Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A New Feature: Today's Best & Worst

I've been wanting to blog the last couple of days, but I haven't had much to write about. However, last night I watched the Primetime special on Randy Pausch, the writer and presenter of The Last Lecture, and I got a little inspiration for days such as these.

Every night at bedtime Randy would ask his kids what the best and worst part of their day was. I think it's a great thing to do with your family, but I thought it might also be a good way to stay connected when I'm suffering from a little blogger's block. Or when I've just run out of time to really write anything. So. Without further ado...

THE BEST: Chattin' and laughin' it up with the moms at the library and I had a great conversation with my mom.

THE WORST: For a few hours this evening, I was a bit of a basketcase. Crying for no reason. Cleaning frantically. Blaming Casey for every imaginable negative detail of our lives. Pouting. Whining. Declaring today my ugliest day EVER! Behaving quite irrationally. What can I say, girls...it just ain't the best time of the month. Thankfully, I have a patient and...intuitive husband (who is not to blame for hardly any of the imaginable negative details of our lives...just kidding, honey ;). He made me feel better. And...so did Project Runway. :)

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Punkin's Singing Debut

video

Correction....Braelyn's solo debut. ;)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Toadally Disgusting

Around 8:00, Braelyn and I got home from a lovely evening at the Hyde's. Before we got going on Braelyn's bedtime routine, I needed to take a trip to the little girl's room, when....

:::GASP:::
FROG!


3 things cross my mind:
1. How does a frog get into one's potty, or more importantly, how does a frog get into MY potty?
2. What if I had sat down?!!!!! What if it jumped?!!!!! Oh my gosh, tee tee would have been everywhere!!!
3. Peter HAS to come get it out! (I would of course commission my husband for such a task as this, but he is at the moment speaking at the Brenham Youth Conference.)(Peter, for those of you who don't know, is living in our garage apartment for a few weeks. He currently holds the titles of Christ Church's favorite Montanan and Garage Apartment Tenant of the Year.)

So, of course, Peter did rescue me and my potty from the frog AND complied with the house rule, which is...Just because we HATE creatures in the house, does not mean we kill them. It's a very strict rule. Exceptions include spiders, wasps and roaches.

Thankfully, I can now tee tee frog free. Peter, you're the best!

Erica, how are you at catching (without killing) bugs and reptiles? Cause seriously, you'll be required to do this from time to time. It's in your contract....Seriously...I'm not kidding.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Taking a Second Chance

Everybody hopes that they find that thing, that talent, that they love and are passionate about. Dancing was my thing. From about middle school through college dance was what I loved most in the world (besides the people in my life). I had no other goals really, besides dancing.

My junior year of college I started to feel the Lord calling me away from dance. For one, I found myself in an increasing number of compromising situations. Some of the pieces that I was being cast in required that I do some things that I didn't feel completely comfortable doing. Nothing horrible. Now I would probably feel okay about it, but I was a young Christian and had a overly sensitive conscience. I also struggled with the fact that while I wanted to make much of God, day after day my goal was to make much of myself. I would obsess about my body and my performance and whether I was being noticed.

I refused to listen to God for quite a long time, because after all, I had no other aspirations or talents that I had invested any time in. What else would I do? So I continued to dance, but the struggle persisted. In the Spring of, oh, I don't know...'02 maybe, I was invited to join a dance company in Houston for their upcoming Fall season. However, His voice was growing unbearably loud and as I was stalling in mustering up the courage to tell the director I was reconsidering, she told me she filled my spot. I had delayed in obedience. I questioned and questioned His voice, and so He made the message clear. I was done. I didn't know if that meant for forever, or for just a season, but I knew clearly that it would have been blatant disobedience to continue dancing at that point. That was such a hard time, but at the same time I felt relieved that God was in fact, the Initiator of this change. I enjoyed trusting Him to write a new and beautiful chapter for me. And of course, He did.

It's funny, because the first few years I was away from dance, I didn't miss it that much. I was growing and maturing and discovering new things about myself. They were hard years, but good. Necessary. I will say, however, that out of fear of missing it, I didn't go see any dance, nor did I talk about it much. If I had to say goodbye to it for myself, I had to say goodbye to it all.

After Braelyn was born, I started taking an AMAZING yoga class at the Richmond Y. It blew away my expectations. The teacher was fabulous. Once again, I felt my body move and stretch and work and balance. It was challenged. I think this is when and where I started thinking about dance again. What was hard was that it didn't really seem a possibility to dance again, especially with a new baby, but I would miss it so much. It hurt. The feeling would come for a while and then leave me alone for a while. Then it would come again, perhaps for a little longer, perhaps a little stronger, but to my relief it would fade away...again.

Well, a few weeks ago, I was missing dance and tired, exhausted really, of feeling that way. I talked to Casey about it, as I've done many times, but this time he told me to do some research and get back to him. So, with much prayer and counsel I researched some possibilities. You'd be surprised how few opportunities there are for modern dancers here in Brenham (please note the sarcasm). But, I chose to persevere through that obstacle, as well as others, and I developed a plan to start dancing again.

The plan involves taking some yoga/pilates classes over the summer to get back into shape, and then in the fall I'll drive into Houston once a week to take a dance class. Today, I had my second (beginners) pilates class. I love it! It is so satisfying to awaken those muscles that I used to be so intimately acquainted with.

That is still the plan for now...BUT! I want to take it slow and one step at a time. Like I said, I have numerous hurdles to jump...Brenham, I'm a mom, and we're hoping for more babies. If after taking pilates for a while, I feel like that satisfies that craving in me, then that's fine...I'll stick to pilates or yoga or whatever. Perhaps that's all I need. We'll see. I know that if I do, by some miracle start dancing again, it's not going to be what it once was. And that's fine. It doesn't need to be. I've just reached a point where I am more afraid to not try at all than I am of failing. That's a big step for me. I'm excited. I'm scared. I'm certain that I'm insane, but...I just have to try...with patience and caution and wisdom and...an open mind.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Final Casey-Braelyn Birthday Post

The day after Casey "grown-up" party, we celebrated his and Braelyn's birthday with family. Very casual, very low-key...perfect.

Firth things first...presents. Most of them were for Braelyn as you can imagine. Casey and I gave her this little table and the purple, wooden tea set. I had been waiting for a year to give her this tea set. She loved it!

After presents we had burgers and cake. I ordered these cakes from The Sweet Tooth in Rosenberg. Very delicious and very affordable. I was pretty happy with how they came out.

After cake...SWIMMING!

As the night was coming to an end, Casey, out of nowhere asks my brother if he wanted to get baptized. Casey and Tyler have been talking about it for years now, and this night seemed like the perfect opportunity. All of our family was there, his girlfriend (of 5 years) was there, there was a pool, Casey was already in the water and Tyler, luckily, brought his swimming suit. There was no reason to wait. It was a very special ending to an already wonderful day. I love you, Tyler!

Big thanks to the family for giving Casey and Braelyn such a great birthday. We love you so much. And to all my dear, faithful, patient readers...this is the last birthday post for a very long time! I promise! ;)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Casey Should Turn 30 More Often!

Last Friday night, Casey and I got together with some friends to celebrate his 30th birthday. We started the evening at The Black Labrador, a charming, little English pub in Houston. Casey and I had a great time, and I think...I hope...our friends did too. Here are some pics.

Here's one end of our table.
From left to right: Kathy & Doug, Holly (feeling quite at home in this English pub ;), Cat, and Erin & Reed.

On the other end: Peter (he's single, ladies!!!) and the newly engaged Krystle and Blake.

Around the center of the table we have...
Mike and Cat...

Brad and Jessica...

Justin and Brandi...

...and of course, the birthday boy and Yours Truly.

Some party highlights:

Arm wrestling. Um, yes. Mike and Justin were arm wrestling in the middle of the pub. At some other restaurant people might have been a little put out at such rowdy behavior, but at the Black Lab...everyone knows your name and they're always glad you came*....just kidding. No, but really, I think our table and those surrounding got quite a kick out of the contest.

The most hilarious, perfect birthday gift...this T-shirt from mentalfloss.com
If you can't read the shirt, it says - Christians have the best sects.
HA! Classic! Thanks Brad and Jess!
After dinner we went to our favorite cafe, Brasil's, for coffee and dessert on the patio. The perfect ending to our night. Throughout the whole evening Casey and I were both thinking...1. Why do we not do this more often? This is just good-for-your-soul kinda fun. I think we're gonna start celebrating Casey's birthday once a month. Seriously. And 2. God has blessed us with the most amazing friends. Thanks guys, for properly sending Casey into middle agedness! :)

* Did you get my joke? Those are the lyrics to the Cheers theme song. I know...I'm a dork.

Coffman's...we missed you! Only for baby Ethan would we let you miss such a fun party!!! :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Story of My (recent) Life

So it was Pizza & a Movie Night for Braelyn and me once again. This time it was actually pizza and a movie (as opposed to the mac&cheese and a movie we had last time). If I wasn't such a glutton for punishment, I would have ordered Domino's like I said I would. But no. I decided to attempt the homemade veggie pizza with wheat crust. (Recipe from Mandi found here.)

I tried to make this little project something fun that Braelyn and I could do together, and to my surprise, it went pretty well. I helped her pour the crust ingredients into the mixer. She snapped the bell pepper slices in half. She helped me spread the sauce and sprinkle on our toppings. We had a pretty good time for our first mother/daughter culinary adventure.

Here is our pizza before it went into the oven. Looks pretty good, I'd say. Lots of veggies! We have onions, olives, spinach, tomatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms, and zucchini! Yum!

Bon Appetit! The Mommy/Braelyn Homemade Veggie Pizza with Wheat Crust!

Here we are ready to chow down on some pizza and watch none other than...The Backyardigans!

Now, I quite enjoyed Pizza and a Movie Night. Braelyn, on the other hand, quite enjoyed Gerber Graduate's Raviolis and a Movie Night.

:::SIGH:::
So it goes...the story of my life!

Thankfully, we were having a pleasant evening together. Otherwise, I think I would have cried all the way to the store where I would have gotten a half gallon of ice cream and transformed Pizza and a Movie night into Ice Cream and a Movie Night. Seriously, I'm a little fragile these days.

But back to the pizza. I don't think Braelyn had a problem with the veggies, so much as with the crust. It was very wheaty. I'm not sure it came out like it was supposed to. The taste and texture was more like bread than pizza crust. I mean, I really liked it, but I don't want, or need, a whole pizza to myself. Mandi...help! The future of Pizza and a Movie Night is in your hands! :)

Celebrating from Afar

I've had to resist posting these pictures, but now that our friends Andy and Gabriele are officially Mr. and Mrs. Andy Moore, I feel quite at liberty to share. :)

Andy and Gabriele's wedding was in Oklahoma, so the Christ Church family was not able to attend. However, the women of Christ Church (well, some of them) got a sneak peek of the bride-to-be in her gorgeous gown a couple days before the big day. She looked so beautiful! I hate that we missed seeing her walk down the aisle.

I love this picture. This is literally one of the first pictures of our Christ Church family. We're missing a few girls, and of course the guys and kiddos, but it's a start. I love these women!
Andy and Gabriele were married last Friday evening. I hear that everything went beautifully. Many of us were together for another occasion in Houston that night, so, of course we had the happy couple on our minds. I like to think we were celebrating simultaneously from afar.

Congratulations Moore's! We love you and welcome home!

Monday, July 14, 2008

In Need of Normal

Finally, after what seems like many weeks, I have a moment to actually sit and write. I've missed writing. I suppose I have posted here and there about this silly thing or that silly thing, but rarely over the course of this summer have I had opportunity or willingness to write. My blog has lacked substance, and if ever I was able to communicate to you through my words the state or condition of my heart, let my lack of words communicate equally. I myself, have been lacking in substance.

This summer has taken it's toll on me. I do not feel myself. There have been so many wonderful moments along with some more trying ones, but I think I feel so out of sorts because there hasn't been enough "normal" to balance them out. We've been traveling with Casey, which is fun, but completely disruptive to our family routine on all levels. We've stayed home while Casey travels. This arrangement has the best potential for "normal," but it's just not. There's no one to help around dinner time. There's no one to take over when your toddler has had one too many tantrums and you've exhausted all reasonable responses. There's no one there at 11:00 at night to watch Lost with or play Scrabble with or have late night snacks with. I know that I am surrounded by great friends, both near and far, who would come to my rescue at any time, but they have their own dinner times and their own kids who are throwing tantrums, and they're all smart enough to go to bed before 11:00, so I push through it. I will say however, that during these weeks alone I have, against my better judgment, often abandoned all respectable parenting techniques to make it through the day. The park, chocolate chip cookies and God's gift to all tired moms...the television have protected me from making many regrettable mistakes. They have, in critical moments applied soothing oil to patience worn too thin.

Casey has had some weekends off and even a ten day "vacation" from camp. However, "normal" continued to evade the Cease household, mostly because it was unwisely uninvited. During the days that we have been all together, we have exhausted ourselves with self-inflicted busyness while also trying to tackle everyday household necessities. Togetherness has meant laundry marathons and pressure washing and birthday parties and traveling (you would think we'd avoid that) and shopping and reunions and other fun things and other required things, but nothing normal.

A couple things must be noted. 1. I don't at all blame Casey for our summer situation. I know he's doing what he has been called and gifted to do. He has been working so hard all summer, both at camp and at home. I feel no frustration with him. I am grateful for his dedication to us and to his ministry. 2. I am, however frustrated with myself. This is not my first rodeo. I have lived through 5 summer seasons, and so I know, or at least I should know by now, that if I do not remain faithful to the One who is constant and who is ever life-giving, the summer will be longer and harder than it needs to be. I have had some great time with the Lord, and I have had some frustrating time with the Lord, but overall, it has been a little half-hearted...just getting by. I have been blaming the craziness for my inconsistency in prayer and in the Word, but I know now, and I've known all along that the latter is to blame for the former. Time for repentance.

I mentioned earlier that our summer has been filled with wonderful moments. It truly has! Fabulously blogable moments. I am anxious to share them with you. But today I just had to get all of this off my chest. Not only do I feel better, but now I have something to refer to for next summer. I will inevitably go into summer '09 having no recollection of this summer, so it's good that I've documented my struggles. Future Steph needs a warning!

Thanks for allowing me to let it all out. It feels good to write. It feels good to be honest and share my bad with the good. Like I said, I have lots to blog about, so I should be around (my blog and yours) a lot more often. See you then. Have a blessed day.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

How Daddy and Daughter Do Cupcakes




Man, I'm thirsty!
Thanks Mrs. Brandi! Those cupcakes were yummmmy!

(Let it be noted, that that is not how Mommy and Daughter do cupcakes! ;)

I Love Winning!

Hey Folks....I won a blog award!!! I love these bloggy awards and tags and things...in this modern world, it's how we tell each other, "Hey, I'm thinking about you. You make me smile. I enjoy getting to know you, etc." It just brightens your day to see yourself mentioned on someone else's blog, doesn't it?!

Well yesterday, I found my little name on my friend Abbie's blog. She nominated me for this award:
I found the original source of this award. She's given us some rules:

SHARE THE LOVE!!! Share this award with all those blogs out there that you love. All the people who make you smile. All those that make you laugh. All those that make your day. All those that leave uplifting comments on your blog. **All I ask, is that you include a link to this post with the award and ask your recipient to do the same**

So, first of all, thanks for thinking of me Abbie! You're the sweetest!
The woman who started this award did it to raise awareness about organ donation. Here's her link. Check it out!

Now it's my turn to "share the love." I pass this award on to...

~Erin...I love doin' mommy life with this girl! She's just a step or two ahead of me and can empathize with my struggles. Her blog is honest and encouraging and full of precious pictures. And she gives me her super cute furniture!

~Brandi...She's always sharing yummy, delicious recipes that I will never be able to cook as well as her, but she's sweet to share. She lets me ask her tons of medical questions for free. She posts hilarious pictures on her blog and is always making me laugh. This girl's always takin' care of me!

~Mrs. Annette...What a friend and mentor! She'll never fail to remind you of Jesus. A constant encourager. She reminds me to pray, she reminds me of the sweetness of God's Word, she reminds me that I am deeply and perfectly loved by God. And, she always leaves me super sweet comments.

Congratulations Ladies...I love you, and your blogs! Share the love and pass it on!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Summer Project

I am proud to say that I am actually tackling one of my summer projects. (I say actually because many a summer projects are declared...few are actually realized.)

The project: PHOTOS! Printing and organizing the family photos.

We have literally thousands of pictures trapped in our computer. Until last Saturday, we had not printed out a single picture of Braelyn since she was born, except for a few that we wanted to enlarge and hang on the wall. I know...sad. Also, the fact that Casey's mom is the Scrapbooking Extraordinaire, most of our photo needs are beautifully taken care of, but still, every family is obligated to have gazillions of baby pictures organized and tucked away in regular ol' photo albums.

Anyways, there are so many, I'm printing them out in installments. The first installment was our first few days with Braelyn. I love it so much already! I've looked through it probably a dozen times. I can't wait to have all 24 months!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Me and Fitz Ain't Clickin'!

Has anybody read anything by F. Scott Fitzgerald? I'm reading The Beautiful and Damned, and I have to say, I'm struggling to continue. All the other authors have won my heart by the first chapter. Not so much with ol' Fitz.

I don't want to quit! I want to finish it! So, if anybody has read and enjoyed any of his work, please let me know! I need some encouragement to keep reading!

If you have read his work, and did not enjoy it, let me know that too...I'm curious to know your thoughts.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I'm 1 for 2 Today

Braelyn is generally a very good eater, but lately, we've been struggling over breakfast. She just isn't that interested anymore. I decided that this week I would make her some muffins...who can refuse a muffin, right? I also decided to make "healthy" muffins, because I don't want to just fill her up with sugar and useless calories.

After a little searching online, I found a easy recipe for healthy muffins. I wanted Braelyn to wake up to a yummy and nutritious breakfast, so at 9:00 last night, I whipped up a batch of whole wheat blueberry muffins.
Look healthy, don't they?! Yeah...they taste healthy too! I took one bite last night, and thought, "Hmmm? Wow! These are really terrible. They need butter...a lot of it!" But really, how much butter can you add to a healthy muffin before it's no longer healthy? And, really, there just ain't enough butter in this house to make these babies edible. (I'm reminded of my Pump Cran Nasties!)

If anybody has a good whole wheat muffin recipe, I'd love to try it. Otherwise my muffins are just gonna be unhealthy...they way muffins are supposed to be! Oh, and needless to say, Braelyn would have nothing to do with them.

Moving on to something freakishly unhealthy, but oh so fabulous...

I was inspired by Mrs. Mandi B. to have a pizza (hers is homemade!) and movie night with Braelyn while Casey was gone. I will, from now on stick to pizza on Pizza and Movie Night, but I needed to trial run a Mac&Cheese recipe, so for the inaugural Cease P&M night, it was M&C&M night.

This time, I turned to Martha. One can never go wrong with Martha! Man, I love that woman!!! Anyways, this mac&cheese was delish!!! Very rich. To get the recipe go here.
We set up a little picnic in the living room so we could watch our movie. This evening's feature: The Backyardigan's Tale of The Mighty Knights.
Thankfully, Braelyn enjoyed her dinner and her movie, as did I. I think we'll try this again next week...with daddy! ...and with pizza! (Probably from Domino's :).

On a different note, I wanted to do a post about how I've been doing/feeling these last few days with Casey gone. It's been a long run, and to be honest, I AM DONE! However, he's on his way home right now and so I think I'll wait to write that post. I would just be complaining at this point. But, I will write it. I want my blog to be honest and authentic. We have plenty of tantrums (Braelyn and me, both) and tears (Braelyn and me, both) to go along with our picnics and nail polish! Plus, I need to document for next year. I can't seem to remember from year to year. So, more on that later. I gotta go clean up the disaster in the kitchen before Casey gets home. ;)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

This Blog Ain't Just For Girls!

My dad has always been very strict about changing the oil in our cars every 3,000. However, he read an article that said that it may not be necessary to change it so frequently in our modern cars...that we are wasting billions of gallons of oil because we change our oil too much!!!! The article said that your car's maintenance manual will tell you how often to change.

After I left my parent's house yesterday, I had to get gas, so while I was fillin' up I decided to see what my little book said. Sure enough...EVERY 10,000 MILES!!!!!!! That's a huge difference!

I looked online to see what other information was out there. Some people suggest to go by your car's manual, others recommend every 5,000 miles or so...which is still a little better. Here's one of the articles if you're interested. If anyone has gotten trustworthy information on this subject, please share! It would be great if we could all save a little money and conserve oil!!

Going by the 3,000 mile rule, my car's due for a change...but I think I'll wait a few thousand miles and see what happens. I'll let you know if my car falls apart or breaks down on the highway or anything. :)