Showing posts with label Family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Family. Show all posts

A Happy Review Of A Rough Year



This time last year, none of us knew how much of a roller coaster 2020 would be! Despite it being very stressful from a political and world events perspective, on a personal level there are still blessings to be found as I look back on it now.  I have written one of these yearly recaps every year for the last 12 years, and I will continue because it is an exercise in gratitude.  It's a way to count blessings that may not seem as obvious, because even in hard times, the Lord's grace to us is there when we look for it.

January



January was a relatively quiet month.  We started out the year with a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, and a horrid cold that last for 2-3 weeks for me and Derek (knowing what we know now...well, we wonder what that was, because we haven't gotten sick since).  Then we settled back into our school routine. At this time I was attempting to take a step back from our co-op, because it was turning out to be harder on our family than I thought.  We did squeeze in a trip to a local historical museum with one friend, and a hike with another, along with a date night for me and Derek!  We saw 1917, which inspired me to start my World War One personal study project.



February


February started off with a flurry of snow days, including one storm that dropped over a foot of snow on us.  In the middle of one of those storms, the girls went to a daddy/daughter event with our church, all bundled up in princess dresses and snow coats.  We also had the first of many car problems that would plague us in 2020 - a new transmission was installed, though we are not even sure if the transmission was truly the problem.  We also celebrated Wyatt's birthday, a very bittersweet one for me as I realized he is halfway through his childhood now.  We made valentines to give to our cousins and friends, and spotted a tiny bit of greenery poking through the dirt in town.  We enjoyed a family hike at a local state park. I also had a girl's night out with some friends, and we discussed the rumored virus.  I remember saying I didn't think it would be that big of deal...hadn't we made it through several other varieties of flu - bird, swine, etc - just fine?  Joke's on me I guess.




March 


This month started out like every other March I ever remember - brown, muddy, a little boring.  We got out and enjoyed the warm weather, and saw our friends one day at a McDonald's play place, were I was informed that if I didn't want to run out of toilet paper, I might want to grab some, because it was selling out.  I was honestly shocked at this, very surprised at the level of panic.  A few days later we went to a train museum with my sister, and the next day we snuck in a trip to the library and stocked up on books. Our co-op was cancelled for the week (little did we know it would end up being cancelled the rest of the school year). The day after that almost everything was shut down, including our church.  We had the first "church at home" of what would end up being way more Sundays than I thought.  As our opportunities to get out of the house dwindled more and more, we worked on letters for our family and friends, and I learned how to make whipped coffee.  At the end of the month our governor issued stay-at-home orders, but I still went out for takeout scones in my car every Friday, and it was a much-needed outing.  We also made it a point to go on hikes as much as we could for exercise and fresh air.  People weren't meant to stay inside all the time. 




April


Finally in April I stopped obsessively checking the news for changes, and realized I just had to live my life. Derek started building a playhouse for the kids, and I continued with visits to our local coffee shop for takeout, found several fun projects for the kids, and enjoyed some unseasonably warm weather which we celebrated with going out for grocery-store popsicles - eaten in the car.  Easter came and went, and it's the first Easter ever that we didn't start the day by going to church. The kids were especially disappointed that we couldn't do our usual sunrise service, but we did still enjoy an egg hunt at Grandma's house.  We celebrated Clyde's birthday as he turned 6 years old!  I usually try not to rush the summer vibes, but this month I did.  In my mind, everything would be better in the summer.   Later in the month I organized a photo scavenger hunt for the kids that we did from our car, as well as weekly family movie nights and Sunday school "parties" through Zoom.  We all had cabin fever, but we tried to do little things to make the best of it.

On The Blog: Certainty



May



The weather started to warm up, and we enjoyed more days running around at parks and going on walks.  Mother's Day ended up being a favorite for me - we went on a nature walk with Derek's mom, had a picnic lunch overlooking the mountains for me, and then visited my mom in the afternoon.  We finished up the school year earlier than expected, thanks to having so many Saturdays at home with nothing to do but school.  I had the kids pick out some books for summer, and we finished the school year with donuts.  Derek installed a greenhouse on our porch and started growing various vegetables and flowers.  At the end of May the beaches in Texas reopened, and we took a road trip to spend a week in Galveston.  It was a perfect refresher for our family - I don't think I realized how stressed I was about all the pandemic stuff until we got away for a few days.  Though it was an eventful trip, with a problem with our beach house and an ear/throat infection that required an urgent care visit for antibiotics, we mostly just enjoyed the water and pool and restaurants.




June


We got back from vacation at the start of June, and I determined we were going to have a good summer even if it wasn't totally "normal".  But the parks opened, and our church reopened for in-person services, and just those two little things made a huge difference.  I made a big summer to-do list that included hikes, playing in creeks, craft projects, and lots of summery food.  We also planned an ocean-themed birthday party for the boys with our friends and family, after delaying it for several months! Derek and I got out for a date that involved mini golf and takeout, and we went fishing for my birthday.  We celebrated Derek on Father's Day.  And overall we just enjoyed the warmer weather and the break from school.




July



We found some fireworks to watch on the 4th of July, which I was so grateful for since so many shows were cancelled.  Then a week later, Derek surprised me with a weekend getaway to a Gaylord resort for our 12th anniversary!  We enjoyed the night away and getting to lay by the hotel's pools without worrying about anybody not being able to swim.  We also made the trek to our county fair, which included a free circus show and rodeo events.  I was so proud of our little county for continuing with the fair, since so many counties had cancelled theirs.  We had a couple hikes with friends and did more at-home summer activities like sidewalk paint, homemade play dough, and local sightseeing at historical sites and national monuments.

On The Blog: Homeschool Curriculum Chat Series - Science, Language Arts, History, Math, Bible



August



We started gearing up to restart the school year in August, but not before we sent off the summer with a little more fun - campfires (before wildfires got out of control and a ban was instituted), porch camping, and finally a trip to Arches National Park and Black Canyon Of The Gunnison! It was a beautiful trip, even though it was short.  It was a trip that felt truly energizing instead of just stress-relieving, as our vacation in May had been. Derek finished up the summer with getting the roof on the kids playhouse, while we had our first day back to school.  Wyatt started 4th grade, Gwen started 2nd, and Clyde started 1st.




September 


We had some wild temperature swings in September, including a first snow!  But overall it was a fairly mild month, and we spent time outside studying plants as we learned more about botany for our homeschool science.  We also ended up taking a weekend trip to Nebraska for Derek's cousin's wedding.  It was lovely, and I read quite a lot of my World War One book in the car.  The kids started Awana at church, which gave them a regular outing, and gave Derek and me almost weekly date nights.  At the end of the month we celebrated Clarice's 5th birthday!  



October


October always brings a lot of fall fun with it, and this year we managed to squeeze in a trip to a corn maze, and a fall hikes at the peak of color.  I took our annual fall family pictures at my parent's house.  Derek started gearing up for hunting season, and I started teaching the kids how to embroider (we're still working on it).  We took a trip out to our friends' ranch and had a lovely visit with them, as always.  I also flew out to Montana with my mom for my cousin's wedding - it was a whirlwind trip, but I'm so glad we went!  At the end of the month we went target shooting, and I went deer hunting for the first time in about 8 years.  I got one on the first morning, thanks to my great hunting guide (Derek)!  We celebrated Georgiana's 3rd birthday at the end of October!  We also did our little Reformation Day activities that have become a tradition for us.




November


Derek spent several weekends hunting in November, so we didn't do too much at the beginning of the month.  We voted on November 3rd, and then I spent the rest of the month obsessively reading the news and being stressed about the dubious election results. We visited with friends, kept plugging away at schoolwork, and just enjoyed time at home.  On Thanksgiving we enjoyed seeing our family and thanking the Lord for getting us through a very unusual year.  Then we cooked a second Thanksgiving dinner for our own little family, just because.



December



Even though this December was just as busy for us as any December is, it somehow still felt more relaxed.  We enjoyed a trail of lights with my family, a Christmas party with my extended family, a Christmas party with our Sunday school class, a winter hike, and a trip to see my grandpa.  Even though restaurants were targeted for closing indoor dining this month, we still went out to eat on the patio or in outdoor tents during our Awana date nights. The kids and I decorated a "night tree" with dried fruits and popcorn for the deer, and we read a lot of Christmas picture books to go along with school.  We visited a train museum with friends on Christmas Eve eve, and it was so nice to have a field trip after having so few this year! We went stargazing in the mountains, the darkest place we could find, to see the "Christmas star", a connection of Jupiter and Saturn.  We somehow managed to squeeze visits with both sides of our family in on Christmas Eve, and then we enjoyed a quite Christmas Day at home, opening presents, playing games, and watching movies. In the week between Christmas and New Year's I became aware of some invasive privacy policy changes to Instagram, and after a year of censorship and activism on the part of the big tech giants, I'd had enough. I prepared to say goodbye to Instagram and Facebook, probably for good. (You can find me on Parler and MeWe now!) We celebrated Derek and Gwen's birthday after Christmas, with my girl turning 8 years old!  We finished off 2020 with a family movie night at home, which seemed an appropriate and comforting end to this crazy year.







Even though last year was a rough year, I am so thankful for the way the Lord has carried us through, and the way He has blessed our family this year with time together and fresh perspectives on what really matters.  I want to remember that as we head into 2021!



Currently | September 2020

 

Appreciating...the long weekend, because Derek should be able to make good progress on the kids' treehouse!  

Stressed about...the fact that it's supposed to snow NEXT WEEK.  As in September 8th.  That is way too early for snow, and I am so nervous that all the leaves will immediately die and fall off, and there will be no Autumn to speak of.

Anticipating...the two weddings we have coming up in the next month.  I haven't been to a wedding in five years!  These are also the first weddings I've ever traveled out of state to attend - one in a neighboring state for Derek's cousin, and one for my cousin that will require a flight north.  It should be an adventure, especially in these, ahem, times.  If you've flown recently, please let me know what to expect.

Collecting...resources on civics and the electoral process, since I decided this is the year to introduce these subjects to my kids for real!  I've got quite a stack going, and so far our little civics lessons have been pleasant.  Right now I'm focusing on elections, and I think I will move on to other civics topics throughout the year.  I've avoided having to go in-depth on the three branches of government so far, so maybe that will be next.

Starting...Awana.  This is the first year my kids have ever done Awana, and I'm glad we have enough space in our schedule to include it!  We have always had too many sports, co-ops, etc, in past years to fit one more thing in.  But this year, for finances and other reasons, we cut out alot of our other activities, so it was the perfect year to give Awana a try.

Finishing...the ten books that I told myself I would finish before October.  Or I'm attempting to finish them anyway.  It's been too tempting to start a new book, because fall brings with it different reading moods for me!  I have six more books to finish (I removed one that I know is just not going to happen).  I need to get a move-on.  What are you reading lately?  What do you consider a fall-ish book?  I started a re-read of Anne Of Green Gables.  I couldn't help myself.

Enjoying...nature journaling with the kids.  I never felt like I could get the hang of nature journaling, but this year it is coming easier.  I credit this entirely to the kids' botany curriculum.  Turns out it's alot easier to nature journal when you have some knowledge about plants!  They do, after all, make up the bulk of the living things out there.




Making...chocolate chai masala truffles from this cookbook.  It's on our "Friday Fun Day" schedule for school today.  Is it a stretch to include making rich chocolate treats for school?  I'm going with no.  Kitchen skills and fractions.

Drinking...the pumpkin cream cold brew at Starbucks.  It is just so good!  But I'm only drinking it occasionally, because Starbucks prices are getting outrageous (I say this every year, yet I still get pulled in by the pumpkin).

2019 In A Nutshell



Every year I write a year-in-review - it's quite possible that no one finds these interesting but me.  But it does my heart good to look back on everything that happened in the previous year - the surprises, sorrows and stresses, joys and beauty, the things that delighted me, and the things that didn't work out quite the way I wanted them to.  To see God's hand through it all and thank Him for the ways that He has worked in our family, and in my heart, over the course of one year.  So I'll try to make it interesting to read for all of you, but just know that these years, reviewed here on the blog, are something I need to do for me too.

Without further ado...

January



-I started the year out with making goals for the first time in many years.  Post coming about how that actually went...

-We finished up renovating the kitchen and Derek started on the master bathroom.

-We made the difficult decision to explore some of the other churches in our area, because of some drama that went down at our current church.  This led to a months-long period of discouragement for me as we realized the pickin's, for what we are looking for in our area, were pretty slim.

-I did a day-in-the-life series on Instagram - I always think it's fun to go back and watch these later.  It always brings back fun memories.

-We visited the stock show, and the kids loved it.

-Georgie started walking, and quickly took off!

-We braved a snowstorm and visited the "butterfly zoo", which was a nice spot of tropical in the middle of all that winter.


On The Blog: My Favorite 20 Books From 2018,  Four Quick Reminders About Teaching Children The Bible

February



-We went sledding at my parent's house with my sister and her family!  It was so much fun, and made me feel like a kid again.

-We did a field trip the the Nature and Science museum with friends!

-We bought valentines for friends.

-Wyatt turned 8 years old.  We had a fun day celebrating him with a trip to Bass Pro Shops and the movies!

-We had my sister over for Valentine's Day for a little mini party.

-My mom watched ALL the grandkids for me and my siblings, and we had a rare date!  We saw Ralph Breaks The Internet at the dollar theater, because we're fancy like that.

-We went on a winter nature hike.

-I started a classics book club with some friends from my college days!  We started reading Far From The Madding Crowd.

-We continued our church wandering, and I felt so untethered and lost.  I felt deeply discouraged all through February, and realized I was overloading myself.  I stepped back from a few things, which helped with my stress levels, but not with my discouragement.

On The Blog: Dear Candy Hearts | Little Letters Vol. 1, How's School Going? A Mid-Year Homeschool Update


March 



-We got alot of snow, and I came up with this list of reasons to like snow, in response to an unusual amount of local friends complaining about it.  We live in the Rocky Mountains, people!  It's going to snow.

-I finally started to get into a morning routine and I began getting up before the kids - something I've wanted to do for a long time, but it has been too hard with young babies before this year.

-I celebrated the 12th anniversary of the day I met Derek!

-We got hit by a bomb cyclone.

-We visited the zoo amidst the snowy remnants of the bomb cyclone.

-Clarice drew our family portrait.

-I got a sinus infection and the kids got another stomach bug.  We never threw up as often as we did in the 2018-2019 winter.

-I really started struggling with how much time I was spending on Instagram, and I wrote about it a little bit.

-It started to warm up toward the end of the month, and we enjoyed a park day!

-We did an "inside the orchestra" field trip with our co-op, and the kids loved playing around with the instruments!

-I thought I was starting to come out of my doldrums and discouragement, but now I think it was just the initial bounce-back from cutting things out of my schedule in February.

On The Blog: How Do You Balance Homeschooling With Toddlers?, How We Connect With Other Homeschoolers, Why We Keep A Traditional School Schedule, Why I Read Middle Grade Books

April


-My discouragement came back with a vengeance, and after sprinkling in exhaustion and some people problems, I spent a couple weeks basically just crying about everything.  I was so relieved when Derek called my parents so I could go to New Orleans with him for a work trip.  An escape and reset was really badly needed at that point.

-My dad gave me some encouragement too.

-Clyde turned five years old!

-I got back into taking the kids on "mom days", and had alot of fun on my mom day with Gwen!  She also lost her upper front tooth.

-We had a wonderful and refreshing trip to New Orleans!  Ate alot of Beignets, took a couple plantation tours, listened to alot of jazz.  I came back with a fresh perspective, and things finally started looking up for real.

-Tried a new egg-coloring method with the kids.

-We celebrated Resurrection Day!

-We noticed a sore on our dog's neck, so I took him into the vet and we found out Harvey had a tumor.  Tumors in dogs are most often cancerous, and we really thought we were going to lose him. He had surgery to remove the tumor, and thankfully we found out a couple weeks later that it was benign!  Apparently it was a type of tumor normally found in cats.

-Took another trip to the zoo and admired the thousands of daffodils they had planted!

-Derek took the boys to see spring practice for his college football team, and he scheduled the girls and I for a Mermaid Painting Tea Party.  It was not something I would have ever dreamed up, and so much fun!

-I got jury duty - something I've always wanted to do is participate in the civic process through jury duty!  But the trial got cancelled before I could go.  Maybe someday.

On The Blog: Currently | April 2019, An Easter Memory



May


-We continued the bathroom renovation, and finally finished it up this month.  I forgot how long bathroom renovations take.

-Clyde and I got a mom day this month, and he helped me pick out some flowers, since I was itching for something summery around me.  Good thing I didn't plant them yet though, because it snowed again in May.

-I discovered a really pretty back room in our local library, and have enjoyed many blogging afternoons there since.

-The trees finally flowered late!  It was a weird year, because we usually get pretty flowers in April.

-We celebrated Mother's Day in a nice, laid-back way, and it was perfect.  I got some loose-leaf tea, and we visited my mom, and we relaxed.

-I bought a new swimsuit that I don't hate.

-We finished up school for the year.  In the snow.  I just laughed.

-Georgie started to get into "coloring".

-I visited the library book sale, which is basically the official start to summer for me.

-We started a new book for book club!  The Great Gatsby.  I ended up liking it way more than I thought I would.

On The Blog: How I Kept My Hair Under Control In New Orleans,  The One Thing Your Church Needs To Get Right , When Wiping Faces Doesn't Feel Satisfying


June


-We tried the last couple churches on our list, and finally made the decision to return to our old church.  We figured out that even with everything that had happened, it was still the best one for us.  I learned alot through this whole church process, and maybe learned to value loyalty to the local church body a little bit more.  No church is perfect, and I think maybe we needed to learn to stick with a place even when the imperfection starts to show.  I still haven't mulled over my thoughts enough to express them better than that.  But it was so good to be back.  Our church welcomed us back with open arms, and it felt like coming home.

-Clyde started gymnastics!  He was so excited, he bounced all over that gym.

-I got a very weird big toe injury.  I literally did nothing.  I was sitting at my desk and it randomly started swelling.

-Clarice and I had a mom day, and she's a clever little thing.

-We tried VBS for the first time for my big kids, and they LOVED it.  Georgie and I ran around town together, and spent too much money on donuts.

-We visited the Great Sand Dunes.

-Dollar movies started for the summer!  We went to the first one with friends.

-I celebrated my birthday at the homeschool conference, ha!  Including a spontaneous visit to a hotel.

-We celebrated Derek and my dad for Father's Day!  But Father's Day wasn't as perfect as I wanted it to be for Derek, so we celebrated again the next week with a campfire.

-We went to a state park, and though the day didn't go very well, it was very pretty.

-I took Wyatt with me to see Ken Ham at the homeschool conference.

-We visited Rocky Mountain National Park, but it was in the 50's in the middle of June!  So it was a chilly day.

-It finally started to feel like summer.  Wyatt made bird feeders and hung them around our yard.  We discovered that the bush in front four house is a lilac bush!

On The Blog:  Homeschooling And Bad Attitudes, My Homeschool Mom Summer Reading List


July


-We celebrated the 4th of July on the road to my grandma's!  We had a lovely visit with her and my Grandpa Bill, and we also took a trip to Mesa Verde National Park.

-I took the kids to the pool all by myself and shared a few tips here.

-We celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary!  The whole thing felt a little anti-climactic though, after our 10th last year.

-Wyatt and I had some one-on-one time, and he helped me shop for a few more summer flowers, now that we were sure they wouldn't freeze.

-It rained alot in July, and it was a quiet, nice mid-summer.

-We did some porch camping.

-We finally upgraded our mattress, which doesn't seem like a big deal, but it was. We have been sleeping on a 20+ old mattress for the last 11 years of our marriage, so we sprung for the really good mattress.  And it's a king now.  It's been really nice!

-We finally set up the trampoline my parent's got us for Christmas!  The kids love it.

On The Blog: A Few Homeschool Finds, Why I'm Glad My Blog Didn't Grow


August


-We saw a century plant.

-I felt ready for summer to be over.

-We took a trip to see my grandpa, and had a lovely day visiting with him and my Grandma Juanita.  They set up a unicorn sprinkler, and the kids loved it!

-We finally remembered we were supposed to take a vacation in August, and we got a last-minute trip to Florida on the calendar!  We saw the Everglades, went to SeaWorld, visited NASA, went to the largest McDonald's in the US, stopped at an orange grove, and had several pool and beach days.  We even did one day at Disney.  It was a much needed sunny vacation!

-I struggled alot with getting into fall and school mode once we were back from Florida, so that was a big swing from earlier in the month!  This is why I like to take vacation in June (but it's not an option with Derek's work).

-New classics book club pick - Dracula, which I never would have picked up on my own, but I enjoyed it!

On The Blog: Homeschool Wins And Fails (From Last Year),  Florida! 

September


-We started the school year and eased into it, because I wasn't ready.  We did nature hikes and visited a railroad museum to get us inspired to learn!  Also, Clyde started Kindergarten, so I officially have three students this year.

-I started experimenting with a simmer potpourri on the stove to get in the fall mood.

-I got involved in political volunteering for the first time, collecting signatures for a measure to stop late-term abortion in our state.  It's been interesting to learn about the process from this angle, and to see firsthand how much work goes into getting a measure on the state ballot!

-Derek and I got another rare date, and we went to see a play!  Hunchback Of Notre Dame, which was actually very depressing, but we had a nice time laughing about it together anyway!

-I started re-reading The Fellowship Of The Ring in earnest, and enjoyed it all through the fall.  I don't re-read very often, so this is noteworthy.

-My kids remembered learning about the Harvest Moon from school last year, and kept asking when it was - it happened to be on Friday, the 13th!

-There were fires in the mountains near our home, resulting from a pretty dry August and September - this is why I don't complain about the snow and rain.

-After meaning to all summer, we finally went fishing with the kids!  It was so fun, even though we didn't catch anything, and we want to go more often now.

-My little Clarice turned four years old!

On The Blog:  Homeschool Planning: How I Do It, How We Homeschool On The Go,  How I'd Do Disney Differently With Five Young Kids,  Should You Visit Kennedy Space Center With Young Kids?  

October


-I decided to try to blog every day in October.  I didn't make it, but I did blog a lot, all about memory-keeping.  It brought up a lot of unresolved feelings about social media and phones.

-I finally tried Stitchfix with a gift card I got over a year ago for my 30th birthday!

-We did a fall nature scavenger hunt for fun.  We also went fishing again, and I shared some photos and reasons to give fishing a try here.

-Wyatt started his second season of soccer, and it was fun seeing how much he has improved since last year!

-We took alot of nature hikes, and it's a good thing, because the fall colors were short lived.  I managed to get some family photos before the leaves were gone.

-It started snowing again!

-I went to visit my friends' ranch with the kids one weekend, while Derek was hunting!  We had a wonderful time, as always, and I'm so grateful for friendships that last.

-Georgie turned two years old!

-The kids hounded me until we celebrated Reformation Day again!  I shared my favorite Reformation Day resources here.

On The Blog: My Tips For Taking Your Own Family Photos, Where I'm From,  The Reason I Bought That Sweater, A Typical Homeschool Week,  The Day I Became Pro-Life , The Happiest Place On Earth 


November



-Clarice started her ballet class, which she has been dying to do for at least a year.  Gwen and Clyde started a homeschool gymnastics class, and they loved it too!

-After taking a home improvement break over the summer, we started again this month.  Derek took a week off work to install our fireplace for our new wood stove!

-I decided to take a social media break and signed out in the middle of November.  I needed some space and time to consider what I really want out of social media, and how to make sure it's serving me instead of the other way around.  More coming on this, I'm sure.

-We had a game night with my sister's family, and her Christmas decorations were up, and it was just lovely!

-We celebrated Thanksgiving at my parent's house, and Derek's mom came with us!  We ate good food, and played A Christmas Story: The Game, and it was lots of fun!

On The Blog: The Real Reason Why We Homeschool, What I Really Thought Of Stitchfix, Tools For A Social Media Break


December



-We visited a Christmas light display with my family to celebrate my dad's birthday!  We always bundle up and walk around outside enjoying the lights, and then go get pie afterwards.  It was unusually warm this year, so we were really able to enjoy the lights!

-We visited my grandpa and Grandpa Juanita again, and I loved hearing more stories from my grandpa's life.

-We visited our favorite Christmas shop!  We bought a "new house" ornament, since we forgot to last year.

-I finally made Christmas Bible verse cards for my Etsy shop.  (This might be a good time to bookmark them for next year, if you're interested?)

-Despite it being a short Christmas season, I stayed on top of things and didn't get too behind or too overwhelmed.  I shared about the presents I was most excited to give here!  I got a lovely gift in the mail from my longtime penpal Felicia, and another one in the mail from my dear ranch friends!

-It was a quiet Christmas season for us, with not as many gatherings as usual, but we did go to an ugly sweater party with our Sunday School class!  I got a fanny pack during the white elephant exchange, but it's actually a really nice one and I'm totally going to use it when we go to the zoo.

-I dabbled in creating my own recipes again, and invented this Spicy Raspberry Cheeseball recipe.

-I wrote a Christmas newsletter, just as a writing exercise, but I ended up liking it and was sorry it was too late to send it with my Christmas cards.  You can read it here.

-We did some baking together.

-We celebrated Christmas Eve with my family, and with my grandma and Grandpa Bill!  We will see Derek's family for a belated Christmas celebration next week.

-We had a wonderful Christmas Day together - it was about as perfect as a Christmas Day can go, and that is a rare thing because nothing usually goes perfectly.  We had time to reflect on Christ's birth, everyone was excited about their presents, and we just enjoyed each other.

-We celebrated Gwendolyn's and Derek's birthday (they have the same birthday, in case you forgot)!  I got Derek and Apple Watch because he has been dying to get one for years.  Gwen turned 7 years old!

-We are celebrating New Year's Eve tonight with final signature-collecting for my petition, and an impromptu dinner with my brother and his family!

On The Blog:  Bible Verses To Write In Your Christmas Cards (+ Printables),  When You Can't Find Christmas Peace

---

Wow, even though we didn't have alot of "big" events, it was a busy year!  I think there was alot of growing for me personally this year in different areas of my life.

A month or two ago, as I've been struggling with more circumstances that have left me feeling a little alone, Derek said to me offhandedly, "Maybe the Lord just wants you to learn to lean on Him more right now."  I actually think that sums up this year pretty succinctly.  I think the Lord used alot of different circumstances this year to teach me to lean on Him more and myself less.  I'm still learning how to do that, but I'm thankful that He is my solid rock, the One on whom it will always be safe to lean.



Happy New Year's Eve, friends!

Hope you have plans to do something fun!

When You Can't Find Christmas Peace



Peace is a theme of the Christmas season, and I've been mulling over the idea lately.

On the night that Jesus was born, angels lit up quiet skies and declared "on earth, peace among men!"  But the world still doesn't feel peaceful, does it?  Our attempts to drum up some peace around Christmas time feel artificial and hollow.  Around this globe, war and atrocities never truly end.  Maybe that's why the song "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day" has resonated with me in my adult life.

"There is no peace on earth," I said.  For hate is strong, and mocks the song, of Peace on earth, goodwill to men..."




I think we understand peace all wrong.  We think quiet, or a brief ceasing of strife, or a fleeting feeling, or one happy day is Christmas peace.  But that's not the peace the angels were talking about.  The peace Christ brought when he was born in that stable is not the temporary, fading peace of one Christmas morning.

"But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For He Himself is our peace..." 
Ephesians 2:13-14a



Christ Himself is our peace.

We are a rebellious, sinful people.  We have broken God's laws, we are lost, deserving death as the penalty for the crimes we have committed against a holy God.  But instead of giving us the punishment we deserve, God in His mercy stretched out His hands, and offered us peace by offering Himself.

Peace on earth, goodwill to men. 



That baby, born in a manger that night, was God Himself.  He who had no sin, took the death we deserved by dying on the cross in our place.  He rose again, securing His victory over death and our sin. And He still stretches out His hands to us now, offering us peace with God, if we will just believe and trust in Christ to save us.  The truest peace of God can be ours forever.









"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Romans 5:1

Someday Jesus will return again, and put all things right, and then His people will have peace in every sense of the word.  Until then, my prayer for you, my friends, is that you will know His peace in your heart this Christmas and always.  That you may reach out and grasp the hand of peace that God has offered to you in Jesus Christ, and find Him while He may be found.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."
Romans 15:13

"Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet in the way of peace."
Luke 1:78-79

He Himself is our peace.  May you know that truly, my friends. And the merriest of Christmases to you!


The Christmas Newsletter I Would Have Sent



Christmas newsletters are very hard to get right.

Every year around this time, I get a handful of Christmas newsletters tucked inside of Christmas cards.  I am excited each time I get one - it's fun to read a little bit about what my friends and family are up to, what they thought was worth noting about their year.

To the people I know who send a newsletter each year, I give major props, because I also recognize that newsletters are hard to write!  You have to come up with something to say about each family member, and keep it within a reasonable length, insert some personality to make it interesting to read, and do it all without crossing the line into "braggy" territory.  I think all the newsletters I've received this year were able to strike this balance well, but I've never really attempted a Christmas newsletter because I wasn't sure I could do a good job of it.

However, I read a newsletter blog post on Michelle's blog last week, and it was fun to read!  I thought she really nailed the art of the newsletter, and it made me want to try one.  So I wrote up a newsletter for our family over the weekend.  I don't hate how it turned out, but it's too late to send it in my cards, so I'm just going to share it here instead.  Pretend this is printed on Christmas-y paper and showing up in your mailbox!

Note: This is actually a little long for a Christmas newsletter, but in my defense, there are seven people in this family on which to write an update.

---



Dear Friends and Family,

I have never sent out a Christmas newsletter, but now that we are exiting the too-tired-to-floss, new-baby phase, which has encompassed the last 9 (!) years, I thought I’d give it a go.

Don’t people usually say something like “this year has been one for the books” to start out a newsletter? I think every year could be considered one for the “books”, but in the general sense of the phrase, this has not been a “big” year. It’s been an ordinary, slow-growing year. But there is something wonderful about those restful, quiet years that I think is worth celebrating too.

For Derek, much of 2019 has involved home improvement projects. We bought a new house late in 2018, and  I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I cried the first night we spent in our new house, telling Derek that it just didn’t feel like “us”.  He has gradually been making that statement untrue.  In the last year he has remodeled the kitchen and master bathroom, installed new flooring, changed out light fixtures, built a fireplace and (halfway) installed a wood stove, and started on the kids’ new play structure (still in the blueprint stage).  I was going to say that it feels like slow going, but thought better of it - seeing it all typed out makes that statement feel silly.  That is a lot of work! I’m grateful for all the hours and care Derek has put into making this place home.

Wyatt, to my horror, is nearing 9 years old. I say “horror”, because I came to the realization this fall that once he reaches 9, we will be halfway through his childhood. Let that sit a minute.  He is a delightful kid, a little shy around new people, but ask him what his favorite animal or bird is, and he can talk your ear off. He knows more about animals than me, is better at identifying birds than me, and remembers interesting facts we read much longer than I do. Needless to say, it’s pretty easy to homeschool him when we break out the science textbooks (maybe not as much when I bring out the writing book, his least favorite subject).  Bike lights and an “adventure kit” (including binoculars, compass, and flashlight) are on his Christmas list.

Gwendolyn will be 7 years old “two days after Christmas, the same birthday as Daddy’s!”, as she likes to tell anyone who will listen.  She is fun-loving and easy to like, and tends to make friends wherever she goes. She is reading, but is desperate to get further in her reading curriculum so she can learn to read chapter books.  While I have become less of a planner the older I get, Gwen picks up where I slack off. She recently wrote out a detailed plan for Christmas morning that made me chuckle and melt a little.  Nail polish and Barbies are on her Christmas list.

Aren’t you supposed to include a paragraph about the family vacation in a Christmas newsletter?  Clyde’s paragraph might make more sense if I do. We went to Florida this year, mostly because it is the cheapest place to fly in August. Hurricane season and all.  We got home a mere week before the hurricane, crossed the Everglades off our National Park bucket list, and while we feel grateful that we can now say we took the kids to Disney World once in their childhood, our one day there taught us that we are not hardcore Disney people. Our favorite part of the trip was visiting NASA and seeing the Saturn V rocket and moon capsule, and it has launched (ha!) an interest in space for our whole family (except Derek, he was always a space guy).



Having said that, our 5.5 year old Clyde has latched on to space transportation as an interest.  When I ask him lately what he wants to learn about, the answer is always “rocket ships!”  If I picked an adjective for Clyde, it would be “charming”.  The kid can get away with saying the “darndest” things, just because of the charming little way he says them.  When he gets one-on-one time with me he always has a lot to talk about, and I learn such interesting things about him (like the fact that he wants to have eight kids someday - he said it so seriously, I knew it was well thought-out).  Rocket ship Legos and a model space shuttle are on his Christmas list.

Clarice turned 4 years old this fall, and while she has always had a big personality, especially for being so quiet, I’ve seen it developing more recently. She is my most imaginative child, declaring how fun it would be if the world were made of fudge, and excitedly informing me that the moon is following us home because “ he’s hungry!”  Her blue eyes and dimpled smile would probably melt the iciest heart, but when I pull out my camera she frequently takes that as her cue to try out every expression in her arsenal.  A Little Mermaid princess doll and a Barbie are on her Christmas list.

Our littlest one, Georgiana, just turned 2 years old, and I’m not sure I’ve met a more easy-going toddler. Redirection is a breeze, and is often accompanied by an enthusiastic “OH-KAY!”  Aside from the occasional flirtation with the “terrible twos” (which thankfully never lasts too long), she is very agreeable. She mainly just cries when she is thirsty or cold or within 20 feet of a moving vehicle (a healthy fear).  She is my most social child so far (that’s saying something, because Gwen was hard to beat). When we walk through a store or parking lot, she is usually holding my hand, and the other hand is waving at strangers as she shouts “HI!” She is usually rewarded with a grin.  On her Christmas list is whatever we decide to get her, and a new bunny-bear, which was her most prized possession before she lost it four months ago.

This letter wouldn’t be complete without including our protector-dog, Harvey.  He is mainly a teddy bear, following me around the house and settling in for a nap wherever I happen to be.  But he can break out his scary bark when he feels it necessary, which is usually when the poor mailman is trying to drop off a package.  He had a tumor earlier this year which briefly made our hearts sink into our feet, until we thankfully found out it was benign. He wants a rawhide bone for Christmas.

I (Callie) have been keeping busy homeschooling the kids, reading a lot of books, and figuring out how to keep this place clean (a never-ending, and possibly losing, battle).  While I occasionally miss working as a dental hygienist, settling into these homeschooling years has been very fulfilling (and also very insecurity-inducing, but we won’t get into that). The greatest joy of homeschooling to me so far is the freedom to point my kids to Jesus throughout their education, and getting a front row seat as I watch them grow academically and in their knowledge and love for the Lord. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.



Oh, and also I’ve been taking too many pictures.  I notice an occasional eye roll from a passerby when I whip out my camera, but most people get it. I’ve been told many, many times by the older generation that “it goes by so fast”. I take so many pictures because I believe the white-haired ladies who stop me in the grocery store to wistfully remind me of that.

Merry Christmas, friends!  We pray that  you each know the peace with God that comes through trusting Jesus, Who was born to pay for our sins on the cross, that we may live.  He is our greatest gift. 

Also praying as we approach 2020 that it is a restful, quiet year “for the books” for you too.  That may be a tall order in an election year, but nothing is impossible with God!  (Joking, but also kind of not.) Hoping for a peaceful New Year for you all!

Joyfully,

Our Little Family

"And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life." (1 John 5:20, ESV)








© Through Clouded Glass. Design by MangoBlogs.