Scenes from a Christmas House

I wish all our family could come to our house over Christmas, but the busyness of this time of year always seems to catch up with us.  I wish they could all see how we've incorporated decorations and ornaments that have been handed down to us on both sides from our grandmothers and great grandmothers.  I wish they could feel "the glow" we feel in our home this time of year.  Instead I decided to take some pictures so I could show them our cozy flat from afar.  Hope you enjoy the tour!
















Oh, hi there.

What a crazy couple months this has been for us! Kyle and I just wrapped up yet another semester of classes. He is now half way through law school, and I am done with my graduate couse work! All I have left is a couple big exams (one in January, one in March), completing my internships next semester (one at an elementary school and one at St. Louis Children's hospital) and I am DONE.   I am amazed at God's grace sustaining us through the last (almost) two years. There were many unknown factors and risks when we followed the Lord's guidance to come here, but he has made our paths straight.

Saint Louis University SLP Class of 2012
(SLU Speech-Language Pathology, Class of 2012)

I wish we had any other big news to report other than the busy-ness of life. For those who have been inquiring/praying for my stepmom, we still thank you! As of this morning, dad said she's hanging in there, working through the pain. She is done with chemo, done with everything, trying to make the best of whatever is left. She has had to cut back to working part-time, which has been very hard. Diane loves her job and takes so much pride in her work. She's always had a deep commitment to the bank where she is a Senior Vice President. They have shown her incredible kindness and made it clear that her years of hard work would not go unnoticed. We are grateful for that. She will keep working as much and as often as she can.

There is an uncertainty about the whole situation, however, that makes the holidays a bit bleak. My dad and Diane LOVE Christmas and typically go all out. Dad told me this morning they haven't bought a single present because they've been trying to spend every moment together. What could anyone say to that? How do you face the holidays, knowing it's the last with someone you love so dearly? Shrug.

Thanksgiving 2011
(Thanksgiving 2011)

A number of other health issues popped up over the last couple months in my family, including my stepdad getting an abscess colon which is incredibly dangerous and life-threatening. Our family has been in relatively good health for a long time with no major issues, so I suppose we were just "due."

In the midst of all this, Kyle and I are still trying for a baby, which is gut-wrenching. All the drugs, the books, the blogs, the talking to other couples with infertility - none of it can really predict how you will feel when you go through it and still see negative after negative. Some days I am able to trust in perfect peace, and be content that God's timing is perfect and some day we'll see all of this clearly, other days I am a haze of emotions from bitterness to jealousy to deep sorrow.

I can honestly say, however, that because of all of this (NOT in spite of all of this) I have gained a deeper love for Jesus, and a deeper love for my husband and family. I am continually amazed at God's kindness to me in these hard times, and the way it continues to shape my soul.

I am so often reminded of my sin, how prone I am to jealousy and gossip, to resentment and hopelessness, but he continues to remind me that my hope is not in the things of this world, my hope is in Christ alone.  He surrounds me with people who remind me of this.  He shows me that lasting joy is not found in anything here.  At some point all the people we love will pass away, all the dreams we have about our lives will mean nothing, "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
(Psalm 73:26 ESV)

August Gate Church, 11/11
(August Gate's new location)

The next few weeks will be spent relaxing as much as possible, reading books, being crafty, and spending time with friends and family.  Kyle and I have are so happy and so deeply in love with each other.  I say that only out of gratefulness.  So many are torn apart by hard times, but Jesus has pushed our hearts closer together.  We are so excited to be home together (when not working) over the holidays.  We are truly trying to count our blessings instead of sheep.  I hope you all have a very merry Christmas filled with love and peace.

Christmas party!


Happy Halloween!

It wasn't until about three days ago that I finally got into the Halloween spirit. I've been overwhelmed by midterms and the flu, and haven't felt like myself at all.  Finally on Thursday (just two days before our party) it finally kicked in and I started going crazy cleaning and decorating.


Kyle and I still didn't know what we were going to be (usually we know by August!) so we threw out some last-minute ideas and decided to be Jack Donaghy and Liz Lemon (played by Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey) from the TV show 30 Rock.


There were tons of great, witty costumes, but I must say that my personal favorite was our friends Jacob and Aileen, who dressed up as us! They were great identity thieves.


Aileen cut her bangs, and Jacob put white in his eyebrow. So funny!


Tomorrow night we will welcome trick-or-treaters dressed as zombies. Should be a great Halloween!


An Update on Diane

Thank you so much to the many, many people who have been praying and encouraging our family since we found out about my stepmom's cancer! It sounds so cliche, but even words from strangers have meant to much to her and my dad throughout this nightmare.

Since I first wrote about it, Diane changed her mind about getting chemo and is now receiving treatment down here in St. Louis at Barnes Jewish Hospital.  They had a little more hope to offer her, not that they could get rid of it, but that they could slow it down.  I honestly think she decided to do it for my dad, and he has been so happy she chose to do so.

Before they started chemo, they also found that she had a tumor in her brain that was inoperable.  They were able to treat it with radiation and as far as we know, they got it all.  Praise the Lord for small victories!

Once the started the chemo, things weren't going too badly until one day Diane started having horrible pain in her abdomen.  She soon found out that she had kidney stones, and this would be the story of her life for the next two months.  After seeing three urologists and having four surgeries to try and remove them, they just keep coming back.  No one really knows what is causing them to develop so rapidly.

Diane has been in almost constant pain and completely miserable.  She said the chemo alone wouldn't be so bad if she could just kick these kidney stones.  After her most recent trip to the hospital this week with one, she said that something has to change.  Finally, the doctor realized that the chemo could be causing them (something we've been asking about this whole time) and they are investigating what they can do differently.

Out of the hospital and enjoying a beautiful autumn day in St. Louis.
(Photo taken after leaving the hospital from round two of chemo, and after surgery 3 for kidney stones.)

They are mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted. Being in almost constant, severe pain is something I can hardly imagine.  Taking care of someone you love and watching them suffer for two months straight is something I can hardly imagine.  My dad and Diane still need so much prayer and so much support.

Once she is healthy enough to get her third round of chemo, we will hopefully be able to find out if it is actually working.  However, if they can't figure out what to do about the kidney stones, there may not be any more chemo.  The girl can't live that way, and we can't blame her.

This morning my dad said they would just like a little time to be "normal." Only God knows what comes next. We still trust, still pray, still wait.


For my mommy friends: 20 tips for early language development.

Hello to all my friends who are parents. Some of you are seasoned parents, and some of you are brand new. Yesterday I went to a great seminar with the fabulous Dr. Celest Roseberry-McKibben and I was inspired to share some things with you about speech and language development for your little ones.  I'll try to post a few of the things I've learned across the lifespan, but I really want to start with how you can help your little baby during the first year of his or her precious little life.

Most of these things are simple and natural. You probably already do them, but maybe you don't even know how important they are and how many people don't do them!

  1. Read to your baby. This is something most of you already do, but it's so important! Language development starts on day one and it is never to early to start reading. When you do, point to words, identify title and author, and let baby turn pages.
  2. Talk to your baby face-to face. It helps when they can see your mouth and your expression.
  3. Label common objects. Yes, even infants can benefit from seeing written words and understanding that words are symbols for things in our lives.
  4. Introduce music and singing. Don't be shy! Your baby won't care if you are tone deaf.
  5. Let the baby have a safe-glass mirror to look in.
  6. Point out and name body parts during dressing, and bathing.
  7. Use short utterances with simple grammar.
  8. Heighten facial expressions, gestures, and intonation. You may look ridiculous, but studies have shown this "motherese" is really beneficial to development!
  9. Play turn-taking games such as patty cake and peek-a-boo.
  10. In very early infancy, introduce black and white objects. Newborns need the high contrast of black and white. (Sorry, but all those bright colors you used to decorate the nursery? Yeah, they can't even see them yet.)
  11. Imitate the sounds the baby makes, and introduce new sounds to the baby. These could be actual speech sounds or just silly sounds you can make with your mouth. 
  12. When your baby makes sounds or babbles, respond to him/her. Baby will begin to see that all this jabbering has a positive effect and helps them achieve something.
  13. Make a habit of using greetings and saying goodbye. Say hello/goodbye to anyone and everything. Say goodnight to stuffed Elmo when he goes in the toybox.
  14. Provide simple opportunities for baby to put items in and take items out of containers like tupperware. This is great for fine motor skills and teaching concepts like in/out, on/under, in front/behind, up/down.
  15. When you do chores or run errands, bring baby and describe what you're going. "We are walking in the grocery store. We are picking out apples and bananas," etc.
  16. Expand on what your baby says. If you read a book and baby sees and says, "Bear!" then you might respond, "Yes, I see a brown bear in a tree." Soon, you'll see baby's phrases getting longer!
  17. Introduce two languages from birth, if possible. Yeah, that's pretty a big one, but even throwing in some simple words and phrases from another language can help!
  18. Remember that the American Pediatric Association recommends NO television before the age of 2. I realize that's pretty strict, but try to keep it to a minimum.
  19. Try to give baby as many different experiences as you can. Baby needs as much context and world knowledge as possible so he/she can conceptualize things later.
  20. Love and snuggle baby. Never underestimate the power of physical closeness and lots of smooches. A secure attachment to you can literally affect baby's whole life.
Maybe you already knew all of this. Great! Maybe it was a nice refresher or confirmation that you were doing the right things. Great! Maybe you got some new ideas. Great! 
I'm excited about everything I learned yesterday. I hope I can share more soon!


Pumpkin Cupcakes + Cream Cheese Frosting

I waited as long as I could to make my pumpkin bar/cupcakes this year.  I tell myself every year that I will wait until October to make anything pumpkin. This year, I made it all the way to September 11th. That my be my personal best.

This is a recipe that I found with my granny many, many years ago. We LOVE fall and we love baking.

The key to making pumpkin cupcakes is to make a really, really big mess. If you haven't completely destroyed your kitchen and your clothes while making them, you just didn't do it right.

I start by gathering all my ingredients and taking over the entirety of the counter.  Oh, and rather than printing my recipe like a sane person, I like to just leave the PDF up on my computer. This will ensure that your computer gets a little seasoning. That's really good for your computer. I promise.


Then I like to haphazardly throw all the ingredients into the mixer at once. Forget separate bowls and added steps. Just throw it all in and mix, mix, mix.


While the oven is preheating, pour the batter into a 9x13 pan or into 24 cupcake holes.


Bake until they're done. About 20 minutes.


While they are cooling, make some delicious cream cheese frosting. Really whip the heck out of it.


Then spread it on the cake or put it in a bag and decorate it all fancy-like.


If you're really patient, put them in the fridge and let them chill for a little while before you eat them.  Just make sure you refrigerate them at some point. You don't want that cream cheese frosting getting all funky.

Hope you enjoy this delicious fall treat!

Pumpkin Bars
  • 2 C Sugar 
  • 4 Eggs 
  • 1/3 C Vegetable Oil 
  • 16oz Canned Pumpkin 
  • 2 C Flour 
  • 1⁄2 tsp Cinnamon 
  • 1⁄2 tsp Salt 
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder 
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda 
  • 3⁄4 C Butter, melted

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl until blended. 
  3. Grease a 9x13 baking dish and pour in batter. 
  4. Bake for 25 minutes and cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Icing
  • 1 stick Butter 
  • 1 3oz Package of Cream Cheese 
  • 2 C Powdered Sugar 
  • 1 tsp Vanilla

  1. Soften butter, but do not melt.
  2. Whip all ingredients together.


Kyle's Summer

A few people have asked about what Kyle has been up to this summer, and since I cannot convince him to start blogging again, I thought I would share a bit about it.

IMG_8874 copy

He has been working for the Simmons firm,  primarily in the intellectual property department, and LOVING it.  Springfield friends will be familiar with the Simmons name from their cancer institute in Springfield. I think he has found his dream job, and I am so proud!

IMG_8883 copy

I cannot express enough just how happy he is with his job this summer.  He continues to put in a lot of long hours and work very hard.  He is getting so many great learning experiences, and getting to see what a day in the life of an attorney is like.  His hard work has not gone unnoticed, and he feels like he is appreciated there.  I know he finds the work challenging and fulfilling.

I'm not sure that I have ever seen him so happy or enthusiastic.  His job has been, without a doubt, the best thing about this summer.  I am so, so grateful that he is finally getting to do something he loves!


July twenty-ninth.

There are two significant events that have occurred on July 29th for Kyle and I.  They might sound silly, but they were very important to us at the time.  The date will never roll around with me thinking about them.

July 29, 2006.  Kyle picked me up in Gatlinburg, TN after I had been gone for two months working as a missionary in the Smokies.  That was a long, hard, blessed summer.  Reading this old post  reminds me of just how challenging it was, made more challenging by my excitement about getting married at the end of it!

Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries 2006

Finally, July 29th came.  My man was on the doorstep of that mountain cabin and he was taking me home!  Two weeks after he picked me up, we were married in Springfield, IL.

Fast forward to July 29, 2010.  After being married and living in southern Illinois for four years, Kyle finished his very last day working for the Southern Illinois Miners.  In May of 2010, we moved all our belongings to Saint Louis, MO, where I was beginning graduate school.  Kyle stayed with his parents IL for two months to keep working until he started law school in August.  Again, we had been living apart all summer, and on July 29th we were together again!  That was another hard summer, and one I would very much like to never repeat.

This July 29th is not nearly as eventful.  I just finished my last summer of classes (291 days till graduation!), and Kyle is working until 5 (working, by the way, for a firm he loves).  All in all it has been a pretty great, normal day.  Sometimes the ordinary is extraordinary.



    It's 8:54pm on the night before a final exam, and I have just two things on my mind.
    1. Pinterest. My obsession never ends.
    2. This guy. Oh. My. Word. As someone recently told me, "Man candy!" So gorgeous.


    No backsplash? No problem.

    When we first moved in to this little flat, I thought maybe I would paint something under the cabinets in the kitchen, which is just white wall space.  Then I realized how long that would take, that I didn't have the energy, and that I would rather invest my time into something we can take when we leave this place.

    I got an idea a while back to give our kitchen a little facelift using some thrifted plates as a faux backsplash.  Since then, I have been scouring for pretty plates of all shapes and sizes, some thrifted, some store-bought.  I finally accumulated enough this weekend to complete this project.

    Weekend project No. 3: We gave the kitchen a backsplash.

    So here is our newly refreshed kitchen "backsplash."  Sorry for the photo quality.  I was just too lazy to get out my big girl camera.  Too lazy to even move the dirty glasses from the kitchen counter, apparently.

    Weekend project No. 3. Our kitchen has no backsplash.

    It has definitely been a DIY kind of weekend.  So much homemaking, so little time. Boy, do I love being home and being pseudo-crafty.


    Lettuce Eat Veg: Broccoli

    Welcome to my new mini-series!  Yes, I made the title a pun.  Since we all now know how I don't eat vegetables, I thought this might be a fun (or horrible) experiment.  Each week I will attempt to try a new vegetable and tell you about it.

    Broccoli has been a long-time nemesis of mine.  I hate the smell and despise the texture.  Recently, however, I found that it is possible to smother it in enough of something I do like in order to choke it down.  Even more recently (as in two days ago) I also discovered that I like hummus.  The very idea of it weirds me out, but I actually bought some Atheno's hummus at the store today, along with some fresh broccoli.


    Then I realized something about myself: I have no idea what to do with fresh broccoli, or any fresh vegetable, other than carrots.  Even my carrot prep skills are limited to one of three things: eat them raw, put them in the crockpot with a roast, or feed them to the dog.

    I remembered someone saying that cooking vegetables depletes the nutrients, and since I HATE the smell of broccoli anyway, I just thought I'd eat it raw and smother it in hummus.  It worked! I managed to choke down about 3/4 of it, and I ate all my carrots.


    For dessert, I sliced up fresh peaches and sprinkled just a smidge of sugar and cinnamon on top.  It was refreshing and delicious.

    All-in-all, my first attempt at broccoli was a success.  Maybe next time I'll try something more than just washing it and cutting it up.


    Their Big Adventure: Las Vegas

    Dad and Diane are now in Las Vegas! I've never been there, but I hear that it is a spectacular sight to see, even if you don't like to gamble.

    Las Vegas-20110711-00012

    When Diane sent me this picture, I thought it was a giant aquarium! The more I look at it, the more I think it looks like a scene from Wall-E.

    They are having a wonderful time, and I know they appreciate all the prayers and well-wishes.  I do, too.  Thanks for all the love.


    Their Big Adventure: Colorado

    Dad and Diane have been travelling since Friday afternoon.  Diane sent me this pic from Glenwood, Colorado.

    Sent from Dad and Diane in Glenwood, CO

    They've been texting me throughout each day, updating me on what they are seeing.  Diane always greets me with a "Good morning, sunshine!" Dad ends every text in "Love, Dad."  They are precious.

    I am so thankful they are getting to take this trip!


    2011: The Year of the Vegetable?

    It's a pretty well-known fact that I am not a good eater.  I used to say "picky," but let's just tell the truth: If I were truly picky, I would be much more selective about what I put in my body, like lots of sweets and processed foods.  The truth is that I am just bad at eating.  I often eat too much of the wrong things, and not even a little of the right things.

    So you get the idea of the severity of this problem, here is a list of the vegetables I like:
    • Green beans (from a can only)
    • Carrots
    • Potatoes (do they really count?)
    • Sometimes lettuce, but only Romaine lettuce (no salad dressing!), and only occasionally
    That's it.  Please allow yourself a moment to feel the weight of all the many vegetables NOT on that list.  Not much in the way of plant life.

    Here's the thing: I want to like veggies.  I really, really want to.  Life would be easier if I did.  I LOVE to grow them.  I love to look at them and take pictures of them.  I like watching other people eat them.  Well, that is, except for mushrooms. I don't even like to think about mushrooms. *Shiver*


    So, what I want to know is, have you ever forced yourself to like a food?  Is it even possible?  My blog friend Jenna thinks it is.  I would march on over to the market and buy me a bushel and a peck of vegetables if I thought I could like them, but I'm skeptical.  I periodically try different veggies prepared in different ways just to see if maybe I like them now.  I don't.  Do you think I can be converted?

    Do you have any KILLER vegetable recipes that will magically change the way I feel about a particular vegetable?  If you convince me, I will try it.  I'll even blog about trying it!  Should I just shut up about liking them and eat them anyway because they are good for me?  That's probably right.

    Please help me.  I crave the nutrients.  Also, it's super cool and trendy to eat things you grow.  I like being super cool.


    The adventures of Watson, the farm dog.

    Our sweet pup spends most of his days in our small flat with no real yard.  He gets long walks around the neighborhood, but he is always tethered to his mommy or daddy.  Whenever we go visit my mom or grandparents, Watson gets to run however he likes around their yards, and we love to watch him romp and play.


    On the farm, however, his romping goes to a whole other level.  There aren't fences there, and my dad's "yard" is about 2 acres, which opens right up to the rest of the land they live on, about 35 acres.  The first time we took him there, we were a little nervous that he just might bolt out into the cornfields and we'd never see him again.


    To our great surprise, he mostly stays right by our sides.  If he runs ahead, he'll often stop and wait for us, giving us a look like, "Are you people coming or what?" Sometimes he'll circle around us like he's herding us.  We really get to see how good of a dog he can be.


    I've never seen him more happy or excited than when he's on the farm.  He's kind of like his mommy in that way.  I mean, look at that view, isn't it lovely?


    He's always tracking something. Nose to the ground.


    Trapesing through muddy ditches.


    Getting clean from said mud and about a hundred burrs he got stuck in his fur from the fields.


    He never stops moving or wanting to play.


    He steps a little lighter.


    Jumps a little higher.


    Pants a little harder.


    Snuggles a little sweeter.


    Crashes a lot harder.  Please note the open door.  He went in on his own.


    Watson loves being a farm dog.