Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Disney Travelogue #7: Saving the BEST for last :)

Photo0001FourBySixAlmost a month later…. Here are my favorite pictures from Disney World, and some of our favorite moments: Group shots & meeting the characters.

I’m just now posting these because I just got my copies of most of them - My mom bought the rights to all the pictures we had taken by Disney photographers on our photo passes, and we just got them on CD. It was very convenient to just let them take pictures at the character greeting spots, and gave us the opportunity to get some good group shots. But we learned our lesson – we should have been taking our own, just in case. We got a great group shot the last night, with Minnie and Goofy. But something was wrong with Disney’s pictures, so we didn’t get copies of those. I really wish we’d thought to take some with our camera. Oh well…. live and learn!

Yay for fun memories!

Meeting the Little Einsteins (outside the Playhouse Disney Show):


And our favorite: Buzz Lightyear!


This one’s totally going in a frame:


For our last hour @ Hollywood Studios, everyone but Tobin & I went to ride Rock & Roller Coaster a few more times. I took Tobin to check out the character greeting area & hit pay dirt. Almost nobody there but us to meet and greet Disney friends:

Hugs-a-lot from Toy Story 3. Despite the fact that this guy is really EVIL in the movie, Tobin loves “the Hugger”.


I bought him a small Toy Story puzzle this summer. I picked out one with just Woody & Buzz, but Tobin wanted the one with all the characters – because it had this guy. I told him, “No, Tobin, he’s the bad guy.” But he said, “No, Mama, he’s just a HUGGER!”

Sorcerer Mickey – our first Mickey sighting!

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And Chip & Dale (I took this one, so the lighting is terrible!)

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And one of my fave pics from the trip – with Frozone and Mr. Incredible. I wondered how Tobin would react to the characters, since he’s never really experienced that before, and some kids are terrified (used to babysit for a little girl who had nightmares about the Easter Bunny year round.)

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Obviously not a problem. :)

Our first morning @ the Magic Kingdom


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In front of Space Mountain in Tomorrowland – we found Alien versions of Chip & Dale (Oooooookay?)


Our pirate crew headed into the Halloween party: Photo0148FourBySix

And our family’s morning @ the Magic Kingdom by ourselves.

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(The photographer told Tobin to look suprised. Hee hee!)

With pirate Goofy outside Pirates of the Caribbean:

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And some of our best shots, at the character spot at Epcot (Luke was in Spaceship Earth with Nana and Alyssa). Now I just have to decide which ones to print and frame. :)

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Minnie Mouse was a total HIT. He LOVED her, I could hardly get him away.

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I mean, look how happy he is! Are you kidding me?

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And Daddy found us at the end of the line, with Goofy. So I got a picture of THREE Goofys. :)


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Repost: ADVENTures in Christmasland - celebrating Advent

I’m working on a post on what we’re planning on doing for Advent/Christmas this year (with pictures!). But I’ve had quite a few questions about what I posted last year, so here it is again!


ADVENTures in Christmasland - celebrating Advent

I grew up in a WONDERFUL family, but for a variety of reasons, in our family Christmas was more about Santa and presents, and not really about the birth of Christ at all.
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!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Oops. But I’m still thankful. :)

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24. I’m thankful for our sweet friends, the Blockers. I’m babysitting their newly adopted 2 1/2 year old several days a week, and it has been such a joy. Tobin & Luke love having a little girl around.

25. Thankful for my sweet boys’ hearts.

26. Operation Christmas Child – getting to see 100+ college students at Real Time come together to bless kids all over the world. Praise God for letting us be a part!

27. Energy.

28. The YMCA.

29. Friends who love me even when I have little time to spend with them.

30. Dress up: When I got down all of our costumes (Luke’s toddler/preschool years, and Tobin’s from the past few years) for Halloween, I left quite a few of them for Tobin to play with. So I spend my days with Batman… Scooby Doo… Bob the Builder… Elmo. Never know who’s going to show up for lunch. :)

31. Time with sweet friends (the Bonds and Lehmans) this weekend.

32. Fuzzy socks.

33. Roasted pumpkin seeds.

34. Remebering: 11 years ago today was a tragic day in College Station, TX. It’s amazing to remember where I was then, what the Lord did, and wonder how I got to be where I am now.

35. Sleep. And a warm bed to sleep in. With fuzzy socks on. :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Counting up 1000s of blessings...

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For the record? If I hadn't started this publicly, I wouldn't be continuing today. I'm not feeling very thankful. But I know that gratitude is a choice, not just a feeling. And I am blessed, even if I don't feel it.

So...I am thankful for:
15. Accountability
16. Marriage: With all of its joys and hardships. And...
17. Thankful that I married the man I married and not anyone else.
18. Forgiveness. And the sure knowledge that no matter how much I forgive those in my life, I can never forgive as much as I've been forgiven.
19. The sound of boys laughing, and having a house filled with laughter.
20. Babysitting! Providing a little extra income for us, a playmate for Tobin, and a safe place for our friends to leave their newly adopted Ugandan daughter.
21. I'm not feeling super thankful for my messy house. But I am thankful to have a house to clean, and people to clean up after.
22. Sunlight coming in through the windows.
23. The recognition that my feelings sometimes (often) lie to me.

See? I feel better already. :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

1000 Gifts (Multitude Mondays!)

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I’ve decided to join the gratitude community over at A Holy Experience. For a long time I’ve considered Thankfulness one of God’s greatest blessings and keys to living in peace and contentment. But I’ve realized that I want to be more intentional about living thankfully.
I’ve taught my kids that thankfulness is like magic, it makes grouchiness disappear. Luke can be a glass-half-empty kind of guy, so he doesn’t always appreciate (if he’s especially complain-y, I’ll make him stop and give me 5 things he’s thankful for.) He’s so much like me!! Sees what he would change, rather than what is good about the way things are!
Tobin on the other hand, blesses both Luke and I (and takes after his daddy in finding it easy to be thankful and content) with his quickness toward gratitude. Lately he’s taken to giving thanks for “lovely” things. I think he got that word from his sweet Grammie, who uses it a lot. Before meals, he thanks the Lord for “this lovely meal.” And at night when he’s doing his “thankfuls”, he’s been including “Thank you for this lovely house we live in.” (He chooses each night how many thankfuls he wants to do…he almost always says “3, because I’m 3!”, but then does 10.)
I’ve considered just being thankful in my personal journal (which I have to make myself do even more often than I have to make my kids… For example, I was feeling less than grateful on my 39th birthday, so I made myself make a list of 39 things I was thankful for – it was a lot easier than I thought it would be.)
But the whole point of this for me is to be more intentional – not just giving thanks when I feel thankful, or to help me feel better when I’m feeling especially grouchy. I want to make gratitude a regular part of my days and weeks – so I’ll begin to notice the 1000s of blessings always around (a reminder that we serve a God of ABUNDANCE). I want to live worship-fully, rather than being rushed through my days according to my to do list. And I think being intentionally thankful will help me. So I’m going to do it on here, for the accountability.
For this week, I’m going to blog some of my thankful list each day. In the future, I’ll mostly focus in on my list on Mondays. But I want to get a jump start. 
So today, I’m thankful for…
  1. A God who knows me and wants to be known by me.
  2. A warm place in a cold world
  3. The changing of the seasons
  4. The view out my bedroom window right now – glorious fall color greeting me first thing.
  5. Light mornings
  6. That my job is to love. Love first, tasks second.
  7. A big boy who resists hugs at first, then settle in for more. Precious.
  8. A little boy who constantly wants my attention, for whom I am audience #1.
  9. Lessons on doing without – because I have way more than I need, even if there are things I want that we have to say no to right now.
  10. The gift of thankfulness, which really is like magic.
  11. Messes that have to be clean (because messes = kids, and kids are worth it.)
  12. Sweet friendships – and free long distance to maintain those friendships.
  13. A season to be reminded of ABUNDANCE.
  14. Coffee with gingerbread creamer.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My crafty to-do list….

So first: I’m an overacheiver, and there’s no way I’ll actually have time to get to all of these (maybe not any…although I’m doing the cornucopia for sure, I’ve already requested the chicken wire from my awesome “don’t worry about having to buy craft supplies, she probably already has it on hand” Mother-in-law.)

In addition to time constraints, I’m also limited by supplies – I’ve all but promised Matt no more craft supply buying, anything I want to make I’ll have to make do with what I have one hand (which is kind of fun and has worked out well for me so far. I finished a purse this weekend based on this tutorial – by far my favorite thing I’ve sewn so far. And made from a pair of old man’s pants I got for free from our church’s clothing exchange. I’ll post pictures soon!)

But I have a zillion tutorials/projects sitting in my firefox waiting to be done. I’m not a big bookmarker (I always forget anything I’ve bookmarked), so when I see something I want to do I’ll often just leave it up for a while (thinking I’ll get to it any day now, if it’s something I have supplies for on hand.) I thought I’d make a list here of things I want to try…then I’ll easily be able to find them. Even if I don’t ever get to any of them, maybe some of you will outdo me. :)

This weekend (as soon as I get chicken wire and some grape vine from my aforementioned awesome MIL) I’m making this cornucopia from At Second Street.


I went looking around today for Thanksgiving/Fall projects to do with the kids. I’d love to do these two leaf projects:

Finger painted leaves


Wax paper & Crayon leaves


I think Luke would love doing these candy experiments (assuming I can get him to part with some candy…)



And I found a couple of things I’d like to do (mostly with Tobin, these are a little young for Luke) on the Family Fun website:



(probably not as hats, but I thought the cups made cute turkeys)


I’ve been gathering scarf/cowl patterns like I want to start a collection:

This one from Living with Punks is at the top of the list (want to make the flower too…):


I love that scarf. But I’ll have to buy fabric for it, so it may not happen…

And I’ve had this one up since September. I know, just bookmark it already. I don’t know what my deal is.

This is from Sewing in No Man’s Land, it’s a knock off of an anthropologie scarf. But I don’t think I have any fabric that’s right for this one either. And it’s probably not going to be seasonally appropriate (for NE anyway) for very long. It’s really cute though…


I love both of these cowls that were featured on Ucreate:


I have a number of knitting projects going, so if I make one, it will be the city cowl. For the record? Not a fan of animal prints. So if I make this cowl or the ruffled scarf above, it won’t be in the animal print they used. Cute. But not my style.

Speaking of knitting projects, I started these before our crazy month of travel. But they slightly exceed my knitting skill, so they’re sitting on my needles and I switched to some easier things I could do without much thinking while we were driving all over the planet. But I really want to go back to them (I think the main problem is that I just want the booties, don’t want to actually knit them. But maybe these easier projects are helping me be a better, faster knitter? Here’s hoping…)


I’ve had this next one up since September too. And have a shirt already set aside for it (I’m not planning on making a shirt from scratch – thought I’d use one I already have, I was planning on cutting off the sleeves to use as the hearts…)


In addition to the above, I’m going to be making some  of my Christmas presents this year. (if not all…depending on how the situation with our rental property works out. Yikes.) Still thinking about what those will be (or I know what they’ll be but can’t share them as my gift recipients read my blog.)

But I would really love to make some of these from A Little Bit Funky:


She has them listed as one of her “20 Minute Crafter” crafts. We’ll see about the 20 minutes part…

Total overacheiver, am I right? And aside from the cornucopia and the fall kids’ crafts, I may not get to any of these (unless I am given some fabric I can use for that ruffled scarf. Love that.) But a girl can dream, right?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Disney Travelogue #6 (Epcot)

We spent our last day at Epcot… Love.

My cutie nephews…

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Cousin love:

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We spent some time in Innoventions, which is kind of a hands-on science museum. We spent most of our time there in the Recycling challenge (not that our family is ever so environmentally conscious – although we try. We were drawn there by the giant garbage truck, irresistible to our boys.)

This was a video game where you sorted the recycling you’d gathered…

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Which you gathered using this giant (and heavy) recycling truck/cart (which is the draw of the entire exhibit, I’m sure.)

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One of our favorite things @ Epcot is the Seas exhibit, featuring the Finding Nemo ride…

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And Turtle Talk with Crush, an interactive and hilarious show where Crush from Finding Nemo talks to the audience (And teaches them to “Turtle Talk.” Including saying “DUDE!” a lot. Awesome.) I had to carry Tobin out of the room crying, “No! I want to talk to Cwush some more!!”


They have wonderful aquariums, which Khymberly’s boys LOVED.

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In the afternoon we headed over to the World Showcase (my favorite). It was super crowded – the only crowds we encountered. It was Friday late afternoon by that time, and the Epcot Food and Wine festival was going on. In addition to the regular country showcases, there were booths from many other countries where you could sample cuisine from all over the world.

And we ran into our friends Todd & Mikki and their family! I love this picture – it looks like the Meyers and the Sandins in China!

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We finished the day with another Grand Gatherings meal – this one was my favorite. It was in the Odyssey Center, and rather than just one restaurant, they had food from all over the world showcase. Delish.

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Afterwards, they had a kids program…Darlenes Disney Pics 112

And dance party with Minnie and Goofy!!Darlenes Disney Pics 130

(Tobin started the dance party with Minnie Mouse, and after 2 songs holding her hands, I went and told him he needed to let some other kids have a turn dancing with Minnie. His feelings were so hurt - “I want Minnie!!”)

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Then they walked us over to a special roped off seating section – for dessert and front row seats for the fireworks. Epcot’s fireworks are amazing, my absolute favorite of any I’ve ever seen. We were so close I had to shield my eyes from the fire, it was so bright.

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After the fireworks, the castmembers who had led us to our dessert location with lightsticks let the boys play with their light sticks. :)

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And then we went home and CRASHED.

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Tobin is cuddling with the stuffed Figment (from the World of Imagination ride) Nana got him. He picked that out as his “one toy he wanted more than any other.” After buying Figment, we were in our hotel gift shop, and he wanted  a stuffed Eeyore. I considered it, but he got distracted and put the Eeyore down, so I thought we were in the clear.

On the bus back to the airport, Langston had a bigger stuffed Eeyore – and I could hear from the seat behind us that Tobin thought Langston had something of his. As we were getting off the bus (Khymberly’s family stayed on, they left from another terminal), Tobin completely melted down, thinking that Langston had HIS Eeyore. He kept saying, “No, you bought me an Eeyore! That’s MY Eeyore!” Oops.

Lucky for me, as we were checking in for our flight, my mom made a quick swing by the store in the airport and picked up an Eeyore. Tobin ADORES it, and has slept with it every night since then. I guess Nana knows best. :)