"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Friday, December 12, 2014

factual friday -- little bits of november

Janie did an awesome job as a pirate in an original school play.

Eliza spied Santa Claus sitting in the front row.

During the intermission, he stood for a stretch break, pulled out his phone, surveyed the crowd, punched a thing or two on his keypad and made a whispered comment in the ear of his cute wife with white braided hair sitting next to him.

We told Eliza we were pretty sure he was plugging in the "naughty and nice" list. That Santa ... he's really getting on with modern technology ;)

After the show, Eliza (who has always been deathly afraid of Santa Claus) skeptically wanted to ask him if he really was the real deal.

Hand in hand, we approached and said we had a question for him. Timidly, she asked if he was Santa and he bent down with a smile and whispered close, "Of course!" Then put his finger by his nose and winked.

What an awesome fellow.

Later that night while putting on pjs, Eliza was bouncing up and down singing. We told her how proud we were of her bravery after years of fear.

"I can't believe I met Santa Claus!" she beamed breathlessly, "And you know what?!? He wasn't wearing mittens and I could see he doesn't have CLAWS at all!!"

Wow. And yikes.

Christmas season took us unexpectedly, much like the above photo bomb. Our month changed over so quickly, we're calling it No-cember ... or De-vember.

Only one school Thanksgiving dinner. That's a far cry from the days when I used to camp out for the entire block, slowly making one meal last through four kids' break.

Little folks loved it and Grant loved all the attention.

There's been ssssooooo much of this lately.

One day I'll once again write something stimulating but until then, everything stops for a book and a cuddle.

I'm okay with that.

I'm pretty sure it has nothing to do with her refusal to sleep ... ever.

Up at 5am, resistance of naps, non-compliant bedtime, wakefulness in the night.

Even driving in the car, she will. not. let. go ... the party is that good.

Lunch date with my current driver.

Janie was honored in a middle school ceremony for her academic achievements.

She spends hours upon hours working on homework. That face says she's proud of herself and she should to be.

Maybe it has something to do with her mad skills with diorama construction.

Not to mention, her attention to detail. Let's get a closer look at that baby:

Grant and Christian worked and work on Grant's last pinewood derby car. We didn't even realize it was his last until the event was over and were headed home in the car.

We aren't sure how they placed dead last in every single race but one ... The one in which they set the track record. But they sure were proud of that thing.

I just loved how all of Christian's teenage friends followed Grant around that night cheering him on.

A sweet friend from church gave us a flannel board she had made years ago when her children were little. It was the dearest gift.

You bet we have put that thing to good use with our family home evenings.

For month's, I've been wearing Invisalign braces. This commemorates getting those puppies off my teeth and back to normal. Happy day.

The high school theater asked me to take head shots of the theater kids and crew for their program playbills.

Remember the insecurities of high school?

I couldn't have loved more, taking each of those 33 kids with all of their self doubts and turning out portraits that made them feel on top of the world. Such a great group.

Charlotte misses summer. So much so, she puts on her bathing suit first thing most days and begs for the pool.

Me too, gal ... me too.

Grant's class did an in depth study of the Revolutionary War. That kid has fallen in love with history and a teacher that makes it come alive.

Can't get more alive than an in-character re-enactment of an actual battle. 

Little children weren't allowed to attend so I was unable to go, but thank you, thank you to the class mom who sent me these pictures!

Our HAPPINESS PROJECT came down to make way for Christmas cards before I could get a picture of the entire thing. 

I found one "happiness" that fell under the fridge and had to snap shot it just for the beauty of the carefully written penmanship.

And nowadays, I'm finding wishful pictures like these on my phone to assist me with Christmas gift giving.

And those are the day to day facts.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

i'll be home for christmas

We put up the tree.

Celia delighted in showing me her pre-schooler scrawl on every ornament.

Little hands gave the tree a bottom heavy appearance.

With concentrated determination.

As Bing Crosby crooned "I'll Be Home for Christmas" from the Pandora radio.

Next year we'll be waiting for a big girl to come home for Christmas. Yesterday, she was that little girl.

We hung my favorite garland with all of the Christmas pictures from the beginning of "us". Newel said looking at it that way, it all seemed like a long time together ... looking at the individual growth in the pictures, it feels really short.

That one ornament, holds the most interest in the entire house. We spend hours touching each picture.

Asking who every baby is.

And getting excited to discover our own journey's beginning in the timeline that brought us into this home.

We do it again and again.

Being brought "home" this week, I was reminded of an experience in growing up with my own eight siblings and vigilant parents.

The year our older brother went off to college, was a tight one. No different than any other tight year, only there were discussions over the cost of airline fare and the possibility of his spending Christmas with distant relatives on the far side of the country to save. Each year, our grandmother would send a crisp 20$ bill for each of us ... and man o man were there plans for that thing! It was everything we had. But knowing our parent's stress, we held a kid council and made a unanimous decision to present our parents with our grandmother's gift in hopes it would lift that burden.

I remember each of us gathered and laying our $$ down in the pile as we told our mother, we just wanted our brother home. And what a merry time we had making a banner for his arrival, looking for that car to turn up the driveway, heralding his return, hearing his stories, and having him all to ourselves for that two week break.

At Christmas our hearts turn to the birth of another Brother. We can't help but draw a little closer to our heavenly home as we reach out to those around us. We want to share that feeling of coming home with others we love.

I well up with gratitude for a perfect plan. Opportunities to start over when I fail. Conversations on my knees and answers for guidance. Promises that allow me to keep this family of mine together forever. Not just today but every day.

And above all else,  I couldn't be more grateful for a Brother who paid far more than a crisp 20$ bill. Who gave everything he had to give, to see that I make it home. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

service elf on our shelf

IF we had an elf on a shelf, he and the tooth fairy would have the most compatibly irresponsible relationship ;)

Over the years, we've developed our own twist (evolving even more from our tradition HERE).

Monday night, we kicked off our month with a lesson on the true meaning of love in this holiday season. We drew names and our "secret service Elf" fun began. 

Each has a family member to sneak around performing little acts of service for. The Christmas season is filled with thinking about ways to surprise that person with a culminating gift exchange reveal on the night of Christmas Eve. 

It makes Christmas Eve hold a pretty special feeling just a little different from Christmas Day as everyone anxiously awaits the giving of a gift they put some deep thought into ... and maybe a little muscle to earn an extra dollar for ;)

Every face lights up when they discover something special done just for them. 

Every face lights up in secret pleasure to have been the cause of that excitement.

Cute notes get left for the finding. Like this one left on my made bed one morning before I'd had time to get to it. Funny thing is ... they may or may not have been made by the Elf themselves. 

These kids are tricky to not get discovered.

The secret service Elf leaves a Hershey Kiss as his signature. 

Man o man, is there always a little excitement about that!

Charlotte's eyes just glittered when she found her Elf had left her folded pjs and blanket out ready for bedtime.

There's a certain little girl who is most contagious with the excitement:

And I just love all the little acts of more love happening in the true spirit of giving.