Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas 2011

Christmas was quite the celebration around here!  See for yourself...
click to enlarge

We had early risers, the Christmas story in bed, stockings, Christmas coffee, gifts, a yummy breakfast and then we headed to church.  We've decided that going to church on Christmas morning is awesome and we should do it every year!  What better way to celebrate our Savior's birth then gathering with His church to worship Him?!!  We were fortunate to be able to share a Christmas dinner with a full table of family and friends.  A wonderful day full of His goodness and grace that fill our lives!

Friday, December 23, 2011

December in pictures

So I don't forget it, the big and small...
 my three favorites...Christmas tree hunting
 the perfect Blue Spruce made its way home with us
 all dressed up and heading to "The Nutcracker"
 family tradition- Lebanon Christmas Parade
 best seat in the house at the parade
 Christmas crafting- torn paper trees
 progressive dinner with our home group
 good friends, sweet girls and good food
 Christmas program at church
 my two little cheeseballs
and again with my favorite peeps
 700 toys bagged up and ready to go
 what consumed much of my December- Toys for Tots
 cookie helpers-Mati was so proud of "his" apron
 little dough snitcher
 my big helper
 showing off their efforts
 the artists' work!
early gifts-hooded towels that became capes that became Mary and Joseph costumes

It has been the merriest, and definitely the busiest, of Decembers!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas in the making

Life has been full and good and busy the last week and there's no end in sight! I know this time of year is busy for everyone and we're no exception. It is the busyness that threatens to overwhelm me and make me miss what this season is all about: Our King who came, who is coming again. Ann Voskamp's words always encourage and restore me and that's never been more true then in some posts she wrote last week. Here's a few excerpts...

"Still unfolding it: the only place to be fully alive is right here.

There are dishes in the sink and balls of yarn on the floor and boots at the back door.

I profane this moment when I don’t stay in it.

Be all here: and be holy. Because the Presence of I AM always fills the present moment.

When I am mindful of this moment, the mind fills with God and the heart fills with peace, and joy-thanks fills the prayers, and isn’t the only way God can come to us is through the door of this moment?"

And this thought that I'm constantly coming back to, using it as a gauge for how I'm spending my time...

"Whenever Christmas begins to burden, it’s a sign that I've taken on something of the world and not of Christ. Any weight in Christmas has to be of this world."

There is joy in the serving and giving and reading and crafting and wrapping and choosing and when it becomes heavy to me, I need to step back. There has been lots of reevaluating and putting aside of some things that "we always do" and I"m okay with that. I want Him to be the focus, not our traditions or stuff or experiences. I want-no need- to be in the moment and allow Him to be there with me. I want it all to point to Him and He's helping clear my eyes to what that really looks like. It might not look that different on the outside, but the view from my heart has shifted.

And I love what I see.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmas Projects: Noel Sign

Raise your hand if you love pinterest?  Dumb question, right?  I've been so inspired by projects I've seen on there and this is my latest creation.  The original idea is from Pottery Barn and their version is made from forged metal, so this is not the same at all.  But that's the beauty of it all, one idea spawns another and we create something beautiful to us with our own stamp on it.

I followed the directions found here, but found that hot glue didn't hold and Cale ended up screwing the letters together.  Much sturdier!  MDF letters from Michael's painted in umber and crimson and they really look like stained wood.  My house does not have good lighting at all so these pictures stink, but you get the idea!  I wanted to show what it looks like on the wall but since its gray and dreary my already dark living room is really dark!  I love how it turned out and it cost me about $12 and an hour of time.  A great, easy project with big payout- these look great in my living room.  That's my kind of crafting!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

We had a great Pennsylvania Thanksgiving with my family, despite a nasty stomach virus that hit my mom the day before.  I thought we were going to have to cancel Thanksgiving if we all ended up sick.  But I'm happy to report no one else did and the holiday went as planned.  We just didn't let mom touch anything and she stood in the kitchen and bossed us all around to get dinner on the table.  It was delicious, as always!
Kids table
and the grown-ups table
We did our annual Black Friday shopping and completely enjoyed the early opening times.  We headed out around 10pm and hit Walmart, Target and Kohls and were home and in bed by 2:30am.  And we all got exactly what we were looking for.  Black Friday shopping gets such a bad rap, but we really love it.  And we didn't meet any mean or crazy people.  So fun!

Friday afternoon we enjoyed another family tradition, our sleigh ride.  Except it was 60 degrees and breezy so it was a wagon ride.  But fun regardless!  This was our fourth year and our third without snow, but we don't care.  The kids love it!  They each get a turn driving the horses and halfway through we stop at a cabin for a little break.  At the cabin we have snacks and the kids put on some sort of short play/program.  This year's was a hit as we figured out what Christmas is all about: Christmas is Christ.  Growing up we went on sleigh rides for several years with my grandpa, aunts, uncles and cousins and I love creating the same kind of memories with our kids!

Haven's turn with the horses.  She loves it! Mati would have nothing to do with it!
The kids getting ready for our show!  Then it's time for hot chocolate, caramel corn and humdingers!
 Trying out the horses before we headed back
 And of course the biggest kid couldn't be left out! 
The whole gang: Thanksgiving 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The God Who Sees

You wouldn't think that a 10 minute drive could land you in another world, but it does.  It happened last night.  We got in the car and when we stepped out, we were there.  A place where people don't know where the next meal is coming from.  Where the wallet has eight crinkled dollar bills that need to last to the end of the month.  Where it is hard to trust God cares because no one has ever been trustworthy.  Where hope can look like a sack of potatoes or a jar of peanut butter being shared.

I went to Renee's house last night.  The world would look at our encounter and say that she was the one who was blessed because of our visit.  But I can tell you that is completely untrue.  We stood on her porch, arms weighed down with bags of groceries and called out that we were from the church.  She slowly made her way to the door, untangling her oxygen line as she went. Once she realized what was going on, she began to cry and so did I.  I was overwhelmed by the goodness of our God who sees.  He saw that Renee had cooked the last of the food in the fridge for her son.  God saw that there wasn't enough money to get through the month.  He saw her shoulders stooped low from the weight of worry.  He sees her sick heart and failing body.  He sees her downcast spirit.  But He also sees a heart that loves Him and trusts Him and gives Him all the glory. He heard all three of us praising Him together; for His perfect care and perfect timing.  That He allows me to be the tiniest piece of His puzzle in her life...reminding all of us of His care and love in everything.

As Cale and I walked back across the front of her house, her voice could be heard, raised in praise to the God who sees.  Renee helped me to see Him more clearly. Sure, we gave her a few bags of food, but what we walked out of there with was far, far greater.

Don't be fooled.  Hope really does look like a sack of potatoes.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Only treats at our house

Our little monkey and "It's raining cats and dogs!" get-up

 Already wound up before they got the sugar load!

 Haven carved her pumpkin herself this year (left) and Mati told Cale what he wanted
A fun time had by all!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

weekends are good for... and purging and making room
...finding ingenious inventions at every one's favorite Swedish store
...making a pot of soup that was my favorite as a child
...getting those little items checked off my list

...carving pumpkins
...making a list of Christmas presents
...catching up on some reading and The Cosby Show with my kids
...cheering my team to a win
...curling up with my love to watch a movie

Monday, October 24, 2011

Peanut Butter and Honey Popcorn

I first started making this popcorn recipe last year and my kids love it!  For some reason it is a fall-ish snack to me so I haven't made it in almost a year.  The kids were delighted when they saw it spread out on the table when they came in from playing outside.  It's really easy, different, but delicious!

Peanut Butter and Honey Popcorn

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
1/2 sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 bags microwave popcorn ( or 16 cups popped popcorn)
brown grocery bag

Make popcorn according to package directions.  Place popped kernels in bowl and then sift through popcorn to place it in grocery bag, careful to not get any seeds.  (Biting on one of those is a major bummer!) In medium saucepan, combine sugar and honey and bring to a rolling boil.  This will take a few minutes.  Remove from heat and add peanut butter and vanilla.  Stir to combine then pour mixture into bag on popcorn.  Shake vigorously to coat the popcorn.  Spread out on cookie sheets or waxed paper to cool.  Note- this popcorn doesn't harden like caramel corn.  It's stays soft and somewhat sticky, but not stuck-in-your-teeth sticky.
It makes a great treat for school parties or fall activities.  These are all packaged up and ready to go with Mati to his Harvest Party tomorrow at Tuesday School.  Free printable bag labels are from here.  I printed and cut them out and them folded in the edges of snack size ziploc bags and stapled on.  Easy and so cute!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Nine years...

Nine years of saying yes to you.
That yes has taken me places I never could have imagined as we followed Him together.
Where will the next nine years of yes, to each other and Him, take us?

I have no choice/I'd still choose you

Source: None via Kate on Pinterest

Friday, October 14, 2011

More gifts

Let's end the week where we began, with a thankful heart ready to receive His gifts.
The love and joy this boy fills my heart with daily.

Fifteen years of growing in understanding of God as my Father and trusting Him accordingly.

That He can and will redeem anything from the darkest of days.

The sun rises and His mercies are new today.

Memories that bring a smile to my face.

Brilliant orange leaves, slowly making their way to the ground.

Friends who see all the junk in my heart and love me still.

Kindness being exhibited in my kids, however fleeting.

Evidence of his love for Jesus and servant heart that I still see even today.

Hayrides, pumpkins and apple cider- good stuff fall days are made of.

Knowing deep in my heart that I was (and am) loved and cherished.

Hope of heaven.

All these things and a thousand more besides.  What are the gifts you're enjoying today?

Monday, October 10, 2011


Hair blowing in my eyes as the wind whips through open windows and sunroof.

Blazing blue skies and a backdrop of beautiful changing leaves.

Apple picking and the sweet tart goodness of a freshly picked apple.

Her eyes lighting up in recognition at my arrival.

The papery thin skin as I bend to kiss her cheek and tell her I love her.

His hand that gently wipes away the tears of overwhelming that flow.

A sweet sleeping boy and a sweet reading girl in the backseat.

Plan B leading us a different way today.

Savoring every word of a favorite book being reread.

Taking the back roads toward home.

A picnic in the sunshine.

All of it a gift; grace undeserved.

Choosing today to be thankful for every moment. 

To let myself be caught up in the current of grace that is my life.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The not-quite-camping Camping Trip

Last weekend we were fortunate enough to get away with our home group from church to some beautiful property about an hour from our house.
Unfortunately, it was only this beautiful outside for about 2 hours of the whole trip, but we didn't let that deter us from having fun.
 These two earned some sort of merit badge from the weekend.  Despite the cold, rainy, windy weather we decided to still attempt sleeping out in the tent Friday night.  We put the kids to bed out in it (alone- no one else was stupid enough to attempt tent camping when there was a nice warm lodge to sleep in!) and they never once complained about being cold.  They slept through til 3am when we carried them inside because we couldn't hack it.  I'm not sure if it was the 38 degrees or the 20mph winds that really did me in!  Either way, having the lodge as our back-up plan was awesome!  As were our friends who didn't get mad when we woke them up banging our way inside and helped us get set up and warmed up.
The kids didn't let the cold wet weather deter them from their one true goal this weekend which was fishing.  I took no pictures of it because, hello, it was cold and wet out there!  But they went out 3 different times for at least an hour to fish and loved reporting back on who caught what and how many.
 Love this guy even though he made me sleep out on the cold ground!  He more then made up for it with the perfectly cooked pizza mountain pies he made me.  He knows the way to my heart!
 Late Saturday afternoon the clouds broke open and we got out there to enjoy as much sunshine as we could. The property we were on used to be gravel pits that are now a series of small lakes.  There were tons of trails, but it was too wet to try any of them out.
How much do I love these two?!  And this picture!  Mati's actually smiling appropriately which is a rare occurrence!  (See above picture for proof!)  Mati loved playing with his buddies and just general running around all weekend long.
Thanks to our friend, Sandy, Haven discovered her love for checkers this weekend.  She spent hours, usually in front of the huge fireplace, playing checkers with whomever would play.  Hello, great gift idea for my girl!

So we didn't really camp on our camping trip, but we still had a blast!  Good friends, cooking food over the fire, staying up late playing games, kids enjoying themselves and a huge fireplace to keep us warm. Who needs a tent to go camping?!