Saturday, December 31, 2011

So Long 2011

Today on her blog, Beth Moore invited readers to share three words that characterized 2011.  I really liked that way of reflecting on this past year.  Here are my words: Hard, Grace, and Learning.

Hard- This year has been one of the hardest years of my life.  This year we discovered that church planting can be hard work! And this year our business was hard, too. Paul's dad went to be with Jesus this year, and that was hard on him. And the girls and I have really felt the loneliness and isolation that comes from homeschooling and attending such a small church. Also this year, I've seen how hard  it's been on Paul to have the pressure of planting a church and running a business. This year I've also made life harder on myself by not being organized.  On a lighter and more positive note, I've worked very hard and lost some weight I've been wanting to lose. So we've had a whole lot of hard this year!

Grace - Even in the hard, God has graced us. One particularly difficult situation was answered beyond anything we could ask or imagine. Sometimes I don't always see the grace at the moment, but I can look back and see how God has cared for us and seen us through. 

Learning - We've learned a lot about how to - and how not to!- plant a church. And this year I've learned a lot about myself. I've spent so much of my life trying to be who I thought those around me wanted to be that I haven't always known who I am. I think I know myself a little better now. My girls and I have learned so much as we continue our homeschool journey. I know more history from learning alongside my girls than I ever learned in school!

I'm not sad to see 2011 go. The hard has been almost overwhelming at times. I pray that 2012 is a year filled with more grace and less hard!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Photo Shoot

Here are a few of the photos from our photo shoot yesterday.  I really like the ones by the train tracks.  The scenery was interesting, and the light was gorgeous!

Persevere: It Bears Repeating!

Today was almost like a normal Thursday. Except we didn't do school. And I got to have lunch with Paul and a sweet church friend. So maybe it wasn't so much like a normal Thursday.

But today Hope did go to her weekly piano lesson, and Faith went to a ballet class. I also took some outdoor pics of the girls which we hope to use as New Year's cards. I really meant to send out Christmas cards, but it was cloudy EVERY SINGLE day we didn't have a million other things going on before Christmas. So we're sending New Year's cards. They're more memorable, anyway!

We took a few pictures at a local park, and then we drove out a few miles in the country and took some pictures by some railroad tracks. The light was great, and those pictures turned out so pretty. I'll put a couple up tomorrow when I can access the "big computer." 

After we came home from Faith's dance class, we all watched Baylor play in the Alamo Bowl. I really thought Baylor would have an easy win against an unranked team. I was wrong! It was a nail-biter right up to the end. But the Bears pulled it out and won! We, of course, were super excited. It's so fun to see my alma mater doing so well! Sic Em Bears!!!

A few years ago I think most people would have never thought Baylor was capable of having a winning season, much less a bowl game win and a Heisman Trophy winner.  But the players and the coaches persevered. I think our church plant is a bit like my favorite college team. We don't look like much to some people, but if we persevere we are capable of seeing God move in and through us in big ways. Sometimes I get tired of the struggle. But, like the Baylor Bears football team, if I persevere, big things can happen.

So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up. ~ Gal. 6:9

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Rest for the Weary

I could get used to these relaxing days with nothing to do! Today I had absolutely nothing on my agenda. I slept as late as I wanted, and I spent most of the day relaxing. I know I probably should have gotten more done, but I think the rest nourished my soul more than a more organized kitchen or bedroom would have. And I did do some straightening up along the way.

My girls and I all share a need for rest. Even my most driven child is not truly driven. She's just a bit more goal-oriented than the rest of the females in our house. (Paul is the only driven one in our family.) So we're savoring this week of rest. And I'm hoping that it refreshes our minds and spirits so we are joyfully ready to begin our formal studies again next week.

Now my girls are having late-night fun with sleepover guests. Because when you already have four girls, what are two more? Actually, they're all very good. I can't guarantee they'll go to bed anytime soon, but that's what sleepovers are for!

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Perfumery

My living room smells like an old lady convention right now!  I'm not sure if my headache is from sinus pressure or the smell!  Inspired by the perfume making kit we gave Hope for Christmas, the bottles of cologne my sister and her husband gave us as a gag gift (Chantilly, Tabu, Stetson, etc.), and stories of my sister and me mixing our own perfumes out of old make-up and perfume samples at my grandmother's house, the girls decided to make their own perfume using spices and those strong perfumes.  I'm not sure if the candles we lit are helping any or if my nose has gotten used to the stench, but I don't think it's as strong now as it was an hour ago. 

Each girl tried to make one perfume that smelled good and one that smelled bad.  They most definitely succeeded with the bad-smelling ones!  I don't think garlic powder was ever intended to be used in a perfume.  And I'm really wondering why people in the 70s thought Tabu and Chantilly were scents they wanted to smell like.

While I do remember making some pretty bad-smelling perfumes with my sister, I don't remember the whole house reeking after we had finished our concoctions.  My grandmother was a patient woman.
But my girls made more than just perfume tonight.  They made some fun memories.  And those memories will linger longer than the smell.  (Which I'm really hoping doesn't linger long at all!)


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Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Restful Christmas Day

Since we opened our Christmas presents on Christmas Eve, today was a lazy relaxing day.  Faith and Hope made PW's French Breakfast Puffs for breakfast.  Yum!  Paul made some bacon to accompany the sugary goodness.  Since we all slept late, breakfast was more like brunch!  The girls played their new Wii games and had fun with some of their other gifts.  And all morning long, Patches curled up on the couch next to me.  She usually doesn't do this, so I count this as her Christmas gift to me.

After a light lunch, I took a Christmas nap.  The dreary weather was perfect for sleeping, and I enjoyed the rest.  

Later in the afternoon, we went to visit Paul's Mom in the nursing home.  His sister and her family also came.  We visited and sang carols and generally had a good time.  So good that we got home later than we had planned, so Christmas dinner was a bit delayed.
For the second year in a row, Paul grilled steak.  This may become a Christmas tradition!  We had gotten steak knives from my Mom and enjoyed using them.  I made the yummy sweet potato and brown sugar casserole and a corn casserole.  (For the picky eaters, I also cooked a pot of pasta.)  We used the charger plates and Christmas china, too!  And we got to light all the candles on the Advent wreath.

After dinner, we watched A Charlie Brown Christmas and had warm chocolate chip cookies.  We mixed them up last night and refrigerated the dough we didn't use to make fresh cookies tonight (and tomorrow night).

The girls are now asleep.  We are all looking forward to a week of rest.  No dance!  No school! No meetings!  Just fun, rest, and family.  It's going to be a great week!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Before and After

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December 23

 Yesterday was a busy day.  So I had to post yesterday's pic today.  I had some last-minute Christmas errand, which took most of the day.  Then we all went to the Christmas service of another area church plant.  I was a bit disappointed that we only sang one Christmas song! But it was good to go to another church because it reaffirmed that, even though the other church is doing much to advance the Kingdom, we have a unique vision that God also wants to use.

After the service, we took a couple of detours on our way home to look at Christmas lights.  Some crazy part of me really likes the biggest, brightest, gaudiest displays.  The one above did not disappoint!  I would never decorate our yard like that, but I really enjoy seeing the amazing displays other people put up. 

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Friday, December 23, 2011

A Whole New Chuys

Today we got to eat at one of our favorite restaurants, Chuys! This wasn't the original one but they kept the fun alive with the classic hubcap ceiling. This was a Chuys we had never eaten at, but we were not disappointed! I think I'm still full! The food was super yummy.

Sadly, only one of our girls is a true Tex-Mex fan. But we're still hoping the others will see the light. Fortunately for us Tex-Mex lovers, Chuys has some tasty American food as well as the awesome Tex-Mex they're known for.

I don't know that I've ever typed the word "Tex-Mex" that many times in a row! It's either a sign that I really love it or that I need to go to bed. Or both.
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Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Aftermath

We opened our Christmas presents with my side of the family today. I wish I had taken a before picture with my phone. We had a LOT of presents! My girls were super enthusiastic and loved all their gifts!
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Tuesday, December 20, 2011


My two youngest have been having a great time playing with their cousins today. Here they are looking for "treasures" of snail shells, rocks, and dead leaves. I'm so glad my girls love their cousins!
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Monday, December 19, 2011

It's a Wonderful Life

We watched It's a Wonderful Life tonight. I can't believe Paul had never seen it! I wonder how many lives I have touched. I never saved anyone's life or kept anyone out of prison, but I do hope God has used me to impact others with His love.
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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Today I'm Thankful For...

1. A beautiful day after a string of cloudy, dreary days.
2. Singing Christmas carols in the car with my girls.
3. A chocolate shake from Sonic.
4. A good morning worshipping God at church this morning.
5. Whataburger.
6. Spending time with family.
7. No school for two weeks!
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Because we don't already have enough sugary snacks! I tried a new recipe. It was super easy, and the pralines taste really good!
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Friday, December 16, 2011

Hope had her Christmas piano recital tonight.  She played "Linus and Lucy" (that fun song from A Charlie Brown Christmas) and "Skating" (the song in the beginning of A Charlie Brown Christmas).  She played both of her songs very well.  I'm so glad Hope has found her niche in piano.  She tried ballet for several years but quit after she became frustrated.  She actually was pretty good, but she really didn't like wearing the tights and leotard!  Piano has been a great fit for her.  She likes playing and practices without me having to prod her to do so.

After her recital she got to choose where we would go eat supper.  She chose her usual, Cracker Barrel.  She loves getting the pancakes there!  I was disappointed that they didn't have the wonderful apple pork chop I had there last year.  Apparently, everyone on the highway decided to eat there, too, so we had to wait to be seated.  We were all happy that we had eaten some cookies at the reception after the recital!  

And, yes, we made MORE cookies to bring to the reception because some of my girls wanted to save the cookies we decorated for our family!  This batch was shortbread with drizzled chocolate on some of them.  Only some because we ran out of time to do them all.

We had fun singing Christmas carols all the way home!  We got home in time to straighten up a bit before my sister and her family came on a stopover from where they live to their next Christmas destination.  Her son was already asleep, but her daughter had a lot of fun playing with her cousins.  Patches did not enjoy the visit because my sister brought her cat.  Fortunately, some growling and a few hisses was the worst of the cat encounters.  (They mostly avoided each other in separate rooms.)

Now off to do some of the many Christmas preparations that need to be done!

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Deck the Cookies

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We got creative tonight, baking and decorating sugar cookies for Christmas.  The girls had lots of fun and stayed up too late.  Some of their cookies were quite detailed, and they spent about an hour decorating the cookies.  I so enjoy watching their creativity at work.

In addition to making cookies, they were making memories.  And memories are worth a little lost sleep now and then.  And good cookies are worth a few extra calories now and then!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Truffles for Teachers

Today my girls made these truffles to give to their ballet, tap, and piano teachers for Christmas.  They did all the work themselves, and even cleaned up some!  They were so easy, and they taste fantastic!  (Yes, our quality control team is vigilant in such matters.) We packaged them in these inexpensive containers, and will deliver them tomorrow at their lessons.  We're all so thankful for the wonderful women who teach my girls things that I can't!

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gingerbread Village

We set up our gingerbread houses into a gingerbread village.  They really look cute!  And we didn't even make too big a mess with the powdered sugar snow.  

Today was our 4-H Christmas party.  I took the younger girls to the skating rink to skate for a while (The older ones don't really care for skating.), and then I picked up the older girls and we met the rest of our group at a shelter for children and teens.  Our group had brought gifts to be given to the children staying there.  The director and a case worker explained how the shelter works.  I think it really opened my girls' eyes to see how tough some children have it!  We then got to visit for a short while with the kids staying there.  We had to leave before we had done much visiting because Faith had another commitment.  I wish we could have stayed longer.

We then brought Faith to meet her ballet teacher and some ballet friends at the theater to see The NutcrackerWhile she watched the movie, the younger girls and I did some very unproductive shopping.  But we did have fun!

I'm so thankful that we can do fun shopping.  And that my girls don't have to spend Christmas in a shelter, even a nice one like the one we visited.  We have so much to be thankful for!

Monday, December 12, 2011

My Favorite Thing About Bananas...

 Is that when they get ripe enough, they make really good banana bread.  The loaf no longer looks like this.  Paul and I made a serious dent in the warm banana bread!  And I know Hope will enjoy some for breakfast tomorrow morning.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Lights

Today was a very Christmas-y day!  After church, lunch, and nap, the girls and I decorated gingerbread houses.  I found a great set with five small gingerbread houses at Target last year, and we bought it again this year.  So each of us had our own house to decorate.  We supplemented the candy in the kit with some of our own.  And I must say we made some mighty fine houses.  We still need to set them up all together.  (Maybe that will be tomorrow's pic!)

After some Pizza Hut pizza, we loaded up the Suburban and went to look at Christmas lights.  Our first stop was a nearby house that has an amazing show set to music!  They do a fantastic job, and at the same time, they present the true meaning of Christmas.  We then drove to a group of three houses in the country owned by members of the same family.  The pictures at the top are from those houses.  Our favorites are the oak trees.  We drove through a local park that had some fun lights, and then we saw a few more neighborhoods.  We finished the evening with our traditional "Christmas light looking" (as the girls call it) snack:  ice cream.  This time from McDonald's because they girls like their McFlurries, and they have a small size that only costs a dollar.  Faith and I really wanted a Chick Fil A milkshake, but, of course, they're closed on Sunday, so we had to make do with a McDonald's shake.  It was good, but not as good as Chick Fil A.

Now it's bedtime, and since we still have a week of school before we take a break for Christmas, I had better get some girlies tucked in!

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Cattle Are Lowing

I've had a busy day!  On my way to pick up my younger three (and some friends) from their sleepover, my car died.  Paul came and, with the help of a friend, pushed it into a parking lot.  He got it running again, but it felt sluggish later, so I think it needs some more work. 

We had two extra girls here all afternoon.  They had a great time playing outside.  I think their favorite part of the afternoon was when our neighbors' puppy escaped into our yard!  
After supper, we went to see a live nativity at a local church.  The girls all liked petting the cows, sheep, and donkey.  I was impressed by how soft the cows were! One cow mooed and tried to lick Hope, and the other cow gave us a special show, if you know what I mean. So I feel like we got the whole barnyard experience.  It certainly makes the messy reality of the manger hit home when you see barnyard animals doing what barnyard animals do within feet of the (pretend) baby Jesus.  It's amazing to think that the Son of God came to earth to be born not in a sterile hospital, but in a smell stable. I guess it's fitting.  Jesus lived his life among the mess of our sin, eventually taking it upon Himself.  The manger points to the Cross.   

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Co-op and Cookies

We had our monthly co-op meeting today.  The girls decorated sugar and gingerbread cookies for their cooking class.  And we even have icing left over to decorate some cookies at home!  After a simple lunch, we watched a video of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  Even though I've read the book several times, I don't know that I've ever seen the movie.  It was cute, and the fashions brought me back to my childhood.  (Knickers, anyone?)  Joy and Grace's class has been reading and studying the book this semester, so it was a fun way to end the co-op semester.

The younger girls were all invited to a friend's sleepover, and Faith and some friends were hired to do hair for the sleepover guests.  (It was a spa party.) So Paul and I used our time away to eat some good Tex-Mex and do a little shopping.  We ended our date with some really disappointing bread pudding from a local restaurant.  Then we picked up Faith and her friend, who is sleeping over at our house tonight, and I brought them to the mall.  We had gone so that Faith could decide what perfume she like best for Christmas, but we ended up trying on formals.  That's a sentence a man would never write!  Now we're home and in our jammies and ready to relax.

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Cozy Evening

We've been experiencing some cold weather the past few days.  Tonight we enjoyed a cozy evening on the couches watching a Christmas movie.  Patches even joined us!  She doesn't usually sit on the couch with us, so this was a fun treat.  

We watched The Polar Express.  We had never seen it, and, although we did like it, we probably won't put it in our annual Christmas movie rotation. I did think that the scene where the boy who didn't believe was surrounded by believers at the North Pole was a good picture of how unbelievers feel at our churches.  They see us believe, we've told them to believe, but they still can't hear the bells.  It was only after he decided to believe that he could fully experience and enjoy everything around him.  We want our church to welcome unbelievers, but we know they won't get everything until they believe.   

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mischievous Christmas Kitty

Several of my Facebook friends are posting pictures of their Elf on the Shelf shenanigans.  Since my girls are older and we've never done the Santa thing, we're having a mischievous Christmas kitty.  I'm thankful the real cat has never tried this stunt!

The girls and I will take turns finding fun and funny places for kitty to be.  They're very excited about all the fun places she may turn up!  I think we may have a fun new Christmas tradition. 

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

We Made Dog Biscuits

At our 4-H meeting today, I made dog biscuits with the group of middle schoolers I lead.  They were really easy to make, and I think the kids had fun.  One girl actually tried one!  She took more than one bite, so I guess it wasn't too bad.  Our dog, Callie, also gave them her seal of approval.  

The cookie on the right is supposed to be a bone.  The dough stuck a little sometimes, so some of the cookies were a little misshapen.  But I'm thinking the dogs won't care!


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Monday, December 5, 2011

We're Thankful for Our Jesse Tree

I did find the good paper.  So we're faithfully putting our pictures on it.  The paper underneath is a list of ways God has blessed us today.  It ranges from fun (pie) to serious (good health, each other, God's presence, hope) to those things that we take for granted (indoor plumbing).  

While I would love to have lengthy family dinners every night where we carry out our Christmas traditions, that doesn't happen every night.  On Mondays and Tuesdays we have to eat in shifts because we have back to back ballet classes from 4:45 until 7:30.  While I know we could make the girls quit dancing, they love it!  And their dance classes give our homeschooled daughters some much needed interaction with other girls.  Faith especially is learning so much from seeing how difficult a worldly life can be as she sees some of her classmates choices and consequences.  

All that to say that our Jesse Tree devotional was done during commercials while we were watching The Waltons after Faith came home from dance.  But we did it.  I enjoyed that time, and I hope the girls did, too. Maybe learning about Jesus in the midst of daily life is even more meaningful than the idealized picture of the perfect family that sometimes invades my mind.   

Sunday, December 4, 2011

5 Lighted Trees

We put up our tree and our indoor decorations the Friday after Thanksgiving.  We enjoy our Christmas decorations, and want to have them displayed as long as possible.  (But we're traditional enough to wait until after Thanksgiving!)  For the past two years, the girls have decorated the tree by themselves.  I have fond memories of doing the same thing with my sister!

Although I put up our wreaths the same day we put up our tree, Paul wasn't able to set up our outdoor lights until yesterday.  Joy and Grace decided where to put the trees.  We also have an inflatable that has some snowmen and a tree.   The girls really liked helping Daddy set up our outdoor decor.  The only thing we have left to do is wrap our column with a lighted garland.

Today we welcomed our church members to our home with our beautiful Christmas decor.  It was fun to share my Christmas decorations with friends.  

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Catching the Christmas Spirit

We used this tree when the girls were little so they would have a tree all their own and wouldn't want to mess with our big tree.  It seemed to work for the most part. Now they have all outgrown the tree, but it's the perfect size for Patches.  She mostly ignores our big tree, but she likes to sit near this small one.  She occasionally will play with an ornament or some lights, but she mostly just likes to sit on the tree skirt.

In our house, Christmas isn't just for humans! 

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Advent Adventures

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A few years ago, Lindsey inspired me to make an Advent Wreath.  I used a big glass platter I had gotten from my grandmother, some pretty candle holders I had, and a wreath and some greenery from Dollar Tree.  The most difficult part was finding purple votives! 

Each year we have used a different Advent devotion.  Often I made them up, using each candle as a theme.  This year we are using Ann Voskamp's Jesse Tree devotions with our Advent wreath.  Once I locate the good paper we'll cut out and hang up the pictures on a small tree.  But I didn't want to wait to begin our devotions until I found the right paper.  So far, I think we're all enjoying these readings.  I'm looking forward to weaving God's story in the Old Testament together with the coming of Christ. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

O Christmas Tree!

Whenever we see the lovely Christmas trees in ads, we always like ours better. Not because the ornaments are more beautiful or more expensive. But because each ornament means something.

Each year our tree brings back memories of my Granny and my Dad. And we can feel close to my Mom even though she's far away. So we love our mismatched but meaningful tree!
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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Waiting for Rain

Like much of the South, the area in which we live has been experiencing a drought for much of the past year.  At first, I actually enjoyed the lack of rain.  I'm a big fan of sunshine, so more of it was good.  But eventually the lack of rain took its toll on our grass, on my flowers, and, I'm sure, on the local farmers.  And I began to wish for rain.  But the rain didn't come - at least not in amounts large enough to matter.  (I don't think 2 minutes worth of rain helps much!)

I think everyone was happy when it began raining two days ago - good, long soaking rain.  I know I was so thankful for the rain! So often in the past I viewed rain as an annoyance or irritation, but not this time.  The drought made me appreciate the rain.  I always knew we needed rain, but I didn't appreciate it as much as I should.  I took it for granted.

For my and for my girls, the church planting journey has produced a drought of companionship in our lives.  The easy relationships from our former church are more difficult since we don't see those friends once or twice a week at church now.  My oldest two girls are the only youth at our church, and there's just one other woman near my age.  There are few children as well.  

When the physical drought began affecting my outdoor plants, I had to take action.  I began watering my flowers nightly.  It wasn't always fun or easy, but I knew that my plants would die if I didn't.  I think my girls and I are in a season of watering now.  We must work harder to maintain the friendships we formed with people at our former church.  It is harder now that we don't see them at church regularly. I also must work on making friends with the people at our own church, even though they are in different stages of life than I am.

Even with the lack of rain, I never doubted that we would have rain again.  I knew the dry spell was just temporary.  And I can also have faith that our relationship drought will not last a lifetime.  The physical drought made me more thankful for rain, I know that this season of friendship drought will give me an even greater appreciation for the friends God will bring into our church.

Until then, I'll keep watering!

"And in the proper season I will send the showers they need. There will be showers of blessing."  ~ Ezekiel 34:26b


Friday, June 3, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Just Dance

Faith started taking dance lessons as a 4 year old.  She took a year off, and then we started taking classes at a different studio.  I always figured she would take for most of her elementary years and stop when she reached the advanced (4 evenings a week) level.  But as she continued taking ballet, two things happened:  She became GOOD.  And she developed a love for dance.  She this year we adjusted our schedule so she could continue to take ballet.  On Sunday we were rewarded by seeing the fruits of her labor - dance recital!

Here are some of the advanced class during semi-dress-rehearsal.
(They wore the tutus but not the bodices to keep the stage from being covered with glitter!)
Joy and Grace have taken dance since they were three.  They both love dancing as well.  And I'm beginning to see their talent as well.  They're still in a beginner class, but will move up to intermediate next year.

 They had a very cute baseball-themed tap dance!

I loved their Belle-inspired ballet costumes.
And I love to see how they are becoming graceful ballerinas like their sister.

Recital day is always a bit crazy.  We have dress rehearsals the day of the recital, so Faith and I left the house at 10 am and didn't get to come home until after recital.  Paul and my mom, who drove in to see the girls dance, transported Joy and Grace home after their rehearsal.   

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Love and Compassion

One of the sad things about having pets is that they don't always live as long as we would like them to live.  This is especially true of small pets.  Over the years we have had several sets of gerbils.  Most lived a regular gerbil lifespan (2-3 years), but Hope's last gerbil, Inka III, lived around 4 years!  After it died, we got 4 new gerbils, one for each girl.  

We'd had the gerbils for only 2 or 3 months when Hope realized that her new gerbil, Inka IV, was sick.  We hand fed it and loved on it and prayed for it, but it didn't make it.  Hope was so sad!  I was sad, too.  I so wanted to spare her from this pain.  But I couldn't.  

After Joy found out she told Hope that Hope could share her gerbil and could even call it Inka.  Then Hope gave Joy the sweetest hug!  I try to teach and model compassion to my girls, but sometimes I wonder if they are getting it.  That night I saw that, at least some times, they do.  It touched me to see these two girls, who are the ones who are at odds the most out of all the girls, share such a sweet moment of love and compassion.

Hope is doing well now.  And I think that Joy's compassion played a part in soothing her pain.  I pray that as my girls grow and experience other pain and difficulties that they will be there for each other and comfort one another with compassion and love.  

Saturday, February 19, 2011

When Fun Is Work

It's funny.  I always thought that by the time I reached the age and stage of life I now am that I would have things figured out.  Or that I would at least have myself figured out.  Not so!  I'm still learning so much about God, about the world around me, and even about how I am wired.

Last night I finally realized something.  Sometimes what seems like fun for Paul seems like work for me.  No wonder we don't understand each other sometimes!  Yesterday Paul casually mentioned the possibility of eating out with a family he's trying to get more connected to Jesus and to The City Church.  To him, this sounded like something easy and fun.  But to me it is work.  

Having dinner with some established friends would be fun, and I would be up for that on the spur of the moment almost any time.  But meeting with people I don't know, particularly people with whom I seem to have little in common (at least on the surface) is hard for me.  I want them to have a good impression of me, of our church, of Jesus, so I spend way more time than I should worrying about what to say, how to say it, whether they like me, etc.  

That's not really a good quality.  But it is where I'm at right now.  Now that I've identified this, maybe I can seek God's healing for my insecurity in this area.  But I think that I am always going to have to work harder at initiating conversations and meeting new people than Paul does.  Barring a supernatural change from God, I'm never going to get to know people as easily as Paul does.  It's always going to be at least a little more work for me. 

I don't know that either of us has made that connection before.  I think it's the opposite of shopping.  Shopping is fun for me but is work for Paul, even when he's shopping for himself with a gift card from someone else.  (That is so much fun for me!)  And just like he doesn't always want to go on a spur-of-the moment shopping trip after a long week of work, I don't look forward to the surprise of more work at the end of my week.  That doesn't mean I shouldn't do it.  Some of the best things in life are hard work!  And Paul has been very gracious about going shopping with me even when he's tired.   

I pray that God would make getting to know people more fun than work for me, and that He would help Paul understand that any initial hesitation on my part isn't just stubbornness or uncaring, but is often just tiredness!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Write Like an Egyptian

One of the things I really like about homeschooling is how my children are freed up to use their creativity.  (Another thing I really like is getting to sleep later!)  Faith has been writing a story to send in for an American Girl Magazine story contest.  She finished it today, and I was impressed with her writing.  

As we were talking about the story contest, Hope said she would not want to enter a story because, as she said, "I only write books...and hieroglyphics."   Love that girl!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Things That Go Bump (or Deafening Siren or Clank) in the Night

Last week the night the cold front came through my bladder woke me up.  (Not unusual!) After returning to bed, I noticed how windy it had become.  Soon after that our home alarm system went off!  I immediately knew that the wind had blown open the back door.  It's happened before (in the daytime!), and I told Paul to check for that first.  Sure enough, the still-locked back door was open.  Paul closed the door, turned off the alarm, checked just to make sure it was only the wind, and went back to sleep.  I, however, spent a few sleepless hours worrying about burglars.  Because I have a totally-unfounded but lifelong fear of burglars breaking in my home when I'm sleeping.   Don't know where it came from, but it's REAL!

So, even though my mind knew the wind had blown the door open, even though I have seen the wind open the door several times before (in the daytime!), and even though I looked around our house just to check, my fear was screaming, "Burglar!" at me.  My mind said that I would surely hear someone walking on our laminate floors (I can even hear the cat walking if the heat isn't on!); my fear said, "What if they're really quiet?"  My mind said that an intruder would leave when they heard the alarm shrieking; my fear said, "What if they didn't?"  My husband reassured me that no one was in our home; my fear said, "What if they were hiding?"  The dog reinforced my fear by being more restless in her kennel than she's ever been.  My mind told me she was restless because of the wind, but, of course, my fear said - you guessed it- "Burglar!"

By the light of day the next day, my fears seemed silly and overblown, but they had been very real to me in the dark.

A few nights ago, as I began to drift off to sleep, I heard a clanking noise.  I had never heard it before, and I thought it sounded like someone dropping a heavy metal something on the concrete.  Probably a neighbor.  After an interval I heard it again.  And again.  So, my fear again began shouting, "Burglar!" at me.  I could just picture someone with some sort of crowbar or crowbar-like device ready to bash in my window.  My mind said it was not a burglar, but my fear wasn't buying it!  I finally woke Paul up.  He assured me there was no burglar outside with a crowbar, but, since he hadn't actually heard the noise, my fear was not quieted.  Finally, he heard it and realized it was some noise the heating system was making.  (One neither of us had ever heard before.)  Then I realized that the noise always happened after the heat came on.  And I was able to sleep without fear.

The next morning I felt pretty silly.  My fears seemed so far-fetched in the brightness of the daytime.

As I pondered these silly fears, I realized that so often I voluntarily remain in the dark and allow all sorts of fears to assault me.  Not so much fears about burglars, but fears about things like rejection, being a bad mom, messing up, our church, and on and on it goes.  God's Word is a light to my feet and a lamp for my path, but when I spend little time reading, meditating on, and memorizing it, I am in the dark and more vulnerable to fear.  Jesus is the Light of the World, but when I am not spending time connecting with Him, I am living in the dark.  I want to stay in Jesus and in God's Word, because I know when I do, I will see things much more clearly and be able to refute the baseless fears and worries that sometimes come.  And even those fears and worries that aren't baseless will be no match for my Jesus!

The LORD is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear?  The LORD is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid?  ~Psalm 27:1


Monday, February 7, 2011

Things That Go Bump (or Siren Sound or Clang) in the Night

Last week I my bladder woke me up in the wee hours of the morning when the cold front came through.

Friday, January 28, 2011


Now that I finished blogging about 2010, I can start blogging about 2011!  Hey, January's not even over yet.  Pretty good for a chronic procrastinator!

We've spent more time this month visiting oral health professionals than at any other time in my adult life.  (I did have braces as a child, so I spent some time at the dentist and orthodontist.)  The girls had a routine cleaning early in the month.  We've known fro some time that Grace would need some orthodontic work because of an underbite, and our dentist said it was finally time.  We got an appointment the next day for the orthodontist who just began practicing with our dentist.  After the x-rays and the icky-tasting tooth molds, we learned that her bottom jaw is growing faster than her top jaw.  So not only will she need braces, she'll also need a type of head gear!

They put in some spacers, and we made an appointment for the braces.  She got her braces last Monday.  She was really excited about them!  She chose green bands to go around her brackets, and she really does look cute.  They have to make some kind of device that will attach to her head gear, so she doesn't have that yet.  And the braces make it difficult for her to suck on her tongue, which is what either led to or exacerbated her underbite.  Yay!  They are already helping!

After hearing my friends talk about the pain of getting braces, I was surprised that Grace only had minimal discomfort.  Cutting her food into small pieces and taking ibuprofen controlled it.  And she told me today that she could bite into pizza again without pain or discomfort.

I was very surprised by the financial pain of braces!  I had no idea that eight months to a year of braces would cost more than several used cars we have purchased!  And when I asked the going rate for a full set, I couldn't believe it!  Unfortunately for us, Hope will be needing braces in the near future, and Grace may need another set when she's older.  I'm glad we took our Disney trip last year!  

But a healthy smile is worth it.  And Grace is such a happy child that we see that smile often!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

More Magic!

We planned to meet the princesses on our final day at Magic Kingdom.  And while it would have been nice to get the boutique princess make-over for the girls, it was definitely NOT in our already-stretched budget.  So my oldest daughter and her friend did the younger girls make-up and hair so they could feel like princesses!  I brought sparkly make-up and hair spray and had purchased each of my girls a tiara at Claire's before we left.  My younger girls wore cute dresses instead of the hot dress-up costumes that we had.  I think they looked fabulous!

We got to the park in time to see Mickey and Minnie sing and dance at Cinderella's castle.  Then we went to Belle's story time.  After that we went to see the princesses!  Faith's favorite princess is Cinderella; Hope and Grace's favorite is Belle (She's my favorite, too!); and Joy's favorite princess is Sleeping Beauty. All three of them were there when we went to meet them, take pictures, and get their autographs!  They were all so gracious, and it was a special time for my girls.

We then toured Mickey and Minnie's houses, and I made the big mistake of riding the Goofy roller coaster.  It wasn't scary, but it was so jerky that my back hurt for several hours!  After lunch, we met Mickey and Minnie and got pictures with them.  We hid out from one of the daily rain showers, and rode some more rides.  The younger three girls loved Space Mountain, and all the girls loved Big Thunder Mountain.  (I had planned to ride that one until my back started hurting.)  

One of the most fun surprises was the Jungle Cruise.  Our guide was hysterical!  The girls loved it when she poked fun at the Hall of Presidents!  The older kids and Paul rode Splash Mountain again.  They were disappointed that somehow he managed to stay dry.

We finished our day by watching the Parade of Lights and the fireworks show from Main Street.  It was a terrific ending to a fabulous vacation!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Magical Magic Kingdom Day 1

We spent our final two days of our Disney vacation at the Magic Kingdom.  I had been looking forward to this park the most, and it did not disappoint!  We got there the first day in time to watch a parade from the train station.  Then we rode the train to Frontier Land to get fast passes for Splash Mountain.  We had a great time riding the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and then had even more fun being silly with the pirate paraphernalia in the gift shop!  

After lunch, the kids and the men rode Splash Mountain.  The women and small boys elected to stay dry!  The men little boys were tired so the dads took the boys back to the hotel for naps.  The moms and the girls didn't want to miss a minute of magic, so we stayed.  It was a hot day, so we found some air conditioned fun:  Mickey's Philharmagic and the Hall of Presidents.  The girls were thoroughly bored with the Hall of Presidents, and they didn't even appreciate the cool air!  When it was over, we were happy to discover that the afternoon parade was about to come right by our location.  The girls loved watching the princesses, although Joy was very disappointed that Sleeping Beauty was not in the parade!

  Waving to Cinderalla

We got some ice cream for a cool snack and rode several more rides until the dads and boys returned.  My two youngest even rode Space Mountain with my friend and her girls!  They loved it!!  When we were all back together we rode the MK Toy Story ride, which was not as much fun as the one at Hollywood Studios.  We rode the carousel and the Peter Pan ride.  It rained again, so we decided to ride It's a Small World.  Cheesy, but fun!  The rain had cleared out the park, so we were able to ride the teacups and the carousel with hardly any waiting!  Those tea cups were a blast!  
I chose a pink teacup!

We also rode Dumbo. Since Hope's favorite animal is an elephant, this was especially fun for her!
 Hope and I ride Dumbo!

And while we were on the ride the fireworks began.  What a fun way to see them!

And on the way out, we saw Cinderella's castle all lit up!

  A beautiful ending to a wonderful day!


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Epcot Adventures

We spent the next two days at Epcot.  The first day we spent doing things in the space, land, and sea areas.  I've always wondered what was inside the big white orb, and I finally got to see it!  I liked this ride because it was air-conditioned and because it was a great history review for my girls!  We also rode several of the other rides and hung out at the aquarium. 

I hung out with the little ones while everyone else rode Test Track.  I had read that the ride lasted six minutes, and I thought the whole six minutes was racing around the track.  I didn't think that would work with my vertigo-like symptoms on roller-coasters.  Of course, after they rode it, I found out the ride only goes around the track once! 

We left early in the afternoon for siesta time at the hotel.  Then we went to Downtown Disney.  The Lego store was fun for a while.  While my friend and her kids waited for a free Lego set, my girls and I shopped for souvenirs at the Disney Princess store next door.  They each selected a charm bracelet and several charms as a way to remember Disney.  After shopping, we at at Wolfgang Puck Express.  It was fabulous!  Definitely our best meal of the trip!  And it was on our meal plan.

We ended the evening by going back to Epcot and riding Soarin'.  After Paul's experience with the motion simulator at Hollywood Studios, he decided to stay with the littler ones while the rest of us rode.  This ride was so much fun!  Everyone really enjoyed it!  Then we made our way over to watch the fireworks show before we left for the evening.

The next day we had planned to tour the country areas in the morning before the day became too hot.  We planned to eat pastries for breakfast in one of the countries as well.  No one noticed that the country part of Epcot opens several hours later than the other part!  We had a few snacks with us that we ate for breakfast.  Our friend conned his older kids into riding the intense version of Mission Space.  Thankfully, no one vomited!  After lunch, we rode Test Track again.  This time I rode it, too!  Lots of fun!

We then rode the boat rides in Norway and Mexico.  We spent some time in Norway since our friend has ancestors from there.  The Viking helmets in the gift shop were a big hit!  We also spent a little time in Japan.  My girls enjoyed seeing all the Japanese things.  My sister and her family lived in Okinawa for a few years, so we felt like we had a connection with Japan.  We made the lap of countries on our way out.  We stopped in France for a wonderful snack of French pastries.  Yum!  In England, we saw Alice of Alice in Wonderland.  She had just arrived, so we were able to get pictures with her and her autograph with no waiting!  And while walking through Canada, we saw this:

After another siesta time we ate at one of the other resorts.  Then my friend and I went back to Epcot with her two girls and my oldest two.  We rode Soarin' again.  Twice!  We toured Britain.  We spoke in British accents.  We ate more pastries in France.  We tried to talk in French accents but couldn't do it very well.  So we reverted back to the British accents.  We examined belly dancing costumes in Morocco.  It was such a great mom/daughter time.  This was one of the highlights of our trip!  And the girls agree!  Even though we got rained on, it was fabulous!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Off to Orlando!

One of the highlights of 2010 for our family was our trip to Disney World!  Paul & I had been considering taking the girls, and we realized that if we did decide to plant a church (We weren't sure about this yet.), it would be more difficult to go afterward.  And then we found out some of our good friends were also thinking about going, so we decided to go together!  (I think this really sealed the deal for Paul.)  Their kids got out of school the last Thursday in May, and we left the following day.  Our friends have 6 kids, ranging in age from 2 to 13, so we had 14 people total!!  I know it sounds crazy, but we had a blast!

We took a couple of days to drive, so we got to Orlando on Saturday afternoon and went to Animal Kingdom.  Since it closes earlier than the other parks, we didn't have much time there.  We did the safari ride first.  Since it had been raining that afternoon, it was a little cooler, and we were able to see a lot of animals, including Hope's favorite, elephants. 

The older kids and the dads rode the rapids ride, while my friend and I stayed with her two little ones.  It was no sacrifice for us because neither of us wanted to get our hair wet!  However, everyone got soaked when it started pouring rain.  We quickly discovered that the Dollar Tree ponchos weren't sufficient!  We were able to see the Lion King show on our way out.  Then we got settled in our rooms in The Port of Orleans French Quarter and headed out to eat and to Walmart to get snacks and better rain ponchos.

The next day we went to Hollywood Studios.  We had heard that the Toy Story ride was very popular, so we immediately got fast passes for it.  My girls really liked the Narnia exhibit and enjoyed seeing costumes from the movie.

They also were impressed by the stone table.

Lunch that day was a disaster!  We waited about an hour to order and get our pizza!  Fortunately, our meals went smoothly the rest of the trip!  When we rode the Star Wars ride, Paul discovered that simulators mess up his equilibrium.  But the rest of us enjoyed it.  In the afternoon, the dads and older boys went to see the stunt shows while the moms, girls, and little boys saw the Beauty and the Beast show and The Little Mermaid show.  Faith was selected to announce The Little Mermaid show before it started!  So cool!  We met back up for the Muppet show and dinner.

The Toy Story ride was great and definitely lived up to the hype.  We were all disappointed (but not surprised) that the line was too long to ride it again!

My friend and her oldest daughter stayed to ride the Rockin' Roller Coaster, while the rest of us took the bus back to the hotel.


We had just experienced our first full day of Disney, and, I must say, we were impressed...and exhausted! 

Friday, January 7, 2011

2010: Some Retrospective Lists

The beginning of a new year is often a time of reflection of the past year and thoughts of changes in the new year.  The beginning of our year was just survival mode.  Paul went to Passion on New Year's Day.  The girls and I tried to recover from staying up WAY too late on New Year's Eve!  Then we started the routines of school, dance practice, and piano lessons.  And I washed dishes by hand because our dishwasher is still broken!  All that to say that it's already January 7th and I'm just now thinking about 2010.

2010 had a lot of lasts for us:

*Last Daddy/Daughter Valentine banquet.  (It would have been the last even had we remained at that church; they'll be too old this year.) 

*Last time to watch my younger 3 girls sing at the children's musical at our old church.

*Last AWANA award ceremony.  

*Last time to go to camp with our old church.

*Last Sunday at our old church.

*Last time for me to teach high school girls there.

*Maybe our last swim lessons.

*Last time to have to make overseas calls to talk to my sister.  (I hope!)

It also had some firsts:

*First time to plant a church!

*First year of middle school for Hope!

*First time to see the Riverwalk in San Antonio at Christmas time!

*First time to host all of my family for Christmas!

*First time to go to Disney World!!! (Which will get a whole post of its own very soon.  Even though it happened way back in May and June.)

And, of course, many things remained the same:

*Dance practices

*Piano lessons


*Our crazy dog

*Our sweet cat


I'm kind of hoping that 2011 is a little more predictable than 2010.  Well, except for the awesome vacation part!  That was not something that was on my radar in January of 2010.  But I know I can trust God when things change or when they remain the same.