Monday, December 29, 2008

We're Coming!!!

Okay everyone, it is official. Matt, Whitney, Jackson, and I land in San Jose at 2:30 p.m. on January 8th!!! We will be in California until February 10th, with the possibility of a week in Spokane thrown in there. That is dependent on if we can squeeze plane tickets out of our budget.

This will be a working trip (we need to raise a large chunk of new support). But there will be time to see friends, too. I can hardly wait! If you haven't met with us and heard about our ministry before, we would LOVE to meet with you and tell you about the wonderful work God called us to 5 years ago. If you want to get together with us while we're there, drop me a comment and I'll get in touch with you. Our schedule is falling into place, so let me know asap.

Woo hoo!!!! California, here we come!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

So Satisfying!

December was fabulous! I was organized. I planned ahead. I accomplished everything I wanted to get done...with plenty of time to spare. There was no running around like crazy. The result: I was able to peacefully enjoy so many sweet times with my husband and kids, savoring each moment of my favorite month. The glittering peak of the whole thing, of course, came December 24th & 25th.

On Christmas Eve, Matt and I got the kids all dressed up for church. Then they discovered that Santa had delivered a mysterious note to our mailbox.

At 4:00 we drove out to the airport. As we stood outside of security waiting, Snapper fully convinced herself that one of Santa's elves would come walking out with a big, wrapped present. She was so focused on that thought that she looked straight at Grandma for a good 10 seconds before she saw her. Even then, Snapper did a classic double-take...three times! Then she went running and screaming across the walkway to Grandma, much to the amuesment of all the other people there. Precious!

Christmas Day was a blast, too. We had birthday breakfast for Jesus, read the Christmas story, and then opened our gifts. As I watched Snapper's and Pepper's delight and appreciation at each new treasure, I was reminded of my own childhood, and how incredibly blessed I am.

This year, thanks to ebay, I was able to buy brand-new bedding and curtains for both kids. After the bedding was purchased, I had enough left over in my budget (totally unexpected!) to get a Hot Wheels and a Spiderman costume for Pepper--I'm so tired of seeing him in Snapper's ballerina outfit--and a cowgirl costume and a new outfit for Snapper. Then of course, grandparents, aunties, and uncles came through with some other wonderful toys. And all of it was just right! It was not an excessive Christmas--they'll love and use each gift they received. That's the way it should be!

Having Grandma and Great-Poppa here has been frosting on the cake. Snapper is super attached to Grandma, and Pepper is super attached to Great-Poppa. Here's a little slideshow because the pictures I wanted to share are too many to post here. I probably won't be posting again for the next several days, so Happy New Year, my friends!

Visit to make your own!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mommy

December 23rd, 2008.
Christmas Eve Eve.
The 59th birthday of the most important woman in my life: My mom.
Tonight we celebrated the life of my wonderful, amazing mother. Lucky God got to spend her birthday with her in person. Here in Littour Arkansas town, though, we threw a party anyway, even without the guest of honor. It ended up being a very fun and special way to remember my sweet mom.

This afternoon I baked a birthday cake for her, and a special dinner, too. Over dinner, Matt and I shared special memories with the kids of their Grammy. Before she died, she started filling out one of those Grandparent memory books for Snapper. For the first time, I opened it up and read to Snapper about my mom's childhood, and my mom's recollections of Snapper's birth.

After dinner, we lit the candles (18 candles in the shape of a 59), turned the lights off, and sang Happy Birthday to Grammy. Snapper made a wish for Grammy and blew out the candles.

We ate the cake in silence, just remembering. After Pepper was tucked into bed for the night, Snapper and I sat in the big chair in our living room and spent an hour looking at scrapbooks from 1999-2003. Snapper can't get enough stories about her Grammy, and asks me so many great questions about her. Over the Snapper. My goal has been accomplished: Snapper thinks she remembers Grammy. My efforts have created a living picture of my mom in Snapper's mind. She loves her Grammy, and clings to the memories we've created for her.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I wish you could have been here to party with us. Our party would have been considerably more exciting had you been here to spice it up. I hope God is enjoying your presence in Heaven, because we sure do miss you down here. I love you.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Miracle

10 days ago, I received a call from Beverly's aunt Gloria to let me know the doctors didn't think Bev would survive the night. There was no sign that the new bone marrow was engrafting, and they were losing hope that it ever would. She had no immune system, her blood pressure was 70/45, she could not speak, was having oxygen machine-forced into her lungs, and her body was being attacked by pneumonia.

Here we are, 10 days later. I talked with Bev for 20 MINUTES last night! The pneumonia is gone, except for a lingering cough which demands that Bev be on oxygen at night. Her blood pressure is back up to 100/60. She is able to talk again, and the mouth sores that have been plaguing her are going away. Though food still tastes funny, she is getting her appetite back. The fantastic news, though, is that the bone marrow has completely engrafted, and her blood counts are all close to the normal range again!!! Even her doctor is amazed at the progress she has made in a week!

The prayer at this point is:
1. Her breathing will clear up entirely
2. That her digestive system would be able to handle the switch from iv antibiotics to oral antibiotics
3. That her body would stop retaining fluid
4. That she would experience an increase in energy
5. That she would be able to see the progress she has made, rather than looking at how long the road ahead is.

The doctor is hoping to send her home on January 3. Once she goes home, she is under "house arrest" for 100 days (to give her system time to reboot and strengthen without exposure to outside germs). I'm hoping to go visit her late February or early March.

Bev wanted me to wish everyone a very merry Christmas, and to thank you again for your prayers for her. She is overwhelmed and so grateful.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I Love It, I Love It!!!

Another delightful, Christmasy day in our town! After negotiating a Walmart photo processing snaffoo, the kids and I came home for the ultimate comfort food lunch: peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches with apple slices and milk. So satisfying! Once Pepper was put down for his nap (tear-free, I might add!), Snapper and I tackled the remaining gifts to be wrapped. I'm redecorating Snapper and Pepper's rooms as their Christmas present this year. Pepper has outgrown the nursery look, and Snapper's pink room now belongs to Debbie. The blue guest room just doesn't suit Snapper at all. I found new bedding and window treatments on ebay for ridiculously cheap (it's all new in original packaging, too!). Those items all arrived in the last few days, so I wrapped them up.

I wanted to teach Snapper about giving--not just to Mom, Dad, and Grandma, but to people in need. About a month ago, she and I went shopping to stuff a stocking for a little girl whose family could not buy Christmas gifts this year. We don't know the child. Our pastor found her and will be delivering the stocking. Anyway, Snapper picked out all the gifts--gifts she really wanted--and stuffed the stocking herself. While I was wrapping Snapper's gifts, Snapper was wrapping the stocking gifts. She took great pains to do a good job on the wrapping. I am so proud of her.

This evening Pepper and I went to the preschool pajama party at church. He made a nativity scene with stickers, colored a picture, decorated cookies, and listened to a Christmas story. He had a great time, and as always, I thoroughly enjoyed the one-on-one with my sweet boy.

When we got home, Matt left to take Debbie Christmas shopping. I made hot cocoa and giant, soft-baked pretzels, and cuddled up with the kids to watch "The Polar Express." We turned out all the lights in the house except the Christmas tree, brought our blankets and pillows downstairs, and cuddled together with our treats. For the last 15 minutes of the movie, the kids piled on top of me in the big easy chair. I got kind of mashed, but that's okay. I wouldn't trade it for anything! Making memories. Imprinting this stage of their lives in my mind. Soaking up their childish sweetness and ready kisses. All too soon this will be part of the past.

Another great day for the family journal!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Give A Little

As I look around my home, which is all decked out for my favorite time of year, I am reminded of how much God has given me, and how much I have to be thankful for. We had a chance today to share the Lord's generosity and give a little bit away. I splurged on the grocery budget and bought enough cookie making supplies to last me a long time. And I baked...for 3 days. I have only eaten 4 cookies of the 36 dozen (that's 432 cookies) I have made. About 6 dozen of them are in my freezer to feed family and friends over the next week. A large plate of them is by the front door, waiting to go to the office with Matt tomorrow (Tim Bell, those are for you!). The rest were divided into 18 plates, gift wrapped, tagged, and delivered to all the neighbors on the cul-de-sac today. We bundled up because it was 26 degrees out, with a windchill reading of 19...brrr! We loaded the gifts into Pepper's wagon, and spent the next 45 minutes going door to door delivering the cookies. Snapper and Pepper were so cute, ringing the doorbells, handing out gifts, and wishing our neighbors Merry Christmas. They wanted to make conversation with people, and were sweet little visitors. It was a lot of work...A LOT of work. But I think it was worth it. It is such fun to give!

My Kind of Day!

I woke up this morning all cuddled up next to my hubby. Apparently it was cold last night, because I tend to be a loner in bed. We enjoyed just being there together, listening to Snapper and Pepper giggling in Snapper's bed and talking about the coming week. At 9:00 we got everyone up and dressed and headed out around 9:30. After we dropped Deb-Deb off at work, we enjoyed breakfast at the Old Mill Bread Company. Yummy! Then we headed down to Hot Springs, Arkansas, for a few hours. Hot Springs is a wonderful, historic, old town about an hour away from our house. It used to be a resort town, centered around the natural hot springs that bubble up under the city. There's a fantastic museum, lots of fun little shops, and great restaurants. At this time of year it is all decked out for Christmas. We drove around a lot, and then found a little hole-in-the-wall place to eat lunch. It is called Mollie's. And for you Arkansans, it is located on West Grand Avenue in Hot Springs. Oh. My. Gosh! Talk about awesome food! Matt had a reuben sandwich that was thick, juicy, and perfect. I had an open faced hot roast beef sandwish with mashed potatoes (it was a hot sandwich kind of day here). The kids shared an enormous, hand-pattied burger that was of high quality beef. It was SO GOOD! Good enough to drive down to Hot Springs for again. After lunch, we took the scenic route home. Arkansas is such a beautiful state, even in the barrenness of winter. We really want to move out of the city and out into the country before too long.

When we got home, Pepper went down for a late nap, and Snapper and I grappled with her loose tooth. The darn thing has been loose since April, but she's a total chicken about losing teeth. Don't ask me why...I don't know why, and neither does she. She just doesn't like the tooth falling out. But this poor little tooth had to go. The new tooth was coming in behind it, and the baby tooth was sticking out at a right angle to her gum. She refuses to wiggle it, so I've been helping it along over the past week or so, with an occassional push or tug. Today it finally gave, and was so loose I was afriad she'd swallow it. And for Snapper, the only thing worse than having the tooth fall out would be not having the tooth to give to the Tooth Fairy. So with some firm persuasion for Snapper, and a little dental floss for the tooth, the two parted ways, and Snapper has a lovely new space in her smile. So cute!

When Pepper woke up, we broke out the cookies, sprinkles, and frosting, turned on the Christmas music mix on my iPod, and spent an hour decorating cookies together as a family. Matt was the most creative with the cookies. Snapper managed to keep her hands out of her mouth! And Pepper ate more frosting and sprinkles than he actually managed to get on the two cookies we gave him to decorate. Don't worry...he had his own spoon and own little bowls of frosting, too! I frosted some cookies, but had more fun manning the camera. Little kids with frosting are great camera food!

We closed out our evening with some Christmas reading. The kids are tucked in bed now. Matt's watching a Christmas movie and making a puppet. I edited today's pictures, and put them in a slide show for you, as they are too numerous to post in this blog. So without further ado, here are the pictures.

Visit to make your own!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Traditions: Part 2


My Auntie Maggie is the Christmas cookie queen.
My mom also baked several different kinds of cookies every Christmas.
When my mom passed away, I got to go through her cookbooks, and her Christmas Cookies book was one that I grabbed right away.
Each Christmas I have made cookies for our neighbors, in hopes that something sweet will help me get to know them better. In past Christmases, though, I have only made cookie for the neighbors in our cul-de-sac that I have met, which is about 8 of them. This year, I took on a bigger challenge: to make one dozen cookies for each of the 19 other houses on our street. I met many of the others during the whole theft crisis on our street back in October. So anyhoo, today was cookie day, and here's what I made:

8 dozen peppermint sandies (mom's recipe)
6 dozen sugar cookies (Karon Whitmore's recipe)
4 dozen chocolate butterscotch Rice Krispie Treats
5 dozen cappuccino flats

Still to come (tomorrow):

4 dozen sugar cookies
4 dozen gingerbread men
6 dozen snickerdoodles (Matt's favorites)

On Sunday:
We'll frost the sugar cookies and gingerbread men, and divide the cookies into bowls to take to the neighbors.

That will cover all the neighbors, and leave plenty for our family and any visitors we might have in the next week. I love baking, and I feel so satisfied!

Traditions: Part 1

I wrote last week about my family's traditions, the ones I grew up with. I ran out of steam at that point, and decided to leave our new family traditions for another day. My cookie dough is chilling right now, so I have an empty hour. Since we're right in the thick of our Christmas season, I figure now's a good time to write.

I refuse to let Christmas start until the day after Thanksgiving. I like Thanksgiving too much to let Christmas crowd it out. Therefore, we don't break out the Christmas music until Friday morning. With Christmas music blaring, we clean the house to get ready for the decorations. After lunch, the kids, Matt, and I go in search of our tree. We decorate our tree that same night, after a dinner of Hasherole. It's a yummy casserole that has been our special occassion staple since Matt and I received the recipe at one of my bridal showers. This year, sadly, we couldn't have it on Christmas tree night, though. I forgot to buy the hashbrowns, and they sold out for Thanksgiving. Sigh!

Another fun tradition is to look for community events, such as concerts, plays, etc. The one we found this year was a reenactment of Bethlehem during the time of Christ's birth. It was a chilly night--34 degrees--when we headed up to Conway, AR, to go to Bethlehem. We waited in the sanctuary for our group to be called, enjoying the live music of the host church's worship team. Then we headed outside, where we were escorted to Bethlehem by a Roman soldier. We saw a mini drama, the prophet Isaiah proclaiming the coming of the Messiah. We also watched the angel appear to Mary to tell her she was chosen to bear God's son. Then we went into Bethlehem. It was like stepping back in time. Inside the walled town, people is period costumes were everywhere. All sorts of shops lined the streets. There were campfires, sheep and goats, children playing games, women cooking over the fires, and even the town well. We were given shekkels to spend, and were allowed to take as much time as possible. We visited the bread shop, where we sampled bread and cheese. We got the kids' names written in Greek and Hebrew. The kids bought old fashioned toys. Snapper got to dip candles, help weave a basket, and sample herbs. Pepper helped the carpenter hammer a wooden peg into a board. He also got to pet a sheep! The rabbi read from the Scriptures in Hebrew. We petted the donkey and horse in the inn's barnyard. Then we went into the inn for a hot drink. There, the inkeeper told us about a young couple who had come seeking lodging. The woman was obviously about to give birth. The inkeeper was surprised that the couple had been excited to sleep in the stable! Then he took us out to the stable. There, in the cold, windy night, we saw Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus all bundled up in the stable. A star shone down on them, and shepherds came to see the baby. It was beautiful, and so special! Snapper really seemed to grasp the whole thing. She was worried about the baby out in the cold, and wanted Mary and Joseph to go inside the inn. At the conclusion of our tour, we went back inside the church for cookies and cocoa. We love special events like this!

Last night, we did our annual Christmas drive. I baked gingerbread cookies in the afternoon. Then we went out to dinner at an awesome barbeque place in town. After dinner we swung by Starbucks for cocoa and coffee, and spent the next hour and a half driving through our town, munching cookies, drinking cocoa, and looking at the Christmas lights. There aren't very many lights this year, but we still enjoyed our time together.

Tonight we'll be going through a very cool resource, "What God Wants for Christmas" with the kids. We do this every year, and they love it. They'll open a series of seven boxes, each holding a character in the nativity. They'll listen to the story about each character, and set up the nativity as we go. The final box holds what God wants for Christmas. In that box is a mirror. The obvious point is: What God wants for Christmas is you! Matt converted the book into a puppet skit, so the kids will get their own private showing of our skit tonight!

The next few days will hold lots of special times as a family, and wish our friends. I'll update with pictures as those events come to pass. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mission Accomplished!

When I started planning for Christmas way back in September, I determined that my gifts would go out early enough to be on time to my family for Christmas. Way back then I marked on December 17 in my day runner in all caps, GIFTS MUST BE MAILED BY TODAY!
And by golly, I did it! In about 2 minutes I'm heading to the post office to get my 6 boxes and 5 big envelopes mailed. I'm so excited!

My other shopping is done, too! All that's left to do is wrap the last few parts of Matt's gift, wrap Pepper's Spiderman costume, and send out a few straggler Christmas cards!!! Woo hoo! And with a week to spare!

The rest of this week promises to be lots of fun. I'll be baking cookies (5 different kinds) tomorrow and Friday. The weekend will be very kick back, with a little bit of getting ready for our surprise visitors. On Monday a few of Whitney's friends are coming over to decorate cookies with us. And then comes Christmas! For the first year ever, I'm going to be able to relax and enjoy the week leading up to Christmas, instead of rushing around, trying to get the last minute details accomplished. I have lots of fun, relationship building activities scheduled for our family this coming week, and it promises to be very special!

There's lots to be said for planning ahead!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Inside-Outside Wintery Day

It is a brisk 26 degrees outside. Our kitty wanted to go out, so I opened the front door for her. This is what I saw in our front yard!

So after my very quick camera work was done, I headed back inside, and whipped up some of this!

Ah yes, this is the life!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sweet Tradition

When I look back on my childhood, some of my sweetest memories are centered around traditions my family had. Those traditions helped ground me and hold me secure in the love of my family. I knew that from year to year, certain things would remain the same, even though changes were happening all around me. One of my goals as a mom has been to create strong traditions for my family, in hopes that someday my kids will look back with the same sweet nostalgia that I carry today. I thought it would be fun to recall some of my favorite childhood Christmas traditions, and share some of our deepening Family traditions. This blog really is mainly for me, but enjoy, and feel free to steal ideas if you'd like!

Childhood Tradition Top Five

#5--Deck the Halls! Every year without fail, we cut our tree on Thanksgiving weekend. Some years Mom's uncle Jim who was a forester in the Sierra Nevadas gave us our tree. Those trees were magnificent...the kind that you pay $150+ for at the tree lot. Some years we went into the Santa Cruz Mountains to a tree farm. Other years we ended up at Home Depot's tree lot. One disastrous year, we cut a tree on our neighbor's property (That tree was dry from it being a drought year, and lost 75% of its needles by December 20th...). No matter where we got our tree, it was always beautiful. I don't remember a single year when we decorated our tree without watching White Christmas! Dad supervised from his recliner, offering comments on the location of certain ornaments. The star Grandpa made was the grand finale, and the most coveted decoration. We took turns putting the star on the tree.

#4--Birthday Party for Jesus! We started this tradition when I was 5. We invited all the neighborhood kids over for a Jesus celebration. We played Christmas games, listened to my mom tell a story (she was an amazing storyteller!), and ate Christmasy desserts. It was a big hit with all the guests, and a tradition that continued until I was in 8th grade.

#3--Oh, the food! My family knows how to cook! Whether it was Oma's gingerbread house recipe (decorated with neighbors Kelly and Monica), Granny's scalloped potatoes, Aunite Maggie's creme de menthe bars and sugar cookies, Mom's poppyseed cake, or Dad's delightful Christmas Day feast, I loved it all. Oh, and when I say feast, I mean: Green salad with 5 pounds of fresh, cracked dungeness crab, prime rib with au jus, garlic mashed potatoes, bacon-wrapped green beans, Yorkshire pudding, and creme brulee. Oh, the sweet delight!

#2--Christmas Day and Christmas Corners! Christmas Day never changed. Once we were up, Jenny and I got dressed, headed out to the barn to give the animals their Christmas breakfast, and then came in for Christmas breakfast. Granny always sent us home Christmas Eve with a German pastry for breakfast. I never liked I just ate the scrambled eggs, bacon, and fresh fruit. Some years Dad made homemade cinnamon rolls. Now that I loved! After breakfast, we gathered in the living room, finished up our advent book, and sang a few carols before beginning on gifts. Stockings were first, full of little treasures: stickers, paper dolls, bracelets, socks, candy (Reeses cups and assorted See's chocolates for Jenny, See's Orange Crisps and York Peppermint Patties for me, marzipan for Mom, and chocolate covered nuts for Dad). Then came the gifts under the tree. We passed them out one at a time, oohing and aahing over each person's gifts. After all the gifts were opened, Jenny and I had to go back and wait in one of our bedrooms. Then we were called out to find our big presents. They were usually waiting on the hearth for us. My most memorable big gifts were a life-sized baby doll (age 8); two new outfits for my American Girls doll, Samantha (age 10); a gold locket (age 12); roller skates (age 13); my vaulting barrel (age 14); Tommy Girl perfume (age 17); and a "Christmas Starter Set"--stocking hangers, Christmas tablecloth, cookie cutters, tree stand, gold garland, mistletoe, (age 21), when Matt and I were newly engaged. Granny and Grandpa (in their head-to-toe plaid outfits)always joined us for Christmas dinner. After dinner, Jenny and I each picked spot in the house to set up our gifts. Those spots were our Christmas corners which stayed set up until New Year's Day. Then I spent the rest of Christmas curled up in my Christmas corner, reading my new books, listening to new music, and eating my candy.

#1--Christmas Eve! At 3:00 each Christmas Eve afternoon, we packed up all the family gifts and headed to Granny and Grandpa's house in Saratoga. Jenny and I arranged all the gifts under Granny's tree. Then we glued ourselves to the big window in the dining room to watch the lights come on across Silicon Valley, and wait for our cousins to arrive. Granny and Grandpa's house sits high on a hill overlooking San Jose. It is a spectacular view, firmly imprinted in my memory. Once Missy and Lotte arrived, the fun began. When we were little, we all played games in the long hallway, and wondered if each plane that flew over was Santa on his way to deliver gifts. When we got older, we sat and talked and laughed. We usually tried to plan some silly stunt to play on the family. At 6:00 we sat down to dinner. Those memories are crystal clear. I remember the old lace tablecloth, the arrangement of plastic flowers and fruit on the table. I remember the pictures on the wall, the texture of the carpet, the old house smell. I remember Granny's flowered dishes and crystal glasses. I remember the salad, the ham, the potatoes, the rolls, the raisin sauce, the comforting same, year after year. After dinner, we adjourned to the living room which was crowded with gifts, and always a bit too warm. Granny's tree sat high on a steamer trunk, glittering with antique ornaments and ornaments handmade by my mom, Auntie Maggie, and Uncle Jack when they were little. We lit candles and sang carols, accompanied by Lotte on the piano, and in later years by Jenny on her trumpet or French Horn and me on my viola. We have a very musical family, so the singing was always rich and beautiful. Then the cousins performed. Some years we had prepared serious musical pieces. Other years we wrote little plays. And sometimes we were just plain silly. I'll never forget Lotte parading around with Matt's new pajama pants on her head...
Then came the best part of all. All the grandkids gathered on the floor around Grandpa's feet. We sat like this every year until the year Grandpa died. I was 20...and I'm the second-youngest cousin. Then Grandpa opened the enormous family Bible and read the Christmas story from Luke 2. I can still see his face, hear his voice. I'll never forget. After the Christmas story, the reverence evaporated and the craziness began! One grandchild played Santa every year and handed out the presents. We opened them one at a time and savored each moment together. LAnd then, just like on Christmas morning, all the kids were sent into the back bedroom to wait. Then when we were called, we raced down the hall to find the gifts from Granny and Grandpa. They were always homemade. Grandpa was a brilliant woodworker, and Granny a wonderful seamstress. Those handmade treasures--a barn for my Breyer horses, a dollhouse, fully furnished, a beautiful desk--were the highest peak of my Christmas. We usually didn't finish until 11 p.m. Jenny and I changed into our new Christmas jammies, and tried not to fall asleep on the drive home. We rang in Christmas every year watching the Pope give his address at the midnight mass.

Now so much has changed. Grandpa passed away in 1999, and Christmas Eve moved to Auntie Maggie's house. I love Auntie Maggie's beautiful house with it's amazing decor. But it just wasn't the same. My mom died in 2003 which changed it even more. And then we moved to Arkansas in 2006. We went home that year for Christmas. Last year was the first year I was ever away from my family on Christmas Eve, and oh, how I missed it. I still get a bit misty when I remember that next week, Christmas Eve will be going on at Auntie Maggie's same as always, but I will be 2400 miles away. That's why it's so important to establish our own traditions.

Wow. This has gone much longer than I was expecting. I think I'll save our Family traditions for another blog. I've had a good break from wrapping gifts, and I think I'll get back to it.

What is your favorite Christmas tradition memory from your childhood? Please comment for me and share.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Praise God, Bev survived the night. Today she was diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia. They have her on a breathing machine when she sleeps, and that is really helping. They're also pumping her full of steroids. Her fever broke this morning, too, which is excellent news. She's not out of the woods by any means, but she has made it one more day and seems to be improving a bit. Keep the prayers coming! I'll updating as I get news.

Friday, December 12, 2008

What Can I Say?

Talked to Beverly's aunt this morning. Bev's not doing well. She has had unexplained high fevers for the last few days. Yesterday they switched her to a new antibiotic in hopes that it would take care of whatever is causing the fevers. Nope. Bev had a severe allergic reaction to the antibiotic. Now it is the next day. She pulled through the night, but things are looking grim today. She is still swollen huge, is retaining fluid, can't talk, has low blood pressure, and still has a fever...104.1 at last update.

The doctors are running all sorts of tests trying to find out the source of the fevers. A chest x-ray shows some abnormalities, so they're putting a scop down into her lungs this afternoon to check.

Add to all this that her blood counts are not coming up, which means the new bone marrow cells have not engrafted yet. Anyways, it's not looking good at all right now, and she needs a miracle to survive this. She would be okay with saying goodbye and going home to Jesus. I'm okay with that too...except for two things: Christian and Dante. Those little boys need their mommy. Their situation is so unique--it will be close to impossible without Bev to hold it all together.

So my prayers are that God would work a miracle and bring Bev through this, for the sake of the boys. If He should choose to do otherwise, I will still praise Him and trust that He knows what is best. But wow, what a much rougher road it will be.

Thanks to all of you who have prayed faithfully for my sweet friend. I covet your prayers for her more than ever before.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Snapper Doodle, Belle of the Ball!

We were so excited back in September to learn that the Arkansas Scottish Dance Society was offering a children's Scottish Country Dance class. Each Monday night since September has been the highlight of the week for Snapper as she has learned several Scottish dances. On Monday, the instructors put on a formal ball for the kids, as well as all the adults in the adult beginner and advanced classes. They decorated and had a whole table of refreshments. Everyone was dressed up in the Scottish attire, and all the children got to wear their fancy clothes, too! I happened to have my grandmother's kilt, which very conveniently happened to be Snapper's size! So we got her all dolled up and took her to her first ball. I was so impressed with the kids! They got right in and mixed with the adults, beautifully performing all the dances they have been working on. Snapper even got to ask her daddy to dance on one dance! It was a delightful evening. I am so thankful for this class, and look forward to starting up again in January!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Weekends Make Me Happy!

Pepper got in bed with Snapper sometime during the night which resulted in us getting to sleep until 8:30. Blissful! I am thoroughly enjoying this mid-morning date with Facebook and blogs. Then I get to take my camera out to The Old Mill again for another photoshoot with some friends. 2 kids, sibling pics, and a family portrait! It's a balmy 35 degrees outside, so they will be jeans, sweaters, and scarves pictures. I love that! This afternoon Snapper has the dress rehearsal for her play tomorrow! Her first time on stage! It will be such fun. After rehearsal, I'm coming home to "Lord of the Rings," a cup of hot chocolate, and a mountain of Christmas cards to stuff. Sigh! I love this time of year and all the fun little things I get to do! If I finish the Christmas cards this afternoon, I'm going to start wrapping presents. I want to have my Spokane and California boxes in the mail by Friday.

Tomorrow after church I'm thinking I want to start baking cookies. I have 4 recipes for this year, and my neighbors all get to sample them. So does the mailman and the kids' Sunday School teachers. Yes, lots of fun!

For those of you who have been following my friend Beverly's leukemia story, she had her bone marrow transplant on Thursday. There was a lot of concern that her body would reject the marrow, but she is doing great! She hasn't had any concerning symptoms, and we are praising the Lord. She will be in the hospital until after New Year's, though. Thanks for praying for her. Please continue those prayers because she needs them, and will need them even more as Christmas approaches.

Alrighty! I'm signing out. Leave a comment and tell me what you're doing this weekend! I'd love to hear about it.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Simple Year

I love coming home to my decorated home! I love savoring sweet memories when at look at the Christmas decorations that I brought from my childhood into my marriage with me. I love the familiarity of seeing the same things year after year, and the fun of adding a little something new each year. I read my friend Amy's blog today, though, and remembered a Christmas when I didn't have any of those things. Amy and her husband are on a longterm business trip that has them living in a different state for several months. All of their Christmas decorations are back home. Amy has a great attitude, but I also understand how sad she is inside. Let me reflect for a moment.

It was December 1, 2005. We were living in a wonderful, but very tiny (500 sq. ft.) mountain cabin. It had 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, a kitchen, and a living room. Snapper slept on the couch in the living room because there wasn't room for her in our tiny bedroom. I had just found out I was pregnant with Pepper, and I was sick, sick, sick! When it came time to get a Christmas tree and decorate, we realized that our boxes of decorations were buried deep in our storage unit. It didn't take long for us to decide that getting the boxes out wasn't worth our effort. The house was too tiny for decorations, anyway. And oh, how my heart mourned! I moped a bit for a few days. And then it occurred to me that Christmas is still Christmas without decorations. After all, what, or rather, who, is Christmas about anyway?

Attitude sufficiently checked, I began thinking about how I could make this Christmas beautiful and special without the decorations. It ended up being very special. I remembered something my mom used to say: "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!" And that is just what I did. With a budget of $30, I headed out to the store. 2 days later, our little cabin sported a 2-foot-tall Douglas Fir, all covered with strung popcorn and cranberries, a cheap string of lights, and a construction paper star, sparkling with gold glitter glue. We made a paper chain and strung it over the door in the living room. I veered away from my normal mellow wrapping paper choice, and selected a bold paper and sparkly bows. Since I didn't have our advent wreath, I made a temporary one out of 4 cheap taper candles and yard clippings. It was beautiful. It didn't cost us much at all. And we had fun making it all!

As I look back on that Christmas, I don't remember missing my decorations. Instead, I cherish memories of holding 3-year-old Snapper in my lap and helping her string popcorn. I fondly recall our simple, little tree, and how the tree and bright paper brought light and extra pizzazz to our little home. Mostly though, I remember how the unimportant things faded away. It was a simple, beautiful Christmas, and I will never forget it.

I still have that sparkly paper star. It hangs on our Christmas tree as a reminder to keep Christmas simple, and place Christ in the center.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Little Mis and Chief

The bedtime battle continues. Mr. Man Pepper still does not like his room. He will go to sleep in his bed pretty easily when a cat is in bed with him. But the cats have to go in the bathroom at night to prevent pee accidents. At some point in the night Pepper realizes that cat is gone and he wakes up. For a while he came bawling into our room. But we would always take him back right away and put him in his bed. After a few nights of this, he started coming quietly into our room and climbing into bed on my side. He seems to know Mommy is a deep sleeper. When I wake up and find him beside me, he is sound asleep and has most likely been there for a while. I always take him straight back to his bed. So last night Matt put Pepper to bed. He went and worked downstairs while I was on the computer. After about 30 minutes I went to check on Pepper. The cat was still there, but Pepper was not. After just a few minutes of searching, I found him all cuddled up with Snapper in her bed. He was wrapped up in her arms, and they were quietly talking and giggling. *Stab* to the mommy heart! How could I disrupt so much sibling love and cuteness? But alas, I must teach Pepper to sleep in his bed. So I moved him back into his room, and told him if he got out of bed again I would spank his bottom. He went right to sleep.

This morning I had to get Matt to work early, so I got up and went in to wake up the kids. Pepper's bed was empty. I looked downstairs but he was not there. So I went back up and peeked into Snapper's room. This is what I saw! Little stinker! He figured out how not to sleep in his bed without waking Mommy and Daddy!

I tiptoed back to my room to get Matt and the camera. We stood there together for about 3 minutes, just watching our little ones sleep. You can't see in this picture but they were all wrapped around each other, and sleeping like logs. We had a good hard think about Pepper and the room situation. Is it really so bad that they want to be together? Why is it so important that they sleep in different rooms? Why did we move them to their own rooms in the first place? The issue was not because of sleep--rather, we moved them to help control the toys and keep Snapper from having to clean up her brother's messes.

When I woke Snapper and Pepper, they snuggled closer together and just lay there. Snapper put her arms around him and whispered sweet words of love to him. Tears in my eyes! This is the kind of relationship I want my kids to have! I asked Pepper what he was doing there. His reply: "I was scared in my room so I came to sleep with 'Snapper' in her bed. 'Snapper' loves me." Melt! Then Snapper offered, "Mommy, 'Pepper' came to my bed in the middle of the night because he was scared. I let him get in bed with me and he fell asleep right away. I don't mind if he sleeps with me. Maybe we shouldn't have our own rooms anymore. I miss him and I want him with me. He's my brother and I love him."

What can a mommy say to that? After brief discussion, Matt and I decided that Pepper will go to sleep in his own room. If he wakes in the night and wants to go to Whitney, that's fine. They both love the arrangement, and it prevents midnight trauma. I never yet met a kid who went to kindergarten in diapers or sucking on a pacifier. I'm sure this is a phase for Pepper that he will eventually outgrow. For now though, we believe this will foster a more loving relationship between our kids.

And it's so dang cute!

Just to end this, I must put in this picture that I took about 20 minutes ago. Pepper disappeared for a while. I finally found him "taking a bath." No water, just plenty of shampoo and soap...
Time for a high up child latch for the bathroom door!

Monday, December 1, 2008

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas!

Ahhhh, what a weekend! It started out a little bit rocky. I was all pumped up about getting our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving, but Matt seemed less than enthused. On Friday morning, I asked him why he didn't want to get the tree that day. A simple question led to a much-needed, 3o-minute discussion about Christmas, family traditions, our families' histories, and our indivudual expectations about Christmas for our family. My eyes were opened to why Matt has never gotten into the Christmas prep before. And he realized for the first time, I think, just how much my childhood traditions have shaped me. The end result was stunning--Matt's new outlook completely changed the course of our weekend. It was one of those special weekends I'll never forget.

After our discussion on Friday, we loaded the kids into the car and headed to Hobby Lobby to refresh our Christmas lights. After 7 Christmases, our tree lights finally bit the dust. We also had some 40% off coupons, so we got some additional lights for the outside of our house. Then it was on to Home Depot for a tree. When I was a kid we always used to go up into the Santa Cruz Mountains with my cousins to cut our tree at a tree farm. But the last few years Matt and I lived in California, the tree farm trees were dry, and the farms were pretty picked over. So we started going to Home Depot for our tree. We have never been disappointed. The trees are beautiful, affordable, and very fresh. This year's tree is probably the healthiest tree we have ever had. The kids had fun playing in the trees while Matt and I picked out our tree.

We got our tree home and the work began! Matt pulled out our Christmas tubs while I cleaned the living room. Matt moved furniture. I broke open the tubs. Matt set up the tree. I went through the tubs and pulled out everything I wanted to use for decorating this year. Matt and Snapper put the lights on the tree. I went camera crazy! I am still touched by how careful Matt was to evenly space the lights. He even wrapped lights up the trunk, knowing that I like that. Pepper got to put the star on the tree this year. It was his first time!

Snapper and I started decorating inside while Matt started the lights on our porch. I made a wreath for the front door and arranged silk poinsettias for the dining room and kitchen. I got all teary unpacking the stockings and hanging them over the fireplace. So many memories attached to these precious things! It was fun to share some of my memories with Snapper. And Pepper was so cute playing with the nativity set. "Mama, I gots Mawy, Jofus, and the Jesus Baby!" After all the decorations were out and set, I cleaned the living room again and put the tubs back in the garage.

Then came what Snapper had been anticipating all day: decorating the tree! When I was growing up, my dad's godmother and my mom built ornament collections for me. When I got married, my mom gave me the box of ornaments she had been collecting for me all those years. I am doing the same for Snapper and Pepper. How sweet to share more memories as we upwrapped each ornament from the tissue paper! Matt hung his ornaments. I hung mine. Snapper hung hers, and Matt helped Pepper hang his. More tears were shed as we reminisced about Christmas Past.

We all went to bed that night contented and tired. Saturday brought more fun! The kids played on the lawn while Matt and I worked on the rest of the outside lights. Pepper "helped" me snap the hangers onto the lights. Snapper policed Daddy to make sure he didn't fall off the roof. Even our kitties, Zoe and Alara, got into the action by climbing out the bathroom window and joining Matt on the roof.

We ended our day with a trip to Purple Cow for hamburgers, fries, and ice cream cones. We decided that post-decorating lunch at Purple Cow must become a new tradition! When darkness fell, we turned on those magical lights in our front yard. Matt did a beautiful job, and survived to tell about it! It was a sweet weekend for sure. A great kickoff for the wonderful month of December!