Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Extending the Celebration

It depresses me to hear all the people on FB racing to take down their Christmas trees & décor. It breaks my heart to hear people ending the celebration the day after it actually just began. I understand needing to get rid of a dead fire hazard, but since we travel, we have to have a fake tree, & it's not going anywhere anytime soon! We might even make it to Candlemas!!! (See below ;-))

I *love* celebrating life - any excuse to make a day "special". We had a great lady come speak to our MOPS group last year about this, and another sweet friend just turned me on to Celebrations & Traditions by Jack & Kathy Stockman. I have certainly gleaned some inspiration!

From a Celebrations & Traditions newsletter:

"Advent was a time to prepare for Christmas. Christmas Day was a special time for celebrating the birth of the Christ Child. The days between December 26th and January 5th, known as the Twelve Days of Christmas, Christmastide, or Yuletide, are a great time to savor Christ and his gifts. In this newsletter, we'll provide some historical background information about this period, then some practical ideas for observance.

January 6th is best known in the U.S. as Epiphany. In other cultures, it is also known as Three Kings Day or Little Christmas. The word Epiphany means to be made manifest. The day commemorates the visit of the Wise Men who revealed Jesus to the world as Lord & King when they brought their gifts to the Christ child. During some periods of church history and in different cultures, people have made January 6th the primary day for Christmas gift-giving and celebration. For example, historians have preserved Martha Washington's recipe for a huge Twelfth Night (January 5th, Epiphany Eve) cake that included 40 eggs, four pounds of sugar, and five pounds of dried fruits. In Bulgaria, young men dive into icy lakes to be the first to reach a wooden cross thrown by a priest. (Tradition decrees that the winner will enjoy a year of good health.)

We have some much simpler and warmer suggestions to offer, but before we do, for those of you who really want to extend your observance of Christmas (or put off taking down your decorations for as long as possible), we recommend that you consider the custom of some Christian cultures in Latin America and Europe by ending your observance on Candlemas, which is February 2nd. That day commemorates the time when Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem, traditionally done forty days after a birth. It was then that Simeon and Anna recognized the Messiah and Simeon prophesied the redemption of the world. So... If friends are laughing because you still have your Christmas tree up in late January, just inform them that you observe Candlemas!

Whether you celebrate twelve days of Christmas or forty days, we believe that the time after Christmas is valuable for reflecting on the gift of Christ and spending time with the people God has put in your life. We set aside lots of time after December 25th to spend with friends and family. We love to share the beauty of the Christmas story, sights, sounds, and scents when everyone is more rested and relaxed.

Here are some ideas:

Give a special gift meant to be redeemed during this time. Our most traditional gift is a new game for our family that we play during this season. Craft or building kits, jigsaw puzzles, or read-aloud books are also fun. You might give a gift of a special dinner and evening home alone for a spouse, an afternoon of closet-cleaning for a sister, or an invitation to tea for a mom.

Plan a family project such as building a bird feeder to last through Epiphany or Candlemas. Have a small celebration to mark completion of the project.

Make ornaments, gift tags, or decorations to pack away with the Christmas things for next year.

Give small gifts, one a day, throughout the twelve days of Christmas. The gifts don't need to be material: let family members choose their favorite meal or dessert, pick a game to play or activity to do, have a holiday from a chore, go on an outing, or have a special privilege.

If you haven't been reading a Christmas card every day at dinner, start now. Read the newsletters to the family, look at pictures, and talk to the children about the senders they may not know or remember. Pray for the person(s) and then call them or send them an e-mail to let them know you're thinking of them.

Write Thank You notes for gifts received. Help children write their own. Make it a fun project by supplying stickers, stamps, etc. to decorate the notes, as well as your family's favorites snacks to keep you all energized.

Have a King's party on Epiphany. Follow the example of the Three Kings by giving gifts - they might be ornaments like a star, crown, or wise men. Bake a traditional King's cake. Read an Epiphany-related book; two of our favorites are The Other Wise Man and Baboushka. (See our bibliography on the bottom of this page for more information.)

Have a tree-untrimming party. Make it an annual tradition. Have a sharing time to reflect over the holiday experience, have a special devotional, etc.

After you take down your tree, cut off two lengths of the trunk, one longer than the other, and remove all the branches from them. Cut a notch in the underside of the short piece so that it will fit over the top of the other one to make the shape of a cross to use at Easter. Drill holes in the top to fit seven candles - one for each week of Lent and Easter Sunday or one for each day of Holy Week. We suggest purple (which represents repentance) for Lent and pink or white (representing joy or light). The cross can be decorated with small bits of ivy and lilies. If you don't have a live tree, use one discarded by a friend or neighbor. Using the Christmas tree to make the cross symbolizes the connection between Christmas and Easter.

Have a time of evaluation - personal, as well as with your spouse, housemate, family, extended family, church, etc., regarding your Christmas observance. Consider any activities you did or changes you made in your personal or family life during Advent which you would like to continue throughout the year. Write down ideas for next Christmas and put the list away with your decorations.

We hope you all enjoy a blessed Christmastide and a New Year filled with love, joy, peace, and hope."

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Family Portraits

For Christmas for my brother & sister-in-law, my mom wanted to have some pictures taken of our family. My sister-in-law had never had professional pictures taken before, so it was the perfect gift for her! We all showed up together this afternoon and were in & out with 100 pics in 20 minutes - quick, casual, cheap, easy = ideal. Since my mom was getting a lot of pictures, she also got a CD of every one they took, so I have a bunch of us now to share, too! Super fun bonus!!! (And my brother & sister-in-law were SO EXCITED!) Here are most of the ones of us:

Family Christmas #2

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas! The most valuable part of ours was sharing it with my brother, his wife, & their 1 year old son and my Grandmommy & great aunt. Grandmommy is 98 (99 in April!) & Aunt Frances is 96 - it is such a blessing to get to share however many holidays we still can with them!!!

Annelise cracked me up: she walked around in her new Rapunzel wig with her new faux iPhone full of makeup ALL DAY, asking if I'd like her to order something for me & then pretend calling "the coffee shop" to order me "a chai latte with extra pumpkin spice." Is that my girl, or what? :-P

Will spent the morning wrangling snakes:

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Card 2010

Merriest Christmas to all my beloved family & friends who take time out of your lives to connect with and draw closer to us. Thank you for blessing us with your prayers and your presence!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Celebrating Carolina-Style

We've been home for 24 hours, and I already feel like I'm swimming in blessings. First off, JB's parents are taking care of Bonnie Blue & everything back up north - what a gift to have that peace of mind! We also stopped for a couple hours on our 12-hour road trip down at one of my BFF's homes; it was a great & COMFORTABLE way to break up the trip a little...esp. after I spent all Tuesday sick as a dog. (Trust me: barfing is *not* the best way to prep for said road trip. *Shudder* God truly blessed me by motivating me to pack Monday night!) We made it home relatively painlessly, though, and today? Today was sheer perfection. JB & I got to sleep in with zero child interruption until *we* naturally woke up. (Hear that noise? Yep - it's an angel choir.) The kids went right next door to their BFF's house, JB & Hershel went out to do guy stuff, and my mom & I went to get pedicures. (Yep - that's more heavenly host!) I used the most perfect color ever: OPI's Holiday Burlesque purple glitter "Show It & Glow It!" - in my stocking from Grandma & Grandpa. (And yes, I have to do Sissy's nails with it, again, tomorrow! :-)) When we got back, we loaded everyone up together to drive over to my hometown to visit with Grandmommy for a while, followed by dinner at our beloved family barbeque restaurant. (You could hear more angels singing...if their mouths weren't full. ;-))

We finally arrived at Charlotte Motor Speedway (Will's idea of heaven on earth) for their Carolina Christmas celebration. It was SO COOL! We had a special fast pass and got to drive all over the infield, through the pits, & up on the banking in Turn 1 with the radio tuned to music that matched the blinking lights totally surrounding us! When we parked, we went through a petting zoo, a live nativity that included a whole little Bethlehem, the kids sat on Santa's lap again, they decorated wooden projects, and finally went SKATING! I love that even though we currently live in the frozen tundra, our kids went skating for the very first time at home in Carolina! :-D I'm actually a decent skater, so I took the kids out for about an hour - Will took some hard spills, but he refused to stop! We all had a ball!

On the way out, we got back on the racetrack one more time...and Hershel FLOORED IT! I may be a new NASCAR convert thanks to Will, but I totally understood the rush out there tonight, and we didn't even have a stretch open long enough to hit 100 mph! ;-)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bed Head Ballerinas

When I came downstairs this morning on our first weekday of Christmas vacation, I found Annelise & her Bitty Twin, Lucy, decked out in their matching leos from Grandma & Grandpa. She loooves putting on shows like this! (I just have no idea where she gets it! :-P ;-))

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Rest & Revel

Most of my make/buy/wrap/bake/rehearse/chaperone/sing/show up "obligations" (in quotes, b/c I *wanted* to do them :-)) are all done now. I just have to sit back & bask in the glory of Advent & coming Christmas. [Well, and do a last day of laundry & pack to go HOME for the holidays! :-D] I am in heaven tonight, sipping a chai latte *at home* thanks to JB's parents gifting him with a Keurig! [He was so thrilled, he woke up early, brewed a quick coffee, & dropped me off at church this morning (instead of us taking separate cars, since I had to be there at 8 to sing in both services.)]

From Following the Star:

"God of wonder, help me to pay attention to your unpredictable work in my life. Help me to treasure the miracles you bring across my path, even when – perhaps especially when – they are well disguised, like dirty shepherds. And help me to ponder your surprises, to see more clearly your hand in my life, so that I can follow you in joy."

"God of the unknown future, life is full of change, stress, miracles, blessings, mysterious outlooks, strange possibilities & innumerable questions. You are God of all – my amazement at the miraculous present & my anxiety over tomorrow’s forecast. Guide, keep, & remind me that joy is not dependent on happiness or circumstance, but is found in You, in the midst of change, stress, miracle, blessing and uncertainty."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Family Christmas #1

We just had our first family Christmas with JB's family this weekend. It might sound like a lot to some people, but I *LOVE* having multiple Christmas celebrations! I love spreading the Christmas joy out over a couple weeks. :-)

Grandma had the kids place & blow out candles on Baby Jesus' birthday cake for dessert:

Will was excited for snake stuff:

And Annelise had princess & ballet fun with Cousin Sara:

We are so blessed, and I am so very thankful!!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Devotional Gold

From Following the Star:

Joy might be the one most sought-after gift of this season.
Though it can be elusive, people of faith remain ever open to its coming.
Pause now and open your soul to the joy lurking at the edges of your awareness. Receive the gift with gladness.

God, I often don’t like the circumstances I find myself in. And I often struggle to see you in them. Help me, like Mary, to trust you when I can’t see where the path leads, when I can’t make sense of the reasons, when I have way more questions than answers. Help me to have the ears to hear your voice and to have faith in your good plans for me. Help me to believe, and to follow. And may I be surprised with joy in the process. Amen.

God who understands my humanity, thank you that you know what I need even before I do. Thank you that you provide for me in ways I could never expect. Thank you for the people you place in my life who give me a safe place, who listen to me and love me, who help me to have perspective and who strengthen me for what lies ahead. They are you with skin on, just when I need it. They make following you in joy possible. For that I am profoundly grateful. Amen.

Jesus wants us to engage and encounter God in a special way, and live a life that survives storms. A life with God as the foundation doesn’t prevent storms from coming, but when they do come, the "house" withstands the heavy winds and rains.

Creator God, you offer me a foundation for my life. You give me the strength to survive the storms. May I encounter you, build upon that foundation, and live a life that stands firm. Amen.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Gingerbread Houses

So after the morning drama (which happened during playtime while I was baking the last roofs & walls) we made gingerbread houses with two sets of our BFFs. It was SO MUCH more fun to do them with our buddies than by ourselves, and b/c of the [cursed] snow day, we actually had more time than our original after-school plans. :-)

My cousin gave me the Pampered Chef gingerbread house stoneware mold one year before we even had kids,

and it has become a beloved tradition. Sharing it this year with our besties here was awesome:

Snow Allergy, AGAIN

The kids had a snow day off school today. Let me go on record saying that snow days are my new personal hell. Just in case anyone thought her snow allergy was a fluke or didn't really believe me, this was her last time playing out in the snow *EVER IN HER LIFE* this morning:
Because when she came in, (even after everyone had been warned not to let the snow touch her skin):
Her back is what got me this time. (Her shirt was damp, so even though I had tucked it in tightly & pulled the bungee cords in her coat, apparently kid play can undo anything.) I wanted to throw up and burst into tears when I saw it. (I want to all over again right now seeing the pic...) My neighbor was here with us and said she would have never believed it, had she not been here to see the entire progression in person. It truly is purely the snow.

I gave her Benadryl this time, and the rash went away MUCH faster. Seeming-proof of a histamine reaction. When I told the doctors in the hospital last week about her previous reaction, they totally brushed it off. One even said, "If she's allergic to snow, she'd be allergic to water." Wow. Thanks for your help & support. Like I'm an idiot. Hello - if people can get heat rash, why couldn't others get a "snow rash"?

I don't believe everything on the internet is true, but I have discovered we're not alone.

The medical diagnosis is "cold urticaria" and apparently effects 2% of the population. From the Mayo Clinic: As strange as it sounds, it's possible to have an allergy to cold temperatures. Doctors refer to this as cold urticaria (ur-tih-KAR-ee-uh). It's also sometimes called cold allergy or cold hives. With cold urticaria, exposure to cold temperatures causes redness, itching, swelling and hives on your skin. As much as possible, people with cold urticaria should avoid exposure to cold... Treatment for cold urticaria may include antihistamines taken before cold exposure.

While I'm very thankful for further validation, I really just want to bawl my head off. Who could stand to see their child at less than 100%? (Esp. after last week. :'() It breaks my heart that she's not going to be allowed outside anymore to play whenever there's snow. (Just b/c *I* hate it & won't play in it, doesn't mean I want to hold my child back from enjoying it.) I hate feeling even more trapped now by winter weather. This is spiking my snow-freak-out-ness to gargantuan heights. Please pray for us: pray for her to stay healthy & avoid any future reactions, pray for me to be calm & anxiety-free over the snow, and pray for God to deliver us from this situation in whatever way best fits His will!!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Candle of JOY!

This morning our family did a reading & lit the Advent candle at our church. WONDERFUL! The kids wanted to have "parts" too, so we gave them each a line to memorize...and they by far stole the show!!! My mama heart is still BURSTING over the precious compliments we were flooded with afterwards! Our reading was:

Seven centuries before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah looked out into the future and saw a day when God would bring unprecedented joy to His people through the birth of a child. According to this prophecy, which was inspired by the Holy Spirit, God would make this child the eternal King of this world. Isaiah 9 describes it this way:

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.”

“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity.”

[Annelise's line:]Today we light the candle of Joy. God fulfilled his promise and brought this child into the world through a simple peasant girl, engaged to a carpenter, living in a backwater town. Yet the child born to an ordinary family was no ordinary child. The joy felt by the blessed virgin Mary at the birth of her son Jesus is the same joy we feel today as we eagerly anticipate Jesus’ advent on Christmas day. [Will's line:]Joy to the world! Amen!
JB's parents surprised us by showing up for the service - a big deal to drive from normally-45-minutes-away this morning in the heavy snow! - and Sis has walked around the rest of today saying, "Today we light the candle of Joy," over & over & over. :-) Feeling SUPER blessed and glowing in His glory!

I'm also thankful that I didn't feel panicky the rest of today in the snow, (thanks to my awesome husband, who drove us around so we could be out-and-about.) I'm thankful for combating seasonal affective disorder with a freshly baked eggnog cupcake, a pumpkin spice chai latte from Sbux, for our kids having a ball at a jumpy bday party, and for my husband shoveling the driveway! Take THAT, 4-8" of snow!

November Digiscrapped

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Will on Kissing

Will told me that "a boy & a girl were almost gonna kiss on the playground." I asked him if he thought that was cute or gross. He replied: "Well, all the girls thought it was really cute, and all the boys thought it was gross." Then he leaned in to whisper, "I thought it was just a little bit cute."

Oh, my ladies man...

3-Week Answers

3 weeks ago, I couldn't decide what to do about my nails & Christmas stamps.

I had gotten a Shellac mani (I had wanted an Axxium mani, but they had no sparkly Axxium colors. I = glitter) & I wasn't sure how I felt about the less-than-perfect job. Well, I never had time to go back...but it really didn't look bad from just a step away, and it lasted (all but one nail) until TODAY!!! THREE WEEKS, PEOPLE! When I went back today to soak it off, they told me they'd gotten a new Axxium color with glitter in it: OPI Ink - a deep dark purple with tiny blue glitter. Of course, I got it! I am so excited to see how long this one lasts! LOVE the color, and I LOVE the job my nail tech did today. Super pleased!

Our Christmas cards have been sitting on the kitchen island since BEFORE Thanksgiving, so I *finally* bought my stamps today and will get to stuffing. The winner? Baby Jesus, of course! I just couldn't not get the Madonna & Child stamp, even if it's the same design as last year. :-)

We got our Advent reading today that my family gets to do as we light the Advent candle at church this Sunday morning. It's all about JOY! :-D Looove that!

I was shocked at how much more I could do at Zumba this morning. Don't get me wrong - it still kicked my derrière, and I still get major side cramps the whole way through; but I can actually tell a difference. (I don't have any goal with it. Just want to keep moving.) We did a new merengue march song this morning, and I cracked up, b/c it totally reminded me of the music on the SNL sketch "The Manuel Ortiz Talk Show" where they all do a little merengue march in place & snap their heads over & over. :-D

Last time I also gave a midway chocolate review. The final verdict: the Top Chef Godiva box was AMAZING!!! The Bakery Dessert truffles were a bit disappointing - just not creative or unique enough for me.

D-Day +1 & +2

D-Day [discharge day] +1 yesterday was instantly back to full-speed for us. Back to school, then back to dance. She skipped gymnastics, so I could go be the "Mystery Reader" in Will's class. (We showed up at his school and read Good Boy, Fergus and If You Take a Mouse to the Movies to his class! We were a big hit. :-)) We had her follow-up appointment yesterday afternoon - pulse ox was 98 = perfect, and ended up at our fave local pizzeria (the one with FREE all-you-can-eat soft breadsticks!!!) Mmmmmm...

D-Day +2 - the kids went to school, I went to Zumba. Sis & I ran errands - gas, Costco, nails (yes, that counts! it's not like I do it regularly ;-)), paying our dentist bill, picking up the book on hold for Sis at the library, & finally getting Christmas stamps - before picking up Will & going to Sissy's make-up gymnastics class, since she missed that part yesterday. While we waited for her, Will did his reading homework, and I stuffed 2/3rds of our Christmas cards.

Yep. We're back to normal. :-) Everything fell into place today so well that I just want to shout thanks & praise to Jehovah-Jireh!!!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

ER?! Hospital?! WHAT?!

Sooo, after the Christmas program Saturday, Annelise started coughing a little, and by 5 PM, it had settled into her lungs - like it always does. Same thing always happened to Will, too, every.single.time he got a cold after about the time he turned 3; but his ped put him on Singulair last year preventatively October-March, and he hasn't had another lung-spasm since. (Well yeah, he just had one, but it was b/c we had held off starting the Singulair as long as possible, b/c it is SOOOO $$$$$$, even with insurance.) We've always had Albuterol, b/c of how Will started out, so whenever Sis got the cold-wheezing-lung-crud, I just used his nebulizer on her. No biggie. It worked fine. I am not a take-my-kids-to-the-ped-at-the-drop-of-a-hat mommy. I'm not a hypochondriac, germaphobe, or natural worry wart, I'm not a fan of a copay for them to tell you to push liquids & let it run its course, and I'm not about over-medicating. If something isn't getting better, sure we'll go, but it's never my first response when I'm familiar with what's happening.

She was not doing well over Saturday night to Sunday morning: nebs every 4 hours. I had to sing at church, so Daddy stayed home with the kiddies, and by the time I got back, I think that was her lowest point. The rest of the day, we thought she had turned the corner. Only two more nebs all day! I would have probably even sent her on to school Monday, but we were practically out of Albuterol after the marathon weekend, and she had to appear in person to get a script, so that's actually the only reason we went into the ped Monday morning.

They took her pulse ox & freaked out: it was 92. (95-100 is "normal" - less than 93, they flip.) We had no clue. She acted FINE. Dancing around, singing. 99.9999% normal. They gave her TWO breathing treatments back-to-back on top of a huge dose of oral prednisone...and that did NOTHING. That's when they said: "You are going to the ER."

What?! WHAT?!?!

We thought she was fine!

So off to St. Joe's. The cool parts: we had to wait all of 3 minutes, they were so fast & efficient, we had a flat screen in our exam room with Food Network ;-), and I just felt incredibly blessed that we actually have health insurance!!!!! I was also crazy thankful that I had my iPhone to connect with the outside world in there - major, major blessing!!! The bad & sad: I know she was scared that we were there, and it broke my heart. She cried just like I would a couple times when they said we'd be there longer & longer. Getting her IV line was horrific, too, although the nurses did a perfectly quick job; she screamed hysterically like a stabbing victim. When she didn't get all better after 3 hours in the ER, we got admitted. When we got upstairs to our (gorgeous for a hospital!) room, she lost it, again; even though I'd explained several times that we were going to have a sleepover there that night, I think she still somehow thought we were leaving. The fabulous tech, Monique, brought her the biggest teddy bear they have ever had, a Disney princess stationary set, and her choice of princess movies to watch on the huge flat screen in her room. That helped. A lot. ;-)

I have personally never spent the night in the hospital other than when my children were born, and - believe me! - I know how lucky I am for that!!! But it still breaks my heart that my daughter has already had to. At 4. (And again, I know so many of my precious friends have dealt with so much worse, and I am beyond thankful for the health we have enjoyed! But no one can deny that even the tiniest hardship for your kids cuts you to your core.)

She had to stay until she could be weaned off oxygen & keep her pulse ox above 95. They took her off last night around 9 PM, (JB stayed with her, while I came home to get Will, b/c I'd been with her all day while JB was at work, and she wanted Daddy!!! :-D) and she made it through the night! We got discharged this morning:

She's fine! We're going back to the ped tomorrow afternoon just to get checked & to talk about preventative meds for her, too; but as long as she feels like it, she's going back to school tomorrow & even to dance/gymnastics. :-)

[And in our defense: this morning, her doctor *did* say she was borderline for admission yesterday, and that had I never brought her in, she probably could have gotten over it with the Albuterol I was dosing; but that since this happens with every cold & since she's always a little congested, it's very good for us to get this managed. I'm good with that. :-)]

THANK EVERYONE who prayed so hard for us and lifted us up & carried me through on FB. I feel so blessed to have that much love coming our way!!!

My Mary!

Our church here always holds their children's Christmas program on the 1st Saturday in December. It is super basic - the epitome of under-engineered. Even though it's so simple, it holds a special place in my heart: Will had his first stage appearance ever in this show when he was 2...and it set my heart atwitter. This year, Annelise was asked to be Mary, and of course I flipped for joy. (I'm not a psycho stage mom - SHE flipped, too! ;-)) The funniest part was that our new neighbor BFFs started going to our church this year (before we met!) and their son, Christian, was asked to be Joseph! A&C were THRILLED to get to do this with each other!

Christmas Tree 2010

I love our Christmas tree. I love that every single ornament has special meaning. It's like a scrapbook of our family in blown glass & a myriad of colors! It has an almost hypnotic effect on me - the second it clicks on, I suddenly feel super relaxed and SLEEPY! When we get all relaxed & sleepy at the beach, we say the nap monster has gotten us; this tree has nap monster properties. ;-)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Snow Allergy (Not a Joke)

We have had a shocking afternoon. Annelise wanted to play outside in the tiny bit of snow we have after lunch in her new snow pants. Totally fine. She decked herself out from head to toe - boots, snow pants, coat, hat, & gloves. After about 20 minutes, she walked back in the door, laughing about getting snow on her face...and my jaw hit the floor. Her face was almost purple and covered in bumps. So was a tiny strip of skin on each of her wrists b/t her gloves & coat. I expected her cheeks to be icy to the touch - nope: they were ON FIRE!!!

I asked if her skin was itchy or hurting; she said no, but after about 10 minutes, she said it felt like her face was burning. I still don't know if I would have put it together, had I not had the doctor tell me I was probably "allergic" to the cold last month and then my mom tell me about my aunt who literally breaks out in a rash when she gets too cold. Annelise has had a massive reaction to snow!
After about an hour & a half of being back inside, the bumps were finally gone and Annelise's cheeks were back to normal pink & cool to the touch.

I am swirling with emotion...

I feel stupid. Stupid that I didn't put this together sooner. She never really played in the snow until last year when she started school. Her (wonderful) teacher Ms. Basia & I tried forever to figure out what was making her face break out then, as well. I even wondered if there was something that had touched shrimp (her only food allergy) at lunch. [Nope.] We finally thought it was her scarf irritating her face & ditched that...but then it didn't snow, again. This shouldn't be a surprise. I have extremely sensitive skin (I can't even get facials; sensitive skin ones burn me) and Will does, too. Even when we lived in mild Georgia, when I'd carry him from the car to the dance studio just across the parking lot in winter, it looked like his cheeks had been severely slapped. When we moved north, his skin went nuts with full-blown eczema that looked like measles. We had to slather him in ridiculous amounts of goop whenever he'd been outside. Even at school last year, we had to coat his cheeks with stuff. I just can't believe none of this clicked until now.

I feel angry. Angry I put my instincts that this is NOT "just how it is when you live up north" on the back burner. And really angry at every rude know-it-all who tried to make me feel like a dumb, pathetic, weak Southerner who wouldn't give winter a chance when I talked about how hard the cold is on me & my kids. I want to scream in their faces, "LOOK AT THESE PICS!"

I feel justified. Justified in knowing what's good for me & my kids. I had a little panic attack yesterday morning when we woke up to the snow. My chest got tight, it felt like someone was sitting on it, and I had to really concentrate to catch my breath. I had to stop everything and pray for a few minutes, "God, I know that I can handle this with Your grace. Please help me not freak out." It's no secret that I hate snow, cold, & winter...but I almost feel like the extremity of these emotions is a natural mama survival instinct - my kids & I are not healthy in this type of weather, and some mama instinct deep inside knows this & wants me to protect them from it. There's a reason it freaks me out. Of course, I don't want to wallow in misery all winter, nor do I plan on doing that whatsoever!!! I will keep praying, and God will help me to keep dealing...but I do feel very justified in my extreme aversion.

Football Family Tradition

Will had to do another 1st Grade project - this time on family traditions for their social studies unit. They were to pick any family tradition - something holiday-related or as simple as a weekly activity - and explain it through a giant poster, art project, book, etc. Will picked us going to Buffalo Wild Wings after church each Sunday to watch football! :-D

Advent Devotionals

I hope y'all don't feel like I'm beating you over the head with Advent; I just want to share the wonderful things that have been shared with me! Advent is an easy season to start a devotional - it's a less-than-month-long thing, and it's easy to be in the spirit. :-) I've found two great free ones:

#1 - Again this year, I am doing Following the Star through email.
Here was yesterday's entry, written by Susan Groce:

"May the Lord reward you for your deeds, and may you have a full reward from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge!" ~Ruth 2:12

"Ruth wanted someone who would accept her for who she was. She wanted someone with whom she could be herself, with whom she could let down her guard. Surprisingly, she finds this in a foreign land. We all need a place where we can feel safe and secure, no matter how young or old we are. We look for someone who will take us under their wing. We look not just for protection, but for someone who gives us a feeling of being safe, who doesn't judge us for our weaknesses and with whom we don’t need to prove ourselves. This someone accepts us in all circumstances and conditions.

This type of security can only be found in the refuge of the God of Israel. Who does God take under God’s wings - holy prestigious people with strong faith? No. Anyone who comes to God. God doesn’t ask what we can bring to the table. God only asks of us, “What do you need?”"

Gracious God, you offer me a place to feel safe, a place of refuge. Thank you for a love that is like no other. Amen.

#2 - My dear friend, Phyllis, introduced me to this amazing free Jesse Tree Advent devotional book yesterday, as well. CHECK IT OUT!!!!! I cannot recommend enough!!!!!!! I think following Ann is really going to challenge me...and I'm excited for that. :-)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

St. Nicholas

Taking another Advent cue from beloved Liz, (read her post on this!) the kids & I have started talking about St. Nicholas. Now, I grew up Southern Baptist - no saints or discussion thereof whatsoever - and I am a devout Christian, but I am totally not anti-Santa. Santa rocks! And Santa is REAL. A real, Christian man who embodied the true spirit of Jesus. It doesn't matter which denomination he was (or which you are) - when the walk matches what Jesus asks of us, it's worth learning about! The super bonus is that learning about St. Nicholas isn't only a great example of how to live, but b/c he is "Santa Claus", it emphasizes the CHRIST in CHRISTmas. I want my kids to think of the real guy every time they see a Santa image.

This is an AMAZING website for learning about the real St. Nick, but my favorite part is actually the kids' section. It spoke to me better than the adult! ;-) We read this concise story about who St. Nicholas truly was; there are a bunch more, too. (We also liked "And Now We Call Him Santa Claus" by Kay Tutt.) After we read the stories, I had them each pick a coloring sheet here for me to print. (We'll color another day, b/c...) Finally, they found the games: they are obsessed with word searches and memory! :-P Yay for happy associations & learning!

Liz also recommended the VeggieTales movie that came out last year - St. Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving. "Through catchy songs and entertaining dialogue, this animated story explains the origins of jolly ol' St. Nick and teaches children about how people around the world celebrate the spirit of giving." We lovelovelove VeggieTales, and imagine my delight when I discovered it streams instantly through Netflix on the computer or through the Wii!!! We will be watching it SOON, (on demand, w/o me having to buy or order it!)

When it comes to me explaining how Santa interacts with us personally, I tell my kids that when St. Nicholas died, he went to heaven, just like we will; so he's an angel now & can do anything with God. (Even, oh say, fly around the world on a sleigh with reindeer. ;-) Even though that's not really the point.) Remember how he blessed people on earth with those gifts? He still wants everyone to remember Jesus' birthday, so he brings everyone Christmas presents, just like the wise men brought to Jesus.

I'm passionate about having my kids (& myself!) see God everywhere, even esp. in seemingly "secular" things. I think we're most blessed & most thankful when we can do that. :-)