A Tradition Renewed

When I was growing up, we cut down fresh Christmas trees.  We weren’t exactly on a tree farm though.  More like an old strip mine/wooded area.  It was fun and felt a bit sneaky.  Such rebels we were!  Truly, though, it was a great way to get a tree.  The trees weren’t sprayed with pesticides, and they were left to grow when, how, and where they pleased.  We were never bothered by a single other tree shopper!

From Christmas 2004 until my family moved to Florida in 2011, we went to a Christmas tree farm with Cory’s family to pick out the perfect evergreen.  That first Christmas was also the evening when we saw our very first positive pregnancy test.  As we decorated our tree, we danced around the living room, listened to Bing Crosby, and cracked open a can of fruit cocktail.  Our hearts were full with anticipating next Christmas with a new baby in our arms.

In late November 2011, Cory’s mom and dad drove a moving van down to Florida with our belongings.  To our absolute shock and delight, a beautiful Christmas tree had made the trip–tied onto the back of the truck.  What a surprise!

Last year, we picked up a Home Depot tree in a Florida parking lot.  Not quite as fun.

But this year, the tradition continues.  We bundled up, mounted the big wagon with hay bales for seats, and set out to choose our tree.  A fresh snow and a bit of sunshine made the day perfect.

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Two, Five, Eight

Summer in our family means birthdays!  We start with me in mid-June, Charlotte at the end of the month, and J in July, and we end the stretch with F in late August.  Whew!

Charlotte turned two this year!  Amazing, funny, wonderful two.  Forget the so-called “terrible twos.”  I absolutely adore this incredible period of language development and emergence of her sweet, hilarious personality.  We began Charlotte’s day with Grandma Renee’s pancakes, and we wrapped it all up with blueberry banana cake from Soulemama.  (Click it!  It’s a great recipe!)  Aunt Kristy and Uncle Jake were able to celebrate with us.

J turned five this year!  Five feels like a very important milestone.  He becomes more articulate and ever-practical with each passing day.  We spent his actual birth enjoying a nearby park and getting totally soaked in the stream.  Then late in July, we had a combined party (Knights and Ladies theme) for our new two year old and five year old.  It was a lot of fun!

And finally, our big boy turned eight.  Eight?  Too big, simply too big.  We celebrated with a “planet party” of his own invention.  On his real birthday, we made a much anticipated trip to Red Lobster for his favorite food: shrimp!  My eight year old is growing in so many ways.  He seems taller and smarter and more inquisitive every day.  I can’t wait to see what this third grade year has in store for him.

Here are some images of our summer of birthdays.

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Looking Back at Easter

I’ve been thinking about home and family quite a bit lately.  Homesickness hit me hard this winter and into these early weeks of spring.  I’ve felt that tug more lately than I have since the first days of our southern adventure.  Since Christmas, my family in the north has been experiencing some hard times, and I feel the distance between us more fiercely than ever.  I want to be there with my loved ones, going through the trials with them instead of hearing about this and that over the phone and doing my best to be present through sympathy and prayer.  That’s tough.

I know that here is my home.  This is my family.  But my history is somewhere else, and a huge slice of my heart lingers there.  On some days, the missing piece leaves an awful emptiness.  Yet, spring brings the promise of a summer trip in the near future, and for weeks, we have been anticipating some April company!

We had a lovely Easter visit with my husband’s parents.  How nice to have Grandma and Papa in our home for eight busy days!  Here are some shots from our time together.

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Good-bye, 2012.

It’s 6 minutes until the new year. My babies are all sleeping. Cory’s out as well. I’m sitting here with my mom and dad with a full heart and a sense of happy anticipation. This has been a year of growth. We’ve been blessed, and we’ve been challenged. Good-bye, 2012. See you on the other side of the ball drop!
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Christmas 2012

I have discovered a hidden blessing of moving far away.  Christmas has acquired a special magic.  I have always loved Christmas, but since most of my family lived close by for most of my life, the idea of “being together with family” for the holidays was basically lost on me.  I was always with family.  During my childhood, my mom’s side got together for a huge meal and fun together every single Sunday afternoon.  Christmas was like a Sunday with gifts and extra cookies added in.  But now.  Wow.  What a difference.  I anticipated the time we would spend with family like I used to wait for the arrival of Santa.  I had butterflies in my stomach as we made the drive north.  I couldn’t sleep.

What’s more, now that I have children who are at the age when the story of the Christ child can really mean something to them, I feel more pressure to capture those good teaching moment and less pressure to live up to the worldly expectations that can weigh Christmas down.  It’s a wonderful balance to navigate.  I baked just one batch of cookies from pre-made dough.  My Christmas cards are still sitting in a box waiting to go out into the world.  I’m totally okay with the incomplete to-do list.  I’m just happy.

Our Christmas celebration had some particularly memorable moments.  During our Christmas Eve time with my husband’s side of the family, the electricity went out during our gift exchange time.  Out came the candles and a sweet little oil lamp that gave our evening a beautiful glow.

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Christmas morning was its usual mix of happy chaos and poignancy.  Little moments of joy and surprise will stick with me all year.  Our boys received beautiful nutcrackers, a special wish that our oldest has carried for three Christmases!  He is fascinated by soldiers and anything related to swords, so I guess–for him–the nutcracker is the ultimate Christmas soldier.  His reaction was so honest and precious.

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For me, the ultimate moment was when Aunt Kristy revealed her homemade gifts.  As you may have seen in earlier posts, Kristy’s handmade capes are an important part of my kids’ wardrobes.  Well, one cape was tragically lost on our return trip home in the summer.  We were heartbroken, but Aunt Kristy saved the day in true super hero style by creating a new cape for Christmas.  All is right in our small world once again.  And guess what! Little Charlotte has joined the ranks.

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J still has a cape, so Aunt Kristy created an adorable apron for my boy who loves to be my kitchen helper.  Although I didn’t have time for nearly as many homemade gifts as I would like, I knitted cowls for Kristy and my mom.  I also tried a pair of fingerless mittens for my sister-in-law.  All three worked well, and I hope they will bring some cuddly warmth to the winter for three special ladies.

Happy New Year, friends!

ONE

My little boy is turning three FOUR on Wednesday, and I haven’t even blogged about my baby girl’s birthday yet.  Shame on me!  So here we go…

Sweet Charlotte turned one on June 27th.  We celebrated with a butterfly party on the 30th.  I had fun planning my first little girl party.  I had the combination of pink and orange and butterflies in my head since she was brand new.  Charlotte slept through the beginning of the party, but she woke up for her very first taste of cake.  She was an enthusiastic but tidy cake eater.  Here are some images from her day.

So Much to Say About Being a Mom

(Giveaway Tuesday!!!!  Can’t wait to share the new MOPS book with you.)

In honor of Mothers’ Day and in celebration of the birth of my nephew, Miles, I am kicking off a blog series about motherhood.

Today is Mothers’ Day, and I’m filled with many emotions.  I miss my mom a lot.  Every single day.  I miss seeing my mom-in-law, too.  And my Grandma.  But I’m also grateful to celebrate my own motherhood next to the little snuggle bugs who made me “Mommy.”  This photograph was taken on the day that I first gained that oh-so-special title.

At the moment when I first held my new baby boy, I knew the “why” of my existence.  I felt certain that I had found the work for which I was made.  This arena is where I’m best equipped to impact the world and bring God joy.  It’s also the place where mistakes have a mighty sting and emotions can become painfully intertwined in the practical steps of daily life.  But the rewards are too great to articulate, too sacred to fully grasp.

Week 29 and a Look Back at Easter

While everything seems to be turning upside down this week, our food budget journey was pretty clear-cut.  With a budget of $150 and a self-imposed goal of $100, I spent $91 on groceries.  We missed the church meal this week due to having our Jeep towed, so we had to grab a quick meal out.  We spent just under $20.  That’s $111.  Not bad.

F got his report card on Monday.  To celebrate, he was able to choose our dinner.  He picked breakfast, so we had pancakes, eggs, sausage, and honeydew.  On Tuesday we had pasta with meat sauce and salad.  On Wednesday, we had our meal at the mall food court while we waited for the tow truck.  I had Subway.  Everyone else (excluding Charlotte) chose pizza.  Tonight we are having a chicken and biscuit casserole that I discovered in my new casserole cookbook (Thanks, Mom & Dad).  Friday will be meat loaf, macaroni & cheese, and broccoli.  Saturday is homemade fish sandwiches and mixed vegetables.  Sunday will be a leftover buffet!

Please visit the other food budgeters, but don’t forget to check out my Easter pictures below!

I’ve been meaning to share some pictures of our Easter visit with my husband’s parents.  We had a wonderful time!  Of course, it was sad to not be able to spend the holiday with the whole family, but what a joy to share Resurrection Day with Grandma & Papa.

Here is a look at our weekend:

Grandma and Charlotte enjoying the local botanical garden.

Papa and the boys at the garden.

The boys feeding some enourmous (scary!) fish.

My trio.

My favorite part of hosting a meal: setting the table.

Roses in teacups -- a simple and inexpensive centerpiece.

Simple Lemon Cake from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food

 

Shrove Tuesday

I didn’t even know what Shrove Tuesday was until we joined a church seven years ago that acknowledges the day with a pancake supper.  Now I can’t imagine missing it!  The church uses Shrove Tuesday (a.k.a. Mardi Gras) as a wonderful tool for teaching children (and adults!) about Lent and how we prepare to experience the resurrection of Christ at Easter.  Being far away from the annual supper and “pancake fling” (such fun!), we decided to have our own Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper in our new home.

The following link does a nice job explaining Shrove Tuesday:  http://www.faithclipart.com/guide/Christian-Holidays/origins_of_shrove_tuesday.html.  In our version of the celebration, we enjoyed pancakes, sausage, little doughnuts, strawberries, and iced tea.  We played with Mardi Gras beads.  We talked about the different ways that people acknowledge Lent, and we decided as a family to continue our Lenten tree tradition and add some acts of charity this year.  I find Lent to be a particularly exciting time for teaching children about our faith.  It’s bursting with potential lessons!