One small step…

My four year old emulates his daddy in almost every way. They look alike, laugh similarly, love to make others laugh, jump into the spotlight, and both are fastidious about bathing.

True.

My four year old stops playing if his hands get muddy, dirty, or just too messy.

Given all of these sweet mini-me facts, it was not a huge surprise that a recent gift of a mock shaving kit was a huge gargantuan hit!

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A great gift for this age, you can find it online at most major retailers but in case you don’t know what to search, check out a kit here.

Two things did surprise me about his first shaving experience. First, how my oldest instinctively knew how to shave.

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Check him out here pushing out his chin to get a close shave.

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And here cleaning up stray hairs. No harm in dreaming big!

Shockingly tears sprang immediately to my eyes, I was surprised by this little boy. Not a baby, not a toddler, but one more step ahead… a little boy.

What a bittersweet moment to watch.

Glorious and grateful, my heart swelled with pride but the manifestation of emerging manhood was hard to ignore and zip lined me straight to when he is moving out of our house and moving on towards independence.

Too much?
Yes.

I look again and he is back to a silly kid who loves his mama – and really just about anyone who crosses his path.

Then I say familiar jumbled prayer in my head: Thank you. Thank you for him and every other miracle. Please help me remember to act with love for this treasure. Help me to let go gracefully and help him want to hang on. Time is too short. Thank you for today. Thank you for now. Thank you.


Merry Christmas

Today we stripped the house of all it’s Christmas glory. Hubby and I hosted a friends and family party yesterday that delighted our hearts and put smiles deep into our souls. Feeling and seeing love was a great way to kick off the new year. As a secondary benefit, the party was a great excuse to leave much of the holiday embellishments in place a bit longer.

Taking decorations down today was a reminder of the memories we made. So, even though the calendar has moved beyond Christmas, it’s deserving of one more look.

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Searching for God During Advent

Hubby and I have started attending church. It’s an up in your face, unapologetic, love Jesus, love your neighbor kind of church. It speaks to us and came into our lives at a time when we needed it and more importantly wanted to explore faith for ourselves and our sons.

The lead preacher is great but hands down, the best part is the music. Every week we are nearly overcome with emotion but the last two weeks I have sang with tears of joy literally streaming down my face. It’s up there as one of my most moving experiences to date.

This desire to find God, Jesus, and connect with others led us into the Advent season with full hearts. Every week our family chose a service project to help others, notably: Operation Christmas Child – our boxes went to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Christmas presents for kids at a local homeless shelter, and it culminated Christmas Eve when the kids gathered two trash bags full of toys for Santa to take and give to other kids – definitely is a new family tradition.

Teaching kids to give is a goal of our parenting. We hope to instill a love for self, family, community, country, and humanity in their hearts but really we are learning parenting on the fly decision-by-decision. Every cliche saying has come true in our lives. It really is the hardest thing we’ve ever done but also the most rewarding.

So, to have found a church-home, to have an outlet to give to others, to have a method to teach our boys, to have a place to help us connect and learn how to better ourselves and our parenting, and to have the Advent season all wrapped up at the same time has been an amazing blessing. Overwhelming and indescribable.


In Love with Ducks and the Peabody

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Years ago I worked in a building that had an elaborate pond nearby. It, in fact, was two ponds connected by a beautiful meandering stream. The stream was idyllic… Smooth stones and moss lining the banks, shade trees, sitting benches, not to mention it was wide and shallow. A perfect place to lunch.

This storybook location was also appreciated by a large brace of ducks. During spring they populated the entire space, sleeping, playing, swimming, teaching their young, and RUNNING! If you’ve ever seen a duck run then my excitement will (hopefully ??) not be lost on you. Ducks have a precarious body weight distribution. When they run their whole body is thrust into the motion and every part participates in the swaying and lurching. It’s charming and nerve racking at the same time but never fails to delight.

All that said, Memphis has one of the US’ oldest hotels, the Peabody. A long-standing tradition within the hotel is the care and parading of five mallards into its lobby every day. Read all about the hotels ducks and their history here.

Traveling recently, I had the lucky occasion to stay at the Peabody and revel in its beauty, history, and duck culture. The hotel decorates to the nines for the holidays. I’ll post later about the hotel’s gingerbread village based on Dr. Seuss’ Whoville. It was amazing.

Arriving late, the live ducks were already retired for the day, nestled into their penthouse retreat, but there were loads of other things to entertain – enough to impress Donald Duck himself.

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After a full day visitors can sink into their luxurious lobby and choose a decadent treat from the dessert cart. Their premier desert? Chocolate molded duck of course.

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The hotel fountain where the ducks swim daily. No feeding the ducks please!

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A beautiful old brass mailbox still in active use today.

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Gorgeous gates to Chez Philippe, the Peabody’s distinguished, award-winning restaurant.

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Diners would sit just beyond this frosted glass. Can’t you just imagine this back in the roaring twenties? It’s easy to picture Nucky Thompson dining here with an entourage if he drove through Memphis on his way down south.

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Ducks aren’t the only animal in the hotels lobby. These sentinels guard a side entrance.

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Headed up. What’s up with my forehead? Sheesh.

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Look down… marble inlay on the elevator floor.

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A door knocker. Just in case the Girl Scouts come calling. I do love Samoas (don’t trust me alone with a box).

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Soothing colors, looks like a quiet retreat. Just the place to rest but where are the ducks?

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A trio of quackers where visitors lay their head.

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Love this mirror. No ducks, but isn’t it pretty? Look at the delicate chandelier in the reflection.

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The last duck of my evening was this sweet little bathroom visitor.

The Peabody has so much to offer a visitor. I left feeling refreshed and rested with a new appreciation of duck-love! Quack quack!


Sweet Potato Hash Casserole

One word: Yummy!

This is a shockingly surprising dish. It’s sweet, flavorful, and keeps you coming back for more.

My 2 year old, 4 year old, hubby, and I all loved it and devoured it for lunch. That said, it’s healthy and flexible enough that you can add or change the recipe to suit whats in your pantry.

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Sweet Potato Hash Casserole

1 egg (I always buy extra large for their size)
1 can evaporated milk
8 sliced cooked bacon
4 cups shredded raw sweet potato
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 cup spinach
1 medium onion
Salt – to taste

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Start off by grating 4 cups of sweet potato. It took me two medium sized potatoes to get enough. Then dice up your onion and spinach or other veggie you plan to add.

A quick note about onions: I almost always use sweet onions no matter what the recipe calls for because everyone in my family eats them and I don’t suffer while at the cutting board. But beyond that they are plentiful, healthy and delicious – roast one up plain and give it a try, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

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Then start to layer half of the ingredients in an 8×8 square pan. Finish with the second half of ingredients in a second layer. My layers were added in this order: sweet potatoes, spinach, onion, crumbled bacon, and cheese (and repeat).

Mix the evaporated milk, salt, and egg in a bowl and pour evenly over the entire pan. Pop in the oven for 45 minutes.

Enjoy!

Who thought eating your veggies could be so delicious?

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Side note about the salt: I’ve found a lovely product from Trader Joes grocery store called garlic salt. It comes with a built in grinder and add loads of flavor to eggs and veggies. I used it in this recipe for my family but I’m sure regular salt would be just as good.


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