30 October 2019

caramel apple upside down cake

Fall is in the air here - the mornings are cool and frosty, the sun is shining bright, leaves are crunching under our feet wherever we go. Not to sound too basic, but my heart couldn't be happier this time of year. Fall weather calls for fall baking, and our family loves apples. I think I must buy five pounds a week, and the kids go through them like crazy.

I grabbed a bag of Granny Smiths and decided to create a caramel apple cake, because it just seemed like the right thing to do at the time. The whole family ate it up as soon as it was served, not a crumb left in sight. My nine year old told me the next one should probably be bigger, but I'm pretty sure we all got an adequate serving.

Here's what you need:
for the topping
2 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt

for the cake ***
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs 
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Melt the 1/4 cup of butter in a skillet. Add in brown sugar, cinnamon and salt, and whisk until melted. Remove from heat and arrange apples evenly in the butter/sugar mixture. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350.
In a mixer, beat together the remaining butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in eggs, one at a time, and beat them into the mixture well. Mix in the vanilla. 

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt, and whisk with a fork to combine.

Slowly pour your flour mixture into your butter mixture and mix on low until just combined. Pour batter evenly into your skillet, carefully covering your apples. Use a spatula to spread evenly.

Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. Check for doneness with a knife or toothpick. Bake until just set.

Remove from the oven and let cool a bit. Once the pan isn't too hot to the touch, carefully cover it with a platter or large plate and gently flip over to transfer the cake.

Voila! You're ready to enjoy! Delicious on its own or with a little whipped cream. Makes eight (generous) servings.


*** if you live near Trader Joe's and want to save some time, grab a box of their Vanilla Bean Cake Mix and use that instead. It's dreamy!

12 September 2019

parenting with the enneagram in mind

I learned about the enneagram in 2001 from a couple I knew in Washington, DC. They'd spent years studying it, and I was blown away by the insight it offered when you really dove in deep. This was before a quick google search would tell you all you needed to know, so with the overabundance of information out there now, I am loving just how much insight is out there!

A few weeks ago, I was wondering if there were any tools available for discerning what numbers your kids might be leaning toward. I know that it isn't recommended that your really assign a number before late adolescence, but getting an idea of how your kids are wired can make such a difference in how you relate to them!

I found this quick questionnaire that someone developed to help assess your children. I went through it, and I felt like I could identify where five out of my six kids fell (my 3 year old is still very much a 3 year old). I had my husband do the same, without any input from me (that's a feat in and of itself because I might share my opinion pretty freely?) and he came up with the exact same numbers.

I can't even tell you how awesome this has been! Knowing my kids numbers - it has changed the way I relate to them and celebrate them. I feel like it's given me a better understanding of where they're coming from and why they react to certain situations the way they do, and it's helped me to lean into their strengths, and find practical ways to encourage them in those hard, teachable moments. 

Parenting isn't a gig that's filled with blanket answers that cover a general audience. Our kids are all so different (the more I have, the more I realize this), and fine tuning our responses to things can help them thrive in who they were created to be. It's alleviated a lot of angst in those moments where no one really feels like they know what they're doing.

So, if you love the enneagram and you feel like it can help you relate better to your kids, I highly recommend this little inventory! You can grab the link here - I hope it helps!

08 June 2019

starting your day with intention

It took about ten years of parenting to come to grips with the reality that my day is off to a much smoother start if I am intentional about waking up before my kids. This is harder to do when you are still in the throes of babyhood, but as my kids have developed a regular sleep routine, planning my morning has made all the difference in the world!

With a few simple steps, creating an intentional morning routine can transform your entire outlook on the day. Mine looks a little like this: I set my alarm to go off about 90 minutes before we need to head out the door. I have my Progessence Plus sitting on my bedside table so that before I even get up, I can put a few drops on. (This oil is a hormonal game changer, happy to chat if you want more info.) I head into my bathroom to wash my face, and I moisturize with jojoba oil and Frankincense... really, any chance to incorporate Frank into my daily routine, I'll take! I think I use it at least four times a day to stay grounded and keep my skin well cared for. I brush my teeth, put on my (non-toxic) makeup, run a comb through my hair, and feel instantly brighter. If I need a little extra pep, I'll take a few deep breaths of Wintergreen before I leave the bathroom.

I head into the kitchen, set up my diffuser, and make my coffee. I am all about filling up my diffusers before I go to bed so that they are ready to go first thing in the morning. My favorite to diffuse lately is Common Sense, which has oils like Frankincense, Ylang Ylang, and Lime, and helps promote rational thoughts and has been known to provide a big mood boost - and who doesn't need that in the morning? Tangerine and Peppermint is another favorite to promote happy thoughts and put a little pep in our step (see what I did there?).

I turn on some music to set a happy, peaceful tone for the morning as my little ones start to wander out of bed. I try to take a few minutes to give the day over to God, reflect on my hopes for the day, and approach it with gratitude. I guess it shouldn't surprise me, but I really am amazed at what a difference it makes in my whole demeanor when I take those 15-20 minutes before everyone wakes up to set the tone for my day. It means the whole family is less harried and frenzied as we get ready to head out the door in the morning. Not every morning is perfect, or goes as planned, but what a difference it makes when this is our intention!

Like I said, it took years for me to come to this realization. Anyone that knows me in real life probably knows that I LOVE sleeping. So I leave room in my life for that, too. (Hello, Saturdays!)

What is your favorite way to be intentional with your morning routine? I'd love to hear!

14 May 2019

answers to some of your adoption questions

As promised, I've started to compile my answers to some of the questions I get most frequently about our adoption story. Because this is one of the most significant parts of our lives, this will come at you in multiple posts!

How did you make the decision to adopt?
There were a few different life experiences that really opened my heart to adoption: working with children in Mexico in high school and college, and moving to DC when I graduated to work with inner city kids. I don’t know exactly what it was from those experiences that planted the seed, but it was just a part of me - I knew that I wanted to have a family that included adoption. When I met my husband, and conversations turned toward the future, I told him that I wanted to adopt, and he didn’t hesitate in his openness to it. It was the way the Lord was leading both us, without a doubt, so for us it wasn’t a matter of “if”, it was a matter of “when”.

How did you know when the timing was right?
We had dinner with some close friends that had adopted and asked them this same question. Their answer was that if it’s in your heart, the timing is now. Start walking through the doors to get there. It could take months or years - that’s never for sure - but don’t sit on it. There has been nothing in life that is an act of utter faith like this - the money, the timing, the right match - this is when you do what you can do and the rest is just open hands and a heart that you have to constantly give over to trusting HIS timing and provision. He hasn’t failed us yet.

Our nudge came after our first son was born. We had visions of a giant family and we were ready to do it all at once (ignorance is bliss, am I right? we were slightly naive.). When our second pregnancy didn’t come as quickly as we’d imagined, we felt like that was the first little push to get things started. We requested info from various agencies, but ended up going through the same one our friends did for a domestic adoption, because we loved the heart and mission of the agency. They were (and are!) committed to doing life with the birthmother before and after baby’s arrival, and that was huge to us. 

Once we decided on an agency, we just followed all the steps they lined up for us. We had to fill out questionnaires, get references from various people, do a background check, get physicals done, and have a couple of visits from a social worker. This is when you’re doing a lot of legwork to get yourself set up and ready before a long period of waiting. Our agency also required a “Lifebook”, which is basically the story of our lives and our family through photos, and a heartfelt letter written to the birthmoms. We made several and sent them off to the agency, and then they distributed them to their caseworkers, and those caseworkers shared them with birthmothers. The mothers chose their adoptive families based on the Lifebook, so it’s a crucial part of the process, and maybe the most fun part to put the effort into. All in all, getting everything in order and sent to the agency took us about six weeks. Once they approved it, we were officially a waiting family.

With our first adoption, we were on the waitlist for ten weeks before we got the call. And here’s the clincher: I found out I was pregnant 48 hours after we were officially on the waitlist. So, after we let them know that, they told us we could stay on through my second trimester. The policy on this is different for every agency. I told Nick I would be comfortable staying on the waitlist until the halfway point, and we’d set a date for when we’d call to be removed, which was a Monday. They called us the Friday before our self-appointed date. In case you’re ever wondering if God’s timing is on point, there you go.

Our son was born four weeks later. We got a call that our birthmother was in labor, and we flew out that day. Her labor stopped mid flight, and she ended up having him ten minutes after we arrived at the hospital. Again, TIMING. He completely blew us away. We stayed in town for the next ten days, until both states approved us seeking adoption and allowed us to fly home. 

Four months later I gave birth to another boy, and life completely changed. Mama to three boys under the age of three is no joke, guys. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Life got real crazy, but in all the best ways.

More FAQ’s coming soon... Stay tuned!

20 April 2019

easier isn't always better (and a free printable)

"Easier isn't always better."

This phrase has been rolling through my mind pretty consistently the last couple of months. It's become a mantra, a reminder to myself. 

I think I have spent most of my life wishing for easier moments. Whether those moments are in parenting, walking through hard things with a kid that has extra needs, watching loved ones endure illnesses we have no control over, losing people I adore, moments of feeling lost. I think it's a normal human reaction to feel a sense of self pity, sadness, even anger. We look left and right and wonder why our circumstance doesn't seem as easy as the people around us. Especially in the era of social media and comparison, we can feel so discontent with what we've been given.

And then one day, driving home from somewhere all alone, in a rare moment of quiet, it occurred to me: "easier" and "better" are not interchangeable. I'm not talking about conveniences (you all know I love my Instacart) - if we can make our lives easier by asking for help and support, then let's jump on that. Grocery delivery and childcare top my list right there. But hardships, the things that stretch us to our limits, those moments that feel heavy - those are moments of opportunity. Opportunity to grow, to be refined, to gain strength, and to draw ourselves in even closer to God's peace.

I remember at one point in my early twenties, I was going through something hard and uncomfortable and emotional. I was talking to someone I admired so deeply, someone with wisdom and life experience and faith that I hoped to emulate someday. "Carina," she said, "it's painful now. But the more deeply we experience suffering and heartache, the more deeply we can experience joy."

I think of that conversation all the time. This opportunity to feel deeply - the heartaches and the sadness, but then the joy and real peace.

It's something I want to teach my children, hopefully in love and with grace: that we have no reason to expect our lives to be easy. Things will be wonderful and amazing, and then they will suck for a little bit. But there is always an opportunity for greater joy on the other side, if we choose to push through, to seek the beauty from the ashes, and to allow ourselves room to grow.

If you need this reminder as much as I do, you can snag the printable free here!