Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The end of an era

We went there as a family for the first time when I was seven years old. We had our pop-up camper hooked up to the back of the car and the three of us were tired of being cramped in the back seat together. We'd never been to this campground before, but had come with another family whose aunt and uncle owned the place. Our spot was on a corner, right underneath the biggest weeping willow tree I'd ever seen in my life. It gave us lots of shade from the summer sun and was fun to swing on. A two minute walk took us right down to the water and all you could see was Lake Erie for miles and miles. I don't remember how many nights we stayed on our first trip, but those nights were simply added to the weeks of nights I would spend there over the next 20 years.

We had always been a camping family, initially with our little pop-up camper towed behind our current car. Our summer vacation consisted of a week here or a weekend there, traveling around to different campgrounds within a few hours of home. Sometimes another family or friends from church would also be there. Those early days and nights of camping fill my mind with memories of Twizzlers, Uno and my rainbow stripe swimsuit...sneaking marshmallows with my brothers and the dog being afraid of fireworks so my dad had to hold him...mountain pies and washing the dishes in big, deep plastic basins on the picnic table.

Shortly after going to the campground on Lake Erie my parents decided that was enough of the transient camping for us. We bought a big old camper that would be in a permanent spot, ready for us whenever we wanted. It was only 35 minutes from home so we could sneak up there for a night anytime we wanted. We still spent our summer vacation up there- two weeks straight sometimes. Lazy days filled with my BFFs, tons of books, countless hours swimming in the lake, gorgeous sunsets and evenings spent around the fire. Conversations and moments shared that are integral to who I am and what I believe. Love and laughter and stories that made bedtime come too early.

The days of childhood gave way to those of my youth, but the back drop of summer remained the same. My biggest dilemma would often be choosing which friend to bring with me to pass the days with. My mind remembers hours of shooting pool in the camp "store", laying on the tennis courts counting shooting stars, sneaking out to meet our new "friends" long after my parents were asleep, and getting into my first (and last) fist fight with a mean girl named Becky who chased me all the way down the hill back to our camper. I also remember the lounge chair my dad would pass the afternoons in- reading or snoozing or just relaxing. Sometimes he'd be off golfing or fishing or maybe just tinkering with something that needed fixed. See, this was his place; it was his escape from the pressures of life and one of the only places he could truly relax. Even after he was sick it was a place we could go and try to forget what was happening. Sometimes it didn't work, but at least we tried.

After my dad died, it was hard to go to camp. It seemed empty and hollow and like we were always waiting for someone who never showed up. We kept trying though and it did get easier with each passing year. Life didn't allow us to spend nearly as much time up there as we had in the past, but I still have great memories of sharing this place that had meant so much to me with new friends. We still had family picnics and spent evenings around the fire. I still managed to take my BFFs with me and sit around the fire talking about boys and dreams and eating mountain pies. All of my nieces and nephews have been there and heard stories about their Grandpa Jon and how he loved that place.

We had a magical weekend there in September with my brother and his family and my mom. I'm so glad that I didn't know then that it would be our last time at camp together. I'm glad I didn't know it was the last fire I would sit around in the same spot my dad did. I'm glad I didn't know there would never be another evening there filled with laughter and stories and sharing that made me want to stay up way too late. I'm just glad it was a perfect weekend, sharing this special place with Haven for the first time and watching her climb up and down from her Grandpa's favorite chair.

We're saying goodbye to camp this spring. The beloved weeping willow our camper sat beneath for almost 20 years did us in during an ice storm in February. The damage done left it beyond repair. It makes me sad to know that this part of our lives is over, but even in the way it happened I see God's hand at work. My mom would not have let this place go willingly; so the Lord took care of it for her and gave her no choice. In my mind, I know that it's for the best, but my heart is having a tough time agreeing.

There will be no more lazy summer afternoons spent at camp, but the memories of this place, and most importantly the people we shared it with, stay with me for always.

Monday, April 28, 2008

On the road

We left home Saturday morning and made our way to my brother's house in Nashville. Our final destination was Atlanta and we arrived here a few hours ago and are settling into our new home for the next few days. Haven didn't quite get the concept of Atlanta being a city so for the last few days she's been declaring she wants "to go to A-lana's house. Use A-lana's potty." When we first came into our hotel suite she was going potty and wondered to me, "When's A-lana coming here?" I think she's going to be looking for A-lana all week long and is going to be majorly disappointed!

We had a nice weekend with our family and enjoyed the beautiful spring weather, Nashville style. Haven loved running around with her cousins and I can't tell you how wonderful it is to just let her play with them and not feel like I have to be watching her every second. My girl is growing up. One great thing she picked up from her big cousins this weekend is exclaiming, "Awesome!" She does use it in proper context (although I heard her shout "Awesome" at a cemetery when she saw all the flowers lined up in a row as we passed it.) It's generally used when she sees a playground or a slide that she's interested in trying out. And while we're on the topic of funny things she says, I've got another one for you. Whenever Haven wants to go outside she says, "Let's go nice side out! Nice side out!" I think it's adorable and get mad when Cale tries to correct her.

We took Haven to the park before dinner to burn off a little energy. She loved it! And this was with her running a fever! Doesn't she look sick?

We've got bellies full of barbecue and are ready to crash for the night. Here's to hoping that Haven and I don't drive each other crazy in the hotel this week!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Summertime Dessert

With the warmer months come messy foods meant to be eaten outdoors. These Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwiches are one of those foods. These are one of our favorites and I usually make them when we have company because they please both grown-ups and kids. There are always lots to share (which my neighbors are thankful for!). The cookies themselves are pretty good, but sandwich in some vanilla ice cream and let them sit for a few hours in the freezer and they become delicious!

Mini Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwiches
Makes 12- Everyday Food June 2007

* 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
* 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
* 1/4 cup granulated sugar
* 1/4 cup sour cream
* 1 large egg
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 1 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips
* 1 pint vanilla ice cream, softened


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in center. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add sour cream, egg, and vanilla; beat until smooth. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture; mix in 1 cup chocolate chips.

2. Using 1 rounded tablespoon per cookie, drop mounds of dough, about 1 1/2 inches apart, onto two baking sheets. (You'll have 25 to 30 cookies.) Bake until golden, 10 to 12 minutes; transfer to a rack to cool completely.

3. Scatter remaining chocolate chips on a plate. Place about 2 tablespoons ice cream between 2 cookies, bottoms facing in; press gently. Roll the sides of each sandwich in chips. (If ice cream is melting, place sandwiches in freezer until firm enough to roll in chips.) Transfer sandwiches onto baking sheets. Freeze until firm, at least 2 hours; then wrap individually in plastic. Freeze up to 2 weeks.

I usually wrap mine in Press and Seal or plastic wrap immediately after putting together and then place them in the freezer to firm up. And I assure they won't last for 2 weeks in your house!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Help Bite Back!


I just read over on BooMama's page about a fantastic thing that Compassion International is doing right now. This Friday, April 25, is World Malaria Day and through Compassion's Bite Back Campaign you can help provide a mosquito net to a child or a family who would otherwise not have protection from an entirely preventable disease. I've been a long time Compassion sponsor and I almost died from malaria twice so this issue is close to my heart. It's a one time donation of $10 and you can help protect a family for 3 years and also provide education and treatment for people who already have malaria.

Click here to help BITE BACK!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The weekend and beyond

We spent this past weekend in Cleveland visiting my friend, Jess, and her husband. We were in need of an easy, stress-free weekend away and hanging out with good friends and eating at all of our favorite Cleveland spots seems like the perfect fit. We had no real agenda; we just wanted to relax and we seemed to hit a good balance of hanging out and being on the go. (Although most of our going involved a restaurant!)

Saturday morning we took Haven to this wonderful park at the Jewish Community Center called Preston's Hope. I have never seen anything quite like it. It was built last year and is a $3 million dollar playground that is completely handicap accessible. Haven didn't stop running from the minute we got there; she could hardly take it all in. It was a beautiful day to be outside and we all enjoyed ourselves. We headed to lunch at one of our old favorites, Aladdin's and it did not disappoint. After lunch we went back to the house. Haven took a nap and Cale and I went on a little drive. We rode out to the spot where we got engaged (six years ago last week!) and went on a little trip down memory lane. Spending some time reflecting on all the Lord has done in our lives in the last several years was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.

Our Saturday night didn't look all that different then it would have if we had been home. Dinner was at Dewey's Pizza which Jess and Curtis had been raving about for a year. It was fantastic and you can't imagine how delighted I was to discover that there are Dewey's locations here in Dayton. (There is one down by UD and another set to open on Far Hills in Kettering.) We all stuffed ourselves and then decided a trip to Target would be a great way to end the day. We hit the video store en route to home and then all curled up on the couch to watch a movie.

Sunday morning we awoke to overcast skies and tried to make a plan for the day. We swung by my brother's house and saw our niece and nephews for a little bit and then met Curtis, Jess and her dad for lunch before we hit the road. (If it seems like all we did was go from one restaurant to the next your assessment would be correct.) We hit the road and Haven quickly fell asleep so Cale and I had plenty of time to discuss our plan of attack before we got home. We had a busy Monday ahead of us so plans needed to be made.

My good friend, J, being a good friend, offered to take Haven for a day so I could get some projects done around the house that are difficult to accomplish with a 2 year old underfoot. Yesterday was the day and I took full advantage of it. I even roped Cale into my plans and we tackled cleaning and sealing the deck. Since the deck had to be dry after cleaning before sealing it we had to get it done Sunday night. We began this project at 8pm. Needless to say, it was quickly impossible to see and reinforcements were called in. We borrowed our neighbors flood lights and finished up about 9:45pm. Not our brightest moment, but we got it done.

So yesterday I hit the ground running and managed to get both our bathrooms scrubbed from top to bottom and everything in between as well. Cale came home and we sealed the deck (which was kind of anticlimactic after scrubbing it the night before.) I spray painted an old wagon we'd been given for Haven. She's the only girl I know with a sassy apple green wagon! I also painted a stool we bought a few weeks ago to match our bathroom. Cale spent the rest of the afternoon and evening cleaning out the gutters and fixing a major problem with one of them. I cooked some meals for friends, delivered them, fed my family (drive-thru), showered, went to Bible study, hung out with the girls afterwards and came home exhausted. It was a long day, but I can't tell you how accomplished I felt.

A great weekend followed by a very productive day. But now I've got some more projects to do; any takers for Haven??!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

He can use anything

I started off my morning being reminding of God's goodness through this post. Sarah, as always, beautifully articulates the way the Lord answers our prayers and His constant faithfulness to us. When I sat down this afternoon to work on my Bible study I thought of Psalm 37 again and decided to read it. It was exactly what I needed to read/hear this afternoon. We are in the midst of a difficult week and I needed to know this:

"A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace." Psalm 37:10-11
Actually, I needed to hear the whole chapter, but this verse spoke to my heart and renews my hope that there will be peace...right now it is available to me through Jesus Himself and it is promised to me for eternity. There will be a day when the smallest things don't turn into a battle...where relationships aren't so loaded and we can truly be who we were created to be...where the weight of this world will no longer threaten to crush us....

I am longing for that day. But for this moment, for this day and this week, being reminded that my hope is in Him is enough.

(And I'm delighted that, once again, God can use the trivial things of this world-like a blog- to encourage me!)

Monday, April 14, 2008

A dinner winner

I was supposed to go out to dinner with some friends tonight. At 4:45 I got a phone call that changed our plans and I realized that I would need to feed my family instead. Earlier today I had visited this blog and made a mental note to try the Vegetable Enchiladas sometime soon. At 4:47 I decided tonight could be the night. If I weren't already a huge proponent of keeping a well stocked pantry then this recipe would have made me a believer. I had everything on hand (with a few minor modifications) and was able to put them together very quickly. A little different, healthy and easy to put together. The fact that it was delicious and enjoyed by all made it even better. But the best part...it makes enough for 2 pans; one for now and one to freeze for later. Since I hadn't even planned on cooking tonight I can't tell you how happy it makes me to have not only fed my family a delicious meal, but have another one in the freezer. Try these...they are fantastic!

Vegetable Enchiladas

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for baking dishes
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) reduced-sodium vegetable broth
Coarse salt and ground pepper
3 cups grated pepper Jack cheese (12 ounces) **I only had monterey jack so I used it with a can of chiles thrown into the veggie mix**
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 box (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 box (10 ounces) frozen corn kernels, thawed
6 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
16 corn tortillas (6-inch) **I had 9 inch whole wheat flour tortillas which tasted great, but only made 10 enchiladas total**

Make sauce: In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add 1 teaspoon cumin, flour, and tomato paste; cook, whisking, 1 minute. Whisk in broth and 3/4 cup water; bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook until slightly thickened, 5 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Make filling: In a large bowl, combine 2 cups cheese, beans, spinach, corn, scallion whites, and remaining 1 teaspoon cumin; season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil two 8-inch square baking dishes; set aside. Stack tortillas, and wrap in damp paper towels; microwave on high for 1 minute. Or stack and wrap in aluminum foil, and heat in oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Top each tortilla with a heaping 1/3 cup of filling; roll up tightly and arrange, seam side down, in prepared baking dishes.

Dividing evenly, sprinkle enchiladas with remaining 1 cup cheese, and top with sauce. Bake, uncovered, until hot and bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool 5 minutes; serve garnished with scallion greens.

from Everyday Food December 2007

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Light and easy

We had a nice quiet weekend at our house. We attended not one, but two birthday parties. We were able to cross off several things from our to-do list. We went to church and spent the morning with some rowdy toddlers. We ate some good food and made an ice cream run.

Mostly though, we just enjoyed being together as a family and laughing and being silly together. Life has been heavy lately and a light weekend together was exactly what we needed.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

It's official!

We got the wonderful news that we have been accepted into AWAA's Ethiopia program on Tuesday! In light of this first very tiny step in bringing home our child (or children!), I want to introduce you to our new blog. You can follow along with our adoption process and all we are learning at Bringing Them Home . I thought about writing our adoption story on this site, but when Cale decided that he wanted to be a regular contibutor we decided that doing a separate site was more appropriate. There's not much there yet, but we hope to change that very soon!

I can't believe it's really happening!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A new bed for my growing girl

We started a new chapter at our house tonight. Haven is tucked away in her new big girl bed for the first time. (Which, incidentally, was built by my very handy husband.) She was all smiles as we kissed her goodnight and I am hoping for a smooth transition. I'm not as sad as I thought I would be, but that's probably because her crib is still in her room ready to be used again if we need it. When that gets taken down, I'm sure I will shed a tear or two about my baby growing up.

But for tonight, I'm as excited as she is about her new bed!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

My weekend love affair

We have spent the last few days in Far-Away, PA at my mom’s house. My husband, Super Son-in-law, has spent the last two days laying a new floor in my mom’s kitchen and dining room. He’s worked hard and finally finished it up last night. Considering that he worked all day yesterday under the delusion of fever, chills, congestion and general sickness, I think he deserves some sort of award. But that’s just me.

So Cale’s been busy and not really good company and Haven has been either occupied with her Nana or sleeping so I’m found solace in HGTV and I’ve learned a few thing about myself in the process. One I already knew, but it was good to be reminded: it is a good thing we do not have cable because I would waste way too much time watching tv.

There is many a great show on HGTV, but “House Hunters” has been my poison the last few days. It is like a drug to me. Once I start watching an episode I have to see how it all turns out. Will they choose the Up-dated Ranch? Or will it be the 2-story colonial? Maybe the Fenced-in Fixer-upper? I just HAVE to know! All of this leads me to the second thing I learned about myself: I have voyeuristic tendencies I think. I’m certainly not alone in this, otherwise there wouldn’t be a bazillion shows about people’s homes and lives on cable tv. But it has been a bit disturbing to see how easily I can get sucked in to someone else’s life and the choices they are making. There is something fascinating about the way people live their lives and the place that others call home.

After watching several episodes the last few nights it has left me with a few questions. First of all, who are these people that are my age (late twenties) and have like $900,000 to spend on a house?! Obviously we are in the wrong line of work. Secondly, do these people want to be my friend? I’m available. Thirdly, is everybody as picky as the people they get for this show? It is stunning to me what people choose to be dissatisfied with.

(Oh, there’s only 4 bathrooms, not five and we really wanted every bedroom to have a private bath. Oh there is only 4500 square feet? We were looking for something a little larger so we could really spread out. Oh, I don’t really like the color of the grout of the fireplace. And on and on…)

Cale’s done with the floor now and I’m afraid I might need to be sociable once again. But it was good to spend some time with you Mr. Cable TV. See you next time!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Who knew?

Yesterday I seemed to hit some sort of trifecta: shopping, spending time with friends and a few hours with our current 24 (the TV show) obsession. It was wonderful! In the morning I decided Haven and I needed to get out of the house for a bit so we went on a hunt for jeans.

(Am I the only one who can find clothes when I don't really need anything (or don't have the cash), but when I am looking for something specific there is nothing that works?)

Anyways, given my long difficult jean history, I didn't think yesterday would be any different. Too short, too long, too small...but oh, that was not the case! I walked into the store and walked over to a rack of jeans . The first pair I saw were exactly like a pair I needed to replace- the same size and even LONGS! I'm 5'10" so regulars always end up being just a bit too short and longs can be too long. I'm in the land of in-between, but would rather go long than look like I'm wearing flood pants. And the best part...they were $9.99!!! Oh the joy! The happiness continued as I found a super cute top for $7.99 that will be perfect for spring. It was just a good shopping trip. In fact I was so buoyed by my great finds that I went to Target and walked out with ONLY the things on my list. Usually spending $30 on toilet paper, vitamins and paper towels would be kind of a downer, but I was so happy with my earlier finds that I left the store without even doing my regular clearance rack rounds.

I spent the afternoon with a friend and her 7 week old baby boy. Haven loved that little baby and was sad when it was time for her nap. But the joy continued even with her nap because she took a nice long one which was a relief after several days of short naps when she was sick. It was a nice afternoon of new mommy talk and getting to share with her about our adoption.

Cale came home with the mail and there was a red envelope that dictated our evening plans. We were slow to jump on the "24" bandwagon, but once we did, it was over. We started season 1 when Haven was a newborn and in the last 2 years have watched all the seasons in obsessive fashion. "Just one more episode..." We spent last night with disc 3 of season 6 and watched them all. (Well, I might have fallen asleep once or twice...)

I never knew that Tuesdays could be so happy!