Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

22 Aug 2008

It is officially 2010 here in England. Happpppyyyyy Newwww Yeaaarrr!

To my dear friends & family,

Have a wonderfully blessed 2010 filled with love, joy, laughter, and all that God has in store for you.

New Year’s Reflections
Looking back on the months gone by,
As a new year starts and an old one ends,
We contemplate what brought us joy,
And we think of our loved ones and our friends.

Recalling all the happy times,
Remembering how they enriched our lives,
We reflect upon who really counts,
As the fresh and bright new year arrives.

And when I ponder those who do,
I immediately think of you.

Thanks for being one of the reasons I'll have a Happy New Year!

By Joanna Fuchs

"52 Weeks"~~~~19/52 Photos of Me

"52 Weeks" is a weekly blog carnival that Carin over at "Forever in Blue Jeans" hosts. It's a challenge for us moms to finally get in the picture instead of being the ones that are always taking them. It's been great fun and I appreciate Carin for starting it.

Several weeks ago, Shawn and I took the kids to Munich to check out the Christmas markets, and, more importantly, to see Germany. Shawn is 100% German and I have some German in me as well. Since we're talking about nationalities, I'm also French, Scottish, English, Norwegian and Irish. I know, I'm a mutt. Doesn't that sound bad? That's what people always say when I tell them all of these various nationalities that make me who I am.

We were walking around and buying little things from the market especially little Christmas presents from the kids to each other.

We went to a little town in Germany called Mittenwald that was so quaint and beautiful. Do you see the mountains in the background? It was just beautiful to be there with the snow-covered mountains and charming storefronts. My husband found the cuckoo clock he had intended to buy while visiting. We really look forward to hanging it up when we return to Michigan.

I was sitting in the apartment, kicking back, and relaxing.

This final photo was taken in another town called Rattenberg in Austria. Each year they host a wonderful Advent celebration in their village and people from all around in neighboring towns travel to go there. We were blessed because our apartment was only a 15 minute drive from it. But boy was it cold outside!

I plan on doing a series of posts about our German & Austrian adventures after the New Year. So stay tuned.

Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wordless Wednesday! ~ Snow Fun!

Sledding in Austria. Great family fun.

Check out "5 Minutes for Mom" to see more Wordless Wednesday posts.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Twins turn 88, Phat stockings, Santa, & Sightseeing

OK, so our little guys turned 8. They get really excited about their birthday coming around, and even though they are Christmas Eve babies that open presents two days in a row, they never feel jipped. They feel doubly blessed and that's exactly what they are to us. A double blessing!

Their older siblings get extremely excited for them and they remember that in just one day, they'll have presents of their own to open.

Look at these cutie patooties!
I made a cake with vanilla pudding and bananas on top. Once the candles are blown out, and the cake is cut, the whipped cream is put on top. I had made two cakes for them in late November when we had their birthday party. It's the first time we ever celebrated them that early so that their friends could be there. Birthdays so close to Christmas are challenging, but we make it work.

Happy 8th Birthday, Grant and Cooper!

One day before we celebrated our twins, my Aunt Judy and "Aunt" Betsy arrived from New Jersey. I say "Aunt" because she is my mom's cousin. I'd rather show respect by calling her Aunt Betsy and she doesn't seem to mind. :-)

On the night of Christmas Eve, we traditionally open one gift and it's new pajamas! It's so much fun to get new ones.

And you just have to get a photo in front of the Christmas tree with them on.

On Christmas morning, this is what the kids woke up to...

Filled stockings,

and lots of presents.
The kids each buy a small gift for each other and Mommy & Daddy. They really love giving gifts to everyone.

Austin received this "Manchester United" mug.

My morning coffee and a gift from one of the children.

Braaten & Austin

Shawn was totally posing for this one as Melanie gave him his gift from Germany.

Braaten loving on the boys. She is a wonderful big sister.

Cooper is keeping track of all the great gifts he is receiving.

And Grant is rocking it out with his new guitar.

Fletch just loves to be in the middle of it all.

After the lengthy process of opening presents, we had ham strada for breakfast. Later on in the day, we baked a ham and had roasted potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, and carrots. We each had a Christmas cracker which is a small gift that pops when you pull it. Inside each of them is a paper crown that everyone wears along with a little cheesy prize. It's traditional for the English to have these.

My Aunt Betsy is sitting next to me and Aunt Judy is across from me. They like the idea of the Christmas crackers and love being around the children as the magic of Christmas happens. We love being around them, too, as they share memories of days gone by. Their presence reminds me so much of my mom and gets me talking fondly of her. Some of the phrases they use are exactly what my mom used to say and it brings a tear to my eye and joy in my heart. Both my parents are missed incredibly.

Melanie was reading the joke & brain teaser found in each of the crackers.

The day after Christmas, we took the aunts to Wales. As they sat in the car at one particular point, they nervously watched Braaten pose as though she was falling down the side of mountain. Calm down, Aunt Jude, it's just a good photo op.

Beautiful Llangollen, Wales

Aunt Judy is smiling from afar as she sees Shawn capture her in this photo.

I love seeing her smiling and happy. It wasn't long ago that my Uncle Lenny passed away (in February of this year) and the holidays always make us reflect on those we love that have gone before us. She is strong and is doing really well.

Smile, Aunt Betsy. Both aunts don't like their pictures taken, but we love to take pictures. We win!

Melanie asked me to take a video with her new video camera.

Today both aunts took a train to Edinburgh, Scotland for a couple of days. They'll be back to help us ring in the New Year and will continue their European adventures on January 2nd.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas List

Dear Shawn-a-Clause:

I’ve been a really good girl this year. And seeing as I have been, I wanted to ask you if you would be so kind as to leave me, oh, well, you know... maybe a new camera lens, or the book, “Photography for Dummies”, or maybe a photography class. I just really, really, really love taking photos of everyone and I want to do a better job of it. If that’s too much, I’ll settle for some new socks, some perfume, a laptop or some gift cards to places I love.

Shawn-a-Claus, thank you for everything and I’ll be sure to leave you some milk and cookies.



Wordless Wednesday! twins or something like that

Like Father,

Like Son...

Or something like that!

For more Wordless Wednesday posts, go to 5 Minutes for Mom.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Like/Love Plan

A couple of months ago my hubby and I were a little off kilter. We weren't connecting that weekend so well. We weren't communicating. We were a little less kind to one another. I'm not sure what our problem was, but it was not at all the way we usually treat each other. We were less patient, perhaps more tired, Shawn wasn't feeling well, and my hormones were probably askew. They get like that at different points in the month.

We have always honored each other because we hold each other in the highest esteem.

So one night we talked about what was going on. Tears streamed, talks quieted to silence as we each thought and thought, the night was going into the wee hours of the morning, and we were working through this strange & foreign disconnect. Things were much better as we kissed goodnight.

Early that morning as I started to wake up, a thought ran across my mind. The Holy Spirit was telling me something. The thought was that for the next 30 days I should write my husband a note with one reason why I like him, and one reason why I love him. The like part was necessary because that night before he said, "I feel like you don't like me right now." Wow! That was so hard to hear, but that was the message I was sending somehow.

That morning I went to the computer and wrote Day 1 of the Like/Love Plan and sent it off into cyberspace to my dear husband. He replied with excitement and wanted to join me in this venture. What a tremendous blessing this has been! I can't express enough how this transformed what was already great, into something magnificent. There will be bumps in the road, but we have to deal with them firsthand. The Bible instructs us in this.

On this very day, we each wrote Day 43 and that's 13 days beyond the "30 Day Like/Love Plan". I reminded my hubby that the 30 days were over, and he said, "I like writing them." So here we are. Writing love notes to each other on a daily basis and blessing each other's socks off.

What do you think? Would you be willing to do that? You don't have to have a hard weekend to affirm your spouse.

I pray that this has blessed you. It's not easy being so transparent, but if it honors God in the process, then I'm willing to be straight up, to be real.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I think he's super-human

This here beautiful man, my hubby, likes a list.

It doesn't matter whether it is a mental one or one that's written on paper. He likes checking things off and being productive.
I love that about him. There's a whole lot more to love, but that's one of the things.

He is a doer. Always has been. Always will be.

I see that in both of his parents, too. They are always staying busy, keeping up with the house and the garden, or just doing things to help their own children or grandchildren out. They have a strong work ethic.

That's where he gets it from. It kind of makes him seem... super-human.

Case in point: After work on Friday, we were going on a date and meeting with all the other adults in our small group for a Christmas dinner. On the way there, he asks me about what kinds of things I had to get done over the weekend. You know, because at that point Christmas was 7 days away, the twins' birthdays are on December 24th, and two of my aunts will be arriving on the 23rd for a week or so. That means we have stuff to do.

I proceeded to tell him about how I needed to finish my Christmas cards, clean the guest bedroom, finish my Christmas shopping, get a few lists of my own about what kinds of food we will be having over the next week, and which places we will be taking the aunts to in order for them to experience England.

My groom then goes on to tell me his list and his major one was to clean and organize the twins' room. He had others, but that was the biggie. Believe me, those little guys are good about doing their chores, cleaning their room, and doing a fair share of work around here, but that room gets out of control after awhile. They have too many clothes. The other deal is that half of their room is a "playroom" for all of the kids. The three olders contribute to the mess making.

We went on our date and had a lovely time. More than lovely actually. Saturday came and the doing began. The list checking had officially commenced. This is what my man did, bless his heart.

~He picked stamps up at the post office after work on Friday.
~He put dinner in the oven for the kids and served them.
~On Saturday, he went up to the twins' bedroom and began the transformation. It took hours. Sorting through all of their clothes is huge. He went through all of the toys, pitched a bunch, and then organized everything.
~In the middle of this process, he took Austin, Grant and Cooper shopping to finish up their own list.
~He then continued the twin room mission.
~He worked out with Austin.

Here's the beautiousness of the room after he was done.

Check out the cardboard over the round window. They don't make curtains for that type of window. At night we put that on to keep as much light out as possible. Call me frugal AND practical. The twins were tucked and were waiting for their kiss goodnight.

I have to buy a couple of storage containers to put all of this away.

On day 2, Mr Magnificent did all of these things:
~He continued the work in the twins' bedroom. Those photos above were taken tonight, but were put in the wrong order.

~He built a snowman with the kids. We got a lot more snow today than we are typically used to getting. The kids loved it.

~Shawn also helped the boys set up the game, "Mousetrap", because it's apparently a nightmare for kids to put together.

~He also helped Austin straighten his room.

~He washed the dishes twice today: after lunch and dinner.

~He played uno with daughter uno before she was tucked in.

~And if that wasn't enough, he took on the job of finishing the gift wrapping. He has done all of the wrapping actually.

He might not be super-human, but he is one SUPER human.

I love you, Honey. Thank you for doing anything and everything for us. We love you and appreciate all you do. You're the best!


Last weekend we went to Germany & Austria for a shortbreak. We enjoyed the Christmas markets, a "Sound of Music" tour, some serious sledding, visiting small towns with Advent celebrations, and had an all around great time.

During the tour in Salzburg, as we drove through the mountains, we got to see lots of snow. That's a beautiful sight especially since it hardly snows in England. So on our little escapade through the mountains, we had a family snowball fight and my hubby caught it on tape...

I know snow might not be a "beautiful thing" to some of you with all of its inconveniences, but we enjoyed it while it lasted.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"God Came Near"

I receive a weekly writing by Max Lucado, who is extremely talented in such endeavors, and I just had to share. I've done that before because he is brilliant, but more importantly the One he spoke of is beyond any words I can use to describe Him. He is my Lord and Savior. He is beyond brilliant, beautiful, sovereign, almighty, loving, merciful, gracious, precious and the One True God. I am in awe of Him.

Take a moment and thank Him for all that He is and all that He will forever be. If you don't know Him, I would love to tell you all about His Majesty and the gift He so freely has given.

Blessings in Christ, Carol

Do You See Him?

by Max Lucado

IT’S CHRISTMAS NIGHT. THE HOUSE IS QUIET. Even the crackle is gone from the fireplace. The last of the carolers appeared on the ten o’clock news. The last of the apple pie was eaten by my brother-in-law. And the last of the Christmas albumshave been stored away having dutifully performed their annual rendition of chestnuts, white Christmases, and red-nosed reindeers.

It’s Christmas night.

The midnight hour has chimed and I should be asleep, but I’m awake. I’m kept awake by one stunning thought. The world was different this week. It was temporarily transformed.

The magical dust of Christmas glittered on the cheeks of humanity ever so briefly, reminding us of what is worth having and what we were intended to be. We forgot our compulsion with winning, wooing, and warring. We put away our ladders and ledgers, we hung up our stopwatches and weapons. We stepped off our race tracks and roller coasters and looked outward toward the star of Bethlehem.

It’s the season to be jolly because, more than at any other time, we think of him. More than in any other season, his name is on our lips.

And the result?

For a few precious hours, he is beheld. Christ the Lord. Those who pass the year without seeing him, suddenly see him. People who have been accustomed to using his name in vain, pause to use it in praise. Eyes, now free of the blinders of self, marvel at his majesty.

All of a sudden he’s everywhere.

In the grin of the policeman as he drives the paddy wagon full of presents to the orphanage.

In the twinkle in the eyes of the Taiwanese waiter as he tells of his upcoming Christmas trip to see his children.

In the emotion of the father who is too thankful to finish the dinner table prayer.

He’s in the tears of the mother as she welcomes home her son from overseas.

He’s in the heart of the man who spent Christmas morning on skid row giving away cold baloney sandwiches and warm wishes.

And he’s in the solemn silence of the crowd of shopping mall shoppers as the elementary school chorus sings “Away in a Manger.”

Emmanuel. He is with us. God came near.

It’s Christmas night. In a few hours the cleanup will begin—lights will come down, trees will be thrown out. Size 36 will be exchanged for size 40, eggnog will be on sale for half price. Soon life will be normal again. December’s generosity will become January’s payments and the magic will begin to fade.

Excerpted fromBut for the moment, the magic is still in the air. Maybe that’s why I’m still awake. I want to savor the spirit just a bit more. I want to pray that those who beheld him today will look for him next August. And I can’t help but linger on one fanciful thought: If he can do so much with such timid prayers lamely offered in December, how much more could he do if we thought of him every day?