Archive for December, 2010

About a year ago, I made a quilt for my Dad who has Alzheimer’s Disease.  It had a variety of images on it – photographs that he and I picked out that were meaningful for him. 

Finished Sensory and Memory Quilt (for my Dad's Christmas Gift)

The black and white picture at the top of this post is one of the photographs that he picked out.  He’s riding a cart attached to his goat at one of the farms where he grew up. 

I can only imagine how much fun that would have been for a child to be riding around in the country with not a care in the world.  Through the years, my dad shared many memories of times that were spent at farms.  It seemed like these some of the best memories that helped sustain him…even as an adult.

Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love,
the things you are,
the things you never want to lose.
~From the television show “The Wonder Years”

Now, as an adult, I live on a small hobby farm.  Many years ago, I had sheep, chickens, horse, and turkeys.  When Sophia and Olivia were adopted, the animals were here. 

Sophia watching the sheep in the pasture.

However, circumstances changed and a farm auction was the end of the livestock.  They went to new homes.  It was a difficult and painful day.

Thankfully, in 2008, a miniature horse and pony came to live at the farm.  The girls are thrilled to have “outdoor animals” again. 

Horses Getting to Know One Another
Olivia introducing Bailey and Hoss to one another. 
They were adopted from the Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue Foundation
and did not know each other prior to living here. 

I’m hoping that the experiences Sophia and Olivia are having now will be pleasant memories when they are adults…and sustain them on days that easy as well as those that are more challenging.

And even if you were in some prison,
the walls of which let none of the sounds of the world come to your senses –
would you not then still have your childhood,
that precious, kingly possession,
that treasure-house of memories?
~Rainer Maria Rilke


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Sophia turned ten years old today.  It’s hard to believe that a child I once held is now almost as tall as me.

Sophia at the orphanage prior to being adopted.
She’s less than a year old in this picture.

Sophia has an outgoing, engaging personality. 

Nez Perce - Beaded Necklace
Sophia is full of laughter…
seeing her with a smile and laughing is typical.

She’s a fun child to be around…and has a generous, caring spirit.  She’s open to trying new things…and has a good attitude about it in the process. 

Sophia as a scarecrow. 
Yes, she’s tied to the wooden cross
in the middle of a cornfield.

We’ve enjoyed many trips together during the past ten years – Hawaii (twice), China, Japan, Pella (IA), Pennsylvania, Oregon, Florida, California, Kansas, and many trips to Grand Marais. 

Testing the Cold Lake Superior Water
Sophia wanting to feel the cold water of Lake Superior
at our favorite beach in Grand Marais – Cutface Creek.
She’s tried many new activities through the year – including dancing, ice skating, swimming, and horseback riding. 
Sophia during the performance
Dancing during the recital at Cinderella dance camp with
the Minnesota Dance Theater.
She has a love for animals and her family.  This picture was taken on January 1, 2008.  Sophia and Olivia decided together that they wanted to wear their Chinese dresses when we went out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant – a long-standing family tradition for New Year’s Day.
Casey, Sophia, and Olivia on 1-1
Casey, Sophia, and Olivia
As I look at pictures of Sophia through the years, I feel incredibly blessed to have her as my daughter.  She has brought so much joy to my life…and filled it with so many wonderful memories. 

To celebrate Sophia’s milestone birthday on December 30th, we had a special breakfast (waffles – her favorite breakfast),

Birthday Breakfast
Sophia at breakfast with a bouquet of flowers in her favorite colors
and a circle of pink carnations – one jar for each year of life.

we went to see “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” (a movie she has wanted to see since the previews began in November), ate at her favorite Chinese restaurant, enjoyed a purchased birthday cake (versus a homemade one which I normally do),

Blowing Out the Candles
Sophia blowing out the candles on her birthday cake.

and opened presents (one for each year).  It was a nice birthday for us all…and one that I hope she remembers fondly when she’s older.

Red Eggs and 10 Jars of Carnations
10 jars of pink carnations surrounding a bowl of 10 eggs.

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Olivia woke up by 6:00 a.m., eager to open her Christmas stocking that was filled by Santa. Lucy, the cat, was interested as well in what Olivia received.

After stockings were opened, we had a simple breakfast of homemade cinnamon rolls or cinnamon-raisin rolls that I made on Christmas Eve.

The cinnamon rolls are made from a recipe that was created my mom’s mother who was a baker. Thankfully, one day she agreed to measure the ingredients for her rolls. I wrote the recipe down as she made the rolls. It is a recipe that we’ve enjoyed many years now.

After breakfast, the girls checked out again the table where they left the letters to Santa.  This year was particularly interesting for them because Sophia had a tooth pulled this week, and she put her tooth out for the tooth fairy right next to the plate of cookies and water for Santa.  Clearly, the tooth fairy and Santa had fun seeing each other because the table was covered with confetti and fairy dust:

The aftermath of Santa’s and the Tooth Fairy’s party.

The girls each opened one present from Santa before heading to my mom and dad’s home where we celebrated with my family. This is my mom and dad at Christmas dinner:

We came back home in the afternoon, rested a bit, had a light dinner, and then opened presents under the Christmas tree.

Sophia taking a break from opening gifts.

There was lots of laughter and happiness today. Hearing “This has been the best Christmas ever!” made me very happy. I think doing daily activities leading up to Christmas helped make this year extra special, and create lasting memories for us all.

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{this moment} – A Friday ritual (inspired by soulemama). A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor, and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments.

Wishing everyone a lovely weekend!

*** *** ***

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Christmas Eve is filled with annual traditions and routines that the girls look forward to doing.

In the late-afternoon, the girls sang in the church choir. The music during the service was beautiful. Afterwards, we drove around a bit and enjoyed seeing Christmas lights.

After feeding the horses and dogs, we ate dinner and had a peppermint ice cream dessert.

Here’s the recipe for Peppermint Angel Roll:

1 package (16 ounces) angel food cake mix
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
1/2 gallon peppermint ice cream, softened
1 jar (11 3/4 ounces) hot fudge ice cream topping, warmed
Miniature candy canes and additional confectioners’ sugar, optional

Prepare cake batter according to package directions. Line a greased 15″ x 10″ x 1″ baking pan with waxed paper and grease the paper.  Spread batter evenly into pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched.

Cool for 5 minutes.  Turn cake onto a kitchen towel dusted with confectioners’ sugar.  Gently peel off waxed paper.  Roll up cake in the towel jelly-roll style, starting with a short side.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

Unroll cake and spread ice cream over cake to within 1/2 inch of edges.  Roll up again.  Cover and freeze until firm. 

To serve the dessert, I cut slices and put some hot fudge on top. The recipe called for crushed peppermint sticks sprinkled on top, but I figured that was more than enough sugar…and I needed the girls to fall asleep early.

Peppermint Ice Cream/Cake Dessert

After dinner, we checked Santa’s progress on the computer. He was in the Canary Islands, and was fast approaching the United States. The girls stepped up their pace and wrote a letter to Santa:

Sophia’s Letter to Santa

The girls put cookies and water on the table along with their letters.  They don’t put milk or juice out because they “could spoil and then Santa would get sick…and that wouldn’t be good” as they remind me each year.

They cut up carrots and put them on the mudroom roof for Santa’s reindeer.  They wanted to throw the carrots out on the mudroom roof. I highly discouraged them from doing this because they “might get buried in all that snow….perhaps it might be easier if they were in the bowls so the reindeer can find the carrots.” Thankfully, they agreed.

Carrots on the roof for Santa’s reindeer.

Before going to bed, they each opened one present that was under the Christmas tree.

Sophia opening a gift from an uncle and aunt.

The girls went to bed by 8:30…and were asleep by 9:00.  Santa visited around 1:00 a.m.

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Today I took a break from preparing for Christmas with Sophia and Olivia, and spent the day helping my parents. My father has Alzheimer’s Disease and my mom has multiple health issues – the most challenging of which is mobility and vision problems. Needless to say, they needed some help with last-minute holiday preparations.

In addition to picking up meat for Christmas dinner, doing their grocery shopping, and helping do some work around their home; I took my dad to his quarterly medical appointment at the Senior Care Clinic at Hennepin County Medical Center. He has seen his doctor there since May 2009 when he was diagnosed with A.D.

This appointment, though, was very different from the past ones. My dad had substantial tangential thoughts, was unable to directly answer most questions, and struggled to find the words for many basic nouns (e.g., garage, gloves).

It was painful to watch…and quite sobering when the doctor said that the time has come to stop driving. This is a major challenge since my mom is unable to drive.

His doctor also recommended that he begin an adult day program 2-3 times per week. This is something that I’ll need to help him see the benefit of doing.

Despite the depressing news, my dad and I enjoyed lunch together before the appointment. There were moments where his mind was completely clear and it was like having my father “back” for some time…and other moments where it was hard to hold back the tears as he needed guidance about how to eat a hamburger…and I had to help feed him.

When we came back from the appointment, I had to share the news with my mom. It was one of the more difficult things I had to do. The timing could not be worse…just a couple days before Christmas.

On a more positive note, I brought some treats for my parents to enjoy on Christmas (or before…if they wanted to sample some). Here’s one of the favorite treats from the dozen or so bags of desserts I brought them:

Mint Capped Brownie Cookie Cups

(Note: I baked these in a couple of smaller dishes and put the Mint Truffle Kisses in rows/columns so each piece had one Kiss on it.)

48 Mint Truffle Hershey Kisses
2/3 cup butter, softened (I used dairy-free butter)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon Watkins vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup Hershey’s cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 48 small muffin cups (1 3/4 in diameter) with paper or foil baking cups. Remove wrappers from chocolates.

2. Beat butter, sugar, water and vanilla in large bowl on medium speed of mixer until well blended. Add eggs; beat well.

3. Stir together flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda. Gradually add to sugar mixture, beating on low speed just until blended. If necessary, refrigerate dough until firm enough to handle. Shape dough into 1 inch balls; place in prepared muffin cups.

4. Bake 11 t o13 minutes or until cookie surface is set. Cookies will appear soft and moist. Do not overbake. Cool about 5 minutes on wire rack. Press chocolate kiss into surface of each cookie cup. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Sprinkle each cookie with powdered sugar (I didn’t do this). Makes 4 dozen cookies.

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Today’s activity was to put handmade cards and a plate of cookies in the mailbox for Dave (the mailman).

The girls picked out some cookies and candies they made and put them on a plate. Each had made Christmas cards, so they picked out one each and included that with the gift to Dave.

He wrote the girls a note thanking them for the cookies, and said they looked delicious. They were so happy to do this and to know that Dave liked their gift!

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