Wednesday, April 29, 2015

of birthday cakes

Just this past week week we celebrated Nicholas' 9th birthday. 

Yeah, It's hard to believe that my son is 9 years old.

It's hard to believe that I have made 9 birthday cakes for this young man.

But. Truly. I have. 

Here is this year's creation. A hunter green robot. 

Pretty cool, eh....except for that odd dusty hunter/camo/sage green. 

I actually like the color but I couldn't recreate it again over my dead body. 

I was trying to make grey icing. {Hee-Hee}

It didn't work. {no kidding}

This was a fun cake to put together.

I used my own homemade fondant. {Easy to make. Super fun to work with}

The coloring part was a bit trickier than regular icing. {no kidding}

It would have helped if I had black food coloring on hand.

And then we added fun candy and whatever else we could find around the house to add some character to our very square man.

I have been thinking of doing a birthday cake post for a while, but I keep shying away from it for fear that I will appear to be a proud cocky mom who has everything put together down to the last detail of the 5 yearly birthday cakes I create.

The truth is, I am proud.

In fact, too proud to want to display my humble attempts at birthday cake decorating.

So I am sharing these cake ideas not to intimidate or pressure you into yet another overwhelming project, but to encourage you to start where you are, with what you have to create something meaningful for your child.

In other words, if I can do it, you can too!!!

I am not a cake decorator by nature.

I do not like detail work.

I do not have a steady hand.

Food detail just isn't my thing.

I'm not a perfectionist.


I am a party animal and I love celebrating the birthdays of my darling babies.

Birthday celebrations usually include a cake, which they choose and help me make.

Here is my all time favorite 1st birthday cake for boys:

Brownies in a dump truck. I have repeated this idea 3 times since I have 3 boys.

I am also a fan of decorating cakes by creating scenes from small things like legos, matchbox cars or animals.

The following cake was probably the most time consuming, tedious cake I ever produced!!! I had fun making it, but I have NO plans of reproducing it in the near future.

I borrowed  chess piece molds from a friend and used melted chocolate to create the playing pieces.  Dove chocolates shoved into an ice cream cake base created the chess board.

This was also probably one of the tastiest cakes I have made in the last 9 years since it included lots of chocolate on top of an ice cream cake!!! (instead of mounds of disgusting frosting on top of a dry cake)

This next cake also was a time consuming project, but it was one of my most favorite cakes to create. Thankfully, I had a creative and very capable niece with me for the day to help juggle kids and cake prep.

can't help but mention the darling little girls on this picture!!!

This was my first attempt at making and using fondant. I can see many imperfections, but I was happy with the over all results of my first experience. I am thinking of repeating this idea for Cassie sometime and trying to iron out a few of the wrinkles.

For this next cake I traced a tractor from a coloring book and then filled in the details with colored icing applied with a star tip. I printed a picture of him to put in the cab....that made his day!!!

On this cake I tried to create a soccer field scene with blue sky and green grass and a goalie net. I cut a chunk out of the cake and inserted a real miniature soccer ball.

Then there was the year that I had a crabby baby and I made cupcakes. Josh has been our soccer boy. I printed out soccer toppers for the cupcakes and then arranged them in the shape of a six.

I have done cupcakes otherwise, even when I didn't have a crabby baby

This idea is very quick and easy even though it appears otherwise. I used this technique for both of my girl's birthdays last year. Besides stars, this is about the only thing I have been able to successfully pull off with an icing bag.

This treasure chest cake was a huge hit with Nicholas and his party guests. This picture doesn't show the details very well, but it is a treasure chest full of rare jewels, aka candy. We did a treasure/scavenger hunt in the woods to go along with the theme of the cake.

I obviously didn't give you a peek at nearly all the cakes I have made in the past 10 years, but what I did share is a fair representation of what has been created and enjoyed in our household.

I could tell lots of funny stories about my cakes....

Like the time I tried to create a baseball field with real baseball players and how I painted army men white because I couldn't find anything like small plastic baseball players at any local stores.

Like the time Angeline had to end up making her own birthday cake. I manipulated her into it.

Like the time I put real flowers around Angeline's ice cream cake roll and popped it back in the freezer and the flowers turned an ugly shade of brown.

Like the time I sat on the rocker and cried because my kids were trying to bake a birthday cake for me and instead they were making a huge mess in the kitchen and were fighting their heads off.

Or the time I repeated the same cake idea for Josh 2 years in a row!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
yup, a snowman cake for his 2nd birthday and another one for his 3rd birthday. 

The thing I really noticed as I was looking through these pictures was the happy faces of my children.

 I have made more decorating boo-boos than I can count.

But my kids have always been thrilled with their birthday cakes.

I have had to lay down my pride a number of times and be thrilled along side them, even though inwardly I was wishing that we could throw the cake in the trash and start over. (and why had we invited guests over for this party....!!!???!!)

Who would have thought that the Lord might used birthday cakes to grow me up in Him!!!??!

Friday, April 24, 2015

"Yeah...there's gonna be a great big change!!!"

I'm delighted to announce that we're planning for another little set of feet to join the pitty-pitty-patter symphony at our house.

Even though Country music certainly isn't my choice of genre, I find this song to fit the emotions of our household almost perfectly. There's a lot of upbeat, happy dancing going on around here over the thought of a brand new person joining us this fall.

However, there is a heavy dose of reality that comes along with baby #6. There's no pulling any wool over my eyes this time.

I am quite familiar with the pains of pregnancy.

I'm not fond of all the emotional upheaval of changing hormones.

I really like to sleep. My last child taught me an awful lot about living with a long term deficit in this area.

I know that I must face a deep and dark and very painful valley before I get to experience the joy of a precious baby.

The responsibility of caring for 6 children feels very weighty at times.

But I am familiar with the miracle of life and the deep joy that comes to me as a woman as I am permitted to participate in this miracle.

I'm both  honored and humbled to have been chosen again to be a bearer of life here on earth.

As Christopher says "Yeah, there's gonna be a great big change!!!" (direct quote from the song above)


moving from baby status to BIG Sis

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Of Florida and Suburbans

So. What in the world do the words Florida and Suburban even have in common?? I mean, truly. Have you ever used those two words in the same sentence??

Well. I have. More times that I can possibly count in the last 3 weeks. These are two of my current pet words.

 Vehicles occasionally need to be replaced. 

For some of us, this replacement doesn't happen very often.

We have been driving a trusty 1997 Dodge Caravan for the past 9 + years. This particular van has been an unusually good friend to us.  Faithful. Dependable. Steady.

There were a number of reasons that pushed us in the search for a new vehicle. One being that our family is bursting the seams of the Caravan and another being that Amos' work vehicle is hopelessly beyond repair.

Our thought was to buy a new family vehicle and keep the trusty van for Amos to use for work.

Thus the search began.

The next size van is a 12 passenger!!!!!!! (she shudders at the thought of backing one of those beasts into the driveway)

I never dreamed or even thought of owning an SUV, but my husband slowly and surely convinced me that maybe a Suburban would the perfect upgrade for our family at this particular time.

So began the search. Craig's list and Auto Trader became my bosom buddies for a while.

One fine evening I found what I thought seemed to be the perfect vehicle. It passed by husband's criteria : 9 passenger, 4 wheel drive, southern vehicle, within our price range.

I'll just skip a ton of details and say that within a week after numerous phone calls and research, we had purchased one way tickets to Florida with the hope of driving this Suburban home.

Because the tickets ended up being insanely cheap we decided to both make the trip and squeeze a tiny bit of vacation out of the ordeal.

I was over the top excited to think of a 48 hour vacation in February in FLORIDA. (*we actually spent a little less than 24 hours of our vacation in FL, the rest of was spent traveling)

Risky? yes!!!

Impulsive? maybe...

Crazy? probably...

Faith- filled? we hope!!!

Exciting? you bet!!!

The 24 hours in Florida were absolutely therapeutic for my sun starved soul and body.  I will never regret those few precious hours on the beach.

I'm pretty sure that heaven will include a good dose of this

And indeed we did come driving home in our new great white beast. Yes. It's beastly. I got broken in with the beast rather quickly since I had to drive it through a totally unfamiliar city so that we could return the rental car to the airport.  Then Amos was overcome with fatigue in the hills and curves of West Virginia. Yours truly took over the wheel. I felt certain that if I could handle the streets of Jacksonville, Florida and the mountains of West Virginia that surely I would be capable of navigating the beast in our small hometown.

I still occasionally grip the wheel and shut my eyes and hope for the best while gadding about town.

We're enjoying the extra space. We are trusting that the Lord has blessed us with another faithful vehicle.

 If you need your mobile home moved across town, let us know. The Suburban has a monster engine and a towing package.

Even though I'm not a fan of big rigs, I will have to admit that there is a feeling of power in driving one of the bigger vehicles on the road.

The kids call it our Monster Truck.

I don't think it would actually qualify as a monster truck, but I do feel like a Monster Mom when I'm driving it.

Go ahead and try butting into me you compact-energy-efficient'll find out who is boss!

Signing off,
The Soccer Mom

Thursday, March 19, 2015

winter boredom busters II

You may be wondering why I am still even thinking about winter boredom busters in March.

If you lived as near the North Pole as what I do, you would probably understand.

We really aren't guaranteed warm spring weather in these parts until the end of April or beginning of May. 

We do have occasional warm days and the daffodils begin to bloom and then we get more snow.

We pack away our winter coats just because we're so anxious for spring only to end up pulling them out again.

You may understand too, if you know what it is like to go from this

to this

 in about 12 hours.(How I ended up in Florida for 24 hours is another story for another day)


If you're of the race that knows Joseph, you'll understand why sometimes a woman must resort to these winter boredom busters.

1. Draw a tubful of water. Put your babies in the water. Give each of them a lollipop.  Grab your book and take a seat on the toilet (make sure the seat is DOWN since this will be a rather long sit). You may be surprised how long water and a dumdum will keep the kids entertained.  I have noticed that my mere presence in the bathroom usually keeps the tidal waves at a minimum. The minute I leave, the bathroom floor somehow becomes mysteriously flooded.

2. Brew a cup of coffee and chat with a good friend online. I am not advocate for online relationships unless there is a real life relationship in place which you are building upon. (Truly. You do not want to get me started on this) I have 2 very good friends that I chat with on a regular basis who bring lots of cheer and joy into my life. I have no intention to spread my web of online chatting much further without having a very good reason to do so.  Call me old and boring or whatever you wish. I am 33 years old after all and I can't be expected to stay up with all the latest communication trends. Especially not when I have issues with them.

3. If all else fails, go to Florida. Don't plan ahead too much or it surely won't happen. And don't cry too much if you only get to stay for one day. One day in the sun is better than none.

In which the daffy family had dinner

I was right.

Setting the table for our dinner required much thought and much talk and much time and much strategizing for my 5 chill'uns.

In fact, the preparation probably took triple the time of the actual dining.

They even planned a little game to determine where each person would sit.

Drama is the key to a successful daffy dinner. I mean, really. Don't minimize the difficulty of eating your dinner with salad tongs. Play it up, for goodness sake.

What fun.

a princess portion setting

have fun trying to eat peas from a bunt pan with a ladle.


remember, always be dramatic

Dad drinking from a sippy cup was utterly hilarious to his little fans

This feels all too good and completely natural for Mr. Pooh Bear

more drama, please.

no comment on the size of the veggie portion.

Christopher keeps asking: "When will it be next year so that we do that daffy thing again???"

Thursday, March 5, 2015

winter boredom busters

So. We're all going a little bit stir crazy, eh??

Well. I thought that I would share a few ideas of what we've been doing to keep ourselves at least semi occupied during this long winter.

Only a few of these ideas are original with me. The majority come either from one of my creative friends or my creative kids or from pinterest. I copy other's ideas shamelessly, especially when it makes me popular with my kids.

I will admit up front that I have more energy before and after  the completion of these projects than what I do in the moment of execution. I often fall faint by the wayside.

1. Painting has become a favorite activity on days when school is cancelled due to inclement weather.
 I found this recipe for making our own paint from scratch. This is super awesome because typically I don't want to go out and buy paint in vicious winter weather. This supplies hours of fun and huge mess to clean up afterwards.

2. Have a picnic on your living room floor. My kids actually planned and pulled this one off by themselves last winter as a surprise for me. I was impressed and it was a great way to ward off the winter blues. They carefully planned and prepared a summer picnic menu of hotdogs in a blanket, salad, fresh cut veggies, salties and s'mores in the oven for dessert. They had so much fun planning this and we all had a delightful time imagining away winter.

3. Here is another very fun and messy project. Mix equal amounts of Elmer's glue and shaving cream in a bowl. Use your fingers to create winter scenes. The glue/shaving cream will dry puffy. We used cardstock to add details to the snowman. You may want to plan this craft right before bath time because I can promise that any artistic child will have this mixtures smeared everywhere. It's either a bath or 211 wet ones. It's your choice.

borrowed photo because I failed to take any of my own

4. Plan a Valentine Party with your daughter and invite all your female relatives. Shoo the guys out of the house for the evening.  Fun.  A little chocolate, actually...I mean, a TON of chocolate and red tulips do wonders for the feminine soul. We threw in a fun photo shoot for the evening that induced lots of good belly laughs.

we introduced our daughter to the cool poses of the '90's

This gal has some obvious affection for chocolate 

p.s. I have the most awesome family ever. Do not argue with me.

5. Disguise yourself and go scare a few neighbors. ( I would highly recommend parental involvement)

6. Find a good book to read aloud as a family. Our children enjoy working on a puzzle while listening to the story. This is one of my favorite evening activities since it generally has a calming affect on our family.

7. Plan a daffy supper. You might think that your kids are too young for this, but I bet they would love it.  As for me, I find it more enjoyable to eat my dinner with a huge dipper in front of my kids rather than my peers. This is actually pretty simple to pull off. (we're doing it tonight!) I'm making spaghetti and salad. I'll throw in some bread and applesauce. The kids will gather the tools for eating and set the table.(this by the way, will occupy them for at least an hour) Then I'll take pictures while we're eating and we'll all giggle ourselves silly and the kids will mark this down as one of the best days of their lives.

8. Create a dream pinterest board. My kids loved this. We created their dream home complete with an indoor pool, a winding staircase with a slide, a big game room, a room with a real tree growing in it, a bathtub shaped like a canoe and so on and so forth. They were totally wowed by the ideas and photos. I am thinking you could dream about vacations or pets or just about anything. I wouldn't want my kids on pinterest without my supervision, but it turned out to be a super fun activity for us to do together. I don't think it is an activity that you would want to do multiple times in one winter.

9. Visit some local {indoor} attractions. I am all about local, low cost activities  For those of you who are local to Meadville, we visited the Tom Ridge Environmental Center last Saturday with our family. Admission is free. We did pay to watch an educational film in their big screen theatre. The children really enjoyed browsing the museum and climbing the tower. They also have a very cool activity center for toddlers.

While we were in Erie we visited the lake to show the kids the ice dunes that form when the lake freezes over. It's pretty awesome to feel like you're walking over snow covered mountain ranges.

10. Make your own butter by hand. Even the most energetic child will find himself panting a bit by the time the cream forms itself into butter.
11. Make snow cream.

12. Make soft pretzels. Invite some friends over to help eat them.

Now a few ideas just for Mom

1. Snuggle with your little darling. She'll be off to school and growing independent of your arms in no time flat. I say snuggle now, work later

2. Borrow a good book from a friend's library. It comes in handy to have some good reading material when you need to spend extra time snuggling the sick darling.
3. Plan a casserole exchange.
4. Offer to teach your Ladies' Sunday School class.
5. Crochet a hat. (Learn to crochet if you don't know how)

6. Join the community choir

7. Plan your garden for the upcoming spring and order seeds. Try something new. Hobby gardening is so much more fun than traditional "need it, grow it" gardening.

8. Come visit me. I would love it. There isn't anything that beats the winter blues down into the ground like inspiring, vigorous, real life conversation.