Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy Birthday H1

I feel like I hit the jackpot and am so incredibly blessed to have this man. He is a wonderful husband and father and my best friend. He might be a bit odd for what I expected before we got married. For example, he can come across as a rugged type with his beard and sometimes shaggy hair, his love for hiking, mountain biking, and pretty much all sports, and his enjoyment of things like tinkering on the car, chopping wood, etc. On the other hand, he loves to shop (grocery and clothes and just plain ol' window shopping) and go to yard sales, and was the designer of our Christmas cards last year and the year before (this year he made a few, but I had bought a pack to send out before he got the chance to make more). For most of our marriage, he has had more shoes than me, until he recently decided to discard a few pairs in our efforts to have fewer things in the house. He is a fabulous cook and a wonderful teacher both at school and at home. I wish I had videos of his story times with H3 and all the animated voices he'll do! I'm not sure where playing guitar and singing fall into all this, but they fit there somewhere.

Today my sweetheart is turning 30. Happy Birthday H1!

Hanging in Ohio

I'll have to update more at another time, but for now our family is up in Ohio visiting with my parents. We had a wonderful Christmas at home in VA with my father-in-law before our trip here, and I will post pictures later when I get them off my other camera. It was in the mid 50's when we left home and a bit rainy. We arrived to low 30's and a foot of snow on the ground! H3 and 8 have been sick so it has been a low key visit so far, but we are hoping to enjoy some of that snow tomorrow. Here are a few pictures from the past couple days.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Jesus is King

Before I get to the main story of my post title, I have to say that my little H3 is a natural born comedian. She loves to laugh. Some of the things she says off-the-cuff can be both surprising and hysterical. I have a couple favorites from the past couple weeks that I'd like to share.

Last Christmas, my parents bought a little nativity set for H3 to play with, so of course I brought it out with this year's Christmas decorations. She was in the living room playing with it and having the little characters talk to each other. I overheard her talking with the wise men by name and then my smile dissolved into giggles. I asked her to repeat herself, to make sure I'd heard correctly. Yep. My daughter was calling the wise men "Melchior", "Gaspar", and "Luke Skywalker."  Of course I had to ask her where she heard that, since she has never seen Star Wars.  "On Ba-Ba!" she told me excitedly.  Gee, thanks Veggie Tales (Little Drummer Boy) for teaching my child that one!

Last week we had "W" for our letter of the day and we talked about all the words that begin with that, whisper, wave, wet, walrus, whiskers, worm, etc. H3 really seemed to enjoy the lesson and I thought that was the end of it until a few nights ago.  I came upstairs with H4 just as H1 was tucking H3 into bed. I'm glad I came up when I did. I arrived just in time to see H3 put both hands up and touch my husband's beard.  She ruffled his beard hair for a moment and then looked up and said "Daddy, you have whiskers just like a walrus!"  My husband just about fell over laughing.  Me too.

(Heaven's Loss by Ron DiCianni)

And now to the title of the post. Earlier I talked about my daughter saying things that are surprising, and here is one of those moment.  Yesterday I took the girls with me to get an alignment and oil change on our van. We went to Sears, which is attached to the local mall, so I took the girls to walk around while the van was being work on. There is a ginormous Christmas tree in the center of the mall and next to it, a man dressed as Santa was sitting to take pictures with children. We passed him once in my quest to find Bath and Body Works for some handsoap. On our way back, we started to pass him again and H3 stopped me.  She looked really excited and she was watching all the families lined up to have pictures taken. I was curious what she would do. A while ago she asked me about Santa, and while I am aware and accepting that many families teach their children to believe in Santa as the gift giver at Christmas, H1 and I decided to teach her about St. Nicholas as a historical figure and that gifts come from family and friends.  We stood watching for a few moments and then suddenly H3 asked to go see Santa. I told her no, we weren't going to go stand in that line and the van was ready to be picked up.

"But Mommy, I have to tell him something."  Now I was really curious. "What do you want to tell him?"  "Mommy, I have to tell Santa that Jesus is the King!"  (I really wish that line hadn't been so long, otherwise with that statement I would have let her go.)

There are a lot of things about Jesus that my 4 year old cannot answer and a lot of things she doesn't understand, but she does know truth and in her own way, she knows that Jesus is someone to be shared.  Her desire to share Jesus with the Santa in the mall just melted my heart.  Jesus is why we have Christmas. Jesus is what it's all about.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Semi-Official Photos

My initial plans this year were to have an amazing photographer, my friend Ashley from Ashley Elizabeth Photography, to take family Christmas photos for us. Unfortunately my husband had major conflicts with football come up on the weekend that I had planned for pictures and I was unable to connect with her. My backyard and my little camera were the back-up option, so here are some of the results. 

I just have to say that when it came to taking pictures of the two together, I could not get H4 to smile for anything!


Enjoying Warmth, Christmas Baking and Homemade Candy Canes!

Last week we had some unusually warm (low 70s) weather. It was gorgeous!  A college friend of mine is a nanny in a nearby city and she suggested meeting up at a local park with her two charges to get all the munchkins from fresh air. We decided to have a picnic lunch as well.  It was a wonderful couple hours and all the kids slept great that night!  Haha.  

The two babies having some tummy time (mine is the one on the right)

There is a large "sandbox" area for the kids to play in

watching big sister building sand castles

What a cool playground, right?  This is only 1/4 of it!

Helping Mommy make candy canes (before you think I'm nuts, that burner is NOT turned on while she is up there!  she was just putting the ingredients in and mixing them before I turned it on).

As I mentioned in a previous post, we are working on some lessons from the ADVENTure of Christmas book, and here is another lesson with a yummy craft (I tend to gravitate toward edible crafts, in case you haven't noticed).

It's time for Christmas sugar cookies!

H3's sprinkling masterpieces

There's no such thing as too many sprinkles.
I love this season. I love the joy and anticipation. I love the baking and the games we play together as a family. I love reading the Christmas story to my girls and talking with H3 about the Gift God has given us, and I love watching as she is beginning to slightly grasp what that means.  I love the memories I cherish of my own family during this season as a child. And I'm thankful.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gas Prices

I was so joyful last night when I filled up my tank for $2.98 a gallon!  Then, today, I made the mistake of looking at a post from 2008 when I commented on gas prices going down.  Hehe.  Take a look at the last picture on this post!

Thanksgiving Memories


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Love Is

Last night, December 4th, 2012, my parents celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary. I want to take a moment to honor their commitment and share what they've taught me about love.

Love is patient, love is kind.  Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  These, God's descriptions of love, are what my parents have demonstrated to me in their marriage.  There are so many examples I could give, but seeing as that might be several hours of typing, I'll share a few.

My mom has been dealing with significant pain from multiple injury sites going back around 17 years now, so over half of their married life.  I have watched my dad go out of his way to take care of her, often spending long hours with her at odd hours of the night and early morning.  He has shown his love in his years of dedication to helping her with all the little things that have to be done in a day to keep her going, like organizing her medications, breakfast and hot coffee in the mornings, dinner, dishes, laundry, and a lot of the cleaning (since Mom isn't physically able).  

My mom loves to surprise my dad with presents and making special treats for him.  It's so sweet.  On the phone with me she'll talk about her plans to make something for him or get something she knows he likes. She also writes cute little notes on everything!

Growing up, I have so many memories of Dad coming home and giving Mom a kiss when he came in the door.  On some random occasions, he'd bring her a bouquet of carnations too, her favorite.  

When I was little, Mom would sometimes take me up to meet Dad for lunch at Taco Bell or Burger King (across from where he worked).  She'd usually call ahead of time, but occasionally we'd just show up at the shop and ask if we could join him.  Mom made a lot of effort to make sure they (and me) spent time together.

They date.  In earlier years, it would often be taking a walk at night or going out for coffee.  Those dates are still often coffee dates, though they do go on more dinner dates now that they don't have a kid in the house.

Dad calls Mom every day during his lunch break.  Every day.  He's been doing that since before I can remember!

They still snuggle on the couch and refer to each other with terms of endearment. 

My parents frequently say "I love you."  I think this simple thing is one of the most significant for me. They verbally express their love for each other, and I think that is so important. Love is acted out, yes, but it still needs to be said!

Over the years my parents have shown me so many valuable tidbits on what love is.  I'm thankful for the examples they have shown me. Congratulations Dad and Mom!  I love you both!

December 4, 1982


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Lighting up a Christmas Tree Cake!

A few years ago my aunt sent me a fabulous book for H3.  We've read it a couple times and talked with her about the stories in it, but this is the first year that she's really old enough to do the crafts and I've decided to add it to our December curriculum. If you are unfamiliar with this book, I would highly recommend it!

The basic gist of the book is that it goes through the traditions that we have at Christmas through a Christian perspective.  Lisa Whelchel then adds in a craft or activity to do with your child(ren) as well as a "teachable moments" section so you can get some ideas for talking about the advent wreath, Christmas tree, lights, candy canes, 12 Days of Christmas, etc., with your family.

This weekend I took the girls to visit my friend Robyn and her three daughters. I brought the book with me so we could do the "Lights on the Tree" page. The story that is related tells of Martin Luther and a night walk near Christmas that had him overwhelmed by the beauty of the stars and what God has made, so he went home and tried to re-create his star-lit walk in the forest. The verse to accompany is Psalm 19:1, "The heavens tell of the glory of God. The skies display his marvelous craftsmanship." (I should note that the book is a lot more eloquent in relating the story!)

Here is the cake

Nicely staged, thank you Robyn!

It's a little dark, but I think you can get the idea of the cool effect!

If you would like to do this on your own, here are the instructions from the book (abbreviated a bit and I've noted what changes I made).

What You Need
One 13x9 inch cake (I made mine from the Betty Crocker cookbook!)
One cake board to display cake
Green Cake frosting (we used a whipped buttercream)
Knife for spreading frosting
Small amount of red and blue frosting (did not use)
sugar cubes
peppermint extract

  1. Transfer sheet cake onto the cake board. Trace a simple Christmas tree pattern on top of your cake and carefully cut away the surrounding cake. Be careful not to damage the large cut-away pieces, because you'll need them later!
  2. Frost the cake with green frosting (brown chocolate sprinkles look nice on the "trunk")
  3. Arrange sugar cubes on the surface to look like lights
  4. Cut leftover cake into small square and rectangular shapes and frost with red and blue frosting*
  5. Pipe a frosting ribbon onto the "gifts" to make them look like presents and then arrange them around the bottom of the cake*
  6. Infuse each sugar cube with just a couple drops of peppermint extract just prior to lighting
  7. Turn off lights and light each cube (she says with matches, I'd say use a lighter with a long reach). The flame will burn blue for almost a minute.
* Instead of using the blue and red frosting, we frosted the squares and rectangles with the same green frosting and then rolled them in sprinkles before placing them at the base of the tree--easier and faster!

Other notes:
a) Any peppermint extract you spill onto the surface of the cake will also ignite (we practiced on some extra before doing the real thing), so be careful to only drop it on the sugar cubes.
b) Your frosting will have a slightly minty taste, so munchkins who dislike mint may not like the cake (but if they are like H3, they will got straight for the sprinkle covered presents anyways).
c) The pictures don't do the ignited sugar cubes justice. It was a really cool effect and all the kiddos loved! Robyn's husband really like it too...he took the whole pile of sugar cubes afterwards, put them on a plate with more peppermint extract and lit them up just for fun!
d) Other than baking the cake, this whole thing took about 30 minutes to set up, so not a lot of time for a bit of fun!


Wednesday, November 28, 2012


H1 and I had this 22 inch tv.  Yes, small, but it fit our house just fine.  Yes, it worked.  In fact, it was new a year ago and I've really enjoyed it in comparison to our old tv (which was a rather clunky 20 inch thing that came to us from a restaurant that closed down). Yes, I was perfectly fine with it.  H1 has dreamed of a larger tv, but frankly they are all pretty much out of our price range.  We don't have a "tv" budget.  He would still walk around the electronics section and dream though.  No more dreaming now!  A friend shocked us tonight. While I was out grocery shopping with the kiddos, a friend visited H1 and surprised him as he brought in a brand new Samsung 39 inch LED tv.  He said it was just because, or an early "Merry Christmas".  Saying "thank you" seems so insufficient to such a gift!  I'm still in shock as I stare at it across my living room.  Thank you, dear friend.  I really enjoyed seeing that huge smile on my husband's face!


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving round 1

Before I get started, I mentioned a while back that we purchased a purple Christmas tree for H3.  Here it is, in all its purple-ness!

We celebrated Thanksgiving this year with H1's family in NY.  H1 got a half-day on Wednesday and so we drove late into the night to arrive in time. Thanksgiving day itself was spent at an aunt's house (Aunt Ruth) with lots of family.  It was so good to see everyone!  I had very inconveniently forgotten to pull out my camera, so I'm waiting for pictures to be shared with me from that day. H3 has a little girl cousin who is a year older and the two of them went around everywhere together. They had a blast!  I had forgotten just how much fun it is to be around H1's family. They are very welcoming and are more than just family in name.  I treasure my family!

During our time there, we spent lots of time walking around Hancock, H1's hometown.  Below is H3 in full giggle as she's waiting for Pop-pop to be ready for a stroll.


The Hancock House hotel

Hancock Central School, where H1 attended middle and high school

The telephone company. I wasn't so interested in the building as I am enjoying the mountain view

Waiting for breakfast

Singing with Pop-pop

On Friday we drove north a bit to visit Uncle Keith and Aunt Grace, who is Pop-pop's sister. Uncle Keith had a surprise for H3-a pony ride!

Their lovely historic home

Such a beautiful table setting. Aunt Grace served a delicious corn chowder and salad.  Yum!

She plays the harp!

Playing Amazing Grace together....I can't say that H3's piano attempts were lovely, but she was certainly singing her heart out!

She's really excited about what's behind that door....

The ballroom behind the door above!  Such a cool house...or inn, rather, as it was in its former glory.

Uncle Keith and Aunt Grace

This year I have been overwhelmed with what God has given us.  My family is so wonderful--my extended family with H1, my parents, and my own little family.  God has given me two precious girls who challenge and delight me, and a lovely new home.  This grateful heart is overflowing!