Wednesday, December 31, 2008

December Daze

Whew! Where did December go?? It has just been a whirlwind of activity at our house! I took lots of pictures and wrote lots of blog posts in my mind -- but I never had time to sit down and post any of them. The only consolation is you probably didn't have time to read them anyway.

December is already a Blur, but before the entire month is gone, let me share some of the highlights . . . .

On December 17th, the children helped their Patch Club from church put on a Christmas play called Christmas Carol. Four of our children had speaking parts, and Tiffany also helped the Director pull together all the details for the play. This required many extra practices, which added to our chaotic December schedule, but it was worth it. They did such a good job! It was really a blessing! The play is about an orphan who is invited to spend Christmas with a family. The child evokes painful memories in the mother, who had also been abandoned as a child, but their similar pasts bring them together, and plans are made to adopt the little girl. After the play, we showed the video of Misha, and gave everyone the opportunity to help a real orphan be adopted!

On the 18th of December, Tiffany presented her first Christmas program at school with all of her music students. She did a fantastic job putting the program together and her students did a great job singing and reciting their verses.

On December 21st, we took time out to celebrate Joseph's 15th birthday. It is hard to make him feel special when his birthday comes at the Busiest Time of theYear! But, I tried to fix him a special meal and made sure I didn't wrap his gift in Christmas wrap -- which meant I used brown paper and had the younger children decorate it!!! (Why isn't there any birthday wrap in the house when you need it most???)

I also bought Joseph a beautiful sampler cake from SAMS -- but someone dropped it when unloading the van, and it landed upside down. :( Except for half of the icing being stuck to the lid, it was OK. Joseph was such a good sport and said he didin't care, especially since it still tasted so good!

December 22nd, I hosted a Soup Supper and Ornament Swap for the ladies from our church. About 40 ladies and their daughters came out for the fun. It was a lot of fun, but also a lot of work as I attempted to get the whole house clean on the same day, and made three big pots of soup to serve. Ashlyn got home from Bible school just as the guests arrived and was willing to jump right in and coordinate the swapping game. We had an amazing variety of ornaments, but as usual, there were one or two that "everyone" wanted and were willing to fight for!

My parents arrived from SC on the 23rd of December, and were here to Celebrate Christmas Eve and Day with us.

Here are some pictures from Christmas Eve! The first picture is of my Mom.

As you can see, we had no lack of food!

After our feast, Alan read the Christmas story from Luke 2.

Then, the children revealed which sibling's name they had drawn and exchanged gifts with one another. They always try to keep it a secret, so this is a much anticipated moment!! Ashlyn had Josh for the third year in a row!!!

Matthew couldn't wait until Christmas morning to give Mum Mum the special gift he had made for her! It was a little heart shaped sign to hang on the doorknob of her cottage. He painted NO on one side and YES on the other side. That way she can let him know if it is a good time for him to come over, or if she would rather not be disturbed for awhile. He was So Excited about his special gift and he went out first thing on Christmas morning to see if she had the Yes or the No showing on her front door!! :)

And now for some scenes from Christmas Day . . .

The days after Christmas were spent visiting with my parents, whom the children call Nanny and PaPa. This is a picture of them which I took while we were taking a walk at the Riverfront Park. We enjoyed many balmy days in the 70s and even the 80s both before and after Christmas.

My parents left on Sunday morning, and Alan's sister, Janet, arrived the same day -- after missing her connecting flight the evening before and being stranded in ATL. We spent the last few days of December visiting with her, while also cleaning out closets and other storage areas and generally digging out from Christmas.

So, now, here we are on the last day of December and the last day of 2008 -- with many things crossed off our to-do lists, and many things that we just didn't get to before time ran out. (Such as my yearly The Ours Times newsletter!!!) Our busy days overflow one into another and a month and then a year passes before we even know it. My prayer for this New Year is that we will pursue the things that really matter, and that God will give us peace to accept the things we just can't fit in, and that when our time runs out for good, we will have no regrets.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Gentle Reminder

God created the family, and places such a high value on it, that when we are Born Again, He places us into a spiritual family -- The Family of God.

Members of a family have both privileges and responsbilities. One responsibility we have is to come along side and encourage and exhort one another to godliness.

Recently, I had the privilege of being encouraged to have a godly response to a difficult situation by a sister. This wise woman happens to be both my earthly sister and my sister in Christ. I guess that makes her a double sister! :)

After reading my pit bull post (and being privy to the details behind it), she sent me an email which contained some gold nuggets of truth, which she has given me permission to post here. These nuggets apply to a wide range of circumstances, so I'm sure everyone will be able to benefit from her wisdom. Here are the highlights of what she shared:

1. Did any of this situation take God by surprise? NO! He is in control of all things, even a teacher or coach's actions or decisions. All authority comes from God, and He allowed this teacher or coach to direct my child at this time. He was in complete control and any hardships that come out of it, do not take Him by surprise!

2. Do I want my children to see me respecting or disrespecting authority? If I want them to show respect to that authority, as well as all other authorities in their lives, I need to make sure that I am setting the right example by showing them that even if treated unfairly/unjustly, or accused wrongfully, that we still need to accept that the authority was placed in our lives by God, and submit to that authority as unto the Lord.

3. We are to praise God in all circumstances . . . we can still thank Him during times of disappointments, and often times that is when He is trying to teach us something . . . I don't know who learns the most during these times, the parent, or the child! :) There are many times I don't agree with something, may not like it, and may be really hurting because of it, but I know that God has allowed it for a reason, so I best quit feeling sorry for myself and see what God has for me to learn through it!!

OK -- that's it -- God's wisdom for my situation delivered lovingly by my sister, who has had much experience with these types of things with 5 children in Christian school for many years! The whole school thing is still new to me, as I've only had children in a school setting for the last 3 years. My three oldest sons attend a Christian school, primarily so they can participate in team sports -- something important to those big, strapping boys! Participating in team sports teaches our sons many things, and as it turns out, involves quite a few hard lessons for their parents too!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pajama Ride!


We try to do some kind of special activity each day leading up to Christmas, such as baking Christmas cookies, or watching a Christmas movie, or playing a game, or participating in a ministry project or church activity. The children love this, but I usually drop the ball, because I get so busy and yes, Stressed, during the holidays. However, Tiffany, who is my Christmas Cheer Consultant, eagerly picks it up and keeps it going. Last night, Tiffany was the one feeling tired and stressed, and I was the one with a new idea.

The boys were at a basketball game, and it was just me, Tiffany and the 5 youngest children at home. So, after dinner and clean up, I told everyone to put on their pajamas and head to the van!

I then drove my Pajama-Clad Crew around our neighborhood and some nearby neighborhoods to look at the Christmas lights. While out, we decided to stop by to surprise a friend, and then, we came home and read our nightly Advent reading, and ate some ice cream.

The Pajama Ride did not take a huge investment of time, energy or money, but it reaped huge dividends in creating child contentment and cultivating Christmas cheer.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Help! I need more lipstick!!

sarah palin

I suddenly have a much deeper understanding of Sarah Palin's quip declaring that the only difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is the lipstick!

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I won't risk boring you with the details, and I certainly don't want to embarrass my son; however, suffice it to say that something has happened on the basketball court of life that has brought out the pit bull in me. It is amazing what happens to a gentle mother when she feels one of her sons or daughters are being handed a raw deal.

I mean, I'm a nice, mature Christian lady, who is pretty even-keeled and rarely gets offended. I didn't even know I had a Pit Bull lurking inside of me, until it reared its ugly head. My pit bull lunged and strained on its chain and bared its teeth and growled a low, menacing growl . . . and I was forced to acknowledge that my own heart, apart from the grace of God, is desperately wicked and capable of every evil, angry, hateful thought.

We like to think of ourselves as "good" and it sure can take us by surprise to see what thoughts are lurking in the darkest recesses of our hearts! I was reminded of the verses in Matthew that teach that it is not what enters into a man that defiles him, "but those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: these are the things which defile a man." -- Matthew 15:18-20a.

I guess that is why we are instructed to "Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life." -- Proverbs 4:23.
My prayer for myself is Psalm 51:10 -- "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me."

And now I'm going to go put on some more lipstick!!! ;)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth!!!

Matthew, 6, lost his remaining front tooth at the basketball game last night! :)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Fall Food

I really enjoy the food of fall. I love to have a big pot of soup or stew simmering on the stove, spreading its soothing aroma all through the house. I also love the smell of bread or muffins, fresh from the oven, a perfect compliment to the humble pot of soup. These are the kinds of foods that speak of home and hearth, and their aromas will always bring back memories of home, no matter how far our children may roam.

One very easy and delicious recipe that we enjoy making during the fall is Pumpkin Muffins. These have become Hannah's specialty! I originally received this wonderful recipe from my sister. I would link you to her blog -- but she has yet to get hers off the ground! (hint, hint!)

She only uses two ingredients - a box of spice cake mix and a can of pumpkin. Just mix and bake. It is nearly impossible for me to make a recipe exactly as it is written, so it should be no surprise that I've altered her recipe just a bit. I add about 1/4 cup apple sauce and 1/2 bag of mini chocolate chips to the spice cake and pumpkin. Just mix all together and bake at 350 for 15 minutes for mini muffins and 20 minutes for regular size muffins. These are increidble and just melt in your mouth! I don't know if they keep well, as I've never had any left at the end of the day! :)

I gave one of these to my mother-in-law today, and she really enjoyed it, too! By the way, we are rejoicing because she gets to start walking on her (broken) leg some, and can begin to wean from her "Beloved Boot" to an ankle brace!!! She was So Happy to get out of the wheel chair, but surprised at how weak she was. She will begin physical therapy next week, to help regain the strength in her legs.

I have another comforting fall recipe to share with you. This recipe is Perfect for using up all of your leftovers from Thanksgiving! I cooked my turkey carcass right in the roaster pan after Thanksgiving, and the next day I deboned the turkey and everyone was surprised how much meat I got from those bones! My boys hovered over me like vultures, snatching up morsels of tasty turkey while I worked!! I used part of the turkey pieces and the broth to make up a delicious pot of turkey soup, which my MIL especially loved. Then, I froze the rest of the turkey pieces especially for this recipe.

Now, I should digress here and tell you a story from my youth. My mom was always a wise and frugal homemaker and she would faithfully cook her turkey carcass after Thanksgiving and Christmas, and package up both the turkey pieces and the broth for the freezer. But, I saw how tired she was after the Big Day of cooking and cleaning, and it just seemed like a Lot of Extra Work to me. So, in my teenaged wisdom, I foolishly proclaimed that when I was a mother, I would Never cook my turkey carcass!!! :) (I'm sure my dear mother must be laughing out loud as she reads this, and remembers all of the other "wise" statements I made through the years!!)

Anyway, back to my recipe for Turkey Hash. This uses up some ingredients you probably have left over from Thanksgiving, and is just an old-fashioned, good ole supper for your family. Mine sure seemed to enjoy it!

First, you chop up some onion and celery. Then you put it in a big skillet or a dutch oven (depending on the size of your family!) and saute it in some butter. I used 1 stick of butter, and a big dutch oven!

Then, you chop up several white potatoes, and add them to your vegetables. At this point, I sprinkled on some Seasoned Salt, some pepper, and some Poultry Seasoning, all to taste. No measuring for this recipe!~

Add some turkey or chicken broth, turn heat to medium, put on a lid, and let cook until your potatoes are nearly tender, stirring often. If it gets too dry or starts to stick, you can add more broth and turn down the heat some too. Then, stir in your leftover chopped turkey, and simmer on low until you are ready to eat.

My Turkey Hash got a little over cooked last night, because I had to go pick up one of my sons from basketball practice and take him to serve at a candlelight dinner sponsored by his school, but this is one of those recipes that is hard to mess up! No one seemed to mind, and they Gobbled it right down! I served it with fresh yeast rolls and cranberry sauce, and I'm telling you, it was tasty! :)

The Dinner Rolls really improved the overall appeal and presentation of this meal, so I should probably give you that recipe too! I whipped these up quickly in my Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook.

2 1/2 cups very warm water
2 TBSP yeast
1 cup sugar
4 beaten eggs
1 cup canola oil
1 TBSP salt
2 cups freshly ground whole wheat flour

Mix the above ingredients in mixer with dough hook. Then, add 6 cups of unbleached, all-purpose or bread flour. Add a little more flour, if needed, until dough clumps on dough hook. Knead for about 5 minutes. Place dough in an oiled bowl, rolling dough over to get oil on all sides. Cover with wax paper or a clean kitchen towel and let rise until dough doubles in size (about 2 hours). Then, oil hands and shape into rolls. Place on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Let rise for about 30 minutes or so and bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned.

These rolls, which are adapted from a recipe I got from Marmee Dear , are so light and delicious and practically melt in your mouth! They are perfect for Sunday dinner or special occasions!

Tie on an apron, fire up your oven, and make a memorable meal for your family tonight! :)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It Must Have Been a Good Movie!

I took these pictures about 10:30 pm last night, while the children were watching a Christmas special on TV!!! I heard so much snoring that I had to come and investigate!!! :)

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