are the cookies we baked while everyone fussed and had meltdowns- most of that was done prior to the decorating. It's a chore to make all the kids feel like they are getting enough turns, or tastes of the dough, or the opportunity to stand on the chair and watch and help. That must be why I'm making so many cookies- just to feel like I'm being 'fair' to the kids individually. Funny though, they never clamour around me when it's time to clean up!

As for Nitty.Gritty.

I feel as though I'm neglecting my blog when I go a couple of days without posting. However, some of you are on my Christmas card list, and if you intend to get a card in the mail from me, it's going to cost you a post here and there this month. I'm working on balance and the true meaning of Christmas, and so far Nitty.Gritty. hasn't risen to the top of my priority list. I's a shocker to some of you, but that's the way it goes.

I'm still here and I'm still reading the comments, and I may even come back and leave the recipe for these Spritz cookies. So, feel free to let me know how your Christmas season is going, or even send me a recipe for your all-time favorite cookie. I just may have to whip up a batch or two!