A Shiny, Happy Weekend

Our weekends fill up fast.  Often, they get filled with things that we would rather not being doing!  This was not one of the those weekends.  We were busy but happily so.  Saturday brought the annual Easter Bunny Breakfast at our church.  It is always a fun, cheery, well-attended event, and the committee does a wonderful job of blending the fun tradition of the Easter Bunny and all the springtime symbols with the story of Jesus and his resurrection.  I loved watching my growing boys really get into the middle of the festivities.  Our little one truly isn’t a baby anymore.  He was eager to take part in the games, the bunny hop, and of course, the Easter egg hunt.  (A little too eager…for several heart-stopping minutes, I thought I had lost him!)

Saturday afternoon was a bit cloudy but warm enough to feel like spring.  I spent a delightful two hours alone browsing a little maternity boutique that is going out of business and the local library.  Afterward, I returned home to take my boys to the park.  Jackets were in order, but compared to the hats and coats of the last few months, jackets felt like nothing more than feathers lifting us toward brighter skies and other-worldly adventures.  Ah, spring!

Sunday was so, SO warm.  I even heard my hubby complain a bit…how dare he?  Our dog rested under a tree, and the boys happily switched into short-sleeved shirts.  We did a little digging in the yard, some raking, and plenty of daydreaming about the tiny garden we’ll plant and all the fun we will have when summer vacation truly arrives.  Aside from enjoying our postage stamp of a backyard, we also went to church, helped with the youth group’s annual Mall Crawl, and celebrated with an ice cream treat.

My heart feels full just thinking of the special weekend we had.  We were together–as a family and as a church family.  I set aside the worries that crop up about job searches, a broken drier, a messy house, and little  boy mischief.  I just enjoyed my guys in the present.  That’s not something I’m always very good at doing, but for one shiny, happy weekend, I succeeded.

Making the Switch to Springtime

The weather still isn’t sure what season it wants to be, but my calendar says Springtime.  We’re jumping in!

Our mantel is the centerpiece of our livingroom, and since the livingroom is really the center of our family life, I think of the mantel as the place where we first connect with the seasons and the atmosphere of our home.  Last weekend, I made a few subtle changes toward spring, and those changes began with the livingroom mantel.  I like to have little bits of natural materials all over the house.  Just small reminders that the divide between indoors and out doesn’t have to be so wide.

Before:

(I made this little clay pot in high school.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get it any bigger.  And the large pinecone is left over from Christmas.)

After:

(Our older son made this bird at a library program last spring.  It is made of natural clay and Spanish moss.  I love it!)

Before:

(Red wool and autumn-toned cotton are replaced by…)

After:

(…sage and lilac alpaca blends and green cotton.  The wooden truck gets to stay.)

And a beautiful addition:

For a few days now, the tulips have begun to bow their pretty white heads.  I think they look all the more beautiful as they seem to reach down to us from the mantel.  The bouquet stretches in a sweet, comical way.  I wish the tulips would last forever!

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Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day Weekend

On Saturday, my parents and my grandma came to our house for our almost annual St. Patrick’s Day meal.  I served my usual menu: shephard’s pie, tossed salad (Thanks, Mom!), Irish Soda Bread, and an apple tart with custard sauce.  (Just a warning: the custard recipe is HUGE.  I cut it in 1/2, and that was NOT a big enough cut.)  This year, I added cantaloupe because we had a beautiful one ready to be cut.

Here are the sights of the day.  Enjoy!

Then this ^^…

became this ^^

The placecards were inspired by this post at Sweet and Lovely Crafts.

Lenten Tree 2011

You may recall our Lenten Tree from last year.

The tree is back!  I’m loving it even more now that our older son is growing in his awareness of “talking to God” and what it means to get ready for Easter.

I don’t know the true origin of the Lenten Tree, but we borrowed the idea from our church’s tradition.  I placed a few twigs (Thanks, Dad!) in a pitcher, and this year, I set the pitcher on a swatch of purple fabric, the color of the Lenten season.  On Ash Wednesday, when the tree first graced the center of our table, the branches of our tree were bare.  They were colorless and lifeless.  As the season progresses, we will fill the branches with colored ribbons to represent different kinds of prayers.  For example, red is a prayer for forgiveness; orange is a prayer of thanksgiving.  Blue is a prayer for peace, and a pink ribbon means that you are praying for wisdom.  We are using nine different colors.  As we grow closer and closer to the celebration of Easter, the tree becomes full of color.  By the time Easter arrives, it is bursting with new life.

I love how the tree is a direct reflection of the changes in the natural world around us.  In early March, the ground is dormant.  The world is still brown and gray.  But each week, we see the plants awakening; we see more color and sunshine.  Especially with a late-April Easter this year, spring will truly have sprung when the time comes to celebrate.  The tree makes the link from natural life to spiritual life so evident and accessible for little ones.

A wonderful blog friend (and real-life friend), Emily, has been contemplating praying with children at her blog, Watkins Every Flavor Beans.  At this point in my young family’s development, the Lenten Tree is a great way to pray together.  I tie a ribbon as a kind of record of a prayer that I’ve just prayed or have been meditating upon all day.  For the boys, we consider the very act of tying the ribbon to be a little message to God, a way of saying “Today I’m thinking about courage” or praise or patience.

This post is listed as part of today’s “Nature Table.”  Take a moment to check out all of the great ideas listed there.

Blessings!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Busy day today.  This morning, our son’s school held a Pastors’ Breakfast to honor the pastors in our community.  I agreed to bring a breakfast casserole.  Hot.  At 8 am.  I’m happy to help, and I love that they are having this event.  I’m even happier because our beloved pastor agreed to come.  We’re all excited.  But…having a hot casserole, myself, and a five-year-old ready to be at school by 8 o’clock in the morning was not easy.  Mission Accomplished.

The next stop was my place of employment.  I teach a Tuesday/Thursday section of a writing course at a nearby university.  I’m there now–looking over drafts, planning for class, and blogging.  Don’t tell! 

After I take off my academic hat, I will return home where my mom is visiting the kiddos.  We’re planning a much needed trip to the park with a possible icy treat.  Yum.  I am not-so-patiently anticipating that part of my day.

Finally, we will lug our weary selves (maybe I’m the only one who will be tired) to our church where we will be celebrating the final day of Youth Club with a Parents Night dinner.  The kids will perform songs and a poem (that’s my class!), and we will enjoy a pot luck meal.  Oh, that’s right…I’m responsible for taking a “veggie” to the dinner.  I opted for a broccoli and rice dish that I love.  Thank goodness much of it can be made ahead.

So that’s what St. Patrick’s Day looks like for me.  And you know what…I’m pleased.  I’m content.  Each step of the day puts me in contact with people I love, activities I enjoy, and a sense of accomplishment that I can never achieve on a lazy day at home.  Today is filled with blessings.

This is one of the "centerpieces" that I designed for the Parents Night dinner. Last week, each child made one, but I whipped up a few extras yesterday...just in case.

Spring Break: The Final Weekend

Wow. That week flew. Of course, I did not accomplish all of my spring break goals. But you know what? I do not feel discouraged. I do not feel like a failure because I accomplished a lot! And when I make a list of goals, I always set them high. Always. Higher than I expect to reach. Some people would call that setting yourself up for failure, but not me. Makes me excited!

Goal #1:  I sort of took an “unplugged” vacation. I didn’t do as well as I planned, but I cut WAY back on internet time. I stayed away from Facebook (until yesterday evening) except to privately message two friends. I checked a couple of my favorite blogs a few times, but I did no commenting on blogs. I didn’t browse aimlessly, and I didn’t check my e-mail compulsively…although I wanted to!

Goal #2: I did take a “project inventory” of the house. I want Hubby to jot down a few notes, but I feel great about my list.

Goal #3: I decluttered in all of the public areas of the house EXCEPT the master bedroom.  Why is that room so hard for me?  Even though I did declutter in all of our living spaces, the project is certainly not complete.  I guess I’ll be decluttering forever.

Goal #4: Who was I kidding?  I did not clean the windows inside and out.  I have a pretty good excuse though.  We had terrible weather.  It rained, and we had measurable snow fall on two occasions.  I did clean the insides of all the downstairs windows, and I plan to clean the insides of the upstairs windows tomorrow.

Goal #5:  I bought new items for our bathroom (yay!), but the tiles did not get replaced.  This week!

Goal #6:  No.  Sadly, no sewing happened.  The curtains will have to wait.

Goal #7:  I did not blog daily but really close.  I have a complete Spring Break series that I can feel good about.

Goal #8: I did not finish cleaning out the car, but I made a good effort at a real start.  On Thursday, I arrived early to the kindergarten pick-up line, so I filled a shopping bag with trash.  Embarrassing but exciting!

So that is the spring break recap.  I did not stretch out on a white, sandy beach.  I did not go to a spa.  I did not pound the pavement of Disney World (but I did daydream about it).  Instead, I accomplished a few small things that made me feel great about my home and my own productivity.  The house looks nice, and a clean house makes me feel enthusiastic about the spring decorating that I have planned for the week.  We will be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day next weekend, but of course, there will be some green fun on the 17th.  I have lots of things that I am looking forward to sharing right here at Warm As Pie.  Thanks for coming by!

(The picture is from last year.  We aren’t quite to the sprouting stage yet, but it’s coming oh-so-close.)

Spring Break: Thursday and Friday

Well, I’ve been a little off track with the days of these posts.  In the last few, I didn’t mind just looking back at the previous day, but since I’m writing this on Friday and sharing pictures from an outing on Wednesday, I wasn’t quite sure how to title this post.  Oh well!

Today is sort of a yucky day with a gray sky and a mix of rain and snow, but the house is warm, cozy, and blessedly quiet.  Hubby is grading papers for next week, the little one is napping, and our older son is keeping himself busy next to me in the living room.  He’s just bouncing around, playing with little figures, and occasionally stopping for a cuddle.  I thought I would grab a moment while the little guy is snoozing to share our bowling outing with you.

Our scores were terrible, but we had a fun time.  The little one fell asleep while we were changing out of our bowling shoes.  He was worn out!

Don’t worry…he’s not falling.  That’s his follow-through!

Today (Friday), our two year old and I went to a La Leche League meeting.  I love these meetings.  They always renew my belief in the benefits of breastfeeding, and they give me a new sense of commitment to making healthy choices for my family from infancy on up.  It was so nice to meet a new mother-to-be and to have a church friend in attendance.

Spring Break: Ash Wednesday

Last night, we marked the start of Lent with a little home devotional time.  We usually attend a church service on Ash Wednesday, but quite honestly, at ages 5 and 2, evening services are hard on the kiddos and hard on Mama!  Everyone is tired and wiggly; plus the solemnity of this particular service leaves me feeling on edge in a way that regular Sunday morning worship does not.  The dim lights, the element of confession, the whole atmosphere leaves me feeling extra sensitive to every half-whisper, every dropped toy, and rolling crayon.  So I declared a night of “church at home.” 

I’ve always heard that one learns most through teaching, and I’m growing to believe that more and more.  Teaching our kids about our faith is a joy and a delightful challenge.  The process of turning long-held beliefs and practices into words and images that are meaningful to little ones helps me to keep old ways fresh and to really examine the “just because” feeling that slips into a life-long faith.

I snitched a baggie filled with ashes from my parents’ coal stove, and we let the boys touch the ashes (although they preferred to just squish the baggie).  We read the first entry in the devotional My ABC Journey through Lent by Peter Mead (provided by our church).  The evening’s entry used Genesis 3:19, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  We talked about how our bodies go back to the earth, but our spirits are special.  Our spirits get to go to Heaven.  Our five-year-old wanted to argue about people being made out of dust.  His teacher had explained that God made people out of nothing, and you know, teacher knows best.  So we explored the relationship between God’s calling creation out of nothing and his final act of forming Adam out of the earth.  Ultimately, we talked about how the death of Jesus on the cross allows us to be more than the dust of the ground. The exciting chain of conversation helped me to remember that Jesus is the thread that pulls together the entire narrative of time.

This is just the beginning of a journey of learning beside our children as we walk toward Easter.

Spring Break: Shrove Tuesday

Knocking things off my to-do list!  Yesterday, my mom and I took the boys on a little shopping venture.  I bought new shower curtains for the bathroom (liner and curtain, I should say), a new rug for in front of the sink (badly needed!),a matching hand towel, and a toilet bowl brush (fun fun).  Then, I splurged.  A beautiful hand soap dispenser caught my eye.  I loved its handsome shape, it’s crystal clear glass, and it’s slight green tint.  Just the thing to freshen up my tiny bathroom.  So even though it wasn’t on my list, I bought the dispenser.  Of course, I couldn’t ruin the perfect clarity with just any hand soap, so I hunted for an equally clear soap to fill this beauty.

I chose some fabric to make new curtains for the bathroom.  My to-do list only specified curtains for the boys’ room, but I didn’t see any bathroom curtains that I loved.  This fabric reminds me so much of the fabric in The Sound of Music.  Remember the old curtains that Maria transforms into play clothes for her young charges?

We ended a fun day of shopping with an evening of pancakes at our church.  My mom-in-law was able to join us for our church’s annual Shrove Tuesday Pancake Dinner.  I didn’t learn about “Shrove Tuesday” until we found our home in our current church family about 6 years ago.  I knew about “Fat Tuesday,” but as someone preparing for the solemnity of Lent, all the hullabaloo seemed pretty silly.  I like the “Shrove” version a lot better, even though the name itself doesn’t constitute any real difference in celebration.  But for me, words really matter!

On the day before the start of Lent, families and communities would make pancakes to use up many of the ingredients from which they would fast during the Lenten season.  In order to prevent temptation and the waste of perfectly good flour and eggs, people cooked up batches of pancakes!  Pretzels are another Shrove Tuesday tradition.  Monks baked small portions of dough twisted into the position of a praying posture.  Same reasoning.  Leaven breads would have been avoided during Lent, so pretzels were a nice treat with a special reminder of the season of prayer soon to come.  Wikipedia explains the term “Shrove”: “The word shrove is the past tense of the English verb to shrive, which means to obtain absolution for one’s sins by way of confession and doing penance.” 

Oh, and I can’t forget the “Pancake Fling.”  At the dinner, we also play some pancake games!  We compete to see who flings a pancake the farthest.  My hubby took second place, and our kiddos make wonderful attempts at the title.  So cute!  Then there was the Pancake Flip Relay.  Two teams raced down the floor while flipping pancakes in frying pans.  Our five-year-old did well, and his team won.  Of course, I was more excited to see how he has grown in confidence and cooridination since last year’s event.  What difference one year can make.

Welcome to Lent!