Monday, January 31, 2011

It's Finished!!!!


I finished January's Sketchbook Challenge!

I didn't finish it in time to submit it, but I finished it for me.

My "Highly Prized" picture was of my family:

It still needs a lot of work, but I got every one's faces mostly like I wanted (recognizable).

My scanner is not working, so it's a rather crooked picture of a picture, but I hope you all get a decent idea of what everyone looks like.

I can't wait for tomorrow's announcement and what the next challenge will be.

I may end up just finishing for good this one and submitting it for next month...if possible. Thanks Wendy for letting me know about this and challenging me to get started again!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

5 Days and Counting Down

(my camera lighting is a little dark)

This year I joined another blogs challenge at the call of another bloggy friend Wendy (who if I could ever figure out how to put links into my blog, you'd just click on her name and go to her site) to do some art work. 12 months. 12 challenges. I was game!

I love art. I was constantly drawing as a kid and I'm sure went through stacks of my parent's scratch paper. I've never had any real art classes. I have an aunt who is an artist and as a grade school girl, she taught me A LOT. Pretty much everything I know, but when I got to college and started taking Illustration Classes just for fun, I realized I was missing a lot of basics. Such as: colors, perspective, proportion, you know, a lot of the very basics. So I just grabbed every book I could get my hands on and began reading and drawing, and drawing and drawing and then ventured in watercolor and painted and drew some more.

I'm still most comfortable in pencil, colored pencils and water color and I LOVE LOVE LOVE to study people and their faces. So for this months challenge I bit off something I haven't touched since I got married nearly nine years ago (LITERALLY). Portraits.

Because it's what I love best. I feel rusty and cramped and creaky, but the more I am flicking that pencil the more I feel as if this little Tin Woman is loosening up and it feels so good!

I have 5 days to finish my challenge before the next months challenge is posted.
And as in many things in my already busy and full life, I've put off what isn't the most necessary until the end. The next 5 nights I have to crank out 5 more people for my challenge. I'll try to give a daily update.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My Sketchbook Challenge

Working on my month's project!
I'm close to done!

Monday, January 24, 2011

More Snow Days

Snow. There is a quiet in it's presence. A stillness that envelopes the jittery soul. A softness of touch and a ragged edge of bitter cold.
I loved loved these last few days of snow. The beautiful landscape that blankets our yard in a serene quietness and adds a layer of healing to my heart. It covers up all that is ugly and bare and jagged and gives the earth a stark beauty that brings all into sharp focus.
It's kind of like my life right now.
I woke up last week to snow covering the ground and the delighted squeals of my children exclaiming there was "no school today!"
I was happy. I felt that in a small way God heard my heart in my cry for family time and the need to JUST ALL BE TOGETHER in our own home and He gave us a small gift. Even though I am 33 years old, I have been homesick for family.
My parents came last week. My mom and I had a glorious morning on Tuesday with just the two of us while Good Lookin' was in preschool and Nater Mater was at home playing with Grandpa. We sat for 2 WHOLE HOURS in a little coffee shop talking and laughing and sharing our hearts.
But the rest of the time was a little crazy busy with children and other children and appointments and such and I had this feeling that my kids were not getting to spend a whole lot of quality time with their grandparents.
Then it snowed and the world around us ground to a slippery halt and I was secretly thankful. No allergy shots, no dentist, no one was sick, no one had to be driven anywhere or be anywhere. Our little corner of the country shuts down when the white stuff shows up and the children scream in delight at being freed from the classroom. For 2 whole days we stayed home and played in the snow. My kids have no problem being out in the cold and rolling around in the powdery cold. They stay out even longer and happier if one of us is out with them.

Yes, the swing set in the biting cold is a fun place to be as long as someone else is there to play with. Thank you Grandpa for swinging her.

Nater Mater decided that every surface needed to be scraped clean before he could play on it and was kept quiet busy with his little sand shovel in the snow. My parents had given him this adorable little pure wool hat that fits perfectly on his round little head and it looked so precious on him.

Grammy and Grandpa taught the kids and I how to play the game Fox and Goose. I'd heard of it and read about it in my Little House on the Prairie books and other old books, but had never learned the rules. It was fun! Good Lookin' and Mr. Smiles spent a good hour chasing each other around and through the circle and claiming and then chasing each other from the base. Thank you mom and dad for the hours you spent out in the cold with them.

We have hay bales fairly close to our house. They aren't ours and we aren't supposed to play on them, but I hadn't warned my dad about them, so when I went out to join them I took pictures of their playing before shooing them off.

Yes, our dog at times thinks she's a cat. She climbs her way up the sides and leaps from bale to bale in sheer delight after the kids.

My brother and his wife also came. These are his pictures that he took with his awsome camera.
Oh the imagination can soar in the great outdoors. Even in the cold or hot, I try to get my kids outdoors. (It usually doesn't take much coaxing). They are happier there without the gadgets and movies and computer where they can re-enact the stories they've read or heard or make up their own adventures.

My brother and his wife came to visit for the weekend. They had not been to our home since Good Lookin' and their youngest were just a year. Both will be 5 this Spring. It was wonderful having them here. Late evening conversations with the adults and hours of play between cousins who have hardly seen each other over the distance and years or living in separate countries. Video Skype has been one way to stay close.
My brother took 4 of them on a hike while I kept back Good Lookin' who was experiencing overload and Nater Mater who is still recovering from being sick and needing naps again.
It is quite the hike down to our little creek and I was impressed with how well everyone did.

Precious Jewel, Mr. Smiles and their cousin excitedly recounted their adventure saying that they kept expecting Mr. Tumnus to step out from behind a tree with an armload of packages or to see a lamppost sticking up out of the ground in the middle of the woods.

Mr. Smiles rather sadly stated that they didn't find him, but they were sure that this is what Narnia must have looked like before Aslan melted the snow and brought the Thaw and Spring.

Thank you God for little things like snow days that allowed us to just BE TOGETHER AS FAMILY.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!!

Well, I think I may have hit an age that I don't care as much about my birthdays as I used to...that or we've been so busy that it came upon me without me really thinking about it.
I've been very VERY thankful for a quiet birthday this year. Last year's birthday was a little traumatic with Nathaniel's head injury and subsequent 3 day ICU stay. There is nothing so terrifying or so un-centering as watching your precious baby boy being resuscitated in the ER on your birthday. He acted fine within days, but we lived with this unsettling fear for him for several months.
This year, we stayed h0me. My parents had tried to come and spend the week with us, but then Nathaniel got his nasty nasty tummy bug (which no one else ever came down with thankfully) and I told them to stay home. My dad doesn't need that and yes I was sad, but they came the next week instead and it was a delightful time.
Luke took me out for dinner ON my birthday and Luke's parents took the kids for the night. His mom surprised me with a cute little chocolate cake when we dropped this kids off on our way out of town. I don't mind dessert before dinner! She is so sweet in even just little things like that. ; D
It was out first date night out of our little town since July and it was WONDERFUL to get out to the nearby "big city." Those that know where we live can have a good laugh, but the nearby town has a bit more to offer in the resturaunt arena that our cute little place.
Alas, I looked at Luke half-way through dinner and he looked awful and falling asleep in his plate! So much for our movie afterwards. We took to-go boxes and left and I drove us home. And for those of you that know us, that's a big deal. Luke likes to drive but was feeling too bad. He had come down with strep poor guy and spent the rest of the weekend in bed! Aw, the ROMANCE of marriage.
But not to fear, I still got my alone time away from the house the next night. I woke him up just before 5; had dinner and a movie ready for the kids and him; kissed him goodbye and went SCRAP BOOKING for 5 glorious hours!!! All he had to do was put the kids to bed (which they were under strict instruction to be kind to each other and obey since daddy was not feeling well).
I came home to a mess in my kitchen and a mess in the living room but DIDN'T CARE! I'd had my first evening out ALONE in months!!!!! My first time to scrapbook someplace other than a kitchen table in over a year and a half!!

The Saturday that I was home with the kids, Good Lookin' made me this adorable little Play-Do cake. Precious Jewel had gotten the set for Christmas, and everyone has had fun with it. He was so proud of himself!

Nater Mater just likes his picture taken so that I can then in turn show him his little face on our digital camera.
When my parents came the next week, my mom made this scrumptious cherry cheesecake for my then-belated birthday.
Then a few days later, my brother and sister-in-love (my new term for her) (in-law sounds to much like out-law and I would have loved her even if she wasn't married to my brother), came for the weekend. More pictures to be posted later.
Her birthday is the day after mine! So, my mom and Precious Jewel made ANOTHER cake! A yummy from scratch chocolate cake with chocolate filling and whipped cream and cherries on top. I felt loved. It was wonderful to have my brother (whom hadn't been to our house in 4 years) and his family stay with us.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Small Victories

Good Lookin' started Pre-school and LOVES it!!! For those that know me well, you know how huge this is. He is one of the big reasons I quit homeschooling and nearly checked myself into a mental institution.

He is my precious boy that blew ALL my other parenting skills out of the water. The child that I was sure one of us would not survive toddler-hood. The child, that if I'd have been blogging at the time, you would have thought I was the world's worst parent.

He is the reason I decided NOT to fight Nater Mater on nap time or scheduling or any of that stuff. He's the one that when I read Dobson's book Parenting the Strong-Willed Child, I could check off EVERYTHING on his strong-willed checklist as well as 98% of the checklist on Raising the Highly Sensitive Child.

This is my child that I have been told that I hover over too much by people who don't know me all that well. (He has been known to hit, kick, bite, scream for hours on end when he goes to a new place). It took me a while to learn that he was an Introvert, Highly Sensitive, Black and White, Choleric Personality. As I have done tons of reading, loads of PRAYING and hours of crying over him, I have realized we have a unique and precious treasure that God has given us. I cannot change who he is and should not, but God is showing us how to help mold his unique little personality into this bright, inquisitive, HIGHLY ENERGETIC, highly affectionate, all-out there precious little boy.

We did preschool 2 years ago and he was basically kicked out for screaming 4 hours a day 5 days a week and causing disruption. God knew I needed to be at home with him and not working and I'm glad the child let it be known that he was unhappy that mommy was at work all day (I'm happy in hindsight because at the time it was humiliating and I felt like the world's worst parent). His dear teacher, and I still have so much respect for her and would recommend her hands down to any parent, thought we should have him evaluated. We didn't. I quit my job, came home, prayed for God to provide the money we so desperately needed and focused intently that year on my 3rd child. He blossomed before my eyes.
It IS HARD being the middle child sandwiched between the "better behaved" naturally more docile siblings. I remember. In many ways I understood Good Lookin' and what he was going through. I had been there! I still have vivid memories of my older siblings and my younger brother being so "perfect" when all I wanted to do was throw myself on the floor and scream and throw a fit. There was something so satisfying in letting all that tension out. But being the mother on the other end has given me a whole new appreciation for my dear mother!

Speaking of which, she got to be there for his first day of preschool. He was nervous. He was not happy about having his picture taken. He frowned and violently screwed up his face when his sister said he would have fun. (But we'd taken him to visit the room several times before this day, so he wasn't going into the unknown). He WAS excited to show his Grammy though and was very happy she got to go with him to see his classroom on his first day of school.

I am happy to say that he LOVED it!! He played nicely with the other children. He LOVED LOVED LOVED the sensory bean table and hardly looked up when we said goodbye. I can't say that I blamed him. When I ran my hands through that huge pile of beans, I wanted to dive into the whole pile and roll around. (yes, he is a lot like me). Self control momma. Self control.
When we had a Snow Day on his second day of school he was a bit disappointed and secretly I was happy. He wants to go back. Not only will he survive preschool but preschool with survive him.

Too Cute!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Snow Day! Playin' in the White Stuff!

It finally snowed here! We only got an inch of soft powdery dry snow, but it was enough that they cancelled school (we don't have enough de-icing equipment in this area to keep the roads here clear). It's funny to think of school being closed when it took several inches of heavy snow covering the ground for anyone to cancel school where I grew up, but I'll take it!
It was COLD! I think that morning was about 9 degrees when we woke up and it never got about 20 something. The kids were soooo excited to get to stay home and play in the snow...until they went outside. Then the only ones who wanted to play for long were Mr. Smiles and Good Lookin. They zipped around on the little four wheelers slipping and sliding all over the ice covered drive.

Precious Jewel and Nater Mater bird watched a lot that morning. That little white dot in the middle is a bald eagle perched about 100 feet off our deck. These are times I really wish I had something more than a little hand held camera. We've been seeing anywhere from 1 to 4 bald eagles flying by our back deck every day now. Soooooooo much fun!!!!

Cardinals are often found hopping and skipping across the deck.

This little (well big really) Blue Jay came right up the the window where we were sitting and pecked on the window. "Good morning!" It seems to say.

M Much of our day was spent in quiet activities in-between bundling up the two oldest boys who remarked that they were bundled a little too tight. I was excited to use their new hats and mittens they had gotten for Christmas. ; D
They would play outside about 20 minutes and then come dashing back inside yelling, "It's Cold!" strip everything off and run for the big quilt on my bed.
This was repeated about every hour until I said, "enough, stay outside or stay inside, but pick one or the other."

Giant Puzzles which hadn't been put together in a while were pulled out of the closet.

Precious Jewel began to learn how to make friendship bracelets. (A good activity for one who needs to learn patience)

Lots and lots of painting and drawing.

The kids were handed down an old desk from someone in our church
and Precious Jewel has sat at it every night drawing with scratch paper and my old Art Books.

Pretty Good for her first horse drawings I think!

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Only Thing That Matters

I have to say I'm fairly proud of myself.
Like I said, I am not one who makes New Year's Resolutions because of my perfectionist personality unless I plan to keep them. So, I make up my mind about something during the year and usually stick with it. (I'm not talking house cleaning or less coffee or anything like that).

In spite of the whole family being well only 4 days since Christmas (I was the last to get it and to recover) before Nater Mater started the Puke Fest of 2011, I have managed to read my Bible EVERY DAY. And I mean REALLY READ. Not just the bathroom sit in there really quick, scan the pages, say "check!" and call it good for the day. I've either gotten up to read at 5:30 every morning (that I wasn't already up with a sick toddler) or before I've gone to bed every night I've read and journaled.
It hasn't been easy. The doctor told us Nathaniel's vomiting would last 24 hours and we're going on 4 days now. It's also running out the other end. (We're headed back in tomorrow to see if it might be something else because I can't even get my pricey vitamin and hydrating shakes to stay down him). That to say that before I've used lack of sleep for getting up early or the need for me time in the evening.
But I digress.
I've been so focused on all I've lost these past 2 1/2 years that I've become like one of my kids who really wants the Hershey's kiss on the top shelf when instead I've offered them a large candy bar. God often has to take something away in order to hand us something better. I'll be honest, I'm still not so sure what the better thing is yet and it may be awhile until I see it, but He does finally have my attention.
And I realized (AGAIN...I have a really thick skull) that it's the same thing I'm always striving for. Approval of other people. The same lesson that I'll think I have learned once (usually when my life is going smoothly) and then when something derails "my happiness" I realize just how much I hung my self-worth on another person or persons instead of God.
I keep jumping for the kiss (striving for more me time, some time away from being around my kids 24/7, time to see other people, wanting to have neighbors, wanting everyone to like me...see my need for people trend?) when really He's forced me into the blaring quiet and gently whispered, "come unto me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest."
Amy Carmichael (HERO!!) whom I tend to forget LEFT her friends and family to share Jesus with the lost and must have known loneliness wrote this devotional that I read a couple of days ago.
"Have you noticed that if you go to sleep with the thought of Him Whom your soul loveth, you waken---at least often is is so---with some little word from Him, a verse from His book, or a hymn, or just a simple word that tells you nothing new, but somehow helps.
The only thing that matters is to please Me," that was the word that woke me a few days ago, and it has not gone away. When the thought of the things that I cannot do comes and tries to trouble me, this little simple word comes at once. The other things seem to matter. I often think they do matter. But they are as though they did not matter in comparison with pleasing our Lord Jesus.
The word--that simple word--reminded me of those other words, "All that pleases is but for a moment. All that grieves is but for a moment. Only the eternal is important." Are any of you tried about anything? I think if you listen you will hear Him say, The only thing that matters is to please Me."
Yes, I need to time to myself and I still don't see it coming. Yes, God created us to be with other people and sick kids and a husband's erratic work schedule RARELY allow for that. But, I have to start learning to rest in Him in the quiet that He DOES give me (early morning and a few short minutes in the evening) and stop striving for what is out of reach right now.
And I'm proud to say I've stuck to my New Year's resolution EVERY DAY.

Rock Angels?

I think I'm going to post a few of our classic Good "Lookin' Moments.

We live just far enough south that we do get a lot of cold but not a lot of snow.

Where everyone in the Midwest and the North are getting hammered with snow right now, we got "fairy dusted." (Precious Jewel)

Good Lookin' romped quite happily outside yelling, screaming and chasing the dog.

I took a still puking Nater Mater out to the shop to see daddy (who doesn't leave for work until after lunch today) to see if it would cheer him up a bit. He actually got on his little trike and pushed around the shop a few times. On our way back to the house, me carrying Nater Mater and Good Lookin' skipping along beside, Good Lookin' turned to me, "mommy, I want it to snow more. Rock Angels aren't as fun and they kinda hurt."

I looked to where he had been playing a half hour earlier on our rock drive and saw where he had valiantly tried to make snow angels in the rocks.

"Yeah, bud. I think snow angels would feel better too."

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mr Mighty Mind

My mom gave me this little box a couple of years ago when I was homeschooling Abigail I think. It has sat on my top shelf until recently because I didn't want the tiny tots to lose the cards or throw or eat the pieces.

I finally pulled it out when we had a cold snap last month and no one wanted to go outside.

Good Lookin' loved it and I started showing him the "puzzle" on a day where it was just him and I and Nater Mater. He spent nearly an hour moving pieces around and trying to make them fit in the colored boundaries to make the various pictures.

The cards are numbered 1 to like 30 (I think) and go up in varying degrees of difficulty. It's a good project to see even where they are developmentally. He could puzzle the shapes up to card 9 by himself and then needed help.

Then we pulled it out the next day when his little buddy J. wasn't inclined to take a nap and I needed something quiet for them both do together so the others would sleep. I had Nater trapped in his room and playing by himself happily and quietly and the other 2 two-year-olds were taking their naps.

By himself, J couldn't get past card 7. He is just about a year younger than Good Lookin'. But together, those two little brains made it to card 15! Way to go guys!!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

I'm honestly not one for making New Year's Resolutions.

I don't particularly like to set myself up for failure.

It's not that I don't think goals are good. I do! I just usually already have goals I'm working on and don't feel a need to add any new ones to my already perfectionist personality.

This year is a bit different.

I am making one resolution and only one.

I Resolve (is that how you say it?) to read through my Bible in one year.

I am in need of this discipline so desperately. Not the one year part, but the RESOLUTION of getting up earlier than the kids every morning (no more excuses) and spending REAL time with the only One who can help me set healthy goals anyway.

You see, I've been hammered down to almost nothing in the last 2 years. I am more than happy to kiss 2010 (and 2009 for that matter and lets just add the last half of 2008 to that as well) goodbye. They have been sort of hellish in the soul arena and I won't miss them. Depression has been the theme for those 2.5 years and I'm frankly tired of it. I'm tired of feeling like Eeyore and worrying what the world around me thinks.

The only way I'm going to get out of the rut and off the dark ground is to look up and grasp my Savior's feet and admit that I can't go on this way anymore. He is going to have to pick me up and carry me in order for me to move forward.

The image of a Father cradling his child while walking down a hot dusty road is one I was trying to explain to my growing-skeptical Precious Jewel. As I was explaining to it to her and watching the tears streak down her face, it hit me full force: I had climbed down out of His arms myself and was trying to run ahead and "do it myself." I've been in His arms before in a place of brokenness and it is a scary and peaceful place at the same time. Scary when looking at the world, but peaceful knowing whose arms are wrapped around you. I've placed my security in people and have been sorely disappointed.

Dear Precious Jewel has become lost in some of the same hardships of this past couple of years. Gone is the sweet girl laughter and she has been replaced by one that I didn't think I'd meet until she hit Jr. High. I told her the other night that I was partly to blame. I had not been letting God speak to me. I had been trying to do it on my own and I believed I was seeing some of my "results" in her. I hugged her and we cried together and I promised I'd love her no matter what and take her hand and we'd walk the journey together to find again the JOY of life. Joy that can only be found through peace in Him. It's time for me to stop fighting and I pray that she too will soon stop, but that is in His hands.

For this year, I run to Jesus, my High Priest, to find the grace I so desperately need in my time of need and it is there that I can live in rest.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Christmas Vacation

This is very very late for a Christmas post, but I have a good excuse. =)

Our family was sick with strep pretty much the entire month of December culminating with me (mom) getting sick Christmas Day.

But, it was a good time for a mom to get sick as sick times go: I had my parents, Luke and my brother and sister-in-law to watch the kids while I layed on the couch wondering if I could take just a little larger dose of Tylenol and maybe just a bit sooner.

I am obviously now well and as of today the kids have gone back to school. Sniff! I miss them!

My tree is still up and I'm leaving it there. I really never got to enjoy it while it was up and I love all the soft lights that sparkle when all the rest of the house is quiet, so it's going to stay up until my birthday in 2 more weeks.
We did have a couple of fun days between the last child and dear hubby getting strep and my falling ill. Precious Jewel and dear Luke finally felt well enough, and had been on antibiotics long enough, that I went ahead and dared to make the Christmas cookies that I'd been so longing to make with the kids. There is just something about the season that beckons sugar, baking, and Christmas music playing dreamily in the background. The kids first day off was the Wednesday before Christmas. I still had very little packed for our trip we were taking in just 2 days and had loads of laundry to still fold that had been left to grow while I rocked sick kids, but I was determined we were going to bake some holiday cheer.

This was Luke's suggestion before he headed back to bed for his last fever induced sleep: make no-bakes (his favorite) and pour them into cookie cutters to see if they'd make into shapes.

It was a great idea in theory, but after I realized that I had cooked the sugar on the hot stove a little too short (comes from frayed nerves with two 2-year-olds clambering to help stir the bubbly). At that time I did not have sugarplums dancing in my head, I had imaginary ambulance sirens ringing in my ears in fear of the little elves being burned. Dear Luke had planned to occupy the littlest people, but I found myself sending him to bed instead.
We all survived and thoroughly enjoyed watching the no-bakes squish out after I'd lift the cookie cutter. No real discernible shapes, but lots of sticky gooey goodness.

The next day I went for sugar cookies. I have a recipe that makes about 9 dozen (I wanted a lot to take to Luke's parents and to my parents for Christmas). That is a whole lot of flour to spread around the table and onto the floor when you're trying to get the house ready to leave.

Good Lookin' mischievously kept grabbing fist fulls of flour to "let it snow!" in his sister's hair. To which she delightedly "snow blowered" it back into his face from her cupped hands. So much for the sweet cookie making images in my head. It was all I could do keeping them from flinging the dough as weapons at each other.

Much of Nater's time was spent licking flour off the table, accidentaly scooping it into his nose, sneezing, rubbing his nose and licking the table again. (that and sneaking pudgy fist-fulls full of dough).

We did our little science lesson for the morning as well! I asked Mr. Smiles and Good Lookin' which colors mixed with which to make the new color. They got it right about half the time. ; )

Want a little cookie to go with that frosting dear boy?!

Some people had to go shirtless due to their constantly wiping their hands on the front of their shirts.

Christmas Eve morning we went to Luke's parents house to open presents together and spend time as family. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law have 3 adorable little girls 5 and under and my kids love love love being with them. our 7 kids are all stair-steps with Precious Jewel being the oldest, a year later Mr. Smiles, a year later A and so on and so forth. It makes for great play times and some really cute pictures.

Grandkids and Grandparents. I don't think we ever did get everyone to look at the camera at the same time, but they did pretty well!

Precious Jewel and A excitedly playing with their new dolls that look like them. Many fun play dates ahead.

With them all being fairly close in age, the older ones are often found playing with the little one's toys. Nater Mater was delighted to get his own Lightning McQueen toys that Good Lookin' couldn't rightly run off with saying they were his.
I wonder what my sweet "baby" boy will look like next Christmas? I don't think I'll be able to still call him my baby boy. I want to just stop the clock on them all and freeze time to the innocence, but Father Time keeps marching on and refuses to listen to this mother's pleas.

True Christmas Eve

We left Luke's parent's house and drove the 6 hours of traffic-filled highways down to Dallas to spend the next week with my brother and his family. My parents and youngest brother had arrived that afternoon from up North as well as my sister and her husband came from the central part of the country. I was looking forward to being with most of my family (my brother I'll see later in January).
My sister is a Christmas Eve baby. They even sent her home with my mom from the hospital 30+ years ago in a Christmas stocking. Every year we celebrate her birthday complete with presents wrapped in NON-Christmas paper and a desert of her choosing. Mr. Smiles excitedly exclaimed that she "has the same birthday as Jesus!!!"

Good Lookin,' who doesn't attach himself to many people, is taken with Grami. He worships the ground she walks on and follows her like a devoted little puppy. True happiness is pictured here.

My family loves to re-enact the Christmas story while it is being read from the Bible.
"And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with
whom He is pleased."

"Mary" and "Joseph" were a little stiff. (snicker) and for some reason Mary didn't want to use her blond-haired girl doll for baby Jesus, so an arm-chair cover had to stand in. ; )

One of Mr Smiles favorite presents: a plate made in school by his beloved cousin. It was the first thing he asked for while I was unpacking.

My family decided a present theme this year: one present for the whole family that everyone would enjoy: GAMES!!!
I am so excited to have some new games this year! Luke and I also went pretty simple this year (well, we always go pretty simple) but we stuck with one theme for our kids as well.
The result: lots of fun for the rest of the year:
Ants in Your Pants
Don't Break the Ice
That Fishin' Game
Full Set of Dominos
Junior Monopoly (we have the adult version, but the kids lose interest before it's even half over)
My game cupboard is happily stocked for many family fun nights to come. Sigh a contented sigh here.

And of course, lots of reading was listened to and enjoyed.
I woke up feeling funny Christmas Day, but fortunately didn't get flattened until the next day.

We are so in love with Beverly Cleary. Even Good Lookin' who is not inclined to sit for too long, listens when Romona is at her ornery best. That woman knows kids like no other writer I've read.
Reading Romona's Kindergarten introduction is also very good for a little boy who has declared he will never go to school and will kick and scream all day if I ever try. Hmmmmmm at least I'm forwarned.

I was glad I had brought a stack of books because by this time I was nearly incoherant and my parents who instilled in me the love of the written word spent chunks of time reading to my kids.
There is nothing more lovely than cracking open a good book: new or old. I love the smell of the paper and the rustle of the pages as the reader is carried away on the journey within.

Trying out our new games at home. Nater Mater kept stuffing the Ant pieces down the front of his pajamas for his "pants."

His cookie decorating: = )