Monday, December 19, 2011

Our Very Own Elf On The Shelf

Meet..... Legolas.

I know, I know. No long blonde hair, no miraculously full quiver of arrows, no hobbit to follow. But still, he's an elf, and therefore he shall be called Legolas. This is what happens when you marry a gamer nerd. Jack couldn't decide on a name, so we asked Papa for input. He made the suggestion, Jack (age 3, knowing nothing of the "real" Legolas) loved it, and so it stuck.

Jack's Aunt Sandie sent the Elf on the Shelf set for Jack and we received it today. He was thrilled, and couldn't wait to read the story. She also sent him the stuffed elf along with other elven goodies, and that stuffed elf was tucked firmly under Jack's arm and carried off to bed (his name is also Legolas, because Jack insisted they have the same name) where he and the boy are snuggling as I type.

I have seen several posts on Pinterest and from friends who have their own elf about what sort of mischief the elves can get into at night, but I dreamed this up all on my own. Jack loves Pez, so last night when Legolas went to the North Pole to report back to Santa, he returned with a new General Grievous Pez dispenser. He loaded the dispenser with one pack of Pez, then decided to chomp on a few himself before getting caught in the morning. Naughty little elf!

Do you have an elf on your shelf?


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Butterscotch Pecan Cookies

Merry Christmas, friends! As usual, it has been too long since my last blog post. I blame Facebook! I was just doing some baking for Christmas, and thought I'd share this recipe here since I haven't posted in awhile, and it's not (to my knowledge) one of the more common cookie recipes out there. I found this in a Taste of Home magazine over a decade ago and it was an instant favorite. Here are the details:

1 pkg. Butter Recipe Cake Mix (18.25 oz.)
1 pkg. Butterscotch Pudding (3.4 oz., instant)
1/4 c. Flour
3/4 c. Vegetable Oil
1 Egg
1 c. Chopped Pecans

Combine the first five ingredients and mix well. Stir in pecans (dough will be crumbly). Shape by tablespoon of dough into a balls; place 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 2 minutes; remove from pan.

Yield: 4 dozen

There's still enough time for you to whip up a batch for Christmas, right? I made them this morning in about a hour, start to finish. I apologize for the cruddy iPhone picture - this whole blogging idea was kind of a last minute thought. But, a cruddy picture is better than no picture at all, right? Well, sometimes... :) That pic was taken after they came out of the oven, just as an fyi. They don't spread too much. I baked mine for 12 mins, and they got a little golden brown on the bottom but not so much on the tops.

Let me know if you try them, and have a Merry Christmas!!

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Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Day In The North Woods

So many of my entries on this blog have been about grief since we lost Henry. While that is understandable, the truth is that although a piece of my heart is gone from me, there is still a lot of living I need to do. I still struggle with some major separation anxiety when it comes to leaving Jack for any length of time (sometimes just leaving him with Papa so I can drive across town to visit my mom gives me anxiety). I tried to be brave and schedule a weekend away in Minneapolis to visit one of my best friends... a trip I took regularly and without thought before having kids... but I couldn't go through with it. Fortunately, God has blessed me with some pretty amazing friends, and this one in particular happens to have a family cottage in northern Wisconsin. He suggested we meet there for the day, and I accepted. I was relieved to have a day away, but still be close enough that I could rush home if something happened.

Maybe you're thinking that's crazy, but it's part of my process. And, let's face it. We're talking about Jack here. The kid who had to be life flighted to Milwaukee a month after his brother was because he fell with a toy in his mouth and did major throat damage. It was the same flight team that came for Henry. Exactly the same. Their faces turned ashen as soon as they rounded the corner in the hospital and saw us standing there. Or, more accurately, saw my husband standing there and me sitting near by in a wheel chair unable to breathe properly. I faint easily, and nothing brings on a spell like one of my babies in the hospital, so extra precautions are always taken.

At any rate, I spent the day up north yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I didn't dwell on being away from Jack. I trusted that he was in capable hands with his Papa and lived in the moment for the first time in a long time, and it was blissful.

My friend (Chris) and I spent some time at his family's cottage, had brunch, did a little shopping, a little driving, a little hiking, a little reflecting. It was perfect. He is always worried about not doing enough to entertain me when I visit, but it really was exactly the kind of day I needed.

Here is a photo I took of the road we traveled up as we approached the Cathedral Pines area in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. How gorgeous is that? 

There is a sign as you enter the trail area that tells you this: "This area, called the 'Cathedral of Pines', was preserved as a result of the efforts of Lucy Rumsey Holt who influenced her husband, logger W.A. Holt, to leave it as virgin timber. Mrs. Holt used this area to teach Bible studies to her children and did not want the area disturbed. This 200 to 400 year old white pine and balsam old growth stand is also home to a Great blue heron rookery."

I am always in such awe when standing in the presence of history. To think that these pines are between 200 and 400 years old is amazing to me. I can't help but think about the different people who have crossed this same path and touched these same trees, and what their lives might have been like. How equally amazed would they have been if they could have seen me there yesterday snapping photos with my iPhone!

Speaking of iPhone's, did you know that your photo will look like this if you point it directly at the sun?

Yeah, me neither. :)

Just to give you an idea of the size of the pines, here's a photo of an unsuspecting Chris giving one a hug, and another I took at the base of that same tree looking up.

We crossed paths with two women at this point and took a picture for each other. Ignore my cute little pose. I just wanted to be short for once in my life. We were a little loopy with these women we'd never met before. If you know me at all, you'll know "loopy" is not a far stretch from reality for me. *wink*

After leaving the pines, we visited a small dam. I couldn't tell you how to get there or what the name of it was, but the lake was gorgeous with all the fallen leaves in the water:

 Here is a shot looking the other direction (bottom of the dam, out towards the river):

Someone took the liberty to "decorate" the dam with silver spray paint. Seriously, don't even get me started. Lovely antecdotes, like, "JUMP!" spray painted at the top of the dam were scattered here and there. Although I don't condone this type of vandalism AT ALL, I thought the silver heart on this rock did make for an interesting picture...

Same river, a little farther downstream:

Back at the lake Chris's family's cottage is on, I was impressed by how clear the water is. Growing up on a larger lake that is mostly filled with greenish brown water and corporate waste, this was amazing to me.  This was taken at the small boat landing area:

And this is the view they see from their back yard. The good life, to say the least.

Despite all the trials we have been through, I can honestly say that life, and the God we serve, is good. As someone far wiser than me (and anonymous) once said: "At the end of the day you can focus on what's tearing you apart, or what's holding you together." I'm trying my best to stay positive, and focus on what holds me together: God, and His blessings of family, friends, and nature. I feel more comfortable now with the idea of traveling farther from home (but will still take baby steps, I'm sure), and I think Papa is more comfortable with it, too. Jack was largely unphased through my absence, but isn't that always the way? The one you worry about the most is the one who seems to notice the least! 


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Friday, October 7, 2011

Working It Out

I just finished reading another book about life and the grief process and thought I'd share it and a little story here since I haven't updated this blog in awhile. The book is called Working It Out by Abby Rike. Does anyone remember Abby from her season on The Biggest Loser? She was on the year Danny won, and was roomates with Shay - Season 8, which aired in the fall of 2009. I vividly remember watching the contestants introduce myself and her tear filled account of the accident that took the life of her husband, 5 year old daughter, and 18 day old son. I was heart broken for her and wondered to myself how she ever managed to move on from that experience. How she could move on from losing a child. Little did I know that before the season was over, I would be learning first hand.

After we lost Henry, Abby was one of the first people I thought of. I searched for her on Facebook and found the fan page that is run either by her or on her behalf and later posted a comment in the "death of a child" discussion area letting her know that she is in my prayers and thoughts regularly. I knew she had a book in the works, and was anxious to read it when it came out in May. Well, one thing led to another and me and reading didn't actually do too well together over the spring and summer. I've always been a book worm, but as Jack gets older and my daily window of free time gets smaller, I find I have time for only one hobby at a time and this year it was embroidery. I finally ordered the book a week or so ago and when it arrived, I finished it in a matter of days.

Sometimes, when I'm thinking about Henry and all that has happened to us, I am dead inside. I don't cry, I just feel empty. I have felt often that this feeling of emptiness makes me a bad mother. I should have some level of emotion, but it usually is not there. There are other times though that the emotions are so strong they are almost violent and they scare me to my core. It's a roller coaster in the truest sense, and it never ceases. Reading Abby's book, and seeing that she experienced the same types of highs and lows helped me to remember that I am normal. I am not a bad mother, I am not in denial. I am simply working through my emotions as they come to me, and that is enough. I in no way believe our situations were equal, but I do strongly believe that grief is grief, if that makes sense, and in that respect we are similar.

I also felt a deep connection with Abby because of how steadfast she has been in her faith through the last five years. When the doctor took my husband and I into the small conference room and sat down with us to tell us there was nothing more he could do, my first thought was not despair or destruction, but rather, I thanked the Lord that I was raised in faith. I thanked him silently as we sat there for blessing my life with a mother, grandparents, and great-grandparents who were all Christians and who went out of their way to ensure that I knew I was a child of God and that he would not forsake me. If it were not for that knowledge, that blessed assurance, I can honestly say I would not have been able to rise up out of that seat and walk out of that room under my own power. I swear to you with every fiber of my being that Jesus was in that room with us, and it was then that He carried me.

Abby wrote something in a journal entry two months after the accident that she shared in her book. It struck such a chord with me, I am going to share it here with you all, for I could have written these words myself.

What now? What do I do now? What plan does God have for me? If I have to suffer like this, then I want my life to matter. I want to know what I'm supposed to do. I want to know my plan. I am shattered and I'm trusting with childlike faith that God will put me back together again. This loss cannot be for naught.
~Abby Rike, December 3, 2006

I cried when I read that. And I don't mean those sweet little tears my grandma used to shed and discretely wipe away with a tissue. I mean I CRIED. I bawled. I gave a full on "ugly cry", as Oprah likes to call it. The topic was something I had often thought about, but never had the words to express until now. Instead of Why me? I have often felt What now? What am I to do with this lot in life? How can I use my experience to help others? I have put a lot of thought into bereavement counseling, but I'm not sure I'm up for more schooling with three unused degrees on the wall already. We've thought about fostering or adopting to help another child, but don't feel a strong draw to that calling either. I largely still feel like I'm floating in a vast ocean with no real direction as to where the dock may be. I have no specific goal other than my focus on raising Jack, preparing to educate him as a home schooling mom, caring for and loving my husband, and keeping our home up. I reach out to different areas and play them out in my mind, but nothing fits. Square pegs, round holes. I am almost morbidly drawn to history, bereavement, death, and dying, but how can I fit in there? Since losing Henry I have also developed a keen interest in heaven, health, and organized living, but again, I'm seeing no strong direction for my life. These are the answers I pray for.

Abby also spoke to my heart when she quoted passages from Job about the people who "sat in the ashes" with him. I have heard before from different people that our story is reminiscent of Job's story, but never took the time to think it through very well. Abby's stories about the love that surrounded her and the people who "sat in the ashes" with her - just being present without trying to offer advice or wisdom or ramble because they don't know any other way to fill the space - reminded me of the dear friends and family members we have been blessed with who did the same for us. It is truly humbling to think about.

Finally, Abby speaks about her experience on the Biggest Loser and her efforts to reach and maintain her goal weight - another topic near and dear to my heart. To say this book and this woman are an inspiration to me would be an understatement. I am not in the habit of building a library, and frequently pass books on to friends once I've finished them, but this copy of Working It Out is mine and will remain as such for a very long time. I hope you'll check it out. I think it will move you, regardless of your struggle.

If you could also take a moment to pray for Abby and her family this week, that would be wonderful. Thursday, October 13 marks the five year anniversary of the accident. I'm sure they can use all of the prayers they can get to help them through the upcoming days. For more information on Abby Rike, you can visit her personal website HERE. Check out her calendar and see if she's speaking near you. If she is, consider me jealous. I would love so much to meet her in person, but I have yet to figure out exactly how to make that happen. I will be praying about it, and if it's meant to be, I am confident God will find a way.

God bless,    


P.S. Please pardon my lack of blogger knowledge. I can't get this post left justified for the life of me. Except for this post script, that is. Go figure.

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Saturday, October 1, 2011

My Fabulous Friend

I recently (well, semi-recently) attended a Copic Marker Class at the Creative Pals (Whipper Snapper Stamps!) store in Brookfield, WI. Technically, I believe it's now called an "Alcohol Marker Class", but same diff. ANYHOW, the bottom line is............. I stamped! After the class I came home and made this card for my girlfriend who invited and treated me to the class, bless her heart. I'm so out of the loop when it comes to blogging, I barely remembered to take a picture to share with y'all. I snapped this at the last minute on my mom's kitchen counter. How about that gold flecked counter top? Heh.

The image is by Rachelle Anne Miller. Love that girl. I wish I had an ounce of the talent she has.

I have more embroidery to share, and will be stamping again soon to complete the requirements for a swap I'm in, so stay tuned. One day I will organize all of my digital files and make this whole process easier.... maybe.

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Week of Flowers

Here is another set of towels I made recently for one of my girlfriends. She asked for a set for her birthday, because the ones my grandmother made for her wedding gift nearly fifteen years ago were starting to wear out. I let her look through all of my patterns and pick her favorite (thank you, face time!), and then got to work. I love, love, LOVE the way they turned out! I tried to keep the colors as close to natural as possible, but also muted and earthy. Here are a few pictures of the finished product... 

This set is sentimental to me, because while I was stitching, my grandmother (the same one mentioned above) underwent surgery to remove cancer from her lung. She was supposed to only be in the hospital a week or so and then home again and was expected to make a full recovery. Unfortunately, that's not quite the way things panned out. These towels made regular visits to the ICU with me as I sat at her bedside for six weeks, and were with me the day she went to heaven as well. It's just a little tiny part of her legacy that I am carrying on, and I know she's smiling down on me with every stitch I make. Grandma stopped embroidering years ago, but she was always amazed with how many different crafty things I took an interest in. I will forever have the memory of her smiling and shaking her head as she would tell friends and relatives about my latest project. She'd just laugh lightly and say, "she does all that kind of stuff!" Oh, how I miss that lady...

I also love that this set begins and ends with my and my girlfriend's favorite flowers. Hers is the rose, mine the purple iris. Just one more meaningful (and totally unplanned) aspect of the gift.

God bless,

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Sunday, August 7, 2011


I was busy on Friday getting the house ready for company, and had an obscene amount of dishes that needed washing. I have had two back to back colds/sore throats, so things had gotten a little out of control. And, since one of the many joys of owning an old (110+ years!) home is a lack of a dishwasher and no hope of getting one without a major renovation, well, I was in for a solid hour of washing.

Jack does pretty well (usually *ahem*) with entertaining himself if I need to do dishes or pick things up, but I tend to save these larger tasks for when he's in bed at night or at naptime. This time I was on a time crunch though, so there was no way around it. I needed to work and I needed an easy distraction. Enter the train wash:

Like any kid, Jack loves to play with bubbles. Whenever I do the dishes, he'll ask to grab a handful, and then usually claps his hands together and giggles while they shoot into the air and fall around him like snowflakes. I got tired of walking on a soap-sticky floor, so I encouranged him to "draw" with the bubbles on the island. On Friday, we introduced trains to the mix. He was enthralled for the duration of my dish washing adventure, continuously coming back for more bubbles as each of the four trains maneuvered in and around them. When we were all done, I rinsed and dried them, too, and to my knowledge they are none the worse for wear. Only one of the four had a battery operated light... had I noticed early enough we would have nixed that one {Proteus} from the party. Ah well. I'm just a mama, not a superhero. I can't catch *every*thing.

Our makeshift Sodor Engine Wash (with "Live Action Bubbles!" )...

See how happy Salty is? He got cleaned up, Jack got a solid hour of fun play with good imaginative and sensory applications, and I got the dishes done!

PEEP, PEEP! We are all really useful engines! hehe.


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You're Invited

Some of our friends are expecting their first baby in September, and I recently hosted a baby shower for the mom-to-be. It was small and casual, but I wanted to share a few of the things I did in case you need ideas for the future!

Taking my cue from the neutral colored lamb theme of the nursery, I made these baby shower invitations to send:

All things considered, it was a pretty simple design with minimal coloring, so they went together pretty quickly. Well, that is until I ran out of that brown ribbon. Whoops! I guess you really should measure everything before you get started, eh? No worries though. Lord knows I have enough other spools of coordinating ribbon that I could use as backups.

Here's the whole lot together. You can see that one at the front of the picture has a smaller gingham ribbon instead of the wide triple stitch brown (which I bought at Hobby Lobby yyyyears ago, and love, if anyone is curious... must get back for more...)

I held the shower in the afternoon from 2-4pm. Since it fell between meals, I didn't want to have a lot of food, but I did want to have a few snacks and, of course, a cake, too. Here's the simple tablescape and menu: smoked almonds, pretzels with horseradish dip, Cape Cod Cracked Pepper Potato Chips (have you tried them? I was just introduced in May and haven't bought any other brand or flavor since that day), crackers with a cream cheese/sweet red pepper spread, peanut butter M&M's (another personal favorite), and a german chocolate cake.

You can also see the two gifts on the table for the game winners. I contemplated buying gifts for this purpose, but in the end decided to pull from my overstocked and underused cabinet of Partylite candles. Each winner received a box of 6 votives in the "Zen" scent. It didn't even make a dent in my collection, which is pretty sad. A few weeks ago I finished burning a medium sized candle that we received as part of a wedding gift 12 years ago. This is how fast I go through candles. It doesn't stop me from buying more though! It's a sickness, I swear.

I printed up some easy nametags on mailing labels. Avery makes so many great sized labels. If you use your imagination you can do a lot of interesting things with them. I made these up using the Roselyn font, and then rolled across the bottom of each one with Mellow Moss ink to jazz them up a little.

Our first game was Name The Baby Food. We passed around ten open containers of baby food (stage 2, all having two more flavors), and guests were able to spoon a little onto their plate and taste each one. Some tasted, some smelled... In fact the girl who got the most correct (6/10) never tasted a single one. I was totally impressed. I printed sheets for each guest with ten blank spaces on the left and the names of about 20 different flavors of baby food on the right for them to match to the numbers. I pulled the names of the extra flavors off the Gerber website. I wanted to make sure they were all legitimate flavors, because we had enough moms of little ones in the room that someone would have probably known a fake name if I tried to make one up. I also made these cute little cozies for each container because the name of the flavor is printed on the outside. I needed to hide it somehow, and I'm all about pretty, so I wrapped each one with sage colored tulle and coordinating ribbon. The numbers were printed on my Cricut and then added to punched circles before being glued on to the side of the container.

Our second and final game was a simple guessing game. How many Almond Joy pieces fit into a 4 oz. Dr. Brown's glass baby bottle? Well, 167 to be exact. Mom-to-be got to keep the bottle (chosen from her registry) AND Almond Joy pieces as part of her gift.

It was a lovely afternoon with a lot of visiting and sharing of stories. I just love hosting things like this, and I also love welcoming new babies into the world! 

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Heaven Is For Real

I am not much of a book reviewer, and when I do share books with my readers I tend to do so on my craft blog, because I think of reading as a hobby and that is where I share all things related to my hobbies. But given the nature of this book and the nature of bereavement, I thought it seemed more appropriate to talk a bit here about it instead.

Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo is a short and sweet book that was gifted to me recently (well. semi-recently) by one of my girlfriends. She read it herself and knowing that I enjoy reading about first hand experiences with heaven - particularly since we lost Henry - thought it would bring me some comfort... and she was right.

For starters, I loved the book. I loved the story and the experience, and the fact that this family did not have to go through the experience of losing a child. Praise God for that! I enjoyed reading Colton's account of his visit to heaven and the comical way in which his dad related the stories as bits and pieces of the experience was revealed to them.

The struggle I have with this book (and others like it) is that it leans heavily on the fact that God answered their prayers and saved their child. While I am eternally grateful that He did that for ANY family, there is a part of me that always asks... why not mine? The book talks about how the family was prayerful and the church held special prayer vigils and so on and so forth and that collectively their voices reached God and their prayers were answered. Well, we prayed, too. When Henry was in the emergency room and I was kneeling at his bedside beside his little head because it was the only space in the room that was not occupied by a doctor, nurse, priest, or some other support staff, I prayed until I was on the verge of a black out from exhaustion, and then I was moved to my own bed where I lay with the hospital chaplain at my bedside and prayed some more. Our friends were praying, our families were praying, churches, strangers, even an entire village in Vietnam (true story) and many others we don't even know were holding prayer vigils for my boy.... but he still died. Our prayers weren't answered. As I read, I struggled more wondering why not. Because he (Todd Burpo) is a pastor? A better Christian? The right denomination? Does he know some secret way to pray that I don't? It's a slippery slope down this road, but it is hard to avoid in situations like this.

Of course the answer to those question is no. I am every bit the Christian that the Burpo's are, and Jesus loves me as equally as any other parent loves his children. He has no desire to hurt me or seek vengence on me or punish me in that way. He knows the prayers on my heart that haven't even reached my lips yet. He knows the future and the past and has a plan that ensures eternity for me - for us - for all His children. And part of that plan, for whatever reason, included taking Henry to heaven before I was ready to offer him up. I don't understand why, and maybe I never will, but I have faith in Jesus Christ and I have faith in the works of our Heavenly Father, and I hold those faiths close to my heart and they lift me when nothing else will. Afterall, faith isn't faith unless it's all you're holding on to.

Our family situation was unique in that both of our boys could have died without us ever knowing what killed them. My husband and I often speculate that if it had been Jack and not Henry who died, we may have never followed through with an autopsy. Babies die. It's an unfortunate reality, but it happens. Would we have been as alarmed if a baby had died as we were when a preschooler did? Or would it have been explained away as "one of those things" that happens but here is no explanation for. There is a very real possibility that we would have lost both of our boys if any one detail of our story had been different. Had the surgeon at Children's Hospital not persuaded us to have an autopsy done - something we were hesitant to do (he's been through enough, he was cut into enough when he was alive, no more...) we would have never diagnosed the XLA... never gotten Jack tested and diagnosed. Without a diagnosis and his monthly treatments, it was only a matter of time until Jack would have contracted a virus his little body couldn't fight off and in a matter of days he would have been gone, too. In taking Henry, we believe that God spared Jack. Would I love for Him to have spared both boys? Obviously. It goes without saying. But after having lost one child, I can't even imagine the horror of life that would have come had we lost both.

In the weeks before Henry's death, some interesting things happened with him. Nothing on the level of what happened to Colton, but interesting just the same. He started to speak of a man who was in the house at night who wasn't Papa. My husband thought it had been a friend of mine, or perhaps a repairman, but no males had been to the house. Henry was adament that the man had been there in his bedroom several times though. At the time, I chalked it up to an over active childhood imagination. After his death, I started to wonder if Jesus had visited my son. I don't know - I never will - but the thought brings me comfort, and it is not outside the realm of possibility for me. In the month or so before his death, I would open Henry's door most mornings to find a good share of his clothes - two dressers worth - strewn across his bedroom floor. The only explanation he had was that "the man" told him he needed to get ready, because he would be going on a trip. I also vividly remember one day, walking into his bedroom in the morning to wake him - it was quiet, so I assumed he must  have still been sleeping - only to find him sitting in the rocking chair with his children's Bible open on his lap, studying every picture. What three year old does that voluntarily in a room full of his favorite toys? I sat down with him and told him the story of Noah and about Jesus and then we started our day. We always said that our kids assumed the personalities of the people they were named after and waking early to read the Bible only solidified that notion, as my Grandpa Hank (Henry's namesake) did it daily when he was alive.

Again, I'm not making any grand claims here - the book just brought a lot of thoughts, feelings, and memories to the foreground.

In regards to the book itself, what a wonderful depiction of Heaven! I wonder now who Henry met when he first got to heaven (besides Jesus, of course). I remember sitting in the hospital room with him at Childrens Hospital that Monday morning. In my heart, I believed he had died the night before and was no longer in that body. Everything was being kept "alive" artificially, but I knew he wasn't there and wasn't coming back. I still caressed him as if he was there and whispered his stories into his ear (he asked for the same three stories every night for over a year - by then I had them all memorized), kneeling again at his bedside, but I couldn't shake the feeling that he was somehow above us in the room, at peace, and looking down on us with love.

It was something I'd never felt before and never did again until this past May when my grandma was in the ICU after surgery to remove a small tumor on her lung. When it started to become apparent that she may not recover after the surgery, there was one night that I sat with her and distinctly felt the presence of someone else in the room and I couldn't shake the feeling that it was Henry. To make matters even more interesting, the following day my mom told me that grandma asked if my mom could see "that misty cloud" over grandma's bed. Was it Henry? Grandpa? Or a drug induced hallucination? I prefer to believe the former.

I've rambled quite a bit here and not really talked about the book much at all. Remember how I said I am not much of a book reviewer? Yeah. Now you know why. I am plagued by tangents. I get off on a stream of thought and the original topic is lost in the dust. I guess my best advice at this point would be to just read the book. It's an awesome story, and an awesome account of one child's brush with Christ. You will be moved, I guarantee it.

In closing I'll share this picture, a picture of Jesus. After his experience, Colton's parents shared pictures of Jesus with the boy, asking if that particular image was an accurate depiction of what Jesus looked like. They shared hundreds of different prints and paintings with the boy over the span of a few years and each time they did, Colton would tell them what was wrong with the picture. The hair was too long, or the nose wasn't right, or what have you. What it was about that particular painting or sculpture that didn't match the Jesus he saw in heaven. And then one day, his father showed him this painting titled Prince of Peace by Akiane Kramarik:

Colton replied (after a long moment of stunned silence), "that one's right." What makes it even more amazing is that this painting was done by a (then) 8 year old girl who also had visions of Heaven. A girl Colton had never met or even knew existed. You can read more about her story here.

Things that make you go hmmmmm....

God bless,


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Monday, July 25, 2011

Peanut Butter S'more Bars

I have had this recipe in my recipe box for ages, clipped from an old (seriously, probably ten years ago) issue of Taste of Home magazine. If you aren't familiar with the magazine and do any amount of cooking, you should definitely look into it! It's an excellent resource filled every month with delicious mouth watering recipes to try. Or, in my case, clip and save for ten years and then try. Whichever.

The whole family enjoyed these bars (as well as a couple friends who live near by), but I'll be honest with you, they are are sweet. Like, almost too sweet (is that even possible?). I don't think I will make them again as a treat for the family because it's just too much sugar for us to eat in a week, but I'm sharing them here because they would make an awesome addition to any family reunion, potluck, or bake sale you might need an idea for. They were soooo quick and easy to whip together. A definite winner in that respect.

1 tube (16.5 oz.) refrigerated peanut butter cookie dough
3 1/2 c. miniature marshmallows
3/4 c. milk chocolate chips
2 t. shortening
1 1/2 c. milk chocolate M&M's

Let dough stand at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to soften. Press into bottom of ungreased 9x13" pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned and edges are firm. Sprinkle with marshmallows; bake 2-3 minutes longer or until marshmallows are puffy.

In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips and shortening; stir until smooth. Sprinkle M&M's over marshmallow layer; drizzle with melted chocolate. Chill until set before cutting, but serve at room temperature (they taste better that way).

I would also encourange you to cut them small, because as I said earlier they're a pretty sweet little treat. Better to come back for seconds than feel like you have to throw half of your bar away because it's too much sugar...

Let me know if you try it!

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A Trip To The Zoo

A few weeks ago, Jack and I took a little trip to our local zoo. He's not too keen on noises or animals that make them, but we needed to get out of the house so we tried it. And it was fine. Mostly. He didn't really pay much attention to the animals, and the few he did see he really wasn't all that impressed with. He was more interested in sitting EVERYWHERE and trying to jump in the lagoon in the center of the zoo. I finally convinced him that that water was only for the animals, so that crisis was averted, but I couldn't get him to stop sitting on every flat surface he could find. For most kids, this would be a non-issue, but for us with Jack's immune deficiency, we worry about the bacteria he could pick up - especially at a zoo. Granted he gets his IvIG treatments and theoretically they will protect him for most of those, but having already lost one child, we can't help but be concerned and a little (ok, a lot) cautious.

It's not an easy thing to do... trying to balance concerns and risks while still letting Jack be a kid and have as many experiences of childhood as possible. It doesn't help that he is uncooperative and stubborn and independent. But I can hardly fault him for owning three of the most common traits in both of his parents, can I? *wink*

Here are a few pictures from our day. First, Jack sitting on the bench in the wolf viewing cabin. Note that the windows one would look through to actually see the wolves are behind him. There weren't any there that day, but I would be willing to bet it wouldn't have made a bit of difference.

Here we are sitting in a little area by the lagoon. This zoo was Henry's favorite place on earth. We visited it daily during Henry's second and third summer. Sometimes more than once a day. When we lost Henry, some of our good friends bought a memorial brick for Henry. You can see it in the photo below:

We used some of the memorial money we received for Henry to help get the turtle pond up and running again. I would always tell Henry about the turtles that had been in there when I was a little girl and how we'd watch them sunning themselves. Throughout Henry's little life, it was only a weedy overgrown area in need of work (and a new water pump). Despite the overgrowth and lack of life, Henry would pick a clover every day and toss it over the fence to feed the turtles. We saw a chipmunk run under some nearby evergreens one day, and after that he would always toss a clover in there, too, in case the chipmunks were hungry, too. Henry's heart was bigger than the moon - especially when it came to the animals.

One of Henry's favorite things to say was, "Be good to the aminals." He couldn't quite pronounce the word right, but it was so cute we never tried to correct him, and came to find ourselves pronouncing it the same way. We had it spelled correctly on the sign though, because we didn't want people to think it was a typo since we couldn't be there telling the stories and explaining the whole thing every time someone walked by. 

In addition to the turtle pond, we also donated two large cement turtles for the kids to climb on. Here's Jack crawling up the little one...

We chose turtles because Henry loved this guy:

His name is Dash, and we sought him out on every visit. He wasn't always easy to find, but on this day with Jack he was right out on the path waiting for us. I told Jack all about Dash and about how much Henry loved him. I tried to get him to pet Dash's shell, again weighing bacteria against life experience in my head all along (when am I not?), but he would have none of it. This is as close as he got:

Today, as I'm typing, Jack is beside me saying, "Mama pet the turtle!" :) I don't know if that's a memory or a directive so he doesn't have to try it himself. hee hee.

It's hard to go back to these places that were so much a part of Henry's life, but it's all part of the healing process I guess. And, it helps me to remember that life does indeed go on. Jack has the whole world to explore. I just need to guide him through it, remind him of all the people (on earth and in heaven) who love him, teach him as he goes, and maybe every once in awhile let life experience trump potential bacterial issues and believe the doctors when they say it will be ok.


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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Henry's Fifth Birthday

Each year since his death, we've had a small gathering of friends and family at the house on Henry's birthday. We have lunch and visit and then go to the cemetery for a balloon release. We also ask our guests to bring gifts that are then donated somewhere in Henry's name. Last year we asked for gifts from the humane society wishlist. This year, since Henry would have started kindergarten in the fall, we opted to collect gifts to donate to a kindergarten classroom. It just so happens that Henry's godmother is a kindergarten teacher, so choosing her classroom only seemed right. We collected lots of glue sticks and crayons and stickers, games, jump ropes, etc. It was an awesome day, and an awesome way to try to make the best of a sad situation.

Below you can see a photo of our balloon bouquet. We invited two friends who had also lost children, so I decided to have balloons to represent their angels as well. We released five orange balloons for Henry, two pink balloons for the twin daughters of one friend, and a blue balloon for the son of another. Everyone wrote messages on the balloons before we sent them to heaven. 

And off they went (carefully, to avoid all those trees, of course!)....

Higher and higher....

There is nothing I can say to you (unless you are also a bereaved parent) that will make you understand the depth of loss and pain that comes with losing a child. It never ends, it never lessens. But small things like this balloon release help to lessen that pain in small ways, if even temporarily. I know those balloons don't actually go to heaven, but to think for a moment that something I am releasing is going straight to my boy makes my heart happy. And giving back to our community in his name, and seeing other people so willing and generous in their giving to do the same gives me a little comfort to know that he is not forgotten.

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God Bless

Seeeeeeee... I *do* still stamp sometimes! I made this a few months ago, actually. I sing in a local choir and each spring I like to make a thank you card for our director that matches the theme of our annual concert. This year we had a sort of Americana theme, so I pulled out the old Stampin' Up! God Bless America stamp for the first time in ages (ever?). The flag behind the image is actually two different pieces of patterned paper, and then I accented the inside and the envie with the SU star wheel. Not bad for a (then) messy unorganized craft space!

I have since painted my craft room and am in the process of putting it all back together. Maybe I'll post a few pictures when it's done. It's nothing spectacular, but it's mine! I was just giggling the other day at all of the mismatched furniture I have in there, but oh well. It's functional, and a fairly large space, and right now that's all that matters. Maybe some day I'll invest in matching furniture with all the cubbies and cuteness you can stand, but it's not on my short list.

I'm also excited to share my new blog design! Wahooooooooooooooo! Michelle at Laycock Designs totally hooked me up with a beautiful new look. It was time for a change around here. If you're looking at this post in a reader, click over and take a peek and let me know what you think!

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Grandma's Rhubarb Cake

1 1/4 c. Sugar
1/3 c. Flour
1/2 t. Cinnamon
1/2 t. Nutmeg
6 T. Butter or Oleo (softened)
1 c. Chopped Nuts

Combine all ingredients with a fork or pastry cutter, set aside.

2 c. Flour
1/2 c. Sugar
1 t. Baking Powder
1 t. Salt
2 T. Butter or Oleo (cold)
1 c. Milk
1 Egg
4 c. Fresh Rhubarb
1 pkg. (3 oz.) Raspberry or Strawberry Jell-o

Grease 9x13" pan. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter until crumbly. Add milk and egg, mix well. Pour batter into pan. Spoon rhubarb evenly over batter. Sprinkle dry jell-o over rhubarb. Sprinkle topping on and bake 40-45 minutes at 375 degrees or until topping is light golden brown and rhubarb is bubbly. If fresh rhubarb is not available 2 cups (20 oz. pkg.) of frozen rhubarb thawed and drained can be used.

This cake is a family tradition for us. Grandma used to make it every year when the rhubarb was ready for picking. I just made it for the first time myself and it was so yummy. We enjoy it warm with vanilla ice cream. Let me know how you like it if you try it!

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