Posts made in March, 2013

Get Your Crafty On: Easter Chocolate Bowls

Posted by on Mar 21, 2013 in Bug & Bear, Cooking | 0 comments

Get Your Crafty On: Easter Chocolate Bowls

Today, I amazed myself. I think I amazed my family too. I did something crafty with Bug and Bear and it turned out cute. It was also fun AND no tears were shed. It’s a first. It’s an Easter miracle.

I’ve been brutally honest here about my incompetence with crafts. It’s just not my thing, crafting. I purpose to do creative things with my kids because they love it, but I always choose non-traditional activities, and the finished product is never attractive enough to post pictures.

Recently my friend told me about the fun recipes, activities, and crafts that Imperial Sugar posts in the Kids Kitchen section on their website. I can only imagine that crafty mamas would love Kids Kitchen for all of the adorable kitchen craft ideas, but for the craft challenged, such as myself, it enabled me for the first time ever to wow my family with my craftiness when they did not believe it was possible. Feeling inspired looking through all of the recipes and ideas, I decided to attempt Easter Chocolate Bowls with Bug and Bear. We had so much fun, they were easy to make, and they turned out photo worthy.

All you need for this craft are chocolate chips and small balloons for the bowls, plus powdered sugar, an egg, and a lemon for Royal Icing. Since Bug and Bear are too young to help with melting chocolate chips and blowing up balloons, I gave them each a balloon to play with while I set everything up.

They probably could make a day of just playing with balloons – they LOVE balloons, which is part of what made this so much fun. Since Bug doesn’t like chocolate (?!) I melted white chocolate chips for her and regular chocolate chips for Bear in small bowls in the microwave. I was warned to be careful in this step because if the chocolate is too hot it will pop the balloon and launch melted chocolate all over your kitchen. I put each bowl in the microwave for one minute, stirred, then one more minute, and that was long enough to melt the chips without making the chocolate too hot. Then I spread waxed paper over the counters, blew up several balloons in different sizes, and let Bug and Bear get to work.

They loved the messy work of spreading softened butter over the balloons so that they can be easily removed from the chocolate shell when it’s time to pop them.

Even better was dipping them into the chocolate, and of course, taking a little lick.

Obviously we won’t be handing these out as gifts. They’ve been marked.

I found that a 12 ounce bag of chocolate chips covered about 3 small to medium balloons. Bug and Bear had great fun dipping their balloons in chocolate, but there were a few flaws in their work, so after they finished I spooned a little extra chocolate on the balloons and smoothed it out to make sure it was thick and evenly applied.

Once the balloons were all coated, I put them in the freezer and we made the Royal Icing. Bug helped sift the powdered sugar and Bear added the egg white and lemon juice.

After the chocolate covered balloons hardened in the freezer for about an hour, we took them out and decorated them with the Royal Icing that we made pink and blue with food coloring. It would be fun to pipe different designs onto the bowls, but since Bug and Bear are too little to do that, we rolled the Royal Icing into circles and lines like play-doh, then arranged it in different ways using our hands. They had great fun doing this. After we decorated, we put the bowls back in the freezer to harden again. Later I took them out, popped the balloons and carefully removed all pieces from inside the bowls, and then filled them with Easter treats as a surprise for Bug and Bear.

Then choruses of “You’re the best mommy!” and “This is the best Easter surprise chocolate bowl EVER!” resounded through the house. And for the first time in the history of my mothering career, I felt crafty.

This post was sponsored by Imperial Sugar. All opinions are my own. For more fun kid’s crafts, gift ideas, printables and coloring pages, click here to visit the Kids Kitchen on ImperialSugar.com.

Motherhood: The To-Do List

Posted by on Mar 16, 2013 in Bug & Bear | 0 comments

~Motherhood~

~ is when, at the end of a long day, you don’t want to play one more game of hide and seek, or chase, or tickle monster, or dress up, or spinning around and around in circles until your back might break, but you do it anyway because you do want your kids to feel loved, attended to, cherished.

~ is when, at the end of your emotional rope, you don’t have the energy for one more tantrum, or power struggle, or display of disrespect, or critique of your fabulous dinner, but you dig a little bit from deep down anyway because you do have your babies best interest at heart, their feelings are important to you, their hearts are so tender.

~ is when, in the wake of your worst mistakes, you don’t feel like facing yourself, or facing your children, or letting your heart be changed because it’s so very hard, but you do it anyway because you do feel your weight of responsibility to protect their spirits, to model good choices and behavior, to guard their well being in every way.

Motherhood. It is just so full of things to do. With virtually no way to gauge if you’re doing all there is to do well. A mother is a nurturer, teacher, disciplinarian, instructor, role model, playmate, question answerer, booboo kisser, helper, caretaker, housecleaner, cook, minor household repairwoman, major household repairwoman, stuffed animal surgeon, and the list goes on. That’s a lot of responsibilities, and this list doesn’t even touch on other relationships and obligations in her life, much less any time she may need to care for herself. It can be utterly overwhelming. The sheer volume of responsibilities and roles to perform can make a mother feel spread too thin and leave her with a sense of failing at the things she holds most dear.

The thing about motherhood, though, is that while there’s so very much to do, so very little of it is of all that much importance. Oh I know it seems like it’s all important, because if you don’t clean the house who will, and if its not clean then you’ve failed to provide a healthy home environment for your children, plus if the place looks terrible then your friends might judge when they come for play dates, and you might go a little crazy because the mess  – IT’S TOO MUCH. Breathe. It’s not important.

What is important in the job of motherhood is capturing and nurturing little hearts, discerning and calling out great destinies in little lives, building relationships with little people so that your influence is greater than the world’s. Because one day, those little babies so dependent on you are going to step out into the world in independence, and when they do, these are the things that matter. How clean your house was, how great your dinners were, even how perfectly you made them behave will not amount to much as they become their own people.

I have struggled with this idea and the relinquishing of control that it ultimately amounts to. That speech about calm down, it’s ok if you don’t clean your house this week, that was all for me. A couple years ago I started to notice that while juggling all of my responsibilities and all of my stress, I was failing at relationship. I was staying relatively successful at all of the peripherals like cooking, cleaning, rule enforcing, and routine, but I was too busy, too tired, too stressed to just be with my kids and really know them. I knew I was missing the whole point and I had to make a change.

I’ll confess that I don’t read much in the way of parenting books anymore because it took me so long to get out of my psychologically savvy head when I had my first child. Instead, when I face a parenting dilemma, I pray and ask God for an answer specific to my kids and our family. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with reading parenting books, I have personally just struggled with relying on head knowledge more than heart connection when it comes to raising my children. So in the wake of this realization that I was failing at relationship when I knew that relationship is all that really matters, I took my To Do list to God and asked Him to show me how to manage. I prayed through the overwhelming weight of responsibility and exhaustion that was crushing me, and this is how He reordered my list:

1. Clean the house on Monday each week, and only on Monday. I felt like I was caught in a never ending cycle of cleaning that never resulted in anything actually being clean. As insignificant as this sounds, it was stealing my time and energy from my girls, not to mention my sanity.  I’m not saying this is the right plan for everyone, just that when I asked He gave me the perfect solution for me that unloaded a ton of pressure. Now the girls and I clean the house together on Mondays, and whatever doesn’t get done waits until the following Monday. If you visit my house and it looks like a 2 and 4 year old cleaned it, well, now you know why.

2. Include the girls in my day to day activities. It seemed like in all of the busyness of taking care of my home and children there was no time for any of the things that keep me sane, like praying, running, and cooking. God showed me that there’s not much on my To Do list each day that my girls can’t do with me, and that involving them in all of my activities was a way to mentor them. They help clean the house on Monday, they’re involved in cooking dinner each night, they exercise with me, we pray together, and I even built in some time that we all quietly do our own thing. At times this is harder than doing my favorite things by myself, but most of the time we all enjoy doing these activities together and I see my girls’ confidence bloom when they realize they can be a part of things that grown ups do.

3. I only have two parenting objectives:

1. For my relationship with my kids to model what a relationship with God is like

2. For my parenting to cultivate God’s destiny in each of my children’s lives

Number 3 is what really turned my To Do list upside down. Gaining that understanding, that my job as a mother really just boils down to a To Do list of two things, revolutionized my mama world. It changed my focus and perspective and completely reordered my priorities. It’s a list of just two objectives, but they are abstract and non-specific, which is so perfect for me because it forces me to be dependent on God to reveal what this looks like from day to day.

According to this list, my most important task as a mother is to pray. Not cook or clean or control, but seek His guidance for each individual day and each individual child. For my relationship with my kids to model what a relationship with God is like, I have to have a relationship with God so that I know what it feels like to be parented by Him. For my parenting to cultivate God’s destiny in each of my children’s lives, I have to ask Him what that destiny is and what things are useful in guiding them towards it. Doing this leaves me feeling a lot less like I have to control or plan a certain way and a lot more inspired and excited to build relationships with my kids based on the unique insight and wisdom I’ve been given about them.

This entire process is wrapped in grace. I do this so imperfectly. I mess up a lot. I’m not following a To Do list published in a book or fabricated by an expert, I’m creating one that is unique to my family based on God’s expert leading and direction. I have to discern and listen and obey and sometimes my humanness gets in the way and I get it all wrong. As I take all of my mistakes and shortcomings back to God I am astounded by His great extension of grace to me, by His ability to bless my family in spite of my mistakes. This experience of grace in my worst moments as a mother did not just transform my To Do list, it changed my life. It showed me what grace and forgiveness look and feel like, and how I can extend grace to my kids in their humanness and shortcomings. If in the face of my worst parenting mistakes and failures God can stay in relationship with me, love me, give me grace and forgiveness, gently instruct me, teach me how to to it differently next time, and give me another chance, then I can know how to do the same for my children.

To Do List:

    1. Pray
    2. Obey
    3. Grace

Rising Again

Posted by on Mar 1, 2013 in Faith | 8 comments

Rising Again

“Good things happen to people who do good.”

I smiled outwardly but winced inwardly as the words rolled casually off her lips. The conversation had nothing to do with me and she was in no way speaking about me, but I felt the familiar sense of condemnation as it hit me again – people believe this. Christian people, it seems, more than any other people.

Because of my own experience, I had a very different perspective on her statement. I had done a lot of good and had a lot of bad things happen. I had wrestled with God on the question of “Why?” for so long that I finally had my own answer on the inside: Shit happens. It just does sometimes. We don’t always know exactly why. And we are often far less powerful to keep it at bay than we wish to imagine. Can God pull us out of the pile and make something good come from all that’s gone wrong, with His power at work in our lives can we overcome and come out better for it? Definitely. But that process is much messier than most people will tell you.

I felt at peace with all of that. But I still struggled with the opinions of others. With the seemingly endless advice about how I may have brought trouble on myself and family and how I could put an end to it if I just prayed right/did right/gave right/talked right/forgave right/etc/etc/etc., I sensed the judgement of others. With the realization that my church, where I had given a lot, served a  lot, and formed a lot of significant relationships for years, would rather distance itself from my family’s needs than get a little messy with us, I was feeling pretty sensitive to any sentiment suggesting the converse of “good things happen to people who do good,” which is “bad things happen to people who do bad.”

“For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again.” Proverbs 24:16

Make no mistake, the goodness in people is not measured by the volume of good things that happen to them. Surely we’ve all met wonderful people diagnosed with cancer, betrayed by a loved one, weathering a financial storm, experiencing devastating loss. I’m exhausted of a theology that says we can control our lives if we do certain things or behave a certain way. I’m worn out on all the lies that thinking produces – that if something bad happens we’ve done something bad, that if others are struggling they have failed to live righteously, that God’s ability to work in our lives has more to do with our works than His Grace. I do not believe that good things always happen to people who do good. I believe that God things always happen to people who seek God, and that God things sometimes look more like rising again in the wake of life’s inevitable falls and risks, better, stronger, braver, than it looks like never experiencing difficulty in the first place.

“To love is to risk not being loved in return. To hope is to risk pain. To try is to risk failure, but risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.” Leo Buscaglia

Over the past several years, my eyes have opened to an entire breed of people that at one time I did not know existed: Risk Takers. Courageous souls who are willing to take a stand for what they believe in, sacrifice their comfort to do something significant, speak with boldness in defense of those who can not speak for themselves, love passionately with abandon, and all of this with no regard for fear of failure, rejection, or criticism. I think that as a result of some of the rising again I’ve had to do after taking some painful falls, I’ve become more like these people, and for that I am grateful, for that I would not trade a moment of my own hardship. Here is what I’ve learned about these special people, these Risk Takers: Sometimes the people most passionate for God and others, the people most committed to doing good, no, great things, are the ones who take the biggest risks. From a selfless desire to serve and love comes passion, courage, surrender, willingness to lose everything. And sometimes people who take big risks experience great losses.

We have just got to stop heaping condemnation and unsolicited advice on people who are hurting. We must stop telling them what they did wrong and how they can do right better. We need to throw out the idea that we can know someone else’s heart based solely on what we see in their circumstances, and worse yet, that we can control our own circumstances by thinking we’re better than those people going through hard things. There really is no formula to explain why good or bad things happen, and by trying to apply one using our limited human understanding, we do grave injustice to the mystery of God and to the people around us.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt

 


© 2012-2017 Under Construction Paper All Rights Reserved