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.