20 Years and Counting…

FullSizeRender (2)Eric and  I celebrated our 20th anniversary back in July.  We have moved to 4 different towns during that time. Had 7 different addresses, and become parents. All that moving around and child rearing can result in some friendships becoming more distant, and even lose complete contact with wonderful people.

However, there are just some people you can’t lose… no matter the how much you move around. As luck would have it, they sometimes move in the same places. The Johnson’s are those people.

FullSizeRender (4)Eric and I met Bruce and Janice the summer we were engaged to be married in Ozark, Arkansas (our first community to reside in as a married couple). Once married we attended several events at their home. Janice taught me the finer art of garage sale-ing and showed me how to “Design on a Dime” before HGTV ever thought of it as a concept for a television show. To top it all off, my first year of teaching, I taught Janice’s oldest son Cody. Our lives were intricately woven.

Fast forward five years, Eric was transferred to Waco by his employer. We loved the little town of Ozark and the people we had met. However, we were headed to a new life in a new town. We figured our interactions would be few if any with the Johnson’s and the rest of our Ozark friends.

Fast forward six years, we left Waco (with one child and another on the way) and headed to a new opportunity in Dallas/Fort Worth. Three years after that I returned to teaching at Haslet Elementary in Northwest ISD. A year later I discovered Facebook. Through a former friend still in Ozark via Facebook we learned that Janice and Bruce were living in the very town I taught in, Haslet!

FullSizeRender_4Quickly we reconnected. We have been going to most of their New Year’s Parties and other social events since then. This year was no different… except now our children have come to expect this celebratory tradition.

FullSizeRender (3)Some paths only cross for a little while, others weave back and forth and by creative design are intricately woven. That is the path that has formed between the Johnson’s and the Wilson’s.

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What paths in your life have crossed the paths of others and become a part of your intricately woven life journey?

It’s a Razorback Tradition

Razorback Texas Bowl

This Christmas Break we had the opportunity to take the kids to the Texas Bowl in Houston at the NRG Event Center.  This was especially exciting for Eric and I, who got to relive the old rivalry from the Southwest Conference days.

Experiencing the pre-game events, running into former head football coach Ken Hatfield made this family’s Razorback Football traditions even better. The kids were all in…

From the 5 hour ride down, to the stop at Bucee’s (going down and coming home), to the entire event, there enthusiasm never wavered. Even when we stopped at Whattaburger some time after midnight for an after-game victory snack.

Our Razorback game-watching family tradition continues, and this event will be one of the best memories in a long line of games that have already passed and the many games we will experience in the future.

What traditions does your family bond through? How has it become a part of your family culture and fabric?

Traditions, Santa and Visitors…

Christmastime is full of all kinds of traditions. Some traditions continue for generations and others for a season.  The tradition of believing in Santa is for a season and all indications say this was the last year of true belief.

We began the our Christmas Holiday break with Eric’s mom and step-dad, or as the kids know… Grammy Kelly and Gramps Dale, visiting from Florida. We were so excited for their arrival and visit, as they had never seen our new home in Haslet, nor had they been back to Texas since they moved away 7 years ago.

To make their stay extra special we had planned all our meals around a Texas Christmas theme.

12 Foods of Texas at ChristmasIn addition to the yummy planned meals we enjoyed the comfort of a warm fire almost every day. On Christmas Eve we baked and decorated cookies, attended Christmas services at Fellowship of the Parks- Haslet, ate our traditional Christmas Eve meal at our hometown Joe’s Pizza and Pasta and drove around the area enjoying the outdoor Christmas lights.

Upon returning home we put out the reindeer food (dried oats and cookie sprinkles), plated the cookies and milk (egg nog at our house), and read the Christmas Story. Every Christmas Eve we relive the story through the nativity poem/interactive manger scene “What God Wants for Christmas.”  In years past I would read the story and the kids would create the scene as the story unfolded. This year, the kids took over and read, unpacking the manger scene as they went. It was a precious site to see and while the tradition has evolved, the change a bit bittersweet, the tradition that was once mine to initiate, has  now become part of Embug and Kritterman’s own fabric of Christmas traditions.

Once we were all nestled all snug in our beds… Santa arrived stuffing the stockings and leaving presents under the tree. In his haste to depart a boot print of soot remained on the hearth and a subtle reminder that the bell still rings for those who truly believe.

Ice Skating and The Stockyards

Only in Fort Worth, Texas can you take your kids to ice skate and see a cattle drive all in the same day.

On the Monday before Christmas with our good friends the Bear’s, we ventured out to ice skate at the Outdoor Panther Ice Rink (yes the high temperature was in the mid-50s) and then watch the Cattle Drive in the Stockyards. We also enjoyed a delicious lunch at the one and only Joe T. Garcia’s followed by the kids trying out the life sized maze off of Exchange Avenue near the stockyards and made famous by the “Amazing Race.”

Here is a few snapshots that was compiled into a flipagram for viewing pleasure.

Look for more updates from the holiday break to be posted soon…

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.

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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!

Basketball and The Kritterman

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We are trying the sport of basketball this winter. Kritterman showed interest in trying out a new sport. Neither Eric or I are under the delusion that just because he has the “tall” gene, he will play this sport with ease. Eric knows first hand the misplaced expectations placed on a tall person to be a “pro” at basketball. So we encourage Kritterman, while realizing that it should not surprise us if he walks away not loving it.

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So far he is thoroughly enjoying learning the sport, practicing with his team and coach, and playing the game.  He has seen first hand adults act a little crazy and make poor choices, all for the sake of a win. He has also seen adults stand up for what is right.  He has experienced a huge defeat, the taste of almost winning and finally a win. Most of all he is learning the importance of teamwork and a love for the intricacies of the game.

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This season he is a Jayhawk and is enjoying all the thrills that come with the “round ball” sport.

 

Birthday Girl and Christmas Concerts…

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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?

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