Monday, December 7, 2009
So we're having our own little snow day...bunkered in and huddled up. It's kind of nice to have a day mostly at home!
Enjoy the video...this is the last one (for now :D):
p.s. I'm not sure what is going on with the shaky camera work here...but it probably had to do with a very squirmy 2 year old...
Here's the 2 year old Sunday school class during LBC's Children's Christmas program. I offered to help the teachers shepherd the kiddoes from their classroom onto stage. Hilarious. It was like herding cats. Tobin didn't love me holding all kinds of other kids, but he's one of the older in his class, so he didn't really need my help at all. Others were wandering, weeping, and having all kinds of other issues. Once they got up there, they were pretty awed by all the lights and people, and settled down (not that they really sang, most of them...) But it was super cute :).
Considering how much he sings around the house, I'm surprised Tobin didn't do much here. I'm not sure what he was doing, but it was super cute too!
Part 2 (Luke!) coming soon!
They've been practicing "scatting", a form of jazz, which has added considerably to the noise in our house. Luke walks around singing "Za Zaba Zee Zaba Zoo Zabaroni..." Over and over. Tobin joins in, "Za zaba zi Macaroni!!" Very cute!
Their first chorus concert was last week, and there was some confusion about the date of the concert. Luke was VERY concerned (he had a stomach ache) that they weren't prepared. Here is the scatting song - I thought they did a GREAT job!
Sunday, December 6, 2009
I love the gym we're playing in this year, both because we actually have a place to sit, and because that place to sit is right under one of the baskets. I had a great seat for getting some video of Luke's last basket (I also got about 10 videos of them attempting, but nothing actually happening, but I won't share those...)
I really want my kids to associate Christmas primarily with Christ...it's very important to me, but I think I have been a bit obsessive about accomplishing it. The reality is...they're going to get presents at Christmas time. And kids like presents. We have very generous (and abundant) family, so they're going to get lots of presents. And I like presents too, so why am I fighting?
I think I'm beginning to find a nice balance, and a kind of rhythm that feels comfortable to me for Christmas... I thought I'd share what we've found that works for us as a family.
For starters, we have Santa Claus decorations, and I'm not anti-Santa, but our kids know that the gifts under the tree on Christmas morning are from us. Luke actually had a conversation with friends this week in the van, talking about St. Nicholas, how Santa was a real guy at one time who gave gifts, but he just dropped them down the chimneys, he wasn't magic, and "he doesn't live forever, come on!" I did a little happy dance inside. :)
(For those of you who are worried we're wrecking it for other kids, the kids he was talking to don't believe in Santa either. Luke is very responsible about honoring other people's thoughts about Santa, that's actually what the conversation was about, how they're careful at school not to talk about it because some of their friends still believe in Santa...)
I know this is controversial, and I certainly don't mind other people using Santa (I don't think it's wrong) - we'll be pretending our little hearts out this Christmas, since we'll be waking up on Christmas morning with my sister's kids, who believe in Santa. But for our family, it has really helped to free the focus up. I love it.
Another tradition I learned from a friend, and we started last year, has really helped with dealing with the potential excess of Christmas with kids. On Christmas morning, we just have 3 gifts from our family for each kid, coinciding with the gifts of the 3 wise men for Jesus. They each get a gold gift - something precious, something they really want (for Luke, a not-kiddie digital camera, for Tobin, a scooter); a Frankincense gift - frankincense was used for worship, so this is something for their spiritual growth (for Luke, a Bible study book & Adventures in Odessey CDs, for Tobin a Veggie Tales Bible and DVD of Veggie Tales Bible stories); and Myrrh - Myrrh was used on the body, like a lotion, so this is something for their bodies (For Luke, a Husker Jersey, for Tobin, a robe - just like the one Luke has, he's going to LOVE it!) I really like how this connects the presents they receive Christmas morning with the birth of Christ, and I like that it gives me boundaries in buying for the kids, and has helped tremendously with budgeting!
We do still give stockings, and Matt thinks I go overboard on those, but I haven't found a structure to bind me in that area :D. I also get the kids Christmas-y pajamas on the first of December each year, along with a new Christmas CD. This year we got Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God, which was just in concert here on Friday, and is WONDERFUL. (I really enjoy adding to our collection of Christmas CDs each year - last year, we got Third Day's Christmas album, which is very good, and the year before that it was Relient K, which surprisingly is one of my favorites :).
One of our favorite Christmas traditions is our advent calendar. It was designed by Noelle Piper, I learned about it in her WONDERFUL book, Treasuring God in Our Traditions. I like that her calendar actually tells the Christmas story, adding a little bit of the story, and one figure to the picture, each day. By Christmas, Luke has almost the entire narrative memorized. Sadly... it is not being produced right now. They are revamping it, and it was supposed to be ready for this Christmas, but the website still says coming soon...
By far the family tradition that has most helped me to relax about CHRISTMAS.MUST.BE.ABOUT.JESUS!! is actually celebrating Advent. I have always associated Advent (like Lent) with more traditional churches, and our church doesn't even really acknowledge Advent. But as a family, celebrating the Sundays of Advent has been such a blessing!
I think the reason this is so helpful for me is that by the time the inevitable craziness of Christmas Eve/Day roll around, and all the gifts start rolling in, you've spent 3-4 weeks talking about the Christmas story, looking at all the parts, remembering that "Jesus is the greatest gift of all." Not that we don't talk about Jesus on Christmas Eve or Day, but I don't feel the tremendous pressure, because we've already covered it. We can relax and enjoy time with friends and family, remembering that Jesus is the reason for all of this.
It's taken several years for us to find a structure that works for us, and we'll probably adapt as the kids grow up. Last year we tried something different, and really enjoyed it. Tobin was too young to really participate in anything we did, so it was focused more on Luke... We have some readings by Woodrow Kroll from Back to the Bible that we used in the college group & decided to use in our family advent as well... They are dramatic readings of the Christmas story, told from the perspective of the different characters in the story - Joseph, Mary, the Shepherds, as you'd expect, but also Zechariah, Elizabeth, Herod, Anna & Simon. It was really good, and I look forward to using those again. If you're interested, I'd be glad to send those to you, I have them in an email...
Now that Tobin is understanding more, we're back to a simple, toddler friendly advent. This is also what we did with Luke a few years before Tobin was born... For starters, we have an advent wreath. I married into the one we use (it was Matt & Julie's before we were married), but I imagine you could get one at any Christian store. It's a flat wreath with a place for 4 candles. Some years I've bough advent candles (3 purple, 1 pink, large white pillar for the Christ candle), other years I've just spent $.50 each at Walmart for 4 white tapers, then bought a white pillar for the Christ candle.
Going on the suggestion from Noelle Piper (this again), we take a figure from one of our nativity sets and put it next to each candle. Noelle (I like to talk about authors like they're my friends) says that young children are very tactile, so you need to give them something visible to associate with the story you're telling.
Each Sunday we like a candle, and talk about one of the characters from the story. Actually... The first Sunday, you light the first candle (Mary, for us), then the second Sunday, you light the first and second (Joseph) candle, the third Sunday, you light 3 etc. We light that week's advent candles during all of our meals during the week, but we only do the reading once (we mostly light the candles as a reminder, and because Luke likes lighting candles & Tobin likes blowing them out.) The middle candle is the Christ candle, it's lit on Christmas Eve or Day. We'll be in Texas for Christmas, so we won't be lighting the Christ candle this year...
So...the 4 Sundays before Christmas, we light that week's candle(s) before dinner. As dinner is finishing, Luke reads the passage listed out of his Bible, and then we read a picture book for Tobin. I found this wonderful book at a going out of business sale last year, and it is such a find! It actually breaks the Christmas story into 5 different stories, and it goes almost exactly with what we already focus on. Then we sing a Christmas carol (again, mostly because the boys love to sing; we just picked our 5 favorites & put them with the Sundays they make the most sense), and pray, thanking Jesus for whatever the focus of that Sunday is (Jesus is the Light/Savior/God/King). Simple, and lovely.
Here's the reading schedule we've worked out (some of this I found on line, some of it we just figured out as we went...)
First Candle: Jesus is Light
Mary, Luke 1:26-38 (O Come Emmanuel)
Second Candle: Jesus is Savior
Joseph, Matthew 1:18-25 (Silent Night)
Third Candle: Joy (the pink one, traditionally), Jesus is God
Shepherds & Angel, Luke 2:8-17 (What Child is This)
Fourth Candle: Jesus is King
Wise Men/3 Kings, Matthew 2:1-12 (Joy to the World)
Christmas (Christ candle, in the center; we won't be doing this one this year b/c we'll be in TX...)
The focus is Jesus of course :), and we sing O Holy Night.
Luke 2:1-7, or John 1:1-14
Wow. This ended up being really long...and it's late. But I hope it's helpful to someone out there! And if you have traditions you grew up with or have developed in your own family that help keep Jesus at the center of the celebration, I would LOVE to hear them!
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Mostly I check her site for recipes, but she also occasionally shares really random things. I think she's rubbing off on me.
We're having two Thanksgiving Dinners this year, the first tomorrow at Bill & Sara's, and the second on Thanksgiving Day with George & Renae and Renae's extended family. I'm bringing Sweet Potatoes to both (I always offer to bring the sweet potatoes because one time, a long time ago, I didn't and someone made the kind that are just sliced and floating in syrup. Yuck. Mashed, with brown sugar, is probably my favorite thing about Thanksgiving, although Sara's stuffing and my Brother-in-Law Darren's mashed potatoes are gaining steadily.)
Anyway... For the Sweet potatoes I'm making for Bill & Sara's, Mama Sara always gives me Sweet Potatoes from her garden. They're always giant, and fresh from the dirt, but other than that, they're recognizable as sweet potatoes.
This is what I got this year:
What?? Is this normal?
And if so, who knew Sweet Potatoes in their natural state look so much like our Colons? (sorry.)
Also, how do they make the ones you buy in stores look like normal potatoes? Come to think of it, do normal potatoes grown in nature do this too? I've had white potatoes from Sara's garden too, but they were just smallish, normal potatoes.
For contrast, this is what the sweet potatoes I bought at the store for my second dish look like:
Again, one from the garden.
That's one potato. I cut it into 3 large chunks to bake it. We'll see how long it takes.
Another question... What's the difference between a Sweet Potato and a Yam? Are they the same thing? Am I really making yams, and calling them sweet potatoes? Does anyone know?
Sunday, November 22, 2009
I had to share. The ending is precious, but first paragraph itself is worth GOOD money. As in, priceless.
Here it is. Before you start reading, I'll remind you that Tobin was born in late March. In Nebraska. There was snow on the ground (that was the year of the late snowstorm, which killed all the tulips and ripped the blossoms off our pear tree just as they were budding.) It had warmed up somewhat, but it was still Nebraska in late March...
OK, read on:
The day my brother was Born
It was a hot spring day. I felt like a piece of gold getting melted by a blow torch. My mom had been pregnant for about 8 months. We were expecting a baby sometime soon. That’s how it all started.
On March 26th when I got home from school my grandma and grandpa were there. When they told me what had happened I felt like I was going to faint. We rushed to the hospital and that was the first time I had met my baby brother.
The Christmas before that we went to Texas where my nana and paw-paw lived. My mom had made me a shirt that said” I’m a big brother”. When we got to Texas I had my shirt on. My nana didn’t even notice until my mom said something about it. That was the first person I surprised.
The second person was my Paw Paw. He noticed my shirt but didn’t read it. But a few minutes later he was asking my mom tons of questions about him.
I’m never going to forget that day my brother was born. I’m hoping I can get another brother. Except no day will ever be exactly like that day. My brother is the best brother I could ask for. He’s the best brother of all.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
So the major response (besides that they love it, of course) of both of my parents to our blog was to ask "Where are the pictures of Luke?" I feel like it's pretty even most of the time, they just happened to see it for the first time when there were more T adventures going on. And you have to admit the potty training stories were good for a laugh.
But far be it from me to embarrass only one of my children on the internet. We're equal opportunity around these parts.
Here's our Farmer Boy. Every year in Lincoln the fourth grade classes get to spend a day at Heritage School - they visit the Nebraska Heritage museum, and go to school in a one room school house, just like the first settlers of Nebraska. The kids are encouraged to dress appropriately for the time. Most boys are not too thrilled with this, but my boy actually loves dress up. AND he has a wonderful Grammie who managed to dig up some pretty authentic gear for us.
Luke's teacher said with his longer hair and the hat and suspenders, it really did look like he'd just wandered in from the prairie.
And for a less Little House on the Prairie...
Our son is Sasquatch. He now wears the same size as me. We just bought him new Basketball shoes (this picture was taken after BBall practice this morning), and they are GARGANTUAN. I think it's especially incongruous because the rest of him is such a stringbean. But he sure is cute. :)
Of course I'm doing that with a super creepy picture...
Opi's (Matt's dad's) birthday is at the beginning of November. Omi & Opi were sick on Halloween so they didn't get to see any of the kids this year, so they asked us to have the kids wear their costumes. (which worked out well with T, since he had spent the week after Halloween asking when we were doing Halloween again.)
Now obviously, Opi wasn't expecting his one and only son to show up in drag. A little background... This was Matt's costume for the College Group Halloween party last year
(Dionna, are you horrified to see how your Dorothy costume is being used? We actually do use it - worn by a woman - every year in our small group leader training, and it's a great visual for what we're teaching. That's why I asked to borrow it 3 years ago...and have never returned it. Do you want it back?? I'm sure I could find one to buy for myself...)
Anyway... Annalise (our niece, the good witch in the picture above - she was very insistent that she was a good witch) saw a picture of Matt/Dorothy last Halloween. Her response? "That Uncle Matt is just a big bag of trouble." It's become her name for him: "Hey there, Big Bag of Trouble!" (he calls her "Little Bag of Trouble") So he felt like she would be disappointed if he didn't let her see the Big Bag of Trouble in person. :)
Less creepy picture. Betsy had an absolutely adorable Poodle costume for Ellery, but she wasn't having anything to do with that, she trick or treated and came to Opi's in her cutie Halloween shirt.
Monday, November 16, 2009
For starters, CANCER. It should be a bad word. It sure is an ugly word. It took Luke's birth mom, Matt's first wife. Among many others, it's tried to take my neighbor, and is currently doing it's best to take a friend, the husband of my dear friend, and father of 2, in College Station.
And now it's here again. A dear family member, Matt's uncle, and one of Luke's very favorite people in the world, found out he was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer last week. It looks like it is already in his liver, and we're waiting to hear a prognosis and treatment options now.
So.... I kind of feel like once a family has lost someone to cancer, that should be the quota. We've paid our debt, leave us alone. But it doesn't work that way.
We find ourselves back at the only safe place - the Lord is our only hope. He holds all of life in His hands, and He cares for Uncle Jon, Aunt Terry, and the rest of our family MUCH more than even we do. And He knows Luke's heart, and is well able to comfort any fears or worries Luke has.
I'd love your prayers for our family, for Uncle Jon & Aunt Terry, and for our sweet Luke. We did go ahead and tell him - we thought he is old enough, and we didn't want to hide this from him, when he'd likely have to know soon enough. We also wanted to be able to pray about this with him. He's doing OK so far... He was pretty quiet at first, as we expected, and pretty sad. I can tell he's thinking about it, but he told me he's trying not to think about it until he has to. The only question he's asked is if he can tell his class (I told him he could tell anyone he wants to.)
You're probably wondering what this has to do with Christmas? Well, Uncle Jon & Aunt Terry live in Austin, so we only get to see them a couple of times a year, Christmas being one of them. About 2 weeks ago, my family (who are early shoppers, like I am - or at least like I try to be) started asking for Christmas gift ideas.
I absolutely LOVE Christmas, and I especially love celebrating Jesus and the true meaning of Christmas. It's SO important to me that my little turkeys know that Christmas is about what God gave us in Jesus, not what we get, present-wise. It's why we don't do Santa (we have santa decorations, just no pretend), and it's the heart of most of the Christmas activities we do through the month of December. It's why we participate in things like City Impact's Gifts of Love, and Operation Christmas Child, because we want to remember that Christmas is about giving and Jesus, not about what we get (especially considering that we have SO much!)
Christmas lists are pretty complicated for us, since we have basically 5 families who buy gifts for us. I have to come up with ideas and then divvy them out so that we can avoid duplicates as much as possible. Takes a lot of thinking and planning.
So about a week and a half ago, I got my spreadsheets going, and I sent out 4 of the 5 lists. I've let the kids look around in Target and Wal-Mart, and they read the toy catalogs cover to cover for ideas. As hard as I try to make Christmas about people and Jesus, it's early November and I'm leading my family right to the capital of Materialism-land.
I sent those lists out on a Thursday, and the following Monday is when we got the call from Uncle Jon.
There's not very much about Cancer that is a gift. But I've decided to take what I can get - the gift of perspective. In that one phone call, my perspective about Christmas completely changed. What a wake up call. I pray that we have years and years with Uncle Jon. But with this hanging over us, who in the world cares about what we (or the boys) get for Christmas? We're just looking forward to the time with them - it feels so precious.
And isn't all of our time with those we love precious? Because not one of us is guaranteed tomorrow. So we will celebrate Jesus, and we will enjoy the heck out of every moment we get with each of our families this Christmas. And in the meantime, I'm saying yes to my boys a lot more - when Luke wants me to read with him, or play a game, when Tobin wants me to do the same 3 puzzles or read the same book for the 18th time a day. Yes. Yes, I will. Because the laundry will always be here. (Help me Lord, the laundry never goes away.) And no one cares if dinner is 15 minutes late. And the floor ALWAYS needs to be vacuumed. Those things will still be here tomorrow, but each moment with our families is a GIFT. Thank You Jesus!
Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. James 1:17
Monday, November 9, 2009
Luke isn't in many of these pics b/c he was at school during the day except for the last day they were here, and I don't have those pictures (they are on my mom's camera, which is sadly, back in TX now. Not really sad about the camera, just the mom!)
I'm kind of in love with Tobin's cowboy boots...
Tobin LOVED it. He was just asking this morning when we are going Trick or Treating again. (He told me, "It IS Halloween!") I can't imagine what he's going to think of Christmas, Halloween was such a hit! All night long, he kept asking, "Are we having Halloween??" And he would tell everyone we saw, "We are having Halloween!!" (after he told them his horse's name was "just horsey." :D)
As a kid, I was a big fan of Halloween, because I've always loved dressing up. I have mixed feelings now (because of the link with witchcraft and the fact that it is a big holiday for pagans etc.). We've found a compromise that works for our family, and it sure is fun to see the kids enjoying the heck out of this holiday!! I probably need to lay off the halloween candy, however... :)
Saturday, October 31, 2009
This morning I ran in the Halloween Trick or Trot. Two people from my class were there. The Trick or Trot was in place of the pumpkin run. It was just named different but cheaper for the school. My time was 7:53 seconds. Someone in my grade at Hill finished first. It was my friend Jonah. The Trick or Trot was really fun.
I'm really thankful that I was (mostly) feeling better by the time mom got here. At least my fever had broken, and I have been coughing less and less.
My mom has started an unfortunate tradition. None of us have ever had any trouble flying in or out of Omaha. As a matter of fact, since I moved here, I've never had any flight delays, even because of bad weather. This is now the second trip where mom was hardly able to get out of Houston. 2 years ago, she ended up spending all day in the Houston airport because of torrential downpours, and then got stuck for hours in the Detroit airport, of all places.
This year, it was raining in Houston again, so mom's plane was delayed waiting for a flight crew. When the crew finally arrived, they had lost a flight attendant and couldn't find her. Her flight came in about 5 hours late, and we were sure happy to see her! It is awfully hard to explain flight delays to a 2 year old!!
This week as part of our Halloween festivities, we headed to the Lincoln Children's Zoo for BOO at the ZOO!
The kids had a great time wandering through the zoo getting candy from costumed participants from local businesses.
It was a little on the crowded side, we went on Tuesday night, knowing that bad weather was coming in. Apparently we weren't the only folks who had that idea...
Monday, October 26, 2009
In the meantime, we've been entertaining ourselves. I'm just recovering from the flu, so the house is a little more guest ready than it would have been if she had arrived as planned. The boys played outside for a while, providing our first leaf pictures of the year (after the first snow of the year, oddly - but we didn't have any charged batteries the day it snowed, so no pictures of that...)
Speaking of the flu, I hope you don't get it. Yuck.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Tobin fell in LOVE with this shirt. Every day for a week he asked, as I was getting him dressed, if he could wear "the guitar shirt." I finally broke down and went and got him a shirt with a guitar on it too, but I think he still prefers Lukie's.
At some point, my boys are going to outgrow letting me dress them up and take pictures of them, right? I should probably enjoy it while it lasts...
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Matt is passing on a long standing family tradition. His grandfather's favorite meal was Flank Steak, his mom's favorite was flank steak, and Matt's favorite is flank steak (followed closely by Chicken Marsala, and my cheese enchiladas.) The first time Matt came and visited me in College Station, we made flank steak (we had to call him mom from the grocery store to make sure we were getting the right kind of wine for the marinade, which is soy sauce, garlic and burgundy wine. I thought it was cute that he called his mom.)
Now, for both of our boys, flank steak is a favorite.
We celebrated Matt's mom's birthday Sunday evening, and of course we brought flank steak.
Here's Tobin "helping" Daddy get it ready.
This last one is just a freebie. The expression on his face cracks me up. I was just trying to get him to stop helping for a minute and smile for the camera, but it looks like he's UP to something. Ha!