Saturday, February 13, 2010

Family Olympics Project

My husband and I are both big fans of the Olympics. He's got a competitive spirit and I love all the human interest stories they tell about the athletes. I love to sit, night after night, and cry about the hardships people have overcome to appear in the Olympics. It's so cool to witness someones "big moment" in life, where their hard work and sacrifice pay off and they have a moment of pride. So, although I am proud to be an American, I usually end up cheering for the athlete with the best sob story. I'm a sucker for sob stories.

The winter Olympics hold a special place in my heart because the last time they were held, Joseph and I had just started dating and we were able to watch them together. Our first valentine's day was spend in front of the TV, cheering on team USA and splitting a pizza. We're low maintenance like that.

This year we were invited to watch the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver with some family friends. We said we'd bring dessert. So, we decided to bring the winter Olympics to the Rutchik home and make a family project out of it!

First we made a cake.

Then we made another cake. I'm a firm believer in layered cakes and never split a cake mix to make them. 2 layers, 2 cakes.

Then Joseph sorted a large family size bag of M&M's into separate cups. I'm so blessed to have an amazing hubby who never has to be talked into family projects such as this. He jumps right in without being asked, and I love him so for it!

While we let the cakes cool, we took some time to practice colors with Tessa. A little tip for parents of 2 year olds having trouble with colors; being able to eat an M&M after correctly identifying its color was a brilliant idea! Little miss Tessa now knows her colors, and has eaten a lot of chocolate this weekend!

Here are our cups of M&M's!

Miss Anna Clare wasn't too into the family project. She expressed her displeasure with busy arms unable to hold her with screams and pleas for "UP!"
We bribed her with M&M's and she was back on board for a family project!

I then made my famous homemade peanut butter frosting and Tessa enjoyed squeezing the red food coloring in and watching it change colors. Being able to actually SEE that something she was doing was having such an effect while cooking was a joy to her.

As the cakes continued to cool, Tessa and I filled a brown ice cream cone with broken pieces of licorice to create the Olympic torch. We then filled the cup with red and orange M&M's to hold our "flames" in place. Because as everyone knows, if the flames go out, it's bad news!
Joseph punched a hole in the bottom of the cone with a toothpick to insert into the cake and hold our torch in place.

We created the famous Olympic rings with M&M's, sprinkled some white sugar on to to look like snow and finished the cake off with a blue and read border of M&M's to show our support for team USA!

Here Tessa and I pose with the finished product. The look on her face is her reaction to being caught eating the frosting red handed. She's not doing a great job of hiding the fact that her month is full of frosting, is she?
Over all, I really enjoyed this family project and the cake turned out just how I was hoping. I know we aren't Ace of Cakes over here, but I so enjoy making cakes and decorating them for special events. I often dream about really getting into it, but fondant and fancy cake tools cost a lot, and it just isn't something I'm willing to invest money in. So, I do the best I can with what I can buy at the supermarket.
We had a wonderful time at the Opening Ceremonies party. In my excitement over the Winter Olympics I forgot that it was - well - WINTER. When we got in the car and turned the heat on our cake melted and started bleeding the red frosting from its middle. I was proud of myself for letting it go and not letting it ruin my night! By the time we reached our destination it was a bit of a mess - but is tasted GREAT!
Happy Olympics! if you're looking for Joseph and I this Valentine's Day - we'll be watching team USA and sharing a pizza (and maybe a piece of cake)!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Work in Progress Wednesday 2/10/10

For this week’s WIP, I’m looking at tackling my WIP’s largest challenge:

Other works in progress.

It seems I’ve been chalk full of ideas lately, and my desktop is beginning to get cluttered by all of half finished documents just hanging around. Although this sounds like a good thing, I know myself well enough to know it’s a sign of one thing – lack of focus.

A piece of work requires focus; otherwise it’s just a fleeting idea, not a story. For something to become a story it must have a narrative arc and each character must also have an arc. Although I’ve become an expert at openings –I find myself writing another one, instead of deciding what happens next. It seems I’m lacking commitment to the honestly of the story, of the character. Since I write narrative non-fiction narrative/personal essays, the narrator is me.

So, what’s holding me back?


I can’t move on because I can’t tell the story without being completely honest. So, fear of honestly must be what’s holding me back.

I tend to write for audience or in response to a call. For my day job, I write about families or business owners for a very specific audience, and this is easy as pie. It’s easy to tell the truth when you know what box to put it in and what bow to place on top.

I think it would do my writing muscle some good to write just to write. When I take the audience out of the equation, those fears of what people will think or how they’ll react will be lifted, and the story will be more honest. The story will be written simply because that story must be written. This why, the story will actually be written instead of a dozen half-told stories, I’ll have told a few stories well.

I can always go back – that’s what re-writes are for!

What’s holding you back in your writing?

How do you keep your stories honest?

Friday, February 5, 2010


Noise is a part of every mama’s life. It can’t be escaped. From the moment the first phone call is cut short due to excessive background screaming, to the first time you leave mass wondering what the reading and homily were even about, noise is an everyday fixture in family life.
Mathematically speaking,

noise + X = mama guilt.

You see, the X is my response to noise and I’m here to say,

“My name is Holly and I react poorly to the noises my children contribute to my life.”

So, in an effort to grow as a person, wife and mother, I’ve been trying to identify that X and react and adjust accordingly.

My first realization: it’s not only the children that create the noise pollution in this household. It’s all the things I add to the mix.

As a work from home mama with the pipe dream of writing burning stronger every day, I’m in front of the computer for the majority of my waking hours. When the screaming and whining are more than I can take, I hire a babysitter. I have two I turn to most often. Their names are Dora and Elmo and they cost me about $17 bucks a month in cable services.

I’ll pause so you can judge, if you so wish………

So now the TV has been flipped on, Elmo is singing with a lisp in third person form, I’m at the computer, one kid is whining and the other kid is screaming as they fight over the electronic toy whose annoying song I’m convinced was composed just to assault my eardrums. I continue on and at some point, the phone is added to the equation. And this is a typical day in my home.

The other day my husband (who also works from home) tried to have a conversation with his wife. Poor guy. As he took a seat across the room in his chair, he placed all of these distractions between us physically. In order to give him the time of day, I had to bring my hands to my face and block my peripheral vision in order to listen to him. He looked at me like I was insane.

“What are you doing?” He asked.

“There’re too much going on and I can’t focus on what you’re saying.” I responded.

This poor attempt at communication with my husband made me think about other important things I may be missing out on because there is too much going on. I believe God speaks to us. But am I drowning Him out with all the noise around me?

By the evening, I had a major malfunction. The girls went to sleep and I felt anxious and jittery. All of my normal evening activities involved the computer and TV and I just couldn’t bring myself to look at either of them. I didn’t know what to do with myself and so I did what I always do when confusion consumes me. I got in bed and pulled the covers over my head.

“Ummm, what are you doing?” My husband asked.

“I don’t know I just need quiet. I can’t take any more noise right now. I need dark and quiet.” I responded.

“Don’t you have to work tonight?” he asked.

“Yeah, I just need 10 minutes of nothing. I’m craving some nothing.” I told him.

I didn’t get out of bed until the wake up alarm otherwise known as the screams on my youngest, Anna, woke me this morning.

The old saying is true. Peace and quiet really do go hand in hand. In my much needed time with quiet last night I indeed found a bit of peace - and my Lenten promise for this year.
It’s time for me to unplug a bit. It’s my hope I’ll be able to clear some noise from my head and my heart. This year, Lent will be my shield as I attempt to ward off the many things attacking my senses. Maybe then I’ll be hearing things a bit more clearly.

Monday, February 1, 2010

God's Will

It seems I have “handle with care” stamped on my forehead these days – and I can understand why. I greatly appreciate the outpouring of prayers, offers of support, encouragement and friendship that God has revealed to me through those He has placed in my life. As a person whose gift is GIVING support, it’s been a hard pill to swallow, and I’ve been showered with grace as I’ve learned to do so.
I know my family and I have been on the hearts of many recently. And so, I will begin with a family update:


Joseph had his six-month post surgery appointments in these last few weeks and as of now, his CAT-SCAN is looking good. His cardiologist, and Marfans Specialist, expressed some concern that maybe Joseph has a different connective tissue disorder rather than Marfans. We’ve been thinking about doing genetic testing for a while and have been putting it off due to the financial expenses involved. Insurance does not cover these tests and each one starts in the thousands of dollars. However, we do need to identify the condition and where it sits in his genes so that we can test our daughters and know who, if either, of them has the condition.
This week, Joseph’s genetic test for Marfans came back negative. We are disappointed. Ok, we are very disappointed. From the little information we have on the other possible connective tissue culprits - they only get scarier. Because of the cost I mentioned above, we are doing these tests in rounds, as to not have to pay for any more than we need to. We have decided to test his DNA for Loeys Dietz Syndrome. Each round of tests takes 2 weeks. We made this decision on Wednesday and should know in the next week. As soon as Joseph tests positive for a connective tissue disorder, we will then have our daughters tested. I’ve always said the unknowing is the hardest part, I’m starting to reconsider.

Tessa continues to amaze me every day! Her joy for life truly inspires me. As she settles into her second year of life, her gifts are bubbling over and it has been my saving grace to witness. Currently at the forefront –any and all things artistic. She is always drawing and trying to understand shapes. Tessa’s mommy has been doing a lot of crying lately and although I’m feeling a bit defeated in life, I’m getting a glimpse of my children I don’t think I’d be seeing if things were more stable around here. Nothing hurts Tessa more than the sight of tears in any member of our family. Her little being gets so upset and worry takes over her pudgy little face at the first sign of distress in a family member. Her empathy amazes me. She has been gifted with great intuition and is finding out early in her life that this gift comes with a great responsibility. So much so, she has started talking and tossing and turning in her sleep. I’ve been lying awake at night and listening to her “love” us through the bedroom walls as she sleeps through her restlessness.

Oh, my lovely Anna Clare. She is a gal of great extremes. Her screaming and intense emotional reactions have been more than her parents can take since the day she was born. However, her “ups” are well worth the price of her downs. When joy fills this little one, it consumes every part of her being. She has a difficult time containing her excitement and has taken to just screaming out gibberish because she just can’t keep in how happy songs and games make her feel. I call it her “joy seizure” because it is an overwhelming thing to witness. Her smiles are big, her eyes are bright and her cuddles are my best medicine. I can’t wait to continue to meet her each and every day. I never know what I’ll get. She has an element of surprise about her that prevents me from ever closing my heart. I thank her for this gift and praise God for the two very different souls he has entrusted to our care.

I’ve received many calls and e-mails expressing concern for me. I appreciate them all. I’m thankful to have been blessed with the presence of so many loving people in my life. We have been through a lot and yes, I am stretched thin. Yes, I know it is “too” thin. Joseph and I are constantly working and I am worried and frustrated. It’s so hard when we know we work more hours in a week than most we know. It’s hard because we do so not to get ahead or even enjoy the things most others our age are working for such as buying a home, starting a business or saving for a vacation. We are on what my husband calls “The Red Queen Theory.” This theory, from Alice and Wonderland, is about running as fast as you possibly can –just to stay where you are. It’s a frustrating place to be, especially because we are forced to live each day face to face with mortality. We both have great fears that if it’s God’s will we don’t live this earthly life together until a ripe old age that we will have regrets. Regrets of too much time spend in worry about health and finances, shooing the children away, working and so on. It is discouraging, knowing we are doing the best we can, and knowing it’s not enough.


Isn’t this the point? Isn’t this our faith? Ok, so my family has been pounded with hardship after hardship. Yup, we are working ourselves day in and day out just to spiral deeper into medical debt. And, our biggest challenges are those of unknowing. Will this family stay healthy? Can we ward off the next medical concern? Will these medical concerns prevent this family from ever growing in size and into a place to call our own?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. I’ve had my fair share of good cries and “why me’s”. However, I have been blessed! I have been given a glimpse of true and unconditional love that not many others will know until they are called home. I’ve seen the best qualities of those around me drawn out by our hardships as they’ve rallied to our sides. I’ve been given graces from God to grow in holiness and love with my husband as we have had no choice but to take each other’s hands and humble ourselves to one another just to get out of bed in the morning and face the day. I’ve been blessed with daughters who are learning to see that the face of Christ and the beauty of God’s love is found in suffering. What spiritual possibilities there will be for the lives of little ladies who have this engrained within them! The evils they may be saved from because they won’t have the temptation many young people have to define God by what they find within themselves. They’ll know to look upward with open arms. They’ll know what love looks like. They’ll be so filled with it, they’ll want to pour it out and spread it wide. They’ll have grown up with parents who lived everyday broken wide open.

So, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for your worry, and your love. But please, don’t feel sorry for me for we have no need for pity over here – we have love, growing spiritual lives, more friendly faces than we know what to do with and - we have God. We’ve been given the opportunity to be pushed down and forced to die to ourselves and the desires of this world. We are broken, bleeding and helpless – therefore we have a clear vision of the hand that reaches down to help us up and we are so thankful for it.

Plus, how bad can things get, baseball season is almost here!

I pray for whatever way God has chosen to reveal Himself to you and your family,

***Supporter of the week goes to Kelley at Mamalog who gifted me with these words of support and encouragement. This post Kelley wrote about me touched me deeply and showed me how wonderful it is when we share our faith with each other!

Joseph and I at the Giants vs. Brewers game this past summer a few days before his second surgery