Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in Review

If we would have sent out an update with our Christmas cards as some are in the habit of doing, this might be what you would have read! This year went by so incredibly fast and yet so many days seemed to crawl by ever so slowly (hopefully this post doesn't!).

This was the year of establishing a routine. I started working from home 30 hours a week in January. Somehow I managed. Looking back, I can't quite figure out how, but I did. When William napped I worked. When he was awake I tried to work in spurts, but once he started moving I had to put a stop to that! In August I cut my hours down to 24 a week so I could keep my benefits but also not have to work much in the evenings.

At the end of last year, Chris was looking for a career change and working toward becoming a computer programmer. But just when he was feeling confident to step out and apply and interview, a full-time editor job opened up with a visual effects studio he had done some freelance work for. So, after giving me a few weeks to get into my grove of being a working mother, he started a new job.

It was going well and the work they were doing was really cutting-edge and pretty cool. You can see his last project here. As is fairly typical for the film industry, production was going a bit slower and the deadline came all too fast. He found himself working two all nighters and a total of 160 hours in the last two weeks of the project. He didn't get to see much of William (or me) during that time; and I got a glimpse of what solo-parenting is like (awful! Just awful!). 

Thankfully, his schedule is not like that very often and now he even gets to do some computer programming during the slower periods. This ended up being a really great opportunity for him! We are so thankful for our jobs and the stability we've had this year!

I also started focusing more on my photography. In total there were only five sessions, but honestly, that was all I could really handle. I did get my website up this year which has been a goal of mine for at least 16 months. I'm hoping I can do more in 2015! (Call me!)

In May, our church went through a split of sorts as our Pastor was asked to resign and many of our friends and a lot of the young families left our congregation. Many tears have been shed for the things that happened and the relationships that ended. This has been our church for five years and one of the only constant things in our roller-coaster California adventure. It's hard to face the hurt sometimes. I still haven't quite recovered and hurt all over again when I think of what was lost.

We had a few visitors this year! Chris's parents came to California a couple of times and in the middle of December his mom and grandmother were there visiting relatives and we were able to see them one afternoon. My cousin, Danny stayed with us for a few days while visiting the city and my best friend, Katie made a pit stop on her way home from Australia.

Our little family of three took a vacation to Coronado, CA this summer! It was really fun to get away. It was very different having a baby along, but it was still relaxing and very enjoyable. We also made it to Texas in June and December. In May we drove to Las Vegas one last time before my sister's family moved back to Minnesota. I also traveled to Minnesota with William for my cousin's wedding in August.  Seeing family has always been important for me as we live so far away. We don't get to see everyone as much as we'd like but it makes the time we do have extra special.

As I reflect over the last year, I feel like much of my energy was focused on getting William to eat or sleep. Neither one was easy for him. He did start sleeping through the night in September and since then, life has seemed to be much more balanced. Chris and I both still struggle with sleep, I don't think either one of us has had a full nights rest since William was born (even on my birthday getaway, I couldn't sleep!).

On the weekends, we try to fit in our hobbies while William naps. Chris is still working on his book (second draft now), and I sew, cook, blog or work on any number of projects I can't seem to finish. It is much harder to keep up with our interests than we realized!

It has been really fun to watch William grow and learn; to see his personality begin to take shape. He loves to read and play in the park. He loves doing what the bigger kids do. He hasn't stopped walking since he started in October.

2014 was like no other year. It may have been about establishing routine, but it hardly seemed boring! It was all new and sometimes hard, but there were many special things about it that made it wonderful.

I hope as you had a terrific year and pray for an even better 2015! 
Any goal setters out there? I'd love to hear about them!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Date Night in Downtown San Antonio (Part 2)

One of our Christmas presents from Chris's parents was a night in a hotel near the Riverwalk in San Antonio. They watched William overnight so we could go out, have fun and then sleep.

We started the day out with lunch with Chris's buddies from High School. It was a blast to catch up with them (I mean to say "overhear them catch up," but I really do love these people). Then we headed downtown. After checking in to the hotel we wandered the Riverwalk for a while checking out a few shops along the way.

Then we headed back to get ready for the date: dinner at Fig Tree (fairly fancy French place) and a movie: Into the Woods.

Dinner was excellent and more romantic with all the Christmas lights than I had expected. Chris really did a great job planning the evening (I even had him pick my entree). The movie was great. But as great as the movie was, the theater was awesome. Every chair in that theater was a plush, red, recliner! We had seats in the back row and we are basically laying down. Fabulous. No theater experience will ever compare!

Outdoor seating at the Fig Tree

Lights along the Riverwalk outside of the restuarant

I think we both slept better that night than we had a while! No, it wasn't without it's bathroom breaks or bouts with tossing and turning, but it was better. And we didn't wake up to a baby crying!

But when we came home . . . William was sick. A combination of hacking/gaging cough, runny nose/sneezing gunk with possible ear pain and teething. The whole shebang. (Thankfully, no fever.)

Did you miss part one of our trip?

Christmas in Texas (Part 1)

We flew to Texas on the Sunday before Christmas. The flight went pretty well, at least how we anticipated with the exception of a last minute gate change and a bit of a delay once we boarded. William did well playing with his dad and walking up and down the aisle making friends of every age. Around nap time we tried to calm him down and get him to sleep but he is just a bit too big to sleep in our laps without laying on the stranger next to us! (We both had aisle seats.) But even without his nap he only had a few fussy moments; I think he did very well.

We had a few days to relax before the festivities began which was great. The whole family got together on Monday for games and playing outside. On Christmas Eve we attended the church where our niece and nephew were singing in the choir. The church was beautifully decorated with poinsettias and candles. The pews were packed but two nice gentleman gave us their seats in the back row. The pew was conveniently located near the side exit so Chris could take William outside when he got restless. I think William loved watching the choir and all the people at the beginning; unfortunately he didn't take to the sermon.

After the service we went to Uncle David's home for dinner and a party. One of William's presents was a big hit! He opened a box with a stuffed fox that danced and sang "What does the Fox Say?" when you pressed his hand. William only needed to watch someone turn it on once before he got it himself. Now he dances, too!

When we awoke on Christmas morning, we were surprised to see frost on the ground! I don't think we ever expected to see a White Christmas here!

Christmas day started out fairly relaxed. People came over to Mom and Dad's for dinner. It was delicious! So many of my favorites: sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts and ham (yes, I actually like ham now). It was challenging getting William to eat though. He eats so well when he's a little distracted (by a toy or cereal box) but when there are several people talking, laughing, or poking him he just doesn't do well at all. I think the most difficult part of the week's gatherings was finding the balance William needed to be happy. Too much attention and he was overwhelmed, not enough and he whined. (And then he got really sick two days later which made everything challenging.)  I think by the end of the meal I felt overwhelmed myself and needed a time-out.

When we all gathered to open presents I snuck William into a little corner by the Christmas tree hoping he wouldn't feel quite so overwhelmed by the older kids opening all of their gifts. We slowly opened his gifts together. By the third one, he was getting the hang of it and excitedly reached for the next one. He loved his gifts! He got a set of watercolor paints and paper and markers (both only work on the special paper!), several books, a puppet, and a wooden train. I was so in-the-moment with him that I completely forgot I had my own pile of presents to open!

After a quick family photo, William went down for his nap and we played games for a couple of hours.

We were so blessed to be able to spend the week and this very special holiday with family. I'm so thankful both my family and my husband's family are closely-knit and enjoy getting together. I ended up skyping with my family a couple of times during the week!

Last year, I spent the majority of our Christmas holiday getting William to sleep (we were in Minnesota). Some of my family didn't even get to hold him (which makes me sad and angry with myself). This year, I think I spent equal amounts of energy getting William to eat and adjust to a different schedule. I've been told I worry (which is an understatement). In the end he adjusted well enough and ate well enough, but the first few days and the large group gatherings were challenging.

Willam got sick on Saturday which made the next two days and our flight home difficult. Our flight was delayed an hour before we boarded (at least we weren't stuck on the plane this time) and William was quite a bit more fussy due to this cold. Nothing could keep his attention for more than a minute or two. Books, snacks, drinks, walking, rocking, singing, etc. . . and then we looked at the clock and it had only been an hour! The flight attendants were super helpful and everyone on board seemed to give us the grace we needed to get home.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!

Stay tuned for parts two and three of our week in Texas which includes a Princess Bride themed Birthday party and date night on the River Walk in San Antonio.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

From our Family to Yours

Merry Christmas! May your celebration of the birth of our Savior
bring joy and peace to your hearts. May He bless and keep you
in His perfect peace until He comes again.

Christmas is a beautiful season! I love the decorations, hot drinks, comfort food, and excuses to have parties and be with family. But mostly, I love this season of reflection for how blessed we really are.

Not everyday is rosy. Can you see that William was really not in the family-photo-taking mood? But I'm thankful we got one good shot we could use for cards. Smiling or not, the Lord has been very good to us. We have our health, our (small) home, our work, our family, friends, our church-family, etc. 

We have a Savior, who came to dwell with us first in the form of a baby, born of a virgin. He lived to die as the ultimate payment for our sin, and through him we have the gift of eternal, everlasting life. Now we have his Holy Spirit, who is our comforter, counselor, helper, and intercessor; and a promise that the Messiah will return and take us home to His Kingdom. For this, I am so thankful. 

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the shopping, decorating, cooking, baking and parties, it is sometimes hard to find the time and space for quiet reflection of our Savor's birth. The saying "He is the reason for the season" only stops me for a brief moment before continuing on my merry way. I have failed numerous times this year to quiet my heart and connect with my Creator-God and the month of December has been no exception. But it my hope and prayer that this week, while away from the city (btw - I'm in Texas!) I can find that space and make the time for Him. The One to whom I am forever-grateful.

And I pray too, for you, my dear wonderful reader, that our Creator-God would connect with you and you with Him this beautiful Christmas season. For the gift of eternal life was meant for all mankind!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mary, Did you Know?

One of my favorite Christmas songs is "Mary, did you know?" and this Christmas season, I find myself pondering Mary, mother of Jesus, even more. It's in the moments that I chase my toddler-baby around the house that I wonder, "Did Mary chase Jesus around the house to get his diaper changed? Did Jesus stumble and fall, ever bump his head, or whine when mother said 'No!'?" 

Did her birth story go the way she planned and hoped? I doubt she thought about giving birth in a manger or riding a donkey while 9 months pregnant. Surely, God protected her from any post delivery trauma. What about nursing? Did that go well? Did she feel comfortable asking Elizabeth or her mother for advice when it seemed difficult? Did Mary get to sleep through the night early on?

Did Mary ever think "I don't know what I'm doing!" like I do? Did Jesus ever throw food on the floor or refuse to eat everything she cooked that day? How many times did she have to remind herself that this little boy was actually God!?

How many times did she read the Scriptures to get a glimpse as to what was coming? Did she believe her son would be  "despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering and familiar with pain" (Isaiah 53:3). Did she too, pray that this cup be removed from him?

I'd like to think that Mary had the most perfect little boy, he was after all sinless, and her life was without trouble or pain. But when I read the story of his birth, something tells me that Mary didn't get any sort of special treatment when it came to motherhood. Her life was not made easier by the birth of the Savior, in fact, it seems it got much harder:
  •   FiancĂ© wanted to divorce her once he heard of the pregnancy, thankfully an angel changed his mind
  •   Delivered baby in a manger
  •   Had to escape to Egypt to avoid Herod's plan to kill Jesus and then to Nazareth
  •   We know Jesus's brothers didn't think too highly of him for a while
  •   And last but not least, his death.
This tiny little baby was put in her care and she was charged with raising the Savior of the world! How did she do it!? How did she raise Jesus knowing that he was God-with-us; knowing his death was prophesied? Knowing that his death meant more than life?

Can you imagine the roller coaster of emotions? Was Mary a worst-case-scenario thinker like me? I sure hope God gave her His peace that transcends all understanding! But what about the moments of joy that filled this mother's heart? When did she first get a glimpse of his Holiness? Did he perform miracles just for her?

This week I came across two articles that really spoke to me about Mary. Both share themes about the swaddling of Baby Jesus, lying in a manger and the character of Mary. Please take a moment to read them.


May your Christmas season be blessed as you ponder the Christ-child!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My Friend from Oz

As you may remember, one of my very best friends from college now lives in Australia. We've been able to stay connected via Facebook, Skype, and WhatsApp. Honestly, most of the time, she doesn't feel that far away. But last week, she was HERE!

She scheduled her flight back to the Midwest with a brief stay in San Francisco. I was so excited! Of course our "storm of the decade" would happen to arrive on the same day as her flight, so after some delays and prayers, she finally arrived. Thankfully the real storm didn't hit until later that night . . . which would keep us indoors for the majority of her visit.

But you know, if you are going to be stuck inside with anyone, who better than your best friend you haven't seen in 17 months! We did venture out a few times to get dinner and our nails done and a quick trip to the grocery store and post office. And one brief stop at the Painted Ladies so she could say she saw something in the city!

The rest of the time she helped keep William occupied indoors and even put dinner together for me while I finished up work. She helped me bake eight dozen cookies for a party I was going to that weekend. (btw, baking is so much better with a friend!) We talked and played a game. We were just together. It was wonderful. It didn't matter that we didn't get to go hiking or to the zoo or anything adventurous. We just needed to have time together and that is exactly what we had. Two and a half days of togetherness.

While she was here, I couldn't help think back to our college days. Both gaining strength in our faith in Jesus Christ and seeking accountability. We used to get up early and meet in the Union to do our quiet times together. We didn't even talk to each other, we just had to be with each other. And then after that semester we both left to go overseas; she to Australia to student teach and me to Gambia to experience the mission field. We never lived in the same town again.

Friendships are so special. So important. They do take effort and need special care, but it's worth it all. The internet makes a lot of things possible but nothing can replace quality face-to-face time with a friend. It is nourishment for the soul.

Who do you need to reconnect with or make an effort to see face-to-face this season?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Decorating for a Toddler Christmas

We decided not to get a Christmas tree this year. We reasoned that with William's curiosity and desire to touch everything, it would be more of a hazard than anything. I felt bad because I know he would have absolutely loved it. Hopefully next year he can experience the tree part of Christmas decorating.

We hung our stockings (William's still isn't made!), and put the nativity set up on the bookshelf, out of reach. Quite a few ornaments can stand on their own, so they were added to shelves as well.

The DVD background is a little busy, you can barely see them!

Garland dresses up our china hutch and the credenza has a new table runner (secret: it's really the tree skirt!)

I bought a wreath for our door in hopes of cheering up our hallway. (Our neighbor has a Frankenstein door knocker still up from Halloween . . . help!)

Decorating with a toddler has it's challenges, but it's worth doing something! This season is so very important and although the meaning of Christmas isn't in the decorating, I find that the decorating readies the heart for a special season and celebration. The decorations set the season apart from the everyday. Reminds us of the special and the sacred.

It may sound silly, but I want Christmas decorating to be a tradition for our family (which is why I decorated while he was awake...and could get into everything!). I want William to grow up knowing that inside this little box is baby Jesus and Christmas is all about him. Eventually, he will realize and learn that baby Jesus isn't a special toy, but a Savior to believe in. And the tree, the stockings and the gifts are all in celebration of God coming down to be with us.

I didn't plan anything for William for Advent this year; he is still a bit young to understand, but I think by next year, he will be ready! If you have had success with an Advent calendar/reading plan or fun activities, please pass them my way!

I hope you have wonderful Christmas celebration this year!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Cutting it off

The last time I had my hair cut I was seven months pregnant. It was thick and lovely thanks to those pregnancy hormones. My hair has spent the last year being tied up in a pony tail or messy bun and kept away from tiny fingers. For the past year, my hair has been thinning (read falling out by the fistful) thanks to return of my normal hormones.

I'd been talking about a hair cut for months. I wanted to try a local hair dresser that moved into the neighborhood a few years ago. He looked legit and even a little fancy and was more affordable than my previous hairdresser. And he was so close. I could walk there. Perfect. I finally made the appointment and yesterday was the day.

The last few times I had grown my hair out I donated it to Locks of Love. I was a little short of their 10 inch requirement this time, but felt I needed to get it cut anyway, I couldn't wait any longer.

I have never had anyone tell me I had damaged hair, I've always been complimented on how healthy it is/was. Well, post baby hair was not in prime condition. He combed through it and said, "See here, this is all damaged" and pointed to the last six inches of my hair. I almost started tearing up, but then realized, this is exactly why I was here. It wasn't even worthy of being donated. Cut it off! 

I had one request, that it be long enough for a pony tail, because let's face it, this momma still doesn't have time to actually do her hair on an any-day-of-the-week basis.  I love it!