Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas travelings

It's the holidays, so our family has hit the road. First stop was my parent's house in OH for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and the day after.

Our next stop was H1's brother's home in NY. He and his wife have 3 boys, ages 12, 10, and 8. H3 enjoyed playing with her cousins, both inside the house and out sledding. She had never been sledding before and really seemed to enjoy it, taking turns going down the hill with everyone.

Tomorrow we will be heading back to VA. Our New Year's Eve is being spent quietly. My father-in-law took us to Texas Roadhouse earlier today for lunch to celebrate H1's 28th birthday. This evening, he fried pork chops for us for dinner and then H1 blew out the candle on his yummy cake--a yellow cake with peanut butter frosting.

H3 is now in bed and H1 and I plan to take an evening stroll for a cup of coffee before settling in for a game and waiting for the countdown to midnight. To keep with one of my few holiday traditions, I will call my dad right after midnight to wish him a happy birthday as well. So H1 is a New Year's Eve baby, and my dad is a New Year's Day baby.

In brief reflection, 2010 had been a hard year for us. We've lost a lot no matter what area you look in. We've lost friends and family, though we look forward to greeting them in heaven one day. Financially it's been a rough year, and though H1's job has gone pretty well, it's been a struggle with family time and trying to get things taken care of medically. What I've learned though has been worth so much more. I've seen God's grace firsthand. I've experienced His healing. I've witnessed how He provides. It's still been hard. There are still days that I fall apart, but I'm learning how to keep walking forward with my focus in the right place. Walking with God doesn't mean that I won't stumble or have a meltdown once in a while. What it does mean is that when I do, I acknowledge what's happened, accept His grace, mercy, and His complete control, and keep moving forward. Sometimes it's only a millimeter. God is interested in my response to my circumstances. Choosing to trust Him no matter what is the only answer. So here's to saying goodbye to a tough year and looking forward to what God has in store for us in 2011.


Friday, December 3, 2010

December: cold weather, learning, walks, cookies, and Advent

Ahhh, December. It’s finally getting colder, evidenced by the fact that there are pictures now with long sleeves and real coats, as opposed to the short sleeves of my last post! Life is still in full swing as basketball season has kicked off for H1. He’s coaching middle school basketball for the 3rd year and their first game will be on Tuesday. I’m planning to take H3. She’s been to most of the games and loves to watch, but isn’t so keen on the fact I keep her on a leash the whole time (literally, since she has a backpack leash). If I didn’t, she would be on that court in a heartbeat, trying to get the ball. This child loves anything to do with balls and cars. Given the occupations of her dad and grandfather, it’s no wonder!

I’ve noticed that H3 is easy to teach. I don’t have a lot of “school”-type things around the house, but that doesn’t seem to matter. H3 has a knack for noticing details. One of our favorite daily activities is taking a walk to the Post Office. They don’t allow mailboxes on our street, so we have a P.O. box that I have to visit frequently. While we are there, H3 will read off all the numbers and letters on each box. She’s gotten quite good and now can count up to 30 (with a little help after 20) and knows all the letters in the alphabet, both by singing them and picking them out individually from words or off the magnets on the refrigerator. When we go to the parks, she will spend some time looking at the credits for who donated money to the park, such as the sign below. On this particular sign, she loves to point out the diamond shapes as well as the letters. Not that she knows what the sign means, but for her, anything with numbers or letters is just as good as any other toy!

I’ve been experimenting with a few newer dishes. Some turn out well; others won’t be repeated until I can find a way to improve them. This particular night I tried out three new things and all of them were yummy! Herb meatballs with a mushroom sauce on the left, bubble cheese bread in the back, and a spinach Italian pasta on the right.

We have been taking family walks in the afternoons/evenings when H1 gets off of school. Most of the time we try for 2 miles. H3 can walk a mile on her own now, though she does get a little distracted and it takes a little effort to keep her from wandering up the ramp to the bank or checking out the bushes in front of the pharmacy. After the first mile, we put her back in her stroller so H1 and I can walk at a brisker pace. Since Thanksgiving, more people are putting Christmas decorations up and it makes for a lovely stroll.

H3 looking talking about her “fingers”, as she calls her mittens.

H3 walking with Mommy.

In preparation for a cookie day yesterday, I spent a few minutes on Wednesday making sugar cookie dough to put in the fridge. As I was patting it into a glass pan, I noticed the house had gotten quiet. H3 had been playing behind me a few minutes before, so I turned around and looked for her. It took a moment, but then I noticed the sight below in the corner of my kitchen. A few seconds later my table cloth began giggling!

I didn’t take any pictures of our cooking baking day yesterday, and I should have. Nicole and I had cookie dough everywhere! I’d made a double batch of sugar cookies, and Nicole brought dough for Ghirardelli chocolate chip and also for a molasses-ginger cookie. All turned out amazing! We baked the sugar cookies first and her 5 year old daughter helped us paint them. H3 wanted in on the action too, but mostly for eating the frosting. I gave her a frosted cookie and she licked all the frosting off before handing me the cookie and asking for more! We spent 5 lovely hours in the kitchen, building friendship, laughing at our kids playing, and me swiping the occasional nibble of cookie dough. The Christmas season holds memories like this for me, and that must be why I enjoy it so much, other than the obvious reason of celebrating the birth of our Savior.
I’d like to share a few lines that Shauna Niequist wrote in her book Bittersweet that have really touched me over these last few months, and maybe they will strike a note with you too.

“When things fall apart, the broken places allow all sorts of things to enter, and one of them is the presence of God….I believe deeply that God does His best work in our lives during times of great heartbreak and loss, and I believe that much of that rich work is done by the hands of people who love us, who dive into the wreckage with us and show us who God is, over and over and over….Let yourself fall open to the season of Advent, to anticipation, to the belief that what is empty will be filled, what is broken will be repaired, and what is lost can always be found, no matter how many times it’s been lost.”

Blessings to you during this season of Advent, remembering that the whole reason for celebration is the fulfillment of God’s promises in the birth of His Son, His gift of salvation, our reason for hope.