Here's looking at you 2012!

It's truly hard to believe 2012 is coming to an end. If I was to be honest, the last almost 3 years have been a blur. Life as I know it changed and will always be known as before Noah & after Noah. How can't it be? When you've been through a major life altering event, you are forever changed from that moment on. This year continued to challenge me in figuring out my new normal since my son died. I admit, each year that passes that takes me farther from when I last held my son is tough. Though I try to remind myself each passing year brings me closer to the time I can hold him again. I am still so thankful for those who continue to walk with us during this journey & remember Noah and acknowledge my tough days I still have. You my dear friends are priceless and I know you have a special blessing awaiting you in  your Heavenly home for obeying the Biblical commands we've been given.

I don't even know where to start summarizing our year. We started out in a really rough place when Kevin suffered a severe head injury at the hands of medical staff after he was supposed to just be having a typical routine exam (that didn't involve his head). This left him off work for over 2 months, he lost all vacation time for this year (through no fault of his own, his work took it away sadly) and we still are dealing with many repercussions from this still today.

We were blessed in the ways God provided during that time. Once again we were reminded that He is all we need to meet our needs & the only One who can truly be there for us. And despite Kevin losing all his vacation time, we were so fortunate to be able to take some much needed vacations this year with friends and one of my brothers family due to some amazing deals we were given. I think God knew we need a lot of time away together as a family after all we've been through, as this was a rarity.

St Maarten (one of the islands we visited during our cruise)

Crabbing at the beach house

Surprised the kids with a trip to Disney. They had NO clue until we were at the airport. They were given many surprises that week! (note the number of hats as one of them lol, click to enlarge pic)

We've enjoyed watching our rainbow baby blossom into such a sweet toddler this year. We were thankful to be able to celebrate her 1st birthday as well as Noah's 2nd birthday which were both on the same day, surrounded by many dear friends. We also did a neat lantern release as well.

We continue to enjoy our homeschooling journey. I can hardly believe this year I have 7th graders (our 8th year of homeschooling). I've branched out and this past summer started doing some curriculum reviews which has helped stretched us in learning of new products and being able to help others with figuring out products that work for their family. I truly enjoy having my kids at home with me. Sure, I have my moments like any other parent & seek out a few moments of alone time when I can, but I can't imagine not spending this valuable time with them. We only get one chance to raise our children & while I am far from perfect and fail, often having to ask my kids for forgiveness, these have been some of the best years. I love learning along side of them, seeing their faces glow as knowledge clicks and just being able to share intimately in ALL of life's ups and downs. We are a closer family for sure from being able to do life together completely the way we do.

Another challenge we faced this year was when Susan dislocated her knee. Oh my, the poor girl was on crutches for many long weeks then faced almost 5 months of physical therapy (which was twice a week, talk about time consuming!) She has to wear braces on both her knees for any type of physical activity or anytime she plays outside. Turns out she was born with loose ligaments and will someday need surgery to fix her knees. We also recently learned she has a deficiency in growth hormone & we are having to see several specialists asap at major children's hospitals. This cold weather has also challenged her asthma and adding more more specialists for her to see. We continue to remind her there is a purpose in all this and God created her to be just how she is no matter how tough things can be at times.

Despite our repeated ups and downs this year, we know we are still blessed. Although God continues to grow & stretch us, we continue thank Him for our 6 precious kiddos (and our soon-to-be-7th blessing). We are reminded that we aren't guaranteed each day & we strive to treasure each moment we have together.

I've been thinking on what word could I embrace going into this next year. Many crossed my mind but one that keeps coming back to me is HOPE. As I continue to face these tough challenges, I am reminded I still have hope no matter how bleak things may look at times.

 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope
Jeremiah 29:11

  So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

  Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Romans 12:12

A book I recently started reading is Heaven by Randy Alcorn. What an awesome book! This has helped remind of why I am living today and what I have to look forward to (and gives me a glimpse into what Noah is already experiencing.) The HOPE I have in Jesus!

Wishing you a blessed New Year!!

Texas Roadhouse Rolls & Cinnamon butter

If you've ever been to Texas Roadhouse, you know how yummy their endless rolls are with that delicious cinnamon sugar butter smothered on them tastes.

Well, I set out to make a batch of both at home. It's always nerve wracking trying to make a copy cat recipe but I figured it's worth a shot.

Oh. My. Goodness.

This is one of those recipes I hit the nail on. In fact, my family thought these came out even better than the restaurant. I have to admit, I am not a huge carb eater, but even I ate a whole roll as they were *that good*. They even said they thought they were better than Texas Roadhouse's, much softer was the verdict. And I concur. They simply melted in your mouth!!!

I used my bread maker to mix & rise the dough. After all, I am all about simplistic when I can be.

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cups milk scalded and cooled to lukewarm
1/4 cup plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar, separated
1/2 tablespoons melted butter, cooled slightly, plus additional for brushing
3 1/2-4 cups flour
1 whole eggs
1 teaspoons salt

Put in the order your bread maker specifies. Let mix & rise. Punch dough down. On a lightly floured surface and with a lightly floured rolling pin, flatten dough into a rectangle until it is about 1/2-inch thick. It's a pretty big rectangle. Fold the rectangle in half (short way - I know there's another way to say that, but I'm blanking out at the moment), so that it is about 1-inch in thickness, and lightly roll together to seal the sides together.

Allow to rest for 10 minutes.  With a dough scraper (or what I used was a pizza cutter), cut into rolls

After cutting, place rolls on a greased baking sheet. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise in a warm area until double in size, about 1 hour or so. (I preheated  my oven to 200 then turned it off & put the rolls in there to rise for 30 min).  Preheat oven to 350 and bake rolls for 10-15 minutes or until lightly golden. (I baked mine about 10 minutes). Upon removing from oven, brush tops with melted butter. What I did instead was take a cold stick of butter from the fridge and just used that to run over directly the tops of all the rolls, much easier than trying to melt then brush the rolls.

This is definitely one of those recipes I will make again as they were a hit!

Cinnamon Honey Butter
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), room temperature
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter for approximately 30 seconds until lightly whipped. Add confectioners' sugar, honey and cinnamon and beat until smooth and thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Continue beating on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Merry Christmas!

Missing Noah so very much today & wonder what his celebration is like in Heaven. Though I have to admit, I would've loved to have seen his reaction this year at Christmas being 2 years old, he would've been at such a fun age! He & Olivia would've had a blast together!!

Also thinking of so many of you who are also missing your precious children today. Hugs & prayers to you!

Merry CHRISTmas!
From the 9 of us

And the winner is......


Thank you to all who entered! I enjoyed reading each & every one of your comments. From the memories you shared, things you are looking forward to & the many acts of kindness you blessed others with this Christmas season.

I wish each & every one of you a blessed Christmas! And keep your eye out for another upcoming giveaway here in the coming new year!

Don't forget to stop by and check out the virtual cookie exchange linky party that is going on. Many people have shared different recipes they've made so far this year. Feel free to post one of your favorite to share with us all!

Christmas party food

2 weeks ago I hosted our co-op moms Christmas party like I did last year. First & foremost I really enjoy entertaining, cooking, being with friends etc. But part of the reason I also do this is to give me something to look forward to because honestly, the holidays are a tough time for me. This week especially I've had more tears than usual and really am not up to doing much. So I thought I'd share a few pictures of some of the food I made as I recall the fun night we had!

I usually start putting together ideas for my party pretty early on. As in, I've already pinned some ideas from Pinterest for next years party! I enjoy trying to be creative not only with food but also presentation. Homeschooling moms especially don't get much of a break, so I want to make it a special time for everyone.

Sadly, I had accidently left my good camera at co-op that week, so the pictures I took were only with my phone. But at least they give you an idea.

Last year I made a veggie wreath so this year I made a veggie tree. It was pretty simple actually. I took a cone shaped foam, covered it in plastic wrap and used toothpicks to secure the broccoli. Then I just wedged in the carrots & tomatoes (no toothpicks) in between. This was taller than the picture makes it look, roughly 15-18" maybe?? I also had a side of dip to go with it.

One of the sweet treats I made were little santa hats. I used mini pretzels, dipped them in white chocolate then right into red sprinkles. I cut mini marshmallows in half, put a little white chocolate on the cut side then put it on for the white "pom-pom" like the typical hats have.

Just another picture of some more of the desserts. In the back are oreo truffles & saltine toffee. I also made mini cherry cheesecakes (super easy but taste SO good!)

Everything I made was all finger food. Other food I served was some homemade seafood & egg salad served in mini phyllo shells, buffalo chicken dip & a cheesy vidalia onion dip both with a variety of things to dip them in. I made a wreath using mini cocktail sausages wrapped in pieces of crescent roll with a side of dipping sauce and cheddar sausage balls with honey mustard dressing.

Another thing I did different this year was to have a hot beverage station with choices of a cappuccino mix, a homemade hot chocolate mix and a spiced Christmas tea mix. I had hot water in an insulated self dispenser which kept it nice & hot all night for people to make whatever they wanted 

We all had a great time of just sitting around chatting & catching up sans kiddos. Of course, it wouldn't be a party without playing a white elephant gift of now you have it, now you don't. That game never fails to have us rolling in laughter from the usual variety of "gifts" we bring! The idea is everyone brings something from home they don't need or want, no buying anything new. It can be practical, funny, goofy or downright weird (we had all of the above!) Everything is wrapped & each person has 3 numbers. Each time your number is called, you pick a gift but you don't unwrap it. You can take a gift that someone else has already choosen (hence the name of the game). When your third number is called, you have to decide what gift you want as that is the one you will keep and then you open it to be embarrassed surprised at what you got. After your gift is unwrapped, no one can take it.

If you hosted any parties or attended any this Christmas season, what were some of your favorite foods you had? 

Don't forget to stop by and check out the virtual cookie exchange linky party that is going on. Many people have shared different recipes they've made so far this year. Feel free to post one of your favorite to share with us all!

RACK & Giveaway!

As I've read over my blog reader this month, I've seen many others moms sharing about their children they are missing this holiday season. I've been encouraged reading how they are still including them in their celebrations, even many who are further along on this journey than I am. Just goes to show no amount of time will remove the pain we feel or the holes left in our lives by our sweet children. They will always be a part of our family!

I have mentioned a few times about R.A.C.K (random acts of Christmas kindness) as a wonderful way to bless someone while honoring & including Noah (and other babies) during the Christmas season. I have appreciated the few friends who have done that this year already! After all, isn't that what Christmas is about, giving to & blessing others?

One of these sweet friends recently blessed me with a gift. She said she wanted to do something for us for Christmas in Noah's memory and sent me some wonderful smelling Scentsy products to encourage me this Christmas season! I want to build off what she did and pay it forward.

So for a Christmas gift in honor of my precious Noah, I want to bless one of YOU with this awesome gift! It is one of the Scentsy warmers called "Heavenly". My friend said immediately it makes her think of Noah when she looks at, and I agree! I think of Heaven & Noah when I see the angels on it. In addition to the warmer, you'll also get 3 different scent bars in the scents of Luna, Black Raspberry Vanilla & Peppermint Dreams. (and boy do they all smell AMAZING!)

There are several ways you can enter this drawing listed below. For those interested, one of the entries is for doing a RACK in Noah's memory. I will leave this drawing open for a week so you'll have time to fill out the other entries then come back & fill that one out if you'd like.

"It is more blessed to give than to receive."
Acts 20:35b

a Rafflecopter giveaway

12 Days of Christmas With You in Heaven

Many of you may have heard of Small Bird Studios as I've mentioned Fran here before. She is a wonderful gal and fellow babyloss mom who has helped women from all over. Last year she started a series at Christmas time and this year she is doing it again. This year though, not only have I been reading the series, I had the privilege of being one of her guests as I shared  ways to honor your child at Christmas time. It's such a blessing to me to be able to share with so many others how we include Noah during Christmas. So grab a cup of hot chocolate or tea, sit & relax a bit and stop over to read my post and the many other great posts in this series!

Virtual Cookie Exchange Linky Party!!

Woohoo, it's party time!!! Let's exchange those photos & recipes of your favorite Christmas cookies & goodies!

I admit, what I'm sharing so far is candy I whipped up. I may get to some cookies later today, but this candy is quite delicious so I wanted to share it with you all.

First up is Oreo Cookie Truffles. You can't get much easier than this, yet they taste so decadent! It only takes 3 ingredients to make this wonderful treat.

1 package of oreo cookies (or a knock off brand like I used for these)
1 8oz package of softened cream cheese
melting chocolate

Crush the cookies either in your food processor or put them in a ziploc bag & whack the heck out of them to smash up. Then blend the crumbs well with the cream cheese. Roll into small balls & place on a waxpaper lined cookie sheet. I put them in the freezer to harden to make it easier to dip. Melt your chocolate either in a mini crockpot (like I used), microwave or double broiler. Dip the balls into it & let harden. Chill & try not to eat them all at one time!

My second candy treat is called Saltine Toffee. Again, another simple recipe that is addicting. I dare you not to keep taking a bite as you package them up!

4oz of saltines (1 sleeve of saltines)
1 cup of butter
3/4- 1 cup of brown sugar
bag of chocolate chips

Line a jelly roll pan (15x10" pan) with wax paper. Spray with a little pam. Then lay out the crackers in a single layer. In a sauce pan, melt butter & sugar together. Bring it to a boil & let boil 3 minutes without stirring. Pour mix over the crackers then bake at 400 for 5-6 minutes. Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the top & let melt. Once melted, spread evenly & let completely cool. (if you like nuts on top, this is the time to add them). I popped my pan into the fridge for a bit to harden. Then break into pieces and store in sealed container.

Now it's YOUR turn! Share with us something you enjoy making this time of year then come back and check out what everyone is sharing and try making something new. Thanks for participating!

ps. Check out the awesome giveaway I have going on right now!

Upcoming virtual cookie exchange!!

As I am preparing to host our homeschool co-op Mom's Christmas party later this week, it got me thinking about what cookies I am making for our cookie exchange. Which then lead me to think of YOU all and how much fun it is to get new recipes for cookies. Sure, I can go browsing the internet for new recipes but I prefer making a recipe that someone else already has & deemed worthy of sharing.

So, dust off one of your favorite cookie, bar, candy, special "Christmas only" sweet recipes, whip up a batch & take a picture then get ready to join the Christmas Cookie Exchange Linky Party happening here this coming Friday, December 7th. (feel free to also use a recipe that you may have previously posted on your blog before). I will have a linky open where you can link up your recipe. If you are really ambitious, you are welcome to share more than one even. Then come back & visit as others share recipes & find some new ones to bake for your friends & family this year!

Please feel free to spread the word, invite others & share this button. I look forward to seeing you all here on Friday!