Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Good-bye 2008

What an amazing year it has been. I started this blog in February with the picture a day project. I took a picture each day of that month and really started to understand my camera. This year would have to be the year of the DSLR for me. I dug deep into my camera's manual and really started to learn and experiment. I am nowhere near where I would like to be skill-wise, but I continue to enjoy the process of learning.

We did so many things this year it is difficult to recap them in a single blog post. I've created three collages that include a few of my favorite pics from this year. We celebrated birthdays and anniversaries, took trips to the National Zoo and the Safari Park. We spent a week at the beach and a week camping and biking in the mountains. We cooked and baked a lot of new recipes, met new friends, and spent some great family time together.

I look forward to a wonderful 2009. It will be a year of milestones. We'll meet our newest niece and our first nephew. We'll see Peyton off to kindergarten and transition Liam to morning preschool. We will try to find a new place to camp/ bike and we'll return to Sandbridge with Nonna for a week. The most important thing I hope for in this new year is to continue to serve others. I hope to find some volunteer opportunities for not just me, but our whole family. I hope to teach our kids the importance of giving back, and not just giving money to a charity or to our church, but giving our time to organizations and programs we support. I can't imagine the adventures that await us!

Monday, December 29, 2008

What a face!

Liam is the polar opposite of Peyton when it comes to drawing attention to himself. He does not like to have the spotlight on him. He gets a little peeved when we try to take his picture and will furrow his brow. I used my zoom lens to take this picture of him at our Christmas celebration on Sunday. I love how wide his eyes are and how sweet he looks.

We had a very nice celebration with Mark's family on Sunday. We opened gifts and did cheese fondue for appetizers, chocolate fondue for dessert, and a delicious ham dinner in the middle. It was fun to see the cousins playing together. They are getting to the point where they can play together with very little supervision. As long as an adult is within earshot, they are usually good to go. We exchanged homemade gifts this year and it was very cool to see what everyone made. One family gave us a homemade candle and another made a snowman doorstop out of landscape pavers. I love the creativity and thought that went into these gifts. I also just love homemade items and think it's fun to make things.

Mark has this week off and we are just enjoying the time together. We spent this evening straightening our basement playroom and weeding out some toys the kids don't play with anymore. I feel good about getting rid of some of the clutter. I hope to work on the kid's rooms tomorrow while they are in preschool and then my closet! We really need to tackle our garage and workshop, but one thing at a time! Plus I'm sure he doesn't want to spend all of his time off cleaning and working!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Day

Christmas day was a bit overwhelming. We spent the morning with just the four of us, opening presents and playing with new toys. We ate coffee cake, per Peyton's request, after opening gifts. Then we got the family room cleaned up in preparation for Nonna, Uncle Craig, and Granny's visit. They brought a trunkload of presents for us. The room looked like a cyclone hit after all of the gifts were opened. The kids got some really fun things and were just so excited with each gift opened. Peyton was yelling, "Oh this is exactly what I wanted. I love this!"

After a soup and sandwich lunch we settled down for rests before heading to church. Our church hosted a community Christmas dinner for anyone who wanted to come. There were over 100 people in attendance and we enjoyed a full-blown turkey dinner with all the trimmings. It was so cool to see our children doing crafts with new friends. I hope the message of Christmas made it through to some who needed to hear it.

It was a really long day, but a lot of fun too. We'll be heading to Charlottesville on Sunday for dinner with Mark's family to celebrate another Christmas event.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas Eve

Our sweet children chose this crooked and twisted tree. I laugh every time I walk by it. It is so cute! I'm also a little concerned that it may fall over before New Year's Day!

Liam was "playing" the piano and singing "Jingle Bells" while I finished decorating the tree. Future musician, maybe?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Our Christmas Lights

I will post a picture of our crooked and twisty tree later (I haven't loaded the pictures from my camera yet) but I wanted to share our outside lights. Mark grabbed the kids last week and let them put the lights on our bushes. They had a ball. I stood outside with my camera on the tripod and captured the action. I used a long exposure making them ghostly.

Mark and the kids are in the kitchen right now making my birthday cake, a blueberry cheesecake, my request. I can't wait to eat a piece tomorrow. I'm hoping to sleep in for a bit in the morning, in honor of my 33rd birthday and maybe to have some time to read. We're working nursery during the 4:30 service at church and then we'll attend the 7:30 one. I love attending church on my birthday and feel like if we don't, it hasn't been a good birthday.

2 days until Christmas. Take some time to enjoy the season. I marvel at the gift of God's son. What a blessing to think about the story, especially since I've had children. I'm amazed at Mary's humble obedience and her trust in God, an Old Testament God that was hard to understand and was distant. I'm so grateful that Jesus came and gave us a way to God, a way that was full of compassion and love.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I love how Peyton finds ways to amuse herself during her "rest" time. On this particular day she dug around in her closet until she found a dress and then she dressed herself and did her hair. After rest she asked me to take her picture! I never know what I'm going to find when I open that door.....

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sunday school program

Peyton and Liam participated in our church's Birthday Party for Jesus last week. Each Sunday school class, from ages 2 up to 5th grade, presented either a song or poetry reading or told the Nativity story. Peyton's class sang "Jingle Bells" and Liam's class sang "Happy Birthday" and then blew cute! It's hard to post pictures from their activities because I don't want to post pictures of other kids without their parent's permission. I tried to blur out the kiddos around him.

We had a long day at church today. Mark and I taught 8:30am Children's Church, then we had Sunday school, and then we hung out until after the 11am service to work on preparations for the Community Christmas Dinner on Thursday. We put together foam Christmas trees and the kids decorated them. They'll be used as centerpieces on Thursday. The older kids were able to stick with it longer than the littler ones, but even the older kids ended up ditching the project and the adults finished it! I think they will look cute on the tables.

We've been trying to get the kids excited about Christmas and the whole idea of giving versus receiving gifts. We went to the Dollar Tree today and had them shop for each other and for their parents. You should see the stuff they chose...hilarious! I won't share now, I'll wait until everything is opened on Christmas day. Mark and I wrapped the gifts and are going to let the kids decorate the packages after their rests.

I hope you all take some time this week to slow down and enjoy the Christmas lights, the time you have off work, the time spent with your families, etc. What a precious time to remember our Savior's birth. I hope it resonates with you not only during the holiday, but all year.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Santa Claus and Liam

My sweet Liam has a love-hate relationship with Santa, Batman, inflatables that move, some stuffed animals, etc. This is a nice way of saying that he can be a big scaredy cat sometimes. I didn't want to push him to get his picture taken with Santa, but I know it's an important tradition for me and my mom, so we figured we would take it slow. We got to the mall in Richmond just as Santa was going on break, but the sweet staff told us they would go ahead and take our picture. Liam was reluctant to sit on Santa's lap, but he did agree to sit on the big stuffed reindeer. He climbed right on and was fine, smiling and laughing. Peyton climbed onto Santa's lap and I was excited that we would get a good picture, and then the ladies started to jingle bells and ask the kids to look at the camera. Liam's face crumbled and he started to bawl and climb off the reindeer. They snapped the picture anyway and I think it's funny and sort of sad at the same time. I keep hoping he will get over some of the irrational fear and enjoy things.

We went to look at some of the most amazing Christmas lights I have ever seen last night. We even got out of the car to look at some of the houses and he was scared of the lights. Oh well. That's my Liam!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The computer is fixed....time for cookies!

I made 6 different kinds of cookies this past weekend. Peyton and Liam enjoyed tasting the final products and they loved rolling and cutting dough and then decorating it. I want to find a few recipes that will become Christmas tradition for us. This year was all about experimenting. Fortunately we have given away most of the cookies!

HUGE thanks to Mark for laboring very patiently over our computer. He has spent a great deal of time this week in order to get it back up and running. It seems to be okay now. Hip-hip-hurray!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

No pictures today

I would love to post some pictures of the kids decorating Christmas cookies, or of the fantastic biscotti I made, or of the kids program at church on Sunday, but our computer is having issues and I can't.  I'm using Mark's work laptop right now.  He so sweetly left it at home after lunch.  I feel like someone cut off my thumbs because I don't have access to all of my bookmarks.  I guess because we live in such a technology-driven world, and because I use my computer every day, not having one hurts!  I'm hopeful that Mark can somehow figure out how to get it to turn on again. He tried one thing today that didn't work, but hopefully he can figure out what will work.  I keep joking that there is something electromagnetic about me that makes computers freeze and have issues...maybe there's something to that theory!

I might have to go out and buy a sweet new e-laptop from apple if we can't get this computer back up and running (just kidding honey).  I'll stimulate the economy baby!  

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas Program

The kids participated in a Christmas program on Monday night at their preschool. Oh school programs...they are always interesting. I was curious what Liam would do since he had never been on stage before. He didn't sing very much, but he did sway...a lot! He also put a carrot in his nose during a snowman poem and lifted his sweater up high. It was very mild so I was relieved. Peyton's class, the 4 year olds, had a more detailed part of the program. The other classes sang a song and did some sort of reading or poem, then they all sang together, then the 4's told the Christmas story, in costume! They were so cute dressed like donkeys, camels, angels, wise men, shepherds, etc. Peyton was a donkey. I had no idea they would be in costume so I almost didn't recognize her when they walked out.

The teachers told the kids to sing loud so they could be heard and boy did they ever sing loud, especially one little girl. They didn't so much sing as they did scream. It was really funny and sweet. I wish I could show more of the kids, but I don't have their parent's permission and don't want to make anyone uncomfortable. Enjoy these pics of my little guy and my little donkey!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Oh my funny Liam

Liam just yelled up to me, "Randy licked my cheek" (for those who don't know, Randy is our sweet dog). It actually sounded like, "Randy licked my teek." I told him it was okay and he then said, "Randy, no ma'am." It is just plain hilarious when I hear my own words echoed back from the mouth of a 2 year old boy! He still has trouble with certain sounds so a few nights ago he said, "I need a grink of water, my froat is fratchy," which translates to "I need a drink of water, my throat is scratchy." I'm still chuckling about that one.

Dance "Recital"

Peyton took an introduction to dance class this fall at our local parks and recreation. This class has been a wonderful way to introduce her to ballet, modern dance, and just movement in general. They learned the first 3 ballet positions and had a lot of fun moving like all different kinds of animals, dancing to crazy fun songs, and playing with hoola hoops and pinwheels. The parents and friends were invited in to observe a class on Monday and I finally got to see her in action. It was so fun to see the different ways her teacher taught them. She used all kinds of imaginary scenarios to introduce them to ballet arm and feet positions. Peyton has asked to take it again in the new year, so we'll attempt to sign her up in January. The classes fill up fast so I'm crossing my fingers that we'll get a spot. Liam also loved watching her class and he's asking if he can take ballet! Since he'll have to be 3.5, we have some time! Both kids had their school program on Monday night. I'll post some pictures of that later.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

JMU Dukes

Go JMU! The kids really have fun with the purple and gold hair and the JMU Dr. Suess hat! Simple pleasures!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Harrisonburg Christmas Parade

This has to be the rinky-dinkiest parade ever, but I absolutely loved seeing it with the kids last night. We had dinner with friends and then walked downtown to watch the parade. We found a spot really close to the beginning of the parade so the kids got TONS of candy from the participants. We were turning candy away at the end and they would still throw 3 or 4 lollipops onto Peyton's lap. We put the kids in the double stroller and had them covered in blankets, but they were still cold. I think it was below freezing last night but the people in the parade were in good spirits and we had some really fun people standing beside us.

The Harrisonburg Parade is very interesting. There are floats from local businesses, the area high school bands play, but there are some random things too like old cars with no signage, a random man walking with a ginormous pink bear, flaming baton twirlers, you get the picture. Mark asked me if anyone can be in the parade and I think all you have to do is pay a $10 fee and you're in! I think the highlight had to be the JMU Marching Royal Dukes (sorry Santa). They are phenomenal. They kicked off the parade and then stayed to perform on Court Square afterward. We grabbed some coffee and then Peyton and I watched them. The sound was bouncing off the downtown buildings and it was just amazing. When you get 425+ people who love to play music together, it's bound to be great. It brought back fun memories from my MRD days. And yes, seeing Santa was cool too. He was riding in a carriage pulled by Sonny and Cher, two draft horses that we see on our way to preschool each week. I think Peyton was more excited about seeing them than seeing Santa!

Mark took Peyton to a birthday party this afternoon and Liam and I watched the JMU vs. Villanova game on TV. It was an exciting game and when they intercepted the ball at the end, clinching their victory, I was screaming like a lunatic. Liam had no clue why I was so excited, but he was screaming too and yelling, "GO JNU!" I would have loved to go to the game, but I didn't mind watching from my very warm living room either!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Peanut Butter Cookies

I found an incredibly easy recipe in a book at the library yesterday and we had to try it. It has only 3 ingredient, an egg, a cup of sugar, and a cup of peanut butter. You mix all the ingredients, roll out little balls, put them on a greased cookie sheet, and bake at 350 for 10 - 12 minutes. Then you squish them with a fork when they're cooked. Peyton and Liam love to help in the kitchen so they donned their aprons and rolled some peanut butter balls. Liam kept asking if he could, "have a taste" of the batter. I'm not a huge fan of peanut butter cookies, but these were easy to make and the kids enjoyed it. I'm hoping to make gingerbread cookies with them soon. We have a load of Christmas cookie cutters to use. I also want to make cake balls and some peppermint meringue kisses too. Lots of Christmas baking to look forward to very soon!


I just read a post over at Quiet Life that I just had to link to here. Please read this. It is a beautiful message and I hope it will encourage you during this Advent season!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

More Farm Shots

I love our family farm. I took a walk on Friday while the littles were napping and took a few pictures. I really love the fall/ winter seasons because I love the bare trees and the cooler weather. I also liked the peace and quiet of taking a walk with my dog and just listening to our feet crunching on the gravel road. It was super peaceful. I'm about to start wrapping presents, something I loathe, and I'm dragging my feet. I love buying/ making the gifts, but I have always hated wrapping. Thank goodness for gift bags!

Looking for ways to Give this Christmas

A friend pointed the way to a great blog, The Train to Crazy today. The writer is looking for ways to encourage her daughters to give this Christmas instead of focusing on getting. She is seeking ideas to do 25 days of giving. Head over and leave her a comment. You might just win a prize.

I love this idea. Mark and I are trying hard to teach our children to give. We put some money in the Salvation Army kettle last week and talked about where the money would go. We will put scarves on the Christmas tree at church to be given to the soup kitchen attendees. We will also purchase a few gifts for the birthday party for Jesus at our church. The gifts will be given to a local childcare center that assists families in need. I hate how Christmas is all about the lights, the decorations, the gifts, etc. I feel for Charlie Brown when he complains how even his dog has gone commercial! I love the decorations and lights, but I really love celebrating the birth of my Savior and I want my kids to focus on Him. Go visit the blog and leave your idea and maybe get some inspiration too!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Farm Pictures

I had my camera handy at the farm and although I didn't take any pictures of the cows, I did snap a few of the birds. I love the picture of Randy in the field too. She loves visiting the farm and will run until she is exhausted. She hasn't moved much since we got home Saturday night!

Holiday Baking

Thanksgiving was fantastic. We spent a few days with family in Fredericksburg and ate ourselves silly! We celebrated Mark's birthday, his sister's birthday, and our niece's birthday. We also had a fruit tasting session with the cousins and craft time. The kids were so tired when we got home that they didn't move when Mark moved them from the car to the couch. I'll post some pics from T-giving later.

I made my first bread, sans breadmaker, last week. I made two white loaves and they were pretty good. It was really therapeutic to knead the bread and to do it all from scratch. Even though I enjoyed the whole process, we did go out and buy a new breadmaker last night. I use it so much that it's worth the money. We got a great deal on it at Kohl's and I made a loaf of wheat last night! I also made two apple pies last week that were so yummy. I am getting better at making my own crust. It's taken a lot of practice, and there are a few tricks I'll use next time to make it even better.

Now we're off and running toward Christmas. I finished putting my Christmas cards in envelopes today and mailed about 30 of them. I need to get a few more stamps before I finish the rest. All of my gifts are pretty much done. I need to do a lot of wrapping and have 3 more to buy. I'm trying to slow down and enjoy the season.