Sunday, December 18, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I thought I'd take a minute to wish all of my friends a very Merry Christmas!

The Plaza in Kansas City

We've been busy here, with final Christmas preparations and enjoying having our oldest son Nate home for two whole weeks!

Tom was so sweet to take me to the Plaza on a warm night last week to take photos!

My Mother's heart is so happy when I can gather all of my little "chickies" home again.  (Our oldest daughter Micah and her husband Joshua will be in later this week!)


We've had piano recitals....


backyard football games,


Jasper our Welsh Corgi had to be in the middle of everything!  So cute!

I love watching our farm animals...  our poor guineas are in a constant state of panic, it seems.  They are so funny!


My sweet giant bunny, Miss Bennett (I thought we'd use names from Pride and Prejudice for the rabbits!) ... she loves to be petted.


and our duck, Jemima.  Isn't she adorable?


I think the little curl on her tail is the cutest thing!


I love our little farm... so happy with simple living.

Praying that you have a meaningful, peaceful, simple and blessed Christmas this year.  From our family to yours, Merry Christmas!

And finally, I thought you'd enjoy this adorable video of children retelling the Christmas Story!

A very merry Christmas to you!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's Official!

After 11 (at times) long weeks, I am officially "crutch-less!"  Yay!

Did I tell you that we had a *bit* of snow last week?
Thank you so very much for all of the encouragement, prayers and support during the past few months.  I am quite sure that I have made some fabulous friends here in my little corner of the internet.  {{{{hugs}}}}  You guys are the *best*!!

The boys were *so* excited!
I can't tell you how very, very happy I was today to putter around my kitchen and just cook and clean.  OK, so I have been doing just a leeetle of that (cooking and cleaning without crutches) the past week or so, but today I could do it without feeling guilty!

Timmy was *so* excited that he just *had* to go out on our deck and check it out for himself~ even though he had no shoes on!
The trick now will be for me to progress *slowly* as I tend toward always pushing myself.

Silly boy!
Gotta' wipe this silly grin off of my face and get some rest!  (Did I tell you how happy I am?!!)

; )

Monday, December 12, 2011

Our Simple Farmhouse Christmas Tree...

This year we did a few different things with our tree and I'm really happy with how it is turning out~ with 12 children, it is always a "work in progress!"


Some of the decorations are old... believe me, we had a bunch of old decorations!  I thought it would be fun to add some new things this year.  I'm really jiving on the combination of kraft and red, so that is the theme of this year's tree.

It's a little difficult to see in the photo, but I used an old tin washtub to set our tree in!  The boys found it set out for the trash when they were mowing, and I was so glad that they brought it home for me.  It seemed like our tree skirt was always twisted and smooshed to one side and I was forever fixing it.  The washtub was a perfect solution~ cute and it doesn't go anywhere!

Tom and I purchased the strings of red beads many years ago.  I remember thinking at the time what an extravagant purchase those beads were!  We have most certainly gotten our money's worth from that purchase 22 years ago!  In addition to the beads this year I added several yards of jute upholstery webbing with red stripes.  I *love* this stuff!  The cheapest place I found it was at the Online Fabric Store.


Do you like my little stuffed heart ornaments?  I had a very, very worn out quilt that I picked up at a yard sale some years ago.  It finally become so threadbare that I couldn't wash it any longer so I decided to repurpose it.  These 6 little hearts were the first thing I made (I have plans for pillows and a "new" bunting for my kitchen and also my studio area as well!)  I felt like I was doing something terrible by cutting that poor quilt, but now I am so happy with the sweet little heart ornaments.



This year we had fun involving the children in decorating simple manila tags.




I am planning on adding additional tags... some with the different names of Jesus and the Bible references for each name.  It has been fun for the children to work on these during our devotions time this Advent season.

We made these little stuffed birds last year~ I think they are *so* cute!  They are so simple that the children were able to make them without very much help.  They are planning to make a new flock of birds to add to the tree this year. (We didn't add the wire feet but I think that the tree is so full that the lack of feet isn't really a problem!)



I made the little quilted angel with the lamb in her basket many years ago... I think she is so cute!


I had a little fun with my camera, capturing some Christmas bokeh as well...  oooohhhh!


Come!  Let us worship Him!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

I think that quiet early mornings are delightful... especially when punctuated by the twinkle of Christmas lights!



Here's a peek into my kitchen at 4:30am... just before leaving for my master's swim class.  I *love* the lights above the cabinets!


We have been having so much fun crafting here... the boys have been making boats...


with sails and all!  So, so creative and cool!


And I've been having fun doing a little crafting myself!  Today I decided that my beloved kitchen farmhouse sink needed a little Christmas "bling" in the window...


The sheep were gifts from my mother... aren't they cute?


The children like to re-arrange these two so they are "kissing!"  So funny!


The little pinecones in terra cotta pots were inspired by a photo on Pinterest.  I think they are pretty fun!


When my older children were little we enjoyed making cinnamon dough ornaments for our Christmas tree and other projects.  These are such fun and hold their fragrance really well.  They are, of course, not edible.  Apparently they were a little too tempting for some of my older children when they were little ... for several years we had cinnamon ornaments with small "bites" taken out of them!  I decided it was time this year to make a new batch.

Here's the recipe, if you want to make your own!

Cinnamon Ornaments

4 oz. (1 c.) ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. ground cloves (optional)
1 Tbsp. ground nutmeg (optional)
3/4 c. applesauce
3 Tbsp. white glue

Combine and work until smooth.  Divide into 4 portions.  Roll out 1/4" thick.  Cut out with cookie cutters.  Make a hole in the top for hanging using a straw.  Dry at room temperature for 1-3 days, or if you are impatient like me you can dry them in your food dehydrator overnight.
yield: about 20 cookie ornaments



I decided to use part of the heart-shaped cinnamon ornaments for a garland to hang above my kitchen sink.  I figured that if I used hearts I could enjoy it all the way through Valentine's Day!


I used twine, the heart ornaments, pine cones and some red glass beads.


The rest of the cinnamon ornaments will go on our tree... I think they are pretty fun!

Another new thing simple Christmas decoration that I've had fun with this year are these canning jars with lights in them!  I seriously *love* the glitter and sparkle that these give off!



I love them so much that I put similar jars in other places too...


We have so many fun things planned in the next few weeks!  Our oldest son Nate will be home for two weeks this Thursday and a week after that I get to see my brother whom I have not seen in 7 years!  I am *so* excited!  So excited!  We'll be doing lots of playing guitar and singing Christmas carols, baking cookies and pies, playing games, etc, etc.  I can hardly wait!

Hope it is twinkly and glittery in your "neck of the woods" too as you celebrate Jesus' birth!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Random thoughts...

Well, it turned out that there was a mix-up and my Dr. wants me to see him next Tuesday instead of today… sigh.  So, one more week on crutches… Heather, I *loved* your idea to "bling" out my crutches!  I'm thinking some tinsel and perhaps a strand of battery-powered lights for each crutch.  Wouldn't that be funny?!!  Anyone have any "bling" to donate to a good cause?  ; )

I recently came across three articles that you might enjoy….

First up, a very thought-provoking article explaining what happened when a successful businessman and school board member agreed to take the same standardized tests that 10th grade students were required to pass in his school district.  An interesting read, for sure.

Second, a heart-warming article in which siblings recall the blessings of being raised in a family of 17 children!  Fabulous!

And last, a list of the 5 best toys of all time for children… I heartily endorse all of the toys mentioned here.  You'll *love* this!

Thank you *so* much for all of the kind and thoughtful comments and personal emails to my post about our dear Lance.  You'll never know how much I appreciate your friendship!

Rejoicing even though I'm *still* (9 weeks and counting!) on crutches here,

Monday, December 5, 2011

Good-byes are hard...

Last Friday we had to say good-bye to our Great Pryenees Lance.  Man, I loved that dog!

Is this not an adorable puppy?  This was taken in 2006, when Jake was only 11 (he's pretty cute too, huh?)... now he's 17 1/2!

We had an abundance of morning glory flowers on my herb garden fence that summer~ I *loved* this picture of Lance!  He was growing up quickly, wasn't he?

As many of you may know, we live on a small farm where we raise Nubian dairy goats, chickens, for both eggs and meat, and other assorted livestock and animals.  Great Pyrenees are known as livestock guardian dogs.  Lance didn't need to be told how important his job was on our farm.

He took personal responsibility for not only the livestock, but also for the children!

He'd do almost anything for a pancake or piece of cheese, but was a total gentleman, never "stealing" food from the children.

He did figure out how to beg though... his preferred tactic was to sit down and refuse to leave the house and go outside without some sort of food bribe!

I *love* this picture of Jacob trying to enjoy his pancake breakfast, totally surrounded by our three dogs!

A few weeks ago Tom and I noticed that Lance didn't seem his usual energetic self.  We decided to take him in to our vet Thanksgiving week.  There we received the totally unexpected news that our Lance's heart was failing him.  The only possible medical treatment was going to cost $300/month and might only extend his life an additional 2-3 months.  Oh my, how I hoped and prayed that the diagnosis was wrong.

I wanted to continue to see his laughing face around our house.

Tom works nights as a policeman.  We have been on the receiving end of gunfire here at our house more times than I like to remember.  (I'll share that story another time here)  The Lord has *always* protected us, but I must admit, I felt more secure knowing that Lance was on patrol, always on the lookout for any potential problems.

As I looked through photos of Lance I came across several photos like this:

He spent a lot of time hanging out on our front porch... it was like his command post.  From there he could keep tabs on all of the many going-ons around our house.

Most often when I would pull into the driveway and walk up to our porch he would try to get me to play....  "Come on!" he'd beg, "Pretty-please won't you play with me?"

He was so patient with the children, and with our other (less useful, but still very loved! LOL!) dogs.  Here, our Great Dane puppy "Dude" was sitting on Lance to keep his bottom warm.  So funny!

Anyway, as you may have guessed, our vet's diagnosis for Lance was not wrong.  He rapidly declined until last Friday when we decided that we needed to have him put to sleep.  By that time he couldn't even walk all of the way to the car, so the boys carried him to our minivan and Jacob and I took him in to our vet.

I kept telling myself, "It's "only" a dog, control yourself!" but I couldn't.  I petted and talked to Lance as he took his final labored breath, relieved for him, that he wasn't suffering any more, but so, so sad to have lost him in the prime of his life.  I simply couldn't keep from crying... Oh how I loved that dog.

I think part of the reason that I was *so* sad was that not only was he super-sweet and a fabulous guard dog for our animals and children, but I think that I really depended on him to take care of us when Tom wasn't here.  Certainly my hope and trust are in the Lord, but still I do miss knowing that he was on patrol.

We are fine here though... busy with school and everyday life.  We had a wonderful Thanksgiving... our oldest daughter Micah and her husband Joshua were able to drive in to our house and eat with us.  We laughed and had such a wonderful time.  Nathaniel, our oldest son who is serving in the Army wasn't able to come home for Thanksgiving, but he will be home in two short weeks... to stay for two whole weeks!  Yay!  We can hardly wait!

I get to go in to see my orthopedic doctor tomorrow and should find out when I get to stop using crutches... I think I'm getting very, very close.  I am doing lots of swimming now and some aqua-running too.  So, so glad to get to be adding activities, rather than the other way around.  I am beginning to make plans for the coming triathlon season... so far I have signed up for the Kansas City Triathlon which will be held on May 18.  It will be a *cold* water swim in a local lake... my first wetsuit race.  Should be exciting.  I'll be doing the olympic distance... a 1.5K swim, 40K bike and 10K run.  I have a *lot* of work to do to get ready!

I am also hoping to compete in two half-Ironmans... the Wisconsin 70.3 in July and perhaps Branson 70.3 in September.  Those are longer events, consisting of a 1.2mi swim, 56 mi bike and 13.1mi run.  It will be a huge challenge for me... I'm *really* looking forward to all of the training that I'll get to do with my family and friends.  I'm *so* grateful to be able to be active~ what a privilege!

Meanwhile we are in the thick of Christmas preparations here... trying to "keep it simple" and enjoy just being here with my family.

Rejoicing in the simpleness of everyday life here and God's provision in even the sad times,