Saturday, December 31, 2005

A Second Chance at True Love

Yesterday we had the opportunity to attend a very special wedding. The bride is dear to us- she has been our children's first start to education - their 3 year old pre-school teacher. The words that come to mind when I describe her are as follows: gentle, kind, supportive, soft-spoken, tender, loving, a living demonstration of Christ's love - exactly the sort of person you'd dream to have guide your little ones into the brave world away from home. I am very grateful for her and therefore honored to have attended her wedding.

As I watched her walk down the aisle to meet her groom, I admit, I had tears in my eyes. Because, this wasn't any ordinary love story - awaiting at the end of the aisle also stood her six year old son. And, I can only imagine how proud he must have been of his mom.

From the little I know, the man that is her son's father didn't come close to deserving the love of this woman. It ended out of her control and I bet, her wildest dreams must have felt dashed. Which made the scene we witnessed that much more miraculous to me.

There's something incredibly romantic about finding love that's truer and more meaningful than you ever thought it possibly could be. I know so little about their relationship, but the little I've heard about the way they look at one another and how he cherishes and adores her in public provides evidence enough for me that this love is meant to last. I just wonder how many other stories are yet to be completed of men or women who have been seriously short-changed in life, that have yet to discover what real love is supposed to be. And, on the other hand, how glorious are the stories of those lives that have found that secret revealed.

Then, there are those like me, who had I had the chance, would have chosen that lesser love beccause I never knew there could be better. When I was engaged to Lance, prior to my relationship with John, we started out with such a tender love. He was full of praise and prose and poetry - ready on his lips to declare all of my virtues. However, after our time together in Africa - when it was decided to indefinitely postpone our wedding, everything changed. I no longer knew why he loved me, and he no longer provided answers (yet, he insisted, he DID love me). It got to the point that I longed for our wedding day so that finally I would hear him tell me what he saw in me as he said his vows. I was that desperate for affirmation. And yet, the day he wanted to break up, I tried so hard to hold on.

Now, I'm married to a man that I never wonder why loves me. He shows me in a million ways every day. He never ceases to say the words, and never tires of new ways to tell me why he treasures me in his life. When I walked down the aisle, the giddy grin that overtook my entire countenance was because there could be no greater love I would ever have - God had surpassed my wildest, most romantic "this will never happen to me" dreams. What would it have been like if I had walked down the aisle to Lance instead - eager only for a few words that would affirm that he really did care for me? God had interceded, beyond my own will to bless me so much more.

I'm so excited to watch that happen in some of the people I know in my life. I've watched it transpire already in the lives of a few close to me - and what a thing to behold. I can't wait.

And by the way, thank you, John, for making my wildest dreams come true by proposing to me on this night ten years ago. I will say yes again every day of our lives!

Thursday, December 29, 2005


I can trace Mikayla's conception date down to two possibilities. It was carefully planned so that we would have her in the middle of January. Apparently, John and I were a little loopy when we did the math on that one! Later that month, when I began feeling like, just possibly I could be pregnant, I doubted - what were the chances we'd have both kids on the first month we tried? But, the feelings cont. and I remember taking Brayden home early from a visit from Michele's, leaving at 9pm, just to catch up with John at home and take a pregnancy test. Yes, I was right. We then went to the computer, and what do you know, Mikayla's due date was Christmas Eve. OOPS!

Mikayla's pregnancy went just as smooth as any could. I ate and ate and ate, and ended up losing weight when I weighed in. My metabolism had done this big shift after having Brayden and it was a dream come true for me. I ended up gaining 17 pounds less with her than with him, despite eating twice as much. Thanks to Zantac, even the heartburn was under control. It was a great pregancy.

Actually, the doctor noticed too, and asked me to consider having a "water birth" with her. I remember having watched a video about such a thing in my freshman year of college in a child psychology class. it seemed way too earthy, but I read the literature and I do love my baths..... and knew that soaking in the tub had helped with Brayden, so I took a leap of faith and said, "sure".

Brayden had been 11 days late, so I didn't think Mikayla would be coming prior to Christmas. But, I organized and prepared like she would be. Christmas Eve came and went - and so also, the passing of my Grandpa. I remember passing the due date and delivering part of the eulogy for my Grandpa at the cemetary- all the while my second cousin, just a couple years younger than me, was so worried I'd burst any moment!

After considerable "negotiations" with my doctor (who really wanted my body to decide when I went into labor, but I wonder if it really knows how - Brayden was nearly 10 pounds....when was my body going to think it was finally time to kick him out?) We set Dec. 28th, 5pm as the time to check in. Sounds good. I practically skipped in, still no pain - they set me up to monitors, started a little pitocin and nothing..... I hopped on the bouncy ball, watched bowl games - and laughed the evening away waiting for my body to show any signs that I was in labor. Just when we were thinking I would be given sleeping medicine to let me rest through the night, the doctor successfully broke my water. And, then the ball got rolling. Minor labor pains, but becoming consistent. Construction began on the portable hot tub (funny watching my OB turned into handy man with a wrench and common garden hose hooked up to the sink). At 1 am, I was able to get into the luke warm hot tub (an hour after my water broke) and finally, things got intense. Michele, John, and Jodi all knew that if I started the stopwatch, no one was to talk. It was a half hour of serious pain, when the nurse checked me and I was at 7-8 cm. The doctor wasn't in the room, but that didn't stop Mikayla. The very next contraction brought out her head and one more and she was in my arms.... What a frenzied panic that room had become, my doctor was just a little flustered.

For me, it was the most exhilerating moments of my life. To give context, Brayden's labor had been agonizingly slow, painful, and exhausting. When I finally agreed to an intrathecal, everything changed. I felt nothing, was happy as a lark, and delivered him quite quickly. I was hoping to not repeat that experience with Mikayla. Obviously, it was night and day difference. I couldn't believe that my body just knew what to do on its own, sitting in that bath- it hurt like the dickens, but it was so quick! I also felt so good afterwards, I was even up videotaping the bath for Mikayla.

I shudder when I hear women make generalizations about childbirth. "Oh, it's really not that bad, as long as you're in shape..." or other callous comments like that. The reality is, it's different for every woman and every baby and there is no way to compare, nor is it necessary. For me, Mikayla's experience was perfection, but Brayden's was far from it. The results, however, are all that really matter- and the memory of the pain erases with the years. Thank God!

Happy fourth birthday, Mikayla - you are a miracle!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Product Reviews

I have very little inspiration within me right now. It's such a transition week, and the hanging on of this flu has left me a little empty of enthusiasm. I was going to write about how long it actually took me to put away the clean laundry that I had managed to pile into each room (a chore I absolutely dread....stems from childhood, I think), but that's pretty dull too. (Let's just say, I spent way more time dreading the chore than it actually took to complete it).

So, I thought I'd list my favorite of the toys that each kid got.

For Mikayla, I absolutely love the Bella Dancerella set she got. It include2 a DVD with a charming teenager and her two little friends who teach kids how to do cute dance steps to the tunes and themes of Cinderella. It includes a mat to determine where to put your feet and an interchangable wand/dance ribbon/and duster to use while doing the dances. It's adorable, and interactive - I love to watch Mikayla doing it.

For Brayden, the ESPN Shot Bloc Basketball hoop. Once again, another interactive, physical activity with lots of lights, noise and other perks to keep a kid interested. Perhaps he'll be a basketball star afterall!

Sorry such an unstimulating entry.... perhaps Mikayla's birthday will inspire more tomorrow.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Well, That's Not Quite What We Had in Mind

So, this wasn't our best Christmas ever. But, thankfully it wasn't our worst. Certainly, very different.

Shortly after John came home Thursday with the flu, I began having symptoms. Mine is a less intense strain (no nausea or body aches) but debilitating nonetheless. Christmas Eve was spent very low key, no church service, a run to McDonald's with the kids, baking cookies - with lots of naps in between. It was actually quite cozy as we had our own little "family service" reading the Christmas story together and praying and watching "Miracle on 34th Street" and all falling asleep in our living room. At 2 am, I woke up and spent a couple of hours cleaning enough to make myself feel okay about opening presents in the morning - and moving kids into our room so we could set presents out from Santa.

The big concern was that we weren't going to take the flu to my mom as she's been fighting a bunch of junk on her own lately and didn't want to expose her. We weren't running fevers, so we felt safe to proceed with Christmas Day as planned, but lo and behold, about an hour after talking to my dad that we're "still on" - he called back to say Mom would be spending the day holed up in her room as she had body aches, headache, and felt like she was going to throw up every time she moved. OK, then -- I guess we needn't worry about exposing her to anything!

So, we did our best with Christmas dinner, Michael made the gravy and mashed potatoes and Dad took care of the salad. Great team effort. It went really well, but we didn't want to make it too good so Mom would feel like she wasn't needed! When presents time came around, Brayden wasn't looking good at all. Half way through, he asked if Daddy could help him open as he was so exhausted - definite temperature time, and I was proud of him for being able swallow big person's medicine to make himself feel better. Even little Ellie was off-kilter, she opened her Care Bears Tea Set and was so excited about that that she refused to open anything else. Her temper tantrum ended when she fell asleep on the living room floor.

After John and I slept away the rest of the afternoon, we headed back to our house with the Schillings. This morning, after waking up feeling miserable, Traig added to the cespool of germs in this household by throwing up. Nice.....

So, today, we're all taking it easy- Brayden is keeping the medicine down to keep his fever down. I've resorted to just wearing my robe as I so quickly sweat through any clothes, I thought this might be the best bet (my worst symptom being the body temperature fluctuation..). John is hoping to gain enough strength to head back to work tomorrow - and don't get me started on the state of our house right now.

Hmm, when I review what I'll do differently next year in my holiday planner, getting a flu shot may be part of it!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas!

From our family to yours - we wish you a very MERRY CHRISTMAS! May the miracle of the season reveal itself to you in a very real and special way......

Friday, December 23, 2005

Diagnosis: Influenza

So, John got back from the doctor today and barely made it to the bedroom. His body hurts, he is incredibly weak, his chest is congested (but fortunately clear, a concern when you've dealt with pnuemonia before) and his temperature is 103. He's now lying in bed underneath 6 layers of blankets and a heat pack. Poor guy.

The doctor told him he had influenza and consequently I got to brave Costco the day before Christmas Eve (not something I would ever plan to do) for his medicines. Apparently, he's contagious as long as he has a fever, potentially through Christmas Day. I don't know how that's going to affect Christmas Eve services or the gift exchange at Mom and Dad's.

So, if you think about it, please pray for him, and for all of the rest of us, not to get it. I'd really rather not add this year to our list of Christmas Calamities!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

8 Loaves of Zucchini Bread and Funny Snow Pics

Today's Countdown Santa activity involved taking gifts to the neighbors. Due to the fact that we really like our neighbors, that involved baking 8 loaves of zucchini bread (have I thanked you lately, Jodi, for introducing me to that recipe?) It was fun having Brayden help me and cute how the kids wanted to dress up to deliver the loaves with daddy.

I thought I'd also throw in some pictures we took while it was still snowing in Sunriver. The picture of Mikayla up against the window still cracks me up...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Back to Reality

So we drove back to our balmy home town at about 1 today. By 4, I had everyone's clean clothes, 4 bins/coolers of unused food, and new presents put away. Ready to take on the rest of the week.... Currently I'm watching an older Lifetime holiday movie snuggled in my beanbag. It was nice to come home and realize I really like my home.

As I've before mentioned, I'm an anticipator. (I don't think I spelled that right - it reminds me of velociraptor....) Anyway, it makes for a lot of elongated vacations with all of the excitement ahead, but it can also spoil vacations when I spend time worrying that it will be over too soon. That kind of happened this last Sunday - since EVERYTHING was so perfect...., perfect snowfall, incredible friends and family as company, lots of things to keep me happy and relaxed, tremendous food (if I do say so myself...). But, I couldn't completely enjoy it because I didn't want it to end. Sounds silly, huh? As it turned out, Monday remedied all that, as the warm rains set in, and everything wasn't as ideal as it had been.

I feel that way about Christmas too. I've had to condition myself over the years to not have a major let-down by the time 10am Christmas morning occurs. The older I've gotten, the more I've come to realize that sometimes letting go of much anticipated times can be a very good thing. I've begun enjoying our New Years Retreat as a family because it's a sort of renewal - a return to discipline and routine that gets completely thrown out the window during the holidays or other vacations. My goodness, at this stage, I could really use some discipline in a lot of areas. Too much indulgence lately.. (see reference to food above)!

As with anything, moderation is a wonderful thing. There is a time for fun and vacation, and there is a time for routine and discipline - too much of either one, will only be gratifying for so long.....

As a P.S. - If anyone can tell me where I put the "special-ordered" CD I got for Mikayla's stocking, I would love a hint. I fear it is in the Lane County Landfill - it arrived the day we left and I have this sick feeling it got swept up in my effort to leave the house clean - and thrown away. The garbage was picked up yesterday.....

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

Michele's family (minus Ellie) and my family just returned from watching "The Chronicles of Narnia". All of us except Michael went into the movie without reading the book. Michele and I remember watching the PBS version, but all we both remember is the wardrobe entrance (I can't tell you how many times I crawled into my closet hoping to discover another world) and Aslan's sacrifice. I think not having read the book was a benefit to us because we weren't expecting anything. We were absolutely blown away by the beauty and message deliverance of the movie. John and I both had chills and tears - it was amazing. We brought young kids and despite the scary parts we had no regrets- in fact it sparked so many moving conversations with images and parallels the kids will probably remember for a very long time. Traig, when asked what he would rate the movie on a scale of 1-10 gave it a 100. Brayden, on his own, gave it a 10. He wants to ask Santa for just one more present - can he please have the Narnia PS2 game. (Perhaps he's not done with Santa yet...)

I realize those who aren't into fantasy might not enjoy this movie. Those that cringe at violence would probably not be super impressed. And, those who are against seeing a beautiful book turned into a Hollywood movie perhaps are quite unhappy. But, WE LOVED IT! I will mull over the details and message for a long time - and I pray my kids will too.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Moments of Happiness

This is my new favorite drink- I call is Hot Tub Hot Cocoa-
Mix 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup water, 1 heaping TB cocoa mix, and 3 capfuls peppermint schnapps - top with whipped cream and sprinkles. Drink in a 102 degree hot tub...

Mikayla playing with her Cinderella Dance DVD. I highly recommend it-

The kids teaching Mikayla how to play PS2 - "Dora and the Purple Planet"

Note the icicles from the window of our bedroom-

Friday, December 16, 2005

Why Sunriver with Travie and Stephie Is Never Boring

We started our Sunriver vacation tradition with the Whites in 1999 and have returned every year except one. The year we skipped I was 9 months pregnant with Mikayla and couldn't justify the trip. It is something we treasure, anticipate, and lengthen every year. The Whites, Schillings and us all even have an automatic monthly withdrawal set-up to fund this special event. We eat all of our favorite meals and treats, savor the hot tub, get and decorate a Christmas tree, exchange presents, and play a lot of PS2. It's guaranteed to be a good time.

However, it's not always a guarantee that there won't be something that goes a little wrong. Snow can be a nail-biter: will it come on time? will it rain? will there be any at all? Checking the long-term forecast prior to departure can seriously make or break my mood for the day. There's also the incidents that Travis finds himself a part of. In the year 2000, John and him decided to rent snowmobiles. They were having a wonderful time, exceeding 70 miles an hour in powder snow - then while climbing a hill (at a considerably lower speed), Travis' snowmobile hit a rock - and had to be towed out - costing them $1100. (Right before their wedding - nice timing for that expense....) There hasn't been anything significant that's occurred for a while, but yesterday changed all that. Here's a few pictures to share the story-

This is on the way to get a Christmas tree for our home away from home- Travis recognized his truck was sliding into the ditch and literally tried for a football field length to correct it out of the ditch. Clearly it didn't work. Good thing for ONSTAR. They had a tow truck to our exact location within 2 hours.

This would be the kids, unhappy while waiting-

This is the tow truck, doing its magic - and then Steph showing her expression of victory, note the sun setting in the backgroung - still no tree.

So, after that (by the way, no damage done and the towing was free with their ONSTAR service), the adventure was able to continue and we had five minutes to find our tree before dusk. We picked out a doozy - about 20 feet tall - we decorated it while it was laying horizontal. Too fun....

Here's a picture of the tree-

Opening presents and one of my favorite presents-

Finally, this shows that even the dogs got along and shared appropriately - good for them!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

When Did You Find Out?

Our Christmas routines as children were almost always the same. On Christmas Eve night, we would go look at Christmas lights with my grandparents and when we returned, Santa had always arrived. Yes, we always just missed him, but he sent wonderful messages to my parents about how great of kids we were. Then, overnight, he would come by again - and, of course, we would miss him again.

The Christmas of my second grade year, Michele and I were ready to stage a strike. We had deduced that this trip to see Christmas lights was what was keeping us from meeting the big man in the red suit - and this time we wanted to hear the words from him ourself. So, I remember vividly standing in the kitchen of my parents' house talking to mom and dad about our request to stay home - their response was shocking. (and one we still give them a hard time about). They proceeded to tell us the "truth". We were stunned and near tears. Clearly, this discovery didn't happen naturally - we tried to hang on to any shred of hope we could. OK, so Grandpa and Grandma bring the presents on Christmas Eve night - but surely Santa still comes overnight. "Right?" It was just a few months later, that, while driving over the Mohawk River bridge (amazing how you can remember these 'defining moments' with such vividness) we proceeded to drill Mom on the reality of the Tooth Fairy, Rudolph, and the Easter Bunny. You blow one, and all of a sudden the reality of the others is shot too.

So, this post is written with timeliness. Twice now, my son has asked, "Is Santa real?" this week. The first time was followed up with, "because Savannah at school says he's not" (evil child...). The second time, with all the kids including cousins in the car was followed up with, "because Traig doesn't think so either". So, when we got home, I pulled the boys into the bathroom and had a secret chat with them. I explained they could believe what they felt was true in their hearts, but not to ruin the fun for the girls. They agreed. Late last night as we drove to our annual Christmas snow laden retreat for a week (I can't even begin to tell you how happy I am right now...) - we chatted with Brayden all about St. Nick - how and why he gave out presents, the spirit of Santa and such. (Mikayla was asleep). Bless his heart, Brayden simply said, "When I grow up, I want to be Santa to others every day." I guess if the innocence is going to be lost, this is the best you could possibly hope for. (A far cry from what Michele and I went through - I should have added that year to our Christmas Calamities list!).

Here's a picture of our Sunriver crew taken last year (minus Michael, he'll get here tonight...) Looking forward to a lot of fun new pics this year-

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Nothing Screams Christmas Like an MRI

Presents purchased and wrapped - check
Cookies baked and delivered - check
Advent devotions read faithfully to the kids - check
Spinal MRI done - check......

It just doesn't really fit in, does it? But, that's how life works. Today I got to experience my first MRI - and join the ranks of the rest of my family for high cost, high technology film work to be done. I wasn't at all aprehensive - I'm not claustrophobic and frankly the idea of being still for 45 minutes was kind of exciting. I only "swallowed" once, the MRI folks gave me huge praise (and guessed my weight a good 15 pounds less than reality - thanks for the Christmas gift!), and the experience felt like a little bit tighter and less warm - and a lot louder - tanning bed.

Most of you know the reason behind the MRI. I've been diagnosed with both a herniated disc and then degenerative disc disease in my neck over the last 5 years (in laymen's terms, it means the padding between my discs is deteriorating - a kind of arthritis). Since the accident I was involved in year and a half ago, the pain and headache occurences have been about 4 times worse (based on frequency). So, I was adviced to get a real good look at what was going on before the claim is settled. My MRI is the least concerning of the ones my family has experienced.

By timeline - here's the reasons for their radiology visits:

January 2000 - We're in Honolulu as our family of 3 for John's work. Things were just not what we wanted them to be, we were not pleased with the company paid for hotel and the feel of Honolulu vs. Maui. (In other words, we were acting like spoiled brats). Everything changed on that first Sunday when Brayden (at nine months) "checked out" with his eyes and tongue twittering and him not focussing. We tried to dismuss the first experience, but by the time the second happened fifteen minutes later we were panicked - trying to get to a doctor as soon as we could. It happened twice again - the last time in front of the clinic daughter and they sent us to an incredible Women's and Children's hospital. It was there that he received Cat Scans, MRI's, MRA's, EKG's, and an EEG. He had had seizures, that was for certain but what had caused them was a great mystery. A brain tumor? - unfortunately, my first heart breaking conclusion, but fortunately the first thing to be eliminated with the Cat Scan. Epilepsy? - we didn't know if we should pray for that, as it is a terrible conclusion, but better than others. Meningitis? - the spinal tap eliminated that. A hole in his heart? - no, that looked great. How about a stroke....and yes, our nine month old boy had indeed suffered a minor stroke. Future tests eliminated any pre-disposition for it to repeat itself - and I think Brayden is as healthy as it gets. What an amazing experience to have been through - and to be able to praise God indefinitely for.

February 2002 - Mikayla is 2 months old and all of a sudden we notice her right cheek looks quite a bit larger than her left. We went to the doctor unconcerned, but he had no answers. Neither did the facial specialist. Before we knew it, Mikayla had had x-Rays and an MRI to determine what the mass was beneath her cheek. Was it benign? Was it muscle cancer? Folks weren't sure even after the tests had been done, so we were sent to the biggest hospital in the state. The surgeons were eager to cut her open and investigate - the only way they could be sure. Of course, this would involve cutting her entire cheek open and potentially damaging nerves that would forever affect her smile..... but if it was cancer....... The case was going to be reviewed by another doctor and I remember being in the car when I received the call that the doctor was adament against doing surgery - and simply wanted to follow up every few years. I guess she's due for that follow up MRI this year, but at this stage in the game, the mass is completely unnoticable. We'll perhaps never know why, but we're thankful for the results.

May 2004 - This story is still so new, I'm sure everyone knows it. John got his chance for special radiology when he was admitted to the hospital for a blood clot. The ultrasound showed one was lodged in his calf, but Cat Scans also showed a lung full of blood clots. Long story short, he had a terrible case of pnuemonia, and only one small clot in his lung. Combine that with his jaw being wired shut, looking like Hannibal Lector, it was not an easy time. We honestly thought we might be losing him that night - it makes me tear up to write about it.

God is good - that's all I can say right now.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Two Close Calls

On Friday, our activity on our Countdown Calendar was to watch "Polar Express". So, knowing the cousins were coming to visit, we hauled in Brayden and Mikayla's mattresses into the living room and made a huge slumber party nest. It was cozy. During the movie, Nati made an announcement, "I've lost my tooth!". Indeed, she had managed to wiggle out her first loose tooth. (Ironically, Brayden lost his first tooth a couple of weeks ago - I swear, those two are somehow twins, born a year apart and to different moms, but twins nonetheless!). So, the movie was interrupted for awhile with rapt discussion as to how the Tooth Fairy would find Nati away from her home and how much money she should expect.

Fast forward to the next morning. The kids start rousing, then suddenly, they remember the surprise they expect to find under Nati's pillow. As Michele is lying two feet away, asleep on the couch, the kids open the envelope and I think to myself across the room, "Surely, Michele has already taken care of this...". The final envelope is opened (Nati wrapped it in two) and she finds.... her tooth... Just as she starts to express her dismay, Michele bolts upright and with shocked eyes and husky voice comes up with a reason the Tooth Fairy must have been delayed. Bless their hearts, the kids all had a different theory as to how this could happen ("maybe there were so many kids she didn't want to leave it out here because one of us might have found it first!") Michele then suggested they hide it again in a safe place and see if the tooth fairy would find it after Nati secretly whispered the location aloud. What do you know, but it was discovered the Tooth Fairy had arrived an hour later with a note apologizing for the delay, "but Nati, everytime I tried to take the tooth, you stirred, so I didn't want to risk you seeing me". Clever, Michele. Crisis averted, Nati was pleased as punch.

Then, later yesterday, Michele was working on Letters from Santa based on letters the kids had supposedly sent to Santa. She was cautioning me on being discreet (when I mistakenly nearly had Mikayla re-sign her name - Michele scolded me that the kids believed these had already been sent, oops!). Then, as Michele had nearly finished her task, Nati bounds in and says, "What are you doing with those, Mom?" Ever quick on her feet, Michele said, "Oh Nati, I really need to get these sent to Santa, huh? Can you help remind me?" "Sure, Mom" was her response - and she obliviously goes on her way. Whew #2 for the day!

Can you imagine how Michele would do as a spy? Good thing for our country that she's just a teacher....

Friday, December 09, 2005

A Series of Christmas Calamities

When it comes to horses, I have no fear. I have been raised with them around, and I feel very comfortable with them. This is a bit surprising when one considers what they have done to me over the years. I have a scar right by my jugular vein from where a horse bit me (she just wanted to eat, and I wanted to brush her....), a different horse that I was riding behind my dad slipped on a mountainside - my dad hopped off, but the horse and I rolled over together three times down the hillside, but it wasn't her fault. I've also been stepped on, bucked off, and kicked in the rear end - and those times, it was their faults! But, I don't hold on to these fears - I figure the worst has happened, and nothing more should concern me.

And, so it is with the Christmas season. What follows are a list of Christmas calamities that have occured in my lifetime with my side of the family. A superstitious person would think we are not destined to have good Chistmases - I don't think that way at all. In fact, Christmas to me, is like an annual vacation that one takes at home and lasts for over a month - and I think my kids are picking up on that too which brings me tremendous joy. But, this is quite a list - and I can't help but hope that it is done.

1973 or 1974 - directly prior to Christmas, my Grandfather Doug sustained a brain aneurism. It's a miracle he survived.

1975 - while dealing with 3 year old twins, a brand new house her and my dad built, and the stress of the season, my mom's body stopped working. On Christmas day she was admitted to the hospital where she spent over a month. She ended up having 2/3 of her stomach removed to combat a type of Chrohn's disease.

1977 or 1978 - my grandma Diane was very sick with cancer and died right after Christmas

1978 - I came down with Chicken Pox on the last day of school before break (I remember asking the school nurse about the itchy red spot). While I suffered through Christmas, the rest of the class got an extended break due to the incubation period hitting them later (including Michele).

1982 - The dog my dad and mom had gotten right after they were married had to be put down (by my dad....) on Christmas morning.

1987 or so - While burning the pizza boxes from our traditional Christmas Eve dinner with Grandpa and Grandma, they started a flu fire. Dad had hoses going towards the chimney, the fire dept. was called - but, fortunately, there was no damage.

2001 - My Grandpa suffered his second major stroke that we knew would take his life on Dec. 22nd. He took his final breath on Christmas Day.

2002 - Exactly 51 weeks after the absolute love of her life went to Heaven, my Grandma joined Grandpa after a blood clot in her leg led to a heart attack during the recovery after the succesful surgery.

I know everyone has their sad stories. Ours just seem to frequently happen in December! I'm so glad I can trust that God is in control and we don't live a life based on fate, coincidence or superstition. With that being said, let's continue to celebrate!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Build a Bear

First of all, incredible party, Susan. Your house is amazing - I love how cozy and inviting it is. And, the kids are thrilled with the haul I brought home!

Yesterday I got to spend the day up north celebrating Lisa's daughter's birthday at Build a Bear. It was a lot of fun, and I have to admit, there were a few ulterior motives I had regarding hitting stores not down here, the outlets, and the decor of the mall. I didn't end up getting home until 8:30pm. (Good thing I wasn't the one responsible for bringing the guests home!).

Mikayla ended up picking out an Angel outfit for her bear - who is now named "Angel Allie". She's really sweet. While I was there, I saw a Seattle Seahawks outfit and new instantly I had to get it for Brayden. He had previously asked why he hadn't ever been able to go, and I knew it would be a huge hit as that has become his favorite team. I'm not sure why, although I think he's taken a liking to Washington thanks in part to Hollie's family moving there. I figured he'd be thrilled, but that was an understatement when I brought it out of the bag. He was ecstatic. He slept with the guy and wanted to call his best friend at 7 this morning to tell him about it. Tonight, he just figured out that his "bear" is really a Golden Retriever - now he's even more in love with his stuffed buddy. There's such an innocence about the whole thing - it just warms my heart. I snapped pictures of them both asleep with there buddies this morning....

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Biting Off More than You Can Chew

The other day, my neice Nati came into the living room clearly uncomfortable and holding her mouth. Her dad happened to notice her, and before we knew it, she had managed to dislodge the food in her throat and spew it on the floor. Apparently, she had decided to eat some jerkey, and had bitten off more than she could chew.

That concept got me thinking about how often I do that in a figurative sense. Particularly during the holiday season. One year, we decided to go on a trip to Leavenworth the weekend of Thanksgiving. Mikayla was young and the trip was long, but our company was enjoyable despite some obvious disappointments with lack of snow. That same year, my Grandma passed away the week prior to Christmas (I'm going to devote a whole blog about the calamaties our family (my parents) have experienced during Christmas - it really is wild that I am so in love with this season despite so many heartaches...). When Christmas day arrived, I remember just feeling relieved I had gotten through it, and glad to be able to consider I'd have a fresh start the following year. Of course, sometimes we can't control what happens around us, but often the Christmas season involves a lot of choices we do make, and perhaps it's good to ask what benefit they really have in their lives. For us, that was the year we decided there would be no traveling prior to Christmas except for the trip we take with friends to Sunriver. It just took too much out of us. Sunriver, on the other hand, is the 6 days prior to Christmas where everything has already been done, and it's time to just soak it all in. Aahhh, I can't wait.

As I'm writing this, I'm doing a self-evaluation of how well I'm avoiding "choking" this year. So far, so good. I know I choose to do a lot, but with a lot of prior planning and preparation, it's been predominately very fun - even the 5:30 am runs to Walmart to prepare for a Gingerbread party for Mikayla! Best wishes in your pursuit for the ideal holiday season for you and your family.....

Here are some pictures of our tea - obviously, Ellie really digged the hot cocoa-

Here are pics of Mikayla's 4 year old Gingerbread party - with a tea and gingerbread house making. It was a lot of fun.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Our Annual Bowling Bash

This is the second year in a row our Bible Study has chosen to celebrate the season by bowling. It may not be the traditional holiday adventure, but it's a hit. Lisa's daughter was so excited she took the alarm clock into the bathroom with her so that she wouldn't miss when the big hand hit the 7 - the designated time they told her they would be leaving to go "balling" (as she calls it). When we arrived at the alley, it was crowded, and it took a lot of time to get our lanes, shoes, and games paid for. We were wondering if it was all worth it, as many of the adults were feeling pretty worn out - but as soon as we got to our lanes, the fun definitely began. The little boys had a lane, the little girls, and then the big girls and boys.... We were all criss-crossing back and forth keeping the toddlers out of the way and helping the kids throw the ball. Brayden managed to sabotage one of Stephie's throws by throwing his ball all the way across his lane and into the gutter of the womens' lane during her turn. (Actually, I set him up to it, as I was in the lead and Steph was starting to get her groove.... (just kidding!)) Certainly, the kids had a blast, and so did I. I scored the second highest out of everyone at a whopping 115. Clearly, we're all on the way to the pros league!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

I Love You Dad!

Today is my dad's 58th birthday. I am so proud to be his daughter. John is honored to be his "son in law', and be able to call him Dad. And, as you'll read below, Brayden and Mikayla absolutely cherish any time they get with Grandpa.

There are many stories that Dad has told of experiences he's had in his life that should have left him dead long ago. These stories leave goosebumps on my skin whenever he repeats them. He should have drowned in a canal, been paralyzed in a ravine, or died in a free fall from a mountain climb, but God wanted him to be alive to be my dad, and I am so thankful....

My dad is:
filled with wisdom, but never comes across condescending
extremely talented, but so humble
very strong, but definitely not afraid to show me his tears
capable of an infinite amount of love for all of us, but never smothering
one of my biggest cheerleaders in life, but never the one I felt I had to impress
a man of tremendous integrity
a guy who defies any male stereotype about "not-communicating" (it's a good thing I married John...)
a great fisherman and hunter, but we're still waiting for more proof....
a tremedous husband and partner to my mom
and my friend - and I now how rare that is.....


And, here's some comments from the kiddos....

Brayden thinks Grandpa is so special because:
"He helps me try to hit a pop can with a bb gun (sorry mom!)"
"He shares his stuff with me"
"He shows me he loves me by the way he plays with me"

Mikayla thinks Grandpa is so special because:
"He plays with us"
"He reads stories to us"
"He spins me around"

Advent Wreath

This is for Carly's behalf. Here's the Wreath we came up with using the tree limbs from our back yard and perhaps $6 in merchandise from Michael's. Today I started a really good Family Devotional with the kids - and hopefully I'll be able to actually follow through until Christmas.