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

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

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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.

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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)








All About The Christmas Gifts



Do you find Christmas shopping stressful or fun?  For me, it is usually both.  It can be stressful because I am working with a budget, and no matter how hard I try I always seem to find a way to mess the budget up.  I forget a gift for someone, or as is the case this year, I lay out all the gifts I bought for the kids and realize that there was a hole in my planning, and I need to buy one more thing to even out everyone's presents.

And then don't even get me started on the stress of wrapping.  We're usually those parents that are finishing up at 11 PM on Christmas Eve.

But there is a part of Christmas shopping that is really fun to me too, and that is anticipating how excited the gift-ee will be when they open their present!  This is more and more fun as my kids get older.  When kids are little, I feel like they are just happy about everything on Christmas morning.  I don't really know what my two year old wants for Christmas, I just grab a couple things that look good, and she'll be excited no matter what is under the wrapping paper.  As my big kids are getting older though, their presents are more specific to their interests, and that makes me more excited to give them!

Anyway, I thought I'd share the present I am most looking forward to giving each kid, and Derek!  Just for fun.  I also got some good deals on a couple "gifts" for myself - does anyone else do that? - so I'll share those too.

Wyatt, 8.75 years old.

If you know Wyatt for more than two minutes, you'll know that his favorite subject is birds.  He likes to observe them, and he knows so much about them.  At this point I fully expect him to be a world-class birder/bird photographer someday.  I am quite excited to give him this book I found - the kid can never have too many books about birds, but this one comes with programmed bird calls for 75 species of birds!  Now he will be able to identify them not just by their appearance, but by their sounds too.



Gwendolyn, nearly 7 years old.

Gwen is getting to such a fun and girly age, and I think we have finally reached the age where she is old enough to play with Barbies.  I am thrilled about this.  My sister and I used to play Barbies for hours, and we had elaborate plots worked out, and distinct personalities for each of our Barbies.  Clarice probably isn't quite big enough to play Barbies like that with Gwen yet, but she will be soon, and in the meantime I'll show Gwen how it's done!  I found this astrophysicist Barbie and thought it was pretty cool - I know there is probably some sort of feminist message being attempted with the "career" Barbie line (and I am not a feminist), but I do think the career Barbies open up whole new possibilities for Barbie storylines, so I'm here for it.



Clyde, 5.5 years old.

Clyde's interests are starting to differentiate from the other kids, and I'd say they revolve mostly around transportation.  He is into cars, trains, airplanes, and to my delight, rocket ships.  We went to the science museum last week, and he spotted a toy space shuttle in the gift shop.  He actually cried because we couldn't get it - it wasn't "I'm throwing a fit" crying, but just a genuine, heartbroken crying because he didn't think he'd ever get the toy he wanted so badly.  It melted my heart a little bit.  I am loving his interest in space-related transportation right now, and I think he is going to be really excited to open this space shuttle lego set!



Clarice, 4 years old.

Clarice is still little enough that she will be enthusiastic about anything she opens.  However, in preparation for Christmas shopping, I had all the kids go through the toy catalogs we received in the mail and circle the things they wanted.  It was very enlightening.  There was a theme to the things Clarice circled - every time Ariel (of The Little Mermaid) came up in the catalog, Clarice circled it.  We haven't even watched the original Little Mermaid, but I did let the kids watch the prequel (go rent it from the library, I like it better than the actual Little Mermaid movie).  Apparently it made an impression, so an Ariel doll she will have!  I liked this one because it wasn't a Barbie-style Ariel doll (which I'm not sure would get much play time yet), and I also like that she's wearing the glittery blue dress instead of the mermaid bikini.  Modesty and all that.




Georgiana, 2 years old.

Georgie really doesn't care very much what her presents are yet, and I'm pretty sure she is going to love everything I got.  But I am personally rather excited about one of the items I bought for her stocking.  I found these rock crayons online, and they look like so much fun!  Georgie is just now getting into drawing, and these look like a fun tool for little hands.  I can't wait to let her try them out!




(Derek, if you are reading this post, stop right this minute!  Love you.)






Family Gift

Excuse the warning above, but this is a family gift and Derek doesn't know I got it!  This fall we have been studying space, and we've done a couple star-gazing trips as a family.  Derek has always been a space nerd, and I've been getting more into space subjects too after the 50th anniversary of the moon landing this summer.  The kids have caught some of the enthusiasm too, so I decided to take $20 from each person's Christmas budget, and I put it toward a telescope!  I'm not going to include a picture here, just in case Derek does scroll through this post briefly, but this is the one I got.  I'm sure it's not the best telescope in the world because it didn't cost thousands of dollars, but you are supposed to be able to see galaxies with it.  I can't wait to use it the next time we go stargazing!

For Derek

I got Derek a few things he has been mentioning, but I am actually really excited to give him a "together" gift this year.  Every year I try to buy our family one new game for Christmas, and Derek and I usually end up playing it in the afternoon on Christmas Day.  We drink wassail, eat snacks, and play our game while we listen to Christmas music, and it's lovely.  We especially like strategy board games, and I ran across this one when I was shopping this year.  It looks like alot of fun!  I think Derek will be surprised that there is such a thing as a Jurassic Park board game.



For Me

I did find some good prices on a couple things for me while I was Christmas shopping this year.  I know, I know.  But yes, I "Christmas shopped" for myself.  Anyway, if you've been reading for a while, you know that I am an advocate for wearing nice, non-frumpy pajamas.  For the last few months I have been breaking my own rule and making do with ratty pajamas, so I was overdue for a new set.  On Cyber Monday, I grabbed these from Target:



They are soft, cozy, and cute, and also cool and breathable so I don't get too hot, which is important for me.  Much better than the items I was wearing, trust me.

This summer I also discovered ColourPop eyeshadow palettes, and I have to say, I really like them.  The colors are pretty, and they apply well for being so inexpensive!  They re-stocked this palette that looked like a great neutral eyeshadow palette, so I wanted to grab it before it sells out:



I'm excited to play with it a little more!



So those are a few of the presents that will be waiting under our tree this year.  Minus the "presents" for me, which I'll be wearing.

What present are you most excited to give this year?

The Happiest Place On Earth



We decide to skip the trolley.  After waiting in line for the ferry to leave Disney World for over an hour, I do not want to wait in another line.  "Let's just walk," I suggest, and I hope the parking lot is as close as I think it is.

We trudge across a nearly empty parking lot to a bridge that crosses over one of the many channels of water in Orlando.  Clouds cover the stars, but we can see the moon peeking out on the edges, a handbreadth up from the horizon.  We cross the bridge and I notice how the moonlight shines across the water through the trees.  The sound of junebugs are everywhere, and birds that are strange to our ears call from these little patches of nature in the middle of all the cement.

"Let's pretend we are explorers, and we just landed in the New World," I say as I push the stroller, trying to distract the big kids from their aching feet.  "See that little water channel, and those trees?  It would be like that everywhere.  And there would be birds calling, and crocodiles in the water, and maybe a panther in the trees!  Can you imagine what it would have been like to be here then?  Would you be scared?"

My oldest son's eyes light up as he considers the possibility, while my daughter looks happy that this is just a pretend game.  Up ahead I hear laughter, and I glance up to see Derek with our preschooler in one arm, and our near-kindergartner in the other.  They grin at me over his shoulders, and I grin back, listening as my oldest two beside me discuss how they would protect themselves in the jungle.  

And that's when I finally feel it.



We've been in the "happiest place on earth" all day, but here in this moment, walking on aching feet through a dark parking lot as if we are conquering explorers, this is when I feel the most magical.

And I realize now that we don't have to travel across the country and have "magic" manufactured for us.  We had tried that all day, and it was a failed attempt.  No, those blessed, happy, magic-filled moments can happen anywhere with a little imagination and gratitude, whenever I open my eyes to them.  They can happen with sore feet and damp hair, they can happen at home or far away, when we are doing something exciting or when we are so tired we are merely longing to be tucked under cool sheets.  

Just being with the people I love most in the world, laughing and walking along together, that is the happiest place on earth.  That is a beautiful blessing given to me by God Himself.



That is magical all by itself.

---

I wrote this after our trip to Florida in August, and now seemed like a good time to share it, since my month of memory-keeping is almost over!  You can read all my posts in this series by clicking on the picture below.


Nutrolls And Gatorade And Hunting



One of the ways I bonded with my dad growing up was through him teaching me how to hunt.

Hunting is something that has been tradition in my family for generations, and it started with necessity.  Hunting is an inexpensive way to put meat in our freezer.  My grandpa started hunting when he was a teenager for that very reason, and he and his brother taught their children how to hunt, and they taught theirs, and I guess that's where it became a tradition.  We still hunt today for mainly of the same reasons - to fill the freezer being high up on the list.

Another reason we value hunting so much, contradictory as it may seem to those who don't understand it, is because of a love for God's creation.  We love getting out in nature, seeing the sunrise, hearing which birds wake up first, finding tracks of animals we aren't even trying to find.  We do it because it's a great way to get out there, and we do it for the sake of conservation.  Many people don't realize how many animals would starve and die over the winter if their populations are too high at the start of it.  It's why there is a Division Of Wildlife - to study these things, and help keep ecosystems in proper balance.

It always irks me to see how hunters are sometimes portrayed by authors or producers who don't have a clue.  I've put books down because of a portrayal of hunters as careless idiots with guns who just want to kill something.  The ignorance is stunning to me.  The hunters I know, who I've grown up with, are some of the most careful and most respectful people you will meet with regards to firearms and nature.

When I was twelve my dad took me hunting for the first time.  I had a cow elk tag, and he woke me up early and we made the trek out into the woods.  Snow crunched under my feet, and my lungs burned with the cold morning air at the exertion.  I hung on to the straps on my dad's backpack so he could help haul me up the hill.

Every now and then he would spot a track, sometimes elk, but I remember specifically seeing mountain lion and bear tracks too.  He would whisper and point them out to me, and I'd whisper how cool it was and grin.



I got an elk on that first day of my first hunt.  It was a very exciting moment, and a particularly large elk, so it was great to contribute to the family's food like that.  But my favorite part was grinning at my dad after a successful hunt and seeing he was grinning back at me, and resting together on the snow as we split a Nutroll candy bar and drank a jug of Gatorade.

You just don't even know how good a Nutroll and Gatorade can taste until you've worked so hard for them.  I went hunting with my dad all through my growing up years, and a Nutroll and Gatorade was always our victory meal.

My dad taught Derek how to hunt, and now Derek provides for our family too through hunting, and he's planning to take our kids when they are big enough.  So the tradition continues.

I haven't been hunting since I've had kids.  It was too hard to go since we'd have to find a babysitter.  But as I watch the leaves turn and the frost returning this year, I'm feeling that itch to get out there again (not to mention the meat would help a lot in feeding five hungry kids).

Today, I don't buy Nutrolls or Gatorade.  I just can't imagine snacking on them in my living room or car.  They will forever be reserved for me as the fuel I'll pull out of my backpack, as I'm sitting on a rock in the brisk fall air after a hard morning of hunting.  That's how they taste best.




Gone Fishing (And 3 Reasons You Should Go)



I have a vague memory of my parents taking us fishing once when I was a kid.  My dad's cousin knew a spot.  I remember walking there in the evening, mosquitos hanging in the air, the purple shadows and blue water.

I don't remember if we caught anything that time, but I remember the feeling of being out there at night, hoping we would catch something.

That fishing experience is largely eclipsed in my memory, however, by a Canadian fishing trip when I was twelve.  We drove for days up to Canada, then took a float plane to finally arrive at a little fishing lodge.  Sportsman's Lodge, it was called.  We woke up early, put on our rain gear, and ate Red River hot cereal for breakfast.  Then our native guides, Cecil and Roger, took us out on the water in two boats.

Now that was fishing.

We caught so many fish we had to throw some back before lunch each day.  When the sun was high, Cecil would pull our boat up onto some sandy island, start a fire, and cook up the walleye we caught.  If you have never had fresh-fried wallet on a Canadian shoreline, have you really fished? I've never tasted any other fish that was so good.

I still think of that trip and hope that I can take my kids on a fishing trip like that before they are grown.  

But in the meantime, we try to fish down here, where it's a lot harder to catch something.

Wyatt has been dying to go fishing for a couple summers now.  This was a classic case of saying "We'll try to go soon," until the summer was over and we realized we still hadn't gone.

We finally decided last Sunday was the day.  We packed up some fishing gear, packed a lunch, and went out to attempt fishing in a bright blue sky, in the middle of the day.  Actually not the best fishing strategy,  at all.  But it was just for fun, after all.















The wind was blowing something terrible, and the water was low at the lake.  But we trudged down to the shore anyway.  The kids tore off their shoes and stuck their toes in the water while Derek threaded the fishing line.  We were casting into the wind, the waves were lapping at the shore, and we only got one small nibble.  But we were outside in the sunshine, watching the pelicans having more luck than we did, playing in the sand, enjoying the quiet.

It was pretty magical.

If you've never tried going fishing, you really should give it a go.  Here are a few reasons to go fishing with your family:

1.  You really don't need that much gear.

We did most of our fishing with a $13 fishing pole, taking turns.  We also had to purchase a fishing license, fishing line and bait, and we had a net we had previously, but that was it.  I don't think fishing has to be too expensive, especially starting out.  You don't need top-of-the-line gear to have fun. It's more about the experience, in my opinion.

2.  It's a great way to get outside.

Fishing is a really relaxing way to enjoy nature.  You only have to walk as far as you decide, and then the rest of the time you are sitting or standing on the shore, so there is minimal physical exertion.  But you still get to see the beauty of God's creation up close and personal.  I think it's one of the easiest ways to do something "outdoorsy", especially with kids.  Fishing from the shore is even better with a family, because if the kids get bored, they can run around  a bit.

3. You'll make memories even if you don't catch anything.

Whether you catch anything or not, you still had a chance to enjoy nature and just be together in the outdoors.  And those near misses can be just as bonding as catching something.  All the way home our kids bemoaned the fact that some fish nibbled on our line and stole our bait, and I know they'll remember that.

Have you been fishing lately or ever?  Did you like it?





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