Monday, December 30, 2013

13 Things I Learned in 2013.

1.  This year, I've learned that it's normal for (my) kids to go through a period of bedtime difficulty around 3 or 4 years old, even if they've been terrific sleepers up until that point.  The key words they use are ".....but I just miss you."  And I've learned that throwing the bedtime rules out the window and snuggling up with them in their bed for a while will not do too much harm, and it will do a lot of good.  I've learned that I did this all wrong with Lana, and I'm doing it kind of right with Tucker, and I feel quite a bit of guilt over that.  Tiptoeing in her room and holding her while she sleeps helps a little.

2.  This year, I've learned that when I run a few times a week and eat right and drink plenty of water, I feel and look healthy.  I've learned that when I stop running, I don't eat right or drink enough water and then I feel like blah.  Not rocket science.

3.  This year, I've learned that I am a better mama for having a space for myself in my life.  That revelation came to me through job-sharing: I get to be a mostly-stay-at-home mommy, but for two days a week, I get to be a teacher, and somehow, that makes me an even better mommy.  I don't get it, but it's just true....those two days a week in the classroom make me even more grateful for my five days at home.  I find I am more present.  I hope I always can work these couple of days a week.  I've also learned that feeling this way isn't any sort of moral failing on my part - it's just the way I'm wired, and it's ok.

4.  This year, I've learned that parenting a child with a personality that is completely the opposite of mine doesn't come easily.  I've learned that in order to let that personality blossom, I have to let go of things being done or said a certain way and revel in the parts of her that are different from the parts of me.  And I mean not just tolerate or overlook them, but truly revel in them, so that she does, too.  As my wonderful, wise friend Pam told me: "It's not about you, Rachael."

5.  This year, I've learned that not everyone will love me, or even like me.  (gasp)  I've learned that the truth of that fact does not mean that there's something wrong with me, or something wrong with them, or that there's a problem to be fixed.  I've learned how to smile at people who actively dislike me, and know in my heart that it probably has more to do with them than it does with me, anyway.

6.  This year, I've learned that Panera Bread and Cactus Flower Cafe are really the sources of my most favorite foods, second only to my mama's kitchen.  I've learned that an iced white mocha is a terrific boost to any day; and that while it's rather expensive, some days just require it.

7.  This year, I've learned that you can't force friendships.  When we moved to Pensacola, I had certain ideas or hopes about people who would become my friends.  It really seemed like a no-brainer to me.  I was confused and hurt when those people, although genuinely wonderful, were just not interested in my friendship.  Out of that, I have learned that the best kind of friendships come from unexpected places, in their own timing, and that no matter how much I crave those heart-level relationships, I have to let them emerge in their own timing, as they will.  And that it's ok if I have to wait a while, because it's nearly always worth the wait.

8.  This year, I've learned that a dog really is worth all the trouble and expense.

9.  This year, I've learned that I don't actually want to stop my children from growing older, because the older they get, the more I enjoy them.  They are quite honestly two of my favorite people in the world, and the more I get to know them, the more they enlarge my heart and my life.  I've learned that every age is somehow my favorite age with these two.

10.  This year I learned that I often hide my feelings behind anger.  When I feel sad or afraid or unhinged, I am reluctant to let myself feel those things, and instead just come out swinging.  For years, I thought I had a struggle with anger, and while that may be so, what I've learned this year is that I often just use that to mask any sort of vulnerability.  It's a defense mechanism that I learned early, and that truthfully has served me well, if the goal is self-protection and preservation.  The Lord is teaching me that "self-" anything is not the goal.  I am learning (present tense) how to let myself feel what I feel, and to lean hard into the Lord with those feelings.

11.  This year, I've learned that the Bible really is the only anchor of my soul, and the Word made flesh really is holding it all together (Colossians 1:17).  I've learned that when I feel needy, I often try to fill that need with something besides the Word, and that never ever satisfies.  I've learned how desperate I am for the Word.  In 2014, I am going to read it cover to cover again, and I can barely wait to get started.  The last time I read the Bible through in a year, I loved Jesus so much, but I was mired in legalism.  I was a Pharisee.  In His great kindness, He has undone me, and this time, I will read it with different eyes.  A different heart.

12.  This year, I've learned that some things, once broken, can't be fixed.  I've learned that the fixing isn't always my responsibility.  I've learned that often I am just supposed to work on fixing me, and that will take all the spare time and energy I've got.  I've learned that favoritism and jealousy and partiality, while deeply hurtful, are not things that I can control or correct, no matter what I say or do.

13.  This year, I've learned that I have so much to learn.  As a wife, and a mama, and a daughter, and a friend, and a teacher, and a person.  The teenage version of me thought that I would have it all together by now - have all the answers, have this life thing down pat.  Somehow, that's not how it's worked out, and I am so thankful for the grace of another year, to learn how much I still have to learn.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas 2013

This is the 8th Christmas day that I've spent with my daughter, and the 5th one I've spent with my son, and the 12th that I've spent with Dan, and without a doubt it was the sweetest, simplest one ever.  My favorite, by far.

this sweet tree has been a grace to us this month.
it's our Jesse tree, and don't you just love those ornaments hung at child level?
each night, as we read the Word together, the kids hung the corresponding ornament, and it was the most important part of each day of advent.

We started the morning with opening stockings at the counter while Mommy got breakfast in oven.
(You can see the homemade cinnamon rolls in the bottom right corner.  I didn't take a picture of the finished product, but yummers.)

After the cinnamon rolls and tomato grits were in the oven,
we all curled up in our bed to finish reading the last part of Jotham's Journey, and the Biblical account of Jesus' birth from Luke 2.  

Then, in honor of the greatest Gift the earth has been given, we gave gifts to each other.  This year, for the first time, we vastly simplified our gift-giving.  We each got 5 gifts: something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read, and something to give.

Lana's "something you want" gift was a keyboard & lessons to take piano lessons from her music teacher at school, Ms. Driver.  I absolutely love this progression of pictures:
I love this sweet video Dan took of her realizing she gets to take lessons,
but the best part is Tucker's interjection all the way at the end of the video.

Tucker's "something you want" was a LeapPad 2.  My electronics-addicted boy was so happy - he just hugged and hugged the package.  He called it his "ipad."
Then he handed it off to Dan for opening, and he danced around the room.

The rest of the present opening was equally precious, and included a rug for the playroom (something you need), pajamas and cowboy boots (something to wear), books for all (something to read), and money to be used exclusively on others (something to give).

Then we spent the day doing exactly what we wanted to do all day long.
board games.  napping.  so much food.  movies.  snow.  playing.  
I actually cannot remember a day where we had no plans at all outside of being together and enjoying each other and doing exactly what we wanted.

One of the highlights was baking our birthday cake for Jesus.  
Ok, so let me just confess that I felt like this was kind of cliche, but the kids were super excited about it, so I decided to go with it and see how it went.
They absolutely loved every minute.
 They did it all, and it turned out to be the sweetest thing.
Before we ate it, they wanted to sing happy birthday and then they prayed, all on their own, without any prompting from us.  I cried and now they'll have to do this until they are 30 years old themselves because I cannot get over their preciousness.

Seriously, the best day ever.  Lana thought so, too: click here to listen
We were all like that - our cups were just so full, and it had absolutely nothing to do with the gifts, and everything to do with our souls.  We had fat souls today, people.

Don't think we left out our sweet Pepper.
She thoroughly enjoyed her Christmas hambone:

Merry Christmas from Team Davis to all of you!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve with the Davis'

Every year we gather at Dan's parents house on Christmas Eve.  The kids run wild, and we eat like kings, and there are so many gifts and laughs, and it's a great time.

This year Dan's parents made a big pot of gumbo using his grandmother's recipe, and fried a mess of fish, and it was so delicious.

Love all these precious cousins!
They play together so well, grouping up differently all the time, and truly enjoying themselves being together.  Just even notice in this picture - both of the younger girl cousins chose to sit right with Lana, nearly in her lap.  Tucker is smashed up next to Jake, and Hayden had been buddied up with Noah most of the day.

I tried to capture just even a bit of the gift-opening chaos.  
It was awesome!

 After food and presents, PawPaw and Dan & his brother herded all the kids outside and they headed to "Dirtland," which I have never actually been to, but is apparently a dirt pit and the Davis kids called "Dangerous" growing up.  A kids dream!

We hung out most of the day, until Tucker could barely keep his eyes open, and then we headed home to our house to get ready for Christmas Eve:

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas with our Sue Sue!

Mom came this weekend to celebrate Christmas with our family.  I wish I had pictures of all the baking we did - the kids loved helping her in the kitchen.  (Most of it happened this morning before I climbed out of bed - thus, no pictures.  But happy, rested, thankful Mommy!)

Sue Sue of course arrived with special goodies!

I think she did a good job!  :)  Lana's rainbow loom was a hit, and Tucker loved his pajamas and magnetic dartboard.

My brother and his wife just bought their first house, so they won't be with us for Christmas this year.  We are so sad about that, but excited for them!
Technology made it a bit better:

My brother chose a really, really special girl to marry.
Look at this preciousness:
Knowing that they wouldn't be with us in person for Christmas, she wrapped and sent gifts for all of us,  down to the gift bags! 

opening presents with Uncle Allan & Aunt Ranae:

 And right before Mom had to leave, she & I snuck away for lunch and pedis:
I sure do love my mama!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Candlelight Service 2013

Quiet moments to celebrate the thing that really matter are some of my favorite worship services.  Old hymns, just the Word read and heard, taking communion....the very basics of our faith - these are my favorite times together with the Body.

Our Christmas Candlelight service is truly a delight.
This year was the first time Tucker came in with us, and Mom was in town, too, so it was especially sweet for us all to be together.

Not pictured: Tucker squirming all over the place, candles being dropped behind our chairs, M&M bribes, multiple bathroom breaks (for the parents!), Tucker's incredulity that I would take communion and not share my juice.

Christmas Cookies 2013

There's just something about baking sweet treats to share that makes it really feel like Christmas-time.  On the Sunday before Christmas, our church fellowship has a candlelight service, followed by a cookie social, so that makes it extra fun to plan and bake.  For the past few years, my signature items have been peppermint meringues, sugared pretzels, and old fashioned peanut butter kisses.  This year I was ready to try something new, and I just love it when friends share their tried-and-true recipes!

Ginger Snaps
This recipe came from my North Carolina friend, Alicia Clark.
¾ c. shortening
1 c. sugar
¼ c. light molasses (I prefer Grandma’s brand molasses)
1 beaten egg
2 c. flour
¼ t. salt
2 t. baking soda
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground clove
1 t. ground ginger

Cream together shortening and sugar.  Gently fold in molasses and egg.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour, salt, baking soda, and spices.  Dough will be soft and a little sticky.  Roll into small balls and roll in sugar.  Bake at 350 degrees for 7 minutes - take them out just as they start "cracking," and then leave them on the cookie sheet for a minute or two.  Remove from cookie sheet, and place on cooling rack.  They will flatten as they cool.
This recipe is perfect for your family.  If you are baking to share (or to take to a gathering, as I am), it's great to double!

Thin Mint Knock-Offs
This recipe is from my high school BFF, Christine (Price) Allen.
chocolate for dipping: almond bark, milk chocolate chips, baking melts, etc.
peppermint extract
ritz crackers
Andes mints

Melt the chocolate, and mix in peppermint extract.  (Start with 1/2 tsp and then increase to taste.)
Dip a ritz cracker into the chocolate.
Sprinkle chopped andes mints on top.
Put in refrigerator to let the chocolate harden and set.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Cuban Black Bean Soup

Meet my precious friend, Hollie!
This is us when our youngest were just tiny, and our husbands were both going to seminary and working together.  We all attended the same church fellowship, North Wake.
Love this friend so, and am so glad our lives overlapped for those years.
She & her husband and family now live in S.C.,
and she is expecting her third child.  

Hols gave me this supe-comf-coze recipe for cuban black bean soup years ago, and it's one of our wintertime staples.  It's cheap, and makes a TON.  I always have plenty to feed our family for a meal or two, and then enough to freeze for another meal.  I love that.  And the beans and rice are so hearty and filling and healthy.  Yum.

1 large onion, finely chopped
1 medium green bellpepper, finely chopped
6 cloves minced garlic
1 lb dried black beans
1 cup cooked ground sausage (we use Jimmy Dean)
3 cups beef broth
1 3/4 cups water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1.5 tsp ground cumin
1.5 tsp dried oregano

to garnish:
white rice
sour cream
fresh cilantro

Soak black beans overnight.  Drain.
Brown ground sausage in skillet with onion, pepper, and garlic.
Mix all soup ingredients in a large crockpot.
Drain sausage/pepper/onion mixture and add to crockpot.
Cook on high for 6-8 hours or until beans are fork tender.
Serve over white rice.
Garnish with sour cream and fresh chopped cilantro

This makes an enormous crockpot of soup.
We like to drain the juice from leftovers and use it for burrito filling another night the same week.

Morning times, and missing kisses.

Tucker recently told me that I kiss him too much.
"It's so many, Mommy!  You do it all the time!  No more kisses until Sunday."

So I promised to not kiss him without asking his permission,
and it is breaking my heart in TWO, you guys.  
It's obviously that he's growing up, setting boundaries, pulling away from mama a bit.
Totally normal, I know, but still.  
He's my baby.

I take solace in this, though:

Although he may be rebelling against mama smothering him with kisses, he still sticks close.
Every morning, as I dry my hair and put on my makeup and pick out my clothes, my buddy is right there in the same room with me.  He might run out to get something to play with or read, but within seconds, he's back: chatting my ear off, telling me stories, promising to defend me.

This is one of the sweetest times of my day.

I don't know how many more mornings he'll want to spend like this.
Someday soon,  he'll want to sleep in instead.  Or go for a run.  Or watch the news.  Or hang out with friends.  Someday he won't plant himself right under my feet.

I am savoring every moment of this while it lasts.