Monday, December 28, 2015

The day after Christmas


On the day after Christmas, Abbey came running to our bedroom.   She exclaimed, "I can't find Angelica!".  Angelica is the angel that came to visit us this year.  The doll has sort of the same premise as the "elf on the shelf."  Except, the book ("My Secret Angel and Me") that goes along with the doll tells the whole traditional Christian Christmas story and is focused on Jesus.

The book has gorgeous, original artwork and the text tells the traditional Christmas story in a way that is easy for kids to understand.  The book even includes suggested Bible verses to go along with the story.  The Angel, which we named Angelica, comes to life each night and goes back to heaven to tell God how hard the kids tried to be good.  The message in the book also reminds us of God's grace and how God loves us no matter how good or bad we have been.  She comes back each morning and sits in a new place to watch the children.    The kids really enjoyed seeing each morning where she would hide to watch them.

Now that Christmas was over, Abbey was sad to learn that we wouldn't get to look for Angelica each morning until she came back during the next Christmas season.  Then, she anxiously asked about the advent calendar: "Can I see what's behind the day 26 door?".  We have a little gingerbread house that has numbered doors all around the house (1-25).  Within each of the doors, I put slips of paper with fun activities on them like, "Bake a birthday cake for Jesus," "Visit a live nativity," or "Invite another family to come over in their jammies to watch a movie and have a Christmas treat."  It broke my heart to tell her that there were no more doors to open.  That the long awaited day of Christmas, on the 25th, was here and gone.  I remember as a child those emotions as the Christmas season drew to an end.  I'll be honest, I have those same feelings today.  I just love everything related to Christmas.   So on the 26th, when we got in the car and I turned on the radio station that played "all Christmas music all the time" and instead heard "Have I told you lately that I love you" by Rod Stewart, you can imagine the disappointment.  And then on that evening after the kids went to bed and I turned the television on to the Hallmark Channel and they weren't playing a cheesy Christmas movie, you can imagine the sorrow I felt.  I totally got where Abbey was coming from.

Did you know there is actually a syndrome called, "Post-Holiday Syndrome" or even "Post-Holiday Depression"?  There is just so much fun and excitement around the Holidays, that when it all goes away and one must go back to "normal" routines, it can be depressing for some.  But, here is the good news.  We have so much to look forward to!   This is where the focus needs to shift if one begins to have these "blues" feelings.   Now, I would not say I have the "post-holiday depression", but I do need to remind myself of all the fun ahead!   I reminded Abbey that her birthday was in just 8 days!  I reminded her that we have a ski trip coming up in just 4 weeks!  We get to play in the snow soon!

Plus, there are so many new things to look forward to:  the new year, another birthday coming up, new toys, new seasons, new days which are gifted to us.  Abbey has been loving pretending with one of her favorite new toys:

She has creature powers!
Abbey got this Wild Kratts Creature Power Suit for Christmas and has barely had it off.  Of all the gifts she has received so far, I was surprised this was her favorite.  But, our girl loves to pretend, and I think I would have loved this as much as she does when I was little.  Luke got one as well, so they can pretend to be Chris and Martin from Wild Kratts together.  And, I can eavesdrop on their pretending, which provides great entertainment for me as well.  I got a fun new toy also--a Go Pro.  I am excited to play with it this next year!  Things aren't the greatest thing to look forward to though.  If all the hope we have in the new year is placed on "things" that we have, I believe the "depression" would begin to creep back in.  We have so much to hope for.  Here are some of the non-material things I look forward to in the new year:
  • Beautiful weather to enjoy together
  • The beauty and wonder of God's creation
  • Precious time together with friends and family
  • Fun adventures together each day, including lots of hikes and even snowboarding this year.
  • Watching the kids grow up and experience the gift of life.
  • Funny things that Abbey says.
  • Abbey's funny faces and sweet kisses.
  • Luke's sweet hugs and cuddles.
  • Luke's special cards and pictures he makes for me each day.
  • Watching the kids master new skills/concepts in their home education.
  • Hugs from my hubby
As I sit here and type the list, I realize that I could go on and on.  What a great exercise to do after Christmas!  And if that doesn't help, we think on the whole reason our family celebrates Christmas: because we are so excited at the birth of our Savior.  The one who came as a baby, who was perfect and holy and who died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins.    We deserve death as a consequence for our sin, but instead we get the gift of life eternal with our savior if we believe.  And for me this gives me such great hope--even in death.  When I looked death in the eye after I was diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer, this hope helped me get over my fear of death.  With the death of my mom a couple of months ago, this was the greatest provider of hope.  I know she believed.  I get to spend life eternally with her as we will be rejoined together someday in heaven.  There is just so much to look forward to after we move on from the Christmas season.  And, after all of this amazing fun year ahead, there is another Christmas season ahead.     


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Merry Christmas!

It's the most wonderful time of the year!   The time to celebrate Jesus' birthday.

It was fun to decorate this year, because it was the first Christmas in our new home.

Our tree.



This year, we visited Drew's family for a Christmas celebration on the week before Christmas.  We had a wonderful time with them!

Drew's parents' neighborhood had a fun event on Saturday morning, complete with snow!

I happily agreed to take Abbey down this fun slide.  Her face is hilarious in this picture.
Luke got himself a sword balloon and even asked the person who made it for a flower balloon for Abbey.  I thought this was super sweet of him to think of her while she was jumping in the "Frozen" bounce house (that he couldn't go inside, since he has the broken arm).
Abbey loved riding this pony.
After the event in their neighborhood, we watched our niece's little musical performance of, "The Wizard of Oz." Then, later that night we had our Christmas celebration together.  Google even put together a little video clip of some of our fun there in Sugar Land, TX.   Near the middle of the video, we are all playing a game of "bean-boozled."  The game is by jelly belly.  They have jelly beans in the box that look exactly the same but have VERY different flavors.  For example, the green jelly beans taste like either grass clippings or lime.  We played it by having two players go up together to spin the wheel.  If it landed on the orange one for example, you each selected an orange jelly bean.  It could possibly taste like buttered popcorn or barf.  Black tasted like either licorice or skunk.   There were about 7-10 different color options.  It was hilarious watching everyones' faces as they realized what flavor they had selected.  I had one turn and selected the white bean.  Chances are that it was either coconut or "baby wipes."  I, unfortunately, selected a baby wipes flavored jelly bean and it tasted like the smell of a cabbage patch kids' booty.  Which smells fine--but doesn't taste good at all.  

We had lots of fun together as a family, and enjoyed a spectacular meal together put together by Mimi.  

We came back to our home a couple of days before Christmas.  I had an oncologist appointment (6 month follow-up) and Luke had an appointment to get his cast removed.  His arm healed well.  

You can still tell where it was broken if you look closely.  There is a little bump, which is extra bone that the body laid down to heal the fracture.  The body will continue to remodel the bone so that it will look completely normal over time.  In my opinion, it takes WAY more faith to believe that humans happened by chance versus to believe that we were designed by God.  The human body is truly amazing!

Luke is showing his new brace after his appointment.  He has to wear this brace for 6 more weeks.  During the first 3 weeks of the 6, he has the same restrictions as if he were still in the cast.  His arm is very vulnerable to being re-fractured during these 3 weeks due to the location of the break.  He is a bit bummed about that but loves his brace.  He can take it off to sleep and to bathe, wash his hands, etc.  

The next day was Christmas eve at our house!  After a very traditional Christmas eve dinner at "El Monumento" (ha!) we got in our Christmas jammies and snapped some photos in front of the tree.  We also set out the ninjabread man (gingerbread cookies in the shape of ninjas that we made earlier that day) and some milk for Santa.

a "traditional" Christmas eve dinner at "El Monumento", in our "traditional" Christmas eve attire.


Abbey's face, ha!   And Luke is trying really hard to smile.

Abbey and daddy have a Christmas eve kiss in front of the tree each year and I get to capture it on camera.
On Christmas day, after we opened presents together as a family, we took a couple of hikes in Austin.  We thought we would have the trails to ourselves since it was Christmas morning, but boy were we wrong!  Apparently hiking is a very popular thing to do on Christmas--especially with weather this perfect.   We truly enjoyed our time together outdoors.  We hiked the turkey creek trail near Emma Long park first.  This was one trail that we had never visited.  We had no idea that the trail was an off-leash trail, which means there were tons of dogs there--almost all off their leash.  For a little boy who is terrified of dogs, this particular hike was not as fun for Luke.  At one point, Luke got so scared as a dog passed by that he slipped and fell on the ground while trying to quickly get out of the way.  Thankfully, he didn't fall on his left arm.   Also, the trail crosses turkey creek MANY times. There are rocks and logs that are placed across the creek so you may cross without getting too wet.  But, with a boy who has the same restrictions as he had with the cast, this proved to be a little scary.  We had to make sure he didn't fall and land on that arm.  After crossing the creek 6 times by balancing on tiny rocks or logs, we decided to turn around (crossing the creek another 6 times) so we could make it to the top of Mt. Bonnell in time for a picnic lunch.  





Later that day, we enjoyed our Christmas dinner with friends.  We had friends over and the weather was so gorgeous that we enjoyed the meal on our picnic table below a string of lights and with candlelight.  We stayed outside pretty much all night, because it was just too nice to go back inside.  We totally had forgotten that we owned lazer tag guns until it came up in conversation with our friends that night.   So, we dug them out and miraculously they all had good batteries in them.  So, we had an epic set of lazer tag games in the dark on our property to complete the evening.  It was a blast!!!  When our friends left that night, they mentioned that we needed to make that an annual tradition.  Sounds good to me!  

We have explained to the kids why this truly is the best time of the year for us, and worthy of celebration.  For unto us is born a Savior!    What better news is there?  All of the fun, fellowship and special activities are due to our celebration of the best gift of all--Jesus Christ!  Happy Birthday, Jesus! 

Goodbye Facebook--at least for a little while.

Hi Y'all!

About a week and a half ago, I posted on Facebook a short goodbye message:  "Hello friends!  I am taking a break from Facebook--it may be a 30 day break, but it could be longer or even permanent..."  I was beginning to feel like Facebook had become too much of an idol for me.  I know that probably sounds strange to most people.    Especially those who know me well and know I do not spend more than probably 20-30 minutes total per day on Facebook (at maximum).    But, an idol is any person, object, or even activity that you give a higher priority in your life than a relationship with God.   It can be your home, your job, your hobby, a car/vehicle, relationship and even your family.  An idol can be your home, your computer (or what you look at on your computer--Facebook).  It could be any sin.  Hey, it could even be the work that you do for the Lord but that consumes all your time and energy.  Our God is a jealous God and He wants our time and attention.  For me, Facebook was becoming a bit of an idol, because my "idle" thoughts were often focused on Facebook and what "news" I may be missing.  My Facebook had become a conglomerate of friends, acquaintances, product/company page likes (131 to be exact), groups (homeschool groups, recipe groups, yard sale groups, etc.--way too many of them), events, and so much more.  Although I really didn't spend a lot of time total on it each day, I was getting notifications all day from all the groups I was a part of, and would use my "free minute" here and there to check it.  Stuck at a light with a train?  Check Facebook.  Kids are playing well together for a moment and don't need me?  Check Facebook.  On a road trip to visit family?  Check Facebook.  Do you see the trend?  I can definitely see how a "jealous God" could be saddened by where my thoughts and time were being spent.  I am positive He would rather it go something like this...

Stuck at a light?   Talk to God.
Kids playing well together?  Thank God for it.
On a road trip?  Talk to husband about what God has done in your life lately.

Anyway, that is a big reason why I hopped off Facebook.  When/if I get back on I am going to need to seriously overhaul my account.  I love all of the education/news I receive--but perhaps I need to limit how much I am receiving.  I love checking up on how all my friends are doing.  But, perhaps I need to weed out my friends list to try to keep it to actual friends/family vs. acquaintances or folks I may have met one time.   I hadn't made it all the way through my news feed in months due to the length of it.  There was also the drama of Facebook though with likes/comments, etc. Anyway, I believe you understand that there were many reasons that I felt personally convicted of leaving--at least for a while.  I have decided before I was going to limit my Facebook time, yet was unsuccessful.  Therefore, this time I deleted the Facebook application from my phone.  My "self control" needed a little help and deleting the app was just the help it needed.

I know it has only been a short time that I have been off Facebook, but let me tell you---it is so freeing!!!   It has felt as if a burden has been lifted.  I feel like my time has been more focused on my children.   Now, it's time for me to deepen my relationship with the Lord again!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Our Many December Adventures

I am pretty sure I write a blog post each year about why this time of year is truly the "most wonderful time of the year".  So, I won't bore you with that again. But, I may touch on the subject just a tad as I share about all of our December adventures thus far (in the 15 days we have had in the month).  During the month of December here in Austin, the weather is almost always amazing.  By this month, we are truly in the "fall" season.  Trees are changing colors, the temperature is cooling down--really the weather is pretty much perfect!  I absolutely love fall (as many of my posts have indicated).  And, I can hardly stand to be indoors this time of year.  We have made sure to be outside absolutely as much as possible with weather this gorgeous.  Plus, there is just so much to do this time of year locally--and we have gone on multiple adventures each day.  A huge perk of homeschooling is that we can complete our schoolwork during a couple of hours in the morning, and then we have all day to have fun together.  I LOVE it!

We started the month of December with hiking--lots of it.  (All of the photos below (except for the last few) are low quality, taken with my phone camera--sorry).

We also went to the library a lot to check out fun Christmas books and participate in special holiday programs for the month.  Across the street from the library, our town square is decorated with a big tree and a huge ornament.

 And we visited the awesome model train exhibit next door to the plaza, as is tradition for us each year.  You can see a short video by clicking here.

 We've had lots of fun with our homeschool friends as well.  Early in December, we visited Pioneer farms with our little co-op.   
telling silly stories inside the tee-pee
The kids loved playing with the donkeys there.
  But our favorite thing to do while there was play in Walnut creek!  We did that just before we left.  And I didn't want to leave--it was just WAY too gorgeous!

That night, we visited "Follow the Star" which has become an annual tradition for our family.  This production is so well done!  You can walk from scene to scene, each scene depicting a part of the life of Jesus Christ.

This is the first scene--Mary being visited by an angel who is telling her that she will give birth to Jesus!
Each scene has a description like this:

And, it is really cool, because all of the action happens right in front of you.

But, it is very realistic and good acting.  So, Luke was pretty scared of scenes like these:

Jesus was being beaten right in front of us.
And here is another example of scenes that scared him: click here (or see below) for a video of the crucifixion scene.

I think though it is important to try to imagine the pain that Jesus endured as a sacrifice for our sin-.  I mean,, he carried to that cross all of the sin of the world.  That is a heavy weight!  And, it was a great teaching moment for Luke.  Abbey did not seem afraid, but she is a couple of years younger than Luke.

The next morning, we participated in another annual tradition for us:  the Georgetown Stroll and Bethlehem village.  First, we attended the parade:

The kids received lots of "goodies" from the parade participants.  Abbey is showing daddy one of those goodies here.
The Bethlehem village is our favorite part of the stroll each year.  They transform an area of town square into a "village" that was much like Bethlehem when Jesus was born.  You can dye fabrics, grind wheat berries by hand into a flour, make clay pots, receive a baby doll that would have been like what children may have played with back then, and much much more.

Abbey and Luke are rolling out dough here.

And here, a volunteer Bethlehem villager is making a baby Jesus doll for Abbey, while she tells her the story of Jesus' birth.  So Sweet!

On the way back to our car, we found an old beautiful building that had a large, gorgeous door on the side.  I had to snap some photos in front of it using the door as a backdrop!

What a fun weekend!  The next week, we attended "Winnie the Pooh" at the Zach Theater on Monday.  We absolutely loved this theater and presentation.  The theater is very small and intimate, which makes you feel like you are getting your own VIP show.  It was such a cute, smart, musical and interactive performance.  It kept the attention of even the youngest and was an hour long, so that may tell you just how awesome it was!  And, they gave each of the kids study/discussion guides to complete at home afterwards to continue our learning experience. 

We weren't allowed to take photos or videos during the show, of course.  But, I snapped a quick photo before the show.  The row where Abbey was sitting is the front row.  The actors were right where I was standing, taking the photos! My friend there on the left was actually on the stage floor.  So cool!
Here are some of Luke and Abbey's homeschool friends that attended with us (with their silly faces on).  We love these kids!
Abbey tried to take a picture of all of the moms.  But, as you can see, she was not in the best position, and you can't see 3 of the moms on the left side.  Ha!
The next day was another one that brought absolutely spectacular weather!  After completing some of our morning schoolwork, the kids and I took a field trip to Laguna Gloria (an outdoor art exhibit in Austin that offers free admission on Tuesdays).

Abbey wanted so badly to touch this statue that she wasn't allowed to touch.
The trail there is just breathtaking.  Especially with all of the fall color change as we were experiencing.
We liked this gnarly looking tree.
My sweet boy looks so much older here!
They have a really neat interactive foam exhibit at Laguna Gloria now that the kids enjoyed as well.

Since we were next door to Mayfield Park (a gorgeous park with gardens that is always free), we just had to stroll over to there and visit the peacocks:

Hi Mr. Peacock!
Then, our sweet neighbor friends invited us over to make gingerbread cookies, which we then delivered to some neighbors.  We just love our neighbor friends!  They are the best!  We have a gate between our houses and the kids just come and go freely between the two homes.  I love it!

Later in the week, we visited Santa at the Bass Pro Shops in our town.  He was awesome!  He carried on a lengthy conversation with the kids, which Abbey regularly recalls and tells me all about.

Abbey was a little scared at first.  So, Luke took her hand and walked with her up to Santa.  Santa was asking in this photo how Luke injured his arm.

Abbey said she was "shy".  She couldn't look at Santa in the eye. 
The bass pro shop is an awesome place to visit--especially during Christmas.  There are all sorts of free activities for the kids.  They have several carnival-type games--for example, you shoot rifles at pretend animals (and it electronically tallies your score), you can use a kids bow and arrow to shoot down ducks, you can operate slot car racecars, operate the rc monster truck, make christmas bags, make ornaments, color pictures and more!  Plus, you get a free printed photo and digital video with Santa.  They also gave Luke and Abbey stuffed animals and a coupon for a free kids meal at the restaurant.

Here, Abbey is proudly showing her and Luke's Polar bear stuffed animals from Santa.
It was another gorgeous day that day, so we spent the rest of the day in more casual clothes outdoors.

First, with a picnic lunch.
But we later visited the free Austin trail of lights.
Short sleeves on an absolutely perfect night!

The next night, Luke and Abbey chose a family to come over in their jammies and watch "The Polar Express" with us, while enjoying some treats.  We had so much fun!

Then the following day, our church had its annual Christmas FX party for kids.  Again, it was a great party!   Abbey even rode a bucking reindeer this time.  I wanted so badly to ride it, but Drew wouldn't let me.   The operator could make it go as fast as she wanted.  She made it move very slowly for Abbey.  :-)

After the party, we enjoyed pizza with good friends.  Then, we stopped by the Domain to walk around and enjoy the Christmas lights show.  While we were there, we snapped a photo on some 3d artwork that was on the sidewalk.  When you stand in a certain spot and the photographer stands in a certain spot, it appears as if you are inside the snow globe.  A nice lady offered to take a photo of us:

The quality was bad as it was very dark outside. 
Yesterday, we had our monthly Lego club at our house.  It was so much fun to see what Christmas-themed Lego creations the kids came up with.  Luke made a big workshop, complete with elves and toys.  He had two head "elves."  And, he even made an extra wide Santa Chair, with very strong supports.  Luke said, "that way, if Santa gets bigger from all the cookies he eats, the chair will still support him, won't break and won't be too small." That kid is always thinking and planning ahead!

You can see each of the elves are on step stools because they are "little".  They have toys in front of them that they are working one.  The two guys on the right are the "head elves." 
After Lego club, the kids all went to the backyard for an epic Texas-style "snowball" fight.  We used the massive marshmallows as our snowballs.

Abbey looks fierce!
The kids facial expressions are the best!

Wow, I can't believe we managed to fit all that fun in 15 days!  I didn't realize until I sat down to write this how busy we have been.  We sure have enjoyed such a fun first 15 days of December!