Saturday, December 17, 2011

christmas time is here

There are reasons we all love the holidays, and reasons we all dread them.  This week I am having my annual oh-no-I-haven't-started-Christmas-shopping-yet stress out session.  Every year I think I will be purchasing less presents than the year before, but I somehow get sucked into the mad dash of gift-buying as the actual day of Christmas approaches.  Sigh.

Materialism is why I dread Christmas. But there are plenty of reasons I love this time of year... the traditions, the nostalgia, the glow of white Christmas lights in my living room, the smell of pine needles, the crackle of the fireplace.  And some other favorites...

favorite morning ritual:  Eggnog instead of creamer in my coffee.

favorite holiday grocery item: Fondue (we buy pre-boxed at Nob Hill) - great for a festive dinner in minutes when you cut up a loaf of bread and an apple for dipping.  Yum!

favorite baked good:  Homemade Cinnamon Rolls.  The Pioneer Woman really rocks these.  Just when I was starting to lose the baby weight, I had to go and make some of these.  Oh well.  What crazy person tries to lose weight around the holidays anyway?

favorite family outing:  Cutting down the Christmas tree, of course!  We didn't cut it down this year, due to tricky nap schedules.  But we did make a special family outing and chose our together at a great little locally-owned and family-operated farm.  We tried a new variety (a Grand Fir) and it is one of the best trees we've had.

favorite activity with kids:  Decorating the Christmas tree.  Last year I hung all of the breakable ornaments at the top, and when our tree fell over in the middle of the night (huge crash, Christian thought we were being robbed, but no, it was just the tree on the ground) we lost the majority of our glass ornaments.  They were missed when I opened up the ornament box last week, but our tree is officially kid-friendly.  Hanging the ornaments was right up Annike's alley this year.  She had an incredible attention span for getting those tiny loops around the branches.  I had to redistribute when she wasn't looking.

favorite advent activity:  The Christmas story told in 24 parts.  We are loving this advent calendar, new this year from Oma, which tells the story of Mary and Baby Jesus in 24 tiny little doors.  In past years we have used the chocolate advent calendars, which are unquestionably meaningless.  Advent is more than simply counting down the days until Christmas, it is engaging in active preparation to celebrate the arrival of our Savior.

favorite secular christmas song:  Mariah Carey's "All I want for Christmas is You".  Yes, that is embarrassing to admit.  It takes me back to my college days (when that was everyone's favorite song.)

favorite spiritual christmas song: "Oh Holy Night".  I almost can't hear it without tearing up.

favorite christmas book:  What Child is This? by Caroline B. Cooney.  An easy one-day read.  This tiny book is about a foster child who makes her angel-tree wish for a family instead of something material like a pair of shoes.  I cry for the final half of the book.  It makes me want to adopt children.

favorite scripture passage:  Isaiah 9:6-7 "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end..."

favorite old holiday tradition:  Listening to my dad read one of his favorite short stories to us: "A Christmas Memory" by Truman Capote.  He can't get through it without tearing up.  It isn't the story that I love; it is listening to the way the story moves my father that touches me.  Along with some humorous characterizations, the story captures the true essence of relationships at Christmas, and the beauty in a holiday tradition.  It almost makes fruitcake sound like a good idea.

favorite new holiday tradition:  Anonymous giving.  I wrote about one of our favorite family traditions in my blog post last year, here.  We did not get on the ball to adopt a family this year (that seems to be a theme for my life this fall... not being on top of things), but the act of giving, especially anonymously, is surely the action I think the most about upon exiting December.  As a young family we are still in the stage of creating traditions.  I pray that my me-centered-children learn to derive more joy from the act of sharing our abundance with others than they do from receiving gifts.  Pretty sure they are not there yet.  Hopefully with consistency and a lot of emphasis on what is truly important, they too, will grow to love the giving opportunities this season provides.

I feel better already, just focusing on the reasons to adore this month of Christmas.  I just might decide to forego the rest of my shopping (and stress) and enjoy some more meaningful traditions instead.

Merry Christmas!

I linked up with Not My Own to share about intentional family traditions at Christmas

Monday, November 28, 2011


I dread the bedtime routine.  It can really go on and on with Annike.  One more story... another song... now I need a snack.  Sometimes at the end of a long day I tell my husband, "I am done being a mom now."... which means that I don't want to have any more mother-related responsibilities for the day.

I've forgotten that my job is more important than that.

Tonight, after Christian spent time winding her down, it was my turn to go in to pray with Annike.  I was particularly distracted, tired, rushed.  But the thoughtful question of my recently-turned-3-year-old grounded me...

Annike:  Is God here?
Me: Yes.
Annike: Does He live way far away, up in the clouds?
Me:  Not really... we often picture heaven up in the clouds, but God is always here with us.  He wants to come and live in your heart.  One day you can ask Him.  When you ask, He will always say yes.   (I have been careful not to push this decision on her, and allow her to take the initiative on her own.)
Annike:  Can I ask Him now?
Me:  Yes.
Annike:  I'll start.  Dear God.  Can you come in my heart? Amen ...  Momma, are you crying?

Of course I was.  But not because I was sad.  No God-fearing mother wants to miss the moment when her child invites God to live in her heart.

I realized that the moment had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with a 3-year-old who is trying to make sense of God.  I almost missed it because I would rather have been watching t.v. on the couch, selfishly enjoying the final moments of the day sans kiddos.  But parenting isn't something we can simply turn on and off when we feel like it.  Neither is our walk with Christ.  In a way, I wanted to turn both of these identities off with the bedroom lights.

Tonight I was rather humbly reminded that this final part of the day is not just one more chore I have to finish before I can relax.  It is an opportunity.  I have a chance to be intentional about the way we spend this one-on-one time, possibly the most meaningful minutes of the day.

P.S.  In case you are wondering, the Proverbs thing (see here) is just what I've been needing.  Every day I come away with a deep truth that follows me through the day, relating to a multitude of dilemmas.  Proof that Scripture is alive.

Today's Truth:
"Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act."
Proverbs 3:27

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


In a desperate search for wisdom as a mother... as a wife... as a friend... as a woman... as a daughter... as an encourager... as a listener... as an advice-giver... as a chore do-er... as a musician... as a teacher... as a book-keeper... as a money-spender... as a time-spender... as a leader in women's ministry... as a woman seeking to strive for God's best in my life... Wow.  I need a lot of wisdom.  Primarily, as a mother raising these two little monkeys...

... Miss Grump-o on the right, and Miss Unpredictable on the left.

In this desperate search for wisdom, I am committing to read a section of Proverbs each morning before I get out of bed.  A book full of wisdom for all occasions.  A "section" will remain loosely defined.  Perhaps only a few verses are necessary to chew on for the remainder of the day.  Right now, that is all I can commit to, but it is a starting point in my quest to become the woman God wants me to be.

Anyone with me?

Today's gem:
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but a fool despises wisdom and discipline."
Proverbs 1:7

Sunday, November 13, 2011

in the country

Living in the country has its advantages and disadvantages.  Fortunately, nothing as horrid as the boot incident has happened in a few years (major disadvantage).  Over the summer we had ample opportunity to interact with the nature surrounding us, giving me a greater appreciation for the detailed care that God took as He created the world we live in.  We've stumbled across some of His treasures in our own backyard.

Having a husband who likes to catch creepy-crawlies certainly helps us admire them.  Our daughter thinks lizards are pets...

Orange-bellied salamandar

different type of salamandar

... and hunts for ladybugs in grass taller than she is...

... and loves to chase chickens.

She will probably kiss a toad one day looking for her handsome prince.  Until then, she can be content with simply holding one.

She will eat anything that is grown in our yard.  The garden was full of produce this year - carrots, onions, tomatoes, and the sweetest crop of beets I have ever tasted.  

Oma and Opa helped pick the last of the summer veggies.

Annike devouring a garden fresh tomato.
No current pictures of all the fruit in our orchard, but we are up to our ears in apples.

Sommer is too young to eat from the garden, but we are training her now to love the outdoors.

We have discovered some other treasures of nature like this wasp nest with perfectly hexagonal cells repeated over and over and over.

And this morning as we were exiting the driveway, a magnificent creature flew right in front of the car.  It landed in the road, clearly injured.  Christian rushed to rescue the wounded bird, and THIS is what he captured...

... a Great-Horned Owl with talons like daggers and a beak that made me glad I wasn't a mouse.  The towel was necessary protection.  Have you ever seen such beautiful eyes?  An intelligent creature to be sure.

Notice the relative size of Annike to the owl.  Animal rescue picked up our winged friend this afternoon (now maybe he will stop keeping us up at night!)

How cleverly God created each of his creatures, both great-horned and small.  The care taken as He designed each individual uniquely for survival in their world... down to the color of their eyes.  How much more care has He taken with us?  Surely this testifies to the greatness of His love. 

Monday, November 7, 2011


Annike saw this flower arrangement and said, "Mama, are you pretending the teapot is a vase?"

Yes, dear.  That is exactly what I am doing.

The imagination of my 3-year-old is in full bloom.  It is hard to imagine her without her imagination.  She reminds me that my sense of imagination has dulled and needs to, perhaps, be resharpened.  

Today, I am pretending that the teapot is a vase.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

happy halloween

No homemade costumes this year due to a decrease in the amount of available time I have for being creative... and let's be honest, an overall decrease in creative energy.  Hopefully this energy will be rediscovered as soon as Sommer starts sleeping more consistently.  Instead, I nabbed a green fairy costume a few months ago, much to Annike's delight.

Sommer got to use Annike's old glowworm costume - one advantage of having their birthday 3 days apart!  Until I took these pictures, I thought they looked nothing alike.  Christian gave me a hard time for taking the picture on the same blanket because he couldn't tell them apart!  Any guesses as to who is who??

Did anyone get it right?  The top one is Annike, the middle is Sommer, the bottom one is neither of my children... just a picture of the original for those who might be unfamiliar with glowworms.

Despite the survival mode status of our current household, we managed to find some time for a little festivity.  The baby even got to watch!

Pumpkin carving

Halloween is definitely not my favorite holiday (though I sure love getting to stick my kiddos in silly outfits!) It looks like Annike might share my sentiments because she only lasted about 20 minutes at the church trick-or-treating festival.  She was clearly far more excited about carving a pumpkin with her Papa than she was about the scary crowd of costumed strangers.  I won't fault her for this... perhaps she has her priorities straight.

Until next year, Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

little sommer-sunshine

I. am. in. love.

These were snapped by my amazing friend Jessica (check out her site!)  Little Sommer is changing so much already.  In fact, these shots were taken just before she started to bald and broke out in a terrible case of newborn acne.  These conditions are probably God's way of battling a mother's vanity in her child.

And some priceless family photos...

"But may they who love you be like the sun when it rises in its strength."  
Judges 5:31

Friday, October 21, 2011


Annike often says "the pink one is my favorite, and the purple one is my favorite and the blue one is my favorite too!"  In other words, whatever she is referring to (toy cars, characters in a book, crayon colors... whatever), they are ALL her favorite.

The teacher in me wants to explain that the word "favorite" cannot be used that way.  Favorite means you choose ONE that you like best.  

But instead of explaining my definition to my 3-year-old, I think I am starting to understand the word through her eyes.  Why?

because they are BOTH my favorite.

Different... and both more lovable because of their differences.  

The big one is my favorite and the little one is my favorite.  They are redefining the meaning of the word.