Luke, Patty, Anna Kate, Caroline, and Eleanor

Luke, Patty, Anna Kate, Caroline, and Eleanor

Monday, December 24, 2012

Snowville at Edventure

Last Friday we decided to have a little family day before our super-busy youth group progressive dinner weekend extravaganza!  Our favorite children's museum, EdVenture, has a seasonal exhibit right now called Snowville, which we knew the girls would love, so we headed out there.  They had so much fun seeing the North Pole,


And dancing with penguins!

Of course the girls have their favorite exhibits that we always have to the grocery store.

Luke thought Anna Kate's grocery choices were pretty amusing...steak and doughnuts.  Actually it looks like something he would buy at the grocery store...

Caroline took the grocery shopping very seriously.

Don't worry, Caroline really had a fantastic time, she just took everything very seriously.  I think she thought she was really operating this piece of heavy machinery.  It was no laughing matter.

They always love the fire station!

Still very serious...

Finally, they had a great time at the brand new pizza parlor exhibit.  They chopped veggies, baked pizzas, and served the hungry customers!

We love seeing how much the girls change each time we go to EdVenture and how much more they discover and interact with all the activities as they grow!

Children's Christmas Program

Wednesday night was our children's Christmas program at church.  Anna Kate has been working SO hard on her songs for the past couple of months and was so excited.  She knew all the words to all of the songs and was super prepared.  And then she got on stage.  Apparently, the spotlight and the audience and the decorations were a little distracting!  Ha!  She did actually sing about 50% of the words.  The other 50% of the time she spent investigating the speakers on the stage, pulling a decorative feather out of the poinsettia arrangement, turning around to see what the big kids were doing, etc.  But the part she sang, she sang very well!  And of course, she was cute!  Here are all the kids in their sweet Christmas outfits.  Anna Kate is in the front row on the far left.

I would put up a video, but I really didn't get a very good one because I was too busy trying to keep Anna Kate focused by sitting on the front row and giving her the look.  You know, the look that I have acquired with my years in teaching and now parenting!

Anyway, the kids did well and of course they all looked adorable!  And they did truly remind us about the meaning of Christmas.  Here are the words to one of their four songs (and Anna Kate's favorite):

You gave up your throne to be with us
Mary and Joseph's tiny One
How could it be that God would come?
Alleluia Amen

The shepherds became the first to see
How God would set his people free
The hope of the world is Christ the King
Alleluia Amen

So I praise you, Lord
And I worship you forever
So I thank you, Lord
Alleluia Amen

Born in a manger for the cross
You bled and you died to save us
You rose from the grave victorious
Alleluia Amen

So, Anna Kate may not have sung every word the night of the performance, but she did learn them all and through them is coming to understand the reason that we celebrate this baby's birth...born in a manger for the cross.  And learning those truths is worth more than a perfect performance any day!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas from Caroline!

 Caroline just wanted to spread a little Christmas cheer in her precious reindeer jammies...

This sweet little thing sure makes our Christmas merry and bright!

O Christmas Tree

One of the highlights of the Christmas season for us each year is going out right after Thanksgiving to a Christmas tree farm and cutting down our tree.  Now, those of you who saw our tree last year will remember that it was quite large.  We had just moved into our new house a couple of months prior to Christmas, and we were so excited to have a big living room with big, tall ceilings.  So of course, we wanted the biggest tree that we could fit!  Honestly, I was willing to go a little smaller this year, but on our way out to the farm Anna Kate told us, "I want one REALLY LARGE like we had last time!"  So, in an effort to not squelch her Christmas enthusiasm, we went along with her when she picked this one!

Anna Kate is in this new too-busy-to-pose phase...I hope it passes soon! 

All ready to go!

We did have to cut off 6 or 8 inches when we got it home!

We started an annual tradition last year of inviting our youth over to our house for a Christmas tree decorating party.  They think it's super fun, we get our tree decorated for us, so it's a win-win situation!  This year we decided to add a new dimension to the extravaganza by making it a Tacky Christmas Sweater contest as well.  Here were the entries:

Yes, that is a cat in a Santa outfit on Luke's sweater vest.  If you could only see the crocheted mice buttons up the front...

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Baking with my girls!

We had a staff Christmas party last week at our pastor's house and I offered to bring the dessert.  Our friends are all so wonderful cooking food that Caroline and I can eat, or adapting it for us, but making desserts without milk or eggs is pretty mind-boggling if you're not used to it.  So if I bring the dessert, then Caroline and I can eat it too, so everyone wins!  And with this chocolate cake recipe, you'd never know that it didn't have any milk or eggs.  Actually, I've found a number of recipes for cakes that we can eat, all from the WWII era...why?  Because milk and butter were in short supply during the war.  So people had to adapt!  Anyway, that was a long story...but Anna Kate and Caroline were very excited about helping me make a cake.  Actually, if we are honest, Caroline just made messes in the kitchen, and Anna Kate alternated between helping and digging her hands in the batter.

But here is the finished product!  Thank you, pinterest for the chocolate Christmas tree idea.  We just melted down our dairy-free chocolate chips, put it into a baggie and piped it out in tree shapes onto waxed paper and then stuck them to the cake when they hardened.


And a close-up of the cake without the cover (taken once I put the girls down so they couldn't poke at it!)

So fun baking with my sweet little girls!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Family Portraits

With Christmas card season approaching, we decided it was high time that we get some actual family pictures taken of the four of us.  We really hadn't had really good quality ones done (i.e. with a good photographer and a good camera!) since Anna Kate was a baby.  So we asked our good friend Renee from church and she graciously accepted the challenge.  I told her that I would be happy if she just got all four of us in one picture...not even looking or smiling, just all in the same picture!  Anyway, as you will see from these pictures, she exceeded our expectations quite a bit!  Such a blessing to capture this moment in time as a family of four with our one- and two-year-old little girls.  Enjoy the pictures...there are a lot because I couldn't just decide on one favorite!

Thank you, Renee, for sharing your God-given talent with our family.  We will treasure these pictures forever!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Advent, Prisoners, and God's Love

I know that I usually use this blog to document the life of our little family, and of course post pictures of our girls for the grandparents, but today I just wanted to share something that God has been teaching me this week.  And who knows...maybe this will be a new chapter in this little blog.  Not to take the place of the entries about the girls, but in addition to them!  Maybe it will be a series...somewhat deeper thoughts.  Or maybe it will just happen this once :)

In any case, I have been going through an Advent Bible study online with some friends from our seminary days.  This week the topic is love (to go along with the love candle of advent).  Not surprisingly, I have been really convicted this week about loving others. It's so easy to just think that I'm ok because I'm a nice person, but that's not enough! If I'm not actively loving others, I do not know God (I John 4:7-8). And Mark 12:28-30 (which I've read a 1000 times, but just noticed for the first time) says that my love for God (and therefore for my neighbor) should involve my emotions (heart, mind, soul) AND my actions (strength). That means that I'm actually required to feel love for people. Paul commands us to have brotherly affection. It's not ok to just be civil to those people that I "just don't get along with" or "just don't care for". I am actually commanded to love them as I love myself. And those people that "don't deserve it"? Yes, them too.
I was really convicted about this yesterday. Luke has had an extremely busy week at the church and was out late on Sunday and Monday nights for events and meetings. A few weeks ago, he had also committed to going with a couple of other local pastors to our county's maximum security prison on Tuesday night to deliver Christmas packets that our churches had collected - gallon ziploc bags containing toiletries, paper, writing utensils, and a few other necessities (all things that had to be inspected and approved by the prison security). Anyway, Tuesday came and I was thinking that he really should just stay home because we hadn't seen him much this week. I mean, we had already given a few dollars toward the purchase of the supplies - wasn't that enough?  I almost suggested it to him that he stay home, but something stopped me. He stopped by the house to grab a sandwich and headed back out the door to meet up with the other pastors and go to the prison. When he returned, I could tell he was overcome with compassion for the men that he had just ministered to. And so was I after hearing his stories. Basically they spent 2-3 hours walking from cell to cell and delivering the gifts to the men who were allowed to just step outside the door to their cells for a brief moment. One man even told them, "Thank you so much. You have no idea how much this means to me each year. This is the only reminder of Christmas that I ever receive." And to think that I almost asked Luke to stay home because I was lonely. I don't care what those men have done, I need Jesus' grace every bit as much. And I am so glad that my husband was able to show them the love of Christ last night.

Matthew 25:34-40
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
So as you go about your daily lives during this Christmas season, search out those opportunities to show Christ's love to those around you.  Maybe leave a gift in your mailbox for the mail carrier.  Or ask the server at the restaurant how you can pray for him.  Or ask the cashier how her day is going and then truly listen.  And then thank God for his ultimate gift of love in his Son Jesus.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

These girls of mine...

They really are sweet.  Most of the time.  Anna Kate is learning so much every single day and growing up so quickly right before our eyes.  Sometimes I catch myself when we're having a conversation and wonder how a 2 year old can sound so grown up.  And Caroline.  Caroline is really coming into her own lately.  She is exploring everything, climbing on everything, developing quite a little sense of humor, and trying so hard to communicate with us.  They truly are a joy.

And then we have nights like Monday night =)

Luke was at a deacons' meeting, so I was flying solo at bedtime.  They had behaved pretty well through dinner and our advent devotional, but then 7:30 came.  Anna Kate was whining and fussing about not wanting to go to bed and Caroline was running around the house making as many messes as she could in her last few minutes of freedom.  I finally managed to get them up the stairs and sat Anna Kate on the potty.  I undressed Caroline and then realized that I didn't have any clean diapers upstairs.  So I ran down to grab one and by the time I had returned, Caroline (who has a newfound fascination with all things related to the bathroom) had unrolled half the roll of toilet paper and was splashing in the toilet that Anna Kate was presently using.  Great.  So I picked up Caroline, washed her hands and arms really well in the sink and set her down so I could help Anna Kate finish up on the potty.  At which point, Caroline (who as you recall is completely naked) decides that it would be a good time to go potty.  All over the floor.  I sent Anna Kate into the bedroom to find her jammies while I gave Caroline a bath, and Anna Kate decided she would start up with the bedtime fussing again.  I finally got both of them in their jammies and ready for bed and Anna Kate, with all sincerity, looks at me and says, "Mommy, it's hard to have such naughty children, isn't it?"

Oh, Anna Kate.  You are wise beyond your years.  And God is already using you to teach me so much.  Yes, there are difficult days in this whole parenting thing.  But how much more difficult of a child am I to my Heavenly Father and yet, he is always "slow to anger, abounding in love."  Oh to be more like Him. 

And back to these children.  At least they're cute!  They've always got that going for them =) 

These pictures were taken by our good friend Renee, who is a much better photographer than she gives herself credit for! 

There are plenty more pictures, but I don't want to ruin them for all those of you who might be receiving Christmas cards =)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thanksgiving in Norfolk!

We had a fabulous Thanksgiving week in Norfolk, Virginia with all of my family (minus Mom and Dad in Costa Rica who were greatly missed)!  The festivities began Monday evening when my little brother Andrew arrived at our house on his motorcycle.  He decided he would ride to us from Florida, and then head up in our van the rest of the way.  We then got a few hours of sleep and woke up at 3:30am to start our trek.  I know that might sound crazy, but it actually worked out perfectly because the girls slept until around 7 or 8am and then we only had another hour or two to go.  And Andrew and I were able to sleep almost the whole way to, thanks to Luke who did all the driving!

When we arrived we spent all of Tuesday just relaxing with Stephen, Rachael and Leah, and then we were joined on Wednesday by Sarah, Dustin, Wesley and Cooper!  Our days were filled with lots of snuggles, trips to the playground, civil war museum tours, strolls around the mall, late night board games, and of course, a great Thanksgiving feast!  We spent a lot of time running around and chasing children, so I really didn't take as many pictures as I would have liked, but here are a few cute ones!

 Sweet Anna Kate wanted to help with the Thanksgiving dinner, so we had her wash the potatoes!

The kids table...with Sarah...appropriate?
(Leah and Caroline got to sit at the grown-up table!)

The whole crew!


My sweet little turkeys


These two curly-headed girls really love each other.  Leah loves Caroline's little baby voice.  She just giggles whenever Caroline babbles!

The day after Thanksgiving we went to the mall (long after all the crazy shoppers had already gone home and gone back to bed) and it was so fun!  The kids LOVED the winter wonderland at the North Pole!

Anna Kate and Wesley and Cooper also enjoyed a little train ride!

I also just have to post this picture of my beautiful sister-in-law and sister and their sweet babies due in January and March, respectively.  We are so excited to have two more babies join our family!

We had a great time, but as always, all good things must come to an end.  We sneaked out super early on Saturday morning so that we could get back to Camden in time for Andrew to watch the Florida/Florida State game.  Let's just say that he was an extremely happy house guest that night!  He played celebratory music with the girls after the game!

We had such a wonderful week and we are truly thankful for the many blessings God has given to us - a wonderful family, two precious little girls, provision of our every need day in and day out, and salvation through his son Jesus Christ.  We are blessed!