Springerle

This is cookie baking week here at the Rodi homestead. I decided to start early this year because for me Christmas means cookies. So, this week you guys get to sample some of the cookies that mean Christmas to us.

Growing up, John’s grandma would bake him Springerle cookies at Christmas time. She was a second generation German-American who grew up in a bakery in Chicago. I say she grew up in a bakery (which would seem like an idyllic childhood to me) because her father owned the bakery and employed his children to help bake and run it. When Grandma Rodi had a family of her own, she passed down her love for traditional German baked delights to her children and grandchildren.  Traditionally these anise flavored cookies were imprinted with a special rolling pin that had birds, flowers, bunnies and other images from nature on them. Sadly, I do not have a Springerle rolling pin so my cookies do not have the same kitschy feel to them as my dear Grandmother-in-law’s cookies but I like to think they are just as tasty.

Speaking of tasty, these cookies have a light black licorice flavor that is not a traditional flavor for most people so they do take some time to appreciate. The longer the cookie sits, the more flavor it has.

Springerle

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup anise seed

Directions

  1. Beat eggs in large mixing bowl until very light.
  2. Add sugar and butter. Cream together until light and fluffy.
  3. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt. Add dry ingredients and combine.
  4. Knead dough until smooth … add more flour to get a smooth dough if necessary.
  5. Cover dough and allow to chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
  6. Roll onto slightly floured board to 1/2 inch thickness. Then roll again with springerle roller to make designs. Cut at border. Sprinkle anise seed on clean tea towel and place cookies on this. Allow to stand overnight (don’t cover) to dry.
  7. Bake 12 to 15 minutes at 325 degrees F (170 degrees C).
  8. Cool completely. Store in tight tin container … the longer they are stored, the more anise flavor they take up.

Life is messy

16 years and counting

This past weekend marked my 16th wedding anniversary. John and I went away for the weekend to a relaxing little lodge tucked into the Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg, TN. We spent our days sleeping late (8am is late for us), reading, talking and finding peace in a hammock conveniently located next to a bubbling brook. It was heavenly. Our mission was to reconnect and leave the world behind, at least for a weekend. We went without an agenda or plan except to slow down and relax. The lodge is located on the edge of the National Forest and we were excited to see 4 bears in the wild while we were there. Luckily, we were in our car each time so it was more thrilling than threatening. Here are a few pictures…

The Lodge at Buckberry Creek
A hammock built for 2

So, after this idyllic trip, how could like be anything but sunshine and rainbows?

It all started on the drive home. We had decided to take our time getting home and one of the routes we had mapped out was through the countryside. Well, about 1/2 way during our trip home, we got a call from my Mother-in-Law who had been keeping the kids for us over the weekend. My youngest had started throwing up about 30 minutes before. I spoke with him on the phone and he sounded so sick and puny on the phone. I assured him that we would be there as quick as we could. It took us 2 hours to get to him on these little meandering country roads! When we arrived at my inlaws house, he was throwing up into a bucket and my older one was running a low grade fever and crying. We calmed them down as best as we could and started the extremely long journey home. I cannot begin to describe the trip from Marietta to Cumming. On a good day, it takes about 45 minutes to get from door to door and this was not a good day. We had to stop 3 times to let my little one throw up and the bigger one get out of the car so she wouldn’t throw up from seeing her brother throw up. It took about 1 1/2 hours to get home and there were lots of tears shed. We got them both put to bed and battened down the hatches awaiting the storm of sickness. I was up with my son every 30 minutes from 7:30-12am as he threw up in the bathroom. I made myself a bed on the cold wooden floor of his room with a sleeping bag so that I could be nearby as he needed me. John offered to switch off with me but I knew he had to get up and go to work the next morning so I took on the task.

Let me tell you, last night was messy. But you know what? Love is messy. Life is messy. Life is about taking care of those we love in every circumstance and rolling with it.

I think back to John’s grandparents, James and Kathryn Nelson. He developed Alzheimer’s in the last years of his life. She stood by his side and took care of him each and every day. I am sure there were more messy days than not but she understood that love and life are messy but you do what you need to do for the ones you love. That is the kind of love I want to have.

This was not the way I would have written the ending to our romantic getaway weekend but maybe it was the best way to end it. It reminded me that our love, our marriage and our life is messy. But, I will take a messy life full of love any day over a life without it.

Marriage

In 9 days I will be married for 16 years. I can’t believe it has been that long. I was 18 years old and John was 21 and we had no idea what we were doing. Here we are at 34 and 37 years and we haven’t it figured out yet. Our marriage has grown up along with us and continues to change as it gets more mature. As life has gotten busy and stressful, our marriage has acted as a barometer for our life. Lately, I have been reflecting back on what I have learned during the first 16 years of our marriage and what we still need to work on.

Communication: If he doesn’t want to talk, it is best to leave it alone. Most men do not talk half as much as most women do. Women want to talk about everything – our feelings, other people’s feelings, what we are thinking, what you are thinking,  what we should wear, what someone else was wearing and on and on and on. Men want to talk about……very little. God seemed to wire men to not feel the need to let out all the stuff they have going on inside. Over the years, I have tried to force John to talk about what he is thinking, feeling or going through and on most occasions, it didn’t end well. This is a prime example of being able to lead a horse to water but not being able to make him drink. It is a lesson I am still learning but I think that if I can be patient and realize it is not a personal affront, most of the time John will communicate with me when he is good and ready. And not a minute before.

Let’s Get Physical: Men are much more physical than women. God designed them that way and it permeates most aspects of their lives. Men need to express themselves in a physical way. If they are stressed, they want to run, bike or lift weights. When they interact with their children, it is not uncommon for it to come out physically – wrestling, playing chase or jumping on the trampoline. And with their wives, men express their emotions in much more physical ways than women. Women want to talk about what they are feeling and thinking and men want to touch – hug, kiss, hold hands and become intimate. God designed men to crave touch and physical connection for a real purpose – to further our species. Men are born with a desire for physical contact in the same way that women are born with a desire for emotional connection. One key to a successful marriage is to fit these two desires together.

Opposites attract: A procrastinator will always marry a planner. Shy people tend to marry more outgoing people. A patient person will marry a impatient person. God designed us to attract a mate that has what we are missing. I think he does this not only to compliment what we are deficient in but to also help us grow in the area we are lacking. The planner will learn to appreciate spontaneity and the procrastinator will learn to appreciate the peace of planning ahead. One of the hardest lessons that I am still learning in my marriage is that just because John does something different than I would do it, it doesn’t make it wrong. John has taught me to slow down and let things happen. He has shown me that life is messy and it is okay. Lessons that I need to learn have often been taught to me through my experiences with my husband.

I am both excited and filled with trepidation to see what the next 16 years bring. I am excited because our lives will change greatly in that time. My desire is that we will grow in our marriage and love for each other. We will experience new highs and lows and have each other to celebrate and commiserate with.  My trepidation comes from my fear that John and I will grow apart and no longer be able to connect with each other. The only way I know of  to avoid this is to work hard at listening to each other and keeping our connection, especially during the stressful times. As the days turn into months and the months into years, I am sure my marriage will continue to act as a barometer for my life – if my marriage begins to suffer, I know that my life is out of balance. It is up to John and I to make sure that balance is restored.

Contentment

This morning I was reading my bible and came across a passage that gave me pause – “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5. This passage hit a special place in my heart because we have had some discussions in our house lately regarding contentment. We all struggle with contentment and it doesn’t matter what your religious background or financial status.  I look around and see people who live in houses that are twice as big as our house or who drive cars that are brand new and they aren’t content. They want more. I see families that live in smaller houses and drive older cars and they haven’t found contentment in that either. Is it having less that gains you contentment? Is it having more that gains you contentment? We all strive for contentment but it seems elusive, like trying to catch a bubble – as soon as you get your hands on it, it is gone.

My daughter has really struggled lately with seeing her friends at school get things that she doesn’t have.  She came home crying after school saying that someone had something at school and she couldn’t understand why she didn’t have one. My first instinct was to admonish her for being selfish and not being grateful for what she has. Then it hit me and I stopped and thought about what she was saying to me. She was trying to work through the same emotion that we all go through on a daily basis. It doesn’t matter if you are 8, 38 or 88 years old, we all want what we don’t have. Why is that? Our family lives in a safe community in a 4 bedroom house with a grassy backyard. We have plenty of nutritious food to eat, clean water to drink, warm clothes and a flat screen tv but we aren’t content. What does it take to be content? As Americans, we have a higher income than the rest of the world’s population but still we crave more and more.  I had a hard time explaining to my daughter that she needed to be grateful for what she has. I felt as though I was being hypocritical. How often do I say thank you for the life that I have? Thankful for being born in a nation with freedoms that are taken for granted. Thankful for having my health and the health of my family. Thankful for the blessings that God has bestowed on my  life. Not often enough. So I held her while she cried and tried to soothe her spirit. I explained that there would always be people with more than her in life and people with less. And while I did, I was somehow explaining it to myself too. Trying to soothe my own inner being and reminding myself to be grateful for what I have.

Kids on Commission

My kids are paid on a commission. My children have chores that they are required to do on a daily basis simply because they are a member of this household – pick up their dirty clothes, take their dishes to the sink and make their beds are just a few. But aside from these required duties, they  also have paid job opportunities. Just like anyone else in the working world, they work and they are paid based on a pay scale that reflects both the job and their ability to do that job. Every day, waiting on them when they get off the bus is a card that lets them know what their job is for that day. Each child has their own colored card (blue for the boy, purple for the girl) that lists what job they have to accomplish that day before they can go play. We are hoping to teach them a few things with this method.

The first lesson I want them to learn is that to get money, you need to work. They don’t get an “allowance” which I define as money that you get just by existing in this household. They get paid for their jobs on payday, which we have designated as the same day that John gets his paycheck from work. They understand that payday is not just for grownups, it is for anyone who works for money, including them. I want them to go forth in life realizing that if they hope to succeed, they will need to work to get there.

The second lesson is that they are capable of doing things that they would not have thought they could do. My children are 6 & 8 years old and we have been doing this method for at least the past year. They have learned to clean mirrors and windows, vacuum rugs, sweep floors, empty the dishwasher, fold towels, pull weeds, dust tables and fold and put away their own clothes. This has given them a confidence that we would not been able to give them any other way. We wanted our kids to go out into the world feeling as though they were capable adults and were able to handle things that seemed too big for them at the time. The first time I taught my then 5 year old to vacuum, I saw him take on a task that seemed insurmountable. Here was this vacuum cleaner that was as big as he was and might have weighed more. He had fear and trepidation in his eyes and his first reaction was to say “I can’t do this!” and my reply was “Yes, you can”. They don’t always do things to the level that I would have if I were doing them myself but by me being able to give up the perfectionist tendencies, they have learned invaluable lessons.

The third lesson that they are learning is to take pride in their work. It is important for our children to understand that any job worth doing is worth doing well. I have seen my kids stand back and look at their job to determine if it was done satisfactory. They have taken the initiative to redo what wasn’t done right the first time. Now don’t get me wrong, they are kids and have tried to skate by and only do part of the job before. Those were the times that I loving and gently guided them back to the task and informed them that I was paying for the job to be done well and I expected it to be done again. Almost always, they knew that they had tried to turn in less than stellar work. They might have whined or complained but they redid the job and were proud of themselves afterward.

The final lesson that my kids have taken away from this experience is respect. I think that by having to work for the money that they get, they have more respect for how to spend the money they are paid. My daughter will often think about a purchase for weeks before making it because she respects how much effort it takes to earn the money that she has. You can only learn that by having to earn what you get. I am also hopeful that by having to do the work themselves, they will show more respect for others who are working in their lives. I want them to see the work that their parents do and respect how hard it is to do that work. I want them to see the work that their teachers do and respect the amount of effort that is put forth. I want them to see the work that is done by the almost invisible people in their lives (grocery clerks, gas station attendants, garbage men) and respect what these people are doing in their lives. You can only learn to respect the work that others do when you have done it yourself.

Look down the road and think about the lessons you want your children to learn. The lessons that you teach them now are the ones that will shape them their entire lives. As parents, it is our job to teach these lessons to our children in hopes that if we “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it”(Proverbs 22:6).