Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Survey

1) What did you do in 2009 that you'd never done before?
Dropped both of my kids off at school at the same time

2) Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don't formally make them usually, but I'm always up for trying to do life better. Last year, I said I wanted JB & I to go out on more dates, and we really got into the habit the last few months. The Love Dare was amazing for us, too.

3) Did anyone close to you give birth?
Jackie had Isabella; Amanda had James; my brother & sister-in-law had Matthew; Shelley had Isaac

4) Did anyone close to you die?
Not super close

5) What countries did you visit?
Back to most of Europe in my dreams...

6) What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
A super mild, virtually non-existant winter

7) What date from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Other than birthdays, May 9th was Annelise's first dance recital. Also January 20th - Obama's inauguration - was a pretty big deal, b/c not only was it my mom's bday, but the kids & I got really into the election coverage. I am obsessed with the idea of shared experience, so anytime the country and esp. the world are all focused together on an event, I have to stop everything to join in, too.

8) What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Getting to the point where JB traveling for work didn't upset me - I accepted it, instead of churning over it, and that made my life easier. I also really jumped right into life in Naperville as soon as we moved w/o any waiting around: singing on praise team, taking over my MOPS group, reactivating in Junior League, and starting to teach dance, again. I took a lot of my life back. :-)

9) What was your biggest failure?
My temper/Jekyll & Hyde anger

10) Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nonstop headaches early in the year. Nothing serious.

11) What was the best thing you bought?
our IOP beach rental, bubble tea, Jergen's facial moisturizer with self-tanner in it, Redskins paraphanalia, hair bow ribbon, and my iPhone!!!

12) Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Sissy rocked her first dance recital in May. Will was a scoring machine on his first organized soccer team this fall.

13) Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Passive-aggressive attitudes, esp. rude digs through a smile. People who agree to something & then leave you hanging.

14) Where did most of your money go?
Aside from bills, definitely eating out! :-)

15) What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Trips to Isle of Palms, Charlotte, & Tweetise Railroad. Sissy's recital. Singing onstage, again. The zoo. Really good bubble tea. New friends!!! Learning how to make hair bows, (thank you Kate!)

16) What song will always remind you of 2009?
"I Will Rise" - Chris Tomlin, "Your Hands" - Jj Heller, "Use Somebody" - Kings of Leon, "Never Say Never" - The Fray, "Until the Whole World Hears" - Casting Crowns

17) Compared to this time last year, are you:
- happier or sadder? way happier
- thinner or fatter? same
- richer or poorer? we don't have money to burn, but we have less debt, so that's a huge plus

18) What do you wish you'd done more of?
Showing my kids mercy

19) What do you wish you'd done less of?

20) How will you be spending New Year's?
With JB, my kids & parents at our own fĂȘte at home in Charlotte

21) Did you fall in love in 2009?
With Naperville! If it weren't 13 hours from home or have nasty winters, I'd never want to move.

22) How many one-night stands?

23) What was your favorite TV program?
TOO HARD!!! Enjoying Everyday Life, Glee, Friday Night Lights, The Office, 30 Rock, Big Love, The Tudors, Grey's Anatomy, lots of reality TV: Survivor, So You Think You Can Dance, The Amazing Race, Project Runway, America's Next Top Model, American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, Top Chef, Kitchen Nightmares, etc. I also thought 16 & Pregnant on MTV was fabulously realistic, and I want something like that for Annelise to watch when she's 13.

24) Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Hate is a strong word...but I *strongly* dislike JB's boss

25) What was the best book you read?
I read 2 whole books, and they were both fantastic!!! Be Happy or I'll Scream!: My Deranged Quest for the Perfect Husband, Family, and Life by Sheri Lynch and Ya-Yas in Bloom by Rebecca Wells

26) What was your greatest musical discovery?
BarlowGirl's latest album Love & War

27) What did you want and get?
To sing, again. To teach dance, again. To make awesome new friends. To be on steering in my new MOPS group. To live in a vibrant place.

28) What did you want and not get?
To move South. For my husband to have "normal" work hours.

29) What was your favorite film of this year?
In the theatre: The Blind Side & Inglourious Basterds - Also, tons on Netflix.

30) What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 31 and went out to dinner at Heaven on Seven & then dancing with my best girlfriends here!

31) What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Moving to Charleston, SC.

32) How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
A solid year of ONLY ME, with no nursing at all.

33) What kept you sane?
Joyce Meyer, awesome church, Facebook, trips home to NC, new girlfriends, TiVo, and going out to eat.

34) Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I can't think of any one in particular... I guess I could always say Joyce Meyer.

35) What political issue stirred you the most?
As always, extreme partisanship. I also refuse to start any kind of debate, but I am really *not* fond a certain former female governor, so anything she messes up gets me irritated...

36) Whom did you miss?
My mom the most of the year we weren't together. JB every night he worked late.

37) Who was the best new person you met?
Too hard, since we moved! Neil & Brandi, Kate, Peg, my steering team, etc.

38) Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009:
God is STILL more interested in changing you than your circumstances.
When you focus on wanting something more than you focus on Him, you're probably not going to get it, yet.

39) Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
There's a peace I've come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There's an anchor for my soul
I can say "It is well"

~ "I Will Rise" by Chris Tomlin

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Not "Overly Salty"

I really didn't anticipate this blog turning into so much spiritual talk, but I can't ignore that it's at the core of my heart; maybe it's b/c of the season, but I just have come across so many good thoughts and prayers I'd like to remember for myself, so I'll keep putting them here. I don't mean to sound "overly salty" (a fantastic phrase a former pastor of mine used to describe witnessing to the point of *unrelatable* obnoxiousness) and I certainly don't fancy myself a spiritual teacher. I just want to keep these things here to help whomever may be touched by them and esp. to refresh *me* as I reread.

I love the way 411God talked about this week:
Well, the presents have been unwrapped and if you're like me, you're finishing off the last 18 Christmas cookies. Things are really starting to slow down. Maybe, after Jesus' birth, things really started to slow down...? Wait, I can't back that up.

See Matthew 2:7-12 - Big things were taking place, and I think we often miss the boat when we take for granted that God can be be bringing forth the same kind of revolutions in our lives, too, even (if not ESP.) in these "down" times.

A prayer for the New Year:
Help me to be committed to building the spiritual discipline that *reminds me* to access your power and the resources you have given me whenever I need them. Help me to have the patience and endurance to stay on track throughout the New Year.

A friend forwarded this to me by Michael Berg, echoing something I know most of us have a hard time figuring out how to do: "hate the sin, NOT the sinner." Food for thought re: how important tolerance (not condoning) was/is to Jesus:
One of Jesus’ important messages was don’t get stuck in the ritual. If you are authentic in your spiritual work, then you are constantly growing and improving on the inside. Never practice religion simply as an external action. The purpose of it all is to bring internal change to become a better person...

...Clearly, one of his overriding messages was the Old Testament concept of “Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself”. There is nothing a person seeking spirituality can be doing in their lives that leads to anything different than or opposite from this message. Jesus wanted us to understand that religious practice is here to bring us back to this goal.

If this is truly understood, then love and compassion must lead to tolerance. Through his experience as one who went against the status quo, he was both marginalized and persecuted. As a result, he clearly gained a great appreciation for the importance of holding a space for others who have opposing views. He spent his “Light” railing against intolerance and lack of human dignity for those who are different and to those with whom we very much disagree.

What he taught us is that underlying all our spiritual pursuits must be an understanding of human dignity and tolerance for all people. As Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

During this holiday season, we all have so much we can learn from the life and teachings of Jesus. To be religious or spiritual means a constant process of growing and changing, consistently becoming a better and better person, knowing that none of our beliefs can – nor should they – bring us anything but a growing sense of love, compassion, and tolerance for those whom we love, and, more importantly, for those with whom we disagree.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Realistic Luxury

As I was bobbing in my parents' hot tub a bit ago with the kids, I looked up into the clear (not freezing!) Carolina blue sky and then into their sparkling faces & thought, "This is the life!" This is my idea of realistic luxury. Sure, if money were no option, I would have a much more extensive list of what I considered to be my favorite luxuries, as we jetted from our Charleston mansion across Europe, discovering every bit of fantastic history along the way. ;-)

But realistically in my life right now, luxury to me is bobbing in the hot tub on vacay at my parents' house with my kids and then taking a relaxed shower, getting my hair washed, and feeling relaxed & cleaned up for whatever adventure my mom & I cook up later. Luxury is my parents' neighbors, who have adored my kids since day one, and with whom I feel safe enough to just send the kids out the garage door to run across the grass & play at their house for however-long. We move around so much, that these are the only friends with which I feel that luxury. (Not that I don't have other friends with whom I could drop the kids off, but none that I can see their door from mine.) Luxury is getting milkshakes and discovering new treats out & about with my mom. (I can't stand just sitting in the house doing nothing. It drives me crazy!) Luxury is the heated seats in her car and her driving instead of me. Luxury is exploring every new restaurant in the area! Luxury is browsing the mall or shops together with no (or very little) agenda. Luxury is the feeling that I can totally relax at her house, unlike at mine where I feel like I *should* be doing this or I *should* be doing that around the house every second. Here, I can sit guilt-free in front of the TV and watch a movie. Luxury is not hearing the kids get up or me getting up with them in the morning, b/c they tip toe from their rooms down to my parents after the sun comes up. Luxury is the freedom to use their Keurig to make myself a chai latte anytime I want without asking or any fuss. Luxury is going out to catch up with my best friends and knowing my kids are safe & happy, and I don't have to pay for a sitter! Luxury is the dishes being done and me not having to touch them (I HATE DISHES!) when I come downstairs after putting the kids to bed at night. Luxury is not sitting alone on the couch at night after putting them down and having my fam to totally veg out with.

These are my real-life vacay luxuries. What are yours?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I really enjoyed the Following the Star Advent devotional this year, and I don't want to forget this major point to remember year round:

Christmas reminds us that God is still in the habit of breaking into our everyday lives with the promise of good news. Are you waiting? Are you listening? Do you believe it is coming? Are you ready to jump for joy?

Merry Christmas to ALL of you, thank you for talking the time to get to know me, and I hope we continue to celebrate life together!

A Christmas present for all of y'all: a free $4 credit for Amazon's Video On Demand! Enjoy a movie or two during this Christmas season--for free! Click here and enter the code AVODGIFT.

A Christmas prayer:
God, today as we celebrate the arrival of Jesus among us, help me to remember that he is God, the creator of the universe, the great I AM who offered himself for me. In the quiet of this moment, remind me that Christmas is not an end, but a beginning – the beginning of the coming of your kingdom on earth. Continue to shape me in your image and use me to be about your work in the world. Today, help me to offer all of myself as a gift to you. Happy birthday, Jesus! Amen.

Not an end, but a beginning... Like the "Christmas Night" reading also echoed, I don't want any of us to get down in a post-holiday slump. I want to revel with this same level of joy year-round! Not guaranteeing that will be the case everyday, but I know I can choose joy over irritation more often, and I'm excited to continue to try!

Now back to my precious family, after a day of super presents, delicious food, relaxed flopping around on the couch, bobbing around in my parents' hot tub, followed by a chai latte, and now for another round of good eats...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Clearing My Desktop

Here are a bunch of random links I need to close off my desktop to get ready to travel home, so I thought I'd put them here to remember and perhaps share, if anyone may be interested.

Free bagel poppers at Einsteins through Dec. 29th!

I want a set of these cute bowls (as yet another of our old ones was broken last night) from this cute online store, and I want to make this artwork into a plate sometime:

I want to pick up a carton of this drink to have on hand instead of Pedialyte for the next (hopefully far, far away!) time the kids get sick. It sounds fantastic!

I got pre-Christmas digiscrapped just in time! (I can't let myself get behind with big events on scrapping, or else I'll get overwhlemed and put it off even longer.)

December 7-12: Gingerbread houses, tap, Montessori Christmas Music Program, and training into Chicago for...

...the Willis (Sears) Tower Skydeck and Adler Planetarium with our friends from Romaina December 12th:

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cookie Exchange Intoxication

What is it about the smell that wafts up out of the tupperware container and engulfs my entire face each time I open the tub of cookies from the cookie exchange? It is intoxicating! And it sends me right back to childhood... My mom hosted our neighborhood cookie exchange every single year growing up, and the smell of opening her big yellow tupperware tub the morning after was the same as opening mine now! The varieties of cookies are different, but there's that same scrumptious scent. Mmmm... As if I haven't made myself sick enough off them since our MOPS cookie exchange Friday, I still think I'll go get another (few)... ;-)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Max Lucado's "Christmas Night"

Running around like a crazy woman, preparing for our big Christmas meeting at MOPS tomorrow, after which we leave for Christmas in Michigan with JB's fam this weekend. (We come back here for JB to work next week before we can go home to NC for Christmas with my fam.) I have all the kids' teacher gifts ready for the last day of school, my gifts, casserole (Southern Living, July 2003), ornaments, & cookie exchange cookies (my ULTIMATE family recipe) ready for MOPS, and I still have to pack us all, but at least I have all of the presents done & wrapped. WHEW!

For MOPS tomorrow, I'm going to close with a reading on Christmas by Max Lucado, so I thought I'd share here, too, since I haven't had time for my usual stories:

Christmas Night

It’s Christmas night. The house is quiet. Even the crackle is gone from the fireplace. Warm coals issue a lighthouse glow in the darkened den. Stockings hang empty on the mantle. The tree stands naked in the corner. Christmas cards, tinsel, and memories remind Christmas night of Christmas day.

It’s Christmas night. What a day it has been! Spiced tea. Santa Claus. Cranberry sauce. “Thank you, so much.” “You shouldn’t have!” “Grandma is on the phone.” Knee-deep wrapping paper. “It just fits.” Flashing cameras.

It’s Christmas night. The girls are in bed. Jenna dreams of her talking Big Bird and clutches her new purse. Andrea sleeps in her new Santa pajamas.

It’s Christmas night. The tree that only yesterday grew from soil made of gifts, again grows from the Christmas tree stand. Presents are now possessions. Wrapping paper is bagged and in the dumpsite. The dishes are washed and leftover turkey awaits next week’s sandwiches.

It’s Christmas night. The last of the carolers appeared on the ten o’clock news. The last of the apple pie was eaten by my brother-in-law. And the last of the Christmas albums have been stored away having dutifully performed their annual rendition of chestnuts, white Christmases, and red-nosed reindeer.

It’s Christmas night. The midnight hour has chimed and I should be asleep, but I’m awake. I’m kept awake by one stunning thought. The world was different this week. It was temporarily transformed.

The magical dust of Christmas glittered on the cheeks of humanity ever so briefly, reminding us of what is worth having and what we were intended to be. We forgot our compulsion with winning, wooing, and warring. We put away our ladders and ledgers, we hung up our stop watches and weapons. We stepped off our racetracks and roller coasters and looked outward toward the star of Bethlehem.

It’s the season to be jolly because, more than at any other time, we think of him. More than in any other season, his name is on our lips.

And the result? For a few precious hours our heavenly yearnings intermesh and we become a chorus. A ragtag chorus of longshoremen, Boston lawyers, illegal immigrants, housewives, and a thousand other peculiar persons who are banking that Bethlehem’s mystery is in reality, a reality. “Come and behold him” we sing, stirring even the sleepiest of shepherds and pointing them toward the Christ-child.

For a few precious hours, he is beheld. Christ the Lord. Those who pass the year without seeing him, suddenly see him. People who have been accustomed to using his name in vain, pause to use it in praise. Eyes, now free of the blinders of self, marvel at his majesty. All of a sudden he’s everywhere.

In the grin of the policeman as he drives his paddy wagon full of presents to the orphanage.

In the twinkle in the eyes of the Taiwanese waiter as he tells of his upcoming Christmas trip to see his children.

In the emotion of the father who is too thankful to finish the dinner table prayer.

He’s in the tears of the mother as she welcomes home her son from overseas.

He’s in the heart of the man who spent Christmas morning on skid row giving away cold baloney sandwiches and warm wishes.

And he’s in the solemn silence of the crowd of shopping mall shoppers as the elementary school chorus sings “Away in a Manger.”

Emmanuel. He is with us. God came near.

It’s Christmas night. In a few hours the cleanup will begin—lights will come down, trees will be thrown out. Size 36 will be exchanged for size 40, eggnog will be on sale for half-price. Soon life will be normal again. December’s generosity will become January’s payments and the magic will begin to fade.

But for the moment, the magic is still in the air. Maybe that’s why I’m still awake. I want to savor the spirit just a bit more. I want to pray that those who beheld him today will look for him next August. And I can’t help but linger on one fanciful thought: if he can do so much with such timid prayers lamely offered in December, how much more could he do if we thought of him every day?

It Began in a Manger
© 1995 by Max Lucado

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Montessori Music & Chicago Sightseeing Pics

So after the last post, here are the pics to prove the AWESOME parts of last weekend! :-)

Will & Annelise had their Montessori Christmas music program Friday night.
Jingle Bells:

Proud family:

Saturday morning, we took the train into the city, (a fun adventure for the kids in and of itself):

We posed in Union Station...

...Before heaing to the top of Willis (formerly Sears) Tower - the 3rd tallest building in the WORLD and the tallest in the western hemisphere. Willis Tower has "The Ledge" - glass boxes where you can literally step out over the city on the 103rd floor. Yeah. This usually-scared-of-heights mama conquered her fear for the sake of super cool pics:

Afterwards, we went to Adler Planetarium, which actually has the best view back to the Chicago skyline, b/c it's on a penisula out in Lake Michigan:

See! We DID still have fun! :-)

(And I only have 1 load of laundry left! :-P)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Barfing Hospitality

I've been MIA, but it's been for a cool reason: last week, my friend Amy, her husband Cristian, and their boys Eli - 4 and Alec - 9 months, flew in to visit us from ROMANIA! Amy's from Texas, but she is a missionary working with street youth in Romania. She met her husband there, and that's where they're staying to raise their family.

We had a really good time with them! Honestly, we TRULY did...even in light of the following...

So, before they showed up, I prayed for God to grace me with a spirit of happy hospitality. I may be the quintessential Southern Belle, but I just have never had enough of that bend-over-backwards-to-accommodate sense to live up to the fabled Southern Hospitality ideal. I really wanted them to have a good time (you know those plane tickets weren't cheap!) and esp. traveling with 2 littles ones, I really wanted it to be as easy going and pleasant as possible. Little did I know what was about to be thrown my way...

When we went out on a super fun shopping spree Thursday morning, (they bought tons of stuff they can't get in Romania to ship back!) Bonnie Blue (our beagle) nosed through their bags...and found two big packs of chocolate candy. Yeah.

She ate them all, and then proceeded to barf nonstop all over everything for the next 12+ hours. Nightmare doesn't even begin to scratch the surface. The only good news what that - thanks to this awesome Chocolate Chart, which shows in detail what the exact amounts of different kinds of chocolate will do to your dog - we did avoid an extra bill from the vet. But B was in bad shape, barfing and shaking for hours and hours. Irritated? Absolutely. Resentful that she got into their stuff? You bet. Angry to be covered in dog barf & have her be in a potentially life-threatening situation? Believe it!

But the most shocking part? For whatever reason, (yes, it was God answering my prayer with grace,) I didn't let it ruin their visit, and I didn't wallow under the dark cloud I usually would have. It was...amazing.

The next morning, I told everyone to *make sure* everything food-wise was put up before we went out & about. When we got home? Yep. More barf. She ate an entire bag of marshmallows forgotten behind the couch that would no longer be Romania-bound. I wanted to cry. "Seriously, God???" This test was getting extreme. ...But, again, even though I was not amused by even MORE laundry, God's grace was there. As I was scrubbing on my hands & knees, I actively thought, "Well, at least this is clear/white and actually smells good. At least I don't want to wretch cleaning it up." Such positivity could only be divinely inspired, esp. the way I usually love to pout & stew in irritation.

I do 2 loads of laundry a week. I did 8 this weekend and still have 2 more. And those I am *not* enjoying, but the point is, they didn't ruin the visit!

Praise God that Bonnie Blue has recovered and is back to the good girl we know, and that, despite the barf-o-rama, we still had a good time with our friends! I am stepping up and saying boldly in faith that the reason I was given such a strenuous test of hospitality is b/c hopefully God is preparing us to move to Charleston, where people will be banging down our door to visit, and now after this, my new heights of hospitality have been amped up to appropriate beach-living levels. :-D

Engaging Will

In the car the other night, Will worriedly said out-of-the-blue, "What if the girl I ask to marry me says no?" I have no idea where this came from, but the thought for even a split second broke my heart! I tried to scoop him up with my words as I drove. "Oh, honey!!!!! I promise you that if you love her enough to ask and you know she's the one that she will say yes!" Then I added, "I'll even talk to her before you ask, if you want, OK honey?" This mama won't tolerate ANY unworthy floozy hurting MY baby!!! :-P

SPRING in December? In Illinois???

I am appalled. Appalled isn't even strong enough. Agape, agog, aghast! I was confounded last April when I couldn't find jeans - only jean shorts - for Will at Walmart. (I buy all his pants there, b/c he goes through the knees of Gymboree brand just as quickly, so why not save the $$$?) But I was utterly thunderstruck to see spring shirts there last week and short sleeves already overtaking the racks - when it was 7°F outside their doors with a windchill of -12°F! ...And I was even more put out that they had a super cute polo shirt that will make Will's eyes pop that I couldn't resist. Sucker.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Surprise: Shots!

On the way to CiCi's Pizza after school, (it was fundraiser day there for my MOPS group!) we drove past Walgreens with a sign posted: "Flu Shots Today"

We made appointments around Labor Day to get the 1st available seasonal flu shots, (the 2nd week of October)...and then our pediatrician called 2 days before and said, "Sorry, we're out." Everywhere has been out since I started feeling urgent about getting them, so when I saw that sign (and knew it was a trusted location; the head nurse practitioner is actually coming to speak to our MOPS group in March & I know people who use their clinic regularly since it's less crowded & cheaper than the normal ped) I whipped around into the lot.

Sorry, kids. I know you thought we were going to CiCi's (their fave place) but SURPRISE! We're all getting shots first!!!

I felt awful to do that to them, but you know - I couldn't pass it up, esp. with the way sickness sets into Will's lungs, and honestly, I think spur of the moment was way easier & less dramatic than the build up to "Shot Day" would have been. Sis actually ASKED to go FIRST! She cried for a split second...but it was enough to terrify Will. Will is my super scaredy cat. He wailed like a baby, but when I told him he could pick out a piece of chocolate, he finally stopped. Other than those few minutes of Will hysteria behind closed doors, it was a BREEZE! I am SO glad we *finally* got that taken care of, and I am extremely happy to know that clinic handles so many other issues AND TAKES OUR INSURANCE! :-) The happiest part: the kids each got a coloring/activity book for "being so brave." Score!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Blind Side

JB & I just got back from a date night (props to us for that!) to see "The Blind Side" at Hollywood Palms. I am now obsessed with this movie. I cannot let it go. Everyone knows I love football, but this was beyond. Perfect casting, genuine acting, and a stellar true story. And now my accent is so thick it sounds like I just walked off the plane from home. :-) It was just divine, and I cannot recommend it enough!!!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Faux "Crisis" Averted

Thank you ALL so much for your advice! Each one of you made me feel better and/or justified in my little quandry. Everything has fallen into place for a peaceful resolution. (Don't you just LOVE when God does that?! I love that He settles even these little things. :-))
I loved what everyone said about my candid shots being so genuine, and my only issues in not using them were:
#1 - my engraved ornament frame is vertical
#2 - can't see Sissy's face
#3 - can't see their *purposely* matching outfits or her hair bow I made specifically to match (I realize only important to me, but still)

Issues solved:
#1 - I never keep receipts. Ever. But for some reason, (thank you, God) I still have the receipt for the engraved ornament frames for this year. (I buy 3: us & both sets of grandparents.) I just happened to see other square-shaped 2009 ornament frames I liked the other day, but I passed them up, since I already had my fancy traditional ones. These others fit the candid spirit of this Santa pic better, anyway, on top of being a better shape to crop & fit; so I'm exchanging & they should be great!
#2 - oh, well; y'all are right that you can still see the love in the shot...and it's just this year ;-)
#3 - I'll dress them in these exact same outfits for their Montessori Christmas music program Friday night and take tons of pics then, so I'll still have the look documented. :-P

I went ahead and designed our Christmas card w/o a Santa lap pic last night, and I'm totally happy with it, so that's fine, too.

In thinking about all this, I've realized why it was so important to me. It's not about Santa. (We don't even make that big of a deal about him; I talk about how the real St. Nicholas loved God so much he wanted everyone to remember Jesus' birthday, and that's why "he" still gives everyone presents. :-P) For me, it's about tradition. I'm BIG on traditions. I *LOVE* the idea of looking back over the years in relatively the same position and seeing how they've grown. Esp. since we move around so much, we don't have the stability of taking a pic on the same staircase or by the same front door year after year, (or even usually more than 2 years.) I am psycho about my pics, and I think it's b/c they give me the stability I don't get from living in a constant home area.

But I'm also letting my quest for quasi-perfection go this time. (Just this time. ;-)) I feel like there's a lesson here. The actual event was so magical for them; I absolutely do not want to invaildate it by going somewhere else. I also kind of feel like this was a call to prioritize the experience for once over the photo; maybe if I were to go & try anywhere else, it would be a total nightmare. One or both would probably pitch a fit about something and ruin the whole thing. I'll stick with this one year being a bit different in exchange for the perfect Santa lap experience. :-)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Santa Lap Pic "Crisis"

So tonight was our "going to sit on Santa's lap" night. Naperville does this precious Santa House, so we decided to forego the usual mall route for this instead. The experience was MAGICAL! Furtive parents get to write down their kids' names, ages, and wishes on little strips of paper, which Santa actually memorizes before his door opens to each family. Each family gets to go into Santa's House one at a time by themselves, with no one further back in line giving any "hurry up" looks. :-P It's peaceful & enchanting - not a bustling sensory overload like the mall. Santa was calm & sweet, not loud & boisterous. The kids were excited (but not actually shocked or surprised, b/c they believe he's one of God's helpers who keeps tabs on us) that he knew their names, ages, and what they might want. He took 5 full minutes with them. :-)

The only flaw in the whole experience? I was going to pay for their portrait, so I didn't care that I couldn't see their (esp. Annelise's) faces in all of my candids... But when I saw it, #1 - the color from the lights made it all yellow, #2 - it was even a little blurry, and #3 - Annelise was looking away. My heart shattered. I couldn't put them back on Santa's lap, b/c the other helper had already opened the door for the next family. Gutted, I just said, "Oh, no thank you," to the pic and shuttled the kids out the exit door.

Admittedly, I obsess over the annual Santa lap picture. I may have the only two kids in the world who have ALWAYS loved & taken happy Santa lap pics. Will even smiled in his at 4 months!!!

I have picture frame ornaments, with the year engraved on each one, that contain these annual Santa lap pics from the beginning. I have our 2009 ornament waiting...but NOW what do I do for it?!?!?!?! [OK, yes - I am more than slightly bothered by this.] I don't want to go back there, necessarily, b/c their lighting & print quality aren't going to change; but I don't want to quickly go see another Santa tomorrow, b/c they'll know it's a different man. ACK! (The urgency is b/c I want to get it on our Christmas card & out, too.) Do I let it go and use one of my faceless candids on our ornament & skip it on the card; do we go back to the Santa House & I just try to get what I want with my own camera; or do we go to a different pro Santa altogether? (And if we go to a different one, how do I explain why he's a different guy, if [when!] they ask?) HELP ME...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Standing at Attention & Preparing

I promise I'll take a day off soon, but I wanted to share one more free online advent-type thing: the KLOVE Advent Blog. It's got a different story each day. If you only have time for one, PLEASE do Following the Star first - it was amazing today, about standing at attention & being prepared. It completely echoed two of my most favorite songs right now: JJ Heller's "Your Hands" (listen on YouTube - "when my world is shaking, Heaven stands...") and Casting Crowns' "Until the Whole World Hears" (listen on YouTube - "ready youselves, ready yourselves...") I want to be ready to spring into action.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


It's December. Already. Even blogging every day in November, it flew by! (Betcha thought I'd take today off, huh? :-P)

We began our Advent calendar today. I've always had candy ones, but this year I wanted something different, so I bought a new fabric one with pockets and found a set of stickers to cut up and put in each day at Hobby Lobby that make a nativity scene. There are only 18 stickers, but we're actually leaving for Christmas in Michigan with the in-laws on the 18th, so it's perfect. Jesus arrives on the 11th, so there's still time for an angel to show a star to the shepherds and the wise men can come on their camels to complete the scene. ;-)

In thinking about Advent, my mind went back to the kids cleaning out their toys to donate night before last. As we put the give-away toys in a big bag, my heart melted each time Will said, "Some other kid who doesn't have a car will LOVE this!" YES! That is the whole point - sharing our blessings...and I am so thankful that message is actively getting through. Watching them clear out the old to prepare and make way for the promise of the new, I thought of the parallel with Advent, as this is the time of year we are supposed to prepare our hearts for the promise of the new that God has given us.

If anyone is looking for an awesome free online devotional for Advent (and beyond) check out Following the Star. I am loving it, b/c it prompts you to take a little more time to think, instead of just reading a verse or two and moving on.