Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas at Our House

Merry Christmas! Our day yesterday, Christmas Eve, started with Christmas Eve Service at our church. We went to the early service and then over to friends' house for lunch. She and I ran to do some last minute shopping, while our husbands watched the kids.

I remembered that evening after we got home, that I didn't have ornaments for the kids. Each year, I've gotten a different ornament for each child. In the craziness of the last few weeks, I didn't buy anything. Then I remembered that I had bought some craft supplies last year to make snowflake ornaments with the kids that we never used. (Haven't I said before how I sometimes have a hard time finishing projects?) So, I pulled out the supplies and we had fun creating our own snowflakes. At first I tried to give the kids directions, then my oldest reminded me that all snowflakes are different. I let them have at it, and they came out great. A good memory and an ornament all in one!

They opened a few gifts, money from Grandpa and Grandma, more money and gift cards from Aunts and Uncles and their "secret Santa" gift. Very exciting! We watched The Grinch that Stole Christmas and finally got them to bed.

Here's Christmas morning. It was a tough morning for Brad and I. B was so excited that he woke up at 12:30 am and woke up his brother too. Then I heard him up at 5:00 am. I'm afraid I didn't have much Christmas spirit that early in the morning. I told him he had to be quiet and go back to bed for at least another hour. I remember doing that too as a kid. I remember trying to run up and down the bedroom hallway really early in the morning to try and wake everyone up for Christmas. I used to get so excited too.

Once everyone was up and had a chance to go through their stockings, get their "Santa" gifts and get a cup of hot chocolate, we sat down to do our last reading for our Jesse Tree.

Here's A hanging the last Jesse Tree ornament. A star. We talked about why the ornament was a star - A said it was so everyone could find Jesus.

Then it was time to open the last of the gifts - from my parents, my sister and from us. The kids were excited about all their presents. It was a lot smaller than most years, but they still ended up having a ton of toys and fun stuff to play with. I like it smaller. It seemed less overwhelming. It was tough looking at our tree and not seeing the piles of gifts that are usually there. I'll have to get used to that. But, every gift they got, they love. And really they didn't ask for much. B wanted a digital camera, C wanted a Leapster and a stuffed penguin and A wanted a swim baby doll, a Donald Duck cup and a play camera. Between us and our family (and generous friends), we were able to get them everything they wanted. We even got them a couple of things that they wanted but hadn't asked for.

Of course, it was play time after opening gifts! Here's A with her tea set made from recycled milk jugs (a gift from Mommy although I'm sure no one could guess!) ;)

And last but not least, one of B's first photos on his new camera. This is our neighbor's puppy that we're puppy-sitting this week. She's a super sweet 3 month old, 50 lb. Great Dane. We just love her, and are glad she lives next door!

Monday, December 22, 2008

River of Lights

Tonight we went to River of Lights at our local Botanic Gardens. We went with my awesome photographer friend, Cindy. So, as we were trying to move through the crowd and keep our 6 kids and two husbands all together, she was yelling pointers to me. (Although, I think her husband and my husband would argue that they were trying to keep us with our families and not distracted by photographing the lights.) And, yes, my camera was on manual the whole time. Here are some of my favorites.

C has been anxiously awaiting this outing. He saw the dinosaur during the day a month ago and couldn't wait to go back and see it all lit up.

I love that the kids are all roaring at the dinosaur.

Here's the yellow submarine reflecting in the water. I think this was a one of the new light sculptures this year.

I realize now that I have only one picture of all three of my kids and it's not a very good one. (That's why I didn't post it.) B is giving me the "c'mon mom" look. I was having too much fun trying to figure out the right settings on my camera to take pictures of my kids. ;)

I think that today I'm grateful for Christmas lights. There's nothing like colorful lights to help me get into the spirit of Christmas. Only 2 more days!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Jesse Tree Update

Here's a little update on how our Jesse Tree is going. We took some branches from our backyard to make the "tree." I decided to buy the e-book by Ann Voskamp called The Glorious Coming. It is very beautifully written, but it honestly hasn't worked very well for our family. We have ended up using the scripture references for each day and skipped the rest. Each day has the scripture for the day and a personal reflection on that particular passage. And again, it's very beautifully done, it just does not seem to work for our small kids. The book came with printable ornaments that I love! We just printed them out on card stock, punched a hole in them and used some ribbon to hang them. It's been such a meaningful experience to sit together as a family each night and watch the story of the Bible unfold. I definitely want to keep this as a Christmas tradition for our family, but I think I'll tweak it a bit next year. I think I'll look at some other sources for the Bible reading list, since they do seem to vary a little and decide what I feel is the best progression through the different Bible stories. I really love the artwork for these ornaments but I would like to make our own at some point. And, it might be nice to tie it in to our advent calendar somehow too. It's been feeling a bit much to have the advent stockings and the Jesse Tree every day in December.


Today I'm grateful that we unearthed our iced tea maker. ;) I forgot that we bought a box of caffeinated tea and it's helping with the caffeine issue. However, since I've turned the thermostat waaayyy down, we probably should be drinking hot tea.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Not Feeling Grateful

I've been feeling a bit like this snowman...pathetic. I mean, come on, my boys are barefoot. (They really shouldn't have been. It was still pretty cold even though the snow was melting.) There is so much to be grateful for each day. I have amazing people around me. Yesterday, we had a great time laughing with all of our (the kids and my) friends at playgroup. We were given some great hand-me-downs for C and A. The kids played for hours while the mamas chatted and laughed. Totally fun and normal. Today both of my neighbors offered help. One took me to coffee since I told her I was trying to give up caffeine because water was a heck of a lot cheaper to drink. She took pity on me and got me a latte. The other neighbor has insisted on buying the kids some Christmas presents and made me promise to tell them they're from Santa. We don't need any Christmas gifts for the kids. We were already planning on trying to keep it small this year. We even decided against the big present we had thought we might get for them (think cool gaming system). We wanted them to have a part in earning the money to buy it. But this incredible neighbor would not take "no" for an answer. Really, can I have better people around me? I am so incredibly blessed. And yet I'm struggling with being hopeful. I'm frustrated that I don't seem to have real skills to jump back into the job market. I have skills and experience but it's been 8 years since I really did anything. I would rather stay home and homeschool my kids. I feel like that's the calling on my life right now. And yet, I hate to sit by and watch my husband bear all the burden of our financial security. Maybe I just hate not having any control? That's probably most of it. Or maybe I'm just grumpy from trying to cut back on the caffeine. ;) These posts are really helping me look for the good in each day though. That's something to be grateful for...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Grateful for the Faith of Others

I was so touched yesterday by something that happened. I needed to withdraw A from her gymnastics class. It was an expense that we needed to cut out of our budget at the moment. I'm not sure why this was so hard, but it was. I started crying when I told them why we needed to stop coming. The lady who is at the front desk (I'm embarrassed that I don't even know her name) immediately grabbed my hand and started praying for my family. It was so genuine and so heartfelt. That act meant so much to me.

It made me wonder if I would ever do that for someone else. Probably not. I'd be too afraid I'd offend them - I mean what if they weren't a Christian. Then I started thinking that if she hadn't been a Christian but offered a different kind of blessing, I think I would have been equally as touched. Because it wasn't about what she was praying, it was about the heart behind it - the faith that she was offering to me.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Grateful for the Joy of Children

I'm grateful for the joy I see in my kids. This was actually from yesterday morning. We finally had some snow here. The kids were soooo excited! They got up early to be sure not to miss it. Snow doesn't stay on the ground for very long in New Mexico. These photos were taken before breakfast, around 7:30 a.m. The boys, especially C, were so afraid they were going to miss out on having a big snowball fight. Here's C throwing a snowball... his big brother!

And here's B getting him back with a bucket filled with snow.

I guess his big brother got him good. I just love this picture. This is my guy that I have such a hard time getting a picture of. He hates it when I get out the camera. I feel like I really captured the joy he was feeling. And seeing him joyful helps me to be joyful.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Grateful for Friends

Today I'm grateful for friends. We really have incredible friends. As soon as my dear friend Cindy found out about what was going on she invited us over for dinner. She, her husband and kids gave us an escape tonight that we really needed. Her husband made us a yummy dinner and then the four adults laughed at ourselves while we played 80's and 90's Trivial Pursuit. I promise that I will never forget "Ben Stein" again! And Ferris Bueller's Day Off is one of my favorite movies. I can't believe I didn't get that one!

Anyone. Anyone. Anyone. That still makes me laugh. Cindy even got me my very favorite - Baskin Robbins Jamoca Almond Fudge Ice Cream Cake. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You guys really did get our minds off of everything tonight!

I have other friends who've let me cry on the phone to them and have prayed for me. Others who have offered help and support. I'm just overwhelmed. Even people I haven't met in real life but only know through online groups have offered hugs, prayers and support. And here's the thing, I hate asking. I hate it. I want to be the one offering support especially since a lot of these people supported me through the last 2 years. I feel like a broken record. But, I'm choosing to be grateful and I really am grateful for all my friends who have such big hearts.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Heavy Heart

It's really amazing how quickly life can change in mere minutes. If someone had asked me this morning before 9 am how my life was going, I would have answered, "Great!" After 9 am I'd have to answer, "Tough." My husband was laid off this morning due to financial cutbacks at the company he was working for. And I'm scared. Financial stress is something I don't handle well at all and we seem to have our share of it. Lots of it is from the consequences of our own mistakes. But, some of it lately seems to be really bad luck. Our last 3 years have been real struggles. First a lay off, then a company that had no money (and still owes him back pay), now another lay off. I'm ready for this to end.

How can I choose joy and gratitude this Christmas? I have to for my kids' sake.

Here it goes. I'm going to post everyday something I'm grateful for starting today.

Today I'm grateful for the gorgeous snow that so rarely falls in the desert.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Social Gospel or Real Christianity?

I know that the criticism for Shane Claiborne's books is that he's preaching a social gospel and not just THE gospel. Whatever he's preaching, I can't stop thinking about it. I first read Jesus for President and then shortly after read Irresistible Revolution. These books have made me question what it means to follow Jesus and pushed me to reread the Sermon on the Mount through new eyes. As someone who has grown up in "the Church," I didn't think it was possible to see something new in the Bible. But I did. Honestly, it has made me fearful of what God is calling us -me- to do.

We are not just called to be candles. Candles make for nice Christmas services and for a nice peace vigil (or a pretty Elton John song). They can remind us that God's light dwells within us and that we are to shine that light in this dark world. But we are not just called to be candles. We are called to be fire. Candles can be snuffed out by the slightest wind or by the smallest child on their birthday. But it's harder to put out a fire. We are to be fire, to weave our lives together so that the Spirit's inferno of love spreads across the earth.
From Irresistible Revolution, Page 352

I was already feeling pretty critical of Christianity in the US and more specifically the whole "seeker-friendly" movement. My husband and I have been pretty frustrated that we can't seem to find a church that's interested in pursuing an intellectual discussion about the Bible. It seems lately that the evangelical churches that we've attended are full of fun, entertaining videos and emotional self-help style messages with a few random scriptures thrown in. Maybe that's a bit harsh, but like I said we've been pretty frustrated. Then we'd find a church that seemed to be on track for deeper discussions but find out that their view of women or child discipline was not in line with our views - two areas that are really important to me. Those areas aren't total deal breakers unless they're being preached from the pulpit or endorsed by leadership. I just couldn't be in a church that I felt like I was always defending my views. So we've been frustrated.

In a lot of ways, I feel like I've been experiencing a crisis of faith. I saw these amazing people who treated others with kindness (even me - a Christian), gave of themselves and their money, cared about animals and the planet, treated their children with so much gentleness. And guess what? They weren't Christians. They were Atheists, Agnostics, Pagans...all of those "evil" things I had grown up learning to be afraid of. And guess what I had found in the church - men demeaning women, parents physically and emotionally hurting children in the name of God, hearing that environmentalism is a sin, money for big screen TVs so we could see the preacher better but token amounts going to the homeless. I know that God isn't his people. What a relief! But, I was feeling pretty confused and discouraged.

If someone asks if we are Christ-followers, can we say, "Tell me what you see"? Is there enough evidence to prove that we are taking after the slaughtered Lamb? What if they ask the poor around us? What if they ask our enemies? Would they say that we love them? Christians haven't always looked like Jesus. Perhaps the greatest barrier to Christ has been Christians who pronounce Jesus so loudly with their lips and deny him so loudly with their lives.
From Jesus For President, Page 230

So I was probably ripe for reading Claiborne's message. Maybe there is hope for Christians. I'm still digesting it all, and still not sure if I agree with all of his views on things. I'm having to go back to the Bible to see if I agree with his interpretation of scriptures. He takes a very anti-war stance. I get what he's saying and in a lot of ways it rings true for me, but I'm having a hard time reconciling it with the "real world." As a parent, it's hard to imagine opening my home to strangers who need help. What does it mean to give to others in such a way that it makes a difference in their lives and yet still take care of my family? Lots of stuff to think about. And I am.

eta: I just wanted to add that I have many wonderful inspiring Christian friends who truly desire to honor God with their lives. Friends that have encouraged me that I wasn't alone in the things I was questioning. I also know of people who are quietly going about their work serving people who are usually forgotten.

Friday, December 12, 2008

What I Always Wanted!

We've had several packages delivered to our house in the past 2 weeks. Most of them are Christmas gifts for the kids from Grandma or Auntie. It's driving the kids nuts that they don't get to open them now. Yesterday a package came that I figured was for me from my mom. She told B not to let me near it. I think she said that to make him feel better about the packages he couldn't open. I have been kind of teasing them about all the stuff on the top shelf of my closet. Anyway, the box was stashed away somewhere. A little while later, C and A came walking out to the family room holding my new 5 qt. enameled cast iron pot. They were so excited! C exuberantly asked, "Mom, is it what you always wanted?" Apparently, they thought it would be ok if they opened the package for me. LOL I made them pose with my Christmas gift. C is looking goofy as always. It's so hard to get that kid to pose for a picture that I'll take whatever I can get.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

We're Enrolling in Hogwarts

Last week B was bugging Brad to read the first Harry Potter book to him as their bedtime book. Brad, being the wise dad that he is, told him if he wanted to read it, he should read it himself. B is a great reader but had never felt confident to tackle a book of that length by himself. Brad knew how proud B would be of himself if he could finish Harry Potter. So, with a little nudging, B started it. And didn't put it down for three days. I guess he is a lot like me. Once I get into a book, I can't put it down. That's why I haven't been reading much fiction lately. I have a much easier time putting down a non-fiction book. (Except for Shane Claiborne's books - but that's for another post.) Anyway, now we are all about Hogwarts here. Even talk of a possible Hogwarts themed 8th birthday party in a couple of months. I'm even getting a little excited!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Christmas Project Finished!

Okay, so it's only a couple of days late. ;) We really should have started yesterday morning, but my mini stocking advent calendar is done!

I used the template on Martha Stewart's website for the Mini Stockings. I'm not crazy about the dark red felt. I wish I could have found a brighter red. I think it would have been a little more "christmassy." But, I still like it.

I'm so excited that I got it done! I don't always finish the projects I start so it's such a good feeling to see it done.

Monday, December 01, 2008

All I Want for Chrithmath... my two front teeth! B lost one of his top teeth a week or so ago. But, the other tooth (which actually was the first one loose) has taken forever to fall out. And he wouldn't let me near it. It finally came out today, just in time for "Chrithmath."