Finding Grace in Small Things #19

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5. Sister Snuggles

These two little ladies can fight with the best of them.  They’ve been known to hurdled some serious words at one another, pull hair and scream (just for the sake of screaming) until I’m about ready to smash their heads together.  They have an incredible ability to push me to the brink of sanity with their bickering.

Then they turn around and love on each other in the sweetest of ways.  The other night, while watching Masterchef Junior, I looked over to see this beautiful sight.  They were snuggled up together, Bethany carefully brushing hair off of Audrey’s face and my heart turned to ganache.

4. A sick support team

The girls and I went down sick this past week and a bit.  I had a fever like I haven’t had in years, as did they.  My body complained and at times I wasn’t certain I could manage to walk up the stairs let alone feed the children.

Corey was, as he always is, my rock.  He worked all day and came home to help fix food, bathe babies and pick up groceries.  He got up in the middle of the night with the kids and rubbed my back until sleep finally came.  

There are days when I like to think of myself as an invincible power house, capable of “doing it all”.  Then I get sick, the kids get sick and I get a good dose of reality – I wasn’t made to do it all.  I was given an amazing family and a wonderful husband to help me along the way.  They’re my support team and I’m so glad to have them.

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3. Nine and Seven

This month Bethany turned 9 and Audrey turned 7!  As each year passes, and I marvel at how quickly it goes by,  I am reminded of how blessed I am to have these girls.  I’m thankful for each year, I do my best not to be sad to see the previous one go, but rather relish the new one yet to come.

I love the relationships I have with my girls.  I love the cool people they are growing in to and I’m excited to see what their 9th and 7th years will hold for them, and this family.

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2. Pediatric Dentists

After months and months of working at it Audrey finally had her teeth cleaned, x-rays done and flouride applied.  I don’t have words for how long and hard it was to get to this point.

She was afraid, completely terrified of the dentist and up until recently refused to open her mouth.  Audrey’s been through a lot in her 7 years and while she’s an amazing rockstar with all the doctors and nurses she sees, the dentist was a different story.

We’ve worked hard with our pediatric dentist and all the trips, tears and patience paid off.  

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1. The end of “Birthday” month

January is loaded with birthdays.  In our family alone there are 13 we celebrate this month.  We also have a bunch of great friends who also have their birthdays this month.  

It makes January a busy and very tiresome month.  I spend weeks (literally weeks) preparing birthday dinners, birthday cakes, throwing parties and having family meals.  There are birthday gifts to buy and to wrap, people to make feel special and planning to fit it all in.  It is the craziest month of the year for me and when January 31 arrives I am so glad.  

Being sick made this January particularly intense and I must say, I’m going to be unbelievably thankful to say hello to February.

I want to “Be the Change” but I don’t know how

Be the

Ok friends, I need your help.  I have a conundrum, a problem if you will and I want to do something about it.  However, I don’t have a blasted idea on how to go about making that happen.

You hear everywhere that we are supposed to “Be the change” we want to see in the world.  And while that’s all pretty & nice and everything, it’s kind of an empty platitude if just simply living said change, doesn’t do a bloody thing to help anyone else.  Or worse yet, if that change won’t happen just simply by behaving differently in your own life.

I want to change a law.  More specifically, I want to have a law put in place that requires drug companies to be transparent about their ingredient and list (at minimum) the top allergens in their medication.

Currently drug companies aren’t required to divulge if their medications (both OTC and RX) contain gluten, soy, etc.  There are no “Contains” labels or even “May Contain” ones on medications.  They don’t have to tell us if there is a chance that the medicines we need to gain health, to control symptoms to relieve pain could cause us physical damage, more pain and in some cases, life threatening results.  

They basically have to tell us diddly squat about what’s in the “magic pills” we take to make ourselves better.  Sure the labels list the ingredients but some of those things are derived from all sorts of sources, including those of high allergen base.  It’s also hard to research the source of those ingredients online because we often don’t know their supplier.   And to top it off, while you can call the manufacturer, it can take sometimes days to get an answer back as to a medications ingredients/safety, leaving the affected person in a really bad place – take them & hope they’re safe, or wait & risk getting more ill.

It scares me.  Not just for Audrey with her Celiac but for the kids we know who have severe food allergies, and selfishly for me with my corn allergy (see sidebar).

Side Bar: So corn is NOT on the top allergen list, but I’m holding out hope that one day it will be.  I have yet to find a pill form of antibiotic that I can take and it’s scary.  I either take it orally and suffer to the point of almost not being able to stand up straight or I go for IV medications.  Neither of which are useful and/or viable options.  

I’m willing to do something to change it, I just don’t know what.

How does one go about lobbying for this kind of change?  Where do you start?  Who can help?  How much money does it cost?  What else do I need to know?

I realize it’s not a cut and dry sort of situation, and I certainly don’t have all the details ironed out of what we even need, but I do believe we NEED a change.  I do my best to live authentically and to tell people exactly what’s in the food I make.  Which is all good but my own personal transparency isn’t going to do a thing for this cause.

So…I’m reaching out to you.  To the internet.  To my friends.  To your friends.  To the world and asking for help – how do we make a change?   More importantly, who wants to make the change with me!

Please comment below if you have any suggestions or feel free to comment on our Facebook page or email me at admin@ourfamilystone.org.   If you’re so inclined I’d also appreciate a share of this post.  You never know, who knows whom and what banding together can do!

We do need to Be the Change we want to see in the world, even if that “being” means, being persistent enough to fight for what is right!

Thankful for Celiac Disease

Audrey 2015

February 10 2015 is a day I will never forget.  That phone call a permanent recording in my memory bank.  I cried harder that day than I have cried in my life.  My body physically hurt from the sobs, my stomach turned with nausea and my mind spun with all of the “couldn’t eat, couldn’t do, never will again”‘s.  It was the day that Audrey was diagnosed with Celiac disease.

It was a pivotal day for not only Audrey & our family but for me and my faith.

For the first time in my life I felt like God had let me down.  I knew that He had answered my prayers, and I knew that He cared, but in the days that followed, I struggled to understand.  I couldn’t understand how He could have answered my desperate prayers with Celiac disease.  Selfishly, how had He let Celiac disease happen to me, as a mother.

I wish I could go back and wrap my arms around that me.  I’d tell that broken mama what I’ve learned about Celiac disease, about Audrey and about God’s true faithfulness.

Believe it or not, the diagnosis of Celiac disease was not the worst thing to happen to our Audrey girl or our family.  Oh, I still have moments where it leaves me frustrated, where I wish it were gone (don’t get me wrong, if I could make ALL of her health struggles disappear I would..but no matter how hard I try, I can’t), where I want to rip my hair out because people are ignorant and don’t understand.   I also have many more moments of something else… 

Perspective and clarity.   They have shown me that inside a diagnosis of Celiac disease are many hidden blessings:

  • Above all else, I’ve learned how strong our Audrey is.  She has handled this diagnosis with grace, courage and determination, owning this part of her life.  She asks questions, makes good choices (she could sneak things if she wanted to, but she doesn’t) and won’t eat anything unless I’ve OK’d it first.  The strong willed nature that God gave her might be making my hair go grey but it’s also the thing that will allow her to flourish in life.
  • We no longer find Audrey curled up on the floor in pain, or hear daily complaints of tummy aches. 
  • Removing gluten from her diet has given us yet another door to teaching our children about label reading, processed food and making healthy choices (with or without gluten).  Conversations that will benefit them greatly as they become adults.
  • The massive, over the top, exhausting mood swings vanished in a matter of a week.  From mid August 2014 (when they guesstimate her Celiac “kicked in”) Audrey had the most bizarre, physically exhausting, emotionally trying mood swings we’ve ever seen.  They left us afraid that we’d never survive raising her, that she’d never survive being raised by us!  Changing her diet was like getting a new, firey, sweet, stubborn little creature and believe it or not ALL of those traits were a welcome exchange for who she’d been.
  • We are SO lucky that Audrey was diagnosed with Celiac disease in 2015, when gluten free is “trendy”.  Many restaurants are learning quickly how to prepare celiac safe meals and stores carry gluten free options for almost anything.
  • Cooking & baking gluten free is NOT the bland, horrible, daunting task everyone made me think it would be.  I’ve been able to replicate most of our favourite baked treats and let’s be honest – when you’re eating clean & healthy (which we do 85% of the time) you don’t have to worry a lot about gluten.  Fruits, veggies, real meat, rice, quinoa etc are all naturally gluten free.

We are in a rough spot with Audrey again.  She’s been facing other (non-tummy) health issues again and at times has really been physically struggling.  We have test results once again coming back not good and are in a position very similar to the one we were in last year at this time.  We are waiting on more results to come back, have referrals to 3 new departments at Children’s hospital and are currently awaiting those appointment dates.  The fevers have returned and I touch her often with trepidation, that my touch will be met with heat.

It’s easy to let the fear creep back in, and while I really have my moments of panic this time is different.  This time I have the perspective of a diagnosis I thought would destroy our world and instead it’s given Audrey a piece of her life back.

God answers our prayers always.  Sometimes those answers are the ones we want, sometimes they’re the ones we dread and other times the answer is simply to just wait. I’ve spent the last 6 years thinking we were in the “wait” zone, but that’s not true.

Our prayers have been continually answered, in the number of diseases that have been ruled out, the number of times they looked for cancer and found none, in the fact that she’s going to be 7 years old – in a diagnosis of Celiac disease.  

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Remembering that gives me confidence that He will continue to do as He promises in Jeremiah 29:11-13, it gives me the strength to face each day with joy and it gives me the courage to say, I am thankful for Celiac disease and all of the blessings it brings.

Butternut Squash Fall Bread – Gluten Free Recipe

Delicious flavours of cinnamon, nutmeg, butternut squash or pumpkin and Fall!

Delicious flavours of cinnamon, nutmeg, butternut squash or pumpkin and Fall!

Fall & winter baking is my favourite.  Don’t get me wrong, I love baking year round but there is something about warm oven, inviting smells & delicious flavours on a cold day that makes me feel…content.  

Likewise, the end result of summer baking is still wonderful flavours & treats.  However, something about sweat dripping down your back & the irony of an air conditioner & oven running at the same time leaves me feeling hot, sticky & often, annoyed. (Word to the wise: if I serve you summer baking act like you enjoy it.  Even if you don’t, it’s safer that way!) (Just kidding, be a truth-teller ALWAYS!)(If I’m PMSing maybe just decline the invitation all together)

This past fall, we were bombarded with fall/winter squash.  Audrey grew 3 beautiful little pumpkins in her Grammy & Papa garden, Dad grew some lovely spaghetti squash and I introduced the girls to one of my favourite fall treats – roasted butternut squash with heaping mounds of butter a teeny dollop of butter.

Butternut Squash aka Candy

Roasted butternut squash, also known as candy

We stood in the kitchen, crowded around the still hot squash with spoons.  Ok, and butter, there I said it, I added a little butter to every mouthful because, well, BUTTER!  We were chatting about what new baking adventure we were going to take for fall gift giving, lunch packing and breakfast on the go, when it hit me.  We were eating the perfect base ingredient.

Butternut Squash Fall Bread - Dry IngredientsI shuffled through a few of my recipes, pulled out a bunch of supplies and began dumping things into my mixer.  This is truly how recipe creation goes in this house.  I gather a few recipes, take what I like from each, add more of what I want, remove what I don’t and then cross my fingers that it worked.

This time, it worked.  It really, REALLY worked.  AND I managed to make it both safe for Audrey by being Gluten Free and safe for me too!  Which, if you know us is something that happens almost never.

Butternut Squash Bread - Wet IngredientsWe have made this recipe many, MANY times over since that day.  We’ve made it as muffins, as regular loaves, as mini loaves.  We snacked on batter (don’t judge, you do it too!), we’ve given it as gifts and I’ve easily subbed the butternut squash for pumpkin.  

No matter which way you shake it, this Butternut Squash Fall Bread is a warm, hearty and satisfying staple.  We’ve even cooked, processed & frozen many, many packages of butternut squash & pumpkin purees so that we can make them in the warmer months too.  I’ll suffer for these delicious little treats, they’re that good!

Butternut Squash Fall Bread (or Muffins)
Yields 1
A delicious slice of everything fall. Easily made with either butternut squash puree or pumpkin puree this bread is the perfect addition to a warm cup of tea on a cold Fall day.
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Prep Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 3/4 Cups of Oat Flour (see notes)
  2. 2/3 Cup of Quick Oats*
  3. 1/3 Cup of Rolled Oats*
  4. 1 tsp of Baking Soda
  5. 1/2 tsp of salt
  6. 1/2 heaping tsp of cinnamon
  7. 1/4 tsp of cloves
  8. 1/4 tsp of nutmeg
  9. 1/4 tsp of allspice
  10. 1/4 +1/8 tsp of ginger
  11. 1 Cup of pureed butternut squash (or pumpkin)
  12. 2/3 cup of granulated sugar
  13. 1/3 cup of brown sugar
  14. 1/2 cup of applesauce
  15. 2 eggs
Instructions
  1. Pre-Heat oven to 350°F
  2. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together oat flour, quick oats, rolled oats, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice & ginger. Set aside
  3. In a large bowl whisk together granulated sugar, brown sugar, applesauce & eggs
  4. Add butternut squash (pumpkin) into the wet ingredient and stir to combine
  5. Pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients and stir to combine - MAKE SURE THERE ARE NO LUMPS
  6. Line a loaf pan* with parchment paper and lightly grease (you can skip the parchment if you'd like but I find it makes removing the loaf much easier. Or line 12 muffin tins with liners & again lightly grease.
  7. Bake loaf for 50 - 60 minutes or muffins for 20 -25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  8. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack
  9. Keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months
Notes
  1. Oats: If you're making these for a Celiac or someone with serious gluten intolerance make sure to use Certified Gluten Free Oats.
  2. Oat Flour: Easily make your own oat flour by placing your oats (see above note) into a blender or coffee grinder and blending until they turn into flour
  3. Loaf Pan: I tend to use a smaller (not mini) loaf pan for this recipe. I find I get a taller loaf, medium to larger pans turn out good as well, your loaf will just be a little more rectangular.
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The Sum of My Fears

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On a daily basis I battle with fear.  Fear that something will happen to my family.  Fear that I will hurt someone’s feelings.  Fear that I will say wrong, do wrong, be wrong.  Fear that I will take my last breath and the people who matter the most won’t know that they mattered the most.

It’s a battle I’ve fought for as long as I can remember.  As a child I was afraid that something would happen to my parents.  Or that I’d be less than the “perfect” I thought everyone expected me to be (in reality that expectation was & often is mine, not anyone else’s) and in turn become a failure.  

No matter what the present fear may be, it all boils back to one root fear – that what is my normal, my routine, my safe will be shaken and I will be forced to face change.

As an adult, with perspective I can look at those past fears and even my present ones and recognize where they come from.  Every last one of them, even my root fear hinge on the fact that I like to have control and any or all of those things happening would mean I lose control.  And if you know me, even a little then you know that I hate to lose control.

The last few days have seen my fear levels rising.  Things are happening in our lives right now (which aren’t things I can share here, at least not right now) that are causing my tummy to turn, my brain to spin and my nights to be filled with fitful, interrupted sleep.

My thoughts are going 100 miles a minute running through the “what ifs” of how I’ll handle what may be to come, trying to get a grip on what could potentially capsize my boat of “normal & routine”.  It’s my way of trying to cope with my fear but let’s be honest…

it doesn’t work.

“What if” never works.  I know that. I can even rationally tell my children that but when it comes time to applying it to my own life, I get sucked in to its vortex just like the next gal.

In truth, 90% of what we worry about never even happens & even when it does we rarely, if ever draw on our “what if” scenarios.  Instead we dig our heels into the moment and focus on adjusting, adapting and coping with what is in front of us.

So, then why do allow the “what ifs” & fear in?

I don’t really know but I think it has something to do with where I let my eyes focus.

When I choose to focus on the hard things, the scary things, the flat out bad things that may lay ahead I miss all the good things, the beautiful things, the incredible blessings that God has placed right here, in my present.

It’s much the same as embarking on a long hike for the first time, alone.  Looking up at the top of the mountain alone from the parking lot, the end result feels daunting & even unattainable.  The reasons why it’s “too hard” flood out the reasons that brought us there in the first place and we may be tempted to get back in the car and leave. 

If we take a friend (or 6) with us though, the experience is completely different.  Instead of focusing our eyes on the top of the mountain, we’re laughing in the moment.  Stories of kids crazy antics, trips to the dentist (we’re cool that way), husband blunders and life fill the air, and motivate your steps.  Pretty soon you’re halfway up the trail and right about that time you feel like you can’t take another step, someone turns back and grabs your hand.  

Sometimes it’s figuratively, in the form of words of encouragement, other times physically helping you over that last hump.  Either way you’re not alone and before you know it, you’re at the top – feeling satisfied, accomplished and victorious.

That’s something like how life works too.  When I choose to try to work through all these fears and stresses alone, I feel like I’m drowning.  My chest actually hurts and I struggle to breath – fear takes over and then, it wins.

Then I realize I’m not on this journey alone.  The God of the universe, the one who put the stars in the sky & the planets into motion is right here, walking beside me.  When I choose to talk to Him, to focus on His continued faithfulness and to listen for His quiet whispers, my fear doesn’t seem so big.

I wish I could say I’ve mastered trusting God in all things.  I have not.  I still struggle every single moment daily with my need for control but I’m trying.

Going into this holiday season I’m going to change my focus.  I’m going to do my best to relish in what Christmas is REALLY all about – the birth of a baby who’d one day die to save my faulted & dirtied soul.  I’m going to try hard to not only sing about the peace that His birth brought but rest in it as well.

Because I know, no matter what our future holds, God truly is greater than the sum of all my fears.

 

Pure Hazelwood – Pain Relief & Giveaways!

For as long as I can remember I’ve had trouble with my hips.  Doctors have looked at them, x-rays have been done and the ultimate conclusion is that they probably should have been casted when I was a baby.  Not quite congenital hips but just a step below them.  My Mom was really on the ball, noticing how loose they were but our doctor was never concerned.  It’s just one of those things that happened, because stuff happens.

Anyways, what that means is that they often “fall out” of the socket or at the very least sound/feel like they do.  If I’m sitting on the floor with the flats of my feet pressed together my knees flop to the side.  Riding a bike can often be painful because one or both will slip out of place and I have to manually shift them back to relieve the pain. 

I’ve spent years working the muscles that surround those joints, to strengthen them and while it’s helped they still cause me grief.  

The hardest part – they ache horribly, like the kind of ache you get when you have a fever except it feels deep in my joints. They are the worst at night, especially during my period (you’re welcome) often resulting in lost sleep.

The thing is, I don’t like taking medication.  In fact, in our house we do our best to avoid taking it when at all possible, looking for more natural solutions.  I also don’t tolerate most pain medications well as many of them contain corn as a filler and leave me with a whole different problem.  That being said – there are times I need something to help alleviate the discomfort, which leaves me on the hunt for natural alternatives.

When I heard about the Pure Hazelwood products (for more information check out their website) and their potential to help with so many different ailments, I was intrigued.

For the past 18 years Pure Hazelwood has been pioneering scientific research on hazel wood products, discovering it’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-bacterial potential. They’re products have been credited for helping with a wide range of ailments, teething pain, colic, arthritis (joint pain!), skin problems (including eczema, & psoriasis), digestive problems & even mouth sores.

Of course they had me at joint pain, but then I started looking at their product line and I was pretty impressed.  They have beautiful bracelets, anklets & necklaces for adults & children, as well as moisturizing lotion & zinc ointment.  By using glass beads, fresh water pearls & natural gemstones they have been able to offer a variety of lovely products that suite everyone’s taste.  I chose a fresh water pearl hazel wood necklace – and I LOVE it.  (Pearls are among my favourite things!)

Pure Hazelwood Necklace 1

All of the products are made from 100% natural hazelwood from the Canadian Boreal Forest by a Canadian company, which is something else we love!.  When at all possible Our Family Stone tries to keep it local.  The products can be found in pharmacies, health food stores, baby boutiques and my favourite option – online.

Pretty right?

Pure Hazelwood Necklace

Pretty cool too, no?

My necklace came and it was beautiful, something I could and do wear with just about anything.  I’ve spent the last 2 weeks wearing it every day and watching to see what would happen. 

While I’d love to say it was a miracle cure & all my pain disappeared overnight, you and I both know that wouldn’t be true.  What I can say is that I weathered my period over those 2 weeks (again you are SO welcome!) and I didn’t have to get up in the night to take any pain medication not even once. That all by itself is a huge win!

We will see what the future holds for our family with my Pure Hazelwood necklace.  I have plans to let Audrey wear it and see if it makes a difference for her with her eczema this winter too.  Who knows, maybe I have found the easy & ultimate cure for a problem that can be so persistent, I’ll be sure to report back & let you know.

Now, here’s something exciting for YOU – Pure Hazelwood is giving away 3 fantastic prizes including a $50 gift certificate and a Pure Hazelwood product (valued at $50)!  All you have to do is enter below for your chance to win!

Pure Hazelwood Influence Central Contest

If you’ve tried the Pure Hazelwood products I’d love to hear about it!  Did you find relief, did your kids?  If you haven’t tried, will you?  What ailment are you hoping to find a natural cure for?

If you have any further questions be sure to check out the Pure Hazelwood Facebook page or reach out to them on Twitter!  

“Disclosure: I am part of the Pure Hazelwood Influencer Campaign and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.”

Finding Grace in Small Things – The Husband Edition

This past weekend Corey and I were privileged enough to have some time alone.  The girls spent the 2 nights/days with my parents while we attended Christmas parties, shopped and spent time together.

When I crawled into bed last night, our whole little family back together I couldn’t help but look back on the weekend and the years and see all the blessings God has given me in a husband.

Us  2015

5. He (still) opens car doors.

When Corey and I first began dating I can remember thinking how sweet it was that he’d always open my car door for me, pull out a chair or walk on the road edge.  I loved it and appreciated it but somewhere in my mind I thought the day would come when the “comfortable” part of being together would set in and he would stop.

Nearly 10 years later, that day has yet to come.  No matter how busy we are, how rainy it is, how tired Corey feels he STILL opens my car door and I must say, it means more to me now than it did then.  The days of trying to impress me are long over, and now I can see it wasn’t formality, it was chivalry & it is love.

Kiss

4. The Laugh

I love the sound of Corey’s laugh.  The one that bubbles up when he’s trying so hard to be serious.  It’s the one that I often kill the serious moments with a little of my own breed of stupid just so I can hear it.  The laughter, our laughter is what has helped make this marriage what it is, and I hope we always find the place where it exists.

aug, sept. 2005 004

This photo was the first time I ever saw Corey.  (We were set up by a mutual friend, thanks Mac!)

3. Grey hair & wrinkles

Just over 10 years ago, on our first date, my arms wrapped around Corey’s waist, zipping across Okanagan lake I saw the first streaks of grey in his hair and I though “so handsome, attractive even”.  Later that night, curled up watching a movie, I looked into his eyes and God gave me my own secret window into the future.  For a split second I felt like I could see his eyes, years from that day weathered from the years, full of love and all I could think was “I need to see those eyes.”

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The grey has multiplied and some of those weathered lines of wrinkles have begun to show and I can’t help thinking, every time I see them how thankful I am that God has allowed me to travel this road with this man.  (ps. They’re also that thing that makes him sexier with each passing year.)

Lean on Me

2. The Arms

In Corey’s arms I have found safety, comfort, strength and intimacy (you may not want to know that but it is an important part of a healthy marriage).  When Corey gives a hug he holds on.  For as long as I need it and he lets go of his hold first.  He’s content to let me take what I need and I love that.

I’m not much for being touched on any level (read: most times being touched by people causes me to feel like I’m suffocating & causes panicked, if not dangerous defense responses) but when it’s Corey it’s so very different.  His arms are my “home” and tucked against his shoulder is my best place.  

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1. His servant’s heart

There is nothing, absolutely nothing I love more about the man I married than the heart God has given him.  It is the heart of a servant.  He is giving and kind, compassionate and patient, soft spoken and sweet, understanding and forgiving – even when the forgiveness is completely undeserved.

At our wedding Pastor Gary talked about serving each other in marriage.  About how being willing to “wash each other’s feet” like Jesus did with the disciples was a beautiful metaphor for marriage.  The willingness to serve your spouse, to put them before yourself and give to them was a key component in a strong marriage. 

Engagement!

I know that might sound a little scary, like one person might be completely depleted and uncared for, but in fact it’s exactly the opposite.  Think about it for a minute – if you’re each humbling yourself and serving the other one, then both parties are being completely loved & taken care of.

Corey heard that message and he has embodied that every day of our lives together.  Sure we’ve had our moments, what married couple doesn’t (heck what long standing relationship doesn’t?!)?  But those moments pale in my memory compared to the good ones.

This man has cared for me, deeply, truly and completely for 10 years and I know, from the depths of my soul how truly blessed I am to call him mine. 

Grace in Small Things is a social network created by Schmutzie to wage a war against imbitterment!  Check out my first post here.

Gluten Free Shortbread – AKA Melt in your Mouth Heaven

Gluten Free Shortbread Cookies - Yum! Looking for the regular “wheat” version of these cookies?  You can find them and MANY more in our Baking Life Healthy: The Secret Recipes Behind the Business e-cookbook, HERE!

If Christmas were to be defined by a flavour, for me it would be simple – (frozen) Shortbread Cookies and Ginger Snaps.   They are home, they are yummy and they are everything I love & loved about Christmas.

My Mom baked a lot when I was little and I clearly remember hours spent helping her in the kitchen. We’d bake gingerbread men, make chocolates for gifts, lick beaters (ya we did!) and decorate shortbread cookies before popping them in the oven.   I also remember sneaking back into the freezer long after the dishes had been cleared, liberating a few frozen cookies for a little snack…I mean, somebody had to make sure they were safe, right?!

Looking back I’m not sure how many of those hours were actual help, but they were without a doubt the makings of great memories.

I learned a lot those Christmases, gaining valuable skills in the kitchen, discovering Moms don’t have to see what you’re doing to know you did it (she always knew I’d had those extra cookies, though she rarely called me on it) and leaning into the comfort of family traditions & recipes.Gluten Free Shortbread Cookies 2

I’ve carried many of those traditions on with our girls, selfishly creating a new batch of memories for me and hopefully giving them a start on some special ones of their own.  

This year, we’re still going to make those memories but they’re going to take a new shape.  I’ve been spending hours in my kitchen, taking our family Christmas favourites and making them gluten free.

Thankfully, this recipe is one that co-operated first time out of the gate and is (according to my family) equally as yummy as the traditional “wheat shortbread**”.  It’s the same melt in your mouth Christmas favourite that I grew up, only now it’s also a gluten free, Celiac safe treat for EVERYONE in our family!

I hope you enjoy it and keep watching the blog (or sign up to our email list so you’ll NEVER miss the BIG stuff!)  I’m going to be sharing a series of gluten free Christmas baking over the next few weeks and there might even be some extra Freebies in it for you too!

Here’s to the start of the holiday season and Christmas baking….and eating!

Gluten Free Shortbread Cookies
These melt in your mouth gluten free delights are the perfect addition to your Christmas baking line up!
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Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 Cup of Cornstarch
  2. 1/2 Cup of Icing (confectioners) Sugar
  3. 1 Cup of Gluten Free All Purpose Flour (we LOVE Namaste's All Purpose Flour)
  4. 1/4 tsp of xanthan gum (if your blend contains it like mine does omit this ingredient)
  5. 3/4 Cup of COLD butter cut into small cubes
Toppings
  1. Gluten Free Sprinkles
  2. Mini Hershey's Kisses (in Canada they are gluten free, make sure to read all your packages if gluten is a concern!)
  3. Chopped Nuts
  4. Icing Sugar for dusting
  5. Colored Decorative Sugars
Instructions
  1. Note: This recipe doubles very well. I also use a stand mixer for this recipe but feel free to do it by hand if you prefer.
  2. 1. Preheat oven to 350° F
  3. 2. In the bowl of a stand mixer sift together the corn starch, icing sugar & flour.
  4. 3. Cut the butter into very small cubes & add to the dry ingredients
  5. 4. Using your paddle attachment & either your bowl guard or a clean, dry tea towel turn the mixer on low speed
  6. 5. Once the mixture resembles coarse sand, turn up the speed to medium & allow the mixer to work until the dough forms a ball & the sides of the bowl are clean.
  7. 6. Roll out dough approx. 1/2" thick between two pieces of wax paper, chill for 15 minutes and cut out desired shapes, re-roll dough and continue. Alternatively you can roll pieces of dough into balls and press them down slightly with a fork. Add toppings
  8. 7. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet & bake 12-18 minutes or until lightly golden brown on the edges I have found times dramatically vary based on the oven
  9. 8. Let cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes then remove to a cooling rack.
Notes
  1. These cookies last on the counter for approx. 1 week before starting to dry out. They also freeze really well just make sure whatever way you decide to store them that the container is airtight!
Our Family Stone http://www.ourfamilystone.org/
**We don’t call food with gluten in it “normal” or “regular” food because that makes Audrey’s gluten free food sound like it’s something strange.  ALL of the food I bake is “normal” (except for that one time I mixed up my baking soda and my salt ratios, that was NOT normal!) some of it has gluten/wheat in it and some of it is gluten free.**

 

It takes a Village…MY Village

Mom's Night Out 1

 

“It takes a village to raise a child”

As a young mother, I remember hearing that old proverb and thinking, “maybe it used to take a village but not now.  I have everything I need at my fingertips, doctors on speed dial, parenting advice on Facebook (ha!) and answers to all our potty training dilemma’s on Google.  What do I need a village for?”

In general I’m content to be on my own, I crave the silence of solitude and when given a choice I will avoid/bail on any & all large group activities.  In reality if I HAVE to attend something that has 5+ new people I have to battle the urge to flee.  Corey has, on more than one occasion had to hold my hand and gently tug me into a room reminding me that he’s “right there” and it will be OK.

Now if you know me this may have just completely blown your mind.  I mean this from the girl who can talk the ears off an elephant but it’s true.  You see, that girl only comes out when she feels safe, and even at that my time with groups of people is limited.  My tank will run dry and I need my space to once again “refresh”. 

Pair that with my incredible need to be self sufficient and you can see why I felt I really didn’t need a village.  Women can be mean, mommies can be scary (do not, I repeat DO NOT poke the Mama Bear.  Especially THIS Mama Bear) and I was far too independent to need anyone else’s help in raising my children.

Or so I thought.

Mom's South Hills Birthday locket

I’m not really sure when it happened or how but by the end of Bethany’s Kindergarten year I had met a group of beautiful women who very quickly have become some of my dearest friends. I spent years petrified of what life would be like surrounded by a group of women (high school “girl groups” left me with a tainted and unrealistic view of female friendship), and what I’ve discovered is the incredible love & power we, together bring to life. 

 Over the past 4 years as the bonds between us grew, so did those of our children, in fact I think it was their friendships that put us together in the first place.  They are this unique blend of little people who fit so well together.  They just simply work, floating and rearranging themselves in clusters of fun (and sometimes mischief) these kids are truly incredible.

This past year as we have faced so many changes in life, work, and health challenges I’ve never been more thankful for the village of women I’ve been given.  Not only for me, but for my children as well.

When Audrey ended up in hospital a few weeks ago, and I couldn’t make it to the school to get Bethany I knew I had back up.  Though my heart ached to be with my other little girl, I was confident she’d be taken care of and loved until Corey could get home to get her.  A few quick texts and that’s exactly what happened.  Not only was she picked up from school but she had “the BEST DAY EVER” hanging out with a few of her friends and I was given the gift of leaning into my friends.

As the weekend pushed on I was overwhelmed and blessed by text messages of thoughts, offers of help and encouragement.  I knew these women were wonderful before but in the midst of another bout of uncertainty their love really drove home my blessings in each of them, at time to point of tears.

Asking for help isn’t something I do very well.  In reality for me, asking for anything makes me feel physically ill.  I want to do it on my own, I feel as though I’m SUPPOSED to do it on my own and when I can’t I’m left feeling weak.  I selfishly would rather be the one doing the helping rather than the one asking for it.

Over the years these ladies have taught me so much, about life, about friendship and about learning to let others help you back.  They’ve shown me that friendship, the real kind of friendship is a balance of give and take.

Mom's Night Out 2

To my beautiful, amazing, incredible friends (who are NOT at all part of a Mommy Mafia….just to be clear)(inside outside joke)(but we AREN’T)

I love you.  I am better for knowing you, for the lessons you taught, the vulnerability you’ve shared and for the family we’ve created.  Your children are amazing little people whom I love as deeply as I love my own girls.  Our special little group was created for each other, designed & built to grow together on this crazy life road.  When I look at them I’m filled with hope, for who they are and who they’re going to become.

Thank you for the laughter, the friendship, and for holding me up in the moments I didn’t think I could stay standing.  Thank you for joining me on my journey through life & letting me walk with you on yours.  

You are incredible women and I’m so thankful that you are each the blessing branches on my tree of life.

♥Ashley

Don’t be afraid of building your village dear readers, they are God’s daily reminder of His love & faithfulness in the people who join you as you travel through life. 

The Quietest Loud Voice

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I like words.  I’m a talker, a hand talker (DUCK!).  Writing makes me happy and I read as much, as often as I can because information is AMAZING!  And often times, as my friends can attest to, my text messages require a coffee and a 5 minute interlude to complete.  With the exception of talking on the phone, which makes my ear sweaty and my shoulder hurt – I love any chance I can get to make myself heard.

God has given me a strong opinion, a lot of words (believe it or not there are even MORE inside my head that I don’t let out) and good lungs to facilitate the long windedness.

I used to be embarrassed by the fact that I talk so much.  I used to get made fun of, teased, scolded and feel the sting of comments like “she has verbal diarrhea”.  I used to think that there was something wrong with me and it made me so self conscious.    

Then I had a little girl who has the same gift and I had to start digging deep into what to do to survive it (did you know that it’s possible to feel like your ears might actually bleed from listening to so much talking?!). During that search I learned something…God made us this like this for a reason.  He has a plan for our voices, we just have to learn how to use them in the right way.

For me I’ve learned there are times I have to pull back on my words.  Times I have to delete entire paragraphs in a blog for fear of cresting 2000 words.  Times I have to apologize to my friends because I’ve cut them off (again) during an intense conversation.  Even times when my emotions run high, my brain is running fast and silence is the best I can do.  

Then there are times when I have to stand up and use that voice.  I’ve been given this voice to advocate for my children’s health, to facilitate their education and to build them up with my words.  I have the ability to be a “truth-teller” with people I love when everyone else is afraid to say what’s hard (if the pants look bad, I’m gonna tell ya the pants look bad.  Then we’re gonna find ones that look smokin’!) and do my best to lace that ability with a silver thread of tact & compassion.  And I have the ability to use my voice to affect change in my life and the lives around me.

Today, I used my voice in a powerful way.  It was the quietest my voice has ever been and yet it will join with others to be expressed loudly, across this country.

This morning after kissing Bethany goodbye at school, I walked into the gym and did something I’ve never done before (because I was afraid)(which was silly because it was SO easy) I voted in our federal election.

A lot of sacrifices happened & people died to give you a voice.Show your gratitude and

It took less than 5 minutes.  In fact it was 3 minutes from the moment I walked through the gym doors to the moment I walked out.  It took 3 minutes to do something that thousands of Canadians won’t do today, many of them for the same reasons I didn’t.  

If that’s you I want to beg you, to push you, to SHOUT AS LOUDLY as the internet will allow GO VOTE!  (Check out this link to show you the differences in the parties)

Thousands of men and women fought, suffered, sacrificed and died to give us the freedom to vote.  If you celebrate & remember them on Remembrance Day, then you need to take today, place your vote and silently say Thank You for all they’ve done.

Friends, we live in Canada.  One of the greatest countries in the world.  In comparison to the rest of the world we have good health care, clean water, safe streets & the freedom to be who we are.  We’ll never be completely satisfied with everything that’s human nature but we can be pretty darned thankful for most of it.  

So, grab your voter card (or a few pieces of ID) and go vote.  Now is your chance, to say thank you, to use your voice and to affect a change.  

Every. Single. Vote. Counts.  That means YOU too!

*Those two people at the top of this post, (my grandparents) made great sacrifices so WE could use our voices today!  Please honor that by doing it!*

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