Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas with Friends

One of the things that makes Christmas best is sharing it with friends. Taking time to relax and play games or just "catch up" is important. We are so blessed...

Spending time with Al & Barb and their family this past weekend...

Building a candy dish with George (and oh how we loved the caramel rolls he brought!)...

Visits from fairies and princesses...
And a get-together of old friends...as Pastor Troy said, a family gathering that is a taste of eternal joy to come.

Happy Birthday, Jesus. And I don't mean our silly little baby doll that is a sweet tradition for our children, but I mean You, the glorious I AM. I can't wait to celebrate for all of eternity the wonder of You.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas 2015

We have had a sweet Christmas season this year. I wanted to post a few photos before the time passes too quickly.

 {Christmas Eve}

 Eden asked if she could do the stockings this year. So except for a few things that Dad and I added, she purchased everything for the stockings. :)

Mitch built me a manger for our baby Jesus doll and surprised me Christmas morning!

 Baby Jesus is still a big hit.
 Mitch read us the final chapter of "Ishtar's Odyssey" on Christmas morning, as daylight was just beginning to break.

 Mercy seemed a little confused about all the excitement, but I think she caught on quickly enough. Genna was clueless...but she loved the baby Jesus doll.

 It wasn't long before someone slingshot one of these sticky aliens onto the ceiling. Before I knew it, there were aliens hanging from all over the ceiling. Naturally.

 Check out my "bling" the kids picked out for me at the "shoppe" Mitch's Aunt Debbie organized with friends in Sauk Centre. The kids were so thrilled to have me open their gifts. I loved seeing the things they chose for me that they thought I would like. 

Genna's face is priceless!

 Debbie and Jeff did a bit of their own gifting for our family this year--we were so blessed that each person received a special gift from them.

 For the gifts from Mitch and me to the kids, we tried to follow a theme. At first I was only going to do 3 gifts (like the Magi brought to Jesus), but we expanded to be 4: something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read. I was overwhelmed at first trying to figure out what to give each person. Mitch was working so many extra hours at Holiday, and I felt like I would never get my shopping done. I was stressed about finding the best gift as well as the best deal. I wanted so hard to stay within my  budget, but we didn't want to buy cheap gifts that would soon be broken (or spread all over the house). We wanted to buy thoughtfully. My parents sent money and that really changed our budget and what we were able to choose for each child. One day my friend Devona came over and watched all the kids for 5 hours while Genna and I got out and shopped. I made some headway finally. I shopped with my phone in my hand...cross-checking prices and even making a few online orders. I scrawled notes on a piece of notebook paper and prayed that none of the kids would find it before Christmas and ruin the surprise. 

After Eden was done with her final exams, she helped watch kids so I could sew gift bags. I spent a few hours over two days and I finally sewed enough so that ALL our gifts this year could be wrapped in bags. It was so nice. Mitch and I spent very little time "wrapping" presents on Christmas Eve. I was so excited for Christmas morning.

 Several people got Bibles. I bought 5 Bibles for Mitch to give away after he expressed a desire to do that. :) Zeke had received a pocket knife for his birthday, so I was excited when I found this whittling book.

 "The Book with No Pictures" is hilarious. We asked Malachi to read it out loud. He was laughing but he loved it and didn't stop reading. Score!!

 "Something to wear" for Caleb included this Hogwarts themed snuggie...Grandma Karen saved the day by sending this as well as a gift that Eden really wanted.

Mitch hadn't had any time to do any shopping, and he tried going out a few times. But when he asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I said, "Amazon Prime." Seriously. My prime membership renews at the end of the month. Let me tell you, it was so nice to be able to shop online this year. He surprised me with this awesome t-shirt, though. I can't wait to wear it!

 "Something you want"...since Genna was shopping with me, she technically picked out her gift. ;)

 Clearly Josh wanted what he got.

But Zeke doesn't look like he expects to want whatever is in his bag. Seriously, this sad face...
 ...ahhh, a smile of relief. He thought we were tricking him, but he actually received a Kindle Fire. :)

 Micah, Eden, and Caleb all expressed their desire to have money for Christmas. They said, "It is what we want, what we need, and we can read it." Hmmm... Well, we did end up giving them some gift cards as part of their gift. And I think it wasn't as much fun as giving real gifts, even if it was what they wanted and/or what they needed. I will do some harder thinking next year.

Papa Paul and Grandma Marilyn came to visit in the afternoon and also blessed us with gifts. Obi has a soft new friend to snuggle. 

We ended our Christmas Day with a ham dinner and a beautifully decorated table. It was so nice.

Today we had to do some major cleaning, then our hard work was rewarded with a visit from our friends the Bosch's. Tonight we sang "Happy Birthday" to Jesus and had birthday cake (we were too stuffed from treats to eat it yesterday) and ice cream with our friends. It also snowed today. It was pretty bare outside yesterday, but we woke to a few inches of snow on the ground this morning.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Kaleidoscope Heart by Eden

This semester Eden has had the opportunity to participate in Portable Audio at Central MN Youth for Christ. She was paired with a mentor (Christy, who often leads worship at our church). She wrote her own song. Before the school year began, she purchased a full-size keyboard from a friend. She taught herself to play chords. So then she was able to not only write lyrics to her song, but music also. She worked on it all semester with Christy's help. Last night was performance night! She did amazing, but I think the highlight of the night for me was seeing so many people give her compliments. My heart was overflowing, and I hope hers was too. I have waited so long to share this with you...so here are photos and video!

This is a description piece that Eden wrote for her song. She has been writing a new blog, Undercover Oddity, to share her writing pieces. You can follow the link to see the lyrics and chords to Kaleidoscope Heart, and to see more that she has written. I hope you will encourage her!


Christy played for Eden during her performances of Kaleidoscope Heart

How do you like our little photo bombers? And Mitch's tats? (It's a sock, lol, but it looks pretty cool! He got it at a conference this week.)

Eden with her mentor, Christy

Her first live performance. She performed 3 times, and yes, I videoed every single time. :)

The "official" recording with the lyrics

Oh, one more thing, Eden made her dress. We had a little bit of a challenge finding a good contrasting fabric, but when we found the fabric with music on it, we knew it was right.

Monday, December 14, 2015

I spoke too soon...

I spoke too soon. Mercy has had a handful of "accidents" over the past two days. She lost interest in earning a candy reward. It sure is a hard transition to make!

In other news, I thought I would need to wait for Spring for rain, but we have had quite a bit over the past week. Bob Weisman keeps saying that December weather is coming...but it keeps not coming. Anyway, my floor stayed dry during the recent rain showers.

Now if I could come up with some way for it to stay clean!

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

A Little Update

Here are some pictures from November and the first part of December...some of these things were on facebook already, so if you are friends with me on there, this might be a little "boring." :) But I have quite a few friends and family who are no longer on facebook.

The kids and I have been going to the library on Wednesdays because I ususally don't have anyone for daycare on that day. I found that we have several items in our curriculum that are easy to arrange on the other 4 days of the school week, freeing up much of Wednesday. It's a lot of work to take them all out by myself, but it has been a good addition to our lives. Most Wednesdays we also go hang out with my friend Shannon and her kids. We have done a couple projects together. We did the one below for grandparents. It turned out great!

Our November was the third sixth warmest November on record, and that was sure nice (edit: It was the 3rd warmest fall according to Bob Weisman at St. Cloud State University. Interestingly, the 3rd warmest November was 2009, the year Patrick was here.). We had days and days of rain, and finally one morning the clouds broke at just the right time to make a rainbow. Usually we get rainbows in the evening in the summer. So this rainbow hanging in the west was a rare treat!

We had one little paltry snow storm in November, and it melted rather quickly. While it lasted, the kids were scraping up snow even off the driveway and sidewalk in order to play with it. They're like poor southerners! Haha.
 I love how Tirzah's hair is growing long and finally filling in some. :)

 Hot Chocolate for the win!
 Obi and Mercy are such good helpers in the kitchen. I might have let them lick the spatulas too often. One day I found Mercy down the hallway with a spatula that she grabbed from the peanut butter jar, and she was sharing it with Genna. Thank goodness Genna doesn't appear to be allergic!

We had a very nice Thanksgiving. It was a ton of prep work, but it's always worth it. We enjoyed sharing this time with the Emersons.

Mercy is adorable. She is really blossoming. Here she is trying to make a loom band bracelet. But all she does is just keep on putting the bands on the nails until she can't fit any more on it. 

After all our work reinstalling our back door, it still leaks. Ugh. So we finally raked up the cash for a storm door and got that installed. We are impressed with how much warmer our kitchen is now (not that our upstairs is ever not warm). We'll have to wait until the spring to see if this solves the leak. 

 My birthday was on Sunday this year. One bonus is having all the kids dressed up for that. They were so cute.
 Years ago I got the boxed set of the Lord of the Rings trilogy--extended edition!--so I hoped to buy the same edition of the Hobbit movies when they finally came out. I expected them to come out this past May, and I was sad when they didn't. But they were finally released in the middle of November, then the price dropped about $30 right before Thanksgiving. I was so stoked. And now I still haven't had time to even watch them yet...oh well, the box is pretty (and we did see them in the theater). ;)
 Shannon sent me flowers for my birthday--and a pepsi--it was such a sweet surprise! It was even funnier that Mitch and I were standing in the kitchen when Shannon's husband Scott walked in and handed me flowers. Mitch was like, "Hey, that's my job!" Haha.
 Devona left me a present on the porch too and I didn't waste any time digging in. Imported from Germany!!!

We had a decent forecast for snow in the first week of December, and it didn't fail. 

 The warm weather pattern of November has continued, and it has almost all melted now. I have to say that I am not sad.

I have been baking treats for Christmas and have quite a stash. Sharing treats with friends, family, and neighbors is one of my favorite things to do this time of year. I always bake more now than any other time of the year. Eden has been helping me whenever she can.

 These cute boys all got hair cuts.

Sometime between Thanksgiving and my birthday my wrist started aching. I couldn't remember injuring it, just that it felt like I slept on it wrong. After a week with no improvement, I finally went to the doctor. She told me I have tendinitis and gave me a brace to wear for a week. I looked up more information when I got home and found out that this specific kind of tendinitis is commonly called "mommy thumb" because it's very common for new mothers to get. And it could take 6 weeks or more to heal. It feels better when I'm wearing the brace, but it is super annoying. It is driving me insane. Why did I get this now? Probably because my body is knocking on 40. But it could be brought on by several things. I'm so sad that I have to take a break from knitting for a while. My second sock is almost done. Mercy says, "your super hero arm is so pretty, Mom."

 These funny two are trying to match each other...
 We decorated the tree on this past Sunday. In the days since, several ornaments have been broken. Sad times!

 Sugar cookies are my least favorite cookies. Mitch helped me with the baking, and Eden helped with the decorating. When we were doing the baking, Mercy could name almost all the shapes. When we got to this one she said, "Star wars helmet." After looking at it a second time, Mitch decided she was right.

 Malachi got an abscess in one of his molars, so it had to be pulled a couple years before it was ready to fall out. He was fitted with a spacer so that his teeth wouldn't shift in the meantime. The dentist said that his permanent tooth is likely to come in much sooner than normal.

This year for advent we are reading Ishtar's Odyssey, following the same books that we read in previous years. So far it's really excellent!

In other news, Mitch took a part-time job working at the gas station just down the road. For the first time since the housing crash, our home is no longer upside down and we were able to refinance this summer to a 15-year mortgage and keep the same payment amount. This was a breath of fresh air to us, and now Mitch hopes to pay that down even faster. It's hard to have him gone even an extra 16 hrs a week, but I'm thankful for his commitment to our financial health and how he continues to work hard to provide for us. I feel guilty, like I should get a job or do more daycare to lessen his work. It is hard to have him gone from the kids for even just a few extra hours. I'm trying to hold a good perspective, and know that it will only be for a short period of time. I do most of the budget/spending, so I will do my part to squeeze that so we can meet our goals as quickly as possible. I always pray that it would be clear if I should do more daycare.

Also a rather big change for us is that Micah is exploring adulthood. He is finishing his senior year of high school, but he is staying with friends who live across town. I hesitate to say that he has "moved out" because he still has a lot of stuff here and he really can move back in at any time. But he is experimenting with being out in the world on his own, while not being totally on his own. He calls me to check in, he was here for Thanksgiving, and he even took me out to eat for my birthday (and he paid!). It's a new and strange ground for me. I find it hard to navigate. Having our kids move out of the nest is the ultimate goal, of course, but this is awkward and surprising. The younger kids are confused, and I don't even know how to explain it to them. So life marches on and we just try to take it one day at a time.

Finally I will end with a bit of good news, though I certainly haven't shared all that's on my mind. I started potty training with Mercy back around her 2nd birthday. It didn't click with her even though we tried off and on many times. Eventually I just had her in pull-ups and forgot about it all for a while. Right before Thanksgiving I brought home a giant bag of  m&m's and gave potty training another try. She did fantastic right from the start. She has only had a handful of accidents in the 2.5 weeks since then. She woke up dry at least once, so I'm hoping that she will be fully day and night trained very soon. I think we only have a couple pull-ups left..