Katie Dilse »

If family projects excite you, and sticky messes don’t frighten you – and you are really, really brave and pretty ambitious – check out this awesome Gingerbread Party! We make our dough from scratch, our frosting is a family favorite, a finger-licking deliciousness, and our gingerbread designs are unique every year. It’s a seven-family tradition!

Welcome to our North Dakota Gingerbread Party.

Gingerbreadgang

It’s not like the picture-perfect gingerbread houses on TV.
Because family life is not picture-perfect.
This is real life.
With imperfect pieces.
Disproportional windows.
Some ugly sides.

And…. we put our houses together with glue guns. It’s disappointing, I know – but then we guilt-free, of course cover the evidence with frosting!
Because… these houses travel at least 30 miles to their final destination.

And even with glue, sometimes they fall apart.
Isn’t that life?
We take a corner too fast – and we’re left with a mess!
We don’t pay attention and we hit the brakes too fast.

We are a group of families that embrace the messes! We try to make it special – realizing the overturned house left with a lingering scent of peppermint frosting aroma in our trunk!

A fair warning: This party is not for the faint hearts. This is die-hard. For hosts who don’t mind if a little green frosting finds its way down the carpet steps. For families who break out in Christmas carols and dough juggling! Families who aren’t afraid of powdered-sugar-covered kitchen counters that become tick-tack-toe boards. This is THAT kind of project.

gingerbread catch

We’ve been doing this for 12 years! We’ve learned a lot about gingerbread house making! To… here are some tips! As hosts, we choose a theme by creating patterns by measuring, calculating, and pretending to be architects! Or find a free one online!

We cut the pieces light, but dense cardboard. Creative Memories cardboard pieces in your scrapbooking supplies works the very best!

Then.. Load up on molasses, flour, butter, salt, eggs and lots of sugar!
We love the Family Fun dough recipe – because it means exactly what it says! Be patient and make single batches… doubling can be a wreck!

Once you’ve finished your first batch, fill a gallon-sized Ziploc bag with dough! Spread the dough to the very corners of each bag and refrigerating for at least 24 hours!

cutting-windows

The next day… we set the dough on the counter for at least 2 hours – and we’re ready to ROLL! Rock and ROLL!

We cut every seam of the ziploc bag – leaving only the bottom piece of the bag. Then, cut your dough piece in half and flop one piece of dough on a cookie-sheet size piece of parchment paper. Try not to bend the dough!

Scatter a bit of granulated sugar on the dough to prevent it from sticking to your rolling pin and parchment paper and GET TO WORK!!!

gingerbread-pattern

Roll and roll!
Make sure your Christmas music is cranked and your muscles primed!

Roll the dough about 1/4 inch thick – until you get your dough the same size as your pattern. Gently rest your cardboard pattern on the dough, and create the edges of your gingerbread piece. Dragging the knife can leave frayed edges, so pressing works the very best! Have fun creating doors, windows, and other details you’d love to have in your dream gingerbread house!

Then… this is ultra important… pull away the extra dough! Leave the gingerbread piece on your parchment paper!!! Don’t try to move your large piece with a spatula and expect it to stay nice! We all conform to what’s holding us up – if our edges become unsupoorted. We break. So, be sure to drag the entire gingerbread piece with the parchment paper to your cookie sheet!

Then… BAKE!!!

If you want to get extra fancy and have stained glass windows, that’s easy too!

Just crush your candy…

Candycrush

and half-way through the baking of your gingerbread piece, add the crushed candy in your already formed windows!

Adding candy crush

Finish baking and watch the candy melt!

We admit… we bake the daylights out of our gingerbread pieces! Usually, they are in the oven about 25 minutes at 350 degrees (sometimes we crank it to 375 after we’ve been opening and closing the oven doors so many time! Truthfully, we snitch uneven edges of dough right out of the oven. But you won’t catch us eatting the finished pieces. So it doesn’t matter that we overbake the pieces! We just want to get most of the moisture out of the pieces so they are easier to handle! But.. be careful… baking too long may make a brittle piece!

gingerbread pieces

Leave your pieces to dry on cookie racks! We leave it for days. Preferably in a guest bedroom, with the windows and doors closed so when you open the door after a week of drying – you are gifted with the most delicious gingerbread smell of the season!
Then… invite your friends!

Starting your party around noon with a hearty meal gives everyone energy for the fun – and prevents too many sugar belly aches!

Wherever you party – make it special and meaningful.
I love having each family with their own table.
To see them all work together, laugh, and share is extra special.

But… let’s just keep this real! The pictures make it look amazing – but there are stressful moments when the house pieces don’t line up, the base is crooked, or the frosting won’t stick well. But… its during those times, that you see families draw closer. They rely on each other. They work together. With an ultimate goal, you will see them overcome the little imperfections of the house – and build a home.

Gingerbread-pieces-organized

It often takes two hours to assemble and decorate the houses…

Frosting-Mommy

Although everyone has similar pieces, the creativity is amazing!!!

Each family has pieces for success:

– the baked gingerbread house pieces
– a wooden base
– frosting bag
– wet wash cloth for sticky fingers
– glue gun we need a firm glue to keep us together in life
– extra glue sticks
– battery operated lights

At a central location, we have a huge candy station!

gingerbread-brothers

gingrebread-santa
Its inspiring!
Its so meaningful.

gingrebreadhouse
And a beautiful way to begin the Christmas season!

gingerbread-hockey-rink

Then… we all gather around the kitchen with the lights off, and watch the lights of our houses come to life! We admire the details of our work!

gingerbread-castles

We gather for a huge group picture!
And individual families too!
And everyone takes home their dining room centerpiece.
It’s their art.
A symbol of their family uniqueness. Togetherness. Their mess. and their beauty.

gingerbread families

It’s our way of saying Merry Christmas!

Our gifts to each other is simply the time we spend together. And… that is really what this season is all about!

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“This is really, really the best time of my life,” the 22-year-old college student said in the Bismarck airport last week.

And just like that, he turned, and walked away.
To fly across the world.

It was an 8-month dream.
One that changed our hearts, and his.

Saying goodbye to Leo was one of the most difficult things in life.
Leo.
My Brazilian son for life.

He taught me gratitude.
Thanksgiving from the heart.

For the most genuine gift came through him. An unforgettable moment of pure gratitude. No grand gifts. No loud hoopla. Just a quiet moment where his heart could speak to mine.

Leo left his South American family, and countless friends to come to unknown territory last March. His first flight away from his homeland, to an American family he had never met. Co-workers he knew nothing about. An a language that was foreign.

With lots of trust and faith, he became a son to me.
A friend.
A teacher.
An inspiration.

He told his friends all about our family. You know, the 5 Guys.
He talked about our fields of wheat. Our wind.

He invited his own mother across the world to see what the United States of America, the land of the free is all about.

Leo’s mother fell in love with our country.
Our open spaces.
Our sunrises and sunsets.
She was relieved to see that her son was well cared for.

And… when a quiet moment arrived, she pulled me aside.
To say thanks.

“Thank you for taking care of my son,” this Brazilian beauty said.

Leo gratitude

Mom to mom.
Soul to soul.

It was a huge moment.
Because her heart was pure.
Her gratitude was so sincere. So huge.
It filled every inch of my heart.
It flowed through the room like a peace. A tranquility.

With an open heart, I accepted the most beautiful gift of gratitude of my life.

Thanksgiving is really about the people we love.

We need to share our love.
Invest in people.
Strengthen relationships.
And pause for gratitude.
For the greatest gifts of life can only come if our hearts are open, and our lives are ready to be touched.

Because, Thanksgiving is now.
But… gratitude is every day.

Happy Thanksgiving from my heart to yours!
Enjoy your time with your family!
Make time for your dearest friends!
Savor every last bite of your pumpkin pie. (thanks pumpkin farmers of the world!)
And… savor the games you play, and the moments of conversation.

Thanksgiving is really about our friends.
Our family. And the people who become our family.
The pseudo Moms of life.
The “sisters” of the heart.
Brothers of the soul.

Its about the kids being kids.
And adults joining in.
Its gonna be a bit wild.
Chaotic and crazy!

But… that Brazilian boy taught us wild is GOOD!

Really. Really. Good.

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Bringing together four minds usually means four ideas.
And lots of ideas can be a wreck.
Especially when its strong-willed little boys we’re talking about.

As a farm family – we wanted our sons to learn to work together at a young age!

Making mistakes.
Fixing breakdowns.
Together.

So, we gave the boys a pile of supplies and enough tools to do the job.
And under the bright sunshine, they set out to replace the shovels on this piece of equipment.

The shovels are heavy.
Awkard.
Sharp.
Dirty.
Cumbersome.

The sun was glaring and our boys were sweaty.
They sat uncomfortably on the concrete.
Their backs a bit wrenched and that was ok.
Their hands were busy.

The four brothers figured out a process.
And everyone had a job.

They disassembled –
and Reassembled.

155x200_Jordan-fixing

They didn’t want to ask too many questions.
Because they loved getting to work!
They loved their newfound independence.
They felt tough.
Dirty.
Appreciated.
Valued.

155x200_Warrick-fixing

I watched from a distance, and couldn’t believe my eyes.
They looked like men – manhandling that large farm equipment.
It made me sad.
It made me happy.

They were working together great!
No fights.
No flareups.
Just determination.
Raw.
Gritty.

Before I knew it,
the shovels were changed.
Takes-them-all

And the boys stood back to admire their work.
They were satisfied.
Myself: in awe.

My husband: well, he was clenching in teeth, and scratching his head…
Because, after six hours of work, he realized the self-sufficient sons had gathered some of their own supplies! (you know where this is heading!)

To the untrained eye – a bolt is a bolt.
But to the experienced farmers – the threads of a bolt are standard or metric.
Unfortunately, they grabbed the wrong bolts.

And… back to work they went!

Twisting themselves out of a mess –
One bolt at a time.

So… about those bolts?
Whose idea was it to grab the wrong ones?
They won’t say.
They were a team.
And they stuck together.

Boys-together-working

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Here’s the deal.
There’s no book on how to earn that #1 Dad card.
But, it boils down to spending time with your kids.
Here’s one week guide to become a better Dad.

Day 1. Know each of your kids and know them well. It’s you’re life’s book you’re writing – know every character!

Day 2. Make time to play their favorite game. And trust me, they don’t always ask between projects, most of the time its when you’re in the middle of one. But when they ask – it really means they need you. so be there. really there.

200x200_Stu-and-boys

Day 3. Be ready to wrestle. Kids love to get their parents tangled – especially Dads – to show you their newfound strength! Kids score with every parent take-down! Let them. Then, get up and show them what it means to escape or to get yourself out of a sticky situation. Life is full of them.

200x200_Stu-and-Jordan

Day 4. When they hit a new phase – go with it. You’ll get through it. Sure, it might get ugly. Think of it as morning breath. It doesn’t last forever.

200x200_Stu-and-Malachi

Day 5. They are watching all the time. Learning. Documenting. And, they’re ready to play back your moves at any given moment!

200x200_Stu-and-Warrick

Day 6. Play games with your kids – but for heaven’s sake, don’t let them win! Teach them to handle defeat gracefully.

200x200_Stu-and-Connor

Day 7. Kids will endure tough lessons. Don’t back down. Be a tough Dad. A tough Mom. A compassionate father. A caring mother. When a situation has you completely baffled and perplexed – go back to parenting 101: Love your kid.

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Prom night – and these kids had a grand night on their mind and in their hearts!
On a night where they’ve never felt more beautiful – or more special –
they wanted to share it with one of their biggest fans.
The fuel station manager.
Donna.
Donna’s heart only has one fight – the fight to live.
And… these kids want to see her live happy.

With a twinkle in the teen’s eyes – they left the school.
This small town worries about kids’ choices on that night and many others.
They were set to show – their hearts are made to love.

prom-kids

They left with a plan. A private grand march in the living room of Donna.
She’s filled their gas tanks. She filled their hearts.

They all met outside her home on a cold Saturday night in North Dakota.

“Why are all those kids going to the post office on prom night?” – Donna laughed and wondered aloud to her long-time husband, Nick, as they looked out the living room window.

The kids were on a special delivery. Priority mailing.
To bring cheer to the home of their cup filler.

Donna made countless smoothies for them on warm summer afternoons.
She’s sold gas to fill their tanks. They talk. She listens.
She’s wished them well before ball games, and she’s there to hear about their losses.
Donna spent a lifetime refueling – and they wanted to fuel her!

Grandma-Donna

Couples linked their arms, and went into her living room.
Standing before her – they were star struck.
Their Donna.
THEIR beautiful Donna. Fighting cancer – and not losing her smile!
This time they were holding the hose – refueling HER.
Everyone was overwhelmed.
That’s what love does.
It overwhelms us – especially when its love you’ve first given away – and it comes back to you.

The kids smiled with pride. I’ve grown up.
Donna’s played tag in the aisles of that gas station with them. When they were younger.
She’s cleaned their spilled drinks. No harm done, she’d say.
She’s given them free donuts. And invited them to sit and eat.

Donna-and-family

She knows their favorite drink. She knows their favorite sport.
She’s mixed paint for their homes. She knows all of their families by name.
She’s not fuzzy and soft – she’s honest and understanding.

The kids went to refuel their tank –
But when they came out of her home –
Once again, she had refueld them.

Not a one kid was looking at their cell phone.
No one browsing for something they could be missing.
Because everything that fills the goodness of hearts had just happened to them.
That moment was all they needed. all she needed.
And… the love shines on.

Grandma-Donna-and-Melva

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Tonight: it was family open heart surgery.
Intense.
Radical changes.
They needed to be made.

We didn’t enter a sterile environment.
We just sat on the bed.
For a heart-to-heart.
Soul spring cleaning.
My son and I.

270x216_Katieandtwins

Nothing was scheduled and we certainly didn’t involve a medical team.
We just needed to have a couple minutes…
for a good-old-fashioned cleansing.
To get some things off our chest,
To start fresh.

This MOM job is so intense sometimes!

Raising boys to be men can be PAINFUL!

It burns. Its scars.
It heals.

They zap our pride.
They are our pride.

270x216_the-boys

As Moms – we become their biggest fans –
And we throw the most flags.

Game rules for my Guys:

1. I love you. – Mom
2. I love your Dad. When in doubt – watch and learn from him. He’s your best guide to the game.
3. After you make bad choices (and we both know you will) – I will be here. I expect you to go back to the game book and learn. It’s not my goal to embarrass you, but I will.
4. Life lessons come up with the sun – I’ll point them out – and soon you’ll be seeing some that I can’t see and that’s when the game really gets interesting!
5. Honesty, fairness, loyalty, and trust. Find them. Live them. Breathe them.
6. You will get tackled. Get up.
7. Work with your teammates. Learn from them.
8. Pace yourself – but don’t get lazy. Dig deep and finish strong.
9. Winning isn’t everything… but have a winning attitude because that IS everything.
10. Shake hands. We’re all in this together.

270x216_boysatcapitol

Good food is an momentous part of leading a wholesome lifestyle. How can medications help us? What can customers get without prescription? There are many medicaments for every diseases. At present hundreds articles were published about price of cialis. What may patients discuss with a doc before taking Viagra? How you can get correct data about “generic for cialis“? The very significant matter you must look for is “cialis tadalafil“. Undoubtedly, sexual diseases can soothe chronic hurt and, even more importantly, reaffirm the joys of living. You should not take any drug if you are allergic to it’s ingredients. If you have a feeling that someone might have taken an overdose of this medicament, go to the accident department of your local hospital as soon as possible.

A wise mother once said: Life is about letting go.

EVERY DAY.

Watching our sons leave the fan section – to wear a jersey. I’m letting go.

Charging the football field for the first time. This letting go hurts.
And who ever said my son didn’t have hops? He’s blocking punts. I’m filling with pride.

As I hear myself hollering too loud, I watch from the corner of my eye… a beautiful young girl walking by. She’s wearing my son’s jersey. So, I’m forced to let go.

Life is about letting them take a hit.
And knowing our kids will fall. Sometimes hard. Sometimes they can’t get back up.

I’m forced to watch my strong son limp into the emergency room. On his own.
While I walk behind pushing an empty wheelchair. I feel broke. He’s hanging on.

He can barely support his weight.
He wobbles. His knee looks wrong. Something is very wrong.
I study his expression, but he does not show his pain. I only see determination.

We smalltalk. About his team. Their mission. Their vision. Their need… for each other.

We talk about it takes to be a team player. unselfishness. dedication. resilience. a positive spirit. talent.

Then, we talk about his future.
The nurse forces him into the wheelchair. he finally gives in.

jordan in wheelchair

I hear the doctor say something about his ligaments.
No weight bearing. Torn. Surgery.
His season is most likely done.

This time, my son is letting go to an athlete’s dream.
We’re both letting go.

We search to hang onto something! Each other.

We talk all the way home.
We grab lunch, and play cards as we eat.
Ignoring emails. Ignoring the phone.

Instead of putting our clothes into baskets, we’re putting that time into each other.
Just simply being there.
Together. Hanging on.

Watching movies.
Working on projects.

“You know Mom, you really don’t need to sit here all day,” he said.

I grinned. He had no idea how much I loved this!!!

I’m hanging on. To the teenage boy who is so busy, I just follow his dirty clothes.
I’m desperately hanging onto the boy who goes from one athletic season to another.
From the field, to the court, to the diamond. We let him go.

I’m holding tight to the days we read books and played in the dirt.
We’d race inside for science projects and board games. Cookies and Koolaid.
I’m clinging to the days we’d rock all day. Together.

I’m hanging on to the days I could kiss him goodnight, and he didn’t mind.

When your son can only stand on one leg, yet walks his way with his head held high- his mental game is strong. Letting go is a good thing.

It’s much easier to let go of today – when you are filled with great hope in tomorrow!

LET THEM GO to GROW.

JD-crutches

Good food is an momentous part of leading a wholesome lifestyle. How can medications help us? What can customers get without prescription? There are many medicaments for each diseases. At present hundreds articles were published about price of cialis. What may patients discuss with a doctor before capture Viagra? How you can get correct information about “generic for cialis“? The very significant matter you must look for is “cialis tadalafil“. Undoubtedly, sexual diseases can soothe chronic hurt and, even more importantly, reaffirm the joys of living. You should not take any drug if you are allergic to it’s ingredients. If you have a feeling that someone might have taken an overdose of this medicament, go to the accident department of your local hospital as soon as possible.

His team sprints from the dugout to take the field.
Looking side to side, he studies the empty dugout.
He can’t ignore the empty feeling in his gut.
He’s warming the bench. for another season
But, his heart burns with desire.
Put me in coach.

He wants to play. THIS season.
Not another one from the dugout.

Finally, the moment of trust arrives.
“Take the pitching mound,” his coach demands.
YES!
He is so ready.
Ready to bring heat.

JD pitching strikes

He prepared for it.
He pictured it.
He talked about it. Envisioned it.
He is ready.

He takes the mound.
Pitch. Strike.
Pitch. Strike.
Pitch. Striiiiiiike.

He’s throwin’ smoke.
Fans holler.
Someone believed in him!
He believes in himself.
He feels great, and he lets it show.

At the top of the last inning, he’s digging deep in his mental game.
Coach pulls on this young man’s burning elbow and slaps his aching bicep.
“JD, I know you can do this.
You can.
Do it.
Go.
Do it.
Just over the plate.”

He was prepared.

JD after pitching win

He was successful.
But, mostly, he was humble.

Seasons change…
But the desire stays.
This time it’s the football field.

He looks great from his sharp-looking uniform.
But, he waits from the sideline.
football sidelines

Through many series.
Through many games. Through much of a season.
Yet, he perseveres.

Late at night, I hear the weight bench snap. I smell his sweat.
I see a young boy turning into a man.

So when the time finally comes to take the football field.
He is ready. So ready.

Defending the football. nothing can get through.
The nose guard next to him is muscular. Strong. Dependable.
That brute forces a fumble, so the football lays at the 22 yard line.

Like a bear to a honey pot, the kid you normally see on the sidelines charges.
He one-hand grabs that pigskin and runs.

And runs. With every ounce of energy he can muster. Across the entire football field.

He runs with his legs.
But really, his soul has all the strength.
football touchdown

Running. For a touchdown.
For the ultimate feeling in football.
To make a moment for his team.
To run from the taste of defeat – to relish in the deliciousness of victory.

touchdown smiles

He was ready.
He was prepared.
He was successful.
Beaming.

Sometimes it takes time on the bench.
basketball bench

To be part of a winning team.

basketball team

It takes a burning desire
to work through rejections – to win.

It takes falls – to stand tall.
It takes 2nd place – to appreciate first.
It takes walking through open doors – to go somewhere new.

We must believe in ourselves.
Take chances.

Prepare now and embrace opportunities to make the game of life the very best it can be!

You never know when the moment you’ve prepared for… the moment you’ve drawn in your mind… is staring you straight in the eye and its up to you to MAKE it HAPPEN!

Leave the bench – and go get it!

Good nutrition is an momentous part of leading a wholesome lifestyle. How can medications help us? What can customers get without prescription? There are many medicaments for each diseases. At present hundreds articles were published about price of cialis. What may patients discuss with a physician before taking Viagra? How you can get correct information about “generic for cialis“? The very significant matter you must look for is “cialis tadalafil“. Undoubtedly, sexual diseases can soothe chronic pain and, even more importantly, reaffirm the joys of living. You must not take any drug if you are allergic to it’s ingredients. If you have a feeling that someone might have taken an overdose of this medicament, go to the accident department of your local hospital as soon as possible.

F A C E B O O K
P I N T E R E S T