2011, A Review of Sorts

January, Burns Night Celebration
 February, a perfect Sunday afternoon

February, removing stitches
March, Prague
April, Easter Celebration

May, Cappadoccia
Farewell Parties at Ramo
May, Istanbul
June, Family gatherings, stateside
July, Roadtrip to MN
Sunflower Memories along Natchez

 July, Meeting Nephew Colin

July, Niece Gianna's birth
August, green toes in the grass
September, Honduras
October, pumpkin patch

November, Thanksgiving in TN
December, snow angels

Christmas Day

Oh we told it on the mountain, and in the streets and our living room and the balcony and all the neighborhood.  On this day our Savior was born. 

 Family stockings, waiting for us on Christmas morn

Stocking opening

The morning began quite early thanks to the eldest Thing.  She woke her siblings and Husband Jared and I heard the raucous up the stairs around 6am.  No sun.  No coffee.  They piled on our bed and we jumped to our feet and all raced downstairs.  There is a no peeking rule.  Their stockings were no longer hanging, I'm assuming due to their weight, but laying in front of the fire place.  Without delay the Things had us all gathered round, Poppi and Nani included, and were set to open. 

A reprieve to the kitchen for coffee cake making and coffee followed the stocking opening, everyone sharing their presies.  Thing 2 made the coffee cake this year only I forgot to mention the baking soda and the result was a flat and spongy cake.  No difference to these conouissers, we enjoyed every last crumb.  After a few cups of coffee and some mad table tennis skills the present opening continued.

Poppi was Santa and the Things took turns being his helper.  Present after present was opened, including ornaments for each Thing and a few special presies that took them by surprise. 

 A snowflake for Thing 4 because since we have moved to this Northern state he is constantly praying for snow, yes praying for weather.

 Thing 3 received a beautiful glass horse ornament because this year has been the year of the horse for her, really, she started serious riding lessons.

 Thing 2 has a JB ornament, I can't even spell out his name because, I know right?, there are no words, only head shakes that I simply don't understand, but for this 13 year old girl, it means alot.

Thing 1 has a popcorn ornament that reads, "I love you more than popcorn", because frankly I do love her more than popcorn, though there is someone out there that actually admitted to wanting to marry her popcorn.  Yes people she is that talented!

Now, moving on from the ornament documentation.  Someday they might ask and if they do and my old, tired brain can't remember why they were given said ornament I can look back and read this, or they can read it to me. 

Poppi and his helper

There were more and more presents, a snowboard, a camera, make up, clothes, matching American Girl doll pajamas, games, workout equipment and we were all just so grateful.  Really, the Things were an absolute joy to give to this year.  Full of graciousness and smiles and excitement.  I loved watching all of it unfold.  Poppi even had a few tears to shed thanks to Gianna's present, so very sweet.

 Christmas jammie photo, which we did not change out of all stinkin day!

 Snack time

 Lefse making for dinner

 Singing happy birthday to the Christ child, family tradition

Poppi, Nani and our Things,
Polo wanted to be in all the pictures, can you blame him?

And that my friends is a recap full of photos, memories and all the joy I could muster in a blog post.  It was a wonderful Christmas day.   

The Arrival through Christmas Eve

Poppi and Nani came to Minnesota in hopes of a white Christmas and special time with the Grand-Things.  They for sure experienced the latter, the first, not so much.  Apparently we have been breaking some records around these parts with the "warm" weather.  So all of our hopes were a bit crushed with no snow on the ground for Christmas day but we made the most of our time together for sure.

It began with a late night arrival bringing an early morning and a full day following.  The elves had some last minute shopping to do, both grocery and presents.  Things had planned a heart attack lunch for Poppi and Nani at Lions Tap, a local burger joint.  Seems they don't get much of that with Husband Jared and I but they knew Poppi couldn't refuse.  Poppi and Thing 4 had some creating to do, a white chocolate bark with pretzels and peanuts.  It tasted mighty good.  I enjoyed seeing them in the kitchen together.

  The next day brought more preparing and shopping and cooking and baking.  All the duties I love.  And beings that Poppi and Nani were with us made it even better.  The Things were off school and Husband Jared home from work and my heart was full.  We went to an early showing of "We Bought a Zoo" and I cried my eyes out.  What a story.  On our way out of the movie as I surveyed our family it hit me that my Things were growing up.  Have you ever had one of those moments?  To my right the eldest Thing towered over me, the littlest Thing was soon to be 10 years old and inbetween stunningly beautiful Things inside and out tugged at my heart.  Then the tears came and all I could do was hug my Dad.  There weren't words.  Embarrassing.  So I tried with no success to persuade the Things into a photo with Santa just like the old days.  Maybe next year I was told.  Following my break down we split up for some guy and girl separate shopping and then met back home to decompress and enjoy some down time.  Thankfully.  A full day.

 Nani and Me in the Kitchen

 The Boys playing CuPonk

 Nani and Thing 1, cooking of course!

We woke on Christmas Eve morn to sunshine and a breathtaking winters day so we headed out for a hike at the bluffs.  Since we're not a family to pass a photo opp we set the camera up on the bridge and we posed pretty, even Polo.  On our walk we collected twigs for a project that was assigned in our Jesse Tree readings.  After our hike we created our crosses and got ready for church.  I was so looking forward to worship time at Grace with our family.  It was a beautiful service and afterward the celebration continued at home. We ate a delicious Italian feast prepared by Nani, enjoyed sweets and hot cocoa, sprinkled the front lawn with reindeer food, wrote Santa a letter and played a rousing game of Catch Phrase, complete with antics and drama that did not dissappoint.  The Things were tucked in snuggly with dreams of Christmas morning dancing in their sweet little heads.  Or not.  Either way they were asleep, altogether in the big Things' bedroom, a family sleep over.  What a sight.  Then us grown ups watched Christmas Vacation and shared some laughs and then crawled to our beds with a few hours to spare before the early wake up call we would be receiving. 

 Family Hike at the creek

Our twig crosses, tied with red ribbon to remind us of the best gift of all, Jesus

 Thing 3's sewing lesson

 The Familia

 Poppi and Nani and the Things

 The six of us, Polo too

 Ready for Christmas Eve dinner

Hot chocolate and waiting for the first present

Things You Might Not Know, or Maybe Already Do?

Because I have nothing of substance to write about and because I heard one of my favorite songs, "Favorite Things", you know the one from Sound of Music?  It may not really be from Sound of Music but that is where I first heard it and I do love when Julie Andrews sings it with the Captain's children during the thunderstorm.   You haven't seen it?  Well you should.  Great flick.  At least I think so.  Here goes, some stuff about me. 

To begin with, I love coffee.  I mean LOVE, love, yes that kind of love.  Love like when I don't have a cup in the morning the Things become nervous! 
I listen to the rain.  Rain makes me happy.  Weird, I know.  And when it's raining I like to listen to music, Norah Jones, David Crowder, something different, maybe Miles Davis.  Or jazz.  Jazz on a rainy night is good. 
Baking is my therapy.  Butter, sugar and a recipe for a sweet treat just make me feel better on the inside. 

Books, books and more books.  All genres.  Really.  I like to have a variety.  A few on my  nightstand, one in a basket downstairs.  One more on the ottoman.  One on my iPod and one in the car.  A cookbook here and there.  You just never know. 

Writing is good for my soul and yes a favorite thing.  Does it qualify as a thing?  I don't think so, maybe a past time, hobby? 

Watching my Things smile.  Seeing their faces light up.  Or maybe just listening to them tell a story.  Usually this happens around the dinner table, thus family dinners are another favorite.  Truly.  I love creating a meal, sitting down with the family and having a Thing say, "this is great Mama".  Sometimes I score big like that.  Other times not so much.  Either way when we are together around the table, it's good. 
I love being an Auntie.  Who knew?  It is so much fun.  A different role, one I am still learning.  My nieces and nephew are the best.  All of them. 
People watching, a favorite past time.  At the airport, in a restaurant, a coffee shop, the school pick up line, the market, wherever.  I like to watch people interact.  Learn their story.  It fascinates me.

I need quiet time.  Alone.  In fact I crave it.  When I don't get it I am grumpy.  Speaking of grumpy, if I don't eat regularly scheduled meals I am grumpy, downright mean actually.  There I said it.  Husband Jared even asks me when I am on the cranky side if I have eaten lately.  Funny. 

What else, oh, I love holidays.  All of them.  Especially white twinkly lights and brown paper packages tied up with string. 

I love pajama pants.  Festive ones.  With a Christmas theme.  I also love yoga pants and just learned recently that it may not be a good idea to wear them all day, even when you are running errands.  On the upside if I wear my running pants that's different and apparently ok.  Did anyone else know this? 

Not sure what other random things I can share about myself.  Nothing earth shattering that's for sure.  Just a fun list of stuff.  My brain is mush tonight and this is the best I can do.  Look for further updates, or add your own to the comment section.  It could be fun. 

A Gift of a Post

Let's be honest here, who still has some Christmas shopping left to do?  Maybe just a few last minute gifts left to check off the list.  Or quite possibly the entire list.  You could be in the category of complete, wrapped and under the tree or sent in the mail.  Either way, I am sure there is at the very least room for a gift of the heart for someone special.  I know there is for me. 

I love to give presents.  Love, love, love it.  It is my love language for sure.  To see that person light up when just the right item has been chosen.  For the children to squeal with glee when the lid of the box is lifted.  That tugs at my heart every time.  Even when my Things race to their stockings on Christmas morning with anticipation at the trinkets awaiting them.  Priceless. 

You know what else is priceless?  The gifts Compassion offers in their gift catalog this year.  There are options for everyone.  From sponsorship of a child in need to chickens for the village.  Or my Things' favorite, footballs for the children!  More options inlcude medical supplies, income producing items and even infant survival supplies.  To view the catalog go here, Gifts of Compassion.  Or you can click on the banner at the right side of my website, you know the one with the chicken, I know you saw it and asked, "What is this all about?".  Well, now you know.  So do something about it.  Give a gift, sponsor a child, tuck a certificate in a stocking letting them know that you bought a soccer ball for a child in their name.  It may not qualify as a standard present from a big fancy store but it would be a gift from the heart.  A life changing present given in the name of Jesus. 

Thankful Thursday #78

Because I've been reminiscing and scouring old photographs, I had to post this one.  This is a flashback to 2005.  All the Things at Thing 4's preschool Christmas program.  I just love it. 

723. twinkly lights all over
724. Husband Jared taking us all to look at Christmas lights in fancy neighborhoods
725. hearing the rain in the middle of the night
726. book club with Thing 4
727. an unexpected apology from Thing 1
728. joyful Thing 2
729. sharing a hot fudge sundae with Thing 3
730. spending time helping someone else
731. silly text messages 
732. HOPE

Nothing Terribly Important

Well we spent the weekend lounging around.  Saturday at least.  Horseback riding and snow boarding lessons and science projects and papers left us in our yoga pants and close to home.  Ok, I was the only one in my yoga pants and I don't even do yoga.  Anyhoo, it was nice.  I realized just how special this time is.  The mere fact that our teenagers, two of them now, enjoy being with Husband Jared and I is sweet.  Not normal.  I'm thankful for that.  Because what do we always say?  Normal is boring. 

We watched football together, laughed together, snuggled, baked and laughed some more.  There was no rushing in and out of stores.  No shopping online for presents, not even a decoration was touched.  We just were together.  Thing 3 and Thing 4 even hung out with us.  Such an exciting weekend I'm sure they didn't want to miss it.  The two of them ran in and out of the house a few times inbetween attemtps to sled.  Mind you the snow is melting rather quickly with the temperatures having been in the high 30's.  Really getting up there now! 

After all that highly valuable information why don't I just share a few photographs of Christmas past that I have enjoyed looking at over the past few days. 

Thing 2, Christmas 1999 and pregnant Me in the background
Christmas 2000, the three girlie Things,
this was our Christmas card photo
All four Things and Polo, Christmas 2005

Signs of Winter's Approach

This Mama knows it's cold when...

1. my hands are cracked and dry
2.  the Things want hot chocolate with breakfast and after school
3. snow pants, gloves, ski gear are being sold in Target, along with snow boards and sleds
4. ice covers my windshield and my front lawn
5. I can see my breath when I walk Polo
6. my nose is as cold as an icebox
7. they sell emergency kits so you don't freeze, just in case you are stranded on the side of the road
8. there is a snowflake next to the temperature gauge in my car, ALL DAY
9. when it is 30 degrees the Things say "it's warming up"
10. I wear my cuddle duds under my yoga pants, even when I don't leave the house


I have an assignment for you all.  Take a look at this video,  Missions in Action. Then maybe view the additional videos made.  And finally, take action.  We are called to action.  We were created for action.  My friends, it is our honor, our purpose if you will to be the hands and feet.  For the least of these, for the most and all the inbetween.  Every opportunity taken with gusto.  Proclaiming the glory.  Not ours, His.
Sound lofty and idealistic?  Maybe it is.  Really though it is a challenge.  Daily within myself to fight the flesh and open my eyes.  I am not saying it is necessary to support each and every cause.  Nor am I saying to feel guilty that you don't have a "cause".  Jesus is the cause.  Plain and simple.  And when we allow Him to speak to our heart we really aren't the ones doing anything.  Sound upside down?  Well that's because it is.  Yet, when we allow this to happen we are filled with the Spirit and His power.  Flowing from that will be immeasurable goodness.  Just imagine for a moment.  Please. 

There is a missons in action team that travels the world to release children from poverty in Jesus' name and that team is with Compassion International.  All over the world children are in need.  Through Compassion and their sponsorship program these children's basic needs are being met.  Not only are they fed physically but spiritually as well.  By loving them and teaching them their lives are changed.  Dramatically.  If the video above doesn't prove that I don't know what would.  It is all about the heart with this organization.  Truly.  Funny thing about sponsorship is that it wound up changing my heart too.  And not just mine but my family's. 

Our child, Oswaldo, recently sent us a letter and a photograph.  We exchange letters rather frequently with him but I could sense that this one was different.  Included with a note in his handwriting was an 8x10 photograph of him standing behind a bench filled with "stuff".  I say stuff because to you and I the items on the bench are things I take for granted on a daily basis.  In all his fourteen year old cuteness he had lined up what he purchased at the store with the birthday money we sent to him via Compassion.  Meat for his family, three pairs of shoes, one for church, one for play and one for football, hair gel (he is a fourteen year old boy afterall) snacks and drinks for his family and two shirts.  The amount we sent was insignificant to us, a frozen yogurt out or a few cups of overpriced coffee for me.  It wasn't about the size of the gift.  He shared in his letter how he was able to shop with someone from his Compassion center.  How happy and proud he was to provide for his family.  The joy he experienced in learning  how to manage his money and make his own purchases.  And for us, seeing that photograph of him and reading  his letter was a reminder of how blessed we are to be a part of his life.  The Things pray for Oswaldo, he is one of ours.  Through this relationship they have learned about Oswaldo's country and stared slackjawed at Husband Jared and I when they were able to see first hand what he chose to spend his very own birthday money on.

I share that story with you not for a pat on the back but for you to see that Compassion is the real deal.  We don't compare our giving with anyone else's, Jesus is the standard, (words taken from Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience).  There are countless children waiting on their website for someone like you to invest in their life.  Waiting to hear about a man named Jesus.  Waiting to be prayed for.  Waiting for a letter to arrive.  Waiting for someone to take action.

A Football Festival and Some Snow, in Photos

 Will and his buddies put together a small group to play in a juniors festival this past weekend in St. Paul.  Husband Jared created these Goztepe jersies for the boys, way to go Super Dad!  The boys played well and came home champions.  As we were leaving the dome the snow came down.  What a sight to see.  It was our first adventure driving in these conditions.  And when I say "our" I really mean Husband Jared.  I don't drive in such conditions.  Or at least not yet.  
 The neighborhood group out front posing for us.  Yes, we were the only parents outside.  I think we had just as much fun as they did.  We even rode the sleds and raced them down the "big hill".  It did take me a bit longer to thaw out though. 

 Thing 1's snow angel

 The race!

Thing 4 had his first snow boarding lesson this weekend as well.  Him and of his neighborhood buddies are taking lessons together.  They learned safety and a few of the basics.  After the lesson they are able to stay on the slopes as long as they'd like.  He didn't stop talking about it all day, he even imitated the moves he learned on the hardwood floors, sans snow board! 

And that my friends, was our weekend.  There were also cups upon cups of hot cocoa, movies watched while snuggled under the blanket and snowflakes counted.