Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas at the Cabin "Happies"

One of my favorite bloggers coined the term "happies" (if I knew how to link to her, I would, but in the interest of full disclosure, it is Sarah at In The Midst Of It), which I think is the best word to describe those moments in life when your heart is full and you are relishing the blessing of your life. So here are my Christmas in the mountain "happies"..

  • Arriving and knowing Nana and Papa are already there, and have a Charley Brown tree waiting to be decorated.

  • The squeals of the girls as they greet Nana and Papa, even though they just saw them the day before as the truck was loaded with all our goodies.

  • The peace that fills my soul as we step outside and hear the stream rushing by, and nothing else.

  • The fun tradition of Mom and I driving 30 miles to the nearest Wal*Mart to stock up on groceries for the week.

  • Everyone wearing jammies round the clock... once even in a rush trip to the emergency room!

  • Time spent sitting by the fire reading, napping, and playing games as a family.

  • Wrapping gifts by the fire and watching It's a Wonderful Life, on Christmas Eve.

  • Spending Christmas Eve with Rusty in a small town, buying stocking stuffers and having lunch together while the girls build a gingerbread house and string popcorn and cranberry garland with Nana and Papa.

  • Taking the girls to see the live nativity.

  • Hiking in the mountains and sleigh riding in the snow.

  • Having nothing to do except enjoy time together as a family, remembering what a gift God gave us in His Son, and rejoicing in the blessing of our life in Him.

The Best Shot of the Bunch

This is our Christmas card picture. I planned on doing a family photo at a real live studio, but the combination of Daddy rarely being home in the evening, and Mommy's roots being 4 inches long led me to include only the cutest members of our family. After arguing about jewelry and hairstyles, and breaking a sweat because bedtime had long since come and gone, I managed to snap this photo, which I actually love because of their bright smiles. The dog, in a chokehold, regrets ever being a part of the process and is plotting her revenge, I can see it in her eyes.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Merry Christmas From Our Home To Yours!

Christmas Tour of Homes
Thanks BooMama for hosting our Christmas tour of homes!
Last year I peeked in the "windows" of everyone else doing the Christmas bloggy tour, but this year I am so excited to join in! Come on in and see some of my favorite areas of our home.

Welcome to our home! This is the little stretchable

snowman who greets you.

If the girls have been here he is much taller,

as they love to pull him out to his full height.

Part of Daddy's miniature village,
and this is his favorite piece... reminds him of the cabin where we spend Christmas.

I love the poinsettia because Rusty's students grew
them for him to give the teachers as gifts. My
Dad always brought poinsettias home for my Mom
and me, and I love that Rusty is continuing that tradition
with our girls.

The Santa Room where we hang
the stockings... we use the fireplace
too often to hang them on the mantel!

This hangs on the french door in the breakfast room.
My favorite Christmas decoration.

Seeing these vintage ornaments by the fireplace

always makes me happy.

I just love this little corner with my favorite rooster.
Dining Room Christmas Tree. I love this tree because it holds all the "pretty" ornaments I bought as a newlywed craving a "picture perfect" tree. Now my favorite tree is the one in the living room that holds all the sentimental ornaments. But this one still holds a special place in my heart.
Garland on the stairs. I've done this as long as we've lived in this house, and every year say I am changing it, but here it is again!
A few of Daddy's santas on display. The girls decorated this room completely by themselves this year, hallelujah! I am hoping this is a trend that will spread throughout the house next year!
I give Rusty one of these Santa's each year. I love that I received my Papa's Bible after he passed away a few years ago, and keep it on display year round as a reminder of what our family is grounded in. I miss Papa, but seeing his Bible thrills my heart, and he always loved Christmas, so it seems appropriate that the Santas are with it for awhile each year.

Thie dining room with ornaments hanging from the chandelier. The table is missing some decorations, because I had cleared the table for a buffet Friday night...
A closeup of the dining room tree... I love the lights shining through the glass ornaments.
The leftovers from making this...
Love making the gingerbread house. Not so much fun cleaning royal icing off every surface of my kitchen. Love eating the leftover candy.

The tree in our family room that holds 21 years of treasured memories. I turn the lights on when I wake up, and turn them off when I go to bed, enjoying every minute I can. Sitting by the fireplace and doing my Bible study with the tree on is one of my favorite things in life.

The most important decoration in our home... the one that shows what we are really celebrating. We add to this collection each year, and the girls love to move the pieces around. I was thrilled to see how they have arranged every figurine and animal to be focused on the sweet, baby Jesus.

Hope that is where your focus is as well, this blessed season.

Merry Christmas!

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Little Bit

My little Cassidy turned nine last month. Despite all the celebrations, I haven't posted about it because I really didn't want to think about it. I mean, we didn't ignore the birthday... oh, no! We had a family party, and she awoke to a room filled by the balloon fairy, and enjoyed having 13 of her closest friends at the barn for a riding party the following Saturday. Mama doesn't ever miss an excuse for a party!

I happily celebrated with her, but as far as dwelling on her age, I have been in denial! Cassidy is my baby, my little angel, and the thought that this is her last birthday in the single digits tears at my heart. With every year, I have to accept the reality that I am working myself out of a job, and 9 is halfway to college, to this mommy's way of thinking. But time marches on, and I have slowly accepted this milestone birthday (ok, work with me here, they are honestly ALL milestones to me- I have issues, I know!) and want to record some of my thoughts about our little Cassidoodle.

Rather than ramble on, worrying about sentence structure (ahem), I want to list some of my favorite things and memories about this girl... this child who has grown so much this past year. Wow. Being 8 was big.

1. My first memory of her is of the midwife handing this writhing, screeching little bundle of energy into my arms, and holding her tight, trying to believe that this little girl is mine. She was like a coiled bundle of muscles and energy, and reached for me with the longest, most beautiful hands. I will never forget that moment- staring into the bluest eyes, which held the most serious and inquisitive expression as she stared me down. She owned me at that moment, and I knew she would be a force to be reckoned with.

2. As I would rock her for bedtime she would throw that little head back, and with her gummy little smile would giggle and taunt me, until I, too was luaghing. This would make her laugh even harder, and I couldn't resist kissing her under her chin, wiling to do anything to hear that captivating and magical laughter that bubbled forth from her. She kept her eyes locked on mine, and it felt as if she could see straight into my soul. Oh, how I loved those moments!

3. My strong willed little girl, battling it out with me over naptime or quiet time. Ohmy. That's all there is to say about that. I'm thankful we survived that era relatively scar free, and hope flashbacks won't send her into therapy at an early age.

4. My little blond pixie dust, as she shyly tries to hide a smile, holds her tongue in her cheek and peeks under those lashes with a sidelong glance to see ifyou notice. Usually her good humour gets the best of her and her face lights up like sunshine, with the smile she can no longer hide. Her smiles are truly a burst of joy straight from the hand of God, as she conquers her fear and allows her joy to shine forth.

5.I am so proud of this little thing, who has faced so much at such a young age. She developed severe eczema (and allergies) at 8 months of age, and until she was seven would awaken most days with her legs and sheets covered in blood, from the incessant scratching in the night. She endured painful ointments several times daily, and took 3-4 oral medications twice a day. She endured questions and stares from strangers as they noticed her precious tender skin, marked with painful wounds and scars. For a shy child it was literally torturous. She couldn't look people on the eye, couldn't even lift her eyes from the ground. But praise God, trusting God for her healing, we prayed and refused to give into the fear and frustration that threatened, many times, to overwhelm us. She has been off medication and symptom free for 2 years.

6. Cassidy has the best sense of humour of anyone I have ever known. She is funny without even trying to be. She has a dry wit, and sees humour in things beyond her age. I call Nana at least once, daily, to report the "Cassidy-ism" of the day. Now when we laugh she sighs, "Are you calling Nana?!"

7. Cassidy loves passionately and feels deeply. Her hugs are rarer than I would like, and when given are a cherished gift... they aren't given lightly. When she opens herself up to you, she gives all of herself, and loves with everything in her. It is worth the wait to receive her love!

8. I love the notes Little Bit (I called her a little bit of nothin' when she was born because she was so tiny!) leaves on my pillow at the end of the day. Notes telling me she is sorry for misbehaviors, or asking for a special time with me the next day, sometimes tied to a packet of candy from her halloween stash. Oh, I treasure those notes!

9. Cassidoodle has always been such an indepndent child and can occupy herself for hours on end. When home with me while I was working, she would sit and play at the dollhouses in my office endlessly, occassionally stopping by for a snuggle. When she would tire of that she would get out her paper, scissors, tape and staples and create purses and countless other designs. Her diligence and creativity combine to bless her with many gifts.

10. Cassidoodle, I love you! Seeing you grow into the person you were meant to be is a joy, and a gift I am so grateful to God for bestowing on me. Thanks for being my girl!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Can't Wait to See The Blessing

My baby has a hurting heart and there is nothing I can do to fix it. She just found out that her best friend is attending another school next year.

Next year is a bad year to not have your best friend. Next year is middle school. Next year is the time when the kids change classes and have more freedom with their uniform, and a time she was looking forward to sharing with Isabella. Now she knows that won't be the case, and instead of eagerly anticipating the fun times ahead, she can only think about walking alone, missing her giggling companion of the past 4 years.

Cailin is a bubbly, fun-loving girl. As the firstborn she is strongwilled, outspoken, and sure of who she is. She is very much a typical 10 year old, but blessed also with an innocence and naivete towards the more wordly things many other girls are already dwelling on. I have been so grateful for this friendship with a like minded, ornery and age appropriate friend. Whenever they are together there is constant laughter. They don't put on airs and try to act sophisticated, nor do they form cliques and try to exclude. They are a delight to be around, and true blue, stick together, loyal friends. Friends like this are a rare treasure, knowledge Cailin gained at an early age when other "friends" showed their true colors. Isabella was an answer to prayer, and so now, it is heartbreaking to think of them going through middle school separately.

I know that Cailin has lots of other friends and will survive. She will still see Is on the weekends at church, and at their riding lessons and field hockey. Their friendship will continue and grow, of that I am sure. But I understand Cailin's sadness at the loss of the familiar, the expected, the sure thing of having Izzy with her at school. I know the fear of being lonely, of having noone around who really understands you, of seeing other best friends together on the playground and feeling totally, all, alone.

I understand these concerns, and they hurt my heart as well. Yet my job as her Mommy is to guide her and prepare her for many more hurts to follow. So I explained to her that I understand, and I shared my own experience of having a best friend one year younger and having to go to junior high alone, similarly to her. I shared how I met other friends, and yet how Stacy and I , 25 years later, still remain like sisters. It was different, yes, but still good. I also told her that God does nothing that is not for our good, and He promises to work all things (for those who are righteous) for good.

He will bless her abundantly, beyond our wildest imaginings, if we just trust and obey. We will praise Him in all things, knowing He has great things planned for Cailin. So I am believing that this sad, sad news, news that sent my girl crying into my arms, will become a legacy of God's great mercy on her life. A story she can share with her daughter someday, when her heart is breaking, and she feels like there is nothing she can do. She can return to her Rock, and she can trust that as He provided for her, He will be true to provide for the one she loves.

He is the one, true, friend, the One who sticks closer than a brother... and so I pray that he shows Himself on her behalf; uplifting and encouraging and making her way blessed.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas in The Big Woods

8 years ago we decided to "take back" Christmas for our family.

Prior to this year , we would travel 7 hours to our hometown to celebrate with our extended family; but that year,with two children under the age of two, it was a less than appealing proposition. I had spent the previous Christmas season with a newborn and 17 month old needing as much of mommy as possible, and squeezed shopping into late night trips after one was sleeping, and while the other was between feedings. I would race home for the 11:00 nursing, and then collapse, fighting colds and exhaustion, and regretful of the time away from my family, yet truly there was no other option; or so we thought.

My minds' eye held an image of the perfect Christmas, and mommy was at the center of every image... decking the halls, baking homemade treats for the neighbors, selecting the perfect gifts and having them beautifully wrapped and under the tree, and in the midst of this imparting the true meaning of Jesus' birth to my little ones...

Instead my house was a mess, I wasted time searching for gifts for people who were already blessed with all the necessities of life, and neglected to enjoy the gift of time as a family, celebrating this most wondrous time of year. Rusty had just finished football season, and with wrestling season already underway, Christmas was a short reprive for our little family; the only opportunity for us to snuggle in and enjoy one another before late night practices and weekend tournaments separated us again. We dreaded the hours spent in the car, and the endless rounds of gift exchanges. We love our extended family, and wanted to see them, but the rest of the holiday pressure was squeezing the joy out of this season.

I will forever be grateful to my husband for reclaiming Christmas for our family, and insisting that we celebrate as we believed, not as the world told us we should. We found a cabin in the woods, invited my parents to join us, packed the car with gifts and decorations; and we've never looked back!

So as we head off for our 9th "Christmas in the Big Woods" it is with hearts full of gratitude for time to be spent together, remembering that we are God's reason for this season. His love for us spurred Him to sacrifice the Perfect Gift, in exchange for us. What a wonderful God we serve, and celebrate.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 07, 2007

I Hit The Wall.

37 will be known as the year that I hit the wall.

For some unknown reason, I am different, and I think I like the new me. I am less likely to fret and stew over things, and more inclined to deal with them directly. I feel less obligation to withhold my true feelings, and am better able to say "no", to those things that require more of me than I have to offer, and enjoy more, those things to which I happily say "yes!".

I don't feel as obligated to be a one man band of entertainment for my daughters, and am less concerned that I am scarring them emotionally for life when they are unhappy with my expectations. I have a better awareness of what my job is as their mother, and what God really desires of me.

I realize more of who I truly am, and what inspires me, each and every day. I am less interested in what friends and acquaintances are doing, and more content to enjoy my home and the plans I have for the family within it.

I am more at peace with myself, and as a result, more at peace with those around me. This, however, is in stark contrast to the upset reigning simultaneously, as I also am inplementing the disciplines I have always wished for. The "new me" is accepting of the fact that others may be upset around me; that is part of life, and not earth shattering as I previously believed. Everyone is upset occassionally, and it is ok, life does go on.

I am willing to attend my husband's work Christmas party with roots, no manicure, and as of today (the party is tomorrow!), no new outfit. This is relevant because he is the principal, and this is the first time his staff will meet me. I am at peace because I accepted that there was no physical way I could make my hair appointment, and I won't waste energy worrying. It will be ok. This is monumental- this is what made me realize something is different about me!

I am able to accept that sometimes I am just tired and want to sit down and watch HGTV, and I allow myself to do that, even when the Christmas decorations are loitering the living room and entry. Perhaps every evening for a week.

I recognize more of my own faults, and fewer of others. I am more eager to repent, and remain in close fellowship with the Holy Spirit, than to grieve Him by holding tighlty to past hurts and resentments.

I am quieter. I am still full of laughter. I am learning to let go of who I thought I would be, and slowly, very slowly, learning to accept that who I am is ok after all.

Monday, December 03, 2007

You say "tomatoe", and Cassidy says...

After a week of enjoying the tree decorated only with lights (meaning: I had been too lazy to actually "decorate"), the girls and I finally tackled adding the actual ornaments one night last week. This part is always one of the highlights of the Christmas season for me, as we reminisce over the history of each unique ornament, one at a time, before placing them on the tree.

We love Christmas around here, dubbing ourselves the "Griswald's", and coming frighteningly close to living up to that name in many ways!
The fire was burning, candles flickering, and Christmas carols playing softly in the background. The girls were agreeably posing for pictures so we could share these memories with Daddy when he arrived home, and I was feeling downright full of the spirit of Christmas.

As Cassidy was placing her favorite angel ornament on the tree, she said in a reverent voice, "And this is my most posses*ed ornament, Mommy. Is that one your most posses*ed?"

Had I not seen the look of impending giggles about to erupt on her sister's face I might have let it go, and laughed with her daddy later. However, I could see Cailin was not going to let this one get past her, so as she snickered and Cassidy said "What?!" (knowing her sister's giggles are usually directed at her) I asked her if she meant "her most prized possession" or did we need to pray that her ornaments be free of demons"?

Puts a whole new spin on the "spirit of Christmas", doesn't it?