Wednesday, December 16, 2009

BEEsy in the Kitchen: Nut-Filled Pastries


One of my fondest memories from childhood is baking cookies with my mom during the Christmas season. She'd pull out a tattered book filled with handwritten recipes and thumb through it to find our family's favorite cookies. The hours we spent in the kitchen together nurtured a close mother-daughter bond that has grown over the years. And my mom not only taught me how to bake, but she instilled within me a love for baking.

I'd like to share one of my favorites cookies Mom and I made every Christmas together: Nut-Filled Pastries. I hope you enjoy them! :-)

Nut-Filled Pastries

Pastry Dough
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup butter, softened
2 egg yolks, beaten
1/2 cup sour cream

Nut Filling
2 cups ground walnuts
2/3 cup dark corn syrup

Confectioner's sugar

Directions:

(1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

(2) In a large bowl, blend flour and butter together. Stir in egg yolks and sour cream. Knead dough on a floured surface. Chill dough for at least 20 minutes.

(3) In the meantime, stir ground walnuts and dark corn syrup together. Set aside.

(4) Cut dough in half and roll each half into a ball. With each dough ball, roll out to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out 2 inch squares. Drop 1/2 teaspoon of nut filling in center of each square. Starting at one corner of square, roll to opposite corner. Shape into a crescent. Place each pastry onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 12 minutes or until pastries are lightly browned.

(5) Allow pastries to cool for 1 to 2 minutes. Roll warm pastries in confectioner's sugar and allow to cool. When completely cooled, roll pastries in confectioner's sugar for a second time.

Makes approximately 6 dozen pastries.

Monday, December 14, 2009

BEEsy in the Kitchen: Greek Layered Dip

Appetizers . . . what a wonderful creation! I've often thought I could live the rest of my life eating only appetizers. If you were to browse my cookbook collection, you'd find many devoted exclusively to appetizers.

Appetizers offer a wide range of culinary options: cold and hot dips, meatballs and wings, cheese and crackers, mini quiches and pizzas, tea sandwiches and quesadillas, satays and kabobs, and the list could go on and on. They're creative, petite, and packed with flavor!

I'd love to share with you one of my favorite dips: Greek Layered Dip. It's scrumptious and easy to make. I hope you enjoy it! :-)

Greek Layered Dip
Adapted from a Betty Crocker Recipe

1 (8 ounce) container of chives & onion cream cheese
1 (8 ounce) container of hummus
1 cucumber (peeled, seeded, & chopped)
1 red or orange sweet bell pepper, chopped
3 Italian plum tomatoes (seeded & chopped)
1/3 cup pitted and chopped Kalamata olives
1 (4 ounce) contained crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup pine nuts (optional)
Pita chips

Directions:

1. Spread cream cheese over bottom of 10-inch quiche dish or pie pan. Drop hummus by small spoonfuls over cream cheese and spread evenly. Top with remaining ingredients in order given.

2. Serve with pita chips.

Make Ahead: You can prepare the dip up to four hours before serving. Just cover and refrigerate it until serving.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

BEEtween the Pages: Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin

"It was ironic. I lay in my jail cell on a squeaky iron bunk, gazing at the stained mattress above me, and I remembered the day I first understood the meaning of the word ironic. I couldn't help smiling at . . . well, at the irony of it. The meaning had become clear to me ten years ago on the day my grandmother, Beatrice Monroe Garner, was arrested."
~Opening lines in Lynn Austin's
Though Waters Roar~

Lynn Austin's newest novel, Though Waters Roar, tells the stories of four generations of women and their quests to find meaning and purpose in their lives. Set in Pennsylvania and spanning from 1848 to 1920, this novel captures these four women's struggles and triumphs during several significant events in history, including the Underground Railroad movement, the Civil War, the Woman's Suffrage campaign, War World I, and Prohibition.

Within the first few pages of this book, I knew I was reading a novel crafted by a talented, veteran writer. The story's beautiful prose, profound and diverse characters, and rich historical landscape immediately captured my attention and kept my curiosity throughout. With Austin's careful pacing and the twists and turns she sprinkles throughout this novel, I found myself drawn more and more into the story as it developed. What I especially liked about this book was the reflective, spiritual messages Austin weaves in the characters' actions and dialogue, encouraging me to further grow in my walk with Christ.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

For more information about this book, please visit Bethany House's Web site.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

BEEing A Mom: Christmas Traditions

"Let us remember that the Christmas heart is a giving heart, a wide open heart that thinks of others first. The birth of the baby Jesus stands as the most significant event in all history, because it has meant the pouring into a sick world of the healing medicine of love which has transformed all manner of hearts for almost two thousand years... Underneath all the bulging bundles is this beating Christmas heart."
~George Matthew Adams~
For the last two evenings, my three-year-old son Hayden and I have carried on a family Christmas tradition from my childhood: making cookies together. Last night, we mixed the batter for sugar cookies, rolled out the dough, cut out tree and snowman shapes, and baked them. Tonight, we iced and decorated the cookies. The best part of the activity: the special time we spent together.

Some of my fondest memories from my childhood are the Christmas traditions I shared with my parents and brother. Now as a mom myself, I hope to pass on some of those traditions and create new ones for my family. But how do you choose the best traditions for your family? I've discovered some of my favorite traditions tend to be simple and meaningful. And many are fun for the whole family.

Here are some of my family's Christmas traditions:

(1) Decorating the tree and house together as a family. Every year when we pull out the Christmas decorations from storage, I bubble with excitement as I open the boxes and begin decorating the tree and house with my family. I especially enjoy watching my husband search through the boxes of ornaments to find the ones from his childhood. I can tell many of them bring back special memories of Christmas with his parents and brother. And this year, my son has been fascinated with the nativity set, which has provided many opportunities to begin teaching him about the true purpose for Christmas.

(2) Giving. The true spirit of the Christmas season is to give to others, especially those in need. This represents the ministry of Jesus, and what better way to celebrate his birth than to give to those in need during this season.

(3) Making cookies together. Growing up, my mom and I shared many special moments together in the kitchen making Christmas cookies. As many of you know, I love to bake. But I've also discovered how simplifying this tradition can result in a more relaxed Christmas for my family and me. Before I became a mom, I'd spend days in the kitchen baking hundreds of cookies. Now, I only bake a few varieties and spend less time on this activity. During the last two years, I've especially enjoyed the time I've spent with my son as we make our special sugar cookies. And when we're done baking, we love sharing the cookies with family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

(4) Reading Christmas stories together. During a visit with my parents over the Thanksgiving holiday, my mom gave me a book from my childhood: an illustrated book with stories from the Bible. Flipping through it, warm memories filled my mind. As a child, my family read the story about Jesus' birth from this book at Christmas. And now, I'm thrilled about being able to carry on that tradition with my husband and son.

My son and I also enjoy reading other Christmas stories during the season. This year, I purchased a picture book entitled Advent Storybook: 24 Stories to Share Before Christmas by Antonie Schneider. This beautifully illustrated book tells short stories (one for each day from December 1-24) about a little bear's journey as he follows the bright star to see baby Jesus. Similar to Aesop's fables, each story in this book ends with a statement summarizing the moral of the story. For example, for a story about an eagle, the mother bear tells her son, Benjamin, "If we trust in God, he will always catch us before we fall." Both Hayden and I look forward to reading this book each day, and I'm planning on carrying on this tradition in the years to come.

(5) Driving through neighborhoods in our town to view the Christmas lights. During my childhood, my parents loved driving around our small town to view the Christmas lights. And as an adult, I still enjoy this tradition. As Christmas music plays in the car, I find this a relaxing time to spend with my family. Of course, we can't forget to bring hot cocoa on our outing.

(6) Attending church together as a family on Christmas Eve. My parents began this tradition with my brother and me when we were young, and my husband and I have continued on with it since we've been married. This is a precious time to focus on why we celebrate Christmas and to give glory to Christ.

(7) Christmas Breakfast. Christmas mornings in our home often include a special breakfast. This year, it will probably include Ebelskiver pancakes and quiche with orange juice and coffee.

I'd love to hear about your family's Christmas traditions. :-)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

BEEtween the Pages: Rose House by Tina Ann Forkner

"It seemed to be a cottage that was alive, but it was only the vines twining in on themselves and clinging to the structure that were living, not unlike the memories and feelings people had attached to the house over time, making it mean more than mere sticks, pieces of wood, nails, and peeling paint could ever imply on their own."
~Excerpt from Rose House
by Tina Ann Forkner~

Rose House tells the story of a woman coping with immense grief and pain and of her search for healing and hope. In the days following the loss of her husband and two young children in a tragic accident, Lillian Diamon pours out her sorrows outside the Rose House, a serene cottage nestled in the Sonoma Valley. Intrigued by the cottage, she returns to the valley four years later and discovers a painting in a local gallery that precisely captures her grieving moment at the Rose House. As she searches for answers about the painting, she befriends some of the locals and begins to find hope. But she's also forced to confront the mystery and painful secrets surrounding the accident that claimed the lives of her husband and children.

With beautiful writing and a rich cast of characters, Tina Ann Forkner's second novel captivated me from beginning to end. She breathes life into the characters, skillfully portraying their deep emotions. And interestingly, Rose House finds its own unique role among the characters, its rose brambles and its past bring it to life on the pages of the book. For me, the best part of the book is the epilogue where Tina treats her readers to a well-crafted, poignant ending.

I highly recommend this book.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

BEEtween the Pages: Closer by Jim & Kathy Burns

"Over the past thirty years we have tried almost every marriage devotional, and to be perfectly honest, we have usually failed at having the discipline to continue. The busyness of life or the feeling of guilt because we missed so many days often caused us to silently ignore what we knew was important to our growth. This book is the result of our trying to draw closer to each other while having a true desire to improve our spiritual growth as a couple."
~Jim and Cathy Burns in
Closer: Devotions to Draw Couples Together
~

Closer, a new book by Jim and Cathy Burns, contains 52 short devotionals intended to help "draw couples together." Some of the topics covered in this book include setting a nonnegotiable date night, the importance of praying together, rekindling romance, and learning to apologize. Designed for couples to complete over the course of a year, this book provides a practical tool for couples to grow closer in their relationships. Each devotional contains a series of questions related to the topic that couples can complete together.

This book presents a realistic, scripture-focused approach for couples to invest in and nurture their relationships. The wide range of topics covered identify many issues married couples face and offer ideas on how couples can address those issues and grow closer together. I particularly like the list of questions at the end of each devotional and the challenges the authors sprinkle throughout the book, such as "pray together for your marriage each day for sixty days." I'm looking forward to completing this devotional book with my husband over the next year.

I highly recommend this book to any married couple seeking to grow closer in their relationship.

For more information about this book, please visit Bethany House's Web site.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

BEEsy in the Kitchen: Homemade Noodles

"For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson~

For every Thanksgiving, my mom makes her homemade noodles. She usually serves them with mashed potatoes in lieu of gravy. These noodles can also be added to your homemade chicken noodle soup. Delicious! :-)

Homemade Noodles

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
3 TBSP unsalted butter, softened
3 eggs
6 cups chicken broth
Freshly ground pepper (to taste)

Directions:

1. Add flour and salt to a large bowl. Cut in butter. Stir in eggs. Mix until dough forms into a ball.

2. On a floured surface, roll dough out to 1/8 inch thickness. Flour dough well and roll up into a log. Slice dough to desired noodle thickness. Stretch noodles out onto cookie sheet and allow to dry for 2 hours or overnight.

3. In a large stock pot, add chicken broth. Bring broth to a rapid boil. Add noodles. Turn down heat to a gentle boil and cook noodles for 20 to 25 minutes, or until broth thickens and noodles are done (not gummy). Add pepper to taste. Enjoy! :-)

Serves 4.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

BEEsy in the Kitchen: Winter Fruit Salad


"To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven."

~Johannes A. Gaertner~

I always look forward to this time of the year because pomegranates come into season. A co-worker in my last job made a fruit salad with pomegranates, pineapples, and kiwi for an office potluck several years ago. I love the combination of the different types of winter fruits and make this salad many times each year while pomegranates are in season. I toss in some coconut and nuts for texture and flavor.

This recipe can add a healthy and colorful flair to your holiday meal. Enjoy! :-)

Please stop by tomorrow for a recipe for homemade noodles.

Winter Fruit Salad

1 fresh pineapple
1 large pomegranate
10 kiwis
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

1. Peel and core pineapple. Cut pineapple into small chunks and place in a large bowl.

2. Separate seeds from pomegranate and add seeds to the bowl with pineapple.

3. Remove skin from kiwis. Slice each kiwi and add to bowl.

4. Add shredded coconut and chopped nuts to fruit. Gently toss salad. Refrigerate before serving.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

BEEsy in the Kitchen: Sweet Potato Casserole


"Remember God's bounty in the year. String the pearls of His favor. Hide the dark parts, except so far as they are breaking out in light! Give this one day to thanks, to joy, to gratitude!"

~Henry Ward Beecher~

Several years ago, my grandma shared with us her recipe for sweet potato casserole. With butter, brown sugar, pecans, and coconut, this dish serves more as a dessert than a side. I love anything with coconut, so this was an instant favorite for me. Bon appetit! :-)

Please stop by tomorrow for a healthy recipe to add to your Thanksgiving meal: a winter fruit salad.

Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet Potato Mixture
3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp butternut flavoring (optional)
2 eggs, beaten

Topping
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 cup pecans
6 TBSP butter, melted
1 cup shredded coconut

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degree.

2. In a large bowl, combine ingredients for sweet potato mixture. Blend well. Place in a casserole dish.

3. In a separate bowl, combine ingredients for topping. Blend well. Spread topping over sweet potato mixture in casserole.

4. Bake in oven for 30 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.

BEEtween the Pages: Fearless by Max Lucado

"Fear never wrote a symphony or poem, negotiated a peace treaty, or cured a disease. Fear never pulled a family out of poverty or a country out of bigotry. Fear never saved a marriage or a business. Courage did that. Faith did that. People who refused to consult or cower to their timidities did that. But fear itself? Fear herds us into a prison and slams the door."

~Max Lucado in Fearless~

Max Lucado's new book, Fearless, explores the different types of fears people experience, the reasons behind the fears, and the biblical truths exposing why to not fear. Among the fears covered in this book, Lucado examines the fear of not mattering, of disappointing God, of not protecting our kids, of the worst-case scenario, of violence, and of life's final moments. Lucado highlights the courage of men, women, and children facing dire circumstances but not succumbing to fear's immobilizing grip, the greatest example being Jesus' courage when faced with a violent death on the cross.

I found Lucado's book to be an easy-read with a powerful message. This timely book challenged me to face some of my own fears from a biblical perspective. In each chapter, Lucado recounts stories and Scripture from the Bible to emphasize the need for us to listen "to the voice of God calling through Scripture, 'Fear not!'" With fears abundant in our country and world, this book proposes a welcomed approach to living a fearless life.

I highly recommend this book!

For more information on this book, please go to: http://www.thomasnelson.com/consumer/product_detail.asp?sku=9780849921391&dept_id=110301&TopLevel_id=110000&title=Fearless&author=Max-Lucado

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

BEEsy in the Kitchen: Fiesta Dip


Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.

~Erma Bombeck~
Twelve years ago, my husband and I celebrated our first Thanksgiving as a married couple. And as an initiation into domestic life, we hosted our first holiday together. Both my parents and his joined us at our house for the gathering. Quite honestly, I don't remember much about the food prepared that day. I can't recall if we served a turkey or a ham. I'm not sure what type of stuffing or cranberry sauce we made. But I recollect one item on the menu--Fiesta Dip. Days before the holiday, I perused my small collection of cookbooks and discovered this recipe. The recipe looked easy and tasty, so I decided to add it to the menu. All of my family loved it, especially the men.

So for every Thanksgiving and Christmas, my dad, brother, or husband make a special request for this dip. I hope this becomes a favorite for your family, too!

Stop by tomorrow for a favorite sweet potato casserole recipe.

Fiesta Dip

From Betty Crocker's New Choices Cookbook

2 cups chopped tomato (about 2 large tomatoes)
1 cup chopped red onion (about 1 small onion)
1/2 cup apple juice
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 (8 oz) package of light cream cheese
8 oz. Muenster cheese, cubed
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:

Cook all ingredients except cilantro in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until cheese melts and mixture is creamy. Stir in cilantro. Serve warm or cold with tortilla chips. Makes 4 cups.

Note: The original recipe called for low-fat Muenster cheese, but I usually cannot locate the low-fat version in my grocery stores. So I use the full-fat version. More fat and calories, but oh-so-delicious! :-)

Monday, November 16, 2009

BEEsy in the Kitchen: Grandma's Cranberry Sauce

"Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow."
~Edward Sandford Martin~
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I thought I'd share some of my family's favorite recipes for this holiday. I'll post a new recipe each day this week.

The first recipe I'd like to share is for my Grandma's cranberry sauce. It's easy and delicious! I hope you enjoy. I'd love to hear your comments. :-)

Stop by tomorrow for one of my family's favorite appetizers: Fiesta Dip.

Grandma's Cranberry Sauce

1 1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1 package of fresh cranberries
1/4 cup orange juice
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
3/4 cup celery, chopped
3/4 cup apple, chopped
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp orange peel

Directions:

1. Combine sugar, water, and cranberries in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce to medium-low heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring often.

2. Add remaining ingredients. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

BEEyond the Hive: Adventures in Ice Skating

Lesson from Motherhood 101: Take your three-year-old ice skating for his first time. This is the best way to toughen up good ole mom early on in her adventures of mothering.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Last evening I took Hayden to his first ice skating lesson--a parent/tot class at our local rec center. I practically grew up on roller and ice skates and was eager to introduce ice skating to him. But when I signed up for the class, I didn't give much thought to the fact I haven't ice skated in nearly 20 years.

Renting skates from the facility was a comical scene. The teenager at the desk requested our shoe sizes and asked for our shoes. I stared at him for a moment, perplexed at the reasons why he needed our shoes. Isn't the shoe size enough? Does he need a shoe from each of us to make sure the size was correct? I bent down and took a shoe off my foot and then one off of Hayden's and placed them on the counter. The teenager stared at me dumbfounded, and said, "Ma'am, I need both shoes from each of you."

Still, in my mind I was wondering why he needed our shoes, but I bent down once again to retrieve the other shoes. The teenager collected them and returned with two pairs of ice skates for us, but no shoes. It was at that moment a light bulb went on in my head. Ah-ha . . . he needed our shoes as collateral, I thought. I giggled as I walked away from the counter, realizing the teenager probably thought I was ditsy (and I am, sometimes :-)).

After pulling on our ice skates and lacing them up, we joined the instructor and class participants and entered the rink. We lined up, and each parent and child stepped onto the ice. When it was our turn, I almost fell as I stepped on the ice. Did I mention I haven't skated in 20 years? I felt unstable and wobbly as I glided on the ice. I giggled and mumbled under my breath, "Maybe I also need lessons." Fortunately, for the first lesson we barely moved on the ice.

The instructor taught the kids how to march on the ice, get back up on their skates after a fall, and fall without injuring themselves. I must admit, it was tough watching my little guy fall so many times. And the instructor was adamant that parents not help their kids up or allow them to hold onto the parents' hands or legs. After Hayden's first fall, he looked up at me with his big brown eyes and said, "Mommy, the ice is slippery."

As a mom, my natural instinct is to leap forward and help my son up when he falls. It took much restraint on my part not to do this every time he fell on the hard ice. As the lesson progressed, he began to figure out how to balance himself on the ice and pull himself up after a fall. I was amazed at how persistent he was in getting up after each fall.

The lesson was only 30 minutes long, which was plenty of time for preschoolers. At the end of the lesson, Hayden fell hard on the ice and began crying. Then another boy did the same thing. The instructor announced the class was over. I picked up my little guy, wiped away his tears, and told him what a great job he did.

As we walked out to the car, I asked Hayden if he enjoyed ice skating. I wasn't sure how he would respond after his many falls. He nodded and said he liked it, which is good because we have seven more lessons.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

BEEginnings: A New Blog

About two months ago, I entered the blogging world with this blog--BEEsy Mama. I never realized how much I would enjoy blogging. And so I decided to create a second blog--BEEsy Writer.

As you may know, I'm an aspiring writer. Currently I am working on my first novel, a historical fiction that takes place during World War II.

With BEEsy Writer, I hope to chronicle my journey as a writer, with a focus on what I'm learning and the valuable advice I've received along the way. Please visit BEEsy Writer at http://www.BEEsyWriter.blogspot.com.

Of course, I'm still devoted to this blog and my readers and will periodically post articles about being a BEEsy Mama! :-)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

BEE Fulfilled: A Ladder to the Moon

My son, Hayden, began dreaming BIG when he was two-years-old. One evening last fall, my husband Ryan gathered Hayden and our dog for an evening stroll on a neighborhood trail. While on the walk, Hayden noticed a full moon rising in the east, and pointing at it, he announced, "I need to get a ladder to go to the moon." Ryan chuckled at the thought of using a ladder, of all things, to climb to the moon. Later, when he shared this story with me, I also giggled at the thought of finding a ladder and propping it up against the moon.

But then I questioned the feasibility of Hayden's imaginative mode for trekking to the moon. I thought:

  • Where could we find a ladder tall and sturdy enough to reach the moon?
  • How much would it cost to buy or build such a ladder?
  • How could we position the ladder so that it wouldn't tumble down as we climbed each of the rungs?
  • How long would it take to reach the moon using a ladder? (I'm a BEEsy Mama, and time is a precious commodity!)
  • Why would we need a ladder to journey to the moon when we have space shuttles?

As I pondered on these questions, I observed a difference between my son and me. As a young child, Hayden is not afraid to dream BIG and wouldn't hesitate in trying to use a ladder to reach the moon, while I probably wouldn't even attempt it, rationalizing why it couldn't or shouldn't be done.

It was at that moment I realized I had forgotten what it was like to dream BIG like a child. But I once was a child, and like my son, I dreamed BIG.

I remember being ten years old and watching Mary Lou Retton in the 1984 Olympics. That summer, I was determined to be the next great gymnast. Every day, I practiced cartwheels, handsprings, and round-offs at the school playground behind my house. I'd balance myself on a narrow beam just inches from the ground, twirl a few times, and then bounce off it to dismount. With both arms extended high above my head, I'd bow to an imaginary audience cheering at my debut performance in the Olympics. Oh, the medals I was going to win!

Many other BIG dreams would follow in my childhood--to be a zoologist, a missionary, and a writer. And although many would never be realized, I found joy in dreaming them.

Then I transitioned into adulthood, and with each passing year, my BIG dreams dwindled until one day I realized I only had small ones, and sometimes, none at all. I noted many reasons for this--fears, complacency, busyness, and failure to seek God's direction on His dreams for my life.

But isn't it amazing how God can use children to show us what's missing in our lives? I'm learning so many lessons from my son, and one of the greatest is to not be afraid to dream BIG. Oh, if we could only dream like young children once again! We'd be fearless, optimistic, creative, determined, joyful, and hopeful as we reach for BIG dreams.

And I'm also learning the best dreams to pursue are those God has planned for each of us. I believe God's dreams for us are BIG . . . not dainty, oh-it-can-wait-until-later dreams. But instead, dreams that give joy, hope, and fulfillment to our lives and those around us. Dreams that require effort on our part but are well worth the extra energy we exert to accomplish them. Dreams that demand courage and commitment. Dreams that glorify God.

In Beth Moore's Breaking Free study, she wrote, "One of the things I love best about God is that He does not frown on our dreams. He simply longs to surpass them . . . God surpasses our dreams when we reach past our personal plans and agendas to grab the hand of Christ and walk the path He chose for us."

Can you imagine how God could use each of us if we allow Him to surpass our dreams?

Won't you join me in finding the unique ladders God made just for you and me? Let's grab them, prop them against the gates of Heaven, and begin climbing toward the dreams God intended for us.

Monday, October 26, 2009

BEEtween the Pages: Green by Ted Dekker

"According to the Books of History, everything that happened after the year 2010 actually began in the year 4036 AD. It began in the future, not in the past. Confusing perhaps, but perfectly understandable once you realize that some things are as dependent on the future as on the past."

~Excerpt from Green by Ted Dekker~

Green, Ted Dekker's latest fantasy novel, begins and ends the saga of The Circle Series. This book tells the story of two worlds connected by the Books of History--one world in the past, which existed during the twenty-first century, and one in the future, which was created after the apocalypse destroyed Earth.

This novel centers on Thomas Hunter, who in the future world leads a group known as the Circle. But the Circle begins to fracture as some within the group, including Thomas's son, lose hope in Elyon, their one true God. Desperate to save the Circle and his son, Thomas embarks on a journey to restore the Circle's hope in Elyon, a quest launching him into the past.

I found Green to be a fast-paced fantasy exploring the battle between good and evil in a creative way, although some of the dark sections of this story were disturbing at times. I typically don't read fantasy and have not read the three other books in this series. As a result, I struggled at the beginning to understand the future world, characters, and new terminology. But soon I found this novel to be a page-turner and stayed up late last night to finish it. I'm curious about what happens in the next book in the series, Black, and will probably read it.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasies.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

BEEtween the Pages: For the Love of Books

"There are many little ways
to enlarge your child's world.
Love of books
is the best of all."

~Jacqueline Kennedy ~

At a young age, I developed a love for books. I remember my mom encouraging me to read often. She'd sign me up for the library's reading program each summer, and I recall keeping tally of the books I finished. My mom also shared with me several books she enjoyed in her childhood. A favorite was a collection of poems, which included "Casey at the Bat" and "The Highwayman." Perhaps one of my fondest memories is the time my mom read aloud to my brother and me The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe from C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia series. Each day I could hardly wait for her to read the next chapters in the book.

And now that I am a mom, I desire to pass on a love of books to my son Hayden. One of my favorite activities with him is reading books together. I love it when he gathers a large stack of books in his arms and plops them in front of me for storytime. And I love it when he climbs up into our reclining chair in the den with one of the books, finds a comfy spot on my lap, and says, "Please read me this book, Mommy."

As best I can, I try to bring the books to life, varying the characters' voices and adding emphasis during the dramatic parts. I love to watch and listen to him as the story unravels--he imitates a dinosaur or a choo-choo train, giggles at a silly saying, and points his finger at interesting illustrations. When we finish the book, he often wants to read the same book again or jumps out the chair to grab a different one.

I'm thrilled to watch Hayden develop an interest and love for books. As a recent addition to his bedtime routine, we allow him to browse through books in his bed until he falls asleep. I'm amazed at how this has been soothing to him. Before we began this routine, he struggled to fall asleep in his bed without either his dad or me in the room with him. Now, I can leave him in his room alone as he flips through a stack of books until he eventually falls asleep.

Like many moms and their children, we have our favorite books. I must admit, as I browsed through the books in our home, I discovered I have many favorites, probably too many to list here. But I thought I'd share some with you today.

I'd love to hear about your family's favorite children's books!

Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss: I'm a big fan of Dr. Seuss (you'll see few of his books on my list), and I love Horton the Elephant. He's so kindhearted and, oh, so devoted! A great example for the kiddos! One of my favorite lines in the book is at the end when the crowd of people at the circus run into the tent where the egg has just hatched:

"My goodness! My gracious!" they shouted. "MY WORD!
It's something brand new!
IT'S AN ELEPHANT-BIRD!!
And it should be, it should be, it SHOULD be like that!
Because Horton was faithful! He sat and he sat!
He meant what he said and he said what he meant . . . . "
. . . And they sent him home
Happy,
One hundred per cent!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss: As a child, I loved this Christmas story. I especially looked forward to the cartoon airing on TV during the Christmas season. And guess what? I still love it, and so does my son. I must admit I always feel sorry for poor little Max, hitched in front of the sleigh with an antler tied to his head. A favorite section in this book is when the Grinch hears every Who in Who-ville singing:

And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: "How could this be so?
"It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
"It came without packages, boxes or bags!"
And he puzzled three hours, til his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store.
Maybe Christmas . . . perhaps . . . means a little bit more!"

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss: As a mom, this book is a favorite because I secretly hope it will influence my little one to be more open-minded in trying different types of foods. (Although, with age he's becoming more brave and every so often he'll try something new.) When Hayden and I read this one, I often have him fill in the words. I will read: "Could you, would you with a . . . " And he replies, "Goat!" Then I read on: "Could you, would you in a . . . " And he blurts out, "Boat!" Recently, he's been pulling this book off the shelf every day for our storytime together.

The Hippo-NOT-amus by Tony and Jan Payne: We purchased this book at a Scholastic book fair at Hayden's school two years ago, and it fast became a favorite for both of us. It's about a little hippo named Portly who doesn't want to be a hippo anymore. So he goes on a journey in search of another type of animal he can be. Along the way, he meets a rhino, a bat, an elephant, and a giraffe and tries to change himself so he is like each of them. But he soon discovers he longs to be back home, standing up to his eyes in water all day and eating "boring old grass all day." When he returns home, his mother asks him, "What sort of creature are you?" And Portly replies, "I'm a hippo-gir-ele-bat-onoceros." This is a fun book!

Llama, Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney: I never tire of reading this book to Hayden. One of our favorite parts is at the end: "Llama llama red pajama gets two kisses from his mama . . . " Every time I read this, I give Hayden two kisses on his forehead, and he looks up at me and smiles. I love those moments! One other favorite section, which makes me giggle every time I read it, is:
Baby Llama,
what a tizzy!
Sometimes Mama's
very busy.

Please stop all this

llama drama
and be patient
for your mama.
The Cow Who Clucked by Denise Fleming: I thoroughly enjoy reading books to Hayden with animal sounds. They are so much fun! This book is about a cow who wakes up one morning and discovers she's lost her moo. So she visits the animals on the farm, greeting each with a "cluck, cluck" as she tries to find her moo. In this book, you can "bzzzzz, bzzzzz" like a bee, "glub, glub" like a fish, "squeak, squeak" like a mouse, "chee, chee," like a squirrel, and make many other silly animal sounds. Another book similar to this one that we like to read is a book called The Cow That Went Oink by Bernard Most.

How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague: Have I mentioned Hayden LOVES dinosaurs? A day isn't complete unless he's played with his dinosaurs, crawled around and roared like a scary T-Rex, and sat with his dad or me to read one of his many dinosaur books. This dinosaur book is silly and educational. It teaches kids about good manners at the dinner table. I particularly enjoy this book because Hayden giggles and responds to the questions in the first half of the book. For example, the book asks, "How does a dinosaur eat all his food? Does he spit out his broccoli partially chewed?" And Hayden responds with an emphatic "No!" Then I read on: "Does he bubble his milk?" Hayden laughs and says, "Yes." And this is because Hayden likes to make bubbles in his milk. :-)

Jungle Drums by Graeme Base: This is a beautifully illustrated book with an exciting tale about Africa's smallest warthog name Ngiri Mdogo. The warthogs and other beautiful jungle animals tease and laugh at poor Ngiri because he is so small. Then he meets Old Nyumbu the Wildebeest, and she gives him a set of magic drums. So that night Ngiri beats his hooves on the drums and makes a wish to be changed. The next morning, he finds he's the same, but the other animals have changed. And this when the drama unravels. As a fun addition to this book, the author hid images of Old Nyumbu the Wildebeest on each of the spreads, and some of them are difficult to find.


The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale Retold by Angela Elwell Hunt: For Hayden's first Christmas, my brother and his family gave him this book, and it is unlike any book we own. It tells a beautiful story about "three trees whose wishes come true in a surprising way." Every time I read this book, I cry. It is such a deep and enriching story.

Monday, October 19, 2009

BEEsy in the Kitchen: Pizza Chefs!


"When the moon
hits your eye
Like a big pizza pie

That's amore."
~Lyrics from Dean Martin's That's Amore~


This evening Hayden and I became pizza chefs. We both slipped on our aprons--Hayden in his monkey one and me in my floral one. Hayden jumped right in, rolling out the balls of dough into individual-sized pies and piling one with his favorite toppings. It's the first time he's helped me make pizza.

A couple of years ago, I began making my own homemade pizza. I studied different techniques in my collection of cookbooks and experimented with them. I enjoy the art of creating pizza--kneading the dough, rolling it out, and loading it up with a variety of toppings. And I've discovered making delicious and even healthy pizza in your home kitchen is not too difficult. But it helps to know a few tips before your begin, including:

  • One of the best places I've found for placing the dough to rise is in my microwave oven. Before placing the bowl in there, I usually run the microwave on high for about 1 minute with a cup of water. I then remove the water and place the bowl of the dough in the warm microwave (do not run microwave while dough is in there).
  • For pizza with a thin, crisp crust, either use a large rectangular pizza stone or line the bottom rack of your oven with unglazed quarry tiles made of terra cotta (you can usually purchase these at a tile store).
  • Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Place the pizza stone or tiles in the oven before beginning the preheat. If possible, preheat the oven for one hour.
  • For pizza that is crisp and chewy, use bread flour.
  • When making whole-wheat dough, your flour should be one-half whole wheat and one-half either unbleached all-purpose or bread flour. Using only whole-wheat flour results in a very dense pizza crust.
  • Pizza peels are handy tools for sliding uncooked pizzas onto stones or tiles. Coat the pizza peel either with semolina (preferred) or corn meal to prevent the dough from sticking to the peel.
  • Keep an eye on the pizza because it tends to cook fast with the oven's high temperature. I usually check it every five minutes.
  • Experiment with toppings. You may be surprised which combinations you like best.

I typically use one of two recipes when making pizza dough--one with white flour only and the other with a combination of whole-wheat and white flour. The recipe I'd like to share today is the whole-wheat recipe. In the weeks to come, I'll share the other one when I post one of my family's favorite calzone recipes, which uses white flour dough.

I'd love to hear about any tips you have for making delicious pizza!


Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough
Adapted from a recipe in Everyday Food

1 1/2 cups warm (115 degrees) water
2 packets (1/4 oz. each) active dry yeast
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for bowl
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 cups bread or all-purpose flour
2 cups whole-wheat flour

1. Place water in a large bowl; sprinkle with yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes

2. Add sugar, oil, and salt to the yeast mixture and whisk together. With a wooden spoon, stir in flours until mixed together. Knead on a floured surface for 3 to 5 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer to an oiled bowl and brush top of dough with olive oil. Cover bowl with a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm area in kitchen (I recommend the microwave--see my tip above). Let dough stand until it doubles in size, about 1 hour.

3. Place dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Divide into two balls for two large pizzas or eight small balls for individual-sized pizzas. (Note: I only used half of the dough tonight, making four individual pizzas. I froze the other ball, which I can take out a day before I plan to use it and make either one large pizza or four individual-sized pizzas.)

4. Roll dough out into desirable size and thickness. Pile on your favorite toppings. For the pizzas we made tonight, we added tomato sauce, pepperoni, pineapples, and a combination of cheddar and mozzarella cheeses to two pizza pies and barbecue sauce, crisp cooked bacon, sliced sweet bell peppers, sliced onions, and feta cheese to the other two pies.

5. Using a pizza peel, slide the prepared pizzas onto a stone or tiles in the preheated oven. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown.

6. Allow to cool for a few minutes. Enjoy! :-)









Friday, October 16, 2009

BEEing A Mom: A Campaign for Our Veggie Pals


I'd like to share a poem I wrote for all moms with kids who won't eat their veggies. I hope you enjoy!

A Campaign for Our Veggie Pals

Calling all mamas from near and far
From north to south to east to west
Come and join this noble quest
To smother veggie prejudice.

Come rally for veggies of all colors and sizes.
Please jump on the wagon for this grand campaign
To proclaim, defend, persuade, and explain
How veggies endured years of preschoolers' disdain.

Stand up and cheer for our beloved green pals,
For spinach, snap peas, and asparagus
For broccoli, string beans, and all sorts of lettuce
Oh, how they desperately do need us.

Let's also support our other friends.
Let's take to the streets, with our signs and our mottos
To represent beets, carrots, and tomatoes
Onions, eggplants, yams, and potatoes

Most veggies I know are hardworking and good-hearted,
But every so often a bad one spoils the bunch.
I'll only name one for which I won't munch.
Pssst . . . It's cauliflower--too bland to be in my lunch!

Moms across this great land of ours
Are weary and frazzled and full of dismay
Tired of begging and nagging and pleading each day
For kids to sample veggies on their dinner tray.

They've tried all the tricks in the modern books
From Jessica Seinfeld's Deceptively Delicious
To The Sneaky Chef's recipes, creative and nutritious
But soon they discover these ploys aren't expeditious.

Every night at bedtime they read to their kids
A classic Seuss tale they hope will prevail
Of Sam-I-Am for whom moms all hail
As a master persuader who does not fail.

But as much as they hope and pray for a victory
Their little ones still snub yellow squash and zucchini
The kids whine and cry and make Mom feel like a meany
So she dreams of a lamp and three wishes from a genie.

It's time to take action and start a new movement!
We'll swap out their nuggets for bowls of peas
And pile on their plates mounds of lettuce leaves
Then serve them some broccoli and maybe some cheese.

We'll grin and exclaim, "Oh, what a treat!"
"Veggies are so, so good," we'll assert.
Then we'll hope that they finally convert.
And if they don't, then no dessert!

Monday, October 12, 2009

BEEing A Mom: Write Me A Story

Over the weekend, Hayden and I discovered a new educational activity. Saturday afternoon we visited our local toy and teacher supply store. As I browsed through the books and activities for sale at the store, I found a stack of tablets called "Write Me A Story." Three different themes were available: a circus adventure, a fairy tale, and a robot story. After reading the instructions and studying the tablets' contents, I decided to purchase the circus-themed one. I could hardly wait for Hayden to begin creating stories.

Over the last few days, we have written two tales wrought with conflict and featuring scary dinosaurs. Just so you know, none of the 96 stickers in the tablet had dinosaurs. But Hayden LOVES dinosaurs and a story is not complete until a hungry T-Rex enters the adventure.

I'd love to share one of his stories with you. But first, let me tell you a little about the tablets and how they work. Each tablet includes 50 lined pages and 96 theme-based stickers, and they are appropriate for children ages three and older. Because Hayden is three and cannot write words yet, I wrote the story on the lined paper for him, but he created the story. To begin, he selected a sticker and placed it at the top of the page. For the story I've included below, the first sticker he chose was of two monkey trapezists. I then asked him what was happening in the picture, and that is how our story began. Occasionally, he picked out a new sticker and we added it to the page. Both of the stories he created were about four pages long.

I truly enjoyed this activity for a number of reasons. First, it is fun and interactive. Our storytelling experience was filled with goofiness and giggles. Second, I believe it is a valuable tool in introducing literacy to young children. As described in the tablet's instructions, this activity teaches language and communication in a variety of forms - speaking, listening, reading, and writing. For a child who cannot read yet, this activity shows the child how the letters and words are written as the story is being told. And for a child beginning to write words, this activity provides a great opportunity to practice this new skill. Third, it sparks and encourages a child's imagination as well as the parent's. And finally, it introduces children to the basic elements of creating a good story.

As an alternative to these tablets, you could purchase lined paper or an easel-sized tablet of paper and an assortment of stickers to begin your own story writing experience with your kids.

And now, I'd like to share one of the stories my three-year-old son, Hayden, created. I hope you enjoy! :-)


Hayden's Story About Monkeys,
Dinosaurs, Clowns, and a Lion


Once upon a time, a monkey was upside down. A T-Rex came along and ate the two monkeys. The T-Rex joined four other T-Rexes and they went inside a cave. The T-Rexes chased the people in the cave. The people screamed and ran. One T-Rex found a triceratops in the cave. Hayden and Mommy were in the cave, and they began to run out of the cave, but they realized they needed to help Daddy escape. With Daddy in tow, they ran home.

They found "scary" clowns outside their house. Hayden, Mommy, and Daddy hopped in the back of the car with the clowns. The clowns and Hayden and Mommy and Daddy chased the dinosaurs back to their cave. The clowns took Hayden, Mommy, and Daddy home. The clowns then drove to the clown house. They played with some toys and lived happily ever after. Or so we thought! The clowns met a lion who liked to garden. THE END :-)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

BEEtween the Pages: The Moon in the Mango Tree by Pamela Binnings Ewen

"When we arrived at the end of the year 1919, Siam was laughter, music, color. Many years later I fled the country and the rage of darkness that howled within me. This is our story, my child - Harvey's and mine. These are the years that you can't recall. Sift for the truth. But look to light and learn what those fireflies taught, what draws the moth to the flame and flowers to the sun. It is this that I want you to know: Darkness is only the absence of light."

~Excerpt from The Moon in the Mango Tree by Pamela Binnings Ewen~


The Moon in the Mango Tree tells the tale of a woman's journeys from Philadelphia to Siam, Paris, and Rome and her search for a distinct purpose in her life. As a newlywed in 1919, Barbara Perkins sets aside her dreams of being a singer to follow her husband, Harvey, to the mission fields in Siam. Stationed at a post off the beaten path, she struggles to conform to the protocols and mindsets of the region's Christian missionaries and to understand Harvey's passion for serving the Siam people as a physician. Demoralized and frightened after a series of events at the isolated post, Barbara loses faith in Christianity and questions Harvey's love for her. Soon she finds herself torn between her deep love for her husband and children and her yearning to pursue her dream of being a singer.

Within the first few pages of this book, I was drawn into Ewen's exquisite prose. Her beautifully crafted scenes, landscapes, and characters blossom into a rich story that enchanted me from the beginning to the end. Although the story slowed somewhat during Barbara's journeys from Paris to Lausanne, Switzerland to Rome, I understood and appreciated Ewen's inclusion of these scenes after finishing the book. Ewen creates a sense of uncertainty on how the story will end, which made it unpredictable and satisfying to me. Days after completing this story, I found myself still pondering on its characters, craft, and themes. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical and literary fiction. I am looking forward to reading more books from this author.

For more information about this book and its author, please go to http://bhpublishinggroup.com/fiction/authors.asp?a=Ewen_Pamela.

Reviewer's Note: I learned about this book at the American Christian Fiction Writers' annual conference in September 2009. At this conference, one of the first writers I met was Pamela Binnings Ewen. We sat next to each other at the first-time attendees orientation and chatted for several minutes. Ewen was so kind and gracious to me, offering valuable advice to me, a beginning fiction writer. Intrigued by the description about her story, I purchased the book and brought it to a book signing event. As she signed my book, I thumbed through a notebook filled with black-and-white pictures of her grandmother in Siam. The Moon in the Mango Tree is based upon her grandmother's true story.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

BEEdazzling Mamas: My Mom - Part 2

"My prayers were simple. I've never been a big fancy prayer. It has mainly been, 'God, I'm not able to do this. I don't know how to do this. God, I need your help.' I think it's just pouring out your heart honestly . . . and when you get to a place when you truly mean what you pray, God hears you every time. He always does. That type of prayer He will answer."

~Deb Murray on her prayers as a parent~

I recently had the great privilege of interviewing my mom. This is something I have never done before, and I found it to be such an enriching experience. My mom and I have always been close, and over the years she has shared many personal stories and her thoughts with me. And yet, I learned so much more about my mom from this interview. I would highly recommend all daughters interview their moms. You may be surprised what you discover about your own mom.

I hope you enjoy this article and are blessed by it! :-)


As a veteran mom, Deb Murray understands the joys and challenges of raising children. She's experienced the thrills and celebrations at the high peaks of motherhood and the fears and disappointments in its trenches. And yet, after 35 years of being a mom, she still loves this important role God gave her.

At the age of 18, Deb discovered she was pregnant with her first child. She was excited about becoming a mom. "I've always loved kids," she said. During her childhood, she babysat for many of the families in her neighborhood and soon developed a love and passion for kids. "I think I was probably more ready to be a mom than I was to be a wife," she said.

But the early years of being a mom were challenging in many ways, she recalled. Her marriage was rocky during those years, and she often contemplated divorce. "That took away some of the joy," she said about how the marriage issues affected her as a mom.

A life-changing event occurred shortly after she became a mom. "Having a child was the thing that kind of made me think about God again," she said. About a year after the birth of her first child, her father-in-law invited her to attend his church, and on Palm Sunday in 1975, she became a Christian.

She soon developed a close relationship with the pastor of the church and his wife. Bernie and Essie Lovely, whom she affectionately calls "Brother and Sister Lovely," encouraged her in many ways in the early years of being a mom and a Christian. She laughed as she shared a story about Brother Lovely's kind and forgiving heart that happened on one of her many visits to the Lovelys' house. On this particular visit, she accidentally spilled coffee over Brother Lovely's Bible. "He wasn't upset at all," she recalled. "He didn't hate me. As a Christian, that is one of your most precious things and to have someone spill coffee all over it . . . He still loved me."

In late 1978, she moved with her husband and two children from Ohio to Colorado. During the first couple of years in Colorado, she struggled to keep her marriage intact. She soon met two young moms in her church, and the three of them met often to pray together. "It was definitely a group of people who were very innocent, who were young in Christ, and yet God amazingly answered prayer after prayer," she said. One of the prayers answered was her husband, Jack, became a Christian. "The marriage began to get better, and God started to do some really neat things."

As her children grew and her marriage began to flourish, she enjoyed being a mother more and more. She said she centered her life around her two kids, Julie and Luke. She soon landed a job as a teacher's aide at a local school. "There could not have been a more perfect job than that," she said. Being in the school, she was able to keep tabs on what was happening with her kids. During this time, she and her husband also became more involved with their church and volunteered to serve as the church's youth group leaders.

She said she learned many lessons during the elementary and pre-teen ages of her children. "When you have kids," she said, "you realize you need to be an example to them. If you want them to serve God and you want them to do what is right, then you too have to do the right thing. Probably in my younger days, I would have called in sick [for work] and not really been sick. I stopped doing things like that. I tried to be really honest."

During this phase of parenting, she also learned "you have to recognize your kids are human. No matter how good they are, they are going to do things that are wrong . . . You have to make your kids responsible for their actions." And in partnership with her husband, this meant immediately addressing behavioral issues with their kids. But she also learned that she had to find a balance and not be so strict that she pushed her kids into rebellion.

When her kids reached the teenage years, she said there were times she felt she was failing as a parent. "I think the teenage years are really tough," she said, "because kids are starting to get their wings and starting to want to be on their own and they get to the place where they think their parents are really stupid and don't know anything. I think that's normal."

She laughed as she shared a valuable lesson she learned during this phase of parenting. "Pray harder!" On a more serious note, she said, "I think the whole key is that you just need to go to God that much more . . . The key to [my kids] turning out was not me. It was God. It was because I honestly humbled myself before God and said, 'God, I can't do this. I don't know how to do this. I don't know how to be a parent.' I don't thing any of us really do. But God knows how. And I asked Him to help me and show me how to be a parent to my kids."

Now, as a parent of two adult children, she said being a mom during this stage can sometimes be the most difficult time because "you have no control. You have to let them go. It's never too late to pray. And really that's all you can do."

But she also shared the many joys of being a mom to adult children. Because parenting is more relaxed now, she can develop closer friendships with her adult children. Her fondest memories during these years have been the births of her six grandchildren. She said being a grandparent is much easier than being a parent. "As a grandparent, you only correct when the kids are at risk or some big issue. You realize you only tackle the big things. You're more relaxed, more calm."

Her greatest desire for her children and grandchildren is for them to "serve God with all their hearts and all their souls." She said that this is more important to her than the careers and aspirations they may pursue in their lives. "If they can keep their focus for the most part on God . . . they're going to be fine."

When asked about advice she would give to moms in supporting their husbands in their parenting roles, she said, "You always want to encourage. You don't want to really disagree, unless it's something really serious, in front of the kids." She also advised about being careful to not be jealous of the other parent. "Don't worry if the kids love one more than the other, because they do. They go through different stages where they like Dad more than they like Mom and Mom more than they like Dad, but you need to not become jealous of that."

When asked about the advice she would give to moms with children of any age, she say, "The biggest advice is pray. Humble yourself. Realize that the season will pass. But the only thing you can do is pray. It's really in the hands of God."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

BEEdazzling Mamas: My Mom - Part 1

"A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts." ~Washington Irving~

BEEdazzling Mamas is a new column I created to celebrate the inspirational and beautiful moms I know. And what better way to introduce this column than to feature my own mom. She is truly BEEdazzling to me in so many ways.

Earlier today, I sat at my desk and began jotting down all the qualities I love in my mom. Soon I found my list quite lengthy, and as I reflected on each of the qualities, tears began to tumble down my cheeks as I realized how much I truly admire and love my mom. I'm so excited to be able to share some of those exquisite qualities with you.

Beautiful: As a child and an adult, I've always seen my mom as beautiful on the inside and outside. But as I ponder on this further, I realize that her true beauty shines from the inside out. Her genuine smile, twinkling eyes, and infectious laugh illuminate her true beauty from within. And from within, you will find wisdom, integrity, and kindness of the purest kind. With age, this type of beauty only blossoms.

Encourager: My mom has been the encourager and cheerleader in my life. She has always believed in me, even when I could not believe in myself. She's stood beside me and supported me in all my aspirations, and I know I could not have accomplished many things in my life without her encouraging words and belief in me. Thanks Mom!

Sincere: My mom has always been sincere in what she says and does. I know that I can rely upon her to be truthful in her assessment of circumstances and in the advice she gives.

Trustworthy: My mom is one of the few people I know whom I trust wholeheartedly with all aspects of my life. I know I can share my deepest secrets and fears with her and she will handle them with care and confidentiality. And even more important, I know I can trust her with providing love and protection to one of the most precious people in my life - my son.

Forgiving: One of the greatest gifts my mom has given me are the many examples and lessons on how to truly forgive. I remember her pleading with my brother and me to never leave home or go to bed at night without asking for forgiveness from those we've wronged and forgiving those who we believed have wronged us.

Responsible: My mom taught me how to be responsible in life. In fact, both of my parents showed me what it means to be a responsible member of society. They are hard-workers, and I've always admired that quality in both of them.

Integrity: Over the years, I've watched my mom live a life of integrity. In her jobs and personal situations, she has been placed in challenging situations with no easy solutions. And time after time, she has chosen the high road, even when it was not popular or resulted in criticism. I admire her for her decisions and have sought to follow in her steps in living a life of integrity.

Empathetic: My mom deeply feels the hurt and pain suffered by those she loves. When life serves me disappointments, I know I can go to my mom and pour my heart out to her, and she will attentively listen and sometimes even cry with me.

Nurturer: My mom has always been a natural at nurturing. As a young child, I remember her tending to my many needs. But perhaps the most meaningful way she has nurtured me as a child and an adult is in the way she has encouraged me in my walk with God. In fact, the spiritual nurturing she has provided to my entire family has blessed us immensely and will richly bless her grandchildren and the generations to follow.

Dreamer: My mom has always believed in having dreams. And even though I've witnessed seasons in her life where she thought her dreams may be fading, I still saw a glimmer of hope within her and knew those dreams would not be lost.

The bottom line: My mom is my best friend. Many of us often envision growing old with our spouses, sitting in rocking chairs on a wrap-around porch and reminiscing on the years we shared together. I dream of this as well and am looking forward to the many years ahead with my husband. But I also yearn to pull up another rocking chair and invite my mom over to laugh and cry over the memories we collected together in our lifetimes.

I'd love to hear about the BEEdazzling Mamas you know!

Please check out my blog in the next day or two for the second part of this series: an interview with my mom.