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Thursday, December 31, 2015

December 27-31--The End of 2015

A seriously awesome sunset.  I caught a glimpse through the kitchen window and gasped--the colors were phenomenal!
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A pile of kids on the floor! We had some friends come spend the afternoon/evening with us, and I got a kick out of them sitting in the middle of everything playing Apples to Apples. August, of course, in the midst of it all.
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This blurry picture courtesy of Josh documenting the watching of the new Stars Wars movie.  You can tell nobody was in the mood for a picture and just wanted to be in the theater yesterday. But not only did they have to wait for their father to be on Christmas break, they also had to wait for $5 Tuesday, because there is no way we would take them all for full price . . . ;o)  The days of $1 movies in Arapahoe are sorely missed.
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In spite of the fact Amazon kind of messed up the delivery of this gift, all was forgiven after it finally arrived the 29th (and they took $30 off). Meet the Ewok village.
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And junk food night, per tradition.
Followed by The Return of the King, the glorious extended 4 hours of it, per tradition.
I made it to midnight (barely). 
Go me.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

December 20-26

 Picture of my four children's concert participants (church).
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 Nothing like getting home on a Sunday night from Lincoln to turn around the next day and head right back in, but these two girls really wanted to go to their girls' choir Christmas party, and because I love them so, back to Lincoln we did go. ;o)
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 Family celebration of our 6 year old Owen.
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Evening chats with Daddy.
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 Christmas Eve! Yay for a decent picture with a camera timer!
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Not only was there snow for Christmas, but the most gorgeous freezing fog--really the weather couldn't have been any more picturesque!  I love the drive to my parents' home.
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A celebration of toddlers, footie jammies, and lights. ;o)


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Cozy Christmas House

{front door}
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{right side of front porch}
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{dining room}
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{dining room hutch}
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{up close of some chalk art--my copying skills at work again . . .}
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{living room}
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{more chalk art--tried to copy something I did a few years ago and I kind of think I did better first time around, but oh well}
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{flannel pillow covers for winter replacing the orange plaid ones for fall}
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{my favorite living room view, even if it blocks half the tv} ;o)
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 {view coming into the mudroom}
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{the sole decoration in the kitchen--cookie cutter garland made from cookie cutters from my mom and mother-in-law}
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And one last tree view--what greets me in the morning when I come down (Josh put it on a timer).  Our poor (real) tree is fading fast and getting kind of droopy at this point, but I sure do love the happy glow of twinkly lights that brighten up the inside when the days are so short and nights so long. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Happy 6th Owen Joshua!







It's kind of hard to believe that the little baby I brought home just shy of Christmas is six years old today.  But you are!  You are sweet and spunky and sometimes quite squirrely.  You spend each day trying to "keep up," determined to show those older siblings that you can do everything they can do.  You are devastated with each game you play (and lose).  But I know some day the tables will turn.
You always want to hang with your daddy and help him at whatever project he is doing.  During these months when he is coaching wrestling and not around as much I find you at my elbows, always asking, "Can I do it?"  You still like to be tucked in at night.  You requested a Star Wars Lego watch for your birthday and Darth Vader slippers. You told me that maybe next birthday you can get a bath robe (but little do you know you will be unwrapping a Darth Vader one on Christmas Eve). ;o) Also, you asked for snowman pancakes for breakfast and tacos for supper and I was happy to oblige. You love to sing with a happy heart and talk a lot about getting your own violin. You are a fun little boy to have around.

Happy birthday my Owen!
May six be super and may a love for Jesus keep growing in your sweet heart.

Monday, December 21, 2015

December 13-19

We enjoyed the adult Christmas concert at church in Lincoln and then headed home.  These late evening commutes are hard on Owen--he always falls asleep (soundly) and it is about physically painful to wake him and get him into the house.  Snuggles with Daddy do seem to help.
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 We made these little tree ornaments and hung them in the school room window. They are small embroidery hoops, a mini bottle brush tree and then some "light strands" from the doll house area at Hobby Lobby.  Super simple!
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 Josh figured out the night we needed to begin watching the Hobbit in order to have enough time to watch all six (extended versions of course) movies consecutively and finish up with Return of the King ending at midnight New Year's Eve.  It is all very scientific and regimented. ;o)
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Owen dressed up as a shepherd for Awana.  Lucky for him Grandma had all this stuff in her costume drawers--stuff that actually came from Israel.  You can't get much more authentic then that!
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 The boys helped make me make fudge.  Cooking with boys is much different then girls.  Somehow everything is always super funny. We also did some fun watercolor paintings of the kids' choice (some did the same Christmas ornaments picture we did last year, some did a "worm's eye view" of a snowman).
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First time making gingerbread biscotti--YUMMY!!
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And cookie day finally arrives! We played Christmas music and the kids got to work--it fills my heart to observe the fun, joy, laughter that happens on this day.  It is highly anticipated every year.


December 6-12

Jackson got to play his cello with the LSO again this year.  As a special surprise, I took Owen as a date to his first LSO concert.  He was a bit squirrely, but when I asked him which part was his favorite he claims, "All of it!" He talks about playing the violin--perhaps next year we will start that.
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We made northern lights inspired oil pastel pictures.  (I helped Owen do a polar bear).  I love how they all turned out.  (Emmett boycotted because it wasn't gingerbread house day . . .).
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Everybody painted "snowy pine trees"--these were watercolor with a bit of oil pastel resist (and then topped off with glue and glitter).
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We strung awesome garlands to decorate the school room. Picture taken on the front porch because it has awesome natural light. ;o)
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Celebrating the end of our first semester with a special snack time--hot cranberry punch, popcorn, and "sweet cinnamon pretzels."
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FINALLY--the long-awaited gingerbread house day.  Emmett was overjoyed. His is the one with the ridiculous amounts of candy. ;o)

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Planning for Blank Space and Margin

It has been awhile since I have had the opportunity to blog about things I long to talk about.  Ideas pop into my head from time to time, but finding time to sit down with them and type them out is elusive these days. Caring for six children is NO JOKE people. ;o) Honestly, I am not sure how much this old blog even gets read anymore, but I wanted to share some ideas for those of you who find December leaves you more stressed and frazzled then you would like.

So, everyone is busy . . . all of us in varying ways depending on what stage of life we are in. We can all agree on that. And another little secret:  It's all hard.  When you have tiny little ones depending upon you for everything, that is hard!  The lack of sleep--hard!  But as they get older, there are new kinds of hard.  And then sometimes you find yourself dealing with the "hards" of having older ones and back in the "hards" of a tiny one--all at the same time!! Life stretches us at times.

Last year, December was utterly exhausting.  For Josh, coaching wrestling is absolutely the craziest in December because he is juggling a junior high and a senior high team, all the subsequent meets, as well as all the normal teaching duties.  The first weekend in December finds him with a meet on Friday, Saturday, and then another on Monday.  His voice is nearly non-existent when that is over!  Last year, I was trying to manage all the extra practices for our church orchestra due to Christmas concerts which made the schedule really packed and given the distance we live from church (an hour and 15 minutes . . .) it felt nearly unbearable.  I was packing 6 kids for the weekend a lot, had a nursing baby, and I was still trying to keep things running smoothly at home . . . no fun. We couldn't do anything about the responsibilities we both had at that time--everything had to be done--but I began to lay plans for how our break could be great.  Restful.  Quiet.  And last year we did have a very nice Christmas break--a wonderful reprieve from the busy-ness that had pervaded the whole month.  This year I am planning for that same thing.
Here is what I am doing:

1.   Wipe the calendar clean.  This tends to happen fairly naturally for us--there are no music lessons, church activities, etc. scheduled anyway and Josh has a built-in vacation.  But we even go a step further, like that last Sunday in December? We are already planning on staying home and streaming our church service that morning. The distance we travel is rather wearying.  We find it worth it, but sometimes it is nice to give ourselves a travel break.  The end of December seems perfect for that.

2.  Brainstorm what your ideal break would look like.  What would you like to accomplish?  This year I made a little questionaire for my kids featuring these questions:
--What project would you like to work on?
--What would you like to read?
--What games would you like to play?
--What movies would you like to watch?
--What would you like to eat?
--What outside activities would be fun?
--What people would you like to visit?
This gives me an idea of what is important to my most important people.  For instance, we plan a lot of fun foods during Christmas break . . . homemade runzas, our annual junk food night . . . But I also had a request from one child for steak and another for homemade pizza and another for fettucine alfredo.  These are foods we don't have regularly scheduled in the menu, so it is nice to ditch our regularly planned meals and make stuff that the kids consider special.

3.  Take those ideas and run with them!  To make all those fun meals happen, I get a grocery list planned.  Next weekend I will be laying in supplies for the Christmas break.  By planning ahead to have everything bought I take away the mental work of having to plan meals over break.  (Clears space in my head).  I also buy things like cheese, summer sausage, crackers for when we need a quick little meal.  If I get a ham, I will get a bag of 15 bean soup medley so we can turn the leftovers into ham/bean soup.  You get the picture--think ahead. My goal is to not really have to do any grocery shopping during the break.  Of course there will be little run-ins for something small, but overall, we should be set.  This goes for any other project you might want to do over break--get the supplies for a craft you want to do or that game you want to play before the break has started.

4.  Put holds on whatever books or movies you would like from the library now.  If I want to read over break, I want to have a stack of books at the ready so I can pick one up and hunker down on the couch.

5. Wipe the rooms clean.  By this I mean, if you know you are going to be using your school room for lots of family games nights, do a de-cluttering in that room.  The last few days I have been slowly using bits of time to accomplish this.  When we envision our "perfect break" we need to envision the places the break will happen in.  We need a clean table surface for games.  We need a living room full of blankets and pillow for the watching of all the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies.  I have seen over and over again, for myself and for my kids, when we clean up a space and remove excess clutter it makes us happy--we feel somehow physically lighter.  It is a good feeling, and a feeling I want in our house when we are trying to relax and recharge.

6.  Be ready for snow!  Should we happen to get a lovely amount of snow, I want to be sure everybody has the right gear so we can just go out and play and enjoy.  My kids have grand plans if the snow comes.  They have requested a family snowball fight, sledding at Pioneers Park, snow fort and snow tunnel building . . . Because we moved this year and my storage room is still a crazy mess I have begun the hunt for all gloves and hats and boots and pants.  If I am missing something or need a new size I can take care of it now, before the snow comes.

7. Approach it all with an attitude of joy and service.  What I have learned over the years:  "a great break" (or great ANYTHING) doesn't just happen--somebody is behind the scenes, doing all the planning, gathering all the needed supplies, casually laying out this book or this game.  I am setting a scene.  I want to see my loved ones enjoying each other's company.  I want to see them snuggled up on the couch with cozy blankets and a book.  I want to see their faces all enraptured in a shared movie.  There is work in this, yes.  But this is how I minister to them and how I love them.  I know my husband needs a lot of downtime to recover from December.  I know my kids would be refreshed by a break from routine. This is my gift to them during this time of year.

Maybe that sounds like a lot of work, but it is not all drudgery--I reap some benefit too. ;o)  Planning ahead clears "brain space" and I feel more relaxed.  I feel like I can treat myself to a book or an afternoon of working on scrapbooks because I have already seen to all the little details.  If we don't plan for space, it will NEVER happen.  The end of the year just seems the perfect time to make some margin in your life and enjoy the people who are the most special to you.  I am eagerly anticipating a slowed down life as we get ready to usher in a bright new year (and pack that schedule right back up again!). ;o)


November 29-December 5

 Couch snuggles with Daddy and the tree completely lit (we had two strands die and had to bring some home from Lincoln with us).
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 The decorating of the tree.
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 The kick off of our December activity count-down, an Eric Carle-inspired Christmas tree collage.  August was thrilled to included in the picture in spite of being left out of the painting process.
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Our Lincoln day . . . but during some downtown at Grandpa and Grandma's house we worked on Christmas cards for Great Granny out in Massachusetts.
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Revisiting an old favorite--Cinnamon ornaments.
 Twig Star Ornaments--I love how these turned out!  A month or so back I cut some red dogwood sticks from my in-laws' yard.  These were trimmed down to roughly 8 inches, and then we hot glued a simple star shape, wrapping each joint or intersection with some gold wire. Some of the kids finished off with a light brushing of mod-podge and a sprinkle of gold glitter, but some left them plain.  They are so pretty!  We hung them up with the stockings.
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We had to come to Lincoln for a rehearsal for Jackson, so it made sense that we would enjoy a movie night (The Nativity Story) at Grandpa and Grandma's, followed by a sleep-over so we didn't have to make the trip to Lincoln again the next day.