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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