Happy Birthday, Dad

dad and mom

Today would be The Old Man’s 60th 62nd birthday.

He had a habit of forgetting details and making them up on the go, including his own age.  Since sometime around his fiftieth birthday, he started rounding his age up to sixty.  He also had a habit of rough speech, so was well known to exclaim, “I’m sixty damn years old!…”

While on the topic of Dad’s rough speech, I’ll tell you a quick story.  In the his last house, there was a divided door between the kitchen and the living room – the type often called a Dutch door.  He spent most of his free time in his place at the table, chain smoking cigarettes and reading books.

He insisted that the door between the living room and kitchen stay closed, and frequently yelled at the last person through the door to “shut the damn door!”

For many years afterward, my children thought that a horizontally divided door was called a Dam Door.

 

10 years

Happy birthday, Sarah.

Happy birthday, Parker!

I’ve been a slacker when it comes to birthdays, so I hope no one will think I’m playing favorites by posting about Parker today.  My ovarian guilt will wake up at the slightest tweak, so y’all be nice, ok?

parker-swing

Parker is 3 today, and he announced earlier this week that he wants cereal for his birthday dinner.  See?  He loves me.  He also loves cake.

parker-cake

And cookie dough.  He loves cookie dough.  Not that he’s my favorite kid, or anything.

parker-cookies

Perhaps you have seen his meme making the rounds?  Yes, my boy is famous.  I’m kicking myself because we didn’t add our url to the bottom of the image when we created it, because it has been shared EVERYWHERE.

parker-debt

Parker wasn’t the easiest baby.  He was high-strung, easily startled, and more needy than our other children.  But he is also incredibly easy to correct.  A bad attitude usually vanishes if we just tell him to be happy, and he is always ready to ask or grant forgiveness.

Recently he started waking up every morning in a foul mood, crying and grouching at anyone that crossed his path.  He always asked forgiveness willingly once he was thoroughly awake, but it was quickly getting old.  One night as I tucked him in, I told him how rude it was to greet his family that way in the morning.  “You should use a happy voice and tell them, ‘Good morning!'”  He cheerfully agreed.

The next morning he woke up grouchy as usual.  When I reminded him of his resolution to be happy in the morning, he grumpily responded that he had changed his mind.

But the following morning – be still my heart!  He staggered out of bed and groggily made the rounds greeting each person he met just as we had rehearsed, his smile growing bigger  with each greeting.  “Good morning, Perry!…Good morning, Megan!”  After the first 3 or 4, he looked around and asked, “Is that a happy voice?!”

That’s my boy.

IMG_0980

4 Moms: Valentine’s Day recipes and a story {linky}

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When I mentioned that today’s topic was recipes for Valentine’s Day, my kids were not impressed.  I think in our house we generally agree that Valentine’s Day is for lovers (i.e. married people), and thus the day holds very little interest for children in our family.

“Who chooses these topics?  Didn’t you tell the other moms we don’t do anything for Valentine’s Day?”

“Valentine’s Day?  Who cooks for Valentine’s Day?  You and Dad usually go out and we eat macaroni and cheese.”

“I’ll give you a Valentine’s Day recipe:

  1. Take chocolate.
  2. Put in mouth.”

I’m still not sure whether I should feel guilty because I don’t do any special cooking, or relieved because my kids don’t expect any.  They like macaroni and cheese.  I’ll let you know when I decide – or maybe I’ll let you decide.  What do you think?  On second thought, I only want to hear what you think if you’re on my side.

That’s not to say that I don’t get special treatment on Valentine’s Day, and any other excuse-of-a-holiday for romance.  Last year my husband hit one out of the park.  No, you can’t have him.

Being a good dad, Perry often brings home a  box of candy hearts or a small box of chocolates for each of the girls, too.  He knows the way to a woman’s heart, and any young man who wants to marry one of our girls had better learn a few tricks from her dad first.  He’ll have a tough act to follow.

So I get special treatment on Valentine’s Day.  If you’re wondering why I don’t do special cooking for Perry on Valentine’s Day, I just might be still punishing him for Valentine’s Day, 1998.   I hesitated to tell this story, but when I mentioned my hesitation to Perry he laughed and dared me.  He dared me, I tell you.  What else could I do?

Valentine’s Day ’98

or, Why I Don’t Cook a Romantic Dinner for Two on Valentine’s Day

It had been a long and difficult winter.  Perry was gone a lot, working full time while he tried to get his own business off the ground.  I had 3 kids 4yo and under, and was 6 months pregnant with our 4th.  My morning sickness had been worse than ever this time and I was down by 12 lbs, but I was finally feeling better.

As Valentine’s Day drew near, I decided to do something special.  Until now, Valentine’s Day had been pretty low key, but I wanted to make it special this year. Money was tight and babysitters were expensive, so we usually stayed in for our dates, but that wasn’t a problem.  I planned a menu of boneless turkey breast with all the traditional trimmings, and a nice bottle of wine on the side.  I made a special dessert.

Perry had the day off his regular job but was training a friend to clean carpets, his side business.  They planned to spend the day going over the maintenance of the machines and cleaning his friend’s carpets.  I didn’t know what time he would be home, but I wanted to be ready.  As evening fell, I fed the kids a cheap fun dinner and put them to bed early.   They were all too young to object, so all was well.

I dressed for dinner and set the table with candles and our prettiest dishes, keeping dinner warm while I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

When Perry finally arrived home very late that night, the turkey was about as hard and dry as my own attitude.  He made a valiant attempt to act hungry and chew the turkey jerky, but it just wasn’t working for either of us.  My attitude only got worse when I heard his side of the story:

After working all afternoon, he and his friend realized it was dinner time and they still had a few hours to go.  They were both hungry so they drove around the corner from Dave’s house to a local diner for a bite to eat.  The special was a 2-for-1 steak dinner – perfect!  Although both were married men, neither had a clue what day it was or why the quiet little diner was completely packed with starry-eyed lovebirds – and why the waitresses were giggling at the two of them.

My husband missed my special Valentine’s dinner because he went out for a romantic couple’s dinner with his buddy.

Of course it was partly my fault for not tipping him off ahead of time, but it’s more fun to blame him.  I’m not bitter, but I still tease him about his hot date with Dave.  I’m pretty sure the waitresses teased Dave about it for years afterward, too.

Because the title of this post promises recipes, I’ll share two.  I actually have made the Red Velvet Cake for Valentine’s Day because it is Perry’s favorite cake.  I made the Bacon Roses for Father’s Day, but they would be perfect for Valentine’s Day as well.

Red Velvet Cake

From the cookbook published by the church where Perry and I met as children.  How romantic is that?  Skip the red food coloring if you must, but don’t change the icing!

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 oz. red food coloring
  • 3 Tbs. cocoa
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or milk with 1 Tbs vinegar)
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. vinegar
  1. Cream shortening, sugar and eggs.
  2. Make a paste of food coloring and cocoa.  Add to creamed mixture.
  3. Add buttermilk alternately with flour and salt.
  4. Add vanilla.
  5. Add soda to vinegar, then mix thoroughly into batter.
  6. Pour into 2 8″ pans, greased and floured.  Bake 25-30 minutes at 350.
  7. Cool and split to make 4 layers.

Butter Cream Icing for Red Velvet Cake

Rich, buttery and not too sweet.  The easiest and most delicious cooked icing you will ever taste!
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 Tbs. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  1. Cook milk, flour and salt until thick, stirring constantly.
  2. Let cool thoroughly.  Learn from my mistakes: don’t rush it.  
  3. Cream butter and sugar well.  Add vanilla.
  4. Combine with milk mixture and beat until it looks like whipped cream.
  5. Spread between layers, top and sides of cake.  Learn more from my mistakes: Resist the urge to lick the bowl before you’re done or you won’t have enough for all 4 layers.

Bacon Roses

  • 1 lb. bacon, any type
  • muffin pan (12 cups)
  • 2 bunches of cheap plastic roses (12 total)

The original instructions said to drill a hole in the bottom of each cup in a muffin pan so that the grease could drain.  I bought 2 cheap muffin pans from The Dollar Tree so I could destroy them without guilt, then I decided not to drill the holes anyway.  They worked perfectly because bacon cooks very nicely in its own drippings, so 2 years later I still have the pans.  :)

Roll each slice of bacon into a curl and set into a muffin cup, edges on top and bottom so you see a spiral when you look at it.  Bake about 20-30 minutes at 400, until crisp.  Drain thoroughly.

To prepare rose stems, pull the flower off each one and push the green base down so that at least 1″ of the stem protrudes above.  Slide bacon buds onto protruding stems, place in a vase, and give to the love of your life.  If he insists on sharing, you’ve got a keeper.

I can’t find the photo, but our first try turned out just as pretty as the photos in the tutorial linked above, and so will yours.

What do you do for Valentine’s Day?

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4 Moms share Quick and Easy Holiday Recipes {linky}

Merry Christmas from the 4 Moms!  This week we’re sharing some of our favorite holiday recipes.  With a lot of little ones underfoot, my favorites are quick and easy.  They also happen to taste pretty good.  :)

If you’re a longtime reader, these recipes may look familiar to you.  Just smile and nod and pretend I’m not telling the same stories over and over again.

I plan to make my very-favorite Poor Man’s Toffee for this weekend’s annual tamale party with the extended family.  I’m glad some of my own household will be out of town, because then I won’t have to feel guilty if only half of the pan makes it to the party.

Poor Man’s Toffee

makes 50 pieces – great for gifts

  • 1 1/4 cups butter, divided
  • 35-40 saltine-style crackers
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cups finely chopped walnuts

Pay attention.  This happens quickly:

  1. Melt 1/4 cup butter; pour into foil-lined jelly roll pan.
  2. Arrange crackers over butter, evenly spaced.
  3. Melt remaining butter; add sugar and boil 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove from heat and add condensed milk. Spread over crackers.
  5. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes, until bubbly and slightly darkened.
  6. Remove from oven, cool 1 minute, and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Let stand 5 minutes (until chocolate is soft and melty) and spread.
  7. Sprinkle with nuts; press lightly into chocolate.
  8. Cool; refrigerate until chocolate is set.
  9. Remove foil and cut candy.

Yum! Rich, delicious and very impressive, and much faster and easier than it sounds. No one can ever guess the saltine cracker base – it tastes a lot like Almond Roca.

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Another very easy recipe that we make for holiday dinners is cranberry sauce.  After making our own the first time several years ago, we all decided we would never go back to the canned goop.  It’s quick and easy, just like the title of this post promises, and delicious!  The young ones in our family love that they can easily cook something this pretty for a formal meal.

Fresh Cranberry Sauce

  • 12 oz bag of cranberries
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup sugar (white or brown)
  • 1/2 cup water

Combine and simmer in microwave (covered) or on stovetop til berries burst, about 10 minutes.  Stir and mash a bit as they cook.

Chill thoroughly and serve in a pretty dish.

Really, that’s it.  You thought it would be harder, didn’t you?

cranberry 300x199 Cranberry sauce

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Cheater’s Fudge

So easy you’ll never go back.

  • 12 oz. bag of chocolate chips
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • optional additions: walnuts, marshmallows, etc.

Just combine ingredients in a medium saucepan and stir over medium-low heat until melted and combined.  Pour into buttered or wax-paper lined 8×8 pan, chill, and cut into small squares.

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Effortless Eggnog

I love eggnog and have no qualms about the raw eggs in traditional recipes, especially since most of our eggs come from our own hens.  However, this recipe is super easy, delicious, and satisfies those who are concerned about raw eggs.

  • 1/2 gallon milk, divided
  • 1 package instant French vanilla pudding mix
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg

In a large bowl, whisk 3/4 cup milk and pudding mix until smooth. Whisk in the sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir in remaining milk. Refrigerate until serving.

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4 Moms Talk About Quick and Easy Holiday Crafts

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My favorite crafting happens in the kitchen, calls for lovely things like butter, sugar and chocolate, and ends up in my mouth.  Unfortunately, that sort of crafting is probably not what the other 3 moms had in mind when we agreed on this topic.  In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s not, because we’re covering that sort of crafting next week.

No, I’m pretty sure we are talking about inedible crafts right now.  Are you a crafty mom? I used to want a t-shirt that said, “I’m so crafty I make people,” but I’m afraid it would be misleading.  Sometimes I think babies are the only project I ever finish – or even start.

Im SO Crafty I Make People Button

But I’m trying to do better.  I now own spray paint in two colors, and I have used both.  But my new craftiness doesn’t end there.  My new-to-me bedframe has drawers built into it, and one of the drawers on my side holds actual crafting supplies!  I have scissors, tacky glue, glue sticks, construction paper, a few stencils, bottles of acrylic paint in Christmas colors, and 2 varieties of Mod Podge.  Yes, now I have your attention.  Now you know I’m serious.

But even though I really am serious, I have to confess that my Mod Podge stash has only been used for one craft so far.  It’s simple but cool and turned out amazing, but I can’t show you because the intended recipient reads this blog.  And, well, I didn’t do the actual crafting, although I did help a little.  That counts, right?

So far the only other Christmas crafting we have done is making Christmas cards.  See?

homemade christmas cards

All of the girls down to Becca worked on these.  They thought about initialing the back of each creation, but then decided that they would only do that on the ones they really liked.  If they weren’t entirely happy with one, they decided to sign someone else’s initial instead. ;)  And since we have so much time and effort in them already, I’m almost positive we’ll actually mail them this time!  I can use what’s left of the 100 Christmas stamps I bought last year.  I think I have 100 left.

But I have spent a few minutes several hours a little time on Pinterest, and I hope to do more crafts this year than we have in the past.  It shouldn’t be hard, since we’ve already done two and I think that may tie with our previous record of two.

If our Clementine Candle counts, we’ve already done three and we’re in record territory.

Clementine Candle: this really works!  No wick needed - just pour in some olive oil and light the little string that grows up the center of the clementine!

Not our photo, but it’s easy and beautiful.  Kaitlyn managed to peel her clementine with half of the skin plus the inner part of the stem intact.  She just poured in a little olive oil and lit the tip of the stem.  It was gorgeous!

Here are some others that I have in mind for this year:

These paper ornaments would be a snap to assemble.  I love that little kids could help with something that looks this classy.  Of course we could vary the colors: red & white are what we use to decorate for Christmas.  Then we could replace the red with gray for a more wintry feel and leave them up until spring!

Pretty paper ornaments/decorations that the kids can make - even preschoolers could help with these!

Since the girls are always bringing home clearance tea cups from Vison Forum, I think we should try some of these teacup candles as gifts.  We would need to buy wicks from Hobby Lobby and 1 or 2 big cheap candles from a dollar store.  Then we can color them with leftover bits of used candles, and scent with a few drops of essential oils.

teacup candle

If we do our own cards again next year, I think it would be a lot of fun to try pop-up Christmas cards like these.  A web search would turn up other pop-up ideas for Christmas cards.

And even though we would be starting late, I want to do an Advent calendar of some sort.  Do you have a suggestion for one we could do with very little preparation?  I have friends who have 25 candles, and each night when they do their Advent reading they light an additional candle, i.e. one on the first night, two on the second night, until they finally light all 25 candles at once.

Are you a crafting wannabe, or a guru?  What’s being crafted in your corner?  What do you hope to try someday soon?  Link up with us and share your ideas or intentions!

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4 Moms give food as gifts {linky}

4moms35kids Q&A with the 4 Moms: competitiveness, pregnancy and newborns, Bible for little ones

I’m excited about this topic.  It’s not so much because I have great ideas to share with you, as because I’m excited about food.  Nursing a newborn will do that to you.  :)

In an astounding coincidence, most of the foods on my list below also happen to be our own favorite winter treats.  I’ll tell you about a few food gifts we have done in the past, then I want to sit back and read your great ideas!

Candy: here are two of our favorites, both very fast and easy and entirely too delicious.  Don’t give these to dieters.  That’s just unkind.

Poor Man’s Toffee – Addictive and impressive.  Break or cut into pieces and arrange on a plate or platter.  Add some fudge for variety.

Cheater’s Fudge – My favorite recipe is very easy, but there are endless variations to dress it up.  You have to be a sick person to dislike fudge.

Drinks: put these in pretty jars with pretty lids.  If you’re feeling generous, give a set of all 3 in a pretty basket with some mugs.

Russian Tea mix – I’m not a tea drinker, but this is really delicious on a cold morning.

Chai Tea mix – Even better than the Russian tea.  Be sure to use real cardamom if you can find it.  I get mine in bulk from the local health food store.

Homemade Cocoa mix – Rich, creamy, and not as sweet as the storebought mixes.

IMG 3499 300x200 Challah Bread recipeBaked goods: this list should definitely include your favorite cinnamon roll recipe.  Here are two other favorites.

Braided Challah Bread – We make this for Communion every week, but it’s so delicious that we still never take it for granted and neither will your loved ones.  It’s easy and beautiful, and makes a lovely gift.  Wrap it in clear or tinted plastic wrap so they can see how pretty it is.

roll 150x150 Pumpkin rollsCream Cheese Filled Pumpkin Roll – A lot of work, but not so bad if you do a dozen at a time and just mess up the kitchen once.  Wrap in white freezer paper and tie the ends with red ribbon.  Cut in half before wrapping for single people and couples.  A bigger family deserves the whole roll!  Store in the freezer.  These also sell nicely, if you’re up for the job.

Your turn.  What is your favorite food gift?  Even if you haven’t actually given it yet, what recipe do you think would make a fabulous gift?  What have you found lately on Pinterest or elsewhere on the internet that you intend to try soon?

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Large Family Gift Guide by the 4 Moms

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Gift giving can present special challenges in a large family.  It can be hard to come up with enough different ideas to make each child feel special.  It can be hard to budget for all the gifts you’d like to buy your children.  Sometimes it seems hard just to think of ideas that won’t land in the trash or at the Goodwill by the end of the month.

Over the years, we have come up with some ideas that stood the test of time.  These are the gifts that are still remembered with fondness many years later: games that are still played, toys that are still loved, toys and books that have been loved to pieces and replaced and loved again, experiences that still come up in stories.  Here are some of our best ideas, from our house to yours.  I’ll update this list as we remember others.

Gifts for babies and toddlers:

Special/personalized Christmas ornaments – a timeless gift for children too young to notice or care if you give them a gift.  These will be precious in years to come.

Favorite books in board book format – Our list includes Goodnight Moon 4 Moms: Top Ten Books for Preschoolers, The Runaway Bunny, The The Going-to-Bed Book, Goodnight Gorilla, The Very Hungry Caterpillar 4 Moms: Top Ten Books for PreschoolersBrown Bear 4 Moms: Top Ten Books for PreschoolersThe Very Busy SpiderWhen I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old’s Memoir of Her Youth 4 Moms: Top Ten Books for PreschoolersMiss Spider’s Tea Party, and Guess How Much I Love You.

 

Gifts for young children:

Gears! Gears! Gears!- Noisy enough to make me question my sanity, but too much fun to leave off the list.  Even I couldn’t keep my hands off these!

Duplos/Legos – You can never have too many.

Blutrack Racetrack – Requires some creativity and help from older children, but fun & durable with far more possibilities than cheap plastic racetracks.

Video collections – One year we gave each child a different Little Rascals DVD, so that as a group they received a sizeable collection that they all enjoyed.  Another year, the older girls pooled their funds to give each of the little children a classic Disney animated feature that they remembered from their own youth and wanted to share with their younger siblings.

Personalized pillow cases (stuffed with a fluffy new pillow) – Easy to make with fabric, appliques, etc.  that will be special to the recipient.

Gifts for older children and teens:

Kindle – The base model is not expensive, and gives a bibliophile ultimate access to countless free classics and other books.  Megan has enjoyed hers immensely and amassed an impressive library with very little additional expense.

Old books – I say “old books,” not just used books, because our older children much prefer an old hardback to a new one, and paperbacks are considered consumable and/or disposable in our house.  Hardbacks over 60 years old are some of their most treasured gifts.

Speed Stacks stacking cups with timer mat – More fun than they look! We bought our first set at a homeschooling conference after our kids got hooked. We later found a second set at a thrift store.

Gift cards – While some persnickety adults may feel slighted at receiving a gift card in lieu of a “real” gift, I have never known a child to feel that way – and it doesn’t take a large amount to thrill them.  Our girls especially love gift cards to secondhand stores, where they can get even more for their money.  They appreciate that the gift-giver understands and knows them well enough to know that they love to shop secondhand.

Group gifts/experience gifts

Trampoline – We found ours secondhand, and years later it is still holding up well under daily use.

Video game system – We carefully chose games that worked best with multiple players, discouraging and even forbidding those that were limited to single players.

Zoo pass

Laser tag equipment – We haven’t done this yet, but I suspect it would go over very well in our rough-and-tumble group.  Several of our children love airsoft wars already, and I think laser tag would be a perfect initiation for those who haven’t caught the bug yet.  It would also be less likely to dent the fridge or break the mirrors on our vehicles.  :)

What have been some of your best ideas over the years?  What have you never tried, but think it sounds like a great idea?

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Wedding Q&A

I shared a few photos and highlights from last Saturday’s wedding here.

Now to answer some of your questions:

What did you do for bridesmaids dresses?

There was only a maid of honor.  Deanna gave her a color and some general guidelines, and she chose her dress.  I think she found it at David’s Bridal.

What did you do for the reception, especially for food, venue, and flowers?

The venue was the fellowship hall belonging to the same church that owned the chapel, so that part was simple.  It was just the right size for our group of 150 close friends and family members.

Photo: Going to the Chapel

Centerpieces for the table were coke bottle vases with a tulle bow, each holding a red carnation and a small bunch of baby’s breath.  They were simple and pretty, and everyone loved them!

For food, we served pulled pork and two kinds of sausage.  I asked a couple of family members to bring specific side dishes, and a few close friends to bring veggie trays. They were thrilled to know how they could help.  They provided two varieties of potato salad, a green salad, beans, and five veggie trays.  We had intended to provide the sausage ourselves, but I asked a friend to grill it for us and she insisted on buying it as a gift.  :)

To keep things simple, I specifically requested that veggie trays be brought fully prepared, with dip, and ready to serve.  Since each contributor brought just a single tray, it wasn’t hard for them and it kept the workload on Saturday to a minimum.  We also provided tons of watermelon, baby dills, etc. Drinks were sweet iced tea, ice water, coffee, and this punch, which got very good reviews both on the website and from our guests.  It was light and refreshing, deliciously fruity but not overly sweet.

What did the bride and groom do for a honeymoon?

Since everything happened so quickly, they decided to wait and do something special for their first anniversary.  In the meantime we sent them to the coast for a weekend in a beachfront hotel.

What does he do for a living? Where will they live? How is your back? :)

I don’t know how much detail about their personal life they want to share, so I’ll skip the first question.  Deanna joined him in his home in San Antonio, so they’re near enough for us to see them regularly.

My back is behaving.  It’s just sore enough now and then to remind me to get plenty of rest.  :)

How much did you cry?

Not a bit.  I cry when I’m mad or sad.  I don’t usually do tears of joy, and this was a joyful occasion!

My children want to know who gets D’s bed/space etc ;)

So do mine.  ;)  I don’t think there’s really any extra space, since she has been in the process of moving out for a while.  By that I mean that her possessions have been spread out everywhere in preparation for the grand exit.  I think her personal spaces just got absorbed gradually as she emptied them.

Best piece of advice for planning a wedding on a short time table??

Don’t sweat the details.  Find out what the bride’s and groom’s priorities are, and focus on those.  Make a list right away, so you know what needs to be done early and what can wait.  Pace yourself – don’t be afraid to leave the easy things until later as long as you’re checking important tasks off your list.

We started with a guest list so that we could get a rough headcount and secure an appropriate venue.  Then invitations went out (couldn’t do those until we knew when and where the ceremony would be!) so that out of towners would have as much notice as possible.  After that, we started looking for a dress, because we knew it could take a while to find the right one inside our budget.

Clothes for the flower girl and ring bearer were next.

 

I had a hard time finding a dress that I felt was flattering in my third trimester, but in the end I found one I really liked – and of course this wasn’t about me anyway!

Food and decorations came together last.  They wanted something fun and informal, and we knew we could make those decisions quickly if necessary.  I nearly waited too long on flowers, but it turned out the florist had just what I needed in stock, so I was able to get a great deal and didn’t have to order 7-10 days ahead as usual.

Any helpful hints for cutting corners and keeping the cost low?

Accept offers of help.  If somebody offers help that isn’t exactly what you need, thank them sincerely and ask if they would be willing to do ___ instead.

Ask for help.  I felt very self-conscious about imposing on people, but every time I mentioned that I was hoping we could find ___, somebody piped up and told me how much they would love to help!  My sister-in-law called to put me in touch with her mom, who was able to loan us tablecloths, punch bowls and serving trays.  We asked to hire a young couple we know and love to play the piano and call the dances at the reception, and they offered to do it for free as a gift to the bride and groom.  I asked a friend to grill sausages, and she insisted on picking up the bill for the sausages.  We were able to borrow some equipment from our own church, and the church we rented had a well-equipped kitchen as well.

Ask for suggestions and input.  This gets your creative juices flowing, and also gets others involved in ways that can prove helpful.

Do it yourself if you can:

  • Kaitlyn and Deanna designed the invitations themselves, then we had them printed on ivory cardstock and cut by an office supply store.  Ivory envelopes in standard card sizes came from Amazon.
  • We couldn’t afford a high-dollar photographer and I’ve seen what the cheap ones get you, so we did photography in-house.  We printed out a checklist for the formal shots before, during and after the ceremony, and enlisted a few friends with good cameras to help out at the reception.  The bride and groom insisted that they didn’t want or need all the typical and traditional poses, though we did make an effort to cover the basics.  What they really wanted is a fun way to remember the day, and I’m confident they will have it!  This isn’t a corner everyone would be willing to cut, but it worked for us.
  • The groom’s aunt did the cakes, and she did them beautifully!

What wouldn’t you do next time?

The photographer, who probably wants to remain nameless, says that she wouldn’t lose her checklist of important shots right before the ceremony.

I would be more organized about reception photography, which was more important to the bride and groom than the formal shots.  I did enlist help from talented friends with good cameras and I’m sure we’ll have lots of great shots, but next time I would assign specific tasks to individual photographers to make sure all the bases were covered (e.g. First person get some nice shots of the food and people eating.  Second person focus on the cake table, guest book, and other decorations.  Third person take photos of dance, helpers, volunteers, DJ, etc.  Fourth person focus on bride, groom and family members.)

I would stick to recommended amounts of food based on the number of people we expect, and I would trust the built-in safety margins.  I wanted to play it safe – don’t we all? – and our guests ate less than half the food we provided.  Of course leftovers are a grand thing, but we had a lot of food to pack up, haul back to the house and fit into the fridge!  More conservative quantities would have been plenty, much easier to clean up afterward, and easier on the budget.

I would keep a more detailed account of our expenses so we can plan more easily for the next wedding.

These are all very small things because overall, we’re thrilled with the way things went!

And I can’t end this without special thanks to two of my friends.

While many of our friends and family contributed in various ways, two friends really stood out.  Laralee and Laurie both asked what they could do to help.  While I had intended to oversee the meal with help from my older daughters, I asked if my friends could make themselves available while we were occupied with post-ceremony photos.  These two dear ladies absolutely insisted that I not plan to work during the reception – they entirely took over on my behalf.  When one apologized for being “too bossy” about the idea of me helping out, I thanked her heartily and assured her that her own willingness to step in and take over allowed me to step down without guilt.

Laralee and Laurie and their families made the whole process go better: both had helped with other weddings, and brought a lot of expertise to the table.  They helped with planning, asking good questions that hadn’t occurred to me.  They helped with set-up, serving, and cleanup afterward.  They enlisted help as needed from others and made sure that all the bases were covered.  They each contributed some nice touches of their own to the setup and decor.  They worked tirelessly to make sure we didn’t.  And I’m sure they did a lot that I will never know about.  :)

Without friends like these, I think the wedding would have been an entirely different experience, and I’m thankful to count their families among our close friends.

Wedding recap

It’s already Wednesday and I’m just now sitting down to the computer for the first time since the wedding – unless you count the 10 minutes it took me to write yesterday’s pregnancy update.  I don’t count that, because I plan to spend much, much longer telling you about the wedding.  :)

For today, I’ll just pull some of the cellphone photos that have been shared on Facebook.  The “real” ones are in editing, but I don’t know when they’ll be ready.

The happy bride and groom, after the ceremony.  I love this pic so much, can you blame me for beginning with the end?

Dad with Bethany, all ready for her second-ever performance as flower girl.  She was so excited, and not a bit nervous!

Do they?  They do!

The big smooch.  I think we were all counting the seconds until somebody came up for breath.  Ewwwww!

Taking family photos after the ceremony.  Please ignore most of the bare feet.  While there was some planned barefootedness in the wedding party, most of the bare feet you see here happened after the ceremony, when all my redneck children shucked their shoes.

The wedding party.  Perry’s youngest sister was Deanna’s maid of honor – Abigail is just Deanna’s age, and the two of them cut a deal when they were little kids together, promising to be each other’s maid of honor.  Abigail is also a 4th degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, which is totally unrelated but too cool not to mention. Tyler’s brother Caleb was his best man.  Deanna is making her bossy face, and PerryBoy is making his Calvin face.

A few details: This was a simple country wedding in an old stone chapel, so pew decorations were simple: a red carnation and some baby’s breath, tied with tulle and hung with ribbon.

At the reception afterwards, we all enjoyed a good meal and lots of dancing.  I heard from several people that it was a perfect balance of fun and formal – much nicer than a simple fellowship meal, but not at all stuffy or boring.  I hope to have more photos of the reception soon.  The cake table was done by Tyler’s aunt with lots of help from his mom, and it was gorgeous!

In addition to regular seating, we also had 5 smaller tables for the young children.  They were covered with paper and supplied with crayons, colorful pipe cleaners, and big bowls of chocolate animal crackers.  I think it was a great hit!

For now, the photo below is all I could find of the reception.  Parker danced with his favorite partner, little Jael.  They danced together at a wedding last December too.

Next: Wedding Q&A.  The post is ready, but I hope to add some photos, so look for it Friday.  :)