Sunday, September 8, 2013

Three Years Later

Three years ago tonight, I didn't have a clue what was about to hit our family.  I knew I was in labor, and I was so excited to see the end of my pregnancy and meet our sweet baby girl. 

And then the clamor.  And the quiet, fervent panic.  And the denial, hand in hand with sheer horror.  Quinn was beautiful.  Her life, short. 

It's hard to go back to those beginning moments when we were forever changed.  Even though I miss her every day, I have distanced myself from the detailed tragedy of losing her, a coping mechanism.  You can't live without forward movement, without laughter, without healing.

Jason and I grabbed the opportunity to run to her grave this afternoon, a 6-1/2-mile round trip.  In south Alabama, September is still full-blown summer.  The humidity was blessedly down, but the heat was in the mid-to-low-90s.  Additionally, I woke up from my Sunday afternoon nap with a giant lump of chocolate peanut butter pie sitting securely in my stomach, where I had put it earlier, bite by delicious bite.  And additionally, it had been a long time since I had run that far.  All that to say the run was hard, and we took a necessary while to cool down at the graveyard before we started for home.

During the run, in between my mind repeat-tracking a goofy Mr. Mom song from the MOPS of Atmore playlist, I tried to process what her death has meant in my life.  Running is a tool for bringing clarity to my thinking.  It may have been the heat, but it hit me that Quinn presented me with a crisis of faith.  I was brought up going to church, my parents taught me about God at a young age. I went to a Christian school.  I knew all the right answers about the God of the Bible, and I truly believed them.  I was the Good Girl who did and said the right things for the right reasons.  But while I never doubted my faith, I sometimes wondered if what I believed in was true and real, even though I knew it was.  Follow?  Doubt is sketchy territory.  It's hard to quantify, hard to articulate. Scary business for a Good Girl.

Soon after her death, I was having a cry-it-out moment in the shower, pitying myself, trying to process my feelings, and as I stepped out, I so clearly heard God speak to me, saying, "Do you think this is all about YOU?!  This is about ME and my story for Quinn."  The thought was a lion's roar out of nowhere.  The holiness of God took my breath away, left me reeling, and I could only respond in repentance and worship. 

He had my full attention.  And His sweetness and kindness blew me away.  I felt his care through my friends.  I connected with songs that displayed glimpses of his character.  I soaked it in as I read.  A James McDonald book on the subject of God using pain as discipline was a surprise blessing to me.  More passages in the Bible made sense to me.  The words I had been saying I believed all my life, I still believed, but now I knew they were true. 

And that is where I am today.  I stand, not on my faith, but on God who is holding my heart.  The God of the Bible is who He says He is, a Holy presence that directly calls us out of darkness, and then steadfastly changes us to reflect His glory.  Would I know (that I know that I know) this if I was able to tuck Quinn into a sweet pink bed tonight and kiss her cheek goodnight?  I can't answer that question, but I know that God allowed pain to touch our lives because it was the only way He could accomplish a specific purpose for something far more important than my happiness.  He didn't have to, but He has proven Himself completely trustworthy.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Helen and the Strawberry Shortcake Birthday Cake

It's what happens when pictures get stuck in your camera.  November birthdays don't get blogged about until January.  Nothing to lose your head over.
Our little girl turned six!  And just like me, she knows what she wants.  Or rather, what she doesn't want.  She had ordered a Strawberry Shortcake cake far in advance, but was unsure of the details, just that she wanted her little figurine to be on top.  Acting as cake consultant, I introduced her to Pinterest, and the child's tastes quickly exceeded my skill level.  I finally convinced her to ignore the pretty pictures, and just trust me.
And...she was happy with her cake!  But she was a little disappointed when her doll's head snapped clean off. Wouldn't anyone be?

Sweet and funny Helen, who loves to make things.  And draw.  And color.  And paint.  And cut.  And tape.  And learn how to clean up an art mess.  She got an art easel for her birthday.
 The boys ignored the pink, and were happy to join in the celebration.

Gimme some cake! 
This is what happens when you swirl lemon and strawberry cake mixes together.  Yummy prettiness!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cotton Harvest, or What Happened to October and November

Whew!  Weber Farms has made it through another year! 

Harvest season was incredibly busy this year.  I'm not sure why it felt busier than usual, but this is the first one with us raising four children.  (Blame it on the baby!)  Picking cotton, digging and combining peanuts, cutting soybeans, shredding cotton stalks and planting winter wheat, all in fields near and far.  It was a whole lot of work, even with a hired hand.  Fortunately, I don't have the skill set required to operate heavy farm machinery, so I was free to run the household.  It's OK.  We all agree that I make a better cook, and Jason makes a better farmer. 

I took these pictures during one beautiful afternoon at the field by Uncle Calvin's house.  Because the operation was so close, I brought the kids and a cookie break on the golf cart. 

Jack lived in this muscle shirt this summer.  He would still be wearing it now, in December, had I not removed it from circulation.

We hung out with Jason as he finished packing a cotton module. 
This is our future farmer.  Jack's heart is full of tractors.  Seriously.  I just took him on our first ever mama/son date (he wanted Hardee's), and he talked about farm equipment while he ate French fries.  Yep, tractors and what it might take to convert his buddy Kaden into an Auburn fan.

 Henry loved the noise and action of the module builder.
This module was almost finished.  It takes about 4-5 dumps from the cotton picker's basket to fill it from the ground up, but each dump has to be stomped down by that hydraulic presser thingie to make room.  It's kind of like putting your t-shirts into your messy dresser drawer.

Jason unrolled the heavy tarp on top of the module, then Uncle Calvin drove the tractor and module builder away to reposition for the next module. 

Jason hitched a ride while he pulled the side of the tarp.  He makes this rough job look easy.

See, nuthin to it. 

Almost finished--just have to cinch the tarp strap and mark the module for Weber Farms! favorite part!  Cotton graffiti. 

Owen had been getting a ride in the picker while his grandpa was operating it.  He has started building modules, under the tutelage of his daddy, and is pretty good at it!
We stayed long enough to watch the first dump into the next module. 

 And then it was time to go make supper and change a diaper.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Number Eight Racetrack Cake

  What kind of cake does an eight-year-old boy need?  Why, a racetrack cake, naturally.

Poor Owen didn't have a choice this year.  His mother had this one in her head for a long time.  I remembered a picture of a racetrack cake in one of my mom's cake decorating books that I used to page through as a young dreamer.  It was a little simpler than this one, and the car bodies were oval-shaped, fake-fruit-flavored, hard candies with Smarties for wheels.  The good old Minute Stop on 31 had Werther's hard caramels, Skittles and a friendly cashier.

The concept cars needed to be explained to the kids, but after they understood, they were all picking out which one was theirs.

I used a tube pan to bake two cakes, then joined them together to make a figure eight.  I had to curve off an edge of one of the cakes so they wouldn't look like two awkward round cakes attempting to mingle.  I frosted the sides and most of the top with a chocolate butter frosting, then piped on a road of gray-tinted decorator icing.  I smoothed the bumps in the road with a metal spatula dipped in hot water, then added Cocoa Puffs and granola for rocks. The most fun was free-handing the white road paint and lettering.  What a treacherous roadway.
two angel food cake pans = racetrack
Owen loves his cake.  Here he is, complete with campout dirt.

And he liked the cupcakes I brought to his class, because they looked like they came from the store.  (The deli trays helped a lot.)

Stripe your icing tint right inside your decorating bag, add white frosting and pipe away!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Happy Fall, Y'all

Fall is here!  The weather and sunshine are so beautiful in lower Alabama, I wish I could hit the pause button.  Temperatures are in the upper 70s/low 80s during the day, the humidity has tapered off, and the angle of the sun just makes my heart ache with gorgeousness.  My house just had to reflect my heart during this season, so I did some fall decorating.

 Here's my felt leaf garland.  I love its cozy, crafty feel.  It was fun and extremely easy to make.  You can even cut while you watch recorded sessions of The Voice.  I might know something about that. 

And my new fall-inspired dish display, featuring cake plates and gravy boats, because aren't cake and gravy two foods worth celebrating?
I tacked some fabric from my stash to the back of my cupboard, an idea I've had for a long time.  It was a pain to do, but worth the irritation of ironing, folding, and sweating it out with thumbtacks.  However, remind me to kick myself; I love it so much, I think I've set a new standard.

Hope you're enjoying your fall season, no matter where your corner of the world!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

More Words from the Kids

We are in the middle of harvest season here, and if I had a swivel joint on my neck, my head would be swirling in dizzying rounds trying to keep up with all my responsibilities and distractions.  I've got MOPS lists, house cleaning lists, activity lists, packing lists, shopping lists, checkbook balancing, exercise plans, and menu ideas all spinning in my mind.  Nag, nag, nag.  My internal merry-go-round of nagging reminders.  Sometimes it's motivating, and other times it moves me to sit in the recliner with a remote. 

So to give me a break from the never-ending whirl of activity, I'm posting some things the kids have said recently.  The current collection is heavy with Jack's words, but the kid is four, and he talks a lot.  Enjoy. 

while shopping at Walmart:  "When I get big, my wife can go shopping by herself."

about an extreme sour-flavored freezer pop:  "It tastes like the hospital smell."

on Quinn's second birthday, after Helen remembered she had eaten Cheetos in the hospital room:  "Yes.  And if Henry dies, and we have to go back a have another one, I'm gonna eat Lay's!  BBQ!" (Guess who got BBQ potato chips the next week?)

chatting with Ms. B, the nurse: 
O:  Why do you have that?  (bandage on her inner elbow)
B:  Because Ms. Nettie took my blood.  I have to get checked for my cholesterol and for diabetes.
O:  immediately Do you have diabetes?
B:  Yes.  I do have diabetes.
O:  Do you have type I or type II?
B:  I have type II.
O:  Well, you know, you can just exercise and move around a lot, and it will get better. swinging arms to demonstrate his point  (Guess who wanted to dig a hole and crawl in it?)

after hearing a segment about life in Uganda at church, prayed:  "and please be with the people in Africa.  Help them get through this (dry) season.  Help it to rain, and help them to get hoses and sprinklers and pipes and stuff."

"hummingbird theeder"

while watching men's Olympic water polo:  "Is that called a fasto?"

praying:  "And please help me to never, ever think about fire...lit on our house."

"Mommy, will you be a gentle-girl and get the door for me and Owen?"

when hearing classical music:  "Is this a sad song?"  20 minutes later:  "Did someone die in this song?"

about his imaginary fields in the guest room:  "Mom, mine and Owen's crops are dying....because the weeds are taking their power."

about the car we were following:  "Are they strangers unto us?"

about the fighting in Syria:  "Mom, maybe we should send our policemen over there."

about my baking:  "What is that nice and fresh smell?"

praying:  "Thank you that I could find a toy that I couldn't found."

during his tractor ride turn:  "I'm glad Helen got to go last.  Owen told me I had to go last...and...I saw you in the tractor and I thought, 'Hey!  That could be me going second.'"

about praying:  "I told God what to do and He didn't do it."

excited about the bowling alley:  ".....and all the people who love God AND who love Satan can go bowling there!" 

"I just wanted to sing to Henry so he knows about God."

bragging to siblings after another tractor ride:  "I ask-ted Daddy LOTS of questions, and I even got a bunch of drinks...FROM...THE....WATER JUG!!!"

praying:  "God, I think you are awesome for making the dirt that I love."

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Get Your Henry Fix

At 8 months, Henry remains bright-eyed, squeezable, kissable and ticklish, all the good qualities a baby should possess.

He is not crawling.  He can hold a hands/knees position for a few minutes, until he collapses in a scream fest.  He wiggles and pivots on his belly.  He likes to stand with help, but has no earthly idea of balance, or the importance of holding on to a stable point.  He stiffens his legs when I try to set him on the floor, so that he cannot be placed into a sitting position.

Usually if he is well rested and well fed, he is a very pleasant baby.  He loves his thumb, which is the cutest thing ever.

But lately the cute little man has been screaming his head off if he is not being held securely in my arms or is not feeding himself graham crackers.  Or so it seems.

 See?  He can sit with toys, by himself, and be happy.
And again.

He is getting to be a chunk, so holding him can take a toll on my back.  We weigh him most scientifically.  We use the step-on-the-bathroom-scales-with-and-then-without-the-child method.  He's between 19 and 20 pounds, according to my last estimation.  That's about 40 cheeseburgers.  (Actually, I have no idea how many cheeseburgers he weighs.  It depends on if you prefer pickles.)  Forgive me, it's late, and cheeseburgers are starting to sound good. 

Speaking of food and eating, Henry has eight teeth.  I'm waiting for all this screaming of late to produce more teeth.  Always nice to blame fussiness on teething!