Friday, December 30, 2011

A Christmas Wedding

The big day was finally here.  We were thrilled for Cousin L and her soon to be husband K who had dated for seven years and most of those long distance.  Miss M and Miss A were over the top with joy at having a part in this special day.  Miss M had been asked to be the Guest Book Attendant, Miss A was in charge of handing out the programs, and Mr C was in charge of "Protection Services" aka watching the gift table and being ready to attack any threats to the gifts!

Miss M and Miss A took their roles very seriously and listened attentively to directions from the Bridal Coordinator and Mr C slid on some "shades" and got into fighting position.  I'm thrilled to say that the girls did a fabulous job and looked stunning in their dressy clothes.  Thankfully, Mr C's combat skills were not needed, but he was ready and he would say "able."

Mr C also had the privilege of walking his Grandparents up the aisle of the Church and holding Bestemor's arm.  An extra special part of the day was the fact that C was wearing the bow tie his grandfather had worn for his own wedding 52 years ago.  He looked so dapper.

The wedding was an intimate worship service that not only united these two young people, but dedicated their love and life to God's service. I found myself getting a little chocked up during the Parental Blessing thinking of the fact that, in the what will probably seem like a blink of an eye, this will happen with my own children.  I'm pretty sure that Miss L was a little toddler I met in Pennsylvania just the other day, but in actuality that was 18 plus years ago!

Of course, the part that M and A were anxiously awaiting was the Wedding Reception with a Coffee Bar Table and all the fixings.  I'm sure that Miss A and Miss M had enough caffeine, coffee, and sugar in a short period of time to keep them jazzed up for days.  Mr C on the other hand was more impressed with the "Scrumptious" Turkey and Cheese Tray.  He has sophisticated taste.

Miss M continued the tradition of wearing someone else's shoes at a wedding and switched shoes with her cousin and allowed Miss E to wear her flats for awhile, all the while enjoying the fancy heels E had worn as the Maid of Honor!  I love this girls fashion sense and I'm thrilled that she gets to indulge in fancy shoes once in awhile.  Her day will come someday. 

We finished out the evening with a Chicago Deep Dish Pizza party at Uncle S and Aunt C's house and M and A got to play around with the cousin's "old " American Girl Dolls and all the fancy clothes that Bestemor had made for their dolls.  Miss A even recognized some of the material that B had used to make her Ruthie and Kit clothes, too!

It was a wonderful Christmas Wedding in Chicago!  May God bless these two fabulous young people with many years of joy and abundant blessings.

PS: I did finish the Wedding Blanket I knitted with days to spare and got to show it off to my sister in law before mailing it off to the married couple's home in California.  Pictures to follow.

Who Doesn't Love Chicago at Christmas?

Traditionally, we don't travel at Christmas.  It's a crazy time of year for my husband at work, it's crazy expensive to fly anywhere, and since P's parents come for Thanksgiving (and we send presents back with them for the Chicago crew) along with weather that can be dicey for us, we just stay put. 

Not this year.  No way. No how. Our eldest niece was getting married December 28th and we would do whatever we could to make it to Chicago and be part of the festivities.  Miss A and Miss M would never have forgiven us if they missed this wedding and the fact that they had adorable new dresses to wear for the event was just part of the equation. They love weddings.

So two days after Christmas, off we went to Chicago land.  The amazing part is that nowhere along the route did we run into bad weather or a stick of snow.  In fact, we didn't even see any snow on the fields or roads anywhere.  It looked like we were traveling in March instead of late December.  Not that my weather channel loving husband was complaining at all. 

It was a short, but oh so sweet trip to Chicago with the Wedding on Wednesday and a work day on Friday for P and, of course, our annual New Year's Eve celebration that weekend.

After a long day of traveling and getting settled into our hotel room, we enjoyed "cocktails" with Bestemor and Bestafar in the lobby. Mr C. Miss M, and Miss A had their first taste of Tonic Water with Lime.  Let's just say I'm not thinking they will be hitting the bars later in life for high balls.  Yeah. (May that be the case Lord, please) They did however enjoy the free cookies and popcorn.  Good choice. 

We had a fun dinner at a "healthy" Mexican Cafe' where the food was so good you didn't miss the fat and calories.  Then we spent a few hours walking around an outdoor Outlet Mall in the Suburbs and while Christmas Cash and Gift Cards were burning holes in two little girl's purse.  They did a good job of not overbuying or settling for something.  They are their father's children!

As we all tucked into bed that night back at the hotel, the excitement was evident; Miss A and Miss M who I had the joy of sharing a queen sized bed with could hardly fall asleep. They were looking forward to the wedding so much that it was hard to sleep!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Day: It's Going to Be a Loud Winter

Even though Dad had requested an 8:30 a.m. wake up call, our first visitor was actually at 4:30 a.m..  Believe me, even though she's adorable, we sent her back to bed with strict orders to not get out until she heard her brother in the hallway.  Teenage boys always sleep in right?

Of course, Mr C failed this test and was up at 7:30 much to our chagrin.  Really. We then tortured the kids for at least a half hour saying we couldn't go down yet as we had promised Santa eight thirty.  Finally at eight, we gave in to peer pressure.

Miss A was in seventh heaven when she saw the guitar!  Her screams were so loud I checked to make sure that the windows stayed in place.  Miss M was giggling when she saw the digital camera for her and Mr C was surprised to find a weight set on the fireplace.  Well in actuality it was just a single weight as Santa brought the rest downstairs to the bench.  C is looking forward to some great matches on the Foosball Table he got and has already proven a worthy opponent. His mother no so much.  I said it was due to the fact that I spent all my time in college studying or campaigning and his father obviously was off at parties!

It was a fun Christmas. No rush to get anywhere. No pressure to open presents in a hurry.  Pecan Rolls and Cranberry Juice for Breakfast.  A great brisket in the oven for Christmas Dinner and plans for Nana and Papa to come and enjoy a lazy afternoon of domino's and football games.

We had a wonderful Christmas season this year and were abundantly blessed with time with family and friends along with opportunities to bless others this year.  I really could not have asked more.

Now, we just need to figure out who can teach Miss A how to play the guitar and I need to spend a little time working on my skills with the Foosball table.  Thankfully, Miss M will be able to capture all the moments as I'll be busy covering my ears and using my feet to more my "guys" on the table.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Eve: Let the Celebrations Begin

We had a wonderful Christmas Eve celebrating starting with our worship of the Newborn King and then with our family for a Feliz Natividad Dinner at Nana and Papas.  When the invite arrived a few days before written all in Spanish, I was thankful that Mr C could translate!  At least then, we didn't show up with our jammies expecting a sleepover! 

Before heading to church, we had a few "special" deliveries to make.  This year, we were beyond blessed to be a small part of adopting three families for the 12 Days of Christmas and we always take the last day; you know, the12 Drummers Drumming.  Not only do we love giving on Christmas Eve, it also means that the kids get to be a part of the surprise drop.

At the first house, Miss A and Mr C both decided to drop the "Drum" on the front porch, and because we know the family and they know our car, we tried to "hide" and have the kids run.  The drop went off without a hitch except for when they returned to the car.  Mr C was running in his Ninja Style and Miss A, skipping along ahead of him jumped into the open car door and Dad starting pulling off while Miss M closed the door.  Only problem, Mr C was on the opposite side of the car still running.  We all screamed "we've left C" and Dad halted the car.  It was the funniest thing ever according to Miss A who did not feel it was necessary to get C, but thought we should just let him run home.

Our second"surprise" stop went much smoother.  However when we circled around to make sure that the gift had been picked up, we almost ran over a cat in the middle of the road.  Not exactly stleath in our approach.  I don't think the CIA will be calling us to do undercover work anytime soon!

Thankfully, we didn't need to go undercover to the Christmas Eve Worship Service because Miss A's smile was too big to hide. She loved that our "whole" Omaha Family was sitting in two pews in the same church.  There is just something about Christmas Eve worship that means so much to me and seeing all my children catch that thrill is joy beyond words.

Our Fiesta dinner was topped off with our traditional Norwegian Rice Pudding Dessert so I'd say we are very ethnically diverse. Next year, it looks like Cousin L is in charge of bringing the prize for finding the almond in the pudding even if Miss A was trying with all her might to find it. 

No family gathering would be complete without a few puzzles to complete, some bumper pool competitions, and the traditional Christmas play which this year included the entire crew and was an improvfest.  Dad and Uncle S even got "caught" up in the action when Miss A put a paper bag over their heads.  It was all part of the fun.

It was a fabulous start to our Christmas Celebration, and I heard my husband declare as we drove "out of sight" Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night." Later that night, he might have said to our children the same quote with just an added phrase "don't let me see the whites of your eyes until half past eight in the morning."

A man can dream can't he?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ice Skating: Another Holdiay Event, Another Bloody Face Incident

Tuesday of Christmas Break, I thought it would be fun to go to Ice Skating and enjoy a little fellowship with friends and the balcony girls.  We could get some winter exercise and have some fun. After introducing Miss M and Miss A to skating last winter, they have been begging to go again.

We had a fabulous twenty minutes of skating on a nearly empty ice rink and Miss A was getting pretty confident in her skills and Miss A was enjoying her friends.  Off to the side of the rink, we noticed a little practice arena where you can "skate" on dry land and practice up on your skills.  Our only problem was didn't realize that the "hill" was actually suppose to be climbed up to practice "walking on ice" and not slide down. 

On her second "run" down, Miss A skidded out and fell on her face putting her two front teeth through her bottom lip.  Thankfully, I was standing right there and quickly applied pressure and cupped my hands to catch the flowing river of blood.  Miss A was a real trooper and other than a few tears, remained calm allowing my friend H to access if we needed to head to the ER for stitches.  Thankfully, we were able to stop the bleeding and see that besides a deep cut there was no real damage to her teeth or lip. 

Having already had one set of stitches on a lip and realizing that "they" don't really like to stitch a lip because it's too moist; we just keep the lip closed and moist.  Let's just say that Miss A was thrilled when she learned no Dr visit would be required.  However, she decided that she was done skating.  She told me that she would not be ice skating ever again.  When Papa came to rescue her (thanks Dad), she was more than happy to go home.

My father being able to come and retrieve Miss A is really only one part of the blessings in this story. By God's provision, I had asked another mother stay to "help" and she just happens to be a nurse.  I could not have asked for a better set of hands to help out in a crisis.  I got the biggest kick out of H when she went to town telling the Ice Arena that they needed to update their First Aid Kit or close their doors.  She was adamant that they were not prepared for an injury.

Maybe that's why Miss A was offered a free Sprite and all the ice cubes she wanted!  By the end of the day, Miss A had amended her previous claim that she would not ice skate ever again to the new philosophy that "I'll give it one my try, but if anything happens I'm done with skating forever."  Gotta love that she will at least give it another try.

With any luck, our "holiday injury curse" is over for this Christmas Season!  You never know!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

We are deep in the midst of Christmas preparations. Miss M and Miss A had a few days off while Mr C was busy taking finals so we are attempting to do all the "girl things" before he joins us.  Let's just say Mr C is not into crafts!

Over the weekend, while Miss M was suffering from a cold, Miss A and her brother went out to C's school for "Breakfast with Santa"  Of course, Miss A was quick to point out that he was not the "real Santa."  Guess that the real one is only at the Train Station. However, she did tell this "fake Santa" that she's still hoping for a Guitar!  Might as well cover your bases.  C said that even if he wasnt' the real deal, he could pass her request onto the "big guy."

Mr C has been hitting the books pretty hard in preparation for his first cumulative exams ever.  He did notice that the house smelt pretty and thought that maybe Cinnamon stimulates the brain cells as he was really absorbing all the Biology and Algebra II facts.  I think he was hinting that he wanted to eat some cinnamon rolls.  However, I must admit that when there are 20 pans of Cinnamon Rolls sitting on your dinning room table, it is a very pleasant aroma!

We still have big plans for the rest of our Christmas prep week including a trip to the ice skating arena, shopping at the mall for sibling presents, and of course a few late nights watching Christmas movies or sports depending on who has the TV remote.

The only thing missing from our Christmas excitement is a little of the white fluffy stuff.  It's my fault since it's been my prayer for a dry run into Chicago after Christmas.  Maybe we can dream of a "White" January.  

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bells are Ringing, Children are Singing, Christmas is Here!

Friday night was our annual family Bell Ringing shift.  In his great mercy, the Lord allowed it be 40 degrees outside for most of the evening.  What mercy he bestowed on us.  You might think I'm mocking the whole role He played in the weather, but after a few years ago worrying that we might get frost bite, we all rejoiced that this year it was glorious. (Well as glorious as it can be in the Midwest in late December.)

I brought along a few bells of our own to use as the Salvation Army only provides you with one bell per shift and who wants to see children fighting because they don't have their own bells.  Next year though, I'm getting something better than the "door hangers" I picked up at the Dollar Store.  Let's just say a few of the bells did not make it to the end of the evening.

Since we only had a two hour shift, we broke with our tradition of eating at the "grocery store" restaurant during our shift and instead we ate first at Five Guys.  Nothing like Hamburgers and Fries to warm the cockles of your heart. 

Mr C brought along a friend from school and some great friends joined us too.  Our festive group had a great time and really got into the Christmas Spirit.  Miss A was dancing a "jig" drumming up business for our kettle and Miss M and the boys were singing carols .  Twelve Days of Christmas was especially loud and maybe off key just a little bit, but the joy was evident.  Miss A of course belived that she and Mr G were filling the coffers just by being adorable!  Mr C and Miss M and friends claimed it was their charm and great singing.

It really was a perfect evening.  Of course, the hot chocolate, warm snow boots and pie at Village Inn that ended the evening made it even better.  I think this could be my favorite Christmas Tradition.  Great memories.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Where Oh Where Has This Blogger Gone?

Can someone please tell me where the first half of December went?  While you are at it, you might explain how it is that it's almost 2012 and I've only just begun to write 2011 on anything. One minute I think I'm ahead of the Christmas hustle and then the next thing I know, it's almost Christmas break and there is nothing under the tree.

Yes, I've purchased most of the gifts, but I've yet to wrap a single one.  Wait!  That's not true, I wrapped the ones that went to Chicago in November. Come to think of it that the last time I was ahead of the game!

I've been busy.  Making Cinnamon Rolls, attending Girl Scout Christmas Caroling events, high school band concerts, dance recitals at retirement villages and, of course, a few "secret" things that I don't want to give away yet.  I like to be busy. Really. I like a "to do list" that is chuck full, but I especially like it when I cross a whole bunch of the items off the list before midnight.  My preference is really by 5 p.m. so that I can "enjoy" the season a little each night.

Thankfully, I'm beginning to see these moments of chaos as blessings too.  I can't imagine my life without my family and friends.  I love to bless them with cinnamon goodness. I love to write a little personal note at the end of our generic Christmas card.  The days of band concerts, dance performances, and singing carols are short lived and I want to savor them while I can.

All those "moments" are what add up to my life and, if in those moments I'm not thanking God for the chaos and the joy, I'm missing it.  Plus, with life around these parts, I'll have plenty of time to catch up on my sleep this winter sitting by the fireplace.  Hopefully, those moments will include a good book and a skein of yarn or two!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Dancing, Lights Aglow and Mary and Joseph Up Close and Personal

With a stellar weekend forecast and a few Christmas items already on our calendar, we decided to go full out Christmas by taking in the lights about the city, making another batch of caramels, visiting a live Nativity and watching Miss M dance in the Christmas program for her dance studio.

It really is beginning to feel a little more like Christmas every day.  Our family has enjoyed a new Advent devotion we've been working through and while we might have attempted to get all fancy and make/reuse items from around the house on an advent tree (bare branches that were originally used for our tree of Thankfulness), we've abandoned those crafty dreams and are just grabbing the items and then putting them back in their place around the house.

If only we could adopt the same philosophy with school supplies, shoes, dirty laundry. Oh, I digress.

Miss M was thrilled to dance on a big stage and have her Aunt, Grandparents and entire family there to cheer her on.  Mr C tried to beg out, but when we said that Chic-Fil-A was involved, his plans changed quickly.  I'll admit that watching hundreds of "little girls" dance is getting a little old after ten years (they all look about the same), I love the opportunity to watch the older girls, especially my own, dance.  It really is her most favorite of things!  Even when the music stopped in the middle of her "Tin Solider" dance, she did not flinch.

After the dance recital, we enjoyed our second trip to Chic-Fil-A in our hometown and then were on a mission to find the best Christmas lights in the city.  Miss A was keeping track of which house was our favorite and we all had a chuckle out of her "shorthand" on named streets.  At one time, she might have yelled out in frustration "Come on people, lets just call it G Street number 7" even though the street name had no letter G in it.   Not sure we could find our "number one" house any longer with her cheat sheet.

Sunday afternoon after church, Jill whipped up a batch of caramels (three hours isn't really whipped up is it?) after Miss A's final basketball game of the "year" and then we went to a church's Living Nativity.  I can't really tell you how amazing it is to see the Nativity up close and really feel what on a very small scale what it must have been like to be Mary and Joseph in that dirty little stable with their tiny newborn baby.

The best part was that the final "scene" of the Nativity had a Cross draped in black and with a Roman Solider bowing down before it.  Wow! What a message of the "Real Reason for this Season."  Way beyond just a tiny baby. All three kids wanted to drive through again just to see it one more time. 

Miss A of course was even willing to try for the record at the Nativity: 10 times through in one night!
It's hard to complain, however, when your child wants to go through "just one more time to see Baby Jesus."  Oh, may that always be the case.   

I'm thinking that these December weekends might be my favorite weekends of the year!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Caramel King.....

Making caramels is a Christmas tradition that I love.  For the past several years, I've made caramels for teacher gifts and friends  The process is long, but the results are fabulous.  In fact, I believe the Mr C made straight A's in junior high because of my caramels (it might have had a little to do with the grades, but you never know.) Let's just say his "teachers" might have cried when he graduated 8th grade.


This year, I wanted to share the joy with caramels with a few friends and decided I'd pretend to be Martha Stewart and host a caramel making session in my home.  Let's just say that things did not go as expected.

Try as we might, the ladies and I did not end up with a successful batch of caramels.

We had all the right ingredients, we measured and stirred, and watched the temperature on the candy thermometer just like you are supposed to.  The first batch turned out hard as a rock and the second "double" batch might have worked as caramel ice cream sauce, but not as something you could wrap up and give away.  I even tried to put them in the fridge to harden them up which not only did nothing for the texture of the caramels, but resulted in one tray spilling all over my fridge.

Now I could count this up as an epic failure.  Proof positive that I should not be a cooking teacher and that I should just give up my hopes of a vast empire of crafts and cooking.  OK, maybe I should give that dream up, but the morning was anything but a failure. I spent the morning with friends and shared with them a love of making homemade goodies for friends and family.  I was able to encourage them to step out and try something new.  We learned together that failure in the kitchen is just that, a mess up.  All that was really lost was a few simple ingredients and a little pride.

Plus, I got to learn how to take my new refrigerator apart, removing the shelves, figuring out the veggie drawers and I rearrange a few things to make it even more efficient for our family.

The funny story we have to tell about our morning of caramel making will last much longer than a batch of caramels Of course, today I had to prove to myself that I haven't lost the caramel making touch and I made a double batch for the junior high teachers.  Hey, I'm no fool I want Miss M to have straight A's too!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Listening to the that Still Small Voice

In the hustle and bustle of my daily life, it is often hard to hear the still small voice of God whispering to me. However, I can't tell you the number of times in the past few weeks that listening has made my life  so much easier.  You can go ahead and call me weird, but I'm beginning to see that God's provision for me often comes in getting me prepared ahead of the disaster. 

Guess you could say that God knows that I'm a list maker and a planner by nature so when things crop up that are not on my "to do list," they can throw me off.  While I'd prefer that God go ahead and just let me in the details, He has been doing a great job of preparing the way ahead of me. 

For instance....

A few weeks ago, I decided to strip all the beds in the house, to wash all the towels and to even clean out Mr C's closet, drawers and prep the room for company.  I went so far as to move the trundle bed into his room.  It was an all day cleaning job.  The time went quickly and I was so impressed with how everything was clean. I vacuumed every bedroom, cleaned the bathrooms and by the end of the day my house was sparkling.

I had a supply closet full of cleaning supplies because a few days prior I had a nudge at Target to get my winter cleaning stuff all ready.  I picked up the disinfectants, paper towels, Lysol, laundry detergent, and of course soda crackers and sprite too. 

Wouldn't you know it that very afternoon and my house was cleaned from top to bottom, my youngest child came home "sick" and while there was still lots to do to care for her, my house was so clean. 

Days later when Miss A was still suffering and had now gotten the stomach bug, we had a long night together watching a Hallmark movie between trips to the bathroom and Miss A said this has not "been my week."  While I agreed, I said how blessed we were that God had gotten us all ready. My calendar was somehow empty and we had fun things in the craft closet to do.

Little did I know that in a few hours, our heater would go out on a Sunday morning, and the only reason I would be able to call and get a repairman to come was that I was home with a sick child.  By God's provision, I had the heater checked just weeks prior and when I called the emergency number that morning, they said they would have someone out within the hour.

The result was it was a fluke, nothing wrong. No charge.  All because I had the Furnace Check weeks ago.

Finally, on Monday, I "felt" the need to get caught up on the cleaning once again. By Tuesday morning, I had washed sheets, towels and all the clothes in our house.  Hours of washing and folding and putting away. Wednesday morning I went to "fluff" a few items in the dryer and guess what it would not work.  Nada.  Nothing.

I called our appliance repair man and by God's provision the phone call ahead of me was a cancellation and they could come out that afternoon.  I told my husband that after weeks of marathon washing due to illness and guests, the dryer waited until I was all caught up to go out.  Amazing. Now, with a new pulley system in the dryer, we should back on track today. 

Listening to the still small voice has really saved me a lot of headache in the last few weeks. I just need to remember to be "still" myself long enough to hear Him whisper, nudge, and encourage me to act; and then do it!

Psalm 46:10
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Santa Take Two with a Side of Culture.

Friday night was the annual Ethnic Festival we love to attend.  While I did a bad job of taking any photos, I did capture the moment that Miss M decided to "change" her previous request to Santa and add a few caveats.  In other words, she got brand specific, color specific, and laid out her case for why she deserves this gift.

At the end of the conversation, she gave the jolly man in the red suit a big hug while his poor unsuspecting wife looked on.  It was hilarious. I told my husband its too bad the TV camera crew captured the moment from the week before.

We tried to tell Miss M that Santa does not deal in brand specific requests, but since she's playing the Santa card for all it's worth she said Kris Kringle seemed fine with the updated information! 

Mr C, meanwhile, was more interested in finding the ethnic food booths and tasting unknown delicacies from around the world.  He definitely does not get his adventuresome food tastes from his mother.  Both Mr C and Mr P tried their hand at Native American, Croatian and Polish food topped off with Norwegian cookies.  Miss A and Miss M, more like their mother, had Crab Rangoon from China.  I had Diet Coke from the giant conglomerate Coca Cola (don't tell the wall street protesters please.)

Did I mention that we had stopped at Chick Fil A on our way to the Ethnic Festival.  Yes, that's right they have finally opened a Chick Fil-A in the city, and while it's just an express location, we are feeling mighty Southern these days.  Words can not express the joy it brings us to have this icon of Chicken within our grasp.  We soaked up the joy of all that is a chicken sandwich with a pickle on the bun, waffle fries, and all the fresh lemonade we could swallow.  Sweet tea just doesn't do it for us north of the Mason Dixon line.

Really, Friday night was an adventure in all things Ethnic if you consider the South a "culture" which us Midwesterners tend to do since they do have all those weird words and drawls that make their English sound a little bit different.  Plus, if you throw Texas into the mix, they consider themselves their own country so that's cultural too.
Nothing better than some ethnic exploration and Santa smooziing all in one night. Right.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Junie B Experience: Learning to Lighten Up

I'll admit that as a parent I've become a bit of a slacker with the third child.  Blame it on years of parenting experience, reality or age.  I allow her to "do" things that I never allowed her elder siblings to do. Now I'm not talking here about big things or dangerous things nor have I slacked off on moral or value issues.  I'm still tough as nails on TV, movies, clothing etc.

I've given in on Junie B Jones.  Miss M was never allowed to read those books.  The grammar it is atrocious!  A few years back you would have thought that I was evil mother for not allowing Miss M to get all the books she circled in the Scholastic Book Order.  We read real fiction books. Classics.  Little House, Maddie Books, Beverly Clearly and the like where the grammar was real, the kids were cleaver but not sassy, and the overriding theme was wholesome.

The problem is that Junie B Jones books are just the perfect length for Miss A to read on her own and she loves them. A few months ago, Miss A and I read out loud the Junie B Jones book Handsome Warren and lets just say everyone else in the house wondered what was so funny.  Miss A and I were laughing so loud as we laid on her bed.  Miss M ran up the stairs to see if everything was alright.

Now I'll admit when I read out loud the JBJ books, I correct the grammar. I read the "right words" when there are words that Junie makes up.  We use the sassy attitude and sometimes the mean spirit that Junie has towards her friends/parents as teaching moments.  Miss A lives in the real world and she knows how kids can be, so she's not learning anything new.  We realize that Junie B often does things that aren't the best, that she tricks others, or laughs at them behind their backs. 

Which leads me to the final thing we did on Thanksgiving Break; Miss A and a I and a bunch of her friends went to see the play Junie B Jones Jingle Bells Batman Smells.  We had a great time. The actress who played Junie B was hilarious and the girls all had a great time laughing at the antics of Junie B.

Of course, we've now read the Jingle Bell Batman Smells book and laughed again.  But my favorite of all times is seeing that, by reading these silly books, Miss A is even more interested in reading the books that I love so much.  Having the joy of reading sparked by these books has been worth giving up the rules just a little.

I'm thinking that Miss A will find a stack of classic children's literature under the Christmas tree this year to keep that spark alive!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tree Lighting, Santa Visit and Almost Famous....

Our Friday of Thanksgiving Tradition never goes out of style.  Seeing a huge Christmas Tree lit up for the first time just gets you in the mood for Christmas.  The sparkle of the lights and the big wide eyes of my children gets me every time.  Watching Mr. J experience this event for the first time made it even more special.  The wonder and joy.

The boys were thrilled to find that their school was actually part of a big map of the city in the train station.  Small world.  There were cookies to decorate or more accurately overdose with sugar and frosting with a dose of chocolate milk to wash it all down.  Ymmmm

Bestemor and Bestefar found us a fabulous spot to see the big event, and we were thrilled to be the scouts.  My only complaint while I held our place in the Santa line was that I had left my book at home.  It was a long line and I'm not one for waiting patiently unless I have something to read!  I might just have to learn how to use P's Nook so I can "take it with me anywhere."

Mr C's only request was that we not take pictures of him on Santa's lap.  He planned on asking Santa for a laptop and all rights to the photos.  Mr J on the other hand asked for a Ferrari.  Amazingly, at the same time C asked for no photos, a camera crew showed up from a local TV station and started filming Santa.  When I told them that Mr J was from South Korea and this was his first visit to the Train Station (or downtown in anyway), they wanted to interview him.

Sadly, the footage of the interview must have ended up on the cutting room floor.  Thankfully, we have photographic evidence ourselves to prove that we were "almost famous."

We ended the day with a pizza party at the hotel swimming pool room and enjoyed watching the kids "swim off some steam." A perfect start to the Christmas season and a great "new" twist on an old tradition.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Puzzles and Bingo and Turkey Oh My!

Thanksgiving Crew: This fun group of kids, tweens, and teens made for a great day of game playing, football watching, puzzle creating and feast eating.  Our guest Mr J and the cousins' guest Mr D fit into the family perfectly. 

Nana loves to have puzzles ready for us to put together.  This years' selection was a little challenging, but thankfully we brought along a puzzle expert; Mr J .  Miss A had spent a little time helping Nana get ready for the feast and had her Nemo puzzle all finished and ready for us to admire.  Of course, we had to get a picture of this great accomplishment.  I'm not sure Mr J was as convinced he needed to pose for a picture with his 2nd completed puzzle of the day, but I twisted his arm.

The newest addition to the Thanksgiving frivolity was the Bingo Game that Nana had all ready.  Once the kids heard there were prizes involved, they were all in.  I'm thinking a few of these kids must sneak out on Friday nights for Bingo Games at the Catholic Church.  They had some "hot cards" and were winning snacks and candy right and left.

I, of course, was busy knitting away as I have a few Christmas projects I'm working on and that calendar keeps slipping away from me.  It was fun to observe all the hustle and bustle and know that my kids are storing away memories of fun family times.  What a blessing it is to have both sides of the family gathering together once again. 

For my husband, the best gift that this Thanksgiving brought was a victory over A& M.  Too bad the 118 year tradition of these two teams meeting has to end, but he would say at least the Horns pulled out a win.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving: Zoo Trip

By the time Tuesday rolled around, we were all ready for a little break from reality.  It was time to create some new memories and enjoy some holiday traditions.  In other words, Thanksgiving Break was a godsend.

Mr C and Mr J were game for anything over the weekend and Mr J said that sharing a bedroom with just one guy after months of bunking with forty was a treat.  In fact, by the end of the weekend, he might have said that sleeping on our trundle bed was like heaven!

Since our weekend guest had not seen much of our fine city, we decided to try to show him some of the best. First stop was the Zoo. In all honesty, first stop was a Mexican Catana with some of the best tacos in town, but I'm not sure that it constituted the best the city had to offer as it was only tacos.

Mr J told us that his last visit to a zoo was when he was five years old so he was in for a real treat.  The weather was a little chilly; but thankfully most of the animals we wanted to visit were part of inside exhibits.  It can't get any better than walking through a Jungle when its cold outside.  J told us that he was really impressed with the Sand Dunes in the Desert Dome, the orangutan house, and the fact that the Zoo was so large.

It was so much fun to see the Zoo through J's eyes and experience the exhibits and animals for the first time all over again.  It was amazing to watch the lions, tigers and bears with eyes of wonder.  Miss A said that she wishes we could go to the Zoo every week.  She loves the animals and would spend hours just "hanging" around the jungle or climbing on the "apes."  Miss M thought it was so much fun to be the tour guide and show Mr J her favorite spots to watch the monkeys or where her mother always makes the kids take a picture.

We had a fabulous first day of Thanksgiving Break and know that the fun was only beginning.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Balcony Girls: Come On Ring Those Bells!

Bell Ringing Take One.  Our family loves to "Ring Those Bells" during the Christmas season and we already have the date set on our December calendar, but the Balcony Girls really wanted to ring bells too.  Of course on the date we chose, a few were unable to attend, but our small but mighty enthusiastic crew covered two sets of doors at a grocery store on one of the busiest days of the year; the Monday before Thanksgiving.

Did I mention that it was "Free Turkey Day!" It is the day when if you buy a ham you get a free turkey.  Lets just say the crowd was bustling.  During our three hour shift, the girls were enthusiastic, crazy silly, and very festive.  There was singing; Gobble Gobble Turkey Song, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and some form of Turkey Blessings.
When another mom showed up to lend support and brought extra kids along, the competition between the two Red Kettles grew intense.  I was just thrilled that all it took to "wind" this crew up was Hot Chocolate and Cookies!  I'm sure the Kettles were getting more action due to the cute factor of these girls.  Charm might be deceiving, but when you use it support a good cause it can't be all that bad can it?

Nothing brings you greater joy than giving back and, to see the faces of the balcony girls that afternoon, you could tell they were catching that spirit of giving. 

My takeaway from the day is that next month when I ring bells - I'm wearing my snow boots!  My tootsies were cold even if my heart ands spirit were overflowing with warmth and joy.

Of course it was freezing.  Windy. Cold. 
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Thursday, November 17, 2011

We Gather Together? It's All the Same.

We are counting down the days until Thanksgiving around these parts. We are beyond excited for our houseguests and have been marking down the days on the kitchen chalkboard.  Not only are we looking forward to Bestemor and Bestefar's arrival for a visit, but this year we will be having a new guest in our home.  Mr C is bringing home a classmate from Korea for the long weekend.

I'm not sure that Jin Seo has any idea what he's getting himself into.  As Mr C told him when he found out that he was an only child; "I'm sorry I have two sisters, hope you survive."  In reality, we can hardly wait not only to have Jin Seo share in our Thanksgiving traditions, but to get a glimpse into a different culture for a few days.  As Miss M pointed out, we already have the German, English and Norwegian traditions at Thanksgiving, now we'll get a little Korean on the side.

Today, when I needed a little encouragement in the midst of a trying week, I had posted on the bulletin a little verse along with the countdown.  I love the song "We Gather Together" and had written the following "We Gather Together to Ask the Lord's Blessing; 7 Days."

A little while ago, I noticed that Miss A had decided to write her own message (above) her only change "I switched Lord to God, its easier to write."  I love how she taken the liberty of changing "ask the Lord's Blessing" to "celebrate God's blessings."  Her version is right; we are celebrating the blessings He's already given us. 

She's also chosen to take a day of the countdown, it's day six now in her mind.  Gotta love her enthusiasm.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bringing Home the Trophy: Dance Season Begins

On Saturday, Miss M's Dance Team won 1st Place at their first competition of the year.  M was thrilled to have returned to the world of competitive dance. I was happy for M and pleased that while I still cringed at many of the dances, costumes and suggestive moves, Miss M's studio did not "play that way."  Thank you Miss K and Miss A for again showing that it is all about the dance technique and choreography and not about shaking your booty on the dance floor.

Miss M was out of bed early on Saturday morning.  She was unable to sleep because she was so excited.  This girl loves to dance.  All the time.  She loves hanging out backstage and being with her friends, practicing and practicing, and being part of the team.  There is no doubt when you see this girl's face light up on the stage that she belongs there.

I'll admit that I am far from a Dance Mom.  In fact, while I enjoy watching M and her studio dance a lot of the time, I was busy knitting away.  I texted my husband a few times that I was shocked with the dance moves, the costumes, and the music selections of some of the dance teams.  No sixteen year old girl should be on the stage in Lingerie "dancing" to the song Life of the Party. I averted my eyes and thanked God that M was backstage and Mr C and my husband were at home. 

The funny thing is that Miss M and her friends saw some of the costumes and were amazed at how little material was involved in the making. 

I could go on and on about this part of competitive dance which is the part I despise, but this post is about Miss M and I how proud I am of her and her team.  They danced their hearts out and they loved every minute of it. So did this Mom.

Oh, and trust me Miss M was told to "wash that gunk of your face the minute you get home, you are 11 years old and there is no need for makeup."  Then we went with Miss A and Dad to see the movie Puss and Boots. You are only a kid once and I like to keep that way!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

My Ever Grateful Table

I am blessed this month to host another Dayspring Inspired review.  This time it is for their Ever Grateful line of products.  I was thrilled to receive a Table Runner that not only celebrates Thanksgiving and our gratitude to God, but looks stunning on my table.  It's the perfect size for both my kitchen and dining room table (72 inches by 14 inches) and its two sided design shows off perfectly with any fall decorating.

The message on both ends of the runner is "Let There Be Thankfulness to God" and this is really my prayer this month for our family and for our country.  Displaying this message on my kitchen table everyday reminds me to turn my heart toward thankfulness daily, not just at Thanksgiving.  What could be more important than that!

We had company for dinner this past week and it gave me the perfect backdrop to use this table runner as the "centerpiece" for my table. I was able to use my "old" white tablecloth and napkins and they looked fresh and new with this beautiful runner.  All I did was add a few little touches and repurpose some left over ribbon as napkin rings.  Stunning.

I have always loved Dayspring Cards and Gifts, but their new lines of home decor are among my favorite.  Not only are they beautiful, they allow you to have God's Word and messages of faith throughout your home. What a great witness for your guests.

I'm spying a few fun Christmas items that I might want to add to my decorations this year.  Be sure to check out their website for some great items for your home and family.

Finally, in the interest of full disclosure, I must disclose that I was given this Table Runner from Dayspring at no cost, all they asked in return is that I give a honest review of the product.  All comments and pictures are mine alone.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Stop Sign Incident: Body Shop Version

The stop sign incident is now fully in my rear view mirror (love that car humor), but some of the life lessons I've learned are still fresh. 

Thankfully, after a trip to the body shop, my "new" van looks as good as before and the physical evidence is no longer.  I'll admit I'm so happy to have it perfect again. For a few weeks, it was almost like my hood was laughing at me.  I might have even closed my eyes each time I walked in front of the car. Call it avoidance, but I think of it more as protecting my damaged heart.

The office staff at the Jr. High says that while the "incident" will always be a part of school lore, they hope it doesn't stop me from bringing my famous chocolate chip cookies to spoil them.  I think I might have told the secretary that calling me the 'stop sign lady' might take her off my Christmas Camels list. Not that I'm petty.

I will say that the grace and kindness I've received from my husband has been a real blessing.  Not once did my insurance agent husband raise his voice or call me on the carpet for such a "dumb act" of driving.   Even when I told him the final estimate price, his response was "it's just an accident, no harm" and he was willing to give me his car for the three days I was "carless.'  Of course, he did get to drive around in a Honda Accord Coupe in pristine condition thanks to a kind coworker.  I think he only put about 15 miles on it, but he loved every minute of his return to youth.  He used to drive a Acura Integra before kids and I think there are days he really misses the sport car life.

I was also humbled by how kind and honest the Body Shop workers were,  Not once did they laugh at "how" I ended up in their shop.  They not only gave me assurance that my car would look good again, they said I was fine to drive it for a few weeks until I could fit the repair into my schedule.  Their price was nearly 100 dollars less than the competition and that was before I told them they had come highly recommended from our old body shop friend who had retired.

Driving away with my van last week, I was shocked that the car smelled like a new car again; the seats and floor had been vacuumed and they had left me with a box of Russell Stovers Chocolates as a thank you. While I hope I won't be needing their services anytime in the future (please God), it's nice to see such honest hard workers who go above and beyond.

I'm chalking this whole experience up as a learning lesson in grace, patience, kindness of strangers, and the need for stop signs to be permanently placed in curbs and sidewalks.  They just don't belong in the middle of the road.

I'm just saying.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans' Day: Thank You for Your Service

In honor of Veterans Day, the Girl Scouts at our elementary school led the entire student body in a Flag ceremony and Pledge of Allegiance followed by a moment of silence   It was a moving experience to stand among 600 young children in perfect silence in gratitude to those who have given all for their freedom.

Let's be honest, there might have been a few tears rolling down my face when I thought about the gravity of what some in our country have "given"by  not only in laying down their lives, but for the mothers and fathers and wives/husbands who have sacrificed so much for me.

On days like this, I'm so proud to be an American and so grateful to God for all the blessings He has poured out on our Country.  Thanks be to God.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Little House is still a Big Part of our Family

It's been a few months since we took the girls to the Little town on the Prairie, but we are still talking about our trip and enjoying bits of Laura in our home. 

Miss M had to give a presentation in school on a famous person whom she admires.  At first, she was thinking of Taylor Swift, but after awhile she changed her mind and chose Laura Ingalls Wilder.  "There is so much to admire about Laura.  Her whole life was an adventure."  Miss M said and I agreed.  She focused on how different the Little House television series was from Laura's real life.  She wrote about how the show started out pretty accurate, but as the years went on the plot included made up characters and events.  Miss M pointed out that Mary actually went blind in real life way before she did on the show!

Of course, "we" had to put in a few hours of research watching the Little House series on Hallmark Channel, finishing up the books, and reading lots of websites devoted to Laura's life.  Miss A has now become a great fan of all things "Laura" too, and we often watch a little bit of the show before school.  The other day, Miss A told me that she wishes she'd lived in Laura's day.  However, when I explained what "all" that meant; chores, no TV or computer, sharing a bed with M, and oranges and red mittens for Christmas, she did change her mind.

Miss M did a fabulous job on her project, putting together both a creative and in depth display board and a great power point.  Not surprisingly, she came home with an A and kudos from her teacher for going above and beyond.   Now, she's trying to come up with a way to go to Missouri to see Laura and Almanzo's homestead.  A girl can dream.

I love that a great family vacation has now become such a big part of our family life.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Balcony Girls: Sweet and Sour Words

I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, but I'm loving the Balcony Girls materials and walking along this journey with a special group of girls.  Our meeting topic on Monday was gossip.  Whooza.  If that doesn't hit home with a group of preteen girls (and their leader), I don't know what would. 

Junior high can be rough.  The comments and rumors that go around in a typical day can eat away at a young girls self esteem. My goal for this meeting was to help the girls stop the gossip and to help them think of ways that they could end a conversation that was going "sour" easily.

We played the game "telephone" while the girls were working on their fleece blankets for badges and it was hilarious the way the words changed as girls whispered ear to ear.  I think at one time the phrase was "I like kicking soccer balls" and by the end of the line, the new phrase was " Cantaloupe is a yellow fuzzy ball."  Nothing like seeing how words can get mixed up as they spread.

What I really enjoyed was seeing the heart of these girls; they get it. They know that words can hurt and that half of what they "hear" at school is nothing but gossip and false truths.  It's hard to see through gossip when you are eleven years old because it sounds so fun and innocent, but these girls really grasped how much it can be sour.  They grasp how words can pierce and things can quickly snowball out of control  Many have been on the bad end of the gossip and hurtful words.  Each girl had great ideas on how to stop a bad conversation and how what might sound like caring is really gossip.  These balcony girls have deep insight.

I loved it when the girls asked if that's why the snack was Dreamsicle Slushes since they were both sweet and sour; just like gossip.  Words that might sound sweet and really meant to be sour.  Are these girls the best or what.

To keep it real, they did complain a little this week.  They couldn't believe that I expected them to cut out their own fleece blankets. They thought I would do the hard work for them like I have before. I told them I full trust in them that they could lay it out, pin it, cut it and tie the knots.  I believed in them.

I think it was my own daughter who said that I sounded so sweet saying it like they were growing up, but it was a little sour that they then had to do all the work! Love these girls.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cornicopia or Hodgepodge Whatever You Want to Call It...

Just for the record books or in my case the scrapbooks that keep sitting on the craft table starring at me, here are few real life things from the past few weeks that I want to remember. None are all that exciting, but they are the glimpse of our day to day life that I don't want to forget in the years ahead. It is in list form because it's easiest and doesn't require complete sentences!

1.  P and I celebrated our 18th Wedding Anniversary on Sunday November 6th. Amazing. We enjoyed a great date day on Saturday when we went to the NU Game and saw the Huskers lose to Northwestern. Shocking.  I told my parents I don't think I've been to a winning Nebraska game in years. We tend to go every year around our anniversary or when they played Texas.  Maybe the team should ask me to stay home next year!  It was a great day for football and we had so much fun talking without interruption.  Score, I even knitted on the car ride.

2.  Our actual anniversary was spent at church and then at a pancake benefit for one of Mr C's classmates families.  I hate Pancakes and all Breakfast food, but ate some as it was for a good cause. My husband actually tried to say it was like taking me out to eat!

3. Mr C wakes up about 30 minutes before he needs to go to school each morning.  He calls this his "transition to awakeness time" and its crucial for him.  He also wakes up each day and says "I think I might dress up today?"  Hello, he has no choice; its his uniform.  Sadly, he's grown a little more lately and all the dress pants we bought him in October are beginning to look short. 

4.  Miss A was helping me the other day before school to sort the dirty laundry.  She loved it. The piles of colors and whites were so fun for her make.  She did everyone in the family's overflowing laundry basket.  She told me not to ever do this again without her help.  Where is that enthusiasm from the other children.  No one offers to help put it all away when it's clean either.

5. Miss M has her first dance competition this weekend.  Its a local event and includes an all day dance convention. She told me that she's so looking forward to this weekend, but she needs me to purchase some more hair spray.  Can't have that dance bun falling out I guess.  For the Saturday event, she told me it's OK if I bring my knitting along, but I need to remember to watch when she performs.  As if I'd miss it.

6. We boxed up our Operation Christmas Child boxes last week and I've never been so excited to think of the boys and girls getting their packages.   Friday night, the whole family went to the Dollar Tree and filled the boxes to the brim.  Mr C picked out some fun things for a little boy and, of course, the girls picked girls their ages to shop for.  It's very hard to go shopping to buy things for others and not leave with anything for yourself, but it was a great life lesson for the kids. 

7.  Finally, we are a little old fashioned about Christmas decorating (at least I am) and won't allow anything up until after Thanksgiving.  I always feel so bad for this non commercial holiday, it gets lost in the commercialism of Christmas.  So sad.  Anyway, I've obviously been too vocal on it.  On the way home from Church on Sunday, Miss A announces that she plans on going to the house on the edge of the neighborhood and tell them you must take down your "Halloween decorations before you put up your Christmas decorations.  Come on people, it's lets not forget about Thanksgiving!"  We kept a close eye on her Sunday afternoon and did not let her ride her bike too far away!

Whew.  I feel a lot better getting all those "things" off my chest.  Now, I can know these memories are safely kept right here and giving me more brain room for Thanksgiving planning.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My Creative Bunch of Trick and Treators

I'm not really a fan of Halloween.  I love Fall and I love the idea of pretending and dressing up.  It's the "other side" of this holiday that I don't really like.  It is not only because as a Christian I find many of the secular side a little evil, but because I think the scary side of the holiday has taken over the fun parts.

As a child, I have great memories of picking out a fun costume to wear, having my mom make me a costume (I had a great clown costume and she had one that matched!), or making a costume out of old clothes and dance outfits.  We had a pumpkin or two on our porch and a few Thanksgiving decorations and that was it.

Do you know that Halloween has become the 2nd most decorated holiday?  Right after Christmas.  Really.

That being said, I still allow my children to participate in some fashion in the Halloween festivities, I just really work to make it as acceptable as I can.  I volunteer to help with the party planning at the elementary school, I supervise the costume ideas, and always have them focus on either things they would like to be when they grow up, funny creatures or animals or just plain adorable outfits.  Rarely, if ever do we purchase a pre-made costume. We make them. 

Now before you think I sew and am all creative, I'm not.  We use "real clothing" that can be re purposed later as clothing we wear, use felt and glue guns, cut up boxes, milk cartons or plastic tubs. Whatever is needed.  We use my mother to sew.  We try hard to make costumes that are neither offensive, scary, evil nor inappropriate. 

If you think its easy to find pre-made commercial that fits the bill, you are wrong which is why we make them.  Who wants a hooters looking outfit on a seven year old?  If you think I'm kidding about outfits you should read this article.  Amazing is only reasonable response to all of this.

This year Mr C handed out the candy at the door, but earlier in the week had an opportunity to dress up for his schools' dance.  He went as the Travelocity Roaming Gnome.  Not only did he look smashing, he scored some great slippers as a result and now has soft and comfy clothes to do homework in at night.

Miss M went out with a group of girls as a Spa Girl in a soft and fuzzy robe, new flannel PJ's and a facial cucumber mask.  She looked the part and except for the fact she took a shower after "all that walking," she could have just gone to bed.

Miss A's outfit could have been one of most favorite ever. It's in the running with the Amelia Earhart, NASA astronaut, and Clown Costume.  We called her the Bathtub Girl, but her uncle thought she was the Bubble Bath Girl.  It was super easy and really only required us to cut up a big bucket, blow up a few balloons and add a shower cap.  Miss A now has some sweatpants to wear for BB practice too!

While my family's way of celebrating might not work for everyone, it is what is best for us today.  In our old fashioned way of participating, our kids have fun.  We have opportunity to talk about why we celebrate the way we do and I get to see my kids enjoy a childhood ritual of dressing up and pretending. I hope that part never goes out of fashion.

Monday, October 31, 2011

By Grace Through Faith:Mr C's Confirmation

 Mr C reaffirmed his baptismal vows on Sunday at his Confirmation.  He stood before the congregation and acknowledged that it was only through faith in Jesus and by his amazing Grace that he can enter heaven one day.  He received the blessing of words and prayers by the pastors as they shared his confirmation verse and prayed that God will also be the focus of his life.

I'm so grateful for that his confirmation is not the end of Mr C's faith journey.  He does not see confirmation as a graduation from learning and growing in his faith and knowledge of Jesus. Rather, the knowledge he's gotten from three years of confirmation classes have encouraged him to look deeper into the Word.  He's asked deep questions about faith, doctrine, and Biblical truth.  These lively discussions have been just another spark in his soul (and ours).

I love seeing Mr C's heart and hearing his deep faith grow and mature.  I'm proud of the man of faith he is becoming.  The testimony of his faith is evident in the choices he's making and the goals he has for the future.  I know there will be bumps in the road and there might be times that he will doubt or question his faith or God's plans.  My prayer is that the Word he has hidden in his heart, the faith that is deep in his soul, and the Grace of God will build him up in times of trouble.

My husband and I know that God has big plans for Mr C in the future and are anxious to see how they unfold.  Our prayer is that Mr C will always live out his confirmation verse and that it will be the life verse that leads him daily.

Of course, to celebrate this big day, we had a great dinner at our new favorite Thai restaurant.  Mr C tried the Thai Iced Tea, but quickly realized that he's more of hot tea fan.  Miss M of course was willing to trade with her brother!  Miss A even enjoyed the food, which if you know her, is rather impressive.   P and I decided that we are now entering the phase of "dinning out" where its worth it to go a little nicer and enjoy the experience.  Who knows Miss A might even request a real restaurant next year for her birthday. No more BK for us!

Romans 1:16 New International Version (NIV)
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

She's Trained and Ready

Miss M is now Infant and Child CPR trained as part of her Red Cross Babysitting Certification training . This means she's now ready to babysit real live children. Your children!

Miss M along with a few of her friends and fellow Balcony Girls spent their day off last week sitting in a classroom for six hours learning all about taking care of children, how to save their lives, and what to do in case of an emergency.

M learned how to interview the parents of prospective babysitting families, the proper diapering of babies, how best to handle strangers at the door, choking children, and what to do if your customer is late returning home.  I sat in on a little of the session and I'm not sure how I ever took care of my own three children.

The girls learned how to give CPR to babies and it was not the old fashioned rescue breathing way, but by chest compressions.  Miss M supposedly got a little carried away, and might have broken a few ribs but the "child' survived.  Isn't that all that really matters. Hopefully, this is a skill she'll never need!  I've been CPR trained for years and am thankful its a card in my wallet I've never needed to "activate."

I can hardly believe my little girl is at the age that she could be in charge of other children.  Not because she's not ready, but where have years gone?  She was the little girl excited to have a babysitter come to our house to play.  She was the girl who would wait at the door for her favorite sitter so they could make crafts and read books.

Now, she'll be the girl that other little girls and boys are waiting for, the sitter that moms will call because they know Miss M will play with their children and not just sit on the couch reading a fashion magazine.  Mr C told his sister that, if she did a good job, she could earn good money and buy herself the Itouch she wants.  Of course, he could buy one today with all his umpiring money.  Miss M said with Christmas coming maybe he could just be the good brother and buy her one today!

Miss M made up some adorable little cards announcing her skills and newly acquired certificates.  She can hardly wait to hand them out to Miss A's little friends' families.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Life Lessons: Not Everyone is a Winner

There are winners and losers in life and sports.  Often, as parents and coaches, we might try to sugar coat this reality, but our kids see through these veiled attempts to make everyone feel like a superstar.  Just go a little league baseball game or soccer match and even when no one keeps score, every player on the field knows who scored the most points and won the game.  We might say "everyone is a winner," but the reality is sometimes we lose, often the other team is better than us, and some days we get out played and end up in second place. Or worse.

Mr C just finished his first ever season of Football as a freshman.  He played on the freshman only team and then suited up for a few Reserve games that had both freshman and sophomore players. He wasn't a star player and he didn't get in on every play.  But when he played, he gave his best.  One game he even got "hit" and was thrilled that he even had some bruises to show for his effort.

Now, I think Mr C would be the first to admit that his school is not known as a football powerhouse.  They are a small school with about 220 students in four grades, but due to the fact the school wants to compete against bigger schools in academic competitions (drafting, engineering, speech, math, science), they "play up." and compete against these bigger schools in athletics as well. 

It can make the match ups in football especially a little uneven. In football, its all about having depth, multiple players who can play a particular spot.  When you only have 62 boys in the freshman class, its hard to be very deep.  Don't think I'm some football expert.  All this info I've gleaned this year on the sidelines was from my husband.  When I cried foul the first few games thinking the other team was stacking the field with upperclassman, my honey tried to calm me down by giving me these insights.

All of this leads to the fact that Mr C's team did not win a game this season. At times, they were crushed by the other team and other times they put up a gallant fight and just fell a little short.  What I was most proud of was how they played the game.  Each and every time, they gave it their all, they never gave up, they never lost spirit and each time they went into the game with the goal of winning and giving their best. 

Watching the Varsity team play with the same result while seeing and hearing the school body cheer for them with gusto brought me great pride.  These upperclassmen continued to fight until the end, to give it their all on the field, and proved that real winners don't necessarily win games or awards, but show grit and determination.  The lessons these young men are learning will take them far in life.  In reality, few of these young men will play football in college, the scholarships they earn won't be for their achievement on the playing field. 

There is something to be said for being a gracious loser. Showing up on the field and giving it your all when time and time again you walk off the field with a loss takes courage, faith and strength that you don't always see in young men (or women) today.  It's an old fashioned trait called Valor which means great courage in the face of danger, especially battle.  Seeing it among these young men and their coaches gave me such hope for this generation.

Valor is a life lesson that can only be achieved when you've been through the battle and fought the good fight.  There is so much to be said for that.  In my book, these young men are the real winners in life.

Friday, October 28, 2011

This Girl Loves to Have Fun

Miss A had Thursday of last week off from school for Parent Teacher's Conferences.  As the sole elementary student in our family, it meant that she was all alone in having a day off.  Perfect excuse for a trip to our favorite children's museum about one hour away with one of our "little" friends.

We had a great morning exploring Space, Water, Gravity, Farming and the world of Engineering.  Really, where else can you experience so much in so little time?  Miss A's imagination was running full as we played each other in football and volleyball, as she grocery shopped to fill her basket with healthy choices, and trying time and again to make a ball go up a chute of piping tubes. 

I've been to this museum probably two dozen times with various children in our family/friends and cousins and its a fun experience every time.  Miss A and I had a fun time with our little buddy and his Mom.  According to Miss A, our lunch out at the Noodles Company allowed her to eat her favorite Mac and Cheese ever.  It's so yummy and made with real to goodness cheese.  "Well  I do like your Pioneer Woman mac and cheese too mom, but this is really good."  I believe those were Miss A's words when she saw my sad puppy dog face.

I love to watch this girl of mine have fun and experience new and old things.  She is a real joy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Balcony Girls: Lesson Two, Pumpkin Crafts and Confidence

I'm really loving leading this group of sixth grade girls through the Balcony Girls material.  Yesterday was our second meeting of the year and, since it was a week before Halloween, I used the fourth lesson which included an adorable craft you make with pumpkins.

Thankfully, this meeting did not involve a "life lesson" for the leader. 

The topic was Confidence and from the look on the faces of the girls as we sat around the dining room table, it hit home.  I loved the visual of crumpling up a crisp twenty dollar bill and asking the girls what the value of the bill was now that it was all crumpled up and messy.  The examples of gossip, rumors and friends breaking your trust as a way you might get "messy"  really struck a cord with each girl. 

Making our Pumpkin Flower Pots and getting all "messy" on the deck and digging out the guts of the pumpkin so that we could put a little "beauty" back into it was a great visual.  My back deck was a mess of pumpkin seeds and potting soil at the end, but it matched my previously clean kitchen with the remnants of the "homemade apple pies" we made as our snack using biscuits and apple pie filling. Yummo!  But a little mess was so worth it in order to connect with these girls and pass on these life lessons.

It does my heart good to be leading these girls through our Balcony Girls/Scouting year.  Next on the agenda is to make homemade fleece blankets to display our GS patches.  We've even talked of creating our own balcony girl patches so we can remember these lessons in the years to come.  Better get my creative juices flowing.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Loving Uniform Life

Mr C is really enjoying wearing a uniform to school. No, really!  Seriously!  In fact, he might be enjoying it so much that he's thinking we should petition the elementary and Jr high schools his sisters attend and convince them to implement uniforms.  He told Miss M that she and her friends would really benefit from uniforms.  It would allow them to sleep in more, no stress over what to wear, and they would do better in school because they wouldn't be looking at each others clothes and shoes!  Gotta love how quickly he's jumped on this bandwagon and how "willing" he is to pass on his knowledge with Miss M.

Last week was Spirit Week at Mr. C's school meaning the "uniform" rules were waved a little bit to allow for some celebration.  Monday was Crazy Sweater day and I'm sad to say that mine was closet he raided for that event.  Mr C said he got a lot of complements on my Norwegian Sweater. I told him to hold his tongue as it's still in my rotation of wearing ( I love it still B& B- almost 12 years later) and at least I don't have any Christmas sweaters anymore.

Tuesday was Flashback day and he asked his father if he had any "old fashioned" ties that he could wear.  My husbands response got a big laugh from me and a confused reaction from the rest of the family.  He stated, "All my clothing is old fashioned, you are the only people who get new stuff!"  Guess this makes Christmas shopping easy, he wants new ties.  ( I could go into how my husband is now jealous of C's fresh new dressy wardrobe including new shoes, ties, and dress socks but I'm not stupid, P reads this blog)

Mr C's flashback day outfit however was the best ever.  He wore his father's University of Texas fraternity shirt.  P wore this shirt to carry in the big Texas flag at UT games!  It fit like a glove and I think my husband might have been the one having flashbacks to his old college days.  He might have even threatened C not to spill any lunch on it and might have suggesting stripping at lunch to protect the shirt.  Thankfully, it's a single sex school! 

Mr C said that he got quite a few cheers and jeers wearing the UT shirt and he came home without a spill on it.  Thank goodness.

Wednesday was mismatch Day which meant that Mr C, who normally prides himself on wearing smashing outfits, went to school with a tie, shirt, and pant combination that clashed.  Let's just say I think he looked like your average young man. 

Thursday was the last football game of the season, so the boys were allowed to wear Spirit Gear and they could even wear jeans to school.  A sweatshirt and jeans !  Mr C was excited, but admitted that while it was fun to "dress down" he really did notice a difference in how the day went and how it almost didn't seem like school.

I'll admit I'm loving uniforms too, however it has made sock put away a little more difficult.  My husband says I should just put the "nice" socks in C's drawers and the "holey" ones in his.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Trip to the Apple Orchard

We are always in search of fun fall things to do as a family and last Sunday's family outing was probably one of our best in the past few years. We went to a small town nearby known for all things "apple" and had a blast exploring nature, picking apples, and just marveling at Gods' beautiful creations.

We could not have asked for more perfect weather.  It was sunny and in the mid sixties; perfect for a light sweatshirt.  Our first stop was a tree farm that Miss M and I had visited a few years ago with her Girl Scout Troop and we enjoyed sharing the adventure with Mr C and Miss A.  There were hammocks to make out of fabric, a tall tree house to climb, and a trail that took us deep into the woods. 

Miss A complained that she had never walked so much in her life, but the huge smile on her face told of her joy.  Mr C believed that the sign declaring the trail at 2/3 of a mile was just to trick unsuspecting guests into venturing out on a forced march.  In his "expert" opinion, it was closer to 2.5 miles!  (The Boy Scout comes through)  Miss M's only complaint was that there was so much to see "off " the trail including big drop offs next to streams, walking paths that promised treasures, and of course trees that would have been perfect to climb.  Too bad mom and dad are such rule followers that we made her stay on the path.

There were so many photo ops; the bridge over the leaf covered stream, the walking path covered with leaves of all colors, and the "three little bears" chairs that were just adorable.  Even big man Mr C looks mini in that big chair.  Next year, we are dragging the kids there in their Sunday best and capturing a Christmas Card moment.  This year was all about making the memories and having fun.

Finally, our afternoon would not have been complete without a trip to the orchard for "pick your own apples."  When the hay rack ride driver told us to be sure to sample the different types to help us pick which ones we like the most, some members of our family took him at his word.  I think between Mr P and Mr C a least 10 apples were consumed.  Miss A and I decided that Jonigold were our favorites, while Miss M and the boys are divided between Winesap and Braeburns. 

Really, can anything taste as good as fresh fruit right off the tree? They are right when they say that Fresh Local is the best!  Our ten pound bushel of apples is nearly gone, just a few days later and I was told in no uncertain terms that I should just leave them plain, no apple crisp, no apple pies (which is good since I don't know how to make pie crust anyway.) or any other apple "snack."

We finished off the afternoon at the cafe eating apple pie, sampling apple wines and apple slushies, and resting our happy bodies before calling it a day!  I think this could become one of my favorite top ten days of the year!  Happy family equals Happy Momma.