Monday, March 31, 2008

I Love Books!

I have been reading Shepherding a Child's Heart for a very long time! It's a great book, but I just don't pick it up everyday. However, I am very eager to finish it (this week!) because I just ordered a new book and I can't wait to dive in. The book is Treasuring God in our Traditions by Noel Piper.
After I wrote this post and shared with you my holiday struggles, I decided a little personal study would do me good, especially while we're not right in the middle of a holiday season. I couldn't find much, but imagine my delight when I saw that Noel Piper had written a book on using the traditions of our everyday life to teach our children about God and to glorify Him in the process! Jack Pot! So, before I go shooting off at the mouth about Santa Claus and the Easter bunny, I'm gonna read Mrs. Piper's thoughts on the matter. No doubt, she's got somethin' good to say!

Book Review and Steph's holiday resolutions...coming soon.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Brenham : Year One

Brenham. It's a quirky town, and I feel quirky living in it. For every day that I've lived in Brenham I've discovered a new, trivial reason why I am not suited for the country. But when I look back over this past year, through lenses filtered by the Gospel, I see that God is at work in me and around me, in my home and in my church, and as a result, Brenham is the recipient of my warmest affections.

There is a truth that is quite familiar to me in words, but in life it escapes my mind at every new juncture and I am forced to learn it again. It is this:

For they (our earthy fathers) disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful, yet those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Hebrews 12:10-11

There have been some bumps in our road this year. It has been a year of hard talks, hard questions, and hard answers, of waiting and crying and hurting and doubting and stumbling. But in these things, God has been beckoning me to Himself, urging me to endure with gratitude and patience the painful and beautiful process of sanctification.

I do not mean to imply that our life here in Brenham has been all strife and struggle. It hasn't. I write with a smile that there have been joyous times indeed. I have enjoyed many peaceful days. I am surrounded by people I love and who love me, both near and far. I have laughed a lot. I have experienced new things. I have taken risks. But I am inclined to believe that God has used the harder blessings to awaken me to the easier ones.

I find that I am a different person than when I arrived here. The change may be small, but change it is and it increases my faith because I know I can change in no amount on my own. God is here! God is here! I grateful to be Brenham.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

American Idol Update

Alright American Idol fans...I have an official favorite.
This guy nails it EVERY week! Tonight, he took Micheal Jackson's Billy Jean and turned it into an AMAZING rock song. In my humble opinion, he is the most developed artist of the group. He can sing, he can perform, he can take an old song, recreate it and turn it into something new and artistic and interesting. Well done, David Cook! Well done!

Regarding last week, can I just ask, what kind of a world do we live in that Carly is in the bottom three? She may not be my favorite, but the girl can sing, and there are a couple folks in there that deserve to go way before she does! I've been sick about it all week. Just had to get that off my chest.

And friends, I'm not the only silly goose into AI! Go here to see how Casey's ranked the contestants. ;)

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Past Week: 1-10

1. Got cottage cheese?

2. Braelyn loves to see her uncle Tyler play baseball! We went to Austin to see him play on Friday and had a great time. Braelyn was really into the game. That's my girl!

3. Saturday night I had a MASSIVE breakdown over a trifle. A trifle, in this case meaning both "an article or thing of very little value" and a delicious, layered dessert. Okay...let me explain. I had been working very hard all day long to get ready for Easter. I felt pretty proud of myself for managing my time well, as I was not frantic to get things done, but still had to work efficiently. At around midnight, I finished the all the cooking (including my beautiful trifle dessert - my crowning Easter achievement, btw) and cleaning, minus a few little jobs that could easily be done in the morning before company arrived. Despite the late hour, Casey and I decided to watch an episode of Heroes to wind down. We enjoyed our show, and then turned off the lights. As soon as my muscles began to relax, my eyes popped wide open in the darkness. OH NO! Whip cream breaks down! PANIC! The recipe called for cool whip, but I, thinking I was quite clever, thought I would use whip cream out of the can so that I could keep the layers nice and tidy. So at 1:15ish I ran to the fridge, and sure enough, the layers of my trophy dessert were sadly merging and migling and sagging. Thus, the massive breakdown began. This, I will not describe to you, but I will tell you that on Easter morning I was bright and early at Wal-mart and soon after, a new, beautifully layered, chocolate delight was produced...with cool whip, of course! :)

4. Easter. Casey's family and my family came to Brenham to celebrate. Braelyn had a great time hunting for Easter eggs. Church was beautiful! A wonderful time of worshiping the Risen King and fellowship among the Family.

5. Easter. This Easter, like every Easter (and Christmas) since becoming an adult, I spend most of the day agonizing over how we as Christians should celebrate it. It really comes down to this: Why do we celebrate the birth and resurrection of our Savior by buying ourselves (and/or our kids) things and why must we include a make-believe character? I have a lot of conflicting emotions on this subject and I may devote a whole post to it at some point. But for now, I'll just tell you that I brood over this. On Sunday, I was brooding.

6. Easter. We had two and a half very special guests stop by. Phil, Cynthia, and baby Ethan...still cookin'.
This was my first time to see Cynthia's cute baby belly. Seeing my friends was definitely an Easter highlight. And can I just say, that I thought I looked pretty cute in my new dress, however in this picture, it is freakishly unflattering! I promise there is just one pregnant lady in the picture!

7. After all the craziness of the week, today, I vowed to do nothing! I didn't go anywhere. I haven't spoken to anyone except Casey and Braelyn. The only chore-ish thing I allowed myself to do was to unload and re-load the dishwasher. I enjoyed the beautiful day. I enjoyed the the Lord and His Word. I enjoyed my daughter. For the most part, I stayed away from the TV and the computer. It has been a quiet, peaceful, relaxing, glorious day. An honest to goodness Sabbath.

8. Braelyn had her first sucker today, at least, the first one I know of.

9. I got a couple bunches of fresh flowers to put in the house for Easter. They make the house seem so friendly. Today, I decided to have fresh flowers in the house indefinitely.

10. This week marked the one year anniversary of our move to Brenham.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Homemade Pillow #2

On Saturday I got together with a group of girls for our second sewing circle. The idea is that once a month we will get together with our own sewing machines and our own projects in mind and simply sew together in the same house. It's a great opportunity for quality girl time, project inspiration and for learning and trying new things in the realm of sewing. The less experienced get help from the more experienced, which is critical to my participation in the circle, as I am in the less experienced group.

My project for this March party was to complete the second of about 7 pillows I have in mind for my couch. If you go here you can see my first homemade pillow, all alone on my gigantic couch. Anyways, this project was quite the undertaking in my mind because, not only was I going to sew the pillow (which is still a daunting task for this beginner), but I wanted to put fringe around the edge. It didn't take me long to realize that it was not just a huge undertaking in my was a huge undertaking in reality! So while I am trying to remember how to thread my machine(not a good start!), I think to myself that perhaps this project is better suited for someone who has even the tiniest clue of what they're doing. Despite this brief moment of rational and logical reasoning, my stubbornness and pride urged me to keep going and I fumbled on.

All I have to say, if it weren't for the encouragement of my sewing circle friends in general, and the very helpful and talented Morgan, specifically, I would be showing you a crooked, red, fringy mess! But because of them, I can show you a finished product that I am quite proud of...just don't look too closely! :)
Morgan working on my corners! She did all 4. Those corners'll getcha!
At home with homemade pillow #1.
Up close.

There you have it. I'm so glad that I didn't give up. The plan is to make another pillow just like this one for the other side of the couch. Haven't decided yet if I'll brave the 2nd one on my own. We'll see. Thanks Sewing Circle friends! See you next month...I hope :)

Monday, March 17, 2008

I'm It!

I think I have been tagged by my fellow Brenham Blogger, Lynsey, (unless she knows another Steph C, and then I'm gonna feel like a real idiot). I always think these things are kinda fun. Here we go.

Where was I ten years ago?
I was a senior at Clements High School in Sugar Land. Casey and I were in our third year of dating. He was in college at UofH, and at the time that didn't seem weird, but now it totally seems weird, and Braelyn will never date a guy who's in college when she is still in HS!
I spent the majority of my life dancing and assisting classes. I practically lived at the studio. Mrs. Annette on my list of blogs was my ballet teacher...lots of great times with her! :) The only thing I was really involved in at school was PALs. That was fun.

Things on my To-Do List today:
- Tackle the mountain of laundry! Mostly towels and sheets. I'm pretty good about keeping up with the clothes, but man, those towels get outta hand!
- Plan out meals for the week
- Go to the store...Monday is Grocery day
- Deep clean the kitchen
- Dusting (maybe)
- Go for a walk
That sounds like a thrilling day, doesn't it?!

What would I do if I suddenly became a billionaire?
First thing...probably buy Christ Church a building and make it look awesome! Then maybe pay off our house and do some serious home improvement Or, more than likely I would just buy one of the super cute houses that I've got my eye on around here. We only have one can understand. Buy Casey a new car, poor thing...his windshield wipers won't turn off. Create hefty college and wedding funds. I would give to Crossbridge (our home church back in SL), Transform and all of its ministries, and I'm sure some other ministries that I can't think of right now. And I would travel...a lot!

3 of my bad habits.
1. In the morning, when Braelyn wakes up, I am usually not ready to wake up and so I have gotten into this HORRIBLE habit of letting her watch Blue's Clues so that I can snooze for a few more minutes. I know, I'm so ashamed...BUT I CAN'T STOP!
2. Checking my blog and yours way too often.
3. I do have a bit of a temper, however, I honestly only lose it on Casey and myself, oh...and my dumb dog. I can usually keep it together for everyone else. It should be noted that I cannot be held responsible for losing my temper...I have red hair. I did not choose that. It's not my fault.

5 jobs I've had.
1. Dance teacher
2. Seasonal cashier for Zale's. The manager hired me when Casey and I picked out my engagement ring.
3. Youth intern at SLFUMC
4. Substitute teacher
5. 1st grade teacher

5 Things you don't know about me.
1. I have a dumb dog. We have a ridiculous pug named Tucker. He has so many issues. He costs us so much money! The only thing he cares about is food and following me around, which I cannot for the life of me understand because I am not very nice to him. He is now and will ever be free for the taking. Anyone? Anyone?
2. Ever since college I have wanted a nose ring. Just a teeny, little stud. My friend Brandi who lives here in Brenham got one shortly after she moved here, so I decided to just live vicariously through her, but ever since I cut my hair, the urge has returned. Feel free to leave your opinion on this matter.
3. I want to write travel books. I love to travel, I like to write. I thought maybe the latter habit could support the former. We'll see.
4. I mentioned earlier in the post that I was a dancer, but you may not know that that is what I wanted to do when I "grew up". I danced through college and did a couple of professional concerts and performances, but shortly after college I felt the Lord leading me to stop, at least for a time. I love dancing so much, and the longer it's been since I have danced the more I seem to miss it. But, still to this day I believe that I did the right thing. Maybe I'll do a post later on to share more of the details.
5. I don't eat red meat. In 4th or 5th grade I got sick on a Whataburger and couldn't eat hamburgers after that. I soon realized that didn't prefer other types of red meat, and since it's not the healthiest choice anyway, I gave it all up. However, if I am at a church event or over at someone's house I will gladly eat whatever they put in front of me. It just sounds so snotty to say, "Um, I don't eat that."

There you go. My reign as "it" is over. I now tag
Julie A.
Robin B.
Mrs. Annette
Jessica K.
and Alyssa

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Picnic Weather

What a beautiful day it was today!!! Spring is showing it's face isn't it? Yea! I am not so much a fan of winter, although I do love sweaters and white chocolate mochas, but that's besides the point. The winter prevents me from doing too many things I enjoy, like going for a walk in the morning and taking Braelyn to the park. I would brave the cold weather to get a good walk in each day, but it seems mean to make Braelyn shiver for two, windy miles in her stroller. So, exercise has been a rare event in my life for the last few months. And as for the park, Braelyn would gladly endure the chilly temperatures, but selfishly, I would not, so our trips to the park have also been few and far between. Thankfully, I think we are turning a seasonal corner, and we can once again return to these delightful activities...and perhaps watch a few less episodes of Blue's Clues...if I'm just being honest.

Today, Wednesday, is our library story time. Braelyn and I enjoy it very much. Mrs. Lulu is great with her fun songs and stories, but I think what Braelyn and I both look forward to the most are few minutes of freedom that we each experience after it's over. She can roam around and play with kiddos, while I get to chat it up with other moms. I know that I am not alone in this, because after Mrs. Lulu is done, all the kids run off to play Spiderman or Legos or puppets, and almost all of us moms stay right where we are, except maybe to move in closer to the anticipated grown-up conversation.

With the weather being so gorgeous, a few of us decided to pack our lunches and head to the park after story time. I knew one of the moms fairly well, but the other two I hadn't really had opportunity to talk with before today. No matter, I had a great time. It was then that it dawned on me that among the many blessings of motherhood, is the practically effortless ability to make friends. I wheeled Braelyn up to the pb&j covered picnic table, unloaded our own brown bag lunch and felt right at home among these strangers. Without hesitation I joined the conversation, and without a second thought they welcomed me in. I love the unspoken understanding that we need each other, we need the conversation, we need each other's help. I love that no one's there to impress anybody else. I love that we can laugh that we're each kinda of a mess in our own way. We all have food stains on our clothes, our kids all have snotty noses, we all at some point in the afternoon have to yell our kid's first and middle name, and however much we're enjoying each other's company, we're only half paying attention because we still have to keep an eye on our babies. At the end of our picnic, it was quickly agreed upon that weather pending, this would be a standing event. I couldn't be happier!

I have much to be thankful for today... Spring, exercise, new friends and old, and of course, for my Braelyn Nicole!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A New Woman

Can I just tell you that I am heading into the week feeling like a new woman?! I feel refreshed. I feel connected to my husband. I got some quality girl time. And I got a bit of a makeover. This weekend was AMAZING!!!

Friday afternoon, we drove to Sugar Land for the weekend. Casey and I had a date planned, but none of the specifics had been nailed down. We played the "What do you want to do? I don't know." game for a while, but then, in a stroke of genius Casey thought of The Melting Pot. This is one of those places that we always say we want to try, but when we're trying to think of somewhere new to go, it completely escapes our memory. Well not this time! It was so fun and soooo delicious! The meal took about two hours, so it was a great time to relax and talk. After dinner, we saw Juno. I LOVED this movie! It was such a perfect date!

Saturday was girl's day. I got to spend the whole afternoon with one of my best friends, Erin. No boys, no babies. First, we grabbed some lunch at Andre's Pastry Shop and Cafe'. So charming and the food was/is fabulous! Then we raced (we were running a little late) to see Vielka, pretty much the only person on earth I trusted to repair the butchered mess that's been on my head for the past three months. (For a visual of the butchered mess, go here.) I was so thankful that Erin was with me. I was such a basket case, and she really helped me communicate what I wanted and didn't want. Vielka, who agreed that I had the worst haircut ever, gave me two options, and after a relaxing shampoo and a little discussion among the three of us, we chose option #2 - Cut it off! Leave no trace of the ugly! With each snip I felt confidence return, and when it was all over I literally wanted to kiss Vielka. I didn't, but I did nominate her Woman of the Year. Anyways, here I am!

Before we headed home, Erin and I ran into High Fashion Home to pick up some trim for the pillows that I am going to work on at next weekend's Sewing Circle. (More to come on the Sewing Circle, I'm sure.) By this time it was getting late, so I took Erin home and we returned to our respective boys and babies. It was such a fun day! I refuse to let much time pass before doing that again.

Casey and I enjoyed another intimate dinner at Mi Luna's and then had dessert with our dear friends, the Dodson's. It's always a joy and blessing to see this sweet family. Joey is part of Transform and we are so proud of him as he has just received his Ph.D in New Testament.

So that 'bout raps it up. I haven't had a weekend like that in quite a while. I am very grateful for it and feel quite ready to face the week.

Thanks Casey, for two wonderful dates. Thanks to Erin for a fantastic girl's day out and for supporting me through the most stressful haircut of my life. And thanks to Nonnie for watching my baby girl through it all. I know she had so much fun!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Braelyn, These Days

Braelyn is quite the fashionista these days. She seems to have caught on to a trend that her mamma has not...accessorizing! I knew I had a cool kid!

She is also adding new words to her vocabulary everyday. It is so fun to hear her blurt out a word for the first time. Our newest additions include:
~ cook - for cookie
~ french fry! I couldn't believe this one. I don't give her fries very often, but we picked up Whataburger on the way to the retreat, and as soon as that tell-tell paper bag was in the car she busts out with "French Fry?" I was so proud!
~ game - she says this to her daddy when she wants him to play Guitar Hero...How can he resist?
~ play - sounds more like day
~ goose
~ amen - more like "a-en" but she's very enthusiastic
~ giraffe - more like raff
~ come on - more like maown

I've been wanting to post a video of her saying her animal sounds and singing her songs, but she doesn't perform quite as well with the camera on. I'll get it one of these days!

Sorry for the brag's for the grandmas, you know. ;)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A Guilty Pleasure

I realize that many of you who are so kind to put a link to my blog on your blog may remove it after this post, but I just have to say it...I watch American Idol, and I like it...a lot. I haven't watched it in a couple of seasons, but I turned it on a couple of weeks ago and now I'm kinda hooked. Plus, I love watching it on tivo, cause I can just cruise on through without watching the commercials. Anyways, if you're bored on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, you should check it out! Here are my votes:

Just in case you're wondering...No, I don't actually vote, but I just might later in the game. :) Am I too old for this?

And speaking of voting...sad story. Casey and I went up to Blinn College today to exercise our right to vote. Casey assured me that we were registered in Washington County, but apparently we are not. So, there was no voting of any kind going on today for the Cease's :( I am so ashamed! We will be sure to get it together before November.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Traveling with Casey

The number one question I am asked as Casey's wife is, "Do you 'get' to travel with him a lot?" The answer used to be, with a glad and sincere heart, "Yes, I do." But since the birth of our precious Braelyn, I am a less willing travel companion, as the benefits don't quite compensate for the effort it takes to get us there. And so, more often than not, Casey is forced to face the road, the hotels and hundreds of hormonal students alone.

However, every once in a while, in an alignment of time, circumstance and familiar company I will throw reason and practicality to the wind, pack our weekend bags (the contents of which could easily sustain us for a month) and "bless" Casey with our loud, demanding and disruptive presence. Sunday we returned from one such weekend. This was a prime event to go to for a number of reasons. One, Casey had been out every weekend in February and I just couldn't spend another one alone. Two, this particular retreat was at Forest Glen, an ideal spot for the family to enjoy some quality time with nature and each other. And three, and probably the most persuasive condition, Casey was speaking to a group of adults from Foundry UMC, which meant that our dear friends, Mike and Catherine Haskew would be there.

Friday evening, with happy hearts and a healthy dose of optimism, the three of us set out. I was soon reminded, as I am always soon reminded of the high cost of togetherness. The first night, we get to our bunk bed stocked room at about 8:30pm. I get my sleeping baby out of the car, immediately lay her down in the port-a-crib that she requires us to bring, and Casey and I leave the room. He goes across the camp grounds to speak and I go to the empty meeting room right across the hall where I am a prisoner until it's time for me to go to bed. About two pages into David Copperfield, Braelyn starts fussing, thus beginning the battle of the snooze until 12am, when the three of us are all finally still, freezing, and uncomfortable in our separate beds.

Morning came brutally early, but once I got a little glimpse of the beautiful weather I was excited for what the day would bring. At breakfast I got to meet and chit chat with some of the campers, Braelyn got hit in the head with a frisbee, and in my impatience to see Catherine I snuck into her cabin and woke her up. While Casey was in a morning session, Braelyn and I had a great time playing outside and enjoyed the company of a rather large goose that was content to follow us around. Lunch came, along with some interesting conversation, but the long night began to catch up with Braelyn and our presence became quite a hindrance to the fruitful exchange. Time for a nap!

Braelyn gladly accepted the chance to rest, I grabbed my book, and once again I was restricted to the area. Luckily for me, the weather was gorgeous, and I enjoyed the genius of Dickens in the warm sunshine. After about an hour of this lonely business, my bum started to get a little sore, my eyes were getting heavy and my mouth, thirsty. No relief in sight! Finally, Casey returned just to be sent back for a Diet Dr. Pepper, thus relieving my thirst and drowsiness. I do have to say that for the next hour Casey and I were grateful for the quiet, uninterrupted conversation, although towards the end, Casey fell asleep on the concrete patio.

The rest of the afternoon was pleasant, but time went by fast. At dinner I finally got a chance to visit with Catherine for a bit, she being busy ministering and me being busy mothering. But soon, she with Casey and I with Braelyn parted ways, them to worship, us to our cabin. At 7:00, Braelyn was more than ready for bed, and I was grateful for that, but now a lot of long, lonely hours were glaring at me. I returned to the meeting room across the hall and spent the next two hours reading on a fold out chair. I confess to you, that this was when I was most disgruntled about my situation. I was jealous that I was missing out on the worship time, encouraging conversation, the bonding and the growing camaraderie that was sure to be going on across the camp. Casey stopped back by after he was done speaking, but soon left again for the BOND FIRE AND S'MORES!!! :::sigh:::I went to bed.

Sunday morning, we repeat the events of Saturday morning, with the exception that while Casey was speaking I cleaned and packed up our room. Casey was done around 10:30. Braelyn and I sat in the rocking chair outside, Casey packed the car, then we left. And there's that.

So you see, traveling with Casey just isn't what it used to be. I hate not to go, but at the same time, I hate to go. The camp schedule and the baby schedule are in constant opposition to one another, and I end up the lonely loser. :::sigh::: Oh well. I know it will get better as Braelyn gets older, but for now, I'll probably just stay home.