Saturday, October 31, 2009

Day 41 - {.new traditions.}

update: I just added the recipe for the doughnut holes. It's from DC's mom, the source of many of our favorite recipes. :)

new traditions 1

This was on a Saturday, just for fun. The doughnut holes worked out great with my three helpers. We divided into stations -- a frying station, a powdered sugar/cocoa station, and a cinnamon sugar station. We set the timer, and rotated the boys through. It was so fun!

Ma Baker's Doughnut Holes
1 3/4 c. flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
3/4 c. milk
1 egg
Mix all ingredients. Drop by small teaspoonfuls into very hot oil (375 seems to be the sweet spot). When brown, turn, let brown on other side, remove and roll in cinnamon sugar.


new traditions 2

"CTR" means "Choose the Right." When our boys turn 8 and are baptized, their Nana gives them a beautiful CTR ring (you can see Fluffy's in the first picture). Carving it into a pumpkin was an idea from the Friend magazine.


new traditions 3

These activities and the CTR lantern we did on the boys' day off from school for Parent-Teacher Conferences. They had the idea of taking the caramel apple cookies to share with their teachers! So sweet, my boys. :) (btw, I think that sugar is an integral part of family traditions--ha.)


And for our family now, October 31st is for. . . .


new traditions 4


new traditions 5


new traditions 6

(Thank you to Emily for this wonderful idea of using real autumn leaves to decorate.)


new traditions 7


. . . and, of course. . . .

new traditions 8


I am so grateful for the peaceful, happy day we had today.

Thank You, Heavenly Father.

100 days of gratitude tag

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I've never had "pregnancy portraits" before, and I thought it would be fun to do some this time. My friend Sonja was so great, trying all kinds of different poses and letting me change clothes, etc., even coming here to the house for half of the portrait session!

Here are some of my favorites.

At the house. . . .

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LOVE these individual shots of the boys! (Sonja took these while DC and I were changing. :)

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    (Note: do not be deceived by the happy expressions on my sons' faces. They were seriously bribed. :)


Next we drove to the cemetery. I love having pictures there because it feels more like Benjamin is with us. We brought a white rose to hold to represent him, as well.

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And my number one, all-time favorite picture of this session (and possibly of all time). . . . .



Ooh, or maybe this one. . . (Can you see all 5 of my children? :)



Thank you so much, Sonja! You were just awesome.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Day 40 - { time }


Today as I returned to the work of scrapbooking Benjamin's time with us, I sighed. Sighed because it is work for me. Scrapbooking is an unnatural activity in my book. I've never felt talented at making things LOOK nice; my gifts tend toward making things SOUND nice. :)

So, while I know there are millions out there who just love scrapbooking and find it relaxing and fun, I am not one of them. Each page has been challenging for me technically.

I also sighed because documenting those last few weeks of pregnancy is really tough emotionally. Looking through the pictures and reading my journal entries or emails from that time often triggers deep pain over some specific memory that hadn't been expressed yet. But it's worth it! With each page I complete, I feel a sense of healing and release. I love that Benjamin's brothers will be able to remember him better through this. I love that I will be able to share more easily what he means to me.

I still have the goal of finishing by his birthday! (I can think of several of my friends who NEVER would have taken two years to finish this project. :) I'm going to have to buckle down--today I finally started his last two weeks, but I know the pages of his actual birth day are going to take a lot of time.

So today, I am grateful for TIME. Time to really do this.

I can't think of any other season in my life that has been like this. Since childhood I've always been the type to pack in as much as possible and then go crazy trying to get it done: making my own schedules for summer time, doing way too much extra-curricular stuff, graduating early from high school, heck, getting married early!, being in school and being a mom at the same time, etc. etc. This luxury is totally foreign to me. . . but so needed right now.

100 days of gratitude tag I am so grateful for the breathtaking gift of uninterrupted hours to think through what happened those last couple of weeks in October 2007, and to stop and write and cry if I need to.

Grateful for the elapsed time that it has taken to heal and to be able to process difficult memories.

And especially, for the serenity of this time to connect with my sweet son - to talk to him and think about what he is doing - to remember things that we did together.

I miss you, Benjamin.




We had new family pictures taken yesterday. . . . here's a sneak preview. I'll be sharing more soon! :)


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Canvas Photo Tutorial

I've done my first giveaway. Now I'm going to do my first TUTORIAL. (ooh, is your pulse quickening? haha  :) image

Here's how you mount a photo to canvas.

My friend Andrea taught me how to do this, and it makes a wonderful gift! I've done it with family pictures as gifts for our parents, and also with temple or couple pictures as wedding gifts.

Also, I did a big one with our family picture for over our fireplace mantel, like so. >>>>>

Okay, here's what you need:

  • brush-stroke mod-podge
  • a decent paintbrush
  • spray adhesive
  • clear coat spray paint
  • blank painter's canvas (check to make sure you can’t see staples on the sides when it’s hanging)
  • the photo you plan to use


All of these supplies are available at either Hobby Lobby or Walmart. It is wise to decide on the size of the canvas first, and then you can make the photo the right size to fit. (This is the trickiest part of the whole process if you don't do a standard size. If you want to do a misfit size (ahem), then work with Photoshop and you'll get there eventually -- speaking from experience!).


So once you've got all your stuff together, here are the steps:

1. Spray your photo with the clear paint and let it dry. If you live in the South, this may be awhile. . . .

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I love clear spray paint because I don't have to bother with newspaper underneath. :)


2. Next you're gonna grab your spray adhesive and your canvas, and spray the front of the canvas, and the back of your photo, and then stick that photo right onto the canvas. This stuff is VERY STICKY. I think I might would even wear gloves next time (and don't do this inside -- think hairspray x 1,000 sticky).

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3. You may notice that your photo hangs over the edges just a smidge. This makes me crazy. I want to live in a world where an 8x10 photo print and an 8x10 canvas match up EXACTLY. (I guess that's where Exacto gets it, eh?)


But we don't live in that world, so take the best, sharpest scissors you have, and carefully trim up those sides. If it's not perfect, it really is okay, because once you're done it looks so cool you really don't notice any non-perfect edges.


4. Next is the fun part that makes you feel all artistic and talented. . . . Get yourself your paint brush and your mod-podge, and sit at the table and call forth your inner muse.


When you are ready, paint your masterpiece! :) Just glop on the mod-podge and brush it around. I think smaller strokes look nice when it dries, but of course, it's totally up to you at this point.



Ooh, check out that texture. :)



5. Let it dry. For a long, long time. If you have small children, may I recommend the top of the bookshelf, unless of course it's covered with toys on "timeout", like ours. :)

When it's finished, the mod-podge is clear, but you can still see "brush strokes" and it looks way cool.




And there you have it! Hope you enjoyed this little feature on Mama's Boys. :)

Let me know if you try it!

Monday, October 12, 2009

My beamish boys, and other courses on my mental buffet

My talented friend Snarky Belle does a post sometimes containing her thoughts on various topics, buffet-style.  I'm going to copy you, today, Natalie. :) My rambling mind is all over the place lately, and here are some of the places it lingers. . . .


"Come to my arms, my beamish boy[s]!"  (they love it when I say that - I ALWAYS get a hug :)


Fluffy was alarming me lately with his habit of playing with his very nice CTR ring from Nana and Grandpa. I suggested that he substitute it for a new habit of pushing on his upper toothless gap as per instructions from the dentist. So now if you hear him gasp, and then look over to see him with his finger in his mouth, you know why! :)

Exacto suggested we start doing what Pres. Monson talked about - "And what have YOU done for someone today?" He has remembered to prompt us almost every night at the dinner table since! Amazing how much this has inspired me to do nice things I might not have otherwise done.

The other boys have been inspired, too! I went to pick the younger two as they started to walk home from school, and Fluffy was carrying Hummer's backpack. Later that night, he reported it as something he had done for someone today. :)

Yesterday Hummer said he was a "kissing machine" - "Whenever you make your skin touch me I will kiss it!" Let's just hope he keeps this game at home. . . .

*REAL TIME ACTION -- He just came downstairs (he's supposed to be in bed) and said sweetly, "I have a surprise for you, Mommy." He was wearing my fluffy purple slippers. He walked over and one by one, slipped them off and put them by my feet. He had warmed them up for me! :) *


Inspiration from Nie

I know this is all over blogland, but can I just say that Stephanie Nielson continues to inspire me greatly! I missed her recent appearance on Oprah (having no digital tv - I totally live in a bubble), but I read the article about it here.

This excerpt from it blew me away. . . .

Stephanie says she had a vision while she was unconscious, and she was given a choice. "[I was] with somebody who told me that I could choose to live and have a hard life, you know, embarrassing at times and painful. Or, I could just stay there, and there's lots of work I could do there too," she says. "But I thought of my children and my husband, and it was easy. An easy choice."

Wow. I have to admit, if I had the choice of whether to move on, or stay here, I would be sorely tempted to leave this fallen world. But I have the opportunity to be here with my beloved husband and children and WITHOUT the constant pain the she now faces!

Of course, she was like that before the accident, anyway. Her posts in the pre-burned days are filled with celebration of the simple moments with her children, of a beautifully deep love for her Mr. Nielson. Awesome.

NieNie, you have helped me to see what a gift each hour with my family is. Saturday night when I washed Hummer's hair in the tub, I thought of your gloved, pain-filled hands washing your babies' hair, and was filled with gratitude again for what you are teaching me.



How the scrapbook is going. . . .

015 (2)Last week I did only 3 pages. It is really hard work for me! I am not a natural scrapbooker, and delving deeply back into these memories is not easy. A couple of days I simply was not up to it.

Today I dove back in, though. I knew I had all day with no interruptions, so if I had to cry for a while, it would be okay. The scrapbook will be to share with anyone who would like to see it. (I hope people will ask to see it! :) But as I'm working, if I have a more personal, difficult memory resurface, I am taking the opportunity to write it all out in a different place, and let the grief overtake me again for a while.

I really think that this type of work is going to help me go into these last few weeks with more serenity and at the same time, remembrance.

<Here's the place where I scrapbook.

We bought this changing table a couple of months before Benjamin was born. I had never had one with any of my other babies, and I just thought I had to have it this time. :) I wish so much I had taken a picture of it with all his clothes on it! Janice and I had created a lovely, little organized spot where I anticipated spending many hours tickling and talking to him as I dressed him and cleaned him. After he died, and I put away the clothes, I realized that would be the perfect spot to put all the scrapbooking supplies for his special book.

I never cared for him physically there, but I have spent hours thinking about him and remembering him, even talking to him. It is a sacred spot to me.

(The 'C' and glow-in-the-dark stars on the wall came later on, when one of his big brothers moved into the room. . . .:)


Halloween and its ramifications

October 31, 2007 was the last day I felt Benjamin move. I believe I even know the exact moment he died. At the time, though, I was completely unaware. Janice and I spent the day decorating the house for a family Halloween party. I helped with two class parties at school. The boys dressed up and we did trick-or-treating from door-to-door in our house. Then we stayed up late watching Ichabod Crane with candles going.

The next day when I came home from the doctor's office, knowing that my baby was dead inside me, most of the Halloween decorations were still up. There were candy apples in the fridge and silly little Halloween snacks everywhere. It is probably not surprising to you that from that time on, I have hated Halloween. A lot.

I have thought that this is not really a big loss--what is the big deal about a holiday that celebrates the macabre and gruesome? But I have started to feel bad lately that the boys sometimes feel a little left out at school. Well, Exacto doesn't seem to care too much. He feels a lot how I do.

But Fluffy and now Hummer seem to wish that I were a little more happy about Halloween. I don't think I ever can be. BUT I did get a good idea today! We can celebrate Autumn. I got the idea from an activity in this month's Friend magazine where it shows a family carving a pumpkin with a CTR shield instead of the traditional face.

I can see that it would be much better to make new family traditions to fill this space, rather than just resentfully waiting for it to go away! We do plan to start a yearly pilgrimage to see fall colors on 10/31 or thereabouts. We did that last year on 11/1, and it was so fun.

Will you share with me any ideas you have? Does your family have any traditions specific to the fall season that you love?


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"Before Rosebud" - project number 2

There are four major projects that I feel like really should be done before sweet Rosebud arrives in our home. The first one was the Paper Situation, which you all helped me with, and which is now DONE! :)

The second one is to finish Benjamin's scrapbook.

I have already put in hours and hours on it--but perfectionism has really slowed me down. I finally have decided that I don't mind if it's not perfect. I just want a place where I can sit and remember and feel close to my son.

I have been documenting the whole pregnancy with him. After all, he was alive and with us then! I want to remember the things I did while he was living and inside me. And, I want to record the beautiful experiences of his short time in our arms, and the outpouring of love we received afterward.

Right now I am on the 7th month, and his birthday is in exactly 4 weeks from today. So my goal is to do at least a page per day, on weekdays.

It is such therapeutic, hard, wonderful work.

I am hoping at the same time to record many of my memories from that all-important time of learning he had died, delivering him, and burying him. There are experiences and feelings that are yet unwritten. I may or may not share those on the blog--I haven't decided yet.

But they will be recorded somewhere. And that will help me to have more peace as I face the next precious delivery.

Since I'm a big fan of celebrating achievement, even if it is my own (teehee), I bought myself a special reward for when I finish this project.

imageThe day after Benjamin's birth, my sweet friend Meghan came to visit us in the hospital, and brought a bag full of Bath&Body Works luxuries. One of them in particular I loved and used every day--the brown sugar and fig scrub. The scent of it brings me sharply back to those first few weeks of fresh grief. A painful, painful time, but also a time when Benjamin still felt very near. I remember sitting often in the glider rocker we had bought to rock him in and crying, with that scent on my skin.

When that tube ran out, I bought another one. By the time I was finishing the second one, I found out that B&BW had discontinued that line!! Ack!

But luckily, there is still ebay. :) I just won an auction on this today, and will hold it in reserve for the day I finish Benjamin's scrapbook.


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"I begin to love this creature,
and to anticipate his birth
as a fresh twist to a knot,
which I do not wish to untie."

~Mary Wollstonecraft

Monday, October 5, 2009

Day 39 - { Dad }

100 days of gratitude tagI only have to think about my Dad, and my heart just swells up and overflows with love and gratitude. He is simply the best in the world.

I can't think of a single moment when I did not know that he loved me and would do anything in his power to protect me, provide for me, and to help me be happy and return to Heavenly Father.

Dad makes me think of . . . .

peanut butter,

crazy-imaginative bedtime stories,

Saturday morning pancakes with a background of mariachi music,


musical "bigotry" :),

homemade bread,

"Daddy-back" rides and tickle monsters,

patient piano lessons,

Barber's Adagio for Strings and Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra,

hiking among saguaros in the Arizona mountains,

tight hugs and approving, tear-filled words,

unconditional love.


Today is his birthday, and I want to share with you a special poem I wrote for him as a Christmas gift about 5 years ago. This is my Dad. . . .

Dad's BD


I love you with all my heart, Dad! Happy Birthday!

New Leaf Giveaway!!

Congratulations to the following winners of chocolate!!

I chose three because I just couldn't stand to do only one. (Just like I can't stand to eat only one M'n'M. :)

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(btw, Annie, do you want the "healthy kind" of chocolate? :)

I wish wish wish I could send chocolate happiness to ALL of you sweet commenters! You are all the best! The best, I tell you!

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This wonderfully flattering picture of me is proof that I used a highly scientific method in randomly selecting the winners.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Day 38 - { you }

aka "New Leaf, day 10" :)

100 days of gratitude tag

Yippee! I worked all day, and I met my goal! (Well, mostly. I'll 'splain in a little bit. . . )

The biggest success is that the System is now in place, and now when I get a paper that needs to be saved, it will have a home to go to!

So now the Paper Monster is conquered, and I can maintain it by just spending a little time each day or each week. That feels SO GOOD.





I never would have done it without YOU, though!

It's true.

This paper problem had been steadily getting worse and not better for years. I spent time regularly maintaining spots that were in the open, so that it wouldn't be too embarrassing, but I was running out of space to stash.

I needed Accountability in order to make myself go through those huge stashes. And YOU provided that! Not to mention that you provided it so sweetly and graciously. Thank you, each of you, so much! Every comment you made helped me and encouraged me.




There was so much room left in that top drawer that I was able to use the space for extra office supplies that had been sitting { ahem } in a Target bag on the garage floor. Yay! Much better!

Today after school. . . .


Fire just seemed easier (and more fun) than the shredder. :)

So the things that weren't QUITE finished, like organizing the totes and also some of the memorabilia stuff in our bottom file cabinet drawer, will be done with the person it concerns (for example, Exacto and I will organize his tote during one of his Super Kid dates). I think it will be really fun to do it together. So many fun memories come back when you're going through things like that. And that way I won't end up throwing away something that's really precious to someone else.


Some more great tips from your comments this week. . . .

“New Leaf, day 6”

Becky - Also, we have a file system idea (unfortunately not quite in practice yet, but we have only been here for a year and a half) to keep things together in our filing cabinet, then keep individual files (monthly utility bills, receipts, medical claims :(, etc.) by year in a banker's box. It will really help if we're ever audited. This probably doesn't make much sense, so call me if it strikes a note (esp. if it's in a major key).

Yes, this is a great idea! We actually do this for tax records, bank statements, and medical insurance stuff. There is a very helpful website  through the Univeristy of Illinois Extension that helped me decide what to keep and for how long. (Here's the link.) Someday I hope to burn our box. :)

"The Great Paper Purge of '09 - New Leaf, day 8"

terry burchfield - hey michelle, i keep a big binder that holds all my important mother info. i keep it close by and always know where it is. i use dividers and either hole punch or use sheet protectors for my papers. i have it divided into sections such as school, where i keep class schedules, contact info, etc. i have a section for each child where i keep sports schedules, schoo info pertinant to just that child, even their clothes & shoe sizes (i do this for hubby too). i have a section marked important at the very front where i keep contact numbers (anything i don't want to have to hunt the phone book down for). i have one for church where i keep lesson schedules and visiting teaching info. i love it b/c i don't have to think about where i put some paper when i need it!

This is brilliant, I tell you! Brilliant!

“New Leaf – day {gulp } 9”

Cindy - You can do it! Having a plan helps so much. My kids try to race sometimes when they have a dreary job that seems to go on and on. Maybe you can set a timer for each task and see if you can do it in time, that way it seems more manageable. I would love to hear you all play together...I miss that! Maybe you can post a video sometime for those of us who don't get to hear you and Chris play anymore :-(
I also definitely recommend a little chocolate to reward yourself for your hard work ;-) I'll be thinking of you!

Becky - Wake up and have a full breakfast, then line up some chocolate treats (that you hopefully have onhand, if I know you well enough :) to enjoy at each hour/couple of hours. Take a break when you need to, but remember to get back to things, too.
Call me if you feel lazy. You can do it!!

Chocolate makes everything easier (well, except losing weight, I suppose). And speaking of chocolate:

**Comments for the Great Chocolate Giveaway will close at midnight tonight! I'll have the boys help me draw the winner(s) tomorrow.**


When I told DC that I really wanted to post this tonight because I didn't want to keep you waiting, he said, "Oh, yes. I am amazed at how many nice comments you have gotten!"

I am amazed, too.

And grateful. :)