Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Year End Ramblings

Yesterday was our anniversary. The above pictures are two of my favorites from that wonderful occasion 37 years ago. Our plan this year was simple - just go up the mountain to Estes Park to a favorite restaurant for dinner. Fortunately, we called first, only to learn that they are closed on Mondays. So we went to Panera for a lovely sandwich and soup beside the fireplace, followed by the movie "The Blind Side." I'm not a movie-goer or even a very often movie-renter. But I am so glad we went to this one. It was wonderful - I highly recommend it, if you haven't seen it yet. We did get up to Estes tonight and enjoyed a delicious meal and peaceful time together.

Christmas was great. We had Christmas Eve with DC's family - a simple meal, good fellowship, fun gifts, ending with a great treasure hunt for the big girls.

Christmas morning we had our traditional brunch at my house with my family. I had set the kids' table for the 4 girls. Katie decided she wanted to sit in her usual seat, though it was on the floor instead of on a chair. She dragged it out and sat down. I put the tray on, and Emma proceeded to start feeding her. It was priceless.

A few minutes later, they were under the table, "reading" several days' worth of the Denver Post.

Sema brought their dog, Calli. She is a very short-haired bull terrier who does not like the cold. She has a coat and boots, and gladly wears them.

The twins received Cabbage Patch twins - Katie is the very maternal one.

Twins are so interesting so watch and listen to. They definitely have their own language. We're trying hard to understand it, and I know they wish we did. They have more and more understandable vocabulary, but I know they're tired of hearing us say, "Yes, I know! Uh-huh!"

They play together, of course, and what one doesn't think of, the other does. Their latest game is sitting in the bathroom cabinet and shutting the door as far as they can - and then giggling and giggling. (Katie has the most amazing bedhead in the mornings!)

So now it's on to 2010. I just got used to writing 2009! As I've mentioned often, my word for the year, "flexibility" really got a workout. On the way down from Estes Park tonight, we were listening to the Gaither Vocal Band. One of my favorites on the album is "Not Gonna Worry." Here is a very informal rendition, with the words above.

I'm not gonna worry, I'm not gonna fret.
I'm not gonna speculate or contemplate on how it might have been.
I'm not gonna worry, He's got the whole things in his hands.
I won't let it haunt me, I won't let it win.
I'm not gonna ruminate or meditate on how it might have been.
I'm gonna release it, He's got the whole thing in His hands.
Maybe lately I started to resign,
But here it goes, God only knows
It might just ease my mind.
I'm not gonna worry, I'm not gonna fret,
I'm just gonna wait and see and in between give thanks for what I get.
I'm not gonna worry, He's got the whole thing in His hands.
Maybe lately I started to resign.
But here it goes, God only knows
It might just ease my mind.
I'm not gonna worry, I'm not gonna fret,
I'm not gonna speculate or contemplate what hasn't happened yet.
I'm not gonna worry, He's got the whole thing in His hands.
He's got the whole thing in His hands.

Easier said than done, I know, but it's something to strive for!

In these days of uncertainty and confusion, we are told 365 times in scripture to "not be afraid." Once for each day of the year! I am asking God to help me TRUST this year more than ever before. I am going to trust Him to . . .

  • bring Kevin into total deliverance from drug addiction
  • give Kevin peace and joy about his future, and a plan for that future
  • give Sema peace and strength as she "holds down the fort" while Kev is away
  • provide a position for Kristen when she finishes school, one that will give her the ability to provide for her family and give her satisfaction
  • continue providing strength and health for DC and me as we care for the girls while Kristen goes to school and work
  • give me strength I need to do what I need to do to be my best physically, mentally, and spiritually
Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Randomness

It was a crazy week, as many of mine are. That word "flexibility" has really had a work-out this year. Kristen got strep throat the week of her finals, so she had to try to do her on-line tests when she wasn't sleeping! I had the girls a lot. Thank the Lord she is feeling back to normal and her exams were finished by the deadline. I was even able to get my shopping finished and the wrapping complete. I did quite a bit of on-line ordering this year - what fun to have packages coming every day or two. I managed to escape Wal-Mart madness the entire time!

I've shown my nativity sets the last couple of years - I have 3 sets that are specifically for the kids to play with. I've had to be very creative in the placement of the others this year, because the littles can climb up on the couch now and reach the shelf above it, where I have put many of them in the past.
As Kristen said, this was "deja vu" as we watched the twins play with the Fisher Price Little People set - they look so much like their big sisters.

When the angel is placed on the top of the stable, it plays "Away in a Manger."

The children's program at church this year was very simple, but meaningful.

This might be the last year I can find matching dresses in all the right sizes - so far Sam's has come to my rescue, but I think Care Bear will be too big by this time next year. I wish I could sew like I used to.

This last picture has nothing to do with Christmas, but I love it. The table and chairs have been used so much since I got them from Freecycle when the big girls were little. They use it every time they're here, and now the twins are using it every day. (Note the black magic marker art under Katie's stuffed animal?) I decided to serve them their lunch on it the other day for the first time - they ate much better than they do in their high chairs. Emma got up and handed me her bowl and spoon when she finished her mac and cheese. So cute.

The twins are definitely turning into twos. I have been saying all week that they have been a bit behind developmentally because of their preemie-ness, but they are right on target with being stereotypical twos!

I got the following piece in an e-mail this week and wanted to send it on. I love it.

The "W" in Christmas (author unknown)

Each December, I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peaceful experience. I had cut back on nonessential obligations - extensive card writing, endless baking, decorating, and even overspending. Yet still, I found myself exhausted, unable to appreciate the precious family moments, and of course, the true meaning of Christmas.

My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting season for a six-year-old. For weeks, he'd been memorizing songs for his school's "Winter Pageant." I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd be working the night of the production. Unwilling to miss his shining moment, I spoke with his teacher. She assured me there'd be a dress rehearsal the morning of the presentation. All parents unable to attend that evening were welcome to come then. Fortunately, Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise.

So, the morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early, found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down. Around the room, I saw several other parents quietly scampering to their seats.

As I waited, the students were led into the room. Each class, accompanied by their teacher, sat cross-legged on the floor. Then, each group, one by one, rose to perform their song. Because the public school system had long stopped referring to the holiday as Christmas," I didn't expect anything other than fun, commercial entertainment - songs of reindeer, Santa Claus, snowflakes and good cheer.

So, when my son's class rose to sing, "Christmas Love," I was slightly taken aback by its bold title. Nicholas was aglow, as were all of his classmates, adorned in fuzzy mittens, red sweaters, and bright snowcaps upon their heads. Those in the front row-center stage--held up l arge letters, one-by-one, to spell out the title of the song.

As the class would sing "C is for Christmas," a child would hold up the letter C. Then, "H is for Happy," and on and on, until each child holding up his portion had presented the complete message, "Christmas Love."

The performance was going smoothly, until suddenly, we noticed her; a small, quiet, girl in the front row holding the letter "M" upside down – totally unaware her letter "M" appeared as a "W." The audience of 1st through 6th graders snickered at this little one's mistake. But she had no idea they were laughing at her, so she stood tall, proudly holding her "W."

Although many teachers tried to shush the children, the laughter continued until the last letter was raised, and we all saw it together. A hush came over the audience and eyes began to widen. In that instant, we understood the reason we were there, why we celebrated the holiday in the first place, why even in the chaos, there was a purpose for our festivities. For when the last letter was held high, the message read loud and clear: "C H R I S T W A S L O V E"

And, I believe, He still is.

Amazed in His presence...

Humbled by His love

May each of you have a Merry Christmas as you reflect on His Amazing Love for us.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Glory of Christmas

Early in October I saw a small item in the paper, inviting community members to come and join the Loveland Choral Society for the Christmas presentation. The title of this year's concerts was to be "The Glory of Christmas." I knew when I read this title that it was going to be something I would really enjoy doing. I decided this was how I wanted to prepare my heart for Christmas this year.

I headed down to the first gathering that Tuesday night 10 weeks ago. (BTW, I met a kindred spirit that night - also a first timer - and we enjoyed the whole experience together). The music we were given and the first run-through convinced me that this was going to be an unforgettable experience. I was so pumped when I got home that night that I couldn't get to sleep.

There were 95 of us who signed up this year - the largest group they've ever had for the Christmas concerts. It was an amazing experience to sing with such a quality group of talent. It was a huge commitment, every Tuesday night for 2 1/2 - 3 hours, plus some extra rehearsals. I figured out that we spent at least 30 hours rehearsing a total of 20 songs. The director had picked out amazing pieces - some familiar with interesting, challenging arrangements; some brand new, 2/3 sacred, and the rest really fun secular selections.

Rehearsals and performances were held at the historic Rialto Theater in downtown Loveland. I knew that the small theater, which had once served this city for those who attended movies, had sat empty and unused for many years. I remember when they began refurbishing and renewing it, but had never been inside of it until that first Tuesday night. I wish I had better pictures of the beauty they created, but here are some views of the lovely Christmas decorations, in the dark.

This first one is a view from the platform to the back - it holds 450 people.

There were so many people in the choir, and such limited space on the platform that, due to fire code, 10-15 of us had to sit out each performance. Quite a few of us only sang 3 of the 4 concerts. The strings were on the stage with us, with the remainder of the 30-piece orchestra in the pit.

The bell choir, which made several of the songs extra special, was off to the left of the audience in the front of the auditorium.

Kristen took this picture with her phone just before we began singing - it's not great, but it'll give you an idea of the size of the group on the stage.

Our director is very talented. He's been doing this community chorale for 19 years. The society does 3 shows every year. He has his day job as an insurance salesman, but music is his passion. I loved it that he prayed before every performance.

Here is a view of the lobby as you enter the facility. To the right is the concession stand. I was quite amazed and amused that they made popcorn every night and people munched as they listened to the lovely music.

Each of us had to volunteer to participate in some aspect of preparation for the concert. I agreed to come early on dress rehearsal night to prepare the printed programs.

The rules for apparel for the concert were quite stringent. The women had to wear a long skirt or palazzo pants and a red, green, or blue blouse. I ordered the pants because I already have two black skirts which were too short - and one is velveteen, which has too much sheen. I had bought a beautiful blouse which I was sure would qualify. Unfortunately, it was "too teal." So I went back to Penney's and found a red and a blue one, which I was sure would be okay. No - the blue was too dark. The red was "okay." I ended up with a green blouse which one of the members had bought from a thrift store and was only $3.00. I will take back the other two this week, when I get a minute to go without kiddoes!

Ironically, the night of dress rehearsal, one lady had a blouse on just the same color as my blue - I mentioned to her that the costume director had told me mine was too dark. She said, "Oh, she tells me that every year, but I wear it anyway." She was also wearing straight legged pants, which were against the rules. I came to the conclusion that we "newbies" were the only ones who were so concerned about doing it just right.

Dress rehearsal and the performances were grueling in terms of comfort. The music was so glorious. I loved singing in the three performances. But my back and feet hurt so much from standing for 3 hours each time, crowded on the risers, with our music so crammed to our bodies that we could hardly read it. It was worth it, though, to sense the appreciation of the audience. Kristen called me in tears after she left a bit early to go to work saying, "For the first time this year I feel like Christmas." That's what it was all about!

Between the two performances on Saturday, we were blessed with a lovely meal at Group Publishing Company. Group publishes materials for Bible schools, Sunday schools, youth groups, etc. It is a beautiful facility and they opened it to us for a wonderful meal. When I walked in the building that evening, I felt so peaceful. It made me wish I worked there!

Today about 30 of us went to sing for the Rotary Club's Christmas dinner. Remember my word for the year? Flexibility! It keeps getting a workout, just about every week. This week is no exception as Kristen has strep throat and I had to find a sitter for the twins so I could participate. After we had warmed up, we headed over to the dining area to present the musical program. Unfortunately, the orchestra couldn't go with us so we had to sing to "canned music." Even more unfortunately, the CD player wouldn't work. We did an a cappella number first so that the tech guys could try to figure out the problem. It never did get resolved, but we learned that the facility had a boom box which would work through the sound system. They set it up as we sang a couple of songs with the audience.

Finally, we were able to do the 10 songs to a very appreciative audience. After the Rotarians left, we were served a delicious meal - I don't usually have prime rib for lunch!

So now - on with the trappings of Christmas. I still have shopping and wrapping to do. I will not do a Christmas letter this year, and will only bake enough cookies to send to Kev and the guys. I want the music to remain in my soul and continue to nourish my spirit.

May your spirit be blessed with the true reason for this season.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Countdown to Christmas

It's Monday and there's much more white stuff than the last time I wrote. It's really really cold. But for some reason, it's okay. It's getting me in the mood to get necessary things done - finally. I definitely won't be joining any home parades this year. I only did one tree this year, and I haven't put out a lot of my things because they are just too tempting for little tiny fingers. The first time the littles got up from their naps and saw all the things hanging on the tree, they did a beeline to the lower branches and began their work. I am attempting to teach "no" instead of moving the ornaments up higher.

I have three nativity sets that are designed for child's play. With four players, it gets really interesting - pieces everywhere! But they are sure having fun.

I have had an amazingly productive day - finished decorating, cleaned up the mess the kiddoes left yesterday, did laundry, went to the gym, did a bit of shopping (not for gifts), ordered some gifts on line, got sidetracked in the basement and actually made some progress on getting rid of the chaos down there (believe it or not), AND fixed a good dinner. Dear DC was so pleasantly surprised when he walked in the door - I haven't been a very good homemaker lately.

I have much more shopping to do yet, and don't know what or where. But I know I'll figure it out. In the meantime, I am doing what I really want to do to celebrate this blessed season. It may sound crazy when I give you a rundown on what I've been doing and will be doing, but every one of these things is a choice I have made to make my Christmas what I want it to be - a celebration of what it really means to me.

  • Every Tuesday for the last two months (plus some extra rehearsals), I have been singing with a group of 95 people for 2.5 -3 hours. The director of the Loveland Choral Society has been doing this for 19 years - I don't know about other years, but this year he chose 19 wonderful pieces of music. At least 3/4 of the music is sacred. All of it is challenging and fun to sing. We have two rehearsals this week. There are 4 performances next week-end, but I will be singing in 3 of them - we have to take our turns sitting out because there are too many of us to be on the platform - fire code. So I'll be singing on Friday evening, Saturday afternoon, and Sunday afternoon, sitting out Saturday evening, which works well since I have the girls on Saturday nights.

  • Saturday between the two concerts we are having a nice dinner for the choir and orchestra. It's a time to relax between concerts without having to go home or worry about dinner. Even though I won't be singing in the evening concert, I'm definitely going to enjoy this event.

  • Wednesday, December 1 - Care Bear's school program was very early this year. There are many elementary schools that want to use the high school auditorium, so somebody has to be first and early. It was fun watching the first and second graders, but DC and I took the twins home to put them to bed, so we didn't see the rest. Care Bear is the one in the red sleeveless dress with the plaid sash.

  • Saturday, December 5 - annual Ladies' Tea at church - a beautiful occasion every year. I didn't get any pictures this year, unfortunately. Each of the tables is decorated by a different woman, and they do a fabulous job. Delicious food, lovely harp music as we ate, wonderful speaker, good fellowship.

  • Sunday, December 6 - I took the big girls downtown to the community sing-along at the Rialto, the same place we'll be performing this week-end. This was a great time of just singing Christmas songs for about an hour. We had hot chocolate, cookies, and candy canes. It was really fun and festive.

  • I mentioned to Care Bear that something was going on at the library. Of course, we had to head over there. Among the other things going on, they had a contest for the kids to find large Christmas jingle bells, hidden all over the library. We had so much finding them, and found 21 of them. I don't know how many there were, but I think they did a great job. We'll see if they win anything. We got into parts of the library we've never been before.

  • Friday noon, December 11 - I plan to go hear my two good friends from church who sing in the women's chorale in the town north of here. They do their big concert at the exact same time as my Sunday concert, so I'll attend this one, held in an art gallery.

  • Sunday evening, December 13 - "Coming Home for Christmas" at our church - many families will be doing skits, songs, and whatever they want to do. The children are preparing something, which I'm looking forward to seeing. Snacks afterward, so I'll need to come up with something yummy.

  • Tuesday noon, December 15 - the chorale will be singing for the Rotary Club, and eating lunch with them as well.

  • Thursday, December 17 - Sema's concert at her church.

  • Saturday, December 19 - Care Bear and Feisty are working on a program with another church as well - we have to go see it, of course.

  • Sunday morning, December 20 - sanctuary choir will celebrate with a few wonderful songs - no cantata this year. But still enjoyable.

  • I'm hoping to get some cookies made and sent to Kev and the guys at Teen Challenge. I'm going to make his favorite peanut butter with the Hershey's Kiss in the middle. But I'll cheat with Sam's mix. I need to have the girls over to make sugar cookies, too. But again, Sam's comes to the rescue with the basic dough mix.

    I know it sounds crazy, but everything above gives me pleasure! It doesn't make me feel stress. Everything except shopping. I really don't like shopping. I just wish I had some good ideas!

    Have a great week!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Grandma-ing With the Big Girls

It is Wednesday and the world is white once again. Very little accumulation, but everything looks so clean and fresh. It began to snow just as I was leaving rehearsal for the Christmas concert last night. We have one more rehearsal just with the choir, then rehearsal with the orchestra, then dress rehearsal - then the real thing next week-end, 4 performances. It has been a lot of work, but I have been so blessed as I sing the wonderful songs of the season.

Now I really MUST get motivated to make it look like Christmas around here! I can't seem to get in the mood. I wish I could just sing, go to other concerts, go caroling, and forget shopping!

Thanksgiving was enjoyable - a really small crowd for a change, just 11 of us. My dad is 83, and has always enjoyed feeding large crowds (as opposed to cooking for the family!) So he wanted to do the turkey and dressing again this year - I was happy to give up that task for this year - and have the meal at their house.

The day before Thanksgiving was Grandparents' Day at Care Bear and Feisty's school. I am so thankful to be able to participate in these special days. First thing in the morning I went to the kindergarten room. Feisty has a wonderful brand new teacher who absolutely adores her students. I watch her hug the kids every morning as they come and every afternoon as they leave and am so thankful that she doesn't worry about being accused of anything inappropriate - which is such a sad thing that has happened to kids and their relationship with their teachers. She was born to teach little kiddoes.

One of the little girls in Feisty's class is a friend she made in preschool last year. She came right up to me and told me her grandparents couldn't come. I told her I'd be glad to be her grandma for the day. She and Feisty had fun working together on their pine cone turkeys.

At the end of the school day, I headed back to Care Bear's classroom. This is the first year she has had a "seasoned" teacher. I used to work with this teacher back in the "olden days" when I was the school lunch lady at a different school. Care Bear loves her teacher - she says she likes her because she's older and she's funny.

Care Bear made me a card for the occasion. The front was a turkey whose feathers tell the many things she is thankful for. The inside was a letter to me. It just made my day - well, maybe it made my year!

The church across the street from the school has a passion for reaching out to the neighborhood. Every semester they have what they call "Club 182" - the name based on Psalm 18:2. They invite the kids from the school to come over every Wednesday after school (early release day). They have a variety of classes the kids can sign up for - just for fun.

Feisty signed up for "Wacky Science Projects." On the last day of the classes for this semester, they hosted an open house. Feisty showed us some of their fun experiments - here she is standing on rows of paper cups, proving something about distribution of weight - one cup can't support your weight, but distributed over many, they can. I think I see a spiritual application - we can't bear the weight of this world's burdens all alone, but with the support of many others, it is doable!

She also showed us a project that sent pepper scattering to the edge of a bowl of water when you put a tiny bit of soap on your finger tip and touch the center of the water.

This semester Care Bear chose "Autumn Crafts." They made some really cute things.

The adorable scarecrows they made
(upper left of the table) were used for centerpieces for the dinner they provided for all the kids and their families on the last Wednesday of this semester's session.

I have so much admiration for all the people of this church who have given of themselves so selflessly to reach out to the kids in this part of town and provide them with a safe, fun place to be on early release day.

This coming Sunday afternoon, the same renovated theater where the concerts will be next week-end will be the site of a community carol sing. I'm hoping Kristen and the girls can all join us there for a fun time of celebration.

I told you in my post about my visit with Louise that I would show you what I was able to order from her family's Christian book store. I had a lovely conversation with one of the employees as I ordered this new addition to my nativity collection. I must get down to the basement today to get the other pieces so that it can join them. Thank you again, Louise!!

Have a wonderful Advent Season!