Wednesday, December 29, 2010

You know the furnace has been fixed when...

My three year old is currently running around the house wearing:
 her underpants, 
a pink princess crown,
and fuzzy red fleece socks.  

The furnace must be fixed :)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sour Puss

I admit it.

I am a sour puss this week.

I hate it when Advent is over, when Christmas is ending.  

It does not help that our furnace just broke and our house is cold.

Being cold and Christmas ending are two of my least favorite things. 

And, my sister and brother-in-law leave to go home to Boston tomorrow.

Sour puss, Queen B.  

Let's sweeten the sourness a bit, shall we?  

After all, if lemons are in season, so is lemon meringue pie.

What would I tell my children if they were the ones in sour moods?  
Perhaps I should try counting my blessings instead of sheep,
Or give thanks for the furnace technician who will come tomorrow,
or for our growing baby inside me, warm and snug,
or let the lessons and memories of the past month remind me 
that everyday is filled with His Presence.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Week 2010

It is going to be hard for us to beat this past Christmas week.  

Our Christmas tree, ready for action.
Through some very fancy finagling, we managed to get all three of my siblings, T's mother and my brother-in-laws parents in town for Christmas.  Our past week has been filled with.....

....fabulous family time, 

Sisters relaxing with two pregnant bellies.
MoMo, Nana and Ya-Ya
T and Nana adults-only night to see A Christmas Carol, 

The eligible bachelor of the family, flanked by his two adoring sisters and their princes.

....a Christmas Eve party in which my parents hosted 30 for dinner,

A full Christmas Eve table--just the way my parents like it!
The Christmas Eve Crew, 2010
....and a Christmas Day celebration with 15.  

Through brunches and lunches....

G-Bear loved her Christmas dress.

E-Bear passes out mints to the table at Sunday Brunch.

....cousin time and present time,

Cousin Sparky, E-Bear and G-Bear in their matching Christmas pj's from MoMo

Cousin Sparky, Aunty K and Uncle T
G-Bear loved her stocking stuffers: Cinderella slippers and a head lamp!

G-Bear presents Papa's tree.

....and a birthday celebration for baby Jesus,

Welcome, baby Jesus!
E-Bear and G-Bear couldn't wait for his doll to arrive in the manger on His birthday.
The procession marched right by us at church, and we were the first ones to welcome Him at the manger after the service.

....Our kids have been treasuring the whole week.  

The past three nights in a row they have gotten to go to sleep at MoMo & Papa's house so that the adults could stay up later to talk...we would wake them up to bring them home several hours later, late into the night.  

We have so much to be thankful for.  To Nana, who came for the week, slept on our leaky basement aerobed and made this week so special, thank you for braving the snow and cold to be with us for Christmas.  To Ya-Ya and GP, you fit right in and made our holiday truly special.  To Uncle T, Aunty K and Cousin Sparky, what a blessing to have a week with you, extended unexpectedly by the Boston snow storm  (they are still stuck with us after their flight home got cancelled today!).  To Uncle C, who spent days putting together a museum-worthy Kinex ball factory to delight the cousins on Christmas morning, thanks for being the fun uncle who always delights and amazes.  

And a Christmas toast to Papa and especially our amazing MoMo, who planned, manically cleaned & prepared, and hosted the amazing week of meals, activities and memories for the whole extended families.  What a hostess, what a welcome, what a holiday she prepared and pulled off.  This week has been one we will never forget.  Send the woman a bottle of champagne for the New Year.

With love,

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

We wish you a Merry Christmas!
May the Twelve Days of Christmas begin.
And in the words of Tiny Tim, 
"God bless us, everyone."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Hidden Life of Advent

As Advent draws to a close this week, I can't help but be thankful for all the blessings that we have enjoyed this season.  Amidst all the glitz and glitter, the largest blessings are often the smallest, most hidden moments.  In my mind, such hidden moments seem to capture just as much, if not more, of the true meaning of the season than the grand productions.

The first Advent was the culmination of 9 months of the Christ Child hiding in His mother's womb.  But despite His 9 months of hiddenness, that first Advent was significant.  Through her everyday moments and actions--her every breath, preparation, heartbeat--Mary grew and provided for her yet-unborn-child, albeit in a very hidden way.  What a amazing gift all of her hidden moments provided for the world when it was time for her to give birth!

In another way, there was a hiddenness to the way that Mary and Joseph bore their circumstances during the Advent season.  All their well-laid plans for a uneventful engagement & marriage were shattered.  There was no special treatment for a pregnant woman and her beloved traveling for the census, no worldly privilege for the job God had given to them.  They bore it all in grace and anonymity, and in time offered the world the greatest gift.

All this brings me comfort as a pregnant woman, mother, relative and friend this Christmas.  For my unborn child, my every moment, breath and heartbeat is significant, a building block toward the rest of his or her life.  Similarly, my quiet moments with my children hold such great importance.  Sitting near our tree before bed, talking about the importance of sharing as we near special time with family, answering their questions about Jesus' birthday story, pointing out Christmas decorations on our daily drives: these quiet, hidden moments add up to a season of lessons, learning and special memories that they may pass along to others someday.

And finally, some encouragement for those of you who, like me, may have had aspects of your Advent that did not go according to plan:  A close friend recently highlighted for me the example of Mary and Joseph, whose well-laid plans for a normal life were drastically changed by a Great God who had a much better Advent plan in mind.  In her eloquent words: 

"Like good St. Joseph, I am finding that my well-laid plans for a quiet Advent have been derailed by a God who is so wise, but sometimes it's hard to understand."

Whether Advent has been less or more than expected, may God bless us all with a renewed trust in His love & plan and the strength to bear every hidden circumstance with grace.  May we make the most of every hidden moment, for there is significance in hiddenness.  May the Lord Jesus be born anew in our hearts and families this precious season.

Monday, December 20, 2010

G-Bear, says E-Bear

Little brothers and sisters are well-known for giving their older siblings nick-names.  E-Bear has had his own shortened version of G-Bear's name since he began talking.  Not surprising, since G-Bear's name is on the longer side and even many adults mispronounce or shorten it.  

But this weekend, for the first time, E-Bear said G-Bear's full name.  It's so adorable to hear him say his sister's full name.  Not that the nickname wasn't sweet too.  G-Bear has been fond of saying that E-Bear is the only one who can call her by the nickname.  

Maybe from here on out he'll call her by both.  We'll see.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Advent Cookies

Aunt K, thanks for suggesting the Great Cousin Cookie Exchange for cousin Christmas gifts this year!

Yesterday, the kids and I had a great time making Christmas cookies for the cousins.  G-Bear and I made the cookies during nap time.  She cut them out after I rolled out the dough.  After dinner, armed with a sprinkle shaker each and a pile of larger candy pieces, the Bears were ready to decorate.  We were an artisan assembly line par excellence!  I frosted the cookies and they added the sprinkles.  Oh my goodness, we had so much fun!

Cousins E, S, and T, you should see your cookies.  You are going to love them.

I think my kids get their love of sprinkles from me.  Seriously, the kids did these themselves.  I was so impressed.  The cousins are lucky that we only ate three of them!

G-Bear was so excited to share them:
"Mommy, can you show Daddy when he gets home?  
Make sure that he doesn't eat them all. 
Can we please send them to E and S in a box tomorrow?"

You would not believe how carefully I packaged the cookies into a tin last night.  Hopefully they make it at least somewhat intact.  A whole lot of love will be in that box with them.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Thomas Train Birthday

To the creators of Thomas the Train and makers of less expensive wooden train sets:

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for bringing my children so much joy.  Thomas, you have become like a steadfast friend in our house.  You are a positive role model.  My children adore you.  

Wooden train set, you were reasonably priced, have many pieces to facilitate sharing, and you foster both creativity and hand-eye coordination as my children put your wooden pieces together.  You have surpassed my hopes and expectations for a toy, but even more importantly, you have surpassed my children's hopes and dreams for a toddler birthday gift.

For all of these things, I thank you.

Here are a few pictures from our birthday night this week.  Such fun!

Papa's tree is the perfect backdrop.

G-Bear, enjoying the ambiance.

You should hear E-Bear's delight when the train goes under the "Tunnel!!"

Jingle Bells

Raise your hand if you love.....

....homemade granola with yogurt & birthday sprinkles for birthday breakfast,
playing with toy nativity sets in front of the fire with 20 inches of snow outside your window,
2 year-old well child check-ups (noooooo shots!  Can I get an oh yeah?) and 
a clean bill of health,
having a brother with a December birthday and getting to play with new toys even BEFORE Christmas,
running errands, mailing Christmas cards,
 shoveling your buried trash can out of the snow drift,
preschool sing-along concerts,
wearing 5 layers of clothing and still feeling cold,
car seat warmers in your Sienna minivan,
picking out a Christmas tree,
vacuuming before the tree arrives, only to vacuum again once it is up
toddlers singing along to the Christmas songs in the car
egg nog milkshakes from McDonalds (T's newest favorite treat)
collapsing in exhaustion at the end of an Advent day.

We are LOVING every minute of celebrating E-Bear's birthday and preparing for Christmas around here, even if all of us are sleep deprived.

Today was another extra special day, as E-Bear and I got to attend G-Bear's preschool Christmas program.  It lasted all of 8 minutes in the basement hall of the church.  The 10 preschool friends sat together in front of the parents and sang 6 songs, complete with jingle bell necklaces around their necks.  You should see the video.  G-Bear barely sang a word, but boy, did she shake her jingle bell.  Afterwards, there were sprinkle cookies and apple juice for everyone.  It was hard to tell who was more proud, the preschoolers or the parents.  What a bunch of cutie patooties.  

The biggest meltdown of the day came as we were leaving the program.  The kids and I realized that the church had a life-sized wooden nativity set in the lawn outside the sanctuary.  G-Bear was intent on seeing the manger scene.  I was intent on getting us out of the cold and home to naps (crabbiness was looming).  I thought I had won a compromise by offering to drive by the manger in the car as we drove home.  Instead, I won two howling children in the car as we drove past the nativity without getting out of the car to see it up close.  

G-Bear (sobbing): "But I want to see Baby JESUS!" 
Me: "G-Bear, did you see the crib?  He's not there yet.  He won't be there until Christmas, his birthday."
G-Bear (howling): "But I want to get out and see the manger.  Jesus, baby JESUS!"
E-Bear (howling):  "Baaaaaaby Jeeeeeeeeshhhhussssssss! Stop!  Mommy!  Go back!"

Are you picturing this?  I am lucky a lightning bolt didn't strike me dead on the spot.  I seriously wondered for a moment if I was stuck in some dreadful modern day parable: The Mother Who Wouldn't Let Her Children See the Manger Scene.  

Me: "I have an idea, how about we go home and wait for Daddy.  HE will want to see the manger TOO. Maybe we can tell him about it and come back with HIM so he can see it too."
G-Bear (sniffling): "And go outside and see it up close?"
E-Bear (sniffling): "Owside?"
Me: "Yes, we can get out of the car and see the manger up close with Daddy."
The Bears (still sniffling): "Ok."

Heaven, have mercy on me.  

So, tonight, I tucked my girl into bed, and she said:

"Mommy, is it Jesus' birthday yet?"
Me: "No, sweetie, not quite yet."
G-Bear: "In a week?"
Me: "A little more than a week, honey."
G-Bear: "And then Jesus will be in the manger?!"
Me: "Yes, G-Bear, then he will be in the manger."
G-Bear: "Hooray!  I can't WAIT!"

Lord, bless me with patience for the meltdowns, and help me treasure Christmas like my children.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Happy Birthday to you, E-Bear!

From one year...... TWO!!

Dearest E-Bear,

Happy birthday to you, my tenderhearted prince.  Amidst the choo-choo's and "Thomas Trains" and fire trucks for your birthday today, what I really treasure the most is your loving spirit, that of a precious child of God, growing up so quickly in the favor of God and man.  Daddy and I are so proud of who you are:  humble and unassuming, finally realizing it was your own birthday only after the candles were blown out: "Happy  Happy!  Happy birthday ME!"  You share so well with your sister and others, you treasure family time together, you make us all feel included: "mommy, c'mere, Daddy, c'mere," and "Mommy, I neeeeeed you."  You are so careful to say thank-you and please, you always point out crosses and Jesus and churches to us, and you are your sister's best friend.  This is who you are today, the E-Bear who we love.

We have many more happy memories of you from this year past:

*December.......Starting out this year at age 1, having just learned to stand, crawl up the stairs by yourself, saying "mamamamama" and "dadadadada."

*January..........Walking on your own for the first time while Nana visited.  Now when Mommy and Daddy come home, instead of a crawling guy peaking around the corner at the top of the mud room stairs, there is a standing little boy with his arms outstretched.

*February........After your first haircut, you tackled the sun and sand of Cancun with excitement and eagerness.  Your smile ever-present and always brightening our days.

*March............You add "Nah!" to your already impressive lexicon, but not before you were saying "peese!" and "sawweee." We made it through 15 months of nursing together, but my pediatrics rotation finally took both of us out of that game.   Sippy cup full time from here on out.

*April..............The Easter bunny can't fool you!  You took to the egg hunts at MoMo & Papa's house with impressive competition, because at this point you are a gross motor maniac.  You are also our own cheering section, with a ready round of applause whether someone has finished a prayer, used the bathroom or is singing along to a song in the car.

*May...............Falling in love with everything bike:  G-Bear's trike, MoMo's fire engine, your fire truck at home.  On our Root River Trail trip you blew us away with your easy-going attitude, green blankie in tow.

* June...........Smoothies with Daddy while Mom is working, licking popsicles and finger painting together, the beginning of our summer adventures.  As you passed 18 months, you were leading the way down the playground slides for your sister and showing us all how to play with the fountains at the splash pool.

*July.............Still our little charmer, always eager to help others find their shoes for outings and loving on your sister with hugs every chance you get.  You sing along to G-Bear's VBS cd in the car at the top of your lungs, "Ga!  Ga!," hand motions and all.

*August........Riding the "choo-choo" light rail train to Mall of America on a rainy day, it was as if you had died and gone to heaven.  And who was it who jumped head first off the side of the pool first this summer?  Oh, that's right, it was you, E-Bear.  Way to go!  You and G-Bear are playing together like best buds, making up new games everyday, like "Going on vacation."

*September.......The first day of school is heart-breaking as you tearfully say good-bye to your best friend and sister for a few hours each week.  Don't worry, we had lots of mom-and-me playground dates together while G-Bear was at school.

*October..........Looking good in your first tuxedo, you wowed the crowed at Miss R's wedding, walking down the aisle like a pro.  You broke your leg, but quickly adapted to life in a cast, and we rarely heard you complain.  You caught onto Halloween candy quickly, wearing your puffy pumpkin suit and cast accessory.

*November.......You are talking up a storm, full sentences now, no mystery to what you are saying.  You know your colors and impress us with your singing and number counting.The cast comes off and you are running around Auntie Sharon's by Thanksgiving Day.

E-Bear, we have so many prayers and hopes for your years ahead.  May your humility and tenderheartedness continue to grow.  May your friendship with your sister continue to deepen:  the two of you care for each other so much, and we pray you will continue to be the best of friends, looking out for one another and bring joy to each other.  May you continue to grow in your love of God: you pray so earnestly at meal time and sing so joyfully to "True God" songs in the car.  You already please Him so much.  Continue to smile your happy smile and dance your joyful dances, point out the scenery to us on car rides, reminding us all of to delight in the simple blessings life gives us.

Daddy and I love you so much, E-Bear.  Happy birthday, dear E-Bear, happy birthday to you.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Home Again

What troopers the kids were for us today as we traveled home from our Alabama visit!  The kids were super exhausted after our fun week away, but they were great travelers.

T tried hard to make the best of our situation as we boarded our second plane of our trip home with two sleepy kids (E-Bear was nearly asleep in my arms and G-Bear had mentioned more than once that her legs were tired of walking through the terminal).  As we boarded our connecting flight home to Minnesota, T said to G-Bear,

 "G-Bear, we are so lucky!  We get to ride TWO planes today!"

G-Bear was quick to reply,

"I only like riding ONE plane.  I don't feel so lucky."

Gotta love 'em!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Southern Family Fun

This week, we skipped out of the snow and cold in Minnesota in order to visit T's family in Alabama.  What a treat! By the time we arrive home, there will be a new foot of snow in MN.  In the meantime, we get to enjoy a week of milder southern weather.

The cousins always have a great time together.  G-Bear and E-Bear have been in heaven.  All together this week, we have cousins ages 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and 0 if you count Baby Bear, currently in my belly.  What a hoot!  Just try to keep up....

This morning the church hosted a preschool breakfast with Santa.  Oh, my, did we have fun!  The decorations were spectacular, and Santa had plenty of time for each child to sit on his welcoming knees.

G-Bear and Cousin L

Cousin buddies in pajamas

Santa praises the cousins for how good they have been this year.

G-Bear and Santa share a special moment

Smiles with Santa
 Like I said, the fellowship hall had been totally transformed with spectacular decorations.  I wish my house could look like this!

After breakfast, we drove out to the Old Baker Farm to help the cousins choose their Christmas tree.

The tree cutting ceremony was impressive:

T was a big help with the tree!

G-Bear,  so proud of her daddy.

We finished our trip to the farm with a ride on Patsy the Mule.  She treated the kids to a super sweet trot around the tree row.

Hold tight, G-Bear!

Big smile and white knuckles.

Cousin A proves you don't need a hat to be a cowboy.

Cousin L loves it!

We have more celebrating and more memories to make before we head home.  Hope you are having a happy Advent!  Have a great weekend!