Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Christmas Festivities

December was a whirlwind, as usual :)  I have come to realize that as much as I try to keep margin in our schedule during the holidays (which means saying "no" to many fun activities), the schedule is STILL crazy just keeping up with our kids school activities, performances, church/work commitments, and trying to carve out time to maintain some Christmas traditions within our own family.

Speaking of traditions, I had to LET GO of some expectations for myself this year.  As a mom of five, I like to think I can do it all sometimes, but when I try... I end up running myself ragged and we all end up worse off for it.  Thankfully, I am learning what my limits are, and learning to be okay with just focusing on what's truly important with my kids... which means I stay off social media more so as to avoid comparing myself to the more "Pinterest-y" moms out there.  Props to you moms who are so creative with Elf on the Shelf... trust me, if that elf were at my house it would be a complete miracle if he did more than sit in the same spot for the entire Christmas season :)  Ha! I am certainly not judging "Pinterest-y" moms or "Elf on the Shelf" moms, because I know your lives are busy too, and I know it takes sacrifice to do what you do.  I am just talking about my own "comparison" tendencies that I can fall into if I'm not careful.  Even some of the traditions I have done in past years with Eli and Mikayla had to go by the wayside this year, because I simply could not keep up with it!  Thankfully, they were very forgiving and we still had plenty to keep us busy and help us make great memories together.

In fact, I think doing less "stuff," actually helped us to focus more on why we celebrate Christmas and the story of Christ's birth... our two little guys had never heard the "Christmas story" of the Bible prior to this year, so we had plenty of opportunities to read it, re-tell it, and act it out with the nativity.  Little C became obsessed with "Baby Jesus" - so much so that anytime he would heard the word "baby" or see a baby, he would shout, "BABY JESUS!!!!"  One time I was walking through Target with him in the cart and he loudly began making up a song to which the only lyrics were, "Baby Jesus, Baby Jesus, Baby Jesus," repeated over, and over, and over, and over.  Thankfully, fellow shoppers found it quite humorous and we got lots of smiles!

Needless to say, we had a wonderful December...

Decorating the tree was even more fun than usual, because Little F and Little C had never actually had a Christmas tree in their home before.  I bought all our littles a special ornament, because Eli and Mikayla have quite a collection and I wanted each kiddo to have some of their "own."  Baby A received the Cindy Lou ornament, because this is where her nickname "Lulu" came from :)  Little C received a school bus, in honor of the school bus he LOVES riding to speech class every week.  And Little F received a Ninja Turtle, because, well, he loves Ninja Turles!

I LOVED looking at ALL these stockings hung up!!  A plumber came over to fix a water line in our house one morning, and he glanced over at these and asked, "Do you run a daycare or something?"  LOL :)

 Mikayla and I joined my mom and sister for our annual "Girls Night" outing to the Nutcracker (though some years we've invited some of our male family members along).  This year was all girls though, and we had fun getting dressed up for our special evening.

We enjoyed attending our foster agency's Christmas party for the second year in  row - so much fun! :)

There are many areas at church where I have had to step back from my "serving" roles since we became foster parents.  This was hard for me, because I like being really involved in my church community, and I enjoyed the ministries where I served.  But, part of what I mentioned earlier about knowing my limits (and those of my family), helped me realize that at this season of life the Lord is calling me to be a Wife, and serve the Church by supporting my husband who is a pastor, and be a Mom, which is always a busy job but definitely has unique (and exhausting) twists and turns when dealing with children who have experienced trauma.  In serving my family, I serve the Lord.  And I am good with that... or maybe I should say, "I have LEARNED to be good with that!"

Along those lines, however, I am thankful to still be involved in co-leading women's Bible studies and events for women during the year.  My long-time friend, Melissa (we have been friends since elementary school), is the wife of the lead pastor of our church.  We always joke that we set our husbands up on a blind date and that's how they ended up planting Harvest together ;)  Sort of a true story!!  Anyway, here we are... 20+ (yikes) years later from when we first met... leading Bible studies together and coordinating the annual women's Christmas dinner at church that continues to grow in numbers every year!  We managed to get a picture together at this year's event, so I decided it was blog-worthy for sure. :)  The Christmas dinner was truly a highlight of my month - the them was, "Jesus is Enough" - so, so fitting in a season where I felt like I was worried about cutting out too much and that my kids were somehow going to miss out.  Jesus is most certainly ENOUGH.

One of the traditions that made it into the schedule... Christmas cookies of course!!!  We went to Grandma's house for this messy event :)  And with five children cutting and frosting cookies, multiple adult hands are needed :)

Here we are all dressed up for Christmas Eve services at our church!  It was fun to attend service as a family, along with both sides of our extended families.  

And then there's Christmas morning... so much fun!!!  A little chaotic, yes.  But, the kids did awesome and we had a great time watching them open their gifts.

The "big" family gift this year was a trampoline... we didn't have the energy to stay out in the backyard all night setting this thing up (you may remember the all-nighter swingset building from a few years back??  The memory still haunts us).  But, the kids were just as thrilled with the big box... which fell over right after this picture was taken.  Now that we have it set-up in the backyard, I've decided it was the best investment ever... it's like a big kid playpen.  My kids are out there jumping most hours of the day when they are home. I even got out there to see if I could still do a flip - and yes, I CAN!! :)


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Ballet, Soccer, and Pilgrims!

Eli played soccer again this fall (5th season I believe?) through our church's league, Upward Sports.  We really noticed a difference in his competitiveness this season, as he became a much more proactive and aggressive player than he has ever been before ;)  He was the top goal-scorer for his team, and was very proud of that accomplishment.  One thing I loved watching him do this season, aside from playing, was encouraging his teammates from the sidelines.  When it was his turn to sit out, he never just sat there and tuned out of the game... he was usually on his feet yelling the entire time and cheering on (by name) each of the other players. Combine that with his "bossy" first-born nature, and his love of organizing... he would be a great coach, even at the ripe old age of 7!  Ha!  Good job this season Eli, we are so proud of you.

Mikayla is continuing on with ballet, and absolutely loves it.  She entered her first "technical" ballet class at the start of the fall, and has done extremely well with the added expectations.  Prior to this, she has always been in some type of "intro" or "creative" ballet class... where the emphasis is more on having fun.  In the class she's in now, it's more of a balance between really starting to master the technical elements of ballet, while having fun and enjoying it as an art form (and as a form of worship, as she takes ballet at a Christian arts school).  Her school had their big winter recital in December, and she danced to "Sleigh Ride."  She did a great job and I even caught some video footage of it (GO HERE) if you care to see for yourself :)  Way to rock it Mikayla, you are our beautiful princess!!!

I also wanted to share a couple cute pictures of the kids dressed as pilgrims from their school Thanksgiving play.  They each had speaking parts, and did a fantastic job!!  After the play, they enjoyed a "feast" with their classmates, and wrote down things they are thankful for...

"I am thankful for Jesus because he died on the cross for our sins."  -Eli

"I am thankful for food and having enough money."  -Mikayla

And speaking of thankful, I am thankful for these two beautiful children God has given me, and for the ways they are growing in their talents and abilities.  I pray that they will continue to use the gifts God has given each of them to bless others and to honor God!


Now that life has settled down a little bit from the holidays, and spring activities haven't quite kicked off at full-speed yet, I'm going to attempt to get caught up on a little family blogging!  So first up - our trip to Disney!!

We had a wonderful time visiting Disneyland for a week in November.  It was a first-time visit for our three youngest family members, and the rest of us had never been to Disneyland as a family during the holiday season.  We went in mid-November, and it truly was the perfect time to go - the weather was nice and cool (yet we could still swim in the ocean... well the kids did anyway!), the holiday lights and decorations were beautiful, and since we went before Thanksgiving, the parks were not crowded at all (comparatively speaking anyway since we usually have gone in the summer).  Another highlight of this trip was that my mom (aka Grandma), was able to join us.  It was so nice to spend the week with her, and having another adult along to help with the kiddos was invaluable :)  (Thanks Mom!)

We rented a 12-passenger van for our trip so that we could spread the kids out a bit, not use a carrier for our luggage, and fit Grandma of course!  Micah felt like he was back in his youth leader days... minus the carseats, and stopping to change poopy diapers. :)

Ready for the first day in the parks... five Disney shirts, two first-timer buttons, and one baby on a leash!

We were definitely impressed by our first visit to CarsLand in California Adventure - well done!  I think we rode the Radiator Racers ride about 5 or 6 times thanks to the Child Swap option and FastPasses :)

We stayed at a property that was within walking distance from the parks, and we could choose to walk through Downtown Disney, which was decorated so festive!  This tree was even surrounded by an ice skating rink!

At night we enjoyed the "snow" that fell on Main Street, watching the holiday light display on the Sleeping Beauty Castle, and the holiday fireworks show.

I found these cute Disney Santa hats at the dollar store before we left on our trip... perfect!

You might think these three are on a rollercoaster... but no, just the monorail :)

Lunch with Grandma and my "big kids" at the Rainforest Cafe in Downtown Disney.

Mid-week we took a break from the theme parks and spent a day hanging out at the beach.  It was definitely cooler than the summer months, but that didn't stop the kids from jumping waves and getting completely soaked.  We had a wonderful lunch at "Ruby's Diner" on the pier - can't beat that view!

After lunch we decided to explore a bit more and found some incredible tide pools surrounding some large boulders at the edge of a beach.  We had a great time climbing around and admiring all of the sea creatures!

I am so thankful for my family and for the blessing of being able to take family vacations and make memories together.  Can't wait for the next adventure :)