December Little Things

I'm almost caught up and actually writing about things that happened this year!  Woohoo!  It sure is hard to type with one hand as I pat myself on the back!  ;)

We knew this month would be a good one when we got this guy back from Nature's Classroom!  He had an awesome time and it was SO nice to pick him up and to get to have a little date catching up on all he did while he was gone.

We started doing little Advent readings as often as we could during dinners and realized that we had a gift for Laina.  In Westbrook, kids would get their very own Bible in 1st grade, which is the grade Laina is in now.  We were somewhat saddened, because all of our other kids received Bibles from Westbrook and were signed by our former senior pastor and friend, Scott, as well as our Children's Director and friend, Wendy, and then, of course, by Jake.

Well, Wendy found a couple of Bibles left in the Children's Ministry closet and gave one to us to give to Laina, signed by all of these very special people who have played such important roles in her young life already.  We were so excited to have our own little Bible giving ceremony and to give her this incredibly meaningful gift.

We decorated Christmas cookies and promptly gobbled them all up.  I think they might have lasted about a week and a half...

The end of semester means a fun date for my friend, Katie and me!  We went out to the Paint Bar in Delafield and had such a blast making these little birdie families.  Another little fun thing I got to do with her was go get our nails that her nails were set to show off the bling her boyfriend was giving her soon!  It was all I could do to not mention a word of it to her.  I'm so excited for these two who will soon be Mr. and Mrs.!!

The kids had their usual Breakfast with Santa event at school.  This is our last year of having a little Navigator sing for the audience!  Laina rocked it out, though!

We had an overnight with Jake's parents here.  Because a couple of our cousins wouldn't be with us in Michigan, Jake's parents brought gifts to our kids that they would be opening with the other grandkids on Christmas day.  Maurah was my tester for taking photos:

Each grandkid received a quilt to put on their beds.  This made the twins, in particular, very excited.  They'd been complaining to me for some time that their white quilts were boring.  How happy were they when they realized I'd been holding out on them for a reason?!?
Before we knew Jake's parents were coming, I had planned a girls' date to see the Nutcracker.  This is one of my favorite Christmas traditions to do with the girls and we didn't do it last year.  I wondered how it would go, because Maurah and Hayden's class actually went to see it on a field trip the very day before!  I was initially disappointed, but I think seeing it twice actually made it more magical for them!

We got all dressed up and headed out on the incredibly snowy roads.  Another fun thing about this event is that Maurah's ballet teacher played the role of Clara.  She was divine.

Real life ;)

The girls each got to pick out a Nutcracker of their very own.  I'm happy to report that they handle these guys with the greatest of care.

The next day was Cole's Christmas piano recital.  Jake's parents had never seen Cole play "live" before, so it was fun to have them here for that.  I'm so sad because I accidentally deleted the video of him playing, but just know that he played Lorie Line's version of The Little Drummer Boy as well as a fun rendition of The Witch themed?  No, but super fun.  :)  I'm constantly impressed with his playing.  He doesn't admit he likes it yet, but I'm seeing glimmers of this love of piano developing in him and I'm so thankful for the gift of music he can have with him his whole life.

I actually got my act together and got Christmas cards out this year.  Thanks to these helpers, it wasn't quite such a painful task!

Maurah and Cole shoveled our long, hugely covered driveway.  I think they were trying to earn some screen time, but I was just so proud - the driveway and sidewalk were as filled with snow as the yard there.  This was quite a ways into their progress.  They worked as a team and did a great job!

Both were incredibly proud of their hard work!

On one of our last days of exams, Katie and I decided we needed some retail therapy, so we browsed Wal-Mart, (because that's the only store in Whitewater!) and found these cute blanket scarves!  We *may* have needed help from our friend learning how to wear them, but we were so excited!

Laina did her own retail therapy when she got to go to a birthday dinner, celebrating her friend, Lily.  These two crack me up!

Lots of beauty shop happening around here!

The kids did their annual caroling with their school.  This year, we broke up into three groups and went around the community caroling.  Our group went to the hospital here, and one of the sweetest things was going through the cancer center.  As the kids belted out their songs, we walked through stations of patients receiving chemotherapy.  Nurses and patients alike broke into tears as they saw these children in their Christmas get-ups singing about hope and love and joy.  This was my very favorite place we've caroled for that very reason.  The kids and I got to reflect on this time later and talk about how they can bring joy to peoples' lives with very simple acts like this.  I want them to know that they might be young, but they are already making impacts everywhere they go.  I'm beyond thankful we're a part of a school that teaches the kids this as well.

Laina and Lily begged for a sleepover while we were at caroling, so we set one up for over Christmas break.  Maurah and Hayden were at their friend, Mila's, birthday sleepover, so it was the perfect time for Lily to come over and for Cole to have a friend over as well.  Jake said I was crazy because this was the night before we left for Michigan.  The actual conversation went something like this:

J: Nice!  We'll only have two kids so that'll make it easier to pack for Michigan!
M:  Oh, about that - actually, I invited a friend over for both Cole and Laina.
J:  Are you crazy?
M:  I think so.
It ended up being super fun and super easy, though, because these kids just have fun together and entertain themselves!

 When the girls' movie was done, I found them like this in Laina's bed.  Melts my heart.

The next morning was filled with pancakes, Trivial Pursuit, and fort-building!

Now, this story is incredible.  My friend, Lindsay, asked me if we were going to be home between the 30th of December and New Year's because she was going to be home from North Carolina.  I was so sad because those were the exact dates we were gone!  Both of us had just resigned ourselves to the fact that we'd have to wait to have a visit until the spring or summer.  

Then, we had to run into Target because Hayden had nothing to wear for our family photo at my parents'.  I was trying to go to Target all that morning, but it just kept getting put off as I had so many other tasks to accomplish.  We finally got to the store that afternoon, and GUESS WHO WE RAN INTO?!?  Lindsay was walking out of the store at the very moment that we were walking in!  Only 30 seconds later, and we would have completely missed each other.

She had only been in Wisconsin for about an hour!  We screamed and hugged and screamed and hugged some more.  We made quite the scene and my kids were completely embarrassed!  But oh my goodness, it was so exciting and so fun to have those few minutes together!  That, I have to believe, was a complete Divine appointment.

After we said our goodbyes, we rushed through the store and found something for Hayden to wear as well as some snacks for the road.  And, it's never a complete shopping trip until Laina finds all of the accessories!  She came around the corner dressed like this.  We teach the kids to bring the fun with them, and this girl does not disappoint!

And now we're REALLY onto 2017!!  I'm so excited to see what this next year holds for our little family!

Family Christmas and New Year's

We headed to Michigan for a whirlwind trip to celebrate Christmas with each of our families.  We started with my side, and arrived at my sister's place at 2AM.  I kept saying everyone didn't need to stay up, but of course they did!  The kids were so excited because this was their first time seeing their cousins' new house.  It was really fun to get to stay there and start making memories in that beautiful new home.

My sister and brother-in-law sent up this magical Christmas wonderland in their basement for the kids to camp out over the weekend.  How fun is that?!?

The next morning, we went to my mom and dad's.  Their home is always like a holiday haven around Christmas time, beautifully decorated everywhere you look!  We knew we wanted a family photo and snagged it before everyone went their separate ways.  And by "someone" I mean the kids, and by "went their separate ways," I mean ran around the house causing complete chaos and messing up their hair and outfits.  Love this group so much!

Adam and Heather brought a saran wrap game for the kids to play.  The intensity every one of them had was hysterical!

One of our gifts for AJ was a Detroit Tigers hat much like the UofM one we got Cole for Christmas.  And darn if I didn't get a picture of them together like I had wanted to!

Maurah and Hayden have been needing bags to put their knitting things in and Grandma and Grandpa got them that very thing!  

Maurah made my grandma this scarf that she knitted.  She and Hayden learned how to knit on the needles my grandma gave them, so this was a thank you and a pretty sweet gift.

The kids gave my dad a "Grandpa for President" coffee mug.  And again, I'm so bummed because I didn't get a photo of their gift with my mom!  Opening gifts became a *touch* chaotic, so I think there were a lot of moments I missed.  But the memories are still sweet!

I made this sign for Heather and Adam after she mentioned to me that she saw one similar to it in a store and thought it was really cool.  It was so fun to make it and hopefully it can add another personal touch to their new home.

Zoey was ready to get her Christmas loving!

One of my favorite things of Christmas is how the kids gather around mom and dad's table and work away at their gifts, building and crafting.  I remember playing games with my cousins growing up and know that these are precious memories they're creating together!

We headed North to visit Jake's family on New Year's Eve.  Sam was cracking me up because he kept saying "Take my picture."  Then, he'd crawl on his mom's lap and give me thumbs up.  Once I took his picture, he'd hop down and say, "Let me see it!"  Then, he'd giggle with glee when he saw himself.

Laina received the next books in the series Jake and I got her for Christmas.  She was pretty excited about that!

The adults have started a tradition where we have to make something for the person whose name we draw.  It's amazing every year what people come up with.  Jake made this lamp for his dad completely out of steel pipe.

Emily (and Matt!) made this sign for Jake out of nails and thread.  So cool!

Other gifts included homemade yard yahtzee, I received a beautiful wreath and picture from my sister-in-law, and I made a wooden coffee mug holder for my other sister-in-law.  I can never get over what people come up with each year.  We're not sure how long we'll be doing this, but it's so fun while it lasts.

These pictures crack me up because Cole was silently playing by himself on the floor and Roy walked up and just laid on him.  His stoic personality is so funny!

The above picture quickly turned into a pile-on and Cole was crushed!  I love the looks on his and Sam's faces!

Jake's aunt and cousin from Alabama were in visiting their other Michigan family and made a stop by the house for a couple of hours.  It was so great to see them!  It's been years!  And this is one more moment I missed on this Christmas weekend!  But, just like at my parents', they're still memories we'll record here and keep with us.

Our kids were completely exhausted, and we were *terrible* parents because we made them go to bed earlier than the New Year.  Little by little, everyone fell asleep or went home until it was just Jake, his mom and myself staying awake.  Honestly, the only reason we did this is because it was 11:40 by the time we got everything cleaned up and said goodbye, so we figured we should just stay up the extra 20 minutes to say we did.  Big partiers here!  :)

The next day we loaded up and the kids got in one last game of Farkle with their grandma before we left.  From the first game to this one, their sportsmanship definitely improved!  We went from tears in the first game to saying "Good game" once they were done.  Slowly, but surely, good sportsmanship will sink in, right??

Leaving Michigan is never easy for our kids.  I honestly thought it'd get easier as they got older, but it's the exact opposite.  We had a lot of tears and emotions on the way home.  I always wonder when the trip will be that they just can't get over their sadness and feelings of homesickness.  Thankfully, as soon as we got home, they settled right in and it really did feel good to be here.  And the next day was school, where they were so excited to be back with their friends and talk about their holidays.  I'm always grateful we've got such a great place to live, because it would be absolutely wretched to leave MI if we couldn't look forward to anything here!

And just like that, the holidays were over and we were on to a New Year!  Welcome, 2017!

A New Spark

June also brought with it a somewhat new adventure for Maurah.  She joined MainStage Academy of Dance in the winter and showcased her work t...