Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Simple-y Splendid Christmas

 It's the week of Christmas, dontcha know. All the things that make up our Christmas "experience" are in full swing...the sights, the smells, the programs, the parties, the shopping, the food, more food...and more parties.

I spent a good part of our Christmases in Brazil feeling rather sorry for myself as it just didn't FEEL like Christmas when it was 100 degrees outside (with green and tropical foliage all around me). And if that weren't horrible enough the Brazilians didn't decorate to my liking. As far as I was concerned, my life had just skipped right past 4 or 5 Christmas seasons. I was deprived of the opportunity to put on that extra 10 pounds I was entitled to. Deprived of the opportunity to overspend on stuff that friends and loved ones didn't need. Deprived of going outside into the crisp, cool air at night and watch my breath as I looked at the Christmas lights my neighbors strung up.

The thing is, I still enjoy the Christmas experience. I am enjoying that fact that it IS cold outside here in the hills of TN and that we can sit in front of a fire in our fireplace. I am enjoying having white elephant gift exchanges, singing Christmas carols on more than one occasion, etc, etc.

But this Christmas is different for me. Very different.

It began feeling different when I realized that part of having a husband out of work for 2 months means Christmas gifts will be limited. And though I hate to admit it I was kinda frustrated at the thought. I've always loved giving and receiving presents. Loved it. It's just so fun! And yet this Christmas...this Christmas, we will have to be oh-so-careful. Unless we want to miss a few days (or weeks) of eating we may have to really limit our gifts.

Knowing that at the heart of things, gifts (at best) are a slight distraction to the true meaning of the season. So I prayed. I prayed for contentment. I prayed for a renewed outlook. I prayed that this year would be a new year and a new kind of Christmas in our home.

At least for me, that prayer was answered.

Not being able to buy tons of gifts turned out to be an incredibly freeing experience. It's always so hard to know where to draw the line when it comes to spending! Not only that but I began feeling a lot more motivated to be creative and do things as a family that will hopefully become yearly traditions. Things that will help fix our eyes on the gift that was given to us so long ago. A gift that can't be bought in stores decorated with lights and trees. Or in malls that play Christmas music and provide a Santa Clause from 12pm-7pm.  A gift that won't be forgotten a month from now. A gift that lives inside of me each and everyday, and gives me and my family hope for the future.

Being freed from the opportunity (burden) to buy a lot of gifts was only step #1 in this process. Step #2 was hearing the best, most refreshing sermon on Christmas I've ever heard. The girls and I spent a week in FL while the hubs was out of the country (he did take pictures of the interesting Christmas decorations in Brazil that used to bother me, which made me chuckle). While there, we went to church and heard the aforementioned sermon. I can't even begin to paraphrase all that was said but what spoke to my heart were the facts that 1.) We can't experience Christmas the way that the shepherds, Mary, Joseph, etc, experienced the birth of Christ simply because we weren't there. Our experience will be limited. God had been silent for 400 years as His people were awaiting for the Messiah to come...we simply can't fathom the anticipation that was taking place before Jesus' birth took place! 2.) Though we can't experience it in the same way, we can look back and be amazed. But  here's the good part, folks. Not only can we look back and worship but we can look forward (anticipate) the 2nd Noel! Did that hit you like it did me? The 2nd Noel! There's going to be a 2nd one, and we get to be a part of it! I just LOVE the sound of that...the 2nd Noel.

So I'm basking in the joy of looking back at the birth of my King and looking forward to His return. And enjoying the sights and the sounds but still trying to not be distracted by them. Easier said than done :-)

And we did decorate, just in case you were wondering!

We have lights strung up for the first time! I had no idea how incredibly challenging it was to take a box full of hand-me-down/thrift store lights and make them look decent. Horrible picture, I know.

 By the time the house was decorated most of the figurines and nativity sets had mysteriously found their way to a single shelf. And congregated in a circle around a few different baby Jesus-es. That lion you see on the left actually roars to the tune of Oh Christmas Tree, just in case you were wondering.

The tree. Half of the gifts you see underneath are Karis' thrift store purchases...can't wait to see her choices (and to see if mom did help steer her in a direction while buying or let her venture out on her own. :-)

New "ornaments" appear on the tree every day. This one happens to be a Polly Pocket dress hung with a lego rope thingie.

New decorations appear everyday as well. Most of the time I am un-decorating as fast as my little person is decorating, but sometimes I leave things for a few days. I was perplexed as to how this rabbit was given the title of a Christmas decoration but it was explained to me that it reminds us of the velveteen rabbit, which is a movie that we watched around Christmas time. Now if that doesn't put you in the spirit of things, I don't know what will.

This has nothing to do with Christmas. These are just two of my favorite gifts and are too cute not to include in a post.

Who needs new sweaters and gadgets when you have something like this? I absolutely love this child.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

And then she was six.

Every parent believes their child is special. I am, without a doubt, no exception. However, I really, really think mine is special. She's just not your ordinary kid, I tell you! She's different. In a good way. There is so much personality crammed into one recnetly-turned-6-year old with Karis is like unwrapping a wonderful gift at each new stage her life brings.

One aspect to Karis' personality that keeps us entertained is her creativity. It is also one of the more demanding aspects of parenting her as it means craft supplies EVERYWHERE. All the time. And many of these are gifts that she is making for someone. And though I'm not positive, I have a feeling that when she doesn't feel like putting away her latest creation she has discovered that the easiest solution is to give it to mom. And since I can't tell when she genuinely wants me to have something or when it's just a cop-out for cleaning up, I accept it with a smile. And perhaps a comment about how it's the most wonderful thing I've ever seen.

The fact that she is a hoarder also does not help.

But it's this creative side that adds so much life to our household. How many of you find....

hand-made "bows" on the lampshades?

or perhaps on the front door?

seating arrangement at the dinner table?

Most clothes pins (used for chip/cereal bags) are usually quite decorative in our household. 

How many of you find your fireplace tools to be dressed up in a tutu?

Our bathroom door.

Place-mats (meaning "gifts"...she is still choosing who the 4 lucky ones will be)


Though Karis loves to creative with her hands, that in itself is merely an outlet for her creative mind. The things she says, the questions she asks and the things we find written in her oh-so-cute handwriting add even more to the atmosphere of our home.  Jonathan noticed the sequence of leaves that she added to our Thanksgiving Tree this year. Notice "God's love" up top and then read them from left to right.

About once a week when I'm heading to bed and wander into the bathroom to brush my teeth, this is what I find.

A few times I've found it frustrating (an extra 30 seconds of work added to my day) but I know that one day, I will walk into the bathroom and will miss all the signs of Karis-life that surround me now. One day I will look at the fire place and think about how boring it looks without that pink tutu. I'll miss the average of 5 envelopes a day I receive from my little girl that are stuffed with stickers, notes and sometimes small items that originally were gifts I had given to her. I forget what life was like before scotch tape could be found on every flat surface of the house...and I already miss not having that as a part of my life. I can't imagine life in our home without Karis and the blessing that she brings. I hope I can savor every moment and fight the temptation to live life as if it will always be this way, for I know it won't.

This post could end up being 300 pages long. I love writing about my child as much as I love living with her! But I'll try to keep it readable to the outside world and want to share one more aspect of Karis' life that is making this world a better place.

It's her heart.

Karis has such a genuine concern for other people. She was faithful to remind me that we needed to pray for my granddaddy every night for months this year. And though she hadn't seen him in close to a year and didn't have too close of a relationship with him (due to distance), when I told her one night that he had passed away, she cried. And she talked about him for several days. She talks about the orphans around the world and wants to share her leftovers with them. She was absolutely distraught that Operation Christmas Child wouldn't let her fill a copy-paper box full of goodies instead of a shoe box. In fact, something happened the day we were filling her box that reveals how generous of a heart my little girl has.

We were walking into Wal-Mart and were greeted by kids who were holding white buckets saying "help us help others." I looked at the table they had set up and noticed that they were going to be having a food drive for the homeless. So I gave Karis $1 and said "would you like to put this in their bucket?" She was glad to do so and came back smiling.

At the end of our wally-world shopping experience and as we were walking out the door she informed me that she would like to give some of her own money (from her little pink change purse). Usually she has some change in there and so I said sure and watched as she crossed the street back over to the kids. It took her longer then expected but she came back beaming. "Good job, kiddo" I said. She then said "I gave them my $5 mom!" " had paper money in there?" "yes, my $5 birthday money I put in the bucket." I was a bit surprised that 1) she had her birthday money in her purse and 2) she gave it away. But I was proud of her and I knew that the Lord would bless her for her generosity. So I said...

"well that was nice, they're going to help feed hungry people who don't have food." "They are?" she asked, rather surprised. "well, yeah" I said. "What did you think it was for?" And this, my friends, brought tears to my eyes. She explained "I thought they wanted to buy a toy, and that boy didn't have much in his bucket like the girl did so I gave mine to him."

I don't know if this astounds you like it does me. I mean, I'm very touched when Karis wants to give of her abundance to those who are obviously less fortunate than her (orphans in third world countries, etc). But honestly, many of us would give out of our abundance if the need were staring us smack in the face. But how many of us would look at somebody our equal, who was wanting (or so we thought) the same thing that we wanted and then give them the means to help them get it, even though that would mean we could no longer get it ourselves? Does that make sense? Karis gave her money to a kid she didn't know so that he could buy a toy he didn't need. And in so doing she forfeited her opportunity to buy herself a toy with that same money. I'm not suggesting that she be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but this is a reflection of my little girl's heart. And it's a generous heart. She's going to change the world.

I'd love to write more but it would make for a way too lengthy post and I am now being summoned by the baby of the house...she is hungry.

Here are just a few b-day pics taken on her special day....

Cupcakes at school.

 Friends at small party.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

My Cup Overflows

If I've ever felt like I'm living in the fast lane, it's now. Hence, another 7 1/2 months since my last blog post...but I was determined...absolutely determined NOT to wait another 8 months to post. So go me. I could even put this off a few weeks if I really wanted to (I only kind of wanted to).

Ok folks, you need to meet our newest munchkin!

Tessa Faith Kroeker entered our lives on April 22nd.

The whole birth thing is a story in and of itself...yet not a bloggy kind of a story.

Tessa entered this world with an incredibly soft whine and wide open eyes. Our hearts melted, that's for sure! We enjoyed a very short night in the hospital before it felt like the rug was pulled out from under us.

Because our plans didn't include this.

Or this....

Or this....

Aw, my sweet baby girl. Apparently Tessa had a lung infection that required 3 days of antibiotics. And then 7. Looking back, that week in the NICU really wasn't so bad, but everything unexpected seems very, very bad to a mom who has recently given birth. Thank goodness for my hubby, who stayed that week in the hospital with me. Oh I cried. A lot. Enough crying to last me another 5 years or so, I think. But thankfully the crying came to an end and we got to take our new not-so-little bundle of joy (9 lbs 2 oz) home.

Karis was very ready to meet her new little sister! But not too excited to come back home. She stayed with J's parents that week and had quite a fun time. In fact, when my MIL told her "mommy is coming home today!" Karis responded "well, I don't want to go home!" She told Karis "Oh, mommy would be sad if she didn't get to see you." "well that's ok" Karis said, "I'll go visit her". Ha. My independent girl. Turns out home ended up becoming more appealing to her with the presence of a new baby...we convinced her to stay :-)

And I can't tell you what a wonderful big sister Karis is. This picture pretty much sums up how the two of them feel about each other.

Karis is a huge help! Too much of a help, sometimes. Like today, after I set Tessa in the high chair (because she is 6 months old now) I turned around to get her some food and there sitting in front of her face were ALL of her baby toys out of her toy basket, stacked on top of her tray. Every. Single. One. I don't think she even knew what to do but big sister was standing by her side, beaming, knowing she saved Tessa from 30 seconds of boredom while mom mashed up some avocado. I love my girls. And I'm so glad that they love each other.

A few more pics....

A more recent pic of the two....

And a more recent pic of Tessa-lou....

So yes, life has changed. A lot. I wake up in the morning feeling like I just finished off a bottle of Nyquil and I go to bed feeling like I just finished off a bottle of Nyquil (and I wake up several times a night feeling the same). But other than that, my cup overflows. Sometimes I struggle with the fact that I often go to bed with a sink full of dishes, or wake up to a little more clutter than I would like, or the fact that I feel like a blob (exercise? what's that?) but overall I know this is only temporary. And I'm soaking it all in! I can't tell you how much I enjoy hearing two different voices giggling in our home. Or getting to snuggle with a baby in my lap and a little girl snuggled up to my side. Or reading books to Karis at night before she goes to bed and seeing two little hands reach up, grab the book and attempt to insert it into her mouth (followed by a Karis giggle). I am so, so blessed.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

8 months. Yep, 8 months.

Anybody out there?


I have not posted since July. How in the world do you try to catch up on a blog when you've been gone for 8 months? Surely there is no easy way. But surely it doesn't matter as nobody has enough patience to continue visiting a blog that has been abandoned for 8 months. Or 240 days to be almost exact. But since I claim to really blog for myself (in order to be able to look back and remember a few things about my life) I guess it shouldn't matter. ha.

So here are the highlights that have occurred since July, 8 months ago. Or 240 days ago.....

* Karis began going to a  Mother's Day Out program at a local church twice a week. She absolutely LOVES it. I couldn't have picked a better program and/or teacher for her. It has been a wonderful, wonderful experience.

* My sister-in-law and her family (with the two boys pictured above) came to reside in the area off and on for a year. It is great to have them here and Karis loves having two cousins to play and fight with. Usually there isn't much fighting involved. Hallelujah.

* We moved in our home! Which, ironically, ended up being an 8 month project. I'm so glad I didn't know that in the beginning or I might have lost heart. Now that we are here (and there are only minor details to finish) it seems well worth it. I'm not sure my in-laws (who dedicated just as much of their time as we did ours towards the house) would say the same but we are truly grateful :-)

And now for the big news that nobody out there is waiting for.....

* Another 8-month project is getting ready to join us...hopefully in less than 6 weeks! This picture was from an ultrasound I had yesterday. The baby is already so big (since I'm almost 35 weeks along) that it was difficult to see anything of detail. The technician finally got a good shot of the face, for which I am very grateful. After seeing the face it really began to sink in. I mean, this little life inside of has a face! Wow. I think Jonathan and I said something about it "sinking in" more than once on the way home yesterday. And each time we kind of looked at each other and just giggled. It still doesn't seem real but we know that all too soon it will be. And we are so blessed and excited and nervous and excited. And Karis seems excited and unsure of the changes taking place and excited. She will be my incredible helper, I know. With almost 5 1/2 years difference between these two I think adding child #2 to the family will be easier in some ways. When I sit down to feed the baby and realize how incredibly thirsty I am there will be a set of little legs to run and go get me a drink of water. ha.

I am truly a blessed woman.