Monday, February 24, 2014

Jillian's Dream Date

Jillian loves gymnastics.  I mean, REALLY loves gymnastics.  Not a day goes by that she isn't practicing or stretching. She uses her balance beam every day.  Maybe you remember... Chad & Jacob made her a beam last year for her birthday.  ("Best gift EVER," according to Jillie.) 

So what better way to spend Valentine's Day then at the Husker's Women's Gymnastics Meet in Lincoln?   (The cookie dough ice cream was just the icing on the cake.)

And two days later, we were back in Lincoln for Jillian's gymnastics meet.  Hard practice pays off for Jillian.  Just look at those muscles! 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

He's Home! But His Luggage Isn't...

A couple weeks ago, we sent Jacob off on the trip of a lifetime.  To Israel.  Since taking a break from college and moving home, we've gotten used to his presence (and humor) again, so it felt really strange when he was gone these past 10 days.  We didn't go through near as much milk or cereal, either. We really missed him, even if his sisters try to disagree.

Reading newspapers while hanging out in the Dead Sea.

On their last day in Israel, they were up all day touring, and then flew out of Tel Aviv at midnight on an 11-hour flight (4pm our time).  Thanks to bad weather in NY, they experienced a cancelled flight, delays, and also had to split up the group to get everyone home to Nebraska at various times.

The first thing on Jacob's list to purchase was a bottle of Mountain Dew.  According to him, he's really...I mean, REALLY...missed his 3 major food groups:  Steak, Bacon, and Mountain Dew.  Tonight would be a bad time to try grilled lamb in Pita bread with lots of veggies and hummus.

I'm anxious to see all his photos and hear all his stories.  He's anxious for his luggage to arrive.  I'd better finish up my laundry before he takes over the washing machine later today.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Best Father-In-Law Ever

"I thank my God every time I remember you.” Philippians 1:3

Chad and his dad, November 2013
My father-in-law was one of the sweetest, kindest, caring men I have ever met.  A week ago today, he breathed his final breath and entered into eternity.  He touched many, many lives.  He was so very easy to love.  How could anyone not love Ken Bailey? 

Much like my husband,  he always bumped into someone he knew everywhere he went.  He was a friend to many.  In fact, so many of the same qualities I love about Ken can also be found in my husband.  

I thank God for choosing Ken to be my father-in-law.  I'm so glad I didn't miss out on knowing him.  I just wish his life wasn't cut so short.  After all, 72 isn't that old.  There were so many more memories left to be had.  But I won't focus on the what-if's and if-only's.  Instead, I am going to smile when something during the day reminds me of Ken, and I am going to Thank God every time I think of him. 

Last Friday, with nearly every seat in the church filled, we celebrated a life well lived.  His love for teaching and coaching was evident in the lives he touched, but his favorite role was that of "father," "grandpa", and "uncle." 

One of my favorite stories centers around the day he retired.  Ken retired from teaching in May of 1998.  In fact, he missed his very last day of teaching to be at the hospital with us when Jenica was born.  He never missed school; he never used any sick days.  But on May 18th, he wanted to be there for us, and for the birth of his grandchild.  And when Jenica needed to be airlifted to Omaha, he drove Chad to Children's Hospital to be with his granddaughter.  On his very last day of school. 

I wish we didn't have to say "good-bye" quite so soon.  It's been a really hard week and we're going to miss him terribly. So if you see us in the days to come, with tears quietly streaming down our cheeks, smile and tell God "thank you" for those that you hold dear to your hearts. 

The Broken Chain
We little knew that morning
that God would call your name.
in life we loved you dearly,
in death we do the same.
It broke our hearts to lose you,
you did not go alone;
for part of us went with you,
the day God called you home.
You left us peaceful memories,
your love is still our guide;
and though we cannot see you,
you are always at our side.
Our family chain is broken
and nothing seems the same;
but as God calls us one by one,
the Chain will link again.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Best Kind of Investment

When you become a parent, your perspective on just about everything changes, because you now see a precious little life in front of you that you want to protect at all costs. 

January 2007, shortly after bringing Jillian home.

If you're a young adult now, and texting and driving seems like no big deal to you, I am certain that will change when you have children.  I remember wishing I could put my child (and myself) in a bubble that could not be broken, hoping to keep him from all the dangers this world lunges towards us.  But my selfish attitude showed very little faith and a lack of trust.  After a while, I realized that I was gonna drive myself crazy, worrying about all the dangerous what-ifs.  I needed to release my children and trust God to protect them.  After all, I can't be with them 24/7.  Nor do I want to.  We all need a break every now and then, right?  Even if that break is just long enough to use the bathroom in privacy. 

It's when my children became teenagers that I realized the importance of having trustworthy people involved in their lives. 

Jacob's 8th Grade Graduation

There are so many negative influences pulling for our teens attention, and I love when God puts special people in their lives to be a positive influence.  People who are willing to invest in them.  People who have crazy-busy schedules, but see the importance (and hopefully the joy) of spending a little quality time building relationships with them.  It's a tough world they're growing up in.  And it's such a blessing, as a mom, to know that God has placed really special people in the lives of my children, who are so willing to give of their time, for a greater purpose. 

I'm seeing the full effects of that blessing with my adult son.  So many Godly men have invested in his life, for which I am eternally grateful.  I'm sure they have no idea the impact they've had.  I don't think I even fully realize their impact.  But I can see the fruit being produced because of the time they spent invested. 

My prayer is that every young person today has that same blessing.  Someone to come along side them (in addition to their parents), building a relationship with them, willing to invest in them.  The timing may not always be the most convenient, and the rewards may seem small (or even nonapparent) at the time, and the teen may not even be appreciative.  But it's all about our perspective... or more importantly, the attitude of our hearts. 

So, who does God want me to invest in? 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Dream Come True

My parents have been spending their winters in Texas for 13 years, but we've never been able to visit them because our school breaks are always too short.  Until this year!  Our school board approved a longer than normal Christmas Break (Blessing #1197), so we took advantage of it and took a little vacation down south.  (#1198)   After spending a couple days in San Antonio, we arrived in McAllen and my parents RV resort.  (#1199)

Our chauffeur for the day we spent on South Padre Island was my 88-year-old grandfather with my 87-year-old grandmother as the co-pilot. (#1200) 

They're so cute!  My grandpa said, "you made my day by being here."  Awwwe... (I bet it was more like week month year!) The cold, rainy, windy day wasn't about to stop us from walking on the beach. It wasn't the warm sunny beach we had hoped for, but it was "grandma's beach" and that's why it was so special.  (#1201) 

Grandma picked up many buckets of seashells on that sand.  And Grandpa loved showing us "his" island.  Due to their failing health, this may be the last winter they get to travel to Texas.  It warmed my heart to see first-hand the place they've called "home" four months a year.  (#1202)

For a quarter each, we walked across the bridge and into Mexico!
Getting back into the US required passports and 35 cents, along
with an explanation of what was in our shopping bags.

We took in as much as possible while we were in Texas (#1203), and now when we hear my folks talk about everything from "Gonzales Burgers" to "Don Wes Flea Market", we smile and know exactly what they're talking about.  (#1204)  I'm glad my mom made a list of all the highlights of the area so we could squeeze in as much as possible.  (#1205) I totally understand why they like it there.  Everything's green, the fruit and veggies are still going strong, there are palm trees everywhere, there's lots to do, and the weather's (usually) nice and spring-like. (#1206) 

Pirate's Landing at Port Isabelle

Check out Jillian's hotdog at Willie D's!  She learned first-hand that everything's bigger in Texas.

We had such a great time, and as we said our "goodbyes" and prepared for our 18-hour drive home, my dad whispered: "this was a dream come true".  For me too, dad.  (#1207)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My New Favorite Soup

Even though I haven't posted anything for a while, I'm still counting my blessings (I hope you are too). Yes, everything is well with the fam.  (Blessing #1193)  Today, anyway.  You never know from one day to the next what lies ahead.  But worrying doesn't accomplish anything except ulcers and headaches, right?   Someone once told me, "there's nothing to worry about, just lots to pray about."

One of the things that I find relaxing is baking.  (#1194)  My sister once nicknamed me "Betty".  As in Betty Crocker.  I just wish I had someone to wash all my dirty dishes.

Today, I baked 4 loaves of rye bread.  Recipe courtesy of my sweet neighbor Deanna.  A few days ago, she posted something on facebook about all the things she had accomplished as she prepared for Thanksgiving, including having baked several loaves of rye bread.  This resulted in a slug of requests for her recipe.  And being the sweet little lady she is, she snail-mailed me a copy of the recipe.  (#1195)

As you can see, I had to taste it while it was still warm.  Melt-in-your-mouth delicious!   

Since it's been cold this week, I made my new favorite soup on Monday.  Chicken with Wild Rice.  I discovered it on Pinterest as a "Panera Bread Copycat" recipe. (#1196)  And I have to tell ya . . . (insert singing voice)  It's a-MAZ-ing!!   I've made it twice this winter so far, and there's never any leftovers.  Yep.  It's that good.  I think I'll pop a loaf of rye bread in the freezer to serve with my newly discovered soup the next time it makes the menu board. 

You've got to try this recipe!  You'll fall in love.  Just sayin'.

Chicken & Wild Rice Soup
1/2 c. butter
1 onion, chopped
1 c. chopped carrots
1/2 c. chopped celery
3/4 c. flour
6 c. chicken broth, low sodium
6 oz. pkg. Long Grain & Wild Rice
2 c. leftover cooked chicken

Melt butter, sauté onions, carrots, and celery til tender.  Stir in flour.  Gradually add stock til mixture comes to a boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Prepare rice as directed on box, omitting oil and salt.  Add rice and chicken to stock and simmer 10 minutes. 

The recipe says that it serves 10.  Ummm.....not with my family.   Five is more like it. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Shared Produce

What does one do with beets?  Well, it depends on who you ask. 

A friend of ours surprised us with some produce from his (enormous) garden (Blessing #1190), after he heard that our dog helped himself to our garden veggies.  Among the treasures he shared were beets.  His advice was to pickle them.  I waited until he left to wrinkle my nose. 

So I proceeded to ask a few of my friends if they had a better idea.  What do you do with beets?   One said "Ewww!  You throw them out!"  I knew she wasn't the one to ask.  Another friend suggested Beet Chips, which were "okay," but not as crispy as Martha's.  I decided that my slicer didn't slice them thin enough. 

And several suggested to pickle them.  Really?  Pickle them?  Ewww!   But my mom agreed:  pickle those babies! 

My mom shared my grandma Viola's recipe with me, and so I began the process.  It really wasn't that hard.  And they look so beautiful in my cute little pint-sized jars.  (#1191)

I tried one . . . and wrinkled my nose.  I'm sticking with "ewwww!"   I ended up sharing them.  All of the jars went to my mom, my sister, and my mother-in-law, who absolutely love pickled beets.  It was fun to see their excitement, as I gladly shared my pretty little jars of pickled beets with the beet-lovers of my family.  (#1192)