Thursday, June 29, 2017

Summer "break"

I apologize for the long blogging absence. Summer 'break' has gotten the best of me. So much to do, so little time! 

As I do every year, I have logged off all social media (buh-bye Facebook) for the time being. Once the new school year is well under way sometime in September, I will get back on. For now, my full attention is on the kids that keep me busy from sun-up until long after sun-down.


 Stephen and Boaz fresh out of bed, reading a book together.


Arizona does not observe Daylight Saving Time. This time of year, that means the sun is up around 5 a.m. I love it! I have been getting up around that time each day without ever needing an alarm. Unfortunately - or fortunately - the kids are also early risers and get up not long after me, giving me only a little time alone each day. They know to be silent until the last of them is up, which is good. The big kids read their Bibles and then go about their day. The little kids have picked up on this habit and grab a book the minute they get up. Stephen is sitting next to me right now looking at a book. He is 4 and just starting to learn to read.


Having older kids with (summer) jobs is a whole new animal! Solomon is the oldest at 15; a senior this coming school year with only a half load to finish out his diploma with tons of extra credit hours. He goes to work 4 days a week for Paul Wittenberger, the documentary maker in our church. Isaac and John put in a few hours each week for a plumber in our church, putting fliers on doors in local neighborhoods. They have loved the independence and experience. With summer temps being unbearable, they typically start very early on the days they are working so they can get a couple of hours in before mid-morning. All three boys have bus passes and often take themselves out to eat in the evenings. It's an interesting experience having older kids. Different, but not easier. It's like I have taken on three additional husbands, all of which are more demanding of my time than my actual husband. "Did you send my schedule? I can't find my clothes. I'm running late - can you take me? I need xyz for my lunches. Did you deposit my paycheck?" and on and on.


We call these two, "the turkeys." I don't know where that came from, but it stuck. It's hard to imagine they will be teens in just ten more years. I'm enjoying the hugs, kisses, and marriage proposals while they last.


My husband and I have been sharing 'my' laptop after Stephen accidentally belly-flopped onto his Mac Book on the guest bed in the office and destroyed its screen. It can be repaired, but it's a hefty price tag, so we are holding off. I would have had a heart attack had I been the one witnessing it, but my husband never even raised his voice. "It's just stuff." Yes, expensive stuff - but he's right. Anyhow, not having a laptop means I can only use the desktop computer which is in the office while my husband is at work. Which means my back is to the whole rest of the house while I'm on there. With nine kids, that's just a recipe for disaster. Who knows what else they might belly-flop onto (or set on fire or accidentally saw in half). I'm hoping to finish off two dozen partial blog posts in quick succession once we are no longer sharing one device.



Aren't they the cutest?

Well, it's time to get breakfast underway. I am making baked apples in puff pastry. Rough life! :)

Friday, May 12, 2017

Boaz' 3rd Birthday

Boaz turned three last Saturday. He is the sweetest little boy - always happy and good natured, with a huge big tender heart. He has brought our entire family so much joy in his short life so far.



The day before his birthday, as we usually do, we went to put flowers on his twin brother's grave site in memory of their birthday. This is the only time every year we go there. Afterward, we always go peach picking at a local u-pick orchard that has been a family favorite of ours for many years. They also have a playground, train, petting zoo, and many other wonderful activities that give an upbeat ending to the outing. I am hoping it is the right amount of keeping the memory alive rather than making it seem like a taboo subject, without forcing him to think about something he might never feel strongly about.


This was the first year that Boaz grasped the concept of having had a twin brother, death, and heaven. He is starting to ask questions but is usually very upbeat as he does so.

I let him pick the flowers and three balloons. A lady at the store thought he was so cute she bought him another one and wished him Happy Birthday :)

Boaz got more somber once we got to the cemetery, but he was thrilled to discover that there is a little teddy bear on the headstone. He really likes bears these days since hearing the book "The Bears on Hemlock Mountain" about a dozen or more times. He likes to call us 'Mother Bear' and 'Father Bear' often, which is our cue to refer to him only as 'Little Bear'. It's very cute.





He kept saying, "I feel so bad for Jachin. I feel so bad for Jachin." I told him Heaven was a far better place, and that Jachin was much happier to be there watching over him. I am comforted to know Boaz thinks life in our family is so much fun that he doesn't want his brother missing out on it. 



Maybe you have wondered what it is like to only have one surviving twin. I can only speak to my own experience. The closest thing I can compare it to is what I imagine it would be like to lose one eye. I can still see with one eye, it is not near as bad as losing both eyes, not even half as bad - but I am always, always aware that I only have one left. I am thankful the boys are identical so I never have to wonder what Jachin would have looked like at any given age. Most of all, I am thankful not only for the promise of Heaven and one day seeing them both side by side, alive and well, but also for the peace of God in this life. I have seen other moms in twin loss groups online, and have had to leave them because it was too sad to see them struggle so. It is easy to guess which of the grieving moms know the Saviour, and which ones don't. Those who don't are consumed more and more by their grief and the eternal question, "Why?" I am plagued by neither. I have my precious Boaz, and the knowledge that this life will pass in the blink of an eye and we shall meet again.



Boaz had fun releasing the balloons and 'sending them to heaven for Jachin.' In all, it was a happy and memorable morning.






The next day was Boaz' actual birthday. He slept in, and was still a little too tired for pictures when he first got up.



Pretty soon, he was his chipper self and ready to open presents. I took a picture of him with each sibling and the gift they gave him. He is a very loved little boy!













For breakfast, Boaz had asked for birthday cake, and even though I had balked at the thought I of course obliged. You can find the recipe here.



The little kids had fun playing with the tent that was one of his gifts from us parents.



This past week, we have been blessed with incredibly beautiful, cool, and even rainy weather that is unheard of in our area this time of year. The kids have had many hours of playing outdoors in their tent pretending to be anything from Indians to Egyptian pharaohs.  

The next birthday is Chloe's first birthday less than a week away, next Thursday. She is accompanying us parents on a trip to Maine for a soulwinning marathon that Friday. Miriam is coming along for an extra set of helping hands, and because with a family our size, we like to single out one or two each time to bring on out-of-town trips. The kids are hurrying up to finish their school books early (I once again offered a $5 bonus for each week they finish up earlier than planned) so we are just about to move on to summer with its relaxed schedule, extra activities, and ice cream. I am so thankful for God's countless blessings in our lives.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Recipe for German Lemonade Cake

This cake has been a family favorite for at least four generations. It was the traditional birthday cake we had growing up, and it is what I make for my own kids now.

When I say 'Lemonade Cake' it really should more accurately be called 'Orangeade Cake,' but that just doesn't have the same nice ring to it. 

You see, in German, 'Limonade' means any type of soda. Most sodas are made from fruit juice plus carbonated water, and orange juice is the most common choice among those. The closest thing I can compare it to is Pellegrino orange or blood orange soda. In fact, both are great choices for this cake. 




Then there is the chocolate frosting. There is no way to accurately describe this frosting without doing it injustice. It is, at its core, the most delectable frosting in the universe. Period. The magic in transforming its simple ingredients into perfection is to follow the directions exactly, or it will not whip up smooth and creamy but clumpy and flat. Easy directions, but they must be followed to a T. 

Also, to warn American sensibilities, the frosting contains an egg. A raw egg. You may think it is only by the grace of God and many miracles that after hundreds of instances of my grandma, her six kids and all their descendants, and now myself and my family eating this cake we have not ever fallen ill or died from eating it, but it's true. I lived to tell about it! Raw eggs are not inherently dangerous! Chickens that live in squalid unnatural conditions might fall sick with E. coli, which could end up on the outside of the egg, which could end up in your frosting and go downhill from there, but rather than rejecting the raw egg, just buy from a reputable source of pasture-fed chickens. Or choose a pasteurized egg (only in America, lol!). Or take your life into your own hands and use a regular ol' cheap egg. The chances of getting sick from it are near zero because all eggs in stores are washed, washed, and washed again. You could even give it one more rinse yourself before using it. 

Who knew a recipe could get this political just in the intro??!? Without further ado, here is the recipe:




German Lemonade Cake

Ingredients

For the cake:
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup sunflower oil or melted butter
3 eggs
2 1/4 cups flour
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 cup (blood) orange soda or orange juice mixed 50:50 with carbonated water

For the frosting: 
2 sticks + 2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 eggs


Directions

For the cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10x13 baking dish.

2. Mix together eggs and sugar. While the mixer is running, add the oil/melted butter and vanilla. Turn the mixer off, dump the flour and baking powder into the bowl, and slowly start mixing again while pouring the soda into the cake batter. Turn mixer off as soon as the batter is well combined. 

3. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes until the edges are turning golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

4. Completely cool cake in the pan before frosting.

For the frosting: 

1. Melt the butter completely and pour into a small bowl. Allow to cool down to room temperature or a little warmer. This is critical! The recipe will not work with just softened butter - the butter has to be melted and warm, but not hot (that would make the egg curdle).

2. Add powdered sugar and cocoa to the bowl, and beat with electric egg beaters or an immersion (stick) blender until well combined. 

3. Add eggs to frosting and continue to beat. You will see the frosting become smooth and creamy immediately. 

To finish:

1. Frost the cooled cake while the frosting is still soft. 

2. Add colored sprinkles (we love these).

3. Enjoy! The cake tastes best at room temperature. If you have to store it for an extended period of time, do so tightly covered in the fridge, but allow the cake to come to room temperature again before serving.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Mama Bear bragging

I know other moms think their babies are cute, and that's ok. The difference with me is that my kids really are the cutest...  ;)



 


I sure struck a winning combo between my husband's gene pool and mine!


 Miriam staged and took this artsy shot of Becca. I think she has a talent for photography.



Please don't mind my shameless picture overload of my beautiful baby girl, sweet little Chloe Pearl.



She finally sprouted her first two teeth!






What's that old saying? "There is only one cute baby in the world, and every mother has it." True dat!



Chloe looks like my grandma is this one 





See what I mean? That right there is the cutest baby ever - right up there with my eight other babies!