Monday, February 23, 2009

Sleeping Comfortably

If you have ever been pregnant, you know what I mean when I say it can be difficult to get comfortable.

I have recently started dreaming of a deluxe pillow (maybe something like this Leachco Back 'N Belly pillow) that will cushion and support my entire body without making it impossible to snuggle my husband. The Big V Pillow that I loved while pregnant with Donny was later recalled as a suffocation hazard, and when the tiny pellet filling began to leak everywhere, I decided it was time to part with it. Right now, I usually curl up against Don's body pillow - which he periodically reminds me is HIS, and that *I* am the one who banned it from the bed due to its bulkiness - and tuck the end around so that I can elevate my feet at the same time, which is supposed to help with the varicose veins. It's not ideal, but it works to keep me propped in the recommended left-side position without discomfort.

I have also had the thought lately that I might like a weighted blanket - you know, the kind that are recommended for children with autism or sensory disorders? Being a rather sensitive person myself, I think I would find the added weight comforting. It looks like there are a few choices in companies who make bed-size blankets that are basically giant Beanie Babies, stuffed with polypropylene pellets. Just imagine how cozy I would be in a nest made of U-shaped pillows and heavy blankets...I might have trouble ever getting out of bed in the morning!

My children have their own ideas about how to sleep comfortably. As a toddler, Donny liked to burrow. When the three of us were sharing a room, Don and I would often find him buried under the pillows at the head of our bed. In fact, sometimes it took a few minutes to find him. At three years old, he slept curled up with a sheet, and only a sheet, regardless of the temperature in his bedroom. Now, at four, he has consented to tucking his sheet in at the end of his bed and the use of additional least some of the time. Other times, he prefers his "sleeping pillowcase," a Christmas gift that my grandmother created from black fabric emblazoned with a treasure chest print. Though it doesn't match anything in his room and is much larger than his pillow anyway, Donny likes to make use of the pillowcase as a sleeping bag. I guess I should be thankful that he at least sleeps in his bed now, since this is the boy who has often napped in a box, basket, or any other bizarre place he could squeeze his body into. I have an entire folder of pictures on my computer of places I have found Donny sleeping!

Hayden, on the other hand, usually refuses to sleep with any blankets. He may or may not want to be covered up at bedtime, but when I check on him later in the evening, I inevitably find him uncovered. Last night, he was stretched out with his feet on his pillow and his face perilously close to the edge of the mattress. I turned him around and - despite knowing that he would probably wriggle out of them again - pulled up his sheet and quilt. I feel better knowing that he is properly tucked in, safe and warm in his bed.

Whether we, like Jacob, lay our head on a rock (um, ouch!) or snuggle up on a pillow-top mattress surrounded by luxurious sleeping aids, we all need rest. I may have an unending lists of tasks to tackle each day, but eventually I need a break before I can go any further. My body's inability to work non-stop is a reminder of my humanness, my frailty. My flesh is weak. I cannot do it all. And even if I have to leave some things undone, I do look forward to going to sleep. There is something very comforting about curling up in my own familiar bed, snuggling under my favorite quilt, and drifting off to sleep beside my favorite man in the world.

Sleep reminds me that my children are only human, too. No matter what stresses, messes, or moments of exhaustion a day may hold, it all seems to melt away in the peaceful darkness of watching them sleep. They are precious little people who have been entrusted to my care, dependent on me for their earthly comforts and sense of security. As I pray over them before I head to bed each night, I tuck them under their sheets and baby quilts once more - not because they want covers, or even need them, but because I want to do this. It is my privilege as a parent to delay my own sleep long enough to snuggle, soothe, pray, and realize that these moments are fleeting. I won't always be pregnant. I won't always have little ones to tuck into bed. There won't always be cries of "Mumma!" until 9pm or a pitter-patter of little feet invading my bedroom in the wee hours of the morning.

And I won't always be comfortable.

Living as a Christian in a broken world, I cannot hope or expect to live a completely comfortable life, but the God of All Comfort is always with me. No matter what the circumstances, I am held safe in His everlasting arms. He gives me the privelege of rest and of daily work and of quiet moments to seek Him. He blesses me with a deep satisfaction in my role as a wife and mother. He fills my busy days with meaning and purpose that I could never otherwise find. And at the end of the day, with or without the latest advances in sleeping technology, I can rest peacefully, knowing that my Heavenly Father can comfort me as nothing else can.

As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you...
Isaiah 66:13a

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Children Are Always Blessings

Behold, children are a gift of the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one's youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
They will not be ashamed
When they speak with their enemies in the gate.

Psalm 127:3-5 NASB

Children are blessings. God's Word says that children are a gift and a reward, and since God cannot lie, we know His Word is true. So why do so many Christians feel comfortable rejecting these blessings by purposefully choosing not to conceive children?

If you have never contemplated this point before, or even if you have, I encourage you to read a thought-provoking post at Pursuing Titus 2 called "Blessings, But". If children are blessings, as the Bible says they are, then they are ALWAYS blessings. They are a gift even if we, in our limited knowledge and understanding, think otherwise.

Children are blessings.

Even if we don't feel ready...
Even if they came sooner than we expected...
Even if they aren't quite what we pictured for our perfect family...
Even if they have special physical, emotional, or financial needs that drain our resources...
Even when pregnancy leaves us sick and tired and wondering how to cope...
Even when they wake up at 3am. And 4am. And 5am...
Even when they spill their milk on the clean floor and rub peanut butter in their hair...
Even when they argue with their siblings just moments after being told to share and be kind...
Even when we have to change yet another diaper just as we were about to rush out the door to an appointment...and we're already running late...and they suddenly "forget" how to put on their own shoes...
Even when they start to eat more and more and we wonder how to afford the growing grocery bill...
Even when we can't afford to give them the new clothes, the extracurricular activities, or the fun gifts we would like to give them...
Even when we are exhausted and can't seem to find even a few moments' peace...
Even if we can't go out to eat, attend social events, or take vacations because our children's needs take priority...
Even when we feel stuck at home, or wonder if we can effectively serve God with children in tow...
Even if we think we can't possibly handle them. "We can't take anymore. We're done."...

God says that we are BLESSED.

Maybe it's easy for me to welcome the idea of more children while our family is still small. I have not yet faced the challenges of taking four children to the grocery store or cooking meals for a small army. For another perspective, check out Ruth's Thoughts on Family at the Snap-EZ Blog. Ruth is blessed with 11 children, her youngest daughter having been born with Down's Syndrome last September. I admire this woman who has embraced God's blessings for her family, and pray that God will pour out his blessings on Don and me in the same way!

And no, I don't think that God gave me some unique gift to be a mother of many children, if that is His Will. He simply has given me faith and a personal relationship with His son, and through HIS strength, I can do all things. I can look at the list above and still say, "Yes, Lord, please bless me with more children." The challenges and trials of raising little arrows for Him is what brings me to my knees, keeps me humble, and forces me to rely on my Lord. I am blessed not just with babies to snuggle and children to cherish, but with a stronger faith that comes from submitting my own will to His.

I do not know whether the Lord will choose to give us three children or five or ten or more. I do know that I want Him to make the decision about how many children we have and when they are conceived - not me. I want to view them the way their Heavenly Father sees them - not as inconveniences, but as treasures whom I am privileged to care for and nourish. He says that they are blessings, and I know, trust, and believe that His Word is true. Always.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Looking for Lovely Literature

Although we do not celebrate Valentine's Day here, I decided on love (and hearts) as our homeschooling theme for the month of February. After all, love is the greatest commandment the Bible gives us, and certainly an area where both the children and I need growth. It is a value that virtually everyone, even those who are not "religious," believes in. So why, I wonder, am I having such a hard time finding quality books to read to my children about love?

Sure, there are dozens, if not more, picture books with "love" in the title. We have owned several of them...I say "have owned" because Don and I decided that many of them were rather useless when it came to actually teaching children about love. Stories like Love Is a Handful of Honey and I Love You With All My Heartmay have warm fuzzy illustrations of bears and bunnies, but the truth is, love is NOT a handful of honey. (Unless you're giving your last handful of honey to someone else out of love for them...but that's not what the book is about.) The popular Guess How Much I Love You(a title that we decided to send to Grandma and Grandpa's house for occasional reading) covers the popular theme of "I love you as much as..." But practically speaking, what does "I love you as high as I can hop" really mean? Even the classic Love You Forever, known for bringing mothers to tears with its repetitive verse, falls short. Is breaking into your grown son's home to sing to him while he sleeps really demonstrating love? It sounds a bit more creepy than lovely to me.

When we look to the greatest Book of all, we learn that love is not about red roses or furry hugs. Though countless passages of Scripture deal with this topic, the children and I have been focusing on 1 Corinthians 13, the classic love passage, and Romans 12, which details some practical applications of loving others. The Bible certainly has plenty to say about God's love for us and how He calls us to love Him and love others. But for purposes of illustration, where are the books that teach how love is patient and kind, love is not rude, and love honors others over oneself? Are there any materials in our local library - besides Veggie Tales DVDs - that show what it means to love one's neighbor?

And while I'm on the subject, would it be too much to ask for more children's books to be about, well, children? Talking trains and teddy bears have their place, but I would love to find more realistic fiction that relates to everyday life and values. My boys love books - in fact, at the moment they are engrossed in the latest stack we brought home from the library - but it would be nice to conclude a story session without having to explain the impossible elements to my very literal preschooler.

I wish I had a list for you of lovely children's literature, but sadly, my searches for supplementary books have not been successful thus far. If by chance you have discovered any quality picture books that teach the true meaning of love, please share them in the comments...and tell my library to stock them soon!

The earth is filled with your love, O LORD; teach me your decrees.
Psalm 119:64

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Loving the Target Clearance Rack

I'm not a huge shopper, but after deciding on a theme of red with hearts for my kitchen, I have harbored intentions of scouring the February 15th clearance racks for affordable accessories. Between Christmas and Valentine's Day is definitely the best time to paint a kitchen red, since in early January I found a pretty red tablecloth for only $5 on clearance at Target. At our housewarming party, I received some great red heart towels and fun heart-shaped serving bowls, so I went to Target yesterday with no pressing needs, but hoping to find great deals on similar items. I was not disappointed! After a few trips through the picked-over Valentine aisles and the infant clothing clearance rack, I filled my shopping cart with the following goodies:

- five bags of Hershey's dark chocolate (the ones that usually cost $2.50-$3 each, and last through one or two weeks of pregnancy chocolate cravings)
- four heart-shaped melamine plates (after Donny shattered one of my china plates on the tile floor last week, I'm thinking that owning a few plastic dishes might not be such a bad thing)
- one striped rug that reverses to red (I have been wanting a coordinating rug to go in front of the kitchen sink, and I love stripes!)
- one scrubber (since my old vegetable scrub brush had to be thrown away)
- two pink zippered hoodies, sizes 3 months and 12 months (my first time buying girl clothes, ever!)
- two pairs of red cotton pants, sizes 3 months and 6 months
- one newborn striped sleeper
- one pair of striped girly socks (Did I mention I love stripes?)
And the total...


My receipt says, "You saved 44.61." If all of my shopping trips were like this one, I just might fall in love with Target!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

1 Corinthians Cutouts

(Love Printables - cut by Donny, hung by Hayden - from Totally Tots)

Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts,
always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Praying Wife

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. - 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Admittedly, I am not the perfect wife. My labors at frugal-yet-nutritious cooking may fail to impress my I-only-eat-because-I-have-to husband, who would rather consume Kraft Macaroni and Cheese with sliced hot dogs than any whole food recipe I could possibly concoct. My pregnant body, with its bulging belly and likewise bulging varicose veins, may fail to catch his eye even when draped in my nicest (but still hopelessly tent-like) maternity clothes. My daily efforts to teach, train and discipline our children may go unnoticed when they argue, disobey, and ignore my commands to come. It's easy to feel like a failure at the very jobs I consider to be my highest calling.

As I prayed through a particularly trying moment yesterday, the Lord convicted me that prayer for my husband needs to take greater priority. Not just prayer for our marriage in general, but instead, a concentrated time of praying God's will in my husband's life. Ironically, when I asked him later the same day what I could do to be a better helper to him, he responded with a question: "How often do you pray for me?" I answered, "Every day," which was truthful, for I do offer some snippet of prayer for him every day, whether for his protection as he goes off to work, or for his encouragement as I rub his back after a long day. But what I need, God has encouraged me, is to make my prayers more purposeful.

As his wife, it is my honor and privilege to keep my husband covered in prayer. Right now, I feel lead to have the children join in praying for Daddy, too. I may teach them to say grace five times a day, but how often do I model intercession for others? There are so many struggles and challenges that meet my husband and our marriage daily, and I believe more than a fleeting whisper of prayer is required to combat these threats. A few years ago, I read and prayed throughThe Power of a Praying® Wife by Stormie Omartian, a helpful tool that addresses specific prayer needs. In fact, I think I may pull it off the shelf and go through it again. I need to pray for my husband's spiritual growth, his role as the leader of our family, his protection from temptation, his physical and emotional health, his work and hobbies, his relationships with me and our children and others, and so many other areas. What a great responsibility to be entrusted with the task of carrying these requests to the Father!

In prayer, I must be cautious to pray not for my own will or desires to be granted, but that God's Will may be done in my husband's life. As the Lord shapes his character in answer to my petitions, I will only find myself more in love with this man whom God has given me. And in prayer, I will find that I too am convicted and changed and forced to grow. I pray that God will develop in me a more gentle and quiet spirit in order to win my husband without a word. May I grow in holiness so that, regardless of small failures, my husband will know I am the perfect wife for him.

Do you have regular times of purposeful prayer for your husband or those in authority? Will you join me in the journey to become a faithfully praying wife?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

How to Leave a Comment

One of my favorite things about blogging is reading your comments and joining in the community by commenting on other blogs. What you may not realize is that you don't need to be a Blogger in order to post on comment on Lambs In His Arms. If you have an account with Google, Yahoo, AIM, or a different blog host, you may be able to log in using OpenID. All you need is your OpenID url and password.

If you have a Google account, you can use the same log in name and password to comment on Blogger. Other blog owners can often use their blog url. Since I have a Yahoo account, I found my OpenID under the Review Your Account Information page (click your name on the Yahoo search engine screen for a quick way to get there). In the column to the right is a place to Edit or Create an Open ID. Besides a default url that I would never remember, I was able to create my own OpenID identifier for Lambs In His Arms. I can use this identifier to log into any website that supports OpenID.

AOL users can log in with the OpenID here. For a list of other OpenID providers, check out OpenID Status Check. The password is the same one you use for AOL (or Yahoo, etc.).

It may sound complicated, but it's really pretty simple once you figure it out. Now that you know your OpenID, head to the comments page for any post. Under "Choose an identity" you can sign in with your Google account information, or select OpenID to sign in using your WordPress, AOL, Yahoo, or other OpenID account. Type your OpenID url into the box. When you press "Publish your comment" or "Preview," you will be redirected to a confirmation screen where you can type in your password and complete the log in process. Then your comment will be submitted for blog owner approval. Once I have approved it, your comment will be visible to all blog readers. (For another explanation of how to comment with OpenID, try this Blogger article.)

I'm looking forward to hearing from my non-blogging readers, so if you are able to log in, please leave a comment and let me know! :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Five Second Tower

Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."
- Genesis 11:4

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Thankful Heart

He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. - Deuteronomy 8:16

On Sunday night, I was looking forward to testing out my new peppermint shower gel - a housewarming gift from a friend - in a nice warm shower. I love long, relaxing showers, but since we decided to increase the water pressure from our new showerhead by removing the flow inhibitor, I am limited to a mere ten minutes of hot water, which doesn't leave much time for relaxing, especially with long hair to wash. And that night, instead of turning from warm to hot, the shower water felt cool against my hand. As I was pondering this chilly fact and whether I should risk showering in the cold, Don discovered that the furnace was off. We were out of oil...again. My shower would have to wait.

We had to fill the tank when we first moved in, but apparently it only took us six weeks of keeping the thermostat set in the 60's to run out of heating oil. We woke up to 50 degree temperatures on Monday morning, and I was very thankful that my sister-in-law lent us some space heaters to keep us from freezing before the oil delivery arrived that afternoon. While the boys didn't seem to even notice the change in temperature and would have willingly gone barefoot on the tile floor, I was definitely cold. Once the heat was finally back on and into the mid-60's, it felt quite toasty to me. Even before the much anticipated oil truck pulled into our driveway, I was thankful that though we were without heat, we still had electricity. I could cook, run (cold) water, use the computer, and turn on music for the children; I just had to wear an extra layer while doing those things. It was cold, but it could have been so much worse!

No matter how thankful I may think I am, going without something inevitably helps me to appreciate it more. Another example: my laptop is finally fixed, after being in the repair shop for a month and having issues for a few weeks before that. I have gotten used to the desktop now, so being able to blog from any room in the house will be quite exciting! Likewise, after living without a working dishwasher for the first two weeks we were here, I had a deeper appreciation for the wonders of automatic dishwashers (and in the interim, was quite thankful for paper plates!). And after sharing one car for nearly a year now, I am sure that whenever Don and I get a second vehicle, there will be a wondrous sense of possibilities when it comes to outings and scheduling conflicts.

This week, the boys and I read the story of the Israelites in the desert from their children's Bible. We rehearsed the details of the 40 year menu: nothing but quail and the mysterious bread from heaven they called manna. In thinking about it more seriously, I realized that I would not want to eat the same two items for 40 days, nevermind 40 weeks or months or years! Imagine the Israelites who did get to enter the Promised Land after living on manna for years, or maybe their entire lifetime. They must have been bursting with excitement at the dietary choices available in the land flowing with milk and honey. Shouldn't I be just as thankful for the options available to me as I stroll through our local supermarket?

Lately Donny requires a lot of encouragement to pray, but that night, even his childish heart willingly thanked God: for his food and home, that we got to move close to our family and friends, and that we don't have to live in the desert and eat manna and quail. The next morning's grace summarized it, "Dear God, thank you that we don't have to do all that Egyptian stuff."

There is so much to be thankful for, even when the things we take for granted are taken away. And the Lord provides, whether with the warmth of space heaters or the sustenance of bread from heaven, in order that we may learn to trust Him, to turn to Him with a grateful heart, and give Him the glory. As the children and I learned from Madame Blueberry on Veggie Tales, "A thankful heart is a happy heart." And when I hear my two year old singing those words as he toddles down a warm-enough hallway in bare feet, my heart is truly thankful.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Open House Tour

This weekend we hosted a housewarming party, and had a great time visiting with family and friends who came to see our new home. Since most of my readers couldn't be here in person, I thought you might enjoy a virtual tour in photographs. You can see the outside of the house in fall and winter, then step through the front door into the dining room...

The table and chairs belonged to my mom until we moved fact, my grandfather built the table.

Turning right, you'll see the sunken living room with the built in entertainment center (which we of course had to get a TV looked strange without it!) and the comfy new couch.

To the left of the dining room, you can step up into the kitchen. (The boys learned quickly to navigate the steps!) Previously a dull greenish color, the kitchen is now a very cheery red. We upgraded the appliances from a broken dishwasher, charred stove circa 1970, and cream colored side-by-side fridge to these matching Frigidaire appliances from Best Buy.

I wanted to paint the dingy yellowish hallway a warm, sunny color, and my interior decorator friend helped me pick out this June Day paint from Sherwin Williams. I love it!

The boys' room is conveniently located near the kitchen. I used pages from an old Dog Food calendar to make their border.

The bathroom has been my biggest project. We started by pulling the tracking off the tub where there once was a shower door and scraping off the residual glue. I bought a Lodge Stripe Shower Curtain to try to match the burgundy paint, but it didn't match after all, so I repainted instead. This Baby Turtle paint from Benjamin Moore coordinates perfectly with the shower curtain and makes the room seem much bigger and cleaner. I added green towels from Target, a bamboo shade, some wicker baskets, and a wooden stepstool to help the children reach the sink. I also bought a second shower curtain to make the curtains, which I hung using the existing hardware and a wooden dowel I found in the basement. And of course, Don installed the efficient new toilet.

The previous owners used this as the master bedroom. We painted the white walls a chocolatey brown and use it as our office. The blue loveseat under the window was the only couch in our apartment, so you can see what an upgrade the new sectional is.

And this oversized room, formerly used as a second living area, makes a perfect master bedroom and nursery for us!

I'll spare you the sight of the dusty basement and the snowy yard, but I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the home God has blessed us with. And if you're in the area, do come visit us sometime!

When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. "If you consider me a believer in the Lord," she said, "come and stay at my house."
- Acts 16:15a

Thursday, February 5, 2009

My Utmost for Him

I absolutely love Oswald Chambers' My Utmost For His Highest. Through most of last year, I read the devotional online every day, and often found myself convicted and challenged by the daily readings. Because of the complex language and theology, I often have to read each entry more than once to grasp its meaning. This year, I have started again to read it here and there, this time in paperback format, gleaning as much from the penetrating words as I did last time.

Today, however, I woke up at the scheduled 6:00am, and laid in bed, awake, until I had to get up and start breakfast - no time for morning devotions. Yet as the Lord worked on some issues in my heart this evening, I knew that I needed to seek Him - and that a blog post would most likely be the result, if not part of the process. Before I could even pick up my Bible - with My Utmost tucked inside the cover pocket - God spoke to me through my friend Erin's blog, A Full Heart. She quoted today's entry, which follows:
"Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all." Philippians 2:17

Are you willing to be offered for the work of the faithful - to pour out your life blood as a libation on the sacrifice of the faith of others? Or do you say - "I am not going to be offered up just yet, I do not want God to choose my work. I want to choose the scenery of my own sacrifice; I want to have the right kind of people watching and saying, 'Well done.'

It is one thing to go on the lonely way with dignified heroism, but quite another thing if the line mapped out for you by God means being a door-mat under other people's feet. Suppose God wants to teach you to say, "I know how to be abased" - are you ready to be offered up like that? Are you ready to be not so much as a drop in a bucket - to be so hopelessly insignificant that you are never thought of again in connection with the life you served? Are you willing to spend and be spent; not seeking to be ministered unto, but to minister? Some saints cannot do menial work and remain saints because it is beneath their dignity.
Erin related this passage to motherhood and the menial tasks of homemaking, which I well understand. Yet personally, I am already convinced that I am doing a very important work at home as I wipe noses and wash dishes. I know that I am serving God with each meal I prepare, every floor I scrub, every book I read to the children, and every word of faithful instruction. I actually enjoy the tasks of homemaking, even when they go unseen. But there is a fine line between my own sense of fulfillment and accomplishment, and pride. Yes, if unchecked, even the most heroic and humble of deeds can be quickly tainted by pride.

"I want to choose the scenery of my own sacrifice." Is this me? "Yes Lord, I'm delighted to do your will - as long as it is the very thing I'm doing, here in my own home!" What if the scenery were changed? What if God called me to a ministry, a job, or a location besides my familiar home? I don't believe there is anything insignificant about being "just" a wife and mother, but what if God did call me to take on an additional role? Would I be willing? Or is my eagerness to serve limited to the domain I find comfortably familiar?

In the New American Standard Bible, Philippians 2:17 reads:

But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.

Lord, let me be willing to be poured out as an offering to you...wherever, whenever, however You would use me. Let me rejoice, not with pride or self-satisfaction, but with the delight to do Your will. Let me give my utmost for the work You choose.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Baby Bellies

Me at 21.5 weeks, and two friends (who also have toddlers) at 35 and 38.5 weeks, respectively. We are so blessed!

In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!"
Luke 1:42-45

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Football Fun

I meant to post this prior to Superbowl Sunday, but as usual, life has been keeping me busy and away from my Blogger dashboard. On Sunday afternoon, Don and I invited a few other young families over to hang out. While I have no interest in televised sports and the Superbowl is no exception, we both liked the excuse to throw a party, especially one that made use of our new living room, sectional sofa, and HDTV.

Since Donny had been begging me to do a craft, I employed his help and Hayden's in making a few football-themed decorations. I cut football shapes from brown construction paper, which the boys scribbled on with their crayons (washable only, a wise decision on my part, since leaving the room for just two minutes resulted in the walls likewise receiving decoration). I read a suggestion to staple these shapes together and stuff them with shredded paper, but since I had an excess amount of plastic grocery bags on hand, I used those instead. With a long strand of yarn, some painter's tape (leftover from my home improvement projects), and a garnish of ribbons saved from birthday gifts, we soon had a festive strand of footballs hanging from our ceiling beam.

It was Donny's idea to use the TV box to cut a giant football out of cardboard. Since the big game was to be watched on the big TV, I thought it was perfectly fitting, and decided to decorate the picture of the TV itself with the logos of the competing teams. Donny had his first exercise in coloring in the lines by helping me with the Steelers logo. Hayden's use of the (washable) markers was carefully monitored to prevent further murals from being drawn on the kitchen walls. After bedtime, I added a few construction paper pennants and tin foil stars to complete the decor.

In the process of googling "preschool football crafts," I stumbled across some ideas for a preschool football party, including a simple recipe for mini football pizzas. So on the big day, I made baked potatoes - which no one was hungry for due to the sheer volume of food, but they looked like footballs, and made great homefries the next day - and football shaped pizzas on Pillsbury grand biscuits. The biscuits can easily be flattened and shaped into something resembling a football, and since I love the personalized make-your-own versatility of English muffin and bagel pizzas, these little treats were easily topped with pepperoni, peppers, onions, and/or cheese as the eater desired. The pizzas were yummy, and I topped the extra biscuits with cinnamon and sugar before baking to keep them from going to waste. Of course, we were all too busy consuming bakery cookies and my football-shaped Tollhouse bar to fill up on biscuits.

For the sake of cuteness, gingerbread cookies with a football shaped cutter and some white icing would have been ideal. For the sake of taste, however, I really wanted to make a pan of Nestle Tollhouse bars, and the Superbowl theme came as more of an afterthought. While I won't win any cake-decorating awards for my football creation, it was a big hit...or should I say, it scored a touchdown? In case you have never had the pleasure of sampling these easy dessert bars, the recipe is below. You don't have to wait for next year's Superbowl to make some for yourself!

Tollhouse Bars
  • 40 oz. chocolate chip cookie dough (2 rolls or one tub, divided in half)
  • 12 oz. cream cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
1. Press half of cookie dough into the bottom of a 9x13 baking pan.
2. Mix cream cheese, eggs, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Spread over cookie dough.
3. Cover with remaining cookie dough. (I find this to be the most challenging part - I usually squash patties of dough in my hand and patch together over the top like a puzzle.)
4. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes.
5. Cool before cutting into bars. Keep refrigerated. And try not to eat the whole pan in one day!

Thanks to my mom and to Harriet at Don's work, both of whom shared this recipe with me...and to all of our Sunday guests for making a super party!