Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014 Resolutions

New Year's day is one of my favorite days of year. I love looking back, I love looking ahead. I love to feel like I have a fresh clean slate to work with. For 2013 I had 13 goals and I accomplished most of them even if they were only partial success.

1. I did get the kids on a schedule (I kind of have to with school and all).
2. I did learn more signs and become more comfortable with signing in general.
3. I have been very active with the kids
4. I donated my hair to locks of love


5. We did move to Ohio
6. I visited Texas, but unfortunately not Michigan.
7. I did three video shoots with my brother
8. I worked on expanding my geographic knowledge and Z learned the 50 states!
9. We didn't manage to have a date night once a month, but we came pretty close.
10. We never had our family portrait updated, but we have a decent one of the 5 of us from Easter.
11. I organized and pulled off some awesome birthday parties

As far as the ones that never made the cut this year

1. We DID NOT eat vitamins and veggies everyday. I regret it, and I still want to work on this.
2.  I never managed to have alone time once a month (surprise surprise)

This year I had in my mind that instead of a lengthy list of specific tasks to accomplish I would pick out  few things to focus on. This list is not exhaustive and my core values are still my priority, but these are things I feel like could use a lot more attention.

1. Blogging
So maybe this won't be the year that I launch a completely new word press site, but I really want to challenge myself more when it comes to writing, coding, and photography.

2. Reading
This may sound contradictory to the last focus, but I want to be on the computer less and reading an actual published book more. I feel like I have been overloaded with articles from Facebook and Pinterest. Some are great and some are just a big fat argument waiting to happen, even if it's just me venting to my husband. I am kicking off this new year with a Facebook fast and a long list of books I want to read or reread.

3. Cleaning
When I started working in October I kind of fell off the Fly Lady wagon. To be honest it was more like the entire wagon rolled into a ditch and isn't even recognizable anymore. I've said before, but I'll say it again mostly to remind myself. My tiny home doesn't leave much wiggle room for clutter or uncleanliness. If a really tall man gains 10 pounds you would never even notice it, but if a short woman does she needs to go shopping because her clothes don't fit anymore. My apartment is a very petite woman. This year I want to finish some of the decor projects that were left incomplete from 2013 and I want to try and get back into my flylady routine. A clean apartment changes the way my family feels and interacts with each other. I'm on it.

So that's it. Clean, Read, Blog, Repeat. Happy 2014 everybody!

* That first photo is my "before" picture and I was doing my best to look disheveled (pretty good right?) And the after picture was immediately after I had my hair cut and I hated how limp it was. I printed out several pictures for the stylist and aparantley chunky layers doesn't mean anything to her. I reluctantly went after my hair with some scissors and chopped it up on my own later. Why did I spend $50? 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013 Christmas Card

Merry Christmas Everyone! Here is our 2013 Christmas card. 

The card we printed said "Have a super Christmas" with our names signed and Ezie was signed as Batman. And we always include a verse on our card so we went with John 3:16-17 because of the part about Jesus saving the world. Here are a few behind the scenes photos from our Christmas shoot. 

Getting setup.

 Now we just need J and Ezie.

 Now we just need J to get off his phone! LOL.

And in case it isn't obvious the joke is referencing the classic childhood version of the Christmas carol that says "Jingle Bells Batman smells". Ezie was batman for halloween and he's still in diapers so we couldn't resist. It was a fun card. Now onto 2014  

Monday, December 23, 2013

PreChristmas Christmas

Let's see... I shared about Thanksgiving, and the snow, and today I wanted to talk about the rest of the Christmas festivities that took place before we left for Texas because there were plenty, and I don't want to let the memories slip away.

First off we went to the Holiday Junction at Union Terminal twice for free (thanks to Duke Energy discounts). The train displays were amazing and the kids got to ride on a mini train through a scenic "snowy mountain".

We unexpectedly ran into Santa one day and Z and SJ wanted to see him. SJ was wearing a wonder woman dress and spiderman mask for her photo. The museum employees got a good laugh out of it.

 I usually don't have much of an explanation for why SJ dresses the way she does, but in this case we had taken our family Christmas card photo and it involved Super Hero costumes and she didn't want to change. I 'll reveal our Christmas card later, but for now here is an outtake. 

 The kids had all kinds of fun things going on at their schools. SJ was in a Christmas program which I will have to share more about that later because it was such a special milestone in her hearing loss journey. I didn't take many photos because it was more of a video camera night, but I love this shot of her turned around because she rarely lets me keep her hair down. She's in the red dress.

Ezie dressed up for the occasion too.

SJ loved her dress and she wore again for Z's class Christmas party. 

The photo above shows Z in a game where he had to be decorated like a snowman using toilet paper and various props. I almost didn't go to his party because of having Ezie and SJ with me, but the classroom mom (who has 5 children of her own) was very encouraging and told me not to let that stop me. I was glad she did. I just love Z's teacher and his school. 

I also got to visit his class another day for candy house decorating.

 We've been collecting orange juice containers all school year for this. They used to use milk cartons which was easy because they drink them at school and Z's teacher would just collect them at lunch time, but they banned the use milk and egg cartons. Something about food allergies? I guess. 

I love playing with food. When I found this pancake snowman idea in a Kroger ad I did my own variation. My parents were in town at the time and we ended up having an impromptu pancake decorating party.  

Here's more Christmas junk food at SJ's school party. 

It was a pajama party with a visit from Santa and he came bearing gifts. The students were SO excited. It was awesome. 

All the kiddie stuff was definitely memorable. Christmas wouldn't be even half as fun without the littles. However we did get to enjoy some grown up time too for the annual church Christmas banquet. It felt like prom all over again and I mean that in a good way. The inspiration for my ensemble was glitz, glitter and GOLD. Even my fingernails and eye shadow was sparkly.

I wish I had better pictures, but sometimes it's just about being there in the moment and that's what I did for the holidays this year. And there is still more to come! I LOVE the holidays.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Let it Snow!

It's been a snowy December here in Ohio and I love it! We are about to be in the homeland of Texas where we will more than likely NOT be experiencing a white Christmas, but I don't mind because I am beyond excited to get to visit for the next couple weeks. Before we go I would like to leave you with some of my favorite pics of the winter wonderland we've experienced so far this season.

My brother took this gem. 
SJ did have gloves by the way. I have no idea why she is barehanded in this photo. 

When I am not feeling enthusiastic about going out in the snow I just put the kids on the balcony and it's like a giant sandbox for them. 

They like to throw snowballs at me and I just shriek and smile from behind the glass in the warmth of the apartment.

Here is a snowy day at the church.

And here's one of Z walking to the bus stop.

 They have called two days off of school for snow so far this year. The rest of the time you suck it up. He'll have stories for his grandchildren right?

Good thing Ezie is walking full time now. It's no fun crawling in the snow!

This last pic is of J and I iceskating in fountain square. We had a blast. 

That's it for snow in 2013. I look forward to more when we return from our Christmas vacation. Let it snow! 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Thanks Given

I have blogged twice this month. That must be a record breaking low. I definitely have plans to get back into the swing of things, but in the mean time the least I can do is post a few photos from Thanksgiving (which was also our Christmas) with my side of the family.

My brother took this next set of photos. 

That last shot (no pun intended) is of my sister-in-law. A couple people got pellet guns for Christmas. My parents live out in the country, but it's not completely rural. The cops actually visited the house the day after Thanksgiving because the nursing home had complained about the shooting. There's never a dull moment with our clan. 

Lastly, this is an instagram of one Z's school projects. I think his spelling fitting. The holidays are sure to be a success as long as long as there is "Thanks Given". 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Truth In The Tinsel 2013

I have been way behind on blogging for a lot of different reasons, including tons of Holiday festivities. One of the things I have really been wanting to share is about the advent project I've been doing with the kids. I started writing this post 2 weeks ago before we started advent! This is like my 4th attempt, we'll see if I actually get it posted this time. Here goes,

This is our first year to try Truth In The Tinsel.

 If you haven't heard of it, it is an awesome devotion/advent/Christmas-craft-activity that teaches kids the story of Jesus birth. Not just a little snapshot for the Sunday before Christmas, but a daily devotion that really digs into the Biblical account of Christ's birth in a way that little ones can grasp.

I was a bit apprehensive at first. I had the same feeling I did when I started the 31 day series because it's something that I committed to at the last minute with little or no preparation. But we are about half way through now and so far it has been GREAT!

Each day Z will find "a clue" in his Bible. I just taped a CD envelope on the inside cover of his Bible. It's perfect because the envelope has a clear window on the front so he can see the clue right away.

Then we look up a passage in scripture and pick out where the clue is found in the Bible. Z loves this part, and since he is now learning to read it's the perfect opportunity for him to learn how to find references in the Bible.

Then we talk about it and make an ornament to go along with the lesson for the day.

Here are some the first 10  days as seen through my iPhone.

Day 1: Light 
We used streamers instead of tissue paper because that's what I had on hand

Day 2: Kingdom
I didn't have toilet paper rolls, but the kids had just as much fun with thick yellow paper and the crowns turned out great. 

Day 3: Zechariah
  I bought goggly eyes and lost them, go figure. But this was a fun one and we were at my parents, who luckily had bubble wrap. 

Day 4: Gabriel
 I know our version is a little feminine, and we did not have a bell, but my niece and daughter loved this one. SJ said "butterfly"  

Day5 & 9: Mary and Joseph
We did these on separate days. I did not have a clothes pin so we just did a coloring sheet and ornament frames, but next year I would love to make the dolls so that we can act stuff out. 

Day 6: Mary and Elizabeth
 We used leftover bubbles from Day 3 for the pregnant bellies.

Day 7: Sun
 We had chocolate gold coins and so we used those wrappers for the sun. It turned out really pretty and the chocolate was delicious. 

Day 8: Mary's Song
 We had a disc with a blank white front so Z painted it because that is his favorite thing to do. 

Day 9: Joseph's Dream
 This was my favorite because, even though it wasn't called for, I decided to teach Z to sew and he fell in love with it. He wants to do it everyday. 

Many of these are modified from the books version for time sake or lack of materials  (I made notations in red for those participating), but that's all part of the fun. I've enjoyed seeing all the Facebook posts showing variations and personalization of the same craft.

If you haven't checked out Truth in the Tinsel or seen it floating around on Pinterest you should take a peak. It's not too late to implement one of the modified schedules or pick and choose for yourself what and how you want to do it, and of course there is always next year, and the year after that.  Not to name drop, but I happen to know Amanda White (author, creator, blogger extraordinaire) personally from when I lived in Atlanta, and she is the real deal. With that said, this is not a promotional post, I did not get paid, no freebies. She doesn't even know I am writing this, so it's all totally unbiased and true.

I can't wait to work on the rest of Truth in the Tinsel and I am already taking notes on what I can do next year. Not only have I loved teaching my kids about the story of Christ's arrival, but I am learning a lot too. Hooray for Advent!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Grieving Together

I wanted to update all of my readers on how the Keith family is doing. In case you haven't seen my last post our dear pastor lost his granddaughter on Thanksgiving day. We are close with their whole family and our children play in the nursery together at least once a week. Although we are still mourning the loss of this precious 18 month old baby we will be celebrating her life tomorrow at her funeral.

The family is doing as well as could be expected. The other two girls have been tested and are completely healthy. As far as I know the cause of death is unknown. The autopsy showed nothing wrong with PK. She went down for a nap and despite her mother knowing CPR and a pulse being detected she still did not make it. God had a plan in mind for her and she is now walking on streets of gold.

On Sunday pastor spoke about crisis at Christmas (the message was already planned). During communion the elders came up behind the pastor and lifted up his arms and prayed for him.

It was a beautiful moment. Pastor also thanked everyone for the outpouring of love and sympathy and then he read this letter from my dad.

"When we lost Zeb, there was such outpouring from the body of Christ. We will never forget it. One letter in particular touched me more than any other. Not because of the eloquent words, but because of the sincerity and the fact that such wisdom could come from a 16 year old young man. I hear the heart of a pastor in it. It has endeared me to not only him, but your whole family.

It was written in his own hand writing on a simple piece of paper ripped from a spiral bound notebook, but we have cherished it and kept it all these years. Hopefully the words will bring as much comfort to you as they did to me in this time. Our hearts ache."

Here is an excerpt from that letter written by PK's dad 22 years ago, before he was a husband, before he was a dad, before he lost a child. 

"I just want you to know that you have a church family that's backing you up all the way and what you go through we all go through also. WE feel your pain, and we sympathize with you. I know that you all are strong enough to make it through this tough time, for you do not go through it alone. I love every one of you as if a family member, and when you need help call me." 

There was a lot more to it than that, but this is the part that I could now say right back to his family in the midst of this valley without changing a single word. 

I know the funeral is going to be tough. It brings back a lot of memories for me since Zeb's funeral was at the same church with many of the same people. A couple nights ago as I was putting Zion to bed I held his hand and laid there in the dark with tears rolling down my cheeks. Zeb was just a little older than Zion when he passed away. This isn't something I think about a lot, but like the letter said what one goes through we all go through. Our brother and sister in Christ lost their child, and I am hurting for them. 

PK's mom is the nursery coordinator (among so many other things that she does around the church). She has been spending the past several months figuring out a way to do a complete overhaul to the sorely outdated facility. She was the one that decided that in lieu of flowers, donation could be made in PK's honor to renovate the nursery. PK loved the nursery and to have it dedicated to her and have her memory cherished and appreciated by all her friends and the future of the church body sounds like the best idea ever! 

I know I am going on and on, but as you can tell this has touched me deeply. Pastor said that when PK's older sister (who is 6) asked about if PK was coming home from the hospital he told her "You know how sometimes you fall asleep downstairs and then you wake up the next day in your bed and you didn't even realize that anything had happened? Well that is what happened with your sister." She fell asleep at home and woke up in her heavenly home for all eternity and one day we will all be reunited singing praises to our God who is still on His throne.