Yesterday at church Chad gave Lincoln his baby blessing. It was a special day, and I was so glad that my parents and my brother and his wife could be here for it. I was experiencing a full range of emotions about this day.
I was excited to give a motherly contribution, and sewed Lincoln a pair of white pants to go with the shirt I bought. He was too big for the blessing outfit that Mason wore. In fact, I used a white fabric scrap for Lincoln's pants, and barely had enough to make pants to fit his chubby thighs and tummy. I was cracking up as I tried to squeeze him into them. I was holding onto the waistband of the pants, jiggling up and down as Lincoln slowly slid into them, as if he were a pillow getting stuffed into its case.
Chad spent a lot of time thinking about the blessing beforehand. He felt more nervous about this blessing than with the other kids...an inner pressure to give a special blessing to match this special boy.
And there was a small part of me that was melancholy, remembering Riley who passed away a few days before his baby blessing. We actually had his memorial on that Sunday, and the luncheon at our house that day was nothing like the one that I had planned.
Mostly, though, I experienced a beautiful peaceful feeling. Gratitude for this amazing baby with which our family has been blessed. Love for my husband, who gave a perfect blessing that touched the hearts of everyone present. Those in the circle witnessed Lincoln stare at his father through the entire blessing. And when the guys returned to their seats, Lincoln just smiled peacefully at Chad, as if he knew what was going on.
Hope for Lincoln, and faith in his potential.
And the joy of being surrounded by extended family.
We celebrated the occasion with talk and laughter, and delicious Mexican chicken salads, Cafe Rio style. We saved room for churro cupcakes and rocky road brownies. Chad and I played board games with Adam and Heather, and I had a giddy outburst of joy at the thought that they now live close enough to do this all the time.
And Lincoln would not cooperate when I tried to get a decent picture. He did, however, flaunt his impressive tongue skills.
Bree went home with my parents, since she gets to go with them for a special vacation for a couple weeks. I miss her. Just the other day as I was on the phone with Adam, he heard me say, "Oh don't do that Bree, honey...Oh...I guess he likes it." We were cracking up. The house is a little quieter without her.
It's good for Mason to be free of Big Sister's shadow for a while. He's been displaying some serious deprived-middle-child symptoms lately (we're talking tantrums galore), so I'm taking this opportunity to give him lots of extra attention. It doesn't take much. Read a few books. See Winnie the Pooh at the theater. Go to "Mac-nock-Donalds" and get a kid's meal (when I ask him if he wants a burger or nuggets, he tells me which toy he wants). Grant him complete control over what to watch on Netflix. This is the stuff of a three-year-old's dreams.
Every event/occasion gives me an excuse to bake cupcakes. Book Club is one of those excuses. Every month someone (ie, Joanna) asks me, "What kind of cupcakes are you bringing this time?" So I tried another new flavor this week: churro cupcakes. Cinnamon/vanilla cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting, topped with tortilla buñuelos (not churros, I know, but much easier). I was skeptical about the cinnamon cream cheese frosting, but it was divine. So much more complex and complimentary than the vanilla buttercream (I made a couple that way for my kids' less sophisticated palates).
These are so simple to make. Just add 1-1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon to your vanilla cake batter, then add a teaspoon of cinnamon to your cream cheese frosting (or to taste). The tortilla buñuelos are just tiny strips of flour tortilla, deep fried, then tossed in cinnamon-sugar. Delicious.
Our list of completed books continues to grow. Along, perhaps, with our waistlines. Have I mentioned yet how much I love Book Club? I get to spend time with ladies with whom I might not ordinarily hang out with, and I've really been enjoying it.
And no, our book this month had nothing to do with cupcakes, churros, or anything Spanish-related for that matter. We discussed Leadership and Self-Deception, and all vowed to apply the advice in this book in our lives. We all learned more about each other, shared some pretty personal experiences, and tears were shed all around. Wonderful and therapeutic stuff. So, cupcakes and therapy? Hand in hand, baby.
I've been wanting to try making S'mores cupcakes for a while now, and finally decided how I wanted to go about it. A graham cake with milk chocolate chips, a layer of melted chocolate spread on top, sprinkled with graham cracker crumbs, then topped with marshmallow.
I debated the marshmallow topping for a long time. I know it's pretty easy to make homemade fluff, but I had like 4 jars of marshmallow creme that I need to use before they expire (apparently I had unrealized dreams of multiple batches of fudge last Christmas). So I thought I'd just see if I could pipe it right onto the cool cupcake. I piped a nice, fat dollop on one, torched it, and voila! It was beautiful.
So I went ahead and topped the rest of the batch the same way. They looked awesome.
For a little while.
Then they slowly, slooowly, turned into this:
It took at least a full hour for them to achieve their new, droopy state. I cringe to think how they'll look when it's time to serve our dinner guests dessert.
But oh, they do taste delicious! And after all, aren't S'mores supposed to be messy? That's the angle I'm sticking with, anyway.
Addendum: Our dinner guests (our friends and next-door-neighbors) recently went home. He's a chef, but not the snobby kind, so both he and his wife loved the cupcakes. But I think we got the better end of the arrangement: he made us six different kinds of pizza! BBQ beef, teriyaki-pineapple, supreme, garlic chicken, pepperoni, and tomato-basil. Amazing! The BBQ beef was definitely my favorite, with the sauteed onions. Mmmm. Thanks Mat.
Saturday my brother and his wife moved to Arizona! They'd been living in Houston, which was awfully far away, so this move is very exciting for our family. I'm looking forward to having them just 90 minutes away. And my parents are thrilled too.
Chad and the kids and I drove to Mesa Saturday to start getting the house ready. It's a bit of a fixer-upper, so we had some work to do. I replaced all the door handles and dead bolts, Chad cleaned up the overgrown yard, and everyone helped install a new back door. After Adam and Heather arrived with my dad and the moving van, we hauled everything in. The house is quite large, so they have lots of space compared to their previous apartment. If only someone hadn't stolen all the copper pipe they could get their hands on, the whole process would have been much easier...grrr.
It was a long day, and it was past the kids' bedtime by the time we drove through the canyon towards our little town. And we were exhausted. But Chad told me to pull over when we saw these ladies stranded on the side of the road. He can change a tire in 15 minutes, so it was no big deal to him. But it was a big deal to them, and I was proud of my husband.
We went down again on Monday to help some more. The day was a bit of an exercise in patience. My kids are young, and there were no toys to speak of, except the plethora of tools, screws, and pipe joints. We should have had a plan to counteract the boredom.
Instead, we had:
"Mason, where is my screwdriver?"
"Bree, don't squish the gerbils!"
"Mason, don't pound on that with the hammer!"
"Why would you climb on that?"
"Don't touch that!"
"I have the powerrrr!" (Mason hoisting the pressure washer nozzle over his head...we've been watching a lot of He-man)
I don't want to be THAT family. You know, the family you don't want to invite over to your house because the kids are just crazy? And they don't seem to listen? I felt like the mom of that family, which was new for me. And humbling.
I think I did manage to tip the scale back to the favorable side by helping paint Heather's kitchen. In the end, I think we did more good than damage. Besides, my kids adore Adam and Heather. And their gerbils.
Monday night we played Sorry! with the kids for Family Home Evening, something we don't do often enough. I played me a lot of Sorry! when I was a kid. It was a staple in our family. That and Trouble (with the pop-o-matic bubble) and Chinese Checkers. Wow. Rush of memories. Chad's family was of the Parcheesi persuasion, which I pointed out (when he told me he couldn't remember the rules to Sorry!) is just the Indian version of Sorry!. Rather, Sorry! is probably the American version of Parcheesi. Anyway, the kids loved their first experience with the game, and Chad and I found it a welcome diversion from Candy Land.
Tuesday we drove to the valley for my checkup and Dentist appointments for the whole family (we usually schedule as much as we can on the same day to save us trips, but it makes for long days in Mesa). It was the kids' first time to the Dentist. I was so proud of them. Our awesome hygienist let Mason play with the water-squirter and the suction while I was lying in the chair. He was in heaven. And neither of the kids had a problem letting the dental assistant lead them back to their own rooms while Chad and I were finishing up our cleanings.
So I nursed Lincoln while the doctor looked at my teeth, wandered between exam rooms taking photos, and coaxed Mason to open his mouth for the last few minutes of his cleaning (he had run out of patience, and didn't like the fluoride...but he's three!). I'm sure they were all relieved when we left. Except our hygienist. She genuinely loves us.
We also did the final walk-through for Adam and Heather's house (they're moving in Saturday!), which was a foreclosure, and Mason pointed out all the dead bugs (he's been kinda freaked out by bugs after last week's semi-close encounter with a couple scorpions in the playhouse at my parents' place).
And we saw Cars 2 in the theater, which was the kids' reward for enduring the dentist and all our errands. And we may or may not have nearly forgotten a child in the car because we were too busy stuffing my purse with juice boxes to smuggle into the theater. Honestly, what kind of people are we? We assuaged our consciences with dinner at Red Robin.
Yesterday Chad was back at work, and I was a having one of those good-energy kind of days. I did my Cardio X workout and had actually showered before noon, which is always a good thing. I had a "real" lunch (ie, not sandwiches) ready when Chad came home for his break. Then I took the kids to run errands with me. That was the fatal error that ended my energy high.
Walmart has those carts that have monstrous plastic apparatuses that can seat two kids in addition to the normal cart portion which can hold the car seat and the huge pile of stuff you think you need. Those contraptions are unwieldy. And it was Mason's nap time, so the whining and elbow-shoving between Bree and Mason was grating on me. But the lady at the fabric counter commented on how well-behaved my kids were. That's a sad indicator of the typical quality of childhood behavior around here. I was exhausted, but remained firm in my promise that we would not visit the toy aisle if naughtiness continued. It might have been easier in the short run to give in, but I'm hoping they remember their disappointment the next time we venture to the store.
Which might be never.
Because by the time I crammed our purchases and three kids into the truck, drove to Fry's, and loaded all of them into another unwieldy cart just to pick up a prescription, I realized that I should have just waited until Chad got home from work to run my errands. Which is what I usually do. I just thought I could take the kids with me, to get them out of the house...you know, like a fun diversion. Ha. It was a diversion that necessitated two hours of vegetative recovery in front of The Bachelorette while Mason took his long-overdue nap.
After dinner I had a little energy boost that I spent trying to get a picture of Lincoln smiling, which turned out marginally fruitful.
Then Chad and I showered the kids, and quickly put them to bed, because we were both exhausted. Before I said goodnight to Bree, I commented on how messy her room was, how I've told her a million times that dirty clothes go in the hamper, and how I hate tripping over toys. I hugged and kissed her and told her I love her, but I still felt guilty later because I don't want my kids forgetting the "I love you"s and remembering all the nagging.
This morning, when I went in to her room to wake her from a long sleep-in, I discovered that she had stayed up late last night after I thought she was asleep, and had cleaned her room. She had so obviously done it in an effort to please me. Oh...my heart. I love that girl.
We are trying to eat healthy around here. But when you want pizza, you just have to have pizza. And, since our only pizza options here are Pizza Hut (pricey), Leonard Paul's (flavorless), Little Ceasar's (um, have you tasted their pizza?), or frozen (ie, cardboard crust), I make a lot of homemade pizza. I have a recipe for pizza dough that, although not my absolute favorite in taste and texture, only takes a few minutes to make, and it doesn't necessarily need time to rise. Which is awesome, because I am the queen of last-minute meals.
Pizza is also a great opportunity to use up leftovers. Leftover grilled chicken? Time for BBQ chicken pizza (don't forget the cilantro). Sliced ham lunch meat that's nearing it's expiration date? Hawaiian pizza night. Oh, and since we eat some kind of tacos or burritos once a week, the leftover seasoned meat makes for delicious taco pizza. I've had other taco pizzas, but mine is the best.
And it's because of the sauce.
Here it is: the best taco pizza sauce you'll ever taste. (I might even try using it as an enchilada sauce...)
Combine in a small sauce pan:
1 small (8oz) can tomato sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp dried cilantro (not absolutely necessary, but DO NOT omit the fresh cilantro on the pizza)
1/8 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp lemon juice
Simmer. Done. And it costs just pennies.
So the 2 lbs of taco meat I made last week? We had taco salad that first night, burritos the second night, and taco pizza to finish it off. I used a Mexican cheese blend, but I didn't have to use a lot, so, um, that made the pizza healthy. And we had zucchini from the garden. So, super healthy.
Just want a "regular" pizza? No problem. I have a sauce for that too. I also use it as pasta sauce; I just quadruple the recipe, and it makes enough sauce for one package of noodles. (We had a friend over for spaghetti dinner a few weeks ago, and when he commented on the sauce, I said it was homemade. He said "I couldn't tell!" which, he was quick to explain, was a compliment. Apparently, at his house, homemade is code for not-as-good-as-store-bought.)
1 small (8oz) can tomato sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp lemon juice
No more jars of Prego around here. No sir. And I swear I'll never go back.
Lincoln was born with a good amount of brown hair, like our other kiddos. And, like our other kiddos, that hair is gradually falling out, being replaced by fine, light-colored fuzz. All that's left of the original hair is a fringe at the neck and this little tuft at the top. I'm not quite sure why, but I can't bring myself to cut it off...
We spent Independence Day at my parents' house this year--I can't remember the last time Chad didn't have to work on the 4th of July! We had a delicious BBQ lunch with my grandparents, my aunt, and my cousin Mikel's son, who was a baby the last time I saw him. We also celebrated my dad's 56th birthday, and I gave him a game called Sesquipedalian, because that's what he is.
Lincoln was passed around plenty. We all work for the smile (only a hint of which got captured on camera...and yes, these photos are very grainy...but I love them, and I'm learning).
We actually bought fireworks for the first time this year. I know. My daughter is five. Poor deprived soul.
In past years, the only fireworks on the 4th have been the ones that shoot off from the hill of tailings at the mine here. We usually try to go watch those, sometimes parking along-side Highway 188 so we can catch a glimpse of Chad in his patrol car.
But this year, we experienced the flames first-hand in the safety of my parents' stone-paved courtyard, accompanied by a light drizzle to ensure that we would not add to the number of forest fires in Arizona.
Sparklers. Enchanted kids. Total control of my shutter speed. Bliss.