Plans for a New Year

{from the archives: Ella and I, waiting at the window for daddy to come home for lunch}

I usually take the month of December off from the blog. This year I didn't, but only because I had plans to take January off instead.

I'm looking forward to a month of no internet- with the exception of checking email. I truly am excited about it, and the timing of it feels perfect as I head into the new year.

I have plans to pull out a blank journal, update and print out a new prayer list, adhere it to the front page of that new journal, and get back into the habit of referring to that prayer list.

I'm still mulling over whether or not I should try-- again-- to do a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan. If I do, I want to print that out, too, laminate it (which, in my world, means cover it with clear contact paper), and attach it to my journal.

And then I want to spend time praying and writing in that journal. I plan to do some reflecting on each of our kids~ on their strengths and weaknesses and how I can intentionally encourage them in this next season. I want to be purposeful about entering into this new year: What are the areas of my life that God would like to see growth in? How can I best love God, Mark, and the kids? Family and friends? I don't ever formally make New Years resolutions, but I do usually make a list in my journal of things I'd like to do in the coming year, more like reminders to myself. (Not as in "go here and do this" types of things, but things like: laugh more... play more games with the kids... listen. really pay attention, when the kids speak to me... be faithful to put down what you're doing and greet Mark when he comes home from work... things like that.)

Oh! I'm also intrigued by these recent posts about prayerfully choosing a theme for the year. I love that idea.

I also really like this idea of a perpetual calendar (you'll have to read the description to get the idea), and clearly I would make my own with index cards and a box or basket, but- the idea would be to record things the kids have said that day or add snippets of what we've done during our days... but I don't know that I'll ever actually do it. (Hmm... I'm now thinking that maybe I could somehow incorporate that idea into my existing journal~ I could just have scraps of a certain color paper at the ready-- or, easier yet!-- a certain colored pen handy, and when I sit down to journal I could jot down a snippet from our day, something one of the kids did or said... Then, when I look back through my journal, everything in that color would represent my "perpetual calendar". Why, thank you for letting me "think out loud", there. :))

Seems like all of the above-listed things may take more than a month to accomplish (!), but we'll see.

Many blessings to each of *you* as you enter into this new year God has given! If you want to reach me, I'll still be checking email and would be happy to hear from you.


Grateful: Monday, December 27

~ that Mark had the whole week before Christmas off!

~ aunties and uncles and cousins galore!

~ celebrating my grandpa's 90th birthday, and being surrounded by that extended family I love so much

~ Ella's happy sigh one evening, coming home from a Christmas event: "I just love having cousins!"

~ homemade cinnamon rolls, two days in a row

~ homemade pizzas on Christmas Eve, and making them with my dear sisters-in-law

~ Isaac's nativity scene for our Christmas cards this year, colored in by all our kids

~ Christmas morning breakfast, lovingly prepared by my parents

~ a traditional Christmas dinner, with ham, potatoes and rolls- made by mom

~ siblings, and all the days we've lived together and the inside jokes that are so abundant at these gatherings

~ gifts given that were loved

grandparents who love my children well

~ our kids' exuberance over giving gifts to children across the world: baby chicks! fruit trees! blankets! meals! clean water! mosquito nets! sports equipment!

~ skyping with Michelle, days before Christmas

~ singing Happy Birthday to Jesus; blowing out the candles on our coffee cake that morning

~ our slumber party by the tree

~ playing Settlers and Ticket to Ride with Mark, doing a wintry puzzle, and playing LEGO Creationary with Isaac

~ the kids all tumbled onto our bed on Christmas morning with their stockings

~ all the gifts Ella so carefully made this year: a sewn pillow for Audra's baby, a mobile for me with colored ornaments hanging from it, an ornament in my stocking that said "JOY", pictures for the boys, a phone for Adelia, a drum for Audra

~ Isaac's question to me a few days before Christmas: "Mommy? What is the thing you love most in all the world?" [My response was 'daddy' until he clarified: "No. Something I could wrap and put in your stocking!"] So I said 'chocolate', and then opened my stocking to find that he'd tucked all sorts of chocolates into it

~ Audra's any-time-of-the-day cuddles, the way she wraps her arms tight around me and says "I yuv you so mush!" What a joy she is!

(counting up His lavish gifts, #s 1326-1346)

holy experience

Christmas {through the years}

Christmas 2007

Christmas 2008

Christmas 2009

Christmas 2010

Merry Christmas, dear friends!

The Slumber Party

We added a new Christmas tradition this year: The Slumber Party.

We drug our mattress into the living room, along with Ella's twin-sized mattress and a toddler-sized mattress, and used the couches for two more beds, and had a big family slumber party by the Christmas tree!

Once everyone was all tucked in, Mark began the nightly read-aloud~ which is a book about King Arthur. Here's what he read: "But when Arthur beheld what his father did, he cried aloud like one in a great measure of pain; and he said 'Pajama Ride!'" (which isn't, of course, actually what Arthur said, but the kids were thrilled and shrieked and scurried to get their shoes and get out the door.) We drove to Dairy Queen, and then through town to see the Christmas lights.

Then we came back home to our living room full of mattresses and blankets, and settled in to sleep-- which eventually we all did. :)

Here are the final two sleepers at about 8:00 the following morning. Cute girls.

so thankful for the memories we made and the fun we had as a family! My favorite quote of the night was Ella saying, "Adelia: please stop licking my hand. That's gross." And her cheerful: "I sure have a wiggly bed-partner!" And she did-- Adelia was very squirmy and very noisy! Isaac was so thrilled to discover that the light coming through the blinds (from a neighbors porch) that shone onto his arms made stripes, so he stretched his arms out in front of him and gazed at them, all delighted to be a stripey boy. :) Audra snuggled up next to Mark and he scratched her back until she fell asleep. Isaias loved his spot on the couch, closest to the tree and closest to the window so that he could peer out of it when he wanted to.

The kids all loved the slumber party and are already talking about next year... :)

Please pray for this family

Please take a moment to pray for this family...

I don't know them and I don't normally read her blog, but a friend of mine linked to this blog post and I've been weepy ever since, and thankful for every.single.minute God graces me with the life of my own five...

{Photo of Tiggy here}

Thank you, dear readers...


The Part of Christmas I'm Most Excited About

In a few days, we'll drive to the bank and ask for a lot of ones.

It's just how we do it.

The catalog has been out for several weeks, and Ella, Isaac and Isaias have already circled and written their names on the pictures of what they would like to give.

When we gather together to celebrate our own family Christmas, this is my favorite thing, my favorite part, my favorite tradition. It's what I look forward to most each year. Each child sits with their own stack of one-dollar bills and waits while Ella turns the pages of the catalog to remind everyone what they had previously marked.

Then we take turns with each child, counting out their money, writing down the gifts they have chosen on a piece of paper. If there is money left over, or if there is a costly gift that one of our children in particular *really really* wants to give, everyone pitches in some money from their stack or Adelia and Audra will be sweet-talked to part with some of those papers in front of them or Mark and I will agree to add in a certain sum of our money, so that we are able to get it.

Then we sit with the list, remind the kids what they've chosen to give, and we take turns praying. We thank God for His generosity to us, we pray for the gifts we have carefully chosen, and we ask God to bless those who would receive them, and that He would multiply each one.

Would you consider giving this type of gift this Christmas? Here are two organizations I heartily recommend:

Samaritan's Purse~Samaritan's Purse Gift Catalog
Compassion International~Gifts of Compassion Catalog

"Christ has no body on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ's compassion for the world is to look out;
Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good;
and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now."
~Saint Teresa of Avila

Thank you cards

I love it that some of my kids are now able to write their own thank you cards. (They are so much better than anything I could come up with on their behalf!)


{back; ... and a self-portrait!}




[Birthday thank-you's done by Isaac.]

Christmas Picture Books

Each year when we bring out the Christmas decorations, there is one box in particular that we are all *most* anxious to open: our box of Christmas picture books.

These books are held in a basket by our fireplace and we delight in the pages of these well-loved books throughout the month of December. Each December we also purchase a new Christmas book, write the year inside the front cover, and add it to the basket.

Here are just a few of our favorites:

Good King Wenceslas
I love this book. The illustrations are truly beautiful, and the words of the familiar carol stand as the text. From his castle window, Good King Wenceslas views a poor man gathering kindling for a fire, and makes preparations to bless the man out of his own wealth. Oh, how I love this book! It makes me a little tearful every time we read it. This is one of my personal favorites.

The Gift of the Magi
This book adorned the coffee table of a childhood friend of mine at Christmastime, and I caught glimpses of the pages but was never able to read the whole story or see each illustration. Fast-forward several years, and I bought us a copy and it is probably my favorite book. I don't think any Christmas collection can be complete without this book. I love this story of a poor husband and wife~ each sacrificing for the other in order to buy their beloved a gift for Christmas.

Christmas Day in the Morning
This was Mark's choice of a book two years ago and it is a treasure. It is the story of a boy who decides to surprise his father, a farmer, with a unique Christmas gift. Our children love to see this story unfold from page to page.

A Small Miracle
When I asked the kids- in the middle of summer- which Christmas books they remembered and liked best from our collection, this is the one book they all remembered and wanted to describe to me all over again! In this story, the figures from the nativity set of a local church come to life and assist a poor older woman. They see her impoverished state- no food, no money, no warmth- and while she sleeps, they work to ready her home for Christmas morning. The whole idea sounds a little odd, I realize- but it truly is a captivating story. The pages of this book are illustrations only, and my children are enchanted by every single picture.

* * *

What is the Christmas book your family most enjoys throughout this season?

The Extent of our Christmas Craftiness

can be seen right here, in just a few pictures.

Of the same craft.

And that's all we're going to do. :)

The only way we even accomplished this was with a well-timed movie for the little girls. Otherwise, it would have been disastrous.

But~ if you have older kids, it was a fun (and easy!) project. It took us about 20 minutes, and all you need is a hot glue gun, some popsicle sticks, and some buttons. Maybe a ribbon/string/thread if you want to hang it on your tree.