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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas Fun

~Cooley Christmas~
 Linda's table had  been set and ready to go.
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 New Lego kits!  We only let them open one (they chose the Hobbit house) and made them wait until returning home (a whole week later!!) to open the others.  First thing they did?  Tore into those kits. ;o)
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 Owen got a new bike as the one we had cobbled together for him from Barbie and Spiderman bike parts had bit the dust.  This summer he actually showed us he could ride without training wheels for little bits, but it was too scary for him and he constantly wanted us running right along side him.  A new bike with working training wheels will solve that problem until he is more confident.
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 Sweet pic of the girlies and their daddy.
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 A Cooley tower--new tradition? ;o)
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 Meet Carlos the snake. Josh won him out of the "claw machine" at Val's and it is Owen's new best friend.  Carlos rode bikes, took naps, ate cheerios, and spoke to us in this high squeaky voice--definitely adding some levity and laughter to everyone's week.
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~Hansmeyer Christmas~
 Lynsi got my kids some story cubes, which are basically a set of dice with pictures and you "roll a story." They were a hit and the kids delight themselves with what they come up with.
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 Isabella and Papa Roy steadying themselves on a slippery stream.
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 The big girl cousins.
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 They had some fun coming up with all different configurations.
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And my two bigger boys--they found a canoe oar that they were using to first try to chop holes in the ice, and second as a hockey stick.

December 22-28

Our Christmas week this year was so much different than we had anticipated as Josh's brother Dan fought for his life in the critical care unit at St. Elizabeth.  But I have to say, at least for me, Christmas was not ruined, just different, and perhaps even more meaningful and worshipful than it has ever been.  As we watched and waited and hoped and prayed, KNOWING there was nothing we could possibly do to help Dan--only God--it reminded me of our fallen sinful state, our hopeless condition before God.  That He loved us enough to make a way.  And THAT is what Christmas is all about. It's been two weeks since Dan first entered the hospital.  There is a heavy weight of sorrow that hangs on all of us.  Thank you to those who know and have been praying for our whole family.  We have been humbled and blessed by the love shown to us by so many.
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 We kicked off our week with Owen's birthday and a small little family Christmas at home.  It was simple and quite frankly, inexpensive, but Josh and I were so pleased with how happy the kids were.  They bought each other gifts at the Awana awards store, there were some books, and Owen's birthday present of Lincoln Logs, and they were content.  The picture says it all.  After lunch we made the drive in to Lincoln and Josh and I got to visit Dan in the hospital for the first time.
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 A sleepy little four year old worn out after waving his special glow wand all over Grandpa and Grandma's house.
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 A Christmas Eve picture before church (some of us looking more photogenic than others . . .).
The Christmas Eve service was hard attending with such raw hearts.  It felt like every song was just meant for our family, but like I said before, so worshipful. I am so thankful for a Savior who is sovereign.
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 Over the course of the week there were 20 people staying at my in-laws' home--lots of cousins, and lots of chess games.
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 Josh and the kids (and a few cousins) joined in for our annual "watch the extended versions of the Lord of the Rings movies marathon."
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 Friday morning I had my 20 week ultrasound.  I have lots of pictures of a beautiful healthy baby, and one picture of what is possibly a "male part" but the tech just couldn't be sure because of the baby's position and how the cord was all bundled up in that area.  We shall not comment on my frustration. ;o) I have never NOT been able to find out with 100% certainty before and this is driving me crazy.  I kind of begged my midwife for another go-round and she took pity upon me and will try to sneak me in with a different tech next time (the tech who has done every other one of my ultrasounds).  So, January 27th--you all be praying for that day okay? This mama can't stand anymore surprises at this point!! ;o)
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We spent the day with my family--GORGEOUS December weather and a much needed break from everything going on in Lincoln.  My dad planned a hay rack ride and the kids got to go play out on frozen streams and ponds.  That picture is (L to R) my sis-in-law Becky, my sister Lynsi, me, and my mom (who apparently missed the black coat memo).  My brother Jared and his wife Lanay weren't able to make it, but we saw them earlier in the week for a lunch at Val's.  

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Happy 4th Birthday Owen!

For four years you have been my baby, loved, snuggled, and generally doted upon.
But over and over you set out to prove you are not a baby, and maybe finally I realize it.
You are four!
I remember when I turned four and the four Disney story books I got for my birthday.  If I can have a memory that dates back to being four then I have to accept that four is getting up there (I know, I know, something you have been trying to tell me for months now). It's one away from five.  Two away from six (as you like to show me on your little fingers that aren't quite as chubby as they used to be).






 You have this sparkly little bouncy ball of a personality.
So. full. of. energy.
I have never witnessed such determination in one so small.
If you think it, you will do it.
I know you get that from your daddy--you and him?  Cut from the same cloth you are.
You bring such joy and hilarity to our lives.
And while we thought you were the perfect finale to our family, God had other plans. In the next few months you will get to take on a new role--big brother!
Owen we are so thankful for you.
We pray you grow up to be a man who loves Jesus with all his heart.
Happy 4th birthday to my littlest man.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

December 15-21

 Activity for the day: watch the IHCC Christmas Concert on tv (streamed through computer) 
We had eggnog and popcorn and made a night of it.  And by the end, I confess, I was in tears--seeing all my choir and orchestra friends, seeing the timpani sit empty . . . Or maybe I can blame all that on pregnancy hormones?  ;o) Josh reminded me I have three times a year that are hard--when the school year ends and I realize I am facing another year here, when the school year begins and all activities I want to be a part of in Lincoln start back up, and at Christmas.  And that about sums it up.
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 Activity for the day: cut snowflakes from coffee filters (and later we made some peanut butter snowballs for a snack).
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 Activity for the day:  join with all the other violin students to play Christmas music at two nursing homes in Kearney.  Jackson was able to provide the bass line of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" at the end of both performances.  He is so cute with his cello. ;o)
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Activity for the day: We made fudge.  The end. ;o)
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 Activity for the day: Peppermint Day--we started out with peppermint play-dough and for snack had candy cane milkshakes.  We had hopes of trying our hands at homemade peppermint marshmallows but it didn't happen.
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 Activity for the day: have a little family birthday party for Owen. 
Originally we were going to do this on his actual birthday (Sunday, the 22nd) but we are dealing with some schedule rearrangement and are heading to Lincoln earlier than we anticipated.  I didn't want Owen's birthday to get forgotten in all the hustle and bustle.  We made homemade pizza and gooey chocolate cupcakes and he is feeling quite proud of the four fingers he gets to hold up. ;o)
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Activity for the day: The grand, much-anticipated cookie decorating day!
I think it is everyone's favorite (although probably the most work for the resident mommy). And for the first time we didn't have a big ol' pile of frosting and sprinkles teetering on one fragile cookie.  They are growing up!!  Everything was pretty much edible looking! ;o)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Recipe Winners

Lately, I've found myself in the mood for trying some new things in the meal department and being that I DO have a board of Pinterest recipes just waiting to be explored I jumped on it. ;o)  Two new favorites were discovered:

#1 Pot Roast Sliders Josh loved these and told me he would pay for them at a restaurant.  I have a similar recipe (no salsa though) for slow cooker French dip and he liked these sliders even better.  Part of what makes them so tasty is the horseradish sauce.  My mom made a similar sauce when she would serve pork roast and Josh has always loved it.  It gives a nice little kick to your sandwich.  The downside to this recipe would be how expensive a nice sized beef roast is these days.  While I haven't tried this recipe with a pork roast, I have used them in place of beef roast from time to time (like in French dip).  The results are a bit different, but still tasty.

#2 Southwestern Egg Rolls These were a hit with pretty much my entire family!  They were so good that all I can think about is making them again.  I "kind of" doubled the the recipe--I kept the seasoning amounts the same but put in the extra large can of black beans, a full 12 oz bag of frozen corn, a full bag of baby spinach, and 4 chicken breasts.  It is one those recipes where the exact measurements aren't a big deal.  While it wasn't a "dump it in a pot and bake it" kind of meal I did find that my extra filling was just as excellent rolled into tortillas a day later and baked.  It is definitely a meal where you could get the prep out of the way in the morning or even the night before and then just roll up your little egg rolls and bake them.  And be sure to serve them with Cilantro Cream Sauce! But if you were pressed for time I think mixing up some salsa and ranch would suffice (or maybe just ranch for little kids).
SO YUMMY!! ;o)

And then I have this awesome dip to share:
ESPINACA
2 8 oz packages of cream cheese
12 oz hot pepper cheese
4 oz frozen spinach (I usually add in a bit extra)
1 onion chopped (I usually leave it out because Josh isn't a fan)
1 can rotel, drained
1 cup heavy cream
2 chicken bullion cubes

Throw it in a pot over medium heat until melted and combined (around 20 minutes), stirring periodically to make sure the bottom isn't scorching.  Or just put it in your crock pot.  Here is a picture of the cheese I use (usually find it at Walmart in the refrigerated section where all the Mexican/Italian cooking items are).
Serve it up with some tortilla chips.  The leftovers keep great in the fridge as well.  If you have any. ;o)  I think I could live off of this indefinitely . . .

Saturday, December 14, 2013

December 8-14

 Activity for the day:  Watching the dvd of "The Nativity Story."
Seeing as a picture of my kids watching tv isn't exactly all that exciting I thought I would share an out-take of our "yay it snowed let's take a different Christmas card picture!"  So, if my Christmas letter is arriving a bit behind schedule this year, now you know why. ;o)  We were all super excited to wake up to a few inches of *official* snow. 
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 Activity for the day:  Create a sparkly star banner
Our bathroom is getting quite the festive makeover this year with a strand of icicle lights swagging across the ceiling and glittery stars mixed in.  It is fun and whimsical and makes bath time a happy occasion.
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 Activity for the day: Lay in supplies for Christmas baking?
I'm not sure that counts as an *official activity*, but I promised myself this month I wasn't going to force something to happen if I couldn't pull it off with my sanity intact.  Kearney days are just exhausting for me, not to mention every store is just crazy this month--even in the middle of the day!  Most likely because there is ONE Wal-mart, ONE Target . . . So our day was packed with ACTIVITY, just not a specific one. ;o)
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 Activity for the day: Sparkle Jar Lanterns--involving Elmer's Glue, double-sided tape, "diamond" jewels, and lots of glitter.  And yep, still finding glitter everywhere.
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 Activity for the day: Pipe Cleaner Christmas Trees (with improvised tree stands)
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 Activity for the day: Watercolor Painting--choice between a nutcracker or a wintry cardinal.
Emmett surprised me coming up with his own birdy design, and the nutcrackers were super fun (even though I had to draw Owen's and Jackson's).  We found a great little nutcracker tutorial that helped us out. ;o)
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Activity for the day: Gingerbread Houses!
Always a grand time. ;o)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas House 2013

While I love to change things up in my home seasonally and in particular adore fall decorating, Christmas is always going to be my absolute favorite.  I love what we are celebrating, I love that it is cold and we want to cozy up inside, I even love the shorter days (gives me more reason for twinkling lights!). ;o)
There are lots of things I would change about my house if I owned it--painting all that orange woodwork white for one, ripping out the kitchen and bathrooms, finishing the basement so there would be more space for us to spread out . . .   But if you recall this is the house God provided for us, sight unseen, and all-in-all, it has shaped up into a pleasant little home for us.  It is a continuous lesson to me in being content with what God has blessed us with and doing my best to (frugally) make a welcoming place for my bunch.
And so this year we have a lot of old standbys mixed up with some newbies:
The view looking towards the front door.
 Close up of door and the boxwood wreath and the little $10 houndstooth door mat I found at Target.
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 Same area, different view.  I hung my smaller boxwood wreaths with burlap ribbon on a few of the inner doors.
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 Close up of the small hutch.  It gets relocated at Christmas time, because the tree takes its usual corner.  New to me this year is the beginnings of the Willow Tree nativity I used birthday money for.  They all looked a little stark and lonely in there on the black shelf so I took silver star stickers and made some starry garlands to hang in the shelf as well as stuck some stars to the back.  Middle shelf has the "JOY" letters I hand stitched four or five years ago, and the bottom shelf has some white birch logs from my in-laws' yard.
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 The tree that looks pretty much the same as last year--burlap ribbon, pine cones, special ornaments (mostly handmade), my mother-in-law's wash tub that I steal every year, and the sign my dear friend Kathy made me.  
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 The Christmas chalkboard--the ribbon across the wreath doesn't show the wording so well, but it says "For unto us" and then the wreath has the verse from Isaiah.  Another blatant copying of someone else's design. ;o) I've got my sugar pine cones and boxwood clipping filling the rustic window box.
 Just another view with the tree in it.
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 Our stocking line-up, gallery wall that is slowly filling up, mini tree in a galvanized pail. 
I had plans to make new burlap stockings this year--even got them sewn and lined, but I'm hoping to do something original for each cuff, and well, that won't be happening this month. At least I've got a head start on all eight of them (EIGHT!!). ;o)
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The other side of the window, matching tree, "Silent Night" sign I painted a few years back, a grapevine ball and big jingle bell to fill some space.
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I made the couch some cute little red houndstooth pillows.  I use to put color all over my walls (dark reds, sage greens, yellows!) but have found as I get older I like a more neutral palette to work with and then I can bring in pops of color whenever it strikes my fancy (because I can be kind of fickle that way . . .).  The covers cost me about $5 each.  When you think of how much a decorative pillow goes for in a store . . . They only take (tops) half an hour to make!
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Our "kids corner" with the Christmas book collection, nativity, advent countdown, Jesse Tree cards--we take down a number and in its place hang a picture that goes with the day's devotional.  But, keeping it real, some days we have to do two (or three) to get caught up. ;o)
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The big picture.
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The dining room hutch--pitchers with boxwood, faux Hobby Lobby garland, sugar pine cones, a few disco ball ornaments.
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Up close of the top and my little chalkboard.
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 God helping me out on a few windows. ;o)
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Candle we like to light at supper time, making meal times just a little more magical.
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And that kind of sums up this year's decor.  The kids each have little trees in their rooms and have wrapped their bunk beds in colorful lights.  My room is currently housing Christmas presents and piles of laundry . . . And the kitchen--I had a few little plans for my kitchen, but it didn't happen.  Maybe next year?
Now, if only I could have you all over for tea or cocoa and some tasty treats . . . the house would REALLY be complete. Maybe next year?? ;o)