Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tiny Dancer Takes the Stage

Several weeks ago, we finished an eleven month experiment.  Last August, I committed to driving two hours (round trip) to take Miriam to what I hoped would be a proper, organized, classical ballet studio.  I researched studios for a year prior to enrolling Little Miss, and when we finished our placement class at Dance Project, I knew it was a great fit!  The studio owner, Miss Barb, gave us a discount in tuition simply in an effort to help with the travel expenses, offered to schedule classes around us if need be, and I was even more impressed.  I watched the year of classes go by, waiting to start resenting the drive or for Miriam to start resisting classes.  Neither happened.  Suddenly it was summer, the recital came and went, and it was enrollment time and decision time for us.

My Sweet Girl's First Recital

I KNOW it's ridiculous to drive a 4 year old an hour away for dance classes for a multitude of reasons, but we've chosen to enroll Miriam for another year.  For us, the drive is worthwhile.

Daddy works downtown in St. Louis and stays overnight two to three nights a week to cut down on the monotony of the drive.  Because the studio is close (ish), he's able to see the kids on nights that he normally couldn't.  This is especially great for Noah.  

On Stage for the  Daddy-Daughter Dance
Daddy and Miriam after their performance

The studio, as a whole, is both wholesome and technically sound.  I watched this year's recital and was SO pleased at the tastefulness of the older dancers' choreography and costuming.  These were the types of performances I was happy to have Miriam watch, admire, and eventually aspire to.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

FOR TODAY, July 25th. 

Outside my window...  An entire community of deer have made a habit of grazing in the fields around our home.  As we drive in this time of day (dusk), we can count on seeing at least a family or two enjoying the cooling air in the valley.  A few nights ago we counted thirteen deer in one field alone.  We have a set of twins still sporting their spots as well as a couple small bucks in the mix. 

I am thinking...  about what my routine will be when school starts back in just fifteen days.  This is my last year with a preschooler in the house unless God blesses us with another happy accident someday, and I really want to take advantage of Miriam's free Tuesdays and Thursdays and field trip with her, spend a little time soaking up this four-year-old who is so full of her own ideas and lives with an amazing amount of excitement.  

I am thankful...  for friendship.  Especially for those few friends who can listen to your secrets and struggles and know the exact right way to respond.  I am SO SO blessed to have small but priceless circle around me.  There are no words... 

In the kitchen...  I tried some lemon garlic tuna burgers- edible but not my favorite.  I think tuna should be reserved for macaroni and cheese or tuna salad.  I just kept wishing I had beef between my sandwich thin. I did make some mean pork chops a few nights ago though.  Here's the recipe from Tyler Florence (Food Network).  THAT recipe made it on my Pinterest Board.

I am wearing... Green khaki carpenter pants and a light purple cami.  I've pretty much lived in camis this summer.  It's just been too HOT to think about sleeves of any length.  

I am creating...  a few crocheted baby items including a black pair of Mary Janes.  

I am going... WEST.  Again. Yay!  My sister is going to support a friend whose stay in Colorado was extended when she went into labor prematurely and delivered her daughter at 31 weeks.  The entire story is a whirlwind and a blog post in itself, but the bottom line is that I'm going along for the drive and playing nanny for a few days to my sweet niece. 

I am reading...  Dr. Laura Schlesinger's The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands.  Again.  I needed a reminder and a swift kick in the butt in regard to my wifely role.  Dr. Laura's pretty good about telling it like it is... even in print.  

I am looking forward to... being back into a routine.  I thrive on routine.  As much as I love sleeping in and swimming all summer, the freedom tempts me to laziness, and it will be good for me to have daily time constraints again.

Around the house...  Our new siding is all painted Calvary blue and ready for the carpenters.  It will likely be another month before it's all up, but I'm learning to live in renovation time and just be happy IF it gets completed.  I like Lowe's and all, but I'm SO ready (three years ready) to NEVER, EVER see Lowe's house wrap again!  

I am pondering... Philippians 4: 5-9-  " ...The Lord is near.  Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you."

One of my favorite things...  is looking back and recognizing God's handiwork.  I just LOVE when He reveals a little bit of himself to me!

A few plans for the rest of the week: A dental check up, some pool time, a first birthday party for my cousin's adorable twin boys, and a train trip across Missouri to hop in the car with my sister!

A peek into my day...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sand Dunes, Enchantment, and a Touch of Cowboy

WAY back in May, we loaded the minivan with supplies and headed west.  

I really hoped that Sand Dunes National Park would be worth the drive.  It seemed to be one of the smaller national parks, but as we drove closer the the massive dune field, we were all in awe of how majestic and whimsical the dunes seemed.  They were out of place at the edge of a great valley and at the foot of the mountains, and we would later be amazed at we learned about the set of circumstances keeping the dunes alive, circumstances found only in this tiny corner of the earth. The park ranger who greeted us at the visitor's center seemed thrilled that we were campers and not simply there to spend an afternoon.  I'm sure the locals take advantage of Medano Creek during the spring.  It's a temporary oasis in the midst of the desert climate  We froze at night (40 degrees is COLD!), sweated in the sun, and generally loved every second of our time in the Dunes.  

On day two, we tried out hand at sand sledding.  We hiked into the dunes, sinking past our ankles as we climbed, and I wished for snow shoes to keep our feet on the surface.  After each dune was conquered, we stopped to hydrate and catch our breath in the high altitudes.  We finally made it to dunes worthy of sledding, and the kids zoomed down slopes steeper and longer than any I would attempt.  

Too soon, we turned our backs on the Dunes and our faces toward New Mexico.  New Mexico, while beautiful and unique, is truly made by its people.  Native American and Hispanic, each group proud of and eager to share their heritage, meet side by side in New Mexico, and it truly feels like a different, perhaps more genuine, world.  

We walked across the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, drove through the beautiful turquoise trimmed Taos and through the Sangre De Cristo Mountains into the adobe world of Santa Fe.  

Santa Fe is a city where all the buildings are the color of sand and mud, but it's one of the most colorful cities I've seen.  Downtown is full of life, culture, art, and history.  Our afternoon was spent wandering the streets, stepping into an occasional shop, and celebrating Mass at the St. Francis Cathedral.  

One of my favorite parts of our trips doesn't exist in photographs.  We were so blessed that Tesuque Pueblo had opened it's doors to the community while we were in Santa Fe.  We left our phones and cameras behind and reveled in their Corn Dance ritual.  The men and boys were painted in earth and trimmed in pine branches and fur.  The women wore traditional black dresses and painted headdresses finished with soft grey feathers.  One group of men dressed in more formal costume chanted the words to their prayer while the men, women, and children answered in their own chant and danced into a series of formations.  We loved the little ones in their tiny moccasins and fur tails nearly dragging the ground.  Some children, no older than two, danced beside their mother or father, and others made a group of children who followed the adults.

We enjoyed a children's festival at a historic Spanish settlement, and the kids were able to make adobe, spin wool into yarn, grind corn, and taste bread baked in adobe ovens.

Before we could leave the Land of Enchantment, Amos Lee twisted my arm, and we detoured though Roswell to see if we could spot an alien left over from the supposed UFO crash of the 1950's.  It was ridiculous and hilarious how much the kids enjoyed the town.  From the aliens painted on most of the storefronts to the UFO Museum, our 90 minute stay in Roswell was an absolute hit with the kids and my husband.  I was more entertained watching them be entertained.

After a forever drive, we visited Fort Worth, Texas.  We toured the Bureau of Engraving and watched the manufacture of millions of US dollars.  And we wandered the Ft. Worth Stockyards, soaking up a little cowboy, complete with a little rodeo fun and longhorn cattle drive.

We returned home exhausted from our busy trip, but satisfied with how we'd spent our time.  I'm so thankful that our kids were able to experience a tiny bit of the southwest's diversity.  Adventuring is a different type of travel.  It's effort more than ease, researching more than relaxing, and learning more than fantasizing.

I want my kids to be comfortable in foreign places as adults.  I want the thought of navigating the unfamiliar to be exciting rather than terrifying.  I hope that each of them continues to revel in the vastness and true beauty of God's world, seeing with the childlike excitement they did this week.

Friday, May 25, 2012

In the waiting area at dance tonight, I sat listening to all the moms talking about the summer vacations they had planned, what beach condo they would be lounging at, the timeshare that the in-laws had.  Destin, Hilton Head, The Outer Banks.  They would fly their families of 5, of course.  Who could imagine driving all that way?  I love the beach, and I was surprised that the conversation didn't leave me yearning for that first glimpse of the ocean between the beach houses on my dear Garden City Beach.

Instead, as I sat listening to their plans, I was happy.  I'm happy that it is not financially feasible to fly our family and rent a van for our travels.  I'm thankful that we cannot spend the money to vacation in 5 star resorts.  If we could, we might.  And if we did, we'd miss out on something worth so much more than saved travel time.  

To me, the family vacation is a travel altogether different.  For my family, vacations mean oil changes, alignment checks, and rotating tires.  They mean packing a cooler full of lunch and a crate full of snacks.  Family vacations are movies in the car, random roadside attractions, and about two dozen bathroom breaks.  It's about broadening horizons and getting to know God's world a tiny bit better. Family vacations are about the feeling of adventure as you pull out of the driveway, wonder at changing topography, and contentment as you pull back into town, exhausted but happy.  

Our family travels have never been glamourous.  We've explored the Oregon coast in an afternoon road trip before a business conference in Portland, tent camped in Rocky Mountain National Park, shared a home on the sandy beaches with five other families, and experienced the charm of Wisconsin's thumb.  

This summer, while my fellow dance moms are boarding their planes, I'll be wearing giant sunglasses, riding shotgun through the Amber Waves of Grain.  As they check into their hotels, I'll be pitching our ten person tent at the foot of sand dunes in Colorado.  I'll spend days sledding down sandy hills (who knew you could do that?!?) and nights making dinner on a camp stove.  We'll drive south to New Mexico, Land of Enchantment, and visit Native American Pueblos, Spanish Missions, and historic churches.  We'll hike.  If we feel like it, we'll pack up camp and trek through the Lone Star State and visit the Alamo, the San Antonio Riverwalk, and the Fort Worth Stock Yards.  It may not be swanky, and we surely won't be pampered along the way, but we will be sure to find adventure together, and for us, that is what family vacations are all about.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Bundle of JOY

In a few short weeks, I'll be embarking on a new adventure. A tiny bundle of joy will arrive to cure my baby fever, and I will be an AUNT! I can't explain how excited I've been about this little gal and for my sister and brother-in-law. I just know they'll be such Godly parents, and I'm already so proud of them. Amos and I have both been awaiting our first niece and getting very excited to cuddle her and spoil her just like they have done with our kids.

A few weekends ago, we packed our younger kids into our tiny rice burner car and made the four hour drive to KC. I thought we were just going to photo document my sister's baby belly, but it turns out that we were also going to receive a huge surprise invitation.

We were asked to be godparents!

It may seem logical that an aunt and uncle would be chosen for such a role, but my sister and brother-in-law are blessed with an amazing network of Catholic friends. We really hadn't thought for a second that we'd be asked, so when we pulled this out--

--it was as much a surprise as their pregnancy announcement! Amos was a teary eyed mess, and I could only wonder what in the world we would have to offer our niece that she wouldn't already get from her parents. My little sister is an amazing Catholic youth minister with a degree in theology. She is my go-to source for my religious questions and one of the most intentional Catholics I know.

Already, I'm finding this role to be strengthening my faith and providing an avenue to grow closer to Christ. As with all our adventures, we'll be praying for wisdom to walk His path on this journey and to faithfully reinforce our sweet niece and goddaughter's own Catholic faith.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bright Eyed Owl Birthday Cake

A few months ago, I was asked to make an owl cake and smash cake for a first birthday party. There are SO many ideas out there, so I had plenty of inspiration! I ultimately decided to make a round, two tiered cake and use fondant to make whirly pops, owls, and trim, inspired by this one.

My lollipops were made a few days ahead of time to allow time for drying. I experimented with several methods and found it best to roll two ropes individually, then roll them together, and then roll the rope into a spiral. I inserted Wilton lollipop sticks up through the center of the spirals and later cut them to the lengths I needed.

I found an owl illustration online to use as a template for my large owl. I blew up the image on my screen, traced it, and made patter pieces. I used a paring knife (I'm sure not the most efficient tool!) to cut each piece from 1/8 inch thick fondant. While the pieces were still soft, I layered them. The old (young?) bird needed two long dowels between her back and front layers that would be inserted through the 3-D feet when I assembled the cake. The entire owl needed to lay flat for 24 hours to dry.

The smash cake owl was really just a repeat of playing with play-do as a kid. I used chocolate fondant (Wilton's brand) for the body, cut pink circles with an icing tip for the feathers, and flew my the seat of my pants for the rest!

Monday, March 12, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Goodies

It was really inevitable that I'd come to love the green, happy, silly traditions of St. Patrick's Day. My Irish blood combined with the close proximity to MST's St. Paddy's Day spirit made the holiday all the more fun for me growing up!

I'm so thrilled that our preschool celebrates St. Pat's with a classroom party. I love an opportunity to bring out my green food coloring! Last year's class treats were a hit with the kids, moms, and teachers.

In 2011, before Pinterest, these awesome goodies that I found online passed as clever, and I still think they are! They're also great for those schools that don't allow homemade treats to be brought in. This is just a dessert bag (I buy mine from the cake decorating isle at Wal-Mart) filled with Twizzlers Rainbow and a few chocolate coins (found them in Target's $1 section this year). The tag was a free printable backed in golden cardstock. When the teachers saw them, they used them as their prize at the end of the class leprechaun hunt. I think they're worth repeating this year!

I found a candy mold at my favorite cake supply store last year and made these candy covered pretzel rods. If you've never used candy molds before, you really have to try them! If you're using one color of candy melts (I use Wilton brand), they're impossible to mess up and quick to set too! The kids thought they were very tasty!

The trifles I made were a little experiment. I thought they turned out cute! The layers were green vanilla pudding, chocolate cake drizzled with irish cream creamer, chocolate pudding, and green cool whip. I topped them with a little crushed Heath bar.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Letting Him Lead

Amos and I spend our nights apart regularly. He works two hours from home, and with local gas prices at 3.59, there's no way he could commute daily. To save money and sanity, he stays with generous friends who assure us they are happy to have him. We text throughout the day, and if there's something we don't want to forget, we'll email too. Even though he's gone more than he's home, we're really in each other's lives throughout each day. When he's gone and I'm not swamped with the children's school work, laundry, dinner, and diffusing arguments, I realize I miss my husband. But I'm swamped with that list of chores more often than not. You would think that the nights he was home would be cherished, that we'd take advantage the four evenings that we're together each week. It's a sad fact that we're both content to catch up on our favorite shows on Hulu most nights, too fried from the day to have anything deep and meaningful, or even clever, to say. We've already texted all the days' highlights, and some nights it seems like there's not much else that needs to be said.

This weekend is different. This weekend, he's away spending uninterrupted time with God. Three days without technology. No phone. No connection to work or family. No distractions from God.

I've been praying for God to bless this Crusillo weekend for months, and I knew God could do great things with these days. What I didn't realize is that, for the first time since he was deployed to the Middle East nearly ten years ago, we are truly, completely detached from one another. I have no way to contact him, no way to let him in on news or ask his advice. And for the first time in years, we're apart and I truly miss HIM. I feel his absence anytime we're apart, but I'm ashamed to admit that it's mostly his help with the kids and the presence of another adult that I wish for. This time, I'm not a mom wanting the dad to get home and take over. I'm a wife ready to have her husband back. I believe that what I'm feeling this weekend is God working in my marriage and in our life.

A few months ago, a Christian radio program reflected on the immense power that a wife has in her marriage. It was said that a husband is supposed to be the head of the household, but
a wife must let her husband lead.

As a wife, I struggle to let my husband lead. I could offer a string of reasons and excuses, but the honest truth is that I feel a need, irrational as it may be, to be standing on at least one of my own two feet. I live in a world that too often values a woman based on how capably she stands on her own. We women feel a need to be valued, heard, and have our opinions matter. There are millions of us blogging to prove it! I'm just not sure that my desire to be valued and heard always comes from God, particularly in my marriage. For me, needing to be heard sometimes feels all too similar to self-righteousness. Sometimes I slip from needing to be heard to needing to be right, and it's those times that I fail the most in my attempt to be a Godly wife.

The truth is, it's only God's value of us that matters, and we are each valued more than we can comprehend. We screw up over and over, and only through God's grace are we able to get back up again. So many of us are blessed with a Godly husbands who are smart, hard working, trustworthy and humble. I have every faith that those husbands can lead our families closer to our Savior if we are willing to LET THEM. I believe that Amos is being moved to greater things this weekend, and I'm so excited and ready to follow him as he leads his family in our walk with Christ.