Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Family Reunion/Christmas Part I

Thanks for all of your kind comments on my last post, in which I told of the chaos that was my life the last week before Christmas week. I was really tired when it was all over, but it was all fun and all went well. The class party was great - we squashed into our house, but had a great time. Someone took a couple of pictures --

The cantata went so well - what a blessing to be able to sing such beautiful music with people we enjoy being with so much. The Lord touched my soul as I sang the story of Christ's birth.

I am so blessed to be part of two wonderful families - both DC and I grew up as the eldest child in a pastor's home. My family was, and is, larger. My side of the family consists of 52 people, his side numbers 35.

Mom/Grandma/Great Grandma turned 90 in October. Those of us who live here (15, I believe) celebrated with her at that time. The remainder, minus one family of 4 (16 in all), made the long trek by minivan caravan from Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina to celebrate Christmas and Grandma's birthday belatedly.

Each family who lives here hosted 4 people for the week. My SIL did a marvelous job of organizing the event. She shopped in bulk and delivered copious amounts of food to each host home, plus quite a few inflatable beds. She also bought all of the food and other necessities for the evening meals, and the cost of everything was divvied up among all of us.

Our four guests were really easy to have around. Their kids were fun and well behaved. The chaos was quite organized. Kristen ended up with 11 at her house. Kev and Sema split the time with another cousin and his wife.

We had really cold weather the entire time they were here - but they really enjoyed it. They went sledding, hiking, cross country skiing - most of the visitors plus DC and a few others from around here. I love the look of really frosty trees - but give me a nice warm house, thank you very much! As soon as they left, the cold went away - it was 60 today - crazy!

The travelers arrived around 10:00 Sunday night, the 20th. Monday was low key with everyone kind of catching up and resting. That evening was the big party. Each evening's meal was served and cleaned up by designated families. We were blessed to have the use of our church's gym every night. It was so great because there was room for everyone, there was basketball, ping pong, and lots of room for the kids to run around and play (keeping out of the way of the basketballs, hopefully! - unless you wanted to put one under your shirt!)

There is also a very fast commercial dishwasher, which was a real blessing. I have to say right now that we had WAY too much food! But all easy to get ready and good to eat.

Grandma's cake could have set off the fire alarm!

Care Bear didn't feel very well that night, so she took one of the afghans Great Aunt G brought along and set up a movie on the little travel DVD player - she was soon joined by several second cousins and her sister.

Aunt/Cousin K, who loves being with the little ones, was a huge help -- she even stayed at Kristen's house (I guess that means she had 12) to help corral all the kiddoes in the mornings and at bedtime.

I didn't get any pictures of this, but after the dinner and birthday cake was consumed, we gathered around the tree (which our church's youth group had decorated with popcorn, cranberries, and other vintage items, not knowing they were going to provide our family's tree for the week), sitting in a circle and telling stories about Mom/Grandma/Great Grandma and what she had meant to us. It was a special time.

When the brave, athletic ones went cross-country skiing on Wednesday, the rest of us ended up with a preschool amount of kids for the day! My idea was to take them all to library story time, which the girls and I do every week. We were the greatest percentage of the crowd that day -- Care Bear is the one on the stool with the Santa hat on - she always likes to sit right there, ready to do the craft, right by the story lady.

While we were at story time, Great Aunt G was fixing lunch for them --

When there are that many people together, it is hard to have really intense, meaningful conversations. But it was fun to watch and listen --

Before I write again it will be 2009, I am quite sure. By that time we'll have transported Kev and Sema to the airport for their big adventure to Mombassa, Kenya on the continent of Africa. Please pray for their trip, for health, and for blessed times with family far, far away!

Stay Tuned for Part II (I can't get rid of this underlining!)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Already!!

Okay, it's Friday, 6 days till Christmas. My computer had to go to the doctor, so I'm using DC's. It's back, but is not hooked back up to the network yet, or something of the sort. Nobody has time to deal with it.

I haven't had a chance to visit much this week, and don't know when that will happen any time soon. With 30 people coming to my house tomorrow night (I have only myself to blame for this one!) - our SS class is bringing a planned pot luck and I'm doing the work of setting up and making the wassail and coffee and tea. Should be fun, but labor intensive.

But I don't think I can even begin setting things up until the new fridge arrives sometime in the morning - sometime between 9 and 1. That is too large a window for all I have to do! The first thing is once again removing everything from fridge and freezer, setting it on the patio, where it will be fine because it's colder out there than in the freezer! Remember the day after Thanksgiving when they brought our order and it was too big for the hole?? We have a wonderful fix-it-everything kind of guy in our church who spent part of two days this week moving all of the cabinets over 1.5 inches to accommodate this huge new appliance. Not good timing for delivery, but I'll sure be glad to have it.

We have final choir practice for the cantata at 3 in the afternoon, DC is delivery baskets to families in our church who are in special need, and the gang arrives around 6.

Right after the cantata, DC's family will make their appearance from Georgia, N. Carolina, and S. Carolina. There will be 30 of us in all, and each family who lives around here will be hosting 4 of them - they are driving in caravan all those many miles - 4 families. It'll be a grand time of mass confusion! Well, I shouldn't say that because my SIL has everything very well organized.

This morning I went to graduation of the distance part-time students that I admitted three years ago. It was a poignant time for me. I really enjoyed the ceremony and seeing everyone, but felt strange not being intimately involved in the planning and executing of the event. There is one more class that I admitted and I'll watch them graduate in May (including Barb's son-in-law, Aaron). Then the emotional tie will be gone and I'll feel really released from that place. I'll still visit the office on occasion, since they enjoy seeing me and especially the girlies.

Our anniversary is Sunday, the 28th, so after everyone is gone, we'll head for our favorite cabin on the Big Thompson River for a couple of days of much needed R&R.

Kristen has a new post up showcasing Care Bear's latest art and story-writing. She's really something. If you have a minute to spare, it'll give you a good feeling all over! Not that this grandma is proud or anything! Kristen has completed her first semester of school, and her finals, so maybe she'll actually have a minute or two to visit you faithful friends.

So - until after everything dies down, I will hope to drop in and say hello once in awhile. I'll have some great stories to share after this week to come. I want to wish all of you dear friends a most blessed celebration of our Lord's birth.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Observations on the Last Few Days . . .

. . . or, just another way to say "Random Ramblings!"

EDITED MONDAY MORNING: We are in the deep freeze here on the Front Range of Colorado - it's -13F this morning and my mind is conjuring up memories of my life as a kid in northern Minnesota - I feel a post or two coming on in the near future!

It has been quite a week - I am ashamed to say that I locked myself out of the car again - twice! And to top it all off, the magnetic key holder was NOT under my car any more. What in the world is wrong with me??? Why do I keep doing this?? My sweet hubby wants to know the answer to that question, too.

I was sitting at a stop light the other day when I saw a truck stopped in the middle of an intersection. I finally realized that he had lost a very large box, probably an empty refrigerator box, from his truck bed as he went through the green light. He jumped out, stopping traffic, as he threw it back in. The thought crossed my mind that it wasn't going to stay in there without weighing it down. He must have been new on this job or something, because a block later, there was the box in the road again - this time in my lane. He had pulled off the street this time and was hurrying back to pick it up. I felt like stopping and giving him so good advice! It was good for a bit of a chuckle.

I had my eye appointment this week, since I've decided not to have the Lasik procedure done after all, at least for now. I have been feeling like my vision has gotten worse over the last two years, and that I am having headaches for that reason. It turns out that my prescription has changed hardly at all - and that I don't even need new glasses. How can that be?? He thinks maybe dryness is causing the problems. I don't know, but I'll give it a try. Now one more thing to remember to do twice a day.

I still haven't had a chance to do much shopping. Well, I'm not planning to do much, but I haven't had a chance to do basically any. It's less than 2 weeks till Christmas. Yikes! I know what I'm going to do, it's just a matter of finding time to do it by myself. I can't put anything under the tree - not only because of the little munchkins rolling under there and ripping into the paper, but the bigger girls seem to think that they need to open anything that's under there.

Our plans for the family reunion are coming together. We have the privilege of borrowing our church's gym and other rooms for dinners each evening and some recreation. We'll have a different family group serving each meal and cleaning up. Each of us that live here will be keeping a family of 4 in our homes. It's going to be a very busy week, but should be great fun. Pictures to come!!

Feisty loves to help. See how she's feeding Katie? Remember how your mouth opens and closes when you're feeding a baby? She's doing the same thing. So cute!

Do you ever wish you were young again and of the opinion that tape can fix anthing? We have a chair that we've had repaired once, but the arm is loose again. So Feisty discovered the problem the other day and immediately ran for the tape.

One day this week Care Bear saw this picture of my sister and me, taken when we were probably 7 and 8 or so. (Sorry it's so crooked!)

I didn't realize what an impression it made on her until she posed for me several times that evening, as she was preparing for her school program (which, by the way, was adorable - and Grandma forgot the camera - HUH???!!)

Then tonight was the children's musical at church. I have written before about my years of directing the children's musicals. I started doing it so my kids wouldn't miss out on the fun that other, larger churches were doing for their children. It is so much work! And so worth it! The young woman who is doing the musicals now is absolutely amazing - she has people who help her do sets that are fabulous.

Care Bear is in first grade and a year ago, she was still in the throes of stage fright. This year she decided she wanted to do a solo in the musical. She realized on her own that she probably wasn't ready for that yet, but did want a speaking part. She was blessed to be picked for one, and looked so tiny in the group that had those parts.

She was so proud of the fact that she got to wear one of the wireless mikes - but she kept having to pull up her pants as the battery pack rather weighed them down in the back. It was priceless. Then she experienced a bit of technical difficulty as she had a terrible time attaching the mike to her angel costume.

These kids did a fabulous job tonight. The final song was "Take a candle, and light your world," as we each lit a candle and held them up to light the sanctuary. There were more than a few tears and sniffles at that point. I felt so blessed for being there. And so blessed to have my grandchildren carrying on the tradition.

I was listening to Focus on the Family the other day and heard about these buttons --

I ordered a few and plan to enjoy wearing one as I try to finish up that shopping this week!

This is getting too long, but I can't forget to thank Hootin' Anni for this special award.

Here are the rules for the Christmas award.~~~~~You must be a true Christmas lover to receive this award. The person to whom you give the award must also be in love with Christmas. You must link back to the person who gave you the award. You must list 5 things that you love about Christmas. If you can't limit it to 5 things, then keep going till you run out of space! Pass the award along to as many people as you like. That can be 1 or 50. It's up to you! But, you must pass it on to at least one person in order to keep the Christmas cheer going! Let your recipients know that you have tagged them by leaving them a comment.

There are many things I love about Christmas, and have probably covered them all at one time or another, but here goes - -

  1. The "Reason for the Season" - Jesus Christ, my Lord and Saviour, who came to earth as a baby and lived here as a man so that He would know life as we know it.

  2. The lights and music.

  3. Giving gifts to those I love.

  4. Decorating my house and having company over.

  5. Singing in the cantata at church.

I am passing this award on to Kristen, Tammy, Linds, Louise, Diane, and Robin.

ONE MORE THING! DIL Sema has posted this week and has some very interesting thoughts - check her out if you remember her. It's been a long while since she wrote. She and Kev are leaving for Kenya in about 3 weeks. So exciting!

Have a wonderful week!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Nativity

I have never been one for collections. Many people are easy to buy gifts for because of their passion for a certain theme. Kev asked me one time what I collect and I said, "Dust." But over the last few years, I have acquired a desire for nativity depictions. I have also collected quite a few angels and snowmen, which have nothing to do with each other.

Since this blog is private, I realized it was senseless to join the annual Christmas Bloggy Tour of Homes, since it would only serve to frustrate non-members who would attempt to visit me and find they couldn't. So I decided to show you my nativity collection, as well as the other two previously mentioned.

This is the first set I ever had, and it was my only one for many years. As you may have deduced from our blogging friendships, I am not artistic in any sense of the word. Unless you count sewing, knitting, crocheting, counted cross stitching, crewel embroidering, etc. as art. But when it comes to a paint brush or any such device, I am hopeless. A friend helped me with this project - I went the easy way out - not individually painted pieces, and I can't remember what this process was called. I am certain one of you knows. Another friend's husband made the stable. I used to have it on my coffee table and it was never in danger, because my kids were old enough to understand, "Please don't play with the breakable pieces." When the grandkids began to be mobile, I realized I needed to put it up high --

and replaced it on the coffee table with this - - - they have really enjoyed this Fisher Price set. When the angel on top of the stable is pressed down, it plays "Away in a Manger." It seldoms looks like this, though, because they really play with it.

I found this one two years ago - it is designed to look like play dough, but is a rubbery type of material. Or the pieces could be hung on the tree.

This is a very simple set, with no movable parts. Its fascination for children is a button you can push to tell the entire Christmas story in a nutshell - including the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah, which I heard Feisty singing today.

The next two I picked up along the way and I took them to display in my office before my "retirement." I wrote about that last year - how we couldn't decorate the outer office any more, but nobody could prevent me from making my own space express the "reason for the season."

I love this one, not only because of its intrinsic beauty, but for two other reasons. My grandma had a simple one with angels which she set on a space heater. It tinkled and dinged every time the heat kicked in. It didn't need the candles to make it work. The second reason is that this was a gift from Kevin at a time in his life when it was a very touching surprise. He had heard me mention how much I liked it when we ate at the Cracker Barrel one day. I am having a hard time finding the correct sized candles the last two years.

I made this crewel embroidery picture many years ago, and I still love it. The unique frame was something I found at a garage sale, if my memory serves me correctly.

This one on the left was a gift from my sister-in-law a year or two ago and I just love it - it is different from anything I've ever seen. The JOY figures came from Miles Kimball last year.

I found this one at Hobby Lobby during the after Christmas sales. It is unique - I wish I could describe it adequately.

I fell in love with the Willow Tree figures last year when I saw them at Barb's house. I found a really good price for the starter set and ordered them. I hope I can get some additional pieces as the years go by.

I found this tiny little set last year and promptly lost control of it this year when Feisty discovered it, as well as the next one (see the last post if you want a better explanation of that story!) These figures are 1-2 inches and even smaller. The second set is called the thimble set. These pieces are probably 3 inches. It also came from Miles Kimball. They have the cutest things.

I'm also fond of counting down the days with the kids, so have advent calendars in various modes. This one is on the refrigerator (yes, still the old one without any other magnets on it any more). We haven't kept up with it very well, so I am using it as a decoration instead.

It's fun to light the candle each day and let it burn down until the date disappears. Unfortunately, a week ago I lit it, went upstairs, and came down to find a whole week had disappeared. We've just now caught up with the candle again.

The angels and snowmen adorn opposite ends of the shelves at the end of the family room. They make me smile. I wish I remembered where I got them all.

Last of all, and in no particular category - my new centerpiece that I found at Hobby Lobby at a BEFORE Christmas half-price sale.

Every year when we practice our cantata, at least one song sticks in my head all week long between rehearsals. This year it is this one:

Lord, Hear our Cry;

Come, heal our land.

Breathe life into these dry and thirty souls.
Lord, hear our prayer;
Forgive our sin.
As we call on Your name, will You make this a place
for Your glory to dwell?
Open the blind eyes,
Unlock the deaf ears;
Come to Your people, as we draw near.
Hear us from heaven;
Touch our generation.
We are your people crying out in desperation.
Lord, hear our cry,
Come Emmanuel
Lord hear our prayer,
Come, Emmanuel
Hear us from heaven.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Birthdays, Christmas, and Snow

We had our first snowy day Thursday - I was totally not expecting it, but it was beautiful. The finches were feasting in their little snow-capped restaurant. It snowed most of the day, which put a damper on the big plans I had for the day. But it was good to pull back and just kind of watch it snow. We had a record low during the night of -5 F and it was 0 degrees when we got up. It's mostly melted now, but it's supposed to snow again tomorrow. We'll see.

The babes are still in exploration mode. Don't worry, Tammy, I don't let them stay under there long enough to get into trouble - just long enough to snap a picture! But they certainly do keep me on my toes! They're not sitting up yet - which is kind of unnerving. The doctor says their hip muscles are very tight. But they are doing everything else - including growing 4 teeth each. Oh, Emma, where are you??

Katie is working on the steps already - yike!!

The decorating is complete - I'll share my nativity collection next time, as well as my angels and snowmen. The girls have 3 sets specifically for them to play with, but alas, Feisty likes to play with the mini ones that I put up high so they can't reach them. But where there's a will there's a way, and she manages to get them off the high shelf to play with them - I love listening to the girls play with Baby Jesus.

Here's my second tree - my "designer" tree.

Kristen had her family picture taken today for the church directory. I found the dresses at Wal-Mart. Feisty wouldn't take her sweater off and Hayley wouldn't let us curl her hair, but I think they're adorable.

Then we tried to take one for our Christmas letter - it was a fiasco, but it sort of turned out okay - Katie is pulling Feisty's hair.

The little rascals are 11 months old today - when we look back on the last year, it is unbelievable how fast it has gone, and how much has happened, and what joy they've brought to us. We have a new baby in our church who weighs twice as much as they did, and she seems so tiny - how can it be that we can't remember how little they were?? What incredible little miracles they are!

Kevin and Sema are going to Mombassa, Kenya right after New Year's. It's been 6 years since they've been back to visit Sema's home. They are unbelievably excited and we're so happy for them to have this opportunity. Please pray for them as they take this long journey, that they will be healthy and have a blessed time.

Tomorrow is Kristen's and Sema's birthday - we went to P.F. Chang's tonight and had such a nice time together - DC's sister stayed with the kiddoes. It was so relaxing. I was going to take a picture of the two birthday girls, but of course, I forgot my camera! If you could run over to Kristen's site and wish her happy birthday, that would be great!

As I was writing my Christmas letter, I realized how tough things have been this year in many ways for our country and the world, and many of your families. But I realized also how blessed we have been, and how much more we have than we could possibly deserve. I found this incredible passage from II Corinthians 4, again in The Message:

"So we're not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There's far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can't see now will last forever." Sometimes my spirit just cries out, "Even So, Lord Jesus, Come Again!"