Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Joy Dare::December

I'm ending 2013 by writing my joys from December. What began as sortof of a scavenger hunt and experiment has turned into a habit and truly has brought be joy. I notice, and am thankful for, so many little details that I hardly noticed before. I'm honored that you choose to enjoy my gifts by reading. They will continue in 2014.

989. A story of love in marriage that challenges and inspires me.
990. Observing the season of Advent
991. Caffeine and conversation--unexpected and just what I needed
992. A circus performance in the living room
993. Aliza tells me what a great Mommy I am at a moment when I don't deserve it
994. Giggles at the end of a frustrating day
995. Castles made of pantry dry goods
996. Peanut butter hot cocoa
997. A husband who listens
998. Failing and trying again over and over
999. Dropping my children off to their Bible study classes because I desperately need a break
1000. Crazy Christmas tree decorating excitement
1001. A lovely walk
1002. Being intentional to remember to laugh
1003. Gramma feeling a year younger instead of older on her birthday
1004. Singing hymns around the piano
1005. A bunch of cousins ready to decorate gingerbread men.
1006. Christmas tea with my friend
1007. The hunt every day for Mary and Joseph
1008. Having lots of fun things to think about
1009. Little icicles
1010. Watching Josiah choose gifts for his sisters
1011. Honoring Aliza's decision when enough was enough and she needed to leave
1012. Facing another's grief. Offering a hug with few words
1013. 3 children born healthy
1014. Feet kicked up on the couch with a child on both sides
1015. Honesty
1016. Vegetable soup and biscuits
1017. Christmas luncheon
1018. Mom able to watch Aliza's dance class
1019. Siblings supporting each other
1020. Changing plans for something fun just because life is short
1021. Served an exceptional meal
1022. Gave Jeremy an evening to relax
1023. Hours of happy playing
1024. Dinner date
1025. Family day at home
1026. A little organizing
1027. A batch of puppy chow
1028. Pretend baseball game with a 2 liter soda bottle
1029. Anna singing If You're Happy and You Know It over and over
1030. A winter walk on the longest trail.
1031. Random out of the blue, "Mommy I love you's"
1032. A lovely phone conversation with Phyllis
1033. Better news than expected
1034. The season that gives me plenty of excuses to bake
1035. Napping in sunlight--there's nothing better
1036. Robins pecking in the grass
1037. So many opportunities to practice patience
1038. Brainstorming
1039. Woke up to a dusting of snow on the ground
1040. A hug
1041. An excuse for carry out and a free pizza certificate to make it happen
1042. Perseverance to finish school strong this week
1043. Community dinner
1044. A new game to play--Guess Who
1045. 2 hours of happy playing outside
1046. Another day of reprieve from winter temperatures
1047. A walk and a visit--cookies included.
1048. An Aunt willing to invest in a relationship with me
1049. Sales clerk helping me get a great deal
1050. Christmas caroling in the rain
1051. Connecting with a family from church
1052. A brother who has everything to fix anything--and who lives close by
1053. 2 toilets in the house
1054. Jeremy was right there when the pipe broke and water started spewing
1055. Christmas tea party
1056. Anticipation for Christmas morning
1057. My family willing to welcome a friend is alone for Christmas Eve supper
1058. Hours of sitting on the floor while Lego construction is happening
1059. Gifts that give
1060. Christmas dinner prepared in my kitchen
1061. At bedtime Anna snuggles in and says, "Mom you're my best."
1062. It's so late and I'm so tired but I just want to hang on to today. Christmas. The simplicity. The excitement. The contentment with what was received. The joy in giving. The family time.
1063. Christmas with Jeremy's family
1064. Coffee with some lovely ladies
1065. Time to just be
1066. Concert in Joel and Brandi's music room
1067. Generosity shown to us
1068. My family all together in a circle giving gifts
1069. Lingering just because we enjoy family
1070. The children enjoying new toys
1071. The upstairs cleaned
1072. The trunk full of recycling
1073. Manger scene complete
1074. Coloring party
1075. Logical advice from my daughter--Mom, just leave it for tomorrow.
1076. A mature response from the oldest when her younger sister destroyed one of her Christmas presents

Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas with Our Families

We very much enjoyed celebrating Christmas with both of our families. Here's just a glimpse of some of our memories:

Grandpa was ready with the camera as soon as we arrived!

Anna received a drum. She needed a drum. Her favorite: singing Jesus Loves Me or If You're Happy and You Know It while banging on the drum.

American Girl DVD
Have you ever seen anyone so excited about getting a box full of K Cups??
And even more excited about a special drawer for his K Cups!!
Yup. She's happy.
It was a Lego Christmas and Josiah was perfectly happy to start building right away.
The circle keeps getting bigger with my family.

Aliza gives gifts to her grandparents and it's a pretty special tradition for her pick out gifts for them. A football for Grandad.
Peach Tea for Grandma

December taught me one thing for sure: Never take for granted special family times with everyone healthy and present. We didn't. We enjoyed every minute of our Christmas celebrations.

Breaking News

Our Baby Jesus is no longer an orphan! Mary and Joseph have been found!

This morning I was beginning Operation Christmas Clean Up. I started in the girls room. I only found a lost library book that I had already paid for. Josiah's room was next. There were Mary and Joseph--under his bed and beside his toy bins. Anna was so surprised to see Mary and Joseph! Aliza and Josiah took them quickly to the manger.
The funniest part is that where Anna told us they were was almost right. She started out telling us they were under her bed and then in boxes. We just never thought to look under every bed in the house. It was a great hiding spot. I'm pretty sure Mary and Joseph will make a stop right there every year.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas Day

Our Christmas Day was quiet, simple and lovely. There were parts that were not perfect and it was ok. We gave gifts and spent lots of time on the floor putting legos together. We've had several Christmas gatherings of which the last was tonight and Aliza hugged me at bedtime and said, "Thank you Mommy. It was the best Christmas ever."
Anna was just in awe over every gift she opened.
We knew getting her a doctor set meant we would be patients the rest of the day. We were right. She was a princess doctor after she opened her princess dress. That princess dress didn't come off for a full 24 hours.
Aliza immediately fell in love with Cecile even though it was not one of the dolls she most wanted. (It was one of the dolls that was on sale last year that I saved.)
Josiah's biggest Lego set to date. He was thrilled.
Josiah and Daddy worked on the Coast Guard boats.
I sat with Aliza while she built Olivia's house, a friends Lego set. I only needed to look over her shoulder once in a while. She followed the directions all by herself.
After 4 hours of building and sitting on the floor, I am protecting this house from destruction! It is really neat! All of the details and accessories are perfectly designed for a little girl.

I cooked dinner for my grandparents and my dad. Mom stopped by after work. It was a really great meal. Too bad really great meals usually come with lots of dishes! It was worth it though. I ended up staying up way too late because it had been such a good day, I didn't want it to end!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Gifts that Give

Jeremy always asks me what I want for Christmas and usually I'm not help, but this year I kept track of social enterprise companies that employ people in other countries to make a product. I love what I got and I love even more that someone received a living wage to make it.

I've already talked about Sole Hope on this blog so I won't bore you. I wanted a hoodie. It's a really soft material and I LOVE wearing it.

This bag is from a company in Haiti called 3 Cords. 3 Cords is a social enterprise founded in September 2010 to train, employ, and empower Haitian women and their families.  The mission of 3 Cords is to provide opportunities to women with physical disabilities, and to show them that they are both beautiful and valuable.  We do this by training the women as artisans in a loving, community oriented environment. 

A necklace made from recycled paper by women in Uganda from a company called 31 Bits. The mission of 31 Bits is to use fashion and design to empower people to rise above poverty.
Finally, this canvas art just because I love it. Eucharisteo always, always precedes the miracle.
I have lots more Christmas fun to share!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

well that was exciting

Jeremy and Anna were playing the I'm-going-to-chase-you-to-bed game. Anna ended up in our no-extra-space bathroom. Somehow she ended up falling between the toilet and the sink and managed to break the pipe that going from the toilet to the wall.

I was reading to Josiah and thought I heard the shower start. I thought it was odd but I knew Jeremy was there and didn't worry about it. Pretty soon I hear "I NEED HELP NOW!"

I walk in the bathroom to find a wet Jeremy with his finger over the pipe to stop the gushing water. I had no clue what to do and the picture was rather funny so I giggled.

Then I flew into action. I called by brother, of course. He told me to find the breaker for the water pump and turn it off. By this time the children are hysterical. Jeremy told them something like, "If I take my finger off this pipe our whole house will flood." So they are crying in my ear asking if we are going to die....because, of course, if our whole house floods we will lose all of our things and all die.

Meanwhile, Jeremy's finger is getting sore holding back the water. He punches a hole in the drywall and inserts a kids toothbrush into the pipe to stop the water.
I successfully get the water turned off and faucets turned on to release the water pressure. The children are still hysterical. Of course it's now way past bedtime and they are too tired to even think rationally. Seriously. They really thought there was a possibility of all of us dying! Poor babies.

Brian came. Capped off the pipe. We stood in the bathtub to watch him. I had to stand with the children because they were all too scared to stand by themselves.

Brian left. I laid with each child so they could fall asleep. Jeremy turned the water back on and everyone slept well.

Thankfully we have a 2nd toilet in the house!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


It's been a few years since I've found a place for the Nativity. This Nativity came directly from Israel when my sister lived there. She bought it from a person she knew and he carved them. I wanted to take care of it. So this year it's on the mantle.

As you'll notice Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus are not in the stable. They are, in fact, "traveling" to Bethlehem by way of various locations in our home. Mary and Joseph will arrive on Christmas Eve and Baby Jesus will be in the manger on Christmas morning. My Mom did this for us when we were young so I thought my children might enjoy finding Mary and Joseph each day.

They really enjoyed it. We just have a problem now. Mary and Joseph are in an unspecified location. They were last seen on the steps (that was their stop between the upstairs and downstairs. See, we are getting closer to Christmas so they are traveling closer.) and the only party taking responsibility for their movement is Anna.

Aliza and Josiah were on a search this morning. Anna claimed she moved them. She said they were upstairs, in her room, by her bed. The entire bed area has been searched without success. Tonight Jeremy questioned Anna again. This time she very seriously said that, indeed, she picked them up and walked with them. But tonight she said she put them in a box. Jeremy said, What box? Anna answered, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. Not helpful.

Hopefully, Mary and Joseph will be located before Christmas morning.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Lesson Learned

Last weekend I took Aliza to the Hits Deep concert. It featured TobyMac along with Capital Kings, Chris August, Colton Dixon, Jamie Grace, Brandon Heath and Mandisa. Aliza was super excited. We listened to TobyMac on repeat on Spotify for many days before the concert. The day of the concert she could hardly wait for 6:15 to arrive so we could leave.

I hesitated on buying tickets. They were a pretty penny and adding on the Civic Center fee it was a big deal. She and I talked enough that I was confident that she really wanted to go and she knew enough songs that I knew she could sing along--which is what makes a concert really fun.

I knew I wanted Aliza in an end seat so when I finally purchased tickets the only outside seats were on the top row of the farthest section from the stage. I figured that was ok for a 7 year old's first concert. There is plenty of opportunity for "moving up" as she gets older--and pays for her own tickets!! As it turned out the back row was great. There was a walkway behind the seats so if Aliza needed to move around she could have. The down fall of being up that high is that the spotlights were directly in our eyes. This was our view before the concert with the lights on.

Capital Kings came on and I was all excited. Aliza, on the other hand, had her hands over her ears and wasn't sure she wanted to stay! It had been MANY years since I had been to a concert like this. Honestly, I had forgotten how loud concerts are. Lesson learned: take ear plugs next time.

Aliza did adjust to the volume. She particularly enjoyed Colton Dixon. It was quite possibly because of his "cool dude hair." Mandisa was awesome! We were both singing Overcomer and Good Morning at the top of our lungs.
Then it was intermission and the bathroom line was really long. I told Aliza when TobyMac sang a song that she didn't know I would take her to the bathroom. I could tell that Aliza was getting tired, but she still seemed to be ok.

Intermission ended. TobyMac came on and the light show intensified at least 10 times and the smoke. There was LOTS of smoke. But it was awesome! I was totally into it! Not even a minute into the TobyMac's first song Aliza insisted it was time to use the bathroom. I was like, REALLY?! I took her. We got in the stall and Aliza started crying...saying she wanted to go home and wasn't going back in. She was scared to death of the lights and smoke. I got her to the door....she saw flashing blue lights and smoke in 3 columns on each side of the runway and it was over. She stayed in the foyer while I went in to retrieve our coats. (I had a staff member watch out for her while I went back in.) As I'm walking up the steps to our top row seats all I can see are $$$ in my mind.

Aliza felt bad. I think she was disappointed with herself. I only validated her feelings and assured her it was ok and reminded her how much fun we had listening to all those bands in the first hour and a half. What I have come to believe is that Aliza was on sensory overload. She couldn't take any more visual or auditory stimulation. I'm so glad that she could communicate with me that she needed to leave.

I wanted to take her somewhere for a snack on the way home to end the evening on a happy note. Aliza told me that her tummy had too many butterflies in it to eat. She just wanted to go home, snuggle up in my bed and finish an American Girl book. If you know Aliza...her passing up a snack is a big deal!

I'm happy that I still have a little girl. A little girl who apparently likes "cool dude" hair styles. Haha! I've always resisted paying for high price tickets for fear that the event wouldn't be enjoyed completely. I'm going to stick with that theory for a while longer, I think! Next concert it will be Jeremy and I and I think I'll take ear plugs for myself! Meanwhile, Spotify is still on repeat and her concert memories are getting happier.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Confronted by Grief

This week I've been confronted by grief in multiple ways. I attended a viewing for a full term baby. My sister-in-law's mother is battling a brain tumor. I cooked dinner for a friend of Jeremy's whose wife passed away in the last month. I found out today that a 36 year old homeschooling Mom of 4 elementary age children died of pancreatic cancer. I was an acquaintance of this sweet lady.

And so this morning it all piled up and I cried. Tears streaming down my face, holding in the sobs.

My heart is heavy and I grapple with questions and yet, underneath it all, I have faith. Faith in a God who is bigger than this world and the pain here. A God who is more complex and powerful than our understanding. A God who can handle the questions and the pain. A God who has a plan. A plan that holds our best interest at heart. And when we see Him face to face the questions will be answered and there will be no more pain and no more tears.

So I will not give in the panic of wondering what will happen next. Will it be me? Or someone very close to me? I will walk in faith. In peace. In joy. 

As I sit here tonight with tears in my eyes, I will write down gifts. Because even in sadness there are gifts and there joy will be found.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Beginning to Feel Like Christmas

When the Christmas tree is decorated and the gingerbread men are decorated, I know that Christmas is indeed getting closer. I'm trying so hard to stay in the moment and not let gifts and cards and wrapping and baking get in the way. Of course all of those things will get done in time.

There were three little people who followed Daddy around the tree while he stringed lights.
The most highly anticipated snack of the year!

Josiah hung his decorations in a nice clump.
I added the printable Jesse Tree decorations from Ann Voskamp's Advent book. Each decoration depicts a Bible story that plays an important role in ancestry of Jesus. I love looking at the tree and being reminded of what is most important this season. I find myself thanking God....for creation, for being a friend to Abraham so that we can know that we are a friend of God, for the affection of God in making humans in His own image...
Decorating gingerbread men is always fun!

These two boys were full of giggles and boy jokes.

There were 7 cousins at the table and here are their creations.
Josiah's masterpiece.
Aliza's masterpiece.
Fun times and good memories.