Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Baby Shower for Wyatt

So, almost a month ago, we had a baby shower for my nephew Wyatt. He is due to be born in about 2 weeks to my sister Carrie and brother-in-law J.R. I finally got all the pictures (my mom took some and Damaris and I took some) organized. Thought yall might enjoy them. As you'll notice, Lola, Wyatt's big sister, was quite the helper with the gifts.

Do you have a special or funny memory from a baby shower you've been the honoree at, that you've attended, or that you've hosted? What I remember from the shower that friends hosted before Damaris was born is that I was swollen so much, I couldn't get my shoes on. Russ had to go buy me some slip-on shoes like 3.5 sizes bigger than my normal size. And they weren't pretty either! LOL! At least my feet went back down to almost normal, just .5 size larger than before I got pregnant. What about you?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Fun

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
Definitely hot chocolate, with marshmallows!!!!!

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Santa fills our stockings.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
Our big tree has white and blue. My little pink tree has pink lights. On a house, I think I would prefer white.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
Nope. Damaris thinks we should though.

5. When do you put your decorations up?
Thanksgiving Day while watching the Macy's Parade. Decorations come down on New Year's Day while watching the Rose Parade. We really like parades!

6. What is your favorite holiday dish?
I like the desserts - almond bark with nuts in it, fudge, pies, puppy chow, etc.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child?
The Christmas my sister and I had the chicken pox. I don't know that it's my favorite, but it stands out to me the most.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
I don't even remember how I found out.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
We open all our gifts on Christmas Eve. Then we open our stockings that Santa has filled on Christmas morning.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
Our big tree is a mixture of ornaments from childhood as well as ornaments that we've gotten during our married years as well as ornaments that Damaris has made or received. My pink tree has silver and pink balls and a few special ornaments that match it.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
Love it, but only if I can stay inside and watch it. I don't like being out in it at all.

12. Can you ice skate?
Nope. I've tried a few times and my ankles are just too weak.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
Not necessarily a traditional gift, but just celebrating our first Christmas with Damaris. She was a couple of months old - our precious gift from God! Then, 3 years ago, we got to celebrate Christmas with my niece Lola who was 3 months old at the time. And I'm looking forward to this Christmas with my new nephew Wyatt who should be 10 days old this Christmas. It's not really about the gifts for me!

Damaris' 1st Christmas

Lola's 1st Christmas

14. What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
celebrating the birth of Jesus our Liberating King and spending time with those I love

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
see question 6; I won't turn down most desserts!

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Going to the Christmas Eve service at church. We then go home to eat a dinner of little smokies, cheese, chips, dip, sweets, etc. Then we read the story of Jesus' birth from Scripture and have prayer together. The youngest person in attendance (it'll probably still be Lola this year since Wyatt will only be 10 days old) then hands out the presents from under the tree one at a time. We watch the person open their gift and all get to appreciate it before we move on to the next gift. We're usually up until midnight or later enjoying our time together.

17. What tops your tree?
A star.

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving?
Giving! I love to give gifts all year long. Sometimes I wish I had more money just so I could bless others more.

19. Candy Canes: Yuck or Yum?
Yum, especially trying to form them into the perfect point at the end without breaking the cane.

20. Favorite Christmas show?
White Christmas

21. Saddest Christmas Song?
can't really think of one

22. What is your favorite Christmas song?
Now this one is super difficult because I love Christmas music. White Christmas, I'll Be Home for Christmas, A Baby Changes Everything, Baby It's Cold Outside, Let It Snow, Grown-Up Christmas List. I could keep going!

Got this meme from Abby who go it here.

Let me know if you join in on the fun!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Eve & Thanksgiving Day

Our family tradition is to decorate for Christmas on Thanksgiving. We started a bit early on Thanksgiving Eve getting the tree all set up and the mantle partially decorated. Then on Thanksgiving morning, the rest of the decorating commenced. We didn't have a traditional Thanksgiving meal this year, but what we called a New Mexico Thanksgiving meal instead. It included enchiladas and tacos and all the fixings but dessert was pretty traditional. This is the first time in several years that all of my side of the family was able to be together for Thanksgiving. It was nice for the 8 of us to sit around the table and talk about what we are thankful for. Hope you enjoy our pictures.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Week of Thanksgiving - Picture This Memory

I am linking up with Lil Kid Things in posting a week of Thanksgiving posts. I can't believe it's already the last day of this link up. It's been such a blessing to spend time reflecting and writing about things I'm thankful for. For today, I want to write about picturing this memory.

I can't remember exactly when or how it happened, but I have become the repository of family pictures. And I love it!!!!! You see, I had albums and file folders and envelopes and all kind of other containers of pictures. And rarely ever looked at them. So I slowly began scanning them and saving them in my Picasa account. I loved that I was able to file them by date and/or event and/or whatever I wanted too. My mom began sending me pictures she took and/or scanned in and then my sister did too. Also got some from my mother in law. I just gave them all the link to my Picasa page and they could download what they wanted. It also made it easy to find a needed picture. I also enjoy frequent trips down memory lane because of storing my pictures this way.

So, when I thought about what I wanted to write about for the last day of this link up, my thoughts went pretty quickly to pictures. I started to look through the pictures from this year and within 15 minutes had chosen 30 of them I could share for yall in the collage above. I was taken from laughter to tears to smiles. Such memories came instantly to mind with each picture. I am thankful that I can take a journey down memory lane whenever I want to because of pictures like these. And I am thankful I can share them with you.

Thanks for spending this week with me as I reflected on Thanksgiving! I hope your week was also full of special people and memories that made you thankful. Until next time,

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Week of Thanksgiving - Our Miracle

I am linking up with Lil Kid Things in posting a week of Thanksgiving posts. For today, I want to write about our miracle.

For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to be a mother. I remember playing with baby dolls and being their mommy. I still instantly gravitate to babies and am more than willing to take on the burden *wink wink* of holding a baby so their mommy can have a break.

Russ and I started trying to have a baby fairly soon after we married. We had dreams of a large family, 4 children. If you read my post yesterday, you know about the health issues I deal with. Just before our first anniversary, we lost our first child, Jordan Taylor, to miscarriage. Devastated doesn't begin to describe how we felt. Out of our loss, we founded and led an online website that offered support to women and families who had lost a child to miscarriage.

A little over four months later, we found out we were pregnant again. This is where the miracle began. It was a difficult pregnancy. At one point, we thought I was miscarrying again. We worked at a children's home and one of the kids punched me in the stomach. Another scary time. We left the children's home and awaited the birth of our miracle. I started having significant contractions, yet every time we went to the doctor or hospital, they said the baby wasn't dropping and I wasn't progressing. If I only had known then what I know now, I would have insisted on intervention, but I was a very young 21 and just didn't know. We went through this for three long weeks, going to the hospital, being monitored and told I was having significant contractions, but not progressing. Finally my doctor said he would try to induce labor (as if what I was going through wasn't already labor). I went into the hospital and even with the doctor's intervention, still did not progress. Then, the baby's heart rate started dropping significantly. I was rushed into an emergency c-section. A few hours later, my doctor came to talk to me and explain what had happened. Our baby's umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. Those three long weeks, every time she tried to drop so she could be born, her umbilical cord was jerking her back up. My doctor said if we had continued and tried to have her vaginally, she would have died. God's hand was on our precious girl. We named her Damaris Mikaelia. She weighed in at 7 pounds, 8 ounces and was 18 1/2 inches long. We took her home after a couple of days and then ended up back in the NICU a few days later because she was very sick. Thankfully, the interventions by the NICU staff helped her and she was able to come back home a few days later.

Sadly, a couple of years after Damaris was born, we had another miscarriage and lost little Micah Jayden. About 3 years later, we had our third miscarriage and precious Noah Avrey was born into heaven. In the midst of all this, we also had three failed adoptions. Our dreams of a large family did not come to fruition as we had imagined. Three of our four babies were born into heaven before we could even hold them. Last year, our dreams of having anymore birth children was brought to an end because of health complications and a necessary surgery. Will we pursue adoption again? I don't know. Not right now. We'll have to pray about it and see where God leads us.

But back to our miracle. She is now 12 years old going on 30. :) I am so privileged to get to spend so much time with Damaris because I homeschool her. She is so much like me in that she loves to read, she loves to do computer stuff, she loves to knit, and she and I have similar tastes in tv and movies. She is also such a huge help to me. She realizes that Mamma is sick and will go out of her way to do things for me, refilling my water glass, making my coffee, running small errands, etc.

She is a true blessing and I cannot imagine my life without her. I love you Damaris! You are our miracle! I am so thankful for you!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Week of Thanksgiving - In Sickness

I am linking up with Lil Kid Things in posting a week of Thanksgiving posts. For today, I want to write about in sickness.

Just over 14 years ago, Russ and I stood together before God, our family, and our friends and vowed, among other things, to have and to hold each other from this day forward in sickness as well as in health. Little did we know what those 14 years would have in store for us.

It began shortly after we married. Looking back on things now, I would have never chosen to take the prescription medication that I did. It wreaked complete and total havoc on my body and we believe has been the instigator of my health issues. It started with thyroid problems and polycystic ovarian syndrome (pcos). I was having surgery for the pcos when they discovered my appendix was rupturing. I had infertility problems. I've had three miscarriages. I had an emergency c-section to deliver Damaris. I had my gallbladder removed. I had a breast cancer scare which included having two masses removed. I was diagnosed with depression. I started having migraines. I messed up my knee. I had another cancer scare. I had three other surgeries. I developed fibromyalgia and we are in the midst of this now, trying to discover if I can live a so called normal life or if disability is in store for me, for us.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think my husband would have to take care of me the way he has had to and continues to. I cannot even begin to explain to you everything he does for me. He works a full-time job and then comes home and cares for me. I honestly don't know how he does it all. Fourteen years after that vow was made, he still is as committed to it as he was the day he made it.

Russell Lane Almon, from the bottom of my heart, thank you! Thank you for your love, your care, your compassion, your gentle heart, your kind soul. I still do - even in sickness. I love you Bubba!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Week of Thanksgiving - Returning Home

I am linking up with Lil Kid Things in posting a week of Thanksgiving posts. For today, I want to write about returning home. Most of yall who read my blog with any regularity know that almost 3 months ago, Russ, Damaris, and I moved in with my parents. I have never considered myself as having a hometown because with my dad being a pastor, we moved quite a bit. We moved to Carlsbad, New Mexico, in March of my sophomore year of high school. I got the heck out of dodge as quickly as possible when in 1995, I moved to Texas for college. Since then, I had never been back to Carlsbad to live, only for short visits.

Towards the beginning of my 2nd year of residency as a hospital chaplain, Russ applied to several Ph.D. programs. Unfortunately, with such a competitive pool of applicants and not many spots open, he didn't get into one for 2011-12. When we heard from the last one in mid to late spring, we began looking for our next option. We felt like we were not supposed to stay in Houston especially because of how the weather was affecting my health. We put out lots of job applications and tons of feelers, but nothing came to fruition. We came to the point where we had to be out of our apartment and our chaplaincy residencies were coming to an end. My parents offered for us to stay with them while we figured out things

So, September 2nd, we moved to Carlsbad, New Mexico, and now we've been living with my parents for almost 3 months. We're still trying to figure things out, we're putting out feelers and hope to get a bite soon, but in the mean time, my parents have been so gracious to let us continue to stay with them. We never thought we'd be living with my parents for our 14th wedding anniversary, but this is where God has us for now.

When we knew we would be making this move, I wanted to fight it with all that was within me. I did not want to return to Carlsbad. I had gotten out of this town as quickly as I could. I didn't want to go to a town that had no Starbucks, no Target, not much of anything. I didn't want to have to move back in with my parents; I'm an adult, I'm married, I have a child.

But it happened and I wasn't able to stay upset about it. I couldn't stay upset about it. I had to live fully where I am and be grateful. And you know what? I am! I am grateful that Russ, Damaris, and I are getting to spend time with my momma Beckey (Damaris' B-Ma), my dad Gary (Damaris G-Pa), my sister Carrie, my brother-in-law J.R., and my niece Lola and that we'll be here for the holidays for the first time in 3 years and that we'll be here when my nephew Wyatt is born. And yall, that's a great reason to return home.

My dad Gary (Damaris' G-Pa), Damaris, and my momma Beckey (Damaris' B-Ma)

My sister Carrie and niece Lola

My brother-in-law J.R. and niece Lola

Russ and my niece Lola

Me and my niece Lola

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Week of Thanksgiving - Gratitude

I am linking up with Lil Kid Things in posting a week of Thanksgiving posts. She offered us some writing prompts to use if we desired or we are free to write about whatever we wish. For today, I want to get back on track with posting my gratitudes. Ann Voskamp and her writing both in her book One Thousand Gifts and on her blog Holy Experience have been very important to me this year. So often I forget how privileged I really am. I have a roof over my head. I have clothes to wear. I have food to eat. My husband has a job. I get to homeschool Damaris. And on and on. Seeing things such as the videos I posted yesterday from Missions in Action as well as reading the blog postings from some of the Compassion Bloggers brings me back to reality. I can complain until I am blue in the face, but I am still more privileged than most of the people in the world. So, I continue on with my gratitude list. I am so thankful that I can share my gratitudes with yall!

To read all my gratitudes so far, you can visit my gratitude page for a running list. Here is this week's list:
431. making a family favorite dinner gluten free
432. working in the kitchen with Russ and Damaris
433. hot chocolate with a peppermint stick made by Damaris
434. the look on Damaris' face when we surprised her
435. friends with whom the years that pass seem only as moments
436. dancing in the kitchen with Damaris
437. a hot fudge sundae
438. All is Grace
439. a daughter who knows how and is willing to make coffee
440. a chocolate covered strawberry

Your turn, share if you would like and let me know so I can read along with your gratitudes. Until next time,

Friday, November 18, 2011

Cooking With C.C. ~ Gluten Free Vanilla Chocolate Chip Cake

It's time for the 6th installment of Cooking with C.C. Back sometime in October, Damaris and I made a Gluten Free Vanilla Chocolate Chip Cake. Our friend Katie who usually bakes with us was having a rough time, so we wanted to take her a treat that we knew she could eat. We also shared it with my sister, brother-in-law, and niece and of course my mom and dad joined Russ, Damaris, & I in suffering by having to eat this cake. It was quite a burden to have to take on, but we were up to the challenge! :)

So let's gather all our ingredients and get started.

In a bowl, mix 2 1/2 cups gluten free flour,

1 1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum,

1/2 teaspoon baking powder,

1/2 teaspoon baking soda,

and 1 teaspoon salt.

In a separate bowl, beat together 2 sticks of unsalted butter (soften it - we just stuck it in the microwave for a few seconds),

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar,

2 large eggs (1 at a time),

3 large egg yolks (1 at a time),

and 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract.

This next part is a little tricky. Let me show you 2 photos and then I'll explain the process.

First, set aside about 1/4 cup of the dry ingredients. Then you're going to beat together the dry ingredients and 1 cup of low fat sour cream BUT you need to do this by alternating between the dry ingredients and the sour cream AND you should start and finish with the dry ingredients.

Remember the 1/4 cup of the dry ingredients you set aside? Mix about 6 ounces of chocolate chips (we used dark chocolate) into the dry ingredients. Then mix that mixture into the batter mixture. If any of this part or the previous part doesn't make sense, comment and I'll try to spell it out clearer.

Preheat oven to 350*.

Prepare your baking pan (I used a 9X13 I think, but you can definitely do various configurations, see the original recipe that I'll link to below) by spraying with cooking spray.

Action shot! Pour the batter into the baking pan.

Doesn't it look yummy? I so wanted to eat some but that's a no no since it has raw eggs in it.

Spread the batter out so it's even all over.

Set timer for 35 minutes and put cake into oven.

Baking, baking, baking (and we were washing dishes, but no pictures of that boring activity).

Check cake when timer goes off. If toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, then it's done. If not, bake for 5 more minutes and check again.

We cheated on icing the cake and decorating it. We went with a premade icing and a bag of white chocolate candy corn M&M's.

We were in a rush to ice the cake because we wanted to take some to Katie, so I cut a couple big pieces out of the cake and put them on a plate to cool and then iced them. That's what they are kind of crumbly on the edges.

I then decorated them with the M&M's.

Here's the rest of the cake iced and decorated after it had a better chance to cool.

Here's a side view of the cake. Looks yummy, right?

We all enjoyed this cake. It was fairly moist and the flavor was perfect, in my opinion. This recipe could be modified with different flavors of chips (butterscotch, milk chocolate, etc.) and different ways of decorating it.

This recipe came from the Gluten Free On a Shoestring. Check out her blog which is full of tons of great recipes on a budget. We did make a few edits to the recipe so if you want the original, you'll want to visit her website to get it.

Hope you've enjoyed this episode of Cooking with C.C. Let me know if you try this cake and if you make any modifications. You just may inspire me! And I definitely want to hear what your experience is. I'll be back soon with another recipe. Enjoy!