Monday, December 17, 2012

8 Years

This past week we celebrated Micah's 8th birthday.  

Of all of Micah's 8 years, this one was probably the hardest.  He had a rough year dealing with anxieties and fears that are far beyond his years.  But I honestly feel we've come through the worst and most hopeless season of it and for the progress we've seen in these last months, I'm very thankful.  Talking with others in similar situations, gathering information online, and doing a lot of praying have all been helpful parts of this process.  

When it came time to plan his party, we decided to keep it simple and have a party at home doing all the farm things that Micah loves to do with his Daddy - mainly hockey!

(Balloons decorated by the birthday boy)

I found a fantastically simple hockey cupcake idea on Pinterest.  White icing (with some sprinkled sugar for a snowy effect), pretzels and a chocolate chip for the puck.

We were prepared for typical rainy December weather, but thankfully the rain held out and the kids had a blast playing hockey on the street and no one complained about being cold.

After the kids were tuckered out from their game, it was time for a hayride.  These boys got a kick out of the cows and calves following the tractor.

Then to end the party, we all headed inside for hot chocolate, snacks and those delicious hockey cupcakes :)

My prayer for Micah these days is a spirit of joy and optimism.  I also pray that what he is experiencing will shape him in a positive way and make him sensitive to others who are anxious and fearful.  Lastly, I pray for the innocence of childhood to stay with him as long as possible.

We love you so much Micah :)

Friday, December 07, 2012

Easy Christmas Baking 101

Christmas baking has been low on my priority this year, but the other day I had the urge to whip up something simple.  If you've spent any time on Pinterest, you've certainly seen various versions of these little treats.  They just looked so easy that I had to give them a whirl.  

First I gathered my 3 ingredients...  waffle pretzels from Superstore, "Hugs", and M&Ms (the mint kind since I already them).

Silas had the tedious job of unwrapping all those hugs and placing them on the pretzels.

Ready to go into the oven...
(Bake at 350 degrees.  3 minutes wasn't long enough, 5 minutes was a little too melty.  So next time I'll do 4 :)

Once the hugs have softened, remove from the oven and place an M&M on each one.  I did this while they were still on the pan.  Then I recommend letting them fully cool off before trying to take them off the pan.  This took awhile (maybe because I let them get too melty in the oven).  Next time I might put the whole pan in the freezer to speed up the chocolate hardening process.

Super simple and quite festive looking.  I started imagining other variations - like a mini peanut butter cup with a Reese's Pieces candy on top... Mmmm.

I'm thinking a handful of these in a cellophane bag might be a great addition to this year's teacher gifts.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Butterfly Party

Last year Keziah and I agreed on a fun rainbow theme for her birthday party which was a big hit and a lot of fun to put together.  This year I was inspired by some simple-looking cupcakes that I found on Pinterest and convinced Keziah to do a butterfly-themed party.

First I found a butterfly template online, cut it out and traced it onto folded cardstock to create the invitations. 

I had some supplies laying around from my old scrapbooking days, so I printed the cover words onto white card stock, punched them with a flower-shaped punch and then attached them with the brads.  Not fancy card-making genius by any means - but cute (and simple!)

Then I printed the party details on more white card stock and adhered them inside the invitations.

The morning of Keziah's birthday I wanted her to have a celebratory wake-up.  It worked out great since the boys usually get up around 6 am (they all share a room in case you've forgotten) but Keziah sleeps until 7:30.  I had plenty of time to make this balloon garland.  She was a little sleepy-eyed and groggy when she discovered it but I think it served it's purpose of welcoming her to an exciting day...

After she took a few minutes to wake up she promptly gathered some of her favourite-ist treasures and created a birthday shrine for herself on the kitchen table.

(This is soo very Keziah-ish...)

After she went off to school I replaced it with some butterfly decor in anticipation of her party (which was still a couple of days away).   I found the foliage around the farm and added some dollar store butterflies.

I found lilac branches that were already budding for the butterflies to perch on.  And - wouldn't you know it - we still have flowers in November!  (Erik's mom thinks these little purple flowers are alyssum).

I also used the same invitation template to create some butterfly garland to hang above the table.  

Then, Saturday came and it was party day.  I couldn't help but get Keziah a new dress for the occasion when I saw this one at Superstore...

When the guests arrived we gave them each a pair of "butterfly wings" to wear ($1.25 each from Dollarama).  Then I had 2 crafts planned to keep 6 little girls and 3 little boys busy.  The first was a simple craft of tissue paper and pipe cleaners.

For the second craft I gave the kids each a clothes-pin to decorate and told them that we were making caterpillars, but that by the end of the party they would turn into butterflies.  Later, while the kids were in the other room I clipped on the candy bags as the butterfly wings.  

I planned a couple of party games - our favourites are hot potato dress-up (take an item from the dress-up bin when it's your turn until everyone is dressed up all crazy) and the present unwrapping game (layers of wrapping paper with a gift inside that can be shared by all {more candy, of course!})

Then it was time for cupcakes... 

The cupcakes were my main inspiration for the party - an idea that I found here.  The Martha Stewart version is much more pretty in pastel, but I let Keziah choose the icing colours from this very fun and helpful chart so we ended up with more vibrant butterflies.  The wings are made from yogurt-covered pretzels, some dots of pink icing for the body, a smartie head and licorice antennae (sidenote: it's not easy to find shoe string licorice - let alone black or dark purple to match the picture - so I ended up using a red pull-and-peel twizzler).

The cupcakes were thoroughly enjoyed by all...

I commented to Erik that this group of girls was sooo much louder than they were last year.  I nearly lost my voice by the end of the 2 hours.  I ended up shipping them outside near the end of the party because there was a whole lotta noise and energy going on in our tiny house.

I breathed a sigh of relief when it was all over.  And I think we had one happy little party girl.

One birthday down, one more to go!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Birthday Girl

Yesterday my sweet little girl turned 6 years old.  I had hoped to post something here on the actual day, but it didn't happen... (hey, I'm embracing imperfection, remember?)  Besides, since her party isn't until tomorrow, her 'birthday' isn't technically over yet, right? :)

The other day I was reminiscing with Keziah about the day she was born and how excited and blessed I felt to discover that I had a daughter.  

As time progresses I see more and more how Keziah is almost the exact clone of me when I was her age.  Of course there's the blonde hair and blue eyes that make the obvious connection, but like me, she is also shy, quiet, imaginative, creative, a little clumsy and ditzy (sorry Keziah, but I am talking about both of us here...)  She's also tender-hearted, thoughtful and generous.

I also bump heads with Keziah more than I do with the boys - maybe because we're so similar?  She can be a teaser and an instigator unfortunately and some days I feel like I am on her case ALL day.  But one evening last week I found this note beside my bed:

{"I love you even when I tease."}

And it melted my heart.

Her note gave me an idea - and since she is bursting with all of her Grade One knowledge these days (and reading and spelling every word in sight), I thought it was time to start a mother-daughter journal.  Right now our letters are very simple and lovey-dovey and appropriate for a barely 6-year-old, but I hope that someday it can be a place where Keziah will feel comfortable sharing more with me - especially since I know she will find it difficult to talk openly if she's anything like me.

She totally loves the idea and I admit it's pretty fun to read letters like this at the end of the day:

{"I love you more than ever.  I will like to give you a picture with me and you."}

As the kids are growing older, I feel a strong sense of urgency to pray for them.  However I get easily overwhelmed at all the things that I should be praying for.  But I recently felt inspired to pray a repeated, simple prayer for each child every day: "Lord, I pray that Keziah would grow up to love you with all of her heart, soul, mind and strength.  And I pray that she would love other people."

Because that is really at the heart of what I want for each of my children...

Happy birthday sweet girl...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Embrace It

I've been waiting for inspiration to strike for a new blog post, but I think I've got blogger's block.  That... and a lack of time.  Or energy.  Or both.

This is the crazy time of year for me - there's the typical Christmas-around-the-corner busyness happening... which is full, yet manageable - but when you add the planning of 2 birthday parties (for a soon-to-be 6-year-old and soon-to-be 8-year-old), it just adds to the chaos.  (And did I mention that we're still not done renovating our bathroom...?)

My mantra this year is to keep things simple.  I don't know if I'm succeeding.  But I'm trying.  There are some things at this time of year that just have to be (i.e. Keziah's ballet Christmas concert marathon {a whole day event}).  But then there's the other things, like thoughtful teacher gifts, sending fancy cupcakes with the kids for their classmates on their birthdays, creating an elaborate homemade advent calendar for the kids...  You get the idea.  It's got to be the one draw-back of spending time on Pinterest - the assumption that everyone else has all the time in the world to bake, sew, craft, create and be...
Super Mom-ish.

So, it's healthy for me to recognize that I just won't be able to do everything exactly the way I would like to (and just because everyone and their dog pins an idea to Pinterest, it doesn't mean they're actually going to do it... can I hear an amen?).

Erik and I like to remind each other to embrace imperfection...

I have to admit, it's a pretty refreshing idea.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

I lost my voice over the weekend.  And I've discovered that it's really hard to parent 3 kids when you can't raise your voice a little bit.  Or a lot.  I whispered to Erik that maybe it's a good lesson for me - this whole not-raising-my-voice thing.  I have to walk to each child and make eye contact with them in order to get their attention...  no more yelling from room to room.  When things get real crazy you'll see me waving my arms or clapping, but for the most part I've just been ignoring rhetorical questions and fights that seem less-than-serious because the effort of talking is just too much.  Erik actually commented last night that he even felt the urge to be more quiet with the kids because I was so quiet...  Hmmm.

So, after a morning of running errands yesterday and having to explain in hushed tones to cashiers and other strangers that I couldn't talk, it was time for a home day.  So Silas and I tried a new cookie recipe that I pinned to my Pinterest board a little while ago.  Chocolate chip cookies are not loved by all in this house (Micah has decided he doesn't like chocolate anymore - this makes baking for everyone a challenge...), so I've been looking for some recipes that the whole family will enjoy.  Silas and I are the only ones who've taste-tested so far, but I have a feeling these cookies will be a winner.

I found the recipe on this blog, but I'll include it again here just to save you some time :)

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened (I used margarine)
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 tsp lemon zest
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar (I used less)

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Whip in vanilla, egg, lemon zest and lemon juice.  In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients (excluding the powdered sugar) then add to the butter mixture, stirring slowly until just combined.  Pour powdered sugar onto a large plate.  Roll a heaping teaspoon of dough into a ball and then roll in powdered sugar.

Place on a baking sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes at 350 degrees. 

I was recently chatting with some girls about how to achieve perfect cookies and we agreed that one key step is to NOT over-bake them.  This recipe suggested taking the cookies out once they had a "matte" finish (no longer melty or shiny).

These were the cookies right after I took them out of the oven.  Let them sit on the baking sheet for a few more minutes and then transfer them to a cooling rack.

And they tasted amazing!  The powdered sugar gave them just the teensiest bit of sweet crispy-ness on the outside and the lemon flavour was not too overpowering, but just the right amount.

This one is definitely a keeper for the recipe box.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Kids and Cows

We haven't made much noticeable headway on the bathroom, so I'll refrain from posting disappointingly un-progressive pictures of it.  Instead, here are a few from last week when Dad Toews cut some hay for our hungry cows and the kids helped deliver the fresh treat.  With the lack of rain the grass had been getting pretty sparse in the pasture, so the cows quickly got over any people-related shyness and came running.

Cocoa nibbling on Keziah's knees.

Willy the calf.

Up on the haywagon.

This kid is pretty fearless.

Micah getting mauled by cattle...

I think that was the last warm, dry evening of our amazing fall.  A day or two later the rains started in earnest.  So, today I celebrated "real" fall by trying a recipe for squash soup (turned out delicious, by the way) and some pumpkin pie for dessert (thanks to my Mom for leaving me a stash of pie dough in my freezer).  It definitely smells like October in the kitchen today :)