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Emma’s 4th and Annabelle’s 2nd Birthday Party

17 May

We celebrated Emma’s 4th birthday and Annabelle’s 2nd birthday with friends on the Saturday after Emma’s birthday. (The girls’ birthdays are only a week and a half apart on the calendar so we are doing joint parties for now!)

This year, we did a mermaid/beach theme because those are currently a couple of Emma’s favorite things, and Annabelle likes whatever big sister likes. Emma wore her mermaid costume from Halloween (for about the first 30 minutes) and I found a dress for Annabelle that looked mermaid-ish but could still be worn for other things.I tried to keep the decorations inexpensive, or use things I already had (like all the shells, I had collected on beach vacations). After spending oodles on Gerber daisies last year (unknowingly), I went with regular ones this time. 

I had taken a lot more pictures of the decorations with Travis’ phone, but he updated his iPhone soon afterward and couldn’t remember his iCloud password, so they were all lost. 😞

For an activity this year, the kids made “I Spy” bottles. I emptied bottles of ICE sparkling water, added sand from the decor section at Walmart, and found small trinkets at the dollar store and Big Lots, which I put in a muffin tin for easy assembly. The kids put one of each thing in their bottle and the adults helped superglue the bottles shut. I printed out a list with pictures of all the things they had added so they knew what to look for when playing with their bottles later. The girls have really enjoyed theirs! After the activity, it was time to eat! We had turkey and cheese croissants (with googly eyes to look like crabs), fruit salad, trail mix, goldfish crackers, and spinach & artichoke dip with chips. All Pinterest ideas but I ran out of time to make tent cards with creative names so the food choices probably seemed pretty random. 😂Then it was time for cake! I took the easy route this year and bought a tuxedo mousse cake from Costco. After cake, we opened gifts quickly and then went outside to play because we finally had a nice warm day! That doesn’t happen often at the beginning of April.  After most people had left, we tried to get a family photo. The girls were not very cooperative. Oh well. That night, we took advantage of the warm weather and the girls took a pool bath on the deck. So fun!!

My Habit of Cleaning for 5 Minutes Every Day

29 Apr

IMG_4035Like I mentioned in my last post, I stumbled across a book at the library called “Better than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits” by Gretchen Rubin. I grabbed it because building better habits has been a desire of mine for a while, and the book delivered!

The three main nuggets I took away from the book were:

1. It’s easiest to create a new habit by tacking it onto an already-existing habit.

The author, Gretchen Rubin, used existing habits in her own life (brushing her teeth at night, eating breakfast, going to work) as cues for the new habits she was trying to adopt. Her goal was always to get to the point where she could do the habit without thinking–because that’s the definition of a habit. You want it to become so routine that you don’t even think twice about whether or not you do it; instead, you do it because x comes after y all the time.

2. The habit of the habit is more important than the habit itself.

Because the goal is for your habit to become something you do without even thinking, there can be no excuses for not doing it. No “Well I had a late night” or “I’ll do it tomorrow” or my favorite (and most often-used) “I just don’t feel like it right now.” The new habit you’re trying to create might be doing a particular something once a week, or three times a week, or every day, but whatever interval you decide said activity should be done, you must keep to that interval. Even if you’re phoning it in, a half-hearted effort is better for habit-keeping than no effort at all.

However, Rubin recognizes that there are days or weeks when your habit might not be appealing/practical or you’re out of your usual routine (like if your habit is exercise but you have the flu or are on vacation). In those instances, she says (1) Anything is better than nothing. If you’re sick and can’t work out, at least do something fitness-related during the time you would’ve spend working out so that you’re not completely getting off course. (2) If you’re going to be out of your usual routine, it would be better to decide ahead of time that you’re going to take a break from your habits, than to half-heartedly attempt to keep your habits up, only to fail miserably. Think about anytime you tried to bring homework on vacation. Did it ever get touched? I’m guessing no.

3. You have to create habits that fit with your personality.

This is the one aspect of creating and keeping habits that has always tripped me up. One area I’ve frequently tried to get better at is cleaning my house on a regular basis. Every so often, I would be inspired by someone who loved cleaning to adopt their overly ambitious Monthly Cleaning Schedule–or to at least create one of my own that was a little more manageable for my I Hate Cleaning personality.

Everything would go well for about a week. My house would be clean, I’d be motivated, and things were looking up. Then that second week, without fail, I’d give up on that plan whenever Bathroom day came along. (I really dislike cleaning bathrooms.)

Was I just doomed to the monthly cycle of letting my house get filthy and then binge cleaning? Was I just a person incapable of establishing any semblance of routine?

Rubin’s book helped me realize that I am a spontaneous person and almost all of my (non-parenting) decisions each day are based on “What I Feel Like Doing.” So then, if I wanted to establish a habit of cleaning my house, I had to devise a habit that would incorporate my spontaneity, instead of work against it.


Which leads me to:

My Habit of Cleaning for 5 Minutes Every Day

After reading Rubin’s book, I decided to make my goal stupid easy, because if I made it harder, it would never get off the ground with my habit-resistant personality. So my habit would be FIVE minutes of cleaning ANYTHING I felt like cleaning. No schedule, no rules, other than I had to clean for five minutes, every single day.

Out of that decision evolved our current morning routine. We had been in a funk where I’d let the girls watch iPad/phone while I drank a cup of coffee when we got up, but starting the day out on that slothful note gave our whole day a slothful feel. As I started to clean for five minutes in the morning, I realized that my cleaning time would be a great time for the girls to watch iPad/phone, so I started having them eat breakfast and get dressed first thing in the morning. They were more motivated for those things because of the reward of technology afterward, and we started our day out on the right foot.

While the girls were watching shows, I’d unload the clean dishes from the dishwasher, load the dirty breakfast dishes, wipe down the counters, and clean for five minutes. I always set a timer. Some days, I don’t feel like cleaning so I choose something super easy (like wiping down the toaster or our stainless steel garbage can), set the timer for 5 minutes, and am down the moment that buzzer goes off. Other days, I work until the buzzer goes off, and then finish the task I’m on. On the rare days I feel motivated or Hubs is watching the kids, I spend 15-45 minutes cleaning (like mopping the floors–can’t do that in five minutes). But I am happy to say that most cleaning chores can be accomplished in 5-10 minutes, even if it means breaking them down into smaller parts (for example, cleaning the bathroom sink and toilet one day, cleaning the tub the next).

The result of this has been two-fold:

My house is cleaner on a more regular basis.

Is everything clean all the time? Nope. But it’s cleaner than it was before AND cleaning no longer stresses me out. Best part? I don’t dread cleaning bathrooms anymore! Because I know that when that 5-minute timer goes off, I can be done cleaning if I want–no guilt.

My daily routine has taken shape.

For a loooong time, I have wanted a more consistent daily routine but was at a complete loss for how to create one that would allow for my spontaneous personality. As I started being consistent with this simple morning routine, I had insight and felt empowered to be more consistent with the rest of our day. I limit the girls’ technology time more, I don’t squander time on Facebook or Instagram as much, and I’m no longer trying to clean during naptime or while the girls are destroying things in another part of the house (seriously, iPad/phone time is the only thing that will immobilize them).

Since my personality is still powered a lot by what I “feel like doing,” I haven’t been 100% consistent with this routine. BUT regardless if I skip a day, I just get back on it the next day, or I find five minutes later in my day to clean. Remember, “the habit of the habit is more important than the habit itself!”

Do I think this routine would work for anyone? Yes and no.

Yes, I think that it’s simple enough anyone could put it into practice. I’m guessing that most people eat breakfast, and probably have an extra 5 minutes to clean something quickly.

No, this isn’t the only way to establish a habit of cleaning more consistently, or of starting your day out. Routines and habits are as plentiful as people, and as I learned reading Rubin’s book, you have to make sure your habits suit you, your personality, and your lifestyle in order for them to last the test of time.

Hope you enjoyed this window into my world! If you want to stay more up-to-date than just my limited blog posts, follow me on Instagram.

Life lately…

24 Apr

This poor little blog has been dominated too long by other urgent matters. I have so much to write about! So here’s what we’ve been up to (and what I hope to elaborate on in coming weeks):

  • I got a job! At the beginning of January, I started working at our church as the Children Ministry’s Assistant two days a week. Emma and Annabelle both go to the same daycare those days, and I think it has been a good change for all of us. I really enjoy my job, and getting out of the house to do adult things. Most of my days as a parent are spent feeling like I have no idea what I’m doing, and I’m not very good at this parenting thing, so having time to do something that I am good at, is very rewarding! I’ve also been doing some freelance graphic design for the company Travis works for.
  • We went to Europe! Travis and I spent a week in Paris, Florence, and Rome in the middle of February just the two of us (an early celebration of our 10-year wedding anniversary in May) while all three grandparents wrangled the girls at our house. It was an amazing trip, but not without its stressful moments. I want to write detailed posts about each day of our trip (because this blog is also my online scrapbook 😉 ) so for now, I’ll just list a few of the things we got to see: the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, and Catacombs in Paris; the Duomo in Florence and nearby Tuscany; and the St. Peter’s Basilica, Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Pantheon in Rome. IMG_3010IMG_3311
  • We are soon to be licensed for foster care! We finished up all of the paperwork and training last week, and we should be licensed by the end of this week. After we’re licensed, we just wait to get a call about a child needing a home. It’s both exciting and daunting at the same time! To start out with, we’re only going to accept one child, under 24 months old. We are praying and trusting God to provide us with emotional strength, physical ability, and wisdom/discernment.
  • On a related note, we bought a minivan. With two medium-sized dogs, our SUV was already too small for our family–when we went on road trips, we had to pack our bags in totes and strap them onto a hitch carrier! We muscled through, but now that we are anticipating needing to transport three children, we finally took the plunge and traded the SUV in for a minivan. So far, I LOVE it.IMG_3953
  • I stumbled across a book at the library called “Better than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits” by Gretchen Rubin. I grabbed it because building better habits has been a desire of mine for a while, and the book delivered! One lasting habit I’ve created since reading that book is our morning routine: we eat breakfast right when we get up, then the girls get dressed, and while they watch iPad or mommy’s phone, I do the breakfast dishes and clean for 5 minutes. It is a great start to our day, and has enabled me to keep our house cleaner, in an easier way, without getting overwhelmed. It has changed my cleaning life!! I’ll do a whole post about this soon.
  • The girls turned 2 and 4! We had a joint party on April 8, the day after Emma’s birthday. It was a mermaid theme, and we had a day with nice weather so could spend some time playing outside after cake and presents. So fun to celebrate with friends!
  • Emma is going to preschool next year at the public school in our district on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and every other Friday. We still don’t know what our plan is for kindergarten, but for now, we have peace about this decision. The preschool is in the same school as their daycare right now, so I think the transition will go really easily.
  • I signed up for the Northwoods Triathlon in Nevis, Minnesota, on August 12. I did this race two years ago, and since it’s in Travis’ hometown, it’s a fun one to do. I need to start training for that in about a month! Travis was training for a half-marathon on May 20, but a couple weeks ago (about halfway through the plan), he injured his Achilles, and has only run once since. He’s pretty bummed. 😦
  • We threw my mother-in-law a surprise party for her 60th birthday this past Saturday. She was totally surprised! All of her kids and grandkids, and some family and friends came to celebrate. It was a great time.
  • Our big summer vacation is going to be a trip to South Haven, Michigan, with my whole family. We are renting an Airbnb right on the beach for a week at the end of June. I can’t wait! I think the girls are going to have a blast. We are also going to go up to Travis’ parents’ cabin in Voyageurs National Park for the 4th of July.

And that’s life lately!

Thoughts on Grief: Miscarriage

3 Mar

It was a surprise–both the pregnancy and the loss. We had decided to forego any additional biological children in order to focus on foster care. But then on Dec 4, I took a pregnancy test (my period was late) and it came back positive. At first, we were disappointed because the pregnancy upset our plans–foster care, Europe, my new job. But over the course of December, we grew excited, talking about names, gender reveal methods, pregnancy announcements, etc.

But then the bleeding started. At first, it was just spotting. An ultrasound revealed that the baby was smaller than expected, with a heartbeat of 92 (slower than it should have been, I found out later). I also had a corpus luteum cyst on my left ovary, a subchorionic hemorrhage, and “debris” in the gestational sac. They said they expected these things to resolve on their own.

I left the doctor’s office with a bad feeling about the pregnancy, even though no one else, including the nurses, seemed to be overly concerned about things. I tried to put it out of my mind. We told my family about our exciting news over New Years weekend, and prayed for good news at the next ultrasound.

But that next ultrasound on Thursday showed the embryo had no growth from before, and no heartbeat, and the spotting I’d had had turned to blood. I had gone to the doctor’s office for the ultrasound alone. It wasn’t until the reality that we were losing the baby set in that I realized how fully pinned my hopes had been on hearing that things were fine.

I kept it together until I got out into the hallway and called Travis. The minute he answered the phone, I started sobbing. “The b-b-baby…d-d-doesn’t…h-h-have a…h-h-heartbeat,” I stammered. Travis quickly arranged for our neighbor to take the girls, even though it meant waking them up from their naps, and came to the hospital, while I sat in the nurse’s office and learned about our options. Travis arrived, we discussed what the nurse had said, and decided to wait and see if things would happen naturally. We scheduled an appointment with the OB for the following Monday, just in case things hadn’t progressed on their own by then.

After we left the hospital, we went to Caribou Coffee to digest what was happening before jumping back into the craziness of parenting. I confessed to Travis that I was mad at God. The thoughts running through my head were, “This is so like God. He gives us a surprise pregnancy and enough time to get excited about that change in our plans, and then the baby dies.” It felt like God was the ultimate manipulator, toying with our emotions just to prove to us how little control we have over our lives. “What was the point of this?!?” I screamed in my soul. I felt like we were just pawns in God’s schemes, and that He didn’t really care about us after all.

The next morning, Friday, I got up at 6 am to cramping and lots of blood. A surreal experience if there ever was one, knowing that it wasn’t just blood–it was my baby too. Thankfully, it wasn’t very painful, lasted only a few hours, and another ultrasound that following Monday showed that I did not need a D&C.

God enabled me to see His grace to us in the midst of our loss. I’m so incredibly thankful that my body miscarried on its own, and that it happened the day after we found out our baby had no heartbeat. I’m also grateful that we have the money to pay for the costly ultrasounds.

God also reminded me how I had prayed a few months earlier for Him to enable me to hold the options of having another biological child or pursuing foster care with open hands, willing to follow wherever He led. I discovered that I wasn’t as willing to follow as I had imagined myself to be. The Sunday following the miscarriage, I had a vision in church of Jesus standing on the other side of the waterfall, beckoning me to join Him with an outstretched hand. Am I willing to follow through the veil down the road of fully acknowledging and feeling my pain and sadness?

Faced with the sorrow of losing a baby less than a year after the death of my beloved mom, I felt the familiar feeling of not wanting to follow Jesus into hurt and pain. As if there were a choice; the hurt and pain are there regardless. For some reason, though, accepting the hurt and pain as God’s perfect plan makes the pain hurt more, makes the loss seem more final. It seems easier to kick against the goads and reject the reality of loss. With the death of my mom, I clung to God’s goodness and perfect ways like a buoy in a white-capped sea. With this miscarriage, though, I floundered in unbelief and anger.

It wasn’t until I humbled myself and read the Bible that God broke through my anger, bitterness, and accusations, and my heart softened. The truth was that Satan causes harm and destruction; God redeems and heals.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

This experience revealed how close sin and unbelief are to me. They’re crouching at the door, waiting to devour me. And the only weapon I have is the sword of the Spirit–the Word. Truth. And the Truth is that “This God–his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 18:30)

One unexpected grace that has come from this loss is that I appreciate and cherish my two daughters and husband more. I feel so blessed to have them–and I actually feel it in my heart, instead of just acknowledging it in my head. You would think that a loss like this would make you feel less content, not more. But losing an unborn baby has reinforced how much I truly love kids in general, and specifically my own kids–even when they’re driving me crazy, I’m so blessed that they’re mine.

This sadness has also made me aware that we are entering into a world of potential heartache with foster care. A world of unrealized hopes and dreams, of uncertain outcomes and tenuous relationships. But Travis and I continue to feel called in that direction.

Lord, whatever lies ahead, give us the faith and strength to follow You.

Grief: One Year

12 Feb

Today marks one year since my mom’s death.

One Year is a milestone. It means we have survived the “firsts”—the familiar holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, reunions, now all different due to the gaping hole left by my mom. We are still trying to figure out how to function as a family without her. She was the glue. She did a lot.

One Year also makes me realize that all this time, I’ve been subconsciously hoping that this was still just a nightmare. I want to say, “Ok this can be done now. We’ve had enough sorrow and pain.” I’m like a child being dragged somewhere, digging my fingernails into the living room rug, refusing to go along. I don’t want to keep going down this sorrow-filled journey. I don’t want to keep yearning to see and hear my mom. I want to just see and hear her. But One Year reminds me, this is permanent until heaven. Man, that hurts.

They say the First Year is the hardest, and I expected to crumble into a puddle of emotions and crying at every special occasion that was now being celebrated without my mom. But I didn’t. Those occasions were times to recall the happy memories, see the vast impact my mom made on our lives collectively, and relish family time, which my mom loved to the core of her being.

Instead, the hardest parts of the First Year were the things I didn’t even think would be hard. It was not having my mom call me after my first day at my new job. It was not being able to ask her for advice when the girls got sick or were driving me crazy. It was not being able to spend the week with her while Travis was hunting in Wyoming. It was not having her to go shopping with, or ask about decorating opinions, or just listen to me while I vented about life.

It wasn’t until my mom was gone that I realized how much I valued her as a friend.

She was an excellent listener, and she had the ability to draw me out like no one else, save my husband. I told her things I told no one else but Travis, and she always listened with support and love. We had entire phone conversations that were just me talking about my problems, and her listening. It wasn’t until we hung up that I realized I had no idea what was going on with her, because we talked about me the whole time.

She was interested in everyone, friendly, always asking questions, actually listening to the answers, and asking follow-up questions. It reminds me of something C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”

That was my mom. She loved life. She loved people.

She was my best friend.

423481_10101733137730030_1348566484_n526394_559345914095735_269422064_n1001658_597406780289648_10213825_n11411721_852958088092397_6497152306050162102_o11698985_10102176487139532_3082682824955340877_o12671925_1076101379086850_7950516872209206284_o

Christmas & New Year’s 2016

13 Jan

I better get posting about Christmas before it’s February, huh?

We celebrated Christmas first just the four of us on the Thursday before Christmas. I made chicken cordon bleu (from the deli), green beans, red potatoes, and rolls, and we drank “bubbly” (which Emma loved). Then the girls opened their presents from us, and their present from Papa Dave since it was a big box that we didn’t have room to transport from Rochester. We got them some art supplies, a few books, a bouncy buddy, and a Little People nativity set. Papa Dave bought them this treehouse with the camping buddies from The Land of Nod. Within 15 seconds of opening it, both girls were drawing on it with crayon. (Seriously…) Luckily, I was able to scrub most of it off. Their favorite present by far, though, was the box that the treehouse came in. Of course.15741131_1332807960082856_4438754616654293238_n15781037_1332807950082857_3583310463122747060_n15727286_1332807923416193_7831163184979449209_nThe next day, we headed up to Travis’ parents’ house in Nevis, arriving in time for dinner. Travis’ sister and nephew, and brother and sister-in-law were also there almost the whole time we were, so we were able to spend some nice time together. Emma and Annabelle were in heaven. They love their Nana and Papa, and Aunties and Uncle, and have a lot of fun with them. Their cousin Drew isn’t so much of a kid person at age 16. 😉

Christmas Eve (Saturday), we headed into Park Rapids to have breakfast with some friends. That night, we dressed up all fancy and attended the Christmas Eve service at Travis’ parents’ Catholic church, Our Lady of the Pines. The girls actually did fairly well, all things considering! And they were adorable in their Christmas dresses.15726473_1332807670082885_2760584912961896007_n15672976_1332807490082903_846264537335391369_n15726223_1332807436749575_6890398017756359744_n15697791_1332807883416197_1671014031762530795_n15780738_1332807703416215_2116758220268045907_n

Cousins

Christmas morning, we ate the traditional breakfast of egg bake and monkey bread, and then it was time to open presents—the time that Emma had been asking about for the entire month of December. It started off well. Emma helped divvy up the presents, and was even tasked with the job of deciding who should open a present. But eventually that petered out, and both girls ended up throwing a tantrum in the middle of opening presents. Emma wanted to do something besides open presents, and Annabelle was apparently ready for an early nap, because I ended up putting her down around 11. By the time I got back downstairs, Emma was entertained with some of her new art supplies, and the adults were able to continue our gift opening in peace. Kids!

15726344_1332807373416248_4862802626677382042_n15726258_1332807200082932_8528536388724082939_nNote that Emma is wearing a tank top and shorts, despite the several weather-appropriate, cute Christmas outfits I had for her.15697526_1332807043416281_5419901375432218552_nSo tired15672964_1332807230082929_3678291493226962891_nMmmm… chocolate15697834_1332806786749640_3627580145260719665_nEmma went “Christmas shopping” at daycare this year for Nana Beth and Papa Al, and she chose a measuring cup for Nana and a fishing sinker for Papa without our help!15672680_1332806713416314_6249755915390785047_nTravis’ gift from his sister… perfect for him15780887_1332806673416318_9097940835346127866_nMy gift from Travis’ sister… love it15747611_1332807103416275_4427022023995455069_nEmma loves all thing art

The rest of our time up in Nevis was pretty lowkey. We ate a lot of yummy food and Christmas cookies, played outside sledding and snowmobiling, the guys cut down a tree and burned some brush, the adults played some games (including Speak Out, where you put that big plastic mouthpiece in—that’s quite the game!). There was only one political (civilized) discussion that we non-debaters had to break up, for fear that the discussion would last the whole night.

We stayed up in Nevis until Tuesday morning. The plan had been to head back home Monday night but the ice storm on Christmas Day made the roads pretty nasty, so we decided to at least drive home in the daylight.

We spent the rest of Tuesday and all day Wednesday at home. Travis had work off, but wanted to work on some projects (including cutting down a tree in our front yard, which almost ended up falling on our cars, due to a little miscommunication and lack of thought on my part…whoops—but all was well in the end, praise God). The girls and I went to 321 Bounce with our neighbor friends.

Thursday morning, we packed up and hit the road down to Rochester. Since we weren’t trying to get there by any certain time, we decided we could stop every hour on the 3.5-hour drive. Well, Travis wasn’t completely a fan of our many stops, but it was nice to take our time. We stopped for gas right by our house (#1), for lunch in St. Cloud (#2), at Cabela’s in Rogers (#3), and at a gas station just south of the Cities for a potty break (#4).

We arrived in Rochester just in time for dinner. My oldest brother Jeremy and sister-in-law Jen, and their two sons had arrived the day before, and my other brothers would arrive later, so it was just us, them, and my dad that night.

The four kids—Emma and Annabelle, and Jensen and Jackson—had a blast playing together. One of the cutest sights was seeing the four of them run around in circles together. Another favorite activity of theirs was jumping on the couch and building forts out of couch cushions (much to Papa’s dismay). They were also pretty wild and crazy with one of those Fisher Price ride-on toys and a little dog that you pull along behind you. Four kids is a little crazy at times!15781534_1338920992804886_5472908077247000943_n15823490_1338920989471553_969281655933574630_n15823680_1338921229471529_3041714289093367911_nOn Friday, Brian and Jill arrived around lunchtime. Chris and Meg arrived Saturday. We spent our time drinking lots of coffee, eating delicious food (frequently topped by grated Asiago), and watching animated movies that we turned on for the kids but that they didn’t end up watching. 😉 We also played outside in the ice-encrusted snow, which was great for sledding but not much else. I pulled Emma and Jensen on a sled all the way around the house, and it was a workout!15732661_10103166680174752_2259524021720836268_o15800359_10103166677405302_1021290843782300839_o15800498_10103166678178752_6830543933580665853_o15844768_10103166677744622_7747851522964179194_o15825795_1338921386138180_1443544932537754384_nThanks to my sister-in-law Jen for these great photos!

On New Year’s Eve, we opened presents in our now-traditional way (we draw names, and then try to go around and try to guess who had us), and then ate our special Christmas dinner. Everyone pitched in with various sides and dishes, and it was great! Though the orange sherbet jello salad that I attempted to make was an epic fail. Jello: a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

We apparently had a little bit of trouble getting the girls down on time that night, because I was downstairs getting Emma to sleep until 11:55… though I might’ve fallen asleep, it’s really hard to say at that hour of the day. I actually made it back upstairs for the ball drop, though, and stayed up until 2 am watching bad New Year’s entertainment on TV and chatting with those who were still up. It was the first time I’ve stayed up for New Year’s since having kids I think, and it was nice! Thankfully the girls slept in the next day, and we were still able to make it to church at 10:30.

There was another snowstorm predicted to hit Rochester and the Brainerd area on Monday, so we ended up leaving Sunday night instead of the next morning. We got home around 11, got the girls to bed, and hit the hay ourselves.

Though I always love spending time with family, it was a hard holiday season without my mom (and the first). We miss her dearly, and talk about her often. My dad, as usual, bears the brunt of her absence, and through a series of miscommunications, ended up spending Christmas Day alone, which I feel badly about. A loss like this continues to reveal situations and circumstances that have been forever altered, and the best way forward is not always readily apparent.

Merry Christmas 2016!

25 Dec

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

I wish you and your families a Christmas season full of hope and joy, all because of the God-man who came to earth as a baby born in a stable.