September 29, 2014

My FAVORITE cookies

This past summer a friend of mine shared a little taste of heaven with me. Mexican Hot Chocolate Shortbread Cookies. They are FANTASTIC!!! They have become my new favorite recipe.

These are from the Back In The Day Bakery Cookbook

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 
1/2 cup almond flour (I didn't have so I just used an extra 1/2 cup of regular flour)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 cup packed light brown sugar 
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/4 teaspoon espresso powder or finely ground coffee (I leave this out)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips (I use regular size and probably do about a cup)
About 1/4 cup granulated sugar for dusting (I roll the balls in the sugar before baking)

Line two cookie sheets with parchment.
Whisk the flours (dry ingredients) together in a medium bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer), cream the butter, vanilla, and almond extract until the mixture is pale in color, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn the speed down to low, add the brown sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, espresso (I never have this so I leave it out), salt, and cayenne pepper, and continue to mix until the mixture is smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the flour mixture in thirds until just combined. With the mixer running, sprinkle in the chocolate chips, mixing until just combined.

Transfer the dough to another bowl and finish mixing by hand to make sure no bits of flour or butter are hiding on the bottom of the bowl and the dough is thoroughly mixed.

Use a small scoop to form the cookies, about 1 rounded tablespoon each, and place on the prepared cookie sheets, leaving 1 inch between the cookies to allow for spreading.

Flatten each cookie with a cookie stamp dusted with granulated sugar, or gently flatten each cookie with the palm of your hand and then dust the tops with sugar. (I roll the balls in sugar and flatten with a mason jar) They will have little cracks in the top. Refrigerate the cookies for at least 1 hour, or up to 5 hours.  (I am too impatient to refrigerate so I bake right away and have no problem) Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, for 8 to 10 minutes, Cool the cookies completely on wire racks. Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 days at room temperature.

With all recipes I never seem to be able to leave them alone. I like to adjust or add to or just try different variations for some reason. My kids like these even better than the shortbreads. I think because of the eggs it adds more of a chewiness than the shortbreads (which I think I prefer). Both are delicious though! The new recipe is below :) I have already eaten 4 of these today. Step AWAY. I so lack self control.

2 sticks of butter
1 1/2 cups of cocoa powder (unsweetened)
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
4 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325
Heat butter & cocoa on low heat until all melted and blended together (remove from heat & cool)
Mix eggs, sugars, & extracts in mixer
Add butter/cocoa mixture
In separate bowl mix all other dry ingredients well
Add to wet ingredients
Fold in chocolate chips

Bake for 13 minutes (this was my magic number)

September 17, 2014

A few of my favorite things

This is my absolute favorite laundry detergent. And trust me, I have tried a ton! This is awesome!
Having sensitive skin I find deodorant a real tough one for me. This causes no issues for me. It's all natural and works too! I may try making my own.
I am a huge fan of this shampoo! 
This has the best lingering scent! And makes your drawer, cupboard or wherever you store the box smell fabulous too.

September 10, 2014

The Story of Us

Once in a while I like to watch these movies with a marriage reminder or little lesson to keep me grounded. I love my husband dearly and we have a good relationship & thing going here after our little 14 years together. But I like these movies nonetheless because they just strengthen that spark as I place myself in another's shoes.  This is an exerpt from the end of one of those movies that I think we can all relate to, if we put ourselves in place of those characters. This is from "The Story of Us" with Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer .

It's fun to remind ourselves of how we first met. Why we fell in love and how marriage truly is a dance we perfect over time not over night.

I love a good ending too! And this movie has one.

Ben and Katie are on the brink of divorce. They separate for a summer while their kids are away at camp.  They agree to let the kids know they are divorcing when they pick them up.

Katie: (in the camp parking lot after loading their kids, Josh & Erin, in the car) I want to go to Chow Funs.

Ben: I thought we agreed we couldn't really talk at Chow Funs.

Katie: I know.

Ben: Are you saying Chow Funs because you can't face telling the kids? Because if that's why you're saying Chow Funs, don't say Chow Funs.

Katie: That's not why I'm saying Chow Funs. I'm saying Chow Funs because we're an us. There's a history here, and histories don't happen overnight. In Mesopotamia of Ancient Troy, there are cities built on top of other cities. But I don't want another city, I like this city. I know what kind of mood you're in when you wake up by which eyebrow is higher, and you know I'm a little quiet in the morning and compensate accordingly, that's a dance you perfect over time. And it's hard, it's much harder than I thought it would be. But there's more good than bad and you don't just give up! And it's not for the sake of the children. But God, they're great kids, aren't they? And we made them, I mean think about that! It's like there were no people there, and then there were people and they grew, and I won't be able to say to some stranger Josh has your hands or remember how Erin threw up at the Lincoln Memorial and I'll try to relax. Let's face it, anybody is going to have traits that get on your nerves, I mean why shouldn't it be your annoying traits, and I know I'm no day at the beach, But I do have a good sense of direction so I can at least find the beach, which isn't a weakness of yours, it's just a strength of mine. And gosh, you're a good friend and good friends are hard to find. Charlotte said that in 'Charlotte's Web' and I love how you read that to Erin and you take on the voice of Wilbur the Pig with such dedication even when your bone tired. That speaks volumes about character! And ultimately, isn't that what it comes down to? What a person is made of? That girl in the pin helmet is still here 'bee boo bee boo' I didn't even know she existed until you and I'm afraid if you leave, I may never see her again, even though I said at times you beat her out of me, isn't that the paradox? Haven't we hit the essential paradox? Give and take, push and pull, the yen the yang. The best of times, the worst of times! I think Dickens said it best, 'He could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean'. But that doesn't really apply here, does it? What I'm trying to say is, I'm saying Chow Funs. Because I love you.

Ben: I love you too. (And they hug)

Ben: Did you hear that, kids? (Running back to the car) Mom wants to go to Chow Funs!

August 13, 2014

8 Things To Never Say To Someone With Depression

In writing this I realize the confession I am making. However, in lieu of this week's terrible tragedy and all of the news surrounding Robin Williams, I feel there is no time more appropriate than this. As someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety, I understand the deep pit and I understand how alone one can feel, I have heard the many words that don't help, I've been asked questions that make it worse, I have heard comments that cause the pit to deepen and the anxiety levels to rise. 

Since learning the tragic news about Robin Williams, I have read well-meaning posts about depression by well-meaning people, but unfortunately the uneducated comments can do more harm than good. Those who have not experienced depression personally are better off sealing lips and just listening with a genuine smile. I don't say any of this to condemn or in haste at all. I just want to bring about an understanding to this disease, as well as an understanding to mental illness in general. Sadly, there has become such a stigma humans have put around mental illness that causes those who struggle to want to run the other way. Often our well-meaning words can cause others to feel more alone than ever. There isn't a magical answer. There are no specific powerful words that heal. Watch what you say and strive to just listen when given a chance. Try to be wise so your words don't make things worse...

1. "You must not have enough faith in God, Just trust the Lord"

Struggling with depression does not mean someone isn't putting their faith in God. Depression has no bearing on one's relationship or lack their of, with God. Without my faith and trust in God I don't know where I would be! I thank Jesus that He IS with me in the midst of my struggles. Even yet, the pit still exists. That sinking feeling in my stomach is still there. The sadness that lurks is still in there. My brain still races 100 miles per minute. My thoughts go here, there, everywhere, and every which way in between. The implication that my struggle with anxiety and depression are the result of a lack of faith in God suggests that mental health isn't a real physical issue.

2. "You just need to think positively"

I am actually a very optimistic person. I see the good in others. I strive to be a peacemaker. I like to help others see the silver lining. In regards to depression and anxiety, I am really just wired that way. It's the way my brain processes things. Similar to a healthy, organic, active person with asthma, high cholesterol, a heart condition, etc. Some people are just wired a certain way and that is just how it goes. Nothing you say will "fix" someone. The more you try, the deeper you might be digging their pit and shoving them down even further. There is no magical thought I can think that will pull me from a bout with depression or anxiety.

3. "Stay away from meds, you don't want to be on that stuff" (Go to a 'natural' Doctor...)

Zoloft saved my life. Period. It makes me feel like me. Yet, I have been ashamed to admit or tell others I was on something. Afraid of the critique of others. The humiliation that can go with needing a psych drug. I was blessed to have a doctor who told me she has been there and that there is nothing wrong with taking meds. She validated my every being and thought. She validated me as a woman, wife, and mother. She just simply understood. Often, we cannot take care of the spiritual, if we don't balance the imbalances and deal with the mental.

4. "Suicidal people are selfish"

I have not personally been suicidal or ever tried to take my own life.  I have however, been so low that I begged God to just let me die though. To just take me home to heaven. And I didn't think twice about anyone else. Many that contemplate suicide seriously think the world would be fine without them, and they don't think of those who would miss them. They are not trying to be selfish at all, they are just so terribly sunk in that deep pit that they desperately just want out and sometimes that means they take their own lives. When the sadness gets to that point of utter desperation it causes you to see nothing else but sadness, gloom, darkness, and dread. ( I also know that some meds can have the uncommon side effect of suicidal thoughts which is why one must be monitored closely and in constant discussion with your doctor to try and find the right medication and dose for you. )

5. "Seek help, seek other people out"

Depression feels dark and shameful. When you are in the midst of depression all you want to do is sleep and sleep and sleep. Your motivation is zero. Sometimes you might have that moment that you may seek out someone if you're in a confident mode. But more times than not, in the midst of depression, comes big time insecurity. One isn't always thinking about who they can talk to because they are embarrassed. Depression can be mortifying. How about being that person who holds a hand and says 'let's talk to someone together who can help'.

6. "What have you got to be depressed about?"

One's life can be amazing. One may be so blessed. And know there isn't anything to be anxious or down about. But we still feel it. It's still there. Regardless. It doesn't matter the circumstance. Depression can still exist in the midst of a seemingly perfect life. Depression is dark and lonely. Anxiety and depression go hand in hand, as you may feel depressed for being anxious and anxious about being depressed. It's a vicious cycle that plays tricks on your mind causing an unrest like no other. Just validate my feelings, because if I could help it, I would. 

7. "Just get over it. Come on cheer up!"

If only. Lack of validation will not lead me to hope in desperation.

8. "You're a mess"

If more people would practice empathy and use compassion, grace and understanding I think those with depression and other mental illnesses could begin to feel comfortable to seek help or talk about it more. There is this feeling of indignity, shame, & humiliation that goes with any mental illness. There's a certain negativity that causes insecurity and an even greater loneliness for those suffering. 

Depression and anxiety are treatable. Mental illness is manageable. One can live a very normal, exciting, joy filled life.  Chances are there are more people around you than you realize, struggling with a mental illness of some kind. Watch what you say and the disgrace you allow your words to display. Educate yourself before speaking. Chances are unless you have been there, you will never truly understand.  Know that when a person deals with depression and anxiety, for them it's near impossible to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Be sympathetic. Be gracious. Slow to speak. Quick to listen. 

To further educate this is a great website

July 23, 2014

Letting Go

I think letting go may be one of the hardest choices we have to make in our life here on earth. Letting go of loved ones; Saying goodbye and cutting bonds or ties; Lacking closure. All of which I, myself, am not good at. Especially the closure part.

Things left unsaid.
Questions unanswered.
One last I love you.
One last hug.
Rushed goodbyes.

However, sometimes letting go can be a very selfless act as well. As well as absolutely necessary.

To allow wings to fly.
Blooms to blossom.
Growth that otherwise maybe couldn't happen.

Selfishly, and admittedly I want another hug. I want to hear their voices. I want to hold the chubby baby boy whose mama I was blessed to be for 7 mos. I want to snuggle that sweet & sassy little girl. See her sweet dimples. Let her kiss my cheeks a million times over. Just one more time. Oh what I'd give to kiss the top of that sweet little boy's head. So sensitive. So fragile. So kind and precious. The little boy who was attached to my side for almost a year. Those little glasses. The tight curls on the top of his head. To see their smiles and hear their laughter. To reassure my little mama's boy. Just one more time...But even then, that still wouldn't be enough.

We gave them our all. We loved them as our own.

To be cut off and lack such closure.

It's hard.

Really, really hard.

But we need to let go...

Not for us. No. For them.

Being cut off is okay. For them. Because I do realize to hear our voices, to keep in touch when they don't understand could only cause harm. To not understand why they had to leave; Why they can't come home to us. It could only confuse them.

I have come to realize they need to forget us, because that is better. Not for us, but for them. So their memories can be with their parents and the family that loves them, although it seems impossible, probably even more than we ever could. They were only ours for such a time.

The memories will always be ours.
The joys, the highs, the lows, the growth, the love, the strong bond, the tears, the laughter, the life we had with them for 10 months, no one can take that from us. Those are ours.
The memories are our gift for letting go.
A gift that we will always embrace.

And maybe someday, sometime, when the time is right, we will run into them or hear something that can just bring us the peace and closure that isn't ours yet.

Until then we must let them go. But in our hearts they will always be. On our minds, in our dreams, and forever in our prayers.

Follow up to But They Call Me Mommy

May 19, 2014

But They Call Me Mommy...

I have never been good at goodbyes.
I don't like them.
They are awkward.
I never know when enough is enough or the time should be up.
I really need a lot of time to say goodbye.
I prefer them to be long and drawn out, rather than quick and abrupt. I need closure. (Whatever that really is) When you say goodbye to someone what should you say? I like people to know how much they mean to me or have meant to me. I want people to know that our time together is appreciated & valued. That I cherish them. That I cherish the moments. That letting go is hard.  Especially when you know it's a true goodbye, not a 'see you soon' or 'see ya later', but an actual, 'I will probably never see you again (not by my choice) goodbye'.

The anticipation of a goodbye feels like a dark cloud hanging over my head.

This past week we said goodbye to 3 precious children whom we didn't have to grow to love but loved the moment we knew they would be coming. Because love is a choice. It's a decision you make. Love is an action and we chose to love these 3 adorable little ones. An action that came so natural for all of us. These kids just molded right into our home and family as if they have been a part from the start. There wasn't a real adjustment part on their end. They really just melted our hearts immediately and seemed to feel so comfortable here from the start. They called us mommy & daddy, not because we told them to (because we didn't), but because that's what they heard our older kids call us. And to them, we were mommy & daddy. We loved them as our own, treated them as our own, embraced them as our own.

Our families, friends, church & entire community embraced these kids. So naturally. Seemingly effortlessly. Our little ones had friends, family, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, teachers that have all felt the loss as we have.

How do you say goodbye to a child?
How do you explain why they cannot live with you anymore while hoping they do not feel rejected by you?
How can you give a child the most consistency & stability they have ever had and then just say goodbye?
What do you say to the sweet little boy that says "No, I not going, I stay here, this is my house"?

I say we love you so much. We will always love you. I would love for you to stay here and be my little boy. But you have a daddy who loves you SOOOO much and he wants you so bad. And you are SO lucky you GET to live with him. And I do truly rejoice in a family reunited. A family made whole again. I know there is a bond there and I know their daddy will take good care of them.

I know I am not their mommy and that I was just "playing mommy" for only but a moment.

But they don't understand that. They call me mommy.

 How do you explain that to a child so young, so impressionable, so sensitive, & so innocent that when their aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, & grandparents come for that final goodbye that 'this is it', they aren't going to see them again, this is their goodbye?

How do you say goodbye to the children you have loved as your own for the past year? How do you have a baby from day 2 of his life and say goodbye at 7 mos? When you are the only mommy he knows? When he looks for you? When you are the one whom he feels the separation anxiety from?
How do you explain that this is a good thing to your older children who feel like their siblings are being taken away?

How do you not cry while your daughter plays the piano and sings a song about the siblings she loves and how she knows they love her but they were "tooken away"?

I have empathized with all parties involved this entire time. I feel for the family who couldn't be with these kids while we took care of them this past year. I can only imagine the pain and loss they felt. I have never not been sympathetic to their hearts, feelings, or emotions.

I truly do rejoice in a reunification. I mean that wholeheartedly.

But I mourn for the cheeks I cannot kiss. The tears I will no longer wipe away. The encouragement I cannot give. The laughter I will not hear. The dance parties that will no longer be. The soft kisses they give my cheeks from their little mouths. The extra noise in our house. The messes. The chaos that is no longer. The boo boos I have kissed and made better. The sicknesses I will not hold them and comfort them through. The safety I can no longer promise and ensure under my roof. The songs they sing that I have taught them. The prayers they pray that bless my heart. The I love yous out of the blue. The "let me give you a big squeeze" daddy. The relentless chasing when it is nap time. The exhaustion at the end of my day. The joy & happiness I see in their eyes. Their smiles that light up a room. Their running to me with a 'MOMMY!!!!' & a great big hug when I get home from being gone somewhere. I mourn for the abruptness of this transition and my not being able to better prepare all 6 of our kids.

I weep for the insensitivity of others. I am frustrated at the lack of compassion and understanding from some involved parties. I am saddened by the strong bonds that have been broken too abruptly by the powers that be.

Our hearts and fight has only ever been for the best interest of these children, and I am saddened when I don't feel that has truly been grasped. Time can heal our wounds. Time may be what it takes. Time can help them adjust. However, when things happen so abruptly no one is allowed that time. Especially these precious little ones.

The outcome is what it is. It has always been the goal. One that we are on board with and have always been on board with. We have understood the goal. But the lack of adequate time allowed to best prepare these children & build ties, bridges, & bonds with biological family members I am saddened by.   To be seemingly cut off just hurts.

We all must move on.

We will all be okay. Our prayers will sustain us all.

We know the joy we brought to each other and we know the love that we all feel. We know the truths. We know the wonderful times we have had. We know that we have known these children better than anyone this past year. No one can ever take that away. No one can take away the good memories we have made or the impact we have forever made on one another. These children have left their footprints forever in our hearts. Their memory lives on in our homes. Their sweet, silly, yet sometimes sassy spirits will always be missed & cherished.

"Memories are a key not to the past, but to the future" -Corrie Ten Boom

You sweet babies will always be in our hearts, thoughts, prayers, & memories. We would never reject you. We will always want you. We will always love you.

Follow up 7/23/14
Letting Go

April 9, 2014

Living For the Next Status Update

What is our motive behind what we post? Why do we post what we post or when we post it? How much of our lives are too much to share? What should we keep sacred? And how much is a waste of time?

Some of us are seemingly living our lives for the next status update. The next instagram picture. Our next tweet, etc. By doing so, are we really savoring the moment; the special, sweet, intimate moments, when we pause and think "quick, let me post that"? We momentarily escape our lives as we travel down the road of social media. We cannot be fully present in both. Our own real lives should take precedence over social media.

Do we fully embrace our lives and live in the moments we share with others by stopping to post every single thing about it?

What about embellishing stories, reenacting moments, staging kids, etc... How much of what we share is for ourselves?

I am not saying there is anything at all wrong with documenting our lives, sharing our days or who we are and what we do. It's the world we live in and I love modern technology. It allows us to stay in close contact with others we may not otherwise see or be able to. It really, truly is awesome.

As with every awesome thing there can be a silver lining though.
found at
Are our motives in what we say or post marked with good intentions or masked with some nonchalant self pat on the back? Is it vain self flattery? Is it a shout out after spending some time with someone, all for the sake of 'name dropping' perhaps? Is this one of those false humility posts that begin with "So humbled..." or "So honored..." followed by talking about how awesome we may be? Are some of our postings a waste of time in the midst of a busy moment?

I wonder if we just need a little more balance in social media. More down to earth 'realness'.  Perhaps we should be slower to post. Slower to share.  Take time to embrace and fully live in the moments we experience before sharing them, so we don't miss something or the next funny, sweet, cute thing that could happen.  I am desiring to be more present in my actual life, than I am on social media.

January 2, 2014

The Yearbook: A New Year

The Yearbook: A New Year: There's nothing like a fresh start. A new year after a rough one. 2013 for us was a great year. But I know for many it wasn't. I kno...