2018 Christmas

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Merry Christmas!

The children said we opened presents later in the morning than we ever have before.  I woke up a little after 6am and sat with the ones awake; Ethan, Grace, Caleb, Seth, and Sarah.  And then we finally broke down and woke up the rest of the family at 7.  The sun was shining brightly through the windows by the time we were done opening gifts at 9:15am.

What a wonderful day, to spend together with no other running around, or driving, or visiting, or anything else but opening gifts and then doing whatever we wanted to do.

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Rich came through with the perfume I requested, plus so much more, including fiesta mugs for me and him!

The other mug, which has “spring grass” decorating it, was another fun gift.  Ethan saw it the other day and said it would be perfect for me to drink my favorite matcha green tea (which he says tastes just like grass).   Rich went out and found it yesterday so he could give it to me for Christmas.  I will very much enjoy my tea while soaking in a tub of mineral salts, and maybe even eat some of my Godiva chocolates at the same time!

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The first thing we all looked at were the stockings, after Caleb cut them down from the stair railings, where they were hanging by zip-ties.

We were surprised to discover that in no time at all Caleb could play a full song with a nose-flute!  Lots of laughter.  And, “Mom why do you always get at least one noisy gift every year????”

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Most of all we savored the faces of our children, and how their eyes lit up when they opened each package they were given.  Thank you to Caleb for handing them out this year.  We took our time and spent almost two whole hours opening gifts, after Rich read the Christmas story to us from the Bible.

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Walter the cat was beside himself with all the ripping and flying paper.  Grace even thoughtfully sprinkled some cat nip on the floor for him, too.

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David opened a case of soda that he liked in Jamaica.

He confessed to me later, when just the two of us were in the laundry room, that he knew he was getting the soda because he saw the amazon notification on his brother’s Kindle.  “I’m a really good actor, though, so I was still surprised when I opened it.”

I was in the laundry room trying to figure out what I did with some lost presents that I didn’t know were lost until we opened everything and I realized that some were missing.

I still haven’t found them.  It’s going to seriously bother me until I do.

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Jacob and Ethan, who have spent the last 21 Christmases with us.  Such blessings.

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Sarah

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Dave who said the only quotable quote after I opened a bar of special soap:   “I find it very attractive, the simplicity of the cube.”

Whenever someone says something I want to remember I say, “Grace, write that down” and she says, “I got you.” and does it.

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Rich

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Ethan happily opening his espresso maker

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Yes, that’s a wok.  Dave got a wok from E for Christmas and they just got done making a big wok-full of chicken and rice.

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A contemplative brother next to a very pleased brother.

Ethan’s first latte went to his Dad.  The second went to Jake.  Third, to David.  Then he got tired and made one for me about an hour later, and then one for himself.  A truly thoughtful person, putting himself last.  🙂

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Grace opened her requested keyboard.

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dear Jacob

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opening his book about the Patriots (of the American Revolution).

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Seth was terribly sick yesterday but is all better today, and happy to try out his Hoverboard and wear a Christmas sweatshirt.

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Our beloved Caleb.

He was very happy today with new clothes and a lego set.  I’ve hardly seen him since opening gifts.

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Caleb

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A cashmere sweater for Rich.

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Harry Potter lego set.  Grace in a sunbeam.

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Seth’s face as he watched his Dad open a gift from him……

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……they were sunglasses!

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Sarah looked so sweet in her new Charlie Brown flannel nightgown.  Seth got flannel pj’s too but didn’t wear them because he was worried about being too hot (he had a fever).

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GLORIOUS MESS

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It sat like this for over an hour before Rich and I recovered enough to bother getting the kids to clean it up.

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Sarah took her stuff and found an empty area on the floor by the tree.

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She played there for a while, and then went and took a THREE & a HALF HOUR BATH.  We had to tell her to get out.  “When you give a girl a bath bomb”.

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Isn’t Christmas fun?

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It is more blessed to give than to receive.  I am reminded of this truth every year.

A beautiful, holy holiday celebrating the greatest gift of all.  Our Savior, Jesus Christ.

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Each year’s celebration happens in different ways, but all with lots of love.

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And laughter.

Merry Christmas!

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snowflakes (a sense of awe)

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snowflake on a spiderweb

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In the fading late afternoon, a light snow is falling.   Caleb is giving Sarah a helping hand down to the pond because she’s teetering on ice skates.

She’s going to skate back and forth along the edge while he watches to make sure she’s safe.

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snowflakes on dry leaves

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On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on Your wondrous works,
I will meditate.  Psalm 145:5

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snowflakes on ice

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snowflakes on Ethan’s truck

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and on a pine tree branch

Oh the loveliness of snowflakes!!  So silent, so gentle.

The moments that I feel the most imbued with a sense of awe are always the moments when I am outdoors. I can’t help but feel a certain sense of wonder – I become almost filled with it.  ~ Kathi Appelt
*****

recommended podcast episode that goes along with this post:  3 Ways to Feel Less Busy 

(the first way is to “give yourself a shot of awe”)

 

i just love a good story (but not this one)

The strangest thing happened yesterday.

One of my perfect children came home from school with a funny story to tell me.  It began this way:  “Mom.  Do you remember a while ago when I had you sign that form for Science?”  

Okay, so……I sign A LOT of forms.  And when I sign them I promptly forget about them.  Unless of course there is something I have to remember like a field trip, which in that case I run to my calendar right away and write it down because if I don’t I WILL forget about it promptly.

So I said to this child, “I think so?”  And he continued on with this amazing story about how he had the form in his backpack for a while and then when the day came that it was due to be handed in he couldn’t find it.  So the teacher said, “You’ll have to stay after school with me today.”  (in another word:  detention).

So then my perfect child went off to his next class and (he told me this) when he took out his folder for that class, out fell the missing form!  As soon as he could, he ran back to his teacher to hand it in.  Wow, that was close!  He almost got a detention!

I just love a great story, I laughed through the whole thing, believing every single word with my whole heart!

Later on, the perfect child told his dad the same story in the kitchen but my mean husband didn’t believe the story like I had!!  He was suspicious!  I jumped to my perfect child’s defense!  This child would NEVERRRRRRRRRR lie like this!  He wouldn’t even THINK of forging my signature!  Never!

Then, true to my nature, I promptly forgot the whole thing until this morning when I got the following email from his teacher:

Good Afternoon,

Last Monday students were given a form explaining some exciting STEAM work we have the opportunity to partake in over the next 2 months. Parents/students were asked to read and sign the form that they were informed of what this opportunity was all about, it was not a permission slip.  Students were asked to return the form on Friday, Dec 7.  ***** didn’t have his in on Friday.  ***** also didn’t have his form Monday or today.  He mentioned you had signed it but he couldn’t find it.  He came to me after 6th period with the form signed.  There is a copy attached.  It doesn’t appear to be your signature, but I thought I’d check with you.
I dearly wish I could show you the photo of the form with “my” signature written on it but the perfect child had the wherewithal to include our last name, so I cannot.  Suffice it to say it looked NOTHING like my beautiful signature!  It looked sort of the way I would have written it…….. when I was a little kid!
I could NOT believe it!  This child told me a story and I believed every word!  My mom instincts failed dreadfully.  I can usually determine truth from fiction just from a child’s face!  Honestly, there is still part of me deep in my heart that still believes him, so stay tuned!!
I contacted the teacher and my husband, both of whom have consequences to deliver.
Rich didn’t think any of it was funny, which is very ironic because he forged his Father’s signature all the time when he was growing up.  ALL the time.  Which actually gives me hope because if that little signature forger can grow up to be such a good man, I guess his son can, too.
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This past weekend Grace and Brittnee had their holiday concerts at college and Rich and I were not able to attend.  So I was delighted to receive some music clips, videos, and photos from Joanna AND my brother David!
Happy is the heart that can rely on family and friends to stand in the gap!

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I love this one of Joanna’s husband Steve with my brother, both with their amazing beards!!!!!

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My daughter Grace,  Brittnee (my son’s beautiful girlfriend & Grace’s BFF) and my BFF Joanna (who is also Grace’s second mother while she’s away at college!)  God is SO good.
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My beloved brother Dave, with dear sweet Grace.
One more thing before I go:
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Happy Birthday (yesterday) to Brittnee!
I’m so glad you’re in our lives.  You are a blessing.

tis the season

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It’s an invigorating 15 degrees outside this morning but Seth still didn’t understand why I said ZIP UP YOUR COAT loudly (I had already said it in my nice mommy voice 5 times).   He still has to listen to me…… I feel warmer if they run to the bus happy and in zipped up coats.

Good morning!  Maybe 15 degrees isn’t really that cold compared to where you live?   The sunshine is pouring through the windows and I think to myself, “I would rather have it be 15 and sunny than 30 and cloudy.”

The sunshine is pouring through the windows into our new 2018 decorated Christmas tree!  Rich went and picked it out at the fire department with Seth and Sarah on Saturday.

BUT FIRST…..he took his wrestling team an hour away to a school near the coast of Connecticut for some joint practicing, and I was home with Caleb, Seth, and Sarah for a morning of:

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Cereal for breakfast and long morning hair.

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Door Basketball……

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….named such for obvious reasons.  They did break the glass out of a framed photo which was hung to the left of the door (to the pantry).  So I took the other things off the wall.  This is a house for children.  They MUST play.

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I popped three pots of popcorn on the stove so we could strand a popcorn chain for the tree.  Seth had a very difficult time with his very short string….but he did it, and ate a lot of the popcorn pile in front of him, too.

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Sarah was concerned about the beads.  Would they be thrown away after Christmas?  Would they, Mama?  So I finally told her that after we took the tree down I would put the chain in the sink and sip the beads out with scissors so we could keep them.

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Caleb started bringing up the Christmas bins from storage and we found our Christmas books.

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Parker took 7 naps.

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I read Seth some stories about when he was a baby and he saw his old playpen in the photos and asked if he could bring it upstairs, “I know right where it is” he said.  “Why not,” I replied, “go get it.”  Sarah called it a “play crib” which makes sense.  It’s funny that my older kids are baby experts but my youngest two know practically NOTHING at all about babies.

The play crib turned into a fort for cats and a couple of 8 and 9 year olds.

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They put a blanket over the top to keep the cats inside.  Years ago I tried that when I put babies in the playpen but it never worked.  (just kidding)  LOL

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We put mittens on our hands and drove to a local school for their craft/book fair.  All we bought was donuts; soft sweet bread like pillows filled with vanilla pudding and frosted in chocolate.

The boys and I sat in the car while Sarah played outside on the playground for another 15 minutes.  She doesn’t seem to feel the cold like we do, which amuses me.

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Rich and David got home around 1 and I took this photo of him and the boys watching a video of Ethan wrestling…….they were so cute with their heads all together like that….and then they left to get the tree.

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I told Sarah to stand there so she could block the license plate number.  LOL  Rich used Ethan’s truck to get the tree.  I requested a fat fluffy tree this year and he did a great job.

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After he trimmed the trunk and got it into the stand we drove downtown to get lights.  Then, finally, we set to work decorating.  It was a nice way to end the day, all together and busy making the tree pretty.

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Then they watched a nice movie while I made a batch of my favorite Christmas cookies, without an apron on.

Yum!

On Sunday after church the kids had their football/cheer awards and Seth got the trophy for MVP for his team!  We were so proud of him.

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Our cat Walter is LOVING the tree.  And Sarah collects piles of the needles to play in with her little toy animals.

Merry Christmas to kids, cats, dogs, and people everywhere!

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“the weary world rejoices”

lately……

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The other night I was tucked right into the corner of the sectional reading a book.  First Caleb came and sat to my left.  Then Walter the cat came and curled up at my feet.  David sat down, then Seth got on the coffee table with a deck of cards.  Sarah came crawling over (she was a cat) to watch.  Seth wanted David to teach him some card tricks.

I felt bliss.

Cozy.

I’m reading through Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Newbery books and found this quote in The Long Winter:  “It was so wonderful to be there, safe at home, sheltered from the winds and the cold.  Laura though that this must be a little bit like Heaven, where the weary are at rest.”  pg. 94

I’m sure reading these books throughout my formative years helped secure my ideals and make me determined to have the kind of home that my own children feel safe and secure in, too.  The sounds, smells, conversation, laughter, candle-light, pets, blankets, and the ever-popular family pile ups on the couch are just a small part of what makes a house a home.  Rich and I and the children, together.  This is what makes my heart happy and content most of all.

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It’s sunny and 32 degrees outside, with a bright blue sky.  As I look out the window I see the tops of the trees waving back and forth in the wind.

Sherlock the cat is next to me, charmingly licking his paw and washing his face with it.

The dishwasher and dryer are humming, doing the work so I don’t have to.  What a blessing to have the ease of modern appliances.

I spent time making room for the Christmas tree.  I moved the table and chairs from in front of the livingroom window into the kitchen, and rearranged piles of books and papers (lots of papers were thrown away).  Now we are all set to get the tree tomorrow.

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I foraged for christmas decorations this week.  It was nice to wander around with scissors until my hands and cheeks were numb with cold.

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I changed the table-cloth and scattered some oranges.

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The pine branches and berries make a wild bouquet for the table.

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Every once in a while I see Parker the dog walk by with a clementine in his mouth.  It’s a mystery to me.

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Sarah reading her book the other day.

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She asked for this one for Christmas.  “Take a picture of it so you can remember the title,” she said, so I did.  “Mom, the flash.  You can’t see his face.”  “That’s okay, this is a magic cover.  See, the title of the book is The Sun Trail, so when you take a photo the sun appears in the picture!”  “Um, okay.”

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Sometimes on a Sunday afternoon you just gotta trap the energetic son in your arms so you can sleep.

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and old faithful recipe….making this for the last 18 years!

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I was amused by the way he got comfortable on my lap one day.

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I like it when a child sits right next to me.

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The neighbor boy came over to see if Seth could play and I asked him to turn around so I could take a photo of his jersey featuring my favorite football team!

I got to visit my sister-in-law and the baby the other day!

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This is Cassandra’s first holiday season as a mama and she’s doing great!  A sense of humor will be important throughout the entire parenting journey!

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The other morning I was driving the kids to school and as we got to the end of the road the sun was coming up over the hill and shining beautifully on the church in front of us.  I was first in line at the stop light so had to take a quick photo.

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scarlet fiesta mug of coffee in the afternoon

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Sarah and I made paper chains so we could tear one off each morning until Christmas!

They are also eating the dearest tiny chocolates each day, too.

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I got a new shirt and jeans from anthropologie yesterday!

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Delish hazelnut latte from the downtown coffee shop

I made the kids muffins one evening and they were so good I have to share the recipe:

Aunt Betty’s Blueberry Muffins from Taste of Home

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats  (I used quick)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • TOPPING:
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

  • In a large bowl, combine oats and orange juice; let stand for 5 minutes. Beat in the egg, oil and sugar until blended. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda; stir into oat mixture just until moistened. Fold in blueberries.
  • Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Combine topping ingredients; sprinkle over batter. Bake at 400° for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Serve warm.
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I found a Samantha-cat in Sarah’s closet.

reading by wine and candlelight……..

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Yesterday a friend from instagram shared a photo with me of her old yellow copies of the Little House books, which made me remember mine that were packed away in my cedar chest.  So this morning I got them out.  It gave me such a rush of nostalgia.

These were my very first books.

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8 years old!

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And old Christmas card that Rich gave me……

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Sarah, this morning, after I fixed her hair for school.  Today she and her classmates were all supposed to wear red.

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Inside, outside!

 

I hope each of you have a lovely weekend!

 

Love, Shanda

 

if you also have a lot of socks to match

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May I recommend the following Christmas show to watch with the kids?

It’s on Netflix and it’s called Angela’s Christmas.

“The half hour CG film is based on Frank McCourt’s only children’s book, inspired by a story his mother Angela told him as a child. McCourt won the Pulitzer Prize for his best-selling memoir, Angela’s Ashes. Set in Ireland in the 1910s, ‘Angela’s Christmas’ is a funny, heart-warming and poignant story about the power of family and the innocent desire of a child to ensure everyone is safe, warm and loved at Christmas time.”  ~ IMDb

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She should have been helping me match socks!

Happy Folding!  Merry Christmas!

“It is my chief duty to accomplish humble
tasks as though they were great and noble.”  ~Helen Keller

 

it was a month ago…..

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Ask her what she craved and
she’d get a little frantic
about things like books,
the woods, music.
Plants and the seasons.
Also freedom.
~Charles Frazier

Grace turned nineteen on November 4.

When she was home from college for Thanksgiving break she said, “You didn’t blog about me on my birthday”.   So here I am, better late than never, with my sincerest apologies to you, dear Grace!

Grace was born in the very early hours of the morning all those years ago, our first daughter after two sons.  Born at 38 weeks, but so tiny that everyone stopped to admire her and call her “Peanut”, I delighted in being her mother.  I found a white bib that had a small peanut embroidered on it and of course I had to buy it for her and I bet it that bib is still here in a box somewhere along with many other keepsakes from that precious time.

She’s all grown up now and in the middle of her second year of college and doing very well.  She has her own dorm room this year which has been nice for her, but she keeps so busy she’s rarely in it except to do homework and sleep.

She’s healthy and strong, with lots of dear and close friends.

She loves to read and write, sing and play piano.  She loves to be useful.

I hadn’t taken many photos of her lately so when she was home for Thanksgiving we got the camera out for a couple of “Now You’re Nineteen” photos.  We were downtown that day for “small town shopping”.

The quotes are from Grace’s own personal collection of favorites.  (she has hundreds) ❤

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“Come, let us have some tea,
and continue to talk about happy things.”

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Don’t be so cool you can’t cry.
Don’t be so smart you can’t wonder.
Don’t be so set on your sunny days
That you can’t love the roll of the thunder.

He has made everything beautiful
in its time.   Ecclesiastes 3:11