Saturday, November 16, 2013

It's Wednesday. What's Cooking? Christmas!

It's mid-November, which means that decent people have started Christmas shopping and planning their holiday party menus!

When I grow up, mayhaps I will get to be decent people.

No matter!

I don't really need to plan my holiday baking anyway, because that has been on autopilot since...well, forever.  I can only speak for my family, but I'm sure it's true everywhere:  There are certain Christmas-time food traditions that are simply unquestioned.

For example:

If I show up in my mom's kitchen during December and there aren't tree-shaped sugar cookies with green frosting and sprinkles, peppermint bark, and the world's best little sandwich cookies with pink and green frosting...that's when I will know it's time to start auditioning home health aids.

Just kidding, Mom!

But, really...where are my sandwich cookies?

When I was a kid and we would get the whole hee-haw gang together for Christmas with my dad's side of the family, the snack table was unbelievable!  Comfortingly, reliably unbelievable!  One aunt would make rosettes (amazing!); another made those dill pickle/cream cheese/dried beef pinwheels; my mom brought mom's stuff...

Every year, just the same.  As it should be.

So...I pretty much knew what recipe I was going to share with you today, but just for confirmation, I asked my kids what recipe screams "Christmas!" at them.

Yeah...I called it.

Bennett holiday favorite...coming up!

Christmas Morning Overnight Rolls

24 frozen dinner rolls (like Rhodes)
1 (3 3/4 ounce) package cook-type butterscotch pudding mix (not instant)
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

On Christmas Eve, spray a jelly roll pan (or cover with parchment for easier clean-up).  Arrange the rolls into a 4x6 grid.  Sprinkle rolls with the pudding mix.  In a small saucepan, melt the butter and mix it with the brown sugar, cinnamon, and the nuts.  (If you're a freak.  No nuts on overnight rolls here!)

Take that molten goodness and drizzle it all over the rolls.  Then put the pan into a cold oven.  Go to bed.

(Sorry this recipe is so complicated.)

In the morning, turn the oven on to 350.  Do NOT preheat.  Do NOT remove the pan of now-beautifully-risen rolls.  Just turn on the oven and set a timer for 20 minutes.

(Again...sorry.  I know this is pretty rough.)

After 20 minutes, remove the pan of oh-my-goodness-delicious rolls from the oven.  Eat them!

Just as a note:  I have done this a couple ways.  Sometimes, I have taken a second pan, placed it upside-down on top of the rolls, and flipped the whole thing over so that the goo is on top.  That's one option.  The other is to just be careful to scoop the carmel-icious goo from underneath each roll onto the plate of the rightful owner.  The choice is yours.  As you will discover, there is no wrong way to eat Christmas morning overnight rolls!

I'm sorry I don't have a picture.  But it's really just as well.  You don't want to drool on your computer.  It's bad for the circuitry.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Truth-or-Dare Tuesday is proud to present: Yes...I did this on purpose!

Yeah...when this topic hit my radar, I knew (as did pretty much anyone who knows me) what this one would be about.

I's an oldie.  But it's one of my favorites!
I don't know for sure who reads my blog.  In the last month, I've had almost 3,000 hits...which seems a little strange to me.  I'd attribute this feat to repeated visits from my mom, my sister, and a few dear others who could have conspired to work in shifts, repeatedly visiting me in a loving act of self-esteem building on my behalf.  And that could be a big part of it!  ;-)  But I know for a fact that none of them live in Ukraine or China--two of my biggest sources of visits.

Weird, right?

All this to say...there may be folks out there who don't know that I have ten kids.  Yes, ten.  10.

Yes...I did this on purpose.  (Well...ultimately.)

Before I begin a quick re-cap of ground I have covered before, I would like to take a pause and say that if I know you in real life or if, for whatever reason, you have been following along for a while, I won't feel bad if you close up shop right here and go watch an episode of the rerun of your choice.  Maybe a nice Brady Bunch.  Or The Waltons.  Perhaps Seventh Heaven.  Something like that.

See...we started our life together, Sweet Jimmy B and me, by blending a family of five.  This side-show trick is not for the faint of heart.  But when you are able to pull it off, it's a really fabulous performance!

Then, a few years later, along came two right after the other!

And then...there was a hiatus.  And in that hiatus, God had a lot of work to do on us!  And I praise Him for it!  And for the three babies we had as a result!

But even then, He wasn't done working...digging out self-focus, uprooting the world's notions of common sense.  Until we finally found ourselves following Him into the blessings of foster care and adoption.


Were all of my children...umm...sought with great preparatory anticipation?  No.  Not exactly.  I didn't wake up one morning and decide, Hey!  I think I'll have ten kids!  

But, at the heart of the matter, yes...I did this on purpose.  

I chose to be a single mom when I was little more than a baby myself.  

I positively scampered down the aisle to marry, not just the man of my dreams...

but two beautiful daughters as well...

I pursued pregnancy when it was hard to find, and I embraced it when it showed up unexpectedly.  

I listened while God spoke to my heart about the foolishness of not trusting Him enough to care for the children He brought into my life...and I have rejoiced as He brought me children as He saw fit.

Yes...I did this on purpose.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

It's Just Another Memoir Monday! And I've got a peaceful, easy feeling...

Until just a few months ago, I had had the same "most peaceful memory" for nineteen years.  That's a pretty long reign!  And even now, I'm not altogether willing to say that the title has been handed down to the new kid on the block.  I'd much prefer to imagine these two memories happily enjoying the trophy on the mantel over their shared fireplace, together.

I'll grant you that the new guy really has something going for it.  Not only was it an extraordinary experience, but the tranquility of it took me completely by surprise!  Sort of a double-wow factor!

Because, see...if I ever thought about parasailing (which I didn't, really), I imagined it as a thrill ride.  Much more a roller coaster than a float down the lazy river!

I'm not particularly scared of heights, but... umm... that's pretty high up.  And I imagined the boat would have to be going pretty fast to get the weight of people up into the air.  And, then, you're flying through the air!  And then you've gotta get down somehow!  And I'm not a rocket scientist or anything, but I can imagine that if you have a boat going fast, and a big parachute being reeled into it...that's a lot of stuff moving.  And you need to coordinate it!  Sounds like a lot of action for someone with bum knees!

So...when SJB and I were making plans for our cruise last winter, we had parasailing on our "maybe" list.  It wasn't something I was going to insist that we do, lest I feel like I didn't do the cruise thing right; and it wasn't something I was dead-set against.  I thought it would probably be awesome...but I had my reservations.

One of my reservations was that, if you opted to parasail as a cruise-arranged shore excursion, you were basically committing to spending hours riding around in a boat, waiting for it to be your turn to get your 8 minutes in the air.  Frankly, I had other things I wanted to do with my precious beach time!

So there we were...on Paradise Beach in Cozumel, Mexico...surrounded by beautiful sand, sparkling water, and lots of options for fun things to do:  get a beach massage, rent a jet-ski, shop for souvenirs, snorkel, parasail...

Shortly after we arrived at the beach, the parasail operator nearest our plot of beach approached us about a ride, but I wasn't ready yet.  Like getting up the courage to ride a roller coaster, I was going to have to watch other people do it several times before I committed my body to the thing.  But, the longer we lounged on our beach chairs, the more the price dropped...until finally, the girl told us that she liked our faces, and she quoted a price for both of us that was half of what the cruise line wanted to charge apiece!

And Sweet Jimmy B said, "Sold!"

I was totally cool with it.  

I was glad my mom didn't know what I was about to do, but I was cool with it.  

I had watched people return safely from the boat all day, so I didn't fear for my life or anything, however I did fear for my knees (because I still had two days of cruising left, and I had promised myself that I would not find myself on Deck 2 where the medical services are located!).  But I was in Mexico!  I was with my husband!  I was committed to adventure and ready for a thrill ride!  Plus, I had a pretty clear image of what I thought the experience would be like.  

And I was totally wrong...

Even though I'm not a rocket scientist (and I don't think our parasail guides were either), it was positively clear that they knew exactly what they were doing.  There was none of the awkwardness I had feared; I felt secure the entire time; I never even got wet!  And my knees...not a twinge!

But the big surprise:  While parasailing was absolutely breathtaking, it was not at ALL scary!  It was unbelievably beautiful...and perfectly peaceful.

We were up in the air for about 15 minutes.  The water below us was so clear that we could see all sorts of amazing Mexican sea creatures.  And we could see forever into the distance!

And quiet!  Aside from the faint sound of the wind rippling through the parachute, it was so peaceful.  We were able to talk at a normal volume the whole time.

It was one of those experiences I wished I could have photographed perfectly--using all five senses--so I could bring it out and relive it any time I want to!

Just amazing!

And, in an interesting twist, my more long-beloved peaceful memory falls at the opposite end of the weather spectrum...

I had always dreamed of a winter wedding.  (Mainly because I had always hated to be hot!)  And since Sweet Jimmy B and I met in late November--and because we see no point in dawdling about--we were all lined up for a beautiful winter wedding.  That very winter, mind you.

I quote Harry in When Harry Met Sally:  When you find the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible!

I digress.

Winter wedding.


When you only have a couple months to put your wedding together, it is sort of a sprint.  But we made it to rehearsal with our wits about us, and we left the church to go to rehearsal dinner just as it started to snow...a beautiful, puffy, light snow.  For a girl who had dreamed of a winter wedding, this was absolutely picture perfect!

Of course, if I had known that a full-out blizzard was about to dump 18 inches of snow on us, close roads, and prevent a large percentage of our invited guests from making their way to the wedding, I probably wouldn't have found the snow quite so enchanting.  However, with the gift of hindsight, it makes our arrival at rehearsal dinner even more precious to me...

Because, when rehearsal was over, the people who had a hand in serving up dinner hurried off to the dinner location, and some people weren't staying for dinner at all...

And, let's face it, we were probably taking frequent breaks from our assigned duties to cuddle up together, giggling over the fact that we were only 24 hours from married, kissing around every corner...

So we were the last to arrive at rehearsal dinner.  Everyone else had already gone into the reception hall, so when we got out of the car, we were all alone in the snowfall.

The snow muffled all sound...the streetlights created halos in the moist air...the snowflakes fluttered through the lights, sparkling as they landed...

No doubt on our noses and eyelashes.  ;-)

And we stood under a streetlight...stalling before we went inside.

We were so excited to be married the next day...but at that moment, knowing that as soon as we walked through the door, there would be people and noise...questions to answer...decisions to make...stuff to deal with...

We just weren't in a hurry to get inside.

And out in the snow, it was absolutely peaceful.  No sound.  No movement but the snow.  Just a couple kids in love, bracing themselves against the launch sequence into the rest of their lives.

Yeah...I love that memory.


Monday, November 11, 2013

And so it ends... The final three days of our blog challenge (and a bonus)

Wow!  Where did that month go?!

Let's talk about what we've learned, kids...

(And so what we have learned applies to our lives today...God has a lot to say in His Book!  ;-)  Any other Veggie Tales fans out there?)

OK...well here's what I've learned:  I love having an assigned topic.  Even though I was the one giving the assignment.  Which is kind of weird.  You'd think that if I could compile a month's worth of writing prompts, I could just sit down and write a little every day.

There you go thinking again!

Here's what I already knew, but had somehow forgotten along the way:

I love to write!

Like, if only meals and laundry and school functioned very well on auto-pilot, I would want to be a writer when I grow up.  Full time.  Whether it paid or not.  (But if you read my Bucket List post, you know that, just once, I would like to get paid for it!)

So, what's a girl to do?  Well...try to discipline myself to write even without the pressure of knowing that a dozen or so people are making sure I'm keeping up.  And I've actually looked into a few websites where freelance writers and people looking for writers can get linked up.  Crazy.  But I've actually begun to look into it.

Before I lay out the last few assignments, I would really like to beg for your honest feedback on this little month-long experiment.  What are your thoughts?  Suggestions?  What are your own writing plans for the future?  Would you be interested in playing again sometime?  Tell me what's going on in that pretty little head of yours!

I know I said we would wrap this thing up on my birthday, which is Wednesday, and you're welcome to jump off the train then if you want, but I've decided that I want to add a bonus day because I've had a lot of fun with the pictures on Thousand-Word Thursday, and I'm going to use that as an opportunity to share pics from my birthday.

Do with that what you will!

  • Memoir Monday:  Share your most peaceful memory.  (I, personally, have a tie for this one.)
  • Truth-or-Dare Tuesday:  Yes...I did this on purpose!  (WHAT did you DO?!)
  • What's Cooking Wednesday:  The holidays are coming up.  Share the recipe that, for you, is essential to the holiday season...something that you wouldn't consider NOT making.
  • Thousand-Word Thursday:  I'm going to share some pictures from my birthday hijinks.  I think you should post a picture of yourself having fun with the people you love!

Write on!


Sunday Surprise is a Tribute...but not really much of a surprise

A few days ago, as a preamble to sharing something that made me laugh on Thousand-Word Thursday, I spoke of the husband wish-list which I spent the first quarter-century of my life composing.

Funny all the things I would have put on that list if I had known then what I know now!

Also funny:  All the times in the last almost-20 years I have looked at Sweet Jimmy B and said, "We never, ever could have imagined this when we decided to get married!"

Like making five trips to the delivery room together...and having grandbabies...and becoming foster parents...and adopting...

Like struggling to blend our blended family...battling infertility...facing some real problems with teenagers...and being called to the hospital when children were involved in serious accidents...

Financial concerns... moves... new jobs... demanding jobs... ministry... discouragement...

Joys and blessings I couldn't even start to think about beginning to enumerate...

Trials I won't list...

It's crazy how much living you do when you do life together for twenty years!

One of those things you don't spend a lot of time thinking about when you're young and healthy and silly-in-love is the prospect that "in sickness" is a vow that will actually be put to the test.

Just in case you haven't been following my life first-hand over the last couple years, I've had a lot of medical yuckiness that reads a little like the back of a shampoo bottle:  hernia, hernia repair, infection, repeat...

(Well, that's just gross!  Who would even market a shampoo that way?!)

When it all finally resolved, I had had three surgeries in about six weeks, I had required several units of blood,  I passed out for the first time in my life, and I was left after surgery #3 with a packed, open wound that took more than two months to close completely.

These were not my finest days.  

But, if you are so blessed as to have a husband of your very own, it probably comes as no surprise to you that SJB was my rock during that time.  When I couldn't speak for myself, he advocated for me...sometimes viciously.  When I passed out (while trying to execute the tricky maneuver of moving from the edge of the bed to the chair two feet away), he could see it happening before the nurse did.

He's the one who caught me before I hit the floor, and got me back into bed.  He's the one who set an alarm to go off on his phone every twelve minutes all night long so he could hit the button on my PCA pump (sshhh...don't tell on him!) so I wouldn't wake up in pain.  

The ring tone was "Wanna Be Sedated," by the Ramones...because even in times of trial, he's still got it!

And all this is just the stuff that was happening in the hospital.  From 90 minutes away, he was also continuing to lead an entire church and our small army of a family...making sure our kids knew what was going on, making the trip back and forth so he could spend time reassuring them with his presence. 

But, as far as I'm concerned, the pinnacle of selflessness in his care for me during that nightmare came when it was time for my first dressing change a few days after the third surgery.  Having closed the incision conventionally the first time, and then trying a wound vac the second time, my surgeon had opted to leave the wound open this time, filled with wet-to-dry dressing.

On the day of that dressing change, I posted this to my facebook wall:


I simply must brag on my husband again: My surgeon had mentioned that this sort of wound treatment might require "audience participation" at home, so Sweet Jimmy B made sure to be here for the dressing change--for moral support (because they told me it would probably be "pretty uncomfortable") and in the interest of his own education. When Dr. Marshall saw that he was willing to learn, he gave SJB a pair of gloves and walked him through the whole process. He totally received a day of medical school! He touched the mesh holding the hernia together! He felt my muscle tissue! He stuffed about four feet of dressing into my abdominal cavity! WAY into! And when he stood up, my blood was on his sterile glove. It was sooo sick and weird...but also strangely romantic. The residents were all amazed; the little girl resident said, "There is no way in the world my husband would ever do that for me!" And Dr. Marshall said it's too bad that so few family members are willing to learn how to do this particular dressing change, because it's obviously better for the patient to have 24/7 access to someone who knows if something is different or wrong. Yes, it's disgusting, but that's how much he wants to be able to take care of me. Don't be jealous...but my husband is some kind of husband super-star!

That was a very, very big deal to me...but what I didn't really know when I posted it was that that first dressing change was just the tip of the iceberg.  

For more than two months, twice a day, every day, he scrubbed up, put on gloves, removed the external bandages and internal dressing, put on clean gloves, moistened the sterile gauze, checked the condition of the wound, re-packed it, and taped me up with fresh bandages.

Every day.  Twice a day.  For over two months.

But it wasn't just a medical procedure.  He knew it was painful and unpleasant and, frankly, disgusting, but he wanted it to be as OK for me as possible, so he thought of ways to make it better.  He turned the sirius radio onto the 80's channel (unless they were playing something stupid, in which case we moved back to the 70's), and he kissed me, and he was so loving about the whole process.

In fact, he told me more than once that, though he hated it for me, he loved being able to do something for me that no one else could do...that he got to take care of me.  And it was a precious time for us as a couple.  I felt loved and cherished, he felt appreciated (I hope), and we were guaranteed that two times a day, we could positively insist upon being alone together for a few minutes.

Seven children at home.  Twice-daily doses of quiet couple-time was a treasure.

But here's the thing...

That experience alone definitely earns my husband my humble, most loving respect.  No one else (remember...Mom can't be given this award!) has ever loved me so completely, so selflessly, and with so little concern for his own comfort.  But, though the whole surgical fiasco serves as a convenient picture, it is merely a more dramatic, condensed example of what it is to be me...married to Jim Bennett.

Yes, he went to bat for me when the resident on call took away my pain medication just hours after open abdominal surgery (in an effort to raise my dropping blood pressure), but Sweet Jimmy B has done the same thing in different situations many, many times before and since that summer night in 2012.  He has my back.  Always.

When my blood pressure tanked, he knew I was about to hit the floor before anyone else did--because he has known me so well for so long that he pretty much instinctively knew something was very, very wrong.  But I would be here all day if I started talking about all the ways he has snatched me right out of the air, averting all manner of unpleasantness with a combination of loving concern and knowledge obtained through two decades of making a thorough study of me.

And, true, he has given up his own sleep in exchange for mine, sacrificing his comfort in an attempt to insure that I could rest without pain, but that's simply how he approaches his every day.  You have no idea how many things he has done that he had no desire to many times he has poured time or money into something that was for me many times he has made himself uncomfortable so that I could be comfortable.  A few sleepless nights is really small potatoes.

And while performing the patently gory task of changing my surgical dressing truly was something that not everybody would be willing to do (in fact, my doctor said that only about 3% of patients have a family member willing to do it), that is really just Exhibit A, representing 20 years of acts of selflessness.

And here's the kicker:  From the moment my surgeon mentioned "audience participation," it never even once occurred to me that SJB wouldn't do whatever was asked of him.  Maybe that sounds presumptuous...or like I'm taking him for granted...but it's not that at all.  It's amazing assurance.  

Not only is he willing to love me sacrificially...I'm positively certain of it.  Every minute of every day. 

And that is a blessing I can't even begin to calculate.  I can only pray for ways to return it.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Stand-In Saturday: Sharing the blogs...sharing the love...

Yes...Stand-in Saturday is usually a cheat.  I need at least one cheat day a week.  More would be better.  But I can justify one.

I have a lot of bloggers I enjoy.  I don't have any that I read faithfully every single day, because I just don't have the time.  But, fortunately, most of them have facebook pages, so I get to feel like I'm keeping up one post at a time!  And it's funny...after just reading someone over a span of time, I get to feeling like I know her!  It's almost like having friends!

I've mentioned my great love of A Farmgirl's Dabbles several times before.  Sister can COOK!  Check her out!

I'm also a big fan of Money Saving Mom...and she has spun me off to a lot of other fun mom-blogs.  (She's sort of the Happy Days of blogs, I guess!)

Heavenly Homemakers is also a good friend.  Check that out!

(This could be a problem...the more I list, the more I think of other blogs you might like too!)

My current favorite, however, has to be A Slob Comes Clean.  I LOVE her.  She is my best friend, only she doesn't know it yet.  She may well be my long-lost second sister.  Or maybe she's just like looking into the mirror at my hopeful future.  She's hilarious...she's completely honest...she's absolutely real.  And I love her.  If you struggle with keeping the mess at bay, she might be your long-lost sister too!

Happy reading!


Rummaging through my Bucket List on Fantasy Friday

Well, now I'm completely bummed out!

One night--the very night we committed to going on a cruise!--Sweet Jimmy B and I were out on a date.  :-)  And we decided to actually write down our bucket lists.  I opened up a notebook on my "smart" phone, and together, we created two mighty fine lists of our dreams.

So when I made this particular assignment, I thought to myself, well, this is going to be easy!  Most of the work is already done!  I just need to look that baby over and do a little prioritizing, and lay out which items on the list I really want to complete in the next decade.

Not-so-funny story:

Four months ago, I went on a delightful get-away with my mom, my sister, and my oldest daughter Krystal.  While there, right when I most needed the internet capabilities of my fabulous phone, it decided that the only way it was going to straighten up and fly right was if I spent half my life on the phone with US Cellular customer service (while on a little vacation, mind you) and then restored my phone to factory settings.


In a rare example of forethought and tech savvy, I backed up my pictures and contacts and ring tones before we swept the thing clean...but as the months have gone by, I have discovered (or, I guess, un-discovered) a lot of things that were hurled into the abyss.

Guess what I un-discovered last night.


Back to the ol' bucket list drawing board.  :-(

I hate reinventing the wheel.

Fortunately, I live in the age of Google.  Lots of people have reinvented lots of wheels.

Like the fine folks at

You know how, if you want to know what a person's priorities really are, all you have to do is look at her checkbook register and her day-planner?  I think I have discovered that that goes double for a girl's bucket list!

It's entirely possible that I have a little bit of a travel problem!

But, relatively record-time, I put together a pretty reasonable facsimile of the list that has been forever lost to the cyber-vacuum.  And, from that list, I have composed what I believe to be a challenging, yet realistic, 10-year goal plan.  I would covet your prayers...and your regular goading and nagging!

Since my birthday is just a few days away, I'm going to give myself a little grace and say that, by my 55th birthday, I would like to have...
  1. Run a 5K.
  2. Been paid to write.
  3. Taken a ballroom dancing class with SJB.
  4. Gone to New York City.
  5. Gone to Europe.
  6. Taken the kids on a Wild West vacation road trip.
  7. Gone skiing.
  8. Gone scuba diving.

Is it possible that I'm aiming too high?  Quite.  But I'm going to leave it as is!  For the sake of perspective, I have already crossed two biggies off my list in the last year:  take a cruise and go parasailing.  If I can do two a year, then I should be way ahead of the curve for bringing home eight items in ten years!  

Or, at least, that's how I do the math!