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”

merry christmas 2017 part 1

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“Sorry I’m a little bit too excited.” Seth

Ethan didn’t get home until after 11pm last night so we stayed up pretty late getting the tree and gifts all ready for Christmas morning.  I almost forgot where I put the key to the padlock that I had put on a big bin downstairs to hide gifts but thank goodness my brain came up with it (my jewelry box).  We went to sleep shortly after midnight.

The first thing I said this morning was “GO BACK TO BED!”  Caleb and Seth were not only awake but busy with the lights blaring and making all kinds of noise in the kitchen…..at four in the morning.  SERIOUSLY?

We got up for real at about 7:30 and spent 2 and a half hours opening gifts together.  We took our time, laughed a lot, made the living room a mess with all the wrapping paper, and it was much fun.  I took lots of photos with my phone that I will put on the blog eventually.

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Ethan and his new boots.

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Dave in his new sunglasses.  “I think they’re going to make me look like a killer robot.”

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Brittnee, Grace, and Sarah

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Beauty outside the window.

“Look outside, it’s the most wonderful scene for Christmas.” ~Rich

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new Christmas cats!

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Seth, myself, and Rich

(we were all playing a card game)

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I made ham and scalloped potatoes for dinner and soon we will prepare homemade pierogi that Tessa’s family sent up.  Caleb is putting together a huge lego set, Seth is playing with his new Hess truck, and Rich is watching the Steelers game.  I have had way too much candy today.

Merry Christmas!

You are loved.

1 concert, 2 concert, 3 concert

“Your eye is a lamp, lighting up your whole body.  If you live wide-eyed in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light.”  Luke 11

Grace longed for us to be there for her Holiday concerts this last weekend but it was not to be.

Thus, on Friday evening I sat alone on the couch by the light of the tree, and by the light of my reading lamp.

The house was FINALLY quiet after a longer-than-usual evening.

I was nearing the end of my book and I was totally immersed in its pages.

Everyone else was asleep.

 

 

I had my phone nearby and I heard it notify me of a facebook message, I turned it over and saw it was from Joanna.

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While all was peaceful one moment, in the next moment as I listened to the sound clips she was sending me and saw the photos, hot happy tears were running down my face.

I hadn’t known she was going to be there at Grace’s first concert with her husband, Steve.

You can imagine the moment; a quiet house, a lonely mama missing her firstborn daughter, and like a kiss from heaven the gift of words, music, and photos from a dear friend.

Heart bursts.

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And it didn’t end there.  On a whim or a prompting, I texted my brother Grace’s concert schedule for Saturday and as he was free for the 3pm performance he drove almost an hour to go see her.  He had a big delicious meal at a local Greek eatery and then went to campus, found our girl, and sat in the audience for her second concert.  He recorded every song for us and sent beautiful photos of the two of them after the show.

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For her third concert, her boyfriend Caleb was able to drive from New Jersey to attend.  They went out to watch the new Star Wars movie together afterwards.

So you can see, even though her parents couldn’t make it to her first Christmas concerts at college, we were overwhelmed by the blessings of a best friend, a wonderful brother, and her dear boyfriend who all stood in the gap.

(At about the 2 minute 15 second mark in the audio posted above you will hear Grace’s voice singing a descant part in the beautiful and mournful song “Lully Lulla Lullay”.  There is a video HERE.)

Our eyes are wide open to see God everywhere.

Yes.

 

 

 

common hours

Write it down, when I have perished:
Here is everything I’ve cherished;
That these walls should glow with beauty
Spurred my lagging soul to duty:
That there should be gladness here
Kept me toiling, year by year. . . . .
Everything thought and every act
Were to keep this home intact.
Edgar A. Guest

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Saturday morning I woke up and Rich wasn’t in bed with me anymore, he was out on the couch.  Sometimes if he can’t sleep he will get up and move into the livingroom.  ESPN was on, quietly, and he was sound asleep and looked so peaceful.  I made some coffee and tip toed back to bed.  Shortly thereafter, Seth came in and got into bed with me.  We read stories on my blog for a while and then Sarah came, too.  I love these grateful days of having children small enough to still get into bed with me on a lazy weekend morning. . . . . .

We decided it was a good morning for pancakes.

 

 

Cornmeal pancakes and corned beef hash.  Rich ate the whole pan of hash himself….the kids kept saying, “WHAT IS THAT SMELL?” as it fried.  I haven’t made him hash in years.

Seth had the only complaint, “The pancakes are chewy.”

“Do you mean gritty?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s because they have cornmeal in them.”

I happen to adore cornmeal, and in case you do too, here is the recipe:

Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes

1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup cornmeal

2 cups buttermilk
3 egg yolks
3 T. butter, melted
3 egg whites, beaten stiff
1 cup blueberries

In a large bowl sift together the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl combine the buttermilk, egg yolks, and butter.  Add the mixture to the dry ingredients.  Fold in the beaten egg whites.  Pour 1/4 cup batter onto the griddle and sprinkle with the blueberries.  Cook the pancakes until bubbles firm and start popping.  Turn only once and cook until done.

I used blueberries that I picked myself this fall at my parents’ house.  I had forgotten them in mom’s freezer and she thoughtfully brought them to me in a cooler at Thanksgiving.  I was sparing with them in the pancakes as I am hoping to make my four bags of blueberry treasures last until next fall when I can pick some more.

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Happiness is being able to sit on the couch and take photos through the window of your bird visitors at the feeder.

Also legwarmers.   Leg warmers are happiness.

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The children were ecstatic to see snow coming down and bundled up in their snow boots to go outside.  Sarah danced down the driveway.

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Seth was pensive.

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Rich and David went to get our 2017 Christmas tree.

At first, they sent me this photo:

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But they really came home with a nice large sized tree.

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Thank you, guys!

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I made tacos for lunch.

Rich and I went downstairs to find ornaments.

Later that evening we watched Elf and let the children decorate the tree.  Only three of them decorated this year.  It was amazingly non-chaotic and I must say, lovely.

Rich and I must be getting older because as soon as the Christmas tree was completely done we said to ourselves, “It’s like it never left.”  The time between trees is all too brief now.

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Our three tree trimmers.

Rich hung the lights.  I think I hung up one ornament, my glass camera one.  I still have to hide the pickle (I’ll do it as soon as I’m done blogging). . . .

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Sarah was excited to find her Sarah ornament but was very confused when she found the one that said Isaac.  WHY do we have this one???   “Because he’s my brother and I like to think about him at Christmas!”

Truth be told, at the end of the season when the ornaments all go on sale I buy the ones I can find with our siblings/family names on them.  It’s fun and meaningful to have them hanging on our tree.  Someday Sarah will understand, too.

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The first Christmas card tidings received in the mail this year were from our old neighbors.

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We were trying to get a photo of the children in front of the tree when Parker slinked over and sat in front of them.  One wonders how long he was in the background watching before he became brave enough to join his children.

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My heart missed the older children very much.  I hope they are just about ready to come home and get their photo taken in front of the tree, too.

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He’s so cute.

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Last but not least; Christmas cat.

***

“Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.”  Francis P. Church

sewn gingerbread house part 2 (completed)

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Rich was at wrestling practice with David and Seth this morning so Sarah and I had a quiet house to work in (and on).  A quiet gingerbread house.  To tell the truth, The Grinch was on TV as we decorated.  And then a Christmas movie with three kittens in it.

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The door was made with two small Hershey chocolate bars.  The gingerbread men (there are 9—one for each of our family members) are store-bought.

The house is situated upon a Sunflower fiesta pizza tray!

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The roof is made of broken up shredded mini wheat biscuits.

I went outside to collect wintergreen and pieces of pine tree.  In order for them to stand up I had to push them into gumdrops.

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The house is sewn together with Twizzlers.

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(side details)

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(back of the house with “S” for Shanda and Sarah)

(and special, and smart, and super, and stupendous)

We left sprinkles on the tray, and added shredded coconut, too.

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The boys came home and Seth asked if he could nibble it.  I said “Not until Christmas.”  David was most impressed.  He helped me take the video and watched me make final touches.  “You’re an artist,” he said.

 

 

shop small saturday//Christmas decor

It’s tuesday morning.  Kevin is here working on turning the old laundry closet into a real closet.  We moved the washer and dryer downstairs in the basement.  It will be convenient to have a coat closet in the livingroom, with cubbies for backpacks and shoes.  It’s cold outside this morning, with bright sunshine.  I’m sitting in the corner of my bedroom in the leather recliner by a window and I can hear the wind chimes outside moving in the wind.  As soon as I sat down to blog, our gray cat came in and curled up on my lap, so the computer is now balancing on the arm of my chair as I type.

On Saturday, Rich and I took Ethan and his girlfriend Tessa downtown for “shop small Saturday”.  I was feeling a little blue after the excitement of Thanksgiving, and this was the perfect way to get outside with my camera and enjoy our beautiful town and the little shops.  We saw several people we knew, had some coffee, found some bargains and enjoyed some lovely Christmas decorations.

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Christmas is such a beautiful time of year.

I’m thankful I can enter into the season slowly and mindfully.

 

christmas present

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“Come in, — come in! and know me better, man! I am the Ghost of Christmas Present. Look upon me! You have never seen the like of me before!”

I’m going to be completely honest with you, by yesterday evening I was filled with glee because I was glad Christmas was over….and by “Christmas” I mean all the buying of gifts, wrapping, baking, cleaning, and so on.  I really wish Santa WAS real, it would save me a lot of work.  It’s fun and all, but only to a certain extent, and then the stress kicks in and you start to wonder if the gifts are okay and if they will be received with gladness and if the children will be healthy and then it becomes your time of the month on top of it all, which explains why you were grumpy that one night when the kids had friends over and it was all you could do not to go in your room and shut the door because your head felt as if it would explode…….

But then your husband helps you find the presents in all the secret hiding spots and tells you numerous times that you did a great job and gives you little kisses and it’s Christmas Eve and the boys keep trying to get up without ever even going to sleep and you say over and over to yourself in that still small voice, “remember these moments”…….because you know even if you do at this moment wish things were a little quieter– someday you just might wish things were back to chaotic for an hour or two.  Maybe.

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On Christmas Eve we crave cinnamon rolls and thanks to my friend April we also made orange rolls for the first time and boy were they heavenly.

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I totally fell in love with The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  I’ve seen the movie through the years and have read the book a few times but this year I became a true and devoted fan of the story.  It’s so rich and beautiful.  It has everything; loss, darkness, greed, selfishness, ghosts, hauntings, music, bitter cold, snow, old city life, memorable characters, lessons learned, truth, love, nostalgia, joy, smiles, laughter, and a HAPPY ENDING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  So I read the book again, which of course is the very best way to experience the story, and then watched two of the movies and I watched them with as much full attention as I could (without my phone next to me).

And lest you think my opening confession was rather Scrooge-like, let me clarify that I wholeheartedly love Christmas for what it truly is supposed to be; giving and receiving, yes, but also heart and soul, togetherness, beauty, family and friends.  Those are the qualities of Christmas that I love the most, & I know you do, too.

“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.”

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“He was consious of a thousand odours floating in the air, each one connected with a thousand thoughts, and hopes, and joys, and cares, long, long, forgotten.”

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“I have always thought of Christmastime, when it has come round…as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

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(Caleb was feeling under the weather and buried himself in blankets and pillows as he watched TV) soooo cute

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Ethan is home from college and my heart is content to have all the children with us again.

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Abundance.

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waking up the sleepy heads

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We unwrapped all the presents and then got ready for Church.

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Seth had a candy cane in his mouth and Ethan had crest white strips on his teeth.  I didn’t know this until on the way to church when I had time to study the photos and ask questions.

I thought Sarah’s Christmas hair was adorable.  I put it in two pigtails, pulled the hair through half way, and then pinned on gold bows.  She of course, hated it, but I told her too bad.  And with a compromise, she didn’t have to wear a fancy dress.

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My camera heart gravitates toward the child who doesn’t get to attend church with us during the school year anymore….it was so nice to see him in the pew as I looked over at my sons in a row.

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Rich and Grace both had small parts in the service so they sat in front.  To be honest, I made Rich come back to sit with me as his part wasn’t until almost the end of the service and I didn’t want to sit there alone without my husband the whole time.

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Caleb got a hug…….

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Sarah found a listening ear…………

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Grace read from Luke chapter 2……….

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Best friends and brothers in Christ.

(Michael took a photo of the family for me but I’m not going to post it until next month (year) because I never sent out Christmas cards, therefore I am sending out New Years cards with a family photo and I don’t want to show anyone the picture yet or it will be boring to send out in the mail).

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After church I made a ham dinner and then was filled with the feeling that all was accomplished and I could rest.  It was a most blessed evening of being so very relaxed with all the children around us.

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I’m in the midst of the the book on top, which is something I bought a few years ago but just got around to reading.  It is very very good (high quality writing).  Sigrid Undset also wrote Kirsten Lavransdatter which is an amazing book.  The rest of the titles are from my husband based on my explicit instructions.

How thankful I am through it all, for the blessings of our life, the warmth, the joy, the endless little surprises from living with children, and for most of all, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and the eternal life He has given.  God is so good and we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses that prove all of what He truly means to us.  I’m so glad He loves us just the way we are.

Merry Christmas!

“I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!”

“His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.”

PS, Penny, I wrote this post for you.  (because you encouraged me).  xoxoxo loves.