Sunday, December 26, 2010

(deep sigh)

We made it.

I have never



been so glad that Christmas was over.

Sweet, sweet bitterness.

So many people softened the blow of the first Christmas for us. . .

Someone reached his tiny grave before us on Christmas morning. . . all of the snow brushed away, that small little pine blanket brushed clear of six inches of snow.  We tried to follow the tracks of the angel who did this for us. . . but I think they wanted to remain a mystery.  Thank you, precious friend.

The little tree at his resting place; covered in tiny blue bows and blue snowflakes and blue butterflies.  Breathtaking.  Bless you. . . unknown friend.

tiny ornaments in memory of our little man. . .

pictures. . .

journals. . .

cards with his name added, too (thank you, sweet Becky. . .)

We are so blessed by so many who poured out, unselfishly caring and carrying our grief during what is supposed to be the happiest time of the year. Thank you to each one who chose to face our pain, and not turn away. . . 

It is hard to dull the throbbing ache of loss.

I am learning so much.

I am blessed beyond belief to have a man who loves me so well, even through these dark, dark days.

I am learning that a grateful heart is sometimes also an aching heart.

I am finding out how strong the love of a Father really is.

I am shocked at how weak I am.

I am in awe of how strong HE is.

I am savoring the joy of my children and the crazy hilarity of their age.

I am loving watching JD's thrill {still} at being on Christmas vacation. "Dear God, thank You so much that I can have Christmas vacation, because some kids don't get a vacation from school, so thank You."  (I didn't set him straight.) 

Laughter at Cambria's honest efforts to rhyme words. . . some are perfect combinations, others not so much.  "we and me! we and he!" {good}  "eat and car!" {not good}  "you're the best mommy!" {perfect}

Hanging on to Daniel. . . drawing so much strength from him this week.

Still incredulous that Daniel discovered both of my Christmas gifts for him. . . wireless internet + gifting him with my {treasured} Blackberry.  {Sigh.}  I was never the best at keeping secrets anyway.

Planning what day to schedule my hour long massage birthday gift.  (Yes, my birthday is in May.  But that massage has motivated me through hundreds of thank yous over the summer, weddings, packing and unpacking, cleaning, rentals, Thanksgiving, diets, Christmas cards. . . and well, it's just time to use it.)

{another sigh}

Thank You God. . . thank You for never letting go. . .  I love You. . .

Thursday, December 23, 2010

love from. . . us

{thank you to sweet Rebecca who continues to bless our family with the gift of her photography}

merry christmas, little man

Hi, my little man. . .

How are ya doing?

I was hoping that the angels are singing you Away in the Manger; I think you could almost do some of those actions. . .

I missed you, little man, every minute this month. 

We made our tree for you. . . we got little lanterns like you helped mama order for the weddings this summer and big tissue flowers like at your baby shower and we put them all over our tree with tinsel. . . and that was all we could do.

Your brother and sister had their cracker sandwiches without you and we all wished you were there, so bad.

I was trying to be brave on our Christmas day and then your daddy said "this is really hard for me," and then I just laid my head down on the table and cried for you, little man. Neither of us want anything but you.

Your daddy wrapped gifts for you that he picked out. . .

Baby mittens {cuz he totally would have taken you sledding on his Christmas vacation}

Handwarmers {so you wouldn't get cold}

A little fire truck {cuz he wanted you to grab it and put it in your mouth and then he would take it out and explain to you how it worked}

And he even bought you some ice cream of your very own - Chunky Monkey, for our little Chunky Monkey.  {it's in the freezer }

Ahhhh, little man. . , my little Gabe. . . . I wish you were in our house, buddy.

I filled the kids stockings last night, and we didn't leave you out, little man. . . you got some cheerios and a little flashlight and playdough. . . mostly just for your big brother and sister to open because they wanted to do a stocking for you, too.  They aren't up yet; they're all tuckered out from their big night last night of caroling and sledding.

I wish lots and lots of things, little man, mostly that you were here;  none of the things I wish for this Christmas can change until Heaven, so I have to choose to hold on to the gifts God has given me.

You were a gift, Gabriel.  We loved every minute with you.

Life is a gift.

Eternal life is a greater gift.

We know we will see you - in just a little while, Gabe - because Jesus left all of the gifts that God had given Him and chose to come down to our little messy yucky crummy selfish aching world and give us

hope when there is no hope

peace when there is no peace

love when there is no love

and life when there is death.

That's what Christmas is about. . .

And I celebrate that with all of my heart.

Tell Jesus Happy Birthday for me, little man. 

Mommy loves you.

Merry Christmas, buddy.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gumdrop Wreath

{Inspired by Cheryl at A Pretty Cool Life. . .}

I love it!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake

{subtitle:  yes, I still like to eat}

1 3/4 cup oreo crumbs

3 T. butter

Mix together and press on bottom and up sides of 9 x 13 springform pan


3 packages cream cheese

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 cup sour cream

Pour into crust.

Cookie Dough:

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 T. milk

1/2 cup flour

1 t. vanilla

1 cup mini chocolate chips.

Drop by teaspoonfuls into cheesecake.  Push down with a spoon and smooth cheesecake batter  Bake at 350 fro 50 minutes, cool for an hour on wire rack and then refrigerate overnight.

I tweaked a recipe from an ancient Taste of Home magazine. . . credit where credit is due. . .

And the breakdown of where this went and how much is left. . .

1 piece (warm, yuck) -Daniel

4 pieces (snuck into McD's while clueless children played ha ha ha ha) -da girls

1 piece to pacify the whistleblower at McD's - JD

4 pieces to my friend minus 1 piece JD stole off of her gift plate (while I was on the phone with my mom) = 3 pieces for her

2 large pieces to Station 2

And this is what is left.  . . .

Oh so very tempting.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

24 Days before Christmas

. . . well, actually, its more like 13 or 14 days before Christmas. . .

I put up our advent calendar last night . . . er, this morning, at 2 am. . .

This is my very cheap spin on the advent calendar on Infarrantly Creative.  I went to Dollar Tree to buy the cute little buckets and realized I was going to spend about $10, which I don't mind, but these little white bags in packs of 12/$1 caught my eye.

Then, since I don't own one of those cool cricut machines, I sent a humble request to my friend Pam for numbers 1-24 in green and orange.  She was kind and made them for me. (Thanks, Pam! )

I (shhhhh) hot glued the green ribbon to my chalkboard wall.  I think when I take it down, there will be some sadness, i.e. chipped paint, but no worries, I have tons of chalkboard paint.  I pinned the bags up with green paper clips.

They are filled with little tags that say things like:

Make Peppermint Bark

Read Luke 1

Sing Away in the Manger

Play "hide the Christmas candy kiss"

Put a string of white lights up somewhere

Read a Christmas story

Put together Christmas puzzles

Look at Christmas lights with hot cocoa in Daddy's truck

Go to Fareway and pick out Brach's candy mix

and so on . . .and on. . . 

I'll be honest, I don't have them all filled.  I can think of what to put in there as we go along.  It's the right of the mommy in her mommy kingdom.

And I've always wanted to try this idea. . .

. . .sorting clothing into outfits for each day of the week.  I don't know if it will work, but at least it looks really cute!

I am such a conundrum of beautiful design and absolute chaos. 

Really?  Advent Calendar on the 11th of December at 2 am?

Please, tell me I'm not alone.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Deuteronomy 18. . . and The Three Trees. . . and Jesus

Lots of things swirling around in my mind today.

Cambria, while I was organizing her {extremely messy} room. . . Mommy, Jesus died on the cross for me.

I turned to look, wanting to burn that moment forever in my heart.

Cheesy grin.

Reading The Tale of Three Trees.



Lately the issue of communication with the those not here has surfaced frequently.  Maybe because someone I love has died. . .?  I know that the grace of God has kept this desire from my heart and I'm thankful for that;  today I went searching for answers from God's Word.  As a believer, it's easy to pass off, gloss over, and ignore this issue, but when you are faced with it, I don't want to simply dismiss someone and their earnest desire to see or hear from their loved one again.

I expected to find what I thought was there; a negative command.  Don't do it.  I found that.  I also found an
incredible promise, right there in the middle of the Old Testament. . .

. . .proof to me that the One who created our hearts also knows how to care for them, even in unthinkable sorrow. . .

After God says not to ask for answers from the dark. . . He says this. . . "The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet. . .listen to Him. . ." {Dt. 18:15}

In one of those light bulb moments, I realized that once again, God always gives so much more.  Instead of psychics, how about eternity with all of the answers and Gabe?  In place of shadowy quests for bits of hope. . . Jesus, the Light of the World, and our firm foundation.

I'd pick Jesus any day.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

$20 Master Bedroom Makeover

I just never get tired of makeovers. . .

. . .ever.

So this is my $20 master bedroom makeover.

There were several components that went into the inspiration for this idea.

1) mess everywhere from hundreds of books that needed shelving

2) the chalkboard headboard wall in the movie 500 Days of Summer {not worth watching except for decorating ideas!}

3) makeovers make me so so happy.  I have been rearranging my spaces since I was a little girl.  One night when I was probably only four, Mom and Dad left me with a sitter who dutifully put me to bed, but I didn't go to sleep.  I pushed my bed against a different wall and toodled around in my room til Mom and Dad got home, then crept down to the landing to listen to the sitter's report.  "I don't think she's asleep, " said the sitter, stating the very duh obvious.  {relating that story sounds an awful lot like Cambria.  Hmm.}

Anyway, on with the remake.

Ceiling Fan : repaint+ clean = free
(the amount of paint used is so minimal and I always have black paint)

free shelving (it was headed for the dumpster, seriously) + more black paint and organization= free

            This was our nice, safe, tan colored headboard wall which is now black.  ( $9 chalkboard paint)

Lamps from Goodwill (matching, even) $6
(I will probably paint these black)
I already had the lampshades, so I'm counting those as free, but originally they were $15 apiece

You may be wondering what Daniel thinks of coming home to black walls.  He's cool with it.  He likes order, and really could care less what color organization looks like, but he happens to like black, so lucky me. My tip for painting wild colors:  Do it, (unless it's woodwork or brick that is going to be forever altered) and then meet him with "Babe, it was $20 and if you don't like it I'll happily change it back."  It works for me every time.  I realize I'm stereotyping here, but guys usually don't have vision for this kind of change and they have a really hard time visualizing the idea; however, they are usually okay with the outcome.

Hey, for $20, why not?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bittersweet Christmas

I changed our playlist.

The regular cheerful holiday music. . . just not doing anything for my heart these days.

I'm struggling with winter and Christmas.  It's just so not what I expected. 

I woke up yesterday morning - and felt like I got kicked in the stomach when I discovered it was snowing.  why is this so hard for you. . . Daniel asks. . .

I don't know. 

Maybe because his grave seems a little colder.

Because one more season has come and gone without our little man in it.

Because it's cold, and I don't want his resting place to seem cold.

I don't know.

The black hole of the summer has faded. . . and so instead of just letting myself grieve and weep I keep going. . .taking out my frustration and grief and tears on things that don't matter. . .

This is such a long process.

Sometimes I just wish it could be over.

Fast forward button. . . where are you?

I cheer when I find tiny orange japanese lanterns to hang on the tree. . . yay. . .  yay?  I'm happy about hanging stuff on our tree in memory of our son?  It seems so wrong.

I struggled this morning. . . usually I do fun stuff for the kids on the first day of December, channeling my mom and her incredible abilities to make the ordinary special.  {snowman pancakes, anyone?} 

I just couldn't do the special stuff.  It's so sad.  This afternoon we dug out all of the Christmas storybooks and snuggled in our big bed upstairs and read until my voice was hoarse.  I can handle that.

Cleaning out the basement. . . I find the high chair and calmly set it aside.  I can handle this. But it lingers in my thoughts, all day. . .  he would be hilarious sitting in it. . . can just see his three dimples and throwing his spoon on the floor.

I don't know why I feel the need to be brave. . . maybe for my little people. . . for Daniel. . . I want to shield them from more sadness.

This is a journey. . . and it will include lots and lots of bittersweet moments.

Including a bittersweet Christmas.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thankfulness Tree

sticks. . . damp sand. . . . magic marker printing on fake leaves. . . white lights. . . remembering to have thankful hearts.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

dress blues

Special weekend. . .

Kids with inlaws, dinner out on the town in a city not my own, cold drizzling rain and snuggling into our hotel room. . . fun fun fun.
Daniel participated once again in Honoring Our Own. . .

Such a beautiful ceremony.

Real bagpipes.

China set at a table honoring those who won't be there.

Stemware ceremonially turned up side down.

Couldn't stop the tears watching my little man's daddy stand guard at a table for those no longer here.

Watched the incredible presentation of the lives of the fallen. . . blown away to see it dedicated to our Gabe.

Lots of Kleenex.



Saturday, November 20, 2010

(before & after snapshots)

My back is out

my arms hurt

helped my good friend Carter (age 10) retrieve the middle squirrel of a trio he and Daniel trapped on the roof 

{drumroll for me helping.  This involved a ladder, which I don't do, and tin snips to cut the wire cord attaching the trap to the roof, which I have since been informed, were the wrong tools for the job.  But Daniel was on duty and Carter needed help on the ladder. . . sooo. . . I cut the wire, he held the trap and the hissing, spitting squirrel.  He thought he'd tease me with the little varmint, but I told him I wouldn't speak to him for the rest of his life if he let that trap touch me.  JD heard me and I spent the rest of the afternoon explaining what a threat is. Deeann stood at the foot of the ladder and laughed.  Not funny, Deeann.} 

Oh for a camera when you need one.

I fell off of a bench while rolling the kitchen ceiling

I feel guilty staying home after working so hard for so long

I still have scrapes on my hand from reaching up into a fan that JD had turned on (unbeknownst to me)

But here are a couple pictures of my part (Daniel obviously does the things that really matter. . . like water heaters and drywall and tearing trees out and buying appliances. . .)

Kitchen {BEFORE}

Why, oh why, peach and burgundy?

Kitchen {AFTER}

Obviously the flooring and counter tops stayed.  Cupboards, bright white, walls *journal cover*
What???? You didn't think there was going to be chalkboard paint?
Check out that cool brass fixture.  Seriously, at what point in history did brass ever look good?

Enter, hammered metal spray paint + new shades - new light fixture for $12

So much of the work involved in foreclosures is just simple TLC. . . like super cleaning these vents and cold air returns and giving the grates a fresh coat of shiny black paint.
Dining room and into Living room. . . fresh white paint on all of the trim. . .
Lots of Murphy's Oil. . .

Stairway {BEFORE} . . . how about mustard for a stairway and hallway color?

Stairway {AFTER} . . . oh yeah. Much better.

Master bedroom {BEFORE} . . .  three layers of ceiling falling down and shiny olive walls. . .

Check out the *non mustard* hallway. . .

Oh whew.

I'm so tired.

So today I treated myself to Bath & Body hand soap {spiced pumpkin and pumpkin cream. . . yum} + new boots + aimless shopping + bookoo free samples at the mall + lunch with my gorgeous sis-in-law Karen at Panera + the Hawks who weren't a treat today + a mini candy bar + two matching $3 lamps to make over at Goodwill.



Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Thanks, God, for not letting the snow come . . .

my heart isn't ready for it yet. . .

Taking a meal to a couple who just welcomed their first child. . .

JD: Why do ya take people food when they have babies?

Me: Cuz then you don't have to cook, you can just cuddle with your baby.

Cambria: Well, God gets to cuddle with our baby.  {Loved that.}

Painting and painting and painting.  Trying to see the investment potential.  Feeling very immature and short sighted.  Just wanting it to pay me now.  Cambria: We going to the dirty house? JD: Cambria, don't call it the dirty house, besides, our other house is dirty too. {True words, my son.}  She's calling it the "wental" now.

Contemplating the heavy load on the shoulders of working moms.  This project is so voluntary for me; I enjoy it, but it's my choice.  It's enlightening to me to realize how the hours of labor away suck all of my enthusiasm  from my real home.  Here becomes drudgery, a drag, so hard at the end of a long day.  I look forward to the next few weeks of being here at home and the joy that comes from being here.

Trying to sort out what is real grief in Cambria and what is manipulation.  Yuck.  Who wants to psychoanalyze that?

Emerging just a little back into the world of being aware of others needs and to the overwhelming hurt and pain in the lives of people.  Life is hard.  I'm not the only one suffering. 

Cringed when someone told me several weeks ago. . .hey, the old Hayley is back! because I don't think she's ever coming back.  I am a different person.  Don't know that I'd even want to go back to the naive, glibly I'm a Christian, life is amazing when you obey God way of looking at life.  Life is pretty much not amazing like 72% of the time. I'm learning that God's gifts of those beautiful moments of joy are just that:  gifts. Gifts to give me a taste of the Giver of life, the Giver of eternal life. 

Thankful for a faithful man in a world of cheap thrills and temptation.  I love you, babe - you rock.

Enjoying a young guy sharing our dinner table on Wednesday nights before all the whirl of activities begins. . . the kids are lovin' Henry and my cooking is being challenged above and beyond Totinos or Cheerios before we dash out the door.  Planning.  It's all about planning.

Tickled to death that I escaped jury duty.  I think it had more to do with the fact that the trial was cancelled than the five different ways I said my husband was a firefighter and I had very good friends in law enforcement.

Savoring some special lunch dates with some amazing girlfriends lately. . . I am so blessed.

Phone calls from my sisters. . . I love love love how connected we are.  Warm fuzzies all over to know what each one is doing and know they care about me.  If you don't have a sister. . . oh, I am so sorry for you.

Tentatively planning some Christmas stuff. . . feeling so thankful for the ideas God has showed me to include Gabe. . . like still hanging his stocking. . . and filling it. . . and then giving it. . . to a little person still here.  And so glad for my ongoing tradition of choosing a different color every year to theme our Christmas decor around. . . yep, this year we are going to have an Orange Christmas.

Scared for Thanksgiving. . . weird. . . one of my favorite holidays. . . I know exactly which moment will be the hardest.  Tears pool now, just thinking about it.  Each one of us, around Mom and Dad's long table, taking turns saying what we are thankful for this year. That will be hard. 

Learning to let my man pursue his dreams. . . realizing how often women and their insecurities hold their husbands back from doing what they love.  Ugh, don't wanna be that woman.  Easier said than done.

Learning a ton from our Bible Study this year. . . on peacemaking and living out the gospel in our relationships.  It is so stretching.

Eating terribly. Sleeping terribly.  Knowing this needs to change.

Loving loving loving our junior high kids this year. . . they are just too fun and so refreshing.

Still  reaping healing and more healing from our weekend in Georgia. . . so thankful for everything God did there.  I will write a book post on that soon.

Thankful that God is God and knowing He is big enough to meet every need in my heart.

Shamelessly copied this random thoughts idea from Wendi, over at Everyday Miracles. She really deserves a whole post, but true to the random thought idea, let me say this. . . childhood friend; beautiful woman; real, real, real; someone who has walked this road of grief before me; amazing photographer; blogger before it was cool; in love with Jesus.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

( . . .rain. . . )

I don't usually post videos.

I definitely don't watch tv preachers.

And I never look up inspirational "talks" on YouTube.

But when Daniel came home after watching this at a mens night at church, he looked it up for me and made me sit down and watch.

It's moving.

I wept.

The love that a father has for his son - the images reminded me of that morning and watching my husband and son.  And to realize that God loves us through the rain and storms of life. . . overwhelming.

If you have ten minutes. . . watch this with an open heart.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Inadequacy. . .


Choose to dwell on the fact that Jacob wrote his name on his Sunday pants while we were blissfully enveloped in the Steven Curtis Chapman concert


Choose to dwell on the fact that I totally fail at the respect part of Emerson Eggerich's great Love & Respect concept


Choose to dwell on the fact that JD has apparently not been obeying his Sunday School teachers for some time now


Choose to dwell on why Cambria *still sucks her thumb*


Choose to worry if I can let myself love another baby


Choose to be frustrated that my husband bought me a super nice expensive razor (I do shave my legs, that wasn't a hint from him) instead of something that I would rather have. (Men and their gift choices never cease to amaze me)


I can choose dependence on Christ.

I can thank Him that I have a concrete (or rather, ink) opportunity to train my son.

I can be thankful for a husband that I can respect.

I can be thankful that I have the awareness and ability to teach my son to obey authorities in his life.

I can thank God for a sensitive daughter who needs me and needs love.

I can trust that perfect love casts out fear and know that God will fill my heart with the love I need to care for my little people

I can enjoy a super nice razor and enjoy the card my man got for me that tells me I am appreciated and loved (even though I feel so, so inadequate).

Inadequate is a good place to be; I realize that it's not about me.  It's not about my skills.  It's not about my wisdom, and definitely not my parenting.  Inadequacy forces me to the Cross and to acknowledge that it's about Him.


When I found the ink name, I brought the pants to Jacob and he looked dutifully guilty.  I told him he would have to help me scrub it out among other things.


"Yes, Jacob."

"Look in the pocket."

{I look.  Crumpled up note.  Misspelled words.}

Mom as so [backward "s"] god too me. Love [backward "l"] Jacob

"It says mom is so good to me."

Big brown eyes.

Hopeful for forgiveness.

I melt.

Thanks, God, that You model forgiveness and give me so much hope for my inadequacy.  Let me live that kind of love and model that forgiveness to my children.

Monday, October 25, 2010

God plus .music. plus .details. usually equals amazing

Last week I heard that the Chapman family was going to be at a really cool venue in our area;

Obviously Steven Curtis Chapman is a big star, but as most know, their family has also suffered the unthinkable loss of their daughter Maria through a tragic car accident at their home, and I wanted to go because I knew that they were choosing to minister out of incredible pain.

Pain that I understand on a different level now.

Well, between the great firefighting schedule and the last minute price of the tickets, the evening was not to be.  I'm really working on not nagging my man.  I told him I'd really like to go and left it.

God, please could we go. . . if this would be a good thing for us, You could totally work it out minus my nagging.  I'd really like to go, God.

So then, this week, painting up a storm all by my lonesome, I heard the dj on the radio say if you are the first to email me the name of the last song, I will send you tickets to the Steven Curtis Chapman concert. 

I dashed for my phone and emailed her. . . but I never win anything and when I didn't hear back, I went back to my original plan of praying that God would somehow miraculously give Daniel the time off and make him buy the tickets.

Two days later, I received an email back annnnnd - I won the tickets!  I just couldn't believe it. . . I know it's not a huge thing to others, but to me it was just confirmation that God totally cares about my heart.  And it was huge to me.  {And God did work out the time off- seems He's big enough to handle that.}

The Chapman's have an amazing story.  God's grace was so evident in their lives tonight.  All along I have ached and prayed for Maria's brother, Will, the driver. . . such a heavy burden to carry for one so young. Tonight we were able to witness the healing hand of God as he played the drums in his own band, and then for his dad.  So cool. 

Back to the firefighting glitches in schedules and events - Daniel at nine, and we were both disappointed about that; more and more disappointed as the evening progressed.  At 8:30, I whispered, "Do you have any favors you could call in?" and he was like, "Are you kidding me? This late? No, but I'm so sorry we have to leave." 

One more little thing to give to God.  I gave it.  I knew He sent us there, so if we had to leave, obviously, He was okay with that.

So we left.

And guess who was in the exit doorway.


Wow, God.

We told him we'd prayed for them.  Told him in three sentences why we were there and that their story had helped us so much.  Told him it was amazing to see him up on stage, using his gifts, still. He gets tragedy.  He lives it.  He was so sweet and at the tender age of nineteen, has a depth that deep sorrow brings.  I wanted to capture the moment, freeze it, document all the crazy similarities (like his necklace with Maria's picture and mine with Gabe's) but some moments are so special and such gifts that you just gotta live them.

Sooooo. . . I think I know why God made us leave early.

taken *before* the concert and all of the tears. . .

Will and Caleb Chapman

Steven Curtis Chapman singing It Is Well

Loved seeing Steven and Mary Beth's real, real hearts.  They aren't just talking the talk, they are living their faith through the fire.

For more about the Chapman family, visit their website.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fireplace, meet dripping water.

Why I wouldn't be a good investor:

Today, trailing behind Daniel and our realtor through a triplex.

Me: {sighing at the eclectic beauty of a huge old house with a grand entrance and beautiful staircase}  "Look at the fireplaces."

Daniel: "Uh huh. Look at the water dripping from the ceiling."

We're spending our four day together tearing into a house that Daniel bought in August and getting it ready to lease.  It's really fun, albeit exhausting work.  There's parts about the house that I grow to love as I work on it. This one has diagonal wood flooring that I adore.  And closets. Big closets.  I also adore closets.  (You don't know how much you love closets until you end up in a house that oddly has none.)

The kitchen is the next project- can't wait to do an after picture.  But here's the before:  (ahem.  The right now.)

How do you like that droopy ceiling fan?!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

he's walking . . . {with Jesus}

Loren has painted one of these huge canvas boards for each of the kids.  She gave Gabe's at his super fun surprise shower. . . then took it back from me several months ago and added {and I'm walking with Jesus}.

Gabe would be nine months now; and he would have been walking at the rate he was going.  It makes me smile to think what he would be tearing into.  I would be writing about stuff he was getting into and how busy I am and how tired and how exhausting being a mother is.

Instead my little man is walking with Jesus;

and God is shattering what I thought I knew

and overwhelming me with Who He is.

I wouldn't be learning what He's teaching without the fire.

I wouldn't know what it is to be carried by the arms of a Heavenly Father if our little man was walking around here in our home.

Gabe, I'm so glad you're walking.  I love you, buddy.

Monday, October 18, 2010

please don't judge

Today. . .

So fun.

Daniel took five hours off in the middle of his {hated by me} 72 hours and went to church with us. . .

I realized I was probably not acting mature by whispering to him in church. 

And note writing.

Not my usual behavior.

I just miss him!

Maybe I should make a sign to hold up - hey I never get to see my man and he's going away right after lunch so we are trying to capitalize on the time. please don't judge.

The kids changed in the van while I grabbed some deli chicken at Walmart (yes, we live there. please don't judge.) . . .

We threw out a quilt at the kids favorite park and ate and shared a conglomeration of pops I'd thrown in the cooler. . .

They played. {i. e. ran back and forth from the park to the bridge to us to the fish to the ducks and back to us}

We talked. {i.e. I talked.  Daniel listened.}

I rubbed his back. {A very good way to get your man to listen to you, btw.}

It felt wrong to know our time was ticking away. 

{Avoiding tempting sermonette about appreciating your man if he's home with you a lot}

I don't know why, but today I just felt very teenager-esque (not.a.word.) . . .

I even {horrible} texted him during a business meeting tonight that I missed him.  (I was careful. Discreet. I think.) please don't judge. . .

So so so fun.

I could use days like this more often minus the 72 hour shift.

(I feel like I should title this post "please don't judge")

I will.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

grief is not a neat little package

Sometimes my breath catches. . .

I see his little face in picture frames. . . he was really mine? I really held him? 

I hate the October 15 Cleanup sign at his little resting place.  I didn't want to take his little fire truck away, the flowers, the kids bubbles, the pinwheel that moved so his grave wasn't so quiet, the glowing little lights that lit up the night there. . . 

So much more joy, lately.  I'm thankful.

So much less oppressing grief.

So much more hope.

But that yucky reality of Gabe gone is there.

I've been subconsciously thinking that at some point maybe maybe maybe I could wrap up the grief and heartache and pack it away

and finish the last thank you

and put his huge green bin of stuff in the attic instead of moving it around our bedroom

and write the perfect lines for his stone. . .

. . . and then the hope that has been seeping into my soul will just burst open wide and we will be miraculously healed and then God can give us some other little chubby person to love and we will be happy again.

If only it were that simple.

It's not a neat little package to put away, though.

It's part of us.

Even if I can be happy and block it out for a moment, an hour, an evening, I have to answer the weeping of a three year old. . . I'm crying cuz Gabe can't breathe.  How do you answer that? 

I cringe when JD tells my friend  you can lay your baby down upstairs if she's tired. . . we won't let her die.

And today, I wish God would give us a baby and that it would just be His plan to let it stay with us and not go to Heaven.

Jacob, mulling over the fact that Gabe is free to do whatever he wants in Heaven. . .can he grow whiskers, then?

Cambria, understanding why I don't want winter to come . . . Mommy, don't cry.  Gabe won't be cold, he's in Heaven.

I get knocked to my knees by things I can't change.

I cry out for wisdom, for strength, for answers to my little people's aching questions.

I am realizing that I can't compartmentalize it all.  {wise words from Deeann - Walmart rug aisle 1.5 hr chat therapy session} I can't put Gabe away and move on to the next house project or the next Bible study or the next season or holiday or the next ministry opportunity or even baby #4. 

Gabe's whole story. . . his birth, his life, his death. . . it's a part of who we are. It's woven in and out of life as we know it.  We have to choose life through the pain. . . .  not stuff the pain away and then pretend to live.

Gabe has changed how I look at life.

Gabe has changed how I look at death.

Gabe has changed how I look at our kids, our jobs, our house, our focus. . .

what I do

what I hear

what I say

what I laugh at

what I hurt for

is all filtered through the lens of the last year.

God has been doing so much in our hearts.

I keep trying to write it all but the awesomeness of what He is doing just defies words.

He is still good.

He is still good to us.

He is still a loving Father.

He is a loving Father taking care of my littlest man.

I think that's okay. . . .

Friday, October 15, 2010

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Well, I made laundry detergent this week.

I took pictures of the process, but as I've noted before, this is not a photography blog and I'm not gonna waste your time loading my point and shoot photos of shaved Ivory Soap.  Imagine it.

I googled homemade detergent several times and was interrupted {several times} and I think I found the recipe I ended up using on ehow.  Credit where credit is due.

Here is what you need:

2 cups borax

2 cups washing soda or baking soda

1 large bar of soap, finely grated

{yes, that's it.}

The hardest part of this whole process was finding the borax and washing soda at WalMart.  It will be in the laundry soap aisle.  Look hard.  The washing soda is Arm & Hammer in a big orange box and I found that first. . . the borax was right next to it.  Apparantly the grated soap is just for texture and scent, but I don't like scented laundry soap so I used Ivory.

I made a triple batch.

It works amazingly.  You only have to use one tablespoon, it cleans our {very very very dirty} clothes well, works great with cold water & our front loader.  I am a huge fan.

And it costs between 5 and 8 cents per load.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Stop the World

Short Story:

Someone special listened to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and gave the gift of a marriage retreat to two very unwilling, doubting people (that would be us.) 

We didn't want to go. 

Georgia is a long way from home. 

What would we do with the kids?

We can't postpone the great annual family canoe trip!

We fought about flying vs. driving.

We almost didn't go.

Deep down we were both so afraid that we would go with this tiny seed of hope that God might heal our hearts and our marriage and then be disappointed. 

More disappointment - my heart can't take any more. 

But. . .

God took all of our excuses away.

We went.

He met us there.

I saw the gentler side of the Hand of a loving Father.

For the first time since May. . .  my heart knows that God is still so good.

It is overwhelming to put into words. 

I will write more.

But I couldn't wait any longer.

So grateful to each one who made the world stop for us and showed us what Heaven must be like.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

MFD cannot win at softball

I don't want to sound too sappy, but this is just the sweetest and funniest thing to watch.  I love these games. 

I always come away reminded not to take parts of life too seriously.  It's okay to just have fun. 

Yay for Hannah!

We wrote your names down and Cambria pulled one out. . . Hannah! Yay! 

Hannah is somebody I know in real life which is fun. . . and she blogs, too.  My favorite part of going to Hannah's blog is checking out all of the amazing links she has on her sidebar.  I only go to her site if I have time cuz I always get distracted.

Well. . . that was fun pretending to be PW.

Back to my real life of lunch and reading aloud Farmer Boy and rescuing my phone from Jacob who has Voice Recognition going on my phone "Call Hayley."  Weird voice: "Command not recognized."

See ya.

Monday, September 27, 2010

More Headbands

So here is what you need:

silk flowers

headbands. . . cheapest at dollar stores

hair clips (found at Michael's or Hobby Lobby. . . by the time you buy the package, they cost pennies per clip)

glue gun

ribbon to cover sharp edges
 You may need to cut off a little of the flower stem.  Then glue onto metal clip.
This part is optional and I don't always do it, but it's nice to cover the edges of the bottom clip with ribbon.  Just hot glue it on.
And then clip the flower onto the headband.  Total cost:  At the most, $2.  These headbands are so trendy right now and little girly boutiques sell them for at least $10.  I went looking at Walmart to see if I could just buy them readymade;  they are about $6 total there, and they only have pink flowers. 
So cute.  My nieces wear these all the time and they make me want to have another girl. 

So I am going to give one of these away. . .

Leave me a comment and link to your favorite mommy-blog (cuz I love finding  new ones)

and THEN email me your email. (Wow, that was redundant.)  hayley dot firefightersfam at gmail dot com (in case you missed the contact button up at the top.)

I will draw a random winner in the morning.  :-)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Loren's Pumpkin Peanut Butter Bread

And yes. . . we know this sounds a little weird.

And it is totally stolen from Loren.

We didn't want to bother her for the recipe because she is one of those people who has a phone that rings literally 50 times a day, so we took the liberty to find a recipe online that worked and modified it a little and still named it after her.

Soooo good!

1 3/4 cup flour

1 1/2 cup sugar

1 t. soda

3/4 t. salt

1/2 t. cinnamon

1/2 t. nutmeg

1 t. vanilla

2 eggs

1 cup pumpkin

1/3 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup oil

1/4 + 1/8 cup water ( I know, weird measurement.  It works.)

Mix wet ingredients together (that's what Cambria is doing up there. . .) and then add dry ingredients.  Pour into two medium lightly greased loaf pans and bake for 45 minutes at 350.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Yo-yo tutorial and Giveaway Winners


Hydrant girl, Liz, and Louise. I have three winners because I guess I had confusing rules.

I didn't publish any comments with addresses, either, because I'm not a fan of addresses and real last names floating out there in internet-land.

I actually thought that was kind of fun, and I have another really fun headband idea so I'll do another one next Monday. Check back.

But for now, here is how to make a fabric yo-yo . My sister Nancy got me started on these. Once you make one, you just can't stop.

Cut your circles about 4 1/2 - 3 inches in diameter. I used a vase turned upside down and marked around it with a magic marker.
You can carefully iron a tiny hem around the circle but I think its way easier to turn it with your fingers as you go. Your stitches do not need to be tiny and careful. Just get that needle and thread all the way around your circle.

It kind of takes shape as you go along.
When you get all the way around, pull your thread (gently) tight and tie another good knot. There's your yo-yo!
Then you can sew it onto any hairband you choose.
Or you can glue one onto a magnet.

Or sew buttons on the centers and make wall art out of them like my sister Nancy did:

I've made little note cards with them, too; the yo-yo is the flower and then you can draw on a stem.

I actually saw a Christmas tree garland made out of fabric yo-yos. Who has that kind of time?!?!