Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 In Review

It's New Year's Eve (day) and as I reflect back over the year I am so very grateful for all the blessings that God has given my sweet family.

Yet, when I look back at my blog archives for 2012, I see that I haven't done a good job documenting the precious memories we made.  Job promotions, summer vacations, the beauty in everyday life...captured in digital format...but without any words to express the experiences and emotions that went along with those memories.

For many, words are unnecessary.  But for me, words are how I best communicate.



 2012 Year In Review 
(Left to Right)

1.  January 2012...Baby Luke in Rubbermaid tub...18 months old
2.  February 2012...Mary Catherine's handmade Valentines for school
3.  March 2012...St. Patrick's Day cupcakes
4.  April 2012...Our "new to us" piano
5.  May 2012...Cowgirl Mary before her all-school Spring concert
6.  June 2012...Me with big hair in 1987!  Yearbook Photo from 25-Year High School Reunion
7.  July 2012...Benjamin on the 4th of July
8.  August 2012...Chris and I at his Fire Promotion ceremony
9.  September 2012...Mary and Luke at our town's "De Soto's Days" Labor Day festival
10.  October 2012...Me with my sister-in-law, Julie, Mary and Luke at a church festival in Augusta, MO
11.  November 2012...Benjamin's 6th Birthday party at Daddy's fire station
12.  November 2012...Mary Catherine dressed as Saint Kateri Tekakwitha for Thanksgiving
13.  December 2012...candy canes...simple Christmas
14.  December 2012...Santa gifts
15.  December 2012...Family Room Christmas tree
16.  December 2012...Benjamin Rudolph

In 2011, as I wrapped up the year, I chose "intentional" as my "word" for 2012.  I think I was mostly successful with living a more intentional life.  I know there were a few times when I allowed the busy-ness of  daily life to get in the way of truly focusing on what is important (my Faith life and caring for my family), but for the most part I succeeded and that is what I choose to focus on...my successes in 2012.

As 2013 fast approaches, my focus is going to be on living a more "beautiful" life...bringing order, joy, and peace to my loved ones and those I interact with on a daily basis.  A smile at the store clerk...a deep breath and prayer for the driver that cuts me off...a paring down of "stuff" in the beautiful home I've been blessed with...

Beauty.  In the ordinary.

Wishing all of you that drop by to read here...whether you leave comments or not...a Blessed 2013 and a "beautiful" year ahead!

 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Respect for Life...Prayers for Newtown, CT

We've been so very busy around our house.

I've been snapping lots of pictures, but not doing a good job of documenting these precious family moments.

In light of today's tragedy in Newtown, CT, I feel the need to post our family photos that a sweet friend took for us last Sunday afternoon.

 It was bitterly cold...my outfit doesn't look quite as I had envisioned it would...I've gained back a few pounds since the foot surgery...

 ...and yet, what if these were the last photos ever taken as a family?

None of the imperfections would matter.

I've seen so much chatter today about "gun control issues", "lack of proper funding for mental health issues", "bullying victims seeking revenge", etc.

As of this writing, we have no idea the motive in this shooting, but the bottom line is this...

...there was an utter disrespect for life by this shooter(s). Period.















 Praying for all those involved in this tragedy.  Hugging my family tighter.






Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Special Thanksgiving Guest (Saint Kateri)

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, we celebrated a belated Thanksgiving feast due to my husband's fire department schedule.

And, since extended family were not available to share in our Thanksgiving meal, it was a simple and quiet holiday.

We did have one special guest grace us with her presence though...

 ...meet Saint Kateri Tekakwitha!





Affectionately known as Lily of the Mohawks, Kateri was officially canonized a saint by the Roman Catholic Church in October of this year.  Saint Kateri is the first Native American to be canonized.





Born in the year 1656 in what is now present-day New York, Kateri was the daughter of a Mohawk warrior and Algonquin mother.  She was orphaned at age 4 when a smallpox outbreak killed her parents and brother.  She was adopted by two aunts and an uncle.

Kateri's conversion to Catholicism occurred when she was twenty and she was given the baptismal name Catherine Tekakwitha.  She suffered greatly for her Christian conversion at the hands of her native tribe. Eventually, she went to live with a new Christian colony of Indians in Canada. She died at the age of 24 in 1680.

Saint Kateri's feast day is on July 14th.  She is the patroness of the environment and ecology. 


This was actually Mary Catherine's Halloween/All Saint's Day costume this year.  Unfortunately, both of my school-age kiddos contracted Fifth's Disease and were sent home from school the day of their All Saint's Day parties.  Boo!

I can't even tell you how disappointed my kiddos were...and maybe one sad mama too!

I painstakingly spent hours creating this costume and sewing on embellishments.  Mary and I ran around like crazies finding silk lilies and the cross made from nails as part of her costume props.

It's okay though...their costumes were so big (I mistakenly purchased a toddler size Native American pattern and had to YouTube video search to teach myself how to lengthen it) that they will be able to wear them again next year.

Of course, that's if I can convince them!

To learn more about Kateri Tekakwitha you can go here or here.


 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Creamy Tomato-Basil Parmesan Soup

Due to my husband's fire department schedule we celebrated our Thanksgiving on Friday. Which is okay because, truly, every day we should be giving thanks!

"Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.  
In all circumstances give thanks..."
1 Thess.  5: 16-18 

So, on traditional Turkey Day, while my little ones camped out before the television to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and my husband was on duty putting out turkey fryer fires and/or administering first aid for oven burns,  I tried out a new recipe that I found via Pinterest...Tomato-Basil Parmesan soup. 

You make it in your crock pot and it is delicious.  I made a few adjustments to the recipe for my kiddos' sake, but otherwise it is delicious as is.  Plan on making this one for your next "snow day" kind of day!



Image and Recipe courtesy of We Pass the Time of Day blog

 
Tomato-Basil Parmesan Soup

Ingredients
2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes, with juice
1 cup finely diced celery
1 cup finely diced carrots
1 cup finely diced onions
1 tsp dried oregano or 1 T fresh oregano
1 T dried basil or 1/4 cup fresh basil
4 cups chicken broth
½ bay leaf
½ cup flour
1 cup Parmesan cheese
½ cup butter
2 cups half and half, warmed (I would go with only a cup and a half though)
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper

Directions
1. Add tomatoes, celery, carrots, chicken broth, onions, oregano, basil, and bay leaf to a large slow cooker.

2. Cover and cook on LOW for 5-7 hours, until flavors are blended and vegetables are soft.


(Here is where I made an adjustment...my kiddos are not big veggie eaters...but do love soups. At this point in the recipe, I transferred the warmed soup and veggies to my blender.  I pulverized those veggies into the soup base!  They never knew...)  :)

3. About 30 minutes before serving prepare a roux. Melt butter over low heat in a skillet and add flour. Stir constantly with a whisk for 5-7 minutes. Slowly stir in 1 cup hot soup. Add another 3 cups and stir until smooth. Add all back into the slow cooker. Stir and add the Parmesan cheese, warmed half and half, salt and pepper. Add additional basil and oregano if needed (the slow cooker does a number on spices and they get bland over time, so don't be afraid to always season to taste at the end).

4. Cover and cook on LOW for another 30 minutes or so until ready to serve.

I served our soup with both crunchy garlic croutons and soft french bread mini loaves that I picked up from the bakery.



"Only the pure in heart can make a good soup."
~Ludwig van Beethoven~
 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Fire Station Birthday Party

Our sweet Benjamin turned "6" in mid-November and he requested a "fire fighter" themed birthday party for his first "friends" get-together.

Since daddy is currently a fire captain with a suburban fire department, I took full advantage of a "themed" party location!

Now, I don't know about you, but I love finding party inspiration out in blogland and Pinterest, but I've got to be honest...many of these child-themed parties, while a delight to the eyes, are a bit over the top...budget wise...for this fire fighter/stay-at-home mom family! So I tried to create a memorable party for our little guy on a conservative budget.

I created the party invites on Snapfish.  They have "in-store pick up" locations and I wanted to get the invitations out quickly.  In addition, I had a cute picture of Benjamin that I had snapped while visiting daddy at the fire station one afternoon that I really wanted to use.  Here's how they turned out...




I used the invite as part of the table decorations at the fire station. To give the invite a bit of a "pop" I mounted it on black glitter card stock and trimmed the edges using a pair of Fiskars scissors.

The colors for the party were light blue, red, and black.  I pulled these colors from Benjamin's bedding. (Ignore the sponge bob sheets in the background! ;)




Table decorations were quite simple.  (I felt it was important to be respectful of the fire fighter's space.  After all, these men and women work/eat/sleep at the station for 24-hours...their home away from home.  I wanted to be conscientious of that fact and not invade their space too much!) I used light blue for the table cloth and red and black paper products.  

Plastic utensils were wrapped in paper napkins and tied with a sweet ribbon!



Balloon bouquets attached to authentic fire helmets were also part of the table setting as were the red velvet cupcakes with the fire fighter themed picks I created here.

(Fun Fire Fighter Fact...the color of your helmet determines your rank within the department.  Red signifies fire fighter/fire medic, black is for lieutenant.  Fire Captains wear yellow helmets and Chiefs sport white.)






Finally, each child went home with a simple goody bag filled with fire fighter scrapbooking stickers as well as a fire truck Matchbox car.  In addition, I included a few pieces of candy to accompany this "thank you" message that I had put on display...





Overall, I was able to do all of the decorations, goody bags, candy, and food for around $75.00. 

By the way...those 6 helium balloons...were the last ones available at the store for the day! I felt really bad stepping up to the counter before another customer did...after the manager walked over and told the clerk to shut down the balloon station.  Why is helium so hard to come by anymore???



 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sound the Alarm!

Sound the alarm
and get to the station 
to join us for BENJAMIN'S 
6th Birthday celebration!

We were all fired up around here to celebrate middle child's SIXTH birthday!  It is so hard to believe that our sweet and beautiful miracle of a child is now six and in kindergarten.

So how does one celebrate their first "friends" party when their dad's a fire fighter...

...why at the Fire Station, of course!

Here's just a sampling of some very simple yet sweet decorations I created for the party...

Using my circular punches I created my very own cupcake picks.




Since I was feeding a group of kindergartners at the fire station, I wanted disposable cuteness.  What's cuter than coordinating plastic utensils, paper products, and ribbon?!!! Ribbon makes anything cute!


And finally, the goody bags.  I really try hard not to send home junk.  I feel like so many of us are trying to simplify...reduce/reuse...and be rid of clutter.  I hate to create more.  So, I invested in some really cool fire fighter themed scrapbooking stickers and gave each kiddo one fire truck themed Matchbox car.  What 5 or 6 year old boy/girl doesn't appreciate a new Matchbox car?!!!


EMT Pack  (Ben's daddy is also a paramedic) and the Brush Fire Pack...because we live in Kansas and have lots of prairie/grass fires...especially with this drought!

Again...cute ribbon!

 I promise to be back tomorrow with fire station party highlights.  The party was a success...to quote Benjamin, "It was the best party I've ever had." 

I didn't remind him it was the only "party" he's ever had! 

Love that sweet boy of mine.






Friday, November 9, 2012

Winter Car Care Gift Items

For some reason, I really struggle when it comes to finding the perfect gift for my father or father-in-law when it comes to their birthdays or holidays. Maybe because I'm trying to make it too PERFECT?!!!

But not this year!

This year, I have pinned several links for "Manly Stocking Stuffers" or "50 Ways to Show your Hubby you Love Him".  There are lots of great ideas that got my creative juices flowing, and in the end I created my very own...

..."Winter Weather Car Care Bucket".  Here's what I included:




Ice cleats, hand and glove warmers, as well as this collapsible snow shovel were all big hits.  The de-icer and ergonomic ice scrapper were also appreciated.  I had a lot of fun picking out and individually wrapping each gift item and my dad really appreciated the thought.  He especially liked those rubber ice cleats seeing how he slipped on the icy driveway last winter!

As wintry weather approaches (and already has for our East Coast and West Coast friends!) consider giving your loved ones a winter weather car care bucket.  One can never be too prepared at this time of year.

P.S.  (I probably need to make one of these for my mom's car too...only it's not the most romantic or feminine gift for a mom/mimi who is truly all sugar and spice!)

 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Surgery Update!

First, a HUGE thank you to all of you that stopped by to leave a blog comment, kept me in your prayers, or sent a card or phone call. I appreciate each and every one of you!

Surgery was a success.

At least in terms of the actual procedure.

 While I am experiencing pain, it is completely manageable and I'm resting comfortably.

Chris was able to be home with me all day yesterday and is working half days this week to be home in the afternoons with me. Especially to help out with the little ones.

 My sweet carpool friend, Kim, rearranged her work schedule to pick up my kiddos every day this week and the entire Kindergarten and 2nd grade classes at St. Paul included me in their prayers.

God is good and answered all of you in the blessings he has showered upon me!

So, thank you again.

And now, if I could direct your prayers to another sweet blogger friend, Jamie Jo. Her precious baby boy, sweet Simeon, will be undergoing yet another cleft palate surgery, tomorrow. I know her heart is anxious for her little boy and she is asking for our prayers!  Please, visit Simeon and see his amazing blue eyes and beautiful face and let her know you will be storming the heavens with another surgery prayer request.

Hugs,

Val



Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Surgery this Morning!

Today is the day.

No, I'm not talking about Election Day. I think we've all had enough of that already...am I right?!!! Just be sure to vote!

Anyway, by the time your read this post, I should be out of surgery.

I, and when I say "I" I really mean "we" (Chris and me) decided that it was time to do something permanent to fix this foot injury of mine. The one that I've been limping on for over two years.

 The solution to cure this chronic case of plantar fasciitis?

Gastrocnemius surgery.

Gastroc-what?

Gastrocnemius surgery. A surgery which actually lengthens the calf muscle.


As you can see from the diagram, the gastrocnemius muscle (or calf muscle) tapers down toward the ankle.

This is where I start having trouble!

These next two images do a great job showing how all of our muscles and tendons work in concert!  When one becomes injured and uncorrected...it can lead to subsequent injuries.


The source of my chronic, debilitating pain!



Apparently, tight calf muscles can aggravate a chronic plantar fascia injury.  So, while my calf muscle is not technically injured...it seems to be the culprit in my inability to heal my plantar fascia.

Drastic?

Maybe.  But I've tried every therapy/home remedy out there and nothing has helped.  I'm maxed out on my lifetime cortisone allotments and my physical therapist essentially "gave up" in trying to help me heal up my foot.

I suppose there's always amputation.

Which I asked for.

My orthopaedic surgeon swears this is the answer before getting an awesome amputee runner's foot!  LOL

Speaking of running...

...he's completed this surgery on many different types of athletes (and non-athletes) and none have not healed successfully and went on to continue being active.  He's even done this on a multiple-time marathon runner.

And that my friends, is my New Year's Resolution for 2013...

...to run 13.1 (the half-marathon) here in Kansas City with two sweet friends that trained and completed their first half-marathon this past October!  Both are excited for me to train with them when I get the green light.

For now though, rest and recuperation.  Full walking cast 24/7 for two weeks then full walking cast at night for 6 weeks.  ugh!  At the eight week mark, if physical therapy is not required for ankle strengthening, I'll be able to begin slowly exercising again.  Basically, I'm looking at using the treadmill in the basement come January!

The key to non-injury will be slow and steady progress.

I can do this.  I took it slow and steady last Summer to take off the weight and have been able to maintain my loss this Fall even with taking a break from exercise.

So, prayers for a successful recovery would be most appreciated!  And you'll probably see me around a lot since I'll be confined to the couch for the next couple of days.

Don't think I won't be milking this every.step. (pun intended!) of.the.way. 


 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Cutest little Saint Patrick!!!

Crazy days lately...

...lost my batter charger...then found it...

...only to discover that I have now lost the BATTERY to my Canon DSLR.

 NOOOOOOOO! (why oh why did I not just put the battery back in the camera???!!!!)

Thus, I've been going through blog and photography withdrawal...

...although my house has never been cleaner! ;)

Well, tonight I mastered a new technological trick...

...I figured out how to download pictures from our iPad onto my computer!

Wheeeee...I'm back in business!

So what else have I been up to besides house cleaning...early Christmas shopping...and cooking/baking?

How about this for a little Halloween/All Saint's Day inspiration?

My inspiration photo for Benjamin's costume!

This year, my children's school (Catholic parochial) has decided against celebrating Halloween and instead to go back to the classic tradition of celebrating All Saint's Day.  The children have been encouraged to learn about a favorite saint or Biblical hero and then dress accordingly. 

Benjamin and I thought long and hard about this one!  There are so many great male saints or Bible heroes to choose from.  Ultimately, the folklore surrounding St. Patrick banishing snakes from the Emerald Isle caught Ben's attention.  Thus I present to you...St. Patrick!




 (Sorry the pics are sort of blurry!  I'm still new at operating the iPad, but you get the basic idea!)

This weekend I still need to create St. Patrick's mitre hat and staff, as well as locate a beard!  I'm pretty pleased with how Ben's costume turned out.  I could not find a costume pattern I liked that seemed "saint" or "priestly" appropriate so I designed this on my own using the above photo as inspiration.

As Ben went "Trunk or Treating" up at school tonight, he insisted on wearing this snake around his head as well as keeping three more in  his trick or treat bag!  Needless to say, the fact that it is pure folklore about the snakes (or that the snakes represent the banishing of pagan practices from Ireland!) is lost on this 5-year old!

Anyway, I can't wait to share Mary's costume!  A very special friend turned us on to a beautiful saint who Mary has been so excited to learn about.  Pictures coming soon!