Sunday, February 16, 2014

Jag Alskar Dig!

We had a very simple Valentine's Day.  The day before Valentine's Day, we were one of those lucky East-Coasters who received more snow than Virginia characteristically gets. Ever.  I think we got about 17 inches.  In the preparation for possible power outages and weeks of possibly being snowed-in, Valentines became less of a priority.  But at least we had all that we needed to make milk sandwiches for weeks.
We have been learning about Sweden, so we had a Swedish-themed day. I made the kids "dala horse sewing kits" with the pieces cut out and ready to sew, little heart baskets (that every Scandinavian country claims as their own), and found some M&Ms and leftover Christmas candy to fill them with.

We are so fortunate that we have good friends within walking distance. So we made Vaniljkakor and had a little Valentine tea party.

And the kids went out to play in the snow as the sun was setting.  And this was the picture from my porch:
 And days like these make me happy to be just where I am.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

1 year and 1 month later

Hello friends! It has been a little while (as in over a year) since my last blog post.  It has been quite a year yet here we are, a year older, a year wiser, and a year more grateful. It was a rough year for us financially and for me that became a challenge for me spiritually. We have come out on the other side for now, but not without trials. Not without sacrifice and pain. But we have been given a greater dose of humility, compassion and gratefulness.
For over a year Nick juggled two part time jobs as I worked part time at Starbucks. We barely made ends meat.  There were times that I was envious to tears of people who had the means to fill their entire shopping cart with groceries.  I learned to cook beans many new ways and to feed a family of 5 on $100 or less a week.  It was not easy.  Its amazing how no matter how much you tell yourself, "its only money", it really isn't "only money" is it?  Because when you don't have it, it dictates many other aspects of your life. What you can do, what you can buy, how healthy you can eat, how far you can drive.  That was hard for me. Putting faith in God to provide was terribly hard. But He did provide. Every. Single. Day. And that is exactly what it was: day-to-day-to-day. I couldn't look past a single day or I would be under the covers in tears with worry. How to pay for this or that. A gallon of milk or a gallon of gas? And no end in sight.  That was the worst part.  Putting faith in God when you can't see His plan. And always knowing that He would provide, but needing to know when.
It was a hard year. But it was an awesome year. Working at Starbucks has been such a blessing. I cannot count how many mornings last year that started at 3:30am for me, but I have made some amazing friends who have inspired me. We had our own little Starbucks crew hiking group and we went on some pretty neat adventures in and around our little hometown. Plus, I have new, really close friends who I imagine will be in my life long after our time pulling espresso shots together.
One of my co-workers also tipped me off about this really amazing grocery store (Sharp Shopper) that is very inexpensive. That sounds so dumb, I know, but I swear this store has changed my life. Not to mention fed my family on its cheap (yet healthy) goods. My prayers to fill my entire shopping cart were answered, in such a simple unexpected way.

I also learned how very valuable my time is. I find it so incredibly hard to not get stuck in a rut when I am home, all day every day with sweet, energetic, fighting, smelly, adorable, crazy kids! Working has given me that space to disconnect, and then reconnect more fully (yet often tiredly) to these children and to appreciate all the small moments together. And unlike at home, I get breaks at work... with lattes and 10 minutes of uninterrupted thoughts!! What a treat. Now I feel like I am finding that balance between being a wife and mother... and yet still being me.
I also took up running and ran a 5k. Running lifts my spirits in hard times, and its free! And while I am trying to find a new balance now that Nick got a FULL TIME JOB and time to myself is a little harder to come by, I know what is possible and necessary for my sanity and well-being.  So just before Thanksgiving Nick was offered a full-time position with the company he had been working part-time for!! It was like those cheesy Christmas movies that end so happy, just in time for the holidays!!! But it wasn't cheesy at all! It was wonderful in every little way! I was so thankful for answered prayers.
So that was my bitter sweet journey. I am grateful. I know everything could change in a moment and we aren't wealthy or out of the water completely, but for now I am so grateful. I am so grateful for these wonderful little people who teach me how to live in the moment, and seek the good, and keep the faith. I am so grateful for my loving husband who always told me it would be okay (even though I didn't always believe him or see the whole picture). I have learned a new compassion for those less fortunate who live day-to-day and wonder where they will find the money for food to feed their families tomorrow. I have met these people, and been these people and it is hard. And faith is hard too. 

So here we are 1 year and 1 month later, a little wiser, a little humbler, a little stronger, and ever so grateful.
Thank you God.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Merry Christmas...

...and a happy New Year to you all!

 I can hardly believe its been two months since my last post. Nor can I believe Christmas has come and gone and it is already the first day of 2013! Our life has been very busy and full of joy, fun and a bit of chaos this holiday season.  We had a wonderful Christmas celebrating the joy of Christ and the wishes of little children in our household came true.  We are very fortunate to be given another year, and though change seems to be on the horizon, my prayers are that we can embrace it with all our hearts and grow a little closer to who we were meant to be and fulfill our purpose on this earth.

So much has happened and changed since my last post.  A few hardships and many blessings have come our way. I intended to share them but time has been lacking.  Time for blogging anyway. There has been time for many other things, like reading stories in our jammies and baking cookies for Santa.  We have had time to enjoy Christmas lights and play in the snow.  We have had time for very important things, but less time for sharing them.  So lets catch up a little, shall we? 

Kieran turned two in November. Oh, and is he ever two.  With each two-year-old, more meaning is given to the phrase, "terrible two" and yet I try to remember that he is equally a wonderful two.  He loves cars and candy, he loves being outside, swinging and sliding and he has a very developed an ability to find some kind of trouble to get into no matter what time of day and where he is.


 In November my Mom treated us to a wonderful production of "Beauty and The Beast" put on by the Christian Youth Theatre in Spotsylvania. I highly recommend any of their plays, and we all thoroughly enjoyed their interpretation of Anastasia's favorite Princess Story. We also had the pleasure of meeting Belle herself (who we were thrilled to find out is also Home schooled!).  And do you notice anything different about Anastasia?:
 My brave little, almost-6-year-old got her ears pierced.  She just decided she wanted to do it, and the next day we did it! She hardly cried and is very proud that she was so brave, and has shiny little stars in her ears now!  Suddenly she looks so grown up! Especially when she forgoes a frilly dress for jeans and a pretty shirt.  Whatever happened to the tiny baby I held in my arms over 5 years ago?  Its amazing how time flies... and turns babies into young ladies so quickly.

 Do you believe in Santa?  Our household does.  This year the girls each wished for an American Girl Doll from Santa. Anastasia changed her mind about 4 times and "Santa" ended up having to make an emergency run to the American Girl store in Tyson's to make an exchange.  So much for planning ahead! Of course, she and Caroline are inseparable now, and Isabel received my Felicity doll from my childhood which the elves managed to clean up and make brand new for her! Four is a bit too young for an American Girl doll in my opinion, but I think we made a good compromise that makes all things fair in our household. 
 St. Nicholas paid us a visit one night. He filled our shoes with candy and goodies! The kids were lucky daddy was in charge of the St. Nicholas duties as he came back from the store with full size candy bars. Oh. My. 
 We also spent a day in Colonial Williamsburg, followed by an evening at Busch Gardens.  We finished reading all six Felicity books and the girls were enamoured by the town that she once lived in.  They kept hoping to see Felicity but we didn't this time!  We did see plenty of horses and old time shops. 
 And we tried out the stocks!  This is where very bad children have to stay.
 Busch Gardens was decorated for Christmas with millions of lights, magic and even some real-live penguins. Unfortunately though the weather was perfect, it was so unbearably crowded! By the end of the night things cleared out and we enjoyed the beautiful array of lights. My favorite part is pictured above, you can't see it but it was snowing! It was truly magical.
 Anastasia was a fairy at her ballet "friends and family" performance.  She loves putting on "shows" at home and on stage.  I wonder what the future holds for this talented little star of mine.  We enjoyed burgers and ice cream afterwards at our local burger spot, Spelunkers.
 And some of the biggest new yet, is that I got a job! I am working at our local Starbucks a few days a week. It is my first job in almost 6 years!  Things have been a little tight around here, so having a little extra income was a bit of a necessity. It has been really fun and helped my extroverted side cope with the housework and isolation of being a stay-at-home mom.  I am not sure how permanent this is, but for now it is working really well for our family and funding our addiction to good coffee. :)
 The kids have actually been more well behaved and more independent.  I think not having me around all the time to ask for things 500 times a day and having a less sympathetic parent at home working is a healthy change for them too. I feel very fortunate to have been able to get the one job I wanted most in our area!
 And we had a white Christmas! It was so magical to wake up Christmas Morning to a winter wonderland! It is such a treat in Virginia! 
We had a very magical Christmas morning, followed by an evening with my parents and my brother and his girlfriend.  Its always special to be with family for Christmas!  The girls were so happy to be with their Uncle, and grandparents and were very in awe of all their new treasures.  Hopefully you experienced the true meaning of Christmas... the magic of a tiny baby, a bundle of love, sent to save the world.  Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

All Hallows Eve

 Halloween is one of my favorite holidays!  I love it because it is a low-commitment, non-expectation holiday, where it is perfectly acceptable to dress up in anything, and be someone else for the night! Not to mention how exciting it is to go trick-or-treating among the ghosts and ghouls that roam about in the dark.  This year our Halloween was perfect!   Last year Halloween was truly a nightmare of sorts. Between scraped knees and lost shoes and a fussy baby who wasn't keen on all the excitement. This year, with my little deer, Snow White and a teddy bear who refused to keep his bear-eared hood on, we enjoyed a great Halloween party and quite a bit of trick-or-treats.  The kids were intoxicated by the magic and excitement of it all. Little Isabel would get seconds from all the houses by holding out her bag after she was dished out a hand-full of candy, then the candy-giver would ask, "oh, do you want more?" And give her another handful. Needless to say, her bucket was twice as full as the others! :)
 Its neat how as the kids grow older, they have expectations of what we are going to do each season and holiday.  We took the kids to Hill High Farm last weekend to get our pumpkins! We arrived a little late and they closed the hay ride (oh how could they?), but we visited some sweet animals and picked out perfect little table-top pumpkins! 
 Kieran was at least content with dressing up and trick-or-treating, but mostly he loved the party.  There was a big plastic LittleTykes car that was just his size that he guarded pretty heavily all night long. Now he is so excited to pick out candy from his "Puck-in". :)
 I have a goal now of keeping Halloween costumes simple, preferably using something we have on hand. I was delighted that Anastasia wanted to be Snow White because we got a lovely Snow White dress at the Flea Market this summer. Her only request was for a matching dress for Bitty Baby and a big red bow. Easy Peasy. It seems she is on a rotation each year she is either a princess or a fairy. This year was a princess year.  Isabel went through wanting to be a deer, to a bunny, to a deer, bunny, Rose Red, a fairy, a bunny.  Finally on Sunday I told her to choose then and there what to be so we could get her costume ready or else she would have to choose from the dress up box. I just made ears and sewed them to a headband and painted a face... for a strikingly lovely deer.  And Kieran wore his old bear suit from last winter after I lost the desire to make him a monster costume (as if he needs a costume. He is always a monster).

 We survived the nasty little hurricane with no power outages.  Maybe because we over-prepared this time.  The wind was insane and the rain was unending, and my heart goes out to those up North who lost everything. 
Because of the massive storms, we kept our jack-o-lanterns indoors on our table this year.  We really enjoyed them so. I hope you all had an equally lovely Halloween!  And now it is November... and I am feeling the gravitational pull of Christmas on our lives already.  7 weeks is not that far away! 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A forest party for my little deer... and her brother too.

Last weekend we had a little party in the forest for Isabel and Kieran. Isabel is in love with deer and wanted a deer party, a new "mommy deer" for her birthday, and is going to be a deer for Halloween too.  We had a perfect, perfect party in the woods, on a most beautiful fall day.  My good friend Tara came up for the party, and I made a huge pot of Chili.  Sadly, my camera battery died before the party even began but I got a few pictures of a few of the decorations. :)
 And a blurry picture of my cute little bear... who is definitely a grizzly type bear looking for trouble.  I have a wonderful woodland Pinterest board full of ideas I never used. I did use these free printables with adorable animal ears. Seriously, printing them out on a rainy day will change your household into a happy woodland. In fact, I think the bear ears will be my halloween costume.  Also, this party kit on Etsy was very sweet.  So I just print and cut... the forest provided the rest of the party.
 My mom of course outdid herself with perfect cupcakes and an adoable fox cake!  Isabel has been obsessed with that cupcake stand my mom found on clearance at Michaels.  She has been talking about it for the past month and I think it was all she could have hoped for. I made a scavenger hunt and Anastasia drew clues on paper for a little treasure hunt.
 So we had a perfect day. 
 And now we are awaiting a historic storm. Most likely we will only get rain and wind, but it looks like so many people will be getting snow, and massive winds, rain and waves. I had to get face paint at Wal-Mart today and the water aisle was wiped completely clean. Its funny how people completely panic and buy out water, milk, and bread.  As if nothing else really matters as long as you have those things... so you can hydrate and have bread pudding? Anyway, we need milk and who knows if we will be able to get any in the next few days.  I can't help but wonder what tomorrow will bring, and I am praying for the safety of those closer to the storm's merciless path.

My girls are getting so big..... and it is getting so late. I need to get to bed. Until next time, be safe, evacuate if they tell you to and God bless.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

My Isabel is 4!

 Isabel turned four on Wednesday! FOUR! My goodness is she a wonderful 4-year old! Her birthdays are my favorite because she is so silly, clever, beautiful, enthusiastic and a little crazy.  And she loves birthdays. She has been obsessing over her birthday all summer long. Pretty much all year long, ever since her last birthday.  So the very day was the best day ever for her. At least since she turned three anyway.
 She was very fortunate that I was teaching my sewing class in the evening, so we let her open gifts first thing... while birthday cinnamon rolls were baking!  I had been up the night before sewing her a new dress, which was a very loved gift.
 This is one of the first times I have ever sewn Isabel a dress for herself, without making a matching one for Anastasia. At least the first time in a very long time.  So I think it was special. It was also special because there are deer on the bodice which is currently her favorite animal, along with kitties.  I used Simplicity 1793 and a little bit of Storyboek fabric I was able to find a 1/2 yard of off of Etsy. I am sort of in love with it, and used a little deer square on a little wool bag:
 I am sooo happy with this bag, and Isabel put all her birthday treasures in it. I found the wool at the flea market this summer. I bought a giant box of wool pieces... several yards worth for $5!!  And so now I will be making many more lovely, wool messenger bags. I really made the bag for this:
 Isabel received a camera for her birthday! This was something she has been asking for for a while. Almost as long as she has been asking about her birthday... so kind of a big deal!  She has been taking pictures of everything, and as it has been dropped several times I am soooo glad we opted for a kids camera instead of a cheap adult camera. Isabel spent her whole birthday taking pictures of everything.  We had her favorite dinner: Spaghetti and meatballs!  For dessert I made her cupcakes and planned to ice them after my sewing class.  While I was away, Kieran fed Leia (our dog) all 12 cupcakes!!! So I ended up at the grocery store buying cupcakes (and beer) at 9pm for our little celebration. 
Isabel loves her Little-Tiny-Baby-Kitty seen in this picture, which Anastasia picked out as an early birthday gift.  I helped Anastasia come up with a gift she could make Isabel this year.  We are just learning to sew and she opted to make a sleeping bag for Little Tiny Baby Kitty.  She picked the fabric for the pillow that I quickly sewed up, as we were running low on time.  I am really proud of her efforts, and the sweet gift she was able to give her sister... made with love. 

Its hard to imagine 4 years ago I was holding my little, bald, sweet Isabel for the first time ever. I had no idea the joy and laughter she would bring to this world. Nor the mop of red hair that would become of that peach fuzz. I could never have guessed how many band-aids one child could go through or how many snuggles a little girl could possibly need.  We have had our moments, good and bad, but Isabel is my mama's girl.  My needy, middle child who I have come to need too. :) Happy Birthday Isabel!