Butterfly Kisses

Dearest Boo,  I have always loved this song.  It always reminds me of the time that you were little and my beliefs on parenting.  Parenting is the hardest job in the world.  The hours are long, the responsibilities are huge, a 24/7 job with no salary, vacations, or weekends off. There is no sick time off either. It requires a ton of patience, practice and thick skin.  Parents shoulder the responsibilities, put in the time and care, the blood, sweat and tears and hope for the best.  We don’t know until our children are in the mid-twenties if we’ve done a good job or not.  However, the rewards more than surpass the demands.  Bringing up our little treasures is by far one of the most difficult yet pleasurable tasks that there is in life.

As a parent you must respect your child’s mother/father. Even if you are divorced, put the battle-axes down and respect her/him – especially in front of your children. Your children will mimic your behavior both now and later in their adult lives. The way you treat your child’s mother /father will influence the way the child will view his/her role when he/she becomes a parent. Make parenting as much a partnership as possible.

Introduce your spirituality into the lives of your children. This begins, for most, with bedtime prayers and a prayer before meals but it is at its best when it goes beyond those moments and incorporates life lessons. Life lessons are, for example, those times when your child’s team doesn’t win the big game – you should comment upon how winning isn’t everything and that fun, teamwork and participation are the key reasons to compete. Another way would be to talk about life and death in context of God’s love and place for us in Heaven. Living by example is the most meaningful spiritual lesson you’ll ever give to your children.

You never know when you’re making a memory. Some parents miss chances to spend time with their child because they are workaholics or would rather be on the golf course, shopping, etc. Once these chances are gone, they are gone forever and the memory that may have been created, is lost forever. Establish the intimacy of closeness with your children while they are young because it’s next to impossible to do it later in life. Creating memories is the main ingredient for providing meaning to your child’s life.

Both parents are of great influences in a life of their child. They have a strong affect on their child whether they never spend one day with them or whether they are present every day of their lives. A father forever affects his child’s picture of a man and of a provider, while the mother affects her child’s picture of a woman, a nurturer, and a provider. Many little boys grow up and want to be just like their father. Many girls grow up and want to marry someone just like their father.  Many boys grow up to want to marry someone like their mother.  And many girls grow up and want to be just like their mother.

Another way to become a great parent is to verbally affirm and praise your child. A child’s confidence and security can be built up greatly with kind words from a father or mother. Consider the power of your words and the affect that one negative or positive comment can have on your child. For most children it is the negative comments they will remember, so look for ways to cut out negative comments or criticism. Let your child grow up with nothing but praise and loving words from their parent.  There will be times that your child will need to hear criticism from you, their parent.  The goal of proper criticism is to get your message across to your child. That means you have to have a message. If you don’t have an idea you are trying to convey, then all you are doing by criticizing your child is venting your own anger and frustration. You will do nothing positive for your child, and your child will not change his behavior in the future.  Remember, your goal with criticism is to educate, not to punish or embarrass or to seek revenge against the child. When you criticize you must have something you are trying to teach.

Make sure you do it with the understanding that it is the behavior, not the child, that is upsetting.  It has to be clear to your child that it is the behavior that upsets you, not him.  Be a parent not a buddy/friend to your children. Of course, you are a friend to them, but ultimately you are their parent. Children need moral and ethical guidance and instruction from their parents. They don’t need to figure it out alone. This results in disaster.  Encourage your children when they are doing well. Often as parents we see the negative; therefore, we must also make sure to praise them when they do well.

Have fun and show affection. Parenthood is a monumental responsibility but it is also a role in which having fun provides meaningful moments.  Having fun with your child shows them that you enjoy being their parent. They will forever remember this lesson.   Some parents are not naturally inclined to be openly affectionate and they struggle to communicate their love for their children. Hugging children is easy and it is among the most meaningful expressions of love you can give. Hug your kids. And whisper “I love you” as you do. The power of this simple act cannot be over stated.

And I found that the best way to have fun and show affection at the same time was with Butterfly Kisses.  These are so fun and easy to do – and bonus is the amazing look of total joy on your child’s face and their delightful laugh.  A Butterfly Kiss is administered thusly:

1. Get your eyelashes up against your child’s bare skin, so close that when you blink, your eyelashes caress their skin.
2. Open and close your eyes rapidly. Each time your eyelashes brush the other person’s skin, it is one Butterfly Kiss.

Butterfly Kisses can be on their sweet, sweet little cheek or on their roly poly little belly.  Either place you are able to suck in that sweet, sweet baby smell.  Is there anything better than that smell?  What is this smell, you may ask.  No, it’s not the smell of spit up, or dirty diapers, or drool.  It’s a smell that exists right on the outer limits of our perception, indescribable yet real, a sensation we respond to emotionally almost despite ourselves.  It’s a smell that makes you wonder if you should cuddle them or devour them for your next meal.  It is a yummy, delicious smell.  And science tells us that it is real.  In Sweden, a team of scientists has uncovered a distinct new-baby smell that may act as a pheromone to reinforce the sensation that babies are cute and adorable. What’s more, men seem to be more attuned to this smell than women.  Baby Love…………..

These cookies, with the X and O design, are the signs of love.  Hugs and Kisses.  And they are “baby” sized.  Perfect for your own sweet, precious Valentine.  Happy Valentine’s Day, Boo.  Joy Rising!

Hugs  and  Kisses  Cookies

Prep Time:               4 hours (this includes 2 hours chill time in fridge, bake time and decorating time)

Bake Time:               12-14 minutes   at 375 degrees

Source:                      www.thedecoratedcookie.com

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 c powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 1/2 c all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Cream butter and sugar together in mixer.
  2. Add egg and blend well.
  3. Add extracts and blend.
  4. Mix flour and salt together.  Gradually add to butter/sugar mixture.
  5. Chill dough for about two hours.
  6. Remove from fridge, roll out to about 1/3″ thickness and cut with cookie cutter.
  7. Bake cookies on baking tray until slightly brown on edges.
  8. Cool completely on wire rack.
  9. Make frosting.

This frosting is similar to royal icing, but the Crisco and flavorings make it taste delicious.  It will dry hard enough to handle and pack when left overnight to dry, but not rock hard like traditional royal icing.  To know if it is the correct consistency, take a spoonful and turn it over in the bowl.  The frosting should cling to the spoon and slowly fall back into the bowl.

Frosting

Prep Time:           10-12 minutes

Bake Time:           0 minutes

Source:                 www.thedecoratedcookie.com

Ingredients:

  • 4 T meringue powder (available at many supermarkets and in most craft stores)
  • 1/2 c water
  • 6-7 c powdered sugar (may need more or less depending on humidity)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/4 c Crisco

Directions:

  1. Place meringue powder and water into mixing bowl and whip on high speed until it’s fluffy and peaks form (may take as long as 10 minutes).
  2. Gradually add the rest of the ingredients to desired consistency.
  3. Tint the frosting, if desired.
  4. Decorate the cookies.

Remaining frosting can be stored at room temperature in a sealed container for up to one month.

Insanity is the Mother of Invention

When dawn broke, they started to wander about the forest, seeking a path, but all hope soon faded. They were well and truly lost. On they walked and walked, till suddenly they came upon a strange cottage in the middle of a glade.

“This is chocolate!” gasped Hansel as he broke a lump of plaster from the wall.

“And this is icing!” exclaimed Gretel, putting another piece of wall in her mouth. Starving but delighted, the children began to eat pieces of candy broken off the cottage.

“Isn’t this delicious?” said Gretel, with her mouth full. She had never tasted anything so nice.
Clearly Hansel and Gretel had never been to our home the day after Thanksgiving!

Dearest Boo,  when you were in kindergarten we started a tradition that lasted until you went to high school.  A story you enjoyed was “Hansel and Gretel”, so I had the brilliant (?) idea of making a gingerbread house.  We had so much fun going to all the different stores in town looking for all kinds of candies to put on our “house”.  You were able to invite one friend to help us decorate.  The first year you invited Derrick.  Derrick and his family were one of my most favorite of people we knew.  His parents and I were church youth leaders until your senior year of high school.  We chaperoned so many of your church trips/activities.  You and I  just loved this family.

One memory that pops instantly into my mind took place at Derrick’s graduation party.  It is the memory of you and their uncle having a meatball eating contest.  Child, I don’t think that there were any meatballs left for the rest of the guests to eat!  The eating contest results carried over into the next day, as we flew to Tulsa to help look for an apartment for me to live in while I was working there for the next year.  You were not a happy camper.

I am pretty sure if Norman Rockwell were to come back alive and wanted to paint the All American family he would pick that family.  We were all such better people for knowing them and having them in our lives.  LeAnne and Dave had the most perfect marriage; one that I so envied.  I so miss her bright, shiny smile, her cheerful attitude and her willingness to serve our God.  My wish is that some day you will find that kind of marriage.

Anyway, back to the gingerbread house.  Before Derrick came over we baked the gingerbread house, made the frosting, and laid out all the candies.  Once Derrick got there we set about to build the house.  Try as best I could I could not get the house to stay together.  I would frost the edges and hold them together until they would appear to be sticking together.  Once I took away my hands the sides would all come tumbling down.  Bless your hearts.  We would all work together to hold up the house frame, thinking that it just needed more even pressure to be a bit more stable.  Before you could say “huff and puff and blow your house down” that was exactly what happened.  We just had a pile of gingerbread covered with a ton of frosting.  I was beside myself, as I just could not disappoint the two of you.  Both of you were so looking forward to decorating the house.  What was a Mother to do???  Now, this is the point that Insanity became the Mother of my Invention.  I ran to get my “silver bullet”, my never fail answer to everything wrong.  I got my trusty hot glue gun!  Yes, I know that it was a bit drastic, but I needed that gosh darn house to hold together.  We had such a fun afternoon gluing and sticking on the candies.   It was during the next year that I discovered the little fact that I was not supposed to use buttercream frosting; I needed to use Royal Icing.  For the next ten years we used Royal Icing, I promise, and the houses/decorations were perfect.  I had no worries or illusions about our first house.  I never figured that anyone would eat it; we made it strictly for decoration.

We held our yearly party for families on New Year’s Eve.  For us holidays were about family and as you grew older we wanted to you see that you did not have to drink to have a good time.  Getting together with friends was not about the food and beverages you served.  You don’t need alcohol to get high; you can get high on life by surrounding yourself with people that were dear to you.  And we did have a wonderful time that year, too .  That is until that year when two of the young girls came upstairs chewing on some peppermint sticks.  My heart fell into my stomach as I realized that the only place that we had peppermint sticks was on the gingerbread house.  The house that had candy hot glued to the surface.  I raced over to the girls, ripped the candy from their little hands and flew down to the dinning room faster than a five year old Christmas morning!  What an idiot I was to have the gingerbread house on the buffet table!  Of course any normal person would assume that it was safe to eat.  Who in their right mind would ever use glue to hold it together?  I quickly scooped up the house and moved it to a safe spot.  Kind of like being in the witness protection program.  It looked the same, but it was in a place that no one could or would find it ever again.

Although I knew about Royal Icing and it’s power for gingerbread houses, I never tried it on cookies.  Why my mind never made the connection will forever be one of the great mysteries of the world.  This year I took the leap and used Royal Icing on my sugar cookies.  For a first time I would say that I was pleasantly pleased with the results.  Could they be better – of course.  It is true, practice will make better.  Check back for Valentine’s Day.  Joy Rising!

Vanilla-Almond Sugar Cookies

Prep time:  15 minutes

Bake time:  10-12 minutes

Oven temp:  350 degrees

Ingredients:

  • 3 c unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 c sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp pure almond extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine the flour and baking powder, set aside.
  3. Cream the sugar and butter in mixer; add egg and extracts mixing thoroughly.
  4. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until just combined, scraping down the bowl to be sure everything is mixed together.
  5. Roll onto a lightly floured surface to desired thickness and cut into shapes.
  6. Place on parchment lined cookie sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes.
  7. Let sit a few minutes on the sheet, and then transfer to a cooling rack.
  8. Frost cookies as desired with your favorite frosting  (I used Royal Icing).

That Wascally Wabbit

My Dearest, Boo.

One of the many things that I am so proud of you is your love of reading.  Since you were a wee tiny baby I have always enjoyed sharing my love of books and reading with you.  We would read together books that would eventually become the books we would read over and over again.  Some of your favorite were “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”,  “Stone Soup”,  “High Rise Glorious Skittle Skat Rourious Sky Pie Angle Food Cake”,  “Pancakes, Pancakes, Pancakes”,  “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”,  “Green Eggs and Ham”,  and “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe”.  It was fun, as we would then take to the kitchen to make something that went with the theme of the book.  Those I wrote down in your very own cookbook that I entitled “To Stir With Love”.  All too soon you graduated to the books on tape for children.  You so loved “reading” along with the tape and the joy on your face was a sight to behold.   Soon you were the one writing the stories and you granted me the privilege of reading some of them.  I believe that it was, in part, all the reading you did when you were young that helped foster your love of writing.

To remember the sound of your laughter of joy while we read together can still bring a tear to my eye.  Chuck Jones is a man you may never have heard about by name, but I do know that you know his work.  Mr. Jones is regarded as the creative drive behind the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melody characters of Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck, Tweety Bird, Porky the Pig, Wile E. Coyote, and the Road Runner.  He, too, believes that the voracious reading he did when he was young was the wellspring of the creative inspiration he brought to all his characters.  And that laughter springs out of us and out into the world, joining us to the rest of the world.  Reading is good; reading is essential to our souls.

One book that I was never successful to find something that you would eat as a theme was the Beatrix Potter book  “Peter Rabbit’s Giant Storybook”.  The main idea of the book was the many ways that Peter Rabbit was able to outwit Mr. McGregor and feast on the vegetables in his garden.  You weren’t a vegetable eater when you were young and things have not changed much since that time.  I would still have trouble finding a dish to go along with that theme.  Sorry, Boo, but broccoli with cheese sauce does not count, as your helping would only have three or four broccoli spears and a plate of cheese sauce!

Your Aunt Rose one Christmas wanted to give you a special, unique gift and knew of your love of talking books.  She purchased “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” and set down with a bell and her tape recorder.  She was so excited for you to have this gift!  And you could not wait to find our tape recorder and start “reading”.  We got a blanket and cuddled up on the sofa for our “reading” time.  I cannot remember the exact wording of the book, something about Peter and an ejection to get out of the garden and away from Mr. McGregor.  God love your Aunt Rose!  As we were listening to the tape what she read was the Peter had an erection!!  Gracious!  Did you ever think that Peter Rabbit would be an X-Rated book??!!!  It was all I could do to calm down my laughter long enough to call her on the phone and give her grief about her tongue twisting.  And here we are, twenty-five years later, and I am still giving that sainted woman grief!!

Your Aunt Rose is a very special woman.  She is the one that anyone can turn to for help and she will be the first one to lend you a hand.  She will be the first one on your doorstep when trouble comes knocking and she will give you the shirt off her back if that is what you need.  This is a quality that she embraced from your Grandpa Riley.  He, too, had a heart as big as the outdoors.  Aunt Rose always has a giant smile on her face and, just like Grandpa Riley, a tremendous love of her family.

I find myself thinking a lot about my Dad today, as we celebrated our Family Christmas.  Wishing he was here to celebrate with us.  I know that he would be so proud of all of us and how we are able to have fun together; to enjoy one another; to value one another.  And, especially, that we did listen to him and now believe and understand his constant telling us that we need to stick together; we need to be there for one another.  Family is all that matters.  He would be sitting in a big, comfortable chair, drinking a hot coffee, watching all of us and having a giant smile on his face.  You could just look at him and know………..Joy Rising!

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Rolo Turtles

Ingredients:

  • 1 package small waffle shaped pretzels
  • 1  13-oz package rolo candies  (or rolls of candies, about 60 total)
  • 1 package m&m candies

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees
  2. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and place pretzels individually to form one layer
  3. Place one Rolo candy on top of each pretzel
  4. Bake for 4 minutes or until candies soften
  5. Immediately remove from the oven and quickly place on three m&m candies, pushing down to “squish” the rolo candy
  6. Cool for about 20 minutes, then place uncovered in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to set.
  7. Transfer to a decorative plate and enjoy!