Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Celebrating Christmas

We celebrated Christmas well this year, very well!

On Christmas Eve we had a ham and cheesy potato dinner with the Hess side of the family.  Sariah joined us for the evening since the Nichols side of the family had to cancel our Christmas Eve get together due to illness.  We watched a film about the nativity and then exchanged gifts.  Grandma Nancy made each of the families a quilt this year and spoiled the grandkids with lots of presents.

Christmas morning the kids awoke to a living room full of presents.  This year's haul was impressive!  We set out with the intension to have a small Christmas, but that just didn't happen.  With eight people for Santa to bring presents for (our family of six plus Grandma Nancy and Sariah) and some great deals, Christmas was the biggest our family has seen.  A few highlights of this years gifting include Nancy receiving a canner, Sariah receiving all six Star Wars films on BluRay, Greg receiving a cordless drill, me opening a bunch of decorations for the new house, Palmer and Brody each receiving a DS2 and games, and the babies receiving a pair of Cozy Coupes.  It was funny how all the kids reacted differently to Christmas morning: Palmer couldn't wait to open each present and had a hard time waiting on everyone else to be ready, Brody got tired of it and wanted to know when we were done, Archer didn't seem to care much about them, and Avonlea was crazy on a Christmas high of sorts ripping into everything and being really hyper.

That evening we got together with the Nichols side of the family for a dinner of fancy appetizers and birthday cake for Jesus.  We also exchanged gifts.  Pappy and Grandma Betty got the grandkids each a big toy and a bag of fun little toys and goodies, and gave the adults a gift card to Walmart.  London, Sariah and I also exchanged our angel gifts that evening.  Every year since our mother's passing we exchange a homemade gift in honor of her.  Sariah made a plaque with her motto for 2014: "Live a brave life."  I made homemade honey whole wheat bread and a variety of homemade jams.  And London gave us a jar of memories of our mother that she had collected from friends.  I read them all that night when I got home.  They made me cry.  My favorite thing about the memories was that almost everyone commented on how they remember her laugh; she had the best laugh!

I made our traditional steak pie a few days later for a special family dinner.  I love that I can continue this tradition from my childhood memories of Christmas.  I love Christmas and its emphasis on family.  After all, Christmas started with a family - Joseph, Mary and Jesus, and I think it's fitting that it continue to revolve around family.  

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Recipe - Honey Whole Wheat Bread

This is my favorite homemade bread that I make.  It is also super fast to prepare, only taking a little over an hour from start to finish.  This bread is delicious, a little denser and sweeter than my white bread recipe.  I made it for my sisters this year for Christmas with some homemade jams to accompany it.

Honey Whole Wheat Bread
6 cups whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons Instant Yeast
4 teaspoons dough enhancer
2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dry milk
6 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup honey (may substitute sugar or brown sugar)
1/4 cup oil
2 tablespoons soy lecithin
2 2/3 cups warm tap water
Combine dry ingredients (including sugar if you are not using honey) in mixer and mix on low speed about 1 minute (with dough hook). Add wet ingredients. Mix on speed 2 for a Kitchen Aid/Bosch for about 1 minute. Check texture. When right texture is achieved, continue kneading in mixer at speed 2 for about 8 minutes.  Prepare pans while dough is kneading. When kneading is complete remove dough from bowl and shape into a large ball on an oiled surface. Cut into 2 equal parts with an oiled knife. Form 2 loafs and place in oiled pans. Cover with towel and let rise 20 minutes or until double in size. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.  Remove from pans immediately and cool on a cooling rack. When completely cooled, slice and store in tied bread bags.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Card 2013

A very Merry Christmas to all our family and friends!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Festival of Trees

We took the kids to the Festival of Trees.  It is one of my favorite holiday traditions.  My camera died while we were there so I didn't get a whole bunch of photos of trees as in the past.  Honestly, we didn't get to see many of the trees this year.  We only made it through about half of them before the kids needed a break.  We took them to Kids' Corner and didn't leave the kids' activities until closing time.  So is life with small children, right? 

However, I wouldn't change our situation for a moment!  Young children make the holiday season so much more exciting and fun.  They bring magic to Christmas!  I'll have many years in the future to enjoy glazing at the trees.  I'll take my snowman puppets, fishing pond and phone calls to the North Pole while I can.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Trimming the Tree

Palmer and Brody helped Grandma Nancy decorate our Christmas tree this year.  Grandma chose "kid ornaments" this year, a.k.a. ornaments that don't matter if they get broken and that are bright and colorful.  The tree doesn't look much like this picture now that we are into the holiday season.  The bottom half is now quite bare thanks to two sets of busy, little baby hands.

Monday, December 9, 2013

In Threes

It comes in threes.  That's what I've heard numerous people tell me during the times our family has seemed to have a run of bad luck.  And that's just what has happened the past few weeks.

1.  Car accident.  I wrecked our van, really wrecked it, as in it was totaled.  I'm pretty certain the woman's vehicle I hit was totaled as well.

2.  Burglary. Someone broke into the house we are building and ripped out all our electrical wiring.
3.  Medical scare.  I had to rush Palmer the ER late at night with a substantial skin infection and high fever.  And soon after, he also had an irregular mole diagnosed and removed leaving a large gash and stiches in the side of his head.
At the time, each of these situations was quite upsetting, and in two of the cases scary.
With the car accident, I was so upset with myself.  It was my fault; I didn't see the light turn red and I drove through an intersection.  I was so upset that my mistake was going to cost us money when we were already tight as it was trying to save up for the down payment on our house.  My neck and my chest were hurt during the accident.
We noticed the theft of the wiring after we had already spent the previous hour carrying in almost 2,000 lbs. of flooring supplies that needed to be in a heated home for 24 hours before installation.  Of course, the heat was no longer running, and now that we knew our home had been targeted, we were worried about leaving thousands of dollars worth of supplies we had paid for out of our own pockets to be stolen.  The walls inside the house had already been put up, mudded and painted.  We had no idea how the electrician would rewire everything without having to take down walls and do major repair work.  And we were upset about how long all the work would set back our move in date.
Palmer had broken out in bumps all over his body, and those bumps were getting infected.  They hurt him a lot and once we'd finally get one cleared up, another one would get infected.  He had an infection on his knee that was getting really large and sore.  We had an appointment with a dermatologist, but we weren't able to be seen for a couple months out.  When Palmer came down with a fever, I got really worried.  He was shaking like a leaf.  He was lethargic.  He was too sleepy to function.  (Of course once he got into the hospital bed, he perked right up, as you can see in the picture.)  At the hospital he had to get blood work down, an IV and X-rays.  While the ER doctor was looking over his body he noticed an odd mole on Palmer's head.  The mole had been a concern of mine before, but our pediatrician said not to worry about it.  The ER doctor said he should definitely see a specialist about it.
After the initial distress of these trials passed, I realized just how blessed we were.  I was hurt in the accident, but not severely.  My chest was bruised and the seat belt burned my neck.  I couldn't lift my arms up the two days prior and I could lift weight for about a week after (a great difficulty with twin babies!)  But I healed quickly, and the more I thought about it, and the more Greg thought about it, we were so grateful that I wasn't severely injured and that the other woman wasn't injured or worse, killed.  I don't think I would ever been able to forgive myself!  Moreover, I'm so grateful the kids weren't with me!  Nancy happened to stay home sick that day and offered to watch the kids while I ran an errand.  And as for our financial situation, it didn't set us back that much.  We got more than we originally thought for our totaled van and we found a new van quickly for less than we were willing to spend.
The house rewiring went very well.  It was done quickly, effectively and is hardly noticeable.  In the end, the theft only set us back a few days, and we didn't have to move all our supplied because they were able to install them shortly after.
Palmer's bumps ended up being a simple case of molluscum contagiosum.  It was treated fairly easily by the dermatologist.  The infection he got in his knee was contracted probably at school and cleared up quickly with antibiotics.  The bumps were annoying and the ER visit was alarming, but both lead us to an appointment with a skin specialist who was able to look at Palmer's mole, take a sample, and determine that it was a something that was a detriment to his health.  The mole removal was pretty intense, way more than I was prepared for: a lot of shots, a lot of cauterizing and a lot of stitches.  However, Palmer wasn't upset by the procedure, and the diagnosis and surgery will prevent that mole from possibly giving him skin cancer in the future.
A few friends have mentioned to us what a difficult time our family has been having.  And yes, we could view these trials in that manner.  But honestly, we haven't felt that way.  After the shock wore off, the blessings came to our minds and hearts.  We are so grateful for a Heavenly Father who watches over us, and even gives us trials to help us learn and appreciate his tender mercies.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Gingerbread Houses?

I put a question mark at the end of this title because I'm not sure these qualified as gingerbread houses.  We made gingerbread houses for our last Family Home Evening.  We purchased a different kind of gingerbread kit than we have in the past, and it was much more difficult to get together.  The kit was a Snoopy themed and came with four little doghouses, which was great because the boys were able to decorate their own.  Thankfully the gingerbread houses didn't have to stay assembled for very long, since the boys were ready and willing to eat them up just after creating them.