Monday, December 31, 2012

December 2012 Review

The last month of the year was very full!

A friend who moved to Florida came back to town for a really short visit. We had dinner and talked for hours.100_2798

Katie counted her cash and we realized she has saved over $200 for Living Water International. We decided to start a fundraising page so we could donate it and get the cash out of her room and into the hands of those who can do something with it!_MDS2511

Mommy fail #1: instead of doing our Journey to Bethlehem tradition, we decided to skip it this year and do some other activities instead. A town near us has this thing called Christmas Traditions, and there are Santas dressed in period costumes (and other holiday characters) who roam the shopping district. You can collect their trading cards and join in the fun tracking them all night. I thought our kids would love doing that, so we showed up one Sunday evening at 4:50pm. Yep. Only to find out it all ended at 5pm. Sharp! We walked around with the kids anyway, window shopping and taking photos. Fail.IMGP3177

A few days later, I planned a Mommy win. I dressed the kids in their jammies, we loaded them into the car, and we drove to a nearby park for something called Celebration of Lights. There were thousands of lights on display. We arrived to find out it was the ONE night of the season when the park was closed to driving traffic. It was the only night for walk-through tours. Yep. Fail again.

That same week, Santa was supposed to visit our neighborhood clubhouse. I was SURE that would work out well since I was planning it and there were no chances for a walk-through tour. (Ha.) Until I got the call from Santa that he hurt his back and couldn’t make it. I scrambled for 4 days until I finally found a Santa who could save the day._MDS2565-

Girl Scout caroling in our neighborhood helped set a happier holiday tone.IMGP3230

Finally, the Celebration of Lights visit turned out to be a success.IMGP3281

And so did the Christmas Traditions. Here’s the Frontier Santa with Dan and the kids.IMGP3301

We finally ventured out on our first gluten-free fast food trip. (Thank you, Chick-fil-A!)IMG_2034

Dan and I celebrated our 17th anniversary with dinner after what has become our traditional gift to each other in the last few years: serving at church. Dessert was cheesecake and a half-baked cookie topped with salted caramel ice cream. Yum!IMG_2054

Katie also baked her first all-on-her-own cake at Grandma’s to celebrate Christmas, an uncle’s birthday, and our anniversary. When it was time to decorate, Grandma gave each kid a third of the cake to decorate._MDS2768

We celebrated Christmas a day early with my in-laws, who accommodated my work schedule. Can you tell what Katie’s favorite two gifts of the night were? A Mizzou hat and a frog pillow!_MDS2771

I got to work serve five different Christmas Eve services at my church. I was so excited to be a part of it. This photo doesn’t do the stage design justice. The room was filled with tiny twinkling lights. The worship music was inspiring, the message was breathtaking, and I was in awe of the amazing people I work with and the incredible God I serve._MDS2792

Dan continued my lifelong tradition of having Dad read The Night Before Christmas._MDS2809

The big day arrived!_MDS2856

After a huge meltdown when Jackson had trouble figuring out how the new Wii works, the kids spent much of their Christmas break attached to the TV screen._MDS2861

The afternoon of Christmas Day was spent with our extended family. (And this isn’t even all of them!)IMGP3349

A cousin from my side of the family was in town, so we had lunch with him, his wife, and his daughter.IMG_2077

I got to second shoot a wedding with my photography mentor.IMGP3608

Dan and I escaped town for two nights on a belated anniversary trip. We went to our college town where we met twenty (!) years ago. He took me to see the movie Les Miserables, and it wrecked me. Our first morning in town, we woke to find snow falling. We walked through campus and visited our favorite spots. It was a great getaway. Maybe I’ll publish a separate post about our trip back “home” soon.

_MDS3459 (2)

We were gone for New Year’s Eve, and the kids stayed at their grandparents’ house. Here they are, celebrating the arrival of 2013 in Greenland with sparkling grape years eve in greenland

Welcome to 2013!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

What Didn’t Make It Into Our Christmas Card

I’ve mentioned before how much I love Christmas cards. I love sending them and I really love receiving them.  I love photo cards and I love the family newsletters that people send, and had trouble for the longest time trying to decide which of those two types I should send. While I love the newsletters, I often wondered if people really cared to hear all the details of our lives. Maybe a simple photo would suffice? But those of you who know me personally know that I can’t keep quiet. I have to send details!

A few years ago, a solution was born: I started a Top Ten List to highlight the things we would remember most from the past year. I have never shied away from the negative parts of our lives (they are responsible for growth, you know), so I make sure to include a negative if it really did change our life that year. For example, I included Mom and Dad’s deaths in my Christmas cards those years.

This year, our Top Ten List looked like this:

  • 10. E & D visited Georgia for her 20th high school reunion.
  • 9. K’s first week-long overnight camp.
  • 8. D & E got to dress up as VeggieTales!
  • 7. Visited LEGO Discovery Center in Kansas City, then 1st visit to Mizzou as a family.
  • 6. J diagnosed with a gluten allergy.
  • 5. Both kids started karate lessons.
  • 4. K turned 9 and started 4th grade.
  • 3. J turned 5 and started Kindergarten.
  • 2. New jobs: E part-time at The Crossing and D started at XYZ. (Changed for privacy.)
  • 1. We are blessed with another year to worship, serve, and rejoice in our King!

In writing this Top Ten List, I realized it is technically accurate but desperately lacking. This past year was immense for our family. So as an addendum (only to be published on this blog and nowhere else), I came up with a list of Items That Did Not Make It Into Our Christmas Card.

  • Planned a class reunion
  • Had the sex talk with Katie
  • Small blurb published in FamilyFun magazine
  • D started attending men’s group
  • Pulled two of Katie’s teeth
  • Got speeding tickets (I won’t say who)
  • Recurring heartburn
  • Computer crash
  • Food poisoning
  • Photo appeared in local paper
  • Six Flags trip
  • Photo shoots: 2 weddings, 5 families
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Skin cancer
  • K bridged to Junior in Girl Scouts
  • Countless mommy fails
  • Musicals: Lion King, Les Miserables
  • Church construction
  • NEW: car, sushi cravings, roof, tires, vacuum, phone, jobs, insurance, J’s diet, favorite TV show (Impractical Jokers)
  • Friendship changes
  • Strep throat
  • Karate started, then karate ended!
  • E classes at church: Explorations, Body Life, and book study
  • Trips: Georgia, Florida, Kansas City, Columbia
  • Had the Santa/Tooth Fairy/Truman the Tiger talk with Katie
  • D turned 40

There are other things I would love to mention, but I would sound like an ungrateful whiner. I do not want to appear unhappy by any means, because this year shot my life satisfaction level into triple digits. However, for all the highs there were some major lows. All the newness and changes were great (I mean, seriously: I get to work in a job I prayed TWO YEARS for! Dan’s job is an answered prayer! And… and… and…), but those changes stripped me of comfort in wonderful – and wonderfully painful – ways. It got to the point by the end of the year when even “good” changes were occurring, I simply couldn’t process them any more. For example, Dan’s new phone that came with his new job? That sent me into a tizzy because I couldn’t (and still can’t) remember how to call him some days because I didn’t know his new number and kept calling the old one instead. In the grand scheme of things, that’s no big deal. Seriously. But when you’re in a year of such big change, having some basic stability is necessary for sanity. There were some weeks where I felt NO such stability. (Or sanity. Ha.)

But the bottom line is I am ending the year a happy woman. 365 days ago, I had no idea about the Mack truck that was heading my way. Today, I can truly say I am grateful for the truck that flattened me because I had to rebuild and calibrate my life into a new normal. I let go of things that didn’t fit me any longer, and some other things let go of me. It’s all good, but I’m hoping for a quiet start to 2013!

In writing this, I just realized the last time I had a year like this was 2008. Katie started Kindergarten, I was diagnosed with lupus, and we left our old church and started attending The Crossing. I can look back and see how God shook things up for me that year, and I ended the year in a place of new beginning and closer to Him. Kind of like how I feel this year too!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Advent Calendar

I have an unexplained fascination with Advent calendars. Maybe it’s because I like To Do Lists so much, and Advent calendars are a physical way to cross something off a list. To me, opening another door in a countdown box is like getting mail on a Sunday!

Years ago, a friend had a LEGO Advent calendar for her kids. I bought our first one in 2010. They are expensive (about $40), but who doesn’t like LEGOs? The problem is I have two kids, and I’m too cheap to spend $80 for 24 days of fun. So in 2010, I also had 24 Christmas books that we read each night after the kids took turns opening a door in the LEGO calendar.

In 2011, I still had the plastic insert from the inside of 2010’s box. Click here to see what I did with the plastic insert last year, in addition to buying the 2011 LEGO calendar.

This year I used the same plastic insert, but made it Better! Than! Ever! and had to share.

Last year’s insert was transparent. Even though it was covered in tissue paper and wrapping paper, it was too easy for peeking eyes to see inside. So this year, I started by spray painting it red. That helped!_MDS2499

I folded 24 pieces of paper into origami half-boxes to fit the top of each hole. It sounds crazy, but I figure if I do it once I won’t have to do it again. Since the lids are snug in the holes, I decided they needed a handle or a knob for pulling them out. This is my brilliant addition:_MDS2505

I took spherical thumb tacks and poked them through the center of the box lids, then put a pencil eraser on the pointy end of the tack (the underside of the box lid) to hold them on._MDS2501

I punched circles out of matching paper and wrote the door’s number on it before gluing the circle to the box lid and sticking it in the appropriate day’s spot._MDS2498

What’s inside the countdown doors? Little globes with Ickee Stickeez inside (Squinkies with suction cup bottoms) that I found on clearance, plus a gluten-free chocolate coin. (I realized too late that white chocolate coins have gluten, so Katie had to open the odd numbered doors with the white chocolate coins and Jackson opened the even numbered doors that had regular chocolate coins.)_MDS2500

I bought the regular LEGO Advent calendar again this year so the kids could take turns opening both calendars. Turns out the kids loved my homemade one way better than the store-bought one. Next year, I’m planning to skip the $40 price tag and turn this year’s empty into another winner!_MDS2496

Sunday, December 2, 2012

November Thankfulness

Each year starting on November 1, the kids start writing a gratitude list on leaf stickers to attach to our Thankful Tree. I never posted last year’s list (I had foot surgery and got a little behind), but this year’s list was very similar to 2008’s, 2009’s, and 2010’s lists.

Katie’s list: friends, family, God, food, entertainment, love, birthdays, neighbors, church, our treehouse, the couch, school, books!, sleep!, bacon, clean water, music, the Bible, pineapple, chocolate, geocaching, hikes

Jackson’s list: Liam, Lauren [teacher’s baby], pets, Mrs. XX [teacher], my famuley [family], movies, my birthday, Dade [Daddy], my skabrd [skateboard], gum, pets & pizza, Toys R Us, crees [trees], Katie, tigrs [tigers], skoll [school], spidrs [spiders], teeve [TV], books, Mage [Maggie – Grandma’s dog], Adam, momee [Mommy]

Throughout the month of November, I decided to post things I’m thankful for on Facebook every day. Here are my posts.

1. It was a good day. I'm thankful for that!

2. I'm thankful for a church that brought me Home, and a Savior who doesn't give up on me.

3. Tonight, I am thankful for the blessing of friendship. Two friends spent their evening walking through a grocery story with me, giving me tips and tricks for living with a food allergy. Thank you, Gina and Brian! You are an inspiration to me, and make me feel much more confident and educated. Another friend organized a love ambush from 15 women I have never met. They texted me to thank me for something I created which they received. It was an amazing feeling to hear my phone chime over and over again with words of encouragement. Thank you, Jilly!

4. Yesterday, I was thankful for peace offerings and small steps toward restored relationships.IMG_1827

5. Tonight, I'm thankful for sleep and the 10 hours I got last night. I felt like a new woman all day! I'm so glad God made our bodies with built-in reboot systems.

6. I added today's sticker to my collection on the closet wall. I'm thankful for all twenty years I've been blessed to wear this badge of honor! (And, no, the collection is not complete and doesn't include EVERY voting sticker I've ever worn... just those I happened to save! Along with my Oscar Meier Weinermobile sticker, blood donor stickers, church name tags, and Museum of Transportation stickers. Quite the hodge podge.)IMG_1837

7. Today, I'm thankful that my Leader wasn't elected. Say what you will, but my life was changed when I stopped following religion and chose to follow the King instead. My hurts ache less, my joys have multiplied, and my hope has been secured. In the midst of a changing world, His love is unfailing and everlasting. Christ is my Leader, my Redeemer, my Savior and my best friend. I didn't elect Him; I invited Him in to my brokenness and surrendered my life to Him. It changed my life, and that kind of change is good!_MDS7455 follow_edited-1

8. Today, I'm thankful for new beginnings. There are too many to name, but this photo I took yesterday illustrates just one of them. Yep, outside the window is a John Deere tractory-thing-a-ma-bob in my church's back yard._MDS2168

9. I'm thankful for the adoration my kids feel for their daddy. This was the view this morning at her bedroom window, as they waited on pins and needles to wave to Daddy as he pulled out of the driveway. When he gets home from work, they argue over who gets First Hug. (Luckily, we started a new system based on whether your birthdate is an odd or even day and whether today is odd or even. It has helped lots!)IMG_1850

10. Today, I'm thankful for technology. It allows me to log in to the office on Saturday nights (Google Drive), watch old TV episodes on the couch with my honey (Survivor), take photos of my friends and family (DSLR!), connect with people from  all the circles of my life (Facebook), go to church any day of the week (, read a book in the dark at bedtime (Kindle), look up great ideas for every hair brained idea I have (Pinterest), and make the kids laugh with the Afro Circus song (YouTube). We live in a great world, my friends!

11. Today, I am thankful for the Uncommon generosity that made my church possible: those who came before me 20+ years ago and started meeting in someone's living room, and the brand new ones I got to register today for their first visit to The Crossing. Happy 1st birthday to my church campus, The Crossing at Mid Rivers!IMG_1861

12. I'm thankful that my sister heard something in my voice and knew I needed someone to listen, so she called me back instead of going to bed. I'm thankful she's a teacher and can give me feedback when I need it, and I'm thankful she is a bossy big sister who reminds me to snap out of it with her words of wisdom: "Yellow isn't the end of the world." I love you, Mary! Thanks for being such a good substitute for Mom and Dad.1975-10 MMS & EAS on brown couch

13. Today, I'm thankful that I get to work with a group of unpaid people who give of their heart and soul to teach little ones about grace and joy. From the team of ladies who come in on Tuesdays and tirelessly scrub toys and organize lessons and help me decorate rooms (and make Pinterest-worthy contraptions like this sticker holder!), to the dedicated 100+ volunteers who show up on Sundays and donate their time in making our church a safe, caring and dynamic place... I am so grateful that I get to spend my days being surrounded by people who WANT to be in my "office" (my church). Talk about job satisfaction!IMG_1872

14. Today, I'm thankful for the medicine that treats my lupus and Raynauds Syndrome. I am blessed to feel as good as I do, and I would be miserable without it. Thank God for researchers, doctors and nurses who help make modern medicine happen!

15. I don't understand how I can be a college-educated, responsible, middle-aged (!) adult and yet I still burn the bacon Every. Single. Time. I cook it. So tonight, I am thankful for a husband who brings home the bacon AND cooks it soooo much better than me!
(And I'm thankful for the parents who taught him to be such a good husband!)

16. Tonight, I'm thankful for these people. They make me so happy and I love sharing stories with them. God is so good to make people like you!_MDS2263

17. Thankful that I get to spend today at a Holy Yoga retreat with my friend Jill. Can't wait to see what today holds!_MDS2281

18. Today, I'm thankful for this little soul God has allowed me to shepherd. She is a light in my life, even when she is full of spark and fireworks. Today, I got to walk her first labyrinth with her [at Delmar Baptist Church]. Tonight, she asked me about camera techniques so I taught her focal points and depth of field. My girl is my heart!_MDS2350

19. My knees still ache a little, but I don't mind. Tonight, I'm thankful for the reminder to slow down and kneel at His feet often!_MDS2295-2

20. Forgot to post this last night: I am thankful for my kids' Grandma and Poppy, and that my children will grow up with so many memories of being loved by their grandparents.

21. Tonight, I'm thankful for this little guy. He is scrappy, passionate, and his love is all-consuming. His life has changed quite a bit these last few weeks, but he is rolling with it beautifully and only had one food tantrum (darn Froot Loops!). Tonight, he didn't understand why he couldn't have the money in his Living Water donation jar, until we spent time remembering kids who don't have clean water. The next thing I know, he's digging in random spots where he has hidden pennies all over the kitchen (like a squirrel) and putting them in the jar. Atta boy!IMG_1912

22. Thankful for extended families: the one I married in to (who I can always count on for a hike after a holiday dinner) and the one I was born in to (and I'm trying unsuccessfully not to miss tonight). They are the ones who remember our stories and can tell them back to us. Thankful that they tie our yesterdays to our tomorrows.IMGP3090

23. Thankful for laughter with these crazy goons.IMG_1923

24. Thankful for THIS. That I get to spend an hour each week worshiping, then learning from some of the most gifted teachers I've ever met. Beyond grateful for this indescribable gift!IMG_1928

25. Tonight, I'm thankful for my kids' school - and that it's in session tomorrow! They have great teachers who take such good care of them and partner with us parents to encourage learning at home too. Teachers are a blessing in my life!

26. Thankful for beautiful movies that remind me what a splendid world we live in. I got to see one of them today. What is your favorite movie? I have nine and can't decide on my very favorite.

27. Driving behind a student driver today, I thought of all the things I have mastered and taken for granted. Tonight, I'm thankful for lifelong curiosity and the ability to keep learning every day of my life.

28 & 29. Today's thankful post is a two-for-one deal for today and yesterday. I'm thankful for days OFF and days ON: A day OFF with my husband yesterday, and a day ON for him as he started his new job today! I'm thankful for new beginnings.

30. A few years ago, I started this texting thing with my friend Jill. We began sending each other scripture, as a way to keep God in our lives every day. That texting has now grown into an abundant blessing (and a ministry) in my life. Tonight, I am thankful for the friends, family, and neighbors who let me fill up their phones with God's love letters to us. These people allow me to enter their lives and periodically respond back with incredibly moving stories of how a little text changed their day/week/life. I'm thankful that God uses technology to continue speaking in new ways to us!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

November 2012 Review

November had my head spinning with so much change and activity.

We started with annual leaf jumping with the neighbors._MDS2127

Special trips to find new gluten-free food. This visit was to Andrea’s Gluten Free Bakery.IMG_1836

One of my favorite places on Earth is getting a new addition! This is the baptismal pond behind my church. It was dug up and then filled in as my church started construction on a new phase of the building._MDS2160

We got a new roof on our house!_MDS2175

We had a special reading night at the library. Katie got to read to the biggest dog I’ve seen in a while.IMG_1848

Jackson’s dog seemed tiny by comparison!IMG_1849

Jackson went to his friend’s cool superhero party. I was asked to do a superhero photo booth. This is the “comic book” version of the birthday girl’s superhero photo. So cool!upload_ma8u66hkhbpn2n79ao16qi8g31412994.jpg-final

I dug out my mother’s wedding dress and Katie begged to wear it. Speechless…_MDS2222a

Katie and I attended a cookie exchange party with some of the volunteers I work with at church. We played a silly ice breaker game (the one where you have a famous person’s name stuck on your back and have to ask questions to figure out who it is), then went around the room telling how we found our church and what moments are most memorable to us from church._MDS2263

I spent an entire day at a Holy Yoga retreat. I so enjoyed this day to worship and meditate on God’s goodness!_MDS2293

Katie and I played with our shadows. This photo makes me happy._MDS2362

November was foggy._MDS2482

Foggy nights mean fun with light painting photography!_MDS2453

We said goodbye to Dan’s old car, and bought a new one on Black Friday. This is the old one. His name was Petey. And would you believe I don’t have a photo yet of the new one? Ha!IMG_1920

We experienced a first for our family: after 16 and eleven-twelfths years of marriage, Dan and I bought our first real Christmas tree. We went to a nearby Christmas tree farm and took a tractor ride to the fields.IMGP3122

The kids enjoyed playing “spy” in between the trees.IMGP3132

And petting horses, donkeys, goats and camels.IMGP3113

We finally selected a tree to take home.IMGP3128

And got to sing “I’m the happiest Christmas tree./Ho-ho-ho, hee-hee-hee…” all the way home, where we decorated our scented beauty. (I’m writing this post at the end of December, by the way. And that tree has been crooked for an entire month. I’ve convinced myself it adds character!)IMGP3161

The last highlight of November is something I can’t illustrate with a photo. After ten years, Dan left his job and started a new one on November 29. It was the cherry on top of a year full of immense change for our family. It’s a great move for him, and provides lots of opportunities for advancement. I am so proud of him and how he handled the move with integrity and heaping amounts of prayer. Dan and I both know he’s exactly where he needs to be at this time in his life. Watching God work through the entire process was inspiring and humbling.

And now, we’re ready for December!


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