Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Letter 2009

It’s hard to believe that 2009 is coming to an end. We hear everyone give us the advice to enjoy our kids today because we will blink and they will be grown and out of the house. Although that may not yet be the case, we are beginning to see how very fast they grow. This past year has been little more than a blur.

Nikelle is 7-years-old now and we are coming to the realization that we are no longer just teaching her basic life skills. Rather, with the questions she now raises, we realize that we have reached the point in life where we have the responsibility to equip her to make decisions for herself. Being in the second grade, we can no longer pretend that we can protect her from everything that comes her way. It’s a daunting reality and we are learning the importance of prayer. At the same time, she is only 7 and she enjoys the simple things in life. She loves to write stories and plays and we are often beckoned to come watch a performance she has planned where she dances or sings. Our silly Nike has such a creative little mind to where she can be so wrapped up in her own little world that we don’t even know how to respond. Grandma Carlson gifted her with the American Girl doll, Felicity, this year for her birthday and thus began the craze. (Last year it was Webkinz which still continues.) Nikelle is an incredible big sister. She is always using the dry erase board and chalkboard to give Jaycie school lessons and runs to her baby sister whenever she is needed. She has even begun to get Andelise out of the crib at times!

Jaycie started preschool this year. Although we were a bit nervous as to how she would handle the situation, we were hopeful that preschool would help her come out of her shell a bit. If you have met our Jay Jay, chances are that she has led you to believe she is a mute. For some reason, our 4-year-old simply cannot handle crowds. It’s been a growing experience to say the least. We went from having crafts sent home untouched for her to complete on her own to her writing her own name very legibly on her completed work at school now. Jaycie started attending AWANA with her big sister this year. She was slightly disappointed that she wouldn’t be attending Sparks with her big sister but is now enjoying being in Cubbies. With Jaycie’s social anxiety, we are thankful Tristi has been able to assist with the little ones. We cherish the way Jay will now want to pray at dinnertime as she recites one of the Bible verses she learned at club: “Give thanks to the Lord… who made the great lights… sun… moon and stars...” (Psalm 136:3,7) Jaycie enjoys doing most everything her big sister does and carefully protects her toys from her little sister. Jaycie can be found putting together puzzles or using her imagination as she plays with Barbies.

Andelise is a 1-year-old on the go. This little tornado seems to be a magnet for trouble! Ande has been walking since she turned 10-months-old and quickly graduated to climbing onto stairs, chairs and tables. She looks up to her sisters and tells us all sorts of stories we simply cannot understand much of. One word she speaks very clearly is “no” and we often refer to her as “a little bully” because she is determined to get what she wants. Our Ande loves to dance and play dress-up with her big sisters and thoroughly enjoys decking herself out in the bling! Ande Randy will often walk up to Nikelle when she is upset asking to be held for comfort. The other day, when Jaycie arrived home from preschool, Ande walked right up to her, said her name, and reached out her arms for a hug. It can be quite heart-warming to see our girls get along. Their Daddy is constantly reminding them how they are one another’s best friends and we hope they truly embrace this later in life.

We thank God that Rod is still employed by UGN in Tinley Park. Despite the difficult economy and lay-offs over the past year, he was able to keep his job and we have been able to continue to enjoy life without too much alteration. The highlight of this past year for Rod was joining the Lincoln-Way Marching Band for an alumni performance. We were so pleased that our older girls were able to watch him participate in one of his favorite pastimes. Although it was raining non-stop, God was kind enough to “make a drizzle instead” (Nikelle‘s words). There was even a pleasant surprise to see a picture of him playing his saxophone in the newspaper. (Rod would like to make it known that autographs will be available for $5 each and a Christmas special of $2.99.)

Tristi continues to be able to stay at home with the kids for which we continue to be so grateful. Although she has yet to quite figure out how to balance life while raising three kids, she remembers that there is much joy despite the way life attempts to swallow it up in the daily grind. She is doing her best to work running back into her routine (when the kids actually allow her to keep to a routine). Most of her day is spent investing in relationships which she wouldn’t trade for much of anything.

Our emotions continue to pull at our hearts as we learn to live this life without our dads. Any given day can have a moment sneak up on us playing games with our hearts and yet we know that we have so very much to be thankful for. Our life is filled with blessings from cherished memories to watching our three healthy little girls grow. We are constantly reminded that in thankfulness, we find joy.

We are looking forward to an intentional 2010 where we fight against busyness and focus in on what matters. We desire to intentionally add rest to our lives while we are intentional in our relationships with God and one another. We are thankful for each one of you and pray 2010 draws you closer to the very reason for this season - Jesus.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fit Him In (Mom Connection Cookie Exchange 2009)


The decorations need to go up
There are presents still to buy
More gifts are waiting to be wrapped
And the bows each need to be tied
Pictures need to be taken
Letters wait for me to share
Envelopes still need to be addressed
And Jesus asks me to fit Him in somewhere

The Christmas story should be read
The advent wreath is lit
The Christmas play we must attend
And the school party I’ll attempt to fit
Thank you gifts for teachers
Christmas classics we long to see
Menus wait to be planned
Emotions of Christmases past grab me

There are church services to attend
Extended family I wish to see
Parties need coordinating
I hear of a family who is in need
My mind continues to mull over my list
Another good cause begs me to share
Cookies are in need of baking
And Jesus asks me to fit Him in somewhere

Weekly responsibilities still beckon
Work, school, homework and such
Math facts, reading, stories to write
There’s just so very much
The kids all still need bathing
Their little bellies still need to be fed
There are diapers that are in need of changing
And that Christmas story still needs to be read
The house is in need of a vacuum
Dishes mount up and I begin not to care
Laundry is still not done
And Jesus asks me to fit Him in somewhere

The dog is asking to go out
The ground has a coating of snow
My children will be begging to play
In the yard they will want to go
My husband’s eyes have that twinkle
I need to fit in some time with my friends
Exercise is in the back of my mind
Will these demands on me never end?

I should probably wash the windows
And the carpet, hallway, and kitchen floor
I still need to wrap presents and bake cookies
And yet everyone is asking me for more
People are pulling from every which way
Responsibilities are too much to bear
I go to bed praying, I can’t do it alone
And Jesus asks me to fit Him in somewhere

I wake up in the morning to the cry of my child
And thank God when she goes back to sleep
I remember I can’t get through the day without Jesus
I open my Bible with the prayer journal I keep

The Book of Luke tells me of the way
Christ Jesus came to earth
My heart is filled as I read the story
Of the angels announcing our Savior’s birth
The inn was too full for the gift
that came to Bethlehem that night
There was hustle and bustle from the census
As the shepherds out in the fields were filled with holy fright
I wonder if I would have missed it
if I were there back then
Would I have been too concerned with responsibilities
Or watching and waiting as the shepherds had been?

I need to be intentional
if I’m going to include Jesus in my day
I need to remember that Christmas is Jesus
And take the time to spend listening to Him and pray
Many of these things on my task list are a good and necessary part
It’s just none of them do quite as much as hiding God’s Word deep inside my heart

I must not forget about Jesus
as I go from here to there
I must remember it’s all about Jesus
and find ways to fit Him in everywhere.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Family Dinner

Dinner is always a battle. It never fails - someone does not want to eat what I have cooked. Last night was no exception. After preparing dinner with a toddler on my leg screaming at me to hold her (she does this every night until I get her fed), I finally got her into her chair with some food. She arched her back and stiffened her body and continued screaming. Now that just made me feel all warm and fuzzy for a family meal! (hear the sarcastic tone please)

We decided to just put her to bed early and began finishing our meal with the older girls. We were informing the girls that they would not receive any dessert, candy, snacks, etc. unless they finished everything they were given. (This is now standard practice because after they refuse to eat they think we should provide them something else for their hungry bodies.)

Nikelle well aware of this share her thoughts. "Instead of saying, 'I don't like this', I am thinking 'Be content with what you have because God has said never will I leave you never will I forsake you."

I'm so grateful that my time every Wednesday taking her to AWANA is coming to fruition!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A new "BFF"

So, Nikelle came home from school today having done her homework on the bus. Not more than 5 minutes after getting into the door, the phone rang with a number I did not recognize. For some reason, I decided to answer the phone anyway. It was a friend calling for Nikelle. Nikelle took the phone and talked for a short while. When she hung up she informed me that her friend, David, was hungry and he would call her back in a minute after he ate.

Being the responsible parent that I am, I began my inquiry as to who David was. My daughter went on to inform me of her new "BFF" that she just made the other day. My question was, "you just met him yesterday and he's your new BFF"? Silly question from Nikelle's tone. "No, I didn't just meet him yesterday."

"Is he in your class?"
"Does he sit at your table?"
"Not any more. He used to sit at my table but now he sits at a different table."
"What do you like about him?"
"He plays with me at recess."
"What do you play?"
"We play dog... Xander plays too..."

Now it all started falling into place a bit. I know Xander. He's a good kid. By association, David probably is as well. Nikelle enjoys playing with kids that want to use their imaginations. I'm glad she's found a couple of them who are willing to join in on her choice of fun.

David called back a couple of other times and I did my darnedest to listen in. For a little while, they even played "dog" on the phone. That was interesting. I put a time limit on her call and when he called back for the purpose of getting her address to write a letter, I tried to control the time of that conversation as well.

My mind naturally fast forwarded to the future. There will be boys calling and she won't be so willing to have the conversation in the living room where I am in earshot. It's only going to get harder. And to think I was feeling a bit nervous just because I didn't know what kind of influence this 7-year-old boy is having on my daughter. Yikes! God help us. Sincerely. God help us.

Any advice?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

An emotional day

Today was an emotional day from start to finish. That's why I suppose it hit the heartstrings when Jaycie said what she said. We were on our way home from AWANA when Nikelle and her friend started talking about Christmas which led to Jesus' birth which brought conversation about Jesus dying on the cross for us which naturally led to his resurrection. We mentioned how Jesus proved he was God by raising from the dead. How everyone else stays dead when they die. This is when Jaycie chimed in.

Jaycie: "But Grandpa and Papa will come back when it snows."
Me: "No, Jay. They won't. Grandpa and Papa are in Heaven with Jesus."
Jaycie: "Then who will play Santa at Grams' house?"
Me: "That's a nice memory we have of Papa, Jay. We'll just have to see who else can be Santa."

It just made me cry.