Back in January I went down in my basement and looked at the thirteen boxes of paper we'd carted around for years. I had kept every paper my kids had ever worked on in school because I thought it was precious and I'd scrapbook it someday. Instead, I had more kids, and got more paper and stuck it in a box which was now stacked in my basement. Every year I said I'd clean those out and every year I failed to do it. But in January 2012 I raised my fist and said, "This is the year I will conquer the paper monster." And then I went to work.
Most of you know I follow Flylady and I love her idea of "You can do anything for fifteen minutes." So my husband hauled up those paper boxes (and a few bags that were hiding in the back) and stacked them in the family room. Every day I took fifteen minutes (or more on a good day) and sorted the papers into kid piles. Then, once each kid had a pile, I got a large binder and tracked down the kid and we went through the papers deciding what was a keepsake and what could be thrown away. I cannot even tell you how much fun we had doing this, laughing about old memories, notes we found from friends they'd lost touch with, drawings they'd done, assignments they'd spent hours on, book reports, and journals. It was probably the highlight of my year to have that time with each of my children. And, even though it took me a few months, those paper boxes (and bags) are gone. I have eight binders (one for each child) of special things they wanted to keep (and yes, I sneaked a few in that I wanted to keep) and they are safely in a bookcase.
It felt so freeing to get that done. I look at the empty space in my basement where those boxes used to be stacked and I feel proud of myself. And I made a wonderful memory with my children to boot. I'll count that as a success.
I also joined a critique group this year that meets in person twice a month. It has been such an eye-opener to me how much of a difference it can make to how I write when I meet in person with these ladies. We critique, we brainstorm, we talk and laugh and eat yummy food. I've gained friends as well as people who have helped me take my writing to the next level. It's been a wonderful thing in my life and a highlight in my year.
On my birthday this year my friend asked me what the best moment of the year was for me. I thought back over it and one thing popped into my head. It's small and insignificant, but had a big impact on me. We took our family to San Diego for a family vacation this year and one late afternoon we were at the beach and I was sitting on a towel, watching my husband and children play in the water and for just a moment they all stood there watching the sunset, their shadows touching me on the towel and I thought to myself, "Everything that is truly important to me is standing right in front of me." I felt the tears prick my eyes because in that moment nothing else mattered except the love I felt overflowing in my heart for my husband and children. I know I will remember that moment and the feelings I had for the rest of my life.
This Christmas has been particularly fun because my four-year-old understands what's going on. She presses her nose to the window each morning hoping it has snowed so she can make snow angels. When we finished decorating the tree she stood back and stared and then said, "Wow. It's so beautiful Mom." She has worked hard to learn to make paper snowflakes and spent over an hour making a special Christmas star she wants to give to Santa. She loves to look at baby Jesus in all my nativity scenes and seems fascinated by the manger. It's been wonderful to see Christmas through her eyes. She loves baking, too, so we've been trying out new recipes that are fun to make. Today, we're trying Sugar Cookie Bars that I've been told are really easy and so addicting you'll never want to eat regular sugar cookies again. We'll see.
I guess when I look back at this year I'm most grateful for my family and the friends I've made through this blog and the Frog blog and in real life. You encourage me to be myself, but also make me want to be better, so thank you for that. I hope at this holiday season you are surrounded by love and you can look back at this year and find something you accomplished and can feel good about, but also find a moment that makes you feel warm inside and will always live in your heart.
Sugar Cookie Bar Recipe
· 2-1/2 cups bread flour (or all-purpose flour is fine)
· 1/2 tsp. baking powder
· 1/2 tsp. salt
· 1/2 cup butter, softened
· 1 cup granulated sugar
· 1 egg
· 1-1/2 Tbsp. sour cream
· 1 tsp. vanilla extract
· 1/2 cup butter, softened
· 4 cups powdered sugar
· 1/4 cup half and half
· 1 tsp. vanilla
· Pinch of salt
· Several drops of food coloring (optional)
1. COOKIES: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. (The longer you beat it, the fluffier your cookies will be.)
4. Add egg and combine well.
5. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until completely blended.
6. Slowly add the flour mixture and stir until well combined.
7. Gently press the batter into the greased baking dish and spread out with hands. (If you butter your hands, this will help with the stickiness.)
8. Bake 17-20 minutes, or until edges become lightly golden.
9. Set aside to cool completely.
10. FROSTING: In a medium bowl, cream together butter, powdered sugar, and half and half until light and fluffy.
11. Stir in vanilla and salt, combine well.
12. Add food coloring until desired color.
13. Frost your cooled cookie bars evenly.
14. Cut into squares and serve.