Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mocha Madness

Hello! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. Did you make your Christmas cards this year? I sooo did not.... BUT, I did just finish a set of ten Christmas-y Thank You cards that I love to pieces and will be sharing very soon! Meanwhile, I wanted to share yet another craft I enjoy... embroidery. I made this set of seven flour sack towels for a girlfriend for Christmas....

I forgot to take a picture of these before I sent them off to her, so she was kind enough to take a few photos for me to share here. Did I mention she has skillz in the photography department? She does! That picture up there looks so good I can't even believe I made those! lol. :)

I used about four different colors of DMC floss to match her kitchen. On the few sets of towels I've done in the past (and the one I'm working on right now), I've always been very eclectic with my towels. Each one was different. If they were all cats, there'd be all different colored cats, no central theme. I love the way the small color palette pulled all of these together though. Here are a few close-ups:

I used a chocolate brown for the coffee beans and did a satin stitch as well. I'm really pleased with the way the beans turned out.

If you enjoy embroidery and like this set, it's by Aunt Martha's Iron On Transfers, and it's called Mocha Madness, as the title of this post suggests.

Stay tuned for another post in the next day or two of those thank you cards I made. You won't be disappointed! I have them sitting here in their clear envies waiting to be mailed, and I just want to sit and stare at them. lol! I think I should start stamping more so the novelty of the finished work wears off a bit. ha ha. :)

God Bless,

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dragonfly Challenge I : Letters From The Heart

And what, you ask, is a Dragonfly Challenge? Well, it's simple. It's a challenge that I plan to be issuing periodically here on the Scrampin' Mama blog (monthly or bimonthly, depending) that is meant to encourage you to do something nice for someone else. Something unexpected. Something that will make their day. Each challenge will be different. I'm going to do my best to keep the challenges as user-friendly as possible, meaning that stampers and non-stampers alike should be able to complete them. You needn't be a crafter to pull these off! I will try to add ideas for ways my stamping friends could use their talents to enhance their results, but knowing those stampers well I'm guessing they could figure that part out all on their own!

Why a dragonfly? Because that has become a symbol for my family to remind us that Henry is still with us, always watching over us. There is a poem called the "Legend of the Dragonfly" that talks about what happens to the dragonfly as it morphs from grub into a beautiful creature. The poem ends by saying (and I am paraphrasing here) that just because we cannot see our loved ones is no proof that they cease to exist. That warms my heart. I have wanted to do something in Henry's name for some time. I had talked about a card ministry in previous posts, and have had other ideas as well, but this is the one that stuck. I hope you'll join me, and encourage your friends to do so as well.

What's in it for you? Boat loads of warm fuzzies. *wink*

Our first challenge is "Letters From The Heart" as the title of this post indicates. I challenge you to take time this month to hand write a letter to someone you care about or are grateful for and let them know it. So often we think wonderful things about people but don't take the time to tell them exactly how we are feeling. I challenge you to make time. Life, my friends, is fragile. You don't know how long you've got, so make the most of the time you have.

I'm guessing you are already thinking about a person to write your letter to, but in case you're drawing a blank, here are some ideas:

  • Your Significant Other, Parent, Grandparent, or Sibling
  • A friend or neighbor
  • A member of the clergy
  • A current or former teacher
  • A serviceman (or woman) or veteran
  • A caretaker for you or a family member
Remember, this is a hand-written letter, not an e-mail! If you are a stamper and would like to take it one step further, you could create your own decorative paper by stamping a border on the page, or stamp a card to send the letter with.

Additionally, I challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone with this one. If you're like me, you've probably thought of a handful of different people you could send something to. Maybe one of those people on the list you're kind of mentally scratching off because exposing your heart to them isn't something you normally do, or you feel embarassed doing so. I encourage you to try to find it in your heart to write *that* letter, because often those are the people who need it the most. I'll be happy with any kind of participation though, so I'm not going to be a stickler on this point. ;~)
Please comment and let me know if you are participating. I'd love for these challenges to grow each time, so I'd really like to see who's in. And spread the word, please! Tell your friends, share it on facebook, challenge your family to do the same! Remember that old saying... A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Top Ten Christmas Movies

As the holidays approach, I feel compelled to share a list of the best Christmas movies of all time. By whose standards, you ask? Well, mine of course. I haven't done any research into which movies have gotten the best reviews or were the most widely broadcast or sold the most copies. All I can tell you is that I have watched every one of these movies oodles of times, and they are part of a great tapestry of traditions that will always make Christmas special for me. Some are popular, some are not. Some you probably didn't even know existed. All are worth watching at least once in your life. Maybe even twice.

Here they are, in no particular order:

The Christmas Gift

The Christmas Gift is a made-for-tv movie that was released during my childhood. My mom has always tried to catch as many of those tv Christmas movies as possible, and this one always stuck with me. The story revolves around a man (John Denver) and his daughter - his wife had recently died. He uproots what is left of the family and relocates them to the cutest little town. Man, how I longed to move to that town. Everyone knows everyone, there are sleigh rides down Main St., the whole town participates in the Christmas pageant. So quaint! I remember thinking that little girl (who happened to me my age) was soooo cool. I wanted to be just like her. :) You may also recognize the woman in the photo above. That's Jane Kazcmarek in one of her earliest roles. She plays Susan, the postmaster. Such a sweet movie.... and still getting aired on Lifetime as recently as last Christmas! I have easily watched this movie at least 200 times (no, that is not a typo - I had it recorded. Play, rewind, play, rewind, play rewind. Well, you get the picture. Check it out!

The Christmas Wish

Despite the fact that it has been around since 1998 or so, I just found The Christmas Wish last year. What drew me to it? Two words: Debbie Reynolds. She plays Neil Patrick Harris' grandma in a little story about finding out what's important in life. I've seen this one twice - both on tv last season. I'll definitely be looking for it again this year. You know, because it has some catching up to do with some of these other flicks.

Meet Me In St. Louis

Alright. I really don't consider this a true Christmas movie. BUT... there is snow. And there is a Christmas tree. And there is quite possibly one of the most idyllic Christmas songs of all time. You cannot watch Esther sing Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas to Tootie without getting a little nostolgic. It's just not possible. And for that, it makes my short list.

White Christmas

Folks, remember how I said that these were listed in no particular order? Well, it's true. Because if they were, this would be at the top of the list. White Christmas is my favorite Christmas movie. Perhaps even my favorite movie period. I have literally watched this hundreds of times. We could possibly be in the thousands by now. I have the entire script memorized, and I'm not even making that up. I spent hours upon hours watching this as a child. Play, rewind. Play, rewind. Play, rewind. Alllll weekend long. Every weekend. All year long. Until one day I rewound it and went to hit play and my grandpa, God love him, said, "If you put that G.D. movie in ONE MORE TIME I'm going to rip it out with my bare hands and destroy it!!!"

I cried.

Grandma laughed so hard she nearly peed.

As always, Grandpa won, and White Christmas went on hiatus for awhile, which in hindsight was ok because it gave me a chance to put some of these other ones on heavy repeat.

This photo cracks me up, because that little ballerina you see hides at the base of the Christmas tree while they sing their song, and then she stands up and starts dancing. For the longest time, I had no idea where she came from. I thought they dubbed her in. I had to rewind it and play it in slow motion to see that she was there at the bottom of the tree all along. D'oh.

Best Line: "When what's left of you gets around to what's left to be gotten what's left to be gotten won't be worth getting whatever it is you've got left!"

I actually pulled this one out today and popped it in. Jack (who, for the record is named after my aforementioned grandfather) started saying, "No! NO! NO!" as soon as it started.


Rest in peace, Grandpa. I took it out.

For now.

When I was a child, the only thing my mother watched more than Christmas movies was All My Children. I probably saw wayyy too much far before I should have, but that's kind of how it was back then. I don't think parents worried as much about what may or may not impact their child. Whatev. I turned out ok.... and have a strong appreciation for Susan Lucci. Love her! I remember the year she finally won her daytime emmy. I was in tears and woke my mother up who came running in to watch the acceptance speech. Ahh, the memories. Anyhow, as you can imagine, we grabbed any chance to see our diva on tv, and back then there really weren't many. Ebbie entered our lives and fast became a favorite. If you haven't seen it, it's really worth checking out. Kind of a modern day version of Ebenezer Scrooge. Cute, cute, cute.
Holiday Inn
If White Christmas is number one, Holiday Inn would be number two. They would be tied for first if this wasn't a black and white movie. I'm not a fan of black and white. Give me technicolor. Give me sparkles. But, hundreds of shades of gray aside, this one is a keeper. When Grandpa made me take out White Christmas, Holiday Inn promptly took its place. Play, rewind. Play, rewind. I knew it by heart. I wanted to be this Linda Carter character you see in this picture. I wanted to meet Bing Crosby. Until I found out he was mean to his kids in real life, but that's a very different, distinctly non-Christmasy post. I love the songs. I love the love triangle. I love the crazy guy in the hallway with the accent and the attitude: "How can I tell you which way is Connect-i-cut?!" I love the dress Linda wears for the Valentine's Day number. And as un-PC as it is, I love the black face number, too. So good!
Christmas Snow
Christmas Snow came out while Who's The Boss was popular. I'd lay money on the fact that I watched it simply because Mona (Kathryn Helmond) was in it. I don't have a recording of this, and havent' seen it in the December tv listings for some time, though I search for it every year. I love it though... and love it even more now that I just realized that little girl is Melissa Joan Hart. Who knew?! She (her character) was afraid of Amelia Bedelia. Hee hee. I don't remember much about the plot, but I can tell you that if you find it you won't be disappointed!

A Smoky Mountain Christmas

Oh, Dolly... How I love thee. I could seriously listen to her talk for hours. Weeks. YEARS. And Lee Majors? Hello. As Phoebe Buffet would say, "Lee Majors is hot." You know, in that scruffy old guy kind of way. Not unlike Tom Selleck, but I digress.
Anyhow, yeah.

Shake it off, Sarah.
Super sweet movie with orphans and cabins and spells and a mean witchy women on a horse. What more could you ask for?

Santa Claus: The Movie

I wonder who decided to cast the shortest actor on the planet as an elf? Genius!!
Poor Patch... he tries so hard to do what's right, but he gets caught up with a bad bunch of misers and it all turns south. Isn't that always the way though?
I credit this movie with putting the color peuce on the map. What is peuce? Watch the movie and find out!
And last, but certainly not least....
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

First of all, let me say that this is the best scene in the entire movie. Squirrel in the Christmas tree? Classic. Because that could really happen. Seriously! Probably wouldn't be quite as funny in my living room, but still...
And who doesn't love the Griswold's? Or, for that matter, Chevy Chase? I seriously wracked my brain to try to figure out if there was enough Christmas-y material in his movie Funny Farm to warrant adding it to my list (sadly, no, but still an excellent movie.... lamb fries?! Hello!).

There you have it, friends. Your holiday television/dvd to do list.
And no, A Christmas Story did not make my list. Maybe because it is the worst Christmas movie ever created. Because it really, really is. I know people love it, but I just don't get it. It's ok though - I'm sure some of you are looking at this list wondering what I've been smoking, too. And I'm ok with that, because I love my movies and my traditions, and wouldn't trade them for the world.... or a floor lamp wearing fishnet stockings.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

To Write Love On Her Arms

For those who don't know, TWLOHA is a kind of grassroots movement that has been gaining ground in recent years. I've never participated before, but there is no time like the present, so I thought I'd share here as I am also trying to be a better blogger, believe it or not.

If you check out the TWLOHA website, you will learn that this non-profit movement is dedicated to people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. It exists to "encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery."

Thankfully, I have not yet had to struggle through these things myself, but like many (all?) of us, I have a friend or two who have been there and my heart broke for them. Today I am writing on my arms (well, one arm, because let's face it... writing with my left hand on my right arm would soooo not work out. I am many things, but ambidextrous is not one of them.) in honor of one friend in particular.

She is a beautiful person, and is like a sister to me. She is one of the few people in this world that I can absolutely and totally be myself with. She is one of the first people I call when my life is falling to crap, and one of the greatest inspirations in my life. Her life has not always been easy, but she has always found a way. There has been grief, and depression, and the tell tale raised skin on the inside of her wrist that will always represent the pain of her past and the healing process that will take her into her future. She is still here with us though - still finding a way in this big world, and still in the process of fully believing that she was fearfully and beautifully made by God and is not only an intricate part of his plan, but is loved by hundreds and has touched lives with every step of her journey. We would be lost without her, and thank GOD for placing her in our circle.

Ich Liebe Dich, Jemima Puddleduck.

P.S. If you saw this in reader, and are seeing two posts. No comment. *blush* It was late, and there was a very important typo that needed to be corrected! Oye. Let this be a lesson to me - I should not blog OR write on my arm at 12:30 am after a few glasses of wine.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

There Is No Power In Intention

A few weeks ago, a friend recommended that I read the book The Noticer, by Andy Andrews. I had never heard of the author or the book, but did a quick google search and was intrigued by the description so I put it on hold at the library. I'm now three quarters of the way through it, and have found something that spoke to me enough to have me thinking about it for three whole days, so I thought I'd blog about it, too.

The book basically centers around an old man named Jones, and the interactions he has with different people in the community. Jones is a "noticer," meaning he notices things that others don't. He helps them see things from a new perspective. In one of these interactions, he is speaking to a man about how to change his life for the better. He asks, "Five seagulls are sitting on a dock. One of them decides to fly away. How many seagulls are left?"

Go ahead, answer the question...

The man said four. I thought four as I was reading it, and chances are you did, too. Turns out we're all wrong.

"No," Jones responded. "There are still five. Deciding to fly away and actually flying away are two very different things."

Think about that for a minute. How many times in life have we commited to something, whether in our minds or verbally, but never followed through?

I intend to eat better and exercise more so I can reach my goal weight.
I intend to take the time to learn to speak German, the language of my ancestors.
I intend to focus on my faith and be a better Christian role model for my friends and family.
I intend to explore the possibility of becoming an author to tell our story in hopes of helping another family avoid the tragedy of undiagnosed disease.

These are just a few of the intentions that have crossed my mind in the past year (in no particular order). The author goes on to state that there is "no difference between the person who intends to do things differently and the one who never thinks about it in the first place."

That's a powerful statement. We all want to do good and be good. We think about the things we can do to help ourselves and our family. We think about reaching out to people in need. We intend to be the best person we can possibly be... but how often do we follow through? It's so easy for life to get in the way and when it does, so many of those intentions fall by the wayside.

I was going to, but I just ran out of time.

It makes my head hurt to think about all of the intentions I've had over the years that fell to the side to make room for other things - some of which were never intended and certainly not productive or beneficial to myself anyone around me.

And as if that's not enough to think about, the author concludes the paragraph by saying, "Have you ever considered how often we judge ourselves by our intentions while we judge others by their actions?"

Think about that for a minute.

I don't know about you, but I've been guilty of this. I'll see someone, for example, who is over weight eating something that is obviously not good for them, and sometimes will feel pity. Look at that! No wonder she looks that way! Or disgust... Why is she doing that to herself? How dumb do you have to be to choose a box of ho-ho's instead of a healthy meal?

And then I take my break at work and grab a diet soda and two donuts on my way upstairs.


No, no, no, it's ok for me to do that, because, see, I usually watch what I'm eating, and I intend on getting to my goal weight! I joined the gym, and intend to work out three times a week! I've already gone twice in the three weeks I've been a member! It's ok, really!

Umm, NOT.

This of course is a bit of an exaggerated scenario, but you get what I'm saying. Going forward, I intend to follow through more. Perhaps not try to fill my plate so full of intentions, so that more of them can actually stick and come to fruition. Focus on the things that are important, and clear away the clutter of things that truly don't matter.

Thanks for the new perspective, Jones.


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Monday, November 1, 2010

November Mourning

One year ago today, my little boy was laying on the couch nursing a virus. Little did we know that in eight short hours he would, for all intents and purposes, be gone. I took him to the hospital that Sunday night, and I was there when he started to slip out of consciousness. I remember thinking he was just tired, and was having trouble staying awake. I thought the illness may have been making him delusional, so I asked him a few questions....

"Who am I?"


"What is your brothers name?"

"Zack." (he always had troubles with the J part of Jack)

"Ok baby, close your eyes and get some sleep. I love you."

And that was it. He closed his eyes, and although several doctors at two different hospitals tried for hours to bring him back, he never opened those beautiful bright blue eyes again. We finally succumbed to the truth around noon the following day, and unplugged all of the machines that were keeping him alive.

The photo above was taken post mortem by the hospital photographer at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. He did about five different shots of us holding Henry's hands and feet, kissing his forehead, and of Henry holding a few favorite toys. I had them all framed for my mom, and the frame hangs in Henry's bedroom at her house. A few weeks ago Jack pointed to the photos and said, "Baby Jesus?" I think he thought the photos were of baby Jesus, but maybe his innocent eyes could literally see Jesus in the pictures, holding us close while we tried to pick up the pieces of our life and leave that room, knowing we'd be going home with an empty car seat that would never again be filled with the same bright and beautiful spirited little boy. It has been a year, and I still have a hard time comprehending the weight of it all.

The last year has been a blur. Time moved quickly, and for that I am grateful. There are still days that I have to force myself out of bed in the morning, but I do, because there is still a little bundle of energy here on earth who needs me, and I owe it to him to be the best mama I can be. I am determined to give him a good life, despite the emptiness I feel inside. Of course my heart is full of love for Jack - how could it not be. The problem is that ever since Henry's death, I feel as if my heart is missing. I feel as if there is a hole in side of me that never closes. If you think about the old Wile E. Coyote cartoons, there was an episode where the Road Runner shot a canon at him, and the cannon ball went right through him, leaving a big open circle where his chest used to be. He didn't die, or even fall down. He tilted his head down and peered through the hole, and then just continued on with his business. That's exactly how I feel - literally as though a significant part of me was blown away a year ago and yet I don't die. I just keep walking around. It's really quite surreal.

There have been a lot of changes in the last year. Death is an interesting thing, in that it takes your world and, like a snow globe, turns it upside down and shakes the daylights out of it, so that all of the little bits around you are upturned and float down in a different order. There are hobbies that I used to define myself by that in the last year I have had absolutely no interest in. I figure they settled on the bottom of the snow pile when all of the little snow-like pieces of my life started dropping down around me again. They used to be on top - important - and now they are so far down I don't even realize they are still there. New things have settled on top. Running, patience, cooking & baking, fitness, and healthy living.

I have never been a runner. Not even as a child. When all of my friends were running in the park or in the yard, I was in the sandbox. If people were playing a game that involved running, I politely excused myself. I didn't run. Ever. For reasons that I really can not even explain to this day, I decided to start training for a 5K in May. I ran my first 5K the last weekend of July, and my second in August. I now have my sights set on a 5 mile Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day, another 5K through the snow in December, and a duathlon in 2011.

Why? Well, the best I can tell you is because Henry can't. There are so many things in life that he didn't get to experience. How could I in good conscience sit on the couch and let all of them slip by when I'm capable of enjoying them? It just doesn't make sense. How easy it would be for me to curl up into a ball and throw my hands up in surrender to all of this! You would be shocked if you could fully comprehend what a fine line I walk between sanity and surrender. But every day I crawl out of bed and pray to God for the strength I need to get through that day. One day at a time (as a very wise woman once said). When all of my emotions start crashing down around me, I close my eyes and pray to God, asking him to lift this (insert thought/feeling/guilt/etc. here) from my heart and help me to survive. Thankfully, He does. Every. Single. Time.

There are days when I have to say that same prayer a hundred times, and some when it's only needed once or twice, but without fail I can feel God's presence and power in my life, and for that I am grateful. I can actually remember one of my first thoughts when we found out that we could not save Henry. I thought, thank GOD that I was raised in faith because I don't know I how I would live through this without Jesus. I was reminded of that again a few days ago when I was reading a book about a boy who was in a terrible car accident and the mother presumed he was dead. Her first thought as she got in the car and headed for their Children's Hospital was something to the effect of... he is Yours Lord, and if You need him You can take him, but You have to give me the strength to get through it if You do.

Amen, sister.

Since Henry's death, there are some things that I can not do. I can not re-visit that weekend. I can not focus on all of the mistakes that were made by our doctors, nor the things that were overlooked through his short life. I can not look at medical records, or bills from those days, stand in the presence of a med flight team in uniform, or get too close to the local hospital that we lost him at. When I do, I feel as though the sides of that hole I described above lose their strength and my whole body starts to cave in on itself. Ironically, these are all the things (with the exception of getting too close to the hospital) that my husband's healing process has thrived on. I have always said that we walk separate grief paths, but hold hands across the middle on our journey. His process is just that - his process. I can't go there. I can't even come close. He occasionally will try to talk to me about something and all I can bring myself to do is raise my hand as if to say, "stop" and shake my head from side. The other day, I was reading some quotes and poems, looking for something to use in our local paper to for a memorial and I found this on one woman's website. I could have easily written most of this myself, and hope it will help give you a better idea of where I am and where I'm going (I deleted a few sentences that didn't apply to me):

Life is a Simple Walk in the Woods-

I was always told that the 'first year' would be the hardest. I set my sights on surviving through the first anniversary of Ross' death, telling myself that it would all be downhill from there. If I could just keep going long enough to scale that summit!

I was also told that my husband and I would not walk the same path. We started out fine, trudging through the woods, holding hands, telling ourselves that we've been through sixteen years together, we'd be just fine. His path slowly led away from me, but seemed to run parallel for a time - I'd catch a glimpse of him in the woods every once-in-a-while. All of a sudden, his path would cross mine. I'd reach the top of a steep hill and he'd be standing there in my way! More than once, I've had to shove him into the weeds so that I could continue on my journey.

Well, then came that fateful First Anniversary. I scaled that mountain! I sat on the very top of that enormous peak, congratulating myself on a job well-done. My husband was nowhere to be seen, I sat there all alone with my pile of Mickey Mouse clothes, little metal cars, well-meaning friends. I had done it! It was incredibly hard work, insurmountable at times, but here I was - still alive, without my child!

Without my child! I felt my heart grow cold as I surveyed the path ahead - the rest of my life. The terrain was just as treacherous as the past twelve months!

I sat on that peak for quite sometime. I hugged all my son's treasures that I carried with me, his precious memory warmed my cold, cold heart, and I searched for any other movement in the valley below. In the distance, I could see other peaks along my path, some maybe as tall as where I sat. I also began to see tiny clearings where the sun was shining. As my tears slowed, I became aware of other paths winding through the landscape - hundreds of them - each belonging to a different parent. I carefully packed my treasures in my heart, neatly so that none would break, and started running down the hill, headlong into the second year of forever.

Peg Rousar-Thompson
In memory of Ross...

Another thing I want to address here is for all of you who think about Henry and then wonder whether or not you should tell me. Please, please, do. It may bring back memories that come with tears, but don't let that stop you. Don't be afraid that you might hurt me. It sounds bad, but I hurt either way. It warms my heart to know that others are thinking of him or dreaming of him or writing stories about him or lighting candles for him. It may bring tears, but please know that the good far outweighs the bad in those situations and keep sharing.

The question I am asked most often (besides, "how are you doing?" of course) is whether or not we are planning on having more children. I thought I'd mention that here, too, because I'm guessing that those of you who haven't asked wonder from time to time as well. All I can tell you is that we are open to the plans God has for us. I'm not pregnant, but we're not doing anything to prevent it either (is that tmi?). We are also not entirely closed off to the idea of adopting or fostering if a situation presents itself. And, having said all of that, we are also open to the idea of living out the rest of our years as Mum and Pa to no more than the two sweet boys we've already been blessed with. There is a possibility that if we had another boy, he too would have agammaglobulenemia like Jack and Henry (or a girl could be a carrier), but we are prepared for that as well.

A few paragraphs back I noted all of the things I cannot do. I'd like to close with all of the things I CAN do and end on a positive note.

I can remember Henry with love and laughter.
I can keep the promise that I made to him at his funeral, and laugh some every single day.
I can be the best mama my boys could ever ask for.
I can go on living despite the greatest loss a parent could know.
I can use my intimate knowledge of grief to help others deal with their own bereavement process.
I can do anything I set my mind to, because I truly am surrounded by angels every step of the way, one of which has some of the most beautiful bright blue eyes you'll ever see.

Love to all who've supported us this past year. You will never fully comprehend the impact you've had on our lives, and we are eternally grateful that God has blessed us with each and every one of you.

In Him,

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Harvest Pumpkin Ghosties

Holy hotcakes, Batman! I can't believe it has been three months since I've blogged over here. I'd like to be able to tell you it's because I've been so busy blogging on my family blog, but sadly that just wouldn't be true (although that one has seen a little more action than this one has). I really do intend to blog more... it's just a question of when. I find myself thinking of things during the week that I could blog about, but then I think who really cares about that? Maybe y'all would enjoy reading my ramblings. Who knows. Maybe one day I'll follow through on all those thoughts. But for now, I bake. Here is my latest adventure:

Ooooo.... Aaaahhhh....

Go ahead, drool a little. You know you want to.

I found these super adorable ghost tins at Target this week, and HAD to buy them. It's similar to the feeling you get when you walk past a bag of M&M's (or cute shoes! or jeans that fit!) on sale. You don't NEED them, but yet you cannot help yourself from buying them. We have an infusion this week, and I had been wanting to make a treat to take in for our nurses, so I quickly brainstormed some options for these guys. Brownies? Cupcakes? I opted for brownies. I searched my beloved, and found a recipe for Harvest Pumpkin Brownies that come complete with white frosting (how very ghostly!). It was a match made in halloween heaven.

Here's the recipe I used:

1 can (15 oz.) solid pack pumpkin
4 eggs
3/4 c. vegetable oil
2 T. Vanilla Extract
2 c. Flour
2 c. Sugar
1 T. Pumpkin Pie Spice
2 t. Ground Cinnamon
2 t. Baking Powder
1 t. Baking Soda
1/2 t. Salt

6 T. Butter, softened
1 (3 oz.) pkg. Cream Cheese, softened
1 t. Vanilla Extract
1 t. Milk
1/8 t. Salt
1 1/2 c. Powdered Sugar

In a mixing bow, beat pumpkin, eggs, oil and vanilla until well mixed.

Combine dry ingredients; stir into pumkin mixture and mix well. Pour into 24 ghost cups, or 24 cupcake liners, or a greased 15x10x1 inch baking pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in one comes out clean. I baked mine for about 30 minutes, just because my cups seemed a little fuller than they should have been. Cool before frosting.

In a small bowl, beat the butter, cream cheese, vanilla, milk, and salt until smooth. Add powdered sugar; mix well. Frost, and store in the fridge.

Here we have my puffy ghosts (I really thought they'd be flatter and more brownie like, but no such luck) awaiting frosting....

My thought was that as flatter brownies, they would be well below the edge of the tin even after frosting and I could stick each one in a cello bag and tie with a cute little halloween ribbon. These puffed up quite a bit though, so I get no points for presentation this time. My first ghost was decorated with black gel and sugar flakes as seen below, but it quickly became apparent that neither was a good idea. The frosting dried too quickly for the flakes to stick well, and the gel was already starting to run. Boo. (No pun intended).
SO, hubby got to sample the flake-y gel-y ghost, and all the others just got chocolate chips for eyes. I should have had mini-chips, but hey... I'm not perfect. Any other night I would have run to the store to get some, but since we've been experiencing the equivalent of category 3 hurricane winds for the past two days, I decided to stay home snug in my Smurfette jammie pants and go with the bigger chips. I'm sure they won't be denied!

As always, let me know if you try them!

OH, and believe it or not, I actually stamped this month! I made two sympathy cards about two weeks ago, and GET THIS.... totally forgot to take pictures before sealing them. Arrgghhhh. I'm out of the blogging habit, I guess!


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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My I Love You

My I Love You
by Maryann Cusimano Love
I am your parent; you are my child.
I am your quiet place; you are my wild.
I am your calm face; you are my giggle.
I am your wait; you are my wiggle.
I am your carriage ride; you are my king.
I am your push; you are my swing.
I am your audience; you are my clown.
I am your London Bridge; you are my falling down.
I am your carrot sticks; you are my licorice.
I am your dandelion; you are my first wish.
I am your water wings; you are my deep.
I am your open arms; you are my running leap.
I am your way home; you are my new path.
I am your dry towel; you are my wet bath.
I am your dinner; you are my chocolate cake.
I am your bedtime; you are my wide awake.
I am your finish line; you are my race.
I am your praying hands; you are my saying grace.
I am your favorite book; you are my new lines.
I am your night-light; you are my starshine.
I am your lullaby; you are my peekaboo.
I am your good-night kiss; you are my I love you.


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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Walk For Hope

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

Here are a few photos of the 2010 (first annual!) Walk For Hope that we participated in this weekend, in memory of Henry. It was a great event organized and sponsored by a family who lost their little girl. Being the first year, there were some organizational glitches, but it just made us want to help more in the future to make this event a great success.

Enjoy the pics, and thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers for our family.



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Thursday, July 29, 2010


I just thought I'd take a minute to blog over here since it has been awhile. I've posted a few recipes on my craft blog in the past few weeks, so if you haven't been keeping up over there be sure to take a peek! I have oodles of recipes that I've clipped from different magazines and publications and enjoy trying new ones. We've been having a bake sale at church every weekend as part of our city's farmer's market, so that has been keeping me busy in the kitchen... and it's a good thing, because I typically just try one piece and then send the rest off before I'm tempted to eat more!

Life has been crazy busy lately, but if you ask me exactly what it is that's keeping us busy I couldn't pinpoint anything major. Just the day to day stuff, and keeping up with Jack (whom you see giving you his best, most beautiful smile above! This is a typical scene - smiles and as many toys as we can carry at one time. :) ). Our little boy is quite the handful, and so different from his big brother. Always on the go! Of course we all still miss Henry and think of him daily. My desktop image is a favorite photo of him, and I have a snapshot next to the light on my night stand. I say good morning and good night to him every day, and remind him that I love him. He had three favorite bedtime stories, and I tell one or all of them to Jack every night because I think Henry can hear me, too. Sometimes I sit at the cemetary and tell them to his grave - I have them memorized, you know. I know all about what happens if you give a moose a muffin. And I also can tell you exactly how that duck got stuck in the muck down by the "beep bween mawsh" (i.e. deep green marsh), as Henry used to say. Not to mention how to use your nose to find things to smell (your beak or your snuffle can work just as well)! I can't get past the feeling that this - life - is not how it was meant to be, despite my core belief that everything is a part of His master plan. It's quite the paradox of emotions. *sigh*

Darrin and I have worked hard to keep Henry alive in Jack's memory. We show him photos and videos regularly, and Henry is often a part of daily conversation. You like Spiderman? Your brother loved Spiderman! That's something you have in common! Jack will look at the photos on our buffet and point to his brother and say, "N-er!", which is his take on "Henry". :) If you ask Jack what his name is, he will say, "Bee!"... a nick-name Henry gave him when he was born. Then we say, "Or?" and he says, "Zack!" (i.e. Jack). If we ask him where his brother is, he will simply point up to Heaven. It warms and breaks my heart, all at the same time.

We are still in the process of choosing a headstone for Henry. And by "we", I pretty much mean me. I have thought long and hard about this, and Darrin and I have discussed all of the options I like (which thankfully he likes, too), but I still cannot commit to one. I tell myself that it's because I want to make sure it's perfect. I look at it like a tattoo. Once you get it, you have it forever (note: it was about eight years between idea and commitment on my tattoo. I like to think things through.). But I wonder if maybe my delay is because that one final act will make everything official... you know, as if it's not already. We are leaning towards a beautiful memorial marker that is a mirage of photos of our boy, but I occasionally go back to the thought of a simple marker that is unassuming and reserved. Because if my boy were given the chance to grow to manhood, I believe that is how he would have been. He would have been humble and sweet and reserved. I could tell all of that in the short time we had him. Maybe a mother just knows? He was so much like his great-grandfather (his namesake). Such an old soul. And maybe that was a gift from God... allowing us to look into those eyes and see so much more than this three years. I don't know, but I like to think so.

I still don't understand why all of this happened, and I'm doubtful that I ever will. But I continue to push forward - probably with more gusto than ever, because I feel him with me, encouraging me, driving me, forcing me to be the mum that he saw rather than the one I really was. Because our children do not see what we see. They see all the good. They see someone who makes the sun rise and set, and they think she is almost mythical. If I can live up to a fraction of the worth he saw in me, that Jack sees in me, I'll consider myself a success.

Until next time,


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Peanut Butter Banana Bread

Here's another yummy new recipe I tried this week (last night... at midnight... to be exact)! I just tried a small piece for breakfast, and it is DELISH! It's a nice dense bread like my grandma makes, but with the added goodness of a peanut butter crumble and a ribbon of chocolate.

Peanut Butter + Banana + Chocolate = LOVE!

1/2 c. Flour
1/2 c. Brown Sugar, packed
1/4 c. Creamy Peanut Butter
1/2 t. Ground Cinnamon

In a small bowl, stir all topping ingredients until crumbly; set aside.

1/2 c. Butter, softened
1 pkg. (8 oz.) Cream Cheese, softened
1 1/4 c. Sugar
2 Eggs
1 c. Ripe Banana, mashed
1 t. Vanilla Extract
2 1/4 c. Flour
1 1/2 t. Baking Powder
1/2 t. Baking Soda
1 t. Ground Cinnamon
1 1/2 c. Semisweet Chocolate Chips

In a large bowl, cream the butter, cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in bananas and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon; stir into creamed mixture until just moistened.

Divide half of the batter between two greased 8x4" loaf pans; sprinkle with half of the topping. Top with chocolate chips. Repeat layers of batter and topping.

Bake at 350 for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

I entered the recipe in SparkPeople's Recipe Calculator, and although I'm not convinced that site is an exact science by any means, it gives a good estimate of nutritional value. I entered 24 servings for this recipe (12 slices in each of two loaves) and it came up with 236 cal per serving. OUCH! So, if you're watching calories, do what I do.... make two loaves, take one to church, and farm out the other one to family and friends so you're only tempted to eat one piece. ;) I *think* this link will give you the full nutritional rundown, but I'm not entirely sure how long it will work.

As always, let me know if you try it, and thank you for continuing to follow my blog despite my shortage of paper crafts. I haven't sold anything.... I'm pretty sure I'll get back to it eventually, I'm just not at that place yet.


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Friday, July 16, 2010

Spicygingersnap Bars

My church is having a weekly bake sale in conjunction with our local Farmer's Market, so I've decided to help out and make a treat. I had this recipe stashed in my box of clipped recipes*, and since I had everything on hand I thought I'd give it a whirl. The recipe is called "Soft Spice Bars," but the description (from a Taste of Home magazine) noted how they tasted so much like old fashioned gingersnap cookies. After they were done and cooled, hubby and I each tried one. I asked him if he thought I should label them Soft Spice Bars or Gingersnap Bars. He suggested Spicy Gingersnap Bars. Of course, all of my SCS friends will know why that made me smile... For the rest of you, you'll just have to wonder. ;) Or ask. Whichever.

Spicy Gingersnap Bars
3/4 c. Butter
1 c. Sugar + 2 T., divided
1/4 c. Molasses
1 egg
2 c. All-Purpose Flour
2 t. Baking Soda
1 t. Ground Cinnamon
1/2 t. Ground Cloves
1/2 t. Ground Ginger
1/2 t. Salt

In a mixing bowl, combine butter, 1 cup of sugar and molasses. Beat in egg until smooth. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and salt; stir into the molasses mixture. Spread into a greased 15x10x1 (jelly roll) pan. Sprinkle with remaining sugar**. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Do not overbake. Cool on a wire rack before cutting. Yield: 2 1/2 dozen.

They were so easy to make, and they were done in no time. This is my favorite bake sale recipe to date. So easy to whip up in a hurry. As always, let me know if you try them!


* Do you have a system for organizing recipes? Mine is this: I clip recipes I like, and store the clippings in a Sterlite (plastic) container that is meant to hold 3x5 index cards. I made dividers and have them somewhat grouped into categories (cakes, side dishes, main dishes, etc.). If I make something from a recipe in the box and it's yummy, I'll transfer the recipe to a recipe card and store it in my keepsake recipe book. If I'm not crazy about it, I pitch it.

** I totally forgot to sprinkle the sugar on top before baking, so I sprinkled some powdered sugar on afterwards instead. And while doing so, had a little flashback to that one scene from Flowers In The Attic where the maid is sprinkling poison over the kid's cookies. Eeeeek!! :)

Oh, and by the way... I totally forgot to add the egg, too. *sigh* So, yours might puff up a bit more than mine did.

Note to self: Do not try to bake while engrossed in a deep and meaningful telephone conversation. *ahem*

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Happy Birthday, Sweet Boy

June 23 marked Henry's fourth birthday. Hubby and I went back and forth about what to do to remember the day, and finally decided to spend the day with close friends and family. We had a small birthday party, and asked everyone to bring a gift from the Oshkosh Area Humane Society wishlist. All of the gifts, which included huge bags of puppy chow, cans of cat food, peanut butter, kitty litter, over $50 in gift cards, chewy bones for dogs, toys, etc., were donated in Henry's name.

If you are a regular follower of my blog, you know how much my little boy loved animals. I thought this would be an appropriate way to honor him and also help take care of the little critters he (and I - he totally got that from me!) loved so much. My mother believes that Henry is working with Noah in heaven. I like to think he's the right hand man of St. Francis of Assisi (the patron saint of animals). I don't know why I gravitate to St. Francis. I'm not catholic. I really don't know much about the saints. But for some reason this idea hit me with so much clarity on the day of his funeral that I've never been able to forget it. To this day, statues or pictures of St. Francis bring me a great deal of peace. Either way, we know he was smiling that day, knowing he continues to help the "aminals".

After lunch and laughter and memories, we all headed out to the cematary where we released four orange balloons - his favorite color. Prior to releasing, we each wrote a message to Henry on the balloons and then sent them up to heaven. It was a beautiful day. Similar to the image of Henry working with St. Francis, very early on in this whole process I very clearly saw myself (I don't even remember if it was a dream or a vision or what) entering Heaven. When I did, Henry met me and he was holding on to oodles of orange balloons. He had collected all of the ones we released as they floated up to him...

I don't get these visions often, but when I do I thank God for giving me little pieces of my boy to hold on to. I've dreamt about Henry three times since November 2. In the first dream, we were at a zoo, and he was standing up ahead of me, watching ducks and geese swim in a pond. I called to him, and he turned and the joy on his face when he saw me was truly amazing. He ran into my arms and I scooped him up and held him tight until I woke up. In the second, I don't remember details, only the overwhelming sense that he was with me and he was happy. In the third, about a week ago, I dreamed that the hospital called and told me that it had all been a misunderstanding and that I could come and pick him up and bring him home. It was so real... Once we got him home, we realized that his speech had regressed, but he still knew all of his animal sounds. Go figure. And the duck still said "ba-da-boooo!"* :) That last one still makes me cry, because I'm sure you all know how much I wish it were real. Unfortunately, it's not. But I am confident that he is happy, and safe, and waiting for us with open arms.... and a lot of orange balloons.


* The first cartoon Henry fell in love with was Jakers. In one episode Dannon, the duck, yells, "STAMPEDE!" and for whatever reason, a very young Henry repeated her by yelling, "BA-DA-BOOOOOOOO!" (LOL!). Every time we watched it, Dannon would yell and Henry would echo. From that day (at about 16 mos old) until he was almost 3, when asked what a duck said the answer was always "badaboo!"

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Friday, June 18, 2010

packer backer in training

"Hey, Jack! You get to go to Green Bay today and see Lambeau Field!!"

Doesn't he look excited?!

"Hey, Jack! Wanna go to Soldier Field instead?"
Yeah, I thought not.
So, off we went to Green Bay. We had to take my uncle back to the airport, and took in a few stores while we were in town. Our final destination was the Packer Pro Shop, where we found a new winter hat for the little guy...

I'm telling you, had he actually kept the thing on, he probably would own it today. Because I'm just that mean. Heh.

After our shopping excursion, we decided to have lunch right at Lambeau at Curly's Pub. Ahh, nothing says football like crappy service and inflated prices. The food was yummy (highly recommend the "Chicken Booyah" soup. Yum!), but that's about all I can say for the place. I'm pretty sure they are under the impression that people will keep them in business solely because of their location inside the stadium so they needn't try to exert themselves with customer service. Like I said though, it was good food and excellent company, so we left happy.

It was also Jack's first experience with a booster seat instead of a high chair:

We were seated at a high table, so the chairs were a good three feet off the ground, and Jack was a total wiggle worm so my uncle sacrificed his belt to help control the situation. :) He got it back a little worse for wear (think greasy little fingers that like to explore), but it served its purpose!

Finally, here's a pic of my grandma and uncle together. Awwww...
We love you, Uncle Donnie!


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The Only Lemon Poppyseed Cake Recipe You'll Ever Need

Hi Friends!! I'm still not crafting, but I am still cooking and trying new recipes, so I thought I'd share. My grandma had a birthday a few weeks ago, and this is the cake I made for the occasion. Lemon Poppyseed is her favorite flavor (and conveniently mine, too!), so I knew I had to find something yummy for her.




"Yummy" does not even begin to do this cake justice. It's AMAZING. It's like a little piece of heaven on a plate. It's... well, it's the only lemon poppyseed cake recipe you will ever need. Ever!! It is just that good. Here's the recipe:

1 (18.25 oz.) pkg. Lemon Cake Mix
1 (3.4 oz.) pkg. Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix
4 Eggs
3/4 c. Vegetable Oil
1 1/4 c. Water
1/3 c. Poppy Seeds

1 (21 oz.) can of Lemon Pie Filling

1 (3.4 oz.) pkg. Instant Lemon Pudding Mix
1 c. Milk
1 (8 oz.) container of Cool Whip, thawed


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan.

2. In a large bowl, stir together cake mix and vanilla pudding mix. Make a well in the center and pour in eggs, oil, water, and poppy seeds, as shown below.

I buy my (Holland Blue) poppyseeds (and most of my other spices... their vanilla is divine, by the way) from Penzey's Spices. Check 'em out if you're looking to replace the boring old store brands with something a little fresher. While you're there, sign up for their catalog. It always has awesome recipes in it. Anyhow, where were we? Oh, yeah...

2. Beat on low speed until blended. Scrape bowl, and beat 4 minutes on medium speed. Pour batter into prepared pan.

3. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely. NOTE: When the cake comes out of the oven it will have a beautiful domed top that will sink as it cools. the cake will also pull away from the edges quite a bit... fear not! We'll fill in that space with something yummy in a minute...

4. Spread lemon pie filling over the cooled cake. (See, I told you!)

5. In a large bowl, mix instant lemon pudding with milk. Mix well and let stand about 5 minutes until fairly set. Fold in Cool Whip. Spread over pie filling.

Mmmmm.... lemon-y Cool Whip!!! YUM! I love Cool Whip anyhow, but this takes it to a whole new level.

6. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.

Sometimes I don't care for leftovers of those salads (like Pistachio Salad, for example) that mix Cool Whip with pudding because after a day in the fridge the texture of the cool whip changes completely. I'm happy to say that it was not a problem at all with this cake. We were still eating on it a few days later and it was just as good as day one.

Here's the finished product:
Let me know if you try this, because I would love to know what you think of it. It got rave reviews from the entire family, and the neighbors who were lucky enough to score a few pieces, too. I'm sure you'll love it!


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Saturday, May 29, 2010

White Chocolate Snack Mix

Do I have your attention?


I haven't blogged over here in awhile, so I thought I'd do a quick post just to let y'all know I'm still alive and kickin'. I made this AMAZING snack mix last week, and thought I'd share it with you all. I am not a fan of white chocolate at all - AT ALL - but this mix is absolutely divine. You'll have to try it some time. It makes a huge batch, and everyone gobbles it up! I took it to a party and people literally hovered around the bowl!

Here's the recipe:

5 c Corn Chex
5 c Cheerios (I used multigrain)
2 c Salted Peanuts (I used Dry Roasted)
10 oz Tiny Twists Knot Pretzels
1 lb M&M's
2 - 12 oz bags White Chocolate Chips
3 T Vegetable Oil

Mix first five ingredients in a large bowl. Combine chocolate and oil in a sauce pan over low heat until chocolate is melted. Pour melted chocolate over cereal mixture and stir until coated. Spread mixture out on waxed paper to dry, then break apart to serve.

Seriously... sooooo good!

I haven't been crafting much lately at all. I go through phases where I think I might just sell off all of my stuff, and then I come to my senses. I have been struggling with stamping, because I keep thinking of all the nights when I would rush to get the kids in bed so I could get a few extra minutes to stamp, when I would give every piece of me to have a few of those minutes back with Henry right now. :( Stamping has taken on a kind of negative connotation for me, and I think that is what is keeping me away from my craft space. But, even if it weren't for stamping, bedtime was still bedtime, so I know I am just being irrational... but it still is a bit of a trigger for me, so for the time being I'm laying low.

Maybe I'll just start posting yummy chocolate laden recipes instead. heh. Kidding!

Take care, and you'll hear from me soon...


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