Monday, December 29, 2014

B. Family Photo Session

She wanted family photos to use on Christmas cards but we were running out of good weather days. We decided to watch the weather and if a decent day came up that worked for both of us we would go for it. In mid-November we saw a break in the weather and scheduled to do a quick session immediately after her kids got off the bus after school on a Monday... but then the weather changed and it was saying high winds and possible rain.

So she called me on Sunday, which happened to be an extremely gorgeous day for November, and we were both thinking the same thing... Can we do it today!?!? So about an hour after the phone call I headed to their house and we fit in my last photo session of 2014.

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

So This is Christmas...

I have to say that I think this was my favorite one yet! Liza and Jason... 8 and almost 7... such fun ages!

We don't do Santa (and don't care if you do!) so they knew that all the gifts came form us. They had small lists (thanks to no cable which means no commercials to tell them what they think they need!) and got most things that they wanted.

They waited for Christmas morning with great anticipation, reminding us up to the last minute that they REALLY wanted radios. At 7:30 on Christmas morning they came running into our room ready to go!

The excitement on their faces as they opened their presents was worth all the long lines in the stores. They took their time with each gift, checking out what they got, seeing what the other one opened and always saying "thanks mom and dad!!" 

I loved every moment of it... Their joy our reward.

But my favorite moment was when I asked them what their favorite gift was and Jason stood and pointed up. Jesus. He remembered what it is all really about.

I'm not always a huge fan of Christmas... but I have to admit that I love the memories that were made with this one!!!


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Friday, December 26, 2014

Twelve Days of Christmas

The best neighbor ever... the same one who had the tea party for all the little girls in the neighborhood... she spoils my kids! And I LOVE IT!

Last year was the first year and we had a repeat this year... The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Awesome Neighbor knocks on our door and drops off a big sack for both Liza and Jason. Each sack is filled with twelve wrapped gifts and they are told that they get to open one present per day for 12 days. The "rules" are that we must turn on the Christmas lights and music and make it festive.

So for twelve days Liza and Jason turned on the lights, turned up the Christmas music, dug through their sacks, picked a gift, posed for pictures and then tore them open. Awesome Neighbor is so thoughtful! She doesn't spend much on the gifts (which I love!) but they are things that Liza and Jason can do... things to enjoy... things to break up the boredom of being stuck inside so much on these long winter days.

Liza and Jason loved every day of the Twelve Days of Christmas. They got excited over every single gift. They know they have the best neighbor ever. Jason even began saying "When do we get to do the twelve days of Christmas my true love gave to me?" When I asked if our neighbor was his true love he confidently answered YES!

We love The Twelve Days of Christmas and we love our neighbor!!

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They posed every day with an "I wonder what this could be" pose.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Christmas Tea Party

I truly have the most amazing neighbor ever! As long as she lives next door I will stay here because I know that I will never find a neighbor as great as her ever again.

This year she planned a Christmas Tea Party for the girls in the neighborhood. She delivered invitations for the girls and their moms... no boys allowed!

One Sunday afternoon we got dressed up and walked next door. My neighbor went all out! The table was decorated with poinsettias (gifts for the moms), a gift at each table setting, delicious food and Christmas magic!

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Each girl opened her box to find her very own tea cup.

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Food was served... along with tea and hot chocolate. All the kids opted for hot chocolate and I don't blame them!

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The girls were then give "party bags" which were filled with all kinds of girly fun.

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Each family was sent home with cookies and the girls each got a gift with the instructions to place it under the tree and not open it until Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Oh... she also sent them home with gifts they could open right away.

My neighbor seriously went all out for these girls and made them feel so special and gave them a memory to keep forever. She wanted to help make Christmas magical for them and she definitely succeeded!

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May you all find a neighbor as awesome as mine... and may we all become the kind of neighbors to others that has them feeling like they landed in the best place ever when they got their new home.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Christmas Surprise

Sooo... there was that time this summer that we had lice. DON'T WORRY!!! We do NOT have lice again.

But when we did have lice... I packed up all the kids' stuffed animals in garbage bags and put them in the basement. They are still there.

Every so often Liza and Jason will ask about them and I just say "yeah... I need to get those washed up don't I?" And then nothing ever happens. They still sit in those bags in the basement. Part of me wants to throw them out because there are so many of them and those dang stuffed animals just take over my house. Then I remember that some of them were the kids' favorites and they played with them all the time and called them their children.

The other day I was sitting here thinking that maybe I should surprise the kids... wash them all up and put them in their bedroom for them to wake up to on Christmas morning. Of course, as soon as I thought that Jason was telling me his head was itching. As he was laying in his bed trying to fall asleep he yelled down, "Moooom! My head is itchy like I have lice!"

I thought how dare he speak that word in this house!!!!

I figured his head was just itchy because he had just showered and didn't get all the soap out but you know I had to have a good look anyways. And that also made me pause about washing those stupid stuffed animals that are still bagged up in my basement awaiting their fate.

I suppose I really should get around to washing those animals. It would be such a fun Christmas surprise... they might even like it more than their gifts.




Sunday, December 14, 2014

Timely Reminders

A few months ago the school board announced that they would be consolidating the schools and making all kinds of drastic changes to our district. We are a huge district with 11 elementary schools. They are discussing closing 7 of them. There are also a few other options being discussed but in every. single. plan my school is on the list to close. My wonderful school that is so important to my community. My school that is just across the road.

The closing of my school will change our community. It will also create all kinds of difficulties for families... especially those that do not own a vehicle and chose to live in the area of my school because EVERYONE walks. We do not have any busing at all. We are a unique community and not having a school in the middle of it will change us is in big ways.

I have stretched the boundaries of my comfort zone far and wide as I try to make the board members see the importance of our school to our community and the families that live here. I have found myself caring about the people far more than I ever thought I could. But the people at my school... they have become the people I do life with. They are worth fighting for.

I am emotionally drained.
I have poured myself out.
And I must continue to pour myself out because this is not yet over.

I have to admit that I have days that it all feels really hopeless.
Days where I am angry at God for calling me up as a leader.
Days where I want to give in and give up.

Just the other day I learned more news. Every blow hits harder than the one before. I spent a good amount of time crying. My heart was devastated. I was more discouraged than ever in this mess.

But then I opened up my journal and on the page I was going to write on was this quote...

"You are not here in the world for yourself. 
 You have been sent here for others.
 The world is waiting for you!"
 ~Catherine Booth

A timely reminder for me.
A reminder that I am not in this for myself... but for the children who need our school and have no one to speak up for them.
A reminder that someone needs me. 

And this reminder is the encouragement that will get me through to the next blow. And when that next blow comes I am certain that God will send me another timely reminder that gives me the strength to go yet one more step... and after that another... and after that another...

I'm in this thing until it's done... Because I'm not in it for myself.

Although... I can't imagine how empty the silence will feel if the school playground across the road from my house is no longer full of squeals and laughter of awesome little children throughout the day.

Please pray for me... for strength, courage and wisdom. Pray that more people in my community will begin speaking up and showing up at meetings. Pray.



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Time Out and Attitude Adjustments

I have never really done the traditional time out. I never put a limit on how long it would last. Instead, when I sent my kids to time out I would tell them they could come out of their rooms when they had a better attitude or were ready to be behave appropriately.

I left it up to them. They are the ones that know when they have calmed down or had an attitude change.

I always loved hearing Jason's little voice yelling from his room... "Mooom. I'm ready to be good now."

This has worked well for us. There have been very few times where I had to send either of the kids back for round two of settling down. That one time in their rooms was almost always enough... because they really did change their attitudes while taking their time out.

Yesterday I was out for a while and when I got home the house was quiet. Mike was in the kitchen cooking (he's a total stud like that!) and the kids were not seen or heard. I asked where they were and was told that they had not been getting along and were spending some time in their rooms. Jason had been gifted a new toy from a friend and Liza desperately wanted to try it out but Jason was having none of that. It was his and that was that. And that was what led to some fighting.

So they were separated and left to have an attitude adjustment.

When I finally headed upstairs I heard them giggling. When I peaked in Jason's room Liza was there all "shhh! Don't tell dad! We weren't getting along and sharing so we had to go to our rooms but we are working on a surprise for him! We are sharing now and playing nice and we are going to make him something!"

I love watching Liza and Jason grow as people. I love that they have learned to work things out... without me or Mike interfering or forcing it. I love that they are learning life skills and how to get along.

And I love that they were making a surprise for their daddy by sharing the very thing they had been fighting over so that they could make him a piece of art.

I am proud of Liza and Jason.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Replacing Memories

My Grandpa built a greenhouse and a business. It was big. I worked there as a kid... and a teenager... and a college student. You would think that I would know something about plants and keeping them alive... I don't.

Anyways... I bring this up for a reason.

Poinsettias.
The flower of Christmas.

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I spent a lot of time working on poinsettias in that greenhouse. Summer months spend replanting cuttings so that they could grow in to more plants. Transplanting the small plants into bigger pots. Arranging three or four plants together to make a massive plant. Poinsettias... all. the. time.

I eventually decided that I hated them. I swore I would never have one in my house.

Fast forward to last Saturday... and I now have one in my house. And I am realizing it isn't quite as bad as I thought it would be.

How did I end up with a poinsettia?
My wonderful neighbor invited all the little girls in the neighborhood to a tea party. The moms were invited too. Wonderful Neighbor had gifts for everyone and the moms went home with a poinsettia. At first I was all "oh my gosh! Now I have to keep a poinsettia!" I didn't know if I could handle it. But I set it on my table and within about a half hour it grew on me. I started to like it... and think that it was actually kind of pretty. And it made a great Christmas centerpiece for the table.

I was confused!

How did I ever start liking this thing!?!?!

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And then it hit me... I used to always have not-so-great memories attached to the poinsettia plant. But now... now when I see it I don't think of all those years working with the sticky things... I think of my wonderful neighbor and the magical Christmas tea party.

I have replaced old memories with a new one and that new memory has changed my attitude toward the plant.


Maybe I'll even buy one for myself next year.

Maybe... first I have to see if I can keep this one alive for at least a few days.






Monday, December 8, 2014

Clarity

I've shared before about my struggles with anxiety and depression. Winter months always seem to increase this struggle meaning that I need to be proactive and aware of things that trigger anxiety or depression. It's not always easy to stay on top of it and often I'm halfway there before I realize I need to DO something about it.

The end of last week was one of those times.

The anxiety was becoming overwhelming. And if anxiety lingers too long the depression hits hard.

It's strange to me sometimes because I am typically not one to worry. The anxiety often confuses me and leaves me feeling so unlike myself. (Which causes more anxiety!)  But I also have to admit that I have changed over the years... life and experience has changed me. Pain has changed me.

While I still don't consider myself one who worries often, the anxiety at times can be overwhelming and crippling.

Rewind to the end of last week... I decided to sign off of Facebook and stay off for the weekend. I did sign on briefly to send out reminders of an event I had scheduled on Saturday but that was it. I probably spent about two minutes total on Facebook this weekend.

I realized a few things...

1. It was a lot easier to stay off than I thought it would be.
2. I didn't miss it.
3. I still need to use it.
4. I can definitely limit my time on Facebook.
5. Facebook clutters my mind.

That last point is the most important. The longer I stayed off of Facebook the clearer my mind felt. My anxiety lessened because I was able to focus. And instead of self-medicating by letting myself get sucked into the mindless internet I found myself going to my family, friends and God and actually working through my feelings instead of stuffing them. (A stuffer is another thing I don't know how I became.)

Facebook clutters my mind and I have never liked clutter so it's time for me to take control of that "cluttered area". I plan to continue limiting Facebook time. I don't need to know everything all the time. I don't need to be reachable 24/7. I don't need to continue cluttering my mind.

I like this clarity.

Winter has always been a hard season for me but I'm trying to stay on top of it this year. This change is step one.

Step two... eat right. Definitely not as easy as staying off of facebook!


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Christmas Stockings

For as long as I can remember, this has been the December scene at my mom and dad's house...

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Six stockings for their six kids. They were always filled on Christmas morning with goodies. They were knit by my great-great step-grandma. (My great-great grandma had passed away.)

These Christmas stockings are a constant in my Christmas memories.

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About a month ago I came across a pattern for an awesome looking crocheted Christmas stocking and realized that all these years mom and dad have hung stockings for all six of their kids but they have never had Christmas stockings of their own.

I bet you can guess what I got to work on. :)

Mom and Dad now have their own Christmas stockings.

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I have to admit that I like them so much that I am thinking I need to make them for me, Mike and the kids... for next year. It's too late for this year.

Do you fill stockings with gifts? What kind of things do you put in them?






Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Moments I Treasure

*When they snuggle up beside me while I read one of my favorite books to them.

*When they spend an hour together, quietly painting the Christmas ornaments they made.

*When Liza sings "Feliz la-di-da".

*When their daddy gets them ready for bed but all I hear is fits of giggles.

*When Jason won't let me leave without giving him a hug and a kiss.

*When one of them wakes up cranky and I declare "You have woken up on the wrong side of the bed! Start rolling around until you find the right side!" And they do roll... until they giggle.

*When they decorate their Christmas tree and are so proud of it... even though I think it looks like a mess.

*When they wake up in the morning... one sneaks into the other's room and they play quietly until it's really time to wake up.

*When they snuggle with each other.

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Liza and Jason are best friends... and together they keep my heart beating strong. They are my world... my treasure.

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