Laundry Basket Sleds and Snow Days…

Every kid dreams of it…. the illustrious “Snow Day.” They are not a come lately event here in Texas, so when our “Snow Day” event comes along it is like a major event in history. My kids recall events from their winters tied to a snow day. Embug might say, “Remember in 1st grade when there was already 2 inches of snow on the ground and Daddy drove us to school only for us to be dismissed early? That was the year I worked with Mrs. Friday on my reading after school.” or “Remember in 4th grade when I made snow angels in the driveway in my PJs when you told us we didn’t have school that morning? That was the year I was elected to be in Student Council.”

Snow Days hold great importance to this family. Not because we all haven’t experienced snow. Goodness knows both my time in Michigan as an adolescent and Eric’s time in Connecticut and Massachusetts provided us more than our fair share, which one might add was too far north to get a snow day! They are important because they are like a much needed pause button in the race of life. We get a chance to connect, slow down and enjoy just being together.

Below is a Flipagram of some of our “Snow Day” pics of this past winter. We actually had very unusual, and late snow events this year… yes we had more than one!

What is your “history making” Snow Day memory?

 

Our Little (?) Sweetheart…

Valentine Sweetheart Embug February 2015

Valentine Sweetheart Embug February 2015

In the fall Embug attended her first school dance. This girl loves a good party, especially where there is lots of good dance music. So when it was announced there would be a “Valentine Dance” we knew she would be going.

Now that she had gone to the first dance, she had even more ideas on how to prep for this one. The search for the perfect dress began early in January. I had many an email, text and conversation with her over just the right RED dress. I loved all of her choices. All modest and reminiscent of the Audrey Hepburn classic look. She had one she really wanted but every site we went to purchase it was sold out. Finally we found a suitable second… which was way less expensive, too.

She had the dress, curled the hair, invited friends to go with her and was ready for a night of fun with 100s of her closest middle school friends.

All smiles taking a picture with friends before Valentine Dance 2015.

All smiles taking a picture with friends before Valentine Dance 2015.

It was great to see her so excited to go and happy after the fact as well. It is bittersweet to watch her grow into this amazing young woman, so full of hope and expectations of what life will bring. I’d like it to slow down a little, but we all know that won’t be happening.

So I try to savor each moment. Take it in and cherish these times. I sometimes wonder if these times of reflection and savoring is what Jesus’ mother Mary was doing throughout His life that was momentarily captured in Luke 2:19 “But Mary treasured these things and pondered them in her heart.” I also wonder how much did she know in advance of the sacrifice that He made on the cross. I can’t imagine in moments of joy like this “Valentine Dance” could one experience the knowing of future loss at the same time. How blessed I am to experience the joy of seeing my daughter excited, expectant and gleeful without the knowing of future sadness.

Some may want to know what the future holds, I for one am thankful for the moments of joy that the present has brought. Moments of my not-so-little sweethearts life journey that bring a smile to her father’s and my face.

 

Caroling and Candy Cane Bombing

This fall I became a life-group leader for 6th grade girls via our Church Youth Group… known by students as Fellowship of the Parks (FOTP) “Inception.”

inception

Every Wednesday after a time of worship and a message from the youth ministry team, I get to sit down and learn more about this amazing group of 6th grade young ladies. They are enthusiastic, energetic, generous, kind, considerate, compassionate, silly, goofy, dynamic and unique. At the beginning of December I challenged them to do random acts of kindness throughout the month.

RAK calendar (I used the calendar here that was shared with me on Facebook from the blog site coffeeandcrayons.com)

Every time we met they had wonderful stories of how they gave to others and their joy in giving was contagious. One of the ideas we considered as a random act of kindness was candy cane bombing. This typically is where you go to a parking lot outside of a grocery store or large warehouse retail store (i.e. Wal-Mart) and place candy canes on every windshield. While the idea itself is fun, as the adult in the conversation, I was concerned about the safety of all my girls that would participate.

To appease the eagerness to do the candy cane bombing, we came to a reasonable alternative. We would carol and candy cane bomb at the same time.

IMG_6853So in celebration of the Savior’s birth and to provide an opportunity for these girls to come together socially outside of the normal weekly “Inception” meetings, I hosted a Christmas party. We grilled hamburgers, ate cake pops and then grabbed packets of carol lyrics and candy canes. This new twist on candy cane bombing was to go to every door in the general area of our home, knock and then begin caroling. If a door opened continue the song to an appropriate stopping point then gift the audience with candy canes. If no door opened finish the carol and leave a candy cane on the door knob.

The event was a success and the young ladies loved it as much as the neighbors.

IMG_6999[1]IMG_7003[1]IMG_7006[1]Who knew what started off as a conversation about random acts of kindness would turn into an event that was so much fun that the girls asked as they left if this would become an annual Christmas event. Of course I am only too happy to continue this event, candy canes included. It not only revives the tradition of caroling that many have long forgotten, but allows me to relive my own childhood memories of caroling under the guise of providing “adult supervision.”

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What holiday activities from your childhood would you like to see re-emerge?

“You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out!”

FullSizeRender[1]By the time the last day of school before the holiday break starts most of us are ready.  Some of us are so haggard with events and parties we may even exclaim “I just want to poke my eyes out!” But God gave me a Christmas Baby, and he gave me the energy, stamina and creativity, I believe, to do both the holiday activities and Embug’s birthday with equal energy and excitement.

Lucky for me, Embug loves all things Christmas and I have given extra effort to keeping her birthday special in the mix of all the holiday hullabaloo. Even though I do everything to separate the events of Christmas and her birthday, it has become a natural process to integrate the themes of the season into her birthday.  This year was no exception.

This year my biggest challenge was not to keep it special for Embug… but to make it “cool” for my blossoming Tween. We’ve tried small intimate birthday celebrations and big “on site” birthday events. Either have had their set of challenges. Most of our difficulties lie in scheduling a time when there weren’t conflicts with everyone getting to her party due to parentals having holiday events of their own.

To try to plan for the least amount of conflict we planned for the evening on the last day of school. Most parentals have had their company or neighborhood parties and kids events are over. Now we just run into those that may be headed out of town for family holiday events or vacation.

The second challenge, which is a new one for us this year, is making it appealing for both boys and girls. This is where the collaboration between myself and Embug came into play. One of Embug’s favorite movies is “A Christmas Story.” Over the course of several discussions with her friends she discovered that this was not a well-watched Christmas movie by her peers. After she got over the initial indignation of the lack of Christmas culture, an idea arose. Embug and I devised a plan to have “A Christmas Story” Themed Birthday party.

Christmas Story Invite frontChristmas Story Invite BackThis party involved PJs (footie PJs preferred), BB Gun target practice with a Red Rider BB gun, fried rice and egg rolls in honor of the Chinese Restaurant where Ralphie’s family was relegated to after the Bumpus’ hounds destroyed the Christmas turkey, and a viewing of the Cult-Acclaimed “A Christmas Story.” What tween boy or girl would not enjoy this event?

 

 

The evening arrived and there was an excited buzz in our home.  The fried rice and egg rolls were a FullSizeRender[1]surprising hit and the party guests couldn’t get enough of the BB gun target practice. While some didn’t have quite the artistic appreciation for the movie, Embug was content in knowing she had passed on yet another nugget of Christmas culture to her friends.

Embugs Birthday 2014FullSizeRender[1]

 

 

 

 

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While we didn’t have cake. Cake pops were all the rage with flavors of lemon, red velvet, vanilla and FullSizeRender_2[1]chocolate done in thFullSizeRender_4[1]e shapes of the “Frah-gee-lay” box, Target with the words “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out!”, lampshade from the “Leg Lamp Award”, and Ralphie “Bunny PJs” head.

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It was a success all the way through. I have the evidence to prove it, as over and over again Embug thanked me for a great party.

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I only have about 6 more years of birthday parties that I will be able to plan for her before she’s out on her own, and I realize that the next 6 years will probably be some of the most challenging parties to plan, but I am going to enjoy the success of this one.

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However, any and all suggestions for future parties are welcome!

Christmas Orchestra Concert and Talent Show

This time of year seems to be heavy on Embug events. (Lucky for us Kritterman is content with his basketball and Legos.)

christmas orchestra pit 2014

Embug participated in her first Christmas Orchestra Concert. There was huge improvement with the 6th grade orchestras as a whole since their fall performance just 7 weeks earlier. They played a series of ten 30 to 60 second arrangements.

Christmas Orchestra Concert Program

I captured them on video but that will stay in the family archives, as I believe only a parent can appreciate the performance. It was also difficult to capture a shot of her with her bass, as we all know the bass section is always at the back of the orchestra pit. Of course we are proud of our amazing FIRST Chair Bass Player (Yes! First chair!).

Christmas Orchestra concert ImageThe same week as the Christmas Orchestra Concert was the Wilson Middle School Talent Show. Unlike in previous years there were tryouts where not everybody made it. We were very honored when Embug was one of the sixth graders selected.

She was in charge of this project from beginning to end. She selected her song and accompaniment soundtrack… “We Need a Little Christmas,” planned and rehearsed her own choreography, and chose her “flashy” Christmas sweater and metallic leggings (that look flesh colored in the video).

She had two performances on the last day before the holiday break that resulted in her singing in front of the entire student body by the end of the day.  I took her brother out of school for the first performance mid-morning so we could watch her, then returned him to school for his Christmas party.  Eric came for the afternoon performance.

Here is a less than professional recording job, compliments of my iPhone.

Unfortunately, the video also does a poor job of capturing her facial expressions as she sang, which made the song all the more entertaining.

Practically speaking, I should not go and buy expensive recording equipment or cameras to capture all these events, but part of me wonders if I should. Either way, the moment has been captured and this is just enough for me, Eric and Kritterman to remember how it was in person. Pure joy!

Birthday Girl and Christmas Concerts…

wilson_13

I love my December baby.  She was my first and the best Christmas present, ever. To be gifted with motherhood by such an amazing human like Embug makes her birthday every year a celebration and a bit tearful for me. The time is going by so fast.  It hit me that 6 birthdays from now will be her last birthday at home before she graduates from High School.  The last 12 birthdays have gone way too fast, so I know these next six will pass before me at the speed of light. **Sigh**

All I want to do is slow down time. This time of year that seems to be near impossible.  I love the bustle and hustle of preparing for Christmas, but I also dislike how it shortens the moments of time that you can slow down and enjoy your friends and family.

On top of Embug being amazing in general, she has an amazing gift for music and specifically with her voice.  She is part of a special performance choir called “Cantare’ Children’s Performance Choir” sponsored by White’s Chapel United Methodist Church. This is a community choir, so any child 3rd through 12th grade can try out.  We have been with them now for two and half years. We love it… except that it makes any family time or time with friends and parties very challenging. Embug over the past two years has missed more than her fair share of Christmas parties, sleepovers and holiday get-togethers. The rest of the family has had to shuffle, re-structure and spend numerous hours via phone and text to keep communication lines open in order to be sure that all normal and holiday responsibilities and events are not forgotten.  Any last minute addition to the calendar can cause this delicate balance of schedules to topple into a chasm of chaos.

Nonetheless, it is worth it.  Our Christmas angel shines.  Her radiant smile, melodious voice and the joy she exudes makes the two weekends of extra rehearsals and six performances all worth it.

Here is a rough video of their songs they performed (warning it is about 10 minutes long and really only meant for proud grandparents, aunts and uncles):

I imagine this is how most holidays will be for us. I can’t imagine her not performing or participating in some sort of holiday event. It’s in her blood and she loves to share the joy of this season too much to not share it through one of her most amazing gifts, her voice.

Happy 12th Birthday, Embug! AND…

keep calm and sing carols

Sinterklaus and Ugly Sweaters

There are many traditions that families have during this time of year. Some light an advent candle and have an advent calendar, others visit every holiday show and light display possible throughout the season, and others may do an Elf on the Shelf.

Whatever you do it is something your family looks forward to with anticipation. Some traditions are influenced by your childhood, others are new traditions that have been created as a unique part of your family. There are opinions about all of them and with the explosion of social media and blogs there is no shortage of said opinions. I have come to a point that I don’t pay attention to others’ opinions, but rather, focus on the house where my husband and I create a home for our family.

One tradition, new to me but is part of my ethnic background, is Sinterklaus Day. Sinterklaus is the Dutch Santa or St. Nick.  From what I have learned over the years Dutch culture and tradition separate the visit of Sinterklaus and the birth of Jesus. Sinterklaus Day comes early in the Christmas season while Christ’s birth is observed on the 25th. This white-bearded man, donning a long colorful winter coat, rides in on his horse late in the evening on December 5th. Dutch children leave their wooden shoes on the front porch with goodies for Sinterklaus’ horse in great anticipation. On the morning of December 6th children awake to find goodies such as succulent fruits and sweetbreads if they have been well-behaved; if not they find switches.  The idea of the wooden shoe is believed to have evolved into the American tradition of hanging the stockings.

When my Daughter Embug was born we started celebrating Sinterklaus Day. While we do put out wooden shoes, they are not shoes we wear like the Dutch children. Embug and Kritterman enjoy leaving hay, an apple and carrots for Sinterklaus’ horse. On December 6th Sinterklaus usually leaves each child their Christmas PJs for the season, Christmas ornament, Christmas t-shirt or sweater, a Christmas Movie or CD, plus a variety of yummies and winter stocking caps/mittens. This tradition has become such a part of us that Embug and Kritterman were surprised when they found out from their peers that Sinterklaus did not visit their homes. However, Sinterklaus has made his way to homes of our friends in recent years once those children learned of his practices.

Sinterklaus Day 14

In addition to the tradition of Sinterklaus, the family has been caught square in the web of the Ugly Sweater themed Days and Parties. While there are too many events to recount, one party got Kirsten and Eric caught red-handed in the knitted disasters.

Chrismas Sweater

How are you creating memories and celebrating new and old traditions in your family?

Family, Football and Faith

It doesn’t happen every year, but we try as best we can to go to at least one home Razorback game in Fayetteville. With my sister now living in Farmington (a small country town near Fayetteville) and my parents in Little Rock, coming to a game is a family event, for the four of us and beyond.

We packed up the car and headed to Fayetteville this November for the last home game against Ole Miss. We drove up hopeful for a win, but the sting of loss with every home game we had been to the last few years in the back of our minds. With that the forecast was for 100% chance of rain with temperatures in the low 50s.

This was not a game for the faint-hearted. Only the committed need attend… and attend they did. Despite the rain the Hogs shutout the Ole Miss Rebels 30-0 to a nearly full Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Even better, we, as a family, were there to witness in person.

With my sister’s family and her kids with us at the game, we cheered on our Hogs with unbridled enthusiasm and joy. Being a Razorback has been a part of who I was a child, then attended the University where I received my Bachelor’s in Education. I even married a second generation Razorback.  The Hog blood runs deep.

It is no coincidence that are kids have aspirations to attend the University of Arkansas. While those future plans may not be realized, the memories and the love for the Razorbacks will continue. There is no doubt memories were made with this game, where this shutout with ranked Ole’ Miss was epic.

After the game on Saturday the kids went to  my sister’s to have cousin time, while Eric and I met up with one of my former students, Kelley Whitson and her boyfriend. We enjoyed amazing gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches at “Hammontrees.” Their homemade soups and their multitude of twists on the basic grilled cheese are incredible both in taste and creativity. After great conversation and sandwiches, we made our way down Dickson Street to check out the night life. We quickly became aware that we are no longer “night life” people. Plan B led us to our favorite college eatery, “Hugo’s.” There we had their famous grasshopper crepes. We wrapped the night with a walk on the Fayetteville Square already lit up for Christmas… complete with Christmas Razorbacks!

Hog Christmas Lights

The following day we enjoyed an early Thanksgiving dinner with my sister, her family and my parents that came up for the game from Little Rock. We had a great time reflecting on our blessings, laughing and eating delicious home-prepared food in my sister’s home. Food, family and faith… that’s what brings us together, connects us, and holds us together.  For that, I am thankful.

How was your Thanksgiving?

Piano Practice Pays Off

The weekend of November 15th Embug and Kritterman competed in their first piano competition.

Piano contest both fall 2014

With the support of their piano teacher Mrs. Emily Tarpening, they each performed a selected piece before a judge.

Kritter Fall music contest with music 2014

Kritterman did well and got a rating of Superior.

Emmarie Trophy for Fall Music Contest 2014

Embug did well too, receiving a rating of Superior+ and then performed in the recital honoring those at the competition who received the same rating as she did.

We continue to be amazed at the musical ability of our children. It is also exciting to see them eagerly practice and tickle the ivories on the piano once played by my grandmother, Charlotte Huitink.

Bump, Set, Spike…. or is it GOOAALL?

This fall has been a scheduling balance between Embug’s Volleyball events and Kritterman’s events, weekends and evenings without a place to be are a rarity.

Emmarie Volleyball Fall 14

Embug grew in confidence and skill this fall with her new Volleyball team the Volley Girls.  Her former team had exposed her to many skills and strategies that worked well for her this fall.  It was wonderful to watch her play with the enthusiasm and joy she had when she started playing when she entered the sport 5 years ago. We even saw the return of “Happy Feet” when she would dance with enthusiasm and encouragement for her team between plays and her rotations to the side lines.

Kritter Soccer fall 14

Kritterman switched to the Keller Youth Soccer Association and played with a lively and talented team called the “Fire” Every week it was incredible to watch as the team improved both as a group and individually.

Who knows what the winter and spring will bring. For now we will celebrate the valuable experiences, wins and lessons learned. And… a small part of me is thankful for the slower schedule for a little while.

Oh, but wait… Kritterman starts basketball this week. *Sigh*

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