Sunday, August 14, 2011

Circus Baby Shower

Yesterday, my family threw a baby shower for my cousin, Denise.  She and her husband, Andrew, did not find out the gender of the baby, so we picked a circus theme since it was fun and kid friendly, despite gender.  We divided the jobs between all of us involved.  I was assigned the cupcakes and a devotional.  I looked through my mom's cupcake book, Hello, Cupcake!, and found some great ideas.  Initially, I thought I would make circus animal cupcakes, but after I realized how much time and effort those would take and how busy I have been recently, I settled on the popcorn cupcakes.

My mom designed the cute cupcake stand.  She also found the popcorn box cupcake sleeves.

I love the lollipops and all the candy jars she had on her table.

She also made a circus tent to go over her light fixture.  This picture doesn't show the cute stripes very well, but it was great.

Here is a close up of my cupcake.

For the cake, I used the Cake Doctor recipe for Darn Good Chocolate Cake but I made a couple of substitutions.  I used plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream and I used instant vanilla pudding instead of chocolate.  These substitutions were made because I didn't have the other ingredients, but I love the way these cupcakes turned out so I would probably use these ingredients again.  I followed the directions #1-8 from the above link, then I spooned 1/3 C. of batter into muffin tins, each lined with a cupcake paper.  I baked them at 350 for 20 minutes.  After the cupcakes cooled, I put them into the cute cupcake sleeves you see in the picture.

For the frosting, I made buttercream frosting.  Here is the completely indulgent recipe (and I had to double the recipe to frost all 24 cupcakes.)

2 sticks of softened butter
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar

Whip all ingredients in a mixer until frosting is fluffy and fully blended.

After all the cupcakes were cooled, I put the frosting in a zip lock bag and sealed it.  I then cut off a small corner of the bag and piped the frosting in a swirl on top of each cupcake.  Next I put a tiny bit of yellow gel food coloring in a zip lock, added about half a bag of mini marshmallows, and smooshed the marshmallows around until they were various shades of yellow.  I then mixed the yellow marshmallows back in with the remaining white marshmallows to create the popcorn look.  I sprinkled a few yellow and white marshmallows on top of each frosting swirl.  Voila!  I had my Buttered Popcorn Cupcakes.  I think they were one of the easiest cupcakes I've made and had the most successful look and taste.

I also wrote a devotional about motherhood being a three ring circus.  Here is a copy of the devotional:

Three Ring Circus

I am so glad that we are all together this evening to celebrate the new life that will be joining all of us in the next few weeks.  We are all so excited for you, Denise!  Our circus theme for your shower is such a cute way to celebrate, but it is also a great metaphor for motherhood. 

There have been days that my life has more resembled a Three Ring Circus than it has resembled a family.  In fact, I have had so many circus like days in recent history, that I had to call my sister Julie so she could help me remember the details of on of these events!

One day, when Jack was still a baby, I mustered the courage of a lion tamer and set off for the grocery store with Jack and Ryan.  I kept reminding myself that many moms before me had taken two children to the grocery store, in fact my own mother was able to take Julie and I to the grocery store, and so I would be able to do this too.  I carefully placed Jack in the child seat and told Ryan that he could ride the shopping cart by holding onto the back.  This seemed like it was going to work.  I managed to go down several aisles and fill my cart substantially in this fashion.  I was starting to feel more confident.  No one was screaming yet, so I determined that I would finish gathering the things on my list.  As I turned to reach an item high on the shelf, Ryan got off the back of the cart and decided to climb the side of the cart and get inside because his legs were getting tired.  As he climbed like a monkey, the cart with Jack and all my groceries started to lean in Ryan’s direction and was destined to fall on Ryan, with Jack inside.  With a voice like a ringmaster, I yelled, “RYAN, STOP!” I got the attention of all who were around, but it was too late and the cart was going down.  I leapt like an acrobat and with the strength of the strong man, I steadied the cart against my leg, saving my children and groceries, but completely losing my dignity.  My face was hot and red with anger for my son, embarrassment for my yelling and all the attention on me, and my shin was throbbing with pain from the weight of the cart.  A gentleman came by to see if we were okay, and I dismissed him quickly because I wanted to shrink into the floor.  This three ring circus was a little out of hand this day, but despite the mishap, God gives us what we need so that the show can go on. 

Through these trials of motherhood, whether they be labor pains in child birth, the sleepless nights, a child’s disobedience, or public embarrassment we are reminded in Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” 

God also fills us with love for our children.  When they are newborns, their sweet little face causes us to love them so completely that it is like having a piece of your heart on the outside of your body.  But those sweet little babies grow into climbing, naughty monkeys.  God gives us love for them too.  1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  8 Love never ends.”   Love for our children is so much more than the feeling we get when we first get to hold them and each one of these facets of love are so important for us to model for our children. 

When these children are naughty little monkeys, the Bible also tells us that we must discipline them.  Proverbs 22:6 says, “ Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Proverbs 13: 24 also says, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” 

As moms, we often fret over our children.  When they are newborns, we worry that they are eating enough, wetting enough diapers, and meeting their milestones.  We also may fear that they will really hurt themselves and their brother by pulling a whole shopping cart down on top of them. 
Philippians 4:4-7 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.  5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.  The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.   As this passage reminds us, we can lift our children up in prayer to their Heavenly Father and he will watch over them and give us peace.

We may save our children from many things as they grow up.  We protect them in car seats, we admonish them not to touch a hot stove, or we may catch a cart  full of groceries, saving them from bodily harm.  Ultimately, we want them to ask for the salvation that only their Heavenly Father can give them.  Ephesians 2:8 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast

Dear Heavenly Father,
 We pray for Denise tonight as she enters into the Three Ring Circus of motherhood. We pray that she will be given strength and endurance.  We also pray that she will have love and discipline for her child.  We pray that God will take away her fears and worries and that she will turn to You in prayer for all things.  We pray that Denise and Andrew will lead their child to Salvation with the Heavenly Father.  We are so thankful for this little blessing that Denise’s family has been given and are so happy to celebrate with her tonight.  Thank you for this joyful occasion. 
In Your Name we pray,

I did not remember to take any pictures after the festivities started, but I know that Denise's sister Katie took a lot.  I have a feeling she'll have some pictures up on her blog in the not too distant future.  I think the shower was a great success and I had a lot of fun.  I can't wait to meet Denise's baby in the next few weeks!  

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Oh Papa Blanket, how we've loved you.  You were given to Ryan just a few days before he was born and you were lovely and oh so soft.  I loved you right away and knew Ryan would too.  Grandma Debbie did a good job when she made you.

You helped us through Ryan's infancy and reflux problems.  And when suddenly he couldn't sleep anymore at daycare, we realized it was because you weren't with him and you were his comfort.

When you were not quite 2 years old, Ryan gave you the name, "Papa."  He loved the story, The Three Bears, and since you were big like Papa Bear, you became Papa Blanket.

You came with us to Uncle Doug and Aunt Vanessa's wedding and comforted a very clingy Ryan who wanted only his mom durning the whole trip.

You sat alongside Ryan the morning he turned 2 and helped him play with his new trains.

When Ryan had to make a visit to the E.R. for a severe case of croup, you were there watching over him.  And when you showed too many signs of Ryan's love and your patches started coming off, I sewed you back together and quilted your seams to your back.

You came with Ryan on his first train ride to visit Grandma Enns and helped all of Ryan's beloved cars not slide off the table.

Papa, you came with us to visit Eddie and Ellie and were a great comfort to Owen the cat.

You helped us welcome Jack into the family and you and Ryan taught Jack how to love his blanket.

You were with Ryan on his first day of preschool and when Ryan started to cry and ask for his Papa, you were there, but sadly the preschool didn't realize that you were a blanket and not his Grandpa.  They soon realized and Ryan soon learned that you needed to stay safe in his backpack until nap time.

For the few short weeks that Ryan slept with stuffed animals instead of his cars, you were there (and so was Rita).

You have watched many hours of PBS kids in the mornings while Ryan felt the satin edge of you and drank his milk.

You have snuggled with Ryan in the laundry basket and watched Cars.

You comforted Rita after her knee surgeries, all without complaint.

And now as Ryan has left you alone for a week and asked for you to be folded up and put away with my childhood blanket,  I will do so with love as you have been such a part of our family for the last four, almost five years.  I will save you, as Ryan has asked, so he can show his kids someday.  I will miss seeing my little boy all curled up with you in the mornings and as he sleeps at night.  I am sad that he no longer needs to feel your satin edge for comfort because he is no longer my little boy, but has grown into a charming big boy.  We will miss you Papa blanket.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Beach Vacation

This week, the boys and I had the chance to go to the beach with my mom. Sadly, Phil and my dad had to work so they couldn't join us. We've made the best of it. Yesterday, after we got here, we grabbed a quick lunch and headed to the beach. We had a great time digging in the sand and splashing in the waves. We also discovered an exercise ball that someone had partially buried, creating a fantastic trampoline. He was nice enough to let the boys bounce on it, which was hilarious.

In the evening, we headed in to Santa Barbara and parked by this really cool hippie van. The guy said we could take pictures for a donation "to keep the hippie rolling." We obliged. The boys were enthralled and wanted to disassemble his sculpture because so many cool cars, trucks, and trains were glued to his van.

The next stop was the carousel. The boys loved it. It was Jack's first ride and he was amazed and wanted to do it again. (Despite his expression in the picture.) Next, we played at a park shaped like pirate ship. We then went to dinner at an English pub and had fish and chips. We were all pretty tired after this and went back home.

Today, we headed to the zoo and had such a great time. The weather couldn't have been nicer. The zoo was a great size with just the right amount of exhibits. Jack loved the fish.

The boys also really liked the elephants.

A highlight for my boys is always the goats and today was no exception. Ryan did say that a petting zoo should not be like this one; they were not allowed in like all the other petting zoos we had been too. He said the rules were, "being naughty to him," and proceeded to try and find an unlocked gate. After while, he was entertained with the goats and told me that he had asked a pig something and that it had nodded "yes" to him.

My one disappointment today was that I didn't snap a picture of Ryan feeding the giraffes. It was so cool and I got so excited that I didn't get my camera out. It was truly the highlight of our visit.

After the giraffes, we found another tiny carousel to ride and the boys really liked it. Even though it was so much smaller, I think they had just as much fun as yesterday. Tomorrow our vacation comes to a close. We've had such a great time. I'll be looking forward to our next visit.