The Cake

Today, I am honored to introduce Candice Ashcraft to you. She's a friend, fellow DIYer and church planter, photographer, wife, mom, and so much more. She has written this story and would love to share it with you. I love sharing story. More and more, I am being convinced that STORY is what God uses to draw us closer to one another and more important, to Himself.

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My family is here again…the beginning of what I like to call “Birthday Season” in our house. It all begins the beginning of September, right after “Back to School”. (That’s real fun for the pocketbook.) "Birthday Season" is set into full swing on 2nd of September with my son, Austin’s birthday, then two weeks later is my wonderful day, followed two weeks later with my daughter, Haley’s birthday, and ending exactly one week later with our beautiful anniversary. Whew!! My poor husband John feels left out. Then as soon as all of this settles down, we have Christmas.

The. Cake.

This year, for Austin’s birthday, I tried saving as much money as I could since I have recently taken a giant leap of faith, quit my job, and took the giant leap into ministry! Never did I expect that when I took that leap, that it would be almost a year until I would have a full-time income again. However, I know that God’s got this and all things are according to His will and timing.

So, back to Austin’s birthday. One way that I tried to save some money was by avoiding the bakery and creating for him the cake that he really wanted. I really enjoy baking so this was going to be easy and enjoyable.

Austin and I looked online and at the store to find one he REALLY wanted- a camo cake with bright orange icing. I thought, “This is going to be so easy.” They now sell a camo cake mix in the grocery store and even have bright orange icing!! I was SO excited!! It looked a little bit beyond my skill level, but I knew I could do this.

I bought the cake mix, icing, and all the remaining ingredients needed to make this cake. I took it home, placed it all in the pantry until it was time to make it. In the meantime I pulled up some videos of how EXACTLY to make this masterpiece. It looked pretty simple, but I was still a little nervous. This was the one and only thing that Austin REALLY wanted for his birthday…no specific toys, games, or a party…just this CAKE. So it had to be perfect!

The day came to bake the cake. It was a quiet afternoon around the house, so I thought, “This is going to be perfect! I will be able to concentrate and it will be awesome!” I watched the video one more time and got to it. Now, let me explain exactly what “got to it” means. In this cake mix, you have one batter to mix. Inside the box, with the mix, are two food coloring packets. You mix your cake mix and then separate into four bowls. Then, you add a specific amount of coloring to each bowl. You end up with a light brown, dark brown, light green and dark green cake batter. You then take a spoonful of one color and pour it into the cake pan. Since I was making a two tier cake, I had to pour a spoonful in one and then use the same color and pour a spoonful into the other cake pan to make sure it was all even. Then, you alternate the colors and continue on until all batter is in the cake pans. From the time that I opened the box to the time that I put the two cake pans into the oven, it was ONE HOUR!!!! It looked pretty cool though and Austin was very excited. I cleaned up my mess and sat down while it baked and boy, oh boy, did it smell good!!

It was time to take it out. It smelled so yummy! As I was opening the oven door to let John and Austin peek at it, while giving it just a few more moments to bake, both of their reactions were, “That looks so cool!” Then we all screamed!!! Well, at least I did.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something moving outside of the back door. Just then, the dogs spotted it and started going crazy!! It was a… huge… snake!!!! The dogs’ instinct was to run out the doggie door to get it, so I raced them to it and shut it. John rushed outside to figure out what type of snake it was and commenced to killing it.

Then I remembered THE CAKE IN THE OVEN!!!!!! So, as John is outside brutally killing a snake (from the sounds of it), I rush to the oven to pull out the cake. Whew!! It wasn’t burnt. As my heart is about to beat out of my chest from the chaos I was very relieved to see that the cake looked awesome! I was hoping it looked just as good as the picture on the box when we would cut into it. So, I left the cake to cool and went to check on John and his snake situation. All was good, snake was gone, and dogs were on the hunt.

The Cake.

We were going to see a band in concert at a local church that evening and it was about time to go. I put a towel over the cakes and off we went. When we returned from an awesome night of pumped up worship, it was time to put this cake together for the family party the next day. As I was preparing for the icing extravaganza, two things concerned me about this cake. 1.) This sides/edges looked really thin and 2.) The middle had baked up really tall.

I thought, “Well, I’ll just shave off the middle and make it flat.” I’ve done this before and it’s always great. So, I take the piece that will be the bottom layer and shave off the “hump” in the middle. I place it, shaved side up, on the cake plate. I open the icing and give it a good stir. It seems kind of thin, but I decided to just go with it. Icing the bottom layer went smooth. Then, I took the second layer, shave off the “hump” in the middle, flip it over and place the shaved top side down. This is when everything. went. wrong.

The top layer would not sit flat, but I went with it anyways and tried building the icing up along the thin edges. The icing was thin so it was just running. THEN, the top layer started sliding off! I kept working with it and it just kept getting worse. Then, my wonderful husband walks into the kitchen and sees that I’m “not happy”. Now, I know he had good intentions, and was only trying to help, but he told me how his mom always did cakes and put the rounded “hump” facing up, which is usually how I do it too, but the video showed otherwise. Then he leaves the kitchen because he can see my frustration building. If I tried to pull the top layer off and flip it over at this point, with all the icing on it, it was going to crack, and let’s face it, that’s not a good thing.

Well, I flipped it over anyways. It was very messy and it started to crack some. This is when I lost it! I threw the cake in the refrigeratorthinking maybe the icing would get cold and stop the slipping and sliding of the top layer and mend the crack.

Now I‘m sure that all of us ladies have a place that we like to go to when we need to cry. Mine is the bathroom. Why?? Well, 1.) There’s a door that I can close and hopefully my kids will think that I’m using the bathroom and give me some privacy, 2.) I can lock this door if I choose to 3.) There’s a seat when you close the toilet lid and 4.)There are tissues to wipe away your tears and a trash can to throw them in. I think it’s a great place to have a good cry.

As I walked out of the kitchen, tears filling my eyes, I went undetected to my children. My husband? Not so much. He always knows when I’m heading to the bathroom for a good cry. He has a radar for it. So what does he do? He follows me in to the bathroom. Sometimes he helps and sometimes he makes it worse. I guess he’s a brave man! This time, he made it worse.

Now I will admit that this “little cry” was more like a two year old throwing a fit. Embarrassed? Maybe. After he left the bathroom, I stayed in there for awhile crying and trying to brainstorm on what to do. All Austin wanted was an awesome cake made by his mommy. This cake was NOT awesome at its current state. I thought about just going to the store and buying a whole new kit and starting over. That would leave me up all night baking a cake. Didn’t want to do that either. I had no idea as to what to do so I just sat there.

Once I composed myself and left the bathroom, still clueless as to what I should do. My very sweet and patient husband had an idea. He said we could put toothpicks in it to hold it together, like a dowel rod, put it in the refrigerator and let it sit over night. Then, maybe it would “glue” together and in the morning we could take out the toothpicks and I could finish icing it. I figured, “What else do I have to lose?”

We went into the kitchen and I pulled the cake out of the fridge. It had already started to stiffen so I thought it might just work. I slid the top layer into place and held it while John put the toothpicks in the cakes. It looked like it was going to hold it!! I carefully placed it back into the fridge and cleaned up my mess.

I was just so upset because I wanted this cake to be perfect for Austin. I wanted him to be so thrilled when I cut it open. I wanted it to meet all of his expectations. I wanted it to look just like the picture on the front of the box!! As I told John all of this he lovingly told me that Austin was going to love it no matter what it looked like because his mom made him the cake that he wanted. Guess what? He was right.

The next morning I get up and get myself ready. I can’t even bring myself to look at that messy cake. The whole family was coming for lunch and I still had to finish this cake. I took a deep breath, said a prayer, and opened the fridge, fully expecting to see the top layer slid off and in two or more pieces.

It looked just like it did when I put it in there the night before!! What a relief!! I pulled it out, with a new mind set and finished the cake. I even pulled out my icing tube and tips and put some flare onto this cake! It looked good and Austin was tickled to death! I was very pleased with the cake that I allowed to ruin my evening.

The family all met us for lunch at a local restaurant. We ate and had a great time! Then we all went back to our house for presents and cake.…cake. I was so nervous. I told my family all about this cake experience and if it turned out awful we’d just have to eat ice cream. I took a deep breath and cut the first piece. It looked awesome!! It looked just like the camo pattern on the front of the box! I was tickled to death that it looked so good. Now came the taste test…another big deep breath and… it was one of the best cakes I’ve ever had!!! The family just ranted and raved over how good this cake was and how neat it looked!! (I may have shed a tear.) I just could not believe that this mess, this big mess, turned out to look and taste so good!! Not to mention that I had one VERY happy boy on his birthday!

The Cake

Later that day, I was sitting there thinking about that cake. How messy and broken it was. How it was falling apart and needed lots of help standing up to become the cake that it was meant to be. I felt very much like that cake…broken, messy and needing help.

I realized that when I’m like that, I’ve got the very thing that I need holding me up, like the toothpicks held up that cake. I’ve got Jesus. He’s in me, holding me together when life gets messy. I might be falling apart, broken and messy, but He has greater things in store for me.

Sometimes, we have to become broken before He can fully use us to the extent that He wants. We have to become so broken and messy that only HE can hold us up! Then, at that moment, is when He turns it around and uses us and makes us into something beautiful.  Just like that broken cake being held up by toothpicks, I am a broken person being held up by Christ. Just like that cake was pleasing to everyone that saw and ate it, I am pleasing to my Father. No matter what others think of me, He has a purpose for me in this world. I am to further His Kingdom.

Make me broken. Make me messy. To the point that only You can hold me up, Jesus. Then, I will become the beautiful, confident, work of Your art on display for all to see, and in return will lead others to You through the works that You have done in me.

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Swingset Bonding #siblinglove

Do any of you ever watch Parenthood?

Swingset Bonding

I'm so sad its starting its last season this Thursday. One of my favorite things about the show is the real life conversation. Everyone kind of interrupting one another, anticipating what the other is going to say, naturally blending conversations rather than just producing their lines. If makes it feel real. Although their lifestyle isn't one I wish for my children, there are some aspects o I love. One of which being the sibling love!

I love watching my children interact with one another. Having their own conversations. Each opinion oozing out of very different personalities. Sometime agreeing on things we've taught them or better yet, teaching each other things they've been taught.

One of my favorite things we own is this awesome swingset. I've wanted a nice yard and swingset for a long time. I remember being a kid and spending tons of time outside tipping over our metal swingset. lol

We set up the swings so I could easily see them out the kitchen window. I'm sure my friends are tiered of seeing seemingly the same pictures of my kids on the same ol' swings but I love it!!! It makes my heart so happy to watch them just sing'n and swing'n. Taking turns and pushing one another. Melt. Your. Heart.

Although it makes me nervous some times when I'm not supervising their every interaction, making sure its appropriate, I think it helps my children learn one another. Learn how they work as individuals and {wait for it} a sibling unit. I want them to have a beautiful love-hate relationship within their own little world. One that will outlast their parents. One like the Braverman clan, where weekly interactions aren't too much, knowing the innermost functions of each separate family yet how they work together, and that in a moments notice, they all know they can be celebrated, mourned, or advised at the drop of a hat.

#siblinglove

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Organizing You Home for Homeschooling with Lots of Littles

Having a set routine and knowing what do expect can help you feel at ease when the time comes to organize things like curriculum, supplies, and other clutter like toys.

Organizing You HOME for SCHOOL with Lots of Littles

I am so new at this homeschooling thing that I'm pretty sure I've come up with a new system every year. I'm sharing this years plan for organizing curriculum, supplies, and toys over at the Homemaker's Challenge. Head on over and see if I've lost my mind and will be changing to a new system yet again next year or if it's an okay idea that might help you get started. :D

Soon, I'll be talking about organizing our lives for homeschooling.

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Surviving a Sudden Side Job

I'm excited to announce that the Homemaker's Challenge is switching things up from now on! Rather than themes for each month, we are moving to a "collum" based contributor site where each writer will share out their wheel-base. I bet none of you will ever guess what my collunm will be about! {sarcasm} Life with Lots of Littles! So, for all my mamma friends with a load of lots of littles, the 3rd Tuesday of every month, I'm hear to talk straight to YOU! This months:

Surviving a Sudden Side Job with Lots of Littles

When you are raising lots of littles, finding "spare time" to have an extra side job to meet financial goals can be tough. Today I am sharing from my failed attempt at this. Here are my 7 tips for Surviving a Sudden Side Job with Lots of Littles.

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Respectfuly Ignore Ignorant Banter

Respectfully Ignoring Ignorant Banter {when it comes to your children}

After visiting my father-in-law in the hospital, we all headed to the potty before leaving. My children begin taking turns using the one empty stall of the three while Aunt Meg held the door shut and I changed Ellie's diaper.

Pretty standard stuff. No screaming, hitting, or giant 'accidents'.

One of the women who occupied one of the other two stalls came out as two kids rotated out and the third went into the stall the stranger just exited. Said women began to wash her hands all while watching us like we were a circus. My kids finished and germX was dispensed.

As Meg took her turn in the restroom the women realized all the children were mine {the name mom a gazillion times in reference to me might have been a good clue}. She looked at me with eyebrows raised, "Are ALL these your?" I politely said yes with a smile. With a peasant look plaster on my face, I made sure everyone was buttoned, snapped, tucked, and clean as the Charley Brown "wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp" played in the background.

We were walking to the car, after Meg allowed me a private bathroom break as she and the kids waited in the lobby, and Meg ask, "What did that woman say to you?"

I hadn't thought much about it..."Something about, are all these yours?" I responded. I had to laugh when I realized she had said more and I couldn't tell you what.

I had to confess to Megan that after years of verbal abuse from strangers about my chose to love having multiple children, I learned to respectfully ignore their ignorant and insulting banter after the initial snarled comments about the number and or close age of my children.
It started when I just had three and hasn't gotten any better.

It's so sad that our society hates children so much that we make people feel inappropriate, irresponsible, or crazy for having more than two; especially if they are any less than 2 years apart. This doesn't stop with that, somehow, as Americans we believe we have some sort of right to determine perfect age in which to have or stop having children, how many to have, how you have them, how far apart you plan your blessings.

Just for the record, it is none of our business! Wither a woman is a teen mom, single mom, married mom, chosen or not chosen mom of none, an "only" child, the perfect number two children, or double-digit multiple children. If you aren't sipping a soda with a friend as your families hang out and it just comes up, its none of your business if someone's children are biological, custodial, adopted nationally or internationally.

If you are the target of such uninvited backlash, consider it an invitation from God to interact with someone you might not have otherwise met. Respectfully ignore or disregard their unintentionally hateful comments and seize the opportunity to love them. Keep your cool and maybe engage them in conversation about Who gave you these little blessings. I'm not saying do the cheesy, "I know my hands are full but you should see your hearts" reply. I mean be real. Since they began the taboo conversation about your littles, refocus the conversation on another taboo topic, Christ. Keep in mind, your children are obviously right there with you {hence the stares} so make sure your example is that of love toward your child's existence as well as the rude person's in which you are encountering. Both where creations of God and have a purpose- to bring glory to God. Take the time to help them accomplish that purpose.

Here is an article about 10 Things You Really Shouldn't Say to Mom's of Multiples as well as a little video that can help you determine if what you are thinking about saying to someone is appropriate:

IF YOU WOULDN'T SAY IT ABOUT A BOOB JOB... from Rain City Church on Vimeo.

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