Monday, December 31, 2012

What a Year - 2012

I have enjoyed reading all of the re-cap posts from other bloggers 2012...and decided that it would be fun to do one on my own.  This year has had its share of big ups and downs....but we are entering 2013 stronger and more reliant on God...He has been faithful to us this year that's for sure!

January started with the very unexpected news that my 13yr position with the bank was being outsourced and I was for the first time, unemployed...Even then I could see that the beginning of 2012 was going to be an Adventure in Faith.

February was just one of this months that I was reminded of the generosity of others...and also reminded that God is caring for my specific needs.  I still don't know who gave that Anonymous Gift...but I remain grateful today.

March started with the news that little Isaac from our old church family had gone to be with Jesus after a short but tough battle of JMML. I grieved for his parents as I sought myself to understand the whys of something like this. But was reminded at his service Who is the ONLY hope.

In April I was finally able to share some Exciting News in our family, with the start of Dominic's new business, Legal Estate Planning Solutions, PLLC.

In May, my adorable little nephew Gavin joined the family. He is such a joy and it is so fun to look back at how tiny he once was!!

June was the month we titled "Go Big or Stay Home"...after Dominic's 15ft fall from a ladder and broken heel.  While he continues to recover slowly we are so grateful that his accident wasn't much worse!

In July we had lots of updates along with Dominic's heel surgery, the discovery of Gavin's Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia and the news that my brother Mark and his wife Mindi were having a baby girl!!

In August Dominic's new sign at his business was installed...and he was able to get back to work after 8 long weeks of recovery at home!

September was filled with lots of home improvement projects and LOTS of painting and I shared my $5 bathroom makeover!

Dominic's parents came to visit us one weekend in October and we spent some time carving pumpkins before Halloween...boy did we have fun!!

In November I shared a little about how I was feeling Overwhelmed. And gave you a glimpse into my crazy, unrealistic to-do list that I had made for myself!

The greatest joy in December was the birth of Mark and Mindi's daughter Adalyn.(Which I haven't blogged about yet because I haven't asked for permission to share pics etc....but I will, ask that is) and our girl celebrated her 2nd birthday and I shared the fun Birthday Tree that we had up for her this year.


Phew...I am exhausted just looking back at how much has happened this year! There were so many things that I didn't "record" and wished I had....but I am grateful that through this entire year God has been walking with us and I know that 2013 won't be any different!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Birthday Tree

So this post is coming a little late, and in all honesty I took the pictures right before I packed it up for the year...but I wanted to share this fun idea with you.

Last year right around this time I saw the idea (can't remember where) to have a special "birthday tree" for the child in your family that has a December birthday.

Karlena's birthday is the 20th and so close to Christmas. I have heard friends, who were also December babies, share that their birthday was often overlooked. Especially when it fell so close to the Christmas Holiday. 

So the idea was to have a tree with ornaments just for the birthday child as an extra special way of celebrating and remembering that December birthday.

I LOVED this idea so after Christmas last year I shopped all of the 50-75% off sales to find the perfect ornaments for Karlena's tree this year.

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I don't know if you can see it or not but I found these little letters in the colors I chose that spelled her name.  Because her name is so special to me, I love seeing it on her things.

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I found the cutest cupcake ornaments and everything that I bought is shatterproof - so her little hands can't break them!

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Of course we have to have her initial on the tree too! :)

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Instead of buying an expensive tree skirt, I found this scrap of green fleece in the remnant bin at Wal-mart...I think I paid just over a dollar for it! And it made the perfect skirt.

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This really was one of my favorite trees. It was so girly and pretty. We had it in our kitchen...but some day I will probably set it up in her room.

So those of you with December birthdays, or kids with them....what have you done to keep a little extra special in your celebration??

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Fun!

I don't know about you guys but this was a strange Christmas for me...We have been trying all month to keep a right focus and talking about the true meaning of Christmas, the house was all decorated and the presents were wrapped....but somehow it didn't totally "feel" like Christmas.

Dominic's mom was really sick so we weren't able to go back to Parker for the weekend...so we spent that time at home as a family.  We didn't do anything terribly special....but it was fun to have a couple of extra days off to spend with family.

On Monday we went back to SD so that we could see my parents and then have Christmas Day with my sister's family.  We had cajun chicken linguini for Christmas Eve dinner and I have to say it might be my new favorite choice!! :) YUMMY!

Beth hosted on Christmas Day and we arrived to an awesome Christmas brunch! And her beautifully decorated house!

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Oh and of course my sweet niece and nephew!!

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My kiddos were pretty cute too! :)

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Once the gift opening started...it was chaos!!

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Someone had a little too much fun in the discarded wrapping paper...

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It was such a fun and relaxing day....I just felt so blessed that we could be together. While we missed having my brother and his wife with us....they get a pass since their sweet daughter was born a few days ago, and traveling from CA would have been too much! We got to Facetime with them though and that was nice!

As long as everyone stays healthy we hope to celebrate with Dominic's family on New Years Day!  I hope that you all had a blessed Christmas!

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Happy 2nd Birthday Karlena!!



Oh my heart - where has the time gone? How is it possible that you, my sweet girl, are already two??

It seems like just yesterday that you were born.

 Our best Christmas present in 2010!!

23 days old....I love your innocence.

You have always had a contagious smile that just lights up the room!

Even when mostly bald and toothless - you have always been a beauty.

Blurry pic - but it captures who you are...such a joy!

When you were little you were such a little princess...

But trust me there are days when I see a lot of your brothers in you! ;)

You are such a love and give the most wonderful hugs!!

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You are learning new words and phrases all the time...

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You are already independent and like to do things your way!

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Karlena - you are such a joy to this family. We celebrate you today and thank God for allowing us the privilege of being your parents. Happy Birthday my miss. I love you!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Ugly Christmas Sweater 2012

This is the 2nd year that we had handmade an ugly Christmas sweater for Isaac's youth group party.  Last year we made this beautiful sweater.

We knew that we needed to come up with something bigger and ummm well uglier!! :)

So we went to our local Goodwill store and found the biggest red men's sweater that we could find. It is a little short in the arms for Isaac...but we think that adds to it's appeal!

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Then we found some old garland that we could use to shape the wreath.  I knew that we couldn't just glue it on to the sweater so I secured it through the inside with craft wire.
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When we went to Goodwill we also found this Santa figure attached to this photo frame for $1. We cut the frame off and used the Santa for inside the wreath.

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We also found one of those poinsettia candle holders for 75c and cut the flowers off and used those for filler.

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The green fabric was from the remnant bin at Wal-mart and was less than $1

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Add a old bow that came on a wreath we had outside last winter and this sweater is coming together....

But we knew that we wanted to go all out and really make this sweater memorable...so we found a small set of battery operated LED lights.  Isaac will be able to put the battery pack in his pocket to turn them on and off.

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And there you have it. For just over $10 we have a fun and quite bulky ugly Christmas sweater! :)

Elijah's Preschool Program

Elijah started preschool this fall and is really loving it.  Yesterday they had a little program at his school.  Instead of having the kids stand up in front of everyone they had them all sit in a circle instead.  His teacher said that it helps the kids feel more comfortable.

Even in the circle though, once Elijah saw Dominic and I were there and watching him he got all shy. :)

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He did ALL of the little motions....

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But he wouldn't say a single one of the words. I know that he knew them but seeing everyone looking at him was a little too much I guess!

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It was so much fun seeing him there - even if he was a little shy.

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After a couple of cute songs they had some snacks for us.  My sweet boy is growing up....

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Hope Begins Here and a {{Giveaway}}



** Updated - Our winner is Rachel!! Congrats and I will be in touch to get your mailing address over to the wonderful people at Dayspring and they will ship you your prize!! **


As we are counting down the days until Christmas we continue to try and keep our focus on what is truly important.

The HOPE that is found in the birth of the Christ child.

For our Christmas program at church, Elijah is singing "Away in a Manger"....the sweetest words I hear is when he is singing "the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay".

"Why was Jesus sleeping on hay mommy?" he asks.  "Because there wasn't anywhere else he could be...there was no room for Him"

"The little Lord Jesus can sleep in my bed mommy, we have lots of blankets and I can share".

What a perfect time to have that conversation, even if he is only three, to talk about having Jesus in our hearts all the time.

Hope began here...
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At the manger. 

While the world rejected Him and had no room for Him...He still came. For me and for you.  We celebrate His coming, and the promise of His redemption at Christmas.

"Christ lives in you, and this is your assurance that you will share in His Glory" Colossians 1:27 NLT

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 Each day of this Advent season we have been trying to keep the focus of this time on Christ.  Having a tabletop advent calendar that we can read about the character of Jesus, helps us keep that right focus.

Jesus calls us His own. Jesus is Merciful. Jesus gives perfect peace.

Yes He is our hope. It began at the manger and we celebrate His coming.  Dayspring has a beautiful collection of products that celebrate that Hope.

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I love decorating for Christmas - but even more I love having little touches all over that remind of of that hope.  This fabric wreath was the perfect addition to my kitchen and reminds us that Hope begins here....

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And thanks to the generosity of the wonderful people over at Dayspring - one of my readers is going to get this beautiful wreath for themselves!! Drawing is for US residents only (So sorry Kate ;) just one more reason you should pack it up and come to MN!!)

So to enter just answer the question below and please leave your email address in the comments so that I can contact you if you have won! Drawing will be held on Friday December 21st!

**What are you doing this Advent season to keep the focus on Christ?**

I was provided the fabric wreath and tabletop advent calender for free from Dayspring in exchange for my post and honest review. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Poptropica



Thank you to Ubisoft for sponsoring this post. Please click here to learn more about Ubisoft. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective. #UbiChamps

 Poptropica
Say that three times fast!  It's hard isn't it? :)

I was sent this game to review....oh should I say for Gabriel to review. ;) He was pretty excited to be getting a game in the mail. And even more excited when he found out that it was free! My kids love hearing when we get a good deal...and free IS always a good deal.

I told him that I needed his help and he would have to play the game and then tell me what he thought about it.

He wasn't sure what he was supposed to do at first and when I asked him what he thought of the game he said "well it's ok but I don't really know how to play it."

Bring in big brother Isaac to help explain and pretty soon he was right into the game on his own!

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The premise behind Poptropica is that the player has to travel among different islands and has quests to complete.  Apparently there is an online version of the game - but we hadn't played that before so this was all new to Gabriel.

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Once Gabriel figured out what he was supposed to do he had lots of fun with the game.  He enjoyed the maze and the jumping games the most. And making the little people move...we liked to make them look like they were dancing...we love "the dance" ;)

The characters are cute and this is a game that doesn't have violence or anything bad in it so it is fun for the whole family.  Even Elijah had fun watching Gabriel play.

All in all this was a fun game for Gabriel and one that we can keep and let Elijah play as well. It was a fairly easy game to figure out and although it doesn't have tons of different islands to travel to...it offered lots of fun playing time.

 If you are interested in getting a copy for yourself it can be found on Amazon.com here or at Toys R Us here.

Disclosure: I was sent Poptropica to review for free in exchange for my honest review - all opinions are my own (or the opinions of my very honest 9 yr old) :) Thanks #UbiSoft for letting us participate in the review! #UbiPoptropica

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Joseph's Lullaby

This has to be one of most favorite songs right now and I just wanted to share it....

Can you even imagine being the parent of the Savior of the world?? 

This is a version from Mercy Me....I hope you enjoy it like I have!


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Keeping CHRIST in Christmas

 
We are nearing the 1st of December and the "countdown" if you will to Christmas.  This time of year can get so crazy can't it?  With Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday all in a short period of time....toy commericals and decorations going up....it is easy to get caught up in all of it.

I am guilty of it myself!! So there is no judgement here - trust me!

But we are trying to do a few things that will keep our hearts focused on the true meaning of Christmas this year.  I will be honest....I am not ready to take away "Santa" all together - the kids do still get stockings with a few gifts.  But Santa isn't going to be the primary focus this season.  So I thought I would share a couple of things that we are doing to try and keep a right focus.
 
24 Books for Christmas.

 via
I read about this idea last year during the Christmas season so I didn't have time to get things together...but last spring I gathered up all the Christmas books we had and bought a few more to have a set of 24.  The idea is simple, the kids get to open 1 book every day from Dec 1 to the 24th.

Specifically for us, we have only books that focus on Jesus and the meaning of Christmas. Some of them are the legend of the candy cane, or the story of the Christmas tree...but each book has meaning. Not only does this encourage reading together as a family...but hopefully it also helps keep the little ones focused on what is really important.


The Jesse Tree
 via
I had not heard of the Jesse Tree before this year. It just so happens that our church is doing a modification of this for our kids Christmas program.  In their words....

"This book offers 25 devotions for each day from December 1st to December 25th, Christmas Day... the day Christians celebrate that God's purpose was finally revealed in the coming of the savior, Jesus Christ.

Each devotion traces the heritage of Jesus through the stories and prophecies of the Old Testament. 

The Advent Jesse Tree enables individuals and families to engage in a more meaningful celebration of the Christmas season.

These daily Advent devotions are written in two versions (one for children and one version for adults) including a scripture, a story & commentary, questions to ask, a prayer, and a song."


Isn't that awesome! I have also read of families making their own Jesse tree and  ornaments for each day and then decorate the tree after each days devotion. It is a little late for me to get all the ornaments done for this year....but I think it will be a top thing to get done for 2013!!

Oh and for our church program we were asked to make an ornament that went along with our child's verse. Elijah and Gabriel have this verse....
"Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you alone are righteous"

And this is the ark that I came up with
 
Only problem is I didn't read ahead in the program and the next reader talks about the rainbow....so I might have to take the rainbow off...but I wanted a picture of it first before I do that! :)


Limiting the number of presents our kids get from us

Last Christmas, and honestly several times before I have been struck by how much stuff the kids get. With 2 sets of grandparents and great grandparents and cousin exchanges....they don't even know what to do with it all.

And when they are tearing through presents and not even realizing what they have gotten....it just feels like things have gone a little too far. Or is it just me??
 So I head about other parents limiting the # of presents each child gets to 3. Some even had guidelines like some they want, something to wear and something they need...stuff like that. 

While I didn't stick to that specifically...I did stick to a budget. The "big gift" and most expensive of the 3 gifts each is getting is $50 or less. Then they are each getting 2 smaller gifts. Karlena's most expensive gift is a doll cradle I got at a rummage sale for $10!

My point is that while I love to see my kids happy, I don't think I am doing them any good by giving them EVERYTHING they want....and for some things, if it were a bigger gift - like for Isaac, he paid for most of the gift and we paid for a small portion.  That way he is also learning the value of having to save up for something that he really wants!

Trust me I don't think years from now they will come to us and say we didn't give them enough or ask why we only spent $100 on them for Christmas.  If we continue to keep the focus on Christ...all gifts, big or small, regardless of size, will be ones they are thankful for.
 
 Giving to others

In this time of "I Want...." it is so important to teach our kids about giving back to others.  We started early in November by filling up shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.  It was really cool because the other day Dominic and I were in Walmart with Gabriel and Elijah...Elijah wanted something and I said no and then Gabriel leaned over and reminded him about the kids that don't get Christmas presents at all....and that we need to be thankful for what we do have and not be upset when we can't have something. 

Can you say proud mama moment?! :)

But I wanted to do more....so we are looking at finding a family that we can "adopt" from our community and buy presents for. Our extended families have done this in previous years and I can tell you that it brings me so much joy shopping for gifts for someone else....knowing that it is going to be a blessing to them.  We have soo much to be thankful for, and honestly we as Americans are all rich compared to so many other countries....

Making Christmas special for another family is the least we can do as a demonstration of our thanks for all that God has blessed us with.

Those are just a couple of the things that we are doing but I know that there are other ideas as well and I would love to hear what your family is doing to celebrate Christmas and keep Christ as the focus.


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