Dec 31, 2009

New Year's Horoscope

One of the top stories on my Yahoo homepage today was "2010 Horoscopes". I don't usually read my horoscope, but it was a slow news day, so I went for it. Once I found out my "sign" I started to read what '10 was going to bring me. It said something about my 12th room and some planetary alignments, and I didn't understand a word of it! The horosope didn't offer me any promises that I could understand or look forward to. So I went to the only source I could trust, God's word. These are just a few of the promises God has given me, and you:

Isaiah 58:11
The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
Psalm 55:22
Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.
Deuteronomy 31:8
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
Isaiah 65:24
Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.

I don't know what is in store for 2010, but I know that I was overwhelmingly blessed in 2009 and I'm confident God will be with me each step of the way in 2010!

Dec 26, 2009

12 Days of Christmas, in movies.

We decided we were going to watch every Christmas movie we could this year. Some movies we watched together as a family, others we sent the kids in an other room to watch their own movie while we watched ours.
We kicked it off with Four Christmases and the event culminated with Its A Wonderful Life. Along the way we watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story (it was my first time seeing both of these and It's a Wonderful Life) Elf, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Santa Clause is Coming to Town, Charlie Brown Christmas, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, and a few others that I can't recall.
We all enjoyed watching movies together. It was fun mocking the graphics of older cartoons and the film style of old movies and walking away with some hilarious quotes to keep us chuckling throughout the year. One of my favorites was a line from It's a Wonderful Life, not the famous "every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings" though that is cute, my personal favorite occurred during during George's Christmas Eve outburst "you call this a happy home? Why do we have to have all these kids anyway?" Hilarious. I realize it wasn't intended to be funny but we all had a good laugh.
I think we'll have to make the movie marathon a part of our Christmas tradition for years to come. We still haven't seen Miracle on 34th Street so we'll need to add that one next year, and I'm sure there are a few more that are worthy of making the list.

Dec 25, 2009

Christmas at 642 Jackson Street


The boys woke up this morning around 8am and quietly waited in their room for permission to bolt through the living room door to see what gifts await them.
One flick of the "on" button and coffee was brewing, the cameras were ready, and the boys were released. Squeals of excitement filled the air followed by "what's this?" Oops. Minor glitch, I put Eli's gifts in Gabe's stocking and Gabe didn't know what in the world he was supposed to be excited about. I quickly rectified the situation and yelling and laughter was back on track.
We opened gifts and tested each one out. Eli took his in-line skates for a test drive, Gabe wore his Viking hat over his new cap while yielding his sword and shield, and I went for a walk in my new rain boots to take out the trash. There was only a few minor injuries from the light saber fight and only one gift has to be returned due to an improper electronic paring. Gift opening was a lot of fun for everyone, and we were all really happy with our gifts.
We had a lovely dinner and then it happened - all was calm. Milli overdosed on tryptophan and headed to her room for a nap, Matt got sucked in to his new snuggie and curled up on the couch, and the boys each disappeared to play with their new toys. It was eerily quiet. I finished up the dishes while listening to Christmas carols and couldn't help but be amazed by the silence in my house on Christmas!
I enjoyed the quiet and the twinkling lights while I could because I knew it would be over soon. The DS would run out of batteries, the knight set would get old, and nap time would come to a quick halt when I couldn't contain my laughter while trying to take a picture of Matt in his snuggie. As quick as it came, the silence disappeared!
Now, more Christmas music is playing, Matt is working on Play Mobil assembly, round two of coffee is brewing, it is time to break out dessert, and then - after an entire day of waiting - we will get to call our friends and family back in the States.
It is a good Christmas here on Jackson. I hope that the same is true in the homes of each of our friends and family.
Merry Christmas!

Dec 23, 2009

Anticipation

Sometimes the build up is greater than the actual event.
The anticipation of a coming event can fill your mind for days, weeks, or months - but so often the event itself is a blink of an eye in comparison to all that preparation and excitement.
As I was listening to Christmas music and wrapping gifts today, my thoughts drifted to the day after Christmas. Maybe it won't really be the day after Christmas, but somewhere around there we'll take all the decorations down and the house will lose its beautiful glow. Our playlist will return to regular recent hits as we bid Frank, The Rat Pack, and other Christmas albums "farewell" until next year. The excitement of finding perfect gifts for friends and family will be long gone as will the cookies, eggnog, and Christmas Blend coffee. The kids will no longer countdown the days until Christmas and I won't hear them chattering about what they hope to find under the tree. Christmas day will have come and gone.
Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and the next day is Christmas, why am I skipping ahead to the days that will follow? I find myself mourning the end of the period leading up to Christmas. The emotions of the season will evaporate and life will return to normal. Normal is nice but lacks the thrill of the Christmas build up. I enjoy all the things leading up to Christmas as much or more than Christmas morning! I like the anticipation, I wouldn't mind hanging on to it for a little longer. I'm afraid my anticipation of Christmas will be replaced by disappointment that the season is over.
I wonder if what I am feeling was in any way similar to the way the Jews felt a few thousand years ago. For years the world waited for the Messiah. There was great anticipation of what he would be, what he would do, and how he would change the world. When Jesus arrived in a stable in Bethlehem and not in a palace, and when he changed the world by offering hope and salvation instead of political freedom and power, the anticipation was replaced with disappointment. What people thought they were waiting for ended up being something they didn't want. In some ways it was probably more comforting to still be waiting for a Messiah that they wanted than accepting the Messiah that came.
I reprimanded myself for being caught up in the emotions of this holiday, and took a moment to remember what all this is really about. Christmas, a celebration of the birth of Christ our Savior. A celebration of what I have to live for every day of the year, not just Christmas. A celebration of my Messiah.
Isaiah 9:4-6 proclaims
"For as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
Anticipation will be replaced with celebration that my Messiah has come.

No more books or electronics . . .

on the toilet.
When your house has one toilet and there are 4+ people living in your house, desperate times call for desperate measures.
Effective January 1st 2010 nobody is allowed to bring hand-held electronic devices or books into the bathroom.
I am partially to blame for my children's desire to play with games or read while on the toilet. I started the trend while potty training them. I placed them on the toilet and loaded up a basket next to the toilet with books, cars, a view master, leapster, you name it. While I removed the basket from the bathroom once they were potty trained, they manage to bring in their own books and toys into the bathroom to occupy them while they are taking care of business. This wouldn't be an issue if we didn't have just one bathroom, but given our toilet situation, there is no place in this house for toilet entertainment.
Now, I just have to figure out how to enforce the new policy.

Dec 21, 2009

Berlin and Back

We started our road trip around 8:30am on Friday morning with hopes of arriving in Berlin around 2:30pm. According to Mapquest the route should have taken about 6 hours including stops for gas and such. The "and such" doesn't include plows, accidents, and snow. We arrived safely in Berlin a mere 8 hours later. Surprisingly, the drive went well. The kids were occupied by movie after movie, and enough snacks to entertain their tongues and fill their bellies. Matt, his mom and I listened to a book on an ipod. It wasn't the best book I've listened too, but we made it entertaining by adding our own actions and sound effects to spruce it up a little.
When we got to Berlin it was cold. There are no words in the English language to express just how cold it was but this should sum it up: while walking from the Metro to the Reichstag the water in the bottle Matt was holding managed to form little ice cubes. I'm not kidding. We were in double layers of socks and long johns and were still cold. The outside temperature was about -10 c/14 f not factoring in the windchill.
We ventured out the first night for a few hours and then we spent two more full days exploring the city. Berlin is huge. It is an extremely large city made up of about 30 neighborhoods and there is so much to see. We barely scratched the surface.
Matt did such a great job driving. He didn't let the snow, icy conditions, and traffic bother him one bit! He also lead us through the city via metro and on foot with only a few wrong turns here or there, that is fabulous considering I accidentally picked up a Spanish map of Berlin.
We left by 9am Monday morning hoping to get home by dark. Snow was still in the forecast and if we had to be stuck on the road for another 8+ hours, we wanted it to be in the light of day. Thankfully, our trip home was uneventful and we made it in the much more reasonable 6 hours.
In the next few days we'll finish up last minute Christmas shopping, grocery shopping and wrapping gifts. We'll read our last few days of our Advent book and attend a Christmas eve service at church.

Dec 17, 2009

Road Trip!

Christmas CD's, movies and headphones are in the van, 2 new books loaded onto my ipod, destination address entered into GPS, cell phone and camera batteries charged, bags packed, snacks gathered, tour books read, and a list is made. (The list is of the things that I need to remember to do in the morning.)
We are ready to go. Matt, his mom, the boys, and I are headed to Berlin in the morning. We rented a little apartment in the former East Berlin conveniently located near most of the sights we plan to scope out. I am so excited to go to Berlin not only to see the sights but to spend a few days relaxing with the family. The forecast claims it will be about 22 degrees and snowing. We will freeze our hiney off, but we will have a good time doing it!

We also have two more trips officially planned. In January, we will go to Prague for 4 days and then we have a fabulous opportunity to go to Garmish (the German/Austrian Alps) in February. The Garmish trip is 95% free. No kidding. We have to drive ourselves down there but once there, our hotel, breakfasts and dinners, and CHILDCARE are all covered. We only have to pay for our lunches and activities. The trip is organized by our battalion chaplain and paid for by the US Government. It is actually a couples retreat/marriage seminar weekend. We will have about 2 1/2 hours a day of "training sessions" - Army terminology for "classes" - and then the rest of each day is free time to play in the Alps.

Rome, Paris, Berlin, Prague, and the Alps and we are just getting started!

Dec 14, 2009

'Twas 11 days before Christmas . . .

...and I have yet to receive a single Christmas card. I can blame myself a little, I didn't mail any change of address cards. However, I did email our new address to family and friends so I expected at least a few. I always enjoy reading the flood of Christmas letters and looking at updated family photos that fill my mailbox in December. So far, I got nothing. My little card holder tree hangs empty waiting for the ornaments to decorate it's branches.
...and I haven't heard a single bell. Back in the States, you can't go anywhere without hearing the sound of the Salvation Army Bell Ringers. This year no bells, no red buckets, no dumping spare change.
...and no Nutcrackers. For some reason Gabe asked Santa for 21 Nutcrackers for Christmas. I wasn't on my game when he first dictated his list to Eli, so I just began my frantic Nutcracker search a few days ago. Apparently, finding those little miniature Nutcrackers ornaments here in Germany is like winning the lotto. I found 6 but they were 5 Euro each. Not only is 6 no where near the much needed and anticipated 21, but at that rate I can't afford to buy them. So, after looking absolutely everywhere I gave up. I'm not going to let this little Army of Nutcrackers take me down. It was very sweet of my pals to offer to search for them back home and then ship them. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of my buddies in the US.

What I do have going for me is a decorated house, batches of cookies, Matt home from Oslo, Milli in from California, a few snow flurries here and there just to make me smile, Christmas music, and each night the boys and I, and whoever happens to be home, read a little about Advent about the first coming of the long awaited Messiah, and the hope, love, grace, and peace that he brought for us.
I miss the cards, the bell ringers, and those darn Nutcrackers, but other than that, things are good, really good.

Dec 6, 2009

If at first you don't suceed . . . . by now its time to give up.

Christmas cut-out cookies have been a staple in my home for as long as I can remember. I don't ever remember making them (as in rolling out the dough) but I do remember cutting them out with cookie cutters and decorating them.
I love these cookies. They are the perfect amount of sweetness and they have always been on the dessert table at Christmas. My mom has used the same recipe since...they invented butter. There are no secret ingredients and no crazy instructions like "add to taste" or "until it looks right". So why can't I make these cookies?
Oh, I've tried, tried, again. I am pretty sure that I have thrown away the dough at least 75% of the time without ever producing a single cookie. The rest of the time the cookies actually took shape and were baked, but then I tossed them because they didn't taste right.
What is the secret? Well, last Easter my mom was at my house and I decided instead of painting eggs we were going to make cut-out cookies shaped like eggs and paint them. My mom's presence provided the perfect teaching opportunity. Mom supervised my mixing, rolling, and cutting, and the cookies turned out perfect. Success!
So, last night when the boys and I set out to make our own Christmas cookies I was feeling really good about the adventure. The butter was room temperature, I followed every detail of the recipe, and double checked every ingredient. This was going to work! And then the dough stuck, I had to roll it out a million times, the cookies are too thin, they look down-right scary, and they don't taste right.
The boys don't know the difference so they were quite pleased, but I was left standing in the kitchen, covered in flour, butter, and coffee (that isn't part of the recipe but it helps my sanity) looking at those uglytastingwrong cookies saying to myself "you tried . . . just give up".
This is why every year at Christmas my mom sends me a special box. It is the box that holds all my favorite Christmas cookies and her famous fudge inside. I think I can handle the Snickerdoodles, Chocolate Chip, Butterfinger Crunchies, and Peanut Butter cookies on my own, but mom, please send me some cut-out cookies and fudge!!

Dec 3, 2009

TP or Jesus?

I spent the last five minutes trying to decide if I wanted to write about toilet paper or Christmas. I was using a public toilet tonight when I got a flash of those lame toilet paper squares in the bathroom in my Junior High. You know, the kind that comes out like a napkin dispenser but it is actually 4x4 squares of the thinnest tissue ever. But then my head was going all sorts of weird places surrounding toilet paper and I decided that Christmas was a more suitable topic.
Tonight as I was listening to the AWANA kids quote their scripture verses and one in particular struck me. Philippians 2:9-11. It isn't a typical Christmas verse but tonight, it reminded me of Christ's birth.
"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Now read it again with excitement like you are reading to a two year old:
"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Jesus the name the angel Gabriel gave Mary.
Jesus the name above all names.
Jesus the long awaited Messiah.
Jesus our savior.
Jesus the perfecter.
Jesus our hope.
Jesus our Lord.
Jesus who humbled himself and came to this world, became human, and suffered death on a cross, for me.
Jesus.