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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tips on Tuesday: Celebrating the New Year

With New Year's Eve only a few days away, I began to wonder about New Year's Eve traditions. I looked around the web and some fun (and absurd) information about the traditions and customs of New Year's celebrations.

Foods of New Year's:
Spain: In Spain, it is considered good luck to host/attend a New Year's Eve dinner at a friend's home. The dinner doesn't start until 9pm or later and just before midnight, dessert is served. Dessert is grapes and one is eaten on each toll of the bell at midnight. This is thought to bring twelve happy months in the new year.
American tradition (from the south): Black Eyed Peas eaten on New Year's Day is thought to bring fortune and prosperity in the new year.
Holland & The Netherlands: The Dutch eat donuts because the circular shape symbolizes coming full circle and completing a year's cycle. Eating donuts on New Year's is thought to bring luck. The Dutch also burn their Christmas trees on New Year's to purge the old and welcome the new.
Many other cultures also eat anything round/circular. Again, the round shape symbolizes a full circle and is thought to bring luck.
Other traditions include using a baby to symbolize the new year. The tradition of using a baby to signify the new year began in Greece around 600 BC. They celebrated their god of wine, Dionysus, by parading a baby in a basket, representing the annual rebirth of that god as the spirit of fertility. Early Egyptians also used a baby as a symbol of rebirth. Although the early Christians denounced the practice as pagan, the popularity of the baby as a symbol of rebirth forced the Church to reevaluate its position. The Church finally allowed its members to celebrate the new year with a baby, which was to symbolize the birth of the baby Jesus.

Fireworks are another common way most cultures celebrate the New Year. This stems back to ancient times. In ancient times, noise and fire were thought to dispel evil spirits. So lighting off fireworks would dispel evil spirits bringing good fortune to the new year.
Americans are known around the world for both the dropping of the ball in Time Square on New Year's Eve and the Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year's morning.
However you choose to celebrate, be safe! Happy New Year's from our house to yours.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas: For Unto You a Child is Born

My favorite things to read this time of the year are:

Luke 2: 1-21
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Isaiah 9:6
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Recipe for Christmas All Year Long

Take a heap of child-like wonder
That opens up our eyes
To the unexpected gifts in life—
Each day a sweet surprise.Mix in fond appreciation
For the people whom we know;
Like festive Christmas candles,
Each one has a special glow.Add some giggles and some laughter,
A dash of Christmas food,
(Amazing how a piece of pie
Improves our attitude!)Stir it all with human kindness;
Wrap it up in love and peace,
Decorate with optimism, and
Our joy will never cease.If we use this healthy recipe,
We know we will remember
To be in the Christmas spirit,
Even when it's not December.

By Joanna Fuchs

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.
Andrew was quick to grab the camera and catch Rebekah "napping" on the chairs at Taco Bell. She really does have her feet up on a second chair making a little bridge with her body.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tips on Tuesday: Will the Christ Child Come

I received this story last year after Christmas was over. I've been waiting all year to share this with you.

May you find the joy this year in the season and put the Christ back into Christmas.

Love, Robyn

Will the Christ Child Come?
Written by Gaye Willis

One Christmas we had an interesting experience that I would like to share.

Halfway through December we were doing the regular evening things when there was a knock at the door. We opened it to find a small package with a beautiful ceramic lamb inside. We looked at the calendar and realized that the 12 days of Christmas were beginning! We waited excitedly for the next night's surprise and only then, with the gift of a matching shepherd, did we realize that the lamb was part of a nativity set.

Each night we grew more excited to see what piece we would receive.

Each was exquisitely beautiful. The kids kept trying to catch the givers as we slowly built the scene at the manger and began to focus on Christ's birth.

On Christmas Eve, all the pieces were in place, all but the Baby Jesus.

My 12-year-old son really wanted to catch our benefactors and began to devise all kinds of ways to trap them. He ate dinner in the minivan,watching and waiting, but no one came. Finally, we called him in to go through our family's Christmas Eve traditions. But before the kids went to bed, we checked the front step - - no Baby Jesus! We began to worry that my son had scared them off. My husband suggested that maybe they dropped the Jesus and there wouldn't be anything coming. Somehow, something was missing that Christmas Eve.

There was a feeling that things weren't complete. The kids went to bed and before I went to bed, I again checked to see if the Jesus had come - - no,the doorstep was empty.

In our family, the kids can open their stockings when they want to, but they have to wait to open any presents until Dad wakes up. So one by one they woke up very early and I also woke up to watch them. Even before they opened their stockings, each child checked to see if perhaps during the night the Baby Jesus had come.

Missing that piece of the set seemed to have an odd effect. At least it changed my focus. I knew there were presents under the tree for me and I was excited to watch the children open their gifts, but first on my mind was the feeling of waiting for the ceramic Christ Child. We had opened just about all of the presents when one of the children found one more for me buried deep beneath the limbs of the tree.

He handed me a small package from my former visiting teaching companion.

This sister was somewhat less-active in the church. I had been her visiting teacher for a couple of years and then, when she was asked to be a visiting teacher, she requested to go with me. I had learned over time they didn't have much for Christmas, so that their focus was on the children. It sounded like she didn't get many gifts to open, so I had always given her a small package -- new dish towels, the next year's Relief Society lesson manual -- not much, but something for her to open.

I was touched when at church on the day before Christmas, she had given me this small package, saying it was just a token of her love and appreciation. As I took off the bow, I remembered my friendship with he rand was filled with gratitude for knowing her and for her kindness and sacrifice in this giving me a gift. But as the paper fell away, I began to tremble and cry. There in the small brown box was the Baby Jesus! He had come!

I realized on that Christmas Day, that Christ will come into our lives in ways that we don't expect.

The spirit of Christ comes into our hearts as we serve one another.

We had waited and watched for Him to come, expecting the dramatic "knock at the door and scurrying of feet" but He came in a small, simple package that represented service, friendship, gratitude and love.

This experience taught me that the beginning of the true spirit of Christmas comes as we open our hearts and actively focus on the Savior. But we will most likely find Him in the small and simple acts of love, friendship and service that we give to each other. This Christmas I want to feel again the joy of knowing that Christ is in our home. I want to focus on loving and serving.

More than that, I want to open my heart to Him all year that I may see Him again.

"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,because he will save his people from their sins." Matthew 1:21 NIV

May the spirit of Christ be with you and yours this Christmas and always...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Andrew performs with Matthew West

Andrew & Nathan got to go to a Matthew West concert with friends. The purpose was to have a private "Meet & Greet" with Matthew to get a poster for the Youth Room at church. They were stoked that they would meet Matthew (again). Our family has basically every album by Matthew that exists. We have seen him several times in concert and Sean worked his shows many times before he got as popular as he is now.

Matthew was telling the audience how to fake a song like "The 12 Days of Christmas". If you don't know what the words are, mouth the word watermelon and it looks like you're singing correctly. Since he doesn't know the 12 Days of Christmas song, he asked for a volunteer to sing the song for him. Both boys put their hands up and Andrew was chosen to go onstage.

Andrew told me later, "After singing the song for ImprovFest, I knew I could do it. I've been on stage before. But when they turned the spotlight on me and I saw how many people were in the audience, I got nervous. It was a lot bigger crowd than ImprovFest!" He said his voice was a little shaky for days 12 and 11, but he hit his stride by day 10.

Now, in ImprovFest, he was 5 Golden Rings and he had to do it big and loud. I asked if he did a big loud voice for them at the show. He told me, "Nah, the audience started knowing the words and so when we sang 5 Golden Rings, I turned the mike to the audience like the performers do. I looked over at Matthew when I did it and he put his head in his hand and was shaking his head and laughing." (Sean & I are also a little stunned at his stage presence!)

Way to shine onstage!

Matthew started showing him CD's afterwards asking if he wanted this one (got it) or this one (got it). Andrew told him, we're big fans--we have all your albums. Matthew would ask, you have this one? Yup. Finally he said, I know you don't have this one and showed the album that was released last year. Andrew said, we got that at the last concert you were in town for. Then Matthew showed him the back where the Christmas album is attached. Andrew was thrilled and told him we didn't have that one, yet.
After the show, they got all their stuff signed and even remembered to get the poster for the youth room.
More pictures of the meet & greet to come when I download my camera. Since I wasn't there, I have to thank Julie from Psalm 98 for graciously sending me photos of Andrew (who had the camera in his pocket).

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Another Ebook--Homemade Christmas Crafts

Here's another free ebook with homemade Christmas crafts. Click here and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bouncy House Christmas Party

Nathan got to go to the "Bouncy House" for an Autism Society Christmas Party. His brother had too much homework and Rebekah wasn't feeling 100% so Sean stayed with them and Nathan & Mom got to have a good time.

Nathan took a minute out of jumping to sit on Santa's lap and tell him what he wants for Christmas. I hope Santa listened well since I couldn't hear a think over the noise of the inflatables.

I even got to go down a slide with Nathan and race with him in an obstacle course. (He won since he had to keep stopping and coming back to help me.) Then I got the shots above while he was shooting hoops in the basketball inflatable.

When we were done jumping, there were snacks and crafts and Santa gave all the children a couple gifts. Nathan picked a paddle ball and a dinosaur in an egg. We made a Christmas tree ornament and had yummy snacks.

Here we are working on crafts.

Someone took this one right after I took a big bite of cookie. UGH! At least it proves I do exist in my children's lives. :-)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tips on Tuesday: Get a Boobie Squish---It's for Your Health

I recently had my first mammogram. I've reached a point with my family history where it is recommended. I will also admit, that I've been terrible about doing a monthly breast self exam (BSE).

Since this was my baseline mammo, I was warned that a great majority of first-timers get called back to double check the slightest thing. They want a good, strong, accurate baseline.

So I got the call to say, "There's a small area of undetermined concern on the mammo. We want you to come back for additional views and an ultrasound to make sure it's nothing." Went in a week later for quite the ride.

Keep in mind I believe fully in the healing power of God. I know health and healing is His will. I had no nerves about anything until the night before and day of the follow-up. Of course, Rebekah didn't feel totally well that night so Sean was up with her until 3-3:30 and I took the 3am onward shift. I slept in 15 minute snatches while she watched more TV than kids should be allowed. It was a hard night with a lot of 'what if's' that I was trying to pray through.

I went in for the follow up and after the mammo, they still wanted an ultrasound because there was definitely a mass. The ultrasound tech told me that surely I could feel this. Hmmm---maybe since I hardly ever do a BSE it's a little hard to feel. I promised her I would do better.

The radiologist came in to talk with me and there is a mass there. He is convinced it's a benign mass (thank God) and it's very common in women my age. I've opted for the recommended course of action which is to wait for 6 months and do this again to make sure there are no changes. I could have a biopsy done on it, but he assured me there's not one thing that looks cancerous or suspicious about it and I don't feel the need to poke needles into my body unless it appears to be needed.

That evening, both Sean & I tried hard to feel this tiny mass. While both of us could tell there's a difference in the tissue between the breasts, neither one of us could feel the small mass. I'm reminded why we are told mammos save lives.

Now my next order of business is to talk to my friend Tonya (who will see this blog post) and ask her if she can check at Curves for a product I saw. Olivia Newton John, breast cancer survivor, was on Rachel Ray and spoke about a new product she helped develop. It's a plastic thing to put on your breast with a jelly-like material inside. They swore it made all the difference in magnifying what you feel so you can feel lumps sooner. I want to find/buy one of these for myself.

I've learned a lesson and hope all women will learn from what I didn't do. I did not know the new guidelines are to start a BSE at age 20. Age twenty?!?! Now I know and will make sure my daughter knows, too. I want everyone to get going with their BSE before they have a scary incident. And go get your boobies squished. It really wasn't that bad and it's only once a year for most women. Do it for yourself, your family and to possibly save your life.

Free Christmas Craft Book Download

Click here for a Free Easy Christmas Crafts For Kids book.
It's an ebook download. I have several of these ebooks because many of their crafts are easy to do and use items from around the house.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Introducing Piano Student of the Year...Nathan

Piano recital was this weekend. Straight to the biggest news from recital...Nathan won the Student of the Year award. We are so proud of Nathan and his hard work.

To get this award from their teacher, you have to be prepared each week for your lesson. This means getting your theory done, lots of practice on your pieces and going above and beyond what she asks of you. Wow, wow, wow!!!!

(Proud mom notes: It joins the Student of the Year award Andrew received in 2006 on their trophy shelf.)

Both boys also received a medal for receiving a superior rating at the State Music Festival. They also got an award certificate for excellent theory scores and a certificate for achieving a standard of excellence because they got a Superior Rating PLUS high theory scores.

Before the recital, I got their pictures next to the grand piano.

This video is Nathan playing "You're a Grand Old Flag."

This video is Andrew playing "Shenandoah."

Nathan's Christmas song was "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer."

Andrew's Christmas song was "Deck the Halls."

It was a wonderful night of beautiful music.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

$5 off $5 at Hallmark

Just in time for the holidays, Hallmark is giving your $5 off your purchase of $5 or more.

Click Here to print your coupon. After you print one, you can click the back button a couple times and print it out a second time.

For those of you with kiddos who like Webkinz, it's a great holiday deal. And Hallmark carries the new Webkinz Jr. for ages 3-6. The site is similar to Webkinz, but made easy for little hands and minds that don't read and might not be as familiar with computers. Our sister can now be "big" like her brothers and play online with her own account.

Or pick up a gift for someone that's just over $5 and you'll get it basically free plus tax.

You know where I'm heading today!!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hippity Hoppity Girl

Went with MOPS friends to an indoor gym for kids. Rebekah wasn't too sure about most of the equipment for the time we were there. She finally decided she liked lots of the stuff in the last 10 minutes. Think we'll have to go again for more fun.

She did, however, love the trampoline. Every part of it. She loved that it was flat to the ground. She loved the "finish line" (no wonder she kept jumping from one end to the other over the red line that tells you to stay on your side so you don't bounce into anyone). She loved jumping. I managed to get photos of her in motion....enjoy!


Hitting the trampoline...

Coming back up into the air...

Piggy tails flying (mom's favorite part)

Here's a video of the jumping bean:

We had lots of fun and hope to do this again soon.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Snow-Cream

Here's our attempt at having a little snow-fun. Since we had drifts almost 3 feet high of pristine, white snow, we thought we'd try the snow ice cream creation recipe.

Collect 8 cups snow (supposed to do this in a bowl as it falls...but our bowl would have been buried under a giant drift)

Add to the snow:
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
1 to 1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
1 Cup Milk (use more/less to achieve ice cream consistency)

Mix together all ingredients until mixture is desired consistency.

Serve and enjoy!

Our 8 cups of snow in a big bowl.

Andrew and Nathan adding sugar.

Nathan helps add milk and stir.

Two crazy boys with their ice cream. Nathan is giving a nice posed effect and Andrew is showing off his culinary skills by pretending to stir.
I have to say I was stunned at how close to ice cream this was. Unfortunately, ours had way too much vanilla since I use pure vanilla extract instead of imitation vanilla. I should have reduced the vanilla. Just add about 1/2 the milk and see if you need the rest. We ended up needing a little more than a cup to get the right texture.
Next time, I may try chocolate!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

There's no business like 'snow' business

Welcome to day two of our snow days. We've already gotten 'the call' that tomorrow will be an additional day off. Due to road conditions and many areas not being plowed, school is cancelled. It's also to keep kids safe who have to walk to school. Since roads aren't plowed, people are waiting to shovel walks so kids would have to walk in streets to get to school. Maybe Friday we'll go to school.

This morning, Andrew got a photo of the thermometer outside. It was already up to 0 degrees. We were under zero overnight so we were happy to see a positive temp.

Here's the neighbors behind us with their drifted backyard. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you'll notice the drift goes over the seat of the one deck chair. In the far left corner of the deck is another deck chair that is covered almost to the top of the chair.

Here's the view from our front door where it drifted about 3 feet high.

Andrew was invited to go play inside across the street. Sean went to shovel a path to the street for him and this drift was in front of our garage. We measured with the yard stick and it's 20.5" tall.

Here's the rest of the drift getting taller. Then Sean is cutting a path through it with the snowblower.

Here's the start of the path and Andrew following Sean to the street. Eventually the wind died and Sean went back and blew the entire driveway and sidewalks. He even helped the neighbor dig out since the end of their drive was drifted shut as well.

We didn't have movies today, but the boys watched several things they have on Tivo so we could clear up some space. We did play cards, several rousing rounds of duck duck goose and I baked a batch of cookies for the kids.

We'll see how tomorrow goes. I have to go volunteer in the afternoon/evening. Part of me hopes they cancel me out. Then I could have another whole snow day.
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