It is Time to Hibernate

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It has been quiet here in this space……I have written many blog posts in my head but have not been able to sit down and focus my thoughts.  I hope now that life is a bit slower, I can visit this space more often.

I did my best to create a slow and peaceful holiday season for our family and looking back I have to say that it was a success.  We had a slower pace, created some wonderful gifts and enjoyed a lot of quiet time in the days leading up to Christmas (Z’s stomach bug helped with that).

Then the 23rd hit and life got BUSY.  I feel like we hit the road running on the 23rd and did not come up for breath until the 27th.  We had an AMAZING holiday and the kids had so much fun but it was exhausting.  Throw in home remodeling and there was little time to recover from the fast pace of the holiday celebration.

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Their Christmas Eve Fancy Clothes

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P and E’s first Christmas

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The Annual Burning of the Yule Log

The kids and I did have a few quiet moments here and there over Christmas Break and Scott and I decided that we would have a QUIET New Years Eve at home, that was lovely.

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Happy New Year!!

Then the first week of school hit and once again we hit the ground running hard.   All of our scheduled activities seemed to happen that first week, throw in all of our school work, home projects and we were exhausted by weeks end.

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Z is taking snowboarding with a few of his buddies

This past week we truly began our hibernation and it was WONDERFUL.  I LOVE this time of year so much.  I love playing in the snow, warm fires, snuggling up with a good book, working on an indoor creative project, warm cups of tea…..I love the slowness that this time of year encourages.

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This week we played endless games of chess by the fire, worked on craft projects, visited with friends, went for a swim at the indoor pool and enjoyed LOTS of home time.  It has been so nice to finally slow down and enjoy the quiet.

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Scott was away all week and came home exhausted and jet lagged.  Z declared Saturday family day and asked that he not work on the home remodel all day so we could be together.  We visited with friends during the day and went out to dinner just the four of us Saturday night.  At dinner Scott declared Sunday a family day too. This was such good news for both the kids and I.  Today Z and Scott have basketball and then we are chilling out all day…..we can’t wait to hibernate with daddy!

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Many cultures around the world in colder climates treasure this time of year for this chance to reset, relax and renew.  I think we should follow their example, change our perspective about this time of year (stop complaining about the cold) and use this time to find peace and rest.   How will you spend your days hibernating??

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It Won’t Be Long Now….

I have pictures from the last few weeks of Advent Preparations spread throughout this post. They don’t necessarily go along with the text but I wanted to share them.

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Rudolph by Lil’ C

They say that for children the month of December is the LONGEST month of the year.  For many of the adults it goes by faster than any other month in the calendar.  I had so many blog posts planned for this month…..but in my effort for a SLOW holiday they went to the wayside.

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This book and the Children’s version by Ann Voskamp have been such special additions to our Advent this year. The journal was a gift from my friend Amy.

In the movie A Very Monkey Christmas, The Man with the Yellow Hat sings a song to a very anxious George that explains that the Christmas preparations are half the fun of the holiday.  I couldn’t agree more with that sentiment.  My kids know that when we get to the bottom row of our Advent Calendar, mommy gets a little sad.  The whole month is so fun and magical, it is hard to let go of it.

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Our Jesse Tree with homemade ornaments

It is the month of waiting and the anticipation of what is coming (both literal and figuratively) that is the magical part for me.  Decorating, reading our Jesse Tree devotions each day, lighting the menorah, celebrating Winter Solstice, our Advent Spiral, cuddling up by the tree to read Christmas stories, my eggnog coffee, making gifts……the preparations are half the fun!  Or maybe for me they are more than half the fun.

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Lil’C collecting holiday greens for Mimi’s house

The day after Christmas was always such a let down for me as a child and I think it still is as an adult.  All those weeks of preparation and anticipation are gone after just a day or two.  It is this let down as a child that has fueled me to start a few new traditions for my kids. Something to keep the magic alive a bit longer for all of us.

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Charlie Brown Christmas with Friends

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They made edible Charlie Brown Trees

The first tradition I started a few years ago….The Forgotten Gift.  There is always a gift that I “forget” to give my kids on Christmas Day.  It is usually a game for both of them and they enjoy unwrapping it a few days after Christmas.

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Homeschool Holiday Fair….Z presented Christmas in Egypt

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Lil’C did Christmas in Italy

The second tradition is Homemade Christmas.  This we started last year so that our homemade gifts, that we spent so long on, would not get lost in the shuffle.  This turned out to be such a special night for us last year, a night just for the four of us to open the homemade gifts and have a nice dinner together.

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An early Christmas Gift….holding one of their cousins for the first time!!

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This was magical for both Z and C!!

The third tradition is Three Kings Day.  On January 6th, the Epiphany, the children receive a small gift.  It is fun for them to look forward to this and this year we plan to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas leading up to Epiphany.  I am not sure I will be able to keep the tree up until then but we are making a special candle holder to light and will be listening to the new Twelve Days of Christmas audio book from Sparkle Stories.

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Light the Lights

Keeping the magic alive a little longer is a great way to lessen the let down that we all seem to get in our family after Christmas Day.  For now I am going to savor every minute left of this season and right now go and snuggle with my two favorite little ones.

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Annual Chi Chi and the girls shopping day

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The girls and I had more fun wandering the store and taking pictures while Chi Chi and Auntie did the shopping!!

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One of the many mannequin shots!

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St. Lucia Day

photo 5Last Thursday, my little Sprouts Class celebrated St. Lucia Day.  We learned about Saint Lucia, made buns, read a Swedish Christmas story and dressed up for a procession.  We turned down all the lights and the oldest Sprout carried our plate of treats, while the younger children carried flashlight “candles”.  They marched in to see their mamas and brothers and presented their mother’s with the Christmas gifts they made for them.  It was soooo sweet and my first celebration of St. Lucia Day.

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This has been a busy month for the Sprouts class, as they have been busy making gifts for everyone in their families.  They made picture frames for their brothers, note cards and ornaments for their fathers and mugs for their moms.  It has been so much fun crafting, baking and learning about the winter holidays with these sweet kids.  Next week we are presenting at a Christmas Around the World Fair, will make reindeer food and will learn about Hanukkah.  It is fun to be a Sprout!

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Advent Magic

photo 3This season of Advent has been great so far and filled with Advent Magic.  We have tried to slow down life a bit and have been conscience to pick out only a few extra activities.  Our home time has been spent making gifts (oh the gifts!!), reading our Jesse Tree Devotional, watching Christmas movies, reading Christmas books, listening to our Sparkle Stories Advent calendar and playing board games by the fire.

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The other night we had our 2nd Advent Spiral.  It has quickly become my favorite part of the season.  My mother once again played the part of the angel of light and my dad played instrumental Christmas music on his guitar.  Each child took turns walking the spiral path towards my mother where she lit their apple candle.  She told them to take the light with them through the dark nights of winter.  They then walked back out the spiral and placed their apple candle on a star along the way.  When all the candles had been placed and everyone was seated quietly, the lights were turned out and we sat among the candle light, listening to the music, for a few beautiful moments.  There were tears in my eyes as I took in this beautiful site and thought about the blessing that my co-op friends are to me.  I was so glad that my parents agreed to be a part of this magical night once again.

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My goal for this season has been to go more slowly and be more present.  It is hard at times for me but I have cut back my to-do list, have created white space in our calendar and am trying to let things go. I am trying to spend my time snuggling on the couch with my kids rather than worrying about the mound of laundry behind me.  It is hard but I am trying.  This is the gift I am trying to give myself….the gift of being present for these days that are fleeting and will be gone before I know it.  These moments of stillness and togetherness are what create Advent Magic.

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A Proud Mama

photo 5On Friday, Lil’C and I donated our hair to Locks of Love.  It was a whirl wind experience that started with my friend Lisa agreeing on Wednesday to TRIM our hair Friday.  On Thursday I mentioned this to my friend Kitty and she asked if we were going to donate.  I didn’t think I was eligible with my color treated hair but I was wrong!

That afternoon I chatted with the woman who owns our local health food store as she had donated two weeks ago.  She explained how to go about it and told me how easy it was to donate.  I then asked Lil’C what she thought.  This child has been brought to tears for the past 2 years, every time I mentioned getting a hair cut.  When I suggested donating and explained where the hair would go she said, “OK”.  I was SHOCKED and waited for her to back out and she never did!

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I think my friend Lisa was the most nervous.  Cutting about 12 inches of my thick curly hair, pulled up in a ponytail, was a scary thing for her to do.  She has never cut my hair before so I think that added to her anxiety.  Lil’C was a bit anxious but jumped right into the chair and Lisa set to work.  She did so WELL and I am so proud of her.

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Lisa cut off 12 inches of her hair as well.  And she looks super cute with her new short hair.

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My hair is a bit shorter than I am use to (not sure it has ever been this short) but it is a nice change.  I love that we were able to do this together and that our curly hair is now going to help a child.  It was a great thing to do during this season of giving.

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Catching Up

IMG_5102Where does the time go??  I had meant to do a Thanksgiving Weekend Recap post on Monday but somehow it is now Wednesday night and there has been no post.  I know many of us right now have moved on to the Holiday Season and don’t really want to recap Thanksgiving, but I hope you will humor me.  This evening I will share some photos and small details of our weekend of gratitude.  I am so filled with gratitude after the weekend we had and some special people deserve a shout out!

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Thanksgiving Morning, Scott played golf in this!

Let me start with my mom, my hero.  I was amazed with how well she handled the last-minute changes that had to happen to her Thanksgiving dinner.  With no power, she could not host and had to leave her beautifully decorated table behind and move everything to my house at the last-minute.  I know she was disappointed but she rolled with it and because of her we had an amazing dinner.  I am so grateful to she, my dad and my second parents (Joan and Hal) for joining us for Thanksgiving.  It was wonderful to have them here and share a meal together.

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Fun with Auntie Amber

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Brother/Sister Team

The next heroes of the weekend were my father in-law Jeff and sister in-law Amber.  They gave up their Friday plans to help fix our house!  They worked all day in the cold to replace the rotted beams and button up our house (no more hole!!).  I am so grateful to them, if it weren’t for their help it would have been at least a 3 day job.

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Lil’C’s year to put the star on the tree

The rest of the weekend was spent in playing the snow, spreading holiday cheer, completing household chores and celebrating with friends and family.  I am so grateful for the laughs I shared this weekend with some wonderful people.  Sunday afternoon we decorated my mom’s tree and I got to spend some quality time with my favorite twins.  I most enjoyed an animated conversation with my sweet little Emma.

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First time all 6 have been in a picture together

It was a busy but nice weekend and I am so grateful to Scott for all of his hard work and effort to fix our house.  He works so hard all week long and then spends his weekend hours playing contractor, he is AMAZING and we are so blessed.

I am now looking forward to a slowing down this month and using Advent as a time to create, reflect, connect and anticipate all that is to come.

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They spent HOURS in the snow

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The halls are decked

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Answer: Buy New Underwear

photo-2Question:  What does one do when they have no laundry in their house (notice the hole in my house) and a sick child at home (can’t go anywhere to do laundry)?

Yes, this is what I need to do.  I am fine for today but before the snow comes tomorrow I need to get me to Target for some new undies.  Who’d of thunk?  I did the kids laundry on Friday, so they are all set and I have a new package of undies for Scott that were planning on giving him for Christmas (Christmas is coming early this year honey!!).  But this mama (like most mama’s) is usually last in the laundry line and thus I have two buckets of dirty laundry waiting to be done.

Despite this laundry issue there is so much to be thankful for this holiday.  I wish all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and friends.  I am looking forward to mine (there is laundry at my mom’s house!!!), just have to get Lil’C healthy!!

And if you see Santa while you are shopping over the weekend, can you tell him I would like a back wall for my bathroom for Christmas?  Thank you!!!!

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Operation Christmas Child

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The kids and I have really enjoyed participating in Operation Christmas Child for the second year in a row.  For those of you who don’t know about this mission, I recommend you visit the Samaritan’s Purse website and learn all about it.  The kids have watched so many of the videos (I get teary with all of them). They love to watch the children’s faces when they receive their boxes.  Their favorite is this video (click here) and now want to watch Duck Dynasty.

Operation Christmas Child has delivered over 100,000,000 shoe boxes to children all over the world.  For many this is the only gift that they will ever receive.  Shoe boxes include small toys, hygiene products, candy, art supplies and lots of love. There are some items you can not include (chocolate, toys related to war, liquids etc.).

Last year I helped to create two boxes with my MOPS group.  This year our family helped to make 4 boxes.  The kids in our co-op made 7 boxes, my sister and mom did another box and our small MOPS group did 12 boxes.  The church where our MOPS group meets is a collection site for Operation Christmas child and this week is the week for collection.  They are expecting over 1,000 boxes at their site and it is just one collection site of 4,000 across the country.

It is not too late to pack a shoe box and change the life of a child.  You have until Monday to pack it and drop it off at a collection site (click here to find one) or you can pack a virtual box online.

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3 Generation Road Trip

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This weekend Z and I went with my dad down to NJ/NY to visit with family.  We only see them about once a year and so it was nice to get down there to be with all of them.  It was a jam packed weekend and Z was a trooper as we spent a TON of time in the car.

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About an hour in to the journey….

Early Saturday morning, my dad, Z and I all got in the car and headed south.  Our first stop on the family road trip was to see my aunt in NY.  My cousin’s fiance Sandy was there as well and we enjoyed a nice lunch with both of them.  It was great to catch up with my Aunt Lucia and get to know Sandy better.  The food was great and my aunt bent over backwards to accommodate all of our food needs.  It was a great way to start our trip (Thanks Aunt Lucia!!).

Our second stop was my great aunt’s house on the NYC/NJ border.  We had visited she and my cousin Mary Lou on our road trip over the summer and it was nice to see them again so soon.  Two of my dad’s siblings and two of my cousins rounded out the gathering.  I hadn’t seen my cousin Chris in about 10 years and it was great to see him.

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We visited for a bit and then headed out for an early dinner.  My great aunt is 93 years young and so spry and fun to chat with.  She wasn’t going to join us at the restaurant because she wasn’t feeling well but after visiting for a bit, “jumped” up and said, “I’m going and I am going to have a beer!”.   I am glad she rallied because it was fun to hear the family stories around the table at dinner.

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A picture of my great Aunt, taken by Z

After that visit, we headed to the hotel.  Z was MOST excited about this and couldn’t wait to see the room and check out the pool.  We got to relax for a bit and Z took a quick swim before we headed to our next destination.

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Lake Friends!!

Good friends from the lake live only 25 minutes from where we were staying and so we couldn’t pass up the chance to see them.  We enjoyed a short but fun visit with them.  Z was getting punchy by this time and really just wanted to go back to the hotel to relax.  You can’t really blame him, it was 8pm and he had had a long day of driving and listening to adults chat.

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Such a fun day!

Sunday morning brought an adventure just for Z!  After breakfast we headed to Legoland Discovery Center in NY.  We had been there before a year and a half ago but that didn’t hinder Z’s excitement.  He was bouncing off the walls and soooo excited to share this adventure with Chi Chi.

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NYC in LEGOs

We had a great time at Legoland and hit everything.  On the way home we hit my favorite deli, Reins.  I got a bucket o pickles and we had lunch.  It was a great way to end our weekend.

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LEGO race track, Z won

We had a really great weekend.  It was fun to spend time with my dad and see so many people.  It was our first 3 generation road trip and I hope it was the first of many more to come!

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Oh What a Night….

This episode of Friends, season 7 was top of mind for me last night.  I was alone, as Scott is traveling and I was exhausted when I tumbled into bed at 10:30PM.  Here is how the night went down…..

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10:30PM–Go to bed and fall asleep about 30 minutes later.

1:30AM–I am awoken abruptly but unsure why.  Get up to look around and find nothing.

2:30AM–I am awoken abruptly again, this time I hear a beep.  I groggily remember the last time this happened it was the CO meter needing a new battery.  I work to disengage it (such a noisy process and Z wakes up) and take the battery out.  I head back to bed.

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3:30AM–Just as I am falling asleep the horrid beep is heard AGAIN!?!?!  This time I realize it was not the CO meter but the smoke alarm.  I head downstairs to search for batteries and find nothing.  I then take the battery out and I am greeted with a series of beeps (this wakes up Z again).  I run downstairs and grab the battery from the CO meter and place it in the smoke alarm.  All is quiet……

4:30AM–I toss and turn while waiting for that piercing beep to go off again.  Snow is falling outside my window, why is snow falling in November?!?!  I then fall asleep, realizing that I have ended it for now.

5:30AM–“Mommy I’m scared!”  It is not the horrid beep but a wee child who says she is scared of the dark.  I tell her it is night and she runs back to bed.  On her way she turns on EVERY light in her path.  I am forced to get up and shut off some lights and shut doors so that Z and I are not disturbed.

7:11 AM–Z and C run in to wake me up and let me know there is snow on the ground.  I roll over EXHAUSTED and let them know that we need to go and get batteries today.  From now on, I am following the Change Your Batteries in your Smoke/CO Alarms Day on Day Light Savings Day.

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